Saturday, November 30, 2013

REVIEW: Shadow Spinner: Collection 1: Tiberius

Shadow Spinner: Collection 1: Tiberius
By Andrew Leon

Genre: Dark fantasy, Young Adult
Year published: 2013
Pages: 62

Date read: 11/29/13
Recommended by: Andrew Leon, in conversation

Summary: Tiberius has always thought of himself as a normal 10-year-old boy.  Maybe he's a little smarter than everyone else, but that's still normal.  He's scared of shadows, but everyone's scared of something, right?  His mother's completely paranoid and called the cops the one time, just one time, he went over to a friend's house after school, but, still, he's normal even if his mother is not.  At least, that's what he thinks until the day his mother finally decides to tell him about his father, and she tells him things that convince him that one of them is crazy, and he's pretty sure it's not him.  That is until the Man with No Eyes shows up and his father falls out of the sky.

My thoughts

This is the first collection in a series to tell the story of Tiberius.  This was a really good beginning.  My favorite thing so far is the relationship that he has with the police officer.  He really looks out for Tib and Tib feels safe around him.  I also like the tunnel - it immediately draws you in, but also reminds you of fears that you once had when you were younger.  I am totally looking forward to reading Collection 2. :)

As a bonus, there is a short story by Bryan Pedas called Like An Axe Through Bone.  This is an amazingly good short story.  I was totally impressed and look forward to reading more by Bryan.

REVIEW: Grudge Punk

By: John McNee 

Genre: "dieselpunk-bizzaro-horror-noir anthology" (I couldn't have said it better myself haha)

Year published: 2012
Pages: 187

Date read: 11/26/13
Recommended by: Shamus McCarty (r2r)

Grudgehaven: "A city lost to the darkness, where acid rain drums on a hundred thousand corrugated iron rooftops and cold, mechanized eyeballs squint out of every filth-smeared window."

From the twisted mind of author John McNee come nine tales of brutality and betrayal from a city like no other.

A granite detective has a date with destiny at a hotel made of flesh.  A severed hand is on a desperate mission to ruin somebody's evening.  While a mob war reaches its bloody climax, the Mayor is up to his neck in dead prostitutes.

And Clockwork Joe?  He just wants to be a real boy.

Bizarro Press proudly presents the latest in dieselpunk-bizzarro-horror-noir.  This ... is GrudgePunk.

My thoughts

This is my first Bizzarro.  I blame it on Shamus.  I commented on one of his pictures, the comment section on said picture with him and many others got completely insane (I'll neve eat peanut butter again), him and I had a conversation ... and I ended up with this book.  I'm not really sure if it's considered r2r.  I mean, he gave it to me.  I'm sure he would like me to review it.  I'm sure he just wants me to say that I really loved it.  So, basically, Shamus popped my cherry.

Did I love it?  I don't think "love" is a strong enough word for how I feel about this book.  And John - oh my God - he's a god haha.  I can only imagine what it must be like in this man's head and I'm sure conversations with him are quite entertaining and intriguing. 

I loved every part of this book, but I have to say that my favorite stories of them all are In the Flesh, Gutter Politics and The Corridors of Power.

This book has definitely made it to my top 5 favorite books of the year - probably top 20 favorite in my lifetime (and I read a LOT of books) - and I'm only sorry that it took me so long to finally sit down and read it. 

I have only one suggestion for you: Let your fingers do the walking by immediately heading online to your favorite book establishment (you should also check out Rooster Republic Press) and purchase a copy of this book.  Once it is downloaded on to whatever e-reader you use, put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, turn off the cell phone and anything else that is going to distract you, send your family on vacation and make yourself comfortable.  This is definitely a book you'll want to give yourself time to fully enjoy.

Between the Bindings with Jason Parent

Jason Parent is a great guy and an even greater writer.  His novel, What Hides Within, is by far one of my favorite books of this year.  He has a real knack for writing the anti-hero and for making his readers laugh while being completely creeped out.  He has also had two short stories of his published: Depths (with co-author Elizebeth Los) in Sanitarium #015 and Battling Waves in Of Words and Water - all three are ones you should definitely take the time to enjoy. 

When I asked him for advice for new authors, he started it right away.  When I received the email, I immediately opened it, excited to see what he had to offer on this subject - and started laughing from the very first paragraph.  Here's what he had to say:

What advice do I have for new authors?  Keep writing knock-off novels about vampire love triangles, zombie apocalypses, and however many shades of soft-core porn there are, and I'll handle the rest!

But seriously ... being a "new" author myself, I may not be the best qualified to give any advice.  For what it's worth, I have been through it all: the agent search, the publisher search, the editor search, the I-don't-know-what-else-to-search-but-I-should-be-searching-something search, the long weeks of waiting, the long months of waiting, the long years of waiting and those most vile moments when your computer starts randomly placing lines of Ys (the very question you ask yourself when it happens) and freezes just before you hit control S.  I've had an agent, I found a publisher, I've sold short stories and I've been rejected by some of the finest book producers on the market.  Okay, all of the finest book producers on the market.  Okay, every publisher out there.

So, perhaps that doesn't qualify me as a writer, but it certainly shows I am a glutton for punishment (fifty shades kind or otherwise).  And if there's one thing you need to survive as an author, it's perseverance.  That, and a job that actually pays the bills.

Writing a novel is like trying to put together a featureless, million-piece jigsaw puzzle.  It takes time, hard work and commitment.  After putting in all that effort to craft and transmit a story to page, why would anyone want to sell it with missing pieces and crappy wrappings?  That's not how products sell.  Would you buy a toothbrush that was missing bristles and came in a Chinese take-out box?

Maybe that wasn't the best analogy, but you probably get the point.  No matter how good your story is, no one is going to give it up if it looks like garbage.  Editing and marketing are equally as important as writing the book itself.

I'm old school, probably not too far off from Will Ferrell's character in Old School.  I start with outlines, then write my short stories and novels.  Typing it into the computer forces me to do an edit.  The story always changes dramatically.  So I print and edit again.  More dramatic changes.  Then it's editing, editing, eating a taco, drinking some coffee, editing, editing, spilling said coffee on edits, editing and more editing.  Writing is re-writing and editing.  If you're not doing it, you should be.

All writers, and particularly those of the self-published and eBook variety, are held to high grammatical standards.  Things like comma slices and fragments (e.g., five sentences ago) that you cared little about in school suddenly become important.  You may ask yourself, "What the f&#% is a gerund, and how can I use it to make my writing better?"  But form sometimes gives way to style, and writers can get away with things like starting a sentence with "but."  Some rules can be ignored.

As a new writer, ignoring the rules can be tricky.  Publishers may think you don't have a grasp  of the language.  Stephen King and J.K. Rowling can write anyway they choose because their styles are tried and proven, their legacies written.  You, the new author, have to start from scratch.  Publishers want strong voices and unique styles, so I don't suggest that you shouldn't take chances.

Before submitting to an agent or publisher, your work should be as polished as possible.  Writing is personal; it's sometimes hard to show our work in progress to others.  We naturally fear criticism, rejection.

To improve, you must learn to welcome it.  Get honest, critical opinions from those available to you.  Seek out writers' forums and websites to find others willing to offer their critiques.  Hire a reputable editor or three if you can afford them.

There is no such thing as too many edits.  Even after the last round of edits, your work will not be perfect.  But it should be as close as you feel it could ever be.  Only then should you consider trying to find a home for it.

Again, welcome rejection.  What does it mean?  That your work sucks?  Possibly.  If so, go back to the drawing board.  But keep this in mind: both big publishers and small presses receive countless submissions every month.  They are looking for great writing, certainly, but also for stories they can sell.  Your work may be brilliant, but whether or not it can be successfully marketed to a significant audience is an entirely different consideration.  Be realistic with your goals and find the publisher best-suited to sell books to your target audience.

And what of marketing?  If you're not prepared to market yourself, how can you expect a publisher to do so?  You need a website or blog, some means to interact with your readers.  You need a blurb, selling points and a great query letter that will knock an agent or publisher onto his or her well-read ass.

And should you self-publish, you must never stop writing, editing and marketing.  No one else is going to do it for you.  Hard work will guarantee your book a chance of success, though many factors beyond your control will also play a part.  But if you publish a brilliant idea that looks like it splattered from a sick moose's rectum, the consuming public will avoid it like the shit it appears to be.

Maybe you're saying to yourself, "I just want to write.  I don't want to do all that marketing stuff."  I've said those words before, but I learned fast that every author all the way to the top has to get involved in marketing.  I'll let those better qualified than me discuss the best ways to go about that.

So, in the end, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.  Writing is work, and submitting it to the public requires a thick skin.  But to have just one friend fall in love with the words you put to paper (or electronic file, I suppose), that makes it all worth it.  If writing is what you love, persevere, and you will be remembered for it.

