Tag Archive | /Rant

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (Guest Book Review by Anthony Carver aka Mr. Bookworm)

After months of nagging my husband to write a review or two for some of the books he reads, he finally relented.  He is considering this his warm up review before tackling A.T.H. Webber’s Erasure.  Hope you enjoy!

I know I’ve been promising my wonderful wife here that I would give her a book review. And because I’m good at getting things done in a timely manner, I’m finally getting around to it about three months later.

fallingkingdomsFalling Kingdoms is the first book in a series set in the land of Mytica. At the center of this land are the three kingdoms of Auranos, Paelsia, and Limeros. Auranos, to the north, is a fruitful land where everyone is prosperous, the king is kind, and everyone is blissfully ignorant. Limeros, to the south, is also apparently fruitful, everyone is not really mentioned as far as prosperity goes, the king is somewhat cruel and iron fisted, and the people are drilled into a sort of religious obedience. Paelsia, smack in the middle, is nearly barren, the chief (apparently, they don’t get a king) is a gluttonous shaman, and the souls of the people are almost as barren as their land is becoming.

The characters in the book are almost as one-dimensional and flat as the landscape. The king of Auranos, Cordullin, is kind hearted yet firm if need be, a family man, and naive. The King of Limeros, Gaius, is (surprise, surprise) the polar opposite of Cordullin. He is cold, somewhat tyrannical, and constantly vying for more power. Chief Basilius of Paelsia is content to live off of his people while they toil away in their vineyards, keeping them at bay by promises of magical abilities that he never shows them. But these are just the rulers and they spend a lot of time in the shadows.

The main characters are a little more developed, but not by much. Emilia, the oldest daughter of Cordullin, is meant to become the next ruler. However, she is sick and dying. Cleo, the younger daughter of Cordullin, is at least better than the usual trope of the spoiled princess. She is caring and often conflicted about her emotions. She is sweet. But for as much as she’s shown to be an enlightened young lady, she is prone to making rash, reckless decisions.

Jonas, the brother of a plot device murdered in the first chapter, is driven by revenge (shock) and a desire to kill all nobles and take their riches. Magnus and Lucia are the children of Gaius, and seem to have the most depth to their characters. Magnus, through most of the book, is trying to reject the role that his father is setting for him. The author goes out of her way to point out the “mask” that Magnus wears, except when around his sister. His sister, like Cleo, is shown to be very caring, even to her father, who is shown through much of the book to be very distant and harsh.

Of course, there are other characters, but many of them feel like nothing more than plot devices to further the progression of the story. Characters seem to just go along, until they are needed for something. Theon, Cleo’s bodyguard, is the best example of this. He is sworn to his duty, despite Cleo’s constant need to disobey and she is constantly running from him even after she knows her life is in danger. Theon chases her down, they admit their love for each other, and then he dies. Specifically in that order. Idea of bodyguard and princess, an idea that could have been used to such great ends, becomes an awkwardly narrated love triangle that ends in almost the same fashion as Cleo’s older sister, Emilia.

At the beginning of the book, Jonas’ brother, Tomas, quickly escalates a haggling between Cleo’s betrothed- (who exists almost solely as an excuse to force Cleo to want the bodyguard) and the wine seller father. Tomas enters the story, gets angry well beyond the excusable limit for a character that has just been introduced with no real story, and is murdered.

Forced plot advancement plagues this book. There is another part where Emilia tells Cleo, who prior to this has been repeatedly described as a non-believer in magic, about a legend of a witch in Paelsia with grape seeds infused with earth magic that can heal anyone. Cleo suddenly believes in magic and rushes off to the very land that houses the family of the plot device that she witnessed other plot device murder. This whole escapade comes to feel like nothing more than a reason for Cleo to get captured and add fuel to the political fire.

Another example is that King Gaius has another, illegitimate son. This son is portrayed as Gaius’ favorite and Magnus’ rival. No sooner than this looks as if it will flesh out character interplay between the king’s siblings, he is murdered as a blood sacrifice to Basilius, who at this point has not really been heard from and has had very little to do with the overall story.

I’m sure by now, you have noticed the occasional mention of magic. Magic–or elementia– is the crux of Lucia’s character, both in the prologue, and actual development, as well as being the reason Cleo does something stupid (once again, after she had been portrayed as a non-believer). The existence of magic is linked to the briefly, and extremely convolutedly, explained mythos of Mytica.

