Reviews

You don’t care what I think. I respect that. But I’m telling you anyway.

The Bookshine Bandit – New LEX TALIONIS Review

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Yes, I know I’m very late. But I’m only one week late in China!

I should have come by at least a couple of times last month, but in my defense, I was writing pretty steadily. I’m still at it and I’ve also been very busy at work, but I have some cool things happening on the writing front, so I thought I’d pop by, say hello and check in with everyone.

Hope you all are having a great year so far, and that only more good things are in your future.

While we’re here, you can check out my latest review for LEX TALIONIS. It’s later than the reviewer intended, but I’ll wait for a 5 star for a pretty long time lol.

You heard that, right? 5 STARS!

You can check it out at The Bookshine Bandit.

I have to say, I think the title of that review will end up being my elevator pitch lol.

See you again soon. Until then, stay thirsty, my friends!

A Wonderful New Review for LEX TALIONIS in Caribbean Beat Magazine

I’m really over the moon about this one!

Caribbean Beat magazine is produced by Caribbean Airlines and given away free on every flight they have, both in and out of the Caribbean, for two months. I’m extremely lucky and grateful to be included in their bookshelf. In the past, I’ve heard about great books like ‘A Brief History Of Seven Killings’–which won the Man Booker prize, among others–from reading the magazine while traveling around the islands on business.

You can read the review here, just scroll down a bit. 

My favourite part? The closing lines:

‘Lex Talionis sings a bloody song of both forgetting and redemption, and of the price we pay for a little tenderness, when least we expect to be taxed for our freedoms.’

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*Squees with joy*

*Dances around*

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programme!

3 Day Quote Challenge! And They’re Off!!

I’ve been nominated for the Three Day Quote Challenge by Erin Burns! She has a wonderful blog in which she reviews books, among other things. She’s extra special to me because not only did she read and like my novel LEX TALIONIS, she left reviews for it all over the place. If she wasn’t already awesome, that would have finished the job. So if you’re looking for something to read, particularly genre fiction like scifi and romance, you might want to hit up her blog for recommendations.

So here are the rules for this torture exercise:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Publish a quotes on 3 consecutive days on your blog.  The quote can be one of your own, from a book, movie, or from anyone who inspires you.
  • Nominate 3 more bloggers each day to carry on this endeavor.

My quote for today is:

There Wouldn't Be A Sky Full Of Stars If We Were All Meant To Wish On The Same One by NamedByArt on Etsy:

I love this because it reminds me of a local saying in my country. ‘What is for you, is for you.’ Both quotes address the fact that everyone is different and everyone has different destinies. Clark’s quote reminds us that we aren’t all after the same thing in life, so don’t be afraid to choose your own path and follow it.

The Trini saying means it’s okay to go after what you want, even if you fail. Because if you’re meant to have it, no one else will get it. What’s not said–but is just as important–is the idea that anything you don’t have, wasn’t meant for you in the first place. So celebrate the achievements of others. Dare to be different. Don’t be afraid to take your own path. Your destiny is your own and failure doesn’t mean you missed out on anything, or that anyone robbed you of success. It just means there’s something else wonderful in front of you that you haven’t got to yet.

My nominees of excellent blogs for your attention:

  • M.A. is a new friend over at Romance Language where he posts infrequently, but speaks eloquently, movingly and thoughtfully about writing, reading and life when he does. It’s worth passing by just to read his archives, which is small but powerful.
  • Anna Kashina is a successful writer I’m proud to call friend. Author of several beautifully written fantasy adventure series, her latest works have won her two Prism awards from the Romance Writers of America. She doesn’t blog often, but has good insights into writing and publishing.
  • Kelpiemoon blogs on a million different topics over at Scribbles at Midnight. Writing, book reviews, society, music, you name it, it’s there. But they’re all addressed with great depth, good humour and openness. Check out the archives for funny observations and laments.

Looking forward to everyone jumping in and having a good time.

Have fun, and stay thirsty, my friends!

A Film Festival And A Dance Battle

Found this great roundup of the recently concluded Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (ttff).

