Friday, August 31, 2012

What To Do With Your Disappearing Book

I saw a report on GalleyCat about a "new type of book" being released in Argentina called el libro que no puede esperar, or The Book That Can’t Wait (which makes it sound like it has continence issues). Basically, as soon as you open the book, the ink it's printed in starts disappearing. So you better read fast!

a book that can't wait
Picture of book actually disappearing.

This report got me thinking--what would I do with a hardcover book I paid a lot of money for once it turned blank? Here are some of my ideas:

  • Use it as a journal to record thoughts on the transience of life and the ephemeral nature of fame.
  • Mail it to the author with a sticky note that says, "Write me."
  • Turn it into a game! Rewrite the book from memory, then compare your version with your friends'. Winner gets to buy the next disappearing book.
  • Pour lemon juice on it, then hold the pages up to a candle flame to see if the words will reappear.
  • Pretend to read it on the subway to confuse the heck out of people. Bonus points for dressing like a hipster while doing this.
  • Loan it to a friend. See how long it takes them to notice the book is blank.
  • Try to return it using an outraged old man voice. "What kind of business are you people running here? *harumph harumph*"
  • Hollow the book out and use it as a safe for your disappearing monies.

What would you use your disappearing book for?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Event: A More Diverse Universe

more diverse universe button

I'm participating in an event this September called A More Diverse Universe, hosted by Aarti at BookLust. The event is meant to help promote people of color in speculative fiction, and will run for one week starting September 23rd. There's still time to sign up, and I'm hoping all of you will! It's open to both bloggers and non-bloggers.

Because a person of color writing sci-fi or fantasy is less likely to be published than a white person writing about ethnic minorities, A More Diverse Universe is focusing on books written by people of color ONLY. Like who? I'm glad you asked. :) Here are some authors I'm considering:

fledgeling cover

Ocatavia E. Butler won both Hugo and Nebula awards (as well as the MacArthur Genius Grant) for her speculative fiction novels, which include stories about time travel, vampires, aliens, and our dystopian future. Since I do love the vampires, I'm thinking of trying Fledgling, which was Butler's last novel.

the hundred thousand kingdoms cover

NK Jemison's debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, is the first volume in a sweeping epic fantasy trilogy and was nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms received some really good reviews when it first came out, and I've been wanting to read it for a while. This blog event might give me the perfect excuse to dig into this chunkster.

bearheart cover

In between writing tortuously complex academic articles and books, Gerald Vizenor also writes fiction. Bearheart takes place in a post-apocalyptic US and parodies The Canterbury Tales. Vizenor can kind of make my brain bleed sometimes, but maybe his fiction is less convoluted than his academic writing.

There are many other possibilities, which you can find links to on Aarti's blog. Remember you only need to read 1 book or short story to participate! For more details and to sign up, please see Aarti's very eloquent post at BookLust.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Originally released: 2012
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz (all of whom get way more screen time than Liam Hemsworth, so I refuse to mention him)
Directed by: Gary Ross
Based on: the novel of the same name

Yay I finally saw The Hunger Games.

I read the book (review here) around the time of the movie's release, and while I enjoyed it and thought it was very well-written, the only character I liked was Peeta Bread Boy. So cute! And he bakes! (I'm German, so, you know... I'm really into my baked goods.) However, I could see how the book could rock in movie format because of the action and the fact that the Games basically is a TV show, anyway.

Apparently I was mistaken about that.

katniss obviously not really on fire
It looks so real...

My impression in the first few minutes of the film was that they were trying way too hard to make it "artistic," and I think that's the underlying problem of the whole movie. There was a lot of energy put into the stylistic elements, and the story and characters suffered for it. As I mentioned earlier, Peeta was my favorite character in the book, but he literally does NOTHING here. My mom didn't even know what his name was after watching the film! The other major characters seemed really dialed down, too. If any actor can hit Crazy Drunk as a character trope out of the park, it's Woody Harrelson, but Haymitch came across as weirdly bourgeois.

