Book Review: The Door Keeper by Steen Jones

Book Review: The Door Keeper by Steen Jones
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This image was taken from Goodreads.com for review purposes under fair use doctrine. The banner and author’s image were taken from her blog for the same purposes.

Character:  Eden has some sympathy to her, and she’s proactive. Honestly, my knock on her is she’s a bit too proactive. I found myself wishing she’d thought of a few things more carefully before she found herself in danger. This seemed like an intentional character flaw to me as she habitually acts first and then considers those consequences later. Some of those impulsive decisions didn’t necessarily sit well with me, but her actions lead to more interesting conflicts which have higher stakes. Some of these characters were interesting, but unexplored. Marek, is a character I would’ve liked to have seen explored more. His arc was probably the most interesting, but it wasn’t honestly pursued.

Exposition: If I’m being honest, it’s been too long for me to remember much about the exposition. It was first person narrative, but I don’t honestly recall too much exposition. It could be the amount of time it’s been, but I don’t think so. I’d remember being slowed down by a ton of exposition, and this book didn’t slow me down that much. I have to be honest about the time though. I’d say it was done only when necessary if I was forced to comment on it.

Description:  If the worldbuilding is the best aspect of the book, this is the next closest. Jones makes each setting and location feel visceral. I honestly think her magical realms feel more real sometimes than her Earth realm settings. I think her worldbuilding and description work together brilliantly. This means if wondrous landscapes and brilliant details are priorities for you, this book is probably right up your alley.

Overall: This was an ambitiously optimistic novel with a fascinating world to explore. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for stories jam-packed with conflict. The problems and challenges are quickly overcome without a lot of effort or sacrifice. (Some may argue the sacrifice part, but I’m willing to have it with whoever wants.) That said, some readers appreciate a story that’s happy and hopeful throughout. The entertainment of the story is in the experience of the worlds, not the evolution of it’s characters. Fans of wondrous landscapes and interesting settings will love it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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Announcing the October Book Cover of the Month!

Hello everyone,

The October Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. I’m happy to report we’re off the snide we were on.  This month had a solid amount of support, and I’m so grateful to everyone for helping make that happen. These brackets are special to me, and they grow more legitimate and meaningful each time we keep heading forward.

We had 4,007 votes this month.

We had another one of those months where someone leaps out and charges ahead of the crowd. Let’s here it!

The October Book Cover of the Month is…

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This image was taken from Amazon.com to critique and advertise the author and artist.

 

 

 

 

Demonhome by Michael G. Manning! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Manning received 297 total votes. He jumped out in front around Day 2, and never looked back.

OCT_Cover_CollageChosen by R.S. Broadhead finished second, which means that’ll have another chance to be the Book Cover of the Month for November.  Since November only has 30 days, The Fallen Queen by Janie Marie, who fell to third, also get’s a shot at another bracket. This is actually critical (see below).

That said, Manning is the winner this month, so let’s look at his book.

 

 

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

Matthew is the first human wizard to possess the true heritage of the Illeniels, a secret gift no one fully understands. Alone, he travels to another world, seeking the source of their mysterious enemies. There he will discover the origin of their ancient foe, the mysteries of the past, and possibly the future of humankind.

If he can survive long enough.

In a land beyond death and suffering, he finds the true source of evil, within the heart of humanity, and their newest creation. In the search for knowledge, some doors, once opened, can never be closed.

(END BLURB)

Confession one, this wasn’t the cover I personally voted all he way through. It’s beautiful, it just wasn’t my favorite. (For the record, no book I voted number one never actually won.) Confession two, I’m still glad this book won because I had already intended to read it, so while my TBR pile still goes up by one, it doesn’t double the way it normally does around this time. I’ll buy the audio edition of this book (my preferred medium with this saga).

5215279Manning is the first author to have two winning book covers, which is also cool. I’ve added Demonhome to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I bought Manning’s first cover, Howard’s cover, Deyo’s coverJones’s CoverHubert’s Cover,  MacNiven’s cover,  Jon del Arroz’sRob J. Hayes’sChris Philbrook’s, and R.L. Week’sThey are also on my TBR. Manning’s review is here.  Howard’s review is here. Deyo’s review is here. I’ve read Jones’s book, and I’ll post a review for it next week.


Here’s
 Manning’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.

I wonder if Amalia Chitulescu (who did Manning’s other BCOTM winning cover) was the artist for this one. I’m not sure.  I’ll try to find out. If so, she’d be only the second artist to win BCOTM. Shawn King has credit (or partial credit) for two covers as well.

The November bracket is still under development, but it looks good so far. It’ll kick of Dec. 1.

Now, that brings up some additional news. My first ever BOOK COVER OF THE YEAR tournament is coming. This will feature all 12 BCTOM winners and four “Wild Card” covers.

