Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013 - , , 2 comments

Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre

Rating: 4 Stars
Version: eBook
Compiled by: Paula Guran (authors listed below)

I received this publication from NetGalley with the condition of an honest review. So here it is:

The farther we've gotten from the magic and mystery of the past, the more we've come to love Halloween - the one time each year when the mundane is overturned in favor of the bizarre, the "other side" is closest, and everyone can become anyone (or anything) they wish... and sometimes what they don't. Introducing nineteen original stories from mistresses and masters of the dark celebrate the most fantastic, enchanting, spooky, and supernatural of holidays.

“Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre” was a delight to read! The stories are all very creative, and when combined, capture the spirit of Halloween perfectly – pun intended. This is something I would definitely recommend to those who love Halloween (such as myself), enjoy spooky short stories, or are in need of a Halloween pick-me-up.

One thing I really liked was the opening introduction, because it helped lay the framework for which the stories are founded upon. The introduction includes, but is not limited to, a brief history of Halloween and a brief summary of the stories contained within. For those who have not yet read Paula Guran’s earlier compilation entitled “Halloween”, you are in luck. This story is a stand-alone compilation and needs nothing other than a love of Halloween to enjoy it.  Of course, a love of Halloween is not necessary, but it sure helps!

Here is a list of titles contained within this compilation. Bare in mind, these won’t really do you much good, but they will give you a hint about the subject matter.

1.      “Black Dog” by Laird Barron
2.     “From Dust” by Laura Bickle
3.     “Angelic” by Jay Caselberg
4.     “Pumpkin Head Escapes” by Lawrence Connolly
5.     “All Hallows in the High Hills” by Brenda Cooper
6.     “We, the Fortunate Bereaved” by Brian Hodge
7.     “Thirteen” by Stephen Graham Jones
8.     “Whilst the Night Rejoices Profound and Still” by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
9.     “Trick or Treat” by Nancy Kilpatrick
10.   “Long Way Home: A Pine Deep Story” by Jonathan Maberry
11.   “The Mummy’s Kiss” by Norman Partridge
12.  “All Souls Day” by Barbara Roden
13.   “And When You Called Us We Came To You” by John Shirley
14.  “The Halloween Men” by Maria V. Snyder
15.   “Lesser Fires” by Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem
16.  “Unternehmen Werwolf” by Carrie Vaughn
17.   “For the Removal of Unwanted Guests” by A.C. Wise
18.   “Quadruple Whammy” by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

“May the Magic of Halloween always be a part of your lives.”
-Paula Guran

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - , 2 comments

A Monster Calls

Rating: 5 Stars
Version: eBook
Author: Patrick Ness

GoodReads Summary:
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, so when I saw it was on sale for $3 at Amazon, I didn’t hesitate to purchase it! Overall, the book was an enjoyable read, but there were some things I didn’t enjoy. For example, I didn’t like beginning’s ambiguity, nor did I like how it ended. However, I was prepared for the latter, since many blogs had mentioned their disappointment too – yes, I did my research. For those who also want to read this book, I think I should mention it contains a bit of British influence. It’s not a bad thing; it was just something I wasn’t use to.

As I mentioned above, there is a lot of ambiguity towards the beginning of the story. I didn’t really notice this until someone asked me to describe what I was reading. Afterwards, I had a hard time coming up with an explanation. For example:
  •  You know Connor’s mom is sick, but you don't know from what (specifically), thought it’s safe to assume cancer.
  • You know Connor is having nightmares, but you don't know what about.
  • Connor caused the Yew tree to come walking, but he (or you) doesn’t know why.

I should also mention that I was 75% of the way through this book and the only thing I knew for sure was who was related to whom and that an ancient yew tree came to tell Connor three stories... that's it. I also noticed that the book sounded elementary, but trust me it’s not!

As for Connor, he struggles to cope with his mother’s condition. He really just wants things to go back to normal, but of course, it’s not that simple. His classmates isolate him as if he is a disease, and his teachers constantly pity him.  Connor keeps mentioning that he wants to be punished, because being punished means that he’s not pitied. At one point, Connor badly beats a bully (Harry) to the point of hospitalization, but instead of being expelled as he hoped, the principal simply dismisses him.
“He was going to be punished. It was finally going to happen. Everything was going to make sense again. She was going to expel him. Punishment was coming. Thank God. Thank God-
“But how could I do that?” The headmistress said. “How could I do that and still call myself a teacher?” she said. “With all that you’re going through.”

