Recommend It Monday–The Unseen, Eleanor by Johnny Worthen

Last week, Johnny Worthen stopped by to tell us about his newest novel, The Unseen, Eleanor.  Since then, I’ve had a chance to dive into it.

The book is fantastic.  The one element that I appreciate the most throughout the entire novel is the fear.  Eleanor has never known a life without fear.  What Worthen does a beautiful job of is layering that fear, so she’s physically afraid of the humans that killed her family and of people in general who would harm her if they knew the truth, but she’s also emotionally afraid: to love, trust, and not be afraid.  The one person she can trust with her truth is dying more every day, so now she has the added fear of what will happen to her once Tabitha is gone.  There are moments in the novel when Eleanor wants to trust so badly and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

Eleanor and Tabitha are hiding in a small town, and Worthen does a wonderful job of showing the tradeoffs of that.  On the one hand, when she’s not required to be at school and doesn’t need to go into town, she’s free to live her life without interference.  Except for the social worker who drops by every month to check on them, they’re pretty much left alone.  On the other, the town is so small that if something unusual happens, the twisted version of it spreads like a wildfire that can never be fully extinguished.  Eleanor sacrifices so much in order to remain unseen.  The book is a wonderful fit for everyone from young teens to adults.

 

Recommend It Monday–Beatrysel by Johnny Worthen

Since I knew I would be spending a lot of time trapped on an airplane (which didn’t crash afterall), I loaded up my current ebooks and got some reading done.  I don’t like reading ebook format.  It has nothing to do with the quality of book.  It’s a sensory thing, like eating pears.  Sure, they taste good but they feel like I’m eating grit.  That said, I’ve had this copy of Beatrysel for a long time now and it’s one that I’ve really been wanting to read, so I did.  It’s wonderful.

In the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I will say that Worthen is a friend of mine.  That said, this is still a damn fine book and I wouldn’t be reviewing it otherwise.

He did a good job creating characters that I cared about.  The opening scene was a little disorienting until you read further along.  I thought it was an interesting choice to give us the scene and then later on (more than a few pages) give us the context for that scene.  I think that choice made the scene more meaningful.

He writes beautiful prose.  Seriously, never underestimate the value of a well crafted sentence.  There were a couple of places where I, personally, would have worked it a little differently for smoothness and flow, but there weren’t very many of those.  His writing is engaging and keeps you interested from start to finish.

I’ve always been fascinated with the occult, so this book was great for that.

If I had to sum up Beatrysel, it would be:

If light, then dark; if love, betrayal; if joy, pain.

Recommend It Monday–Tears of Isis by James Dorr

I had the pleasure of interviewing James Dorr for Author Corner awhile back, and one of the things we discussed was his short story collection, The Tears of Isis.  I’ve finally been able to read it (I blame actual employment and graduate school for the delay), and the first thing I want to mention is how beautiful it is.  The language Dorr uses as he tells his stories is wonderful.  Some of the stories are his takes on fairy tales.  Cindy is the most obvious one, but others are Snow White and Sleeping Beauty told as River Red and The Ice Maiden, respectively.  What I enjoyed most about these stories is that they employ the same world dynamics.  It was nice to go back to this world and read other aspects of it.  His versions of the tales are unique and subtle.  In fact, with River Red and The Ice Maiden, I didn’t realize what they were until after I had finished reading the collection.  Some people may not like the delayed connection, and maybe those people who are smarter than I am will make the connection as they read these stories, but I rather enjoyed that I was still appreciating the collection and getting new things from it after the fact.  The final story, The Tears of Isis, was the most sublime (Burke) for me.  I had the most powerful reaction reading it, a mix of horror, disgust, and fascination, and I think it was well placed within the collection.

If you’re looking for some new reading material, I’d suggest grabbing a copy of this book.

Recommend It Monday–Four Days by Eli Wilde and ‘Anna DeVine

Last time on RIM, I reviewed Cruel by Eli Wilde.  Today, I’m going to talk about the next book in the Strangers in Paradise Trilogy, Four Days.  When I talked about the first book, I compared it to the movie 8MM in that you only need to consume it once, and then never again.  For most people, I’d say this holds true with Four Days.  I just may pick this one up again sometime, though.

