August 28, 2013

Book review: Everlost by Neal Shusterman

Buy from Amazon
Buy from B&N

Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident, but their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to go either. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.

When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost souls, Nick feels like he’s found a home, but Allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost.

In this imaginative novel, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Neal Shusterman's Unwind was one of my favorite reads of 2011, so I was excited to pick up Everlost. I thought the premise was interesting, and I found myself as intrigued with the realm of Everlost as the main characters were when they first arrived. Shusterman paints a vision of the afterlife with well thought out rules. The first quarter of the book flew by for me as I tried to understand where Allie and Nick were destined to spend the rest of eternity.

Then, the story turned into something different, a fairy tale that reminded me at times of Hansel and Gretel, Peter Pan, and Beauty and the Beast. Although most of Everlost wasn't the kind of story that I expected, it was still entertaining.

Toward the end of the book, Shusterman recaptured the magic of the afterlife again. The turn of events in the last chapters secured the book's 5-star rating for me. While not as good as Unwind, Everlost was another very good read that I would recommend to others.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggaiari.

August 21, 2013

"Drive" is FREE on Amazon Aug 21 and 22

You read that right! My new short story, "Drive", is FREE on Amazon for the next two days!
Click here to get it.

August 17, 2013

Book review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Buy from Amazon
Buy from B&N

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends--and planet--behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship. Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Someone tried to murder her.

Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest's rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship's cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Across the Universe had the potential to be a really good book. It's a YA sci-fi/dystopian story that's right up my alley. There were big mysteries to uncover, which I enjoyed (and some which I guessed early on). The premise and the setting of the ship were planned out logically for the most part. The main characters, Amy and Elder, were both well developed and people I could root for. I even liked the way their relationship evolved. It seemed realistic given their very different backgrounds, none of this nonsensical insta-love that pollutes YA books.

The main reason I'm giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 is that it's way too long. The hardcover edition I read was almost 400 pages long, and it could've easily been pared down to under 300. In fact, the first half of the book dragged at times while I waited for something to happen. It wasn't until the second half, when the mysteries of what's happening on the ship drove the plot, that the story became really interesting. If the first 300 pages had been like the last 100, this would be a 5-star book.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Everlost by Neal Shusterman.

August 11, 2013

Drive is available on Amazon

The short story I've been working on for the last month, Drive, is now for sale on Amazon for 99 cents!
Click here or on the cover image below to go to it.

Claire knows only a world where most of humanity lives inside sparsely populated cities protected from the Outside by guarded walls. She is a new Driver whose job is to transport items between these cities. Under the watchful eye of her Protector, Shaun, Claire makes her first run from San Jose to Angel City to bring back medicine needed to save hundreds of lives. However, the trip takes them through the dangerous land of the Outsiders. Using their skills, Claire and Shaun must escape from their armed pursuers in a chase across miles of barren wasteland with no hope of help.

August 7, 2013

Book review: The 500 by Matthew Quirk

Buy from Amazon
Buy fromm B&N

Mike Ford is a former con artist who's been plucked from his Harvard Law School classroom to be an associate at The Davies Group, Washington's most high-powered and well-respected strategic consulting firm. Their specialty: pulling strings and peddling influence for the five hundred most powerful people inside the Beltway, the men and women who really run Washington—and by extension the country, and the world.

The namesake of the firm, Henry Davies, knows everyone who matters; more importantly, he knows their secrets. Davies' experience goes back 40 years—he worked for Lyndon Johnson, jumped shipped to Nixon, then put out his own shingle as the Hill's most cut-throat and expensive fixer. Now he's looking for a protégé to tackle his most high-stakes deal yet, and Mike fits the bill.

Quickly pulled into a seductive, dangerous web of power and corruption, Mike struggles to find his way out. But how do you save your soul when you've made a deal with the devil?

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

When I started the Authors A to Z reading challenge, I knew there were two letters with slim pickings: Q and X. I couldn't think of any authors with last names starting with Q, so I went to my local public library in search of one. Their selection spanned less than twenty books, and The 500 was the one that sounded the most interesting.

When I started reading it, The 500 reminded me of a John Grisham legal thriller, like The Firm or The Associate. As a fan of Grisham, I thought I had stumbled upon a gem. However, as I continued reading the novel, I found that Matthew Quirk is no John Grisham.

There were two main problems with this book. First, I didn't feel anything toward the main character, who narrates the story from the first person point of view. If I can't relate to someone who is directly telling me the story, then something's wrong. The second problem I had was that the first half of the book didn't read like a coherent story. It felt like we were getting vignettes from Mike's life, jumping back and forth in time and space at random. The author would end one chapter on a cliffhanger situation and then start the next chapter with a flashback to another point in Mike's life. It resulted in a jarring and annoying reading experience.

The only thing that kept my interest throughout the novel was my affinity for books in this genre. If you're a Grisham fan who's read everything he's written and are looking for other similar books, then you might want to give The 500 a try. Otherwise, if you're just looking for a good legal thriller, I recommend reading Grisham instead.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

August 3, 2013

Coming soon: Drive

I mentioned last month that I was done with the first draft of my latest novel and that I planned to work on a short story before editing the novel. I'm happy to announce that my short story is almost ready to publish! It's titled simply Drive, and my wife thinks it's the best story I've written so far. :-)

I'm putting the finishing touches on Drive and expect it to be available for sale in the next week or so. Stay tuned!