December 14, 2011

Review: Waiting for Pops - John Riffice

Summary from Amazon: Waiting for Pops, a mainstream biographical novel, is a tale of a young boy's appalling mistreatment at the hands of his alcoholic mother. It is a tale of spousal secrets and parental lies. It is a tale of love, friendship, and, above all else, betrayal. Pops is seen through the eyes of an innocent boy growing steadily into manhood in 1950's Chicago. Johnny Ryba tells his story and transports the reader into his small, blue-collar existence - his mother's alcoholism, his much-loved father's sudden death in an auto accident, his beloved little sister's autism. Later, as the reader accompanies Johnny into his teen years, they experience as well the painful heartbreak of his first love and loss.

Johnny Riba spends his early life waiting for Pops. But Pops never comes.
We see his childhood more vividly than anything, since that's when mostly everything happens. His mother starts "geting a bit happy", a bit drunk. And everytime more and more, until it's unbearable.
We watch Johnny deal with the early death of his father and how he had to accept his sister, with autism, going to a government sanatorium because they couldn't afford someone to care for her - and that's all that was available "at that time".
We see his first love, his second love, his first girlfriend and some of his adult life.
There's more to life than Johnny can see and eventually he'll understand all the unanswered questions of his childhood - why were they even unanswered before.
John  Riffice can tell a story, or I wouldn't have finished this book. It is long and it is about the lilfe of a simple boy. Not the kind of book I usually love, but troubled families is something I like to hear about - makes mine seem less troubled.
While the book develops slowly, since most of it speaks about Johnny's early years, its not boring, Johnny, as a child, knows more than some adults and has interesing insights.
Rose, Johnny's little sister is charming, autistic but probably the most aware person on the book. She's the one who knows of the things going on that others choose to ignore, to forget.

I was slightly disapointed by the enormous focus on the childhood and none on his grown life, what he grew to be. We know some about his kids, wife and job, but not nearly enough. We also never get to see more about the neighbours, which he mentions, but my gossipy instincts were asking for more.
If you love biographical works, ones with struggle and pain, but also love and hope, this is your book.

You can buy it on Amazon here.

November 23, 2011

Unread Interview - Dale Philips

Please welcome Dale Phillips for this week's Unread Interview! Dale is promoting hislatest book, A Memory of Grief!
Unread Interview is a series where I feature authors whose books I couldn't accept for review because of time or logistics issues.
From AmazonTroubled ex-con Zack Taylor is haunted by the accidental death of his brother years before. Zack's guilt and anger have pushed him into a shadowy, wandering life, with little purpose and few attachments. When he hears of the death of his close friend Ben Sterling, a supposed gunshot suicide, Zack finds he now has a purpose-- to find out what happened. Then his purpose becomes an obsession. Zack goes to Maine, where Ben died, and is a fish out of water, with no connections, no information, and no credibility. People don't want to talk about Ben's death, so Zack gets ever more frustrated, making enemies, getting into fights, and breaking the law in his search for the truth. The only bright spot seems the potential for a relationship with a sympathetic nurse-- if he can control his violent streak. To draw out the killers, Zack offers himself as bait. But without a gun, he must rely on his wits and his physical skills to survive a dangerous game of drugs and death. Though managing a measure of justice, Zack is changed in the process, and must learn to live in a very different world.
A Memory of Grief is also available in Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Tell us a bit about your book (s).

I wanted to set "A Memory of Grief" in the beautiful U.S. state of Maine, a corner of the country that's different from the rest. This is the first book of a new series, which I wanted for the recurring characters and the popularity of mysteries in general, and because I like to read the same type of work. My protagonist is a haunted man, who has to learn to deal with his guilt and anger from his past. He's a man of action who's also a serious thinker, who builds a life in a strange place after he is changed by events. The theme for each book of the series is echoed in the title, taken from great works of our cultural heritage, so there's more going on than just a straight action tale. I'd like my readers to come away with more than just an entertaining read.
Have you ever wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing "seriously"?
Yes, even when young I liked to tell stories, but it took a long while to get good at writing. I was lucky enough to train with the writer Stephen King in college, who is a superb teacher. We had to write quite a bit in his classes, so that was the start of the serious writing. It took years to complete a good first novel, and now they get written a bit faster than that. Now I can't imagine being anything other than a writer.

Do you read much? What kind of books do you usually read?
Oh, yes, I'm an omnivorous reader (I call myself an "infomaniac"), in many different genres, and read lots of non-fiction as well, including books about writing itself-- I'm always working to get better. If you go to my website, I comment on a number of writers and their books that should be read. I'm also on Goodreads, so one can find out my taste there.

