Monday, 29 June 2015

Book Review: Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads by Katerina Sestakova Novotna


What a deliciously odd and strange collection of stories Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads is. I looked at the book cover several times, searching for its meaning as I completed each short story in the book. Perhaps there is a meaning, perhaps not. But what is clear that this author knows how to pull you into a story. I mean - really pull you in. At times, with the author's sweeping narrative and multi-layered plot details(albeit more prevalent in some stories than others) I really felt like I was either one of the characters, or indeed that I was in some kind of dream state.

Every little detail Katerina Sestakova Novotna has added to her stories simply enhance, never take away. There is no information dump here.

But as to what the stories are about, this is less clear how to objectively review. You see, when I read a book, I am not sways by the reviews it already has. I like to make up my own mind before seeing what others have said about it. That said, I can't remember reading a book that is so hard to categorise. On one level, it is a collection of mysteries. On another, it is an incredible informative work about Hawaiiwan culture, and running parallel to this, how the author fitted into this culture herself.

This may seem a strange reference, but it works as a guide to the islands as well as the mini-cultures that are contained within.

All these elements are fun to note, but let's take it at face value. The author has created a series of creepy works that pull you in, and you actually feel like you are being one of the characters meeting a less than stellar end in the story. To say 'I never saw that coming' is an understatement, but the author is much more clever than that. It may be obvious that something is not quite right.

I found myself screaming at the book, saying 'can't you see? This is wrong? Why can't you see it the way I do?!' But that is all part of the dark and grisly fun.

Some reviews have called this work 'original', and with that I entirely concur.

It's original, clever and most pointedly, makes you pause, think and reflect on each tale. I think my favourite was 'The Girl Who was Afraid At night', but each tale is its own awesome gem.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Weekend Writing Workshop #5 Novel or Novella? Which Should You Write?

"Just turn to the last page, alright? The water's getting cold."

It's a busy world, and all this technology has made it rather busier. We are more connected than ever before, yet perhaps more disconnected from things that we really want to do. As readers, we want stories that are engaging, characters that are interesting, plots that twist and turn, whilst serving to excite us at the same time.

Sometimes, we just don't have time to read a full length novel.

But what about writers? Don't we have to make that decision too? Do we really have time to write that full length novel. A story of some 300 pages will take a significant amount of your time, not to mention the energy required.

However, in my experience, there's no need to panic. There is no real rule (except in traditional publishing) that a novel should be a minimum of 70,000 words. And if you want my really important and special tip from me, I really do believe this:-

"The story you need to write is the one that is inside you. It will be completed only when it is completed."

What does this mean? Well, for some of you,you will need to adopt a routine for your writing. That means several thousand words a day. For others, you won't stop until a chapter or particular scene feels right.

For me, It is any and all of the above, plus this:-

"I don't actually have anything until the book is written and completed."

I am fully seized of understanding why people say 'Oh yeah, I am writing a book.'

It takes time and effort and of course, it should. But in the end, you want an end date, otherwise it is like Captain Ahab hunting his whale. He is intent on doing it, but the pursuit is destroying him. That's why the undertaking of writing a book should never be done lightly.

Maybe you start off with an idea, and writing goes well for a while, before you run out of steam at say, the 30,000 word mark. If that is so, maybe it needs a rethink, but perhaps, it is your writer-mind's way of saying 'this just isn't meant to be a full length story.'

Plenty of short stories hit the mark better than the long ones.

So make a start, and see where you go from there - and good luck!

I've just written a thousand words today - and am happy with it. At some point, you really can start to believe in your writing ability, without ego or misplaced support from others. You will know what you you have created, it's just a case of what the world will think of your creation!

Catch up on the previous writing tips here

Friday, 26 June 2015

Book Review: Historical Cats by Linda Bartash-Dawley


In short - a fascinating book of cat-toids (or fact-oids, if you like) about (nearly) everyone's favourite domesticated pet!

Of course, there were things I knew about cats even before reading this book. Things like how a black cat shouldn't cross your path. Conversely, I have heard tales of how it is lucky to let one do so.