Also, as a reader I always think there are certain scenes that you really want to see on the screen in a book-to-movie adaptation, and as long as the movie nails those scenes, they can fuck the entire rest of the book up and it's still okay. In The Hunger Games, the two scenes I really wanted to see were the entrance into the arena and the interview with Caesar Flickerman. If I was a director, I would have poured every cent of my budget necessary into making the arena entrance eye-seeringly awesome, but instead it looked SO FAKEY and unimpressive. Like really, you had a chance to set someone on fire and race through an arena on a chariot, and THAT'S what you came up with? Katniss and Peeta looked like they were farting into Bunsen burners. And helloooooo green screen.

As for the interview with Flickerman where Peeta Bread Boy professes his secret love for Katniss, I think I wanted to see that scene particularly for two reasons: one, that's when I started to like Peeta; and two, I love how awkward it is for Katniss. It's one of the few times in the book where she shows vulnerability. In the movie, though, because Katniss isn't in front of the whole arena and the cameras like she is in the book, we don't see any of her embarrassment. I wonder if someone who hadn't read the book would even know the point of some of the scenes in the movie, since the emotional impact of them on the characters is never clearly established.

katniss and president snow
Yes, Donald Sutherland, I will marry you. Wait, what?

The movie isn't horrible--I actually think overall it's okay. The casting is brilliant, especially with Jennifer Lawrence--who does a great job--and Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue. And I love Donald Sutherland as the President, because he's my old man crush. Also, the art direction is great in how it references WWII and the Roman empire in a way that feels original.

There were excellent scenes in The Hunger Games--I cried during the district tribute scene and thought that was very well-done--they just weren't the scenes I was interested in seeing. The film felt kind of mechanical, as if someone had invented an algorithm to figure out what story elements would be popular with teenagers. I think that's because the heart of the story, which is Katniss and Peeta's relationship, was lost to the filmmaker's desire to be all fancy with the camera and show us "advanced technology." Do I really care how the Games are being produced? No, I DO NOT, but thanks for taking us out of the action there.

Still, if that arena scene had been kick-ass I'd be willing forgive a lot in this movie.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekend Cooking: THE HOMEMADE PANTRY--101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila

the homemade pantry cookbook cover

If we are to become people who do make butter, we might have to shift the way we see ourselves a bit. We might have to get into the adventurous spirit and unearth our own curiosity about where our food comes from. We might have to make a colossal mess of the kitchen. And we might have to slow down, at least long enough to knead a loaf of bread before the day begins.
Guys. This book is AMAZING.

When I first saw Beth Fish Reads' review of The Homemade Pantry, I thought it might be worth checking out, but I didn't have very high expectations for it. I know how these make-it-yourself-at-home books tend to go: spend lots of money on specialized equipment and lots of time, OR just go to the grocery store and buy it there. Even though I like making my own food, I can't spend tons of money on new equipment for it, and I don't want to spend my entire day in the kitchen.

I didn't realize how perfect The Homemade Pantry was for me until I picked it up at the library. I've made my own cheese (see here), baked my own bread (here), and made my own liquors (here) from scratch before. If that sounds like something you could/want to do, you should definitely pick this book up. All of those types of recipes are in The Homemade Pantry, along with many others.

The Homemade Pantry is divided into sections imitating the aisles of your grocery store: dairy, bread, cereals, snacks, etc., which makes it very easy to navigate. You'll be surprised by how many items you can make at home that you might not have thought of before, like brown sugar. I also like that Alana Chernila didn't hit on my pet peeves with this book--requiring specialized equipment and approaching it from the perspective of a chef. There are some specialized tools required, but not as many as I would have expected in a book like this; and even when Chernila does suggest a particular kitchen gadget, she addresses what you can or should do if you don't have it on hand (including a warning about NOT using glass baking dishes, which I really could have used the first time I baked bread).

Also, from what I know about some of the things I've made in the past, such as ricotta, it seems like the recipes Chernila includes here are the simplest and easiest versions you can find. You really can made your own bread, cheese, etc., without spending the entire day in the kitchen; and as Chernila points out, it's usually cheaper and better-tasting!

