Saturday, June 30, 2012

Comic review: Road Rage by Stephen King

Title: Road Rage
Authors: Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Joe Hill
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: 07/31/2012
ISBN: 1613772823

Disclaimer: I have only read the first issue of this comic, so my review will be limited in its scope of the series as a whole. 

Stephen King is no stranger to the graphic novel world, with his books Dark Tower, The Stand being adapted into comic format. Add onto this the American Vampire series and you know that you've got an experienced writer coming into this series. For the most part King shows that he knows what he's doing, but I can't help but feel that I'm missing out on something.

Road Rage unites Richard Matheson's classic Duel and the contemporary work it inspired...two power-packed short stories by three of the genre's most acclaimed authors.

Duel, an unforgettable tale about a driver menaced by a semi truck, was the source for Stephen Spielberg's acclaimed first film of the same name. Throttle, by Stephen King and Joe Hill, is a duel of a different kind, pitting a faceless trucker against a tribe of motorcycle outlaws, in the simmering Nevada desert. Their battle is fought out on 20 miles of the most lonely road in the country, a place where the only thing worse than not knowing what you're up against is slowing down.

I've never read/listened to the short stories that comprised the audiobook version of Road Rage, which brought together Matheson's Duel with Stephen King and Joe Hill's Throttle. Both stories deal with a person or persons dealing with a psychotic trucker, and maybe if I'd heard those stories first I'd have a better idea of the various characters. The first issue of Road Rage focuses on King and Hill's story, and while it's fairly clear as to what the basic storyline is, we're given such a brief introduction to everything and everyone that I just didn't feel as connected to the characters as I wanted to be. We have characters getting killed off in the first issue that have to be re-introduced as they die- that's how little we're told about them, that the artists/writers felt that they needed to have their names flashed twice so we don't forget who they were. 

The artwork does fit the feel of the story, though. We have this wonderful "pulp comic" feel to the panels, something that will either completely thrill the readers or drive them batty. I kind of wavered between which side I was on, ultimately deciding that I loved how the book was illustrated. It just plain works and is one of the strong points of the volume. In my first issue I also got to see some beautiful cover artwork as well as some illustrations that were thrown in for good measure, which is what pushed me into the "love it" category. 

I really can't fault this first issue for anything other than the slow pacing, as going into the secondary Tribe members would probably have been unnecessary and only bogged the story down. I do wish that I could shake the feeling that I'd understand more if I'd have listened to the audiobook, but I would imagine that the story will be more fully developed as the book goes on. 

Stephen King fans will no doubt snap this graphic novel up in a heartbeat, but for those who are a little hesitant I recommend picking up the audiobook before this is released or looking for this in your local library. It's something that does look to be worth reading and I'll look for the full version when it hits the shelves of my local stores.

3 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Author tour! Anne M Strick

Hi all! I just thought I'd let you guys know about a blog tour that I'll be taking part in for author Anne M. Strick. She's going to be promoting her book All the Doors to Hollywood and How to Open Them.

She'll be doing a guest post for me on July 7th, with her tour starting on July 2nd with Author Exposure!

Until then, I do have a brief author bio that I can share with you guys!

Anne M.Strick has spent over twenty years in the movie industry. She has worked for Universal, Warners, Paramount and EMI, as a Unit Publicist, Project Coordinator and National Publicity Director, and with such Hollywood legends as Jack Nicholson, James Earl Jones, Sean Penn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Lynch and Dino De Laurentiis, among many others.

She has been a Congressional speech writer, published articles, theater reviews, short stories, two non-fiction books (one an international best-seller),  two novels, and the highly praised ("remarkable") critique of our adversary legal system, Injustice For All.  Born in  Philadelphia, educated at Bennington College and UCLA, she lives in Los Angeles.

Be sure to check back on the 7th for her guest post! It looks to be a lot of fun!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Authors Behaving Badly: Daphne du Maurier

I know, I know... you're saying "du Maurier? Isn't she dead? How can she be acting badly?" This blog entry is less about anything she's doing now as much as it had to do with things that she'd done years ago, with her most famous book: Rebecca.

Would you believe me if I said that there's evidence to show that she'd pretty much stole the entire book from a Brazilian author's novel?

Imagine a story where a woman marries a wealthy man whose dead wife still holds a grip on everyone in the house, with a housekeeper that's passionately devoted to the deceased mistress of the house. Sounds like Rebecca, right? Well, this is also the plot of A Sucessora by Carolina Nabuco.

Which was written in 1934. Four years before du Maurier published Rebecca.

Because this was the early 1900s, news didn't travel as quickly as it does now and the similarities between the two books stayed relatively unknown until critic Álvaro Lins picked up on this around 1941. According to the info on Wikipedia's article on Rebecca, du Maurier had read a translation of A Sucessora that had been sent du Maurier's publisher to be printed in England and based her book on what she'd read. The article also has claims that Nabuco had been pressured to sign a contract that said that the similarities were all a coincidence and that du Maurier didn't plagiarize her work. (By plagiarize I mean that the two books are so identical in how they play out that it would be seen as outright plagiarism rather than idea theft, which is where someone takes the basics of an idea and adapts it to a storyline that's just different enough to where it isn't plagiarism.)

Of course du Maurier denied all of the claims, but from what I've been able to find it looks like the odds are stacked against her. I mean, what are the odds that you came up with a book idea that's identical to a book that had been released four years earlier? That just so happened to have been submitted to my publisher for review? It's like me writing a book about a boy wizard with a scar and a pet owl that goes off to wizarding school and trying to claim that I'm not ripping off Harry Potter. If this was plagiarized (which let's face it, it looks pretty bad for du Maurier) then it's pretty much one of the worst crimes you can do in literature. Odds are that assuming this is all true, du Maurier was relying on the whole "news doesn't really travel as much during these times" bit to keep this from getting discovered. After all, the publishing world wasn't like it is today, where it's easier for foreign novels to get published and where news of author badness can be discovered almost instantly. (When this was discovered the fiasco was rather well publicized when you consider the time period.)

This isn't the only time du Maurier faced plagiarism accusations, mind you. Frank Baker also claimed that du Maurier ripped him off, with her basing her 1952 short story The Birds on his 1936 novel The Birds. When the Hitchcock adaptation came out Baker was heavily encouraged to not seek any legal action against du Maurier.

I'd come across this in my nightly "I'm bored" trawls through the 'net and this just fascinated me. Rebecca is considered to be a literary classic and it's very likely plagiarized? And that she's had another person claim she'd done the same to them? It really makes me wonder if there's more authors she's ripped off that just never came forward or never discovered the similarities, with their works either not getting published and/or having such a limited printing that they are almost unknown to all but a small few readers.

If this had happened today, du Maurier would be crucified in a manner similar to how Kaavya Viswanathan was when her book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life was discovered to be ripped off from several other books. Since this all happened in the 40s, this is pretty much unknown to most readers (including myself until just earlier tonight). So I decided that I'd share this scandalous little bit of knowledge with you, dear readers. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reposting: When I bought your book, I didn’t sign up to be your beta reader

Note: I totally stole this from Dear Author and Vacuous Minx. I didn't write a single word of this, although I agree with her sentiments. I've had this happen to myself as well as to some of my friends...

