12 Months of Reading Recommendations

The last Monday of 2013, I happened to stop into a Half Price Books store…and buy books. It’s inevitable. With my purchase, I received a free HPB calendar filled with reading recommendations. Each month is broken down into a category, and lists ten books for each category. There are additional books in the categories, which are available on various HPB webpages.

I broke out the calendar and went to the first link, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found, so I am going to share their compilations with you! The categories are in order by the corresponding month it is matched with in the calendar.

resolveBanner100 Books You Can’t Put Down

The 50 Greatest Love Stories 

21 Books to Start A Baby’s Library

40 Books That Will Make You LOL

32 Underrated Book Club Novels

100 Scifi & Fantasy Novels to Geek Out Over

55 Quick Reads: Under 200 Pages

40 Classics You Should Have Read in School

65 Banned or Challenged Books That Shaped America*

Top 40 Horror Books to Scare Your Pants Off

Great American Novels of the 21st Century

30 Books That Are Better the Second Time Around

*Currently this page is unavailable.

Resolve to Read More in 2014

Enter to win a $100 HPB gift card! Enter by January 31, 2014.

Author Interview: Linda Harley

Dr. Linda Harley

Through a series of fortunate events for me (thanks to EBW), I am indirectly getting some exposure for Girl of 1000 Wonders and getting some new books. Linda Harley, author of the 99¢ novella series Nuelda, and the first book in her second series, Destiny’s Flower, contacted us through the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages. I got an email, read the synopsis and snagged her book right up to review.

And then, another fortunate thing happened: she offered to give an interview to go along with my review of her book! At first I wasn’t sure if I’d taker her up on it, but then I remembered this post I made on the G1000W Facebook page back in April, so it was time for me to buck up and put on my serious book blogger face and come up with some questions….which is where I faltered for a while. What do you ask an author? What would people want to know? So I dug around some on Linda’s website, Rosebuz, for a jumping off point.

Rosebuz is not an ordinary author/book promotional website. In fact, it’s totally not that at all. It’s Linda’s own personal commitment to the arts and book world, with her own reviews and a host of several guest reviewers. It’s also a testament to her field of work – all things technology for physical rehabilitation – linking to her many publications and articles. It’s a place where she’s bringing science and the arts together in unison – and it is working amazingly! (Go, go check out her site – and she’s always looking for additional book reviewers.)

Without further adieu, here is my interview with Linda. My questions are in maroon and Linda’s responses are in teal.

You have a very interesting background. You were born in Durban, South Africa and received a BS and MS in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, in 2002 and 2004, and received your PhD in Applied Physiology from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011. What did your growing up years look like? Where do you call home? 

I lived 20 minutes from the beach growing up in Durban, South Africa.  Most weekends were spent at the beach hanging out with friends and family.  From my high school classroom windows we actually looked out over the harbour and the ocean, and it was always a comfort. Durban has a very tropical climate, in that we only had a dry season and a rainy season.  It was green year round, and I never really knew that there were different seasons until I moved to the US at the age of 19. Although I have family back in South Africa, I do call Atlanta, Georgia my home as some of my family is here as well.

You graduated with science degrees, and have published numerous articles and papers, as well as being a contributor to a few books. How do you find time to continue your work revolving around complex bilateral tasks and new technologies for rehabilitation AND pursuing fictional writing?

Awakening (Nuelda Book 1)

Typically when I get home at night, I spend some time with my family, watch TV and play online games. But every night before I go to bed, the last thing I do is take about 30 minutes to an hour to work on my latest story.  My goal is to usually write at least 1 page a night, whether its good writing or not. I write with pen and paper, simply because if I wrote on the computer I would be to tempted to surf the internet, check Facebook and email and get easily distracted. When the draft is completed by my nightly endeavors, I usually take a long weekend (3-4 days) to sit and do nothing but edit the story. This beta version is sent out to beta readers, and then it’s a process of refinement and fine tuning. Making sure I tie everything together and that the pace and story line is appropriate.

How did RoseBuz, your blog/website, come about? It’s quite impressive, mixing science with book reviews. You have guest writers and get thousands of hits in just days. How do you make it work?

RoseBuz came into existence because I wanted a chance to share my stories with the world and have a place where people could come to learn about how science and the arts really can work in unison and don’t have to be in opposition. I love reading books, and typically read at least 40 books a year and listen to about 40 books on my iPad a year.

Being a new author, I learned that it is great to have folks review your book, and so thought that I would give back to the community by blogging about my thoughts on books. I do it all free of charge, but this means my to be read pile currently stretches into 2015.

When I first started this blog, I never imagined that it would be such a huge success.  I get approximately 30 requests for review per week, and there’s no way that I could read all these wonderful stories.  

