14-year-old Feather Tucker has the best mom in the world—funny, clever, loving, movie-star beautiful…and the fact that she weighs 500 pounds and never leaves the house? Feather can’t imagine life any other way.
But when she comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother in a life-threatening diabetic coma, she’s determined to nurse her mother back to health—and fast. Yet, as she desperately attempts to get through to her mother and enabling father, Feather realizes there might be more to her mother’s overeating than meets the eye.
Meanwhile, Feather’s crushing hard on the new boy in town, training for the swimming championships, and navigating her life-long friendship with lovable Jake…all while attempting to keep her pet goat Houdini from running away—again.
As friends old and new join Feather’s journey to save her mother, Feather begins to learn that we all bear the weight of our pasts in different ways.
VIRGINIA MACGREGOR is currently Head of Creative Writing at Wellington College. She is the author of What Milo Saw and The Return of Norah Wells. She has taught at boarding schools in the UK and the US and currently lives in Concord, NH.
Virginia Macgregor was brought up in Germany, France and England by a mother who never stopped telling stories. From the moment she was old enough to hold a pen, Virginia set about writing her own, often late into the night - or behind her Maths textbook at school. Virginia was named after two great women, Virginia Wade and Virginia Woolf, in the hope she would be a writer and a tennis star. Her early years were those of a scribbling, rain-loving child who prayed for lightning to strike her tennis coach. After studying at Oxford, Virginia started writing regularly while working as an English Teacher and Housemistress. Virginia lives in Berkshire with her husband, Hugh.
Don't forget to breathe by Cathrina Constantine
I'm giving this episode the Explicit tag for Language, sex, and drug
Published in Feb of 2015 it has 4.4 star average on 88 reviews.
Cover copy, blurb
Sixteen-year-old Leocadia arrives home from school to find her mom’s bloody body. Unaware that the killer still lingers, she rushes to her mother’s side, only to be grabbed from behind and then everything fades to black.
After a year of retrograde amnesia and battling personal demons, Leo’s dreams are getting worse—she’s starting to remember. More bodies are discovered and they seem to be oddly linked to her mom’s unsolved homicide.
When Leo allows her friend, Henry to drag her into the haunted Lucien Mansion, misty ghosts appear, ghosts that just might lead to her mother’s murderer.
Will Leo let her memories threaten her into a relapse or, will she fight to find her mother’s killer – only to become his next victim?
***2016 New Apple Medalist Award Winner for YA/Mystery-Thriller***
***Literary Classics 2016 GOLD AWARD***
***Received The Literary Classic's Seal of Approval***
***2015 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARD***
~ In Recognition of Excellence in Writing ~
However, she loses all Excellence awards do to the Uncerimoniously clause, which states that using that 'word which will not be spoken' within the first three pages of any novel negates any and all excellence awards for said novel.
Not really. But if you've followed this podcast for any time, you know how I feel about that word.
The author has three other books listed on Amazon, two with reader's award symbols on their covers as well, and one that describes her as a best selling author. All of her books appear to have been published in 2015.
The Amazon preview has four full chapters and a bit of the fifth.
I'm reading you the first two chapters, about 17 pages.
(Read the chapters)
I'm giving this book four out of five stars, which is a good recommendation to read further.
I am not docking it a star for sex, language, or drugs. Realistically, the average teenage boy thinks of little besides sex. These are real characteristics of teenage life. If you don't want these things in your literature, you'll be glad you listened to this podcast so that you can skip this book.
I like the thriller aspects of the story--the unsolved mystery of Leo's mother's death, the subsequent murders, and the possibilities of ghosts--this sounds like it could be an exciting story. And what's up with Henry anyway, is he a werewolf or something?
What brought this down from five stars in my opinion is purple prose. Like the use of the word, "Unceremoniously", there were other phrases which sounded "cool" which upon closer evaluation left me less than impressed.
Such as: When he raised his head from my shouldered nook, I glared at his ambiguous silhouette.
I know what she's trying to say, I just don't think she is actually saying it. What is a 'shouldered nook'? And 'an ambiguous silhouette' doesn't paint me a clear picture of what she is glaring at.
Then there's: He gravitated his hand along my shoulder.
A resigned breath splintered the seam of my lips.
A blood curdling scream scraped into my bones.
Triggering tears to trample over my face.
An uneasy zing cramped my bones.
Dragging in a distended breath
He cuffed his hand into his pocket. I don't know how you cuff you hand. This may actually be a typo that was meant to say, cupped his hand, but a spell check wouldn't pick up cuffed as incorrect. There was another typo where the author says "His slips" instead of "His lips".
I googled the name Leocadia and found that it is an actual name dating back to the late Roman period. There was a Saint Leocadia who was a third century Spanish martyr. I guess the author likes her character names as obscure as her word usage.
Anyway, I like the characterization. I like Leo and I think we can grow with her as she discovers more about the murder of her mother and others in the neighborhood. I'd like to learn a little more about Henry. Is he as good a friend as he thinks he is, or is he really a little more than an acquaintance.
I think her father is a little more realistic than the overbearing father in "Dark Creations", though a touch to easy going, considering his wife was brutally murdered. Maybe there is a reason why that we will learn as we continue on with the story.
There's only one way to find out. Well, no, there are two ways. Someone who reads it can tell you, or you can read it yourself.
The choice is yours.
A special thanks goes out to James T. Wood for being my first patreon supporter. I'm sorry about the delay of your recognition. I'm still learning how to use the patreon page. Again, my deepest thanks for helping me to buy books. I bought my share of them this week. I have a book to review, but it took reading the first few chapters of three other books before I got to this one.
Maybe I should make that my secret Patreon subscriber reward...I'll tell you the names of the books I didn't like. I've said before that I'm trying to make this a positive podcast where I tell you about why I like the book I'm reviewing this week, rather than telling you what I didn't like about the books I gave up on. I mean really, you don't want to listen to a half hour of a book that you won't want to read after I'm done giving it a negative review.
So. the three books I passed on, one I didn't like because the first fifteen pages was just telling the reader about the cute reasons why each of the characters had their given nickname. No plot. No conflict in fifteen pages, just story background. That doesn't work for me.
The second book was just boring and the third had constant unexpected point of view switches. You might call it omniscient view point, I call it confusing and frustrating.
Anyway, enough about what I don't like.
This week I'm going to talk about Dark Creations: Gabriel Rising by Jennifer and Christopher Martucci. They have a ton of books out, and this book is the first of six in a paranormal romance. It was first published in December of 2013. It has 4 out of 5 stars on 263 reviews. It only has 140 pages in the first book, but I just picked up a set of the first 3 on Kindle for free.
Here is the cover copy:
When Gabriel James mysteriously appears in seventeen-year-old Melissa Martin’s English class, she is not prepared for what she experiences, how she feels the first time they speak. With otherworldly attractiveness, gallantry, charm and intelligence, he is everything boys her age are not.
But Gabriel has a secret, a dark secret.
His secret threatens to rip them apart and unleash an evil on the world so horrific, humanity will be forever changed.
In this deeply romantic and captivating young adult paranormal romance novel, Gabriel and Melissa will risk everything – their very lives – to guard their love. Together, they will be forced to confront mankind’s darkest creation.
The Amazon preview has the prolog and most of the first chapter. I'm going to read you everything they gave:
(Read the chapters)
So, this is where the Amazon preview ends. The chapter goes for another few pages, so I know what happens next.
What do you think it will be?
Will this Gabriel mentioned in the cover copy be there to intervene?
What was the yellow eyed beast in the prolog? Was that Gabriel, or something else?
Is that monster waiting at Melissa's home to great her?
There were allusions to the prolog in the first chapter, the unusual darkness, the strange wind. What did it mean?
I like the way the authors set up the conflicts.
