Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Thanks - Top Ten Silly Holiday Things



I'm So Thankful for These Top Ten
Silly Holiday Things
(In no particular order-- they are all equally silly)

Hershey Kisses/Miniatures/Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in holiday wrapping
Because they just don't taste quite as good in their normal wrappers

Black Friday shopping starting at the beginning of November
Christmas in July is seriously only a few years away

Another semi-formal office Christmas party
Because the holidays are always the time when one wants to slip into that skintight, slinky dress that fit fine before Thanksgiving

My holiday ribbon cookies that everyone seems to love so much that they always ask me to bring them to every party I attend
I love nothing more than the three+ hours it takes to make these little devils... well maybe the five minutes it takes everyone to scarf them down. If anyone else says "you should have made more" I'll be the one dancing with a turkey on my head

My husband's special holiday punch-- the alcoholic variety
Nothing livens up a dull party like my husband's holiday punch made with Bacardi 151. That ho-hum Christmas block party suddenly generates delicious book plots for me to use in the coming year

The friends/family who love to experiment with holiday dinners
You know the ones-- it looked great on TV or in a magazine so they have to try it when twenty people are coming for dinner. It's invariably a disaster worth talking about for weeks to come

Holiday shopping with friends
Watching them whip together the perfect decor along with the perfect gifts for everyone makes me feel all warm and cozy... it's happiness, not envy-- I swear

Unofficial holiday home decoration contests
By the time Christmas rolls around, my entire neighborhood is lit up bright as day since everyone keeps adding to their decorations in an attempt to outshine everyone else

Beautiful blown glass ornaments
Whether they are heirloom or not, these tree ornaments are gorgeous and so special... until the cat picks the glass ornament out of fifty (non-breakable) others and knocks it to the floor creating a rather spectacular mess. It's also fun finding the cat nesting in the top branches of the tree and all of the ornaments on the floor

Endless holiday emails
Nothing makes one feel more special than the amount of email received. It's so glorious to open my email in the morning to find it tripled due to the holiday season. I feel like a celebrity

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Finish it or Die -- Um, Not for Me!

DNF- three dreaded letters for authors and readers alike. Many authors I know shiver at the mere mention, while book bloggers debate when to DNF a book. I prefer to look at DNF in a different way. Once again I cite personal taste as a possible factor for a reader to DNF a book. Think about it... if the book were truly bad, would there be any legitimate three, four, or five star reviews?

We all DNF for different reasons and at different rates. I have blogger friends who will finish a book they dislike simply because they hate leaving anything unfinished. A reader commented on my writer blog that she wasn't overly fond of my first book, but she was going to read book two anyway because she likes to continue a series once started (these are standalone books). That blew me away! Why on earth would anyone read something they didn't really want to just for the sake of continuity. I actually advised her against reading it. Silly right? But the second book was similar in style to the first, and I want people to enjoy my writing, not force themselves to read it if it's not their style.

Personal taste. Roll those words around your brain for a minute or two. There are so many different genres and tropes, not everyone will love everything. Look at reviews for the classics, or pull up your favorite book on Goodreads. See all the one and two star reviews. Shocking, huh. How could those people hate something I loved?! Are they all touched in the head? Nah, we are all different in so many ways, of course that difference would show in our taste in reading material.

Love triangle. Love at first sight. Fated match. Do you love these romance tropes or do they make you cringe? This is just one small example about how at odds readers can be. I don't mind love at first sight, but I don't like love triangles and fated matches. They aren't a complete deal breaker, but I'll think twice about reading a book featuring either of those.

I have read several indie books with poor editing, plot holes, and numerous glaring errors. They were DNF for me because I just couldn't see past the basic problems to enjoy the story. These books have tons of great reviews on Amazon. Obviously lack of editing doesn't deter all readers. Frankly I was shocked by the glowing reviews... it didn't make a lick of sense to me. Maybe it was the FREE price tag that led to more lenient readers. Lack of editing is a major reason that I will DNF a book.


