Review: Starers by Nathan Robinson

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By Lisa | Filed in Book Review, Horror | No comments yet.

Starers_Nathan_RobinsonThis one is from my personal library, recommended by someone on my Bookapalooza thread, and let me tell you: Starers by Nathan Robinson is one seriously creepy book! A little horror, a little family drama, maybe a little religion – and a lot of creepy suspense. This was a great one-sitting read.

Dylan Keene is heading home from a night at the pub, his deadbeat brother in tow. Standing at the bus stop across the street from the house is an old man. Dylan doesn’t give him much thought – but he’s still there the following morning. Even more disturbing is the fact that he’s not alone, there are other people out there, staring at the Keene household.

And it doesn’t stop. As the day wears on, more and more people gather to stare at them, leaving Dylan, his wife, Kirsty, his daughter, Lucy, and his brother, Lennon. The Starers don’t react to anything. They are in various stages of dress (and undress). There are accidents, but they don’t move. They don’t eat, they don’t sit down, they don’t even blink – they just stare at the Keene’s house…and every time they look outside, there are more of them.

Creepy enough for you? Honestly, the thought of being locked in the house with my family is bad enough, but creepy staring people on the lawn? No thanks!

There are a few issues with this one. It could use a bit of editing, I think – I found some of the phrasing awkward and grammar issues make me grit my teeth. Still, I had great fun with it, trying to guess what the ending would be. One of the best things about getting books for my Kindle is that for very little money, I can pick up some really cool books – this is definitely one of them.

My copy of Starersis from my personal library.

Teaser Tuesday

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By Lisa | Filed in Teaser Tuesdays | No comments yet.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. You know the rules: grab your current read, open to a random page and share a two sentence teaser with us (no spoilers!). Be sure to tell us about the book, so we can add it to our TBR list!

This week, my teaser is from The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie:

“But this, this was just between Andy and the guitar, and there was a grace and confidence to his playing that took her breath away. She felt, as she listened and watched him, that she knew him in a way that she had never known anyone else.”

It’s a murder mystery, but that passage really spoke to me.

 

Quotables

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By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

“While we are reading, we are all Don Quixote.”

Mason Colley, American aphorist

One of the great things about reading is the way that it lets us live other lives and play other roles.

Teaser Tuesday

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | No comments yet.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. You know the rules: grab your current read, open to a random page and share a two sentence teaser with us (no spoilers!). Be sure to tell us about the book, so we can add it to our TBR list!

This week, my teaser is from William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back:

LUKE:    Darth Vader: legendary is his pow’r.
But Master, hath the dark side greater strength?

Review: Vintage by Susan Gloss

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By Lisa | Filed in Book Review, Chick Lit | One comment

VintageHC-C-1-e1386603710842I don’t generally review a lot of women’s lit, but the story behind Vintage  by Susan Gloss really spoke to me. I love the idea that items in a thrift store all have stories behind them! Someone wore the dress you’re trying on, the shoes, the wedding gown; someone sat at the table or read the books. Were those happy times? Did a beloved grandchild play with that teddy bear? I find it infinitely fascinating. In Vintage we meet some of the people behind those stories.

There are three women at the heart of the story. Violet Turner owns Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin. Violet has always been a little out of step with her peers;  even in high school she had a retro style. She’s built this business – the perfect location, carefully selected vintage items, a growing clientele – and now she may lose it.

April is 18, an orphan, and pregnant. She bought a wedding dress at Hourglass — and returned it almost immediately. Amithi is still reeling from a terrible betrayal when she brings Violet a stack of beautiful Indian garments. While Violet navigates the turbulent waters of a new romance, the three women hatch a plan to save Hourglass, and maybe themselves along with it.

Okay, it’s definitely chick lit, but I don’t say that as a bad thing. It’s about women, about women on their own, making their own way without a man. Yes, there’s some romance, but it is really about three women who are (or are becoming) self-reliant. They can’t deal with the men in the story until they have their own lives under control – that was a theme that definitely appealed to me. Although I was a little disappointed in one big decision in the book, for the most part these women dig in their heels and refuse to be pushed around.

