12 Books—Month 7

Yes, I’m playing catch up. Since we’re actually in the 10th month of the year, I’m reviewing 2 books by Twitter friends in one month, but this one was an easy pick. Why? Because it’s The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor, and I had the pleasure of getting to meet Ramzipoor in person when she visited my lovely little library just a few weeks ago for an incredible presentation as part of Literatour Berks. (<— That’s an amazing program, by the way, and I’m honored to have been a part of the committee that’s helped pull it together.)

The Ventriloquists

The Ventriloquists isn’t the kind of novel I would have picked up on my own. While the cover is gorgeous (It is, isn’t it?), I have a difficult time with historical fiction. It’s not that I’m uninterested, but I get bogged down in the details. But this…this I couldn’t resist.

Inspired by true events, the novel follows a ragtag gang of journalists and resistance fighters in 1943 Belgium who risk their lives for an elaborate scheme to undermine the Reich in the practical joke of the century. When we think of World War II stories, we tend to think of the war stories told time and again—the soldiers’ tales, the bombings, the rescues, the planes and the ships, the big picture heroes. Often overlooked is the story of the everyday resistance fighter, and that’s what Ramzipoor brings to light in The Ventriloquists.

The Ventriloquists features a large cast that can be overwhelming in the beginning (not going to lie), but is well-worth the time spent getting to know them. Beloved characters with charm and wit, LGBT representation that’s more often than not erased from history in most works, and a precocious child (our narrator) at the center of it all.

In all, 60,000 copies of a fake newspaper (Le Soir) were distributed at the Nazis’ expense on November 9th, 1943. The newspaper was real enough, you see, but it wasn’t the paper that should have been distributed that day. Instead, it was a spoof paper written to poke fun at the Nazis, at the Reich, and at Hilter himself. It was a prank of epic proportions and a story I can’t believe hasn’t been told before.

Do yourself a favor. Pick up The Ventriloquists, read, and enjoy history coming to life before your very eyes. Ramzipoor has crafted a winner in this incredible debut.

12 Books—Month 6

Okay, okay, so we’re a little more than 6 months into the year. Perhaps I was being a tad ambitious about reading 12 Twitter friends’ books in a year, especially when my own book launched a few months ago and I’ve had several signings and events and I’m still trying to keep up on recommended reading from friends and coworkers (which will bring me to 12 Books—Month 7 in a few short weeks).

Without further ado, I bring to you Planetside by Michael Mammay. It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a science fiction novel. I veer more toward fantasy. What can I say? I’m a sucker for magic and dragons, and I tend to get a little lost when it comes to hard sci fi.

Planetside

That said, there was no way to get lost in Planetside. (I mean, there is, but that’s getting lost in the very best of ways.) I’m not even sure I would classify it as hard science fiction. Does it take place in space? Yes. Are there space stations, and aliens, and hostile planet takeovers? Yes, yes, and yes. Okay, I guess it really is hard sci-fi. But that’s difficult to remember that when the entire novel is wrapped up in what’s essentially a murder-mystery. (Missing person mystery? Can it be a murder mystery if there’s no body?)

I must say one of the most surprising aspects of this book…was finding out that the protagonist wasn’t a misogynistic jerk.

What’s that, you say? Why should that be surprising? Well, I’ve read a number of mystery-thriller novels with a smart-ass male protagonist who’s on the tail-end of his career, but somehow manages to solve an incredibly difficult case no one else possibly could have cracked while snagging a beautiful woman half his age, while also admiring eight other women’s asses in the entire length of the novel. It gets old. Really old. Is it a male fantasy thing? Probably. But I like a good mystery, too, and I love a smart-ass protagonist! (Still…he doesn’t need to be checking out every woman’s breasts or rear throughout the entirety of the book!)

