Archive | January 2013

Undreamed Shores by Mark Hatton – (Guest Book Review by Richard Abbott)

The Bookworm is very excited to announce our first ever guest book review!  Richard Abbot over at Kephrath graciously agreed to do a guest review.  His book In a Milk and Honeyed Land was published by Trafford Publishing and is available on Amazon.  You can visit Richard’s website by clicking here.

Undreamed Shores, by Mark Hatton (Crooked Cat Publishing 2012) is a book I can wholeheartedly recommend to others.

Undreamed Shores cover imageUndreamed Shores is set at the start of the Bronze Age in northern Europe, somewhere between 4000 and 4500 years ago. It is fundamentally about exploration, on many different levels. Individual people, especially the central characters Amzai and Nanti, explore the spaces around themselves in many ways. As well as their physical space, they explore relational spaces ranging from intimacy and friendship to envy and hostility, through to the social spaces inhabited by different cultures and communities.

But along with that, the scattered groups of people inhabiting what we now call southern England and northern France, together with the islands in between, are starting to explore the lands and seas that separate them. Distances and gaps that seemed impossible to cross, except as legendary exploits by remote heroes, are becoming achievable. Above all, this story traces the way that love can bring about change at every level.

The results of this exploration are not always comfortable. This widening vision of the world gives intellectual and spiritual excitement to some people, but to others simply provides new groups of victims who can be dominated. Expanding horizons can lead to prejudice as well as understanding. This is a world where spontaneous fights based on short-lived personal aggression are starting to be replaced by organized violence initiated by a greedy few, calling out an answering response from settled communities and their leaders. War is coming.

However, war is not yet here, and those who prefer books about the deeds of great kings and their armies will not find them in these pages. Instead, what you will find is a sensitive and detailed description of a now-vanished society. The book is solidly rooted in archaeological knowledge and deduction, drawing on Mark’s academic career, without letting this wealth of background overwhelm the heart of the narrative.

The culture is introduced to us so vividly that I had to keep reminding myself that in fact these people have left us no written texts that might have been plumbed for Undreamed Shores, only artifacts scattered here and there together with the great stone circles, some of which originate from this era and some from later. I became thoroughly immersed in the account, and loved being drawn into this world. Indeed, I will never again be able to visit Abbotsbury, the Salisbury Plain, or the other places described, without having the sense that I am revisiting places that Amzai came to all those years ago.
Part of the Dorset coastline a few miles east of Abbotsbury
Part of the Dorset coastline a few miles east of Abbotsbury

Certainly my familiarity with some of the key locations helped a great deal, and gave an extra dimension to my reading. I did from time to time wonder how a reader would fare who did not know this part of the world. Much of the story would, of course, survive undiminshed, but I do feel that the addition of a simple sketch map would have enriched the book. A detailed modern map would have been inappropriate, but surely there would have been a place for a schematic one – not unlike the rough drawing which plays an important part of the plot.

On a purely technical level, there were a mere handful of typos – I noticed a few places where speech marks were omitted, and the occasional word was misspelled. But these slips were so rare in the text as a whole that they did not detract from my enjoyment.

I also thought that the ending was a little rushed. It was clear from fairly early in the story that a particular confrontation could not be avoided, and the reader’s memory is joggled about this numerous times as he or she reads on. Yet when it happens it is over rather quickly, and a different crisis is brought instead to the foreground. But that was also, to my mind at least, dealt with too quickly, and the book comes quite suddenly to its end. In part, my sense of disappointment here is one that readers will know well, where characters you have become deeply involved with are abruptly taken back into their own world, away from your own. That said, I still feel that a slower, more measured end would have better crowned such a careful and rich portrayal of personal and communal life in this era.

That said, the merits of the book far outweigh these minor reservations, and I have no hesitation in commending it to other readers.
Long Meg - a Bronze Age British stone circle from much further north
Long Meg – a Bronze Age British stone circle from much further north

I purchased it in kindle format from Amazon UK, but it is also available in paperback. Readers can buy it from any of the various Amazon stores, and also other retailers such as Barnes and Noble.