I really enjoyed Vintage, and I think it will make a great summer read. Telling the story with the items in the shop was a clever way to tie old stories in with new ones, and it really played to my love of thrift store finds and their imagined histories. My copy of Vintage was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge. Sadly, it has disappeared from my Kindle (those blasted self-deleting ARCs!), but you can pre-order yours on Amazon, or pick it up at your favorite bookstore on March 25th.

For more on Susan Gloss and her work, visit her website. For more on other new releases from William Morrow, check out their website.

Quotables

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By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

“Sometimes, reading a blog, which I do infrequently, I see that generations of Americans have been wilfully crippled, and can no longer spell or write a sentence.”

Alice Walker, author and activist

A friend of mine jokes that I’m the only person she knows who uses semi colons in text messages. I agree that text speak is damaging our language, but it started long before iPhones. There are different ways to communicate and a lot of young people have been kind of cut off from more formal kinds of communication. I think it has opened a divide between younger and older adults.

New on the Shelves…

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | 2 comments

aboveI don’t think this is one that I requested, but it sounds fascinating. I can’t wait to get a chance to dig into Above by Isla Morley:

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.

Above is a riveting tale of resilience in which “stunning” (Daily Beast) new literary voice Isla Morley compels us to imagine what we would do if everything we had ever known was taken away. Like the bestselling authors of Room and The Lovely Bones before her, Morley explores the unthinkable with haunting detail and tenderly depicts our boundless capacity for hope.

Perfiditas - Front Cover_intermedJust about a year ago, I hosted a guest post from Alison Morton, author of Inceptio. Now the second book in the series, Perfiditas, is on the shelves at your local bookstore, so I thought it would be good to have it on the Shelves here!

First, a little about the new novel, the second in the Roma Nova series:

Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d’etat thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country. 

Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova, and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…    
And now, a little from Alison Morton about the challenges of writing historical fiction…
——————————————————

Reaching back into the past to write the alternative present

Thank you so much for asking me back, Lisa. In my previous post, I outlined the concept of alternating reality where the line of history changed in the past to make our present different. This time I want to be more “hands on”.

Like any straight historical fiction, alternate history stories need good research behind them. Well, unless you are writing a ”rule of cool” no-holds-barred, fantasy story like the film “Inglourious Basterds” which is fun, but not exactly historically logical!

Once you have decided on the point of divergence in the past, I.e. where history as we know it (our timeline, or OTL) splits and an alternative line emerges (alternative timeline, or ATL), you need to research that divergence point so that you have a firm basis for taking your story forward. If you don’t know where you start from, you run the risk of the dreaded credibility gap.

As writers, our job is to make things up, but readers get so much more out of a book if they know the author has done that job properly. Alternative history is imagined, but should follow “da rulz”. So what are they?

1. Identify the point of divergence and make it logical. It doesn’t have to be a grand event or have a grand cause. In history, there are many hair’s breath events caused by, for instance, weather, e.g. Washington’s crossing the Delaware River in 1776. On 26 December, the weather became progressively worse, turning from drizzle to rain to sleet and snow, plus very strong winds and floating ice in the river. Just suppose the blizzard had intensified, throwing all those boats and troops to their death in the freezing river…

My books are set in Roma Nova in the 21st century, but the country’s origin stretches back to a divergence point in AD 395 when the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius issued the final edict banning all pagan religions. Religious persecution often changes history: Protestant Huguenots were thrown out of France which caused the collapse of the French silk and weaving industries and destruction of a prosperous mercantile and professional class from which the French economy took years to recover.

2. Research the divergence point thoroughly. Find sources, buy books, visit places, museums, conferences and ask questions. Check you have the correct clothing, food, armour, currency etc. for the time you are writing about. The Roman civilisation lasted over 1,200 years; things were significantly different in AD 395 from how they had been in 100BC. Serstertii, the archetypal silver Roman coin, had disappeared by AD 395 and the gold solidus served as the standard unit, so my 21st century Roma Novans use solidi.

3. Reinforce the divergence point story to anchor the time you are writing about. People often refer back to their country’s foundation story and Roma Novans are no different and often quote the courage of how over four hundred Romans loyal to the old gods trekked north out of Italy to find refuge in the semi-mountainous area near modern day Austria.