Me after diving into a poorly edited book

Now I'll let you in on a little secret. I DNF about 1/3 of the books I read. Can you believe that? 33%. I don't review these books, since I refuse to waste any more of my time on them. I'll read between 1/3 to 1/2 of a book before making that fateful decision... sometimes much less if it's an editing or poor writing issue. I DNF with zero guilt, and I never look back.

After taking a quick look back through my lists, I have made the following determinations:

Reasons for DNF:
Poor editing or dislike of overall voice/style: 40%
Not to my taste: 60%
These aren't hard and fast numbers, they do change, but they tend to run pretty close to sixty/forty.

Books that were DNF:
Self-published: 70%
Trad-published: 30%
These numbers change as well.

In the last year I DNF'd a book by Harper Collins, one by a subsidiary of Penguin, one by Harlequin, and several more from Big Five publishers. These were DNF'd for plot/writing style or just personal taste. Not one was a poor editing DNF (kind of a given, huh)

The self-pubbed titles are harder to pin down, but they tended to fall more in the poor editing/dislike of writing style than personal taste category.

What I read in a normal year:
50% self-pubbed
50% trad-pubbed
I try to keep it even because I like to support indie authors.

So, to sum up: life is too short to read a book you do not like. There is no shame in putting that book down and finding something more suited to your personal taste. There is no shame in not liking something the herd likes. There is no shame in expressing your own opinions. Individuality is so underrated.

I'd like to note that most of my favorite books of 2014 were self-published works or published by small presses. I'd also like to give an honorable mention to Entangled Publishing-- I've never read anything they published that I didn't like. Many authors are choosing the self-pubbed or small press route because the terms are better. Please don't discount an author simply because they weren't published by a large press.

Do you DNF books? Does it make you feel guilty? How do you feel when you hate a book everyone seems to be raving about? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book Review: Honor Among Orcs by Amalia Dillin

Honor Among Orcs
Orc Saga: Book One

Amalia Dillin

New Adult Fantasy Romance
Thorskona Books
March 27, 2014

Amazon * Goodreads

Tolkien meets Beauty and the Beast in this new fantasy by Amalia Dillin, author of the Fate of the Gods trilogy. 

After nearly a decade as the king’s whipping-girl, Princess Arianna has no intention of going quietly into marriage to some treasonous noble, or serving obediently as the king’s spy until her death is more convenient. When she discovers a handsome orc, chained and trapped inside a magic mirror, Arianna cannot help but see a lasting freedom from her father's abuse.

Left to rot inside a mirror by the king, Bolthorn never imagined his prayers would be answered by a princess. Nor did he ever expect to meet so worthy a woman after knowing her father’s cruelty. He needs her help to escape the mirror before the king marches against the orcs, but all he can offer Arianna is ice and darkness in exchange for her aid.

If Arianna can free the monster behind the glass, perhaps she might free herself, as well. But once they cross the mountain, there will be no return, and the deadly winter is the least of what threatens them on the other side.

Fans of Kristin Cashore's FIRE and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings will appreciate the collision of romance, adventure, and epic fantasy -- all with a new adult edge -- in Honor Among Orcs.

My Review: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

Honor Among Orcs is a sweeping romantic fantasy featuring two characters as alike on the inside as they are different on the outside.

Arianna is a princess with no freedom and no hope for the future. She suffers her father's cruelty, which runs not only to beatings but giving her company to nobles for their entertainment. She is battered and bruised in body, but her spirit remains. Inspiring really-- she is one of those characters who the reader can't help but rally behind. Bolthorn may be called a monster by humans, being an orc and all. But there is nothing monstrous about his personality. Though he knows that Arianna is his only chance for freedom, he still cares about her welfare and happiness from the beginning of their encounters.

The prose is beautifully written with an old world charm that sucks the reader into the story. Vivid descriptions become a bit repetitive at times, especially if you're the type of reader looking for fast-paced action. The story progresses slowly as Arianna and Bolthorn plot and plan their escape. I'm a bit impatient, and there were times when I wanted to give Arianna a swift kick to get things moving faster.

