Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 12 Favorite New Reads from 2013

To celebrate the end of the year, I've decided to feature a few of my favorite new reads from 2013. I've read a lot of awesome books over the last twelve months, but here are my twelve absolute favorites for the year.

Creator Class
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A smart, thought-provoking, and disturbingly plausible vision of the future that will forever color my view of the world as we know it.

Meaty Balls!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Irreverent, charmingly offensive and awesome!

Fire Country (The Country Saga, #1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fire Country is an outstanding, memorable story. I couldn't put it down.

Iron William and the Carpenter's Tears
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great plot, well-researched, and above all, fun to read!

Heart of the Witch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thrilling adventure.

Blue Hearts of Mars
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A tale of love in the face of injustice and fear.

The Ruthlessness of Cats and Dogs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Humorous and suspenseful with a touch of romance.

The Kinshield Legacy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of those books that make me want to read everything from the author.

Eric Elmoor and The Gauntlet of Godric (Book 1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic fantasy, coming of age in a world torn between technology and tradition.

Train to Nowhere

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Outstanding! Train to Nowhere is YA Dystopian at its finest.

Finnegan's Quest

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full length novel, but reads like a fable. Beautiful language use. Well edited.

City of Golden Shadow (Otherland, #1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Surprising, complex, and insane...but I like it.

Want to see what else I read this year? Check out my 2013 year in books on Goodreads.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 A-Z Book Title Challenge

Today's topic is just for fun. This year I participated in a couple of reading challenges on Goodreads one of which being the A-Z Book Title Challenge. The goal was to read one book for each letter of the alphabet over the course of the year. My reading list developed from a combination of paperbacks I already had, but hadn't read for years, read for review books donated to me by the authors, books that looked so awesome I actually bought them, and freebees I found on Smashwords, B&N and Amazon.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fantasy Review: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic book.

The Golden Compass presents a world where humans are accompanied by an external manifestation of their souls. They call them daemons, which might bring to mind something sinister, but in this case they are not. They take on the form of animals, linked to the nature of their human companions, shifting between forms with the speed of thought until their humans reach puberty.

The world itself is similar to ours. Basically, it's portrayed as an alternate universe or alternate reality that could exist even now alongside our own. But in this reality we have the daemon companions, flying witches who live hundreds of years, and speaking bears who are fierce and proud. Yet even these fantastic things are presented in a way that they are believable within the world they inhabit.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fiction Review: Valmont Sharp: Monster Hunter by David Raymond II

Valmont Sharp: Monster HunterValmont Sharp: Monster Hunter by David Raymond II
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great story, but needs some polishing.

Valmont Sharp: Monster Hunter is an easy read with plenty of excitement, danger, and adventure. I like the idea of the fake, real monster show, hiding true monster hunting behind special effects and showmanship. The young Chris Sharp, Valmont Sharp's son, is the main character, a bit of a surprise since the cover and title seemed to imply that Valmont would be the focus. The other characters are well fleshed out and interesting, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I thought Chris's friends were cool and enjoyed their chatroom conversations. Valmont's inner circle is equally intriguing, especially the 30-year old suffering from a curse that ages him. And the enemies, ruthless and flawed. I won't go into any details there due to spoilers.

Those who are greatly annoyed by errors in a book might want to wait until most of the errors are addressed in a future edition. There are times the book reads like a Mad Libs game with random words in place of the ones the author most likely intended to use. Also, double words and repeated phrases pepper the work. Still, if your human autocorrect is strong and you don't mind putting it to work, I would definitely recommend this story.

I really liked this story, though it needs some serious editing and proofreading. I recommend this to folks who love a bit of adventure, battles against mystical forces, and a unique plot, particularly those who don't mind a bit of rough or missing editing.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Science Fiction Review: The Zondon by Robby Charters

The ZondonThe Zondon by Robby Charters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good, well-researched sci fi.

The story opens with Ernie, an undermotivated guy whose twin outshines him. Growing up, Ernie experienced vivid dreams of space, a tomb in Egypt, and a multi-faceted glowing crystal. Now, when he and his brother get the opportunity to resume the exploration of a tomb their parents were forced to abandon before they were born, they jump on it, but Ernie begins to suspect he's been there before.

I found this to be an interesting book, with a good mix of real and fictional science, just enough to be plausible if not probable. As for the story, it's well-fleshed out and planned, and I didn't notice any plot holes. The origins of the aliens, both good and bad, and the tie in with the creation story,the dinosaurs, and the current events in the story are interesting and entertaining. The characters are from extremely different backgrounds, but their personalities, mannerisms and belief systems ring true, probably due to the author's research. This and the travel in the book makes this story appealing from a contemporary standpoint.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fiction Review: Finnegan's Quest by Gloria Piper

Finnegan's QuestI was lucky to score a review opportunity for another of Gloria Piper's books on Goodreads at the end of November just as I was wrapping up my NaNoWriMo 2013 novel.

Occasionally, I'll volunteer as a back up reviewer for review rounds rather than participate in them directly, because it gives me some leeway to select books I am more likely to enjoy and helps someone out when their original reviewer can not complete their review. (For more about review groups, take a look at my Read for Reviews: Pros, Cons and Ettiquette post)

When I saw Gloria's post asking for help, I jumped right on it. I loved her Train to Nowhere, so I already knew I liked her writing style, but I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this story. Train to Nowhere is a sci fi, dystopian; Finnegan's Quest is an allegorical coming of age story. But I must say, I wasn't disappointed. Read on for my review.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

YA Contemporary Review: Young Annabelle by Sarah Tork

Young Annabelle (Y.A, #1)Young Annabelle by Sarah Tork
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit that I really liked this book.

The story follows Annabelle, a slightly (very slightly in my opinion) overweight young girl whose self-image is under constant attack by her mother's obsession over thinning her down for her senior year. Though Annabelle wears only a size ten, her mother buys her clothes that are too small for her as incentive for her to lose weight, makes her wear a calorie tracking wristwatch, and makes her eat horribly unsatisfying foods in tiny quantities. Besides that, Annabelle's younger siblings are often brought in by their mother to gang up on Annabelle over her weight, making them disrespect their older sister and making Annabelle feel alone in a family who views her as less than worthy of their love and acceptance.

Already downtrodden, Annabelle finds herself in a thankless job selling lemonade at a country club. But that's when things get interesting. She meets a rather rude, but very hot boy named James who turns her life upside down. Her insecurities make her doubt everything he says, especially when he tells her she's beautiful, and she comes off pretty harsh at times. On the other hand, he's pretty self-absorbed and single minded, often coming off as a jerk.

