Tag Archives: Fantasy

Review & Giveaway: Escape from Wheel by Michael Scott Clifton

Conquest of the Veil, Book Two
Genre: YA / Fantasy / Magical Realism / Sword & Sorcery
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Number of Pages: 302 pages



New Life, New World, New Problems
Alexandria Duvalier’s new life on the magical world of Meredith takes a shattering twist when her father, the Duke of Wheel, pledges her hand in marriage to the cruel lord, Rodric Regret. Desperate to escape his clutches, Alex flees the city with the help of her friend, Tell Tollet, a handsome lieutenant in the city guard. But their freedom is short-lived when Rodric’s brutal brother, Stefan, joins in the pursuit.
Hotheaded Prince Tal, heir to the throne of Meredith, has but one goal: kill the Dark Queen and destroy the Veil, the enchanted barrier which has ensnared generations of his people. He discovers a breach in the magical wall and leads an army through, bent on completing his mission.
When an unusual and potent magic calls to him, he follows its trail back to Alex. Thrown together by circumstances and chased across the wilderness by the ruthless Lord Stefan, Tal and Alex are drawn to each other by the greatest magic of all—love. Now they just need to stay alive . . .


Escape from Wheel by Michael Scott Clifton is one of those rare instances where book two outshines the first. Don’t get me wrong, The Open Portal, was a beautifully written book, but it could get so grotesque at times that I needed to stop for a moment and collect myself. Not to say that the sequel is all sunshine and daisies, but Clifton strikes a perfect balance of evil and suspense with love and hope.

In the first book, I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters’ strange names, but this volume had me wishing that Clifton took them a bit further. While the reader wouldn’t mistake Tell for Tal, the names were so similar that I expected Alex to slip up at least once. But perhaps our heroine is too clever to make such a rookie mistake. 

I love how the author portrays this young woman with so much duality: a girl from our world and time transported to this ancient fantasy world, yet fitting in very well; a girl who researches and plots her own way but must rely upon a handsome man to help her stay safe. Alex might be a damsel in distress at times, but she puts up a hell of a fight and has hidden talents up her sleeve as well. 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good fantasy book, so one thing that stood out to me was Clifton’s vivid descriptions of, well, everything. While fiction books generally rely on dialogue to propel a story, fantasy books truly build worlds in your mind, and Clifton is a master architect and painter in one. You see the lay of the land, the buildings that tower above or crumble before you, and the colorful delights of the court set and fantastical creatures in nature. As someone who loves reading about food, I swooned over the descriptions of feast fare, as well as the roughing it recipes.

While the violence was my least favorite part of the previous book, I actually enjoyed the battles in this one. The gore wasn’t excessive and I particularly liked the cunning of various traps that were set up to help even out the unlikeliest of odds. The pace was just right, until I realized that I was super invested in the story and there were only a few more pages left. Alas, it appears I will have to wait again for the next installment of Conquest of the Veil.

I recommend this book to all you fantasy lovers out there. Definitely read the first book, The Open Portal, which has a George R.R. Martin vibe to it, and then follow up with this book that has an Arthurian legend meets Hunger Games groove to it.

Multi-award-winning author Michael Scott Clifton was a longtime public educator as a teacher, coach, and administrator. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. He currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas, with his wife, Melanie, and family cat. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, Michael enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys: action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. 

His fantasy novels, The Janus Witch and The Open Portal, received five-star reviews from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews, and he has been a finalist in a number of short-story contests, with “Edges of Gray” winning first place in the Texas Authors Contest. 
The Open Portal, winner of the Feathered Quill Book Finalist Award, launches the fantasy book series, Conquest of the Veil. Michael’s latest release, Escape From Wheel, is book two in this fantasy series. Visit Michael’s official websiteor google him @authormsclifton.
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One Winner:
signed paperback copy + $15 Amazon gift card
Three Winners: Kindle e-book copy
OCTOBER 1-11, 2020
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or visit the blogs directly:



