Itsy Bitsy SpiderAuthor:
313 pages The Rundown
In order for an action-thriller to work, it must always be in motion. I can never feel comfortable, in control, or safe. I have to care about the hero. The bad guy has to be bad
. There needs to be a love interest and she has to be pretty and nice and occasionally vulnerable. I mean, really, if she isn’t vulnerable why the heck do we need a hero? If one’s adrenaline doesn’t spike at least once per chapter, the book doesn’t earn a five star review. If I don’t get an urge to put on 3-D glasses and eat some popcorn while I’m reading it, it doesn’t get a five star review. Bottom line, if its not fun, why bother? These were my criteria for evaluating Itsy Bitsy Spider
by debut author Kimberly Shursen.
Matt Christenson is a young, handsome investigative reporter for the Boston Globe. He’s assigned to track down a missing lawyer with connections to Mayor Jack McCallin. Instead, Matt stumbles upon Claire, the mayor’s beautiful daughter, and her little girl, Lizzie. With the help of a few trusted friends Matt discovers Claire and Lizzie are caught in a tangled web of lies originating from the mayor himself. This bloody web stretches from one end of Boston to the other, and now it’s trapped Matt. Claire holds a secret so devastating the mayor will do anything to silence her. The mayor commands Boston’s cops, underworld, and media. There is nowhere to hide as the web tightens around Matt, Claire and Lizzie. Matt becomes part of the story and finds himself falling for Claire, even though it might cost him his life. Itsy
is always in motion. I can think of only two chapters where it even thinks about slowing down. The action takes place across the City of Boston, where Matt and his team find themselves imperiled by the mayor’s powerful allies. I always felt a little on edge, because I knew the characters were never safe. Like them, I never knew who to trust and expected betrayal at every turn. I cringed a few times worrying about Lizzie, Claire’s little girl. The easy-going hero, Matt Christenson, is also very likable. I can see a series of books with him as the hero and can easily see Itsy Bitsy Spider
being turned into a screen play.
Never pretentious and always entertaining, Itsy Bitsy Spider
is a state-of-the-art action thriller. Enjoyably easy to read, I had a strong urge for popcorn the whole time I read it. Now, where are my 3-D glasses?
Five out of Five Stars.
Kimberly Shursen Links: Itsy Bitsy Spider on Amazon
Kimberly Shursen’s Website
Kimberly Shursen on Facebook
, and LinkedIn
Editor’s Note: A UBR alumni and founding member, Kimberly Shursen departed
our staff a year ago to pursue new opportunities. We told her when she published
her first novel, we would be honored to review it, but she wouldn’t receive any
special favors or consideration. This reviewer bought this book and did not
receive a free copy.
TITLE: Uno Kudo: Naked
GENRE: Anthology, feminist literature
THE RUNDOWNUno Kudo
is an anthology on its second year, a compilation of art and literature from all walks of life, with one common theme. The title, Naked
, says it all. Risqe, heart-stopping, honest, but not always beautiful, each story and picture has some element of nakedness about it. The images and words within Naked
are sometimes abstract and other times powerfully blunt.
The literature in Uno Kudo: Naked
ranges from poetry to short stories, and the quality of writing ranges from amateur to practiced prose. With a slightly feminist bent, most of the content embraces sexual expression, fear, or awakening. But other times, the theme of emotional nakedness takes place of the physical. With stories about prostitutes, suicide and loneliness, Uno Kudo isn’t the most uplifting collection of stories, but it is definitely thought-provoking.Naked
is, without a doubt, a coffee-table book. With large, striking images, professional-grade paintings and well-placed prose and poetry, the book is a piece of art in and of itself. And in that respect, the publication fell short. In order to truly allow Naked
to shine, the editors needed to weed out some of the less professional contributions and the publishers needed to spend more time producing a quality piece of art. The cover needed to be hard-back, the binding spiral-bound, and the pages needed to be printed professionally in order to allow the art within to truly shine.
If you’re looking for a risqué coffee-table book that will entertain and possibly even shock your visiting guests, Uno Kudo
is worth checking out. But you might want to skip Naked
and wait until they release their next anthology. There were some gems within Uno Kudo: Naked
, but overall the production needed a revamp, with more practiced authors and artists, and a professional printing process.
While some of the individual images and stories in Uno Kudo would have earned a higher rating, the overall production only earns 3 out of 4 stars.