The Homemade Pantry makes creating food staples at home extremely accessible. If you've ever been interested in being more self-sufficient, or wondered if you really could make your own cheese, bread, butter, etc., then you should definitely check this book out.

weekend cookingWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: FIFTY SHAMES OF EARL GREY by Andrew Shaffer/Fanny Merkin

50 shames of earl grey cover

Anna Steal is a naïve young college senior who interviews Earl Grey, a ridiculously handsome and rich CEO, as a favor to her roommate. He quickly becomes obsessed with her, but will Anna be able to put up with his "fifty shames"?

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey (in case you weren't able to guess), which started out as short posts on Andrew Shaffer's blog, I thought the blog posts were hilarious, and I'm glad Shaffer continued the parody in this format, because Fifty Shames is just as funny and so needed (for my own sanity, if nothing else). Shaffer hits on every annoying or ridiculous thing in Fifty Shades, including the weird sense of geography and distance, inane e-mails, the heroine's tea drinking habits, and her "ethnic friend."

On a side note, I'm ridiculously happy they kept the "I just bought Walmart," line in, because that is THE BEST LINE EVAR.

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is a very quick read--as it should be--even though it does lose momentum and isn't as funny in the second half. The book is basically a pure parody of the Fifty Shades series (are they calling it a saga now? Please say no), so if you're looking for something that satires romance in a more general way AND has a good story, you're probably better off reading The Princess and the Penis by RJ Silver (review here). But if you HAVE read Fifty Shades and need some sort of antidote, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey will undoubtedly make you laugh. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy via Netgalley!

My eyes, my innocent eyes...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


amorous education of celia seaton cover

Celia Seaton is a governess in a very awkward position. Basically, someone has kidnapped her and stolen all her possessions, including her clothes, and stranded her in the middle of nowhere (Yorkshire?). Why? How? I don't know! Coincidentally traveling through the area is Tarquin Compton, a dandy and leader of the fashionable ton, whom Celia loathes because he insulted her on several occasions, causing her to be rejected by her fiance and forcing her to find a job as a governess. The kidnappers knock him over the head and steal all his possessions, too, leaving him with a case of amnesia. When she discovers him, Celia decides to have a little payback and tells him his name is Terrence Fish, then leads him on a roundabout journey over the moors in search of food, clothing, and shelter. Celia and "Terrence" fall in love, but will Tarquin fall for her again once he regains his memories?

The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton is honestly one of the best historical romance novels I have read in a loooooong time, definitely since the beginning of the year. The main characters are both unique and believable; the plot (although admittedly bizarre) is pretty decent and holds the story together; the story is told in an interesting way; and most importantly, there is a TON of chemistry between Tarquin and Celia. I really wanted these two to get together.

Tarquin is a unique character who is obsessed with fashion and bit of a prig. The reasons why become clear as the story progresses; but when we first meet him, he's pretty unlikable. I did, however, love reading his journey through the book. I also liked how Miranda Neville had him retain a sense of his personality when he had amnesia while forgetting other things--as readers, it really gave us a sense of his essential personality and the fact that he WANTS to be a good person, which makes his more callous and thoughtless moments forgivable.

Celia is not quite as interesting a character as Tarquin, but she is genuinely smart, practical, and independent. It was fabulous to read a romance novel where the heroine was an actual character with a personality, and who didn't drop off to sleep all the time just so the hero could stare at her. Also, all the reasons she had for objecting to Tarquin and his amorous advances (heh) were perfectly valid and understandable, and not just an excuse used to drag out the book.

I LOVED the first half of The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton, where Tarquin and Celia are wandering over the moors; but then I also think I have a particular weakness for "journey" books. I'm not entirely sure, since there aren't a lot of journey books out there (not that I've read, anyway), but I can't remember ever disliking a book where the main characters travel together. Even if I didn't have a weakness for journey books, though, the chemistry between Tarquin and Celia would have drawn me into the story. They don't fall into InstaLust (someone should bottle and market that), and there's actually very little mention of physical attraction between the two; but they definitely share a meeting of the minds and their personalities compliment one another. Plus POETRY IS QUOTED! I love it when characters quote poetry. This scene was probably one of my favorites in the book:

Their gazes met as they held the crude tin vessel between them. Time stopped.

" 'Drink to me only with thine eyes, And I will pledge with mine,' " he said softly.

" 'Or leave a kiss but in the cup, And I'll not look for wine.' " She capped the quotation in a throaty whisper.
Sigh! So romantic!

That being said, the story of The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton slowed way the heck down in the middle. As in, "I think I'll stare blankly at my twitter feed instead of reading," kind of slow. Celia and Tarquin meet several characters who are obviously from previous Neville novels; and while I don't have a problem with reintroducing characters, since I haven't read the previous books and this section didn't seem to advance the plot forward at all, I really didn't care.

The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton picks up again after a while, though, and I think by the end the story redeems itself. Overall this book is very entertaining, romantic, well-written, and intelligent, so basically it ticks all my boxes of things I could ever possibly want in a romance. I will definitely be looking into reading more of Neville's work, and if you like historical romances you should check this book out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

TSS: Lower Standards for Self-Published Work?

lowering standards

I've seen some discussions on Twitter recently between readers about lower standards for self-published work. Should we have lower standards for self-published eBooks? Some say no, because you still have to pay for self-published books; and if you're spending money on them, they need to be written and edited to the same standard a traditionally published book would be. But the fact remains that they aren't traditionally published, and they can have a lot of errors.

From what I can tell, most of the disagreement stems from publishers' claims of being "gatekeepers" to published work. If publishers are holding books to higher standards, it would make sense (-ish) that self-published work wouldn't meet those standards. But the gatekeeper argument lost any credibility with me a long time ago. If you're going to publish a non-fiction book that cites Wikipedia as a source--not once, but numerous times--and expect people to pay $17 for it, you don't have the right to claim you have standards of ANY SORT (see my review of The Founding Foodies here). And I think we've all encountered books published by the Big 6, especially eBooks, with spelling, grammar, and formatting problems.

Even though I think traditional publishers necessarily have higher standards, though, at least with a traditionally published book you know it went through some sort of process. An editor at least looked at it. You have no idea what the process of publication is for a self-published work. I know several self-published authors who hire editors and their work is very professional and polished; then are others who also hire an editor, and their books are riddled with errors. And then there are those who don't hire editors at all. All of these books are equally available in the digital market, and not necessarily priced accordingly. Should we approach them equally?

Honestly, I don't think you can hold everything to the same standard. When I teach, I don't have the same expectations for a gen ed class as I do an upper division course. I have a higher standard for books by my favorite authors than I do books by unknown authors; or even books with prettier covers versus plain ones. I'm not sure there's any such thing as approaching a book completely unbiased, but if there is, it doesn't happen very often.

Personally, I don't think the customers' standards should even be an issue--everyone has different standards and expectations. The question that really matters is what are the producers' standards? If the people producing content don't take pride in their work, one has to wonder why they're even bothering to write and publish in the first place.

Do you have lower expectations for self-published work?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

RomCom Title Mash-Up

from notting hill with love... actually

I heard about a book the other day titled From Notting Hill with Love... Actually. Now, I really know nothing about this novel and haven't read it, so it could be the greatest book published in history (or not); but here's what I do know: THAT IS THE LAZIEST TITLE EVER. Seriously, you're just going to cobble together successful romantic comedy titles and hope that sells? I could do the same in a flat minute. For example:

  • When Harry Met Kate & Leopold--In this time-traveling three-way, Harry meets a couple from the future and the past and discovers men and men and women and men and women and women can't be friends, because the sex is ALWAYS THERE.
  • Becoming Jane Wimbledon--A Regency miss becomes an unlikely tennis star, but her love life is complicated by the fact that she has to pick between two suitors: Laurence Fox and Paul Bettany. Aiiieeee! How will she possibly choose, especially since she can barely tell them apart? (Ooops, I forgot Becoming Jane wasn't a romantic comedy. Never mind.)
  • My Big Fat Wedding in Manhattan--A shy woman who's a wedding planner falls in love with a client who believes he's a Greek statue and refuses to wear a shirt.* Then they move to Manhattan and she gets a job as the most expensively-dressed hotel maid in the city, leading some to speculate that she's actually a pop singer.
  • Down with Liberty--The president's daughter falls in love with a star journalist; so to capture his attention, she moves to Europe, invents a new identity, and writes a sensational book suggesting men should do whatever women tell them to. But will the Secret Service discover her before the journalist realizes he's in love?
  • Four Weddings, an Abbey, & Me--In this Edwardian-set historomedy, the reluctant heir to an earldom is tired of attending his friends' weddings, especially since he's "unable to pass on the title," if you know what I mean. So he travels to America to attend college and falls in love with a career-minded waitress who teaches him how to slice cold cuts. If you know what I mean.
That took me five minutes tops, even with the typing. Plus you get the plots for free!

Your turn: What are some romantic comedy title mash-ups you can come up with?

*I think this is the actual plot of a Sherrilyn Kenyon novel.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: ON THE ISLAND by Tracey Garvis Graves

on the island cover

A horny teenager and a woman whose biological clock is ticking are stranded on a deserted tropical island. Nature takes its course.

When I first heard about On the Island at A Buckeye Girl Reads, Colette described it as the type of book that makes you forget to sleep and eat until you finish it, and she was absolutely right. As soon as I started On the Island, I was completely sucked into TJ and Anna's story. I stayed up until 6 a.m. for two nights reading it, which hardly ever happens to me anymore. It is definitely unputdownable!

That being said, I'm not going stand (or sit, as the case may be) here and tell you On the Island is super-deep and meaningful, or that the writing is great. It's pretty shallow--there's not a lot of thought going on here, and most of what there is seems devoted to hygiene--and I found the interactions between the main characters to be a bit unrealistic. If you were trapped on a island with only one other person, wouldn't they start to annoy you after a few hours days weeks months years? Especially when they offer such scintillating conversational gambits as, "Oh," "Yeah," and, "That's [insert mild adjective here]." Also, it seems like TJ and Anna say each others' names a lot for no reason. Like, "Do you want some breadfruit, Anna?" "Thank you, TJ." "I know you like it, the only other person who lives on this island so who else could I possibly be talking to." After reading some of this dialog I was ready to hit both of them in the head with a coconut. Yet they only fight twice on the island, about things like, "Hey, don't go in the water while there's a shark there." You'd think there'd be at least one instance of, "If you don't stop making that whistling sound with your teeth, I am going to scream my bloody head off!"

As for the characters, I loved TJ. He really grows into a man during the course of the novel, what with catching fish, starting the fire, and building a fort house. Meanwhile, Anna washes clothes, cooks, and watches TJ watching her while he does manly things. Could these tasks be any more divided along gender lines??? Anna also has the personality of a Brawny paper towel mother. Oh, you spilled juice on the counter? That's okay, baby! Oh, you were smelling my underwear? No problem, you funny teenager, you! And if you need to punch a tree so hard you break your hand, I am not going to criticize you for it, sweetie. To quote Anachronist from Books as Portable Pieces of Thought:

scott pilgrim blam

No. Just no.
STILL. I'm not one to differentiate books per season, but if there's any such thing as a perfect summer read, I think On the Island would be it. I gasped aloud several times (especially during the rat scene), honestly did not know--though I hoped--TJ and Anna would wind up together, and the conclusion was really sweet and satisfying. If you want a book that will grab you from the first page and have you saying to yourself, "One more chapter... One more chapter..." until the end, On the Island is your book.

