May 25, 2013

A Reader's Quirks #1: Are You Attached to Authors?

I'm not really sure where this idea came from...other than the old desire to do something more interactive - and not necessarily review-related - on my blog. So, I thought I'd do a random feature about the who, what, where, when and why of reading, talking about my own relationship with books/genres/authors, and asking my visitors to do the same if they feel so inclined. This could have been easily turned into a meme, but there's a reason why it didn't...I still don't see myself as an established enough blogger to host yet another meme. Even those with an impressive number of followers aren't necessarily overwhelmed with participation, so I'm not going there just yet. This doesn't mean "A Reader's Quirks" won't be promoted to meme status one day, should it be the case. It's all up to you, really :).

ARQ logo by digital artist Lissa

A quick reminder...everyone can comment on my blog, though this means for me to fight spam endlessly. But it matters to me that anyone can join the conversation. As for CAPTCHA...everyone hates I'm trying not to follow that path. At least till I can manage my spam ;).
So my first reading-related question is...


Harsh as it may sound, I'd say no - in most cases at least. It's not like I automatically go out and buy every single book by an author because I previously appreciated one (or more) of her/his novels. As far as YA authors go, there is one notable exception to this quirk of mine, though in turn that exception has exceptions.

See this man? (...erm...old pic...apparently, there is no other of him).

Kevin McFadden, known as Christopher Pike (from the Star Trek character), born November 12 1954 in NY, more than 50 teen and adult books under his belt. I dedicated a whole Blog Room to his teen-aimed novels, while his (definitely small) adult production is recounted here.

I can say he's my favourite (mainly)-YA author, since I'm buying the vast majority of his books. Still - yes - not every single one of them. Because he also wrote some fantasy novels for teens (Alosha, The Shaktra, The Yanti and The Secret of Ka) along with a middle-grade series (Spooksville). As for fantasy, it's not a genre that I normally read, so I'm not particularly inclined to purchase those books. As for middle grade, thanks. Also, Pike wrote a chapter in the Cheerleader series ages ago, and I'm definitely passing on that one ;P.
My fascination with Christopher Pike resides in his weird world(s) far more than in his writing skills. There are better novelists in my opinion, even in the YA universe. I've read some of them. Still, while I appreciate their way with words and world-building and characters, I don't usually ready every book they put out. But like I said, even with Pike I draw a line somewhere - though a very thin one.
I'm a die-hard fan of classic thrillers. You might say I have a very comprehensive collection of Agatha Christie/Ellery Queen/John Dickson Carr/Rex Stout books (I may blog about them at a later point)...and I'm trying to buy them all. But even with those authors, it's not about them, it's about the genre. The kind of entertainment they provide. Though I read both Agatha Christie's autobiography and travel book, and I'm even considering buying the novels she wrote as Mary Westmacott...but I suppose she's my only one exception as far as adult authors go.

May 18, 2013

Jeri Smith-Ready: "Let It Bleed"

Title: Let It Bleed [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: WVMP Radio (free-download novella - book 3.5 of 4. See Jeri Smith-Ready's site)
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Year: 2012
Age: 18+ (though Jeri's site actually says 16+, but I think the whole series would be better handled by more mature readers. All the more so because of what stated in the Cons below).
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Original take on the overused vampire theme. Interesting, mostly tridimensional characters.
Cons: Abundance of gore. A graphic sex scene. Nonetheless...slightly boring.
Will appeal to: Those who like this series...duh.

