Archive | January 2014

A Month of Self Published Authors: Fantasy

I don’t read a lot of self published authors (SPAs). I used to but I stopped because:

1) There are simply too many! There’s way too much noise to slice through so it’s overwhelming.
2) So many SPAs act like gigantic assholes. I don’t want to be bothered with assholes.
3) So much drama surrounding them and their reactions to reviews (negative and positive). Why would I both spend my money AND get harassed? Again, I don’t want to be bothered with assholes.

But recently, I’ve been discussing this with people in the multitude of bookclubs I belong to. I decided…maybe I’m being too harsh? That the SPAs who act like assholes represent the minority and not the majority.

Well, I’m not sure but I’m willing to give it a short go (in small doses). To test this out, I’m going to start with a month of SPAs. I’m challenging myself to read at least 1-5 chapters from a different SPA each week in February. I *hope* to write a short summery as to how the chapter(s) felt to me and if I plan to continue reading the book or author.

I don’t accept review requests so all of books picked will be from books I already own. I tried my best to pick books that I think I will like – I didn’t just grab any book that was self-published.

My tentative SPA reading schedule:
Pale Queen's CourtyardFebruary 1st: Pale Queen’s Courtyard (Moonlit Cities #1)

Kamvar, a soldier, has lost his way. Leonine, a thief and sorcerer, has forgotten that he had one to lose.

When the daughter of a High Priest finds herself exiled and hunted across the entirety of conquered Ekka, both men will remember who they are, and the country’s invaders will learn that memories, unlike temples, are not so easily torn down.

Pale Queen’s Courtyard is the first novel by Canadian author Marcin Wrona, and a finalist in SciFiNow’s 2009 War of the Words.

 
The Tribe of IshmaelFebruary 8th: The Tribe of Ishmael (Afterlife Chronicles #1)

There are no heroes. Only villains…

Ishmael Abajian has always been a play-by-the-rules kind of guy, so when he stows aboard a train to escape from dangerous pursuers, he figures his guardian angel will overlook it. Except each train car appears to represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins. And the demon conductor informs him that he is no longer alive, deepest condolences. Not to mention the accidentally-going-to-Hell part—tough break. Too bad there’s no better luck next time.

Now trapped in a dark authoritarian world embroiled in power struggles and dreams of liberation, Ishmael teams up with a girl who may-or-may-not be a murderer in order to recover their lost memories and escape. However, as a free soul condemned neither to Hell nor Paradise, Ishmael is something that some demons have been waiting for, while others will stop at nothing to destroy: change.

The first installment in a brand-new epic fantasy series, THE TRIBE OF ISHMAEL is a dark metaphysical adventure containing hellhounds with nasty frost-bites and lots of adult content.

Welcome aboard the Sunnyside Express.
Next stop: the Afterlife.
Whatever you do, please don’t abandon all hope.
That wouldn’t be as much fun.

 
The Madness of HallenFebruary 15th: The Madness of Hallen (Khalada Stone #1)

Half a millenium ago, the mind of Husam al-Din was ripped apart and scattered beyond the borders of the known lands. Although secured by bloody war, the peaceful legacy he brought has begun to collapse, and the world once again starts a slow descent into chaos. Against all who betrayed him, al-Din will be forced to reclaim those who survived.
There are none who can prevent his return, but there are three who would control him. All that stands in their way is their own sanity, and everyone they love.

In the mountain city of Brunn, a darkness gathers around Ohrl. Restlessness, a sense that his life should mean more than it does. On his first journey beyond the mountains he begins to understand that destiny cares not for his petty desires. It is vicious and brutal, and it will not stop until either he, or it, are totally consumed.

Na’ilah’s search is almost over. She can feel his mind pulsating here in the city, but she cannot take it through strength of arms alone. Her armoury is cunning, manipulation and betrayal. Her will is to be obeyed, and her cruel heart will show no mercy to those that stand in her way.

His mind will be a vessel for the betrayals of his kind, and in time he must decide upon their right to survive. Yet before that decision can be made, Faerl must release the six most powerful men that brought this curse upon them, men who died half a millenium ago.

The Khalada Stone is the first of four epic novels following the lives of two brothers in their quest against the rightful heir to the mind of Husam al-Din.

 
InhaleFebruary 22nd: Inhale (Just Breathe #1)

Strangers in reality, inseparable in dreams…

After years of suffocating under her boss’s scrutiny, whale biologist Zoe Morgan finally lands a job as director of a tagging project in Hervey Bay, Australia. Success Down Under all but guarantees her the promotion of a lifetime, and Zoe won’t let anything—or anyone—stand in her way. Not the whale voices she suddenly hears in her head, not the ex who won’t take no for an answer, and especially not the gorgeous figment of her imagination who keeps saving her from the fiery hell of her dreams.

Gavin Cassidy hasn’t been called to help a human Wyldling in over a year, which is fine by him. Still blaming himself for the death of his partner, he keeps the guilt at bay by indulging in every excess his rock star persona affords. That is, until he’s summoned to protect Zoe from hungry Fyre Elementals and learns his new charge is the key to restoring order in the dying Dreaming. He never expects to fall for the feisty Dr. Morgan…nor does he realize he may have to sacrifice the woman he loves to save an entire country.

*This book contains graphic language, sex, and violence. Not suitable for readers under the age of 18.

**The author will donate all profits from the sale of the JUST BREATHE trilogy to programs that educate people about whales and the challenges they face.

Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicles, #3) – Patrick Rothfuss Makes a Point

One of the things about Goodreads that causes a lot of drama is the rating system. Goodreads allows readers to rate books at any time (even prior to release) – which is great in my opinion, since it allows for geographical flexibility as well as ease of cataloging. Here’s the thing – a lot of authors and their fans have a problem with any low rating – especially if it is prior to the official release. The Goodreads Feedback group is full of people whining about low star ratings. If the ratings are high, no one cares. If the ratings are low…authors and/or their fans rush to the Goodreads Feedback or Librarian groups to complain and demand the ratings be removed.

Of course, you never hear about an author or their fans complain about early 5 star reviews…until now.

Let’s examine the book page for the highly anticipated third book in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, Doors of Stone:
 
kingkillerbookpage
 
There are several interesting things about this book page:

~ The book has not been completed.
~ There is no [official] blurb for the book.
~ There is no publication date.
~ The book has been added and highly rated by 693 people – which means Doors of Stone has an average rating of 4.69. For a book without even a tentative publication date!
~ 132 people have written reviews for Doors of Stone.

Normally, authors and their fans completely ignore these kind of ratings (since the ratings are popular).

And then there’s Pat Rothfuss. Damn. This man knows how to make people spend money.
 

Pat Rothfuss comment
 
Wow. I’m loving the point he’s making, the humor AND the fact that he made a few geeky references. I love the fact that he doesn’t want false praise. 😀 Here’s an author that I can respect, appreciate, and spend my money on.

Flights of Fantasy: February 2014 Books of the Month

The February Flights of Fantasy group reads and my early decision on reading them:

 

 

Gardens of the MoonFantasy
Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1)
Decision: Might Read. Ordered a copy from the library…we’ll see if it ever comes.

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order–an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

 
Earth AbidesScience Fiction
Earth Abides
Decision: Maybe

A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he’d either dreaded or hoped for.

 

Mr. ShiversHorror
Mr. Shivers
Decision: NOPE!

It is the time of the Great Depression.

Thousands have left their homes looking for a better life, a new life. But Marcus Connelly is not one of them. He searches for one thing, and one thing only. Revenge.

Because out there, riding the rails, stalking the camps, is the scarred vagrant who murdered Connelly’s daughter. No one knows him, but everyone knows his name: Mr. Shivers.

In this extraordinary debut, Robert Jackson Bennett tells the story of an America haunted by murder and desperation. A world in which one man must face a dark truth and answer the question-how much is he willing to sacrifice for his satisfaction?

 
Howl's Moving CastleYoung Adult/Middle Grade (YA/MG)
Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle #1)
Decision: Yes

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

Review: Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body by Bret Contreras & Kellie Davis

strong curves

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This is not your run-of-the-mill fitness book. Developed by world-renowned gluteal expert Bret Contreras, Strong Curves offers an extensive fitness and nutrition guide for women seeking to improve their physique, function, strength, and mobility.

Contreras spent the last eighteen years researching and field-testing the best methods for building better butts and shapelier bodies. In Strong Curves, he offers the programs that have proven effective time and time again with his clients, allowing you to develop lean muscle, rounded glutes, and greater confidence.

Each page is packed with information decoding the female anatomy, providing a better understanding as to why most fitness programs fail to help women reach their goals. With a comprehensive nutritional guide and over 200 strength exercises, this book gets women off the treadmill and furnishes their drive to achieve strength, power, and sexy curves from head to toe.

Although the glutes are the largest and most powerful muscle group in the human body, they often go dormant due to lifestyle choices, leading to a flat, saggy bum. Strong Curves is the cure.

Note: I really feel conflicted about this book/program so I’ve sat on this review for over a month.

I’ve been weight lifting (dumbbells, kettlebells and barbell) for a little under a year.

At the time I started using the program in this book, my workouts consisted of a “body split.*” On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I worked my lower body and back. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I worked my upper body.
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An Aficionado’s Guide to the top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time – Part 8

A few things you should know about this list:
*It was voted on by a large group of fantasy readers (majority rules)
*If a single book is on the list and that book is part of a series, it’s a recommendation for the entire series.
*I have read some of the books, but not all.
*I provide a link to the books I have reviewed.

I decided to break this into parts because it’s a pretty long list.

 

An Aficionado’s Guide to the Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time – Part 5
An Aficionado’s Guide to the Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time – Part 6
An Aficionado’s Guide to the Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time – Part 7
 
 

A Wizard of Earthsea21. A Wizard of Earthsea
Series: Earthsea Cycle
2004 TV Mini Series

Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

 

Howl's Moving Castle22. Howl’s Moving Castle
Series: Howl’s Moving Castle
2004(2005) Animated Movie
Review: 4.5 Stars

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

 

The Last Unicorn23. The Last Unicorn
Series: The Last Unicorn
1982 Animated Movie

The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.

The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician–whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended–when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.

This is a book no fantasy reader should miss; Beagle argues brilliantly the need for magic in our lives and the folly of forgetting to dream.

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Lost Sales 2014: Week of January 12-18

Ebooks have changed the publishing industry, right? Wrong (in my opinion). Ebooks made it easier for people to publish but it did not do away with the biggest impediments to authors everywhere: bullshit, exclusive contracts, geographical restrictions and unavailability.

I am always surprised when I can’t spend money. I decided to start to log my “lost sales,” mostly to see how much money I save by others being stupid.

The Bullshit ~ Everyone knows what BS is. For me it’s BBA (Badly Behaving Author) activities and/or being a total douchebag (BTW, you don’t have to be a BBA to be a douche).

Exclusive Contracts ~ I *think* this is something that actually started after ebooks came about and it is mostly related to self-published authors. Amazon offers the option to publish exclusively with Amazon for a 90 day period. Amazon offers the book to users for free (not sure how long). While this is happening the author can only have that [e]book for sale with Amazon. So if it was in other bookstores it gets pulled (sorry if you bought it!). I have no clue what the author gets out of it but I can tell you what the reader gets out of it: A) frustration that they can’t buy a book and/or B) to keep their money in their pocket because they can’t buy a book.

Geographical Restrictions ~ This is the biggest problem of them all. It is what is says – geo restrictions restrict the reader from purchasing books from a seller outside of the [publisher created] geographical area. Some eRetailers have geo restrictions, too. These restrictions – in relation to eBooks – make no sense. Why stop someone from giving you money?? While I can understand geo restrictions in relation to DTBs (dead tree books)…ok, I’m lying. I can’t understand them at all.

Not Available in preferred store/format ~ If I were to rank these “Lost Sales” reasons, this would probably rank #1 with me. I can’t buy your book if it’s not available in my preferred store(s)!!!! This is slightly (although only slightly) different from Exclusive Contracts. The difference is that the author or publisher is deciding what store(s) to release to (or not). Sadly (for me) Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the primary stores for a lot of companies…and quite often Kobo (my preferred store) gets left out. I’m willing to (and do) buy at other stores like AllRomanceEbooks, Ellora’s Cave and Baen Books but I have a problem buying books from Amazon and Barnes & Noble due to their DRM. I can’t read the book on my ereader and I refuse to read them on my phone or on my computer. Period.
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An Aficionado’s Guide to the top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time – Part 7

A few things you should know about this list:
*It was voted on by a large group of fantasy readers (majority rules)
*If a single book is on the list and that book is part of a series, it’s a recommendation for the entire series.
*I have read some of the books, but not all.
*I provide a link to the books I have reviewed.

I decided to break this into parts because it’s a pretty long list.

 

An Aficionado’s Guide to the Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time – Part 5
An Aficionado’s Guide to the Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time – Part 6
 
 

Daughter of the Forest31. Daughter of the Forest
Series: Sevenwaters

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…

 

Daughter of the Blood32. Daughter of the Blood
Series: The Black Jewels

The Dark Kingdom is preparing itself for the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy–the arrival of a new Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But this new ruler is young, and very susceptible to influence and corruption; whoever controls her controls the Darkness. And now, three sworn enemies begin a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, and the destiny of an entire world is at stake.

 
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian33. The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian
Series: Conan the Cimmerian
Movies: 1982, 1984, 2011

Conan is one of the greatest fictional heroes ever created–a swordsman who cuts a swath across the lands of the Hyborian Age, facing powerful sorcerers, deadly creatures, and ruthless armies of thieves and reavers.

In a meteoric career that spanned a mere twelve years before his tragic suicide, Robert E. Howard single-handedly invented the genre that came to be called sword and sorcery. Collected in this volume, profusely illustrated by artist Mark Schultz, are Howard’s first thirteen Conan stories, appearing in their original versions–in some cases for the first time in more than seventy years–and in the order Howard wrote them. Along with classics of dark fantasy like “The Tower of the Elephant” and swashbuckling adventure like “Queen of the Black Coast,” The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian contains a wealth of material never before published in the United States, including the first submitted draft of Conan’s debut, “Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard’s synopses for “The Scarlet Citadel” and “Black Colossus,” and a map of Conan’s world drawn by the author himself.

Here are timeless tales featuring Conan the raw and dangerous youth, Conan the daring thief, Conan the swashbuckling pirate, and Conan the commander of armies. Here, too, is an unparalleled glimpse into the mind of a genius whose bold storytelling style has been imitated by many, yet equaled by none.

 
Legend34. Legend
Series: The Drenai Saga
Review: 5 Stars

Druss, Captain of the Axe, whose fame was legendary, had chosen to wait for death in a mountain hideaway. But mighty Dros Delnoch, the last stronghold of the Drenai Empire, was under threat from Nadir hordes who had destroyed everything else in their path. All hope rests on the skills of one man.

 
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