This review is based on an eGalley provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

TSS: Two Sides to the Same Story

janus head

It's Sunday! How did that happen again? And this Sunday the Olympics finally closes! I don't know if it's because I'm from Colorado or not, but I have a hard time getting into the summer Olympics to the same level I do the winter Olympics (except for BMX racing, that's awesome). In any case, I was planning on writing a post about spoilers, but then I realized: I really don't care about spoilers AT ALL. So instead let's talk about The Book That Must Not Be Named. Yes, it will probably be difficult to talk about it when we can't name it, but I'm game for trying.

fifty shades covertwilight cover

There have been great posts about TBTMNBN--all right, yes, it's Fifty Shades of Grey--recently from Jenn at Picky Girl and Jane at Dear Author. Both posts try to explain the popularity of Fifty Shades, which is indeed curious. I think at some point a really popular book expands beyond its audience and pretty soon everyone feels like they have to read it, whether they have any initial interest in it or not. The same thing happened with The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, and Fifty Shades' progenitor, Twilight.

The more I think on it, the more I believe Twilight may be one of the defining American novels of our generation, which is really odd. I truly enjoy Twilight and its various sequels, and I don't think Meyer is a bad writer; but would I say Twilight is generation-defining material? Mrm, no. Yet when I look at all the things that have sprung up out of Twilight in the last few years--not just the movies, but tourism to Forks, obsession with RPatt, the popularity of paranormal romance in numerous literary genres, as well as on TV; and several, highly derivative spin-offs, one of which is now among the best-selling books of all time--it seems like Twilight hasn't just started its own industry but its own school.

The most interesting thing to me about Fifty Shades--actually the only interesting thing--is how the series is so obviously based on Twilight, yet at the same time is almost anti-Twilight. Twilight is romantic, in the literary sense of the word. As I argued in my post about New Moon (review here), the series is about Bella following her dreams and remaining true to herself. It emphasizes her isolation, both emotionally and physically, and her struggle to find her place in the world.

Nearly the exact opposite can be said of Fifty Shades. One of the things that really perturbed me while reading it was that it seemed to almost be mocking Twilight; or if not mocking it, taking the story and twisting it into something that, from a philosophical standpoint, was contradictory to everything in the original text. Ana is compelled to do things she doesn't want to do, to suppress her emotions, and both she and Christian subvert their ideals to physical reality (i.e. their physical desire for one another)--as opposed to creating their reality out of their ideals and an emotional and intellectual connection, which was underscored in the relationship between Edward and Bella.

This is true of other elements in the books, too, not just the romance. Take, for example, José in Fifty Shades versus Jacob in Twilight. One is an "ethnic friend," the other is a noble savage straight out of Rousseau.

Fifty Shades and Twilight are like two sides to the same coin--one is about romanticism and idealism, the other is about repressed emotions and physicality. Because of that I would theorize people who like one wouldn't like the other, despite the fact that they have nearly identical plots. So, informal poll: if you have read the books, do you like both of them or just one? Or neither?

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Whistle down the wind banner

Today I'm happy to be hosting Sibelle Stone, who also writes under the name Deborah Schneider. In her latest novel, Whistle Down the Wind, a 17th-century witch travels from England to Virginia. I asked Sibelle to tell us a little about the historical facts that inspired her book.

I’m delighted to be here to talk about writing romance and history—several of my favorite subjects. Thank you, Tasha, for the kind invitation.

When people ask me why I choose to write historical romance instead of contemporary, the answer is usually simple. As a former American History teacher, with a degree in Secondary Education Social Studies, I’ve long been drawn to the stories of people, places and events that helped to shape this country. My favorite time periods are from the Colonial era to just after the American Civil War. They are years that shaped our nation, helped the United States forge a world identity, and were filled with leaders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, (prior to his re-invention as a vampire slayer).

But, as much as I love writing stories set in America, the sad truth is that these are not the books that traditional publishers want to buy. When I shopped my recent release, “Whistle Down the Wind” around to agents and editors, I was told repeatedly that “colonial” stories and witches in America would not sell.