I always say that good thrillers take smart characters making dumb choices. I like Melissa's character. She's obviously a smart young woman, and I know we've been told that her friend talked he into going out with Kevin. She should have bailed on him as soon as he insisted on going to the Rec center. But then we wouldn't have had any of the fun conflict about shutting him down in the car. Plus, I give Kevin better than even odds that he will turn up dead some time very soon. (I haven't read that far. This is just my speculation.)
You haven't met the father yet, but I have, and I think he's a little over the top when it comes to protectiveness. But then again, there isn't a lot of conflict if he's understanding and settles with "lesson learned" about Kevin.
One thing about the authors' writing style that I find distracting is the avoidance of contractions. I know there are regions of the US, like in New York and around there where they don't use contractions. Maybe this is a regional characteristic of the authors. I have a friend from New York who writes like that and we've had to learn to agree to disagree when critiquing each others writing. To me it make everything sound too emphatic.
Anyway, I give Dark Creations a strong recommendation to read further. It looks like a thrilling ride.
"I can’t trust my own mind, or my memory, so I’m writing all of this down… There’s been a
murder in this town and I’m determined to get to the bottom of it."
Aaron Grayling hates summer. It’s a time of heat and humidity in the dreary town of Meriville.
It’s also the time when the bad dreams come, which have been intensifying since the death of his
father. He hardly seems to find the space to breathe…
Until the fateful day he finds a diary in the woods. Penned by the mysterious X, it hints at a
shadowy world of murder that seems too true for the boy to ignore.
Torn between school and a murder investigation, Aaron finds himself an unlikely companion in
X. Can they stop the crimewave from hitting Meriville before it's too late? And will it help Aaron
understand the turbulent goings-on in his head?
Hidden Lives is a powerful novel of friendship and loss, and staying true to who you
are against the odds.
Kestral Gaian is an award-winning broadcaster, scriptwriter, musician, and performer. Best
known for their work presenting regular radio series The Geekly Chronicles and for their often performed
choral compositions, they have also published two poetry collections - Silent Poet and
Counterweights - before breaking into longform writing with their debut novel Hidden Lives.
Having trained as an animator and worked in software before moving to writing and the arts,
Kestral's view on the world is eclectic and thoughtful. Their unique views on how technology
impacts human nature, their charity work, and tireless campaigning for equality has led to them
being invited to guest lecture at a number of top institutions across the world, including Eton
College, Cambridge, and Université de Bordeaux.
Outside of work, Kestral is a keen cook and even more keen consumer of food. They can be found
on Twitter and more of their work is available at their website
Katharine and Elizabeth Corr are sisters living in the leafy English county of Surrey. They both read history at university and worked as professionals in London. Then they both stopped working to raise families, not realising that children are far more demanding than clients or bosses. When they both decided to write novels – on account of fictional people being much easier to deal with than real ones – it was obvious they should do it together. When Katharine’s not writing, she likes playing the harp, learning dead languages and embracing her inner nerd. When Elizabeth’s not writing, she likes sketching, dancing round the kitchen and plotting for more time free of children and cats. They can sometimes be found in one of their local coffee shops, arguing over which character to kill off next.
Can true love’s kiss save the day…?
Electrifying dark magic debut by authors and sisters, Katharine and Elizabeth Corr.
Sixteeen-year-old Meredith is fed-up with her feuding family and feeling invisible at school – not to mention the witch magic that shoots out of her fingernails when she’s stressed. Then sweet, sensitive Jack comes into her life and she falls for him hard. The only problem is that he is periodically possessed by a destructive centuries-old curse.
Meredith has lost her heart, but will she also lose her life? Or in true fairytale tradition, can true love’s kiss save the day?
Wunderkids: Part 1 - Wildwood Academy
by Jacqueline Silvester
Published in March of 2017, apparently by the author. Good for her.
4.8 Stars with 9 Reviews
The Cover copy reads:
15-year-old Nikka is invited to attend Wildwood Academy, a prestigious but secret boarding school for talented youth located deep in the Californian mountains. Once there, Nikka quickly falls in love with her bizarre classes, the jaw-dropping scenery and... two very different boys.
However, Wildwood Academy has a dark and twisted secret, one that could cost Nikka the one thing she had never imagined she could lose, the one thing that money can’t buy. It is this very thing that Wildwood Academy was created to steal.
Nikka can stay and lose everything, or she can risk death and run.
***About the Author***
Jacqueline has had a colourful and dual life thus far; she's lived in a refugee camp in Sweden, a castle in France, a village in Germany, and spent her formative years in between Los Angeles, London and New York. As a result, she speaks four languages. Jacqueline has a Bachelors in English Literature from the University Of Massachusetts, and a Masters in Screenwriting from Royal Holloway, University Of London. After graduating she wrote her first novel and began writing cartoon screenplays. The two years she spent in an arts boarding school in the woods have inspired the particular world described in her debut novel Wunderkids. She lives in London with her husband, her excessive YA collection and a hyper husky named Laika.
Wunderkids has been translated into a number of languages and featured in Vogue magazine!
The Amazon preview has the first two chapters. I am going to read you the first.
Here we go:
My thoughts about Wunderkids.
I've always said, or at least I've said for a few years now, that any author who uses the word "Unceremoniously" should be ceremonially flogged. Jacqueline Sylvester uses it on virtually the first page. I'm trying to forgive her for that.
I think the first chapter gives an entirely different feel to the story than the cover blurb does. In this first chapter we discover the ruin of Nikka's life as her mother blunders into what sounds like just another failure. The mother is upbeat about the future, looking for jobs in interesting places like Seattle.
We meat Sonya who takes Nikka on a dangerous but scenic drive through the mountains, which appears to be a stalling tactic of her mother's, and a set up to get her to go to the academy. Sonya's presence seems to be comic relief--unless I'm reading her wrong.
At one point during conversation between Nikka and her mother, we get the impression that Daria knows something about this academy, but clams up. Then at the end of the chapter it's as if Stamos and Daria share an inside joke, as they toast with champagne. I mean. There was supposedly no phone number for Nikka to call, how did Daria have one?
None of this foreshadows the terrible things implied in the cover copy. And if Nikka will be putting her life on the line before the end of the book, then her own mother appears to have knowingly set her up for this death.
One reviewer describes the story as a combination of Harry Potter and Hunger Games, which two books have entirely different feelings, if you look at the first books. In hunger games, we have a sense of dread and doom from the beginning chapters. In Harry Potter, life appears to be drab for Harry, but always hopeful and ultimately safe.
I like the voice of this book, coming from Nikka, and I'm willing to read on the next couple chapters to find out if the theme resolves into the light hearted adventure (Harry Potter) or life threatening danger of the hunger games.
One thing that bugged me in the first chapter was reference to the San Jacinto Mountains where the Wildwood Academy is supposed to be and of the pamphlet that shows dense redwood forests. I wonder if the pamphlet is misleading her, because if there are any trees in the San Jacinto Mountains, they're not dense redwoods. They're more likely to be scrubby and sparse lodge pole pines. If we go to the next chapter and find these dense redwoods it would throw me right out of the story. Perhaps the author's goal was to create a fictitious place in southern California where you will find dense redwoods. If that is the case, she should have given the place a fictitious location, instead of a place anyone can easily google and look up.
In closing, I think that girls will like this book because of the strong female character of Nikka. I think boys will like this book because the central image on the book cover is a girl with an extremely short skirt.
I think Jackqueline Sylvester is a good story teller and I give this first chapter a four star recommendation to read further.
This book was reccomended on a podcast I often listen to, The Writing Excuses Podcast. They had JR Johansson on as a guest. Half way through the podcast they always reccomend a book and gave her the opportunity to choose the book of the week. I respect all of the authors on the podcast, and I've often talked about Brandon Sanderson as being one of my favorites. If you're not familiar with the podcast and are an aspiring writer at any point of the journey, you are missing out on some great instruction on how to make your writing the best it can be.
Anyway, Johansson pitched The Row and told a little about it. It sounded good to me and I vowed to review the first chapter. Well, the first two in this case, I like to do about 15 pages. The book was on the more expensive side, as ebooks go. It was $9.99 which is about double what most ebooks cost.