GREAT advice, Jason!!  Thank you so much for your time! :)

Until next Saturday's advice from yet another really great author ...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Rosemarie Urquico

I always love reading quotes, but this one ... THIS ONE ... is just ... wow.

You should date a girl who reads.

Date a girl who reads.  Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books.  Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads.  You'll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.  She's the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants.  You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop?  That's the reader.  They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.

She's the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street.  If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she's kind of engrossed already.  Lost in a world of the author's making.  Sit down.  She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted.  Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami.  See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship.  Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce's Ulysses she's just saying that to sound intelligent.  Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It's easy to date a girl who reads.  Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries.  Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song.  Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings.  Let her know that you understand that words are love.  Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she's going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book.  It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her.  If she understands syntax, she will understand you need to lie.  Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue.  It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her.  Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax.  Because girls that read know that all things must come to an end, but that you can always write a sequel.  That you can begin again and again and still be the hero.  That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not?  Girls that read understand that people, like characters, develop.  Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close.  When you find her up at 2am clutching a book  he chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her.  You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you.  She'll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon.  Or during a rock concert.  Or very casually next time she's sick.  Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn't burst and bled out all over your chest yet.  You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even strange tastes.  She will introduce your children to Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day.  You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it.  You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable.  If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you're better off alone.  If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes. ~Rosemarie Urquico

This makes girls reading sexy.  This makes me GLAD to be a reader. :) 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

On days like this ...

On days like this ... I really miss him.

Happy Thanksgiving!! :)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Things I'm thankful for this year:
1) My mom - Even though she sometimes irritates the mess out of me, she's one of my best friends and I love her dearly.  (And the whole time that I was writing this, she was being a real smeg.)

2) My friends - no matter where they may be located in this big beautiful world.

3) Flamingos and ring-tail lemurs - in no particular order.

4) Those crazy felines that live in my home - They may drive me crazy, but I have no intention of trading them in for newer models. :)

5) My family - I love you Ris and Idgie!!!!!!!!! :)

My favorite things about Thanksgiving:
The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner with mom

Knowing that everyone is having a grand time with family and friends

Finally getting to watch Christmas movies openly haha (It's always been a rule in our house that there was to be NO Christmas movies or music until after Santa Claus came in the parade.  Well, he just came by SO .... time to get started.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

A friend, a publisher and a really bad day - a vent

I have been lucky over the last year to meet a lot of authors - and even luckier to be able to call a few of them my friends.  

Watching their struggles has been a hard thing to do.

Saturday morning I received an email from one of these friends, him opening up to me about yet another such struggle that he's having to deal with.

The night before (9pm on a Friday), he received an email from his publisher informing him that they were severing their relationship with him because his book wasn't selling as much as they wanted it to.  They asked him to be patient with him, letting him know that it would take 10-15 days for them to remove his book from the websites that they posted them on.  After this action was completed, he would be free to find himself another publisher. 

Then on Saturday (before 9am since that's when I received the email from him), he received a message on Facebook from a potential customer informing him that his book was no longer available on Amazon.

Not only did he lose that sale, but he potentially lost several others because he had a website who was advertising him at the time.  Plus he was going to be on the second author on my Between the Bindings (he still will be, but not for a few weeks so that he has time to get everything rolling again with his book).

On one hand, he's frustrated and angry because of this and on the other hand, happy to finally be rid of these people that have not been doing a very good job in the first place with him (didn't properly plan his blog tour, gave poorly edited copies of his book to book reviewers which resulted in not so favorable reviews, unprofessional behavior on the part of the publisher, not promoting the book, etc).

The conversation continued on for part of the day and I was shocked with the things he was telling me about these people, the behavior of the publisher (i.e. complaining about her personal life in mass emails to everyone, blaming her problems on the authors because they ask for too much, etc), but the thing that REALLY got me was the list of things that she sent out to the authors, informing them of what the publishing company is willing to do for them so that authors would stop asking for things.

I decided to share it here:
1) Helps you create a presence on the internet.
2) Helps you maintain that presence on the internet.
3) Makes posts on occasion to promote the author's work.
4) Sets up occasional virtual blog tours for promotional purposes.
5) When funds are present, will occasionally choose a book to present on NetGallery.
6) Solicit reviews from bloggers and provide e-galleys for these reviews.
7) Puts your book on Librarything for giveaways.
8) Lists the book on Goodreads when available.
9) Does cover reveals at author's request.
10) Formats book for print and e-book.
11) Creates cover art.
12) Puts your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes and Createspace.
13) We have and will try to get your book into Barnes & Noble, but just because we try does not mean it will happen.  (Trust me when I say, it's not easy and so far we've been completely unsuccessful in our efforts.  Unfortunately, an Indie published author whether with a publisher of independent status or not, rarely gets their book in B&N stores unless you have a bushel of four leaf clovers and horseshoes hanging from your ears!)

[Notice that #12 says one thing, then #13 takes what it says in #12 and goes back on it.  Do you see that too?  "Occasional" and "when funds are present" are two things I found very interesting.]

Everything that they were willing to do, an author can do themselves.  (And in my friend's case, he did do most of it himself.)  

Is this really what Indie publishing companies are like?  Or is this one just a bad cookie out of the batch?

[I posted this, then took it down.  I have edited it more times than I care to admit.  Even deleted the whole thing twice.  I have not done it justice.  It just really miffs me.]

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My thoughts

Elena wasn't only single, but she hardly interacted with anyone.  She was a loner and was happy to be in her own company most of the times, and as she hit her twenty-third year, the isolation began to catch up to her.  She didn't know it, but she was longing for a friend, or for a man to just call her pretty.  She was a bit on the plain side, not ugly, not gorgeous, but attractive ....

Deep down inside Elena knew a relationship with him couldn't possibly last due to her self involvement and so she never bothered trying to pursue one with him.  Elena figured that the only way to forget him was to ignore him as much as possible and so she never picked up the phone.  Elena hoped she would find the courage to actually tell him to bug off someday, but she couldn't do it because she was actually lying to herself.  Subconsciously, Elena didn't want him to bug off and she kind of looked at him as something she wanted but couldn't possibly have.  The truth was that she was afraid, and had no experience standing up for what she wanted ....

She hated her weakness, and didn't like the hole she crawled into whenever a man came into her life.  She was too negative about the repercussions of a relationship ....

Elena wondered what a fool this guy must have been to be interested in such an anti-social stiff such as her ....

Her dad taught her to stay away from men, and that they were no good anymore.  He drilled the same information into her skull over and over as a kid - that men were no good, society was crumbling and she should stay single for her own sake.  Her father's strict upbringing had bounded Elena's heat in chains ....

Interesting.   Some books just make you think - even when they weren't actually supposed to.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Calvin invents writer's block

REVIEW: Depths

By Jason Parent and Elizabeth Los
Found in Sanitarium #015

I will be completely honest with you, I purchased this for one reason and one reason only - Jason's story.  Yup - $2.99 for one short story.  When you come across an author that writes like he does, this is what you do. :)  

I've probably told everyone I know how good his book, What Hides Within, is (and even plan on giving it and one of Evans Light's stories as holiday gifts this year).  He is definitely an author to take a look at and I'm excited to see what he gives us next.

This story was beyond good.  Everything about it.  I'm not even sure how to write this review because everything I want to say will give away just a little too much.  

It starts out and you're thinking one thing, then you get this twist and you're thinking another thing, then a couple of years pass and you're thinking something else, and then another twist and then another twist and you're like hmm ... and then the end?  Just ... 

There.  Make sense?  That's where I'm at with this story.  I liked it so much I'm speechless :p

Now I need to check out what else is in this thing and see if anything comes close to matching up ...

REVIEW: Battling Waves

Battling Waves
By Jason Parent
Found in: Of Words and Water

I read Jason's novel, What Hides Within, and loved it.  It is by far one of my favorite reads this year and I highly recommend it to everyone who hasn't read it yet.  

When I found out that he had a short story out there, I had to go and search it out.  

I have not read the full book, but the few things I have read in it, including and especially his, have been really good and I definitely suggest that you find it - and give money.

Summary of the collection: Of Words and Water is a collection of water-themed works from authors around the globe, all of whom wish to contribute to WaterAid's invaluable efforts.  Our work is given freely: if you enjoy it please give generously to share the gift of clean water, the gift of life.

My thoughts

Jason's story was not what I expected at all, so different from the book.  Different, but still really good.  I think I described it to one person as "Absolutely amazing."

And it hit very close to home.  When I was younger, I almost drowned.  Not in an ocean, but at a water park.  His words were so real, so convincing.  I could feel what the character in the story was feeling and remembered having similar thoughts.  His words make you feel like you are really there.