Still, throughout the whole thing, I found myself rooting for Annabelle and James. His compliments and kinder moments seem to draw Annabelle out from the dark cloud her family has cast over her. As for Annabelle, she's a complex girl, and I totally get why she has so much trouble believing that James really likes her. I can't help but cringe when she lashes out at him, sometimes deserved, but not always.

Overall, I found Annabelle to be a relatable, insecure girl. Her rollercoaster of feelings, her struggle to please her parents, and her first encounters with a handsome boy who happens to like her are realistically portrayed if, at times, hard to take. I empathized with her and rooted for her, and even rooted for James, who had some good things going for him, too.

The story is well-layed out and well-written, though I did notice some errors sprinkled throughout, mostly words that sound like the right ones, but as spelled, don't mean what the author likely intended. The opening of the story starts at the end, not the end of this book, as I had expected, but likely the end of the series, or maybe even some way into the next book. The end leaves off at a cliffhanger kind of suddenly, and while it sets the stage for the next book, I would have liked some more resolution in this one.

Overall, I really liked Young Annabelle and would recommend it to fans of realistic, contemporary YA who enjoy reading about first loves, crazy parents, and troubled teens struggling to find themselves.

Although the author requested a review for this book earlier in the year, I found my copy on Smashwords during a free promotion.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fantasy Review: The Kinshield Legacy by K.C. May

The Kinshield LegacyThe Kinshield Legacy by K.C. May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of those books that makes me want to read everything from the author.

Let me start by saying I picked this book up mostly because it was free and because I needed a book title with a K for the A-Z reading challenge I'm playing along with this year. That being said, I was surprised to be drawn in immediately.

The hero is Gavin Kinshield, a bounty hunter or lawman for hire, who finds himself drawn to solving the Kings Runes. This is not something he desires. Instead, the runes and their solutions haunt him constantly, annoying him until he has no cure but solving another one. All this you get in the first chapter or so. After that, Gavin's character gets even more interesting. At first glance he's nothing one would consider kingly material, but the author slowly reveals there is more to him in a way that draws you in.

Another interesting character is the main female lead, a warrior called Daia, who has an interesting ability, a noble past, and a conflicted present. She finds herself alternately disgusted and impressed by him, an interesting thing in itself, and the banter between Daia and Gavin is both natural and amusing. She is also a member of an elite group of women called the Viragon Sisterhood, which battles otherwordly creatures called beyonders and hire out as protectors. This brings in another aspect I enjoyed, the portrayal of women as strong and capable.

But their prowess and strength are not enough to protect them from the evil sorcerer who seeks the rune solver for his own nefarious purpose, and they are caught up in the ever more intricate web that threatens not only Gavin, but also the entire country, for Brodas Ravenkind as king would be worse than no king at all. As the evil villain, Brodas is both despicable and powerful, scary and charismatic. Certain chapters are told from his perspective, which reveals just how awful he truly is. I loved it!

Another thing I loved about this book was the history that is revealed as the story progresses. Gavin's personal history and the Kinshield legacy, for which the book is named, are fascinating and are built slowly to allow the reader a chance to guess at what more there may be. But it is not only Gavin with a noteworthy past, Daia, Brodas, a young warrior woman Brawna, and the Farthans, Artlet and Risen Stronghammer, have their own stories to tell, all of which lead to a satisfyingly rich cast of characters with believable motivations.

As for the quality of the book itself, Kinshield Legacy is smoothly told and well-edited. It's a well polished product that I feel confident recommending to others.

Overall, I loved this book and feel it is worth reading again. I highly recommend it to folks who love adventure, fantasy, and a complex (but not overwhelming) plot. The story is just the right size, the writing is solid, and the experience is worth repeating.

I want to read the next books in the series, though the print copies run a little high for my taste. Still, as stories I'll likely re-read, the investment in paper may be worth it. Plus, I want my husband to read them, and he's not fond of e-readers. I'll probably read them all in ebook before getting the print copies.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nonfiction Review: The Weaponless Warriors by Richard Kim

The Weaponless WarriorsThe Weaponless Warriors by Richard Kim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this! I've been practicing karate for a few years and know some of the related history, but this book really brings it to life. It's a mix of history and anecdotal stories of those who contributed to karate as we know it today.

Also included are photographs of several of the more recent masters and of students performing various katas (forms). Although it was interesting to look through these, I didn't find the kata photos easy to follow. They weren't numbered or captioned, and without already knowing them, I couldn't figure out what order the moves would be performed in.

I spent considerable time looking for Tatsuo Shimabuku in the geneologies, but I think they linked him in with his brother. He is the founder of Isshinryu Karate, the style that I follow, and his teachers are mentioned in the book and in a couple of cases, Choki Motobu and Miyagi Chojun, have chapters devoted to them. I also saw an Angi Uesu listed. In the binder my sensei gave me there is an Angi Uezu, and I wonder if it is the same person. If so, it's pretty cool, because he was at one point my teacher's teacher. Reading back through the geneologies and following the stories and legends all the way down to names I recognize is one of the things that I enjoyed most. It makes me feel a part of something bigger than myself.

Besides the historical value, though, the stories themselves are fantastic. The ones featuring Bushi Matsumura are larger than life, especially the one about how he earned the title Bushi, but the story about how he tried to determine whether he was a better fighter than his wife was also amusing. So, basically, this isn't just history and facts. There is entertainment value as well.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to people who practice Karate, who enjoy historical stories and legends, or who are interested in martial arts in general. I was happy to receive this book on loan from my sensei and now that I've written my review I will reluctantly return it.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Epic Fantasy Review: The Dragon Reborn (The Wheel of Time #3) by Robert Jordan

The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time, #3)The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic read, previously rated 4 stars, I had to up it to 5 after this go through.

Let me start by saying I love this series. Ok, now that that's out of the way, let me tell you why I love The Dragon Reborn. For me, there are three main draws: Mat gets interesting, Perrin gets wolfish, and Elayne, Nynaeve and Egwene get into trouble. Oh, and don't even let me get started on the Aiel. Love the Aiel!

Mat has to be my favorite character in this series. He's the reluctant hero, the rogue. He's always been lucky and cocky, but in The Dragon Reborn, his luck starts going wild. He can't lose at games of chance and piles up an enormous wealth in a short time. But he's also caught in the Amyrlin's web. As the sounder of the Horn of Valere and as ta'veren, he finds his options limited more than most, but then again, his supernatural luck and the pull of the Dragon Reborn himself ensure that Mat does not stay caught for long.

