Review: JC Burke – The Things We Promise

The Things We Promise
JC Burke

During the height of the HIV and AIDs epidemic in the 1990s, Gemma is blissfully ignorant of any health issues that could be going on in her home town of Sydney. Her worst concerns are who she will hang out with school and what kind of hairdo she is going to have her brother Billy do for her formal.

I’ll be the first to say that a lot of the language in the novel is offensive. It’s particularly offensive to gay people, eg. “limp-wristed, pillow-biting, doughnut punching bum bandit”. Which, given the subject matter, I’m not surprised that it’s targeted so negatively. But I also appreciated the hard feelings and accuracy of that. It felt ‘real’.

The problem some reviewers had with this novel was that it was horrifically offensive to a variety of people. While I agree that it is, I also accept that this novel is an accurate snapshot of the early 90s, where this sort of language, beliefs and behaviour was common. If you are easily offended and can’t understand the setting of the novel (such as a slavery novel with ‘nigga’ in it), this novel is not for you.

It’s an interesting way of approaching the early years when very few people knew about HIV and how it was transmitted. It paints a picture of how miserable things really were from a personal perspective, not just a sheer number of people who were infected as a sterile statistic.

I’m giving this three stars. It took me a while to warm up to it, and despite eventually enjoying it, it seemed a little forced at times.

Allen & Unwin | 22nd February 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Review: John Scalzi – The Collapsing Empire

The Collapsing Empire
John Scalzi

Kiva thinks that the worst of her problems is potentially infected Haverfruit… not the collapse of inter-space travel as they know it. While the characters struggle to understand the devastating consequences this will have on their personal lives, the potential to wreak havoc on the universe is limitless.

This is a low key science fiction novel that is easy to read, with not too much jargon or assumed knowledge. I found myself slipping effortlessly into the pages and refusing to come out again. The parts of physics and basic explanations of the Flow made my eyes glaze over a little, but I didn’t need to completely skip those sections to keep my interest!

This is definitely an adult’s novel. There are graphic sex scenes and unflinching comments from the characters who have failed to get a sex life happening. It’s actually quite refreshing as there is nothing romantic going on in these couplings, it’s sex just because it’s desired! Which I can imagine is quite freeing for people in this universe, as well as an open mind to practically everything.

The characters are nicely fleshed out, and I enjoyed getting to know each of them. I was devastated to discover that this was ‘Book One’. I’m ready to know more about them, and I can’t wait to read the next novel. I can’t think how they can fix things the way they are now, but I look forward to finding out.

I’m giving this 5 stars as the first adult sci-fi novel I have enjoyed in some time. If you love sci-fi, I’m not sure this will be for you because it’s too light!

Pan Macmillan | 1st April 2017 | AU$19.99 | Paperback

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Review: Jeanne Ryan – Charisma

Charisma
Jeanne Ryan

Aislyn is cripplingly shy, barely able to function in school social settings and completely inept at parties. Her little brother Sammie has cystic fibrosis and is hoping for a genetic cure. Instead, Aislyn is offered a split second change to change her shyness into audacity – but the consequences could be deadly.

There are lots of crazy gene enhancements that can take place, and will take place in the future. What this novel sets out is the capability of gene technology to change fundamental aspects of human personality, Gattica style, but after the human subject is already grown. Crisper-Cas makes this all possible, in real time! This novel could be happening right now…

This novel made me think of former.ly in terms of unknown suspense, and Sapient and The Ego Cluster for gene engineering. Oh! And there’s the regulars, where becoming beautiful is just some drops away. In fact, I would think of this novel as a slightly simpler teenage/YA version of The Ego Cluster.

As I’ve been saying lately, any YA/teenage novels about science are great (The Square Root of Summer) and this one is a really good example because it also deals with the ethical implications of some areas of science. I loved this novel and happily tore it apart in a couple of hours (neglecting everything else, and holding it in one hand while I ate).

