Guest Book Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

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Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (July 22, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0763676209
ISBN-13: 978-0763676209
Genre: Dystopian
Suggested reading Age: Grade 9+

Three stars

Seventeen-year-old Seth drowns; in fact his action is deliberate. He wants to escape the horror of his existence. Racked with guilt over the fate of his younger brother, an event he feels is his entire fault, he doesn’t have much to live for. Then he wakes up, back in his old home in England, and things start becoming very weird indeed. He is wrapped in silvery bandages, and his old street is deserted. The whole place is uninhabited and overgrown. He seems to be the only person left alive in the world. He must now forage and scrounge for clothing, food and water. He wonders if this is hell. His dreams don’t help because his previous life comes back to him in huge, unwelcome chunks of memory. Then he meets two other people, with their own unique and strange tales to tell.

Despite the fantastic beginning, with a description that pulled me right into the ocean with Seth, I struggled to finish this book. Parts of it were incredibly exciting and then would grind to a halt with unnecessary introspective and philosophical meanderings on the part of the main character, meanderings which became boring and one had the urge to say, “Oh, just get on with it!” The plus side: an utterly riveting and plausible story premise that comes much later on (just when you are wondering what on earth this is all about and is he dead or not, and if everyone else is dead, then where are the bodies?); really wonderful descriptions that have the reader in the grip of the moment; action and tension to add to the positively bleak and hopeless situation; events that come out of nowhere that have a cinematographic and surreal feel to them; the depth of emotion Seth feels for the loss of his younger brother and his friends. In fact, Seth’s guilt is so palpable that one is consumed with curiosity to learn the truth. The two characters that join him are so different, so lost as well, and so eager to hide the circumstances of their lives/deaths. One feels the pain of the characters as they reveal the humiliating and tragic burdens they each carry.

What I did not enjoy: the flashbacks were sometimes jarring and intrusive, until I accepted them as part of the story-telling process; the fact that this world, while it began as an interesting construct, did not have enough to sustain the story and/or the last three inhabitants. I found the ending abrupt and it short-changes the reader in a way. There were many loose ends in the unfolding of this tale that I feel the author might have tried to answer. The characters were confused and, as a result, the reader becomes confused. It is as if the author didn’t bother to work things out to the last detail, which is possibly not the case, but feels that way. The reference to same sex love/relationships was dealt with sensitively and delicately, in an almost tender way. However, this might surprise readers who are not prepared for it, especially if the reader is younger than the protagonist’s age of 17. Ultimately, the characters’ thoughts on what constitutes life and death, and the option of living in a constructed world, avoiding the reality of a life too sad/tragic/hopeless to contemplate should give readers food for thought. However, I have no doubt that the intended audience of older teens and YA readers will love this book.

http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-This-Patrick-Ness/dp/0763676209/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

 

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

Interview with Freddie Owens, Author of Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story

A poet and fiction writer, my work has been published in Poet Lore, Crystal Clear and Cloudy, and Flying Colors Anthology. I am a past attendee of Pikes Peak Writer’s Conferences and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and a member of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver, Colorado. In addition, I am/was a licensed professional counselor and psychotherapist, who for many years counseled perpetrators of domestic violence and sex offenders, and provided psychotherapy for individuals, groups and families. I hold a master’s degree in contemplative psychotherapy from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I was born in Kentucky but soon after my parents moved to Detroit. Detroit was where I grew up. As a kid I visited relatives in Kentucky, once for a six-week period, which included a stay with my grandparents. In the novel’s acknowledgements I did assert the usual disclaimers having to do with the fact that Then Like The Blind Man was and is a work of fiction, i.e., a made up story whose characters and situations are fictional in nature (and used fictionally) no matter how reminiscent of characters and situations in real life. That’s a matter for legal departments, however, and has little to do with subterranean processes giving kaleidoscopic-like rise to hints and semblances from memory’s storehouse, some of which I selected and disguised for fiction. That is to say, yes, certain aspects of my history did manifest knowingly at times, at times spontaneously and distantly, as ghostly north-south structures, as composite personae, as moles and stains and tears and glistening rain and dark bottles of beer, rooms of cigarette smoke, hay lofts and pigs. Here’s a quote from the acknowledgements that may serve to illustrate this point.

