Friday, March 30, 2012

Review of "Life on the Edge" by Jennifer Comeaux

Skating is everything to Emily. Her career as a pairs skater is blossoming, and a chance at the Olympics seems closer every day. Everything she has dreamed of is so close to being hers, but an unexpected complication threatens everything.

Why would Emily risk her Olympic dream?

Falling in love with her coach wasn’t something she planned, in fact she tried very hard to avoid it, but once caught up in her love for Sergei, she knows there is no going back. But that doesn’t mean their relationship is going to be easy.

A pet peeve of mine (something even big time writers have been guilty of) is reading a book and it being perfectly clear that the writer has no clue about their topic aside from maybe a quick Wiki search. Trust me, nobody drives down a windy mountain road in Colorado during a blizzard at any speed over about ten miles per hour, even in an emergency.

I bring this up just so readers know that Jennifer Comeaux’s Life on the Edge does not have this problem. I honestly would have thought Jennifer was a competitive skater at some point in her life if I didn’t know better. Her familiarity with the ins and outs of skating shows her passion for the sport and her research ability. Every aspect of the skating side of her book felt very realistic, right down to the terminology and politics. You won’t be distracted by obvious gaps in skating knowledge.

After setting the backdrop of Life on the Edge so well, Jennifer created a cast of characters to match. Emily and Sergei are the main characters, the ones battling thru emotions, politics, and family animosity, but they aren’t alone. Emily’s partner, Chris, is not a main focus of the story, but his likeability and fun personality makes you worry about how Emily’s decisions will affect him. The other secondary characters were the same. From Emily’s roommate, to the junior skaters she helps coach, the rest of the cast filled in the story and made it complete.

The main attraction of Life on the Edge is the love story. Yes, the Olympics are huge, but after watching these two resist each other, then fall in love, then have everything put in jeopardy, I couldn’t imagine anything that wouldn’t be worth giving up for them to stay together. Jennifer does a great job of building their romance early on, then holding back. Even when they do give in, the problems are nowhere near over. Right up to the end, the relationship with its hope and uncertainty at times pulls you through the story.
As much as I loved the relationship, I did think there were potential areas to increase the drama a little more, especially when it came to another skater interested in Emily, but that’s just my preference. I enjoy a good love triangle, but not everyone does.

Life on the Edge is a heartwarming story of love and tribulation young adults and adults will enjoy.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it is a delightful read. I can’t wait to read the second book and find out how Emily and Sergei’s trip to Russia turns out.

Who would I recommend this book to? Teens and adults, and of course, anyone who loves skating.

Life on the Edge is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  and Astraea Press, so go get your copy today! Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Excerpt from "Life on the Edge"

Emily and Sergei have a complicated, yet beautiful relationship in Life on the Edge. Take a peek at the emotion behind their interactions, and the difficulties they face.


The wind picked up, rustling the trees and sending my empty cup skittering over the table. Sergei snatched it and noticed the time on his watch.

“Oh, wow, it’s two thirty. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stay this late.”

“No worries. I can sleep till noon tomorrow.”

He rose from his chair, stretching his arms. “Do you think they all killed each other downstairs?”

“My guess is they played so hard they passed out at some point. That’s been known to happen.”

I got up and smoothed my skirt. I’d kicked off my sandals hours ago, and the weathered wood of the patio was cool under my bare feet.

Sergei took a step toward me. “Thanks again for the great meal. And the even better company.”

“You’re very welcome. I’m so glad you came.”

I stood on tippy-toes to give him a quick hug, but Sergei’s strong arms held me against him, enveloping my small frame. His body exuded warmth. I closed my eyes and breathed in the woody scent of his cologne. We’d shared plenty of hugs at competitions, but this felt so different, like we belonged nowhere else but in this embrace.

After what seemed like both an eternity and a split second, Sergei pulled away, his hands brushing down my back. He glanced downward and gestured to the door.

“I can let myself out.”

My head bobbed weakly. “Okay. I’ll see you Monday.”

“See you.” He held my gaze a moment longer than necessary. Then he was gone.

I stood paralyzed, listening to the blood pulse in my ears. My heart beat so fast I thought it might pound out of my chest. I couldn’t have imagined the electricity I’d felt in Sergei’s arms. It was too real. And I had no idea how I could ever forget it.


Thanks for sharing this excerpt with us, Jennifer!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interview with Jennifer Comeaux

Earlier this week I introduced author, Jennifer Comeaux, and her debut novel, Life on the Edge on The Edible Bookshelf. I'll have an excerpt up for you tomorrow, but today I have the privilege of sharing my interview with Jennifer. I would like to thank Jennifer for taking the time to answer my questions and share more about her writing and her life. Keep reading to find out what inspired the story of Emily and Sergei, and what might be coming up for them in the future.

1.      What was the inspiration for Life on the Edge?

 I’ve always been a huge fan of figure skating, and I liked to imagine a fictional pair skating programs I created in my head. Those imaginary programs grew into a story idea for a romance between a pairs skater and her coach. At first, I was just writing the story for my friends as a serial, but after about a year, I decided to try to work it into a publishable book. That’s how Life on the Edge was born!

2.      Life on the Edge is set pre-9/11. Did you start writing the book prior to 9/11, or did you choose that time period because you wanted to use the events of that day? 

I first came up with the idea for the story around 2004, and I always had the 2002 Olympics in my mind as the big event in the book. Also, the 2001 National Championships were in Boston, my heroine Emily’s hometown, so I wanted to use that in the story, too.

3.      Emily is young and naive in some ways, yet also has to deal with some very adult complications. How did you balance these two sides of her? 

I wanted to show Emily’s innocence and naivetĂ© in the beginning and how she matured over the course of the two years covered in the book. The issues she faced forced her to grow up a lot, and I hope readers will see her growth throughout the story.

4.      Saying Sergei's past is complicated might be putting it lightly, but part of his past is that he is a Russian immigrant. How much research did you have to do to make his back story realistic? (Which you did very well!)

Thanks! I’m discovering that I have to do a lot more research for the sequel than I did for Life on the Edge because I’m delving deeper into Sergei’s past in the second book. I’m learning lots of fascinating things about Russia and its culture!

5.      Opposition comes not only in Emily's professional life, but from her family as well. How did you decide just how much resistance Emily's family was going to provide?

When I created the character of Emily’s mother, I envisioned her as overprotective and a born worrier, so with her having those traits, it made sense that she wouldn’t accept Emily and Sergei’s relationship. Her strong personality made her dialogue a lot of fun to write!

6.      Your account of the rules, language, and politics of competitive ice skating shows your familiarity with the sport. Can you tell us more about your personal involvement in skating? 

I’ve been a fan of figure skating since I was a little girl. I always watched every competition and show that came on TV, and I thought it would be so fun to attend a competition. In 2001 I attended my first national championship, and I was hooked! Being at the event was so much more exhilarating than watching on TV. Over the years of attending competitions, I’ve learned more about the behind-the-scenes world, and it only increased my fascination with the sport. I think figure skating is the perfect combination of sport and art–it’s so beautiful yet so physically demanding.

7.      The question came up during workshopping Life on the Edge of whether it should be considered a Young Adult or Adult book. How do you classify your book?

I think of it as New Adult since Emily is in her late teens and early twenties during the story, and she has to deal with a lot of adult issues. I’ve received great feedback from both teens and adults, so it’s been very exciting to have all ages enjoying the book.

8.      Do you have any interesting rituals or quirks when writing? 

I like to hand write in a journal. I find I’m more focused when I hand write instead of type on the computer because of all the distractions the computer can bring. My attention span is miniscule, so I’m easily distracted!

9.      Who are your favorite authors?

Right now I’m enjoying Rachel Hawthorne and Stephanie Perkins

10.  Can you tell us more about your upcoming book Edge of the Past? 

As I mentioned earlier, this book will explore more of Sergei’s past as Emily and Sergei travel to Russia for a competition. It’s still in the early stages, but I’m excited to tell more of their story!

Thanks again to Jennifer for telling us more about Life on the Edge (available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Astraea Press). Come back tomorrow to read an excerpt from Life on the Edge! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Book: Life on the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux

We've jumped all over the place lately in the types of books reviewed on The Edible Bookshelf, but this week we have another novel about real life, and the all too familiar struggles of relationships, careers, and secrets.

Jennifer Comeaux's novel Life on the Edge features was published by Astraea Press in 2011.

"Nineteen-year-old Emily is new to pairs skating, but she and her partner Chris have a big dream–
to be the first American team to win Olympic gold. Their young coach Sergei, who left Russia after a mysterious end to his skating career, believes they can break through and make history.

Emily and Chris are on track to be top contenders at the 2002 Winter Games. But when forbidden feelings spark between Emily and Sergei, broken trust and an unexpected enemy threaten to derail Emily’s dreams of gold."

You can read along with me in paperback or ebook from AmazonBarnes & Noble, or Astraea Press.

You can also stay connected with Jennifer on:

Jennifer's Author Website

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review of Finding Sara (by Nancy Demarco)

The mind can create and learn, but it can also protect and hide. It can also break when too much is asked of it. Sara Morgan knows the limitations of her own mind. What she doesn’t know is why she hears voices, or why there are parts of her life that seem to be hidden behind barriers. All she can do is muddle through life the best she can.

Sara finds solace in being around horses. Her goals to ride at Rolex keep her focused, keep her thoughts off of her many problems. So much of Sara’s life is longer in her control after running down her ex-husband (something she doesn’t remember doing) and finding herself once again under the guardianship of her father. Part of her knows that her past stays in mental hospitals, the voices she hears, and her sometimes erratic behavior are good reasons for being treated the way she is, but another part of her longs for freedom. Especially after meeting Paul, a nerdy but sweet man who is willing to stick by Sara despite her past. Getting control of her life back proves more difficult, and more dangerous than Sara expected.

Behind the voices and horses and yogurt cups is the mystery of what happened to Sara. Hazy dreams give clues, but they aren’t enough. Sara’s behavior hints at what might have happened as well, but again, the reader is held back from piecing it all together too soon. Nancy DeMarco does a great job of giving you enough hints and clues to keep the mystery alive through the entire book, but has enough twists and turns and surprises to keep you guessing. What I really enjoyed about this mystery was when Nancy would switch point of views and outright reveal a secret to the reader, but the main character, Sara, still had no clue about what the reader knows. There were plenty of times of just wanted to reach inside the book and grab Sara and tell her to take another path or explain things to her. It was a great tactic for really making you anxious about Sara.

Sara herself was a wonderful character, very complex and realistic. I was pulled into Sara’s struggles right from the start. There are elements of Sara that I think every reader can connect with, like her relationship problems and warped self-image. Even the aspects of Sara that many readers may not be familiar with, like mental illness, are presented in a way that lets the reader understand Sara and feel for her. Who hasn’t felt trapped before? Who hasn’t been unsure? Maybe not to the point of arguing with the voices Sara hears, but everyone has had moments they feel like a dozen different people are all screaming at them and making demands that you can’t fulfill. Even for those unfamiliar with mental illness and the difficulties that come along with that, Nancy does a great job of making Sara’s problems into something readers can connect with.

Personally, one of my favorite parts of the book was Paul. Paul meets Sara, knowing nothing about her past, and is immediately drawn to her. When he does learn about her past, he’s willing to stick by her and try to help her. Some may think that is an unrealistic response for most, but Nancy finds a way to make Paul’s willingness to stick around make sense. She does it in the sweetest and funniest way possible. Paul is nerdy and quirky and a little bit odd, so he understands what it means to have others judge you and push you away because you aren’t the perfect package they wanted. He collects yogurt cups. He stores clothes that no longer fit in carefully marked stacks. He wears lime green sweat suits to meet Sara’s parents and help clean out a garage. He’s adorable and funny, and just about the sweetest guy you’ll meet. But that hardly means his relationship with Sara is perfect. I loved watching their relationship grow and falter and try to survive.

Just like with the mystery and mental illness, Nancy weaves the relationship into the story beautifully. Most couples will never have to face the problems Sara and Paul do, but Nancy has a way of making their issues easily relatable. I enjoyed the romantic side of the book just as much as the mystery and Sara’s personal issues. Overall, Finding Sara, was a wonderful book. It was well written, had a great mystery, an adorable yet deep romance, and unforgettable characters.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. It was a very well rounded book that pulled you in and kept you interested in every aspect of the story.

Who would I recommend this book to? Mystery readers, dramatic readers, humorous romance readers, really there aren’t a lot of reader groups I could think of that would not like this book. Whether you start reading for the mystery, romance, or mental illness aspect, you’ll enjoy Finding Sara

Get your copy of Finding Sara today on  Amazon

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview with Nancy DeMarco

Today I'm welcoming Nancy Demarco to The Edible Bookshelf. Nancy's Finding Sara is our book up for review this week, and Nancy was kind enough to answer some questions about her self and her writing. This was a fun interview. Nancy's responses were great, in fact I think I need to have her husband come rig up my treadmill too! Read on to find out more about Nancy and her novel, Finding Sara.

1.      I know you starting writing as a form of therapy after an illness. Can you describe how writing benefited you during your recovery? 

I had Lyme disease, and it went undiagnosed for 17 years. I had a great deal of trouble reading, fell down a lot, got lost every time I got in the car, and lived in constant pain. Like Sara, I occasionally heard voices in my head.

Even when I recovered, the neurocognitive deficits remained. I couldn’t reliably finish a sentence; my mind would wander off and grind to a stop, and I’d go blank. Or I’d reach for a word, and what came out of my mouth was something related to what I wanted to say, but not quite right. Like, I’d try to say, “I can’t find my shoes,” and instead I’d say, “I can’t be a shirt.”

The process of writing forced me to build complete thoughts. It gave me a chance to slow down, to find the words I wanted, to build something step by step. Over time the process got easier and faster, and as my writing improved, so did my speech, as well as my balance and coordination. By then I was hooked on writing, so I kept going.

2.  Many aspects of this book come from personal experiences (we'll touch on those later), but where did the idea for Finding Sara come from? 

I started out writing cute stories about my pets – narrative non-fiction. Then I joined a writers’ group. Horror was big in this group, complete with killing and maiming, suspense and terror. I felt out of place. So I hid my cute stories and started fictionalizing scenes from my life. I tried taking something ordinary, like playing alongside a lake, and changing one key thing in order to add a shock factor. From these vignettes came what I called my “Torturing Sara Series,” about a young woman who heard voices in her head. Eventually I strung these scenes together, developed a plot, and this became the outline for Finding Sara.

3. I know you did a lot of research for this book, looking at guardianship laws, mental illness, etc. Can you tell us about your research process? 

I started with Google, then went to email, then spoke to a handful of people in the mental health field. I interviewed one person who heard voices in his head, but who was not delusional – he understood that they were a hallucination.

I don’t remember who I spoke with regarding State-of-Maine guardianship laws, but the scenario I had envisioned had never happened, so there was nothing concrete in place. I ended up changing the plot in order to avoid the gray areas of the law.

I also use a drug, midazolam (brand name Versed). My research for that involved being under the influence myself for oral surgery, and then questioning my oral surgeon and the nurses about its effects. It did exactly what I needed it to do for the book, and my own experience bore that out.

4. Horses have been a part of your life for many years, and your knowledge of them shows through in your writing. Sara is deeply linked with her horse in Finding Sara. How have horses affected you personally? 

I still remember being a horse-crazy kid. I’d follow hoof prints for miles down the side of the road, hoping to catch a glimpse. I got my first horse at age 11, and I’ve had horses ever since. I can’t explain the bond, or the need I have to be with in horses, but it’s always been there. Horses are a part of who I am.

5. Your use of humor in Finding Sara lends a lighter tone in just the right places, keeping some moments from being too dark. You've shared with me previously where some of the inspiration for Paul's unique qualities came from, but would you mind sharing it with my readers? 

Paul is based on my husband Jim. Paul is shorter, and to be honest, I’m pretty sure Jim would not have dated a woman who told him she’d been in a mental institution. But Paul’s loyalty and devotion, his ability to find humor in the darkest moments, his gentle nature, and yes, his yogurt cup collection – that’s all Jim.

6. Finding Sara is your first novel. Can you tell us about the publishing process and your experience getting your first novel published? 

It’s been a learning experience. The hardest part for me - I haven’t been writing for very long, and my writing continues to evolve. So at every turn, I’ve wanted to start this book over from the beginning and make it better. Even now I want to rewrite every passage. I hope I feel this way about every book, because that will mean I’m becoming a better writer.

7. Do you have any interesting rituals or habits when you write? 

Well, I do write while walking on the treadmill. My clever husband (okay – he’s a bit of a geek) has set up a big screen TV connected to my laptop, and he attached a keyboard to the treadmill handles with plastic twist ties. I walk about 10 miles a day. If not for this, I’d be a lot pudgier than I am.

Once I start a project, I’m completely obsessed. I write for 10 to 16 hours a day, often fall asleep in front of the laptop, wake up, and continue to write with my eyes half closed. Right now I’m between novels, and I’m rediscovering my life. But I have another novel poking at me, so this freedom won’t last long.

8. Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? 

Saving Gracie is my current work in progress. It’s a murder mystery set in the town where I live, with a quirky protagonist in her early 70’s. I love it. The tone is lighter than Finding Sara‘s. There’s lots of humor, lots of plot twists, fun characters, and quite a bit of suspense. It was a blast to write. I’m in edits now, doing research for local police procedure as well as interactions of various State agencies. Our Chief of Police has offered to be my expert. I’m so excited!

Get your copy of Finding Sara on Kindle today at Amazon. Paperback and other ebook versions are coming soon. I'll keep you updated!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Megg Jensen

We're stepping back to Megg Jensen's Anathema for today, as Megg was kind enough to do an interview for The Edible Bookshelf. To learn more about Reychel, the Cloud Prophet, and her role in Megg's books, read on!

1. What was your inspiration for The Cloud Prophet Trilogy? 

First, I wanted to thank you so much for having me on your blog. :D

Anathema came to life one beautiful, cloudy afternoon. My husband, kids, and I were driving to my parents' farm when my daughter said she could see things in the clouds. I asked which shapes she saw, but she sighed and said, "No, not shapes. I can see the future." At that moment, Anathema was born. It all kind of snowballed from there.

2. Hair is such a simple thing, something many of us take for granted. Why did you choose having hair or not having hair as the social divider for your society? 

My husband had recently started shaving his head. It was just something that was on my mind, I guess, and it wormed its way into my story. I also had this vision of a girl with a fox tattooed on the back of her head. It was striking, but quickly evolved into a painful brand from a cruel overlord.

3. Was there any special way you went about choosing the characters' different gifts? 

Sometimes I was just as surprised as the reader. The only gift I purposely chose was Reychel's. Everything else was a pleasant surprise - particularly Krissin's gift in Oubliette.

4. Gray was an interesting character in the first few chapters, yet he was not in the majority of the book. Why did you choose not to use him more? Does he play a bigger part in the following books? 

Gray was a part of the life Reychel left behind. I'm also not a huge fan of the stereotypical love triangle. I wanted her heart available and open to love someone else. The crush she had on Gray was a product of her sheltered life.

5. Reychel's progression from completely naive to beginning to understand the treachery of the world built slowly throughout the book. How did you plan out her development? 

I tried to make sure Reychel had a lot of growth and she continues to do so all the way through the trilogy. The end of Severed reveals a far more mature Reychel than the girl we meet on page one of Anathema.

6. When you sit down to write, do you plan out each book/trilogy before you start, or do you write and develope a story at the same time? 

I don't. I'm what we writers call a "pantser," meaning I write by the seat of my pants. My books usually begin with one thought, one tiny idea, and the storyline blossoms while I write. Once the first draft is done, I do comb through it very heavily to make sure all the characters and the story itself develop the way I want them to.

7. Do you have any interesting rituals or habits when you write? 

When I'm writing I need to be alone. I can't deal with interruptions. I have no idea how people write in public places, like coffee shops. I would be too distracted. However, I do play music, really loud, and (this is weird) I sing out loud while I'm writing. I'm not sure how my brain allows me to sing words that I'm not typing, but it works for me.

8. You are one of the owners of DarkSide Publishing, correct? How did being an owner of the publishing house alter the publishing experience for you, being the writer as well as the publisher? 

DarkSide Publishing is not a typical publishing house. It's a group of authors who work together to make their books the best they can be. Publishing is a very involved business. I'm never just a writer except for when I'm first drafting. Everything else I do comes from my publishing eye.

9. Can you tell us a little more about The Cloud Prophet Trilogy and The Swarm Trilogy? 

I can tell you that the two trilogies are related. I wrote a short story, The Initiate, that is a prequel to both, but ties them together. Sleepers (Book 1, The Swarm Trilogy) takes place 20 years after the end of Severed. Readers will see characters from the Cloud Prophet Trilogy appear in the second book in the series, Afterlife (releasing summer 2012).

10. DarkSide Publishing is not currently accepting submissions, but can you tell us more about your publishing house? 

We are not taking submissions because we are all over-extended right now with our own work. DarkSide isn't a true company. It's really more of a critique group on steroids. I'm currently the process of incorporating my own business, which will be the official publisher of my books. It's really exciting and scary at the same time.

Thanks again to Megg Jensen for taking the time to answers my questions. It's always great to get to know more about authors and their writing. Thanks, Megg! 

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Book: Finding Sara by Nancy DeMarco

It's back to reality for The Edible Bookshelf. We're going to step out of fantastic worlds and the paranormal to investigate the life of Sara Morgan. Get ready for manipulation and betrayal, love and humor, voices, and a bit of mystery with Nancy DeMarco's, Finding Sara, newly published by Briona Glen Publishing

"Sara Morgan sees herself as an outcast with no hope of a normal life. Her best friend is her horse, and her only dream is to ride at Rolex, the most prestigious equestrian event in the United States. 
Reaching her goal would be difficult enough if she were normal, but twenty-five-year-old Sara is anything but. She’s been in a mental hospital, she hears voices in her head, and she has no memory of mowing down her abusive ex-husband with a truck. Under the watchful eyes of her father and legal guardian, Sara attempts to build a life of her own. 

Enter Paul, a geeky software engineer who collects yogurt cups and plastic bags. Short, bald, and a bit of a nerd, he’s never had a girlfriend, and falls for Sara in a big way. With the help of Cassie, Sara’s pushy friend from college, Sara and Paul sort out the awkward, confusing and often amusing trials of new love. 

In this funny and frightening story of courage and hope, Sara walks a dangerous path. Unaware that an awful secret hides in her dreams she might just be a danger to herself and others. Her life is a lie, and not everyone is on her side." 

Read along with me by getting you copy of Finding Sara today at Amazon

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review of Anathema

For a people who have been conquered and subjected to slavery, believe in a prophet meant to save them is difficult to give up. Their faith that they will one day be rescued spurs hope and planning. Reychel, a simple slave, has no notion of the prophecy. Her life has been sheltered beyond any other slave’s, even to the point of never being allowed to go or look outside except in her master’s presence. She knows nothing but the life of a slave…until her best friend goes missing and a mysterious coin is left in her place. Her friend’s disappearance changes everything. Reychel is thrown into more intrigue, secrets, and danger than she ever imagined could exist in the outside world.

This basic idea of Anathema sounds interesting. That’s what I thought when I downloaded the book. The idea behind the story is a thought provoking one with a lot of potential.  Unfortunately it didn’t live up to that potential. As a whole, the book was interesting. There were many chapters that finished with a good enough hook that I wanted to turn the page, but in general the book fell short of my expectations.

The lack of consistency throughout the book was frustrating. The characters did not use consistent speech patterns. At times they spoke like old world villagers. At other times they spoke like modern teens. The characters themselves were often inconsistent, being clever at one moment than oblivious at the next, or sure of something then speak as if they had hardly considered the idea. The flow was also a problem in many cases. The idea that there were “gifted” people was never brought up until Reychel met one, but then she suddenly recalled many times that she had seen gifted slaves in her master’s house. I wasn’t sure if the author forgot to mention these gifted people earlier on and thought having Reychel remember would suffice, or she thought she was revealing some secret.

Many authors like to drop subtle hints as they write to either increase curiosity, guide readers toward the right conclusion, or trick them into leaning the wrong direction. This can be a wonderful tactic to draw readers in, but subtly is the key. I’m about to reveal some spoilers, but I need to in order to explain why this writer’s hints stole much of the tension from the story.

The first time Reychel is allowed to look out a window while in her master’s presence he asks her to tell him a story, as he usually does. Reychel’s story becomes a tale of her escape from slavery. The fact that Reychel was forbidden to look outside at any other time had been emphasized so much by that point that it was no surprise when Reychel’s “story” came true. I immediately assumed Reychel’s gift was prophecy related to looking at the sky. The frustrating part of the writer’s not-so subtle hints was that the characters in the book were all completely oblivious to this fact and just couldn’t figure out what Reychel’s talent was supposed to be.

 Another instance was after Reychel and her friend Ivy have a fight and Ivy runs away, Reychel sees a vision of Ivy living luxuriously and looking very fiendish. When Reychel hears that her former master has suddenly announced his marriage to a mysterious girl, again it was readily apparent to me that Ivy was that mystery woman. But the other characters were at a loss to figure out who the master was marrying and passed off Ivy running away as a non-issue even though she told them before leaving that she knew an important secret about Reychel. Of course, Ivy turns out to be the master’s fiancĂ©e and reveals the devastating secret she knew, ruining Reychel’s plans.

I encountered the same problem when Reychel and her friends come up with a plan to rescue prisoner’s from her former master. Over and over again the characters reiterated how simple the plan was, how easy it would be, how it couldn’t possibly fail. It was so overemphasized that I, as a reader, knew the plan was doomed-which it was. One small, barely noticeable hint does so much more than blatant, repetitious hints will ever do.

The one aspect of the book that kept me from really connecting with the story or the characters was its lack of emotion. The first several chapters make a point of mentioning Grey, another slave, that Reychel has feelings for. But when she escapes she doesn’t have a single thought about this boy. No request to rescue him as well, no longing to see him again. She doesn’t even remember he exists until she ends up back in the palace trying to rescue the prisoners. And while Reychel is away from the palace, she meets another young man, Mark, that she makes some friendly comments about, but shows no internal devotion to. Yet when Ivy accuses Reychel of stealing Mark’s attention, everyone acts as if it is obvious that Reychel is in love with Mark. Throughout the book there were scenes where the characters spoke of something being very passionate, but preceding that there was very little internal emotion. This gave the book a rather bland tone at times.

Anathema was an interesting book. It had a very good idea at its base that I simply felt was not utilized to its full potential. I was intrigued at times, but I did not have the overpowering urge to keep reading. I didn’t connect with the characters enough to worry about their future, though that may have been partly due to the fact that the hints told me what was coming up and left little suspense. I enjoy a good love triangle, and though this book hinted that this would play a bigger part in the second book, I have a hard time seeing it suck people in since Reychel forgot the existence of one of the boys for almost the entire book. Overall, I wanted more from this book. I don't think I will read the other books in the series. 

Would I recommend this book? It wasn’t a bad book-the basic story line was interesting-but it wasn’t a great book. I would only recommend it as a casual read.

Who would I recommend this book to? If you’re looking for a light fantasy, you may enjoy it. If you’re a detail oriented reader like I am, you may want to pass.

Anathema is the first book in the Cloud Prophet Trilogy, and it is available for FREE on iBookstoreSmashwords, and Amazon. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reality in Fantasy

As I've been reading Anathema, an interesting question has come up. How real does fantasy have to be? For instance, Anathema, is set in a world make up by the author, but it resembles a middle ages type town. The reason I bring up realism is because often the speech patterns of the characters in this book are not very consistent. At times the characters speak like any villager might, but at other times-sometimes within the same paragraph-more modern speech patterns slip in. Do inconsistencies like this in fantasy bug anyone else? Personally, I think even in fantasy, the setting, dress, speech, and attitudes need to be as realistic as possible. Create your world and stay true to it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Book: Anathema

I'm switching up the queue a little do to a slight publishing delay for the next book on this list. So I went searching for a new book to read. What I stumbled upon was Megg Jensen's Anathema: Cloud Prophet Trilogy Book One. It's a great title for a book, but the cover really sparked my interest. The blurb is equally engaging. I'm excited to get started. 

