07.08.15

A Flock of Shiny Stories!

Posted in Event at 12:06 am by Amber

Do you know what happened today? My friend’s latest anthology, CORVIDAE, was released.

Corvidae book cover

Associated with life and death, disease and luck, corvids have long captured mankind’s attention, showing up in mythology as the companions or manifestations of deities, and starring in stories from Aesop to Poe and beyond.

 

In Corvidae birds are born of blood and pain, trickster ravens live up to their names, magpies take human form, blue jays battle evil forces, and choughs become prisoners of war. These stories will take you to the Great War, research facilities, frozen mountaintops, steam-powered worlds, remote forest homes, and deep into fairy tales. One thing is for certain, after reading this anthology, you’ll never look the same way at the corvid outside your window.

 

Featuring works by Jane Yolen, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, M.L.D. Curelas, Tim Deal, Megan Engelhardt, Megan Fennell, Adria Laycraft, Kat Otis, Michael S. Pack, Sara Puls, Michael M. Rader, Mark Rapacz, Angela Slatter, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Leslie Van Zwol

As a fan of birds and Rhonda, I’m looking forward to reading this collection. Blue jays are not an uncommon sight in my neighborhood, though sightings of Rhonda Parrish are rare. In fact, she has yet to come this far South in her travels.

Corvidae is the second book in the Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries Series. I have to share some of the praise this anthology has received. You’ll notice it’s quite the mixture of professions.

“Smart and dark like the corvids themselves, this excellent collection of stories and poems will bring you a murder of chills, a tiding of intrigue, a band of the fantastic, and—most of all—an unkindness of sleepy mornings after you’ve stayed up too late reading it!”

— Karen Dudley, author of Kraken Bake

 

“Magic and corvids collide in this certain to intrigue anthology.”

— Joshua Klein, hacker and inventor of the crow vending machine

 

“A creepy, crazy kaleidoscope of corvids, Corvidae is what happens when you bring together ingenious writers and sagacious subjects. It’s nothing short of a thrill ride when this anthology takes flight.”

— Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D., Utah State University; behaviorworks.org.

 

“As sparkling and varied as a corvid’s hoard of treasures, Corvidae is by turns playful and somber, menacing and mischievous. From fairy tale to steampunk adventure, from field of war to scene of crime, these magical birds will take you to places beyond your wildest imaginings.”

—  Jennifer Crow, poet and corvid-by-marriage

 

Corvidae evokes the majesty and mischief of corvid mythologies worldwide—and beyond our world—in a collection that is fresh and thoroughly enjoyable.”

— Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger

To learn more about Corvidae visit the official World Weaver Press site.

07.04.15

Mid-Year Check-In

Posted in Status Report at 10:17 pm by Amber

I honestly can’t remember the last time I did a mid-year check-in to report on the books I’ve read and it feels like this would be as good a time as any to start these again. After all, it’s mid-year, right?

I still love to keep track of my books in LibraryThing but I’ve also joined Goodreads. This year I signed up for a 52-book reading challenge. According to the Goodreads statistics I’ve achieved 31% of my goal and I’m 10 books behind where I should be. My reading habits have changed. I used to read almost every day and now I can only grab 10 or 15 minutes a few times a week during lunch. It’s a luxury when I can read for a few hours in the evening or on the weekend.

Below is the list of books read so far in 2015 in no particular order:

  1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  2. Wisconsin Vamp by Scott Burtness
  3. Lock In by John Scalzi
  4. The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
  5. Station Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel
  6. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
  7. Hellfire & Damnation III by Connie Corcoran Wilson
  8. Assertiveness for Earth Angels: How to be Loving Instead of “Too Nice” by Doreen Virtue
  9. Gwendolen: A Novel by Diana Souhami
  10. White Heat 25 by Marco Pierre White
  11. The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg
  12. Balm: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
  13. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
  14. The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
  15. Deep Fried and Pickled by Paisley Ray
  16. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Are you participating in any reading challenges or looking to beat the number of books you read last year? I read 62 books in 2011 and haven’t been able to get close since then. The 52 is a stretch for me but I’m certain I can do it. I have a longish commute to work and started listening to audio books to make the trip seem not so long.

03.19.15

Hellfire & Damnation III by Connie Corcoran Wilson

Posted in Review at 8:50 am by Amber

Title: Hellfire & Damnation III
Author: Connie Corcoran Wilson
Publisher: Quad Cities’ Press
Source: The author in exchange for an honest review

Hellfire & Damnation III

As evidenced by the title, this book is the third short story collection in the Hellfire and Damnation series by Connie Corcoran Wilson. The unifying theme for the series is Dante’s nine circles of hell. It’s been a while since I had a chance to read a short story collection and this was a nice change of pace.

The not so good: A few of the stories have abrupt endings as though the author was trying to stay within a word goal. At least one seemed to have excessive repetitiveness which kept jarring me out of the story.

The good: The stories have an element of reality or truth as the starting point. This will give the reader a slight chill of recognition. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of gore and this was perfect to read during my lunch hour. These stories aren’t overly long but aren’t too short either. The characters are varied in ages, backgrounds and circumstances. Some short story collections suffer from similar stories and each has enough differences to set them apart. I’m willing to read more by this author.

Thank you to the author and Virtual Author Book Tours for arranging this stop on the book tour. Tomorrow’s tour stop is at Lisa’s Writopia which will include her own thoughts on this short story collection.

 

About The Author

Award winning author, Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (MS + 30) graduated from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and has written for five newspapers and seven blogs, including Yahoo, which named her its 2008 Content Producer of the Year. She is a member of ITW (International Thriller Writers), where she is a writer for their online newsletter, and a member of IWPA (Illinois Women’s Press Association, Chicago chapter), which awarded her its Silver Feather Award in 2012 and 2014, MWA (Midwest Writers Association), AWP (American Writing Program) and MWC (Midwest Writing Center), which named her its Writer of the Year in 2010. She has won numerous E-Lit awards, a NABE Pinnacle award, an ALMA (American Literary Merit Award), Lucky Cinda competition and two IWPA Silver Feather Awards (2012, 2014). Connie’s third book in “The Color of Evil” series, ‘Khaki=Killer’ was just named a Page-turner of the Year 2014 by “Shelf Unbound” and Writer’s Digest magazine in its December/January 2014-2015 issue!

 

Excerpt from Hellfire & Damnation III

Posted in Event at 8:45 am by Amber

VABT Logo

Connie Corcoran Wilson and Virtual Author Book Tours kindly arranged for me to share an excerpt as part of the book tour for Hellfire & Damnation III. I hope you enjoy it!

Circle Six: Heresy

 

The Final Victim

 

Lee had been drinking since late afternoon. It didn’t so much stop the

pain of the voices in his head, as clarify what the voices were saying.

 

     I’ll do the Reverend’s bidding, to a point, thought Lee. Reverend Jones

says Dave Downing has to die. If God or the devil wants poor old Dave dead,

He must give me some sort of sign. I ain’t no cold-blooded killer!

 

Lee took another swig of Old Milwaukee. He would have preferred

Jack Daniels, but he didn’t have the money.

 

Lee looked out the window of the shabby white house that stood be-

low the hill. High up on the hill was where the rich people lived. The poor

people lived down here. Lee was staring at the wet grass of his small yard.

It had rained less than an hour ago. He thought the drops of water on the

grass resembled the tears of some gigantic creature.

 

Lee popped the top of his sixth beer and glanced outside again.

 

Suddenly, birds. Thousands and thousands of birds. Black birds.

European starlings. They were everywhere! On his lawn. On the lawn of

the neighbor to his left, Ed Grant. On Rose Till’s lawn, his neighbor to the

right. He watched Rosie Till’s golden collie, Honey, barking furiously as

she chased the birds as far as her chain would allow.

 

“Melanie! Come quick! There’s birds everywhere! They’re peckin’ away

at our yard and Ed’s and Rosie’s.”

 

Melanie Elliot rushed down the stairs. She could hear the urgency in

her husband’s drunken voice. She stared in astonishment at the spectacle

taking place outside on their lawn.

 

“The weird thing is that the birds stop right there,” she said, pointing

to the perimeter of their neighbors’ lawns. Melanie was right. The birds

were covering nearly every inch of Lee’s lawn and Ed’s lawn and Rose’s lawn.

But the ubiquitous birds, clucking and pecking and sucking eagerly at the

earth’s bosom, stopped at the sidewalks of the two neighboring houses.

Only three lawns were infested by the omnipresent birds.

 

There were no birds across the street. There were no birds on any other

lawns beyond those three, which they could see by glancing up and down

Third Street. Only here, in their lawn and those of their two closest neighbors,

were there hundreds—thousands, even—of noisy, hungry, pecking black

birds, greedily digging with their beaks. But what were they digging for?

 

Melanie asked the question, “What do you think they’re eating? What

are they looking for, Lee?” She asked, “Are they migrating? Is there some

special food in just these three lawns that they’ve targeted? It’s so weird that

they aren’t across the street or, really, anywhere but on these three lawns.”

She shook her head in confusion.

 

Lee took a deep breath. He had just realized something that gave him

a start. He was going to have to admit to the Reverend that he had been

given a sign. The Reverend Jeremiah Jones had predicted to Lee just yes-

terday that he would be given a sign—a sign that he must follow Reverend

Jeremiah Jones’ instructions.

 

Jeremiah said to Lee, “The heavens might open up. You might hear a

loud voice telling you to do what I tell you. To do what is necessary. It has to

be the way I tell you. You’ll have to follow my directions. To the letter.” The

Reverend spoke slowly, in a stern tone of voice.

 

Lee thought, This must be the sign the Reverend was talking about.

What else could it be?

 

What Lee and Melanie Elliot were seeing defied logic. There was no

reasonable explanation for the sudden appearance of hordes of angry black

birds, mimicking Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds.

 

The small black creatures were everywhere: on the gables of the houses.

On the roofs of Lee’s house and his neighbors’ homes. On their lawns. In

the trees. Greedily pecking at the still-wet grass, searching for some mys-

terious food item. Some magic worm, perhaps? The entire experience left

both Lee and Melody chattering about the occurrence with their next-door

neighbors for hours afterwards. No one knew of any logical explanation.

 

But Lee thought he might know what it all meant. And he didn’t like

what it meant for his future.

 

To be continued on March 25th at What You Talking Bout Willis?

 

03.04.15

Lock In by John Scalzi

Posted in Review at 8:11 pm by Amber

Title: Lock In
Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Tor
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Lock In by John Scalzi

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four per cent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

New technologies emerge to help those who suffer from the condition—a virtual reality network and a system of “riding” in the bodies of other individuals—which are quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…

I read this for my Geek Girls Book Club and I really enjoyed it. I started reading it on a Sunday and had it completely read in time for book club on Tuesday. It starts with a prologue disguised as a web site entry. I’m not a fan of prologues in general but in this case it worked. It setup the world and answered questions the reader would have without dragging down the action.

One of the questions posed to the group: “Was Scalzi trying to make a point or statement with this book?” Some of the answers were really serious and tied into the other book discussed that night (The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker). I felt really inadequate when I said I thought there was some kind of bet between Scalzi and Joe Hill and this was the result. As a nod to Hill, Scalzi even incorporated a mention of Corgis near the end.

Overall, it’s an entertaining book. It has a mystery to solve in a future that has enough in common with the present that everything seems plausible.

01.05.15

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Posted in Review at 10:14 am by Amber

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Graphia
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Graceling

 

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

One of my resolutions for 2015 is to write my reviews within a week of finishing a book. So far I’m doing well! I started Graceling around the Christmas holiday and finished it a few days ago. If I keep this up, you should have lots of reviews to read this year.

If I had a grace it would be the ability to find something nice to say about anyone (with the exception of myself). What would your grace be?

Katsa is a strong female protagonist who I really enjoyed reading about. During the course of the novel she gains friends, learns to stand up for herself when it really matters, and faces the unknown.

Katsa and Prince Greening Grandemalion, nicknamed Po, spend quite a bit of time in hand to hand combat. This could’ve been really boring but Cashore knows just the right amount of details to give to keep the reader engaged. The pacing is right whether Katsa is riding a horse to make sure an alibi stays intact or Katsa is sitting with a weakened old man.

This is the first in a series and I’m looking forward to reading the others.

01.01.15

Black Lake: A Novel by Johanna Lane

Posted in Review at 9:36 pm by Amber

Title: Black Lake: A Novel
Author: Johanna Lane
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: ARC from the publisher

Black Lake by Johanna Lane

A debut novel about a family losing grip of its legacy: a majestic house on the cliffs of Ireland.

The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough–an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside–for generations. But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold: to keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum. He and his wife, daughter, and son will move from the luxury of the big house to a dank, small caretaker’s cottage. The upheaval strains the already tenuous threads that bind the family and, when a tragic accident befalls them, long-simmering resentments and unanswered yearnings Both hasurface.

As each character is given a turn to speak, their voices tell a complicated, fascinating story about what happens when the upstairs becomes the downstairs, and what legacy is left when family secrets are revealed.

I was asked to review this by the publication date (end of May) and I had read it by then but froze up when trying to think of what to say about this book. It’s one that deserves reflection and pieces of it will stay with the reader for a long time.

Have you heard of the Piatt Castles? They’re in a serene part of Ohio and one of the castles was opened up for tours in 1912 while the family was still living in it. The Piatt family certainly had its ups and downs. If there were any tragedies like the Campbell family, the Piatt’s have kept them hidden from public view and prying eyes. While I recently walked through these castles from the 1800s it was easy to reflect on the differences and similarities between the real and fictional families.

Both families have intertwined fates with their estates. Both have been faced with how much of their home should be turned over to the public and what improvements/updates should be made to retain the integrity of the original build while adding to the comfort of the residents.

This was one of my memorable reads of 2014.

12.12.14

Random House 12 Days of Giveaways

Posted in Giveaway at 10:10 pm by Amber

Each day Random House is spreading some joy by giving away books. Return each day for another chance. Today is Day 2.