Magic, like some of the characters, only exists to justify the presence or actions of others. There are watchers (god-like beings) who take the form of hawks in the mortal world (they live in Sanctuary–seriously?), and are looking for the lost Kindred (these are some rocks, apparently).

There are a lot of ideas going on in this story. A lot of them can be good with a little fleshing out (magic and the watchers), and some of them had potential to be great: Magnus and Lucia’s relationship was on the road to being a mirror of Ceasare and Lucretia Borgia’s, and the anguish that Magnus felt over feelings that he knew were wrong added a depth to probably the best character in the book. However, this idea is derailed with certain revelations of parentage that bring Magnus around to be more of a budding imitation of his father.

About halfway through, I realized that the only reason I kept reading was that I wanted to see how much of a trainwreck this story would become. And then I thought that maybe I was being overly critical. After all, Falling Kingdoms is a Young Adult novel. That excuse, however, doesn’t hold up when presented with books like The Hunger Games or The Inheritance series. There are many authors of Young Adult fiction that manage to craft deep, interesting characters and that can weave a tale that leaves you wanting more. At the end of the day, I felt much like a Paelsian citizen: disgruntled and ready for a change.

Mr. Bookworm gives it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

NB:  Those of you familiar with the site, will know that we have a policy of not doing a review for a book if we find we are going to give it less than 3 stars.  I would like to further clarify that this is strictly for indie/small press authors.  Morgan Rhodes is far from indie/small press.  She’s has put out enough books to know better.  I trust the judgement of Mr. Bookworm and if this is the kind of quality that Penguin is looking for, then I am not surprised that they bought Author Solutions.

Mr. Bookworm has been dealing with Mrs. Bookworm for almost a decade now.  If you like heavy metal or beer, you might be interested in checking out his blog MoshnHops.

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About the Slush Pile and the Indie Author

Finish Line

Finish Line (Photo credit: jayneandd)

The amount of review requests that come in on a weekly basis is actually staggering. I had never realized the amount of indie/small press authors out there trying to get some recognition. But one thing I noticed is that a lot of requests simply read “Here’s my book. Please review.”

That’s it. No pride. No drive. No initiative. Just a poorly worded email that probably took more time for me to read it than for them to write it and send it. I’ll be honest. It could be the greatest story ever told and it wouldn’t make it out of my slush pile. If the author isn’t excited about the book, then why should I be?

Then there are books that at first glance, I have no interest in. Maybe the synopsis just isn’t grabbing my attention. Maybe I’m burned out on that particular genre at the time. It could be one of a million reasons. But whatever the reason, I’m just not interested.

But what happens when these books come from a passionate author willing to bleed to sell you on the idea of their book? Well you might just get me interested. Take Automaton for example.

Automaton is the debut novel of Cheryl (C.L.) Davies. At my first glance of the review request for this book, I was initially going to put it in the “I’ll Get to it When I Get to it” pile. The initial idea didn’t really intrigue me because this idea had been done before in a variety of ways.

One of my favorite movies is The Truman Show and the premise was somewhat similar. Notice I say, somewhat. I admit that I didn’t really do my due diligence when first presented with this book.

Cheryl Davies was different from those authors. She is one of authors who fights tooth and nail for every review. Instead of the usual boring, generic request for a review, Cheryl gave a wonderful pitch in which she said it was something akin to “the Sims on crack” (I don’t remember the exact words and am too lazy to go recheck it).

That sold me on the book immediately because let’s face it: Who doesn’t like the Sims?! Oh, you don’t like the Sims? Well you must be a completely soulless demon of some kind. Seriously.

Beside the fact that it convinced me to read the book, my conversations with Cheryl illustrated one of my issues with some indie authors. I noticed that a good portion of them think that their job is done once the book is written. It is almost as if they believe the book will sell itself.

They see the whole process as a 40 yard dash and once they cross that finish line, they can sit back and enjoy the roar of the crowd. What they fail to realize is that independent publishing isn’t a 40 yard dash. It is a marathon that starts with the concept of your book and you cross the finish line only after you have decided that you have sold enough books.
And if one is passionate about writing, you can never sell enough books.

While some of these authors are sitting back wondering why their book is not selling, the passionate ones are marketing their books, listening to feedback, and most importantly writing the next one.

