Saturday, December 29, 2012

Last Kiss IN Venice

Last Kiss In Venice (Legend of the White Snake #1) Title:
Last Kiss in Venice

Author:
Martin Chu Shui

Series:
Legend of the White Snake

Book:
1

About the Book: (Goodreads)
Beside a bridge over a canal in Venice, Charlie is spellbound not only by Caitlin’s absolute beauty but also by what seems like a mythical bond between them. The more he knows about her, the more mysterious she becomes. As they finally admit their love to each other in Paris, then move to settle down in Australia together, it looks like the start of Happily Ever After. But neither of them realizes that this is just the start of a heart-wrenching journey.
After a lifetime of searching, Caitlin finally finds her true love, settles down in the beautiful rolling countryside of outback Australia, and starts to raise a family, but her enemy is never far away. She loves Charlie deeply and is certain he is her soul mate, but she knows she can never reveal her secret; he must never know who she really is, and that is her downfall. Information in the hands of her enemy brings her life crashing down around her. To save all she has worked for, she must fight for her love and the right to survive.
“Last Kiss in Venice” is a reinterpretation of one of China’s most famous love stories, ‘Legend of the White Snake’. It is a supernatural love epic that encompasses both eastern and western culture to tell a story of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, revenge and justice. This cocktail of oriental magic, vampires, and sword fights is a legend not easily forgotten.

I'd Recommend to:
6-10th graders

My Rating:
4.3/5

My Thoughts:
One day over a thousand years ago, a white snake is saved by a handsome Chinese lad, and is promised that if in another life they are both human, he would marry her. Well, it seems to be that other life. Caitlin and Charlie are now married. James, a friend of Charlie, thinks that Caitlin has killed his wife and James is now out to get her, endangering her, Charlie, and their unborn baby. There is lots of back and forth between Australia and Europe and lots of battles between vampires, ICSC, and white snake monsters, but it all adds up to a suspenseful and interesting story.
One of my favorite things about books by Martin Chu Shui is that he always incorporates a lot of traditional Chinese culture and information. This book was no exception. Reading these books is a painless way to learn about Chinese myths and cultures. Great job, yet again, to the author.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Great Gatsby

Guest post brought to you by Tasha Haight.



October 16, 2012

The Impossibility of the American Dream in

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

            During their lifetime, most people strive to achieve the American Dream.  Each individual's idea of this dream is varied slightly, although most have a common ground where wealth, romance, and freedom is wanted. However, as one gets closer to achieving one's American Dream, more is desired.  F. Scott Fitzgerald shows this impossibility of the American Dream through Jay Gatsby's obsession with money and love in The Great Gatsby.

            Money is a major part of the American Dream. The famous saying "Money cannot buy happiness", is not entirely true, and some people would even say that money does buy happiness; "Attainment of the gold was to be attainment of the golden moment" (Stern).  Being economically independent is something that is viewed as part of the American Dream (Verderame).  The clever but not so astute, Jay Gatsby strongly believes that this money will bring him happiness.  He becomes wealthy and owns a lot of material possessions to try to emphasize that money (Verderame).  In order to obtain this wealth and rich status so that he may be accepted into the crowd he wants to be in, Gatsby has held several jobs from collecting oysters as James Gatz, to yachting, to being part of the drug business, then the oil business, and currently being a bootlegger.  Gatsby is so rich and benevolent that at his extravagant and frequent parties he can afford to supply two suppers to so many people that "the only place in the garden where a single man could linger without looking purposeless and alone" is the cocktail table (Fitzgerald 42).  He is very happy that he has achieved this wealthy status and points out everything in his house, even his clothes, to Daisy Buchanan and Nick Carraway.  Gatsby knows that Daisy likes to associate more with a higher class, so in an attempt to win her over, he beguiles her about his riches.

            Romance and/or love is a classical part of the American Dream.  Romance leads to love, which leads to a husband/wife, which leads to a family and children, which leads to happiness, each of which is a part of the American Dream.  To have a romance, you must first need a boy and a girl.  Most people think of an American boy or girl to be down to Earth, blonde, popular as a child, and to grow up to be a successful adult. Gatsby is no different. He wants the romance and the love that he once had with Daisy Fay (now married as Daisy Buchanan).   The young Daisy was described by her best friend Jordan as being "by far the most popular of all the young girls in Louisville . . . all day long the telephone rang in her house and excited young officers . . . demanded the privilege of monopolizing her that night" (Fitzgerald 74).  She is the image of a perfect American girl, and she is on Gatsby's "want" list.  He wants to recreate the past and have Daisy be his girl again, like they were in 1917 before Gatsby had to go to war.  He becomes so obsessed and engrossed in trying to make the past come alive again, that he collects newspaper and magazine clippings that mention her and moves across the bay from her to live close by.  When he looks outside he can see a green light coming from the end of her dock, he has moved so close to her to try to get her back.  He finally gets her to his house and "stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real" (Fitzgerald 91).  Even though he has achieved reconnecting with her, Gatsby will never be able to rekindle the love they once shared since Daisy now has a husband, Tom, and a daughter, Pam.  But Gatsby does not seem to care about any of those things standing in the way of his dream girl and of him reaching his version of the American Dream. 

            The American Dream, though held by most people, is very probably impossible to achieve.  Americans never get enough.  Once they have what they want, they simply want more and will never be satisfied.  That is simply human nature.  Fitzgerald seems to realize this by focusing on "possibilities but also its limitations" of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby (Verderame).  No matter how hard Gatsby got to having that American Dream or how close he got, he just could not do it.  He ends up dead, mistaken as a lover of Myrtle, a woman killed by a car Gatsby was in.  He is a victim, "Daisy's victim, and a victim of the elusive American Dream . . . a victim of the greed, apathy, and indifference that corrupts dreams, betrays promises, and destroys possibilities" (Emin Tunc).  Gatsby did gain the wealth he desired, though it was dirty money, but he did not get the girl of his dreams, and could not fulfill his American Dream.  Some might say he simply had held onto an dream of the past, one that was "elusive" and "outlived" and that he died trying to make that past dream possible (Emin Tunc). Whether the dream was too much of a past dream  or still a current dream for Gatsby is a matter of opinion, but he died before he could achieve it.

            There are three main parts to the classic American Dream.  Those parts are wealth, romance, and happiness.  Happiness  can be gained through the wealth and romance of the dream.  Jay Gatsby tries extremely hard to get these things and to achieve his own American Dream - being wealthy enough to win and keep the heart of Daisy - but cannot achieve it.  He becomes extremely close, but close only counts in horseshoes, not life.  The American Dream is nearly impossible to achieve and Gatsby "cannot go back in time and relive those lost years.  His dream comes to a bitter end" (Emin Tunc).  His life was full of great depravity because of this eclectic dream, and it, along with his need to emulate the past and his audacious attempts to win over Daisy, ultimately led to his demise.  Not capriciously, he dies wealthy, but alone and unhappy without Daisy.

           


 

Works Cited

Emin Tunc, Tanfer. “The Great Gatsby: The Tragedy of the American Dream on Long Island’s Gold Coast.” In Bloom, Harold, ed. The American Dream, Bloom’s Literary Themes. New York: Chelsea Publishing House, 2009. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. http://www.fofweb.com

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004.

Stern, Milton R. From The Golden Moment: The Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald: 170–173. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970. Quoted as “On the American Dream and Fitzgerald’s Romantic Excesses.” in Bloom, Harold, ed. The Great Gatsby, Bloom’s Guides. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2006. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. http://www.fofweb.com.

Verderame, Carla. “The American Dream in The Great Gatsby.” McClinton-Temple, Jennifer ed. Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2011. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. http://www.fofweb.com.

