Apr 30, 2011

Cryer's Cross- Book Review

Cryer's CrossCryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary From Goodreads:


The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on... until Kendall's boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it's crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear...and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating...and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico's mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.


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I read Cryer's Cross in about a day. It's not a very long book and it's quite suspenseful so it goes by quickly. I think I really enjoyed it. And that's strange to me, because books like this aren't usually my style. I don't normally go for haunted inanimate objects and the Children of the Corn feeling. It seems all so corny to me, and I'm not gonna lie. Parts of this book were corny. It went a little too far in places. That's why I gave it 4 stars and not 5. But regardless, I did enjoy it and it was a fun thriller/horror young-adult novel to read.


I had extremely low expectations for this novel since I had read part of book one of Wake, her dream series and I didn't care for the writing style in that one at all. It was way too choppy. I realize I write choppy as well, but that book just went way overboard to the point where it became a definite style, and it was extremely distracting. So I started out not liking her as an author. But I can gladly say that this book is different and not at all like her other books.


I think the thing I enjoyed most about Cryer's Cross were the characterizations. Even though the plot was way out in left field, the characters still felt very real. And in my opinion, this is what kept the story mired in reality. It's why it never went over into cheesy territory. It's slightly like a retro nineties thriller (R.L. Stine anyone), but with more depth. Kendall, the main character has OCD and I think the author did a great job of painting it in a positive light. OCD doesn't make you crazy. It just happens. People with OCD just have  another personality quirk about them. Mine happens to be anxiety. We've all got something, and I appreciate the author for writing the book in this way. Kendall was a great character. So was Jacian the boy toy of the book. He had depth as well. Because he is Mexican, and he just emmigrated to the United States recently, he has had to deal with racism and has had the finger pointed at him on several occasions for things he had no involvement in. Kendall hates him at first because  he is cocky and unfriendly, but that changes once his sister Marlena breaks her leg and kids start missing in town. Then the kids are required to move around town in a buddy system and Kendall and Jacian are assigned to be each others buddies. They start to get to know each other and develop crushes on each other. But Kendall doesn't want to be with Jacian yet because Nico, her boyfriend went missing, and he might still be out there somewhere. Right? Right.


Anyway, I really enjoyed the evolution of their friendship and I also absolutely adored Hector, Jacian's uncle..I think. Maybe grandpa, whatever. Sometimes I lose the little things. He was just a sweetheart and whenever he gave advice to Kendall and his children, it was respected. You can tell that he was really adored in the community of Cryer's Cross.


The setting of the book is a really small farming town in Montana with a tiny population. Everyone knew everybody's business. I didn't even think places like this existed anymore. It had a one room schoolhouse and all the kids of different grades got taught together. That's why the story to me seemed to be set in the past even though it wasn't. Very Little House on the Prairieish.


I kind of really enjoyed the climax of the novel. Even thought it happened quickly, it didn't feel rushed. And it didn't all wrap up happily either. Which I was glad for. Anyway, I definitely recommend Cryer's Cross. It was a fun thrilling read. And if you don't like it, it ends up being short and it's not too much of a time waster.




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Here's the link to purchase it on Amazon.com. Purchase Cryer's Cross

And here's the awesome book trailer for your viewing pleasure:


Apr 28, 2011

Haven by Kristi Cook

HavenHaven by Kristi Cook
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary From Goodreads:

One month into her junior year, sixteen-year-old Violet McKenna transfers to the Winterhaven School in New York’s Hudson Valley, inexplicably drawn to the boarding school with high hopes. Leaving Atlanta behind, she’s looking forward to a fresh start--a new school, and new classmates who will not know her deepest, darkest secret, the one she’s tried to hide all her life: strange, foreboding visions of the future.

But Winterhaven has secrets of its own, secrets that run far deeper than Violet’s. Everyone there--every student, every teacher--has psychic abilities, 'gifts and talents,' they like to call them. Once the initial shock of discovery wears off, Violet realizes that the school is a safe haven for people like her. Soon, Violet has a new circle of friends, a new life, and maybe even a boyfriend--Aidan Gray, perhaps the smartest, hottest guy at Winterhaven.

Only there’s more to Aidan than meets the eye--much, much more. And once she learns the horrible truth, there’s no turning back from her destiny. Their destiny. Together, Violet and Aidan must face a common enemy--if only they can do so without destroying each other first.

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This is going to be a speedy review. Not because I'm in a rush or anything because you all know I don't have a life outside of reading. It's because I really don't have all that much to say about Haven. Why? Because nothing stands out about this book. There was nothing that really blew me away. It was just decent. To me, everything from the characters, to the setting and plot, was just average. That's not to say I didn't like it. It just wasn't all that memorable. I enjoyed reading it, but I didn't rush through it. It was fairly easy to put down and I often did.

Violet was a likeable character for sure. But there wasn't a whole lot of character development or changes that she went through besides finding out who she really was meant to be, but this wasn't really a shocking development. And Aidan, while he was dreamy and mysterious, wasn't a particularly stand out character. I guess if I had to pick a favorite character, it would be him, but only because of who he was. And yes, I figured that out ahead of time too. There were no surprises for me in this book. I saw everything coming before it actually happened and I felt at times like I was one of the characters with secret powers because of this. :) Violet's friends were just your generic side-kick supporting characters.

As for the plot, it was well-paced and I enjoyed reading the book, but it wasn't amazing. It was just good. I know a lot of readers enjoyed the novel. And I get why, I do, but I guess at this point for me, because I have read so many books, I am looking for something more than just good. I probably will read the sequel, because I would like to know what happens, but I don't expect any surprises there either. I'm sure it will all end happy and generically. It just wasn't a stunner. Let me know how you feel in the comments.


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Apr 26, 2011

The Girl in the Steel Corset

The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1)The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:


In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her.


When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….


Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.


Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.


But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.


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So. The Girl in the Steel Corset. Let me start off by saying that I don't think this will be a book for everyone. I don't know how I know this, but I just know. It's already gotten a few negative reviews, which I guess I can understand, even if I don't agree. It could be seen as boring to some if you aren't interested in Victorian times, automatons (creepy), and Steampunk fashions. I didn't find it boring at all. In fact, I quite liked learning about the world of Steampunk and all the details. Yes, nearly every outfit worn by a character was described in complete detail, as also were the Steampunk inventions. But I really enjoyed it. You see, this was my first Steampunk read and I didn't know what to expect going in. I thought maybe I wouldn't like it even though the synopsis interested me. So I kept my expectations low and I was pleasantly surprised. I really loved this book.


