Uncategorized: a kiss before you leave me book reviews J.A. Beard james hulbert literary
by J.A. Beard
The question of identity is one that cannot be answered in isolation. As a social creature, the way we define ourselves is often heavily influenced by the way we view others and the reverse. This tangled web of relationships and identity forms the heart of James Hulbert’s literary character study, A Kiss Before You Leave Me.
The novel follows the flow of interactions between translator Miranda Kinkaid, her ex-husband stock-broker Vince, and her new beau, a lawyer. Miranda is a recovering alcoholic still emotionally and even financially reliant on her dependable ex-husband. When a new man is brought into her life by circumstance, she is soon drawn toward a deep emotional intimacy that she’s been lacking, all the while inspiring the artistic fire in her new boyfriend. Emotional betrayal, artistic obsession and the wounds of the past all combine together into a plot that may be more subtle in its tension yet still engaging.
Characterization is the true strength of this novel. Although Miranda gets the most focus, every character introduced is actualized with a depth that lends more weight to their interactions. Many of these characters may not necessarily be likable depending on the reader’s tastes, but they are all very intriguing nonetheless. Psychological states and changes play a key role in the progression of events, and they are all handled in a manner that is both dramatic and interesting yet avoids any hint of implausibility. The character work is generally strengthened by the use of multiple points-of-view throughout the novel, though there were a few occasions where it felt like certain information was held back that should have been accessible given some of the POVs being followed. I will note that I did find the occasional and uneven use of a frame narrator not only unnecessary but also somewhat distracting. The issue didn’t arise enough to seriously impact my enjoyment of the story.
On occasion, there was a slight tendency toward summary that did find less interesting, mostly in the middle acts of the story. Those segments aside, the plot itself is generally paced well and moves along with enough emotional climaxes to have kept my interest. For a mostly psychological character study, there were a surprising number of interesting twists all the way through the end.
Bourgeois ennui as a thematic thread runs throughout the novel. Even though the ennui, in itself, didn’t resonate with me, the expert characterization and the more general exploration of relationships and social expectation were more than satisfying. In particular, I found the examination of how various positive social connections can so easily be turned into damaging ones one of the most interesting aspects of this story.
Overall, I found A Kiss Before You Leave Me an intriguing exploration of the hearts and minds of several realistically depicted emotionally-damaged characters.
Rating: 4 stars
Uncategorized: book reviews Jill Myles Romance Survivor Wicked Games
leave a comment
A fun, sexy book about a Survivor-like game show? I know, it didn’t make sense when I picked it up at first either, but as soon as I started I just couldn’t put it down. Maybe it was the great descriptions of the setting or the hunky leading man, but this story was just fun all around.
The story, Wicked Games by Jill Myles, centers on the aspiring author, full-time journalist and all around smart-ass Abby Lewis. She is coerced into joining the survival game as an inside mole. Only once she gets in, she’s paired with rock-hard Dean who has a distinct charm that drives her crazy. With Abby’s spitfire ways and Dean’s unwavering determination, the two were bound to have sparks fly.
My initial attraction to the book had mainly to do with its lack of cost. The cover is really nothing special for this genre, but at least it was well-pieced together.
Okay, so I’ll be honest, this isn’t the kind of book I thought I would like, but then I’m not a NASCAR fan, and I’ve been known to find one or two of those type of books sweet as well. I think it might be Abby’s attitude that really sells this central plot with the game show. She’s not thrilled go into the game, and it is something that really resonated with me. As the story flowed on, it was obvious the author knew where they were going and how they were going to get there. I was given a clear path, and it was refreshing to see they hadn’t deviated from this path as some authors do with forced problems. Sometimes less is more. And sometimes more is less daunting.
As I’ve said, Abby is a great character and I felt fully connected to her. Despite the rough start, Dean is endearing to the reader almost from the very start. He’s charming, funny and knows just how to best piss off Abby. He’s also got this great boy-next-door quality. Other characters are handled well. Despite it being a game, the duo are able to make friends and that helps to break up the tension or heat of the story. This enhances the overall intensity of those elements.
Perhaps the thing that really made this story sing was the nice ending. Everything was neatly tied up in a little bow, and I was left feeling true contentment.
Rating: 4 Stars
I may have been lucky enough to get this for free, but it’s a gem regardless of that. Solid plot, likeable characters and sex appeal to go around. All I needed to really enjoy this more was a piña colada with a little paper umbrella.