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Around the Web #3 – Book Review Edition

So for this issue of Around the Web, I’ve decided to focus on book reviews by other reviewers.  I can’t review every book that is written, but I can give you as many quality reviews as possible.

Crimson & Cream:

Check out The Fantasy Book Review’s review of C.M. Skiera’s Crimson & Cream.

What I especially like about this review is that Alison Mirabella of FBR addresses the common fear of readers wishing to purchase self-published books.  Self-published books have a reputation (some of it justified but much of it not) of being poorly edited and designed.  Crimson & Cream is neither.  In fact Alison goes on to say:

“….this book is an amazing example of the quality that should be expected from any self-published novel: the cover was professional, there were no discernable errors, and the writing was on par with many published authors. So, for anybody looking to self-publish, this book should serve as a model of how to do it right.”

For the full review, please visit The Fantasy Book Review!  Also, please visit C.M. Skiera’s blog by clicking here!

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation

Foundation:

There is no doubting that Isaac Asimov was one of the pillars of early science fiction.  He is also an author that I more often than not enjoyed immensely.  So I was pretty stoked to come across this recent review of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.  And by recent I mean like January 23, 2013.  I always think it good to occasionally take a break and go back enjoying the basics of science fiction/fantasy.

Remember a time when the most common themes and plot devices were still shiny and new to you?!  Seems like forever, huh?  To me that’s what authors such as Asimov, Wells, and Huxley represent.

So check out what Wendy Van Camp had to say about this early science fiction masterpiece!

Read the END First

Anthology:

So I came across a review on the Exquisite Corpse of Read the END First. The first thought that came to mind was “Yuck….an anthology about the end of the world.”  My second thought was “Yuck….horror.”

In my opinion there are only two authors worth reading when it comes to either horror or apocalypse:  Stephen King and Robert McCammon.  King’s The Stand and McCammon’s Swan Song are my two all time favorite apocalypse stories.  McCammon’s Usher’s Passing is one of my favorite dark, dirty reads of all time.

But reading Tracie McBride’s review actually made me want to pick up this anthology.  What an ingenious idea!  Twenty-four (24) apocalyptic stories, each one set in a different time zone!  Tracie’s review gives the readers enough information to pique our interest while holding back everything that will scare the pants off of us.  I can’t wait to read this!  You should check out Tracie McBride’s Exquisite Corpse blog for more goodies!

Hope you enjoyed this issue of Around the Web!  Check out ATW#1 and ATW#2 for more goodies!  As always, follow us on twitter!

 

The Decoy Princess – Book Review

The Decoy Princess

Grab the book!

So this is a little bit of a departure from my normal reviews.  I strive to review and promote indie authors.  I came across this review that I did for Dawn Cook/Kim Harrison’s The Decoy Princess.  It is the first book review that I ever did, so I figure that I’d share it with you guys.  I hope you enjoy!

The Bookworm’s Review

I must admit that when I first picked up this book, I was expecting your typical romance fantasy faire. I was pleasantly surprised. The Decoy Princess departs from the predictable premises and gives the reader an intriguing story. The book follows the adventures of Tess, whose world is turned upside down upon learning that she is not really royalty but only a pawn used to protect the real princess.

The story starts with a decidedly spoiled Princess Contessa (Tess) dragging her steward/body guard throughout the streets in order to shop and find a wedding gift for her future husband. The reader is shown a flighty girl obsessed with the thought of marrying and obsessing over what she views as her inadequacies when it comes to romance. But then the whole story is twisted by an not so chance encounter with a gypsy caravan. This is where we find out that he steward/protector Kavenlow is much more than he seems.

Upon returning to the castle, Tess finds that her betrothed has arrived weeks early. But in a story where no one is quite what they appear to be, the Prince has other plans for the kingdom. He kills the king and queen upon learning that Tess isn’t the crown princess at all and that Kavenlow has been sent to fetch her. Tess must fight her own feelings of shock and betrayal as Prince Garret has sinister plans for his soon to be wife.She escapes the monster who kills her parents only to be pursued by his loyal servant, Jeck, who has a couple of secrets of his own.

