March reading round-up

  • # of books read: 14
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • ebooks read: 3
  • books from the Throne of Glass series: 2
  • graphic novels: 3
  • total page count: 3,998
  • year total page count: 12,251

Well, I still haven’t beat that crazy reading streak I had in January.  It does seem that I’m reading roughly 4,000 pages a month, though, and I can attest that several of the books this month were really long (including one that will end up being in next month’s round-up).

Only 3 audiobooks this month.  The first was the YA novel Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace, which I enjoyed despite its unevenness.  The other two audiobooks were both similar in genre and tone: Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me.  Both dealt with mothers and the hidden lives of their teenagers.  Both were also interesting character studies as not much by way of action happened, but kept me hooked until the end.

Darkly amusing #bookstagram #thedinner #hermankoch #justfinished

A post shared by Kate (@spoffk) on

The Dinner was recommended to me by a friend, and it was both short and disturbing.  I enjoy disturbing.  This was the kind of real-world disturbing, a scenario showing how thin the masks of polite society are, and how easily people descend into violent depths.

One of my favorite reads this month was Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs.  This series continues to keep me hooked on the complicated political world of supernatural creatures.  Of course, Mercy Thompson is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read, and this installment revolves around that reputation.  I finished off another series just today, the Experiment in Terror series by Karina Halle.  The final book, Dust to Dust, wrapped everything up nicely.  If you enjoy those ghost hunter shows, this series is for you.

I started watching “The Man in the High Castle” last month, and binge-watched both seasons.  The book doesn’t develop the characters quite so much as the show does, and is more about the randomness of possibility and choice rather than the concept of parallel universes, but it was a thought-provoking read. (I’ll have to include Girls on Fire in next month’s round-up, since I’m still only halfway through).

On the graphic novel front, I only read 3 and they were from the same series: Harrow County.  I had read volume 1 last spring and only now discovered that a.) there were 4 volumes out already and b.) my library consortium had them all!  These are kind of horror, but also strangely wholesome?  The main character Emmy is a witch, but she wants to use her powers to help people.  She also has a familiar in the shape of a boy’s skin that speaks to her, and an evil twin, and there are lots of “haints” around who are more than ready to do evil stuff.  (See what I mean about wholesome/horror?)

Two more books in the Throne of Glass series read this month: The Assassin’s Blade, a prequel which contains 5 novellas, and Heir of Fire, book 3.  It seems like each book in this series gets longer and longer… and Heir of Fire in particular felt long, more like a setup for a grand finale.  However, it’s still really good!  Only 2 books left to go…

Finally, I got around to reading Caraval, which I received via Owl Crate.  I was pretty psyched about this month’s theme, which was circus.  I was half-expecting to receive the book Freeks, which would have better fit the theme, but Caraval had its own charm.  It’s a fun read if you don’t take it too seriously.  It’s also a beautiful book, and receiving it through the mail with lots of luxurious little goodies fit the theme of the book.  I can’t wait for next month’s box!

I may decide to include a Wattpad reading round-up at some point in the future – but probably not next month, since I’ll be busy participating in Camp Nanowrimo and hopefully cranking out the third and final Wolf Point prequel!

What have you read this month that you enjoyed?

when bookworms get earworms

The first book that ever really got a song stuck in my head was If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth.  The title is taken from a Wings song, “Band on the Run.”  If you didn’t know, reading the book would tell you that Wings was a project of Paul McCartney’s after The Beatles, and the main character Lewis is pretty much obsessed with them and with music in general, although his story is happening in the 70s and so he can’t just download them.  Anyway, everytime I looked at this book’s cover, the song started playing in my head…

It seemed to be a bit of a trend that year, as I came across I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson.  Never actually read the book, because every time I saw this book in the library it was full on David Cassidy and the Partridge Family and I just couldn’t do it.

So, of course, I’ll include the song below so you can have it stuck in your head, too.

After that point, I had songs on the brain every time I saw a book title.  That’s the only way I can explain why every time I saw the cover for Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi, I got Metallica’s “Through the Never” stuck in my head.

Twisting

turning

through the

Ever Night!

Thankfully, I stopped getting songs stuck in my head so regularly.  But recently it’s come back.  I blame the advanced reader copy I received of Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta.  Of course.  Taylor Swift.  You KNOW that’s going to get stuck in your head.  ‘Cuz baby now we’ve got bad blood…

And then, while I was reading Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, I couldn’t stop hearing Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.”

And then another Taylor Swift song swooped in while I was reading After the Woods by Kim Savage.  Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet? In the clear yet? Good.

It comes to a point where I’m relieved to finish one of these books, just so I can get the damned song out of my head.

What books have given you an earworm?

 

 

i’ve hit the Big Time.

That’s right, folks.  I’m Big Enough (or little enough?) to get plagiarized.

madman-cover-2-copy
Poor, plagiarized Madman…

Someone, and I won’t name names at this moment (because I have already lodged a copyright infringement complaint with Amazon and I’m hoping this plagiarized book will be taken down soon), has taken the entire text of The Madman and thrown it up on Amazon with a new title and cover.  Selling it for exactly the same amount as I am.

Several questions arise.

First, why choose a book five deep into a series?  Or, if you consider the Wolf Point prequels as a separate series, it’s still the second book.  Like, did they even read the work they were plagiarizing?  They haven’t plagiarized any other books in the series, and didn’t bother to even change the characters’ names.  The Madman doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  There are references to the characters in almost every other book in the series.  Never mind that the first chapter is an alternate-viewpoint retelling of the last chapter of The Beast.

Second, did they really expect to make money off of this?  The book is actually free on Smashwords, and by extension sites like Barnes & Noble, and I’ve had 60 downloads in the 3 weeks it’s been available.  Zero actual sales over at Amazon.  I’m honestly not understanding what the thought process is here.  Maybe try ripping off a bestseller?  But yeah, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the plagiarized book was published on the day The Madman was made available on Smashwords (a day later than it was available on Amazon).

I’m confident that I will be able to prove my case should it come to that.  I’m just more annoyed that it even happened.  Apparently, according to this article, Amazon doesn’t have screening software that is anywhere close to other self-publishing distributors like Smashwords or Scribd. And this article talks about how profitable it is for people to plagiarize works on Kindle.  Even if Amazon eventually takes them down, the “authors” can make thousands of dollars before that, and the original author won’t see any of that money unless they pursue a lawsuit.  The examples here aren’t even as blatant as the plagiarism of my book (and the author did the same word-for-word plagiarism of almost all the other novels listed on her Amazon author page).  The article indicates that because Amazon takes 30% of the profit from Kindle book sales, they get more profit from leaving up these plagiarized works (this other article says the same thing).

This whole thing seems ludicrous to me.  I want to laugh at the title and new cover – literally, there’s a werewolf standing atop a bloody stagecoach (which never happens in the book).  The author has about six books, all from different genres.  But the more I looked into it, the more this plagiarism thing is a huge scam that is actually paying off for people.  It’s bad enough that someone would take a self-published work, which isn’t making any money to begin with.  But a lot of plagiarists seem to take from fanfiction and other freely posted writing (for example, from Litrotica), and these works aren’t as safe in their copyrights as even a self-published book would be.

All I want is for people to read what I’m writing – which is why most of my ebooks are freely available and I run a lot of promos.  I’d rather have people reading my work than making a profit.  I have work posted on fanfiction.net, Archive of Our Own, figment.com, and Wattpad.  All of which could be plagiarized at any time.  Like it isn’t hard to enough to be a writer.

P.S. I first heard about the plagiarism last night, and filed a complaint almost immediately.  As I was writing this post I went to check and thankfully, the book has been removed!  I hope the other books under this author’s name (Elsa N. Neuman) are also removed.  In case anyone has found their own work plagiarized, Amazon has a form for that.  You just need the ASIN for the offending work.  I also included the ASIN for my own work.

P.P.S. And 45 minutes after posting this, all of Elsa N. Neuman’s works have been removed from Amazon.  Victory!

 

what is it about slow covers of happy songs in horror movie trailers?

It’s a trend that has been going on for years.  A slowed-down version of a song played during a horror movie trailer.  The slowness of the normally happy tune throws you off, and suddenly the song’s lyrics sound creepy.  Recently, I saw a trailer for A Cure for Wellness (2017):

Took me a minute, but I finally recognized the song as “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones.  The song is covered by Benjamin Wallfisch and features Mirel Wagner on vocals.  A song that is normally frenetic, about simultaneously hurrying around and being bored, now applies to patients undergoing some mysterious surgery and takes a dark new twist.