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Jennifer Silverwood



Book Fidelity



All the Ups and Downs



The Book Review



Page Unbound



Momma on the Rocks






Missus Gonzo



by Moonlight



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Review & Giveaway: Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration by Julie Barker

and the Tornado Twistin’
4th of July Celebration

illustrated by Carolyn Altman
  Genre: Children’s Picture Book / Western / Fantasy
Publisher: BookBaby
Date of Publication: September 28, 2018
Number of Pages: 50
Scroll down for giveaway!
Hitchin’ Post, the cowboy jackrabbit, is back with an all new adventure on the 6Bs’Ranch. 
Hitch’s brothers come to visit for the annual 4th of July rodeo and dance, but they get much more than a long-awaited visit with their brother. When a giant tornado threatens to cut their Independence Day celebration short, Hitchin’ Post, his brothers, and the rest of the cowboys have to work hard to save the ranch and the celebration. Hitchin’ Post shows that even though he is just a small jackrabbit, he has the courage it takes to bring everyone together to rebuild what the tornado destroyed. Because of old Hitch being a great leader, the 6Bs’ 4th of July celebration will go on! 
This is the second book in the Hitchin’ Post series by Julie Barker, where Julie once again collaborates with her mother, artist Carolyn Altman, who provides the illustrations in this romping, stomping cowboy adventure!


Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration is a brilliantly woven story with a strong plot that will easily entertain anyone. The illustrations by Carolyn Altman are fun and engaging, complementing the story. I love how Barker has written an interesting story that will teach kids how working together as a team makes the hard work a whole lot lighter and much more rewarding. – Readers’ Favorite, 5 STARS



My son and I enjoyed reading the first Hitchin’ Post book, so I was very excited to learn that Barker and Altman teamed up to create a second book. And much like Book 1, Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration serves up a story with big heart and illustrations that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

At face value, this is a cute cowboy book starring an adorable rabbit; but it has so much more than that. It tells the story of a rabbit who takes pride in his work and his country. It addresses deep-rooted relationships that don’t weaken by distance and time apart. We get to see the intuition of the youngest character and teamwork at its finest – both rabbit and human cowboys accomplishing the impossible. From sadness to elation, to the little guy coming out on top, this book has it all.

I think that old and young readers alike will enjoy Altman’s artistic style as it is easy on the eyes. You won’t see any of the harsh lines and psychedelic colors that seem to be the norm with picture books today. However, I found the random placement of the red, white, and blue banner that says, “6Bs’ 4th of July Celebration” distracting. At first I thought it was part of the story, perhaps the backdrop of that particular scene. But as I read on, it really felt like someone didn’t like to leave any white space and just pasted the banner up willy nilly.

I also felt confident going in that my 6-year-old had grown up enough to really appreciate this book, but I guess that Book 2 ran a little longer than Book 1. He only made it about a fourth of the way through before I was reading aloud to myself. Much like the original Hitchin’ Post book, some of the rhyming schemes got away from me. There were times where I wished that the book was written in prose instead, but then the last stanza changed my mind:

“Hitch would never forget that moment at the 6Bs’
standing with his brothers and filled with joy.
He was so proud to be an American,
but more than that, proud to be a cowboy.”

I recommend this book for grades 1-4 and think that it would be a great anticipatory set to lessons on Independence Day. I could also see a family sitting near a campfire or barbecue grill reading this story while they wait for the burgers and ribs to cook up nice. I look forward to reading the next Hitchin’ Post book.

Julie Barker is the author of Hitchin’ Post, her debut children’s storybook. With inspiration from her West Texas roots and being surrounded by the ranching heritage, Julie is fulfilling her dream of becoming a children’s author. Along with the encouragement and beautiful illustrations from her mother and artist, Carolyn Altman, the story of Hitchin’ Post the cowboy jackrabbit was born and is now officially a series. The second book, Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration, was released September 2018.

Carolyn Altman is an artist and the illustrator of the Hitchin’ Post children’s book series, in which she collaborated with her daughter, Julie Barker, the author. Carolyn resides in Vernon, Texas, with her husband Stanley. They have two daughters and six grandchildren, all of whom live nearby. “Touch the Heart with Original Art” is Carolyn’s slogan, which she has used for the past 40 years as she creates lighthearted and inspiring art with subjects such as wildlife, horses, cattle, and cowboys, in hopes of helping to preserve this way of life for many years to come. 
The beginning of her art career consisted of using mostly oil and acrylic mediums, then Carolyn began creating baby memory books in which she incorporates her art into each page. Each baby memory book is personalized and truly a work of art in itself. Carolyn believes that her experiences throughout her life are what inspires her art. 
She has spent her life in West Texas surrounded by wide open spaces and the beauty of the farming and ranching heritage, and that way of life will always show up in her paintings and illustrations. Her latest creations include a series of angel paintings depicting what she deems most important in her life — her faith. 
Author & Illustrator Signed Copy of Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration + $50 gift certificate to CarolynAltmanArt.com; 
TWO WINNERS:  Signed Copy of the Book.
May 29-June 7, 2019
(U.S. Only)


