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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

REVOLT by Tracy Lawson

The Explosive Conclusion to the Award-Winning Resistance Series     

To Deny Freedom is to Deny the Human Spirit.

Fugitive Resistance fighter Tommy Bailey has come out of hiding to help rescue Careen Catecher from the clutches of the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, where she’s been held and interrogated for information about the rebel group. The OCSD is poised to launch the Cerberean Link, a security device that will put all minors under constant surveillance under the guise of protecting them.

Fearful that OCSD director Madalyn Davies’s bid for control won’t stop there, the Resistance puts its own plan in motion to sabotage the Link and oust Madalyn from the directorship. Just when everything seems leveraged in the Resistance’s favor, treachery, lies, and long-held secrets threaten to derail it all.

Will even a life together on the run be impossible for Tommy and Careen? Or will the Resistance’s efforts convince the public to put their fears aside and demand freedom?

Thanks to author Tracy Lawson,  GTB was lucky to score an interview with one of the main characters of REVOLT! Here is her story:

When we first meet Careen Catecher of the Resistance Series, she’s a first-semester college freshman at a prestigious university. But in Careen’s world, most of the freedoms that today’s young adults enjoy have been curtailed, in the name of preventing terrorist attacks. The Civilian Restrictions that have been in place nearly all of Careen’s life forbid people to gather in public places. Cash has been eliminated, and any buying or selling of items between individuals is not permitted. Only a select few, mostly high-ranking government workers, are granted driving privileges, and even grocery stores have been outlawed to protect the food supply from being tainted. Yet somehow, the OCSD’s efforts haven’t worked. As the story opens, the OCSD makes the public aware of a looming threat that will change Careen’s life forever.

Careen is at the center of the action in Counteract, Resist, Ignite, and now Revolt, the fourth and final book in the Resistance Series. She’s answered some questions about how she went from scholarship student to freedom fighter.

 

 

1) What was it like growing up under the OCSD’s Restrictions? In my earliest memories, I’d have to guess that my life wasn’t all that different from anyone else’s. We weren’t rich, but no one in our neighborhood was. My parents owned a café. I can remember when the Restrictions relating to food sales went into effect, and it got harder to obtain the variety of foods they’d been used to. They had to take a lot of things off the menu, and once people were required to subscribe to meal plans through the government, hardly anyone could afford to eat out. If terrorists hadn’t bombed the plaza and destroyed the restaurant, I’m pretty sure it would have gone out of business on its own.

 

I was nine years old when it happened. My dad and I had gone over to the café, on an evening when it was closed. I don’t even remember why anymore. We were inside when the bomb went off, and by the time rescue workers found us, my dad had bled out. My childhood ended that day. After that, it was just my mom and myself, and somehow, I became the adult in the family.

 

2) Did you have a favorite toy or game when you were little? I loved books more than anything. They were my escape from my not-so-happy teen years when I didn’t fit in with my peers. I did keep one toy, a stuffed animal cat from when I was little. Dee Dat went to college with me in my duffel bag. It was the only truly personal thing I took with me when I left home.

 

3) What’s the best thing about being a member of the Resistance? I think I’m truly following my heart for the first time in my life. I understand now that a lot of my discontent stemmed from helplessness. I had learned early to hide my feelings, and I believed that the only way to get along in the world was to shut other people out and be self-centered. Just before I became aware of the Resistance, I realized that the problems that affected me were everyone’s problems—not just mine. When I had the opportunity to speak out and tell the truth, I was too angry to be afraid.

 

4) What’s the worst thing? I never got used to feeling like I was on display and recognizable—especially when Tommy and I were on the run after I was accused of a murder I didn’t commit. I was terrified of being captured by the OCSD and going to jail. When we became part of the Resistance, it was my job to reach out to the public and share our message in a series of bootleg anti-government videos. But the worst thing was when being a recognizable member of the Resistance backfired on me. Big time.

 

5) What happened? You’ll have to read the series to find out!