My indie, my tea and me
Uncategorized: book reviews Doodling humor Jonathan Gould satire science fiction the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy
Doodling by Jonathan Gould gives us a fantastically funny social satire that never takes itself too seriously. Neville Lansdowne finds one day that he can’t keep up with the fast pace of the world and is flung into space only to land in the asteroid belt. There he meets others who have left the Earth to pursue their own interests. Upon meeting these other travelers, Neville begins to question the strange choices and motivations of the people he encounters.
Cover Art: 5 Stars
The cover is both visually appealing and does a good job of representing the the whimsy of the book. I felt that it was a perfect fit for this story.
Characters: 5 Stars
This novel had a great set of characters. Neville may not be an “everyman” but his feelings are perfectly defined. Not only is he well-rounded, but he had a character arc complete with actual character evolution, always a nice thing to see. The supporting characters are so vividly absurd that I found myself picking favorites despite the short time spent with them and the somewhat distant nature of the book.
Plot: 4.5 Stars
I was hooked from page one. The pacing is fantastic in this story, and the plot had a nice progression. At first, I worried that the story would lack any real conflict and focus too much on societal issues and themes, but that turned out to not be the case at all. A balance of humor and contemplation made it more enjoyable than others of that same vein. There is also great development of the setting that only makes the encountered problems all the more believable.
Writing: 4.5 Stars
This book was a real joy to read. The writing was consistently high quality. The story employs a great dry humor style that is not easily achieved. I loved how well it all flowed together. I did find a few minor errors near the start of the story but very few detracted from the story. My only real criticism relates to a series of fragments in the first few pages. Although they are used correctly, they did get to be a little much and threw off the flow.
Overall: 4 Stars
Despite how great I think this book was, the ending played a large part in my final opinion. After all loose ends have been tied together, there are a few throw away lines leading to the title of the story. It just made no sense to me. Nothing else had been worked in prior that would make the sentences fit well, and they have rather major potential implications to the events that have occurred depending on how they are interpreted. This slight ambiguity at the end of the story just didn’t seem to truly fit with what was presented before. Still, I really loved the book and would heartily recommend to anyone. Just skip the last few sentences.
My indie, my tea and me.
Uncategorized: A. Andrew Tantia book reviews humor Not With a Bang science fiction short story
leave a comment
Funny and witty, Not With a Bang by A. Andrew Tantia was a very enjoyable short story. Although it seemed wordy and even a bit pretentious at times, I think this ended up as part of the charm of the story and plays into the tongue-in-cheek humor found throughout.
The story begins with two men in the last piece of Earth, a small garden. The two meditate on the implications of being the last men on Earth and the fact they are men. Some additional information comes to light and some even more unusual changes in circumstances. I can’t provide any more details without ruining the story.
Cover Art: 3 Stars
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the cover, but I recognize it is trying to ape the old 1960’s science fiction style. I would suggest an update, as it seems that science fiction readers expect more from a cover but those that would really enjoy this book might appreciate the idea underlying the retro design.
Characters: 4 Stars
I have found with short stories it is often hard to fully develop the characters, but this story came very close to achieving that. Although I didn’t have a true deep emotional connection, it seemed like that wasn’t the author’s intent. Instead, what was provided was a better understanding of the characters. My only real beef was the lack of a last name for the character named Robin. This actually wouldn’t have been that noticeable if the author hadn’t introduced one character with his last name and in the next sentence introduced the second character. Really, it wasn’t a major issue but just seemed out of place.
Plot: 4 Stars
The plot was really an interesting take on the end of all life on Earth. There was a part of me that wished there had been more to the story, but, in the end, I’m not so certain there was much more that could be written for this kind of story. Throughout the story there was a great tongue-in-cheek wit that made the bleak setting much more humorous that it ought to be. What I feared most about this story was the possibility of it being a pompous piece pontificating on end of life, but instead I received an enjoyable and real story arc, albeit short.
Writing: 5 Stars
This was a thoughtful and well-written work. When I started the story, it felt like it might have been slightly wordy and even a bit pompous, but I came to realize the style enhanced the great humor of the story. Sometimes stylized writing like this is needed to help enhance the plot, which it most certainly did in this case. Most of all, I was amazed with the lack of errors. This, of course, could be attributed to being such a short story.
Overall: 4 Stars
There were some really fantastic elements to this story that made it a fun read. The characters had a nice chemistry with one another, and the overall writing was phenomenal. I wished for a slightly deeper connection with the characters, although I realize there were limits with the writing style that wouldn’t allow for this. I just felt slightly disconnected from their plight. Despite this, the story was more than worth the read, and I look forward to longer books by this author.
My indie, my tea and me