Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Tour: Stitch!

Stitch Themes: Finding Balance

        Balance can be a difficult thing to achieve, and no one knows that better than Alessa, the main character of Stitch. In most respects Alessa is a perfectly normal college girl, but sometimes it seems like her life is stuck on a pendulum that’sconstantly swinging back and forth to the most extreme degree. So learning to cope with the dynamic world she lives in, and finding balance in her own character, will be some of her biggest struggles both in Stitch and throughout the Stitch trilogy.

        When you meet Alessa, she’s just starting her first year of college at a big state university where she feels like nothing but a number. She’s struggling to fit in with the bubbly, upbeat girls in her sorority house and her schoolwork sometimes feels like an avalanche that she can’t quite seem to dig her way out from under. She’s trying to claw her way out of a depression, but things are looking bleaker and bleaker for her every day.

        But things weren’t always this way for Alessa. In high school, she was an all-star student. Stellar grades, a resume of extracurricular a mile long, and high hopes of getting into a prestigious college. She was someone in her high school, someone with prospects and every chance of achieving her dreams. But then her parents died in a tragic accident, and everything just fell apart.

        So here Alessa is, in her first year of school trying to put the pieces back together and get her life back to some semblance of normal. And then she starts seeing the ghost. The ghost turns her life upside-down along a different spectrum. Suddenly Alessa’s questioning everything she ever believed about science and myths, and wondering how much is going on in this world that she never thought possible. On top of that, every sighting of the ghost sends her emotions into overdrive – she can’t move, can’t think, can only feel this intense rush of sorrow and pain and inexplicable allure – and then when it’s over she’s numb, just utterly exhausted and dead inside.

        It seems that no matter what Alessa does, she can’t seem to find a happy medium. She lets loose at party and has a fabulous time, until it all comes crashing down and she finds herself sprawled across her bedroom floor, desperate for answers that she doesn’t have the power to find. She goes to bed early some nights to give her drained body some rest, and instead she wakes up at 3 in the morning in a cold sweat, still reeling from eerily lifelike nightmares featuring none other than her ghostly obsession.

        It begins to seem that things couldn’t possibly get worse for Alessa – and then a close friend drops a bombshell that shatters everything she ever believed about her life. Now she’s in real danger, every move a question of life or death, and she doesn’t know if she has it in her to make it through intact. But the more Alessa thinks about what happened to her, the angrier she becomes, to the point that her rage blinds her to caution. She makes mistakes, and over the course of the series, she pays for them, dearly.

        Balance is not an easy thing for any of us to achieve. The world around us is constantly shifting under our feet, making us question who we are and what we’re capable of. And unfortunately for Alessa, no one’s world is less secure than hers. She’s waging a battle inside and out to come to terms with the realities she’s facing, and to reconcile her own ability to affect the outcomes. If she can find a balance between optimism and despair, caution and impudence, revenge and mercy, she may make it out alive. But if she can’t, she’ll lose everything – and everyone – she ever loved.

        Check out book one of the Stitch trilogy today to follow Alessa on the beginning of her journey! Available now at Amazon,Barnes& Noble, and Smashwords in print and e-book formats starting at only $2.99. Keep up with the Stitch Blog Tour all month long for giveaways, author interviews, and guest appearances from Stitch characters! Full schedule available here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I Am The Messenger Review

Title: I Am The Messenger

Author: Markus Zusak
Illustrator: David Goldin
Genre: Mystery
Age: 12+
Pages: 357 (Paperback)
Publisher: Knopf Books

        Ed Kennedy is an under aged cab driver with no plans or goals in life. He spends his nights playing cards with his friends and on his days off he hangs around his old shack with his coffee loving dog named the Doorman. Ed is what we call a man with a routine. Day in and day out he drives people, plays cards, and talks to his dog. That is until he happens to stop a bank robbery. Soon after the publicity and news articles, Ed receives a playing card. An ace to be exact. With it are street names written on the back. Now Ed must help people he doesn't know in order to fulfill his destiny as a messenger!