The Wild Card Round: This will be a one-week bracket featuring covers that performed well, but just didn’t ever win. It will have eight covers, and the top four will earn places in the BCOTM bracket.

The Book Cover of the Year Bracket (for which I’m purchasing an actual trophy to send to the artist) will launch Jan. 1. It will be a two-week tournament. Then, I’ll laugh the December Book Cover of the Month, which will start off a new year. Honestly, I haven’t decided weather or not I will do another year. At this moment, as I type this, I’m leaning toward doing it, but it takes a ton of energy to do this. (For the record, a lot of participation in the brackets motivates me). I promise I’ll close out the year because that had always been my plan. I’ll make a decision on next year at the end of the November bracket.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

The October Book Cover of the Month Begins

The October Book Cover of the Month Begins

November’s bracket has 31 new books. Last month’s runner up, The Festival of Trial and Ember, by Logan Miehl,  also has another chance to win the month.

You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

Also, this will be the next to last month of the year. After November’s tournament, I’ll have been doing this for a year. (WOW!) That means the Book Cover of the Year tournament is coming. I’ll start out by having a Wild Card bracket, featuring eight covers that came close, but didn’t quite make it. Those covers will be runners up or high-vote earners. The top four from THAT bracket will be placed in the Book Cover of the Year bracket. The Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Bracket will kick off just as soon as the November Book Cover of the Month tournament ends. If you want to leave a comment for a cover you liked that didn’t get in, feel free. I’ll consider the options, though I think the ones I’m looking at now all have a justifiable right to be consider wild card entrants.

That’s still a month away. For now, please have fun with October’s bracket.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Announcing the September Book Cover of the Month

Announcing the September Book Cover of the Month

Hello everyone,

The September Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. Regrettably, it is officially the record holder for the least voted on month in the bracket’s history. These things happen sometime. I’ll work harder to spread word, but I still want to thank everyone who did get involved. These brackets are special to me, and they grow more legitimate and meaningful each time we keep heading forward.

We had 2,092 votes this month. Here’s hoping this month holds the record for a long time.

We’ll keep moving on, but today is all about celebrating this month’s winner.

The September Book Cover of the Month is…

 

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Night Stalker by R.L. Weeks! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Weeks received 162 total votes. This was honestly a close fight in terms of votes, but Weeks took the lead with about four days to go and didn’t let go.

SEPT_Cover_Collage_175The Festival of Trial and Ember Forest finished second, which means that’ll have another chance to be the Book Cover of the Month for October.

That said, Weeks is the winner this month, so let’s look at her book.

 

 

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

Casey and George are traveling around Japan’s notorious suicide forest when they see something move in the tree line and Casey can’t shake the feeling that someone has been following them.

Later that night, Casey wakes up to find a woman in their room. After breaking free of the woman’s entrancement, Casey wakes George, who convinces her it was just a dream.
George has been acting off since their visit to Japan. Now they’re home, the worst happens and George is killed in a freak accident.

It’s one year later and she’s about to leave her small hometown, Pleasant Springs – in hopes that her nightmares would end. Since his death, her dreams have been haunted by a mystery guy who is hellbent on causing her pain, but, before she makes it to the airport, Casey is kidnapped and taken to the hotel from her nightmares.

She is plunged into a creepy world filled with the supernatural, underground cities, and sick games.

Her mystery guy tells her he is trying to save her from the others. However, her ex – George could be behind her kidnapping in the most sinister way.
Nothing is as it seems in the dark world of the Stalkers.

(END BLURB)

As always, I’ve purchased the book and added it to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I bought Manning’s cover, Howard’s cover, Deyo’s coverJones’s CoverHubert’s Cover,  MacNiven’s cover,  Jon del Arroz’sRob J. Hayes’s, and Chris Philbrook’s They are also on my TBR. Manning’s review is here.  Howard’s review is here. Deyo’s review is here. I’ve read Jones’s book, and I’ll post a review for it in a few weeks.


Here’s
 Weeks’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about her and her work.

I don’t know who the artist is yet, but I’ll see if Weeks will help with that.

The October bracket is still under development, but it looks good so far. It’ll kick of Nov. 1.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

September Book Cover of the Month Midway Update

September Book Cover of the Month Midway Update

With just about seven days left in this month’s bracket, I thought this would be a good chance to update you all on how things have been progressing. Unfortunately, this is a very slow month. How slow? It’s in the running for the least-voted (full month) competition. (December didn’t have a full 32 entries.)

933 votes so far. Now, as few votes as we’ve had, I will say it’s a very close fight.

510QAdWwRNLFor a Few Credits More, edited by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey, has had the lead for a few days now.

Most Voted on so far: Scars of the Sand by Frank Dorrian has the most total votes so far with 74.

Least Voted for: Seeds of Blood by C. Chancy. This cover only has a total of seven votes. I think it’s deserving of more than that even if the voters feel it’s not deserving of the championship.

The other good news is that the championships are the closest round. There are essentially three books right in the hunt for the championship. Credits, Sand, and The Festival of Tiral and Ember by Logan Miehl are all within three “finals” votes of each other. This means if either book gets three people to vote them all the way through, they’re right back in the winners’ circle.

51VsRDdVG+LA quick reminder of how the tournament works. The easiest way to win is to have the most people vote for you in every round. The trick is you have to have the most people vote you through in each round, all the way to the final.  As an example, 100 people could vote someone through to the finals, but that doesn’t do a cover any good if he doesn’t win the first round. It’s not total votes. It’s not simple championship votes. The winning cover has to have the most votes in each round of the competition.
Since this is such a slow month, ANYONE can win if they can get nine people to vote them all the way through to the championships.

 

This will be the only update for this type of bracket. It’s been an amazing tournament to watch thus far, and I hope readers continue to support their authors by voting, liking, and sharing the bracket with as many people as possible.  You can vote at this address!

I’ll announce the winner is just seven days!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The September Book Cover of the Month

The September Book Cover of the Month

September’s bracket has 30 new books. Last month’s second and third place, Black Ruins Forest by Karen DuBose and Lucky or Not, Here I come, by Gerry Orz, have a second chance to win the monthly title.

You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Interview with June Book Cover of the Month Winner, Shawn King.

Interview with June Book Cover of the Month Winner, Shawn King.

June_Cover_CollageLRHello everyone! As most of you know, I’ve been interview most Book Cover of the Month winners.  Click on each month to see those interviews. December. January. February.  April. I wasn’t able to reach the artist for March, but here’s the announcement for it. I never could find anyone to talk to for May, but here’s the announcement for that. Here we are with June’s winner though, the man who designed For Steam and Country!

Without further delay, let’s get right to it!

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All images used with Mr. King’s permission.

First off congratulations on your cover winning my blog’s Book Cover of the Month of June.  

Thanks, Matt! So, uh, I never received my winnings…I was told there’d be money involved. I’ve got bills, man, and a cat to feed. Just kidding, just kidding.
It was quite the surprise to see it was in the running and the support it received. Made me a very happy artist/designer.  And happy to see someone who so thoroughly enjoys cover art/design — that, obviously, means a lot to me.
When did you get in to art? 

Oh you know, the usual story of being snatched by the creatures under my bed as a child and thrown into a tiny, dank cell and forced to draw every day… Huh? Only me?
Honestly though, like most children, I was always drawing growing up…but when other kids moved onto other interests I continued on drawing. I can remember making up my own Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles characters (my mom actually painted the Turtles on my bedroom walls — she’s the one I have to thank for passing down the art gene), and then I discovered Spawn later on and began copying the art from those comics and others I’d sneak out of my brother’s room — he’d eventually give me his whole box so I’d leave him alone.
So yeah, basically I’ve always been into art.
51rSoV0BOGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_How long have you been creating covers?
I’ve actually only been creating covers since maybe the end of 2014. I worked on my first cover in 2013, but it wouldn’t be until the later part of 2014 that I secured a position with a publishing company (Ragnarok Publications) and began doing the design/typography for their covers…and the rest, as they say, is history.
So I’ve really got a special place in my heart for Ragnarok — without Joe Martin and Tim Marquitz (great author by the way, if anyone reading this hasn’t checked out his work, do that now) taking a chance on me I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t know all of the kickass authors and industry professionals I do now, and who knows where my career would be…
What got you started in creating covers?
Since becoming a bibliophile around the age of 15 I’ve wanted to work in the book industry. I used to say I didn’t care if I were the mail-boy, as long as I got to work for a publisher. There’s no graphic design jobs around here so I kept reaching out to publishers and finally one brought me in, Ragnarok Publications. I gained a lot of experience with them, and they eventually introduced me into experimenting with photo-based art, which I’m really enjoying at the moment.
Do you prefer one medium over another?
As far as physical art I’m mainly a graphite and pen type.
As far as covers go as a medium I do enjoy the character-focused pieces (urban fantasy mostly), but I’m real partial to fully designed covers as there’s just something intriguing about them, an extra sense of wonder at where this idea came from, what was the designer thinking, what are they trying to convey to potential readers, and sometimes the “Whoa, how’d they do that.”
Do you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, who? Why?
I can’t really say that I do. I gather inspiration from all over and try not to focus on any one thing too much. I will say, though, that I really like the design work on oldschool fantasy covers — even the over-the-top ones manage to hit the right fantastical mood and leave me wondering how I could work some of its elements into my own designs.
What makes you choose to work with an author or not? 
Well, I’ve had a couple horrendous clients in the past, so I know a couple signs to watch out for. One thing I’ve noticed though is everyone I’ve work with in the book industry have been fairly easy to get along with, and they’re usually very appreciative and supportive.
516b4sBesELWhat do you look for in a great client? 
I’m looking for a sugar-client (kinda like a sugar daddy, or sugar momma, but not gender-specific) who can sweep me up in their arms and deliver me from the dreadful day-job…huh…oh, sorry, wrong type of client.
For art/design clients, most times I don’t really know until I’ve gotten a little ways in, but if they’re appreciative and respect my work and opinions then I’ll do whatever I can to help them. And once I get one of those clients I try my best to keep them! heh
What are some of your pet peeves about clients?
Haha, hmm let’s see if I can think of some without pissing anyone off…
I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it when someone tells me how easy a task will be…like they think I can just make a couple clicks and *poof*.
And, should go without saying, but any type of unwarranted hostility is a surefire way to end our working relationship. I put up with that for years from one client, and I’ll never do it again.

