Book Review: Crazy Stupid Money

Title: Crazy Stupid Money

Author: Rachel Shukert

Format: Kindle Single

Published: 2015

Here is an honest insight into a relationship which covers the taboo subject of money.  Rachel Shukert makes a very valid point when she says we have no qualms talking about sex, kids, health, and relationships, however, we very rarely ever talk about money.  She takes the subject of money head on and chronicles what it did to her real-life relationship.

Her husband was the bread winner of the family.  Shukert made minimal amounts of money writing and freelancing, always saying one day she would make it big.  One day her husband decides to quit his job making her the bread winner.  She starts to develop anxiety over money and gets obsessive over every cent that leaves her account.

This short story details how the relationship shifted.  There were unspoken roles that now suddenly changed and she could not cope with this.  The relationship became tumultuous.  Neighbors would call the police when they fought.  Plates were thrown.  The marriage was being pushed to its breaking point.

This book covers the taboo subject of money so well.  It really makes you think, “money is the root of all evil.”  I appreciated that Shukert did not hold back and was vulnerable in telling her story.  I cringed, I laughed, I held my breath, and I hoped that her story, her true, real life story, could turn out ok and that money did not ruin it.  I hope you decide to read this Kindle Single so you can see how her life turns out.

I am rating this book a solid 4.  It is 45 pages long and takes only about an hour to read.  It is a great read if you need something to pass the time (plane ride, train ride, waiting in a doctor’s office, etc).  Very insightful on how relationships can be destroyed or made strong by such a simple aspect of money.  Tune in next Thursday when I review The Wife Between Us!

Book Review – The Nixie’s Song

Title: Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles.  Book 1 The Nixie’s Song
Authors/Illustrators: Holly Black, Tony DiTerlizzi
Format: Hardback
Published: 2007

 

So I feel that I need to start this with a preface that I know absolutely nothing about the series.  I saw this book when I was walking down a row in the library and grabbed it in a hurry because I recalled that the series was popular and I wanted to see what the hype was.  It wasn’t until after I got the book home that I realized that it was a second series about the same thing (sort of?  Apparently?)  So I don’t know if you needed to read the other series first, but it said it was book one so I dove in.

In this series, Nick’s dad is a developer on a project in Florida so he moves his sons down there, along with their new stepmother and stepsister Laurie.  Laurie is obsessed with a book and she’s determined that it’s real and the odd creatures she’s reading all about are really just outside her window, only she can only hear them and not see them.  Nick, bored and in need of something to do, begrudgingly humors her on a walk and realizes that she may be able to hear the creatures, but he actually has the sight.

The two end up with a Nixie on a quest.  Her sisters are missing and she’s got to find them.  They agree to help.

 

So, for a children’s chapter book, the thing isn’t bad.  It’s written well enough that I didn’t mind that I was 25 years beyond the target age group (at least) and it was cute enough that I see no issue with a kid picking it up.  

The Nixie is really an unhappy camper when she finds out that two of her sisters are dead, but the group soldier on to find the others and instead find a giant.  

Which appears to everyone around them as just a mound of mud.  They’re trying to get people to leave the thing alone while they try to kill it, and everyone else wants to move what they think is a dirt pile to somewhere a little more slightly.

Oh, and along the way the group picks up a few more people.  For starters, Laurie’s book is supposedly written by information from Jared and Simon Grace, so they track the twins down for help.  They also find a guy named Noseeum Jack – or more accurately, Jack finds them – who gives them a lot of information that they will need as they continue on.

Just as the book got interesting, the chapter was over and with it went the book.  Dang it.

 

So my review.  Again, I’m a bit *ahem* beyond its target age group, but I found that I didn’t care.  The story was pretty quick and I blamed most of that on the genre.  I hadn’t intended on reading more of the series, but the action stopped mid way through the friggin end of the book.  Like, a creature was on the move and then BOOM and we’re expected to pick up the next one to see where it goes.  

I hate that.  It’s like the worst thing ever.  I mean, I’ll have to read another book or something.  (Ha!  I’ve already asked for it from the library.)   

 

Bottom line, it was decent enough.  I think that a kid in the right age group would really like this, and I’m guessing that whatever happened in the main series connects to the book that Laurie carries everywhere with her (she even says she does) and people who haven’t read the other could read this.  I know I followed it around just fine.   I think this would be a great book for “what do I give to a eight-year-old interested in fantasy…? “ and because of that I’ll give it a 4/5 page rating.

Book Review: Neighborly

Title: Neighborly

Author: Ellie Monago

Format: eBook

Published: 2018

 

I just discovered that if one subscribes to Amazon Prime that you have access to free books within the Amazon Kindle app under the prime reading category.  I have never read an eBook so I wanted to take a stab at it.  I actually did not mind reading it and found it convenient to carry around this book with me wherever I went. So for my first stab at e-reading, I chose Neighborly (because who doesn’t become intrigued when they see a grill on fire on the cover).

