A Spell for the Revolution by C.C. Finlay

Posted in Review at 12:12 pm by Amber


After making early gains on the battlefields, General Washington’s struggling young armies are being relentlessly pressed back by British troops and Hessian mercenaries. Among the enemy’s ranks is a mysterious force from the Covenant, a secret society of evil witches that for centuries has been pulling the strings of European history: a Hessian necromancer who drinks the power of other witches like a vampire and whose allies include devils and ghosts. Now this man seeks to sap the fighting spirit of Washington’s troops by means of a pernicious curse, chaining the souls of the dead to the spirits of the living.

Against him stand Proctor Brown and Deborah Walcott, two young patriots who lead a ragtag band of witches as much in danger from their own side as from the enemy. Proctor and Deborah must find a way to break the Hessian’s curse before the newborn revolution is smothered in its cradle—and the Covenant extends its dark dominion to the shores of America, extinguishing forever the already sputtering torch of liberty.

A Spell for the Revolution is the second book in the Traitor to the Crown trilogy.  It begins in August 1776 and ends in May 1777.  While it’s not necessary to read A Patriot Witch first I would recommend it.  Finlay does a good job of summarizing past events and relationships without dragging the story down but this book reads like it’s the middle of a long story because of the relationship between Proctor and Deborah.  He loves her and thinks she feels the same way but he can’t tell.  He can’t court  her properly due to the war.  Proctor and Deborah spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to break the Hessian’s curse which takes some trial and error. 

The powers of Proctor and Deborah compliment each other.  Deborah has experience and more control.  Proctor is more intuitive in deciding which words may serve as a better focus for his spell.

Though I wasn’t crazy about this book it wasn’t enough to keep me away from the final book in the trilogy, The Demon Redcoat.

I’m Still Here!

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:18 am by Amber

Just wanted to write a short note to say I’m still here and around. 

My day job recently underwent some changes that require more hours of me and this week it caught up with me.  Very little time for sleep and blogging though I’m hoping this will change soon. 

I have a few reviews to post, an author interview and I’m trying to get some posts ready to go during my September vacation.  I’ll have internet access but my old clunky laptop doesn’t do well with making new posts requiring pictures.


Imperfect Characters Make Perfect Characters

Posted in Writing at 11:29 pm by Amber

An interesting character to the reader is going to be one that isn’t perfect.  Perfection is boring. 

Writers should create characters with bad habits or character flaws they just can’t seem to shake.  In Joanna Scott’s Follow Me, the main character keeps running from her poor decisions to a new town and a new surname.  She’s really stuck with me because by the third time it seemed she would have decided to make a different decision – but she didn’t.  As frustrating as it was, she’s memorable because of that characteristic.

Can you think of any characters that have stayed with you because of their imperfections?


Reminder About Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards

Posted in Event at 1:22 pm by Amber

It’s almost time!  Nominations for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards close tomorrow.  Stop by their site at http://bookbloggerappreciationweek.com/index.php/awards to show a book blogger or your favorite author a little love.


The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

Posted in Review at 7:18 am by Amber

The Book of Unholy Mischief

In 1498 Venice, Luciano is caught stealing a pomegranate in the market by the doge’s chef.  Chef Ferrero brings the homeless boy to the kitchen to begin life as his apprentice.  Luciano is provided with room and board in return for emptying and refilling the cistern and running the prepared food from the kitchen to the maids.  He may be promoted to vegetable cook by working hard and listening to Chef Ferrero.

Living on the streets, he had only his friend Marco to advise him.  Chef Ferrero becomes Luciano’s new teacher.  The loyalty Luciano feels towards them sometimes conflict with each other. 

All over Venice conversations are taking place about the New World and about a mysterious book.  The doge believes it will contain a cure his syphilis.  Luciano believes it holds the key to a love potion and will make Francesca fall in love with him.  Marco wants the book to get the reward and live as a rich man.  When Luciano and Marco begin to suspect Chef Ferrero knows the book’s location they are at odds on what actions to take next.

Elle Newmark first self-published the novel under the title of Bones of the Dead after her agent stopped submitting it.  Spurred on by a low sales rank on Amazon and Carrie Bradshaw’s book release party on an episode of Sex and the City, Newmark held a virtual book launch party.  Newmark intended to create a sales spike.  She got more than that –  a day before the virtual book launch she had offers from multiple agents to represent her.  Within a few weeks she had an auction for the book and had a two book deal with Simon and Schuster. 

Retitled The Book of Unholy Mischief it’s been released in multiple languages.  Newmark is hard at work on her next novel.  The Book of Unholy Mischief is ultimately about a boy becoming a man by making some hard decisions and recognizing those crossroads.  Naturally, the setting invites all sorts of descriptions about wonderful meals and food preparation.  At times I had to stop reading in order to have an unsatisfying snack to quell my hunger pangs.  Newmark’s novel tells Luciano’s story with a sweet, wistful tone I haven’t found in a book for a long time.

Elle Newmark’s web site has a book discussion guide and some terrific blog posts.  She may even be available via conference call to attend your book club discussion.  You can find it at http://www.ellenewmark.com/.