I want to talk about characters for a second. I loved most of them and thought they were all well written, even Sam, who I couldn't stand. Even when he redeemed himself, I still absolutely despised him. It's really hard to become a likeable character after all the things he did and I don't really see my mind changing. I know this is a series and I will go into the next book hating Sam as well. He's just a weepy, whiny, jerk. He treated everyone like crap and he really didn't have a justifiable reason. The rest of the characters, Finley, Griffin, Emily, Cordelia, Jack Dandy, and the rest I really liked. I thought the characters were done well and they all had distinctive personalities. Once again, I loved the fact that we had a strong female protagonist here. And so was Emily. She was a genius and a strong female, even if she was tiny.


Let's be clear. The summary makes the book sound like it is a romance. And while there is some flirting, this is not a romantic book. It's a super fun read though. And I think the author may continue developing the romance in future books. There is a lot of room for that to grow. And it didn't really matter to me, because I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and loved the snarky attitudes.


I found The Girl in the Steal Corset to be an extremely memorable read. I didn't want to put the book down, and for the most part I found the pacing perfect. I also found the plot highly interesting. The villain was more than just a bad guy. He had a personality, a motive, and was a huge part of the story. I put this book in my favorites because I really enjoyed reading it and also because it was my first foray into Steampunk and it was a remarkably memorable experience. I hope you guys pick this one up. But if you don't because it doesn't sound like the book is for you, that's okay too. Because I really don't think it deserves some of the negative reviews it has gotten. At all.


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And the funny thing is, based on the title, you'd think the steel corset would be a large part of the book. It was in the book twice. I think the title was more of a metaphor for Finley's dark side.

                       Book Trailer for The Girl in the Steel Corset:

Apr 25, 2011

My Contact Information

Good morning everyone!! Until I can find out how to add a contact box or form to my blog, I'm just going to go ahead and post my contact information for you in a blog post. I know this is terribly unprofessional and I do apologize, but I did want you to have a way to be able to get in touch with me if you want to submit your book for review, or if you just have any questions you want to ask me.

You can Direct Message me on my twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/kara_malinczak

Or you can send me an email at survivorluvr33@hotmail.com

And incidentally, if you do know how to create a contact form, could you let me know? I can do it myself, I just don't even know where to start. :)

Devon Delaney is a Dirty Liar

The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney (Devon Delaney, #1)The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney by Lauren Barnholdt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:


Mom says karma always comes around to get you, and I guess it's true. Because last summer I was a total liar, and now, right in the middle of Mr. Pritchard's third-period math class, my whole world is about to come crashing down.


That's because while Devon was living with her grandmother for the summer, she told her "summer friend," Lexi, that she was really popular back home and dating Jared Bentley, only the most popular guy at school. Harmless lies, right? Wrong. Not when Lexi is standing at the front of Devon's class, having just moved to Devon's town. Uh-oh.


Devon knows there's only one way to handle this — she'll just have to become popular! But how is Devon supposed to accomplish that when she's never even talked to Jared, much less dated him?! And it seems the more Devon tries to keep up her "image," the more things go wrong. Her family thinks she's nuts, her best friend won't speak to her, and, as if it's not all complicated enough, Jared starts crushing on Lexi and Devon starts crushing on Jared's best friend, Luke. It all has Devon wondering — who is the real Devon Delaney?


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This isn't a new book. I realize that. But since I am new to book blogging, I have had to go back quite a few years to find books I've wanted to read. Which is part of the reason I have almost 1300 books on my TBR list. This one was published in 2007. And it really was a very fun read. It's definitely a tween/middle-grade novel, and I didn't really know that until I started reading, and at that point I sighed and was disappointed. I decided to forge ahead anyway. I've got no problem reading fantasy middle-grade novels like Harry Potter and Fablehaven, but this was realistic fiction and I honestly felt pretty stupid reading about middle-schoolers with crushes. I debated whether I was going to review this one or not. But since it was such a quick read I figured, what the heck? Might as well. I read it in less than a day. And I'm pretty sure that none of you will read it anyway. But that's okay. I got it for 99 cents from Alibris and it was money well spent because I enjoyed it.


I can honestly tell you that middle-school was never like this for me. If it had, my life would have been a whole lot easier. Middle-schoolers can be the cruelest kids on the planet and my 6,7, and 8th grade years were my worst of my childhood. But this isn't about me. This is about Devon Delaney and how much of a screw-up she is. And wow, is she ever.


At first, I kind of understood why she lied to Lexi the way she did. Lexi was her summer friend and after summer was over, she thought she would never see her again. Lo and behold, this did not happen. But no surprise there, we wouldn't have had a story to read otherwise. Lexi shows up at Devon's school as a student and then things go from bad to worse as Devon tries to lie her way out of every situation instead of telling the truth. She ends up alienating practically everyone and of course, everything is resolved and the book ends happily. There are no surprises here. It's a tween book all wrapped up in a little perfect package with a pretty bow. And that's okay. There's plenty of realistic-life books out there for pre-teens to read. I won't remember it forever, and I probably won't ever read it again. But it was a fun and easy read. It just wasn't memorable. And it's funny, but I never remember being this interested in boys in middle-school. I had crushes, sure, but my life certainly didn't revolve around boys. My time was spent just trying to find ways to stay alive. So maybe that's why I can't relate so much. There was a little bit of a disconnect for me. But I do enjoy reading books like this. They are a good escape from time to time. Anyway, that's all I got. Pick  it up if you want, but don't buy it from Amazon. Get it from Alibris. Much cheaper.


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I looked for a book trailer and I found two of them, but they both sucked. So I did not include them here. :)

Apr 24, 2011

Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks

Peace, Love, and Baby DucksPeace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:


Growing up in a world of wealth and pastel-tinted entitlement, fifteen-year-old Carly has always relied on the constancy—and authenticity—of her sister, Anna. But when fourteen-year-old Anna turns plastic-perfect-pretty over the course of a single summer, everything starts to change. And there are boys involved, complicating things as boys always do. With warmth, insight, and an unparalleled gift for finding humor even in stormy situations, beloved author Lauren Myracle dives into the tumultuous waters of sisterhood and shows that even very different sisters can learn to help each other stay afloat.


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What do you get when you put a totally annoying protagonist (at least most of the time), a totally adorable (and desired by boys everywhere because of her giant rack) younger sister, some plastic friends, cute boys, and a prestigious Christian school together? You get a book full of total awesomeness and win. I could praise this novel forever and ever and it wouldn't be enough. This book made me sad I was an only child and missed out on all that sisterly drama. I seriously wish I had had siblings now. And it's not like it showed siblings through rose-colored glasses. There was a lot of fighting and drama. And yet, this book moved me in ways others that I've read lately haven't.