Great to see the films being appreciated, but even better to hear sound critical advice. Yes, our film-makers need to come from a more critical place, especially when making documentaries. We are presenting positive overviews right now, but I suspect as the industry matures, creators will worry less about offending sensibilities and start doing more to reflect the realities of the Caribbean experience, and start conversations we need to have before we chart our future.

I also came across this amazing dance battle on Twitter yesterday, filmed at the Montreal Swing Riot by Alain Wong. Street dancers faced off against vintage/swing dancers and the results were magical. It’s a bit long, but you won’t regret watching the whole thing.

Keep dancing your cares away, my friends!

A Few Good Women…

Earlier this year, Barnes and Noble did a great article featuring 7 speculative fiction books that feature strong female characters.

Is it exhaustive? By no means. But it has a nice mix of modern and classic and also had the good sense to include the queen of Caribbean speculative fiction, Nalo Hopkinson. Seriously, if you haven’t read ‘Midnight Robber’ you’ve…well, you’ve robbed yourself of something truly special.

See what I did there?

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Have fun with the list. I have it on good authority all the books are great, even the ones I haven’t read.

What are your favourite scifi or fantasy books with strong female leads? Sound off in the comments below. And if you buy and read (or already read) any of these, be sure to let me know what you think.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

A Cannibal and His Food

This is a great article about the lady that styles the food on “Hannibal”.

“Hannibal” is one of my favourite TV shows, and one of the things I love about it is the luscious cooking and presentation of food–even if sometimes, that food happens to be longpork. Mads’ Hannibal Lecter is even more stylish and sophisticated than Sir Hopkins. In fact, I rather think Mads would have eaten Hopkins’ version of Lecter because he would have been just a bit too crass to let live, but interesting enough to taste good, you know?

Sure, it unnerves me sometimes that a show about an unrepentant monster that eats people works so well for me, but once you’ve seen the visually original way they shoot it, and the lack of apologies they have for taking their time with the plot, or throwing out the kind of twists that would usually kill any other show, you really can’t imagine this story being told any other way. Could any other show on television leave every major character at death’s door due to the villain–with the certainty at least one of them was a goner–like had Hannibal did at the end of season 2? Even Walking Dead fans would have rioted!

Anyway, it’s fascinating reading how she comes up with the meals and the fake meats that are so important the story. And it was really cool to find out Mads does his own stunts and most of the fake cooking. I did wonder about that, as he seemed so good at it in the show. Glad to know it really is skill and not just skillful editing.

Sadly, the show has already been cancelled (yes, it wandered a bit there at the start of season 3, but last Thursday’s episode picked things up immensely). Still, I’m hoping Netflix or someone else steps up to the plate and saves it. More than any other show in this golden age of television, Hannibal deserves to carry out it’s delicious vision to the possibly bitter end.

And this sick thing is, I’d probably show up. ‘Cause that man can COOK.

Stay thirsty–and hungry–my friends!

A Story About A Man, A Trail And The Life Before

I don’t even remember why I clicked on this story. It was in one of my digests simply listed as ‘One Heckuva Hike’. Mild curiosity was probably the culprit. But what started off as a beautiful story about the Appalachian Trail ended up going deeper into the human psyche than I ever expected.

You can read A Long Walk’s End here.

It’s long, but really, really worth the read. Especially if you’re a writer.

So go on. Dive in without knowing anything like I did. It will be much better that way. I’m just going to sit here for a while and wait.

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Done?

Good.

Amazing right?

Not done? Fine, but here there be spoilers…

I’ve never been someone who reads a lot of non-fiction, but I have read a lot of crime non-fiction. I think it started in my childhood with the crime magazines my older cousin left out in her room. Back then, I’d read anything new I could get my hands on in a household that had books, but rarely bought new ones. The magazines were horribly violent, had pictures of crime scenes and were definitely not meant for a child still in primary school, but they were fascinating. I loved the way they related police investigations, even if they did give rise to my unfortunate ability to be terrified by just about any true crime story because, ‘it could happen to me’. However, those magazines were not particularly well-written. They were about shock and gore.

A Long Walk’s End is the exact opposite. It’s a masterpiece that uses some of the best tools of fiction writing. It just happens to be non-fiction. Truman Capote would be proud. I was blown away by how the writer suckered you in with this heart-warming story of Bismarck the hiker, only to bit by bit, mind-blowing twist after mind-blowing twist, peel away the layers of this affable man to reveal a sordid story worthy of the Coen brothers.

Even with few answers presented to us about motivations, the missing money, what really happened in Bismarck’s brain all those years, and what happened to his first wife, we have a story here that builds tension to revelations we never saw coming. Is Hammes guilty of the crimes the FBI suspects he committed? A trial will tell us eventually. Perhaps even fill in the blanks.

But it’s the way the writer wove the story out of the low-key, mostly unknown, laid-back and genteel life of those hikers that walk the Trail that really made it work. You come away feeling you’ve experienced something beautiful, peaceful and right. Something that makes you smell the pinecones and long for the vistas. That Hammes was part of this world–a valued, loved part of it–boggles the mind, even as it does nothing to diminish its pureness. You want to join that Trail. You want to escape. You want to remake your life and leave all the mistakes and trials and problems behind.

For a brief span of minutes, you can relate to what this man did and why. For an instant, you run away with him to this beautiful place where you can be anyone. Where you can start over.

It is a profoundly disturbing realisation and key to this article’s impact. If what the FBI believes happened is what happened, then Hammes is that most terrifying of villains. The guy next door. The monster that wears a normal-skin. The one you think is just like you, until you realise too late, he’s not even human.

I’m not surprised William Browning has won awards for his writing. It’s hard to spin captivating truths out of your imagination, as writers do. It’s even harder to do it when you’re writing about the real world, and your main characters will never fully be known to you.

I take my hat off to this piece of writing and to Mr. Browning. And I’d tell every writer, new or old, to read this and take a look at how drama, tension and stunning plot twists can work in fiction, and non-fiction, if you know how to wield theme, setting, pacing, characterization and revelation the right way.

It’s a lot harder than it looks, we all know that. But when someone gets it right, it’s looks so, so easy. And we should all take notes.

Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Taylor Swift Is Alright With Me

I like Taylor Swift and I’m not ashamed to say it.

I don’t, in fact, think she writes bad music. I like her tunes, I rock out to them all the time, and her Bad Blood video was everything, dahling, just everything.

Does she sometimes come across as the branded version of every good American girl a good American guy ever lusted after in a John Hughes movie? Sure. But it’s not her fault she happens to be blonde, talented and beautiful. And good for her, she also comes across as someone who has a sense of humour about herself and doesn’t really let what others think of her change what she likes about herself. As a feminist, I enjoy seeing a young woman move through the world confidently, living life as exactly the kind of woman she wants to be, and although the music industry famously warps everyone, Taylor still seems to be the same kind of likable girl we met when she was in her teens, despite the best efforts of most tabloids. In that, at least, she has beat out Miley, Lindsey, Hilary and a bunch of others.

However, what really made me like her recently is her stand against not being paid for what she does. Few artists have used their likability and success to actually stand up for principles that benefit the little guy. Most just use it to bankroll themselves. But twice now, Taylor has taken a stand against systems in the music industry that don’t pay performers properly for music. Withholding her massively popular album has served to spotlight practices at Spotify. And now, she has done the same thing with Apple, who intended to withhold royalties from artists whose tracks were downloaded during a user’s free three month trial period. Her latest stand against Apple was brilliantly explained. Apple does not give away its services for free, so they should not ask performers to do so. Only someone possessing no heart could fault it.

I never thought Apple had a heart (or rather, if it had one, it was a monstrous, misshapen entity, made up of the madly beating nerd hearts that gave out while standing in line for the newest variation of iPhones and iPads). But heart or not, they actually responded to her elegantly stated position by changing theirs.

This is big. Really big. Because for too long now, the internet has encouraged an entire generation to believe that entertainment should be free. Piracy is rampant in the music, publishing and film industry and in order to combat it, some industry leaders have tried and failed to plug leaks, while others have simply made as much content as possible free, at least for a time.

Giving away work for free is not a solution. What it does is enrich corporations, who can wait for profits, while seriously hurting artists, who are often on the bread line before they see a penny back from those long hours in a garage putting together demos and tracks. In the case of writers, it takes years to get novels done, and we already get paid a fraction of the sticker price of our own work unless we jump on board the Smashwords and Apple train, or sell our soul to sites like Amazon.

Problem is, Amazon is also a big company who can wait for profits. So it does things like arbitrarily reduce royalties on audio books after buying up Audible. Or change the rates on a programme because writers, you know, joined it. It can change the way it decides to price or market your book in KDP select without any consultation.

This basic disrespect of content creators comes in part from the false ideas that everyone can be a writer, and readers will pay for any book because they don’t care where they came from, they just care about the book. That’s not true anymore, if it ever was. Frankly, not everyone can be a GOOD writer, and most readers would like to pay for something that’s good.

There is some evidence that ebook sales are leveling off. More importantly, self-publishing and making money from it are not, and have never been, the same thing. Still, every writer should choose the path to publication they are most comfortable with because every path has drawbacks and positives. For me, not getting paid has never been something I’m comfortable with. I love writing. I want to do this full time. But I have a family who depends on me. If writing doesn’t pay my bills, I will have to try something else and let writing remain a beloved hobby. I’d rather not do that.

The creation of content, written, audible or visual, demands real money, time and work. Just because you can get something without paying, doesn’t mean it cost nothing to make. Artists deserve to be paid for it the same way everyone else gets paid for their work. Deciding that because it’s on the internet it should be free is simply a way of saying you don’t care what it takes to create content and you don’t want any more of it. If you like something, the only way for an artist to produce more is if they can feed themselves and their family doing it. If they can’t do that, why should you expect them too keep feeding your hobby? To keep entertaining you for free?

So I’m with Taylor. If you want to give people a free trail, do so by all means. But bear the cost yourself. Don’t ask artists to do it. If you want to enjoy an ebook, or music, or a film, consider buying it first. Respect the creator enough to acknowledge their right to earn a living from their own work.

But if you really can’t do that (writers and musicians are just a subset of broke people, after all), then at least advocate for what you love. Help boost the signal. Leave reviews for books on Amazon and Goodreads. Tell friends about your favourites. Someone with the money to buy the product might see your review and give a new artist a chance.

Support your habit. Support artists. Pay it forward. Because I suspect Taylor Swift is totally down with that too.

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Stay thirsty my friends!

Sushi-Burritos Taste Amazing!

You’ve never heard of them? Well allow me to introduce you to them.

I just had one of these last month, while I was out with my sister at one of our new favourite restaurants, Samurai. So I can tell you it’s definitely available outside of California and New York.

Also, they’re right. It’s helladelicious. One of the best things I ever put in my mouth.

Here’s a pic of the one I ate, which I tweeted. And some other stuff we had that day.

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Ummm…those shrimp were tasty. And in the background, that’s a watermelon Smirnoff. Had no idea it came in that flavour. Definitely an improvement over the acidic original flavours.

And now I’m hungry.

Off to eat!

Stay thirsty (and hungry!) my friends 😉

An Awesome Story I Just Had To Share

So Myke Cole posted this.

And it was so unusual to see a writer of that caliber make a plea like that, I had to go read the story immediately. Took me half a day, going in and out of tasks, and I’m so glad I did.

It’s amazing. Really, really good.

I have to agree with Mike. We need this person to write more. We need to let them know the impact they’ve made.

So please, help him out. Share the tweet he’s sent out on Twitter and spread the word about this story.

I went in blind, and was able to really appreciate it that way, so I won’t spoil it with details, but I have to say if this guy’s work was on a shelf, he’d have a buyer in me.

Go read it here. Then follow the links to the other parts. You won’t regret it. If you have problems linking to Part 2, just right-click on the link and choose to open it in a new tab.

Wow. Just…Wow.

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