Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Here's proof, I do read too much!



Patricia's 2014-reads book montage

Spark
The Path of Daggers
X Y Z
You Suck
The Sending
Everywhere the Road Ends
The Jericho River
Legacy
Clash of the Clans: Shinobi 7 Companion Book #1
The Protector and the Peacemaker
The Zero Game
A Crown of Swords
The Convict and the Captive
The Slayer and the Sphinx
Masters at Arms & Nobody's Angel
Fade to Black
Lord of Chaos
Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables
Perception


Patricia Hamill's favorite books »

Monday, December 29, 2014

Childrens Book Review and Giveaway (US only): The Case of the Cursed Dodo by Jake G. Panda

Today I'm happy to post both a review and a giveaway. After you check out the review, don't forgot to scroll down and enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of the book from the author.

The Case of the Cursed Dodo (The Endangered Files, #1)The Case of the Cursed Dodo by Jake G. Panda
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Case of the Cursed Dodo is a rather unique read mixing the feel of an old mystery detective show with endangered animal rights activism. Jake the panda is a detective based in the Last Resort, a hotel for endangered animals. A phone call from a friend in trouble sets him on the path of both a kidnapping and an unsolved mystery.

The story is interesting and well-edited. The approach taken to tell the story is unique, more like watching a movie than reading a book. Everything is organized in scenes, with camera perspective shifts indicated in all caps. The narration lines are in italics, so you know when the narrator's voice over is happening. I tended to imagine a deep rumbly voice for these, as I believe they are told from Jake's perspective.

I also like that all of the characters are animals, though I thought some of them could use a bit more description. The focus is on endangered animals, and those are the nearly exclusive focus of the cast list. The downside is that some of them are rather obscure, so without description or illustration, they are hard to imagine. It seems at times almost like a catalog of the creatures.

The illustrations in the book are well done. I thought they were classy and fit the story. They have a sort of dreamlike feel, or perhaps a sense of being in an older era. I looked at them on both my tablet and my kindle (a regular cheap kindle) and they looked great on both.

The plot and the terminology meant to land us in the old detective setting from the black and white movie era, while interesting and entertaining, might not exactly make sense to children unless they happen to have watched movies from the genre that inspired this story. Personally, I think older folks would like this story the best. I was reminded of Dick Tracy and Warner Brothers cartoons that feature detectives. Still, I think children will enjoy the story for the animals and the action, all of which is kid friendly (to a degree). As always, I'd recommend that adults read the story ahead of time before giving it to their kids.

So, overall, I thought this was interesting and easy to read. The story, while meant to inspire nostalgia, will probably only do so for older readers. Younger readers will likely enjoy the animal characters and the illustrations. I'd recommend this to people who enjoy mysteries and sleuthing stories, classic movies about the same, and illustrated books. Those who also appreciate stories that raise their awareness about issues in non-preachy ways will find this story satisfying in that regard.

I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

Enter below for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Case of the Cursed Dodo! This raffle is open only to US Residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author and Book Links
Main website: http://www.endangeredfiles.com -- Links to sites where children and readers can learn more about the endangered animals in this book, such as what they look like.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/theendangeredfiles
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jakegpandapi  or @jakegpandapi

Find a copy of this book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0990939111

Friday, December 26, 2014

Epic Childrens Fantasy Review: Everywhere the Road Ends (The Traveler of Ord #2) by Scott McCloskey


Everywhere the Road Ends (The Traveler of Ord #2)Today's review is for Everywhere the Road Ends by Scott McCloskey. This was an exciting opportunity for me, because I simply loved the first in the series. I was lucky to have been provided both books from the author for review.  

Anyway, continue on to the post at Pure Textuality for my review. While you're there, check out the other posts, too.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review and Freebee Announcement: The Eric Elmoor Saga by Tommy Meyers

Today I'm passing on a free promotion for a great series. I read the first book as a read for review and I remember thinking wow the whole time. Very solid first book.  So, here's my review again for the first one. Scroll down for links to two free novels and two free short stories set in this fantastic world.

Eric Elmoor and The Gauntlet of Godric (Book 1)Eric Elmoor and The Gauntlet of Godric by Thomas A. Meyers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Eric Elmoor and The Gauntlet of Godric (Book I) is an excellent read.

The story begins with Derex, a disillusioned elf who turns to the dark arts and a mysterious master, Cerberus, to achieve his goal of destroying or at least turning aside the progress of the Initiative, technologically advanced rulers who aim to spread their way of life and their reach across the whole of the continent. Derex and his companions Belial and Faramor plan and execute a synchronized attack on the three major metropolises in Initiative hands, hoping to fill the citizens with fear and discourage the Initiative away from elven lands.

On the same day as the attack, 15 year old Eric Elmoor prepares for the last day of school and considers ways to attract the attention of a girl he has a crush on. But the Initiative, spurred by the tragic attack, sequesters him and his classmates (all students in the elective History of Magic class) for the entire day, grilling them on their interest in magic and motivations related to it. The day finally over, Eric returns home to find his mom deep in conversation with Ben, a wandering mage who has plans for Eric's future.