“Two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became this novel. One was of my Kentucky grandmother as she emerged from a shed with a white chicken held upside down in one of her strong bony hands. I, a boy of nine and a “city slicker” from Detroit, looked on in wonderment and horror as she summarily wrung the poor creature’s neck. It ran about the yard frantically, yes incredibly, as if trying to locate something it had misplaced as if the known world could be set right again, recreated, if only that one thing was found. And then of course it died. The second memory was of lantern light reflected off stones that lay on either side of a path to a storm cellar me and my grandparents were headed for one stormy night beneath a tornado’s approaching din. There was wonderment there too, along with a vast and looming sense of impending doom.”

I read the usual assigned stuff growing up, short stories by Poe, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Scarlet Letter, The Cherry Orchard, Hedda Gabler, a little of Hemingway, etc. I also read a lot of Super Hero comic books (also Archie and Dennis the Menace) and Mad Magazine was a favorite too. I was also in love with my beautiful third grade teacher and to impress her pretended to read Gulliver’s Travels for which I received many delicious hugs.

It wasn’t until much later that I read Huckleberry Finn. I did read To Kill A Mockingbird too. I read Bastard Out of Carolina and The Secret Life of Bees. I saw the stage play of Hamlet and read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle too. However, thematic similarities to these works occurred to me only after I was already well into the writing of Then Like The Blind Man. Cormac McCarthy, Pete Dexter, Carson McCullers, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Conner and Joyce Carol Oates, to name but a few, are among my literary heroes and heroines. Tone and style of these writers have influenced me in ways I’d be hard pressed to name, though I think the discerning reader might feel such influences as I make one word follow another and attempt to “stab the heart with…force” (a la Isaac Babel) by placing my periods (hopefully, sometimes desperately) ‘… just at the right place’.

Visit Freddie’s website at www.FreddieOwens.com.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Kentucky but grew up around Detroit. I would sometimes spend a week or two, once I spent six weeks, in Kentucky, staying with cousins or with my grandparents. And yes, it was an entirely different world for me, providing some of the best and worst times of my growing up years. I had a great time on a dairy farm with several of my cousins, milking cows, hoeing tobacco, running over the hills and up and down a creek that surrounded the big farm. I remember too, periods of abject boredom, sitting around my grandparents’ place with nothing to do but wander about the red clay yard or kill flies on my grandmother’s screened-in back porch.

When did you begin writing?

When it dawned on me back in the early 90s that as a psychotherapist I was going nowhere, I began to think about writing seriously. I had been away from it for quite some time – though I had always found time to write poems. I realized I wasn’t getting any younger and that if I wanted to explore this thing that had bothered me for so long – this thing called writing – I had best get to it. I started experimenting with stream of consciousness and automatic writing – and by keeping a journal – and by developing the discipline of being on the spot each day before the page, whether blank or not. I did that until one day my debut, Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story began to insert and insinuate itself into my words.

I should add that originally I started writing way back around 1970, I believe – mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with myself. My first writing desk consisted of an old door supported with cinder blocks I set up in a clothes closet. I used an old Smith Corona typewriter and made carbon copies of the poems I wrote on onionskin paper.

What is this book about?

Well, Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story may be described as a sort of backwater Hamlet or a rural-American version of Hamlet, you know, where the stepfather is suspected of murdering the father by the father’s surviving son, though in this book intriguingly different choices are made by the story’s protagonist, Orbie Ray, the feisty nine-year-old with racist attitudes and prejudices ready made for propelling a family drama. It’s set in the segregated South of the 1950s and told from the boy’s point of view in an easy to read and judiciously written vernacular. Of course that would be my opinion since I’m the author; I might add however that it is also the opinion of many others who’ve read the book. Kirkus Review, for example, gave it a starred review, which is their way of designating a book of exceptional merit. You can read that review here @ https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/freddie-owens/then-blind-man-orbies-story/

Finally there’s a link to the book’s trailer, which I think gives a fair summary of its content and tone. Here it is: http://bit.ly/1dnWwwN

What inspired you to write it?

 

Two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became this novel. One was of my Kentucky grandmother as she emerged from a shed with a white chicken held upside down in one of her strong, bony hands. I, a boy of nine and a ‘city slicker’ from Detroit, looked on in wonderment and horror as she summarily wrung the poor creature’s neck. It ran about the yard frantically, yes incredibly, as if trying to locate something it had misplaced as if the known world could be set right again, recreated, if only that one thing was found. And then of course it died. The second memory was of lantern light reflected off stones that lay on either side of a path to a storm cellar me and my grandparents were headed for one stormy night beneath a tornado’s approaching din. There was wonderment there too, along with a vast and looming sense of impending doom.

Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?

I’ve been a member of several such critique groups over the years but am not now involved with any. Feedback at these groups was helpful, sometimes crucial and sometimes not helpful at all; I think one has to take things with a grain of salt and sometimes with a large grain of salt; I think one has to remember oneself and not let what other’s say taint one’s vision. I’ve worked with author’s Rebecca Hill (Among Birches) and Judith Guest (Ordinary People). I’ve worked with British authors James Friel and Carol Clewlow. And I have an editor, a good one (Dave King @ http://www.davekingedits.com/). If you’re an aspiring writer reading this I think you should find a good editor, one you can afford and trust. A literary agent in New York also helped me considerably, especially toward the middle part of the writing; he gave a good amount of his time advising me, which I’ll never forget. I won’t mention his name here, as this is not what he does for a living. Suffice it to say one needs feedback from time to time. I do at any rate – and when I get to the sequel I’ll be looking for more.

Who is your favorite author?

I have many favorites and can’t settle on just one. To name a few, there is Cormac McCarthy, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Pete Dexter, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oats, Hermann Hesse, John Updike and Dorothy Allison. And many others…

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

After many years of ‘almost’ and ‘no’ or ‘yes but we wouldn’t know how to market it’ from agents and publishers alike, I’ve opted for ‘certainly’ and ‘yes’ instead, taking all my marbles to Amazon’s Independent Publisher’s Assistant, Createspace, which has become home base to my phantom publisher Blind Sight Publications. Blind Sight Publications (aka Freddie Owens) published Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story – a bumpy ride to say the least.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Readers can purchase the book on Amazon. The Kindle Version may be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/THEN-LIKE-THE-BLIND-ebook/dp/B00A42VK4O . The Trade Paperback version may be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Then-Like-The-Blind-Man/dp/1475084498 .

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

The jury is still out on this one. KDP’s free days work well (in which one gives away one’s Kindle version for free for a chosen number of days); this is good for getting readers and customer reviews (though these are not always helpful). I think, if one is going to pay for a review, one should go to reputable reviewers like Kirkus or ForeWord’s Clarion. I think such reviews may help decide a reader one way or another, though this is not a slam-dunk. Virtual book tours have potential. Pump Up Your Book (http://www.pumpupyourbook.com) has several good options for tours and Dorothy, their CEO, is a delight to work with. There are many other things I’ve done and that one can do, but in spite of my own book’s having received many good reviews and accolades, sales have been moderate at best. The book did climb recently into Amazon’s bestseller ranks, which is not necessarily indicative of a lot of sales since many of Amazon’s categories are structured to allow bestseller rankings to books with only a handful of sales. Be careful where you spend your money for promotions, especially if you’re self-published. Spend wisely.

What is up next for you?

