Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shadows Deep (Shadows #2) - Cege Smith

Happy Halloween and a blessed Samhain! I decided I'd review a horror novel, in honor of the day.
I remember thinking as I read this book that Smith was hitting her stride.

The premise of the trilogy is this: Ellie has been numb ever since divorcing her husband Jake. Her friends encourage her attraction to David, the handsome new doctor in town, and indeed, he seems like the perfect man.  But then the two of them are trapped in a local mansion by a creepy entity.

In Shadows Deep, we learn more about the mansion and its role as a way station for the dead. Ellie meets a woman named Lucy, who provides her with companionship, as well as useful information about the demonic entity that has trapped them all. Ellie also learns she didn't meet David by chance -- and David learns he's not who he thought he was.

Turns out I reviewed this one on Goodreads! Here's what I had to say after I finished it last year:
Ellie is beginning to understand what she's gotten both herself and her boyfriend David into. Now, she must learn about her role in the shadow realm, relying on her new friend, Lucy, for guidance. But can Lucy be trusted? For that matter, can David be trusted? He doesn't always act like the man Ellie fell in love with....

I very much enjoyed Cege Smith's latest "Shadows" book and am looking forward to the next one.
Veiled Shadows is the name of the third and final book. Note to self: Pick this one up. I want to see how it all ends.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Perilous Light (The Afterglow Trilogy #2) - Alyssa Rose Ivy

Perilous Light is the second book in a YA series about a seemingly normal American family whose members are something a little more special in a parallel universe.

Charlotte and Kevin are siblings who live with their uncle Monty in the old family house. In the first book, Charlotte goes through a forbidden gate in the backyard and finds herself in Energo, a magic land. There, she meets Calvin, the love of her life -- it's literally painful for her to be parted from him -- and discovers she's a member of the ruling family.

As this book opens, a little over a year has passed. Charlotte and Kevin are both back in North Carolina; Kevin is playing college basketball and Charlotte is settling into high school, but she still misses Calvin terribly. Needless to say, another trip through the garden gate is in the offing, and this time the siblings and their friends find themselves in the midst of a battle for control of the kingdom. And it's entirely possible that Charlotte and Kevin's mother isn't dead, as they had been led to believe.

If you're the kind of reader who hates to start a series and then find out you have to wait for the ending, you'll be glad to know that the third book, Enduring Light, is also available.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Last Dark (Book 4, The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) - Stephen R. Donaldson

I believe this is the first time since A Man Rides Through that the ending of a Donaldson novel has left me grinning from ear to ear.

First, a little background geekery: I am a huge, unabashed fan of Stephen R. Donaldson, and have been since 1980 or so -- ever since I discovered Lord Foul's Bane in my local library and remembered that a college friend had said it was a terrific book. (Thank you, Elizabeth, wherever you are.) I've read all of his published work, I think, and have met him in person several times. In addition, I've been an active member of the message boards at for more than ten years (ask me about the EZ Board days -- on second thought, don't) and I count many of the posters there as real-life friends. One of those friends loaned me an ARC of this book, and this review is based on that version, although I've got the final one on my Kindle right now.

The three novels that comprised the original Chronicles (over at the Watch, we call 'em the Chrons for short) were all published in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were released. And then there was a 20-year hiatus while the author got on with living his life, learning what he needed to know in order to write the Last Chronicles.

The setup for the series is this: Bestselling author Thomas Covenant contracts leprosy and his life falls apart. His wife leaves him, taking their infant son, and he becomes a pariah in his hometown. (Leprosy is still not a fun disease today, but it was scarier in the '70s, before there was a cure.) Covenant runs into a beggar who hands him a piece of paper that asks him about the necessity of freedom. Soon afterward, he finds himself translated to an alternate reality/parallel universe/place in his own head called the Land. There, he is cured of leprosy and revered for his white gold wedding band, as white gold is a conduit for a kind of power called wild magic. In addition, a bad guy named Lord Foul the Despiser claims anything Covenant does will play right into his hands. Covenant buys none of this; his life since his diagnosis has been harsh reality, and so he spends the first three books both doing and not doing stuff he regrets while he decides whether the Land is real -- and whether it even matters.

In the Second Chrons, Covenant's experiences in the Land have changed him, but he still has work to do. Enter Linden Avery, a doctor new to town, but with a horrific past. As a child, her father forced her to watch him commit suicide; as a teen, she suffocated her abusive mother. She, too, meets up with the beggar, who tells her there is also love in the world. She is present when Covenant swaps places with his ex-wife, Joan, as the sacrificial victim of a cult. Both Linden and Covenant are then transported to the Land, where Lord Foul is in the process of destroying the ecosystem. Linden, it turns out, has a magical health-sense that allows her to use Earthpower to heal. Of course, the power can also be misused, and she has her share of missteps along the way. And she and Covenant fall in love.

The Last Chrons open again in the real world, where Linden heads the local mental hospital in which Joan is a patient. She has also adopted Jeremiah, a boy whose hand was damaged in the same ritual in which Covenant was killed and who consequently suffers from dissociation disorder. This time, a whole bunch of people suffer fatal injuries in a gunfight before their translation to the Land -- Linden, Jeremiah, Joan, and Covenant's son, Roger. Roger has been turned by Lord Foul and is using his mad mother to trick Linden into bringing down the Arch of Time so Foul can escape the Land. Roger also kidnaps Jeremiah, and Linden will do almost anything to get the boy back -- including resurrecting Covenant.

There's a lot to wrap up in this final book of the ten-book series, and Donaldson does an admirable job. As the book opens, Linden is coming to terms with Jeremiah's recovery, while Covenant must find his way back from the edge of the Sunbirth Sea where Joan died. The Worm of the World's End is coming -- it's beginning to gobble up stars -- and the Elohim mistrust Jeremiah's solution for protecting them. Covenant's leprosy is back, courtesy of Kevin's Dirt, and Linden is still kicking herself for not apologizing to Covenant's lost daughter Elena. And there's every indication that this journey in the Land is going to end where the whole thing began: in the bowels of Mount Thunder.

The Last Dark has everything Donaldson fans love him for: big words, big ideas, and extreme peril; noble horses, Haruchai, and Giants; and Thomas Covenant. And in the end, as that beggar told Linden, there is also love in the world. I can't wait to read it again.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

In Search of Nectar - Kirkus MacGowan

Full disclosure: I haven't read any of MacGowan's other work. Turns out he usually writes thrillers; this was a one-off short story inspired by a writing prompt. I suspect I downloaded it because it was free. It's a cute story.

Wilburn G. Walsh is an accountant -- a normal guy who lives in a normal suburban home. But one Saturday, after mowing his normal suburban lawn, he's accosted by a garden gnome. The little fellow is some kind of gnome mucky-muck, as it turns out, and he is drafting Wilburn to procure for him an elixir that will save all gnomes everywhere. As you might expect, Wilburn's perfect Saturday gets complicated in a hurry.

It's a quick read -- about five thousand words -- and it's free right now (and maybe forever) on Amazon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon's Kindle - Martin Crosbie

The "how to sell a whole bunch of e-books and make a tidy profit" genre is ever-expanding. I've read a number of them, and many aren't worth the time of day. Often, they suggest slightly underhanded methods ("hire somebody to write ten pages of copy for you, publish it through Kindle Direct Publishing, and rake in the cash!!!") or base their money-making strategy on algorithms that Amazon used in January 2012 but has changed three or four times since then.

Crosbie's book is neither of these. Well, yes, he was lucky enough to get in on the Amazon free-book gravy train. And yes, he made $46,000 in one month on sales of one book, My Temporary Life (which deserves to be a Rursday in its own right, and no doubt will be, presently). And yes, Amazon featured him as a KDP Select success story (even as its programmers were tinkering with the system to make it harder to do). But Crosbie is also candid about his experience since then; he's working on understanding the constantly-evolving marketplace, just like the rest of us indie authors, and he's upfront about the mistakes he's made.

Along the way, he imparts a lot of solid information about how to launch your book and which sales strategies are working now. The list of places to advertise your free days alone is worth the price of admission.

If you're an indie author, or if you've been thinking about getting into indie publishing, this is a great resource for the way it is out there right now.