I was drawn in to this book thanks to our protagonist Kat.  Her and her husband have scored a house (albeit the smallest) in the Trans-Urban world of the “AV” (Aurora Village).  This is one of the most highly sought after neighborhoods and they were one of the lucky ones to be moving in.

They throw a huge welcome party and Kat, her husband Doug, and baby get to meet everyone on the block.  On her way in to take a break from the party and feed her baby she finds a note on her doorstep which is semi-threatening in nature.  This is where I really got in to the book; someone does not want them there, so who is it and why?

Kat gets invited to a girl’s night and subsequently a second girl’s night.  There is where the book started to lose me.  The block has a list.  The block apparently encourages and enjoys sexual partners outside of their marriages.  They keep the list a secret and let you know who may be interested and you go from there.  Kat was propositioned to join.  Mind you, the sexual aspect of this book was very vanilla, but also very farfetched and seemingly came out of left field.

The notes are still going on and now she must deal with how to bring this up to her husband, if she does at all.  Mind you, she makes her marriage into a train wreck of a relationship.  Scratch that, she herself is just a plain train wreck.  The fact that I was about two-thirds in to this book is the reason why I kept going.

Now she starts to get threatening e-mails on top of notes and her daughter suddenly becomes catastrophically ill.  They end up in the hospital and this is where her past starts to tie together with the present.  Her daughter gets released from the hospital and Kat finally figures out who has been sending the notes and why so she confronts this person during a night out.

This was the worst part of the book.  The issue gets resolved within about five minutes.  There’s a huge fight and people apologize.  It was very unrealistic as this has been an issue for YEARS and within two minutes this person just suddenly forgives.

Overall, I give this book a 2.  If you happen to stumble across it, just know you were warned.  Are you reading anything through Amazon Kindle Prime Reading?  If so let me know what books I should be checking out in the comments!  Next week I will be reviewing a Kindle Single so stay tuned!

Writer Wednesday – Nathan Day

Tell us who you are and a little bit about what you write:
I’m an introvert trying hard to convince everyone I’m an extrovert. I’m a geek – to me a “geek” is someone who loves nerdy things, but a “nerd” fully understands and can explain those things – who enjoys stories via any medium (film, song, gaming, theatre). I’m a Kentucky native, Tennessee transplant who moonlights as an author, actor, director, singer/songwriter. I try to write stories that feature rounded, realistic characters, even if they have been thrust into extraordinary circumstances or are extraordinary themselves in some way. An example of this is my current Orphan Saga which places regular and extraordinary people in the crossfire of the eternal war between Heaven and Hell.

What is something your fans would be surprised to know about you?
I think my fans would be surprised to know that once upon a time I wrote and performed R&B as part of a “boy band” called Innocence and was lucky enough to sing as part of a choir on the Backstreet Boys’ recording breaking sophomore album, “Millennium” on the final track, “The Perfect Fan” (Don’t believe me? Read the credits in the album jacket, I dare ya.)

What made you become a writer?
While I can’t remember any one thing or circumstance that made me “become a writer” I do remember laying in the living room floor as young as 6, banging away on my mother’s old typewriter, absolutely using up every piece of blank paper and ribbon in the house. It’s just always been a love of mine. Fantastic places and characters, the escapism, the whole shebang. Who doesn’t want to close their eyes and imagine they’re riding on the back of a dragon, wielding a sword of pure flame, saving the world from an overpowered entity the size of a mountain?

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I feel like I’m a plotter who likes to get a bit “pantsy”. While I spend lots of time, as many do, creating outlines, I find a lot of my ideas come to me in the middle of the actual writing. Most of the time this is an effect of how I feel the characters would react versus how I originally wanted the story to play out. Many of my initial plot ideas fall victim to this, but I hope it makes for a better, more digestible flow in the end.

What is the biggest mistake that you’ve learned not to make while writing?
The biggest mistake I feel that I am learning (as opposed to have fully learned), is to KISS (keep it simple, stupid). My initial run throughs are often unnecessarily wordy, especially when I first began to novelize Orphan: Surfacing, which was originally meant to be a graphic novel. I wanted my prose to really stand out, to have an intelligent, poetic air…but in the end a lot of what I, at first, thought was brilliant, just came across as pompous or overcomplicated and confusing. I hope my style improves with each new work.

