How to (legally) get free books

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There have been times when I found myself torn between wanting books and wanting electricity. But if you’re willing to look, there are still lots of ways to snag reading material without breaking the bank or the law.

-Request an advance review copy from the author/publisher

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If you’re interested starting a book blog, most publishers will post sign ups on NetGalley where you can apply to receive copies of books to review. Indie authors are frequently searching for reviewers as well and will let you know on their websites/newsletters. For example, Erica Stevens gives the option for free review copies of new titles to all her newsletter subscribers.

-eBook freebies

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You can read eBooks on your smartphone via the free Kindle app and it opens up a cornucopia of possibilities. Lots of indie authors (and traditional publishers) have started giving away eBooks as promotional copies. There are lots of options here. You can sign up for newsletters like Bookbub, keep an eye out for mention of promotional days on an author’s social media, check on their website to see if they have any freebies, or go to Amazon’s “free” category in your favorite genre.

-Best Sellers in Teen & Young Adult eBooks
-Best Sellers in Christian Fantasy eBooks
-Best Sellers in Fantasy eBooks
-Teen & Young Adult Medieval Fiction eBooks
-Teen & Young Adult Sword & Sorcery Fantasy eBooks
-Asian Myths and Legends eBooks
-Arthurian Fantasy eBooks

-Read to review

There are Goodreads groups, Facebook groups, and co-ops that arrange free books for folk in exchange for reviews. While I don’t have any specific ones to recommend, they are out there and I know some people have had good experiences. However, this can be a bit of a toss-up as far as quality, though Goodreads does offer regular giveaways.

-Libraries

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While I do generally prefer being able to keep my books forever and ever, the vast selection and options are amazing. Be sure to check here first if the book you want is traditionally published. Even if the library doesn’t have the book you want, they can sometimes order books through partnerships with other libraries. It never hurts to ask!

Just in the course of getting all the links together for this post, I have more than ten new books for my ever-growing TBR. There is an almost endless supply of books out there, just waiting to be read and in this digital age, plenty of them are free!

So go forth, fear not for your wallets.

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The woman I want to be

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I’ve thought a great deal about who I want to be and how I want the world to perceive me. After plenty of soul searching, I know  I want to be the woman who is kind with a sense of humor.

The princess.

And the protectress.

Loyal and passionate.

Feminine.

But who also takes no crap and doesn’t need special favors from the boys to make things fair.

And who will stab you in the face if you screw with me.

Éowyn. I want to be Éowyn.

The Romance Paradox

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I like romance, but I don’t like romance. Do you see the problem? Well, I have also found the perfect solution.

For a while there, I was really into Young Adult Paranormal Romance. The evidence is all over this blog and Goodreads, but I got tired of it pretty quick for the same reason I tired of chick flicks: there is one story. After a few (dozen) books, I recognized a definitive formula to all romance novels (they literally teach it at RWA conferences) and it just wasn’t for me.

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Thing is, I still like love stories. I have a certain level of romantic in me that refuses to be denied. Despite an affinity for military history, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz, I am still a girl. It’s just bloody hard to find a love story I like.

Have long adored hardcore action stories, but I never wanted to be the hero’s girlfriend, I wanted to be his lieutenant. The one who survives to the end, saves his sorry hide when he gets in a fix, then ends up taking his place to outwit the Lannisters, defend Troy, or drive the Narens from Lucel-Lor,  or lead the Rohirriam.

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The solution to wanting a surprising, action-filled storyline that examines a wide array of relationships besides romantic (but still includes romance!)? For me it was—what else?—Epic Fantasy. The Tyrants and Kings series by John Marco had the perfect level of romance. Same with the Shadowmarch books by Tad Williams, Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms and the Mistborn trilogy.

I highly recommend "The Jackal of Nar" by John Marco to anyone seeking the emotional equivalent of a wood chipper.

I especially appreciate how people in Epic Fantasy are a lot quicker to figure out when their romance isn’t worth causing the apocalypse—unlike people in some genres. *coughcough*

So if, like me, you crave complicated storylines, complex characters, and some swooning on top, allow me to suggest your local bookstore’s Epic Fantasy section. (In a wholly objective and unbiased manner, of course.)

