Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Cover Reveal: The Short of It

Today, Squiders, I am pleased to reveal the cover for my short story collection The Short of It: Speculative Short Stories which will be released on February 8th.

Short of It cover

(Let me tell you how many times I have typoed that as “Shirt of It.” It is a lot.)

The collection includes four previously published short stories from 2011-2013, as well as one new one. As I previously mentioned, I’m going to release the collection on Kindle exclusively, at least at the beginning, to see if there’s any merit to that particular brand of madness. The collection will be $0.99.

Stories included:

  • Time Management, science fiction, 2011
  • Doomsday, science fiction, 2012
  • The Knight in the Lobby, fantasy, 2017
  • The Door in the Attic, horror, 2012
  • To the Waters and the Wild, magical realism, 2013*

(*To the Waters and the Wild is also included in The Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol. I.)

So, tada! I’ll let you guys know next Wednesday when it goes live.

Thursday we’ll go back to the nonfic posts and jump on the madness that is self-publishing novels.

2016 Books in Review

It’s that time of year, squiders, where I look back at what I read last year and play with stats (and then, if I have a lot of free time, I make comparisons to previous years!), and then I let you guys look too, because why not.

I keep track of every book I read, as well as their genre, publication year, and how much I liked them (out of 5). Noteworthy this year was that I apparently didn’t read anything too exceptional, because I only had a few books rated 4 or higher, and nothing in the 4.5 or 5 range (except for Howl’s Moving Castle which doesn’t count because it was a re-read).

On to the stats!

Books Read in 2016: 50
Change from 2015: -2

Of those*:
16 were Fantasy
9 were Science Fiction
6 were Romance
5 were Nonfiction
4 were Mystery
2 were General Literature
1 was Chick Lit
1 was Gothic
1 was Historical Fiction
1 was Paranormal
1 was Science Fantasy
1 was a Short Story Collection
1 was Steampunk
1 was a Superhero Tie-in

*Some genre consolidation was done here. YA titles went into the general genre. All subgenres of fantasy or romance, for example, also went into the general genre.

Wow, a little low on mystery last year.

New genre(s)**: chick lit, paranormal, superhero tie-in
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: ghost story collections, horror, mythology, anthologies

**This means I didn’t read them last year, not that I’ve never read them.

Genres that went up: fantasy, romance
Genres that went down: nonfiction, mystery, general literature, Gothic

32 were my books
17 were library books
1 book was borrowed from friends/family

34 were physical books
16 were ebooks

Way down on library books (I guess my resolution to read my own books worked a bit) and way up on ebooks from previous year(s).

Average rating: 3.46/5

Top rated:
The Dark Days Club (4.2 – historical fantasy)
Sixteen Burdens (4.2 – historical fantasy)
Morning Star (4 – science fiction)
A Little Life (3.9 – general literature)

I don’t normally mention anything under 4, but apparently I was pretty underwhelmed by what I read this year. Nothing too amazing, I guess. Though I did really like The Dark Days Club and I should see when the sequel’s due.

Most recent publication year: 2016
Oldest publication year: 1906
Average publication year: 2004
Books older than 1900: 0
Books newer than (and including) 2012: 28

As you can see, I read a lot more newer stuff this year (more than half!) so all my stats skewed high. Normally my average year is in the ’90s somewhere.

How did your reading go for 2016, squiders? Any books to recommend? What are your goals for 2017? Mine is to read 50 books, as usual.

Captain Hawkins by H. Peter Alesso

Happy Friday, Squiders!

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce Captain Hawkins by H. Peter Alesso.

mediakit_bookcover_captainhawkins

Here’s the blurb:
Jamie Hawkins was living on an obscure planet in the twenty third-century when on one fateful night—his life changed forever. His heroic effort to save the lives of innocent women and children, caught in the cross-fire of war, placed him squarely in the crosshairs of avenging soldiers.

A former marine, Hawkins was stunned when his rescue effort was seen as treachery. Unfairly convicted of treason by a corrupt judge, he was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor on an infamous penal colony.

Once in prison, Hawkins was mistreated by a paranoid warden, but his courage and perseverance won him the admiration and trust of his fellow convicts. While he was plotting his escape, an enemy attacked the planet—giving this daring warrior his chance. Together with his fellow prisoners, he launched a bold assault and high-jacked an enemy warship.

From then on, the exploits of Captain Jamie Hawkins became legendary.

Excerpt:
The black of night had fallen, but Jamie Hawkins couldn’t sleep. Though the surgeons had patched up his many wounds, the remorseless pain persisted, even now, months after his medical discharge from the Marines.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

Despite his desire to ignore the unwelcomed thundering blows, he answered the door to his country home and found his neighbor, tall scrawny seventeen year old Joshua Morgan, gasping for breath.

“Captain Hawkins, come quick! Come quick, or they’ll all be killed!”

“Who? What are you talking about, Joshua?”

“I’ve just come from the city—it’s a war zone. People are dying,” Joshua’s voice broke. “The hospital is taking care of the wounded and sheltering women and children, but its force shield is buckling.” He finished in a breathless rush, “It’s only a matter of minutes before it fails.”

A troubled frown creased Hawkins’s face. Their mothers had been friends and he had known Joshua since he was born.

Has the boy been drawn into the turmoil? He wondered.

Hawkins had listened to the broadcasts throughout the day, absurd in every detail; demonstrators declared that they were only protesting injustice, while the government insisted the violence was a last resort against rebels.

Which is the greater lie?

Bio:

As a scientist and author specializing in technology innovation, H. Peter Alesso has over twenty years research experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). As Engineering Group Leader at LLNL he led a team of scientists and engineers in innovative applications across a wide range of supercomputers, workstations, and networks. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. and served in the U.S. Navy on nuclear submarines before completing an M.S. and an advanced Engineering Degree at M.I.T. He has published several software titles and numerous scientific journal and conference articles, and he is the author/co-author of ten books.

Website

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Pick up the book here!

The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tie-in Fiction Friday: Star Trek #3 The Klingon Gambit

My mother recently moved out of my childhood home to move in with my grandmother, which means I had to go through the stuff I accumulated throughout the first portion of my life and then abandoned when I went out on my own after college.

There was a lot of it.

A good majority was Star Trek-related–action figures, ship models, tons of roleplaying stuff, and books. LOTS of books. Nonfiction books about how the series were made, nonfiction books like The Physics of Star Trek (and Biology, and Metaphysics…), and most of my collection of the fiction books. Most of mine are Original Series, which was always my favorite series to read from, with the odd one or two from Next Gen or DS9 or Voyager (I did have a lot of the New Frontier books, which is Next Gen era but on a different ship with different characters, though some of them had appeared one off on various episodes).

Actually, until I was an adult, I’d only ever seen one or two Original Series episodes. My appreciation for the series came from the movies and the books. And I did love those books.

But the Original Series books are a mixed bag. Not a lot of quality control. Some are amazing. Some are godawful. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

So this brings us to The Klingon Gambit, Star Trek #3, by Robert E. Vardeman, published in 1981. I admit I picked this one out because it was one of the thinnest of the bunch, but it turns out the font is really small and so it’s somewhat hard to read. I am unfamiliar with Vardeman’s other works (except I’ve probably read his other Star Trek novel) but he’s apparently written quite a few fantasy series (usually writing with other people) and was nominated for a Hugo for best fan writer. If his other stuff is worth reading, let me know–I’m not sure this particular novel was a good display of his potential storytelling.

(I tried to write a Star Trek novel once, when I was 16 or 17 or somewhere in there. Despite my great love of the series, I couldn’t seem to get anyone in character and gave up after the first chapter.)

The premise of this novel is that the Enterprise is sent to Alnath II to investigate the death of a shipful of Vulcans. All the Vulcans are dead in their beds, with no sign of any issues–there should be no reason for them to be dead, but they are. A Klingon dreadnought is in orbit, and the fear is that they’ve developed some new weapon. There is also an archoelogical team on Alnath II, investigating a large, complex pyramid that seems to be the only remains of what was once a technologically-advanced civilization.

This is not one of the better Original Series novels. Several characters feel out of character (there is a subplot where people are acting out of character, but this is apparent even when that subplot is not in effect), and I feel like perhaps the author was a little bit amused about Star Trek in general. I noted, for example, that every time someone uses the transporter, we had to focus on the fact that their atoms were scattered and then reformed back on the planet. In general, some of the terminology just feels slightly off.

Now, this is probably just from me looking back from the future. The Original Series is not the best on continuity, and it wasn’t until Next Gen and later that a lot of the worldbuilding for the universe was solidified. Next Gen didn’t start until 1987, so this significantly predates that. It was probably hard to figure out what exactly was going on back then.

I also found the plot pretty predictable, and also somewhat close to at least one, if not two, Original Series episodes (as a kid, having not seen those episodes, maybe I liked this plot better). Also Kirk seemed to not be suffering from one of the major plot issues despite the rest of the crew doing so, and if he had been, maybe the stakes would have been a little more interesting.

So, would I recommend this particular book? Not really. It’s not great in Star Trek terms, though it does at least use Star Trek plot elements, such as the Klingons and Andorians. It got better as it went on, but it still wasn’t strong in either plot or character. There’s definitely better books out there.

Read this particular Trek novel, Squiders? Thoughts?

Let’s Talk About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Afternoon/evening, Squiders. As you guys know, I was a major Potterphile back in the day. Still, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out in July, I didn’t pick it up. There seemed to be a lot of mixed thoughts on both the idea of revisiting Harry Potter years later as well as the plotline itself. There’s also the fact that Cursed Child is a screenplay and not a prose novel, and the fact that it wasn’t even really written by J.K. Rowling.

I could understand those fears and anxieties and so I just…didn’t touch the thing.

But my husband took the small, mobile ones to the library while I was at MileHiCon a few weeks back and picked the book up for me. Still, I resisted. I stared at it for a week before I touched it. And then I was very slow about it, reading maybe ten pages a day, afraid to get too caught up in it, just in case.

And then last night I read the last of it in one go, so here we are.

I liked it, in the end. It feels like it fits. Adult Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Draco read like believable adult versions of the kids from the books. The story mainly revolves around the younger generation, Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy (♥ Scorpius, poor kid), and deals with them trying to break out of their fathers’ shadows (and shenanigans along those lines). There were some really nice moments.

There was also one key scene where I will swear part of it was missing. I flipped back and re-read it a couple of times, and it still didn’t make sense. And I felt like some of the less major characters were occasionally out of character.

But still, it was nice to revisit that world, to see what had changed over the years. Also, technically, to see the future, because if you recall, the Battle for Hogwarts happened in 1998, and so the story starts 19 years later, in 2017. It was nice to see Harry (even if he is not the greatest parent), to see Ron and Hermione’s relationship, to see the kids as their own characters.

So, if you’ve been holding out–there’s no reason to. It’s not going to destroy the characters you love or the stories you grew up with.

I gotta say, the stage version must be something. Some of the stage directions…plus there’s a section with polyjuice potion, and another with transfiguration–I’d like to see those pulled off. It’s probably awesome. The Internet tells me that there’s talk of moving the show to Broadway, or starting a separate showing on Broadway, or something along those lines, and if we get a Broadway show, maybe we’ll get a traveling show, and then maybe I can go and see it.

Read Cursed Child, Squiders? Like or dislike? Favorite new character? (Mine’s Scorpius, as noted above.) Plus McGonagall, right? You can never go wrong with Professor McGonagall. ♥

The Ever Fiend by Randy Ellefson

Happy Monday, Squiders! I’m pleased to introduce The Ever Fiend by Randy Ellefson. Randy’s also giving away a giftcard as part of his book blast, so look for the entry info at the bottom of the post.

mediakit_bookcover_theeverfiend

Only a fool steals from a wizard.

Talon Stormbringer thought he knew the risk of stealing from Viland Shadowbreaker – until he got caught. The wizard will spare him if Talon performs a service – fetch the deadly silver elixir from the Everway, a supernatural land that Talon assumed wasn’t real. Only children believe the stories about what lies within – lost souls, corrupted magic items, and mysterious destinations that most people never escape. Ruling over it all is the Ever Fiend, a bogeyman that people use
to scare unruly youngsters into behaving.

Talon agrees to go, if only to stop Viland from doing something unholy with the potent elixir once retrieved. Joining him are a band of people he can’t trust. Their leader, a sorelia with nefarious plans of his own. The sorelia’s battle-trained mynx, a large cat who obeys only its master. An alluring swordswoman who wants to enchant her blades with the elixir. A cocky guard whose bravado might prove more liability than asset. A warrior kryll whose curiosity about the elixir might cost him more than his life. And a tortured Knight of Coiryn who seeks redemption in a place where most are damned. Of all the things they might discover on their journey, one is the most obvious and yet the hardest to learn…

Excerpt:

Suddenly freed, Talon squeezed his sword, flexed his limbs, and weighed some options. Quick as he was, no sword could fly faster than words. And while the taller shadow was likely the wizard, he had no idea to whom or what the other shadow belonged, and had to know before launching an attack. Besides, he could hardly assess his foes with his back to them. He slowly
turned around, a scowl on his face.

A black-robed, balding man stood beside the empty pedestal, a reassuring smile on his swarthy face. Perhaps he was a Marulan from across the Antaran Sea. But Marulans were thought to be mostly savages, their skins as black as their deeds, and not wizards with an air of sophistication and opulence. The man did not have an accent that Talon could hear. The long face, nose, and limbs matched what Talon had heard from stories. The dark eyes of Viland Shadowbreaker observed him coolly.

Bio:

Randy Ellefson has written fantasy fiction since his teens and is an avid world builder, having spent three decades creating Llurien, which has its own website. He has a Bachelor’s of Music in classical guitar but has always been more of a rocker, having released several albums and earned endorsements from music companies. He’s a professional software developer and runs a consulting firm in the Washington D.C. suburbs. He’s married and loves spending time with his son and daughter when not writing, making music, or playing golf.

http://www.RandyEllefson.com

http://www.llurien.com

FREE eBook: http://fiction.randyellefson.com/freebook/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/randyellefson

FaceBook (as author): http://www.facebook.com/RandyEllefsonAuthor

Randy will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter to win a $10 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Adventures of Kate Readalong: The Merlin Effect

Well, Squiders, here we are at the end of the “trilogy.” What I find most interesting about The Adventures of Kate is that, aside from Kate, the books are completely unrelated. There are no overlapping characters or locations. I suppose T.A. Barron could have gone on forever in this vein, though Kate would have probably eventually run out of adult relatives to take her exotic places or show her exotic things.

So, The Merlin Effect. Originally published in 1994. Kate states at the beginning that she’s 13 now; I feel like she’s also 13 in Heartlight. I flipped through the beginning of Heartlight again to check but couldn’t find a mention of her age, but if so it’s been a rather eventful year. Traveling through space on the back of a giant butterfly, traveling back in time to protect an ancient forest, and now hanging out with Merlin at the bottom of the ocean.

I place The Merlin Effect between The Ancient One and Heartlight in terms of my own likes. I felt a little more tired of the whole Arthur legend thing this time around, but I think that’s me being burned out on it in general. Still, this is a very different take on the whole thing.

Right, let’s gather our thoughts. In this book, Kate has accompanied her father to Mexico while he searches for the remains of a legendary shipwreck. Her father is a historian with a particular interest in Arthurian legend and Merlin in particular. (T.A. Barron went on to write several novels about Merlin, so I suppose this was a topic of particular interest for him.) He believes that this shipwreck may contain one of Merlin’s treasures, a horn of great, though unknown, power, and that by finding said treasure he can prove that Merlin really existed.

However, there’s a giant whirlpool in the general area of where the ship–if it ever existed–went down, which complicates things, as does strange volcanic activity that another scientist staying at their camp is studying. A third scientist is studying a type of fish believed to be previously extinct, but which seems to be given eternal life here in the region by the whirlpool.

Merlin and Arthurian legend is prevalent throughout, though it is interesting to see it mixed with new elements with the shipwreck and the whirlpool.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed the book, though the last few chapters leapt point of views a ton in completely unnecessary ways, in my opinion, and the question as to whether or not Terry is still alive is never answered. I don’t know if we were getting set up for another book which never happened–though even if there had been more Kate books, it seems like they would have been completely unrelated–or that particular subplot was just deemed too unimportant to bother wrapping up. But it feels weird that it was just left hanging.

Have you read along with me, Squiders? What did you think of The Merlin Effect or the Adventures of Kate in general? I feel like the books have held up pretty decently over the past 20 years, which is, of course, always the danger of revisiting something you enjoyed in your youth.

Most of T.A. Barron’s books are middle grade, mythology-based series, so if that sort of thing floats your boat you might want to check out the rest of his stuff. I read the first few books of his Merlin series before I dropped it, though at this point I can’t remember if I got bored or simply aged out of the intended demographic. It looks like he’s moved on to Atlantis as well.