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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Young Adult Novel Tackles Domestic Abuse




Title: Girl on the Brink
Author: Christina Hoag
Publisher: Fire & Ice Young Adult Books; First edition (August 30, 2016)
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Genre: YA Fiction/Teen Romance 
ISBN: 978-1-68046-339-2 (Paperback)
ASIN: B01K9L996A (Kindle)
Twitter: @ChristinaHoag
Reviewer, Marlan Warren
“Roadmap Girl’s Book Buzz”


Reviewed by Marlan Warren originally for Roadmap Girl's Book Buzz Blog

"I hope...he never calls me again, but he still owes me a big apology."
 --Girl on the Brink

Summary: Aspiring reporter Chloe (age 17) lands a dream job as a summer intern with the local paper in her New Jersey suburb, and meets the somewhat annoying-but-cute Kieran while she is on assignment. Kieran (age 19) pounces on Chloe, who is pleased to find a creative person like herself (he's an aspiring actor), and enjoys his lavish attention as a welcome alternative to her unhappy home life due to her parents' impending divorce. Gradually, it becomes more and more apparent that Kieran is emotionally disturbed, and unable (or unwilling) to control his need to micromanage her life or his extreme jealousy. At first, she thinks "There's no point in resisting," but by the time he's repeatedly hurt her physically and mentally, Chloe knows in her head that he's abusing her, but her heart makes excuses for him. Which will win? Head or heart?

Los Angeles author Christina Hoag has crafted Girl on the Brink as a "howdunit." While it is no mystery why the vulnerable and intelligent 17-year old Chloe falls for the initial charm of a potentially lethal 19-year old young man whose avid attention leads her into a summer romance, the real mystery lies in how the heck this otherwise sharp, but troubled, teen will extricate herself from what increasingly becomes an abusive relationship.

Hoag has grounded the story in the psychological reality of how abusive relationships can occur at any age. The episodic story is told in first person from Chloe's point of view, which gives it a kind of one-sided diary quality, but its use of present tense gives it a you-are-there immediacy. It unfolds the way life--and relationships--unfold.

This is not a "sleeping with the enemy" tale. There are no real villains here. Neither the sex nor the violence is sensationalized. In fact, the tragedy and victory play out with greater impact because "domestic abuse" is sadly commonplace--even though it is almost taboo in American culture to discuss it openly, especially with young daughters and sons.

Many readers may see themselves or someone they know in these pages. And to her credit, Hoag supplies a "Resources" list in the Appendix where teens can seek help if they are in Chloe's situation.

It is a well-documented fact that a significant number of abusive relationships are inhabited by two people who say they love each other. Girl on the Brink gently explores this paradox (nothing is preachy). And when it is finally over, a wiser Chloe states:

"I know it was okay to leave Kieran, and it was okay to miss him, too."

Abusive relationships can happen throughout women's lives in repetitive patterns. Girl on the Brink serves as a beacon that shines light on how to nip potential abuse cycles in the bud, and place high priority on mutual respect in relationships.







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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Intimate Review of LGBTQ Novel by Well-Known Poet

Title: Two Natures
Author: Jendi Reiter
Author website: http://www.jendireiter.com
Genre: Literary fiction
ISBN: 0996907424
Published by: Saddle Road Press
Where to buy it as paperback or e-book.
Special Offer: 99 cents for the e-book from Sept. 1-28, 2016!
Name of reviewer: Kittredge Cherry
Original review publication: Jesus in Love Blog

REVIEWED BY KITTREDGE CHERRY ORIGINALLY FOR JESUS IN LOVE BLOG

A gay fashion photographer who was raised Southern Baptist moves to New York City for a sexual and spiritual odyssey during the AIDS crisis of the early 1990s in “Two Natures” by Jendi Reiter.
This stylish debut novel from a gifted poet is a rare combination of erotic gay romance and intelligent reflection on Christian faith. Narrator Julian Selkirk seeks glamor and often-fleeting affairs to replace the religion that rejected him. He learns by experience to look beyond shame, surface attractions and short-term desires.

