Saturday, October 31, 2015
Of course, I don't only read dystopian fiction. One of my favorite authors as a child was Rosemary Sutcliffe, writing of ancient worlds every bit as ruined as 1984. I loved the lone, rejected character, the one who saw too clearly, or who didn't dare to see. Meanwhile I imagined one of the "big three" - America, Russia or Chin -, would surely push the button and destroy us all before I grew up. I planned to stand on top of a tower block (there were several near our school) where "I shall / watch the ending / watch the death descending / when we weep / do not cry / in the dying day." (I wrote songs too.)
Anyway, if you'd like to grab a coffee, just to prove the world's not dead yet, here are some great dystopian novels I read while I was away from my computer.
First is Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, a cool, deceptively gentle read about a gene-spliced instantly-gratified world and the dangers that might lie within. Enjoy with a rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee, and ponder the road our world might follow.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline offers a different take on corporate greed, setting up a WillyWonka type search for the Easter Egg in a computer game. But this game is sometimes more real than real life, and the truth behind friends' identities might test friendship to the core. Enjoy a bold dark intense five-star coffee with this one.
Next is Cast me not away by Zara Heritage, offering a haunting vision of a near-future where lives are so much devalued that anyone under four can be declared useless and euthanised, for the greater good. There's a strong anti-abortion theme underlying the story, but it's kept well within the viewpoint of the characters, never preachy, and deeply thought-provoking. Another bold, dark, five-star coffee might be needed while you read this one.
Finally, here's a book that's definitely not dystopian but it's written by an author who's penned many dystopias, and it just might help me write my own dystopian novel one day. Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin is so much more than just another book on writing. It's filled with well-annotated excerpts, memorable one-liners, and well-presented lessons and advice, and it's a book I'd love to read again and again. Keep lively, keep doing the exercises, and keep some bright lively two-star coffee to hand.
Friday, October 30, 2015
WHICH CAME FIRST? The sword, the sorcery or the hero?
Thank you Steven, and I'm really looking forward to escaping into more of your stories.
Where to find it:
Amazon Print Version
Barnes and Noble Link for Born of Swords
About the author:
Steven L. Shrewsbury lives, works and writes in rural Central Illinois. Over 365 of his short stories have been published in print or digital media since the late 80s. His novels include WITHIN, PHILISTINE, OVERKILL, HELL BILLY, BLOOD & STEEL, THRALL, STRONGER THAN DEATH, HAWG, TORMENTOR and GODFORSAKEN.
He has collaborated with other writers, like Brian Keene with KING OF THE BASTARDS, Peter Welmerink in BEDLAM UNLEASHED, Nate Southard in BAD MAGICK, Maurice Broaddus in the forthcoming BLACK SON RISING and Eric S. Brown in an untitled project. He continues to search for brightness in this world, no matter where it chooses to hide.
Where to find him:
Find out more: Follow the Tour:
10/26 Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author Guest Post
10/26 Man's Midnight Garden Review
10/26 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Guest Post
10/27 Azure Dwarf Review
10/28 Book in the Bag Interview
10/29 Creatives Help Board.How may I direct your call? Interview
10/30 WebbWeaver Reviews Guest Post
10/30 Sheila's Blog Guest Post
11/1 Dice Upon A Time Top-Tens List
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Plus, there's a great giveaway attached to this tour, so don't miss out on the details, down below!
Writing Long, Short,
By Stephen Zimmer
Hellscapes, Volume II represents my eleventh book release. It is a collection of short stories in the horror genre, my third collection released overall. As with any release, it represents another step forward on the writing path, especially in the area of writing short fiction.
Thank you Stephen. I'd never really thought about the difference between long and medium-length writing. I suspect I've been growing from short to medium over time, but epics have eluded me. My fingers are itching though after reading this - you're encouraging me to try (but can you tell me how to find the time?).
So, dear readers, here is more information about the book and author... and don't miss the giveaway!
Book Synopsis for Hellscapes, Volume II: Return to the nightmarish, shadowy realms of Hell in the latest installment of the Hellscapes series by Stephen Zimmer. Six brand new, macabre tales of the infernal await you … but be that you only visit these realms, you do not want to share the fates of the inhabitants you will encounter!
Included in the pages of Hellscapes, Volume II:
In “The Cavern”, a man finds his way into a nightmare, subterranean world that leads to an even greater, and more devastating, revelation.
A police officer takes pleasure in violently executing his duties and it appears to be open season in “The Riot” when he is part of an operation sent to crack down on a gathering of people protesting an economic summit nearby. But this is an operation that is going to take a very different kind of turn, one that opens his eyes to a new reality.
A woman finds herself stranded on a high, rocky ledge, along with many other men and women, surrounded by a frothing sea in “Above as Below”. Shadows glide beneath the surface and soon she will discover what lurks within the depths.
“Spots Do Not Change” tells the story of a man who has never had any qualms lying, cheating, or deceiving the women in his life. A reckoning day looms as he comes to understand that his actions have harmed the lives of many others, actions that in the realms of Hell take on forms of their own.
Having spun webs of intrigue and personal destruction at the heights of national politics throughout his life, a man finds webs of another sort to present grave danger when he finds himself lost within a strange wilderness in “Weaving Webs”.
Many are drawn to “The Club” in the heart of the decaying, shadow-filled city of Malizia, hoping for some entertainment and release, or even safety from the monstrous dangers lurking in the darkness. One man struggling against amnesia finds his way to the seemingly popular establishment and its confines give him momentary hope; until he discovers the nature of this night club and those who run it.
Where to find Hellscapes, Volume II
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hellscapes-volume-ii-stephen-zimmer/1122856195?ean=2940150842410
About the author: Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky. His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections.
Where to find the author:
Where to find the tour:
10/26 Anasazi Dreams Review
10/26 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
10/26 Shells Interviews Guest Post
10/26 Sinister Scribblings Guest Post
10/26 Kentucky Geek Girl Author Interview
10/27 Pulp Reports Review
10/28 Creatives Help Board. How may I direct your call? Guest Post
10/29 Bee's Knees Reviews Review
10/29 Sheila's Blog Guest Post
10/30 L. Andrew Cooper's Horrific Scribblings Review
10/31 SwillBlog Review/Interview
11/1 I Smell Sheep Review
11/1 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top-Tens List
11/1 Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author Guest Post
And how to enter the giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Monday, October 19, 2015
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
So now it's time to post those reviews. I'll do my best to remember the illustrators. Coffee will help.
First is a picture book for older kids, older boys to be precise. Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert is illustrated by author. It's a very teen-boy novel with deep irreverence and a persistent fascination for bodily functions, noises, smells, etc. The illustrations are pleasingly dark. The names (Johnny Nothing, Ebenezer Dark, etc) are pleasingly descriptive. And the storyline has plenty of twists and turns - even the occasional touch of wisdom. Enjoy with a dark five-star cup of coffee.
A Cat Named Mouse by Patti Tingen illustrated by Mary Erikson Washam is a more traditional picture book, written for small children, illustrated with colorful images of cats, mice, dogs and more. The images illustrate the action beautifully, and the storyline is simple and fun, deals nicely with the problem of teasing, and reads smoothly. Enjoy with some smooth well-balanced three-star coffee.
Whispers of the Wolf by Pauline Ts’o illustrated by Rosemary Lonewolf is a deceptively simply story about a boy and his dog. But the boy lives in a lovingly imagined, well-researched and gorgeously illustrated Pueblo Indian world of 500 years ago. The dog is a wolf. And lonely child and dog will grow together to take their places in society. The illustrations fit the story beautifully, including minimal but beautifully chosen details that fill out to make the world real. Enjoy with some rich elegant four-star coffee.
Princess Rosie’s Rainbow by Bette Killion illustrated by Kim Jacobs has the feel of a good old-fashioned fairytale while being wholly new and intriguing. The illustrations are filled with fascinating detail to keep any child occupied for hours. The story's fun. And the bonus science lesson is a really cool touch. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.
And now to return to reading and writing... I hope to post a review of Ursula LeGuin's Steering the Craft soon - a great book for writers!
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
"In a minute. Try helping yourself a bit first."
Mom continues to cook dinner. Child turns pages back to read the instructions.
"Mom, may I have more potatoes?"
"Of course. Here. Help yourself."
Mom offers the ladle and child piles more food onto plate. Some falls on the floor.
"Mom, I didn't mean it. I couldn't help it." Guilty looks.
"You'll have to learn to help it," Mom replies.
And, "Mom, why won't God change me into a good little girl?"
"God helps those who help themselves."
Last week's reading included lots of self-help books. Some tried to offer a ladle so I could help myself to happiness. Others promised to hold the plate, so I wouldn't spill my problems on the floor. Still others offered a place where I could find help. And all together... well, I'd offer you coffee, but you'll have to find your own brew while I just offer book reviews instead.
Since we're relaxing over caffeine, let's start with Relax More, Try Less, The Easy Path To Abundance by Neville Goddard and Tim Grimes. Goddard's book has a Bible-as-metaphor spirituality, but Grimes offers excerpts with a more secular aim. There's plenty of sensible wisdom in the pages, but exhortations to just imagine what we need remind me awkwardly of religion's "Just have faith and you'll receive." Still, the injunction to relax is well-argued and well-received. Read this short volume with some mild crisp one-star coffee, and relax.
Maximum Mental Health by Aleks G. Srbinoski aims to improve motivation, mood, means and mastery in readers who are of normal to moderately depressed mental health. It's a very user-friendly, easy-reading book, heavy on reminders that the author offers hypnosis tapes etc., but with plenty of sensible down-to-earth advice. Enjoy with some more mild crisp one-star coffee.
Continuing the theme of happiness, Lucky Go Happy, Make Happiness Happen by Paul Van Der Merwe, is easily my favorite of these three. A book of pleasingly humorous animal fables, with a touch of science and plenty of wise advice, it's smooth enjoyable reading and my only complaint is I'm not sure happiness really is the goal of all my actions. Still, this one's well worth reading. Enjoy with a three-star, well-balanced, smooth-flavored brew.
Signs in Life by Deanna Nowadnick offers a Christian approach to happiness, comparing life-signs to road-signs and God-signs. The author's nicely conversational tone feels like sitting in a bookstore discussing, well, life. And the author's life lessons are relevant to all. Never preachy, offering advice from many sources, and well-tended with personal questions for the reader, it's one to enjoy with some more well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.
Finally, there's Devotions for Moms by Heather Bixler and Christina Fox, a self-help, faith-help book for busy mothers with well-arranged topics (healing, feeling burned out, life seems pointless, etc) and well-placed links allowing e-readers to navigate simply and surely. With honest, open opinions, wise advice, prayer and practical suggestions, these devotions almost read like phone calls with a friend. Pour the coffee first, another full-flavored three-star brew.
So now I'll help myself to some lunch, wonder where the time's going, and dearly wish someone would help me download an extra few hours a day. But perhaps the memory of these books will help me slow down (and achieve more?). The wisest advice might be to spend a moment or two in prayer as well. What about you?
Friday, October 2, 2015
Forgiving Mariela Camacho by A. J. Sidransky follows on from the author's earlier novel, Forgiving Maximo Rothmann (click on the link for my review). It's a wonderful standalone novel of separations and connections, commitment and forgiveness, and the complexities of history and identity. An apparent suicide might turn out to be murder, an independent woman might find her freedom curtailed, and an honest cop might have to break a few rules to find the solution. Ranging from the Dominican Republic, through Europe, and all the way to Washington Heights Manhattan, the story paints a haunting immigrant experience, so wonderfully relevant to today. Enjoy with some rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee. They're both wonderful books.
Next is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a novel that beautifully combines contemporary literature with science fiction, building a wonderfully interconnected world of pre and post-apocalypse where values, loves and promises change, but humanity clings on and remains the same. Chapters interweave past and present with tiny links like mysteries or fireflies gleaming and it all comes together in a novel that's both wide-ranging and tightly woven with never a spare word or phrase. Enjoy with some more rich, elegant four-star coffee.
Then there's The Extinction Game by Gary Gibson. The first scenes had me hooked as the protagonist fought for his lonely existence. Hints of mystery intrigued. Then, suddenly, everything's different. A larger story takes the stage and takes a little longer to get going, but it's worth persevering. It's a cool mystery, inviting interesting questions about identity, relationships and existence. Enjoy with some bold, dark intense five-star coffee.
I read some non-fiction last week too. But reading, writing and reviewing have taken back burner to compiling, editing and formatting our Writers' Mill Journal (an anthology of works from our local writers' gruop). So has housework, and it's calling me. Soon it will grow spider-legs and begin to call even louder, so the next batch of reviews will have to wait. Enjoy your coffee while I work!
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Now I'm delighted to have just read the author's next book, Forgiving Mariela Camacho (I'll post reviews soon!). Here is A.J. Sidransky to tell us where this second novel comes from. Welcome A.J. and over to you.
Find the author at: