April 29, 2012

Veiled Eyes

As I have mentioned previously, I will have guest reviewers of books from time to time.  This is one of those times.  I was talking with Ed Ackley several weeks ago about some of the books I've read over the past year, and then the conversation turned how authors sometimes write in different genres.  One such author came up, C.L. Bevill.  I had read one of her mysteries last year and really liked it, and Ed found one of her paranormal thriller - romance books and wanted to give it a go for me.  So, with out further ado...

Title:               Veiled Eyes (Lake People)
Author:            C.L. Bevill
Publisher:       Amazon Digital Services
Medium:         Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:  Anna St. Thais has always wondered who she was; an orphan or abandoned child. As she travels to New Orleans she quickly realizes that the dreams she's had of a strangely attractive man are very real and that he has a strong psychic connection to her. She finds the the enigmatic Lake People and there she will unravel the mystery that is her life.

Veiled Eyes by C.L. Bevill starts with the protagonist/heroine, Anna St. Thais hitchhiking her way across Texas after having her car freshly repossessed in Midland. Anna has to get to her friend’s house in Louisiana for a fresh start. Anna is down on her luck and literally out in the cold. Although this scenario isn’t anything new, Bevill does a good job with putting us right alongside Anna, “feeling her pain”. Then, as in any hitchhiker scenario, the lone trucker pulls up to help our damsel in distress, uh, okay...our down-on-her-luck mechanic.

Bevill’s execution of the introduction to Veiled Eyes is pretty well done and the reader certainly gets a solid feel for what will be the author’s pretty straight-forward writing style. Bevill’s prose is serviceable, if not a bit clunky at times, which offers the opportunity for a pretty quick read.

“Anna shivered. She opened her eyes and saw a little low-wattage yellow light bulb above her.
Dan had left the sleep light on and she was lying on her back on a fairly comfortable mattress
in a narrow space with storage bins above her. Her eyes felt heavy...”
“Her arms were above her head, posed unnaturally and she pulled at them twice before she
remembered that her wrists were connected to something.”

After scoring a ride with the lone trucker along the lonely, cold stretch of highway, Anna quickly finds herself on a wild ride. From here Veiled Eyes quickly takes on the aspects and pacing of a thriller. Certain aspects about who and what Anna is start to unfold which help to propel the action forward to where Anna finds herself in the town of Unknown, Louisiana. Once in Unknown Anna uncovers more about who she really is. This is where the novel’s plot and pacing starts to suffer a bit. Veiled Eyes takes on a more romance novel quality and pacing that starts to derail the more thriller-like aspects the author established from the novel’s beginning.

With this being said, one of the strongest points of Veiled Eyes is Bevill’s ability to make the paranormal and fantastic aspects of Veiled Eyes (Lake People) believable without any major threat to the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief. C.L. Bevill also does an effective job in painting Unknown, Louisiana with a local color that is nothing short of distinctive and delightful. Add to these things C.L. Bevill’s ability to weave a colorful tapestry of mythology and folklore in which she shrouds the town of Unknown; readers might start finding some of Veiled Eyes’ pacing issues forgivable.

I will also add that the Kindle edition I read would benefit from further proofing and another editorial pass. Simply put, the grammatical and text errors add up to the point of more than simple distraction; reader experience and overall story start suffering due to some rather simple and correctable issues. As for any Kindle formatting issues--none observed.

Overall, Veiled Eyes by C.L. Bevill serves as a manageable, light read with enough uneven action to maintain reader interest. If Bevill is already on your bookshelf; you should find discovering Unknown, Louisiana through Anna’s adventure enjoyable. If you’re looking for a more polished novel with attention to detail and thriller pacing, then Veiled Eyes might not be a trip you should take.

April 25, 2012

Reader Radar #3

Title:            In Search of Nectar (A Short Story)
Author:                         Kirkus MacGowan 
Publisher:                     Kirkus MacGowan (January 25, 2012)
            Amazon Kindle Services
Medium:             Kindle

I have to admit to something that I’ve never done before, and swore that I would never do.  I chose this short story because the cover art was of a gnome.  I have a very special place in my heart for gnomes, and have been the surrogate parent to one for over 15 years.  Our gnome’s name is Gary the Garden Gnome, and unlike Hedwicket, Fourth Counselor of the Fifth Generation of the Third Company of Gnome Literalists, he just sits there, with his creepy eyes, never conversational and luckily never violent, but after reading In Search of Nectar, now I give him a wide berth and wonder.  

This quick little read had me laughing out loud and holding my breath at one moment while boring bachelor Wilburn is taken on an adventure that he’s sure will yield some magical secret to gnome-kind.  Plus Hedwicket is pretty prone to violence and everyone knows not to mess with a pissed off garden gnome, so he had no choice.

The adventure is fast paced and had a great resolution, even though I groaned just a bit.  I love the idea behind In Search of Nectar, and thought the writing style was precise. MacGowan was really able to fit a lot into a small package.  Kind of like gnomes, right?

The one message that I took away from In Search of Nectar is that there are wonderful, pleasing, and accommodating husbands in all walks of life!

Kirkus MacGowan is most definitely on my Reader Radar.

April 21, 2012

Spare Change

Title:               Spare Change
Author:            Bette Lee Crosby
Publisher:       Bent Pine Publishing (September 27, 2011)
Medium:         Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis:  
A Woman who is Superstitious to the Core…
A Boy who claims his Parents are Dead…A Murderer who wants to Silence the Truth of What Happened.
Olivia Westerly knows what she knows—opals mean disaster, eleven is the unluckiest number on earth and children weigh a woman down like a pocketful of stones. That’s why she’s avoided marriage for almost forty years. But when Charlie Doyle happened along, he was simply too wonderful to resist. Now she’s a widow with an eleven-year-old boy claiming to be her grandson.
Winner of a Royal Palm Literary Award…Spare Change is a quirky mix of Southern flair, serious thoughts about the important things in life, the madcap adventures of a young boy and a late change of heart that makes all the difference in an unusually independent woman. 
With a foul mouth, dark secrets and heavily guarded emotions, Ethan Allen Doyle is not an easy child to like. He was counting on the grandpa he’d never met for a place to hide, but now that plan is shot to blazes because the grandpa’s dead too. He’s got seven dollars and twenty-six cents, his mama’s will for staying alive, and Dog. But none of those things are gonna help if Scooter Cobb finds him.

Spare Change was my first book that I received from a Goodreads group I belong to called Sisterhood of the Traveling Book. It’s a great concept, where a book can get passed along and read by many different people.  There is opportunity for discussion and in this case, the author is even a member, and I would imagine that she would be available for discussion and questions.
The best part of this great group is that there are many generous authors that donate a book for traveling.  This not only creates a buzz for the book, but it puts those authors in a different light, especially to readers like me.  Spare Change is probably not a book that I would normally pick up on my own.  I am so glad that I found the Goodreads group, that I chose a book that was generously donated, and that I had the opportunity to read something that I might not normally find on my own.

Spare Change is set in about the late 1950’s/early 1960’s and is the story of a woman who chose to have a successful career instead of getting married and having children, and a child who loved his mother more than anything, and how fate and love brought them together.  The book paints a picture of Olivia finally finding love and happiness at the mid-point of her life only to have it taken away as quickly as it came.  It shares the story of a young boy named Ethan Allen who I instantly fell in love with mostly because of his foul mouth and craftiness, but also because of the tragedy that no child should ever have to bear witness to.  The ancillary characters in the book were well-described and each was important, even the ones with the smallest part to play actually ended up being more than the overall big picture that I think the author was to convey.  If it weren’t for a driver, fate would never happen.

Through words, Bette was able to show sadness, happiness, love, fear, and friendship over the course of a tale that at times had me holding my breath and other times had me laughing out loud.  I loved how two people who may have never had the opportunity to meet were brought together, but I was sad because the circumstances for both Olivia and Ethan Allen had to be ones of tragedy in order for them to find each other.

The other aspect of Spare Change that I really enjoyed was that friendship played a big role, especially for Olivia.  After the tragedy in her life, she had to find not only a friend in herself, but in others.  And Bette was able to show that friendships born out of tragedy can sometimes be some of the strongest one is able to have in their life, and that friendship will carry them through.

I am definitely going to look into Bette Lee Crosby's other books, because I think she would be a great author for my book club!  I’m sure she wouldn’t mind her books being discussed over cold beers on a hot Florida evening!

Bette Lee Crosby

April 17, 2012

Reader Radar #2

Title:              When I Woke Up I Knew I Was Dead: A Short Story
Author:           N. Primak
Publisher:       Amazon Digital Services
Medium:         Kindle

While reading through a pile of short stories for this week’s Reader Radar, I came across some crazy things - aliens, pissed off gnomes (more on this later), secret fairytale lands, and then this one.  I actually kind of kept moving on after reading it, still searching for just the right story to feature, and while I was eating dinner, I couldn’t help but continue to think about it.  It was nagging at the corners of my brain, creeping back in, refusing to go the way of the aliens.

