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River of Stars


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River of Stars by Guy Gavriel KayRiver of Stars

By: Guy Gavriel Kay

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

When I began reviewing books, I imagined that I would have a never-ending supply of books that I loved to read and review.  For the most part, that isn’t the reality.  I do, however, get the opportunity to receive a book from an author that I love.  Kay is one of those authors.  I started with his Fionavar Tapestry many years ago, and have since moved on through his library as he releases new novels.  River of Stars is set in the same “universe” as that of his novel Under Heaven.  I say “universe” because, really, the novels are set in a “universe” that is a near carbon copy of our own.  Each deals with a different historical dynasty of the Asian people.

The beauty of a Kay novel, to me, is that the stories are so very real.  It isn’t all about this huge plot arc that inevitably ends in the world finding it’s balance and the hero winning the day.  His characters are real, with real emotions, real ambitions, and real disappointments.  He makes you feel for the characters in such a way that you root for them throughout the novel, and feel those emotions right alongside them.

If there’s one thing that both this novel and Under Heaven share that I dislike is that the names of the characters is hard to follow.  That’s more of an issue on my part than on his, as he’s named the characters in keeping with naming conventions of the times he’s writing about.  Which brings me to another thing that I really like about his novels.  He’s an impeccable researcher.  Or maybe he has someone do it for him.  If that’s the case, he’s an impeccable research combiner.  😉  In any case, I think he writes stories that are very true to the era that they’re meant to take place in.

River of Stars follows several characters through a few formative years in their lives, and leads us through the fall of a dynasty and the survival of it’s remaining people.  He does it by beautifully weaving the tales of each of the characters into a wonderful story that’s a pleasure to read.  I was immersed into the story until the end, and then felt that subtle form of sadness that only the ending of a terrific book can bring.

Some classify Kay’s works as fantasy.  Others as historical fantasy.  I suppose that’s somewhat accurate.  But, much like many of the classics being taught in literature classes around the world, his works belong in a category of their own, as epic literature classics.  Even if you don’t read fantasy regularly, you really should pick up a Kay novel and see what you’ve been missing out on.

Tears in Rain


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Tears in Rain[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”1612184383″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51XDfrqA-0L._SL160_.jpg” width=”107″]

By: Rosa Montero

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

When I read the blurb on the back of the cover, and it said “Inspired by the movie Blade Runner”, I knew it was a book that I needed to read.  I’ve always been a fan of Blade Runner, although I haven’t read the book (don’t hate me), and so something inspired by the movie, that was about bionic clones called replicants, sounded like it was off to a good start.

Set in a future world where political and social lines have been broken, redrawn, and then broken and redrawn again, we are led into the story by detective Bruna Husky.  Montero does an excellent job of keeping the pace of the book moving, while filling the world she’s created.  It’s a world, significantly advanced from ours to be unrecognizable, and yet has many parallels.  Corruption, greed, and crime still fill the streets and back offices.  When a replicant shows up at Husky’s door and tries to kill her, it sets Husky off on a case that could affect the course of several nations.

Tears in Rain was originally published in Montero’s native Spain, and her native language, Spanish.  It’s been brought to us by Amazon’s amazoncrossing imprint, and translated.  While I found a few places where the translation didn’t come across as well as it probably should have, the majority of it was very good.  It’s hard to tell how much of the writing, and style is Monteros and how much is in the translation, but it came out very well.

If you’re a fan of Blade Runner, and would like a quick foray into a similar world, give Tears in Rain a try.  It’s a good detective novel on it’s own, and the addition of the Science Fiction elements only makes it better, in my opinion.

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eFestival of Words Sale: 8 books for $0.99 each!


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Readers! Eight award winners in the 2012 eFestival of Words “Best of the Independent eBook Awards” have grouped together to offer you an amazing opportunity. They’ve reduced the prices of their award-winning novels to 99 cents for August 27 and 28th!

