Categories
Blog Tour Book launch Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Blogblast The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith (@JenESmith) (@QuercusBooks) #GretaJames An adult coming-of-age story full of warmth, heart, and music set in beautiful Alaska

Hi all:

I bring you a book that was a very pleasant surprise for me, and I’m happy I was given the opportunity to participate in the blog blast on the day of its publication.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

An indie musician reeling from tragedy reconnects with her father on a week-long cruise in this tale of grief, fame, and love from bestselling author Jennifer E. Smith.

Just after the sudden death of her mother – her most devoted fan – and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes second album, Greta James falls apart on stage. The footage quickly goes viral and she stops playing. Greta’s career is suddenly in jeopardy – the kind of jeopardy her father, Conrad, has always warned her about.

Months later, Greta – still heartbroken and very much adrift – reluctantly agrees to accompany Conrad on the Alaskan cruise her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary. It could be their last chance to heal old wounds in the wake of shared loss. But the trip will also prove to be a voyage of discovery for them both, and for Ben Wilder, a charming historian who is struggling with a major upheaval in his own life.

In this unlikeliest of places – at sea and far from the packed venues where she usually plays – Greta must finally confront the heartbreak she’s suffered, the family hurts that run deep, and how to find her voice again.

https://www.amazon.com/Unsinkable-Greta-James-Novel-ebook/dp/B096D6BCTF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unsinkable-Greta-James-Jennifer-Smith/dp/1529416434/ (The Kindle version was not available when I checked, but I am sure it is only a matter of time)

https://www.amazon.es/Unsinkable-Greta-James-English-ebook/dp/B097G36DJQ/

Author Jennifer E. Smith

About the author:

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of nine books for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, both of which have recently been adapted for film. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter at @JenEsmith or visit her at

https://www.jenniferesmith.com/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-E.-Smith/e/B001JS1GEQ

 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

‘This book is a very special one for me. It’s my tenth novel, but my first one for adults, so it feels like a debut in many ways, and I’ve never been prouder of anything I’ve written. I may not be a rock star, and we may not be in a packed music venue with all its energy and immediacy, but I think what happens between writers and readers is something even more profound, something quieter and more personal. So whether this is the first you’ve heard of me, or you’ve grown up along with my books, I’m endlessly grateful to you for choosing to spend time with Greta. It means the world’ – Jennifer Smith

My review:

My thanks to Quercus and NetGalley for the ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review, and for the opportunity to participate in the blog blast on the day of its release.

Jennifer E. Smith is an author well-known for her YA novels, but this is the first book I read by her, and although I can’t comment on how it compares to her previous work, I loved this one.

The book’s description is very accurate and gives a good idea of what to expect, at least in general terms. It is an adult coming-of-age story, a category that keeps popping up on my reading list recently, and that, so far, has been full of pleasant surprises. Here we have several adult coming-of-age stories, in fact. Apart from the story of Greta, the unsinkable musician of the title (as she proves to be by the end), who has to learn to see things from other people’s perspective, to accept her loss and heartbreak, and to discover that even our dreams are not perfect; we also discover the story of her father, Conrad, who has to face the same loss and make peace with a daughter who challenges his way of life and his dreams; and Ben, a man who is living a dream he never truly believed in and has to pay a hefty price for it. The novel explores family relationships (the stories families tell about themselves, the roles the different members adopt, and how those change), loss (of a close relative, of a relationship, of a dream, of the capacity to create…) and the guilty feelings that often accompany it, different choices and lifestyles (family versus career, dreams versus security), fame and the lack of privacy that comes with it, the role of parents in encouraging their children’s dreams and giving them wings (or not), different concepts of love, the beauty of nature and music and the healing powers of both…