From there, Eric finds himself swept away from his comfortable city life into the magical and natural realm of the elves where he learns the secrets of his own heritage and potential, meets a beautiful girl, Lillian, and finds himself embroiled in a conflict between the elves and the misguided and dangerous rebel, Derex.

While this story has all the elements of a good fantasy, three elements set it apart from the rest.

One, the world in which the story is set is in a technological revolution, a prime ground for conflicts between traditional cultures who want to maintain their connections to nature and those who would seek to suppress them in the interest of progress.

Two, the story follows three primary characters: Derex the villian (who is both awful and likeable), Eric the young man trying to find his place in the world (self-conscious, confused, and full of potential for either good or evil), and Ben the mage (who desperately seeks to save the elves from their own pridefulness). Each person's story interweaves flawlessly with the rest and it is easy to keep track of where you are in the timeline at any given time.

Three, the imagery is fantastic without trying too hard. Some fantasy stories can get bogged down in the descriptions, not this one. Instead, the author illustrates his world with strong, concise description, making you feel like you are there. The sights, sounds, smells and textures come to life in your mind as the words flow off the page.

This is an outstanding book which I will probably read again (mostly likely each time a sequel comes out).

If you liked the Shannara books by Terry Brooks, you'll like this one, too.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

--------------------
Starting today through the 28th, get books 1 & 2 of the Eric Elmoor Saga for FREE on Kindle!

The Eric Elmoor Saga is a coming of age tale set in a fantastical world besieged in a conflict between technology and tradition. Who would like to go on the journey?

 "What can I say other than WOW! My description of this book...‪Harry Potter meets ‪The Lord of the Rings!"

"One final word……….. Tolkien and Rowling’s [books] will be family favourites for years to come and if book one of Tommy’s [series], Eric Elmoor and the Gauntlet of Godric, is anything to go by he will be joining these great authors!"

"If you love the Harry Potter series you will love this one."

"...deserves to be known by more people."

"Great for all ages!"

"Brilliant!"

"Mind-blowing!"

"This is only book 1 to Eric's journey and It has left me needing to know the rest of the story, a good book does that to you! In fact you know you have me hooked when I buy both digital and paper copies (which I have just done)."


ERIC ELMOOR AND THE GAUNTLET OF GODRIC

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00AK21Z48

ERIC ELMOOR AND THE CHALICE OF CAMERON

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00OVNF...

AND, there are TWO free short stories as well:

THE INITIATIVE

https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog...

EXODUS

https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog...

Happy reading :-)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Epic Historical Fiction Review: The Jericho River by David Tollen

The Jericho River
Today's review is for a book I picked up while looking for freebees for my Kindle. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this, but I also learned a lot. Highly recommended.

Check out the description and my review on Pure Textuality.

View all my reviews




Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Children's Book Review: Eliza Bluebell by A.J. York

Eliza BluebellEliza Bluebell by A.J. York
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another one of A.J.'s magical stories. This one features a mysterious young woman who takes a break from her quest to find family to open a sweet shop in a small town. No one is certain how or when Eliza showed up, but everyone remembers it. After that, each chapter features one or two of the people from the town and how Eliza touches their lives. Eliza becomes a legend in the town's lore. A woman whose departure was as mysterious as her arrival.

In this story, which is pretty short, I most enjoyed the chapters in the middle, because each one is told from the perspective of a different villager. The nosy neighborhood women, the best friends in the grade school, the old man who grumbles and times the bus, and the young couple who are down on their luck. I like how Eliza draws them out of their shells and helps them connect to each other. Eliza's sentient and playful shadow adds that element of magic to everything. The people don't notice it directly, but they are affected by it. This is one of those stories that just left me feeling good.

The illustrations are also well done, though simple in their execution. Just silhouettes and shadows against a white background. They are obviously done by a skilled artist, though not as whimsical or laughter inducing as those in the author's other books. They fit the story and introduce the subject of each chapter effectively.

Although I liked this story, I think the story could have done just as well either without the first chapter, or with a much shorter one. I think this was because the first chapter was more of a telling than a showing. Later ones were more of a showing, which is why I enjoyed them more. There was also a fair amount of repetition, particularly within the first chapter.

Overall, I really liked the story, though it had a slow start. I'd recommend Eliza Bluebell to folks who like uplifting short stories with a touch of humor and magic.

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Add Eliza Bluebell to your TBR

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23652748-eliza-bluebell

Get Eliza Bluebell now!

http://www.amazon.com/Eliza-Bluebell-J-York-ebook/dp/B00QFZ6XLO

Connect with A.J. York

www.ajyork.com
www.facebook.com/delilahdusticle
https://twitter.com/


Monday, December 15, 2014

Historical Fiction Review: The Governess by Noorilhuda

The Governess by Noorilhuda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Governess tells the story of a young woman cast aside by her husband and forsaken by all who know her. It opens on the morning of a hard-won interview. Jane is haunted by a voice in her head that tries to undermine what little self-respect and confidence she still has. Despite her reputation and her inner struggles, she is hired and assumes the role of governess for a well-to-do, but broken family.