Perrin, the quiet thinker among Rand's friends gets more of a spotlight in this book and he struggles against the call of the wolves, both in the waking and dreaming worlds. As he learns what little there is to know about his strange affinity to them, he begins to fear that he may lose himself entirely and actually become a wolf, in mind if not in body. This is also the book where the symbolic premonitions of Min concerning Perrin begin to become more clear. I won't go into any more details about that, but I will say it makes for an interesting read.

Meanwhile, Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve have returned to the White Tower in disgrace, everyone having thought they'd just run off. But despite spending a good deal of their days elbows deep in dishwater, the three find themselves on a dangerous quest, assigned by the Amyrlin herself. But they are, after all, still in training and they are ill equiped for the magnitude of their endeavor. A chance meeting with the Aiel brings a new element into their story and introduces Aviendha, one of my favorite female characters after Nynaeve.

And that brings us to the Aiel. In the books leading up to this one it is heavily hinted that Rand is Aiel, but who are they? The Dragon Reborn begins to answer that question, as the main heroes and heroines encounter various Aiel who are searching for He who Comes with the Dawn well beyond the borders of their own Three Fold Land (known as the Aiel Waste by most). One of my favorite things about the Aiel, besides their awesome fighting skills, is the mix between a fatalistic world view coupled with a quirky sense of humor, which most of them seem to share.

Another thing I love about this book is how prophecy, luck, coincidence, or maybe all three, conspire to draw all of the major players and threads into one massively satisfying battle royale.

Overall, a fantastic addition to the series. I highly recommend it to fans of the epic fantasy genre, especially those who enjoyed the first two in this series. Of course, those who like a book to get to the point without a lot of description or side plots may not find this series to their taste, so keep that in mind.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Epic Fantasy Review: The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time #2) by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time, #2)The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic second installment in Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time.

For this series, I reread all the books each time a new one is released (and sometimes for no reason at all), so I can say I've read this quite a few times over the last decade. Guess what, it's still an awesome read, even more so because I now recognize the scope of Robert Jordan's planning and forshadowing. You won't find any plot holes in this story. Even the most inane tidbit of lore or history seems to have a place in the greater scheme of things. Min's readings are much more meaningful than they seemed in the first couple of readings. All the random seeming symbols, including the ones she doesn't understand, are quite revealing to one who's read most of the other books. I can already see that I'll have to read these through again even after finishing the last book.

One of the most interesting tools of forshadowing and character development in The Great Hunt are the trips through the portal stones. During the final trip, in particular, insight is gained into all the possible outcomes Rand's life could have taken, and even the most ideal end in tragedy. With all these other possibilities. It makes you wonder just how bad his current path will be, the one where he is fulfilling his destiny. It's one of my favorite parts of the book.

Another contribution to character development is Egwene's interaction with the Seanchan. Much of the book is devoted to their attempts to break her. What she gains from the experience is the confidence and determination to be her own person, to never again allow anyone else to determine her path. It doesn't completely change her, but it sets the stage for some very interesting turns in her personality and outlook in future books.

Besides all of this, the threads of complexity become ever more dense as the book progresses, though it may not be so obvious on a first read. I'm seeing things introduced in this one that won't be put into play until book ten or later. It's quite fun to pick them out now, but the first time through they were woven into the story seemlessly. Interesting, but not distracting.

Another favorite thing about this book is the introduction of Daes Daemar, or the game of houses. When Rand and his companions find themselves in Cairhien, he discovers the locals have an unhealthy love of intrigue. To them, every spoken word, deed or nuance must mean something else, and they are quite interested in this mysterious Andoran Lord who has arrived in their city. Rand's frustration as progressively more powerful noble houses send him invitations is humorous. Refusing them makes no difference. Burning them unread doesn't either. It is a valuable lesson in managing the irrational and manipulating the powerful, though his first attempts at doing so are mostly successful by accident.

As far as the read goes, it's an easy one, but due to the size of this book and the greater series it's a part of, it takes a significant investment in time to get through the whole thing. Of course, as someone who normally devours a book in days, I like that this one can keep me entertained for weeks.

Overall, I loved this story as much as or possibly even more than the first time I read it. The story is rich and complex, the people and places fleshed out and believable. I highly recommend this book to fans of epic length fantasy, magic and strong female characters.

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013- The Freeze is Complete at 50310 Words

This morning at 2:30am, I finished The Freeze, my second NaNoWriMo novel. It's a fantastic feeling, wrapping up a 50k word novel in 30 days, and this time, I did it in 14.  Talk about procrastination.  But it was fun.

Just for fun, here is what my mini descent into the crazy writing frenzy that is NaNoWriMo looked like this year.  Obviously I'm a weekend warrior when it comes to writing, but this time I took it to the extreme. I had a couple of 8k days and even a 10 and 12k day. Coming to the end of one of those is like coming to edge of an insanity cliff and looking over the edge.

NaNoWriMo 2013-The Freeze
I was good and only wrote 3k on Thanksgiving, spending the day cooking and the evening watchin Punkin Chunkin on Discovery with my family.  But on Black Friday I avoided the stores and sales in favor of a pie induced sugar high and a 12k word writing marathon (actually 10k on the 29th and 2k after midnight).  I must have found words for the perfect ending three or four times in those final few hours, only to check my word count and realize my work was not done yet, a symptom of NaNoWriMo. The book isn't over until you reach 50k.

So what did I write about? A frozen future where residents of a city, led by a prepper named Mr. Prowler have taken refuge in an underground tunnel system. A young girl, Andrea, sick of writing sappy, optimistic essays for what the adults call school, decides to try her luck on one of Mr. Prowler's scavenging crews, who go topside to sweep the abandoned city for cast off supplies and materials.  With the help of a boy she likes who happens to be Mr. Prowler's son, she joins the team as Chaz.  But getting on the team isn't at all what she expected and she soon finds herself separated from the team, lost in the frozen city and alone.

NaNoWriMo 2012- Fearless (The Zombie Logs)
Of course, this year I knew I could do it. This wasn't my first trip down this road, and last year I spent 20 of the 30 days of NaNoWriMo delving into my version of the zombie apocalypse. Why? Not because I like zombies or zombie stories. Quite the opposite in fact. I wrote Fearless (The Zombie Logs) to combat the desire to hide out in the computer room whenever my husband watched The Walking Dead. It was therapeutic. It was also fun, sad, and the first book that actually had a scene that brought tears to my eyes when I wrote it. I also gave myself some writing constraints just to make it a bit more interesting. One, I never say the word zombie anywhere in the book. Two, the whole thing is written as a journal from the perspective of a young woman who managed to survive the outbreak and who finds herself the leader of a small band of survivors. Three, I only name three characters over the course of the book, though to hit my word count I did a run down of who's who at the very end. Still, I surprised myself.  Even with all these constraints, the characters took on realistic identities, humor and tragedy blossomed from the pages, and I even managed to fit in a little romance.  