The Row has a 4.5 star average with 25 reviews.
It was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (October 11, 2016)
Here is the cover copy:
Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent.
Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she can’t forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.
The Amazon preview has the first three chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 are the first sixteen pages, so I'm going to read you that....
(Read first two chapters)
What's there to like about Riley?
She's smart. She's learned the routine to see her father without causing waves. She's made friends with the prison staff and warden so that they're on her side.
She thinks her mother is resilient, but I get the idea that she's not really. I may be wrong, but I think we are going to see that her diligence at the office and her staying away from visits is her way of creating distance so that her work life goes smoothly and her security isn't affected as it was in the past. I'm predicting that she is creating a new life for herself without her husband.
I think Riley is the resilient one.
I like her dedication to her father how she faithfully visits him every week, year after year and how she saves every letter he has written to her. Being the father of daughters, myself, I understand how Riley's father could come to depend on her visits to feel grounded to the outside world. My first daughter was sixteen before we added more children to our family through adoption. She was truly one of my best friends. She brought, and still brings, a lot of joy to my life.
So, I want to read on to find out what happens at the hearing, and now, knowing the rest of the preview, how Riley will react when her father tells her his committed the crimes.
by JM Davis
Self published by the author in June of 2016
It has a five star average with three reviews.
Awaking in a strange place, Eleanor is afraid, and panicked. Unfamiliar people claiming to be her family nurse her back to health, but their vague answers seem to only stir up more questions. Where is she? How did she get the scar in the center of her chest? And what happened to her memories?
Over time, Eleanor learns she has been fitted with a mechanical heart, and the body she inhabits once belonged to someone else. With the truth finally revealed, depression nearly drives her to her deathbed. After being rushed to the hospital, Eleanor must learn to accept her second-chance at life.
Believing she is less than human with her steel heart, Eleanor needs a reminder that she is more than just clockwork, and gears. Percy Oliver, does just that. But, is her heart capable of love? Or is it just a machine crafted of cold metal?
The Amazon preview has three chapters. Here's the first one.
Before I talk about this chapter I want to say that I had originally planned on reviewing a different book. I saw it advertized on facebook and twitter several times. Based on the book cover and the title, the story sounded like it would be mysterious and engrossing. The story started with a prolog. Fifteen pages in, I was looking ahead to see how much longer this prolog was. I was bored. The story was introducing the characters, their personalities and some of the plot, but there was nothing which was intriguing or mysterious. I realized there was nothing I could reccomend from what I had read, and rather than read it and give a bad review, I would move on to the next book on my list.
I want to give people ideas of books that they want to read, and not which ones to look out for.
A first chapter, or prolog, if the book has to have one, should be gripping and make me want to read more, make me want to move on to the next chapter. Not make me look ahead to see how much longer I have to read.
Gear Girl was this way. Even if it is written in first person present tense.
The author gives us enough information to sympathize with the main character, the feelings of confusion and disorientation, and ultimately of threat and violation from the man who enters the room.
Obviously, if we've read the cover copy, we know our protagonist has a clockwork heart and we can assume that the two people she interacts with in the first chapter are well meaning. But it's clear that Eleanor doesn't know this, and why she doesn't know this is one of the reasons I want to go on to the next chapter to find out why.
The story is clearly steampunk. It looks like Davis has created the environment and setting for an exciting speculative fiction.
The Bloody Shoe Affair: A daring and thrilling adventure with the Jailer's daughter.
by Joy York.
Published in Feb of 2015
4.4 Stars from 25 Reviews
Here is the cover copy:
In this mystery set in 1968, Christi, a shy and awkward teenager, never expected to get sucked into helping her cousin, Lily, the “double-dare-you” daughter of the county jailer, try to solve the grizzliest murder the town of Roselyn, Mississippi, had ever seen. Then again, Christi had been entangled in her misadventures before. So a whirlwind week of spying, lying, crawling through tunnels and sneaking into the jail should have come as no surprise to Christi.
Lily, a vivacious prankster, loves adventure. It’s not hard to find when you live in a house connected to the jail. Christi, a city girl, is self-conscious and afraid of everything. Still, she’s drawn to the excitement and adventure that Lily always seems to provide. Christi arrives for a visit in time to help her cousin discover what happened the night Lily observed a county deputy drop a pair of women’s bloody shoes from a bag. After a chance meeting with the accused, they learn new information that sheds doubt on his guilt. Seeking justice, Lily sets a plan in motion that takes them on an adventure of risk and surprising twists. They not only discover unexpected truths about the case, but about themselves as well.
The Amazon preview has two full chapters and a bit of the third. The second is much longer than the first, so if you like what you hear, you can go read some more if you are still debating whether or not to get this book.
Here is the first chapter:
About the Author
Joy York grew up in Alabama, but has spent much of her adult life in the Midwest. She is a graduate of Auburn University. She has had a rewarding career in retail management. She was an active volunteer in her community, holding positions on nonprofit boards supporting education, including an elected four- year term on the Hudson City School Board of Education in Hudson, Ohio. She was inspired to write when she began creating stories and adventures to entertain her son when he was growing up. She has returned to her home state of Alabama where she now follows her passion of writing fulltime.
Why I like this story.
The author takes full advantage of telling a story in the first person. The character's voice and the narrator are the same. We get Christi's thoughts and interpretation of events as they happen. Though we only have two short glimpses of Christi and her family in the first chapter we learn a lot about her personality, her feelings of awkwardness, her desire to fit in, and that she may actually enjoy the excitement that accompanies Lillie's reckless curiosity. We also learn about the plot. That there has been a murder, and Lillie's father being the jailer is going to put them right in the middle of the excitement.
I give this story five stars for characterization, plot, and pacing. The only draw back that I can see is that there isn't an audio version, so I'm going to have to actually read it. And I will. This looks to be a fast paced, fun read.
Savages: Chronicles of Warshard by Katherine Bogle.
It currently has 18 reviews with an average of 4.1 star rating.
It was published on April 4th of 2017. I saw this the week before, advertised on Twitter. The blurb and book cover caught my attention, so I preordered it for 99 cents.
Two weeks after it's release it is sitting at 12K odd in the Kindle store and at #5 for Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical
Katherine Bogle's debut young adult novel, Haven, came second in the World's Best Story contest 2015. She currently resides in Saint John, New Brunswick with her partner in crime, and plethora of cats. She can be found at www.katherinebogle.com.
Haven is a Chonicle of Warshard book as well as another one called Fyre which is a collection of short stories in the same environment.
Here's the story description on the amazon page.
Daughter of Chief Ruin, Breen is one of the most fearsome warriors in the Southern Delica Tribe, but nothing can stop the Emperor from reaping the Savage Lands for soldiers.
When her village is attacked, Breen is taken from her home and her family to the Seaburn Academy, where southern savages are broken and chained into a life of service to the Empire. Through the beatings and torture, Drakkone, one of the few Seaburn-born soldiers, brings solace to her days and gives her hope for the future.
Once freed of the Academy dungeons, Breen is sentenced to daily training between her plots for escape. But one night of unexpected passion turns into a problem bigger than either of them could have imagined.
Breen and Drakkone must risk capture and flee the city or death might be a blessing compared to eternal imprisonment.
The blurb has left me a little confused. It sounds to me like Drakkone is a Seaburn solder who beats and tortures Breen and by doing so, brings her solace and gives her hope. Then free of the Academy, though she is sentenced to daily training, she has an affair with someone, who we assume is Krakkone. This leaves me wondering, was he also a prisoner and in a position to become romantic with Breen, or was he still in a position of authority over her.
The Amazon preview has the first two full chapters and part of the third. I am going to read the first chapter which equaled 5% of the book. Here is Chapter 1:
(After the Chapter)
I thought the first chapter was well written. It's fast paced, gives us a feel for Breen's talents and the people of the Southern Delica Tribe, and sets us up with a conflict to carry us into the second chapter. The description copy tells us there is a lot of action to look forward to and at this point I am will to read on to see how she will become imprisoned and what she will do to try to escape.