Guess what? Mammay not only doesn’t have a misogynist as his main character, but he also HAS MANY WOMEN CHARACTERS ALL THROUGHOUT THE BOOK AND YES I AM SHOUTING BECAUSE I AM HAPPY. Do you know how annoying it is to see 90% of the cast as male in just about any random book (especially science fiction)? Not only is the main character in Planetside happily married and looking forward to retirement, but he also happens to interact with dozens of female officers, soldiers, and hospital personnel throughout the book, all of which is done without a bat of the eyelashes. Women. Treated as equals. It’s a novel concept. (See what I did there? Novel concept.)

All in all, this book was stellar. My only hitch is in the ending because now I have to pick up Spaceside… Well-played, Mammay. Well-played.

12 Books—Month 5

This month, in my Twitter-Friend Book Review, I chose Katrina Ariel’s Wild Horse Heart. I first glimpsed this book when Katrina and I became friends on Twitter and I was lucky enough to read some of her other work as a critique partner long ago. Since I already knew I enjoyed her writing, I bought a copy of Wild Horse Heart and jumped in.

Given my love of horses, this book was an obvious choice. A light contemporary romance, Wild Horse Heart is a story about taking big chances, starting over, and learning to love yourself. It was an easy read and I finished it in about two days. Plus, let’s take a moment to talk about this gorgeous cover art, shall we? Love.

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Ariel obviously enjoys the outdoors and her love of nature shines through in her work. The descriptions of landscape in particular had me itching to get in the car and start driving westward once more, longing for fresh air and wide open spaces.

If you like romance, enjoy a little Hollywood escapism, and love the idea of stepping out of your own life and into a new one, this is the perfect read.

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My horse is a Standardbred, a retired racehorse. My sister has a mustang, just like those in Katrina Ariel’s book!

12 Books—Month 4

Friends! I am so glad I chose Jennifer M. Lane’s Stick Figures from Rockport as my monthly Twitter-friends read. It was delightful! I’m pretty particular when it comes to women’s fiction, so I always hold my breath a little for the first fifty pages or so.

I like women’s fiction, but as a strong empath, it hurts to read about raw pain too often. And hello, what is women’s fiction, if not a whole lot of raw pain? Good women’s fiction, in my opinion, offers more than just a painful scenario, more than loss and hurt, more than fractured relationships and terminal illness. It offers the opportunity to grow. It offers insight into our own lives. Good women’s fiction allows the reader to peer into the pain of another female, peeling the layers page by page, and emerge with a deeper understanding of oneself. 

And that’s what Lane was able to do in Stick Figures from Rockport. She did what many women’s fiction writers can’t—took me on a journey with a grieving character who was able to solve a mystery by piecing together a troubled past that once seemed perfect. It’s about love…and loss. And how learning a new truth doesn’t make your own truth any less real.

If you like women’s fiction, pick this one up! Lane is a talented writer whose writing flows gracefully and whose prose is poetic without being overly “purple.” Stick Figures from Rockport was a treat, and I can guarantee that I will pick up more of Lane’s work in the future.

Bonus—Lane lives fairly close to me geographically speaking, which means her main character (who lives in a Pennsylvania farmhouse) drives roads I know well and visits towns where I’ve worked in the past. How cool is that? Eastern Pennsylvania girls unite!

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12 Books—Month 3

How is it already March? Guess what? That means another of my 12 Books segments! For this month, I chose The Changing Tide by K.A. Dowling. I’ve been following Kelly on Twitter for quite some time. She’s a ton of fun, has a bazillion hilarious stories about her toddler, and is relatable on just about every level. She’s real in a way a lot of people aren’t when it comes to Twitter.

Dowling is a phenomenal writer and a master at painting with words. One peek into her life and it’s clear to see perhaps why she’s so damn good at describing the world. She’s spent her life acknowledging it in a way most of us can’t even imagine. Because Dowling is deaf. Is this why her words feel so poetic to me? I don’t know. I’ll never know. Hearing or deaf, she’s clearly an amazing writer either way.