Blurb: Con artist-turned-radio-station-manager Ciara Griffin hopes to settle into a normal un-life as a fledgling vampire. But Ciara’s best friend mourns her like she’s dead instead of undead, and her own maker clearly wishes she’d never been born (again). Worst of all, hippie vampire DJ Jim has murdered a pair of humans - humans who share Ciara’s true last name. Ciara finds herself face to face with her Irish Traveller cousins, a not-so-welcome family reunion that might hold the key to Ciara’s anti-holy blood. Jim’s spiral into madness makes Ciara an unwilling prize in his deadly feud with Shane. As Ciara clings to what’s left of her humanity, she’ll need her new vampire strength - and old con artist cunning - now more than ever. (Jeri Smith-Ready site excerpt)

Review: So, well - the cat is out of the box. I was extremely careful not to spoil anything in my review of Bring on the Night (the previous chapter of this series), but since the very blurb for this one is a tattle-tale, there's no point in being cryptic anymore. So Ciara got vamped in the end. And as those who read BOTN will already be aware, it only beat to be truly dead. She had to make a choice between relinquishing her life or losing her humanity, and she painfully did. So now she has to live (erm, un-live?) with the aftermath of that.
A necessary premise to my review. This novella was originally intended to be the official fourth installment in the saga, which meant getting its own paperback status. But for reasons that the author herself states here, it came out as a free-download novella instead. While I can only commend Jeri's decision, and thank her for the hard work poured into a no-profit (to this date) project just in order to comply with her own trade honesty, I have to be honest myself on the other hand. I didn't find LIB nearly as exciting as the rest of the series so far. Maybe it was to be expected, given the rough path this story had to travel and the unusual format. Of course, many of my fellow readers have enjoyed it nonetheless. Me, not so much. [...]

May 11, 2013

Spotlight: Waiting for "Deadgirl"...Puck's Background

Hi everyone...and sorry for the delay. The promised Puck's Very Own Chapter should have been posted yesterday, but due to some technical difficulties, Mr. Johnson wasn't able to put it online...consequentially, I had nothing to link to on that date. Well, anyway, here we are now. If you read my Deadgirl review, I'm sure you've been left wanting more of Lucy's world, while waiting for the book to be reprinted (but still, I strongly encourage you to hunt for remainder copies of the first print!). I dropped the name "Puck" in the aforementioned review...and just in case you're wondering...

Puck, Jecca Koch, SciFi Fantasy Art

he's not this one -------------------->

Hockey puck

<--------------------- or this one
Noah "Puck" Puckerman (Glee)

or this one -------------------->, definitely not one of these.

So, who is Puck? From Deadgirl, Chapter Seven:

"His face reminded me of my Grandpa, long and narrow and creased with wrinkles, but he had round boyish eyes. His hair, shaggy for an old guy, hung around his ears. [...] He looked a well-kept sixty-or-seventy years old, but he moved like a little boy.
An old-style brown tweed suit clung to him, and it looked well-tailored if a little worn. Instead of a tie, a bright red scarf wrapped his neck and hung lazily across one shoulder."

This is Puck when Lucy first meets him in the Grey. He will end up being her unlikely savior in more than a way. His background story barely fills nine pages - the whole of Chapter Sixteen - but it was much longer originally. Hear (so to speak) B.C. Johnson himself talking about that here, and stating the reasons why said story was cut shorter. And if you are hungry for more, read the whole Puck, Revisited chapter here.

May 05, 2013

B.C. Johnson: "Deadgirl" (with Book Trailer)

Title: Deadgirl [on Amazon (link to the 2016 version) | on Goodreads]
Series: Deadgirl (1st of 5 books, but there's also a novella about a side character that is chronologically book 2.5 in the series - though best read after book 3 if you want to avoid a spoiler about its ending) 
[Please note: I edited this part, since originally this book was a standalone with sequel possibility; then it morphed into a 4-book series, and ultimately a 5-book one. My review still refers to an alleged standalone novel. Also, the one on the left is the original cover; see end of post for the new one]

Author: B.C. Johnson [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Supernatural, Contemporary
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 4.5/5 Screw the inconsistencies (see below). I love this book too much. 5/5 (2015 update)
Pros: Unique, mind-blowing premise and setting. Characters with authentic voice. A lovestruck but spunky heroine. Engaging, imaginative prose.
Cons: A couple of not completely convincing attitudes. A few inconsistencies that won't really affect your reading pleasure. Some small mistakes slipped through revision.
WARNING! Violence and attempted rape, though not described in a graphic manner. Underage drinking.
Will appeal to: Afterlife books fans who are beginning to think they've seen it all.