The blurb mentions torture. I'm not big on torture, especially if it gets graphic or just too long winded. In the 1990's there was a series of books by Terry Goodkind that started with "Wizards first rule". I read that and several that came after it and it seemed that in each of these massive epic fantasies, the protagonist couldn't help but get caught and tortured for a couple hundred pages. It went on and on in intricate detail. If this book gets hung up on that kind of plot, I would have to give it up.
That aside, the only thing I found that took me out of the story was some ambiguity about who was talking. At times pronouns were used and it wouldn't be until the following paragraph that I would know who it was who had spoken.
So, overall, this is a good book and you probably should give it, or one of the author's other books a try.
Thanks for listening and I'll see you next week.
Kaki Olsen is always on the brink of another adventure. If she couldn’t be a writer, she’d be a full-time musician or travel guide and she would take her lunch breaks at Fenway Park. Until that happens, she speaks both Spanish and English at her every-day office job, but she has vacationed enthusiastically in such places as Istanbul and Ireland. She has lived in five states, but will always refer to Boston as home.
She regularly contributes academic papers on zombies or wizards to Life, the Universe and Everything, a sci-fi/fantasy symposium originated at her alma mater, Brigham Young University. Her published works have appeared in such magazines as Voices and AuthorsPublish. Her debut novel, Swan and Shadow, was published by Sweetwater Books in 2016.
She is a doting aunt and librarian of two bulging bookshelves. This site allows her to share her literary obsessions.
Aislin’s curse is the standard fare: swan by day, college student by night, true love as the only cure. But does true love even exist outside of fairy tales? After having to cover for Aislin during her swan hours, Aislin’s twin, Maeve, is willing to resort to anything from matchmaking to magic to see her sister live happily (and human) ever after. Will either of them get their wish?
The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still. Discover the riveting first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices Trilogy, prequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them....
Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
I tried to access the sample of this book on the Amazon site, but it wouldn't load on my computer. I don't know if others would find it there if they tried, so I gave up and bought the book on Audible, intending to write an entire review. I got the audio book because the ebook was $10.99 and I could get it on audible, with our monthly account for one $13 token. Since I have much more time to listen than I do to sit down and read a book, I knew I was more likely to finish it this way. I might point out that the paperback book is listed for less than $8 which doesn't make sense to me, unless you are trying to encourage people to buy physical books.
So here is the first chapter, which is actually a prolog. I know. Don't get me started. I'll talk about that later.
(Read the prolog)
The prolog doesn't prepare us for the story or answer any questions for us. In fact it leaves us with a number of questions that we will later cause us to exclaim, or sigh, and say, Oh, that who that is, That's what Will meant, or So, this was an important point.
In the prolog we don't meet Tessa. The first chapter introduces us to her and introduces her to the Dark Sisters. I won't give anything away that the books own blurb didn't when I say that living with the dark sisters was a negative experience. Tessa displays her intelligence and her drive when she escapes from these two evil women and falls in with the Shadowhunters.
As I was working on this review my editor-alter-ego tried to take over and looked for as many things wrong as I could find. I don't care who you are, things can be found that are wrong with any book--so much of right and wrong in literature is based on personal likes and dislikes. So, before any of my potentially negative comments can be taken wrong, I want to go over the things that I really liked about this book.
Cassandra Claire is an excellent story teller. She well deserves the many New York Times best sellers she has earned. I was immediately in the story with Tessa on the docks in England feeling out of place and anxious. I listened to an audio version, which has its benefits and its drawbacks. On the plus side, the narrator was talented and helped to bring the story to life. For the most part, she held my attention. There were occasions where I was so into the story that I wonder if I missed some salient points, which I will come to later. When I'm listening, I can't always rewind and see if I heard correctly or if I missed something, not like you can flip back to a paragraph and reread, when you have a book in your hands.
I liked the characters, though in the beginning I was a bit confused about who was who as the many characters of the Shadowhunters seemed to all come at once. I'm still not sure who all of them were. The main characters were pretty clearly rounded out, even if they didn't act they way I would have wanted them to. I never really got to like Will. I'm not sure if we were supposed to feel sorry for him or admire his independent aloofness. By the end of the book I had him rating more as a jerk than as a hero.
The plot was solid with numerous satisfying twists which I didn't see coming. I did see one of them which allowed Tessa to make a mistake. Of course, the mistake propelled the conflict forward and with it, a major action scene. Sometimes it seems like our otherwise intelligent and competent characters have to make dumb choices for the sake of the plot.
We are warned in the synopsis that this is the first book of a trilogy. As such, many questions are left unanswered. Tessa has a full character arc in coming to grips with who she is and what her magical abilities might be, but much of the balance of the story is still up in the air.
One aspect of both of the blurbs that I read states, "Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still." It makes it appear that this is the theme of the book. If it is, I am left unconvinced. I think the story makes the point that trust in, or dedication to, someone you love can be dangerous, but love is not what causes the danger.
I thought Tessa was a little passive. She starts out showing some real gumption as she defies the Dark Sisters and fights for her freedom. Leaving that prison she's reluctant to join in with the Shadow Hunters for fear that they are going to use her like the sisters tried to, and then she is suddenly doing exactly what the Hunters ask her to do without any of her former resistance. She pretty much goes with the flow until the end of the story when she finally pulls up her socks and takes charge. I could accept more of her passivity if she had some internal dialog or conflict explaining why she was going along with the hunters.
If you find vampires alluring, you may be disappointed as those who appeared in the Clockwork Angel seemed weak and unusually fragile.
My other major concern with the plot was what the clockwork angel had to do with anything. It was on a necklace that Tessa wore. I think she got it from her parents and had some emotional attachment. At times the small device came to life and fluttered its wings. How it did that, or what brought on the action was never clear to me. I would think that the name sake of the entire book would have received some resolution.
I don't know if I'll go on to listen to the rest of the books in the series and trilogy, but I recommend this book to any lover of YA Steampunk as this book brings that mythological period of time to life with all its clockwork attackers, foggy London streets, and sword slashing, magic casting, battles.
Nicole Schubert is a first-time novelist and award-winning screenwriter with a soft spot for comedy and romance. She also dabbles in other behind-the-scenes activities, like producing the monthly Improv Diary Show at Santa Monica’s Westside Comedy Theater. She’s produced a music awards TV show and European-wide photo exhibition out of Brussels and enjoyed another side of storytelling working in the editing rooms of numerous Hollywood feature films. Nicole lives with her family—including The Kid and pirate kitty Biddy—in Los Angeles, by way of Brussels and New Orleans, where she was born during a hurricane.
The second Francie met Chet, her poetic memory danced.
This beloved debut novel from Nicole Schubert brings you an honest and painfully relatable coming of age story about first love, loss, music, sports, alcoholism, family and friendship that will have you cheering, crying and singing with the quirky, pensive Francie Mills. Compassionate, heartbreaking and hopeful, this novel for teen readers is a favorite of adults of all ages as well! If you like Sherman Alexie, John Green, JD Salinger or books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower or movies like Loves of a Blonde or anything John Hughes, this might just be your cup of tea.
Meet Francie Mills. She’s 16. Lives in the boring burbs of L.A. Is super determined and hopeful. And wants one thing: to be an amazing tennis player. Because if something exponentially, brilliantly wonderful like that happened, like winning the U.S. Open or even getting to nationals, everything would be okay. Her life. Her family. Her. She would matter. Be part of something important. And wouldn’t have to feel so unbearably sad and alone every time her dad gets drunk, again.
But the likelihood of amazingness starts to seem impossible when Francie injures her knee…that is, until she meets Chet Jones, lead singer of the band Blues Harp Jones, in Austin, on location for her dad’s movie job. Francie instantly falls for Chet, in his weird blazer and “God Save the Queen” t-shirt, sexy, genuine, funny. And she’s sure something wonderful is finally happening, especially when Chet miraculously falls for her too. But the closer Francie gets to Chet back in L.A. and the more her dad’s drinking tears her apart, the more she realizes the best kind of something wonderful isn’t at all what she expected.