I can't wait to see what more Jason has in store for us.  :)

Between the Bindings with Evans Light

Evans Light is one of my favorite authors, writing both horror and suspense short stories.  He's got a lot of talent and if you haven't had the opportunity to read any of his stuff, you really need to.  I suggest you begin with his short story anthology, SCREAMSCAPES: Tales of Terror (Amazon link) - and definitely grab his latest, Don't Need No Water (Amazon link), just released.  (You can find more information on Evans through his Goodreads page: Evans Light)

He took the time out of his busy schedule to share his advice and I really feel honored to share it with you here:

For me, writing a novel has been a much different process than writing short stories.

With short stories, you're typically dealing with a single narrative arc, fewer characters and often a compressed time period.  This helps to keep things fairly straightforward in the plotting department, and the challenge comes from trying to breathe life into characters and creating compelling and satisfying situations in an extremely tight format.  Not an easy thing to pull off.

With a novel, however, the canvas is as broad and wide as you want to make it - you've got 250-1,000 pages to work with, possibly more if it's a series.  That leaves a lot of room to lose readers, and the challenge here comes in being able to keep a reader's interest for a sustained period of time while maintaining tension and forward momentum in the process.

I can make no claims at having mastered the form,  so I'll just give a little bit of insight into how I'm approaching the novel-writing process.  This isn't going to be a step-by-step comprehensive guide, just some of the things that I do that I've found work best for me.

When first starting on a project, I have the overall idea, usually in a somewhat amorphous form - the scope of the story, what it's about, the basic setting, who are the major characters, what generally happens and how the story might conclude.

I will typically write out a single page story outline to solidify the idea as a ready-to-start project.

Then I begin to consider how the story would best be told: first person, third person, single or multiple perspectives?  A single narrative or intersecting stories?  The choices made at this point will determine a lot of the complexity of the overall project.

A first-person, single perspective story may best suit beginning writers, while those looking for a challenge may want to tackle the tale using a third-person perspective with multiple story arcs.  Managing the reader's perception of the passing time can also be a challenging issue to deal with in some instances.

Call me Captain Obvious if you like, but it's worth noting that there's no single correct way to write a novel.  Some sit down with a blank piece of paper and a general idea, and let the words take the story wherever it may roam.  Others like to intricately plot out every single bit of the story before putting a single word to paper.

Personally I like to take that initial story outline I've composed and begin to flesh it out into chapter synopses, in which I describe in a very basic way what will occur in each chapter.  This allows me the ability to piece together the flow of intersecting story lines, and also allows me to jump around while writing the novel like a director shooting different scenes, something I love being able to do.  If I get a little tired of working on a particular section (or stuck), by using chapter outlines it's easy for me to jump to another part of the story that interests me and work there without getting off track on the overall flow of the storyline.

Another difference between short fiction and novels is that novels tend to be full of "stories within the story" - character histories, amusing conversations and the like.  As I encounter random characters with interesting tales in real life, or have (or overhear) a particularly fun conversation, I like to take notes and add it to the stack of ideas for the book.  Some get used, some don't, but it's always better to have more ideas than you can use when you sit down at the keyboard than it is to waste time trying to remember that great thing you heard the other day, but then find you can't quite recall what it was.

I take notes immediately as ideas pop into my head, and have multiple ways to collect them for use in fleshing out the novel later.  I can't stress this enough.  A  notepad on the desk by my bed, a "notes" app on my phone, emails to myself - my best advice is to never let a good idea get away.  You'll think that you'll be able to remember that idea later - it'll seem so unforgettable when it occurs to you - but if you don't write it down right then and there, nine times out of ten it will be gone forever.

Find a system that allows you to capture your ideas and save them for later, and you've won half the battle.

Editing is a whole other, but perhaps even more important issue in any sort of writing.  When you've finished the first draft, take care to remember that you're only about twenty percent of the way done.

Repeat after me: "It's not about writing.  It's about rewriting."

That's the single most important thing you should take to heart if you ever want to be a truly great writer.

For me, after I type "THE END," I like to let the finished project sit for at least a couple of days before I start doing any revising.

In the meantime, I'll share that first draft with a trusted friend or two with some editorial capabilities to hack and slash, to tell me what's working with the story and what isn't.  It always hurts when lines you've labored on and love dearly get cut during the editing process, but you editors are almost always right when advising that you do so.

I  usually have at least five full drafts of any major work I publish.  Sometimes a couple more, but seldom less than five.

When I think it's almost perfect, I like to hear it read out loud to me (I typically use IVONA text-to-speech software for this).  During this step, you'll find things to fix that your eyes didn't detect.

Then I suggest reading it out loud - preferably to someone else - but out loud to yourself works, too.  Again, you will find more things that you'll want to fix, and yet new ways to make the writing and the story even better.

After that, it's probably as good as it's going to get.

Here's a link to an article by Joe Hill about the writing process that I really like, it rings true to my own experience: Pour Me Another Draft by Joe Hill

I hope this has been helpful!
~Evans Light

Wow.  What great advice, Evans.  Thanks so much for all of that very useful information. :)

Check back again guys.  Next Saturday, I will have some more great writing advice from yet another great author :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Starting tomorrow ...

I have met lots of people over the last few months who are "working" on their first book.  They all seem really excited about putting the story they have inside them onto paper, but also seem frustrated with what they are doing, some even saying that they feel "stuck."

I know that feeling all too well, so I decided to ask some of my author friends (that I have been lucky enough to meet over the last year) and see what advice they had to offer.

I already knew that these authors were amazing (and very talented), but the fact that so many of them took the time to put a lot of thought into their answers really made my day and took what was going to be one simple post and turned it into what will be a weekly thing.

I can never thank them enough for all the help that they have given me - and the help they are passing on to future writers. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Just cause ...

Just cause it's freaking hilarious ...................

Hahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahaha snort :O

REVIEW: Jack: The Tale of Frost

Jack: The Tale of Frost
The sequel to Claus: Legend of the Fat Man
By: Tony Bertauski

Genre: Adventure, thriller
Year published: 2013
Pages: 290

Date read: 11/16/13
Recommended by: R2R

Recommended to: People who love Christmas stories, especially ones that are different

Summary: Sura is sixteen years old when she meets Mr Frost.  He's very short and very fat and he likes his room very, very cold.  Some might say inhumanly cold.  His first name isn't Jack, she's told.  And that's all she needed to know.

Mr Frost's love for Christmas is over-the-top and slightly psychotic.  And why not?  He's made billions of dollars off the holiday he invented.  Or so he claims.  Rumor is he's an elven, but that's silly.  Elven aren't real.  And if they were, they wouldn't be living in South Carolina.  They wouldn't hide in a tower and go to the basement to make ... things.

Nonetheless, Sura will work for this odd little recluse.  Frost Plantation is where she'll meet the love of her life.  It's where she'll finally feel like she belongs somewhere.  And it's where she'll meet someone fatter, balder and stranger than Mr Frost.  It's where she'll meet Jack.

Jack hates Christmas.

My thoughts

Last Christmas I found Claus: Legend of the Fat man on Amazon, read it and loved it.  (If you haven't read it, you NEED to.)

In October, the author messaged me and asked me if I would be interested in reading the sequel to that story - a story about Jack.  Considering how I felt when I finished Claus (wanting to know more about the character of Jack), I could not pass up this opportunity.

When I was finally able to sit down and read the story, I could not put it down.  I would force myself to stay awake at night, wanting and needing to finish the story.

From the first page it draws you in.  And it was not what I expected.  None of it was.  It's Jack now, along with new characters and one particularly important character from the past.  A character that, without him, this story would have never been able to take place.

It was action packed, with moments that made you think, moments that made you care, moments that taught you about love and people and ... and it was amazing and beautiful ... and, though I didn't think it was possible, much better than the first.

And the ending ... Wow!  I mean, the whole ending felt that way but the very end, the last couple of paragraphs ... when I finished I literally sat there with my hand over my mouth just ... frozen.

Amazing.  And another must read.  I can't wait to see what happens in the third. 

My favorite line: "Claus should give out grades; let us know how we're doing.  Do I have a C or an A+?  How many good things do I  have left to do and how many points will I lose if I gong that old man in the back of the head?"

My second favorite line: "They're two pieces that fit perfectly together.  Two pieces that make each other whole.  Mr Frost senses their emotions, can almost taste their vivid colors with his mind's palette.  Sura is the promising yellow of daybreak.  Joe is the sultry red of a sunset.  And when they meet, when their energies collide, their colors mix to become something entirely different."

REVIEW: Claus: Legend of the Fat Man

Claus: Legend of the Fat Man
By: Tony Bertauski

Genre: Adventure, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Year published: 2013
Pages: 327

Date read: 12/15/12

Recommend to: Anyone who loves Christmas stories, especially ones that are not the typical thing

Summary: Some legends are forged in fire.  Others are born in snow.

In the early 1800s, Nicholas, Jessica and Jon Santa attempt the first human trek to the North Pole and stumble upon an ancient race of people left over from the Ice Age.  They are short, fat and hairy.  They slide across the ice on scaly soles and carve their homes in the ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean.

The elven are adapted to life in the extreme cold.

They are as wise as they are ancient.  Their scientific advancements have yielded great inventions - time-stopping devices and gravitational spheres that build living snowmen and genetically-modified reindeer that leap great distances.  They've even unlocked the secrets to aging.  For 40,000 years they have lived in peace.

Until now.

An elven known as The Cold One has divided his people.  He's tired of their seclusion and wants to conquer the world.  Only one elven stands between The Cold One and total chaos.  He's white-bearded and red-coated.  The Santa family will help him stop The Cold One.

They will come to the aid of a legendary elven known as ... Claus.

My thoughts

Christmas is one of my two favorite holidays and I am always looking for a good Christmas book to read in December.  Last December I found this one.  I especially like ones that are different than the norm and this one is definitely that.  

It has tons of action, the good brother vs the bad brother (when done right, it can never get old), highs and lows - there were several times that I actually caught myself holding my breath as I read, worried about what was going to happen next.  

And the story behind HOW Santa became Santa ... loved it.

It is a book that I will definitely read again and one I think everyone will enjoy.

But it did leave me with one thing - wanting to know what happens next AND wanting to know more about ... THE COLD ONE ...

REVIEW: His First, Her Last

His First, Her Last:
The Incredible True Story of an American Lost in the Philippines
By: Jonathan Sturak

Genre: Love & Romance, Biographies & Memoirs

Year published: 2013
Pages: 267

Date read: 11/12/13
Recommended by: R2R

Summary: Engaged couple Jason and Hazel travel across the world to meet her family in this true story of love and adventure.  The moment Jason steps off the plane in the Philippines, an exotic island caught between the East and the West, the past and the present grabs hold of this naive American and seduces him with its beauty, its places and its people.  Temptation looms as the best friend of Hazel tests their relationship and touches their souls.  A deeply personal account of the conflict of culture between American excess and Philippine poverty, His First, Her Last explores the ability of love to transcend two worlds apart.  But after an accident spills blood on the streets of a remote village, the lives of this couple flash before their eyes.  Will he escape?  Will she survive?  Will his first trip be her last?

My thoughts

The first book that I read by this author was Clouded Rainbow.  It was a great story and I loved it.

When Jonathan Sturak released this, his latest book, he messaged me out of the blue and asked me if I would be interested in reading it.  Knowing how much I loved his previous book, and seeing his words about how personal this book was to him, I agreed.

I wanted to love this book as much as I loved Clouded Rainbow ... but I couldn't.  I've actually put off writing this review for several days because, well, I just didn't know what I was going to say about it.  I'm actually stuck between giving it 3, 3 1/2 and 4 stars.  There were parts that I did like and I tried to not let the parts that I didn't like overpower them, but I think those parts overpowered what could have been a beautiful story.  It saddens me even more when I see that it is based on a true story.

I never EVER do this, but I am going to delve into SPOILER world so, if you do not want to continue reading, I will completely understand.  But if you are interested in seeing my issues, please stick with me while I explain my thoughts ...

When authors ask me to read their books, I never read the reviews that are already up for fear that I will go into it with someone else's thoughts and opinions in my head.  I also don't read past the first few sentences of the description because, let's face it, some give away WAY too much information and I want to enjoy the story rather than read anticipating things.

When it came to this particular book, I never even looked at the Amazon or Goodreads pages, just downloaded it onto my Kindle and jumped into it as soon as I had the chance.

Because of my lack of research into this book, I was completely unprepared for the main character's ... um ... feelings for his fiance's best friend.  And, to be honest, I disliked that aspect of the story.  It would have been different, I guess, if it had been one or two thoughts - but it was a CONSTANT thing.  Each time it made me feel uncomfortable and left me feeling sorry for his fiance, that he could behave this way in the first place, but that he was also doing it in front of her.  It was inappropriate and ... disgusting.  There was laughing and joking about it from the fiance and parts of her family, but she had no idea the thoughts that were really going on inside his head.

Between that, him always wanting to go home (and complaining to his mom on the phone about it), his mom's passive-aggressive comments (i.e. her confusing the Asian countries - this is the girl your son is in love with and wants to marry, you'd think you'd get it right - and telling him several times that he needs to come home), the constant droning on and on with his complaining - about the food, about the people, about everything - and the fact that every two or three pages he was checking to make sure he had "his security pouch, his camera bag and his hand sanitizer," I really started to dislike him about 20% in ... and I don't think I was supposed to dislike him.  (Side note: I too have an issue with germs.  I carry my hand sanitizer in my purse.  No matter where I am, it's there.  Why he felt the need to keep checking, I just don't understand.  Like someone in this country was going to steal his hand sanitizer from him.  Ugh.)

I liked the fiance and her family.  I love how they treated him as if he was part of the family from the very first meeting.  I loved the descriptions of his surroundings - when he actually took the time to notice how beautiful the country around him was.

Then the accident happens.  That's when he, I guess, realizes just how much he loves and needs his fiance, as he searches to find her.  This was actually one of the parts that I liked.  (It reminded me a lot of Clouded Rainbow, where the husband is searching for his wife in a big city.)

But, after he finds her and she is ok, he goes right back into his complaining and his obsessive need to leave the country, no matter what doctors tell him.

At the end of the story, all I'm left with is one question for Jason - If the accident had never happened, would you have changed at all?

I'm interested in other people's opinions on this.
If you give it a try or have already read it, please let me know.

REVIEW: Black Rum & Dynamite

Beatnik Spy #3:
Black Rum & Dynamite
By: Patrick Baird

Genre: Action & Adventure, Thriller
Year published: 2013
Pages: 151

Date read: 11/10/13
Recommended by: R2R

Summary: Havana, 1956.  Gunner Quinn is back on the CIA payroll, on the track of a mysterious gang of gun runners.  Are they funding a communist revolution or something far more sinister and deadly?  And who is the beautiful castaway, China Tampico?  From the jazz-fueled nightlife of pre-Castro Cuba, to dark backwaters where voodoo lurks, Black Rum & Dynamite sparkles with action, passion and history come to life.

My thoughts

This was my first read of the Beatnik Series and I really enjoyed it.  Even though I hadn't read the first two, the story was a fun read and I didn't feel like I was missing anything.  I can't wait to pick up more of the series.

It had lots of action, several unexpected twists and one HUGE one that completely through me off and, about halfway through, I was like "Wait!!  What?!?!  It can't be over yet!!" but seeing where I was on my Kindle, I was relieved to see that there was much more to go.  The second part was EVEN BETTER than the first.

I really liked the character of Quinn.  The FBI Agent (Fontana) might come off as a real douche at times, but he's endearing in his own special way.  El Rey Arana is one MESSED UP dude and ended up being a really great bad guy.

So me!!

I saw this today and just had to share.  It is so perfectly me hahaha :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Even though I don't think I'm exciting enough for one of these, I decided to take a few friends' suggestions and give it a try.

So I guess follow me :) @Raiyine

REVIEW: Don't Need No Water

Don't Need No Water
By: Evans Light

Genre: Short story, Horror
Year published: 2013 
Pages: 34

Date read: 11/17/2013

Summary: When his beloved Sissy ends up dead after being taken in for a misdemeanor, Iverson doesn't believe for a minute that she committed suicide.  After he and his brothers learn the harsh truth about what really happened, what the Sheriff and his friends did to her, they set out to make the whole town pay for their sins - and nothing but the truth can stop the flames of hell that burn in the wake of their brutal vengeance.

My thoughts

I was super excited when I got a message from Evans that included a preview edition of this, his latest story.  Within minutes, I had it downloaded, on my Kindle and even put the movie that I was watching at the time on pause - that was how much I NEEDED to read it and read it right away.

To say that I was impressed by the book is an extreme understatement.  He has such a way with words and descriptions - as if you can close your eyes and see the setting and characters right there in your mind.  The build up is always great and the endings completely unexpected.  This is BY FAR one of my favorites.

When I read the description, I completely understood where the main character (Iverson) was coming from - if someone had hurt someone I loved like this, I would be hunting some people and hurting them too.  The extreme that he went to was intense and very well-written.  The end!!!!  I definitely didn't expect that coming.

Favorite line: "That's how you show the ones you love that you care about them, by being considerate like that."

Definitely a must read.  Have you read it?  What do you think?