Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review of Shadow Dance by John Harrison


Genre: Fantasy

Re-cap: Shadow Dance introduces us to Namir, a young man who's parents were murdered on a secret mission. He was raised by his begrudging Uncle Daffer along with his cousin Jaconis, a rather snotty little brat! They grew up in the small town of Ellsted and each has the opportunity to get out of this small town by representing the town on an envoy to Hornshir. Each has a different reason for wanting to go. Namir's parents were killed on their way to Hornshir. Namir wants to go to find out what happened to them. Jaconis wants the prestige of being an emissary of Ellsted, the power to negotiate for the businessmen of Ellstead, and the popularity that may get him a seat on the town council should he succeed his mission. Mostly, I think he just wants to make sure Namir doesn't get any of these things. 

Namir gets the leadership position, but Jaconis gets to go as the envoy for the businessmen, along with several of Namir's friends: Aves, the Mayors daughter, and her maidservant and best friend Hessa. Stoic Nurn, the blacksmith's son,  and his younger brother Halin. Their adventure may give all of them more than they ever bargained for. 

The Good: The author jumps straight into the action with a secret mission, and then the loss of Namir's parents. Then we get caught up in the boy's struggle to see who will be the emissary of Ellstead (you have to admit, it has a really fun ring to it!) which seems to be a typical almost sibling rivalry-type thing, but escalates quickly (at least on one side of the struggle). 

The book has fifty different subplots going at any given time, and all are woven so neatly throughout the main story line that although you are left thinking "What the.... where did this come from?!?!?" it isn't in a bad way, if you know what I mean. None of the story felt forced, or contrived, though at times it was confusing. The nice part about that confusion (which I personally enjoy, when done right) is that the author meticulously brought each subplot to a crescendo in close order, leading to a higher climax, then closed each open-ended subplot save one as he wrapped up the story. Nice play for keeping people interested in a sequel. Then he did something really sneaky, and in the epilogue reveals the ultimate of red herrings!

*Spoiler Alert* 

Someone you thought was a good guy all along, appears to maybe be playing for the other team!

The Bad: As is common with fantasy, it took a bit of time getting all the different characters straight in my head. You get unusual names, some that are similar to the others, and a fast introduction, and it can be a bit difficult to keep everyone straight.

The author made a very strong effort at giving the "old" quality style to his writing without going all King James biblical Thee's and Thous EVERYWHERE, but on occasions the sentence structure was awkward and unwieldy. I never lost the meaning of the sentences (which frequently happens with a lot of indie writers), but it does cause the story to lose momentum. And about half-way through the book, the editing goes way down hill. (I suspect he got so caught up in his story, that he missed the errors, happens to me all the time!)

The Ugly: I had to pull out my dictionary on more than a few occasions. Now some of you may be thinking, "What, it is a crime to use big words in literature?!" Absolutely not! I am a big fan of educating my readers. I have quite a verbose vocabulary (even though I don't always use it.) and often enjoyed his rich use of words. But when I hit one that I did not actually know the meaning of, I realized a flaw in his writing. I could not use my exceptional context skills to grasp the meaning of the word! I really and absolutely had no idea what the word meant, and thereby what was happening in the scene. I had to go to the dictionary. 

This is hard for authors, because you don't always know what words your audience will be familiar with and which words don't work. At the same time, you do not want to spend the whole book repeating things to give context clues to the definitions of words. Lazy authors will dumb down their work, so I applaud this author for not doing that, but this is a point where it probably would have helped to have beta readers for the age-range you are targeting. 

And finally, there was a lot of repetition, without real need. Repetition is a great tool to authors, to drive home a point, to indicate significance, or even to display humor, or terror. But that was not the case in this story. There were several times where a character repeated a whole story to another group of characters without adding any significant details to the story. More annoyingly is when (and this was part of that unwieldy thing I mentioned earlier) in the same speech a character would rephrase what he or she just said. I'm really not sure if it was in an effort to give context clues to words, to make the wording more frilly (the Bible repeats itself alot, you know?) or what the deal was. I estimate nearly 1/4 of the book could be removed without detracting from the story at all. Another point where a good editor, or even proof reader would have helped clean this up. 

Overall: The story has me completely intrigued, I am invested in figuring out the two plot hangers. Not so terribly invested in Namir (which is a bit of a shame, as he is the main character) but totally invested in finding out what happens to Hessa, Nurn and Halin. Kinda curious (and hopeful) to see what horrible fate Jaconis brings himself to, for being such a snot-nosed little booger. Although I got this copy as a courtesy for review, I plan on spending money to buy the next book in the series! If it sounds like something you would like to read, you can purchase it on the right of my blog. 

So, what do you think of this style of reviewing, rather than rating the book by stars?

Until Next time,

Keep Reading

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Staying Human with Author Steven M. Vincent

The writing world has changed so much in the last ten years, that a writer is no longer a writer. We wear many hats, which we have discussed several times on this blog. But one of the hats we forget about is that of being human! I have the privilege to interview Steven Vincent, author of Dawn of the Knight I - Xeltian Invitation on a very important topic: staying human through the publishing/ promotion process.

Heidi: Hello Steven, and thanks for joining us! I know when I am in the throes of a book launch, I become like a woman possessed, forgetting to eat, sleep, and spend time with the family. There is so much for an author to do, and so little time to do it in! What is the one thing that you find takes the most time during book launch?

Steven: Over the last few years, social media has really taken off in directions nobody saw coming. Twitter, Facebook, and all the others are great tools for making sure a book is seen, especially when self-publishing, but at the same time they don't run themselves; they require a lot of your time to use to their fullest.

Heidi: How many hours do you typically work during book launch?

Steven: I try to spend a little time in the morning  to get the word out (about half an hour), and two to three hours in the afternoon. I've only released one book so far, but I've done a number of free events where the same rules apply.

Heidi: What is one tip that you have found helps a book launch go smoother?

Steven: Make a schedule of the websites and social media outlets you will be using, and make a habit out of visiting/updating them in the same order every day. Organization can go a long way, but so can planning; start to build connections before you publish your book."

Heidi: What is one piece of advice you would give to new authors planning a book launch?

Steven: Take your time. No matter how great your book is and may become, it will take time, so you should too. I rushed my first book launch and suffered for it; it took me months to get on the right track. Get to know other readers, writers, and bloggers. Ask for advice on the market, and take everything to heart. DON'T forget the people who helped you, either; they'll most likely be happy to help you again, once your book is released.

Heidi: That is all so true! And one last question: what is one piece of advice in general that you would give to anyone thinking of becoming an author?

Steven: No matter what stage you are on of your writing journey, have fun with it. Before you're an author, don't forget you're a person. If your story is the one you want to tell, your story will touch a lot of people.

Heidi: Thank you so much for your time, and for sharing your experiences with us today! For those who want to learn more about Steven you can check out his blog True Knights.

In the spring of 220 Minores, the world of Xeltia brought its black army to bear down upon the kingdoms of mankind. Led by the Corrupter and her Knight, they sought the Collapse - a fate worse than death, encompassing all and never to be undone.
Yet as the three kings united and the true knights arose, the onslaught was met on the eastern plains of Rolace. Many lives were ended, kingdoms shattered, but in the end the terrible evil was driven away. An era of flourishing peace would follow, which men called the Dawn.
But decades would pass, and this would become legend. True knights would fade, and the Corrupter would return, once again seeking the Collapse. Her Xeltian Knight would pit the hearts of man against his brothers using their anger, greed, and lust. There would be no united resistance this time... Only a boy seeking to fulfill a promise.
Dawn of the Knight I - Xeltian Invitation is a 560 page tale that will have you hooked from the start. Join Egon Skysong as he ventures across the lands of Rolace and Crylite in search of answers to defeat the wicked Xeltian Knight. Along the way he will learn much about himself and others, but if he cannot discover the true meaning of the Invitation, Xeltia, and the Collapse, the world shall know despair forever...

Sound like something you are interested in reading? Buy from the link on the right of my page.
Here are some other places to keep up with Steven and his projects!

Follow Steven Vincent on Twitter: 

Like Steven Vincent's Facebook: 

Fan and Friend Steven Vincent on Goodreads: 

Like Dawn of the Knight on Facebook: 

Well, hope you found something you liked today! Thanks so much for reading! 

Until next time,

Keep Writing!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Update to Angell's Life

So, over the next couple of weeks, you will be seeing some changes to the blog, not the least of which is that I will now be doing my book reviews that I was originally doing on Books for Linda here instead. I have had several reasons for deciding to do this change. The biggest is that a lot of indie authors have gotten upset with me because I give them three and four star reviews. Obviously, they didn't spend a lot of time reading my review, or my previous reviews, because I don't even give great authors like Rick Riordan or Orson Scott Card five star reviews! There is no such thing as a perfect book. Five stars implies perfect, right?

Rick Riordan totally deserves 5 Stars!

(Funny side note, everyone on Goodreads is annoyed with me because I rated The Hunters four out of five stars. They all insist that I change my rating of my own book to five stars. Yeah, not gonna happen. That just seems the ultimate hubris. My book isn't that good. I actually considered giving it three stars, but that is considered a bad rating on Goodreads, and I obviously loved it enough to publish it, so I don't think it is average!)
What happened to modesty? 

Anywho, point of that little rant is that I will now be doing all Indie reviews here, and I will NOT use a rating system! I will point out the good, the bad and the ugly, then let you decide on your own whether or not to read the work. I'll also be participating in the Amazon Associates and have a link to where you can buy the book, should you so choose!

I'm going to boost up my author interviews. I've been far too slack about that!

Is there anything else that you would like to see me do with the blog? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Keep Writing!