Friday, April 7, 2017

The Heart of Hannen by Fawn Bonning

Discretion advised: This book may be unsuitable for anyone under the age of 18, due to mature themes, language and sexual content.
Series: The Atriian Trilogy
Publication Date: Mar 2014
Publisher: Self Published
Age Group: 18+
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 522
Format: ePub
Source: Review Copy
Buy the Book: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Christine, a troubled teen with a dark past, is miserable in her small town. Shadowed in shame, she feels destined to live her lonely life as an outcast. She has no idea that her true destiny lies in a different town, in a different world; a most brutal world called Atriia. There she learns the true meaning of misery, the true meaning of loneliness, the true meaning of shame. But she also learns that her bravery is boundless as she battles against a formidable foe, a dark shadow that tries to smother the land. And in the arms of a most unlikely candidate, she also learns the true meaning of love.
He is Hannen Fallier, the one they call the foul fraigen dropper, revered by men for his fearless feats, but looked upon by women with open disdain. With a face horribly mauled, he hides behind a mask of shame, deeming himself unworthy of love. That he would seek acceptance from Christine is irony in its purest form. That he would seek her love . . . the ultimate betrayal.

On many occasions, I've admitted that I definitely judge books by their covers. This one was no different, in fact, I almost turned down the review because of the cover. Sure, the cover matches the descriptions of two of the characters very well, but it's just not very well done.

I also believe that this book should have probably included a trigger warning for those who have been affected by rape. Although there are no rape scenes directly in the book, Christine, the main character does experience flash backs of almost being a victim, along with other volatile emotions related to the event.

The book is well written and most of the characters seem well-planned. There are a few characters who seem a bit contrived or that could have been cut- they appeared to serve a single purpose (though other more fleshed out characters could have filled those rolls) then were only mentioned in passing or simply disappeared.

There are so many twists and turns in this book, none of them the twist or turn you expected it to be. Many of them left me with more questions than answers. In fact, I'm still trying to figure out some of those questions. Many times, there are clues and hints dropped about what is going on, what happened before Christine arrived in Atriia, and what is going to happen later, but following those clues are almost guaranteed to intentionally lead you to the wrong conclusion.

One thing that was a little off-putting was the language of the Atriians. The author even points out that it's 95% English, though I think that was the problem I faced. Because of its similarities to English, reading Tolkien's Quenya (aka Elvish) or Lovecraft's R'lyehian is actually easier for me. But that might just be me, even with real languages, I more easily learn those that are far removed from English. So don't let the Atriian language stop you from reading this book, I didn't!

While this read won't find its way to my favorites shelf, I did enjoy reading it and look forward to reading the other two books of the trilogy.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Protecting Your Ebook Library

Bookplate created for Malcolm Ferguson by WWII German POW.
So, way back in October, I posted about DRM, what it is, what it does, and why it's a problem. So today, I want to give you some options to protect that precious library. Now, I have to be honest about a couple of things here: 1. There really aren't many options and 2. Doing this *can* fall into a legal gray area or may even be *illegal* depending on where you live.

Now, you could try to protect your library the Medieval way, by placing a curse on anyone who would dare take your precious books from you. But clearly, even back then, curses didn't quite work as is evidenced by the chained libraries of the times (some of these are still in existence today!)

The other option is to use technology to your advantage to create a non-DRMed copy of the book. As I've already stated, removing DRM (and even making a copy of the book file) falls into a very gray legal area in most countries and is outright illegal in many others. So, it is up to you to decide if it is legal where you are and if it is not, if you believe it is worth the risk.

There is, at this time, only one effective method to removing DRM. That is with the calibre Ebook Management software and a certain addon for that software that will remove the DRM (which addon depends on the DRM used on the original file.)

Calibre is a program created by Kovid Goyle. It is a free, open source application that allows users to manage e-book libaries, and even create and edit existing books.