Robin has a thought-provoking post up at Dear Author on reader expectations, book quality, and the dearth of multicultural romances. Only she could make those topics hang together and work in one post, and not surprisingly, there are a ton of comments. In it Robin quotes a section from my recent post on the published first draft. That post has gotten a lot of hits and comments and retweets, which surprised me a little. Clearly it struck a chord.
I recently ran across a published-first-draft problem that I hadn’t encountered before. I hope I never encounter it again, but somehow, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning. I bought a book by a new-to-me author which was recommended by a friend. The sample was fun and the book was only $2.99, so I purchased, downloaded, and read on. The story hook is unusual, the historical research is miles better than many traditionally published books, and I really like the voice. There are a number of small errors in it, which is pretty common in self-pubbed books and increasingly common in epubbed and trad pubbed books as well, and the first half of the book is much better than the second, for a variety of reasons. But I mostly ignored these niggles because I was enjoying the read.
I was curious about the author, so I went to check out the Goodreads reviews of the book, and I ran across this comment in a review by a reader who was recommending it to her GR friends:
This first-time author has taken the trouble to respond to several of the [Amazon] reviews, thanking the reviewers (gasp!), and agreeing with some of their criticisms (gasp! gasp!) … Miranda Davis has written a very good book here. I commend her for wanting to make it even better, and it’s in that spirit that I offer this review.
I wondered what she meant by “wanting to make it better.” The book is done and for sale, after all; I bought it. The next book could be better, but how would this one change? I went over the check the Amazon comments, which I hadn’t seen because I’d bought it from Barnes & Noble.
The author commented on several of the reviews. She was polite and receptive to the criticism, thanking the reviewers and taking the comments seriously. As the GR reviewer said, a refreshing approach. But a few sentences in her responses to several different reviews really jumped out at me:
I wish I had earned a fifth star but I understand what you’re saying. In fact, I’m revising it to realize what I intended more fully. It’s almost ready to go live in place of current version which I agree slowed a bit.
More errors, more my bad, now fixed. Storyline decisions some of which I address in revised, some not — by choice.
you should be able to get it by removing the old from your device and retrieving it from your archive (New will have 34 chapters).
The benefit of being self-published is that I can review and revise as I see fit … If you would care to be a reader of the next before I publish it, let me know via the email in the `about author’ section. I would appreciate your unvarnished opinion when I get it done. I’m a struggling writer working in a vacuum. If you’d like to help, let me know. I may not agree with you on every point but I know I will be a better writer for it.
At that last comment (which was made in response to one of the earliest reviews of the book), my jaw dropped.
Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the whole issue of authors responding to reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, etc. I don’t like it (I don’t even like it when authors “like” reviews on GR), but I know other readers feel differently.
I also realize that many times it is a great advantage for authors and publishers to be able to substitute new versions for ebooks. When Neal Stephenson’s most recent book was released, it was embarrassingly rife with errors in the Kindle edition. The publishers were  quick to swap out the original and put in a corrected version. It’s much easier and cheaper than having to pull physical copies and do a second run, as HBO is discovering with Game of Thrones right now.
BUT. But. Not every reader is interested in keeping track of the changes an author decides to make to an already published book. The author made choices and then published the book based on those choices. An author decides to put out a version with better proofreading? Fine. But putting out a version with storyline changes? New material? WTF?
Some readers, clearly, like the idea of an “interactive author,” as the GR reviewer quoted above put it. And sometimes I do too. But not when it involves keeping track of the many hundreds of ebooks I’ve purchased, on the off chance that an author has decided to “review and revise” as she sees “fit.” I bought your book. I read your book. If you change it to make it better (in your eyes), I have to read it again to get those benefits. And at the end of that reread, I may not agree with you, which will not result in a happy reader.
All we need is for authors to decide that “selling” is just the first stage in an ongoing author-reader relationship, and WIPs will turn up masquerading as finished products. That way lies madness. In some ways it’s worse than the published first draft syndrome, because readers now have to be on the lookout for new! improved! versions of books, rather than treating the book as a finished product the author thought was in the proper condition to sell.
There is a great and funny and true line that gets repeated a lot online, about reviewer expectations for authors and the sense of entitlement some readers have:
George RR Martin is not your bitch.
Well, here’s a line about reader expectations for authors:
I’m your customer, not your beta reader.
I bolded that, just to make it easier to read. And clearer. And louder.
Oh, and one last thing. Authors, do not troll for beta readers in your Amazon reviews. It is not the place. Find a critique group. Join RWA. Frankly, I don’t give a flying fig how you find them. Just don’t do it in places whose purpose is to help me learn about books. I read BOOKS, not AUTHORS.

Price fixing and the average reader

Hi all! If you're like me, you've probably read an ebook at some point in the last 5-10 years. And if you have, then odds are you've given an enormous sigh of frustration over what seems like some pretty exorbitant prices for a copy of a book that's confined solely to your e-reader of choice.

There's been an air of contention over ebook prices for mainstream publishers. (By this I mean the extremely well known and huge publishers such as Penguin, who are known for setting prices rather high. The smaller presses can't help but try to keep up with their own costs and can't produce as cheaply as the bigger ones do, so I don't really count them in this. I also want to note that there are some larger publishers who must keep up with the other larger publishers or risk getting flak from their counterparts that could seriously hurt their business.) Some defend the publishers, some berate them. Others just shrug their shoulders and assume that there's nothing to be done about it since the mainstream book prices are all set by the bigger publishers, who show little to no signs of changing their way of business. Although now there's a court case against some of the bigger publishers concerning their price fixing, will that really have an effect on prices? Some of the bigger publishers such as Simon & Schuster have settled out of court, but I've noted that their prices haven't fallen all that much. It's gone from a $14.99 average to a $12.99 average for new releases.