A sequel. Then a sequel to the sequel. Then fame, glory, money and more money. Then old age. Then sickness. Then death. Always death.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Well, I guess I should be more circumspect in public and not say that it astounds me that so many people now have read Then Like the Blind Man and actually like it. In fact, there’s been a surfeit of praise. I’m tickled of course but is this possible? Am I not dreaming a pleasant dream from which I’ll awaken one day to discover the harsh truth, i.e., that the book is sub par, mediocre and yet another example of self published claptrap? I ask myself this. And I’m a little embarrassed, I guess. I mean I’m out there now, publicized in a way I’m only gradually getting to know. It’s sort of like having been behind locked doors for years and years and finally finding a key of sorts and using it to open the door and stepping out into the sunshine – where everything is now exposed. The temptation, of course, is to crawl back, go back inside, shut the doors, shut out the over bright lights. Seems odd and a little disconcerting at times but I seem to have an abiding affiliation with the darkness, more so than I do with the light – it is the darkness that interests me, that causes me to explore. But that requires light, doesn’t it? I need the light; but I love the darkness.

XGeneration: You Don’t Know Me Book Blast w/ Brad Magnarella – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card

XGeneration 7In the fall of 1984, Cold War tensions between Washington and Moscow are close to breaking.

But in sleepy Gainesville, Florida, fourteen-year-old Janis Graystone is mainly worried about starting high school, earning a spot on the varsity soccer team, and keeping her older sister from running her life. And then there are her nighttime experiences. Experiences where she awakens in her backyard—out of her body—with the disturbing sense that someone is watching her.

For Scott Spruel, the start of high school means the chance to start over. And he’s willing to ditch everything—computer hacking, Dungeons & Dragons marathons, even his comic book collection (well, except for his X-Men)—if it means getting closer to Janis, the secret love of his life. But will Scott’s past be so easy to shed. And what about the eerie delay on his telephone, a delay he senses through powers he is only beginning to understand?

Welcome to the gripping new series, XGeneration: part The X-Files, part Freaks and Geeks, and totally ’80s.

Rated 16+ for language.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON for 99 cents during his book blast!

Excerpt:

“Do you ever think we’re being watched?” Janis asked.

She lifted her head from her soccer ball and squinted past her toes, still slick with sunblock, to where the beach crowd thinned near the crash and rumble of the ocean. For the first time, she and Margaret had the beach blanket to themselves, and she knew it wouldn’t last. Beyond her feet and off to the right, her sister’s three friends squealed and pranced from the water’s edge, breasts bobbing inside new bikinis. The bright pastel colors made them hard to miss. They would probably be running back this way any minute.

“Well, we are at the beach,” Margaret said.

Janis turned onto her elbow. In contrast to her airhead friends, her older sister lay in quiet repose, brunette hair tucked into a neat bun that cushioned her head and opened her lithe neck to the sun. Black Wayfarers hid her eyes. When the breeze stirred, the strings of her apple-red bikini fluttered against her hip.

“Not here, I mean,” Janis said. “In the neighborhood. At home. I keep having this feeling that we’re—”

“Being watched? Like the song?”

Janis groaned. She had walked right into that one. “Somebody’s Watching Me” had played on the boom box a half hour before, the deejay at I-100 FM using a creepy ghoul’s voice when he recapped the song and artist. And it was a creepy song. The video was even creepier. But no, that’s not what Janis was talking about.

“Not funny,” she said.Brad Magnarella 7

Brad Magnarella grew up in North Central Florida. As a boy he discovered Marvel Comics, text-based gaming, Bruce Springsteen, and Stephen King, roughly in that order. The prize, however, was a creek that wound through his neighborhood, providing him and his friends a wooded sanctuary in which to lose themselves, while discovering natural Florida. 

A graduate of the University of Florida and American University, Brad has long aspired to write the kind of fiction that colored his childhood. His books include The Prisoner and the Sun trilogy and the first in his new young adult series, XGeneration. 

