Talking Story

Book Reviews

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shucked_cover

Shucked by Megg Jensen is a fun, light-hearted, YA rom-com-adventure read, perfect for escaping dishes and laundry for an afternoon. It’s the story of 15 year old Tabitha who was raised by an archeologist mom who took her all over the globe in pursuit of adventure. Tabitha’s comfortable in a Korean dojo or trekking solo through Egypt, but attending school in an average American mid-western high school is enough to send her spiraling.

Good thing she has her grandmother to lean on.

Along with all the typical teen drama of mean girls, does-he-like-me-I-think-I-like-him boyfriends, cheerleading practice, catching up in math, and finding a best friend, Tabitha is confronted with questions about her mother’s past—and current whereabouts—that leave her vulnerable to international smugglers. It’s a rocket-paced read full of outlandish, comedic coincidences that make it easy to keep turning pages.

Tabitha’s voice and perspective is easily identifiable as a teenage girl. She’s funny, real, and worth getting to know.

I know I’m not the target audience, but I do think teen girls will find much to love in this book. In fact, I’m passing it along to my own 14 year old daughter. There’s enough PG romance to titillate, but nothing to make parents blush.

Shucked by Megg Jensen is available from Amazon.

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It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud while reading a book. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is spit your Diet Coke funny. I’ve lived slices of Bernadette’s life, right down to the passive-aggressive snooty private school politics and paralyzing life changes and completely related to her world.

It’s a witty read. The story is pieced together from emails, text messages, and letters that reveal an artistic and well, genius, woman who gives up everything for her daughter. By the time her daughter no longer needs her attention every moment, Bernadette is adrift in a life she no longer recognizes. At the beginning, we see Bernadette at such a low that she hires a virtual assistant in India to take care of everything from Thanksgiving reservations to planning a family cruise to the Arctic. To hide her dysfunction from her husband, she  instructs her assistant to deduct her salary from her personal checking account, a grand total of $30 a week since she’s paying her 75¢ an hour. From there things head south in the worst way possible. It takes a remarkable series of events involving mudslides, the Russian mob, school fundraisers, and death by cruise ship for Bernadette to remember who she is and find pleasure and purpose in life as herself, rather than as an extension of her family.

Thoroughly entertaining and perfect for vacation or by the fireplace reading, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is highly recommended.

Another stunning cover from Jolly Fish Press is Dependent by Brenda Corey Dunne. It’s the story of 45 year old Ellen Michaels who loses her husband in a tragic military accident and has to rebuild her life. Can you imagine having everything you count on disappearing? Available July 2014,  I’m clearing my reading calendar for this one.

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F.J.R. Titchenell’s newest book, Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of)  will be available in Spring 2014.  It’s a Young Adult horror/comedy novel structured like a diary that sounds fascinating.

Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of) book cover

Continuing the week of Jolly Fish Press’s book cover reveals for their 2014 Spring/Summer catalog is New Sight by Jo Ann Schneider. It’s a terrifying tale of drug addiction and treatment that’s not what it seems. For the older YA reader, New Sight is speculative fiction at its best.

New Sight Cover

Here’s the amazing cover for Citadels of Fire by L.K. Hill available Spring 2013. Set in medieval Russia, it’s the story of Inga, a maid in the imperial Russian palace who must break the oppressive chains that have bound her since birth. Congratulations, Liesel!

CoF Cover Image

I’m really excited about Eleanor by Johnny Worthen, available Spring 2014. Johnny says, “Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary, young but old, malleable but fixed. She is scared and confused. She is a liar and a thief. Eleanor is not what she appears to be.” Eleanor is a young adult paranormal novel published by Jolly Fish Press.  Isn’t the cover beautiful?

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Borst 14

Mother and daughter writing duo Amie and Bethanie Borst just published their first book in a fractured fairy tale series called Cinderskella. They stopped by the blog to answer a few of my niele questions.

What inspired Cinderskella?

Amie: I would say Bethanie inspired Cinderskella.

Bethanie: Being nearly bored to tears when my school librarian was telling my class about fairy tales and Cinderella retellings.

Amie: Well, that’s probably not the nicest way to put it…. Perhaps it might be best to read the full post about our inspiration at Ann Marie’s blog.

Writing as team can be tough when only one person can type at a time! What are some of the ways you work together to create this amazing series?

Amie:  Thankfully we have more than one computer in our house! I use my laptop dedicated to writing while Bethanie is on the family desktop computer.  Typically I’ll ask her to write a particular scene, she’ll type it up in an email and then send it to me. I’ll copy and paste that scene it into the manuscript.  Other times she’ll sit across from me at the table and I’ll read what we’ve written aloud. She’ll usually stop me mid-sentence, tell me it’s lame and then she fixes it orally while I type the non-lame new stuff into the manuscript.

