Reading Round Up – End of Summer Edition

One of the best parts about going on vacation is it gives me the ability to attack my ever unruly to-read list. Unfortunately, my list is rather like a hydra, as I usually wind up adding three more books to its roster with every completed novel – but I like to pretend I’m making some headway. Therefore, I thought I would share a few books I’ve been reading this summer with you. (This post includes affiliate links)


Victor (Eden East Novels)

by Sacha Black

When Eden East kills someone, she expects them to stay dead. It’s only polite, after all.

This is the second installment in the Eden East novels and takes place shortly after the events of Sacha Black’s bestselling, Keepers.

Eden hasn’t been home since her parent’s funeral, a fact that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore considering she is the heir to the Elemental throne. Unfortunately, both duty and her grief for her parents will have to wait as an enemy she thought was vanquished, returns from the dead, triggering a prophecy that could spell the end for Truitinor.

The book itself is written for a Young Adult audience, and while it was well-written overall, the story at times was a little too angsty for me. There is a romance element throughout that features very prominently in the story (especially in the first half), which does occasionally take away from the action. However, the dialogue and characters themselves remain just as relatable as they were in the first installment. If anything, I found myself sympathizing more with the supporting characters than I had before.

While I do recommend you start this series with the first book, there is enough background context for a person to follow the story even if you haven’t. Though – seriously why would you when the first book is also a fun quick read?


Dualed

by Elsie Chapman

Two of you exist. Only one will survive.

Set in the not too distant future, mankind has finally found the elusive cure for the common cold. That cure resulted in the nasty side effect of universal and irreversible infertility. Life has continued, but it too comes at a price.

Every child born has an identical clone and both are the result of a blend of genetic material from two sets of parents. West knows her Alt is out there. She also knows that before she reaches the age of twenty, she’ll have to kill her. In a city of limited resources and citizen soldiers, there is only room for the fittest. May the best one win.

Dualed is much like Hunger Games in that it involves teenagers battling to the death in a dystopian future. As a result, violence and death are prominent themes. However, while both are described in explicit terms, I did not find the description of either to be gratuitous. That being said, this is not a book for everyone and those who might be triggered by scenes involving guns or knives should definitely pick up something else to read.

Awesome pun of a title aside, Dualed is a story about survival, self-worth, and family. I also found it to be one of those stories that linger with you well after you reach the end. It left me wondering about the group of people in charge known as the Board.  For example, what possessed them to start the kill-or-be-killed requirement in the first place? Lucky for me, there is a sequel (and so my to-read list remains alive and well) so I may yet find my answers.


Flicker: Ember in Space Book One

by Rebecca Rode

Getting sold to the empire was never part of the plan.

Set in the distant future, Ember is a poor Roma girl struggling to save enough to care for her ailing father by telling fortunes for space-tourists visiting Earth. Her talent, however, goes beyond simple card reading. Ember is able not only to see the future but capable of touching a person’s aura or internal spark with only her mind. While some might view her ability as a gift, others view her as a weapon.

Betrayed by her tribe, Ember is taken off-world to be tested for inclusion into the Empire’s Flicker program. The fact that Ember has no desire to be part of this elite fighting force, or be involved in the Empire’s war is irrelevant. Failure to do as the Empire bids will result in the destruction of everything and everyone Ember has ever loved. However, compliance might well cost Ember her soul.

This book had moments of Enders Game mixed with Divergent. Ember is a flawed but fantastic character who can drink the other guys under the table while still maintaining her sensitive side. There is also romance, though it is not central to the plot, and enjoyable three-dimensional supporting characters with problems of their own.

This is also yet another book that promises the action will continue in the form of a sequel (which has also been added to my to-read list).

 

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard – A Rambling Review

Supporting Indie Authors #book review

background image courtesy of Unsplash.com

I have two children under the age of ten which apparently means that I have two people who can somehow muster the strength to throw every single pillow or cushion off a bed or couch without breaking a sweat and yet can’t seem to muster the energy required to close the door all the way as they run in and out of the house. If this weren’t special enough, the blasts of air-conditioned air they’ve been so generous to share with the wide wide world have become like a welcoming beacon for all sorts of guests of the insect variety.

Particularly flies. There have been so many flies this year.

I will be sitting at my computer, trying to get a post written for you lovely people when buzzzzzz! I will be dive-bombed in the head by a particularly noisy specimen. It’s really beginning to have an impact on my work. To make matters worse, these flies not only don’t have any respect at all for personal boundaries, I’m even starting to suspect they are purposely trying to thwart my writing attempts. Case in point, one morning, I turned my back a second only to find that one had thrown itself inhto my morning coffee. I told it while dumping the mug out, that ruining my coffee was just being cruel, but I don’t think it cared.

I’ve tried the hunt and swat method. I’ve tried the “GUYS, FOR THE LAST TIME SHUT THE DOOR!” method too. Nothing seems to work. For every fly I remove, another one seems to pop up in its place.

It’s like whack a mole, except the only tickets you gain after playing, are receipts from the groceries you’ve had to buy to replace the food they’ve ruined.

It’s also remarkably hard to achieve a zen way of thinking or discuss a life lesson when flies are around, believe me I’ve tried. I guess that’s why kung fu masters in movies are always trying to ask students to catch them. Speaking of flies, I wanted to share another book I’ve recently read.

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard

First – if sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll turn you off, this is not the book for you. That’s not my attempt at a reverse psychology sales pitch, but an honest warning. Seriously, pick something else.

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Set in the 1970s in Great Britain, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story much in the vein of movies such as Adventureland, American Pie, or The Way Way back, except set on the other side of the Atlantic.

Nineteen-year-old Harry Spittle has returned home from university, only to be told he is expected to pay rent. He takes the first job he can find as a waiter at a nearby hotel, where he gets to know a wide variety of people including sadistic chefs, small town gangsters, pretty girls, and overly competitive pumpkin growers, but really the story is about him getting to better know himself.

I admit, I didn’t immediately follow the story due to British idioms I didn’t quite understand, but once I was more familiar with the characters’ mannerisms, I found it to be an enjoyable read. Often humorous, the descriptions are particularly well done, straddling that fine line between too little and too much. I was especially amused during the scenes featuring Harry’s mother’s cooking. It almost seemed as if the author might have been pulling from personal experience.

But the downside of any coming of age story is the reminder that eventually we all have to grow up. Just as this book made me reflect upon my first summer jobs it is a reminder that one day my children will no longer be children too. I may no longer have to worry about the door being left ajar or the buzzing of flies they’ve let inside, but I won’t hear the sound of their games, their jokes, or their laughter on a daily basis either.

So as much as the buzzing sound annoys me, if it also means I get to enjoy my kids being kids, I’ll guess I’ll find a way to put up with it a while longer.

A Thousand Rooms by Helen Jones: A Rambling Review

Supporting Indie Authors #book review

It is a rare book that makes me care about the characters before the end of the first act. A Thousand Rooms, by Helen Jones – this book, had me crying before I’d even read ten percent.

Repeatedly.

And not just a little. I had to put it down more than once in order to not alarm my family.

What begins as a tale about a woman dealing with her own post-existence, turns into a story about society’s different takes on the word Heaven, how we cope with loss, and the different forms love and acceptance takes along the way. While I may have cried in the beginning, there were reasons to laugh too.

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But what I found most intriguing about the story was the idea that a soul could be stuck waiting for a ride that doesn’t come like a child left to sit on the curb while they wait for their absent-minded parent to realize it was their day to pick them up from school. When the protagonist, a young woman named Katie, having piggy-backed her way with other recently deceased, finally reaches her heaven, I found myself more angry on her behalf at those who were expected to greet her on the other side than relieved she’d found her peace and as a result less able to accept the zen of the place even though the author, Helen Jones’ writing remained superb throughout. I realize now I expected a larger confrontation – even if it was in Heaven.

It probably didn’t help that it’s been a rough week at the office.

I returned from an extended holiday weekend to learn that there had been three deaths. One, a colleague’s ninety-five-year-old mother whose life could be celebrated and was for its fullness even though the loss still hurt. Another’s mother, a seventy-seven-year-old teacher, counselor, and fellow writer whose cancer, thought to be in remission, spread rather than retreat. And then, as there seems to be truth in the saying that these things tend to happen in threes, a member of my team, who at the age of thirty-one, was simply gone one morning for reasons that have not been determined and reasons I will not speculate on here.

We have journeyed across the globe, reached for the stars, explored the seas, and discovered particles within particles of matter. And yet, time or more specifically, the length of our time, a quantity that is so intimately and individually ours, remains one of the greatest unknowns. Per the first line A Thousand Rooms, “you don’t wake up expecting to die.” At least, most of us don’t.

Between this book and the past few days, I have been reminded yet again of the importance of surrounding yourself with the people and activities that bring you joy, the reason to value the experience over the thing, the call to be mindful, and why it is so very important to appreciate the everyday.

So if I am hugging my babies a little tighter right now, so be it. I am sure they’ll understand in the end. But to be clear, when my time comes – whoever, whatever, you are on the other side, I expect you to be there for me and waiting.

 

How can I support awesome #indieauthors?

background image courtesy of Unsplash.com

background image courtesy of Unsplash.com

How about a review or two (or three)?

Amazon recently changed its review policy so that fake reviews, or reviews in which someone raves about a book they’ve never read or product they’ve never used, more difficult to post. It is a policy designed to protect the reader / buyer (a good thing!) however, one of the side effects of their more stringent rules is it is now more difficult for independent authors increase their book’s exposure.

Why is that? 

Reviews matter, not just to other potential readers, but to marketing services and other press. Many sites won’t let an author even pay for an ad unless a book has achieved a certain quantity of ratings with an average star rating of 3.5 or higher. So tougher rules and more hoops potential reviewers have to go through mean greater difficulty for authors to gain the necessary number of reviews needed to play in the market’s big leagues.

The Fair & Foul received a few new positive reviews recently (thank you!) and knowing how very difficult it can be to gain these, I thought I would express my gratitude for those who have given me a chance by paying it forward and sharing some reviews of a few books I’ve read recently that might not be on your radar.

So without further ado

Descent (A Stone Mountain Mystery #1)Descent by Kristina Stanley (genre: mystery)

In Descent, author Kristina Stanley introduces readers to Kalin, HR manager at Stone Mountain Sky resort as well as several other individuals who either support or participate on an aspiring Olympic racing ski team. Before long Kalin finds herself promoted to Director and is placed in charge of human resources as well as security, a role that forces her to utilize her people reading skills to solve a different sort of problem. If that weren’t challenge enough, her boss expects results immediately. Specifically, the name of the person responsible for the death of one of the competitive skiers.

Told through several points of views, nearly every character is given a potential motive for the crime with clues scattered throughout. I found myself rooting for Kalin, not only to solve the mystery but also to succeed professionally as a director (the fact she has two different colored eyes like I do was a bonus). It is obvious that Ms. Stanley is very familiar with life at a resort her tale not only entertained me but also educated me on the world of competitive skiing.

This cozy mystery also includes romance, overly confident exes, small town gossip, animal lovers, and the great outdoors. Those who require high-speed chases, cloaks, daggers, or other gun play in their mysteries may be disappointed. As I am not one of those people, I found the book to be engaging and have since read the sequel, which I also recommend.

Oak and Mist (The Ambeth Chronicles, #1)Oak and Mist by Helen Jones (genre: YA fantasy)

I knew going into this story that it was about a young girl who enters a fairy-like realm, however, what I didn’t expect was the author’s style of writing which was as delicate and beautiful as the magical world she’d created.

Helen Jones has written a modern YA fantasy adventure and yet reads like a something you might expect from David and Leigh Eddings. There are all the elements I’ve grown to expect in the genre, which may or may not be a good thing depending on taste: a love triangle, cunning dark creatures, altruistic beings of the light, prophecy, lost heirs, and hidden artifacts of power, but the beautiful prose makes is what really sets it apart from other recent additions to the genre.

There were certain plot elements that confounded me such as the point of a family heirloom that burns the owner when danger is near but can be rendered useless with a simple touch or exactly how the artifacts of power are expected to work, but I am confident that these questions will be answered in later books. All in all, this is a very promising start to the series.

UnHappeningsUnhappenings by Edward Aubry (genre: Science Fiction)

I picked up this book before going on vacation, which proved to be great timing on my part as I wasn’t able to put it down.

The protagonist, Nigel Walden, is a fairly average guy, except for one small problem: things keep unhappening to him. It is a term he uses to describe the phenomena in which his memories don’t line up with the memories of those around him. He copes as best he can, accepting that he simply can’t form attachments with anyone or anything until the day he meets a woman asking for his help who not only knows all about his condition asking but seems to know more than she is telling about his future.

The author uses extremely short chapters to tell the story, which can be a bit of a distraction but does serve to keep the pages turning and the plot twists as Nigel learns more about the cause behind his affliction.

This is science fiction in the same vein as The Butterfly Effect  or the show Timeless and is a story as much about fate as it is about unforeseen consequences.


Update from last week: For those who read my post from last week, Hurricane Matthew did stop by for a visit, bringing with it several inches of rain as well as strong gusts. We experienced mild damage and had swamp-like conditions temporarily develop in the yard, but were otherwise unharmed. Thank you to all who reached out to express your concern. I am truly touched. My thoughts, however, remain with those who were not as fortunate as I was.

The Fair and Foul by Allie Potts, a review.

What an unexpected surprise and a great way to start my day. Of course, now I have to work doubly hard on the next one.

Note: Eric Klingenberg, a very entertaining blogger worth reading and author of the review, updated the link to his original post. Those interested can now find it at https://erick79.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/the-fair-and-foul-by-allie-potts-a-review/

Eric's blog

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This is a sci/fi book with a bit of romance thrown in. It follows the adventures of a scientist Juliane in the near future as she works for a cutting edge technology company. She and her fellow scientists come up with some amazing advancements, that will benefit mankind. As you would expect things don’t go to plan and not every one’s motives are pure.

What I didn’t like;

Well to be honest the genre, I’m not a huge fan of science fiction or romance for that matter. I found the lack of magic wands, broomsticks, dragons and young men leaving home to follow an impossible yet vital quest a bit disappointing.

What I did like;

Pretty much everything, I thought I wouldn’t like the book as I said really not my sort of thing. The opening is excellent and well judged, just enough about the heroine’s childhood for the choices…

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