Monday, March 26, 2012

Musing Mondays: Antarctica and Books

Have you ever found a book out of the blue, read it, and then had it be surprisingly good — one that stuck with you for years? If so, what book was it?

Yes. Here is the book, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Goodreads Summary:
As a child, Kathy–now thirty-one years old–lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory. 

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now. 

Here is how I found it out of the blue:
I was on a ship in the Southern Ocean on the way to Antarctica. At first is was awesome to stand outside in the cold and watch the icebergs go by. Once the novelty wore off though, I decided to go inside and warm up. I didn't know anyone in the lounge so I want to the ship's bookshelf and grabbed a book at random off the bookshelf to read. It was Never Let Me Go. I didn't know anything about it, but I started reading it anyway. And I was instantly hooked. I read the book over two days in which my friends kept making fun of me for missing the scenery. This book remains one of my top five favorite books of all time. And my favorite stand alone book ever. The ideas and plot still haunt me to this day. I really need to buy myself a copy so I can read it again.

Out of Deception (Book Review)

Title: Out of Deception: The True Story of an Amish Youth Entangled in the Web of a Cult
Author: Nathan Miller
Publisher: Bookmasters
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:
The unbelievable but true story of how Wil Hochstetler, a young, innocent Amish teen and his family, were unwittingly lured into the clutches of a smooth-talking cult leader. Wil's family was searching for something deeper, and what seemed at first like fresh water for a thirsty heart soon turned bitter and poisonous. By the grace of God, Wil's devotion to his leader slowly turned to doubt. Finally, sick and tired of being manipulated, controlled, abused, molested, and deceived, Wil made his break and escaped his leader's grasp-or so he thought. This is a disturbing story of Satan's gross deceptions and a beautiful story of the power of God's grace and deliverance. 

Out of Deception is an amazing book about an even more amazing true story of a young boy who gets caught up in a cult. They story is so well written that you can easily understand exactly why good people fell into a cult. And even more wonderful is the road to redemption away from the cult. This book will make you think about your faith and your loyalty to God. You do not need to be Amish for this book to lead toward a better path and the Bible.
It truly is an unbelievably true story that's scary, horrific, and uplifting all at the same time.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gift Card Giveaway!

Reading Romances is about to celebrate its blogiversary and I'm helping her celebrate by giving away a $40 gift card to Amazon, so you pick up a new good book and sit back with a glass of  wine and read it to join in on the party.
Make sure you click on the link above to see all the other giveaways in the hop and prepare for the blogiversary party with giveaways every hour.

The Hunger Games (Movie Review)

There will be SPOILERS in this review.

Title: The Hunger Games
Series: The Hunger Games

IMDB Summary:
In a not-too-distant future, North America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss' young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. 

I am normally a horrible person to take to a book-to-movie adaptation because I am that person that will pick it to pieces. I will find everything wasn't done in the spirit of the character and every plot point that is missed. I tell you this so that you can understand that magnitude of me saying that I really liked this movie. I was not a big fan of Haymitch. He was not drunk enough and too helpful, but I can see why they would have to change that otherwise the strategising that Katniss does in her head would have been completely lost in the movie.
The only thing that really bothered me with the movie is the cannon. Sometimes is went off when a tribute died and sometimes it didn't. That weird change ruined Rue's death scene for me a little, although the scene was otherwise fantastic.
Overall, I think this movie really did the book justice. I couldn't be happier about that.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hunger Games anyone?

I'll be posting my review of the movie on here tomorrow. But for now I just wanted to share with you a music video that every Hunger Games fan should watch.

The Philosophical Practitioner (Book Review)

Title: The Philosophical Practitioner
Author: Larry Abrams
Publisher: Telemachus Press
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:
Eric is a philosophical practitioner, a new profession that emphasizes reason without slighting emotions. He has little money, a cat, confused clients, and an old girlfriend, now rich and famous, who wants to get back together with him. Meanwhile, a woman he's never seen before is trying to kill him. 

