Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review Wednesday: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book had a lot going on, and yet, somehow, nothing was ever happening. And that pretty much sums up my feelings for the book. Parts of it I loved, and I couldn't stop reading. Then parts of it...not so much. I'd stop reading with no interest in picking it up again. So, it took me almost a month to read this book, and in that time I read 3 or 4 other books.

The beginning of Rebecca was way too much information for me. I don't like books that start at the end, and then jump to the beginning. Mostly because I don't know or care about the characters when I start, so I don't really care about them waxing philosophical about fate and the past, and boring hotels, and wood pigeons, etc. Really, the entire first chapter and part of the second could have been an epilogue. And if it had been an epilogue, it would have been better, because the author could have tied up some of the hundreds of loose ends she left dangling. As it is, as a beginning chapter, she can't give away TOO much (although again, I think she goes overboard with the foreshadowing and basically gives away the ending. When she talks about the empty shell of the house, I immediately knew it had been burned, so the entire book I was expecting the ending. If I hadn't been expecting the ending, the end would have knocked my breath out. I did have a wonderful little shiver at the ending b/c the author builds suspense so well, but it would have had a much greater impact without being foretold from the very beginning.

Okay. Now that we've dealt with the beginning and end, let's talk about the middle stuff--plot, setting, characters, themes, etc. Yep, all that meat.

The setting of Mandalay was well-done, but somehow it didn't keep me interested. I wanted it to be more creepy or something. I'm sure it was described very well, but I must have drifted off during those parts because I hardly remember anything except the outdoor part of the estate--the flowers, trees, azaleas, etc. The Happy Valley. The cottage, the beach...all those are painted vividly in my mind. The house itself did not make an impression.

Although we get to know the inner thoughts and insecurities of our young heroine quite well, it annoyed me that we never learn her name or age. Maybe that's supposed to make us relate to her better (she's nameless, therefore she's me!) but it only annoyed me. Maybe I'm not romantic enough to put myself in her shoes. Also, they make her sound like she's 15 or something, and Mr. de Winter is 42, so it creeped me out a little, especially when he says stuff like "you're young enough to be my daughter...you little fool...be my wife." And I'm not a big fan of romance-novel hero types, so mean/rude/distant/self-absorbed guys really don't do it for me. Mr. de Winter was very much that, a Mr. Rochester type all the way. I eventually warmed up to him, but even then I kept wondering why he's been such an awful husband and ignored his child bride and her insecurities instead of trying to make her feel at home, or welcome, or even wanted. Especially since he's supposed to love her.

The other characters were well-done, and I liked Maxim's sister, she was such a character. So were Ms. Danvers, the cousin (SO well done!), and the aura of Rebecca that lingered, and Frank. I really wanted to know what happened to them all at the end, though. A rather big loose end.

I will say, it was fun learning the mystery of Rebecca and having her story slowly revealed. When Mr. de Winter tells what really happened to her, I have to say it was a shock. I laughed and decided then that I love this book. But there was so much to go, I kept wondering if she'd turn up alive at some point! I didn't really understand why she hated Maxim, though, and it seemed like a huge oversight not to give her a reason. Sure, she thought men were a big joke. But he married her, and let her have affairs, and did pretty much anything she wanted. So why was she swearing she'd take Mandalay from him? She had no reason to need to 'win' or get revenge. Also, I didn't really think Max had reason to kill her. And then the book sort of makes you root for him, so I'm wondering if the message is supposed to be that it's okay to kill your wife if she cheats but it's not okay to divorce her. And then of course Mr. de Winter is kind of a jerk up until he confesses murder, and then he's the nicest gut, loving and passionate and open about EVERYTHING even though he'd had nothing but anger/secrecy before this point. Yes, I know he's relieved his guilty conscience, but I still didn't really think he'd transform that fast.

Overall, this was a wonderful, deliciously twisted book that gave me lots of surprises and had good suspense and mystery once I got past the first half, which really dragged. The second half was exciting and wonderful, and I walked away from it laughing despite the huge holes at the end that leaves almost everything unexplained. Such as, who lit the fire? Mrs. Danvers? I thought she'd already left. And why didn't anyone put it out? Did anyone die? If not, what happened to everyone? Why didn't the de Winters rebuild the house, since the estate wasn't damaged, or it doesnt sound like it. Why are they living their lives in a hotel? Why don't they go back? Why didn't they sell the property instead of letting it go wild? Yeah. I had a lot of questions at the end, but still, when they drive over that hill and Max says, "That's Mandalay," I laughed out loud with the wonderful ending.



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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review Wednesday: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Unabridged) (Audio Cd)The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Unabridged) by Avi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this book. Lately I've been reading a lot of YA historical fiction and not finding it as satisfying as I used to. This book really entertained me. I got very absorbed in the story, in the mysteries and intrigue aboard the Sea Hawk.



I loved the characterization of all the men on the ship, although the bad guy could have been a little more evil I thought. But I guess in YA it can't be *too* graphic, and this book was written in 1990 when YA was a much tamer field. Besides the characters, well, there's not a lot going on in this book. There's a bunch of men on a ship. They sail. They get to know each other, and our title character. It's the usual pirate tale, but with a thirteen-year-old heroine. I thought it was a charming book for young people, especially girls, who are interested in strong female characters and pirate novels.



This is the second Avi novel I've read, and I liked them both. My only complaint with this book was the ending was a little predictible and saccharine. Otherwise, exciting and easy fare.



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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Paris Wife made me remember why I love historical fiction so much. McLain not only captures the atmosphere, but she does it with striking prose. I was not surprised to learn she'd published a book of poetry prior to this.

I just finished this book and I'm a little overwhelmed by it, but I'll do my best to form coherent thoughts. First of all, I cannot stress enough what an amazing job the author did of capturing the atmosphere of post-war Paris. Not that I was there to experience it, but after reading this book, I feel like I was. Like I walked the streets, participated in the extravagance, the decadence, the debauchery, the fashions and fads of the time, the whiskey and wine, the cigarettes and smoke, the poverty and claustrophobia. The atmosphere of the book itself is enough to make me love it. And the fact that it's about a writer only made me adore it more. It made me want to be there, to throw myself into their world, to smoke and drink and ski and go fishing and fall in love and write a novel. The only thing it did not make me want to do was go to a bullfight, but that's only because I did not enjoy that experience myself. If I'd never been to one, I certainly would want to after reading McLain's novel.

Aside from the atmosphere, McLain also captures the personalities of her characters so well. I felt like I was Hadley while I read it. Her parts were so alive, so aching and beautiful. Hemingway's few sections were also wonderful, confused and tortured and with a quite distinct voice from his wife's. Even though I knew what was coming, I still held on with Hadley and ached for her, cried for her a few times, loved with her. Because who hasn't loved that man who is so wrong for you, but so swooningly right?

There were a few parts where it went so far I just cringed, too horrified to look but unable to stop. Like the part where the other woman gets in bed with them and Hadley just lies there while her husband makes love to his mistress. Also, the part where Hadley loses Ernest's manuscripts. Being a writer myself, it just knocked the breath out of me. That must be every writer's worst nightmare. I was literally gasping to breathe at how terrible it would be, and McLain does a wonderful job showing that, even through the eyes of the wife instead of the writer himself.

Hemingway is captured well, too. I understood his artist mentality very well. McLain takes an age old story (the struggling artist, a nobody, falls in love with another nobody, they get married, she stays in love while he gets famous and becomes somebody, and suddenly, his nobody wife isn't enough for him) and makes it stand out in all its tragedy and romance. This isn't a romance novel, but possibly the most romantic book I've ever read--not only in Hadley and Ernest's love, but in Paris, and the sweeping scope of the novel, the lavishness, the beauty of language and description and location, of each event, each chapter of their love affair. Even their demise is poignant and heartbreaking and messy, but rings with absolute truth.

In the epilogue, when it goes into the history of Ernest's family, I got a bit of a shock. Of course I knew of Hemingway's death, but when I didn't know about the rest of his family. It was so morbid, and tragic, and sad. I'm glad that Hadley lived a long and full life, despite the wild years of drinking and smoking and cavorting around Paris with her artist husband. And glad to learn that she went on to happiness, even if she couldn't help Ernest. Like so many tragic figures, you find that the ones who need help are the ones who refuse it the most vehemently. This novel does paint Hemingway in a very sympathetic light, despite his flaws and shortcomings.


