Dolamore's Magic Under Glass-
a unique blend of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty
and Charolette Bronte's Jane Eyre-
is a solid start for this debut author.
Set in a magic world that resembles Victorian London, with a few fairies hanging around for good measure, we first meet protagonist Nimira while dancing with a troupe of “trouser girls”. Nirmira is a noble-born foreigner from the exotic land of Tassim. After losing her mother and seeing her father disgraced, Nimiria is forced to dance for low wages and even lower respect. Then her knight in shining armor arrives- the handsome, wealthy and recently widowed Hollin Perry. He hires Nimira to sing with his enchanted automaton on piano accompaniment. A life of leisure with a handsome man as her benefactor seems like the perfect path until Nimira discovers the automaton is haunted. Add to that the dark forbidding Perry estate, the nasty, suspicious housekeeper and curious, frightening wonders Nimira finds when she arrives, readers are all set for a deliciously dark exploration into this world of magic.
The most intriguing character in the story is Erris, the automaton- a clockwork man who, when wound, plays any song set in front of him. It is no surprise that as soon
as he is alone with Nimira he comes to life, grunting and gesturing. Unafraid like the other girls Hollin has hired, Nimira immediately attempts communication. She discovers Erris is a fairy prince trapped inside the machine. This fresh scenario set inside a familiar plot is what makes this novel worth picking up.
Dolamore's style also sets her apart. Mimicking her 19th Century setting, her prose has a hint of Bronte with a current fast-paced speed. Teens who may not yet be ready to tackle the likes of Jane Eyre
or Pride and Prejudice
, would do well to start with Magic Under Glass
. The book is short enough to read in a weekend (just under 200 pages) and is appropriate for some middle grade readers as well. Any conflict in the book is usually verbal and the one time the housekeeper strikes out at our protagonist
the worst that happens is a stinging burn. For those that like a gritty visceral look into the magic world, this book is not for you. Like her prose, the characters are delicate, civil and just plain nice to each other. As far as epic world building goes, this book sets it's sights elsewhere. Though one won't explore new worlds, the familiar one presented here allows you to concentrate on character and plot. If you like a little fantastical sprinkled into your English tea party, this is your book.
Overall, I did enjoy the read, which can be found on Amazon.
Dolamore has a sequel, Magic Under Stone,
slotted for April 2012. I think it will be worth the $8.99 to see where Dolamore takes us.
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"Carson's Love" is my first foray into independant publishing. Its available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
I didn’t see the sun today. Well, that’s not entirely true; I felt its presence. Sunlight streamed through my office window, but it never actually touched my skin. I left for work at 4:30 A.M. and here I stand in front of my house at 7 p.m., getting out of my car in the clear spring twilight.
I’m tired. Not normal ‘tired,’ but deeply, numbly exhausted to my inner bones. If I could stand forever between my car and my house, I would. Right here, under the budding stars in this tiny sliver of time I belong to myself, even if for one moment.
I suppose this day went to the same place my other days go. It is converted, like everything else in my life. I’m not a man anymore; I’m a conversion machine. In the morning I convert coffee to consciousness, so I can go to work and convert the dwindling minutes of my life into a paycheck, which is then converted into a mortgage.
At least my mortgage isn’t upside down, like most of my neighbors. We were sensible and waited until we could afford our house. As luck had it, we bought after the housing crash. I’m often told how sensible I am. I think it’s supposed to be a compliment.
My house isn’t upside down. I am.
Through the open garage I see a white overstuffed trash bag waiting on my workbench, right next to my dark, greasy 289 small block V-8 engine. I’ve been rebuilding it since we lived in the last house. I haven’t touched it in years.
After we moved in I spent two nights getting my garage workshop exactly the way I always wanted it. From my Craftsman tools to the custom overhead vacuum system, this workshop is (was?
) my dream. I immediately started looking for a 1969 Ford Mustang body in which to lovingly place the rebuilt engine.
No Mustang body materialized in my garage and the engine isn’t complete. Now my workshop is buried under knick-knacks, boxes stuffed with old clothes, and outgrown toys. My well-organized Craftsman tools lay somewhere below that pile, hidden and waiting for a sunny, perfect Saturday.Half of all author’s profits will go to Curesearch.org.
TITLE: The Colony
AUTHOR: Jillian Weise
PUBLISHER: Soft Skull Press
GENRE: Literary Fiction
THE RUNDOWN The Colony
follows Anne Hatley, a one-legged English teacher who volunteers to live at an institution called the Colony for three months. There, she is told that her genetics will be studied and her leg will be regenerated. The premise is intriguing: a group of people with varying genetic defects are stuck together for three months while scientists perform tests on them and the media prods them. Jillian’s writing is at times beautiful, quirky and funny. The Colony
was touted as a dystopian novel, a look into the morality of genetic research. And yet, with so much promise, the book managed to completely miss its mark.
To begin with, Anne Hatley is one of the most self-centered, needy people I’ve ever read about. She cheats on her boyfriend and is disgusted with him for not saying anything when he finds out. She hates the world for noticing her leg, but doesn’t want to grow it back. I kept reading, entertained, for the same reason I continue to watch Sex and the City: What will this self-absorbed nymphomaniac do next?
Then Darwin appears (yes, the
Charles Darwin) and it’s never explained if he’s a ghost or if he’s a figment of her imagination. Then flowers start sneezing and people start floating in mid-air. It’s not that I’m against fantasy, but when I’m reading about the morality of genetic research in a modern-day setting, I’m a little surprised when a girl who has the ‘obesity gene’ starts floating because of the side-effects of her treatment. The fantastic elements of the story were well beyond explanation. The scientific elements were grossly lacking.
I hoped for redemption at the end of the book, but found none. Neither the main character nor the plot took a surprising turn. I was left with a book that started out trying to be smart, and ended up sounding pretentious and uneducated.
I would not recommend this book to anyone looking for dystopian fiction or deep, conceptual plots. If you’re looking for a humorous voice and a sexy romance novel, you might give it a shot. But I still wouldn’t suggest putting it at the top of your summer reading list.
STILL WANT TO BUY IT? Visit Jillian Weise’s website Buy it on Amazon
From now on, our book reviews will be posted every Monday. Thursday reviews will soon be a thing of history. Our new tradition will begin this Monday, the 24th of October, with a review of The Colony by Jillian Weise, brought to you by AB's Newbies. We hope you enjoy starting off your week with a new review. Thanks for your support.
I am as excited as I am proud to introduce Alma Katsu to Underground Book Reviews.
Ms. Katsu is the author of The Taker, the first in a trilogy. The second book, The Reckoning, is due to be released in June of 2012.
Although this is Ms. Katzu’s first published work, the novel has caught the attention and praise of many New York Time Bestselling authors, as well as receiving rave reviews from critics.
I would like to thank Ms. Katsu for taking time out of her busy schedule for this interview.
Kimberly: You seem to have a varied background; Brandeis University to an M.A. from the John Hopkins writing program. I also read that you worked for the CIA --in the financial side of the business. Could you tell us a bit about your background?
Ms. Katsu: First of all, I’m OLD so that explains why I’ve done so many things. I started off when I was young thinking I would be a writer, and then writing for newspapers, but then went to work in intelligence just to accumulate interesting experiences. Ended up with a great career but decided at 40 to really try to write a novel. By that time, after nearly 20 years as an analyst, I’d learned what it takes to really learn how to do something. So, I went to graduate school—Johns Hopkins—in addition to writing, going to conferences, attending author readings, learning, learning, learning. I didn’t set out thinking I was writing a book that would be published. I wanted to try to master the craft of writing a novel.
Kimberly: Have you written any other books before this one?
Ms. Katsu: I wrote a novel when I was seventeen. Needless to say, it was horrible. I rewrote it as a senior in college because the writing program at Brandeis, at the time, required a senior thesis. I also wrote three novels during the ten years I worked on The Taker. I’d hit a wall in The Taker, put it aside, write something new, think of a way around the things that were giving me trouble with The Taker, and go back to it. Writing those other novels really helped me develop as a writer. And it drove home that a writer doesn’t just write one book. It can’t all be about The One Book.
Kimberly: Your story weaves in and out of centuries beginning with present day, going back to the l8th century and then 200 years before. There are so many details you give on the journey from Maine to Hungary to Romania, how much time did you spend on research? Have you been to these countries? If so, what kind of research books did you use? What fascinated me was the 'mandrake root.' The creativity of this whole scene was unbelievable as if they pulled up the root, the crying would be so loud it would kill a human being.
Ms. Katsu: I’d been interested in magic and witchcraft since I was a kid and read any books on the subject I could get my hands on. Considering I went to a Catholic school, this made me highly suspect. Anyway, the scene where the physic is having the housekeeper pull up the mandrake root is exactly as it’s described in old texts. So no imagination needed, actually! I did a lot of research for specific things I needed to know as I wrote but a lot of knowledge was just rattling around in my head. I’d grown up in an area that figured prominently in Early American history, and you’d be surprised how much you just absorb for being around it. I’d been to Hungary and learned a lot about the country’s history, and somewhere along the way I read up on medieval life. I bought scholarly books on early Maine history, which were incredibly helpful. A few things in The Taker came directly out of those books, such as the charismatic preacher who tries to get Lanny to introduce him to Jonathan.
Kimberly: What does the title The Taker mean in regards to your novel? It felt like all of the characters were takers.
: The TakerBy
: Alma KatsuHardcover
: 448 pagesPublisher:
Late one night, Dr. Luke Findley is summoned to the emergency room in the quaint town of St. Andrews, Maine. Findley is a divorced, lonely, middle-aged physician stuck practicing in the small town where he was born. But, when the local sheriff brings Lanore (Lanny) McIlvrae, a suspect in a murder case, into the hospital to be evaluated, Luke’s life takes a drastic turn.
Luke is strangely taken by the young, mysterious woman. She tells him she was born and raised St. Andrews . . . in the early l800’s. After proving signs of immortality, the physician agrees to help her escape. This is when Lanny’s dark story begins to unfold.
Lanny McIlvea’s account begins as a teenager with her obsessive desire for Jonathan, the son of the St. Andrews founder. When she becomes pregnant with his child, Lanny’s is sent to Boston where she is to give birth, give the child up for adoption, and then return to her Pilgrimage home.
A strange twist of fate, however, leads her to the home of Adair, a wealthy European. When she is forced to take a potion stolen from a physic some 200 years ago, she becomes eternally bound to the destructive, twisted and depraved Adair.
The well-crafted story interweaves historical fiction with the supernatural. THE TAKER explores an age-old question. At what price is someone willing to not only pay for eternal life, but to covet another person . . . . forever. Quote from The Taker:
“We sleep and wake, eat and drink, go through our day like anyone else. The only difference is that another person might ponder, from time to time, which day will be his last. But you and I, our days, will never end.”Reaction:
I will say I was a bit apprehensive when I chose to review this book. I am pragmatic. I want to know how something happens and why. However, Katsu took me by surprise when I found myself totally captivated. Her free and easy writing style captured every moment and brought each character to life. Katsu doesn’t just take us there, we are there. The scenes move easily and fluently from present day back to the l800’s and then to Romania in the l600’s.
It is not only Katzu’s vivid descriptions that hooked me, but the story line. The story was so believable that I found myself shaking my head to remind myself I was reading fiction. Recommendation:
This is a captivating read for anyone open who wants to read a great book. A reader needs to be open-minded, however, about the dark side of our human nature. If you are absolutely opposed to reading about sex, abuse, or witchcraft, this is not your book. However, I wasn't that interested in stories with such overtones, but couldn’t put the book down.
Just as The Scarlet Letter
became a classic, I predict Katsu’s trilogy will also live on to become classics.
**Not recommended for anyone under l8 years old.
Stay tuned for The Reckoning
, the second book in Katsu’s trilogy is due to be released in June of 2012.
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 www.almakatsu.comalmakatsu.blogspot.com'Alma Katsu, author' on Facebook @almakatsu on Twitter
As if writing a novel wasn't hard enough while working a full time job, raising two small children and trying to keep some semblance of a marriage, I've reached the part of this process that in my mind feels similar to the scene in Full Metal Jacket
where the other Privates beat Pyle with soap-filled socks. Though no one beat me silly, I still feel writing a query tantamount to mental abuse.
I have spent a year of my life slaving away on a manuscript, giving my blood, sweat and tears (or at least every minute of my free time) to characters who now live and breathe in my head. I've gone over every word not once, not twice, but dozens of times until my head is spinning and my fingers feel permanently glued to the keyboard. Then the miraculous happened. I finished the dang thing. I did the dance of joy until I realize what came next- the query. Now I must take my perfected manuscript and set it aside and write a snippet that distills 100,000 words into 500. I must use voice (but not too much voice), make it stand out (but don’t go outside the standard format), sell myself (but don’t come off pompous) and dear sweet God don’t let me get the agent’s name wrong.
If all this sounds impossible, then you and I are in the same boat. And sorry folks, but I think we left the paddles on shore.
Querying is one of the most terrifying parts for the aspiring writer. I hate it. I’d rather scrub the grout around my toilet, clean the cling-ons off my dog's hind end, pretty much anything other than work on my query. It’s maddening. Where else do you work on something for literally years and are then told, no, that’s not how you will be evaluated? Consider this scenario below.
An art buyer sits down with a prospective artist client. Behind her sleek, lacquered desk she looks at the painter. “Here’s how I’ll decide if I want your work,” she says. “Create a painting that represents your masterpiece. But, please make it no bigger than a postage stamp.”
The exhausted, paint-speckled artist’s jaw drops. “I couldn’t possibly make something that small as beautiful as what I’ve already created. I’ve spent years on this painting. Couldn’t you just come see it?” the painter cries, frantically waiving to where his masterpiece rests just behind the door.
“No, no.” She waves dismissively. “Honestly, I just don’t have the time.”
I can whine and complain all I like, but querying is likely here to stay. The gatekeepers of the publishing world want queries. I want their representation. So I query and, like Private Pyle, keep my sobs quiet under my pillow.
If you’re in my boat, there are lots of great query sites like Query Shark
and Writer’s Digest
that offer suggestions on how to summarize with style and promote like a pro. For me, I’ll take my beatings and get back to staring at my query.
William Peter Grasso is retired from the aircraft maintenance industry. He is a US Army veteran and served in Operation Desert Storm as a flight crew member with the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. These days, he confines his aviation activities to building and flying radio-controlled model aircraft. East Wind Returns is his first novel.
BRIAN: I’m pleased to welcome William Peter Grasso to the Underground. William, here in the Underground we like to highlight emerging and self-published authors. So, the first question is did you try the traditional route of finding a literary agent and publisher, or did you go straight to e-publishing?
WPG: I completed the original version of East Wind Returns in 2006 and tried the traditional route, amassing the requisite 100 rejections. I saved the dozen or so rejection letters that were complimentary to the work, but overall the experience left me unimpressed with my prospects in the trad publishing industry. Four years later, with the indie ebook revolution in full swing, I took some time off from other writing projects to revise EWR (actually, no story elements were changed—just some narrative I had come to consider unnecessary was deleted), with the intention of publishing it as an indie ebook.
BRIAN: Tell us about your experience with self-publishing. Is it something you want to stick with or are you seeking a traditional publisher?
