Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Return to Normalcy...And a Few Changes

So, it has been too long since my last post. As I sit here and write this, I'm thinking to myself, "Wow, I see this a lot with bloggers, and they never really come back to their blogging. And if they do, they don't last long." I had no intention of giving up on blogging or book reviewing when my unplanned hiatus started. Life just took control and didn't let go until yesterday. (And I've still only got a small portion of the control.) With Thanksgiving on its way and being hosted at my house by me for the first time, I was preoccupied, to say the least.

After Thanksgiving came Christmas. How do we even prepare for that? So I was like a crazy person for two months. So now I know what you are thinking, what better way to relax at the end of the night than reading? Well, in all of this, migraines kept me from any kind of pleasure. Apparently between pollen counts and stress, my head decided to explode rather than cooperate. It wasn't a good few months.

And then New Year's Eve hit. Ahh, bonfire, drinking, and fireworks. Wait, I only enjoy one (or two) of those things. It was also a stressful night.

Don't get me wrong, there were good times to be had during the last few months, like children's beautiful faces on Christmas morning. And the new furniture we bought. After much searching, I finally found the perfect china cabinet. A 1950s Drexel New Travis Court china cabinet. Beautiful. And a new bedroom set. Not an antique, but beautiful nonetheless. It will soon be covered in tiny fingerprints since I opted for the shiny, lacquered finish.

So, all that being said, life is returning to normal. Next week my older daughter returns to school and I can truly get back to work. Just having the kids go to bed at a decent time will be a blessing.

So, I never planned to stop reviewing books, and I'm not, but I'm going to have to review less than before. eFiction is starting some new projects, including book editing and publishing and I will be part of the editing team, and anywhere else I can fit in and help. We are also still putting together the monthly magazine, which of course, is our bread and butter.

I have a long to be read list, and I'm going to try my best to get to all of them and post them here and submit them to the eFiction Magazine for publication, but I'm not going to be accepting any new requests. When my list shrinks, I'll open it back up.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Catharsis by Indie Author Jonathan Face

Indie Author Jonathan Face delivers a suspenseful, mysteriously, unfolding tale of a condemned town. As the story slowly progresses, the reader is left with a feeling of dread, a feeling that something bad is going to happen in Spring City. The inhabitants of this small town seem like good enough people, but they all have secrets. Unfortunately, you can't hide your secrets from unknown forces hell bent on bringing justice upon town's occupants.

Throughout the story, you learn a little bit about each character until you have a picture in your head that leaves you knowing that this isn't a good person, despite the warm and fuzzy facade.  Jonathan Face does a good job building the characters into real people, giving away only a little about their pasts.

As a snow storm moves through the town, the inhabitants bear down for a bad storm. Slowly, things draw the residents out (or for some, into their homes) to their deaths. The innocent are pulled away to be saved.

Jonathan Face's writing style is enjoyable to read, and the book was pretty well edited and proofed. The only annoyance that I found was the use of the word 'presently'. Of course, this is only my opinion, if you say that someone did something, I assume that, in the story, they are doing it then. I don't need to know that 'Presently, he walked down the street' or whatever action was taken. In this instance, the story was in the past tense, so no one actually did anything presently. There, my rant is done.

There were a few, I won't call them plot holes, but a few places where I wanted to know more information about the characters. For instance, we get to know the town librarian Kathy. She has a tainted past and moves to Spring City to hide and probably escape consequences. I have no idea what she did, but I want to know. At one point in the story, near the end, she is almost forced to tell her story to another deranged citizen, but their chat is interrupted and Kathy's story is never told. I'm still left wondering what she did.

Overall, an excellent, suspenseful, compelling story. I'll be on the lookout for more novels by Jonathan Face.

Right now, Catharsis is free for Nook and Kindle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Indie Author Joe Crubaugh - Terminal Departure: A Cleo Matts Novel

I love when authors write series books. Especially anything Jason Bourne-esque, or I suppose you could say hard-boiled. I love it until I realize that, to-date, there is only one novel or that I've come to the end of the written, published novels. I freely admit it: I get stuck on good series, read until there is no more to read, and then pine for a new installment, another fix.

Cleo Matts did this to me.

Cleo is a secret agent who opposes the clandestine operations of the US government. The book begins on a plane where Cleo is on a mission to keep a man alive. A man that the US government wants dead. When things begin to go wrong, Cleo finds himself saved by the watchers and his mission completely changed.

The watchers are alien life forces who abduct humans, but the humans have no recollection of the encounter when all is said and done. Cleo only knows that they have been abducted because he is familiar with the signs and symptoms. After the abduction and plane crash, Cleo teams up with movie star and scorned woman Julia McMichaels. From there, they are on a mission to save themselves and the world.

