Books reviewed have been either gifted by the author or purchased by me.
My book review policy:
1. I don't charge to write reviews.
2. If I don't like a book enough to give it a 3 or higher rating I will not write a review as I think
negative-only reviews are unhelpful. That's why you don't see any 1 or 2 star reviews from me.
3. I do not read horror, erotica, pornography, poetry and religion.
4. I assess a book on four fronts:
--the story and how well it is developed
--the characters and how well they are developed
--dialogue: how well it advances the story and how real it is
--the quality of writing.
5. I write what I think. Honest reviews only.
I am currently not taking requests for reviews.
|Posted by Alana on November 30, 2013 at 4:05 PM||comments (2)|
|Posted by Alana on November 30, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Alana on November 26, 2013 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
Excerpts from Matthew's Amazon bio:
Matthew Pallamary's historical novel of first contact between shamans and Jesuits in 18th century South America, Land Without Evil, was published in hardcover by Charles Publishing, and received rave reviews along with a San Diego Book Award for mainstream fiction. It was chosen as a Reading Group Choices selection and has been adapted into a full-length stage and sky show by Austin's Sky Candy and Agent Red. It was the subject of a PBS series, Arts in Context, that premiered nationally January 2013.
Matt has appeared on the following nationally syndicated television shows speaking about fading cultures: Bridging Heaven and Earth, Elyssa's Raw and Wild Food Show, Things That Matter, and ECONEWS.
Matt also received the Man of the Year 2000 from San Diego Writer's Monthly Magazine.
He frequently visits the jungles, mountains, and deserts of North, Central, and South America pursuing his studies of shamanism and ancient cultures.
Add me to your Google + circles: +AlanaWoods
|Posted by Alana on November 23, 2013 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
My guest this week needs no introduction, to the indie author community at least. He’s considered close to being a superstar by the many he has helped towards publishing with his self-help books. But he’s also a novelist with two huge-in-scope works of fiction to his credit.
Alana: Jason Matthews, welcome, it’s a real pleasure to have you here today. Before we talk about your many activities and books could we find out a little about you. You live in California; have you always lived there?
Jason: Thank you, Alana, for the very kind reception. I was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Unfortunately my parents divorced when I was a baby, and my mother, sister and I moved around quite a bit. We also lived in Massachusetts and Ohio while spending summers with Dad in Colorado and Oregon. I returned to North Carolina for college and then moved permanently to California in 1991. I love this state.
Photo: Jason formerly lived in Truckee, California. Here he is enjoying some 'big snow'
Photo: He recently moved to Pismo Beach in California
Alana: You are also one of that rare breed, a full-time author who actually makes your living by writing—when did you reach that point?
Jason: I used to be a house painting contractor and just didn’t have the time or energy to follow through on a dream of writing my first novel. It took several years and probably never would have been written without taking substantial time off from painting. When I started selling my third book I broke free from painting and focused entirely on writing and marketing. The money wasn’t consistent and I used up all of my savings, but eventually things got better.
As you know it’s very difficult to earn a living on one or two books. I now have five titles selling as ebooks and paperbacks, but I also sell a video course, work as an author consultant and even do speaking engagements. It takes those other sources of income to pay the bills, and still there are times when it feels like just scraping by.
Alana: Well, let’s first talk about the publishing self-help books because they’re how many hundreds, if not thousands, of authors have first discovered you. There are three, I believe. What subjects do they address?
Jason: The titles are indicators of what they’re about.
HOW TO MAKE, MARKET AND SELL EBOOKS—ALL FOR FREE is an overview and training program for authors wanting to self-publish, and it specialises in using free methods when possible or recommending inexpensive alternatives, like with cover design for example.
Two important chapters within that book were about making blogs and websites, but there wasn’t enough time to go into thorough detail so I wrote HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN FREE WEBSITE: AND YOUR FREE BLOG TOO where those subjects could be properly covered, and also the book would appeal to people who were not authors.
Alana: And the third?
Jason: A very important chapter in that book was about SEO (search engine optimisation), but again the subject was so large it really needed its own book, so I also wrote GET ON GOOGLE FRONT PAGE.
Alana: You’re active on so many fronts. I know you have a Facebook group because that’s how I first found you over a year ago, and you also host a weekly Google+ hangout about publishing that you post to YouTube—would you tell us about those, but also all the other ways you’re active publishing-wise.
Jason: The Facebook group came about as an example from the self-publishing book. I give examples of doing things I recommend, so for Facebook I created a group page and a fan page. Three and a half years later the fan page is a total dud but the group page has over 1800 members.
Google Plus is super because it has such a dynamic platform with features like hangouts. What’s really nice is that I only use it for writing associates and not for friends or family. I do an Indie Authors show on Google Plus that becomes YouTube videos, and I’ve even had the pleasure of interviewing Alana Woods for an episode on essential writing tips, which was a great show that is still helping others.
Alana: A plug! Thank you.
Jason: My pleasure.
Alana: What you’re describing here is building a platform, isn’t it.
Jason: Yes. I work to build an author platform consistently over time. My blogs are very important, and I post regularly. Also YouTube is fantastic. If I can think of something that will make a good video, I always try it. Forums for writers and readers are good too, but there’s only so much time so it’s primarily Goodreads. Lately I’ve been doing more speaking events, and it’s really exciting to work with a live audience.
Alana: What are the types of groups you speak to? Are they primarily writing based?
Jason: Primarily, yes. I’ve spoken and made presentations about the self-publishing experience at a few paid writing conferences, so hopefully that will continue to grow. The focus is usually an outline of what it takes to sell books and the things writers often do to become successful. I’ve also presented to smaller, less formal gatherings like book signings or release events. I’ve talked to classrooms at schools and presented at libraries, where an interesting mix of people show up. I’ve done many radio interviews and also consult individual authors who want help with projects.
Alana: Let’s talk about your novels now. I’m familiar with two, JIM’S LIFE and THE LITTLE UNIVERSE—I’ve read and reviewed both. They deal with such big issues I’m going to wimp out and ask you to tell us what they are.
Jason: THE LITTLE UNIVERSE began as a way to think about our place in the universe, other planets, other intelligent life and how we might all be evolving together. Obviously these are big subjects with profound, even unanswerable, questions. The book is really about creating a project that displays those things in a way we might be able to learn from it, and of course I’ve taken some liberties with what I believe we might find if we had a universe and all its mysteries at our fingertips.
Alana: It kept me interested! And JIM’S LIFE, which, I didn’t realise when I read it, is the sequel to THE LITTLE UNIVERSE—not that I think it’s necessary to read them in order. But I think JIM’S LIFE is my favourite of the two.
Jason: That’s great to hear, Alana, because many readers have told me the opposite, and I like them both for different reasons. JIM’S LIFE is about a teenage boy who suffers a life-changing accident. The trauma affects his brain function and vision in a way that gives him the ability to see the light fields with living things, like the auras and chakras of people. In time he learns to work with the light fields and becomes a healer, even considered a miracle healer. What complicates things is the accident he endured was a result of running from a crime. So he is on trial for a crime as the world realises his unique healing abilities, which brings the philosophical and spiritual nature of the story to the forefront.
Alana: You present such a conundrum for the reader to come to grips with! It’s terrific.
Jason: Thank you.
Alana: You also have other works to your credit. I’m unfamiliar with them so could you give us a rundown?
Jason: Presently I just have some short stories on Amazon, and I’ve written a screenplay called Minor Extremes that is collecting dust on my shelf. It’s about a young man’s effort to bring the sport of extreme skiing from obscurity to the limelight and the lengths he’ll go to make his dream a reality.
Alana: I hesitate to ask the next question because you sound as though it might be difficult to fit anything else in to your schedule, but I’m going to anyway. Are you working on another book or project? If you are can you tell us about it, or is it too early to be revealing ideas, themes and plot points?
Jason: Yes, it’s important to create new content, and I’ve made the mistake of only marketing existing titles for far too long. I’m working on the third novel of the series …
Alana: Sorry to interrupt but, GREAT. I can’t wait to see where you take things.
