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text 2017-10-16 21:50
Self-Pubs That Shine
The Book of Kindly Deaths - Eldritch Black
Rewinder - Brett Battles
Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper - J.L. Bryan
Paladin - Sally Slater
Haven - A.R. Ivanovich,Michelle Ivanovich
Nightfall Gardens - Allen Houston
Marking Time - April White
Slumber - Samantha Young
Timebound - Rysa Walker
Nefertiti's Heart - A.W. Exley

Most of us these days are aware of the flood of self-pubbed books and how difficult it can be to find a gem in the sea of mediocrity.  We often see reviews of the sub-par and/or reports of unethical marketing schemes or unprofessional behavior on the part of some authors.

But some of us who have stuck a toe or two into those waters have come across a few gems.  I thought it'd be good to share a few self-pubbed & small press books I really enjoyed and that I feel stand well among their trade-pubbed counterparts. 

So here are a few I've discovered that I am proud to recommend.

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review 2017-10-03 20:35
Out Now
Battles for Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History - Eric Foner,Randall Kennedy

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

                As I am writing this review, CNN is reporting on the recent shooting in Las Vegas as well as the destruction in Puerto Rico.  I live in a country where a president at the very least gives the impression of lacking basic geographic knowledge, human politeness, and empathy.  A large segment of the population seems angry that brown people protest, peacefully protest, during a song but not as mad about the mass shooting of innocent concert attendees.

                It’s hard not to crawl under the bed and read until the next election, isn’t it?

                If you are going to do that, and even more so if you are not going to do so, you should read this collection of Foner’s essays that span is career.

                Foner essays cover much, but at the heart of the work is the question of freedom, the right and need to debate as well as to a degree the need to challenge the status quo.   He discusses the justification behind college admissions systems as well as the need to challenge the standard view on history.  For instance, he discusses a show in the Smithsonian American Museum of Art that challenge the artistic view of the West, pointing out Remington’s view of minorities.  There is also a good essay about the Sacco and Vanzetti case.

                But perhaps the most important essays in this collection are those about the Civil War, the South, and Lincoln.  Not only does Foner discuss the use of revisionist history designed to make slavery a secondary issue (as well as the issue of Texas textbooks).  His direct analysis of those statues is also very important, pointing out the true reason for the erection of the statues.

                This is a very timely and important collection.

                Maybe HBO should give him a show.

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review 2017-09-15 20:08
Boss Battles (Geek Actually #1.3) by Melissa Blue Review
Geek Actually: Boss Battles (Season 1 Episode 3) - Rachel Stuhler,Melissa Blue,Cecilia Tan,Cathy Yardley

Meet your new best girlfriends in this sexy, genre-busting serial that's all about feminism, friendship, and fandom.

Taneesha's brother can always cheer her up, but this is going a little too far: trying to engineer her love life? On the other hand . . . his friend Diego is definitely sexy, and owns a game store, to boot. Elli thinks of her new job like a video game (complete with an evil wizard), in an attempt to make this one last, while Aditi tiptoes through a visit from her in-laws.

Join this tight-knit group of lady geeks as they navigate the ups and downs of their personal and professional lives. Michelle is a hard-nosed fantasy and sci-fi editor used to things going her way. Taneesha is a talented video game programmer used to being the odd (wo)man out. Aditi is a fantasy writer on the verge of her big break. Christina is a rebel on the sidelines of Hollywood. And Elli is a fan-of anything and everything that keeps her from "proper adulting." They might live far apart, but through the power of the internet and a shared love of all things geek, they are ready to face the world together.

 

Review

Oh how I want to like this...but I don't....

I love circle of friends and geek girls. I struggle with the serial format and this jump for me is made even more difficult as this series is written by different writers so there is a mesh issue. Especially in this one. 

This one is too short and nothing really happens here. 

I was given this book for my honest review. So, there you have it.

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review 2017-08-21 02:57
The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan
The Dinosaur Lords: A Novel - Victor Milán

Warning: this book includes on-page rape and detailed descriptions of violence. Many characters die.

In the world of Paradise, humans exist alongside dinosaurs. The tame (or, in some cases, relatively tame) dinosaurs are treated much like our pets and livestock. People breed and train dinosaurs for hunting, riding, and fighting.

When I first heard of this book, it was described as Game of Thrones meets Jurassic Park. There are the dinosaurs plus medieval-ish fantasy politics - as far as tone and overall feel goes, it's more like Game of Thrones than Jurassic Park. The four main players are: Karyl Bogomirskiy, a famed dinosaur knight who is one of the few to ride a Tyrannosaurus rex; Rob Korrigan, a minstrel and dinosaur master (trains and cares for fighting dinosaurs and dinosaur mounts); Jaume, famed dinosaur knight and poet, the Imperial Champion of Emperor Felipe, and the fiance of Princess Melodia; and Melodia, who is eager to do important things but seems doomed to waste away in the palace.

This was mostly focused on politics, and unfortunately that politics bored me. I also had a tendency to lose track of what people were doing and why. For example, for a while there I thought Jaume and his soldiers were marching towards the location where Karyl and Rob were training peasants to fight. But no, they were riding towards a completely different area. They didn’t start going towards Karyl and Rob’s location until late in the book (I’m guessing they’ll meet in Book 2?).

It felt like I was supposed to at least be rooting for Jaume, Karyl, Rob, and Melodia, but for the most part I had trouble caring about them. Jaume’s romantic entanglements were exhausting. He was in a relationship with both one of his fellow knights (or not a knight, but at least part of his group? I can’t remember) and Melodia. The problem was that both Melodia and Pere seemed to want Jaume to love them best. Melodia was happy to share Jaume as long as she was more important to him than Pere, and Pere would likely have preferred his relationship with Jaume to be monogamous. Jaume, for his part, seemed to think everything was fine. It bothered me that Milan never really dealt with or resolved these issues, just...made them go away.

