A Bookish Valentine Blog Hop: A Series You Love

And now for today’s post in the Bookish Valentine Blog Hop, everyone’s favourite book series. But before we get started on that, here’s the blog hop list so you can go check out past entries, and click ahead to the ones still coming.

 

Jo Linsdell started us off with a list of her favourite book bloggers.

V.L. Jennings hosted for “A book other people love, but you haven’t read yet”

Tomorrow you can pop back here for “A Series you Love”

Then on to Skye Hegyes for “Your Fictional Crush”

We’ll have a list of books with hearts on the cover on the 12th.

On the 13th it’s a book you love that no one else is talking about, hosted over at Bold Book Geek.

And on the 14th it’s a list of books to read for Valentine’s Day.

Allison

Allie Bock – Girlwithagoodbookandherdog.blogspot.com

One of my favorite series is the An Unfortunate Fairy Tale series by Chanda Hahn. The main character is so likeable. Each book is actioned packed and there are plot twists. Of course, she falls in love at the end. What’s not to like!

Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell – www.JoLinsdell.com

So many to choose from… one of my favourites is the Shepherd series by Ethan Cross. He has this way of creating complex characters that blur the lines of good and evil. If you like thrillers, I highly recommend checking them out. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling also deserves a mention, as does pretty much any series by Susan Hatler.

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V.L. Jennings – www.virginialorijennings.com

Do I have to pick just one? Too bad… Harry Potter, Redwall, Narnia, The Left Behind series, Star Wars New Jedi Order- though they are no longer canon. See, told you I couldn’t pick just one.

Skye Hegyes

Skye Hegyes – www.skyehegyes.com

Admittedly, although I love a lot of series, there aren’t many that I’ve completely finished beyond the Harry Potter series. I realized this when trying to come up with an answer for this question actually. I think the first one that comes to mind is actually Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler as well as the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore, which I’ve read all of. Most series I’ve read a couple of the books from, but not all.

 

Now me, I’m a huge series reader. Redwall, Song of the Lioness and the other series in that world, Dragons of Pern, The Rowan books, The Green Mile … I’ve read a lot of series over the years. There are so that I come back to over and over again. The Mercedes Thompson and Alpha & Omega books by Patricia Briggs, the Black Jewels books by Anne Bishop, the Society of Immortals books by Geralyn Wichers – those are probably my top 4.

What’s your favourite series?

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My Bookish Valentine Blog Hop: Favourite Fictional Characters

And now for today’s post in the Bookish Valentine Blog Hop, everyone’s favourite fictional couples. But before we get started on that, here’s the blog hop list so you can go check out past entries, and click ahead to the ones still coming.

 

Jo Linsdell started us off with a list of her favourite book bloggers.

V.L. Jennings hosted for “A book other people love, but you haven’t read yet”

Tomorrow you can pop back here for “A Series you Love”

Then on to Skye Hegyes for “Your Fictional Crush”

We’ll have a list of books with hearts on the cover on the 12th.

On the 13th it’s a book you love that no one else is talking about, hosted over at Bold Book Geek.

And on the 14th it’s a list of books to read for Valentine’s Day.

Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com

My absolute favourite fictional couple has to be WALL-E and EVE from Disney’s WALL-E. Seriously, so cute! As we’re talking books here though, I’m going to go with a classic… Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Their civilised sparring as their courtship progresses is brilliant.
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V.L. Jennings www.VirginiaLoriJennings.com

Lois Lane and Superman/Clark (I’m a comic book fan), honestly it is the triangle that intrigues me. Lois is a strong lady who always tries to protect or help Superman even though he is much more powerful than he is. Her scoops always land her in trouble but they always seem to draw out whatever bad plan is going on that superman needed to stop. The fact that she is his ultimate kryptonite isn’t lost on me either.

If we are talking actual book relationships…Gilbert and Anne from Anne of Green Gables will always have a soft spot. “I’ve loved you since the day you broke your slate over my head in school.” ~Gilbert

 

Skye Hegyes

Skye Hegyes (www.skyehegyes.com)

My favorite fictional couple comes from my favorite book, but not the first in the series, as the couple is not actually introduced to one another until the final book in the trilogy. I realize how weird that sounds, but romance was not the major point of the story, but a result of events that just happened naturally, which was part of the reason I love the relationship so much. The couple is Vanyel Ashkevron and the Bard Stefen from the Last Herald-Mage series by Mercedes Lackey. They are bound together through events beyond their control and are comrades and friends before they’re ever lovers, but I still love them all the same.

 

As for me, there’s a few. I adore Anna and Charles from the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs. In Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books I like Lucivar and Marian best, or maybe Grey and Cassie or Ranon and Shira. That’s a tough one actually. But I think my all time favourite fictional couple is one that NO ONE has ever heard of before, and that is the cinnamon peeler and his wife in the poem “The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife” by Michael Ondaatje. In it a man speaks of never being able to go near his wife when they were courting because he always smelled of cinnamon and her brothers would always know if he touched her. He speaks of disguising his smell in saffron and smoke and limes, just to touch her.

The are swimming together, after they are married, and she laughs, saying “so this is how you touch other women, here where your hands have no smell” – a teasing thing said between couples.

In the end she takes his hands and lays them on her skin. “Touch me. I am the cinnamon peeler’s wife”. There is something in that ending, her desire to be known and to belong, that what he saw as a curse she saw as a mark of pride, that has stuck with me since I first read this poem 10 years ago.

So, who is it for you? Who is your favourite fictional couple?

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.

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.