What are your favorite or least favorite scenes to write?
Least favorite scenes are bridge scenes, where someone has to do mundane things and where not much is happening, and descriptions. I try to remember Elmore Leonard, who said to leave out the boring parts that people skip. My favorite scenes are action scenes, because they play like movies, and dialogue scenes, where people reveal themselves through what they say.

Do you relate more to any of your characters? Why?
Mostly to Zack, my protagonist, a man troubled by his past. He's seen the worst of the world and yet remains a good person who seeks the truth, and I relate to that. He also works to control his anger and inner demons. That's something a lot of us can certainly relate to.

Which genre do you feel it would be a challenge to write?
Children's literature, because you have to think like a child. Although some day I hope to try it, because I have a few ideas inspired by my own children.

What inspires you? And how's your writing environment - music, place, etc.?
Ah, life inspires me, the meaning of it all, and how we tell tales to establish rules and our place in the world. Stories are still important to us, and I want to tell important stories. My writing place is a desk with a computer in a bedroom, with inspirational messages around. I like it quiet during the writing, music afterward.

What would you say about the book - your words, no blurbs! - to convince someone to read your book?
The book combines the best of Travis McGee with Spenser, for those who like that action genre. For those who like it deeper, it's the Hero's Journey, and the Hero is changed by it, as he seeks for a way to live with immense, life-destroying grief and guilt.

What are your plans for the future, writing-wise? New books, sequels, publishing deals, etc.
A number of books in this Zack Taylor series, this Summer I'd like to put out my first book of previously-published short stories, then a pair of horror novels, and a few standalone mainstream novels. After that I've got two more mystery series planned, and more story collections. I'd like to make enough from writing fiction to do it full time-- I've got a lot of stories to get out. Luckily for me, the game has changed, and I can now publish works much quicker than under the old traditional system of a similar book a year. 

Thank you, Dale, for your time and, by the way, I loved the term "infomaniac". I believe we all are, in some level, infomaniacs.

November 11, 2011

Unread Interview - Fran Jacobs

Please welcome Fran Jacobs for this week's Unread Interview! Fran is promoting her latest book, The Shadow Seer!
Unread Interview is a series where I feature authors whose books I couldn't accept for review because of time or logistics issues.
From Amazon: For generations prophets have foreseen the birth of the Shadow Seer, the oracle of dark visions and fallen kingdoms. But by the time of Sorron, King of Carnia, their warnings have mostly been forgotten and his name is known only to a handful of scholars.

When Sorron's grandson, Prince Candale, falls deathly ill, the Seer's legends are brought to light once again by his saviour, a witch named Mayrila. She believes that Candale is the fulfilment of those long forgotten prophecies. She believes that he is the Shadow Seer...

Tell us a bit about your book (s).
Ok, well the book is called the Shadow Seer, it's the first in a series called Ellenessia's Curse. In it the hero, prince Candale of Carnia, learns that he might be a foretold prophet, the Shadow Seer, whose visions are said to lead to the destruction of the kingdoms, a generally chaotic, nightmarish future. Candale doesn't want to believe it, understandably, but not long after he is told this about himself he starts to see a strange, tortured figure of a child, who calls him the Seer and warns him that Ellenessia is coming. Confused, and frightened, he runs away from home, to the mage school of White Oaks, in search of answers, and things go on from there.

Have you ever wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing "seriously"?
I've always written, and told stories. As a child, at school, I actually got in trouble for telling stories that scared some of the other children! I started taking it more serious when I was in my early twenties, although even then I felt I was too young for the publishing world to take me seriously. But, in the end, you just have to go for it, so I sent out my first short story. It was still a few years later before I was brave enough to send out my book, the Shadow Seer.

Do you read much? What kind of books do you usually read?
I used to read a lot when I was younger, any vampire book, when I was a child, and then, any fantasy book, when I was a teen. These days I'm a lot more picky. I guess because as I now write seriously I view other people's books from a  writer's point of view, so I'm less forgiving of errors, or weak plots and so forth. I love writing but it has, in many ways, ruined reading for me.

What are your favorite or least favorite scenes to write?
I hate writing battle scenes, or fight scenes or anything like that. It's hard for me to picture how a thing like that would go to be able to describe it properly, and to juggle lots of characters all at once. My favourite scenes to write are scary ones.

Do you relate more to any of your characters? Why?
I relate to the hero and his female bodyguard, Trellany, the most, probably because they contain aspects of my own personality. Trellany as a strong, outspoken woman and Candale, the hero, as a clumsy, naïve idiot.

Which genre do you feel it would be a challenge to write?
Romance. I'm not a big fan of romance generally and I think that writing a story where romance is the main point, rather than a side line, would be rather difficult, and rather boring!