Let me start off by saying I really enjoyed this story. The people and their histories are thoroughly explored, but not all at once. Everything is revealed slowly, just enough to draw you further into the story. At first I was worried I'd lose interest, because it seems to take an incredibly long time for anything to happen. But, instead, I found myself more and more engrossed as the story progressed, leading to some very late nights the last few times I picked up the book.

The story is complex and weaves several subplots into the main one that follows Jane on her road to redemption and self actualization. The mystery surrounding Jane's scandal, the vindictiveness of her husband and those he's turned against her, the aging Aunt, the Master of the house and his undying, self destructive love for his deceased wife, the relationship between him and his mistress, and the hints of connection between the Master and Jane. This isn't a romance novel. It's an exploration of some very real, very difficult social situations. It's a lot to take on in a single story, but I think it is done very well.

On the downside, I must admit this story can be a bit convoluted and slow. The first chapter, for example, is long and full of Jane's recent history and struggles, yet in the live story, she only manages to dress herself. What I'm saying is don't go into the story expecting action and adventure. This is a story designed to be thought about, internalized and talked about. It doesn't go anywhere fast. The shifting perspectives can also be a bit confusing, at times reflecting memories and at others reflecting experiences and thoughts of people who are no longer alive during the time in which the story takes place.

Overall, I found this to be a wonderful story, though covering some difficult issues. I would recommend this mostly to those who prefer historical fiction, and in particular to those who might read this for a book club or buddy read. When I finished, I wanted to discuss it, but since I didn't know anyone else who had read it, I really didn't have any outlet. I want to talk about what I thought about the ending, but doing so would spoil it. So, I will hold my tongue and recommend this for others.

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for a review.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 12, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Horror Business by Ryan Craig Bradford and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Horror Business by Ryan Craig Bradford

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
horrorbusiness2
Armed with a passion for classic B-grade horror movies, a script co-written by his twin brother, and a wicked crush on his death-obsessed neighbor; hardcore horror fan Jason Nightshade must finish his student film. 
But his plans are derailed when the children of suburban Silver Creek start disappearing – his twin brother among them. Battling a possessed video camera, a crazy zombie dog, a monstrous bully, and a frighteningly broken down family life, Jason embarks on a mission to find his lost brother so the two can write an ending for his story.
As any horror fan knows, saving the day won’t be easy, as Jason finds himself forced to face the real world where death isn’t just a splash of fake blood on a camera lens.
add to goodreads

Title: Horror Business
Publication date: February 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Ryan Craig Bradford
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Chapter 1

[rec 00.00.00]
Warm colors sharpen as the focus reveals an image of a boy. The boy sits patiently and stares at you. He giggles and sticks his tongue out as the image softens before settling on an appropriate focus. You recognize this boy because he looks a lot like me. A voice from offscreen tells the boy that everything’s ready, that he can begin whenever he feels like it.
Boy: What do you want me to say?
Offscreen: What’s your favorite scary movie?
Boy: Like in Scream?
Offscreen: Just answer the question.
Boy: What’s this for anyway?
Offscreen: Nothing really. Maybe a school project.
Boy: Fine. But a favorite scary movie? That’s like picking your favorite child.
Offscreen: Well, what are some of the ones you like?
Boy: I like ghost movies.
Offscreen: How come?
Boy: I think the only thing more frightening than opening a closet door and finding a knife-wielding maniac is opening up that closet door and finding nothing. If you take away all the monsters and serial killers, all we have to fear is ourselves. We create ghosts when there isn’t anything else left to scare us.
Offscreen: That’s deep.
Boy: Are we done yet?
Offscreen: Just state your name. You know, for legitimacy.
Boy: My name is Brian Nightshade and you’ve just tuned in to What I Think About Horror Movies.
Offscreen: Thanks.
The image goes black.