 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tony Viardo (Astor+Blue Editions) Guest Post

This guest post is brought to you by Tony Viardo!!

Astor +Blue Editions has put its entire first season's list of e-book titles on a holiday promotional sale 
for $0.99 or $1.99. http://astorandblue.com/catalog/.  
The sale will continue through January 7, 2013.





Digital Publishing: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

So how many articles have we read about E-books and Digital Publishing this year? For anyone who generally follows the book world (rabid booklover, book-blogger, industry pro or casual reader), we’re literally inundated with the amazing numbers—“E-book sales up 125% (again) over the 175% they were up from last year’s 225% increase!”—and equally amazing technological announcements—“Next Fall, the new ZimWittyZoomDitty tablet not only updates your Facebook and Goodreads friends whenever you snort in disgust … it cooks dinner for you at the same time!”

This leads many to take at least casual stock of what’s going on/going to happen to the “Publishing World” as we know it.  And if your friends are like my friends (hardcore print book consumers), that stock is usually pretty morbid (sharp Greenwich Village angst not included): “Print books are doomed, so are brick-and-mortar stores.  Goodbye literary quality. Oh and some pajama-wearing techie living in a basement with a laptop is going to be the new Sulzburger; we’ll all have to bow down!”

If you (or that good friend of yours) fall into the mortified category, my take (for what it’s worth) may come as positive news:  E-books are not, and will not be, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas; in this case, the “Print World’s” bacon. Now, as the owner of a “Digital First” publishing house (Astor + Blue Editions, www.astorandblue.com) my opinions may easily be written off as self-serving and invalid.  But bear with me for a minute… these are fact-based observations and I might just make sense (Someone tell my mom and dad).

As someone who earns a living from publishing, I have to follow numbers and industry trends as closely as possible.  And while some see doom and gloom for Print, I see exciting developments for both Print and E-book formats.  What do the numbers show?  Digital book revenue is skyrocketing, print revenue is declining.  Natural conclusion?  E-books are killing print books. But not so fast.  Historically, Print revenue has always seemed to be declining (even before E-books were invented), but that doesn’t mean the book market is dying or shrinking.

We have to remember that in fact the book market is growing. Readership always grows because population always grows.  Every year, new readers enter the vast pool of the club that is “adult readership,” (despite Dancing with the Stars). And every year more readers are being born and theoretically being inspired by Ms. Crabtree’s elementary reading class.  **So why the decline?  Readership grows gradually, but the sheer number of books and book vendors grow exponentially, showing an investment loss almost every year. (Basic statistics: the widening universe makes it look like a shrinking pie when it isn’t).

So what does this mean?  If you look at the numbers (historically), revenue for print books may have declined, yes, but not more than “normal,” and not significantly more than it did when there were no E-books around. (This is arguable of course, but the long term numbers do not show a precipitous drop-off). The yearly revenue decline, if there is one, can just as easily be written off to economic conditions as to E-book competition.  Bottom line:  Any drop in print revenue that may be caused by E-books are not significantly sharp enough to declare that E-books are destroying print book sales.  (Hence no Grinch).

What may be happening, and what I believe is happening is that a whole new market for E-books is developing, while the print book market growth, like Publishing as a whole, is still growing at a historically gradual pace. (Boringly flat).  Come up with your pet anecdote here, but I believe that more new readers are entering the market (who otherwise wouldn’t have) because of E-readers; existing readers are consuming more books (both print and e-book) than they did before; and while it would seem that a certain print title is losing a sale whenever readers buy it in E-book format, this is offset, at least somewhat, by the fact that more print titles are being bought (that otherwise wouldn’t) because of the extra marketing buzz and added awareness produced by the E-book’s cyber presence.  All of it evens out in the end, and I believe, ultimately fosters growth industry-wide.

So take heart Print fans, E-books are not the dark villain you think they are.  And here, I should correct my earlier analogy—that E-books are not the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  They may actually be the Grinch…in as much as, at the end of the story, the pear-shaped green guy ended up not only giving all the presents back to the singing Who-villers, he created a flash mob and started a big party as well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Grow Your Marriage Blog Tour Guest Post!

