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Tammy’s Top Ten Indie Books of 2012

Top Ten Tuesday2

Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my friends who are celebrating this day! At this moment I am probably opening presents with my family, including two very excited children (ages 12 and 13), but I wanted to post a Top Ten for The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday Freebie today. I read so many indie books this year, and I wanted to highlight my favorites.  In trying to narrow down the list, I came up with eleven titles, and I just couldn’t eliminate one, so my Top Ten is actually a Top Eleven:)  Here they are, in alphabetical order:

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1. A Dark Time by Dennis E. Bradford.  This unconventional murder mystery stood out for its atmospheric quality and stellar writing, not to mention some very interesting characters. You can read my review here.

2. The Accordo by Roberta L. Smith. This ghostly tale is filled with complex characters and carefully researched details that make for a page-turning story of revenge and terror. You can read my review here.

3. Auraria by Tim Westover. Technically, Auraria is not an indie, but the small and quirky Q&W Publishers fits into my definition of indie, so I wanted to add it to my list.  Westover’s imagery is evocative and magical, and this is one tale that needs to find more readers. You can read my review here.

4. The Destroyed by Brett Battles. Brett is such a prolific writer, I’m amazed that he can keep the quality of his writing at top form, book after book. But he manages to do just that, improving with every book he writes. The Destroyed is a Jonathan Quinn thriller, and one of my favorites. You can read my review here.

5. The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry. I loved this coming-of-age story about a young girl whose less-than-perfect life causes her to run away from home, chasing after a man who plays a big part in her awakening sexuality. It is filled with characters that you will grow to love, and Lowry’s writing is exquisite and spare, a perfect style for this unique tale. You can read my review here.

6. The Gateway to Hell by Ray Mileur.  I loved this thriller with strong characters and lots of police action. Mileur has created one of my favorite fictional characters in PI Mike Shannon, and I hope to read another story about him soon. You can read my review here.

7. The Jesuit Papers by A. B. Fowler. This story surprised me. From the cover I expected something more scholarly and dry, but it had romance, action and mystery, as well as an exotic setting, all elements that made The Jesuit Papers a winning story. You can read my review here.

8. The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity. Carefully researched and full of dramatic action, this indie deals with a controversial subject matter, but Atchity keeps the action going and the reader will not be able to stop turning the pages. You can read my review here.

9. Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo. This page-turner police procedural is unique for the relationships among its characters. Giammatteo jumps back and forth from present to past to tell the story of how some friendships can stand the test of time, and what happens to them when promises are broken. You can read my review here.

10. Realms of Gold: Ritual to Romance by Terry Stanfill. I love when authors go back to the past to add depth to a story that takes place in the present, and Stanfill does this wonderfully. This story is full of carefully researched details about archeology and was not only fascinating to read, but a delightful romance as well. You can read my review here.

11. Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible by C. G. Bauer. My first love is horror, and this book delivers it and then some. Bauer’s tale is well-paced and filled with creepiness, and its 1960s small town setting makes it even creepier. You can read my review here.

I’m looking forward to reading more indies in 2013!

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Giveaway Winners!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my recent giveaways for Auraria and The Gateway to Hell. The competition was fierce, but three winners have emerged from the pack.

Congratulations to the winners of Auraria by Tim Westover:

Kat S. and Meghan G.!

and the winner of a signed copy of The Gateway to Hell by Ray Mileur:

Alexandra R.!

Your books will arrive shortly. And keep reading Books, Bones & Buffy for another giveaway soon!

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Don’t Miss Out! Two Giveaways End Tomorrow!

I’m giving away copies of these two five-star reviewed books, but the giveaways end tomorrow! Please click on the images above to be taken to the review and entry form for each book. Up for grabs are TWO copies of Auraria and ONE signed copy of The Gateway to Hell. I loved both books, and they are very different from each other. If you like folktale-inspired fantasy stories with quirky characters, then you’ll probably love Auraria. On the other hand, if you love hard-hitting cop stories with a high body count and a charismatic leading man, you’ll really enjoy The Gateway to Hell.

The giveaways are open to U.S. residents only, sorry! Please enter by Tuesday, July 31 at midnight, PST.  Winners will be drawn by random.org and contacted by email. As stated on the entry forms, you can be entered extra times by “Liking” Books, Bones & Buffy on Facebook, following via email, or leaving a comment on each review post. Good luck everyone!

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Author Interview & Giveaway: AURARIA by Tim Westover

Welcome to my very first author interview! I’m so excited to have Tim Westover, author of Auraria, visiting today. I loved Auraria (you can read my review here) and I want to spread the word about this quirky and magical novel. Let’s get to know more about the book and the author:

Books, Bones & Buffy:  Your novel Auraria is filled with folklore, and almost every character Holtzclaw comes into contact with has a story to tell him. What made you decide to incorporate folk tales into the story?

Tim Westover:  Folk tales are origin stories — for the name of a town, the turn of a street, a way of thinking, a local word. They are pure, essential local history in a world that has lost a lot of its sense of location and place. Once, someone could listen to your fiddle playing and tell what county in Georgia you came from. Now, if you’re in a Starbucks or Burger King, it’s hard to know even what state you’re in. Folk tales capture and preserve what once made every hill and river (and person) unique.

Now, that’s the high-brow, idealist answer. The actual answer is that folk tales are awesome. They are applied fantasy — not an imagined elf on an imagined world, but a giant turtle that used to live under that mountain, right there. A bubbling lake of mud that exploded out of the field next door to your dentist. A woman who brought lighting bolts down from her cane and destroyed every bottle in the local saloon — and that saloon is now a falafel place, and when you’re eating your falafel, you can wonder if those scorched bricks in the wall were a part of her righteous fury.

BB&B:  The characters are quite quirky. Did you draw inspiration from any real life acquaintances?

TW:  Several characters do have real-life models, although I probably shouldn’t get too detailed, for fear of libel and lawsuits! The names are all drawn from historical sources — either landowners who sold their property to dam companies, or members of local historical societies, or lore and legends of the actual town of Auraria and its cousins. The most criticized name, “Dickran Fabricatorian,” was borrowed from a business associate. He’s a real person — I didn’t make it up!

BB&B:  Much of the story seems like it’s based on real places and events. What kind of research went into the final draft of Auraria?

TW:  I live about two hours from the site of the real Auraria, so I made many trips up there. I toured associated museums, stocked up in the bookstore, ordered old, old books from the University of Georgia library system. I read over two hundred books, from oral histories to 19th advertising brochures for resorts to quack science on the healthful effects of spring water. And as much as I could, I went to see the real places and phenomena that these books cover. Sadly, in most cases, those places are now strip malls or empty fields. Folk songs transmit a lot of folk tales and knowledge — I learned to play clawhammer banjo so I could appreciate the folk songs as a player, not just a listener.

BB&B:  The town of Auraria is filled with ghosts. Have you ever seen a ghost?

TW:  No, and I don’t believe in them. However, they still terrify me. I refuse to go on ghost tours unless it’s broad daylight. That’s logical, right?

BB&B:  I love that you are terrified of something that you don’t believe in! I guess that’s human nature. What are your favorite books and/or authors, and do you see influences of them in Auraria?

TW: My favorite authors, at least for this book, are Nikolai Gogol, Jorge Luis Borges, and Herodotus. Gogol’s “Dead Souls” is about a petty aristocrat visiting quirky landowners and buying their deceased peasants for unclear purposes. From Borges, I wanted to take a mixture of erudition and fantasy. And from Herodotus’ “Histories,” I learned that the history doesn’t have to be factual to be true.

BB&B:  How long did it take you to write the book?

TW:  Auraria took about two years of research and planning, a year of concentrated writing, and then a year of editing / revising / rewriting. The first draft was almost twice as long as the final one, longer than Moby Dick!

BB&B: I’m very curious about the “invented” language of Esperanto that your book Marvirinstrato is written in. Why did you decide to write a book in this language?

TW:  I had stories that could only be written in Esperanto, stories that were dependent on puns, on Esperanto culture, on Esperanto history. One story is based on an odd moment in Esperanto’s creation — the language’s author, Dr. Zamenhof, tormented by difficult grammatical decisions, had a dream about the arrival of three mysterious, foreboding “red girls.” As they emerge from the dark forest in his mind’s night eye, he has a sudden revelation — he’s awaiting “the” three red girls, and the definite article (“the”) must be part of the language! It’s a very enigmatic moment in Esperanto lore, and I wrote a long story to explore it.

Some parts of Auraria got their start in my Esperanto stories — Pharaoh’s Flour, the singing tree, the moon maidens, and the bleating sheepfruit all appeared first in Marvirinstrato.

Writing in another language was an essential part of my development as a writer. I learned   about the essence of a story — what is at the core, no matter what language it’s written in — and I learned about the unique flavor of English, its strengths and its weaknesses, by working in Esperanto, which has its own strengths and weaknesses. English has a stronger dictionary than Esperanto. While Esperanto has enough words to say anything that you want to, English has a dozen near-synonyms for every word, each with their own connotations and histories. It’s like a painter choosing from twelve shades of green. Writing in English, one can be more sure of a shared historical background — an allusion to the Civil War doesn’t need to be explained, but in Esperanto, it does, because the majority of readers are from outside the US and only know as much about the US Civil War as we know about the Spanish or the English or the Chinese civil wars.

I love the Esperanto language, and I love the English language. I’m happy that I’ve written books in each — it makes me love the languages even more.

