Tuesday, November 3, 2015

ESTHER by Rebecca Kanner - Review

From the award-winning author of Sinners and the Sea comes a breathtaking new look into the timeless tale of Queen Esther.

A glittering Persian king has a vast empire that reaches farther than where the sun meets the horizon. He is bathed in riches and commands a frightening military force. He possesses power beyond any other mortal man and rules his kingdom as a god. Anything he desires, he has. Any woman he wants, he possesses. Thousands of them. Young virgins from all across his many lands.

A Jewish girl is ripped from her hut by the king’s brutish warriors and forced to march across blistering, scorched earth to the capitol city. Trapped for months in the splendid cage of the king’s palace, she must avoid the ire of the king’s concubines and eunuchs all while preparing for her one night with the king. Soon the fated night arrives, and she does everything in her power to captivate the king and become his queen.

But wearing the crown brings with it a new set of dangers. When a ruthless man plies the king’s ear with whispers of genocide, it is up to the young queen to prevent the extermination of the Jews. She must find the strength within to violate the king’s law, risk her life, and save her people.

This is a story of finding hidden depths of courage within one’s self. Of risking it all to stand up for what is right.

This is the story of Queen Esther.

Wow. Wow wow wow. This book, holy crap, this book, you guys! This is Queen Esther like you’ve never heard it told before—i.e., what it might have REALLY been like. When you hear Bible stories, they’re always wrapped up so prettily. Oh sure, there’s mention of how all these virgins are grabbed up and all the concubines of the king, but that’s all brushed over because… GOD. God was doing His stuff, yo! God saves His people again! Oh yeah, through this chick called Esther, but...God! It’s all so nice and sanitized, just like our pretty Sunday School dresses.

So you know, little details of what it must have been like living among the backstabbing harem and all the politics of palace life and the positioning that must have been necessary to keep Esther alive, not to mention the sex that was happening, cause you know—harem of concubines!—none of that was ever part of the story. But Kanner brings Esther-the-woman alive. From a terrified (but always strong) girl being stolen from her bed to the wise and canny queen, Esther always feels real. Getting to take the journey from her perspective is thrilling. I couldn’t put the book down, as in literally, I read it in a single day.

What I didn’t expect going in was the almost Game of Thrones-esque palace intrigues. Esther has her team of insiders and informants, but Haman is an insidious adversary as good as any Lannister. Sometimes Esther outsmarts Haman, sometimes she doesn’t and the battle between them for the easily swayed King can get bloody. All in all, a thrilling novel that’s by turns heart-breaking, hopeful, and one that will ultimately change the way you think about this legendary woman forever. Five stars.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Cover Reveal & $50 Amazon Gift Card GIVEAWAY!

My new complete series is now LIVE! Here's the cover reveal for book II, House of Stone, the conclusion of my epic wartime romantic historical fiction series, for fans of Outlander and The Bronze Horseman. 

In WWII Romania, Tsura, a young Roma (gypsy) woman, has no choice but to leave her lover, Andrei, behind and marry the grandson of the man whose basement she and Andrei have been hiding in. An epic WWII saga, for fans of The Bronze Horseman and Outlander. 

“It won’t be a real marriage.” Tsura put her hands to Andrei’s shirt and pulled him in close. “I’ll never share a bed with him. I love you. I only do what I have to do to keep us all safe. Once the war ends, it’ll be as if it never was.” She caught his face in her hands. “I am only yours, Andrei.” 

“Yes, you’re only mine,” Andrei bent over and growled in her ear. “When you put on that dress for him and walk down the aisle in that ugly goy church,” he kissed her hard before putting a strong hand to the back of her neck, pulling her forehead to his, “you think of me, here. When you say your vows to that man, you remember that it’s me who has owned and claimed your body tonight.” He again pressed his lips to hers.


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Monday, August 10, 2015

What is Literary Voice? How Does a Writer Find Voice?

