Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How I Read ~ A Guest Reviewer Writes ~ #ASD #Asperger's

I came across Lise Lotte when looking for bloggers to read and review my latest book, Cocktails and Lies.  I became so fascinated by Lise's story, that we struck up a kind of correspondence which resulted in me inviting her to write a guest post on her reading experiences for my blog.  As a former English teacher, I'm always fascinated to hear about readers' perspectives, and because Lise's autistic spectrum disorder, I thought her story might be of interest to authors and readers everywhere.  Over to Lise.

Lise Lotte
My name is Lise Almenningen and I am the owner of the blog Along with that I run a few other blogs on various topics. I also happen to be ASD/Asperger's/Autistic.

I did not know I had Asperger's until about the same time I started my first blog, 2012. Until then, I just figured I had some unusual quirks that I tried very hard to suppress. When I realized all of that strangeness was normal for me, I stopped fighting it so hard. Surprise. Surprise. Life got simpler.

I believe the greatest commonality in Aspies, is how different we perceive what we see/observe/feel to non-ASDs (or neurotypicals/normals as you like to call yourselves). That is both our best friend and our worst enemy depending on what we are doing and who we are with. As a reviewer (once I let myself out of my preconceived idea of a reviewer), I believe being Asperger has shed new light on texts.

I am addicted to reading and will try to read anything. That does not mean I will finish, because not all writing is worth finishing. Whether a text is worth finishing has nothing to do with the author's level of education, expertise or category. I have read academic texts whose authors cannot have been beta-ed and "trashy" authors whose writing is so poignant, I am incapable of putting the text down. Sometimes a text is so technical, I am incapable of ever understanding it. I would not know if the author is good or not in such cases. But I will give them a try.

When I review a text, I will first read it through. I need that to set some kind of anchor in my mind. Then I will do research. If the author has a website, I check out what they say about themselves. Things like where they are from, have lived, interests etc. influence my interpretation of the text. If the author is from the US, I review with a different eye than if the author is from South-Korea.

When stories are about topics I know little about, I will check out terms. Lynette's Cocktails and
Lies had police titles I needed to know the definition of so I could know if they fit into their roles. The same thing with her main character. I know little about insurance, so I looked up that title as well. If the information might be of interest to people reading my review, I will link to it.

Then I check out the net to see if any other person has reviewed the story. If their review appeals to me, I will link to it. When I can find them, I try to include up to five other reviewers and prefer it if there are both good and bad reviews. Sometimes that isn't possible, because I am doing an ARC. I try to include any art I can find on a story. If there are translations, I dig up as much as I can about them and link to that information as well. One Norwegian author, Jo Nesbø, has a huge following abroad. If you check out my review on him, you will see what I mean about translations.

Once the preliminary work has been done, I pick up the story again and try to figure out how I want to approach it. From then on, it is all character-driven and my main question to myself is: Can I believe in this person? Has the author answered their own questions? This is also vital to character-driven stories. If you claim to write a mystery, there should be a mystery to solve. Another thing I look for in my characters is some complexity. This goes for children's stories as well as adult stories. I reviewed an illustrated children's short-story called One Less Meg that exemplifies what I mean.

Romances can be troublesome for me, and this probably directly
related to my ASD. I think that has to do with the type of interaction that authors give their characters in addition to the formulaic form I find the category struggles with. One of these is "the three-some". This has become a particular problem in YA stories that must think they target young girls (preferably US girls). It certainly is not a new concept. Zane Grey wrote about them in his Romance-Westerns. But instead of being a tool the three-some often feels like a fail-safe. Aspergers is a wonderful reviewers tool in that it categorizes details and shares those categories with me when cued. Maybe it is more difficult to get away with easy solutions when your reviewer is an aspie. Maybe. But if you write excellent romance, without or without excellent sex-scenes, I'm all yours.

Violence is another area that authors seem to use as a fail-safe. Well-written violence that fits with the story is preferred. I just reviewed a story called The Broken God with a little boy in it called Zoshi who broke my heart. The violence towards him wasn't of the gratuitous type, nor was it explicit/gory. Instead, we followed his feelings while traversing a dark place. Then, the moment came, and it was quick. But the intensity of being in this eight-year old mind blew me away. Again, One Less Meg was also a violent story, but appropriately so.

Authors seem to struggle most with tightening their stories up and using their resources (betas, editors, etc.) for what they are worth. I understand the desire to keep things. It is something I struggle with as a reviewer. But both reviews and stories need to be slashed and slashed again, or re-written, or ... (you know the theory). Unless you are a "one of a kind" author, writing hurts. This article certainly did.

As a reviewer, I love authors. You are brave people who take a chance on a fickle public. I want you to succeed and want you to do your very best to deliver a product you can be proud of. That is the frame of mind I try to be in when I review your stories. And don't be too hard on yourself when something falls through. Failures do teach you where to go next. At least they have done that for me. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cocktails and Lies #NewRelease by Lynette Sofras (@ManicScribbler) #MFRW Author

Up to now I’ve kept fairly quiet about my latest novel; quietly beavering away at it in my writer's cave, sometimes wondering if it would ever see the light of day.

But here it is at last!  And it’s available for pre-order on Amazon now.

The Blurb:

When Hannah’s house is burgled, she gains as much as she loses: she meets Jan, her reserved Dutch neighbour and successful antiques dealer, and Callum, the detective in charge of the case; then finds some hidden letters to her dead grandmother that take her on a roller-coaster ride of discoveries.

As Hannah juggles the attentions of the two men now firmly in her life, she works to uncover the secrets of the past, only to find this encroaches on the present in unexpected ways.

And then there are the two men in her life, both vying for her attention, both hiding things from her and each other.  What does Callum really know about Jan?  What is Jan hiding from everyone?  And what did her grandmother—whose house it once was—hide from the world?

As if Hannah doesn’t have enough mysteries to solve, her best friend Rachel enlists her help in solving her marital crisis, while her pleasure-seeking mother seems intent on finding her a husband.

With so many skeletons rattling the door of Hannah’s house, can she unravel these mysterious threads and reveal the truth, changing her life forever?


“Have you seen any more of your Good Samaritan neighbour?”
I caught the hint of sarcasm in his tone.
“No, but then, as you no doubt established, he probably has a better view of my house from his balcony than I do of his flat.”
He raised an eyebrow and I’m sure I detected a fleeting spark of amusement in his light brown eyes.  “The reason I ask is that I understand his auction house has a substantial art deco collection catalogued in the next public auction.  If I’m right, that’s scheduled for next Wednesday.  I thought he might have told you, in case you wanted to replace some of your stolen items.”
The sting hit like a double whammy.  In the first place, hearing this from him, rather than Jan hurt, and the second pain—a more prolonged ache—was the guilt at not protecting my grandmother’s treasures better.  I felt I’d lost a part of her that I wish I could have preserved.  Replacing her material legacy was not high on my agenda, but no one seemed to understand that.  The house felt that bit emptier without them, but replacing them with similar items would not make that any better.  I needed the original items back, not copies.  And that’s when it struck me. 
Grandma’s stolen pieces were not the sort of items that were going to be melted down and made into a different form.  They weren’t great works of art, but they were genuine collectors’ items that had value to someone in the art world.  My grandmother had left them to us, to my mother, my sister and me with love.  They belonged here, in Grandma’s house and that’s exactly where they should be returned.  Now I had a mission, to hunt down my grandmother’s legacy item by item, and return everything to its rightful place.
Check out my website for details of my other titles
My Amazon author page

~Watch out for more information about my forthcoming blog tour with prizes~

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Review of the Week: The Owl Goddess by Jenny Twist (@JennyTwist1)

Anyone who has followed my blog will know what enormous respect I have for author Jenny Twist, whose first novel Domingo's Angel still sits at the top of my favourite stories ever.  She's produced many short stories since then, but only one other novel, All in the Mind.  Now at last, the long-awaited third novel has arrived.  Here is my review of it:

The Owl Goddess

I confess here and now to being a fully signed-up member of author Jenny Twist’s fan club.  Everything she writes is a delight to read, so when I received an ARC of her latest story, I knew I was in for a pleasurable read.  The Owl Goddess is quite a departure from her usual genres, and I admit to having mixed feelings at first, but these quickly disappeared when I started reading. 

I was immersed from the start in this innovative mixture of gods and heroes from Greek myths hurtled into the unknown by a  mishap in space to deal with a whole set of new problems posed by a new environment that included minor deities and heroes.  It made for a very entertaining mix and plenty of excitement from the very first page.  When Twist throws the most famous gods and heroes such as Zeus, Athena, Prometheus, Pandora, Atlas, Apollo, Artemis and all the rest into a big modern melting pot, you have to expect the unexpected!  But the result is delightful.

The sympathetic—and often amusing—way the deities are characterised and humanised is inspired.  Each one keeps his/her recognisable traits from the ancient stories, but takes on more human aspects to account for some of their quirks and idiosyncrasies.  I especially enjoyed the strong female deities taking ownership of their traditional roles and adding their own personal, feminine touches.   

The use of modern colloquialisms made them accessible, endearing and highly entertaining.  I loved the portrayal of the three feisty ‘A’ females: Artemis, Aphrodite and Athena.  They kept the action moving forward in a very human way as well as milking every opportunity to add humour and interest to the story through their unique personalities.  Permeating their stories is a rather poignant, coming of age love story to which just about anyone of any age can relate.

All in all, I think this is an inspired story, engrossing, entertaining and beautifully written.  Jenny Twist is a great story-teller and I can see this having an appeal to all ages as a new way to visit classical mythology in a novel, informative and engaging way. 

No prizes for guessing how many cute cats I award this!

About the Author:

Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history, at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.
She has written two novels - Domingo’s Angel – a love story set in Franco’s Spain and harking back to the Spanish Civil War and beyond - and Allin the Mind – a contemporary novel about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger
She has contributed short stories to many other anthologies, of which two – Doppelganger and Uncle Vernon have been released as short ebooks.
Other works include the Mantequero series: novellas about a Spanish mythological figure, and An Open Letter to Stephen King & Other Essays, a compilation of non-fiction essays and articles.
Her new novella, The Minstrel Boy, will be published in the anthology Letters from Europe in the spring of 2016.

Jenny Twist

Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @JennyTwist1

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review of the week: Woman in Blue and White, Janet Doolaege (@JanetDoolaege)

Janet Doolaege is fast becoming one of my favourite British authors and I had the great pleasure recently to read and review her latest publication Woman in Blue & White. Here is my review:

Having read and loved Janet Doolaege’s other novels, I was delighted to receive an ARC of Woman in Blue & White, a story that engrossed me from the very start.  I soon found myself so absorbed in the story that there were times I was unable to put it down and sat up very late into the night on more than one occasion, never knowing quite where the next twists and turns would take me.  I can tell you now, it took me on a great journey.

The story is set between France and Greece.  I always love the way this author writes about France with a curious combination of reverence and honesty that places the reader so firmly in the scene, you feel you are physically there.  She achieves the same with her descriptions of Greece.  I’ve been to Greece, though sadly not to Santorini, but now I feel as if I actually have been there.  The beautiful, evocative descriptions are what make Doolaege such a masterful author.

The plot of Woman in Blue & White is also very clever.  The rather naïve Zoe finally wakes up to the sort of person her long-term boyfriend is and finds the courage to leave him.  A last minute opportunity to travel to Greece on holiday with a colleague hurtles her into an adventure that changes her life.

When Zoe finds a watch on the beach, she also experiences strange kinaesthetic powers that seem to suggest a tragic, possibly violent history and the feeling is so strong that Zoe believes the watch to have huge sentimental significance for its owner, whom she determines to track down to return the precious object.  This is Ivar, a rather enigmatic and talented artist - and a fascinating character with whom I confess I fell just a little bit in love.  If you only read the book for this gripping part of the adventure, read it you must.  The author’s handling of Zoe trying to find Ivar is superb in its control of tension and drama.

I worry about giving too much away in reviews, and this is a story I would not wish to spoil for anyone.  It’s a must read and one I definitely plan to re-read (hopefully sitting on a beach on a Greek island this summer).  Ingenious plot, sensitive characterisation and haunting descriptions – what more can I say about this truly five star read?

About the author:

Janet grew up in Wimborne, Dorset, within the sound of the Minster bells and the Dean’s Court peacocks. English was her best subject at the grammar school, thanks to a dear eccentric English teacher popularly known as Fishy. After university she moved to France and worked at UNESCO in Paris as a translator, eventually becoming Chief of English Translation. Her husband is French and she has put down roots here, but still feels a strong attachment to England and its literature, particularly its wealth of children’s literature.

She has written three novels, all of them featuring just a hint of the supernatural and the unexplained, subjects which fascinate her, and all three are set at least partly in Paris.  Woman in Blue & White is the latest. Her three novels for children are embroidered versions of old legends, told in a form that she has tried to make more interesting for the children of today. For example, The Story of an Ordinary Lion is told by St. Jerome’s lion himself, and the adventures in Tobias and the Demon are related by Tobias’s dog.

Birds and animals have always been very important to her, and Ebony and Spica is a true memoir of two rescued wild birds, a blackbird and a starling. Each lived with her for many years and was an unforgettable character.

She tells me her house contains more books than she will ever have time to read! Reading and writing have been her life.

Woman in Blue & White is available from Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK)