You could argue that all teenage girls are self-centered survivalist monsters at heart, at times unlovable, wholly malleable, and subject to the whims of the adults around them.
But in Eleanor’s case these typical teen traits are a little more literal.
Eleanor the Unseen is the first in a trilogy by Johnny Worthen that explores love in many forms: redemptive, passionate, maternal, transformative, first, true, self, and sacrificial. It’s a theme repeated in metaphor and action both gentle and terrifying. Johnny has a knack for drawing the reader into his world like a warm bath. Just don’t get too comfortable. And for heaven’s sake, don’t close your eyes.
On the surface, Eleanor is a YA horror novel about a monster that flies under the radar masquerading as a shy Wyoming teen growing up in a small town on the edge of an Indian reservation. The town itself is a character with all its stifling contradictions playing a part in Eleanor’s decisions as the plot progresses. David, a military kid, was Eleanor’s best childhood friend who knew all her secrets and her heart—until he moved. In their sophomore year, David returns, and Eleanor can no longer hide behind her hair.
Despite its premise, Eleanor is a literary work that builds gradually. It echoes other great works including Grendel, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, and even To Kill a Mockingbird. But don’t let that fool you. There are some horrific scenes in the story that showcase how very alien—and therefore human—the monster is. But rawer than the monster’s survivalist thoughts and actions is Tabitha’s debilitating cancer. Tabitha, Eleanor’s foster mother, races against time to prepare her daughter for life without her. At the heart of the book is their symbiotic redemptive love, a love so strong that it has the power to work miracles.
But don’t forget. Eleanor the Unseen is a horror story, too.
For me, the most realized characters in the story were Eleanor and Tabitha, which sometimes made other key characters like David seem a little underdeveloped in comparison. I also felt that the ending was rushed given the previous pace of the book, but I think I understand why: Johnny wants to hurry the reader past the clearing of the first course to the next tasty morsel in a lazy Sunday brunch. I spent a morning reading Eleanor in one delicious gulp; yes, it’s that good.
Eleanor the Unseen by Johnny Worthen is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Eleanor‘s publication date is July 1, 2014.
You know when you read a book about teens and you think the author just didn’t get it? Well, F.J.R. Titchenell gets video gaming, paintballing, Vespa riding, teenage tomboy angst, true love, the uses of theater paint—oh, and killing zombies.
Confessions of The Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) is awesome like that.
The story is told in a flashback diary format, a record written by teenage Cassie Fremont for future generations about the first week the dead came back to life. It’s the story of being at ground zero when she accidentally kills her crush with a sawed-off paintball gun’s pellet to the temple. Unable to spare a moment to wrap her mind around it, Cassie has to leap into action when Mark snaps back to life as one of the world’s first zombies. An escape from jail—suprbat and psycho-bunny backpack filled with fireworks in tow—she begins a fantastic cross-country journey to reunite twin sisters.
Cassie is not about to wait to be rescued. She embodies what every teenage girl who would rather hang with the boys aspires to—wit and a can-do-buck-up-little-camper attitude. She calls herself a listener, but in reality she leads through example and rock-steady nerves. Cassie’s bravery is in doing what she has to in the moment. She’ll think about it later.
I’m going out on a limb here to say that this YA novel is less about a zombie apocalypse and more about finding yourself, learning to see what’s right in front of you, grabbing life with both hands, and living in the moment. It’s a love story about two people who would never have seen the rightness of each other until life stripped away everything unimportant. Yes, the zombies are there in all their classic want-brains-quick-hit-‘em-with-a-headshot glory, but they serve as a catalyst and an inconvenience, a way for Cassie to show-off her bad self. Titchenell’s touch is refreshingly soft. She trusts her reader to understand her characters through their quirks and reactions to situations rather than relying on a ton of exposition and backstory.
Confessions is a tale that can be read on many levels, and I love meta-fiction like this. While the narration is mostly straightforward, the situations are hilarious and dark. Cassie’s first time driving a car is epic in both scope and tragedy, but she brushes it off with her trademarked that sucked, what’s next aplomb. There are many moments like this that hint at a much larger story unraveling in the background.
Confessions of The Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by F.J.R. Titchenell is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available in paperback and eBook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retail outlets. Don’t miss this one.
