Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bedtime for Buzzy by T.J. Hackworth and Sean Baptist



I'm thrilled to add Bedtime for Buzzy to our library of bedtime books. This adorable book is well-written and beautifully illustrated.

Buzzy doesn't want to go to sleep, but his toys feel differently. One by one they convince Buzzy that a good night's rest is the only way to continue their fun tomorrow.

I love the lesson in this story. We parents can tell our kids a million times why they need to go to bed, but we usually just come across as fun-smashers. Bedtime for Buzzy talks to children from a perspective they can relate to. I highly recommend it for those parents whose little ones fuss and fight every time they say, "Go to bed."


Bedtime for Buzzy releases February 8th. You can pre-order the hardcover at Amazon.com.



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Legend of the Coco Palms Resort by Rita D'Orazio





Legend of the Coco Palms Resort is a romance and a mystery and a vacation all in one. Rita D'Orazio's excellent writing took me back to Hawaii and reminded me of all the little reasons I loved being there.


Abby is a New York lawyer who's been sent to the island of Kauai to manage a real estate deal for a non-native buyer. But the Coco Palms Resort doesn't want to be bought any more than the islanders want to see it turned into high-rise condos. Mysterious things happen every time Abby gets close. And her extended stay on the island begins to soften her rigid New York attitude.

There is an easy mixture of mystery and romance here. Neither element feels forced into the other. I found myself unable to put it down for wanting to know what happens next.

If you love mystery, if you love romance, or if you love the islands, I suggest you give this book a go. It's an especially good pick-me-up for those of us just heading into a cold, snowy winter.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fifteen Fabulous Fairy Tales by Karen Isaacson


A collection of new, original fairy tales told in the classic style but with a sense of humor and a contemporary twist. Suitable for fairy-tale lovers of all ages!

In Fifteen Fabulous Fairy Tales Karen Isaacson twists brand new tales with a modern and humorous flair. What I love most about this book is that the stories are told in the casual and somewhat cynical way that I tend to stories to my kids.

This is really a book for older kids and adults, although my daughter did enjoy hearing the stories at bedtime. She often gave me quizical looks when the story took an unexpected turn. We both enjoyed the book very much.

The writing is great and very funny. The black and white illustrations add the perfect touch. Fifteen Fabulous Fairy Tales is a great gift for anyone with a sharp sense of humor.











Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lost in the Woods by Dennis Mews


When Nadia Hamilton found herself lost in the woods, she wished she'd never moved to The Grange School and been dragged along on their pathetic camping trip. No-one warned her that teen Craig Wilson, on the run from the police and two desperate gunmen, was hiding in these same woods. What was in the secret cave, and was it true a wild animal was on the loose? But perhaps most terrifying of all was how a small fire could explode out of control and threaten to kill them all.



The Lowdown:
A girl repeatedly gets lost in the woods on a class trip.
A boy steals a car and runs into the woods, unwittingly taking along something of great importance to a couple of gangsters.

Some Questions:
Why is a teacher allowed to take a co-ed class on a camping trip alone?
Why are the gangsters so stupid?

There are a few technical issues in the manuscript, but overall it's not bad. A few of the chapters seem to drag on and could have been omitted from the story. But the action picks up and it again becomes an interesting read. It's definitely safe enough for a younger teenage audience.




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Jana by Michael J. Sahno



Because of her sexual orientation, Jana Odessi loses her child care job. It's not until she is halfway across the country on a road trip with her partner that Jana realizes she must decide whether she has the strength to return home and fight for her right to be herself.

 
Jana was presented to me as a lesbian On the Road, although not in those words. I thought I was getting into a slice-of-life road trip story, and I was... eventually. It literally took half the book to get there. The first 48% detailed the tendious wrongful termination case Jana brought up against her former employer. And I mean every detail, even down to the opposing lawyer's lack of cuff links.

Obviously the case was an important part of her journey, but for someone expecting to read a different type of novel it seemed unnecessary to go into so much detail. Of course there are people looking for that type of legal drama and they would probably love the first half of Jana. Then they might be disappointed to find themselves tossed into a tale of two women driving across the country. Basically, I felt the story was bipolar and couldn't decide which kind of story it wanted to be.

The writing, however, was smooth and laid back. I loved that the story was set in the 90s but wasn't about the 90s. There were no moments when the writer felt the need to smack his reader in the face with nostalgia. It was a good reminder of a decade when things were beginning to change and people were finally starting to be open where they once had to hide. I feel that it's important to be reminded of how those changes felt at the time.

My biggest gripe with Jana was that the narration jumped back and forth from past to present tense. This would be fine if the narrator were telling a story in the present but also referring to the past. This wasn't the case here. The story continued mostly chronologically but for whatever reason the writer spent some chapters in the past voice and some in the present. I don't generally like reading narration in the present tense, but it at the very least has to be consistent.

I found Jana to be a fairly good read and an important one. Just because I wasn't on board all the way through doesn't mean other readers won't be. I still recommend it and hope that it reaches a lot of people.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Been So Busy

I apologize for being absent for so long. Usually I don't go more than ten days without a review, but I've been moving into my new house and that's been intense. You can be sure I'm still reading and I'll have my next review soon. If I've promised you a review it's still on track. If your promise date has passed, please drop me an email and I'll make sure it hasn't slipped through the cracks.

Below are a few titles I'll be reviewing before the end of the year.






Saturday, October 29, 2016

Nothing Stays the Same by Catherine Chant


How far would you go to save someone's life? Leah and Brennan are going all the way back to 1973. One Choice Changes Everything... In 1973, The Beat Detectors are the hottest TV pop band to hit the airwaves since The Monkees, thanks to the appealing vocals of rising teen idol Ronnie Basford. But behind the scenes, not everything is rainbows and unicorns. Ronnie realizes much too late that one bad decision can ruin your whole life. Forty years later, Ronnie is dead from an apparent suicide and his sixteen-year-old son Brennan wants answers. He needs to understand how it all went so wrong. When he finds himself dropped back in time, to the set of his father's TV show, he's determined to redirect the course of his father's life and create the happy ending Ronnie deserved. Soccer star Leah Reinard has been crushing on Brennan Basford for ages. When they end up at the same summer job, she thinks the fates have finally aligned in her favor. That is, until Brennan suddenly disappears from existence. One day he's there, the next day, he's gone. And no one but Leah even remembers him. Can Leah find Brennan in time to stop him from ruining both their futures?

Anyone who knows me knows that I couldn't resist this book. It has two elements that I love: time travel and early pop idols. So I was super excited when I was offered a copy for review.

Have you ever listened to a favorite old song, closed your eyes, and felt like you could actually be transported back in time? I know I have. And apparently so has Catherine Chant because she made it her time travel device of choice in Nothing Stays the Same.

Every time travel story has to establish a set of time travel rules such as How does time travel happen? and How does it affect the future? These concepts were laid out clearly without a ton of explaining or complicated and awkward conversations. This author's time travel rules were different from most stories I've read. In fact, the characters only had to listen to a record, focus on a memory, and whoosh! Back in time.

Nothing Stays the Same is fun and colorful. There are funny moments but also heart-wrenching ones. It's a clean, young adult novel with suspense, romance, and plenty of mystery. It's a great read for teens but also for those of us who spent an unmentionable amount of hours dreaming of the Monkees and David Cassidy and the like.



Thursday, October 20, 2016

Love Give Us One Death by Jeff P. Jones

In the end the cover is well worn.
Love Give Us One Death is a mix of fact and fiction. This story of Bonnie and Clyde is an intentionally distorted account of real events. Jeff P. Jones has sprinkled in Bonnie's poetry as well witness retellings- real and imagined.

The story was slow for the first half. It took a long time for me to read because I didn't feel the momentum of the story. It was very dense and the abstract writing made it a little confusing. The timeline of events jumped around. Sometimes the author's prose got in the way of his storytelling. But the second half picked up and I couldn't put it down. It wasn't until this point that I realized the poetic nature of the book.

There's sadness in Love Give Us One Death. It makes the readers wonder what they did it all for as there's no glamour like in the stories told by the newspapers of the time.

Overall it was a good experience. I enjoyed the unique style of fiction.

"The longstanding fears fell away, and though she wasn't ready to be taken, death took her all the same."




 Love Give Us One Death releases October 25th.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Class of '59 by John A. Heldt




Class of '59 is the newest time-travel romance from John A. Heldt, author of Indiana Belle. Continuing with the same time-hopping scenario as his previous books, Heldt tells the story of Mark who accidentally lands in 2017. There he meets Mary Beth and her sister Piper who he brings back to his own time. Piper is ecstatic to experience high school in 1959. Mary Beth is content to spend time with her charming time-traveling companion Mark.

