Saturday, December 24, 2011

Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Title: The Replacement
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year of Release: 2010
ISBN: 9780857071385
Source: Purchased
Number or Pages: 375
"Gentry was two different things and at night, I could always see that second thing better. The town was it's green suburban lawns, sure, but it was also it's secrets. The kind of place where people double-checked the locks at night or pulled their kids closer in the grocery store."
Mackie Doyle is the Replacement. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement- left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world. 
Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass guitar or spend time with an oddly intriguing girl called Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place- in our world, or theirs.
I'm going to start by saying that I actually liked this book. The plot was very fresh and original and Miss Yovanoff, considering that this is her first novel, is a very skilled writer and I love the way she has set out the story. It's not often I find a book that is written from a male perspective and that was one of the things I enjoyed about this one. I was continuously being tugged into the mystical world of Gentry and the life of Mackie Doyle. The separation between the two worlds, the town of Gentry and the mysterious Slag Heaps, was incredibly intriguing. I do think however, that some areas of the book were a bit slow, but once I had reached a certain point in the plot, I couldn't put the book down until I had reached the end. 
Admittedly, when I first found this book and read the blurb, I had my doubts as I thought it sounded a but weird since this is not the sort of book I am usually attracted to. But those doubts were certainly shoved into some less important part of my silly mind as I began reading. 
I did do my homework for this book- I wanted a bit of background information about what consecrated ground and slag heaps were, to better understand the many references to these two things throughout the course of the book. So in case you are interested in reading this one, here's what you need to know:

  • A slag heap is a hill or area of land from a mine or industrial site. They are piles formed from the materials left by mining/industrial work.
  • Consecrated ground is land or a place that has been liturgically blessed - e.g a church or a grave.

Now that's all cleared up, I'll finish by saying that I do recommend this book (especially to the ladies, if you know what I mean) and let me know your thoughts and opinions if you do happen to have a read of this book. I have also heard a few rumors that The Replacement is going to be made into a movie ! I'll have to keep my open for that. 
Anyway, I just want to wish a very merry Christmas to all my followers and I hope you all have a fantastic festive holiday.  Thanks for all your support this year and for being genuinely interested in the crap I write. :) 
And this is my last review for 2011 ! *sad face* Looking forward to 2012 and the new opportunities it will bring. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Interview with Barbara Forte Abate, author of The Secret of Lies

Firstly, did you like my review on The Secret of Lies?
No.  “Like” isn’t a big enough word—I loved it, Melissa! And not just because of the obvious fact that every author is generally over-the-moon thrilled with a great review.  What really had my head and heart singing when I read your thoughts is that I truly felt as though you didn’t just read my novel, but you “experienced” it, and that’s absolutely the ultimate gift.

Oh, stop it. Thank you! So, where did your idea for The Secret of Lies come from?
It was a simple seed of an idea that arrived as a single concept while I was standing in the kitchen washing the dishes and staring out the window watching my neighbour mow her lawn! I found myself wondering what it might be like for someone to just walk away from their life—home, family, everything familiar—and start over. And most importantly, what sort of instance or event would compel someone to do something so drastic. Everything else that followed as that idea grew, transformed, twisted and turned, was something of a surprise. I’m not exaggerating when I say I didn’t necessarily see it coming!

Are the characters based on anyone in particular?
While it can always be argued that writing fiction requires a certain element of truth, I can honestly say that my characters have only ever existed in my imagination and none of us have ever met in real life. The exception is Jake. I’ve carried him around for quite some time. At 16 I’d gone on a weekend camping trip with my good friend and her family and it only took one glance to fall madly in love with a gorgeous teenage boy who was setting up camp with his family a couple sites away from ours. We never spoke a word to each other over the course of that weekend, but oh my, the eye contact was a constant.  I spent plenty of time constructing conversations with him in my head—the ones I would’ve had if I wasn’t too shy to approach such a picture perfect specimen.   My heart was absolutely splintered beyond repair when he drove away with his family early on Sunday morning never to be seen by me again.  And yet he stayed alive and burning in my head, waiting to come out as a character in a book!

Well, Stevie and Jake certainly had a lot more contact than you and this mystery boy! Anyway, during some parts of the story, Stevie uses sign language to communicate with one of the characters. Do you know sign language yourself?
No, but it’s one of those things I find fascinating.  I really love and appreciate how needing to us sign language encourages a certain undeniable intimacy in Stevie’s relationship with this particular character. Unlike spoken conversation, sign language forces communicants to really pay attention to each other and I find that remarkable and perfect for this pivotal relationship. 

