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!

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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 (+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
Facebook Author Page!/pages/Nancy-Straight/243616005687882?sk=wall
Good Reads Blog

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, 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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

Twitter: @MonaIngram1