Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is one of my most memorable books of 2011, both in terms of the book itself, but also the memories it evoked of field work that I have been involved in, and the field notebooks that I still have to this day, although I think many of them are still in an attic somewhere.This book covers all sorts of field "journals" from the traditional paper and pen/cil to digital and computerised. It includes insights, including reproductions of the journals themselves, from some very famous and eminent naturalists, many of whom are heroes of mine.This probably won't be everyone's cup-of-tea, because it is quite a dry subject, but I'd recommend to any budding naturalist or anyone who wants a deeper insight into natural history. View all my reviews
Monday, September 26, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Today I welcome bestselling author Vincent Zandri to the blog, but you're probably not here to read my words, so I'm handing over to the master:
If I had a nickle for every time I got asked the question, "Are you a seat-of-the-pants kind of writer?" In other words, am I an "Indiana Jones" who just adventurously barrels ahead without mapping out my scenes ahead of time in the hopes of allowing my story to form naturally or what all the no-gluten-professor geeks at writing school call, "organically?" Or do you actually write up character sketches that include everything from place of birth to bathroom habits, and then map out each chapter detail for detail? The answer I give is not really an answer. "It depends on the book," I tell them. "And it also depends on the character." If I'm writing a book like THE REMAINS that's intended to be stand-alone literary thriller that contains subject matter such as identical twins, modern art and autistic savants and that is also told from the P.O.V. of a women, you can bet your bottom ten-spot that I'm gonna plan it out ahead of time. I'm also going to do some meticulous research so that reviewers on Amazon don't crucify me. In the end if I've done my job right and the writing is convincing enough, I just might have a bestseller on my hands. And THE REMAINS has been just that. A bestseller for over a year.But if I'm writing a novel like one of the Dick Moonlight Serials, now that's another story altogether. The Richard "Dick" Moonlight of MOONLIGHT FALLS MOONLIGHT MAFIA, and the forthcoming MOONLIGHT RISES and MURDER BY MOONLIGHT is a total train wreck of a guy. He's got a little piece of .22 caliber bullet lodged inside his brain from a failed suicide attempt. The piece has lodged itself right beside his cerebral cortex causing him the occasional short term memory lapse and lack of judgement, especially under times of stress, which is usually always. He drinks too much, and he can also pass out at any time or even suffer stroke, coma and death. In a word, Moonlight has no clue if he'll be alive from one minute to the next. So his relentless search for right over wrong is always an unplanned adventure. Since he narrates all of his own stories, I feel the best way to write his books is to do so by the seat-of-my-pants. And thus far anyway, you loyal readers of mine (you know who you are), have sort of fallen in love with the dude. And that's a cool thing since he's the character who is most like me. So what's the best way for you to write your book? Remember when you'd ask you mom or dad what was for dinner, and not having decided on anything yet, they might ask you in return, "Well what do you feel like?" A lot of what we decide to put in our body is based not only on a craving but more so on what our bodies are lacking at that time. If we're protein starved we want meat or chicken. If were worn out and carb poor, we want pasta or even pizza. It's the same with writing. Listen to you body and your brain, but most of all listen to your gut. Not your gut mind you, but the gut inside your main character. Is he or she someone who will want to be guided and reigned in? Or is he or she someone who won't plan for the next five minutes much less two afternoons from now? Just remember, writing is a personal venture and there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is only just doing it.
Visit Vincent Zandri (that's me!) at Amazon's Author Central: (they asked me to say that!)
Vincent Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling author of the thrillers THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, MOONLIGHT FALLS, THE REMAINS andCONCRETE PEARL. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, he has was a Stringer for The Albany Times Union Newspaper, and a contributor toNew York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine, and more. His short fiction has appeared in many of the leading journals and magazines, Orange County Magazine, Buffalo Spree, Negative Capability, The Maryland Review, Rosebud, The Best of Rosebud, Lost Creek Lettersamong them. His novels, stories, and journalism have been translated into many foreign languages including the Dutch, Japanese, French, Russian and Turkish. A freelance photo-journalist, foreign correspondent, and Blogger for RT, Globalspec and International Business Times, he divides his time between New York and Florence, Italy.
For more on the author, go to WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Vincent Zandri is one hell of a writer. He’s the author of other thrillers such as The Innocent, Godchild and The Remains (my review of The Remains is here), but Vincent scares me, he makes me wonder where he gets his inspiration, if it’s as true to life as it seems; I’m worried!
Concrete Pearl twists and shocks from the first page to the last. The main character, Ava “Spike” Harrison, she got her name from impaling her foot on a six-penny nail on the first construction site she worked on, is about to have a very bad day.
