Saturday, 31 March 2012

A Mob Love Story: A Review of Skin Games

My Book Review of Skin Games by Adam Pepper:


Skin Games by Adam Pepper is a gripping star-crossed love story set against the backdrop of crime novel. It is a page turning tale that tosses romance with the mob and comes up a winner.
The book tells the life story of Sean as his journey towards a criminal career takes a detour into a love affair with the daughter of a mob boss. This decision puts him in the crosshairs of danger when the mob boss resolves to break the lovers apart by any means necessary.

Skin Games has an interesting format, as it is essentially a flashback story, bookended by a minor subplot. This design works well, due mainly to the strong first person voice of the protagonist; as a reader I didn’t even notice the switch in point-of-view as the story moved in and out of the enclosing segments. From the first tense action sequence to the poignant conclusion, the book compels your attention.

This story could have easily turned into a Romeo and Juliet cliché, but the authenticity of the characters moves the narrative splendidly and you get the genuine feel of people caught in a situation spinning beyond their control. The author does a marvellous job of creating a claustrophobic world of crime and mobsters, while still maintaining empathy for its inhabitants.

Skin Games is a taut, engaging book and I recommend it.


Skin Games is available at Amazon

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A Top Notch Crime Novel: A Review of Grave Situation

My Book Review of Grave Situation by Alex MacLean:


I enjoyed Grave Situation by Alex MacLean on two levels, as a first rate, tense crime novel and more personally because of its Nova Scotia setting. The book is a fabulous psychological suspense ride and police procedural.

The book focuses on Allan Stanton, a Halifax homicide detective with a personal life in ruins who finds himself on the trail of a possible serial killer. While he investigates the murders in the city of Halifax, the killer strikes again outside the city, bringing Stanton directly into his path for a showdown.
What I loved best about this book (beside the fact it’s well-written) was the excellent and realistic depiction of the police force. Forensics, autopsies, investigative methods come across very genuine. Evidence results take time, leads are hard to come by, and the main detective is professional, if world-weary and a bit burned out.

Another wonderful aspect was the scenes shown from the point of view of the killer. He is not evil personified, but warped and we, as readers, are slowly shown why and how. This lends a sympathetic edge to the character and makes him a three dimensional person. In fact, all the characters in this book are marvellously defined and engaging.

I found the plot to be an above standard murder/crime story, and while it did head in the direction I deduced, an interesting twist was thrown in to keep the concluding events fresh. Now, while some of the scenes (especially in the beginning of the book) are a bit graphic, they are not gratuitous and paint the horror of the crimes and their aftermath skilfully. (But if you don’t like that sort of thing, be forewarned).

I loved Grave Situation immensely and recommend it highly.
 
 
Grave Situation is available on Kindle

Monday, 26 March 2012

Paranormal Adventures: A Review of Bitten by K. Drollinger

My Book Review of Bitten by K. Drollinger:


Bitten by K. Drollinger is a reasonably entertaining and charming paranormal novel. It is freely sprinkled with vampires, werewolves and their friends, all traipsing through harrowing escapades and a bit of romance.

Bitten is the sequel to Enthralled and while it can be read on its own as I did, it’s probably best for the books to be read in sequence. I felt like I started reading in the middle of a story, although the author does a reasonable job of providing enough back-story to make events comprehensible. The book continues the story of Annette and the werewolves Flynn and Conrad as they deal with aftermath of events in Enthralled, and an old vampire menace still looms.

I found the supernatural background of the novel nicely fashioned and well blended into “normal reality”; there was a valid sense of the two worlds interacting and reacting. Plus, the book’s characters come off as genuine as they deal with problems both mundane and paranormal and I found the interpersonal relationships especially intriguing. It was this engaging setting and its appealing denizens that easily captured my attention for the first half of the book.

Unfortunately, I did find my interest waned somewhat as the novel progressed. I thought the plot setup and denouement a bit predictable (the end sequence was telegraphed earlier in the novel) with a surprising lack of tension for my taste. And I felt the concluding twist, while interesting, seemed inevitable and unsurprising.

Overall though, I did enjoy reading Bitten and it would probably appeal to fans of the paranormal genre.  It gets a minor recommend.


