Review: Gone

Gone (Gone Series #1)Gone
by Michael Grant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gone / 9780061909641

Where do I start with this review? I wanted so badly to love this book, but halfway through I told my husband, "I love the plot, but I can't stand the characters." Still, I was perfectly prepared to give this book a give 4- or 5-star recommendation... until the last 20 pages. Light spoilers ahead.

The plot is everything you could want from a dystopian sci-fi YA novel. On the first page, everyone in town over the age of 14 disappears completely, and it's immediately up to the remaining kids to figure out how to survive in a world that becomes increasingly creepy. The children are obviously ill-prepared to take care of, say, all the abandoned babies in town, and the result is dark, gritty, and satisfyingly creepy. In addition to all this, the town is also enclosed in a mystical soap bubble, and the town threatens to be overrun by talking coyotes and flying rattlesnakes. Seriously, this is an awesome plot.

But the characters...! This book feels like it was written by taking a bunch of recent popular YA books and trying to Frankenstein the characters together out of various YA tropes. There's Sam "Harry Potter" Everyman, a nice, strong, solid, dependable, totally average guy with a propensity towards heroics and to whom everyone instinctively looks up. There's Astrid "Percy Jackson" Sexy-Smart, whose job is to provide exposition and romantic angst and who is literally referred to in-text as both a "Genius" and a "Barbie" doll. (Astrid, being female, will not be allowed to do anything useful in the novel that doesn't entail snogging the protagonist or looking after small children.) And, of course, there's the ineffectual Sidekick Guy who spends the whole novel sulking because he's not as cool as his protagonist buddy. (Why do authors keep Sidekick Guy active as a trope? I truly cannot remember the last time I read a YA novel and thought, "That was good, but it needed more sulking.") And, of course, mid-way through the novel, the Bad Guy shows up and takes over the town through virtue of his Nicolae Carpathian powers of persuasion, a la that preppy kid in "The Enemy". Maybe I've just been reading too much YA lately.

It's not that I can't handle stock characters, but I'm just not sure that I like the way the author writes his characters. For instance, he seems to be aware of the fact that YA as a genre is in dire need of more women and minorities, and I really want to give him credit for trying to fix that. There seem to be as many named female characters here as there are male ones -- a major feat in YA novels -- and there's also an autistic character and a minority character from Honduras. On the other hand, I'm not sure that "realistically depicting prejudice" in a novel should translate to throwing around racist and ablist slurs every few pages, and I'm additionally fairly certain that a good depiction of minorities doesn't start-and-stop at making the autistic character a glorified MacGuffin and the Honduras character someone who can fix and do just about everything, but always does so at the protagonist's beck-and-call.

The female characters suffer this problem as well: despite having incredibly useful powers like genius intelligence, anti-gravity powers, and super-speed, they never really grow beyond support roles in the text. Which is odd, because you'd think that a Genius would be better used for strategy than being a nanny, and you'd think a Speedster that runs faster than the human eye can track would be able to shiv a few key characters. And some kind of award needs to go to Diana, for being the worst-written female character I've read this year: an intelligent young woman who knows full well that the villain is going to humiliate, hurt, abuse, and kill her, but sticks with him over the good guys not because she loves him, but because "The bad girl ends up with the bad boy." No, really, that's her reason. It's like an author's note in-text got incorporated into the dialogue by accident.

Then there's the ending. I realize going in that this is a series and that means cliff-hangers, but this book is a particularly egregious example. The bad guys roll up into town with a literal army, try to murder a preschool full of infants and toddlers, get fought to a position of weakness by the good guys, and then are allowed to limp off into the sunset because it's apparently the right thing to do. The villains are in perfect position to relaunch a counter-strike the next day if they so choose, and in the meantime none of the main questions surrounding the plot and its mysteries are answered or resolved in any meaningful way. Really, ninety percent of the novel could have been spent with everyone sitting on their hands for all the impact it has on the ending, and that's not fair to a reader, in my opinion. I expect something more climactic at the end than just Status Quo Resumes, Please Buy More Books.

And, you know, I liked the plot so much that I might be tempted to buy the next book, but considering the complete dodge on this ending (and considering I've been here before with "The Maze Runner"), I rather cynically believe Book 2 will do nothing more than maintain a holding pattern. There's got to be a better way to do a series than to just have the first twenty pages in Book 1 count and everything between page 21 and the final book is just killing time.

To attempt to sum up: I liked the plot idea, but hated that nothing ever seemed to be done with it. New supernatural elements were piled on every ten pages or so (mutating animals! x-men superpowers! multi-universe soap bubbles!) but none of them were resolved, explained, or brought to completion. I wanted to like the minority characters, but I disliked the fact that they all seemed flat, stale, and underutilized in favor of Protagonist McEveryman and Whiny Sulksman. I was looking forward to the ending, but was thoroughly annoyed to find no resolution whatsoever and a blatant attempt to restore status quo despite all the protagonists knowing full well that isn't going to work out. I'm very disappointed in this novel.

~ Ana Mardoll

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Review: The Help

The HelpThe Help
by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Help / 9781440697661

I came to "The Help" after seeing the movie in theaters and enjoying it immensely. I'm not sure what I can say about this book that the five million other 5-star reviews haven't already said, but I'll try to focus on what I did (and in some cases didn't) like about the book in comparison to the film.

First of all, I like the size and scope of this novel. The movie had to cut a lot out in order to fit the time limit, and I think it did a great job of condensing the storyline, but I really love the added scope of the novel. The book grips you from the first page to the last and never feels padded or too long, but at the same time there's a huge wealth of detail here that couldn't be added to the movie. I like that the novel takes time to emphasize the physical hardships of the maids; sexual assault by employers is mentioned briefly, and one maid has been physically scarred by her employer insisting she wash her hands with bleach every morning. This isn't a book that glosses over the ugly realities of these women's lives and I appreciated that.

I also like the way the relationship between the maids and Skeeter is better defined. I know the movie got some criticism for Skeeter seeming in some ways like a savior to the maids, and here it's crystal clear that Skeeter is really nothing more than a go-between to the publisher and a skilled transcriptionist and editor. Aibileen is consistently noted to be the better author of the two women, and her parts of the novel are praised as being the best written; the other areas are edited and tightened by both Skeeter and Aibileen working in cooperation.

