GreyWarden

The New BookExpoAmerica Immigration... er, Vetting Process- yeah, That's What I Meant

With this year's BEA returning to New York- where it should stay- I went to the site to secure my place in these three days of literary nirvana.  My euphoria was short lived when I ran into what can only be described as applying for papers to enter East Germany. Now I know there's been issues in the past of knuckleheads and lowlifes using the BEA to load up on freebies and pawn them off on eBay and all, so I've no problem with them taking steps to curb that bullshit.  I get it.  But...

 

 

Dafuq, y'all? 

 

Who came up with this shit- Homeland Security?!?  My first thought upon seeing all this was "but I already live in the US!!!"  I work in the Security fieldand I've had less stringent job applications than this! 

 

So now I'm actually sitting her crafting responses to this nonsense, because it's already to the point of morbid curiousity just to see if I get clearance... I mean, approved- nah, fuck it- clearance!- to attend the damn thing. 

 

Unbelievable.

Is This Thing On?

Well- looks like the place is up and running again... Guess I've got some catching up to do.

 

Kinda upset with BookExpoAmerica (BEA). They're back in NYC this year and when I went to check the page about registering, there were some changes.

 

The big one is you have to APPLY before you can even register.  You have to be vetted before you can even give them your hard-earned money!  I guess this is a measure to keep out the "riff raff".  It's always been open to the public, but the last few years have seen a bunch of issue crop up so I guess this is their way of being proactive.  It's like the BEA was a rider attached to Trump's Muslim Ban...

 

 

And the prices have pretty much doubled.  A 3-day pass used to be in the $150-$175 range, as you can seen it's now $300!  $400 if you register "late" or onsite during the expo.  They've kept prices the same for industry professionals, tho.

 

Looks like I'm gonna be putting in lotsa OT this month.

 

Nice to be back 'round these parts.

Rogue One: Catalyst by James Luceno

 

Lauded Star Wars author James Luceno returns to pen an intense tale of ambition and betrayal that sets the stage for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war.

 

As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.

Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal.

 

While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.

 

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-read more-

Update: The Controversy Surrounding The Continent by Keira Drake

Earlier today I posted about a controversy surrounding a soon-to-be released YA novel, The Continent.

 

 

A short time ago Harlequin Teen, the imprint publishing the book, tweeted this statement.

 

Translation: since none of us in the editing department actually has any non-white friends who could've told us better, we really fucked this one up to be damned, so now we're making her rewrite the entire book to cover all our asses.  Peace.  One love.

 

Wonder what all those basement dwelleing jackholes talking smack about black women anyone having issues with the book have to say now?

The Controversy Surrounding The Continent by Keira Drake

I still have a couple of real *top shelf* titles atop my TBR pile I need to get to- been busy and all- and wasn't looking for more.  But then I stumbled across the shitstorm surrounding this high-touted offering, and... well, I'm weak. 

 

For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two “uncivilized” nations remain perpetually at war. Most citizens tour the Continent to see the spectacle and violence of battle—a thing long vanished in the Spire. For Vaela—a smart and talented apprentice cartographer—it is an opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land.

But an idyllic aerial exploration is not to be had: the realities of war are made clear in a bloody battle seen from the heli-plane during the tour, leaving Vaela forever changed. And when a tragic accident leaves her stranded on the Continent, she has no illusions about the true nature of the danger she faces. Starving, alone, and lost in the middle of a war zone, Vaela must try to find a way home—but first, she must survive.

 

**********************************************************************************************

 

In case you haven't heard, by all accounts this one hits all the marks: non-whites depicted as savage brutes, blonde white savior to teach them their humanity, etc.  Not surprisingly in today's climate when non-white women voiced their concerns about things they were targeted and attacked.  And only them.

 

If you're curious, here's a twitter timeline for the hashtag #TheContinent where you can see some of what's been happening.

 

YA author Justina Ireland did a series of tweets capsulizing the book here.

 

It's gotten to the point where Drake herself felt she had to address things, but some of what she says didn't help matters any.

 

"I am saddened by the recent controversy on Twitter pertaining to THE CONTINENT. I abhor racism, sexism, gender-ism, or discrimination in any form, and am outspoken against it, so it was with great surprise and distress that I saw the comments being made about the book. I want everyone to know that I am listening, I am learning, and I am trying to address concerns about the novel as thoughtfully and responsibly as possible.

