A Guest Post from Author Terri Long: “An Ode to Bloggers”

You’ll have to excuse the fact that this isn’t a usual Science/Fantasy Monday post, as it has nothing to do with science, science fiction, or fantasy.  However, I have been asked to help spread the word once more for Terri Giuliano Long, who has just released a new edited version of her novel In Leah’s Wake (which I wrote a review for the first time around here: “Disintegration: A Review of In Leah’s Wake.”

To celebrate, Terri Long is running a photo contest on her facebook page from today, Jan 23rd, through Friday, Jan 27th.  Here’s the link to that page: Terri Long’s Photo Contest.  There are two $50 Amazon gift certificates available: one for the best photograph and one for the best caption.  Entrants can take a photograph of themselves with their paperback copy of In Leah’s Wake or showing the book on their ereader or laptop, or perhaps get family members and/or pets involved!  For the really creative, why not recreate a scene from the book?

And now, please enjoy this special guest post from Terri Long herself!

An Ode to Bloggers

Last May, a month or so after I began marketing my novel, In Leah’s Wake, a former agent told me that I would never sell 500 books. A rookie, I had no idea what to expect. When I published the novel, I’d dreamed of selling a 3,000 – 5,000 books, hoping healthy sales numbers would attract the attention of an agent or traditional publishing house for my next novel.

The agent had left New York, but she’d been in the business for a long time, and her words stung. I hung up the phone, heartbroken, depressed. Had I not been in the midst of my first blog tour, I might have pulled my novel off the market that day.

Determined to see the tour through, I soldiered on.  On the tour, I met wonderful, caring people, book bloggers, whose kindness buoyed and sustained me.

Over the next few months, In Leah’s Wake appeared on hundreds of blogs. Bloggers opened their hearts and spread the word about this quiet literary novel. In August, In Leah’s Wake hit the Barnes & Noble and Amazon charts. Now, seven months after my talk with that agent, the book has been in the Amazon top 200 for over five months, and we’ve sold just shy of 80,000 copies.

Book bloggers rock! I don’t know how to say it any better. Book bloggers are the fairy godmothers and godfathers of the literary world. They invest their talent, their energy, and their time into reviewing and promoting books – and keeping dreams alive.

Even today, traditional media refuse to recognize or review indie books. In this very real sense, book bloggers are the heart and soul of the indie revolution.  Their vision, their energy, and their determination have enabled this amazing populist movement to take hold.

Today, we have the great good fortune of hearing the funny, poignant, intelligent voices of new authors from around the world – voices that, just a few years ago, might have been silenced by the gatekeepers of the old guard. These voices reach into hearts and minds, forging connections, uniting us in a community of readers and writers, searching for and finding, through words, the better part of ourselves. Because, truly, at heart, this is what reading and writing is all about.

Here’s to you, book bloggers! You are and always will be my heroes!

AUTHOR BIO

Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the award-winning novel In Leah’s Wake. Her life outside of books is devoted to her family. In her free time, she enjoys walking, traveling, and listening to music. True to her Italian-American heritage, she’s an enthusiastic cook. In an alternate reality, she might be an international food writer. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel.

Website: www.tglong.com

Blog: www.tglong.com/blog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tglong

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tglongwrites

This week, Terri and Inspired Quill Press (paperback edition), launch a newly edited edition of In Leah’s Wake. The newly edited novel features a new chapter and several new scenes, adding new connections and insights, and tightens the book, cutting 60 pages – all while maintaining the integrity of the original edition.

For more information, please visit her website: www.tglong.com/blog or any of these retailer sales. (Your local library or bookstore can also order the book through major distribution channels.)

Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/In-Leahs-Wake-ebook/dp/B0044XV7PG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1306533515&sr=8-3

Amazon Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Leahs-Wake-Terri-Giuliano-Long/dp/1456310542/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318690782&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/In-Leahs-Wake/Terri-Giuliano-Long/e/2940011264566?itm=1&USRI=In%2BLeah27s%2BWake

Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780975453391

Official Book Trailer for In Leah’s Wake:

The Farsighted Social Media Whirlwind Tour

Good morning, everyone! For those of you who celebrate, I hope you had an absolutely wonderful Christmas.  For those who don’t, I hope you had an absolutely wonderful weekend! ^_^  As some of you may remember (once the Christmas dinner coma wears off…), I have spent the last two weeks participating in blog tours for Novel Publicity.  First for In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long, and second for Scorpio Rising by Monique Domovitch.  Now it is time for the last Novel Publicity run blog tour.  This is one is extra-special because the book, Farsighted, happens to be written by the president of Novel Publicity herself, the impressive Emlyn Chand.

For today, we have an interview with Emlyn Chand herself.  On Wednesday, check back in my for review of Farsighted (which was fantastic, just to give you a small preview).  And now, without further ado:

Announcing the Farsighted Social Media Whirlwind Tour!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Farsighted 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, including lots of Amazon gift cards (up to $100 in amount) and 5 autographed copies of the book. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 30th, so you don’t miss out.

To Win the Prizes

  1. Purchase your copy of Farsighted for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  4. BONUS: If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!
  5. DOUBLE BONUS: If I receive more comments than any other blogger, *I* win $100.

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

The Featured Events include:

Monday, a guest blog on Novel Publicity! Emlyn kicks off the tour on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog by discussing her brightly burning passion for books in a guest post entitled “My journey through the pages and toward a life-long love of reading.” One commenter will win an autographed copy of Farsighted. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest! A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. An autographed copy of Farsighted is also up for grabs. The winners will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet: Looking for a fun read to round out your holiday break? The paranormal YA hit Farsighted is just 99 cents! http://ow.ly/81Dt1 #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Stay Farsighted book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Farsighted is also up for grabs. Two chances to win with just one click! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Farsighted book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Farsighted is also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Are you ready for some more fun? Take a picture of yourself with your copy of Farsighted either in paperback or on an eReading device, then post it to Emlyn Chand’s Facebook page or email a copy to author@emlynchand.com. You just way win one of three Amazon gift cards! A $100 prize will go to the photo with the most interesting setting (so put your holiday travel time to work for you). Another $50 will go the funniest photo, and one more prize of $50 will go the scariest photo—this is a paranormal YA book after all. An autographed copy of Farsighted will go to one randomly selected entrant. For more details about this contest, please visit www.emlynchand.com.

Remember, it’s all about the books!

About Farsighted: Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider. Farsighted is the winner of the 2011 Dragonfly eBook Awards. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the Author: Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Let’s get to know the author a little better through this rousing Q&A…

Q: What was it like writing from the viewpoint of a blind, teenage boy? Were there any parts of Alex’s personality/life you found hard to come up with?

A: You know, it wasn’t as hard to write blind as I initially thought it would be. It didn’t take long to begin “seeing” Alex’s world the way he does. I wrote the entire story without knowing what anyone or anything looked like (except for Alex himself). When it came time to shoot the book trailer, the directors were asking me questions about the scenes and which props they should bring, and I really, really didn’t know what to tell them!

As I got to know Alex better and better, it became easier to tune into his way of seeing things. I read books about coping with blindness in a school setting and spent a great deal of time pondering how I might behave if I couldn’t see. In the story, Alex has always been blind; he’s always known the world to be a certain way. Not everyone understands that, and they have trouble talking about it with him. I gave Alex a tendency to overcompensate. He knows who he is and what he’s capable of, and he wants the world to know it too, so sometimes he overdoes things a bit.

Q: Your cast of characters has international flavor? What’s behind that choice?

A: I don’t see why my characters all need to belong to the same culture or ethnicity. What fun is that? Culture shapes our characters in a big way, so by diversifying my cast, I was able to hit on more types of personalities and situations. Grandon is based on my hometown; it’s small and kind of boring. I couldn’t wait to escape and move on to bigger and better things. My home town was mostly Caucasian, but somehow I ended up with a very diverse set of friends even though they made up less than 1% of the student body. Fast forward a few years, and I end up marrying a man from India. He’s from New Delhi, like Simmi. I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures; I even decided to pursue my Master’s in Sociology for this very reason. I credit two early life influences for this attraction: 1) My adoration of A.C. Slater in Saved by the Bell, 2) Disney’s Aladdin being the best movie ever.

