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Just Reviewed Victoria Alexander’s Latest at SBR

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Just figured I’d drop a little blog-let here to let you all know that I reviewed Victoria Alexander’s latest Victorian Era romance, THE SCANDALOUS ADVENTURES OF THE SISTER OF THE BRIDE, over at Shiny Book Review late Saturday night. (Or at SBR for short, as always.)

But you want a capsule review, you say? Well, here it is . . . I loved the story, thought it was funny, enjoyed the characters . . .

But the editing was absolutely horrible. And as this is a big-budget book from a well-known publisher, that is just not acceptable.

I don’t have a clue what happened with this book, quite frankly. But as an editor myself, I know that if you have a twenty-five word sentence with zero commas in it, there’s usually something wrong.

And it’s doubly wrong for a Victorian Era romance, because if anything, those old fuddy-duddy Victorians were much bigger sticklers about proper punctuation than I am as a modern-day editor. And if you want to properly evoke the period, you need to observe all the regular conventions of said period.

But you say, “Who cares about the commas, Barb? Why are you obsessing about this, anyway? You’re a modern reader. You can deal . . . can’t you?”

Um, yes and no.

The lack of commas (thus the lack of proper punctuation), especially in long stretches of dialogue, kept throwing me out of the reader’s trance with great force. And as there is absolutely no excuse for the lack of proper punctuation for the three reasons I gave over at SBR, I docked the book a grade.

At any rate, go take a look at my review, and judge for yourself whether or not I’m making any sense this fine day.

Then come back and let me know. (I’ll be here.)

Just Reviewed Aaron Lazar’s “Spirit Me Away” at SBR

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Before I forget, I wanted to let my readers know that I just reviewed Aaron Lazar’s SPIRIT ME AWAY over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), which is a new mystery in his long-running Gus LeGarde series. SPIRIT ME AWAY is set in 1969 and is a prequel to many of his mysteries featuring Gus.

In SPIRIT ME AWAY, Gus married his young bride, Elsbeth, a few months before the start of this novel; they’re music students living in Boston. When a young woman who’s lost her memory shows up nearby, they take her in and try to find out who she is. But there are some bad people out there who want her for nefarious purposes . . .it’s not a “cozy mystery” as are many in the LeGarde series, being rather a mystery with a great deal of romantic suspense. But it’s very, very good, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Also, I reviewed Aaron’s LADY BLUES over at SBR a couple of weeks ago. This, too, is a novel featuring Gus LeGarde, but is in the present-day and deals with the mystery of an old man in a nursing home who’s struggling to recover his memories with the aid of a new and experimental drug. But then the drug’s formulation is changed . . . slowly the old man loses his memories again. And then a friendly nurse goes missing, then the old man himself seemingly wanders away . . . Gus must get to the bottom of whatever is going on and, if possible, reunite the old man with his long-lost lover in the process before the man’s memories are gone for good.

I enjoyed LADY BLUES. It’s a warm, comforting mystery with a lot of musical ambiance and tons of food references. Gus and his family and friends are vital people who enjoy life and live it to the fullest, and they seem like people you know (or at least should know) . . . anyway, go take a gander at these reviews, and let me know what you think of ‘em.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 20, 2014 at 1:25 am

Two New Book Reviews up at SBR

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Folks, it’s been a busy weekend for me over at Shiny Book Review (SBR, as always).

On Friday night, I reviewed the tenth and final volume of Stephen R. Donaldson’s long-running series starring Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, THE LAST DARK.

And a few, short hours ago, I reviewed Veronica Roth’s ALLEGIANT, which is of course the final volume of her Divergent trilogy.

I hope you’ll enjoy the reviews, and let me know what you think, as per usual.

This week, I’ll be reviewing Cedar Sanderson’s TRICKSTER NOIR and Aaron Paul Lazar’s mysteries SPIRIT ME AWAY and LADY BLUES, the latter as a 2-for-1 special.

As for an ETA for these reviews, my normal reviewing days over at SBR are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (though sometimes, as today, I bleed over into Sunday. Bad me.) So do stay tuned…

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 8, 2014 at 5:06 am

Kendall and Kylie Jenner “Write” a Book — My Rant

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Folks, I just finished reading two sample chapters from REBELS: CITY OF INDRA: The Story of Lex and Livia, a book purportedly written by Kendall and Kylie Jenner. (Yes, they’re the sisters of Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian.)

Here’s my capsule review: It’s dreadful. (Take a look at these one-star reviews if you don’t believe me.)

Why?

There’s no plot. There’s nothing in the way of characterization. And the Jenner sisters didn’t even write it.

The only good thing about REBELS: CITY OF INDRA: The Story of Lex and Livia (and yes, it has all of those colons) is this: Two ghostwriters actually got paid to write this garbage.

As a writer of YA fiction (you may have heard of my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, if you’ve ever been to my blog before), I am appalled that this pitiful excuse for a book is currently sitting at #353 paid in the Amazon store.