Blurb: Fifteen-year old Lucy Day falls between the gears in the machinery of the afterlife. She is murdered while on her first date, but awakens a day later, completely solid and completely whole. She has no hunger for brains, blood, or haunting, so she crosses “zombie,” “vampire,” and “ghost” off her list of re-life possibilities. But figuring out what she is becomes the least of her worries when Abraham, Lucy’s personal Grim Reaper, begins dogging her, dead-set on righting the error that dropped her back into the spongy flesh of a living girl. Lucy must put her mangled life back together, escape re-death, and learn to control her burgeoning psychic powers while staying one step ahead of Abraham. But when she learns the devastating price of coming back from the dead, Lucy is forced to make the hardest decision of her re-life - a decision that could save her loved ones...or kill them. (Amazon)

And if you think that a picture (ahem, a video) is worth a thousand words... 
here is the official Deadgirl Trailer!

Review: OK, so I have an addiction to Dead Girl Books - I've shouted it from rooftops stated it often and very clearly. I'm a sucker for young girls ending up in whatever version of the Afterlife an author can come up with. I've even seen some of them brought back to life. So a book called Deadgirl was a winner with me from the title on. But when I found out it was a completely different take on the subject, I immediately screamed yay for diversity. Because having a dead character who wakes up the next day, apparently alive but not vampirized/zombified/whatevered like it's custom nowadays, made me throw my fists in the air in excitement extremely happy - though my usual composure may have suffered a little because of that. Then, it turned out the book was even better than I had given it credit for after reading the blurb, an extract and other reviews - though, unsurprisingly, less renowned than most not-so-glorious pieces of writing. Can I rectify this wrong? Well - I'm going to try :).
First off, as I'm writing my review, Deadgirl is - unfortunately - out of print, due to Cool Well Press recently collapsing under the weight of the economic conjuncture. BUT! for those of you who will eventually take interest in reading this novel, here's the good news...well, actually, two pieces of good news: 1) Deadgirl will be resurrected reprinted soon! and 2) Deadgirl will even get a sequel! This is what the author himself stated in response to a message I sent him. So, don't fear committing to this book - it will be in print again soon...and now I'm going to tell you why you should give it a (fat) chance. 
Lucy is your typical teen - except she isn't. Johnson - a rather young male author on his first novel - was able to write a convincing 15 years old female, though involved in exceptional circumstances. Her insecurities, her feelings for Zack, the way she relates to her friends and parents, the make-up-and-attire issues...she's totally fleshed out. But of course, Lucy is not typical when it comes to her situation and the way she deals with it. She fights for her life - or what's left of it - and that of her friends, making the best of what feels like a desperate situation. And she's a fighter from the very first chapter, when she tries to stay alive despite all odds, in front of a group of would-be rapists and murderers. The next chapters take us back a couple of days before Lucy's death, giving us a chance to grasp the reason why she was able to come back - or never really died in the first place. When we think we're about to read about her big date with Zack, there's an original, gutsy transition that we are to fully understand only later. And no, I'm not going to spoil that with a preemptive explanation ;).
So now Lucy is, let's say, half-alive. Or alive in a peculiar way. Or dead in a peculiar way. She finds herself visiting a world where some of the everyday-life rules don't apply, or are reversed. This world (which doesn't have a reassuringly all-wrapping name like Heaven or Hell or Purgatory or whatever) is unique, wonderfully - though scarily - depicted, visually mind-blowing. She also meets an unlikely new friend there - Puck - who will be crucial in helping her understand her new situation and deal with its unwritten laws, not to mention try to save the day at the end. [...]