Economic Crunch for Small Publishers

Posted in Event, Writing at 12:58 am by Amber

There are some regularly scheduled writer’s chats over varying topics each week and I don’t often get to attend them.  During the course of one I recently attended it was mentioned a small publishing house would not be publishing any new books for the remainder of the year and not accept any new submissions until 2010.  Like a lot of businesses the smaller publishing houses are feeling the economic crunch.  For a few days I wondered what I could do to help and I came upon two ideas. 

  1. List some of them here in a blog post.  You may find a book that you knew nothing about that ends up being the best book you read all year.
  2. For Book Blogger Appreciation Week the prizes I give away will be from small publishing houses.

Here’s a short list (in alphabetical order) of some small book publishers I’ve come across in the last few years. 

4RV Publishing
Drollerie Press
Living Waters Publications
Red Rose Publishing
Small Beer Press
Swimming Kangaroo Books

Do you have any favorite small publishers?


The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley, Jr., and Tanner Colby

Posted in Review at 12:02 am by Amber

The Chris Farley Show

 The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts is a remembrance of Chris Farley as a person and a comic.  Comprised of interviews, the book is a surprisingly fast read.  The interviews come from his brothers, kids he grew up with, and people from the comedy world.  It was surprising to find out Chris was close to his brothers.  (His sister, Mary Anne, was older and doesn’t factor into many of the childhood stories.  It’s unclear if they weren’t close, if she declined to be interviewed, or if her interviews weren’t used.)  The book contains stories from all of them and there are many pictures of them together.

When someone has died it’s easy to remember only the “good” things about the person.  Though co-written by his brother, this book includes thoughts and opinions that don’t try to make Chris into a saint.  Chris was religious and one of his childhood friends became a priest.  Father Matt Foley and Chris spoke about faith and the temptations of drugs often.

The comedic decisions Chris made also provides conflicting views.  The first Saturday Night Live skit Chris became known for was the Chippendale dancer tryout with guest host Patrick Swayze.  Not everyone interviewed for the book thought it was funny.  One of the motivations for Chris to be funny was to please people (especially his father) and there are differing viewpoints on given on how to achieve this. 

I’ve never seen a movie starring Chris Farley but I think I would have enjoyed seeing him perform live.  Art work right in front of you looks different when it’s in a book and often times can’t capture the essence of what makes it so great.  No matter what unrehearsed footage is shown of Chris I doubt it will capture his comedic timing or athletic ability but it’s a joy to read people talking about it.


July 2009

Posted in Status Report at 12:25 am by Amber

These statistics are all for short stories, poems, or contest entries. Book reviews are not included.

  1. Sales in July: 0
  2. Rejections in July: 2
  3. Submissions sent out in July: 3
  4. Total stories/poems/contests pending responses: 5

In the first week of July the rejections began arriving.  I’d entered a poetry contest and the top three poems were published.  My entry was nowhere to be found.  That’s okay – I’m not a poet so I would have been surprised to be one of the top three.

I’ve been trying to keep up with my weekly writing schedule so I can get some new work circulating.  This month I found some new (to me) flash fiction markets and sent some items off to them.


Dead Men’s Boots by Mike Carey

Posted in Review at 6:37 pm by Amber

Dead Men's Boots

All book reviews this week have come courtesy of Miriam at Hachette Book Group.  Thank you, Miriam, for making sure I received these books.

Mike Carey’s Dead Men’s Boots was released last week and is the third book featuring Felix Castor aka Fix to his close friends.  He’s a man who specializes in spiritual services.  Felix lives in modern day London in an alternate universe.  The dead have come back to life.  Those who return as a visual echo of their living personages are ghosts.  Some return to their dead bodies and become zombies.  Zombie bodies are still decaying but it’s their force of will that keeps them moving.  Rarer are the dead that invade an animal body.  They are called werewolves or loup-garous.  These dead have the hardest time holding onto their humanity. 

The Breath of Life movement wants the dead to have rights.  One of Felix’s acquaintances is Nick, a paranoid zombie data geek (paranoid and data geek are character traits he had while alive), who could have returned from the dead to absolutely nothing since he had siblings as next of kin.  Nick hid his money so well in multiple foreign accounts that when he returned to his body he was able to live a lifestyle that would slow the decay process.

The Catholic Anathemata believe the apocalypse is coming and everyone should begin to arm themselves.  As time has passed, Felix has noticed more than just the dead are returning.  Demons have shown up and supernatural things not encountered before.  For example, how can an American serial killer who has been dead for several decades start killing in London?  It’s one of the questions put forth in this novel. 

This is the first Felix Castor book I’ve read but I don’t feel this hindered my enjoyment.  It’s equal parts detective novel and urban fantasy with a dash of thriller.  Felix is not a lovable character who obviously has flaws.  He is loyal, although he won’t admit it, and exceptional at his job.  Felix is a man who wrestles with the moral dilemmas of his job but exorcising ghosts is part of his nature.

Carey is best known for his work with comics.  He’s been nominated for several Eisner Awards (the comics equivalent to the Oscar).  Writing comics and novels can be difficult as they are exercising different writing muscles.  Carey scores a hit with this book.