You can find Uno Kudo: Naked
on Amazon here
, Facebook here
and the blog here.
I'm very excited to announce that Nessa: A Breeders Story
will release today, Tuesday, February 5th. The genesis of this story began when I polled readers in December and asked which character they'd like to get to know better. Surprisingly, many fans said Nessa Vandewater, Clay's mother. From there, Nessa's story grew and I am pleased with how it turned out. I hope you'll like it too. The novelette is priced at 99 cents, so it will be affordable to die hard fans and new readers alike. To celebrate, I'm also hosting a giveaway of an Amazon gift card to one lucky winner. Enter here.
Here's the pitch to wet your whistle.
Eighteen-year-old Nessa knows what it’s like to be an endangered species. Growing up in a dying world where nine out of ten babies are born male, she survives by trusting no one. When Marlin, the nineteen-year-old gunslinger with the sky-blue eyes, kills the man who has been keeping her enslaved, Nessa decides this handsome stranger might be her meal ticket. What she doesn’t realize is love is still possible, even in their decimated world. When Nessa discovers she’s pregnant with Marlin’s child, her difficult life now teeters on a knife’s edge. Can she bear to bring a child into their shattered world? Better yet, can Marlin keep them safe from those that hunt Nessa?
A companion story to The Breeders
, this prequel novelette (34 pages or 10,000 words) explores the origins of two important characters and gives a deeper look into their background. It contains minor spoilers to the novel and is intended for mature teens and adults. You can follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
One Last LieAuthor:
A story of love, betrayal, and deceit.Review:I have to be honest;
One Last Lie is a difficult book for me to review. On one hand, I think it is really well written. The story opens up with a description of an old man approaching of death, “
He could feel it in his brittle bones, popping and cracking with every move,” and the vivid pictures keep coming throughout the story. I can’t help but be in awe of Mr. Kaufman’s craft. He doesn’t just write words, he weaves them into descriptions like threads in a tapestry. He pays particular attention to crafting his characters. Philip and Jonathan’s love really shines and Angela’s deviousness pretty much springs forth from the page. The overall plot is interesting and the surprise ending very intriguing.
However, a couple of things do concern me. The version I have is a Kindle E-book and the formatting for the paragraphs and spacing are off. Because of this, I found myself back tracking to re-read sections. The other issue is the flashbacks. They are not italicized, so quite often I got lost with time sequence. The story goes back and forth from an old man’s point of view to his younger version’s point of view, interspersed with memories from both ages. That, coupled with the formatting issues, really hampers the flow and movement of the story. I think if these issues had been addressed, One Last Lie would have been a much stronger book.
Would I recommend this story? Most definitely. I think Mr. Kaufman is a very talented writer and I look forward to his next endeavor.Links:
Rob Kaufman's website
Buy it on Amazon
Find it on Goodreads
As a part of our Associate Reviewer Program, UBR is proud to present book reviews by the finest indie authors. This week's review is by JW Bull, the author of Pickin' Tomatoes and the fiction winner for the 2012 Shirley You Jest! Book Awards / Shirley LOL.
Today the Underground is proud to welcome Laurie Boris. Laurie is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer with a long history of ignoring housework and pots on the stove to sneak in "just a few more pages" of her novels. She has had her short fiction published in small magazines and on the Web. She is the author of two novels, The Joke's on Me and Drawing Breath. Please welcome Laurie Boris!Katie: Drawing Breath
is an extraordinary story, the quality of which is not often seen in a self-published novel. How did you get your novel in such tip-top shape for publication?Laurie:
Oh, thank you! This project is so close to my heart and I wanted to do the story justice. First, I set the early draft away for a time, to get more distance. This helped me with the self-editing, to realize what was important and what could be cut. I enlisted the help of beta readers and a proofreader. I borrowed some tips from fellow self-published author M. Edward McNally and read that final manuscript on my Kindle, out loud. This helped me catch more errors.Katie:
Daniel is a very sympathetic character. What compelled you to write about a character with cystic fibrosis?Laurie:
One of my husband's best friends had cystic fibrosis and survived into his mid-thirties, which at the time was considered an astoundingly long life span. Bill was one of my heroes. He didn't live his days like a guy who had a life threatening disease. He just lived his life, giving all he could of himself to his twin loves of art and acting. He was flawed, however, as we all are. And I hated how some people treated him as if he were carrying the plague. I wanted to write about a character like him, and show that people with chronic illnesses are still just people, equally deserving of love and respect, as well as showing a real look at how chronic illness, especially CF, with its time-intensive maintenance program, affects the dynamics of families and relationships.Katie:
What are you currently working on?Laurie: I just released a new novel, Don't Tell Anyone, another contemporary story circling around family dynamics. In this one, a careful weave of secrets and lies begins to unravel the Trager family when they accidentally learn that their matriarch has breast cancer—and never intended to tell them. Next up is something with a bit more of a comic tilt, which I'm really enjoying.
