Friday, February 28, 2014

Our beautiful swan returns

The final entry from my multi-book binge reading. A seriously awesome week of reading. My to-read list is shaping up to promise some classics with what I have gotten through so far this year. I'm feeling a little better about authors these days; I had some serious worries about independent publishing there for awhile. It felt like talent and editing were not a qualifier for cheap reading, and I was getting a little frustrated. Thanks to the authors who have changed my mind this year.

Gear up (haha--pun) for your copy March 4th. $13.99 for paperback or $2.99 digital. My 5 star review follows.

Chasing the Green Fairy by Melanie Karsak

Our much beloved flight crew is back aboard the Stargazer for another adventure. This time it i through the love and loss of the heart. I was incredibly impressed at the change of direction in this second novel. While I appreciated the Davinci Code-esque style of the first novel, I really connected to the story this time. There wasn't all the glamour of travelling all around the world in this installation, but there was a healthy dose of back story. We really get to see a better picture of where Lily is coming from and all her connections. 

The addition of lore and myth from one of my favorite island nations was a nice touch. I have to say once again, I was really impressed at the direction this novel took with the story line. I had serious time management issues when reading. I did not want to stop and go to work. The pacing was on target for continual intrigue.

The pain and suffering are so real, the spin out of control is so real. Beautiful. Lily is just an absolutely fabulous character. She is so beautifully flawed, so imperfect, and even a tad bit villainous. I respect her. She certainly isn't the girl most parents want to meet, but she is a realistic choice. I will throw some kudos to the men as well because they make fantastic support characters. Each person has such a bizarre tick that I have just fallen in love with.

The final flying scenes were some of my favorite. I was easily able to imagine floating along the blue skies like a bird due to some fantastic descriptive writing. Praise to the writing talents of Melanie Karsak. I am eagerly awaiting Chasing the Fog later this year.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Are you ready for some Spirit?

A Lady of Spirit by Shelley Adina
Super happy to read this post -- -- and knowing that I am getting closer to another dose of the Mopsies. These books continually impress me with their strength and brilliancy (and awesome wit). As soon as we get a pre-order link, I'll add it. For now, read the excellent teaser blurb at Shelley's website and build up your enthusiasm.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oh how do I write this review?

I'm not sure how to go about this review. I am honestly still in a bit of a state of denial. I read The Wayfarer Redemption (a.k.a. Battleaxe) in 2000. At that point, I was a little behind the publishing curve and was able to read through the entire series in one shot (my preferred method of reading, honestly. Though, I know that doesn't help authors out much statistically). I quickly finished the Battleaxe trilogy then the Wayfarer Redemption trilogy. 

After a hiatus of several years, I was in the library looking through the D's (yes, I randomly read through the shelves of a library like this) when I saw two standalone novels by Douglass. I checked out both and was impressed yet again, but not surprisingly. At this point, I went onto her website and found that she had written a new series. The Darkglass Mountain trilogy. While they were not all published yet, I decided to check out her Troy Game quadrology while I was waiting. 

Christmas 2011 dawned with a present from my in-laws of a compilation of works by Douglass I had never heard of previously. It was a posthumous publication of her life's short stories (and the review is earlier on this blog). I was sad. Christmas 2013 dawned with yet another surprise from my in-laws; they had found the final work of Sara Douglass for me. So now I proceed to write my last review for Sara Douglass with a heavy, hopeful heart.

The Devil's Diadem by Sara Douglass

Sara Douglass wrote this novel in the last stages of her fight against cancer. I honestly think this novel solidifies the closing of a great author in history. It is incredibly well written, excellently put together, and just down right honest about life. The truth written into the memoir of Maeb reflects the struggle of Douglass. The mythology may be fantasy, but the struggle and acceptance of passing along to another journey is very real. 

It is a lengthy volume at 400 pages. I found parts of the story to drag a little, but the entire story is divided into separate parts of Maeb's life making good breaking points. Each section is a clear "chapter" in Maeb's journey to understand the truth of life and love. Her honesty is built through an innocent naivete. Her preconceptions and lack of surety mire her in struggle and despair. It is incredibly heartbreaking and uplifting (how do you get those at the same time? A brilliant author.) to read the ending. 

This book is the perfect example of trust-and what it means to give trust to someone-and love. Maeb experiences three distinct types of love in her life. At the end, she clearly reflects back on these three. Take her hindsight lessons into your own life. Take the wisdom from a dying woman and build something better for yourself.

In Memoriam, Sara Douglass.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Action-Adventure for reading lovers

As promised, some book reviews. And what a great review to start the week with!! 

I was impressed with Mistress of Solstice by Anna Kashina last summer. When I saw a new series from her on Netgalley, I signed up for an ARC. Boy, am I really glad I did. Her new venture into the roller-coaster ride of action adventure novel is easily up there with Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind. Honestly, I would vote higher. She kept the writing fast paced and had just enough description to build great visualization without putting me to sleep.

