These are reviews originally posted to Amazon as customer reviews. They're intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. (Apologies for any typos, bad grammar, or offensive language.) This isn't sponsored by Amazon or represent them in any way, although they do have a very nice site and I recommend checking it out for your next book purchase. Feel free to comment on the books if you've read them or tell me how much my reviews suck or whatever.
That is all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where You Belong

It's been about a year since I finished writing and editing this book--and from the look of it I should have done at least one more edit. I figured that would be enough time to get a little perspective on the story since it wouldn't be so fresh in my mind. It's good to see that after a year I still like t. Maybe after five years that will be different, though I doubt it.

I set out to write something in the style of John Irving novels like The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules and generally I think I succeeded, though not as well as though books of course. If you're so inclined you can also compare it to Great Expectations, The Adventures of Augie March, or Forrest Gump.

Like those, Where You Belong is the story of a man's epic journey through life--much of it unwillingly. Frost Devereaux never had anything like a normal upbringing. His parents conceived him in a one-night stand during a blizzard and then were wed in a shotgun wedding sans an actual shotgun. Frost's mother hates the man who knocked her up enough that she forces him to live in a barn on her property, from which he is essentially a stranger to his own son. It's not much of a surprise then that when Frost's mother dies in a traffic accident and Frost's face is badly burned, his father takes off to leave him in the care of an inattentive aunt.

From there Frost might have grown up as an isolated lunatic if not for the arrival of redheaded twins from Boston: Frankie and Frank Maguire. They establish the pecking order early on where Frankie is the boss, her brother plotting behind the scenes, and Frost the loyal sidekick to them both. This pecking order remains for the next thirty years of Frost's life.

Much as Frost would like a nice, normal life, it remains tantalizingly out of reach. Or if he does find a moment of happiness it's soon pulled away. His friendship with Frankie lasts through elementary school, but the forces of puberty soon prompt Frankie to leave him behind. He turns to Frank and they head off to an elite private school in upstate New York, but Frank soon has other plans that don't involve Frost. In college, Frost finds a new friend in his roommate Peter, a Trekkie who searches the skies for signs of extraterrestrial life. This budding friendship is soon brought to an end in tragic fashion.

From there Frost ends up in an artist's colony in New Mexico before Frankie returns to his life. Again he thinks he has happiness in his grasp only for it to be snatched away. Heartbroken, Frost finds comfort with Frank only to find he's not that different from his twin.

Maybe this description makes the story sound depressing, but really it's not. Through it all Frost, like most of us, maintains a sense of optimism that someday things are going to work out. And maybe they will. You'll just have to read to find out.

What I like most about the book in reading it a year later is that Frost remains consistent throughout. Some people have described him as passive and he is, with good cause. Never having a stable existence, not to mention a facial deformity, he is an outcast. So it really makes sense--at least to me--that he takes on the sidekick role in order not to alienate those willing to be his friends. Not to mention characters like Frankie and Frank are naturally overpowering and domineering. For the most part these characters and Fate in general move Frost around like the feather in Forrest Gump. It's only near the end where he maybe starts to take control of his own destiny. Still, he remains consistent throughout the book.

For that matter, so do Frankie and Frank. As I said earlier, their pecking order remains in place throughout the thirty years covered by the book. Frankie remains passionate, with her heart on her sleeve while Frank remains a calculating schemer. Because love is blind, Frost never understands that the Maguire twins are more alike than he thinks and generally not good for him until it's much too late. Not to say they're bad people so much as just bad for him.

The downside of writing a book like this that goes from pre-conception to early middle age is that you have a lot of ground to cover. Unless you make the book 2000 pages long, inevitably things get skipped or glossed over. In the first draft I had trouble with dwelling too long on Frost's early years, so that things had to be sped up a little. I think not too much has been lost and so it's still an effective portrait of a man who like many of us is searching for a home.

That is all.

Buy it NOW on Amazon in Kindle or Paperback!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lyon's Legacy

Lyon's Legacy (Catalyst Chronicles #1)
by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
(4/5 stars)

As I've said before in reviews, there are some books that are much too long and there are others that are much too short.  This falls into the latter category.  While I enjoyed reading the book, I wished it had been longer, to give more time for the story and characters to grow.

The story takes place in the late 21st Century, in a future world that isn't apocalyptic, but not a utopia either.  Getting into a PhD program is difficult because of government regulations, but Joanna Lyon still yearns to be a geneticist anyway.

Her rich uncle offers her a way to get the money for enrolling in grad school.  All Joanna has to do is get on a spaceship, go through a wormhole, and find her famous ancestor, music legend Sean Lyon.

That's a problem for Joanna because she's grown up in Sean's shadow her entire life.  Her uncle even tried to make her go on tour as a tribute act, but Joanna refused, creating bad blood between them.  Still, if it means making her dreams come true, maybe she can do what her uncle wants and meet the man who inadvertently ruined her life.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.  For a novella, there is quite a bit happening.  I really wanted more interaction between Sean and Joanna.  Though maybe that will happen in the sequels.  Certainly everything is set up for a sequel.

As I said at the beginning, the only real complaint I have is that I wish there had been more.  Everything, especially her relationship with George, seems to move so quickly.  A full novel would have given the story a little more time to breathe.

Still highly recommended.

That is all.