 

6) What do you miss about your old life? Not much. (laughs) I guess that shows how low my expectations were, doesn’t it? After my dad died, I wanted someone I could count on to take care of me. That didn’t happen, so I learned to rely on myself, and I guess I became kind of a control freak. I convinced myself that a good education and a good job were the only things that would lead me to the kind of life I wanted. So there I was, in my first semester of college, on my way to realizing my goals. When the OCSD announced the chemical weapons threat, I was afraid not to take the antidote because I couldn’t ignore the danger.

And I never went back to class. Even though my life was more out of control that it had ever been, the antidote had a kind of lulling effect, so I didn’t care.

 

7) What about romantic involvement? A relationship wasn’t part of my plan. But I can say that the heart of my story isn’t whom I choose to love, but that I choose to love, in spite of everything that’s going on in the world around me. When I first met Tommy, I didn’t want to get close to him because I thought I’d get hurt. But that changed after I got to know him. One of the things I like best about Tommy is he keeps me from taking myself too seriously.

8) So do you see a future with him? Whether we’ll end up together is pretty up in the air, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings for him. It’s so confusing, because Tommy’s hard to resist, you know? He’s cute and funny, and really charming when he wants to be. He promised to always protect me, but that was a promise he couldn’t keep. Without giving any spoilers, I can say our trust level is at an all-time low as Tommy and I head into the final book in the series. We need to work past that, and it’s difficult.

 

I can’t believe we’ve only known each other a few months. The day we met was the day of the supposed chemical weapons attack. We’d run out of the antidote that was supposed to keep us safe from the airborne poison, and I was so sure we were going to die. But he didn’t put the moves on me or invoke the “what if we die tomorrow?” cliché. Instead, we sat up late talking, getting to know each other. When we didn’t succumb to the poison, we tried to figure out why. We saw what the antidote was doing to the people who were still taking it, and we realized the real threat came from the OCSD, not the supposed terrorists.

 

After we detoxed, it was like we were the only people on earth. Everyone else, well, besides the quadrant marshals and some of the government workers, was high on the antidote. Tommy and I learned to rely on each other, and as I grew to care deeply about him, we also came to realize there was no way to escape our situation. It was only a matter of time before we ended up in jail or were forced into the civilian army. We sought comfort in each other, and to be honest, he didn’t seem to mind when I made the first move. (winks) Even though I committed my heart to Tommy that day, I’m not clingy or dependent. I can think for myself. Tommy and I don’t agree on a lot of things.

 

9) So what is happening in Revolt? Again, I can’t get into plot specifics, but the OCSD has developed the Cerberean Link, a GPS tracking and monitoring device, which they say is the ultimate tool to keep children safe. Many people think it’s another plan to control the population. I’m in a tough position because I can see both sides of the issue and understand why parents would be desperate to try and protect their children. I wish someone had been able to protect me when I was little. The Resistance is extremely opposed to sentencing innocent children to a lifetime of surveillance, and puts its own plan in motion to sabotage the Link and oust Madalyn Davies from her job as the OCSD director. Just when it seems like the Resistance’s plan is going to work, things spin out of control.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Visit Tracy Lawson on Instagram: @tracylawsonauthor or Facebook!

REVOLT – Giveaway and Special Deals!!

Revolt: Book Four of the Resistance Series

Book Launch Giveaway and Special Deals!

 

“I’ve been reading this series basically since it first came out, and honestly I really still love the characters and all of their weird interactions. As the conclusion to the series, Revolt is not one of those books that gives you a neatly tied bow on a package and tells you it’s over. It has twists, turns, and you’re going to be in for yet another adventure with the Resistance crew.”

 

“So, this series that I’ve been reading since the beginning is over. What’s a girl to do? Restart from Book One, of course!”

 

Take advantage of these special deals July 17-21:

Counteract: Book One of the Resistance Series FREE!

Resist: Book Two of the Resistance Series and

Ignite: Book Three of the Resistance Series for 0.99 each!

 

Can’t get enough of the Resistance Series?

Wanna know what happened the night of the car accident that changed

Tommy Bailey’s life forever?

Take advantage of this limited-time offer:

 

Get a FREE PDF of Shatter: Tommy’s Prequel to the Resistance Series, which includes a gallery of the amazing artwork created for the series! This prequel will NOT be available on Amazon.

Here’s how it works:

Order Revolt: Book Four of the Resistance Series on Amazon for $2.99:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071S8KFML

Email your receipt to tracy@counteractbook.com, and in return you’ll receive Shatter: Tommy’s Prequel to the Resistance Series.

Spread the word!

#GetReadytoRevolt #revoltgiveaway

 

 

No Limits – Blow The Cap Off Your Capacity

no limits

#1 New York Times bestselling author John C. Maxwell’s latest book will enhance the lives of leaders, professionals, and anyone who wants to achieve success and personal growth. We often treat the word capacity as if it were a natural law of limitation. Unfortunately, most of us are much more comfortable defining what we perceive as off limits rather than what’s really possible. Could it be that many of us have failed to expand our potential because we have allowed what we perceive as capacity to define us? What if our limits are not really our limits? In his newest book, John Maxwell identifies 17 core capacities. Some of these are abilities we all already possess, such as energy, creativity and leadership. Others are aspects of our lives controlled by our choices, like our attitudes, character, and intentionality. Maxwell examines each of these capacities, and provides clear and actionable advice on how you can increase your potential in each. He will guide you on how to identify, grow, and apply your critical capacities. Once you’ve blown the “cap” off your capacities, you’ll find yourself more successful–and fulfilled–in your daily life.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

If you are feeling down, all you need to do is pick up a John C. Maxwell book and you are guaranteed to become empowered fast. To me, there is nothing greater than the mini pep talks on every page.

So many books encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and work on learning new things. In this latest work by the management genius, Maxwell tells you how to increase your capacity by concentrating on things you are good at. I found this refreshing and unique. Most of us take our strengths for granted and concentrate on things we struggle with, hoping to get better at them. Imagine if you worked on things you ARE good at; how much better would you be with practice?

Some of Maxwell’s suggestions are easily implemented, such as always assuming there is a solution to a problem, discussing your ideas with mentors before they are “perfect” and using your gifts to help others who may need a push forward.

I believe you are always learning and growing. Maxwell holds the same view – no matter what you are doing, there are always things you can take away to benefit either yourself or others. His writing style is clear without being preachy, with generous examples thrown in using real people and actual situations.

On every page you can find a phrase or sentence that can be used as a daily affirmation or work focus point – which is the golden part of this book. I fully intend to buy a hard copy and highlight the things I find valuable.

The author’s love of inspiring others shines through loud and clear. He has created an empire of empowerment with his books and lectures, and you can tell he truly loves his fellow man. No one cares more about your personal growth than Maxwell, and that is refreshing.  He’s like a businessman’s Mr Rogers – no judgement, always upbeat and full of confidence.

Simon Sinek is all about the “why”, while John Maxwell is about the “how”. The combined information from these books creates a powerful message for managers, which in turn creates a harmonious and wondrous work message for staff.

This latest book is truly a winner! You can pick up your copy here.

Guest Post – Liquid Cool by Austin Dragon PLUS GIVEAWAY

liquid cool

 

Liquid Cool: The Cyberpunk Detective Series

Science fiction is a popular genre and it has dozens of sub-genres. Cyberpunk is one of them—dystopian fiction succinctly described as “low life meets high tech.” Often, it’s a bleak future involving computers, virtual reality, hackers, and computer-human hybrids. Ironically, the genre came and went back in the 80s, launched by authors such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, but books in the sub-genre still sell today. From a literary standpoint, most books that claim to be cyberpunk—are not, and my cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool, is no different. For the general public, you say “cyberpunk” and they think of the classic Ridley Scott film Blade Runner or The Matrix.

