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1. GET EVEN (Don't Get Mad) by Gretchen McNeil {Review}

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2. Book Review- Bombmaker by Claire McFall

Title: Bombmaker
 Author:  Claire McFall
Published:  1 February 2014 by Templar
Length:  336 pages
Source: publisher
Other info:  Claire has also written Ferryman, which I reviewed here and won the Scottish Booktrust Award.
Summary : The English government have closed the borders with their Celtic neighbours. Any Celt found in England is branded with a tattoo, found twice they are executed. Scottish Lizzie is the 'property' of psychopathic London gang boss Alexander. Can Lizzie escape Alexander's deadly grip and at what price her betrayal?

Review: Following bad economic times, England closes the borders with Scotland and Wales  and brings in  a new policy: Celts found in England are branded. Branded Celts in England are killed. Lizzie is one such branded Celt, who is the "property" of Alexander, a gang boss in London, who keeps her around for her bombmaking skills. as time goes on, Lizzie realises she might like a life outside the gang. Which is something that Alexander does not like at all.
I read McFall's Ferryman last year and really enjoyed it. I was looking forwards to this, especially with everything going on about the Scottish Independence referendum. Extreme nationalist governments make good reading (not real life), and so do gangs. Add in promises of a clever awesome female character and I'm sold.
You very quickly get pulled into Lizzie's world, both the political climate and the gang life that she’s part of. It’s a world that is believable, if you imagine that a yes vote leads to extreme xenophobia on the  English peoples’ part (ie just a huge ramp up of how it is now).
I love the fact that all the characters are well fleshed out really well. You really get close to them, even if that closeness is not something that you really want to be. Alexander’s creepiness seems to know no bounds. Lizzie, I liked a lot; she’s resourceful, and you want things to go right for her, even though they tend not to. I loved reading about them and how they got where they are and where they want to go.
It’s very very different to Ferryman. McFall writes well in both softer afterlife stories and gritty thrillers. I’m looking forwards to see what she does next.


Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fast paced relevant  dystopia.


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3. Review – The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

9781846556951Jack Lennon returns in Stuart Neville’s relentless new thriller.

It has been a while between drinks for Jack Lennon. We last caught up him in Stolen Souls and we left him a lot worse for wear. The intervening period though has not been kind. Suspended from the police pending multiple reviews of his health and performance Jack has developed some extra bad habits to the ones he already carried, mainly involving painkillers and alcohol. His relationships are in free fall including, sadly, the one with his estranged daughter who his is the only family he has left.

Just when Jack thinks things couldn’t get any worse an ex-girlfriend contacts him. She has just inherited a house from her uncle. An uncle she never met who lost contact with her family years ago. She has contacted Jack because she has found something in a locked room. A journal detailing murders going back two decades and it appears there are links to her father, a prominent Belfast politician. She can’t trust him and she can’t go to the police so instead she has turned to Jack, who can’t even help himself at this point.

I really love what Neville has done with the Jack Lennon character. He was only a few mentions inThe Twelve before assuming the lead in the next two books. He is not your typical flawed detective, flawed is too nice a term for Jack, yet he still manages to keep your loyalty.

Stuart Neville doesn’t take his foot off the pedal once in this gripping thriller and once again demonstrates why he is the crime writer everybody is and should be talking about at the moment.

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4. An Interview with Toby Ball

Toby Ball is the critically acclaimed author of THE VAULTS and SCORCH CITY. INVISIBLE STREETS, available July 24, is the third in the thriller series. This is your third novel, and it follows some of the same characters as the first two. Was it challenging to write a book that stood alone from The Vaults and Scorch City but would also please fans of the first two books? Spacing the

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5. Book Review- Run by Gregg Olsen

Title: Run
 Author: Gregg Olsen
Series:  Vengeance #1

Published: May 2014
Length: 256 pages
Warnings: off-stage past rape and killings
Source: publishers
Summary : What if you discovered that everything you thought you knew about yourself was a lie?

Rylee is fifteen. She comes home from school one afternoon to find the most shocking thing possible - her father dead, with a knife through his heart, and a key clutched in his hand. Her mother's purse is on the counter, but she appears to be long gone. A message in blood is written on the floor... RUN.

With her brother in tow, Rylee begins a dark journey, one that will uncover horrific and chilling crimes and lead her to an unexpected and gruesome discovery about her real father and what - or who - is behind his insatiable desire to kill. By the journey's end Rylee's childhood is a long way behind her...

RUN is the first title in the new Vengeance series, following Rylee as she begins to piece together the story of her life and to avenge unpunished crimes - starting with her own. This is DEXTER with a feisty female protagonist unlike any other in contemporary young adult fiction.
Review: Rylee, having come home from school to find her father dead, her mother missing, and message that just says “RUN”, gets her brother and runs.
I was excited to read this because I’ve read bits of Olsen's Envy, and liked it, and the trailer that HKB made was quite good (music win).
It starts off very quickly, the set up from the summary happening in the first chapter, and the running happening in the second. This pace is kept up throughout, which was good, and I read this in one sitting.
The mystery as to what happened is quickly partially  revealed in favour of a thriller story, which I didn't mind. I liked the fact that we get to meet lots of characters as Rylee tries to discover how things happened to others that fits into her current situation (not very well worded in comparison to the book, but I can't explain it better without spoilers), who each brought clues to the table. The way it developed was good, but the twist at the end was predictable.
The  main reason I didn't enjoy this was Rylee. I don't know why I disliked her so much, but I just didn't care for her or her story or the way it turned out. Maybe it was her narration; there's some interjections and thoughts which are kind of obvious. Maybe it was her, she seems a little too conveniently prepared to know what to do, and I didn't think she developed. It was probably the romance; there's a short flashback and a facebook conversation with a guy in the middle of the book (and why are you even worrying about facebook when all this is happening?) and the ending just comes out of nowhere and the book could have easily done without it because it just seems like an afterthought that wasn’t properly explored.
Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a turny fast thriller, that I didn’t get into as much as I’d hoped.


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6. Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Theodora Tenpenny may live in Manhattan, but it's not a glamorous existence for her.  She lives in a ramshackle house with her absent minded math genius mother and her grandfather Jack.  But right on page 4, Jack is killed and leaves Theo only with the dying message of "Look under the egg."

Not much for a 13 year old who is trying to keep it together to go on.  So between gardening, taking care of her chickens and pickling for food, scanning the streets for useful objects and caring for her mother, Theo needs to unravel what her grandfather's wishes were.

Theo is up in her grandfather's art studio one day trying to figure out the mystery when a mouse runs up her leg and she jumps up and spills some rubbing alcohol on one of Jack's paintings - the painting unlike his other paintings.  The egg.  As Theo desperately tries to clean the rubbing alcohol off, the colors smear and smudge and she is devastated at losing this last bit of Jack.  But when she looks closely she realizes that under the egg, a different painting is revealing itself.  Could this be what Jack's dying words were about?

Theo is at a neighborhood diner owned by a friend of Jack's where she forms an unlikely friendship with Bodhi - another 13 year old who has just moved down the block and happens to have Hollywood parents.  Where Theo's existence is positively Little House on the Prairie, Bodhi's is the Jetsons in comparison.  Theo surprisingly lets Bodhi in on the secret painting, and soon with Theo's art history knowledge and Bodhi's internet skills, they are on the trail to the truth.

Woven into the text are explanations of fine art, as well as bits of history involving WWII.  There are also real life bits of NYC living including the Staten Island Ferry, Grace Church, the Met and the Jefferson Market Library.  All of these true things had me actually google Spinney Lane to see if it was one of those Manhattan streets I've walked by a million times but not walked down.

This is a solid summer mystery with a really fantastic sense of place.

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7. I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin): Allen Zadoff

Book: I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin, Book 2)
Author: Allen Zadoff
Pages: 432
Age Range: 13 and up

I Am the Mission is the second book in Allen Zadoff's The Unknown Assassin series (following Boy Nobody, which was renamed I Am the Weapon). Like the first book, I Am the Mission is a fast-paced, suspenseful book in which the reader isn't quite sure who to root for. Book 2 picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first book. The variously-named narrator (we do eventually learn his real name) has gone AWOL from his shadowy government organization, The Program. He is in hiding as a camp counselor when a crew from Homeland Security extracts him. His "Father" figure, the head of The Program, gives him a new assignment, one intended to test his loyalty.

The boy's mission is to penetrate the tryouts for an ultra-right-wing summer camp that is apparently radicalizing teens and assassinate the head of that organization, a charismatic man named Eugene Moore. He is not supposed to actually enter the camp, because a prior operative from The Program disappeared there (and is now presumed deceased). The boy ends up out of communication with The Program, and not sure who to trust. I mean, when you are a secret teenage assassin, who can you trust, really? Happily for the reader, the boy's one friend from the previous book, Howard, makes an appearance. 

Like the first book, I Am the Weapon has a premise that may disturb some readers: a teen who has been taught to kill people, quickly and stealthily, and who has no semblance of a normal life. But if you can accept that premise, it's a well-constructed, twisty thriller. The boy does commit one act that I found ... disturbing, I guess, in part because it's clearly a mistake. But he shows hints of humanity, too. Zadoff also provides more background for how he ended up in The Program, and why he is the cold-blooded, fearless killing machine that he is. Fans of the first book will definitely not want to miss this one. 

Zadoff has a knack for quick characterizations, like this:

"He has a masterful way of using truisms to support his ideas. One can easily agree with the truth of the surface statements without questioning the ideas themselves." Chapter "It's Moore", digital ARC (The ARC, at least, doesn't have conventional chapter titles. The first sentence of each chapter is formatted as a title, instead.)

He also muses quite a bit in this book on the nature of fear. Like this:

""The part they don't understand..." he says. "If you don't feel fear, you don't feel joy or love. Not in any real way. Without the fear, the risk is gone. And without risk, rewards don't matter. You're left with nothing much at all. You're numb." ("My Name is Francisco Gonzalez", he says.)

I Am the Mission is written in first-person present tense, which helps to keep up the suspense. The narrator is a surprisingly sympathetic character for a stone-cold killer. Attempting to figure him out is perpetually interesting. Recommended for older teen and adult readers for whom the fascinating aspects of the premise outweigh the disturbing aspects. Personally, I couldn't put it down, and eagerly await the next book. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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8. Girl Jacked Review

I picked up Christopher Greyson’s book ‘Girl Jacked’ after seeing the glowing reviews on the Amazon website. Christopher Greyson - Girl Jacked

While you could classify it as a mystery thriller, it doesn’t conform to some norms in this genre. As in any mystery novel, you expect your sleuths to engage their wits in uncovering the perpetrator of a heinous crime or murder. That is a given. However, in ‘Girl Jacked,’ this heinous crime/murder is not confirmed till you’ve read about a third of the book. This in no way takes away from the beauty of this story as we get to root for the main protagonists: Jack Stratton and Alice a.k.a Replacement. Officer Jack Stratton has to find the killer of his foster sister, Michelle and clear her good name which is tarnished by the incidents surrounding her death.

Greyson writes in a way that is vivid and puts the reader smack bang in the middle of the action taking place on the page. The dialogue in the book is witty and fast paced. There was a lot of internal monologue in the book that served to add value to the action taking place. I haven’t seen this much use of internal monologue in a while and some people might find it distracting but I got used to it after a few pages.

I found the chemistry between Jack and Replacement was akin to a big brother and his little sister although there were moments when the sexual tension between them was a bit uncomfortable. Replacement is a worthy side-kick and I believe inherits some of the author’s background in the Computer Science world. Don’t expect to delight in guessing ‘whodunit’ as you read this book but rather enjoy the evolving relationship between Jack and Replacement as they discover a world filled with inflated egos, sadistic ambitions and barbaric violence.

I’ll be reading the other books in this series and have a feeling it’s only going to get better and better.

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9. Writing Lessons from the TV Show Dexter

I just got into the TV show, Dexter.

I never had Showtime before so I couldn't watch it and the entire 8 seasons is now free on Netflix. (woot woot! I know what I'll be doing over the summer.)

This is the. best. show. evah!

If I could write books like this - I would be a bestseller for sure!

I'm learning so many writing lessons from this show that I wanted to share:

Top 10 writing lessons from Dexter:

  1. Character arc - The character arc in each show let alone every season is amazing! Each character changes a little. in each episode.
  2. Dexter. The man perfect for this character - smart, hot, funny. So relatable that the whole serial killer thing is overlooked or accepted and you don't really know why or how it happened. :)
  3. Tension/Pace - Each chapter should have some tension or suspense. Even in books that aren't thrillers, you need to keep the reader turning the page. The suspense is killing me - every show has an amazing cliff hanger and i find myself saying "just one more episode."
  4. Voice - Each character should have his/her own voice. This is what makes each person special and relatable. Every character has their quirks, flaws and lovable moments.
  5. Character Development - Every character should be fully developed with backstory and motive. Each character from Dexter, to his sister Deb, to the "reborn cop" Angel, to the other forensic scientist, Vince. Each is unique.
  6. Villain - Your antagonist should be relatable. Not that Dexter is the antagonist but he should be. he's a serial killer yet somehow you root for him not to be caught.
  7. Setting. Your setting should invoke some emotion. Dexter is set in Miami. Everyone is always hot and sweating which adds anxiety to everything they do.
  8. Romance - Dexter started out awkward and has become more sexy as the shows go on. He's had a couple love interests but they were very purposeful in his character development which I find refreshing. It's not just love on the side. Each plays an important role in his arc.
  9. Reveals/Surprises. The reveals should be well placed and strategic. It all has to make sense in the end. So far they have done a brilliant job of reveals and I find myself going "I did not see that coming."
  10. Hook - You need a great hook as the foundation of any story. The idea of a serial killer killing bad guys is brilliant. 
You need to watch this show, esp if you are a thriller writer. The lessons are endless.

I heard there were Dexter books so I may check that out just to see how it plays out in the writing vs script.

Have you watched Dexter? What do you think? What is your favorite lesson from the show?

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10. Book Review -The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

Title: The Killing Woods
 Author: Lucy Christopher
Series:  N/A
Published:  October 2013 by Chicken House
Length: 369 pages
Warnings:  sex, alchohol, drugs, pstd
Source: publisher
Other info: Lucy Christopher has also written Stolen.
Summary : Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary, the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.
Review: Emily’s dad walks in one night with a dying girl. He is then accused of manslaughter. She’s sure he’s innocent, but how can she prove it? To try, she enlists the help of Ashlee’s (the dead girl) boyfriend, Damon, who may know something about how Ashlee died. Together, they unravel the mystery.
 I read this because 1)I got sent it for review and 2) so many people had been talking about how good it is and I had to know how good it was for myself.
The characters, I liked them to start with, but at times they were a bit dreary. I would have liked to know Emily a bit more other than the fact that her father is accused of manslaughter. I liked Damon, even though he is a bit crazy at times. I liked Emily’s father. I really like the fact that Lucy handles PSTD, drugs, and choices in what I think is a good way.  
I loved the Game. I wanted to know what that involved, and all the little hints as to what it was built up well for the reveal.
I started to guess vague details from around two thirds of the way through. I ended up guessing the reasons for Ashlee’s death, but not who had done it.
The pacing was good. I didn’t get bored with the way that the mystery was unravelled at all- I really wanted to know what happened and I read this in one day.
I liked the writing. It moved the story on along really well and really built up the setting of Darkwood really well.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fast mystery that kept me gripped from the start.

Links: Amazon| Goodreads

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11. Gone Girl

Gone GirlI’m probably the last person in the universe to getting around to reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, so let me preface this blog with: I finally got round to reading it after (and despite) being subjected to its enormous hype.

I’m also an aspiring book writer, so commercially and critically successful books invoke in me a complicated mix of envy and awe. Suffice to say, I wasn’t an entirely objective Gone Girl readerer.

The Cliff Notes version of this blog is I will concede Flynn is eminently talented and Gone Girl is fantastically wrought. It’s definitely worth a read. But does it warrant such breathy discussion as it’s inspired? My jury’s still out.