My Thoughts:
The Philosophical Practitioner is at the same time, a fast paced psychological thriller and a thought-provoking discussion about the philosophical meaning of life. The two are blended together so well that this novel does an amazing job of keeping you hooked and making you think.
I read the majority of this book in one sitting because I just could not put it down, it was that good. It makes you think and it entertains in such well-written way. I don't think I have been so wonderfully surprised by a book in a long time.
This book is definitely going on my list of favorite books of all time and I would most definitely recommend to anyone who is looking for a great read.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Death By Chocolate (Book Review)

Author: Julie Anne Lindsey
Series: Killer Confections #1
Publisher: Knight Romance Publishing
Source: from the author for review

Goodreads Summary:
Ruby Russell has reached her limit. When she discovers her hipster husband has a dirty little secret, she whips him up a Viagra-infused-chocolate mousse punishment, but in the morning, her husband’s a stiff. 

Armed with a lifetime of crime show reruns and Arsenic and Old Lace on DVD, Ruby and her best friend Charlotte try to lay low until after Ruby’s son’s wedding, but a nosy therapist, meddling minister and local news reporter are making it very difficult to get away with murder. 

Death by Chocolate is exciting and intriguing. Ruby starts off planning a relatively harmless prank on her cheating husband and ends up with many deaths at her hand. Her life is out of control but fortunately she has her best friend to help her out. This book kept me guessing right up until the end.
I found, however, that I couldn't relate to the main character at all. As she planned to murder innocent people for her own good, I felt myself viewing her as less of a person and more of a caricature of a woman who has life has gotten out of hand. I never could figure out why none of the people that knew ever turned her in. Maybe they were just as crazy as she was?
Personally, I did not like the ending either (but I won't go into that because I don't want to talk spoilers). Overall though this was a book that was fun to read and kept me interested the whole way through. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Looking for Alaska (Book Review)

Author: John Green
Publisher: Penguin Publishing
Source: Bought

Goodreads Summary:
Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps. 

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green's arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

In my review of The Fault in Our Stars, I said that it was my favorite John Green book but that I hadn't read Looking for Alaska yet. Well, I was right when I thought I might like Looking for Alaska more. In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel says, "There are books...which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feel like a betrayal." This is how I feel about Looking for Alaska except that of course, I am probably the last person in the world to have read it. But it does mean that this review feels very personal to me, and I'm not sure I can properly express how much I love this book.
The characters are amazing. They all see so real that they just pop off the page. Miles reminds me so much of myself when I first left home that its incredible John Green wrote him without ever meeting me. And Alaska is portrayed so perfectly.
I love the story, the mystery, and the quotes, but most of all I love these characters.

Rating: 5/5

Don't forget to enter my e-book giveaway!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Spirit Archer E-book Giveaway

Great Minds Think Aloud Literary Community will be publishing "The Spirit Archer" by Mike Evers, the release date is 3/16/2012. This novel will be available in all e-book format on Amazon and in print at CreateSpace.
To read more about the author and the book, check out my post here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I am in the process of revamping this blog. My personal blog is That's What She Said and my Etsy shop is That's What She Made, so I'm going to change the name of this blog to That's What She Read so it fits with the other names. I also bought a domain name so you can now find my site at Expect some changes around here as I start to put this new name into my blog. Please forgive me if things are a little messy or confusing until I get the new design done.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Release: The Spirit Archer by Mike Evers

Great Minds Think Aloud Literary Community will be publishing "The Spirit Archer" by Mike Evers, the release date is 3/16/2012. This novel will be available in all e-book format on Amazon and in print at CreateSpace.

I was born in Singapore way back in 1970, and spent my formative years in Wales after my family moved there from Australia in 1976.  I’ve since resided in numerous places, including: Sussex, Kent and Poland. After school I did a BA in History at the University of Wales, Swansea; and later, a Masters’ degree in International Conflict Analysis at the University of Kent at Canterbury.  This has given me an educational background which I have, for the most part, managed to avoid capitalizing upon - so far.