        I Am the Messenger was very interesting in its own way. The characters were extremely detailed and deep. All of them had more flaws then good qualities mostly because of their past. I liked how at the end you saw more and more of the characters backgrounds and soon learned to appreciate them more. They were very sarcastic and witty, which made me like stepping in the protagonists shoes.

        This novel made me fall head over heels for it and I didn't know why. The themes and messages were very well done and the novel was created so well to deliver them. It's funny really that I didn't realize it by reading the title. Anyways I enjoyed the themes that small acts can change someone else's life. This is a quote which explains it perfectly at the end of the novel. "If a guy like you can stand up and do what you did, then maybe everyone can. Maybe everyone can live beyond what they're capable of."
Doesn't that just give you the chills?

        The only concern I had with this book is that some of the messages delivered by Ed seemed way too simple and fast. Especially the ones towards the end. It seemed as if the author wanted to finish them quickly and go on to his grand finale. Of course this was quite insignificant considering the amazingness of this novel.

        I greatly recommend anyone to pick this book up. Regardless of your genre preference it'll blow you away!

Available on Amazon

Rating: 4/5



Monday, September 24, 2012

Insurgent Review

Title: Insurgent 

Author: Veronica Roth
Illustrator: --------
Genre: Dystopian
Age: 14+
Pages: 525 (Hardcover)
Publisher: HarperCollins

Book One Review (Divergent)

        Erudite has declared war upon Abnegation and soon people must decide if the oppose Erudite or want to work for them. Tris is at the core of this war and she must find the strength to fight off her grief and guilt before she can fight Erudite. Destroying the traitors is only half the battle. They must discover the motives behind the attack. In a society that is so abnormal people must choose faction over blood, freedom over love, and truth over greed in order to get to the bottom of this!

        Insurgentwas one of those deep young adult dystopian themed books. The character complexity was very well done and there were many believable aspects about them. Tris had a lot of burdened anguish and grief which made her a depressive character. While I could not relate to her situation at hand I really felt her guilt and in some way I felt bad for her and the situation she was put in. Even side characters such as Marcus and Jeanine had some complex issues which weren't surfaced much but were still visible.

        The lack of action in the novel was cushioned by the plot twists which were pretty much spread out through the reading experience. Of course at the end we really had its full force and really understood how big the twists could affect the story or the readers. I liked how the twists were very unexpected and were quite risky on the author's part. I mean they weren't necessary but really added that extra spice to the brew!

        I believe that Roth showed us the true meaning of a young adult novel. While the characters were complex this was reinforced by the fact that they had a lot of inner conflicts. Just to name a few. Tris held her grief and guilt inside. She lied a lot to save others and was somewhat depressed. Tobias had a hard time trusting Tris and he was constantly tormented by his own father. Insurgent did a great job working on the emotional levels character wise and was rewarded in the end.

        While the plot twists did in fact cushion the lack of action I was still very disappointed by it and felt as if I was reading the Hunger Games all over again. I mean you can't start a series strongly and then go downhill from there. Anyways this was one of the big downfalls for Insurgent and it really annoyed me.

       I enjoyed Divergent because it had so many characters and the relationships were well established. I felt as if Insurgent broke all those relationships and moved everyone apart. No one felt really close and we did not see Tris with the help of an amazing friend. It was always Tris and four. I understand that the love relationship has to blossom but having friends on the side would of helped smoothen the plot line.

        If you're a Divergent fan then I bet you'll enjoy this one as well. If you disliked Divergent then you might hate this one even more. It's your call but make sure to tell me what you thought.