So, a little plug here, if anyone is interested in reviewing books, but don’t know where to start, feel free to drop me a line at rosebuzlrh@gmail.com.  (See the question below regarding the reviewer process.) I’m currently looking for reviewers to blog on Rosebuz.  Since I’m pretty organized, I update the site about once a week, and this is typically what I do on Saturday mornings. 

Destiny’s Flower (Saldiora Book 1)

Actually it’s not hard to write two series at the same time. Saldiora (Destiny’s Flower) is my main focus and so I spend the majority of my time working on it. However, every now and then I need to take a mental break from Saldiora, and so I focus on Nuelda. This usually occurs after the Saldiora Beta version is sent out to beta readers, and I have time to devote to Nuelda. Nuelda is intended to be a free short novella set of stories, that will be posted on my website for anyone in the world to enjoy. Although not apparent yet, (wink) they actually play of in the same universe just decades apart.

How long has Rosebuz been going?

I started to create the site in July 2011, but it took a few months to set it up and get it exactly the way I wanted.  I did not start to actively use it or post to it until January 2012.  So I’d say it’s been going actively for about 1.5 years.

How did Rosebuz evolve from your personal reviews to what it’s grown into today, with two site reviewers and multiple guest reviewers? Do you attribute the massive numbers of page hits to this evolution? 

I’m a researcher by heart, and therefore I typically don’t do anything in life without investigating time up front to understand what I’m getting myself into. The same can be said about the website. I spent a few months reading books on successfully marketing and creating your own personal brand. I learned that having a clear brand goes a long way towards marketing and getting people interested in what you do.

The resource that helped me most was Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-Publishing. It guided me and helped me to define what I wanted my personal brand to be. I love science, and I want to encourage young people to become scientists and engineers and doctors.  Because of my passion, I decided that the best brand for me would be to combine my love of science fiction/fantasy writing with my love of real science and engineering. Once I had this defined, it was relatively easy to create the site, since the brand dictated what information would and would not be on the site. I found that I was reading a lot of novels and wanted to keep track of all these excellent books, and so I incorporated that book review aspect and listed myself on the IndieReview and the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages. Since then I’ve had many authors drop me notes, requesting to participate in the website, and it took off from there. 

The only two criteria I have when someone requests to do a blog is: 

  1. The guest blog must contain some science in it
  2. Rosebuz must be the only place where it is published. 

I hope to continue to grow Rosebuz.

Could you explain the process for potential reviewers?

Sure! Right now the process is pretty easy.  All they need to do is send me an email at rosebuzlrh@gmail.com with an example of a book that they have reviewed.  They should probably read the review policy on Rosebuz.com first, in order to understand how we operate. I have a zero tolerance for erotica or foul language, and thus will not have reviewers who review those type of books. Rosebuz is a family-friendly site and I want it to remain that way. Once I’ve reviewed their sample, and I think their a good fit they will be invited to join. After that, it’s a matter of getting their info up on the site, and get them going.

How many books do you expect to be in the Saldiora book series (Destiny’s Flower)?

I have planned three books of the Saldiora book series, with Lynn Davis as the main character.  Eventually there may be some off-shoots from that as some of the other characters are screaming at me, telling me they want their stories to be told as well, and they don’t like me playing favorites with Lynn.  (sigh) They’re so demanding. Currently I’ve appeased them by weaving their stories into Lynn’s where appropriate.

How did you become interested in fictional writing? It seems so different from the professional writing seen in your publications.

I’ve always loved stories. When I was a kid (still to this today) I would tell myself silly stories when I had to go to bed.  My mom is often fond of telling the story of when she would put me down for my afternoon naps and I would wake up and not disturb her, but just sit in my bed playing with my fingers telling myself marvelous stories and entertaining myself. I love to tell stories and read them, and I love science and fantasy. So I think it’s a great combination!

Do you have upcoming plans for any other books, outside of the two series you’ve already started?

I have so many ideas for non-fiction and fiction books. If it was up to me, I’d spend my entire days doing nothing but writing. Unfortunately though, I’m still a novice I can’t afford to quit my day job. But it’s a dream of mine to be able to tell all the stories I have floating around in my head.

When can we expect Book 2 of Saldiora? And Nuelda?

The plan right now is to have Saldiora Book 2 come out around Christmas, with Nuelda Book 2 coming out in the spring of 2014.

What suggestions do you have for authors-in-the-making? How can they get started with an indie publication, such as Smashwords? 

First and foremost, make sure that you have a solid manuscript. If you’ve never written a novel before, consider attending a workshop to at least learn the basics. Trust me – it will save you a lot of headache if you do.

The teacher of the workshop I attended was Michael A Stackpole. His training material is available for purchase online.  It is worth going through those exercises. The funniest thing though is that Michael kept saying that you ever only need to do one workshop, because after that you just have to learn by doing.  I can attest to that.

My first draft of Saldiora had violated so many basic rules, that I had to redo the entire draft. The second book in the Saldiora series is going much smoother, since I’ve learned a ton of what not to do and what to do. In my opinion, too many new indie authors rely on only publishing their work in eBook format. Yes that is the cheapest way to publish, but in the end you’re only reaching about 30% of your potential customers.

I would strongly recommend you spend some time considering whether or not to publish in print. I spent about 6 months investigating and considering my options with regards to publishing. Whether to go with a traditional publisher or self-publish. I read all the contracts and tried to make sense of it. I even hired a lawyer to help me understand all the legal terms. In the end, it came down to personal preference, in that what was I willing to sign away.

Most traditional publishers want you to sign away all of your rights, do your own publicizing, and they sit back and reap the benefits of your hard work simply because they’re printing the book.  I did not want that to be me, and so settled on self-publishing. I had a few good offers from publishing companies, but in the end decided it was not for me.  If you’re considering what route to go with self-publishing, I really recommend you read The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine.  He’s already done all the leg work for us, and you can easily find a self-publishing company that fits your needs and your budget.

Book Review: Destiny’s Flower (Saldiora Book 1)

cover art

Destiny’s Flower (Saldiora Book 1) by Linda Harley (Infinity Publishing, 2012)

Genre: science-fiction, fantasy, suspense, romance, fiction

I received a digital copy directly from the author, who found us (EBW and me) using the The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages’ Promotional Reference Guide for Authors and Small Publishers, Fourth Edition, in return for an honest review.

Amazon’s description is very brief, leaving much to the imagination:

Doctor Lynn Davis is kidnapped by handsome Lord Kyle von Talion and taken to a far off planet where she must fulfill her destiny to save the kingdom of Saldiora.

But here’s the description from the author’s website:

Doctor Lynn Davis is kidnapped by handsome Lord Kyle von Talion and taken to a far off planet, Saldiora. As she finds herself in this unfamiliar culture, she must learn to fight with a sword, ride a talking horse, and endure the politics of a royal court if she is to survive. Kyle has his hands full keeping Lynn from making cultural blunders and ensuring her safety. The Juntu’s are plotting to take over Saldiora and consider Lynn to be a threat to their success. Will Lynn live long enough to fulfill her destiny and save the kingdom of Saldiora?

Piapish Mishtum

Biomedical Engineering professor Lynn Davis is interrupted during a physics class by two strange guys a la Star Trek. She is startled and grips a special locket sent by her grandmother with a specific yet vague note just the day before…but it’s no ordinary locket. Indeed, it’s some kind of transmitter – and engraved with a saying, Piapish Mishtum (Seize Life).

Lord Kyle von Talion kidnaps Lynn and transports her to the battleship Destiny. They’ve abandoned a battle and traveled secretly through dangerous Juntu territory to get to Earth and retrieve Lynn for her help. Very much like Star Trek, given they’ve “dropped out of warp and locked a target.”

As soon as Lynn’s aware, she realizes her locket is missing…and Kyle reveals that the term Piapish Mishtum von Astrium was picked up by Destiny just days prior. And then they’re hit! Seems they didn’t sneak through Juntu space without being detected. Lynn escapes via the ventilation system, but only succeeds in pointing out a flaw in the Destiny‘s many technological systems…and getting stuck. She ends up landing on unbeknownst Prince Tristyn (von Feol) and threatening him.

No one has ever brought an Earthling before the court as a beauty.

All I could think about was Star Trek….

Lord Kyle and scientist Dloakar put Lynn on cleaning duty, which leads to an unexpected attack. Kyle and Lynn escape, with Lynn firing the turret. They land rather late on Saldiora for the generational Beauty Gala, a ten-month competition of ten female unmarried female contestants. All ten contestants from the ten founding houses of Saldiora are given gifts and monies by a sponsor for their needs in the contest. They are all vying for the envious position of marrying the crown Prince OR Princess (in this case, Trystin) and becoming queen. The new royal couple would then be responsible for producing the next heir to the throne, and overseeing the Beauty Gala for their child’s prospective spouse. In this way, the royalty is not patriarchial. Nor is it exclusive; it can transfer houses.

Lynn makes some blunders in her first days, not being accustomed to social etiquette of the Saldioran culture. She is confused about the competition and has many questions about it – and her sponsor, who wants to remain secret, providing information through Kyle as an informant. Lord Kyle reveals information about the houses, the history of Saldiora and the unfulfilled prophecy:

The Juntus are descendants from the royal family the Astriums. It’s said that Count Zodrock, who later changed his name to Juntu, became greedy and rebelled against his brother, King Elym. Many people died or were enslaved. King Elym was able to drive the Juntus from Saldiora space and ever since we’ve been at war. 

