Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Review of "The Winter People"

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she discovers that she's not the only person who's desperately looking for someone that they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself. 

A Review of “The Winter People”
Written by Jennifer McMahon

I remember when this book first came out. I was tempted to purchase it at the time, but I eventually chose to go in a different direction. However, when I saw the paperback in the store recently (nearly a year later), I figured I’d give it another shot. Despite the fact that I've written several dark fiction pieces, I rarely read books like this. To be honest, “ghostly” stories tend to creep me out, and The Winter People succeeded at doing this on several occasions. I was looking over my shoulder each night after reading it, going to bed with a clear uneasiness. I suppose this is a compliment to Jennifer McMahon. She triumphed at bringing out some of my worst fears.

The story revolves around events that occur more than a century apart, yet they are tied together through setting and family. I won’t get into the details, as you can read more about the plot above, but this book was a mystery filled with horror and psychological intrigue. I've read some reviews where people thought the back-and-forth between the present and past proved to be confusing. However, I had little difficulty with this. There might have been times, at least early on in the book, where I had to remind myself of who a few of the characters were, but it became much easier to follow as the story progressed. In fact, the flashbacks were one of its greatest strengths. The manner in which the author discloses information, a little bit at a time, made the mystery that much harder to figure out.  

I flew through this book in just a few days. It was that engaging. I figured out a couple of things before they were revealed but most of the “whodunit” went unsolved until the very end. There were many twists and turns, and I experienced a variety of emotions by the time I was done with it. The Winter People was raw fear, tragedy, and beauty all wrapped into one. Even if you don’t care for scary tales, the search for the unknown will likely keep you turning the pages. Give it a try. I highly recommend it. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Review of "Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization"

A Review of "Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization"
Novelization by Greg Keyes
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan

Being that I own a Kindle, this is the first “physical” book I’ve read in some time. In fact, having grown tired of looking at screens all day, whether it’s a computer screen, television screen or a Kindle screen, I recently bought a bunch of paperback books to reduce my exposure to technology…and I have to say that the experience has been a pleasure thus far. I typically read quicker with my Kindle, but I finished this book in under a week (with only an hour or two set aside each night), so it’s a testament that real paper books still hold their value.

Enough with the comparisons, though. Since I never got a chance to see the movie, I figured the novelization of Interstellar would be the next best thing. The plot focuses on the need for NASA to find life elsewhere as crop blight and dust storms have ravaged the planet, essentially poisoning the air and dwindling food supplies. Through the use of a wormhole, NASA’s “Lazarus Missions” have found three potentially habitable worlds, and a former astronaut named Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey in the movie) is recruited to pilot the mission. Along with several other scientists, their goal is to obtain data collected by the original astronauts and determine which planet, if any, is most suitable to support human life.

Though the science of space travel, and space in general, is not something I’m very knowledgeable about, I found this aspect of the book to be fascinating. It’s still not something I can fully comprehend, but many things were explained in a way that I could at least gain a basic understanding of them. Gravity, dimensions, relativity, time, wormholes, black holes, and so forth. Significant research was done to make this book/movie as accurate and realistic as possible, and the reader will definitely notice this. Some of the science was absolutely mind-blowing.

The book moves at a quick pace, and I never found myself getting bored at any point during the story. There were also times when I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I told myself I’d read just a little longer, but I literally had to force myself to close the book. Otherwise, I would have been up all night. I would have liked to see a little more of the story take place on Earth but I can’t fault the writers for this. So much goes on in space that it really can’t be avoided. Overall, I loved this book and thought the ending was fitting. Even if you’ve seen the movie, I’ve heard the book compliments it well, offering some details and pieces of information left out on the big screen. As a result, I recommend reading it either way.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What's on tap for 2015?

Maintaining a blog on a regular basis can prove difficult with all of life's obligations. However, writing--whether it's penning a fictional story or rambling about everyday events--often releases the stresses associated with these other responsibilities. In an attempt to follow my own advice, I will be posting more frequently (and with more variety) in 2015. Whether it's book reviews (several upcoming), guest authors (some great ones lined up), personal news on the writing front (always exciting to share) or even insightful articles every now and then, my goal is least in theory.

The biggest hurdle, though, will be knocking something off of my bucket list. One of the things that has eluded me as a writer is the full-length novel. I've published novellas, which are very satisfying, but there's something about a novel that seems to take a writer to another level. It's a sense of accomplishment I hope to gain at some point, so why not make it my ultimate goal this year?

The possibilities are endless, which--I admit--can be the greatest part of the journey. Even so, I'd like to take a different approach...and this is where you come in. Whether you've read my works or not, what genre(s) would you like to see me tackle? Should I go down a similar path with my novel, focusing on one or more of the genres (dark fiction, science fiction, etc.) I am best known for? Or maybe you'd like to see me take on an entirely new genre such as romance or a straight-up thriller? Then there's the option of writing a prequel, sequel or spin-off of a prior story I've published.

Regardless, I'd love to hear your opinions. Those of you willing to offer feedback might find a character named after you, too. :-) Once I make a decision and do some preliminary work, my plan is to post each chapter here on the blog, possibly on a weekly basis. Come the end of the year (or sooner if the story has been completed), I hope to have a full-length novel to work with!