At one point I thought, “Maybe the yew tree signifies his inner struggles, his way of dealing with the enormous amount of pressure, stress, and worry that he’s under.” After all, there was a section of the story that said he could feel his actions, but they weren't his doing. Throw in the fact that only Connor - out of a cafeteria full of students - could see the giant yew tree, and you have either the above situation or schizophrenia. However, physical proof always remained after the tree’s visit, so I guess it was real?

The ending was extremely sad and I’m not going to spoil it. All I will say, is Connor finally had to face his inner truth. I've had a very similar experience and it really hurt to emphasize with Connor because it brought back tough memories. 

Everyone should have to read this book. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013 - No comments

Share a Thought Saturday (2): Target Audiences

Now you might be saying “What? No, it’s not Saturday!” and you would be correct. However, it is only 24 past midnight and I don’t feel like waiting an entire week to bring this topic up. The topic that I’m offering up for discussion is the following.

“Do you judge people for what they read? If so, is there a set age limit for books of certain genres?”

I’ve done a little bit of discussion on this before (off blog chat) and it was interesting to hear what others had to say. I know books are targeted for certain readers, i.e. YA, middle grade, adult, etc.… Yet, what happens when you don’t fit the target audience? Speaking of which, I had an experience with this the other day in one of my favorite bookstores. I inquired about “Witch Eyes” by author Scott Tracy. The guy was very nice and led me over to the area where it was supposed to be located (though I had already scanned it thoroughly). After a quick look, he said that unfortunately they did not have it and began offering alternative suggestions. For some reason, one phrase stuck in my head that went something along the lines of “… though you might be a little too old for that.” Of course, I took no offense and he meant to harm, but what if it was one of my favorite books? Anyways, enough with the anecdotes.

Let me superimpose a hypothetical situation. You look across the bus isle and see a college student reading a middle grade book. What is your first thought?  

My personal view is that people should not judge others by the book they read. After all, if someone derives pleasure from reading Dr. Seuss, then who are we to criticize them for it? When you think about it, one reason people love eReaders is because of the privacy aspect. You can take your device with you anywhere and read whatever you please.

- Did you miss last weeks discussion? Here's where you should go: Film vs. Book

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - , No comments

Author Interview: Clovia Shaw

Hello all! I’m super excited to bring you an interview with Ms. Clovia Shaw, author of Nogitsune. Clovia and I met via Twitter and I am thankful for having the opportunity to get to know her.

A little background on Clovia (GoodReads Bio):
Clovia Shaw is an ordained Dudeist Priest (who can resist an Ordain Me! button?), a collector of Urban Vinyl art toys, and once designed a line of elongated pennies for belly dancers. She has degrees in both Journalism and Interior Design, and is probably thinking really hard about putting actual pants on right now.

A big fan of Kissing Books in which things blow up, Clovia lives in Annapolis, with her very patient husband and the ghost of a very good dog.

Time for the interrogation.. I mean interview: 

1.    You're introducing yourself to someone new. What words do you use to describe yourself?

What, like, in person? I’m a hermit, so the very idea of telling someone about myself near paralyzes me. Most likely I’d shake their hand, say “Clovia” and then just smile too big and nod too much while trying to find some polite avenue of escape before I did something fatally embarrassing.
It’s hilarious how much we share in common. My roommates and I, have and inside joke about how we are hermits. Introductions are always an awkward situation, there’s the “ice breaking” phase, the small talk phase, and eventually the awkward silence phase.

2.    Lets narrow down the above. What one word best describes you?

            Haha love the word choice.

3.    I see that you have degrees in both journalism and design. How did you incorporate your education into writing Nogitsune?

The most obvious way is that Delia is an Interior Designer. I don’t go much into detail about her mundane job, but as a geomancer, it helps her get clients because of the way the house feels after she’s redone or rearranged it. I didn’t plan it that way, but it makes the most sense that a geomancer would be a decorator or designer.

4.    Becoming a published author sounds like no easy task. What, if any, were some of the obstacles you had to overcome? 

Well, I self-published, but I started out (many) years ago trying trade-publishing route. I queried this one to agents and pubs, too, but it just wasn’t what anyone was looking for at the time. And that’s okay. They have to make money, and some books just don’t fit what they’re acquiring for their lists, for many reasons. I’d still like to be trade published someday, but I felt like this was a story readers would enjoy.
I have no doubt you that you will succeed in becoming trade published.

5.    Nogitsune is based off of Japanese folklore; something I assume is uncommon to most readers. Where did you come across these stories?  

Growing up nerd, there was a strong thread of East Asian art and themes through my entertainment—anime, movies like Blade Runner, storylines in my favorite comic books, etc.—and I’ve always been interested in world mythologies and folklore. The kitsune is a living, evolving cultural icon in Japan, and I felt like fox people would feel just as natural in many UF worlds as European folk creatures like vampires and werewolves.
I absolutely love the concept behind Nogitsune. If you haven’t read it, you definitely should.