This is truly a sweeping epic fantasy with lots of adventure and a rather sweet romance. Though it moved a tad slower than I liked, I still really enjoyed the plot. Arianna and Bolthorn are great characters. If you like fantasy romance, be sure to add Honor Among Orcs to your TBR list.



About the Author


Amalia Dillin began as a Biology major before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn't stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats--to pull her chariot through the sky, of course. 

Amalia is the author of the Fate of the Gods trilogy, and the new Orc Saga, beginning with HONOR AMONG ORCS.

Links: Website ♥ Facebook ♥ Twitter ♥ Goodreads

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blog Tour: Soul Journey by Miranda Shanklin - Guest Post


Soul Journey
Soul Series book 1

Miranda Shanklin

Release Date: August 31, 2014
Presented by: As You Wish Tours



It has been many lifetimes since the cycle began. 

The cycle that still haunts Annisa Lawson. 

A spell cast in desperation to help, which only caused heartache. 

Now, Annisa has found her way out of the varying repeats of her past; only to bring more danger to herself, and those around her. Now she must learn to survive with the help of her friends: Chase, Penelope, and Landon have all gone through each life cycle with Annisa. Sometimes helping, sometimes hindering. Now that Annisa has broken the cycle of their collective punishment, she finds that she needs her friends more than ever to keep their enemies, known, and unknown, at bay. As the group of friends learn of their souls' journeys through their many life cycles, they must also learn to control the magick they have discovered within themselves and each other, in order to defeat the most feared assassin in their world. 

This or That with Miranda Shanklin
                                     
Summer or Winter?                                      Summer
Morning or Night?                                        Night
Tea or Coffee?                                              Coffee
Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings?               Harry Potter
Dogs or Cats?                                               Cats
McDonalds or Burger King?                          Neither (not a big fan of fast food)
Cake or Pie?                                                  Pie
The Simpsons or Family Guy?                      Simpsons
Fantasy or Reality?                                        Fantasy
Pancake or Waffles?                                      Waffles
Baked or Fried?                                             Depends on the food. Usually baked.
Hamburgers or Hotdogs?                              Hamburgers
Pen or Pencil?                                               Pen
Video Games or Board Games?                     Board games
Shower or Bath?                                            Shower
Rain or Snow?                                               Rain (I hate the snow!!)
Vampire or Wolf?                                           Wolf
Rock or Rap?                                                 Rock
Ketchup or Mustard?                                     Ketchup
Love or Money?                                             Love
Movies or Reading?                                       Reading
80’s or 90’s Music?                                        80’s
Comedy or Horror?                                        Depends on my mood
Adult or YA?                                                  Depends on my mood
Halloween or Christmas?                               Christmas (It is my favorite Holiday)
Lucky Charms or Trix?                                   Lucky Charms
White Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?               White Chocolate
Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew?                         Dr. Pepper
Hotel or Tent?                                                 Hotel
Walking Dead or The Vampire Diaries?           The Vampire Diaries
Boots or flip flops?                                         Flip flops


About the Author

Miranda Shanklin resides in Central Illinois with her husband and their two children. When she is not working at her day job as a paralegal, running her children to practices or supporting them at events she is writing. She has been an avid reader most of her life and has always dreamed of writing her own books someday. Now that her children are reaching their teenage years she is finding the time to sit down and chase her dream.
Miranda loves to hear your opinions and uses the feedback to improve. You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mirandashanklinauthor or email her at mlshanklin@gmail.com.


Book Links

Amazon
B&N
Smashwords
Goodreads

Author Links

Amazon
B&N
Smashwords
Goodreads
Facebook



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review: Rite of Rejection by Sarah Negovetich

http://www.sarahnegovetich.com/p/author.html

Rite of Rejection

Sarah Negovetich

Releasing December 4th, 2014

Pre-order Available now at AmazonB&NKobo & iTunes

Straight-laced, sixteen-year-old Rebecca can’t wait for her Acceptance. A fancy ball, eligible bachelors, and her debut as an official member of society. Instead, the Machine rejects Rebecca. Labeled as a future criminal, she’s shipped off to a life sentence in a lawless penal colony.
A life behind barbed wire fences with the world’s most dangerous people terrifies Rebecca. She reluctantly joins a band of misfit teens in a risky escape plan, complete with an accidental fiancĂ© she’s almost certain she can learn to love.
But freedom comes with a price. To escape a doomed future and prove her innocence Rebecca must embrace the criminal within.


My Review: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

I featured Rite of Rejection in a cover/chapter reveal at the beginning of November. While dystopian is not my go to genre, I just had to read this book after reading Chapter One. Beautifully written with a great main character, Rite of Rejection did not disappoint. Frankly, this novel had the best first chapter that I've read in a long time. I was sucked in from page one.

Ms. Negovetich does an amazing job with main character Rebecca. We are thrown into her life at a major turning point. It didn't take many pages for me to develop feelings for this character. While I enjoyed all of the characters in the story, none were quite as developed as Rebecca. There are so many stories about these interesting people waiting to be told, hopefully in future books. I really wanted a bit more about the main secondary characters, especially Daniel and Eric. Eric was an enigma whose actions I had trouble understanding.

The first third to half of the book is amazing-- can't put it down even if I had to amazing. It slowed a bit at the halfway point before picking up again toward the end. It's rather interesting in that the first portion of the book takes place over a few days, while the later part over a few months. Sometimes I felt like things were a bit rushed in the second half. There were many instances when I was left wanting more: detail, explanation, just more.

The imagery in this novel is very well written. I swear there were times I could smell and taste the stink of the PIT. The ending was intriguing. While some would call it a cliffhanger, it still satisfied my need for some resolution. I'm not sure if the author planned this as a series or not, but the ending can serve either purpose. Personally I would devour more and gladly. I have a mountain of questions in need of answers. I highly recommend Rite of Rejection to everyone, even those who think they don't like dystopian. This novel might just change your mind.


Sarah Negovetich knows you don't know how to pronounce her name and she's okay with that.

Her first love is Young Adult novels, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty; it's accurate if not exactly motivational. We should come up with a better cliché.

Sarah divides her time between writing YA books that her husband won’t read and working with amazing authors as an agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency. Her life’s goal is to be only a mildly embarrassing mom when her kids hit their teens.

You can learn more about Sarah and her books at www.SarahNegovetich.com or follow her antics on Twitter @SarahNego.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Blitz: Unresisting by Shane Morgan - Excerpt, Trailer & Giveaway


Welcome to the Unresisting book blitz hosted by itching for books.
This is the first in a YA Supernatural trilogy.

15168751Series: The Unresisting #1
Release date: November 28th 2014
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Seventeen year old Natasha Johnson is having a rough year. Her twin brother, Sean, died last summer after a car crash, and her parents decided to pack up and leave the only home she’d known all her life. It's a lot to take in, and Nat has decidedly given up on the world, until moving to Stetson Valley and meeting high school ‘outcast’, Chace Owens.

Chace's dark and mysterious aura is not exactly seen as 'normal', but Nat already knows that not a lot of things are of the norm when it comes to her life. She soon finds herself unable to resist Chace's strange pull on her heart, unleashing a sudden attraction to the unnatural forces that have always been burning within her. But with uncovering her true self brings forth great danger, as Nat learns that her brother's death had a lot more to do with the side she's unable to resist.

Can Natasha calm the blazing flames and withstand the threat of danger, or will this new found power destroy her?




ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shane Morgan is a bestselling author of contemporary romance, suspense, and urban fantasy. She lives in the beautiful town of Narragansett, Rhode Island with her amazing husband, who doesn't mind being surrounded by books, or inspiring the male characters in her stories. Aside from writing, Shane enjoys blogging, reading, listening to indie music and watching movies.



EXCERPT

After releasing a long breath, Chace pulled back on the road and continued driving in silence.
I wanted so badly to clear the air. “Chace,” I started. “I—Ah!”
Something ran into us. The tires screeched against the asphalt. Chace tried to regain control of his Mustang, but it was no use. We flipped over.
Luckily, we were both wearing seatbelts. Safety first! Dad would be proud. Was it really the seatbelts that saved us, or the fact that we were both abnormal?
Stars danced before my eyes. I could hear Chace trying to free himself to get us out of the car.
“Nat, are you okay? There’s something—” his voice trailed. A loud bang resounded above our heads. Something pounded on the bottom, which was now the top since we were upside down. Whatever it was relentlessly hammered on the car.
Chace pried himself from the seat and got me loose. We managed to climb out my window, only seconds before the car got flung over to the other side of the road.
Our mouths opened wide in shock; it stood before us, eyes blood red with scales all over its arms and legs. A beast you couldn’t even describe as being straight out of a storybook, because such an ugly thing had never been portrayed before.
The beast growled, foam dripping from the corners of its mouth. It was gigantic. I almost pissed myself at the sight.
“What the hell is that?” I managed to ask.
Chace gripped my hand tightly and yelled, “Run!”
We darted into the woods, the beast right at our backs. We managed to put some distance between us as it crashed into trees and jerked itself. Still, it wouldn’t let up. It just kept coming.
We ran deep into the forest. I started panting. My right ankle ached. I made it a few more feet when my knees buckled and I fell.
Chace dropped down fast and tried pulling me up. “C’mon, Nat, it’s getting closer. Get up!” he shouted.
I couldn’t move. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. My legs were cramping so much.
My throat felt parched and my voice came out rasped as I uttered, “I can’t.” I pushed him to go on. His grasp only tightened.
His eyes expanded. “Are you crazy? I’m not leaving you. Come on!” He pulled me up and I hopped with him over to a large redwood tree, nuzzling up to the crusty root as the beast drew close. I knew it was only a matter of time before it found us. My heart was beating so loud a deaf person could hear it.
I covered my mouth and pressed into Chace. We stood still as he wrapped his arms around my body in protective mode.
The beast stopped running and began searching the area, sniffing out our scents like a dog.
Great! It’s definitely going to find us now.
The grotesque-looking creature treaded up behind the tree where we hid. Chace and I crouched quietly, staring at each other, mystified.
Everything went really still, like the part of the movie where there was absolutely no music in the background, not even the sound of breathing, and you knew something was about to happen.
Unable to hear the beast at all, we gave each other a perplexed glance over. Then suddenly, it pushed its head around the tree and growled at us.
Instantly, Chace pushed me to the ground and flung himself over me. The beast raised a hand to stomp on him and I screamed, “No!”
Flames sprang out of my chest toward it. Its hand caught on fire and the beast backed away fast, snarling horridly and flashing its hand to put out the flames. I eased myself from beneath Chace and rose to my feet. He grabbed me.
“Nat, what are you doing?”
I brushed him off and edged closer to the beast. My insides filled with unbelievable power. It gave me such a rush. A desire I’d never felt before. I loved it. I yearned for more flames to appear, and obediently, my whole body lit up. This time it blazed more, so much more.
The beast spun around and made a low, guttural sound of anger at my presence. It charged at me, and I sent huge balls of fire from both my hands until its entire body was engulfed in flames. It groaned in agony and fell to the ground, creating an enormous tremor. Vibrations rushed the area, throwing me backwards. I tumbled to the ground as the beast exploded, showering the ground with burnt flesh.
When my flames finally cooled, my body was drenched in sweat. I stood, though I was exhausted.
Chace looked at me with amazement painted across his face. He started walking toward me. Before he could reach me, I became dizzy and collapsed right back to the ground.
Darkness awaited my return.


BOOK TRAILER





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What do you think?

I love the cover- it caught my eye immediately. After reading the blurb, excerpt, and seeing the trailer, I'm sold. I've read contemporary romance by Shane Morgan and really enjoyed it. Paranormal is my favorite genre, so this one is definitely headed for my TBR list!

Book Blitz: Out of Sync by A. Bin Juran - Excerpt, Guest Post & Giveaway



Out of Sync
Out of Sync #1

A. Bin Juran

YA Paranormal Romance
October 23, 2014

Amazon * B&N * Smashwords * iTunes * Kobo

I’m a magical misfit
I won’t let it define me
A bolt-zapping disaster magnet
But at least I’m still trying
The guy I like asked me out
I hoped my luck was changing
Then my coven trials began
…they’re harder than I expected
Now my life hangs in the balance
I don’t know what I’m doing
But I do know this:
I’m not going down without a fight.

