Thursday, June 11, 2015

What I've Been Up To

They say the days are long but the years are short... So true! 

More than two years have passed since I last posted. 

What I've been up to...

Well, in June of '13, I met one of my favorite authors. In fact, he's my absolute favorite Indie: Bestselling author of the Wool series, Hugh Howey.
My last post was actually a book review on Wool. :) It's an awesome dystopian story that is now being turned into a feature film, to be produced by Ridley Scott. The writer of the script will be Nicole Perlman, who is also the writer of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Anyway, Hugh is SO incredibly wonderful. He is down to earth, warm, friendly, charming and super humble. For a talented and well-loved author who is also a self-made millionaire, Hugh has zero ego. He took the time to connect with me and answer all my questions. He made me laugh, made small talk, and tolerated my request to take multiple pictures. He also signed a book for my husband, even though husband admitted that he's never read Wool, lol.

Ugh, Hugh is just a stand up guy. He deserves all the success he's gained, and I hope he continues to rise. 

Here's me looking goofy as I posed with him. 

Another thing I did this past year was meet my favorite traditionally published author, Laini Taylor. She wrote the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series--the best YA fantasy series ever, in my  humble opinion. 

Laini is a masterfully gifted wizard at prose. Her writing took my breath away, broke my heart and made me crave for more. I was so stoked to have met this brilliant mind, and even more stoked that she signed all three of my books. 
So thankful I got to experience these moments :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: Wool (Books 1-4) - by Hugh Howey

The Unraveling (Wool, #4)The Unraveling by Hugh Howey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished reading the first four books of Hugh Howey's Indie series Wool, and I am blown away!

The experience felt like I had entered a post-apocalyptic world that is reminiscent of Ridley Scott films.

Books 1-4 were full of mystery, suspense, and lots of action. They had all the ingredients necessary for a wholesome and satisfying read: a riveting plot, strong and well-crafted characters, and very crisp and clean prose.

It also had the one element that I always look for and am partial to when I search for novels: a kick-ass female protagonist.

Howey's Juliette, is awesome. I thought that she had the ferocity of Ridley Scott's Ripley (from the Alien films), yet at the same time, the admirably controlled inner fire of Suzanne Collins' Katniss Everdeen.

All the books up until this point blended together seamlessly. The story is carried by multiple characters, as they are told in different points of view, ranging from that of the underdog female protagonist, Juliette, to the people she closely interacts with, and even from the perspective of the despicable villain, Bernard.

Spoiler alert: Howey is not timid about doing so much work to make the reader fall in love with a character only to kill them off. But, he does this successfully. Every occurrence in the plot is deliberate. Every conversation has a meaning. Every death has a purpose. They all work together to strenghten the plot, and to pull the reader further into the depths of the abysmal heart of this dysfunctional society that is the Silo.

The world building is so detailed and brilliantly eerie and dark. The story as a whole provokes thoughts about the human condition and it's parallels with current societal systems that are in place. The series explores heavy themes that can be found in most dystopians: evil and deceit in society, abuse of power, and the deterioration of the human quality of life.

However, for all it's bleak themes, the series also contains strong elements of hope, which I found mostly in the protagonist, Juliette, who is physically and emotionally strong, intelligent, hardworking, handy with tools and machinery, a fighter, a relentless survivor, and most importantly: a moral character who is worth roothing for.

I've already started reading Book 5. Ready to delve deeper into the story and discover more of what Juliette plans to do next...

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Lovely, Eerie, Nostalgic Book Art

Just wanted to share something that I am delighted with: A set of lovely fairytale-inspired original prints, by a fun and talented artist named Bay of Hello Bay.

These prints are a twist on the beloved fairytale characters: Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and my favorite--Alice in Wonderland.

I love them because they're unique, eerie-looking, and have eye-popping vibrant colors against detailed dark settings. Fellow blogger, Josie Epping, of Josie's Haven was kind enough to send these to me as a prize for a contest she'd held on her site. She even put tassels on the bookmarks :) I'm so glad I was among the winners, because these prints are just so awesome. They add a touch of flare to my reading sessions.

Here's the package that I received from Josie:

Here's a closer look:

If any of you are looking for artists to do your book cover or your site, definitely check out Bay's work.


(Photos via my Samsung 3GS + Instagram filters)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: Wool - A Thrilling New (Indie) Dystopian Series

It's been a while since I last updated. Life is full of so many surprises and demands, that I had to put my blogging on the back burner for a bit. Can't believe we're four months out into 2013. Belated Happy New Year to all, by the way, lol.

It has also been a while since I've been excited enough about a book to blog about it. But a few months ago, before *this book* made it big, I wrote this post:

Recently, I stumbled across an e-book hidden gem by indie author Hugh Howey. It's independently published, so it hasn't gotten the volume of press that it deserves. Still, I wanted to share it with my literary world. The series is called Wool. There are five books in total. The first book is quite short, but eerily captivating. I didn't even realize how well crafted the story is until I got to the end so quickly, and I was left wanting more.

I purchased this book for two reasons. First that it was recommended by an indie author that I really admire, Sarra Cannon. Second, that the whole series of five books only cost roughly $6. I figured that I couldn't go wrong, because even if I didn't like the books, then I would have at least helped an indie author.

But the series, so far, has not disappointed. So far, every word has been worth every penny. Howey is a a master of metaphors, and a vivid illustrator when depicting scenes. His style is intense and pulls the reader deep into this world.
Wool is a dystopian series about a society that lives underground within a silo. The society remains confined because the external atmosphere has become too toxic. As with any society, rules are implemented to keep the citizens under control. In the "Silo" whenever these rules are broken, the punishment is that the citizen is granted what they long for most: they are allowed to go outside. But they don't just get to go outside. They're provided with a suit to protect them against the toxic atmosphere, and they are given the task of cleaning the cameras that serve as "windows" for the people inside the Silo, who've been so cooped up underground for so many years that they look forward to these "executions by exile," because it means that their cameras will be clean again.

That's the gist of the premise. It's a really haunting story, full of mystery and great prose. I recommend it to anyone who loves dystopian, and to those readers/aspiring writers who can appreciate genuinely skillfull storytelling.

Anyway, since I've written that post, Wool has become so popular. I guess word of mouth spread quickly. A huge publishing house has purchased the rights to publish the books in print, so they will now be available in tangible copies and in libraries. If you're interested suggest you get yours now in e-book format before they pull it out of Amazon :)

Do any of you have Indie or Self-Published books you'd like to share? :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Negative Reviewers

I came across the book Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire through one of my favorite book bloggers (Niki Wang, of Fiction Freak.) It sounded interesting to me, in a twisted and abnormal way. I mean, a tattooed, cage-fighting bad-boy who falls in love with a plain-Jane good-girl? This is the stuff of dysfunctional, hot romance.

So I looked into it. I pored through dozens of reviews on Goodreads and on Amazon, to get a feel for what to expect.

But what I found was a lot more than reviews. I found drama, lots of it. But they weren't story-related drama. They were review-related drama.

It seems that readers of Beautiful Disaster are divided into two opposite extremes. Some fell madly in love with the book. And others totally abhorred it. There were several 1-star reviews, with readers expressing how vile the book is for glorifying an abusive relationship and a borderline-psychotic male protagonist with co-dependency and anger issues. Yet, others claimed that the book is hot and steamy, and just absolutely romantic.

This is all fine, because thanks to technology, the world is one big book club. I don't always agree with the ladies in my book club, and these heated arguments can be fun, especially when two people with opposing views are so passionate.

But the unsavory drama began when the author started lashing out at negative reviewers by replying directly to the reviews on Amazon, and via her Facebook page and on her blog. And then, her fans started chiming in, fighting with negative-reviewers and spewing personal attacks. I am more baffled by the author who wrote extensive blog posts and unyielding hostile replies to those who gave her book a 1-star rating.

I guess my question is… Why???

Reviews are just opinions. They’re usually directed at the work, not at the authors themselves. And as readers, do we not have the right to express our opinions about the books that we just spent our precious time and hard-earned money on?

Art will not always be loved by all.

That's the beauty of this world, it's so multi-faceted that there is almost a market for everything. Negative reviews can be harsh, but don't they sometimes work for the benefit of the author? Because, as the Hollywood publicists claim, “Bad publicity is still publicity.” Negative reviews still draw attention from readers/consumers. What is sad is the fact that Jamie McGuire didn't consider today's readers to be savvy enough to make up their own minds about Beautiful Disaster. She fought tooth and nail against those 1-star reviews that she ended up embarrassing herself and turning off potential readers.

All this drama took away from the gritty, freak-show-delight appeal of the book. I mean, I hate to admit it, but the negative reviews actually made me want to read the book. It's kind of like that disgusting movie that people claim to hate with a passion, there are plenty who would still go out and watch it out of "Pandora's Box curiosity."