What inspires you? And how's your writing environment - music, place, etc.?
My inspiration is random. For the start of my novel I was inspired by a song, some of the places in my books are inspired by places I've been, or want to visit. My writing environment is the dining room table, with the TV on behind me. I find I work better when I'm distracted, because then I don't think too hard about what I'm writing, and obsess over tiny details or the fact that what I'm saying sounds crazy! I'm usually helped by a kitty, or three, meowing for attention, sitting on the laptop, biting my feet, that sort of thing.

What would you say about the book - your words, no blurbs! - to convince someone to read your book?
Well, I would say that it was a character driven fantasy, from the point of view of Candale, a boy forced to reveal the plans of a vengeful demon, shown to him through visions. I think that point of view, from the side of the supernatural evil, even though the hero is not evil himself, is part of what makes the book different from other fantasy novels. As does Candale's position as a seer, as, although prophecies are fairly common, those who have them are not.

What are your plans for the future, writing-wise? New books, sequels, publishing deals, etc.
At the moment I'm currently working on the third book in the series, Children of the Shadow. After that I have another book planned, the Forest of Ghosts, which is a standalone fantasy. I'm hoping to take that further, to a mainstream, traditional publisher.

November 10, 2011

Review: A Vine in the Blood - Leighton Gage

Well hello there and welcome.

As you may or may not have noticed, I`ve been on a blogging hiatus. It needed to be done and now I feel like I can finally be a blogger again (hopefully).
And this is the first review I am writing completelly after I started posting again, it's a review of a book by an author I hold dear, his name is Leighton Gage and he's a very interesting man, so I'm opening an exception here, as I don't usually talk about the authors themselves, and go for it.
Leighton is an author of crime fiction, best known for the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigations series of novels set in Brazil. This is the fifth book on the series and, well, since I'm Brazilian, Leighton thought I would have an interesting opinion on it.
He's spent 20 years living in Brazil and his wife is Brazilian, so he can talk about Brazil, but, of course, it is an american story - told to americans, not to Brazilians. Before having a writing career, he was an international creative director for a major advertising agency. He won over 120 awards for advertising excellence and served on the juries of the Lions Festival in Cannes, the Art Director’s Club of New York, the Clio Awards, and the Australian Writers and Art Directors Association - which is all really really cool, specially for me, who work in advertising but can only dream of those prizes - internet advertising doesn't really win awards, even if they show awesome results.
A Vine in the Blood is a police book, along the lines of Law & Order and other police tv shows. A Brazilian Soccer player's mom is kidnapped and the best of the best are recruited to solve the crime before time runs out and everything is ruined.
To add more tension, it's the period right before the World Cup and the game against Brazil's largest rival - Argentina, which would have no chance to win, except if that one player was off his game.
So Chief Inspector Mario Silva is assigned to this task, with his boss always bugging him, trying to be updated and giving stupid advice - also, trying to step on the spotlight, because whoever catches the kidnappers and "saves" the brazilian soccer cup is definitely going to be a star.
Thrillers and police stories aren't my favorite genres, but I just had to read Mr. Gage's story, since it was something so appealing to me, with the whole "Brazil seen from the outside". I believe he managed to capture some of Brazil, not all, of course. I won't even say that he doesn't show the beautiful sides of Brazil - Law and Order doesn't show how wonderful NY is either. Some small things don't seem customary to me, but that doesn't mean they're not Brazilian - that just means I live on the most Southern state and I might just be a bit biased since I don't even know large parts of Brazil myself. Those things didn't bother me and most likely wouldn't bother anyone that likes fiction, even because Brazil is huge and there are different ways of doing things here and there and everywhere.
I didn't think the plot was easy, also I didn't find it hard. It was a police book, where you get new facts here and there and you usually don't get the suspect right on the first guess, but you understand it with the investigator and you come to the same conclusion almost at the same time.

Leighton Gage is the author of five novels in A Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation book series: Blood of the Wicked (2008), Buried Strangers (2009), Dying Gasp (2010), Every Bitter Thing (2010), and A Vine in the Blood (2011). His next book Perfect Hatred, the sixth in the series, is scheduled to be released in North America in December of 2012. The Ways of Evil Men, the seventh, in December of 2013. He also shares a blog Murder is everywhere, with seven other authors of “international mysteries”.

I invite all of you to read his book, not only to get to know more about Brazil but to read a great story, with characters that have a personality and a background history, that aren't there just to fill in, but they make sense and make a difference on the story.

You can buy A Vine in the Blood after December 27th, in the USA (Kindle Edition and Hardcover), and now, in Kindle Edition, everywhere else ;)

November 08, 2011

Review: Dust on his Soul - Jason Blacker

Cruel and painful. I wasn't sure I would like this book. I love history, but I didn't know I liked South African history. More than that, I wasn't sure I cared.

As a woman and a feminist, I relate to all sorts of struggle, but I have always had a problem with most people who claim they've been a victim of some sort of prejudice, they don't always have. It happens that a person's own problems are so deep within them that they think everything is caused by that, but that's not how it always goes, sometimes you just aren't fit fot it. That is not the case here, however.

The book is amazing: cruel, painful and shocking, but very real. While it isn't a true story, it is inspired by and based on Steve Biko's life, a South African black man, a hero, who fought the Apartheid.

The story starts with Stephen (Bankulu) in jail, remembering parts of his story that were vital to his getting there. Of course we don't hear only from him, but from his parents and friends as well, since we get to know all sides of the story and some extra information on why things happened. We follow most of the things that influence his life, from his childhood, happy and sheltered, as much as it was possible, to his bitter teen years and his sad but strong adult years.

After he loses his father (hopefully that's not too much spoilery), Stephen starts to think there isn't a reason to fight the regime, maybe he should just dodge it and try to live a life, a good life, as much as he could, he's just so angry... And that made me think, that's what we all do, usually. We just ignore the system, we just try to pass by and live without getting caught by the ugly ends of the regime. But they always get us, when they're too ugly.

Any black person living in South Africa during the Apartheid was destined to an awful life, one way or the other, never going too high, being beaten down and tossed aside by force. So the only other choice was to fight.

Stephen takes a long road, takes a few wrong turns, goes around, and finally finds that out. And decides to fight. That's what ends up taking him to jail.

He narrates his time in jail, how they are decently fed and get time out in the Sun, for a while, and suddenly the prison starts getting crowded and they're not getting more food, so they start to starve and not get enough time out, so they get weak and sick.

(The real Stephen Biko to your left) Eventually, Stephen is tortured. We were all waiting for it, but when it comes, no one is ready for what you read. It's raw, it's cruel and it's way too graphic. No tv crime show prepared you for what's to come. They beat him up but keep him awake and aware, he narrates what he's feeling and which parts of the body he's not feeling anymore. He's hung and they're trying to beat information out of him (not really effective, people, really!), but they're more making him faint than talk. He's got his convictions and he's not going to talk - specially if they're doing exactly what made him fight in the first place.

I started to do some research on the Apartheid and the South African old regime and all, and I was amazed to find out how recent it was and how badly we were taught. In Brazil, we learn Brazilian history and "world" history. But we don't get any non-European History. Not even North American. It's just briefly mentioned, not in-depth, so I didn't know, for example, that Mandela was only elected in '94. It sounded so old history to me, he looks (no offense) so old that I'd guess he was a president, oh say, 40 years ago.

I love history, so I find myself offended that I didn't know that. I think it's very rude of me not to know. And I was just thinking... What else don't I know? I know there is much I don't, but I'm trying to find the information. And what about all those people who were educated in the same system as me but will never go and find the information? They'll never read about it or absorb that kind of information and they'll never know how bad it was, how much they suffered and the kind of heroes they were.

And that makes me think about all that's wrong with the educational system here. And that's a lot. But that's story for another day, of course.

It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die. (Stephen Biko)

You can buy Dust on His Soul here  Or the Kindle version here.

October 03, 2011

Results - 100 followers and 1 year blogoversary Giveaway

Hello everyone!

Numbers are out. We had nearly 50 participants, which is pretty big considering I had only 90 follower when I started the giveaway and a total of 183 numbers to draw.

First draw is for the Brazilian-Only prize, Sétimo by André Vianco.
And the winner is....

#93 Rolinka Nuse!

Second draw is for "The last will of Moira Leahy" a wonderful drama and beautiful book.

And the winner is...

#110 - Emily L.

And there are still two swag packs to give away...
The winners are...

#165 Laura H.
#173 Nick H.

Congratulations to all! \o/

But. I have a warning to make - our post offices are on strike (yes I know, awful) and international deliveries would take 40 days if they weren't, so you can expect the prizes for.. Erm. Christmas.

Winners -  I will be contacting you to get your address data.

To everyone else, don't feel down, we will have several other giveaways, soon :)

September 30, 2011

Review: Nebador - Book 3 - The Selection - J. Z. Colby

First of all, please do not forget my Blogoversary and Followers giveaway (click on the button to the left)
Remember, it's only until tomorrow (October first)!

Hello there, I'm back!
I don't usually post more than one review a week or so, unless I have several reviews late, but this time I waited until I had finished these two books to write their reviews.
I'm talking about The Selection, book 3 on the Nebador Series, which started with The Test, continued with The Journey and reaches a major plot point on The Selection.
The Selection picks up from where The Journey ended. I hope you have read The Test and The Journey or I might just spoil it for you. (So, SPOILER ALERT for The Journey!)

After the Mati scare, I grew fond of both Mati and Kibi. However Neti started to be unbearable. While during The Journey she showed she wasn‘t really interested on being a crew member, she also showed she was going to apply herself and try to get the most out of the studies and earn the 3 gold pieces. On The Selection, she starts whining because they are lost, running out of food or just about anything. She had her reasons, but she was annoying. More than annoying... I was deeply frustrated, she was being given knowledge way beyond people on that world and yet, she chose to just, basically, tag along.

Also, on this book, we lose several characters. Some at the selection: they go their way and we don‘t follow their stories, but one before that. It‘s a very sad and story-changing point, but since I wasn‘t very attached to him, so I didn‘t really feel it.
So there are two major plot turners, one is the loss of that character, which changes some of the team, but not really everyone, and The Selection, which shows the best in all of them.

I think the best "pre-selection" part (because the selection itself only happens around half the bok) is the monastery. Even if some of them are a bit reluctant to meditate and even accept the required silence, eventually they are all in awe with the ritual, the wonders they see while there, the beautiful place and how diferent and benevolent these religious people are, compared to the regular people of their world and, specially, to the religious orders they‘ve known before.

After a while, you can‘t help it, it‘s the selection. All of my hunches were right, specially after two things that happened and made it all very obvious.

And then, finally, we get to meet Ilika‘s ship: Manessa.
Of course, as we knew, Manessa is actually no ordinary ship, it's (or she's) a spaceship.
The ship is wonderful and all very sci-fi but without losing touch of things us mortals need (rooms, bathroom, kitchen), which pleased me. Kibi and Ilika get to share a room - and there we see a few lessons for young adults, which is cool, but everyone else separates (boys to one room and girls to another) I guess because Ilika and Kibi are "grown ups" - they're both much older than the other crew members, from what I remember, since Kibi is 17 or 18 and Ilika is on his early 20's.

I loved watching them learning to be good to the world - and when they could or couldn't help, as humans. I loved watching them lean to deal with the ship - that was pretty cool - and how to deal with societies and what they could or couldn't do as crew members.

And then I felt the book was just too short. It wasn't, really, short. I just wanted to read more, I wanted to follow them and see more of them. I'm dying to hear and see them interacting with other people, with people much more educated and from other worlds, specially if you consider Ilika isn't the most educated from where he comes from and he is the most educated where they are... I hope everything gets well explored, way beyond their boundaries - and Ilika's as well. I want to see their relationships develop - or not - as well.

I'm very curious to see the rest of the series - I heard there will be over 10 books, and I believe it, there is so much to tell, so much to explore! The universe and beyond!

Go see for yourself. You can buy Nebador Book Three at Amazon (paperback or Kindle) and several other places.

September 26, 2011

Review: Nebador - The Journey - J. Z. Colby

First of all, please do not forget my Blogoversary and Followers giveaway (click on the button to the left)
Remember it runs only until next saturday!

Hello everyone!

I just recently finished the second and third books on the Nebador series, called "The Journey" and "The Selection", but I am here today to talk about "The Journey".

After your read Nebador Book One: The Test, you are left with a sense that it may be grand, but you're not quite sure. You like it and you think it's very informative and interesting - but's not quite loveable. You have several characters: one ship’s captain, one innkeeper's daughter, nine ex-slaves and several secondary characters like Doti, the healer, Pica the painter, the baker, Sata’s parents and so on. It’s even quite hard to remember who are the boys and the girls, since their names are so alike.
Everything changes on The Journey. Suddenly, we understand them. We follow them around their country, their realm, and see them interacting with the several experiences in life – from different people to different ideas, from customs to dangers, from trusting people unconditionally to weighing your options.

We follow along their lessons of math, English, logic, trigonometry, geometry and, well, things that I honestly barely remembered from high school. But that’s not the most important part, and I’m sure Ilika thought that way as well, the most important part was to see how they interact with the world. Or else he would have just taken them somewhere and stayed there until they were all done.

Around half the book, we can be pretty sure who we are leaving behind and who’s going to the ship. We have one innkeeper’s daughter and 8 former slaves, all wanting to get into Ilika’s ship, which we are sure isn’t like a normal ship and, well, most likely not even from this world. And yet, there’s place for only 5 crew members, so 4 of them must go.

I had only one or two doubts on who was going, after a while, but near the end J. Z. Colby almost had me confused: he almost made me lose one of my favorite characters and one I was sure to get in the ship…

You may relate more to one or another character, but their strengths and weaknesses aren’t much obvious, they are subtle. You can see who’s strong in math and who’s strong in English, you can also notice who’s a strong leader (like Boro and Kibi) and who’s made for more following than leading, who’s made for more dreaming than doing, who’s more emotional, who’s cool and rational.

Until the end of the book, I finally could tell who was a boy and who was a girl (with one very small exception – I couldn’t tell who Rini was until around half of “The Selection”), I could tell where couples were forming and where they were set apart. I could tell who’s making in the ship and who wasn’t (at least have a very strong guess) and I could sense their differences. They weren’t just young teens, they weren’t ex-slaves or innkeeper’s daughters anymore, they were people of the world. They were people of the universe, even, as they knew much more than most people on their world knew.

Also we are introduced to a new character, Misa. She's a young girl, younger than the ex-slaves and innkeeper's daughter, Misa is a survivor on a major tragedy the team walks through, they save her and since she has no family, she stays with them until the very end - the separation. She's the only one not being considered to Ilika's staff, but she's also picking up some of the lessons and all, so she's getting something out of everything.

Ilika, too, was changed by them, as he should be. Kibi, more than the others, I suppose, which strikes me as slightly unfair – she had a certain spot on the ship. The fact that her abilities could also be used (leadership and people skills) were secondary to Ilika’s affection to her, so there were 4 spots left for everyone else. But ok. I can deal with that. Ilika was also changed by the situations. One of the harder ones being Lumber Town, I believe, and the cave during high tide, where they were under tremendous stress. He could deal with it, but he also had to direct them and that was harder than just dealing with the situation.

I thought the book was great, it was exciting and everything could happen – because they were free. They were off to an exciting and dangerous world and they were friends. Even if they had their diferences, if they had any issues, they'd work it out or work around them. Some of them weren't fit for ship crew, but that doesn't mean they aren't spectacular human beings.

I just now, looking for links and images for this post, found the "Deep Learning Notes". I love them. They make me think but don't give answers and they would've been very interesting to read while I read the book (at each chapter, for example). If you are interested in learning (and, if you liked the Nebador Series I am sure you do), I strongly advise you to use them.

After I finished it, I was supposed to read another book, but I rationalized (somehow) that I had to read The Selection. And I advise you all to do the same - buy all 3 books together (or the "Nebador Trilogy" version), or, better yet, make it 4, since book 4 is out too and read them all. It is all worth it. I want to read it all over again now... But maybe some other time, after I work out part of my TBR pile.

Also, on a side note, I feel much more attached to this book now that I wrote the review. Thinking about the book and researching to tell you about it, made me think about the subtle details on the plot and read the Depp Learning Notes and the short stories on the series' website. It's another thing that makes me glad about having a blog - you end up loving your loved books even more.

You can buy Nebador: The Journey at several places, including Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions), you can find a list of all sellers here.

September 21, 2011

Unread Interview and Giveaway - Matt Xell

First of all, please do not forget my Blogoversary and Followers giveaway (click on the button to the left)

Please welcome Matt Xell for this week's Unread Interview! Matt is promoting his book, Tower of Parlen Min!
Unread Interview is a series where I feature authors whose books I couldn't accept for review because of time or logistics issues.

Summary: Ves Asirin wins a trip to the Tower of Parlen Min. There, with 19 other children, he competes in the Sword Challenge; a series of puzzles and tasks, for $12 million. As fantastic and glorious as the tower seems to be, Ves finds that it keeps a dark and secret history that he has been connected to for over 150 years, a secret that will define his destiny ... if he can escape 'The shadow'.

It can be bought on several online vendors: Amazon (where it was split into 3, for the kindle, but don't let that hold you back), Smashwords and Lulu.

Also, I will be giving away 3 copies of Tower of Parlen Min to 3 lucky readers - all I ask of you is that you comment with your name and email (use the Disqus name/email option) and I will draw a number with on October 14th.

This post is part of a Virtual Book Tour, you can keep up with all the posts at the Facebook Event or Facebook Page.

Have you ever wanted to be a writer?

To be honest, if you went back in time and told me back in Junior High that I'd be an Author, I'd probably die of shock or try to kill you. I'd always liked  fantasy literature and the visual arts, and back then I used to do a lot of penciling (I was terrible at it) and what little writing I did were comic book plots. What I wanted to be when I grew up was be an IT speacialist; a software programmer or a web developer. So, no, novel writing or any serious kind of writing was never on my life-time-to-do-list.

When did you start writing "seriously"?

After I failed the ninth grade (why, yes, I did). After that year, my self-esteem and much of the ego and personality attached to it at the time took a massive dip and so too did my love for expressing myself using art -- I absolutely loathed having my artwork criticised.

My friends weren't interested in my written comic book plots so no one criticized them like my art. I turned to writing more and more as the years went by, my handwriting became more and more minuscule so I could better hide my work, so small that even I can't read my earlier works. By the time I was in my final year of High School, I'd filled out several 180 page A4 notebooks with comic book plots and scripts. At the time I didn't know there was a proper format for scripting, so I wrote in novel prose. So all my earlier works read like novellas.

Do you read much?

I'd say a fair bit. I'd say I've only read about 50 to 70 books in my life. Which is why being a 'natural' (he boasted) at writing when I've read so little is just as surprising to me as it is to anyone else.

What kind of books do you usually read?

Young adult fantasy novels (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, The Golden Compass, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Artimus Fowl; and old stuff like Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven, The Hardy Boys, Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ) and Adult mystery/suspense thrillers ( Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, The DaVinchi Code and The Lost Symbol and Stieg Larsons Millenium Trilogy). My Favourite book though is surprisingly a french romantic novel set in during and after World War 1 called A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot.

What are your favorite or least favorite scenes to write?

My favorite scenes to write are action scenes; realistic and gritty, play-by-play, choreographed action scenes. I'd say those are my forte. I love writing mystery and suspense scenes a lot as well.

My least favorite scenes to write are drama and romantic scenes. Drama, because being partly introverted for most my life, I can't say I know various kinds and types of people well enough, and what their emotional and psychological reactions to certain scenarios, themes, conditions and settings. So for most of my writing, I'd say I draw a lot of influence from what I've seen from drama movies (I saw a lot of Academy Award winning movies that were boring during the writing of Tower of Parlen Min). Luckily a of the characters in my book kinda wrote themselves, and so I never know if I did a good enough job with the drama in Tower of Parlen Min.

Romance, obviously because I'm a man (too much on the masculine side I think), so I can't say I understand even a quarter of why Twilight and other paranormal romances sell as well as they do. But I want me some of those millions so you can bet that when I figure out that secret, I'm taking over the genre :)

Do you relate more to any of your characters?

Yes. In all my stories, my main protagonist is somewhat a vague version of myself. So I relate with Ves the most in Tower of Parlen Min


In every story I write  I always like to ask an important question and hopefully get an answer at the end of the story. I feel I wrote The Narrow Escapes of Ves Asirin to ask, 'what is the meaning and point of life if we are just going to die at the end of it all?'. And I feel Ves and Zenis are the best characters I was ever going to write that would help me answer this question. Because Ves, when he was at the orphanage, was pretty much living a drab, boring and uneventful life until he went to the Tower. There he competed in the Sword Challenge, saw many fantastic things like Jinn fire falling from the sky, interacted with the Canids (sentient wolves), saw Wicca (magic), saw ghosts and spectres, made friends for the very first time in his life, and found that even he was not as ordinary or rather as sub-normal as he thought he was. For the very first time ever, he was vividly aware of his life and the world's wonders ... then of course came The Shadow which is in the business of killing and taking life on a massive scale.

Which genre do you feel it would be a challenge to write?

Romance of course and comedy. The reason I think comedy would be a challenge is because it's subjective to certain cultures, people and languages.

What inspires you?

And I'd say a lot of what influences my writing isn't from novels and books but from art, movies, comics, video games, manga (japanese comics) and anime (japanese animation).

And how's your writing environment - music, place, etc.?

I'm not so much strict or partial on enviroment. I think can I write in any place peaceful enough and provided I have the materials I need. Solitude and silence is a requirement only when writing serious and dark scenes, a lot of the mystery/supense scenes. The music is dependant on the specific genre I'm writing; for Tower of Parlen Min I listened to a lot of alternative rock like Placebo, AFI, Asian Kung-Fu Generation and Billy Talent.

What would you say about the book - your words, no blurbs! - to convince someone to read your book?

If you're bored to death during this summer and want a temporary escape into a fantastic world, get a copy of Tower of Parlen, it's a thrilling 'rollercoaster' of a read, filled with action, adventure, suspense, mystery and horror. If it's your kind of book, it'll keep you hooked to the end!

What are your plans for the future, writing-wise? New books, sequels, publishing deals, etc.

The current state of both the traditional publishing  and self-publishing industries scare me a whole lot. And this is because the internet and social networking are pretty much changing how content is being delivered through all media, and everyone is pretty much both a consumer and a producer at this point. So at the moment I'm an Indie author and I'm publishing and marketing Tower of Parlen Min with a few good friends. I'm going to hold onto the rights of the book for a long while until a compromise between the two sides of the industries is found. I'm looking into distribution licenses and how I can pitch that to interested publishers as opposed to selling the rights outright, because I don't (I won't say never) think that's going to happen.

I'm still plotting the second book in The Narrow Escapes of Ves Asirin series; Eclipse Over Atuwis Wood. I think I'll start writing that in april. And I'll be releasing a lot of novellas based in Everlon (Ves' world) which will be introducing some characters that feature in later books of the series, some from the series distant past. Some will be free for download (or set your own price) and some will sell for only 99 cents.

Thanks for your time and patience with me (as I had this interview for a month in my inbox *shame on me*)!

You can also find Matt Xell at several social networks (and he's a really nice guy): Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Formspring and, of course, his blog.

September 10, 2011

Unread Interview - Kevin Newman

Hello! Before we start, we have a giveaway up and running, click on the button to the left and participate, it is worth it! The swag pack is beautiful, but I don't have pictures, sorry :S

Please welcome Kevin Newsman for this week's Unread InterviewKevin is promoting his latest book, All Night By The Rose!
Unread Interview is a series where I feature authors whose books I couldn't accept for review because of time or logistics issues.
From AmazonIn this collection of short stories we are introduced to a city of depravity, a misanthrope who is compelled to blast away others’ delusions of grandeur, a psych ward terrorized by an author, the entropic boredom at the heart of a car plant, a man who finds himself caught in the act of becoming a spider, a building with character encompassing several eras, a fellow who must come to terms with how he treated his brother, two love stories that defy expectations, two tales of the fantastic to be found in the Middle-East, childlike theism and a trailer park in space.

Tell us a bit about your book (s).
I have two.  One is a free ebook collection of short stories called “All Night by the Rose”.  Here’s the blurb:

In this collection of short stories we are introduced to a city of depravity, a misanthrope who is compelled to blast away others’ delusions of grandeur, a psych ward terrorized by an author, the entropic boredom at the heart of a car plant, a man who finds himself caught in the act of becoming a spider, a building with character encompassing several eras, a fellow who must come to terms with how he treated his brother, two love stories that defy expectations, two tales of the fantastic to be found in the Middle-East, childlike theism and a trailer park in space.

The other is a novel I wrote and published promotional copies of in 2010.  Here’s its blurb:

Jude Pender has troubles managing his emotions.  Case in point: Cecile.  He thinks he can bury his thoughts and that the rest of his neurons will naturally grow around them, leaving an obelisk that he can visit as if in a dream.  He's wrong, and since he doesn't know when to give up, the result will be an explosive release after a series of betrayals.

Have you ever wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing "seriously"?

Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a serious writer but I wasn’t always seriously ‘at it’.  There was a brief period after high school where I worked in the corporate world and I think it prevented me from writing as prolifically as I do now.  In the last five years I’ve increased my pace and abilities due to the fact that my main focus is on writing.

Do you read much? What kind of books do you usually read?

I do read a lot, but there are periods in my life where I went without reading.  That said, I’m still a pretty prolific reader.  I read all kinds of books from classics to what an old teacher called ‘mind candy’.  It depends on my mood really.  I think the greatest writer humanity has ever produced is Yukio Mishima, so when I went a great serious read that’s where I go.  But if I want something light and entertaining I read speculative fiction.

What are your favorite or least favorite scenes to write?

My favourite scenes are ones with large groups with lots of dialogue, usually at a party.  My writing is pretty minimalistic and dialogue-heavy.  A close second is scenes heavy with imagery.  My least favourite?  Exposition and I avoid it as much as possible.

Do you relate more to any of your characters? Why?

I relate to almost all of them.  I’m a pretty empathic guy, and I really need to be with my characters as they mostly write my stories for me.

Which genre do you feel it would be a challenge to write?

I’d have to say the Vampire sub-genre because, so far, the only time I’ve seen it done well was when Joss Whedon was doing Buffy/Angel.

What inspires you? And how's your writing environment - music, place, etc.?

The forest inspires me, being surrounded by it really does help me write.

What would you say about the book - your words, no blurbs! - to convince someone to read your book?

For the short stories, I’d say that I take life and hold it up to a dark, shattered mirror.  For my novel, Id say that I’ve taken several writing techniques and melded them into a story about how we treat one another and wrapped that into a plot that is both melodic and full of action.

What are your plans for the future, writing-wise? New books, sequels, publishing deals, etc.

The novel is the first part of a series and I have several other novels on the go, both part of that series or separate.