Friday, January 30, 2015

A Change of Setting: A guest post from Kelly Stone Gamble, author of They Call Me Crazy




After twenty years of living in Las Vegas, I recently moved to Idabel, Oklahoma, a small town with a population under ten thousand, and am frequently asked "Why?" Who would leave the glamour, the beautiful weather, and interesting nightlife of Sin City for a town that is an hour away from a Starbucks? The easy answer is that I was offered a job that I couldn't resist, but in order to get that job, I had to apply, and I did so with the willingness to move if need be. So in effect, I did choose Oklahoma. Although I enjoyed my time in Las Vegas, I felt I needed a different view of the world, maybe a different way of viewing life in general.

When I write, setting is one of the first things I decide upon. I think where we are in the world, at any time, influences who we are, and, in a novel, setting helps us build our characters. The plot of "They Call Me Crazy" could have taken place anywhere, but the characters and the story itself would have changed.

Although I wrote the book while living in Las Vegas, I chose southeast Kansas for my setting. I am originally from the area so I was familiar enough to use the geography to my advantage. I needed rain, I needed a river and I needed characters whose lives were tied closer to the land than to the hustle of traffic or the bright lights of Las Vegas. I didn't want to dump a body in the desert; I wanted to bury him in wet earth.

This morning I sat on the front porch of the hunting lodge where I live and watched the sun rise. In Nevada, it was the sunsets that were amazing to see, but, now, the early morning has become my favorite part of the day. Usually, the sun hits the 1,800 acres that make up my backyard, and it looks like someone has sprinkled the trees with gold glitter. But this morning, with a storm moving in, the sun lit up the clouds and set them on fire.  I watched them go from a deep red to a brilliant purple.

Yes, I could watch a sunrise from anywhere in the world, but it would be a different sunrise, and just as I could have used my basic plot in any setting, it would have been a different story.  In my novel of life, I am the protagonist, and, when I moved to Oklahoma, it was because I needed a new setting. As the sun topped the clouds, it was as if someone had turned on a prowler light. The fiery display went through a spectrum of color, like a rainbow, as it tried to settle on one.  And at that moment, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else in the world.



Get your copy of Kelly Stone Gamble's new release, They Call Me Crazy, from Amazon US (paper or ebook), Amazon UK (paper or ebook), or Barnes & Noble.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Beauty of a Second Chance / Lori Jones


Reviewed by: Sooz

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Lori Jones had a 16-year modeling career that allowed her to travel the world. She kept journals throughout the career and wrote her first book Growing up Beautiful, a fictional account of young models growing up in a foreign country.

Description:

Casey, Star and Joanne meet up after nearly a decade since the last time they have seen each other. Each woman is at a crossroads as they deal with huge challenges. Their friendship couldn’t come at a better time.

Appraisal:

The Beauty of a Second Chance takes place about 15 years after Lori Jones’s first book Growing up Beautiful takes place. It follows the lives of three women who modeled in Italy when they were 18, but now they are all grown up with bigger problems on hand.

When the story picks up in the present day, the woman haven’t seen each other since their time in Italy. When their paths cross in Malibu, they have a lot of catching up to do. They each have their own issues to overcome and the support they receive from each other helps. However, there isn’t much overlap between the three stories other than the women having brunch and calling each other. While each story was kind of interesting, I would have enjoyed if the stories intertwined more.

Unfortunately, while their individual stories were OK, I couldn’t find myself relating to any of them. In fact, I found the women to be selfish.

It was well written and flowed well, but it was not the right book for me. Those that enjoyed Lori Jones’ first book will probably enjoy catching up on the lives of Star, Joanne and Casey.

Even though, I didn’t enjoy the book, I am still giving it four stars. The book is well done, but made for a different audience. 

FYI:

Despite being a sequel, The Beauty of Second Chance reads as a standalone.

Format/Typo Issues:

No major issues.

Rating: ****Four Stars

#Free for your #Kindle, 1/29/2015

The author of each of these books has indicated their intent to schedule these books for a free day for the Kindle versions today on Amazon. Sometimes plans change or mistakes happen, so be sure to verify the price before hitting that "buy me" button.


No Perfect Secret by Jackie Weger




Fledge by Penny Greenhornd



Author's interested in having their free book featured either here on a Thursday or a sister site on a Monday, visit this page for details.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Home Owner with a Gun / Samuel Hawley


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Thriller

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Samuel Hawley taught English in East Asia for many years before becoming a full-time writer. His books include the novel Bad Elephant Far Stream and the nonfiction works Speed Duel: The Inside Story of the Land Speed Record in the Sixties; I Just Ran: Percy Williams, World’s Fastest Human; and The Imjin War: Japan’s Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China. He lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Description:

Jeff is a quiet family man who works at the local grocery store. At home, in the middle of the night, he’s awoken by noises downstairs. Armed with a gun, he surprises two men in his kitchen and kills them both. The story follows Jeff as the ramifications of that night’s events change his life forever.

Appraisal:

Jeff is an unlikely main character—just an everyman, really. His deadly shots on the night of the break in had no malice about them. He was as terrified as he crept downstairs to protect his family as I would have been.
Initially, I thought maybe Jeff would have problems with the police believing his story—I was worried for the man. The problems that did ensue, however, were of a quite different nature, and, for me, totally unexpected.

I don’t want to spoil the story, so I won’t go into detail, but a second thread that runs through the novel involves some local gangstas. The author drew these characters as vividly as he did Jeff and his family. And the juxtaposition between these two wildly different groups of people was what made the novel so compelling.

I read this in two sittings, staying up late. From an unlikely beginning, the novel grows and develops into an action-packed, well-written thriller.

Format/Typo Issues:

Well edited.


Rating: ***** Five stars

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Six Months to Get a Life / Ben Adams


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Humor

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

This is Ben Adams first book. He lives in London with his two sons and a dog. He also has a sense of humor. A prime example is in his “bio.” Rather than copying the whole thing here, go to his website and click on the button that says “Ben Adams” at the top of the page.

Description:

“Graham Hope had it all – a wife, two perfect children, a detached house in the suburbs and a huge TV. Until today. He now has an ex-wife, lives in his parents’ spare room and gets the kids and the dog at weekends. He might be lost and lonely, but Graham is not a victim. Six months from today he will be forty-three. He vows to sort this mess out by his birthday. He gives himself six months to get a life. Will Graham play a meaningful role in his boys’ lives? Will his mates take him under their wing? Will he move out of his childhood home? More importantly, will he ever have sex again? For Graham, failure is not an option.”

Appraisal:

Graham Hope’s basic story is one that’s played out an innumerable number of times. A couple gets divorced and now both halves of the former couple have to figure out how to adapt to seeing their kids much less than before, new living arrangements for at least one, and how this is going to change their lives in other ways. Plus, you know, that sex thing (or lack thereof). It’s a story that’s been done before. (Most commonly in women’s fiction or chick-lit from the viewpoint of the female.)

This basic story can take two directions, a serious look at the difficulties (those are the women’s fiction) or a more humorous take, which is where the chick-lit version typically comes in. Ben Adams takes the humorous route. At times farcical, yet never going so far that the underlying seriousness of the issues the protagonist Graham is facing are ignored. Anyone who has struggled with the aftermath of a divorce will recognize themselves in Graham with more than one knowing chuckle escaping as they’re reading Six Months to Get a Life.

FYI:

Adult language and mild adult content.

Uses UK spelling conventions, word usage, and slang.

Format/Typo Issues:

This review is based on an advance reader copy so I’m unable to gauge the final product in this regard.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Monday, January 26, 2015

Heads You Lose / Rob Johnson


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Mystery/Humor

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Rob Johnson worked as an administrator and publicist for touring theatre companies before turning his hand to writing plays. Then the author undertook a series of jobs. He now lives in Greece. Lifting the Lid is the author’s second novel.

You can learn more about the author at his website.

Description:

Trevor and Sandra are running a detective agency, but it’s not doing too well, they’re just about out of funds. When Trevor’s latest assignment goes off the rails and he ends up in hospital he jumps at the offer of a seemingly simple baby-sitting job in Greece.

But when the baby he’s looking after is a seventy year old ex-con called Ingleby with a dubious sense of humour whom everyone seems to be after for one reason or another suddenly the job isn’t so easy after all. And when someone tries to frame Trevor and Sandra by leaving various body parts in their van and freezer, life gets even more complicated.

Appraisal:

Heads You Lose is the follow up to Lifting The Lid and picks up pretty much where the other left off. That being said it is relatively stand alone and it’s not entirely necessary to read the first novel (but you’re missing out if you don’t).

It takes a little time to get going, with Sandra and Trevor going through the process of leaving England, but once they end up in Greece and the other protagonists are in place it really motors.

Johnson excels at setting up multiple story arcs and inter-weaving them in increasingly intriguing and amusing ways. In this case a couple of ex-cons are looking for the third man, the guy who got away with the proceeds of the robbery the trio was involved in. Trevor and Sandra are bystanders.

However in parallel Donna is trying to get revenge for her husband’s death (an event in the previous novel). She blames Trevor and Sandra. Here Ingleby is the by-stander, but each arc affects the other. Throw in some local cops and this is a highly entertaining, well-constructed screwball comedy that is as enjoyable as it is well written. It ranks alongside Declan Burke’s work in terms of quality.

To say any more would ruin the story, I strongly recommend you give it a try.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.


Rating: ***** Five Stars

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reprise Review: The Cookie Dumpster / Shana Hammaker


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Memoir

Approximate word count: 8,000 words

Availability
Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Shana Hammaker is the author of the Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011 series, where a different short thriller is released each month. We have reviewed the first three of these.
Follow Hammaker on Twitter.

Description:

At seventeen, Shana Hammaker was a street kid named Denise.

During the time she spent homeless, living on the streets of Santa Cruz, California, Denise experienced a rough and wild life. Longing for the comfort of home, she found it, in the dumpster at Pacific Cookie Company.

Appraisal:

There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith


Although an overused quote, to the point of becoming clich├ęd, anyone who has tried writing of any kind also recognizes its truth. It applies to almost any kind of writing. Red Smith was a sportswriter, which doesn’t seem that personal, yet all writing, even something as easy as a review, can still feel this way. It is one reason authors sometimes react emotionally when someone doesn’t like what they’ve written.

In The Cookie Dumpster, it feels like Shana Hammaker sat down at her new-fangled typewriter and opened an artery instead. She gives us a glimpse into the people and culture of the homeless, a situation most of us can barely imagine. Hammaker’s writing voice or tone seemed different from her fiction, somehow more personal. Maybe this is something I imagined, or possibly that she is telling her own story rather than acting as a go-between for her characters made the voice more authentic. In many ways, this is a story of contradictions, of highs and lows. It is a story of freedom from many of society’s norms and of slavery to the requirements of survival. Ultimately, it is a story of overcoming obstacles.

If The Cookie Dumpster has any faults, it is that I wanted more. The period covered starts and ends at logical and natural points for the story Hammaker wanted to tell. But I can’t help thinking there is a prequel and possibly a sequel with much different, although just as compelling, stories to tell.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.


Rating: ***** Five stars