Whether you like to read mysteries, romance, horror, young adult, women’s fiction, or fantasy, this group has it. Are you a writer yourself? Do you want to learn all about digitally publishing your next masterpiece? They’ve got you covered there too.

Get all eight award-winning ebooks for the price of one single paperback!

Award Winners

Best Mystery/Suspense: Dead Is the New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice

Best Non-Fiction: DIY/Self-Help: Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran

Best Horror61 A.D. by David McAfee

Best RomanceDeadly Obsession by Kristine Cayne

Best Young AdultThe Book of Lost Souls by Michelle Muto

Best Fantasy/Urban Fantasy and Best NovelThe Black God’s War by Moses Siregar III

Best Chick Lit/Women’s LitCarpe Bead’em by Tonya Kappes

Award for Best Twist (“I’ve Been Shyamalaned”): The Survival of Thomas Ford by John A.A. Logan

Here’s a one-stop shopping link for your convenience: Buy all 8!

Happy reading!

Bloodman


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[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”1612182135″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ar0ZDg5oL._SL160_.jpg” width=”107″]Bloodman

By : Robert Pobi

As my disclaimer, I did receive an ARC of this book from the publisher for review.  As with any book I receive for review from an author or publisher, if I don’t have anything good to say about it, I just don’t review it.  If I buy the book, all bets are off. 😉

As you will probably guess from the title, Bloodman is a book deeply settled into the crime/horror genre of books.  Not exactly my usual reading fodder, but, as I told the publicist that sent me the book, I cut my adult reading teeth on very near the entire Stephen King library, so it’s not out of my realm of reading.  Just not in the Sci/Fi and Fantasy realms that I’ve been reading more of lately.

The book takes us along with Jake Cole, Special FBI investigator, on a trip home.  To a home he hasn’t been to in 33 years, to take care of a father who has somehow set himself on fire and jumped through a plate glass window.  And, honestly, that’s about as normal as the book gets.  Shortly after arriving at his fathers home, he Cole receives a call from a local sheriff who needs his help with a fresh homicide.  I can’t tell you much more than that without getting spoilerish, but I can say that the story doesn’t leave you hanging.  The pace is quick.  All told, the entire book is over in the matter of a couple of days, but I found myself stopping several times when I realized just how much had happened in just a few short hours of story time.

There are a couple of bits that I found to be “off”.  Things that I thought an investigator of Cole’s obvious talent wouldn’t overlook.  Or at least, I didn’t think so.  Later, most of those things turn out to be plot devices, though.  Perhaps Pobi could have found a way to make them less obvious?  On the other side of the coin, there are several plot devices that he make so obvious that you find yourself waiting to see what part it is that they play in the story.

I won’t comment much on the writing itself, since the book was an ARC and probably had a bit of editing done between the version I had and the version Amazon has.  Pobi’s writing style is quick and concise.  He manages to dump a fair bit of necessary information on the reader without meandering into the long winded expository passages that some authors seem to favor.

Finally, I have to make a small comment on the ending of the book.  I’m going to attempt to be as spoiler free as I can, but just a warning.

If you’re like me, you’ll read the majority of this book and fall right into the plot twist that Pobi has set up for you.  My advice? If you’re even half way interested in the book, do yourself the favor of reading it all the way to the end.  Especially the last 10 pages!  In my mind, it took the book from a ho-hum readable to a good readable.  Looking back at it, I probably saw it coming a bit, but Pobi did a good job of directing the reader away from the same conclusion and then springs it at the very last.

Well done, and worth a read.

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Who Decides?


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Who decides which manuscripts should be published?  From a purely technical standpoint, the current state of publishing is that a manuscript must first be picked up by an agent, then that agent must find a publisher to pick it up.  It’s a double gated system.  The manuscript must be decided upon at each gate in order to advance on to being published.  But, that’s all changing, isn’t it.