My reason for creating my Liquid Cool series was quite simple: I wanted to write a fun science fiction series that is ongoing—each novel is a new case for our hero detective. Through it, I can explore a different issue or issues without having to create a whole series. It is the mirror opposite of my After Eden science fiction series, which is not devoid of humor, but it is very much not fun—it is after all the events leading up to, and including, World War III.

Liquid Cool is a wild and crazy detective series with hovercars, cyborgs, two-hundred-plus monolith skyscrapers, and people have not only colonized the moon, but Mars. It is my version of cyberpunk. The original cyberpunk of the 1980s envisioned a future (now) where corporations subplanted governments and ran society—well, we know better now. Despite, the propaganda of some, the exact opposite is true—government is bigger and more intrusive than any could have predicted. However, this science fiction series is set centuries in the future. In the Liquid Cool world, I replace the détente of the U.S. versus the Old Soviet Union, with a détente of governments and megacorporations, with we, the people, caught in between—and then we have the crime world. This is the serious setting of the world of Liquid Cool, but again we have the fun —action, laughs, more action, and more craziness.

Here are some early 5-star reviews:

  • “Lots of shooting, lots of crazy maniacs, lots of action and fun!”
  • “I loved this book. It takes place in the future, and what a weird future.”
  • “A funny, intelligent (and sometimes crazy) main character…playing detective.”
  • “Cool and Smooth.”
  • “I had a hard time putting this book down to do things like sleeping and eating.”

Want a free copy of the prequel? You can get it here. Liquid Cool, Blade Gunner, and NeuroDancer are all out now, too, so prepare to be thrilled with mystery, action, and laughs! But, don’t get shot by a laser-pistol-packing cyber-punk on your way to the digital store. Enjoy!

Let’s not forget this awesome GIVEAWAY! Click here to enter – you can win a Kindle Paperwhite, a Kindle Fire, or a 10-book bundle! Be cool – enter the giveaway!

R-Austin Dragon-_15 small

 

Author Bio

Austin Dragon is the author of the epic After Eden Series, the classic Sleepy Hollow Horrors, and the new cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, political junkie, movie buff, campaign manager and staffer of presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, and dreamer.

 

He is currently working on new books and series in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror!

 

Breaking Faith by E. Graziani

 

Breaking Faith high rez coverFaith Emily Hansen is the eighteen-year-old narrator with a lot of life to talk about in this gritty novel about family, mental illness, and addiction. All Faith wants is to be loved, to have a stable home, and to live without the need to “chase the dragon” – the heroin addiction that seemed to keep the Darkness at bay but ultimately led to her life on the street. As the story begins Faith appeals to other kids battling their own inner darknesses. Ultimately Faith wants to tell her story to show that there is hope and that she herself was pulled back from her ledge by an unlikely champion – the sister who she blamed for many of her problems.

 

 

Many thanks to the author for this review copy!

BREAKING FAITH is the hard hitting, roller coaster story of a girl from a dysfunctional family that just wants to be loved. Her mother is on drugs, her grandmother is frigid, and her two sisters are normal. As the middle child, Faith takes things a lot harder than the others, due to a murder she witnessed when she was just a child. She has the Darkness (what I feel to be depression and anxiety) inside her, and she turns to drugs to escape life.

The plot goes into stark detail about how easy it is to get hooked, especially when you feel like an outsider in your own skin. We see Faith as she struggles through school, experiences letdowns, and finally runs away. It is not a book for the faint of heart. Just as I thought things would finally go right for her, she falls back down the rabbit hole into the Darkness.

Graziani is known for her strong female leads, but this is the first time she has explored a plot like this. Faith is indeed strong, but as those who have battled depression or addiction, sometimes intentions are not enough to save you.

My heart ached for the girl as she existed, homeless, during a freezing Canadian winter. It seemed the world conspired against her until she was ready to give up. The author is adept at investing the reader into Faith’s story so as you read, her struggles become real, almost larger than life. One cannot help feeling devastated at how Faith gets so close to being loved, only to have it ripped away again. The plot turns are done realistically in the author’s capable hands – nothing is too removed from reality.

