Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Charlene Reviews - Life is Great!: Revealing the 7 Secrets to a More Joyful YOU! by Rabbi Yitz Wyne

ISBN #: 978-1456869441
Page Count: 162
Copyright: October 3, 2011
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation

(Taken from www.xlibris.com)

Living joyfully is very attainable. All you need is the right combination of wisdom and skills in order to do this. This book will teach you how to become a happier person and will empower you to make the lives of others better as well. It will help you unlock the chains that are holding you back from living a happy, more productive life.

Charlene's Review:

Rabbi Yitz Wyne gives us insight into finding more joy in our lives. In Secret 2: Choosing Joy, he states that "we create a lot of our own frustration, dissatisfaction and misery." It is totally up to us whether or not we choose happiness. His book, Life is Great, breaks the steps down, one by one, to the path that leads to joy in every day situations. Secret #7: Finding Your Greater Purpose focuses on what he refers to as the three major areas in life that can lead you to a more meaningful and happy life. These are our heart, or what we put our emotions into; our soul, or our time; and our resources, as the use of our money. Finding our purpose leads us to living more joyfully.

There are some basic, refreshing truths in the pages of Life is Great. Rabbi Yitz Wyne writes in a sincere, straightforward manner, and backs his beliefs with the teachings of Jewish tradition and the Torah. Some of his writing was a bit confusing for me, as I am not familiar with Judaism. Having said that, there is still much to learn from his book. At the end of every chapter there are points to remember, and, my personal favorite, an "if you want to experience more" exercise. Rabbi Yitz Wyne writes with wisdom and clarity, outlining simple truths leading to more joyful living. There is something for everyone here, regardless of religious beliefs or life background. As he states himself, "Happier people make the world a better place."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Vanity and Valor by R. Lynn

File Size: 509 KB
Copyright: December 12, 2011
Publisher: Sui Generis Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

His father's dying wish was for him to give up racing chariots and focus on being the new Dominus. The problem with that was, all he ever wanted to do was race chariots. When his desires and duty clash he finds himself at the verge of losing everything.

She was sold into slavery by her father and purchased by Rome's champion charioteer. Forced to work in his trigarium with the horses, she learns that women hold little to no value and that a prized racehorse has more rights than she does. When faced with the choice to risk her life and deny her status ... will she? Doing so could get both her and her Dominus killed.

Mandy's Review:

I've had this book read for about a week, but I could never figure out where to start my review. Perhaps it was because every time I tried, the hubs would turn on The Big Bang Theory and I would get distracted ... Bazinga! =)

Anyhow, let's start with this ...

I'm not sure that I would consider this a romance. There is not a lot of wooing or sexual tension in this book.  I think it would be better to call this a historical fiction piece.

We start off with Sellah (one of the main characters) being bound with other women as slaves. She was sold into slavery by her father in order to pay off his drinking debt. They're on their way to Rome where they'll all be auctioned off to the highest bidder as prostitutes ... some to the lowly citizens of Rome, others to the privileged upper class.

Due to a slight altercation and the soft heart of one of the Dominus' employees, Sellah and her friend end up as part of the Dominus' slaves. The Dominus, Thaddius, was not in the market to buy new slaves. His intentions were to procure new charioteers since it was deemed that he should no longer race as it was unbecoming of a Dominus' station in life. However, wind up with slaves he does and heads home with no new charioteers to speak of. This, of course, does not make him happy.

Thaddius is struggling to take on the reins of being the Dominus. His heart is with chariot racing. Oh, sure, he knew one day his father would pass away and being Dominus would fall to him, but he just didn't expect it so soon. Now his heart is at war with his head, causing him to make some bad decisions in order to assert his authority with the slaves.

Sellah is now added to the war between Thaddius' heart and head. He starts to have feelings for her, even though she is below his station. Even jealousy rears its ugly head when he catches what he thinks is Sellah and another slave kissing ... which causes him to get angry and make even more bad decisions.

Thaddius needs a good swift kick in the butt. Sellah needs to figure out who and what she really wants.

Will Thaddius win the chariot races or will he lose his entire estate to a money-hungry, nasty Dominus looking for revenge against Sellah?

Will Thaddius ever admit his true feelings to Sellah? If so, how does he intend to overcome her position as his lesser?

Will Sellah ever calm the wild nature she has?

I enjoyed this story being set in Rome, however, the language of the book threw me a little. It didn't really sound how I thought Romans would speak. Yes, there were some words used that related to the times (i.e. chariots, Dominus, Coliseum, etc.), but the flow of the character's conversations just didn't feel authentic to me. I don't even know if I'm explaining this correctly ... I'm probably not, but I still hope you can understand what I'm trying to say ... I felt like, at times, they were Westerners (i.e. Americans, Canadians) rather than Romans.

Despite that, this was an interesting read with a unique storyline. I loved that it ended the way it did. I would recommend this to those who enjoy a historical fiction novel with nuances of romance.

Kathy Reviews: Harry Wall's Man by John Leahy

(Taken from front of ebook)

Ridley Case is in a race against time to discover the secrets of a very strange apartment tower. Will he be able to save its residents before something terrible takes place?

Kathy's Review:

At just 50 pages, Harry Wall's Man, a novella that would be considered sci-fi/thriller is not going to take you very long to get through. Overall I'd say this is an intriguing concept - that a building made out of a mysterious material can move on its own using human power. The writing is average, nothing amazing. There are a few strange word usages that threw me - for instance, using the word "bonnet" to mean the trunk of a car (I think this is a British thing, but the story is set in L.A.). The true nature of what "The Man" is, is deliberately vague throughout the narration. I still am unclear as to the purpose of "The Man" or why it is moving. The story ends in a cliffhanger, so clearly there is meant to be a sequel. As short as Harry Wall's Man is, it definitely feels unfinished. I don't think I would tune in for the second book, but if this were a little bit longer I'd definitely like to see how this story is going to be resolved.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge: Animal Farm by George Orwell

I chose Animal Farm by George Orwell as one of my 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge books. If you're curious as to the official rules and guidelines for this challenge, simply click here.

Fortunately, this book is also #564 on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, so that's another book on that particular list I can cross off!

Book Info:

ISBN #: 0-451-52466-7
Page Count: 128
Copyright: 1946
Publisher: Signet Classic

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

This remarkable book has been described in many ways - as a masterpiece ... a fairy story ... a brilliant satire ... a frightening view of the future. A devastating attack on the pig-headed, gluttonous and avaricious rulers in an imaginary totalitarian state, it illuminates the range of human experience from love to hate, from comedy to tragedy.