Screen plays. How is writing them different than writing a novel?
producing the monthly Improv Diary Show
When did you decide to write a book?
Tell me about your book
The second Francie met Chet, her poetic memory danced.
Were any of the social issues address in your book what motivated you to write it?
Why Blues Harp Green?
Feb 4, 2017
4.6 stars 6 reviews
How's it doing?
How is your balancing act? Are you planning on writing another? Also in this genre?
What is the best way for people to get a hold of you?
Today's first chapter review is of the Young Adult Fantasy, "The Kingdom of Oceana". I received a request from a publicist, or maybe it was an offer, to review a copy of this book. I replied that I normally read the first chapter and then comment on it on my podcast, when I'm doing a review. What I also told her was that I would prefer to interview the author and allow him to pitch the story and talk about his inspiration, etc. I don't know if she pitched the idea to the author, but she said she would be happy to send me a copy of the book to do the review.
So, Mitchell Charles, if you happen to listen to this podcast, I'd still love to have you on to talk about your book in greater depth than I'm probably going to give it here.
Here is the pitch from the publicist. This is all I knew of the story before I read the first chapter:
The Kingdom of Oceana is a young-adult fantasy novel, by Mitchell Charles, that takes readers on a fun and exciting adventure filled with non-stop action, from big wave surfing, to fire walking and shark taming. Readers have compared it to Disney’s new movie Moana.
I think comparing a book to another is always risky. Here, the publicist compares this novel to the new Disney movie, "Moana". I recently spent a week with my grand kids and we watched Moana about six times. So I know what that movie is all about. Sitting down to read this first chapter, Moana is what I had in mind.
(Read the first chapter)
Here are my thoughts based on this first chapter and the publicist pitch.
I don't see any Moana here. No upbeat, cheerful characters. I see an older brother who is condescening toward his younger brother, referring to him as a parasitic sucker fish. We learn the older's name is Nahoa and he refers to the younger as Omo and Younger Brother. This first chapter seems to be focused more on Nahoa, than who we will find out later is the main character of the book. Nahoa's a bit of a cheat and bully when he jumps off the younger brother's back and then turns on him and tries to kill him. Again, no Moana here.
Standing on this first chapter alone, comparing to the publicist's pitch. I don't know if I would continue on.
Let's read the blurb. I found this further down in the initial email I received from the publicist, and it is also the blurb for the book on the Amazon page.
SURFER. SHARK TAMER. FIRE WALKER. EXPLORER. TEENAGER. HERO.
Set 500 years ago on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic. When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise.
As warring factions collide for control of Oceana, it sparks an age-old conflict between rival sorcerers that threatens to erupt--just like Mauna Kea, the towering volcano. With the help of his ancestral spirit animals, his shape shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must overcome his own insecurities, a lifetime of sibling rivalry, and a plague of cursed sea creatures brought forth by the tiki's spell. Can peace be restored to the kingdom? Can Prince Ailani claim his rightful place as the future king of Oceana? Two brothers, but only one can rule.
This paints a whole new picture on the story.
We learn that the younger brother's name is Ailani.
We have ancestral spirit animals to look forward to. I'm thinking like the dragon from the Disney story Mulan. Or maybe Pumba and Timon. Again, the image of a Disney classic was put into my mind and I may be rewarded or disappointed. And a shape shifting sidekick, that sounds like fun. And what could be better than a beautiful princess. I would expect someone snarky as well as beautiful.
Is any of this in the first chapter, though? Not much.
Having this added information, I would probably read another two or three chapters to see if story starts to match any of my expectations.
"The Kingdom of Oceana" was first published in December of 2015, so it was out before "Moana".
It has forty reviews with a 4.6 average.
There are three chapters available for preview on the Amazon page. Try them out and see if it compares to Moana.
Again, If you'd like to help out the podcast, it would be great if you could leave a review. Stop by the patreon page, or if you have some ideas of who you'd like to hear on the podcast, leave me a note on the Facebook page, or email me at email@example.com
Find Under the Never Sky at Amazon.com
First book in the Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi, which is complete and available.
This first book was published in January of 2012 by Harper Collins.
As of this recording it is ranking 21, 22, and 74 on three of the Amazon Young Adult indices. It has a 4.5 Star average with 1013 reviews.
The Amazon preview includes the first two chapters and I will share the first chapter on this episode.
Here is the blurb from the Amazon page.
Fighting to survive in a ravaged world, a Dweller and a Savage form an unlikely alliance in New York Times bestselling author Veronica Rossi's "unforgettable dystopian masterpiece" (Examiner.com).
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption.
In alternating chapters told in Aria's and Perry's voices, Under the Never Sky subtly and powerfully captures the evolving relationship between these characters and sweeps readers away to a harsh but often beautiful world. Continuing with Through the Ever Night and concluding with Into the Still Blue, the Under the Never Sky trilogy has already been embraced by readers in twenty-six countries and been optioned for film by Warner Bros.
Goodreads, which has the book at 4.1 stars, but on nearly 92K ratings has the following blurb:
WORLDS KEPT THEM APART.
DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.
Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.
Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive.
If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.
Here is the first chapter. It's from Aria's point of veiw:
Here are my thoughts on this first chapter. I want to read on for a couple of reasons.
Number one. The writing and characterization are absorbing and engaging. We gain sympathy for Aria right away. Her conflict and motivation are understandable and sympathetic. She wants to find out if her mother is still alive and well. She feels the only way to get that answer is from Soren.
The author has some writing idiosyncrasies that I can overlook in the first chapter, such as, Aria does a lot of staring. She stares on three occasions. If she stares as much in the second chapter, I might get more annoyed than intrigued.
Soren is self centered and manipulative and he has plans for the adventure, and for Aria, that he hasn't shared. He's a good bad guy, but I think his days are numbered. I want to find out.
At the end of this chapter we see the potential for catastrophy. They have just built a bon fire in the middle of a tinder box.
The second reason I want to read on is that we are told in the preview that Aria is exiled. I hope that Aria is a stronger character than this first chapter has shown. Soren threatened her that if she left, he would tell his father that this adventure was her idea. There are some problems with this threat.
- There are only 6000 residents in Reverie. You can't have that few people and not know who the resident trouble makers are, or aren't. It is obvious that Aria couldn't have come up with the codes to shut off their eyes or get them through the air lock. The three boys are well known for this ability.
Even if it was was Aria's idea, Soren stole the codes to break in. He didn't have to do what she suggested. He was culpable on his own. He and his friends go wild, taking off their clothes and covering themselves with mud, and then Soren brings out the battery and wire, proving that he had premeditated the idea of creating fire.
If Aria suffers this much injustice from the small group, I may unable to suspend disbelief long enough to finish the rest of the book. It's a plot weakness to large for me to forgive.
One other weakness with the plot is the description of Ag 6. Really. There is so much dust on the floor that Soren creates a trail through it, yet the food there appears to be only on the edge of being rotten. To me, that much dust would leave the fruit dried, the grapefruits shrivled husks. The food may have been able to be grown without leaves, soil, and much water, but the dark warehouse that the ag dome appears to be is too much of a stretch for my imagination.
I give this first chapter four stars and anyone who is interested enough to start the book should be more than rewarded to read on.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
She's @kathglasgow on twitter. I saw that she had "Liked" a tweet about the "Killer in Me" review. When I checked her handle I saw she was launching her book. The title and book cover grabbed me.
Published on August 30th of 2016 by Delacort Press
She currently has 40 reviews with a 4.8 star average.
She's in the top 20K of books sold on the Kindle store and at #4, 10, and 60 on three of the Teen>Literature and Fiction lists.