That annoying twist that everyone eludes to before saying, ‘But I can’t say any more without spoiling it’? I spent at least half the book going: Is that the twist? Because if it is, it’s not that great. Is that the twist? Because if it is, that’s not that great either. When it came about, I have to admit I thought not about how clever it was, but: Finally. Then: It’s not that ground-breakingly spectacular.

Had I not had so much forewarning there was a GIANT TWIST coming, I might have been gushing like everyone else did. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. I wouldn’t put this book quite in the hype-worthy, game-changing realm of something like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. But it was solid in the way that solid is a compliment.

Love is the world’s infinite mutability; lies, hatred, murder even, are all knit up in it; it is the inevitable blossoming of its opposites, a magnificent rose smelling faintly of blood (Tony Kushner, The Illusion) is the epigraph setting the book’s theme. I rarely go back and re-read epigraphs, but Gone Girl’s was apt and striking, especially by the time I reached the book’s final page.

Flynn has an undeniably excellent way with words:

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skull quite easily. I’d know her head anywhere.

It’s an ominous opening in a book that we know involves a woman going missing and her husband, the narrator, being suspected of having something to do with that disappearance.

My eyes flipped open at exactly six a.m. This was no avian fluttering of the lashes, no gentle blink toward consciousness. The awakening was mechanical. A spooky ventriloquist-dummy click of the lids: The world is black and then, showtime!

It’s a recognisable and yet fresh way of describing a way of waking up. So is: ‘Sleep is like a cat: It only comes to you if you ignore it.’

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you are, like me, coming late to the book, here’s what you need to know: Man (Nick) and woman (Amy) are married. They’ve relocated from New York to small-town Missouri, his childhood home, because his mother is terminally ill.

Native New Yorker Amy isn’t enjoying the move, and their relationship begins to fracture. Then she disappears the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. All clues point to Nick as the guilty husband. Except he’s not guilty (at least, that’s what he’s telling us).

Flynn uses the old unreliable narrator technique, which is one I’ve long found a little annoying. So I’ll not deny I wasn’t entirely involved in the plot—more aware of the practices she was using to red herring us readers and keep us tenterhooked. Likewise, the Amy-as-muse-for-books and warped effect that infused her relationship with her parents seemed a little contrived.

But I sound like a positive grump. I will say Gone Girl is smart. The cover art is minimal and great. The title is memorable and intriguing. Flynn’s writing is exquisite. The kind of cut-above that makes any and every other writer feel more utterly inadequate than usual.

She uses such words as ‘uxorious’ and, not packing it in my everyday vocabulary repertoire, I had to via a dictionary remind myself it stands for having, or demonstrating, a great or excessive fondness for one’s wife. I mean, with that definition, it is the most impossibly perfect word for this book. Which is why Flynn’s book is attracting the attention it is.

The Secret HistoryGone Girl isn’t the first time Flynn’s writing has been lauded. Her first novel, Sharp Objects, won two CWA Dagger Awards and was shortlisted for both the CWA Gold Dagger Award and for an Edgar.

Her second, Dark Places, was a bestseller. So she released Gone Girl to a relatively established and rather rapturous audience. Not having read her previous two books, but basing it on the hype I’ve witnessed, I’m guessing this is her best work yet (feel free to correct me if this isn’t the case).

With passages like the below, I’m inclined to admit I’m impressed with Flynn’s writing (and impressed enough to want to check out her previous two books):

The camera crews parked themselves on my lawn most mornings. We were like rival soldiers, rooted in shooting distance for months, eyeing each other across no-man’s-land, achieving some sort of perverted fraternity. There was one guy with a voice like a cartoon strongman whom I’d become attached to, sight unseen. He was dating a girl he really, really liked. Every morning his voice boomed in through my windows as he analysed their dates; things seemed to be going very well. I wanted to hear how the story ended.

Flynn exquisitely captures the in-fighting and the gradual wearing away of each other that occurs in marriages. She blends that with the in-jokes and resentments and us-against-the-world-ness married life brings. ‘Who are you?’ the book asks. ‘What have we done to each other?’ They’re invaluable questions as the book reveals it’s possible to both know and not know the person you’re supposed to know better than anyone else.

I felt the backstory build-up to the big twist was too great, although my are-we-there-yet knowledge that the twist was coming up probably contributed to that. For others, it may have offered an enthrallingly detailed examination of a complex marriage between complex people.
Either way, Gone Girl inspires discussion beyond the page, which Flynn and her publisher oblige, offering bookclub questions at the back of the book—and solid, thought-provoking ones too. It also provides a Q&A with Flynn on her insights into the characters and tale and why she wrought them as she did.

Hindsight makes you a smart ass, but I have to say I’d probably have picked the twist even had I not been forewarned there would be one. Still, it’s not enough to temper my agreement that Flynn is a talented writer and Gone Girl—if you are, like me, in the not-yet-read-it minority—is one you should brave the hype and attempt to lower your expectations for, as you’ll likely find you really quite like it.

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12. 10 ways to write a page turner!

There are 10 easy ways (in my opinion) to keep up the pace (or suspense/tension) of a novel. This can be for any book to keep the reader clipping along and turning the pages.

10 steps to a page turner

1) Create short chapters - most of mine are 1500 to 2000 words. (It can't be 250 word chapters with 1000 chapters in the book. Thats' just annoying :)

2) End on the conflict, forcing the reader into the next chapter. (I call it the inverted climax curve! I'm smart huh?)

3) Keep your narrative short. At the end, go through and cut back scenes with too much setting or exposition. I say try to cut them in 1/2. (Actually, I should do this in my conversations as well. I'm sure my friends would appreciate it.)

4) Use short sentences when you want reader to feel rushed into reading. Longer sentences help to slow it down and create tension as well as a break before you ramp back up again. (I call this the roller coaster feeling. Make your reader sick :)

5) Add a ticking time bomb. This can be an actual time countdown or a lead in to knowing something is coming soon. (This even works in the ebay auctions I bid on. There's just something about a clock that creates stress.)

6) Create a strong opening line in every chapter that yanks the reader in. (I tend to spend more time on this than I do finding my dangling modifiers. I do not recommend that :)

7) Create strong closing lines that tease the reader to turn the page. (Do not let them put that book down! If you have to drag them on to the next chapter by their bookmarks)

8) Torture your MC - have her make mistake so actions get thrown back in her face. (I talk to my MC. "Oh you think that's bad, wait until I give you this!" I know I'm nutzo)

9) Raise the stakes each time it looks like resolution may be about to happen. (Give your reader the feeling of "oh thank God" and then take them to "WHAT the hell!"

10) Allow room to breathe. (You don't want them to pass out. Not good PR....But not too much room :)

Feel free to ask me questions! :)

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13. Finally!

Hey, I’m back. It’s only been . . . well, months.  Have been struggling with getting “Buried Alive!,” John Victor’s second adventure, edited and published. It’s available–right now!–online at Create Space’s Book Store.  Finally! But, before I get into that, there’s something exciting (at least for me and possibly for any of you who suffer with insomnia):  Over the counter medicine, prescriptions, and the usual suggestions have all failed me. But, there’s a cure that actually works for me!  Finally! My long-time friend, Erna D, told me about it on the telephone. You simply need a banana, a small saucepan and some water.  Cut both ends of the banana off. (I’m not sure why, but perhaps they’re bitter?).  Then place the banana–skin and all–into a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Let it simmer for ten minutes.  Then, use the water like tea (I add lots of cream and a little sugar).  Tastes great that way if, like me, you like a little bit of tea with your cream and sugar.  Anyway, drink your tea that tastes slightly like banana, and eat what you can of the banana–skin and all according to Erna–but with my stomach troubles I don’t bother with the skin.  I even mash the banana and add a bit to my tea. Reminds me of the consistency of extra pulp in OJ.  I end up falling asleep within half an hour, instead of struggling for two or more hours.

Getting back to “Buried Alive!,” the scene is set near Tucson, Arizona.  Our intrepid hero is literally buried alive in a crude cedar coffin somewhere beneath the Sonora Desert. And to make it interesting, his “coffin” is digitally connected to a live radio show. The radio host invites a bevy of professionals to communicate with John Victor, in an effort to pull elusive clues from his memory. Professionals like detectives, profilers, scientists, etc.  So they can find him before it’s too late.  An endangered plant is the basis for his being found. There are bits of trivia about the Tucson region, and most importantly of all, there’s information about the Bible. Between John Victor and one other character, bits of Biblical information is revealed, including info about prophesies that have actually been fulfilled–the chance for them being fulfilled is astounding–and about faith in its various forms.  Like with “The SEED,” John’s first adventure, “Buried Alive!” has intrigue, humor, a touch of romance, and faith-based information.  Speaking of “The SEED,” have I mentioned at least a hundred times that it was nominated by a professor for inclusion on Green Mountain College’s required reading list? And that it placed as a top-ten finalist in a national contest?  Well, right now, you can find “Buried Alive” by Ann Rich Duncan by Googling Create Space Book Store.  It’ll be available thru Amazon.com after April 10.  By the way, the ISBN #s are:  13:978-1496055538 and 10: 1496055535.  Here’s a pix of the cover:

BookCoverPreview


0 Comments on Finally! as of 4/1/2014 1:31:00 PM
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14. Why I Published 4 Novels in 6 Months

J.E. Fishman

Hi, WD community! Today we’re sharing a guest post from J.E. Fishman, a former editor and literary agent turned author. He has penned Dynamite: A Concise History of the NYPD Bomb Squad and the novels Primacy, Cadaver Blues, and The Dark Pool. His Bomb Squad NYC series of police thrillers launches this month with A Danger to Himself and Others, Death March, and The Long Black Hand. In September comes Blast from the Past. He divides his time between Chadds Ford, PA, and New York City.

Today he shares a somewhat unconventional decision to publish four—yes, four—books in less than a year. Here he is:

This is the story of how I decided to publish four novels in six months. It begins with a general principle, which is that writing in any form—and certainly storytelling—is a means of communication. I have never subscribed to the belief that writers write solely for themselves.

Even Emily Dickenson, so reclusive that she rarely left her room, sent poems off to be published (although only a dozen or so appeared in print during her lifetime). This proves to me that she must have imagined a reader out there somewhere on the other side of the window for the 1,800 unpublished poems that she also wrote. Shyness couldn’t stop her voice from crying out through the tip of her pen. She wanted to be heard.

It is the same for all who write successfully, I think. (By success, I mean creating what we set out to create, not necessarily raking in the bucks.) We deeply desire to give voice to something within us, and we want someone out there to read our stories. How do we accomplish these twin goals?

As anyone knows who’s attempted to write, while stories still reside solely in our heads, they contain a kind of perfection that we rarely manage to preserve when we attempt to express them in print. And it’s the same with our efforts to bring them out into the light of day. In the perfect world, we can write whatever we want whenever we want to write it, and readers yearn for every word we produce. In the real world, we operate with constraints and may never get discovered.

As a novelist, I think it pays to be aware of the three aspects of the storyteller’s endeavor. First, every story begins with something that interests the author. Second, if storytelling is a form of communication, we must take account of the reader. Finally, an increasingly disrupted marketplace challenges us to find our audience — or, more to the point, to induce them to find us.

 

Inspiration

Sometimes I feel as if I have a new story idea every day. These stories might float up to me unbidden while I’m driving in the car or dozing off on the couch. But most of the time something instigates them. It could be an item in the news or another work of art or an experience I had. I’ll think, “That would make a great story,” and then I’ll mull over how I might go about telling it.

And then, most of the time, I don’t write that story. I could plead limitations of time — life intervening or some other writing project currently claiming my efforts — but the real reason most of these stories don’t happen is that they’re not ripe. Their day may come, but not yet. Some story ideas marinate this way for years.

Once in a while, however, a story idea comes along that I personally find so compelling I can’t get it out of my head. So it was with my new series, Bomb Squad NYC

.

Five years ago, my wife, my daughter and I left the New York area for the Brandywine Valley outside Wilmington, Delaware, not far from Philadelphia. We left, but we didn’t leave with both feet, as we decided to buy a smaller house and throw in for an apartment in Manhattan’s West Village, which we visit with some regularity.ADangerToHimselfAndOthers-3dLeft-Trimmed

We love going to the theater in New York, seeing independent films, window shopping, and the whole foodie scene. Admittedly, we’re pretty spoiled, although the apartment is a petite one-bedroom, and when we’re all in town my daughter sleeps on a pull-out couch.

To the occasional visitor, New York must appear to be an overwhelming agglomeration, but it’s really a collection of distinct neighborhoods, each with its own personality and its quirks. The West Village has become known for its restaurants and access to the Hudson River park, but one of its less remarked-upon features resides in a pair of nondescript garages at the rear of the local police precinct.

When we walked past those closed garage doors we noticed painted shields upon them indicating the headquarters of the NYPD Bomb Squad. One summer evening, as we returned from dinner, we found the doors open wide with a number of cops (all detectives, I’ve since learned) hanging out with a dog in front of the response trucks. We had a nice chat, and they showed us the robots they use. I learned that this wasn’t any old bomb squad, it was the Bomb Squad — the one that strives to keep all of the city safe from explosive devices.

As we walked away from the garage that night, heading for our apartment, it hit me: These guys deserve their own series. Not, I hasten to add, because they’re heroes — although they are. But because, from my perspective as a novelist, their existence carries with it a motherlode of storytelling material that has largely remained untapped.

Lots of bombs go off in thrillers and other novels, of course, but the bomb guys typically get only subplots, if any acknowledgment at all. Few novelists have attempted to crawl inside their heads. I wanted to explore not only what these guys do—which can be highly technical—but how they think, the challenges they face, how they experience life.

For many months I couldn’t get the NYPD Bomb Squad out of my head (news flash: I still can’t!), and the more I thought about it, the more compelling the material looked to me. I decided to pursue the subject with all the vigor I could bring to it.

 

Creation

I began this series the only way a writer can ever begin anything: with an interest in the subject matter. But then, if writing is primarily a means of communication, how would I connect to the reader? It soon occurred to me that these novels should take the form of thrillers.

The ticking time bomb is the essence of suspense. (Remember Alfred Hitchcock’s explanation: “Four people are sitting around a table talking about baseball or whatever you like. Five minutes of it. Very dull. Suddenly, a bomb goes off. Blows the people to smithereens. What does the audience have? Ten seconds of shock. Now take the same scene and tell the audience there is a bomb under that table and it will go off in five minutes. The whole emotion of the audience is totally different … Now the conversation about baseball becomes very vital. Because they’re saying to you, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. Stop talking about baseball. There’s a bomb under there.’”) But it needn’t be an actual time bomb. In some sense any bomb that has not yet detonated is a time bomb. As Hitchcock suggested, the fact that a bomb might soon go off at any moment engages the audience’s attention. Therefore, I concluded, these books called for the thriller genre.

DeathMarch-3dLeft

I also concluded pretty quickly that the novels should have a “police procedural” element to them, which is to say that they should give readers a level of technical detail about police work that goes beyond what they’d get from less immersive sources. But here I faced a daunting challenge. I didn’t know any cops, let alone bomb technicians, and I could hardly spend my research time standing on the street and waiting for those garage doors to open again.

Fortunately, by pursuing the proverbial six degrees of separation (the details are a story for another day—but it only required three degrees, to be honest), I eventually hooked up with the commander of the very squad I wanted to write about, Lieutenant Mark Torre. Mark already had some experience providing feedback to novelists, among them Patricia Cornwell. We met and hit it off, and he agreed to act as my technical consultant for the entire series, giving me insights and a degree of accuracy that I was unlikely to achieve any other way.

With my novels roughly using the storytelling conventions of thrillers, and with Mark looking over my shoulder, I set about plotting and writing the first book, A Danger to Himself and Others

.

The more I learned about the real world and about my characters, the more ideas I had for other stories and plot points. Using an ensemble cast, I could see a whole series stretching before me. I’d write two more, however, before rushing into print, because a final consideration remained: How best to bring this series to the public.

 

Publishing

We all know that book publishing faces forces of massive disruption. Online sales … ebooks … the power of Amazon … publishers consolidating … bookstores closing … the rise of indie publishing … All of these factors can be summed up thusly: It’s easier to get your work out there than ever before, but harder than ever before for a given work to get noticed.