 

 The Topi, one of the native peoples who inhabits the Continent, were inspired by the Uruk-Hai in Lord of the Rings. LotR is one of my favorite books, and the savage, brutal nature of the Uruk-Hai breaks my heart every time I read it, which is at least once per year. The Topi are a savage people—they are in no way inspired by or meant to represent Native Americans. Like many, I am a person of mixed nationality and race (Sicilian, Native American, French, Irish, Danish), and take great interest and pride in my ancestry.

 

In regard to the Aven’ei, this fictional group of people was inspired by a large number of cultures, including Asian and European peoples. The language of the Aven’ei is phonetically similar to Japanese; that is purely because as a linguist who studies four languages, I find it absolutely beautiful, musical, perfect in sound. The Aven’ei are not Japanese. Nor are they Korean, or Chinese, nor are they based on an assumption that Asian cultures are interchangeable. They are a fantasy race: brave, intense, flawed, invented. The diverse peoples of the Spire itself are widely varied. This book is a fantasy novel, not intended to represent the cultures of our world, but to express the diversity of appearance in life which is natural and beautiful.

 

Any likeness of the fantasy cultures in the book to actual cultures was unintentional, and was not brought to my attention by a large number of early sensitivity readers. THE CONTINENT was written with a single theme in mind: the fact that privilege allows people to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. It is not about a white savior, or one race vs. another, or any one group of people being superior to any other. Every nation, and every character in the book is flawed.

 

 I am truly sorry for any descriptive choices that distracted from my intended message and that hurt or offended any readers, and I want everyone to know that I am working with my publisher to address this issue; the way that this will be addressed is currently being discussed and I will provide more information when I have it.

 

One last note: I have heard through Twitter that some critics of the book have received threatening messages, and I am **appalled** by the very idea of such a thing. I welcome criticism and would ask that my readers and supporters treat others ONLY with respect, love, and compassion. Be good to each other, please. Love one another. If I could ask one thing of you, that’s all it would be."

 

Yeah... basing your non-white cultures on Tolkien's orcs isn't gonna impress folks with your good intentions.  Just sayin'.

 

Anyways, my copy arrived today and I'll probably flog it to give a sense of what's really going on.

 

 

 

Presenting... Amazon's Early Reviewer Program!!!

 

Initally discovered posted on Reddit of all places.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_v4_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=202094910

 



What is the Early Reviewer Program?

The Early Reviewer Program encourages customers who have already purchased a product to share their authentic experience about that product, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. Amazon shoppers depend on reviews to learn more about products, and this program helps to acquire early reviews on products that have few or no reviews, helping shoppers make smarter buying decisions. Customers who have purchased a product participating in the Early Reviewer Program may be asked to write a review and those customers who submit a review within the offer period will receive a small reward (e.g. a $1-$3 Amazon.com Gift Card) for helping future shoppers.

1. Can I trust these reviews?

Yes. We are not giving free products or discounts to these reviewers. We only ask customers who have already purchased the product to share their authentic experience, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. This program is not limited to elite reviewers - we want to hear from all of our customers as long as they have no history of abusive or dishonest reviews.

2. How are reviewers selected for this program?

We want authentic reviews, and we want them from all of our customers, not just a select few. We select at random from all customers who have purchased products participating in this program, as long as they have no history of abusive or dishonest reviews and meet our eligibility criteria. We do not disclose at the time of purchase whether a product is participating in the program because we want to hear from customers who have authentically chosen to buy that product without any knowledge of a future reward. Not all products are participating in this program and not all buyers of participating products will receive reward offers to write a review. We want this program to generate enough reviews to help shoppers make smarter buying decisions; this is not a rewards program intended to encourage purchases. Amazon employees, participating sellers and their friends and family are not eligible to participate in this program.

3. How are reviews rewarded.

Reviewers will receive a small reward (e.g., a $1-$3 Amazon.com Gift Card) after they have submitted an authentic review within the offer period which meets our community guidelines. This small reward is given to thank reviewers for sharing their authentic experience, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. The nature of the review does not affect the reward or the chance of getting future rewards.

4. How will I know if a product has a review from Early Reviewer Program?

Early Reviewer Program reviews are identified with an orange badge that reads "Early Reviewer Rewards".

