Archive | March 2013

Automaton by C.L. Davies (Book Review)

automaton

Automaton by C.L. Davies

In the not too distant future, after the huge successes of role-playing games, virtual worlds and reality shows, it was only a matter of time before somebody took the next step.  A remote island: a population existing only to entertain. Their lives broadcast around the clock and around the globe. Their actions dictated by their owners. It’s the world’s biggest game played by thousands. Welcome to Gameworld.

Dean 3012 is a good guy living on the Island. He loves his girlfriend, Lily, to pieces. With their first baby on the way, life is perfect. But when things take a sinister turn, the couple are plunged into a world of darkness and despair. Dean must somehow find a way to take control and fight for all their lives.

Amelia watches the game, given the gift of a Gameworld Character when she was but a small child. However, when her character’s happiness is threatened, how far will Amelia go to protect her?

The Bookworm’s Summary:

Clocking in at 200 pages, Automaton follows the story of Dean and Lily as they enjoy their blissful existence.  They live fairly normal lives except for a couple of weird laws:  No one can be out after curfew and when they turn in for the night, they must wear sleep masks.  Violating one of these laws will result in death. But these are small prices to pay to live in the world that Dean and Lily live in.  Crime is non-existent.

Things begin to change after Dean meets a woman who works as a bartender.  When Dean wakes up the next morning, Dean finds himself against his will pursuing this woman.  He tries to stop himself but nothing he does works.  Dean doesn’t know it but his controller has programed this desire into him.

When Lily’s controller, Amelia, realizes what is going on, she starts taking steps to counteract this.  She can’t understand why Dean’s controller would do this to Lily.  Amelia thinks that perhaps she can reason with Dean’s controller.  The problem is that controllers are anonymous.  Once Amelia finds Dean’s controller, things begin to rapidly spin out of control.

Warning!  

Possible!

Spoiler!

Below!

The Bookworm’s Impressions:

This book is very well written.  The characters pull you in immediately.  There were times when I would forget that Dean and Lily were “characters” in Gameworld and not part of the outside world.  In fact, it wasn’t until the very end of the book that I remembered that Dean and Lily were robots and not human at all.

Cheryl Davies does an outstanding job of taking the reader on the Dean’s journey.  I shared in Dean’s joys, cheered when he attempted to fight his programing, lamented in his inability to do so, and ultimately understood the heart-wrenching sorrow that would overtake him.

The characters on the outside world were just as intriguing as the characters within the Gameworld.  Being a reality-tv show junkie (Though I must say that I am not as bad as my mother.  Boy, can that woman suck down some reality-tv!), I can totally understand the obsession of Amelia and the other characters in the outside world.

Of course this comes from a woman who occasionally creates friends/co-workers on The Sims and throws them all into a house together a la Big Brother to see what happens (So what if I keep preventing that witch a couple of offices down from going to the bathroom so she ends up wetting the floor.  It’s funny.  Don’t judge.).

I think one of the things that I loved the most was the intricate layering of plots.  The outside world had control over Gameworld but in its own way, Gameworld began to influence the outside world.  There were so many threads woven beautifully together:  e.g. Dean and Lily, Amelia and Luke, the individual rebellions in Gameworld against “Big Brother”, the fight to overcome one’s programming (I might characterize this a mind vs. body type of fight), and the eventual total humanization of Dean.

This book is a quick and enjoyable read.  I would highly recommend it.

The Bookworm gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars!

To learn more about Cheryl Davies, check out her blog!  Check out some of our other book reviews!  Check back over the weekend for an interview with Cheryl Davies!

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The Bone Thief by V.M. Whitworth – (Guest Book Review by Richard Abbott)

Well bibliophiles, Richard Abbot over at Kephrath is back with another 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.  As always, the Bookworm is happy to have Richard’s input!

Let me first say that I really enjoyed this book and have no hesitation in awarding five stars. I had come across the title a little while ago, but was prompted to actually read it through a book club – and am extremely glad this happened!

In Wessex

In Wessex

The Bone Thief is set in tenth century England, at a time when there was no united kingdom but rather several different regions under separate leadership.

The region I know best, having lived in it for many years, is Wessex – in the south – whose capital at the time was Winchester.

The main character, Wulfgar, a junior but well-trained priest, grew up there. But the story really begins in Mercia, a great swathe of the west of the country stretching roughly from the Thames north through the Midlands.

And most of the central events take place in a Viking controlled region known as the Danelaw, covering much of the east of the country from London northwards to Leicester and York. Quite apart from the political difficulties this caused, it had a lasting impact on religious life, as it separated two major centres of Christianity from each other.