Available on Amazon

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Demon Hunter Saga Review (Part one)

Title: The Demon Hunter Saga

Author: Cynthia Vespia
Illustrator: Original Cyn Advertising
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Age: 13+
Pages: 123 (Kindle)
Publisher: Original Cyn Advertising

         Costa Calabrese is an orphan, a slave to the local tavern master in Gryphant. Costa passes his days miserably cleaning the tavern and on his free time he explores the forest, looking for anything abnormal that would bring excitement to his dull miserable life. You see, Costa isn't a boy destined to live on a farm, this is a young man filled with adventure and excitement, a life as a slave would not allow him that freedom. Although one day, when young Calabrese ventures off into the forest, he bumps into a dark cloaked man. That my friends, is when Costa ends his life as a slave and begins one as a Demon Hunter!

        The Demon Hunter is hands down, one of my favorite reads! This is mainly due to the built up relationships. Costa only had one friend as a slave and that made him an outcast. This brought out some lack of self confidence as well as some self conscious acts. I loved the way that Costa did make friends throughout the novel because of his stubbornness! It was also great to see the relationships between his masters and owners. Costa was a great character and the others just polished him up!

        Another great attribute about this novel is that the plot is just so simple and pure. That's how I enjoy my books, with a task ahead of you with a few twists and turns but the outcome will be the same. I enjoyed how the author made it so simple but it was very exciting as well. I also liked the fact that no loose ends or questions remained unanswered.

        While the relationships grew over time I enjoyed how the characters themselves grew together throughout the story. It was nice to see them actually bond and grow stronger together. Especially when it happened during a high intensity fight where your all caught up in things you don't actually realize it until it's over. I believe that the author did a marvelous job with this aspect of the book and that she didn't try to force it in. It was just there!

        One thing that many readers dislike is that fact that it can be very predictable at times. For me I enjoyed it, even when I knew what was going to happen but for some readers this might not appeal to you as much as I.

        Another thing that has me very agitated was the fact that the training was skipped and we had a 1 year later part. This really frustrated me and I could have seen a lot of potential in these 200 pages or so extra. These are my favorite parts and I was very sad to see it being skipped.

        Overall an amazing novel, one of the best I have read recently. I can't wait to finish it up and review part two. I highly recommend this for any fan of Fantasy as well as anyone who have read and enjoyed the series The Last Apprentice  or Ranger's Apprentice !

Available on Amazon

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Death Cure Review

Title: The Death Cure (Maze Runner Book 3)

Author: James Dashner
Illustrator: Philip Struab/ Syephanie Moss
Genre: Dystopian, Science-Fiction
Age: 12+
Pages: 325 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Delacorte Press

        Thomas and his friends have defeated the Maze and the Trials. They have defeated grievers and crazed zombies. Now the truth is beginning to unfold whether they like it or not. With one last test to complete the blueprint Thomas must make choices that he never thought he would have to and uncover the truth behind Wicked's actions. The last installment of a fast-paced dystopian series that will have you at the edge of your seat!

        The Death Cure was quite mysterious in the way that Wicked was labeled as evil from some characters while the main character was positive that it was evil. This controversy gave it the edge it needed and made us, readers, want to know what the truth is. I loved how the end was wrapped up with a twist that I did not expect and it always amuses me when I'm caught off guard.

        I enjoyed how difficult it seemed to be in the place of one of the characters. They must have been emotionally and physically shocked after an episode like this and the sacrifices that they had to make added to its intruigingness. I also liked how James Dashner was quite bold and killed off some, if not, many of the characters that we've seen since the beginning *cry*.

        The last book of the series brought back many memories for me especially since it brought back many things from book one such as places or people which we thought we would never see again. Of course if you read them all in a sequence it won't be as memorable but for me who had to wait for all three books I had amazing flashbacks emotions!

        I think that the past novels brought so much high expectations for our "grand finale" that it kind of disappointed me. The characters seemed to run around a lot and didn't do much fighting encounters which troubled me. It was mostly a game of hide and seek and Wicked had the upper hand. Also the plot didn't remain untouched throughout the novels and this disappointed me because I liked to finish series but when I pick up a book I like to be on the same story line when I finish it.

        Overall the book was great but somewhat disappointing considering James Dashner's great techniques!

Available on Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Black Deeper Than Death Review

Title: A Black Deeper Than Death

Author: M.E. Purfield
Illustrator: M.E. Purfield
Genre: Supernatural
Age: 15+
Pages: 123 (Kindle)
Publisher: Trash Books

        Miki Radicci is a 16 year old famous artist with a curse that sets her apart. Being able to feel peoples pain isn't the worst curse you can have but when Miki witnesses a murder everything changes. With a killer on the loose Miki must try to catch him before he catches her! A great suspenseful novel with a twist at every turn!

        The novel, A Black Deeper Than Death, was easily one of the most suspenseful novel I've ever read. I liked how the author incorporated all the fantasy curse theme and a mystery gengre into such a short novel. She did a wonderful job packing all of that goodness and delivering it as easily as she did. While many novels fail to delivering un-predictable stories, this wasn't the case for Mrs. M.E. Purfield's novel I seriously did not know who the killer was until the end and it came as a surprise!

        The author did a wonderful job with her characterization. They were very concrete and had genuine emotions. While most characters seemed very complex like Miki, I could always easily relate to her complexity with my own. I enjoyed the character's flaws and I especially liked how they interacted with each other. This is one of the scenes I enjoyed a lot and felt it showed how the characters had great relationships with each other: Chris enters the condo and all I can do is feel sorry for him. He stands by the door as two Looney Toons confront him. Grandpa smiles and looks Chris over while Corey takes it a step further and walks with a scrutinizing expression around Chris. And here I am hoping to God that he doesn’t run out of the room, screaming and waving his arms. But he handles it well and smiles. Chris holds out a bunch of flowers, “And these are for you.” Corey swipes them, “Oh, thank you,” and buries his nose in the pedals. “Down, Corey.”  He barks, smiles, and hands me the flowers.

        The book had great potential and brought a lot of what I had expected. I was disappointed when the novel ended and I had not discovered a lot about the so called family curse and there wasn't any history or explanation about it which just left us readers hanging.

        While A Black Deeper Than Death was not my cup of tea I found a way to enjoy it tremendously and it easily brought me into the story line. I would definitely recommend it for any mystery readers as well as some casual readers who enjoy a few detective movies.

Available on Amazon

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How to Create Your own Book Cover

So You Wanna Do Your Own Cover Art?

        I had finished writing my novel, ‘Forever Young The Beginning’and I learned that the publishers of eBooks all wanted cover art for a digital book. Being a newbie this was news to me, but I pondered it because two sites I visited both said that it was better for sales. Really, they discouraged any submissions without cover art, so I grudgingly set about doing a cover for my book, even though I never had intended to do a paperback version.

        I soon learned that I would need to buy Adobe Photoshop for a really professional look, and I learned that there was a terrific learning curve associated with that program. I tried to download Wimp, a freebie for photo-managing that was recommended to me by a friend. My computer’s security system did not like it and quarantined it, so I dropped that idea.

        Not wanting to get bogged down learning all of the many things in the Adobe program (it IS gigantic); I opted to do my own cover art. I was starting at the bottom of the learning curve about self-publishing then so I did not want to get bogged down learning all about Adobe at the same time. I figured that doing my own art work would not take as long and would surely not cost as much. It turned out that I was correct.

        Armed with some black construction paper, the title page text in Vivaldi font, and a tiny jar of el-cheapo nail polish bought at Big Lots, I bravely made my way to Fedex/Kinko’s.

        Using scissors, a glue stick, and my bottle of Big Lots’ finest nail polish, I put together a cover for my new book. I let the nail polish dry for ½ hour and then gave it to the clerk at the counter. In minutes, I had my first proof and a jpeg saved to my flash drive for a few dollars. I can tell you, I was disappointed, yet encouraged. It was a sad moment for the guy behind the counter because the nail polish had gotten warmed up by the copying machine and he was trying to get it off of the glass with windex!