Here’s a photo of Tim and his daughter. Isn’t she adorable??

Thank you so much, Tim, for an excellent interview. I love getting the scoop behind the novel!

 

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AURARIA by Tim Westover – Review

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and sometimes I agree with that and sometimes I don’t. In the case of Auraria, however, I’m begging you to not judge it by the cover. When I was first asked to review Tim Westover’s latest, I was left a little flat by its nondescript gray tones, and I couldn’t imagine what this book was supposed to be about. But the story caught me completely off guard, and I’m here to tell you Auraria is a book worth reading, and I am recommending it without hesitation.

Filled with folktales and magical imagery, Auraria is the tale of two men, Shadburn and Holtzclaw, who try to turn the small, mountainous town of Auraria, Georgia into a world-class vacation resort. The first sentence of the book sets the tone for what’s to come:

“Holtzclaw hadn’t heard of Auraria until his employer sent him to destroy it.”

Holtzclaw is given the task of buying up all the land parcels in Auraria so that his employer Shadburn can launch his plan.  But when he arrives and starts getting to know the townsfolk, he discovers a wild and unpredictable place full of ghosts, singing trees, and moon maidens that bathe in the springs of Auraria in order to wash the gold off their skin. At first Holtzclaw is skeptical of the piano-playing ghosts and fish that jump out of the mist, but the longer he stays in Auraria, the more he becomes enchanted by the magical forces at play. Most of the land owners he approaches sell their property willingly enough after seeing the pile of money and gold coins Holtzclaw pulls out of his bag, and before long Shadburn joins Holtzclaw in Auraria to begin putting his plan into action: building a huge dam to stop the waters that flow throughout the town to create an immense lake, which will literally bury Auraria underwater.

The pace of the story is like a leisurely stroll down a mountain path. Westover takes his time painting a picture of the strange town, and his masterful descriptions of Auraria and its inhabitants evoke a folktale feeling. The themes of water and gold weave their way throughout the story. When Holtzclaw first arrives in town, he meets Princess Trahlyta, a mysterious girl who appears whenever Holtzclaw is near the water. She pops up again and again in the story and serves as a mentor and a muse for Holtzclaw as he becomes embroiled in the goings-on of the strange community.  And Auraria, like its name, is full of gold, but only those who are lucky will ever find it in vast amounts.  Flakes of gold, or “colors,” are everywhere, and the residents of Auraria even wear hats that double as gold pans. But as the residents are told to move to higher ground before the lake rises, Shadburn reveals a darker purpose for flooding the valley: he wants to literally bury the gold underwater and recreate Auraria as something other than a gold town.

As Shadburn’s vision is finally realized and people begin to flock to the newly built Queen of the Mountain hotel and Lake Trahlyta, the ill-built dam begins to crumble and the townsfolk’s ever-increasing dreams of gold spark a frenzy of gold hunting that signals the end of Shadburn’s dream. For the town of Auraria, and its gold, refuse to stay buried, and Princess Trahlyta is determined to put things back the way they were.

Westover’s imagery is wonderful. When Holtzclaw goes to the cemetery to try to convince the ghosts to abandon their graves, he finds them unwilling to leave: “The dead clung to their coffins like survivors of a shipwreck.” And at the Old Rock Falls tavern he meets Abigail, whose dusty bottles of spirits evoke a magical world: “At the bottom, sediment in suspension was swirled upwards by Abigail’s handling then drifted downwards again like a lazy ghost.”

Auraria contains far too many marvels to list here. I was reminded of both Lewis Carroll and Neil Gaiman, for both the playfully absurd characters and Westover’s ability to make the reader fall in love with a town full of magic and ghosts, despite that absurdity. The author weaves a spell that will leave you believing in ghostly piano players and story-telling terrapins, all the way to the book’s perfect and satisfying end.

Many thanks to  QW Publishers, for supplying a review copy.

You can purchase Auraria here and visit the author’s website here.

And stayed tuned! I will be giving away two copies of Auraria soon!

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In My Mailbox #2

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by The Story Siren, and it is a great way to share the books you’ve recently received with other book bloggers. I was very excited to find this book in my mailbox a couple of days ago:

Starters by Lissa Price. Received an ARC from the publisher. Release date 3/12/12.  I entered a bunch of contests to win this book, and I finally got lucky! It’s been piling up really good reviews from the blog community, and I’m dying to read it! Here’s the description from Goodreads:

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie’s only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie’s head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator’s grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations’ plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. Released 2/28/12. Purchased.  Here’s another book that’s received stellar reviews, and I’m afraid to say I’m behind the curve, because I still haven’t had time to read Delirium. So it may be awhile before I get to it, but I’m very happy it’s now sitting on the shelves. Here’s Goodreads description:

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

Vampire Empire Book Two: The Rift Walker by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith. Released 9/20/11. Purchased.  Once again, I have bought another sequel in a series when I haven’t yet read the first book.  I suppose “In My Mailbox” is not only a way to organize new books that I receive, but a reminder of how far behind I am with my TBR pile! I’m so excited to read this series. Here’s what it’s about:

Princess Adele struggles with a life of marriage and obligation as her Equatorian Empire and their American Republic allies stand on the brink of war against the vampire clans of the north. However, the alliance’s horrific strategy for total victory drives Adele to abandon her duty and embark on a desperate quest to keep her nation from staining its hands with genocide. Reunited with her great love, the mysterious adventurer known to the world as the Greyfriar, Adele is pursued by her own people as well as her vengeful husband, senator Clark. With the human alliance in disarrray, Prince Cesare, lord of the British vampire clan, seizes the initiative and strikes at the very heart of Equatoria.

As Adele labors to bring order to her world, she learns more about the strange powers she exhibited in the north. Her teacher, Mamoru, leads a secret cabal of geomancers who believe Adele is the one who can touch the vast power of the Earth that surges through ley lines and wells up at the rifts where the lines meet. These energies are the key to defeating the enemy of mankind, and if Princess Adele could ever bring this power under her command, she could be death to vampires. But such a victory will also cost the life of Adele’s beloved Greyfriar.

The Rift Walkeris the second book in a trilogy of high adventure and alternative history. Combining rousing pulp action with steampunk style, the Vampire Empire series brings epic politcal themes to life within a story of heartbreaking romance, sacrifice, and heroism.

The Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle & Joe R. Lansdale. August 2011.  Purchased.  My friend Steve Boyett has a story in this anthology. That alone was enough to get me to purchase this collection, which is loaded with big-name fantasy writers, such as Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers, and Charles De Lint. Here’s what Goodreads has to say:

Star-studded and comprehensive, this imaginative anthology brings a myriad of modern fantasy voices under one roof. Previously difficult for readers to discover in its new modes, urban fantasy is represented here in all three of its distinct styles—playful new mythologies, sexy paranormal romances, and gritty urban noir. Whether they feature tattooed demon-hunters, angst-ridden vampires, supernatural gumshoes, or pixelated pixies, these authors—including Patricia Briggs, Neil Gaiman, and Charles de Lint—mash-up traditional fare with pop culture, creating iconic characters, conflicted moralities, and complex settings. The result is starkly original fiction that has broad-based appeal and is immensely entertaining.

Exiled by M. R. Merrick. August 2011.  Purchased.  I can’t remember where I came across this book.  It sounded intriguing, and it’s garnered lots of great reviews on Goodreads, so I decided to try it.  Turns out it’s self-published, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the story feels all-too-familiar, and the writing is just so-so.  At least the cover’s pretty! Here’s the story description:

Chase Williams is a demon hunter in the Circle, or at least he was supposed to be. On his fifteenth birthday, Chase stepped up to the altar to claim his elemental power, but it never came. Elemental magic is passed down to a hunter through the bloodline, but on Chase’s birthday, the bloodline stopped.

Exiled without the Circle’s protection, Chase has spent two years trying to survive a world riddled with half-demons and magic. When he has a run in with a frightened and seemingly innocent demon, he learns the Circle’s agenda has changed: the Circle plans to unlock a portal and unleash pure-blood demons into the world. Vowing to stop them, and knowing he can’t do it alone, Chase forms a reluctant alliance with Rayna — a sexy witch with an attitude and a secret.

In their attempt to stop them, Chase and Rayna find themselves in the middle of the Circle’s plan, leaving one of them to decide what their friendship is worth, and the other’s life depending on it.

Auraria by Tim Westover. Release date July 2012.  I received a review request from the publisher, QW Publishers, and I was especially intrigued because Westover is also the author of a book of short stories written in the International language of Esperanto. I had to look that up, since I’ve never heard of it. Turns out Esperanto was created as “an easy-to-learn and politically neutral language that transcends nationality and would foster peace and international understanding between people with different regional and/or national languages.” (from Wikipedia) Wow, who knew? Am I the only one who’s never heard of this?? Luckily for me, Auraria is written in English.  Here’s what Goodreads says:

Water spirits, moon maidens, haunted pianos, headless revenants, and an invincible terrapin that lives under the mountains. None of these distract James Holtzclaw from his employer’s mission: to turn the fading gold-rush town of Auraria, GA, into a first-class resort and drown its fortunes below a man-made lake. But when Auraria’s peculiar people and problematic ghosts collide with his own rival ambitions, Holtzclaw must decide what he will save and what will be washed away.

Taking its inspiration from a real Georgia ghost town, Auraria is steeped in the folklore of the Southern Appalachians, where the tensions of natural, supernatural and artificial are still alive.

What have you received in your mailbox this week?

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