Moon Over Manifest- by Clare Vanderpool

This little darling of a book, like usual, wasn’t recommended to me by anyone as I am not into the habit of asking for recs. I am pretty satisfied with the way I discover new authors and that’s to scour the internet looking for books similar to what I have previously enjoyed. Which is how I ended up stumbling on Clare Vanderpool’s Moon Over Manifest.

Clare is actually an award winning author and it kind of surprised me that I had never heard of her, which goes to show how hard it is for even good authors to get meaningful publicity these days.

Moon Over Manifest is a crossover YA novel narrated mainly through the eyes of twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker, who has been sent by her father to Manifest, a Kansas town, to live with an old buddy of his. While there, Abilene discovers a treasure trove of cryptic notes and mementos, which lead her on a chase to discover the real identity of the Rattler, a supposed first-world-war spy.

Several other points of view in addition to Abilene’s are used, and the book switches between scenes taking place in the war years 1917-18 and the book’s present, 1937.

My review: I gave this novel five stars on Goodreads. Abilene, young as she is, is a compelling and sympathetic narrator who does things very few other kids of her age would. Together with her sidekicks, Lettie and Ruthanne whom she has just befriended, she ends up solving an age old mystery that would otherwise have lain hidden for eternity.

Clare’s prose is impeccable and the way she weaves between events in different time periods is nothing short of amazing. You have to read this to find out for yourself.

The Giver- by Lois Lowry

Over the holidays I was able to re-read and finish The Giver, a very successful middle grade novel by Lois Lowry. Hardly needing much of an introduction, the story concerns a young MC named Jonas, who lives in a relatively dystopian society. The society assigns roles to its members at the early age of twelve, and Jonas is given the unique role of becoming the Receiver of society’s memories. This is not an easy role, needless to say, and he struggles at it.

I ended up giving this book a three on Goodreads, because even though I liked it a lot long ago, sadly this time around it didn’t impress me much. The society’s ordered ways were too stifling to allow Jonas to develop into an interesting lead character. Everything was just so programmed, forcing adults to behave in predictable ways in a world in which there is no emotion or color. A romance is hinted at but never developed, at least in this first installment. It all resulted in me not developing any connection with the story’s main events or characters, hence my overall disappointment.

However this is not to say The Giver is a bad book. It is actually entertaining and imaginative in ways, and my lackluster response to it may be due to the fact that I read the book with too much of an adult mindset. Also because it was a nostalgic read, I may have gone into it with too many expectations that sadly were not fulfilled. The book is truly written for a youthful audience, and I imagine that young readers will respond favorably to Jonas’s bleak world, and his anxieties regarding being assigned a lifelong duty at a very young age. This probably is what underlies the book’s success.

If there are any readers on here who have kids going into their teens, try it and see. It may turn out to be a good book to introduce them to the dystopian sub-genre.

I’m Not Dying With You

A collaboration from two female authors. This YA contemporary novel from Gilly Segal and Kimberley Jones features two teens, one black, the other white, who hardly know each other well in the beginning, but then get sucked into violence which starts at their school and ends up in the city streets.

Although this unusual YA story that is told from two different perspectives explores some topical issues that are worth paying attention to, I felt it didn’t hit all the right spots. It felt rushed in some areas, whereas in others it felt too convenient, like the authors just came up with this quick story idea because they had a subject they wanted explored at all costs.

Lena, the black girl is the cool stylish one, madly in love with a rapper who in many ways doesn’t show like he shares the same deep feelings with her. Many times over, she just seems like an afterthought. Campbell, the white half of the novel seems like the more grounded one. She is new to town, living with her divorced father after her mother has been forced by circumstances to accept a job outside the country.

I listened to the audio version of this book and the two voices did come out distinctly enough. The story’s two sides mesh quite well and subtle comparisons are made between the problems that black youths face and those that whites do. The idea was a good almost political one, but somehow the plot still didn’t rise to the great level that I expected.

It’s a three-star rating for me. If you have read this one tell me what you think.

Hustlers, another look at female struggles

Over the past weekend, I broke away from my usual routines and went to check out Hustlers, one of the movies showing, currently.

Starring long time crowd favourite, Jennifer Lopez, and up and coming Constance Wu, the hype surrounding it is not hard to understand. J Lo has a whole career behind her and certainly needs no introduction, while Constance Wu is the power behind Crazy Rich Asians. There is also a slew of other actresses to fill in the gaps, though none of them showed as much sparkle as the two leads. A smattering of males completes the cast, but they all were pretty much run of the mill, and none stood out. This probably may have been of the film makers’ design, for almost all males are drunk in this film.

Hustlers tells a story of struggle, of being a foreigner in a land going through hard times. Although the film starts when it’s 2007 and the US economy is doing well for many, it’s not until the financial crisis of the following year hits, that life really gets hard for our downtrodden MCs. The crimes they eventually go on to commit are understandable given the circumstances, after all it’s the richest bastards of Wall Street that they steal from.