I currently live in West Yorkshire with my wife, Joanne, and son, Joseph. I spend a few days a week teaching English in a local college. This is a career I have been doing for 12 years or so, and it was in doing a certificate in education in Huddersfield that brought me to the area in 2004.

My interests are fairly varied, and include reading pretty much anything. I particularly enjoy reading historical accounts and fiction with a magical angle.  My early influences include JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Roald Dahl, Raymond Feist and David Eddings. My later influences are far too eclectic to mention, but include George Orwell, James Herriot and Michel Foucault. I also enjoy gaming (especially First Person Shooters and RPGs) on PC and PS3.

As an author I usually write Fantasy or Urban Fantasy, quite often with a twist.  My first novel, The Chaosifier, mixes fantasy, adventure, humour and philosophy in a modern day setting. For various reasons it is unavailable at the moment, but I plan to re-publish a 2nd edition in the not too distant future. My most recent work, the novella, The Spirit Archer, brings a different angle to one of the most famous characters in English legend. I have aimed these books at teens and young adults in particular – though older readers have told me they’ve enjoyed them greatly too. I enjoy working with GMTA, and really love the passion and enthusiasm they bring to the publishing process. 

Some secrets are meant to be shared; and a boy’s encounter with England’s most legendary archer will change his life forever. 
In 1237, a man journeys to a priory in Yorkshire to seek refuge and treatment for battle wounds.   He is betrayed and murdered. His final, dying act is to fire an arrow through a window, asking to be buried where it lands.
Nearly eight hundred years later, a schoolboy’s incredible discovery will lead to a friendship that will alter his life forever.
And he’ll hear some tales and secrets of England’s most legendary archer of all.

Mike Evers will have other books available in the coming months with GMTA Independent Publishing.
TWITTER: @Mike_Evers

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Doxology Tour - Interview with Brian Holers

Please enjoy this interview with Brian Holers, author of the literary novel, Doxology. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.    
 1. Why did you choose to write about characters who set out to rediscover their faiths? The characters in Doxology don’t really set out to rediscover their faiths—they simply rediscover them when everything else is lost. My two central characters, Vernon and Jody, uncle and nephew, are just living life as the story begins. Jody has a pretty good, interesting life, he has a stable job working for a nice family, he’s in love with the daughter of that family and works for the son and father. He has totally inserted himself into this family, and his life has promise. Only when he learns that his father is dying does he decide to return home, deal with things he has successfully avoided, and discover the great role faith has played in making him who he is. Vernon, conversely, is making his way through life, but just barely; the tragic loss of his son has made him a mere shell of the man he once was, and the greatest joy of his current life is his ongoing endeavor to show his disdain for God. Only when he fails in the one pitiful thing he has left, when he is broken down to absolutely nothing, is a return to faith possible. The story is entirely fabricated, without really a shred of reality, though I can recognize parts of myself in many of the characters. Particularly Jody’s girlfriend.
 2. What was the inspiration for this book? The inspiration for Doxology was the longstanding concept of “my brother’s keeper,” superimposed on the Jewish concept of “dayeinu”. Dayeinu is what Jews say during the Passover seder in contemplation of the many things God has done for us—the concept of “it would have been enough.” “If only God had led us out of the desert, dayeinu, it would have been enough. But no, God did something more.” In 2005, when I finally started writing, I worked on short stories and met twice a month with a group of other writers. When my wife and I decided to leave the country for a year, I figured, well I won’t be meeting with a writers’ group anymore, maybe I’ll just write a book. And I wrote the first several drafts of that book while we were traveling, from a smelly dive-shop hotel in Zanzibar, where I had to drag a rickety wooden table into our room and kick my wife and son out for the afternoon, to a beachfront room in Phuket, to the lobby of a YMCA hotel in Jerusalem, to a coffee shop with stale cookies in Malaysia, where my family and I helped build a Habitat for Humanity house during the day. And really that trip cemented for me the idea that anywhere you go, the stories are the same. We all care most about our families. There are so many good things God does for us.
3. What surprises did you encounter in writing Doxology? The greatest surprise I encountered when writing Doxology was the way Vernon kept trying to take over. When the story began, it was all about Jody. The problem was, Vernon’s conflict was more immediate right from the beginning—dealing with the death of his only son, his constant drinking and self-destructive behavior. He just kept taking over—maybe Jody’s struggle was so much harder to portray, since he seems to be doing pretty well in his current life, unlike Vernon. I overcame this problem by letting go—I stopped fighting it. I let Vernon take over, and then struggled to really work my way inside Jody, which took a long time. I overcame the problem by deciding the book was going to be done when it was done, and I couldn’t rush it.
4. Why did you decide to become a writer? I discovered my passion for stories at a young age—I have always been filled with stories. It took me awhile to begin to try and write them down. It also took me a few years to discover that trying to tell people the stories I imagined just made everyone think I was weird (which is a fair assessment) and that I talked too much. I’m glad it worked out this way though—if I had discovered my passion for writing at a young age, I would probably have struggled in a losing battle to make my living that way, and I’d be discouraged and burned out by now. What I discovered instead, in my twenties, is that for a guy so animated by imaginary stories, I’m surprising adept at negotiating the physical world. A dozen or so years of self employment allowed me to strip away a lot of detritus, have a lot of time alone to think. Once, a consultant I hired to help me manage my tree service told me that the world inside my head was more vivid to me than the world outside, and that’s when I decided I had to get serious about my writing.
5. What is the most effective resource you have found for writing? The only effective resource I have come across to hone my craft is time. And the best advice I received is not to rush. Even when you think you’re done the first or the first several times, put the book away for awhile and come back to it. Don’t rush. I wish I had kept track of how much time I spent on this book—I would guess between 3,000 and 4,000 hours. For one little book! But the advice goes deeper—don’t rush, make a schedule and sit there and write. Give yourself the time and then sit there and do it. If you’re like most of us and have a job, don’t try to commit too much of your day to it. Give it an hour a day, two hours, whatever. Just commit to it. It’s so much easier to come home from work, have a few drinks, go to the bar, and sit and stare at the stories in your head and say “I’m a writer.” You’re only a writer if you’re writing. As for bad advice, I am totally self taught in this craft—the only bad advice I have received is regarding publishing. A lot of people told me even a year ago not to self-publish. However, I have one thing now I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t decided to self-publish, and that is a book.
6. What is your favorite writing ritual? My favorite writing ritual is to go to my desk at night after my son goes to bed, have my wife put on her headset if she wants to watch TV or listen to music or whatever, just make it very quiet, and sit there until I really need to go to bed.
7. What do you like about writing? My favorite part of the writing process is the feeling I get each step of the way, which comes from deciding what I can do that day is good enough. Lately I’ve been writing essays. I start with jotting down notes—I write a lot by hand, I think better that way. I’ll write down in my sloppy scratch all the ideas that come to mind on a subject. Then the next session, I’ll organize all those notes, expand a bit, put them all in order. Again, all on paper. Next time I’ll write a draft, and even as I’m writing I know there will be a lot I want to change. Then I’ll print it, make changes, and write again. But I decide each step, and each draft, is good enough for what it is. My least favorite part of writing is that it’s always late and I’m always tired and have to get through it, which I do by setting short-term goals. The greatest of which is brushing my teeth and going to sleep.
8. Why did you decide to self-publish Doxology? The traditional, old-school publishing world is in total disarray, which is why writers like me have to take things into their own hands. For a lot of us, especially first time or unpublished writers, our hope to be published is simply that, hope. We look at getting a publishing contract as our best chance of being somebody. Now that I’m out here, I have a better sense of how books are sold, and I am here to tell you it is not easy. Possible, yes, but not easy. There are a zillion other forms of entertainment that require much less effort. A publisher really has to sell several thousand copies of your book before beginning to break even. And if you’re just a regular Joe like I am, and nobody’s heard of you, that’s a tall order. Then the other piece is, even if you do get published, you have to do all the work to sell the book anyway. There’s just not enough money in this equation for a publisher to do any real work for you, not until you’ve begun to prove yourself. Personally, as one with good business sense, I like this new model—there is no one between me and all my potential customers—no one saying it’s not good enough, no one saying we can release your book in 18 months.
 9. What advice do you have for aspiring authors? Advice to aspiring authors—writing may well be the hardest thing you will ever do. At one time I had tons and tons of business debt, customers calling me daily, six highly-paid guys showing up at work every day looking at me for their instructions. I paid through the nose for liability insurance, workers’ comp, and every tool imaginable. Then I waited for the guys to start calling me to say why the jobs couldn’t be done, while I drove around scrambling for more work. All of that was downright easy compared to writing books. But there’s no joy like it. And while I am normal person who has made a lot of mistakes in life, I have found that the more my life is straight, the better my art. The old concept of the tortured writer or tortured artist with various addictions only goes so far. If you want to write clear, clean prose, make yourself as good a person as you can be, and the words will flow. Keep your head up. Be entertained by your writing. Rejoice in the little things. Ultimately writing should be something you enjoy, that gives you passion. I have read that 10,000 hours pursuant to any activity is required to make one an expert, and writing is no exception.
10. What can you say about this book that we wouldn't learn from the synopsis? I am grateful to say, Doxology is a beautifully written book, filled with symbols and layers of meaning. It is so much more than I set out to write, and I am proud to say it is so much better than even I thought it would be. It’s not Dostoevsky or the Holy Bible, no, but it is a sweet, moving, inspiring little story of love, loss, and redemption. All told in a Southern accent so thick it just oozes out of the pages.   As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Doxology eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copy of Doxology for just 99 cents
  2. Fill-out the simple form on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event
Help my blog win: The tour blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card. When you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to VOTE FOR ME.
About the book: Fathers, sons and brothers reconnect over tragedy in this blue-collar Southern tale of love, loss, and the healing power of community and family. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
About the author: An arborist by day and a novelist in every moment he can steal, Brian makes up stories from the treetops. Visit Brian on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Online Book Bloggers and Publishers Converence