6.    I've studied the Japanese language, though I'm not fluent. Can you speak Japanese? Have you been to Japan? 

I have not been, but would love to go, if I ever have the means. In particular, I’d love to see the Inari Grand Shrine at Fushimi in person. I do not speak Japanese, though I have picked up some words and phrases over the years. I have several friends who do speak the language, and had them read through the manuscript to make sure I wasn’t misusing the words I do have throughout the book.
            For those who don’t know what the Inari Grand Shrine is:

Notice the kitsune???

7.    Is there a genre you like to stick to or is everything fair game? 

As a reader, everything is fair game, though mostly Spec Fic unless it’s Romance, in which I also read historical and contemporary. I read everything from Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett to Jennie Crusie, which probably indicates that I look for a cockeyed sense of humor in the storytelling. As a writer, it all ends up being fantasy, either whole-cloth Sword-and-Planet, Portal, Urban Fantasy, or something unhelpfully genre-bending.
I applaude the diversity, I’m attempting to add some to my lineup haha.

8.    What are you reading now?

Mostly beta’ing for other writers lately, though I’ve been trying to get to a Gaiman joint on my tbr pile for awhile now.

9.    Are there any books on your TBR (to be read) list that you are super excited about?

If I’m super excited about something, I usually read it as soon as it’s downloaded or bought, haha, so nothing that jumps to mind.
I get excited about my TBR books too, but my list is growing faster than I can compensate for!

10. The cover is amazing. Nope, that's not a question, just thought I'd throw it out there.

Thank you! It’s by Ashley Neal, who’d never done a book cover before. I had a hard time finding an artist, and I’m so thrilled with how it came out.
            Wow, first time? She did a great job. 

11. Are you planning any future works? If so, care to drop a hint or two? 

I’m planning at least two more books in the same world as Nogitsune, with the same characters. Then I have a couple more projects set in completely different universes, that I’ll probably try the trade publishing route with again before deciding whether or not to self-publish them. I’m in it for the long haul. It may take some fine-tuning before I find an audience, but I’m good with that.

12. What advice would you give those reading Nogitsune? Likewise, what about those who are on the fence of reading it?

The biggest thing is: It’s Different. It’s not going to read like your average Urban Fantasy, but I think that’s a good thing. It’s an unfolder, a story I hope readers will sink into and enjoy taking their time reading, and a new twist on a very old folklore they might not be familiar with. Not a bad gamble for three bucks, right? 
            Nope, not at all. Seriously folks, give it a shot.

13. What advice would you give to future writers?

While it’s a scary time to be a writer now, it’s also a very exciting one. There’s a lot of anxiety about the state of trade publishing and brick-and-mortar stores, but I promise you, the book will survive. If you’re going to self-pub, be prepared to do the work, and put the best book you’re capable of writing out there. Write it, edit the absolute hell out of it, listen if your most trusted beta readers say something doesn’t work, then polish ‘til it shines. If you’re going the trade route, do all that before you query the manuscript, do your research before you submit, and don’t get discouraged by those rejections. Everyone gets rejections. Everyone.
For any of you who are considering this route, it would be wise to follow Clovias advice. Always put your best work forward, listen to your readers, and believe in your work. Great advice, thanks Clovia!

14. This is probably off topic, but it's been on my mind ever since I read your bio on GR and Amazon. You designed a line of elongated pennies for belly dancers? This is not something you hear of everyday. So, I'm curious as to how this came about. I'm sure it stems from your degree in design, but belly dancers?! Mind sharing a picture of your design?

Haha, sure! I took a lot of belly dancing classes back in the day, and noticed there weren’t a lot of copper costuming components for dancers. Just gold and silver. Elongated pennies seemed like a natural choice—great shape, fun and familiar to anyone who’s ever put a penny in a souvenir machine, and the possibility of unlimited designs. I thought it sounded like a good gamble for a well-targeted start-up business, and ended up doing five designs, and issuing three for purchase.
Clovia's elongated penny design, fancy huh?

Clovia's hand painted Hamsa earings. Wow, the design is awesome.

15. Anything you would like to add?

Thanks so much for having me on your blog!

You are certainly welcome! I also want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and for letting my readers get to know a little about yourself.

Well… since you now know how awesome Cloiva is, here are some links to help you keep in touch. 

Twitter: @CloviasLawn
GoodReads: Clovia Shaw 
Link to Nogitsune: Amazon / GoodReads