Bethanie: My mom had me write it up with pen and paper. Then she’d type it up to her liking. Then I’d tell her it’s lame. She should have just done it the way I said.

Amie: When Bethanie was younger – before she could really use a computer or had an email account – she did write it by hand.  I’d correct her grammar and punctuation, which sometimes affected the voice. So we’d have to change it to make it sound more authentic. As Bethanie grew, so did our teamwork and writing strategy. Our second book was done mostly via email as I first stated.  We also create a story board out of poster board and post it notes – that’s really our sounding board, giving us a starting ground from which to write the story.

Bethanie: Why do they have to be color-coded posted notes?

Amie: So we can see the different parts of our story.

Bethanie: But that’s so boring.

Amie: Would you rather they all be one color? How would you tell the parts of the story apart?

Bethanie: Ah….nah. Nevermind. Can we do it in a collage form so it’ll at least look cool?

Amie: No, we can’t do it in a collage form so it’ll look cool. *shakes head*

If you could change one thing about your writing partner what would it be?

Amie: Nothing. I love her input and suggestions. She really has wild ideas and isn’t afraid to implement them.

Bethanie: I don’t know. I guess I wish she wouldn’t read aloud. I’m not an auditory learner.

Amie: But you’re not learning – we’re reading and writing.

Bethanie: Still, I won’t remember it if you read it aloud.

Amie: (That part is probably true. Bethanie has CAPD and ADD) That’s why I print it off for you to read.

Bethanie: But then I would have to re-read it. For like the fifth time.

Amie: Welcome to the world of being an author.

Bethanie: Ugh. I wish this conversation would stop.

Amie: *Snort* Lehua, look what you’ve gotten us into!

(And nooooo….this NEVER happens when we’re writing! *wink, wink*)

What’s next in the Cinderskella universe?

Bethanie: Little Dead Riding Hood. It’s a book about a vampire. It’s about…*gaze drifts to television*

Amie: Turn off the TV!

Bethanie: No, no, no. It’s not distracting me. I promise.

Amie: *gives ‘I don’t believe you’ evil-eye*

Bethanie: I don’t know what to say. It’s a book. *gaze drifts back to the television*

Cinderskella CoverAmie: Little Dead Riding Hood is Scarlet Small’s story, who just so happens to be a vampire. She enjoys drinking Bloody Tom’s (Tom is short for tomato) and isn’t sure of how to adapt to her new middle-school. You’d think being over one hundred years old, she’d have the “fitting-in” thing boiled down to a science, but Scarlet’s not your average middle-schooler. You see, when you’re the new kid at school it really sucks. But when you’re a new kid and a vampire, well then it just bites!

Thanks for dropping by Amie and Bethanie! Cinderskella is published by Jolly Fish Press and available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Connect with Amie & Bethany Borst

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BeatryselWS

When it comes to love there’s a fine line between passion and obsession, ardor and madness, ecstasy and terror. In Beatrysel Johnny Worthen takes all the shades and flavors of love from filial to sexual and whips them into a frenzied frappe of occult horror, thriller, and philosophical treatise on the nature of man, God, angels, and demons.

Did I mention it’s a love story?

One of the major themes of this novel is that the lover protects the beloved. Beatrysel is a demon created to be the personification of love and brought to this plane by Julian Cormac, a professor who has devoted himself to understanding the magick that underpins our universe. Demons, of course, have their own agendas and all the maturity of greedy children in a candy store. It’s up to Julian to banish his beloved, his child and lover, and end B’s reign of terror.

Of course, the story itself is nothing as straight forward as what I’ve described. Johnny keeps the reader guessing and on the edge of his seat as the story twists and turns. Bad things come to those who want to keep Julian on a cocktail of anti-psychotics and there’s more than one puppet master. To say more would spoil the story.

The writing is quick-paced and snappy, with imagery that not only sings, but at times does the hokey-pokey off the page. Told in omniscient present tense with several major flashbacks, I have to admit it took me a couple of chapters to get into the rhythm of the story, but once you get in the head of the characters, you’re hooked.

I loved the scene where Julian’s sister discovers her husband and a skanky musician in the middle of a tryst. What happens next is outrageous, completely cathartic, and applause-worthy—something every woman secretly wishes she’d give in and do if ever in that situation.

I’m not even going to mention the creepy coffee beans. Let’s just say it’s going to be a long time before I can walk past that section of the grocery store again.

A raw, ragged, and convoluted read, it’s not for the timid. You’ll find yourself turning lights on and checking the locks at night.

Beatrysel by Johnny Worthen is published by Omnium Gatherum and is available as a trade paperback and eBook from Amazon.

Johnny WorthenConnect with Johnny Worthen

Blog: http://johnnyworthen.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnnyWorthenBooks

Twitter:  @JohnnyWorthen

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