Novel Publicity Blog Tour: “The Author Mindset”

Good evening, readers! I’m back with a book review today for Novel Publicity by Falcon Storm: The Author Mindset. The version I’m reviewing is the audiobook narrated by Craig Beck. Much as the cover suggests, the book is a guide to writing and marketing fiction.

Because the book is the first of its genre I’m reviewing, it won’t follow my usual review guidelines/format. If you’re up for the adventure that might entail–and I promise, it’s worth it–read on. 😉

[Disclaimer: As with all my book reviews for Novel Publicity Blog Tours, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

Available NOW on AmazonBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, or Audible.

About the Book:

Do you feel as if your life’s purpose is to become an author and share the stories in your head with the rest of the great wide world? Do you long to write the next great American novel? You might already have a couple books under your belt, but want to take your productivity, talent, and marketing efforts to the next level. Maybe you’re just getting started as an author and feel lost in the multitude of tasks awaiting you. Or perhaps you’re stuck at square one, having no idea what to do, where to go, or even if you should be writing at all. In just a few short hours, you’ll learn the essentials required of the professional author. You’ll learn more than how to put words on the page; you’ll learn how to get into the mindset of an author and live there, carving out your niche in the literary world.

Review

The Author Mindset is an excellent introduction to the business of writing and lifestyle of being a writer. It’s short but sweet–the main section is only 66 minutes long, but it comes with extras, too. I was amazed at how much of the training I received in my grad school Writing & Publishing program was encompassed in this book.

The length makes the book necessarily to-the-point, which is wonderful to get writers actually writing, versus stuck in heady theoretical prose. The style is breezy, approachable, and never arrogant, which I appreciated, as it was written by a successful author. The length and voice of the book recommend it to multiple listenings and note-taking.

Speaking of voice, the narrator was an excellent choice. Who doesn’t love a good British accent? 😉 Seriously, I’ve learned the narrator is almost as important as the text in an audiobook. So, well-done, Mr. Storm (and, Mr. Beck–call me).

There were a couple of sections that I found to be a little unnecessary, personally, like how to organize your work space, but–for all I know, a full-time stay-at-home mom/part-time writer might find that info to be very helpful (there are specific mentions of navigating little ones). This book, much like many writing guides, is definitely subjective in how enlightening each person would find it to be. I would say absolutely everyone could get SOMETHING out of it, even if it was review. Although I had heard many of these topics before, given my educational background (but not the same professional experience!), it was quite helpful to hear them again, especially as condensed and digestible as this presentation was. If nothing else, it is a good tool to get anyone into “the author mindset” (keenly titled, Mr. Storm!).

I 100% recommend this book for anyone who hasn’t had some sort of training in writing. I do recommend it to everyone, though, especially those who could use a jump-start in knowing how to begin or how to resume writing . I could see how this would especially be useful as part of a series, which this looks to be. Great idea, Falcon, for making this book available in multiple formats; how great is it that you could listen to this on your commute so you’re all prepped to write when you get home?

My review, based on this as an instructional piece: 9/10.

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: “New Frontier” Review

Hello, readers! I apologize this review is tardy; I’ve been so busy catching up with everything after being sick! I’ll take being busy over bronchitis any day, though, that’s for sure! 😉

Today, I am happy to share my review with you of Jeremy Lee’s sci-fi space novel, New Frontier, as part of Novel Publicity’s blog tour. Read on for more info about the book, my review, and prizes! 🙂

[Disclaimer: As with all my book reviews for Novel Publicity Blog Tours, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

About the book: As a new era dons for humanity with all the attendant celebrations and riots, finally breaking the bonds which left us tied to the Solar System is reported as being the moment which unites all the disparate parts of the world and brings us into an era of peace and discovery, and yet this giant leap is almost instantly marred by greed erupting into violence. The Argos, the ship sent out on this historic mission, is left adrift and crippled far from home, survivors of this mysterious attack struggle to hold their ship together and come to the rescue of homesteaders and compatriots relying on them to not only survive but retaliate, and rescue a world where the Solar System has become a rugged frontier ripe for colonization and opportunity filled with the honest and ruthless carving out lives past the veil of civilization.

