Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Friday, October 26, 2012
Friday, October 5, 2012
Todays guest reviewer, Mary W. Walters is an award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction. Most recently she published the stylish and witty novel, ‘The Whole Clove Diet’. She is a highly acclaimed editor of books, academic articles, grant proposals, papers, theses, essays and blogs. She is a writing coach, and teaches academics, non-profit organizations and artists how to write really effective grant applications. Mary also blogs about what she knows and what she thinks on her blog, The Militant Writer.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
I loved the second installment in this series, The Silver Sword. It lurked within my Kindle, tantalizing me, begging me to drop everything and read it and so of course I did
And BEST OF ALL - The third book in this series, The Crack'd Shield is due to be released within weeks! I CAN'T WAIT!!!
Friday, September 7, 2012
Saturday, September 1, 2012
UPDATE: Since publishing this post I have discovered that this is indeed the second book in the series, the first of which is 'Bubba and the Dead Woman' . I must say this explains the heavy backstory, and I now am off to read it! This just proves that C.L. Bevill's work stands alone or as as a series, which is what I am always looking for in a cozy read. Awesome!
Friday, August 24, 2012
1Q84 is a doorstop of a book that originally was published in three volumes in Japan. It is perfect for anyone who is looking for a book for autumn, one that will last through quite a few rainy nights. Murakami writes about a woman, Aomame, and a man, Tengo. They go through separate adventures that interact in Murakami's signature mysterious existentialism.
Aomame gets out of a cab one day and climbs down from the highway into a world that has two moons. There she finds that things are a bit off. The world has shifted. In that new alternate universe, a beautiful young girl called Fuka-Eri writes about Little People. They appear out of a dead goat's mouth and build an Air Chrysalis. There are two moons, and a Town of Cats.
Meanwhile, Tengo is working to polish and publish the manuscript by Fuka-Eri called Air Chrysalis. There are fascinating minor characters, such as the man who leads a powerful cult, a man that Aomame is contracted to kill. There is Ushikawa, the man hired by the cult to find Aomame. Each of these characters is more than they appear - they unfold, like origami, into balanced people with depth and emotion.
I am already a huge Murakami fan; Kafka on the Shore is one of my very favorite books. To be able to spend a summer reading a long novel by him was a real gift. And he didn't disappoint - 1Q84 satisfied my delight in urban fantasy, science fiction, action, and wonderful writing.
The Prospect of My Arrival was a different kind of read. It is much shorter, for one thing. I read the book in a few evenings, although in part that was because I simply could not put it down. Okita uses dreamy prose that is reminiscent of Murakami. He pumps up the volume on the science fiction, as the book is about a scientific and moral experiment.
Prospect is a foetus, a baby about to be born. He is given enhanced intelligence and a twenty-year-old body and sent out into the world to see if he wants to be born.
To help him in his decision, he is sent to visit Referrals. The book is the story of those visits on one level, but there is a thread of other plots connecting those stories. There are people who are against the Pre-Born Project and who want to stop it at all costs. There is also a love story between Prospect and Lito, his second referral. Okita manages both deftly, making the first exciting and the second lovely and touching.
I have read some reviews on Amazon about The Prospect of My Arrival that complain about the spare prose. Okita uses short sentences and simple description, but to my mind it is done very artistically. The book is like a Mondrian painting. It seems very straightforward at first glance, but there is a complex structure and design behind the simple sentences. And those short phrases echo the soul of Prospect who is, after all, a foetus.
In one scene, Prospect meets his mother in the Shedd Aquarium. They talk about his sister, Joyce, in front of one of the tanks of jellyfish. "As they leave this place, jellyfish descend in slow motion like parachutes onto the bright coral reefs below them." This image is echoed in another Referral's home. "Sheer pink curtains flutter from the open windows of the living room. They move like jellyfish in the summer breeze."
The jellyfish encapsulated the book, to my mind. The words move lazily, dreamily, like underwater creatures, and yet they are mesmerizing. The plot and the prose seem so simple, and at the same time they are lovely and complex.
Can you get excited about the story of a foetus who may or may not decide to be born? Oh, yes indeed you can. As I said, I could not put it down, and I had a very sad feeling when the book ended. Luckily, Okita has other books coming out, such as The Hope Store, and I will certainly be purchasing everything by him.