October
If we shoot a movie in black and white we use chocolate syrup. If it’s in color we use corn syrup with red food coloring.
So much sugar goes into blood.
Chocolate syrup was used for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Corn syrup was used for The Evil Dead. It was my brother who told me that.
Death needs to be sweetened.
I pedal past a row of shuttered buildings on my way to the grocery store. The faux-cabin exteriors only deceive the tourists that flood our town during the summer and winter months. Most shops simply shut down during the fall. Silver Creek has been dead since Labor Day and will remain that way until Christmas.
I check over my shoulder, hold my breath, and swerve into the road. A gust of wind blows a swarm of dead leaves into my spokes, some of which get shredded. The others get caught between the wheel and the fork. I enjoy the gory death of the red and gold foliage. A minivan pulls up alongside me. I make eye contact with the driver, a middle-aged woman with a sour face. She shakes her head and speeds away. I flip her off.
I cut to the left and let the momentum take me up the slight incline of the parking lot. I set my bike against the rack and leave it unlocked.
There’s a cork bulletin board at the entrance to the grocery store—a place where people can advertise yard sales, community events, or lost pets. It’s covered with brightly-colored flyers. The flyers declare their purpose with bold, 20-point font.
MISSING CHILD
The parents who make the flyers use the most attractive pictures, as if that will get their children found faster. I feel bad for the parents with ugly kids. The faces look at you, smiles frozen with gapped and crooked teeth because they haven’t had the benefit of a good orthodontist yet.
Some of the kids have taken to collecting them like baseball cards. Sometimes you’ll see a grief-stricken parent replacing a flyer of their missing kid. It’s awkward.
Hot pink, neon green, electric orange. I look down to avoid them. The neon looks awful and inappropriately bright. Like they’re trying to sell something.
I think again of sweetened death.
The corn syrup is expensive. I check for a knock-off brand on a lower shelf, but it turns out I’m holding the knock-off. The higher-priced bottle’s label shows an abstract illustration of a farm and boasts 100% organic. Mountain prices for a mountain town. Silver Creek loves to spend money on products that make it feel rustic.
There’s barely enough money in my wallet to cover the corn syrup, and I briefly contemplate changing the movie to black and white. I’m sure we’ve got a shitload of chocolate syrup back at the house. It’s been so long since my family’s eaten ice cream.
But no, it has to be in color. I’m not fucking around with this one. It’s going to be my masterpiece.
I wait behind Marilyn Mackie while the cashier rings her up. Mrs. Mackie fills the aisle; her ass grazing the gum and breath mints on the display behind her. She stares ahead until the cashier—a similarly large girl with braces—tallies the total of her groceries. The sum is humongous, and I can’t wait to tell Steve about how much the Mac Attack spent on food the next time I see him. Mrs. Mackie snaps out of her daze and notices me. The recognition makes her gasp and she puts a hand to her chest. It’s like she saw a ghost.
“Hi, Mrs. Mackie.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Jason. You startled me.”
I nod and look down at my shoes. I pass the bottle of corn syrup between my hands. Mrs. Mackie pays.
“How are your folks?” she asks.
“Oh, you know.”
“That’s good,” she says. “I mean, not good, but. …” She trails off. She exhales and her entire being deflates; her chin sinks into the comfort of her neck. “I’m sorry. It’s been hard for all of us.”
“It’s okay.”
The printer uncurls a receipt, and the checkout girl folds it three times before handing it to Mrs. Mackie. Mrs. Mackie pushes her cart of groceries forward while she reads the scroll of her purchases. I put the bottle on the conveyer belt and watch as it’s pulled toward the cashier. I wonder if she and Mrs. Mackie regard each other as past and future selves.
“You remind me of someone I’ve seen before?”
The checkout girl smiles at me and waits for my reaction. It’s not a question, really, but the upward pitch in her last word forces a glaring question mark. The white bands on her braces have turned yellow from neglect and she holds my corn syrup hostage while I think of a response. Mrs. Mackie looks up from her receipt. The terror returns to her face.
“Maybe it’s my brother. We’re twins.”
“Maybe. Or maybe someone famous?” She twists the bottle around in her hands. It’s disturbing the way she caresses it while she thinks. Her tongue sweeps her broad-set, braced teeth. I want to tell her again that it’s probably my brother who she’s thinking about, but I know that’s not true.
“Excuse me,” says Mrs. Mackie. “Are you new here or something? Don’t you know who he is?”
The checkout girl frowns and gives up. “I don’t know.” She sighs and chucks my syrup into a plastic bag. “They just tell us to be nice to the customers.”
She hands me the bag with a limp wrist. I take it without saying thanks. Mrs. Mackie, embarrassed from her outburst, waddles to the exit, and the automatic door swings open. I maneuver around her before she fills the doorframe and the electric eye senses my urgency. I jump out into the parking lot to feel the cooling-but-still-warm autumn air. I realize I’ve been sweating.
“Don’t listen to her. What does she know, anyway?” Mrs. Mackie calls out to me from the entrance of the store. She reaches into the pocket of her sweatpants and pulls a yellow flyer out, folded into fourths. “Things will work out, you’ll see.” She slaps the flyer onto the corkboard and tacks it in.
The automatic door closes slowly on Mrs. Mackie like a fade out.
***
My brother, Brian Nightshade, was the first to go missing.
Since then, Donny Yates was second, and then a week later it was Collin Stephenson. Bobby Islo, Andy Stoner, Clint Something and the girlish-looking Sean Fornier disappeared within a three-month span. Wendy Dee was the first and only girl to go missing so far. After her disappearance, the town’s cruel irritability toward these “runaways” was replaced by a surging fear of kidnappers and child-molesters. Every recluse and old person became a target for suspicion.
It’s funny how a girl can change things.
Greg Mackie was the latest one. He went missing last week.
Nine children so far.
***
I’m positive that The Lost Boys is the greatest vampire movie ever made, only because it’s the dumbest. Most vampire movies become bogged down by romance and other boring stuff. Or what Greg Mackie called it: moral ambiguities and penetration motifs. He was into that kind of theory stuff.
I lean my bike against the window of King Kong Video, Silver Creek’s only rental store. The clerk, a balding twenty-something, stares through the glass and frowns. He wears glasses and has a beard shaved to create a fake jaw line on his soft face.
A large portion of King Kong’s selection consists of VHS tapes. They don’t stock new releases, which is fine by me—I just download whatever I can’t find. New movies aren’t really scary anyway. I’m pretty sure the store stays in business because of their adult section, but it’s possible to find gems that only exist in analog: B-grade films with lots of gore and nudity. Some of them are actually okay.
“Please don’t lean your bike against the window,” the clerk says. “It could break it.” He’s got some pretentious foreign movie playing on the TV. Waves of an incomprehensible language float through the air. There’s a MISSING CHILD poster taped on the wall behind the counter. It’s Collin Stephenson, the third kid to go missing.
“You got The Lost Boys in?” I ask.
“Vampires?”
“Yep.”
The clerk tsks, but types the request into King Kong’s ancient computer system. He hits a key, and the machine lurches to life. It sounds like actual gears are carrying out the function. Collin smiles at me from over the clerk’s shoulder. It's been a long time since Collin's parents have printed any new flyers, making this poster somewhat of a collector’s item. I wander into the inventory while the computer thinks.