The story truly is a chess match on a grand scale. Watching Tess graduate from pawn to player is an amazing journey. I really enjoyed how the author was able to lure me in with a story that was familiar and then take it into a new and exciting direction.  For me the story has major re-read value.

The Bookworm gives this book 5 Stars out of 5.

Did you like this review?  Check out our previous reviews of Goddess-Born and Dragon Fate.  Follow us on twitter @ErinEymard.  Also feel free to check out a categorical list of our previous posts.

Author Interview – JD Hallowell

JD Hallowell

JD Hallowell

Written by Erin Eymard.

So after writing a review of JD Hallowell’s Dragon Fate, I interviewed the author to get a glimpse of his inspiration for writing. 

Bookworm:  “Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.  Can you tell me what was your inspiration for Dragon Fate?”  

JD Hallowell:  “Dragon Fate is a very special book to me, because it very clearly marks the point where I made a radical change from being someone who wanted to be a writer, and who talked about being a writer, and who played around at being a writer, to being someone who actually was a writer and took it seriously. The book is the result of a major epiphany, and the inspiration and motivation for it very clearly came from a higher power: my wife and son.

We have a treasured tradition of reading books aloud together as a family, which has helped build family bonds and given us some wonderful shared memories, but which also has its practical side: it saves us from having to either buy three copies of everything we all want to read or wrestle each other into submission to be the one to read it first. By some complex set of rules that I have never quite managed to determine, I end up doing the bulk of the reading. We were working our way through a series by an author who shall remain un-named, and I kept coming across things in the story that I felt were inconsistent or that weren’t quite true to the way the characters or the universe had been presented earlier in the books…and it got to me. It got to me to the point that I started interrupting the reading to rant about it. 

That did it. 

They told me to put up or shut up. It wasn’t my story, and I didn’t get to decide what the characters did or how the story should go, and they weren’t going to listen to me complain about how someone else did things until I had proven I could do it at least as well myself.
Something clicked at that moment. I sat down that afternoon and started writing the book that would become Dragon Fate. I worked on it between 10 and 18 hours every single day for the next two and a half months until the story was complete. 

They restored my complaining rights.  I’ve been writing seriously ever since.

I don’t always know where the stories in my head come from, but sometimes one gets in there and I can’t get it out any other way but to write it down. Like any other author, I’ve probably been influenced in one way or another by everything I’ve ever read or experienced, and I’m sure that there are a lot of things that have influenced me strongly that I am not even aware of. I can tell you that I fell in love with the idea of dragons as heroes in Anne McCaffrey’s books. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of dragons and the incredibly varied mythology surrounding them, so it may have been inevitable that that the first thing I’d write that I felt was publication-worthy would be a book where dragons were central to the story. When I made that decision to sit down and write a book like my life depended on it, dragons were on my mind, and Dragon Fate is what came out.

Bookworm:  “I love the cover of Dragon Fate.  Can you tell us a little about it and who designed it?”

JD Hallowell:  Craig R. Smith designed the cover, and I agree that he did a wonderful job. I was astounded at what a relatively simple image and some careful typography could become in the hands of a skilled graphic designer. I wanted a cover that would instantly communicate fantasy and dragons without being stale and that would still be readable at thumbnail size. When I saw what Craig was proposing for the cover, I instantly knew that it was right. The Dragon Fate cover actually took second place in the Tor.com Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Cover just a few weeks after it was released, so it’s safe to say that a lot of other people liked it, too.

Bookworm:  “Can you tell us about your upcoming book?”

JD Hallowell:  I just released Dragon Blade, the second book in the War of the Blades series. It follows on almost directly from the story told in Dragon Fate, but it’s faster paced, with more action, and it puts the Dragon Fate story in a wider context. I have another book in the same setting that I keep thinking is finished until I do another read-through, and I find that there are a few little things here and there that need tweaking. I’m almost at the point where I’m ready to apply Heinlein’s third rule and stop make further changes unless an editor asks for them. It is tentatively titled Dragon Home. 

It is set shortly after Dragon Blade, and it deals with a lot of the political and social fallout of the events in that book. It should be ready for release later this year. I have already completed a fourth book that takes place in the same world, primarily following different characters and a different main story line, that happens in a time frame that overlaps to some extent with Dragon Home. That book is going through initial edits right now, and I’m hoping that it will also be released sometime this year, hopefully shortly after Dragon Home comes out. It has a working title of Dragon Justice. I’ll be putting more about these up on my blog as the release dates get closer.

Bookworm:  “Who are some of your favorite authors?”

JD Hallowell:  This is tough, because I don’t have one or two favorite authors that I read. My favorite poet is easy: A.A. Milne. Choosing a favorite novelist is almost impossible. I read a lot, and in many different genres, and for most of the authors I’ve read, there are books of theirs I liked and other books that I didn’t care for so much. For fantasy and SF, you could just start with Isaac Asimov and go through to Roger Zelazny. If I have to narrow it down, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert A. Heinlein, and Shelby Foote would be at the top.

Bookworm:  “What advice would you give a beginning writer?”

JD Hallowell:  Well, my first piece of advice would be not to ask me for advice: it took me until my fifties to get to the point where I had a book worth reading. If you insist, then I’d have to say:  Stick to it. Don’t give up. Read Heinlein’s rules, and follow them.

Bookworm:  “Any final thoughts on indie/small press publishing?”

JD Hallowell:  It is a lot of work, and it’s not for the faint-hearted or easily discouraged. I’ve had a very good experience, and been very fortunate to have remarkably talented and supportive people around me, and I have no doubt that it would have been far harder for me without them. There is no magic key to writing and publishing successfully, whether through self-publishing, small press, or traditional, that doesn’t require hard work and the support of other people.

Bookworm:  ”Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.  And definitely thank you for providing us with such a wonderful read.”  

 You can visit JD Hallowell’s blog by clicking here.  You can read my review of Dragon Fate by clicking here.  If you like what you read here, be sure to follow us on twitter @ErinEymard.

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Around the Web #2

Leigh Evans

Leigh Evans

Interview:

Check out The Cuddlebuggery Book Blog’s  Interview: Leigh Evans.  Her best advice comes in her answer about how important research is.

Leigh illustrates the fundamental idea of “write what you love” (as opposed to the inane advice of “write what you know”).

Leigh is an urban fantasy writer whose debut novel Trouble with Fate just went live in December 2012 and she has a deal to write four more books in the Mystwalker series.  She lives in Southern Ontario with her husband.   Bookworm readers may recognize her from Around the Web #1 where we highlighted her fateful encounter with Patrick Rothfuss.

Elmore Lenord’s Tips

Writing Tips:

Want to know how the greats do it?  (WRITE THAT IS!  GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE GUTTER!)  OpenCulture.com has a great article that includes advice from some of the most prolific writers of our time.

Some of my favorite are #10 Elmore Leonard – “Leave out the parts that people skip”, #6 George Orwell – “Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous”, #1 Neil Gaiman “Write”, and of course #13 Henry Safire – “Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors”.

Robert Evert

Blog Highlight:

So this week I decided to highlight Robert Evert.  Who is Robert Evert, you may ask?  I came across Robert by chance.  He posted asking for opinions on the cover of his upcoming book in a G+ community that I was a part of.

After giving my opinion, I got to talking with him.  What I found was an intelligent, humble new author with a lot of promise.  I was already planning on picking up his book when released in February due to the awesome cover and blurb.  But interacting with him actually made me wish it were coming out sooner than February.  

The Riddle in Stone is a fantasy tale about a middle aged librarian who always wanted to be a hero and soon learns that being a hero is a lot harder than just reading about it in his books.  Robert blogs over at robertevert.blogspot.com and he also agreed to do an author interview later this month.

Hope you enjoyed this issue of Around the Web!  As always, follow us on twitter!

 

 

Dragon Fate by J.D. Hallowell (Book Review)

Dragon Fate by J.D. Hallowell follows the exploits of Delno Okonan, an army lieutenant looking for something more in life.  Trying to escape the political pressures of the city, Delno climbs a nearby mountain and finds himself face to face with a dragon.  Fate intervenes and intertwines Delno’s life with that of the young dragon hatchling Geneva.  The bulk of this book revolves around Delno adjusting to having a dragon around and to being able to use magic since magic is frowned upon in the northern kingdoms.  

J.D. Hallowell’s Dragon Fate!

Dragon Fate is a new take on the dragon rider fantasy stories.  Not as gritty as say Bazil Broketail but more enjoyable (in my opinion) than Pern (before you fuss at me, know that I love Anne McCaffery.  I just didn’t particularly like her Pern books.  I enjoyed her Tower and Hive books much more.).The interplay between Delno and Geneva is truly what drives this book and keeps it from dragging.  

This is a fantasy that is centered around the growth of the main characters.  The external conflicts serve to foster and illustrate that growth.  I found all the characters to be engaging and surprisingly not predictable.  I have to admit to being completely sure that one of the first characters that you met that is central to Delno was going to betray him at some point because isn’t that what happens in every fantasy book ever?  I was pleasantly surprised when he didn’t betray the main character but have a sneaky suspicion that the author is just setting you up for a greater betrayal in later books.

The characters are written in such a way that you truly do care for them (even the villain…okay maybe not the villain but definitely his dragon).  The plot twist toward the end of the book shouldn’t have surprised me but it did.  I was too busy being interested in Delno learning about his dragon to catch the gingerbread trail of clues that the author was leaving.

My biggest gripe (and it isn’t really a huge one) is the overuse of ‘dear heart’ and ‘dear one’ in conversations between Delno and Geneva.  I understand the closeness of their relationship and it is very well written.  However there were a couple of times that I wanted to punch someone if I read ‘dear heart’ one more time.  Other than a couple of minor formatting issues (which I suspect might be exclusive to the epub edition), it was an easy read.

I definitely look forward to the other books in the series.  I want to see what the author has in store not only for Delno and Geneva but also for Nat and other supporting characters.

The Bookworm gives this book 4.5 Stars out of 5.

You can visit J.D. Hallowell’s blog by clicking here.  On deck next is The Northern Star by Mike Gullickson.

Around the Web #1

Naomi Musch

Naomi Musch

Interview:

Check out The Reader’s Realm Interview: Naomi Musch.  Her list of books on the craft of writing (the last question) is full of gold nuggets for authors.

Her advice to authors just starting out is also a jewel:  “Writers must first be readers. Now let’s narrow that down. There are hundreds of great lessons to learn from reading, but one of the more difficult is to learn how to craft story beginnings that are able to hook readers interest without resorting melodrama.”

Naomi Musch is a historical romance writer published by Desert Breeze Publishing.  She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and enjoys being close to her five children and three grandchildren.

Patrick Rothfuss and Leigh Evans

TOR Article:

Here’s a wonderful jewel of an article written by Leigh Evans for TOR.  In the article she illustrates the advice from Naomi that I highlighted about authors must first be readers.  It was Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind that inspired her to write a letter to Rothfuss detailing how much she liked the book.

And just to show you that not all published authors are necessarily jerks, Rothfuss actually wrote her back and encouraged her to try her hand at a career in writing. Leigh’s first book Trouble with Fate was released in paperback in December 2012.

*Patrick Rothfuss also is the founder of Worldbuilders, which is definitely worth you checking out.

Online Writer’s Conference

Online Writer’s Conference:


IndieReCon is free online writer’s conference that will take place February 19-21 2013.  How does it work?  Every hour on the hour for 8 hours a day, they will highlight a different topic concerning independent publishing. 

Topics range from the very basics to marketing to industry interviews.  Here’s the link to the schedule of topics.  Anyone interested in independent publishing should sign up today!