Although I was initially drawn to the film with the hope of feasting on some eye candy, and the movie does not disappoint much on that score, I ended up getting hooked to the story’s desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures theme. J Lo shines in this arena, leading her pack of femme fatales to do things they could never have believed they could.

It’s the ending that I found a little underwhelming, because its predictable and undramatic.

Three and a half stars from me for this one.

Audio Books- My Recent Experiences

Audio books have become all the rage of late, and I am caught up in the craze.

For my part, though, it took a while to get attracted to them as my initial loathing for them had been so deep. Part of my objections stemmed from the fact that each time I took to one, it sounded like listening to a cassette tape or CD but without the music. All the time, my psychologically-conditioned mind would wait for the musical beat to come through but then it would only be the narrators voice and that didn’t take me long to get disappointed. Or the audio sometimes gave me the feeling of having gone back to my elementary or kindergarten years when were read to, since we couldn’t do it ourselves. I didn’t like that. Adult books were meant to be enjoyed in print form, and that’s how I wanted things to last forever.

Now not so any more. I have come to love audio books. The narrators voices transport me to heights I might not have reached had I been reading alone to myself. What a turnaround.

In fact what I have since discovered is that good narrators add dimensions to a story that the print version can’t have. They are like actors, and can convey a deep sense of emotion that makes you experience feelings you never would have had. It’s something I now wonder why I didn’t realize soon enough as I continued with my reckless bashing of audio. Today I know better.

Indeed much of the allure of audio lies in the voice of the narrator and I have to say my current favorite is Lorelei King. She is absolutely marvelous. She can inflect her voice in different ways to bring life to different characters in a story. Those who listen to books a lot may remember her from the popular Stephanie Plum series, but she is also the powerful voice behind Darynda Jones’s grim reaper series featuring Charlie Davidson.

Lorelei is in fact so good at her work, she made me grasp something I had completely missed. The grim reaper series is actually very similar to Janet Evanovich’s popular bounty hunter series! Charlie Davidson is a virtual clone of Stephanie Plum’s! This had never been apparent to me before — as I had sampled a few print versions of both authors. Now listening to Lorelei, it didn’t take me a second to make the connection — and Google even confirmed it. The plots and events actually mirror one another, except that one is more grounded in reality while the other is supernatural.

Kudos to Lorelei for making me get that, and I would have been none the wiser had it not been for her abilities. Audio books indeed add a certain depth to a story that print alone doesn’t have, and I think they will be around for a long time to come.

Happy listening to you all.

Heist: Cover and Blurb Reveal

After almost a year of steady effort, including burning the midnight candles, I am proud to announce that HEIST, my debut supernatural thriller, will publish on 31 October 2019, just in time for Halloween.

It features Buffalo, NY’s hard working witch hunter, Melanie, who must sweat to track a rogue mage who has just committed one of the most grievous magical crimes in the history of the whole wide world.

Here is the full blurb.

A vengeful ex in Buffalo, NY hires a witch to fix her former boyfriend who is just about to wed someone else. The witch, better known in her circles as ‘The Mage’, magically removes the boyfriend’s genitals and vanishes…

The case lands in the hands of powerful witch hunter and wizardess; Mel, the Breaker, Perkiss — who immediately starts a chase. She thrusts herself onto a deadly trail of treacherous black magic and malevolent beasts.

 Will Mel be able to corner the elusive mage, recover the taken ‘goods’ and save a doomed marriage, while bringing the perpetrators to justice?

Seriously I have poured my heart into this one, and tried to pack it with all the tension, humor and comedy that I am sure readers will love.

Do you think this is a story you might like to read? Hit me with some feedback.

A Grave Death by Victoria DeLuis

I am a recent convert to the Urban Fantasy genre and one author who has consistently produced storylines I love in this genre is Victoria DeLuis. She has the Rune Witch Mysteries, of which I binged through all the four tiles in short order. Following that, she has released a few other works that I have loved, but what I look forward to most is her current series, the Independent Necromancer’s Bureau (INB), of which only the first book has been released. It’s titled A Grave Death.
The INB is an outfit responsible for dealing with zombies, removing unwanted ghosts, and tracking down rogue necromancers. The M/C Cassie Dune is a sassy, fearless agent who gets the job done when she wants to.
In A Grave Death Cassie must hunt down a killer who not only has killed her friend and mentor but is also responsible for a couple other killings, and worse, has been known to animate corpses, turning then into murderous zombies.
What an enemy our heroine is up against.
I loved reading A Grave Death, discovering it’s world and characters through the exploits of it’s feisty lead. The pace is fast and the tension is palpable. The prose is clean and unpretentious, making the book very easy to read.
I recommend the whole Independent Necromancy Bureau series to anyone who would like to take on an Urban Fantasy series with a lot of promise.

MY RATING 5 Stars out of 5