Yes, Carly the main-character was all too often unlikeable. And Anna, the younger sister was sweet and adorable and I spent most of the book feeling sorry for her and wanting to give her a hug. Their parents were totally douchey. Almost all of their friends were plastic and annoying except Vonzelle. Carly was interested in the wrong boy. The character interactions felt totally real to me. And the book was written really  well in a style that I truly enjoyed. The book was character-driven and plot-driven and I really couldn't put it down.


Sometimes it was difficult reading the story through Carly's voice, because most of the time I wanted to slap her. She was incredibly stupid. She was determined to be different and not act like everyone else. And in doing so made herself like everyone else anyway. And you would think this would be annoying to read. And it was at times. But it was also a lot of fun.


This is one book I will definitely be reading again and it has gone onto my favorites shelf. And as annoying as the whole Christian school thing was (I'm an atheist), I found the way the author wrote about it was mostly humorous and I actually ended up quite enjoying the setting.


Bottom line is this: This book was pure fun and enjoyment. And I noticed a lot of you haven't read it. This needs to change. Add this one to your list. I'm fairly sure you won't be disappointed.


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Purchase from Amazon

                Book trailer for Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks

And a little more info about the book from the author, Lauren Myracle


Quick Note

I just wanted to write a quick blog post to let you all know a couple of things. First, I will be reading Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut for the month of May. That's the book that won my classic poll. I will read it throughout May and then write my review. It may take me awhile, because I don't rush through classics. Sometimes because I don't like them (LOL) and sometimes because I want to savor them. But either way, I will finish it and review it sometime during the month of May.

Next thing: I had a LOT of comments on my blog about book-reviewing and I just wanted to do a quick follow-up to that, rather then have my response get lost in the barrage of comments on that page.  I wanted to clarify how I review, when I don't do a review and that sort of thing, since some comments were a little unsure of how I do that.

I don't like to give bad reviews. I try not to. But there are times when I just have to. Sometimes I will read a book all the way through and be disappointed by the ending. Sometimes I was enjoying it enough not to put it down, but enough to keep reading and then it ends up getting 3 stars. I try not to give up on books. Sometimes you just can't help it though. I have an entire shelf on my Goodreads profile that consists of books that I couldn't get through for whatever reason. When this happens though, I generally wouldn't post my review up on this blog. I do a quick write-up on my Goodreads account about why I couldn't get through it, but I won't post it here. So the only reviews that are here at this point are books that I have finished. And I intend to have that continue since it seems to be working. And I will only review a book that I haven't finished if I feel I have read enough of it to get a good feel for what the author was trying to accomplish.

I am one of the reviewers that can separate my preferences for books that I like and still know whether a book is well-written. I read plenty of books that aren't in my preferred genre, yet I can still tell whether it is a good book or not. Basically I am able to separate my feelings and still properly review a book. And I still enjoy it. I find my preferences expanding a lot and I don't like to not read a book..EVER. Because I might pass up on a gem that I might really love. I love reading that much. Reading is never work to me. And if it ever starts feeling that way, I will have to change my policy. So I usually only turn a book down if I don't think I will have time to get to it. I take my hobby, job, whatever you want to call it, very seriously.

I hope this answered any questions you may have had left from reading my last blog. If you still have more, feel free to ask them in the comments. <3

Apr 23, 2011

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

SpellboundSpellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary From Goodreads:


What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?


Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.


But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams. Visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.


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Spellbound by Cara Lynn Schultz was a ridiculously fun read. I enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book a lot. I could hardly put it down, and I didn't want to. Brendan was the perfect boyfriend. He was everything Edward Cullen never was. Hot, rich, and protective without being overbearing and bossy. And Emma, the protagonist was a strong girl, not a weakling like Bella. Their relationship and bonding was a lot of fun. The author is really great at writing sexual tension and in the scenes where they did kiss, she managed to make it steamy without being dirty. I loved it.


I really adored the side characters too. Aunt Christine, Angelique, and Ashley were all awesome. Anthony and Kristin were the perfect villains. I loved the setting and the writing style. This book was right up my alley and I for the most part really enjoyed it.


I do have a few complaints though. Because I really wanted to give it a five star rating. I always want to give every book a five star rating. Unfortunately, it's just not realistic.


My #1 complaint. I felt the book was too long. I felt like the pacing was off quite a bit. I wish that it had been tightened up more, because I found myself losing focus a lot after the halfway mark and I really hate when that happens. I just feel like there were some chapters where hardly anything happened, or something did happen but I was confused how it was going to relate to the main plot.


Also, I felt there were some snippets of conversation between the characters that felt a little contrived. It just didn't feel real. I also felt the ending was lacking in the tension department. It didn't end badly or anything, I just felt that it could've been more than it was.


Now I know I've been ranting for the last few paragraphs and it seems like I disliked the book, but I really didn't. I just feel like it started to lose steam towards the end. And that was really disappointing. But it definitely was a book that I enjoyed reading. And I do recommend it to anyone that liked Twilight or wished Twilight had been better than it was. And I hate comparing books to Twilight. But I feel almost like this one needed to be. And I'm not sure why. I recommend it to the paranormal romance crowd or those readers that like reading about star-crossed lovers. It was a lot of fun. And I may buy a copy of it when it comes out, because I would love to read it again and see if I still felt the same way about everything I said.




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The book can be pre-ordered here: Amazon link to Spellbound.


Apr 22, 2011

Something That Needs to be Said

Everyone that talks to me here and follows me on Twitter knows that I haven't been a part of the book blogging world for long. I am still finding my place and where I fit in. And I am perfectly happy with that. But I am not a person to sit back and watch ridiculous bullsh*t go down and keep my mouth shut. That just isn't me.

One thing you can be sure of is that I will always be honest with my readers and my friends. And with the anonymity of the internet, I am shocked that there is so much dishonesty and cowardliness in the book blogging community.

There are a lot of bloggers out there that choose not to review self-published and indie-published works. And while I don't really agree with that practice, I understand why people do it. First, the reason why I don't agree with not reviewing self-published works is this: I just feel like as book bloggers we should be doing everything we can to bring awareness to new authors and great authors that may not get the opportunity to enter into a contract with a traditional publisher. There are a lot of great books out there that don't get the recognition they deserve because they are not sitting in bookstores. But that is a topic for another day.

