Thursday, April 27, 2017

Humanity's Hope by Pembroke Sinclair

Title: Humanity's Hope
Author: Pembroke Sinclair
Publisher: Stitched Smile Publications

[I love the tagline, because in what YA novel does the fate of the world not rest in the hands of a teenager?]


What Goodreads has to say:

Caleb, a 17-year-old boy, survived the zombie uprising, but he didn’t come out of the ordeal unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm keeps trying to creep back into his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.


*Trigger warning: attempted suicide




What I have to say:

There are A LOT of zombie novels out there (I even wrote one myself once). If you're a fan of the undead, you've probably picked up at least a few zombie books that turned out to be very disappointing.

Humanity's Hope is not one of those books.

This young adult zombie thriller is intense in exactly the right ways, keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way through, and is just what you're looking for in a zombie book.

Caleb, the protagonist, is an interesting, multi-layered character. He's competent (read: kick-butt) but also deeply unstable. The delving into Caleb's psychology makes the story that much more absorbing and gripping. I was just as eager to find out what happened in Caleb's past as I was to discover who's targeting him in the present day. 

The supporting characters are equally interesting. Each of them seemed to have their own backstory, and in some cases we didn't get the whole thing: just hints of it. I love that. It made them more compelling somehow, maybe because the reader is left to imagine the rest, and one of the first rules of storytelling is that events are usually more awesome in our imagination than they are when the author spells them out for us in great detail.

Sinclair is a good storyteller in more ways than one. The intensity in this book is real. At various points in the story, Caleb finds himself running from the police, eluding the government, hiding out in a zombie ghetto, and having an all out battle with - let's be honest - just about everyone, The plot moves fast and is not for the faint-hearted, as you're going to be holding your breath along with Caleb while he hides in plain sight and comes increasingly close to being discovered (or killed).

Can I talk about the ending now? Without giving anything away, the last few pages involve a pretty crazy twist - like flip your brain upside down and slam dunk it in a swimming pool of exploding lemons kind of crazy twist.

This image accurately sums up what the end of the book was like:



You're getting close to the end of the book - like so close there's approximately two pages left - and you're like "This can't possibly get resolved... noooooo!" And then it's just over.

At first I thought, "Well that was stupid."

Then I thought about it, and then I thought about it some more, and now I'm thinking, "That was awesome."

The ending felt abrupt at first, but then I realized it was the perfect note to end on. I don't know if there's going to be a sequel or not, but either way, it's kind of cool because the book has been this roller coaster and then it's just over all of a sudden. It worked.

Also, kudos to the author for getting zombies and pizza in the same book. I appreciate it.

Rating:



Anyone out there have a favorite zombie book? Or a favorite pizza? Or a favorite zombie pizza? Comments?




Until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Guest post by Peter Gray, author of Telemachus



Hey everyone, today you get to hear from a real author on this blog. I mean, I guess Anna and I are authors in that we co-author The Wood Between the Worlds, but today you get to hear from an author who actually has a book published. 

Peter Gray's novel Telemachus won first place in the 2016 Writer's Digest Self-Published E-book Awards, and the book has gotten great reviews. 

Here's what the author says about how this story came about:



To make a writer

by Peter Gray, author of Telemachus


Telemachus: how did it come about?

For someone who has spent a long career treating Thoroughbred horses - for everything from infertility to racing performance - the transformation to writer has been a long, unlikely and tenuous road.  

I started dabbling with a pen back in the Seventies, realized my talents weren’t exactly ripe, but doggedness convinced me to continue.  I have read a lot of fiction, but always with reservations about copying style or ideas.  It was my aim, if I was ever to succeed, to have a voice that would be distinct and not depend on anyone else’s ideas – even subconsciously. 

In the Nineties, I was approached to write some equestrian books for J A Allen, in London.  That was easy, as I was familiar with the subject matter.  But it wasn’t real writing, in my view, even if there would be a total of 12 books. 

I have a myriad of projects here I started but never managed to get an agent or publisher to read.  I took literature classes, but with a terrible determination not to be influenced by others. 

There were bits of encouragement.  An agent told me I had ‘a voice’; another could see seeds in incubation.  When my Dad died, I wrote some blank verse and they said I was a poet.  I’m not a poet.

Then Telemachus slipped into being; created in a moment of sadness, but fun.  It didn’t take long to write, perhaps longer to refine, but the story poured out and I enjoyed every moment.  I could laugh at my previously undiscovered imagination.

When finished, it was still just my bit of fun and no one else would want to read it.  Classified as ‘rubbish’ by members of my family, even my own children raised their eyebrows and tut-tutted.