Other than that, since entering the book world, I’ve been lucky to have very good and respectable clients. Authors can be crazy…ehh, let’s face it, they ARE crazy, but I’ve had the best time working with them.
What would an author need to do to work with you? Do you have a link to your standard rates, or do you negotiate fees by author?
Easiest way is to just inquire via my website, stkkreations.com. I don’t have rates posted anywhere as it could cause some issues if they change and I forget to update them wherever they’re posted, and depending on the style of cover it can also alter the rate, but I’m always willing to discuss that and I’m fairly easy to talk to…I think…
51ex3PMhSnLHow did you come to be chosen to create the cover of For Steam and Country?
I believe Jon heard (or saw) of me through some mutual author friends and contacted me inquiring of my interest in his new fantasy steampunk novel. I love the ideas and imagery of the genre so I was immediately interested.
Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?
I wanted to be sure I expressed the genre clearly but without overdoing it, and that I could create this character without it looking recycled (whether that be just your generic steampunk character, or overuse of stock — that last part should really be paid attention to as there’s a lot of covers out there that use straight stock photos so the end result is a slew of books with basically the same character on their covers…yikes).
How was Jon to work with?
He was a total jerk and constantly talked about my momma. Nah, seriously he was quite easy to work with. He didn’t have any excessive changes and he listened to my reasoning behind certain things I did with an appreciative and understanding ear.
What inspired the idea for this cover?
The general idea was Jon’s. He wanted to show the protagonist, a young female who knows nothing of adventure and the bravery it requires, but will quickly find out.
He gave me a few necessities, like the cape, sword, ship, obviously it has to look like a steampunk character, and other than that pretty much let me run free.
Can you walk me through the whole process of that cover? From commissioning to final product? How did you feel about it once it was finished?
Let’s see, the commissioning part is kinda boring: Jon approached me, rates were discussed and agreed upon, and that’s about it…pretty standard I guess.
Once all the financial business was taken care of, Jon gave me a description of what he was looking for, and I started gathering resources and pinning down some rough ideas of what I wanted to do. From there there’s a lot of extracting elements from other elements or backgrounds and piecing them all together into something new that you won’t have to worry about finding on anyone else’s cover.
In the end, I’d say I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I had a lot of anguishing fun making it and I think it was pretty well received.
Is it your favorite cover? If so, why?
It’s definitely one of my favorites. It’s one of the ones where I started getting comfortable with my style of character-driven covers, and the most complex one (roughly twenty photo resources were used on this one) I’ve done so far.
61S5hacOB3L._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_What can we expect to see from you next?
I actually just finished another cover for Jon, for his novella Gravity of the Game that will release in October.
I’m currently working on cover art for the sequel to Kirk Dougal’s Reset (very fun series for those who haven’t read it — detective story within a video game story). Those are a fun silhouette style.
I’m also working on design work (typography mostly) for a few different authors.
I’ve got a few projects I’m working on for Vault Books (a specialty press, look ’em up if you haven’t) for authors Dan Wells, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Larry Correia.
Basically, I’m all over the place haha.
Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read this little interview, I hope it wasn’t too boring and maybe even inspired a few of you to explore your creative side — the world can never have enough art.
Once more Shawn, I just want to thank you for spending time to do this interview. Your cover was great. I look forward to seeing more from you.
Thanks so much, Matt! This was an excruciatingly painf…I mean, uh, very enjoyable interview! One of these days I’ll get better at talking about myself haha.
(END INTERVIEW
And there you have it folks. Shawn was fun to talk to. And he’s the only designer so far with two covers in the Book Cover of the Year Bracket (He was involved in the design of The Heresy Within).  We’re so close to that bracket. I’m really getting excited about it. Until then…
Thanks for reading,
Matt