I peruse the horror section, admiring the artwork on movie boxes, noting which ones have the scariest screenshots on the back. Re-Animator 2 is a good one; Chopping Mall is all right but it has the best name of any movie. Frankenhooker is one of my favorites. I watched that twice in one night before.
When we were little, my brother and I were so scared of these boxes that we’d dare each other to look at them. Our mom made us stop when Brian started seeing monsters in the closet.
I pick up another box. The movie’s called Basket Case. On the cover, a claw pokes out from the rim of a wicker basket and a frightening set of eyes peer out from deeper within.
The movie is about two brothers: Duane and Belial. Conjoined twins. Doctors separate them at birth because of Belial’s monstrous appearance—like a tumorous mound growing out the side of Duane. Just a pile of skin molded into teeth and arms, really.
As adults, Duane carries Belial around in a wicker basket to exact revenge on the doctors that separated them. Because that’s what brothers do.
Last year me and Brian wanted to be Duane and Belial for Halloween, but we couldn’t agree on who got to be the deformed twin.
“Hey kid!”
I drop the box and catch it in mid-air before setting it back on the shelf.
“It’s out,” says the clerk. “The Lost Boys. Computer says so. Says it was rented two weeks ago.”
“Can I put a hold on it?”
“What’s the name?”
It’s annoying. I’ve been in this guy’s store nearly every weekend for the last two years and he still doesn’t know my name. Fuck his window. I hope my bike does break it. “Nightshade.”
The guy clacks away at the keyboard. His brow furrows. “Interesting. Says here that you were the last one to rent it.”
“What?” The clerk turns the ancient monitor toward me. The name NIGHSHADE reads out in green text. “I don’t have it.”
“Are you sure? You weren’t the one who rented it?” He slides his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I’m pretty sure it was you.”
“I rent a lot of movies here, but not that one. I don’t have it.”
“Pretty sure it was you. I have a good memory, Nightwing.”
“Nightshade.”
“Mmhm.” A victorious breath. “I don’t know. Not my problem. It’s on your family’s account, so either find it or pay the fine.”
The cassette playing the foreign movie cuts out. Dialog becomes muddled. Lines of static roll down the screen and the picture jumps from left to right. The image freezes and a loud clicking comes from inside the VCR. Interior whirring speeds up until the machine’s mouth spews out the tape in long strands.
“Shit,” says the clerk with more resignation than annoyance. I leave without renting anything.
***
The main streets of Silver Creek eventually feed into the suburban neighborhoods where houses are modern and earth-toned. You used to be able to walk outside at night and watch your neighbor’s big-screen TV from the street. You could even hear the pummeling action through their surround-sound. Most everyone keeps their blinds closed now. I stand at the entrance of my own house, hand on the door. Vibrations from my parents’ expensive sound-system massage my palm in spurts. This evening’s attempt at twilight is filtered through haze; shadows look smeared. It’s as if a far-off volcano has spewed its evil, and dominant winds have brought the ashes of creatures to settle in the atmosphere over our town, a dusty swarm of spirits that dims the sunlight.
I turn the knob and push. The house is vaguely humid. Mom’s watching a show about historical hauntings. On the screen, some guys are using night vision cameras and EVP recorders to prove the existence of ghosts. They never find anything, but my mom’s completely addicted. She doesn’t even know what EVP stands for.
They’re playing back the audio recording, enhanced for home viewers. The result is a high-pitched squeal that drops out in rapid successions. The ghost hunters try to convince us that this pattern is a ghost saying, Get out of my house.
“Mom,” I say. “Hi!”
Mom looks up from the TV. The screech continues. She waves. “Jason. I didn’t see you.”
I fall onto the cushion next to her. She has no scent anymore. In fact, a faint antiseptic odor has overtaken everything, muting out any sense of home. It’s the smell of keeping yourself busy, keeping your mind off things.
Mom points to the screen. “This house. They say it’s the most haunted house in America.”
“Don’t they say that about all the houses?”
“Huh?”
On the screen, a stationary camera catches a door closing by itself. The creak is deafening.
I shout my question again. Mom laughs. The crew runs toward the camera. The night vision filter makes their eyes look simultaneously alive and soulless, like wild animals. The host’s fear—captured by the green filter—is by far the scariest thing about these shows, not the closing doors or muffled audio. Darkness makes everyone look feral.
The show cuts to commercials that are nearly twice as loud as the ghost show. I stand to leave. Mom grabs my hand, squeezes, and lets it go. A loving acknowledgement. A wordless I know, or I’m sorry, or another deep-meaning pleasantry. I leave her alone to watch her show.
I push through the kitchen door and into an overbearing cloud of smoke, like walking through a sweaty cobweb. The smoke detector buzzes; its alarm sounds weak from overuse.
A pot sits on the stove; flames reach up the side with demonic glee. I shut the monster down. There’s no water left, just burnt spaghetti stuck to the bottom. I turn the sink faucet on and put everything under the cooling rinse. The pot, relieved of its torture, gives off a heavy sigh and unleashes one last puff of steam into the air. I silence the smoke alarm by taking it off the wall and removing the battery.
My dad walks in, waves smoke away like he’s used to it. He opens the fridge and pulls out a diet root beer. He empties half of it in one gulp. A belch blossoms out of his throat, and I smell a day’s worth of closed-mouth.
“What’s with all the commotion in here?” He nods toward the disassembled smoke alarm in my hand. “That’ll kill us, you know.” He winks and finishes his soda.
“It was going crazy. Somebody left the food on the stove.” I pick the pot up out of the sink and show him the caked-together mass of spaghetti, brown and drowning in the tepid water.
“Wasn’t me,” he says and lets the room suffocate on scalding air while he opens another can.
***
We eat sandwiches that night. Peanut butter and honey. The ghost show is still running (some sort of marathon, I guess). We eat at the table, but all our heads are turned to the TV. I peel the crusts off my bread and dangle them above my mouth before dropping them in.
The screech of an EVP recording makes us all wince. I look over to my mom, and her eyes are hidden behind glasses reflecting the images of men running from invisible pursuers.
At the commercial, my mom turns the sound down.
“How was school?” she asks.
“It’s Saturday,” I say.
“That’s my boy,” my dad says. He crams a last bite of sandwich into his mouth.
“Can I spend the night at Steve’s?”
“Sure,” Mom says. “Whatever you want.”
“Oh!” Dad says. “Honey, did you know you left the pot on the burner today?”
Mom looks down at her sandwich as if it’s a piece of evidence. “Oh.”
“Yeah.”
“Sorry,” she says. “Must’ve forgot.”
Dad nudges me. “Must’ve forgot.” He chuckles. “Get it?” He says this like an inside joke. “Get it?”
“I knew I forgot something,” she says.
“Damn near burned the house down. Ask Jason.” He looks at me for approval. I stare at the crumbs on my plate.
“She must’ve forgot,” he says again with some mysterious emphasis. He mouths it to me while Mom watches the ghost hunters. I clear my place without asking to be excused. Mom turns the soundtrack up to ear-splitting levels. Dad grabs my wrist; he’s laughing so hard that the crumbs on his belly are shaking off onto the carpet. Tears stand in his eyes. I still don't know what he finds so funny.
“Get it?” he keeps asking.