There are numerous apps that will do almost everything calibre can do, it would require installing multiple apps to recreate the entire suite. And even then, you would be missing the most important element pertaining to what we're trying to accomplish here today. You'd be missing the ability to remove DRM. Without the ability to remove the DRM, none of the other steps in this post will work.

I must also note here that the only way to remove DRM from books purchased through Apple iBooks, is to purchase the TunesKit iBook DRM Removal Tool. While this app will set you back about $30, if you have a lot of iBooks, it is well worth it.
After installing the App, load all of your iBooks onto your Mac, then drag and drop them into the app screen and click "Convert." Done.

So let's get started!

  1.  Download calibre. (Yes, I am spelling that correctly. The name, calibre is NOT supposed to be capitalized, ask Mr. Goyle.)

    Go here, download the copy that matches your computer set up. As for the Windows versions, if you are not sure if you need the x64 version, just download the one that just says Windows.

  2. On the next page, click the link that says "Download calibre."

  3. Now, depending on your operating system, what happens from here on will be different. I do not have a Mac, so I cannot give instructions for installing calibre from this point or how to add the plugin you will need. You could try to follow along and modify with however things are installed on Mac... but your results may vary.

    I do have a computer with Linux, but if you're using Linux, you probably know what you're doing ;)

    Windows users, these instructions are for you.

  4. A window will pop up asking you to save or cancel. Click "save." The file will go to whatever directory you have set for downloads, likely called "Downloads."
  5. The file will download as  calibre-x.xx.x.msi (the x's are the version, it will be the most current.) Double click the file.

  6. Another window will pop up. Click "Run." This will activate the installer.

  7. Once the installer has loaded, the Terms of Use will appear, READ them, then click the checkbox stating "I accept the terms..." and click install.

  8. The installer will now begin installing calibre. Yes, it might take a while. If your computer asks if you want to allow the program to make changes to your computer, click "Yes."

  9. When it's done installing, click "Finish," and calibre will open.
If you prefer video instructions on how to install calibre, check out this guy's video. The first 2:30 show the installation process. He does NOT, however, show how to install the necessary plugins, so don't follow the rest of that tutorial for adding book files. You will be disappointed when you can't open them to read them!


Now, we move on to installing the necessary addons. These are not available in the calibre official addon repos. They are only available through their author, Apprentice Alf.

  1. Go to Apprentice Alf's Blog. Somewhere before the fold, you should see a link that will take you to the current version of the addon. Click that link.

  2. You will be redirected to the Github page for DeDRM tools. Under downloads, click on Be sure to select "save file" in the popup window and click "Ok." Unzip the top folder (do not unzip the files inside).

  3. Head to calibre and click on "Preferences" in the top menu.

  4. From there, click "Plugins" near the bottom of the window.

  5. Select "Load Plugins from File."

  6. Go to your downloads and navigate to DeDRM_calibre_plugin > DeDRM_calibre_plugin.

  7. Click "Yes" on the virus warning that pops up. *There is NO virus in Apprentice Alf's files!*

  8. Restart calibre. You should be good to go. Now you can import your books and remove that pesky DRM!

Welcome to the world of actually owning your ebooks!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Wyshea Shadows by Geoffrey Saign

Series: Divided Draghons

Publication Date: Dec 2016
Publisher: Kiraku Press
Age Group:YA
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 285 pages
Format: epub
Source: Review Copy
Buy the Book: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

A hundred-year-war that won’t end…
Three young women sworn to kill each other…
Famere, the wyshea butcher, seeks vengeance with loyal mythic beasts called shadows,
Jennelle, commander of the Northerners, fights for her people’s survival using brilliant strategies, &Camette, a wild divided draghon, searches for her kidnapped lover…
Famere, Jennelle, and Camette must discover who is friend or enemy, who is responsible for the hundred-year dark sky and death mists, and if the men they adore will still love them.

There's really not much I can say about this one without ruining the story for other readers. I can say it was extremely well written, character development was well thought out, and story development was on par with some of the greatest Fantasy epics ever written. The only issue with the writing that I found was that because of the shifting character perspective, it was, at the beginning of some sections, difficult to determine which character's lens the story was being told through. Once past the first sentence or two in any given section this was no longer a problem though, so definitely not a deal-breaker.

Mr. Saign has done remarkably well in his endeavor into epic fantasy. I definitely look forward to reading the next book in the series whenever it is released!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hideaway Fall

   So, there's a new publisher on the block. Well, okay, across the ocean, but still. They're called Hideaway Fall and their first release comes out very soon. I'll be sure to post my review of the book as soon as it's in my hands, but in the meantime, I wanted to show all of you lovely readers the super awesome swag pack they sent me. Seriously, this thing was awesome. It's definitely NOT your run-of-the-mill, "here's a couple of bookmarks and a screen wipey thing." Nope, their swag pack seriously made my day!

Here it is:

Ok, so I'm kind of cheating here, this is the picture of the pack they posted on their Twitter feed, but this IS what's in it. They're just much better photographers than me!

So here's what's there:
  • a couple of pens
  • a keychain flashlight
  • a couple packs of yummy smelling tea
  • some bookmarks
  • a couple of postcards
  • a pretty orange, good quality tote bag
  • some super yummy smelling tea light candles
  • an awesome journal
  • and a guidebook to help you enjoy your very own "hideaway fall."
Oh, there's one other thing that you can't see in the picture. One of these:
A credit card sized survival tool. How cool is that?!

If these guys choose their authors the way they've chosen goodies for their swag packs, then they're certain to be successful and a publishing company worth watching!

So, I'm ready for my next reading escape. Now, I'm just camping by the mailbox awaiting the arrival of Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee!!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Interview: Author Frank Cavallo

 I'm happy to have had the opportunity to interview Frank Cavallo, author of the dark fantasy, Eye of the Storm.

Tell me a little bit about your book.

“Eye of the Storm” is a Sword & Planet novel for the modern day. It involves a group of adventurers from Earth passing through a dimensional gateway and landing on a “lost world” in a parallel universe. Sword & Planet was popular back in the days of the pulp fiction magazines, before most of the conventions we typically associate with fantasy had become quite as well established. So while it has many of the things fantasy readers expect, knights, dragons and wizards etc., there are also elements of sci-fi—cyborgs and advanced tech, for example. It’s meant to be a bit of a throwback to the feeling of those old stories, with a fast pace and a lot of action-adventure sequences.

Title: Eye of the Storm

Publication Date: Aug 10, 2016
Publisher: Ravenswood Publishing

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Pages: 402
Find the Book: Amazon | Goodreads

If you had to write this one all over again, go through the whole editing and publishing process from the beginning again, is there anything you’d do differently?

That is a really unusual question, I hope my answer doesn’t undermine the book, but I’ll give it a shot. Looking back, what I wish I had done is the exact opposite of what I set out to do, at least in one respect. I wrote “Eye of the Storm” intending to cut against the grain of fantasy stories always being told in trilogy form (or longer). I wanted to write a fully self-contained fantasy epic in one volume. The problem is, I had to make choices in order to do that. There’s only so much material you can squeeze into a single novel, even a long one, and this one tops out at over 400 pages.
Primarily this book was intended to hearken back to old time pulp fiction, as I noted a moment ago, so I elected to tailor it more heavily along the lines of an action-driven story. That left less room than normal for any deep character study, which I assumed no one would really miss because those old stories weren’t all that deep anyway. Turns out I may have misjudged what a lot of modern readers are expecting. Some people have complained that there isn’t enough character depth or the love story doesn’t go deep enough, etc. Those things are true, they’re just not accidental. I figured readers would appreciate a straightforward fantasy adventure without much of the hand-wringing and neuroses of the characters filling up the pages. Clearly some did, but I think if I had expanded the scope into three books, I could have included everything.

Are you a plotter and know what’s going to happen or are you a pantser that lets your characters lead you by the balls?

