25 June 2011

Pottermore - A Model for Others to Follow?



Pottermore is finally revealed as an online collaborative reading experience. Screenshots from Mashable show that there will be games, leaderboard system, social networking as well as the extra materials that JK Rowling will provide. I'm guessing that when you read to certain sections of the book, there will be hyperlinks that take you to further information. For example, you will get to play some wizard chess or help mix some potions. I think this is going to be a great experience for new and old fans alike.

Do you think this kind of interactive experience will take off with more authors to follow? I would love to see a Game of Thrones, Discworld or Dune version of these sites.

Besides this, JK Rowling also announced that she will be making audio books as well as the Harry Potter ebooks available on the site. These ebooks will be sold under the Pottermore name and cut out the traditional publishers, and they won't be available in other stores. It seems like many brick and mortar bookshops are angry with this decision and feel betrayed of their support for her franchise all these years. I understand their plea, but sadly I think this will be more common as the ease of self-publishing and digital distribution increases and authors find that they can as easily sell their own books as the bookshops can.

I still enjoy browsing in bookshops, it is a completely different experience than say browsing for books on Amazon and I think that there is still a need for them. However I think in this day and age, the ones that succeed would be the independent stores that come up with innovative ways to offer more and to engage with their customers. Sadly the days of franchised mega bookshops the size of a football pitch are over.

23 June 2011

The Time Hunters by Carl Ashmore

The Time Hunters by Carl Ashmore
Becky is a typical thirteen year old English girl. She likes Facebook, gossiping and plenty of sleep. So when she and her brother Joe are invited to stay with their 'loony' Uncle Percy at his stately home, she thinks it'll be the worst summer ever. What she doesn't realise is that Bowen Hall is also home to a baby Triceratops, two Sabre-tooth tigers and the mythic hero, Will Scarlet...

'The Time Hunters' is a thrilling adventure that takes Becky, Joe, Uncle Percy and Will on a quest through time to find the legendary Golden Fleece.

The Clock is ticking....

The Time Hunters is excellent first novel written by author Carl Ashmore and is a wonderful mix of time travelling, ancient mythology with a bit of murder mystery thrown in. I had only recently finished reading the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan when I first encountered this book, and after reading the blurb, I thought, "Oh no, not another story about a Percy and the Golden Fleece". Despite this, I took it on and was pleasantly surprised by this gem.

The story begins with Becky and Joe being sent to spend the summer with their Uncle Percy. The children were never close with him and always thought he was some kind of eccentric loner living in his mansion. It wasn't long before the children unravel the secrets hidden within Bowen Hall and learn that their uncle is actually a member of a secretive group of time travellers. Soon afterwards they find themselves on an adventure across time to investigate the mysterious murder of their uncle's friend while being chased by a group of renegade time travellers.

I had a great time with this book even though its target are kids. I found it to be well written, fast paced and most importantly the story hooks you right from the beginning. I've always been a little wary of time travelling stories as they introduce all kinds of paradoxes and so far the story has handled them nicely. I especially enjoyed the re-imagination of classical characters. You think you know your Argonauts and Minotaur? Well think again.

This book has been called a natural successor to Harry Potter and indeed it has the same magical qualities that I found in those books. I look forward to reading the second book, The Time Hunters & the Box of Eternity which is due out Christmas 2011 and I wish Carl Ashmore the very best with his future books.

Trailer for The Time Hunters


You can also read a preview of the second book, The Time Hunters & the Box of Eternity at Carl's site. http://carlashmoreauthor.blogspot.com/p/time-hunters-and-box-of-eternity.html

For fans of: Rick Riordan, JK Rowling

22 June 2011

2011 Summer Readings

My to read list has been constantly growing ever since I purchased the Kindle as it is so easy to order books that you want. Sometimes you don't even feel like you're spending anything since you don't see the money changing hands. Most of the books that I want to read are through recommendations from various blogs or forums and for this summer I aim to tackle some of these books.

World War Z by Max BrooksWorld War Z by Max Brooks
I thought that if a zombie invasion comes along I can escape happily to a secluded island and live out my remaining days. However people pointed me towards this book to say that zombies can actually survive in the sea and reach far corners of the earth by trudging through the ocean floor. Oh well, maybe by reading this book I can pick up a thing or two on how to survive a zombie epidemic.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. MartinA Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
I recently finished the first book, A Game of Thrones and it totally blew me away. I was captivated from the very beginning and love the way Martin uses different characters' point of view to do the storytelling. Who could have thought politics between rival families can be this exciting?

Storm Front by Jim ButcherStorm Front by Jim Butcher
I've been hearing a lot of good things about the Dresden Files series, a sort of fantasy meets detective fiction and mystery. Some say the books are like candy to the brain. How can I refuse? It sounds like just the thing for me!

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd ParryPeople Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry
Finally something serious for the summer. The story of Lucie Blackman was a big thing when I was in school. Everyday I turned on the TV and I would see her dad appearing in the news asking for people for information on her whereabouts. Maybe due to my age back then, I didn't pay too much attention to the story and never got to find out what happened to her until I read the book Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein, a reporter working for a Japanese paper at that time. I hope this book will give me more insight into her disappearance and to revel more of the dark underbelly of Tokyo.

20 June 2011

Sage: Tales from a Magical Kingdom by Maria E. Schneider

Sage: Tales from a Magical Kingdom by Maria E. Schneider
Sword and Sorcery meets Agatha Christie: Three novellas introduce the Kingdom of Sage and those who protect its boundaries. Toil, Trouble and Rot: Sage is under attack from a deadly and mysterious enemy. Dungeons and Decay: Find out how far a mother will go when her child is in danger. Call to Arms: Every hand is needed when a ghost invades the kingdom demanding old wrongs be righted.

Let me start off by saying that if you're looking for an epic fantasy about a boy who would grow up to be king or about a journey towards salvation then you will not find it. What you will find here is a wonderful story about a grandmother and her devotion to protect her kingdom and also her family. Yes, that's right a grandmother. Not only is the protagonist a grandmother, she is also a Master Gardener with the ability to communicate with plants.

In the first story, "Toil, Trouble and Rot", Demetria discovers a fungus infection is spreading over the kingdom of Sage. The fungus infection not only damages crops vital to the kingdom's survival, it is also hazardous to humans. Demetria suspects it's one of the kingdom's enemies, the Rats, who are behind this heinous act. She then sets off with her family in search of these perpertrators while using their powers to help Sage defend against the attack.

In "Dungeons and Decay", Demetria receives news that her son Gavin has gone missing and she fears that he has been captured by the Rats and taken to Ratdom. Her husband, Ward, a Dungeon Master with the ability to manipulate stones joins her in her journey to Ratdom to free their son.

In the final tale, "Call to Arms", a forgotten king warns of dangerous beasts from the Slithering Kingdom making camp on the borders of Sage. Demetria and her family sets off to investigate this threat and to put a stop to it.

Sage: Tales from a Magical Kingdom is an original and refreshing tale in the fantasy genre. It is not overcomplicated by strange magic systems or burdened by an overwhelming cast of characters. I found the characters interesting and likeable, especially Demetria. It is such a simple and fun story that you will find yourself unable to put the book down and must finish reading it in one sitting. Maria E. Schneider has created such a rich world with these three tales and is a book that can be enjoyed by all ages. After reading this book, I feel slightly cheated to learn that there are no more stories set in this world. I can only hope that Schneider will revisit this setting again.

For fans of: Brian Jacques

PS: You can also buy a copy of this book from Smashwords.

18 June 2011

The Adventures of Whatley Tupper by Rudolf Kerkhoven and Daniel Pitts

The Adventures of Whatley Tupper by Rudolf Kerkhoven and Daniel Pitts

Whatley Tupper is an A-grade janitor at a B-grade university about to become entwined in C-grade fiction!

Will he tame the troglodyte murderer living in the disused network of campus tunnels? Will he join forces with the Denny's night manager to counter a renegade group of custodians? Will he inadvertently travel into a parallel universe that sounds suspiciously similar to another plot-line? Will he journey to Honduras to reunite with his deported love? Will he suffer amnesia and begin to question his own sexuality? Will he leave all this madness behind and book a relaxing Alaskan cruise? Or will he turn out to be nothing more than a figment in the imagination of his idol, Tom Selleck?

Yes, there is something in the air tonight... Adventure! Romance! Carbon Monoxide!

The choice is yours.

My inaugural post for this blog and what better way to start off than a review of this humourous book. If you have never read a choose your own adventure book then you're really missing out but to put it simply it is a book with decision points littered throughout the story and your choice at each decision point determines the final outcome of the book.

The Adventures of Whatley Tupper puts you in the role of Whatley, or Tups as he is known by at the university. One night he is cleaning the toilets as usual and next thing he knows, all hell breaks lose. Every decision he makes from then on has a life changing effect on him. Will Whatley make peace with his long lost relative, go oil wrestling with another man or stumble upon a parallel universe?

This is a humourous book, with ridiculous story lines but most importantly a whole lot of fun. The choose your own adventure style works great on the Kindle, you just have to navigate to a decision point and it takes you there right away. I still remember juggling between pages in the paper version of these choose your own adventure books. Even though it says it's aimed at adults, this book doesn't contain anything you won't find in any Young Adult book.

I was pleasantly surprised by how varied the stories are depending on which action you took. One arc takes you towards a science fiction story while another leads to a story of an Alaskan vacation. Despite each story being relatively short, it will take you multiple readthroughs to reach all 37 endings in this book. If I were to nitpick, I would have to say that
this book can use more decision points. Sometimes it feels too easy to get from the beginning to an end.

Even if you've never read a choose your own adventure book, this is still a great choice for anyone who owns a Kindle. Simply put yourself in Whatley's shoes and ask yourself, "What would Whatley do?" As of writing the book is listed as $0.00, I mean how can you beat that for value?

For fans of: Anyone