Here is the Amazon preview:
For fans of Girl, Interrupted, Thirteen Reasons Why, and All the Bright Places comes a novel Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything, calls "a haunting, beautiful, and necessary book that will stay with you long after you've read the last page."
Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.
Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.
A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow's debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.
"A haunting, beautiful, and necessary book that will stay with you long after you've read the last page." —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything
The book is divided into three parts. The chapters are really short. Some only a half a page. The longest I will read is about three pages. In the first part there are 46 of these chapters. The Amazon preview is the first 15 chapters. I will read 13 of those.
"The Killer in Me" written by Margot Harrison was published on July 12, 2016 by Disney Hyperion.
I bought this one a while ago. I think it was the same time that I bought "Learning to swear in America". I believe both of them were on the Goodreads top YA books for July.
Here's the synopsis:
Hasn't he lived long enough? Why not? I could take him like a thief in the night. This is how the Thief thinks. He serves death, the vacuum, the unknown. He's always waiting. Always there. Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She's intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims' bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert. Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico. But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she's had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief? From debut author Margot Harrison comes a brilliantly twisted psychological thriller that asks which is more terrifying: the possibility that your nightmares are real . . . or the possibility that they begin and end with you?
The Kindle preview includes the first four chapters. I'm going to read you the first two, which ends up being about 19 pages.
I try to read the first couple chapters and put down my thoughts before reading the synopsis, so I can get an honest feeling for whether I would read on based on those pages. Here's what I got before I read the blurb on the Amazon page.
Nina is a girl who dreams a serial killer's life.
Plenty of opportunity for conflict and character developement.
She's on a life and death mission to save a couple who lives a hundred plus miles away. She's smart enough to realize no one will believe her--the woman she called certainly didn't.
The author's writing is crisp and clear, her characterization is solid, and her use of dialog is effective.
I want to read on initially to see how she does with firing the .38 and secondly to see if she is able to get to upstate New Yord to help the older couple. I believe that these two conflicts are just an introduction to the story and my hopes are that this will ramp up into a solid thriller.
I had an interview with an author scheduled tonight, but she had to cancel for her son's back to school night. Unless I can reconnect with her in the next couple days, it will be another first chapter review next week.
thanks for listening. We'll see you next week.
Cinderella Dreams of Fire by Casey Lane
Published on August 15th by the author.
44 Reviews with a 4.7 star average
What if Cinderella led a double life?
Cinderella has a secret. In the 10 years since her mother's death, she's only pretended to be too weak to challenge her cold-blooded stepmother. By day, she cleans the floors and washes the laundry. By night, she takes to the streets as a fearless thief with no equal. Out on a routine mission, Cinderella never expected that she'd run into him…
Braedon is hardly a model prince. He spends most of his time in the tavern, much to the dismay of his royal mother. When an unexplainable blight strikes the queen's soldiers down, Braedon's attempt to help brings him face-to-face with the beautiful, sardonic thief. He wants nothing more than to partner up with her, even if it could get him killed…
The thief would much rather work alone, but the prince’s persistence starts to wear down her defenses. When the evil force decimating the army turns its attention to the throne, Cinderella and Braedon have one chance to save the kingdom, their loved ones, and themselves.
Cinderella Dreams of Fire is the first book in the Fairy Tales Forever series, a set of fantasy novels that inject the classic retellings you know with a burst of attitude. If you like strong female characters, action-packed fantasy, and simmering chemistry, then you’ll love Casey Lane’s romantic, fast-paced adaptation.
There are five chapters in the Amazon preview. I'm going to read you the first two chapters, about 15 pages.
I wanted to review this one right away because I follow the author on the Sell More Book Show podcast and have read the first book of the "Ted Saves the World" series. He's writing under this new pen name and using the "Write to Market" method to publish books in a niche that is currently under represented but performing well. This method also stresses writing quickly to meet the market demand for the genre. He has promoted the book heavily and it is performing well in the Amazon charts. He's gotten several #1 best seller rankings and is hoping to stay in the top 2500 for all books on Amazon for the next month.
I have to admit, I was a little let down after reading these first two chapters. I had gotten used to the sharply detailed, quality writing of the last few books I've reviewed. This is not "My Lady Jane", "The Paper Magician", or "Learning to Swear in America". It reads like it was written very quickly with a focus on telling the story and not showing us the depth of character detail or the fantasy environment.
I read the first two chapters originally, before I read the synopsis, so it left me a little confused. In fact, it appears to me that the author spent more time fine tuning the synopsis than he did writing the story.
Chapter 1. We view the story through one girl's eyes. Kayla? With a visit to a country tavern. We get the information that they were once princesses but are currently starving. The mother asks about a local Duke. When the tavern keeper's daughter comes in the older sister draws a knife. Besides cruelly cutting the girl, her mother makes an obscure comment that she wants something more than what the keeper can offer. We learn in the second chapter that it was the duke's hand in marriage. How she got that from threatening the tavern keeper isn't explained. Did the tavern keeper have some special connection to the Duke? It's kind of hard for me to believe.
Chapter 2 we meet Cinderella. I'll admit, I expected her to have a slightly different name. I guess that was my bad. I mean the name of the book is "Cinderella Dreams of Fire", but also expected a creatively different approach to the use of the name. We find her cleaning up a wine stain, not cinders, and learn a little of how she came to be in this mess.
It appears that Casy knows the mechanics of story telling and punts a zinger at the end of each chapter to encourage the reader to continue to the next page. Neither zinger worked for me and left me somewhat annoyed. Chapter 1's was a little darker and violent than I had expected, though it showed me what a cruel person the mother and older sister were. And then in the next chapter the introduction that Cinderella works for the Godmother came across as silly and contradictory to the first chapter.
On his recap of his writing process in the bonus episode of the "Sell More Book Show" the author talks about knowing the tropes of the genre. I don't know if silliness is one of the expected tropes, like watching a Shrek movie, or not. If it is, the first chapter was entirely out of place. If the author didn't mean for it to come across as silly, then I completely misread this second chapter ending.
In conclusion, if Fairy Tale retellings is a genre that you like, you might like this one. I've mentioned before that one of my all time favorite books is "Beauty" by Patricia McKillop. It was neither dark not silly, just beautifully written.
I give this a three star recommendation, "Try it. You might like it." I will have to take a pass on this one and spend my time reading something else. Knowing the other things this author has written I expected a higher quality of writing and story telling. It seems like he has put his quality efforts into marketing this one.
Learning to Swear in America
By Katie Kennedy
Published on July 5, 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing
It has 29 reviews with a 4.8 star average.
Here's the Amazon synopsis:
An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Maybe not kill-all-the-dinosaurs bad, but at least kill-everyone-in-California-and-wipe-out-Japan-with-a-tsunami bad. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been recruited to aid NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster.
The good news is Yuri knows how to stop the asteroid--his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But the trouble is, even though NASA asked for his help, no one there will listen to him. He's seventeen, and they've been studying physics longer than he's been alive.
Then he meets (pretty, wild, unpredictable) Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and live a life worth saving.
Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with the questions of the universe.
The Amazon Preview has the first two chapters. Here's chapter #1. "No need to panic".
This is a great story told in third person from Yuri's point of view. He's a believable teenage boy. He worries about his sleeves getting too short and how to buy a shirt. He doesn't want to look out of place and is self conscious about his suitcase, and when he's thrown into a room with another younger boy, he plays together with him.
The conflicts are clear and understandable. Humanity is threatened by a devastating asteroid. This gives us all a reason to get behind our young hero and hope for his success. However, there are underlying conflicts which threaten Yuri's potential for success. Two of the most ubiquitous of large workplace conflicts...professional jealousy and distrust. Yuri is distrusted for both his age and his nationality.
Based on the first chapter, and I almost wasn't able to stop myself from jumping directly into the second, this looks to be a wonderfully, exciting book. And of the books I've read most recently, this is the one with the best movie potential (in my humble opinion).
Five stars. Try this one out.