‘Out of Sync’ is a YA paranormal romance about a magical misfit who faces her perilous coven trials, falls in love and nearly dies more times than seems polite to mention.

Excerpt

When I opened my eyes, I noticed that I had been perched upright in a hallway across from one of the purification pods. A disembodied voice congratulated me on completing my second trial, somehow aware that I had regained consciousness.
My throat went dry as my eyes searched for cameras, paranoia surging throughout my system. These people were crazy; there was no other explanation for what I had just been through.
I swerved away from the pods; sure, it would be nice to be clean, but that’s how they got you— with the pristine, warm showers and scented soap. Before you knew what was going on, they would try to kill you again. In the back of my mind I wondered why they needed to clean you in between the attempts on your life, but I wasn’t about to try to understand their crazy.
I just wanted out.
Once I found my way out into the open air, I saw the hooded figures had reconvened.
One of them was speaking, and I could hear him clearly, as if he was standing right beside me, drowning out my thoughts. “Your next testing phase will commence within the next few days.”
A chill passed through me.
I steeled myself. No. Nope. Not gonna happen, buddy, I decided.
“The third trial is set by the coven which has shown interest in you, based on your scores, rank and lineage.
If you pass, the elemental trials will follow throughout the next few months, according to the full moon . . . .”
My ears buzzed as the announcer’s voice began chanting from inside my skull. My body was still shaking off the numbness in my muscles and the contrasting heat in my limbs.
I had to find a way out of here. The cold air was biting, sinking into my skin, clawing at me from beneath my clothes.
The announcer’s voice joined the crowd in chant, and the magic began to swell around me.
Guest Post by A. Bin Juran
Random clips from the (unofficial) school newsletter

Here are some clips from the unofficial Monroe Private School for the Study of Witchcraft newsletter:

o     When manifesting garments, be advised that these types of spells usually last three hours. Please allow for a change of clothes. Just to remind you, their pleasant rosy after-scent will dissipate as well, and is not a substitute for deodorant.

o     The introduction of the fire-breathing dragon into the curriculum has been proven to accelerate running speeds during P.E. classes, as well as aid in the development of new and innovative self-defense techniques. We stress that no permanent harm has been caused to neither dragon, nor students; faculty notwithstanding.

o     The ghosts that visit the school are our guests; please treat them as such. Note that it is not polite to ask them personal questions outside of class.

o     While we neither admit nor deny allegations regarding the existence of vampires, genies and/or goblins, we still reserve the right to refuse them entry onto school grounds.

o     The use of potions and spells on your fellow students outside of class is strictly forbidden. We have safeties in place to assure that they will almost never work as expected anyway, so we suggest you refrain from them altogether. If, despite this warning, you’ve been exposed to either, please do not panic. The effects are temporary and shall pass.
o     It has come to our attention that some garments have been afflicted with spontaneous staining. So far, this issue seems to be limited to white shirts. Your complaints have been registered and will be attended to in due time; we are currently dealing with more pressing concerns, since it appears someone forgot to send the dragon back home.

About the Author

When not immersed in books - be it writing or reading them - Ainat can usually be found nestling a cup of coffee in the company of her husband and twins. A former fast-food employee, T-shirt seller, and glorified secretary, Ainat eventually found herself with Bachelor's and LL.M. degrees and working as a lawyer. A few years later, listening to a catchy pop song about dream fulfillment, Ainat decided to buy a clunky little laptop and get to work. Ten novels and a much better laptop later, she came to the realization that hitting the double-digit mark meant it was time to publish and start consuming coffee (though not necessarily in that order).

When she isn't writing, editing, or mothering, Ainat enjoys reading promiscuously (which, to her, means she's reading several novels at a time while committing to none), watching political dramas and sci-fi series, and taking embarrassing memos-to-self complete with accents and dramatic pauses that should never be unleashed, ever.

Author links:

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