Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Afraid- Jack Kilborn

Afraid Afraid by Jack Kilborn

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'll preface this review by saying that I don't read horror. I also don't read thrillers, but I loved the Jack Daniels books, by JA Konrath. And since JA and Jack Kilborn are the same person, I was excited to read his latest novel. Afraid is all out horror, and is designed to play on any fear you might have.

In the town of Safe Haven, something terrible has landed. A team of Red Ops has "accidentally" landed in this small town with one mission, kill everyone. An aging sheriff, lone firefighter and single mother are fighting for their lives. I don't want to say too much more, as it is a twisting and exciting plot. You really just have to read it.

I really liked this book. I'd heard that some thought it was too gory, and over the top, but honestly, Kilborn leaves a lot to the imagination, which just makes it that much scarier. I finished this book in one day, and while freaked out, didn't immediately think it was that scary. I was able to remove myself from the scenes in the novel. Or so I thought. It wasn't until a couple of days ago that I realized the reason I'd been having a hard time sleeping was because of scenes from the book. It definitely lingers... and scares far beyond the pages. Read it with the lights on.

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JA/Joe/Jack Reads, Writes and doesn't Panic

Infamous and amazing writer extraordinaire JA Konrath, aka Jack Kilborn, is taking his one man show on the road. JA writes the fantastic blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, which is essential to any writer's RSS reader. Konrath also writes the thrilling Jack Daniels series. Seriously... awesome. I don't read thrillers and I loved his books. I honestly thought they were far superior to the James Patterson book I read (I know, blasphemy). I'm a huge fan of JA, so when he was asking for people to review his new book Afraid (coming out March 31) written under the pseudomyn Jack Kilborn, and going on a blog tour, I knew I had to get in on that action. Check out my review of Afraid here. And read on for an interview with JA/Joe/Jack (hereon referred to as J^3 [that's J cubed for you non math nerds]). He's always funny, and sometimes serious. :)

Dana: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
J^3: An adult.

Dana: What else do you do in all your spare time? Besides scare people and write funny Facebook statuses. Any hobbies?
J^3: I collect hair.
You should come to my house. Between me and the cat, you'd be set for life.

Dana: You've said many times that it took 12 years and 500+ rejections before you were published. What kept you going through all of that? Was there ever a point where you just wanted to throw in the metaphorical towel?
J^3: My wife was a huge source of support and inspiration. That's why, when someone asks what they need to do in order to get published, I tell them they have to marry my wife.

Also, liquor helps.
Again... come on over. The bar is always stocked. :)

Dana: Obviously, you probably like to read thrillers, but what else is on your list of favorites? Any books that you just couldn't make it through? If you had to recommend three books (not by J.A., Joe or Jack) that everyone should read what would they be?
J^3: I gotta send a shout out to my peeps here. Three books that everyone should read this year are Pressure by Jeff Strand, Abandon by Blake Crouch, and Killing Red by Henry Perez. These are all books I got to read prior to their upcoming publication, and I loved them

As far as my three favorite books of all time, they'd be The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, The Judas Goat by Robert B. Parker, and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

If we're talking about classic literature, then I'd be walking away, looking for an exit.

Dana: What is your favorite brand of pen?
J^3: Black Sharpies.

Dana: Which would you rather be, the letter a or the number 7? Why?
J^3: I'm a writer. Gotta go with the letter.

Dana: While you were amassing all of those rejections, what was your day job?
J^3: I had many. My favorite was assisting a brewmaster. What a great job. Where else can you get paid to drink beer at nine in the morning?

Dana: There is a new trend in authors (okay, I know of you and Paulo Coelho, but two a trend can make) to give away free texts on their blogs. Do you think this has helped you? Hurt you? Would you recommend it for newbies or should we wait until the cow's been purchased before giving the milk for free?
J^3: Eventually, print will go digital the same way music did, and people will be downloading books for free anyway. But I believe it has helped my sales, and helped spread brand awareness.

I can't make any decisions for newbie authors. Well, wait a sec, actually I can. Send your book to every big agent in NY. If it has been rejected by all of them, go ahead and offer it for free on your website. At that point it can't hurt, only help.

Dana: And finally some very random questions- they'll be used for your psychological profiling later:
Mittens or gloves?
Gloves. The fingers need their freedom.

Spring or Fall?
Spring. I prefer things to get warmer than cooler.

Home or away?
Home. My wife calls my house "Joe's Little Playland." I've got over ten thousand books, movies, CDs, videogames, and magazines. If I didn't have to leave the house, I wouldn't.

Black or blue?
Black and blue. With multiple contusions.

And your favorite burger toppings?
Cheddar cheese, bacon, and a roll of fifty dollar bills.

A huge thanks to JA for coming over to my humble little blog. If you don't already own his books, go buy them. All of them. You won't regret it.

I am Awesome :)

Dana just took the What are you born to do? quiz.

Best at Everything: You are the social person who makes useful contacts. You introduce important people to influencial people and always reap some sort of reward as a result... but you dont enjoy the spotlight as much. You prefer to stay in the back as there is more room to stretch and you like the feeling that you are the one with the power and most of the time that is true... You will do well in almost any field. You know how to flatter without being too obvious and you can make just about anyone like you!

Fantastic... if Facebook tells me I'm awesome, it must be so. :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path- Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment by Nancy Pickard

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Books on the craft of writing are a tricky bunch. I've found that I either think they are amazing and want to live by them, or that they're sort of useless. For once a writing book fell inbetween.

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path describes the journey that each writer (supposedly) takes from Unhappiness to Fulfillment. When I first started this book, and just glanced through the steps, I thought that I would be somewhere in Wavering or possibly Letting Go. As I read however, each step felt like exactly where I am in this moment. While it was nice that the steps were all very relatable, it also made it hard to really understand where I was and how I could apply the authors' suggestions to my writing life.