5. Can sellers influence these reviews or reviewers participating in this program?

No. Sellers can select products to participate in this program but they do not have any influence over which customers are selected to receive the reward offers or the content of the customer reviews. Sellers are also prohibited from communicating with customers about their reviews. Amazon does not modify or remove reviews from the Early Reviewer Program, as long as they comply with our community guidelines.

 

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OK, Amazon's has a long haul ahead of it trying to get all these incentivized reviews under control, so I'll never fault them for trying- despite their complicity and complacency with it.  But is anyone else thinking this is another cobblestone on that Road to Hell?

SPOILER ALERT!

A Few Early Thoughts on Crimson Death

I've been very critical of both the Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series written by Laurell K. Hamilton, and deservedly so.  Coming late to both, Anita Blake started out as an entertaining slice of Urban Fantasy- one of the early entries into the genre (despite Hamilton's protestations, she didn't *pioneer* things).  There were some interesting ideas and scenarios despite the gaping holes in logic and worldbuilding and well as the kinda obvious MarySue aspects.  It was something you could roll with.

 

 

Then the hubris set in.  Popular wisdom has it that Hamilton suffered something of pre-midlife crisis and art began imitating life.  Hamilton's personal issues and positions began creeping into the series and Anita became less a character and more a caricature.  Hamilton's own mouthings and social media responses confirming that Anita Blake is her avatar- a true vehicle for the author to lecture & educate the masses about the glories of polyamory (Hamilton openly lives with her husband and another couple), gym workouts (though vamps & weres don't even need this shit) body shaming (anyone woman who's athletic or slender is a 'boy with breasts' and guaranteed to be a hater, while having big funbags and curves is feminine and means they'll end up on Anita's side) and guns, lots of guns via her books. 

 

Merry Gentry took it further; whereas AB started out as the simple wish fulfillment of being a badass mofo, wheras from the outset Merry was her skewed version of the Madonna Whore complex- an ethical, moral & honorable savior of the Fae race who happily fucked anything that moved.  It wasn't until later in the series that Anita began her descent into bodily fluid baths.

 

To paraphrase Chuck D: this stuff is really bad, I'm talkin' 'bout RAPE!

 

I know, I know- this isn't anything new to the Anita Blake series.  Who can forget the introduction of Micah, one of Anita's true loves, who ignored her protests and forcibly took her in the shower.  It's an indication of just how bad this was that the scene was completely reedited in the paperback version into more of 'not expressly saying no' kind of thing. 

 

There's a lot of filler and nonsense in Crimson Death- almost 700 pages worth and it takes literally the first half of the book before the plot gets in gear.  But this is where all the sexual politics and dilemmas occur.  For those familiar with the series, here's a breakdown:

Damian, vampire daywalker, former Viking and member of Anita's second Triumverate along with Nathaniel, has been having nightmares that leave him literally sweating blood and turns to Anita for help.  Adding to this his lover, Cardinale, has been less than supportive of his issues, and knowing Anita's proclivity for having sex with her inner circle, turns into a jealous harpy even though Damian's been faithful to her.  After Cardy's kicked to the curb, Damian needs some emotional support and decides to have sex with Anita and Nate.  Next morning Anita doesn't really remember what happened, though Nate is well pleased with himself.  Turns out he somehow managed to glamour Anita into a few more rounds of sex than she wanted and even coerced Damian- who isn't gay or bisexual- into topping him a few times. 

 

They turn to Jean-Claude for help, who isn't quite certain either, but is happy that this means that through this he can somehow become more powerful than everyone's favorite frenemy, Richard.  Nate's protests amount to he kept asking them if they wanted this even as he was exerting his influence upon them, so they never did anything they didn't agree to, so it's ok.  Anita agrees, because hey... it's Nate.  And they fully expect Damian to be ok with things, too.  Turns out he's fine with it because hey- it's Anita and Nate.  So thanks for showing him a side of himself he never knew existed.

 

Nathaniel's only regret in all this is that in the heat of passion they forgot to use condoms.

 

If you want the crib notes, follow the link to where my buddy, EA Solinas is posting bullet points of the book. Bullet Points for Crimson Death (spoilers, DUH)

 

There's also a couple of forum discussions about Trigger Warnings and Rape.

 

Problem is this stuff is par for the series- longtime readers will recall the swanmares who objected to Anita trying to strongarm them in sexual servitude and she concluded that they 'were ours to rape' (sic) and proceeded to force them into it.  Or when the local Rex of the lion pride didn't want to have sex with Anita and stay faithful to his wife so she withdrew her protection from him.  Or how Peter, Edward's teenaged stepson, lamented how his girlfriend didn't like what had happened between them and Anita chalked it up to 'buyer's remorse'.  And let's not forget (how can we?) Cynric the weretiger- whom Anita got roofied into having sex with when he was sixteen (which is legal in Las Vegas, where he lived).  Granted, it wasn't their fault (!) but at eighteen his own parents sent him to Anita to be his ward so she could sex him into his full glory.  Because in this series sex is somehow now tied to your metaphysical powers, you see.  In other words, she attends his PTA meetings during the day and then fucks him at night. 

 

Think I had a couple of dvds like that.

 

I've no idea what Hamilton thinks she's accomplishing with all this.  Her sales are tanking, readers are constantly noting how she seems reluctant to even continue either series and when she finally gets dragged kicking and screaming to the publisher these are the results. I'm kinda done trying to psychoanalyze this shit; I'm just gonna take it at face value and call it for the bullshit that it is.

Update: End of Days for Ellora's Cave

Thanks to the #notchilled hashtag on Twitter- a very loose affiliation that's been discussing what's going on with Ellora's Cave- here are screens of the email Jaid Black/Tina Engler sent out and contract EC is offering its authors to revert their rights back to them.

 

As always- we report, you decide. ;)  

 

 

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End of Days for Ellora's Cave

Word's going around that EC will be shutting its doors on Dec 31, 2016. 

 

 

Nothing official's been posted on their site or FB page, but many authors are already klatching about it.  In typical EC fashion, they/she are trying to hold the revision of author's rights back to them in lieu of waiving any claims to outstanding royalties due.

 

Sadly, neither of these developments came as a surprise to anyone.

 

 

And Today, This Happened on Amazon...

Longtime Amazon customers are probably aware of the recent plague of coupon club reviews that have been infesting the site over the past year or so. Basically, the word is out that certain reviewers/bloggers, etc, are enjoying the privileges of getting all kinds of free & cheap crap (in every sense) from various companies and they want in. no matter what. No one seemed all that interested in free books, though...

 

Naturally, shady stuff commenced. Companies like Amazon Review Trader (AMZRT) popped up, offering all kinds of bullshit on the cheap, so long as you provided them with an "honest & unbiased review". Which would lead to more cheapies, and so on.

 

Well, not anymore. Or at least, not so much until they figure out a way around things. https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/abpto3jt7fhb5oc

 

Update on Customer Reviews

October 3, 2016

 

Customer reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer customers for making informed purchase decisions, and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job. In just the past year, we’ve improved review ratings by introducing a machine learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews; applying stricter criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge; and suspending, banning or suing thousands of individuals for attempting to manipulate reviews. Our community guidelines have always prohibited compensation for reviews, with an exception – reviewers could post a review in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as they disclosed that fact. These so-called ‘incentivized reviews’ make up only a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of reviews on Amazon, and when done carefully, they can be helpful to customers by providing a foundation of reviews for new or less well-known products.

 

Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. We launched Vine several years ago to carefully facilitate these kinds of reviews and have been happy with feedback from customers and vendors.

 

Here’s how Vine works: Amazon – not the vendor or seller – identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products; we do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written; and we limit the total number of Vine reviews that we display for each product. Vine has important controls in place and has proven to be especially valuable for getting early reviews on new products that have not yet been able to generate enough sales to have significant numbers of organic reviews. We also have ideas for how to continue to make Vine an even more useful program going forward. Details on that as we have them. The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books. Thank you. – Chee Chew, VP, Customer Experience

 

Sounded great to me! Until I read this:

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_v4_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=202094170

 

Promotional Content in Customer Reviews

Our goal is to capture all the energy, enthusiasm, and feedback (both favorable and critical) that customers have about a product while avoiding use of reviews to advertise, promote, or mislead.

 

To help illustrate, here are a few examples of reviews that we don't allow: • *A product brand posts a review of their own product

• *A customer posts a review in exchange for cash, a free or discounted product, a gift certificate, or a discount off a future purchase provided by a third party

• *A customer posts a review in exchange for entry into a contest or sweepstakes or membership in a program

• *A customer posts a review of a game in exchange for bonus in-game content or credits • *A relative, close friend, business associate, or employee of the product creator posts a review to help boost sales

• *A customer posts a review of the product after being promised a refund in exchange for the review

• *A seller posts negative reviews about a competitor's product

• *An author posts a positive review about a peer's book in exchange for receiving a positive review from the peer

 

(It's that second entry that's giving me pause.)

 

And furthermore: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201929730

 

Promotions and Commercial Solicitations

In order to preserve the integrity of Community content, content and activities consisting of advertising, promotion, or solicitation (whether direct or indirect) is not allowed, including:

• Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative's, close friend's, business associate's, or employer's) products or services.

• Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your competitors' products or services.

• Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.

• Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.

• Posting advertisements or solicitations, including URLs with referrer tags or affiliate codes.

 

(That third line is what's bugging me.)

 

And last, but not least: "Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review."

 

...uhhh...

 

I often review books from book tour companies and whatnot, so while it says ARCs directly provided by publishers are ok it's also saying no third-party providers allowed. 

 

I'll admit I'm a little confused here. I'm not mad about the changes; I'm glad this finally happened and think they should've gone even further with cleaning things up. I just wish they'd be clearer about what's what to help avoid mistakes.

70 Free books on Instafreebie (well, what else would you expect?)

If you've been to Instafreebie, you know what's up.

 

If not, it's easy: you sign up and get alerts during the week about books in various genres being offered up- mostly self-pubs.  Make you selection, submit your email and get the link.  Sometimes by submitting your email you'll be agreeing to subscribe to an author's mailing list.  That's all there is to it.

 

 

This week's offer is good until Sept 20 and comes courtesy of author Patty Jansen.  Click on banner to see what's available. 

Review: Here Comes the Witch (Main Street Witches #1) by Ani Gonzalez

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Here Comes The Witch (Main Street Witches #1) by Ani Gonzalez
 
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
 
Age category: Adult
 
Release Date:7 September, 2016
 
Jewelry designer Kat Ramos has come to Banshee Creek to break the famous Hagen House curse and, in order to do that, she must marry Liam Hagen. A vengeful ghost with a deadly history isn’t part of the deal, and neither is love. Will Kat be able to handle both? Or will the mystery of the cursed Hagen House remain unsolved?  
 
 
 
 
 
***Disclosure: I received a free copy in exchange for a review.***
 
“Let me get this straight: you want to film a Caribbean Santeria ritual that aims to exorcise an Italian ghost during a Chinese ancestor festival?” The plot in a nutshell.
 
What's Good: like it says, it's a light, cozy (sorta) mystery. Lots of pop culture references, one-liners and more mythological name dropping & wiccan terminology than you can shake a stick at. As a spinoff from the Banshee Creek series, the characters and setting should be readily familiar to those fans.
 
The PRoVE crew (Paranormal Research of Virginia Enterprises) were a fun & funny bunch- think of them as the town's version of Mythbusters. You'll enjoy whenever they make an appearance.
 
I also liked the diversity of the town; lots of myth and lore from across the world and a studious avoidance of the same old stale Wiccan-only focus.
 
Amy Chan, proprietor of the local chinese restaurant, was the best character and needed much more screentime. Hopefully this'll happen in future books.
 
What's Bad: see above. Even though it's a spinoff, so much is invested in building up the backstory, characters and squeezing in more magickal mumbo-jumbo than necessary it comes damn close to putting you off. There's a limit to this kind of stuff; a lot of it felt like filler to pad things out because there isn't a whole lot to this 'mystery' and curse- like an Anita Blake novel, after all the buildup the main plot gets wrapped up and fizzles out in about two pages.
 
Theres's no actual sex in the book, just lots of kissing and attempts at building sexual tension. Attempts.
 
The main characters were inconsistent; they know everything about everything that's going on... except when they don't. Main man Liam is as sharp as a crayon. He knows he’s supposed to complete all the traditional marriage rituals in order to break the curse yet doesn’t seem to realize this includes giving someone a chance to object to the wedding, carrying his bride over the threshold of the house, kissing the bride and of course- consummating the marriage. Really? Because everyone else in the town knew all that.
 
The female lead, Kat, ain't a whole lot better- she didn't think of any of that stuff, either. The moment she meets Yolanda (Yoda), she immediately recognizes all the paraphenalia she's wearing and which gods it's dedicated to, yet she doesn't know jack all about casting spells and magic. She literally resorts to books like Wiccan for Dummies and Witchcraft 101 to break the curse on the house. Huh?
 
And it's odd that a place that's such a hotbed for verified paranormal activity that it's become a tourist spot, there's no governmental agency to monitor things. But maybe that's just me overthinking things.
 
What's Left: there's lots to like and lots to scratch your head about. It gets bogged down under its own weight, which is odd for a cozy. Think of it as a book version of an episode of Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie.
 
2.5/5 stars

 

Cover Reveal: Pocket Full of Tinder (Noon Onyx #4) by Jill Archer

Pocket Full of Tinder: Noon Onyx Book 4

Jill Archer

 

Genre: Fantasy

 

Publisher: Black Willow

 

Noon Onyx is back!

 

In this long-awaited fourth installment, Jill Archer returns readers to the dangerous world of Halja, where demons, angels, and humans coexist in an uneasy state of détente.

 

Maegester-in-Training Noon Onyx feels like she’s done it all – mastered fiery magic, become an adept fighter, learned the law, killed countless demons, and survived having her heart broken by both love and an arrow, but now she’ll face her greatest challenge yet…

 

 

 

 

Far to the north lies an outpost famous for its unrest – Rockthorn Gorge. The town’s patron has specifically requested Noon’s help. Her assignment? Help the neophyte demon lord build his fiefdom and keep what’s his. The problem? Lord Aristos – Noon’s new employer – is her erstwhile lover, Ari Carmine, the aforementioned heartbreaker. And the number one thing he wants is her.

 

When Rockthorn Gorge’s viaduct is destroyed by Displodo, an enigmatic bomber, killing a dozen settlers and wounding scores more, Noon sets off early to aid in the search and rescue. Ari is listed among the missing and the suspects are legion. But Noon’s search is just the beginning. Her journey forces Noon to confront not only those she loves, but also enemies hell-bent on destroying them.

 

Excerpt:

 

The claw-and-ball had been chewed clean off. It lay on a patch of sunny parquet floor, just to the right of an antique, aubergine wool rug now covered with the splintered remnants of an eleventh century pedestal table and one very large, ghastly looking, somewhat repentant barghest.

 

Nova’s head rested on her front paws as her gaze shifted warily from me to Miss Bister, Megiddo’s dormater, or house mother.

 

“Megiddo’s lobby is not a kennel, Miss Onyx. That”—she motioned dismissively toward Nova—“beast can no longer be housed here.”

 

I opened my mouth to respond, but Miss Bister continued speaking, her tone rising only infinitesimally, her back as stiff as Luck’s lance must have been, and her expression just as hard. She pointed toward the previously priceless, three-footed piece of furniture that was now a worthless, two-footed pile of kindling.

 

“No amount of money – or magic – can fix that, Nouiomo. It’s beyond repair. I warned you. I made an exception to my ‘no pets’ rule because you never cause trouble. You never forget your key; you promptly pick up your deliveries; you change your own light bulbs; you double bag your trash. You leave nothing behind in the bathroom; you don’t monopolize the washing machines; you are exceedingly polite to the lift operator; you don’t sing in the shower.”

 

I suppressed a sigh. After a year and a half of painstaking efforts, harrowing experiences, and endless hours of education, my worth had just been measured by the fact that I could change a light bulb. I’d mastered fiery magic, become an adept fighter, learned the law, killed countless demons (one regrettably, the others much less so), freed myriad immortals from an accursed, tortured bondage, and survived having my heart nearly destroyed by both love and an arrow, yet none of that meant bupkis next to the fact that I double bagged my trash. And yet…

 

I couldn’t really argue with Miss Bister either. Everything she’d said was true. And who was I to tell her what she should deem important? I respected that she valued domestic order and antiques. I did too, if not nearly as much as I valued the thing that now threatened our continued access to such. I glared at Nova, who swept one paw over her eyes as if she could hide from me and the evidence of what she’d done.

 

Barghests are giant hellhounds. They’re bigger than bears, fiercer than rabid raccoons, and uglier than naked mole rats. Their teeth are the size of railroad spikes, their claws as sharp as a sickle, their breath as foul as sewage gas. But they are also affectionate, brave, and loyal. What barghests lack in magic, they make up for in devotion. And even though I was plenty mad at Nova for chewing up Miss Bister’s table, I also knew it wasn’t Nova’s fault.

 

It was mine – for thinking the lobby of a demon law school dormitory would be a good place to keep her.

 

“Miss Bister, please,” I said. “I’m truly sorry. I know I can’t replace that exact table. But if you would just allow me to—”

 

“No,” Miss Bister said simply. “Either the beast goes… Or you do.”

 

I stared at the small, frail, magicless woman in front of me, trying desperately to think of some way to fix this problem. Wasn’t there something I could do, or say, or offer her that would make amends and convince her not to kick us out?

 

But all I could think of was how useless some of the things our society valued most were. As Miss Bister had pointed out, neither magic nor money would help. If I was going to repair the table, I’d need to find another way. Which would take time. And that meant I’d need to find somewhere else for us to sleep tonight. Because if the beast was going… I was too.

 

“Yes, Miss Bister,” I said. “I understand.”

 

She narrowed her eyes, slightly suspicious of my now gracious defeat since I’d just spent the last half-hour trying to persuade her to accept various forms of reparation. But then she nodded, handed me a couple of paper bin bags, and left.

 

I slid one bag inside the other and stooped down to pick up the slobbery remains of Nova’s mangled chew toy. When I finished, she came over to me and nudged my arm with her head. She let out a woofy whine.

 

Was she sorry? She darn well better be!

 

I gave her a scratch behind the ears.

 

“Now that you’ve sharpened your teeth on my former dormater’s furniture, are you ready to eat some real food for breakfast?”

 

 

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Jill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, White Heart of Justice, and Pocket Full of Tinder. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.

 

 

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Review: The Retreat (After Trilogy #1) by Kelly St. Clare

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Earth is ruined. Humankind destroyed. And it’s old news.

 

Romy’s life is simple—for a genetically enhanced space soldier; pick up space junk with her four friends, and stave off the invaders fixated on stealing Planet Earth.

 

It isn’t much. But it’s temporary—only another 850 years to go, give or take.

 

When her crew tangles with a gulp-worthy alien mothership, Romy’s return to Earth is brought forwards at hurtling pace.

 

Strength comes from the unlikeliest of quarters.

 

As does leadership.

 

…As does betrayal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Disclosure: I received a free copy in exchange for a review.***

 

What’s Good: a well-paced read that can keep you turning the pages.  The premise is intriguing, even knowing the hammer’s gonna fall.  Once stranded upon Earth, things change in more ways than Romy and her friends could’ve imagined.  Despite all the teen drama & angst that dominates the book it never gets too bogged down by it.

 

Dialogue, while usually stilted, is often funny.  Houston, a medical doctor, is a walking rifftrack- always with a quip or one-liner, even at the wrong moment.  He needs more page time.

 

The plot, while nothing new, has a few wrinkles to it that’ll hold your interest.  Threads are woven together pretty nicely and there’s not a lot of wasted pages.

 

What’s Bad: the usual.  Main character Rosemary, aka Romy, is pretty much the Chosen One, evidenced by her nickname (instead of Rose or Rosie).  Except for one or two exceptions nearly every character is straight from Central Casting including Atlas- the mysterious, enigmatic leading man who leads the encampment and, of course, falls completely in love with Romy after about two weeks.

 

Despite the new wrinkles it’s still a YA novel and quickly falls back into the same old same old, so what felt kinda fresh becomes stale.

 

There’s also not enough about the Critamal- the aliens that humanity is fighting.  Once the crew is stranded on Earth the focus naturally shifts, but the alien invaders are all but forgotten, and not a whole lot was supplied about them to begin with.

 

Being a YA novel, there has to be artifical drama that makes no sense.  Romy & her crew are super-soldiers: enhanced reflexes & strength, nanobots in their bloodstream, etc.  Yet when faced with the threat of sexual assault suddenly Romy has no skills whatsoever, let alone presence of mind to simply punch him in the jaw and let someone know what’s happened.  Or at least level a few threats of her own.  Granted, this scene was groundwork for later developments, but it still didn’t make any sense.