And the only reason it appears to be there is this: The Jenner sisters are the young half-sisters of Kim Kardashian, reality starlet. So when they said, “Hey, we want to write a book,” they immediately got a book contract.

Then, apparently, after they realized how hard writing is, they quite sensibly hired ghost writers — which actually makes good business sense, but doesn’t show much on the creative side of the ledger for either of the Jenner sisters.

And now, they’re making money hand over fist despite the many negative reviews, merely because of name recognition.

It’s enough to make me, a barely known author, cry.

What can you do to combat this sort of nonsense? It’s blindingly simple: read something else.

“But Barb!” you yell. “I don’t know what to read! Help me!” (With or without exclamation points, granted.)

Look. I know many writers, and have reviewed many, many, many better books than this one. Here are just a few in the YA category that I recommend, and why:

Stephanie Osborn’s StarSong is a fable about a young, spoiled girl who realizes she needs to grow up and start doing things for herself before she finds the man of her dreams. This is an excellent novella about a spiritual awakening and a nifty coming-of-age tale, all in one. It was written for pre-teens, but anyone eight or above should enjoy this fun little story of loss, romance and redemption.

Chris Nuttall’s latest, LESSONS IN ETIQUETTE, is the second story about Emily, a teenage girl from our world who’s been transported to a quasi-medieval world where she can do magic and is important…but is important as much for the technical innovations she introduces into this new world (the printing press, Arabic numbers, double-entry bookkeeping, etc.) as she is for her own prodigious magical gifts. It’s a well-paced, well-written book that will keep you turning the pages, and is possibly Chris’s best book to date.

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS is the story of Alfreda Sorensson, who is a frontier girl with magic. Again, she does for herself, thank you, and spends her time productively by learning about herself and the world around her. This is one of the best books for teenage girls I’ve ever read.

Jason Cordova’s CORRUPTOR is about Tori, a teenager trapped in a virtual reality game environment. Tori’s ex-boyfriend causes trouble, while Tori’s widowed father tries to get her out of the simulation. It’s a fun, fast read with a lot of real-world implications.

Sarah A. Hoyt’s DARKSHIP THIEVES is about Athena, a girl on the cusp of adulthood who must find herself, fast. Her father is against her, so she flees as far away as she can and finds a whole different place than she’d ever imagined…she falls in love and marries, yes, but she does so on her terms and by showing how competent and intelligent she is at every turn.

Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s neo-Arthurian Shadow Grail series (LEGACIES, CONSPIRACIES, SACRIFICES and VICTORIES) features Spirit White, who loses her parents in an accident and only then finds out she has magic. But what type, and why? (And was it really an accident?) So she first has to find herself, learn her talents, and then save the world…

Folks, those are just a few of the many excellent books out there in the YA and/or pre-teen category. These are all writers who work hard at their craft, write excellent stories that make sense, with characters you will appreciate, and came up with plausible worlds in the bargain. I highly recommend all of these stories, and hope you will support these writers — real writers working really hard to give you really fine stories with real craftsmanship.

(Really.)

So, in short: Please do not support this newest effort by the Jenner sisters. They don’t need the money. They didn’t do the work. And they don’t deserve your patronage thereby.

But many other real writers do.

——–

Edited to add: I’ve started a Twitter campaign called #SupportARealWriter to get the word out about real writers who use real craftsmanship to create good, solid, honest books — really. If you see #SupportARealWriter at the end of something, please  support that writer and let people know their books are out, available, and are much, much better than the above book with the Jenner sisters’ name on it.

Just Reviewed Stephanie Osborn’s “A Case of Spontaneous Combustion” at SBR

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Folks, it’s Romance Saturday. And long-time readers of my blog know what that means . . .

Yes, it’s true. I reviewed another romance again at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). This time, I reviewed Stephanie Osborn’s A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, book 5 in her Displaced Detective series.

A quick after-action report for y’all:

I enjoyed Stephanie’s latest very, very much. I thought the romance was stellar, and I agreed that something like this could very easily happen (though I have to admit that I took all the high-tech devices for metaphors).

Why?

Well, without giving too much of the plot away, a miscommunication between newlyweds Sherlock Holmes and Skye Chadwick-Holmes has caused major trouble in both their personal and professional lives. And while the failure of high-tech devices to work as operated is part of it (though there is an operator behind this failure; further reviewer sayeth not), the biggest problem between them is one that any newlywed couple can have.

“What’s that?” you ask.

Simple: it’s the problem of expectations.

While Sherlock Holmes is a fictional example (in both Arthur Conan Doyle’s version and Stephanie Osborn’s), the fact of the matter is that most newlyweds don’t see one another as real, live human beings with real, live failings. Someone like Sherlock or Skye has fewer failings than the average person, but both of them still have failings.

Instead, most newlyweds wear rose-colored glasses and want to believe their spouses are the absolute best person who ever walked the face of the Earth (save, perhaps, for Jesus Christ Himself, or Gautama Buddha, or maybe Confucius).