She’s the boss of Harrison Construction, the company that was originally her beloved fathers, and now Spike’s the boss. She’s a tough, no nonsense character who will never give up, never roll-over. Harrison Construction already has a number of health and safety convictions, accidents that weren’t Spike’s fault but corporately the company takes the hit. Today it’s going to get a lot worse. Today asbestos is going to be found on the current work site. That work site’s a school. Worse; that work site is a school that still has children in it while the work carries on around them. Asbestos contamination might equal sick kids. Cancer. Dead. Kids.
The authorities shut the site down, Spike’s company is under suspicion of negligence, but Spike’s company sub-contracted the asbestos removal and now the removal company and the lab that verified their test results, have shut-down, they've vanished. Spike needs to find them and settle what’s happened and clear her name.
The characters are lifelike and believable, some are so believable that you’ll hate them, want to take them out yourself. You’ll feel for others, want to help them. All the characters make this book the more believable page, after page, to the last page.
Zandri winds the plot tighter and tighter, he squeezes his lead character to incredible levels. You wonder if she will ever sort out her problems as with each page a new issue raises its ugly head. As accusations of negligence move to accusations of murder, the author redefines the term “thriller”.
As you think Spike is buried deep, Zandri turns the plot in her favour, revelation follows revelation. You start to wonder just who you can trust. Is anyone innocent? Some are. Zandri manages to tie up a plot and leave the reader very satisfied. What happens to Spike? Well you’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourself.
At the start of this review, I questioned the author’s inspiration, why? Well simply because I did a little reading around, his blog, other reviews before I read this book. Vincent Zandri appears to borrow from his own life as part of his books. A character in the books’ son is born on Halloween, I understand that Zandri’s son is too, and Spike’s family name, Zandris son’s name. So then what is it that Vincent Zandri knows about the construction industry, it’s claimed that this a fictional story based on real events?
Whether this is true or not it doesn’t really matter, because Zandri is one hell of an author, and although he is well published and sells books, he’s probably not the household name of the likes of Patterson or Brown; Clancy or Child; but he deserves to be. Zandri deserves to be the author I see in the window of Waterstones as I walk down the high street; to be in the 3 for 2’s. The one that everyone is talking about, the one that is on bigger blogs than mine. That’s what he deserves, I hope he gets it, but either way I’m buying his next book, and probably the one after that. It’s rare to find an author that you want to read book after book, but Vincent Zandri is in that league.
5 out of 5 Stars - I Loved It!
For more on the author, go to WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
It's my honour to welcome Alex Pruteanu, author of Short Lean Cuts to the blog, and talk to him about his latest book.
My review of Short Lean Cuts is at the bottom of this pos.
Thanks for agreeing to do this Q & A on your book “Short Lean Cuts”, welcome to my blog!
TW: Tell me a little about your book, what’s it about and where did the inspiration come from?
AP: In fact I’ve been writing in the online medium since spring of 2004, but my fiction site has undergone a few different name changes and maybe format changes. I initially wrote what became Short Lean Cuts in small bursts---individually-named stories, mainly due to limited amounts of time. But I also wrote with the idea of one day unifying the small flash fiction bits (each chapter could originally stand as its own short, flash story) into a larger whole. Each chapter appeared on my site as an distinctive piece in the span of one year in 2007. When I undertook the process of bringing everything together, I re-wrote each chapter and filled in what I thought were some blanks or some holes. At this point, I no longer believe each chapter could be plucked out of the book and stand concretely as a complete short story; everything is tied logically now, with every chapter propping up the theme of the book.
AP: I grew up idolizing Ernest Hemingway and what he did for the English language. As a teen, I was enamored with his sparse style, yet heavy emotion that somehow exuded from in between the lines. I was also enamored with his contemporaries: F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson, and William Carlos Williams. Some of my favourite authors are Albert Camus, Kafka, Charles Bukowski, Ferdinand Celine, Raymond Carver, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Thomas Mann, and Jose Saramago. Lately, I’ve been enjoying very much the works of Yann Martel, Michael Chabon, and Chuck Palahniuk. I love the poetry of Anne Sexton and Dorothy Parker, and the plays of Lillian Hellman.
You can buy Short Lean Cuts:
My Review:View all my reviews
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
When No One Is Watching
Author: Joseph Hayes
Published By:Synergy Books
ISBN: 13: 978-0984387946
Genre: Thriller/suspense/morality tale
Synopsis: On the eve of announcing his run for Congress, a charismatic Chicago politician causes a deadly accident. Panicked, he frames his best friend, a good-hearted alcoholic, and flees the scene. As one man tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered life, the other embarks on a meteoric rise to political stardom. But when a dogged detective digs deeper into the case, the political superstar must decide just how far he is willing to go to keep his dark secret. Author Joseph combines page-turning suspense with a poignant tale of inspiration and redemption as he asks, is "the greater good" just a lie we tell ourselves to justify the sins we commit when no one is watching?
Author Website: www.joseph-hayes.com
[As a part of my review, Joseph Hayes very kindly agreed to answer a few questions regarding his first novel. The Q&A can be found at the end of my review.]
Joseph Hayes writes a time spanning and life changing tale that covers over ten years, and is not so much a crime novel as an emotional rollercoaster for the reader, from shock and anger to sympathy and loss, they are all there. The initial crime is a straightforward one, but shatters several lives. It is not complicated, and it is clear who is guilty, but as events unfold and the plot develops there is little that remains straightforward.
Mr Hayes makes sure the reader knows what's going on, what the characters are thinking and carries his readers from scene to scene.
Although the book is a relatively short one the main characters feel alive, how they react to each situation feels real and gives the reader a chance to empathise with some. I had a feeling that Mr Hayes was going to develop one of those into a recurring character, that he would be the hero of this and future books, but this was not how Mr Hayes played out his tale. This book is very much a stand-alone, and is his first novel, but I don't think it will be his last.
Mr Hayes has a gift to tell a tale, to talk about crime but also the ethics of crime, how our choices might be quick but they can affect many for years to come.
Each scene that Mr Hayes relates, makes it seem as though the story is only going to end one way, but some very clever plotting and interweaving of the characters brings the end to a different and perhaps more satisfactory conclusion.
4 out of 5 Stars – I really liked it!
Author Q & A:
Hello Mr Hayes,
Many thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions about your novel, “When No One is Watching.”
I’ve just finished reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed it, you raised many an interesting thought in my mind, as I work in a political field myself when I’m not reading I found some aspects particularly pertinent.
So anyway, straight to those questions:
TW: There’s a saying that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Did you intend for the character of Blair Van Howe to fall victim to this, and hence why he did what he did at the accident scene , or where there others who were perhaps more responsible for his actions than he was?
JH: Blair was certainly seduced by power, and his thirst for it was the primary motivation for the decision he made in the opening scene (the accident scene). However, in developing that scene and the rest of the story, I was more focused on capturing the ethical dilemma -- the notion that character and integrity are defined by the decisions we make when no one is watching. I also tried to demonstrate how easy it is for us to try to rationalize such self-serving decisions (for example, Blair's justification that getting elected would enable him to promote the greater good) and the fact that the consequences of those decisions can be far-reaching.
TW: Are any of your characters and story based upon real people or events, and if so who / what?
JH: The main character (Danny Moran) was modelled after my father, and his life story after getting sober was similar to my Dad's. A number of the alcoholics portrayed in the story were composites of various people that my father became acquainted with through the AA program. Other than that, all of the characters were completely fictional.
TW: I believe that this is your first novel, did you always have it in mind to be a stand-alone or were you ever thinking about there being potential for it to become a series? For example, Detective Slazak seemed to be a strong character, and yet you effectively wrote him out of the book early on. Did you ever conceive an ending where he might be the hero and crack the case? Perhaps becoming a recurring character?
JH: I never considered the concept of making this novel the first in a series. Honestly, that just never occurred to me -- probably a reflection of my inexperience when it comes to publishing, although I now clearly recognize the fact that a series can be very marketable due to the built-in audience that exists after the first story is successful. Anyway, in my mind, it made sense to write Detective Slazak out of the story because I was working toward the point of making it seem utterly hopeless that the truth would surface. The incriminating evidence was gradually disappearing, and the last and most compelling piece of that was Slazak himself. I wanted to get back to the "when no one is watching" dilemma facing Blair. In other words, knowing that he truly got away with his betrayal and deception, can he live with himself?
TW: How did you research the AA element of Danny’s character?
JH: I didn't need to research the AA part of Danny's life -- I lived it. My father joined AA when I was twelve years old and spent the remainder of his life (30 years) devoted to that cause. I watched him as he developed his own routines to maintain his grip on sobriety. I watched him as he tried to help those who were battling their addictions. I would often wake up in the morning and find some unknown soul sleeping one off in our house after my Dad had responded to a desperate call for help the night before. Through those firsthand experiences, I got a pretty good glimpse of the heartaches and tragedies surrounding alcoholism, but also witnessed many stories of hope and inspiration as I saw my Dad and others in the recovery community selflessly devoting themselves to others who were suffering from this addiction -- and making a difference. That was the real inspiration for this story, and I dedicated the book to those quiet, selfless heroes.
TW: Without giving too much away, the story had a “tidy” ending. Did you always plan it that way or did you consider a different out-turn?
JH: I never really considered a different ending to the story because that ending was my starting point. The final scene at the funeral home and cemetery were based on an actual event in my life, and that was the inspiration for the story. So I wound up creating a fictional story that lead into that ending.
TW: Where do you draw your inspiration as an author from, is it from other writers or somewhere else? Do you have any particularly favourite authors?
JH: I don't really draw my writing inspiration from other authors. I think it comes from real life experiences that strike me as profound in some way, and motivate me to tell a story that entertaining but also has something valuable and meaningful to say. That's what I attempted to do with When No One is Watching, and it is also what inspired my next novel, entitled Consequential Damages. As for my favourite books and authors, I really gravitate toward the classics. I like Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Mark Twain, and many others whose writings have withstood the test of time. As for modern authors, I enjoy John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, David Baldacci and Mitch Albom, among others. I really liked the Harry Potter books. With regard to nonfiction, I've recently read and enjoyed The Tipping Point and Freakonomics.
Review Disclaimer: I received a free e-book version of When No One Is Watching to review as a part of this book tour. I have received no other endorsement for this review.
As I was going to press with this review, I received the following additional information. Congratualtions to Joseph Hayes!
LOCAL AUTHOR HAYES HONORED BY NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARDS
AND 2011 NEXT GENERATION INDIE BOOK AWARDS Contests recognize outstanding independently published books THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS. Joseph Hayes, author of the highly acclaimed When No One is Watching, has been named as a finalist in the category of Inspirational Fiction by the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Aspiring to be the “Sundance” for indie books, this is the nation’s largest nonprofit awards program for small presses, larger independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers and self-published authors. Hayes was also recognized as a finalist in the category of New Fiction (First Book) by the National Indie Excellence Awards, which celebrates the “best of the best” in independent press. In When No One is Watching, Hayes spins a tale involving ambition, corruption and scandal within Chicago political circles. Within the framework of this page-turning thriller is a compelling contemporary morality play dealing with ethics, personal responsibility and making a difference. It explores the rationalizations our political leaders often make – justifying their self-serving personal agendas in the name of promoting the “greater good.” It examines the notion that character and integrity are defined by how we behave when no one is watching, and the far-reaching consequences of the decisions we make when facing ethical dilemmas. It also explores the impact of guilt on the human mind and heart and searches for inspiration and heroism in unexpected places. Joseph Hayes is a native of Beverly on the city’s South Side. He graduated from St. Barnabas elementary school, Brother Rice High School and De Paul University before attending law school at the University of California at Berkeley. Hayes is an attorney and currently serves as chief ethics officer for a Fortune 1000 Company based in Houston, Texas. More information about the book can be found at www.joseph-hayes.com.
Friday, September 09, 2011
Thursday, September 08, 2011
My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is an interesting review to write, as this book falls outside of my usual genres. I was lucky enough to receive a complimentary copy from the author for retweeting his tweet on twitter a few weeks back, and have finally read and finished it in the last few days.I enjoyed the story, particularly the way it was set across time (and dimension), but I think I enjoyed the writing style more. It was the latter that kept me reading. I think with a different style I might not have finished the book because as I've said this is not my normal reading fair. This kept me engaged though, wanting to know more about Silverbirch, and what was going to happen next and how things were going to be resolved (or not).So if I could give half-stars I'd probably go 3 and a half, but since I can't do that am going 4, because the writing was so good, and I'm impressed it kept me engaged all the way through in a genre type that I wouldn't normally read. Who knows might now come back from more and see what else Rob Kaay has under his pen. View all my reviews
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is the second Joe Pickett novel and the series is getting stronger. The series is set in some amazing scenic backcountry, and Joe Pickett is a pleasantly flawed lead character. Unlike many flawed heroes in crime novels, Joe is just human. He's mucked up a few times, but he believes in what he does.Although I enjoyed the story, there was an element of predictability about it, but not so much that the overall story suffered, I think I would just rather have known a little less about what was going on in the background and therefore the way the story unfolded would have been a little less obvious.The strengths of this series; the backcountry and Joe Pickett mean that I'll be returning to it again soon, for the third instalment View all my reviews
Sunday, September 04, 2011
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Jonathan Quinn is an espionage agent, but he doesn't work for MI6 or the CIA, he's freelance.Quinn is asked to investigate a suspicious arson and death, and soon someone is trying to kill him. Quinn needs to find out what's going on and stop those who are after him before they put a stop to his investigation permanently. The trail will take Quinn to Vietnam, Germany and Brussels, and put Quinn in some tight spots where his death is one likely outcome.This is the first in the Jonathan Quinn series by Brett Battles and I will certainly be getting the next one in due course.Brett Battles knows how to tell an action packed tale, leaving me breathless at times, and not wanting to put my kindle down. The knowledge of spy craft and the "toys" that Quinn uses leave you wondering just how Brett knows the details that he writes in his book, but they form part of a nail biting tale.I would heartedly recommend this book.[On a negative point, although I have given my review 5 stars I have done so on the strength of the writing and the story alone. The transfer to Kindle was particularly poor, with a huge margin on the left of the page, and many other visual mistakes that made reading hard work.] View all my reviews