Brad lives in Washington, D.C. When he’s not writing, he’s somewhat hard to find.

Sign up to Brad’s mailing list for new releases: http://bit.ly/bdmlist.

Connect & Socialize with Brad!

FACEBOOK

Pump Up Your Book and Brad Magnarella are teaming up to give you a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Two winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins December 2 and ends December 27.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, December 30, 2013.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

X Generation 1: You Don’t Know Me Book Blast Page: 

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2013/10/08/pump-up-your-book-presents-xgeneration-you-dont-know-me-book-blast-win-25-amazon-gift-card/

Rennefarre by Malve von Hassell

rennefarreA fairy tale adventure awaits the discerning reader in Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures translated and adapted by Malve van Hassell. A beloved German children’s classic by Tamara Ramsey, this story was originally written on the eve of World War II. The first edition appeared in 1941. More than 25 editions appeared between 1941 and 2008. With the copyright holder’s permission, von Hassell’s adaptation is based upon the 1965 edition.

Twelve-year-old Dott finds her world turned upside down when she sneaks out to see the bonfire at the edge of her village on the evening of the midsummer night festival and the magical Rennefarre flower falls into her shoe. Now invisible to humans, she can no longer stay with her parents and younger siblings. Eager to find a way out of her predicament, she escapes to the forest. Her quest to return home finds her traveling through the cities and countrysides of 20th century Germany and beyond. Assisted on her journey by the animals she can now talk to and magical gifts along the way, Dott hopes in her heart of hearts that one day she will find a way to release herself from the enchantment of the Renefarre flower and return home.

This is a magical story accompanied by the stunning artwork of Monica Minto. A coming-of-age story that blends fantasy and social commentary, the reader finds herself carried away along with Dott on her fantastic journey to reunite with her family. While young readers will connect with Dott’s desire to return home, and will certainly enjoy the magical and fantasy-filled environment in which this story takes place, I fear its sheer length (298 pages) will deter some readers.

The original story might have been geared toward children, but the social commentary of 20th century Germany would be much more appropriate for tween and young adult readers in today’s modern world. If you read children’s classics from long ago, you’ll discover they handled sensitive topics in a much harsher way than we would now. So, I feel this puts Rennefarre at a disadvantage. How I feel this book would be best read is aloud by a family, which would allow parents to engage their children in conversations over the cultural and ethnic strains as well as the human destruction aspects of the book. It is important to point out, too, that though there are some difficult topics in Rennefarre, Dott’s travels inspire her to consider how she can change her world.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Price/Format: $13.99 paperback
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
ISBN: 9781938690389
Pages: 297
Release: December 11, 2012

MyBookOrders.com buy link ($13.99):
https://secure.mybookorders.com/order/malve-von-hassellMalve Von Hassell

 Malve von Hassell is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. She holds a Ph. D. in anthropology from the New School for Social Research. Working as an independent scholar, she published several books and journal articles, in particular, The Struggle for Eden: Community Gardens in New York City (Bergin & Garvey 2002) and Homesteading in New York City 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida (Bergin & Garvey 1996). She has also edited her grandfather Ulrich von Hassell’s memoirs written in prison in 1944, Der Kreis schließt sich – Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft 1944 (Propylaen Verlag 1994). She has taught at Queens College, Baruch College, Pace University, and Suffolk County Community College, while continuing her work as a translator and writer. She has published a children’s picture book, Letters from the Tooth Fairy (Mill City Press, 2012), and completed a manuscript for a historical fiction book set in the 13th century for young adults, Falconello. She is working on a historical fiction novel set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades.

Malve von Hassell’s Web
Site:

http://www.malvevonhassell.com/

Malve von Hassell’s Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/malvevonhassellauthor

Malve von Hassell’s Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/471746.Malve_von_Hassell

Rennefarre Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16117302-rennefare

Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tribute-Books-Blog-Tours/242431245775186

Rennefarre blog tour site:

http://rennefarre.blogspot.com/

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