In addition to this division of skill and labor, I like that Skeeter isn't represented as a saint divorced from her cultural upbringing. The bathroom separation bugs her, but it takes an epiphany for her to realize that the Jim Crow segregation laws -- that she initially thought were perfectly fine -- are really essentially the same as the separate bathrooms. Both the "hygiene initiative" and the segregation laws are wrong, but it takes Skeeter time and emotional growth to realize that. Socialization is also handled in depth with the training and teaching of Mae Mobley, Aibileen's young charge, and the point is made that Aibileen "moves on" to new children because she can't bear to see them once they've been socialized into prejudice -- a serious and heart-breaking point about how we come to our own biases as children.

I really like that real ink is spent on the inequality of women in this book as well. One of the "good" employers suffers from serious depression and mentions that her husband is pressuring her to undergo shock treatment. The relationship with Skeeter and her boyfriend is seriously examined, and Skeeter recognizes that the role he wants her to take is one that would stifle her spirit entirely. Domestic violence is also addressed in the novel, although I wish it had been addressed in both societies, rather than just one.

The one thing I really did not like about this book is that it delves into a level of body-shaming that I found uncomfortable. Several characters are noted to be fat, but a distinction is made between the main villain's 'bad' fat (she's ugly and eats too much) and several of the maids' 'good' fat (that babies like to snuggle into). Another employer is described dismissively as too skinny, with a bony, boyish body that babies supposedly aren't going to find comfortable or snuggly. I'm a firm believer in body acceptance and that all bodies are beautiful, so it was uncomfortable for me to read about villains who are ugly-and-fat or ugly-and-skinny because I didn't think the descriptions were necessary. The references were for the most part kept to a minimum, but I'm glad that the movie didn't try to recreate that characterization.

I can't speak to how true or accurate this novel is. I can say that it is a gripping read, entertaining without being trite, and leaving the reader with a strong impression of the importance of empathy, kindness, and equality in society. I think there is a relevancy to this novel that is meaningful and necessary today, and I do recommend it.

~ Ana Mardoll

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Open Thread: Ana Is Back!

I'm back in my own bed tonight, ya'll! Yay! Did you miss me? (It was almost like I never left, I hope!)

Trip report while I'm still conscious enough to type: Hawaii was lovely, and I feel really privileged and lucky to have been able to go. The beach was gorgeous; the sand was yellow, the sea was a clear deep blue, and the air smelled warm and fresh and clean. (Except when people were smoking. Which is... a thing now? I've never seen so many smokers in one place. It was like being in an 80's film noir, but significantly more sunny. I confess to being sensitive to smoke, but I didn't mind in Hawaii -- the breeze always carried the smoke away.)

We stayed in a 25-floor hotel that was tiny but very comfortable, although I was annoyed that the "free Wi-Fi" advertised on the website was actually "free Wi-Fi by the pool" and the room internet was (a) corded, (b) cost $10 a day, and (c) hard-coded itself to one computer only, which meant that Husband was forced to learn how to tether his laptop to his phone. But that worked out alright. Funny enough, the hotel elevator system worked on a card-key scanning model: you scanned your room key and you were assigned an elevator. The elevator would only stop at the pre-scanned floors, and there wasn't an emergency stop button (unless you had the firefighter key), which serves as further proof that Richard Dawkins doesn't know everything about hotel elevators and how to exit them. Just in case we needed another reason.

We spent a lot of time in our room so that I could rest (and read blog comments and I hope there are no hard feelings left over from the GRRM discussion! This is the part of deconstruction I worry about: eventually I will alienate everyone on earth and then where will I be? *frets*) and so Husband could program. Let no one say we don't know how to conduct an almost-2-years-late honeymoon in style! When we weren't resting, we spent a lot of time swimming in the ocean (brisk!) and some short time sleeping on the sand (not so long as to get burned). We also went to an absolutely incredible luau show, went for a submarine tour, and then -- and I want to stress this was Husband's idea -- stopped at a teddy bear museum that appeared to be run by a grown-up and utterly delightful Luna Lovegood.

The submarine tour was especially interesting, although I was distressed to learn that at a 100 foot depth, the red spectrum of visible light has given up entirely and gone home, which means that Disney's "The Little Mermaid" movie is apparently a touch inaccurate for Ariel's hair to be a vibrant shade of red like that. Also it's possible -- although I'm not admitting this directly -- that while standing on the pitching deck of the submarine, I might have made a joke about Bella Swan and the number of times she would have fallen overboard at that point. Let the record show that I'm not humorless, I'm just utterly hypocritical. *shame*

Not everything on the trip was delightful. I was saddened by the large number of homeless people we saw sleeping on the streets in groups, and it really brought me back to the whole economy question at large and how lots of people are seriously hurting right now. I know I avoid a lot of that on the blog because I find current events to be the most depressing things ever, but here it was and I don't want to pretend it doesn't exist.

There were also subtle undercurrents of racism that I felt strongly guilty for witnessing and not actively fixing: the nice Australian man in the elevator who told us in conversation that there were "Japs" "all over the island" for some kind of sports tournament ("Maybe it's a positive word in Australia, like 'Aussie'?" I hoped.), the nice ticket seller who called our names to remind us to get in line (we were lost in our books) but didn't call to the other, non-white tourists; the nice couple who sat next to us at the luau and regaled us with delightful tales for thirty minutes before suddenly diving into jokes with racist punchlines (I, being the ultimate coward, hopped up mid-punchline, yelled, "I have to go to the bathroom," and ran out.), the nice tour guide who gave us instructions in English and then quipped "If you don't understand English, just keep doing what you're doing," which I thought was probably unnecessary. And I felt like a hypocrite for being all Oooooh Progressive Blogger, but not so much that I can get around my social Good Girl training.

And the luau. I loved the luau. I love hula dancing, I think it is just the most beautiful thing in the world (ballet being the next most beautiful thing for me). If there is such a thing as reincarnation and if we have any say in the results, I'm coming back with the intent to be a dancer. I was looking so forward to the luau, and it was incredible (in addition to the awesome dances, there were fire batons and somehow the dancer SET HIS TONGUE ON FIRE. And it didn't seem to bother him, which I thought was pretty dang impressive.). At the same time, though, I felt so conflicted because I know that the luau we saw very likely was not even remotely an accurate representation of the local culture, and additionally that elements like the "war dance" were almost certainly played up to fit the "aggressive savage" stereotype when the reality was (I'm guessing) probably closer to football-team aggression than murder-all-the-people aggression. So then I got absorbed in trying to decide if it was alright to sample an inaccurate representation of a culture for the sheer beauty of the art form or if that was exploitation that should not be subsidized fullstop but if that was the right thing then what would the dancers eat tonight, and I'm just not sure of the answer at all. And, wow, that was a tangent. Sorry about that.