WPG: I’m delighted with my experiences with Kindle Direct Publishing. Once your book achieves a certain level of success there—such as staying in your genre’s Top 100—its search algorithm becomes a major marketing partner, at no expense to you. At this point in my life, trad publishing has little artistic or financial appeal for me.
BRIAN: How long did it take you to write, edit and prepare East Wind Returns for publishing? I was impressed with how clean the copy was for a self-published book, did you use a professional editing service?
WPG: EWR was originally written in about 12 months between 2005 and 2006 for the trad publishing arena. The revision for indie publishing took about six months, from
start in the fall of 2010 to publishing in March 2011. So the writing and prep for publishing took about 18 months total—with four years in the middle to think about it.
I do not use a professional editing service. My wife is my editor, and while not a professional,” she produces a very professional product nonetheless...and keeps our overhead to an absolute minimum.
BRIAN: What authors influenced your writing style the most?
WPG: I’m deeply influenced by Tim O’Brien, Norman Mailer, Wally Lamb, and
Ernest K. Gann. I know Gann is not exactly a household name anymore, but his
aviation-themed novels of the 1950s were staples of my childhood.
BRIAN: East Wind Returns just went over 1000 copies sold since its release earlier this year. It has received amazing reader reviews. Did you expect this kind of reaction?
WPG: I had no idea what to expect. Sales were modest but encouraging for the first few months. They took off after a good deal of web exposure in August.
In East Wind Returns,
William Peter Grasso accelerates down the runway and into the stratosphere. You don’t read this book as much as you experience it. Strap in and hang on as Grasso flies you into his version of World War II and sets the bar amazingly high for both a debut and self-published novel.
In this alternate-history novel, the Japanese acquire the atomic bomb first. The Americans desperately try to locate the bomb before the enemy can employ it against an impending US invasion of Japan. This tale primarily centers on Captain John Worth, a veteran photo-reconnaissance pilot. It’s Worth’s mission to find the bomb before it’s too late. East Wind Returns
never stops long enough for the reader to catch their breath. One minute you’re with Captain Worth in his aircraft as he tries to dodge Japanese fighters. The next minute, you’re in a high-level meeting with President Truman as he agonizes over whether or not to drop the atomic bomb. You’re with the Japanese as they prepare their atomic bomb for detonation. Interwoven throughout the action and political intrigue, John Worth manages to fall in love with Major Marge Braden, a beautiful nurse stationed with him on Okinawa.
With this book, Grasso firmly establishes credibility as an alternative-history and action-adventure writer. East Wind Returns
vaguely echoes Harry Turtledove’s alternative fiction novels, but unlike Turtledove, Grasso never slows down and never bores the reader. While his research and technicals are impeccable, Grasso doesn’t
bog you down in excessive detail. It’s this pacing that gives East Wind Returns
its breakneck speed. Not only does this book move quickly, but it has a high degree of quality in its characters and plot presentation.
Unlike many action writers, Grasso spends time creating believable characters. They are more than just useful props to tell an exciting story. From the main characters to the fictional representations of historic characters, they are vivid but not overdone.
One more thing about this book - Grasso doesn’t glorify war. He isn’t overly gratuitous
with blood and gore. Grasso highlights the human costs of war without being preachy or slowing down the story.
Grasso boldly tells this story in present tense, but a few times he slips into past tense. Given the nature of this historic subject matter, I can’t believe he didn’t do it more.
However, his few tense slips are minor and do not detract from the overall story.
This book has a smattering of situational-appropriate adult language, some mild sexual content, and war-related violence. It is suitable for older teens and up.
This book could have been released by a leading publishing house. It feels professional, from its slick cover art to its almost error-free pages. East Wind Returns
a strong 92 cents out of 99 and is my first “Top Pick” here in the Underground.
99 Cents worth of William Peter Grasso links:William Peter Grasso's Facebook Page
East Wind Returns Amazon Page