Blades of the Old Empire by Anna Kashina

Blades of the Old Empire: Book I of the Majat CodeThis is a magnificent work of literature. You get fast paced travel with political intrigue and danger, amazing martial arts fights of extreme skill, cultural immersion from around the world, and a little hint of romance without ruining the tough fighter feel. Oh, and don't forget the magic. This book seriously had everything. The only con: lack of sleep. I read through the entire 496 pages in two days. I easily found myself losing track of the clock and was happy that it was just the weekend. Otherwise I would have been very tired at work.

The characters were amazingly real. They were incredibly flawed and struggling with the fight between need versus want. Five stars for the realism. Even the way people fell in love, or not, was incredibly realistic. Not everyone came out at the end of the story with a happily ever after (which I am always excited to see an author willing to abuse their characters since we don't always get a fairy tale ending or exactly what we wish for in life). We get to see the characters building the best from their lives with what they have. This fits perfectly with the tough warrior mentality being developed in this story. Though, I did appreciate a few moments of getting what I wanted from the characters instead of an entirely fatalistic ending. I felt like a stronger person in myself by the ending.

Speaking of characters, you get a vast array from around the world represented in Blades of the Old Empire. You have some Eastern and Western cultures with a touch of the Old World mythological types and even some native peoples. Fascinating blend! Ayalla was my favorite character -- what an outfit! The political intrigue of bringing all these different peoples together is only going to get better in the coming books. We had the great taste of action with this introduction, but I feel more coming with resurrecting this old alliance. 

The magic system was underplayed yet very important to the development of both the story and the characters. You have the obvious good versus evil, religion versus faith debate going on along with the magic, but I don't really find it tiresome or irksome. (I am realistic that there are only a few types of story you can tell.) I appreciated that the story stuck more to the adventure than the heavy build up of magics and fantasy. There was a sense of grit and kick butt attitude with the Majat Guild that really separated this story from epic fantasy. I really cannot express enough times how highly I recommend this story to everyone.

You can pre-order over at Amazon or request a copy from your local indie bookseller. It will be released tomorrow. For more great information about the story, author, and to get future news about the series as it develops, visit Anna's website.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Another form of Pitch Wars

I promise I am going to post some reviews here soon, but first, I have to finish one of the (now) three books I am reading. For today, though, check out a new author contest going on below.

Another group is allowing new authors a chance to pitch their works to publishing agents. There are a lot of great entries on the site, but I highly recommend you look over entry #71. She currently holds a good portion of the vote. Let's see if we can get her some more.

Entry #71: Sworn

Monday, February 17, 2014

Oh no, I'm doing it again...

My to-read list is exploding with great sequels and fabulous new authors. I have caught myself multi-reading again. This, unfortunately, means I never seem to get to the end of any one book. Great for me as I am constantly enjoying inspirational stories and other worlds. Bad for my blog because I have nothing to post.

So I will stop and take a brief moment to promote a book I am very excited for next month. Now a simple two weeks away.

Chasing the Green Fairy by Melanie Karsak

She revealed the cover art for her follow up novel to Chasing the Star Garden, which I gave a glowing review here:

Check out this amazing cover. It definitely piques my interest to get this thing pre-ordered. Can't wait! Chasing the Green Fairy releases Tuesday, March 4!

See her full posting with book trailer, music soundtrack, giveaways, and more on her blog. Melaine Karsak's blog entry 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The different side to Greek mythology

So - we have all read (or seen a movie of) the trendy set of YA books that have been set upon us like a rash by publishers covering vampires, werewolves or some other such non-sensical paranormal mythology. Some I have truly enjoyed; others I have wanted to hunt down the author and throttle them for hopping on the money train then lacking any form of creativity. Not this time fortunately!

Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper

I have always enjoyed the Greek mythology section of my humanities classes. They had such an intricate system for explaining the deep mysteries of the cosmos. Unfortunately, in terms of modern literature, there has been a very short-sighted focus on one aspect of Greek mythology--the Greek gods! Or maybe if you are lucky in YA fiction, you get to see their demi god children. Karen Amanda Hooper takes us to another side of Greek mythology, the creatures of the deep! Those hideous monsters of the sea, with their nightmare stories. Except - wait! - this is a good side of the ugly demons.

Tangled Tides was a compelling starting point for the world of mermaids, selkies, gorgons, and sirens. Not the usual superstars of the Greek stories, but in my book, some of the most fascinating. It also, perhaps, leaves some room for artistic license to build upon that which is not heavily canonized. 