The downside, though, was that I had a totally weird timeline since I didn't have a calendar out when I wrote it.  I'm working on taming that timeline in my current editing run for this book. In fact, I've got everything labeled with the correct date and now I'm just running through it making sure I haven't talked about it being Christmas in the middle of April or Thanksgiving in the middle of October.  Details, details. 

That's all for now. I'm giving myself the rest of the day off to recover.  Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow I'm back to editing. 

Did any of you NaNoWriMo this year? If so, share your experiences with it in the comments.  What was your best word count day? How much caffiene did you ingest? Etc. Etc.

While you're at it check out MichaelSciFan's interview with me and enter to win a free ecopy of Forgotten Valor.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Forgotten Valor Release and Giveaway on MichaelSciFan

Hi all,
I'm being interviewed today on Michael Long's awesome blog, MichaelSciFan!

Check out the interview here and don't forget to enter for a chance to win a free ebook copy of Forgotten Valor.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Self-publishers Rejoice-New Goodies on CreateSpace and KDP

Today I logged on to CreateSpace to add a final polishing update to my upcoming book, Forgotten Valor, which is scheduled to be released November 20, 2013, and discovered some new goodies.

For those of you who don't know, CreateSpace is a self-publishing platform for print-on-demand paperbacks. It can be a pain to format your book for print, but it's awesome to be able to order prints and distribute them and to keep no inventory when you don't have a buyer lined up.

Ok, back to the point. I logged on and there right across the top of the dashboard were two announcements.

1. The long begged for (if you read the CS message boards) matte finish is now available. Not every book works with a shiny cover. Now you can order them with a nice soft finish. Excellent!

2. Expanded distribution to bookstores and libraries is now free, whereas before it required self-publishers to pay a fee. Of course, just as before, sending it out through middlemen to extra outlets requires a slightly higher price, but the option is there, and the mark up isn't all that much.

So, if you publish your books for print with CreateSpace, take a look.

I signed up all my books for the expanded distribution, which doesn't guarantee your book will be carried by other distributors, but does make it possible. I already have one showing up on B&N, but it didn't do that until I expanded all my e-books to them via Smashwords. I think there's a connection there, but I can't prove it.

On a related note, Kindle Direct Publishing also has some new coolness to offer. Their Kindle Match Book is live, allowing readers who buy a book in print to get a copy of the Kindle edition at a discount. And it's awesome because you don't have to be enrolled in Kindle Select.

The second new thing on KDP is an ability to set up better promotions for Kindle Select books. I didn't look at it too closely because you have to sell your ebooks exclusively on Amazon to enroll, and I'm trying to expand my distribution, not limit it. But for those of you interested in selling on Amazon, only, it's definitely worth a look.

So to all, happy publishing!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Epic Fantasy Review: The Eye of the World (#1 The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Epic fantasy in a believable world.

Ok, let's start off with this. I am not trying to convince anyone that this is the best book ever. I've noticed several all or nothing reviews that say either this is absolutely the best or absolutely the worst book they've ever read. That being said, The Eye of the World is one of my favorite books. That it's just a jumping off point for the epic Wheel of Time series is just a bonus. Here's why I love it.

One, it's huge. Yes, that's right, I love it because it's huge. I read way too fast, and even a massive book like this doesn't take me much time to devour, but it does take enough time that I get to enjoy the story for a couple of weeks, and since I know there's 13 more books, I don't have that end of story remorse that the end of a good book sometimes generates.

Two, it's written in plain English, not flowery psuedo-fantasy speak. I like a good fanstasy book that tells the story without trying to prove the extent of the author's vocabulary. This is not to say Robert Jordan's vocabulary is lacking, I'm just saying that he doesn't purposefully pick large words to prove that he knows them. I believe this makes the story easier to enjoy, especially in the wee hours of the morning when you simply must find out what happens next, but are losing your grasp on the conscious world.

Three, the characters are diverse, believable and well-developed. I love the main character, Rand, and his two best friends, Perrin and Mat. They are each uniquely portrayed, though they are each haunted by dreams sent by the Dark One, their paths begin to diverge from early in the story. Rand faces a dark future as savior/destroyer of the world. An ancient affinity to wolves arises in Perrin, who wants nothing to do with it. And Mat is corrupted by an evil artifact and is subject to ever-growing suspicion and fear.

Meanwhile, the stories of the women in the group are given their fair share of the action. Moraine, the Aes Sedai who arrived in Emonds Field just in time to help Rand, Mat and Perrin escape, is on a quest that might cause her to lose everything, but she's willing to see it through because the alternative could mean the end of the world. Egwene and Nynaeve, young women from Rand's hometown, unlike the boys, intentionally decide to join the group as they travel to Tar Valon: Egwene because she's in love with Rand, and later because she learns she has the spark to weild the power; Nynaeve because she distrusts Moraine and wants to take the boys and Egwene back to Emonds Field where they belong, and, like Egwene, she discovers she can channel and, when her initial plans are foiled, decides to use that ability to take revenge on the Aes Sedai.

Three, I love the interplay between the men and women. The three boys each are under the illusion that one or both of the others are better at talking to or understanding girls. Rand and Egwene, who always assumed they'd marry, find themselves drawn farther and farther apart, but can't help but be jealous of the attentions of others. And Lan and Nynaeve, both strong willed and proud, find themselves drawn to each other, though such a relationship is unlikely to blossom in the face of Lan's history and his bond as a warder to Moraine.

Four, I love coming of age and coming into powers stories. It's always fun to discover new things about a character as he or she does, and there's plenty of that going around in The Eye of the World. Besides that, some of the changes aren't necessarily good, which is different from most stories. For example, Rand shows some inklings of power, but men who can channel all go mad and destroy everything and everyone around them. And I love how the young people are all kind of drawn into the drama and trouble of the times, so they are dealing with the normal parts of growing up (such as love and leaving home for the first time) as well as the crazy things going on in their world (such as the Dark One threatening to escape from his prison and darkfriends trying to kill or capture them at every turn).

Finally, this a story that can be read and re-read and enjoyed each time. I have read this book multiple times and will read it again. Each time I do, I am reminded why it drew me in the first time and I notice things I've missed or didn't recognize as important the first time around. This is a story that has graced my bookshelf for over a decade, as evidenced by the cover that is no longer attached and the sections of book that try to escape while I'm reading it (I really should get a new copy).