In the five-year period covered chronologically by the novel, he has relationships with three men who embody different archetypes: immature personal trainer Phil Shanahan, cosmopolitan editor Richard Molineux, and earnest activist Peter Edelman. The dense and varied literary coming-of-age novel ranges from comic scenes that could easily become a hit movie to the explicitly sexual and the touchingly tragic. Reiter brings alive LGBTQ touchstones of the era: the visit from out-of-town and out-of-it parents to their closeted son, the AIDS death and awkward funeral, and so on.

Jendi Reiter is a first-class poet and essayist, and her Reiter’s Block is one of my all-time favorite blogs. While reading "Two Natures," I sometimes wished for more of her incisive interpretations rather than her narrator’s witty voice leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Female characters and experiences such as abortion are also portrayed well in “Two Natures.” Perhaps this is not surprising for an author who recently came out as a “genderqueer femme” on her blog.

Raised by two mothers on the Lower East Side of New York City, Reiter is able to portray New York with the casual realism of a native. Now living in western Massachusetts, she is a member of the Episcopal church and experienced first-hand how LGBTQ issues tore apart church groups, including the writing group where she was working on the earliest drafts of “Two Natures.”

Religious references in her novel are subtle… as are the allusions to AIDS in most of the first half of the 374-page novel. Julian finds no easy answers as he wrestles with his faith.The title is based upon the
two natures of Christ, who is fully human and fully divine in the eyes of believers. Julian observes:If what the preachers said
about Christ's two natures was true, I didn't know how he could stand his life anyhow, being split down the middle between the part of him that remembered heaven and the human part that would have touched me back.

I did find myself wondering sometimes whether gay men actually thought like her narrator Julian. I dared to explore this same challenging territory myself, writing as a lesbian author from the viewpoint of a queer male Christ in my “Jesus in Love” novels.

I can only say that “Two Natures” got rave reviews from gay male reviewers whom I respect. Toby Johnson called it “a pleasure to read” and Amos Lassen declared, “We all know someone like Julian and many of us see ourselves in him… You owe it to yourselves to read this wonderful novel.”

As art historian, I especially enjoyed the way that some of Julian’s spiritual reflections were provoked by art. For instance, Julian’s inner spiritual conflict is portrayed at first through his responses to “Piss Christ,” a controversial photograph by Andres Serrano.

The novel is also significant as an example of how a new generation tries to make sense of an AIDS crisis that they were too young to experience firsthand. I happened to read “Two Natures” at the same time that I was rereading my own journals for an oral history interview about doing AIDS ministry at Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco in the late 1980s. Perhaps no novel can capture the agony, ecstasy and desperate intensity of those times.

Julian never found the kind of LGBTQ-affirming church home that we provided at MCC-SF. Sadly that may be true for many young gay men in the early 1990s, and even now. But there’s good news: Reiter is already working on a sequel. 

Julian will have another chance to find long-term love and a gay-positive spiritual community, with readers invited along for the ride.
###

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jendi Reiter is the author of the newly released novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press)
See the book trailer at http://bit.ly/twonaturestrailer.Midwest Book Review says,  "Intense revelations about what it means to be both Christian and gay...a powerful saga" --
Jendi is editor of WinningWriters.com, a Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers"

"Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise."
Surangama Sutra

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 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

National Librarian Reviews Literary Fiction


Title: The Butterfly Prison
Author: Tamara Pearson
Genre: Literary fiction
Publisher: Open Books
ISBN: 0692449264
Reviewer: Alison Dellit
Original review published on: Amazon
Reviewer's rating: 5 stars
Buy here.

