Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest Post: Alma Katsu author of ~ The Reckoning


Guest post from Alma Katsu author of ~ The Reckoning (book 2 of The Taker trilogy).

We have Alma Katsu here today to share with us a bit about her writing techniques –  specifically around her methodology for plotting.

With her second book from The Taker series -The Reckoning – just released last week, I am sure she has had quite a challenge connecting the complex plots within the books.

Let’s welcome Alma!


Taming the Writing Process

I’ve found that writers tend to be infinitely curious about each other’s process. I think it’s because while each writer’s process is highly personal, we’re always hoping to pick up a new tip that will make it work a bit better.


We’re all familiar with the (somewhat undignified) terms “pantser” and “plotter”, meaning do you meticulously plot out your stories or do you fly by the seat of your pants. I flew by the seat of my pants from day one, when I was thirteen years old and writing a chapter a night to feed to my friends at school the following morning. Making it up as I went along. Later, the graduate writing program I attended only reinforced this: we were encouraged to let our writing happen “organically” and that overly plotted work was somehow less artistic.

Over time, however, I saw the benefit of adding rigor to my process, especially as I aspired to introduce more plot into my stories. That, plus it can get awfully discouraging, writing yourself into one blind alley after another, chucking out all those pages. These days, I use a hybrid of the two styles, starting out with a general outline but allowing myself the freedom to follow interesting developments as they spring up. I tend to write the first draft in longhand and this, for some reason, seems to lead to more serendipity than when I bang it out on the laptop.

I often wish I had a better process, especially when I’m in the second or third draft, trying to catch and keep track of all the tiny yet enriching ideas that popped up during the revision process. I’ve heard of people who use index cards and storyboards; color-coded post-it notes and a bitakerg magnetic bulletin board; software like Scrivener; or stuff everything into a notebook (their “bible” for the work-in-progress) that they carry around until their current is completed.

None of these systems has worked for me. (Although I must admit that I haven’t tried Scrivener yet.) I always end up with piles of scraps and post-it notes, spreadsheets started and abandoned, and parts of the handwritten first draft spread over several notebooks.

One tip I can pass along—though it’s not mine, it belongs to novelist Jamie Ford—is that when I’m at the revision stage, I print out each POV on a different color paper. I edit all of one POV together, especially if those chapters aren’t consecutive in the book, to ensure that the character’s train of thought makes sense and is consistent. Then I shuffle all the chapters in numerical order and go through the manuscript again for continuity. Color-coding the POVs make it easy to know at a glance if the rhythm and balance of the POVs looks about right (depending on the story, of course).

What about you? Do you have any tricks or tips you use to make the writing or revision process easier or more efficient?

About the author:  Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker and The Reckoning (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster), the first two books in a centuries-spanning supernatural trilogy about love, loss and redemption. The Taker was selected by Booklist as a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011, and Library Journal called The Reckoning—just released—“beautiful and mesmerizing.” You can find out more about the books and join the mailing list at

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Tarnished ~ by Karina Cooper


It’s release day for Tarnished (The St. Croix Chronicles) ~ by Karina Cooper!  And we have a review by Shellie for the book.

It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has a feisty lead character so it’s a perfect read for the fans of Gail Carriger – only it’s a bit darker.

About:  Petite and feisty redheaded Cherry St. Croix is a bit tarnished. Orphaned at an early age, she is from an upper class family and lives comfortably with a variety of servants in her estate home - albeit as a ward to a never-present male benefactor, since women from this alternative Victorian period cannot own and are considered property. Darker still is that she is addicted to laudanum or opium depending on which is closer at hand; and she is a collector – a hired bounty woman who tracks down the wanted.

As she travels the polluted and sooty underworld of this different sort of London, she is asked to “collect’ a “ripper” who is killing local “sweets” (the most beautiful and desirable prostitutes) and taking their body parts for goodness knows what. It’s in the process of finding this insidious killer that she discovers darker things about her past; and sidesteps two romantic entanglements.

