Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review: The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire by Iain Reading

by Donna Huber

The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire

The guilds had existed for two and a half thousand years, and it certainly wasn't the first time that tragedy had struck and claimed the life of an Elemental before their time. It had happened before, and it was sure to happen again, but for Memphis Gray, it was the first time that tragedy had struck so close to home in her own small world.

The Review

The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire by Iain Reading had a promising premise. There are individuals who can manipulate the elements of the world - air, water, fire, and earth. When the energy of two are combined a powerful force is created. Some times great things happen and other times catastrophic events results. The mission of the Waterfire Guild is to maintain balance in nature and the combination of water and fire has positive effects. However, the another ancient guild, the EarthAir, are set on upsetting the balance, causing natural disasters for personal profit.

However, this young adult novel does not live up to expectation. Focused on a guild made up of teenagers, a reader can make quick comparison to Harry Potter, but the writing is lacking the sophistication of of J, K. Rowling. I found the story to be disjointed and often felt the author had to insert "explanations" because the story was contradicting itself. I have to wonder if Reading uses an outline.

The reading level of the book was lower than I was expecting as well. I thought it was a young adult novel. The teens are high school seniors, yet the story read like a middle grades novel. The lack of parental involvement and what adults were present were child-like incarnations (the way a child would like for an adult to be) instead of responsible adult.

Things like the kids hanging out in a secret hideout with the uncle of one the teens, being rushed off to Greece in the middle of the week when there is school, and the eccentric "Mr. Park" were more like the elements I find in middle grade fantasy novels, than one for high school students. There is so little parental involvement that when one student falls off the stage during the performance and needs to go to the hospital the parents are no where to be seen and no one in the story thinks this is unusual.

I'm sure my views of The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire were colored by my editing a manuscript while reading it (I have trouble turning off my "editor eyes") and the fact it followed the superbly written young adult novel, When You Leave by Monica Ropal. Seriously, though if this had not been a Netgalley book for review, I would have given up 50 pages in. I think Reading has potential as a writer and for younger readers this might be a great book.

Buy The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and paperback (268 pages)
published: April 2014
ISBN13: 978-1497358980
genres: fantasy
audience: middle grades/young adult
source: Netgalley
read: March/April 2015

A free egalley was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Interview with J.J. Brown (@jjbwordslinger)

by Heather Kirchhoff

Secrets and Howls
What made you decide to start writing? Was this something you always thought you’d do? 

I’m not really sure why I decided to write, except that I always wanted to be a part of the story that my favorite books and movies told. So I wrote myself in as a character specific to that world. This was before I even heard the term fan fiction – I wrote them for myself and no one else.  I kept a list of who my characters were, but it’s lost.

How do you come up with your characters or story ideas?

1. Story ideas come out of either the “What if….?” Zone or they originate with the characters themselves. My first novel, Secrets & Howls: A Wolf’s Head Bay Mystery, originally started out as a straight horror story, with werewolves as the center piece. My inspiration came from many sources, including photographs of the California coast and my love for lighthouses. The process began with a variation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (about a town whose people became vampires), where my question was “What if there really were werewolves? And what if, instead of hiding, they lived in plain sight?”

It just went from there.

2. Characters are interesting, particularly the lead characters – they either show up and demand that their story be told, or they reveal themselves as the story progresses. The lead character for Secrets & Howls, Marita Brye, didn’t really start out as the lead, but she was a part of the cast. She wound up being the lead when it became clear that I needed a character to lead the reader into the story and she fit the bill perfectly. In most cases, though, I know who the lead character is and finding out who they are as I write is both amusing and frustrating, which I suppose is a lot like dealing with real people.

How do you get inspired to write?

I have no idea how I get inspired to write, I just need to write (lol). But I do know that as I’m writing, I’m inspired by the story and the characters to keep digging deeper into the material, to find connections that I didn’t even realize I’d put there until later.

For example, the Wolf’s Head Bay series is connected to two other series – one on which I’m working right now, and another that is set during World War II.

I wasn’t actually consciously making that choice until I started working on my current WIP and doing research for the other one. And then I realized at least one character was present in all three series. It just grew in ways I hadn’t really expected.

What do you do while having writers block?

When I have writer’s block, I break out the watercolor paints and doodle on paper. Or I take one of the journals for one of my current projects and write down questions or notes pertaining to the story. That way, I’m either being creative in another form or I’m still working on the story at hand. It’s that works for me, but something different might work for others.

What kind of stories do you write?

At the moment, I seem to be writing mostly mysteries, some traditional, some with a more supernatural flair.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jane Austen, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, Agatha Christie, JRR Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, Kate
Elliot, Robin Hobb, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, to name a few.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was very young, before the age of ten, I think. I have a one page story in a file box from that time. It’s about a horse. It’s terrible.

What are your stories about?

I have a fantasy novel that I wrote years ago and am working to re-write completely, as well as a science fiction one. They’re somehow connected to each other and I’m very curious as to how that’ll turn out. I’m also interested in tackling the horror genre and maybe a forensic thriller, too. I’ve written a few romantic comedy screenplays and a stage comedy.

What are you currently working on?

A supernatural mystery that takes place about 30 miles north of Wolf’s Head Bay and 30-plus years after the events in Secrets & Howls (which takes place in 1978), the sequel to Secrets & Howls, an erotic novella set in the 1920s and revising my stage play.

What do you do when not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m reading, taking care of my horses, playing trivia with friends at my favorite watering hole, playing catch-up with movies and chilling with my nephew. I’m looking into taking up swing dancing, which should be a lot of fun.

Buy Secrets & Howls at Amazon

About the Author:
I grew up in Southern California surrounded by an eclectic selection of authors and books ranging from classic literature to popular fiction to mythology to non-fiction, thanks in large part to my educator parents.
Drawing, watercolors, with an occasional dabble in oils and pastels, and theater served as other avenues for story-telling. But what truly fired my imagination was the craft of the written word. This began at an early age and the intricacies of world-building and character allowed me to find my voice and hone my craft.
When not writing, performing in local theater, hanging out with a cantankerous cat and dramatic horses, I enjoy the company of friends (even when it involves heavy duty stable work), trivia night and going for a latte at a local coffee shop.
Currently, in addition to the sequel to Secrets & Howls, I am working on two more novels, shopping an original stage play for production and developing erotic novellas under a pen-name.
'Much Ado Over Murder: A Hey! No Problem! Mystery' is my third and the most recent novel to be published.
Twitter  *  website  *  Facebook

The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Unboxing the Box of Bookish Delights

Thank you everyone for entering the Box of Bookish Delights giveaway. A winner has been chosen - Sarah K. Congratulations! Thank you, Alison DeLuca, for sponsoring this giveaway by providing the signed paperbacks.

While there could only be 1 winner, I have an offer for the rest of you.

You may purchase your own Box of Bookish Delights for $50 (add $10 if you reside outside the US). If you rather have a surprise shipped to you, you can purchase a Box of BookSurf Fun for $28.50 + tax . I will choose a signed paperback and swag item to ship to you from the BookSurf catalog.

A form to order your own box is below the video.

And now, see what is in the Box of Bookish Delights!

What's in the box?
(1) Reading Rubber Duck
(5) Novel Teas bags
(1) pair of bookworm socks from SockSmith
(1) Signed 1st edition paperback of The Night Watchman by Alison DeLuca
(1) Signed 1st edition paperback of Devil's Kitchen by Alison DeLuca
(2) bookmarks

Order YOUR box:

If you are an author who would like to sponsor a future Box of Bookish Delights, please contact me at donna (at) girl-who-reads.com.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above links. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Five Friday Freebies

You can never have too many books. Check out these FREE ebooks.

Zoe Hunter loves living on the edge. Free-spirited and spontaneous, she’s built a life stringing together various freelance gigs that keep her bank account barely in the black.

But when her ex, Jack, goes missing along with several million dollars from his business and the FBI zeros in on her as a person of interest, Zoe’s life goes from delightfully unpredictable to downright frightening.

Plunged into a world of fake identities, deception, and murder, she’s afraid to trust anyone. Zoe impulsively skips town in a search for answers that takes her from Las Vegas to Italy, but instead of tracking down answers, she only uncovers more questions.

Who was Jack? Is he dead or did he fake his disappearance? And, what was he mixed up in—art theft, the mafia, espionage, or all three?

Buy Elusive at Amazon

After the Ending
The Virus spread. Billions died. The Ending began. We may have survived the apocalypse, but the Virus changed us.

When people started getting sick, “they” thought it was just the flu. My roommate, my boyfriend, my family…they’re all gone now. I got sick too. I should have died with them—with the rest of the world—but I didn’t. I thought witnessing the human population almost disappear off the face of the earth was the craziest thing I’d ever experience. I was so wrong. My name is Dani O’Connor, and I survived The Ending.

The Virus changed everything. The world I knew is gone, and life is backwards. We’ve all had to start over. I’ve been stripped of my home, my dreams…all that is me. I’m someone else now—broken and changed. Other survivors’ memories and emotions haunt me. They invade my mind until I can no longer separate them from my own. I won’t let them consume me. I can’t. My name is Zoe Cartwright, and I survived The Ending.

We’ve been inseparable for most of our lives, and now our friendship is all we have left. The aftermath of the Virus has stranded us on opposite sides of the United States. Trusting strangers, making sacrifices, killing—we’ll do anything to reach one another. Fear and pain may be unavoidable, but we’re strong…we’re survivors. But to continue surviving in this unfamiliar world plagued by Crazies and strange new abilities, we have to adapt. We have to evolve.

And more than anything, we have to find each other.

Buy After the Ending at Amazon

Backstage Pass
Kerri is dead-set on setting her best friend up. But Sasha is not interested, especially when she finds out the guy in question is a lead singer in a band. She has one rule for her dating life and that is no musicians. She knows relationships with them can only end badly.

Jesse is persistent in getting Sasha’s attention, always being charming, genuine and there for her to lean on – emotionally and physically after she breaks her foot. Sasha isn’t sure she can continue to deflect his advances, and isn’t sure she wants to.

Buy Backstage Pass at Amazon


Alone, Reid gasps in one deep breath, another. It hurts his ribs, his lungs. He manages to roll over on his right side and regrets it. His shoulder screams in protest. Still, he is finally able to wriggle his numb hands loose from what holds him and claws at the cloth around his eyes.

Darkness. But not complete. The moon is up. Trees loom over him, the smell of spruce and fresh air so sharp it almost hurts. He jerks at the plastic ties around his ankles while. his vision swims through a veil of pain-laden tears. He manages somehow to force his screaming hands to work the ties loose and he is free.

Sixteen-year-old Reid thinks life is back to normal. His sister Lucy pulls herself together and cuts him free from a year of foster care. She promises to take care of him, that her new boss and her new life are what they both needed to start again. Until Reid is taken in the middle of the night, dumped in a wild stretch of forest far from home with no idea why he is there. Lost and afraid, he learns to run from the hunters who prowl the darkness, their only pleasure chasing down kids like him. And killing them.

Buy Run at Amazon

The Case of the Pig in the Evening Suit
An ordinary man. A far from ordinary detective. A topical thriller.

The Case of the Pig in the Evening Suit is the first book in a trilogy of murder mystery thrillers.

In the Scottish town of Dumfries, people come to Jin Johnstone with their problems - but this can lead to problems of his own.

A missing son, a beautiful, enigmatic woman, a pig in an evening suit: it is the swift start to a deadly turn of events.

Buy The Case of the Pig in the Evening Suit at Amazon

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above links. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Make Friends with Bloggers #ASMSG #IARTG

by Donna Huber

I started a new position this week. (If you haven't heard, I'm now the editorial manager for an academic journal). And I was sick over the weekend. And that means I'm behind on blogging. Since it is Thursday, I thought I would do a "Throwback Thursday" post with one of my more popular posts. I hope you enjoy it.

One of the top questions I hear from authors when discussing book discoverability and marketing is

"What can I do that doesn't cost a lot of money?"

My response is always,

Make friends with bloggers.

Unfortunately, I see way too many authors only using bloggers as review generators and failing to make any kind of personal connection with them beyond the review pitch. Bloggers are an awesome resource to have in your toolbox, but one many authors do not properly know how to implement into their marketing plans. As more and more bloggers close to review requests (I recently went through a listing where over half the bloggers were not currently accepting review requests), it is important for authors to find new ways to leverage the impact a blogger can have on a book's success.

I have a number of publishers and publicists that contact me about traditionally published books. I can almost always tell when an email is from the traditional side of publishing from the first few lines. It is subtle, but it sets them apart from the indie and self-published pitches. Pitches from traditional publishing rarely begin with a request for review. Bloggers are pretty smart and already know that if an author/publisher/publicist is contacting them, they are hoping for a review. Instead, these emails go straight to selling me on the book - why people should want to read it. After telling me how great the book is and how special the author is, they then still don't ask for a review.  Instead, they ask if I can MENTION the book on my blog. They ask if I would like to do a giveaway. And then at the very last they offer to also send me a copy for review.

Asking for a mention is the key I think to these pitches. As a blogger who is still trying to get through review copies from last year, I don't feel the pressure of doing a review. Instead I can do a promotional post for it with the giveaway. I love when press release materials or a Q&A is provided at the end of the email because it gives me more information for the post without searching for it. Also, a Q&A can often be slipped into one of my guest post slots.

Speaking of Q&A and guest posts, I think authors often overlook these opportunities. You do not need to be on a tour to ask a blogger for a guest post or interview slot. Most bloggers welcome original content from authors at any time.

Even with the low pressure pitch email, you have not gone the extra step in making friends with bloggers. A relationship beyond the review request will better secure a blogger in your camp. I have a number of authors who I email, Facebook, or Tweet with. They show interest in me and my blog beyond what I do for them. They often share my blog postings on Twitter and Facebook. They also respond to my messages on Twitter and Facebook. They also stop by my blog from time to time to comment on posts. Authors who are responsive and attentive to me often will get more promotion for me. It's a I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine karma building thing . When I wanted to do a little impromtu cover reveal for my book, I knew exactly which authors I could contact and would help me out. Why? Because we talk about things other than their book and my promotion of it. They consider me a person first and foremost, not just a means to an end.

A key to successful networking is always being on the lookout for ways to help others.

By building a relationship with bloggers you will have people who will promote you without asking in the future. When I see an author I'm friendly with win an award or get mentioned in the news, I'm happy to share that with my readers on Twitter and/or Facebook. Also, if they contact me about something special I will do my best to find a slot for it on my blog.

Noticed I said SPECIAL. If you are contacting me every week about hitting a new sales goal or an interview on a blog, then you are going to lose my interest. Would you ask your friend in real life to post every week about every little thing about your book? I don't think so, and you shouldn't ask that of bloggers whom you are building relationships with either.

Bloggers can be some of your most loyal and vocal supporters, it is well worth the time and effort to cultivate a relationship beyond the review request with them.

Donna Huber
Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the blogger behind Girl Who Reads and author of the how-to manual Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April's Most Popular Books

Here are the 5 most popular books published in April, according to Goodreads. Have you read them?

An Ember in the Ashes
Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Buy An Ember in the Ashes  at Amazon

The Girl at Midnight
For readers of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Buy The Girl at Midnight at Amazon

When I'm Gone
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Abbi Glines comes the next new adult novel in the Rosemary Beach series, in which we meet Mase, a Texas heartthrob first introduced in Take a Chance who comes to Rosemary Beach to stir things up.

I had an urge to fix all her problems. Which was stupid. She was doing fine without me. But something about those big eyes…

Mase Colt-Manning has always preferred his humble life as a Texas rancher to his birthright as the son of a legendary rock star. In fact, he rarely visits his father’s rarefied world in Rosemary Beach, especially if it means bunking at his vile half-sister Nan’s house—until one visit leads to a chance encounter with a young, gorgeous house maid who awakens him with her off-key but spirited imitation of a country music star…

Reese Ellis finally has her freedom. After escaping a lifetime of abuse from her parents and classmates for an undiagnosed learning disorder, she seizes the opportunity to be a house maid to some of the richest families in Rosemary Beach. But her job is in jeopardy when she causes an accident at the home of her most important client, Nan Dillon. When a hot, half-naked stranger with a cowboy’s swagger comes to her rescue, she’s intrigued—then afraid once he shows his own interest. Reese has never met a trustworthy man in her life. Will Mase be any different?

Buy When I'm Gone at Amazon

Inside the O'Briens
From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.

Buy Inside the O'Briens at Amazon

All the Rage
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Buy All the Rage at Amazon

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above links. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: The Show by John A. Heldt

by Donna Huber

The Show

Seattle, Washington - Sunday, December 7, 1941
Grace allowed the tears to run their course. For five minutes she did nothing but stare out a window and weep. She knew that crying wouldn't change a thing, but she also knew that she needed to cry. The best way to put an awful experience behind you was to sob it out of your system. She wiped her face with the back of her hand and read the letter again.

The Review

While this is book three in the Northwest Passages series, it is actually the sequel to book one, The Mine (read my review). I really like this series. It's a fun way to look at historical events.

I was really looking forward to reading The Show, though it took me a while to get around to it (there's been 2 more books released in this series). In both The Mine and The Journey (read my review) we had individuals traveling back in time. But at end of The Mine we see Grace decide to chase after Joel so we now had a person going forward in time. I thought it would be fun to see our time through the eyes of a girl from the 1940s.

Plus, it would give the happy ending that Joel and Grace, and the readers, wanted. And for a few chapters we got just that. I was lulled into believing this was a feel good story and I was looking forward to the life with the happy family. But that wasn't to happen.

The re-opening of a 1920s movie theater has the couple dressing up for a night on the town. However, when Grace kissed her baby girls goodnight little did she know it might be goodbye. A trip to the restroom leads her back in time.

Even though I didn't get the story I was really expecting, it was still a great read. I loved the family connections through history. While my history lessons of the 1920s northwest are foggy, I still liked the historical details.

If you are looking for a light read with a historical twist, then I recommend The Show by John A. Heldt.

Buy The Show at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook
published: February 2013
genres: historical, romance, time travel
audience: older young adult, adult
source: Author
read: March 2015

A free ebook was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.


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