Recommended for: anyone who's ever been in love, been betrayed, or been to Paris.




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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review Wednesday: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm not sure exactly how to describe this book. It's definitely YA. But other than that, trying to fit it into a category would take some work. It's part mystery, part horror, part contemporary; it's part paranormal, part sci-fi, part weird picture book.

I really liked it at the beginning. Our protagonist had a good sarcastic voice which I liked, but he never crossed the line into snide or mean. And all the pictures, and hearing his grandfather's stories, got me really interested in the book. It seemed like something fresh, which doesn't happen that often, since so many times the books I read end up having similar plots or problems. I liked that this one wasn't a love story, that it was about a boy bonding with his grandfather. The characters were great--the best friend and the grandfather especially.

But somewhere around the middle of the book, I started to lose momentum. All that novelty and excitement started to wear off. By the time I got to the time-travel 'loops' and all the paranormal type creatures, I wasn't very interested anymore. That part didn't seem all that original, and I started noticing that the writing was a bit elementary for me. Yes, I know it's YA, but I read lots of YA. I could tell it was a first novel.

I did enjoy the book, so I will give it three stars. I like it when writers do something new or different that surprises me, like adding weird photographs into the text. But, that could only carry the book so far. Also, it seems like the ending just leads to a sequel, so that sort of annoyed me. I don't think I would read a sequel, but I did think this book was cute and I'd recommend it to people who are fans of the odd and slightly strange.




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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book. I don’t give 5-stars very often, but I really can’t think of anything wrong with this book. It was so silly, and tender, and poignant, and sad, and…adjective overload. I can’t say enough about the amazingness of this book. I recommend to pretty much everyone. It did have some bad language, but I’ve seen worse. I’m not sure why it’s not YA, since the protagonist is 15 and the only thing inappropriate is the language. I’ve read YA that’s a lot more disturbing as far as subject matter and had just as much profanity. I would not call this book a mystery, but it did have moments of discovery that surprised me, which I enjoyed very much.

The characters in this book were so amazing and well-done. I loved Christopher and as he went through his struggles, he took me along, explaining things along the way that I’d never even realize I never think about. Haddon does as great job of imagining the mind of a person with Asperger’s syndrome. I liked all his lists, and how he explained things in such a delightful, childlike way even though it was usually something very complicated and scientific.

I felt a lot of sympathy for the father (and mother, although she was only a minor character). He had an anger management problem, but I still felt for him and cried when he was trying to make it up to Christopher. I know a little bit about the difficulties of trying to communicate with people on the autism spectrum, and I have infinite respect for parents who face those struggles every day. So although the father was sometimes brutally awful, the author did a wonderful job of making him sympathetic at the same time. I found myself tearing up a few times, both over the sweetness between the father and son and the moments of anguish.

Mark Haddon has created a wonderful book that I can only hope will be widely read for years to come. The way he creates balanced characters with frustrations, fears, sadness, and love that you can feel as you read is truly rare and wonderful. A heartbreaking, hilarious, and complicated work with wide appeal that is well worth reading or listening to. It’s one of those rare books that, when I got to the end, I immediately had the urge to start over at the beginning and reread.

In summary: I LOVE THIS BOOK!


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Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday!

Alright, well, while I'm at it, I figured I'd keep my book at .99 through the weekend and Cyber Monday. So if you want to find The Superiors for super cheap, go check it out! And look at all the other great deals while you're there, too. I'm pretty excited about the tote bag I found on amazon!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


3.5 stars



I read the first half of this book and listened to the second half on audio. I liked the parts I read much better. At first, it was a little hard to get into since it's written in dialect. But once I got into it, I really enjoyed reading it. When I listened to it, I just wanted to get it over with, so I'm not sure if I didn't like the reader of if the book just lost my interest.



I thought it was a good exploration of the relationships between women, both the supportive side and the cattiness. I've heard that a lot of people are angry about a white author trying to capture the voice of black women, or they say the book is stereotyped, or that it glosses over a horrible situation. I didn't really feel that way at all. I think it portrays black people in a very positive light, but I never had a maid or knew anyone who did, black or white, so I can't really say if the book is accurate or not. And it certainly does not gloss over racism and give us a happy Mammie figure. I liked all the characters in the book, although Skeeter's parts were somewhat dull compared to the others.



I also didn't know much about the maid culture of Southern families before civil rights, so that was interesting. I'd heard of rich white families having black wet nurses during slavery, but I didn't know so many maids raised white children even in the 1950's and 60's. So the historical aspect of the book interested me.



I liked that this book, unlike so many in women's literature, did not focus on romance. I'd recommend to anyone sick of reading romance novels disguised as something else, and for pretty much all women in general. A good modern historical fiction book.



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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review Wednesday: Fading into Magic by Vone Savan

Fading Into Magic (Fading Into Magic, #1)Fading Into Magic by Vone Savan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was a valiant effort from a new independent author. I was drawn to it because of the wonderful, whimsical cover art. The story itself is engaging, exciting, and fast-paced. It has some romance, some tragedy, some action...all the usual paranormal ingredients.
The main character seemed a little undeveloped, but I still rooted for her. The plot was a little predictible, but I find that's true of almost all YA paranormal romance. The girls in this book seemed more like 10 than 17, though. At the beginning, I kept checking back to make sure I'd done the math right--I don't see 17 year old girls running everywhere and yelling to each other all the time, calling each other 'honey bunny' and stuff like that. I'm not sure the author is very aware of what high school girls are like.

While the plot didn't have any holes or leave anything to be desired, the writing style was very elementary and hard for me to get into. Some of the dialogue was hokey, the inner monologues often sounded like lectures for the reader, and the writing itself was very beginner. It was a good book, and with a professional editor who knew the writing business, it could have been very good. All the adjectives and people yelling things drove me a little nutty, though. I'd recommend a few books on writing for this author, and expect great things from him if he gets his books into industry-standard form.

An intriguing read that I'd recommend for Middle Grade/Young Adult readers of paranormal romance.



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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review Wednesday: Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart, #1)The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


3.5 stars



This book was a fast-paced, interesting historical fiction for young adults. It had some pretty adult themes, but nothing graphic. It was really interesting to me, especially all the parts about the opium trade and how England endorsed it and legally sanctioned the opium growers of India. Unfortunately, I'm not sure many young adults would be interested in the subject, so I don't think this book was very popular (at least not in America). However, it was well worth reading. It's full of action, mystery, and plenty of educational stuff. Now I want to read two things: the next book in the series, and more historical fiction about the British/Indian opium trade.



This is not a light, fluffy read, despite the action and themes (mystery, murder, stolen treasure, a giant ruby, pirates, orphans, curses, oh my!) It has a dark atmosphere, but not gloomy. And besides the action and suspense, the characters are wonderful and lovable. Not quite as much as in His Dark Materials, but wonderful nonetheless. I like how Pullman writes strong female characters at the center of his novels, and surrounds them with a memorable cast of men. In this book, both the heroine and the villain are female, both of them striking and wonderful. And all the supporting characters are quirky, but not too quirky. Realistically rendered and delightfully deviant.



I'd recommend this book to intelligent young adults and adults.



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Monday, November 7, 2011

Perseverence

When people talk about what a writer needs, it always seems to go something like this:

1. an idea
2. an ability to string together a sentence (with talent helps, but is certainly not necessary).
3. time to write
4. passion
5. dedication
6....

I'm here to add one thing to the list: perseverence.

Yes, this is certainly mentioned in blogs and topics where the goal is finding an agent and a publisher. But even if you're not querying or looking to get published, a giant dose of perseverence is mandatory.

First of all, you have to stick with the story. Sure, I have a dozen stories I started that are now anywhere from 30 pages to 150 pages. But if I'd stuck with them, they might have been something. Now they never will be. Maybe some of them didn't really need to be written. Some of them were abandoned for another more pressing idea. Some of them just took too long and I ran out of steam. That's bad. I don't want to abandon a story that has potential just because I lose interest in it. But sometimes it happens to me. First drafting is like a fever of creativity--if I don't capture it when it's fresh, it gets stale and sometimes fades. That's why I can do an entire first draft in a week or two, and why it's not uncommon for me. Of course, having a job does tend to get in the way of that. Too often real life obligations crowd out writing time, and the story goes stagnant for me.