Bitten is available through Smashwords, B&N Nook, Kobo and Amazon

Saturday, 24 March 2012

An Interview, Prizes and D.W. Hawkins' Blog Tour

Welcome, Dear Readers, author D.W. Hawkins as he stops by for an interview as part of his blog tour.  He talks about his book The Sentient Fire (the first novel in his series, The Seven Signs), fantasy and writing.  And for three lucky people who leave comments, he is giving away one free Smashwords coupon for his book and two 50% discount Smashwords coupons.

Also you get the chance to win a 25$ Amazon gift card by using the Rafflecopter widget thingie found at the bottom of the post.  Apparently (if I understand it correctly) you get entry points if you "like" D.W. Hawkins & this blog post (as well as the other blog stops) on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.  You also get  2 points for tweeting the blog posts on the tour, which you can do once per day.  And the points leader at the end of the tour is the winner.

The winner of the Amazon gift card will be announced on April 12th at D.W. Hawkins' blog and website, so if you enter be certain to check those sites on that date to see if you are a winner.

Okay, now that explanation are done, on with the interview:


Interview with D. W. Hawkins


1. Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

Well, I guess you could say that I’m one of those people that have treaded many different paths in life, trying to decide which was best for me. As a younger child, my first love was drawing, and for the longest time I wanted to be a comic book artist. As I got older, I tried guitar, and up until about four or five years ago I wanted to be a rock star. I even left computer networking school to go to music school. Then, because music didn’t pay the bills, I joined the Army. I’ve spent the last nine years or so of my life in the military, at home and in combat. I started writing in college to pass the time and because I found that I enjoyed it very much. It took me ten years to finish my first novel, and I wrote it through tumultuous times in my life, taking it with me on deployments and through major life changes. Finally, I polished it, had it edited, and decided that the writer’s path was for me. I haven’t looked back since.


2. Can you tell us about your book series, The Seven Signs and the first book, The Sentient Fire?

The Seven Signs is the story of a few people who are thrust together by chance, and end up having to discover the mystery of a secret artifact of great power. That sentence doesn’t sum it up completely, though – it is also a love story, a story of redemption, a story of revenge, and an adventure that will span the breadth of an entire world. The Sentient Fire sets up the series, and follows a young wizard named Dormael and his friends as they are hounded across two continents while trying to discover the purpose of an artifact, and what exactly it is. It is a heavily character-driven story, but is also packed with action, magic, and excitement. It is set in a world of my own creation, which I painstakingly built over the course of ten years. I even wrote over one thousand years of history for the setting to stand upon.


3. What drew you to write in the fantasy genre?

I write fantasy because I love to read fantasy. I believe that many people discount a lot of speculative fiction as respectable literature because of its many otherworldly elements, but I heartily disagree. When I read, I love to escape the world we live in – to me, that is the entire point. I am currently writing projects in other genres, but The Seven Signs is my favorite, and would love for it to be considered my defining work. With The Seven Signs, I wanted to write a story that emphasized the things that I think make a good story, and change the things that I don’t enjoy.


4. Is there any part of today’s fantasy fiction that you think has been overused or turned into a cliché?

There are a few, in my opinion. I hate the “black and white” morality that many books portray in their storytelling. There’s no such thing as pure evil and pure good, in my opinion, and so my writing reflects that. I’m also incredibly tired of the battle scenes where the hero cuts down hordes of useless enemies while laughing or doing something else completely ridiculous. Battles are hard. They’re bloody, adrenaline-drenched struggles to stay alive, and they should be reflected as such. To tell the truth, I’m also tired of elves, dwarves, dragons, and such things. That last is a simple matter of taste, but there have been so many stories out there that are based on the same template of races that were created years and years ago. Lately, if I pick up a book that has any of those races or creatures in them, I usually put it right back down. That isn’t to say that there are no good stories containing elves or dragons; it’s just my own taste.


5. Did anything surprise you about the process of writing your book?

Almost everything! When I sat down and typed the very first sentence of my novel, I had no idea what I was getting into. It has been a labor of love ever since and there is a new surprise around almost every corner in the publishing world, and I’m still learning. On the whole, I think the thing that surprised me the most, though, was how easy it is to self-publish these days, and how many writers are doing it. Until I did it myself, I had no idea. I’ve met and talked to some wonderful people since, and I hope to keep right on meeting them.


