The Disappeared – book review

The Disappeared (Retrieval Artist, #1)The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. I thought I’d become jaded about reading Sci-Fi, but Kristine Kathryn Rusch changed my mind with The Disappeared, first in the Retrieval Artist series.

When I spotted this book a few days ago on a promotion and saw it was the first book in Rusch’s Retrieval Artist series, I bought the eBook and started reading right away. Some years ago I’d enjoyed audio versions of one of Rusch’s Retrieval Artist short stories, and was eager to read the first book.

Wow! Rusch is a skilled, highly-readable author who is an expert in bringing characters to life on the page (eScreen?). Immediately, I was entangled in the dilemna of a woman about to Disappear from a life she loved, and the tragedy of a couple whose baby was mysteriously stolen.

I needed to discover the reason for the woman’s disappearance, the fate of the baby. I was fascinated by the world Rusch created, and the moral dilemma of good people wrestling with right and wrong in a world where the law allowed children to be stolen from their parents, where humans could unwittingly cross a line that doomed them to devastating legal consequences meted out under multi-species legal agreements.

Rusch paired a burned-out investigator with a brilliant rookie detective whose personal tragedy forces him to examine everything he believes. The author has created a masterpiece!

Now I’m ready for book 2 of the Retrieval Artist series. It’s waiting for me on my eReader.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Sinners and Saints, by Elaine Dryer

Sinners and SaintsSinners and Saints by Eileen Dreyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Digital books are wonderful. Wander into a Web site, browse through a screen or two, stumble across a title I haven’t read by an author I admire, and – presto, it’s on my ereader.

Sinners and Saints is classic Eileen Dreyer, with a plot that twists through multiple layers and secrets, and arrives breathlessly at a very satisfying ending amid a New Orleans hurricane.

This book has Eileen Dreyer’s signature on it, which is just as distinctive as Johnny Cash’s voice singing The Man in Black.  No spoilers here. For those of you who are fans of Dryer’s dark mysteries, you’ll recognize her touch in the heroine – a forensic trauma nurse; the setting, evocative and danger filled in a perfect-for-the-story stormy, darkly magical New Orleans; and a damaged hero who is darkly perfect.

Read Saints and Sinners yourself – if you like mysterious tales with memorable characters and dark twists, you’ll be glad you did!

I’m an Eileen Dreyer fan from years back. Now that I’ve finished this book, I’m about to start reading my new copy of her If Looks Could Kill. I read this shadowy, pulse-pounding Elaine Dreyer years ago, and can’t wait to revisit Dryer’s Pyrite, Missouri, and the heroine of If Looks Could Kill.

Vanessa

View all my reviews

A very enjoyable read! NO ROLE FOR A GENTLEMAN

No Role for a GentlemanNo Role for a Gentleman by Gail Whitiker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a pleasure to read!

I just finished reading friend and fellow writer Gail Whitiker’s new historical, NO ROLE FOR A GENTLEMAN. The author’s prose is beautiful and evocative, but the true beauty of her novel lies in the creation of characters with warmth, integrity, vulnerability, and a passion for life that brings them vibrantly alive.

Thank you for a warmly enjoyable visit to the past, and the companionship of Lawrence, Lady Joanna, their families, and the colorful world of Regency theatre and archeology, which is woven seamlessly and intriguingly throughout the story.

NO ROLE FOR A GENTLEMAN features characters from its predecessor, NO OCCUPATION FOR A LADY – also a very enjoyable read. No Occupation for a Lady

Vanessa

View all my reviews

Wool places author Hugh Howey among Science Fiction’s greatest authors!

Wool Omnibus, by Hugh Howey
I just finished reading the Wool Omnibus, and I’m floating. WOOL is everything a great Science Fiction should be – amazing, visceral, delightful story filled with powerful characters caught up in an epic search for meaning!

The birth of a great science fiction author is a very special event, and WOOL puts its author up there with the greatest Science Fiction writers – those who write (and wrote) books about real characters, searching for meaning, searching for their own truth, fighting and losing and winning and – above all – grabbing readers by the throat and carrying them on an amazing journey.

Wool goes up on my electronic bookshelf, along with a few select read-them-again-and-again-over-the-years Science Fiction novels, right between Alexai Panshin’s RITE OF PASSAGE and Robert Hienlien’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.

Thank you, Hugh Howey!   (and thank you @versoe for recommending this book!)

Vanessa Grant

A Powerful Memoir of Healing and the Spirit of Survival

Tonight I finished reading one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time – M. J. Adam’s Unforgiving – the Memoir of an Asperger Teen

I met the author at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference a few weeks ago, and talking with her was a pleasure from the first moment. How could it be otherwise when she told me that she’d once learned something very important about writing from a workshop I presented in Surrey – that when you’re writing about relationships, there must be personal growth for the characters.