        I went home and sat pondering my first attempt, but I gamely sent it out to a few unlucky friends for an evaluation, and I was pleasantly surprised that they liked it. Let me say here that black construction paper is not black, but it is a nice shade of dark gray, so my cover background was dark gray as well.

        I was doing some other work and noticed that I had an app on my computer (Microsoft Windows 7 system) that was called ‘Paint’. Duuhhh!! I soon had my jpeg in there and it was easy to get the gray background to become jet black. I retouched the blood and resent it to those unlucky ones who had seen it the first time, including an author friend in N Carolina.

        He sent me the exact same layout in a font that he had in his Mac computer, and I sent it around for an evaluation. It was 50-50, with my wife and kids liking the Mac fonts better. So I ran them through Paint and produced a new image to take to Fedex/Kinko’s for another proof.

        If you are going to use Paint, the first thing you need to do is to slow down your cursor speed to nearly as slow a setting as you can find if you want sharp straight lines and details.This is even truer if you have recently drunk coffee and have caffeine jitters!Magnify it 4 or 5 times to work, and then take it back to the original size. You will never see all of your little squiggles, jitters and such.

        Long story short, I had finally gotten a decent looking cover art jpeg for around $12 or so.

        For those of you who are not doing a paperback, this is as far as you will have to read.

        After getting my book live on Amazon Kindle, I turned my attention to a proper cover for a paperback book. I uploaded my file to Createspace POD and they sent me a template for creating a complete book cover for a paperback book, 6X9 size. They had given me a formula for calculating the thickness of the book so that I could design the spine artwork to fit in the allotted space for that book. The blurb on the obverse side had to be sized to leave room for a bar code and ISBN.

        After prepping, I again set off to Fedex/Kinko’s for another session. There were three more trips there to get it exactly right. This is an important thing to remember if you are going to do this yourself: Be certain to save all of your work on a flash drive and back that up at home in ‘My Docs’ and on another flash drive as well. You never know….

        BE SURE TO HAVE THE CLERK AT YOUR COPY SHOP COPY AND SAVE THE SOURCE FILE. That way when you return for this or that (and you will) there is no additional setup charge. My total cost on it was $44, tax included. Save it as a PDF as well as a jpeg. Paperback producers want a PDF for book covers.

        After you successfully get an interior file and a book cover file both uploaded to your POD paperback company, and they tell you it was a successful upload, you will be offered a download of what they are going to print. Get it and go over it page by page.You will get a picture of the entire book cover opened up and laid flat, showing all 3 surfaces. It will look like your proof from the copy service you used.

        Strange things can happen to nice looking docs after conversion processes. Anyway, even though your interior file now looks good, and you got a good report on your cover PDF, do order a proof copy. DO NOT OMIT THIS STEP. My proof cost me around $9.50 being it is a 719 page book. There was about $3.50 in shipping too for a total of $13. It was money well spent., because there were issues that did not show up until I had the book in hand.

        There was then some back and forth with Createspace. They were terrific to work with and stayed on it. They sent me proofs to inspect each time and they were at no additional cost to me. And they sent them express UPS, not the normal basic ground rate service.

        The 3rd time was the charm it turned out. Having a copy of the source file made it so easy and kept my cost down each time I took it to Fedex. I never had a problem with Fedex/Kinko at all. All of the problems in my paperback were in the process at Createspace. Regardless of that, they were a great team to work with and you can reach them by telephone very quickly and easily, 24-7. I am very happy with their product and their efforts on my behalf.

        I ended up having around $12 or so in my jpeg cover for Amazon Kindle for my eBook. Adding that to my complete cover image for the paperback book, my total expenditure ran somewhere from $55-$60 all told, plus some 7 trips to Fedex/Kinko.

For all of you indy authors and self-publishers out there, that is my ‘cover story’, and I am sticking to it!

Gerald Simpkins