"Sheltered from the outside world with no hope for escape, slave girl Reychel dreads her fifteenth birthday - when her master's symbol is burned on the back of her bald scalp. Her best friend disappears the night before, leaving her to face the branding ceremony alone. She soon discovers nothing is as it seems when people desperate for freedom beg for Reychel's help.
Can Reychel learn to believe in herself?" 

Anathema is the first book in the Cloud Prophet Trilogy, and it is available for FREE on iBookstore,Smashwords, and Amazon. Books two and three (Oubliette and Severed) also also available for purchase, and have equally eye catching covers. Anathema was released by DarkSide Publishing in 2011. You can learn more about Megg Jensen's books by going to her blog:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Guest Post on "My Crazy Corner"

A few weeks ago The Edible Bookshelf featured Apryl Baker's "The Promise." Apryl's blog My Crazy Corner has been featuring author guest posts all month long and Apryl was kind enough to invite me to write a guest post for her blog. Check out the link below to find out more about Twin Souls and Inquest, and how I went about writing them.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Review of Laid Out and Candle Lit

Anyone who says small towns are boring has obviously never been to Brownsboro, Tx. The names or the townsfolk alone are enough to get you smiling. Add in skunks, better than sex cupcakes, a Texas Ranger, a local girl who talks to the dead, and murder…well you can see this “podunk” town is anything but boring. 

Right from the first chapter, Brownsboro snags your attention. When Tizzy Donovan makes her daily jog through the cemetery to talk to those who are gone, but not necessarily quiet, she finds a body that’s not supposed to be there. That gives the whole town a dose of drama they weren’t expecting. The Texas Ranger assigned to the murder walks in thinking it will be an open and shut case. But the first murder in Brownsboro in fifty years proves more difficult than he expected. Who knew maneuvering the secrets and lies of small town living would be so hard?

But the mystery is really only part of the story. Tizzy and Ridge are presented with a problem almost from the first moment they meet. Although attracted to each other in an almost painful way, Tizzy is the main suspect in a murder case and Ridge is there to put someone –and it’s not looking good for Tizzy-in jail for the murder. Not to mention both of them have difficult pasts that making letting someone in even harder.
When I first announced Laid Out and Candle Lit, I promised it would make you laugh and cry and everything in between. I hadn’t actually read the book when I said that, but I have had the privilege of reading an early copy of Ann Everett’s second book, You’re Busting My Nuptials, which was hilarious and sexy and heartwarming all at the same time, so I knew this one was going to be good too.

And it was!

I had so much fun reading Laid Out and Candle Lit. The mystery was great. I had sneaking suspicions here and there, but Ann did a great job of never giving you too much of a clue to ruin the mystery. She threw out so many very plausible options for who murdered Marlene, that pinning one down was difficult. My only complaint about the mystery is that I would have liked to have felt a little more anxiety about how Tizzy was going to come out of the ordeal. Otherwise, I really enjoyed trying to figure out which of locals were hiding dirty little secrets. As the investigation progressed, I was right there with Bubba, saying, “This just keeps getting better and better.”

The romance between Tizzy and Ridge was steamy and torturous at the same time. I think just about every reader (well at least the women) will fall in love with Ridge. Who can resist a tall dark and handsome Texas Ranger wearing a pink feather boa as he plays tea party with a four-year-old? And Tizzy is such a good, kind person that I was just dying for her to find some happiness. Despite Tizzy’s sweetheart status and Ridge’s heart-melting personality, nothing about this story is easy. The second they get close to each other something pulls them apart-whether it be misunderstandings, fear, or psychos, simply enjoying each other seems impossible. Just when you think everything is gumdrops and lollipops for Tizzy and Ridge, you read on and the warm fuzzies go out the window! I loved it.

The mystery and romance were fantastic, but what really pulled everything together was the town and its inhabitants. Ann mentioned in her interview that much of Brownsboro came from real life, and obviously that’s the way to do it. I loved all the little quirks and tidbits that go along with small town living. I grew up in a small town myself, so hearing that someone lives “out in the boonies” made me laugh out loud because I thought that phrase was just another one of those weird things my mom used to say. Details like the town only having one stoplight and one warning light immediately bring smalltowners like me home, and the gossip and excitement of knowing everyone else’s business in a small town is definitely all too familiar. What was really great about Ann’s description of the town was that it doesn’t only speak to those familiar with rural living. You also get to see the town through Ridge’s eyes, which helps to pull in those who’ve never had to experience their entire town knowing exactly who drove you home last night and whether or not they left before dawn.  