Jo Ann Schneider’s debut novel New Sight, is a little hard to pin down. Not knowing much about it when I began it, after the first few chapters I thought, “Ah-ha! Sci-fi!” and settled down for thriller about futuristic drugs and big brother. 16 year old Lys Blake has an uncontrollable urge to rip people’s eyes out and a new club drug is suspected. Cool. After a strong start, the plot turns and I found myself reading a lot of exposition about magical powers, technology, and cartels out to suppresses and control ancient gifts relating to sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.
When it comes to literature, I’m more of a right-brained reader and New Sight is definitely a left-brained read. For me, sometimes the action gets bogged down in making sure the reader understands all the nuances of the magic system and the larger issues at play. The story is compelling, but I found myself skimming to get to the good parts.
Having said that, you should know that I’m the kind of person who ignores the directions and jumps in. More thoughtful, methodical thinkers who want to see how the trap is being set—left-brained readers—will thoroughly enjoy New Sight and look forward to the next book in the series.
And now that I’ve got all the details down, I will, too!
Set in the same world as Beatrysel, Johnny Worthen’s novelette Dr. Stuart’s Heart delves into the world of lost love, longing, and an academic approach to modern magick. Dr. Stuart is a history professor and hopeful necromancer who believes a talented graduate student’s research project may bring him his heart’s desire. It’s a quick read that will satisfy Beatrysel fans and introduce new readers to the deep, dark, occult worlds Johnny creates. Call it literary horror or a love story with a twist, it’s a great momentary escape with an icy Diet Coke and a bag of chips.
Dr. Stuart’s Heart is available through Amazon.
From the popularity of movies like Fatal Attraction to the TLC reality series My Strange Addiction, it’s no surprise that we’re fascinated by the extreme forms love, hate, desire, fear, and need take. Little Visible Delight is an anthology of darkly twisted obsession tales written by eleven talented novelists from the Omnium Gatherum Media stable.
Like most anthologies, the stories are varied in tone, pacing, and style. A couple of them stand out for their literary echos: A Thousand Stitches by Kate Jonez and The Point by Johnny Worthen. I particularly enjoyed these two for the thought-provoking themes that stayed with me long after I’d read them.
The one that still keeps me up all night is JP by Brent Michael Kelly. You’ll never look at people who carry little dogs everywhere the same way again.
The most difficult for me to relate to was An Unattributed Lyric, In Blood, On a Bathroom Wall by Ennis Drake. The story form is on the experimental side, and it explores the futility of trying to capture the human experience in literature. Perhaps it hits a little too close to home.
A special bonus and one of my favorite things about this analogy are the authors’ notes at end of each story that explain their inspiration and how particular themes continually reoccur—obsess them, really—as writers.
Perfect for late night reading, Little Visible Delight is sure to take the reader on paths seldom traveled. Flashlight under the covers recommended.
Rounding out the week of cover reveals is Daddy Doin’ Work by Doyin Richards. Doyin started a parenting blog a couple of years ago and has a large social media following. Known for his down-to-earth, if you’re taking care of your own kids, it’s called parenting, not babysitting, approach to fatherhood, this book is sure to entertain, enlighten, and bring out the inner-dad in all fathers. From the back of the book:
Doyin Richards’s Daddy Doin’ Work: Empowering Mothers to Evolve Fatherhood answers questions about fatherhood that many women want to know, and does so in a no-nonsense and entertaining style that ladies will enjoy. Similar to how Steve Harvey’s best-selling title Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man empowers women to make smart relationship decisions by entering the minds of men, Daddy Doin’ Work empowers new mothers to enter the minds of new dads to change the perception of what should be expected from a modern father.
Readers will be exposed to the manipulative secrets of deadbeat dads, moms will learn practical tips to help hard-working dads understand that being a father encompasses more than paying the bills, and women in
relationships with amazing dads will learn methods to ensure their men stay on-track while inspiring more fathers to be just like them. Most importantly, women will be forced to take a long look in the mirror to
determine if they are part of the solution or part of the problem in shaping the behavior of modern fathers.
Vampires! Here’s the cover of the second book in the Blood Inheritance trilogy, Defiance by Adrienne Monson. From the back of the book:
Leisha and Samantha barely survived the vampires and immortals six months ago. Now, an explosive battle between the vampires and immortals seems imminent.
It’s more important than ever before that the prophecy child is found, but there’s a problem—Leisha has lost her powers. She seems like nothing more than a human. Her newfound humanity is further complicated when Tafari, her old lover, appears with a desire for reconciliation.
Can Leisha lock up the past to save those she loves? Or will fate tear everything from her once again?
