Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Book with a View April 2011
Book Title: That Certain Summer
Author: Mary Verdick
Genre and Target Market: fiction; romance; mystery
Publication Date: 2011
Book Length in Pages: 164
Reviewed by Sarah Moore for WITS
Once again, my beloved work in the field of writing and publishing has allowed me the opportunity to review another novel by an author whose previous creation I deeply enjoyed and respected. It is always great to anticipate a new release by a talented writer and even better when the story does not disappoint. This satisfaction certainly came to pass as I read through the pages of That Certain Summer by Mary Verdick. As she accomplished with genuine emotion and compassion in her previous offering, As Long As He Needs Me, Verdick returns with another novel that captures the vulnerability that comes with love, betrayal, and the need to find meaning in one’s life.
That Certain Summer introduces Verdick’s readers to Sally Grimes, a young woman who seems to land the career opportunity of a lifetime when invited to write the biography of famous actress Diane Fenwick. Sally moves to Connecticut to live with the subject of her writing and soon falls in love with the handyman Ricardo, who tends to the estate just next door. Over the next several weeks, Sally begins to suspect that people are not as they first seem when items are disturbed in their home, illegal activity appears to be taking place on the docks near the estate, and the stories of those who have become closest to her just don’t match up. Sally finds herself unable to trust anyone and wonders if even her very life may be in danger.
The focal point of That Certain Summer is the patient and sometimes naïve desire we all have to think the best about the people we love. Sally idealized Diane Fenwick as glamorous and sophisticated and wanted to believe that Ricardo felt real passion for her and meant every sweet word he spoke, but the evidence was not supporting what she desperately wanted to be real. Haven’t we all been in a position in which someone for whom we cared deeply let us down in a way that challenged our very strength? This aspect of Verdick’s work makes the characters and story personal to every reader, even if we aren’t living on a New England beach next to a reclusive millionaire.
Verdick also demonstrates her strength in using language and careful plot development that builds suspense and never becomes predictable or far-fetched in its twists and turns. There are several moments of true fear throughout That Certain Summer, with both the subtle details and the violence slowly escalating to create a thrilling conclusion to the novel. I suspect that readers will be shocked, as I was, at the revelations that are not unfolded until the last pages of the book. Once these mysteries were known, I enjoyed going back through the text to discover the little clues that Verdick had been offering all along.
I already counted myself a fan of Mary Verdick’s work following the release of As Long As He Needs Me, and that determination has been reinforced by this new book. Verdick is an author who obviously has a passion for the craft of storytelling and, through her work, for making readers examine their confidence in self and others. She offers us men and women who are real in both their endearing qualities and their flaws and gives them a great story to tell. If you ready to be taken in by a novel filled with emotion and intrigue, That Certain Summer is one that I recommend highly.
Book Title: Sudden Moves
Author: Kelli Sue Landon
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Link to purchase:
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui for WITS
Michelle Martin is worried. Her friend Katie went to Florida for spring break and never came back. It isn’t just that Katie left without saying good bye. That was bad enough, but Katie never returned the book she borrowed and Michelle is going to be in serious trouble if her mom finds out she loaned it out. Author Kelli Sue Landon takes this simple turn of events in a teen’s life and weaves a mystery that is sure to please her young adult audience.
The dramas surrounding friendships, infatuations, academics, family difficulties, and the teen culture depicted in Sudden Moves are all believable and set the stage well for the mystery that Landon unfolds.
There are a few plot twists and surprises in store for the reader that I don’t want to give away. I can share that Landon reintroduces us to kids we remember from high school, only Landon’s teens are living and dealing with all the pitfalls, social environment and pressures of modern day America.
Landon successfully writes the teen mentality, capturing all of the frustrations and inexperience which lead her young characters further and further into danger and along the road toward adulthood.
She places obstacles in their paths that many young adults face and yet she does so without depicting all the adult characters as either foolish, self centered or villainous. The adults in Sudden Moves have as many problems and quirks as the teens, but the author doesn’t treat them as cheap comic relief or with disdain, as is often done for television.
The book has a good pace, with plenty of rising action carrying the plot forward. There is a criminal element to the story, with some implied and mild violence that advances the plot. Teens fourteen and above will appreciate this book and relate well with its characters. There is a good amount of interaction between the main character, Michelle, and her parents –with several realistic and trust building scenes. Law enforcement figures are treated respectfully by the author.
Sudden Moves is above all else a mystery and Landon works hard to give her audience everything they need to make sense of and unravel the truth, right along with Michelle, about what happened to Katie.
Book Title: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Authors: Luke Hays and James Elmore
Genre and Target Market: fiction; fantasy; historical
Publication Date: 2010
Book Length in Pages: 128
Reviewed by: Sarah Moore for WITS
While everyone has their own biases and experiences they bring when approaching a work of literature, my connection to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice may not be exactly what the writers had in mind. My childhood years were marked by the hours I spent reading Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. I loved the excitement and wildness of the era in which these novels were set, as well as the strong female characters that were intent on creating their own path. Already being a fan of this backdrop, I was able to embrace the context within which the storyline of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice played out and then allowed my imagination to be taken in an entirely new direction.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Luke Hays and James Elmore, is set in the years just following the Civil War and there is indeed a bold young woman who became a personal favorite of the characters I met. However, that is where the similarities to the books of my youth end. The novel focuses on the lives of a boy named Ethan Alexander, whose father was murdered and mother was kidnapped when he was just an infant, and Union Captain Jonathan Silas, the man who adopted Ethan and raised him as his own. Jonathan is a full-blooded wizard and teaches his son the craft with which he has also been gifted. Ethan also learns quickly that those who possess magical powers and use them with respect and for good will always be confronted by an opposing darkness that is jealous and violent. What follows over the next 128 pages is a story that includes the innocence of young love, the terror of forces operating out of evil, the pain of betrayal, and the strength of family.
Readers who are naturally drawn to the world of fantasy will undoubtedly become fans of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, as Hays and Elmore display a masterful knowledge of the language and effect needed to create a sense of magic and supernatural rivalries. The authors also show a wise development of their characters by making them relatable to the target audience. What we first witness as a classroom dispute between Ethan and his nemesis Cedric expands into the greater analogy of the fight between good and evil as Cedric is eventually brought into the fold of the Master who is working to destroy the Silas family. These teenage boys personify the two philosophies that meet in battle, and what young man can’t relate to the idea of a school bully being a minion for greater evil? The struggle culminates in a action-packed scene that had me reading quickly to discover the outcome and then re-reading to ingest every facet of the confrontation.
While admittedly not well-versed in the catalog of literature focusing on warlocks, wizards, evil beings who summon the dead, and those of magical composition either full-blooded or half-blooded in nature, I can appreciate a well-written book that pays attention to the details and creates a powerful visual in the minds of its readers. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Luke Hays and James Elmore is such a book. Its pages contain elements that will frighten, inspire, anger, and stir compassion in all those who curl up for a great read. Hays and Elmore are promising young authors who will only continue to improve their storytelling skills over time, and I look forward to encountering their work for years to come!
Book Title: Bay Island
Author: Matthew Kray
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Link to purchase: http://amzn.to/fCgYd7
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui for WITS
Bay Island, with its coastal fishing village and resort, rests quietly in remote isolation, peaceful and serene; its inhabitants ill prepared for the zombie apocalypse that author Matthew Kray is about to unleash. Get ready zombie fans, Bay Island is not just a zombie showcase of gore—although if you are looking for splatter you’ll get that too. Kray has a well written, character driven plot that will please horror fans with some truly gruesome imagery and suspense. Kray’s Bay Island will pull terror from the depths of your primal, racing heart.
The inhabitants are aware that there is a virus on the mainland causing the dead to rise and feast on the living. They know that their only hope of survival is to remain isolated from the contagion. What they don’t know is that beneath the waves, in the currents and on the tide walks an army of corpses.
Through skillfully manipulating words Kray builds a sense of anticipation and a feeling of silence around the island. He sets the scene with care and deliberation so that the natural silence of Bay Island’s lapping water is eerily broken by the slurping sound of macabre chewing and the sodden shuffling of corpse feet.
Not only does Kray maintain and build suspense throughout the book, he masterfully creates visual imagery through the written word that will make your skin crawl and insides turn. Once he breaks the rising tension, he really scorches the pages with truly exciting zombie combat.
To the horror critics that have lost hope for the genre, I want to acknowledge here that Kray uses his zombie apocalypse to explore the human spirit, and the driving motivations behind loyalty, greed, bravery, faith, self sacrifice, and a host of other insights. These characters are believable and motivated to survive. He places the inhabitants of Bay Island through the fire of tribulation and burns away the social masks to reveal their true faces.
What would you do if you were responsible for keeping people safe? Whose arms do you cling to in your final hours? Where does hope come from? What or who do you love most? What will you die to protect? What will you cling to that makes life worth fighting for? These themes are all touched by the drama that unfolds in this horror piece. Not that Bay Island is moralistic or preachy; it isn’t by any stretch of the imagination. Bay Island is primarily a zombie thrill ride, but it has a human, beating heart.
Kray effectively uses suspense to capture the reader’s interest and –once the first zombie touches shore, he thrusts reader and characters alike into high velocity action that turns Bay Island’s zombie invasion into a resurrection of your most chilling, forgotten, walking dead nightmare.
Book Title: I Beat the Odds
Author: Michael Oher (with Don Yaeger)
Publisher: Gotham Books
Reviewer: Dana Micheli
“You’re not poor if you know where your next meal is coming from.” In our culture of iPads and $200 jeans, the first line of Michael Oher’s new book, I Beat the Odds, certainly puts a few things into perspective. Oher, who most people know as the NFL star on which “The Blind Side” is based, has released this new book to reveal what childhood is like—not only for him—but for the thousands of children who are trapped in a cycle of poverty and foster care.
I Beat the Odds takes you into the world of Oher’s early life of privation and instability, when he and his brothers had to fend for themselves in the Memphis projects. Reading it, you can (almost) feel what it must have been like for Oher to walk along the side of the highway with his brothers as they sought out shelter for the night.
Oher stresses that while this book complements the Blind Side and covers some of the same ground, its aim is to provide an in-depth exploration of the lives of impoverished children and to offer those children a sense of hope. And he--along with veteran writer Don Yaeger-- does this brilliantly. But one thing this book and the Blind Side certainly have in common: you should read them both with a box of tissues nearby.