Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory

Title: Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble
Author: H.P Mallory
Series: Jolie Wilkins book 1
Publication Date: September 2010
Publisher: CreateSpace (self-published)
Source: Library
Reading Challenge: 2012 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

When I requested Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble from the library, I had no idea it was self-published. I had just won the third book in the series, Witchful Thinking, from the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing and it is being published by Bantam in February. So I was quite surprised that Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble absolutely screamed self-publishing from the instant I saw it. The first thing I noticed when I picked it up off the shelf is that it is not the standard mass paperback size. The second thing I noticed were the fonts used and the blocky layout of the cover. The interior formatting is much the same with a very plain font, odd section breaks, and layout that makes me think of the original manuscript not a finished version of a book.

While I've read several self-published books, some very good and others not so great, I still start a self-published book with a bit of hesitation. I always wonder if the author chose self-publishing as their first route to publication or if it was the final way to get the book out there after traditional publishing avenues had been exhausted. I know H.P. Mallory has quite a following and since she has been picked up by a traditional publisher for the third book in this series, I figured there must be something to her writing.

The first book in the series introduces the reader to Jolie Wilkins, a young woman who can see auras and sometimes receives visions but doesn't realize that she is actually a witch with an unusual power. Rand Balfour, an extremely hot warlock, comes into Jolie's shop one day and hires her to help solve a mystery. When word of Jolie's success on the case spreads, she is drawn into a community she didn't know existed and into a war she knows nothing about. Jolie moves from Los Angeles to England to be under Rand's protection and the close proximity makes it hard for both of them to fight the growing mutual attraction.

I had a hard time getting started with this book. The paragraphs and even sentences seemed short and choppy while the characters were fairly flat in the beginning. I warmed up to the book once the story line really got interesting but every once in a while something would break my concentration and have me rolling my eyes. Now I admit that I read very few books that are considered romance of any sort but some of the descriptions and dialogue in the book just seemed over the top cheesy to me. My overall assessment is that I wanted to like this book more than I actually did but I enjoyed it enough to read the next two books in the series. I'm really curious to see how the writing progresses from this first book through the second and if it changes the feel of the series at all once I reach the third book which has the backing of a large publishing house and all that entails.

Update: I will be going directly from book 1 to book 3 in this series as Toil and Trouble is only available as an eBook. Although Amazon does have a listing for the paperback version, it does not seem to actually exist as my library is unable to obtain it through inter-library loan (they said it is 'in use at the one library in the country that owns it.'). I really wish I had realized that this series was primarily in digital format before requesting Witchful Thinking because I would not have requested it from LibraryThing.

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Bookstore links are generally affiliate links and I do earn a small amount for each purchase. Other affiliate links will be noted in the post.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Author Paul Byers on Getting from point A to point B

Getting from point A to point B
by author Paul Byers

On most DVDs nowadays there are “extra features” with deleted scenes and documentaries on how the movie was made. This article is the “extra features” section in the back of a book describing a little of what goes on behind the scenes. This will give you a quick glimpse into what it takes for a book to go from the “I’ve got a great story idea” stage to the “click here to purchase” button on the internet. So grab a bag of popcorn (yes, you can have extra butter) and that overpriced soda and have a seat.

For the sake of argument we’ll assume that you have written a book and that it has gone through all the proper writing steps (another article by itself) and that it is done. You've written the great American novel. You’ve edited it, polished it, tweaked it, rewritten it and now it's ready to go. Now What? What’s the next step?

You now come to a fork in the road. Do you turn left or right? Submit it to a publisher or publish it yourself? I have traveled down both roads and will give you a quick snap shot look at what each thoroughfare looks like.

Turning right, you decide to have it published by a traditional publishing house. You go online, look up the submission guidelines then send your baby out into the world. At this point there is not much else you can do but wait for an acceptance or rejection letter.

The momentous day finally arrives with the news, they want your book! YAHOOOOOOOOO! After being accepted, the creative aspect of writing takes a backseat as the business side climbs into the driver’s seat. The publisher sends you a contract and after it’s signed, you go to work. Your editor will go over your work and send you suggestion/corrections for you to make. Unless it is something extremely important, the author has the final say and can reject the editor’s advice. This exchange will happen two or three times, depending.

If you have cover art you submit it, if not, most publishers have either in-house illustrators or know people who can design your cover for you. Once everything is agreed upon by both parties, the book goes to press. BAM! You are now a published author. Congratulation!

INTERMISSION: This section of your bonus features is now over. Before you press PLAY > for the second part, go to the bathroom, refill your pop and buy some Mike and Ikes.


The second road a book can travel down is self-publishing. In this day and age, it is a very viable option for anyone looking to get their work out there, especially with the explosion of the e-book market. If the publishing house road is a drag strip, straight and smooth, then the self-publishing road is the Baja 1000, full of twist and turns and huge potholes.

First, you have to decide if the book is going to be available in print, e-version or both. If e-version only, then things are a little bit easier with no ISBN needed (for some publishers). For print you need to buy an ISBN number which is the UPC symbol and how sales are tracked for books. There are a variety of companies that sell these and prices range from free to well over $100. You must also find a company who will print your book, looking not only for the best price but one that has the best distribution network. $$

Now, you look at the cover. You must either do the cover yourself if you have the talent or find an artist who is good enough and who you can afford. $$$

Now that you have taken care of the outside, you have to look on the inside. Designing the interior of your book is not done by some lady holding a small dog under her arm like a football using the words “marvelous darling” or “that was so last week.” The interior design is just what it says; the way the book is laid out from the title page to the dedication page to the chapter lay out. But more importantly, the formatting of the book.

Formatting? Yup, the book has to be converted from WORD or whatever writing program you are using to what the publisher is using. You need a format for a print copy and a separate one for e-versions. If you are tech savvy, you can do a lot of this yourself, if not, again, you have to find someone who can do it for you and at a price you can afford. $$$$

Once you have your ISBN, decided on the print publisher, got your cover, laid out the interior, gotten the right formats, you are finally ready to publish. But where? How? Who? You’ve driven your book down the publishing highway but now you have to decide where to park it. You have to find the right media garage to park your book in. You have to seek out all the electronic readers, (remember, people read books on their phones now) as well as those who sell the printed word. Piece of cake. Once all your ducks are lined up, you are ready to go!

So there you have it, a sneak peek at what a writer goes through to get their book published. Looking in the rearview mirror, we’ve seen the road to publishing a book can travel down two paths. If you go through a publisher, there is little cost involved to you and they do all the work. While they do all the work, they are also the ones taking all the risk if your book doesn’t sell and so they are the ones who get the biggest piece of the pie.

For the self-publish highway, you are responsible for all the work, all the money, all the risk so you get the entire pie. There are pros and cons to each path but both lead to the published town known as the Emerald City where we all hope that our books will be driving down the Yellow Brick road someday.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope this article gave you some insight as to the steps it takes to publish a book. Writing the book is the easy part, getting it from Point A to point B is the real journey.

You can check out Paul’s books on his website at

About the author:

Paul Byers grew up in Oregon on the shores of the mighty and mysterious Columbia River, and spent endless hours daydreaming on the beach in front of his house, making up stories about the ships from exotic ports all over the world that steamed up the river – what secret cargo might they be carrying; did they harbor spies who were on dark and exciting missions?

Later in adult life, he moved to another mysterious and provocative city – Las Vegas, just outside the famous Nellis Air Force base. After work he would sit on his porch and watch the fighters take off and land, igniting his imagination with visions of secret missions and rich speculation about what could possibly be hidden at Area 51.

After moving back to his native Pacific Northwest, Paul worked for the Navy and took every opportunity he could to speak with veterans from WWII to the Gulf War, listening to them swap stories and relate the experiences of a lifetime.

So it is this combination of a passionate love of history, a vivid “what if” imagination, and a philosophy of life that boils down to the belief that – there are few things in life that a bigger hammer won’t fix – that led Paul to become a writer of exciting, fact-based action-thrillers. His greatest joy is leaving his readers wondering where the facts end and the fiction begins.

Paul is the author of three books: Arctic Fire, Catalyst - A World War II Thriller, & Act of God.

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Bookstore links are generally affiliate links and I do earn a small amount for each purchase. Other affiliate links will be noted in the post.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Burns
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels book 2
Publication Date: April 2008
Publisher: Ace
Source: Personal Collection

Magic Burns is the second book in the Kate Daniels series. Kate cleans up magical problems as tech and magic fluctuate throughout Atlanta. Generally there is a reasonable period of time between shifts but every seven years a magic flare occurs, giving magic users and creatures even more strength than normal. Kate is hired by the local were-Pack to retrieve some stolen maps. While attempting to complete this task, she finds herself in the middle of an even larger problem that threatens those close to her and all of Atlanta.

I loved all the same things about Kate in this book as I did in Magic Bites . She still has a the same strong attitude and temper which often gets her into trouble but she continues to demonstrate vulnerability and insecurities. She has issues trusting people but can't turn away an orphan child in need. Sometimes it takes her a bit too long to figure out the details of what is going on but I suppose the book wouldn't have such a build up to the dramatic finish if she understood her situation too quickly.

Magic Burns is another fast paced story bringing in elements from Kate's past that apply to the current crisis. Kate is often so busy dealing with the immediate crisis at hand that she has little time to think through how these pieces fit into a larger, more dangerous, situation. She also enters and leaves each battle knowing that she must protect her secret. While we still don't know the entire truth of this secret, I was very happy that we did see a bit more of the things Kate can do. I love how small elements of her story are being revealed in each book. It makes me look forward to learning more in the next one!

Kate's personal relationships also reveal a lot about her current situation. From taking in the child who has lost her mother to her relationship with Curran, the lion king of the shapeshifters, to her complete acceptance of her friend Andrea when her secret is revealed, each relationship shows Kate as both someone who wants to have people in her life but who also brings danger to the people around her.

Clearly, I am fascinated with Kate Daniels as the central character in these stories but the stories themselves are engaging as well. The action is non-stop and the many story lines are complex. If the first two books are any indication, events from previous books may have an impact on the current one and the relationships will develop through them but the main story line will be independent enough to follow on its own. I will definitely be continuing on with the Kate Daniels series and I can't wait to read the third book,  Magic Strikes.

Related Post: My review of Magic Bites (Book 1)

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Bookstore links are generally affiliate links and I do earn a small amount for each purchase. Other affiliate links will be noted in the post.

Monday, January 9, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Title: State of Wonder
Author: Ann Patchett
Publication Date: June 2011 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Harper
Source: Library

State of Wonder is another of my final reads from 2011 that I absolutely loved. I think I devoured it in a day or maybe two which is really fast for me considering that I had other books last year that I was reading for weeks.

Marina Singh, a pharmaceutical research scientist, is sent to the Amazon to determine if any progress is being made by her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson. Another purpose for her trip is to determine how exactly her colleague, Anders Eckman, died when he was sent on the same journey to find Dr. Swenson. Dr. Singh finds the research scientists working with Dr. Swenson to be very secretive about their exact findings and must spend more time in the jungle than she had hoped earning their trust.

The language used in State of Wonder is fantastic. The descriptive passages really drew me into the story while the story is kept moving with uncertain action. The characters are interesting with their depth and hidden secrets. The circumstances of life in the jungle force past relationships to surface and forgotten skills to be put once again to the test. The contrast between the comforts of Singh's life in Minnesota and the harsh beauty she finds in Brazil highlight the complacency most of us have in our own lives. Rarely do we travel so far outside of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves in a new environment. Patchett holds a mirror up to each reader as if to say see what you could become if you expanded your reality and moved beyond the routine.

Without giving anything away, I will say there was one aspect of the ending I was not thrilled with but I loved the twist to the story that I honestly didn't see coming. Even with the one tiny aspect that I didn't think fit well, I highly recommend State of Wonder . It was a great book that thoroughly captured my attention.

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Bookstore links are generally affiliate links and I do earn a small amount for each purchase. Other affiliate links will be noted in the post.

Friday, January 6, 2012

OTL: Mega Swagbucks Friday

Search & Win
Welcome to the first Mega Swagbucks Friday of 2012! If you have been a reader of Library Girl Reads & Reviews for a while you already know how much I love Swagbucks. The free gift cards that I've earned through Swagbucks have paid for the majority of our Christmas gifts for the past two years and I'm really hoping to continue that in 2012.

So what the heck is Swagbucks anyway? The main component of Swagbucks that I use is the search engine. For me, doing my regular Internet searching through them is the easiest way to earn the Swagbucks that I then redeem for gift cards. There are a lot of other ways to earn Swagbucks as well including watching videos, completing special offers, taking surveys, and finding Swag Codes.

Here is my daily Swagbucks routine:
  • Having the Swagbucks toolbar installed automatically gives me 1 Swagbuck the first time I open my browser for the day
  • Answering the daily poll gives me another Swagbuck
  • Looking through the No Obligation Special Offers gives me 2 Swagbucks each day. I just skip over all of the offers until I get to the point where I can answer the question to get the Swagbucks.
That is 4 Swagbucks for the day before I've even done any searching. At this point, there have been some changes so I'm not sure if there are any other simple ways that I can earn Swagbucks daily. I really need to take some time to explore the site and determine this.

The bulk of my Swagbucks come from searching. I just use the Swagbucks toolbar each time I want to go somewhere online even if it is something I already have bookmarked. Yes, it might add a couple of clicks to getting to my routine places but the Swagbucks that I earn along the way are worth it. You never know how many Swagbucks you will get from a search. Sometimes you don't get any but on a Mega Swagbucks Friday, I once got 50. The other day I got 21 and it wasn't even a Mega Swagbucks Day! Generally, I find that I'm more in the 7 to 10 range though.

Once you build up some Swagbucks, you can redeem them for gift cards or physical merchandise. I usually get gift cards because I know I can buy almost anything from there for Christmas gifts. They have lots of other gift card options as well.

I hope you will take some time to check out Swagbucks and see what they have to offer. I'd love to have you join me in easily earning some free stuff this year!

Are you already a Swagbucks user? What has your experience with the program been? I'd love to hear your Swagbucks tips!

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Bookstore links are generally affiliate links and I do earn a small amount for each purchase. Other affiliate links will be noted in the post.

Monday, January 2, 2012

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

Title: How to Be an American Housewife
Author: Margaret Dilloway
Publication Date: August 2010 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Putnam Adult (Penguin Group)
Source: ARC won from a blog giveaway

How to Be an American Housewife was one of the final books that I read in 2011 and also one of my favorites. It is the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who marries an American soldier after World War II, and her daughter, Sue, who is raising her daughter as a single mom. The book explores their memories, their relationship, and the bonds of family as Shoko's heart condition prevents her from traveling to Japan to reconcile with her brother.

Books involving memories, traveling between the present and the past, are delicate things to write. If not done well, they can be very confusing or jarring for the reader as the transition takes place. Dilloway handled this potential pitfall wonderfully in How to Be an American Housewife, capturing just how something from the present can catapult one into memories of the past or another instance can bring one out of those memories. Shoko's memories of Japan are powerful as she experienced so much during World War II and in the aftermath. Her experiences are those of an individual but also of a proud nation trying to find its way in a new world order. The traditional roles that define men and women and the rigid structure of society are examined in the way that they provide a solid framework for expectation and action but also prevent individuals and society from moving forward and transitioning into a more global society. Shoko brings these expectations with her to America, although she attempts to convert them from the Japanese expectations to the American ones. Her life remains ordered and structured even though she has entered a new society with different rules.

Sue grows up learning little about her Japanese heritage but fully understanding that her mother is very different than American mothers. The house runs on routines and rules even if they are American rules in her mother's eyes. With parents who have high expectations and strict rules, Sue naturally rebels and relationships are strained further as she marries young, has a daughter, and gets a divorce. Without a solid family foundation to ground her, Sue floats through life barely making ends meet and giving up on the dreams she once had.

Shoko's illness brings together her memories of Japan with her desire to reconnect with her brother. She is not strong enough to travel to Japan herself so she asks Sue to go in her place. While she fears her brother's reaction to the unexpected visit by relatives he has never met, she desires that Sue see where she comes from and learn about her family heritage. Sue and her daughter undertake the journey and come home with a larger sense of self and family. Shoko's brother, Taro, does not tell the story that Shoko fears he will but instead leaves that for her to share if she wishes. While the reunion is rocky, Taro does eventually come to terms with his rejection of Shoko when she married an American and develops a relationship with his American family.

How to Be an American Housewife captured me from the very first sentence and I just wanted to keep reading. The language used by Dilloway in Shoko's memories and to describe Japan is beautiful. She has a keen understanding of the culture through her mother and this shines through in the essential elements of the story. All of the characters have depth and each memory is constructed for a specific purpose in the story. There is no extra padding here but only words to fill the soul with an understanding of the importance of family.

It is very rare that I give a book a 5 star rating but How to Be an American Housewife definitely deserves one.

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Bookstore links are generally affiliate links and I do earn a small amount for each purchase. Other affiliate links will be noted in the post.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

Happy New Year! I hope your 2012 is off to a wonderful start. Ours has been nice and relaxing so far despite the lack of sleep last night.

Do you participate in reading challenges? I did in 2009 but found myself nearing the end of the year and having to rearrange my reading schedule in order to complete them. That was even with choosing challenges and levels that I thought would be easy for me to finish! For 2010 and 2011, I didn't do any challenges at all. Instead I let myself get a bit overwhelmed with review books until mid-2011 when I took a bit of a break from reviewing every single book I was reading and just read without any commitments.

For 2012, I plan to continue to limit my review commitments by only accepting books that I am extremely interested in. I'm giving myself permission to catch up on my personal to read pile and to borrow books from the library that have been on my reading list forever. With a baby on the way, I fully expect that my reading and reviewing time will be even more limited than it has been so I definitely don't want to take on too much.

With all of that said, I am going to join one reading challenge this year. Melissa at Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf is hosting the 2012 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge. This one should be right up my alley since I tend to read several of these types of books each year anyway. There are several possible levels for this challenge and I'm going to attempt the second one which is Maiden (6 - 10 books). I know I have three books on my reading list that will count and I'm sure I'll have more by some of my favorite authors as they get released. I'm not going to do a pre-list of what I'll be reading but I'll try to remember to update this post with links to my reviews as I finish books.

Check out the sign up post for all the official rules and join us in reading some witchy books this year.

Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

Books I've Read (link to my reviews):
  1. Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory
  2. Witchful Thinking by H.P. Mallory
  3. Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Bookstore links are generally affiliate links and I do earn a small amount for each purchase. Other affiliate links will be noted in the post.