On the other hand, there are similarities between this book, The Lord of the Rings , Eragon, and The Sword of Truth, so those who tend to focus on such things in a negative light might find this a distraction. However, in my opinion, The Eye of the World and the Wheel of Time series are unique in the fantasy world, and I do not agree with the poorly chosen quote on the cover of the book that says this story completes the world that Tolkein created. This story is not set in Middle Earth. There are no orcs or Sauron. There are no elves. Then again, there is magic. There is strife and the hint of an epic showdown yet to come. There is the theme of leaving home as a young man to save the world, or perhaps destroy it. There is love. There is danger. But in my opinion the world and the characters in The Wheel of Time are unique and fully fleshed out in their own right.

Overall, I love this book and the series that follows. I've read it over a dozen times and will likely read it again. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy epic fantasy, complex/multiple plotlines and main characters, and multi-book stories.

If you start and decide to finish this series, you'll likely be occupied by it for several months or more. The good thing is, the series is now complete, so when you get to the end, you'll actually reach the end. I haven't read the last book, so I don't know how it goes. In fact, I'm rereading the whole thing now so that I can read the last one. I've done this each time a new one in the series comes out, so this is kind of bittersweet for me.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

What Service Means

Today's Veteran's Day, a holiday meant to celebrate those who have served their country in the military. As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, I wanted to share what serving meant to me back when I joined the military and what it means to me still. 

First and foremost, it was a chance to do something worthwhile, a chance to give back, not out of a lofty sense of patriotism, though I had plenty of that, but out of a sense of gratitude. I grew up dirt poor, my family surviving only because people who cared donated time, food, and clothing, and because of government programs such as Welfare, Food Stamps, and WIC. I never went hungry, but I knew that I could go hungry if any of those things were lost. So, as highschool graduation neared, I decided to give back in one of the few ways I knew how, military service.

Second, and I'll be honest here, there were very few prospects for me. I'd made excellent grades in highschool, assuming that some college out there would clamor to offer me a scholarship. But I discovered good grades aren't enough. In the end, I was accepted by both schools I wanted to attend, but I could afford neither one. As for finding a job, there were very few options, and I had little luck landing one. 

Third, I wanted to see the world. Yes, a bit cliche, but it's true. I figured I wouldn't get a chance otherwise. I wanted to visit different countries, see landmarks, meet interesting people and experience what the world had to offer. I figured the Navy would be most likely to satisfy my wanderlust. Turns out the only port I ever got to visit was Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but hey, it was pretty nice down there.

Finally, I wanted to get out on my own and be my own person, make my own decisions, but I needed support to do so. What better way than to join the military. They take care of you financially, medically, and spiritually. They teach you how to manage your finances, to buy houses and cars, to do a trade. They provide opportunities for college and give you experience to back that education. They become a surrogate family. Cammaraderie and shared purpose link those who serve in a way that is difficult to describe. It's one of the things I miss most.

Overall, I am grateful for the opportunities that arose from my decision to serve in the military and for the knowledge that I did something important. I contributed to society in a way that many will never fully understand, though I'm still surprised with a thank you every once in a while when someone finds out. I earned two college degrees. I met and married my wonderful husband, and because of that my son was born. I landed an excellent job post-military, mostly because of the experience and education I received while serving. And, I am able to share my memories and experiences of that time in my writing. 

Of course, service wasn't always easy, and in many ways it was one of the most challenging times in my life. But I choose to remember and celebrate the positive outcomes and the things that made it worthwhile to me.

So, have a happy Veteran's Day. I encourage everyone to celebrate and support the veterans in your life, not just today, but every day. Each of us joined for different reasons; each of us experienced different things; and some of us sacrificed more than others. But we all made the decision to serve our country, and that is worth celebrating.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

National Novel Writing Month-destroyer of weekends and free time...

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NaNoWriMo is going full swing, but I told myself I wouldn't do it this year.  Nope, not me.  Instead, I want to recover from the months of editing and rewriting I've just wrapped up for Forgotten Valor (to be released Nov 20, pictured right), Shadows of Valor, and The Golden Ship.  But here's what's going to get me.  I've got an insane urge to just jump right in there, 7 days late, and do it anyway.

Ideas are churning.  Plot points and twists are spinning, looping, and somersaulting through my head on the way to work, when I'm eating dinner, when I'm practicing Karate.  I can't stifle them.  I can't ignore them.  And the longer I try to the more they press on my mind.  The story is calling, and I'm not sure I can resist much longer.

So, long story short, I've got a long weekend coming up and I might just throw sanity and peace to the wind and jump into the frenzy after all.  So, on the off chance I jump in and do it, the posts and reviews might become sparse this month.  If not, I'll work on taming the book I wrote for it last year, Fearless, and see if I can get it up and running by Christmas.  Nothing like a zombie book release just in time for the holidays.

Well, I'll keep you posted.  Wish me luck!  Either way I'll be busy this month.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

YA Book Review: Uniquely Unwelcome by Brandy Nacole

Uniquely Unwelcome (The Shadow World, #1)This year I'm playing along with an A-Z Book Title challenge on Goodreads.  Today's review is for my U book, Uniquely Unwelcome. Unlike many of the books I review, I actually bought this one.  I've been following the author, Brandy Nacole, on Facebook for some time, and finally picked up a copy of one of her books.

As for the A-Z challenge, I'm getting close.  I plan to post my final A-Z reading list with links to my reviews when I finish the challenge.

Uniquely Unwelcome by Brandy Nacole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Uniquely Unwelcome takes the werewolf, vampire, shifter, witch thing to a new level. The story opens with Racquel returning to her hometown, and dreading it. From her earliest memories, she has faced ridicule and fear, a side effect of her mixed heritage. Mixing of the shadow world races is discouraged, and in some cases dangerous or impossible, but her family found a way. With years of trauma to deal with, the last thing she wants is to be noticed when she arrives in town, but she is.

This is ya at its finest. The various shadow world races are interesting and well-defined, especially with how they shouldn't be able to be mixed. Besides the four main races, there is also mention of leprechauns and fairies, and we actually get to meet the fairy queen.

It's fantastic seeing how the four main races mingle in Racquel's veins. As part vampire, she occasionally needs blood, especially after an injury or strenuous fight. As part shifter, she can turn into an eagle. As part werewolf, she's stronger than she should be and heals quickly. As part witch, she can use magic. But, and here is where it's interesting, she has had almost no guidance on how to deal with any of this. Instead of accepting her, each of these races has not only snubbed her, but also in some cases attacked, humiliated or harrassed her. She's one against them all, which makes it awkward when people from the different races start going missing and they need to call on her to help track them down. She agrees to help, but only because her sister, Addie, is one of those missing. She and a growing team of young people recruited from the various races take up a world tour to visit the main colonies of each race.