Honestly, apart from the side effects, I didn’t see anything wrong with Charisma. So perhaps that is the explanation for the ending. The bigger question it is asking is whether it is ‘right’ to treat something that ‘could be’ overcome by therapy. Aislyn tells us she has tried everything, and nothing has worked. Isn’t this just another form of medication?

I’m giving this 4 stars. I’m not going to re-read it, it don’t have the same qualities as Sapient and The Ego Cluster, but it is a much more accessible read for teens without too much heavy science.

Simon & Schuster | 1st April 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Review: Brigid Kemmerer – Letters to the Lost

Letters to the Lost
Brigid Kemmerer

It’s been months since Juliet’s mother was killed in a hit and run. Juliet visits her grave, weeps and writes letters, wondering how she will ever move on with her life. Declan has been doing public service at that same cemetery for months, and when he discovers one of her letters and writes back, a friendship begins that neither of them would have predicted – and opening up to a perfect stranger is sometimes the only way to talk about guilt.

My hands are legitimately still shaking as I sit down to write this review. The final chapters are so compelling that it was impossible to put down, and I was left crying despite, or perhaps because, of the ending. This is a powerful novel that pulls you in gently, then rips your heart out for caring.

Other reviewers have mentioned that they didn’t click with Declan, and couldn’t love a character who was potentially violent and rough. But really? Most people think they want a ‘bad boy’ hero, but don’t think about why things might be the way they are. For me, Declan wasn’t a cliche placeholder, but a breathing character that I recognised and felt real pain with.

If anything, Juliet was the weaker character for me. I do like the way she eventually gets insight into the way teachers see ‘bad’ kids, but she was a little bit too… clingy? Grief changes people in different ways though, and that’s quite a lot of what this novel was about.

What I want more of? I need more of Rev. I want to get inside his skin too. His behaviour towards the end of the novel makes me want to love him more, because I also got reverberations of feelings with him.

The only other recent novel I can think of at the moment that would be similar to this one is Haunt Me, where the author starts to delve into guilt and depression and getting a healthy dose of therapy to deal with problems, rather than just starting a love story! But I gave that one only 3 stars, because the characters couldn’t do it for me. Juliet and Declan on the other hand, I could keep reading them all day!

I’ve previously reviewed Thicker Than Water by Kemmerer, and I gave it 4 stars. But this novel? Letters to the Lost gets 5 stars from me, and I unequivocally can’t wait to read more from this author. Fantastic work.

Bloomsbury| April 2017 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Review: Joy Callaway – The Fifth Avenue Artists Society

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society
Joy Callaway

Virginia wants to be a novelist and marry the boy next door. This wasn’t necessarily a problem – except that in the 1890s women were expected to marry and produce children rather than having a career. It seems as if she will get to have both dreams come true, right until “her man” proposes to someone more wealthy.

This novel was sent to me by mistake by Allen & Unwin, but I decided to read it anyway. I love music and appreciate artist talent, despite not having much talent (or none, when it comes to art) and so I thought it could be good. Instead, I was hit with Ginny’s romance, and very little writing! I was frustrated that she didn’t do more with her art. I also found it unrealistic in how talented simply EVERYONE was.

Ginny got very close to men that she wasn’t married to. She’s kissing them in public, being felt up on the couch. For a period romance, I don’t think this was realistic. The same applied for some of her sisters. I thought that the 1890s was a very conservative time, even in America. Someone please correct me if I am wrong, I know that history is not my strong suit.

The ending could have had more pizzaz. Considering that Ginny was all ‘If it’s not my Charlie, I’m not going to marry’, she was pretty broken about what happened with the salon. And her hero worship for her brother was… cloying? Unrealistic? Ginny may be an idealist, but I didn’t think she was that much of an idiot!

With all that in mind, I still stayed up late finishing the novel and so I’ll be giving it 3 stars. I was just disappointed in the ‘happy ending’, and the way the prose got slower and slower as the novel progressed.

Allen & Unwin | 23rd November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Review: Michael Finkel – The Stranger in the Woods

The Stranger in the Woods
Michael Finkel

Christopher Knight drove until his truck ran out of petrol, then walked into the woods and didn’t speak to another human for another 27 years. He survived in only a tent through the harshest winters of Maine, stealing food from nearby communities to survive. As a riddle and a legend, most feared his invasions into their homes – despite never actually seeing him.

I learnt some really fascinating things about surviving in the woods, or at least in cold temperatures. I couldn’t stop telling people about all the cool things I had learnt and the implications and complaints of the novel in terms of its comments on society. Please go and buy or borrow a copy of this novel! It is a fantastic read.

I think it is unfair to say that he is ‘the last true hermit’. There could be other hermits out there that just haven’t been caught or identified, particularly in Asian countries where meditation and retreat is revered. What comes to mind is an isolated tribe that was only recently discovered by entirely an accident. I liked that the novel did explore some of the hermits of the past.

After I finished this novel, I was left dying to know more about his life after the period covered in the novel. I googled, and googled, and all I got were photos of Chris that destroyed the picture of him I had in my head. I appreciate his need for privacy, and his family’s need for privacy.

I’d be keen to go ‘off-grid’ and live a slightly more hermit-y life. I’d need someone to provide me with novels though, and I’m not sure my body fat is sufficient to keep me through a icey winter! Also, I really like my family and I wouldn’t want them to get left behind (or not know where I had gone). That’s life.

Simon & Schuster | 1st March 2017 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Review: Laurie Frankel – This Is How It Always Is

This Is How It Always Is
Laurie Frankel

Penn couldn’t keep away from Rosie when she was interning as a doctor and he was writing his ‘damn novel’. When they inevitably get married, they know that they want a couple of kids – and end up with 4 boys before having a final run of getting a biological girl. Instead, they get Claude, who for his fifth birthday wants to ‘be a girl’. This novel is an exploration of what happens in a family, and a community, when a secret this big is kept for years.

This is from the perspective of the adults for the most part, but the omniscient narrator reveals all that you could hope for. It’s not ‘just another transgender novel’. Some of the lines from it are so memorable and touching that you will be tempted to cry. It’s ok – I cried, I’m not going to hold it against you.

I’ve left this too long before writing a review to give you a proper run-down of what I loved about it. Just reading other people’s reviews on GoodReads of this novel makes me want to read it again.

The author is a parent of a transgender child, but this is not her story. This is a fictionalised account which I think could reflect many families’ experiences when it comes to living with (and to an extent, explaining) a child with gender dysphoria. All I can say is that more novels like this help de-mystify gender dysphoria to the general population and perhaps will help reduce the horrifically high rate of transgender suicides.

I’ll give this the full five stars – I couldn’t stop reading it and talking about it to my partner. This is for adults, and fits a niche that George and Luna (both decent teenage/YA novels in their own rights) just don’t fill. I loved it, not because it was a niche novel, but because it was bloody well written.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2017 | AU $32.99 | Paperback

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Review: Robin Storey – An Affair with Danger

An Affair with Danger
Robin Storey

Will is held up in an armed robbery, and can no longer think straight. His life as a lawyer should have prepared for the court to stand witness, but instead he finds himself falling for the perp’s girlfriend, Frankie. What follows is an affair that is perhaps a little dangerous.

The author gets points for making the novel potentially race along, skipping years where necessary to make the plot move. What redeemed this novel a little was the writing style, and the gentle nature of the male protagonist. He wasn’t all macho, which made it a refreshing change from other romance novels. Not to mention it was a MALE protagonist, which is rare in this genre.

This was a throwaway novel. It’s nothing special, I’m sorry to say. Where it fails is that it didn’t leave me with a sense of having gained anything in reading it. I didn’t get attached enough to the characters, I didn’t learn anything particularly pertinent about being a lawyer. It left me feeling lukewarm, with the romance/affair not being ‘throbbing’ enough to keep my attention.

This author did send me this novel off her own bat, and has spent a very unfair amount of time waiting for this review. I also interviewed her back in 2016. It makes me wish I could have gotten more out of the novel and given it a more positive review. I’m going to give it a lower end of a 3 star review, because I did finish reading it.

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Interview with Frank Daidone

An Interview with Frank Daidone, author of Life’s Equation

 

 

For those who haven’t read it yet, can you give us a quick summary of what Life’s Equation is all about?

It’s really about asking ourselves ‘What is my purpose?” More specifically, questioning whether or not we’re on the right path. As far back as I can remember, I’ve attempted to make sense of my own purpose in life, sometimes accepting only what seemed realistic while disregarding pretty much anything else. Most of us subconsciously go through this same exercise throughout multiple stages of our lives, while others constantly surrender to the critical voice in their head, replacing the possibility and creativity with resistance and doubt.

We all have the tendency to set unfulfilling goals for ourselves, which restricts our personal potential and makes us miss valuable opportunities because of our own struggle with self-doubt.

That’s how Life’s Equation came together. I wanted to share my own stories about people I’ve met along the way who influenced me in inspiring ways while also elaborating further on some basic, but unexpected truths and life lessons that I hope, in turn, will inspire readers of the book. I hope readers will celebrate their experiences through logically discovering their true purpose, all while helping to make the world a better place in the process.

You are accomplished in so many parts of your life. What inspired you to take the plunge into authoring a book?

I’ve always had a unique, and I believe, acute perspective on reality. I also almost always apply logic to projects, challenges and truly any issue I’m dealt with, working to eliminate and/or reduce any emotional barriers that can cloud judgment and clarity. Throughout my life, I’ve had the ability to see my life and experiences both internally and externally.
In other words, while I’m experiencing situations in the moment whether mundane or extraordinary, I’m collecting the information, almost as an observer, to be able to apply it in a scientific manner to gain a clearer perspective and understanding. I began putting a pen to paper to create a formula that made sense of one’s experiences and how information gained from those experiences is constituted through exploring a common energy in all living things twenty years ago. The reflection of my life’s experiences through this process is what inspired me to be a writer.

Memoirs are such a delicate craft – it’s really a balance between personal and the
universal. Was it difficult to balance the two?

Not really, when you have the connection of the personal to the universal, clarity and balance of the two become more accessible. The process itself was transformational and certainly there were certain roadblocks as it was almost like working in real time. Different from most people, I don’t have a problem putting myself out there, in fact I needed to check in to make sure it wasn’t too much and wanted to keep my stories relevant and with empathy for the readers.

What do you consider to be the most essential elements of a well-written memoir?

I strongly believe that when one chooses to write such a personal exposé, it’s essential to go “all in.” In other words, if you’re not going to put everything out there from the beginning to the end, even being remotely tentative, you might want to choose another route. It’s just my personal opinion, but I believe writing in a relatable manner including honest stories, both humorous and heartbreaking is essential to a good memoir.

Each chapter provides incredible insight and an overall lesson. Do you have a favorite from the book?

That’s a hard question because I believe the lessons in all of the chapters are pertinent to the message. However, if I were to answer the question honestly, I do have a few; Chapter four on perspective is one of the individually empowering concepts that the reader can actually have control over. I also like the final chapter on “purpose” because it incorporates imagination in order to help craft one’s future.

Your book has been impacting people across all ages and stages of their life. What’s the biggest lesson you hope they take away from reading Life’s Equation?

The feedback both verbally and through written reviews has been extraordinary. I’ve had people both young and old thank me in very emotional manners for writing the book and have expressed to me how much the message impacted them personally and often times helped with healing. I hope that the readers gain an understanding that while we are all unique in our own way, there really is a common energy in all of us. I hope that message is clarified and inspires them to want to help make the world a better place, not just for themselves, but for all.

A percentage your book sales goes toward United Cerebral Palsy. Can you tell us a bit more about how and why you got involved with the organization?

As children, alongside my family, my sister and I were both volunteers for UCP as a result of my brother having Cerebral Palsy. In dedicating my book to my brother, I felt it necessary to get involved with a related organization to help in any way I could and formed a relationship with the Director of Institutional Support and donate $1 of every book sale to UCP.

That’s truly incredible! Can you tell us a bit about your brother Anthony, and how his CP impacted your family dynamic growing up? How did it affect you?

Anthony was and still is my true hero and my inspiration for practically every charge in my life. While we never exchanged words verbally to each other we had a very special connection. His joy of life despite his extraordinary inhibiting circumstances far surpassed any level of contentment I have ever witnessed in any human being. While our family growing up was restricted to doing practically any normal family activities, outings or vacations together, Anthony’s existence enriched the dynamic in our family and shaped who we all are today.

What’s on the horizon for you as an author? Can we expect to see more writing from you in 2017 and beyond?

I am currently working on book number two as we speak. It is a continuation of Life’s Equation by taking the ideas and concepts to a new level attempting to address issues we all face as a society. I have a vision of a brighter more peaceful existence for all living things and I see a clear path on how we can get there. My next book will be a roadmap for peace.

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit

Guest Post: Erik Therme on ‘Kindle Scout’

An Introduction to Kindle Scout!

I’m excited to hold a guest post today by Erik Therme! I’ve previously interviewed Erik for the release of his second novel, and reviewed his first novel, Morton. This newest novel is titled ROAM.

Erik wants to tell us about Kindle Scout as an option for non-traditional publishing. Take it away Erik!

One of the questions I’m most commonly asked is one of the most difficult to answer: “How should I publish my book? Should I pursue a traditional publishing deal, which might take months—if not years—to attain? Or should I self-publish, which leaves me in total creative control . . . but also in control of everything?” The easy answer, of course, is that both paths have their pros and cons, but what many people don’t realize is there’s a third option: Kindle Scout.

For those not familiar with Scout, it’s an Amazon program where readers “vote” on whether or not a book should be awarded a publishing contract. Authors promote their book for 30 days, and at the end of that time, the Scout team makes a determination. The process is surprisingly simple.

The first thing you need is a cover. Sure, you can whip one up yourself using free online tools, but let me offer a strong caveat: To be a fiscally successful writer, you have to treat your writing like a business, which means spending money. Think of your cover as an investment. It’s the first thing a reader is going to see. Yes, it can get pricey to have one designed from scratch, but pre-made covers are prevalent and affordable. Two of my books—Resthaven and Roam—were both existing covers from a pre-made site, and I’ve gotten numerous compliments on both. Spend some money on a cover. You won’t regret it.

Next: uploading your manuscript. The Scout site recommends your book be professionally copyedited before submission, but for those who can’t afford that expense, fear not—if the book is selected, it will be edited before publication. Some books receive light in-house editing, while others are outsourced to Kirkus. Regardless, having your book copyedited before you submit will only increase your chances of having it selected, so if you have the funds, it’s not a bad idea.

Last, but certainly not least, is your book description. I could easily write an entire post on crafting book blurbs, but for now, I’ll keep it simple. At minimum, you want to disclose the protagonist, the setting, and reveal the conflict. Show what’s at stake. Your goal is to hook the reader and entice them into wanting more. Some authors joke it’s more difficult to write the book description than the actual book, but don’t despair; practice makes perfect!

And with that, you’re ready to submit. Once everything is uploaded, it only takes a few days for your campaign to go live on the Kindle Scout site. If your campaign receives a lot of page visits and votes (or nominations, as they call them) your book goes into the “Hot & Trending” category. The longer it stays in this category, the better chance it has of being noticed. The final selection process is based on multiple factors, and no one—not even previous Scout winners—knows the exact criteria.

Writing a book in itself is a major accomplishment and one you should be proud of –regardless of whether or not you’re selected. All you can do is write the best book you can, believe in yourself, and try to make your own luck.

Sharing is Caring 🙂Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponShare on Reddit