Friday, May 29, 2015

review: read between the lines by jo knowles

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Each chapter in Read Between the Lines tells of someone else’s day in this work of interconnected stories from Jo Knowles. All of the characters are in some way connected to the local high school which serves as the primary setting. With much of the same story being repeated from different perspectives, Read Between the Lines definitely makes the reader think about how people can experience the same things but come away with completely different outlooks. Knowles does make use of a lot of high school stereotypes, but each character also comes alive in his or her respective angst.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

review: jinxed by kathryn leigh scott

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Following up on the fantastic Down and Out in Beverly Heels, Kathryn Leigh Scott puts her heroine’s life in danger in Jinxed. Meg is still trying to get back on her feet after being scammed by her second husband, so she’s thrilled to hear the series that made her a star is being revived. Unfortunately the show is being recast, but they do want to employ Meg to teach the new Jinx the trademark hat toss. Meg accepts as it’s a paycheck (her last project was an indie film directed by a high school kid) and could lead to more, but she never expected gunfire.

Jinxed works well as a standalone with Scott giving just enough of Meg’s backstory to fill in new readers while not boring those who read the first book. As with the first in the Meg Barnes series, the pacing here is terrific with plenty of twists and new developments abounding. There’s never a tedious moment, but there are great comedic bits as Meg continuously runs into people from her past as well as fans. Scott also naturally incorporates new insights in Meg’s life both past and present that allow Meg to be even more sympathetic than before.
Review copy provided by the publicist, Darlene Chan PR.

Monday, May 25, 2015

review: blackbird by anna carey

Anna Carey’s Blackbird makes use of the second person for the narration. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure, the second person does work as the narrator is making decisions about what to do next. The narrator does not know who she herself is which also makes the second person work here. Unfortunately, the plot is severely lacking and nothing is resolved. There’s a lot of ho-hum daily life stuff going on as the narrator tries to figure out who she is and who is apparently trying to kill her. Despite not knowing anything about herself, she immediately trusts a random boy and goes along with him. Her actions throughout were as frustrating as the book’s ending which was no ending at all, but a lackluster cliffhanger to set up the next book.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

author guest post: pete hautman

Pete Hautman, the author of Eden West, explains his creation of the story in the following article for My Book Views.  My thanks to him!

First, a Fence
Pete Hautman

Twelve years ago I was thinking about fences.

I’m fascinated by fences. From the Great Wall of China to the wire rabbit fence protecting my Swiss chard. I like their geometry, their simplicity, the opportunities for self-indulgent metaphor.

I imagine a young man, maybe seventeen or eighteen, with a wispy beard, walking along an eight foot chain-link fence. Is the fence keeping him in, or keeping something out? I don’t yet know. I see grasslands on both sides, rolling hills stretching to the horizon. Looks like Montana.

I give the young man a rifle because I’m worried about him. I don’t know if danger will come from the other side of the fence, or from within, but I want him to be prepared.

I look more closely. He is young,

A cool breeze moves the blades of amber grass to his left. Trees are visible ahead. Their leaves have turned to shades of yellow, brown, and red. It must be autumn. I hear the call of a bird. I make a note to research Montana trees and wildlife.

He is following a worn footpath. Others have walked this fence line. On the other side the grass is shorter, heavily grazed, probably by cattle. A faint smile shows through the young man’s scant beard. Something is about to happen, but he doesn’t know it. Will he need his rifle? Perhaps.

Some stories begin with a plot. Some begin with a character, a conceit, or a message. Eden West began with the image of a fence, and many unanswered questions. The world, the character, and the story grew from there.

This is an inefficient way to write a novel. It leads to wrong turns, blind alleys, and dead ends. Eden West stalled out several times. It took twelve years to finish.

The fence, I discovered, surrounds Nodd, a twelve-square-mile compound in western Montana. Within Nodd live the followers of Father Grace. They are awaiting the End of Days. The young man, seventeen-year-old Jacob, was raised in Nodd.

I was pretty sure I would find a story in Jacob’s world. There would be love, lust, faith, betrayal, revelation, and redemption, because all stories should have those things. Eventually I came to know my characters, their hopes and dreams, their sins and failures. I learned about the fence.

I write for the same reasons I read: to learn, to understand, to find out what happens next. Eden West turned out to be particularly long journey. Sometimes I got lost, but I always found my way by returning to the fence, where the story began.

review: eden west by pete hautman

Teenage Jacob has grown up in Nodd as a member of a cult. There is a fence around Nodd to separate them from the rest of world and one of Jacob’s duties is to patrol the fence. That’s how he meets Lynna, a girl who lives on the property abutting Nodd. Through Lynna along with a new cult member named Tobias, Jacob begins to have his eyes opened.

In Eden West, Pete Hautman provides an interesting perspective on cults by making a boy who knows no other life the narrator and juxtaposing him with two teenage outsiders. There’s plenty of symbolism and great moments such as the discoveries about the sacred tree. While the story was sometimes bogged down in redundant descriptions, those descriptions did create a sense of Jacob’s unfamiliar world.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

giveaway: blood ties by nicholas guild

Guess what? You can win a copy of Blood Ties by Nicholas Guild thanks to Forge Books. This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada. Just leave a comment with your email address (I need to be able to contact the winner!). There will be one winner selected at random. The giveaway runs until June 6 11:59pm Pacific.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

review: blood ties by nicholas guild

A serial killer is on the loose in San Francisco, but he’s being hunted too. Inspector Ellen Ridley and her partner have few leads until Ellen bends a few rules. As a result, she not only knows who the killer is, but has a new love interest too. But knowing who the killer is doesn’t make him easy to capture. Walter is smart, charismatic, and has been getting away with murder for decades. It’s only when Walter’s son combines forces with the San Francisco police that they actually have a chance of stopping the sadistic killer.

The third person narration of Blood Ties works well because it allows insights into both of the leads while also keeping enough distance to not reveal too many details upfront. And it is the details that make Blood Ties come alive. The pieces fall together nicely with the two intelligent leads hunting a monster who possesses nearly as much skill as they do.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forge Books.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

review: the doll maker by sarban

Although The Doll Maker was written in the 1950s, the only real clue to that is that there’s no mention of cell phones; yet, that doesn’t seem too unusual as the setting is an isolated girls boarding school in England. Clare should have left Paston Hall at the end of the summer term, but she has stayed on to study for an Oxford scholarship at her father’s insistence. With all of her friends having graduated, Clare sneaks out on her own one night and meets a young man named Niall who has a black cat called Grim. Clare is immediately drawn to Niall, especially once she sees the dolls he carves. As luck would have it, Clare needs help with Latin to get the Oxford scholarship and Niall’s mother is able to serve as her tutor. What Clare doesn’t know though is the story behind the beautiful dolls Niall’s carves.

Sarban (a pseudonym for John William Wall) builds the story very slowly. The Doll Maker at first seems only a tale of boy meets girl, but then it’s revealed this is no ordinary boy. Niall is interested in dark arts and placing the girls he meets under his spell. It is a creepy and haunting tale and difficult to guess whether Clare will prevail over Niall.

About the audiobook: Sarban’s The Doll Maker is narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir whose voice does well to create an appropriately creepy atmosphere. The audio version was published in 2015 by Blackstone Audio and runs a little under seven hours.
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

review: fantastical by marija bulatovic

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In Fantastical, Marija Bulatovic recalls growing up in Yugoslavia in vivid detail. Some of the stories are touching while others, such as the hot dog one, are humorous. You see, Bulatovic loved hot dogs until the day her mother declared that hot dogs cause hemophilia! Although the chapters of Fantastical are not exactly cohesive, the beautiful writing makes it a lovely collection of short stories.
Review copy provided by the publicist, MM Book Publicity.