But because of the author's behavior, I don't believe I'm going to read this book anymore. It feels like reading this book will allow me to have only one kind of reaction. According to the author and her fans, if I don't enjoy the book then I can go to hell, so to speak. So, I guess I'm not going to bother.

I wish Jamie McGuire the best in her career, and I hope she continues writing what she wants to write without being dissuaded by the bad reactions to Beautiful Disaster. We need risky, insane books to satiate guilty pleasures. What we don't need is to have our honest opinions censored and attacked by the very people we've patronized.

How do you feel about negative reviewers and authors who lash out against them?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone - by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is unlike any other book I’ve read. It’s a dark fairy tale that is clever, imaginative, unafraid, and above all, heartbreakingly beautiful. Laini Taylor’s words seep into your mind and descend into your heart, and the words stay there, causing you to be overwhelmed by emotion from beginning to end.

The story is not unlike other stories we’ve seen many times in the past. It’s the standard “forbidden love” story, with two beings from opposing worlds that fall in love. It’s a tale that is so familiar, but never gets old. Not for me, at least.

In this particular story, the lovers are a devil and an angel. Karou and Akiva. They are such awesomely written characters. They have the carefree naiveness of youth, yet the strength and common sense of mature characters. Karou and Akiva fall in love, and it doesn’t end well.

What makes this book stand apart is the way it’s written. The world in this tale is so beautifully crafted. The initial setting is in Prague. I have never been there, but the way Laini describes the city makes me believe in how beautiful it must actually be. The other worlds that Lainy Taylor creates are also very rich in detail, she makes you feel like you are actually there. The author doesn't scrimp on detail. She is all about details and descriptions, and back stories, and then some. She never left me wondering, or scrambling to piece the facts together myself. It's like Taylor goes inside your head and paints a picture for you, in bold colors. Then she lets you drink the sweet nectar derived from the heart of this story, right before she wraps up the book in heart-wrenching perfection, leaving the reader sorrowful, but begging for more.

I know my descriptions are so vague, but I really don't want to ruin the story for any potential readers. :)
I will say that sometimes it is good to get something other than a happy ending. Sometimes it feels good to feel that raw, painful, steal-your-soul kind of emotion. That’s what this book delivers, and I think anyone who appreciates fairy tales and poetry, and the timeless Shakespeare classic Romeo & Juliet, will appreciate this book.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: Blood Red Road - by Moira Young


Blood Red Road (Dust Lands, #1)Blood Red Road by Moira Young
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gahhh! I loved this book!

A YA dystopian novel that's set in the desert, Blood Red Road follows the protagonist Saba on a dangerous mission to find and retrieve her beloved twin brother who was kidnapped by a strange group of men.

Gritty, grimy, rough, tough and rude, Blood Red Road takes the reader on an unforgettably wild adventure filled with kidnapping, cage fighting, a crazy and intoxicated mob, mutated monsters, an insane and eccentric tyrant, a cool group of girl rebels, and so much more that I can't describe it all without giving too much away. I WILL say that I loved this book. So. Much.

It has plenty of heart but isn't overly cheesy or dramatic. It has just the right amount of action and humor, and I really liked the main character, Saba. Moira Young has designed her to have so much heart and boldness.

The story is told through Saba's simplistic and grammatically unrefined language. Most of the words are misspelled to reflect exactly how they would sound with a thick southern accent. For example, "exactly" is spelled as "ezackly." But these misspellings didn't take anything away from the story. In fact, I thought that they contributed to the gritty effect, making the idea of a barren, raw and unrefined futuristic world more believable.

We follow Saba as she embarks on her crazy journey and along the way we get to meet some memorable characters, who are pretty well-developed and enjoyable (even the antagonists.)

Saba herself is filled with grit and inspiring conviction. Her love-interest, Jack is smart, humorous, and just so damn charming. Moira Young wrote these two and their interactions so well. I loved the Free Hawks, how they represented hope and selfless friendships. And even the loathsome villains--the Pinches, were enjoyable because they seemed so real and evoked so much detest.

Overall, this book is a sweet surprise bag, with just the right amount of heart and humor, and scenes that kept me turning the pages.

Many reviewers have mentioned that Blood Red road reminded them of Mad Max and True Grit, and I can't argue with that. These are pretty accurate comparisons. However, whether or not you liked Mad Max, or True Grit, or any other Westerns in general--it doesn't matter. If you enjoy stories with strong and mature female characters, and action-packed adventures, with a good dose of a very charming romance, you will certainly enjoy Blood Red Road.

And I HAVE to say... that Jack is my most favorite love-interest-character out of all the YA novels I've read :)

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