Also we ate at a Japanese steak house where the cook grilled everything right at the table and he piled onion rings on top of each other and poured oil into the center of the ring statue an set it on fire and it was like an Onion Volcano. And then he diced my filet mignon into little steak cubes and they had a crusty outside and a sweet buttery inside that just seemed to expand in your mouth and ooooooOOOOooooooooOOOooh. Good. And the Crepe House was incredible: big crepe, a pizza-slice worth of whipped cream topped with strawberry and banana slices, and then everything wrapped up like a flat ice cream cone and eaten while you walk. Divine.

Anyway. I was impressed by how multicultural the island seemed to be from my limited perspective as a tourist: everything seems to be written in multiple languages (English + Japanese + Chinese + Korean), the submarine tour had a tour track with 11 different language options, and every convenience store offers rows and rows of rice balls with spam and seaweed and red cabbage and all sorts of things that looked pretty but which I didn't dare taste because my stomach is constantly plotting against me. The subtitles everywhere were especially cool, given that I hear a lot of complaining in Texas about everything being subtitled in Spanish these days -- what if you had subtitles in three non-English languages, Mr. Complainer? Oh, dear, your head just exploded on my nice shirt. Also, the two transsexuals working in the Crepe House who sang while they worked were awesome in every way, and I totally wanted to hang out there and be friends with them. You don't see that too often in Texas, and it's a shame, so good on you Hawaii in general and Crepe House in specific for being less judgmental than my resident state.

And while I'm thinking of it, I want to apologize to the Living Statue Guy: I'm sorry I screamed at the top of my lungs and jumped behind Husband when you pretended to try to grab me. I'm a little jumpy about personal space sometimes. I hope I didn't embarrass you too much.

I can't remember what else I was going to say, except that I'm really jet-laggy, I'm a little perplexed that I somehow went from being one week ahead on blog posts to MUST WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT CLAYMORE NOW-ville, and I hope that everyone still likes everyone else despite our spirited debates of spirited awesome. Additionally I meant to say something to lead in to showing you pictures. Um... here are some pictures. Enjoy!

View from the hotel porch.

Ana wishes St. Francis could share that whole "Patron Saint of Birds" thing.
Husband wishes Ana wouldn't clog up the hotel porch with hungry birds.

They're wolves, but they remind me of "The Cat Returns" anime movie.

This is an aardvark. It is the cutest thing in the whole world.

View from the dock before the submarine ride.

Did you know they just throw huge random stuff in the ocean so that the coral can grow?
It's pretty awesome -- there were two airplanes and a bunch of giant wine racks.

The teddy bear museum. They actually do animatronic hula dances.

Metapost: OMG Comments!

Folks, it has come to my attention today that we are rapidly nearing the 200 comment mark on the latest Narnia post. (It only took a GRRM discussion and me posting at least 10% of those comments to get there, too!)

I couldn't help but notice that Disqus is appending a little "Load More Comments" at the bottom of the screen now.


And now I'm torn. I like having all the comments on the same page because it's SO much easier to search the content that way. But on the other hand, I'm guessing that the 150+ comment threads probably don't load super fast for everyone and might not be what everyone else wants.

What are the thoughts on the board towards paginating the threads? If I did implement pagination, it'd be a large number of posts per page -- probably 50 posts or more.

Obvious drawbacks are that searching comments becomes harder and since there's no way to adjust the "current comments" widget to take you to the last page in a thread, you'll always end up on page 1 with the sidebar widget. Obscure possible drawbacks is that Disqus may take longer to load 4 smaller pages of comments than to just load the 1 big page and let you have at it.

Talk it out in the comments if you have an opinion. If everyone is pretty equally divided, I'll probably just leave things as they are -- I've learned not to muck with things if they're not broken.

Deals: Charlie Wilson's War

The book that inspired the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" is on sale on Amazon Kindle today for $3.

Twilight: An Ode To Charlie

Twilight Recap: Edward has been ignoring Bella for weeks as she sinks further into depression. Now the dance is coming up and Bella has encouraged Jessica to ask Mike out as her partner. Mike has stopped Bella in Biology class and demanded to know if she intends to ask him to the school dance; Bella has declined.

Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations

   When I got home, I decided to make chicken enchiladas for dinner. It was a long process, and it would keep me busy. While I was simmering the onions and chilies, the phone rang. I was almost afraid to answer it, but it might be Charlie or my mom.

So let's talk a little about distraction mechanisms. Bella will use a couple of different ones over the course of this book. Tonight we have: cooking!

Open Thread: NaNoWriMo, are you?

pilfered from Gelliebean
It's almost November! National Novel Writing Month! Are you participating? Thinking about participating? And if so, what are you thinking about writing? DETAILS! :)

For myself, I'm fairly certain that 50,000 words from me in November isn't going to happen. Or rather, I will almost certainly write 50,000 words this month, but a huge percentage of that will be blog-related, ha. But I *am* working with a growing group of writers to put together a themed anthology of short stories, so I'm going to try to do that for my November challenge.

Open thread below!

Tropes: The Closet Monster

[Content Note: Hate Groups, Addiction]

Husband and I have been watching Law & Order: SVU recently, largely because we've burned out on the Food Network and somehow we've memorized all the Law & Order: Original Recipe episodes. Not sure how that happened, to be honest.

Anyhow, we were watching a Law & Order: SVU the other night where the issue was alcohol addition and how it's a pretty dreadful thing to have and, of course, being that someone pretty much always dies on L&O, in this case it was being used as a courtroom defense. All pretty standard so far.

Deals: The Color of Magic

Popping up real quick (still on vacation!) to note that there's a new edition of The Color of Magic coming out on the Kindle in about a week and it can be pre-ordered for 99 cents.

Author Interview: Gary Ballard on "if [tribe] ="

Ana: Today we have Gary Ballard introducing their novel, if [tribe] =. I haven't read this book myself, but Gary was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Gary, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Gary: The book is the third in the Bridge Chronicles, a series of cyberpunk novels starring the amoral fixer of the near future, Artemis Bridge. Bridge is the kind of guy who knows a guy. You need something illegal, immoral, unethical or downright weird, he knows a guy that can get it for you. He puts the buyer and seller together, collects his fee and moves on, carefully detaching himself from any messy entanglements. In [tribe], Bridge finds himself caught in an escalating gang war because of debts owed to the leader of one of the gangs, the ex-soccer star known as Stonewall Ricardo. Along the way, he discovers that there's more to the gang war than just beef between two rival gangs, and the secret cause could engulf all of Los Angeles in an explosion of ethnic cleansing.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Gary: The title is meant to be a clever allusion to programming language, which is an allegory for the hardwired programming all humans have to that which is different. In essence, what is the reaction if another person is a member of your tribe, and what if they aren't? We group ourselves into little tribes for protection from other tribes. Civilization evolved from small tribes gathering into larger tribes, and those larger tribes made rules that became laws and governments were formed to enforce those laws. Yet as individuals, we still react as tribal animals, segregating ourselves into smaller and smaller tribes for our protection and the protection of the tribal organism as a whole.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?

Gary: The Bridge Chronicles series evolved out of a previous series of books I'd written but had been unable to publish the traditional way. I wanted to do something to promote my writing, perhaps get agents or a publisher interested, so I decided to write a single novel, connected to that unpublished series, and publish it for free on my blog. Once it was done, I discovered some outlets for self-publishing and decided to collect the blog novel into an actual novel. I enjoyed the character of Artemis Bridge so much, I wrote a second novel, and then a third. Each of the novels is set in the time period before that of the unpublished series, and was meant to provide some back story to certain events that took place prior to the opening of the unpublished series.

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Gary: Not to compare myself to some of the greats of cyberpunk, but I definitely think those who like the early works of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling or Neal Stephenson would like my work. Those three inspired me a great deal. In addition, I've taken the hardboiled, noirish tone of the books from guys like Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have publishedother novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Gary: This is the third novel in the series, and I think it's the best one yet. The first is called Under the Amoral Bridge, and the second is The Know Circuit. I do have a fourth book in the series planned, as well as a collection of short stories set in the same universe that will be out before the end of 2011. And at some point after the fourth novel, I plan on re-writing and publishing that original unpublished series that the Bridge novel was meant to promote.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

Gary: My web site has a page that lists all the major places you can buy all the different formats of my book, from paperbacks to eBooks. You can find the page here.

You can also follow me on Twitter, find a contact link on my web site, and follow my blog

Ana: Thank you, Gary. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Gary: You can find the first chapter (and other chapters) of all my novels on my web site. The if [tribe] = first chapter is here. There are also some short stories in a short story collection here

Narnia: Gender Essentialism and Female War Veterans

Narnia Recap: Edmund has slipped out of the Beavers house and has reported to the Witch's home. The other children and the Beavers have realized that they are in grave danger.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 10: The Spell Begins to Break

Earlier this year, I read a wonderful book called "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" which is sort of a half-personal, half-serious account of one woman's struggles with gendered toys while trying to raise her daughter to be strong, independent, and happy. I enjoyed the book immensely, and I recommend it highly. Today's post is also about gender essentialism and gendered toys and gender assumptions and a lot of other gendery things in the Chronicles of Narnia. And so I want to make some disclaimers first.

Twilight: Respecting Personal Boundaries

Twilight Recap: Mike has demanded that Bella explain why she isn't planning to ask him to the dance, and Bella has answered that she is going to Seattle for the day.

Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations

   Gym was brutal. We'd moved on to basketball. My team never passed me the ball, so that was good, but I fell down a lot. Sometimes I took people with me. Today I was worse than usual because my head was so filled with Edward. I tried to concentrate on my feet, but he kept creeping back into my thoughts just when I really needed my balance.

Remember when I questioned that the good teachers of Forks High School apparently don't take yearly violence prevention and/or conflict resolution classes? I'm going to now hazard a guess that they don't take any safety training either. I mean, I know that Bella hasn't been formally diagnosed with any health problems, but they're putting her out on a basketball court and telling her to go at it with the rest of the students? Do they want to get sued? And it's the Chief of Police's daughter, no less, you'd think there would be at least a little inkling of a doubt that maybe, just maybe, you might want to keep Bella on the bench. Or give her a nurse pass. Or anything, really.

Open Thread: Ana Is Going Out Of Town

It's entirely possible that I should have mentioned this earlier, but I'm going out of town for a week.

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Sorry about that. :(

Only... it hopefully shouldn't actually affect the usual blogging schedule around here. I've pre-written a week's worth of blog posts and Blogger will obligingly post them at the appropriate times (no, you can't have them all at once, you'll ruin your appetite).

I'll also still receive all your comments by email and I'll be able to reply on my phone during the day and on my netbook in the evenings as usual. I'll just probably respond a little less than usual, because Husband insists that vacations are supposed to be romantic, or something. So it'll be up to ya'll to be extra scintillating and awesome to pick up my slack. ;)

I can't disclose where, precisely, we're going, but I can confirm that there will be a beach involved, and maybe some palm trees. Since I've spent my entire life feeling something akin to a displaced mermaid, this is very exciting for me.

Please enjoy yourselves while I'm "gone", don't burn the blog down, and feed the kitties for me, okay? I'll miss ya'll so much, except that, you know, I'll still be getting all the comments on my phone. (I love smartphones so much I want to duct-tape mine to my hand.) The Disqus Android app doesn't let me edit my comments, though, so be prepared for a higher incidence of typos than usual.

Open thread below!

Feminism: Why I Like Trigger Warnings

[Content Note: Rape, Violence Towards Children, Infertility, Domestic Violence, the Holocaust, Mental Illness]

Author's Note: Do not do a Google image search for "Trigger Warning" while on a work- or shared-computer. Or even at all, really.

While doing a link walk the other day, I stumbled upon someone mildly railing against trigger warnings, and since I'm all about random navel gazing, I thought I'd take an opportunity to talk about trigger warnings, especially since I try to use them in posts and comments.

So what is a trigger warning? A trigger warning usually takes the form of a header before a piece of text that could be considered to be distinctly unpleasant to the point of possibly triggering (hence the name) intense flashbacks for the reader. The point of the trigger warning is to serve as a sort of advance notice: Hey, this post is going to be talking about X and if you don't want to read about X, you might want to skip over the post. If you want to be really zealous in hiding the potentially triggering material, you can use post breaks or ROT13 so that the reader has to really choose to read more and there won't be any accidental triggering.

