Monday, March 18, 2013

Five Questions With: Wendy Unsworth, author of The Palaver Tree (to-read list)

Hello Readers, 

Here is an interview with Wendy Unsworth. Her book, The Palaver Tree, is on my to-read list. This is the first book in the Berriwood Series. It revolves around a young teacher, Ellie Hathaway, who is volunteering at a school in Africa. 

From the Synopsis: 

Lives and fortunes change in the blink of an eye.
Now that she is alone, volunteering at a school in the Central African Republic of Ducana seems like everything schoolteacher Ellie Hathaway needs. Here is the opportunity to get away from the sleepy Cornish village where recent tragedy still haunts her and to help the children's charity her friend has worked so tirelessly to promote.
But dark forces and ambitions are in play long before Ellie's arrival in the dusty town of Limba. Even as she begins to believe she can at last find true happiness, she realises that something at the school is very wrong. 
Is this really the place of loving and giving she had first thought it to be, and is headmaster, Gabriel Cole, really their guardian angel?
With so many questions left unanswered Ellie struggles to decide what she must do, but then political chaos descends and suddenly Ellie finds herself more alone than she had ever imagined she could be....

Enjoy the interview below!

1. Tell me about yourself and how you first got interested in writing?

Hello! My name is Wendy Unsworth and thank you for inviting me here. I was born in Lincolnshire, England which is a beautiful part of the world but I am a born traveller and so it is a long time since I lived in the place of my birth!
Writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I firmly believe writing chose me, rather than the other way around

2. What inspired you to write The Palaver Tree?
 One of my main interests in fiction is taking very ordinary characters and plunging them into an extraordinary situation. I am fascinated about how they will react and cope, what strengths they will find and how often they will even surprise themselves. 
I lived in Central Africa for thirteen years. It was a hectic period of my life but a time that left a huge and lasting impression on me, so much so that, after leaving, I knew my first full length novel should incorporate some of my experiences there.

3. What's next on your plate?

Busy! Busy! At the moment I am writing the second book in my Berriwood series. The stories in the series are quite separate but feature the lives and fortunes of different members of the same English village. The second book is called 'Beneathwood' It is a story of loss, family secrets and superstition. 
I am also getting ready to publish the first book in my children's Come-alive Cottage series.The stories feature a plucky young girl, her Aunt Kitty who also happens to be a witch, and a lot of gone-wrongs spells! These are written for seven - nine year olds and are illustrated chapter books. 

4. Is there any particular writer or book that inspired you, either while growing up or as an adult?

Yes, books inspire me in many different ways. 
Books such as the 'Just William' series by Richmal Crompton and Jennings and Derbyshire by Anthony Buckeridge were such fun and inspired a young me to keep on reading. 
Authors such as Karen Maitland, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King and John Wyndham inspire me to keep on striving for something different.

5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I was an aspiring author for sooo long! My advice would be, stay true to your characters, get the narrative as right as you possibly can and then don't delay, publishing a book is an amazing experience!

Five Questions With: Rysa Walker

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for not updating last week! I am less busy and back to reviewing :)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Rysa Walker, author of Time's Twisted Arrow, which I loved. You can see my review here. Read on to learn more about her and her work!

1. What is your background and how did you become interested in writing?

I've always been a writer in some form. I suspect it's because I lived in the middle of nowhere, ten miles from the nearest library, and had to read the same books over and over again. I loved my books, but when I got bored, I'd start thinking about what happened next. Or what might happen to those same characters in different circumstances. Or what might happen to different characters in similar circumstances. Sometimes the stories just played themselves out in my head, but many made their way to paper. And while I got sidetracked for a number of years writing non-fiction, I eventually made my way back around to writing the type of books I like to read.

2. What was the inspiration behind Time's Twisted Arrow?

I've spent the past few years teaching and writing about history and I think every historian secretly wants a time-machine. We're very much aware that history is often determined by those who write the history books -- George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree, for example, and many other historical events or achievements that get credited to one or two people in history books were more often the work of dozens of people behind the scenes. It's kind of like the line from the song "Wonderful" in my favorite musical, Wicked:

A man's called a traitor - or a liberator.
A rich man's a thief - or philanthropist.
Is one a crusader - or ruthless invader?
It's all in which label
Is able to persist.