Jason: That’s perfectly okay … and I have a nice critique group reading along the way. That is so helpful for edits and suggestions, wish I did more with critique groups before! This story is about two girls, sisters with different mothers, who are born with a cellular mutation that enables them to have special abilities and powers. They are viewed by the world as the next stage for humankind. How they use their powers is up to them, and the conflicts arise from the public pressures, their own internal struggles and with each other.
Alana: These are all subjects you’re obviously intensely interested in. Would you tell us how that interest arose and how you continue to pursue them.
Jason: As a kid I was always fascinated by the universe and our own human evolution. How did we get to where we are and where might society be heading in the future? When one spends time contemplating these things, subjects like science, religion, spirituality, environment, relationships and more come into the picture. I think my novels touch on all of those subjects, hopefully in a fun way leaving room for interpretation and without coming across as one way of thinking or as preachy.
Alana: Definitely not preachy, but I have to say they opened up my mind to so much more than I’ve previously thought about. Jason, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to find out more about the man as well as the author.
Jason: Thank you so much. What a pleasure it is getting to know and working with authors all over the world, like you, Alana
Take this link to my review of THE LITTLE UNIVERSE
|Posted by Alana on November 23, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
Have you ever wondered about The Big Bang? What it was, how it happened? Wonder no more. Instead, follow the characters in this huge-in-scope novel as they set about re-creating it. Do they succeed? Oh yes. And how. With the help of an infinitely talented and intelligent computer named Jim they build their own little universe within the confines of a purpose-built building and then proceed to tweak, play and interact with planetary inhabitants to suit their own purposes.
The investors see only the mind-blowing profits that can be made from exploiting technology from more-advanced planets than their own, and they conflict with venture partners who want to observe and learn from one particular planet whose inhabitants are in tune with the entire universe.
This novel is an exploration of creation, the existence of a creator, spirituality, reincarnation and much much more. Matthews exhibits an expertly deft touch as he explores what are obviously to him important subjects. By novel’s end I found myself in a contemplative mood as I pondered the ideas he raised.
A lot of the story involves a voyeuristic slant as the protagonists watch what’s happening on the planets that interest them and my interest level dipped as this felt like surface-skimming. My interest lay in the meditation interactions with the Thetans and how the project changes the lives of the protagonists.
The story has a definite beginning and ending and about three quarters of the way in there’s a jolt that completely alters the reader’s perception of everything. That was clever and had me smiling.
This is the first in a two-book series, the second being JIM’S LIFE which I unknowingly read last year. While it’s not imperative to read them in order I wish I had because, even though I loved JIM’S LIFE and gave it five stars, it would have been advantageous to have the background of THE LITTLE UNIVERSE to draw upon.
This is a well-written, well-told story with characters I felt I knew by the time I finished.
Take this link to my interview with Jason Matthews
|Posted by Alana on November 16, 2013 at 9:10 AM||comments (2)|
My guest this week has written and published two vastly different books. The first is HOME TO STAY, a contemporary romance with a dash of western that I’ve just read and reviewed. The second, that I also want to ask her about, is ON THE OTHER HAND, a story that gets to the heart of how to deal with life after a loved one suffers a stroke. A subject relevant for so many of us.
Alana: June, welcome. First tell us a little about yourself. You live in Alberta, Canada. Forgive my ignorance but is that anywhere near Calgary, the setting for HOME TO STAY?
June: I live in Red Deer, a little more than an hour’s drive from Calgary, but most people will not have heard of it so I just say Alberta. Calgary is a city in Alberta and Alberta is a province of Canada. I did live there for a few years and I still visit family and friends there often.
Alana: And you chose it as the location for the story because … ?
June: I chose Calgary because I know it well and it’s a city that many people around the world know. It’s the home of the Calgary Stampede and many large national and international companies have offices there.
I used the home that my parents owned in Springbank, just outside Calgary, as the home where Diana lives in HOME TO STAY.
Alana: After reading your bio it sounds like we have a lot in common. You’re a keen traveller, hiker and gardener—all things that I also love doing. What have been your travel/hiking highlights so far? Maybe we’ve crossed paths without realising.