I read Prospect as a Kindle book. Formatting is an art unto itself, and Okita's format is breathtaking. He includes images and chapter headings that make this a joy to read. However, the story was so amazing that I need to get the print version and beg the author to sign it for me. Okita is a name to be watched on the Indie front.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Friday, July 6, 2012
This novel is one of those wonderful experiences which every dedicated reader yearns for when they first crack open that book! Author Marilyn Rucker has written a tale a band geeks and love gone awry culminating in an ending I certainly never saw coming!
Sax in the Suburb opens with Miranda Beeling warming up her saxophone as she prepares to practice with the community band she is involved in. All the members of the band are former band-nerds of varying degrees of both age and musical ability. Miranda's idle observations of her fellow band-members paints the picture - these are people I could have known!
As people trickle in to practice, she notes the absence of two trombonists, David Hu and Ralph Tucker; people she deems as irreplaceable as they provide a buffer against 'Cheeto' a rather disgusting, obnoxious person. As the evening progresses, the conductor, an arrogant, frustrated genius named Mark Garcia arrives, and the band begins to practice, still lacking the two trombonists.
Ralph stumbles in, declaring David has been shot and is in the parking lot. This is the beginning of the fun - Miranda is a legal assistant at her father's old law firm, and she feels a deep personal connection to the murdered man. She is currently living with her father whose retirement has allowed his hoarding to get out of control, making for an unbelievably difficult environment to live in. Between worrying about her father and work, Miranda's only outlet is the band. In the course of the investigation she meets the police lieutenant investigating the crime, Lieutenant Jason Hartley (hubba-hubba!) who is also a trumpet player.
Rucker paints each scene with simple, vivid strokes. Miranda discovers how little she really knows about her friends; realizing she only knows what they have allowed her to know. No one is safe from suspicion, as both Frank and Miranda's best friend, married bassoonist Louise Parkinson were sexually involved with David Hu. Frank's involvement with David was not news to Miranda, but Louise's was. This leads Miranda to wonder just how much else she doesn't know about her friend.
The twists and turns of this plot are inventive and logical; it never sits and spins its wheels. David is only the first casualty; and as the bodies turn up, the list of suspects grows. I found I couldn't stop wondering about it when I was forced to put the book down!
Sax in the Suburbs is Marilyn Rucker's first published novel. She has an intimate knowledge of her subject as she is both a practicing attorney and working musician, playing (!) the sax in a well-known jazz band.
Monday, June 25, 2012
This is one of the more thought provoking novels I have ever come across. I had to read it twice, before I could sit down and write this review! Indie author Shaun Allan has created a real masterpiece with Sin. Allan's style is narrative, and in a way, reminded me of James Joyce's equally compelling 'Finnegan's Wake'. Others have compared Allan's style to Stephen King and Dean Koontz; and there is a slight similarity to their work as in it is definitely horror, but I am here to tell you Shaun Allen is an original in the purest sense. This is "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Finnegan’s Wake."
The facts come out, or do they? This book is a rollercoaster ride from the start to the finish, and I give it 5 stars for originality.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
72 - hours to Crack the Universe’s Code by indie author Mark O'Brien is a novel of political intrigue, mathematics, passion and underlying it all, an imperative directive to humanity with dire galactic overtones.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Nalena's story captured me from the first sentence. The image of a girl living with a mother who writes constantly, filling the house with piles and piles of paper covered with small, neat writing, was addictive. And Nalena herself is beautifully realized. Like Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix, she is adolescent and angry.
Her anger is understandable. She is bullied at school, and she has to lug home those reams of paper for her mom. She's pretty, and she could be popular, but because one girl saw the inside of her home, her nickname is "The Waste."
It isn't until she meets Garrett Reece that her life begins to change. He is gorgeous and kind, and his family takes Nalena and her mother in. More importantly, he seems to understand her mom and why Nalena herself is starting to experience some strange episodes of her own.
Provencher insisted on including the fantasy element in the book, to the point of rejecting agents' cries for a rewrite into a more realistic book. The fantasy is well-done, although the ending does feel a bit rushed. (As a fellow author I can sympathize; endings are incredibly difficult to pull off.) Still, it's satisfying and makes me want more.
Keystone will be the next in the series, and I shall certainly look for it.
Here's what I liked about the book:
1. The writing is fantastic. "A wave of hot, rancid stomach soup rolls through me." I remember that stomach soup feeling from my own teens. That little sentence captures that feeling of dread perfectly.
Another example: "There's a whole library full of empty tables up front, but this boy, with hair that would probably feel like soft twine between my fingertips, has to sit here." Great description, and I'm very thankful that she resisted the urge to use the Jewel Words: topaz eyes, etc.
2. Nalena herself. She's a well-drawn, conflicted character.
3. The tensions between Nalena and her mother. It's perfect and logical.
4. Provencher is self-published, and the format and edit are just about perfect. Too many self-published novels roll into cyberspace with myriad errors, and Cornerstone is clean of those. Again, as an author with a small (tiny) press, I appreciate this. Self-publication is an art form, and Provencher has pulled it off beautifully!
A few quibbles:
1. You know that I love female friendships. Nalena and Garrett become friends, but she doesn't have a girlfriend to chat with in the book. The one girl who hangs with her in school, Cora, is depicted as a physically repulsive, not-very-nice person. I would have preferred to see a friend who could be counted on throughout the story.
2. Garrett was just a bit too perfect. He's gorgeous and kind, as I said, but he really would have sprung to life if he had a few flaws.
Perhaps these will be addressed in the next book. And I'm being very picky. For those quibbles, I give Provencher a 4 out of 5 stars, and I definitely recommend this as a great read.
You can buy Cornerstone here: on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble Nook
and find Misty Provencher here: http://mistypro.blogspot.com/
She is also on Twitter: @mistyprovencher
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
First published in 1989, The Woman Upstairs written by Mary W.Walters is a timeless tale of a family's descent into dysfunction and estrangement. A young woman, Diana Guthrie, has been told that her estranged mother is dying. Neither her mother nor her brother has told her this, but a friend of the family has taken it upon himself to tell her, believing that it is the right thing to do. Diana makes the arduous drive from Edmonton, Alberta to well-heeled Donellon, Ontario, with no clear idea of why she is going to where she is not wanted, and not knowing what she will do when she gets there.
Diana's mother's family, the Leavenworths, had long been the pre-eminent family in Donellon society, and her mother and grandmother never let her forget that. Her haughty, disdainful grandmother despised Diana's father, whose parents were from the United States, sneering at him and his textile factory in Donellon as being low-class and generally treating him despicably.
Grandmother despised the Guthrie Textile Factory for its ugliness, its base origins and considered it to be a blight on the landscape. She was frank in her opinion that her daughter married far beneath herself.
Despite Grandmother's disdain of her husband, Diana's own mother insisted that Grandmother live with them, against her husband's earnest wishes. Grandmother is not simply hateful to Diana's father. She also open in her intense dislike of Diana, the child of six years of age who did not fit into the Leavenworth mold. From the moment her grandmother moves in with them, the Guthrie marriage begins to deteriorate, and Diana's childhood becomes an endless cycle of guilt and recrimination.
All through her school years, Diana is both admired and despised for her connection to the Guthrie Textiles, as her father is the largest employer in Donellon. Her own grandmother's vocal disdain was perhaps a part of that, giving the local aristocracy permission to feel somehow more upper-class than someone whose wealth is both new and foreign. She has few close friends and is awkward and unsure of herself as she traverses the high school years.
There are many open wounds in Diana's relationship with her mother, and the news that her mother is dying sends Diana into an emotional tailspin, which she desperately tries to keep contained under the smooth veneer that, if she only knew it, is the mark of the women in her family.
Her younger brother, Mitchell, still lives with their mother, and is possessed of an extremely warped view of the situation. He is angry and resentful of Diana, telling her frankly that she is not welcome there. He arrogantly orders her to stay away from their mother. Indeed, Diana does hesitate to go upstairs to her mother’s room, but that is for reasons of her own.
The story of what lies between Diana and her mother unfolds over the space of several days, during which she lurks downstairs, unwilling to go upstairs to her dying mother, and unable to leave. Other relationships which had been poisoned as a by-product of the Guthrie family situation come to light and are examined for the first time in years.