I've been one of many who has asked why the ebooks are so expensive and I've gotten back a few explanations, from price fixing to expenses. From a quick Google search I've been told that ebook prices pay for the following per book:

  1. Author royalties
  2. Typesetting for ebooks
  3. Adapting the text for the various e-readers (so it doesn't show up as wonky on an iPad versus a Kindle)
  4. Digital distribution
  5. Quality assurance
Some of these make a lot of sense, as providing server space is not cheap and the higher the demand is for a book, the more stress it puts on a server, which means that you'll have to put it on several servers if it's a book of Dan Brown proportions. However... a common question has been "if you have a book that you know is going to be high in demand and will make back costs quickly, why price it so high?" Other than the obvious answer of "profit", there's no good answer that would do anything other than irritate you and I. 

Now my problem with ebook pricing is that so very often the prices are not that different from what the hardback costs are. It's gotten a LOT better since the courts started investigating claims, but I still see some ebooks going for the same prices as the print book. For example, Laurell K Hamilton's Hit List costs the same whether you buy a mass market paperback or a kindle version. I've also seen where publishers are slow in lowering the price of the ebook versions to match the prices of paperback books. Again, this has gotten better as the public became more aware of the insanely high prices of ebooks, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that it still happens. 

I can't really give anyone good advice on what to do to combat this. If you don't purchase the books, you run the risk of hurting the author's chances of getting published again in the future (unless they're a very well known author). If you only purchase the books in paper format, the publisher still wins. The only things I can recommend is that more of us start getting the books from the library and that we try not to buy into campaigns that involve leaving low reviews on merchant sites such as Amazon. More and more libraries are making eBooks available via programs such as OverDrive, which is relatively easy to use. As far as review campaigns such as the now infamous "9.99 Boycott" review drive, those do nothing except for irritate your fellow readers and the poor mods that have to wade through the reviews to decide whether or not it's an actual review. The mainstream publishers are well aware of these review campaigns, but they don't really care that overly much and the merchant sites have absolutely no choice but to keep the prices at what the publishers set. Amazon almost lost several publishing contracts because they tried to set the prices for the ebooks lower than what the publishers wanted. 

I guess in the end we'll all be watching the ebook anti-trust cases with interest. 

Audio Review: Hit List by Laurell K Hamilton

Title: Hit List (Anita Blake # 20)
Author: Laurell K Hamilton
Narrator: Kimberly Alexis
Publisher: Penguin Audio
ISBN: 0143145630

I'd been having a lot of trouble getting into this book via the print copies I'd gotten from the library, so I finally gave in and got an audiobook version from my library's OverDrive system. I'll just say one thing: Kimberly Alexis is a darn good narrator and someone that I'll look for when it comes to audiobooks.

A serial killer is hunting the Pacific Northwest, murdering victims in a gruesome and spectacular way. The local police suspect "monsters" are involved, and have called in Anita Blake and Edward, U.S. Marshals who really know their monsters, to catch the killer.

Now as far as the book itself goes, it isn't all bad. It starts off interesting enough for a Hamilton novel and had a lot of promise. Unfortunately it then devolves into a lot of standing around and talking. We have a lot of rehashing of old plot points and insecurities, a lot of descriptions of what everyone's doing, thinking, wearing, and what they look like. There's a lot of redundancy, which was highlighted by listening to the book being narrated. I think that at least a third of the book could've been edited down without much of the plot (such as it was) being lost. Do we really need page after page of Anita waxing about how she's "one of the guys" and various male characters perpetuating the old and tired lines of "oh, I guess everyone hates/dislikes you because they're jealous that you're a woman". I'm surprised I didn't get eyestrain from the amount of eye rolling that happened every time a character brought this up because it gets brought up at least once every 10-15 minutes, or that's what it felt like. ENOUGH. If Anita states repeatedly to herself that she has nothing to prove, then why keep bringing it up? Besides, at this point she should be a known commodity to the other cops, supes, and whatnot, so she shouldn't have to keep having whizzing contests with the other people around her. It's *boring* and the time would've been better spent developing other factors.

Or at least trying to avoid inconsistencies. I couldn't help but wonder what Hamilton was thinking when she had Anita and Edward talking strategy inside of a car when the bad guys (who all have superior hearing) are feet away. If it's been shown that even average weres can hear Anita making out through walls, the Harlequin (who are supposed to be exceptionally skilled) should be able to hear them discussing a plan through thin car doors. This isn't the only YAABI in the book, but it's pretty representative of a lot of them. Between the inconsistencies and the "using your book as a soapbox to push your personal viewpoints", this book was pretty much a mess.

