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review 2017-05-20 19:48
For readers with a good attention span who enjoy Hitchcockian suspense set within the world of science and books about writers
The Planck Factor - Debbi Mack

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber and the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely decided to review.

This thriller (technothriller according to Amazon) tells a complex story, or rather, tells several not so complex stories in a format that can make readers’ minds spin. A thriller about a student who decides, on a dare, to write a genre book (a thriller) and whose life becomes itself another thriller, one that seems to mix spies, conspiracies, terrorism, the possibility of the end of the world, and it all relates to quantum physics. (Or, as she describes it in the book: “…a suspense story with a hint of science fiction and a touch of espionage at its heart.”) The parallelisms between the story of Jessica Evans (the protagonist) and that of her fictional character, Alexis, become more convoluted and puzzling as the book progresses and the astounding coincidences will ring some alarm bells until we get to the end and… It is a bit difficult to talk about the book in depth without giving away any spoilers, but I’ll try my hardest.

This book will be particularly interesting for writers, not only because of its storytelling technique (talk about metafiction) but also because of the way the main protagonist (a concept difficult to define but Jessica is the one who occupies the most pages in the book and her story is told in the first person) keeps talking (and typing) about books and writing. No matter how difficult and tough things get, she has to keep writing, as it helps her think and it also seems to have a therapeutic effect on her. It is full of insider jokes and comments familiar to all of us who write and read about writing, as it mentions and pokes fun at rules (“Show, don’t tell. Weave in backstory. Truisms, guides, rules, pointers—call them what you will… And adverbs. Never use an adverb.”) and also follows and at the same time subverts genre rules (we have a reluctant heroine, well, two, varied MacGuffins and red herrings, mysteries, secrets, traitors and unexpected villains… and, oh yes, that final twist).

Each one of the chapters starts with the name of the person whose point of view that chapter is told about —apart from Alexis’s story, told in the third person, written in different typography, and usually clearly introduced, there are chapters from the point of view of two men who follow Jessica, so we know more than her, another rule to maintain suspense, and also from the point of view of somebody called Kevin, who sounds pretty suspicious— and apart from Jessica’s, all the rest are in the third person, so although the structure is somewhat complex and the stories have similarities and a certain degree of crossover, there is signposting, although one needs to pay attention. Overall, the book’s structure brought to my mind Heart of Darkness (where several frames envelop the main story) or the Cabinet of Dr Caligary (although it is less dark than either of those).

As you read the story, you’ll probably wonder about things that might not fit in, plot holes, or events that will make you wonder (the usual trope of the amateur who finds information much easier than several highly specialised government agencies is taken to its extremes, and some of the characteristics of the writing can be amusing or annoying at times, although, whose story are we reading?) but the ending will make you reconsider the whole thing. (I noticed how the characters never walked, they: “slid out”, “shimmied out”, “pounded”, “bounded down the steps”, “clamored down”…) As for the final twist, I suspected it, but I had read several reviews by other members of the team and kept a watchful eye on the proceedings. I don’t think it will be evident to anybody reading the story totally afresh.

The novel is too short for us to get more than a passing understanding and connection with the main character, especially as a big part of it is devoted to her fictional novel, (although the first person helps) and there are so many twists, secrets and agents and double-agents that we do not truly know any of the secondary characters well enough to care. Action takes precedence over psychological depth and although we might wonder about alliances, betrayals and truths and lies, there are no complex motivations or traumas at play.

Due to the nature of the mystery, the novel will also be of interest to those who enjoy stories with a scientific background, particularly Physics (although I don’t know enough about quantum physics to comment on its accuracy). A detailed knowledge of the subject is not necessary to follow the book but I suspect it will be particularly amusing to those who have a better understanding of the theory behind it. (The author does not claim expertise and thanks those who helped her with the research in her acknowledgements). The book also touches on serious subjects, including moral and ethical issues behind scientific research and the responsibility of individuals versus that of the state regarding public safety. But do not let that put you off. The book is a short, fast and action-driven story that requires a good attention span and will be particularly enjoyed by writers and readers who enjoy complex, puzzle-like mysteries, or more accurately, those who like stories that are like Russian dolls or Chinese boxes.

I enjoyed this book that is clever and knowing, and I’d recommend in particular to readers who are also writers or enjoy books about writers, to those who like conspiracies, spies and mysteries, especially those with a backstory of science and physics, and to people who prefer plot-driven books and who love Hitchcock, Highsmith and Murder She Wrote.

