Category Archives: Books

My Life as a Bench

When I have the hard copy of a book, of course I judge it by its cover.  I’m pretty darn petty that way.  But…when it’s the kindle version, I go by what I’ve heard.  And Jaq Hazell’s My Life As a Bench is one that I’ve been hearing about a lot lately.  So, when Netgalley let me have a copy for a review, I bumped that book to,the top of my list.

It quickly became obvious that I don’t download many books because, when it didn’t seem to be working correctly, I accidently ended up downloading it an additional seven times.  Whoops!  But…out of those eight downloads, I picked one and quickly read it.  And came away considerably impressed.

First, in case you haven’t heard of this one, here’s a quick description for you:

Ren Miller has died aged seventeen and yet her consciousness lives on, inhabiting her memorial bench by the River Thames in London.

Ren longs to be reunited with her boyfriend Gabe, but soon discovers why he has failed to visit. Devastated, she must learn to break through and talk to the living so she can reveal the truth about her tragic end.

Unique, haunting and compelling, this is a story about love, friendship, a passion for music and what, if anything, remains after we’ve gone

I’m a sucker for modern British writing.  And, of course I’m a huge music fan.  So there are a couple of things that just jump out to like right away.  As has been the case with a number of the books I’ve received – and read – lately, this one I guess fits in the ‘Young Adult’ category, but good writing is good writing.

My mother died when I was a a kid and there’s a bench that was put up in her honor near the lake in my old home town.  It was even in a picture used on the cover of one of the local phone books (remember those?) years later. So I can relate to that form of remembering someone.  Though the idea of someone’s consciousness residing there is a bit worrisome (a.k.a. creepy).  But it still ends up being a fairly light read without the darkness that could be there with a main character that has already died.

But the story is written so well, the pacing so smooth and timed out perfectly that it sucks you along and takes you away throughout.  The ending is fairly predictable and gets dragged out a bit over the final chapters, but I won’t take too much away from it for that.  It was entertaining, well constructed and completely worth the read.  So no complaints.  I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 and, though I may never read this novel again, I’m curious enough to check out the author’s other work to see what they’re like.

But for now, I probably need to get away from Young Adult reading to something else for a bit.  Maybe like watching some hockey…

Practical Applications for Multiverse Theory

When I receive a book in the mail with a blurb on the back stating “Practical Applications is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Red Dwarf.”, I’m curious.  Sure, I had doubts that anyone other than me had ever watched an episode of Red Dwarf, let alone remembered it, but that combination sounded like a good one and it led to me putting that book next on my list.  Even if the strange title didn’t say “novel” or even “interesting” to me, I was willing to overlook that.  Don’t judge a book by its cover and all, ya know…

But okay…first lets do our thing where I let you know what the overall premise of the book is…

Carson High School seniors Scott and Davey don’t have much common ground—that is, until all universes begin collapsing into their school. Soon, the avowed loner and the mean-girl cheerleader realize that something is very wrong, and they’re the only two who are aware of what’s happening. Demon versions of their teachers roam the halls, a cowboy sloth appears sporadically, and some students randomly burst into flames, while angry interdimensional counterparts of other students destroy everything in sight.

Now it’s up to two seniors from opposite sides of the social spectrum to defeat this scourge and save not only their high school but also the world. Armed with little more than school supplies and Scott’s trusty copy of The NEW Multiverse Theory, can these unlikely heroes put their differences aside and stop the total chaos? If they can’t, the end of the world may just be beginning.

Sure, that tells you that it’s a bit YA, but that can still be okay…

The first two things that really jumped out at me about this book were 1) there are two authors who wrote it, and 2) the chapters bounce back and forth between the perspectives of the two main characters.  I don’t know how the authors worked together – if they each had a main character they wrote, or if they worked on all of it together, but I have to say that the pattern was a bit distracting.  I’m okay with that overall approach to writing if it’s done right (Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down used multiple characters in this way and I thought that was an excellent book – and one that I’ve re-read multiple times).

However… Here in this book, as you bounce back and forth between Scott and Davey’s perspectives, it slows down the process and before you know it, you’re half way through the book, still waiting for the overall point to get going.  Sure, it’s not overly deep – even for a story involving multiple universes, the potential end of everything we know, and plenty of high school angst – but there’s still a majority of time when the proverbial tires of the story are stuck in the mud.