Karyl was cardboard, a fallen legendary character who was clearly destined to become legendary again. Rob thought he was awesome, so readers were supposed to think so too. Oh, and Rob. I seriously disliked him. I think he was supposed to be the “loveable rogue” of the bunch, but the more I read about him the more I wanted the author to ditch him. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why one minor female character slept with him. I thought for sure she was a secret spy or enemy, because I couldn’t understand what could possibly be appealing about him. I disliked just about everything about him except his dinosaur mount. One specific thing about him that bothered me was his habit of mentally trying to guess the gender of androgynous urchins. He mentally described one as “it,” before eventually deciding upon “he.” Hello! “They” exists and can be used as a gender neutral pronoun in English. Also, if a character was female and reasonably pretty, he probably leered at her at least once.

Now for Melodia. For most of the book, she had potential. After a while, “potential” seemed to be all she’d ever have. As the story went on and she continued to do nothing much, her horniness and childishness began to bother me more and more. She was so very horny. But only for Jaume! Except when she was mad at him, then she started to consider other options. And when she was mad at him, she was childish enough to not even read his letters. Never mind that she’d have regretted it for the rest of her life if he had died in battle. But as much as I disliked Meloda, she did not deserve what Milan had happen to her near the end of the book. That particular scene killed any desire I had to try the next book in the series. It felt like it happened more for shock value than anything - incredibly lazy writing on Milan’s part.

The world building was intriguing but vague. At first I thought this was an alternate history, but it turned out to actually be a completely different planet/dimension. Dinosaurs either existed there from the start or were transported there from our world and thrived. Humans and several other animals were transported to the world at a later date. Humans live longer and, if injuries don’t immediately kill them, can heal faster, and disease is almost unheard of. How humans and other beings made it to Paradise is never mentioned.

The best thing about this book was its cover and the black-and-white artwork at the start of each chapter. The story itself had far fewer dinosaurs and cool dinosaur moments than I was expecting - there was one battle I enjoyed and a fascinating bit involving an enormous dragonfly used like a hunting falcon, but that was basically it. Shiraa, Karyl’s mount, had potential but disappeared early on in the book. It’s likely she’ll show up in the next book but, as I said, the horrible and unnecessary scene with Melodia killed my desire to continue on with this series.

All in all, I really wanted to love this and I’m sad to say I didn’t. Even if that scene with Melodia hadn’t existed, this would never have been more than a so-so read. It was surprisingly boring for something that should have been completely awesome.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-08-14 17:20
My life in books
Headlong Flight - Dayton Ward
Rewinder - Brett Battles
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
Night Comes Early - Burt Gabot
Superman Unchained - Scott Snyder

Reading has been my past time in a long time. Growing up in the province my access to reading materials when I was a kid is very limited but I was contented with reading the short stories in my English and Filipino textbooks. In high school, I now have access to fiction books from the school library. Most of the books in the library are the classics and literary novels. These were required reading and we have to make book reports so reading them became a chore and not enjoyable. Until I found out about the Choose Your Own Adventure Books. I pretty much enjoyed those books. In college I may have forgotten reading for pleasure. Even if I had time to read, the college library does not carry fiction novels. The only time I enjoyed reading is from reading the comics collection of a friend. I remember reading issues of X-Men, X-Factor, Superman, and D.P. 7.

 

My interest in reading returned when I chanced upon a battered book when I already started working. It does not have a cover and the story is set on a world where technology is based on organic materials and not on metals. The story intrigued me and I kept on reading the book during my down time. Too bad I can’t remember the title of the story or who wrote it. This book showed me that my genre of choice is science fiction (or speculative fiction in general).

 

Since I am already working (meaning I have the means) and staying in the city (meaning I have the access), I can now buy my own reading materials. The bookstore is like a candy store! Too many books to choose from. The bookstore also introduced me to Star Trek original novels and media tie-in books in general. This is also the time that I started buying comic books, mostly from the X-Men line. And then I discovered used books stores. The books are dirt cheap. Then I started hording. I also branched to magazines by this point.

 

It came to a point that I acquire 5 but only finishing 2 then acquiring a new batch again. I realized that this a problem when I moved apartments more than 3 times now. I now have a book buying ban: buy one paperback book at most in a month. I am now shifting to electronic books and digital comics. Also a recent development, listening to audio books. I am pretty much becoming format agnostic as long as I like the story. In the next few months, I will try to unload my paperback books. (Cue Elsa, “let it go, let it go...”)

 

I have a bad habit of starting a book but not finishing it or reading multiple books at a time. Also when I read a book, I pretty much jump to another book immediately. I do not give myself enough time to reflect on the book I read. When someone asks me how I see the book, all I can say is “I liked it” or “not liked it” with no further elaboration. I would like to change that. Well, I tried it before but the only word that can describes my attempt to write reviews is “terse”. Most actually fits as a tweet.

 

How should I do it? I asked myself. I need a structure. So I made one that I hope I can follow (I might also use these guide questions as section headings).

1. Why did you pick this up?
2. What is it?
3. What is it all about? (for non-fiction)/What happened? (for fiction)
4. Did you liked it?
5. Would you recommend it?

There you go, a book review for at least 5 sentences!

 

I will also do a status update on the first 10% placing my initial impression of the book. And on the 20% mark or after 50 pages (whichever comes first), I will evaluate if I need to proceed reading. If I will DNF the book (short for did-not-finish), I will post a status update as to why and if I there is chance that I might revisit the book in the near future.

 

I now have a plan for this book blog. I hope I can stick with it. Crossing fingers.

 

 

Wow, I write more than 700 words this time! Nice!

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