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text 2016-04-20 13:19
Book Reviewer Interviews: John Green

So I got interviewed as a book reviewer as part of an ongoing feature over at BlondeWriteMore.  I think it went pretty well- I'm talking about me, after all- but I can't help but feel like I should've fleshed it out a bit more.  Ah, well. 


(reblogged from BlondeWriteMore)


Book Reviewer Interview


Welcome to my weekly series – Book Reviewer Interviews. 


I believe that book reviewers hold valuable insight for us writers and their answers to my interview questions make intetesting blog posts.


Please welcome my new book reviewer friend John Green and author of the blog Illuminite Caliginosus


John, thanks so much for sitting in my interview chair. Please tell us about yourself.


First one’s always the hardest. Lessee now- born, raised and still living in Brooklyn, NY. Wanted to be either a baseball player or paleontologist when I was little. Ended up joining the Marines instead, traveled the globe and can’t really say a bad word about my tour. To paraphrase Malcolm X: the plan was theirs, any mistakes were mine.

Worked for Virgin USA for over thirteen years; had a blast and met a lot of good people and had some great experiences. It was like getting paid for hanging out with your friends! If there ever was such a thing as a good retail job, that was it.


The last few years I’ve been in the Sports & Entertainment field; blogging and reviewing was something I kinda fell into, and I really enjoy doing it. I’ve met a lot of good and… interesting… people during my online career.


I’m also a member of Amazon’s Vine program and a former Top 1000 Reviewer on the site.


Been an avid & voracious reader all my life; I was that nerdy kid who’d always get “volunteered” to enter trivia contests, spelling bees, etc, and I always had to take something into the bathroom with me to read (once upon a time that wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Neither was being nerdy). One of these days I’ll finally finish my own novel and then get to see how the other half lives.


Anyone who wishes to contact me for any reason can do so via: Email / Booklikes /
WordPress / Twitter / Pinterest


What made you start reviewing books?


During my time at Virgin USA I was the Magazines Buyer for the NY stores, getting my hands on more books and reading material than I’d thought possible (rubs hands gleefully).


**The store was located in the same building where Random House had their offices, and I was on good terms with the building guys so they always let me know when RH would dump out books. Discovered a lot of new authors that way- good, bad and ugly. I’ll always be proud to call myself a Dumpster Diver.**


**Our UPS driver, Joe, offered to grab a few books for me while he was delivering up there, and part of the stack he brought back included the first three books of GRRM’s Song of Ice & Fire- all hardcovers with original artwork.**


After Virgin USA closed I spent a lot of time on Amazon buying even more books. I got in the habit of sifting through the reviews for recommendations, etc, and picked up on a few individuals I felt I could rely upon not to steer me wrong, like EA Solinas, Chibineko and others. I’d always been the one my friends and family would go to for a critique because they knew I was hard but fair, and it finally occurred to me that I should write a few reviews myself- sort of give back a little and have my say. Next thing I know I’m making steady progress through the ranks and I wondered what I could do with this.


How many books do you review a month?


It varies. I’ve slowed down over the past couple years; used to aim for maybe 5-10 a month, right now maybe half that. One of my goals is to clear out some of my TBR pile; I know- we ALL say that, but my work schedule affords me a lot of free time, so I have a good shot at it. I’ve still got stuff going back to the 2010 BEA I haven’t checked out yet.

What is your selection process for reviewing a book?


Nothing set in stone. The easy answer is “whatever catches my attention”, but defining that is the trick. I’m a very eclectic reader; I’ve always been chiefly into Fantasy/Sci-fi but right now I’m really into Steam/Diesel/Atompunk- though I haven’t seen much of the latter two so far. There’s also Lovecraftian Horror, which I think’s been under-appreciated but seems to be enjoying a renaissance now. Guess we can thank the oversaturated PNR/UF genres for that.


Both the blurb and the cover are key, of course- you never get a second chance at that first impression. There’s been quite a few eye candy covers that made me stop to check them out, only to get let down by the synopsis. So many books nowadays, especially in the YA genre, immediately drop the ball from sounding like carbon copies of each other that it’s hard to find anything worth investing time in. I swear you can choose ten, TEN, YA novels at random and the blurbs will all sound the same! How many Chosen Ones with Destined/Fated/Soulmates stories does the human race need? When’s the next Alice in Wonderland/Brothers Grimm ripoff due out? Will this end up being Gregory Maguire’s enduring legacy?


For me, it’s gotta be something at least a little different; whatever the genre it has to be something that makes it appear like the author actually had something to say- a story they wanted to tell and not just aping the latest trend to try and make a quick buck. And that gets harder to find every day.


A good one was Pagan by Andrew Chapman. It’s a PNR/UF/Horror series about vampires having existed for centuries but only certain agencies like the Catholic Church knew of them. All the books, movies, etc, served as misdirection and softening up for when they finally emerged and basically sucker-punched the entire human race. Some countries tried to make nice and assimilate them True Blood-style while others said F-that! Even the werewolves sided with humanity against the vamps. Made for a refreshing change of pace from sparkle-pires and woobie-wolves.


Read the rest of the interview here.

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text 2015-12-02 10:34
Kindle Novellas for December
Fields of the Fatherless - Elaine Marie Cooper
Knight of the Cross - Steven A. McKay
The Last Crusade - K T Tomb
Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni - Laurel A. Rockefeller
Caesar's Sword (I): The Red Death - David Pilling
Siege of Rome - David Pilling
1914 (The War Years Book 1) - James Farner
Season of the Raven - Denise Domning
Sons of York: Richard III and his Brothers (Tales of the White Boar Book 3) - J.P. Reedman
Sacred King: Richard III: Sinner, Sufferer, Scapegoat, Sacrifice - J. P. Reedman

Rather than feeling overwhelmed by my reading goal, I have found some quick Kindle reads to help me fit in my last nine books of the year. (Thanks to YouKneeK for reminding me of Goodreads' sorting by number of pages function!) If you are feeling the reading challenge pressure, check these out. They are mostly books that I have picked up for free at some point & are probably still free or inexpensive. I'm not sure if they meet everyone's definition of a novella, but they are all under 200 pages, and several are under 100 pages.