June: Traveling is something I wanted to do from a very young age. I wanted to visit other cultures and to see other ways of life, but I was in my forties before I needed a passport. Since then my husband and I have visited many places, including the States, Mexico, Fiji, and Egypt. He’s my best travel buddy.
Photos: June in Egypt and with her husband in Ireland
Alana: What about lately?
June: The last two years we visited the provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia, right here in Canada, and quickly realised that we didn’t need to leave our own country to see different cultures and breathtaking scenery.
Alana: I know what you mean. My husband John and I feel the same way about Australia.
June: As for hiking, I love it because it’s something that my girlfriends and I do, so we get a little ‘girl time’. It’s healthy for us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Photos: June with her sister in Palm Springs, California and hiking in Victoria, Canada, with friends
Alana: Can we talk a little bit about ON THE OTHER HAND? Like you, I’ve experienced stroke in my family and the effects are profound. I believe it’s a fictional story but is it also an attempt to come to terms with the devastation it caused you?
June: In 1983 my father kissed my mother good-bye and went into town. When he came home a few hours later he found her collapsed on the floor. Her head hurt so bad that she had vomited and could hardly speak. He placed her on their bed and phoned 911. By the time the ambulance arrived she was in a coma and she died in the hospital a few days later. That is very similar to what happens when Nina, the main character in ON THE OTHER HAND, finds her husband in the backyard. But that is where the similarities to my father’s experience ends.
Since then there have been many friends and family members who woke up with a spouse and were widowed before day’s end, due to heart attack or stroke. Every time it happened it was difficult for me to accept what felt like an injustice. I could only imagine what the widow(er) was experiencing and it was devastating to watch them, knowing that I couldn’t fix it and not knowing how to help them. Nina is a composite of all of them.
Alana: Did writing it help you personally? And has it helped others?
June: Writing ON THE OTHER HAND was very emotional for me, but I believe it was worth it. Readers of all ages have told me how much they enjoyed the story, but the response from people who share Nina’s experience is overwhelming. I am receiving comments like: ‘You got it. I didn’t think anyone understood what I was going through, but you got it’, or ‘My mother and sister couldn’t understand what I was going through, so I gave them your book to read. Now they get it’.
Writing it helped me, but knowing what it means to others, to know that someone ‘gets it’ … to be honest, I can’t describe how that makes me feel.
Alana: I believe you’re now working on a third novel. Can you tell us what it’s about? Is it a romance, like HOME TO STAY, or something entirely different?
June: My third novel is entirely different from my first two. ON THE OTHER HAND is inspirational. HOME TO STAY is a romance. My third novel is all about payback.
Alana: Your first two books are founded on personal experience so you were, to some extent at least, writing ‘what you know’. Is this also true of novel number 3 or are you branching out into new territory?
June: I am totally branching out into new territory. Because the first two novels were founded on personal experience there was not a lot of research. The novel that I’m currently writing has murder, sexual abuse, and embezzlement. I’m happy to say that I have not had experience in any of those, but it is making for a lot of research.
I hope this novel will make the reader ask him/herself a lot of questions like ‘Is payback EVER justified?’ and, if so, ‘How far do you go for payback?’ ‘Is murder going too far?’
Alana: Big questions! And I think I know the answer to at least one of them. I look forward to seeing how you address them. June, thank you so much, it’s been such a pleasure talking to you.
Take this link to my review of HOME TO STAY
|Posted by Alana on November 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
Diana Crawford had fled her family home, Aces Corral ranch just outside Calgary in Canada, two years ago to escape a family tragedy. HOME TO STAY opens as she returns home to pick up the pieces, knowing she will never leave again. The homecoming proves to be an emotional rollercoaster ride for her. Her nearest neighbours, Len and Dot Mackenzie, close to her in both proximity and love have had a tough time while she’s been away and now rely on their nephew, Barry Daniels, to do much of the work around the place. And, yes, Barry’s the gorgeous hunk who keeps Diana guessing almost until the last page in this light western romance.