Mini Review: Fallen Embers (The Alterra Histories, #2) by C.S. Marks @CSMarks_Alterra

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 Rain–King and warrior, stern and duty-bound.
Who could have foreseen he would ever encounter the one who would change his life forever?
But he does.

How much of a man’s world, how much of his life will he risk to possess everything he has ever wanted?

From the creator of the beloved World of Alterra comes
A tale of passion and determination, of sacrifice and courage
For Rain has found a foe he cannot overcome with sword or strategy.
Now he must battle an enemy none can defeat.
Now he will battle Fate itself.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

This is the first of the Elfhunter books I’ve read, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. It’s labeled as the second in a novella series, but the blurb claimed it could be read on its own, so I went ahead and grabbed it. The blurb was right, the story made perfect sense and now I want to read the novels.

The plot:

I knew how it was going to end. I knew it. I still went through the denial/bargaining stages. I think I’m still going through the bargaining stage, it’s a side effect of too much Supernatural. This is a novella, so the story is short. There is a decent amount of world building, but I suspect there will be more in the full length books.

The characters:

The main focus of the story is Gaelen and Farahin/Ri-Elathan and their tragic love affair. I adored Gaelen because she was just so sweet and innocent, but at the same time brave and courageous. I felt terrible for Farahin, probably because he reminded me of King Arthur with his wisdom and kindness. After millennia of loneliness, he’d finally found his mate and then…

I figured out the gist of how the story would end by reading the blurb, so I’m assuming I’m not spoiling it for you all.

Sometimes I think authors should just cut my heart out and be done with it.

Find Fallen Embers on Goodreads

Find Fallen Embers on Amazon

Argetallam Saga Playlist

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With The Secrets of the Vanmars new edition just out, I thought I’d finally unveil my series playlist! While I don’t listen to music while I write (I have concentration issues), I have been known to compile playlists and rock out to them while working through writer’s block. Here are a few song I find inspirational for the Argetallam Saga.

 A New Day Dawning ~ Celtic Thunder

 

This our land, this is where we belong

And here we are destined to be

This is our land where our fathers have spilled

Their blood and their sweat and their tears

We’ll drive the invader back over the sea

Again and again and again and again

Ignore the oceanic reference and this might as well be Brevia’s national anthem. The talk of fighting off invasions, generational love of kingdom and country all fit perfectly for the people of Brevia.

Because of You ~ Kelly Clarkson

 

Because of you, I never stray too far from the sidewalk

Because of you, I play it on the safe side so I don’t get hurt

Because of you, I find it hard to trust not only me but everyone around me

Because of you, I am afraid

I first heard this song years ago when I started work on the earlier books. It makes me think of Janir and Lucan talking about their father and all the ways he’s ruined their outlook on the world—especially Lucan.

Young and Beautiful ~ Lana Del Rey

 

Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?

Will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul?

When I heard this, I couldn’t help think of Janir and Saoven. In my mind, this is their official song and it brings to mind their struggles with disproportionate lifespans and their sweet, innocent romance.

Look at Me ~ Celtic Thunder

 

Look at me! I’m bold and I’m charming, debonair, and disarming!

That’s me to a “t”!

Cocky and overconfident. It kind of reminds you of Karile, doesn’t it?

Hail the Hero ~ Celtic Thunder

 

Hail the hero—strong and true!

Fought the fight and saw it through

Swore he’d never be a slave

And gave his life

Our land to save

Everything about this makes me think of something the Argetallams would sing on patriotic holidays and celebrations. Very martial, lots of drums, and brimming with a sense of ethnic pride. (Yes. I listen to lots of Celtic Thunder.)

 

Sex in YA books is ruining my generation: Part III

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I’ve been called narrow minded for this series, but that’s what happens when you suggest *gasp* sex isn’t always a good idea. In truth, my saying we need less sex in YA has about as much to do with slut shaming as Starbucks’ treeless holiday cups have to do with persecuting Christians.

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So here we go…

I wasn’t going to write this third installment, but I feel like some things need clarification before we move on. For starters, I’m not big on telling people what to do with their lives. I’m really not. However, there is a big difference between saying the world doesn’t end if a young person decides to cross that line and blatantly enforcing the idea that teens need to undergo sexual discovery.