I guess the whole point of this rant is to say that if you aren’t passionate about writing, if you aren’t willing to pour your heart and soul into your novels, if you aren’t willing to bleed to make your book successful, maybe just maybe you are in the wrong business.

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Games Workshop Super Bully

MCA Hogarth’s Spots the Space Marine

So I’m a little late on getting on this story but it is still a story that needs to be told (at least in my opinion).   On December 13, 2012 author M.C.A Hogarth received an email from Amazon explaining to her that Games Workshop accused her of infringement due to her use of the phrase ‘space marine’ in the title of her book.  Amazon explained that due to the GW complaint, they stopped selling Spot the Space Marine.

Being a GW customer in the past, I did a double take.  Were they seriously trying this?  And if they were seriously being jerks about this, why not go after the StarCraft franchise for use of ‘space marine’?  When I was complaining about the situation to my husband, his words were “When I hear space marine, I think of Starship Troopers.”  So obviously Hogarth isn’t the first person to use the term ‘space marine’.

In fact according to Wikipedia, the earliest us of the term ‘space marine’ was by Bob Olsen in his short story “Captain Brink of the Space Marines”.  The Wikipedia article on ‘space marine’ even highlights the recent trademark controversy.

I guess my main concern is that Games Workshop went after the little guy here.  They didn’t go after the heavy hitters.  Instead they decided to imitate the NFL and throw their weight and lawyers around at someone who could never afford to compete legally against these bullying tactics.

I encourage everyone to visit MCA Hogarth’s website/blog to show your support for the independent author.

Also don’t forget to check out our contest, follow us on twitter, and GooglePlus!

Ellipsis Tirade

el·lip·sisnoun \i-ˈlip-səs, e-\

  1. a : the omission of one or more words that are obviously understood but that must be supplied to make a construction grammatically complete;  b : a sudden leap from one topic to another
  2. : marks or a mark (as …) indicating an omission (as of words) or a pause

The above definition is taken from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

Since I’ve began to read indie author works, I’ve noticed that writers seem to be in love with these three little dots.  So much so that they misuse them all the time.  At first, I thought it was just one book or author but after ten plus books where 75% of them misuse the ellipsis, I feel the need to step in. 

The main use of an ellipsis is to shorten a quotation or to show a trailing off in speech.  Here is an example of each.  For the quotation, let’s take a simple quote from Cicero:

Original – “A friend is, as it were, a second self.”

Ellipsisfied – “A friend is . . . a second self.”

Notice that is replaces an unnecessary portion of the quote.  The addition of the ellipsis does not change the meaning of the quote.  Now let’s use it to show a trailing off in speech or thought in dialogue.

“Fiddlesticks!  Where did I leave those darn . . . ?”

But what about using an ellipsis to build tension?  Even though it seems to be a widely used (and accepted) practice to use the ellipsis this way, I cannot find any book/site on writing styles that states that it should be used this way.  But I’m not going to fight against the stream here.  Language and grammar are ever changing creatures.

I tend to agree with the Writing Forward Blog which states:

“We can also use an ellipsis to indicate a pause or unfinished thought. At the end of a sentence, an ellipsis represents trailing off into silence.Using an ellipsis to represent a pause can get a writer into trouble.

We tend to pause a lot in speech. Pauses give us a moment to collect our thoughts or add emphasis to what we’re saying. But in writing, a page peppered with ellipses wreaks havoc on the eyes.The same applies to unfinished thoughts.

A lazy writer might use ellipses to indicate, “and so on,” or “et cetera.” In text messaging and social media, many people use ellipses where they believe the reader will implicitly understand what would be stated next. In professional-grade writing, we finish our thoughts, so ellipses used for this purpose should be rare.

However, when we are writing dialogue, an ellipsis can come in handy, especially if we want to show a character’s speech trailing off. Keep in mind, though, that ellipses, like exclamation points, should be used with caution and only when truly needed for emphasis. As a general rule, don’t use it unless you must.”

PLEASE, AUTHORS!  I BEG OF YOU!  When writing your novels, use ellipses sparingly! Also remember that ending a chapter in an ellipsis is redundant.  The tension builder is already there.  A well written story already has me thinking “Oh!  I so need to read the next chapter to find out what happens to [insert character here]!”.

Here are three great resources for using ellipses:

  1. Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
  2. Capital Community College’s Grammar Page (with handy drop down menu)
  3. Writing Forward’s Ellipsis Page

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