Here's another I found on the Ya Ya Young Adult Books Facebook page.
"Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" by Martina McAtee
The first thing about it that caught my attention was that it was free for a few days. I looked on Amazon tonight as I am recording this and it is still free. So if you hear this when it goes live and it sounds good to you, you may still be able to get it free. If you wait too long you're going to have to pay for it.
The second thing to catch my eye was the cover. Let me see if I can describe it. There is a silhouette of a grave yard with tomb stones and leafless trees. Above it are swirling storm clouds. Except the scene is upside down. Hanging from the ground, at the top of the page, is a swing, and sitting on the swing, filling most of the page is a girl in a white sleeveless, knee length, cotton dress. She is bare foot and her straight brown covers her face, neck and upper chest.
So, the price was right, I liked the title and the book cover, so I bought it without reading the Amazon description.
It looks like it was published by the author in August of 2015. The second book in the series just published on the 15th of this month, (July of 2016), maybe that's why the first book is free right now.... The second book is called "Dark Dreams and Dead Things".
The first book has 64 customer reviews with a 4.9 star average.
Here is the Amazon description:
17 year old Ember Denning has made an art of isolating herself. She prefers the dead. She spends her days skipping school in old cemeteries and her nights hiding from her alcoholic father at the funeral home where she works. When her own father dies, Ember learns her whole life is a lie. Standing in the cemetery that’s been her sanctuary, she’s threatened by the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and rescued by two people who claim to be her family. They say she’s special, that she has a supernatural gift like them…they just don’t know exactly what it is.
They take her to a small Florida town, where Ember’s life takes a turn for the weird. She’s living with her reaper cousins, an orphaned werewolf pack, a faery and a human genius. Ember’s powers are growing stronger, morphing into something bigger than anything anybody anticipated. Ember has questions but nobody has answers. Nobody knows what she is. They only know her mysterious magical gift is trying to kill them and that beautiful dangerous boy from the cemetery may be the only thing standing between her and death.
As Ember’s talents are revealed so are the secrets her father hid and those in power who would seek to destroy her. What’s worse, saving Ember has put her cousins in danger and turned her friend’s lives upside down. Ember must learn to embrace her magic or risk losing the family she’s pieced together.
A lot happens in this description. Let's see where the first chapter takes us.
The only bones I have to pick with this first chapter is:
1) The author implies that people often stare at Ember, or shy away from her, possibly from the way she looks. Yet we don't get a good picture of her as to why that would happen. Her hair is "Maybe too orange". Is that her natural color or did she die it tangerine, or fluorescent orange. I've met some people with naturally orange hair and while it was noticeable, it didn't make me feel the person was in some way unnatural.
Her eye color is unusual, but the events are taking place in New Orleans where the unexpected and alarming are qualities that can be considered positive. She even sees people dressed up for the day of the dead on her way to the funeral. As far as the author has shown us, these characters are no more or less alarming in appearance than our main character.
2) My second concern may actually be with the synopsis from the Amazon page. We are told so much that happens in the story and in the first chapter so little of it happens. Knowing what is going to happen doesn't encourage me to read further to find out HOW it happens. I know what will be and I want to get past it, find out what the new conflicts will be, and grow with the character. The Amazon synopsis is almost like a movie preview that shows all the great parts. We've all seen the preview that when it's done we say, well, I don't need to watch that one now.
In conclusion, if I forget the Amazon synopsis, I'm intrigued by the change/seizure Ember has at the funeral. Something is happening to her that I'm hoping will develop her character and give me a reason to root for, and care about, her. We've met a mysterious character on the roof of the mausoleum. Is this the too-beautiful-boy who we are told not to trust in the synopsis? I would rather have developed my own distrust of this character through his behavior and interactions with Ember, but at this point, I willing to read further to see how they relate to each other.
I give this book a strong four stars to read three or four more chapters and see if I start to learn more about the character than I've been told in advance. As I said in the beginning, there are a whopping 9 chapters in the Amazon preview, so you have the opportunity to read a lot of the story before deciding if you want to buy it. But then, while it remains free, it's well worth the cost.
Episode 49 - First Chapter review of Varient
Varient is written by Robison Wells and published by Harper Teen
in October of 2011
283 reviews with a 4.2 star average
Here's the Amazon book description
Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.
He was wrong.
Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.
Where breaking the rules equals death.
But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.
You can get the first two chapters on the Amazon preview.
Here is chapter 1.
If you heard my interview with Robison, you know I loved this story. It kicks of very fast at the end of the first chapter and doesn't slow down except for a few short places for the reader to catch their breath. I give this story a hearty five stars to continue reading past the first chapter.
If you've listened to the preceding two book reviews, I want to tell you that I finished "My Lady Jane" and thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend the story with five stars. The characters are varied and endearing. I wanted to take the lot of them home with me for a big family dinner. To me it slowed down just a bit in the last ten minutes of the audio. but then, under it all, the story is a romance and it needed some romantic touches to tie the story up completely. I got used to the narrator after about an hour of the audio, and she only irritated me a few times after the first couple chapters.
Episode #48 The Paper Magician, Book One of the Paper Magician series. by Charlie N. Holmburg
To get this weeks episode I went to the Kindle top 100 Young Adult books. The number 1 book didn't sound Young Adult at all to me, so I skipped that one. the next six were either from the Harry Potter Series or from the Hunger Games, so I ended up with book #8. Eighth place is nothing to sniff at when you consider those in the first seven places.
Brandon Sanderson give this recommendation “Charlie is a vibrant writer with an excellent voice and great world building. I thoroughly enjoyed the Paper Magician.” —Brandon Sanderson, author of Mistborn and The Way of Kings
Paper Magician was published in September of 2014. The second and third books in the series are available and it is at 160 overall in the Kindle store, so you know it is getting daily sales. It has 3373 reviews with a 4.0 average.
Here's the Amazon book description.
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.
Short-Listed for the 2015 ALA Fantasy Reading List
I read the whole first chapter to prepare for the episode and wanted to read the whole thing for you, but it is around 25 pages and almost 10% of the book. The Amazon preview doesn't even give you the whole first chapter, so I'm going to read you about 12 pages
So, this is as far as I'm going to read for you. Using the magic of editing, I have actually listened to the preceding portion of the book before I record this followup and recommendation. I recorded a recommendation after I recorded those pages but there was a problem with the recording and it got all chopped up somehow. I'm glad, because I actually like the story more today, after listening to what I read. I got a better feel for the flow of the story listening to it, more than I did while recording it.
I'll be honest and tell you that I think it's a little slow getting started. There's no major conflict leading from page one. The preview tells us the major conflict of the story, and we've yet to see it happen. I'll give you a minor spoiler...we don't get into the conflict in the first chapter.
Dave Wolverton AKA David Farland, and author and writing teacher tells that one of the major draws of fantasy is the sense of wonder. I think that is what carries this first chapter. I think there is good characterization, the description and prose are beautiful, but what carries us along is discovery and wonder. All the aspects of magic, the paper folder's mansion, the paper flowers, the skeleton, and even Magician Thane create a sense of mystery and wonderful magic.
Last night when I recorded this I gave it a four star recommendation to continue reading, now I'm pushing that up to 4.5. I'm looking forward to hearing this one on audio. In fact, right now I'm listening to the book from last week, "My Lady Jane" on audible.com and while the book is wonderful, the writing terrific, I hate the narrator. She's doing this over the top British theatrical voice that to me is overly dramatic and almost juvenile in it's interpretation. I'm a couple hours into it and will give it another couple hours tomorrow, but if I don't get used to the narrator by then, I'll just drop it and go on to "The Paper Magician".
As usual, thanks for listening, and I'll see you next week.
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
Like that could go wrong.
Published June 7th of 2016 by Harper Teen it has about 58 customer reviews with a 5.4 average. and has a price point of $9.99 for the kindle version.
The cover shows a portrait of a young woman in historical costume, from the shoulders up. I assume this is Lady Jane Grey. the title is in block letters. In cursive there are three quotes written in like a student's graffiti on a book cover with little arrows pointing to the woman's face with the sayings, "sometimes history gets it all wrong", "it isn't easy being queen", and "off with her head".
The amazon preview includes the Prologue, which actually makes reasonable sense in this story, and into the second chapter. I will read a ways into the first chapter. The authors use parenthesis liberally. I won't point them out as I read. That would be tedious. I'll try to change my tone of voice to an explanatory inflection. We'll see if you can tell the difference.
Here's the story...
I found this book on the Goodreads Young Adult news letter among the five most popular YA Books of June. I was drawn to if because of it's comparison to "The Princess Bride". I consider myself a Princess Bride snob, not because I've watched the movie a hundred times, but because I first read the book as a teenager in the seventies. I've read it twice since. If you didn't know there was a book, I would recommend it to anyone who liked the movie. I wouldn't say the book is better than the movie, except that there is so much more of it. I thought the movie did a great service to the original work.
My goal in reading this book was to see if it would hold up to the princess bride. Any time you make a comparison like that, I'm going to judge you harder than I would have if the blurb just said something like, "Light hearted, absurdly non-historical," or words to that effect. As far as I read, I still think "The Princess Bride" is head and shoulders above.
I liked it though, and will probably get the Audible version to be able to finish the book in comfort. Hopefully their English accents are better than mine.
Having only read into the first chapter it's not apparent how the three authors work together, if they confer with each other about the plot, if they write together on each chapter, or if they take on separate characters. It would be interesting to hear from one or more of them how they went about writing it together.
I think the characterization is great and engaging. The writing is beautiful and the voice is clearly one that the young adult audience should, and by the reviews, does love.
I give My Lady Jane a five star reccomendation to continue reading.
Forestium by Christopher D. Morgan
Published March 2016 by himself
12 reviews with 4.3 average
Joshua's life is on the line, as he attempts to navigate through the magical world to find the truth about his father. He and his companions will need to use all their cunning to stay alive and avoid the dark forces of the Goat. Will Joshua find the magical orbs and open the Portallas, a gateway to other worlds, before he is killed?
Joshua sets out to learn the truth about his father. Along the way, he finds friends, enemies, adventure & romance. Most of all, he finds himself.
Joshua, a young woodsman, is approaching the age of decision. Despite the tales of his father having died in a skirmish with another tribe, Joshua's dreams are telling him otherwise. The young man yearns for the truth and decides to enlist the help of his village elder to guide him. Armed with little more than the cryptic musing from the ailing elder, Joshua sets off to find the Oracle with his best friend and an imp, who is travelling the land to find others of his kind. It isn't long before they stumble into a beautiful and ingenious young woman who is herself on a journey of discovery.
On the way to the Oracle, Joshua comes by some curious magical artefacts. Can these help him to find his father? An evil and malevolent creature of the underworld known only as the Goat learns that Joshua has possession of some of the magical orbs needed to open the Portallas, a permanent gateway that links worlds together. Enraged, the Goat sends his dark forces to thwart Joshua and to prevent him from fulfilling his destiny.
Travelling through fantastic landscapes, the four travelling companions meet strange people and creatures alike, and must use all their cunning and ingenuity to find the remaining magical orbs. Will Joshua find all the magical artefacts needed to open the Portallas and free his father?
PORTALLAS - Forestium: The mirror never lies is full of twists and turns, as Joshua goes on a veritable roller-coaster ride of challenges that will test his courage and emotional strength.
This Young Adult Fantasy Adventure is the first in the series and will appeal best to young teens. The magical world of Forestium is filled with adventure and the coming of age story will resonate with young adults. Destined to be one of the best selling fantasy adventure series, book 1 has a storyline that moves at a fast pace with lots of twists and turns.
The first chapter is a prolog. I'll read it for you now:
Here's my problem with prologues.
I think that prologues should give you information to help you better understand the upcoming story, whether it's an in depth look at a character, the world the story takes place in, or the intricacies of the magic system. What did we learn from this prolog that we didn't learn from the Amazon book description.
There are humans and some of them are dying of a plague. There are birds with magical feathers which can change color, though we aren't told what that change of color indicated. I'm not sure if it was leading them to the healer. I guess not, since it had stay perfectly white until they found the Metamorph. I t hought it was going to be the payment for services, but the man told Valoria to put it away before someone saw it. Who knows.
There are Imps. In a crowded rickety town, something appears to be killing them.
There are magical balls of fire which cause carnage, or maybe not. Our family come upon a town square that is filled with carnage. However, each powerball that appears chases down an imp and vaporizes it. So, where did the carnage come from? I'm not sure.
Our family flees the town and finds a Trader. He has an orb which creates a vortex through which Melachor sees another land. The trader climbs through just before Melachor's family is consumed by one of the balls of light. Before he is consumed by another ball, he grabs the orb, left by the trader, and everything goes black.
I think thte story is nicely written. There are enough fantasy elements to keep most readers interested who are into that genre. The book cover is beautiful and remeniscent of the genre with a woodsman holding a hand mirror showing the image of a goat headed man.
But the prolog frustrates me. I would just as soon skip it for the number of questions it raises and doesn't come close to answering. It doesn't appear to relate to the book description at all, and if these don't begin to be answered in the first few chapters, I would probably put it down to read something else.
Two more notes are:
"Barely able to stand" is repeated in the third paragraph. I don't know if this is a literary technique or a mistake. The literary technique is to repeat a word or phrase three times on the first page to create a mood. This phrase occurs only twice and in the same sentence. This second reference takes me out of the story to wonder why this mistake was overlooked by the editors. With a third instance of the phrase would resolve that feeling of confusion, as it was used to nail down a feeling or theme. In this case it doesn't, so, to me, it seems like a mistake.
Such an error on the first page sets me up to look for more editorial errors, rather than to enjoy the story. In the prolog the author mostly regained my interest.
Second, and finally, the book description ends with:
Destined to be one of the best selling fantasy adventure series, book 1 has a storyline that moves at a fast pace with lots of twists and turns.
Best selling fantasy adventures brings to my mind, Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, The Stormlight Trilogy, The Belgariad, The Sword of Shannarah, Game of Thrones. Is this novel destined to join these fantasy adventure giants? I don't think so.
I would say it looks like it will be good, but I doubt it will overtake any of those.
In this episode I interview Chris Mannino. We talk about teaching theater in high school, a trip to the alleged birth place of King Arthur, his inspiration behind his Scythe Wielders Secret trilogy, and working with Audible and ACX.
The first two books in the trilogy, School of Deaths and Sword of Deaths, are out now, with the third book Daughter of Deaths expected to be released later this year.
The series follows Suzie Sarnio, a thirteen-year-old whose world is turned upside down when she discovers that she is destined to be a Death. She always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe, but now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. As her year progresses, Suzie uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must learn and embrace the reason she was chosen to be the first female Death in a million years.
To learn more or to read an excerpt from the book, go to http://bookpublicityservices.com/school-of-deaths-the-scythe-wielders-secret-book-1/
Christopher Mannino's life is best described as an unending creative outlet. He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups. He spends his summers writing and singing. Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University. His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life. Growing up with adventure and fantasy stories filled with magic and imagination fueled him to create stories of his own.
School of Deaths began when Mannino spent a semester abroad at Oxford. On one side-trip, he became stranded on the Cornish coast, by Tintagel, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. Following a sleepless night above a noisy pub he climbed to a rocky peninsula to watch the dawn. Feeling completely alone, and attacked by winds from every direction as he clung to a cliff, Mannino imagined a character isolated in a strange world, attacked and bullied.
The Scythe Wielder's Secret is a series of Young Adult fantasy novels, which address issues of bullying, sexism, and social justice, all in a rich epic fantasy adventure world. As a teacher, Mannino hopes to inspire teenagers and other readers to dream and confront issues through their own determination.
Learn more about Mannino and his books at www.ChristopherMannino.com