It’s believed that when the Juntus were driven out of Saldioran space, that they kidnapped the heirs to the Astrium house. They have not been heard of since. 

Astrium: The settler family consisted of Nestim and Feliciam who had one son Savion. Now it came to pass that the settlers, especially the houses, decided that the von Astrium’s would ever more be the rulers of Saldiora. 

The day you give up is the day you die.

All the while, there is another contestant who suspects Lynn’s true identity, which Kyle is trying to keep secret until the right moment, and this sinister beauty is out to destroy Lynn. Both of Brigieta’s space attacks have already failed, but she must succeed because if not, Lynn could be the true heir to the throne. It’s no coincidence that Brigieta’s older sister, first in line to be the beauty representative from the von Neashop house, “committed suicide” the day before the competition. Brigieta already harbors plans of offing Prince Tristyn and her grandfather. But Brigieta is not who she is making out to be either, and there are a handful who know so – and one who seems would use this information to his gain, if need be.

Despite this, Lynn has a few memories and stories of Saldiora from childhood. There are only nine families left of Saldiora – the Astrium couple of the tenth house supposedly fled into the stars. The prophecy is that the princess and heir to the throne will return with a book History of Kings. Due to the strange circumstances and limited information anyone will give Lynn, she uses her one request of King Eber to have unlimited access to the royal library to do some studying…and more digging. Needless to say Lynn sticks out like a sore thumb in Saldiora, from her beliefs and attitudes, to her looks and dress. She must learn to play the game if she wants to prevail…and live to tell the tale.

The ending is definitely a cliffhanger – but in a good way! I can definitely see this book being made into a movie – Hunger Games style, following the book in the right way.

Overall, I found this book a great read. Their was enough suspense to keep readers engaged, especially with Lynn breaking Saldiora “traditions.” Lynn is a very strong character – a strong woman. She defies the small-mindedness of Saldiora, questions the “traditions,” and protects the slaves that are given to her. And that brings up another thing: she refuses to admit that the slaves given to her (Lunu, Williamson, Marvis and Jael) are slaves. Instead, she sets them up with their own banking accounts and pays them quite a fair wage – and she calls them her friends.

The one thing about Lynn’s character that I didn’t like, and that didn’t quite fit with her personality displayed throughout the book was at the beginning once she’s captured and aboard Destiny. She does escape through the ventilation of the ship, but once she’s found she just gives up, admits defeat and goes along like a little puppy dog. She doesn’t demand answers to her questions, she doesn’t know why they want her, she really doesn’t know what they’re going to do to her. And she just goes along with it. Later in the book she is defying the queen and the tribunal to escape the palace (for a good reason!) and is pretty set to do things her way.

Lord Kyle is an interesting character. His lineage has sworn to protect the von Astrium heir – and he thinks it’s Lynn. For someone of the court, and especially someone on the tribunal, he is very familiar with Lynn – maybe overly familiar. But in his heart he so strongly believes she is the heir, he is trying to prepare her to succeed in the Beauty Gala before they even reach Saldiora. He does everything he can to help her, and comes to her rescue a few times. There are a few moments that make you wonder….

British Royalty - quite different, yet similar, to Saldioran Royalty
British Royalty – quite different, yet similar, to Saldioran Royalty

Things I found most interesting in this book:

  • Both Lynn and the Saldiorans share the same space-time continuum. A minute our time is a minute their time.
  • Another forward-thinking ideal in this book is that both Saldiora and Juntu inheritance allow for females to inherit if there is no male son. Being the eldest of four and only daughter, this is a comfort. It’s nice to know that in this society women are not forgotten…
  • Although, Saldiora (and most likely Juntu) still live off of slave labor. For the Gala, each beauty receives four slaves: a maid and three orphan boys.
  • Nobody has last names. They all go by the ten house names, such as Kyle von Talion (Kyle of House Talion).
  • The Saldioran court operates much, if not identical to, like the European courts of old – with the exception regarding inheritance of the throne.
  • Instead of the dowager king and queen making marriage arrangements for their son based on politics, military alliances, factions or other “trades of royalty”, the Saldioran culture operates in this way: the family line is not patriarchal (only being passed down through the sons), nor is it exclusive in that one family maintains rule. Each generation, the eldest son or daughter selects one beauty to be his or her spouse from the Beauty Gala competition. This also presents an additional anomaly from European court culture in that the future king or queen gets some choice in the future spouse. The way this is set up, the royal line can transfer houses, and also allows for the royalty to “mix” bloodlines with “commoners.”
  • One can choose to decline ruling.
  • When the king’s line was broken, the house with the most power did not take over. The houses voted on how to set up their new ruling traditions.

Keep up with Linda on Facebook. Be on the lookout for an interview with Linda in the coming days. Again, if you are a reviewer, go check out her site and see if you can get on-board.