And then, if I get the first draft done before the creativity runs dry, I have to go back and edit. Sometimes, I put this off for, oh, a year or so. Because I hate one of the editing steps. I call it my 'passive voice' edit, where I go through the entire novel trying to root out all those was'es and am's. I can put this off for months. I can start a passive voice edit and finish it six months later. I will try any means of procrastination to avoid sitting down and rooting those little buggers out. It's the head-lice case of the writing process. Nit-picking, fine tooth comb, all that stuff. Adding and deleting scenes is a breeze, perfecting the voice of each character, all that is fun stuff. But that dreaded edit makes me want to scream. But if I do it, if I stick it out and plow through, the book is better. It has to be done.

So now I'm going back to editing. I'm going to stop procrastinating. I will persevere.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Follow Friday!

Hey everyone,
I make it a point to reciprocate in social media, following my followers and such. So...I've tried to follow all my followers' blogs, twitters, etc, on each site. I went through my blog follower list, and I *think* I've got everyone. Authors supporting each other is always a good thing.

So, if I haven't followed your blog back, please post a comment and let me know if I still need to do that. Have a happy Friday and a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Review Wednesday: Bridget Jones's Diary By Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary (Bridget Jones, #1)Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the funniest book I've read in ages, maybe ever. I love the movie and have seen it way too many times, so I had all the voices in my head when I read it, which was great. Reading it in the intended British accent made it even funnier.

The only book I've ever read that is close to as funny as this is Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, which is like the YA version of this book--both written in diary format, with lots of funny stuff and a few British jokes I didn't get. Still, Bridget Jones has been near and dear to me for about ten years now, so I can't believe I hadn't read the book until now.

The book is a different from the movie in a lot of places, such as the general plot. Also, Mark hardly appears in most of the book, while he's in the movie a lot more. And Daniel sort of disappears halfway through the book and she hardly hears from him again. I have to say, I love love love his character. He's not just the rascally literary antogonist--he's like the real scondrel that we've all dated. Or, at least, I've dated that type. Mark wasn't as well developed, and in fact, I found his character a little transparent in the book. Definitely not nearly as well-done as the hilarious Daniel. Every time Daniel was in a scene, I could not stop laughing out loud for minutes on end! His every line and every move was just so...right.

Bridget's friends also get more page-time than they do screen-time. I just loved her friends, especially Shazzer (I HAD this friend in college!) and Tom, who was so lovable and hilarious I just wanted to hug him and giggle every time he showed up. I loved all Bridget's little tips she got from Jude, from the feng-shui "where do I put the wastebasket?" to the zen lectures. All the friends were hilarious and well-developed in short spaces of time.

It's the first book in a long time that I just could not put down--I put off everything I needed to do for three days straight because I wanted to read this book in every spare second. I don't know what else to say except that his book is a hilarious, light read that pretty much every single girl would love, and plenty of not-single girls too. Full of cheeky, irreverent humor that will make anyone with even a pigeon's sense of humor burst into laughter at least ten times.



Quotes: There are way too many to count, I'd end up quoting the whole book. But a few I marked in the last few hours:

RE Pride & Prejudice: "I would hate to see Darcy and Elizabeth in bed, smoking a cigarette afterwards. That would be unnatural and wrong."



"I hate Christmas. Everything is designed for families, romance, warmth, emotion and presents, and if you have no boyfriend, no money, your mother is going out with a missing Portuguese criminal and your friends don't want to be your friend anymore, it makes you want to emigrate to a vicious Muslim regime, where at least all the women are treated like social outcasts."



"Every time I've met Julio he has been clean and coiffed beyond all sense and carrying a gentleman's handbag. Now he was wild, drunk, unkempt and, frankly, just the type I fall for."





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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coffin Hop giveaway winner!

Hey guys!

Thanks for checking out my coffin hop blogs. The winner of my contest is Jennifer S. I will be emailing you shortly. Congratulations!

And thanks to everyone who entered. I will follow your blogs back if you've followed mine. Happy November. I hope everyone had a spooky, eventful Halloween! Mine was!

Monday, October 31, 2011

e-ARC giveaway on the Coffin Hop today!

Hey guys! If you're not following the Coffin Hop going on, you should be! There are awesome prizes on all the participating blogs!
As for me, I will be giving away an e-Arc of The Vigilantes, sequel to my first novel, The Superiors.

See the earlier post from Monday on how to win!!! Thanks and have fun Coffin Hopping!

Hallo-week Book Reviews! Salem's Lot, by Stephen King

Salem's LotSalem's Lot by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I picked up this book off my sister's floor after seeing it lying around for a couple weeks. I had stopped reading Stephen King after Cell, which I read after a long break from Mr. King. When I read Cell, I thought I'd finally outgrown my love of King-style horror, so it had been several years since I'd read anything 'scary.' But I had a free copy of Salem's Lot, one of King's classics that I'd never read. Plus, I'd just finished writing my own vampire series, so I thought I'd try reading a vamp classic.



Well. Turns out I am not too old for Stephen King. This book is the first, last, and only book I can ever remember giving me shivers. The kind where I have to then go check the doors and windows before I go to sleep. I've read tons of King's books, and maybe some scared me, but I don't remember any of them creeping me out this much. This book is just plain creepy.



Parts of it were a little dull and unneccessary, like when I had to read little sections about all the townsfolk who were only in a scene or two. A couple of these little scenes were a little creepy--the guy at the dump who shoots the rats, the woman who avenges her rapist husband--but mostly, I didn't care much about those. I guess some were added to up the creepy factor, like the rats. I know SK has a thing about rats--they are in so many of his books! Mostly, though, I just wanted to get on with the story of the few survivors banding together slowly to take care of the vamps as they took care of the town of Jerusalem's Lot.



The main characters were easy to relate to, especially the kid (isn't there always the kid hero in King's books--a great way to draw sympathy and give plausibility to the monsters) and I loved the old teacher Mr. Burke, and the doctor, and even Father Callahan, although he disappeared a little too quick. Guess I'll have to find him in The Dark Tower books.



I also liked how not everyone survived, and I liked how it followed Dracula pretty closely. It could have done without a few of the character sketches, I thought, but otherwise, a fantastically creepy book!



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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hallo-week Book Reviews: Carrie by Stephen King

CarrieCarrie by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm not sure why I haven't read this book before now. In high school I read tons of Stephen King, but for some reason I skipped over this one. Maybe because it was thin and I liked the big thousand-plus page books he wrote. I was finally inspired to read this book because I saw the movie, liked it, and wanted to see if the book was better.



For me, it was a good read. Some of the parts got a little tedius, but overall, it was a good book. A little immature in the King realm, but that's to be expected from his first book. Some of the characters could have been better developed, IMO, and some of the exciting parts were too slow. They would have been better if the action had been speeded up some. Such as the part about Carrie after the prom, which went on and on, and I really lost interest and drifted off to sleep a few times during those parts. I did like how the book showed how alienating it can be to be an outcast, and how that made Carrie at sort of hateful person on the inside despite her religious upbringing and her usual character for most of the book. But when she had the power to get back at everyone, all the years of being picked on boiled to the surface. I thought the book did a good job of showing how brutal girls can be, even more so than boys.



This book was pretty good, but far from my favorite King book. Recommended for King fans, since this is a classic and his first book--you sort of have to read it.



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Monday, October 24, 2011

Coffin Hop!

Hey guys! As some of you know, I've been invited to participate in the Halloween Coffin Hop for horror authors. If you'd like to check it out, you can win tons of free stuff, play games, find new authors, etc. Click on the coffin hop badge to the right to go to the Coffin Hop site.

Also, I am doing a giveaway as my part. I'm giving away an e-ARC of my upcoming book, The Vigilantes (sequel to The Superiors). If you want to win a copy, here's how.

Follow my blog (+1 entry)
Follow my Twitter @lenahillbrand (+1)
Like my FB page http://www.facebook.com/LenaHillbrand (+1)
Post on FB about this giveaway (+2)
Post a blog about this giveaway/the Coffin Hop (+2)

Just leave a comment here letting me know what you've done, with links to your FB or blog post.