Greta, the central character, is a strong woman, even if we meet her at a low point, a moment when she is going through a deep crisis. She has not only lost her mother and had a public meltdown during a concert, but she is also trying to recover from the breakup from her relationship with her boyfriend and producer, the most stable romantic relationship she’d ever had. Although the story is told in the third person and in the present tense (it felt a bit odd, to begin with, but I quickly forgot about it, and considering most of it takes place in a week and in almost real-time, it feels quite apt) from Greta’s point of view, through her memories and her conversations we get to learn a lot of what happened to get her where she is now, no matter how hard she tries not to think about it. It is very strange, considering that I have hardly anything in common with the character but I really liked her and connected with her from the start, and I often found myself nodding at her comments and reflections, and feeling that many of her words could very well apply to me. The protagonist is far from perfect; she can be obstinate and often refuses to consider things from anybody else’s perspective, but she is hurting so badly and is trying so hard to keep going and to make amends, that it is impossible not to feel for her and cheer her on. The same is true for the rest of the characters. The two couples who have been her parents’ friends forever and travel with them are very different but also very likeable. Pritee, a young girl Greta meets at the beginning of the cruise, is wonderful (and we can easily imagine young Greta when we see this girl’s enthusiasm and zest for life); Ben, the love interest, is a genuinely nice guy, with his own problems but always happy to try and be there for Greta as well; her brother, Asher, is the complete opposite of her and nonetheless a thoroughly decent man, who deeply cares for his family; even her ex-boyfriend sounds quite caring (if far from perfect). And Conrad, her Dad… Well, this man and his interactions with his daughter are the heart of the novel and are both, heartbreaking and heart-warming. There are so many things unsaid between them, and so much hurt, but… 

Let me not forget Alaska. Most reviewers comment on the beautiful depiction of Alaska and say they felt like dropping everything to go there. I have wanted to visit it for quite a while, and now I am more determined than ever. Both Alaska and the ship (it’s not a boat, and those who read the book will know why I say that) play important parts in the novel, providing the perfect setting, full of awe-inducing and unforgettable experiences; a sanctuary where the protagonists can have the necessary breathing space and break free from their everyday lives for long enough to confront some hard truths and start anew.

Smith’s writing flows easily, and she excels at describing experiences, feelings, sensations, in a lyrical and compelling manner. There are very sad and moving moments (tissues are recommended), funny interludes, and tender and joyful scenes that will make readers smile. The book is full of eminently quotable gems, but as I have only read an ARC copy, I am aware there might be some changes in the final edition. I decided that I would only share a few of the fragments I had highlighted, as a taster. 

Here, Greta is talking about her mother to one of her mother’s friends:

“Also, she made the worst coffee. Like, seriously bad. And she had no street smarts. She’d come to New York and act like she was in a musical, like the whole world is singing along with her. And… she left me. She left all of us, but it feels like she left me most of all, and I know that’s completely self-centered, but it’s how I feel. I hate that she’s gone. I really, really hate it.”

That moment, that phone call, that missed opportunity: all of it is as elemental to their lives as this glacier is to the beach, huge and imposing and receding so slowly, so gradually, that you might be forgiven for assuming it would be here forever.

 Greta and her Dad are talking about Ben and his family responsibilities:

“Everyone has baggage,” he says. “Even you. Just because yours is a different shape and size doesn’t mean it’s not heavy too.” 

“Maybe the point isn’t always to make things last,” he says. “Maybe it’s just to make them count.” (Another one of Conrad’s wise comments). 

I felt the ending was perfect. It has a touch of whimsy and openness that appealed to me because rather than leaving things unresolved (some readers would have preferred more clarity, but I didn’t mind at all), it ends on a hopeful note, full of possibilities. You know that whatever might come next, Greta will be OK and will remain unsinkable.

In summary, this is a novel I would recommend to anybody who enjoys stories with a strong female protagonist, especially one going through a difficult and challenging period in her life, full of interesting characters and real-life emotions. This is a novel about relationships and growing up, and it will not suit those looking for a complex plot full of adventures or intrigue. Although there is a love story of sorts, this is not the most important part of the novel, and people looking for a big romance might be disappointed, but anybody who appreciates stories about family relationships and about how they change, anybody who has experienced the loss of a parent, and particularly those who are fans of indie music and love an Alaskan setting, will enjoy this novel. Book clubs will find plenty to talk and think about in this novel as well (and the fact that one of the characters is a writer and a fan of a classic American author will add to the attraction), and although it is not squeaky-clean, there is no violence or graphic sex, and readers are left with a warm feeling. I don’t know if Smith will carry on writing for adults (although I think older YA and NA would probably enjoy this book as well), but I hope she does, although I wouldn’t mind reading her YA novels either. And I am sure those who try this one will keep on reading her as well.

Thanks to Quercus (Milly Reid in particular), to NetGalley, and of course the author, for such a lovely book, thanks to all of you for following me and reading my reviews, and remember to like, share, comment (if you feel it is worth it), but especially, keep smiling and stay safe. And keep reading!

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview The Demon Road Trilogy (2) Desolation and (3) – American Monsters by Derek Landy (@DerekLandy). To Hell and Back. An ending worthy of the series

Hi all:

Thinking about YA books made me realise that I had only shared the review of the first book in the the Demon Road series by Derek Landy, here. So I decided to share the other two.

The Demon Road 2. Desolation by Derek Landy
The Demon Road 2. Desolation by Derek Landy

Desolation (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 2) by Derek Landy

 

THE EPIC NEW THRILLER CONTINUES.

Book two in the mind-blowing new supernatural thriller from bestselling author DEREK LANDY, creator of international sensation Skulduggery Pleasant.

Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.

Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.

And that night is coming…

Here my review

More fascinating characters, a tiny bit of romance, and Alaska, but less of a road trip.

Thanks to Harper Collins Children’s Books and to Net Galley for offering me a free copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

I read Demon Road recently, loved it and was keen to know what happened next. The first novel was a ride, a succession of adventures along the demon road and there were many stories that I felt would have made great books in their own right.

The second book in the series is about Desolation Hill in Alaska, the only place where Amber and Milo think they might be safe from the hounds of hell that are after them. The novel is less of a road trip (they get there fairly quickly even if finding the actual place seems difficult, we later get to know why) and more of a novel about a town that hides many secrets and is much darker than it might appear at first sight. Amber is still trying to grow up and get to grips with the fact that she’s a demon through no fault of her own, and she still has her parents trying to find her (and now, instead of eating her they want to take her back to the Shining Demon). We still see things from her point of view. But there are many changes.

The story is not only different in the setting, but also in the way it is told. There are other character’s points of view that come into play. I particularly like Virgil, and elderly man who used to star in a TV programme in the seventies (where he was the hero, an avenger type with mask and all), who is later joined by Javier, the actor who used to play his old archenemy. Their interaction is funny, but also poignant and touching at times. There are also a group of fairly young people (and a dog) who hunt demons and evil in its many forms. They jokingly refer at times to Scooby-Doo, and with the dog (Two) and their van there is a certain similarity, although not in the details. We also see the story from their perspective at times and we get the sense that there are many stories (that like Kelly’s tattoos might deserve more screen, or page, time) behind them and ahead of them. The Demon Road throws interesting people together, for sure.

Amber becomes stronger, more determined, and comes up with daring plans and decisions that don’t always bring the expected results (hardly ever). But she’s still vulnerable and her self-esteem when she’s in human form is poor. It is refreshing to see that at least one person she meets thinks she is cooler in human form and does not find her attractive as a demon. Her relationship with Kelly hints at the possibility of a romance but as we well know the path of true love is never a smooth one.

I thought the alternative points of views helped show Amber under a different perspective, more ambiguous, and helped ground the story. On the other hand, I missed the road trip part of it. There are plenty of interesting characters, some from the town and some outsiders, and there is plenty of action. To be truthful, when the festival arrives (I won’t explain what it consists of but yes, I’m happy I’ve never been to one) the action speeds up to such a level that sometimes I found it difficult to keep up. More than a page turner it becomes a hurricane.

The novel ends in a big twist that seems to throw the action in a completely different direction and makes us question once again what kind of person/demon Amber will turn out to be in the end. I definitely want to know.

I would advise anybody considering reading this book to start by reading Demon Road. Although the action might be understood if read alone, and there are clues along the way, some of the nuances and the backstory greatly enhance the overall effect (and some props, like the key used at times are a legacy from previous adventures).

There are things I like better in this book, and things I like better in the first, but I get the sense that the series has been conceived as a whole and it will all fit in together nicely (or nastily, considering the genre) by the end. We shall see. I’ll be waiting for the third one (and it seems it’s only a few months to go).

Links:

Links:

http://amzn.to/23nZ87Y

http://amzn.to/23nZawT

And last, but not least…

The Demon Road 3. American Monsters
The Demon Road 3. American Monsters by Derek Landy

The Demon Road 3. American Monsters by Derek Landy

Description

The epic conclusion in the mind-blowing supernatural thriller from bestselling author DEREK LANDY, creator of international sensation Skulduggery Pleasant.
Bigger, meaner, stronger, Amber closes in on her murderous parents as they make one last desperate play for power. Her own last hopes of salvation, however, rest beyond vengeance, beyond the abominable killers – living and dead – that she and Milo will have to face.

For Amber’s future lies in her family’s past, in the brother and sister she never knew, and the horrors beyond imagining that befell them.

https://www.amazon.com/Demon-Road-03-DEREK-LANDY/dp/000815709X/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/American-Monsters-Demon-Road-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B01CC8DO6Y/

My review:

Thanks to Harper Collin’s Children and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I voluntarily reviewed.

I’ve followed with interest Derek Landy’s series of The Demon Road Trilogy, and the evolution of Amber, the main character. If it’s true that adolescence is a difficult time, try it when your parents are demons planning on eating you when you become sixteen to increase their power, and you’ll see that Amber’s circumstances are extreme, to say the least. Throughout the two previous books, she grows, learns that there are multiple shades of goodness (and even to badness), and discovers many things about herself and her family. She makes deals to save those she cares about, even if that means getting into terrible trouble.

Like the two previous books in the trilogy, this one is also written in the third person but told from Amber’s point of view, and we do get to share in her feelings and deeply hidden thoughts, even those she won’t tell Milo, his faithful (and intriguing) sidekick. If the two previous books are fairly different in their format, with the first one being set as a road trip, and the second as an adventure more self-contained in a fascinating small-town with a very dark side, this one returns to the format of the road trip. Amber has made a deal with the Shining Demon, becoming his Representative, and although her task is fairly disagreeable, she doesn’t embrace the dark side and tries and do the right thing too.

There are memorable episodes and scenes impossible to forget (beware if you love motels, you might not feel safe in one ever again after reading this), a great cast of characters (some we knew from before and we’re happy to see again and some not so much, others brand new), and also tricks, betrayals and sad moments, including the loss of some of the characters we’ve come to care for.  There are fights, mostly with supernatural beings, trips to hell and back (literally), heart-wrenching moments and some lighter ones.

The twists and turns of the plot are intriguing, they keep the action going at a great pace, and there are many surprises. If Amber had never liked herself very much and was despairing of herself and her looks before, now she seems more accepting (the power of love, perhaps), but has another self (a hallucinatory side-effect) that keeps undermining her.  No matter what her demon-self says, she has come a long way from the beginning of her story, has become independent, daring, and has managed to keep her humanity and her sense of morality. She isn’t the only one who has changed and she is instrumental in the changes of those she comes in contact with.

There are sad moments and also very satisfying moments in the book, and there is a reckoning and a resolution at the end, although I won’t give any spoilers. I will miss Amber, Kelly, Milo, even Glen and their adventures  (and the Charger, of course), and I’ll miss the Demon Road, even if I’m not sure I’d like to visit for real.

A great ending to a fabulous trilogy.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and to Derek Landy for the trilogy, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review

#Bookreview RBRT HELL HOLES: WHAT LURKS BELOW (VOL. 1) by Donald Firesmith (@DonFiresmith) Science,horror, fantasy, paranormal and plenty of action #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

Today I bring you a review of a novel that, depending on how you look at it, either fits in many genres or doesn’t fit in any. It’s set in Alaska, that as you know I want to go and visit in the future, but after reading this… I still want to go, but perhaps I’ll be watchful for holes.