So, here it is, my second attempt at a December reading list. I also have Little Paris Bookshop and The Old Betrayal in progress. 2015 won't defeat me!

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review 2015-06-07 23:47
Boudicca by Laurel A. Rockefeller
Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni - Laurel A. Rockefeller

Set in the 1st century ancient Britannia, Rome is still attempting to expand their empire. This short, creative non-fiction historical account follows King Prasutagus of the Iceni and runaway Gaulish slave Boudicca.

The author does a good job of making these characters accessible to the reader by showing the story through their eyes. Events do move rather quickly as decades of their lives are covered in a mere 50 minutes. Luckily, I was able to connect with the characters quickly because of the first person point of view.

I found this an interesting, quick overview of Boudicca’s life during Roman conquest. The listener gets the clear idea of the culture clash between Romans and the various Britannic tribes. For instance, most, or perhaps all, of the Brittanic tribes held women as equal to men in most areas of life whereas the Romans felt a woman’s place was in the home or as a slave. The timeline had to move swiftly for most of Boudicca’s life to be covered in such a short amount of story time. I think this book would be of interest to those just getting into the historical fiction genre or for folks wanting a short recounting of Boudicca’s life and deeds. If you are looking for a history (not fiction) or a more in-depth historical fiction, this may not be for you. The author doesn’t steer clear of the harsher side of Boudicca’s life: slavery, battles, rape, etc. are included in this historical fiction, though the author does not go into graphic detail.

The book left me wanting more. Often drama was used, and perhaps over used, to get the poignant parts of Boudicca’s life across to the listener. I think this work would have been a little better if even 2 hours were given in which to tell Boudicca’s tale. For instance, the ending was pretty dramatic (if historically accurate) but I didn’t really understand Boudicca’s choice at the end as she fought her whole life to stay alive and free. Also, I wanted to know how her kinsman, loyal followers, etc. reacted on a personal level to her final choice.

The Narration: Richard Mann has a very nice voice. He put it to good use for the male characters. However, since much of the story is told through Boudicca’s eyes, I wonder why a female narrator wasn’t used. Mann had a distinct voice for Boudicca, though it could have used a touch more femininity to it.

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review 2015-02-16 00:00
Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni
Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni - Laurel A. Rockefeller Moira, a young girl asks for her mother, Keita, to tell her a story. This book is about Boudicca who was queen of the Iceni, a Celtic tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. It's a quick read explaining brief moments in history. I obtained a copy of Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni by Laurel A. Rockefeller from a Smashwords coupon code at the end of last year.

I'm pretty disappointed with this book. Though it has the interesting premise of history, I felt that this retelling was poorly planned and written. Events flash forward extremely quickly and we are left with little explanation as to what happens in each scene or between the scenes. It even flashes forward months and years at a time with barely any mention as to what happens in the missing portions. The characters, despite being based on real people, are lame representations. They do not feel even slightly genuine. The conversation between characters is unbelievable as well, moreso because the author has tried to base it on current day talk. Also, some characters act completely against the traits the author has given them.

The document I have of this book has links to a website, though once I visit them I find that they're not availible. I think this is particularly impractical because the author seems to be using these links as some sort of reference material, though they fail to properly explain these portions in the book. Without the necessary information on the matter, the characters seem to be kind of meaningless and lack the proper explanation. The author gives us links (that don't work) and expects us to read into the material ourselves. It seems that even they don't respect these people or times, especially not enough to give decent explanation to their own writing. I find this to be quite a lazy approach to writing.

Overall, I'm disappointed. Having read into the basic history of these people afterward, I feel that it could have been such a great story. Yet, as I've said above, the story has been poorly planned and written.
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review 2014-07-12 00:00
Boudicca: Her Story
Boudicca: Her Story - Thomas Jerome Baker I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. I am a history buff and I have read a lot of books about western civilization. However I was utterly surprised to find that I had never heard of Boudicca, the first Queen of England. The more I got into the story the more I fell in love with this amazing, woman.

What a remarkable individual! Her drive, her courage, her commitment to her beliefs and her people left me astonished. When her husband the king passed away in AD 60 she found herself facing one of the largest empires in those days the Romans. They were greedy and always looking to take over lands and fortune from others to expend and prosper in the most despicable way. In this story they zeroed on Boudicca’s fortune. It was stunning as to how she decided she was not going to let them destroy her life.

Thomas Baker did an amazing job in presenting the story in the most authenticated way possible. The book is very well written and the plot easy to follow. The author provides a wonderful mixture of emotions that keep you eager to turn the pages. This was an amazing way for me to learn a part of history I had totally missed, and l loved it.

The book is a combination of actual facts and fantasy that gives the story a wonderful touch of the author’s imagination. Boudicca’s feelings of hurt and anger, while trying to take revenge against the Romans for violating her daughter were heartfelt. As a mother I feel I would have gone to the ends of the earth just as she did to right a wrong against my family. This is the kind of thing that would make a human being utterly fearless.

Thomas Baker provided an amazing story that kept me glued to the pages. When I arrived at the end of the story I found myself wanting to read more. He makes his characters come alive in the reader’s mind and that was very intriguing to me. Boudicca was a woman so filled with courage, she would give everything including her life to make things right. This is a very powerful story that I would recommend to any person that loves history and is interested in values, integrity, and passion for doing the right thing.
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