I yearned to be able to put my arm around this sad girl and tell her that everything was going to be all right. Sometimes it’s easy to take the path of least resistance; even though Faith showed early signs of strength, her circumstances made it easy to turn to drugs again.

This was an excellent read, with just the right touch of despair and joy. Graziani knows exactly what details to include so the reader never has that “suspension of belief” moment. As I read, I felt connected to Faith and her battles throughout the entire book. I can only hope that a girl who is struggling as Faith did, will read this and understand that there is love in the world for her. I also believe that there will be those who read this and gain strength from it.

Perhaps Graziani will be able to change lives with this book. I certainly hope so.

You can pick up your own copy here.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

radium

The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this advanced reading copy!

From the moment I started reading THE RADIUM GIRLS I was enthralled. The author’s goal for the reader to learn about each individual girl is thoughtful and ambitious. This is truly a book where the characters are at the forefront of the story. We see how each one, eager to earn a living, found Radium Dial and sealed their fate. The author handles the tragedy with diplomacy and underscored, yet effective use of detail, both medical and non (such as when one of the ill-fated girls catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and sees her bones glowing through her skin. She realizes she has radiation poisoning and promptly faints.).

As I read, I became infuriated and frustrated with the way that the girls were lied to and manipulated by the company. Banking upon their innocence, the “doctors” that examined them kept the true results hidden, while telling them that they were the picture of health. Over and over, they would experience a toothache or jaw pain; the harbinger of things to come. Insidiously things progressed to such a degree that walking or eating without pain was impossible.  Thankfully, finally, the stars aligned and  the case was brought to court. I am still amazed that there wasn’t more public outcry at their plight; this would never happen today. (Or would it? See the author’s epilogue.)

The author’s style is clean and easy to read; letting the story shine through without calling attention to how it’s being said. Once the “how” overshadows the “what”, I lose patience with a book. The writing flowed naturally here, letting emotions build and always keeping the girls front and center.

Each life is carefully, lovingly recreated – all the hopes, dreams and horror each Radium Girl experienced. By making each “girl” have a background, this brings them to life and makes this tragedy more real. There are so many moments in this book that made me stop to think about these poor victims – if they were men, would things have progressed as far as they did? These lives were truly taken for granted to further Radium Dial’s needs. I’m not sure which is more terrifying; the fact that radium has a half life of 1600 years (meaning their bodies are still emitting radiation from the grave) or that no one thought to care more about these women who were clearly suffering. Even the dimunitive “girls” is simultaneously endearing and dismissive, if you think about it.

THE RADIUM GIRLS was one of the best books I’ve read in a while, partly because the subject is fascinating, and because it allowed me to feel a gamut of emotions; to have me truly invested in the story and its outcome. The strength these women possessed is evident on every page, keeping the tension high and making them heroines regardless of how they were treated.

Kudos to the author for illuminating their lives as she did! She took these “statistics” and made them human…forcing us all to think about how the girls were treated as disposable. The description of the court battles is very detailed, further underscoring the evil corporation’s plans to try to drag out the proceedings, hoping the women would die before they would have to appear in court.

I have nothing bad to say about this book; there is history, pathos, hope, and humanity on every page. This should be required reading in high school, both to keep these girl’s memories alive, and to prevent suffering like this from ever happening again.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Doctors At War by Mark De Rond

doctors

Doctors at War is a candid account of a trauma surgical team based, for a tour of duty, at a field hospital in Helmand, Afghanistan. Mark de Rond tells of the highs and lows of surgical life in hard-hitting detail, bringing to life a morally ambiguous world in which good people face impossible choices and in which routines designed to normalize experience have the unintended effect of highlighting war’s absurdity. With stories that are at once comical and tragic, de Rond captures the surreal experience of being a doctor at war. He lifts the cover on a world rarely ever seen, let alone written about, and provides a poignant counterpoint to the archetypical, adrenaline-packed, macho tale of what it is like to go to war.