Horror Business
We didn’t fuck around when it came down to business: just like how the original Evil Dead was a better movie than Evil Dead II. Just like how the original Halloween was better than Friday the 13th, but still not as good as Nightmare On Elm Streets I and III. Just like how The Ring was good, but every other remake of a Japanese horror movie sucked. Just like how the Re-Animator might be the best comedy-horror ever made, and how there really hasn’t been a good vampire movie since The Lost Boys.
Like how we knew that the original Dawn of the Dead was filmed at the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Like how it’s lame that you now have to say “the original” when talking about a lot of horror movies.
Like how we thought Pinhead was a good villain but Hellraiser was confusing.
How 28 Days Later is not a zombie movie, technically.
And how movies aren’t really as scary as they used to be.
Horror business was our business, and we didn’t fuck around.

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
ryanauthorpic3-300x200
Ryan grew up in Park City, Utah. His fiction has appeared in Quarterly West, Paper Darts, Vice, Monkeybicycle and [PANK]. He currently lives in San Diego where he acts as Creative Director for the nonprofit literary arts organization So Say We All. He’s the co-editor of the anthology Last Night on Earth and founder of the literary horror journal, Black Candies.
Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter 
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
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The book will be sent upon the titles release.


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Historical Mystery Review: XYZ A Detective Story by Anna Katherine Green

X Y Z by Anna Katharine Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Surprisingly good. I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, even though it was written almost 100 years ago. The unnamed narrator tells about an unexpected adventure he finds himself in while investigating something else entirely.

I love how this one kept me interested and guessing. These are two of the most important features of any mystery or sleuthing story. I also like how the curiosity of the main character lands him in such an unlikely and awkward situation. I loved the way the details are revealed and the characters are well drawn and interesting.

The downside is that it is a bit old, and as such, it can be a little tough to read in parts. But, only a little. I couldn't figure out all the sayings, but I enjoyed trying to do so. It's like looking through a window into the past, and I must say it was much easier to read than Wuthering Heights, though I was reminded of that other work.

The lack of cover art and the bland title didn't offer any incentive to pick this up on their own. In fact, I, like some of the others who have read and reviewed this story, picked this up solely to satisfy the X in an A-Z reading challenge. But, overall, I'm happy with it and glad I did pick it up.