Several rival corporations, monopolies delving into every industry imaginable, have all but supplanted nation-states, keeping governments around only as a necessary fiction to pacify populations, and the realm of business now reaches into politics, military, religion, and all other aspects of human life. The frontier regions of space are a place filled with new homesteaders, miners, merchants, bandits, and scientific minds that is barely able to keep from slipping into total anarchy, a frontier region where people can disappear from their lives and head off into the unknown. New Frontier is an adventure which stretches from the furthest reaches of space, to slums in backwater cities, to the lunar capitol, and ultimately onto the wreckage of the great ship. The gallant and the selfish alike are forced to face the best and worst of human civilization far from home and decide what they truly believe in.
Get New Frontier through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

My review guidelines: As you know from my first Novel Publicity review, I HATE spoilers as a reader, so as a reviewer, I avoid them as best as possible. As a writer and an editor, I put a lot of value on the language itself used to tell a tale. A 10/10 review for me will be one with an amazing plot, characters I love, and enchanting writing. I can’t get lost in a book without falling under the spell of its words–and the spell will be ineffectual without a great plot to fall into.

With that said, please enjoy my review.

NEWFRONTIER

Review

This novel fit pretty easily into my usual genre preference, and I could have seen myself picking it up on my own, although I’m glad Novel Publicity introduced me to it, making sure I did see it, after all. 🙂

I would classify this as an adult sci-fi space adventure. I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes futuristic novels about space travel.

The universe: I had to change the usual title of this category from “world” to “universe,” for this book. 🙂 The universe was massive, and I was impressed with how well fleshed-out and detailed it was. It was slightly hard to keep track of everything, at times, but not too bad. The author created a good sense of fear and awe at the scale of the universe right away with an almost cinematic camera shift from a cocoon of a ship to the deadly emptiness of the sky–symbolic to the shift humanity has made in this book from expanding from Earth into the universe. I appreciated how every scene was grounded in an environment that was well-described but not distracting. The environment was always relevant to the story itself.

The characters: I liked these characters. I enjoyed learning their back stories early on, which revealed motivations earlier than some books may–I always find it frustrating when I can’t figure out what is driving a character. I would actually have liked to be a little “closer” to the characters’ thoughts; sometimes, the zoom-out of large, sweeping observations about the universe in general could be a little jarring, without characters to attach the thoughts to. It took me out of the story, when I just wanted to hang out in the minds of these cool characters. I liked the diverse cast of widely ranging personalities and strong characters from both genders. The villains were vicious and scary, and I felt like they weren’t quite as developed as the protagonists, but that worked OK for the book’s purposes.

The plot: The plot was very interesting, both in terms of structure and events. It was told in a layering of time jumps, which kept the reader’s attention because of the constant shifting. It was also illustrative in a relevant way that I really appreciated, because you didn’t have to lose focus by waiting to find out important background details–you often found out what you wanted to know in the very next chapter, even though it wasn’t chronological. At times, this was slightly disorienting, but I think it was the right choice, structurally. The stakes were clearly high from the beginning, which made the reader invested. Also, the action got my blood pumping, and I lost track of real time while I was reading, since I was so engaged with the story.

The language: The language was my least favorite aspect of this novel. It felt a bit clunky at times with unnecessary adverbs (something I, as a writer, also have to remind myself of–it’s tempting to do!), and the punctuation was a bit off, not giving room to pause in the dense prose. Also, sometimes the pronouns could be confusing in scenes with multiple characters. In a book this packed with detail, imprecise language can really trip me up from being able to get into a story. The universal observations came across as a bit stilted, but the character dialogue was accessible and easily distinguishable from other characters. For future books, I would suggest to Lee that he add even more of this great dialogue and cut back on the unattributed broad observations.

Review: 6/10. An action-packed adventure–an interesting ride with a little turbulence. 

