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Friday, February 23, 2018

Make room on your shelf and in your hearts for... HUG CHICKENPENNY by S. Craig Zahler!

Hi there!
Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.
Today, I'm bringing you a title that came to my attention via Wunderkind PR (Thanks, Carina and Taylan!).  It's a work of Fiction (if you must get more particular, it leans more towards Fantasy) released a month ago today via Cinestate and I gotta say, it was truly a work to remember.

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As I sit here typing this post, I'm fighting a cold that has taken a hold of my sinuses, turning them into Hermione Granger's bottomless purse (seriously, the tissues I'm going through could make a forest!), after a LONG BUTT WEEK at work (emphasis on the BUTT because it truly was heinous) filled with enough fires to put out that you'd think we were harboring the Devil Goat of Nagathraxis in the back room (book reference, I'll explain in a bit), and while all that crapioca sits in the forefront of my mind putting me in a less than stellar mood, I still can't help but picture little Hug in the background whispering "Don't be mean...".  ~tear~sniff_grabs tissue_~  So, while I've ruminated on my experience between the pages, I think it's high time you meet this little guy.  Ready or not, here comes the superstar of today's post....

The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child
S. Craig Zahler

About the book...
Hug Chickenpenny: The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child is a gothic, Dickensian take on the Elephant Man, as if David Lynch wrote a fable for unbalanced orphans.

Hug Chickenpenny is an anomalous child. Born from tragedy and unknown paternity, this asymmetrical and white-haired baby inspires both ire and pity at the orphanage, until the day that an elderly eccentric adopts him as a pet. The upbeat boy's spirit is challenged in his new home and as he is exposed to prejudiced members of society in various encounters. Will Hug and his astronautical dreams survive our cruel and judgmental world?


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Okay, first things first, with a title like that, unless you've recently scanned a dictionary, a little defining is in order.  I'm not ashamed to admit it, I broke one out too.  What's the point in just WONDERING if you can KNOW?  Am I right?  Of course, I let's break this thing down...

Panegyric:  a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something

Anomalous:  deviating from what is standard, normal, or expected basically the title equates to Hug Chickenpenny:  The Published Text in Praise of a Child that Deviates from What is Expected.  Yeah, it's easy to see WHY the original won out, but again with the knowledge is power bit, it makes your decision to PICK IT UP for a read THAT much easier.  Now, about that story...

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This was such an addictive read! Odd, unusual, heartbreaking, and heart-mending, with every turn of the page you just don't know where you'll end up on the emotional spectrum, but you just can't put it down. There were characters to love (HUG!  GEORGIE!), loathe (JENNIFER KIMBERLY! VLADIMIR!), believe in (ABIGAIL!  SANDY!), trust (REX!), grow to understand (DR. HANNERSBY!), and then some.  The circumstances in which we meet each tends to bend our initial opinion of them, but their true colors win out every time.  There's no cloak and dagger with them; what they present is truly what they are...for better or worse.  OMG, seriously, my feelings were raging as this story progressed.  I couldn't believe how someone could treat poor little Hug the way he was and look at themselves in the mirror everyday!  That Jennifer Kimberly...*grr*...was an abhorrent beast. The Grinch had more heart than her BEFORE it grew and grew and the dressing down you get was MORE than deserved! Georgie, I couldn't have respected you more, no matter why you ended up where you did, because you had heart, humanity, and showed nothing but love to a little boy that needed it oh so much.  Abigail, all I can say is it took you long enough, but when you committed, you did so 100% and though things didn't always work out, you certainly tried and kept trying, and in the end, I could hug you for what you accomplished for our little man.  Geesh!  I'm only typing the review and I'm starting to tear up again.  Hug is such a wonder, as are those that allow his simple touch to enrich their lives. That ending though, man it killed me.

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While I adored it on the whole, it wasn't without points for improvement.  For example, there are holes in the timeline as Hug ages.  One chapter he's seven, the next he's nine, and the only reason we even KNOW that much time passed is the mention of his age.  What happened during those years?  Was it that everyday that it didn't need mentioning because honestly, I can't see anything Hug does being that mundane.  He's such a wonderful little guy!  Then there's the introduction of characters and situations that seem pretty significant, yet either don't go anywhere, or are over in a moment's time.  Remember that Devil Goat I mentioned in the intro?  Yeah, that's a character or rather critter that happens to reside at Dr. Hannersby's estate (well, temporarily at least... *-*) and while his history is rather bloody, he sort of POOFS in and POOFs out of the story...but if you look at the cover, he makes an appearance.  Let's move to the situations or scenes...what about Hug's birth?  The circumstances in which he was found were certainly noteworthy, but the WHY was never provided.  Then we have the room found later on when Hug is exploring somewhere familiar and yet not (that'll make sense when you read it)...something DEFINITELY to speculate about but again, never explained in the least.  I know my paragraph of "wants" is getting a bit lengthy here, but it's just that there was SO MUCH MORE I wanted to know.  Perhaps it was the author's intent to let readers draw their own conclusions, but I was just so close to Hug that I wanted something more concrete to hold on to.  

