“Freedom’s Song”: A Well-Crafted Romantic Thriller

Freedom's Song

Freedom’s Song, by A.K. Lawrence has all the elements of a good romance wrapped up in the plot of a top notch thriller. It is obvious that this is book 2 of the continuing saga of Baldwin series, (novels set in the small town setting of Baldwin, Michigan), but Lawrence offers just enough background to keep me from being in the dark on the first one, without actually reading it, yet doesn’t bog you down with backstory. The characters feel realistic enough to make me care about what happens next, and that’s a good thing.

Hunter and Anna found each other last summer, during the life or death events in the first book, when he became the knight in shining armor for both Anna, who was kidnapped and Nancy, who was married to Anna’s kidnapper, an all-around louse of a guy, named Dock. Now Nancy’s divorce is almost final, and Colby has plans to make his move for Nancy once she is a free agent once more. But, all is not as it seems and a blast from his puts the brakes on his anticipated romance, when his college stalker girlfriend reappears on the scene to claim her man.

The only complaint I had with this story was I felt the dwarf subplot and the proposal pool were left unresolved, and we really didn’t get to see them through to the end. If you read the book, you’ll see what I mean. The romantic elements carry the story as we get to know the characters and sets things up, but when the thriller elements join the party things start hopping with good tension and suspense. I give Freedom’s Song five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

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“Gyre”: A Science Fiction Fantasy Romance novel worth reading

Gyre

Gyre, by Jessica Gunn is the first book in her Atlas Link series. It is the story of Chelsea, a descendent of Atlantis, who is just discovering her amazing powers and Trevor, a Lemurian descendent, who should be her mortal enemy, but instead falls for her in a big way. See? Boy meets girl, but there is no way they can be together, yet they will fight against all the odds, and even against family to prove them all wrong. Now if that isn’t the recipe for a perfect romance, I don’t know what is. As they are traveling aboard a top secret naval submarine complete with cloak, I think Gunn has the science fiction elements and Lemurians and Atlanteans with super powers pretty much covers the fantasy realm. If it sounds confusing, read the book. It’s actually a pretty good genre combination.

Chelsea is discovering her powers. First super strength, which she was able to ignore, or deny, but now she keeps teleporting to a location near Trevor any time she gets stressed. The problem is, Trevor is on a top secret U.S. Naval Sub cruising the ocean depths, but on that vessel also may lie the answers to Chelsea’s unasked questions about who she is really and she might learn to control her newfound powers. Unlike Chelsea, Trevor is aware of his heritage as a Lemurian, but he refuses to get involved in the war his people are wageing with the Atlanteans. He just can’t believe the girl he’s falling for is his innate enemy, and he’s able to keep it all under control until they find an Atlantean outpost filled with valuable artifacts on the ocean floor. It seems everybody wants those artifacts for their own reasons, and we can only guess who will get them, and where Chelsea will end up.

This story is well-written, with minimal telling of the tale. The characters are likeable, except for Trevor’s friend and fellow Lemurian, Valerie, who is a bit difficult to figure out, but I think that’s done on purpose to throw readers off the trail. I give Gyre four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“A Cat Came Back”: an unusual tale of transformation

A Cat Came Back

A Cat Came Back, by Simone Martel is a quirky little tale about a woman who finds herself in the body of a cat. Most of us, put in the same position, would panic and try to figure a way to get our own body back, but not Eliza. She accepts what has happened as a a matter of course. All she wants is for someone to see her for who she really is, and at first, it seems that being in this cat body might not be such a bad thing, since her boyfriend, Stu, takes one look at the cat and knows she’s in there. But, being recognized for who you are isn’t always easy, you have to keep working at it, especially when the only sounds that come out of your mouth are purrs, yowls and hisses.

A thoroughly entertaining story of transformation that offers a few surprises and the occasional chuckle. It’s light and quirky and funny. Not your typical body switching out of the bottle tale. I give A Cat Came Back four quills.

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“Blood in the Water”: A Crazy Crime Novel

Blood cover

Author Tim Baker has done it again and Flagler Beach is the setting for another crazy crime caper, Blood in the Water. Ike helps a friend with a seach for sunken treasure that leads to a thirty year old cold case, which strangely enough is tied to a murder investigation his girlfriend, Val, has undertaken. Can they bring done the killer and solve the cold case before he learns they are on his trail and puts a stop to their plans? No spoilers here. You’ll have to read the book to find out.

As usual, Tim Baker has turned out a fun and extremely entertaining read. Readers will root for the good guys and boo whenever the villian appears. Hidden identities, missing persons, sunken treasure and lots of danger. This book has it all.

I give Blood in the Water five quills.

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Leaving Eva/Losing Eva: A story of loss and seperation

Sivec Books

Leaving Eva and its sequel Losing Eva, by Jennifer Sivec, are a sad and tragic tale that evokes strong emotional response in the telling. This touching story may be true to life, covering the lives of not one, but several dysfunctional generations of women and the men in their lives, over the course of time. It is a tale where one tragic action by one self-centered girl dominoes into many heart-wrenching losses in a saga where nobody wins. While each book easily stands alone, together they tell a story of loss and tragedy that will bring all but those with hearts of stone to their knees. There is so much heartbreak within these two stories that they left me longing for a sequel, one titled Loving Eva, where at least one woman of the Harper family might finally find happiness.

One spoiled rich girl, Ellie, and a series of poor choices, leads to a life of abuse and neglect for her daughter, Eva, whom she abandons at a very young age. Losing Eva is the story of that young girl’s life, spent searching for love that seems to be just beyond her grasp. Losing Eva is the story of how once found, she constantly struggles to keep that love, and how it always seems to slip through her fingers. In addition, these books tell the story of all the others who are effected, both directly and indirectly, by Ellie’s initial decisions and the lessons, both learned and missed, from them.

This is a story you won’t want to put down. Sivec’s characters are well developed and she  makes you care about them. You will  hope for positive life experiences for them and root for them when they succeed, especially for the main character, Brynn. The plot is full of surprises and rivets you to your seat to find out what will happen next.

My only problem is the head hopping. In places it gets to be so bad that I had to stop and go back to figure out who’s POV I was in. At times the viewpoint changed mid-paragraph, which really made me have to stop and reread. Regardless of the recurring confusions that this caused, and the fact that it is one of my biggest pet peeves, this story was so powerfully told that it brought me to tears on more than one occasion. The Harper generational saga is woven like an intricate narative tapestry through the lifetime of one hauntingly tragic Harper woman.

Grab a box of tissue when you settle in to read Leaving Eva and Losing Eva. I give this story set four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Exposition: Telling vs. Showing

Old Manual Typewriter

A writer should show the reader, rather than tell the reader. Help them form a mental picture in their minds. Put them into the story. How many times have we all been told this? Finding a balance between showing and telling is a hard thing to do, but to be a good writer we must strive to achieve that balance.

I’m a person who likes to think big, and in my writing it’s no different. As many of you know, in graduate school, my genre fiction thesis project was the first book in my Playground for the Gods science fantasy series, In the Beginning. But, what you may not know is that my original thesis proposal was for what turned out to be the third book, only in my mind it was the only book and it spans back beyond prehistoric time. While preparing my thesis proposal the feedback that I recieved from instructors and cohorts time and again, was that my proposal would require too much exposition unless I created an epic tomb of unfathomable porportions, way beyond the scope of my thesis requirements, and impossible to complete in the time allowed.

The main problem was that there was a lot of background that I felt the reader needed to understand where the character was coming from in the now of the story. Most of that information was being communicated to my readers through exposition. The story wasn’t taking them back to relive the scene, it was simply filling them in on what they needed to know, because the story I wanted to tell spanned over billions of years. That’s a lot of backstory. That’s exposition.

Robin Conley saw a similar problem in her review of the movie Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, “Almost all of these really big elements deserved a proper set up because they are major story parts that will potentially carry over… The long exposition and set up in the film makes the story drag and hard to stay involved, no matter how many interesting elements there are.” Thumbs DownRobin explains what exposition does and why we don’t want too much of it. Too much exposition is like coming in in the middle of a film you’ve already seen, and filling in other viewers on what is happening, instead of letting them watch the film and figure it out for themselves.

That was the problem with my PfG story – way too much exposition. It happens all the time. And it’s easy to overlook it when you’re the author. Which is exactly what I had done with my thesis. I had that story outlined and plotted, but I kept having to stop and fill in the background details with exposition. And exposition tells your readers something, but it doesn’t provide a mental image for them. It doesn’t pulace them in the scene. Action and dialog accomplish those tasks quite well. And my cohorts and instructors were right, although at the time, I didn’t want to believe them.

My solution was to turn my story into a four part series. Hence the Playground for the Gods series was born. All that backstory, which had come out mostly in exposition, became a story of its own, one that I could show my readers, rather than telling them about it. My original story idea will eventually be book three, and although I did have to write the whole first book instead of the story I set out to tell for my thesis, that story outline is still waiting for me to put it in story form.

Of course, that isn’t the only way to solve problems of exposition, but this can be applied without creating entire novels. You simply expand on some scenes to eliminate exposition and create a longer story, chosing those scenes that are most vital to the story. You can also chose to leave certain information out, thus eliminating exposition without lengthening, and perhaps even shortening your story. It is a delicate balance, but as the writer, you must do what the story needs to achieve it. What works for one story may not necessarily be the answer for another.

So, how much exposition is too much? That’s a very subjective question, but generally speaking, if you’re telling your reader what happened, with a few lines of glib dialog thrown in here or there, then you have too much exposition. Your reader wants to get lost in the book, and for that, they need a story that is told in such a way that they feel like they are there.

We’ve all read stories like that. For me, it’s Anne Rice. I may have never been to New Orleans, but after reading some of her books, I feel like the Garden District and the French Quarter are old frieinds. I can smell the magnolia blossoms, and see the old plantation houses as if I’d been there. That’s the kind of story we, as authors, strive to write, regardless of the genre we write in. It’s the kind of story that has the perfect balance, using exposition only when absolutely necessary to fill in details, providing plenty of action and dialog to fill in the rest. It’s a  delicate balance, but one we must all strive for.

Until next time, Happy Writing!

 

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“24 Minutes” may seem like forever

24 Minutes front

All too often these days we turn on the news to hear there’s been another incidence of gun violence with massive death tolls. Employers are now providing training for what to do in the event they are faced with an act of work place violence as standard procedure, using scenarios that would never have occurred to us in times past, and the media is filled with experts offering possible explanations for such tragedy while the rest of us scratch our heads trying to figure it all out.

Now, author Tim Baker takes us there, offering a glimpse of what it might be like to be faced with an act of violence when a gunman lays siege on a corporate office, in his latest novel, 24 Minutes, to be released in January. As the reader is introduced and follows Tim’s characters as they battle their own fear and are faced with life or death decisions, it is impossible not to wonder how you would react, if faced with a similar situation. The whole scenario unravels quickly, lasting a mere 24 minutes, but for the characters of this tale, it may be their last. Going through the event with them, 24 Minutes may seem like forever, and you won’t want to wait to see what happens next and learn who the real heroes are.

Tim Baker addresses social issues which are prominant in our society today, offering an inside view illustrating the many sides of human nature which reveal themselves under pressure. A fast paced slowed to a readable tempo for maximum enjoyment. I give 24 Minutes four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.