On the borders of Mercia

Whitworth captures this division of the land beautifully via use of dialect (still mostly alive today in regional British accents) together with the occasional use of specific Norse words and phrases.

This puts you as reader in the same place as Wulfgar – most of the text is readily understandable, some parts need a bit of puzzling out, and for some you have to deduce from context or the helpful explanations of other characters.

The main plotline is straightforward – Mercia needs religious relics to boost the residents’ flagging morale, and Wulfgar as a bright but rather timid cleric is chosen to find and retrieve something suitable.

But the outworking of this plot is fascinating, as Wulfgar is forced to continuously reassess who he can trust and who he cannot. The people he meets – both friend and foe – are memorable and compellingly drawn, and are instrumental in leading him to rethink his original rather naive view of the world.

Trust and faith are at the centre of this book. One of the many reasons I loved the book is that religious thought and feeling is treated realistically and sympathetically by Whitworth. Wulfgar and others struggle to live according to their ideals, in the midst of great challenges and difficulties. Often they fall to meet their own expectations. They are neither blindly literal nor cynically manipulative in their faith; rather, it shapes, constrains and illuminates their lives in creative and credible ways.

Wulfgar’s travels are actually over quite a small part of the land, but the story touches on the whole sweep of the British Isles and beyond. Key friends and enemies come from towns across much of southern and central England. One of Wulfgar’s travelling companions is from Ireland. Meetings with the Vikings bring in links with Scandinavia. And the relics themselves – of Saint Oswald – contain other historical echoes from the north. As a child Oswald fled from Scotland, and then grew up with the monks of Northumberland. He reigned as king from Bamburgh, and helped set up a Christian centre of learning on Lindisfarne – another region I am very fond of. Despite the seeming narrow sweep of Wufgar’s journeys, the future United Kingdom with all its multicultural diversity is already starting to emerge.

Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne

There were some stylistic features I did not like. In the first part of the book Whitworth uses a device of having sudden short paragraphs to arrest attention, which rather breaks up the reading experience.

But as the book gets properly under way this device is abandoned, and the text starts to flow in a smoother and more engaging way.

Quite why this irregularity was left after editing I am not sure, but once this habit is dropped the prose reads much more fluently and is less intrusive. A glossary and some historical notes round the work out nicely – the only missing feature is a map, but it is easy enough to find something suitable online if you are curious.

I would thoroughly recommend The Bone Thief to anyone keen to engage with this period of history, as seen through the eyes of an educated but rather unimportant figure. The major political and military events of the age – the formation of the Danelaw, for example, or its ultimate absorption into a whole nation, are hinted at in conversation, memory, or expectation, but are not described in depth. You will not find descriptions of great battles or Viking raids – you will walk alongside a person, and a nation, trying to find out how to live in a culturally diverse world poised on the brink of substantial change.

Five stars, without a doubt.

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Update – Win a Copy of Stephen King On Writing

FINALLY!  An update on our contest to Win a Copy of Stephen King On Writing The Bookworm’s Fancy ran this contest during the month of February 2013.  All followers of the Bookworm on wordpress, twitter, and Google+ were automatically entered.  People could earn additional entries by retweeting/sharing blog entries, tweets, and Google+ Posts.

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Gimme the Prize!

The entries were tallied and the winner was Miaka Kirino of The Dragon’s Bakery.  Her blog is a cute little site about baking with dragons. 

I contacted the winner and got her shipping address.  I packaged up the book and set out to the post office!  I shipped out the book and waited patiently to receive word that it had arrived at its destination!

After a couple of days, I finally got word that she had indeed received the book.  Miaka was wonderful enough to send me a picture with the book.  I sincerely hope that she enjoys it!  I know that this little bookworm certainly did.  Many of the authors that I have met through this site have all recommended this book!

Miaka Kirino - The lucky winner of our Stephen King On Writing Contest!

Miaka Kirino – The lucky winner of our Stephen King On Writing Contest!

Be on the look out for more contests in the future! I will probably run one every quarter.  So that means the next one would be scheduled around June/July.  It will probably be another book (I possibly have one in mind).

If any authors want to do a giveaway through the site, let me know as I’m completely open to that.  I figure its a win-win for both sides.  You get the publicity and I get to reward my readers who might in turn become your readers!  A-MAZ-ING!

Also if anyone has any other nifty ideas for contests or giveaways, drop me an email.  I am always open to suggestions!