 

What’s Left: an interesting arc that needs to get out of its own way.  Less reliance on the YA cliches and tropes and tell the story.

 

3/5 stars.

Amazon's Kindle Scout Program

Anyone familiar with this?  How's it working out so far?

 

Kindle Scout

 

With Kindle Scout, you can read excerpts from unpublished manuscripts and nominate your favorites to be published to Kindle. If a book you nominated gets published, you will receive a Kindle copy of that book for free.

 

To get started with Kindle Scout: Visit kindlescout.amazon.com. If you are not signed in, click "Hello. Sign In." in the upper right corner and enter your Amazon account information.

 

  1. Read excerpts of the available Kindle Scout books and nominate your favorites to be published by clicking Nominate Me. You can nominate up to three books at a time.

 

Each book’s detail page displays how many days are left in the book’s campaign. When the campaign is over for a book you nominated, you’ll be notified via e-mail whether the title was selected to be published.

 

You will receive a free copy of the Kindle book if a title you nominated is published.

Review: Fish Wielder by Jim Hardison

 

 

***Disclaimer: I received a free copy in exchange for a review.***

 

I almost don’t even know where to start.

 

This is simply one of the best satirical novels you’ll ever read.  It’s Python-esquely witty, meticulously referenced, surprisingly poignant, tightly plotted, sublimely ridiculous, damned stupid and you’ll enjoy every page of it.   Especially if you like pudding.  You’d better like pudding, because it’s everywhere in this thing.

 

“We are enemies of old, and I am sworn to an older swear than the swear I swore when I swore to the elves.”

 

Our hero, Thoral Fist Wielder, is everything you’d expect and more.  And less.  And something in between.  Tall, blond, muscular, speaks loudly and carries a big sword.  Knows lots of words and doesn’t know lots more.   Really likes being clean.  Surprised?- you’ll discover there’s a good reason for it.  His sidekick, Brad, is a talking, ambulatory Koi fish who can’t swim- you’ll notice him on the cover.  Also on the cover is a dark haired elven beauty.  Her name’s Nalweegie- which in Elvish means “the Evening Snack”, because to look on her in twilight quells the hunger of one’s heart without making one feel overfull, as can happen with a more substantial meal. 

 

And did I mention Thoral’s trusty steed named Warlordhorse?

 

Hardison’s style is pretty funny, if a little verbose.  Hardison delivers the most overstuffed, flowery, convoluted, so-purple-Prince-would’ve-sued-him prose you’ll ever read.   And that’s without even mentioning the color of Thoral’s eyes.  The man knows his stuff; you may not laugh out loud at everything but you’ll definitely be amused- even bemused from time to time.  Don’t worry; it’ll all sort itself out.  This guy’s a master of turning a phrase… on its ear. 

 

“Thoral swung Blurmflard, whistling through the air, the pink fire of its magic glow flaming to light, and the priest’s head left his shoulders with such force that it smashed an onrushing brother in the face so hard that it killed him, the guy behind him and the guy behind him.  The brother behind those three got a concussion and the guy behind him got a bloody nose.”

 

Believe it or not, there’s an actual plot going on here.  This isn’t some slapped together slapstick; there’s something sinister going on here, and even though you may lose sight of it amidst all the sporking and send-ups, Hardison never does.  It involves an evil sorcerer, of course, a powerful magic spell, a prophecy and the leader of the Bad Religion.  When you least expect it the plot rears its head to remind you what’s at stake, and the threads are very neatly woven together within the foolishness.  There truly is a method to all the madness.  And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, when you’re just along for the ride- he yanks the carpet out from under you.  There’s twists and turns to this story you’ll never see coming, especially in the finale.  And you’ll be hungry for more. 

 

“One does not simply walk into Flurge… it is a terrifying, dangerous, dread place, crowded with the twisted spirits of the dead and overrun by monsters… It drips with darkness like a burlap bag full of black paint.  The very air is a smelly fume…”

 

(If you don’t recognize that quote, don’t even bother picking up this book)

 

Lovecraft, Robert Howard, Lewis Carroll, Michael Moorcock, Tolkien, Fritz Leiber- none are spared from the rapier wit of Jim Hardison.  He pays homage to the masters of Fantasy by roasting their chestnuts over an open fire.   And you’ll love every moment of it.

 

 

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