Monthly Archives: July 2015

Feature and Follow Friday – If You Could Get Any ARC…

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Hi Everybody! Here’s another installment of Feature and Follow Friday hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, where bloggers post links to their blogs on Parajunkee’s site, answer the Feature and Follow question in a blog post, and then visit each others’ sites checking out the answers!

Question of the Week!

If you could get an ARC of any book, already published, or not yet, what would it be?  – via Words I Write Crazy

Nervous_Nellie_100Nervous Nellie says…

Oh, my gosh.  This is a very tough question. I have so many favorite authors and favorite series that it’s so hard to pick.  I don’t want to offend any of my favorite authors, but I would really like to know what happens in Diana Rowland’s Kara Gillian series. Mzatal and Szerain – what happens?

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Hmm… every book Diana Gabaldon writes from now on, ever.  And Jim Butcher.  And Ben Aaronovitch, Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, Jennifer Estep, Kevin Hearne, eden Hudson, Faith Hunter, James Hunter, Benedict Jacka, Devon Monk, Seanan McGuire, and… And… I WANT ALL THE ARCS!!

*ahem*  Pardon me.  I got a little excited there.

Bear Naked by R.J. Eliason

I would really like to give this book a 2-1/2 rating. While I do feel the overall story has potential, there are some elements that could be improved to make the story more compelling.

Bear NakedTitle: Bear Naked
Author: R.J. Eliason
Series: Bear Naked Book 01
Publication Date: January 1, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Source: Review copy provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: Amanda Burnson is a typical teen with all the typical problems: excess weight, struggles with body odor, random people trying to kill her . . . oh, and her boyfriend just might be a werewolf.

At seventeen, Amanda, who has been raised by her neo-pagan uncle, has more friends at the local Renaissance faire than at her high school. Most of her summers are spent at faires, festivals, and Aunt Maggie’s farm.

There is something new going on in the heart of America, in the small Iowa town that Amanda calls home. The whole town is changing—a tough way to begin a school year. New kids alongside the old; new attitudes colliding with the usual annoying old ones; menacing new faces alongside comforting ones. . . things will never be the same once this brew is boiled.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Fickle Fiona says…

Fickle_Fiona_100I appreciate where the author was headed with this story, though I feel it lacked some things in the way it got there. The first ⅔ of the book was extremely slow paced with no build up to the climax of the story. Secrets are revealed and fairly instantly accepted by other characters, without much display of reaction. It has the feel of an author writing a series for the first time and having trouble with pacing and development. I am interested to see if the second book has a better feel to it, now that she is invested in the story, and to see how the story develops.

I applaud the inclusion of vast differences of characters the author chooses to include. After looking into her history more, she appears to be an LGBT advocate, which is commendable. She incorporates characters into the story that are homosexual, as well as genderqueer – a term I was not familiar with before reading this book. That being the case, I feel like there was little outright explanation as to what exactly that meant. There were hints throughout the book that I eventually picked up on, but it would have been nice to know more earlier on. I originally felt like these were token characters. put in the book just to say she was being inclusive. Later in the story, I discovered they play a larger role; however, the genderqueer concept still has no major impact.

badge2v4The same can be said of the main character’s Pagan belief system. There are scenes in the book that are incredibly descriptive but sadly unnecessary. I would have found it more intriguing had the author gone into detail on scenes of the Pagan rituals and celebrations. With both the genderqueer and the Pagan lifestyles, I feel like the author could have taken advantage of this platform to educate people that are less informed on these topics.

Once finished, I can say that I enjoyed the overall story that the author was going for. Despite the basic writing style and lack of drama to keep the book moving, I never got to a point where I wanted to stop reading. It somehow managed to hold my attention and kept me turning the pages to see where it was going.

Other reviews…

If you liked this book…

The Movie In My Head

MovieNightI have always wondered if other people see a movie in their head when they are reading. I wonder what the characters look like in Ivana’s head compared to mine. We do “book casting” boards on Pinterest. It’s rather fun to search the internet for people who somewhat resemble the character in my stories. It makes the character stronger and it often creates a difference of opinion for Ivana and me. “She looks like this!” “No, she looks like this!”  And then the arguing starts…..

I always thought that it was efficient use of my time to listen to audiobooks instead of reading the book. Sometimes when I’m book-v-movieworking, sewing, cleaning, driving – whatever – I’m listening to an audiobook. Sometimes I catch myself sitting just listening. Poof! There goes my efficiency. I want to give a shout out to Sue Grafton and her Alphabet series. She made me miss my interstate exit and I ended up off course by a good 30 miles due to “E” is for Evidence. When I visit Ivana 3 hours away, the movie is so intense that those hours seem to be the fastest 3 hours when I’m travelling. I rarely see much between here and there, which I wonder – is that dangerous?

books-moviesWhen I see the movie in my head, I see what the characters are wearing, the library they are standing in, the city they are walking in, the monster they are fighting.  Sometimes faces are fuzzy.  Sometimes the monsters take on a totally different look than what is described in the book.  I don’t know why – they just do.  If I’ve listened to a character in a previous “episode” in audiobook form, the narrator’s voice is what I hear in my head.  Sometimes, I buy the audiobook just to hear what the character sounds like. That may sound strange, weird or just plain frivolous, but I think that I get a different perspective of the story.  I also learn how names or foreign words are pronounced…. look at me! Learning while fighting monsters! Go me!

Nell 100Nell’s Book Boards

ivana 100Ivana’s Book Boards (all boards are a work in progress)

The Conquering Dark by Clay & Susan Griffith

The final book (so far!) in the Crown & Key series gives us more detail into the past events that are still affecting our beloved protagonists today.  There are some big reveals here; brace yourself!

The Conquering DarknessTitleThe Conquering Dark
Author:  Clay and Susan Griffith
Series: Crown & Key Book 03
Publish Date:  July 28, 2015
Genre:  Steampunk Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s Description: The Crown and Key Society face their most terrifying villain yet: Gaios, a deranged demigod with the power to destroy Britain.

To avenge a centuries-old betrayal, Gaios is hell-bent on summoning the elemental forces of the earth to level London and bury Britain. The Crown and Key Society, a secret league consisting of a magician, an alchemist, and a monster-hunter, is the realm’s only hope—and to stop Gaios, they must gather their full strength and come together as a team, or the world will fall apart.

But Simon Archer, the Crown and Key’s leader and the last living magician-scribe, has lost his powers. As Gaios searches for the Stone of Scone, which will give him destructive dominion over the land, monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane, alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther, gadget geek Penny Carter, and Charlotte the werewolf scramble to reconnect Simon to his magic before the world as they know it is left forever in ruins.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (Spoilers!)


Invested_Ivana 50So, we’re done with the Crown & Key series.  I’m kinda sad.  What about you?

Nervous_Nellie_50Yeah.  I am sad too.  I hope this isn’t the last we see of this bunch.   Who was your favorite character?

Invested_Ivana 50Oof, it’s hard to pick out just one.  But if I had to, I think it would be Charlotte.  She’s pretty awesome.  Innocent and vicious at the same time.  I love how she attaches herself to Malcom.  What about you?

Nervous_Nellie_50I don’t know who I’d pick.  I really like Kate and Penny.  The authors did a good job of connecting everyone in one way or another.

Invested_Ivana 50So, we also recently read The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr, another steampunk fantasy.  Which one did you like better – the Electric Empire series or the Crown & Key series?

Nervous_Nellie_50I really liked The Diabolical Miss Hyde….. A LOT.  It was quite a lot more bold fantasy than Crown & Key, in my opinion. Crown & Key was more subtle.  I really can’t honestly choose one over the other – and I’m glad I don’t have to.  I had a lot of fun with the Crown & Key family and I can’t wait for them to visit again.

Invested_Ivana 50I second that sentiment.  I’m eager for all three audiobooks to be out so I can experience them all again.


Nervous_Nellie_100Nervous Nellie says…

This is a darn good series.  To be totally honest, I cannot imagine how these authors come up with the battle scenes.  My GOSH! It’s so involved you can practically see the monsters heaved through the air and alchemical vials being tossed, flung and launched by a bow and arrow.  Flames are thrown and diverted.  Buildings topple.  Earth is moved.  Trees are uprooted.  Strange critters evolve.  If you’ve ever watched The Wild Wild West where Will Smith plays Jim West, THAT’s the kind of world that is this book’s world.  IT is AWESOME!

This series brings a group of people together that would probably have never found themselves together.  There is danger – a lot of danger – and a through it all the group thinks through the problems and works as a team. Kate is human alchemical scientist.  Simon is a sorcerer or scribe as he is labelled in the book.  Malcolm is a hunter of monsters.  Penny is a mechanical engineer genius.  Charlotte and Imogen have their own qualities to add to the mix.  Then we have Nick Barker.  Nick is an unknown equation because it is unclear whose side he is on.  I really, really, like Nick so I’m hoping – um…. *Ivana is giving Nell the evil eye*  um…. that Nick….. um…. OKAY! I won’t tell them! Geez!  The villains are machines converted from severely damaged humans seeking revenge. There isn’t much explained regarding the backstory of the villains, but you get the gist as you read along.

Simon and Kate are the leaders in the group and they have to put their heads together to figure out the key to stopping a raging elemental madman. They’re building a relationship together, but there is not much reference to their romance other than the off hand quip every once in awhile.  What I really like is that Kate is just as kick-ass as Simon.  Penny’s  muscles in her brain are just as strong as Malcom’s arms and just as deadly.  There are no fainting couches necessary for these ladies and they are treated as equals in a time when that was not the norm…..not that we’ve (you and me) have ever had a time where there were 1/2 human 1/2 mechanical evildoers…..but it’s fun to think about.

badge4v4This series is major-league.  I suggest – strongly- that you have books 1, 2 & 3 lined up ready to go because even though there are not any serious cliffhangers, these stories drive you to make the jump into the next book.  I love these characters and I hope this is not the last we see of them.  Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Griffith.  It was an adventure!

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Now that I’ve read three books in this series, I’m fully invested in Simon, Kate, Malcom, Penny, Imogen, Charlotte, and now Jane.   I’d love to see a prequel about Ash, Gaios, and Byron Pendragon in their youth, when they were friends and started the Order of the Oak.  Could be interesting to see the events leading up the fall of the Order as well.  As villians, these three need just a little more flesh to their back stories, though we do learn a lot more about the past in this third installment.

The relationships between the characters are a primary focus in this series – and not just the romantic ones.  The romantic relationship between Simon and Kate is obvious, but I really enjoy how their relationship is based on mutual admiration and respect, rather than “you have such a hot body, you must be my mystical soul-mate.”   The sibling relationships between Kate & Imogen and Charlotte & Imogen, and maybe Malcom & Jane are very touching, as well as the parental relationships between Malcolm & Charlotte and Simon & Nick.  Malcolm and Penny seem to be developing a romantic relationship also built on admiration and respect, but they are slower to come to it than Simon and Kate.  Everyone in the group is family, and the strength of that is what holds them together.

There are no damsels-in-distress in this series, either.  Everyone saves everyone at some point, and the women are just as smart and deadly as the men.  There is no hint of gender prejudice in any character, actually, which is really nice.  I wonder if the grown-up approach to relationships and the blatent gender equality are products of a husband and wife writing team, or if these themes were very intentional.  Now that I say that, I have to think it was done very intentionally to contrast with the relationship between Ash, Gaios, and Pendragon, considering this book stated as much in the final chapters.

badge4v4I guessed at one of the reveals in this book, though that didn’t diminish it in the least.  One thing happens and one thing is revealed that I didn’t expect, which is also nice.  I appreciate that the main story comes to an actual conclusion (so many books I’ve read lately haven’t had real endings), but that the way is left open for many more stories.  I do hope we get to see everyone again in future installments.  At the very least, I’ll meeting my friends again when the audiobooks are all released. 🙂

Links:

If you like this book, you might try…

How to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer by Alex Hughes

This funny little book accomplishes with humor and satire what logic can’t – helping writers get over their doldrums and objections and start being productive.

How To Drive YourselfTitleHow to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer: A Modest Proposal for Wordsmiths
Author:  Alex Hughes
Publish Date:  July 28, 2015
Genre:  Non-Fiction, Humor
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: Lately I’ve been noticing a distressing excess of sanity in the creative and writing worlds. Why, new writers have even begun to challenge the Great Assertion that one must be poor and miserable to be any good! This Assertion, as you know, is the bedrock to creating meaningful Art.

Fear not. You are not at the mercy of the forces of Sanity and Productivity. For those distressed by the relentless forward drive of Efficiency, this book will provide a refreshing antidote.

Before you know it, through my simple and practical Assertions, you too will adopt the maddening and complex process that is True Writing, and embrace creative insanity as comfortably as a bat in a belfry!

How to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer is the satirical how-to writing book you never knew you needed, chock-full of practical advice and easy steps to fill your creative life with trauma, missteps and angst.

Take another look at the life of a writer, and immerse yourself in the hysterical chaos of the life of a miserable, starving-in-a-garret author… or, perhaps, laugh your way to the other side of writer’s block.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

“How can one possibly be accomplishing Great Art if one is not overwhelmed by ennui and horror of life?”

Do you know a writer –or a wanna-be writer – who has trouble getting past their emotional doldrums to actually produce work?  Then here is the perfect gift for them!  Spur them past self-pity, past writer’s block, past ennui with exaggeration, reverse psychology, and humor.

Written from the perspective that artists must, by nature, but sensitive and emo for true ART to be accomplished, this satirical self-help book describes now NOT to be a writer, especially a successful writer.

badge3v4I particularly liked the exercises at the end of each chapter.  If the exercises are actually done, they will give the reader a How-To and How-Not-To blueprint for being a writer.

Non-writers or artists might not get the humor of this book, but those creative types certainly will.  When they are stymied and fussing and wallowing in self-pity, throw them a laugh-line by getting them this book.  They’ll be writing again in no time.