It was suggested several times that I reconsider my destination setting. If the couple had to sail off someplace, “why not make it Scotland?” But, in my heart I knew what needed to happen in the story, how long Catlin and Griffin needed to be on board ship, and that Jamestown, Virginia as a setting was important.

I had put this book away, sad that I’d never have the opportunity to write about Catlin’s sisters, all elemental witches just like her. I had such wonderful plans for those sisters, and incredible heroes for them to meet and fall in love with. But, you can’t fight the trends.

Or can you? When I successfully released a backlist title as an eBook last fall, it was just to learn about the process of digital publishing. I was pleasantly surprised when I starting seeing statements from distributers that showed the books was selling. Then it hit the Amazon Top 100 Westerns list, and stayed there for several months.

When I attended the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention in April, I had the opportunity to listen to panel after panel of “Indie Publishing” experts. I was sold, and came home, dusted off that manuscript, revised it and sent it to my editor.

I’m pleased that I have been able to release a book I loved writing for other people to read. That’s the purpose of becoming a writer, to share your world, your characters and your story. I can honestly say that Indie publishing has been an exciting venture for me. But, it isn’t for everyone. You must enjoy the business side of writing as much as the creative side.

But for those who love adventure, it could be an interesting journey.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: RADIANT SHADOWS by Melissa Marr

radiant shadows audiobook

Devlin is the faerie High Court assassin. He has only ever disobeyed his queen once: when he spared the life of a halfling named Ani. Now Ani is all grown up, and Devlin likes what he sees. Boom chicka wow-wow!

I have to be honest here and say I really didn't like Radiant Shadows. At all. Actually, I couldn't even finish it--I got about halfway through and decided life was too short to waste on this book.

My main problem with Radiant Shadows is that it seems like a novella artificially stretched out into a novel. There simply is not enough material here for a full novel. The conversations run in pointless circles that lead nowhere, and events and information are very repetitive. How many times do I need to be told Ani's been threatened and is completely capable of killing? Or that Devlin saved her life? Once is enough, thanks.

In addition, there are a lot of continuity issues, and things happen randomly with no explanation. In one scene, Ani asks her brother to make dessert, then calls Irial to tell him she's making dinner. Then she asks him to come over a protect her from Bananach and immediately packs a bag and leaves the house. Um, wut? I have no idea what Rae, Devlin's dead mortal friend who can walk in people's dreams, has to do with anything in this story, or why she's in this novel; and ditto with Ani's steed, which just appears with no explanation. You're not going to wonder where that came from, Ani?

The strength of Melissa Marr's novels are that she takes the tropes of a typical YA romance and really thinks about how they would apply to her characters, twisting the story in unexpected ways--that's what I loved about both Wicked Lovely (review here) and Ink Exchange (review here). I didn't get any sense of characters or thought in Radiant Shadows, though. It felt like Marr was making the novel up as she went along.

To me Radiant Shadows was nothing but filler in between Fragile Eternity (review here) and Darkest Mercy. Not that anything I say is going to stop a fan of the series from reading it--nor should it, since you probably don't want to be lost when you start the final book in the series--but personally I was pretty disappointed.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: BITING COLD by Chloe Neill

biting cold cover

<<This review may does contain some spoilers, especially for the previous books in the Chicagoland Vampires books.>>

Merit--a grad student in English lit who was turned into a vampire against her will and now wields a katana--and Ethan, her sexy and doubly-undead sire, are on the trail of the Maleficium, an evil book of evilness whose powers Merit's former bestie wants to unleash on the world. But Malory isn't the only person who wants to use the Maleficium; so does former Chicago mayor and crazy person Seth Tate. But for what?

The only reason I wanted to read Biting Cold after Drink Deep (review here) was because I wanted to find out if Ethan was a zombie. I was totally rooting for Zombie Ethan. Unfortunately, he's NOT a zombie. WTF? Total wasted opportunity there. I'm still watching him though. You never know.