There isn’t much in the way of plot and you know things are going to work out well but the will-they/won’t-they tension is handled well and maintained.
Depth to the story is added in two ways: first by the descriptions of a working horse ranch. The author seems to be in familiar territory here and it adds interest to what could otherwise have been a trite love story. Then there is Barry’s mysterious business dealings which keep him busy on the phone and internet and which he won’t discuss with Diana. Together they help to flesh the story out.
The sex is pretty detailed but fortunately, at least as far as my reading pleasure is concerned, it doesn’t go any further than the foreplay before the bedroom door is metaphorically shut.
I had a bit of trouble believing some of the dialogue, in particular the way Barry speaks to Diana. I tend to think that the love talk that is attributed to male characters in many books is what women wish their man would say to them when in actual fact no man would be caught dead uttering such stuff. But it’s not too unbelievable and that’s just a small criticism.
HOME TO STAY is a nice story satisfactorily told. The language is descriptive and I had no trouble picturing the location and scenery, all of which sounds superb.
Take this link to my interview with June McCullough
|Posted by Alana on November 12, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
Marla discusses the differences between traditional and indie publishing, marketing, her experiences as a development editor and her books.
Jason and Marla also discuss Kickstarter, a way to fund creative projects which Marla is using for her latest book.
From Marla's Amazon bio: Her first book debuted in 1999. Marla wrote the only authorized biography of the iconic World Cup/Gold Medal winning US Women's National Soccer Team that Simon & Schuster published (ALL AMERICAN GIRLS). Her sports oriented columns appeared in Oxygen.com and International Soccer Magazine.
Marla began teaching MarketingtheMuse Workshops in 2003. Her message to writers is constant: It's not good enough to write well, you must also know how to market your work. That lesson Marla learned during the marketing phase of ALL AMERICAN GIRLS. With the exception of a rarified few authors, most traditionally published authors are out here 'alone' and must wear several hats to market our muse.
|Posted by Alana on November 5, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
Indie Authors no. 50 welcomes Linda Joy Myers, President of the National Association of Memoir Writers, who discusses the power of memoir and her books including DON'T CALL ME MOTHER: A daughter's journey from abandonment to forgiveness.
Linda's biography: Linda Joy Myers, PhD, is the president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers & Co-President of the Women's National Book Association, SF. She has won prizes for fiction, memoir and poetry: First Prize, Jessamyn West Fiction Contest; Finalist, San Francisco Writing Contest for Secret Music, a novel about the Kindertransport; First Prize, poetry, East of Eden Contest, and First Prize Carol Landauer Life Writing Contest.
|Posted by Alana on November 2, 2013 at 5:00 PM||comments (0)|
I was some way into this book, THE CRONE CLUB, before starting to think the story had more depth than I originally thought. I was thinking, ‘Stereotypical characterisation, lack of subtlety, no spark’ but it slowly became more than that and I found myself enjoying it.
The story begins with a class reunion, the gang now women of that magic age, 60—making them Boomers. Many haven’t met again since leaving school and they’re all interested in what each has accomplished in life. There are the porn star twins, the rich, the bitch, the professionals, the housewife, the widow and ... the missing. They form The Crone Club and set each other two tasks: a dream to realise and a challenge to accomplish.
The book deals with rape and how attitudes have changed over the years. There’s also controlling husbands, cancer, charity and third world hunger—some very big issues. They receive surface treatment only, no in-depth discussion, but then I don’t think that’s what the author was intending. It’s about mature people overcoming obstacles—yes, just because you’re 60 it doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out—and written in such a way that you don’t think of the morals being presented.
Bambi is the fairy godmother who takes everyone in, pays their bills and looks after them, which is very convenient for allowing characters to not find themselves in true-to-life no-way-out situations.
Essentially it’s about women enjoying themselves and empowering each other.
Are they successful? Finding out makes for a light read encompassing comedy, poignancy and drama as you follow each character’s path while they pursue their goals.
I believe it’s the first in a series, so we’ll be able to follow the Crone Club’s development.
I was unable to contact the author for an accompanying interview.