I thought of putting it on Amazon, but was afraid I wouldn’t do it properly; needed an independent opinion by someone qualified who would be objective, truthful and professional about it.  But where would I find someone like that and how costly would it be? 

Then I came across a website that offered the whole package for a sum that looked inviting.  They would proof-read, edit, format, help with cover design, write blurbs, advise on marketing, place it on Amazon – all for a figure that was less than the cost of a professional edit.  I submitted a Word file on a Sunday afternoon and, incredibly, had a response within an hour.  The proposition looked ‘very promising’, they said.  

Two days later, I had a seven page free assessment that was glowing as well as comprehensive.  I sent this to two of my children and both screamed ‘fraud’.  Still, I decided to gamble and felt the book would be ready with an edit.  It was the best gamble ever; my work was published on Amazon within two months. 

The person responsible for the service had had a long career in publishing and certainly knew about books.  He has since been accused of fraud, but I owe him a debt of gratitude.  He died and was no fraudster, just a man trying to secure his family in the knowledge he was going to die – I suspect. 

It was my intention taking the book down if it got bad reviews, but, surprisingly, they were positive from the start.  People liked the quality of the writing, the intricacies of the story, the underlying mystery of it all.  But I was stunned when I got the report from the Writer’s Digest judge, which almost duplicated the publisher’s assessment and even went a bit further.  To be told ‘ – the depth of the allegory is astounding’ was unreal.  

Telling me it was ‘an achievement’ – and a winner for mainstream literary fiction - meant I had finally got to where I wanted.

Maybe I can call myself ‘a writer’ now! 


Now that you know the backstory, check out Telemachus by Peter Gray


Here's what one reader says about it: 
"The encyclopedia of useless detail" – fantastic.  I enjoy your prose, and the crafting that has clearly gone into this.  Your inner monologues are wise and astute, never boring.  The depth of the allegory is pretty astounding.  This is such a rare quality.  The parallels you draw with issues of divorce, child-rearing, leadership and community are beautifully done."



Until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Crystal Castle by John D. Ashton

Title: Crystal Castle
Author: John D. Ashton
Publication Date: October 24 2016
Number of Pages: 190
Buy: Amazon

What Goodreads has to say:

Gabriel sits by his fire awaiting the arrival of each member of his fellowship. They do not know of him nor of the epic journey that lies ahead. Brought together by forces unknown, they travel across the vast landscape of New Earth on their quest to bring to an end the evil reign of the mysterious Ruler of the Crystal Castle. During their treacherous journey, which is plagued by the cruel, dark power of the Ruler, they find friendship and love, but also suffer great loss and witness untold horrors as they move closer to the infamous Crystal Castle. Gabriel knows that this mission is his fellowship's destiny, but will they be strong enough to succeed?

What I have to say:

Crystal Castle intrigued me from the moment I read the blurb. What's not to love about a group of unlikely heroes on an epic quest to destroy evil and save the world? Reminiscent of stories like Lord of the Rings, Sword of Shannara (but I repeat myself), and Mistborn, Crystal Castle is an adventure in the mythic, archetypal sense, with relatable characters and an action-packed story-line.

The setting is New Earth: a conglomeration of desert wastelands, undead swamps, frontier towns, and rugged mountains. The landscape and world-building were probably my favorite elements of the story. Looking back, it's cool how diverse New Earth is - both in its terrain and its residents. I especially liked the western-town/steampunk-esque feel of Silvergold, one of the towns the main characters pass through on their adventures. Kind of made me think of a Dr. Who episode, which was cool.

I also appreciated how the action was realistic and easy to get caught up in (though some of the main characters were surprisingly good with guns). On the whole the action felt real and the fight sequences had a sense of urgency that worked really well. 

Overall, this is a great story, and the fact that it's a debut makes it that much more impressive. There were a couple things I would have liked to see more of, though. For one thing, while the romance elements were nice, I felt like they kind of came out of nowhere. I guess sometimes that's how it works, but I would have liked a little more buildup before some of the main characters fell madly in love with each other. 

Personally, I also would have appreciated a little more resolution at the end. There were a few questions the story raised that I felt never really got answered (unless I missed it, which is entirely possible). The book is a quick read, which makes it fun. But if the author could have fleshed out some of the story's elements a little more, I think it would have made the novel stronger and more engaging. As an author myself, though, fleshing out the story is something I struggle with, so who am I to point fingers? 

Anyway, if you're looking for a gritty adventure story with a mythic element and plenty of humorous exchanges, check out Crystal Castle.


Rating: 


Until tomorrow.