As writers we hear a LOT about this word: voice. So much so, it almost begins to take on magical connotations. Agents demand it. Editors reject piles and piles of manuscripts for not having it. We’re told to discover it, like it’s a hidden jewel in our soul, and if we mine deep enough, we’ll find it!
*insert discordant scratch on record player*
It took me a long time to realize that the words of the all-wise Inigo Montoya apply here: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
When people talk about ‘voice’ like the hidden jewel to discover in themselves, they mean it in the poetic, stylistic sense, like on Project Runway when the judges are say, that designer has a distinctive point of view or ‘voice.’ They mean, there is a sense of visual and artistic cohesion to their pieces, in the way that you can tell an impressionist is different from Picasso is different from Jackson Pollack. Or in Project Runway terms, Seth Aaron’s in-your-face dramatic sensibilities are very different from Anya’s flowing, feminine, wearable drapey dresses are different from Mondo’s style. This use of the term ‘voice’ is very useful for the visual arts and for writing poetry.
However, it’s NOT AT ALL USEFUL in the practical sense for fiction writers, because, unless you’re writing literary fiction (and even then, only rarely), voice is meant to be about the voice of your CHARACTER, not about your authorial stylistic voice. When agents and editors reject manuscripts for voice, it’s because the voice of thecharacter’s personality isn’t coming through. Ironically, because of this false idea of what voice is, authors are over-writing with their prose styles and not letting character’s voices speak.
Because here’s the kicker: readers rarely care about how pretty or well constructed your sentences are. All readers (and agents and editors) want is to get pulled emotionally into a story. Which is accomplished through your character feeling like a fully-realized, complex human—via voice. Voice is merely the term to encompass all the ways this full character realization is translated onto the page (in every single line of text) through:
  1. Internal Thought and Reflection
  2. Observation and Description
  3. External Dialogue
  4. Movement (as in, blocking the movement of the characters within the setting, like actors on a stage)
How does your character see the world? What are they like? Down to earth? Snobby? Intellectual and detached? Overly empathetic? You as the writer have to be in their heads, whether you’re writing in first person or third. That’s where you discover voice—not in yourself, but in your character. It’s not how you see the world that matters, it’s how they see it.
Do they have a penchant for gambling or drugs? They’ll always want to align themselves with the person in the room likeliest to give them their next fix. Every thought in their head, observation they make, thing they say, and movement they make is to get them closer to this goal. Through this, the reader should feel their personality because the reader is in their heads. As the writer, it’s your duty to see and write through the lens of the character. It’s up to you to get in their minds. Remember, you’re telling their story, not yours. Get as close to them as you can, even down to the language level—this is where their personality can shine through.
When I began to shift my paradigm to think this way, writing began to feel like an entirely different animal. And that’s when my (pile of) rejection slips started turning into acceptance notices.
Here’s my nice and fancy definition of voice to hang your hat on:
The manner of language by which an author expresses personality to narrate a story. Voice is used to close the distance between narrator and reader so that the reader is immersed in the ‘feel’ and personality of the story that the author intentionally means to convey. All language—every line of text—including internal thought, observation, movement, and external dialogue should be filtered through voice.
I'll be teaching a class online this Fall on this topic if anyone's interested, here's a little intro video below.

Open to anyone, anywhere. For more deets, click here: The Loft Literary Center

Monday, May 4, 2015

Big News - I have a new book coming out!

I was updating my website to include the new book I have coming out next year and realized I hadn't even mentioned it here yet! Gah, it's been a crazy busy month! So yes! I have a new book coming out next spring, a dark, twisty mystery with a little bit of sexy thrown in. It's called Girl Last Seen and I co-wrote it with the always fabulous Anne Greenwood Brown. She wrote one of the big main characters (Lauren) and I wrote the other (Jude). Here's the deets:

Lauren DeSanto never cared about the fame. The same could not be said for her best friend and bandmate Cadence Mulligan, who spent all her time promoting their music on YouTube. Even when their videos went viral, all Lauren cared about was their lyrics and their friendship. But when an infection paralyzed Lauren’s vocal cords and she could no longer sing, Cadence had no choice but to go solo.

Cadence’s star is rising. That is, until she goes missing after playing a small show at the local coffee shop where Lauren works. All eyes turn to Lauren and suspicion turns to accusations when blood evidence is discovered on Lauren’s work shirt and motive is found in a terrible fight between the two former friends over Cadence’s boyfriend.