Here the crude and visceral coexist with the tender and affectionate. The author tells of well-meaning soldiers at hospital reception, there to deliver a pair of legs in the belief that these can be reattached to their comrade, now in mid-surgery; of midsummer Christmas parties and pancake breakfasts and late-night sauna sessions; of interpersonal rivalries and banter; of caring too little or too much; of tenderness and compassion fatigue; of hell and redemption; of heroism and of playing God. While many good firsthand accounts of war by frontline soldiers exist, this is one of the first books ever to bring to life the experience of the surgical teams tasked with mending what war destroys.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing this review copy!

The author starts out by saying that this book was never supposed to be published, due to the subject matter and the way it was perceived to be handled. That only added more intrigue to the story, to me, and I was eager to begin reading.

The story is akin to the book/TV series MASH, with beleaguered surgeons, war all around them, stress, and dark ways to relieve the boredom. There is a great deal of loss of life complicated by military rules and the Hippocratic Oath – beware, as the injuries are horrific and discussed in great detail.

The author is British; so I expected his writing style to be a bit different from American writers. In fact, I even welcomed it, as I look forward to non-American cadences and dialects in books. What I hadn’t bargained for was uneven writing with obscure phrasing. At times it’s hard to understand who is saying what, and there was no deep insight made on the choices the doctors had to make. At the 75% mark I realized I had not really absorbed anything meaningful except that war is hell, these surgeons were doing the best they could, and sometimes there was strangeness (the usual black humor and Christmas in July) to help the soldier’s mental states. The same type of story was repeated over and over again (wounded too badly, euthanized with pain meds/crashing boredom dealt with by playing card games and trying to stay cool in the desert/occasional platitude about life) without variance or emotion.

Somehow this writer managed to make a wartime hospital seem dull. The characters are an amalgam, and so perhaps could not have been made more detailed; but I think it would have been better if he had given a little more detail about why they were doctors, what made this tour of duty different from others, etc.

It’s a shame that such an important subject matter was reduced to an unsatisfying bite of pablum, as there is a need to understand what the military deals with during extended conflicts. Heart of Darkness, Catch-22, and On Call In Hell expressed the story in a more readable and gratifying way. I gave up at the abovementioned 75% mark; something I don’t do often, but I just didn’t want to waste any more time. Great subject – bad handling.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

On Concise Writing – by Michael Nail (Part One)

My writing only seldom appears on this publication. However, those who have paid close attention will have noticed that my most common indictment is for the crime of wasted paper and wasted time. To make a point should only take so long. I allow authors modest space to provide emphasis and even, begrudgingly, personal flourish. Too many non-fiction writers seem to think that they aren’t writers unless they’re writing, and vomit black ink onto their pages, behaving as if they were working under production quotas. In response to the disturbing trend of not making your damned point, I will make a few of my own. Concisely. Authors, please take notes.

 

Your personal, unique voice is in what you say, not how you say it.

The assault of intensifiers, triple-adjectives, color commentary, out-of-place five-dollar words, and gee-whiz-isms has been damaging to your credibility. It is no longer my default reaction to take strong language in a non-fiction text seriously. Instead, I assume that the author is compensating for the weakness of an argument, or an insecurity, and I hope to be proven wrong. Sadly, I’m usually right, and I’m not the only one. If you think that your unique voice as a writer is embodied in your above-described assault, try calling to mind the names of all the friends you’ve won over with your pedantic speech. I’ll wait.

When I am assaulted by a book in this manner, it’s usually when I’m being told how significant something is. This is an easy problem to fix. If you feel like you need to assault your reader, stop, take a deep breath, and see what you can do to better contextualize the point you’re trying to make. The language you use to set the stage for your argument should convey the significance of what is at hand. If you’re telling me that a chemical got into the drinking water, don’t give me a linguistic spectacle about how terrible it is. Instead, make the people who drink that water relatable. Teach me about the health effects of the chemical. Instead of deriding the people responsible, tell me about the critical safety measures and protocols in place, which ones were ignored, and let me come to my own conclusions about the bad actors. Do these things with the fewest words possible.