Depending upon personality, one might take the changing landscape as an exciting challenge or a soul-crushing obstacle. I look at it this way: A writer’s gotta write and—eventually—a writer’s gotta publish. It’s just what we do.

In that context, it’s worth noting that we’ve sort of been here before. Mark Twain is reputed to have said (he probably didn’t really say it, but never mind), “History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.” When it comes to publishing, ebooks are relatively new, but disruptive technology isn’t.

Perhaps one can hark back to what the monks thought of Gutenberg’s printing press, but I have something much more contemporary in mind. The publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin, among others, has observed

that there are many parallels between the introduction of mass market paperbacks and ebooks.

Without rehashing the entire history of mass market paperback publishing, let’s acknowledge three important elements that impacted the market then and are doing so again: (1) new means of distribution; (2) discount pricing; and (3) binge consumption.

First, neither the distributors of mass market paperbacks nor those of ebooks were content to distribute through old channels. In both instances they realized that new customers could be found for books outside the bookstore. In the case of mass market, that meant newsstands, drugstores, and grocery stores. In the case of ebooks, it meant cyberspace.

Second, technological advances allowed both of these media to set price points well below the price of a hardcover. In fact, the sweet spots of original mass market and current ebook pricing share a ratio. They both correlate closely to approximately 10 or 15 percent of the price of a hardcover book.

Third, as prices drop and novels become more accessible, the average reader can consume with more intensity.

It’s interesting to see all of the press lately about “binge” watching of television series, because binge consumption of genre fiction has been around since the advent of so-called dime novels and continued through the introduction of mass market paperbacks. I distinctly recall my wife discovering mystery writer John D. MacDonald in the ’80s and almost immediately purchasing every Travis McGee mass market paperback she could find. (In those days she had to comb multiple bookstores.) She wouldn’t have behaved the same way for books priced ten times higher.

But many authors who made a name for themselves via mass market publishing encouraged binge reading from the early days. Consider that MacDonald published four Travis McGee novels in 1964 alone. Ed McBain, whose 87th Precinct series is something of a model for my own, published 54 of those books in 50 years, but 13 in the first five.

Yet by the standards of a few other novelists, those guys were slackers. Louis L’Amour, the legendary writer of westerns, published 100 novels in 37 years. The great science fiction novelist Isaac Asimov published 506 books in 32 years. When I was at Doubleday, just managing Isaac was nearly a full-time job for one of my colleagues.

To take another example, romance author Nora Roberts has published more than 200 books in 31 years and is still going strong. The British mystery author John Creasey, writing under several different pseudonyms, published 600 novels in 41 years.primacy-book-feature

And in a career spanning 75 years, Barbara Cartland, the mother of all romance writers, published 722 novels. Think of it. That’s almost ten novels a year. In 1983 she published 23 novels!

Does that sound like madness? In a sense, of course it is. But my subject today isn’t what kind of mind it requires to be so so! so!! prolific. It is simply to say that this stream of material made great business sense in the mass-market-paperback age, and it makes great business sense at the dawn of the ebook age.

All of the authors mentioned above wrote genre fiction, and all of them wrote at least a few series. That’s not a coincidence.

Reading novels is an investment not so much of money but of time. Through their buying habits genre readers have told us that they’re more inclined to purchase the books in a series that’s well established. (If the series is working, sales build over time.) But these days, when so many things compete for an audience’s attention, how many opportunities does an author get to establish that series? The answer is: not many.

The triumph of mass market houses in the last century, combined with the rise of mall bookstores and superstore chains, led to the mass marketization of hardcover fiction, whereby authors like Sue Grafton, Lee Child, and John Grisham—to name but a few—could make their names with a single book and subsequently release one title a year to great fanfare.

But if ebooks are the new mass market paperbacks—and I think they are—we’re in a time when newer writers will have to resurrect the old mass market approach to establishing their brand. It isn’t easy, and I won’t be catching up to John Creasey anytime soon. But four books in six months makes a start.

 

 

 

 

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15. Chasing Prophecy by James Moser with Giveaway

Title: Chasing Prophecy

Author: James Moser

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Thriller

Ebook available at: Kindle | Smashwords  




Book Description:

Mo is a shy teen who is just trying to survive high school. He has secretly fallen in love with a girl named Prophecy who lives with a group that some call a commune and others call a cult. When she disappears, Mo must find the courage to face the monster that her family has become. Chasing Prophecy is a contemporary coming of age story that is heartwarming, suspenseful, and beautifully written. This book chronicles the adolescence of one boy who must transform himself to save the girl of his dreams.

Kirkus Reviews:

“A stellar read for teens and adults, full of hilarious growing pains, tenderness and a few surprises. Moser’s debut is an unflinching young-adult novel that sees a group of friends tested by bigotry and the illegal machinations of a religious cult. The author serves up an irresistibly wisecracking narrator in Mo Kirkland. Every page ripples with a controlled cleverness. There’s also a rawness to this tale similar to that which many teens face in the real world. Moser can wax rhapsodic about young love, but he shows that he knows how to raise the tension in the second half of the novel.”


Excerpt:

Max leaned over and whispered, “They don’t have any gear.”I looked at their packs. He was right. No rolled-up tents, sleeping bags or cookware dangled from any of the straps or hooks. Just bulging backpacks. Their empty sports-drink bottles were the only clue that they’d known they were about to hike straight up a mountain.

I remember thinking how weird it was that they carried so much weight uphill and none of that weight was soap, clean clothes, or sleeping bags.

Max peeked inside one of their packs. He undid the top pull-cord and pulled out a giant freezer-bag of red crystals. I undid the top drawstring of one of the other backpacks. More bags of the same stuff. I held one up. A bright flash startled us, made us step back. After blinking away the spots, I saw Clean with one arm extended, centering us in another picture he was taking on his phone.

“What’s this?” I asked, holding up a bag of what looked like raspberry Sno-Kone.

“Drugs,” Max said softly.

“It is not ‘drugs,’” said Clean. “It is the salvation of our family. It is the sword we will use to fight off Big Brother, to beat him back from our land, to cut off his hand as it reaches for what is ours. Now put those bags of salvation back, please. I’m sending word of our salvation to my father.” He held the Blackberry closer to his face and I knew he was forwarding the picture to Able back at the ranch.

Big buckets of reality crashed down on me head. Huge bags of drugs brought in from Canada. Hiked over the border in the dense woodsy areas where the Mount Baker National Forest drops to the Canadian Border.

These guys are criminals, I thought.

Clean waved at our tents, sleeping bags, and the rest of the food. He said, “You guys should just chill for a day, catch your breath, eat, drink, and sleep. No fires. We’re way off the trail and we’re nowhere near the spot where people hang-glide, base-jump or wall-climb. I put all the dehydrated food pouches in the blue backpack—soups and chili and fruit. A whole bottle of water purifying tablets. It’s not tons but it’ll keep you fueled til you’re back home. Thanks to you, the hard work is done.”

“Thanks, bruh,” said the leader of the other team. The three of them were leaning into the rock and leaning into each other. They must have done that on the way up, at night, to stay warm.

Clean motioned us to the other end of the rock. He said, “We leave in half an hour. Drink all the water you can, then fill up one small water bottle each. Remember to add an iodine tablet. No one can get sick on the way down. And,” he said, pausing to reach into his pack. “We wear these on the way down.” He pulled out green and tan camouflage floppy hats and t-shirts that matched the backpacks our visitors had carried.

“What about . . .” I started to say.

Max took a deep breath, dropped his chin and stared at the ground. He understood before I did that the Vision-Quest was over. We’d come to exactly this spot because this was the mission Able and Clean had planned for us all along.

Clean said, “We’re carrying it back down to the trailhead. We’re taking no food. We ate less than 24 hours ago and will be able to eat again before we go to sleep, after we get home. We have water. It’s downhill for us so we should make the car before dark. I have a small thing of sunscreen. Other than that, all we need is some guts.”

Max’s face was angry. I was just plain numb. There was nothing else to say.