It’s unique, it’s fairly interesting, it’s pretty well-written, and it was a quick read.  So I’d give it a positive review.  I don’t know if I’ll read it again, but that can be the case with a lot of books.  I just need to find room for it on the bookshelf.  Somewhere.  Somehow…  Or maybe in the closet.  The man cave is getting cluttered…

Phoenix Rising

Okay, so I haven’t yet picked up the huge horror/suspense novel that’s sitting on my bed stand.  Probably because it’s not 700 pages but is actually 1,100!  And it’s not going to be a relaxing read before going to sleep when it’s a two-pound hardcover.  Well…that’s my excuse anyway.

So…instead I grabbed another new arrival, a steam-punk novel (a genre that I’d never tried before) that looked fairly interesting from the cover.  I know…judging by the cover and all…  But sometimes it works.  Maybe not so much this time, but usually…

But let’s start with the standard description to let you know what Phoenix Rising is about:

In a future world where fossil fuels have run out and democracy has collapsed, an outlawed pirate crew fight for survival on their ship, the Phoenix, kept afloat by whatever they can salvage or scavenge on the debris-filled seas. Toby has never known anything other than life onboard the Phoenix and he’s desperate for adventure. But when trouble comes hunting the Phoenix down, Toby realizes that what you wish for isn’t always what you want.

So there I went with the futuristic, dystopian pirate story and found myself finishing it in just a couple of days.  I guess I didn’t expect it to be a YA kind of book, but that’s really what it is.  Toby turns out to be a naive kid, the pirate crew is completely forgettable (toward the end of the book Toby mentions that there are about 40 crew members but, based on the story I hadn’t thought there were more than a dozen), and there’s not really a story that sucks you in.

i guess I just expected more.  It’s definitely a set up for a series (so much so that the book just kind of ended.  When I reached the end, I turned the page and was surprised to find the Acknowledgments rather than another chapter.  So I can’t say that I’d recommend it to anyone.  It’s okay enough that I finished it, but I wouldn’t search for the next one in the series.  And I think it’s motivated me to read something I’ve already read before and know will be great (again).  Just to get some strong writing back into my system.  I need the inspiration and motivation.  Especially since I just came up with another idea for a novel I need to write.  This means that I’ve fallen behind by five now and have a lot of writing to do to catch up with the ideas…

And not one of those ideas are steam-punk or YA.  Hmmm…

Multiple Listings

I think I just read the book equivalent of a chick flick…

Well, sort of.  But it was a quick read and wasn’t that bad at all (am I sounding a little defensive here?).  But anyway…here’s the standard, quick description for you:

From Tracy McMillan, an author who counts both Oprah Winfrey and Tina Fey as fans, Multiple Listings is a comedic family drama focusing on a single mother whose ex-con father is released from prison after seventeen years and unexpectedly moves in with her, her son, and her much younger boyfriend.

I could give you more, but that gives you enough the overall idea.  It’s more cute than complicated.  As it was written by someone who wrote for AMC’s Mad Men (which I’ve honestly never watched) and for Showtime’s United States of Tara (umm…ditto) the history of her writing it had me intrigued.  So, when a free copy of the book arrived (thank you Goodreads), balanced in its cardboard packaging on top of the mailbox just as it began to rain (thank you fill-in mail carrier), I decided to check it out (ya know…once it had completely dried out of course).

Multiple Listings is written in first person, bouncing between two different perspectives – the woman who is the ‘main’ character and her father.  So it takes both the male and female perspectives, which helps make it not so much of a ‘chick’ read.  But…written from a woman’s perspective, and…basically saying that men are pretty messed up and worthless…?  Yeah, that kind of pushes it in a chick lit kinda way.  Not that it isn’t well written though.

The book seems to make boyfriends out as worthless wastes of time, effort and money.  At least up until the moment that they aren’t, which isn’t for long, and of course any boyfriend who’s a little better than worthless isn’t the same boyfriend that was complained about earlier.

And fathers…?  Those seem to be guys that don’t know enough to keep from screwing their kids up, ensuring that their daughters are going to pick boyfriends who are worthless wastes.  Then of course there are the sons who are simply not yet old enough to be too messed up (and have that youth thing as a built in excuse).  And, if these sons don’t have a father figure to talk to and bond with well…they’re pretty much just wastes of time, effort, etc., etc.  Starting to see a trend here?

Maybe I was just being a little defensive of my gender and was taking things too personal when I read it.  Maybe I’m a little jealous of the author since my writing muse has been a bit quiet and distant lately.  Or maybe I’m making the mistake of finishing this blog entry on trash night and, like it does every trash night, it’s raining…  Sheesh.  A nice, rainy night is just fine for a night in, but not for lugging a few trips of smelly plastic bags down to the curb.  And grumpy doesn’t make for delightful reviews.  I’ll have to remember that when I eventually start reading reviews of my books (note to muse: “Get back here.  You’ve got work to do!”)

But…grumpiness aside, I give a positive review to Multiple Listings (somewhere between a 3.5-4.0 out of 5).  I probably won’t ever read it again, but it had characters that were well fleshed-out, and a fairly focused story (though it did kind of just peter out at the end like it ran out of steam).  And it kept me entertained for a few nights before I fell asleep and that’s pretty much a success.

So…I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to my guy friends, but…if you’re looking for a quick read that’s not too deep, it can fit the bill.

Now I’ve got a 700-page hardcover suspense/horror novel sitting on my nightstand, ready to go.  And that should ensure a few more interesting dreams each night when I set it down.  So here we go…..


A Stinky Book Review

I’ve been blog slacking big time lately.  There really should be a word for that.  It’s probably because a few months ago I discovered a company that was looking for bloggers who are writing book reviews to use for advertising.  So of course I thought ‘I could write a bunch of those and earn myself some advertising dollars!’.  Then, when a week went by and I hadn’t started doing it, I felt guilty and put it off for another week.  Then, I read something that wasn’t that bad, but wasn’t that great, and it didn’t seem worth writing about.  Then, I just put it off for a while.  And so, much later, here we are…

In other words, I really need to get to it.  I’ve got hundreds of books sent by authors who have been hoping to receive a review in exchange for taking their time to package them up and take them to the post office (have I told you that my postal carrier absolutely loves it that she has to get out of her vehicle at least three times a week to drop off yet another book-sized package that just won’t fit in the mailbox?)

I actually received one delivery the other day that was a little different.  Instead of simply sending me one book, this self-published author mailed me a box containing his entire trilogy.  Sure, that was a nice gesture, but…

I opened the box with Graham next to me, waiting for his opportunity to take possession of the perfect cat-sized box.  And, as I pulled the stack of books out of the box, I had a three-word review instantly ready to go – These books stink!

And I was meaning that in the completely literal sense.  Graham actually hopped right into the box and, before all four paws had even hit the cardboard bottom, he’d hopped right back out and dashed off to the garage (where I presume he crashed in his litter for a few minutes to try to keep down his lunch).

Whoever wrote those books was a HUGE smoker, that’s for sure.  And apparently, each and every puff he ever took, he blew out directly into that box.  For years on end.  Phew!

Okay, to be honest, those books wouldn’t have been first on my priority list, but I don’t think I’ll ever read them.  I’m scared to pick them up again, and I can only wonder what each page smells like.  And how could I ever write a fair review when all I could think was ‘This chapter really stinks!’.

I’ve been hoping to receive a copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or Lisa Lutz’ The Passenger (books I’ve been wanting to read anyway), but here I have this mini stack of books I don’t even know what to do with.  Throwing them away just seems mean, but it’s either that or leave them on the floor in the corner untouched and unloved where even the cat gives them a wide birth.  Tomorrow’s trash night though so I probably just need to do it – find a pair of tongs to pick those books up and carry them out to curb.  Who knows, maybe they could be well-written pieces of American fiction that just haven’t been discovered yet, but sorry, my eyes are already watering just thinking about the smell of them.  And after all, I’ve got future advertisers to worry about.  If I ever get around to it that is…

Books, Books and Way More Books


Just out of curiosity, I decided to see how many books I’ve received in the mail over the last year or so with the expectation that I would complete an on-line review for them.  I knew that it had been getting slightly out of control, but I didn’t realize that I’d actually received 172 different physical copies of books.  Everything from huge hardcover “coffee-table” books to regular sized softcovers to graphic novels to short, self-published novellas, a couple of children’s picture books, and even books of poetry have been shipped to the house with the hope that I’ll first read it, then love it, then post a wonderful review on-line praising the brilliance and immense talent of the author.  And I’d love to.  Really I would.  But…

Where’s the time?