Also, as is common in ya, there is a bit of romance, but it is affected by racial stigmas and incompatibilities. We see the love blooming, but we know that the couple(s) will be shunned and any children of theirs would face the same kind of painful existance as Racquel. Makes it hard to know whether to hope they make it or to hope they don't. Of course, I'm always voting for love. I enjoy the way the romance is developed in this story.

Another thing I liked was that Racquel begins to gain acceptance and learn more about herself. This personal growth makes her relatable and gives hope for her future. She's a strong person, too. I love reading about strong female characters, so this was a plus for me.

The only thing I thought was a bit off was how easily and how quickly Racquel was convinced to help the four races. Sure, her sister was taken, but that was really the only explanation. It takes a single conversation to convince her to drop everything and instantly pack her bags to go face the main camps for each of the races who despise her. I don't know if I'd be so easily convinced, especially if I had no previous positive reinforcement and little confidence in my own self-worth, as Racquel seems to have. But, after that odd start, the story picks up and everthing flows well.

Overall, I really liked this story. It's a bit of a ya cliche at times with all the various magical races, but the way they are used and presented in the story is believable and interesting. The romanctic themes are well developed and seem doomed to failure, but I felt a connection and hoped along with them that things would turn out alright.

I would highly recommend this story to fans of YA literature, especially those who like the werewolf, vampire, shifter, or witch type stories; you get all four in Uniquely Unwelcome. I look forward to the next story in the series.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween: One Last Frightening Short Story Review

Halloween has come and nearly gone, but I have one more short story review before I close out this month's short story theme.

Today's review is #3 in the Feast, Stray, Love Trilogy by Kevin Anthony.  The author gifted me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

Feast, Stray, Love - #1, #2 and Introducing #3Feast, Stray, Love - #1, #2 and Introducing #3 by Kevin Anthony
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, scary, and funny, but not as much love in # 3 as expected.

Love is the third installment of this series and is full of twists and surprises.  Damien is still messed up in the head, but his powers, besides being handy and incredibly gory, are getting the better of him.  Meanwhile Maxine and Ava have both moved on to their Stray and Jaxom has moved on to his Love.  Damien is stuck in the kitchen of a quirky restaurant whose owner can't settle on a menu or a theme.  But, no matter the interesting and varied cuisine, it just can't seem to compete with the TFC Chicken across the street.

First off, this is a funny and, of course, explosive finale to the trilogy.  The mysterious factory, its purpose, and the mastermind behind it all are revealed.  The battle between good and evil sucks you right in, and Damien's superpowers and lovable friends make it fun.  The new friend Trey is interesting and likeable, but there seems to be more to him than is revealed in this installment.  Also, I couldn't exactly peg how he fits in with Damien.  I settled on protoge in the end. When I asked the author about him, he revealed there may be more books in the works, and Trey's story will be featured in more detail.

Besides the plot, humor is still prevalent, but in this case there are more one-liners but not as many natural laugh out loud moments. My favorite is still #2 Stray for its humor and deeper social plot, romantic tension and, of course, Sparkles, but #3 is a crazy, fun ride, and I liked it.

Another thing of note is that despite the title, there's not as much Love or incidental romance for Damien or his friends in this one, making me think the title's just a convenient one matching up with the self-help book featured in the story.  For those who prefer less romance, that might be a good thing, but I felt a little disappointed for Damien.  He's such a likeable guy, I really wanted him to hit it off with someone.

Now for the balance.  Despite liking this story, I couldn't fail to notice a lack of technical polish to it.  The word choice and flow are a bit off in spots, and for some reason the header listed this as #2 Love.  I also found a couple of spots where the text was centered, which I assume was an accident because those spots were just regular paragraphs.  I feel this book could use a couple more passes by someone with an eye for detail and a feel for transitions and lead-ins.

Overall, this is a good book, humorous, scary and more action packed than it's predecessors.  I'd recommend it to people who enjoy a quick read in the horror genre with just a touch of m-m romance.  As for the series as a whole, I'd recommend it. Not for the kids, though.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Novella Review: Cat's Paw by Rustin Petrae

Cat's PawTo wrap up October's short and shortish book theme, there's no better way than to end with a ghost story.

I picked this one up on Amazon during one of its free days.  I'm a big fan of the author's Book One: Dragon and looking forward to the newly released Book Two: Roc, set in the world of Purga.  I won a copy of Book Two: Roc by answering a trivia question about Book One, but it is still on my to be read list.  I'm looking forward to it.

Cat's Paw wasn't exactly what I expected when I picked it up, but it was a good read.

Good and scary, enjoy!

Cat's Paw by Rustin Petrae
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A ghost story with a twist.

Tad is fifteen the year Vicki Campbell is murdered. Neighborhood parents are afraid, but Tad and his friends, while worried for Vikki, are more interested in breaking free of the extra restrictions imposed to keep them safe from an unknown predator. On the way to a pickup game the kids are organizing to break the monotony, Tad has his first run in with the cat.

While this story features a young boy as the main character, isn't a kid's story. The subject matter is scary, and both his experiences and the ultimate outcome are somewhat graphic. Also, the story seems to be told from the perspective of a fifteen year old, though the main character seems to be reflecting on a long-past memory. The language used is simplistic, and the dialog is filled with juvenile bravado and insults. Still, I enjoyed the quick read and the surprising, yet disturbing, twist.

Cat's Paw is a reasonably entertaining ghost story, though not for those who are easily disturbed or offended when the horrors are portrayed realistically and in detail.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Short Story Review: Stray (Feast, Stray, Love #2)

Feast, Stray, LoveThe author enjoyed my first review so he asked me to review #2 and #3 as well!  I always love hearing that my reviews are well received  and getting follow up review requests.  Plus, I like "collecting" an entire series in my reviews.  If you scroll back far enough in my blog (especially on Goodreads, which is where I started off), you'll find a few of my collections.  Some of them are still in progress.

Feast, Stray, Love by Kevin Anthony
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funny follow up to Feast (Feast, Stray, Love #1).

Stray takes up a bit after the final showdown in Feast. The story is short, funny, and doesn't lose track of the original storyline. I thought it did for a while, but the threads were being laid to tie everything together. Damien has left Mayson for Port Rising, a cozy seaside town. Living and working at Dirty Betty's, a gay bar, and moonlighting at the local Church for Pastor Abram in gratitude for help when he first came to town, Damien finds himself living a double life.

My favorite character in this one is Sparkles, the owner of the gay bar. I can totally picture him in his evening gowns, or in his teddy bear pajamas. Although he seems silly at times, he as a person comes across as realistic. He's afraid for his bar and his staff, and acts desperately to save them. I also love that Ava pops up again. She is the jack of all trades from Feast, who pops up everywhere performing her latest "part-time." It's funny, but also intriguing. Why is she everywhere Damien goes?

Besides the characters, there is an underlying theme of being true to yourself, even when the mainstream thought is against you. Caleb, the pastor's son, is the primary vehicle of this message. Damien, who sees the good side of the pastor, is surprised to learn that his son was written off when he came out, but doesn't truly believe the pastor is all that bad, just a strict follower of his beliefs. Then he begins to learn more.

Another theme is one of moving on after loss. Damien is coming to terms with the loss of his boyfriend and is avoiding any romantic entanglements, a difficult proposition when the handsome Detective Jaxom rolls into town on a basketball trip. Sparkles says go for it, but Damien feels it would be a betrayal to Ben.

I noticed much less cursing than in Feast, which I felt was good. The sexual situations are relatively tame, but they do focus on m-m relationships. Personally, I don't mind that, but it's worth note. If the reader is uncomfortable with such things, this is not the book for them. I also noticed an improvement in the execution of the dialog, making it seem more natural and easier to picture what's happening while the characters are talking.

As for things I didn't like, I found a couple of places where I felt like something changed in the matrix (pardon the pun). The people would be talking, then something would be said that I thought had already been said. I'd flip back and it wouldn't be exact, but it would be close enough to throw me off. It wasn't too bad, but it was confusing when it happened. I also noticed a few minor errors in grammar such as using a singular verb for a plural noun.

Overall, I really liked this one. It's primarily funny, with underlying themes of social acceptance, dealing with loss, and learning to be oneself. Plus, the creepy Factory is still in play, though not quite as much as in the first, so it has the horror component going for it. I'd recommend this to people who enjoy humorous and scary stories and who either prefer or don't mind the portrayal of m-m romantic relationships.

I picked up a free copy of Stray during a promotion on Smashwords after completing an author-requested review for Feast. When the author requested a review for Stray, I had already added it to my TBR list.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Short Story Review: Feast (Feast, Stray, Love #1) by Kevin Anthony

FeastI picked up this book during a free promo day on Amazon after the author requested a review for it.  As horror and m-m fiction, it's not in a genre I typically read, but sometimes a story will surprise me. As far as the theme goes, this one comes just in time for Halloween, but this story is meant for a mature audience.

Feast by Kevin Anthony
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A dish of humor served with a side of gore. Short, creepy, creative...

Feast is the first in the Feast, Stray, Love short story trilogy. The story begins with Damien being rescued by his teacher after passing out and causing a massive fire at the local college. Upon waking in the hospital, he learns he has a brain tumor, and his doctor performs the surgery to remove it. Unfortunately for Damien, his doctor is a bit of a quack and scrambles a few things up while working on him. Luckily, Damien's mother and boyfriend are there to support him through his recovery, but the extra job his boyfriend picks up to help cover expenses soon leads to unexpected complications in their relationship, and his doctor's shoddy operating techniques lead to complications of their own.

First off, I must say I don't frequently read stories specifically focused on men in romantic relationships with each other. That being said, I found the relationship believable and, for the most part, tastefully done. There are some sexual situations, but none are too explicit and the focus seems to be more on the emotional relationship, which is an approach I tend to like in a story. However, I would classify this book as horror, rather than romance.

The true focus of the plot is the doctor's mess of a job on Damien's brain and the creepy factory outside of town that subverts his boyfriend and later threatens his mom. People enter the factory, never to return. Those who land jobs there either disappear or leave their families to stay at the factory, and strange shipments arrive frequently. Besides that, the question is, what exactly does the factory do? The dodgy answers Damien gets from his boyfriend and later from a detective leave much to be discovered in later books in the series. Adding to the horror aspect of the story are the relationships. The author builds a highly admirable and likeable boyfriend, who the main character loves deeply, and then puts him in harm's way. He does the same with Damien's mother, building her up into someone the reader likes, and then showing her becoming a bit too enamored of an ironically named self-help book, "Feast, Stray, Love."

As for the vastly unqualified doctor in the story, I'm not certain the details or credentials surrounding him or his work on Damien are exactly believable, but his bedside manner is humorously atrocious, and his less than stellar operating skills are responsible for Damien's subtle transformation throughout the book. Again, is it believable? Not really, but it is entertaining. A good bit of the humor in the book stems from this crazy, irreverent doctor and the reactions of those around him.

Besides the romantic angle, the plot, and the crazy doctor, which I enjoyed and led me to like the story overall, there are a few things that kept me from loving it: one, grammatical issues, primarily the punctuation of the dialog; two, the frequent use of the F-word, not a surprise since it's also used in the book description; and three, various plot points for which I had to hit my "I believe" button. The dialog and other minor grammatical issues might detract from the story for those who find that sort of thing annoying, but could be fixed in a future edition. The F-word usage bugs me, but I think it fits into the story and the style of the writing, totally a personal preference type thing. The things that were vague could be due to the constraints of writing a short story, namely details are often cut to keep the story short. However, some of the details and situations presented are hard to imagine in a real setting, but are portrayed as being normal or realistic, which made some of the fictional aspects of the story less believable.

Overall, I liked Feast. It's a good, short book with a bit of humor and romance and a whole lot of mystery and creepiness factor, good for a horror story. The romantic relationship between Damien and his boyfriend isn't too explicit, focusing more on their relationship, but I would caution that it is aimed at mature readers. I'd recommend this story to those who like the horror genre, want a quick read, and either prefer or aren't bothered by books that feature a male-male romance.

I picked up a copy of this book from Amazon during a free promo day after the author requested a review.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Novella Review: Flute of the Wind Queen by Eisah

Flute of the Wind Queen (Outlander Leander: vol.1)And now for something a little different. Today's contribution to my short or shortish book theme is Flute of the Wind Queen.

I picked up this novella in a book review club on Goodreads where I received a free copy of the ebook in exchange for a review.

It caught my eye because of the worried looking guy with the big ears on the cover, but I didn't expect to find pictures inside. Not just one or two pictures, but several, meaningful and relevant full page illustrations fill the book. I thought it was a nice touch, and in this case, nicely done.