In the end, I ADORED THIS BOOK!  It's unusual, strange, odd, but full of so much truth and heart that it really, it does. That ending about tore my soul up.  I was finishing it in a restaurant at the time with my parents, and just starting crying.  Sure, I drew the attention of others, but did I care?  Nope...not a bit.  Those tears were for Hug and I regret not a one.  So, if you like a bit of the beyond belief with your reality, grab this Fantasy Fiction title post haste...but be prepared for the feels, because you'll be all over the page and then some.


About the author...

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S. Craig Zahler is an award-winning screenwriter, director, novelist, cinematographer, and musician. He wrote, directed, and co-composed the score for the breakout 2015 film Bone Tomahawk, starring Kurt Russell, which was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards. Zahler most recently wrote and directed Brawl in Cell Block 99, starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, and Don Johnson, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and went on to critical acclaim from screenings at Toronto, Fantastic Fest, and many more festivals before being released in October 2017; and Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn star in Zahler’s gritty cop thriller Dragged Across Concrete, currently in post-production. 

Zahler is also the author of several novels, including A Congregation of Jackals, nominated for both the Peacemaker and the Spur Awards; Mean Business on North Ganson Street; and Wraiths of the Broken Land, which 20th Century Fox recently announced will be a major motion picture with Ridley Scott directing. In addition to writing and directing, Zahler has founded and played in several bands, including Binary Reptile, a synthesizer project that provided the music for the audio drama movie, The Narrow Caves. He lives in New York City.


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Special thanks to Carina and Taylan at Wunderkind PR for the chance to bring this title to you and to Cinestate for the ARC for review.  (THANKS!)  For more information on this title, the author, or those promotions on the horizon, feel free to click through the links provided above.  This title is AVAILABLE NOW, so click on over to your favorite online retailer to snag your copy today!  Also, make room on your calendar because it seems that Hug may be making his BIG SCREEN DEBUT someday!  

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"...With Deadline and Variety reporting that film rights for HUG CHICKENPENNY have already been snapped up by The Jim Henson Company (Dark Crystal, Labyrinth), which is coming on board to produce Zahler’s movie adaptation, this novel is sure to be on everyone’s radar. The designers at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop will work closely with Zahler to create and build the animatronic puppet versions of the titular character “Hug”. The team at Henson joins the producing team of Zahler, who will also direct, and Dallas Sonnier of Cinestate...."

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Just give me the date and I'M SO THERE!
Until next time, remember...if it looks good, READ IT!

Silver Dagger Book Tours presents... FIREBLOODS by Casey Hays - EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!

Hi there!
Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.

Today, we're playing host to a stop along the Silver Dagger Book Tours tour for a Young Adult title that dabbles in both the Paranormal and Romance side of things.  Curious?  Well then, don't let me hold you back!  Presenting today's title in the spotlight...

Casey Hays
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

326 pages

Jude Gallagher thought she was crazy.

It all started when the boy next door made her hear music—inside her head. All the time.

It was torture.

She didn’t think things could get worse. But then one hot summer, her best friend Kane O’Reilly decides to tell her how he really feels about her. Music inside her head? That’s nothing compared what happens next.

Things only turn stranger when she and her lab partner Frankie Melmack begin a project to prove the existence of the Vatra u Krvi—a race of people tied to the mythical Phoenix. Add in a neglectful mother and a magic ring, and the insanity that defines Jude’s life is pretty well complete.

Heat surges across the Nevada desert, and the best and worst parts of Jude Gallagher’s life collide as myth meets reality. In the middle of the chaos, she begins to hear more than just music. And she has to wonder…

Maybe... just maybe… she really is crazy after all.


...from Chapter Two...