Overall, I really liked this. It's a short, somewhat humorous mystery. The historic element is a draw as well. Fans of mysteries or historical fiction, particularly those who like both genres, will likely enjoy this story.

View all my reviews

You can get a copy of this for Kindle here. Last time I checked, it's still free. Confirm before you buy, though.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Epic Fantasy Review: The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time #8) by Robert Jordan

The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time, #8)The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, this one was good, but it took me forever to get through it. Longer than normal, even for one in this series. And, I have decided I don't like this one quite as much as I remembered liking it.

What I like is that we get more of Egwene being awesome. The story still tries to take on way too many subplots, but that's just part of the experience. There are some great battles, lots of danger and a good deal of Rand. As for Rand, he's kind of a mess in this one. Cadsuane is stalking him, just enough to keep him on edge, and he's trying to deal with politics and with the invasion. All of this while trying to deal with the power gone strange and a growing difficulty catching it. He cannot show weakness because his so called allies are waiting for any opportunity to take him out of the picture.

I wish there was more time spent with the Aiel, but we mostly get Shaido in this book, not much of the good Aiel with their funny ideas and interactions. Still, it's interesting.

As for things I don't like, I don't particularly care for Perrin in this story, or Faile. We get too much of them, but I acknowledge that this building of their story is a necessary set up for the next book, which features their plight quite a lot. I also don't care for how Matt's story is essentially dropped. I know he'll be back, but not in this book.

Overall, I love this series and really like this installment. People who liked previous books in this series will like this one. Readers who haven't gotten into the series by now probably won't suddenly find themselves liking this book.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Finished with another book, or am I?

Yesterday I wrapped up a very promising 3rd draft of last year's NaNoWriMo story, The Freeze.  I had that feeling, that I'm done feeling. A rush of emotions. Happiness, relief, but then doubt and weariness.

Why?

Because one thing I've learned since I started self-publishing is that when you think you're finished, you're usually wrong.  No, take that back, you're definitely wrong, particularly if you are celebrating finishing your final draft.

So, you might ask, what's left to do?

Good question. Here's a quick list to give you an idea, and perhaps to give me one as well.  A checklist of things I have yet to do.

1. Get a second look at the thing.
Honestly, I haven't done this in the right place yet. Getting a beta reader to look at your story should happen after you are confident it's ready for public eyes.  Maybe this time, eh? I really should.

2. Format for publishing.
This gets tricky, particularly if you distribute through more than one venue, like I do. I've found that each one prefers, or even requires, a very specific set up. Some require standard front matter. You have to obtain an ISBN # and put it in the right place, or an ASIN # if you're publishing on Kindle. And, while you don't necessarily have to do it, you probably should write a quick note for the end of the book. Yeah, that's not really fun, but think about how you feel when you finish a good story and find that the author has tacked that personal touch at the end. I know I like it.

3. Come up with a back cover blurb.
 This can also be the description you will post with the book on websites. For me they are either the same or very similar. I don't think I've yet mastered the art, but writing reviews has made the task easier. My goal is to write a single paragraph, short and sweet, that shows what the story is about and why the reader should want to read it. In any case, this needs to be ready before you go to publish. All the venues I use require you to post one, and some don't have a save progress option; it's all or nothing with those, so have it ready.

4. Craft a cover.
Ok, so this one's tricky. So far, I've done all my own covers, but I must say that you'll probably get better results if you hire someone with a solid portfolio and graphic artistry skills to do it for you. Then again, if you're like me, you don't have a budget for that just yet.  So, I will be doing it again.

Right now, I'm looking at my topic and at my other books and thinking, "Holy cow, did I really just write another book that lends itself to a blue cover?" Sure, blue's my favorite color, but honestly, I'm not doing this on purpose.  Can't make it white or the edges disappear on the selling pages.  Le sigh.

So, yeah, you need a cover before you publish as well, and like the content, the cover needs to be formatted differently for different venues.  I usually use the same one for Kindle and Smashwords, but the print one has to be a specific size and quality. And it has to be set up a bit odd because the top, bottom and right edges will be chopped off. That's a pain.

Photoshop helps, but not as a means to stitch together different pictures or fix a fundamentally flawed one.  I use it to layer background color, image, boxes (on which to place the text), and text onto the cover. Don't get caught up in fancy fonts or complex images. Simple is good. Readable is good. Shrink your cover to the size it will be posted on Amazon. Can you still read it and tell what it says? And, like the content, ask a few people to give you their opinions.

5. Get ready to publish the book.
This is where you'll actually start uploading all the content, the cover, and the blurb. Personally, I like to load the book everywhere and save, but not publish. Then I like to order a print proof and do one more round of line editing. Whatever I catch there, I fix in all three formats: print, kindle and smashwords. It's amazing how many things you'll find in the print version of the book you thought was perfect. It's worth the few dollars you'll spend on the proof and the shipping. And yeah, this is another reason why I say I'm not done when I think I am. I know better.

6. Set a date and promote.
Yes, time to let people know the book's coming. There are a few ways to drum up interest. You can sign up for blog tours, book blitzes and schedule interviews. You can take out ads.  You can recruit some ARC reviewers and get them to post their opinions before release date.  So far, I've not been very good at this part of it, mostly because I just want to skip right to publishing.  Because of that, I won't go into detail here.

7. Publish the book.
At this point, you are ready. Everything's in place. It's release day (or just prior to). You've announced/promoted. You're happy with the book, the cover and the blurb. You know where you're publishing. Now, just log in, hit publish and wait. Wait, because with self publishing, your book usually has to go through a review before it posts.

If you've done this before, you'll have a good idea how long it takes for each venue. Like for Amazon, I'll hit publish the night before release. For CreateSpace, I'll hit it 2-3 days before release. For Smashwords, well, I just post it on release day and the book filters out to the various booksellers over the course of a week, but it's available on the Smashwords site right away.

8. Promote the book.
And promote yourself and your brand. Talk with people. Chat with readers online. Write a blog. Share short stories and poetry. Write reviews and participate in the author community. Mention your book when context allows, but don't shout "buy my book" in every message board and chat room. Basically, this part of it never ends. Some of us are better at it than others. I've noticed that those that are good at it have readers and bloggers and fellow authors behind them, cheering them on and spreading the word. I hardly ever see an author that has achieved that standing on the power of their own, personal promotion efforts. And, it takes time. Have I reached that level yet? No, but I am enjoying the journey there and feel lucky to have met some very interesting people along the way.

So, yes, I'm finished with The Freeze, but as you can see, there is a lot of work left to do. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 5, 2014

4 for Friday December Blitz – Presented by Month9Books with Giveaway

4-for-Friday-Dec-Banner

Welcome to the 4 for Friday Blitz for A Murder of Magpies by Sarah Bromley, Shadows Fall Away by Kit Forbes, Call Me Grim by Elizabeth Holloway, and Daughter of Chaos by Jen McConnel, presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post.

A-Murder-of-Magpies-Cover


Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see. 
No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it’s not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk.
Until someone quiets the chaos inside her. 
Unwanted. That’s all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can’t explain the hold she has on him–inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn’t know what her powers can do. Yet. 
Just as Vadya and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn’t so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.
 add to goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Sarah Bromley
Sarah Bromley lives near St. Louis with her husband, three children, and two dogs. She likes the quiet hours of morning when she can drink coffee in peace, stare into the woods behind her house, and wonder what monsters live there. When she’s not writing or wrangling small children, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders.

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

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Shadows-Fall-Away-Cover
Mark Stewart is one incident away from becoming a juvenile delinquent, and his parents have had enough. They ship Mark off to London England to stay with his eccentric aunt Agatha who is obsessed with all things Jack the Ripper. After a strange twist of luck, Mark is struck by lightning, and he wakes to find himself in 1888 Victorian London. 
His interest in a string of murders Scotland Yard has yet to solve make him a likely suspect. After all, why would a young boy like Mark know so much about the murders? Could he be the ripper they’ve been searching for? Convinced the only way to get back home is to solve the murders, Mark dives headfirst into uncovering the truth. 
Mark’s only distraction comes in the form of the beautiful Genie Trembly, a girl who is totally out of his league and who may have already caught the attention of the infamous ripper. To save her, he’ll endanger both their lives, and risk being trapped in the past forever.
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Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Kit Forbes
Kit Forbes has been a lover of books, history, and all things paranormal for as long as she can remember. She lives in Western Pennsylvania with her youngest daughter and an assortment of cats who give new meaning to the world bizarre.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

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Call-Me-Grim-Cover
The truck should have turned Libbi Piper into a Libbi Pancake — and it would have, too, if Aaron hadn’t shown up and saved her life. The problem? Aaron’s the local Grim Reaper… and he only saved Libbi’s life because he needs someone to take over his job. Now, Libbi has two days to choose between dying like she was supposed to, or living a lonely life as Death Incarnate. Talk about a rock and a hard place. 
And the choice goes from hard to sucktastic when her best friend shows up marked: condemned as a future murderer. Libbi could have an extra week to stop the murder and fix the mark… but only if she accepts Aaron’s job as Reaper, trapping herself in her crappy town forever, invisible and inaudible to everyone except the newly dead. But, if she refuses? Her best friend is headed straight for Hell.
add to goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
 Elizabeth Holloway
Elizabeth Holloway is a registered nurse living in Southern Pennsylvania with her two teen children, Bam-bam the dog, and Tinkerbell the cat. CALL ME GRIM is her first novel.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Cover

There comes a time in every witch’s life when she must choose her path. Darlena’s friends have already chosen, so why is it so hard for her to make up her mind? Now, Darlena is out of time. Under pressure from Hecate, the Queen of all witches, Darlena makes a rash decision to choose Red magic, a path no witch in her right mind would dare take. As a Red witch, she will be responsible for chaos and mayhem, drawing her deep into darkness. Will the power of Red magic prove too much for Darlena, or will she learn to control it before it’s too late? 
DAUGHTER OF CHAOS is the first in the RED MAGIC paranormal YA trilogy.
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Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Jen McConnel
Jen McConnel now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn't crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches writing composition at a community college. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!