Book Reviews

Little Brother v. Big Brother

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I just re-read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.  It was my third reading.

 

Although published in 2008, intended (I believe) to look back on the heightened security and information-gathering by the Department of Homeland Security, the book is becoming more applicable to the current administration.  Every day a new order is passed or legislation proposed that limits the freedoms of at least one segment of the population: women, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT people, etc.  Every day we read another example of the current administration trying to subvert the Constitution.

Before the recent presidential election, I thought of DHS as a bloated, ineffective, bureaucratic agency.  Yes, DHS, or Big Brother if you will, is watching but not an imminent threat.  In my Sue series, I use DHS as the overseers of the clones.  Ted Stevens is the level-headed DHS Director with the best interest of clones in mind; he releases the clones and protects their individual liberties.  Whereas the special DHS committee is the xenophobic “protector” of American citizens against the “aliens” and their “conspirators”.  Of course civil liberty wins in my books as Ted fights for the clones. To me, it was obvious.  Up until now, I didn’t think the opposite was plausible this day in American society, with as much transparency as the internet offers.

But now I’m not so sure.  Every day we learn of violations and abuse of power, which gets us back to Little Brother.  As I read the book this past week, I didn’t think back to 9/11, I thought about current events in American politics.  How long will it be before DHS starts invading the freedoms of Americans?  As long as the administration finds a reason to marginalize a segment of society, there’s no telling what the DHS, Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, etc. will do.  Look at what has already been attempted or floated in barely two months!  Proposing to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, repeal of parts or all of Roe v. Wade, eliminating pregnancy care from Trumpcare, building “The Wall”, mass deportation of “illegals”, prohibiting suspected Muslims from entering the country, and repealing LGBT equality laws are just some of the few ideas/legislation already being discussed.  What is going on?  Are we going to allow this to occur?

At the end of Little Brother, Marcus makes a video to show the imprisonment and torture he experienced at the hand of DHS and, more importantly, he gives advice.  His advice is completely applicable to right now.  “We elected these people.  We pay their salaries.  They’re supposed to be on our side.  They’re supposed to defend our freedoms.  But these people betrayed our trust.  …Find five of your neighbors—five people who’ve given up on voting because their choice is ‘none of the above.’  Talk to your neighbors.  Make them promise to vote.  Make them promise to take the country back from the torturers and thugs.  Make them promise to talk to their neighbors.  Most of us choose none of the above.  It’s not working.  You have to choose—choose freedom.”

One last thing; open this tweet and look at the books assembled on the table at this bookstore.  It’s a commentary on the times.

Another Good Cancer Book

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Please read Zac and Mia.

 

I recently posted about good and not good cancer books.  For me, a good cancer story is one that inspires, where the patient fights to win, and hopefully does win.  On my list of must-read books are Radiate, Touched by Cancer, and The Fault in Our Stars.  I am now adding Zac and Mia to that list of must-read books.  You can read my full review here on goodreads.com.

What I like best about the book is that the two, Zac and Mia, fight their cancers and treatments.  They get busy living.  And they are there for each other.  The two are not always bubbly and happy. Each has dark times of despair when they want to shut out everyone and everything, and there are times when they resent knowing the other person.  But at the bottom, when Mia needs inspiration from someone who doesn’t pity her for her leg, Zac refuses to let her run and offers her a place to stay.  And when Zac refuses another round of treatment, Mia pushes him, convincing him to continue.

The story is realistic; the author, although not a cancer patient as far as I can tell, definitely did her homework.  The details of the care and treatment for each was believable, not glossed over for lack of understanding.  And most importantly, I got to see and feel the emotions of Zac and Mia throughout their journeys while apart and together.

I highly recommend you read Zac and Mia.

Multiple First-Person Narration

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The good and the bad.

 

I just finished reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The story used a three-person narration structure to indicate to the reader who was talking and when the action occurred.  I did not like it.  I liked the plot, or rather the concept of the plot, but the story was distracting and was tedious to read.

The story’s main characters, the three wives, each narrated their part of the story, analogous to Eleanor and Park, Nick and Nora, Dash and Lilly, etc., but there were significant differences that didn’t work in The Girl on the Train.  While E&P, N&N, D&L narrated either the same scene or contiguous scenes, each from their own perspective, the three wives in The Girl on the Train narrated completely different, detached scenes.  And the order in which the scenes were presented in the story was temporally mixed.  I understand the need to not present the climax, the key scene, before the set-up, but it was very distracting.  The author had to not only label each chapter with the name of the narrator, but also had to tell the reader on which day the narration occurred.  The book read like a series of scattered journal entries.  Additionally troublesome, each chapter mixed current action (present) with recollections and memories (past).  I had trouble not only remembering who was talking, but also when they were talking.  Mixing tenses, times, and voices made the book difficult to read and enjoy.