Hell Holes. What Lurks Below (Vol. 1) by Donald Firesmith
Hell Holes. What Lurks Below (Vol. 1) by Donald Firesmith

Hell Holes: What Lurks Below (Volume 1) by Donald Firesmith Science,horror, fantasy, paranormal and plenty of action.

A geologist, his climatologist wife, two graduate students, a local newspaper reporter, an oil company representative, and a field biologist travel to one of dozens of huge holes that have mysteriously appeared in the tundra of the North Slope of Alaska. Their mission is to research these strange craters that threaten financial and environmental catastrophe should they open up under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline or any of the many oil wells and smaller pipelines that feed it. Unfortunately, a far worse danger lurks below, one that threatens to destroy all of humanity when it emerges. Who will survive the demonic invasion to flee south towards the safety of Fairbanks?

Here, my review:

I received a free ARC copy of the book and I voluntarily decided to review it. I am also sharing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Hell Holes is an intriguing book and one difficult to classify. Set in Alaska, the prologue already gives us a hint about what is to come, but once we start reading the account written by Professor Jack Oswald, we get taken in by the mystery of the holes, and by the hypotheses suggested, sending us in the direction of science-fiction. The explanations and the possible scenarios are plausibly rendered and the fact that Oswald’s wife, Angie, studies the effect of climate change, add to the interest, although that line of investigation doesn’t last long.

The plot turns soon when the holes prove to be dangerous in more ways than one, and paranormal and fantastic elements become more important as the plot moves on. There are also horror elements, like the monsters and the destruction and killings, and we do get more than a few hair-raising moments.

As often happens with some of these genres, there is a fair amount of exposition, regarding the set-up of the different pump stations and oil fields, and later about the supernatural elements (as one of the characters is revealed to be completely different to what we thought at first sight). As there is a description of the different Hell inhabitants later on after the end of the story, it might feel somewhat repetitive.

The book is also very short, even more than it looks like when we check the pages, as the end comes at around 80% of the book length, and the rest is taken by a summary/description, a cast of hell characters, a brief biography of the author and a longish sample of the next book, that follows (with a slight overlap) from the first one. From the sample, we see that the second book in the series is narrated by Professor Oswald’s wife.

The novel (novella) is plot-driven, and once the chase is on, the book moves quickly and never lets off, and we don’t have much chance to notice that we do not know the characters in detail, and there is plenty of room for development. The first person narration would seem to allow for a more in depth knowledge of the main character, but although there are some glimpses of guilty feelings and a strong sense of responsibility that make Oswald come across as a good man, this is after all supposed to be an account written by him for other eyes, to do with facts not feelings, and it does not dwell much on subjective matters. There might be time to get to know the characters more during the series but one suspects that the action will continue taking pride of place in the next novels.

There are series where it doesn’t matter where you start reading (or it matters less and it’s possible to read any novel and enjoy it in its own right without feeling you’re missing the context). This is not the case here, as although the story seems to be told from different points of view in the different books, it is all the same story. And in case you hate cliff-hangers, the book ends up in a worrying twist/hook. But, fear not, because if you read the sample of the next book at the end, at least that hook is solved.

The book is an easy and quick read and an action-filled one that you’ll imagine as a TV series or a movie with no difficulty. If you’re a stickler for specific genres and strong characters it might not suit you, and you might question some of the details, but if you’re looking for an entertaining read that moves easily between genres, and don’t mind investing in a series, give it a try.

hell-holes-what-lurks-card

A few links, both to the author and to the book (and yes, he makes wands!):

Author Websites/Webpages: DonaldFiresmith.comAmazonBookBubBooklifeFacebookGoodreads,ScribdSmashwordsWattpad 

Personal:  About.MeFacebookGoogle+TwitterWebsiteWikipedia

ACM Distinguished Engineer: LinkedInResearch Gate,  SEISlideshare 

Hell Holes: What Lurks Below: AmazonApple iBooksBarnes and NobleCreateSpaceGoodreadsIndigoKoboSmashwords

 Wand Maker: EtsyFacebookWand Shop

Thanks to the author for providing me a copy of the book, thanks to Rosie for her fabulous team of reviewers, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know what to do: like, share, comment, and CLICK!

 

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security