Title: Drawing Breath
Author: Laurie Boris
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic
Length: 137 pages
Not often do you find a coming-of-age story that takes you by surprise. Drawing Breath
by Laurie Boris does just that. With her delicate, thoughtful prose, Boris weaves a world of discovery, love and illness that is both heartbreaking and full of depth.
The story follows Caitlin, a down-on-her-luck teenager and her art teacher, Daniel. Daniel lives upstairs from Caitlin and her mother and is the talented, thoughtful artist that Caitlin longs to be. Not only does Caitlin enjoy Daniel’s artistic talent, she imagines them in a romantic relationship. However, Daniel is eighteen years her senior and thinks of Caitlin as a pupil and friend. Together, the two of them explore art, but in the end learn more about life and love along the way.
Daniel has cystic fibrosis, a lung disease that keeps him from truly trusting any adult relationship. Though this book is not just about a patient with cystic fibrosis, it does an excellent job of showing this disease and its impact on those that suffer from it. It is heartbreaking when Daniel finally confesses to the woman he’s involved with about his disease. When she leaves him, it just confirms what he’s suspected: he’s unlovable. It’s even more heartbreaking when you think of the thousands of people who actually suffer from cystic fibrosis. Boris does a fantastic job of highlighting Daniel’s plight without making a spectacle of him, something not easily done.
The thing that really elevates this book is Boris’ fantastic prose. The novel reads like a seasoned veteran’s work. Her descriptions and comparisons are worth the price of the ebook alone. The characters feel like living and breathing people; there’s not stereotype in sight. And the emotion is so raw and palpable I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to these character I grew to care deeply about. I was genuinely impressed, especially considering this was Boris’ second novel. The one drawback is the cover, which needs an overhaul in my opinion. But for those readers who know not to judge a book by its cover, they will find a hidden gem in Drawing Breath
. I see only great things for Boris’ future.
I highly recommend this read. I do think that it appeals more to adults than teenagers, however. Though sixteen-year-old Caitlin is one of the main characters, the whole book reads like an adult novel. Don’t let that dissuade you, however. For adults, this is a fantastic book from beginning to end.
4.5 out of 5 starsYou can find Drawing Breath here.
You can find Laurie Boris here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
TITLE: Thank God for Boll Weevils
AUTHOR: Rhett Barbaree
PUBLISHER: Tiger Iron Press
COVER DESIGN: Julianne Gleaton
GENRE(S): Southern Fiction/Christian Fiction
LENGTH: 162 pages
Big stories are often told by small books. Thin novels tucked away in the back of museum gift shops, historical societies, and indie publisher websites can hold sweeping tales of civilizations in crisis and the giants who save them. Thank God for Boll Weevils
by debut author Rhett Barbaree is such a book. This is the gentle, unpretentious and inspired story of two girls. Separated by race but united in faith, they trust God with the little and big things in their lives. By Providence they find themselves in the right place at the right time to help save a civilization from economic destruction wrought by a bug.
We follow nine-year-old Janie through her everyday adventures growing up on her father’s cotton plantation in south Alabama in the early 1900s. Janie’s world forever changes when Sipsey, a black sharecropper’s daughter, arrives at Melrose Plantation. The two girls become fast friends as they grow to womanhood in a culture caught between the dying remnants of the Civil War generation and the dawn of the New South. That world is threatened when a tiny cotton-eating insect, the boll weevil, sweeps across Dixie. Enter one of Sipsey’s Tuskegee college professors, famed scientist George Washington Carver, whose timely peanut research saves, and forever changes, the South. The challenges faced by the characters in Thank God for Boll Weevils
are viewed through the prism of an uncomplicated, practical Christian faith, where daily relationships of trust are established with a loving God and outcomes are left in His hands. This faith saturates the culture like the Alabama humidity, transcends racial barriers, and forges two girls into lifelong sisters.
