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Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Understudy

Title: Understudy
Author: Denise Kim Wy
ASIN: B00H3X8A86
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fiction

My review:

When Kat's boyfriend of two years dies suddenly, just hours after saying "I love you" for the first time, Kat sinks into depression. Then Adam appears in the woods near the site of his death. This isn't a ghostly specter; it is in every way like the living, breathing Adam (complete with heartbeat and physical urges), so much so that Kat is not even scared. She's just thankful to have him back, even in this unconventional way, where she has to sneak behind the backs of her parents and best friend.

But Adam's twin brother, Eric, begins to move in on Kat's heart. Despite his rough past and his secrets, Kat begins to find her hatred of him lessen and her interest in him increase. She struggles with these new emotions, wondering if it means she's cheating on Adam, or if she's simply moving on and ready to love again. If Adam were truly gone, it would clearly be the latter. But he's there, frozen in time in the woods, with nothing to do but await her next visit.

Understudy is a unique spin on the finding-love-after-loss story. It is even unique as a ghost story because Adam is so alive in every way. While I had a hard time understanding why someone who was dead would have a heartbeat, I certainly liked the idea that he would be stuck there in the woods with nothing to do but wait for Kat (almost a pergatory). In the book, even Adam doesn't really understand, and calls it "his ghostly situation." I could see how, after some initial confusion, Kat could get to a place where her main concern about Adam's new state would be, as she says, "the constant fear of waking up one day to find the woods empty."

I much preferred "the evil twin," Eric, since the book spent more time developing his character than "the good twin," Adam. This was because Kat is discovering Eric throughout the book, and already knows Adam very well, so the reader discovers Eric along the way with Kat. I found the relationship with the parents could be fleshed out more, but the relationship with her best friend Sarah is very well done. Their conversations, arguments, teasing, and even mannerisms are so realistic to any long-standing friendship.

One of my favorite things about the book is this: the author has a lot of clarity on the feeling of loss. She explores the unwanted spotlight that loss directs at the grieving person (everyone looks at Kat with pity, and really she just wants to be ignored and left alone in her sorrow), as well as the desperation to have any sliver of the loved one (this might be holding on to scraps of paper with their writing, but for Kat it is holding on to the ghost of Adam, desperate that his ghost might leave).

Overall, Understudy is a unique book explores death and loss and what is worth living for in a new way, and I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Deep Green Available in Print!

Deep Green is now available in print! Check it out at Barnes & Noble here. It is also on Amazon. If you want a signed copy, come on by the Made Freshly site here!

The book can still be found as an e-book of course. Click here to find out more!

About the book:
Leah Taylor prefers the quiet adventure and romance of books, but during a cruise with her parents, a terrorist attack leaves her adrift in a lifeboat with strangers.

University student, Blue McCree impresses her immediately with his knowledge of literature and philosophy, but equally thrilling is strong, dark, Musir. While Musir is slow to speak, translating his thoughts from Arabic to English, his chivalry and wisdom capture Leah’s curiosity.

Together they face danger after danger as they fight for survival. Leah also struggles with the growing attention from the men she's stranded with, and her mixed emotions toward them.

When Leah learns the dark secrets her fellow survivors hold, the truth will blow apart any semblance of civility and test Leah’s preconceived notions of just how far dedication can go before it crosses over into fanaticism.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: Writing on the Wall

Title: Writing on the Wall
Author: Tracey Ward 

My review:

It has been 9 years since "the infection" began and Joss watched her parents eaten by a neighbor-turned-zombie while she huddled behind the family Christmas tree. Now, at 17, she is one of the few people living in "the wild" (Seattle, outside the strictly controlled Colonies). Most of the people in the wild have joined gangs of “lost boys” which offer strength in numbers against The Risen (aka zombies) and the elements. For women however, who are so few in the wild, to join a gang would mean becoming the gang’s prostitute. So here's Joss, a street-wise loner who trusts no one, trying to live her life in peace from zombies, Lost Boys, packs of wolves, and the Colonists who want to "rescue" orphans like her from the streets.

Everything was going so well until she meets Ryan. Opening herself up to another person feels just as dangerous to her as everything else; and maybe more dangerous.

I want to start by saying that this is the first zombie novel I've ever read. And what a book to start with! This was one of the most thrilling books I’ve read this year (and it is December, so that’s a good, solid 11.5 months of reading)! It starts out so scary, as in, the first page gave me shivers. The narrator/ main character has such a great voice, such dark humor, that it is easy to read her and believe her. Who knew you’d get such a sweet slice of romance in the midst of all this terror to boot.  At first, Joss is so calloused that it takes a while for her to soften up to Ryan. Early on, I wanted to shake her and say, "Come on, he's kind and cute, be nice to him!" But then, I've never had to defend myself on the streets and I think the author has a better sense of what someone with Joss' background would actually be like. Once it kicks in, the romance is really sweet, especially touching because of the emotional struggle to get to a point of openness.

This is clearly a survival book. But beyond that, and beyond the romance, what really appealed to me was that Writing on the Wallhad a higher-level theme to it of surviving versus living. What does “alive” really mean? Another character in the book says at one point, "Everyone has to decide for themselves how they want to handle this life. You need to choose whether you want to survive or you want to live." Joss was quite adept at alluding pretty much every kind of danger when she was emotionally closed off.  When she opens up to others though is when she begins enjoying her life (but it is also when she is the most at risk of being killed). "I'm not a survivor anymore. But I am alive."

My only disappointment was that I didn’t realize this was Book 1!  Now I have to wait until next year and the next book is out! Really good book though, I highly recommend it!

Back blurb: 
It's been nearly a decade since the world ended. Since Joss watched her parents die at the hands of a nightmare, a nightmare that stalks her even now, all these years later. That's the problem with the Risen - they refuse to die. But Joss is a survivor. A loner living in the post-apocalyptic streets of Seattle. It's a world dictated by Risen and the looming threat of the Colonists, a group of fellow survivors living comfortably in their compounds and patrolling the wild, looking to "save" the orphans of the end. Orphans like Joss. Like Ryan. As a member of an all male gang, Ryan is a threat as real as the Risen, a threat Joss avoids at all costs. Then one night their paths cross and Joss makes a choice that goes against all of her instincts. A choice that will threaten everything she has. Now a new outbreak is imminent and the Colonists are closing in. Joss' solitary, secret world is blown wide open and the comfortable numbness she's lived in for the last six years will burn away leaving her aching and afraid. And awake. *Due to violence and graphic language, this book is not recommended for readers under 17.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Dare to Breathe

Title: Dare to Breathe
Author: M. Homer

eBook ISBN: 9781629290898; Print ISBN: 9781629290904

My Review:
From the first page, Dare to Breathe strikes an instant connection to (and sympathy for) the main character, Samantha.

Newly starting college, Sam is still plagued with nightmares of a series of horrific events she thinks may be from her childhood. While she knows she's lucky to have spent the last 12 years with her adoptive parents, she can't escape the traces of her early years etched in her memory. Dare to Breathe is her story of coming to a decision to make a change, and having the courage to do the work needed to accomplish that change. Throw a smokin' hot new housemate, a job at a busy cafe, and coursework in child psychology, and she has her work cut out for her in this new university.

This book had it all. Sam and her little brothers' childhood is so very heartbreaking. Her new friendships are tender. Her fears are understandable and her struggle to overcome is admirable. There is a twist part in the last third of the book that was quite a shock! Without giving anything away in the review, I will say that this New Adult novel is also super, super sexy at parts. M. Homer knows how to write DESIRE! Dare to Breath is a great read, and I recommend it!

From the back cover: 
Can you learn to forget?

Sam is plagued by nightmares she can’t understand with dark visions of a past she suspects may be her own. When she moves into a new co-ed house, she is drawn to the handsome but aloof Nathan. The housemates welcome in Sam but all withhold their own secrets from her which she knows she needs to unravel to truly understand Nathan. But her past is destined to torment her, can she find the strength to face her fear?

Open for Reviews!

I am now open for book reviews!

If you’re interested in having me review your book (upcoming or released), feel free to contact me here.

Some details:

◦ I will give preference to books from small publishers, indies, and self-published titles.

◦ Print or e-books are fine.

◦ I won’t accept payment for reviews.

◦ I realize reviews are just one person’s opinion, and so I’ll only accept books for review that I think I’ll enjoy. (I am pretty good at judging a book by its cover and back blurb!)

◦ If I read your book and it isn’t my cup of tea, I’ll give you the choice of my not posting a review. My goal is to give a boost to books I enjoy, but not at all hurt books that don’t appeal to me (again, mine is just one opinion).

◦ I’ll post reviews here, as well as on Tumblr, Goodreads, and Amazon.

◦ My favorite genres are: literary fiction, historical fiction, YA, and NA, but I could be open to any fiction that is not excessively violent.

So… go ahead and contact me through the contact form, let me know about your book, the release date (even if it has passed), and send your website link if you have one). I will reply one way or another to anyone who writes!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: The Promise of Light

Title: The Promise of Light

Author: Paul Watkins

ISBN-10: 0312267665

ISBN-13: 978-0312267667

About the Book:

A young American man searches for his family's past amidst the earliest days of the Irish Troubles.

My Review:

Paul Watkins is possibly our best living author. The research he did for The Promise of Light shines through to set the reader in Ireland in the early 1920s (in fact, I think I remember reading that he lived in the town for a while, and would walk in the fields wearing the old boots his characters wore, so he would know exactly how it would feel and sound to be there). Watkins' strengths are in place and in ruggedly male characters; characters the reader connects with, without feeling all warm and fuzzy about it. The Promise of Light may be my favorite of Watkins' books, but it is right up there with Stand Before Your God and Archangel... both dealing with subjects I didn't know I was interested in until his writing drew me into them. I whole-heartedly recommend any of these.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Review: A Sea Not Full

Title: A Sea Not Full

Author: John Erickson

ISBN-10: 1935079476

ISBN-13: 978-1935079477

Review: When 16-year-old Nate's father dies while they're surfing together, his world crumbles. He finds comfort in the arms of a troubled young woman, Nora, and an inherited sailboat. The first chapter of this book is surfing-heavy, and for a non-surfer like me, it was a bit hard to get through. However, it isn't long after that the book picks up speed for even the most land-loving reader. Like the ocean, there is so much below the surface of A Sea Not Full. The characters are complex, and even the ones that seem to fit into a predictable mold (the cool pastor, the popular pretty girl, etc.) have so much more depth to them as the reader goes deeper into the story. I won't give away the dramatic and dangerous climax... but no one is guaranteed to get out of this adventure safely. There doesn't seem to be a solid canon of young adult Christian fiction aimed at young men, so this is an excellent addition on becoming a man in a Christian context, without being preachy or working off of an assumption that religious people are all good and the rest are not.

From the back cover: A modern coming of age adventure tale, A Sea Not Full is the story of Nate Pritchard, a 16 year old boy who, at a precipitous juncture in his life, must make some difficult choices. The novel is set primarily Ventura, California, where Nate lives with his father. When his father dies, a cataclysmic event in young Nate's life, he must find a way to live the life his father intended for the two of them. There is a boat, the sea, and the girl, Nora, whose troubles are masked by her own father's inability to accept the choices he made in the past with Nora's mother. Making good choices and coming to terms with his relationships with his mother, his grandparents, and Nora are the challenges Nate faces, which bring about a deeper understanding of his purpose in his life. A Sea Not Full is a thrilling read for young adults or anyone who enjoys an exciting adventure with a twist near the end.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: The Journal of Dora Damage

Title: The Journal of Dora Damage: A Novel
Author: Belinda Starling
ISBN-10: 1596913363

My Review:
I had a stack of books on my to-read shelf, but when I picked this up and read the first few pages, it immediately went to the top of the list. I had to write a brief review to say this was an excellent read. It was much more gripping and thrilling than I'd expected from a story set in a bookbinder's workshop. There are certainly some shocking and twisted aspects to the story, but more because of the shocking and twisted things that humans do to each other. Really though, it is about rising above evil while learning to embrace passion. I'd recommend it-- not for the faint of heart, but for a fan of historical fiction who can stand to get their hands dirty.

From the back cover:
London, 1860: On the brink of destitution, Dora Damage illicitly takes over her ailing husband's bookbinding business, only to find herself lured into binding expensive volumes of pornography commissioned by aristocratic roués. Dora's charm and indefatigable spirit carry her through this rude awakening as she contends with violent debt collectors, an epileptic daughter, evil doctors, a rheumatic husband, errant workmen, nosy neighbors, and a constant stream of wealthy dilettantes. When she suddenly finds herself forced to offer an internship to a mysterious, fugitive American slave, Dora realizes she has been pulled into in an illegal trade of sex, money, and deceit.
The Journal of Dora Damage whips up a vision of London when it was the largest city in the world, grappling with the filth produced by a swollen population. Against a backdrop of power and politics, work and idleness, conservatism and abolitionism, Belinda Starling explores the restrictions of gender, class and race, the ties of family and love, and the price of freedom in this wholly engrossing debut novel.