Monday, July 25, 2011

Shift Happens: The New E-Publishing Paradigm and What It Means for Writers by Rick Cook

SHIFT HAPPENS: The New E-Publishing Paradigm And What It Means For AuthorsSHIFT HAPPENS: The New E-Publishing Paradigm And What It Means For Authors by Rick Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great little book, for a few reasons. One, it's short, and can be read in one sitting easily. Two, it's clear. There's no technical jargon or difficult to understand processes. And three, it's honest. It tells you that it is possible, but it's also going to require effort on your part.

What it is not is some sort of get rich quick nonsense. It's not full of special insider info or secrets. It is a straigtforward guide to what is happening in the world of publishing today, and how, with just a little information and the willingness to devote time to doing some basic marketing, a writer can use the world of e-publishing to sell books. It is also written from the perspective of a writer, and not that of a large scale publishing house. There is practical advice here from a common sense approach.

I think this is a valuable book for anyone who writes and who wants to try and figure out this new world of e-publishing. The writing is clear, the advice is sound and the information is presented in an easily understandable way. It will be a book you refer back to more than once.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly

The Time of the Dark (Darwath, #1)The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Much as I have always loved Barbara Hambly's work, I've not read the Dawarth books until now. Mainly because I had the last two of the initial trilogy and was waiting until I found the first one to read them. I eventually found it, but by then my to-read shelf had grown a life of its own and I just never pulled this one out. Until now.

And I was not disappointed. As always, Ms. Hambly spins a darn good tale, with action and suspense a-plenty. Though most of the book is set in an alternate world of kings, castles, wizards and creatures of the dark, it begins in modern day (well, modern to the time the book was published in the early 1980's) California, where Gil Patterson, a graduate student in history has been having dreams of a land far removed from her own. One evening, she wakes to find the wizard Ingold Inglorion in her kitchen. He has traveled from the alternate world, seeking a refuge against the day he must bring the only heir to the throne of his land through the Void between the worlds to escape the attacking Dark, an evil force which had lain dormant for thousands of years and was now waking to attack. Gil agrees and when the final attack commences, Ingold brings the baby Prince with him across the Void. They meet a young drifter, Rudy Solis and he and Gil are drawn back with Ingold to the wizard's world, where they will be trapped unless they and the survivors of the Prince's devastated realm can figure out a way to defeat the Dark.

One of my favorite things about Ms. Hambly's books has always been the characters, and they don't disappoint here. Rudy is likable, despite his somewhat flip attitude at times, Gil develops in character along with her newly found ability with a sword, Ingold is at once mysterious and powerful as well as gentle and shows a true sense of humor. Even the lesser characters leave their mark: the warrior known as the Icefalcon is aloof and fascinating, the arms master of the King's guard, Gnift, would put any drill sergeant to shame, and the young Queen Minalde is quiet and shy at first, but as fiercely protective of her son as any mother.

There are times where the story seems put on temporary hold for some background filling and building, but that's not unusual in a first of a trilogy story, and the lags are never too long before the action picks up again. The main conflict of this story is nicely resolved at the end, but leaves much to be told before the bigger story is done. And it leaves me eager to press on and read more.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest

Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Eden Moore, #1)Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was a bit reluctant to read this. Many of the online reviews I looked at classed it as horror, and I am not usually a fan of horror stories. But so many people also said that Ms. Priest is a good writer, and I decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did.

For one, it is not a strict horror story. Yes, there are ghosts all through the book, but there is really only one scene that could be called scary. (The one in the girl's bathroom at summer camp, but to me, it was more creepy than scary.) And there is killing and blood, but nothing that doesn't fit the story and it is not particularly gruesome. I've read worse.

The story is about Eden, a young woman who sees ghosts. She has been "haunted" by the spirits of three sisters, who are relatives of hers, since she was a young girl. Her aunt tells her that the ladies will never hurt her, and they don't. But the do raise questions for Eden, who has been raised by her aunt since her mother died when Eden was a baby. Eden's aunt is reluctant to answer Eden's questions about her mother and family, so Eden takes it upon herself to find out. As she digs deeper into her family tree, complex relationships are revealed and mysteries compound.

The story is told from Eden's point of view. She is a brash young lady, with a definite sarcastic edge. While a likeable character, her biting commentary on everything and everyone can get to be a bit much. The old Southern family value system is well done here, with secrets aplenty and family pride getting in the way of honesty. The closer Eden gets to the truth, the more walls she has to break down to find it.

The Southern gothic feel to the story is well written. It moves at a pretty good pace, with only a few points where there is some drag. It was an enjoyable, easily read book and a pretty decent ghost story.

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