I'm watching you

Now that we have that linchpin issue out of the way, let's move on the actual book. Overall, Biting Cold is actually better than Chloe Neill's last few books in the Chicagoland Vampires series. The beginning, where Ethan and Merit are traveling together to Nebraska, is pretty strong--Merit and Ethan have great chemistry, and Neill really sucks you straight into the story. That being said, even in this part of the book, there are so many things that are just too convenient for belief. Why are Tate and Mallory waiting until after sunset to look for the Maleficium? Considering Merit and Ethan are dead to the world (har har) during the day, wouldn't it make more tactical sense to try to take the Maleficium while they're asleep? And why does Tate announce to them that he's going for the book--just so they have more time to prepare for fighting two sups instead of one? Awfully nice of him.

Also, giant gumby gnomes? Really cheesy.

Then they go BACK to Chicago, and it's kind of like in Pirates of the Caribbean when the pirates go back to the island and you're like, "Uhg, really? You couldn't have just wrapped up this movie the first time you were on the island?" It feels liked the story takes a gigantic step backward, and as if my time has just been completely wasted. Why didn't Ethan and Merit stay in Chicago and phone the fight in? It would have ended exactly the same way if they had.

As I said, Biting Cold is better than the previous two books in the Chicagoland Vampires series--the food mentions are kept under control, there's more of a plot, and the conversations don't run in circles--but I think this might be my last read in the series. It seems as if there is absolutely no character consistency anymore, and they do whatever is convenient for story. As a result, I don't really care what happens to them (except for Morgan, of course). Oh well.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

TSS: Story vs Writing

The Sunday

Good very early morning, Sunday Saloners. This last week I've read several books that have really great stories, but there are things about the writing style that just didn't work. Maybe it was more like ALL of the writing style didn't work. And it makes me wonder, are these two things--story and writing--mutually exclusive? Have I ever read a novel that tells a story in a completely gripping way AND has a fabulous writing style? Or am I just a sucker for bad books?

Hmm, I don't know. Maybe Harry Potter? I think writing style is one of those things that I tend to take for granted. When it's good, I accept it as part of the book and pay attention to other things. Whereas if it's bad, it's like a sore tooth: I can't ignore it. That's why I don't generally discuss writing style on this here blog.

Honestly, I'll take a good story over "good writing"--whatever that means--any day, but the two should work in tandem, no? If a writer tells a story in a way that keeps me reading and reading and reading, isn't that part of being a good writer?

Would you rather have a good story or good writing? And have you ever read a book with a great writing and a great story?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: SPELL BOUND by Rachel Hawkins

spell bound cover

The last book in the Hex Hall trilogy starts pretty much where Demonglass (review here) left off: Sophie coming out of the Itineris in search of her mom and the Brannicks, a group of Amazonian-esque redheads who want to destroy people like Sophie--i.e., demons, witches, werewolves, fairies, etc. With her best friend, dad, fiance, and boyfriend all possibly dead, Sophie has to figure out a way to stop the Casnoffs from turning the rest of her high school into a demon army.

That plot sounds like bit of a potboiler, doesn't it? Actually, Spell Bound is a very light, fun read with a lot of humor. I think it's a successful conclusion to the Hex Hall series, although not as good as Demonglass. Sophie is always quick with the one-liners, and that gives Spell Bound some much-needed humor (my personal favorite was, "Jackass, jackass on the wall, where's the info on Hex Hall?").

That being said, it doesn't feel like a lot goes on in Spell Bound. For most of the book Sophie is recovering from her adventures in Demonglass and trying to figure out how to defeat the Casnoffs. There is a lot of build-up to the final battle, but the solution feels too easy and pat. I also have issues with the events that happened in the last fifty pages--again, it was all just too convenient. There wasn't really a sense of emotional resonance at the conclusion of the series that I would have liked.

Overall, though, I think Hex Hall has been a pretty successful YA trilogy. I had some doubts when I read the first book (review here), and there are things in the plot that are very cheesy and predictable; but Rachel Hawkins manages to pull it off with great writing that makes the novels fun and enjoyable.


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