This guest post was brought to you by Jerry Cook!! 


We have been fed, clothed, and nurtured by our parents for 18 years, and for some of us, it’s much longer than that. It’s natural to feel a connection or a sense of dependency on our parents, even into our adulthood. While it’s a great idea to stay emotionally close to your parents, you do not want to get “so” close that it disrupts your marriage.
We may even feel close enough to ask our parents for advice.  It’s not wrong to ask a parent for advice---it’s actually a good thing, so long as your spouse is okay with it. If your parents or in-laws are offering advice where they should not, the biological child should be the first to say something to those parents. If the biological child will not, the son/daughter-in-law may need to or else the cycle will continue and likely intensify, and that spouse needs the support from their spouse when doing so. Chances are good your parents and in-laws will respect you, at least in the long run, but your language must clearly show you are standing up to them because you are standing up for your marriage. Here are some words you may want to use.
Mom and Dad, I love you very much. You have offered me great advice through the years, and one of those things is to love my spouse more than anyone else. I have found that person, and I need you to know that we will ask for your advice, but we feel you are trying to tell us what to do and it’s really causing a lot of stress on our marriage.
What do you think? Have you had any experience with this? What did you do/say?  Here are some responses from that question on Facebook.  (PS. “Like” my Facebook page and you may have some of your comments included in my upcoming posts!)
-I think having a couple learn to struggle and grow together is part of the bonding needed for a stable marriage.
- Unless you're broke, starving, and living on the streets, married kids should figure out how to make it on their own.
-It's absolutely important.  Couples need to learn to build their own foundation by becoming independent of their parents and deciding what's most important to their relationship.

For more help on creating boundaries in a way that strengthens your marriage, purchase your copy of "Grow Your Marriage by Leaps and Boundaries" today!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mark of The Princess - FREE for Christmas!

A gift to you, from B.C. Morin - the author of Mark of the Princess, the first book in The Kingdom Chronicles! Right now it's just free on December 25, so be sure to get it today and Merry Christmas!
Mark of the Princess (The Kingdom Chronicles)

Book Description (amazon)

 February 1, 2012
The feisty and determined faerie Princess Alannah is many things, but she never thought she would be the key to her people’s destruction.

Kidnapped for a power she does not yet possess, Alannah finds herself in the clutches of the most malevolent sorcerer of her time. Maligo. Alannah escapes her prison with help from the handsome and stalwart warrior faerie, Brennus.

Now she must cross mountains and forests fraught with rogue faeries, vicious Fae-hating trolls, dangerous shape-shifters, and more to reach the only ones that can help her control her incoming powers. The Elder Faeries.

With Brennus by her side, Alannah is determined to reach the Elder Faeries and save her people. Maligo is just as determined she never makes it that far.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Talented Giveaway! (Ebook copies - International!)


Sophie Davis and her publishers are willing to give away three (3) ebook copies (online or reading device versions) of Talented, the 1st book in the Talented Saga! This giveaway is open to all international and local people!

What to Win:
An E-Book Version of
Talented 

How to Win:
Follow PrincessReviews
Leave a Comment on this Post (WITH YOUR EMAIL SO WE KNOW HOW TO CONTACT YOU!!!)

Who Can Enter:
PrincessReviews Followers

Requirements to Enter:
Follow PrincessReviews

When To Enter:
Now until January 2nd, 2013

About the Book (GOODREADS):

Talented (Talented #1)

by 
4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·   rating details  ·  80 ratings  ·  60 reviews
If you always knew what people were really thinking, would you consider it a gift or a curse?

Talia Lyons is Talented. Born after a nuclear spill, she is part of a new generation that possesses special abilities; Talia can read the minds of others and manipulate their thoughts. Whether Morphers, Light Manipulators or Telekinetics, the Talented are taught to control their abilities under the protective eye of the government- to use their Talents for good. But all Talia wants is revenge.

