Book Review: Glimmer, an Intense Read

To deal with the challenges of looking for a job, and while enjoying summer with my kids, I’ve been reading a lot, because that’s what I do! I recently finished Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis. It’s a YA amnesia book with a beginning similar to one of the books I’ve written. It’s a somewhat disjointed but very well-written, compelling read that kept me on the edge of my seat, scratching my head, sometimes gasping for air. I’d say it’s an intense read:

What Glimmer Is About

When Marshall King and Elyse Alton suddenly wake up tangled in each other’s arms with zero memory of how they got there or even who they are, it’s the start of a long journey through their separate pasts and shared future.

Terrified by their amnesia, Marshall and Elyse make a pact to work together to find the answers that could restore their missing memories. As they piece together clues about their lives, they discover that they’re in the idyllic mountain resort town of Summer Falls. Everyone seems happy there, but as Marshall and Elyse quickly learn, darkness lurks beneath the town’s perfect facade. Not only is the town haunted by sinister ghosts, but none of its living inhabitants retain bad memories of anything—not the death of Marshall’s mom, not the hidden violence in Elyse’s family, not even the day-to-day anguish of being a high schooler.

Lonely in this world of happy zombies, Marshall and Elyse fall into an intense relationship founded on their mutual quest for truth. But the secrets they’re trying to uncover could be the death of this budding love affair—and of everyone, and everything, they love in Summer Falls.

Who Might Like Glimmer, And Why

If you like intense reads, especially if they’re told in first-person dual POV present tense, like Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars, which I reviewed here, you’ll like Glimmer. Because it follows Elyse’s and Marshall’s different but intertwining journeys to getting their memories back, and then, (spoiler alert) once they regain them, their efforts to hide them from themselves and a certain antagonist (end spoiler alert), it’s somewhat disjointed. It jumps from scene to scene for quite a while, with the only common thread being that everyone seems to collapse into what are called “heatnaps” any time anything unpleasant happens, and Elyse sees ghosts.

If you like teen romances, you’ll like this book for that aspect too. Kitanidis adeptly maneuvers her two main characters through the plot compelled by realistic and heartfelt thoughts and feelings that recognize the frailty and fear of adolescence, but also the yearning for independence and power that also comes with that stage of life.

One of the coolest, most unique features of this book is the fact that it combines paranormal elements with magic. In that respect, if you liked Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, you’ll probably like Glimmer, although the magic systems are different. And if you liked Beyond, you’ll like this book.

I bought it on Amazon, but I found it for a much better price on ThriftBooks.com for $3.79 (used).

Visually, it’s this:

via GIPHY

plus this:

via GIPHY

Nutrition Facts:

Swear words (D**, S**, F**, H**): 66

Sex scenes: 0

Positive messages (e.g., love, charity or helping others, family, value of hard work): 2-3

Positive role models: 2

Violence: not really

Mentions of drinking alcohol, drugs, or smoking: 20

Book Review: Fallen is a Mesmerizing Read

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching my husband flick through Amazon Video options when he came across a movie called Fallen.  Its premise—that a teenage girl has to go to reform school because she was blamed for (and is sure she accidentally caused) the death of a young boy,  and she finds herself drawn to a fellow student at that school, unaware that he is an angel who has loved her for thousands of years—sounded intriguing to me. Since my hubby deemed it too “chick flick” to watch, I looked it up and found that it was based on a book of the same name. So, of course, I bought the book. It was indeed a “chick” book, centered as it was upon the relationship between Luce, the girl, and Daniel, the boy, and for that reason, as well as reasons of its own, it was a very enjoyable read.

What Fallen Is About

As mentioned, it’s about Luce (pronounced like “loose”) meeting Daniel and trying to figure out why he steadfastly avoids her and is even occasionally mean to her, though she keeps finding herself in weirdly dangerous circumstances from which he has to save her. It’s about the friends she makes while there, the terror she lives with every day because of her fear that whatever she saw kill that other young boy will come back, and the fact that memories of Daniel–many memories–keep surfacing in Luce’s head.

Why Fallen Is Enjoyable…Maybe Even Addictive

After reading the book, I had to get the movie, which was only available for purchase through Amazon Video (it’s not on Netflix or Redbox). I was struck, while watching it, with how much it resembled the first Twilight movie. They shared similar themes: a teenage girl inexplicably but powerfully drawn to a very handsome teenage boy, but he does everything he can to avoid her, even though he’s drawn even more powerfully to her. The Fallen movie and the first Twilight movie also shared a similar “indie” feel, drawn from rainy surroundings, non-mainstream music, and creative-and-definitely-not-high-budget special effects. There’s also a definite love triangle going on.

The books are thus easily comparable, and in that vein, there’s much less internal dialogue in Fallen than there was in Twilight. Luce is an intriguing main character who has a refreshingly good relationship with her parents, though they don’t feature prominently in this book. She’s kind, cute, and smart.

And while Fallen doesn’t end with a cliffhanger per se, it does end with at least as many open questions as answered ones. I immediately ordered the sequel to it, and the sequel to that, and expect that I’ll get the last two books in the pentalogy after that.

Who Might Like Fallen

Obviously, anyone who liked Twilight will like this book. If you like star-crossed love stories, you will love this story. If you like books with a bit of a gothic feel, you’ll like this.

Book Reviews: Odd Thomas is Awesome, but Forever Odd Isn’t Quite

As I understand it, Dean Koontz is a prolific author who writes suspense thrillers that contain elements of the paranormal, horror, science fiction, and other genres. The Odd Thomas series, containing seven books and five novelettes, is only one of many he has written. It has a definite paranormal/horror bent, as well as a strong “literary” feel to it, being grounded more in the “odd” gift of the titular character, and the consequences of that gift, than in the pace of those consequences. It is, in my mind, an odd combination. Forever Odd is the second book in the Odd Thomas series, the first book being named Odd Thomas.

I read the first one a couple of years ago. I listened to, rather than read, Forever Odd during my commutes (yay for audiobooks!) about a year ago.   Both books follow a young man named Odd Thomas (yes, that’s actually his name) who is able to see dead people and feel a kind of “psychic magnetism” toward them or toward people that are in trouble.

The First Book: Odd Thomas is Awesome at Being Odd

Goodreads describes the first book’s plot as follows:

“A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world’s worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd’s deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15. Today is August 14.”

Sounds pretty ominous, right? It was. I highly enjoyed Koontz’s somewhat lyrical style and unique characters–his gun-toting girlfriend Stormy Llewelyn, and his morbidly obese, famous writer friend Little Ozzie–among others. I also really enjoyed the plot, which was tightly-woven, suspenseful, and intense.

The Second Book: Forever Odd Falls Flat

This second book, though, I didn’t enjoy nearly as much. This is its synopsis:

“A childhood friend of Odd’s has disappeared. The worst is feared. But as Odd applies his unique talents to the task of finding the missing person, he discovers something worse than a dead body, encounters an enemy of exceptional cunning, and spirals into a vortex of terror.”

The first half of the book is Odd’s discovery of the disappearance of his childhood friend and the brutal murder of the friend’s stepfather. He searches for his friend Danny, thinking the murderer and kidnapper is Danny’s biological father, a convict. He discovers (warning: start of a semi-spoiler) halfway through the book that the blame, in fact, lies with a different culprit, and spends the rest of the book trying to figure out how to defeat her.

It is out of this structure that my main complaint arises. The villain, Detura, is evil, sadistic, and bloodthirsty to the core. She seeks out ghosts and  the ability to see them. She revels in causing pain. In short, she is a flat character. She has no intriguing backstory, redeeming motives, or even moments of uncertainty; she’s just horrible (end semi-spoiler). This flatness, or simpleness, is a great exception to the many other utterly unique and delightful, oxymoronic and relatable, complex characters that inhabit Koontz’s books.

And, without a complex, truly interesting villain, the conflict and plot of the book fall flat. It becomes simply a struggle for Odd to keep his friend, who has brittle-bone disease (a handy plot device) and himself alive. While propped up occasionally by bursts of action as Odd fights off Detura’s henchmen, the plot mainly consists of him trying to outthink his way out of the maze of problems she creates for him.

In my ten-star system, I would only give this one a four.

Book Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, a Pleasant Read

Some books are wild rides. Others are mountain treks, difficult but well worth it for the beauty and exercise. Others are walks in the park on cool summer evenings, where the sound of children laughing on swing sets and the breeze caressing the back of your neck makes you forget all your cares. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance: A Novel by Ruth Emmie Lang is one of those walks. It’s such a relaxing read that it borders on boring, but it’s pleasant nonetheless.

What Beasts is About

Weylyn Grey is an orphan boy raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin. He’s not like other people. But one day he single-handedly stops a tornado that threatens the family that takes him in, and he and they realize just how different he actually is. Weylyn’s story as he grows from boy to man is told from from the perspectives of nine different people, seven of whom knew him, one that only heard about him, and from Weylyn himself…for one chapter. It’s less about his powers, which he’s very uncomfortable with, and more about how other people perceive him before and after they surmise that he has unusual abilities but doesn’t want to use them, for good or bad.

What I Thought of Beasts

If I had to give this book a genre, I’d say it’s adult literary paranormal or fantasy. It’s A Man Called Ove meets Twilight. If you like that genre or either of those books, you’ll probably like this one. It’s prose is like soft grass under your feet, the kind that’s slightly cool to the touch and doesn’t contain a sprig of crab grass anywhere.

I’ve admitted before that I can be somewhat impatient when it comes to plot development. In fact, I think my exact words were “I’m an adrenaline junkie.” So, when I say that a book might be boring, you have to keep that in mind. As Beast’s plot moseys back and forth from present day to Weylyn’s growing-up years, and from one character’s point of view to another, one can almost hear the laughs of the children on the swing sets at the park fading and growing louder, then fading and growing louder again, as they swing back and forth.

And the fact that it’s told from so many points of view—which can be quite disorienting, I must say—means you get to know Weylyn only by the reflections made by other characters about him, as if they were all holding up mirrors pointed at him, encircling him metaphorically, and we as readers are standing in the circle right next to Weylyn unable to perceive him directly. This is what’s called a literary foil, and it’s an interesting, artistic technique. If you enjoy books that are more about getting to know the characters than about finding out what they do or what happens to them, you’ll like Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance.

It will release on November 7, 2017.

Stars? Six out of ten.

Visual? Strolling through a park (couldn’t find).

Nutrition facts? A few “grams” of swearing, no violence, no sex.

 

Beyond, by Haverlock and Larkin: a Spirited Read

As part of the festivities of the Storymakers writers’ conference that I went to this past May, I attended a mass book selling and signing event. It was awesome! One of the many books I picked up there was Beyond by Catina Haverlock and Angela Larkin. It had a great premise (“Presley Hale has no idea the guy she just told off in the school parking lot died…four months ago. Stunned by Presley’s sixth sense, Landon Blackwood rethinks his planned departure.”) It sounded like a mixture of Ghost (that ’90s movie with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore) and Sixth Sense (of course), only from a young adult perspective. Then, I was contacted separately by the authors, who follow HeadOverBooks, offered a free copy of the book, and asked to review it, none of us realizing that we’d met each other at Storymakers and I already had a copy of the book. Long story short…today, I offer that promised review of Beyond, along with a free copy (ebook or paperback) to one of my lucky followers!

So read on…

What Beyond is About

If it were just the mystery of why Presley can see Landon, even though he’s dead, there would have been sufficient intrigue. Add to that, though, the fact that a romance develops—more than one, in fact—and the urgency of evading other ghosts insistent on taking Landon’s “passage,” and you have a dynamic, spirited plot. Yes, she can see him, but she’s also best friends with Landon’s twin sister, who is still very much grieving his death but can’t see him, and a love interest of Landon’s cousin, who can’t see him either nor understand why Presley won’t give her whole heart to him. Add to that the backstories and actions of the various side characters and you have a potent recipe for action and emotion.

What I Thought of Beyond

All in all, I thought this was an excellent read. If not for a very few editorial glitches, awkward or nonexistent transitions, and sparse setting descriptions, I would give it a perfect 10. There were enough that a non-editor regular reader of the book might notice them too, but probably not.  In the face of otherwise very strong writing, as in this passage:

Like the last tremulous leaf clinging to a tree upon winter’s approach, my will to fight detached and floated down and away to a place I couldn’t seem to call it back from.

and fantastic pacing, multi-dimensional characters, and a relatively fast-moving plot, I dare say I loved it. If you enjoy books with intrigue, emotion, and romance, and without sex, profanity, or violence, you’ll enjoy Beyond.

Gif?    

via GIPHY

Nutrition facts? As mentioned, no sex, profanity, or violence. The description of Landon’s death involves the drinking of alcohol. There were some good examples of familial loyalty (Presley’s brother has autism and she is his primary caregiver) and selflessness.

To get a free copy of Beyond (either as an ebook (.mobi) or paperback, signed by Catina and Angela [although addressed to me]), subscribe to receive post notifications on my main page or follow me on Twitter. I’ll pick a random winner on July 30th and announce it on Twitter that same day! You can also enter to win a copy on Goodreads here.