Thoughts:  I really liked Cherry, the intelligent, tainted and strong main character who denies the existence of magic and only believes in science. It was also appealing that she is adamant about not wanting to get married, contrary to proper behavior for the time.

Although I really dislike comparing newer novels to wildly popular ones, I would say that this historical-ish novel felt quite similar to Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which I really enjoyed - although Tarnished is darker, less humorous, and has a more realistic setting than Carriger’s books. But like Soulless it includes science and gadgets, along with Victorian fashion and propriety, so it’s a genre-blender mystery story like Soulless.

My only niggle was that I had a slight problem getting into the author’s writing style at first. But I found it became easier after several chapters. And once I did I was completely hooked. I also want to mention that this first book is a cliff hanger, but what better way of starting off a series since it definitely created a desire to read the next in the series, even if I now have to wait.

Highly recommended for those interested in steampunk, historical romance, urban fantasy, murder mysteries, and especially for those who like strong female leads. It’s a 3.5 star read for me. I can’t wait for the second in the series.

Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages; Avon; June 26, 2012.

For more about Karina Cooper author of Tarnished, visit her website:

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Spartacus: The Gladiator ~ by Ben Kane


Review by John for: Spartacus: The Gladiator ~ by Ben Kane

A “sword-and-sandal” action thriller based on the quite amazing true story of Spartacus – the iconic gladiator who led a slave army against the might of Rome.

About:  When Spartacus returned from his stint as a Roman army auxiliary to his home in Thracia (now in modern-day Bulgaria), he was betrayed by a local leader and sold into slavery, along with Ariadne – a Dionysian priestess who was to become his wife.

Spartacus was taken to a gladiator school, where he was just as likely to fall prey to factions within the trainee gladiators as he was to suffer in the arena or at the hands of his Roman masters. But the tough and clever Thracian starts to thrive in the brutal environment and builds both a reputation for himself and a hard core of followers.

His followers are far outnumbered by the fractious Gauls, but he manages to build some sort of relationship with the various Gaul leaders, and together they hatch a plan to break out of the gladiator school and escape from their Roman masters. Though many die in the attempt, the gladiators do escape and flee into the Roman countryside.

Spartacus’ military and personal leadership skills now flourish, as the gladiators audaciously succeed in defeating increasingly serious attempts by the Romans to quell the uprising; and the more they succeed against the Romans, the more slaves flock to join the forces led by Spartacus.

Rome is now desperate to crush the rebellion and gathers a huge army. As Spartacus strives to train the slaves and to stay one step ahead of the pursuing Roman army, his even bigger challenge becomes trying to keep the fractious Gaul leaders in line. As a final showdown looms, he remains unsure who he can trust.

John’s thoughts:  This was a fun, exciting (and gruesome) read, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that much of the underlying story is actually true. The plot is like something dreamt up by a Hollywood screenwriter, but Spartacus was a real person in history and Ben Kane has stayed close to the basic facts that are known about the gladiator and the uprising that he led. Of course Kane does embellish the story and the people, and fleshes out Spartacus so that he becomes a real person rather than just an icon. However, when I started to do a big of Google-ing I found that even some of the more audacious exploits appear to be based on facts. Some real history truly is amazing.

I liked the color and the detail that Kane developed when describing life in Rome. This is not some airbrushed picture of a great empire; rather it is a depiction of the messy, dirty, brutal, squalid life led by the great majority of people who lived during those times. I also liked that Spartacus was not depicted as some type of superhuman – tough and a brilliant leader for sure, but he also had weaknesses.

What’s not to like? Well, when I decided to read the book I didn’t realize that it was the first in a two-part story, so you don’t get to read about how it all ends up – you have to wait a while for that. It’s not that the book has a bad ending, but it is obvious that there is much more to come. I’m not big on reading book series, so that was a bit of a bummer.

Apart from that, it was a good and enjoyable read and I blew through it pretty quickly. It’s one of those where you keep picking it up and reading a few more pages even if you hadn’t intended doing so. If you want some easy reading on the Roman empire and want to hear more about one of the most amazing characters in history – give this a go. I rate it four stars.

June 5th 2012; St. Martin's Press.Ben Kane lge

About Ben Kane:  Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. He drove around the USA in a camper van, trekked the Inca trail and took a ship to Antarctica. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.

While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fueled by visits to Hadrian’s Wall. He naïvely decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs – being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time.; You can also find him on Twitter: @benkaneauthor and Facebook:!/benkanebooks

This review is part of tour, for other reviews, interviews and more link to Ben Kane’s Spartacus tour page via the badge below.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: What Dies in Summer ~ by Tom Wright

what dies in summer

Review by Shellie for: What Dies in Summer ~ by Tom Wright

With a down-to-earth writing style and in-depth human insight, this page-turning crime fiction novel is a quintessential summer read for those who like dark paranormal twists and a Southern Gothic flavor to their novels.

About:  In a Southern town during the early 1970’s, a young teenage boy named Jim (aka Biscuit) lives with his grandmother after his stepfather has beaten him badly enough to leave him in the hospital; and it’s not the first time. When his cousin L.A. comes to live with them, because she too is being abused, a common bond and familial friendship is created.

What is special about Biscuit is that besides being unusually introspective for his age, he has a touch of “the sight” and sees glimpses of things in dreams and otherwise that others cannot. It’s all looked at as part of his heritage since the gift runs in the family, with L.A. and his grandmother possessing their own version of knowing.

When Biscuit and L.A. find a mutilated teenage girl’s body near the train tracks, there begins the discovery of a series of murders - all by a twisted serial killer who is profiled as a member of their community.

Thoughts:  I really enjoyed this novel. Tom Wright has an interesting writing style that is both descriptive and unusual. In giving Biscuit his voice he has created a wonderful character. The boy narrates his story with a youthful southern drawl and local colloquialism that makes the read a special one; it gives the story a realistic and grounded feeling. I felt like Biscuit’s thoughts about life and growing up were reflective and respectable for a growing young man on the verge of adulthood. I liked that a lot.

A warning: this is crime fiction and depicts graphic details about the murder of young teens, including several violent scenes. Conversely, if you enjoy complicated characters and coming of age stories where a broad spectrum of beliefs are presented, then this will be an excellent pick for you.

One thing I am not crazy about is the cover - not a very comfortable position I am thinking! But beyond that it’s a fine debut and one which I could not decide whether to give a 4 or 4.5 stars to. In the end I have designated it a 4. Definitely recommended for readers who enjoy slightly paranormal themes and are looking for a summer setting.

Published June 2012 by W.W. Norton & Company.

For more information on the book please see our Incoming Books section for the details.

A copy of this book was sent to Layers of Thought, by the publisher in exchange for an honest review, as are most of the books accepted here on the blog for promotion. It in no way influenced my thoughts or opinions.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Giveaway Hop: Midsummer’s Eve ~ June 20th to 26th


Welcome to the 2nd Annual Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop!  It takes place from June 20th to 26th. And is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer (badge links to site) and Uniquely Moi Books as co-host.

We have a fun book for a vicarious summer getaway back into time for one lucky reader, since we received two copies from the publisher and are now passing our good fortune onto you!  It’s fantasy,set in Arizona during the wild wild west, and it’s award-nominated!

TerritoryNow for a bit about the book:

Territory ~ by Emma Bull; 320 pages; Tor; December 2011 (first published in July 2007); World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008).  

Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 is the site of one of the richest mineral strikes in American history, where veins of silver run like ley lines under the earth, a network of power that belongs to anyone who knows how to claim and defend it.

When a failed stage holdup results in two dead, Tombstone explodes with speculation about who attempted the robbery. The truth could destroy Earp's plans for wealth and glory, and he'll do anything to bury it. Meanwhile, outlaw leader John Ringo wants the same turf as Earp. Each courts Jesse James as an ally, and tries to isolate him by endangering his friends, as they struggle for magical dominance of the territory.

Since we are mailing the book out ourselves:

  • This book is available for US or Canadian addresses only.
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This hop is now closed. Come back and visit soon to enter our next giveaway – coming very soon!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Interview with Blodeuedd from ~ The Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell


Interview with book blogger ~ Blodeuedd from The Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell.

Today we welcome Linda (aka  Blodeuedd) for an informal interview about her blog and herself. She is a friendly and positive blog owner, editor, and prolific writer at her blog, one that showcases urban fantasy, paranormal romance, historical fantasy and romance. The Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell is where I go to find reviews for the genre’s above.

What really interests me about Blodeuedd is that she writes her blog in English but her native language is Swedish. She also speaks a variety of languages, reads a mind blowing 4 to 5 books per week and reviews them too. I also really like her mythical persona – Blodeuedd, which she will tell you a little bit more about. Isn’t she adorable? Let’s welcome Linda!

Please, tell us about the mythical Blodeuedd?   Blodeuedd was created from flowers by magicians to marry Lleu, because his mother has cursed him to never marry a human wife. But she had an affair and they conspired to kill Lleu. But things do not work out and her lover was killed and she was transformed into an owl.

Why did you choose her as your avatar? It’s a name from the fantasy series I am writing where I used it for a beautiful woman, just as Blodeuedd was. Back in the days when I found Lord of the Rings forums I wanted a name that stood out and which was a bit Elvish so I used Blodeuedd there since I had been writing about that person in my story. And then I used it on other forums and then I became known as Blodeuedd so I just kept it.


What about the name of your blog - tell us about that?  Mur-y-Castell was the court of Lleu and Blodeuedd so I thought it fitting; of course not many get it. ;)  I guess it gives me a personality and people remember me (hopefully), the girl with the funny name and weird blog name. It’s my little corner in the blog world.

About your reading, how many books per week do you read? And how many posts do you write a week?   I read about 4 books a week. Sometimes I manage 5 if I am ill, or do not work. Sometimes I post more, sometimes less. But never more than 7 posts a week. At the moment I tend to do 6 posts each week, thanks to writing a short story on Saturdays.

Are you a fast reader or a skimmer?  I am a fast reader. I have always been, it’s just the way I read. I only skim if I am bored out of my mind and still want to know how the book ends. But that is not a book I have read then.

What is your favorite genre?  Fantasy all the way! It’s my first love, my one true love and the only genre that manages to get me to re-read books. It’s simply the best genre ever.

Which genre do you read the most of?  Now this is a tricky question because I have ended up with a system of sorts where I try to read different genres every day. Which means that I really can’t say what I read most of, but it must be UF- urban fantasy, PNR – paranormal romance, HR – historical romance and fantasy.

What about book blogging, how long have you been blogging? And why do you blog?  I have been blogging since December 2008. Well that is when I created my blog and wrote one single review. It took me about 3 months to really get started and stay with it. I started it because I found book blogs and thought, hey I can do that! :D I always wanted to talk about the books I read.

Tell us about your rating system? (I noticed that you give a lot of 3 stars on Goodreads.)  I do, I am queen of 3’s and so many times people say that they are sorry I did not like the books more. Which I do not get since a 3 means it was a good book, good means I enjoyed it, good means I would read more. A 3 for me is a book or author I want more of. But in the end it still takes second place. I might buy the next book one day but at the moment I want other books more. Which means most books get a 3 from me. The 4’s are books I want to buy more of at once. And 5’s are a dream no one can achieve, except a few fantasy books that I like to re-read now and then. So in the end the best I give is a 4. While a 2 is a book that was only ok and had flaws and perhaps if I am on a desert island I will read more. While a 1 is something I do not want more of.

I did try a real rating system once but truth be told I hate ratings. People look at it and make up their minds. Which is wrong, it should be the review in itself that is important and that is why I do not rate on my blog. Read the review if you want to know if I liked the book or not.

Advice for would be and new bloggers?  Comment, comment and comment. Do not sit on your blog and expect people to find you. Go out and find people. And continue to comment if you want them to come back and visit. You are not big yet and you need to network. I also say that memes are good to try when you are new; I did find lots of great bloggers through memes. I would also say that find your own style, but that can be hard. I do not know if I really stand out so I am not one to preach.

And do not make those “How can I get ARCs” posts. They are tragic and show that you only want one thing. I would also say that it’s good to read old and new books. Because there are too many blogs with the exact same books being reviewed every week.

How about your writing; what genre do you prefer to write in?  Fantasy. It began with historical romance, then I had a mafia story. I wonder where that one is? It was good when I think about it *groans* it might be on a floppy disc, FAIL. Anyway, then I started writing fantasy when I was 16 and here I still am.

Are you writing a novel?  I am actually, but I have not been working on it for like a year.  :/  It’s a fantasy series, the same I started when I was 16. I guess it could be a trilogy by now and I am working on the last book. Well I am stuck on the last one since things are heating up and I have no idea how to deal with a war when that comes. It’s the epic kind I love to read, girl finds destiny, girl should save the world, girl gets hunky elf. ;)

I would love to get it published one day and I would just have to work a bit on it. Since it’s actually a series by now so I do have a few books sitting in a box. I would just have to write it on my computer, yup they are all in notebooks.


Bio:  Blodeuedd, whose real name is Linda, is in her late twenties, and lives on the west coast of Finland. She has a teaching credential in English, a MA in Swedish, and is currently studying library science. She speaks English, Swedish, Finnish and a bit of German. Additionally she can also read in Norwegian, Danish and some German.

When Linda is not reading, blogging or studying she’s watching movies, riding her bike, or loves to go on walks on new paths in the woods, especially to find local swamps.

To access Linda’s blog, link via the badge above. You can also follow her by:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: A Bridge of Years ~ by Robert Charles Wilson

bridge or years

Review by John for: A Bridge of Years ~ by Robert Charles Wilson

A mind-bending time-travel thriller that is both futuristic and historic – but is above all a story about a man trying to rebuild his life.

About: Tom Winter moves into a secluded house in the remote Northwest of the United States, looking to recover from separation from his wife, job loss and a subsequent bout of alcoholism. The house is deep in the woods and has been empty for almost a decade, but oddly the inside of the house is immaculately clean. As he spends his first few days there, he notices more strange things, which eventually leads to the discovery of a hidden tunnel entrance underneath the house. When he finally journeys through the weird tunnel he finds himself in New York City in the early 1960s.

It turns out that his secluded haven is hiding a portal through which he can travel backwards and forwards from his current-day home to New York City almost thirty years previously. Feeling that there is little left to bind him to his normal world, he spends more time in the City and soon finds himself involved with a woman and the hip community that was evolving in the East Village.

Meanwhile a couple make a startling discovery in the woods near to Tom’s house and meet the time traveller who was the guardian of the portal. They find out from him that a vicious renegade soldier from the far future has also travelled through the same tunnel back to New York, where he is hiding out trying to avoid the brutal life which he had been forced to lead. This soldier will not tolerate any other time travellers in his new domain, and he will seek out and eliminate Tom.

While Tom tries to come to terms with building a new life in the past, he is unaware of both the terrible danger he is the facing and the people who might just be able to help.

John’s thoughts: I liked this book! It’s a clever and twisty story that is both exciting and thought-provoking. And despite its fantastic setting and story line, at its core the story is about personal struggles, relationships, love and trying to build a better life.

Tom is damaged but eminently likeable and you want him to succeed in creating a new life for himself. The guardian of the portal is also a fascinating creation and you root for him as he tries to heal, rebuild the damaged portal and protect people from the soldier. The renegade soldier ought to be someone to despise, but the more you find out about him the more you come to have some sympathy for him and the situation he is in. There are also other interesting characters; and then, of course, there is the mysterious time ghost.

Wilson has a great imagination and creates a fascinating world (or worlds) for his story. He also has some refreshing new takes on the old subject of time travel, and the mind-bending implications of traveling back into the past and changing history. But he doesn’t let the science and fantasy get in the way of a terrific human story.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’d rate the book 4 stars. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in science fiction, time travel, futuristic/historic thrillers, or stories dealing with trying to mend a broken life.

384 pages; Orb Books; December 2011 (originally published 1991) Hugo Award – Nominee; John W. Campbell Memorial Award – Winner.      

Robert Charles Wilson was born in California and lives in Toronto. His novel Spin won science fiction’s Hugo Award in 2006. Earlier, he won the Philip K. Dick Award for his debut novel A Hidden Place; Canada’s Aurora Award for Darwinia; and the John W. Campbell Award for The Chronoliths.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Incoming Books: June 12th, 2012

book stack

Incoming Books: June 12th, 2012.

It’s our incoming books feature, showcasing those we have received and that are up for review. Each is recently published.

And to help you choose the book you like the best, I have included their wonderful covers, truncated publisher’s blurbs, and some brief stats so that you will know a bit more about each.

Now for the most fun part of this feature: 

Which of these fun new books would you read first?

Macmillan | Tor

the broken universe


The Broken Universe ~ by Paul Melko; Tor Books; June 2012.

Possessing technology that allows him to travel across alternate worlds, John Rayburn begins building a transdimensional commercial empire, led by him, his closest friends, and their doppelgängers from several different parallel universes. But not every version of every person is the same, and their agendas do not always coincide.


Kop Killer


Kop Killer ~ by Warren Hammond; Tor Books; June 2012.

This is the third book in the series for this science fiction noire thriller.

Juno Mozambe once had a life. That was when he was a dirty cop, married to a woman who suffered such profound abuse that she murdered her vile, drug kingpin father. Juno loved his wife and did his best to help her survive her guilt, her drug habit, and her desire to end her life on the dead-end planet of Lagarto.

When Juno discovers a series of profoundly twisted murders, he faces a bleak possibility: in his desperate quest for vengeance against the man who targeted him for death, Juno may have placed himself beyond any hope of redemption....



Silver ~ by Rhiannon Held; Tor Books; June 2012.

Andrew Dare is a werewolf. He’s the enforcer for the Roanoke pack, and responsible for capturing or killing any Were intruders in Roanoke’s territory. But the lone Were he’s tracking doesn’t smell or act like anyone he’s ever encountered. And when he catches her, it doesn’t get any better. She’s beautiful, she’s crazy, and someone has tortured her by injecting silver into her veins. She says her name is Silver, and that she’s lost her wild self and can’t shift any more.


Misc. Publishers



The Book of Summers ~ by Emylia Hall; Mira; May 2012. 

Beth Lowe has been sent a parcel. Inside is a letter informing her that her long-estranged mother has died, and a scrapbook Beth has never seen before. Entitled The Book of Summers, it’s stuffed with photographs and mementos compiled by her mother to record the seven glorious childhood summers Beth spent in rural Hungary.

Since then, Beth hasn’t allowed herself to think about those years of her childhood. But the arrival of The Book of Summers brings the past tumbling back into the present; as vivid, painful and vital as ever.



Selkie Dreams ~ by Kristin Gleeson; Knox Robinson Publishing.

Belfast, 1895.  Haunted by her mother’s death, Máire McNair is lured by the selkie myth to the promise of the Alaskan wilds to fulfil her dream of finding acceptance.

Cunning and determination get her there in the guise of teaching at the Tlingit Indian mission.  But Alaska proves more complex and difficult than she imagined, and the hope that this new place would transform her is elusive as ever. 

Will Máire be able to forge her own way and make a success of her teaching?  And what should she do about the handsome yet moody Lieutenant Green who is aggressively courting her?

chosen man


The Chosen Man ~ by J.G. Harlond; Knox Robinson Publishing.

A tale of power and intrigue, The Chosen Man is a fictional account of the events that triggered the Dutch scandal known as ‘tulip mania’.

Early spring 1635; Ludovico da Portovenere, Italian merchant and charismatic rogue, is on a familiar voyage from Constantinople to Amsterdam when his journey is interrupted. Waylaid first by a storm and then by a pirate raid, Ludo’s life is cast into upheaval and international espionage.   



Suffocate ~ by S.R. Johannes; May 2012; Coleman & Stott.

Suffocate is the first novelette in a series. It’s a young adult thriller that combines the dystopic and science fiction genres.

“For centuries, the world outside the Biome has been unlivable. Today, marks the first time anyone will attempt to leave the suffocating ecosphere. Eria is not worried because her scientist father has successfully tested the new Bio-Suit many times. It's a celebratory day until something goes horribly wrong. In the midst of tragedy, Eria uncovers a deep conspiracy that affects the very air she breathes.

If those responsible find out what she knows, they won't stop hunting her until she takes her last breath.”

So do tell, which of these books would you choose to pick up and read first?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: Wood (a novella) ~ by Robert Dunbar


Review by Shellie for: Wood ~ by Robert Dunbar

A metaphorical and darkly hilarious novella about an environmentally poisoned wood where a ravenous monster awakens.

About:  A young ward of the state decides to leave the safety of her group home to return home to her dying grandmother. Her friend reminds her of the darkness that lurks outside of the doors; a monster is waking up slowly to a deep hunger in the dead woods. There is no food to satisfy its need, not even a starving rat. Where will it feed?

A lonely gay man living on the edge of the woods opens his door for the runaway girl in time to save her from what lurks in the cold darkness. This is their story.

Thoughts:  A story with a moral, its more funny than scary – though that’s not to say that I did not get the chills or that my heart remained at its regular pace for the entire novel. It is a chilling tale. But laughing while one has goose pimples is a curious sensation; Wood definitely did this for me.

Even better, it’s only a 60 page novella with some colorful characters. Socially marginal individuals – these people are loners, orphans, and from the hidden classes of society. They are those that remain in the peripheral of our vision, barely noticed, but have their valid tales to tell. What’s important to their story is that these characters are not victims, creating a different example for those faced with real life horrors.

Intelligent with some snarky dialog, this is not a typical horror story. It’s an emotional roller coaster trip through metaphorical darkness and hilarity. A 4-star in my opinion. I recommended it for anyone who likes unusual characters, complex dry humor, and  surprisingly nice endings.

Robert Dunbar is a writer, editor, and playwright. He has written for radio, television and theater and is the author of The Pines, The Shore, Martyrs & Monsters, and Willy.

He is amazingly funny and in his spare time he likes to imagine himself as a professional ice skater, or possibly a trainer of tarantulas for jungle pictures. Find out more about him at his website and blog; Goodreads (his group there ~ Literary Horror); Twitter; and Facebook.

For an insightful interview with Robert Dunbar, and more about his other books please see our post from 2011.

I reviewed Robert’s book WILLY in 2011 (text links to Shellie’s review). It also made our 2011 best of the year list (links to the list).

Have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: In the Sea there are Crocodiles ~ by Fabio Geda


Review by Shellie for: In the Sea there are Crocodiles ~ by Fabio Geda (audio)

A purportedly true, but billed as fiction, tale of a young man’s harrowing travels out of Afghanistan into various countries. Struggling as an illegal immigrant he eventually obtains political asylum in Italy.

About:   Enaiat wakes up one morning to find his mother has abandoned him in Pakistan, after their small family’s flight from their home village in Afghanistan. Their village had been overtaken by the Taliban, who believe that Enaiat’s people have no value and treat them as such.

His mother, forced to leave her son for her survival, advises him on how to behave while he is asleep as she departs. So begins this young boy’s travels to many different countries where he is all but accepted. He finds that there are crocodiles not only in the sea but almost everywhere, with the title referencing an attempt to cross the Mediterranean in a too small rubber dingy to find relative safety. This is Enaiat’s amazing tale as he tries to find a home, sustenance and survival.

Thoughts:  A short and engrossing novel at only 224 pages, it’s been translated from Italian to English. Author Fabio Ceda tells Enaiat’s story to the reader from the boy’s perspective – in the first person with occasional interjections and questions for the boy by the author. Due to the nature of memory and the lack of concrete evidence to support a factual book, the story has been designated fiction.

I listened to the book in audio and found it was hard to put down. I couldn’t stop rooting for Enaiat while admiring his ability to get by in the most horrific circumstances. This is my favorite kind of narrator – one who overcomes the odds no matter how difficult the situation, and Enaiat’s experiences where at times terrifying.

This book is a testament to the human spirit and the will to not only survive but to thrive no matter the situation. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the Middle East and particularly Afghanistan. It’s a 3.5 star read in my opinion and is also done well in audio. Recommended for adults but especially teens.

In the Sea There are Crocodiles ~ by Fabio Geda; Howard Curtis (Translator) US|UK|Canada. 224 pages; Doubleday (August 9, 2011.)

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review and Giveaway: The Age of Miracles ~ by Karen Thompson Walker

the age of miracles

Review by Shellie for: The Age of Miracles ~ by Karen Thompson Walker

An emotional page turner that is a sweet-yet-sad coming of age story in a time of apparent catastrophe. The earth has slowed its rotation and days and nights become increasingly longer while life still goes on.

About:  Sometime near the present day, people are dealing with a threatening change to the planet. Fortunately they have time to adjust to the earth’s slowing, as the days and nights become progressively longer. But for the residents of this affluent California coastal community, where this story is set, life still moves forward. The residents simultaneously struggle with their daily life predicaments along with the threat of the impending apocalypse.

Julia, the young narrator, is almost a teen. Introverted and thoughtful, she is a normal girl with a crush on a cute local boy. She is on the brink of changes, as her world is changing too. She has no idea what her future will be as she traverses the many obstacles that a young girl does at this precarious age. Only she has the added realization that her life may be non-existent soon. This is Julia’s story as she moves with the gift of youth and its natural perseverance through her questionable life.

Thoughts:  I enjoyed this book and was lost in its easy-to-read style. Interestingly Karen Thompson Walker is an editor and has used her years of experience working with others’ writing in creating this first novel, and it shows.

The author has included some interesting thoughts about what would happen if the earth where to actually slow down – and it feels realistic. Even though speculative in nature, the book felt grounded in science and sociological fact. I liked this a lot since the book did not feel like a science fiction read. So it’s perfect for light sci-fi readers, new readers to the genre and general fiction readers alike.

With its thoughtful prose, this book should be popular with almost all readers, youngsters and adults alike, and especially those that like coming of age stories. I designate it a 4 star. It’s a promising début for a new author; I will have Karen Walker Thompson on my radar for up-and-coming books. I hope that her work remains speculative in nature.

Karen walker

Random House; June 26th, 2012; 228 pages.

Bio:  Karen Thompson Walker holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University and is an editor of fiction and non-fiction at Simon & Schuster. The Age of Miracles is her first book.

For more information about Karen and her book, please visit the book’s website:, and Facebook page.


This book review and giveaway are part of a book tour that is hosted by TLC Book Tours.

For more information on this tour link to our host’s designated page via the badge to the left. As a way to help support our host and the author below are links for several other up and coming reviews for The Age of Miracles:

Now for the giveaway.

  • You do not need to follow to enter this giveaway.
  • We have one copy for a US or Canadian address.
  • Please complete the Google form completely. Your address will only be used for the purposes of this contest. Promise!

This contest’s winners will be determined by Good luck!

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