I chose The Changing Tide because I’ve been following K.A. Dowling long enough on Twitter to become ever-so-slightly familiar with a couple of the book’s characters. Here and there, I’ve gotten to take a peek at a few pages from a sequel to this book. I loved Dowling’s style so much that I had to delve in. What I found was both intriguing and frustrating. The Changing Tide reads like book 1 of a trilogy. 

Um, Storms? It is. 

Oh, right. So maybe I should get into a little more detail. I expected to be as immediately invested in the story as I was from the few pages I’d gotten to read long ago, but what I found was that this particular book was slow to move forward with the action. I wasn’t quite sure where the plot was going or when the adventure would begin, which means, of course, that now I have read books 2 and 3. It’s a good thing I’m a sucker for trilogies!

The one piece of Dowling’s writing that really hits me more than anything is her ability not only to create so many different characters, but to dive deep within them since she changes character point-of-view multiple times throughout the book. Each chapter is dedicated to following a specific character. The ease with which she shifts gears and slides into each character’s head, even though they differ extensively in thoughts and mannerisms, is positively awe-inspiring.

So if you get a chance, check out The Changing Tide. Then gear up for The Forbidden City and The Winding Maze, books 2 and 3 respectively, because you won’t be able to stop with just book 1.

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12 Books—Month 2

It took me a little while to decide which book to pick for my February read since there were so many wonderful choices from my Twitter writing buddies.

This month, I decided to go with Sorchia DuBois’s Just Like Gravity. I’ll preface my review by saying I’m not a huge reader of the romance genre. While I love a good romance subplot, outside of my teenage years, I’ve never been able to read a story exclusively for the romance.  That said, I cannot resist a reincarnation tale. You see, DuBois is a paranormal romance writer…and now you’ve got my attention.

Just Like Gravity was a fun tale with a ‘crabbit’ main character who can handle her whisky as well as she can handle her Scottish highlander, but what really grabbed me were the past life incarnations of the two main characters and I almost wish I could have spent more time in those stories. What can I say? I’m a sucker for history, particularly when it’s a haunted, tragic tale! In Just Like Gravity, there’s fortune-tellers, treasure, danger, murder, and romance. What’s not to love?

If you’re a reader of romance who can appreciate a good dose of historical and contemporary fiction, this is the perfect blend!

(I love DuBois for other reasons, too! She’s a fantastic editor who was a pleasure to work with, so if you’re looking for editing services, look no further. She can do it all! Check out her website. Also, follow her on Twitter!)

Just Like Gravity

 

Did you miss Month 1 of my 12 Books series? Catch up here.

12 Books—Month 1

Last month, I announced on Twitter that I planned to purchase and review one book a month from my Twitter author friends. I asked my dear followers for recommendations, but it seems very few of my Twitter friends actually wanted to scream from the mountaintops about their own work.

I get it.

Marketing is HARD. As authors, we write hundreds of thousands of words again and again. (And again—omg—it never stops.) But when it comes to explaining to others why they should read our words over someone else’s, indulge in our story instead of the next author’s…well, amazingly enough, we tend to be quite suddenly (and ironically) at a loss for words.

No matter. I’ve made my list regardless.

And in month one, I am NOT disappointed. This month, I read Patti Larsen’s Exit Stage Left. I was delighted from page one. Larsen has an unbelievable penchant for creating a main character who is both vulnerable and confident at once—a rare talent. A dynamic character like Riley James is one of my favorite surprises to discover within the pages of any book. I connected with her from the start and stayed along for the ride. If the rest of Larsen’s work is like this one, I may have just found a new favorite author!

Larsen’s writing is strong and grounds the reader in the moment. In fact, I was so in the moment that I may have stayed up a bit too late two nights in a row because I had to finish the book. To be fair, I’m a bit of a marathon reader. I don’t dawdle when it comes to stories I’m loving. The more intense, the faster the read.

And Exit Stage Left was a super-fast read.

Guys. Get this one. Read this one. Then go review it.

Patti Larsen is my beloved Prince Edward Island discovery and she’s a hidden gem. To learn more, check out Patti’s website. And follow Patti Larsen on Twitter!

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