Sunday, December 30, 2018

Why isn't reading hereditary?

My kids act like my love of reading is an affront to them specifically. As if I enjoy reading purely to irritate them. Do you know how many times I'd wished my mother had sent me to my room to read when I'd pissed her off?

Let me set the stage for ya. The 2nd Hunger Games movie is on and Aidan is watching. Cinna appears on screen and I whimper a little because, well... if you know, you KNOW. Aidan looks over at me and says, 'what?' 

What? Oh my god, kid, I'll tell you WHAT!

They do carry half  of my DNA, correct? I mean, that's how it works, right? So why... no, HOW IN THE EVER LOVING HELL do they both hate to read???  I just find it wholly unfair. I don't begrudge them their father's affinity for math despite my reaching for a mug of broken glass and seltzer water to gurgle when I think about it. They complain about being bored when there is an entire Happy Potter library at their disposal, yet balk at the suggestion that reading might actually entertain them. 

God, I can't even comprehend the bull-headedness so securely centered in my sons. I'd be remiss to mention that I, myself, am not stubborn or contrary  in any way and therefore have obviously no culpability in that particular aspect of their personality. Just ask my husband...

Friday, December 28, 2018

Review: The Rooster Bar

The Rooster Bar The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I keep waiting for Grisham to run out of lawyer tales but apparently he's still going strong. The Rooster Bar had a lot of fun with the emails from each character to the student loan sharks, I loved those parts. Antics the characters get up to are clever, as usual. And speaking of the characters, these law students are each flawed to the point of being criminals themselves. I didn't have too much sympathy for them despite the sham they fell victim to. Apparently many people had a hard time with this book because they hated the characters and/or the things the characters did. Who says you have to be the president of their fan club? I managed to enjoy the story and the characters regardless. There is a satisfying wrap up to the story, something a few other Grisham novels failed to provide.

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Review: Smart Marketing for Indie Authors: How I Sold my First 1,563 Books and Counting!

Smart Marketing for Indie Authors: How I Sold my First 1,563 Books and Counting! Smart Marketing for Indie Authors: How I Sold my First 1,563 Books and Counting! by Mike Kowis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Smart Marketing for Indie Authors: How I Sold my First 1,563 Books and Counting! I wish you could see my deadpan/really face right now; you know the gif of the kid's school picture where they make the eyes blink slowly to portray how not amused you are with something? That's me right now after having to type out that title. Kowis forgot to include 'Don't make your title fifteen words long' or 'If your title requires a colon, it's too long' in his 'What NOT to do' chapter but he's a lawyer so being needlessly wordy is in his genes, right?

Okay, now that I've worked the snark out, Smart Marketing is... well, smart. Also a bit thick with common sense but sometimes writers are too blinded by the love of their craft to think logically beyond the act of telling a story. Here is a step by step, clearly stated playbook to keep the indie author on the right track. I am interested in reading future reviews to see if other authors have had success with the advice given by Mr. Kowis.

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Review: Attribution: The Screenplay

Attribution: The Screenplay Attribution: The Screenplay by Christine Horner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Based on the summary, this story has both aspects I gravitate toward and ones that I have a tendency to back away from. I'm all for the underdog, the disgraced character who musters the courage to overcome an injustice from some deep rooted sense of loyalty. A backdrop of doom for humanity via some plague, horrific natural disaster or, as is the case here, a global water crisis usually makes for an action filled adventure that I enjoy. Where my focus tends to fade is in the futuristic, sci-fi genre that Attribution seemed almost surely to be despite the date being a couple short decades ahead.

The author's intro in Attribution: The Screenplay drew me in quickly. I felt like I connected with Christine Horner on the writer level and just knew I was going to love this novel in screenplay format despite trying and giving up on several screenplays before. Oh how I wish it had happened that way! I want to be able to say how much I loved this character or hated that one. I'd like to be able to tell you that the action was thrilling and the world portrayed was rich and detailed. I can't say any of those things because apparently I am a reader who cannot read screenplays. That is not the fault of the author, this may be an award winning screenplay, I've no idea. What I can say is that the plot of this story in fascinating and I wish I had been able to see past the format to experience it.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Review: Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’s Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé

Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’S Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’S Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé by Salar A. Khan MD MBA
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’s Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé, written by Salar A. Khan MD MBA, is a relatively short read for an autobiography slash self-help book. As it turns out, this author knows how to get to the point and there's something refreshing about that in a genre that has a tendency to take itself very seriously. Unlocking is a serious book about a serious topic written in a spectacularly human way. Though there are very detailed and specific directions given to guide the audience, it's the personal anecdotes that finalize the sale.

Dr. Khan is so clearly an intelligent and successful man, a generous man, who wants to share his knowledge with others. I only wish those 123 pages were better translated and/or edited. I mentioned the 'human' element to the writing but somehow, right along side that humanness was a dreary monotone delivery in many places. I don't think it would have been much work at all to tidy those things up for publication.

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Review: The Caged Butterfly

The Caged Butterfly The Caged Butterfly by Marian L. Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Caged Butterfly is my first Marion L Thomas novel but I can safely say it will not be my last. I don't feel the need to ramble on about the complexities of the plot or how each character felt rich in my gut and stood out in full color in my head; all of that is true, of course, but that's not why I held an electronic device to my chest after reading the last page. That's a thing I do, physically hold onto books in an effort to extend the connection that was made just a tad longer. The act was well earned here.

A simple/not simple at all way to describe The Caged Butterfly would be Gone With the Wind meets Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. There was a sweeping sense to the story that felt vaguely Legends of the Fall ish. And while it's definitely not of the same subject matter, it has the romanticism of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and much of the backdrop racism found in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Bluest Eye. Anyone who enjoyed any of the books I brought up here will understand what I am trying to convey as to how well done this novel truly is.

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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Silent Wife. It seems like 'wives' are a recurring theme in my reading these past months.

This one could have been titled accurately a number of different ways. The Bastard Husband, for one. The Blind Husband, The Waiting in the Wings Wife, The Vapid Mother in Law, The Family Who Lies Together.... I could go on. These characters must have been fun to write because they were definitely fun to read. And hate. The story is a slow builder as far as thrillers go and there aren't red herrings flying about for the reader to dodge - which I appreciated greatly. What happens and how things are revealed feels very organic, not scripted or fantastical. Family drama is the name of this game. I found it very well done.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review: The Chemist

The Chemist The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one breaks my heart. The Host is one of my all time favorite books and I expected The Chemist to fight for the position, or at least come close. Within the first 100 pages I had an inkling but I soldiered on in hope.

Listen, I had my romance phase, it burned hot and heavy for a good couple years, but turns out I'm more than over it. As soon as this turned more toward the feelings and doe eyes, I checked out. Thats 418 pages of checked out reading and that isn't easy to swallow, folks. I read a hundred books between the time I started this book and the time I finished it. I'm nothing if not stubborn.

The premise here was fantastic, unique with a female lead, perfect mounting tension and just the right amount of action. A dangerous woman on the run, Oleander has all the bones to be an American Lisbeth Salander but unlike that tattooed heroine, Meyer's girl couldn't keep it together.

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My Rating System

I feel like I should explain my rating system a bit because as I peruse, it's clearly a tad skewed. If you read posts based on labels, you'll see that the great majority of the reviews here at Novel Junky are books I read for a paid review. 

Let me clarify, paid does not mean positive. I have turned down many paid review opportunities because the author or publisher insisted on a positive review. My rule is that I write my review based on my opinion and if my opinion is that it sucks, you won't find me raving about it here, on Good Reads or on Amazon. It has happened that my review wasn't favorable and whoever hired me chooses to not have me post a review at all. That's fine with me. They're paying for a review, if they don't want to publish that review, what do I care?

All that said, I rate paid reviews on a different scale than I rate books I choose for myself. It's my Work Scale. When I review for a paying client, I put the focus on more technical details; the flow of the story, character consistency, believability, editing errors, etc... I don't have to have that hug the book to your chest moment to give it a fourth or fifth star. A well written book in a genre I loathe, even with characters I despise, can be higher rated because there are no barriers in the way for a reader who does love the genre or connects with the characters. Even five stars are handed out more freely when the writing is great or there is clearly in depth research that went into it. Just because I didn't fawn all over it doesn't mean millions of others won't. 

When I review books I have chosen for myself, it's all about me. I call it my Me Scale. How did I like the plot? Did I love the characters? How angry was I at the ending? Me, me, me... get it? A book has to have been pressed into my chest for a fourth star. I have to have found myself drifting back into that world with those characters after I've finished it. Every other book that author has written is now on my To Read list. If one or all of those happened and I tell my bookie friends to read it, if I give my copy to my sister with the stipulation that I get it back because I have to have it with me, there's my elusive 5th star. Sometimes I don't even write a proper review for the books I choose for myself because my feelings will change about it over time. I will go back months, even years after to finally express how a book impacted my world.

And that is the difference. The books I choose for myself, I expect an impact in some way, good or bad. That's a high standard to rate by. My paid opportunities are, for lack of a better word, work. I'm reading them because I have to in order to get paid. That doesn't mean there haven't been books that came to my attention as work and ended up reviewed on my Me Scale.

So now that I've made that clear as mud, continue on...

Review: Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you need your thrills delivered via shocking twist after aha moment, this isn't your jam. I thought I was one of those people, demanding psychological thrillers knock me off balance that way but Behind Closed Doors knew better.

There is no moment where everything you thought you knew becomes skewed, you get the awful truth delivered piping hot, front and center. In fact the horror of this book is such that you almost wish for a twist to make it not so. The shock comes in the reality.

I loved it, it felt fresh and treated me like a grown up who could handle the horrible truth. That's a bit of a rarity in this genre recently.

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Review: The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit the first identity twist got me, something that happens less and less often these days, but once that one wore off, the rest of the ‘who is she/he really’ reveals felt forced. That ‘no freaking way’ punch only once more when we get the entirety of circumstances behind Vanessa and Richard’s break up.

The Maggie, Jason, Maureen, even Kate aspects of the plot could have landed on the cutting room floor and the book would have survived for me. I didn’t need any of them to love the book and love the book, I did, despite the previous statements. It’s not easy to pull off even one good plot twist and these ladies did two brilliantly.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review: Just One Look

Just One Look Just One Look by Harlan Coben
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harlan Coben is one of those authors whose books I buy every time I find one and I've yet to be disappointed. Just One Look, on the surface, differed not. The tried and true formula of creating misconceptions and slowly revealing truths that Coben excels at is front and center again. Characters are well developed, in many cases so well that when they've succumbed to the author's viscous blade you're left thinking, "wait, he's dead already?!?!" That'll teach you to cozy up to a character.

While there's nothing I hated in this book, other than what you're supposed to hate, in the end I felt unfulfilled. All the loose ends are tied up, the truth of the whole thing is clever as usual but I keep wondering why this was so... generic. I would never discourage reading this book, I just can't rave about it the way I have about others.

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Review: The Suicide Princess

The Suicide Princess The Suicide Princess by Anthony Bryan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this on the downswing of my romance phase and it pushed me back to the thriller side of life. The psychological twists, the reveals, the lust, the tension, the heat, the heartbreak, the fury, the shock... I couldn't explain it to you if I tried. And my oh my do I want to try. But more, I want you to read it!

Stephanie is a brilliant, deeply flawed character, the kind I usually have no stomach for. She does mind numbingly stupid things, hurts people viscously, and pays dearly. Derrick and Jacob will floor you for VASTLY different reasons, even sub-characters in Suicide Princess pop up in your thoughts long after you've finished the book.

This is most certainly an adult themed book. The sex scenes are intense, graphic, and smoking hot!

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*This is one I read way back in 2014 and forgot to actually review. Bad book blogger!