Gets in your hear

Reviewed by National librarian Alison Dellit 
"Monarchs with business suits instead of crowns spent four thousand American dollars per day on accommodation at the APEC Summit in Busan, South Korea, in December 2005. The luxury banquet for summit participants cost 1.5 million dollars. It surely must have been Rollsroycefood, swan toilet paper, musical champagne.

Meanwhile the city government closed the street stalls near the venue and walled off the poor quarters. Thirty-five thousand police kept protesters away. If they could, the government would have gathered up the sun too and put it inside a crystal cage in the centre of the summit, leaving just the crumbs of yellow light scattered about for the rest."

"Sitting on the fence, he imagined/remembered a photo of his mum's eyes when she slept. A close up of one eye that was still, but not peaceful. The skin eyelid skin was pulled tightly, as though it was toiling. Paz gave the photo detail; skin lines crossing, the eyelashes dark and gentle."

The Butterfly Prison is an absorbing, rewarding and challenging reading experience. Pearson's language, a rhythm of description and reflection, is punch-the-air, breathtakingly good when it soars, drawing you seductively in to the perspective of her two protagonists, and carrying the fury, the despair, the strength and finally the hope of the world's poor with it.

Poverty Pearson sees as the theft of not just resources, but of joy, of creativity, of a life with possibility and variety from most of the world. The novel is a long scream of protest at this theft, and unlike many overtly political books, never simplified, never superficial.

Pearson, who grew up in Sydney's west and then spent most of her adult life in Latin America, draws seamless lines between the experiences of the world's poor, whether in Mexico City or Redfern, Venezuela's Merida or Macquarie Fields. The portrait of the latter - "Every day in Macquarie Fields, police cars parked in groups of three outside the supermarket, the station and the park. Officers patrolled the quiet public housing streets, and their shadows stuck to the public housing walls, haunting people even when they weren't around" - is searing, indictatory, confronting an instantly recognisable. It would have been easy to set this tale of poverty and resistance in a country renowned for both, but by setting the tale in Australia, Pearson confronts the reader to understand the universality of poverty, of theft and of the war being hope and hopelessness. She refuses to allow a middle-class Australian to look away, to pretend the problem is elsewhere.

The main technique employed here - the use of interspersed paragraphs of world history, works particularly well, and serves to break up the lengthy and occasionally repetitive, narrative (and in a surprising connection, reminded me somewhat of comic writer Warren Ellis' integration of headlines and story, albeit with a more driven tone).

Which is not to say the novel is grim. Far from it. Pearson has such love for humanity - her protagonists' creativity shines, and their love for housemates and collaborators gives the novel bounce and energy. A key theme of the novel is the families we construct for ourselves, the importance of loving and being loved, of being part of we and not just I.

The book is uneven - not unusual for a first novel - with clunky constructions popping up and pacing issues, particularly in the first half which drags too much. The author has time and space to grow, to make the soaring heights of the book closer to the normal terrain. I was a little worried that I wouldn't love this book, but while the flaws are real, there's no question that this is one of those which creeps inside you and changes something.




----- The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lori Soard Writes Heat-Tugging Romance

Cupid’s Quest
By Lori Soard
Genre: Fiction Romance/Christian
2016
ISBN: 9781519389064
Purchase at Amazon


A Heart-Tugging Romance

When a radio station in Hoosier country runs a scavenger hunt with a big cash prize, it turns out that money could be put to good use by at least two deserving residents in this Cupid Corners and, amazingly, it isn’t just the intrigue about which of them might win (or not win!), but also the conflict one feels about who to root for and how that conflict could possibly be resolved.

It has been a long time since I read a romance; so many of them didn’t stay with me beyond the moment I turned the last page. Cupid’s Quest by Lori Soard  is not one of those romances. It is a well-written story about dimensional characters that tug at one’s heart. They are living in situations all too familiar these days. It has characters that every generation can identify with. Anyone who loves romances and wants reading that is fun, easy, and heartwarming  should make a point of visiting Cupid Corners and following Cupid’s Quest.


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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Roadmap Girl Reviews Maxine Nunes' Dazzled

Title: Dazzled 
Series: Nikki Easton Mystery Series, Book 1
Author: Maxine Nunes
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Five Star
Date of Release: October 23, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1432827304
Available on Amazon (Paperback, Kindle and Hard Cover):
Author Website: www.maxinenunes.com

Reviewed by Marlan Warren originally Roadmap Girl’s Book Buzz

“I wondered how anyone ever felt at home here, where there was nothing you could trust to hold on to, not even the ground beneath your feet.”—Dazzled

Synopsis: Feisty one-liner actress Nikki Easton finds herself embroiled in a quest to either find out who murdered her best friend—the "dazzling" aspiring actress Darla—or verify that the unrecognizable corpse buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is really someone else. Along the way, Nikki finds herself smitten with a sexy cop, looks for clues at a Playboy-type mansion, and tangles with unsavory Underworld characters whose antics and shocking connections are nearly indistinguishable from the rest of Hollywood's movers who slither through this book. Sex, drugs and lost souls who are torn between the need to be "somebody" and the desire to flee L.A. keep this mystery ticking like the proverbial time bomb.
Critique: Maxine Nunes' “Dazzled” is a tale told with such precision for atmospheric details, lifestyle annoyances and pitch perfect dialogue, it should come with a cautionary disclaimer for Los Angelenos:

"Warning: May induce the sensation that you are still inside the plot every time you look up from the book."

True to its genre, the story takes readers where others have gone before, but Nunes puts a fresh spin on the familiar elements through inspired turns of phrases ("...a man who evidently thought a strip of chest hair would do for a necktie") and quirky 21st Century updates (gifted with a bouquet, the only "vase" Nikki can find is an empty Slurpee cup).

Nunes also has a gift for depicting layered characters. To this end, she makes excellent use of an acting class that demands "honest emotions" of its students. In the hands of a lesser writer, these scenes could come off as satire or excessively dramatic; but here they skillfully alternate between humor and pathos while giving readers the necessary insights.
“The stronger the personality the more it hid.”—Dazzled

“Dazzled” lovingly and painstakingly explores the paradoxical contradictions of Los Angeles and its hapless inhabitants. The smell of night jasmine juxtaposes with the stench of the morgue...an actress with a "show biz" sensuality hides her true self in plain sight...and all the sleights of hand resonate in the book's first line:

What's real?

At its core, the mystery explores love in its various forms and disguises. Twists, turns and double-crosses abound. Enough to keep the pages turning, but not so complicated or overloaded with characters that it ever feels unwieldy.

All in all, a fun read—unless you are living in L.A., in which case you might have fun while also thinking about leaving town; or if you are the optimistic type, you might find yourself looking forward to a sequel.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Marlan Warren is an avid tweeter (@MalanWarren). You should know her! And--obviously--a book fan. But she is also a PR girl who writers should get to know.

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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Goodreads Author Lauds Book about Law and Lawyers


Ms. Marin gave the book 5 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Title: Closest to the Fire
Subtitle: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers
Author: Karen A. Wyle
ISBN for paperback: 978-0-9905641-4-0
ISBN for non-Amazon ebooks: 978-0-9905641-5-7
Published by Oblique Angles Press
Available on Amazon (US)  as an e-book 
Available as paperback on Amazon US
The books' Web site: http://www.cttf.karenawyle.net
Cover designer: Elizabeth DiPalma Design Plus 
The cover won The Book Designer's, aka Joel Friedlander's,  nonfiction ebook cover award for October 2015



Reviewed by Ms. Marin originally for Goodreads.
Five of five stars



As a writer, I thought this book would be useful in the event I delve into the legal sphere for a screenplay. As an individual who’s had some experience with the legal system, I thought it could provide some insight on the legal process in general. I have to say Karen Wyle did not disappoint on either count.

Any writer wishing to take on the legal system first needs to understand the who, what, where, why and how of the subject. Ms. Wyle has successfully provided that information in her book “Closest to the Fire” which is a massive undertaking. Just check out the table of contents.

While this book is a guide and the author encourages readers not to just go from A to Z, I decided to read the first four chapters straight through to get the feel for her style. Thereafter, I poked around at different chapters that caught my attention.

The author clearly explains numerous aspects of the law, civil and criminal, and the people associated with it and in so doing, offers up possible scenarios a writer may choose to incorporate into a story. In fact, just about everything in the book, if you look closely enough, will provide clues for a novel or film script. But the author specifically points out possibilities with her use of asterisks for plot points. The author also peppers her work with references to films with legal plots.

You’ll read historical references and explanations of how some laws changed and why. You’ll learn the distinctions of criminal acts surrounding rape, robbery and theft, perjury, various threats and so forth. All written in an easy to understand fashion.

The one thing made abundantly clear at the outset and at the end is that this book is to be used as a writers’ guide and readers should not rely upon it for legal advice. That being said, I found the book very useful in understanding aspects of the law and, if writing a scene or screenplay involving the legal system, this would definitely be a resource I would use. Well done, Ms. Wyle.



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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Diane Donovan Lauds Jendi Reiter's Newest Book, Two Natures

Title: Two Natures
Author: Jendi Reiter
Author website: http://www.jendireiter.com/
Genre: Literary fiction
ISBN: 0996907424
Published by: Saddle Road Press (www.saddleroadpress.com) 
Where to buy it:
Name of reviewer: Diane Donovan
Original review publication: Midwest Book Review
Reviewer's link:

Reviewed by Diane Donovan originally for Midwest Book Review



Julian is a Southern boy and transplanted aspiring fashion photographer in New York City in the 1990s; a gay man facing the height of the AIDS epidemic and professional, social, and spiritual struggles alike as he questions himself, God's will, and Christian values in the advent of a specific kind of apocalypse.

It's rare to discover within a gay love story an equally-powerful undercurrent of political and spiritual examination. Too many gay novels focus on evolving sexuality or love and skim over underlying religious values systems; but one of the special attributes of Two Natures isn't just its focus on duality, but its intense revelations about what it means to be both Christian and gay.

In many ways, Julian is the epitome of a powerful, conflicting blend of emotions. Take the story's opening line, for one example. Readers might not anticipate a photographer's nightmare which bleeds heavily into evolving social realization and philosophy: "I woke from another nightmare about photographing a wedding. The bride was very loud and everyone's red lipstick was smeared across their teeth like vampires, except vampires would never wear lavender taffeta prom dresses. It's always the wrong people who can't see themselves in mirrors."

Even the language exquisitely portrays this dichotomy: Julian's parents are still "Mama" and "Daddy", his language and many of his attitudes remain delightfully Southern ("You know, back where I come from, that was the first thing you asked a new fellow: what does your Daddy do, and where do you go to church?"), and his experiences with men, female friends, his evolving photography career, and life in general are wonderfully depicted, drawing readers into not just the trappings and essence of his life, but the course of his psychological, philosophical and spiritual examinations.

As Julian explores this world, readers should expect sexually graphic (but well-done) scenes designed to enhance the storyline (not shock it with departures or dominant heaviness), an attention to the social and political environment of the 90s that swirls around Julian and changes his perspectives and decisions, and a gritty set of candid descriptions that probe real-world experience.

Readers of gay fiction seeking more than a casual series of insights into the world of New York City's culture, enhanced by the deeper perspectives of a young man who spiritually struggles to find his place even as he fine-tunes his career and life, will welcome the close inspection of truth, love, and life provided in Jendi Reiter's Two Natures, powerful saga of Southern etiquette and perspectives turned upside down and the risks involved in moving beyond one's safe zone.

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jendi Reiter is also the author of  Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize):

"Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise."
Surangama Sutra

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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.