I must admit the first couple of chapters made it hard reading for me, but once I got 1/4 of the way into the book, it really seemed to find its legs (hehe-pun). I didn't seem to click with any of the characters right off the bat; however, I did appreciate them being older teenagers. As the story went along, there ended up being a nice array of characters. I definitely had my gripes about several and think they could easily have been left out of the novel, but you can't love every character you come across. 

There were a fair amount of plot twists to keep the story moving and fresh. Visualizing location was not difficult. The descriptions were wonderfully balanced between visual and not overly flowery. However, I wish this treatment would have been used in more depth for the characters. Many of them just floated along the story with no face in my mind because I honestly kept forgetting what they were supposed to look like.

A good attempt from a first time indie author. I give this book 4 stars because it really caught my curiosity for the side of Greek mythology I had not known an extensive amount about. I would certainly recommend it. I even look forward to the sequel.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Foodie fiction: a new frontier for me

I shook up the reading pattern a little again and decided to try the lender's library on Kindle. To keep myself from getting burned out on fantasy, I browsed the offerings in the general literary fiction section. I was intrigued by the book cover (and I'm sorry, but I judge you on your cover before making my final decision. It sucks me in to read your book blurb or not.) at first glance. After reading through the blurb, I downloaded the sample chapter. From there, I checked it out, so to speak.

Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirsten Chen

I would place this book somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. I hover between the two numbers because I was highly impressed with the editing and formatting. They helped achieve a better read through the story. However, the overall novel still needed a guiding hand. There were too many occasions, for me, where the leading lady was punch worthy. I know, I know; her struggles are what drive the plot -- but my goodness what a whiner!

On the high notes, there certainly was an excellent sense of emotion. The subjects covered are very real and able to relate to someone we are or know. The characters weren't entirely flat but could have used some polish to make them really shine. There were a fair number of players, yet all of their interactions felt brief and unconnected. The story clearly goes from Point A to B with all the characters involved along the way; however, it was a lackluster involvement from the whole cast. The novel was clearly researched on soy sauce, not human relationships.

I really wish there would have been a stronger feel of culture to the novel, which I thought would be very important to a story about Singapore or America, where do I live? (This could have entirely been me missing out on something, but it really didn't feel like I was in Singapore during the visualization. I got an excellent feel for the horrific weather, not the great hive activity and distinct Asian hubbub.)

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and managed to read the whole novel in two days. I probably will not proceed to buy it. The author is new and still needs fine tuning, but it shows great backbone to build on. I would certainly recommend this for a bookclub because there are all sorts of topics to get in fights over.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Weekend of -ology and words

An Explorer's Notebook by Tim Flannery

This was an excellent compilation of Flannery's work for the past three decades. They are placed in chronological order by sections based on type of work. He included his personal essays on biology and zoology in the field, which I found to be incredibly fascinating; reviews of scientific books he read; and, climate essays to raise recognition of our impact on the species of the world.

Section one: I love zoology and learning about all the different kinds of animals. What animals can tell us about our own planet is incredible. Tim Flannery is an Australian scientist, and he gave me a whole new perspective on animals from New Guinea and Indonesia. I absolutely adore tree kangaroos and learned so many new facts from his research. While I would love to own one, they are quite the aggressive ninja and are capable of killing an adult man. Who knew? Some of the essays were great exposes on the animals and the hunt to learn more about them; others were a little more preachy about man-animal interaction. I honestly skimmed through these articles.

Section two: Flanney covers the better reviews he provided for scientific books. Did you know Audubon's book was life-size and cost (modern day) $40,000? That is a coffee table book for the records. I skimmed through a couple of the reviews because the subject of trees and insects weren't as interesting to me, and Flannery's scientific review put me even further into sleep. I was greatly intrigued by the review of Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth. I had just finished watching the televised program of the book the previous weekend. Coincidences like that fascinate me.

Section three: Essays that are worthy of sparking an intellectual debate. The topic of climate change is usually not my favorite because it seems that most arguments are not fully researched. Clearly that is not case with Tim Flannery. This section was a little dry for me, however.

I truly appreciated the change into non-fiction and all the great topics and debates Flannery sparked during my reading. I would certainly recommend broadening the reading horizons with this fabulous collection of essays. (Maybe just break up your reading of them?)

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty

My last year of reading and involvement in Netgalley has really refueled my goal to get into the editing workforce. I have been looking at multiple sources to get my feet wet again. I started with online .edu sites for proofreading tests and realized I needed a memory boost. 

I was then recommended Mignon Fogarty's book. The entire book was a condensed version of my four year degree. It was an excellent refresher to what I had already learned, but it would also be incredibly helpful to those entering the writing sector (and professionals who need a huge reminder in this modern day of email and texting that grammar has not changed).

At $8 from Amazon, you can't pass up on this handy handbook to the often forgotten and confusing aspects of the English language.

Here is to foray into the general literature/fiction section!