I suppose it may come down to this - are you kind to cats? If you are, there is no need to fear them. If not, well...having been to Egypt some years ago, we were told that the cat was almost revered like a God.

I can believe it.

At home, with our four cats, we simply adore them (though not at 2am when they want to get into the house). We are their servants!

However, the book's title is part of why I wanted to read this, but of surprising interest was the famous owners of cats, some of which I knew, but many others which I had no idea.

I found myself smiling as I read this book. Don't we read to be entertained and informed? I do! So this book will have same effect on all readers, I'm sure of it.

A great book compiled by an author who clearly understands her subject, and her audience. 

Get it today.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Book Review: Zaryk (Twisted Epiphany, #1) by C A Jonelle

What a fantastic, adrenaline pumped ride this book is. From the opening pages, I felt I was going to enjoy this tale about a rock band called Twisted Epiphany (great name, and top of the cool pile for me) and it's clear we are in for a fast paced novel. Despite the length, it never lets up, and whilst Zaryk Gage Hunter is our MC, there are others like Lyndsay, plus Z's brothers Zayne and Zayden that light up the tale.

Most interesting is the chapter focus from each character's viewpoint. If you read the book too quickly, you would be forgiven for wondering which character is narrating. But as the reader becomes accustomed to the author's style, it's an easy, engaging read.

Although the story opens with a (grass) hockey related scene, featuring Zaryk's super cute sister Zoey (as an ex ice hockey player I was immediately invested in the story!) it immediately hits us with a something that was truly a surprise to me. I think the author was brave to write the scene so well, and I give her kudos for that.

Zaryk is a young guy, and I can recall at that age what hormones were doing to me. So although I found some of Zaryk's behaviour questionable, I couldn't help but agree that I did some of those things too. He's a player, knows his band is going places, and laps up the attention from the girls around him.

The story, whilst certainly a red on the hot scale, has a central plot line running through it that just compels you to read. It is this that I enjoyed more than the (very many) sex scenes in the book. They are well written and believable. The consequences of certain liaisons are well done too, and

I congratulate the author again on her descriptive narrative, It's excellent.

This is book one, and I wonder where it goes next. Will Zaryk ever calm down? he seems very highly strung and those around him - especially in the band, seem unable to control him, even though they say they are there for him, that's nice in theory, the practice turns out rather differently.

I also enjoyed some of the truly funny moments in the story, that, amongst the high drama of the tale, I wasn't expecting. I raise a glass to Amberlynn in this case.

Certainly read this book. The author has a clear handle on her story, and the cover - so often lacking true cohesion with the tale inside, is brilliant and gives you a believeable Zaryk.

I rate this story very highly, and believe you will too!

~ Synopsis ~

**Not intended for those under 18. Contains mature content.** 

One fatal moment tears Zaryk’s life apart and he struggles to cope with his loss and grief. Years later, with his band ‘Twisted Epiphany’ on the cusp of success, Zaryk is finding the answers in partying and alcohol. Enter Lyndsay, a shy college girl who gives Zaryk hope that there can be happy endings in life. But one night of passion ruins his dreams of something more meaningful and spoils their friendship. Misunderstandings drive them apart and Zaryk is soon lost in a different world as ‘Twisted Epiphany’ become ever more famous. Will he get the chance to tell Lyndsay how he feels? Or will Zaryk’s stardom and Lyndsay’s insecurities keep them apart? 

A story of passion, love, loss and the pressures of fame, ‘Zaryk’ is the first in the ‘Twisted Epiphany’ series that follows Zaryk, Zayne, Zayden, Deklan and Kreed as they take their band from small town success to world-wide phenomenon. 

~ About This Author ~

C.A. Jonelle lives in a small town in Ohio with her husband, daughter, two dogs, one cat, and six fish. She's been reading for as long as she can remember.

 She wrote several hundred poems in high school and started writing stories while in her late twenties. She loves a good romance book with a tattooed and pierced rock star who is plagued by the reality of life. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her spending time with her family and friends, or just catching up on her favorite shows such as Hell's Kitchen or Devious Maids.

 She's currently working on the next book in the five part Twisted Epiphany series that is slated to come out in 2015. 

~ Follow her on ~

                    Facebook - Goodreads  

                        Twitter - Instagram 

                Tumblr - Pinterest - Wattpad


Excerpt One:
(This one is intended for an audience of 18 or older. If you are unable to use it I understand. :))

She pushes her lips against mine. She bites my lower lip and my mind goes haywire. The wheels are disengaging and my brain threatens to completely shut down. That one little move drives me crazy.

I lace my fingers with hers and I lead her over to the desk, spinning her around so she’s facing away from me. My hands lightly skim down her arms, making their way to that glorious ass. I grab each cheek and squeeze. Her head falls back against my chest as she sighs.

I place a hand on her back and bend her forward. “Zaryk? What are …?”

Leaning over her I whisper, “Shhh, don’t think, just feel.”

Excerpt Two:

I growl loudly, echoing in the night air. “I’m not going to chase after you Lyndsay!”

Stopping, she turns to face me with a startled expression on her gorgeous face.

“What is it? Is he the reason you can’t get over Kendall and me?” I move closer to her.

“Yes.” Her answer is barely a whisper.

My heart drops into the pit of my stomach. The thought of anyone hurting her touches a nerve … a big nerve. I inch closer until I’m directly in front of her. Reaching up, I glide my fingers against her neck, rubbing my thumb along her jawline. She lifts her gaze to mine.

“Tell me how he hurt you. I want to understand where this fear is coming from.”

She twists her face out of my hands and I drop them to my side. Tears are glistening in her eyes. I can’t stand to see her like this and I can’t stand how she’s making me feel right now. I can feel the fire building deep inside me. Deklan appears at the exit.

Lyndsay turns to go back inside. I’m fed up with this shit, but I don’t want to lose her. I make one last attempt and grab her arm and turn her toward me. “If you leave, you might as well take my heart with you. I won’t need it anymore, because it won’t bother to beat without you.”

Deklan freezes and watches us, his face full of concern.

I let go of her arm and she turns back toward the building. She disappears and I feel a big part of me die inside.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Book Review: Coming Around by Tom Benson

Any collection of short story erotica can only work if it is well written. Some stories that contain sexual elements can be poorly executed and it's not like I shy away from such content. Fortunately the author Tom Benson shows he is an authority at constructing each tale and knowing when to move the reader onto the next story.

Each story has something for everyone. It's also easy to be dismissive, and say to ourselves that we would never engage such things, and I am not saying that we should or will. I was reminded of the staggering success of the film 'Silence of the Lambs'. People aren't cannibals or killers in the main, yet people went in their droves. Why? If it repulses us, what is the motivation to put ourselves through the story?

It's fair to say that one would need an open mind perhaps the size of a bus to enjoy each story. Whilst there is a lot of fun to be had in each tale, I think most enjoyable thing for me was in the unpredictable outcome of each story.

The first two are probably the best in the entire collection, but again, there is something for everyone here, even if they won't admit it.

Sometimes it is fun to read a book that truly doesn't hold back on its subject matter. Would we act on any of the scenarios in the book? Almost certainly not, but that's the skill of the author. Tom Benson gives the reader a realistic setting for each story where it actually 'could' happen.

Whilst certainly not for under 18s, if you like a seriously spicy set of stories, you cannot go wrong with this!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Book Review: Copper by Ceri Bladen


Copper is an interesting story set in 1950s Wales, centering its story around Ria (Victoria) and Morgan. Ria's family isn't exactly the wealthiesy family, but Morgan was born into the stuff, so it fits that from a financial point of view, marrying him would be a very good move, and certain to please Ria's father.

Whilst not exactly a love triangle, the author has weaved in another character - John, who may derail the future Morgan has mapped out for himself. Ria is all he wants, and he s not backwards in coming forwards when it comes to telling her so.

I have to admit that in the first half of the book, I found Ria to be annoying, often indecisive, and capable of turning on the spin of a coin. I felt Morgan's exasperation with her (at times, not always) and wondered why a man of his position would chase her the way he does.

As the story progresses, Ria's character grows, with the negative sides to her diminishing as she finds she really does care about Morgan. That said, she holds a candle for John too, but perhaps not in the way Morgan would appreciate. 

Then, a critical event happens that could split a happy future apart. This was actually the best written part of the book, along with the intriguing explanation of the story title (which could have many interpretations). 

Ultimately, Copper is a pleasing and very well written historical romance. The references to Wales are very well placed, and as the reader you can feel carried along with the story. It is a light, enjoyable read, solidly written and with a satisfying end.

This is the third book I have completed reading by this author, and I think if you give her a try, the author Ceri Bladen will soon be amongst your favourites!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Book Review: Resistance (The Institute, #2) by Kayla Howarth


Resistance is the long awaited follow-up to The Institute. Oh - hang on, didn't I read The Institute just a few weeks ago?

Luckily for us readers, this second installment was released recently, and the third installment is on its way.

Can I start with a small caveat first?

Having set everything up beautifully in The Institute, I expected Book Two to start with a bang. I have to admit to finding both books a little on the slow side at the start.

But often the best part of your food is in the middle, am I right? And it's not long before Resistance is hitting the heady heights of its predecessor.

I think our MC is much more engaging in this follow-up. She's ballsy without being an overtly annoying kick-ass heroine. If she was...she would be just another Katniss cut-out.

Fortunately, we are saved from any repetitive girl on fire by someone who is not actually on fire, but is at boiling point all the same.

Now part of the 'inside', Allira continues her resistance against the state but with echoes of not really knowing who to trust.

There are some fascinating scenes in the book - Brookfield's interrogation of her was genuinely chilling and it seems that as the book progressed, we were being led up to one big bang, then another, then another.

Resistance is brilliant once it gets going. Perhaps the slowish-start is my view only, and not anyone else's. This is fine, as the storytelling is pure quality and yes..the dialogue is far better too.

There was one real humdinger of a scene in the book, and it happens about two thirds in. It's so good, that even if you predicted it, just watch it unfold and excite you as Allira and everyone around her must deal with its consequences.

Put simply, this is shaping up to be the best dystopian trilogy I have read in a while...since, ooh, I don't know....The Hunger Games.

Praise indeed, but praise deserved.

Now stop what you are doing and get a hold of this series.

Buy on Amazon

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Book Review: Jordan's Brains (A Zombie Evolution) by J Cornell Michel

Jordan's Brains: A Zombie Evolution

Jordan's Brains has been on my read list for too long, far too long, but like most things we apply patience to, they turn out to be well worth the wait. I hadn't read a zombie tale in about a year, and the trend seemed to be all very samey. Fortunately, the author has stayed away from the old zombie cliches, whilst giving us some rip roaring funny moments, that quite honestly, I never expected.

J Cornell Michel has a real talent for surprise. There are many twists and turns in this story, and like I have said (without giving anything away which would spoil it) this is a fun zombie read with a heart - one which may be handed to you.

It's also rather scary in parts, with 'Resident Evil' type jumps thrown in aplenty. That doesn't mean we really get used to them - the author weaves quite a bit of suspense into the tale and again, if you can see it coming, you're better than me.

Whilst the story itself is good - and the sheer number of reviews on here have covered that already in depth, for me, the real star was the dialogue. It was funny on many occasions, always interesting, and always going somewhere.

"Do you remember anything about being a zombie?"

"Yeah, but I don't want to talk about it."

You could take that as funny, or poignant, but the book is choc-full of dialogue like this.

"If somebody wants cigarettes during the zombie apocalypse, then I should be the one to help."

With more zombie action than you can possibly take a spade to, I recommend you give this book a try. I loved it. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is the best zombie-themed book I have ever read. Pop culture references that seem so forced in some other books I have read are brilliantly placed in this one. I saw Night of the Living Dead on tv - that was enough to scare me. I can't imagine seeing it on a big screen cinema!

I'm off to find a blue t-shirt with 'This is What A Zombie Looks Like". Then I think I'll re-read this book. In short, if anyone recommends this book or indeed this author to you, get it and read it quick. I absolutely loved it.