This is both a strength and a weakness, and it can be exploited by someone malicious, as Sherlock and Skye found . . . but if you can get past this, and see your partner as a human being with flaws and challenges, just like every other human being, it deepens and broadens your love considerably.

Look. My husband Michael was the most wonderful person I have ever met, bar none. But he was still a human being. He had flaws. (Not many, but he had a few.)

Did we have a newlywed blow-up? Not one as bad as Skye’s and Sherlock’s, no. But we did have a couple of misunderstandings, mostly because we were learning how to live with one another, and sometimes even with the best of intentions, you’re not going to be able to communicate with one another.

(Yes. Even two writers cannot always communicate with each other. Go figure.)

We worked around that. We found what worked for us. And that’s why our marriage worked.

In short, we met each other as real, live human beings with real, live failings. So we entered into our marriage with a more realistic expectation — granted, it wasn’t a first marriage for either one of us, so that possibly made a difference as well. (I’d say “probably,” but who knows? Not me.)

That doesn’t mean you don’t think the other person is wonderful. Believe you me, I did — and I still do.

But it means you see him as human and mortal. Not as a demigod. And that allows you to meet him on a field of equality, where you both have something to bring to the table.

Anyway, that’s why I enjoyed A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION so much as a romance. (I already discussed the mystery and hard SF elements in-depth in my review, but figured the actual romantic elements warranted a wee bit more discussion.)

You will, too, if you love honest romance with heart between two intelligent, passionate, hard-working individuals; if you love Sherlock Holmes stories (as brought to the modern-day); if you love hard SF along with your romantic mysteries; or if you love just-plain-good writing.

Just Reviewed Stephanie Osborn’s “Endings and Beginnings” at SBR

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Folks, I’m glad to pass along a teensy bit of good news tonight, as I was able to review Stephanie Osborn’s THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS (otherwise known as book four of her Displaced Detective series featuring Sherlock Holmes as brought to the modern-day via the World of Myth hypothesis) tonight over at Shiny Book Review (SBR).

Why?

Well, sometimes it’s refreshing to read a romance, especially when it’s about two unabashedly smart, talented, thoughtful individuals. Much less two romances.

You see, there’s a romance going on between our universe’s Sherlock and Skye Chadwick-Holmes (Skye being the hyperspatial physicist who brought Sherlock to our world in the first place, natch). They’ve recently married, are on their honeymoon, and are also investigating a crime (as that’s what they do).

But the other romance between the secondary universe’s other-Sherlock and other-Holmes isn’t going nearly so well.

And our Sherlock and Skye know this and want to fix things between their counterparts. Which is something you see all the time in romance, but you only rarely see in science fiction . . . but as well as this works, I wish we saw more of it.

To see a couple in deep distress (in this case, other-Sherlock and other-Skye) figure out a way to rectify their distress and fix their relationship is the hallmark of a great romance. Which is why I’m urging you to go read Stephanie Osborn’s ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS just as soon as you can if you love Sherlock Holmes (as brought to the modern-day), if you love intelligent romances, and/or you love intelligent science right along with your intelligent romance.

You won’t regret it.

Reviewed “Lincoln’s Boys” at SBR Yesterday

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Sometimes, I get luckier than others when it comes to books I review over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). Such is the case with LINCOLN’S BOYS, perhaps the most interesting piece of nonfiction I’ve read this year.

Why?

Well, LINCOLN’S BOYS is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s two young personal Presidential secretaries, John George Nicolay and John Hay. They saw Lincoln from a unique vantage point in two ways: first, because they worked with him for four-plus years, they saw him in nearly every imaginable circumstance. And second, they later were tapped to be his biographers by Lincoln’s sole surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln, and were given access to all of Lincoln’s Presidential Papers in order to put out a massive ten-book biography, LINCOLN: A HISTORY.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly for a wide variety of reasons. Seeing Lincoln as a man first, able politician second, and transformational figure third was a revelation in and of itself. But seeing how Nicolay and Hay managed to craft Lincoln’s image at a time no one had even conceived of such a thing — and doing so in such a way that showed Lincoln as a man rather than as a demi-god or worse, a full-fledged Deity figure (as was already happening at the time they started work on Lincoln’s biography) — was also eye-opening.

As I said in my review:

Because Nicolay and Hay were honest men, they did their best to show Lincoln as a man. Full of talent, yes, and possibly the best President we’ve ever had . . . but still a man.

And because Zeitz is an honest biographer as well as an honest historian, he was able to show Lincoln in a brand-new light by showing Lincoln through the eyes of Nicolay and Hay.

So if you like history, politics, or have made it a point to seek out every word ever written with regards to Abraham Lincoln, this book is obviously meant for you.

But if you also like biographies that put the subjects of same into the full context of their time and shows them as living, breathing men with interests and goals and dreams all their own, you will adore LINCOLN’S BOYS . . . guaranteed.

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