Friday, October 2, 2009

Infiltrating the ICon

Posted by Simcha 7:19 AM, under | 5 comments

The ICon is Israel's big science fiction and fantasy festival, which takes place each year in early October. In past years the ICon has hosted some pretty big names, including Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman and Guy Gavriel Kay. This year someone name Bill Willingham will be the Guest of Honor. I've never heard of him. I think he draws comics.

In order to learn more about the inner workings of the Israeli SFF community I've decided to infiltrate the ICon as a "volunteer" which will put me in a position to meet some of the active member of the SFF community who I will discreetly observe. Hopefully this should help me determine what I need to do to get these people to buy books from me. It should be a great learning experience.

I have attended one meeting so far during which I understood nothing of what was said (my Hebrew just wasn't up to task) so I actually have no idea what I am volunteering for. But I'm sure I'll figure it out as I go along. I'm hoping I get to wear a cool headset, or maybe I'll even get a walkie-talkie (even cooler then a headset).

I've never actually been to a SFF festival, even when I lived in America, so I'm really eager to see what they are like. Though I'm sure this one will be a lot more modest in scale then the ones in the US. I expect a lot of craziness and people making fools of themselves in strange costumes. Should be fun.

This coming Sunday is the first day of the ICon, which runs thru Thursday, though the film festival part ends Saturday night.

I'll try to take some pictures of the ICon to post here so that those of you not attending can see what you are missing out one. I'll also be selling books on Tuesday and Wednesday so if you do come, make sure to stop by (and maybe buy a book or two....) .

Tonight also begins one of my favorite holidays, Succot, which runs until Thursday.

The husband and kids are all busy decorating our awesome succah. I'll try to post a picture of the completed results.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog Interview: Bitten by Books

Posted by Simcha 4:04 PM, under | 23 comments

If you are a fan of Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy then Bitten by Books is the blog for you. The provocatively sexy banner will be sure to draw you in while the large variety of book reviews, interviews and contests will have you coming back again and again.

Rachel Smith, the founder of Bitten by Books, has taken some time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us about herself and her blog.

Hi Rachel. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us.

Can you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I have been an avid reader since the early 1970’s, and after my family, I'd have to say reading is my next big love. I mostly read paranormal fiction, although I also enjoy non-fiction, chic lit and books on esoteric subjects. In addition to running the Bitten by Books website, I create custom perfume blends for Fragrant Soul and blog about my favorite products at I have also worked as a spiritual counselor and teacher for many years.

Please tell me about your blog and what it is that makes it unique?

The focus of the Bitten by Books website is to provide book reviews for all types of paranormal fiction, urban fantasy and horror. Our reviewers share an avid love of all things paranormal, especially books! There's also the occasional fantasy or science fiction review, as sometimes authors overlap genres, or the genres incorporate one another. We take pride in offering our readers honest book reviews, author interviews, interesting guest blog spots and fun contests. I think the one thing that really makes the site unique is our large selection of author based events . Sure, the book reviews are great, but there is nothing quite like getting to "meet" an author and learning about the things that make their minds tick and drives them to create the literary selections we all love.

When and why did you start this blog?

I started Bitten by Books back in the spring of 2008, primarily so I could review books of my choice, in my own time frame. Of course, I am completely hooked on paranormal fiction, so that became the main focus of the site. I had no idea that the site would explode into the community it is today. There are lots of great review sites that focus on all kinds of genres, but there are not many that are specific to paranormal fiction and urban fantasy.

Is there a specific book that first got you interested in reading paranormal fiction?

There are several, but some of the very first were Kim Harrison's Hallows series and Keri Arthur's Riley Jensen series. I was very sick at the end of 2006, and basically couldn't leave my bed for almost a month. My husband, bless his heart, brought home the first two books in Keri Arthur's series and I was hooked. I can honestly say without remorse that he is the creator of the book-reading monster that I have become! My wishlist on still has over 450 titles that I want to read!

From your blog, I can see that you have a very wide and diverse group of reviewers. How do you find the reviewers for your site?

We have people inquire all the time to be reviewers, and we have a standard procedure. Recently we put out a call to our readers for a limited amount of spots that have opened up. The response was overwhelming, and we are adding 12 new reviewers to our team this week! Our reviewers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, which really makes our site stand out because you won't see the same cookie-cutter reviews over and over. With over 50 reviewers, there's just about any style of review you can imagine. You can read more about our review team at

From where do you get the books that you review?

The books come from publishers and authors. We do sometimes read and review our personal books, but that is much less common these days. At any given time we have over 1000 (yep that's right) reviews in process to be published on the site. We sometimes have a longer turn around time for reviews, but we feel that the end result is a better quality and well thought out review.

Have you ever had an author get upset with you for a negative review? If so, how did you deal with it?

This situation is bound to happen on any review site, and has only happened a few times with us. We have very clear Terms of Review that the authors agree to prior to us even accepting their work for review. That really helps keep things on an even keel. If an author is upset with a review, I simply remind them that we are each entitled to our own opinions and perceptions of body of work, and that there is no guarantee that every person who picks it up is going to like it. We don't remove reviews because an author doesn't agree with the reviewer, nor do we suppress freedom of speech. We do however make a concerted effort to provide constructive feedback and not bash an author to bits. We recognize that writing is an art form, and that much time and effort goes into creating a story. In the end, we feel that the readers of the site respect us more for being honest than for sugar-coating and potentially risking them spending money on something they may not like.

That being said, I have seen comments from readers on not-so-positive reviews that stated they would give the author the benefit of the doubt and try the book for themselves. This clearly shows that people are going to make up their minds to read what they want and are able to do so with or without our help. I don't necessarily believe one or two negative reviews to be the death knell of a novel. I have picked up hundreds of books that had bad reviews, only to find I really liked the books. In my opinion, review sites are really meant to be more of a tool to measure the merit of a book, versus a "you must or must not read this novel" kind of scenario.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not reading?

When I'm not reading or reviewing books, or generally hanging out online, I enjoy spending time with my husband, playing with my gaggle of doxons, and listening to music. I'm a Pacific Northwest native living in Kentucky, so I also spend a good amount of time pining for drive through coffee and Greek food!

If you could go out for coffee with any book character, who would you choose and why?

This week, I would say the vampire Merit from Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series. Merit and I have the same kind of snarky sense of humor, and I relate to her on many levels. I think we would have a good time, deliver some well deserved verbal smackdown, and paint the town red. (no pun intended)

Thank you so much for inviting me to your site and for your interest in!

And thank you Rachel for speaking with us. It was wonderful getting to know you and learning more about about your blog, Bitten by Books.

If you have any questions for Rachel, or would like to solicit her professional opinion on some good books to read, feel free to ask them here.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs: A book worth rereading

Posted by Simcha 3:35 PM, under | No comments

I rarely reread novels because I don’t find them to be as enjoyable the second time around, plus knowing how the book ends also ruins the suspense, which is most of the fun. But after finishing Patricia Brigg’s newest book, Hunting Ground, I wanted to spend more time with some of her wonderful book characters so I pulled Moon Called off of my shelf, despite my general misgivings about rereading books. But to my delight, I found this book to be just as enjoyable on a second reading, as on the first.

Mercedes Thompson, or Mercy, is a Volkswagen mechanic who is also a walker, meaning that she was born with the ability to shape shift into a coyote. Mercy’s neighbor is a domineering Alpha werewolf, one of her regular customers is a vampire and her old boss is a goblin. So when things start heating up in the supernatural world, it’s no surprise that Mercy gets caught in the middle.

One day, as Mercy is working in her garage, a haggard, hollow-eyed teenage boy, calling himself Mac, shows up looking for a job. Mercy’s high-tuned senses can tell that this boy is not human but a werewolf and a very recently turned werewolf as well. He also appears to be running from some sort of trouble, trouble that follows him to Mercy’s doorstep and forces her to turn to the Alpha for help. As Mercy discovers that Mac is running from a group that has been experimenting with drugs on newly turned, captive werewolves, she finds herself more deeply entrenched in this dangerous situation. And when the Alpha himself is attacked and his daughter kidnapped, Mercy is forced to take charge of the situation, particularly since she suspects there is a traitor in the pack.

In a market overflowing with books about vampires and werewolves, Patricia Briggs’ books really stand out. At this time I have read both the Mercy Thompson series and The Alpha and Omega books, all of which I have enjoyed enormously. The stories are well told and the characters are well developed and memorable. It is clear that plenty of research has gone into the books regarding the habits and behaviors of actual wolves, and Briggs’ convincingly used this information in creating her werewolves.

Mercy is a great protagonist, independent, loyal and tough; ready to come to defense of her friends despite the dangers involved. She is a likable and believable heroine whose adventures you will want to follow from book to book. The two main male protagonists, Samuel and Adam, vie for Mercy’s affection. Adam is the Alpha who took her under his protection (despite her protests) and Samuel was Mercy’s first love who she came close to marrying at the age of 16, and who now reappears in her life, many years later. While each of these strong male characters has a central part in the book, the romance is subtle and sweet; woven into parts of the story but not taking over the plot, as in many similar books. The story is exciting and well thought out. Even when I reread it and knew exactly what to expect I still really enjoyed it just because I like the characters so much and the story was still fun.

I highly recommend Moon Called to all fans of fantasy. Even if you feel like you have had your fill of vampire and werewolf literature, I strongly suggest that you give this book a try as it offers something different than many of the other books out there.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Drop by and Say Hi

Posted by Simcha 3:18 AM, under | 8 comments

Until I recently became a blogger, I never realized the importance of leaving a comment on the blogs I visited. Yes, I was a lurker. I would stop by to enjoy the interesting articles and book reviews but would rarely leave behind a sign of my visit. I just didn't realize how much bloggers appreciate those comments which are proof that someone is actually reading the articles that they so painstakingly wrote. Now that I myself am I blogger I have my own lurkers to contend with. I know they have been here because my traffic counter tells me so, but since many visitor leave no sign of their passing through (and my mother doesn't count) it often feels like the words I have written are going unread.

So dear visitor, next time you stop by, take a moment to say hi.

And since I'm always in search of a good book to read, why don't you tell me what you recommend? (It doesn't have to be scifi or fantasy, since I do enjoy many other genres as well)

I can't wait to hear from you!


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