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Review & Giveaway: The Open Portal by Michael Scott Clifton

Conquest of the Veil #1
Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Magical Realism
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Publication Date: May 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 337 pagesSCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 

But with dreams, there can also be nightmares

Lonely and plain-featured, Mona Parker is just another faceless teenager at Spring Hill High School. One day she runs afoul of Lady Anne Golightly, a beautiful and arrogant classmate who turns Mona’s colorless life into a hellish existence. Bullied relentlessly and with nowhere to turn, Mona considers suicide. One night, Thaddeus Finkle, her guardian angel, appears. He offers her a way out—swap lives with another.

The choice seems easy, and Mona takes the angel up on his offer. She awakens on Meredith, a parallel world of Earth where magic has replaced technology. Mona discovers she is Alexandria, a woman of breathtaking beauty, and the daughter of a Duke complete with servants and riches.

Then she discovers the price of her bargain.

Trapped behind the Veil, an impenetrable curtain of magic, the Duchy of Wheel is the last major province still unconquered by Marlinda, the creator of the enchanted barrier. Known as the Dark Queen, Marlinda’s cruelty includes a singular fondness for melding men, women, and children, with animals…and she has special plans for Alexandria.

Tal, the Prince and Heir of the Empire of Meredith, burns with an intense hatred for Marlinda and her minions. The Dark Queen’s raiders regularly cross the Veil to prey upon the helpless citizens living near the magical boundary. Despite an elaborate system of Watch Towers along the enchanted barrier, it is impossible for the Empire to stop all the raids. Desperate to protect his people, Tal takes dangerous risks to prevent these attacks. Banished to a remote garrison for his reckless behavior, while on a routine patrol, Tal leads an elite unit that happens upon a group of raiders—one whose leader possesses the means for opening a way through the Veil.

Thus begins the conquest of the Veil.

“The Open Portal is packed full of action from the time it begins in our mundane world, to when it jumps to another. It has all the elements of a good fantasy: a cruel queen; a frustrated prince; and beautiful girl with a pure heart. There are brave boys, werewolves, white priests, and watchtowers. I can’t wait for the saga to continue.” — Abookanight



Escaping a humdrum life to a world of magic is my favorite sort of fantasy book. Who doesn’t like the idea of leaving behind a place where you merely exist for a place where you can truly thrive and be powerful and super attractive? But where most books fail to address the price you pay for such a switch, The Open Portal lays it all out in the open and reminds you every chance it gets.

Clifton paints a very bleak portrait of a young woman who only has her brother and a few church elders to keep her sane. While other fantasy books might describe pretty tame bullying scenarios, this one has situations that are difficult to get past. If you took the grossest bullying scenes from ‘80s movies and multiplied them by 10, you would understand what Mona goes through in the beginning of this book. And just when you think that she escapes all of that by choosing a new life on the gorgeous planet of Meredith, you realize that she has just traded in her old, terrible life for a George R. R. Martin-type situation.

When I wasn’t cringing at the horrible things that happened to the characters, I was admiring Clifton’s descriptions of each character and the different settings. I feel as though so many books are either plot driven or character driven to the point that you have no idea what anything or anyone looks like. That is certainly not the case with this book. I can say that I was truly transported along with Mona and felt like I really got to meet everyone for the first time like she had.

As much as I adore things like shapeshifters and gritty survival situations, I had difficulty getting through the chapters with Tal and Razor. I promise it wasn’t because of their strange names. I actually wasn’t a fan of many of the character’s names in this book: i.e., Lady Anne Golightly and Rodric Regret. But that’s ok, because they didn’t keep me from being disappointed that the story ended so soon. Thank goodness for the sneak preview of the prologue and chapter 1 for the next book in the series. Those tidbits left me in good spirits and in anticipation for Book 2.