Review: No Fire Escape in Hell

No Fire Escape in Hell is part romantic comedy, part comedy of errors, written by Kim Cayer.

I first read this book in the summer of 2016 but we just finished reading it with the Steinbach and Area book club so I thought I would do a review.

The story has a first person female narrator and the character is quite amusing. This isn’t really my type of book but the character was entertaining enough that I finished reading. I liked her daughter as well.

What else I liked was the middle and ending of the book. She’s basically living out of her car and everything goes wrong, constantly, while she struggles to make things go right. The events of the book are interesting, nothing repetitive or annoying. Ends on a decent note.

What I didn’t like was the beginning. I found there were a few things that hurt the believability of the story, and the initial incident that gets her living in her car in the first place, well I just didn’t believe it. I found myself sitting there going “why didn’t she just -” and coming up with a half dozen other things she could have done that would have been more reasonable and really, still in character. I think the set-up could have been thought out better. There were also a few times that I thought “really? is she that naive?”

The other readers at book club had trouble getting through this story. They found it slow and it wasn’t really anyone’s “thing”.

If you enjoy fun, light, romantic comedies, give this book a try. If not, then I’d avoid it. Personally, I give it a 2 out of 5 stars.

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The Value of Trades

Remember opening your lunch kit in elementary school and there it is, that snack you just hate? For me it was Wagon Wheels (thank god my Mom never bought the damn things) and Gushers (which she did buy, thanks Sis). If there were Gushers in my lunch it was going to be a no good awful day. Unless someone was willing to trade me their granola bar or their cheese and crackers for those damn squishy sugar-water filled sorry excuse for a fruit snack. Technically trades weren’t allowed but if you did it quiet-like and under the table maybe the teacher wouldn’t notice and you’d actually get to eat snack that day.

For writers, trades come in many forms and all of them can be important for marketing and networking.

Blog Hopping

This first type of trade deals in blog posts. You interview me, I’ll interview you. You do a post on my newest release, I’ll do a post on your upcoming reading. Whatever the format or content of this trade the purpose remains the same: expanding your online visibility and reach.

Presumably each author has a different set of followers with some overlap from shared groups. By getting your name and information and book cover on someone else’s blog you are making yourself visible to the unique set of followers they have access to and maybe some of them will be interested in you.

When doing any sort of blog trade be sure to include an author photo, at least one cover photo, and links to the other author’s blog, Facebook page, Twitter, or whatever. Make the post conversational – which is why interviews work so well. You want to generate interest in the person, not sound like a bad sales commercial on the shopping network.

Oh, and make sure you’re trading with someone you can trust to come through on their end of the bargain. Blog trades are free but they do take up time and effort. And if someone burns you in a trade feel free to take down the post. Also, if you see them volunteer to do a trade with someone else quietly and privately offer a warning that you got burned. I never advocate for making a public spectacle of these situations.

Digital Copy Trades

Generally these are the dreaded review trades. I do this a lot because I have a book addiction and no where near enough money to buy as many books as I read in a year. Over the summer I was reading two books a week!

First, be clear on where and when you will review the book and get a clear answer on where and when they will review yours. Is this a blog review? Will they post to Amazon or Goodreads? Will they get to it this week? This month? Next month? Don’t nag but do check in to make sure there are no errors with the file or no emergencies that may cause a delay on their part. There’s nothing wrong with staying in touch and up to date.

Second, a trade has to be mutually beneficial. That not only means both authors get a review and both authors get a free e-book, it also means both authors get a book they are potentially interested in. You need to talk to each other first and make sure you’re both getting a book you’ll actually read and hopefully enjoy.

Third, be clear on what you want the other author to do if they don’t like your book. For me I say as long as you’re willing to post something polite and constructive I don’t care if it’s a 1 or 2 star review. I know other authors don’t like getting 1 and 2 star reviews so they may ask to receive the review by PM and not have it publicly posted. You can ask someone not to post a review but  you cannot ask someone to post a faked review. If they don’t like your book, or if you don’t like theirs, then there shouldn’t be a 5 star review going up. Please. For the continued credibility of book reviews, be honest.

Paperback Trades

I went to When Words Collide, a readercon in Calgary, this August. I could go on for a few blog posts about how awesome WWC is (and I did, you can go read them if you’d like) but for now I will share this one story:

At the mass autograph session I got to talking with another author (who is also a musician) and he gave me a copy of his novella (which comes with a soundtrack!). Yeah. GAVE me a copy. “Here, take it”. So I gave him a copy of my novel, Pieces. There were no strings attached. I do plan to write a review on my blog and we keep in touch a little on social media, but this wasn’t a “you review mine, I review yours” sort of trade.