The real reason I am writing this blog: As book reviewers, we have a responsibility to the writing community to be completely honest with the authors that are writing the books and the readers that are reading them. And frankly, I am sick and tired of watching certain book bloggers blow smoke up the behinds of authors who don't deserve it. Yes, I know. Reviewing is subjective. What someone else may find appealing, I may not and so forth. But this happens WAY too often for it to be a one-time thing. If you are going to be a book blogger and you want to be taken seriously, you have a duty to be honest with writers and readers. Stop lying! Stop saying a book is well-written and the best thing you have ever read if it is utter crap! You do realizing this is helping no one, right? It doesn't help a writer improve their writing, and it doesn't help a reader make informed decisions about which books to purchase.

Why do I give mostly 3 star reviews? Because not every book you read is worthy of five stars! I only give 4 and 5 star reviews to books I really feel deserve it. At the end of the day, all you have is your integrity! And how would you feel if someone purchased a book you recommended only to come back and say "That book sucked, why did you recommend it to me?" Then what? You are finished. No one will trust your opinions ever again! Honestly, who cares if you piss people off? Doesn't what you are doing mean something to you? I don't know about you, but when I started book blogging, I made a conscientious choice to do this because I enjoy reading and I wanted to help other readers make informed decisions and motivate them to love books as much as I do. Somewhere along the line, I think quite a few of us have forgotten that. We need to regain our integrity as book bloggers.

And another thing. When you are an honest and trusted book reviewer and you do give out good reviews, they mean way more to the author. And this I know from experience. I'm sorry if you think I'm being arrogant or bitchy, but it's the truth.  Please leave your opinions below.

Rant over. Off Soapbox.

Apr 21, 2011

Review of Short-Story Horror Collection, "Learning to Fly."

Learning To FlyLearning To Fly by Gina Penn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:

David wakes up from a drunken stupor to find a headache in his head and the dangerous end of a handgun in his face. The Tall Man has finally come for him, as he suspected he would and no matter how much David begs and pleads, he isn't going to get away with murder.

Joseph Ryder is a best-selling author and recovering alcoholic. After overexposure with his biggest novel and a messy divorce, he finds he's grown tired of his life and is ready for a change. Mostly he misses his wife and children but is too ashamed to confront them after so many hard times he's given them. Until one day, he's given a gift.

People all around you are crying, hysterical. The woman next to you won't shut up. Everything is chaos and all you want to do is make a phone call and time is running out.

Ralph Massey is a simple man, recently retired and widowed. After falling asleep in his favorite chair, he wakes to the sound of something falling inside his house. He locates the item after a short search when he notices a flicker of movement outside his window. Upon closer inspection he sees something he never imagined he'd ever see and quickly learns that this is not a one time viewing session. But even just a peek comes with a price.


Quick review here, because this self-published short-story collection was only 66 pages long.

I volunteered to read and review this for a friend of mine on twitter. I have to say that I really liked it! Horror, as you all know, is not my favorite genre. But I thought this 4-story collection was remarkably well-done.

The first story was thought provoking and I think I would enjoy seeing this one expanded. It's hard for me to give out any information without spoiling it for you. But I think it could be really good. I loved the swamp setting too.

The second story was good, but I didn't find that much special there. It was well-written but I feel like I've read it before somewhere else.

The third story I enjoyed because I wanted to punch that crying lady in the face, but at the same time I felt sympathy for her. I was conflicted. Well done.

My favorite story by far though, was the last one, Peek. And I don't even really know what to say or how to explain to you why I liked it so much. I think it's just one of those things that sticks with you. The characters were memorable. And so was the story. I do believe that I will remember this one for some time to come. I think a lot of horror writing sticks with you that way if it's well done.

I highly recommend reading this horror short-story collection, though I couldn't for the life of me explain why it's titled, "Learning to Fly." I think it might sell better if it had a different title, but what do I know? Check it out guys. It's a fast read, a bit grisly, but a lot of fun.


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Apr 20, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret FanSnow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Please do me a favor. Do not read this book if you have depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness. It will mess you up. I read it so you don't have to. And I am somewhat over my depression, but I deal with the anxiety on a daily basis. This book is more tragic than Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet Combined. And I promise that you will be sitting here with your thumb up your butt feeling like your grandma and your dog died all at once. This is what I'm dealing with right now. Well, insomnia too, but that's an entirely different animal.

I've been feeling down in the dumps the last couple of days, and part of the reason is because of this book. I wanted to quit reading it, but it was written so beautifully that I just had to finish it. And it's an amazing story with vivid imagery, there's no denying that. It's just that every darn character was so unlikeable. I didn't really care what happened to them. They certainly were deep and well-formed, but every single one of the people and traditions and customs in this book are absolutely INSANE. I cannot believe that women put up with this garbage for centuries; Foot binding, being trapped indoors all hours of every day, being only good for bearing children, having to be respectful even if you are beaten, it just never ever stops! I thought Memoirs of a Geisha was bad. And I know most of you have read that. This is at least ten times worse. It was so awful that I am sick to my stomach just thinking about it. How did these women stay sane and not go on a murderous rampage? This book made me angry. Really angry. If I was a crazy person I would start throwing things. Luckily I am not. At least I don't think so.

This book is a fictional account, of course, but every single custom and tradition used in this novel existed at one time. Remember that. I did a lot of googling. Women really did get treated this way folks. And frankly, I am disgusted. I don't want to go off on a tangent and get into a discussion about religion, but I will quickly say that histories like these are why I am completely against organized religion. You will find it in every religion; in this case it was Buddhism. Women are looked down upon and treated like crap in Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism as well. And it makes me so angry. I'm stepping off my soapbox now. Just please think about what I am saying.

It's a great book. But it made me extremely unhappy. It's truly a heartbreaking story. It's beautifully  written, I'm just warning you. Prepare yourself for major sadness. Because it is awful.


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Apr 16, 2011

Between Two Ends Ehhhh..

Between Two EndsBetween Two Ends by David Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:

When Yeats and his parents visit his grandmother's creepy old house, Yeats reunites a pair of pirate bookends and uncovers the amazing truth: Years ago, Yeats's father traveled into The Arabian Nights with a friend, and the friend, Shari, is still stuck in the tales. Assisted by the not-always-trustworthy pirates, Yeats must navigate the unfamiliar world of the story of Shaharazad--dodging guards and tigers and the dangerous things that lurk in the margins of the stories--in order to save Shari and bring peace to his family.

David Ward has created a fantasy rich with atmosphere and full of heart-stopping drama.