What is the last book you finished reading?  What did you think?
I’m the Worst Person in the World (yes, I claim the title) for starting a book, and then starting another, and another, and…see where this is going? It’s not that these books don’t captivate me, it’s that I’m such a story glutton that I cannot wait to sample the next course, especially when it comes to indie and small press authors. I’m currently reading
Hidden by Serina Hartwell, a YA offering that feels both new and classic, real and fairytale, as well as Without A Conscious…by James William Peercy, a slick real-world thriller and finishing Sara Dobie Bauer’s hilarious and exceptionally well written Bite Somebody. I’ve also just picked up Michael David Anderson’s Teddy. As a big Stephen King fan, I’m very excited to see what title character Teddy Dormer’s story has to offer.

Would you like to pimp a specific project?
There are soooo many projects I would like to pimp: Stephen Zimmer’s
Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot and the Rayden Valkyrie novels from which it spawned (all available on Amazon); The Devil’s A Lie novella I’m currently working on which is an adaptation of a noire screenplay by award winning director Thomas Moore; Thomas Moore’s first feature film, Covet, an “inspired by true events” thriller; anything by author Michael David Anderson as many of his books are connected by means which I cannot divulge; my own Orphan novel series beginning with Orphan: Surfacing (available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com); and lastly author Robb Hoff’s Cosmic Egg Rapture (available on Amazon). Stephen, Thomas, Michael and Robb have been incredibly supportive and inspiring to me in many ways, so the least I can do is help spread the good word about their exceptional bodies of work.

Is there a URL or social media account you’d like to share?
While admittedly I need to strengthen my social media presence, I can be found and followed on Facebook (
www.facebook.com/orphansurfacing ) and on Instagram ( @akagenre ). I can also be found on Goodreads.

 

.

…on deep characters…

While I’ve already spoken of this point to a small degree, I want to emphasis what I feel is the importance of writing deep characters. Not all characters need to have massive depth, but I feel there should be enough dimension within them that the reader can begin to make base assumptions about their lives outside of your story arc. Little quirks, mannerisms and seemingly irrelevant beliefs or pasts, can bring a surprising connection between reader and printed word. The more fleshed out the inhabitants of your literary world, the more fleshed out the world. Look around you, everyone has their idiosyncrasy. What are the things you fail to notice on a regular basis that makes these people unique? What ticks do you have? Also, listen to your characters. Although many people react in unexpected ways in extreme circumstances, most of the time you can feel when you are having to shoehorn your character’s actions into fitting your narrative. If something he, she or it does feels unnatural as you write, it will feel unnatural as your fans read. Don’t break the immersion! Let’s be clear: I’m no expert. I’ve less experience in the field than your favorite authors and no education worth bragging about, but I can speak as a reader as to what works and doesn’t work for me. Art, advice, taste is all subjective, so take mine with two shakes of salt. I just suggest thinking of yourself as a reader first and writer second. Take a look through the window before you buy the house.

Writer Wednesday – Bob Freeman

1. Tell us who you are and a little bit about what you write.

My name’s Bob Freeman and I write occult detective fiction. It’s a genre I’ve been enamored with since childhood. The early seventies had sparked an occult revival of sorts. Real life witches were showing up on talk shows, movies like The Exorcist were dominating the box office, Marvel Comics was publishing Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, and The Son of Satan (to name a few), and on the small screen you had things like The Norliss Tapes and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Coupled with my early reading of Dennis Wheatley’s Duc de Richleau novels, it’s little wonder that my adult predilections have led down a similar path.

2. What is something that your fans would be surprised to know about you?

That’s a rough one because I’m something of an open book. One thing that may have slipped under the radar is my love of musicals. My favorite is the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar which, in and of itself, is probably a big shock to people who are quite familiar with my body of work and religious proclivities.

3. What made you become a writer?

I think most writers are shaped to become storytellers from an early age and I’m no different. I always loved a good ghost story, and growing up pretty isolated in rural Indiana, I spent a lot of time reading and letting my imagination run wild.

4. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser, all the way. If I know where a story is going, I lose interest right away. I enjoy the uncertainty and discovery that creating stories entails.

5. What is the biggest mistake that you’ve learned not to make while writing?

Not finishing what you’ve started. I’m an author who really needs to keep that fire lit. I am…easily distracted. Buckling down and seeing a project through to the end is the best advice I could pass along.

6. What is the last book you finished reading? What did you think?

I just finished Madame Pamita’s Magical Tarot which offers a great new take on interpretations for those with an interest in cartomancy.

7. Would you like to pimp a specific project?

My latest collection is First Born, the first book in my Liber Monstrorum series. The book collects several stories connected to that mythos and particularly concerns my occult detective, Dr. Landon Connors.

8. Is there a URL or social media account you’d like to share?

My website/blog is http://occultdetective.com. The best place to connect with me online is through my twitter account: http://twitter.com/occultdetective

 

…On Life and Writing…

Life is not fair, nor just, nor even-handed. Bad things happen to good people and vice versa, not because of karmic debt, but because life happens. It is unpredictable. It is sometimes cruel and unforgiving, but this is the canvas upon which we work, where our seed has been planted, where our sword is sharpened.