Is there anything you like to do to keep motivated to continue writing?
The urge to write is just something that’s always there—in fact it won’t leave me alone. There are times when I’m writing something and it really just stinks and I feel like the biggest time-wasting, self-indulgent phoney. But even then, as disgusted as I might become, some part of me knows I can fix the problems in whatever it is I’m writing if I just hang-in and peel through the layers deep enough, rearrange, cut and burn, scramble scenes and dialogue. I’m not someone who gives up easily and that in itself proves motivational for me. I feel overwhelmingly obsessed to get it right.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors to follow their dreams of pursuing a career as a professional writer?
There’s such an abundance of really good advice for writers and we would be wise to consider the wisdom of others, but don’t engrave it all in stone and allow yourself to become intimidated or overwhelmed. It’s there to learn from, but not necessarily to feel forced to live by. The number one thing is to believe in yourself, respect your dreams, and trust the yearnings that keep you up at night. Be prepared to work hard, willing to learn, and be patient (the world of publishing is a slow moving machine,). Trust that the talents you possess have been planted in your heart for a purpose. And absolutely don’t let someone else’s “no,” be the last word. Get just mad enough to prove them wrong.

Some great advice there. You listening aspiring authors? So, do you have an interest in reading like many followers of Book Nerd and Critic?
I have been crazy in love with books forever. There were some rough years growing up, and books were the great escape. Then and now, I thrill over finding myself caught up in a beautifully crafted story and have met so many characters I’d love to hang around with in real life. It’s just the saddest thing having to close the cover of a fabulous book when I reach the end and know that I’m not ready to leave it.

What is your favourite book and why?
I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in grade school and knew even then that it would forever remain my favourite book.  It’s perfection. I’ve read it dozens of times over the years and yet each time I reread it I find myself in re-kindled awe of this incredible story.  In love with Atticus, intrigued by Boo, tickled by Dill, and wishing, wishing, wishing to be Scout. Alas, but to write like Harper Lee…

What can fans of The Secret of Lies (such as myself) expect from you in the future? Are you working on anything at the moment?
 I am just now finishing up my latest novel—my plan is to have this “final edit” (Ha, as if there is ever a final edit!) finished by the New Year so I can send it off to my agent. I am a very slow writer and have a certain amount of envy for writers that dash off a book in a matter of months. For me it takes years.  But I’m really happy with this one. It feels good.

Let me know when that one comes out! Do you have a particular role model or successful author that you admire, or perhaps just someone who positively influences you in your writing?
I am blessed beyond measure to have a best friend since 7th grade who is also a writer. Janet is my confidante, angst absorbing, butt-kicking, cheerleading, mojo boosting, incredibly wise and talented comrade of the pen. She has had screenplays optioned by Hollywood and written award winning stage plays produced off-off-Broadway and we’ve been there for each other with every stroke of the keyboard. Whether good, bad, or downright pitiful we’ve shared every bump and milepost of the writing journey. I think that’s so absolutely essential for all of us—to have someone in our life who truly “gets it.”

And most sincere thanks to you, Melissa. It’s been a supreme pleasure meeting you on Book Nerd and Critic, and having such an enjoyable chat with you here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Review: The Secret of Lies by Barbara Forte Abate

“Uncertain how to proceed into my future when my life remained in a holding pattern, waiting for those answers that would finally bring something of closure to the past.”
Summary from Goodreads (with a few modifications)-
Propelled by an insistent sense of desperation, Stevie Burke is restlessly abandoning home, husband and outwardly contented life under the cover of night, at last resigned to defeat in her long battle against the tortured memories of her past.
Days later, lost and floundering, in a dreary motel room with no plan or destination, it is a long ago song playing on the radio that gently tugs Stevie back through the dust of remembrance. 1957- the last summer spent at the ancient house overlooking the North Atlantic.A season which had unfolded with abundant promise but then spiraled horrible out of control- torn apart by a shattering tragedy that remains splintered in fragments upon her soul. And it is only now that Stevie at last lifts her eyes to stare deep into the heart of her long sequestered memories, that the long held secrets of past and future are unveiled.

Beautifully written and captivating, The Secret of Lies was an amazing tale of sacrifice and emotion that held the beauty of suspense and romance to keep you reading until the final page. I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I absolutely adored the characters, with a few exceptions, but I was able to easily relate to most of them. That just made the story all the more enticing.
The plot of the story and the way it was set out was possibly the best thing about the book. It was fresh, original and very addictive! Miss Forte Abate is a writer of extraordinary talent in the way she strings her words together to keep the reader hooked. I found myself shouting at the text at times, just like my dad shouts at the T.V during a football game, because I just wanted to know what would happen! I would find myself yelling things like; "KISS ALREADY!" Can anyone relate? No? Maybe it's just me who shouts at books then.
The main character of the story, Stevie Burke, is a real modern day literary heroine. Her traits which include persistence, determination, individuality, courage and most importantly, a strong sense of self, were very admirable and set a great example for the reader. She had to face a lot of heartache during the course of the plot and she was still able to stand (well, most of the time anyway).
I should point out however, that if you are interested in reading The Secret of Lies, make sure you have a box of tissues handy. I don't think i need to elaborate on their purpose. 
Anyhow, I really do recommend this book as it's suitable for anyone and everyone. The only thing I didn't like about the novel was the ending. I would have preferred a more elaborate finale to what was an amazing story but overall, I really did enjoy The Secret of Lies and I can't wait to see what comes next from the author.

Miss Forte Abate and I will be having an interview soon, so please check in to Book Nerd & Critic to find out a little more about the woman behind the story!