I’m going to have to give you a weasely answer here, because I’m a bit of both. I do plot out my books extensively in advance, however, part of the fun of it all is that once I get down to writing, things happen that alter the course of the story. So I always have to change direction in mid-stream.
I read an interview with Orson Welles years ago where he said that in making a movie, he plotted out every single shot in meticulous fashion ahead of time—but then was always willing to throw out the script entirely if some better idea developed once the shooting started. I think writing a novel is a slow-motion version of that process. Plan ahead, but never shy away from changing course once you’re in progress. If you’re doing it right, very often the characters will tell you where they want to go, and you just follow their lead.

What’s something that you are really good at that most people don’t know about?

I can do a solid Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone impression. I also do a decent Christopher Walken, but it’s a bit more over the top.

Do you think being a writer is a gift or is it a curse? Why?

I’m not sure it’s really either one, but if I had to pick, I’d say it’s a gift. To be a writer, even a middling one, is to be able to share your dreams (and your nightmares) with the entire world. It’s being able to speak to people you’ll never meet or who haven’t even been born yet, who might read your words a hundred years after you type them and be able to know you in some small but deeply personal way, long after you’re gone. That’d have to be a gift, right?

Parents like to say they don’t have a favorite child, but we all know that’s not true. I could say the same for writers. So who’s your favorite child... erm, I mean character?

This one is easy. My favorite character is the main guy from my book “The Hand of Osiris” an outlaw named Jedidiah Sykes. He’s made some bad choices that haunt him. Some of his good choices didn’t turn out so well either, and he’s nearly at the end of his rope. He thinks he’s just a little too far gone to find any kind of redemption, but somewhere deep down, he hopes it’s possible. He also gets drunk a lot and is really good at shooting people.

Do you usually root for the heroes or the villains?

I’d love to say that I root for the villains, like Barney Stinson pulling for Hans Gruber in “Die Hard” but I’m a softie. I root for the heroes. When you get into the Tony Soprano anti-hero types though, that’s where all the good stories are.

As far as your characters go, who would you like to have a beer with? Who do you wish you hadn’t created?

The main character in my new book “Rites of Azathoth” is a hard-edged FBI agent from Boston. I’d probably get along great with her over a few drinks. At least until we started talking baseball. She’s a Red Sox fan and I’m a lifelong Yankee fan. So our relationship would be doomed.

As far as characters I wish I hadn’t created, the only one I can think of is one I drew up for a Warhammer project a few years ago. I won’t use his name, because it was contract work and I don’t own him. The whole project didn’t work out the way I’d hoped and I didn’t really like how the character turned out. Too many cooks in that kitchen. It ruined the character.

Tell me one thing that’s on your bucket list.

I’ve never flown in a helicopter. It’s mundane, I know, but I’d like to do that someday.

If you were asked to write a book in a different genre than your current works, what genre would you choose and why?

I love to travel, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing travelogues. I read a book a few years ago called “Turn Right at Machu Picchu” about a guy’s journey through the Andes. I think that would be a fun thing to attempt. Even if the book doesn’t turn out well, at least I’d get to take a great trip.

So, say you just got arrested. What’s the most likely reason the cops are carting you off to jail?

In my non-writing life, I’m a criminal defense attorney, so I’m usually the one trying to get people out of jail. However, my line of work has exposed me to every conceivable violation of the law you can imagine, which has therefore made me uncommonly careful about how I live. So the worst thing I typically do is exceed the speed limit. That’s not generally an arrestable offense however, just a citation. In order to get hauled off to jail I’d probably have to miss a court date or blow off a fine on a ticket. I realize that’s not an exciting answer, but I’m a lawyer. We’re not exciting people.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for one of your books?

I drank fermented horse milk in Mongolia so that I could believably write about the taste of it in “Eye of the Storm”. It was as real as it gets too. We found a nomadic family living out on the steppe who milk their own horses and ferment the stuff in big barrels in their yurt. They invited us to eat and drink with them, and the father passed around a bowl of the stuff for everyone to drink before dinner. It wasn’t bad.

What’s the one book you wish you had written?

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. The Cenobites (Pinhead and his ilk) get all the attention, but the real genius of that book is that the horror comes from the depraved hearts of the human characters, not the demonic ones. Their pursuit of desire, of pleasures forbidden for various reasons, is where all the evil comes from. The writing itself is also fantastic, equal parts elegant and profane.

When you were little, what did you dream of being when you grew up?

A firefighter. I was a big fan of the show “Emergency.” But by the time I was in middle school it was clear that I was ill-suited for that kind of physical work.

What’s your writing quirk? Every author’s got one ;)

I listen to music when I write. But it has to be the right music. I try to pick something that sounds like the mood I’m trying to convey in my book. For my first novel I was trying to settle into a creepy, dark vibe, so I played Alice in Chains albums over and over for months. When I was writing Warhammer battle scenes I played the Basil Poledouris “Conan” soundtracks on a loop.

In your most recent work, would you tell us about some of the material that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor?

The book I just released, “Rites of Azathoth” is thriller about summoning Lovecraftian entities from the great beyond. Originally though, I started writing it with a sci-fi bent, using technology instead of black magic to build a bridge between our world and the next. Ultimately I scrapped all the tech stuff and re-drafted it with all that material cut out.

What’s your favorite Disney movie? Seriously, this one is super important. Your life depends on your answer here.

There’s no doubt. Peter Pan, hands down, every single day and twice on Sunday. Nothing captures the rebellious, independent, fun-loving spirit of every little boy who ever complained when his parents called him home for dinner. Every little boy who wished his carefree summers would never end, but always knew that someday they would.

Where can our readers find your work?

My books are available at all the usual spots, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, etc. My stuff with Necro Publications is available from their site directly (

What/When is your next release coming out?

“Rites of Azathoth” was just released at the very end of January this year.

How do you want readers to keep in touch with you?

I’m on twitter (@fjcavallo) and facebook (Author.FrankCavallo) and I have a personal website with an email associated there as well, easy to remember: I respond to pretty much everyone. I love getting notes from people who read my stuff.

About the Author:

Horror and dark fantasy author Frank Cavallo's work has appeared in magazines such as Another Realm, Ray Gun Revival, Every Day Fiction, Lost Souls and the Warhammer e-zine Hammer and Bolter.

His latest novel, Eye of the Storm, was released in August 2016 by Ravenswood Publishing.

“In Eye of the Storm, I try to bring back some of the elements that I like from old time pulp fiction,” says Frank. “It is a throwback to old school adventure stories, combining the pacing and the feel of those classic tales with some newer elements that are not all that common to typical fantasy fiction.”

Frank’s previously published works include The Lucifer Messiah, The Hand of Osiris, and the Gotrek & Felix novella Into the Valley of Death. He is currently working on a new novel, The Rites of Azathoth, with Necro Publications, due out in February 2017.

Frank was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has been a criminal defense attorney for fifteen years.

Readers can connect with Frank on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Find him:


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Where I've Been

    I know, I know, shame on me. It's been a few months since I've posted any reviews. But don't think I wasn't reading during that time, I was! I did not make the decision to put this blog on hold for a while lightly.

Ultimately, it came down to two very important reasons.

1. I needed to focus on my family and my marriage. Reading and reviewing books will NEVER take precedence over my family.

2. I was no longer reading for fun. I was reading because I had reviews that had to be posted. Sorry, but until the day that someone wants to pay me for book reviews (without people thinking that my reviews aren't valid because I was compensated for it), this blog remains just a hobby. I read because I enjoy it, I read for fun. When it's no longer fun, well, that's where I draw the line.

So I needed time to re-evaluate how I choose books to review, how I will accept review requests, and what steps I need to take to ensure that this blog doesn't become my slave driver.

But, I'm ready now. I'm ready to jump back in and let you guys know about that next great book you need to pick up and read!