As a young child, her relationship with her mother was destroyed by her grandmother, whose hateful actions go unpunished, while Diana's punishments for natural childish behaviors are never-ending.
Guilt, abandonment and death form the watershed moments in Diana's childhood. Her father breaks under the extreme pressure of living with his mother-in-law, and abandons his family, which cuts the young Diana deeply.
The suicide of Noel, the boy she loved, drives her to leave Donellon under a cloud of hate and suspicion. Many people blame Diana for his death. The story of what really happened, and what lies between three generations of women in one family is compelling and impossible to put down.
The characters are clearly drawn and environment in which they live is rich and vivid. I highly recommend this classic book, as either an e-book or as a paperback.
Other books by Mary W. Walters include several technical books and novels, including The Whole Clove Diet, a novel that was just published in March of 2012, and is soon to be available as a Kindle download.
I guarantee that I will be buying that book!
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
REQUIEM FOR THE WIDOWMAKER is an astounding work. It offers a dark vision filled with fascinating, well developed characters from the underbelly of the Southern California biker culture, and from the universal and timeless perspective of homicide detectives.
This novel is action packed, tightly plotted, psychologically incisive, and, ultimately, life affirming, despite its unflinching view of the pain of human existence. It's a page turner--I couldn't put it down. This is a novel such as Charles Bukowski might have given us.
Detective Nadine Kozak and her partner, the aging, old school, Johnny Vance team up to hunt down a vigilante serial killer called the Widowmaker. Their quest will lead them to places in which they must face their own demons and question their most deeply held values.
Blackie Noir's writing is so much fun that some might say: "Yeah, but is it great literature?" My answer is; I don't know. But consider this passage and decide for yourself:
"Watching the water stretching out, it's darker indigo melding with the paler azure of the sky where they joined on the horizon. This early in the morning, both managed to maintain the illusion of pristine cleanliness. As the day wore on the truth would out, their faux virginity shattered, both sky and sea would reveal their true colors, the horizon becoming a pronounced line, as dreary beige met dismal gray. Vance sighed; metaphor for the career of an aging cop."
Noir, Blackie (2012-04-13). Requiem For The Widowmaker (Kindle Locations 5013-5016). . Kindle Edition.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
This week we are exploring the dark side of life in the bucolic country-side with the unnerving novel, Wishbone, by indie author Brooklyn Hudson.
The tale begins with Rachel and Julien Grenier, a well-to-do couple who live on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan. Julien was born on a farm in France, and at the age of 9 he witnessed his father brutally murder his beloved grandfather. He does not share this traumatic experience with anyone, not even his wife, although he is plagued by dreams of the event. A sculptor and artist, Rachel knows that he has has secrets, but is content to leave them be as they don't intrude on their life together.
Unfortunately, Rachel is the victim of a brutal attack that culminates in the miscarriage of their baby; a child that Julien was unaware of and would not have wanted.
Rachel sinks into depression bordering on madness, and is ruled by her fears. Julien is desperate to bring her back to normal. To escape the past and give Rachel a new start in life, Julien quits his job and finds a home in the country, a lovely old Victorian that Rachel falls in love with.
King's Hollow appears at first to be the miracle they prayed for. The one thing that Julien is not really on board with is the Chickens that come along with the place, but eventually he accepts them. The chickens are cared for by a developmentally disabled seventeen-year old, named Sarah.
Sarah even does the butchering of the chickens, and although she is unhappy at eating a 'pet', Rachel cooks it up and finds it to be the best chicken she ever ate, as does Julien. At the end of their meal, they take the wishbone, and play the game of wishing on it.
This begins a series of events, and their life together takes a strange turn, directly into the Twilight Zone.
I could not put this book down. Julien is handsome and strong, and loving and giving despite his secrets. Once they begin the game they cannot quit, nor can they stick to the rules they set for themselves. Rachael is no longer herself and Julien is experiencing a string of bad luck and unfortunate accidents.
And at the center of everything is Sarah and her beloved chickens.
This book will have you thinking long after you put it down. I don't think that I will ever see a Thanksgiving dinner again and not think about this book!