So, knowing that things tend to get changed around depending on who is telling the story, it's not too surprising that historians think it would be nice to actually be there and see history in the making. But if we had that power, would we really be able to resist tweaking things just a bit here and there? I'd like to think I could resist, but I'm not especially power-hungry. I'm generally content with my books, my music, family -- as long as I have those things, plus good coffee, tea and dark chocolate, I'm a pretty happy camper. And while there are plenty of injustices I'd love to change in the world, I'd be worried that if you tug too hard at one or two less-than-lovely strings in the tapestry, everything else might come apart as well. But would someone who wanted wealth, power or who was truly unhappy with their society as a whole be able to resist changing things? I'm not so sure -- and that's really the key idea that eventually developed into Time's Twisted Arrow.

3. What's next for Kate?

Kate will be back at the end of 2013 in Pendulum Past, the second book of the CHRONOS Files. That book picks up shortly after the end of Time's Twisted Arrow. Much of the book will be set in the racially-divided South of the 1930s, with Kate taking some side trips to the 1960s and Boston in the early 1900s. She's going to face some difficult choices in her efforts to stop the Cyrists and will have to decide whether she can live with committing "lesser evils" in order to further the "greater good." And, on a personal level, she'll be learning whether you can recreate the mysterious circumstances that cause two people to fall in love.

In the interim, readers will also see Kate briefly in a novella that I have coming out this summer. It's tentatively entitled Time's Echo, and reveals some of the events from Time's Twisted Arrow from Kiernan's perspective, while providing additional backstory on the Cyrists and their motives.

4. Besides the CHRONOS Files series, do you have any other projects coming up?

I have two additional series in various stages of development. The first book for one of the series will likely be published before the CHRONOS files is finished, because it's partially written. It was one of those cases where a story and characters popped into my head and just wouldn't leave me alone until I got something down on paper. The other series is still in that nebulous, embryonic stage where it could go in a couple of different directions-- but I think it will emerge eventually as a pretty cool series of paranormal detective books.

5. I found your website to be a very interesting supplement to the CHRONOS series (it inspired me to write a post on how books have changed with the advent of e-readers and "apps" which allow you to become completely immersed in a story). What are your thoughts on the impact of tablets and e-books on the literary world? Has it helped or harmed?

I'm a huge, huge fan of e-books. That's partly because, as I noted above, I spent way too much of my childhood wanting new books and having to wait for them. Santa brought me a Kindle a few years back and it rarely leaves my side. The fact that I can download a new book at soccer practice or waiting in the carpool line for my kids never ceases to delight me. The e-publishing revolution has also increased the number of stories out there. Some of them are admittedly a bit rough, but there are also some real gems. Several of the best books I've read this year were not "traditionally" published, and I suspect that they would never have been available for me to read if we were still stuck in the era where agents and major publishers were the gatekeepers for all fiction. I do think that traditional publishers serve an important role, but it's nice to see that there are multiple outlets these days. A freer market usually results in more innovation and I think we're just beginning to see the results of these changes.

On a broader scale, the internet makes the writer's job more fascinating, but it also provides distractions. Research is definitely easier. I can find out virtually anything I want to know about 1905 Boston if I dig deep enough into the resources online, and some of this is information that I'd never have had at my disposal a few decades ago. On the other hand, however, it's all too easy to chase an interesting rabbit down the hole and end up miles away from the core bits of information you need to write your story. I have to be careful to avoid spending too much time in the virtual past, otherwise it's tough to get the books written back here in 2012!

As for the CHRONOS Files site, I would love to have the resources (and the time) to do even more with it. One thing I'm really happy with, however, is that it can provide an outlet for young writers. I'm currently working with a number of teachers in middle and high schools to have students use the examples of historical research in the CHRONOS Files as a starting point for their own fiction and I will be showcasing some of their work on the blog. The goal is for them to learn about the historical sources that are now literally at their fingertips and how they can be incorporated into fiction, hopefully in a way that is a little less like "schoolwork" than writing a traditional history report.

Thanks so much for allowing me to visit with you and your readers at ChaiTime!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Important Day/Week

Tomorrow and this week will be very important for me and very hectic, so if I have not yet responded to your emails, please be patient. My posts will be less frequent until at least next Sunday. Sorry if I haven't gotten back to you!!

-- chaitime212

Friday, March 8, 2013

Poll: Format of Blog

Just posted a new poll regarding the layout of my blog. You can see it on the right side of my page. I am making a post here, because if you answer no, I want to know what needs improvement. 

Is my blog easy to read? Should I change the layout, the background, or something else? Please comment and let me know, I want to make this blog fun and I want to make it easy to find what you're looking for!


Five Questions With: Orlando Smart, author of Folsom on Fire

Hello Everyone, 

Orlando Smart's book, Folsom on Fire is on my to-read list, and sadly thanks to my hectic life and as it is a longer book, I won't be able to get to it for awhile. In the meantime, I wanted to interview him and learn more about his work.

I felt that this was an important book to showcase, as obviously racism and homophobia is something our society continues to struggle with until this day. As a minority myself, this is something I have experienced on occasion, but as I belong to what is known as the "model minority" group, my road has been a little easier. I do feel that these issues are often brushed under the rug, and people like to claim that we live in a post-racial society, with the election of President Obama, but it is plain to see that this is not really the case. 

The book is set in the small town of Folsom, Mississippi  after the Civil War, and revolves around Mary Cole, a former slave, as well as Paul, a white teenage boy who she has raised since birth, who is coming to terms with being gay. 

From the Synopsis: "...Dissecting events in our present day by peeking into the window of the past, Folsom on Fire delves into the psyche of Racism, Coming out as Gay, Gender Roles, Self-Hate and Self-Love. What would you do to remain true to who you are? How far would you go to protect those you love? Folsom on Fire will make you question and strengthen the unconditional love you hold for those closest to your heart."

Read on to learn more about Folsom on Fire. You can also check out the author's website here

1. Tell me a little about yourself, and how you got interested in writing?

Well, during the day, I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist and special needs app developer by profession, and a novelist at night.  I live with my partner and three children (two boys and a girl) in rural Wisconsin.  I became interested in writing during my tour in the army while in Germany.  While out on multi-month long exercises, during down times, I spent most of my time reading.  I decided then that I wanted to put my own pen to paper and craft my own stories. 

2. What made you decide to write this novel?

A few years back I was going through an online museum on lynching.  It was grotesque to say the least.  But no matter how revolting it was, I reminded myself that it is our American history nonetheless.  With my novel Folsom on Fire, I wanted to explore that time in our history when lynchings were not only common, but also approved by our government by their silence on the matter.

Lynchings are America’s own Holocaust, though it is rarely, if ever, given the attention it deserves.  Putting people into a gas chamber or oven is beyond imagination, yes?  But as Americans, we must ask ourselves, is the gathering of a crowd of hundreds and thousands of men, women and children to watch men being castrated, torn apart by horses that are attached to their limbs, skinned alive, doused with oil and set on fire—is that any less beyond the pale? It is indeed America’s nightmare that I felt necessary to bring into the light.

3.  What sort of research did you need to do while writing this novel?  Tell me about your experience writing this novel.

This novel is set a few years after the end of the Civil War.  Though for research, I had to go back even further.  During the South’s heyday, when slavery was legal, slave owners enjoyed a quality of life better than the noble classes of Europe.  They were actually the envy of the world at that time.  Cotton was indeed king of the world.  That assisted me in getting into the heads of the white characters in Folsom on Fire.  I wanted to know how they felt during those prosperous times, and later, to see it fall into ruin during and after the war.  There was a level of resentment that was planted and nurtured during that time that still resides in many areas of our nation today.  

To get to the minds of the black and gay characters, and their lives during that time was far harder, as there is still not much written about the fear they lived in.  I was fortunate to have family members who could tell me stories about growing up in Mississippi, which was known as the lynching capital during those times.  Being gay did help with the gay characters and the research required much more time.

This was a difficult novel to write, as the characters' emotions I had to convey were never ones of peace.  It was a very dangerous time for blacks and for gays.  Nothing was certain.  Your life could become forfeit at any moment, depending on if a white person had a beef with you or just didn't like the way you looked at them . . . that is, if you even dared to look them in the eye.

4.  I have read other novels set in this time period, or revolving around the issues of race relations or sexuality.  Tell me what sets your novel apart.

How about this statement: ‘African Americans would not look the way they do were it not for a white man raping one of their female relatives.”  That statement probably will make many cringe, but again I say, it is our American history.  Pedophilia and the rape of black women and children by white men were permitted by our own government.  Just by looking at African Americans of today who vary greatly in skin tone and facial features, that ugly truth cannot be denied.

Folsom on Fire differs from other novels during that same time, as you can easily transport the characters and their motivations into our present day and have the same story.  What is relevant about racism, sexism and homophobia in the novel Folsom on Fire back then is what we now face as a nation today.  Some things have changed.  Unfortunately, many have not.  If you are black (or another minority), gay, and especially a black woman, in America, your road up is longer and harder, though not impossible.   Folsom on Fire, besides being a novel, is also a mirror for us all . . . black, white, gay, straight, religious.  It makes us confront not “what” we have done, but “why” we did it. 

5. What’s next on your plate?

Something completely different from Folsom on Fire.  Whereas Folsom on Fire was of the literary sort, my next novel, Gods of Egypt, is a supernatural tale of horrors and wonder.  Demons are poised to claim the earth for their own, for the balance of good and evil is upset by the birth of the powerful demoness, Bazeek.  In order to right it, Tamen—an immortal god of Egypt, is tasked by the Christ himself to find one who can balance the darkness.  But all is not what it seems.  There is an ancient pact between Lucifer and God that must be maintained.  In heaven, the angels stand guard and ready themselves for the last battle, while the demons in hell fight amongst one another for supremacy.  From the dawn of Creation itself to the present day, where teenaged Jared, who just wants out of his small town and away from his hawkish mother, realizes the fate of earth, heaven and hell now rests upon him.         

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Spilled by J.E. Barrett

Yet another review done!  I seem to be on a roll.  I just finished Spilled by J.E. Barrett. This was a quick and enjoyable read. I enjoy stories following a group of people and seeing how their stories intertwine (as seen in the film Crash).

This book begins with Jane, a rather unlikeable woman running late to work. During her commute, she stops by Bagel Barn to pick up coffee for her coworkers. It is here that we meet most of the other key players in the story, though we don't know it yet. On her way out, Jane bumps into someone and spills her coffee, and her day goes from bad to worse.

Throughout the story, we check back in with Jane, who feels she is having the worst day ever. Things are much worse for the other characters in the coffee shop, and a few of them experience some life-altering events. Everything comes together quite nicely at the end of the book. It is a neat ending, but not too neat, which definitely makes for a more realistic novel.

The book was well-written and fast paced. It held my interest from beginning to end. Some minor editing is needed, but it is nothing too noticeable. One thing I noted is that the characters, while they were well developed and interesting, were very "black-and-white". I either loved them or hated them. I think that if they had a few more shades of gray, the story could be even better.

I am ambivalent about the ending. On one hand, I thought it completed the story arc nicely, closing again with Jane thinking about her day, On the other hand, I initially thought the penultimate chapter was the last one, and was surprised to turn the page and see a chapter 12. While the endings of both chapters were nice, chapter 12's ending felt a little more abrupt.

Overall, I thought this was a great story and a real page-turner. I would like to see more from this author.

My Rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Of Kings and Queens by Suneeta Misra

Of Kings and Queens is a recently published short story by Suneeta Misra, author of Rani of Rampur. The book will be free on Amazon on March 9, 2013. For the authors, it is available for my review swap, if Rani of Rampur is too long for you.

It revolves around a young boy, Ram, who is heir to the kingdom of Mirpur. The story is set in pre-independence India. Ram's father has several wives, but has only managed to produce one heir to the throne.  As such, Ram encounters many dangers while growing up. He overcomes many challenges with the help the spunky and intelligent Maya, his tutor's granddaughter.

This story, while short, was very well-done. The initial pages drew me in immediately. Of the characters, I loved Maya the most. She is smart and bold, always providing Ram with a dose of tough love. I also liked her grandfather, the kind Badri Nath. I thought the Ayah character was also well-written, and I didn't love her, but I sure did love to hate her!

In technical terms, the story is appropriately paced and well-written. There is a great twist at the end, which I loved! I would have loved if the story was longer. I would be interested in reading something from Maya's point of view, during the time when Ram was studying abroad.

All in all, a fun story for mystery and historical fiction lovers.

My Rating: 5 stars

Interview with Kim Wright, author of the City of Mystery Series

As promised, here is the interview with Kim Wright, who wrote the excellent City of Mystery Series. 6 questions this time :) 

1. Your first book Love in Mid Air is a romance. What made you switch to writing mysteries?

I’ve always read mysteries so it was probably inevitable that sooner or later I’d turn my hand to writing one.  I was originally scared of the fact that they need to be so densely plotted, but I decided to take a deep breath and just plunge.  The result is three books in less than twelve months.  Choosing the time frame was easy – I love the Victorian era. And I’ve also had a long term interest in forensics, so it was natural to focus on the first forensics unit at Scotland Yard, which was indeed founded in response to the fact they never caught Jack the Ripper.   They had so little science back in those days – not even fingerprinting or blood typing, the sort of things modern detectives take for granted.  It’s a wonder they ever caught anyone at all!

2. City of Darkness revolves around Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders, which are, to this day, still unsolved. This makes the book a unique one, because although the readers get some answers to their questions, they know that the real cases were never solved. Additionally, the characters don’t end up solving the case. It’s unusual, but I felt that it made for a great story! Was it difficult to write the book like this and still complete the story arc?

It was challenging because I knew going in, of course, that the Ripper was never caught and ergo, that I couldn't end my story with my detective hero triumphantly bringing the bad guy to justice.   But I also knew I couldn't leave the reader hanging with no resolution.  My solution was to go into the killer’s POV so that the reader would know who the Ripper was, even though my chief detective, Trevor Welles, ends the book in frustration.  The man I named as Jack is a real historical figure and one of the prime suspects among Ripperologists  (yes, they do exist).  I believe he’s a likely candidate.

Another funny offshoot is that, just as you say, I couldn't have my forensics unit emerge triumphant in this book and I found I rather liked that.  After all, in real life not every case is solved.  So Trevor and his unit won’t have a spotless record going forward in the series.  They’ll win some and lose some, although the reader will always know the truth.

3. Book 2, City of Light, is set at the time of the Exposition Universelle, in Paris, and also focuses on the events surrounding the Cleveland Street Scandal. What was the inspiration behind this book? Why did you choose to focus on these particular events?

When Trevor is only one of many Scotland Yard detectives who is trying to solve the Ripper case, his best friend and chief rival in the quest is a man named Rayley Abrams.  Once again, I borrowed from history, because when the Ripper wrote graffiti about Jews at one of the crime scenes, all the Jewish officers were immediately pulled from the case. 

So Trevor ends up being up in charge at the expense of Rayley, which he realizes is unfair.   He suggests Rayley for another plum post, which is going to Paris to study forensics with the French police, who at that time were ahead of the British in body identification.  So when City of Darkness ended and I started thinking about where to send my team next, I thought “Rayley’s already in Paris.  I’ll just have something happen over there.” And voila, it was the start of City of Light.

The internet is such a boon to writers.  When I began to fish around for possibilitiesin 1889, I saw that was the year of the Exposition and the building of the Eiffel Tower, as well as the Cleveland Street Scandal back in London.  So I built the second book around these two real-life events.

4. Which of your characters from the City of Mystery series do you most identify with?

They’re not only all like me, they all ARE me! Trevor, Rayley, Emma, Tom, Geraldine and Davy are parts of myself or different ways that I look at things.  I always say that no character can have a thought or make a statement that the writer hasn't thought of first. Which is pretty alarming when you consider that I also get in the head of serial killers!

5. Tell me about Book 3, City of Silence, which was justreleased.

City of Silence is set in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Queen Victoria – who took an interest in crime, by the way -  is the unofficial sponsor of the forensics unit in the series and she asks the team to come alongwith her as she escorts her favorite granddaughter, Alexandra, on a visit to Russia.  Alexandra has fallen in love with Nicholas but Victoria considers Russia a dangerous, violent place and doesn't want the two young people to marry.  Of course they all no sooner get to the Winter Palace than a series of crimes prove the Queen right, including the murder of a pair of ballet dancers. 

Bonus Question:

6.  The next book (Book 4) City of Bells, will be set in Calcutta, India. As my family is from India (andmy dad grew up in Calcutta), I was interested in knowing why you chose to set this book in India.

I love moving my characters all around the globe and when you think of England during the Victorian era, of course you think of India as well.  In this book, Aunt Geraldine, a rather eccentric spinster who is a great favorite of my readers, is the lead character.  She visited India as a young woman and fell in love with an officer who now, fifty years later, has been accused of murder. 

India is also a great locale since few American readers know a lot about it.  People have definite visions when they think of Victorian London or the Eiffel Tower but when I send the team to Russia or India, I need to do a lot more world-building for my audience.  And that’s great fun since I learn so much myself!

Book Review: City of Darkness/City of Light by Kim Wright

This year, I discovered a wonderful series that immediately captured my interest. The City of Mystery Series is a historical fiction series, and focuses Scotland Yard's first forensic team. The first novel, City of Darkness takes place in London, in 1888, and follows the team as they try to uncover the true identity of Jack the Ripper, perpetrator of the so-called "Whitechapel Murders." The second novel, City of Light, is set during the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and also focuses on the Cleveland Street Scandal. Below is a review of the first two books, followed by an interview with the author, Kim Wright in the next post

! I have just downloaded City of Silence (Book 3), set in Russia, and will post a more in-depth review of this novel as soon as I finish (which won't be until I make a little more headway on my queue of books to be reviewed, unfortunately).

Of the two novels, City of Darkness was my favorite, and as it is also the first book, I will start by reviewing it.