For some reason this led me on a hunt to find all those other horror movies featuring slow covers of songs.  I came up with:

Last House on the Left (2009) features a cover of the Guns ‘n’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’Mine” by Taken by Trees.  The trailer punctuates the rather upbeat cover version with dramatic drum stops, but keeps the upbeat feel of it as clips of the parents getting bloody revenge for their “sweet child” play.

Lorde’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” in the Dracula Untold (2014) trailer isn’t actually that much slower than the original, and the song is both lyrically fitting and super dramatic.

Victor Frankenstein (2015) uses an only slightly slower version of the Doors’ “Break on Through” by Josh Mobley.  Oddly enough, it isn’t the slowness but the guitar riff that really matches up with the feel of this movie.  It’s a bizarre version of the Frankenstein story that starts with Igor working in a circus.

The Nirvana classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” graces the trailer for The Gallows (2015).  The cover version, by Think Up Anger ft. Malia J. may have been chosen because it’s a teen slasher flick.  Or maybe because of that line, “Here we are now, entertainers,” because they’re all in drama club?

“Every breath you take… I’ll be watching you…” The extremely slowed down cover of the classic Police song in the Blair Witch (2016) trailer is covered by… Pia Ashley?  I think?  There’s no official recording.  But it’s certainly creepy enough – suddenly a love song has become one about stalking.  Or maybe that’s what it was about in the first place.

The Pride and Prejudice, and Zombies (2016) trailer features a cover of “Born to Be Wild” (by J2 ft. Blu Holliday) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, lyrics-wise.  Or tone-wise.  But since this film is a mash-up of classic literature and zombie gore, I suppose it works on that level.

2009 is really the earliest movie I could find that had a slow cover song in the trailer, but I have to give a shout out to a couple of cover songs in horror movies that weren’t in the trailers: Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World” from Donnie Darko (2001), and Richard Cheese’s cover of “Down with the Sickness” from the end credits of Dawn of the Dead (2004) – both for entirely different reasons.  The first is simply one of the most haunting songs I’ve ever heard.  The second perfectly captures the social commentary of spending the zombie apocalypse trapped in a mall.  Oh, and the cover of “Paint it Black” by Gob for in Stir of Echoes (1999).  And The Sunday’s version of “Wild Horses” in the movie Fear (1996).  And Mona’s cover of “Stand By Me” which was featured in the commercials for the Hannibal TV series.  And if I’m going to start throwing out TV series, I might as well add Placebo’s cover of “Running Up That Hill” from Vampire Diaries.

I honestly love this trend.  There are a few songs I’d love to see slow covers of in a trailer:

  • Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
  • Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel (Fever Ray does a great creepy cover of this)
  • Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics – Marilyn Manson has already done a creepy cover, but it could be EVEN CREEPIER
  • Hello by Lionel Ritchie
  • I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen – there’s a cover by Bat for Lashes that I love
  • The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen – it was used in Donnie Darko, and there’s a quirky cover by Nouvelle Vague, but just the title of the song would be PERFECT for a slow cover and a horror movie trailer, perhaps one about werewolves?
  • Maneater by Hall & Oates – the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” used a cool cover of this by Grace Mitchell, but same reasons as above: title is perfect
  • Toxic by Britney Spears – ditto, again

 

For more non-horror trailers featuring slow cover songs, check out http://screencrush.com/movie-trailers-sad-covers/ and http://screencrush.com/movie-trailers-sad-covers-2/.  Clearly the slow cover song thing isn’t just for horror movies!

 

 

Read a ebook week: March 5-11

In honor of “Read an eBook Week,” Smashwords is having a huge site-wide sale, which means all the Wolf Point series books will be free!

So, you can get Wolf Point books 1-3:

Hitchhikers ebook cover 4

dreamwalkers ebook cover

scavengers ebook cover 6 copy

 

 

 

 

 

And you can also get both of the prequel novellas (that’s right, The Madman is now available!):

beast cover 2

madman-cover-2-copy

 

 

 

 

 

Smashwords is great because you can download any format you need.  There’s ePub (for most ereaders), .mobi (for Kindle – use the Send to Kindle app to get on your device), and PDF (if you prefer that for ereader or to read on your computer).  You can also read online at the site.  And getting an account on Smashwords is free!

horror movies “based on a true story”: House of the Devil

mv5bmtaxmdaxodg5odreqtjeqwpwz15bbwu3mdi5odyxodi-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…”

This is the text which opens the 2009 film, The House of the Devil.