And yes, I’ve even heard fans squeal when Adrienne signs a book. Readers of book 1, Dissension, can’t wait to see what happens next. Isn’t the cover stunning?
Web site: http://www.adriennemonson.com/
Continuing our cover reveals this week is Little Dead Riding Hood by the mother-daughter writing duo Amie and Bethanie Borst, the second in their Scarily Ever Laughter series for middle grade readers. From the back of the book:
You know things are going to suck when you’re the new kid. But when you’re the new kid and a vampire… well, it bites!
Unlike most kids, Scarlet Small’s problems go far beyond just trying to fit in. She would settle for a normal life, but being twelve years old for an entire century is a real pain in the neck. Plus, her appetite for security guards, house pets and bloody toms (tomato juice) is out of control. So in order to keep their vampire-secret, her parents, Mort and Drac, resort to moving for the hundredth time, despite Scarlet being dead-set against it. Things couldn’t be worse at her new school, either. Not only does she have a strange skeleton-girl as a classmate, but a smelly werewolf is intent on revealing her secret. When she meets Granny—who fills her with cookies, goodies, and treats, and seems to understand her more than anyone—she’s sure things will be different. But with a fork-stabbing incident, a cherry pie massacre, and a town full of crazy people, Scarlet’s O-positive she’ll never live to see another undead day.
Not even her Vampire Rule Book can save her from the mess she’s in. Why can’t she ever just follow the rules?
From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors: www.fromthemixedupfiles.com
Black Moon, the second book in Teri Harman’s witch fantasy trilogy has just released its cover. From the back of the book:
Simon Howard accidentally killed three people. Four months later, the nightmares won’t stop. Willa Fairfield, his girlfriend, his soul mate, wants nothing more than to help him move on. But guilt isn’t the only thing getting in Simon’s way.
When unexplained earthquakes hit the small town of Twelve Acres, and dozens of people go missing, the Light witches discover their most feared enemy, Archard, is still alive. Employing the twisted, dynamic magic of a legendary witch known as Bartholomew the Dark, Archard plans to exact his revenge and take control of the Powers of the Earth on the night of the black moon, a rare lunar event infamous for Dark magic.
As the Light Covenant fumbles to defend against Archard’s sadistic intentions, Simon’s magic grows inexplicably more powerful, even dangerous. Willa throws all her efforts into solving the mystery of Simon’s transformation, but when the events of the past storm into the present, the couple’s future changes forever.
I read an early version of this manuscript. Black Moon continues the adventures of Simon and Willa as they learn to control their powers and face the black coven. At times thrilling, heart-warming, and suspenseful, readers of Blood Moon will be delighted.
Isn’t gorgeous? This is the cover for Mojave Green, the second book in the Dimensions in Death series by the Brothers Washburn. Here’s the blurb.
Camm and Cal thought they had killed the unearthly creature that preyed upon the people in their isolated mining town deep in the Mojave Desert. Off at college, they feel safe, until they hear news that Trona’s children are still disappearing. Caught in that nightmare since childhood, Camm feels responsible for the town’s children. As her life-long best friend, Cal feels responsible for Camm. With unsuspecting friends in tow, they return to warn the town’s innocent people, but things have changed.
Death comes in a new form. The dimensional balance is altered. Crossovers multiply. The situation spirals out of control, and Cal is pulled into another world where his chances of survival are slim. Without Cal, Camm seeks help where she can, even from the dead. Soon, she is on the run from relentless federal agents, who are hiding secrets and pursuing their own agenda. The mysterious depths of the Searles Mansion may yet contain a key to stopping alien predators, if it is not already too late.
It sounds amazing. Be sure to pick up Pitch Green if you haven’t read it. You won’t want to miss a word.
A. L. Washburn and B. W. Washburn are licensed lawyers and full time writers, residing in Colorado and southern Utah. They grew up in a large family in Trona, California, a small mining community not far from Death Valley, and spent many happy days in their youth roaming the wastelands of the Mojave Desert. After living in Argentina at different times, each came back to finish school and start separate careers. Living thousands of miles apart, they worked in different areas of the law, while raising their own large families.
Each has authored legal materials and professional articles, but after years of wandering in the wastelands of the law, their lifelong love of fiction, especially fantasy, science fiction and horror, brought them back together to write a new young adult horror series, beginning with Pitch Green and Mojave Green. They have found there yet remain many untold wonders to be discovered in the unbounded realms of the imagination, especially as those realms unfold in the perilous wastelands of the Dimensions in Death.