4. Use elements from the historic record carefully, but not fearfully. In my books, the hero is kind of spy/special forces operative, so I reached back into history and plucked the Praetorian Guard forward more than thousand years into the 21st century. Not only does this build on the thoughts of toughness, a dash of ruthlessness and a sense of duty and glamour that we may already have about them, it uses their historic name to anchor them as archetype Romans guarding the ruler and the state. I’m aware they became corrupt in real history, but as in straight history, in alternative history you can bend the rules a little.

5. Think through the setting that has formed your characters. No country can survive without a functioning government, an economic, social and political system, food, law and order and income. You don’t need to mention these as such, unless it impacts on the plot, but you need to have it all worked out in your head, or in a notebook or a file on your hard disk or in the cloud.

How do people make their living? How are they educated? What kind of industry is there? Is the government representative? Are laws authoritarian, permissive or strict? What is the food like? Are there markets, little shops, big chains? What does the money look like?

One big thing to think through apart from its history is what your alternative world looks like. If it’s a country we already know, has transport developed beyond the horse and cart to steam trains or electric trains? Is it safe to travel from one town to another? If it’s an imaginary country, are there mountains, seas and rivers? What’s growing in the fields, does the countryside consist of plains, valleys or mountains?

And two general writing tips…

6. Ensure your story is essentially gripping and page-turning whatever its setting. Creating an exotic world will not save a weak story however original and detailed you make it. Can you grab the bones out of it, e.g. trap – conspiracy –on the run – confronts bad guy, and see if it would work in another genre?

7. Make sure your characters live naturally within their world. You have to get the essence and detail across to the reader without any info dumps. No reader wants a detailed history lesson in the middle of an action scene. Pare these to a minimum, just enough to take the narrative forward. Imagine explaining somebody’s entire life story to your best friend when you’re relaxing over a drink. All your friend wants are the bare facts of what that person has been doing to cause you to mention them.

Now you’re armed with these tips, why not try alternating time yourself?IMG_3906_face2

Best wishes,
Alison

www.alison-morton.com   @alison_morton

Teaser Tuesday

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By Lisa | Filed in Teaser Tuesdays | No comments yet.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. You know the rules: grab your current read, open to a random page and share a two sentence teaser with us (no spoilers!). Be sure to tell us about the book, so we can add it to our TBR list!

This week, my teaser is from The $ by Anne Thompson. This is a quote from Amy Miles, CEO of Regal Entertainment Group:

“‘What is the impact on our business if the consumer has the perception that films go to the home on an accelerated basis? It’s not just that we generate the revenue over a time period, but if the consumer understands that they have to wait to see a film in the home, we believe that helps out business.’”

Maybe if they didn’t charge $37 for popcorn and soda and I didn’t have to put up with teenagers on their cellphones, I’d be more likely to see things at the theater!

New on the Shelves…

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

broken glassIt’s been almost 2 years since I reviewed Deborah Crombie’s No Mark Upon Her. I really liked the dynamic between the key characters, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, so I am really looking forward to reading another book in this series, The Sound of Broken Glass:

Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are on the case in Deborah Crombie’s The Sound of Broken Glass, a captivating mystery that blends a murder from the past with a powerful danger in the present.

In the past. . .home to the tragically destroyed Great Exhibition, a solitary thirteen-year-old boy meets his next-door neighbor, a recently widowed young teacher hoping to make a new start in the tight-knit South London community. Drawn together by loneliness, the unlikely pair forms a deep connection that ends in a shattering act of betrayal.

In the present. . .On a cold January morning in London, Detective Inspector Gemma James is back on the job while her husband, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, is at home caring for their three-year-old foster daughter. Assigned to lead a Murder Investigation Team in South London, she’s assisted by her trusted colleague, newly promoted Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Their first case: a crime scene at a seedy hotel in Crystal Palace. The victim: a well-respected barrister, found naked, trussed, and apparently strangled. Is it an unsavory accident or murder? In either case, he was not alone, and Gemma’s team must find his companion—a search that takes them into unexpected corners and forces them to contemplate unsettling truths about the weaknesses and passions that lead to murder. Ultimately, they will question everything they think they know about their world and those they trust most.