And then there’s Jude Williams. He’s recently moved back to town with a vendetta against both girls. The problem is, as much as he tries to hate Lauren, he finds himself feeling sympathetic when the town and then the national media condemn her. After all, he knows what it’s like to be accused. It was Lauren’s false accusations that ruined his life.

As Lauren and Jude work together to reveal the twisted life of Cadence Mulligan, neither knows if the other is indeed searching for the truth or playing an elaborate game to cover his or her own sins. They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But it’s hard to know what to do when you don’t know which is which.

Add it to your Goodreads, I can't wait to share this one with you guys. It comes out Spring of next year. And stay tuned here and at my FB page - we'll be doing giveaways and other fun things when we've got a cover to reveal :D 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Review - Love on the Ledge by Zoraida Córdova

Book Summary:
Sky Lopez thought she had it all—the perfect job, the perfect relationship, the perfect life…until she discovers her not-so-perfect boyfriend has been cheating on her. So when her uncle asks her to help plan his Hamptons wedding, Sky jumps at the chance, leaving all of her “perfect” future plans in the rearview mirror.

The wedding doesn’t prove as good a distraction as she’d hoped, because when her relatives and friends find out she’s single, they put Sky in their match-making sights. Never mind that she’s only twenty four. Never mind that she doesn’t want to settle for anyone other than Mr. Right. Seemingly everyone in Sky’s life wants her to get married and have babies. Like, yesterday.

So when Hayden—a sweet, sexy roofer—plummets through the ceiling and practically falls into her lap, she can’t help but think that maybe nice guys do just fall from the sky.

Soon Sky finds herself juggling crumbling wedding plans, the cheating ex who’s trying to win her back, the cute plastic surgeon her family thinks is perfect for her, and the hot roofer she can’t seem to get off her mind.

As the wedding date draws closer, Sky will need to choose one—or none—to keep herself from falling off the ledge, and maybe into love.

My Review:
So much fun! You just get to step into this huge, crazy family (and friends so close they feel like family) and are swept in from the first chapter. The book takes place as Sky prepares for her uncle’s wedding and it has all the antics of a big family wedding. But it’s more than that, too. Sky has been burned bad by her ex and the last thing in the world she is look for is love. Until a hunky roofer literally falls through the ceiling and into her path.

Their romance is so real. Sky is wary of starting anything. She’s not looking for a rebound guy, and Hayden has hurts from his own past. But they are continually drawn to one another. Watching them spend more and more time together was such a pleasure to read. It was so genuine. That was the best part about this book. The realness of it in the family dynamics, the relationship, the conversations. Gah. I just downed this book. If you're into books with heart that make you laugh your butt off, I highly recommend Love on the Ledge.

Publish Date: May 5, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Samantha Young's HERO

Alexa Holland’s father was her hero—until her shocking discovery that she and her mother weren’t his only family. Ever since, Alexa has worked to turn her life in a different direction and forge her own identity outside of his terrible secrets,. But when she meets a man who’s as damaged by her father’s mistakes as she is, Alexa must help him.

Caine Carraway wants nothing to do with Alexa’s efforts at redemption, but it’s not so easy to push her away. Determined to make her hate him, he brings her to the edge of her patience and waits for her to walk away. But his actions only draw them together and, despite the odds, they begin an intense and explosive affair.

Only Caine knows he can never be the white knight that Alexa has always longed for. And when they’re on the precipice of danger, he finds he’ll do anything to protect either one of them from being hurt again…

This was my favorite Samantha Young book since On Dublin Street. We’re so familiar with the hot CEO trend (and my fear going into this book was that it would feel like the same old, same old). Instead, Young brings a fresh take on CEOs because none Alexa and Caine, yes, but none of that insta-love or even insta-lust crap that drives me so crazy. Neither was there a point somewhere in the novel where Caine stops being a real person and turns into a two-dimensional ‘alpha male’ stereotype like so many authors are writing these days.

Alexa too escapes a common trap of being a weak female lead. All of her choices throughout the novel feel realistic and really hit you gut emotionally. She fights hard but is able to be vulnerable too and it’s this combination as she tries to tear down Caine’s walls that keeps you flipping pages. Gah, such a great book. Five star read for me.