Learning that I’d helped a developing writer made my day, and before the conference ended I had the pleasure of sharing the special kind of conversation that writers treasure. I went home with her memoir and promised myself I’d read it soon.

Well, I’ve  just finished reading Unforgiving, and I want to tell everyone what a great thing M. J. Adam has done.

Unforgiving – the Memoir of an Asperger Teen is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.

M. J. Adam has crafted an inspiring book, a definite must-read for anyone who has, knows, is, or was an Asperger’s teen. I highly recommend it for anyone who cares about child survivors of any kind of trauma, or for teens struggling to understand themselves and the world they live in.

The events that happened to Margaret Jean should never happen to any child. Yet they did happen, and each page of Margaret Jean’s memoir rings with love, the amazing power of healing, and the spirit of survival.

I cried. I laughed. I cheered Margaret Jean’s indomitable inner strength, and felt honoured that she had shared herself so deeply with this reader.

Buy this book. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Vanessa Grant

Thinking About Love

Today is a special day for me. Think About Love is now available as a Kindle book on Amazon!

This one is special for a couple of reasons.

Think About Love was the first of my books to be reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly. My editor at Kensington sent me the review before I saw a copy of the printed book. I was thrilled that to be mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, and pleased that I got a pretty decent review. I hoped to see good sales for this title, but unfortunately, hardly anyone got to see the book because the publisher discontinued the Zebra Bouquet line, and Think About Love was published in one of the final months. The publisher printed so few copies in the line’s final month, that I didn’t even get the copies I’d ordered directly from the publisher for friends and family. I generally refer to this book as, “the one they printed 10 copies of,” although I admit that’s a (slight) exaggeration 🙂

Now, thanks to the marvels of Indie publishing, Think About Love is available in my own Indie edition. And, because independent authors get to choose their own cover artists, I’m lucky enough to have the perfect cover, designed by my daughter, Angela Oltmann of AngieOCreations.com.

And this is a marker day for another reason – I’ve now published all of my backlist (with the exception of Pacific Disturbance, my very first book. That one needs a lot of work, and I may never get to it. Just reading the first page, it’s obvious to me that this was a writer learning her craft.)

My next project is a new book, the story of a counselor named Kate, who makes a decision that throws her into a counselor’s worst nightmare and sets her on a collision path with disaster. I’m in final revisions for Kate’s book, and one of my challenges is finding a title. I love it when titles come to me while I’m writing the first few chapters of a new story.  These early titles provide a focal point for my writing, and I escape the nagging frustration of trying to find the perfect title. I know almost everything about Kate, except the name of her story.  Somewhere around chapter 6, I came up with the title Lifelines, but it feels too tame for the storm Kate finds herself sailing into. 

In any case, I hope to release Kate (AKA ????) before Christmas this year.

Have a great day

Vanessa Grant

Think About Love – available at
Amazon.com
* Amazon UK * Amazon DE

 

Lawrence Block: lies, spiders, and more lies (book reviews)

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction WritersTelling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Telling Lies for Fun and Profit in the early 1980s, a couple of years after I’d decided to put aside my attempts to write a publishable fiction novel for a while.

I knew I wasn’t done with writing and that I would give it another try sometime, but it wasn’t until I picked up Block’s book of essays about writing that I decided it was time to write again. In friendly conversational style, Block gave me glimpses into a writer’s world that seemed accessible and answered many of my questions before I’d even asked them. Can you name real places in a novel? What about using a pseudonym? With practical musings on a host of subjects, Block’s ramble through the territory of writing gave me an inside view that told me it was time to pick up my dream of being a novelist and dust it off. The result was my first published novel, Pacific Disturbance.

Thanks, Lawrence Block, for giving writers a hand!

 

Spider, Spin Me a Web: A Handbook for Fiction WritersSpider, Spin Me a Web: A Handbook for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great book for writers and anyone thinking about being a writer! This book continues the collection of gems from Lawrence Block’s 10 years as a columnist for Writer’s Digest.

Block’s style is friendly and casual, often irreverent – and filled with gems for the creator. Definitely a keeper for the writer’s bookshelf, and a great read for anyone who is curious about writers and how they do (or don’t do) it. I read this book years ago, and often return to it.

