Books I Read This Month - October 2012

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Accepted to Westish College on a baseball scholarship, Henry Skrimshander makes a mistake. The aftermath of the accident leads the baseball team, the school's president, and the president's daughter to do things they never thought they would do but that seem to be the things they most desire. A story of love, disruption, and life dreams, this book was quite hard to put down; sometimes predictable but heart-wrenching and heart-warming nonetheless.

Paper Towns by John Green
Young Adult Fiction
Quentin, nicknamed Q, has had a crush on his neighbor Margo since they were children, but when the rebellious yet popular girl climbs in through his bedroom window one night to take him on a magnificent journey, the next day she goes missing. Leaving behind clues for him to follow, Margo leads Q on a quest across the country to discover why people do the things they do and why they claim to be the people they are. A cute coming-of-age story about graduation and moving forward. 

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
Literary Fiction
Living in Cambridge but working at a nursing home, young Oscar is drawn into a church by the sound of an organ, and there he meets medical student Iris and her musical prodigy brother Eden. As he falls in love with Iris, he learns more about Eden and his narcissism, causing him to believe he can heal people with music. This novel has a distinctive atmosphere of a dusty upper-class England and Gothic mystery. A fascinating and thrilling read. 


Portrait of an Artist: Nancy S. Thompson

Today Nancy S. Thompson is guest posting on my blog as a part of her two-week-long book blog tour to celebrate the release of her debut novel The Mistaken! Released on 18 October 2012 by Sapphire Star Publishing, The Mistaken is a fast-paced psychological thriller with loveable characters—and plenty of characters you will love to hate. Nancy is a gifted writer, freelance editor, and interior designer who often offers wonderful encouragement on her blog, where she shares her writing journeys. I highly recommend this book to thriller fans. You can find my review of The Mistaken here. Happy reading!

Now it's time to enjoy an author interview with Nancy S. Thompson:

Thanks for sharing your blog with me today, Aimee. Go ahead…ask me anything!

How did you first get the idea for The Mistaken?

My inspiration came from a song, 30 Seconds To Mars’s "Hurricane." Its lyrics—“Tell me, would you kill to save a life?  Would you kill to prove you’re right?”—made me wonder: what could a drive a genuinely good man to break the law and commit a violent crime, and could he ever be the man he once was? I wanted to understand what kind of situation would make an otherwise decent human being turn to the dark side.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the writing process?

It was the violent act itself that needed toning down. There was no way I would ever get my novel published with the act as it stood originally, so the trick was to scale it back, but only slightly, so the character was still faced with the severe ramifications of his behavior, but he wouldn’t be considered deviant and therefore unredeemable. It was a balancing act, to be sure.

What was it like going so deep into characters that had experienced such great loss?

It was pretty rough at times. About two months after writing the first draft, I slipped into a bit of a depression. I found living every day within the brutal confines of my characters’ horrific lives to be too much—way too sad. I had to take a big step back, like for three months, just to get my emotional bearings.

What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given? 

Writing what you love is important, so is using critique partners, but I think the greatest advice I received was just to not give up, to persevere, and always believe in your dream, because you have nothing to lose yet everything to gain.

What type of books do you like to read, and what is your favorite book? 

I love to read thrillers more than any other genre, though it would be hard to pick an all-time favorite. I can say my recent favorites are by Edgar Award winning author John Hart, including Down River, Iron House, and The Last Child. I also love Turning Angel by Greg Iles.

What are you working on now? 

I’m in the outlining phase of the sequel to The Mistaken. It’s tentatively titled Unfinished since the story is all about unfinished business between the returning protagonist, Tyler, and the son of his former enemy who believes Ty stole his legacy by killing his father. I’ll be putting the characters through another round, testing their mettle and fortitude, as well as how they live up to the people they believe themselves to be. It should be another emotional rollercoaster ride to hell and back!

Blurb for The Mistaken:
Obsessed with revenge following the violent death of his pregnant wife, Tyler Karras pledges the woman responsible to sex-traffickers in San Francisco’s Russian Mafia. In exchange, they’ll finally let his brother leave the business for good—with his debt wiped clean and his heart still beating. But when Tyler mistakenly targets the wrong woman, he’s forced to protect her from the very enemy he's unleashed, and the Russians are holding Nick as leverage to force Ty to complete their deal. Caught in a no-win situation, Ty must find a way to save himself, his brother, and the woman, but with the Russian Mafia, even two out of three makes for very long odds.

Visit Nancy’s blog, follow, and leave a comment during her book tour (10/18-11/1) for a chance to win an ARC of The Mistaken. Plus, 5 runner-up winners will each receive an ebook.

You can also find her on her publisher's website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook

Beginning October 18th, The Mistaken will be available at Amazon Books, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble. It will also be available at Sony, Kobo, iBooks, Diesel Bookstore, and Baker & Taylor by early November.

Early praise for The Mistaken:
“A deliciously slow burn that builds to a ferocious crescendo, Nancy S. Thompson's THE MISTAKEN kept me riveted until the very last page. Tyler Karras is a complex and flawed protagonist, and his redemptive journey makes him the perfect anti-hero. This psychological suspense is a standout, and I can't wait for Thompson's next book.”
~Jennifer Hillier, author of CREEP and FREAK

“Nancy S. Thompson's debut novel, The Mistaken, is a first-rate thriller full of hair-raising twists and turns. Pursued by the police and the Russian mafia in San Francisco, brothers Tyler and Nick Karras are fascinating, fully-drawn, desperate characters. The action is non-stop. Thompson's taut, intriguing tale of revenge, mistaken identity, kidnapping and murder will keep you enthralled and entertained.”
~Kevin O'Brien, New York Times Bestselling Author of DISTURBED and TERRIFIED

“Fast-paced and emotionally gripping - once the ride begins, you won't stop reading until it ends." ~Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of CASSAFIRE and CASSASTAR

The Mistaken Blog tour:
10/18: Mark Koopmans & Nancy S. Thompson
10/19: Alex J. Cavanaugh & Arlee Bird
10/22: Carrie Butler & Jeff O’Handley
10/23: Julie Musil
10/24: Donna Weaver & Melissa Maygrove
10/25: Matthew MacNish
10/26: LG Smith
10/27: Aimee Jodoin
10/29: Heather M. Gardner
10/30: Lisa Regan
10/31: Jennifer Hillier
11/1: Angela Peart & Livia Peterson
11/19: Arlee Bird

The Zombie Room by R.D. Ronald

After failed attempts at creating new lives after several years in prison, Mangle, Decker, and Tazeem join together to scam businesses by posing as men from an electric company. Their exploits lead them to stumble upon an enormous sex-trafficking organization, but even after gaining access to the exclusive “Zombie Room” club, they still aren’t aware of how much danger they’re getting themselves into. Motivated by the death of a family member and the glazed-over eyes of Tatiana, who was bought by the sex-traffickers after a horrific event, the three men pull all the stops to free the girls and stop the organization.

The complex inner-workings of the criminal underworld are the main focus of this novel, and I often felt myself wishing to know more about the characters, to feel more about their situation. The first third of the book is devoted to exploring Mangle, Decker, and Tazeem’s history—how they ended up in prison and how they formed such a dynamic friendship—as well as Tatiana’s. R.D. Ronald would perhaps benefit from the advice of Kurt Vonnegut: “Start as close to the end as possible.” While the backstories presented here are useful, they slow the story down, and most of the information could be "shown" rather than "told." Once the action picked up speed after the men were released from prison, the plot became more concrete and the action more intense. However, even in knowing each character’s backstory, it was difficult to get a firm grasp of their motivations, desires, and fears.

The Zombie Room has an intelligent premise, but it could have been better executed: there is poor editing in many places. Fans of crime thrillers and gore will enjoy it, as long as they aren’t the type to get hung up on grammar distractions and characters who personalities take a back seat when the plot comes to the forefront.

The book trailer for The Zombie Room has won many awards, and it is worth sharing: 

Don't Wake Up by Shauna Kelley

The quiet narrative of this novel brings upon the reader a melancholy tone, which resonates with the pain of losing a child and the wilting of a forced marriage. After twenty-some years of marriage, Gillian, who wed Ricky when they were young, due to an unplanned pregnancy, is distraught when her husband wakes from a short coma. Because he cannot remember anything after the age of fifteen, Gillian begins to plant false memories into his mind—memories of the happy family they never had. As Ricky recovers from the coma, he becomes a much kinder man than the husband she knew, who had numerous affairs, ignored her wishes, and secretly took money from his income each month and never told her where it went. Ricky’s newfound gentleness—paired with Gillian’s newfound infidelity—leads Gillian to grow guilty for her lies.

While the plot is occasionally a bit slow, inching toward boring, the inner world of the main character, Gillian, sustains the story, providing the skeletal support for the framework of the plot and keeping the reader interested in how Gillian will develop and learn from her mistakes. Much of the novel’s tension comes from Gillian’s morality—or lack thereof—seeing how far she can stretch the limit of her lies as revenge for the way Ricky treated her throughout the twenty years of their marriage, even though he cannot remember ever committing these terrible deeds.

The novel is short—perhaps too short—and because the pacing is slow, there is little action; all of the story’s conflict resides in the virtue of the characters. Many intriguing themes are brought up concerning dishonesty in marriage, the resentment caused toward the spouse after the loss of a child, and punishment and revenge versus forgiveness. Though the vague plot may not excite readers, the inner world of the characters and the morality of the story should spark some thought. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this book is the off-balance good-versus-evil virtue of the characters, caused by years of slow breaking-down, cold silence, and financial and sexual manipulation. While Gillian is meant to be the novel’s protagonist at the beginning of the story, by the end, the reader sympathizes with Ricky, despite his awful flaws, because he deserves forgiveness. The way these two characters deal with the death of their infant son, both in uniquely destructive ways, has slowly torn them apart.

This is a sad, thought-provoking story that will interest fans of romance and melancholy literature. 

The Mistaken by Nancy S. Thompson

Tyler Karras is newly married and planning to buy a house to start a family with his wife when he learns that his brother Nick, who recently fell asleep at the wheel, killing their parents and sister, has become involved with San Francisco’s Russian mafia. Ty urges Nick to quit running errands for the Russians—that is until his pregnant wife becomes the victim of a heartless crime. Clouded by alcohol and anger, Ty asks the Russians for a simple exchange: he’ll give them the woman responsible for his wife’s death if they promise to free his brother from his debts. However, Ty makes a devastating mistake: he kidnaps the wrong woman. Recently separated from her wealthy, cheating husband, Hannah, instead of feeling like a helpless victim, purloins her strength and independence and promises to help Ty.

The Mistaken is a success in two distinct ways. First of all, it is a page-turning thriller with fascinating plot twists that grip the reader. But secondly—and more importantly—it is an intriguing look into what drives people to act in violent ways. Ty is a seemingly stable and kind man at the start of the story, but the unjust death of his wife and unborn child and the alcohol-fueled rage that burns in him drive him to seek a sickening revenge. Sex-trafficking is a horrific fate, even for the heartless woman who caused his wife’s death, but Nancy Thompson paints a picture of Ty’s backstory and motivation to make the reader understand his logic and to wish for his redemption in the end.

The story is told in first person, mostly through Ty’s perspective, but the reader often hears Hannah’s side of the story and even gets a glimpse of Ty’s wife’s point of view before her death, which accentuates their relationship and fuels the reader’s desire to see Ty’s enlightenment. In Hannah’s point of view, we see a strong woman firm in her self-awareness, which removes altogether the propensity for a damsel-in-distress type character, even though she is an innocent victim. Her strength makes her likeable and inspiring.

If the novel has one weakness, it is that in the beginning of the novel the characters’ tragedies seem almost too numerous to be realistic, but the reader is quickly swept up in the plot, and the characters are well drawn enough to feel real in their own right. Though Hannah and the criminal woman being doppelgangers may seem to be a bit of a plot device, it is necessary to the story.

This book bends the formula for the crime thriller genre—in only the good ways. Nancy Thompson has a firm grasp on human motivation, what drives good people to turn to the dark side—and what can bring them back. The Mistaken is an adrenaline-pulsing read. 

ISWG: Quantity Versus Quality

I'd hate to complain that I don't have enough time to write, as I am well aware that a true writer makes time to write, and that I try to do. However, I often find myself disappointed at the word count I crank out in a week: quite low, usually less than 1000 words a week, when ideally I would like to get at least 1000 each day.
I'm disappointed, that is, until I actually read the words; then I'm not quite as disappointed anymore. Those measly 1000 words are pretty good words, if I do say so myself. I think this is because when I am not engaged in the physical act of writing, I spend most of my time--practically constantly--pondering the ins and outs of the story; I write the whole story in my head before I put the words onto the paper, so even though it takes a long, long time, it's essentially complete and as I pictured the story when I finally get down to writing it.

I'm a slow and steady type of writer. I wish I could amp up the quantity I write, but then again, is it so bad to take ten years to write one little novel if it turns out fantastically? I do believe in quality over quantity, but should there be a happy medium?
Peace, Aimee