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of New Frontier! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest here
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official New Frontier tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the author: Born in Odessa, Texas Jeremy grew up mostly in southern New Mexico. Strongly influenced by his grandmother’s adoration of history and his mother’s love of reading, both of which he adopted early in life. Inheriting a work ethic from his father, which served him well in the manic world of theater, Jeremy Lee started out writing for the stage, first in Denver and then in small New York venues while attending the New York School for Film and Television.
With 2011’s Where I’m Bound I Can’t Tell he began working in novels with a deeply personal look at growing up without growing old, which simultaneously expanded into a worldwide adventure through the 20th century.
Kings of New York began a long and rewarding relationship with Neverland Publishing, which continues even today. This gangster tale played in the wonderland of 20’s New York, and painted a picture of cons just trying to survive and make a dishonest living the ruthless world they inhabit.
With New Frontier his career took an abrupt turn, looking not into the past but into the possibilities of the future. Exploring themes of strife, political corruption, greed, adventure, and religion, the book touched off a storm from reviewers.
Jeremy Lee currently lives in Denver with his family, writing ferociously when he can’t find and excuse to be in the middle of nowhere fishing, getting blissfully lost in a museum, or occasionally just watching old Bogart movies and eating pizza on the couch.

Connect with Jeremy on his website, Facebook, or GoodReads.

—————————————-

I hope you enjoyed the review, readers! Join me later this week for a new Top 10 installment. 🙂

Down the Rabbit Hole: Lewis Carroll’s Birthday & Wonderland

Happy birthday to Lewis Carroll and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, two wonderful artists whose work has been celebrated long past their lifetimes. It’s interesting that two artists I have so much interest in have birthdays on the same day, which I never knew, just like in my last double-artist tribute to Bradbury and Debussy, another author and composer duo. 🙂 However, I have much to say about both artists, so this time, I will split up the birthday posts and just focus on the author for today.

According to The Literature Network: “Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born on 27 January 1832 at the parsonage in Daresbury, Cheshire County, England…His stories for children remain the most popular, but not only was Carroll a prolific author of highly original fiction he also wrote essays, political pamphlets, short stories, poetry, and mathematical textbooks.”

My relationship with Lewis Carroll over the years has been interesting. Like most people in my generation, I daresay, my first exposure to him was through Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland movie.

It was…goodish. I watched it several times as a kid, but it was never one of my favorites. My next introduction was during a voluntary lunchtime reading circle (Junior Great Books) in elementary school that Kara, Lindsey, and I did together. We read a long excerpt from the book, but none of us really enjoyed it. It was really, really silly–absurd. And aren’t kids supposed to like absurd things? We were missing something.

Then, a couple of years ago, Disney and Tim Burton came out with a live-action sequel:


I LOVED it! This was everything I thought Alice in Wonderland should be: majestic, sweeping, epic, passionate, dark, soul-searching. The danger and stakes were more real, with the terrifying Jabberwocky brought to life:

And oh, the Strong Female Character that was Alice in a FULL SUIT OF ARMOR…

I loved it so much, in fact, that I decided to give the book another go.
Immediately, I was hit again by the overwhelming absurdity of it all. There really is no better word to describe it. It’s silly, yes, but in such a satirical way that it’s a wonder to me that it’s considered a children’s book at all. I realized I had to read only a few pages at a time at most, because while it was funny, every single word was part of a joke with a two-fold–at the least–meaning. Never before had I read something so dense in humor. I am still stalled partway through Through the Looking Glass, which it seems Disney also incorporated into its animated movie.

Besides the layers of humor, though, I uncovered something else in my adult reading of the book: that those emotional and epic elements I loved so much in the sequel movie were still present in the original, still ripe kernels wrapped in complex prose. It is one case–maybe the ONLY case–where I find the language is in danger of distracting from the story.

However, considering the Alice stories were originally oral, told to entertain some friends’ children during afternoon outings, perhaps the language itself is meant to entertain as much as the story. It seems that children often delight in riddles and tricks, so the turns-of-phrase rampant on each page remind us adults to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, even if we do recognize deeper commentaries on life and society. The Alice stories continue to be a hallmark of English literature and cinema–spreading to worldwide art–constantly inspiring new books (like the Splintered trilogy, the second of which I listed in my post on the most-anticipated books of January 2014),

Splintered (Splintered, #1)

…movies, TV shows (like ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland), video games (like American McGee’s Alice), songs, etc. It’s hard to imagine many other texts that have inspired such a creative response. There’s some magic that resonates through the centuries with Carroll’s Alice, and just like we can derive different meanings throughout our own years, surely, we have done the same collectively in our culture. However, if we strip it down, we can still find those basic elements of adventure and wonder that are so exciting to people of any age.

Me as (a more modern) Alice with my (slightly more gentle) Jabberwocky, Chad, for Halloween a few years ago

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: “Silent Words” Review

Hello readers! Today, I have the pleasure of being a Novel Publicity Blog Tour host for author Chantal Fournier’s and illustrator Nicolas Lajeunesse’s new children’s book, Silent Words. It will be my first Novel Publicity review of a children’s book, and I’m excited to share it with you.

TourCoverWelcome to Novel Publicity‘s Review Only Tour for Silent Words by Chantal Fournier (Author) and Nicolas Lajeunesse (Illustrator). Read the reviews and follow along as we introduce you to Zelda and her world of words.

Available NOW on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

ABOUT THE BOOK: Zelda loves to talk. She always asks a million questions and her head is full of words like apple, bunny, cartwheel and dwizzledoodle. But when a sudden storm turns Zelda’s world upside down, all her words go silent. Zelda must embark on a quest across mountains, forests and oceans to find her parents—and her voice.

This moving tale about loss and hope will tug at your heartstrings. Author Chantal Fournier’s poetic storytelling style and illustrator Nicolas Lajeunesse’s evocative artwork combine to create a poignant story in which a child discovers comfort in the power of words.

Images

My review guidelines: As you know from my first Novel Publicity review, I HATE spoilers as a reader, so as a reviewer, I avoid them as best as possible. As a writer and an editor, I put a lot of value on the language itself used to tell a tale. A 10/10 review for me will be one with an amazing plot, characters I love, and enchanting writing. I can’t get lost in a book without falling under the spell of its words–and the spell will be ineffectual without a great plot to fall into.

With that said, please enjoy my review.

Review

I’ve always been a fan of children’s books. I admire the way they can teach important lessons and themes through a seemingly simple story and just-as-impactful pictures. Sometimes, these lessons are just as important for adults to read (to be reminded of) as children (to be taught). When I heard about this sweet and poignant tale, I jumped at the chance to review it.

I would classify this as a children’s fantasy drama. It was whimsical in the telling with somber themes. I don’t think any child would be too young to enjoy the story, but I do think older children (say, 5 and up) would understand the themes better.

The world: The world was enchanting. The pictures were extraordinary–beautiful and expressive. They made the world a character, in and of itself. The pictures matched the words perfectly, so that I felt they really worked together. The fantasy was whimsical in a symbolic way, almost like a dream. However, I would have liked a little more world-building–even just one page more–before the conflict began. It was hard to know what was at stake for the characters without more set-up, and it was hard to know just how out-of-the-ordinary all the fantastical events were for the characters.

The characters: Zelda, the main character, was charming. Her inquisitive, loving, passionate nature made her lovable. Her impulsive tendency was believable and a lesson itself. I also liked Zelda’s grandmother, who represented more than a traditional grandmother in the story, with her wisdom and nurturing. I would have liked to see Zelda’s parents more fleshed-out, but there wasn’t much room in the story for that.

The plot: Very interesting. It was a fantastical adventure, almost metaphysical, yet imaginable with the description and pictures. I was impressed with the treatment of serious themes like loss, disability, and courage–it was done realistically and with respect, also good framing for children. The ending was heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time, with a nugget of a moral that kids could walk away with. However, I would’ve liked more of a wrap-up conclusion at the end. It kind of ended in a bit of a hanging way, leaving the reader feeling a little loss himself/herself–which may have been the very point. I wanted to see the main character grow more definitively. I had a lot of questions, but then when you really think about it, if you take away the fantasy, you have the answers already. I get the sense this is something children inherently understand, and we stupid adults over-analyze it. 😉

The language: The language was very good, and any writer or logophile (word-lover), young or old will enjoy the rhetoric. The tempering of lots of words, even made-up words, in the beginning, with less words, and even no words later on in the story, was very effective in portraying the story and character’s journey. I think this is generally a category many children’s books fall short in, but this book highlighted it, which was especially important, as it related to the plot.

Review: 8/10. Beautiful. This book will stay with me for a long time. I hope to see more from this author-illustrator team–they make an inspiring story-telling team.

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

TogetherChantal Fournier (Author)

Originally from a small-ish city not too far from Montreal, I now live in Toronto, Canada, after a long stint on the beautiful Canadian West Coast, where I taught French to university students.

Silent Words, the story of a girl floating on a peculiar cloud, is my debut book. It is the fruit of a long collaboration with my artistic husband, Nicolas.

Nicolas Lajeunesse (Illustrator)

As the son of a sculptor and the grandson of a painter, art has always been a part of my life. After studying filmmaking in Montreal and working with my father for a few years, I left my French-Canadian roots and headed for the West Coast, where I discovered digital arts.

I live in Toronto, Canada, with my wife and family.
———————————

I hope you enjoyed the review, readers–and enjoy the rest of your weekend! Try to stay warm–snow is blowing through much of the U.S.A. this weekend. Maybe, if you look close enough, you’ll see some of Zelda’s words blowing around, too. 😉

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: “Second Verse” Review

Hello readers! Tonight, I have the pleasure of being a Novel Publicity Blog Tour host for Jennifer Walkup’s new YA paranormal novel, Second Verse, from Luminis Books. This book was completely different from the last book I reviewed for Novel Publicity, despite the fact that they’re both enjoyable mysteries with ghosts that I happened to read around Halloween. A spooky coincidence, but the tone, characters, etc. had nothing in common. Whereas AWS was more of a meditative, lyrical piece, Second Verse was a fun, thrilling, engaging page-turner that kept me guessing till the end. Read on for more info about the book, my review, and prizes! 🙂

[Disclaimer: As with all my book reviews for Novel Publicity Blog Tours, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

About the book: Can love last more than a lifetime? Can Murder? Bad things come in threes. In Shady Springs, that includes murder.

Lange Crawford’s move to Shady Springs, Pennsylvania, lands her a group of awesome friends, a major crush on songwriter Vaughn, and life in a haunted, 200-year-old farmhouse. It also brings The Hunt: an infamous murder mystery festival where students solve a fake, gruesome murder scheme during the week of Halloween. Well, supposedly fake.

Weeks before The Hunt, Lange and her friends hold a séance in the farmhouse’s eerie barn. When a voice rushes through, whispering haunting words that only she and Vaughn can hear, Lange realizes it’s begging for help. The mysterious voice leads Lange and Vaughn to uncover letters and photos left behind by a murdered girl, Ginny, and they become obsessed with her story and the horrifying threats that led to her murder.

But someone doesn’t like their snooping, and Lange and Vaughn begin receiving the same threats that Ginny once did. The mysterious words from the barn become crucial to figuring out Ginny’s past and discovering how their own past is connected to hers. They must work fast to uncover the truth or risk finding out if history really does repeat itself.

Pick up your copy of this Young Adult/ Paranormal/ Thriller l through Amazon US, Amazon UK, or Barnes & Noble.

My review guidelines: As you know from my first Novel Publicity review, I HATE spoilers as a reader, so as a reviewer, I avoid them as best as possible. As a writer and an editor, I put a lot of value on the language itself used to tell a tale. A 10/10 review for me will be one with an amazing plot, characters I love, and enchanting writing. I can’t get lost in a book without falling under the spell of its words–and the spell will be ineffectual without a great plot to fall into.

With that said, please enjoy my review.

Second Verse Cover

Review

This novel lay more within my usual young-adult genre preference than my last couple of reviews, although the murder theme might have caused me not to pick this one up on my own. However, like so many of the Novel Publicity books I’ve reviewed, I’m so glad they introduced me to one I might not have read otherwise! This book was exciting and intriguing without trying too hard–perfect for its genre.

I would classify this as a young-adult paranormal thriller. It wasn’t gruesome or scare-your-pants-off frightening enough to be horror, which was a relief to me, as you know I’m somewhat of a chicken with horror novels. I also appreciated how the romance wove in with the plot in a relevant non-dominant way. I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes fun supernatural thrillers, especially those who are fans of young-adult literature.

The world: I bought into this world right away. The primary setting is modern-day, with glimpses into the past. Walkup describes the house where the narrator lives so beautifully and intricately that I felt like I was right there with her–an eerie feeling, considering it’s also the setting where other characters transcend time and other dimensions. The first few pages are a little gory (which almost scared me off), but only in the theoretical way of teenagers trying to scare each other. After that, any violence is justified and not overdone. This book pulled me in and made me experience this world first-hand in a way I’ve seen few others accomplish–well-done. The ghost scenes were amazing–so chilling and convincing that I got goosebumps. I felt like I actually benefited as a writer from reading Walkup’s perfect execution of those scenes. It’s hard to choose between “the world” and “the characters” as to which was my favorite.

The characters: These characters were immediately lovable. Lange, the main character, was a Strong Female Character through-and-through, though Walkup gave her room to grow into this over the course of the novel. Her wit and sass were tempered with vulnerability of her past demons and her big heart. Vaughn, the male lead, was perfect in his imperfection: a brooding musician just quirky enough not to be a stereotype. As I mentioned earlier, the love story didn’t overpower the main plot, but it intertwined with it in a realistic way that moved both plot and relationship forward. I never felt weighed down by sappiness, yet it was just sweet enough–a balance, I know as an author, that is difficult to accomplish. The secondary characters were charming in their own ways, too, though none shone as brightly as the main two–a fact I’m OK with, as a reader. Too much would be distracting.

The plot: The plot was intriguing and engaging. I thought the pace was pretty good, which isn’t always the case with a mystery. I think more of the thrills came later in the novel, but it made sense for the author to focus more on character development with foreshadowing in the beginning. It was definitely a page-turner, but I’m not sure how this would fare on a reread. However, it was good enough that I would be willing to pick it up again in the future and test it out. 🙂

The language: The language was snappy and quick-moving, descriptive and clear. It didn’t try too hard to be “cool” or scary, and at no point did it distract with over-description. I did think it could have been more complex; however, I understand the author’s choice in wanting to keep the pace clipping without weighing it down with sweeping lyricism and weighty insights about the meaning of life. I would describe the language as “fun,” and it was certainly appropriate and appealing for the targeted audience.

Review: 8/10. An absolute thrill-ride! I look forward to reading more from this author–maybe even a sequel!

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win either of two $25 Amazon gift cards, an autographed copy of Second Verse by Jennifer Walkup, or an autographed copy of its tour mate, The Field by Tracy Richardson. Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win a $25 gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other $25 gift card and the 3 autographed books will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Luminis Duo tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the author: When Jennifer Walkup isn’t writing or reading, she’s spending time with her husband and young sons, listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and coming up with costume ideas for Halloween. She’s obsessed with good coffee and new recipes and likes broccoli on her pizza, flowers in her hair, flip-flops on her feet, and the number 13. A member of SCBWI, Jennifer also serves as fiction editor for The Meadowland Review and teaches creative writing at The Writers Circle. Second Verse is her first novel. Connect with Jennifer on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads.

Luminis Books was launched in January, 2010 by husband and wife team Tracy Richardson and Chris Katsaropoulos with a mission to publish thought-provoking literary fiction for children and adults. We publish what we love: Meaningful Books That Entertain. Our award-winning books engage and inform readers and explore a wide range of topics from love and relationships, teen sexual assault and homelessness to string theory, consciousness, and the Universal Energy Field. Luminis Books is a proudly independent publisher located in Carmel, IN. Learn more at www.luminisbooks.com.

Learn more about Second Verse‘s tour mate HERE.

———————————————————————————

I hope you enjoyed the review! Join me later this week, possibly tomorrow, for another bookish edition of “Top Ten [sometimes] Tuesday”!

Happy Halloween: Memories of Halloweens Past

Happy Halloween, readers! I hope you’re enjoying the holiday. I’m having a rather spooky experience at the moment: our phone line is going in and out, and since it’s on Halloween, that means it has to have a sinister cause.

But perhaps the scariest thing about this is that I can’t “save draft” as often as I’d like, so I may lose my work…

It’s actually the very first year I haven’t worn a costume, and it fills me with a Victorian Halloween-appropriate melancholy, complete with gloomy fog rolling through the moors of my mind. Our friend (pictured below, as Marilyn) who usually hosts the Halloween party had to be in Canada for much of the month for two separate weddings, one of which she not only participated in, but planned. A more than adequate excuse, I think, but we’ll definitely have to make up for it next year with a *huge* celebration. I still got to be festive at work yesterday, as you can see from my last blog post. Annnnd I’ll still get to be a princess at our gala, and so will my sister, but I am so happy we subvert fairy tale tradition by not being evil to each other. 😉 Oh yes, you can expect a flood of pictures after this weekend.