There's a lot I want to say about this middle-grade novel, but it's not coming together in my mind very well. There were good things and bad things, but mostly just okay things. Very average book in my opinion.  I do love the title though. It's what drew my attention, and it makes a lot more sense if you read the book. The cover is decent, but not particularly eye-catching. I think the publishers could have come up with something a little more creative. Maybe like including the pirates?

I like reading middle-grade novels. I love Harry Potter, Fablehaven, and the Atherton series. This one was just so-so. I didn't find it very creative and compared to others I've read, it seemed very simple. There were some good ideas here: the pirate bookends, being able to enter any story by making a wish and reading it, and Khan the panther. But I felt the story kinda fell flat. To me it  followed a very linear path, and as a whole was pretty unimaginative.  It's not that it was badly written, it just felt very unoriginal. It's been done many times before and done better.

One thing I can compliment is the author's ability to write beautiful imagery. The settings were lush and I pictured them in my mind easily. This is one of my favorite things to do when reading. I love to picture the settings in my head and create my own world. That was well done here, which I appreciate. But then I found issues with some of the writing. I don't think that the characters' actions were described well enough. I found myself getting confused a couple of times and having to backtrack because I wasn't sure what had just happened. And this is a children's book. Um, what? Why? I don't know either.

I did love the grandfather and Odysseus the cat, but I felt that most of the characters were pretty flat and not very deep. Considering this is a children's book, I can overlook that to a certain extent, but I mostly just found the narrative very average. This book was just okay. It had some good points, but I doubt I will be reading anything else by this author. I just felt pretty uninspired by the whole book. 2.5 stars.


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Apr 15, 2011

The Poisoned House and I Have a Fun Idea!

The Poisoned HouseThe Poisoned House by Michael Ford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:


The year is 1856, and orphan Abigail Tamper lives below stairs in Greave Hall, a crumbling manor house in London. Lord Greave is plagued by madness, and with his son Samuel away fighting in the Crimea, the running of Greave Hall is left to Mrs Cotton, the tyrannical housekeeper. The only solace for the beleaguered staff is to frighten Mrs Cotton by pretending the house is haunted.


So when a real ghost makes an appearance - that of her beloved mother - no one is more surprised than Abi. But the spirit has a revelation that threatens to destroy Abi’s already fragile existence: she was murdered, and by someone under their very own roof. With Samuel returned to England badly wounded, it’s up to Abi to nurse him back to health, while trying to discover the identity of the killer in their midst. As the chilling truth dawns, Abi’s world is turned upside down.


I got to sleep on this one before I did my review, and as such, I think I see it in a better light than I did before. It's not a great book, but neither is it horrible. It's certainly an enjoyable read, but it is a very simple one with an even simpler plot. It's basically just your run-of-the-mill ghost story. The ghost is trying to save the people in the manor and show everyone that what they believed had happened is not really the truth.


There are a couple of villains: Mrs. Cotton is this awful housekeeper who loves to abuse the main character Abigail. She's vile. And then there is another villain, which I cannot tell you about without revealing the entire plot.


The setting was creepy enough but the story wasn't really scary at all. I believe it was written with kids in mind, but I don't know if I would let my kid read it. There's a particularly gruesome scene where Mrs. Cotton kills some household pets and I think that might disturb a child. I think if your child is in middle school or above, then it wouldn't bother them. Any younger and I wouldn't recommend it. Also because of the abuse scenes. They don't go into tremendous detail, but it didn't stop them from disturbing me a little.


There just wasn't anything remarkable about the book. It was just decent. Not great and not bad. I also didn't feel that the historical setting felt all that accurate. But that's just a little thing that I'm nitpicking at. If you like simple ghost stories (nothing will throw you for a loop here) then I think you might enjoy it. It was slightly boring and not all that exciting. But that's my personal preference. I love young adult books. This one just didn't do all that much for me.


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Now that that's out of the way, I want to talk classics for a second. As a book reviewer and someone who enjoys great literature,I find my knowledge of the classics severely lacking. Except for Shakespeare. I've read every single one of his plays minus the historical ones. I've read Northanger Abbey,Pride and Prejudice, and Dracula. And a few others. But not a lot. So I'm thinking about starting a read one classic a month thing, where you pick a classic for me to read, and I attempt to read it and review it. You may read it along with me if you wish. I have an entire list of classics I'm interested in on my Goodreads profile. So go over there and pick one you think I should be reading. Leave a comment on this post (or any other) and I will see it. Then I will tabulate votes (if there are any) and make my decision. I will start reading the classic in May. If there's one you want me to read that isn't on my list, feel free to suggest it. I'm open to your suggestions. And that's it.  I think that sounds like fun. If you think my idea sucks, also feel free to let me know that. :)

Apr 14, 2011

The Emerald Talisman

The Emerald Talisman (Talisman, #1)The Emerald Talisman by Brenda Pandos
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't give half stars here. Three stars is close enough. If I could it would be more like 2.5 stars. So what did I think? I didn't particularly like it. I promise you I have good reasons. They are:

It felt like it took FOREVER for the story to get going. Nothing happened for a long time. And by the time things started happening, I was already tired of reading it. It just felt really boring and kind of blah to me. The story just didn't pull me in or do anything for me. I really feel kind of neutral about the entire book. I found myself skipping over paragraphs and only reading the conversation. It's not that the writing was bad, it wasn't, it just felt like so many books I've already read. And they were done better.

The characters were decently written, but they weren't anything special. The romance felt ridiculously banal to me. It was very similar to the relationship between Edward and Bella where the guy tries to control the girl and protect her yadda-yadda. Julia was a bit stronger than Bella, but there wasn't anything new here. It felt overdone.

The plot was alright, but again it just felt like everything I've ever read before. And I found myself getting bored and I just wanted to finish reading it, so I could review it and move on.

Basically what it comes down to though is personal preference. I can see why people would enjoy this book. If you're looking for a romance that's somewhat like Twilight without having to read Twilight again, then you've found it here. Me personally, I'm looking for something more. I've read so many books already this year and I've gotten picky. If I had read this last year I may have felt differently. But now I'm getting into doing these serious reviews and I'm reading all kinds of books that I never would have bothered with before. And I've changed a lot. I'm not saying that's any better than other readers. It's a decent book, it's just not what I enjoy reading anymore. It's a perfectly fine read though. Just don't expect to find anything fresh or original here.


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Apr 12, 2011

Review of a Book That Everyone Has Read But Me.

The Dead Girls' Dance (The Morganville Vampires, #2)The Dead Girls' Dance by Rachel Caine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Morganville Vampires Series by Rachel Caine isn't winning any awards. The books are what I would like to call a guilty pleasure. Like reading a Harlequin Romance novel, which by the way I do not do. Just for the record. The novels are campy and plot-driven and simply-written. But they sure are a lot of fun. Every now and then I need to read a book like this to break up all the serious novels I'm reading and reviewing. I'm not too concerned about this review, and as such it will probably be fairly short.

There's not a whole lot to say. The Dead Girls' Dance was a very quick read. It was suspenseful and paced well as all the books in this series seem to be. I do like the characters, but they aren't particularly memorable. I'll get through this entire series at some point, but I'm pretty sure that none of these books are going to make their way onto my favorites list.

I only gave this one 3 stars, because I liked it, but it didn't blow my mind or anything. The book was better than okay though. Basically just a fun mindless read. I love Shane and I love Amelie. I'm pretty sure the author is building her up to be like a super-villain in a future book, but that's okay. She's definitely the scariest character by far. But these books are not at all scary. Just so you know. I do hope that in a future book we really find out what's down that alley by Amelie's house. Possibly the next book based on the title?

I hope we are mostly done with Shane's dad, because I didn't particularly like that storyline. I just thought it was campy, cliche, and stupid. And Monica. What's her deal? I guess we'll find out.

To my blog readers: There are a lot of books in this series. What, like 12? But even with that many, it's not like it's a large time investment. Because like I said, even if you are a slow reader they go pretty fast. And they are sold in volumes now. This book was a fun read, but it was by no means a masterpiece. :)


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Apr 11, 2011

Wacky, Wacky, Wacky.

UltravioletUltraviolet by R.J. Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book should come with huge flashing lights and a warning. "I am not what you think I am. I am a sci-fi novel. Despite what you may read in the first two thirds of the book, ultimately I will throw a twist at you that is so ridiculous and out of left field that you would not be able to believe it if it hit you in the face at one hundred miles per hour." Yes I am serious. And no, I did not like it. Which really sucks because despite my insane dislike for this novel, it did have some positive attributes.

The writing was good. Really good. The author has a great way with words and the book had a beautiful flow to it. I really liked the main-character Alison. I thought she was pretty awesome actually. She was a strong girl and a fighter. I love people that don't give up. The plot showed extreme promise and I actually really enjoyed the book until the plot went off the rails in a big way. I thought the author's descriptions of Alison's illness(Synesthesia) were well done, but I thought she did go a little too far with describing Alison's senses and how they reacted. Just too much. It was a bit overdone.

I don't know how to put it any other way. I just didn't like it. I don't like giving bad reviews. I feel bad because I know how much heart and soul went into this piece of literature and any other book I read. I guess it just comes down to personal preference. The twist was just too crazy for me. A purple people eater would've been more believable. I had about eight pages left to read and I just gave up. I skimmed the last fifty anyway. But maybe you will like it. Reviews are subjective anyway. I don't care for sci-fi and to me, it was written in an extremely deceiving way. The synopsis shows no mention of science fiction and the entire book, up until the twist is not science fiction at all! It really does come at you out of nowhere. And it's a shame it ended this way. But I'm only one person, and many other people liked it. So try it for yourself I guess. It just wasn't for me.

And I know this review was kind-of short and pretty lame and pathetic, but I don't know what else to say. It was just a complete and utter trainwreck plot with really great writing.


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Apr 10, 2011

What a Great Story I Found in Ashfall

Ashfall (Ashfall, #1)Ashfall by Mike Mullin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. This is a tough book to review. I'm just going to speak from my heart and not think about it. I liked it. I did. But it was so so hard to read. Not because it wasn't well-written. It was extremely well-written. It was just so depressing. There was not one moment of happiness in this book. Not one. That makes it really hard for me to read. I thrive on little bits of happiness. Even when life sucks more than you can possibly imagine, I'm always looking for the one ray of light that won't make me lose my mind. And I really felt for the characters in this book, because they didn't even have that. There was NO hope. And I mean none. It affected me more than any other doomsday novel I have read. But it was a hard read. At the same time though, I couldn't put it down. I truly enjoyed it.

The things I loved: I loved the descriptions of the settings. The author did a great job of conveying how stark, grey, and hopeless the landscape truly was. The abandoned farmsteads, collapsed buildings, dead animals, and murder scenes...all written fantastically. I loved the main characters of Alex and Darla and the evolution of their relationship. It didn't happen overnight. There was a a lot of tragedy, and it felt extremely realistic. That's the thing about this book. Everything felt extremely realistic. Even if something like this could NEVER happen, the author had a way of making you believe that it could happen. Tomorrow. Which makes it incredibly scary.

The things I didn't care for: This is meant to be a world-is-ending novel. So why then when things were looking so bleak and you thought everyone was gonna die did something or someone come along and save the day? Like a book of matches. Or a lady that wanted to take care of you like you were her own child (which would never happen by the way, at least not in this kind of world). There were others too. And how many times did I have to hear about how the protagonist was skilled in Tae-Kwon-Do? Or that he was a fan of World of Warcraft? There were descriptions of WOW in the book that I felt were wholly unnecessary.

But in all seriousness, those were minor things that were easy to overlook. Aside from my out-of-control nitpicking, it really was a fantastic read. And I am just so thankful that I got to read it before almost everyone else. So thanks for that. Loved it.


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Apr 8, 2011

The Incomparable Jennifer Sommersby

 

Sleight-cover-2x3

So, Yeah…

Jennifer Sommersby

Kara told me to go free form on this guest post. She asked for it. You’ve been duly warned. (And I’m going to try very hard not to talk about my ongoing struggle with not moving past an A-cup in the bra department at Sears.)

One of the ideas she tossed at me was when I knew I wanted to be a writer. Here’s the part where I go on about always knowing that words were my passion, and I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I had a pen in my hand, and blah blah blah. Gag me. Truth is, my oldest sister was born with a severe physical handicap. Because she couldn’t use her hands like I could, or like you can, the school arranged for us to have an electric typewriter in the house. (For you youngin’s, a typewriter is a machine the cavemen used to write edicts and manifestos. You plug it in and then press buttons with letters on them. Words are formed, if you push the right buttons. I became a button pusher, in oh-so-many ways.) I sort of took over Michelle’s sky-blue Smith Corona typewriter because, first, sky blue was my favorite color, and second, I loved the feeling of the keys under my fingers. Like I said: button pusher. I started writing stories as a way to keep pressing those buttons, and, because I grew up in Oregon (lots-o-rain!), I couldn’t spend every waking moment roller skating or riding my bike because of the threat of pneumonia. Well, that, and my mom got tired of me piling my wet play clothes on the hardwood floor in my room. (Wet clothing left unattended by a lazy child leaves unsightly black stains in the wood. My mom is a decorator. The stains didn’t play well on her decorator sensibilities. Hence, quiet time was encouraged.)