It used to be so much harder to go the self published route.  Anybody could write a book, and take it to a printer.  But, getting any sort of distribution was extremely difficult.  The author would have to take up the car salesman mantra and knock on every door of every bookstore they could reach in hopes that one or two of them might agree to find a bit of shelf space in the store for the authors book.  Now, it can be as simple as a bit of formatting and a few button clicks, and you’ve managed to upload your book onto the shelves of one of the largest bookstores in the world.  Shelf space is cheaper now.  Without the limits of a physical shelf, a bookstore can hold an unlimited number of digital books.  As a result, the barrier to entry has lowered.  Self publishing is, suddenly, very easy to do.

I, personally, am still on the fence.  I’m attracted to the lack of barrier that the self-publishing route has.  But, I’m also attracted to the gates of the agent/publishing house route.  Gates mean exclusivity.  If you can get through those gates, you join a limited group of people.  But, if you sell enough books, does it matter which route you went?  Not really.

I noticed a post by someone over at Bookends, LLC‘s blog.  It went like this:

Just because friends, family, and coworkers tell you to write a book doesn’t mean it’s a book that should be published.

As I read it, a part of me reached for my pitchfork.  My hackles went up.  And I clicked through to see how badly they’d been skewered in the comments.  And, it turns out, they weren’t.  A majority of the comments are positive.  There’s a few that took up the other side though.  And it’s those I agree with most.  Who are they to decide whether “it’s a book that should be published” or not?  Did I miss the memo that announced them as supreme deciders of publish-ability?

Yes, agents and publishers know a great deal more about the market that you or I do.  Yes, some of them are very, very good at their jobs.  But, I also think back to how many stories we’ve all heard about the manuscript that got rejected 30 or 40 times before someone took it and then it hit the bestseller list.  The real truth is that not everyone likes what everyone else does.  Thank goodness, or there wouldn’t be any market for certain authors.  I’ve personally read (or tried to read) two books this year alone that I thought were absolutely terrible.  These weren’t random books I picked out of the bargain bin on the Kindle store.  These were bestsellers.  Classics by some peoples standards.  I didn’t even finish one of them.  I thought they were that bad.  If I had been the agent that either had come to, or the publisher, I would have rejected them.

If agents and publishers can miss good books, and put bad books through, what right do they have determining which manuscripts go forward?

If your friends, family, and coworkers tell you to write a book, write it.  That’s first.  Just write it.  Then, take it and get an editor to look it over.  Get some beta readers to read it through.  Edit it.  Send it to an editor again.  Once you’re darn well sure it’s ready to go, decide whether you want to go through the traditional publishing route or not.  Send it to an agent, or not.  But, send it somewhere.

I said I was on the fence earlier in this post.  But, I’m leaning towards the self publishing side more and more each day.  Who decides whether a book is any good or not?  In the end, it’s the readers.  And, if the readers are the ones who decide, why are we wasting our time trying to get through gates instead of putting out the best book we can and letting the readers decide.

 

Books That Changed Your Life


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I’ve seen several lists recently that usually have a title something like “10 books that will change your life”, or “5 must read books that will change your life”.  And invariably, they are chock full of non-fiction books on productivity, success, and life-living.  And I can’t help but wonder where the rule book is that says a book has to be non-fiction to change a persons life.  I’ve read many non-fiction books, and only one has ever really, truly, changed my life.  That would be the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey if you’re wondering.

But, I’ve read several fiction books that I would say have changed my life.  And I would bet that you have too.  Maybe it doesn’t change your life in exactly the same way that a non-fiction book would, but when you’re done reading it, you are forever changed.  The way that you think about things is changed and the way you go about things is changed.  Of course, that’s the reason that most people claim a non-fiction book has changed their life as well.

I’d like to know what books (fiction or non-fiction) have changed your life.  In return, I’m going to give you the list of fiction books that have changed mine.