I am super excited to be attending this conference later this week. So I thought I would share it with you in case you are interested in attending as well. It's not to late to register! For more information and to register check out the site here. I can't wait! Let me know in the comments if you are planning to be there!

Black Cow (Book Review)

Title: Black Cow
Author: Magdalena Ball
Source: from author for review
Publisher: Bewrite Books

Goodreads Summary: 
Freya and James Archer live the high life in a luxury home in Sydney’s poshest suburb, with money, matching Jags, two beautiful teenage kids … and they couldn’t be more despondent. 
James wakes weeping each morning, dreading the pressures of a long and grueling work day ahead, and Freya is struggling with her foundering real estate career. 

Global recession is biting in Australia, and the Archers are afraid. 

In a desperate bid for happiness and security they shed the fragile trappings of success and cruise over into the slow lane to take an unmapped turn-off on a country road and live off the land in a remote old farmhouse on the peaceful southern island of Tasmania. 

But is this an end to their old misery or the beginning of an even greater one?

This book is a wonderful portrayal of a family trying to make it through the recession. But more importantly this books is an honest and amazing story of how stress can tear a family apart. From the very beginning Freya and James as well as their children feel like real people, and people that I think most of us can relate to in one way or another. Their family is far from perfect but not tragically flawed which is so important because it portrays the way a lot of families function.
Moving from Sydney to a farm in Tasmania is a major change for the whole family. But the happily ever after doesn't end there, far from it. Changing where you live doesn't make your problems go away. And so, after moving, they are forced to face the really tough issues.
The book progresses slowly which made it take me a long time to read, but I'm so glad that stuck with it because it really is an amazing story about stress.

Rating: 4/5