I read a lot as a kid. Favorite books were Around the World in Eighty Days and Charlotte’s Web, at least until I discovered those books published by the company that used an apple in its logo. Then every book with the apple logo became my favorite, intermittently supplanted by Beverly Cleary and/or Judy Blume. I went through a phase where I was in love with the shape of books, so I checked out the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Birds, Western Region obsessively for the entire year of fourth grade. It was compact but thick and orange, and it made me feel smart to have it in my backpack. In fifth grade, I graduated to the Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals. As an adult, I can tell you nothing about North American birds or rocks and minerals.

When I got into classes where we were allowed to write more than “what I did for summer vacation” (essays I hated because I went to school with kids who did kick-ass things on vacations, and we mostly just did remodeling projects on the house because my mother was a total spaz), I started writing stupid-long stories with no point and almost always lacking endings. It was a pathological weakness: I couldn’t finish the damn stories. But the teachers saw something. In fourth grade, Mrs. Williamson called my house to talk to my mom. I thought I was busted for something that might have happened on the playground (I’ll never tell), but it wasn’t about that. She called to tell Mom that maybe Jenn should write more stories as she’s sorta good at it, and you might want to encourage her. Mom smiled, patted me on the head, and gave me a stack of white paper to go shove into the Smith Corona. Things carried on this way throughout junior high and high school. English was a cinch for me and I’d get stupid excited over grammar lessons. (Don’t ever ask to see my grades from history class, please.) It was just something I could do, sort of like how that sixth grader who bused up from the middle school for my sophomore geometry class could ace all the tests the rest of us were failing woefully.

It wasn’t until I was a grown-up, though, that I began to take any of it seriously. I have spent a lot of time reading the work of really amazing authors, some known, others not so much, to learn what works and what doesn’t. I've interviewed published authors, thrown down words of my own and then promptly shredded them, and watched. Watching and studying and listening is an excellent way to learn how to do something better. There’s a reason why surgeons have to go through thirteen years of schooling before they’re allowed to cut. Sure, there are those phenoms amongst us (Hannah Moskowitz comes to mind) who can craft compelling, heartrending works before they’ve walked across the stage for their high school diplomas, but for the vast majority, a little thing called Life Experience will do much to enrich and fuel the craft and practice of writing. If you think you’re a genius today, wait five years and look back. What you’re writing now will indeed suck to you, and if it doesn’t, well, that superiority complex might be something you want to have checked out by a mental health professional. Good luck with that.

And this leads into another question that Kara tendered: where do my ideas come from? Evelyn Lafont recently revealed, under threat of expulsion from the We Are Awesome Writers Union, that ideas come from Pez dispensers, morsels of artistry embedded into the fronts of those savory little sugary delights. Because Evelyn revealed this, she is On Notice, but as her comrade, I continue to lobby for forgiveness on her behalf. Other writers, some of them quite famous for reasons I still haven’t figured out, have revealed that ideas come to them in dreams. My dreams never make any sense, and I don’t think you want me to write about waking in the middle of the night and telling my husband that I will kill him in his sleep. (This is a true story. I was fighting with a Very Bad Guy in my dream, and I totally talk in my sleep, so, yeah...I was gonna kill someone, just not my adoring and endlessly supportive husband.)

My ideas come from news stories and from watching other humans interact on a multitude of levels. Weird moments are great. Sometimes from songs, other times from the stuff my wacky kids say. I have lots of issues from a lifetime of unfortunate choices, and those issues I use as fodder for creating really awesome villains. I may want to kill someone in my dreams—but that person will become a real character once I wake up and get past the flying purple troll cows grazing in the dream field.

Lucian Dmitri, the villain from Sleight, is an amalgamation of negative energy. Bad relationships are perfect for exactly this, as I’ve lived through a number of them, but seeing how awful one human being can be to another makes for great character building. Vicious can be translated into brilliance when constructing a human limb by limb, emotion by emotion. Cliché, perhaps, but it works. It’s all part of the process of creating believable characters. All humans, no matter how perfect on the outside, have flaws—look at Frodo Baggins. At the very end of Return of the King, he almost doesn’t drop the Ring into the fires at Mount Doom. He almost keeps it for himself, finally overwhelmed by the power he has resisted throughout his perilous journey. This is phenomenal character building. I have to remind myself that my villains must have soft spots, and my heroes must be fools.

Speaking of process, it feels weird to be answering this question as it is one of those silly things I’ve often asked writers when I’m on the interviewer side of the table. My process? It involves a quiet car parked in the lot of a local coffee shop with my Favorite Pen of the Day, a blank page, and my bag crammed with notes. I write longhand to start, usually in chunks of ten or twelve pages, and plug these pages into an ever-evolving typed second draft every few days. My house is chaotic: I have three kids (two of them under ten), a fat beagle, a husband, and a very needy cat who was probably a lover in a past life. I can’t get anything worthwhile done at home, so I write at night, alone, in my often-freezing-cold car. I outline loosely and deviate constantly. Yes, this can be maddening.

I listen to music usually when I am forced to write at home (gotta block out the noise), and then it depends on the scene I’m laboring over. For high-action sequences, I choose high-energy rock; for quieter scenes of introspection or conversation amongst the characters, I usually lean toward soundtracks. I am a soundtrack junkie. I’m totally a music vampire, i.e., I raid the playlists of other writer and artist friends to see what tickles their creative fancies. (TV shows are awesome for their playlists nowadays—isn’t that cool?) All of these sources are how I came to find Muse and Florence & the Machine and Paramore and Flogging Molly and The Fray and The Killers and the Dresden Dolls and Sia and Breaking Benjamin and Metric and Regina Spektor. I don’t know what would’ve happened if the entire of Sleight had been written listening only to Bruce Springsteen. The Ghost of Tom Joad is still my favorite CD of all time, though, and was played often during the scenes where I was building the circus environment. Old habits die hard, and there’s much to be said for the grit and dirt and heartbreak that only Springsteen can deliver. (Oh—and the RH Chili Peppers. Anthony Kiedis is hot. I’ll stop now.)

When it comes right down to it, I have no idea what I’m doing. I know what I like, what I want to see in a book when I plunk down my hard-earned pennies, and I have a pretty decent grasp of grammar. And I have two tattoos, one on each arm, the signatures of great humans who came before me, to remind me what I’m doing and where I want to go, just in case I forget.

Sleight: Book One of the AVRA-K is now available as an ebook at:

~Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Sleight-Book-One-AVRA-K-ebook/dp/B004TNI9VG)

~Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/49402).

~links at www.jennifersommersby.com

(The print version will be available for order in May.) 

Kara says: Isn’t Jenn amazing? I loved reading this. It was fantastic and oh so inspiring. I can’t wait until book two of her series is released. I’m quite attached to the characters and Sleight is definitely one of my favorite books of the year I have read so far. She’s a great person and I love hearing about the writing process for each individual. Follow her on twitter @JennSommersby. She’s hilarious and a lot of fun to talk to. I really enjoyed doing this guest blog. Hopefully there will be many more of them in the future. Let us know what you think down there in the comments.

Apr 7, 2011

A Northern LightA Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm confused as to why I'm giving a book five stars that I really didn't enjoy. Reading is subjective. So is reviewing. I don't particularly care for depressing books. I have depression and anxiety. I try to read books that allow me to escape or feel uplifted. But not always. Sometimes I know a book will be sad, and I'll pick it up anyways because the book jacket interests me. And that's what happened with this one.

It's an amazing story. I couldn't put it down. Basically you have two stories that are intertwined and weaved together and by the end of the book, they have become one. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the two time frames but it doesn't get confusing at all. If you are looking for a mystery though, despite what the jacket says, this isn't it. It's the story of a girl and her sisters, and father and their survival after mom passes away from cancer. They have a farm to run and the oldest brother ran away from home. As you would imagine, life is quite difficult. Mattie(the protagonist) has dreams of becoming a writer but everywhere she looks people are discouraging her. Except her teacher and best friend Weaver. Skipping over a lot here, but eventually she gets a job at the Glenmore Hotel where a woman washes ashore drowned. And that would be the other part of the story. As always, my reviews are spoiler-free so I can't go into any more detail without ruining it.

I felt the middle of the book dragged a little, but that's because I was still let down a little as to what I thought this book was going to be. Were I to go back and reread it, I would probably feel differently. Because despite the fact that it totally wasn't what I thought it was going to be, it was an amazing novel. I loved the voice and the descriptions were beautiful. I really, really liked Mattie. And I loved Weaver. The characters were well-developed and felt like people. At times they were really frustrating and I wanted to wring their necks.

I think it's very important to state that the theme of the novel is extremely important here. I believe it is choosing between your dreams and your responsibilities and/or obligations. And which you find more important. It's a very hard choice to make. And if you decided to read it, this will come to mind a lot as you are thinking about the choices that Mattie makes.

If you are looking for a book that will entertain you, but also make you think, look no further. Just don't expect to come out of it feeling happy.


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And I also may have another post for you sometime this evening. It will be a guest post from a very special author. 

Apr 5, 2011

And Then Everything Unraveled...Wow Did it Ever.

And Then Everything UnraveledAnd Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes simplicity is best. I've had this book in my stack for awhile. When I picked it up, I was looking for something fun and pretty much mindless because a lot of the books I have been reading lately have been serious and/or morbid. I wanted to laugh. And I just wanted to escape for awhile.

This book had so much potential. And for awhile there, I was really enjoying it. But it never really got going for me. For the majority of the book it felt like a whole lotta nothing happened. The relationship with the protagonist and the love interest went nowhere. And to be honest, the protagonist herself was a pretty flat character. They all were. Except for Charley. Charley the crazy and kooky aunt. She was the one shining moment in this otherwise ho-hum..ehhh...blah piece of writing. I wish Dieter from the beginning had been in it more. He also showed promise. I thought this book would be at least funny. It really wasn't.

Let me stop ranting and raving about the awfulness for a second to talk about a few good things. The pacing was decent. While I felt that not much happened, what did happen was well thought out. The writing was well-done. It just wasn't anything special. I just didn't care. The book didn't do anything for me. I wasn't happy, sad, angry, or any other emotion that a book can make you feel.

And then....THEN I find out at the very end that there is another book after this one! That explains why nothing happened. Holy sh*t! If I had known that, I would have prepared myself. But that's one thing that I can't blame on the author at least. I should've done the homework. That was my fault. But still. I totally did not see it coming. At least that explains why nothing happened for a large portion of the book. That's because there's another damn book. Which, by the way, I am not reading. I've got too many books to read to even mess around with a novel I would have to procure before I can even start it. And like I said, I just don't care. So I'm done. Hopefully the next book I review will be better. I'm tired of writing icky reviews. I hate it just as much as you hate reading them. But someone has to do it.

Oh, and one more thing. Incidentally, I know that most of the people that read this book enjoyed it, so I am prepared for possible hate mail. My opinions very often differ from others. I'm okay with that. So  bring it..if you think you need to.


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Apr 3, 2011

Fire Study and How the Flame Burned Out

Fire Study (Study, #3)Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars really. Why so low when I gave Magic Study 4 stars and Poison Study 5? Truth? This book wasn't that great. I feel like it didn't reach me like the other 2 books did. I didn't feel as much of a connection to the characters and I also felt like the plot was weaker. I almost felt like the author was trying too hard to squeeze a full third book out. Maybe there should only have been two.

Let me put it this way. Poison Study was amazing. One of my favorite books ever. I loved the plot, adored the richly detailed settings, and felt a really strong connection to the characters. They were people I wanted to know. Magic Study wasn't quite as good as Poison Study, but I at least loved the addition of Sitia and the Zaltana clan's treehouses to the settings and the continuation of Valek and Yelena's romance. There was also the addition of Moon Man and Kiki. God I love Kiki. Then I started Fire Study. And it all went downhill from there. It was just...boring. The connections between the characters that had been there in the last two books were just almost nonexistent. Even Valek was boring. Yelena was bitchier and honestly, pretty unlikable! She was so full of herself that it was hard to read at times. I still loved Kiki and Moon Man though. I got really pissed when Yelena was being mean to him. Kiki was the most likable character. I wouldn't have minded if Yelena died. :)

I just found myself getting distracted and bored. I finished it because I loved this series as a whole and I wanted closure. I wanted to know what happened to the characters and how it all ended. That's why it gets 3.5 stars. All of my favorite characters are here, and I loved them so much that I was willing to make allowances. Truthfully though, I'm not all that satisfied. I figured out who the villain was in the first twenty pages and there was a death that I didn't particularly care for. But I won't give out spoilers.

I don't want to discourage readers to not read the series though. The first two books are remarkable and amazing. Don't let this so-so book deter you from reading the series. It really is worth it. It's not like this book is awful because it's not. It's just when you compare it to the other two books, it just doesn't stand up.


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