6. What do find the most challenging aspect of being a writer?

The mental discipline required to keep writing instead of spending all your time marketing on social media sites, and keeping your delusions of grandeur to a minimum. It takes time, patience, and perseverance to make it, especially for indie authors.


7. What sort of research did you do for your book series?

I researched many different things, from the movement of the earth and why we have solstices and equinoxes to ancient ships and how fast they actually sailed. I read about horses, and I read about swords. I even read a bit about quantum physics and the universe itself. There were many times that I came to a point in the book where I needed a better understanding of a subject before I could portray what I was trying to write as accurately as possible, and so I stopped and went into research mode.


8. Who has inspired you as an author?

There are many authors that I love and who have inspired me. I think the largest inspirations have been Jim Butcher, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, and Robert Jordan. I could go on forever, but I’ll stop there.


9. What’s next for you?

Well, my first priority is to finish The Seven Signs. Book Two, The Awakening Storm, should be on the market this November. After I finish The Seven Signs, I’m going to publish a sci-fi novel I’ve been working on, and then work my way into the urban fantasy genre with a series that I’m tentatively calling The Outriders. It’s about a motorcycle club that hunts demons. I’m also working on something a bit tamer, called Lainey’s War, which is an alternate history set in a modern-day fascist America, and it’s a love story more than anything else. So, my plate is pretty full, as you can see. I just hope that I can continue to provide people with great books to read, and that everyone enjoys all my work. I can’t ask for anything more than that.


Author Bio:

D.W. Hawkins is a three time combat veteran, a guitar player, and a biker. He's a lover of all literature, but the Fantasy genre is his favorite. He has a son on the way, and Pit Bull who thinks she's a fifty-pound lapdog. He lives in Savannah, GA, and at any given time you can find him writing, riding his Harley, or spending time with friends and family.

Where you can find D.W. Hawkins:

Twitter: @authordwhawkins



The Sentient Fire: The Seven Signs- Book One
In one short night, Dormael Harlun’s life was changed forever.
Tired and half drunk, Dormael stumbled upon Shawna Llewan, a beautiful young woman, wounded and near death. What he didn’t realize was that his decision to come to her aid would be only the beginning of his unwitting role in a labyrinthine and perilous game.
Suddenly, Dormael and Shawna find themselves surrounded by enemies bent on their destruction. All avenues to safety are closing rapidly, and their only hope is to find the key to a dangerous secret lost to antiquity. With every ally a potential foe, they can rely only on Dormael’s brother Allen and his cousin D’Jenn to escape the will of a tyrant, the designs of a traitor, and the attention of powers beyond their imagining. Dormael has never been much for games, but destiny has rolled the dice for him and irrevocably placed him in the middle of a deadly game he must desperately play for keeps. Should he lose, he will forfeit not only his own life, but the lives of the ones he loves.

The Sentient Fire is available at the following places:

Nook
Sony eReader
Kobo

Tour Stops on D.W. Hawkins' Blog Tour:

March 12th - Interview with Greg @ The World Writ Small: http://worldwritsmall.wordpress.com
March 14th - Guest Post: "Writing Believable Characters" @ The World Writ Small: http://worldwritsmall.wordpress.com
March 16th - Greg Pellechi's review of The Sentient Fire @ The World Writ Small:  http://worldwritsmall.wordpress.com
March 24th - Interview with A.F. Stewart @ A.F. Stewart's Blog: http://afstewartblog.blogspot.com
March 30th - Claire Frith's review of The Sentient Fire at "Claire Reads": http://clairelouisereads.blogspot.com.au/ 
April 1st - Guest Post: "Action Scene Writing" @ Indie Book Blog: http://indiebookblogger.blogspot.com
April 6th - Interview with Heather Powers @ Earth's Book Nook:  http://earthsbooknook.blogspot.com
April 9th - Guest Post: "My Favorite Fantasy Books" @ Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile: http://hopelessbibliophile.com
April 11th - Edi's Review of The Sentient Fire @ Edi's Book Lighthouse:  http://edisbooklighthouse.blogspot.com


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Celebrate "Be Nasty Day" with The Union of Dead Characters and Potential Victims

In honour of "Be Nasty Day" I'm posting a little story from the point of view of my characters, as they share what they really think about their writer (note: for anyone unfamiliar with my books there are one or two minor plot spoilers in the following story):



The Union of Dead Characters and Potential Victims


Charlotte Harrington stood and addressed the assembled group. “I call this first meeting of the characters of A. F. Stewart to order. The floor is now open to grievances against our creator, Ms. Stewart.” She returned to her seat and smoothed the folds of her skirt.