This is not to say that I dislike the idea of separately-narrated chapters, or multiple first-person narration.  When I read Nick and Nora, I gladly accepted it as Cohn/Levithan’s style.  It worked.  And it worked for Dash and Lilly.  But as I read Eleanor and Park, I started to feel as if the use of multiple first-person voices was an easy way out of writing complex scenes between two leading protagonists.  Yes, separate narration is a way to climb into one person’s head and shut out the other’s inner thoughts so you get to hear only one side at a time. And it can be very effective as long as the chapters form a continuous story line that the reader can follow without labels or annotations.

When used well, separately-narrated chapters are effective.  But when not used well, it spoils that book’s story and calls into question use in future books.  Call me old-fashioned, but If effectively written, a story can be told from either a single first-person point of view or an intimate third-person point of view to tell the story of two leading characters.  If the story truly has a leading character, a single protagonist, narrate in first-person.  If there are two equal protagonists, use third-person.  The use of dialogue, gestures, facial expressions, and even (dare I say) italics for thought will allow the reader to get inside the characters’ heads.  In my opinion, The Girl on the Train could have been told entirely from Rachel’s point of view, or even in a third-person voice, and would have been a engaging and thrilling story.

After reading both good examples and bad examples of multiple first-person narration, I hope that the trend does not continue, or is at least used sparingly.

 

 

Release of State of Rebellion

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State of Rebellion is here!

 

January 24th is the release day for the third book in the Collapse series, State of Rebellion, by Summer Lane.

 

Everything has changed.

After a devastating ambush that left the militia group Freedom Fighters struggling to survive, Cassidy Hart has been lucky to escape with her life.

Along with her Commander and former Navy SEAL Chris Young, she’s made a shocking discovery concerning the whereabouts of her father. The militias have moved further into the mountains. And the secret that is kept there will come with a price.

 

But when the National Guard arrives, Cassidy is faced with a choice that will force her to decide between friends and family. Omega is getting stronger. The fight for freedom looms on the horizon.

It’s all or nothing.

And Cassidy has no intention of giving up.

 

Read State of Rebellion to find out what’s in store for Chris and Cassidy!

 

Author: Summer Lane

Series: Collapse Series #3

Publisher: WB Publishing http://writingbellepublishing.com/

Release: January 24th, 2014

 

Where to buy:

 

Kindle Version

Nook Version

Paperback from Amazon

Paperback from Createspace

 

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Do you write post-apocalyptic, survivalist, dystopian or adventure stories? Submit your manuscript to WB Publishing: http://writingbellepublishing.com/

Author Summer Lane

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Summer is the author of the national bestselling YA/NA Romantic Adventure novels, State of Emergency, State of Chaos, and State of Rebellion, the first three installments in The Collapse Series. She is a freelance writer, publicist and lover of all things feline. Summer owns WB Publishing, a digital publishing company devoted to releasing exciting survival and adventure stories. In her spare time, Summer is the creator of the online magazine/blog, Writing Belle, in addition to being a co-founder and frequent contributor at NA Alley, a website dedicated to all things New Adult. She works as a creative writing teacher and consultant, as well.

Summer began writing when she was 13 years old, due to the fact that the long afternoons after school were somewhat boring, and writing stories seemed to make the time pass a little quicker. Since then she has written many books about jungle cats, secret agents, princesses and spaceships. She is also a non-fiction writer, but her debut novels of The Collapse Series are her favorite books yet. You can find Summer hopping around on the Internet by following her on Twitter @SummerEllenLane. Want to talk to Summer? Email her at: summerlane101@gmail.com

Website: http://summerlaneauthor.com/

Blog: http://writingbelle.com/

WB Publishing: http://writingbellepublishing.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SummerEllenLane

Radiate by Marley Gibson

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This is a special book review for me.

 

Radiate, by Marley Gibson, is the story of Hayley Matthews; a motivated, high-school senior who makes the varsity cheer squad after years in the marching band.  Her enthusiasm and dedication are infectious and have an immediate and large effect on the entire squad.  But her hopes and dreams for senior year are interrupted by cancer.

What makes this book special is the way in which Hayley responds to her diagnosis and pending treatment.  There is never any doubt in her mind that her cancer will be cured and she will return to the cheer squad.  Never a doubt.  Hayley does not go through typical stages of denial, anger, or depression.  There is only one reaction to her prognosis: Beat the cancer.  I admit that this is not typical for cancer patients.  But it is essential for survival.