 

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url 2017-05-17 16:31
When Good Characters Behave Despicably (and They Should)

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review 2017-05-01 02:22
Lost Landscape
The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age - Joyce Carol Oates,Cassandra Campbell

 

 

Although I have read quite a few of Joyce Carol Oates's works, since she is so prolific, I think I've just barely scraped the surface.  One of the things I admire about her is her eclecticism.  She doesn't confine herself to any one genre nor fall back on any sort of a formula.

 

Probably the first book of hers that I read was Them.  I recall it was on my parents' bookshelf.  My dad was in her graduating class at Syracuse University, and he used to tell me with some pride that he and she were both on the school paper, The Daily Orange.  While I was a PhD student in the 1990s, she gave a talk at my university, and I was lucky to be chosen to attend the post-talk dinner.  She couldn't have been a more gracious dinner companion.  And no, she didn't remember my dad, but I didn't necessarily expect her to!

 

I enjoyed this memoir, and it made me realize how little I knew about Oates's personal life.  One of the things I enjoyed was the afterword, in which she makes a distinction between "memoir" and "autobiography" and explains which elements and details she had changed in order to protect the privacy of some of the people she wrote about.  She also described some of the people and events she did not include and explained why she made that choice.  Ever the teacher, she teaches her readers about the text they have just read.

 

The narrator of the audiobook has a very pleasant voice, though it often struck me how unlike the author's voice it is.  Like the word "demure."  I recall at the talk she gave at my university, Oates sharing with incredulity that people are always expecting her to be demure.  And her pronunciation of the word, in her Western New York accent, sounds quite different from the narrator's rendition.  Still a good reading, though.

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review 2017-04-12 20:37
Magdalene, by Marie Howe [poetry]
Magdalene: Poems - Marie Howe

I began reading Marie Howe when I was an undergrad taking my first poetry workshops. At first, I wasn't sure I liked her style, which is deceptively simple or plain. This was a contrast to many other poets I was introduced to at the same time, such as Mark Doty and Yusef Komunyakaa. But somewhere along the line, I fell in love with her aesthetic, and that first book of hers I read, What the Living Do, remains a favorite and a touchstone.

 

I now recognize and admire the delicate straightforwardness of Howe's language, which packs as much power as any formal poem or one with more verbal jujitsu. Her lines can be long, with lots of room between them or stanzas. They feel quiet, contemplative, so when there's a turn or revelation coming, it heightens the impact. I'm trying to explain her appeal, but part of it is that I can't. Or I could if I analyzed it to death, and I prefer letting the magic linger.

 

The poems' subjects range from desire to mental health, self-perception, spirituality, and motherhood. Though I don't read the book like one overarching narrative, it does feel like there's an arc; there's a fullness to that arc that somehow replicates the sensation of completing a big, fat novel. You have an idea of a life.

 

Here's a favorite:

 

How the Story Started

 

I was driven toward desire by desire.

believing that the fulfillment of that desire was an end.

There was no end.

 

Others might have looked into the future and seen

a shape inside the coming years --

a house, a child, a man who might be a help.

 

I saw his back bent over what he was working on,

the back of his neck, how he stood in his sneakers,

and wanted to eat him.

 

How could I see another person, I mean who he was--apart from me--

apart from that?

 

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text 2017-04-05 07:05
Release Blitz - Writing My Own Destiny
 


 
 

Purchase TODAY

 

Blurb:

 
 
‘We love Aussies,’ they said, ‘the readers will eat you up’.


Those seven little words got me on a plane to the USA for the ‘Raunchy with a touch of sexiness – Valentine’s Day Author Event’ in Miami.

I’m a romance author. A girl with a vivid imagination, and an overactive sex drive. 

Oh, and yes I’m Australian

When I agreed the so-called love of my life had just walked out on me, leaving me with two little girls. All I wanted was a little fun and some no strings attached fun while I was there. 

It would be my very own ‘what happens in Miami, stays in Miami’.

Unless I fall in love with an American....

There’s no such thing as a happily ever after in real life.

 
 
 
Add to your TBR: http://bit.ly/2mRrOrh

 

 
 
 
 
 

About Stacey Johnston:

Stacey Johnston was raised in Perth, Western Australia. She is a wife and mum to four children.


Having been an avid reader most of her life, Stacey finds herself most at ease when she can lose herself in stories of romance and mystery.

Stacey has a creative way of bringing suspense into her stories which keeps her reader hanging onto every word to find out how it ends.

 

Follow Stacey Johnston:

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

 

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