Four Days

This book is both horrible and beautiful.  What separates it from Cruel, for me, is that Emily is a grown woman when the events of the book takes place whereas Evan is a small child when his story begins.  For me, that makes it easier for me to handle Emily’s story.  This book is every bit as graphic as the last one, so if you have any triggers this is not the book for you.

What I appreciate the most about Wilde and DeVine is their ability to be graphic without being gratuitous.  Violence, especially sexual violence, serves a purpose.  It’s a horrible purpose, to be sure, but a purpose nonetheless.  The writing is captivating and skillfully done.  There’s also a commitment to the story.  If at any time Wilde and DeVine would have hesitated or faltered in any way, the whole thing would have imploded.

Like Cruel, Four Days is a shorter book and is meant to be read in a single afternoon.  This time, I devoured the book and was left wanting to know more.  Dublin is the final book in the trilogy, and I don’t have a release date on that yet, but I cannot wait to get my hands on it.  The first two books can be read as stand-alones, and they can be read in any order.  I read them in their proper order, and it was neat to see the way the authors wove in those intersections.  

If you read this book, or Cruel, stop back by and let me know what you thought.

Recommend It Monday–Cruel by Eli Wilde

It’s time once again for RIM.  I wish I could do these more often than I do, but grad school makes outside reading problematic, so I do what I can when I can.  That said, I just finished Cruel by Eli Wilde.

There are certain things I feel that people should experience once because they need to.  One such example is the film 8MM.  These are things you should experience once, but once is enough.  Cruel is one of these experiences.

Cruel

The book is what its title suggests: it’s cruel.  Some passages gave me goosebumps from their unvarnished honesty.  Others made me feel slightly ill.  The novel is set up in cantos, short memory passages that make reading it a one evening experience.  That is, if you can take that much in one sitting.  I could not.  I found myself reading in chunks, letting parts digest and break down before going back for more.  The first half, for me, was harder to get through than the last half.  I guess it’s easier to distance yourself from a damaged man than it is to watch a child becoming damaged.

The prose is well crafted and that’s largely what makes the book work the way it does.  Less skill from the author would have left it feeling gratuitous.  There are jumps in time, but each canto is dated so its easy to keep track of the time.  The first person POV makes the novel uncomfortably intimate.  It’s wonderful.  It has a mostly linear progression, with acts of cruelty lining up like dominoes waiting for the push.

Read this book.  Take as much time as you need to in order to get through it, but do it.

Recommend It Monday–The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange

I received The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange as a review copy.  This is a Young Adult Science Fiction novel.  Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

The book started out a little bit slow for me.  It took me a couple of chapters before I really got hooked on it, but once Lange got into the Perpetual Motion Machines, I was hooked.  Elsa is fantastic.  I loved the layers Lange added to that character.  She wants to be different, and that comes with consequences, but she accepts them all (some she handles better than others) and ends up making a difference.  She’s very intelligent, but she’s not always very smart which can be frustrating for some people.  I think it accurately describes a sophomore aged teen.  I also appreciate all of the ways Lange lets Elsa down throughout the story.  The romance plot with Jimmy was a little predictable, but I didn’t really mind that so much because Jimmy was a pretty great kid.  It helped to highlight Elsa’s personal growth when she came to that realization for herself.  The world Lange builds takes the clique dynamic and feeds it steroids.  Most teens feel like high school is life or death, but Lange almost makes that feeling a reality by forcing that dynamic out of the friendship sphere and making it into a career sphere.  Being in the “right circle” now has far greater importance because it can affect where, or if, you attend college and whether you get sponsored or not.  The corporate sponsorship gets to be overwhelming pretty early into the story, but I’m ok with that because I imagine living inside of that atmosphere would be overwhelming.  I think it’s another way to help relate to the characters.

There were a couple of flaws for me.  The most serious one is the lack of an established time.  The story is set in the future, but there is no real marker for me how far into the future it is.  Some moments make it seem like it’s only a decade or so, but others make it seem like it’s much further into the future.  That fluidity of time makes it hard to feel grounded in the story.  Another involves Penn State.  Elsa has a Penn State sweatshirt that she wears all the time.  For her birthday, Jimmy makes her a beret in Penn State’s colors.  The book tells us the hat was blue/yellow and those are not their school colors.  Their colors are blue/white.  This last one is a personal pet peeve of mine, so I’ll mention it since I’ve ranted about it on here before, but “conversate” appears in the novel.  You either converse or you have a conversation.  Is it minor?  Yep.  Like I said, though, it’s a personal thing with me so I’m mentioning it.  It only appears the one time, so unless you are as particular as I am, you probably won’t even notice it’s in there.

I don’t know much about Perpetual Motion Machines, but those sections were the stars for me.  I think it let us see Elsa in a slightly different way than at any other time during the novel.  Plus, the machines themselves were fascinating.  I wish I could have visited Elsa’s FutureWorld display because I think it would have been amazing.

I enjoyed this book.  Is it perfect?  No.  That said, it’s a damn entertaining read.  I plan on passing it along to my 14 year old son to see his take on it.  There’s enough science and math thrown in that I think he’ll enjoy it, too.

I Love What I Do

If you follow me on Twitter, or you’ve been exercising your keen sense of observation by looking on the left side of the blog at my Twitter feed, you’ve noticed some recent announcements about upcoming interviews.  I’m now booked into November and the spots keep filling up.  I spent a goodly portion of my day yesterday talking with authors, reading press releases, and coordinating book reviews with publishers.  

I love my job.

It’s not a job where there are health benefits, or financial security, or even finances.  I’m not opposed to finances, however.  There just aren’t any at the moment.  When you get up every morning and do something because you love it, you know you’re in the right field.  I got into this by accident.  I wrote a book and the book got published.  (Hooray for publishing!)  If I had a better idea of what I needed to be doing at the time, I would have created my online presence well before I ever sent the manuscript out for consideration.  I had no clue what I was doing, and in some things I still don’t, but I am constantly learning.  (Hooray for learning!)

Once the book was accepted and work got underway for that, I started trying to create a platform for myself.  It wasn’t until the book had been out for three months or so that I repurposed an old blog.  We’ve come a long way since then.  The blog was for my multimedia writing class, and an author platform was perfect for it, so Erindipity was born.  One of the things my blog needed to have for the class was a weekly feature.  Recommend It Monday seemed a perfect way for me to get recommendations from people and explore new authors.  I’d read a recommended author/title, and then do a review.  Then, I started reviewing titles I wanted to read for my own interests.  Now, I’m working with authors and publishers to formally review their works.  *squee*  Sorry.  I’m better now.  

My first few interviews as an author were for the blogs of other authors I know.  I enjoyed being interviewed and decided to try my hand at interviewing other authors and helping spread the word about their current releases.  It was a blast.  It seems I know more horror writers than can possibly be healthy for any single individual.  One day I woke up and there was a corpse oozing on my furniture.  He had a note pinned to his chest that said his name was Charlie and admonished me to take good care of him.  Of course, the note failed to mention that he’s also a bit of a perv and likes to eat the middles out of my pies.  Just the middles, mind you.

Before I knew it, I had a new interview lined up every week.  They are great writers and great human beings.  Some of them I am privileged to call friends.  There are others I am just now meeting, and still more that I am waiting to meet in the future.  They make me laugh and cry.  They inspire me to work at my own craft.  They teach me things I didn’t know.  I hope they have as great a time as I always do having them over.  I’d like to think I’m becoming a stronger writer for having met them.

So, here we are.  I have interviews booked until almost the end of the year.  I have books waiting in queue to be read and reviewed.  I’m helping to spread the word of these talented people and I’m having an absolute blast doing it.  I don’t get paid for this, but I will get up tomorrow morning and check my email.  I’ll respond to inquiries and schedule dates.  I’ll write up interviews and pull books out of my mailbox.  Because I love what I do and you can’t buy that.