Once again, congratulation to Miaka for winning our contest!  Be sure to follow us on twitter and Google+!

Bookworm Out!

 

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Riddle in Stone by Robert Evert (Book Review)

Long after the last of the great heroes of old has died, the Undead King is stirring again, amassing a goblin horde ready to sweep out of the mountains and destroy all of humanity. The only thing preventing utter annihilation is Edmund—a stuttering librarian who knows a secret, a secret that every thief, assassin, and king would kill to have. Fleeing from relentless peril, Edmund wages a solitary battle against an ancient evil. But how can one man succeed when so many before him have failed?

A brief disclosure first about this book.  I was excited about the release of this book.  How excited was I, you ask?  When the book was released, I bought it for my kindle totally forgetting that I had already bought it for my nook.  Oh well.

After downloading it for my Kindle, I didn’t have time that evening to read it.  So I put it aside to read during my lunch hour the next day.  Not only did I arrived back from lunch half an hour late, but I spent the whole rest of the afternoon sneaking in a couple of pages here and there.  I ended up finishing it up sometime after dinner.  I decided to let my mind digest the book for a week before sitting down to write this review.

Riddle in Stone is the debut novel of author Robert Evert.  Frequent readers of the Bookworm’s Fancy will recognize the name from an author interview and a small feature in Around the Web #2.  He was one of the first authors that I met in the course of working on this blog.  I was surprised by his down to earth attitude about his writing.

Let me say that it starts off a little slow and a bit tedious due to the way Edmund thinks and speaks.  But the slow start is necessary to set up the character and gives the reader a glimpse into his inner struggles.  Once Edmund leaves Rood, the story picks up immediately.  

He leaves his home with his head filled with the legends and history that he read in his books.  But is soon forced to face the fact that all he has believed in was a lie when he is captured by goblins.  All that he has to sustain him during his captivity is a few spells that his mother taught him when he was younger and his love for a local woman named Molly.

For his first outing as an author, Evert does an outstanding job.  He isn’t afraid of the nastiness inherent in captivity.  The process of turning Edmund from a sputtering coward into something resembling a hero is a long and ugly one.  It is the inherent want to survive at any cost that finally pushes Edmund to that transformation.  This transformation is what allows Edmund to triumph over the goblins and rescue his beloved Molly.

Evert creates interesting characters that you can’t but identify with and root for.  You find yourself cheering on Filth, Crazy Bastard, and Pondscum.  You find yourself loathing the goblins and yet intrigued by the goblin king.  

With this story, Evert has successfully put a new spin on the ordinary fantasy character that either through magic, destiny, tragedy, or hardship becomes a hero.  I have read a lot of books in my life and I have never read one that managed to do that any better than this book.  

With Riddle in Stone, Robert Evert has given us a fantastic debut novel, though not without some rough parts.  The great thing is that Evert is a new author; and his writing and storytelling can only improve.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to its sequel, which we get a glimpse of at the end of this book.  

The Bookworm gives this book 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

 You can visit Robert Evert’s blog by clicking here.  You can order Riddle in Stone by clicking here.  If you like what you read here, be sure to follow us on twitter @ErinEymard and Google Plus.

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Author Interview – Natasha Jones

Natasha Jones

Natasha Jones

Today, I have the pleasure of featuring Natasha Jones, author of The Luminous Memories of Alexander Vile set to be released at the end of this month. 

Bookworm:  So tell us a little about the upcoming book.

Natasha Jones:  It’s a period, thriller, romance novel. There’s a subtle line of romance throughout the book, but the main theme would suggest suspense. It’s set in Victorian London in the late 1800s, around that Gothic period of time. It’s an epistolary novel where it’s mainly divided between Journal entries from Alexander Vile and letters from Joanna (the main female protagonist) to her friend Clarissa. The latter part reads very Jane Austen and the rest is more Gothic, tragic. Here’s a synopsis:

In 1891, in the suburbs of Victorian London, a tragedy took place. Here is a tragic tale compiled by the Maid, who worked her whole life for Alexander Vile, and his late family. She remembers as she wanders up the cobbled streets that echo her every footstep and underneath the over-bearing trees which give her sunless days. She paces through the open market squares where strangers are living their life as if no event took place, all gathering to find out about the new innovations, all dressed in blacks and greys. While the world is whizzing by, she reminisces over a chain of events so romantic and so woeful that you’ll wish you could re-write the ending.

Bookworm:  What inspires you to write?

Natasha Jones:  I used to sit in a park on my break from work (when I was 18), there were animals in this specific park. I would look at the people and animals living their lives and initially I started writing poetry. After a while I decided to start writing a full length novel, though it started as a script and took a few months to become a fully fledged idea.

Bookworm:  Do you have plans for any other books?

Natasha Jones:  Yes, I have started writing my second novel.  I would guess I’m about 10% done. I can’t wait for the summer to just write and write and write.  I started my third novel last summer on holiday; I need to stop thinking of new ideas!

Bookworm:  Who was your favorite character you have written and why?

Natasha Jones:  From this novel, there’s a minor character called Christian.  He is one of those intellectual, arrogant, pompous asses.  I always love the pompous characters in stories.  He was fun to write.

Bookworm:  Who are some of your favorite authors?

Natasha Jones:  Jeff Lindsay. Oscar Wilde. Jane Austen. Stieg Larsson. Jonathan Safran Foer. The above five has written my favourite novels. The language portrayed in Wilde and Austen novels astounds me. And I think unintentionally the majority of Alexander Vile is my attempts to write like Wilde and the ending (it changes narrator) is my attempt to be Austen (in a literature sense). Safran Foer’s humour inspired my 2nd novel. Lindsay and Larsson are responsible for my ever-growing interest in Crime Fiction. I hope to be able to write as in-depth as Larsson and as stimulating as Lindsay one day.

Bookworm:  Do you have any advice to those who are wishing to self-publish?

Natasha Jones:  Network.  Networking is the most important thing.  Talk to everyone. The strangest people inspire and become your friends.

For more information about Natasha and The Luminous Memories of Alexander Vile, follow her on twitter or Facebook.

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Author Interview – Ron Vitale

Ron Vitale

Ron Vitale, Author of Cinderella’s Secret Diary

Hello, Fellow Bibliophiles!  Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you, Ron Vitale, author of Cinderella’s Secret Diary.

Bookworm:  In your bio, you mention that the seed to Cinderella’s Secret Diary was planted as your read fairy tales to your daughter.  What was it about the fairy tales that launched this book series?

Ron Vitale:  Having a daughter and seeing her be inundated with Barbies and the world of pink, wanted me to do something right for her. I decided to write a young adult book with the heroine starting off as being unsure of herself and weak, but eventually learning how to rescue herself. Often in fairy tales, a magical source helps and saves the heroine, but I wanted to tell a different story.

Bookworm:  The silver fox is a wonderful new wrinkle in the fairy tale.  Where did you draw your inspiration for this character?

Vitale:  In my graduate studies back in college, I studied Carl Jung’s beliefs about the human personality and really took that to heart. Jung believed that each person’s interior life consisted of various parts. The Shadow was the dark part of a person’s personality. For me, the Silver Fox is an extension of looking deep within and seeing that darkness and then embracing it.

Bookworm:  You published your first book The Jovian Gate Chronicles through Lulu back in 2007.  What was self-publishing like back then and how much has it changed?

Vitale:  I look back and realize that I had no clue what I was doing back in 2007. I experimented with creating audio books, self-publishing and learning all I could about the technology. Years have passed and now the ebook revolution has exploded around the globe. Amazon and many other companies make it easy for a writer to sell his/her work to anyone around the world. Back in 2007, things were much more complicated and harder to do. We’ve come a long way and I think readers have many more choices in front of them to choose from now.

Bookworm:  Can you tell us about some of the other works you have published?

Vitale:   I’ve had published my young adult fantasy book (my first novel) Dorothea’s Song, Lost: Cinderella’s Secret Diary and Stolen: Cinderella’s Secret Diaries which is a direct sequel to Lost. And you already mentioned The Jovian Gate Chronicles which is a loosely connected science fiction collection that answers the question: What happens when humans cross paths with intelligent aliens that claim to be prophets from God?

Bookworm:   What are you currently working on?

Vitale:  Currently, I am working on Found which is book 3 in the Cinderella’s Secret Diaries series. I’m halfway through the rough draft and am plugging away as quickly as I can with working full-time, raising a family, blogging, staying active on social media and running half-marathons. There’s definitely a lot of juggling going on, but I like to be diversified and to work hard. I also like being able to connect with readers because it’s really important to me to let people know why I wrote my books and get feedback from my readers.

Bookworm:  What is the most important thing about being an author to you?

Vitale:  Being able to take a really intimate and personal belief that I might be afraid to share with the world, but to do it anyway. I write books about young women and I’m a man. That’s not unheard of, but it’s unusual. For me, I like to tap into my memories of angst and heartache I had in going through my teenage and young adolescent years and share that with my readers.

Bookworm:  Who do you read for fun?

Vitale:  My guilty pleasure is Star Wars books. I’m a big fan the main series with Luke, Han and Leia in the books. I’m also a big Twilight fan, but I try to be open as I can about reading. I’ll read lots of different things, but certain books really grab me. Several years back I read the “His Dark Materials” series by Philip Pullman and I fell in love with those books. What an amazingly wonderful world and great characters. More recently, John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” topped my best of 2012 list. Insanely crazy premise, but wonderful book that speaks about the power of love and of the sublime importance of our temporal lives here on Earth.

Bookworm:  James Bond, Jason Bourne, or Ethan Hunt?

Vitale:  Bond, James Bond. He’s handsome, intelligent, strong and gets the women. Daniel Craig has resurrected the 50 plus year old franchise and it’s great to see him do so well in the role.

Bookworm:  So why did you stop doing Magic:  The Gathering podcasts?  I ask because I am giddy that I might have found someone a little nerdy than I am.  I played in a Magic: The Gathering pre-release three days before I gave birth to my son.

Vitale:  At one point in my life, I was working full-time, trying to write, did two podcasts and raise two kids. Something had to give and I decided that doing five years of Magic: The Gathering was enough. If I wanted to be a writer, then I needed to write.

I have a long, long history with Magic. I did some freelance work for Wizards of the Coast many years ago, was able to visit their old headquarters out in Renton, WA and even had an article on Highlander published on MagictheGathering.com. An interesting tidbit is that I was even lucky enough to play Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic, in a game. The videos to my duel with him are on my website: http://www.ronvitale.com/2007/02/richard-garfield-and-me.html

 If you ever happen to be in the Philadelphia metro area, let me know, I’m always looking to play a game of Magic since I don’t get to very often these days.

Bookworm:  What advice do you have for an up and coming writer?

Vitale:  Never give up. If you’re writing for money and fame, then ignore my “never give up” advise and give up now. There are only a few writers who are earning solid income to have fiction writing be their sole career. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I wouldn’t suggest going into writing for the money. I believe it’s deeper than that.

If you have a story that’s bursting out of you and you have to get it out, then do so. Don’t worry about failure, making mistakes and not knowing what you’re doing. Work at it and then work at it some more. Write and talk with writers, listen to them, read as much as you can get your hands on and believe in yourself.

You will fail and then you will have that dark moment of the soul: Should you give up or go on? If you choose to keep trying, then I applaud you. Writing isn’t easy, but it can be the most freeing thing in the world.

I thank Ron Vitale for taking the time out of his schedule to do this interview.  If you want to know more about Ron, visit his webpage/blog at http://www.ronvitale.com.  Also feel free to follow the bookworm on twitter @ErinEymard and on GooglePlus.  

 

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Around the Web #5

Writer’s Links at No Wasted Ink

Helpful Author Site:

Wendy Van Camp over at No Wasted Ink always has interesting articles and this one  from the end of last month is particularly a gem.

I highly recommend all writers to check out the link for Making them Turn the Page for great advice about tension building as well as the opportunity for a critique of your first page.

And for laughs check out the lousy book covers.  I think my particular favorite was the cover for Wild Nevada Ride.

 

robertindianalove

 Love Springs Eternal

Recently I did a guest post on Omar M. Kiam’s blog of inspiration quotes and their meanings in which I tackle Alexander Pope’s:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast“.

The poet in my has always loved this sentiment.  The historian in me compared it to other great sayings about “hope”.  The cynic in me tried to rationalize it.  In this post, I combine all three in what I found to be an enjoyable little exercise.

I only hope that you enjoy even a fraction as much as I did writing it.  To view the post, click here.

Before You Hire an Editor!

Before You Hire An Editor by Kathleen Dale:

I read a lot of book reviews and more often than not, I come across a reviewer lamenting the lack of professional editing in an indie publication.  Heck, it is usually one of my main complaints.

In my opinion, this is where indie books suffer against professionally (Big 5) published books.  And often this suffering is needless.  

Sure, traditional publishers have tons of money to throw at editing a book.  But that doesn’t mean that indie authors can’t have well edited and formatted books.

Kathleen Dale, a fiction editor, provided a great infograph on whether or not you need a freelance editor.  She also provided great advice on how to get a great edit (whether you do it personally or you get someone else to do it) for your book/novel/novella.  Click on the graph to check out her page!

Follow us on twitter @ErinEymard and Google+.

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