Review: The Hundredth Queen

The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen, #1)The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Before I get into why this book is only 3 stars I will say some positives. I was always engaged in the storyline; there was never a moment where I thought “I should put this down” or not finish. It was an entertaining and easy to follow plot, and though there was no massive world building the author also never created a confusing environment. Everything that happened had a complete explanation.

If you are worried about spoilers you should stop reading here.

The best part of this book was the villains. The Rajah, the Warlord, the warlord’s daughter and the first wife of Rajah Tarek were the driving force of the entire story. Just about every dynamic moment directly stemmed from them Kalinda was almost never acting on her own, but either under direct order or in direct reaction to something they did. In the end she decided to make her first proactive decision, which showed a good character arc I’m sure we will see for the rest of the series, but that doesn’t stop her presence from being underwhelming at times in the text.

Deven was also a little underwhelming, his only purpose centered around Kalinda, so he lacked a bit of his own identity, one I am sure will grow as the series goes on. His brother though caught my attention and stole every scene he was in. I was not a fan of their instalove either.

Netesa was so meh to me. She was the first sorta minor antagonist we see, but she’s so irrelevant throughout the book that their later friendship just didn’t do anything for me.

Jaya was my least favorite character (that you’re supposed to like). It’s just assumed their best friends on the first page but there is almost no connection between them except what Kalinda says. They behave like two women with a long (and honestly romantic) history, but there were like no flashbacks, and very few anecdotes to build the relationship up so I only knew they were best friends (or soulmates) cause the text said so. As such, her death fell flat with me.

Overall, I will finish this series, I will probably be entertained by this series, but. . . . yeah.

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Review: Strange Weather

Strange WeatherStrange Weather by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I might go closer to 3.5 but I’m gonna round up to four. My favorite story was the first one by a long shot. The Polaroid man was such a cool concept for a villain. I wish I could’ve learned more about his history and about the metal that made his camera, especially at the end when the melted metal spoke. It almost sounded like the voice of Sauron in my head. Like the one ring was melted down and turned into a camera.

The second story was disturbing but was also incredibly well written and politically charged.

The stories in order of favorite to least favorite goes 1,2,4,3. I just couldn’t get into Aloft. It had some vivid imagery and great backstory but I just couldnt get into it. It was the only story that had a moment where I was bored.

Snapshot, Loaded, and Rain were non-stop action and thrills.

Loaded had the best characters of the three. Snapshot was the most original with the most potential and the coolest villain concept.

Rain had its ups and downs but I was never bored.

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advice, review

Why Indie Authors Should Read Business Books

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don'tGood to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by James C. Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why Indie Authors Should Read Business Books

I am finally pursuing my lifelong passion of becoming an author, and writing is a business, so I needed to invest in myself. I figured “the bible” of the business world would have some interesting things to say. After all, a business of one is still a business and who wouldn’t enjoy the leap from mediocrity to longevity? The book made it clear that building a great business isn’t just about a great leader who exits the company, only to have it fall apart. What makes a great business, and leader of the business, is someone who is able to build something that will last long after their lifetime.

That should resonate with authors. I don’t know any authors that want their books to disappear without their presence? We have the benefit of creating products that at the very least will never go out of style. Innovations may change the way we read but they will never eliminate books altogether. What we write will last and it’s our responsibility to build something from it so people actually give a damn about our work long after we are gone.

The lessons in this book teach a person how to develop a strategy, how to build a team, the importance of being disciplined, and the importance of managing expectations.

The Hedgehog Concept is something creatives should be able to maneuver to their advantage. It’s all about finding what you can be best at, passionate about, and quantifying how to measure your success. For an author maybe that’s finding a niche and having the discipline to stick with it rather than chasing the latest genre fad.

For building a team, again think about how many people it takes to make a book. You don’t just write a draft and publish it on KDP. If you do, and are successful than I am jealous but most of us can’t write perfection the first go around. You need beta readers to give you general feedback on what’s working and what’s not; you need an editor (or two) to make sure it’s readable; you need a top-notch book cover (some authors can make their own, some need to add a graphic designer to their team) and finally you need to build your audience, because they’re the most important part of the team.

Though there are a lot of lessons in this book the final thing I’m gonna touch on is the Stockdale Paradox. It’s all about managing expectations. You can truly believe you are going to find success, while also managing that expectation. Stockdale was a POW in Vietnam who knew he would return home but kept his sanity because he knew it would be a while, while other soldiers in the camp were overly optimistic, thought they would get home by Christmas, only to be heartbroken when their expectations failed.

Pursuing a creative endeavor is still a business, and today it’s never been easier for someone to enter that business It’s my educated guess that it’s in order for creatives to educate themselves on traditional business practices if they hope to sustain long-term growth and success in their field.

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Review: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

The Apocalypse of Elena MendozaThe Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll always support fiction that gives baby Cthulu a voice. On a humor level Shaun just gets me, or I get Shaun, or there is no getting but his work makes me laugh enough to keep coming back to it. I’m getting off track. The Apocalypse begins at Starbucks and the story of Elena Mendoza begins with one of the best opening lines I have read in a while.

