March 29, 2014

Something to Take on the Trip

Next week, a new short story of mine, "A Flurry of Footsteps", will appear in the anthology Something to Take on the Trip. This collection of short stories will include other established authors such as Kevin J. Anderson (author of various science fiction novels and co-author of several books in the Dune series), David Gerrold (another sci-fi author perhaps best known for his Star Trek books), and Ron McLarty (author of The Memory of Running and other books). In all, the anthology will include over 40 stories by writers from eight countries. If that's not enough reason for you to check out the book, proceeds from the book's sales will go to the children's charity The Grand Appeal. Look for Something to Take on the Trip on Amazon next week!

March 22, 2014

Book review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

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For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

The Never List started out great. I loved reading about the compulsive way that Sarah guarded herself from potential dangers through following a list of things to never do in order to stay safe. From the first few pages, I had the impression that this would be an awesome psychological thriller/mystery.

However, as the story unfolded, I found myself asking why Sarah was doing the things she did because they seemed to fly in the face of the regimen she established for herself. In one scene after another, she thrust herself into situations that a brave person wouldn't enter, much less someone as compulsively cautious as she was. I know that these events had to happen in order for there to be a story, but it still bothered me as I read it.

While the book was well written and entertaining throughout, I just found it too unbelievable given the makeup of the main character. Nevertheless, I recommend The Never List if you can suspend your beliefs.

Note that while this book isn't for the squeamish, I was grateful that the author didn't go into details about the tortures that various characters endured. Most of it was left to the reader's imagination. Well done in that respect.

March 15, 2014

Protect (The Driver Series #2)

If you enjoyed my post-apocalyptic short story, "Drive", you'll be happy to learn that there's now a sequel! "Protect" is available on Amazon and Smashwords for 99 cents. Haven't read "Drive" yet? Pick it up for FREE on Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble!

Description of "Drive":
Claire knows only a world where most of humanity lives inside sparsely populated cities protected from the Outside by guarded walls. She is a new Driver whose job is to transport items between these cities. Under the watchful eye of her Protector, Shaun, Claire makes her first run from San Jose to Angel City to bring back medicine needed to save hundreds of lives. However, the trip takes them through the dangerous land of the Outsiders. Using their skills, Claire and Shaun must escape from their armed pursuers in a chase across miles of barren wasteland with no hope of help.

Description of "Protect":
Claire is a Driver, tasked with helping to transport items between walled cities shielded from the Outside. On three previous runs, Claire successfully avoided the Outsiders to complete her missions. This time, the mayor asks her and her Protector, Shaun, to bring back precious cargo from Sacramento. From the start, Claire notices this run is different. She isn't allowed to see the cargo loaded onto a big rig truck, another Driver and Protector from Sacramento accompanies them, and there is a decoy truck to throw off the Outsiders. Despite all of the precautions, Claire's convoy runs into a trap set by the Outsiders. She's no Protector, and she doesn't know what she's transporting, but Claire knows that she's all that stands between the Outsiders and whatever lies inside the truck she has to protect.

March 8, 2014

Book review: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

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Annabeth is terrified. Just when she's about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo's fantastical creation doesn't appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that's only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close—the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth's biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he's now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare....

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

I was a big fan of the Percy Jackson books. Then Rick Riordan wrote the Kane Chronicles, which I didn't enjoy so much. I'm glad he returned to the world of Greek mythology with his latest Heroes of Olympus series.

Although it was released over a year ago (and book 4, The House of Hades, is already out), and even though I gave both of the first two books in the series five stars and couldn't wait to continue, I just recently read The Mark of Athena. I'm bad with reading through a series that way.

The Mark of Athena is similar to The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune in that the narration shifts between multiple characters, which each character receiving four chapters at a time. It's a format that works for me and isn't as hard to follow as you'd think because all of the narrators are on the same mission. Also, like books 1 and 2, the pace of this book moves along quickly. There's plenty to action to keep you interested throughout.

My only two complaints (and the reason the book received four stars instead of five) are that the book is a little too long for the plot (some chapters felt like filler material) and that the book ends in a cliffhanger. I hate cliffhangers! If the book suffered from only one of those ailments, it would have been more of a 4.5, which I would round to five stars. However, despite my criticism, it's still a very good book and I can't wait to read book 4... which most likely means I won't get around to it for another few months.

March 2, 2014

Read an Ebook Week discounts

This week (March 2 to 8) is Read an Ebook Week. What is Read an Ebook Week, you ask? The Smashwords site describes the event as "an international celebration of ebooks in which thousands of authors, publishers and retailers feature free and discounted ebooks to help promote the joys of e-reading to the world's readers." If you haven't heard of Smashwords, it's one of the largest ebook distributors in the world. It's a great place to go if you want to find an ebook, especially for non-Kindle platforms. Unless an ebook is enrolled in the Amazon KDP Select program (which prohibits it from being sold outside of Amazon), chances are you can find it on Smashwords.

Back to Read an Ebook Week itself. Thousands of authors are expected to participate in providing discounts and free books, including yours truly. That's right, you'll be able to get ALL of my books at a discount or for free this week from Smashwords! Just remember to use the coupon code on the book's product page.

Click here to see a list of my books on Smashwords.

25% off ($2.24 instead of the regular $2.99 price):

50% off ($1.50 instead of the regular $2.99 price):

FREE (instead of $0.99):
Always FREE on Smashwords: