Reading Radar – City of Masks by Ashley Capes

This week’s edition of Reading Radar features a book I got through an Amazon promotion.

City of Masks by Ashley Capes

51q8tuxl6nlThis epic fantasy starts with the former mercenary, Notch, in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He escapes from prison and meets the future Protector of the Monarchy, Sofia Falco. Sofia, however, has her own problems. She becomes the first female Protector in a hundred years when her brother is proclaimed dead at sea. The person she is supposed to protect, the prince and heir to the throne, makes it clear he does not want her services. She discovers that her noble House is under threat from enemies within as a war begins to brew in the world beyond her kingdom.

I found the world-building in the opening chapters very well-written, and I have to applaud the author for following three very different POV characters. These three character threads seem rather disjointed at first, but I could tell from the beginning that the threads intersect later on. I appreciate the author’s fairly crisp narrative, and I found the characters to be very fascinating. I look forward to reading the rest of the story, and I think you will too.

 

 

That’s it for now. I should get back to reading – and writing, of course!

 

 


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Reading Radar – The Walls are Closing In

This week’s very topical story comes from the crowdfunding site Inkshares, and is a project I have supported!

The Walls are Closing In by Jacqui Castle

This books tells of a future in which a certain president’s dream of a big wall is taken to extremes. The story takes place in 2090, after walls have been built around both the northern and southern borders of mainland USA. The country has become a secluded Orwellian nightmare state in which History, Geography, and cultural expression are repressed. The story focuses on Patricia Evans and Rex Moreno, both assigned by the Natural Resources Division to search for ever-dwindling resources outside the major cities. Instead, they find a cache of unedited books from before The Seclusion, and it is up to Patricia to decide how far she’ll go to spread the truth.

I found the preview pages quick-paced and easy to read, and the timely premise is also a big selling point for this book. I also admire the promotional extras created for this, including a good video trailer, a map, and pictures of models to show what the main characters look like. It’s not hard to see how Castle is generating a lot of interest in her work-in-progress, and her work is very effective – as I’m writing this, the book stands at 238 out of the 250 pre-orders need for a basic treatment on Inkshares. Definitely worth a look!

 

I’m off to read more for next week’s feature!

 


 

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Reading Radar – New Meggido Rising

This week’s story comes from suggestions and review opportunities available at the Online Book Club. I read New Meggido Rising fairly quickly – it’s a short book, and it was written mostly as a setup for the Apostates series.

New Meggido Rising, by Lars Teeny

As I mentioned above, New Megiddo Rising is a prequel novel intended to set up the characters and events of the Apostates series. The story begins in an alternate version of 19th century Mexico. The Governor of Coahuila y Tejas visits a settlement headed by the preacher Brigham Wainwright. The preacher lies to the governor, assuring him that he will contact the American government and discourage illegal settlers from entering Mexican territory. He later reveals to his captain that his real plan is to overthrow the Mexican government. The story jumps ahead to the future, where people have neural implants and live in a dystopian America called New Megiddo. The main characters are: Ayane Inoguchi, who lives in a church-run orphanage; Prescott, a Prelate of the church of New Megiddo; Kate Schrubb, daughter of the President, who is next in line for the office; Inquisitor Rodrigo of the Law of Virtue Enforcement; and Evan, an “apostate” teen living in the slums of Los Angeles.

The narrative switches between these characters, building up their backstories as the stage is set for Book #1, The Apostates. As the story jumps to each new character, it seems that the reader is expected to know each one already. Character development is rushed, as each character is pushed along to the place and time they are seen in Book 1, The Apostates. This swift narrative leaves the plot a little lacking in cohesion. It is a bit difficult to develop an appreciation for the larger story as the narrative jumped between characters, despite the incredible worldbuilding and intriguing uses of technology. Even so, I thought the novel sets up an intriguing dystopia, with plenty of nice nods to Orwellian and cyperpunk tropes.

 

I’m off to read more for next week’s feature!

 


 

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Reading Radar – To Live and Die in Avalon

Once again, I’m paring down Reading Radar – but that’s because I have some new content in the works!

Reading Radar will now feature one independently-published or crowdfunded work per week. This reduction is to help give me time for new writing exercises that are scheduled to go up on this site starting in March.

This week’s work is from one of my favorite book crowdfunding sites, Inkshares.

 

To Live and Die in Avalon, by Jason Chestnut

 

to_live_and_die_in_avalon_coverHalf 60’s spy novel, half classic sci-fi serial, To Live and Die in Avalon looks like a really fun read. Right from the start of the sample chapters, I really enjoyed the campiness and the smart use of tropes from two classic genres.

The story follows Penny Thorne, a secret agent on her final mission – to find and rescue Dr. Baxter, a scientist who was cryogenically frozen in 1969. She finds herself pursued by a relentless military force as she unravels the mysteries behind Dr. Baxter and Avalon, humanity’s home among the stars.

This project looks very promising, and I bet it’ll reach its funding goals quickly when it goes live.

 

I’m off to read more sample chapters, and to find another work for next week’s feature!

 


 

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Reading Radar – “The In-Betweener” and a book called “The Nobel Prize”

Both of the books on this week’s Reading Radar come from free Amazon promotions. As always, I try to find books that are independently produced, or that are not from big league publishers.

The In-Betweeners, by Ann Christy

51a3wfrh7zlA zombie novel? Wait, don’t turn away! I actually like this one. It’s about a woman who’s left alone and in hiding from what is left of the world after a new technology has caused an apocalypse. She must survive through loneliness and guilt as she finds food and other necessities. All around her are the “Deaders” and “In-betweeners” (those not quite dead and not quite alive).

So far, I’m finding this book very exciting. The story drew me in with detailed settings and worldbuilding, plus it’s easy to identify with the main character, Emily, as she struggles to find other survivors like her. Definitely worth a look.

 

The Nobel Prize, by Mois Benarroch

51q3ugxk02lThis book was linked to me by a friend during a special promotion. I love the concept of this book right away. A writer discovers that one of the members of his writing group is in a mental institution. The writer finds out that his friend is becoming a different character each day, acting as if he is within his own books. The translation of this novel is a bit awkward in places, but so far I’ve been able to follow pretty well. I’m finding it pretty funny – I appreciate the satire of writers and their craft.

 

That’s all for now!

 


 

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Reading Radar – Catching Stars and Frey

I’m back with Reading Radar, where I preview promising books from independent authors.

Here’s what I’m looking at in the week of January 8 – 14.

 

InksharesCatching Stars by Cayla Keenan

 

Catching Stars takes place in the kingdom of Aestos, and follows Maddix, a member of the King’s Guard. Maddix is accused of four murders he can’t remember comitting, and finds himself in prison awaiting execution. After Maddix mysteriously escapes his punishment, the witch Jayin is sent to find him – but Jayin and Maddix will have to work together if they want to survive.

The strong writing and descriptive narrative caught my interest – the sample chapters do a good job of pulling the reader in to this world. Currently at 276 pre-orders, Catching Stars is now guaranteed the basic publishing treatment by Inkshares, and any further orders will certainly help the author even more.

 

Amazon Promotion – Frey, by Melissa Wright

517zm4m8bnlAnother Kindle free promotion – and it’s still going as I write this. Frey lives in a small village where her Aunt makes life difficult and frustrating for her. Frey’s life takes a strange turn as she discovers magic she didn’t know she had, and is persecuted by her village council. She goes on the run, and is forced to seek help from strangers and other outcasts. As she runs, she begins to recover memories long lost to her and she suspects that there is much more to her story.

So far, I’ve found the narrative to be fairly engaging. It’s a little rough and somewhat confusing in places – I think this book could have used another run-through by an editor. The characterizations of Frey and her friend Chevelle get muddled in places, and I found it hard to understand some of their actions. There are enough twists to keep me reading, though, and I have a feeling it may be worth reading through to the second book in the series, Pieces of Eight.

 

That’s it for now.

What do you want to read in 2017?


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Write What You Know? – #IWSG Post Prompt

This is my January post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Late by my clock, but hey, it’s still Wednesday is some parts of the world!

iwsg

The prompt for this month is What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

Write what you know.

Oh yeah, I’m gunning for the big one – which is odd, because I teach this rule in my writing classes for ESL students.

It is a deceptive rule, because it makes you think you should write only from personal experience. Now, do you suppose J.K. Rowling ever actually went to a wizarding school? Did P.L. Travers really have a magical nanny? You think George R.R. Martin ever found himself at a wedding that went horribly, violently wrong?

Probably not. But those writers knew people and knew history. They filled in gaps in their knowledge by researching and talking to people. They blended in their own experiences along with facts and experiences learned from others.

If writers only wrote what they knew, every book would be about a struggling writer, trying to make words flow across the page while wondering how the heck they’ll pay for their next meal. Every character would be just like the author (only far more handsome or beautiful, of course). Conflicts would involve overcoming writer’s block, the quest to find an outlet for an outdated laptop, or the constant paradox of needing to talk to people but being hopelessly introverted. (I love stereotypes, don’t you?)

I humbly propose a revision to the old rule:

Start with what you know.

This is the way I wish it had been taught to me. It’s a far more accurate for the stories I think are my best – I started with an event or situation I knew and worked from there. Characters were based on people I met, though I’ll admit that my main protagonist is often very close to being me. But I never stumbled across a family secret so horrible as that in Painted Blue Eyes, nor did I ever experience a car wreck so bad as the one that kicks off The Door I Chose. I had similar experiences, and I talked to family members and friends who had such experiences. And I picked up from books, TV shows, movies, plays, musicals, and so many other sources. I imagine that successful, best-selling authors will tell you the same thing – they experienced events somewhat similar, or learned of events that they fictionalized. They met people very similar to the ones in their books, or borrowed traits from characters in other media.

Can we all start teaching the rule this way instead?


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