The plot sounds a little silly after getting to the alien encounter part, but it works, I promise. I had forgotten that aliens were involved when I sat down to read Terminal Departure, and I was a little leery when I came to the abduction scene.

The story has a few plot holes, one of which seemed like it was going to be a big deal, but then didn't materialize into anything later in the story. After the abduction and tragedy that the characters survived, Cleo and Julia were both seemingly invisible to other people for a short time. It wasn't enough time to help them escape, but enough to cause some confusion. I'm not sure what the author was going for, but it could have turned into something neat.

I am always a fan of action, deceit, and conspiracy, and Cleo didn't disappoint. He was mostly emotionally detached, but able to feel emotions if he let his shield down. He realized this about himself and used it to his advantage. Sometimes these types of characters end up being complete sociopaths. Sometimes this works, but more often than not, it leaves the reader wanting more; we want a human, emotional connection.

It has been about ten days since I finished Terminal Departure, so all of the details aren't as fresh in my mind as they could be, but I think it is safe to say that there weren't any glaring grammatical errors that made the book unreadable. This I would surely have taken notice of.

Sometimes when you read a novel, chapter endings are cliff hangers, and other times they seem to end a portion of the story. Terminal Departure seemed to do neither. While I was involved in the story, the chapter endings did nothing to pique my interest in reading the rest of the story. Luckily, I quickly became vested in the outcomes of the characters. Portions of the story didn't end with the chapters, but there were no real cliff hangers. This was good for my sleeping habit since I could put the book down, go to sleep, and continue reading the next day.

The story ended with, not a cliff hanger, but an opening for another Cleo Matts novel, and I'll be honest, I've already looked into it, and there aren't anymore...yet. According to Joe Crubaugh's Amazon page, he is working on the second novel as we speak. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Indie Author Claude Nougat - Forget the Past (Trilogy Book 1)

In Forget the Past, a young, child genius turns seventeen and suffers burnout from the world that he knows. The once video game programmer leaves his home in search of his roots in Italy. 

While meandering through the streets of an Italian city where his ancestors originated, Tony comes across a Circolo di Conversazione. Tony isn't quite sure what he is expecting, but what he encounters changes his world, forever. 

Inside of the Circolo di Conversazione, he meets an odd group of people, thousands of people, milling about talking loudly. These people all claim to be members of the Bellomo family. Tony's ancestors.  The family origin goes back 900 years. The leader of the family, Don Ugone, commands Tony to stay, allow them to use his "life energy", and watch the plays that the family members put on. 

These plays are not merely the family members acting out their stories; they somehow relive their experiences for the entire Circolo di Conversazione to see. All of the members then gather in another room and discus the choices of the family member. The point of the Circolo, it seems, is talking about and understanding the turning points of each other's lives. 

Tony meets many people from his family, but of course, he doesn't believe that they really are who they claim to be. He spends almost the entire book assuming that they are actors in an elaborate play. 

Tony meets many family members while he is in the Circolo, and I'm not sure what purpose many of them serve. He simply watches play after play and is introduced to many different family members whose lives span hundreds of years. 

I'm sure Tony was supposed to learn something about himself while in the Circolo, but I wasn't very clear on what it was that he learned. There were a few 'ah ha' moments where you could see the light bulb go off in Tony's mind, but most of the story was getting to know bits and pieces his family's history.

The dialogue of the story was a bit overdone. Characters talked and then continued to explain what they meant. Authors need to learn to give their readers credit and allow them to come to their own conclusions, especially when the point is crystal clear. Another point on the dialogue: characters conversations didn't seem to fit with the situation. In one instance, a character is sitting on a fishing boat when her lover enters the scene. He approaches her, and she doesn't want anyone to know of their relationship. Instead of a short, terse conversation with the man, she engages him in a conversation about how they know the same people and where they are from. If I were in that situation, my mind wouldn't be on similar acquaintances but on getting him to leave me alone.  

The story lines of the different characters were often twisted and in-depth, and I was often left wondering about certain characters' stories. I don't feel like I learned anything about the main character, but many bits and pieces of the family history. This makes me wonder what the second and third books in the trilogy are going to bring. Will what he learned about his family somehow help him in his struggle to find happiness and peace? Will this new found knowledge prevent him from moving on? Will new demons find him after uncovering so many old, hidden family secrets?

The book was well written, and the premise was intriguing. I do wish the story line had moved on a little faster, but we will have to wait and see what book two brings. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

And The Winner Is...

Wow, I was so overwhelmed with responses that I don't even know where to start! Okay that is a bit false. I suppose I will have to learn how to run a giveaway and actually have people participate in it. I thought this would be fairly easy, just pick a number and guess. Hmm...

Well, at any rate, eFiction will also be giving away a copy of Jane Was Here. Look for details in the October issue. You can check it out on Amazon for Kindle or at the eFiction Website. While you are there, sign up to be a member. You can get to know other writers, others who read eFiction every month, and stay up to date on all of the ongoings at the magazine.

Oh, yeah, the winner. I suppose that was the point of the post! And the winner is...elizabethreinhardt.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book Giveaway!!!

So, here it is. The first Books Reviews by Essie giveaway. I have a signed copy of Jane Was Here. If you haven't read the review, head on over and check it out. A very worthwhile book. :)

Since today is my birthday, and I feel that I am mourning the loss of my youth, I figured I should do something to cheer me up a bit. What better way than to giveaway a good book to one of my readers?

So here is the game. Guess my age. Simple. You can post it here in the comments. Of the people that guess correctly, I'll randomly choose a winner. If you know me,and you know my age, don't give it away, just post your answer. If no one guesses correctly, I'll pick the most flattering age. So choose wisely. No, just kidding. If no one guesses correctly, I'll randomly choose one person from all people who participated.

The game will run for 5 days. So I will choose a winner on September 22nd. Have fun!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Indie Author Candy Ann Little - The Unwilling Bride - A Romance Novel

Historial first thought--ugh. I hate to say that historical fiction isn't my thing, because I've learned a lot about myself and my reading preferences in the recent past (if you remember I claimed that fantasy wasn't my thing, but I've found that it can be). That being said, historical fiction generally isn't my thing.

Getting into this book took quite some time and work. The main character drove me crazy with her over use of the words 'tis, 'twas, 'twill, 'twould, and the like. I realize that our language has changed over time, but it seemed a bit much when I was reading. The characters also didn't always use the Old English words. Sometimes, they 'forgot' and simply said 'it is'. 

Caitlin is a young woman of marrying age. She hasn't yet found a suitor, but quickly finds herself being forced into an arranged marriage with her enemy, an Englishman. Because of Caitlin's Irish heritage and birth, and her brother's death at the hands of the English, Caitlin finds the idea of marrying Dillon Cade most distasteful.

Caitlin's parents remain adamant, and the wedding goes on as planned. Caitlin and Dillon agree to an 'in name only' marriage. The agreement occurs only after a botched escape out of a bedroom window and weeks of pleading with her parents and Mr. Cade. 

After the wedding, Caitlin is horrible to Dillon, even after she learns the reason for the rushed, forced marriage. Caitlin's family is being forced back to Ireland, where they are considered traitors. Going back to Ireland isn't safe for anyone in the family, but Caitlin is the only child her parents can keep safe. Her brother Brogan must go with his parents. Caitlin insists that she would be better off in Ireland with her family, but it is clear from her worry that she knows better than to think that she would be safe had she gone with them. 

Caitlin changes drastically throughout the book, and it is a welcome transformation. She begins as a snotty, bratty, rich kid who never does anything that she is supposed to. She isn't a 'proper' lady and is always picking fights with Dillon. The changes that are seen in Caitlin happen slowly and sometimes she even shows regression when she is under a great deal of stress, as we all would regress at times. 

Dillon Cade is a perfect gentleman and seems to be the perfect man, but he has his faults as well. He is just better at keeping these things hidden, something Caitlin learns from.

There are a lot of characters introduced throughout this book, but keeping track of who was who and who did what wasn't too difficult. Aside from the romance (or non-romance as some may see it) the story has political overtones from the days of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. I also thought this would throw me off from enjoying the story line, but honestly, the story was enhanced by seemingly real history (I didn't look up all of the facts, and I'm no history buff) and the real-life, historical characters.

My biggest complaint about this book was (aside from the constant use of 'tis, 'twould, 'twas, and 'twill) was the mistakes I found littered throughout the book. Not just commas (which drive me crazy) but misspelled words, typos, and missing letters. Commas were, of course, the biggest offender, but missing periods were also on my list. This isn't atypical for some indie novels (and I've seen my share of mistakes in traditionally pubbed books, too) but if you want to sell, sell a lot, and reach a LOT of readers, having your novel professionally proofed is a must.

Every time Caitlin hurt Dillon, mouthed off to him, or called him a name, I hurt inside. Dillon married Caitlin to protect her, and he genuinely fell in love with her despite her bad attitude and poor manners. He loved her unconditionally and she threw it back in his face constantly. My heart broke for Dillon, and later for Caitlin.

I do love a good romance. I'll admit it. The Unwilling Bride didn't seem like it was going to deliver, but it did. I felt the jolts of fear, loss, and struggle through my body while reading; I felt the paralyzing hopelessness when things didn't work out; I felt the joy for the characters' happiness--no matter how temporary--and pain of their suffering. Another admission, I cried at the end. Not for Caitlin and Dillon, but for two minor characters, two very minor characters.

Not a bad pick for you romance fans out there. This is a moving story.