Thanks and have fun coffin hopping!

Guest Author: Nancy Straight

Guest Post from Nancy Straight: Support Independent Authors

I’ve been an independent author for nearly 90 days now and have met some of the most amazing people of my life. Independent Authors are a breed all their own. I’ve worked in many industries, and rarely have I been humbled by my peers. As an independent author, I write for a selfish reason - because I love it. I didn’t know that there were thousands of people out there just like me! Each one of them more willing than the last to: offer advice, recommend other authors’ works, and engage with their fans.
These are the people that tell stories that make you laugh out loud, hours after your husband has fallen asleep. Stories that allow you to escape into worlds full of Vampires, Shape-shifters, Angels and creatures no one has even heard of. The same stories are able to drive us to the brink of hysterics when the heroine doesn’t fall for the right guy.
Traditional authors are great, publishing houses are necessary institutions, but over the years I’ve found fewer and fewer traditional authors whose work I felt passionate about reading. Independent authors’ work is different; it feels different to read. The amazing part is, every independent author is anxiously waiting to hear from you on Facebook, their blog, their website or in your reviews.
When you buy books from Independent Authors, and their work moves you – you can tell them. They want to hear from you. The stories I am able to read now, from other independent authors, have made me love reading again. So when you have a choice between that $17 book from a publishing house or a .99 cent story from an Indie – take a chance, I bet you’ll be surprised.
Links to my books
http://www.amazon.com/Meeting-Destiny-Series-ebook/dp/B003U2RUP8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319075880&sr=8-1
http://www.amazon.com/Destinys-Revenge-Destiny-Series-ebook/dp/B005FO28PG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1319075880&sr=8-2
Facebook Author Page
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Nancy-Straight/243616005687882?sk=wall
Good Reads Blog
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4114202.Nancy_Straight/blog
Twitter
@nancystraight

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review Wednesday: Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The Amityville HorrorThe Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this book in honor of Halloween month...er, October, I guess it's called. I was hoping for a non-Stephen King horror book that might scare me. Unfortunately, this one did not.

I listened to this on audio, sometimes late at night when everyone had gone to bed. I even shut off the light and listened to it while I went to sleep a couple times. I really, really wanted to be scared. But I wasn't.

First off, the audio narrator supposedly won some awards, but I did not care for his reading style at all. It sounded like a robot was reading, which I got used to except for during the dialogue, where there was not a single voice inflection. It was so bad I started laughing when the people were supposed to be terrified. Maybe reading it, I would have been more scared, but I don't think I'll bother finding out.

Reading other reviews, I've seen a lot of people saying this book is bogus and all fake. It was in the non-fiction section of my library, and it does say several times that all the events were true. Maybe if I believed in that sort of thing, hauntings and paranormal activity, it might have frightened me. But I'm too pragmatic to take a book at its word, even if the author says its true. Which, to be fair, I do believe that he wrote down the stories that he heard. I'm not even saying the people who went through the experience made it all up. What I'm saying is, although it might have scared the crap out of the Lutz's, it did not scare me. Whether or not it is true or accurate, I don't really care. I wasn't doing research. I just wanted a book to give me the shivers. If you're looking for that kind of book, I suggest looking elsewhere, unless you are a big believer in ghosts and evil entities coming through the walls. Then this book might scare you.



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Friday, October 14, 2011

Movie Review: 127 Hours

I don't usually review movies (because I don't watch movies anymore) but I actually watched a movie last night and I swore I'd post more in October, so here goes. My very first movie review.

3.5/5 stars

It always amazes me when I hear about true-story survival movies like this. Not because of the story line—a guy gets trapped by a boulder for five days and chops off his arm to get out—but because they can make a two hour movie about a guy stuck under a boulder interesting enough to watch. I mean, I’m sure it’s one of the most horrible experiences a person can live through. But the very fact that it’s one guy stuck in one spot for the entire movie makes me wonder just what exactly they can do to keep me interested.

This movie was actually pretty interesting. They do give you about half an hour (my times are just estimates, I didn’t check the timer on my DVD player every time something happened—sorry, I’m not that big a movie critic) when he’s wandering around Canyonlands, meeting girls, biking, etc. Then he falls in the crevice and gets stuck.

And somehow, all that beginning stuff, which is probably supposed to keep the movie interesting, actually bored me a little. I kept thinking, when are we going to get to the good part where he’s stuck and has to survive?

It seemed a little unbelievable how calm the guy stayed once he got stuck. He’s basically like, oh crap. My arm is crushed under a giant boulder. Hm, what should I do? He never panics, or even seems to feel pain. I liked all his little video-diary entries, especially when he starts to get a little batty and interviews himself. Not the kind of movie you usually find yourself laughing at, this one actually had some funny moments.

I didn’t care for all the flashbacks—they seemed a little cheesy and some of them were confusing. Such as, I had no idea the little boy sitting there watching him chop off his arm was supposed to be a premonition. I thought it was him as a kid. So I’m glad the ending cleared that up. Overall, this was a pretty engaging movie with great scenery in parts that reminded me of my own trip to that area of Utah. So I did enjoy it.

And it didn’t hurt that I got to look at James Franco for 2 hours.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review Wednesday: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Shutter IslandShutter Island by Dennis Lehane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Rating: 4.5 stars



Okay, so I can't really write a book review for this book without spoilers, and I've just finished so I might ramble more than usual since I haven't had time to organize thoughts. But these are my first impressions.

First of all, I'd already seen the movie. So I knew the whole ending, etc, as well as what happened in the book. It's been a year or so since I've seen the movie, but it seems like it followed the book pretty closely. Since I already knew Teddy was crazy, it was hard not to get sucked into his paranoia and believe him! It was just about impossible. The only thing I can compare it to is reading Lolita, where the narrator is so charming and convincing you have to keep reminding yourself that you can't believe a word he says. Especially as I got sucked into this one and got all involved in the story, the mystery, the conspiracy... It was really exciting!

As the story went along and Teddy and Chuck were discovering all about the island and the mental institution, I kept thinking about 1984. There was definitely that feeling of 'big brother is watching.' And everything on the island was like a little dystopian world, with the patients and orderlies, and people guiding them, friends who turned out to be enemies, etc. It was all very Orwellian. The island was like a character itself, which I lovelovelove in a book--when the setting is one of the characters it's so real. All the mental patients were great, too.

And the love story--how can I not mention the love story? That's the one thing in the book that I don't think a movie could ever do justice to. Not just because of the graphic sexual stuff, but because Lehane had a way of describing obsessive, consuming love that could not translate to screen. And of course I already knew he'd kill the woman so it was like a...well, a shot in the gut to read about their love. Of course, you wonder how much Teddy embellished the love to justify what he did, out of guilt, etc. But I haven't read a love story with such intensity since maybe Brokeback Mountain, which is hands down my favorite love story of all time.

Lastly, this is a very 'guy book.' That's the only way I can describe it. I used to love that kind of book, crime novels with cops and cases and time's always a-tickin. Something like Presumed Innocent or one of those books I loved so much as a teenager, with that tough-guy voice and the funny sidekick. Something about it is so just plain classic. Add to all that the social commentary about psychosis and its treatment, and you've got one hell of a complex cop story.



Okay. So I just went on a long ramble, but I think I've covered all the main points. This was a very absorbing novel that I would recommend to anyone who likes any of the books I've listed in this review, and to anyone who wants to read a book that's like losing one's mind while reading Lolita with tough-guy cops on Brokeback Mountain while big brother watches.



View all my reviews

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ten Things I Love About You

Okay, so...It's fall, officially and in every other sense. And everyone knows fall is the best season. Obviously.

In honor of my favorite season, and my favorite month, I've made a list to prove why fall is once and for all the best season ever.

1. Jeans, glorious Jeans!

2. Not one, but two, holidays. One for family (Thanksgiving) and one for troublemaking wholesome fun with friends.

3. That would be Halloween, if you hadn't figured that out. Actually, number 3 is an extension of number 2, but come on, Halloween deserves its own number. Candy, Costumes, Carving.



4. Pumpkin patches. No matter how old you are, these things are fun. And local. And you get to pick a pumpkin for that carving I mentioned above, and support your local growers (unless your patch gets their pumpkins from Mexico, and then you can support growers in another country).