A very easy read, Thank God for Boll Weevils
is mostly told though Janie's perspective, but occasionally through Sipsey’s. Barbaree’s dialogue is effective and authentic, his prose adequate to the task at hand. He hits his stride when he slows down the narration and we see the girls moving though their daily lives, interacting with Melrose Plantation’s colorful cast of characters. Barbaree absolutely shines when telling the tale through Sipsey’s perspective, especially when she first arrives at Melrose as a child. We feel her trepidation and experience her relief as she surrenders her problems over to God. In fact, I think this would have been a better book if Barbaree wrote the majority, or even all of it, through Sispey’s eyes, not Janie’s. Through Sipsey we see Barbaree’s writing at its finest.
While a good first novel, Thank God for Boll Weevils
has a few challenges. Fortunately, because the novel is short none of these issues sink the book. First, the pacing is very uneven. Some parts seem to drag, especially in the middle, due to a marked lack of tension. In other places it zips by, exacerbated by the first person perspective that shallows the prose and occasionally gives the impression of a letter, not a novel. When delivering the novel’s spiritual message, Barbaree is most effective when he masterfully weaves it into the dialogue and characters’ internal thoughts. Sometimes, however, he delivers the message in sermon-style chunks. The net effect is as if someone hit the plot’s pause button and everything came to a stop. Overall, the reader hits a bump here and there, but always gets back on track.
With its original blend of Southern flair, historic fiction, and faith-based messages, Thank God for Boll Weevils
is suitable for all ages and a worthy read. With only a few “bugs” this debut novel earns Rhett Barbaree a solid down payment of 80 out of 99 cents on what I believe is a promising writing career. 99 Cents Worth of Rhett Barbaree Links:Thank God for Boll Weevils
Rhett Barbaree on Facebook
Thank God for Boll Weevils on Facebook If you enjoyed this review, follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Brian Braden on his blog, Facebook and Twitter
and buy his book, Carson's Love. If you are an agent or publisher you can make the smartest financial decision of your life and offer Brian a contract on his brilliant
novel, Black Sea Gods.
As dystopian literature is my drug of choice lately, Fallen
by Traci Slatton sparked an interest in me. As with all good dystopians, this book is sets in a post-apocalyptic world, France to be specific. Devastating mists are attacking the earth, devouring anything composed of metal, including human beings. The deaths the mists deliver are atrocious. Worse still, the crippled society that remains leaves survivors scrambling to stay alive. The protagonist, Emma, is a tough, spunky and likable mother who takes in a horde of eight displaced children. Emma leads the group through the hellish landscape, searching for food and shelter while avoiding the deadly mists. Then she meets Arthur, the bold leader of a group of men. They strike a bargain: Emma gives herself to Arthur and he, in turn, takes care of her and her children.
Things take an interesting turn when the characters reveal they have psychic powers and abilities. Newt can see the future. Emma can heal. Arthur can control the mists. Emma and Arthur also learn that their no-strings-attached relationship is morphing into something neither one of them can control.
The book is expertly written. It’s clear from page one that Slatton knows what she is doing. Having degrees from Columbia and Yale pay off for this writer. The opening grabs you right from the start and then you wait, breathless, to know what will happen to these characters that you grow more fond of on each page. It almost made my top picks category except for one thing. As soon as we learned Arthur could control the mists, the antagonistic force was neutered and it took a long time for another source of peril to appear on the scene. This left the middle a bit saggy and tensionless.
Overall, it is an excellent read and one that dystopian fans will enjoy. It doesn’t necessarily fit neatly in a YA category as the protagonist is an adult and there is sexual content. However, the sex scenes are tastefully done (think of movies panning into the fire as the characters begin to strip). The content and subject material is appropriate for older teens and adults. It’s a quality read for any dystopian fan, teen and adult alike.
You can find Traci Slatton here.
You can find Fallen here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
TITLE: What Would Satan Do?
AUTHOR: Anthony Miller
GENRE: Comic Fantasy
PUBLISHER: Brother Maynard Publishing
EDITOR: Peazy Monellon
LENGTH: 399 pages
With the end of the world upon us, there isn't a much more appropriate book to pick up than What Would Satan Do?
by Anthony Miller. The novel's approach to the End of Days is both comic and original. While some funny books aim to do nothing but keep you laughing, What Would Satan Do?
also delivers an engaging plot.
Satan has realized that when the end of the world comes, he doesn't have a chance. It's already been written that he's going to get the short end of the stick, and God will be victorious. So, instead of fighting, Satan decides to hide on earth in a human body. He's hoping his minions won't find him and force him to carry out his original plans to overthrow the Creator of the Universe.
In order not to blow up entire cities, Satan has to take anger management classes. To kill time, he teaches a college course on the History of Religion. He loves fast cars and soft-serve ice cream. Satan's really just a likeable guy who feels a little miffed by God, and happens to get a kick out of torturing people.
Anthony Miller's writing is hilarious. He takes delight in describing facial expressions and body language in creative ways. That strength, however, is also a weakness. Sometimes, an overly-described aside about a character's bodily function distracted me instead of making me laugh. The only other thing that kept this book out of my Top Picks was the tendency to switch point-of-view without warning.
Despite that, the book still "delivered the funny" as promised by the Shirley You Jest awards. What Would Satan Do?
is well deserving of the Shirley HAH award. From beginning to end, it is engaging and original.
If you're ready to read some raunchy language, laugh at biblical references, giggle over carnage and at least smirk at cultural and racial jokes, pick up What Would Satan Do?
It's not a particularly offensive book if it's taken with a grain of salt, or some happy pills. I have no doubt that Christopher Moore fans will enjoy the book from start to finish. And no, it's not suitable for young adults.
THE LINKSBuy What Would Satan Do?
Find it on Facebook
Follow Anthony on Twitter
Visit his websiteSatan’s Blog
Anthony Miller is giving away five print copies and unlimited digital copies of What Would Satan Do?
for one week only, starting Saturday.
If you have a subscription to our Weekly Newsletter, you will find instructions for the book giveaway at the bottom of your email.
Don't have the Weekly Newsletter? Subscribe now!
Title: Pacific Offering
Author: Tom Mahony
Publisher: Casperian Books
Genre: Commercial fiction
Pages: 188 pages
THE SCOOP Pacific Offering
, Tom Mahony's third novel, is part Thelma and Louise
, part Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
, and part Midnight Express
. Longtime surfer buddies Beck and Parry head south of the border in search of the much-anticipated "swell of the decade" and Beck's lost love, Elena. Their journey starts with them getting robbed by banditos
and goes downhill from there.
The impetus for their adventure is a letter Beck receives from Elena. Perry "accidently" throws it away before Beck can read it. Beck waxes nostalgic for what was and could have been (if only in his mind) and off they go trying to recreate past adventure and romance. While my first thought was, "letter from ex-girlfriend--obviously he's going to discover he's a dad," Mahoney doesn't settle for that clichéd story. When Beck finally meets up with Elena, there are still some surprising twists to the tale.
Mahony's vivid descriptions put the reader in Baja with Beck and Parry, whether in the desert, ocean, a small village, or a Mexican prison. The action is realistic and the situations, though spiraling increasingly out of control, never seem contrived. Beck and Perry are well-developed characters, both flawed, but still appealing. Some of the other characters are a bit thin, but most only have brief cameos in what's ultimately a story about the nature of friendship.
This is definitely a fast-paced read, but at times it's too fast. Some of the predicaments Beck and Parry get themselves into are resolved too quickly to be entirely satisfactory. I would have liked Mahony delve deeper into both the situations and emotions of the characters, particularly the jail scene and when exploring the trip's impact on Beck and Perry's eroding friendship, as well as in Beck and Elena's relationship.
AND THE SURVEY SAYS...
This road-trip-from-hell story is a fast-paced and exciting adventure that will appeal to surfers and non-surfers alike. Anyone who's dreamed of tracking down a lost love or returning to the carefree days of their youth might be dissuaded from doing so, but can experience the thrill vicariously through Beck and Parry's journey. While there are adult situations and themes, they never get too graphic. Pacific Offering
is suitable for both adult and young adult readers.
WHERE TO FIND IT:
Get it on AmazonAbout the Guest Reviewer: Lynne Hinkey is the author of the tropical misadventure, Marina Melee. Visit her at www.lynnehinkey.com