Reading non-fiction shouldn’t feel like being in stop-and-go traffic. You’ve convinced someone that they should publish your book. You’re a smart person. Those big words. Those adjectives. That’s not you. Your intelligent, deeply-held thoughts and beliefs are enough. Believe me: we readers will accept and appreciate you as you are.

 

Please stop filling your books with examples and anecdotes.

When a concept gets to be a little too abstract, an example can be instructive. Sometimes a story is helpful for showing how a problem impacts real people. I love stories and examples, but they are more often abused than otherwise. Here are some rules to follow:

  1. If examples or stories are taking up more than half of your chapter, then just make the chapter about the example or story.
  2. If examples or stories are taking up more than half your book, then just make your book about the stories or examples. I have read some excellent books that did precisely this, with one chapter per example or story. I enjoyed these books because I wasn’t filled with the false hope that there would be a return of substance.
  3. You only get one example or story per topic. If that’s not enough, then either you didn’t do a good job leading up to the example/story, or you need a better example/story.
  4. Do not use a story as an excuse to set your “unique personal voice” free. Your writing should be about the voices of the people in the story now. Stay out of it.
  5. Please don’t end a story in the middle, only to have it start again where it left off 200 pages later. Sometime I’ve seen authors try to recap what already happened, but now I’m reading something I’ve already read… again? So you can make a point you probably should have make 200 pages ago? Spare me.
  6. To the point of conciseness; I will end this post here to let my suggestions sink in. Look for Part Two in the near future.

The Crimson Shamrock by Michael Hughes

crimson shamrock

A scotch-swilling DUI attorney, a cynical congressional staffer, and a retired bomb- sniffing German Shepherd are just some of the characters Chuck Wesson meets after he takes a travel assignment from his new boss, mysterious Silicon Valley entrepreneur Axel DeWilde. Chuck has been sent on a flight from San Francisco to Boston in order to demonstrate the Crimson Shamrock, a breakthrough portable communication device code-named the RedClove.
However, Chuck begins to suspect that all is not as it seems after a robber tries to steal the device at the airport, and his flight later has to be diverted to the Twin Cities after a threat is made. After his meeting is relocated to the D.C. suburbs and does not go according to plan, Chuck flies back to California to discover who and what are behind his travails.

Many thanks to the author for this review copy!

THE CRIMSON SHAMROCK is a fast paced novella that contains a lot of action. Chuck Wesson gets a job offer that seems too good to be true – all he has to do is carry a protoype to a meeting. Once he decides to complete this simple task, the fun starts. There are plane trips, motels, attempted robbery and mixed messages aplenty. Chuck seems to be ok with most of the confusion, even managing to score a one night stand along the way.

As the amount left to read in the book got less and less, I started wondering how the author was going to wrap things up. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing – when your mind leaves the story and is allowed to wander to the amount of pages left. I’d prefer to be enveloped in the plot and not concern myself with how much is left.

The pace of the story ramped up even more towards the end, when Chuck finally has enough deception and takes control of his destiny. At this point I was super curious to see what the heck was going on!

The novella is an easy enough read, with some freewheeling characters that represent the excess of the wealthy entrepreneur. Chuck seems like a mellow guy who lets thing happen to him, rather than be in control of his life. There were a few scenes of him hanging out with his buddies that perfectly captured the bro-speak and hijinks that take place during a weekend out. Hughes’ gift for creating dialogue is  wonderful, and is often the funniest part of his stories.