5. Um, leaves. Hello, what fun would it be if you had to call it autumn all the time and not fall? Falling leaves make fall.

6. Lighting the fire again. My house smells like wood smoke again...yay! Bonfires outside are good, too. Just don't let your costume catch on fire. Those synthetics go fast. You don't want to be the naked guy (or girl) with a scorched bum. And frankly, probably no one else wants you to be either.

7. The end of the heat-wave we call summer down here in the South. That's right, South with a capital S. When the summer temps are over 110 degrees for a week straight, you have one thing to look forward to. Fall. Unless you have a pool, and then you probably don't care. And also, you should invite me over.

8. Goodbye, bugs. Now I know lots of people who don't know the irritation of a mosquito hovering next to your ear for months at a time, but it's really annoying. Just trust me on that. And we won't even get into the other friendly neighborhood bugs who think they'll try out being little itchy Draculas for half the year. And how do we deal with bloodsuckers?

9. Changing my wardrobe. Even if I only buy one new sweater, it's worth it. I'm tired of all my summer clothes by now...ready to switch back into cozy winter mode.

10. What's number 10? Football? New Sam Adam's seasonal flavor? Halloween again? Rocky Horror Picture Show? Thriller playing on the radio? Octoberfest? Haunted Houses? Austin City Limits? I can't pick just one. And I'm sure I've left out about 10 more reasons why this month and this season 'totally rock, dude!' Oh, yeah, that was in honor of all the college students swarming back into town. Yep. That's good, too.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review Wedneday: Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom GordonThe Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I very much enjoyed this story about a nine 'but big for her age' year-old girl who gets lost in the Maine wilderness. For the most part. So let's get down to it.



What I liked: The girl who loved baseball. Yep, that pretty much sums up why I loved this book. I mean, how can you not love a nine-year-old who loves baseball, in large part because she shared it with her absent-through-divorce father. And maybe I'm a little biased because I was a kid who loved basketball, and then baseball, and then football. Yep, I had favorite players, I could recount their stats. I knew who they pitched against, if they had trademark moves, etc. And for sure I could understand why and how baseball was her link to the world, how she listened to the games for solace and sanity and hope, for escape and, well, everything we love about sports as children or adults. And the girl was tough-as-nails but not unrealistically so. I didn't even mind that she cried ALL the time. I mean, not only was it realistic, but it didn't annoy me how, say, reading YA books about girls crying all the time makes me want to throw the book against the wall. No, when Trisha cried, it fit into the story and didn't make her seem like a spoiled whiny brat (sorry, I have a thing against girls who cry a lot in books). Instead of giving up and feeling sorry for herself, our plucky little heroine gets her resourceful butt up and goes on.



Which, incidentally, brings me to the next part of my review: what I didn't like so much. First of all...I may have read this wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is how it happens. Girl hiking in woods with family. Girl comes to fork in the road, goes off in the MIDDLE to pee, and gets lost. She tries to slant off to one side to catch up with her family on the trail, taking the short cut. Okay, so maybe the trail winds away somewhere and she wouldn't intersect it that way. So what does she do? She keeps walking. FOR NINE DAYS!!!!! Hello, why not just turn around? She's in the middle of a fork. When she realizes she's lost, if she'd turned around and gone back, she'd have to either run into one of the two trails or come back to the intersection. It's geographically not possible that she wouldn't. Draw a picture if you don't believe me. For such a smart, resourceful kid to not think of something so simple...I don't believe it for a minute. Not for a kid who knows what to eat in the woods better than I do, and I'm an adult who happened to grow up, that's right, IN THE WOODS!

The next thing that sort of bothered me was how she got sick from drinking clear pure stream water. That's pretty much a myth. If you drink stream/river water that comes out of a farm where there's runoff from animal dung, maybe. In the middle of a pristine forest? Not so much. I'd buy it if the swamp water, or the puddle water, made her violently ill ie food poisoning, but not the clean water. And the last thing. Yeah, I know, SK points out that this was her first bad decision, to go north towards Canada instead of south when she got to almost civilization. I could see how she'd miss when she was so close. I could see how she didn't hear the town. But who goes north? Come on, she's seen maps, right? She lives in Maine, right? Can anyone name a town north of Maine besides, um, Canada? Can anyone name a town south of Maine? Yeah, that's what I thought. This girl was way too smart to make those mistakes. If she'd been an idiot, I'd buy it. But then, she wouldn't have lived.



So I guess my final word would be this: come on, Mr. King. Don't fall back on the same lame old lost-in-the-woods cliches. Your fans expect more.



Also, like most of King's almost could-happen books, I didn't need the supernatural stuff. It was hokey. There's plenty of horror in real life, plenty of scary situations for a girl lost in the woods. We really don't need wasp-gods to know it's scary. Really. I like King's supernatural books fine, but some of them, I always think, are more plausible (aka scary) without it. Those elements just ruin the spine tingling "this could REALLY happen" vibe and distract/detract from the suspense. Maybe he just adds it bc he thinks the fans like that? I know I don't need it in every book. Not. At. All.



I definitely fell in love with the character in this book, which is one of the things that Stephen King does SO well. I just didn't buy all the circumstances. But overall, it was a satisfying, if not exactly terrifying, story.



I'd recommend to younger King fans or those just getting into his work. And YA readers. And people who have gotten or would like to get lost in the woods.



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Monday, October 3, 2011

Guest Author: Mona Ingram

Hey guys! Please welcome guest author Mona Ingram today. Find her post below and enjoy! And make sure to check out all her info below the post.

Take it away, Mona!

Dear Writing:
I miss you. I miss the touch of my fingers on the keyboard, I miss the sound the keys make as the words spill out onto the screen. And yes, I miss the sense of accomplishment at the end of a long day, when I’ve reached my word count goal.
My eyes are misting over as I write this. I know I told you I’d be seeing you again in a week, but the news is not good. I’ll be away from you for another week.
No, I’m not cheating on you. Well, maybe in a way. I didn’t tell you where I was going or who I’d be with for this very reason. I didn’t want you to be jealous. But please don’t be sad as I develop these other relationships...I’ll always come back to you.
What’s that? You’ll leave me if I don’t tell you right now what I’ve been doing?
Okay, I suppose that’s only fair, but let me start by saying it’s not you, it’s me. Heard that one before, have you? Yeah, but this time it’s true.
You see, my friends and colleagues have been telling me for a year now that I have to expand my horizons, as it were. Get out there and flirt – or at least make myself available for some new relationships. It’s hard for me – damned hard, because you know how private I’ve always been. But I eventually realized that they were right. And in the end it will only make our relationship stronger. This may be difficult for you to hear, but I’ll still be interacting with these new contacts, and I intend to do it on a daily basis.
But there’s an upside to this, writing. You’ll be the star in this expanded circle. I want to introduce you to more people so they can see how great you are. That’s why I’ve taken this time away from you.
You see, I’ve been learning about Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. It’s taken me a while to accept the obvious, but if I want people to read you, then I have to let them know you exist, and what better way than using the best social media tools out there? And when I have those three figured out, I’m going to establish a blog, which I’ll probably link with Goodreads.
Perhaps this break away from you has been for the best. Remember that new novel we chatted about? New ideas have been scrolling through on that screen that runs constantly at the back of my consciousness. Great ideas that’ll make that next book even better.
So please wait for me. I’ll be back soon, and we can take up where we left off.


Website: http://monaingram.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mona-Ingra...
Twitter: @MonaIngram1
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/107...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Coffin Hop!

Hey all!

As many of you know, my favorite month is coming up tomorrow!

In honor of Halloween month, I'm participating in a Halloween Blog Hop.
Details below. It will run October 24-31.

Also, all of my book reviews for October will be for horror/thriller novels. As an extra special bonus, I am posting a blog every day of Halloween week--my Hallo-week book reviews! I will post twice about the Coffin Hop that week and the other 5 days will feature horror book reviews. Oh yeah, did I mention I love October?

I will let you know about the giveaway as the blog hop approaches! Feel free to check out the website ahead of time, and spread the news!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review Wednesday: How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr

How to Save a LifeHow to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Okay. I've calmed down from my disappointment at the ending, and I am ready to give my review. First, though--when did they put a girl on the cover? In my ARC copy, the benches are empty!



My review...well, I read Story of a Girl a while back and just fell in swooning love with it, and consequently, its author. But...I was so bummed that this one wasn't as good!



I love the author because she is very simple in her writing style. That's still here in this book. So are the FOR REAL characters. You feel like you know them. They are awesome. They are your friends. They talk like real people, act like real people, are screwed up. They've got issues. I like reading about issues. In this book, one of the issues is something that's on my gag list--child molesting. So that was a little ick for me. It's not very graphic, though, unlike some other YA books that are just too much for me. I put the book aside for a few days once I got some pretty strong hints about that aspect, but I picked it back up and finished most of it in a day. It's a quick read, and the heavy issues are there, but they aren't rammed down your throat in a vomit-inducing kind of way. I like that. Subtle is the name of the game in good YA. YA that is graphic just for the shock factor really makes me mad. It's almost like the authors are just trying to get on a banned-books list, or to shock kids by telling them in graphic detail about stuff that, honestly, kids should not know about. Not in that much detail. ANYWAY, sorry for the rant. The point is, this book sidesteps the graphic while giving you all the impact of the issue.

The next thing I just loved about this book was the relationship between Jill and her father. So wonderful, and real, and OMG--he didn't even molest her! Sometimes I think YA authors want us to think that all fathers are secretly pedophiles. Jill's father is dead, but awesome. However, Mandy's stepfather is...something. Not a pedophile exactly, since she's 17 or 18 when the abuse takes place. And she has mixed feelings about it, so...anyway. Her mom's boyfriend molests her, and she takes it because she never gets attention from her mom or anyone else. Mandy is...psychotic. Like, hilariously crazy. That made it a little more bearable to read, because there was some relief from the squig factor.

I read a few reviews that said they didn't like either of the narrators. I loved Jill. She was so real, so pissed, so flawed. It was harder for me to like Mandy. She was sort of...bland. And the way they suddenly became friends seemed, well, sudden. The guys--I think I have a book-crush on Dylan. I LOVED him. Why didn't HE get a happy ending?

What I didn't like about this book: the ending. Predictable, and kind of lame. Honestly, I'm severely disappointed. Sara Zarr is an author who tackles real subjects with bravery and delicacy. I expect so much more than the ending I got. It was completely unrealistic, and way too happy. I'm all for a happy ending, but not if it doesn't fit the material. That's how this one seemed. Sure, I'd like everything to end up shiny happy in real life. But the point is, it doesn't. Mandy never had to pay for any of her mistakes. Sometimes that happens. But not in the way it happens in this book. I just got to the end and said, "WHATEVER! That would NEVER happen." It was a major letdown.



character: yay! plot: meh. ending: boo.



Recommended for YA readers who like lots of character development and not a lot of action.



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Monday, September 26, 2011

Inspiration

Finding inspiration

One question that readers often ask authors is where they get their inspiration. I think it’s one of the hardest questions to answer, which is why everyone wants to know. The truth is, everyone finds inspiration in something different. Maybe the beauty of nature, or a book that particularly touched something inside and made an engineer want to pick up a pen (or log on to a laptop) and write. Or maybe it’s something completely banal, like a twirling strip of flypaper or the fly that got stuck to it and is still trying to buzz its way free.

I can’t shed any insight on the writing process of bestselling authors, or tell you what inspired Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer. If you want to know that, I’m sure both have written enough explanations that you can find it in a Google search. All I can tell you is what inspires one indie writer. I doubt that even those mega-gazillion-times-over bestselling authors can tell what inspires another writer.

I can’t even say for sure what inspired me. The first time I wrote a novel, I was motivated by the slowness of my son’s eating. I had to find something to do or go crazy with boredom for the three hour-long table sessions each day. But I’m not sure what inspired me. I started out with a life experience I had, changed it up a little, decided it would actually be the end of the novel, and went back to the beginning to map out how the characters ended up at the end. The next series I wrote was inspired by a discussion with my family. The next was inspired by a friend of mine who said, “What happened to the days when bad guys were bad?”

That’s what’s so great about finding inspiration. It’s everywhere, in everything. There are as many sources of inspiration as there are writers and books and stories combined. And still more waiting to be discovered and to inspire one more shoemaker/bus boy/car salesman to write a novel.

Not to sound too super-cheese, but there is no end to inspiration. It is all around us, and most of all, inside us. So next time something inspires you, sit down and write about it. A phrase, a sentence, a page. From James Patterson to the mailman, all writers start there, at the very beginning, with an inspiration.


(This post originally appeared as part of The Superiors Blog Tour on Benjamin Wallace's blog. To see more of his blog, click here.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Sex Lives of Cannibals

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial PacificThe Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Reading this book made me think a lot, so I'm putting it right in the middle, rating-wise. I did like it, at least parts of it. The beginning started off very slow for me--I'm not a fan of the style where the author or narrator outlines his previous work experiences. It was very boring and slow for me at first. I could have done without the background info. I would assume someone who volunteers to go to a remote Pacific island 'at the end of the world' is adventurous. I really didn't need the first part, which seemed irrelevant to the rest of the story.



Once they left the US, things got more interesting. I loved the descriptions of all the stops along the way, and the islands. It was very sad, though, to hear about all the ways westerners had influenced (mostly for the worse) and exploited both the islands and their inhabitants. Not that this book glorifies the 'noble savage' image either, as it gives glimpses into the subjugating and barbaric treatment of women a few times. However, these parts are quickly glossed over by the author's glib commentary.



At first I liked the witty comments, but they got a bit tiring at times. I can see how people would like this style of narrating travelogues so they don't get boring, but it seemed dismissive of the problems faced by the islanders both male and female. Pointing out how overweight they are and how much they love cheetos seemed more like making fun of them than making what could have been a more insightful observation or a chance for meaningful social commmentary. However, the author's witty comments did keep the book from being morose and just plain depressing, which it might have been without all the distracting cleverness. At times, the author seemed too enamored with his own cleverness, which always irritates me.



The book was well-written, and I did enjoy it and sometimes had a hard time putting it down. I think when I read non-fiction, though, I prefer to read something more meaningful than one person's experiences. I learned a lot about the islands of Kiribati, but I would have liked a more serious book and not a travelogue/memoir type book, and I could have done without the condescending tone of a rich kid talking down to an entire nation because they are Third World and don't have AC. I would have liked to learn more, even if it was depressing. Also, the end of the book seemed unnecessary and slow to me, like the beginning. I guess that's because what I really wanted (and liked) from this book was what I learned about the islands, not about the man writing the book. The only purpose it served was to show the author to be hypocritical and to show that his time in the country taught him nothing but to go home, forget all he'd learned about the corruption and infrastructure problems of foreign aid, and get rich off exploiting the very things he'd complained about on the islands.



I'd recommend this book to adults who like travelogues with witty commentary that don't offer solutions to problems but just make fun of them. And to fans of Island of the Sequined Love Nun.



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Friday, September 16, 2011

It's been a while...

It came to my attention recently that I've been so caught up in my writing, reading, reviewing, promoting, etc, that I haven't written a REAL, personal blog in way too long!

So here it is. Please, try to calm your excitement. ;>

Well, I guess one of the reasons I haven't been posting as much is that I've had so much going on! Wow. Besides 'real life,' where I've had family stuff like, oh, I don't know, weddings, birthdays, transitions, etc, I've had lots going on in the cyber & writerly world. I'm back to querying, although trying not to obsess this time. I'm still promoting The Superiors (I added a few new things at the bottom of the blog tour schedule for convenience sake, although the tour is over). I'm still editing book 5 (I know, I'll get to book 2 soon, I swear!)