Overall, the book was fabulous. I loved every word. I have a lot of respect for writers who can put humor to good use (I’m not one of those, trust me) because it adds a whole different layer to the story. But you won’t just laugh as you read Laid Out and Candle Lit. You’ll tear up when you think nothing is going to work out, and you’ll be grabbing for tissues when it does. Your heart will melt when Ridge says the sweetest things you’ve ever heard, and when little Gracie steals the scene. In short, you’ll love the book down to the last word, and then you’ll be bugging Ann to find out when book two is coming out! Even having already read the second book I still can’t wait to read it again. Go get your copy of Laid Out and Candle Lit today, and don’t plan on doing anything else for a few days because you won’t want to put it down.

Would I recommend this book? Of course!

Who would I recommend this book to? Pretty much everyone. There’s so much to love about this book, every reader will connect with something-whether it be the town, the characters, the mystery, or the romance…or Sweet Thangs Bakery! There is some sex in the book, though, for those who prefer not to read that, but it certainly isn’t the main focus of the book.

So hurry up and go get your copy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Interview with Ann Everett - author of Laid Out and Candle Lit

Ann, thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview for The Edible Bookshelf. I've had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Ann's second book, so I know her writing is funny and her characters are memorable, but I wanted to know more about Ann, her books, and her writing. Read on to find out more!

1) What was the inspiration for Tizzy, a southern girl who talks to the dead? That's a good question! 

Of course she had to be southern. She had to be sassy. She had to be pretty. But, I also wanted her to be a little odd, a good mother, sister, daughter, and friend. It was important she be close to her family...because I'm close to mine, so that part of the story came natural. In addition, I wanted to show that despite her sassy attitude, she's unsure of herself, especially when it comes to men. Her name came from a doll I bought my daughter when she was a little girl. Also, there was a tv show on many years ago with a character with that name and I loved it.

2) I know you live in Texas. How much of Tizzy's hometown comes from actual observations? 

I'd say all of it. Since the story takes place in the real life town of Brownsboro, which just happens to be my hometown. It really is the way I describe it in the book, just one main street, one caution light and one red light. Ridge pretty much nails it from a stranger's point of view. He describes it as dismal. But, for me, when I was growing up there, I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to live anywhere else.

3) I have to know more about the interesting names in your book, like Pattiecake and Sugarpie. Did you have specific reasons for giving some characters unusual names and others more common names like Rayann? 

Nicknames are HUGE in Texas. I only have one uncle who actually goes by his given name, the rest of them go by nicknames. Pattiecake and Sugarpie are actual people in my family. I wanted to include them in the book, so I thought what could be more appropriate than having a Pattiecake and a Sugarpie owning a bakery. As for Rayann, that's kinda a typical thing in Texas, as well, to combine a man and girl's name...Rayann, Jimnell, Bobbie Sue, etc. It was just another aspect of Texas I wanted to show.

4) Tizzy's special ability doesn't seem to take the regular "I see dead people" track. How did you decide how Tizzy would interact with the dead? 

I didn't want the book to be paranormal, so talking to dead people is just a small part of the story. However, I did give it more attention in the second book. I wanted for it to be more of a quirky part of Tizzy. Just a little something to set her apart from the cast of characters.

5) You are a very funny writer, but you also write a very good mystery. If you had to categorize your writing as only one or the other, which one would you pick? 

Thank you. I pick humor. My publisher picks mystery. I think because humor isn't a big category and mystery is. Many times on some sites, there isn't a category for humor, so by choosing mystery, my book can be listed on most sites.

6) I think anyone who reads your work will guess that you are a Janet Evanovich fan, but what other authors are you inspired by? 

I do like Janet Evanovich and I love Jennifer Crusie. They have very different styles and I think my writing is a combination of both. I have over the top characters like Janet, but more serious content like Jennifer.

7) Do you have any interesting rituals or unusual tricks when you write? 

Really I don't. I have to have complete quiet. I don't even play music when I write. I do play it at other times for inspiration, but turn it off when I sit down at the computer. However, I have been thinking I might start wearing a crown when I write! Maybe it would give me more confidence!

8) The sequel to Laid Out and Candle Lit is coming out this year from Briona Glen Publishing. Can you tell us more about the sequel and any other projects you are working on? 

In the sequel, You're Busting My Nuptials, it takes up kinda where Laid Out and Candle Lit, left off. Of course, you don't need to have read the first book in order to read the second one. I've tried to write it as a stand alone book. Naturally, you'd be more familiar with the characters if you'd read the first one, but hopefully, I describe them well enough, and give enough back story in the second book the reader won't feel lost.
In YBMN, I've raised the humor level quite a bit. More over the top characters and hopefully more laugh-out-loud moments.
There will be a third installment of the Tizzy/Ridge series, but not for a while.
Pattiecake and Sugarpie are working on a cookbook which will be published next. "Sweet Thangs" will be filled with cakes, cookies, pies, and all things sweet. Each recipe included in the cookbook is a recipe the ladies have served over the years...and many at "Sweet Thangs Bakery" in the books.