What makes me an authority on the subject?  I, too, am a childhood cancer survivor.

I was much younger when I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.  I did not yet have the same hopes and dreams as Hayley.  I barely understood what was happening to me.  But what I did have was a support group of my mother, my doctor, and many close family friends who never once wavered in their belief that my cancer would be cured.  Yes, I’m sure they each went through stages of denial, anger, etc., but never in my presence.  I was only exposed to unending support and determination to beat the cancer.  I never had a doubt; death was not an option in my mind.

For those who have battled cancer and won, there will be little debate with my (and Hayley’s) mindset, especially for childhood cancer patients: Cancer will not win.  It will not defeat me.  I will defeat it, no matter what has to be done.

I have often thought about writing a book about my experiences, but I may not have to.  Radiate is a book that captures everything I would, and maybe even more than I could.  As I mentioned previously, at the time of her diagnosis, Hayley’s only thoughts are “get the cancer out of my leg and let me get back to cheerleading.”  While going through chemotherapy, her spirits are dampened (chemotherapy kicks a patient’s ass), but she never decides to give up.  Her goal remains fixed.  And even after radiation therapy and the resulting hair-loss, Hayley holds her (bald) head high while she regains her strength and re-joins her cheer squad.  Her determination and resolve make her a class favorite and an inspiration to all.  It is this determination and never-ending resolve that is the key to coping with and beating cancer.

I probably reacted more strongly to the book than most readers will, but I was reliving my own past while reading Hayley’s story.  I’m sure I smiled wider than most, cried a little more, and definitely cheered louder than most people reading Radiate.  There is no way I can put a star rating on this book–there aren’t enough stars.

If you are a cancer survivor, please read this book.  Smile, cry, and cheer like I did.  It will make you feel great to be alive.  If you are not a cancer survivor, please read the book and know that everything that Halyey goes through, and her reactions to it all, are genuine.  Her story will make you feel great for Hayley to be alive.

Very rarely am I inspired by a work of fiction.  Radiate is truly inspirational.

 

The “Classics” Aren’t Classic

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If you look at my bookshelf on www.goodreads.com, you will see that I have recently read The Hobbit, Animal Farm and 1984.  These are three books likely to have been dubbed “classics” by readers.  These are not classics.

For me, Ender’s Game is a classic.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a classic.  The Harry Potter books are classic, just to name a few.

Why are these classics? What defines a classic for me?

Three criteria: (1) they are entertaining, (2) they stand the test of time, and (3) they make me want to read more.

The Hobbit and the books by George Orwell may stand the test of time, but they were not overly entertaining for me, nor did they really inspire me to read more by the author.  My classics, however, did meet all three criteria.  The books were fresh, unique, funny, fast-paced, and timeless.  And these books led me to read four more Ender books, the rest of the Hitchhiker’s series and, of course, once I read the first HP, I had to read them all—which made waiting for #6 and #7 practically unbearable.

Are there other classics?  Maybe the Hunger Games trilogy.  It may not be “classic” now, but in a year or two it might be.  Twighlight?  No.  Okay… I have to add a fourth criterion here: they must be good writing.  It doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece, but it’s got to be technically good.  The Twilight books are not good writing.  I’ll throw Fool by Christopher Moore on my list of classics.  I loved it.  And it inspired me to read more by Moore.

Popularity, number of copies sold, awards received, etc. are not my requirements for a book to be a classic.  For me, a classic keeps me reading, reading more, and even re-reading.

Review of Sound, by Shelley Workinger

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Shelley Workinger delivers another great novel with Sound, the finale (?) of the Solid series.

 

The story starts with Clio dealing with the fall-out of the events from Settling, and then jumps into the new event to deal with.

The pace of the novel is fast—something we’ve come to expect and enjoy with these books.  Turn to the first page and buckle up for the ride.  If you’ve read the previous two stories, you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped right back in the camp and haven’t missed a beat.

I won’t spoil any part of the plot, but will say that the climax sneaks up on you.  You’re waiting for it and then BAM!  And through dealing with the crisis du jour, Clio and her friends resolve their issues, tie up the past and look to the future.

If I have only one criticism, it’s that I think we could have learned a lot more about Clio and her circle of friends.  Of course, that would require 2-3 more books.

Although this is the conclusion to the Solid trilogy, I hope that Shelley will consider starting a new trilogy to take readers on a continuing ride through the next stage of Clio and her friends’ lives.

On my ‘scientific’ rating scale of 0-100 degrees Celsius, with 100 degrees being boiling (red-hot awesome), Solid reaches 95 degrees C.  A great read!

 

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