Isn’t that what short stories are supposed to do?  At first the concept and storyline had me thinking one way, then another, and even this morning, I was still processing it.  I really believe that there is actually a powerful message intertwined into the core of this short story, which catapults the material straight to the top of important issues that children are facing today.

I don’t want to give away too much in this review, but I think that the underlying issue is that even children and teenagers get depressed, reach out, get no answers, and unfortunately turn to the wrong solution.  Kids get depressed for any number of issues, and we see that impact in the headlines of today’s news stories.

In this short story the boy is obviously depressed – it could be from peer pressure, bullying, issues at home – I think the story slightly touches on all three, but in being a kid, he still has trouble enunciating that to his parents, his girlfriend, his teachers, and himself, to a point.  He finally sees someone in school that is just like him, but even she doesn’t have the answers for him, because she doesn’t have the answers for herself.

The ending is somewhat abrupt, but in hindsight maybe that is Primak’s point?

I try not to read any reviews of any book or short story I read before or during the time I am reading it.  I don’t want anyone else’s opinion to creep into my core and taint my perspective and thought process.  I did happen upon a few reviews this morning while doing some research on the author, N. Primak.  I saw reviews that classified this as a funny short story.  If I squint and look into the sun, I can see where someone can find the beginning of the story humorous, but as a whole, I respectfully disagree.

When I Woke Up I Realized I Was Dead is dark, raw and real.

N. Primak is definitely on my Reader Radar!

April 12, 2012

Someone Else's Fairytale

Title:               Someone Else's Fairytale
Author:           E.M. Tippetts
Publisher:      Amazon Digital Services
Medium:        Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:  Jason Vanderholt, Hollywood's hottest actor, falls head over heels for everygirl, Chloe Winters, who hasn't gotten around to watching most of his movies. She becomes the woman every other woman in America is dying to be, but it just isn't her fairytale. 

It didn’t take me very long to get through this great read on my Kindle.  Someone Else’s Fairytale transported me back in time about 20 years, and was a wonderful distraction from the stresses of everyday life.  It also didn’t take long for this book to grab hold me and kept me interested until the very end.  I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity it gave me to escape for a few hours.

I loved the idea behind this book, because I think at one time or another in every young girl’s life, we have that fairy tale about the lead singer of a rock group or a famous actor falling head over heels in love with us.  One thing I liked most about the book was that that Tippetts kept me in small bits of suspense throughout.  There was always a question in my mind about how the book would ebb and flow, and of course, ultimately end.  I mean, we all try to figure out (and know) how books will end, right?

The story behind Someone Else’s Fairytale, was definitely a fairytale for so many young girls today.  I think that this book allows the opportunity for the reader to dream about something that more than likely would never happen to the average person.  I also feel that the author did a great job of showing all sides of the main characters in the book, and gave me as a reader a nice idea of what even some of the minor characters were like.  There was definitely a complete feeling with every character in this book.

I was definitely routing for the main character, Chloe, even when she wasn’t routing for herself.  I wanted her to find happiness no matter where it came from, and I wanted her to succeed.  I liked how there was a sense of family that came through in the book, especially when it wasn’t the cookie cutter, perfect family scenario.  Even while weaving the web of a fairytale, Tippetts was able to keep things real, and for me, that made the book that much better.

If I were an older teen or twenty-something again, I would definitely keep this book on my shelf to read again when things were glum.  It gave me a feeling of happiness.  I would definitely recommend Someone Else’s Fairytale for a younger crowd who has a book club.  Their discussion would be so much fun to listen to.


April 10, 2012

Reader Radar #1

Title:           Bike
Author:       Eric Carney
Publisher:   NightFire Publications (January 1, 2012)
Medium:     Kindle

I grabbed this short story from Amazon a couple of weeks ago, and kind of put off reading it until I had my Reader Radar plans finalized and posted.  Then I couldn’t wait to start reading short stories and finding those hidden gems.  I really think that Bike makes an ideal first short work of fiction for this blog series.

Bike was an interesting little read, and one that is worthy of Reader Radar, because it kept me thinking all the way through, and being the Ravenous Reader that I am, I was sure that I had the ending all played out in my head.  Well, I was impressed and surprised that the ending was totally not what I expected.

Mr. Carney really gave me, as a reader, an excellent visual perspective of the main character’s journey through a day that would surely change his life.  I felt the urgency and the pain and the fear that welled up and came to a head for the main character.  I was equally impressed because the main character is very young, and Mr. Carney provided a vocabulary equivalent of that age, and he did not try to make the boy greater than what he was.  I loved how the thunderstorm was symbolic of how rushed the main character felt, and the rising fear was experienced by me, the reader, with the escalation of the storm.  Though a short read, the amount of powerful feelings and culmination in this short story was copious and kept my attention up to the very end.

Bike would make a great little lunchtime read, but reader beware, if you are offended by any type of violence, this is definitely NOT for you.  If you are into great short stories with a lot of graphic visuals through the written word, with unexpected endings, then take 15 minutes and give this a go.

I looked around the web, on Goodreads, and on Twitter trying to find a website for the author Eric Carney, because I would love for him to see this review.  I will post this review on Goodreads and via Twitter, and hopefully, if anyone out there has a connection, they can pass this along.

April 9, 2012

Reader Radar

I wanted to add a little something more to Ravenous Reader Book Reviews, and since launching this blog I think I’ve come up with something that might help uncover more fiction and authors worth reading.  I’d like to introduce Reader Radar to Ravenous Reader Book Reviews.  Book reviews will still be the main focus of the blog, but in browsing around the internet and seeing other blogs that are similar in nature, and some that I have used as inspiration, I wanted to make sure things don’t get stale here at Ravenous Reader Book Reviews.

While searching through Amazon one morning my husband and I were discussing the plethora of new authors while looking for something to read, and from there it grew into what I hope to make a weekly component of Ravenous Reader Book Reviews.  

What is Reader Radar?  Reader Radar will be blog posts devoted to short fiction like short stories and novellas.  You know, something that I can read on my lunch break or while waiting on an appointment.  Books are a time investment, and short fiction lends itself to being read on a more frequent basis.  I really believe there are some untouched gems of authors out there, and I am hoping to reach those obscure, unheard of Indie authors through this segment of Ravenous Reader Book Reviews.

I will read and review short works of fiction in the hopes of being able to put that author on my Reader Radar so that one day when their next best book is published, I can be first in line to read it, and of course, review it!

The Pipeline Show

April 2, 2012

Getting Rid of Matthew

Title: Getting Rid of Matthew
Author:       Jane Fallon
Publisher:   Voice, Reprint edition, August 12, 2008
Medium:      Paperback (Ebay purchase)

Goodreads Synopsis:     A fabulous debut about a long-suffering nearly 40-something woman, Helen, and her affair with a family man named Matthew, who is not so surprisingly her boss. Just at the moment she decides it's time to dump him and get on with her life, she opens the front door to find Matthew on her doorstep. "I've done it" he announces triumphantly. "I've left her. I'm yours" he tells her, and proceeds to move in. She is not brave enough to throw him out. She then discovers how much she can't bear him. Wherein ensues a zany plot that involves figuring out that the best way to get rid of Matthew is to befriend his wife and convince her to take him back. The only problem is that Helen discovers she really likes Sophie, Matthew's wife, a lot more than she likes Matthew. And on top of that, she has a rather dishy stepson. Light as a feather but about real issues, GETTING RID OF MATTHEW is a deliciously funny novel that proves the peril of getting what you ask for.

This was a book club choice by a gentleman who belongs to the group.  I can't tell you much about him as it was my first time attending the Books & Beer group.  He gave a lively description of the book to the group and promised that we would laugh out loud and love the book.  In keeping true to my "get a book anywhere philosophy", I picked up this gently worn out paperback off E Bay.

The premise of Getting Rid of Matthew is pretty simple.  Married mad gets bored and finds a pushing middle-aged lass to entertain him a few nights a week (for 4 years!!!!).  Pushing middle-aged lass impels man to leave wife.  Man leaves wife and moves in with lass.  Pushing middle-aged lass has almost instant buyer's remorse and the tale moves to her trying to Get Rid of Matthew.  And the story unfolds from there.

The yarn that is weaved by the author has some really promising bits, and a few hold your breath moments, but for the most part, the only voice I could hear was the pushing middle-aged lass's incessant whining, at least it seemed she was constantly droning on.  I wasn't sure if I was supposed to love her or want to drown her.  I read a few other reviews of this book, and a couple of the complaints were that it's set in London and the "language" and "setting" were difficult to grasp.  It's England, not Djibouti.  Spend an afternoon watching BBC or PBS, and you'll be brought up to speed fairly quickly and hanker for a chippy all at the same time.