Talia joins the Hunters, an elite group of government operatives, hoping to one day kill Ian Crane - the man who ordered the execution of her parents. Ever since she witnessed their brutal deaths, Talia has spent her life honing her abilities, determined to settle the score. But she still has a lot to learn before she can ease the pain inside. Talia turns to a boy who can mimic her Talents, a boy who truly understands her inner turmoil. But even he can’t help Talia, when she’s forced to choose between saving herself and avenging the lives of her parents.

Talented is an action-packed adventure, about a group of teenagers who aren't afraid to embrace their fears and fight for what they believe in.
Talented (Talented Saga #1)


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Talented Giveaway! (Print copies - US Only)

Sophie Davis and her publishers are willing to give away two (2) print copies (actual books, not ebooks) of Talented, the 1st book in the Talented Saga! Unfortunately, these are only available to residents of the USA, for shipping purposes.

What to Win:
An Actual Book of
Talented 

How to Win:
Follow PrincessReviews
Leave a Comment on this Post (WITH YOUR EMAIL SO WE KNOW HOW TO CONTACT YOU!!!)

Who Can Enter:
United States Residents

Requirements to Enter:
Follow PrincessReviews
Have a USA Shipping Address

When To Enter:
Now until January 2nd, 2013

About the Book (GOODREADS):

Talented (Talented #1)

by 
4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·   rating details  ·  80 ratings  ·  60 reviews
If you always knew what people were really thinking, would you consider it a gift or a curse?

Talia Lyons is Talented. Born after a nuclear spill, she is part of a new generation that possesses special abilities; Talia can read the minds of others and manipulate their thoughts. Whether Morphers, Light Manipulators or Telekinetics, the Talented are taught to control their abilities under the protective eye of the government- to use their Talents for good. But all Talia wants is revenge.

Talia joins the Hunters, an elite group of government operatives, hoping to one day kill Ian Crane - the man who ordered the execution of her parents. Ever since she witnessed their brutal deaths, Talia has spent her life honing her abilities, determined to settle the score. But she still has a lot to learn before she can ease the pain inside. Talia turns to a boy who can mimic her Talents, a boy who truly understands her inner turmoil. But even he can’t help Talia, when she’s forced to choose between saving herself and avenging the lives of her parents.

Talented is an action-packed adventure, about a group of teenagers who aren't afraid to embrace their fears and fight for what they believe in.
Talented (Talented Saga #1)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Phantom Dreams


Phantom Dreams by T. K. Harris begins in the mind of a serial killer, then the FBI agent tracking him, and finally the woman who dreams about the killings.

Kathy Gilliam is a twenty-nine-year-old single, work-a-holic, with an ailing father. She lives alone and up until recently has nightmares she can't remember. However as the stress over her father's declining health and an important account looming at work begin to exhaust her, her nightmares become more frequent and more vivid.

At the urging of her primary physician Kathy seeks the help of a psychiatrist who advises her to keep a notebook beside her bed to write down the dreams. Several sketches later, Kathy realizes that the faces from her dreams match those of murder victims of the Coast-to-Coast killer that are splashed across the news. Feeling that she is losing her mind, she tries to ignore it. But Kathy eventually finds herself at the local police station telling her story. However, instead of being of help Kathy may find herself a suspect, or the next victim.

The novel has suspense and mystery to it, which many will enjoy. The description is full of many sights and scents. It takes place mostly in the spring in the Southeast (Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama) which I am familiar with so it feels realistic in that way for me.

Kathy and Agent Matthews' characters are just ok for me. However, the serial killer's mind is entertaining in that he is completely insane. His conversations with the "other" person in his head are shocking. What I found interesting is that the reader doesn't know which of the two is the "real" person and which is just the voice in the head until the end.