And most importantly, I'm writing again. For a while there, I thought I'd gone permanently dry of ideas. Nothing came. Nothing. When ideas did come, they just didn't stick. I couldn't write, so I stopped and promoted for three or four months. Didn't do that much good, but hey, it got my mind off the crushing fear that I'd never write again. And then one day...inspiration. I've written a YA book set in the real world, and most of another. Then, in fit of procrastination, I went back to read some of the dystopian series I started and never finished. Turns out, it's not as hopeless as I thought. I decided to stop worrying about if it was too scandalous to ever be published, and just went ahead and started working on finishing book 3. The first day back on it, I wrote 40 pages. That's pretty much a miracle for me these days. I used to have 50 page days once a week or so, but that was when I was consumed. It gets so it takes over your mind pretty hard-core when you're writing for 8 hours straight. Stopping to eat? Forget it. Just keep my chocolate on my right and I'm fine. It's better to be obsessed with the story than with things outside my control, like agent responses and amazon sales. So that's it. That's what I've been up to, along with reading, listening to, and reviewing books. Now, back to the book I swore I'd finish this week...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review Wednesday: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm a huge fan of Laurie Halse Anderson after reading a couple of her contemporary YA books. I always see this one on the shelves, and I like historical fiction, so it seemed like a good fit. It was a good book. I did like it. But...it was missing that something special that has made me love her other books so much. It's hard for me to review this book without comparing it to her others.



As a historical fiction novel for YA, this had everything you'd expect. It was informative, interesting, sometimes exciting, sometimes sad. It had tragedy, suspense, all that. And I did learn about the yellow fever epidemic that I didn't know much about before this novel. The characters are loveable and well-written, especially the grandfather. I loved the relationship between the girl and her grandfather. I also liked that the women in this book were the real heroes, the tough survivors. I also liked how it showed both the black community's contribution to Philadelphia during the epidemic as well as how white doctors tried to help. And it was nice to read a age-appropriate YA book. I like YA on the scandalous side, but sometimes, it's a bit much. So it was nice to read a non-romance. Lately it seems like all the YA I've read has been romance. The romance in this novel is very understated, which I liked.



Maybe it's hard to put a lot of voice in a historical fiction novel, but for me, that was missing in this book. The wonderful voice full of humor despite tragedy was absent in this book. That's what made me really love the author after reading a few of her other novels. Overall, this was an interesting book, but nothing exceptional. Basically, it was pretty forgettable.



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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review Wednesday: Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

Withering TightsWithering Tights by Louise Rennison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm a big fan of Louise Rennison, and after reading ten of her books (this would be the eleventh) it's hard for me not to compare this book to her others. And if I'm comparing, this one is just...meh. It was okay. I had a few chuckles. It got funnier as I went along, and the parts about the theater and the stage were funny. All the boy stuff was just sort of lame, and I actually think I would have liked the book a lot better if it was just a bunch of girls at a theater for girls... which is what it IS about. Only they spend half their time chasing boys, and those parts were boring, predictable, and annoying.



Every time Tellulah left her house, you knew she was going to run into Cain. And I didnt know why she always got so excited about it, since she didn't say a word to him for half the book. But every mention of his name sent her into dithery fits, even though she'd only seen him kissing some girl and treating her like crap. So why was she so obsessed? I dont get it. Plus, I didn't really see how he was Heathcliff, although he was supposed to be. Maybe it's because I haven't read Wuthering Heights for a while. However, I liked all the references to WH and also the little cheeky references to The Smiths (Girlfriend in a River I know it's Really Serious, lol)... Anyway, I would have liked to see more development in the friendships and less about the dumb boys.



The book is the first in a series, and if you want a book that stands alone, this isn't it. It left a lot of loose ends...in fact, most every end was left loose. Plus, the last chapter or two seemed very rushed and forced, like the author got bored because there were no boys in those scenes. Overall, I was disappointed by this book, and as I think the next one will have even more of a love story, I will not be reading it unless I'm very very bored and want something utterly mindless to read.

Recommended to people who like spoof type books, girls in theater, and die-hard Rennison fans.



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Monday, September 5, 2011

Darkiss Reads: The Superiors by Lena Hillbrand

Got a new review on a blog! Super excited! Check it out below.

Darkiss Reads: The Superiors by Lena Hillbrand: Book Description Two hundred years after a stronger, faster, nearly invincible race takes over the earth, the Superiors rule humanity with ...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review Wednesday: After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

After Tupac & D FosterAfter Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Okay, let me start this review with a disclaimer: I am not impartial in this review. Also, this review is just as much about me as about this book, so if you have no interest in my life, hit the snooze and go to the next review.



That said, let's get on with it. This book was amazing. I realize it's not exactly heavy stuff, and that it seemed a little...I don't know, simple. But it took place in what is basically my time of greatest character development, my most impressionable of times, that young adult age where tragedy of all sorts fascinated me and I secretly wished I had been a black man instead of a mousy little white girl. Naturally, I was obsessed with Tupac.



So when I saw this book I knew I had to get it, and when I saw it was written by Woodson, an author I greatly admire, it just made it better. During the parts of this book about Tupac, I cried...yes, every time. Every mention of him brought tears to my eyes like I was still a pre-teen trying to figure out if I wanted to wear a black trench coat and a Marilyn Manson t-shirt, or Vans and a flannel shirt, or baggy pants and a bandana. Or something like that.



The rest of the story in this book is about three little girls, D Foster being one of them. Some of the parts about the three girls were great (the friend going to visit her gay brother in prison--swoon). Some parts didn't hold my interest and bordered on purple prose (going to some sort of outdoor theater and making snow angels? I can't remember, I seem to have zoned out during that part). But the friendship between the girls was touching and tender and wonderful. Their interactions with each other and the way their eyes are opened by D and her experience in foster care was genuine and engaging.



Overall, a sweet, sad book, and bonus points for making me cry a lot of times and taking me back to my own formative years with my own messed up friends and love of music and the tragedy of the rappers of that time. A bit of a nostalgic guilty pleasure book, so it's hard for me to be objective. I don't pretend this review is aiming for that.



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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Death in Venice and Other TalesDeath in Venice and Other Tales by Thomas Mann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a really weird book. It was super short but full of lengthy, wordy sentences, and half of them I had to go back and reread because I forgot what the sentence was about by the end of it. I also really should have had a dictionary next to me--I didn't realize how lacking my vocabulary is!
About the story itself: the first couple chapters (and there are only 5 total) took me a few days. They were pretty dull and it def. is not a book that sucks you in right away; rather, it grows on you slowly and finishes more powerfully than it begins. I ended up really liking it although it was totally creepy and I had no idea it was a gay book, or that it was so creepy and pedophilistic (again, apologies if i’m making up words). The whole creepy old guy in love with gorgeous young boy thing was a bit different, but I thought the parts about love and obsession were right on the mark. Overall, I really liked the book despite its slow start. It's sort of like a gay Lolita, but WAY less disturbing.
I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 rating--recommended to gay men, or anyone who likes literature.


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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird PondThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Danger! Forbidden romance! An outcast heroine! A mysterious hot guy!



Sound familiar? Yes, I know. It sounds like all the YA fantasy books out now. But wait, there's more.



A kick-ass heroine who doesn't sit around feeling sorry for herself, but does something good (and that doesn't benefit her directly--wait, it's not possible!), and stands up for herself at least sometimes, is more worried about what's right than being a rebel, and is concerned about something other than snagging a supernatural hottie. Wait, you say, something's wrong with this picture.



Actually, something is refreshingly right with this picture. This book is NOT fantasy but historical fiction, but it has a lot of the same elements. However, the similarities stop there. Written in the 'old days,' when writers cared about writing good books and good stories and not just making a buck by copying everything else, this book is still one of my favorites. Of all time. I'd gladly take it over every YA fantasy out today bundled into a huge anthology of unoriginality. Yes, this one small book is worth more than all of those books put together.



The characters are actually developed beyond their feelings for each other. The family is more than filler between the love scenes. The guy has more going for him than the fact that he's hot. And most of all, the heroine is pretty much awesome. I don't remember her ever whining, although she has plenty of reason to. She definitely never stomps into her room, slams the door, and throws herself onto her bed in a grade-A temper tantrum (although she's tempted when they take away all her pretty clothes and make her dress like a Puritan). And she never treats her friends or family like they aren't worth speaking to, even when they are awful to her. Which, incidentally, is a good thing, because if she really had been awful to them, she probably wouldn't have been saved.



I don't speak for anyone but myself here, but I'm so ready for a change in the direction YA literature is going. Please bring back books with substance. This is my plea. I don't know how many more Twilight rip-offs I can handle.



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Monday, August 15, 2011

Creating Believable Characters, a Guest Post by Ben Wallace

Hello, everyone!

Today's guest is author Ben Wallace. He's going to talk about creating believable characters in fiction. So please read, and if you like what he has to say, check out his inspiring, informative blog!