I didn't love this installment of the American Journey series as much as I did Indiana Belle. I liked that it was a light read, but felt it was missing some of the depth of the previous book. The romance between Mary Beth and Mark was sweet but moved slowly. Some mundane details and conversations could have been cut.

However, the time-travel element kept me hooked on the story. Class of '59 has all the elements of a 1950s teen romp: poodle skirts, malt shops and drag races. Their exploration of the '50s was fun. Mary Beth and Piper even have an encounter with an Old Hollywood celebrity.  The foursome made a mistake early on that was sure to catch up with them. This lead to a fast-paced and action-packed conclusion.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

On Handling Bad Reviews

One of the hot topics among book reviewers right now is poor behavior from authors regarding bad reviews. There are very few book bloggers out there who enjoy giving bad reviews and so far I haven't met any of them. But sometimes it can't be helped. Reviewers are approached by authors seeking reviews to market their books and bump their ratings. The reviewers give their time to read and then write at no charge to these authors. And I can tell you that, as of this post, I have gotten fewer than a half-dozen thank-yous from the authors whose books I've reviewed. Most don't give me a second thought once their review is posted. So all is well when the review is favorable. 

Unfortunately, there have been a few authors who have retaliated against their reviewers for posting negative reviews. I haven't been on the receiving end of this behavior yet, but I suspect that in the future I might be. 

People, I'm an author, too. Getting reviews is hard. Getting bad reviews hurts. But if you got into this thankless business without a thick skin, then you better hang up your typewriter ASAP because it's not going to get easier. Publishing is a scary thing. You're putting your soul on paper (or whatever) and tossing it out into the world for everyone to see. Some people won't like your book. Some people didn't like Harry Potter (me) and that book seems to be doing fine. Every review, even the bad ones, is a chance to further develop your craft. Even bad feedback is constructive. Sometimes ridiculous reviews can even help sell your book.
Below is my response to a review of my book last year. Note that I didn't respond directly to the reviewer. Never, I repeat NEVER do that unless it's to say thanks. You'll only end up looking childish and insecure. This response was posted on my author blog as part of sharing my publishing journey with my readers. You can read the original review here.

So, some may have noticed that I recently received a scathing review for Here with Me Now on Goodreads. As a writer and a former dancer who once tried acting (and failed miserably) and did a long stint in outbound telemarketing, I've developed a very thick skin. Of course a bad review makes my flesh burn for a minute, but then I look at it reasonably.

The positive side of this woman's review is that she didn't say she hated the book because of poor writing or bad pacing or any of those mechanics that would really embarrass me as a writer. The reviewer hated the story. Well, you can't argue an opinion of a story. Specifically, she hated that there's a moment where Mallory's male classmate slaps her across the face. Sorry, but it's a fact of life. Sometimes boys hit girls. Then she hated that the mom was relieved that her daughter wasn't a lesbian. Again, plenty of moms throughout history have uttered those same words. Neither of those scenes in the book are condoning violence or intolerance. Neither of those are statements on how the world should be. They're simply demonstrating the experiences of this particular teenage girl. Here with Me Now is a slice-of-life novel, not an episode of Full House. If you're looking for a sugar-coated account of high school, might I suggest Sweet Valley High or The Baby-sitters Club?

Then the reviewer goes on to complain that Mallory was obsessive and annoying and out of touch with reality. Well, at least she got the point of the story even if she didn't like it. I wrote this novel in the first-person voice of an irrational teenage girl. She doesn't have the outside narration to explain her ridiculous thoughts or the experience of the reader to tell her she's out of her mind. She's a girl and this is how some girls think. Not all girls, but some. This one. I mean, honestly, if I'd wanted to write about a level-headed teenager who thinks clearly and makes the right decisions there would have been no reason to write anything at all. But there's no reason to be so angry about it.

So, no. I'm not upset about getting a bad review. I actually appreciate the reviewer's assistance in summing up the message of the story: "...this is why teenagers can not make consenting decisions related to having sex with [an] adult. They do not realize the consequences!" It seems like she fully understood what I was trying to say. Maybe I should have hired her to write my tag line.

Anyway, bring on the reviews. I'm up for it.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Meat Ladder to Mars by Eugenio Negro


Zosime, once an important crewmember at the doomed sky ladder, is now under one of the world’s largest landfills, loading an antiquated space shuttle with unprotected livestock. Suddenly the world-wandering heroine is given the choice to follow her heart and heal her family or follow orders.
Using the gentri-fi genre, Eugenio Negro presents the moment before colonization of the planet Mars. Negro’s controversial story examines the economic and cultural forces at work in the Mars mission, and asks: is space exploitation the dream of all humankind?





The Gist:
It's a book about a government worker concerned with the welfare of some mistreated pigs, though she's not supposed to be.

The Good:
The writing is beautiful and organic, but not frivolous. The writer's words are dedicated to action more than scenery. The political statement in Meat Ladder to Mars is clear. I also loved the melding of cultures and Zosime's interaction with her coworkers.

The Bad:
Without quotes or breaks the dialogue was hard to follow, although I enjoyed the realness of each character's distinct voice. Also, the story in the middle became monotonous and almost lost me.

The Conclusion: 
Meat Ladder to Mars is good for readers who enjoy the political genre. It's still a decent story even if you don't pick up on that statement.

Once more a few earthlings clever and greedy enough to abandon their fellow earthlings would sail in a gourd of ashes up over the rocketburnt refuse of Olusosun, above all the Earth's landfills, across the infinite lifeless sea beyond, and they'd do it using nothing but math and explosive chemicals.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Note on Children's Books

I love reviewing children's books. My kids love that we review them together. They get excited when a new one comes in the mail. They voice their opinions and I share them with my readers. Folks, I DO NOT READ MY KIDS BEDTIME STORIES FROM MY KINDLE. Why? Because it's black and white. Because it's small. Because I can't hold it between the three of us and experience the pictures that go with the story. And because they can't take my Kindle to bed with them and gaze at the pretty pages and remember the story until they drift off to dreamland. So please stop offering review copies of children's stories on Kindle or on PDF. Even if it sounds great, I will automatically delete the request. Sorry. I understand that hard copies cost money. Remember, I'm an author, too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Open for Submissions




Nevermind the Furthermore is again accepting submissions. Please review the guidelines page thoroughly before sending your request.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom by Jennifer McCoy Blaske

I had expected something completely different from this book. I thought I'd just be reading about weddings and piano playing. But Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom was actually about perusing a dream while juggling the reality of mom life. Any mom can relate to that. I mean, normal moms, not those super moms who have it all under control and their dream career to boot.

At times I thought the author had been peeking into my life. I have two kinda small kids. The main character Heather has two kinda small kids. I agonize over taking my kids in public. Heather agonizes over taking her kids in public--with good reason. The experiences Heather has in this story mirror my own and probably those of most moms.

As she chases her dream of playing piano for happy brides, things go less than smoothly. Things go wrong. She wants to give up. Jennifer McCoy Blaske's novel isn't predictable at all. I was 80% into the book and still had no clue how it would end.  Because it was real.

Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom is a fast read. It's only 142 pages and is fast-paced. Because the last book I read was long and heavy, I appreciated the lightness of this one. I'm looking forward to reading books from this author in the future. 


Monday, September 12, 2016

Coming Soon: Favorites of 2016

Since we're coming up on the end of the year (yes we are, don't deny it) I've begun to compile a list of my favorite reads of 2016. If you've enjoyed one of the books I've reviewed I'd love to see your comments here. Honorable mentions will be those books that my audience loved but didn't make my list. These don't need to be books published in 2016, just books read in 2016. So comment comment comment and help me end the year with some great book recommendations.




Thursday, September 8, 2016

Savaged Lands by Lana Kortchik





Savaged Lands is a story of a family whose lives have been overturned with the invasion of Kiev by the Nazis. Natasha struggles to survive and finds help from a handsome Hungarian soldier.


I'm not usually drawn to sad stories. This one was very sad. I wondered through the whole book if the family would survive and if the story would have a happy ending. If you enjoy tear-jerking drama, I recommend Savaged Lands. It's also a great lesson in the history of WWI as it drops you into the middle of the human experience.

I had one major issue with the writing. In two chapters the tense suddenly shifted from past tense to present tense. Both chapters were sex scenes which makes me believe that this shift was intentional, but it pulled me out of the story. Also, sometimes authors feel they need to add erotic scenes to sell to an adult market. Here it was unnecessary and felt forced, especially with the change in tense.

Still, Savaged Lands impacted me emotionally. Yes, it was heartbreaking, but it also showed me the importance of the war and defending the freedoms of others.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Making Michael by Mike Smallcombe


Making Michael takes readers into the studio with the King of Pop, charting the creation of record-breaking albums including Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and HIStory, and the twists and turns that occurred along the way. Untold stories, revelations and secrets finally see the light of day as Jackson's career outside the studio is also examined, including his Hollywood dreams, life at Neverland and those mysterious, ill-fated preparations for the final tour, This Is It. Supported by the people who shared the journey with him, Making Michael takes readers behind the scenes, revealing Jackson at his best; and at his worst, relentlessly pursuing perfection and displaying a cutthroat shrewdness and competitiveness few knew existed.





Author Mike Smallcombe spent five years researching and interviewing to bring readers a look inside the music and videos that Michael Jackson created. Making Michael paints a story of each artistic endeavor from start to finish. It's a great read for those interested in the creative process of music, but doesn't go into much technical detail.

If you're hoping for a biography of the King of Pop, this isn't it. Smallcombe briefly mentions Michael's legal troubles and personal life, but for the most part he focuses on his career. I appreciated that about this book. There's no sensationalism here or tabloid-style writing.

That being said, Making Michael can be very tedious if you're expecting a story to be told. I enjoyed the anecdotes about Michael's playful behavior in the studio and especially every account of what a terrible driver he was. But those were sprinkled conservatively throughout the book. However, being that I have a performance background, I did appreciate the meticulous detail with which the author described the creative process.

Making Michael is definitely a book that any true Michael fan should have in their library.




Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Next Happiest Place on Earth by Greg Triggs




Frances is a divorced New Yorker looking for a new start. Without telling her ex-husband she takes a job in Orlando in the creative department of a fictitious theme park that rivals Walt Disney World.

I was happy to again find a story with character I could relate to. Frances is in her late thirties, childless, and divorced. And although I'm not under forty, not childless, and not divorced, I could still relate to her view of the world. Her cynical attitude made me laugh out loud, especially against the backdrop of the colorfully saturated tourist trap into which she's landed.

"I suppose on some level I knew that magicians marry, but I never expected to encounter the spouse of one."


The story was vivid from the beginning. Triggs' description of Planet Binger and its residents pulled me in immediately. The contrast of Frances to her surroundings was obvious but not forced. 

I did, however, feel that the story slowed down in the middle. The romance between Frances and her coworker lacked tension and there seemed to be a few more characters than there needed to be. I lost track of a few. 

But overall I felt that The Next Happiest Place on Earth was a good way to finish up my summer reading. It's a light and fun book which I recommend to anyone who's had to put on a brave face in a strange land. 

Thanks again to Greg Triggs for the lovely paperback as well as the postcards (one for me, one for a friend).



Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Adventures of Gracie and Monkeybear by C.S. O'Kelly


We all know I love to get mail. I especially love getting a brand new advanced hardcover book wrapped in pretty paper. My kids were really excited to read The Adventures of Gracie and Monkeybear from the minute it came out of the box. The high-quality, textured cover caught their eyes immediately.

When it was time for bed, even my ten-year-old was riveted by this fun story. Gracie and her dog Monkeybear went straight from one adventure to another without skipping a beat or losing the reader. All of this imaginary fun took place in a single day in Gracie's backyard.

I love that the book encourages kids to get outside and play. It illustrates how a child can get so engrossed in pretend play that the sun is going down before they know it.

The Adventures of Gracie and Monkeybear is a wonderful book and apparently the first in a series which I'm looking forward to reading. The pictures are detailed and inspiring. The writing was great and I won't mind reading it to them again and again.



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

FREE on Kindle: Promise me by Jack O. Daniel



Promise Me has it all. It's a romantic thriller with plenty of dramatic moments. Fast-paced and addictive. It is a must-read for those enjoy full-flavored story-telling.

It poses a question: What would you do if the life of the one you love hangs in the balance, and only you could save her?

Thomas 'Easy' Steel is an EOD with the New York State Police's Bomb Disposal Unit. An anonymous caller had demanded that he disarms a bomb strapped to a woman's chest. When he arrives at the scene, he discovers that the woman is his wife, Bianca.

It shouldn’t be a big deal. After all, his nickname, Easy, had been bestowed upon him at bomb school because he's so easy-going, even when disabling live bombs. This time, however, it's different. He might not survive it.

And, what of the woman he loves with all his heart, to whom he promised eternity?

The author:

Jack O. Daniel is an alter-ego. He prefers to be an enigma. Someone who lives in the shadow, observing how people live and interact; sometimes participating but mostly he stays in the background. 

Let's just call him, the Chronicler

Promise Me is free on Kindle today through August 27th. Get it here.