City of Darkness drew me in right away, and kept me hooked until the very last page. The Jack the Ripper Murders are a tough subject to tackle in a mystery novel, as they remain, to this day unsolved. Regardless, the author manages to make it work very well. I fell in love with each and every character in the book, from Leanna Bainbridge, the young heiress; to her Aunt Geraldine; to spunky Emma Kelly, her maid and the Scotland Yard detectives Trevor and Rayley.

The writer has obviously conducted a significant amount of detail while writing this novel. Her attention to detail is excellent, and I love how seamlessly she weaves her fictional characters and situations into the real-life events surrounding the murders. For the purposes of the novel, the readers do get some answers to their questions about the Ripper's identity. I must say, when it was revealed, it was a total surprise! Of course, this is because I didn't recognize the name of the character as being a real-life suspect in the murders, so it may not have been such a shocker for those readers who are "Ripper experts".

City of Darkness is a fast-paced, thoroughly researched, and well-written mystery novel. With a colorful cast of characters and numerous twists and turns, I must recommend this novel to all lovers of history and good old-fashioned mystery.

City of Light follows Rayley Abrams, one of the Scotland Yard detectives to Paris, to learn more about forensics from the Parisian police. It is the time of the Exposition Universelle, an exciting time in Paris. Rayley falls in love with the mysterious Isabel Blout. Meanwhile, in London, the rest of Rayley's team are working to uncover those responsible for running a male brothel on Cleveland Street.

Once again, the author blends fiction with history, and this time Rayley gets a chance to shine. I will admit the slightly more unsavory topic is why I loved City of Darkness more than City of Light, but it was still an excellent read, that kept me interested until the very end. I was sad not to see Leanna Bainbridge in this installment, as I loved her in book 1, but happy to see Emma Kelly again, as she is one of my absolute favorites.

The characters in this series are very well developed. Each character's emotions and motivations are very clearly laid out. I really felt for each of them, especially Emma, as she dealt with the aftermath of the tragedy that occurred in book 1, and Rayley as he falls for the alluring Isabel.

The end was, again, a shocker, and well done. I loved that everything fell into place at the end. The pace of the novel was ramped up significantly, and I eagerly turned the pages to get to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

My Ratings: City of Darkness - 5 stars; City of Light - 5 stars

See the next post for the interview!

Review: The Dreamreapers by Arthur S. Halsey, Jr.

Today has been an unusually productive day, because it was a snow day (my last one ever as I'm graduating this year!). I managed to knockout a couple of things on my queue, today, including finishing The Dreamreapers by Arthur S. Halsey, Jr. This is a short story. This is my first short story review, so bear with me!

The Dreamreapers is about a man named Arthur Munfrey (also referred to by several aliases in the story). He is investigating several flashers to uncover the truth about an occult organization. This story was not my typical genre, but the description sounded very interesting, which is why I accepted it for review. 

Firstly, the author's style of writing is simply excellent! I loved the evocative and descriptive language, which drew me in right away. The story was very intriguing, and when I reached the end, I was curious to find out more. However, it also let me a little confused. I didn't learn as much as I wanted to about the Dreamreapers. From what I understand, they use people's dreams as a method of travel. However, I am not sure as to why they were flashers (and why they were all female?). Despite this confusion, I liked the story. I thought it was very well written. I would like to see a longer version of this story, to learn more about The Dreamreapers and what Munfrey uncovers about the occult organization!

My Rating: 3 stars

Beautiful Creatures (movie based on a book)

I recently saw Beautiful Creatures, based on the popular YA series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. There are currently 4 books in the series, and I have heard great things about them in the blogger world. My boyfriend (not a YA fan) also saw the trailer and declared that it looked interesting and not too much like a "chick flick". I'm not a huge fan of overly mushy movies either, so it seemed like a win-win situation.

I walked out of the film feeling a little underwhelmed and a little confused. Now, I haven't read the books yet, so I don't know how the movie compares to the series. However, something got lost in the transition to the big screen. I would, however, still describe the movie as good. Not great, but not horrible. The film held my interest, and it was visually stunning, especially the scenes in the library and in the Ravenwood home. The staircase in particular, was so beautiful. If you see the film, you will notice that it doesn't look the same in each scene :)

I liked that this book turned the recent YA trend on its head, in that the woman was the supernatural creature. Although as a girl, I enjoy stories with a female protagonist, I get frustrated when the love story takes precedence. There are few YA series where I actually root for the main couple (the big exception being the Harry Potter books where Ginny actually had a personality <3). It just seems that once the boy comes into the picture, the girl gets overly focused on him and not her main goal. Again, this isn't always the case, but it seems to be a big trend (I blame a certain vampire series...). In Beautiful Creatures, Lena remained very interesting to me despite the romance. I think this was because as a supernatural creature, she didn't seem to need saving all the time.

The fact that Lena was a witch instead of a vampire or some other more common supernatural creature was also an excellent choice. Unfortunately, it made me expect something like The Craft, and I was a little disappointed. I also loved most of the characters. The actors playing Lena and Ethan were great. I also liked her family, particularly Macon (Jeremy Irons!) and Ridley. Amma, the librarian (with more to her than meets the eye...) who was played by the supremely talented and lovely Viola Davis, was another favorite. I wish there was a little more diversity to the cast, but I won't open that can of worms for now, though (damn you Hollywood!).

The ending of the movie is what killed it for me a little. It irritated me and confused me. I don't want to give everything away, but it kind of pushed a reset button for the film, and I hate when that happens. I was hoping for Ethan's ... let's just call it a "situation",  to continue in the second film. I have heard the book ending was better. Anyway, the way they resolved things left me very confused. If there is a second film, I will probably just see it when it's released on DVD. In the meantime, I look forward to reading the series. Books are almost always better than the movies, anyway.

To sum up, great concept, somewhat mediocre execution, time to read some more :)

Readers, what are your thoughts on the movie? Comment and let me know!


Book Review: Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Darkness (Jimmy Threepwood # 1) by Rich Pitman

Hello Everyone,

I have just finished reading Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Darkness by Richard Pitman. This is a children's epic fantasy novel. It is first in a series. The story revolves around Jimmy Threepwood, a young boy who at the start of the book, is quite miserable. He has no toys and no friends. His mother, when she is not watching her favorite soaps, verbally abuses him. Only his father shows him any kindness. In general, however, Jimmy feels unloved and unwanted. On the day of his eleventh birthday, the truth is revealed. Once a kind, caring woman, Mrs. Threepwood fell ill when pregnant with Jimmy. A ghastly (Grim Reaper-esque) hooded figure makes a deal with the Threepwoods, regarding their son. This creature, known as the Gatekeeper, told the Threepwoods to withhold all love and affection from their son. On his eleventh birthday, the creature would come to collect him and to inform him of his true destiny. Turns out, Jimmy is one of four children, who are destined to destroy the world.

I thought this story was very unusual and interesting. I love looking at things from a "villain's" point of view. Jimmy Threepwood made me think about several interesting concepts, namely good vs. evil and fate vs. choice. I believe we each have several paths laid out for us. Which path we take is dependent upon a specific set of circumstances and the choices that we make. Despite Jimmy being told that he is supposed to destroy the world, he does not want to. From the very beginning, he is different from the other 3 children. He feels compassion for others, such as his classmates and even Talula, one of the other "chosen" children. He feels love for his father, and despite her abuse, he has some semblance of compassion for his mother. Despite the others trying hard to make him as "dark" as they are, they never really succeed.

I liked the character of Jimmy, as well his relationship with his father. Of the other children, I liked Talula the best. Even though she also manipulated Jimmy, I felt that she cared for him in some way. This also may have been because other than Jimmy, we got the most backstory on her. Harry and Percy fell a little flat for me, as did Lyreco. I would be interested in learning more about them in the future. I really liked the concept of the Light Warriors, and Drahcir Namtip was a favorite (clever name). I enjoyed the flashbacks when he arrived on scene. I also enjoyed the challenges the characters faced on their journey to find the map. I did feel that they overcame these challenges a little fast, though.

In technical terms, I felt that some editing was needed. I also felt that there was a lot of exposition early on in the book. I felt sometimes as if I was just being told the answers, instead of being shown. I think that if this was done gradually, it wouldn't feel as jarring as it did to me.

In terms of plotting, I felt that the prologue was excellent and it really hooked me. I also felt that the pacing of the story was appropriate. It moved quickly and I eagerly turned the pages to get to the end. I also enjoyed the ending itself. It intrigued me, and I am looking forward to seeing what the four children discover in Sepura Castle.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Poll Results

Some of you may have seen the poll on the right side of my page this week. Thanks so much for voting!

The poll asked what other content readers would like to see on the blog. Of the votes I received, the top answer was movies (based on books) and app reviews, followed by writing tips and helpful links. So, I will occasionally post movie and app reviews here, as well as writing tips/links since that was the second most popular vote.

If anyone is interested in seeing other content that I did not mention in the poll, please let me know.

Back to reviewing! Will post a new review soon!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Review: Awakened (Wak Series #1) by Khadija Craddock

Hello Readers,

I have just finished Awakened by Khadija Craddock. This is a paranormal novel, with a complex and unique mythology. This is the first book in the Wak Series. I want to post a spoiler warning in this post, just in case, but I am going to try my hardest not to give away too much!

*Possible Spoilers Below!*

Awakened tells the story of Alaya, a young track star at Equinox High. At the start of the book, she has just returned to school after going into cardiac arrest (after a track meet) and losing her mother in a car accident. As the story progresses, Alaya notices that she is undergoing some unusual changes, and that strange things are happening in Equinox City.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a fresh and fascinating take on the vampire genre, which has been getting a little stale lately, with all the vampire books/shows/movies that came out after Twilight (Except CW's Vampire Diaries, which rocks!). I loved having the opportunity to learn about creation and vampire mythology from an African standpoint, as opposed to the usual Euro-centric standpoint. The idea of Waks, and how they have walked the Earth from the beginning of time, initially having a symbiotic relationship with humans, was amazing. Also, because of my science background, I loved learning about the Lyse, and why they were harmful to Waks (also, Lyse is a clever name!)

Regarding the cast of characters, I thought they were well-developed and interesting. Everyone was written with shades of grey, which I absolutely loved. Alaya was a great main character, because she was amazing, but at the same time, conflicted and flawed. Additionally, I liked Bataar, Octavius, Amina, and Tori. Of these four, I wished I could have learned more about Bataar and Amina. I felt that I didn't know them very well at the end of the book, especially Amina. I remain a little uncertain about Shemroy. I liked him at times, but I felt like his personality wasn't completely solidified. I do realize that due to the events of the book, he changed as his relationship with Alaya changed. I didn't like the flirty character very much at the beginning. Then, towards the middle of the book, I loved him. Subsequently, after the awakening, I didn't like him as much, because I felt like he became a little bit of a doormat. I wanted to see him retain a little bit of independence. Mr. Lomai is another character I feel a little conflicted about. He seemed very nice, and I do realize that as a fellow Wak, his relationship with Alaya is not necessarily a student-teacher relationship, but it still felt a little inappropriate to me. Perhaps in book 2, outside of the school setting, it would work better. Regardless of my feelings about their friendship, I liked the character, and would like to see more of him.

In terms of pacing, the prologue definitely drew me in! After this, however, the story slowed down a bit. Then, about 1/4 of the way through the book, it kicked up again. This initial slow pacing was a little frustrating to me, because I just wanted to delve into the mythology. It was a little tough to see Alaya go through the motions during school, and acting like a normal girl, when I knew she wasn't and was waiting to discover her true identity. After this point, however, the story was really fast-paced, which I loved! I eagerly turned the pages, waiting to see what was to come.

In technical terms, the descriptions and analogies that the author used were simply lovely. Many of them were unusual (in a good way!) This really drew me in and made me excited to read more. I highlighted so many wonderfully written sentences on my Kindle that I was soon highlighting full paragraphs. I will say, however, in sharp contrast to this, was the fact that this book needed some editing. The dialogue, at times, felt a little awkward. I felt that Alaya did not always talk like a teenage girl, both in conversations with others, and with her internal monologue. For example, I found it a little odd that she referred to her parents by their first names.

With regards to the plot, there were so many surprises! The author did a good job of keeping me guessing. Nothing at all was obvious to me. The ending especially was a definite surprise, with the truth about a certain character coming to light. This was sad, because I loved the character very much, and I was completely hoodwinked! The book ended on a cliffhanger. Typically, with books in a series, I get a little frustrated with such abrupt endings. I prefer each book to be somewhat of a standalone novel, yet keep the reader interested enough to pick up book two. However, I think that the author did succeed in doing this. The book explained enough, and I felt that there was a conclusion, of sorts. Despite my general dislike of such big cliffhangers, the ending was really good, and I can't really complain! I am definitely looking forward to seeing where the Wak Series takes us next.

In sum, this was a fun read. The concept was unique, intriguing, and reasonably well-executed. With editing and improved pacing, the novel would be even better. Lovers of the paranormal genre, as well as readers interested in mythology from around the world, would enjoy this book. I am glad I got the chance to read this, and look forward to seeing more of the author's work.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Friday, March 1, 2013


Feature and Follow :
Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

This is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Allison Can Read to give bloggers more exposure. So please comment and follow me! I'll follow you back!

 Q: Confess your blogger sins! Is there anything as a newbie blogger that you've done, that as you gained more experience you were like -- oops?

Several things, actually. I don't respond to emails as quickly as I want to because I got a little overwhelmed with them! I also am not as quick with posting reviews and am HORRIBLE with publicizing my blog!! I am getting better, though!