Of course I ask that while I’m reading a Christopher Moore novel that I’ve probably read at least five times already (plus I paid full price for it when it came out too).  So maybe blaming a lack of time really isn’t the best excuse.  It’s just one of many.

Some books are just obviously not designed for me.

For example…  I’m probably not going to read any of the half dozen romance novels that I’ve received (though who really knows what could happen on a rainy weekend afternoon prior to the start of the football season).  And then there are those days when I open up a FedEx package to find Part 3 of a writer’s trilogy.  So I already have no idea what’s going on in the story before I would read the first sentence.  So I think I’ll pass…

And then, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but wow…  Sometimes you actually can.  Actually, every time that I receive one (and I’m probably up to 4-5 arriving each week now) I completely judge it by its cover.  And a slick, well designed cover and a logo from an established publishing house wins out over a hand-drawn cover (some looking like they were done in crayon) of a self-published book every time.  Sorry.  Maybe I’m a bit shallow.  But I’m okay with that.  I support the independent authors out there, but you’ve got to put in a little work…

And then there’s the font.  If you’re doing it yourself and don’t have a publisher, at least use a point that makes the inside look professional, and not like a high school ‘D’ average student’s term paper.  Sure I’m picky.  But I’ve got 171 other books vying for my attention.

Earlier this week I received a hard cover novel of about 650 pages shipped to me from an author in Australia.  The cover looks great, the story description looks interesting, and there are author endorsements on the back cover.  But…maybe more importantly, the author spent $40 in postage to mail it to me.  So I feel a bit indebted to him and am putting the one next on my list to read.  It just seems fair.

Oh, who am I kidding…?  It’s all about the cover.  It just looks cool enough to read.  Once I finish the one I’m re-reading now anyway…

The Murderer’s Daughter


 I don’t necessarily enjoy being negative about the works of writers. Maybe I shouldn’t review books when I’m grumpy. But…since I now have 54 books stacked up on my bookshelf waiting to be read and reviewed, I need to get through ’em, right? Obviously it’s been a little while since I’ve posted – due to a number of things – and I need to really get to it, right?  Even if it’s to start out by telling you that this book kind of ticked me off.

Let’s start with a quick description…

A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches—perhaps because she bears her own invisible scars: Only five years old when she witnessed her parents’ deaths in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, Grace still has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace’s harrowing past returns with a vengeance.

First of all, I’ve never been a fan of an author writing a main character who’s absolutely brilliant, one of the greatest minds out there.  It just strikes me as a way to take a bit of reality from the story and make you notice the author rather than the character. It reminds me of when I read the books of Chaim Potok when I was young. The main character was always a brilliant Jewish boy, and the books were written by a Jewish man who considered himself to be brilliant. Why not write a memoir entitled “I Believe I’m Smarter and More Misunderstood Than You”? instead?  Save us all some time…

And here, in this novel, having a brilliant main character seems to be used as an opportunity to pull out all of the grandiose verbiage which comes across as pompous and a pleading for academic acceptance. But that’s not even consistent. If that’s the tone of the whole book, fine. I think we’ve all read those authors.

When a character has to hit the brakes to avoid “pulverizing a pedestrian who leaped off the sidewalk into nocturnal traffic.”, it just seems to be taking things too far… Especially when it isn’t consistent. There will be “normal” descriptions and wording for paragraphs until it seems time to remind the readers that yes, the author is brilliantly able to use big, or rarely-used words. Heck, there’s a sentence when the main character “drank water, peed, drank some more, drained her bladder again, then did some stretching and push-ups and took a nap.” But later, does a house sit on a cul-de-sack? No…that’s amateuristic. Instead, it’s “nearly at the street’s terminus”.

And, when a male author writes about the sexual awakening and blossoming of a teenaged girl, it really creeps me out a bit… Then, when the female main character is described – again by a male author – as having extremely selfish sexual escapades for her own occasional needs, it seems to say far more about the author than you would ever want to know.  But fortunately, that isn’t a huge aspect of the story line. More of an excuse for the main character to randomly meet one person in an area of millions that will kind of impact the story line, even if she’s going to meet him again the next day.  Kind of odd, kind of random and kind of lacking in realistic odds.