What is true:

  • The statistics – which don’t actually say that any Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) occurred.  The stats are about beliefs.  I don’t know which survey was used to cull these particular statistics, but I found this article which mentions a 1990 study that reported “that 90 percent of Utah citizens believed that ritualistic sex abuse was occurring.”  So the belief was certainly there.

What is not true:

  • Any of the actual events depicted in the film.

The verdict: This film is more an homage to films made in the 1980s.  It was recorded on 16mm film to give it an authentic early 80s look, and uses familiar tropes, like the baby-sitter under attack.  The use of a “based on a true story” tagline is likely an homage as well, since many films of that era used it.  “True unexplained events” could mean anything, really.  There were thousands of cases of SRA reported in the 1980s, most of them after a few high-profile cases such as the one described in the book Michelle Remembers, and the McMartin preschool trial.  In the end, however, the preschool trial led to charges dropped and dismissed, with no evidence of any actual Satanic abuse, and Michelle Remembers was largely discredited.  In many cases of alleged SRA, recovered memories (which are highly questionable and often false memories) played a large role.

3 on a theme: books within books

I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

Well, I started this blog post with three recent titles, then I kept finding more.  I’ll try to keep it to these three, because their inclusion in the novels felt more important to the plot than some of the other fictional titles.

collage

All read in December 2016-January 2017

The premise of Melanie Raabe’s The Trap includes a mention of the fictional book right on the cover blurb: “I know who killed my sister.  I wrote this book for him.”  The narrator, an author, writes a book called Blood Sisters about her sister’s murder in an effort to lure the murderer, a journalist, to her secluded house, where she plans to get him to confess.  There are chapters from the fictional book, which later one wonders how closely these chapters actually follow the truth.

A fictional book called The Bubblegum Reaper brings together two teens in Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing.  The fictional novel involves a teenage boy who falls in love with a twin who talks to turtles, only he isn’t sure which of the identical twins he’s in love with.  The characters, in their obsession with this book, discover that the author lives nearby and after striking up a friendship with him, also discover that The Bubblegum Reaper seems to be a thinly veiled story of his own life.  Every Exquisite Thing reminded me a LOT of The Fault in Our Stars, which has its own fictional novel, An Imperial Affliction.  Still no idea why the book is called The Bubblegum Reaper.

Finally, and you knew I’d be back to talk about this one, A List of Cages features an entire SERIES of fictional novels: the Elian Mariner books, which sound suspiciously like The Little Prince to me (and I just finished reading Everything, Everything, in which the main character reads and re-reads The Little Prince).  I haven’t actually read that book, so I could be way off, but basically Julian uses these books both to remind him of Adam, and to escape into the stars much like Elian Mariner does.

I often find that characters in books read other books, and most of the time they are real books that exist.  Obviously, authors are readers and they want to pay homage to the books that inspire them.  The use of a fictional book gives the characters the ability to interact with the authors’ lives – obviously, The Trap wouldn’t have worked with a real novel, because it’s all about the author, and the same for Every Exquisite Thing (and The Fault in Our Stars).  For A List of Cages, I think the reason for using a fictional series is largely for one scene, in which one of Julian’s classmates asks what he’s reading, and he gets excited to talk about his favorite books, and we as the reader don’t know what level these books are until the classmate makes a terrible comment, and suddenly we realize that high school freshman Julian is reading books meant for elementary school children.  In that way, The Little Prince wouldn’t have worked, because many adults read it.

Lots and lots of other books include fictional works.  Probably the coolest example of this is Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, in which the main character writes fanfiction for the Simon Snow series (it bears close resemblance to Harry Potter).  So many people were writing fanfiction for this fictional series that Rainbow Rowell actually wrote the fic Cath was working on, and it was published as Carry On Simon.  Doesn’t always happen, but I sure would like to read The Bubblegum Reaper!

Addition, 3/10/17: Found another one!  Currently reading The Man in the High Castle, wherein there is a book titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.  I keep getting the feeling that there is a parallel universe where people read the book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which refers to a fictional book called The Man in the High Castle.