Half an hour later, Clean hugged his three companions goodbye. We stayed on the southern end of the ledge, teetering under the heavy packs, just nodding politely to the other crew. We started down and did not talk. The backpacks carried the same weight but since I’m smaller than Clean and Max, I struggled more. I panted and stumbled a few times. We reached the tree-line in a couple hours.

Max and I kept trading WTF looks.

I thought, What is Kazzy doing right now? Does she have backpack of drugs, too? Did she know about this? Of course she didn’t know. The day before she looked so lost and confused. As lost and confused as anyone in the dining hall. If she had drugs on her back, she was as surprised as we were.

God, I wanted to hold her and I wanted her to hold me back. I’ve never wanted to hold someone so much. I thought of the squeeze she’d given me as she left the school bus.

The school bus. Right. They’d chosen a special ed. school bus to bring us in and out because it would hide in plain sight. No cop would pull us over for a small reason.

Max suddenly said, “Shit.” He kicked a tree, nearly fell from being off-balance under the heavy pack, steadied himself, unstrapped, and dropped his pack on the ground. He looked at me, then at Clean. “This is illegal. It’s not what you said we’d be doing.”

Clean moved quickly toward Max. I dropped my pack to the ground and took a long step toward them–to break up the fight before it got started. Clean’s eyes darted to mine. He put his finger to his lips.

Max put up his fists but Clean was already past him.

Clean took two long steps down the path, to the bend in the next switchback. He looked back at us—eyes on fire. He pointed sharply at us and then up into the woods.

We pulled on our packs and labored up the rocky hillside, grabbing at pine trees and brush. Glancing to our right, I saw Clean doing the same. We reached a spot thirty feet off the trail, level and dense with ferns. From the trail we heard a rustling and the unmistakable clip-clopping of horseshoes. We dropped down in the ferns, shimmied out of our backpacks and kneeled down in the dense mossy soil.

A forest ranger on horseback came into view. As he brought the horse to a stop, it sniffed at the air, looked our way and froze. I knew it had smelled us. We turned to Clean. He put one finger to his lips and stared daggers at us.

The ranger wore an olive green, short-sleeved shirt and cargo shorts. He had a walkie talkie clipped to his belt and a satellite phone in his hand. The saddle held a canteen, knapsack, and a long leather sleeve with a shotgun handle sticking out. As he turned around, I saw a handgun holstered at his side. The guy looked straight ahead, spoke into his satellite phone, dismounted, whispered softly to the horse, and stroked its mane.

I looked back at Clean and what I saw told me that the Bethlehem family had changed forever. The fingers of one hand were spread toward us, commanding we remain still and silent. His other hand held a gun. The lines on his face were calm. He was not afraid.

The ranger turned his back to us, lowered his hands, undid his belt buckle, moved his legs apart, looked to the sky, began to whistle. Clean gently clicked off the safety. The horse heard it, darting its eyes in our direction, snuffled, pawed at the ground restlessly. The man turned back to the horse, whispered, went back to whistling.

After the ranger and horse were safely out of earshot, we stepped over to Clean.

Max said, “What are you doing with a GUN???”

I added, “Yeah, and what were you gonna do if he saw us?”

Clean looked calmly at me, snapped the safety back on, and returned the gun to the waist-band against his lower back. He clicked on his walkie talkie, adjusted the volume and channel, and said, “Redemption Team One to Redemption Team Two. Redemption Team One to Redemption Team Two. Anyone out there chillin’? Over.”

A long pause, and then the crackling response, “Chillin’ like Bob Dylan. Thought you guys were gone. Over.”

Clean said, “We just ran into Steve’s Big Brother. You remember Rick, right? Over.”

A longer, crackling pause.

“Copy that. Long time since we’ve seen Rick. He by himself? Over”

“Affirmative. Over.”

And the longest, crackling pause yet.

“How long til Rick arrives for dinner? Over.”

“He’s probably not coming to your house, but if he does go that way, it’ll be at least an hour. No more than two. Over.”

“Copy that. If you seen him again, tell him sorry we missed him and we’ll catch him next time. We’re running late and we’ll be gone in ten minutes. Over.”

“Sounds like a plan. Sorry about the fast turnaround. I know you guys are tired from the trip. From the long drive all the way from California, I mean. Over.”

“Copy that. Catch you guys next time. Over and out.”

“Copy that. Over and out.”

Clean switched off his walkie talkie and clipped it onto his belt.

“Look at me,” he said. “Everyone take a drink of water and pee if you have to. We are not stopping for a few hours, until we get to the parking lot. I will walk on point. That means I’ll be by myself about fifty feet ahead. There will be NO talking, so I can hear what’s ahead. You watch where you’re walking and you watch me. I put my hand up, that means stop. I point, and that means you have five seconds to go wherever I’m pointing.

“We run into someone and can’t hide in time, you just do exactly what I do. We’ll say hello all friendly-like, but you keep your heads down and you do not slow down no matter what. I will go first. I’ll pause, I’ll make some small talk for ten seconds while you pass me, and then I’ll bring up the rear after the two of you are down the trail a bit. I will catch up on my own so don’t look back. We don’t look back and we don’t stop no matter what.”

We nodded.

“Say it so I know you understand,” he said.

“Don’t look back,” Max said.

“Don’t stop, no matter what,” I said.

About the Author:
James Moser has always loved stories in all forms. He is in his fourteenth year of working with high school students. The author’s goal was to write a book that would inspire even his most reluctant readers. Young adults have always inspired him. As such, he wanted to show teenagers transforming themselves to overcome obstacles, which is what he watches them do, every day.

Moser has a B.A. in English and a Master’s degree in Secondary English Education. He lives in Seattle with his beautiful wife and eight year old son. When he’s not reading and writing, or thinking about reading and writing, he’s watching way too much television while snacking on frozen treats from Trader Joe’s. Man, those things are good.

Where to find James Moser:


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4 Comments on Chasing Prophecy by James Moser with Giveaway, last added: 3/6/2014
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16. The Living: Matt De La Peña

Book: The Living
Author: Matt De La Peña
Pages: 320
Age Range: 12 and up

The Living by Matt De La Peña has it all. It's a high stakes survival drama, with a mysterious conspiracy, containing the seeds of a possible apocalypse. There are also teen interactions that include racial and socioeconomic conflicts. I read The Living in less than a day, simply unable to stop, regardless of what was going on around me. And as soon as I closed the book I said to my husband "You have GOT to read this" (something I reserve for only a select few titles each year). 

The Living is told from the limited third person perspective of Shy, a half Mexican teen from a small California town near the border of Mexico. Shy is spending the summer before his senior year working on a luxury cruise ship (setting out deck chairs, handing out towels, etc.). Shy is in mourning for his Grandma, who died recently and suddenly from an illness called Romero's Disease. He is also reeling from his unsuccessful attempt to stop a passenger from committing suicide, an incident related in the prologue.

As his next 8-day voyage begins, Shy learns that a mysterious man in a black suit is asking questions about him. He also gets worrying news from his family at home. And he's confused by his interactions with beautiful and slightly older fellow staff member Carmen, who has a finace. All of these concerns fade into the background, however, in the face of a natural disaster that leaves Shy fighting for his life. 

Shy is a solid character. He lives with his mother, older sister, and nephew (Grandma lived with them, too). The family members are close, but struggle financially. Shy is good-looking and plays for his high school basketball team, and he's not inexperienced with girls, but Carmen knocks him off balance. On the cruise ship he encounters racism and rudeness from the wealthy passengers, and starts to develop an understanding of the socioeconomic chasm in front of him. But this is all reasonably understated - he's also a teen boy who likes girls, worries about his family, and tries to do the right thing. 

There is some kissing/making out in The Living, though no on-screen sex. There is also quite a lot of death, and some gore. But no more so than in many apocalyptic type novels (and less gore than some). I wouldn't hesitate to give this to anyone who was able to handle The Hunger Games series.  

De La Peña's plotting is tight and fast-paced. Short chapters help keep readers turning the pages, and make The Living a good choice for reluctant readers. The action really flows starting mid-way through the book, and then rarely lets up. The Living is not a book to start when you only have a few minutes to read. This is a book to save for when you have a free afternoon, and can devour the whole thing. 

Here's a snippet to give you a feel for De La Peña's writing:

"In the morning the sea had been perfectly calm and beautiful, like a postcard. Now it was a thousand hostile waves crested in white foam and crashing into one another. The massive ship moaned as it pitched and surged under Shy's shell tops--the bow bucking slowly into the air and then falling, bucking and then falling. Thick black clouds hung so low in the sky it felt like the ship was traveling through a rain tunnel." (Page 88)

There is definitely a cinematic flavor to The Living, helped out by the deluxe cruise ship setting, and the acknowledged fact that the young crew members are chosen for their good looks (this point felt a bit overdone for me, but it is true to the survival story genre). The Living would make a great movie, though I think it would be expensive to film due to required special effects. It ends with many threads left dangling, and I am eager for the next book, The Hunted, due out in fall of 2014. Highly recommended for teens and adults. 

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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17. The Great Impersonation

I haven’t read all that many E. Phillips Oppenheim books, but I’ve read The Great Impersonation three times. I worry that no other Oppenheim book will measure up to it, but if none does, that’s okay. I enjoy rereading it even though I know exactly what happens.

Two men meet in German East Africa in, oh, 1912, maybe? One is Sir Everard Dominey, self-exiled from England and steadily drinking himself to death during and in between a succession of hunting expeditions. Then there’s Leopold von Ragastein, exiled to Africa by the Kaiser after killing his lover’s husband, but doing his best to make himself useful to his country while he’s there. And he knows another assignment is coming to him soon. Dominey and von Ragastein are lookalikes, which offers von Ragastein the perfect opportunity to establish himself in England, as he’s been instructed to do.

The Sir Everard Dominey who arrives in London some months later has no real trouble establishing himself and claiming his property — even his meetings with his half-insane wife go more smoothly than anticipated. But there are also questions, and it’s interesting to watch him deal with people having a hard time recognizing him, or commenting on how much he’s changed. And then he’s got his instructions from his German handler, and the Hungarian princess who insists on recognizing him as von Ragastein.

The spy plot is given approximately the same amount of weight as the romance plot, which revolves around Dominey’s wife and the guy Dominey may or may not have killed before he left for Africa. There’s a sort of Mrs. Danvers-ish character, and Lady Dominey herself is delightful, although the number of times she was described as childlike made me a little uncomfortable.

So, you know. There’s a lot going on. And pretty much all of it is great. Also, I can’t think of any plot threads that are left hanging. I just really, really like this book, for whatever reason. I don’t even care that Oppenheim doesn’t have a sense of humor.


Tagged: 1920s, ephillipsoppenheim, thriller, wwI

6 Comments on The Great Impersonation, last added: 1/7/2014
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18. Erased (Altered): Jennifer Rush

Book: Erased (Altered #2)
Author: Jennifer Rush (@Jenn_Rush)
Pages: 288
Age Range: 12 and up

Erased is the sequel to Altered (reviewed here) by Jennifer Rush. Altered introduces Anna, who lives above a secret lab holding four genetically altered boys. A shadowy organization called the Branch has enhanced the boys' capabilities, wiped their memories, and used them as weapons / assassins. In the first book, Anna learns that she has been part of the experiment all along, too. 

Erased finds Anna in hiding from the Branch, with Sam, Nick, and Cas. Although their lives are perilous, there's a certain stability to the surrogate family that Anna and "the boys" form, and to Anna's relationship with Sam. This stability is threatened when it appears that Anna's sister, Dani, whom they all thought was dead, may be looking for them. Various dangers, flashbacks, and investigations into all of their pasts, follow.  

Erased is that rare sequel that, I think, is better than the first book. There's more action, and less figuring out of what's going on along the way. There's still suspense, but as a reader, you have a better idea of what's going on from the start. Rush also does a nice job of recapping the situation from the first book, without going into excessive detail. Also, and this was important for me, Anna is a much stronger character in the second book, not putting herself down so much for not being as physically capable as the boys. She's learned self-defense, and pushed her (not artificially strengthened) body to improve her stamina. 

There is still a little of the "oh, they're so much better than me". Like this:

"Like all the boys, Nick, even at his worst, was gorgeous. It drove me crazy. I didn't consider myself unattractive, but next to them, I was painfully average. They didn't know the meaning of a bad hair day." (Chapter 1)

But this doesn't stop her from being mainly secure in her place with them. 

I did like this:

"In the months since Sam, Nick, and Cas had escaped the Branch's lab, and I'd gone with them, I'd learned that nothing was permanent, not even my memories. Now I took every opportunity to savor what I had, just in case. (Chapter 1)

There are some useful practical tips for anyone on the run from a powerful organization, like the fact that you should use your money to buy weapons, because weapons are a lot harder to steal than food. And how to tell if a house is probably a vacation home, and thus safe to break into to squat for a little while in mid-winter. Fun stuff for thriller fans. 

In terms of content advisory, I do think that this is more a high school book than a middle school book. The language is fine, and there's no overt sex. But Anna is clearly sharing a bedroom with Sam, and there are descriptions of their closeness ("It was like my nerve endings weren't truly functioning unless they were beneath Sam's fingers.") More significant, to me, is the fact that the teens, including Anna, kill quite a number of people. Enemies who are out to get them, mainly, but some adult gatekeepers may find that this aspect of the books makes it less desirable for middle schoolers.

Personally, though, I found Erased to be fast-paced and interesting, with enough clues revealed along the way to make me feel smart as I figured out what was going on. Teens looking for thrillers with a bit of science fiction (brain wipes, genetic modification), and plenty of chases and shootouts, will want to give this series a look. Erased (due out in early January) seems to wrap up the series, but there is a short story prequel being released this week. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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19. AND NOW, A WORD FROM FROM CHRIS CRUTCHER!

We love listening to Chris Crutcher. He always has the most interesting things to say. Luckily his new novel, PERIOD 8, is full of things to talk about!

Watch Chris Crutcher discuss the truth and when to tell it, what it means to live a good life, and PERIOD 8. Make sure you stick around until the end for a special message to teachers and librarians!

Download the PERIOD 8 discussion guide and get talking . . .

Period 8

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20. Free Again - Friday, Saturday and Sunday!



If you aren't on Facebook and following my page, you may not know this -

Freebie coming up this Friday, Saturday and Sunday - April 5, 6 and 7

That's right - Forever Young: Blessing or Curse for Kindle/or PC will be free on those days. If you don't have a copy, be sure to click and get one before it goes back to its usual $2.99 price.

Here's the link: http://amzn.com/B006MO28CQ







I'm over halfway through the edits for Blessing or Curse, the companion sequel to Forever Young: Blessing or Curse .

Blessing or Curse contains 5 different stories about 5 very different people taking the Forever Young pill. Each story has some sort of romance, but is much more than a typical romance.

You'll see when I start sharing excerpts.

Morgan Mandel
http://www.morganmandel.com


1 Comments on Free Again - Friday, Saturday and Sunday!, last added: 4/4/2013
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21. 2012 04 12 Antihero as Protagonist

Today's post features a guest appearance by Luke Murphy, author of Dead Man's Hand. He explains how to make an antihero your protagonist by providing him with solid motivation. Luke Murphy describes his protagonist, Calvin Watters:



The four most common character conflicts in stories are: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, and man vs. himself. 

The single most common character conflict in suspense/mystery novels is man vs. man. This is usually seen through serial killers, murder investigations, assassination plots, etc. One character is battling against another character in the story. 

There's plenty of this in DEAD MAN`S HAND, but I also wanted to add another element to entertain readers. 

The central theme of DMH is the plot built around framing Calvin Watters for murder. Calvin spends the story evading the cops, as well as a hitman, while trying to solve the crime and prove his innocence. (Man vs. Man, right?) 

But I truly believe that the major character conflict in my story is Calvin vs. himself. 

Calvin Watters was on his way to NFL stardom when a sudden, selfish decision destroyed any dream he ever had. He remembered when the rich had welcomed him into their group as a promising, clean-cut athlete bound for glory. Now he was just an outsider looking in. Just another thug. 

Pain bolted through his right knee, but the emotional pain from a shattered ego hurt even worse. He was the only one to blame for USC's humiliating loss and his own humiliating personal downfall. 

The press, always ready to tear down a hero, had shown no restraint in attacking him for his egotistic, selfish decision and obvious desire to break his own school record. One minute he was touted as the next Walter Payton, the next he was a door mat for local media. 

Looking at him now, no one would believe that back then he was a thousand-yard rusher in the NCAA and welcomed with open arms in every established club in Southern California. Hell, he had been bigger than the mayor. 

That the resulting injury had ended his college football career and most importantly, any chances of a pro career didn’t matter to anyone. By making the wrong, selfish, prideful decision, he’d made himself a target for the press and all USC fans. 

The devastating, career-ending knee injury wasn't the quarterback's fault for missing the audible, or the fullback's fault for missing the key block. It was his and it had taken him some time to understand and accept responsibility for it. 

After he spent three years building a reputation as the toughest collector in Vegas, no one even knew he'd been one of the greatest college running backs ever. To them, he was just “The Collector.” 

Now Calvin has to rebuild his life and his future, eliminating the thoughts of his downfall, picking himself up, dusting off, and trying to live a respectable life he can be proud of. 

But has his time as a leg-breaker made him corrupt beyond redemption?

________________________________________________________________
Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, two daughters and pug. He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude). Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.

DEAD MAN'S HAND "A fast, gritty ride." www.amazon.com/Dead-Mans-Hand-ebook/dp/B009OUT2ME

For more information on Luke and his books, visit: www.authorlukemurphy.com






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22. What Dan Brown Does Right

“Ha!” you say. “Dan Brown is a hack. He doesn’t deserve his millions of followers.

He head hops, shows instead of tells, dumps info, layers the adverbs, and has clunky descriptions.”

All of that may be true, but he does several things that you should emulate to make your thriller thrilling.


1. Use the treasure hunt or bread crumb mystery skeleton.

2. Employ the chase.

3. Place your protagonist in danger.

3. Start the timer.

4. Include obscure historical facts and theories that intrigue your readers enough to want to know more about them.

5. Raise controversy. Nothing spawns sales like someone asking for your head.

6. Add a love interest.

7. Introduce an unusual protagonist.

I read Brown’s earlier books, Digital Fortress and Deception Point, before I read The Da Vinci Code.  Both were solid suspense thrillers and I hope they make them into movies. As much as I love Langdon, the follow-up books have gotten progressively weaker. I keep reading them in the hopes of regaining that original thrill.

It was the controversy of The Da Vinci Code that made Brown headline news. However, controversy comes with risks. Be sure you can withstand the heat of the fires they set to roast you.

And, if you aren't willing to raise your level of craft, be prepared to be picked apart. Darling Dan is thumbing his nose all the way to the bank, but it wouldn't kill the guy to perfect his prose. Please, for the love of Fibonacci.

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23. Godsent

Godsent
Author: Richard Burton
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Genre: Thriller
ISBN: 978-1-61145-706-3
Pages: 464
Price; $24.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

When Kate finds herself pregnant, her immediate thought is, “How can that be? I’ve had no relations with a man.” Confirmation from the angel, Gabriel, lets her know she’s carrying God’s son – the second son. Based on Mark 8:38, which states that the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, this is interpreted to mean that her son, Ethan, is the second son of God.

It’s a lot harder to announce yourself as the son of God in today’s technologically advanced society, especially when there are those who would like to see you perish quickly. Caught in the crossfire between the Congregation – a modern version of the Inquisition by the Catholic Church, and Conversatio – a group eagerly awaiting the second son, Ethan is forced to rely on his great-grandfather, Papa Jim, for protection. But Papa Jim is not the man he pretends to be, and he is more concerned about himself than Ethan. Using a whirlwind tour around the country and podcasts from his website, Ethan proclaims his message to the world. But what really is his message? Filled with compassion for the hurting people he encounters, he struggles with his desire to help, while also allowing them free will.

As a devout Catholic, I was really disappointed with this book. First, I don’t interpret this Bible verse in the way the author did. But more importantly, I felt that there was a wonderful opportunity to reinforce and uphold traditional Christian values through Ethan, but instead he chose to lean toward a much more liberal interpretation of morality. Ethan actually has the audacity to say that God was wrong, and that he had made mistakes! And he rejected, for all of humanity, the ultimate gift Jesus gave us, in offering Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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24. The Hypnotists: Hypnotize Me, by Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman isn't exactly a newbie in the realm of children's literature.  As Canadian kids, we all read This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall and as a librarian I know that he's been publishing solidly all along.  But here comes my confession...I hadn't read his books for a long, long time.  I am very happy that I picked up the first book in The Hypnotists series.  Not only is this book a page turner, but it has humor, big ideas and suspense all rolled into a great story.

Jackson (Jax) Opus is a seemingly regular NYC kid.  He's just trying to get to basketball with his best friend Tommy Cicerelli, but the bus just passes them by.  In a fit of desperation, Jax jumps out into the bus lane in front of the next uptown bus and stares the driver down until he stops.  Jax apologizes upon boarding the bus and implores the driver to get them to 96th Street as soon as possible.  The bus takes off and is soon speeding through red lights, passing stops, and terrifying everyone.  Once at 96th Street, the driver stops, lets the boys off, and resumes his regular route.

Weird.

Then comes the basketball game.  Jax is not evenly matched against Rodney, but somehow he is managing to hold him off.  And when Jax wants him to miss, he does.

What is going on?

After a series of seemingly unrelated events, Jax ends up being recruited Dr. Elias Mako, founder and director of The Sentia Institute as a part of their New Horizons program.  Dr. Mako seems to come with his own tagline - "Dr. Elias Mako has devoted his life to New York City education and is an inspiration to every single one of us."  Anyone who comes into contact with Sentia seems to repeat these same words.

Odd.

But Jax's parents are all for it.  Jax learns that he comes from some very powerful bloodlines.  Both of his parents families had the gift of hypnotism, and Jax seems to have inherited a rare command of his gift.  After spending every extra hour at Sentia, Jax is getting uneasy with the whole thing.  He has questions and nobody seems to want to answer them.  Being able to hypnotize people seemed like no big deal when it involved extra gravy and hopping up and down, but add some political intrigue and scandal and throw in computers and blackmail, and Jax's abilities could take a very different and dangerous turn.

Korman has written a thriller that will get kids thinking big.  How are our opinions formed?  How are we influenced?  Where would you draw the line when it comes to sticking by your values?   The relationship between Jax and Tommy is perfect and laugh out loud funny.  Their dialogue is authentic and readers will definitely want more from these two!

1 Comments on The Hypnotists: Hypnotize Me, by Gordon Korman, last added: 8/23/2013
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25. Book Spotlight: Dead Dreams by Emma Right

emma cover

 

Eighteen-year-old Brie O’Mara has so much going for her: a loving family in the sidelines, an heiress for a roommate, and dreams that might just come true. Big dreams–of going to acting school, finishing college and making a name for herself. She is about to be the envy of everyone she knew. What more could she hope for? Except her dreams are about to lead her down the road to nightmares. Nightmares that could turn into a deadly reality.

Book Title: Dead Dreams, Book 1, a young adult contemporary psychological thriller and mystery

Print Length: 170 pages

Publisher: Right House Books; 2013 First edition

(August 26, 2013)

Format: Kindle

ASIN: B00ESVEVBQ

Purchase at Amazon!

Music video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM7MI_3vqyo

emma

Emma Right is a happy wife and Christian homeschool mother of five living in the Pacific West Coast of the USA. Besides running a busy home, and looking after their five pets, which includes two cats, a bunny and a Long-haired dachshund, she also writes stories for her children. She loves the Lord and when she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she is telling her kids to get theirs in one.

Right worked as a copywriter for two major advertising agencies and won several awards, including the prestigious Clio Award for her ads, before she settled down to have children.

Social Links:

Email Address: emmarightmarketing@gmail.com

Website: http://www.emmaright.com

Twitter link @emmbeliever

Facebook link https://www.facebook.com/DeadDreamsEmmaRight

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18396455-dead-dreams

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Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Emma-Right/e/B00BD7C4A8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

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1 Comments on Book Spotlight: Dead Dreams by Emma Right, last added: 11/9/2013
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