I would have liked more background on Chuck; it was hard to become invested in the things happening to him. The action kept me reading, but he was a bit too passive and one dimensional for me. It was also hard for me to picture the mysterious device at the center of the plot; but perhaps that was done on purpose, given how it all turned out. The ending was satisfying, with a resolution I didn’t see coming. All in all, not a bad way to spend a few hours reading.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas

happiness effect

Sexting. Cyberbullying. Narcissism. Social media has become the dominant force in young people’s lives, and each day seems to bring another shocking tale of private pictures getting into the wrong hands, or a lament that young people feel compelled to share their each and every thought with the entire world. Have smartphones and social media created a generation of self-obsessed egomaniacs?
Absolutely not, Donna Freitas argues in this provocative book. And, she says, these alarmist fears are drawing attention away from the real issues that young adults are facing.
Drawing on a large-scale survey and interviews with students on thirteen college campuses, Freitas finds that what young people are overwhelmingly concerned with–what they really want to talk about–is happiness. They face enormous pressure to look perfect online–not just happy, but blissful, ecstatic, and fabulously successful. Unable to achieve this impossible standard, they are anxious about letting the less-than-perfect parts of themselves become public. Far from wanting to share everything, they are brutally selective when it comes to curating their personal profiles, and worry obsessively that they might unwittingly post something that could come back to haunt them later in life. Through candid conversations with young people from diverse backgrounds, Freitas reveals how even the most well-adjusted individuals can be stricken by self-doubt when they compare their experiences with the vast collective utopia that they see online. And sometimes, as on anonymous platforms like Yik Yak, what they see instead is a depressing cesspool of racism and misogyny. Yet young people are also extremely attached to their smartphones and apps, which sometimes bring them great pleasure. It is very much a love-hate relationship.
While much of the public’s attention has been focused on headline-grabbing stories, the everyday struggles and joys of young people have remained under the radar. Freitas brings their feelings to the fore, in the words of young people themselves. The Happiness Effect is an eye-opening window into their first-hand experiences of social media and its impact on them.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

Social media is all around us, whether we like it or not. No matter where you go, you will see people constantly checking their phones, taking selfies, or updating their Facebook status. I am one of those people who have spent a few minutes looking at my feed and thinking, “Everyone looks so happy – what am I doing wrong?”

I’m doing nothing wrong. I’m of a generation where I don’t feel pressure to put on a happy face to my peers. I don’t worry about what a potential employer might think of me, based on my social media output. For a change, I feel happy to not be a college student or a Millennial. The pressure (both internal and external) that this generation is under is immense. There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to truly “be yourself” – because the whole world is watching.

The author interviewed a wide sampling of college students around the United States and put together their thoughts in this thought provoking book. Most of the interviewees spoke of selecting the best moments to share on FB, while saving the gossip and melancholy thoughts for sites that encourage anonymous postings. I learned about a site called Yik Yak, where there are no identities, and no boundaries. I also learned that when some students took a self-imposed “holiday” from their cellphones, it was like a vacation. They spoke of truly being in the moment, rather than recording it for their wall.

There was a chapter on relationships, and how students felt about hookup sites like Tinder. In an interesting juxtaposition to this theory by Simon Sinek (click here for video), Freitas notes that college students are very capable of socializing and meeting people, having complete and meaningful conversations with each other, and being empathetic. When they are around their friends, they don’t become awkward and seek to lose themselves in technology; they interact and communicate like any other generation. Sinek, on the other hand, claims that Millennials and future generations will be unable to communicate face to face, due to their smartphone addiction.

For me, the best part of the book was the last 2 chapters, where the author fleshes out her theories and explains her thought process. I support her suggestions of wi-fi free zones, and professors requiring a basket for cellphone “parking” during classes. I also applauded the inclusion of different races and religions, providing needed diversity and showing the reader how circumstances were different from one person to another.

The interviews were informative, and sometimes shocking,  but at times they became repetitive and clogged the flow of information. Perhaps if she organized the book differently, it would have been a bit shorter. She did summarize each chapter at the end, while allowing the thoughts and quotes from each interviewee to illustrate her theories.

One thought that kept occurring to me was how happy I was to be older in today’s world, as I mentioned before. It’s a shame that technology has become such a big part in our lives; I can only hope the human race does not become lost.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

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