Later, when I went to post the review on Amazon, I found this funny author profile picture and write up for Eisah. I always enjoy finding gems like this.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Short Story Review: The Story of Hennelie Hamster RUNNING WILD at Christmas Time on a Farm in Zimbabwe by Nikki Ziehl

And now for a little bit of inspiration.  Today's feature is a short story featuring the brave Hennelie Hamster.

For a short story, this one has quite a long title, but it lets you know what you're in for.  It tells you who the main character is, what she's doing, when she's doing it and where she is when she's doing it.  Plus, it fits together nicely on the cover, which makes me smile every time I see it.

I came across the link and intro to this story on the CreateSpace message boards near the end of last year before I really got into writing reviews.  In fact, when I looked at the review I had for this one, I decided it was way too skimpy: just two sentences and a corny thank you to the author.  So, here is my revamped review for The Story of Hennelie Hamster Running Wild at Christmas Time on a Farm in Zimbabwe.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Short Story Review: The Awful Tale of the Minnesota Diarrhea Ghost by Rish Outfield

The Awful Tale of the Minnesota Diarrhea GhostThe Awful Tale of the Minnesota Diarrhea Ghost by Rish Outfield
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Silly little story where grandpa tells his two grandsons all about the origins of the diarrhea ghost. I found it to be funny, and it left a smile on my face. Can you imagine? A ghost whose presence gives you diarrhea.

I bet the Ghost Hunters wouldn't want to take on that one.


Looks like it's perpetually free on Smashwords. Worth picking up for those who like an incredibly short, humorous read.

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Pick up your own copy at Smashwords.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Short Story Collection Review: Working for Heat by Donavan Sotam

Working for HeatToday's offering for this month's theme of short and shortish books is Working for Heat, a collection of three short stories set in the office.

When the author asked me to review his book, he mentioned it was a satire. I'd like to say I knew exactly what he meant, but instead I had only a vague sense of the word. To ensure I knew how to treat this review, I dusted off my memories from high school English class and then did a few searches on Google just to be sure. In case you're a bit rusty like I was, satire is poking fun at a human folly through wit, irony or derision.

As for the title, the author explains it as working to no purpose.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Short Story Review: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This classic tale, featured originally in The Jungle Book, tells of the brave battle of Rikki-Tikki the mongoose against the deadly cobras, Nag and Nagaina.  Rikki-Tikki is swept away from his family by a flood and finds himself a most welcome guest of a human family.

I remember reading this once in school, though I can't remember exactly when, and I was happy to come across it for free on Amazon. It's actually quite an exciting tale, though perhaps a little scary.  The snakes, Nag and Nagaina, are sinister and plot the death of the entire family in the big house, hoping that Rikki-Tikki would then move on. But luckily their plot is discovered, and the mongoose defends his adoptive family with every fiber of his being.

The characters are varied and are each entertaining in their own right.  I love the idiotic Tailorbird, Danzee.  He weeps, sings, and celebrates in turn, without any regard to consequence, mostly because of his short attention span. The little fearful musk-rat, who runs along the walls, but never to the center of the room, is also amusing.  His role as informant is important to winning the battle, but mostly because he's afraid he'll be mistaken for the mongoose.

But mostly, I love Rikki-Tikki himself.  Too curious to be afraid and fiercely protective of the young family and the creatures of the yard, he is an admirable hero.  Brave and funny, and believable, too. When he's not busy saving the day, he scampers around on the breakfast table, perches on the little boy's shoulder, and otherwise endears himself to both the family and the reader.

I also like the poem at the beginning and Danzee's song at the end, cut short because Danzee himself was interupted in the singing by Rikki-Tikki.

Overall, a short, but powerful story of triumph, bravery, and danger. I recommend this one to anyone who likes rooting for the underdog and those who enjoy animal characters.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Novella Review: Annie Banner, Wedding Planner by T.G. Davis

Annie Banner, Wedding PlannerMy month of short and shortish stories continues with Annie Banner, Wedding Planner, what the author calls a cozy mystery.  I didn't know what a cozy mystery was going in, but I think it means a quick mystery you can cozy up to. 

Anyway, this is another one of those stories that the author offered to me in exchange for a review.  But unlike The Tales of Arva (previous post), this one didn't fall into one of the genres I usually read.  However, I took it as an opportunity to broaden my horizons and agreed to do the review anyway.

I've since discovered that this is just the first of many Annie Banner, Wedding Planner cozy mysteries.  The author plans to publish them quite frequently.  As such, I've included a link to the author's Amazon page at the end of this post, so those who are interested can sign up to receive notifications when new ones are released.

Annie Banner, Wedding Planner by T.G. Davis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Annie Banner and her mom, Dana, run a successful wedding planner business. But this time, a routine visit takes strange turn and the duo find themselves in the middle of a mystery.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Short Story Collection Review: Tales from Arva: Volume 1 by Kevis Hendrickson

Tales from Arva: Volume 1As part of my month long theme of short and shortish stories, todays' feature is Tales from Arva, a collection of poetry, parables, legends and myths set in the same fantasy world.  This common location was the only thing these stories shared.  Each one was completely unique.

The author offered me a free copy of this book in return for a review after seeing that I both like fantasy books and like writing reviews about them. 

After I wrote my review, I discovered that some of the stories contained in this collection are also available as individual short stories.  I ended up posting a bonus review of The Tale of Liril with that story because it was my favorite of the bunch.

Tales from Arva: Volume 1 by Kevis Hendrickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Parables, legends and myths, both bittersweet and tragic...

I liked Tales of Arva, though I must say I enjoyed some of the tales more than others. Since each one is unique, I'll address each tale separately.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Short Story Collection Review: Shakespeare for Cats by DE James

Today, as part of my month long theme of short and shortish stories, I am featuring Shakespeare for Cats.  I came across this on Amazon when I was scouting for freebees and thought I could use a little sophistication on my book shelf.  Plus, the little cat on the cover looked cute.  This book surprised me because when I got it, I didn't realize it was a collection of short stories.  Besides that, I found the way the stories tied together to be an interesting approach.

Shakespeare for Cats by DE James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute, quick, and amusing.

Shakespeare for Cats is made up of a bunch of short stories, featuring the furry, hoofed, feathered and even two legged denizens of an aging neighborhood.

The characters are each unique and well-developed, and though they may not try to be, they are humorous in their interactions and their life views. My favorite, and a great example, is Fav the opossum. He organizes a gang of house mice on raids, ambushes and intelligence missions, and even makes an attempt to bribe a guard parrot into looking the other way for a cut of the take.