But like I said above, Alexis's narration is excellent and it's a shame that she's only done Hamilton's work. She's got an excellent set of skills and it'd be nice to see her extend them to other authors. Alexis saves a lot of the book with her voice and while she can't completely turn this sow's ear into a silk purse, she does make the trip a little better.

This isn't an "Anita's back" sort of book, despite what some of the trades might've said. Hit List's biggest failing is that it's ultimately another novella stretched out into full novel length. The anti-climactic scene between Anita and the Mother of all Darkness is pretty underwhelming, but I'm willing to overlook that because it's past time that tired plot point was laid to rest. (OK, that was a little spoilerish but if you've read any of the AB books then you know that Anita always wins, which is one of the reasons the series lacks any true tension nowadays. It's too safe.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Content Warning: Not for all readers (The semi-erotica rant)

I'm going to say that this is a rant. It's not a very good one, but it's about something that has bugged me for the longest time. Some of the stuff in here might be considered not safe for all audiences, and since I review a lot of teen books, I'm going to say that this is potentially offensive to some readers. If you don't want to hear me whinging about how authors write about genitalia, then you might want to skip this blog entry. It's not really that good of a blog entry, to be honest.


OK. On with the show!

Seriously... what's with authors nowadays being afraid to say the word "vagina"? Or any of the euphanisms for it?

I'm currently listening to the audio book for Laurell K Hamilton's Hit List, and while I know that she's far from the gold ring of erotica and sexual romance writing, she's just an example of something I've seen in many other books. Far too many to mention. During a sex scene in Hit List  we have the heroine Anita receiving oral sex and getting it on with the male character d'jour. Never at any point does Hamilton refer to Anita's vagina as anything other than "things low in my body" or "more delicate things". While I know that Anita's character started off incredibly repressed, it's sort of awful that a character that's supposed to be more free about her sexual life won't actually think the word "vagina" or even call it by any of the other terms out there, such as "pussy" or whatnot. Granted I know that vagina isn't always the sexiest of words, but Hamilton has no problems writing out the word "penis". Why is she suddenly so shy about writing "vagina"?

Now before people start complaining about how I'm picking on Hamilton or saying that she's not really a great erotica writer, I'm just more using her as an example of something that's more wide-spread (ha!) in literature with a high level of sexuality. I don't really count authors who don't mention sex all that much or where the focus isn't really on the sexual activities of the characters, just the ones where there's a higher emphasis on sex.

Why is it that so many authors tend to use coquettish terms for female genitalia? There's some who open up their thesaurus to find other terms that could be worked into a sex scene, but I've more seen it in books where they refer to the actions without ever actually referring to what bits and bobs are being used.  Since so many of the books out there are in first person narrative, does this mean that there's a trend of women not wanting to refer to their own genitalia by name? Or that we just don't think about it during coitus of any sort? Is it just that using terms like "pussy", "vagina", or anything to that extent makes the scene more out and out erotica than a scene that just happens to have sex? Or maybe it's just hard to think up enough terms to make the scene sexy?

I'm kind of baffled about the reasons, so I'm curious to hear what others might think. I don't think there's a huge conspiracy or anything, it's just frustrating when I read books that are known for having a high sexual content and the authors shy away from naming lady parts.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cuchulainn: The Heart of the Hound by Richard A. Knaak

The following is a press release I was sent by Sea Lion Press. I'll list the release in full, but I have to say... this looks pretty bad a**. I really dig Carlo Rispoli's artwork and I can't help but feel that I've seen his stuff somewhere else before. In any case, on with the release and enjoy!

From the Bestselling Fantasy Author
Richard A. Knaak
Comes the graphic novel adaptation of the Celtic Legend
The Heart of the Hound
    ATLANTA, GA – May, 18th  2013 - Sea Lion Books announces the graphic novel publication of the legendary Cuchulainn in a new graphic novel series from bestselling author Richard A. Knaak  --THE HEART OF THE HOUND.

At birth he was called Setanta, yet he is known to all as Cuchulainn…the Hound of Cullan. It was a name he had earned as a youth, slaying the savage, gargantuan pet of the Lord Cullan.

His bravery had earned him much admiration, many friends and many enemies. King Conchobar had been a good friend and mentor to his long-lost nephew, having him trained by the greatest warriors, then commanding him to marry the beautiful Emer, daughter of the Lord Forgal.

It is a future many would envy…so long as they remained unaware of the other future also pursuing the young Hound of Cullan. A future rapidly overtaking him…THE HEART OF THE HOUND.

In an modern yet ancient telling of a Celtic legend, author Richard A. Knaak brings to life the greatest hero in Irish literature. Cuchulainn was a legendary fighter, welding his spear Gae-Bhlog, a spear almost as iconic as Arthur's Excalibur. He single-handedly defended Ireland against an invasion by overwhelming forces that rode with dark magic.

His fury in battle was called riastrad and those who were witness to it, never forgot the fearsomeness of it.

A story told for hundreds of years, THE HEART OF THE HOUND is finding new life and new tales in the twenty-first century in the talented hands of Richard A. Knaak and art by Carlo Rispoli.

"We are extremely fortunate that this Celtic icon is being brought to life by the talented Richard A. Knaak. His ability to world create will reveal the legend of Cuchulainn to a new generation." said Derek Ruiz, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Sea Lion Books.

HEART OF THE HOUND  is the first book in a series of three graphic novels scheduled to be released online as a free web comic on the Sea Lion Books website: ( ) beginning in early 2013.
About Sea Lion Books:
Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Sea Lion Books LLC is a newly established publishing house which specializes in all formats—hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market and in urban fantasy and young adult genres. Sea Lion Books LLC recent roster of authors include: International Bestselling author, Anne Rice, Paulo Coelho, Robert E. Howard, New York TimesBestselling authors, Richelle Mead, Patrick Rothfuss,Richard A. Knaak, F. Paul Wilson, Melissa de la Cruz and Becca Fitzpatrick.  You can visit Sea Lion Books at:

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Heather Graham addiction and me

I ended up requesting the next Heather Graham book from Netgalley recently, The Uninvited. (And book two, The Unspoken.)

Now I know what you're thinking. Some of you might be wondering why I keep requesting her books since I keep stating that I'm disappointed by her latest work or some other less than glowing remark. My answer? I honestly don't know.

I chalk part of this up to morbid curiosity of "how bad could it get" (although normally I reserve that line of thinking for Laurell K Hamilton books), but most of it's a mixture of my inner HG fangirl and the lure of some really, really good book blurbs. (The following is for The Uninvited.)

1777: In the throes of the Revolutionary War, Landon Mansion is commandeered by British Lord “Butcher” Bedford. He stabs Lucy Tarelton – who spurned his king and his love – leaving her to die in her father’s arms. Now: After the day’s final tour, docent Allison Leigh makes her rounds while locking up…and finds a colleague slumped over Bedford’s desk, impaled on his own replica bayonet. Resident ghosts may be the stock-in-trade of stately Philadelphia homes, but Allison – a noted historian – is indignant at the prospect of “ghost hunters” investigating this apparent murder. Agent Tyler Montague knows his haunting and his history. But while Allison is skeptical of the newcomer, a second mysterious murder occurs. Has “Butcher” Bedford resurfaced? Or is there another malevolent force at work in Landon Mansion? Wary, yet deeply attracted, Allison has to trust in Tyler and work with him to discover just what uninvited guest – dead or alive – has taken over the house. Or their lives could become history!

Doesn't that sound fun in a "Scooby-Doo formula mystery you read on the beach" sort of way? In any case, this made me wonder why so many of us keep reading authors long after we've reached the point of "this author is awful now".

Spotlight: Albino by E.J. Dabel and Jorge Correa

Hi all! I just wanted to let you know about Sea Lion Book's newest addition to the family, Albino!

The white mouse Albino always believed that he would live with the old farmer William Springer forever, eating Cheddar cheese and enjoying life at the farm. But after he is kidnapped by the street urchin Darl and violently thrown into a raging river to drown, he wakes up in the middle of a strange and mysterious forest and his life is changed forever as he finds himself in a world unlike anything he could ever imagine.

Aided by an odd crow, he begins an adventure filled with action, danger, and ultimately a final confrontation against his worst nightmares.

The ancient and cruel rats called the Ma’aldee are on the move, the Spiritual Guardians of the Land whisper in fear and dread of the coming of Emperor Loucura, Lord of the Ma'aldee.

Only Albino has the power to save the Land.

I've flipped through a preview of the book on Amazon (and you can find that here) and it looks pretty awesome, a mixture of Secret of NIMH and Redwall. (Both of which are things I loved as a kid, although I admit a preference for the movie version of SoN.)

There's artwork sporadically inserted throughout the preview, and while the two images above are nice they don't do the sketches in the book justice. They save the best for the inner pages.

Seriously, how badass does that look? 

Now the book is currently only available in ebook format, so fire up your electronic devices and get cracking!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Terry Goodkind to self-publish his next book

For all of you self-publishing authors out there, you're about to get a little company. It seems that Terry Goodkind has decided to self-publish his next book,  The First Confessor. I know that Goodkind's sales has had its ups and downs, but that ultimately he has a pretty devoted fanbase so this shouldn't really be an issue of "no publisher would sell his book".

This sort of opens up some interesting ideas. With the plethora of options out there for authors, why shouldn't self-publishing be more of an option? Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of bonuses with going through a major publisher, but self-publishing has always been seen as a "if all else fails" option by many readers (and even some authors). It used to be that if you saw someone with a self-published book, you'd approach it more with caution than anything else.

Yet the ease of self-publishing through the internet has opened up a lot of doors for authors that are quite frankly, too good to ignore. Self-publishing really never deserved the reputation it got, as it was never really "just a collection of insanely badly written books by your eccentric Aunt Marge". There's been some great things in the self-publishing world, such as Naomi Clark's Night and Chaos. (Which has since been picked up by her publisher Damnation Press.)

Goodkind will be joining a lot of other mainstream authors that have decided to go the self-publishing route, such as Michael Baisden and even J.K. Rowling. The ebooks sold through her Pottermore site are reportedly self-published.

Things like this probably have ebook publishers shaking in their boots and for good reason. Ebook prices nowadays seem to be just as expensive as their print copies, with very little price difference even if they are cheaper. If authors can cut out the middleman and offer their readers copies at a cheaper price, then this could spell doom for the stick-in-the-mud publishers who seem to insist on selling ebooks for as much as they can squeeze from their public.

Book Review: Bane by Trish Milburn

Title: Bane (Coven Trilogy #2)
Author: Trish Milburn
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Release Date: 05/31/2012
ISBN: 1611941342

If I were to say that Trish Milburn's Coven Trilogy is one of the great undiscovered gems of young adult urban fantasy, I wouldn't be lying. It's such a satisfying read, filled with all of the stuff I love in my "fun" reads that I'm honestly shocked that it isn't more well known than it is.

To protect those she loves from herself, Jax will leave them all behind. She'll risk everything in a desperate search for answers. 

 Jax Pherson fled the darkest of covens and from her own father's evil. For a brief moment, her courage was rewarded. She found everything she'd ever wanted. A normal life. An amazing boyfriend. An envy-worthy best friend. 

But her past put them all in danger, forcing a confrontation with the dark covens. In a life-and-death battle to save those she loved from the covens, Jax gained staggering power. Power so intense, so dangerous, she fears the darkness that now dwells inside her like a living thing. 

If she can't control the power, she may yet become as evil as the witches she conquered. 

 With her friend Egan, Jax leaves all she's built and heads for the one place that might hold the answers she desperately needs to hold back the darkness-Salem, Massachusetts. Her research unearths a shocking discovery: the Bane, a secret group of witches dedicated to thwarting the covens. 

 Jax desperately needs their help in her fight against the covens, but finding the Bane is easier said than done and takes all her skills and courage. As Jax gets closer, her dark powers begin to rise and control her actions. If she succumbs to the darkness, Jax may have as much to fear from the Bane as the evil covens and the determined hunter on her trail.

Where to start? I loved every page of this book. I'll be honest and say that you can see where the plot is going with this read. The twists and turns are a little predictable, but Milburn's writing is so incredibly addicting that it's like slipping into your favorite pair of comfy sneakers. You know what to expect, but it's so enjoyable that you really don't care. I loved the interactions between the characters, although I wish that Barrow (the hunter that's almost insanely devoted to exterminating witches) had more screen time. He shows up closer to the end and he makes such a good threat that I can't help but want to have seen him arrive a little earlier.

What made this really intriguing was seeing our main characters dive into the background of Salem. Their inevitable trek to this infamous town was a good touch and the horrifying and sad history of the witch hunts makes for a nice backdrop to the larger plotline. And then there's the romance. This is Milburn's strongest suit and she knows it. I won't specify more due to spoiler reasons, but I liked the way this progressed and what the revelations in this book might mean for the future.

Now if you're a parent worried about the series, don't be. This is pretty squeaky clean as far as YA books go. There's mentions of making out and "sizzling" kisses, but it's pretty chaste in comparison to some of the stuff that I've read in the YA section. There is some violence here, but it's not gratuitous and it is important to the plot line.

Overall this was just a fun book to read and one that I finished all too soon. For the faster readers I'll recommend having a second book nearby to finish, as you'll finish this rather quickly. For how much I love the Coven Trilogy, the books are rather short reads. I'm already jonesing for the next book in the series and it's agonizing to realize that I'll have to wait until fall to get my mitts on it.

4 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Author: E.L. James
Publisher: Vintage
Release Date: 04/03/2012
ISBN: 0345803485

This is a little late as far as reviews go, but I just ended up having my old computer die on me- meaning that reviews and such took a backseat. Anywho, on with the review!

I know what you're thinking. Why four stars for this book? Why such a high rating when I've stated how horrible it is? The answer is simple: because it's so deliciously bad that it's achieved an almost Ed Wood quality.

Put quite frankly, the writing is atrocious. You have an overabundance and overkill of scenes where we're told how gorgeous Christian is, how much Ana lusts after him, and other things that are quite unnecessary. We're given so much abdominal quivering and convulsing that I'm convinced that the whole reason Ana refuses to eat through most of the book is because she's an IBS sufferer and cannot eat many items for fear that she'll get a case of the trots. Yet this is all written with such hilariously bad lines that I kept shoving the book under the noses of some of my coworkers and telling them "read this part!" By the by, if you ever want to watch reaction shots, turn the book to page 430 and have them read the tampon scene. It's pretty easy to see when they get to that part.

As far as the sex goes, it's a little monotonous at times and not really as sizzling as many would have you believe. There are some nice spots, but generally this is rather tame as far as erotica goes. James will never overtake Zane as far as gratuitous overly detailed sex scenes go, although she'll probably be better known to the average person. It's just hard to see the sizzle in this, and not because the media has taken to calling this "mommy porn".  However I will say that the sex scenes are the most entertaining parts of the book, as James leaps into them with gusto. The non-sexual scenes are just a little dull, to be honest.

But the bottom line remains: should you read this? I have to say... why not? It's bad, it's probably one of the least challenging books that you'll ever read in your life (and this is including the Archie comics you flip through at the register), but there's just this cheerful energy in this book that I can't deny. James certainly had fun writing this and her own admission that the writing is terrible helps make it that much easier to poke fun at it. I wouldn't necessarily recommend purchasing it, but if you can get it then it's worth flipping through.

4 out of 5 stars

Comic Review: Empowered Volume 7 by Adam Warren

Title: Empowered Volume 7
Author: Adam Warren
Publisher: Dark Horse 
Release Date: May 30, 2012
ISBN: 1-59582-884-2

I have to say, with all of the various big and little screen adaptations, I'm a little surprised that nobody has thought to option this series. While the idea of a female superhero being easily disrobed might give some pause, there's a lot to this series that merits a deeper look.

This really was an amazing volume. We get a deeper look into Ninjette's psyche and background here, which shows us that she's far from the cute little sidekick-type character that she initially felt like. Emp is more of a background character in this volume, which took me a while to get used to. She's easily one of my favorite characters in the series, although a volume focusing around Ninjette has been a long time coming. We get to see exactly how awful her home life was, which was pretty awful. We also get a brief look into Oyuki's past as well, and let's just say that she had it pretty bad as well.

I have to say that my absolute favorite chapter in this book had to be the bath scene between the Caged DemonWolf and Ninjette. It's probably one of the most tender scenes I've seen in the series so far, not to mention a little romantic. This might be a little spoilerish, but it's revealed in the first few pages that much like the aliens in Slaughterhouse Five, the CDW is capable of viewing all of the various points in time at any given moment. What this will mean for future volumes is unknown, but I had to give Warren props for bringing this in. It's a nice touch and brings more oomph to the CDW's character.

I'm somewhat looking forward to the next volume, as it looks like it's going to bring a lot of various issues to a head. I'm a little worried that this might mean more bodies hitting the floor, but the story is so engaging at this point that I can't help but feel frustrated that it's going to be at least another 1-2 years before the next volume is released. (There are scenes that Warren cut out of this volume that he'll put in the next volume, so here's hoping that this means that volume 8 will be released sooner!)

If you've been following the series, you HAVE to get this volume. It's worth it.

5 out of 5 stars