Creating Believable Characters
By Ben Wallace

Creating believable characters is critical to good fiction. Characters are the bedrock, the foundation, on which your entire story rests. If your characters aren’t believable, your story won’t be believable. Here are some tips on how to create believable characters.

Physical description:
Don’t give your character four arms. Who’s going to believe that? Go out on the street right now and tell me how many people you see with four arms. Zero. Right? Four arms may make your character a better combatant or really good at stocking vending machines, but it’s just not very real. Extra toes, fingers or nipples are acceptable.

Note to Fantasy, sci-fi, and cyborg-lit authors: Load ‘em up.

Hobbies:
My neighbor recently told me that he had a hobby. You know what? I believed him. Because, having a hobby is believable. That being said, you must make it a believable hobby. Whittling, guitar, outdoor recreation – all believable. ABBA album collector or Right Said Fred enthusiast? Not so much.

Mannerisms:
Mannerisms are great and believable. Everybody has mannerisms. Just look at how people walk. Everybody has a different walk. Some people even look like they worked on it and practiced in front of a mirror. Some people swagger. Some people strut. Some creep. Some hop (if they just stubbed their toe). But, remember, if you give them a mannerism, you have to stay consistent with it.

Randomly levitating while in deep concentration would be an unbelievable mannerism, however. Your characters shouldn’t levitate unless they have the power to levitate.

Names:
Naming a character can be difficult. A cool sounding name like Blade, or Wolf, or Trigger Finger McGee will be hard to swallow if it’s not a nickname. A good way to find a believable name is to look at what Hollywood stars are naming their kids and then never give your character that name. A fake sounding name like that can make your character unbelievable.

Also, don’t name your character Thad. I don’t have a really good reason except that I knew a Thad once, and the guy was kind of a jerk.

Fantasy authors, if you’ve created a new world, the naming conventions may be totally different.

Pets:
Believable people have pets. Dogs – okay. Cats – okay. Ferrets – um, okay? Griffins – totally unbelievable.

Again, fantasy authors, knock yourself out. Actually, you folks can pretty much get away with anything.


About Me: Benjamin Wallace is the author of Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors, the #3 top rated comic fiction book on Amazon, and the action and adventure comedy Tortugas Rising. And, yes, he thinks he’s being funny.

You can learn more at benjaminwallacebooks.com.

Show Me Your Teeth Blog Hop!

Hi guys,
I'm honored to be part of this awesome vampire-themed blog hop in honor of Rachelle Mead, author of the Vampire Academy series. As my giveaway, I'm offering a free ebook copy of my own vampire novel, The Superiors. The contest starts at midnight, August 15 CST and ends at 11:59pm on August 23. Check out the other blogs, too, there are tons of awesome giveaways of all kinds of vampire loot.

To win my giveaway, do the following:
Follow my blog (1 entry)
Follow my twitter @lenahillbrand (1 entry)
Like my FB page http://www.facebook.com/LenaHillbrand (1 entry)
Retweet, repost this on your blog, or link it on FB. (1 entry each).

Please post a comment letting me know which of these things you've done, and please include links so I can verify! Thanks and good luck!

Show Me Your Teeth





Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dark-Readers: Glossary of Terms for THE SUPERIORS!! (( Vote & En...

Hey guys! If you've read my book and weren't totally clear on a word or something in The Superiors world, or if you're thinking of reading it, check out this handy glossary!

Dark-Readers: Glossary of Terms for THE SUPERIORS!! (( Vote & En...: "Throughout the month of August, Dark Readers is representing THE SUPERIORS by LENA HILLBRAND as part of the August's BlowOut Hop held over a..."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Shining by Stephen King

The ShiningThe Shining by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I hadn't read any Stephen King for a while, so I forgot how awesome he is. It's wonderful (and wonderfully rare) to find a writer who can maintain suspense while creating such beautifully real characters. He never sacrifices character development for plot. Which is a good thing for readers like me, who can't really care what happens at all if I don't care who it's happening to.

I know people who can't read King because of his descriptions and development, people who think he's too slow to get to 'the good stuff.' Personally, I wish a lot more writers would take his lead and stop shoving 'the good stuff' down our throats from the first sentence to the last. Stephen King writes whole, complete novels. They have real, fully developed characters as well as action, and if he sacrifices some fast-paced action to make the characters real, it only adds depth to the story. Too many of the fantasy and suspense novels I’ve read have pretty much nothing going for the characters. They are flat, Barbie-and-Ken cutouts from magazines, with only physical description and no development past what they look like. If that’s what you’re looking for, King isyou’re your ‘cup of tea.’ His novels rarely have sequels. He says all he needs to say in one book, and it's plenty, and the endings of his books are, well, endings. Not teases for a following book. They are final, wrapped, complete. And usually good, although I didn't really care for the ending of this one.

In this book, as in many of King's novels, the hero is a child. I have come to understand King's fascination with child characters in horror novels after reading a couple of his nonfiction books. Children are more innocent, and therefore more psychically receptive than adults. They haven't quite yet internalized the impossible, and therefore, they are usually (in King's novels) the ones who figure out what's going on, and usually the ones who try to do something about it, often with the help of a receptive adult father figure. And it's a good thing the protagonist in this novel has one, because we all know what kind of man his father is.

I've heard a few people say that the father is the most tragic 'victim' in this haunted house classic, but I'm not sure I agree with that. The father was never a very likeable character for me, no matter how victimized he was. Sure, he was an addict, and trying to recover. But I never really got the sense that he loved his family as much as he loved the bottle. I thought that he was not only picked off because he was the weakest link, but also because perhaps there was something inherently evil in him, something that responded to the evil in the hotel. One of my only complaints about this book was the swiftness of Jack’s transformation. It seemed like in one chapter he’s a loving (if guilty) father and husband, struggling to put his life back together. Then suddenly in the next chapter he’s fantasizing about twisting his wife’s nipples off? It seemed too sudden for this kind of evenly-paced book. I skipped back to see if I’d missed something, or if it really was almost instantaneous. I thought the suspense of him going crazy could have been drawn out a little more.

I did thing that Stephen King did a great job capturing the emotions of the mother towards her son. I'm sure his wife helped him with that! I had a bit of a hard time relating to her white-bread personality, with how passive she was and how she could still love someone who had turned into a monster. But that was how she was supposed to be. Although I didn’t relate to (or even like) most of the characters in this book, it was still a superb read. Not one of King’s creepiest, although the hedge animals were pretty great.

Overall, this was a good book. I like King’s classics, and if you do too, this one is it.







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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dark-Readers: Grab the Button & Vote for The Superiors!!!

See that cool button on my blog, right there to the right? Yes, you too can have one. Join Team Superiors and vote for my book! And while you're at it, grab the code from Dark Read's blog and post the button on your blog!


Dark-Readers: Grab the Button & Vote for The Superiors!!!: "We are doing a Blog Tour and need your help!! Throughout the month of August, we will be representing the book The Superiors by Lena Hillbra..."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review Wednesday: Nightlight, by Harvard Lampoon

Nightlight: A ParodyNightlight: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book was funny and clever. But after a few chapters it just got to be too much. Like a friend who makes jokes nonstop, and at first you think he's so funny, but after a while it's just annoying because you can tell he thinks he's just SO clever.



There was a lot of funny stuff in here, though. I especially liked the parts making fun of the whole Twilight phenomenon, not necessarily the plot. Like at one point where she says something like, "It was nothing like I'd ever experienced, but familiar enough that 3 million girls around the world could relate to it."



There were a lot of great one-liners, but after a while it was exhausting. So, cute, but nothing spectacular. I guess reading someone else's plot is boring after a while. I did, however, like the little twist and the ending. Josh was an awesome character, and I liked how the writers used two different characters to make fun of Edward's two sides.



I'd recommend this book to people who like parodies. I'd never read one, but apparently, I don't like them as much as I thought I would.

funny quotes: "I unconditionally, irrevocably, impenetrably, heterogeneously, gynecologically, and disreputably wished he had kissed me."

"I shuddered and smiled coyly, terrified." (p17). "I looked in the mirror. Staring back was a sallow cheeked girl with long, dark hair, pale skin, and dark eyes. Just kidding! That would be so scary." (p8)"

"I breathed. I exhaled. Then I breathed again."



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