When I first started reading this, I thought it was a straight crime thriller. The beginning is quickly paced and brief. However, once we're introduced to Kathy the pace begins to slow. We learn about her day-to-day life, her past and worries and dreams. This goes on for several chapters and then we're thrust back into the serial killer's mind for a chapter. The next several chapters return to Kathy hanging out with her friend Margo or talking in detail about Kathy's job. A few chapters about Agent Matthews finding a body and his frustrations with the case follow this; and then we're back with Kathy for several more chapters.

The combination of the two stories (Kathy's normal world and the hectic and dark world of the serial killer and the agent tracking him) didn't work well for me. I felt like I was reading two different stories even when Kathy becomes involved with the investigation. It wasn't until almost 30% through that I realized that it was supposed to be Kathy's story.  However, I just couldn't shake the initial impression of crime thriller, so much so that the chapter after chapter of Kathy's everyday life felt out of place. I felt that it was sidetracking the real story of the serial killer. It would have worked better for me if Kathy had been introduced sooner.

As a writer, I would've like better transitions and a smoother fusing between the worlds. As a reader, it is overall an ok read. This is a mesh of a thriller, chick literature, and paranormal romance. There is suspense and mystery that's maybe stretched a tad too long by contrived situations, some predictability and stereotypes. Some of what Agent Matthews does didn't seem protocol but I'm only basing this on my years of watching Law and Order and not formal education about law enforcement. But it has a satisfying and dramatic ending. Although I would've liked a little more than I got regarding the reason for Kathy's dreams.

I was provided with a copy in exchange for an honest review

Rating 3.5/5

You can find out more at: http://www.tkharrisonline.com

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Man in the Box, FREE Today!


This is a great read. Pick up your copy today! Free Today through Wednesday, December 5th on Amazon Kindle
image
The Man in the Box by Andrew Toy
Work provided Robbie Lake the perfect escape from his family. But his life is turned upside down when he is unexpectedly fired. When he finds a new way of escape through a cardboard box, everything changes. The imaginary world of his childhood has evolved in his absence and is now more savage and hostile than even he could have dreamed. Robbie is drawn in by the excitement of his secret world, but will the cost of abandoning his family prove too high?
WHERE TO BUY
See my review here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: More Than What I See


More Than What I See by Alisha Smith is about Grace Joy Smith, and she is constantly in trouble. She does not intentionally go out to do bad things, but she does make mistakes. Throughout the book, she is called to attention on mistakes by her parents, her principal and her aunt. But at church, Apostle has a message from God just for Grace about love and forgiveness.

My review as a reader: This is a quick read with a good message. Although this was only a snippet of Grace's everyday life, I could see how she felt like such a "horrible" person in the face of the frustrations of her authority figures. This being from Grace's point of view, she may have perceived that her mom or dad were angrier than they actually felt, which made Grace feel worse. Sometimes children do feel this way when they are corrected. The illustrations are clean pencil drawings which present Grace's and the other characters' facial expressions well.

My review as a writer: *possible spoiler* As Grace faces her many mistakes and then feels bad about it, she remembers a quote from the Apostle "I'm more than what I see." I feel like this gives away the point of the plot before the ending.

Overall, an ok read good for building self-love in children.

(Side note: I'm also still waiting on the audio download to become available through the code in the back of the book offered by Tate Publishing.)

Rating 3/5

Friday, November 30, 2012

Beyond the Grave Book Review


Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson is the fourth installment in The 39 Clues book series. In this installment, Amy and Dan Cahill are in Cairo trying to find the next clue. They are being pursued by Irina Spinsky, their Russian cousin and a number of other Cahill cousins. The children are constantly on the move, taking flights to various places in Egypt. They are also getting messages left for them by their deceased grandmother Grace.

This book, as like every other in the series, is written by a different author. I could really tell the difference in the writing. There is more emotional development in the characters, and not just the Cahill children. Irina Spinsky also seems to be fighting that "weakness" called emotion.

Amy and Dan are fighting each other while trying to hold on to the loving image of their grandmother in the face of the "evil" they find out about the Ekat branch of the Cahills. It is especially hard since they still don't know their branch. They begin to question why Grace never told them about the hunt for the 39 clues or prepared them for the race. Or did she?

This installment was just ok for me. Amy and Dan did some really dumb things that get them either caught or giveaway their leads on the clues. But that is to be expected because they're always being watched whether they know it or not. I'm just waiting for them to get a bit more savvy about it. There are too many convenient "saves" for Amy and Dan. I would've liked them to get themselves out of trouble. Also, I could not follow the clues as well in this book as I did the others. I had no idea what the clue could have been or where to find it.

Overall, it was an ok read. I did learn about Nefertari and some other Egyptian queens I had never heard of. I learned many Egyptian words for food and boats and things like that. I also learned that there is a Rosetta Stone. It made me feel really dumb not knowing about it, but more educated after I searched Wikipedia for it. That's why I like reading books like these. I get to learn history in a fun way.

Rating 3/5

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

JF Jenkins Guest Post

This guest post was brought to you by JF Jenkins and Astraea Press.


Just Keep Writing

Writer's block is one of the hardest things to get through. Everyone has their different tricks and techniques, and it's probably the most common question I get asked. Other writers and non-writers are desperate to know. Here's a small list of things I do every time I hit that block.

1)      I ask myself why I am hitting the block. Is it because I don't know what's happening next in the story, or simply because I'm bored with what I'm writing? Because sometimes a writer does get bored of a scene, particularly when it's an uninteresting piece of explanation rather than action or drama.

2)      Once I figure out why I'm blocked, I lay down and take a nap. Okay, half the time I don't actually sleep. Sometimes I use the nap as an excuse to have a quiet place where I can think and visualize my story.

3)      If that doesn't do the trick, then I'll go for a walk. This is where I get my writing music. I don't listen to anything when I'm actually working, but when I'm plotting I tend to break out all sorts of different songs to get the mood going.

4)      Sometimes I play a game just to give my brain a break because it will get tired when I'm working too hard.

5)      I'll ask myself if I'm pushing my goals too much. Unreasonable deadlines are a great cause of writer's block.

6)      I have to keep writing. That's my motto: Just keep writing. Kind of like Dori from “Finding Nemo”. Just keep writing. Just keep writing. Just keep writing, writing. Because that's the best way out of the block, breaking through.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Man in the Box Book Review


The Man in the Box by Andrew Toy is about Robbie Lake, a middle-aged man who finds a box that sends him to a fantasy world that he created as a child. When Robbie is fired from his job of 11 years, he is at a loss of what to do next. This comes on the heels of yet another blowout with his teenaged daughter and another cold shoulder encounter with his distant young son. Robbie doesn't know his family and they're not quick to welcome him either after he's fired due to layoffs. Only his wife Rosalynn keeps everything together for him and the family.

When Robbie discovers this "magical" box, he enters a world called Reveloin where he is the long lost "god" that everyone has been waiting for. He is strong and fast and cunning--opposite to how he feels in the real world. Robbie only needs to sit on his throne in Reveloin to take power and reign supreme; if only he didn't have to come back to reality do mundane tasks like apply for jobs and pick the kids up from school.

This was a heart-stopping suspense adventure like I haven't read in a long time. The author does a great job of interfusing light humor with the intense action moments--and there are a lot of them. From battling dinosaurs to ghost-demons, I was always anxious for Robbie and wondered how he would make it out of the danger. Now that is building suspense when you're wondering how a character could ever get out of his predicament even though you know he has to.

Robbie is a likeable character. When I first started the book, I thought that Steve Carell could play this part. However, as the story progressed into more action, I began to wonder. But Robbie's sense of humor at the irony of some of his adventures could still work for Carell as evidenced by the action in the movie Get Smart. However, I'm not saying this book is anything like Get Smart. It is a really original book with relatable characters.

Robbie created this fantasy world as a child. He was the hero in all his whimsical and "safe" adventures, but in his absence the world has become a dark and horrifying place for the characters he created. The more Robbie is drawn into Reveloin, the less he participates in his own reality. His family and responsibilities seem more like a burden to him. But when circumstances make him realize his real life is more important, his characters don't seem to like that idea too much.

As an author, I have found myself lost in the worlds I've created, sacrificing bathroom breaks or even eating to get that much farther into my story. When I have to stop, it does seem like my characters continue to talk to me and call me back. This is the feeling of The Man in the Box.

This is certainly a well-done adventure, suspense with a little fantasy. There are some really interesting concepts in the book that work really well like Robbie's amnesia while in Reveloin. I also appreciate that Robbie asks the questions that the reader wonders about as well.
Be advised that there are some gruesome parts in it, but nothing that lingered enough to stop me from reading. I gave it 4.9 stars out of 5 because there is a comment that offended me toward the beginning of the book. However, I kept reading because the story was so engaging and this was just a passing comment by Larry the security guard that I didn't understand the significance of and thought could have been stricken from the book entirely. With that said, I highly recommend this book.

I was given this ebook as an ARC for an honest and unbiased opinion.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Book Review: PRINCESS KANDAKE: Warrior By Choice...Appointed to Rule


Princess Kandake: Warrior By Choice...Appointed to Rule by Stephanie Jefferson follows the story of Princess Kandake, one of four of King Amani's children. In a kingdom rich with culture, wealth and peace, girls can grow up to be artisans, warriors and even queen. Kandake desires to be a warrior and worries that Great Mother will not choose her to be Prime Warrior to the kingdom of Nubia. What she fears most comes to fruition when Great Mother not only doesn't name her Prime Warrior, but she instead names her the next Queen of Nubia. How can she be what she's been called to be while being who she was meant to be?

Princess Kandake is full of rich sights, aromas and sounds. It skillfully captures the feel of the Nile and the kingdom of Nubia and her people. It is a very peaceful and loving kingdom. Everything and everyone acts with respect and discipline above everything else even in the face of adversity and death. Princess Kandake's family is loving and supportive. The royal children rarely do anything to shame themselves, their family or the kingdom. Nubian warriors are the epitome of warrior without match.

Rumors of war surface, and then Kandake's elder brother Alara goes missing from a hunting trip. Tough decisions must be made to avoid war, maintain alliances and locate her brother. Kandake and her remaining siblings get a crash course in being leaders of Nubia. She in turn has to struggle with her warrior instincts and her role as Nubia's next queen. Her character is tested several times and she grows in reconciling her desires with what is expected of her.

The different characters, from Kandake's brothers to Great Mother to best friend Ezena are simplistic. They serve their purpose, but really stayed somewhat vague. I didn't see a difference between Alara and the other brother Natasen in speech. We were told that they were different instead of shown. Although Princess Kandake's sister Tabiry becomes a source of conflict, she is nothing more than annoying rather than an actual adversary.

The descriptions of Kandake's home and way of life are vivid, including sounds and scents. One thing that I was impressed with was the description of how an animal was deemed "healthy" by scent. I thought that kept well with the time and place of the novel. Nowadays most people couldn't tell much about nature except what we see on PBS.

Also, even though the story is set in the past, the speech is not so archaic that it is hard to follow. This is an easy read with quick chapters. Princess Kandake is well put together with some great description, and enough action and adventure to make it an interesting story.

On the downside, the "perfect" life of Nubia depicted, and the resolution of problems and conflicts are a bit too utopian. It lacks the drama and feeling of urgency and danger to make it truly great reading. For me, the conflicts did not elicit enough emotional response. However, with an open-ended conclusion, Princess Kandake may face greater dangers in the future that will draw me closer to the characters and their plights.

I would recommend this book for a quick read. Ages: 11+

Rating 3.7/5

I was provided with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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