There’s the potential for a decent story line here, hidden within the jumble. Growing up within the foster system, trying to find yourself, and coming to terms with who you turned out to be… That makes for an intriguing background to the story. But there’s definitely too much of the main character simply thinking – thinking in a hotel room, thinking in a cafe, thinking while driving, thinking over solitary dinner, thinking in next hotel, thinking about her past, thinking about her present, etc. There’s just not enough character development through action or the interactions with or viewpoints of others. And, the few other characters that do exist are boring and two-dimensional. It’s like they’re there because they have to be, not to really add anything more than the basics.

Then, surprisingly, especially considering this was written by a best-selling author of many other books, this novel ends as if the author had simply grown completely bored of dealing with it and wanted to move on to something else (you and me both dude). There’s no grand revelation, no shocks or surprise, and not even a minor reward for reaching the end.  Just a quick resolution (I’ll be good and avoid giving out any details to spoil(?) it for anyone) with no consequences, no meaning and no real impact to the main character that we can see.  Like someone walking out in the middle of the conversation because they’re done.  No resolution, no wrap up, and no consideration for the other party.  Just a turn of the back and walk away…

So I just can’t recommend this one.  I impressed myself by even finishing it, but that’s just because I can be a bit stubborn and refuse to quit, even when I should.  Sometimes authors lose their way and can sell books simply with their name attached.  And that’s what this feels like.  But I think anyone who wants a good psychological thriller could do far better…

The Curse of Crow Hollow

imageI absolutely love receiving books in exchange for a review – despite what they do to the amount of memory on my iPad or the shelving space on my bookshelves –  but wow, it’s easy to start falling behind…  So this time, even though it was an ebook, I still went with the cover that jumped out.  And this time around, that belonged to The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey.  The rest will just have to be patient.

Here’s a quick description to give you an idea of just what the novel is about:

Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she’s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Alvaretta swore at her husband’s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta’s cabin, incurring her curse. Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves.

The one problem that I have with novel pretty much hit me over the head as soon as I started reading.  The narrator.  The voice of a hillbilly from the hollow who’s your insider for the story he’s about to tell.  Okay, there’s a reason behind the use of that narrator that becomes clear at the end, but the hickness of the language is a little off-putting until you get used to it.

I also had a little bit of an issue keeping the characters straight as there are quite a few people living in the small town of Crow Hollow that are a part of the story line.  And sometimes they’re referred to by first time, sometimes by last.  In that way it reminded me of Russian literature, where you have to put in some work remembering everyone and just who they are.  Outside of those two issues, it was a fun read.  And it was character-driven, despite all of the action surrounding secrets and revenge and misunderstandings and relationships formed over years together in a tiny mountain area.  And, of course, the possibility of a witch and dealings with the devil.

As I went through the book, I kept thinking that this was a pretty good book – a solid 3 out of 5 (still working on a better rating system to use…).  But then, the farther I made it through, I realized that I was reading when I should be writing, reading when I should have been sleeping, and generally reading another chapter or two, or just another few pages before setting it down.  And that’s a sign that it was better than average.  It’s the connection that writers want to develop with their readers.  It’s what I’m hoping to have with the people who read mine.  Even whoever reads my rough draft I hope misses out on hours of sleep…

Until then, it’s time to flip through the list to find the next cover that sucks me in.  Sure, you can’t judge a book by its cover.  But you can choose a book to judge by its cover.  That’s completely fair…


The Insect Farm


It it won’t be long until I head out the the Fayette County Fair but, before then, I want to get caught up a bit on my reviewing…  This time it’s The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble.  This one looked sufficiently creepy and interesting enough that I requested a reviewer’s copy through Net Galley and they were kind enough to approve it in exchange for my review.

As usual, here is the quick synopsis of the book so that you know a little bit about it…
The Maguire brothers each have their own driving, single-minded obsession. For Jonathan, it is his magnificent, talented, and desirable wife, Harriet. For Roger, it is the elaborate universe he has constructed in a shed in their parents’ garden, populated by millions of tiny insects. While Jonathan’s pursuit of Harriet leads him to feelings of jealousy and anguish, Roger’s immersion in the world he has created reveals a capability and talent which are absent from his everyday life. Roger is known to all as a loving, protective, yet simple man, but the ever-growing complexity of the insect farm suggests that he is capable of far more than anyone believes. Following a series of strange and disturbing incidents, Jonathan begins to question every story he has ever been told about his brother–and if he has so completely misjudged Roger’s mind, what else might he have overlooked about his family, and himself?

The Insect Farm is a dramatic psychological thriller about the secrets we keep from those we love most, and the extent to which the people closest to us are also the most unknowable. 

Sounds a wee bit dark and creepy, doesn’t it?  Especially when you look at the cover as well.

Strangely enough, it really isn’t.  Or at least not as much as I had been expecting.  It’s a character driven novel that deals with what one character is thinking, and feeling, and is completely unsure about.  And, because this character is narrating the book and doesn’t know any more than he’s telling you – the reader – any revelations or surprises are shocking to him as well.

Okay, I’ll admit that I wasn’t actually surprised by any of the “shocks” or “twists” toward the end.  But that didn’t take away from the writing and the talent of the author.  Because the book takes place in the fairly recent past, there’s kind of an old-school feel to the story.  In fact, I couldn’t help but be reminded of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.  Totally different story, some similar character elements as the narrator is growing up, and similar straightforwardness in the author’s writing skills…

Unfortunately, this novel probably won’t be one that I ever read again – I guess when you’ve completed a ‘thriller’ or something that leads you on with what you don’t know and need to find out, once you know the ending, you can’t go back and get the same satisfaction.

But, if you find yourself curious about this one, I’d highly recommend it.  I need to figure out my own unique rating system (stars and thumbs up being so yesterday), but in any rating system, this one does phenomenally well.  Now…what to read next?!?  After this one, I think a comedy is definitely in order…


How To Write A Novel

imageLately I’ve been reading so much, and spending so much time working on my own novel, that my mind is everywhere…  Reality has been pushed aside by the fictional world and my imagination has been running rampant.  Add that to my every night dream-fest, and I’m waking up each morning wondering where I am and am in a state of disbelief that I have to do such mundain things as pay bills, go to the grocery store and do laundry.  I’m not complaining a bit.  For a writer, it’s amazing to be able to be completely immersed in that world of imagination and creativity.

Reading is inspiring when you’re writing.  Some books are so bad that you can’t help but think “Mine is way better than that.  I’m definitely going to get published!”.  Others are so good that they push you to work harder and do better.  Then there’s How To Write A Novel by Melanie Sumner.  I received a copy for free through NetGalley in exchange for a review and am more than happy to do so…  First, the usual description so that you know what the novel is about:

Aristotle “Aris” Thibodeau is 12.5 years old and destined for greatness. Ever since her father’s death, however, she’s been stuck in the small town of Kanuga, Georgia, where she has to manage her mother Diane’s floundering love life and dubious commitment to her job as an English professor. Not to mention co-parenting a little brother who hogs all the therapy money.

Luckily, Aris has a plan. Following the advice laid out in Write a Novel in Thirty Days! she sets out to pen a bestseller using her charmingly dysfunctional family as material. If the Mom-character, Diane, would ditch online dating and accept that the perfect man is clearly the handyman/nanny-character, Penn MacGuffin, Aris would have the essential romance for her plot (and a father in her real life). But when a random accident uncovers a dark part of Thibodeau family history, Aris is forced to confront the fact that sometimes in life—as in great literature—things might not work out exactly as planned.

Written from the perspective of a girl who’s 12.5 years old, and who is continually keeping up with the plan of writing a novel in 30 days, it’s a kick in the tookis, motivating me to work harder, faster.

Okay, so I know that it wasn’t actually written by a kid.  And I’m sure it took much longer to finish than a month.  But it’s still motivating.

This novel is all about characters.  About the way they think and react to what life throws at them.  It’s grounded in reality, what’s normal, what’s possible and what we do in response to life’s setbacks and challenges.  And in that way, it’s universal.  And it’s extremely well written – enough so that I flew through it in just a few days, even with real life intruding.  It’s a fun read, but more than just mindless entertainment.  It makes you think, and makes you feel for the characters, especially the 12.5 year-old narrator.

Now that I’ve finished it, I need to look to see what else this author has written.  After all, we’ve got to support the talented writers out there!

But, first I think I’ll write a few hundred more words on my novel.  I can’t let myself fall too far behind a non-existent fictional kid, right?

So…back to work!