I know it can feel overwhelming sometimes, but it’s not. It’s just life. It breathes in. It breathes out.

For all the heartache, all the loss, there is still beauty to be found in the wreckage and words to be written in blood.

I talk a lot about the negative side of writing, the work part… you know, the struggle. I’d like to take a moment to comment on how freaking thankful I am to be blessed with the storytelling gene.

Writing is ecstatic intoxication. It is surreal and wonderful and fulfilling in every way imaginable (except financially, but that’s for another blog). Brutal? Unforgiving? Yes, it is all that too, and more, but truthfully, there’s an almost indescribable elation that comes from stringing words together, from building worlds and giving life to characters, from sitting before a blank page and then filling it with nothing but your imagination.

I just felt like I needed to say that.

For all the misery and heartbreak and soul sucking excrement you have to put up with, it’s all worth it.

Words are everything. Especially when they’re yours.

Book Review – Lucifer’s Fall

Book Title: Lucifer’s Fall (Celestial Downfall, Vol 0)
Author: AJ Flowers
Format: Kindle
Published: 2017

 

So, this is a short story that goes along with the Celestial Downfall (I think) series by AJ Flowers.  I have never read the series, but the book popped up in an email about free ebooks and I saw it was a short story, so I decided to give it a go and jumped in blindly.

The story starts with an angel speaking.  “Another malformed embryo.”  Angels, apparently, hatch from eggs.  These angels are tasked with checking the eggs for imperfections.

This is a short story.  Really short.  So I don’t want to go any more into the story because I don’t want to give it away.  But I loved this.  It showed Lucifer in a light that we don’t normally see him.

And I want to read the whole series, which is the point of short tie in stories.

I will say this.  The short is really short, and 75% of the e-download is actually chapter one for one of her other books, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide how much money it’s worth.  I got it free and it was worth reading it.

A solid 4/5.

Book Review: Where We Belong

Title: Where We Belong

Author: Emily Giffin

Format: Paperback

Published: 2012

 

I stumbled across this book at a consignment shop and the brief description on the book jacket immediately peaked my interest.  I am so glad that I picked this book up.  The one thing that I cannot believe is how this book was not made into a big, glamorous Hollywood movie!

This book is told by 2 people, Marian Caldwell, successful television producer living in glitzy Manhattan, and Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl who is graduating high school from a small Midwestern town in Missouri.  It alternates them telling the story so we can see things from both perspectives.  A few times I would have to recheck the name at the start of the chapter but it is easy to follow along with.

Marian Caldwell has kept a secret for eighteen long years.  One night her secret she never told anyone, except her mother, knocks on her door.  Surprise!  Marian fell pregnant during the summer after she graduated high school.  She went into hiding with the help of her mother and made the decision to place her daughter up for adoption…without ever mentioning she was pregnant to the baby’s father.

This book made me very emotional.  I cried throughout it.  I felt passion and raw emotion along the way.  As a mother, there is nothing I love more in life than my children.  Emily Giffin penned a remarkable story in which I felt all of Marian’s feelings and ached for her.  While she made the right decision, it was a very difficult decision and living through Marian and Kirby’s story I could feel it.  This book made me call my mother just to tell her I love her.

Kirby first finds her birth mother by lying to her parents and taking a Greyhound bus from Missouri to New York City.  Marian is navigating her way through a relationship she wants much more out of and now must drop this bombshell on her boyfriend (who also happens to be her boss).  Now Marian also must find the whereabouts of the man who’s heart she broke eighteen years ago when she just left.  As much as she does not want to find him or see him, she needs to do it for Kirby’s sake.

It was so interesting and fun to see the similarities between Kirby with both her birth parents and adoptive ones.  Kirby’s life almost echoes Marian’s in a certain way that she marches to the beat of her own drum.  The ending shocked me.  It left me stunned with my jaw hitting the floor.  When I reflect on how the book ends, it is the most realistic ending.  This is what makes the book so appealing, it is so real.  I found it heartwarming to see both Kirby and Marian end up where they belong.

So until a big Hollywood producers turns this into a movie or a sequel pops up, I will imagine this story past the last few words of this book.  It is hard not to!  The book also offers 23 thought provoking questions at the end for you to use in a reading group, if that is your cup of tea.

Overall this book gets a solid 4 rating from me.  It was hard not to go with a 5.  You know what, if you are a mother then this gets a 5 rating for you.  I feel that all mothers will feel this book tug a little more at their heartstrings.  I would like to note that I read this book in less than 2 days, it was that interesting.  I had to know where the story went and how it ended.  It kept my attention and I plan on reading more from Ms. Giffin.  If you come across this book you MUST read it!  I promise you will not regret it!

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