Mandy's Review:

I vaguely remember reading this book while in the 7th or 8th grade, but I wanted to re-read it because I had forgotten the details of the story.

Essentially, there is a farm ran by humans. The animals are tired of the treatment by the humans and form a rebellion. They run the humans off the farm and take it over themselves, determined to have a better life on their own. They change the name of the farm from Manor Farm to Animal Farm as a representation of their new freedom.

Natural leaders form, commandments are made (then later modified), conspiracies, manipulations and bullying becomes a natural part of the animal's way of living. It's easy to see how Mr. Orwell's book could be compared to governmental rulers, in any country.

I rather enjoyed this book, but for the fantasy aspect of it instead of the political. It's easy to see how some animals would feel as those on Animal Farm did ... if animals could think, reason and act like humans can, that is. If you haven't read this classic in a while, I recommend giving it another go.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Intoxication by Tim Kizer

ASIN #: B004V49L24
File Size: 260 KB
Format: Kindle Edition

(Taken from Amazon)

Leslie has a suspicion: someone at work is trying to poison her. Can she prove it? No, and she doesn't care that she can't as she takes the law into her hands. How about those who dismiss her fears and believe she is paranoid? Well, they certainly deserve to be punished. What does she do when she starts questioning her own suspicions -- and sanity? Hmm. That's complicated.

In this disturbing tale of derangement, a young psychopathic woman is slipping into madness as she fights an enemy that may exist only in her imagination. She has to resort to desperate measures when she realizes that a gun, security cameras in her apartment, and constant vigilance will not be enough to survive. It is hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if the cat is not there, but Leslie, with her resolve fueled by paranoia, is hell-bent on finding and slaughtering it.

Mandy's Review:

This ebook actually had three different short stories in it: Intoxication, Hitchhiker and The Bike.

Intoxication has promise, but I did have issues with it. Leslie, the main character, seems to be a little too uptight and suspicious. She was obsessed with the conspiracy theory that people in her office were trying to poison her coffee and kill her, but the reader's not really told why Leslie has started thinking this way.

If the characters were fleshed out more and the storyline written to be more believable in some areas, then this short story would pack a major punch. As it stands, it may give the reader a mild slap.

Hitchhiker was much better than Intoxication. I enjoyed the twist the author provided between the two main characters. They're both murderous killers with very different styles. I would be curious to see what the author could do with this as a full-length novel.

The best short story of the three is The Bike ... although the reason for the plot twist could've been better. It was the best written piece, but I don't see it being more than what it is now.

Overall, this was a quick read despite there being three stories. It's not the best thing I've read, but it's not the worst either. I'd probably rate it a 4 out of 10.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Nerds Are Sexy T-Shirt Giveaway!

Vanity and Valor author, R. Lynn, has donated two 'Book Nerds Are Sexy' t-shirts for this giveaway!

Giveaway is international and will last from today, January 27th, until next Friday, February 3rd. Both winners will be chosen Saturday, February 4th, and contacted via email. Winners will have 48 hours to respond. If selected winner does not respond within the designated 48 hours, another winner will be chosen in their place.

T-shirt sizes available are one Medium and one X-Large. See below for pictures of the front and back. Form is below pictures. Good luck!



Entry Form:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kathy Reviews - Stone Bearers: The Gift by R. E. Washington

File Size: 231 KB
Format: Kindle Edition

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

"My name is Constance and this story starts the day I was ripped apart."

Caught in a battle between two supernatural forces, five junior high students are killed. But Constance, Jonathan, Avery, Maria, and Danielle return from the dead -- and they've changed.

They each carry a piece of a soul stone and with it they have extraordinary powers. Now they can summon weapons from thin air and even start fires with their minds. With these powers comes a connection they never wanted, and coming back from the dead hasn't wiped away the grudges between them. When one of them loses their mind to the power, they are soon caught in a battle against themselves and an enemy that wants to make sure that this time they stay dead.

Kathy's Review:

Short but sweet, the young adult fiction novella Stone Bearers: The Gift brings a group of high school students into the forefront of a war they didn't even know was being waged on Earth. Each with distinct personalities that don't necessarily mesh well together, the group of students must learn to work together to protect their school against an enemy attack. Within this story, the author deals with the issue of bullying in high school, which is a current hot button topic. Maria, one of the Stone Bearers, has been suffering at the hands of a group of cheerleaders. When she gains a power, she doesn't necessarily do the right thing in retaliation. But that's what is refreshing about these characters - they're young, they're going to make mistakes.

I think this is a great start to an appealing series. Since there are some tensions within the group, I think the story could take some interesting turns as it progresses. I think young adults will really enjoy this as a series and will eagerly await the next installment after reading this one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon

ISBN #: 978-1599559063
Page Count: 280
Copyright: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

After her father's disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn't long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself. What Ella finds there starts a quest that will change her life and the entire kingdom.

With a supernatural twist on this beloved fairytale, it's a must read you'll never forget.

Mandy's Review:

I received this book through NetGalley last year and am just now getting around to reading and reviewing it.

The first thing I noticed right away was the cover. I love it. The colors, the artwork, the styling ... it all has that fairy tale feel to it and makes you want to pick it up and read it.

And, yes, Cinder and Ella is loosely based on the classic fairy tale, Cinderella. Do not presume to think you'll recognize the classic while reading this story, though. The author has successfully written a book using Cinderella as a tool, but not retelling the same old story. This is a brand new story despite what few similarities there may be.

Cinder is the most responsible of the four sisters. She helps out mainly to keep the peace ... and she does it with a smile, if you can believe that. Eventually, though, Cinder leaves home to go work in the castle to earn money that is needed for the family during their father's absence. While there, the Prince woos Cinder. Is it true love? Is it meant-to-be? Or is it a devious evil scheme from a Prince who has only his selfish intentions at heart?

Ella is forgotten by her mother, especially after Cinder leaves for the palace. Ella brought this upon herself, I believe, since she rarely helped with her other sisters, ran errands or did chores around the house. Eventually, Ella, too, leaves Willow Top (their home) and travels to a neighboring town to start a new life. Unfortunately, though, due to Cinder's angst over not knowing where her sister is, a chivalrous knight initiates a search-and-rescue mission for the "lost" sister.

If you take an emotionally unstable mother, four sisters, a delusional father, a chivalrous knight, a dark Prince, magic trees, evil intentions and some romantic notions then you have the makings of this novel. There's also the classic good versus evil that is so prevelant in fairy tales ... I mean, that is what helps to make the fairy tale a fairy tale ... right? Overall, it's an interesting take an a well-known classic that will entertain you as you read it. I would recommend it to those who enjoy a fairy tale that isn't a fairy tale.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Breaking Out by Bob Brink

ISBN #: 978-1450226769
Page Count: 244
Copyright: June 21, 2010
Publisher: iUniverse

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

As a child growing up in various cities and towns, Britt Rutgers exhibits both acute sensitivity and an insatiable ebullience that expresses itself in rebelliousness against his restrictive parents. But something profoundly important is missing deep inside. As he moves into his late teens in the 1950s on a farm near Mayfield, Iowa, his enthusiasm gradually morphs into agonizing self-consciousness, feelings of guilt, embarrassment over sexual naivete, and fear wrought by his fundamentalist religious upbringing. His parents have always placed his quiet older brother on a pedestal, and Britt begins to emulate him. Battling these internal demons, Britt is unable to concentrate and becomes panicky that he will fail his school subjects.

When Britt heads out for a night of bowling in February of his senior year, he has no idea that everything is about to change. Taunted by his friends, he returns home and tearfully confides to his parents that he has been miserable for some time. They send him to a sanitarium, where he is quickly diagnosed with schizophrenia and shock treatments begin. Over the next several years, between two periods spent in psychiatric institutions observing a plethora of colorful, and tragic, characters, Britt struggles not merely to function, but to flourish.

Breaking Out explores a family's dynamics and history, revealing the forces that shape an innocent child and make a train wreck of his crossing from adolescence into adulthood.

Kathy's Review:

From the opening scene, your heart will break for Britt, an incredibly sensitive, self-conscious teenager. When walking across a crowded gym floor brings him such anxiety that he can barely bring himself to do it, you know he has some major issues.

At times more like a psychology case study than a work of fiction, Breaking Out is as much about the evolution of psychiatric practice as it is about Britt himself. The author does a great job of showing anecdote after anecdote about Britt's early years and give us several indications of mental illness on both branches of his family tree. It's like the poor guy never stood a chance.

The author implies quite strongly that Britt's parents are to blame for his mental stability. They are not supportive of him, showing favoritism to his older brother, Kevin (who himself seems like he might have some issues - although the author doesn't spend a lot of time on him). They don't encourage Britt in school, they forbid him to go out for sports - in short, they deny him what a child needs most from his parents - love and nurturing.

Then, Britt is quickly whisked off to a mental institution, where it seems like he is given a snap assessment and immediately put on electroshock treatments. Can you even imagine this happening today? No group therapy, no one-on-one time with a doctor. Just getting zapped several times a week until Britt is deemed zapped enough to go home. It's quite scary to realize that this actually happened in the U.S. just a few decades ago.

This is not a pleasant read. There are scenes that will disturb you. Then there are scenes where you just feel bad for Britt. It held my interest the entire way through, as I was hoping that someone would come to this poor young man's rescue. As I mentioned before, sometimes this book feels like a case study that a professor would use in a psych class, posing the question on how they would diagnose Britt and what treatment they would administer. There are mundane recaps of Britt's college classes, his professors and what grades he made in each class that I feel were a bit long-winded and unnecessary to advance the plot.

And the only other thing I will mention is to have a dictionary handy. The author uses words that I had to look up, and I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person when it comes to language. Ebullient, for instance, which means enthusiastic, is used often, as is the word corpulent (overweight). Sometimes the word choice fits and other times, not so much. Britt describes a girl he dates in college as have a large proboscis - known as a "nose" in layman's terms. These are words you may have heard before, but I'm guessing the average reader probably hasn't.

Breaking Out will interest those who enjoy psychology or want to read about the way mental illness was treated in the mid-20th century. It may open your eyes and think about how things have changed for the better - although there's still a long way to go in learning how to deal with mental instability.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mandy Reviews - Bears, Recycling and Confusing Time Paradoxes: An Anthology of The Guide to Moral Living in Examples by Greg X. Graves

ISBN #: 978-1926959054
Page Count: 168
Copyright: April 1, 2011
Publisher: 1889 Labs Limited

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Do you want to recycle but aren't sure how? Are you concerned that a potential suitor may be a vampire? Have you attended a job interview only to be greeted by Hideous Telepathic Space-faring Lizardmen in Mansuits?

The Guide to Moral Living in Examples educates on these and many more common moral conundrums, offering bite-sized advice for nearly every improbably situation. Fueled by years of unintentional research on the connections between robotic bears, talking tattoos, and the best type of soap to remove irremovable rings, Greg X. Graves gives simple, friendly yet essential guidance on the twisted path to moral life. With an introduction by Brenton Harper-Murray and stunning illustrations by Jeff Bent, this anthology is a must-have for young and old aspiring moralists alike.

Mandy's Review:

This anthology was like a twisted version of Aesop's Fables. Each story ended with a moral ... most of which could not apply to normal human living. As far as entertainment value goes, though, they are humorous.

Here are a few examples of the morals:
  • If you encounter a bear in the woods, simply retreat to the nearest ship capable of interstellar travel.
  • Antibiotics, if taken for a non-bacterial infection, will backfire and create a man-sized prokaryote to kick your ass.
  • The future's gonna be awesome when everyone's riding dinosaurs.

The author's creativity and imagination shine in this collection of stories. And, even though I didn't care for it all that much, I would recommend this anthology to those who enjoy reading stories that are strange and not quite "right."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Guest Post: Empty Chairs by Deidra Manning

Although I'm right on time, it appears I am actually late. Everyone is seated - all the good spots taken - and I scan the room hoping that the open chairs I see are not the only ones available. I don't want to sit near her. Seeing no other options, I make my way to the table at the back, trying to mentally prepare. I wanted to enjoy myself today, but I can see now that's not going to happen.

Always dramatic and depressed, she never has anything good to say. There's always something wrong, and if anyone makes the mistake of asking her how she is doing, that person is trapped for what seems an eternity. She considers proper etiquette and exchange of pleasantries an invitation for therapy. Her countenance, demeanor, and attitude attach to those in close proximity, sucking joy and depleting spirit.

Not truly ready but expecting the worst, I sit down. "Hey, how are you?" I say, pretending to care through my fake smile. Clutching the edge of my chair, I'm already formulating my response and looking for a way of escape: It needs to sound heart-felt, but not gratuitous enough to allow for elaboration. If she goes on for too long, I'll pretend I need to go to the restroom.

Hands folding napkin, eyes shining but sullen, she dejectedly looks into my face. "Fine," she responds in monotone voice. "You don't have to sit here if you don't want to. I'm sure your friends will squeeze you in at their table." "I'm fine right here," I say with a smile, but this time it's not fake, for in the moment she looked into my eyes I saw my own reflection.

I used to be the one surrounded by empty chairs, desperately longing for a friend. I was once depressed, ever-seeking, always lonely. I remember reaching out, hoping and praying someone would care enough to listen - not just hear - if only for a brief moment. Empty chairs were the outward sign of my inner struggle - the manifestation of my greatest fear, and each one stood as a tribute to the oppression that kept me bound. Each one mocked, laughed, and tortured my exhausted soul.

Those surrounded by empty chairs are usually the ones who need us - need Him - most. May we learn to view them not as a warning, but as an opportunity to be light in darkness, hope in desperation, help for the hurting. Just as we may never know what those empty chairs represent, we may never realize the impact filling one of them can have.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Philo

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' - Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Submitted By:

Deidra Manning, Author
Devotions from the Middle

Blog: The Middle
Twitter: @DeidraManning

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mandy Reviews: A View from a Height by J. E. Murphy

File Size: 1339 KB
Copyright: January 19, 2011
Publisher: Portraits of Earth Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Here is a love story. But it is not the usual kind of love story. It is about the kind of love that can send the world spinning in new directions without the world even knowing that it was done. A discovered manuscript tells of a life that bridges the spirit world and the physical world. This manuscript tells the story of how, after a near death experience, a young Chinese girl develops the ability to observe and affect events at a distance. Her use of these psychic talents may change the world for good or evil.

While traveling out of her body, Xiao Chen becomes involved in a heroic struggle of incarnate spiritual beings to undo a terrible mistake - a mistake of a previous life that is having devastating consequences in this one.

A fantastic adventure that takes place in the real world of today, this is a tale of the undercurrents of existence of which we may be totally unaware. This volume includes The Dakini and The Bodhisattva, complete in one volume.

Mandy's Review:

I don't know where to begin ... I guess with the simplest statement: I hated this book. I have never been so glad for a book to be over.

Have you ever read something and it just seemed so "heavy" that you were mentally tired and had to stop reading it just to give your brain a rest? This book made me feel this way. After the first three chapters, the main character, Xiao Chen, had died twice, been locked inside a Chinese prison, lost both of her eyes and mastered the ability to travel, via meditation and dreams, to different times and places to help people. That was only 18% of the book according to Kindle. Trust me, she endured and experienced a lot more during the remaining 82% of the book.

Now, I realize this book was probably written for the purposes of getting people to think about life and how we all interconnect with everybody else. For a non-believer of reincarnation, though, it seemed way too dense and complicated and overwhelming. There were many times I almost stopped reading the book, but I continued on in the hopes that it would get better.

By the time I got into the second book of this two-book collection, the plot and characters were a little more interesting. However, having to struggle my way through the reading of the first book took whatever pleasure I would've had out of the second.

I'm sure there are people out there interested in reincarnation and the interconnectedness of all things, living and non-living. Apparently, though, I am not one of these people. I am just so grateful that I've finished the book and no longer have to read it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Charlene Reviews - Red: Daemon Moon Trilogy (Book One) by Jacqueline Kirk

ISBN #: 978-1466322578
Page Count: 204
Copyright: October 30, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace

Book Summary:
(Taken from Smashwords)

Sarah was born a werewolf but raised in a human family, a much loved daughter. Resigned to be the only one in her little town that was truly different. Then suddenly everything changed. The hunkiest boy in school turns out to be a daemon, she learns about her real family and worst of all - the Deliverance Men have come to town and they want her dead!

Charlene's Review:

Sara is like most teenagers. She goes to school, has a few good friends that she hangs out with, and although she knows she is adopted, she couldn't be happier with her home life. She has a secret, though; Sara is a werewolf. Other than an over-sized appetite and the ability to run faster than other humans, she has always been able to blend in, but that is about to change.

Richard attends Sara's school and is the all-American boy crush. Good looking and friendly, he suddenly takes an interest in Sara. He knows her secret, and has his own. Richard Bailey is a daemon, and he has a message for Sara; she and her family are in danger. Centuries ago, the Church started a secret faction called Deliverance Men who were trained to find preternaturals and kill them. Sara is now their target. While she wrestles with the knowledge of her past, and the sudden changes she faces, her family and friends pull together to try to save her.

Red is the second novel I have reviewed by Jacqueline Kirk. Targeted toward the young adult genre, she captivates her readers with a real understanding of the workings of the young adult mind. She writes in a simplistic way but tackles exciting topics. Red was no exception. Sara's struggles of fitting in with her peers, trying to maintain a "normal" existence, and still be true to herself are all parallel to what young readers face every day. Add to that the popularity of all things vampire/werewolf related and Ms. Kirk has a possible runaway hit.

This was a nice quick read for me, at just over 200 pages. Long enough to weave a suspenseful, energetic story, and short enough to keep it light. I like the particular quirks of the characters, especially as we learn more about their individual secrets. Here's hoping Ms. Kirk sends me the next book, 'cause I'm ready for more!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Guest Reviewer Emily Reviews: The Fat Chick Works Out by Jeanette Lynn DePatie

ISBN #: 978-0983343707
Page Count: 230
Copyright: April 15, 2011
Publisher: Real Big Publishing

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Based on knowledge gleaned over a lifetime of getting her big butt in motion and decades of teaching people of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities, Jeanette DePatie AKA The Fat Chick helps you learn to love your body and love exercise. Filled with over 50 exercises, loads of practical advice, tons of pictures and hilarious, and sometimes, heartbreaking stories from The Fat Chick's own journey, The Fat Chick Works Out! will not only help you get and stay fit, but also help you find peace with the skin you're in.

Emily's Review:

I was quite surprised to find that this book is very encouraging. The exercises in it are very practical for someone just starting out. Plus it gives encouragement to those who are moving forward. It was nice, for once, to find a book that doesn't make you feel bad for not having a "supermodel" body. Remembering to love yourself for who you are is a great motivator. Using the tools in the book that are available to help you on your journey to being healthy is a great way to start!!

Overall, this was a good book for someone who needs encouragement and help with being healthy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge: The Shake by Mel Nicolai

The Shake is the book I chose as the Crime/Mystery Fiction selection for The Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge. It is also a book I received from the author in exchange for a review.

Book Info:

ISBN #: 978-1453748831
Page Count: 238
Copyright: September 27, 2010
Publisher: CreateSpace

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

In The Shake, Mel Nicolai has turned to a hybrid genre combining hard-boiled realism with vampires. Contemporary central California is the setting. Shake is the vampire. Who to take off the menu is the question. Driven by contradictory needs, Shake pursues an elusive balance: a way to satisfy his need for human blood, preserve his suburban anonymity, and somehow acknowledge his debt to the people upon whom his life depends.

Mandy's Review:

To say I loved this book would be a small understatement. I didn't love it for the entertainment value, although it certainly was entertaining. I loved this book because of the intellectualism of the main character's view. I have a certain affinity for things, whether they be books, movies or people, that can make me think as well as entertain me during the process. This book definitely did both.

The first few chapters are an introduction to Shake, the main character and a vampire, through an internal philosophical monologue. Yes, I realize this may sound utterly boring and I did wonder if the whole book was going to be this way, but it was not boring (and, no, the whole book was not this way). As a matter of fact, those first chapters helped to build the foundation of my understanding of Shake.

Shake is a very contemplative individual. Even though he's a vampire, he doesn't kill just for the sake of killing. He has refined his selections of "donors" to those that are deemed "not worthy of living" through a process of elimination created to help alleviate whatever guilt he may briefly feel from feeding on a human. Not only does his process help alleviate guilt, but Shake also uses it to maintain his anonymity in his suburban life.

It is during one of his feedings that Shake's curiosity uncovers a coincidence relating to his own life. He chooses to follow the coincidence as far as he can ... not because he feels responsible, but because he's interested in finding out why things happen as they do and why people choose to act as they act. It is throughout this journey the reader follows Shake.

Entirely told in first-person, the reader is  introduced to Mio, Karla and Tony, the people in Shake's inner circle. Each of these complimentary characters have their own unique persona and combine well within Shake's world. The dynamics of the group give just enough lightness to the story so the reader isn't bogged down by Shake's contemplations, but not enough to consider this a "fluff" piece. It is extremely well-balanced and will satisfy both left- and right-brainers. I am eagerly awaiting the next segment of Shake's life to be published and released.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kathy's Review: The Mediator by Michael Abayomi

ASIN #: B006K0G2WY
File Size: 298 KB
Format: Kindle Edition

Book Summary:
(From the author)

A lawyer's search for truth and justice makes him a victim of the very same criminal prosecution system he has sworn to serve.

It started with a simple phone call. Next thing John knew, he was meeting with a reporter who claimed to have the information he needed to prove his client's innocence. But John could not foresee that its pursuit would lead him to the body of the informant, placing him at the scene of the crime and also making him the sole suspect. Now, with a presiding judge who seems dead-set on making an example out of him, John must first prove his own innocence, before he is sentenced to erasure, a form of capital punishment wherein the convict's memories are completely erased.

Kathy's Review:

The Mediator is a (very) short story surrounding John Davidson, a seemingly powerful man who is set up for murder, uncovering some dangerous secrets in the process. He has an interesting back story which we unfortunately don't get to see much of during this brief novella.

Fast-paced action fills the pages, leaving the reader (in this case, me) wanting more.

Right now I'd give this book about a 6/10 with huge room for improvement - I think it could easily be an 8 or 9. I think Abayomi can definitely build upon these characters and create something fantastic. There's so much unexplored territory in this story - I know the author plans on having sequels, but I think more attention is needed to this first installment.

The character development could go a little bit deeper. What exactly is a mediator? It seems like it's kind of like a lawyer, but this needs more explanation. How did John come to be in this position? What's with his secretary, Renee? Does his mentor, Robert McAllister, know more than he's letting on? What exactly happened to John's father? There are just a few questions I had while reading. I'd love to see these questions each get answered within the context of this book.

Aside from that, there are a couple of misused words and some grammatical errors sprinkled throughout. The biggest offender was "breaking an entry" where I think the author meant to say "breaking and entering." This term was used three times, so I don't think it was just a typo the first time. The word "commandeer" is used incorrectly as well.

The author clearly is headed in the right direction and I think just needs a little bit more work to get where he needs to go with this story. Read for yourself and see what you think!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions: #2

This meme was began and co-hosted by Tiger (Welcome To: All-Consuming Media) and Karen (For What It's Worth Reviews) as a way for book bloggers to open up and vent about their book-blogging experiences.

This week's question(s):

Have you ever had reading/blogging slumps?
How do you work through them or work around them?

Mandy's Answer:

I think it's safe to say that everybody who enjoys reading goes through reading slumps on occasion. Perhaps you get tired of reading the same genres over and over again. Perhaps you get tired of reading taking up the time you could be using to clean or cook or take care of your significant other. Perhaps reading cuts in on your sleeping time and you're plum worn out. Whatever the reason, we all experience slumps.

Whenever I experience a reading slump, I take a break. I simply put away all the books that I have to read and give my brain a breather for a few days. Then, when I'm ready, I'll slowly work my way back into taking on a full reading load ... which, for me, consists of two or three books at a time and reading several times a day, often well into the night.

Working my way back into reading usually involves one book. I take that book with me to work and read it on my lunch break. Eventually, I will get more and more engrossed in the story that it helps me get back into reading full-swing.

As far as blogging slumps go, I try not to get into a blogging slump. There are four reviewers on this blog, so there's usually always a review being posted. Where I slump at is with the memes. I used to participate in memes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, before this meme started. I don't remember the last time I participated in those other memes. I think that's because most memes post at 12:01 a.m. (some post before that), but by that time I'm either in bed asleep or reading and I do not feel like getting back up out of bed to get on the computer to post a meme. Then, in the mornings before work, I do not wake myself up in enough time to get on here and post them.

How can I get myself out of this partial blogging slump? I'm not sure, but I want to get back in the swing of it so my blog has more variety.

What about you?

Mandy Reviews - Wise Bear William: A New Beginning by Arthur Wooten

ISBN #: 978-0983563167
Page Count: 38
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Galaxias Productions

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

In Wise Bear William: A New Beginning, toys long forgotten in an attic discover that children are coming up to rescue them.

All wanting to be picked, each toy examines their own self-described shortcomings and turn to one another for comfort and advice. But the most important thing they discover is that as much as you fix things up on the outside, it's what's on the inside that really counts.

With an emotional and surprising ending for all the toys, this heartwarming and timeless tale of love and friendship is destined to become a favorite of young and old for years to come.

Mandy's Review:

Oh. My. Goodness ... I am absolutely in love with Wise Bear William: A New Beginning!

As soon as I saw the cover and read the summary on the back, I was hooked. Even though I'm an adult, I still love to read children's stories and look at the illustrations interspersed among the pages to see if they tell a story that really is intended for children. I promise you, this one definitely is.

Even though there's an attic full of toys wanting to be chosen, we meet and get to know four specific characters: Rag Doll Rose, Bean Bag Bunny, Calico Kitty and Wise Bear William. (How cute and precious are those names, I ask you?!) Wise Bear William is the captain of the toys in the attic and is responsible for them. He helps them to clean up and prepare themselves for the children's arrival. During their preparations, the toys (and the reader) get a lesson on what's most important.

The illustrations in this book are whimsical and gorgeous. They are the perfect reflection of the story's vibe and give life to the story in the reader's imagination.

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried a little at the end ... that's how moving this wonderfully written, beautiful story was. I intend to keep this book and re-read it many times over.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

CJ Reviews: Not with a Bang by A. Andrew Tantia

ASIN #: B004W3L8I4
File Size: 30 KB
Copyright: April 10, 2011
Publisher: A. Andrew Tantia


Fans of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, P. G. Wodehouse, etc. will enjoy this short comedy, in which the last two men alive happen upon an average, run of the mill, garden-variety garden; all the real estate that remains of their shattered planet. Despairing at the fact that the human race has been wiped out, and failing to see the bright side of things, i.e. that the human race has been wiped out, they elect to end their troubles once and for all, but are offered a reprieve at the last minute. Unfortunately, even a deus ex machina can only do so much ...

CJ's Review:

Okay, so Andrew wanted a blunt review. Well, here it is: I hated it. I can't lie. It was awful. If anyone hates spoilers, turn away ... this plot went from gonna suck, to sucks, to sucked like hell. There are no two ways around it. I was disappointed by how bad it really was. Two guys are astronauts who happen to be out in space when their spaceship's artificial intelligence, MAL, sends a planet-destroying bomb to Earth just to see if the bomb works ... and it does. They then find a chunk of, what they call, a garden and form some kind of force field around it with their ship.

Yeah, I said it: MAL, some artificial intelligence in charge of being the auto-pilot on this spaceship designed a planet-destroying bomb like it's Bill Nigh the freaking Science Guy. No offense here Tantia, but that's a terrible idea for a short story.

On top of this already unbelievable plot, MAL is also some sort of deranged cross between Doogie Howser and House because MAL performs a ... get this ... lobotomy/cerebroectomy on one of the guys to turn him into a woman so the two can procreate and keep the human race going.

Wow, what a mouthful. I like the fact that this author is way, way out there in left field somewhere but seriously, it sucked. The best part of the story was when the she-he and the other guy were trying to get the last apple off the last tree and it flies into the force field shattering it and sucks Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum out into space, killing them. My advice: Don't waste your time.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Upsetting the Tides by David Englund

File Size: 409 KB
Format: Kindle Edition

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Clark Jackson, a forty-three-year-old-accountant, discovers a portal to a strange room. At first, the portal serves as an escape, a room for taking naps without time passing back on Earth. He comes to realize that a passageway has been opened when alien species begin passing through Des Moines, Iowa. The realization of infinite worlds suddenly open to travel dawns on Clark.

In his travels he meets species that are friendly conversationalists and willing trading partners and other species that are not so kind to portal travelers. Meanwhile, the mysterious Environmental Protection Agency has advanced technology at their disposal. The energy signatures given off by Clark's new device and aliens traveling to Des Moines attract their attention ...

Upsetting the Tides is the first novel in a new series of Science Fiction/Action/Thriller stories.

Kathy's Review:

Upsetting the Tides centers around Clark Jackson, an average Joe who stumbles upon a portal in his backyard that contains countless doors filled with various gadgets. Told in third person with a great deal of first person inner monologue from Clark (it would have been better told entirely in the first person!), Upsetting the Tides follows Clark's escapades with the portal and the gadgets within. He wastes no time in using a cell phone-like gadget that uses the number pad to dial in durations of time to either fly or turn invisible. He uses this for some harmless eavesdropping and pranks at this office, but things turn serious when an alien shows up and wants his toy back. This draw attention all over town as Clark and the alien take shots at each other with ray guns. He tries to balance his office job with trips to various planets, tries to balance a romance with a co-worker with an interesting female alien, and almost gets himself killed several times.

I have to say, the further I got into this book, the more annoyed I got with Clark's inner monologue. It's arbitrary when it switches from third to first person. Most of it was extremely unnecessary.

An example of one of many, many, useless bits of Clark's inner thoughts:

I could use a good run, but I'm tired. I think it's time for bed.

Alright, I slept well, I'm rested and I've procrastinated as much as I can afford to.

Yes, let me go to sleep as well. BORING!!!!!

This book was hard to get through and I'll be honest, I skimmed a lot of it, because of the clunky shifts between perspective. I think the author should revisit this story and eliminate most of Clark's inner monologue unless it is really adding value. Sometimes he makes fun of himself in his head, which is amusing, but other than that, I really didn't think it was an effective method of telling this story.

My favorite chapter, by far, was the chapter classified for government eyes only - it is several blank pages long. Nice work! (Seriously, this was kind of a funny idea, but by this point in the novel, I was glad to have a few less pages to read)

There's a good premise here that could turn into an interesting, over-the-top, sci-fi series; but I would recommend that the author go back and completely reformat this book before even attempting to write the second book in this series. So in its current format, it's not one I would recommend.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Charlene Reviews - The 9 Mirages of Love: How to Stop Chasing What Doesn't Exist by Chiara Mazzucco

ISBN #: 978-1468029383
Page Count: 186
Copyright: December 9, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace


When love doesn't show you what you want to see, you do whatever it takes to change it. But instead of getting proactive and building the life you deserve, you get delusional and settle for the one you have. When it comes to love, the only advice worth listening to is the raw, uncensored truth. How else are you supposed to move on from a cheating lover or a manipulative leech? Throw away everything else and learn to finally take control of your love life. Inside you will find:
  • The different types of cheaters and how to deal with them
  • Learning to deal with your biggest enemy: yourself
  • How to stop obsessing over an ex
  • A guide to breaking up
... and much, much more! Whether you're single, dating, or getting over a bad break up, The 9 Mirages of Love: How to Stop Chasing What Doesn't Exist is the last relationship guide you will ever need. Isn't it time someone strips the sugarcoat and tells you how it is?

Charlene's Review:

The 9 Mirages of Love is a straight-forward guide to disillusionment for all those love-sick, fairy tale ending types. If, however, you are tired of unfulfilling relationships, this just might be the "reality slap" you need! Chiara has a no-holds-barred attitude when it comes to love, and she puts it out there with humor, honesty, and a slightly naughty diction. She is the ultimate girlfriends' girlfriend.

Listing the obstacles to a truly healthy relationship, Chiara mixes in humorous metaphors with noteworthy insight. Beginning with "you are your own biggest enemy" and ending with "love is not a punishment," she leads you through the most common delusional thinking regarding love, like the "love is all rainbows and butterflies" myth. The 9 Mirages of Love teaches us that love doesn't make any sense, but with Chiara's heartfelt missives, we are lead on the road to redemption, and hopefully, finding love that works for us.

I already have a list of people I intend to pass this one on to!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Smashwords Giveaway: In the Dreaming by Terrance Foxxe

From now until March 1st, Terrance Foxxe is providing a free e-copy of his book, In the Dreaming, on Smashwords.

All you have to do is:
  • Click here to go to the book's Smashwords page.
  • Don't worry when you see there's a cost to receive the book. Go ahead and add it to your cart. 
  • During checkout, enter the coupon code JP54R, update your cart and checkout.
  • Your book will be free and you will be able to choose the best format for you to download.

Book Summary:
(Taken from Smashwords)

Terrance Foxxe's In the Dreaming is a collection of 20 short stories - 15 previously published in print and online, 5 original to this volume - bridged together by a larger narrative, a mosaic novel unlike any other.

Foxxe's unique novel offers a wide variety of stories to suit any tastes. From Native American legend, urban detective, science fiction, magic and love, alongside vampires, barbarians, presidents, elves, to (walking talking) toys. Horror with hope. A little something for everyone.

CJ Reviews: Becoming by Marc Johnson

ISBN #: 978-1449012922
Page Count: 348
Copyright: January 6, 2010
Publisher: AuthorHouse

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

They wake and find themselves alone in a world where dreams are tangible. Some find the world dark, some find it home, but all look into the dark uncertainty of it and find themselves lost. For them, Becoming is a beginning, and it is from this beginning that they each find themselves wandering a dark world looking for some trace of their former humanity, if it was ever there to begin with. The hero, Mahavir, finds himself conflicted between losing his own life for the human beings that he despises or simply leaving them behind. As he comes to know Joseph and his father and Lila and her brother, he struggles to move away from the fate that dreams have allotted to him and realizes that even the power of those dreams cannot take away his choice. Regardless of the strength of the nightmares that plague the world around him, he knows that it's only his decision that will determine the fate of men.

CJ's Review:

Oh my goodness, someone please help me out with this one! I don't know if I'm just slow or can't follow what a good book is supposed to look like or maybe Marc Johnson is so far ahead of me mentally and psychologically that I just can't comprehend his greatness. By page 3, I was so confused that I couldn't follow the smell of my own farts. I have no idea what the author intended for the beginning of this book, but if it was, "confuse the hell out of everyone that picks this up," then it worked.

The book seemed like mindless wanderings of about 18 different people, I don't think Rain Man could follow this plot line. I swear, if I pick up another book that starts this way, I'll stab my eyes with a rusty fork so I won't be able to see the damn thing. I struggled throughout the entire book, not even the occasional man/woman relations held my interest for long. I've really got nothing good to say about this work, except that it ends. There's your spoiler. Becoming was utterly painful.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Thieves At Heart by Tristan J. Tarwater

ISBN #: 978-0984008902
Page Count: 208
Copyright: September 28, 2011
Publisher: Back That Elf Up

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Little Tavera is a half-elf child in a land of humans, an outsider dragged from bad situation to worse -- until Derk whisks her away and adopts her as his own. Tavera soon finds out her new Pa is a master thief, a member of an elite group of professional scoundrels called the Cup of Cream. They make their money that way, sure, but thievery is as necessary as any other profession in the Valley of Ten Crescents; it balances society.

To Derk's -- and her own -- delight, Tavera grows into a natural thief and works her way toward membership in the Cup. Joining would finally give her some place where she belongs, and it would please the Pa she loves so much. But being a thief means being only one step ahead of the law. When the law finally catches up, Tavera must choose: go against her Pa's wishes for the sake of loyalty and love; or obey him, break her heart and survive.

Kathy's Review:

From the beginning of the book, Tavera, or Tavi as she is affectionately known, is an endearing character. We first meet her as a young child whose mother is Prisca the Tart - literally - a prostitute. While Tavi's mother is servicing her gentleman callers, Tavi hides in the shadows and pilfers money and valuables from the man's clothing. This doesn't seem like a great upbringing for a child, but Tavi doesn't seem to be suffering or have a bad life.

However, Prisca sells Tavi to a thief, Derk "The Lurk," who had noticed the young half-elf's abilities and takes her under his wing. And while she grieves for her lost mother, Derk ends up being a great father figure (except for the whole "thief-in-training" apprenticeship aspect) and seems to genuinely love Tavi. He protects her, he tries to provide for her, and has his sometime lover, "Old Glam," teach her the secrets of womanhood that he is unable to.

The story unfolds as Tavi becomes a young woman, hones her skills, and eventually has to learn to stand on her own. I enjoyed Thieves At Heart very much. I think Tarwater's characterization of Tavi and Derk was spot on; I feel like I really knew these characters, their fears, their ups and downs.

On a scale of 1-10, I'd say this is a strong 9. This is a book I would definitely recommend to fans of the fantasy genre, but also anyone who enjoys a story about a bond between two people who aren't blood relations, but are family nonetheless. I will be keeping an eye out for the second book in this series, which, according to Tarwater's website, www.backthatelfup.com (I just had to throw that in there somewhere - what a great name!), is going to be a prequel focusing on Derk.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

CJ Reviews: The Caldarian Conflict by Mike Kalmbach

ISBN #: 978-1466246812
Page Count: 274
Copyright: August 28, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Brother Mendell isn't someone you'd expect to see helping a pirate. After all, he's a monk who follows a god names Lord Justice, and pirates certainly deserve punishment. As a corrupt military deals death to pirates using questionable methods, Mendell finds himself caught in the crossfire when he seeks justice for an unfairly executed prisoner.

No one is safe as Admiral Cain and his ruthless assistant Krell struggle to maintain complete secrecy over their plan. There goal isn't merely to rid Caldaria of pirates; they have much loftier ambitions. Anyone with too much knowledge must die.

Mendell struggles to unravel the mystery before he, too, becomes a casualty of The Caldarian Conflict.

CJ's Review:

First off, let me start by saying that Mike Kalmbach starts a book the way it should start. Right away we lose an important figure in the book that had the makings of an awesome character. I won't spoil anything by saying what happens, but it immediately grabbed my attention and kept me reading. What I would ask of you, Mike, is maybe a prequel to this book, maybe with this character as one of the central figures ... pretty cool idea, huh? I always think that a book that starts with a death is a good way to start.

Okay, so this book has two types of people that I never would have imagined together in a book, monks and pirates. Mendell, the main character, is a monk who uncovers some stuff he shouldn't about some folks in authority. The book is basically Mendell figuring out ways to foil the bad guys, so to speak. I don't have too many suggestions to the author about ways to make the book better; I thought it was pretty good and I like the epilogue at the end kind of throwing a twist at the ending of the story ... have to admit, did not expect this.

Overall, I liked the book a lot. I do hope future reads will be this enjoyable by an up and coming author ... only thing that maybe could have been better was if there were a dragon in it ... I like dragons.

Good job Mr. Kalmbach and "may the wind always carry you toward adventure."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Just For Fun 2012 Reading Challenge: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Go Ask Alice is the book I chose for my January selection of the Just For Fun 2012 Reading Challenge.  You can click here to see my complete list on Goodreads.

Book Info:

ISBN #: 978-1416914631
Page Count: 214
Copyright: 1971
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth - and ultimately her life.

Mandy's Review:

I've seen all the hype about Go Ask Alice. I've read about how much people love the book and think it's the greatest thing ever. About how controversial and sad it is to read a 15-year-old's diary concerning drugs and the effects of living a life full of them. All of this was the reason I was eager to add this to my TBR pile and read it for this challenge.

The book is divided into two "diaries," the second one being started when the first one was full. I will start my review with the first diary.

I did not care for it. It did not sound at all like a 15-year-old would sound. While reading it, all I kept picturing was an adult writing the book trying to make it sound like a 15-year-old girl. Here are some examples from the book of why I do not think this came from an actual 15-year-old's diary:
  • From page 9: Dear precious Diary, I am baptizing you with my tears. I know we have to leave and that one day I will even have to leave my father and mother's home and go into a home of my own. But ever I will take you with me.
  • From page 24: We'll pick her up on the way, but I just had to stop and jot the whole ecstatic experience down. It's just too tremendous and delightful and wonderful to keep all bottled-up inside.
  • From page 64-65: Goodbye dear home, goodbye good family. I really am leaving mostly because I love you so much and I don't want you to ever know what a weak and disreputable person I have been.

Not only do those passages not sound as a 15-year-old would write them, but other things annoyed me as well ... One day everything would be sunshine and rainbows and "I won't touch drugs ever again" type thing, then, next thing you know, everything sucks and is horrible and drugs are the most wonderful thing ever to take her away from it all. I got so tired of reading the back-and-forth internal monologue.

Now, I understand that teenagers are dramatic (I did used to be one) and that everything can seem great one day and terrible the next, but I've also been on drugs and alcohol before. While drugs seem like fun at the time you're doing them, you're not going to experience an intense desire for them right away like the diary writer seemed to. It's been my experience that it takes awhile to become dependent on them.

Diary two seems to be where the girl is starting a new life without drugs. This is where the book gets interesting for me. Finally, I become engaged in her story. Finally, I believe that this may be a diary written by a 15-year-old girl.

Her struggle to live a life without drugs in the same town with the same people she used to do drugs with is a very intense and, almost, heart-wrenching tale. She garnered my sympathy and empathy every time one of her old "friends" came around trying to set her up or harm her. Every time she resisted, I became prouder and prouder of her determination to not go back to the old lifestyle. It infuriated me when I read about the laced chocolate-covered peanuts that sent her flying off into la-la land. Then I read that she died three weeks after her last diary entry. Which makes me wonder ...

Was she really off of the drugs?
Did she lie in her diary in case anybody read it?
Was there really laced chocolate-covered peanuts?
Or did somebody stop by and bring her a hit?

I have so many questions about this book that I didn't enjoy it like I was hoping I would. I'm aware that my opinion of this book varies greatly from the mass population, but it is what it is.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Blog Tour, Guest Post - Family Rules: We Are All Stories ...

I'm very pleased to get this chance to share some time with you, and my 2011 novel, Family Rules.

In Family Rules, Kenny Walsh, a former child star turned drug addict turned car thief, decides to play Dad to a child he accidentally abducts.

First up, I should really make very, very clear that Family Rules isn't my story. I've been fascinated by the response of readers, who often ask me whether it's about me. It's not, definitely not; it's a fictional memoir.

I think this comes from the main character, Kenny, who is pretty compelling. I'd be lying if I said I knew who he was when I started the novel. As with all my books, I started with a somewhat stereotypical character going in; I was planning to answer the central idea/question, "what would happen if a really bad man became an accidental father?" I won't describe what I had in mind for Kenny originally, because it's largely nowhere in the book - only his drug addiction remains, and even that is downplayed from what I first imagined, a passing phase of his avoiding reality.

I began the writing, placing this character in New York and fighting his habits. Then, as I was writing, the idea/question changed from 'bad man' to 'a man whose own family was as broken as possible.' Good fortune stepped in and, around this time, I caught a documentary on VH-1 about child stars, and was shocked by how so many of them ended up in addiction and the downward spiral towards suicide. To go from such adulation to desperation in the length of a very short life struck me as being so sad, and such a waste of human life. I knew immediately the basis for Kenny - the first introduction of the theme is in Chapter 6: 'Believer,' which was written the weekend I saw that documentary.

As I wrote Kenny, he grew more and more real to me - and, in fact, when I talk about him now, it does sound like I've met him and know him. He feels like a real person to me. In the year since I published the novel, I've adapted it to screenplay with my screen-writing partners, James Patric Moran and Timothy Quinlan, and their reaction was the same: Kenny feels like a real person. I think this is why people ask me if it's a true story, and I'm humbled and proud to have been able to write such a compelling character.

Our screenplay for Inventing Kenny is beginning to gain some interest with production companies in Hollywood

[actually, it's hard to type this with so many fingers crossed!]

And the reaction has been fascinating to me - this is a story that touches into some dark corners of family and relationships, with a protagonist who we may even dislike initially, yet whom we come to care for over the course of his story. Several producers even asked me whether it's a dark comedy. It isn't. It's a drama, and it will make a great independent film.

This feedback and reflection has been really, really useful, as constructive feedback always is, and reinforces my decision to self-publish Family Rules. I thought about shopping the book to agents and publishers but feared that I'd get the same reaction: it doesn't fit the formula, there's no market, it's not commercial enough, etc. What I'm finding in pitching the story to Hollywood, and in hearing from readers, is that there is a market but it's best built one-reader-at-a-time. I'm more than happy to do this and love connecting with my readers at VinceT.net - my only request is that they tell me what they think of my writing and tell someone else about it.

It's been a pleasure to share some of the background of Family Rules, especially as so much of the year since it came out has been spent writing and publishing Escalation, a novel that took me by surprise in April and demanded to be written immediately! I hope some of you will be interested to read more of Kenny's story and, if you do, please tell me what you think, and tell someone else about it!

Thanks for reading, you have my love.


*Guest post was submitted in participation with Vincent Tuckwood's Family Rules book blog tour, hosted by Pump Up Your Book*
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