After saving her crush from a shooting on a Starbucks patio (it’s not a spoiler that much is given away in the description) Elena is handed the impossible responsibility of helping the voices in her head orchestrate the Apocalypse. All in all, it sounds like the average 16 year old girl drama. Who hasn’t been tasked with a rapture or two?

This is my second Hutchinson book (the first being We Are the Ants) and what I have enjoyed about both of them is even though romance is weaved into the plot to some degree, it doesnt overpower the story. Elena’s romantic pursuit of Freddie doesn’t outweigh the end of the world (thank god) much like how Henry Denton’s relationship with Diego never distracted us from the red button.

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Review: America’s Bank

America's Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal ReserveAmerica’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve by Roger Lowenstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am sorry if my review turns into a summary of this book I just love to talk about it.

So I gave this book a second read because I was struggling to remember some of its main points and am so happy to refamiliarize myself with the material. It builds a strong argument by starting with what America was like before it centralized its bank. The Revolutionary War ended in 1783 and it wasn’t until December 1913 that the Fed Reserve Act passed under President Wilson. During that 130 year period, there were two attempts at centralizing the bank, both failed when the government failed to renew their charters. The second failure coming from President Andrew Jackson, who considered banking regulations beneficial for the American elite, which directly countered his populist movement.

After the crash of 1893 and 1907 the need to centralize banking entered the forefront of political debate. The unregulated market created competing monopolies, which could game the economy. In 1907 a failed attempt to take over the copper monopoly triggered a panic. Banks ran out of reserves when everyone tried to cash out at the same time and country had a financial collapse.

This led some of the harshest critics, like Nelson Aldrich into advocates for a centralized bank. He failed to pass his own bill, but a couple years later the Fed Reserve act (Owen-Glass Bill) borrowed heavily from Aldrich.

Not to make this review political, but I feel like this is an important read given the political climate today. Populism can have dangerous consequences and can lead to undisciplined decisions. Though it has its faults, the federal reserve is beneficial to the American economy.

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Review: Just Kids

Just KidsJust Kids by Patti Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

oh go on, they’re just kids

I’m still trying to collect my thoughts about this book. I know it made me feel something, I know I have every intention of re-reading it, and I know many anecdotes from it will come up in casual conversation with my friends when I try to convince them to read it. Still, I am not sure what the emotions are I feel when I think about it. There’s obviously a feeling of loss and grief; not just for Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Wagstaff, but also for all the other artists, players, hustlers, and socialites in their circle who had tragic ends. They were all walking the same cusp, brushing shoulders with some of the most influential musicians and artists of the sixties and seventies. So many people in this circle must’ve thought they were on their way to achieving their creative dreams, only to be mentioned later on in the novel to have taken their own life, died of an accidental overdose, or other unfortunate circumstances.

There was also hope, and optimism, and a feeling that anything is possible. There was certainly some magic, both light and dark, that people flirted with, and in some cases became lost. Personally, I felt the magic was strongest at the Chelsea hotel.

There was humor, like Patti’s first interaction with Allen Ginsberg, when he mistook her for a very pretty boy.

And there were plenty of respects paid to the generations of the artists who laid the foundation for the next breakthrough.

One thought that kept coming back to me throughout this whole memoir, were just how much the times had changed. She spoke of living in NYC as an artist selling books and scraping by. She spoke of how far fifty cents could get her and even at her worst she and Robert knew they would find a way. It’s sort of crazy to think that if she and Mapplethorpe were born today, or were in their twenties today, they could not have taken that journey to NYC (or it would’ve been more complicated). It almost felt like the spirits of the city back then were encouraging them to succeed and based on my very limited knowledge of NYC I don’t know how well this journey could be replicated today.

I loved this book, and I look forward to further digesting it in the coming days.

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Review: The Secret to Falling in Love

The Secret to Falling in LoveThe Secret to Falling in Love by Victoria Cooke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who doesn’t like a cute book about love?
Okay, I admit when I was reading this the thought did cross my mind that I was not the target demographic, but that thought disappeared the more I got to know Melissa. Actually, I think the thought disappeared the moment Melissa watched the Matrix. So she is more addicted to her phone than most people are to oxygen, this 35-year-old woman’s quest for love in the modern world was still something I could get behind and cheer for.

Melissa worked as a journalist and was selected to write a story on unplugging from technology. Basically, this woman who for over a quarter of the book couldn’t go a page without looking at her screen (funny cause I read this on the Kindle app on my iPhone) suddenly had to start making plans via home phone and landlines. She couldn’t email, use dating apps, or make plans to go to the bar with her friends like she used to. She went from spending all day worrying about how many likes she can get, and feeling lonely to being thrust into a bit of a love triangle and rediscovering how to live.

This is a cute, low-stress book with a main character you can cheer for.

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