Friday, August 31, 2012

LDRAT: Starting Post

Letters Inside Out button 

 Because I have issues.  I am once again signing up for another Read-a-Thon.  I don't know what it is about these things, but I have a hard time passing them up.  Even though I always fail.

This time I am going to try and keep it light and simple.  I don't have any plans this weekend, expect on Saturday.  So, I am going to try and finish 3 books.

Realistically this is all I will probably have time for.  If I can, I am going to start on:

 I won't really start reading until Saturday, tonight I am going to destress from work

Friday Finds: August 31

Friday Finds hosted by Should Be Reading ask:

What great books did you hear about/discover this past week? Share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

This week's finds are curtesy of one of my favorite discount book places BooksCloseouts.  I have gotten some great deals there over the years, and this months promotion is 50% off all autobiographies and biographies.  Theses are the ones that I want to read but passed on because of space and funds.

(Clicking on the image will take you to the books GoodReads page)

What did you find this week?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A More Diverse Universe

Aarti over at BookLust is hosting this awesome celebration of diversity in Speculative Fiction by hosting A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour.

As most of my regular followers will know I don't read much speculative fiction.  In fact, I probably don't read enough speculative fiction.  So this tour is a a prefect opportunity for me to reacquaint myself with speculative fiction. 

I will be reading The Shadow Speaker by NNedi Okorafor-Mbachu which set in 2070 West Africa.

 I am excited.

If you are interested in head of to the sign up page and read more.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Jessamine by Eugenia O'Neal

Rating: 3.5/ Stars 
Pages: 312 (eBook)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Publication Date: June 2012
Source: Received a copy from the author in exchange for honest review.

Synopsis (GoodReads):
Jessamine tells the story of Grace Hylton, an African-American, who arrives on the Caribbean island of St. Crescens full of doubts about her husband’s political aspirations, doubts about her marriage and doubts about the wisdom of relocating. Her native-born husband, Julian, has lived most of his adult life in the States but has come back to St. Crescens, determined to pull his country out of the cauldron of corruption, nepotism and crime into which the leading political dynasty has taken it.

An architect by training, Julian buys and restores Jessamine, an old Great House. What the Hyltons don’t know is that Jessamine is home to the ghost of Arabella Adams who lived there as a governess during the late 1800s.

Jessamine is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two women – both foreigners, both married to local men. An old injustice binds them across the century that separates them, but can Grace discover its roots before St. Crescens is plunged into violence and chaos?

     When I first read the synopsis of Jessamine, I was expecting something different.  The synopsis combined with the cover, made me instantly think ghost story, scary ghost.  Jessamine is a ghost story, just not the scary ghost story that I was expecting.  In fact, the first couple of chapters gave me a feeling of that doom was lurking around the corner.  That Arabella was just waiting around the for Grace's arrival to wreck havoc in her life and marriage.  Arabella did cause some problems in Grace's life but she was more of the friendly ghost that needed help rather than the angry ghost who wanted to run the American woman out of her house and off the island.

     Jessamine, is the story of two women that leave their homeland for a small island in the Caribbean, that is set in its ways and difficult for outsiders to penetrate.  There is Arabella,  an English woman in search of a job and trying to carve a future for herself, in the 1800s.  Then there is Grace, a modern African-American woman who arrives in St. Crescens after leaving her job and family to help her husband pursue his dreams.  The story of each of these women is tied not only to the Great House but also to the past and future of St. Crescens.

     Normally, I wouldn't talk about location, but I thought it was important to point out the St. Crescens is a fictional island.  I point that out because 1) I suck at geography and 2) O'Neal's description of the island and its history made me want to visit.  I actually looked St. Crescens up on the map.  Then I tweeted the author to let her know that St. Crescens would be an island that I would like to visit for the history alone.
     While reading the details of both Arabella and Grace exploring the islands, I could picture it all.  And I wanted to see those same buildings and streets for myself.  I even wanted to take a walk up to the old house and see the fountain and the mango tree.  I wanted to go to the church where Grace looked up birth and marriage records.  I wanted to see the mural painted inside, depicting St. Crescens history.  I am very disappointed that this will never happen.
     Out of the two main female characters, Arabella and Grace, I felt that Arabella was the strongest of the two.  Arabella's story was more well-rounded.  This could be because she was dead and readers were learning about her history and the events that lead to her death.  Or it could have been that she was more interested in learning and explore St. Crescens and it's culture.

     Grace on the other hand seemed to just be there.  It really wasn't her choice to live in St. Crescens, her husband kind of decided that when he wanted to return home to run for public office.  Grace's interaction with the people of island was limited and it affected the way that I felt about her as a character.  I don't feel that I got to know her as well as I did Arabella.  Sometimes, it seemed that Grace was just a vehicle to tell Arabella's story.

    Both Grace and Arabella's love interest were solid characters set in their ways and sure of the direction that they wanted to take in their lives.  They had the same personality and some of the same background.  I don't want to give too much away, but I did like that both of these men were strong male characters.  Both of them had a deep respect for their partners and wanted the best for them.

   One character that I would like to have seen a little more of is Julian's grandmother.  I had the feeling that she was a woman with her own rich story to tell.  But in keeping with customs of the island, she was very tight-lipped about her past.  She did not even tell her grandson Julian their family history and she raised him.  I don't recall learning what happen to Julian's parents and how he ended up being raised by his grandmother.

     My first warning to potential readers is that Jessamine is not written in American Standard English.   Eugenia O'Neal is from British Virgin Islands and some of the spelling and word choice reflects that, this doesn't bother me at all since most of the spelling is close enough. But sometimes there were words that just baffled me (just a few examples there are more):

  • Gawp: which is similar to gawk 
  • Huzzif: which my Google research as indicated is a like "sewing kit".  I couldn't find this word in the dictionary.
Having to look up some of the words was a learning experience and it made me realize how fascinating language is.

     I already mention how much I loved the imagery and what O'Neal was able to do with the island.  But she also did an excellent job of the local dialect.  She was able to portray the local speech patterns and word choices without confusing the reader.  I found myself highlighting many of the colorful sayings and even twitted O'Neal on the few that I wasn't sure about.  A couple of my favorite:
  • "Now you favor a cat what done swallowed a night lizard."
  • "A baby whose mother cries with him in her womb will be born with a head deformed by sorrow.
     The only major problem that I had with Jessamine was the ending.  I felt that it was kind of rushed, once the main story conflict between Grace and Arabella was over it seemed like a race to the end.  I wanted to see how things played out between Grace and Julian better.  There was a lot of stuff that happened at the end but it was glossed over, which was disappointing.

Explanation of Rating:
     It took me a while to decided whether to give Jessamine a 3.5 Star rating or a 4 Star rating.  I ultimately decided on a 3.5 Star rating for two reasons:
  1.  Grace - Compared to Arabella her character was on the weak side.  A more well rounded Grace would have made for a better read.  
  2. The Ending - It felt a little rush.  The crucial scene where the outcome of Julian's election race and the consequence happens fast and there are very few details.  Which made it feel rushed.
Overall Recommendation:

     I would recommend Jessamine without hesitation.  It hits most of my literary sweet spots: strong female characters, historical content, excellent writing, and foreign locations.  In fact, I am looking forward to reading more from Eugenia O'Neal.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: I'm Only Human After All

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!
This weeks teasers is from I'm Only Human After All by Alex I. Rogers
As I lay there, I felt it working its way throughout my body.  Me feet, my legs, my arms, and my hands.
-Page 77 (eBook Edition)

Don't forget to post a link to your teaser!

I want to read it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Interview & Giveaway: Eugenia O'Neal

If you want to skip my rambling and get to the good stuff just scroll down!

     I am ashamed to admit this but Eugenia O'Neal emailed me a couple of 8 months ago and asked me to review her upcoming self-published novel Jessamine and asked if I would interview her on the blog.  Now, I was more than happy to read and review Jessamine, it hits all my literary sweet spots.  And after a little research Goodread search, I found out that O'Neal had two traditionally published fiction works, so why not.

     For the interview I was a little more hesitant.  We have all heard the Author Behaving Badly horror stories and now with the advent of GoodReads Bullies, I didn't (and still don't) want any internet drama.  But after observing her on twitter (@eugeniaoneal) and reading Jessamine, I decided to give it a shot.  After working with Eugenia O'Neal, I will let my guard down a little

Enough of my rambling.  On to the interview.

Interview with Author Eugenia O'Neal

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
    • When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?  I began writing when I was in university and read a book I thought I could better.  That first book was Just An Affair which actually became my second published book, after From the Field to the Legislature: A History of Women in the Virgin Islands.
  2. How did you choose the genre you write in?  
    • The stories I tell choose me which might sound airy-fairy but is true.  I read or hear about something and it catches me and then the story idea comes and won't let go until I've written it out.  I've got one idea right now that's been with me for a couple years and is definitely calling my name so I'll probably be starting work on it soon.
  1. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?  
    • Well, I love Jessamine and I couldn't get it published.  I had an agent who sent it to publishers and they liked it but they said things like "it's too quiet" and "it's not commercial enough."  After about a year of making the rounds my agent and I parted ways and it languished for a long time in my cabinet.  Then I started reading J. A. Konrath's blog and reading more about indie authors and I thought what have I got to lose so I went ahead and self-published though it wasn't something I would have considered five or ten years ago.  The publishing industry has changed, though.  The big publishing houses sometimes reject good books for their own reasons but I always believed in Jessamine.
  2. How was this experience different then publishing traditionally? 
    •  I had to hire my own editor and my own book cover designer but that was great because I got to say how the cover should look.  With traditional publishing, you get some degree of input but not total control.  I've also worked much harder at getting reviews and doing online interviews than I did with my traditionally published books.  The upside is that the royalties paid by Amazon and Smashwords are much higher than those paid by traditional publishers which means authors get the lion's share of the profits which is as it should be.
  3. Do you think the changes in the publishing industry affected you as a woman? As a woman of color?  As a author form the Caribbean?  
    • Digital publishing offers opportunities that didn't exist before.  If I'd chosen to self-publish ten years ago, the books would have been hard copies and there would have been no chance of my getting them in bookstores in the USA or the UK, or anywhere outside of the BVI.  With Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing, my books are available in different formats from all major online booksellers - that's pretty important for somebody from a small island territory of about 30,000 people.  It makes my books accessible all over the world.  
  1. During one of our Twitter conversations you mentioned that St. Crescens had a history that is common among the islands in the Caribbean.  Would you mind explaining that history to readers?  
    • Sure.  Britain freed the slaves in its colonies on 1st August, 1834 and the profitability of the Caribbean's sugar plantations plummeted - there was a lot of competition from the bigger Spanish colonies which, after all, didn't emancipate their slaves for a few more decades and so didn't have the huge labour costs entailed, plus certain European countries had gone into beet sugar production in a big way.  A lot of the planters, faced with a loss in profits, and with new labour costs either gave up or tried to impose laws aimed at getting the workers to remain on the plantations for little or no pay.  The planters controlled the island assemblies so it was easy for them to pass these laws but, in some islands, such as St. Crescens, they found it hard to enforce the laws - the former slaves either went into the hills or they went away to other islands like St. Thomas where they could get other kinds of work or where they would be paid more.  The trouble on St. Crescens began in 1878 - the same year that the people of St. Croix rose in the Fireburn, two years after riots in Barbados destroyed several buildings and a few years after the 1865 Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica.  These riots were all linked both to labour issues and to the planters' refusal to share political power with blacks - the same issues that preoccupied Jessamine's Leando Joseph.
St. Crescens (location of Jessamine):
  1. Your other two books Dido's Prize and Just An Affair are set in the real islands in the Caribbean.  What made set Jessamine on the fictitious island of St. Crescens? 
    •  I needed to manipulate the history a bit more than was possible if I'd used a real-life setting. A couple of my friends read it and thought it was Tortola and Tortola was certainly on my mind but so were Barbados and St. Croix.  (The BVI has no Great Houses but Barbados and St. Croix do.)
  2. Did you find it easier to write about a fictitious island?  What was the biggest obstacle that you ran into while creating St. Crescens? Would you do it again (create a fictitious location)?  
    • I would certainly do it again as I found it more liberating.  In fact, I'm considering St. Crescens for another book - this time set before Julian makes the decision to return to the island.  It would have different characters and be more of a murder mystery.  I've been toying with the idea for a little while and gathering info..  
  1. Arabella Adams was English but she was born in India?  Why did you choose India?  
    • I wanted somebody who'd had an experience of a hot country and who felt uncomfortable in England.  The British Civil Service in India was quite large and a lot of old India hands, as they were called, often found that returning "home" wasn't quite what they'd thought so it seemed like a good fit.  I also wanted to hint at Britain's former imperial grandeur - Arabella went from one British colony that was considered the jewel in Britain's crown to another which had lost its importance and was in decline because the planters couldn't adjust to their new circumstances.
  2. Grace Hylton is African-American was that a conscious decision? Were there any difficulties and/or benefits with Grace being African-American?  
    • Yes, very much a conscious decision as I wanted to highlight that both women experienced issues integrating despite the fact that St. Crescens is predominantly black.  Race and ethnicity can both a bar to acceptance in any society but perhaps especially so in a relatively small island community.
  3. Do you have a favorite character? Why?  
    • No, I actually like all my characters equally but if there's one I'd like to know more about, it's Ma Bett, the healer woman.  She's a woman who knows a lot of secrets and her knowledge of plants and herbal healing goes way back to Africa and the Arawak/Carib past.  
  4. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?  
    • You may have sussed me there but I adore history so Arabella's part was actually my favourite.  The Caribbean was quite different in her time - there was an immediacy, a power and a grace to people's lives which I'm not sure is present now.  Life was hard back then and poverty, disease and oppression were rife but now our societies appear to have bent the knee to the dollar and some of the innate nobility of character has been lost (or perhaps I'm reading things quite wrong and everything is hunky-dory).
  1. What project are you working on now?  
    • I'm working on a non-fiction book which is consuming a lot of my time and will consume lots more before I'm finished!
  2. Will you have a new book coming out soon? 
    •  Yes.  It's called The Water of Sunlight and will be very different to anything I've published before in that it's the story of a young, drug-addicted woman's ascent from the abyss of despair after she's imprisoned and discovers her HIV-positive status.  The Water of Sunlight will be out in October so please watch out for it!
  3. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans? 
    •  I'd like to say thanks for giving me and my books a chance.  There are a lot of authors out there and, if you picked up my book, I hope you found something special.  I'm on Facebook and Twitter so please connect with me there and I can also be found here and here.  Bless!
Enter to win a copy of Jessamine here (giveaway end September 1, 2012).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Post #5

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
~this meme was inspired in part by - In My Mailbox~
It's a chance to share News.
A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.
This is your news post, so personalize it. Include as much as you want or as little.
Be creative, it can be a vlog or just a showcase of your goodies.

Where Have I Been?

I sort of hit a blogging slump.  It's much like a reading slump, but instead of not wanting to read I didn't want to blog.  I had things to blog about and I did read books.  But I didn't want to blog about them.

The good news is that I now have a little room to pre-schedule reviews and will have like a three week advantage.

The bad news is that I have decided to abandon a book.  The first one this year, The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer.  I will post a full run down about why I decided to throw in the towel latter today.

What's Happening This Week:
  • Sunday:  20% Rule -why I did not finish The Fifth Vial
  • Monday:  I will be interviewing author Eugenia O'Neal (my first author interview).  I really hope you stop by and read the interview Eugenia is a really nice person and her interview is full of information.
  • Tuesday:  Teaser Tuesday  featuring I'm Only Human After All by Alex Rogers
  • Wednesday:  Review of Jessamine by Eugenia O'Neal.
  • Friday: Friday Finds
  • Saturday: Stacking The Shelves

  • Win 1 copy of Jessamine by Eugenia O'Neal.  Entry rules and details are on the GiveAway page.

This has to be the first time in a long time where I have had a post scheduled for every day in a week.  I don't know how people do it, it's exhausting.

Happy Reading,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

BTT: Discuss!

This week Booking Through Thursday ask:
Do you like to talk about what you read? Do you have somebody to talk WITH?
     I love to talk about what I read.  In fact, one of the reasons that I started this blog.  To talk the books that I had read.

     When I moved to Miami, I found it hard to meet people that shared like interest.  The only book club in the area is far for me to travel since I don't have a car and it was on a weeknight.  Which meant that if I did go, I wouldn't return home until after 10 or 11 in the evening.  

     To solve this problem, a year ago I started my own book club on Meetup.  This has been a great experience, there are about 10 regulars that show up often.  Most book club meetings about 5 people (including my self) attend.  It's a challenge to find books that I think everyone will enjoy and that will lead to an interesting discussion but I love it.

     If you are looking to meet people that have bookish interest like you and can't find anyone I highly suggest starting your own book club.  Meetup is a great place to do it, even though it is not free but you can change yearly dues.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The Fifth Vial

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.  
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!
This weeks teasers is from The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer
Ben decided to leave his .38 in the wheel well.  There was no way he was going to be in any situation he could ever shoot his way out of, especially given that he had never fired a gun at anything other than a shooting range target, and on those rare occasions, with no good skill.
-page 225 (hardback)

Don't forget to post a link to your teaser!

I want to read it.