Check out the last two books in the “Lies” series: “The Liar’s Companion” and “The Liar’s Bible”
View all my reviews

Writing and publishing in 2011, Penwarriors, and the power of pull


EC Sheedy’s blog postings always make me think, and her latest Penwarriors.com posting is no exception

EC’s “THE SIDE EFFECTS OF WRITING” got me thinking once again about the universe of publishing, writing, and the tangle of “empowerment + uncertainty” that the explosion of indie publishing has brought to modern writers. I replied to EC’s post earlier today with a bit of a ramble about my own discomfort with marketing, and a few thoughts about traditional print publishing as an unsustainable business model in 2011 – not  to mention being environmentally unfriendly.

As J A Konrath and a host of others have demonstrated, when a writer takes control of her own destiny by using channels like Amazon.com and Smashwords to epublish her own work, the results can be tremendously exciting. Over the last year conversations about indie publishing (print on demand and epublishing) have grown more common among writers everywhere. But as EC reflects,  many of us are uncertain of how to tackle the new realities of promotion intelligently, gracefully and – most importantly, without drowning in a flood of social media options that suck away our writing time.

This evening the dogs and I went for an oceanside walk with a good friend who is not a writer, and she told me she’s just read The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. She told me that one of the books’ premises is that  the old business model of “Pushing” products and controlling customers no longer works. I certainly believe this and from my friend’s description, “The Power of Pull” is based on the law of attraction rather than manipulation of others.

I got quite excited listening, because there’s too much “pushing” going on these days – in politics, in business, in the administration of education. And yet it seems to me the history of the Internet has shown that offering control to the “market” (i.e. Internet users) is what works and draws people to a Web site, to a product, to an idea. Certainly it has been a factor in the success of communications in our modern world of Twitter, Facebook, Google, and our multitude of many-to-many communications.

I’m off to do a little exploration of “The Power of Pull” – and as with most books I buy these days, I’ll avoid slaughtering a tree by purchasing it online. I’ve searched out the book online and have read one rather critical review that claims the book is “old stuff” and not news in the business management world, but I happen to know that a lot of wisdom is “old hat” that “everybody knows.” But knowing and putting into practice are two different things. I notice that very few businesses actually apply this modern wisdom. In short, I’m sceptical of the scepticism of the review LOL.

I’ll give the book the benefit of the doubt because it’s worth it to me to spend a few hours in the hopes I’ll gain some clarity as to how I might navigate the world of promotion a bit more intelligently, and find a way to avoid promotion taking up the mental energy that I need for creating.

I’ll let you know if I learn anything – or if I don’t!

A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness’ fascinating world


Last week, sitting in Oxford University’s atmospheric Bodleian Library, Dr. Diana Bishop and I brushed fingers over an ancient manuscript … and slipped into the compelling enchantment of Deborah Harkness’s “A Discovery of Witches.”  Harkness drew me more deeply under her spell as she threw each new challenge at her compelling heroine, Diana, a witch in denial who has turned her back on her family heritage. In “A Discovery of Witches” the author weaves an ancient complex mythology of witches, vampires, and demons linked both by DNA and centuries of a covenant that allows them to cohabit uneasily without attracting human notice.

The true beauty of “A Discovery of Witches” lies in the complex relationships of it’s characters — the growing complexities of love between Diana and the fifteen hundred year old scientist Matthew; the tangled love and pain of Matthew’s relationships with his fierce vampire mother, his dangerous brother, and his beloved sons both living and lost; between Diana and the ghosts of her parents who sacrificed their lives for her and left a mysterious chain of clues to her true destiny; between all these people and an ancient order of knights.

As I neared the end of Witches I wanted to hurry, to find out what happens to these wonderful people – and at the same time an unwillingness to reach the end. I’m not about to give any spoilers for those of you who haven’t yet read Deborah Harkness’s beautiful, exciting, and very satisfying story. I’ll just say that I love the way this book ended and was thrilled to realize that the ending was not an ending, but a door to a new beginning. A visit to the author’s website confirmed that A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy.

Hats off to a new mistress of storytelling, world building, and fantastic fiction. When book two comes along, I’m first in line – wand thank the Goddess for eBooks because wherever I am, I know I’ll be able to purchase it in the e-niverse

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel is available in Hardcover and as a Kindle Ebook from Amazon

Mary Ann Shaffer Makes Potato Peel Pie delicious!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slipping gently into the enchanting story world of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”, I’m falling under the spell of authors Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The story is told through a series of letters written and received by post-war British author Juliet Ashton, who is searching for a new book idea. After receiving a letter from a Guernsey resident who found her name written in a book, Juliet falls into correspondence with a growing number of Guernsey residents. As the authors reveal their story world and characters layer by layer, I am falling under their spell. How delightful to fall in story-love layer by gentle layer, a subtle treasure in a world of fast-immersion fiction.

Paperback available at Amazon Books The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader’s Circle)

Kindle Edition The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

View all my reviews