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For about 200-300 years, Western culture has embraced the idea of sexually repressing people, particularly women. This led to a lot of “you’re going to hell” and “good girls don’t want sex” crap. It resulted in a lot of puritanical ideals, especially in religious circles, because people really suck at this whole moderation thing.

Over the past century, we’ve started along the sexual/women’s liberation road, but it is just that—a road—and you can veer off either side. (Remember what I said about people sucking at moderation?) When I’m reading a NYT bestseller in the lower Young Adult genre with two 14-year-olds getting it on, I start to get worried.

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The dose makes the poison.

There’s a time and a place for everything. We’ve all heard that too much of anything is bad, but the thought bears repeating. As someone who read YA through high school, I can tell you that those books (with scant exception) definitely show that only weirdos and basement dwellers aren’t going all the way by the end of the book/series. YA is full of protagonists getting mocked for their sexual ignorance and the solution to this is inevitably sexual activity. Sex is no longer something people are just shown to want, it is something they had better want.

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In (hopefully) tidy conclusion:

I have known too many wonderful people who felt inferior for not being in relationships or stayed in bad ones and due to the idea of the quintessential significant other and sex life that our Western culture encourages. Yes, books make up a small part (unfortunately) of the media we young people are exposed to, but they remain a part of it nonetheless.

(Also, this is a book blog and it would be kind of dumb for me to start wailing at the music industry.)

Whatever the case, your sex life does not determine your self worth either way. But going back to the points I brought up in Part II, I have never met an adult who told me they wished they’d dated more in high school/college. Not one.

Part I

Part II

Sex in YA books is ruining my generation: Part II

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Last week we talked about all the sex in YA and how I think it’s horrible and all that. Now let’s talk about why.

Nobody seems to bring this up…

Regardless of whether or not high school students should be having sex, whether or not people should embrace/explore their sexuality or what have you, no Young Adult book I’ve read accurately portrays how much young people give up for these early relationships. Boys and girls both.

Even when there wasn’t sex involved, I cannot tell you how many people I have watched sacrifice and compromise their own dreams for the sake of a boy/girlfriend. So many times, I have wanted to scream “he/she’s not worth it!” when people I cared about quit the sport they loved, ended friendships, turned down the chance to get paid to travel, or changed their college plans for the sake of the (invariably ungrateful) person they were dating. 

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It has never once turned out well and those I’ve talked to have always ended up regretting those lost opportunities. Not even sex in the cases where it applied, just what it caused them to miss.

The unpopular opinion that might get me strung up.

We need better story lines in YA than this “cure the virgins” fad. Yes, yes, it’s true that sex is considered a part of the “coming of age” story that YA often follows and I know sex sells, but it wouldn’t kill anyone to write with more restraint, for lack of a better word. The target audience of YA are mostly still forming our opinions and beliefs about the world. We often don’t even know who we are until college or later and the things we read, watch, and hear influence us sometimes more than we realize.

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Books, like any other form of art, shape tour perspective and too many YA books today are shaping my generation’s perspective on sex into something ugly. It’s not about shaming those who have had sex or choose to write about it, let me make that clear. The point is that publishing, like Hollywood and the music industry, are telling us that sex is free of consequences and fun and everyone should be doing it. Also, everyone wants to do it and if you don’t you are either lying or haven’t found the right partner.

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But it’s okay to not have sex and there’s a hell of a lot more to it than I’ve seen in the media. YA authors need to stop and do a bit more research. Screwing around, especially during that phase, can quite easily ruin your life, especially if you let it divert you from what you should be focused on. People in the YA age range have a lot of things to learn and discover and romance is just one tiny piece of that huge puzzle. There’s your morality, what is important to you, what work makes you passionate, figuring out what you want to pursue in college, if you even want to go to college…LOTS OF THINGS BESIDES SEX, OKAY?

And then there are the stories about how the protagonist realizes that relationships aren’t all that necessary at his/her lifestage and moves on. But seriously, I can think of a grand total of ONE book where they didn’t have to have sex before the protagonist figured it out.

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Apparently, writers and publishers think young adults just aren’t smart enough to recognize trouble before screwing it.

To be continued in Part III.

Part I

Rise (Order of the Krigers, #1) by Jennifer Anne Davis

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00011]The people of Nelebek live in fear of persecution from the evil Morlet, who reigns with a dark and destructive magic. The kingdom’s only hope lies with the Order of the Krigers—twelve warriors with mysterious powers linked to magical weapons.

For over a century, Morlet has been annihilating the Order, picking them off one by one. Eleven Krigers have been hunted down, tortured, and imprisoned in his dungeon. Now, only one remains.

Sixteen-year-old Kaia survives by keeping her head down and minding her own business. But when she finds herself in the middle of a public execution where the mysterious Morlet is in attendance, an odd compulsion she can’t resist comes over her.

Kaia looks into Morlet’s eyes.

Soon, an ancient power awakens and Kaia can no more blend into the scenery. Will she heed the call of the Krigers or will Morlet’s dark magic destroy the last of the Order?

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

3.5 out of 5 stars

Honest review, right? Okay. This is going to hurt me a lot more than you, but okay.

I love this author, truly, and her debut novel was knock-your-socks-off awesomesauce, but I just felt like this piece didn’t have that level of nuance. I’ve come to expect a great deal more because I know she’s capable of incredible pieces and with another round of revision I think this could have been a fantastic book, but I’ve got to evaluate it as-is. (It’s like 4-H horse judging all over again.)

The plot:

There was an intriguing premise here, but a few things that seemed a little contrived. At the very beginning, it seemed odd that Kaia just so happens to be the one sent to meet Anders who just so happens to pick the (very public) square as a meeting place as Morlet just so happens to be at an execution. All of that could have been smoothed out with just a few tweaks, but…oh, well. It was mostly little things like that building up that demoted this book from 5 stars.

Actually, most of the dings against this story came from the plot. In certain places, some characters seemed to behave out of character and coincidences occurred. There were times it almost seemed the story was bending over backwards in order to make sense.

The characters:

It’s hard to get a bead on Kaia’s character, but she’s having trouble understanding herself. She’s basically lived in a box her whole life, she doesn’t really know who or what she is. I did like that she’s gutsy and smart despite being a bit sheltered. I most loved the balance of her character and the conflict of who to trust—and how it made sense that she doubted the “good” guys. In many cases, the heroine/hero will mistrust the people who are trying to help them and you know they’re messing up, but in her case, I wasn’t quite sure. The thing I most hated about her was that she didn’t knee Vidar in his particulars, but I have my hopes up for the next book.

The subplot with aforementioned Vidar rankled me a lot little. It wasn’t just that I ship her with Anders (and shut up, I know everyone who read this book is on my side), but the way the Vidar subplot was handled made me uncomfortable. There were some kind of rape-y comments in there with the “that is what I will do” and “must” and he was really a jerk with regard to the whole thing. Then he SPOILER brings her father in on it in an effort to force her into marrying him (rat bastard) and Kaia’s father agrees because apparently the girl needs someone to take care of her even though he’s raised her to be strong and independent and every woman requires man to survive and that made me SO MAD ALL AROUND. SPOILER OVER.

*Envision a deep breath here*

Anyway, I didn’t count off for that, just for the perceived inconsistency with regard to her father’s character.

And yes, I loved Anders because he’s spooky and mysterious and an assassin and I’m into those right now. Still, I think my favorite character was Morlet.

Morlet seems pretty cut-and-paste fantasy villain from the blurb up there, but we don’t really have any idea what the hell is going on with him by the end. I feel like there’s almost two personas meshed together in that head of his, fighting over what’s going to happen. He was complicated and unpredictable, but never came across as irrational. He is a puzzle and I admit I’m incredibly intrigued.

One thing I truly appreciated was the little quirks that gave the story originality. There was the French-based world building (as opposed to the traditional medieval English fantasy world), the variety of weaponry, and the terminology were wonderfully fresh. It was little hints like this that reminded me of the author’s creative capability and made it all the most frustrating that this piece wasn’t as well composed as some of her other works.

In short, it could have been much better, but I still plan to read the sequels and this has not in any way dissuaded me from my obsession with the author’s work.

Find Rise on Goodreads 

Find Rise on Amazon

Find Rise on BN.com

Sex in YA books is ruining my generation: Part I

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Okay, okay, so that’s a melodramatic title, but hear me out.

The genre of Young Adult is divided into two subgroups with lower YA falling in the 13-15 age range and upper YA aiming for the 16-18 zone. Many sources may have slightly different parameters or definitions, but that is the gist.

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It’s not that we can’t handle sex talk.

Before we go any further, I want to say yes, it’s true young people are capable of handling a lot more than their parents and teachers generally give them credit for. Even in my  early teens, I could follow and carry on conversations with my father’s friends which ranged from local politics to international business.My brother was no different and I have many friends who have handled huge levels of responsibility and maturity from a young age.

That being said, I do not think people in the 14-18 age range are incapable of making mature and responsible decisions. However, I frequently find the attitude toward sex in YA novels disturbing. Lately, I’ve started to wonder if most YA authors are just YA authors because they wanted to write about girls losing their virginity.

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There’s the first trope from Satan…

Girl has perfect sex with the school’s conveniently hot bad boy who has always been a jerk to every girl before her, but totally changes because she “silences his demons” and blah, blah, blah. 

Scenario No. 1 has a laundry list of things wrong with it. There’s the unrealistic expectations and the idea that you should go into a relationship hoping to change someone (and said idea should die a slow, painful death). Not to mention I’ve yet to encounter a bad boy love interest who wasn’t borderline or outright abusive.

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Abuse in all it’s forms has been normalized by the Romance genre for so long (remember when Romance heroines would be raped by the heroes so that it would be socially acceptable for them to have sex?) and we certainly don’t need that scum in the YA section.

…and the second trope from Satan.

Girl has awkward, disillusioning sex with a guy who turns out to be an ass, but on the rebound discovers that casual sex is awesome so long as they use protection and her partner is hot.

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First of all, I don’t really understand how casual sex can be healthy (go read a medical textbook) or safe (go watch Criminal Minds) for anyone, but we’re focusing on the YA genre here. Scenario No. 2 is most disgusting because it encourages the idea that everyone is having sex and if you don’t, you’re weird, sheltered, immature, prudish, puritanical, or whatever the enlightened (aka sexually active) people are calling it these days.

But clearly this is all acceptable because it’s completely realistic. I mean, who gets to college age without having sex? In this century? No, everyone has definitely done “the do” before they’re old enough to vote and it’s imperative that we cure all the virgins as quickly as possible because society might crumble and anarchy ensue if we don’t.

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To be continued.

 

Real and Not Real: People who ended up in the Argetallam Saga

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Why would I picture my family members as fantasy characters?

When I started working on what would become the Argetallam Saga at the tender age of eleven, it was easier for me to transpose people I knew into my fantasy world versus trying to write wholly original personalities. Over time, this changed and many of them are no longer readily clear, but the fundamentals are still there.

Karile, the quirky, redheaded enchanter who is responsible for about half the plot in The Key of Amatahns was a fictitious representation of my oldest brother. Though Karile is a much more over-the-top version, to this day I associate him fondly with my brother and the many childhood misadventures we shared. Not to mention that particular brother has allowed me to bounce ideas off him more than once—he kind of deserves a character.

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Such a mystery…

The Argetallam Saga’s Zebulun River and Gideon Mountains were named after my youngest two brothers (and if you met them, you would know how very suitable that is).

My mother has made a habit of turning up in my books whether I mean for it to happen or not. Her fictitious counterpart was deliberately placed in the Argetallam Saga under the guise of Aryana Caersynn, Janir’s mother. Looking back, I see that all my stories have some personification of my mother. Considering she was the one who taught me to read and fostered my passion for literature, it does seem fitting.

But it doesn’t stop with family. One of my former coworkers makes an appearance as an Argetallam in the later books. An old family friend has been accidentally reincarnated as Sir Marserian, Karile’s father, while my own father was inspiration for both Armandius and the Lord Argetallam .

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Perhaps we’ll never know.

The more I write, the more I find myself coming up with new characters who hold little or no resemblance to people I actually know. In some ways, I feel like this means I’m becoming a “real” writer. Even those I intentionally patterned after real people have evolved unexpectedly into their own personalities and quirks and that just might be my favorite part of all.