Q: What was the inspiration for Farsighted?

A: Everything started with a single image—my face in these tacky oversized sunglasses reflecting out at me from the car’s side mirror. I was daydreaming while my husband drove us across Michigan for my sister’s wedding. Something about my image really struck me in an almost horrific way. I felt the glasses made me look blind but found it so weird that there was still a clear image within them; it seemed so contradictory. At the time, my book club was reading The Odyssey, which features the blind Theban prophet, Tieresias. I started thinking about what it would be like to have non-visual visions of the future and began forming a modern Tieresias in my mind. Lo and behold, Alex Kosmitoras was born. I didn’t want him to be alone in his psychic subculture, so I found other characters with other powers to keep him company. Thank God for my poor fashion sense. 🙂

Q: What would you like readers to take away from Farsighted? Is there a different message for adults than for teens?

A: First and foremost, I hope that readers will enjoy themselves. My primary goal is to tell an interesting story that people will find entertaining and be glad they read. Secondly, I’d like to infuse contemporary Young Adult fiction with a bit more diversity and teach readers about the beauty of other cultures and other ways of life. I also hope that Farsighted is a book that leads to introspection—what would I do if put in Alex’s place? Did Alex ever have a choice or was this path his destiny? What would it be like to see the world the way he sees the world?

I like to think of anything I write as being kind of like a Disney movie, in that the primary audience will be children, but there are extra tidbits for the adults too. Farsighted has been infused with a great deal of research about runes, classic mythology, and Eastern spirituality, but you don’t need to understand any of that to be entertained by the story.

Q. There have been articles written this year about YA being too dark for teens. What are your thoughts on this?

A: I definitely agree. I want to get back to the core of the YA genre, and I attempted to do that with Farsighted. I also think that paranormal has gotten a bit too out there. One thing I hear from readers quite a bit is that the paranormal seems normal in Farsighted. They don’t question the existence of the powers, and it doesn’t seem out there like some other books of the genre do. That was important to me. I wanted my story to be run by the characters, not the fantastic elements. This is a story about Alex, not about a blind psychic.

Q: What motivated you to structure the book around the runes?

A: Remember how I said my Master’s degree is in Sociology? It’s actually Quantitative Sociology. I’m a numbers person as well as a word person. I love things to be organized just so. If you set a stack of papers in front of me; I’m going to fuss with them until they are lined up in a perfect stack. It’s just the way I am. Shaping each chapter around a rune gave the story order, which made me feel happy and comfortable. Whenever I got stuck and didn’t know what should happen next, I was able to learn more about that chapter’s rune and get the inspiration I needed to continue. The runes themselves tell a story, one that is successfully completed. I felt that boded well for Farsighted.

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: I begin with a seed of an idea and work out from there. With Farsighted, I started with Alex and created the rest of the story and characters to fit around him. Using the runes as a structural framework for this novel created an outline for me too. I’m a numbers person as well as a word person. I love things to be organized just so. If you set a stack of papers in front of me; I’m going to fuss with them until they are lined up in a perfect stack. It’s just the way I am. Shaping each chapter around a rune gave the story order, which made me feel happy and comfortable. Whenever I got stuck and didn’t know what should happen next, I was able to learn more about that chapter’s rune and get the inspiration I needed to continue. The runes themselves tell a story, one that is successfully completed. I felt that boded well for Farsighted.

Q: What do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

A: I LOVE YA—I read it, write it, love it! My favorite author is JK Rowling. The more I read, the more I realize how brilliant she is as an author. If you remove the dialogue tags from Harry Potter, you still know which character is speaking, and Rowling managed to create an intricate beautiful world without allowing her character development to suffer, which is tremendously rare. I consider her literary God. Suzanne Collins, and JD Salinger are classic faves.

My all-time favorite book is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, definitely. The novel has so many layers and entertains on so many levels. Also the characters in that novel seem more real than those from any other I’ve ever read. It’s just beautiful—that’s the only word for it.

Q: If you had to be stuck on an island for a year with three literary characters, who would they be?

A: First up, we’d obviously take Robinson Crusoe. He knows what he’s doing, and he can be the provider. I’ll also take Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games—if we get in any kind of danger, she’d be a great protector. Lastly, I’d take Ron Weasley. Ron and I can live the good life, while the other two make sure we all stay safe and well-fed. I know I would never get bored with Ron around—he’s just 24/7 entertainment.

Q: You’ve taken a risk by going with an unconventional ending. Without spoiling the story for your readers, can you tell us why you made this choice? Are you glad you did this? Do you feel it’s been successful? Why or why not?

A: Yeah, I ended with a cliffhanger, which goes against traditional publishing wisdom. But you know what? I. AM. INDIE! Being indie means taking risks and breaking the mold and, boy, am I excited to do it. The ending is kind of polarizing, people either love it or wish there was more there. The joining thread is almost everyone mentions looking forward to the next book in the series. Farsighted demands a companion, and people see that. I think it was a good decision since this is the first in the series and since I enjoy toeing the line of convention. It’s fun to shake things up.

Disintegration: A Review of In Leah’s Wake

Disintegration: A Review of In Leah’s Wake

Title: In Leah’s Wake

Author: Terri Giuliano Long

Where I Got It: free copy from the Blog Tour de Troops

Score: 4 out of 5*

To continue the Novel Publicity blog tour for In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long, here is my review.  I’ve had this book on my To-Be-Read List for awhile now.  I actually received a free ebook copy back in May as part of the Blog Tour de Troops for Memorial Day.  I finally sat down to start reading it last Friday, literally minutes after turning in my final grades and finishing the semester.

In Leah’s Wake opens with a seemingly perfect family: Zoe and Will are happily married, with rewarding careers, and two wonderful daughters.  Leah – the sixteen-year-old soccer star, and Justine — the twelve-year-old budding scientist, who also happens to be devout Catholic.  But the old saying “too good to be true,” proves real as Leah quickly spins out of control.  Tired of her family’s constant push for perfection, and with a new older boyfriend introducing her to the world of drugs, alcohol, and partying, Leah decides that it is time to turn her entire life on its head.

Soon, her rebellion becomes disintegration.  And as her parents struggle to prevent their daughter from ruining her life, the situation shakes loose deep-seated regrets, anxieties, and dissatisfactions in Zoe and Will as well.  Everything around them seems to be falling apart.  And their younger daughter Justine gets caught in the cross-fire.  Fighting to keep her family together, fighting to keep the sister she loves and admires, and fighting to be seen in the midst of a situation that has rendered her invisible, Justine slowly starts to disintegrate as well.

Throughout the novel, questions fill the text: how can this family possibly survive?  What will become of Leah?  And, even more importantly (at least to me), what will happen to Justine?  As the tagline asks: What happens when love just isn’t enough?  And that is a very good question, because sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you love someone or how much you want to save them, if they don’t want to be saved.

What I Liked:

I really enjoyed this novel.  It is a powerful drama about a family in crisis.  The title character, Leah, is a very believable teenager.  Her choices, reactions, and thoughts are convincing, and show that Terri Long’s writing is clearly grounded in a real understanding of life as a teenager (so many adults seem to forget…).  I wouldn’t say she is sympathetic exactly… some of the things she says and does, though unsurprising coming from a teenager, are so stupid I want to smack her.  Of course, this is coming from one of those teenagers who never rebelled (I was that one who never drank, smoked, got into fights, went to bad parties, or got anything less than As and Bs).

I definitely identify more with Justine, the one who has always been good, who is tempted to follow her sister into rebellion on occasion, but who is, for the most part, too afraid to do so. (I suppose you could call this novel a lesson in why that’s the right choice.)  She is the truly sympathetic character, the one you care for and worry about the most.  While I was curious to see what happened with Leah, and with the parents, it’s Justine I’m hanging around for.  I spent most of the novel terrified that she was going to end up all screwed up like the rest of them, and I needed to get to the end to find out what happened to her.

That’s not to say the parents aren’t complex, well-written characters.  For the most part, they are.  Zoe, especially, is a fascinating character with a list of faults and virtues that made for intense reading.  But I spent a lot of the book annoyed with them, just as I was annoyed with Leah.

What I Didn’t Like:

(Be prepared for a slight rant)

I’ll be honest, one of the things that is still bothering me is the father, Will, at the beginning of the novel.  His initial reaction to Leah’s boyfriend is violent, excessive, and completely out of place.  It comes out of nowhere, with (at least in my opinion) no clear motivation.  It doesn’t help that it comes in Chapter 2, before the reader has had a chance to get to know Will at all, but even based on what you later learn about his temper, this initial explosion still seems unbelievably excessive.  If Will had already known about the boyfriend and warned Leah to get rid of him, it might have made sense.  If she had had a bad history of missing curfew, etc, it might have made sense. But at the beginning, Leah has only stayed out late a couple times, this is the first time Will has met the boyfriend, he knows nothing about him and has no idea about Leah’s drinking.  It would make sense for Will to be angry, it would make sense for Will to demand to know who the boyfriend is.  It does NOT make sense for him to explode and get physically violent.

Another thing that really bugged me — and I know this is small, but it really bugged me the whole novel — is the use of the words “kid” and “dude.”  Everyone single one of the characters thinks/calls every single teenager/young adult “kid.”  And almost all teenagers use the word “dude.”  Seriously.  Okay, let’s get one thing straight.  Yes, adults often call children and teenagers and even young adults “kids.”  And yes, some teenagers use the word “dude” a lot.  But not to the exclusion of everything else.  I know it’s hard to find other words to use, but when even the teenagers call other teenagers “kid” in the narration, there’s a problem.  Leah even calls her own boyfriend “kid.”  And he’s four years older than her!  Also, not every teenager uses the word “dude.”  In fact, while that was a very common word in the 90s, it has mostly fallen by the wayside in the current decade.  Just ask my 17- and 18-year old students when I accidentally say “dude” in class.

Finally, another thing that bothered me was the amount of detail.  Now, don’t get me wrong, obviously detail is important.  Detail helps us to understand the characters, to see the setting, to get a real sense of the world the characters inhabit.  However, here the detail was often excessive and unnecessary.  Detail is most important when the readers are unfamiliar with a setting and need to really see it.  But most of us have seen a bar.  A few details are enough to give us a good idea of the bar and the people in it, and our imaginations/memories do the rest.  Paragraphs of description are unnecessary.  I cannot tell you how many sections of detail I ended up skimming over in search of the point, the dialogue, the action. It’s wonderful that the author knew so much about her characters, and could see the settings so clearly, but much of it was stuff we the readers simply didn’t need to know.

Now let me reiterate (since after that bit of a rant you may have forgotten): I really enjoyed this novel.  Yes, there were some things about it that really bugged me.  But the characters are compelling and the story is intense.  You will care about the fate of this family.  You will get angry at the stupid things they do, and you will cross your fingers that they don’t screw up next time.  You will worry about the characters (if you’re like me, you’ll mainly worry about Justine).

Buy In Leah’s Wake.  Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Read it.  I promise, you’ll enjoy it.  …And you probably won’t be as neurotic as I am about the overuse of “kid.”

Also, remember:

  1. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  2. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  3. BONUS: If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!
  4. And when you fill out your form, remember to vote for my blog to give me a chance to win $100 as well.

*Please note: I’m starting a new rating system.  Please see the new “About Book Reviews” page for an explanation.

Frustrated and Worried, A Review of Claire-Obscure by Billie Hinton

Bookworm Wednesday: Frustrated and Worried, A Review of Claire-Obscure by Billie Hinton

A couple months ago I mentioned that I had started reading one of the ebooks I had received for free through the Blog Tour de Troops event back in May.  This book was Claire-Obscure by Billie Hinton, and I said that I would no doubt have a new book review for you in a week or two.  And then… nothing.

Two months later… I have finally managed to finish Claire-Obscure and can now offer up the book review I promised all those weeks ago.

There were two factors that caused me to take so long finishing this book.  The first is, obviously, that it’s the middle of my first semester of my PhD coursework, and both time and energy are at an all-time premium right now.  So it’s really no wonder that it took me so long.  However, I actually started reading this book two weeks before the semester started, and I have read longer books in less time than that before.  So the real problem was that this book was very difficult for me to read.  This is not to say it’s a bad book, because it’s not.  But before I explain, let me give you a brief summary.

Claire-Obscure is about a young woman named Claire Caviness.  It is written in first-person present tense, and the opening lines, in Claire’s words, give you a good sense of her: “Dear Virginia Woolf, My name is Claire Caviness.  I am twenty-one years old, with an English degree and a job at a bookstore.  I am the only child of parents I rarely see.  My mother has never hugged me.  My father takes pleasure with men.  I am no longer angry about that, but jealous, because he does something I cannot.”  Yes, Claire writes letters to Virginia Woolf, telling the story of her life.  She collects words as if she is desperately seeking the right word to make everything better (and accordingly, a word and it’s definition open each chapter).  She buys and wears eccentric vintage clothes. We also quickly learn that as a teenager Claire was raped not once, but twice, and this is (unsurprisingly) the deciding factor in her relationships with men.

And as the book opens, she meets a man at an art gallery named Finn Weston.  Quickly, more quickly than seems possible (to her or the readers), she moves in with Finn, fancies herself in love with him, and becomes increasingly obsessed with him as she realizes he will not sleep with her.  He has gone so far as to give her her own room in his apartment, and he locks his bedroom door at night.  From here, things get more and more strange.  One of Claire’s friends kills herself, her female boss at the bookstore comes on to her, and she meets another man named Raoul at a club, who quickly places himself Finn’s rival.

Put simply, this book is the portrait of a woman in crisis.

What made it difficult for me to read, especially in the first half of the novel, is that I was continuously frustrated by Claire’s actions and choices.  I understood that the things she did were in a variety of ways reflections of the immense damage done to her, but that didn’t make me any less frustrated.  I wanted so badly to grab her by the shoulders, shake her really hard, and explain to her exactly WHAT she was doing, WHY she was doing it, and why it was the WRONG thing to do.  Because most of the time, she really didn’t know.  And because I am always extremely hyper-self-aware, I sometimes have difficulty staying calm when others aren’t.  So, every twenty minutes or so, I would get frustrated, growl at my Kindle, and toss it on the bed.  Then after a couple hours of this back and forth, I would give up entirely and not read again for a couple days.  Which meant it was going to take quite awhile to get through the whole novel.

What I want you to take away from this, however, is NOT that this is a bad book.  Rather, the fact that I was able to be so painfully frustrated with this character, should tell you something about how real Billie Hinton was able to make Claire.  I felt for her, I didn’t want to see her get hurt, and I didn’t want to see her do stupid things.  I was worried about her.  I wanted to jump into the novel and be the one friend who could figure out how to stop her and help her.

The two main male characters, Finn and Raoul, were also interesting, fleshed-out, and complicated characters.  But most of the time, I didn’t want to help them, I just wanted to smack them.  Hard.  If I tell you why, that will be giving too much away.  If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.

So, the characters are real and human and interesting.  The story, slow in parts, frustrating in others, and pretty intense towards the end, probably would not have kept me going if I wasn’t so invested in making sure Claire ended up some place better than where she started out (though, toward the middle, I was beginning to worry that I was reading a tragedy and hadn’t been warned).  It sort of felt like walking someone home because you want to make sure they get there in one piece.  The ending, while not precisely “happy” in the traditional “and she lived happily ever after” sense, was satisfying.  And I felt it was safe enough to leave Claire at her front door, about to go inside.

There is, as I discovered at the end of the book, a sequel called Signs That Might Be Omens.  But I’ll be honest, as much as I ended up liking Claire-Obscure in the end, I’m not sure I’ll pick up the sequel.  The ending of Claire-Obscure seemed complete enough, and I don’t feel a sequel is necessary.  And the short description of the sequel sounds a little like something a fan-writer would do when they felt the girl didn’t end up with the right guy at the end of the book.  I have no doubt this is a gross overgeneralization and is probably not fair to the sequel, and maybe I’ll give in and read it eventually, but it just seems unnecessary to me.

If you’ve read Claire-Obscure, what do you think of my review? Fair, or not?  If you’ve read the sequel, PLEASE tell me what you think!  And if you haven’t read either, and you’re not sure what my final verdict is from this: Yes, I definitely recommend Claire-Obscure, and you can find it here, on Smashwords.

A Book Review of Red by Kait Nolan

Bookworm Wednesday: Book Review of Red by Kait Nolan

Kait Nolan, the indie author known for her paranormal romance/urban fantasy novellas Forsaken by Shadow (see my review of Forsaken By Shadow) and Devil’s Eye, has written a YA fantasy/paranormal romance called Red.  And we are all grateful that she decided to branch out.

Perhaps you can guess from the title, though possibly not, that Red is inspired by the old folktale Red Riding Hood.  The novel has been advertised with two different taglines: “Every fairy tale has a dark side…” (true, but not especially enlightening,” and “Once upon a time Red Riding Hood fell in love with the wolf.  It ended badly.”  Now that is a tagline you can sink your teeth into, yes?

This novel follows the story (part romance, part coming-of-age) of Elodie Rose (and I love that name by the way), the latest in a long line of women descended from the girl who inspired the Red Riding Hood tale.  A curse haunts the matrilineal descendants, leading to madness and death for every successive generation.  But, having reach the age of 17 safely, Elodie begins to hope she has escaped the curse.  Until she suddenly begins to experience symptoms that mark the change, and she must admit to herself that she is becoming a werewolf.

Enter Sawyer, a young man with a temper, a protective streak a mile wide, and a troubled past.  Sawyer, like Elodie, is not all that he seems.  The two become fast friends, finding in each other a stability they have been unable to find elsewhere.  Yet, just as it seems the two might become something more than simple friends, a hunter whose family has hunted Elodie’s line through the centuries appears to take her life.

Thrown into mortal danger, with only Sawyer by her side, Elodie must herself become the hunter in order to fight for her right to live.  If she is to survive she must learn to trust herself and her strength, and accept the wolf as an integral part of who she is.

Having previously read and enjoyed Forsaken by Shadow (and already loving the concept of reimagining fairy tales) I approached this novel expecting to like it.  However, I have (of late) begun to lose my taste for YA fantasy/paranormal romance, in large part due to Twilight and its many mimics, so I was also a little apprehensive.  I need not have worried, however.

Kait Nolan takes a very old tale and turns into something fresh and entertaining.  Elodie and Sawyer are both complex, interesting, and likeable characters.  Sawyer is a great character angry and a little brooding, fiercely protective, smart, and sweet, who despite his best intetions makes more than a few mistakes.  But the true bright spot, and rightly so, is Elodie herself.  She is intelligent and resourceful perhaps a little moreso than is common in most 17-year-old girls, but Kait Nolan does a good job demonstrating why she is not your typical 17-year-old girl.  Elodie is torn between her desire for a normal life, and her determination that she would take her own life before hurting anyone.  And Kait Nolan is careful in presenting this angst in a way that is believable for a teenage girl with a lot on her shoulders without succumbing to melodrama.

I will admit that the whole romantic concept of instantaneous attraction, of that “they touched and suddenly all was right with the world” idea, gets a little old.  It seems like the romantic elements in many YA fantasy tend be very similar and predictable.  It’s a complaint I file against the whole genre and the expectations that most readers have for the genre.  However, Kait Nolan does frame this concept nicely within the context of werewolf behavior, which helps alleviate some of the predictability.  And overall the romance evolves in a believable fashion, if somewhat quickly due to the time constraints of the plot.

All in all, Red is a very entertaining novel with good pacing and great characters that fans of YA fantasy/paranormal romance should definitely add to their reading list.