08.10.14

The Beauty and the Sorrow Giveaway

Posted in Giveaway at 8:40 pm by Amber

Regal Literary is having another giveaway! The novel is set in WWI and the giveaway ends tomorrow. Here’s the link to read more about The Beauty and the Sorrow by Peter Englund and enter the giveaway.

05.13.14

A is for Apocalypse Cover Reveal Day

Posted in Event at 1:59 am by Amber

I love the premise behind A is for Apocalypse and I believe you will too.

What do you get when you take twenty-six amazing writers, randomly assign them a letter of the alphabet and give them complete artistic freedom within a theme?

A is for Apocalypse

A is for Apocalypse contains twenty-six apocalyptic stories written by both well-known and up-and-coming writers. Monsters, meteors, floods, war–the causes of the apocalypses in these tales are as varied as the stories themselves.

This volume contains work by Ennis Drake, Beth Cato, Kenneth Schneyer, Damien Angelica Walters, K. L. Young, Marge Simon, Milo James Fowler, Simon Kewin, C.S. MacCath, Steve Bornstein and more!

This collection was edited by Rhonda Parrish and the cover was designed by Jonathan Parrish. Expected date of publication is August 2014.

A is forApocalypse
Isn’t that a nice cover? Very simple. I think the sunset with the ghost text of the contributor’s names is a haunting image.

As part of the cover reveal, Rhonda asked some of the authors about their favorite “A” word. My favorite “A” word is Accoutrement. It’s a word that for a long time I just passed over whenever it was used in a book. But then it was used by Steve Carell in an episode of The Office and I’ve been hooked on it ever since.

If you’d like to get updates about A is for Apocalypse (including giveaways) there’s a mailing list signup here: http://eepurl.com/TzDN9

Without further ado, here’s Rhonda…

In choosing a theme for this, the first of a series of anthologies, I considered and rejected a great many “A” words. Tell us about your favourite word that begins with the letter A.

 

Alexis A. Hunter– As an author — ‘acceptance’ has a beautiful ring to it.  As a sci-fi writer — ‘apex’ is particularly engaging.  In general — ‘angel’ is one of my favorite words, because they’re one of my favorite ‘creature types’ to play with in stories.  Plus I have a thing for wings and feathers.

 

Michael Kellar – My “A” word would be arachnid. I’m a spider person. (You could consider this when you get to “S is for…”)

 

Damien Angelica Walters – My favourite word that begins with the letter A is anathema. It rolls off the tongue like a whisper, hiding its dark meaning in pretty syllables.

 

Marge Simon – Alliteration because it’s a beautiful word.  Sorry if it doesn’t connote anything bad, like assassin. 😉

 

Simon Kewin My favourite A word is (possibly) Archaeopteryx. I love the shape of the word. It’s exotic and fantastical and ungainly all at the same time – a little like the creature itself. It derives from the Greek archaeo (ancient) and pterux (wing). So, “Ancient Wing”. Archaeopteryx is a lovely illustration of the forces of evolution in progress; it’s a snapshot of a species in the process of changing from dinosaur ancestor to modern avian descendent. Here was a creature with a bony tail and teeth and feathers. And claws on its wings. I’d love to have seen one…

 

Sara Cleto – My favorite A word is amethyst, a purple-violet quartz often used in jewelry (particularly at Renaissance Faires!) As a little girl, I was obsessed with the color purple, and my mom’s amethyst jewelry was the subject of much fascination- I was sure the stones had some sort of magical property, and I seem to recall trying to do spells with them… And now, in my old age, I’m deeply amused by their purported ability to prevent excessive intoxication.

 

Beth Cato – Tricky question since my absolute favorite word begins with B. For A words, I have to say I like “anaphylactic.” It’s morbid, I know, since the meaning is a severe allergic reaction, but I like the word because it has a cool poetic rhythm.

 

Suzanne van Rooyen – This is really tough to answer! There are so many great words starting with A like analogy, allegory and awesome! But I think my favourite is actually a name. Atreyu. Atreyu – the character from The Never Ending Story – was my first major crush as a kid and that film was such a huge part of my childhood. If I ever have a son one day, his name is going to be Atreyu.

 

Brittany Warman – The first of my favorite words that begin with A that I thought of was “aurora” – not only is it frequently the name of the princess (or her daughter) from “Sleeping Beauty,” a favorite fairy tale of mine, but it was also my very first online screen name! I just love the concept and the way the word flows off the tongue too. It seems to convey mystery, beauty, and strength to me.

 

C.S. MacCath – My favourite ‘A’ word is ‘atonement’, because unlike ‘forgiveness’, it places the onus for righting a wrong where it belongs; upon the head of the person who committed it. If we were socialized to atone as much as we are already socialized to forgive, we might learn to be more careful with one another.

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