Have you ever been to Great Britain?  If you go, the first thing you might notice is that it's bleak, drizzly and damp.  Not every day, but  many, and that was the feeling I had while reading this book - bleak, drizzly, damp.  Even in some of the brighter spots of the book where one should feel happiness, I couldn't feel any warmth for any character, except for the Rabbits upstairs.

Do my feelings make Getting Rid of Matthew a horrible book?  Absolutely not.  It just wasn't the book for me.  I actually have a friend who I invited to join the book club before this book was chosen who has lived the exact life of one of the main characters.  We just had a quick phone discussion and she said that her Matthew was exactly like the character Matthew!  She said she felt so many of the same feelings and emotions as the characters did and she laughed out loud so many times.

Me, I didn't laugh out loud, in-fact, I never really felt much emotion for any of the characters.  Yes, yes, yes, there are deep, important emotions and relationships at play in this book, and the ending is a good one.  I think I did a half of a Julia Roberts/Arsenio Hall "whoo" when I finished.

Sometimes it's the story line in a book that keeps a person from really loving a book, so I'm going to give Ms. Fallon another go, and in the near future check one of her books out of my local library.  I will come back and review it, of course!

Jane Fallon

April 1, 2012

Cake Icing, Butt Budder, and Tea Lids

Title:          Cake Icing, Butt Budder, and Tea Lids
Author:       Renee Andrews
Publisher:  Renee Andrews; 1 edition (October 25, 2011)
Medium:    Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:   Cake Icing, Butt Budder and Tea Lids has been described as Sweet Home Alabama, the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Practical Magic and Steel Magnolias all rolled into one. "In the South, if a woman isn’t married by age twenty-five, it’s time for an intervention." This is the basis behind Delilah and Edna Thibodeaux’s dogged determination to make sure their beloved Jezze doesn’t end up an old spinster, like her mother and aunt. 
But what happens when the eccentric antics of the young girl’s crazy Cajun aunt and mother put her search for Mr. Right on a 25 year deadline to potential disaster? And why should she have to prove that they are the experts in marriage intervention, anyway? Because she loves them? Yeah, probably. Because they really don’t mean any harm? That too. But when they decide her Mr. Right is T-Roy Bertrand, the butt budder salesman, does she really have to agree? And if she’s made up her mind, why does her heart refuse to listen? 

I picked up this great little read for my Kindle when it was a freebie on Amazon.  One of the main reasons why I picked this was that the title was more on the whimsical side, and come on, who doesn't like cake icing?  I think it took me less than three days to wind this charming book up.

The book is set in Louisiana - Cajun Country, where everyone's name seems to end in X, family is beyond tight knit, and good food is very, very important.  The book actually spans a time period of about 25 years, but Ms. Andrews does a great job of moving time along.  I never felt like this story dragged on or got bogged down.  

Jezzie is the central character and the book opens with her birth, and the touching family scene between her mother Delilah and her Aunt Edna....where oh where is that sarcasm font when you need it?  That opening chapter truly sets the stage for the entire book though, and gives the reader the basic fundamentals for which it progresses.  The plot is to marry Jezzie off to her "right man", that only she will know the moment she meets him, plus her mama and her aunt don't want her to wind up an old spinster and alone.  There is a bon fire involved, along with a time frame, but don't worry, there are belts, suspenders, contingency and back up plans long in place for every bump in the road that may happen along the way.  And the bumps happen.

Cake Icing, Butt Budder, and Tea Lids is also a love story - love of family, love of friends, and love of those who wander in.  Butt Budder reminded me of my family, the "salve" that my grandparent's used for everything.  You never quite knew what was in it, there was always a container of it handy, and it worked wonders!  As for tea lids, I'll just let you enjoy every single moment of this all on your own, because it's best that way.  I promise!

I laughed out loud, I cried, and I'm woman enough to admit that I kind of freaked out just a teeny tiny bit once, but quickly got over it.  I just don't look at my bakery ladies the same any more.  This book was a very fun read, and it is something that will distract you from even the worst of days.  It really does scream for a sequel (I hope).

I highly recommend Cake Icing, Butt Budder, and Tea Lids  This is a great little book if you are looking for something quick and easy to read and you are into laughing out loud and aren't afraid to cry.  This would make an excellent book for the beach.

Oh, look!  "It's changing time!"