I highly encourage authors at conventions and other live sales to trade books with other authors. First, it’s a cheap way to build your own library. Second, it’s a cheap way to build connections with other authors. Third, it’s a cheap way to build an audience (I’ll explain that in a minute).

I belong to a local authors’ cooperative and we do a lot of these events together, 2 or more authors at one table or booth with all our books on display – it’s a wonderful experience. Sadly, a lot of authors in the group have never read the books of the other authors. We’re supposed to be supporting each other but we don’t even know what the other books are about, or what the writing style is. This may not sound important but I sold a book by one of my fellow authors because I’d read it and could honestly say I couldn’t put it down, and why it was so exciting to read. Actually, I’ve snagged more than one sale because I’d actually read the book I was trying to sell. I was selling to them as a fellow reader, not as a desperate author, and it worked REALLY well.

And that leads me to:

Benefits

I get it, giving shit away is counter-intuitive. We’ve all done giveaways and free-weekends, and forever-free-first-books and seen minimal translation into hard sales. The internet loves free and books are horribly undervalued. So let me explain why trades are different from other forms of giving shit away.

First – Trades are not like other freebie deals because instead of shouting at the whole world you’re targeting people who like to read, who understand the value of reviews, and who want to support you in some way. General freebies get lots of downloads but never translate into sales because you’re targeting mostly people who like free stuff, and not people who like to read, like to review, or like to support authors.

Authors are great readers but horrible customers. Most of the authors I know fall into one or more of the following categories: living paycheck to paycheck, supporting more than one person on a single reliable income, living with some form of disability which affects their ability to work, raising kids, attending university or college. All those things, in some way shape or form, limit expendable income. Most authors are pretty damn close to broke. So they save their money for those few books that they just HAVE TO HAVE – the next book in a series they love, or by their favourite author. They want to support fellow indies but they don’t have the money and won’t have the money unless they A) make it big or B) you can edge your way into their “Favourite Author” or “Must Have” lists.

In short, they won’t take a chance on your books if they have to spend money on it, not because they’re elitist but because they’re broke.

2) Trades have long been a viable economic structure. I have chickens, you have cows – I’ll trade you some eggs for some milk. You have sheep, I have a garden – I’ll give you veggies in return for winter hats for my kids. You have a book I want to read, I have a book you want to read – let’s swap books and leave each other a review and point other people towards these lovely books we have discovered.

Remember, with a trade you’re not really giving something away, you’re paying for goods with goods, or services with services. Just make sure that the trade is economically fair in both directions.

3) Digital books cost us nothing upfront. Yes, they cost us that elusive “sale” we’re all chasing but you’re not out the cost of paper and shipping. As with my second point, though, you’re not giving it away, you’re exchanging it for something of equal value PLUS, hopefully, a review and some good word of mouth marketing.

4) Personal connection – this is HUGE. You’ve spent some time talking with this other author, either while working a table together at an event, or working neighbouring tables, or you’ve been in an online writing group together. You know what sort of pet they have and if they like notebooks and whether they’re a coffee drinker or a tea drinker. Maybe this isn’t enough to spark a romantic relationship, but you do have a connection to them now. You are more likely to actually read the “free” book you got from this person because of that connection, and they are more likely to read yours for the same reason. This connection is lacking in those “free for 3 days” offers you see on Amazon. Readers download the book but they have no reason to pick it out of their TBR piles because they have no connection to you.

5) Readers sell more books than writers – Who are you going to listen to? Your BFF who just finished reading this awesome book in a genre you both love? Or that guy on your Facebook page who talks about his book ALL THE TIME?

This goes back to what I was saying about my local authors’ group. I’m really good at selling books by other authors because the potential buyer is viewing me as a fellow reader. I have no financial investment in the outcome of their purchase if I’m not selling my book and that makes my opinion more credible.

This is also why I post a link to a review I’ve done when someone posts about their book in a self-promo thread. It’s not to derail or get more views it’s a way of saying “Here, don’t take the author’s word for it. I’m a real reader and this is what I thought of the book.”

But, on that note, it means you have to talk about books you’ve read and enjoyed. And not just the latest by Stephen King or JK Rowling or Cassandra whats-her-name. Talk about the indie books you’ve read just like they’re the latest book by your favourite big name. Read the books in public, talk about them at coffee dates and cocktail parties. I mean, of course talk about your own books in a non-pushy, conversational way too, but I repeat: readers sell more books than writers.

Have you done many trades before? Do you prefer digital or print trades? Did you have a good experience with it? Do you do blog hops and interview swaps? I would love to hear your stories.

 

Review: Asylum

Asylum is a fantasy horror novel by Chantelle J.Z. Storm. I would recommend this book for teen audiences, and anyone who loves a scary fantasy.

The main character is a moody teenage girl named Kairyna. She has been living with her Aunt Helen for three years, ever since the death of her parents. Helen has taken a job as a housekeeper for Madame Sporra and moved Kairyna to Madame’s spooky mansion.

Kairyna is a book worm but the book she finds in the mansion will whisk her away to another world, answering her prayer for adventure. But of course the answer to our prayers isn’t always what we hope it to be and the adventure that Kairyna finds herself on is dangerous.

The majority of the story takes place in this other world with a small cast of varied characters, all of whom were, at one time, like Kairyna, looking for adventures beyond their boring existence. A few times you get pieces of what’s happening with Aunt Helen while Kairyna is off on her adventure.

I really enjoyed this book. The pacing was good and the story was spooky. The dialogue was really good, for the most part. There were a few places were things got a little too corny, but otherwise it was good. The tension in this book is not so much about who the bad guy will turn out to be but how Kairyna and her odd bunch of friends will twist their situation to their advantage while an unseen force relentlessly tries to kill them.

Most of the characters were enjoyable but I found 1 or 2 to be a little cliched. Kairyna herself is moody without being annoying and steps up to the challenges that appear before her. The story is told in 3rd person so there’s real tension as to whether Kairyna will survive to the end.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

Review: PAWS 3: Umbrae

Umbrae is the third book in the P.A.W.S. series by Debbie Manber Kupfer and this review was supposed to be up on Saturday – I swear I typed it up. Stupid internet. Anyways, better late than never.

I’ve been enjoying the P.A.W.S. series. This is a YA urban fantasy series that focuses on shapeshifters of varying types. The main character is a teenage girl named Miri. Miri can shift into a cat with the help of a magical talisman.

In this book Miri learns a lot about her family history while back at the P.A.W.S. Institute of the Midwest there is trouble brewing. Loyalties are tested. Secrets come to light while others are buried deeper.

The author does a wonderful job of continuing to create tension even after Miri has defeated her enemy (back in books 1 and 2). This book introduces many new complications and raises as many questions as it answers.

Another interesting aspect of this series is that many of the main characters are Jewish. I love books that explore cultures outside of the White-Western-Christian experience. Also love that the Canadian exchange student is loud and gets into trouble!

This is a series that has remained strong and interesting through three books and ends with a great hook. If you’re looking for a good YA series this is one I recommend taking a chance on. 5 out of 5 stars.

Review: The Dracones Book 1

The Dracones is an urban fantasy series by Sheri-Lynn Marean. The Dracones are a race of shape shifters from another dimension. Their animal to shift into is a dragon and it doesn’t take affect until they are twenty one.

Chapter 1 was a lot of back story but there was some intrigue as well. It was obvious from chapter 1 who the love interest was going to be but I was impressed when she stepped away from the “we grew up together, we’re like siblings” trope and went for something darker.

The book dumps a lot of characters on you in fairly quick succession and there are a lot of fantasy races you need to come to terms with in fairly short order. As well, the main character is just getting a grip on some of her powers, discovering them as she goes along. While she does have difficulty with this and requires a lot of help it felt convenient at times. “Oh, you need this done? Well you can do that too, you just don’t know it yet!”.

The author uses a weird formatting inside the book – she doesn’t start a new paragraph every time the speaker changes and that made following the dialogue VERY difficult, especially with the order of the dialogue compared to the tags (he said, she said).

The romantic tension was good and the development of the two MCs was good. This is definitely an adult paranormal romance with a magic assisted sex scene that made me roll my eyes a bit.

All that being said, I actually enjoyed reading the whole thing and would likely read more in the series. I’d give this a 3 star, but only because of the dialogue formatting. Otherwise it would be a 3.5, almost a 4.

Review: Alamir: Blood of Kaos Series

Alamir is the first book in the Blood of Kaos Series by Nesa Miller. This is an urban fantasy series that deals with demons and multiple realms.

What I like is that the pacing is steady with a good mix of sexy romance, dominance plays, and violence. Seriously, it plays out like a great TV series. You jump right in with just enough back story to keep you from being completely lost and then you get pieces along the way – some pieces make the story clearer, others make it more confusing. But confusing in a good way and answers come along often enough that you know the author intends to answer everything in her own time.

What I don’t like are the names and the misspellings. Kaos instead of Chaos. Names like Inferno, Spirit, Faux, Darknight … I know, it’s urban paranormal, this is the norm, these are the signals to the reader that it’s a demon story, but I don’t like it. That being said, it wasn’t enough of an issue to make me put the story down.

And while I don’t like the “destined to love each other, complete each other” reason for those two characters being together, she’s a strong woman who has made it very clear that if/when they sleep together it’s going to be on her terms. She forces him to be honest and vulnerable, forces him to respect her, and I like that.

This book stands alone as a single adventure with a goal which is achieved. But at the same time it sets up nicely for the sequel which will be out in the next year or so.

Overall I give this book 3.75 stars out of 5. The writing is very good and it’s gotten some amazing reviews so if you like this sort of story, with powerful brooding heroes and demons evil twins, read this book, you’ll love it. That’s the beauty of books – there’s something for everyone and if this is you’re thing you’re in for a treat.

Review: Transverse

Transverse is a poetry book written by Theo Ashford and is a companion to his “memoir” Transform. One can be read without the other, I haven’t read Transform yet.

Transverse is not a long book but it was very moving. Each poem was unique and captured a distinctive emotion or moment. Theo relies strongly on images of breaking, shifting, change, emptiness, and confusion to illustrate his own personal journey.

He has provided an honest look at one person’s journey of discovery, one that is on going – at least that’s the sense I got from these poems. There was a sense of being stuck in the middle of a fight – he shares the things he struggles with, and against, and in doing so highlights where the world is failing.

As someone who identifies as “hetro-normative” in pretty much every way I really appreciated being able to read this book. It opened my eyes to the inner turmoil, yes, but it also shone a light on how people like me are failing at being supportive.

Definitely a glowing 5 our of 5 stars from me.

Review: The Bloodstone Reckoning

The Bloodstone Reckoning is Mike Wigington’s debut novel – an epic fantasy for teens and adults.

The main character of the novel is Tabitha Millhouse, the daughter of a miller in a small town. The story begins on Tabitha’s 15th birthday. She lives with her father, her mother is dead, and her father will not speak of the past. Today, being her birthday, Tabitha pushes the issue, causing a fight that sends her running from the cabin and into the thick of the plot.

As well as her father there are two youth in town roughly her age, Faylyn, the daughter of the goldsmith, and Macon, the son of the black smith. These are Tabitha’s friends. Tabitha also meets an old wise woman, an Earth Mother, in the woods. This woman, Baba, becomes her friend and teacher.

There are powerful forces at work in this world and an evil lord from a far off country seeks an ancient and evil relic that he hopes will grant him immortality. Thus the stage is set.

Mike has created a detailed and rich world for his story to play out in, one that feels real and vivid. His descriptions are never tedious and add life to the story. The characters, while simple, are still fun. Tabitha is the stubborn tomboy. Macon is the sneaky troublesome boy who is attracted to her in spite of her weirdness. Baba is the wise woman. Tabitha’s father drinks away his heart ache and seeks above all else to protect his daughter. Lord Drake is charming and powerful, a man who simply craves power.

I love a rich fantasy and this certainly falls into that category. There are multiple forms of magic, many secrets, and a sense of urgency to the story.

I would like to congratulate Mike Wigington on a stellar debut and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Lover’s Blog Hop

Today I am hosting the Book Lover’s Blog Hop. Each day of August a different author will be hosting the QUESTION OF THE DAY on their blog. I invite you to check out posts 1-8, and to head over to the rest of the blogs throughout the month. Here’s the schedule:

1st August http://www.JoLinsdell.com
2nd August http://www.skyehegyes.com
3rd August http://www.katherineapisana.com
4th August http://www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com
5th August https://bookenthusiast2016.wordpress.com
6th August http://karaswanson.com
7th August http://www.brandypotterbooks.com
8th August http://www.BelindaBekkers.com
9th August http://www.casiaschreyer.wordpress.com
10th August http://www.katherineapisana.com
11th August http://www.virginialorijennings.com
12th August http://www.virginialorijennings.com
13th August http://www.cjbrightley.com
14th August http://www.JustBJordan.com
15th August http://www.saderena.com/blog
16th August http://www.angelaguidolinauthor.co.uk/blog
17th August http://www.tabithacaplinger.com
18th August http://www.skyehegyes.com
19th August http://www.landsuncharted.com
20th August kmcarrollblog.wordpress.com
21st August http://www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com
22nd August http://www.JoLinsdell.com
23rd August http://www.belindabekkers.com
24th August http://www.fabianspace.com
25th August http://theliteraryapothecary.blogspot.com
26th August http://www.JustBJordan.com
27th August http://www.jebraunclifford.com
28th August http://www.brandypotterbooks.com
29th August http://www.skyehegyes.com
30th August http://www.brandypotterbooks.com
31st August http://www.landsuncharted.com

My QUESTION OF THE DAY is
HOW DO YOU ARRANGE YOUR BOOKSHELF?

Jordan 300dpi
Just B. Jordan http://www.JustBJordan.com

I don’t do anything super cool. I just organize by genre and author, putting my favorites in the most accessible spots. 🙂

Brandy Potter
Brandy Potter http://www.brandypotterbooks.com

By collection really and then by height, tallest to largest. I have a library corner in my bedroom. I have very old books (one from 1834). Those and classics occupy the top shelves. Then I have my series authors, Eddings, Tolkein, Riordan, Rowlings, Graham, Doyle, Lewis, Snicket, Christy. Again by height. Next contemporary artists. Grouped by author then height. Last non-fiction grouped by category.

Jo Linsdell
Jo Linsdell http://www.JoLinsdell.com

I don’t really have a system as such. I tend to organise by size, and genre. Books from a series always go together, and I try to put books by the same author together too.

SkyeHegyes
Skye Hegyes http://www.skyehegyes.com

I have three different categories. All my non-fiction is on one shelf sorted by topic and then book size. Then I have mass market paperbacks sorted by author’s last name. The last is all tradeback books and hardcovers, again sorted by author’s last name. It works for me, but I need more shelves.

BelindaBekkers
Belinda Bekkers http://www.belindabekkers.com

I change them from time-to-time. Currently they’re organised by the book’s cover colour. Sometimes it’s by genre, height, or whether they’re read/to-be-read.

Laurie Lucking Author Headshot
Laurie Lucking http://www.landsuncharted.com

My top priority in organizing my bookshelves is to make them look pretty 🙂 I do try to group by genre a bit, but mostly I put books by the same publisher together and books that are the same size together so they line up nicely.

vljauthorpic.jpg
V.L. Jennings http://www.virginialorijennings.com

I sort my books by type, how much I like them, and then by size. It is absolute sacrilege to put books in a series separate from each other. The home improvement books never go next to the Fiction books. The books that are the prettiest or those that I love reading the most go near eye level. It’s sorta complicated.

Jebraun Clifford
Jebraun Clifford – http://www.jebraunclifford.com

We’ve got bookshelves in every room of the house except the kitchen and bathroom. Even boxes of books we’re storing in the attic for my daughter! (breaks my heart to keep them there, but we literally have no room for another bookshelf!) I try to keep everything tidy and in it’s approximate genre. That’s as much as I can manage.

Karina Fabian headshot Aug 2013
Karina Fabian http://fabianspace.com

The family bookshelves are organized by genre and author. I don’t have my personal ones up yet, since we just moved into our new house, but there will be a shelf for friends’ books, a shelf for mine, a shelf for writing, then a shelf for my favorites by author.

C. J. Brightley

The main bookshelves downstairs have all the fiction books organized alphabetically by author’s last name. The bottom shelves hold books to be read (in no particular order). The books in the arts and crafts area in the basement hold all the non-fiction books grouped by topic, and one shelf has young adult books we own that my daughter isn’t quite ready for yet.. The bookshelves in our bedroom hold library books, books I’ve borrowed from friends, and books next up on my TBR list. My children both have their own bookshelves, which are always disorganized, although we try to keep their library books on the bottom shelves.

And me?
My big bookshelf is organized by size first – books go on the shelves where they fit. Then each shelf is sorted by author and series. I have a second shelf that has my photo albums, oversized books and text books. There’s also a shelf in the basement with kids’ books which is sorted by reading level.

Thanks everyone for sharing! I hope you’ll take the time to visit some of the other blogs on the tour.

Review: The Portal Prophesies A Halloween Curse

A Halloween Curse is the second book in the Portal Prophecy series by C.A. King. This is a fantasy series for YA/NA readers.

This is an action packed story with decent pacing and interesting characters. The story is quite twisty and the characters are complex, even the bad guys.

There is a large cast of characters of varying magical abilities from a variety of worlds or dimensions. Sometimes it is hard to keep track of who they are and what they can do because you often go several chapters without hearing from someone.

The descriptions are good, and the imagery and detail is fantastic. The author has put a lot of thought into the double meanings and vague possibilities of all her prophesies, curses, and warnings.

I worry that some of her characters are becoming over-powered and that it may cause plot-failings later in the series but for now the team continues to grow in strength and numbers while the problems facing them grow in complexity. Also, there is tension between the members of the group and quite often the girls are frustrated by people not taking them seriously.

Over all I’m impressed with the series and the scope of this fictional world.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.