Detective Piper cleared his throat. “What are we going to do about her? She’s on a freaking killing spree.”

“I know. Take that book Kilers and Demons. Seven dead, more if you count the nameless ones murdered off page.” Edmund banged his fist on the table.

Nimue sighed. “It wasn’t too bad when she was just killing the villains, now everyone’s a potential casualty.”

“Too true. The body count is getting a bit unpredictable.” Balthazar the demon smirked. “Even for me.”

Eldren scowled. “At least you’re not in her book, Ruined City. I got ripped apart in an actual massacre.”

“Well, I just got disappeared.” The small voice of Danny piped up. “I got hunted by evil toys and then nothing. I was gone. Nobody knows what happened to me. And then she went after my Mom.”

Flora rolled her eyes. “I got murdered by a vampire and my own father, so don’t complain.”

“See, no one’s safe, she’ll even kill off kids.” Christopher frowned. “I still have nightmares about Harry.”

“Or main characters. She got a couple of us too.” Art rubbed his chest.

Joan grinned. “Sometimes we get lucky and come back as ghosts.”

“Oh don’t talk to me about ghosts.” Sarah snorted. “She had a homicidal ghost witch come after me and all my friends. She’s a menace.”

“I agree.” Douglas cast a look at Joan. “Look what she did to poor Elly. She got eaten just because she was perky. And that artist, he didn’t even get a name before fairies shredded him and he ended in a stew pot.”

“What about the marriages she’s ruined.” All eyes turned to Steve. “How many domestic murders has she written about? I killed my Kimberly, Jack got shot by his spouse, there was John and his wife, and poor Nancy and David, and the list goes on.”

Charlotte held her hand up for silence. “Well it is obvious things are far too bloody. But what exactly can we do? She is the one in control.”

They looked at each other, but no one had a clue...



I stared at them through the unseen observation window and then turned to the representative from the Office of the Ombudsman for Fictional Characters.

“What am I supposed to do about these gripes? I write dark fantasy and horror stories! Characters have to die!”

“I’m just doing my job. We have to investigate all complaints.”

“Well, nuts to them. You tell them to be quiet or I’ll write a story and kill off everyone.”



Sunday, 4 March 2012

Cyber Style: A Review of The Beauty of Our Weapons

My Book Review of The Beauty of Our Weapons by M. Darusha Wehm:


The Beauty of Our Weapons by M. Darusha Wehm is the third novel in the author’s Andersson Dexter series and proved to be as an enjoyable read as the previous two books. And once again, this book overflows in a fascinating futuristic world mix that blurs the line between the virtual and real.

This time around, the author switches it about a bit with a plot centering on the crime of cyber hacking/vandalism instead of murder. Our intrepid detective, Dex, investigates a case of a mysterious hacker, who has inexplicably altered the in-world virtual meeting space of a religious group. The ensuing investigation uncovers more acts of cyber-vandalism and a disturbing trend that could mean trouble for Dex and his friends.

I found The Beauty of Our Weapons a bit quieter than the first two books, though no less satisfying a read. The focus on character development shines stronger in this book, with introductions of new intriguing people and the bringing back of old familiar faces. It also had a surprising, but pleasant, return to one of the subplots from the first book, which I thought closed; this creative twist opened up a fresh dynamic that hopefully will explored further in more books. I also liked the plot evolution at the end of storyline that promises to shift the characters out of their accustomed world and into a new adventure.

As usual Ms. Wehm has created a story you can jump into and characters to embrace, with interesting insights on society; her books reflect on today’s current state and probe any possible future.  The Beauty of Our Weapons is an easy recommend, as is the entire series.


The Beauty of Our Weapons is available at Smashwords and Amazon


Note: The Beauty of Our Weapons is the third book in a series and does read best as such, but it does work as a standalone book as well.

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