“The Phoenix is a great fire spirit in Greek mythology, you know?” She sets one slice of pie on a plate, then pauses to slide a large encyclopedia across the table until it’s situated in front of me. It’s bookmarked, and she flips it open to the description of the Phoenix. “It’s a sacred firebird that represents immortality, rebirth, and renewal. It can live from five hundred to a
thousand years according to legend. At the end of its life cycle, it builds a nest, climbs inside, and bursts into flames.”
“So…” She sits, placing my pie next to the encyclopedia. I move the book aside and take up my fork. “The Phoenix is one of the only living creatures that is self-reproducing, because from those ashes…” She cuts off the pointed end of her pie piece and raises her fork along with her brows, which peek at me over the top of her glasses. “…a brand new baby Phoenix is born.”
I shake my head. “Where are we going with this?”
“Think about it. Its aspects are magical. Otherworldly. A race of people with its blood running through their veins would be extraordinary.”
“The Phoenix is a myth,” I remind her.
“You could be a little open-minded.”
I plunge a piece of pie into my mouth and speak around it. “Okay. So this reborn bird…is it a new Phoenix or the same one?”
She shrugs. “That’s debatable.”
“And is there more than one Phoenix?”
“Hard to say.”
I shake my head. “Give me something here, Frankie.”
“Well, it’s rare to see one at all, so… it’s hard to say.”
It’s rare to see one because they don’t exist. I squint, testing her further.
“Male or female?”
“I suppose that would depend on the answer to the first two questions, wouldn’t it?” She picks off a piece of pie crust and nibbles on the end. I scoop up another full bite.
“Okay, look.” I focus on her pointedly. “And I’m only saying this so we don’t have to
scrape our embarrassed butts up off the floor later, but we can’t do this. It’s nonsensical, and—”
Before the rest of my sentence leaves my mouth, she produces another picture from her accordion file. This one takes me by surprise. A photograph. I pick it up, holding it out for a better look.
It's a man—no, maybe just a boy. He's handsome. Jet black hair. Violet eyes. His bare chest ripples with muscles, and spread out behind him is the most brilliant pair of black wings, fluttering with an iridescent glow. They're sleek and beautiful. I blink once, and I swear they flutter.
“This is a Vatra u Krvi,” Frankie says.
A tiny catch in my chest makes it hard to breathe. I’m dead serious. Every one of my five senses is held captive by the beauty of this image.
“Translated, the phrase means ‘fire in the blood.’” Frankie cocks her head to the side, just like a bird herself. “In English, the common term is Firebloods.”
“He looks like an angel.” I breathe out the words.
She smiles. “I know.”
I tear my eyes away and glance up at her, suspicion moving in. Because this can’t be real. It can’t.
“Where did you find this?”
Her eyes flit past me to ensure the door is closed. “In my father’s office.”
I lean back in my chair examining the image. It stares up at me from some vast realm of someone’s artistic imagination.
“This isn't real.” I glance at Frankie. “It’s all fascinating from a fantasy standpoint, but it isn’t a viable subject.”
“I think we can prove his existence.” She nods at the image, adamant. “In fact, I know we can.”
She lowers her voice to a whisper and motions me to lean in closer.
“My dad has a crate full of information on the Firebloods. Not just documents. Artifacts.”
She taps her fingers against the table.
I stare at her, incredulous. Is she seriously contemplating basing our hypothesis statement on a mythical creature? I suddenly feel ill. My chances at winning a scholarship are riding on whatever it is we decide to do this summer. I need this. And this is all she’s got? A flying boy? I sigh and toss the picture onto the table, frustrated.
“Frankie, this could just be your dad’s hobby. Maybe he collects memorabilia on a favorite, fictional character in a book.”
“I don’t think so, Jude. You didn’t see what was in that crate.” She habitually pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose, her mouth poised and very serious. “I asked my dad about it a couple of months ago when I found it. He shut me down. Fast. He told me to focus on my studies and keep my head out of the clouds.”
“See?” I hold my palms face up, agreeing with that reasoning.
“The crate disappeared after my conversation with him. I found it again last week. In the basement. With a padlock intact. He’s hiding the truth about this.”
I stop when she shuffles to her feet and yanks open a cabinet door to retrieve a couple of glasses. Water streams from the refrigerator dispenser. She sets a full glass in front of me.
“Will you just listen to what I have to say?”
I straighten, scraping up the last bit of my pie with a shrug. “I’m just being honest when I say I don’t have much faith in this idea.”
“I gathered.” She leans a hip against the counter. “I’m only asking that you not
immediately discredit it. Not until we’ve had a chance to research it further.” I purse my lips; she keeps talking. “Jude, we could blow the judges away with our findings. It could be a monumental discovery, right up there with extra-terrestrial life. Don’t you see?”
I focus on the photograph of the angel-boy. He looks so realistic. His eyes, poignantly vibrant, seem to reach right into my very soul. I shudder and look away.
“This is risky,” I point out.
“I know. But it’s worth the risk. It’s why we could win.”
“I don’t think we should waste much of our time on it.” Doubt flutters across my face, and she sees every bit of it in the wrinkled folds of my brows. “I mean, anybody can doctor up a photo. Take Bigfoot. Prime example.”
Frankie lifts her chin, indignant. “I have it on good authority that Bigfoot is most indeed real. You are such a pessimist, Jude Gallagher.”
“Pessimist? This is myth, Frankie. One of us has to be reasonable.”
“Wrong. If scientists were reasonable, nothing would have ever been discovered or invented. Or founded. Take Newton or Einstein, for instance. Do you think they accomplished anything by being reasonable? No. They defied norms to prove their theories. People thought they were off in the heads, but those men proved in the end that they were brilliant. We have that
opportunity here.”
I simply stare at her. What can I say to that?


Casey Hays developed a love for young adult fiction while teaching high school English literature. She writes fantasy sci-fi and dystopian--all with a twist of romance. She is best known for The Arrow’s Flight Series (Breeder, The Archer, Master), a YA Christian dystopian, which includes The Scent of Lilac, an Arrow’s Flight Novella nominated for a RONE award for Best Novella of 2016, and A Heart of Flesh (the first NA in the series). Her short story "Edge of a Promise" is featured in the collaborative anthology PREP FOR DOOM. Currently, she is working on two more novellas for Arrow's Flight as well as the Firebloods series based on the legend of the Phoenix. Look for book 2, Scorch Song, this spring.


Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!


Special thanks to Silver Dagger Book Tours for the chance to bring this title to your attention.  (THANKS!)  For more information on this work, the author, or those tours on the horizon, feel free to click through the links provided above.

Until next time, remember...if it looks good, READ IT!

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