I really liked their examples of a writer's feelings and actions at each step and appreciated the interviews and comments from established authors. I wanted more concrete exercises to help work through each step. Some writing exercises would have been nice as well. Overall, it was okay, but it didn't motivate me at all and didn't give me a better understanding of myself as a writer. It might be a nice book to own, simply so I could read it at a more leisurely pace and only focus on the step that I think I'm currently in. It felt a little weird to read the whole thing straight through. A decent book to check out, but not a must read.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Summerland- Michael Chabon

Summerland Summerland by Michael Chabon

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Apparently I was one of the last three people on Earth who hadn't already fallen in love with Michael Chabon. I'd heard him touted on various blogs, and a friend had bought me The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and Wonder Boys is one of my favorite movies, but I'd never put all of those things together. It wasn't until I was subbing recently that I saw Summerland and picked it up. Having not read any of Chabon's other novels, I didn't have any expectations for this book, but I thought it was wonderful.

Summerland is an amazing fantasy, along the lines of The Lord of the Rings. Summerland is the story of a young boy, Ethan Feld, and his best friend, Jennifer T. Rideout, as they venture across different lands on a quest to prevent Coyote from destroying the entire world. Along the way, they pick up an unlikely band of friends, from a mini giant to a sasquatch. With their new friends they cross the four branches of the great tree: The Middling (our world now), Summerland (where fairies and other creatures live in eternal summer), Winterland (lots of strange creatures, but always winter) and The Gleaming (no one knows what lies here). They meet a variety of creatures from Indian legends and American Tall Tales. They play a number of games of baseball along the way (it's the only sport common to all of the lands) to earn their freedom to continue on their quest.

I really loved this book. I'm not a huge fantasy reader, but I loved Chabon's treatment of the classic quest plot. I really liked that it had such strong American roots, and almost would have wanted just a little bit more, such as when he describes American Tall Tales by their appearance. I would have preferred names, mostly because I wasn't familiar with all of the tales he spoke of. I liked the characters, and loved the relationship between all of them. I also like how each member of their party had a different reason for going on this quest. It felt quite authentic. Overall, this is a great book for young and old alike. It's an easy ready, though long, and is easy to connect to. I would love to see more fantasies tied to truly American elements, celebrating the heritage we have.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

East of Eden- John Steinbeck

East of Eden (Centennial Edition) East of Eden by John Steinbeck

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
So, whenever people asked me to pick a favorite book, a common question as both an English teacher and an author, I usually dodged it as best I could. Asking me to pick a favorite book is like asking me to pick a favorite pair of shoes. I just can't; I love them all too much. However, when pressed I would usually say East of Eden, even though I hadn't read it since high school, which has been, we'll just say a while. So, I decided to re-read this classic novel to see if it still held such a special place in my heart. I have to say, it does. Maybe not number one any more, but at least tied or possibly number two.

East of Eden can really only be described as sweeping. The novel follows Adam Trask most closely, from his childhood to old age, though all of the people who have an affect on his life: his brother, wife, neighbor and sons, are all developed fully as characters. Trask, after growing up angry and afraid of both his father and brother, is forced to join the Army and upon release takes his inherited fortune and moves to the Salinas Valley. With the support of his servant, Lee, and his prophetic neighbor Sam Hamilton, Trask survives being left by his wife (who sets up a whorehouse in a nearby town) and raises his twin boys.

This isn't a plot driven book. So, if you are looking for a thrilling page turner, keep on moving. However, East of Eden is like sitting down to a grand eight course dinner. The descriptions are fantastically detailed and the pacing slow. This is a book to be savored and enjoyed. The writing is both literary, lyrical and accessible and the plot and theme well carried out. There's a reason this book is a classic that has stood the test of time- it's beautiful. If you haven't read this book... do it now, and savor it like you would a really fine cut of steak- or tofu or whatever.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Slaughterhouse Five- Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I somehow managed to avoid reading any Vonnegut until now, and I had heard that you either love him, or hate him. I definitely fall into the former category. Now, I will admit that I was potentially swayed by the fact that my writing group said my own writing was like a nice, sweet Vonnegut, but that's beside the point.

Slaughterhouse Five is the portrait of Billy Pilgrim, an optometrist who has witnessed the firebombing of Dresden in WWII and been taken as a zoo subject by the alien planet Tralfmador. In the book Billy has become "unstuck in time" and bounces from one point in his life to another. We follow him from being captured in Germany, to his mental breakdown senior year of optometrist school, to his wedding anniversary and off to Tralfmador where he is on display at the zoo.

The novel is an interesting portrayal of war, life, and time. I was intrigued by the Tralfmadorians view of time. All moments are in existence at once. They see the whole span of time all at once. This is what enabled Billy to move between these moments with ease. Quite interesting. Billy was also a unique character. He isn't quite the lovable hero that you want him to be. He's sort of bumbling, definitely a coward and not entirely likable. However, he is interesting, and probably more real than most characters.

Overall, I really liked this book, almost more for the structure than anything else. It was really unique, gave an interesting perspective and (I thought) a fair treatment of WWII. Vonnegut makes you look at some of life's simple things with a different eye. It also didn't feel super hardcore sci-fi, which was nice. I found it to be a quick read and it was definitely worth it. It's a classic for a reason.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009


Yes... still alive. I'm subbing for two weeks during CSAPs, so hopefully I'll get a chance to write sometime, but not soon. What's to come when I actually do a post? Two book reviews (Slaughterhouse Five and East of Eden), two finished knits (EZ's garter blanket and a ruffle scarf- yes, the dreaded angora one), some writing updates and a couple of panic- or non-panicky things. :)

seriously... soon... maybe.


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