  1. The Saracen Blade by Frank Yerby.  I first read this book when I was somewhere around 12.  Just as I was discovering the world of an adult, came the first book I had read that really treated the world as an adult.  I hadn’t read much adult fiction up to that point, so the book created an amazing awakening to literature.
  2. IT by Stephen King.  Again, I read this somewhere in my early teens.  It changed my life, mostly, because it is my virginal King read.  The very first of his books to fly before my eyes.  I’ve read nearly every other one since then.
  3. Robot Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Not a single book, although I could easily have listed each individually.  Or just listed Caves of Steel as it’s first.  I read this somewhere in my mid to late teens, but it’s more memorable to me as it kicked me into the Science Fiction genre.  And for that it has my thanks.
  4. The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay.  The first in the Fionavar Tapestry, I list it because it led me to other books by Kay.  Most notable, Tigana and The Sarantine Mosaic.

That’s my list.  I doubt that it’s truly complete, but those are the top of the list for sure.  I could go on and list several others, but each in decreasing effect.  Now, it’s your turn.

Shadow’s Edge


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Shadow’s Edge (Night Angel Trilogy Book 2)

By: Brent Weeks

Shadow’s Edge is a the second novel in the Night Angel Trilogy.  According to the Amazon listings for the first book, this book is about 30 pages shorter.  For me, it read as a much longer book.  There were several threads that the reader is asked to jump around to and it sometimes left the overall plot/arc a bit muddled.  The first book could have been left as a standalone if necessary.  It would have had a pretty dismal ending, but most of the plot lines were finished.  This second book would need a little help to do so.  It depends heavily on the first novel (which is fine in a series) for much of the background.  Because of that, I think it would be a bit hard for anyone to pick up and read as a stand alone novel and still “get” most of the plots.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing considering that it’s the second book in a trilogy.

Once again, Weeks’ writing is very good.  There were a couple of places where it felt somewhat awkward, but they were few and easily overlooked.  The characters are believable and their interactions feel right.  The world that Weeks has created in these books is expansive. Truly, there is so much more of it to explore, it wouldn’t surprise (or disappoint)  me if he heads back there for more novels.  Throughout, he’s given us great details about the different cultures and peoples of the land without overburdening us with so much detail that isn’t important.  It makes it easier to read, and much easier to get into.

As I said, the book read longer than the first.  Perhaps that is because there was less character building and more plot building?  I’m not sure why.  I will certainly find the third book and read it to finish the trilogy and to delve into the world that Weeks has created for us.

What’s Your Book Collecting Style?


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Are you an extreme collector?  Admit it, you’ve kept every book you’ve ever read and could easily open up your own private library.  No?  Then what?

Personally, I’ve been debating.  I have this thing where I usually do what I can to buy only hardcover books.  It’s a fetish of sorts.  The problem with that is that I also tend to keep most every book I buy.  So, I’m quickly running out of space on my bookshelves and in my house.  So, then what?  Put some in boxes and store them?  Gasp!  Sell some? Gasp!  NO!  *quickly starts grabbing books from the desk around him*  “My Pretties…”

Seriously though.  There are some that I just won’t be rid of.  My Stephen King collection for instance.  No where near complete, but still expansive.  I’ve got a couple of collectibles in there as well.  A signed copy of American Gods (that I haven’t actually read), a history book from pre 1900, and several books from the mid 1900’s.  Those will stay.  But what of the rest?  I’m beginning to wonder if it’s really necessary to keep them ALL.  Chances are that I won’t reread 99% of them.  I very rarely do.

I do dream, however, of a home library.  A room that has it’s walls covered in bookshelves with comfy chairs and maybe even one of those cool wall ladders that you see occasionally that slide around from place to place.  Dark hardwoods, accented by a little bit of leather and a lot of old world flair.  And a few fantasy elements thrown in for eccentricity’s sake.  Ahh…

But, that is likely going to be way, way down the road or never.  So, with limited space and limited shelving, what’s a reader to do?

What does your book situation look like?  If you’ve got pics, feel free to link to them, but let us know.


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