Author Interview: J.S. Dunn on "Bending the Boyne"

Ana: Today we have J.S. Dunn introducing their novel, "Bending the Boyne". I haven't read this book myself, but J.S. Dunn was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. J.S., how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

J.S.: The Boyne passage mounds in Ireland were built before the Pyramids, or Stonehenge. Why were these great mounds abandoned around 2200 BCE? "Bending the Boyne" examines the sweeping changes that occurred with the coming of metals, warriors, and sea trade to the Isles.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

J.S.: A medieval Irish text referred to the huge mounds as "elfmou nds" which seemed to be quite a piece of propaganda! Why would the centuries come to view that ancient culture with what seemed to be disrespect, calling the mound builders elves and fairies? Readers of this novel get the best understanding by approaching the ancient setting with an open mind. Though playful, this is not a fantasy tale. Medieval spin doctors turned the ancients into leprechauns and mumbling druids, for their own purposes.

"Bending the Boyne" developed over almost a decade of reading the myths and also intensely researching the mounds' archaeology by reading excavation reports and weighty books while living in Ireland. RyanAir gave me inexpensive access all over Europe, and I traveled the north Atlantic coasts extensively during good weather months, seeing as many megaliths and associated museums as possible. I even traveled to ancient copper and gold mining sites high in the Pyrenees (and broke a toe bone but traveled onward for a week!)

The pattern that emerged in my travels proved the same as that observed by Barry Cunliffe -- head of European archaeology at Oxford! So, glad that he agreed with me, hah, I began to write about the apparent end of the megaliths with the coming of long bronze knives and warrior-heroes -- as narrative nonfiction. Soon the characters named in the earliest Gaelic myths took over the narrative to become walking, talking Bronze Age people. By this time more than one archaeologist was encouraging my efforts and I really thank those brave academics who read early drafts and commented.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

J.S.: The impetus for this particular novel was part myth and part archaeology, and wanting to bridge the existing gap for the modern reader. Cunliffe and others had since 2001 pointed out similarities in megalith culture from what is now Portugal all the way to northwest France and up to Ireland and Wales. His new volume (2010) with linguist John Koch as editors, points the way forward, that “Celts” came from the far west of Europe and not cen tral Europe, and that the Gaelic tongue probably arose along the coasts as a trading tongue.

By using characters from the early myths I hope that the new concepts of "Celts" can be integrated with popular images. It will be interesting over time to see if the public accepts that the Gaels originated along the coasts and in the Isles rather than being later invaders!

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If  you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

J.S.: Comparable works include Jean Auel’s Clan Of The Cave Bear series -- just move that forward a few thousand years and add a dash of Irish word plays. This novel is also being bought by those who read Edward Rutherfurd, and Leon Uris, both of whom have written about Irish history. Along the way, Rutherfurd was kind to offer encouragement and answer questions when "Bending the Boyne" was in early stages.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

J.S.: A second novel is underway, set later in the Bronze Age as a continuing narrative but not as part of a series using exactly the same characters.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

J.S.: A print version is available from a new small press for historicals, Seriously Good Books, and on Amazon in paperback and in Kindle format. Either link has the Search Inside feature/Kindle sample.

My author website is www.jsdunnbooks.com and has links to interesting info about the objects and locations in "Bending the Boyne". The book's has a Facebook page with over 700 fans who check the Wall for updates. Please feel free to Like and bookmark the page!

Claymore: Training and Specialization

Claymore Recap: Clare, Miria, Deneve, and Helen have confronted the Awakened Being, but are astonished to learn that the Awakened Being is far more powerful than they had been led to believe... and male. 

Claymore, Episode 10: Those Who Rend Asunder, Part 2

Today's episode is a difficult one for me because it represents some of my favorite things about the Claymore series as a whole, but it also contains a pretty big Epic Fail as far as I'm concerned that thankfully doesn't taint the series too much past this specific episode. So let's dive into the Fail and get it over with.

Twilight: No Cookies for Human Decency

Twilight Recap: Edward has been ignoring Bella for weeks as she sinks further into depression. Now the dance is coming up and Bella has encouraged Jessica to ask Mike out as her partner. Mike has stopped Bella in Biology class and demanded to know if she intends to ask him to the school dance; Bella has declined.

Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations

   And Edward was staring at me curiously, that same, familiar edge of frustration even more distinct now in his black eyes.
   I stared back, surprised, expecting him to look quickly away. But instead he continued to gaze with probing intensity into my eyes. There was no question of me looking away. My hands started to shake.

We talked last week about Bella having depression, and speculated on whether her depression is meant to be situational or chemical, so it's probably not surprising that the first thing I would notice this week is the shaking hands.

Open Thread: This Is A Game


Via Shakesville who reblogged from Kotaku. Which really just reminded me so much of the wonderfulness of the Princess Maker 2 Let's Play which I keep meaning to blog about a la The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing, but the time, you know, it escapes me. (Has anyone here done a Let's Play? Speak up, lurkers!) The Kokatu write-up tickled me immensely but be fore-warned that there is Barbie-doll nudity. Possibly NSFW!

Open thread! Potential topics: let's plays we've enjoyed, links to same, games worthy of a good take down via let's play, and the poor choice of making a gradient between violet purple and pastel pink.

Tropes: Avoiding Stupid Ancestors


Image courtesy of this Let's Play
They say to write what you know, or at least what you can conceivably imagine, and that can be difficult when writing in a completely different setting than the one in which the author lives. What was life like in a world without persistent written records, internet and smart phones, and central heating and air? What would it be like to live in a setting where the majority of people would never travel farther than their feet could take them? How much would you know without Wikipedia, CSI television, and a blog rss feed?

Possibly more than you might think.

Author Interview: Max Billington on "The Libertines Motorcycle Club"

Ana: Today we have Max Billington introducing their novel, The Libertines Motorcycle Club: An Outlaw Is Born. I haven't read this book myself, but Max was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Max, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Max: Thanks Ana. The Libertines Motorcycle Club tells the story of a regular guy named Connor who goes from being an everyday white collar nobody to an outlaw biker. The novel details the struggles that he encounters in his drastic lifestyle change.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Max: I would like to think that my novel has two underlying themes. The first being, a seemingly small decision in your life can cause drastic change, and secondly, never underestimate what you are capable of.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?

Max: Actually, I never had any intentions of writing a novel. I belong to a family motorcycle riding club, of which I am the secretary and the president of our club challenged me to write a book after I had sent several funny emails and very, very short stories about rides we went on.

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Max: There are quite a few outlaw biker books out there. Some are fiction, but most are either true stories or an account of what supposedly goes on behind closed doors of a motorcycle club (MC). For instance, Sonny Barger, who was one of the founding members of the Hells Angels, wrote a autobiographical book called, "Hell’s Angel: The life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club." The book reads similar to his book, but in my novel, the main character is joining an established MC.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Max: This is my first novel. When I began writing the book, I only planned on writing one book. Then, as the story began to develop in my head, my motorcycle riding club lost a member. This actually caused me to stop writing for a while. When I got back to writing, I started making the story more and more complex and realized that I wanted to end this one with a cliffhanger. As I sit right now, I am hoping to have the sequel done by this time next year.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

Max: You can purchase the book from Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle format. The best way to find out any news about the book would be to like our Facebook page.

Ana: Thank you, Max. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Max: Thank you, Ana. I appreciate it. Your readers can access the first chapter online through the Amazon "Try It Free" sample option. I hope it gets you hooked so you want to read the rest. Oh, and fair warning, it does contain foul language! I mean, they're bikers. What else would you expect?

Narnia: Moral Event Horizons

Narnia Recap: Edmund has slipped out of the Beavers house and is heading for the Witch's home.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 9: In The Witch's House

   AND NOW OF COURSE YOU WANT TO know what had happened to Edmund. He had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn't really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight -- and there's nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food. And he had heard the conversation, and hadn't enjoyed it much either, because he kept on thinking that the others were taking no notice of him and trying to give him the cold shoulder. They weren't, but he imagined it.

Regular readers of this deconstruction will possibly recollect that I have an unexpected soft spot in my heart for young Edmund, so in this chapter, it probably won't be too surprising to see me take an issue here or there with the narrative. What I wasn't quite expecting was how soon into the chapter this would occur.

Deals: Health At Every Size

The non-fiction book Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight is on sale in the Kindle store for $1.79. This is the introductory book to HAES theory and fat acceptance and I've highly recommended the book in the past. (Indeed, I bought the eBook version back when the price was double-digits, if I recall correctly.)

Deals: Pledged

Courtesy of eReaderIQ, the Kindle edition of Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities is currently $2.99 on Amazon, when it has been $9.99 for the past few months. I haven't read this book myself, but it's been on my watchlist since feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte reviewed it some time back.

(Note that the book itself is apparently not 100% feminist; Marcotte seems to have found the book interesting but sometimes very flawed, and recommends pairing with Valenti's excellent "The Purity Myth".)

Twilight: Depression and Dances

Twilight Recap: Bella has fully recovered from the incident in the parking lot, but she is discouraged by her repeated dreams of the unreachable Edward Cullen and his overt unwillingness to speak to her despite her attempts to be polite to him in class.

Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations

   Despite my outright lies, the tenor of my e-mails alerted RenĂ©e to my depression, and she called a few times, worried. I tried to convince her it was just the weather that had me down.

Last week it was pointed out in the comments that Bella's frequent mental dismissal of herself while still feeling superior to others was not, in fact, inconsistent with depression. And now that that's been pointed out, it's impossible for me to not see this week's segment in the same light -- indeed, Bella even calls out in the first sentence here that she is depressed and her mother realizes it.

Metapost: Beta Readers Needed

Official announcement: I'm writing a book. Or, rather, I've written one, but it's not published yet because I'm going through a round of vigorous editing. To my eternal shame, it's not the best book in the world, but to my immense pleasure, I feel confident in saying that it's not the worst either. But I do want to get it to the "best I can make it" stage and what I need more than anything are some Beta Readers to tell me where they see holes so that I can fill them in and upload this baby to the online e-retailers. Thus I'm calling for volunteers, if there are any brave souls in the audience.

Beta Reader Event!

Start: October 15, 2011
End: October 30, 2011 (or later, if that's too soon. Let me know.)

I'm calling for 4-5 readers who will be willing to read a book that weighs in at ~60,000 words long. That's about 180 pages in Word, when you set everything to Calibri font size 10 with a page size of 5x7 inches. I'm hoping for a reading time of about 2 weeks, and there will be a questionnaire to fill out at the end if you're like me and enjoy "guided criticism". Or you can just write me and tell me what you think.

What I need is brutal and specific feedback of the lines of "I didn't like X, I would perhaps have preferred Y, for Z reasons." If you're afraid you can't provide that feedback candidly, I can set up an anonymous feedback system so I'll never know who said what, but really I'd prefer to just assure you that I'd like to hear about the warts now as opposed to after I publish and the reviews start coming in and it's too late to realistically change anything. I'm not going to stop liking anyone over this, and gods know you'll be doing me a huge favor by giving me feedback. *hugs*

What will you get for this prestigious Beta Reader gig? Unfortunately, not a lot: you'll get a free electronic review copy of the book, but since I intend to distribute the final book for free on the blog anyway, that won't be a huge dollar savings. But you will be mentioned by name in the Acknowledgments section at the back of the book that only 1% of readers actually read. And you'll have my undying gratitude, which could possibly translate into a signed electronic copy of the book, as soon as I figure out how to do that.

If you are willing to be an incredibly awesome and impossibly cool Beta Reader for me, please contact me by email with an address that I can reach you with, a name I can use in my acknowledgments section, and your preferred reading format -- epub, pdf, and Word are my poison of choice; mobi is something I'm going to have to work on eventually, but for the moment I'd probably provide a simple Calibre conversion and see how that goes.

But first! You'd probably like to know what the book is about. I would. Here's a Beta Cover and a Beta Write-Up superimposed over a pretend "Kindle Daily Deal" just to look super Beta Pretty. It's betalicious. (Click image to enlarge.)


Please feel free to use this thread as Beta Feedback on the cover and write-up. Much gratitude and thanks in advance to you all. :)

Open Thread: Pick Your Poison... In Easy Flowchart Form!

Via Work Friend:
This is a flowchart based on the results of an NPR poll regarding the Top 100 SciFi/Fantasy novels.
Click to enlarge.


What's your poison?
I ended up at Sunshine, which I own but haven't read yet (no eBook format yet, *sob*).

Tropes: The Right to Not Feed Trolls

[Content Note: Rape]

I think I've mentioned that I have a crippling addiction to TV Tropes and Wiki Walks. The other day, as I stumbled through a wiki walk, I discovered that someone, at one time or another, wrote something that was offensive! I was shocked.

Now, I seriously considered not telling you what was written that was offensive, because it's not precisely the subject of the post. But then I didn't think I could talk about the actual subject of the post without talking about what inspired it. So let's talk about my wiki walk.

Metapost: Blog Policy Consolidation

In the interests of self-disclosure, the blog Affiliate Policy page is up. But when I added it to the page bar, I realized it was getting crowded up there and there were no less than five policy pages, which made me look like a complete control freak as opposed to someone who lies awake fretting about self-disclosure. So now there is a Blog Policies round-up page that contains links to all the policy pages. It's layers upon layers.

And now there's plenty of room for expansion over the coming months. w00t!

Author Interview: Charles Timm on "Assumptions"

Ana: Today we have Charles Timm introducing their novel, "Assumptions". I haven't read this book myself, but Charles was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Charles, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Charles: Assumptions is a story about a young woman who’s grown up in a working-class neighborhood but who, having reached the age of twenty, can no longer ignore her dream of having the finer things -- and, yes, this means the finer material things as well as matters of the heart. She wants marriage, yes, and a creative career, but she also wants to be rich, to live on an estate, to eat at banquets and play croquet. But her family is very indignant when it comes to such desires. They’ve a strict, working-class pride, expecting their children to carry on in that neighborhood, living and working and dying there, with nothing else tolerated. Assumptions is about living like this and about what one young woman does in response.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Charles: Assumptions is about being true to oneself and about how difficult that can be when loved ones refuse to allow that truth. Susan, the main character, is torn between the powerful draws of love for her family and desire for her own happiness. In her mind, these are opposing forces; and, for much of the story, she tries to have both by living two lives, keeping one a secret from the other. This nearly costs her everything.

I hope readers will find encouragement to be themselves, to make their dreams come true, and especially to realize that doing so is not the either/or equation they might imagine. The truth is, when we make ourselves happy, we do more for our families than when we give in to lifestyles that are false for us.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?

Charles: To be perfectly honest, my initial motivation was to add to the word count of a short story collection. I’d written one and was eager for its publication, but when I asked an editor if it qualified as a book, she told me it was too short to interest a publisher (this, of course, was before e-books made any length of interest). She said that, realistically, I’d need fifty thousand words. Well, doing the math, I realized my seven-story, ten-thousand-word collection needed forty-thousand more words or about twenty-eight more stories. Taking a simpler route, I wrote two novellas, and Assumptions is one of those.

As far as inspiration, I was trying for Jane Austen. I don’t know if a lot of men read Austen, but I do, and I think she’s wonderful. I love how her characters go from poor to rich, unhappy to happy, uncertain to certain. I’m a stickler for romance and the happy ending.

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Charles: Advancing from my previous answer, Pride and Prejudice is probably the one book I was thinking about most while writing Assumptions, and readers who like that novel’s rags-to-riches, girl-gets-rich-(and kind) boy, will probably like my book. In terms of style though, I’ve been compared to Hemingway and Nicholas Sparks, as being classic and vivid, and then there’s that one recent reviewer who refused to publicly review my book because she thought it "too simplistic and in need of development." "Hemingway" to one reviewer, "too simplistic" to another. It’s so exciting experiencing what ones works of art bring out of people.

Ana: Ha, as a reviewer, I can definitely appreciate the different responses a work can evoke in different readers. Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Charles: This is my second book. My first was that ten-thousand-word short-story collection, which I called The Asking and Other Stories . . . That’s a work of literary fiction, too. Assumptions features a young protagonist and The Asking and Other Stories . . . features young protagonists ranging from twenty down to pre-school age. The collection has gotten good reviews, with people often impressed by the range of ages and circumstances I depict.

My next book, which I plan to have out this year, is different. It’s a knights-of-the-round-table, fair-maiden story, though it, too, features a young protagonist struggling to overcome circumstances at home and find his destiny. It’s a similar coming-of-age, rags-to-riches story, but with a male protagonist and horses, swords, magic, black cloaks, castles, betrayal, and true love.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

Charles: My books -- currently only e-books -- are available through Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, Diesel, you name it. Readers can reach me through my website, charlesgtimm.com, by email at charles@charlesgtimm.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter. I like Twitter, and I check my e-mail everyday (okay, once in a while I skip a day and go to the park). E-mail is, I think, the most personal, and it’s definitely the best way to let me know you want updates or to keep in touch. I love hearing from fans.

Ana: Thank you, Charles. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Charles: This link will take readers to a free sample of my work. I would like to thank Ana and her readers for this wonderful interview experience. Thank you!

Claymore: Tunnel Vision

Claymore Recap: Teresa has died at Priscilla's hand, and thus ends the flashback arc. We return to Claymore Clare, all grown up and no longer the frightened little girl who traveled with Teresa -- and now completely bent on revenge against Priscilla.

Claymore, Episode 9: Those Who Rend Asunder, Part 1

Episode 9 begins with a final glimpse at our flashback arc before propelling us back into the "present day" where we left Clare and Raki so long ago. Young Clare mournfully carries Teresa's head into the nearby village. The townspeople shy away from her in understandable terror, but Clare is able to accost the Man In Black from the Organization. "Put Teresa's flesh and blood inside me!" she cries, and we understand that Clare is to be inducted into the ranks of Claymore.

Review: Let's Get Digital

Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You ShouldLet's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should
by David Gaughran

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let's Get Digital / B005DC68NI

I've read a couple of self-publishing guides so far and I have to say that this one is the best yet. The writing is clear, concise, and best of all doesn't seem to have a chip on the author's shoulder towards anyone or anything else. The advice is good, the layout is well-organized, and the price is right.

The book itself is cut into three sections. The first section covers a short history of publishing and some of the whys and wherefores of self-publishing. This is all well and good, but will be something of skimming material for anyone already convinced that self-publishing is the way to go. The second section covers the broad hows of self-publishing and there's a wealth of information here about the different online retailers and how this will affect non-US authors and readers. The third section is a series of interviews with successful indie authors, and the fourth section has a wealth of resources and cross-links worth checking out.

This book will definitely be a resource that I refer back to in the future. The strong organization makes it easy to drill down to a specific area and the sparse prose is perfect for a reference book. I highly recommend this resource for new and wanna-be indie authors.

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews

Review: Becoming an Indie Author

Becoming an Indie Author (Smart Self-Publishing)Becoming an Indie Author
by Zoe Winters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Smart Self-Publishing / B004AYD90U

I want to be clear that I'm glad I bought this book. It was a good read, very entertaining, and had a lot of valuable information in it. I was jotting notes as I went and I feel like I've learned a lot.

However, this book could be a lot better. I would really like to see a few more end-of-chapter and topical checklists so that you don't have to dig back through prose each time you want to look something up. And while for the most part I enjoyed the author's conversational style, there's a *lot* of places where she goes off on tangents or repeats herself.

For instance, there are at least 3 or 4 tangents in here about piracy and how awful the author thinks it is, and while I appreciate both her opinion and her right to express it, after the second or third largely irrelevant tangent, I couldn't help but reflect on the irony of an author taking my money to teach me about self-publishing, only to instead... complain about thievery. Piracy, whatever one's opinions about it, is a fact of ANY kind of publishing, so I would prefer that more time be spent on the nuts and bolts of publishing and not on grinding axes.

Another thing that disappointed me about this book was the author's unwillingness to really think outside the publishing box. For example, several times she talks about her strong opposition to giving away books for free and how it "devalues" art. Again, she's entitled to her opinion, but I think this advice greatly limits the earning potential of the indie author. Let me give a few examples, just off the top of my head as a blogger:

1. Author posts a blog post with a free coupon/deal for their book. The description of the book is "It's like [AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKED BOOK] mixed with [AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKED BOOK] with a sprinkle of [AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKED BOOK]." Every person who clicked over to Amazon to figure out what your book is like just enabled a cookie in their browser that gives YOU a percentage of everything they buy in the next 24 hours.

2. Author sets up a blog site with their entire book "free for online reading", carefully sprinkled with Google Adsense ads.

3. Author sets up audiobook recordings or podcasts of their book on YouTube with Google Ad Revenue Sharing enabled.

In each case, the "free readers" (who might not otherwise have bought the book of an unheard-of author for $2.99) are now earning the author ad revenue. Silver bullet guaranteed to work every time? Of course not! Worth thinking about and advising new authors of the possibilities? Absolutely! I just wish this book could have stepped outside the "traditional publishing" box a little bit and mentioned that there's more ways to monetize your writings than to just sell it as one book, one price per admission.

For all my little complaints, I give this book 4 stars and it's well worth the price of admission. Read it from cover-to-cover and then keep it nearby as a reference tool. There's a lot of valuable information and you'll be glad you bought it -- I am.

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews

Review: Traditional Publishing is My...

Traditional Publishing Is My Bitch! (and other inflammatory remarks)Traditional Publishing Is My...!
by Mike Cooley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Traditional Publishing is My.... / B005HFQ2JG

I agree with the other reviewers who likened this little book to a blog post -- but I also agree that isn't a bad thing. There's something very energizing and therapeutic about this particular blog post; it's precisely the right thing to read for encouragement and affirmation for the new and wanna-be indie authors out there.

The second half of the book has some quick tips and tricks. Most of this is extremely obvious and will be included in other self-publishing books, but it bears repeating here, especially when this is free. My advice would be to pick this up, read it from beginning to end (shouldn't take more than an hour), and then if you're still needing more information, look at "Let's Get Digital" or some of the other offerings on the market.

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews

Review: Darkborn

DarkbornDarkborn
by Alison Sinclair

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darkborn / 9780451463005

"Darkborn" is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy, and has absolutely won me over with its incredible premise and engaging writing.

The people of this fantasy world have been cursed and now fall into two distinct camps: the Darkborn who live their lives in darkness and who burst into flames at the touch of the sun, and Lightborn who live surrounded by lamps and who disintegrate if they are ever cut off from constant light. The Lightborn and Darkborn live amongst each other, sharing a city and with carefully designed houses that allow communication between the two groups, but never anything more.

Author Sinclair has put an astonishing amount of thought into her world-building and the effect will almost certainly please the reader. Since sight would be a fairly useless sense in a pitch dark world, the Darkborn have "sonn", a sonar-like sense that allows them to outline their surroundings with sound. The intricacies of life under this curse are explored in detail, and it's hard not to be completely immersed into the story within just a few short pages.

The characters of "Darkborn" are engaging and likable, and it's easy to feel frustrated whenever we're pulled away from one character to move to another, but it's the "good" kind of frustration that reminds you how committed you are to the reading. Almost all the main characters are delightful and will win over the reader; for instance, I was initially concerned that the character of Telmaine was heading directly into "Mary Sue" territory, but by the mid-way point of the novel I liked her so much that I didn't mind.

The one thing I feel ambivalent about is the author's treatment of QUILTBAG characters in her novel. I'm pleased to see gay, transsexual, and cross-dressing characters appear in the pages of a fantasy novel -- too often, they're avoided altogether. But on the other hand, the characters fit certain stereotypes of flamboyant behavior and it's unclear whether they do so because of the restrictive society in which they have been placed, or if we're just unfortunate enough to not have less stereotypical examples available to us. I'm inclined to give the author the benefit of the doubt since much of the novel is about unfair prejudice against various groups of innocent peoples, but I hope that the next novel may provide more three-dimensional representation of its marginalized groups.

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews

Metapost: Blog Bounce

There is now a blog roll on the right sidebar that will show 10 blogs at a time in order of the most recent updates on the blogs. If you would like to be included in the blog roll, please post a link here to your blog, or send me an email, and I'll get you added up.

I'm not particularly picky: if your blog has something to do with books, reviewing, publishing, or navel gazing online, then you're a good candidate for following. And, as always, people are welcome to link back here as desired.

Enjoy!

Twilight: Collecting 'Em All

Twilight Recap: Bella has returned home with Charlie after her incident at the hospital and turned in early for the night. She tells us that this is the first night she dreams of Edward Cullen.

Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations

    IN MY DREAM IT WAS VERY DARK, AND WHAT DIM LIGHT there was seemed to be radiating from Edward's skin. I couldn't see his face, just his back as he walked away from me, leaving me in the blackness. No matter how fast I ran, I couldn't catch up to him; no matter how loud I called, he never turned. Troubled, I woke in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep again for what seemed like a very long time. After that, he was in my dreams nearly every night, but always on the periphery, never within reach.