Speaking of flood of pictures, tonight, you’ll be seeing some snapshots of my childhood. Halloween has always been special to me, my absolute favorite holiday. From a young age, our parents encouraged Jennifer and me dress up and be creative, and we’ve never grown out of that. Halloween has always been about the costumes for us, not the candy (though I wouldn’t turn that down, either).

I believe this was my very first costume ever. My mom sewed this dragon costume for me; I think I was three years old here.

Amanda in dragon costume, pointing

Making some important dragony point, I think. You can see I was assertive, even back then. 😉 (Sorry for the blurriness.)

After that, I believe I was a teddy bear, and then mostly various princesses all the way up until college, when I alternated between strong female characters. (Spoiler alert: next year I am going to be BOTH, as Daenerys from Game of Thrones.)

Our friends group in 2003. Left to right: Megan is a black cat (I think Figaro, from Pinocchio; Jon is a rugby player; Jennifer is Tinkerbell; Lindsey is Marilyn Monroe; Alex is that guy who caught that baseball at a Cubs game, causing the team to lose that year; Kara is Arwen from LOTR; and I'm in the front, as--who else?--Belle. :)

Our friends group in 2003. You may recognize several of these faces from other posts. 😉 Left to right: Megan is a black cat (I think Figaro, from Pinocchio; Jon is a rugby player; Jennifer is Tinkerbell; Lindsey is Marilyn Monroe; Alex is that guy who caught that baseball at a Cubs game, causing the team to lose that year; Kara is Arwen from LOTR; and I’m in the front, as–who else?–Belle. 🙂

Another special tradition to us was reading our favorite stories all together. You might’ve seen this in my previous post about the history of storytelling and reading aloud, but I think this one bears a repeat:

Our dad made a video of himself reading to Jennifer (left) and me so we could play it while he was out of town for business and not miss him as much. <3

Our dad made a video of himself reading to Jennifer (left) and me so we could play it while he was out of town for business and not miss him as much. ❤

My family’s done a lot of organizing this year, and we unearthed our two favorite Halloween books EVER. We reread this one right away when I spotted it.

Image courtesy of Amazon; click to buy.

This is a charming story that opens with this line: “Once, there were two mice who fell in love with the same pumpkin.” While this seemed perfectly normal to me the first time my dad read it to us, 20 years ago, now, it makes me feel like this:

I think I feel this way because I cry at adorable things. I’m so overwhelmed by the cuteness factor that it has to spill out of me in tears. As an adult, I think this is a great book to teach children to cooperate and work together to achieve your goals–that even if you have different goals, you can both get what you want by helping each other. So much of the value is in that bond you form while striving together. In fact, maybe this is a good book for adults, too. 😉

Image courtesy of Amazon; click to buy.

This other Halloween favorite was a lot of fun for us, starting 21 years ago. That button in the upper-right corner was quite exciting, as it let out a sound mimicking the title. My dad would always say the title while the button was playing, too. Jennifer and I would take turns getting the privilege of being the Important Button Pusher, except when we would *accidentally* forget who pushed last. Honestly, I don’t remember much else about this book, and I don’t want to spoil it for myself, because we’re planning to read it tomorrow.

Other story news for tomorrow: you should finally have your Top 10 list I owe you for this week. I’m going to blame the internet flakiness for the delay on it tonight, but the other reason it’s taking so long is because it is so long. People had many favorites, which will make it not a top 10 but rather more, which takes out the requirement of its being posted on Tuesday…right? I promise it’s worth the wait. 😉 Also, I am planning to post a flash fiction horror piece I wrote in grad school–it may go up tomorrow or sometime in the near future. I vote for extending the Halloween celebration past tonight; what do you think? 🙂

Readers, what are some of your favorite Halloween memories? I’d love to hear them.

“The Angry Woman Suite,” by Lee Fullbright, Review–Novel Publicity Blog Tour

Hello readers! Tonight, I have the pleasure of being a Novel Publicity Blog Tour host for Lee Fullbright’s The Angry Woman Suite, from Telemachus Press, LLC. It’s a haunting mystery about the ghosts of the past and how love, betrayal, and resentment transcend time. Perfect for a book review right before Halloween, yes? 😉

However, the picture painted–a pun you’ll soon recognize–is more beautiful than grotesque, sad than scary. Read on for more info about the book, my review, and prizes!

[Disclaimer: As with all my book reviews for Novel Publicity Blog Tours, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

About the book: “They need to be exercised, hearts do … to keep them strong.” Every family has skeletons, but the Grayson family has more than its share of secrets–and of portraits. Mystery portraits that incite and obscure. Portraits to die for. An unsolved celebrity double murder in Pennsylvania. A girl looking for autonomy. A young man in search of an identity. An older man’s quest for justice. A plot that pulls and twists. Get The Angry Woman Suite through Amazon.

My review guidelines: As you know from my first Novel Publicity review, I HATE spoilers as a reader, so as a reviewer, I avoid them as best as possible. As a writer and an editor, I put a lot of value on the language itself used to tell a tale. A 10/10 review for me will be one with an amazing plot, characters I love, and enchanting writing. I can’t get lost in a book without falling under the spell of its words–and the spell will be ineffectual without a great plot to fall into.

With that said, please enjoy my review.

The Angry Woman Suite

Click to view “The Angry Woman Suite” on Goodreads or to buy.

Review

As with my last Novel Publicity book review, this novel lay outside my usual genre preference. However, the plot description and historical theme intrigued me, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Angry Woman Suite was a compelling, moving, poignant read.

I would classify this as an adult historical fiction mystery. I think the book would be most appropriate for adults, since it deals with some pretty dark themes, including abuse.

The world: The reader is fully immersed in the world, 1900-1960 Pennsylvania, from the very beginning. The society is described well, and we understand–or at least, sense–why the stakes are so high early on. The elements of painting and music are ever-present throughout the work, and they are interesting devices to transition the reader between the different eras of the story. They are also interesting metaphorical devices, representative of how the characters see each other, and how that interpretation has lasting effects on their lives. The reader him/herself, although getting first-person P.O.V., gets the distinct impression that we are viewing creations of filtered perceptions by…

The characters: These characters were very real, none perfect, each with their own talents and flaws. We are so far inside their heads that it can almost be uncomfortable to be so close to their thoughts when we know they’re doing something wrong, and that discomfort can make it hard to root for the narrators. However, we are treated with rich perspective, beautiful pieces of insight that I’ll discuss more in the “language” section–and these thoughts are often what redeem the characters to us. The characters are each unique and representative of immutable forces themselves, which are interesting to watch intertwine with each other in effect if not in physical presence.

The plot was surprising and gripping, which kept you hanging on through the heartbreak. The back-and-forth between characters and times could be a little hard to follow, occasionally, but it was an interesting and innovative way to weave the work. The pace could be a little slow at times, especially with reveals, but the telling itself was entertaining enough to keep you engaged with…

The language: I’ve been lucky, in my last two reviews, to experience such lovely rhetoric dotted by pearls of wisdom. One of my favorite quotes paints a wistful picture, setting up the entire story with just a few lines:

“It took nothing away from me, living a fairytale to put a smile on my whisper-soft mother’s beautiful face. In fact, I felt benevolent granting Mother her wish, and so I sealed…[him] inside a place in my heart, in a new and hastily structured place reserved for safe-keeping rare, unused things, things too important to toss away. / ‘You never know,’ Papa always said, ‘the things you’ll find a use for. Never, ever throw anything away, mein Liebes. Never, ever, ever.'”

The language was definitely my favorite part of the book. The themes and events of the book create a lot of sadness, but the reader gets immediate gratification for the pain with soothing, enriching insights about life and relationships–insight the reader can take away after the plot is done, like souvenirs from a trip.

Review: 7/10. Lovely and haunting. An enriching, layered, complex read.

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of The Angry Woman Suite! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest.
  2. Leave a comment on my blog.

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found here. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Angry Woman Suite tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the author: Lee Fullbright, a lifelong San Diegan, lives on beautiful Point Loma with her Australian cattle dog, Baby Rae (owner of her heart). Her literary mystery, The Angry Woman Suite, was a Kirkus Critics’ Pick, and won a Discovery Award (for literary fiction), as well as a Royal Dragonfly HM, and the award for “Best Mystery” at the 2013 San Diego Book Awards. Lee Fullbright is also the recipient of the 2013 Geisel Award, for “best of the best” at the SDBA. Connect with Lee on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads.