Thursday, May 21, 2015

Guest Post by Spencer Blohm - Can Wayward Pines be the Next Big Book Adaption?

The big network channels like Fox, NBC, and ABC, have traditionally featured programs that were tame in comparison to the edgier programs found on cable. The networks have always tried to appeal to the most people possible, and this has kept them from pushing the envelope in the past. In recent years; however, there has been a shift in audience preference. Audiences are thirsty for shows with dynamic characters that have a dark side, rather than the typical "good vs bad" story. It is for this reason that Wayward Pines, Fox's new suspense mini-series.

Wayward Pines is based off the Science Fiction thriller novel Pines by Blake Crouch. This novel was so successful that it spawned the Wayward Pines trilogy and became an international best-seller. The plot of the book follows a man named Ethan Burke, played by Matt Dillon in the series, who is a secret service agent assigned to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents in a small town by the name of Wayward Pines, Idaho. Burke gets into an accident on his way to town and wakes up with amnesia. Staying true to the "trapped in a strange town" genre, both the film and the movie follow burke as he slowly uncovers the strangeness surrounding Wayward Pines. Although it's too early to tell how close to the novel the series will stay, the big difference so far between the two seems to be plot vs. character.

This is the struggle that every novel that is made into a series or movie goes through. Pages of exposition describing character do not translate well to the screen. M. Night Shyamalan's specialty as a director has always been his plots. His characterization never exceeds the bare minimum necessary for the plot to work. Critics of some of his other works, like Lost, fear the plot for Wayward Pines will soon become ludicrous and the characters will be under-developed. The reality is these critics are forgetting Shyamalan is working off of someone else's script. In fact, the reason he got involved with the project is that he read a script by Chad Hodge and fell in love with the project. Also, the script is heavily inspired by the novel, especially when it comes to the characters. All Shyamalan has to do is make sure the characters are true Crouch's novel, and then he can focus on what he does best; creating drama and suspense leading up to the big reveal. It also helps that the big reveal was already worked out for him in the novel by crouch. All he has to do is focus on executing this in a way that resonates with a visual audience.

With that being said, there is some top-notch talent that should help bring these characters to life. Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke is one of those casting successes where you can feel the actor is the character. Terrence Howard, who is one of the stars of Fox's hit show Empire, plays the sinister sheriff of this small town. Mix in M. Night Shyamalan as Executive producer and director, and you have a recipe for an intriguing series. Many critics and fans alike have said the series has a Twin Peaks feel. This makes sense, as Crouch himself has admitted his novel was inspired by the plot of Twin Peaks, which involves a young FBI agent investigating strange happenings in a small town.

This 10 part mini-series is continuing the trend of Fox's shift towards edgier programming. It is a chance for Fox to wrestle away the younger demographic from popular cable shows and bring the ratings back to the networks, as evidenced by the early release of the pilot episode on-demand through DTV and Comcast. Any fans of the suspense genre should check out Wayward Pine when it airs May 14th on Fox.

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, culture, and lifestyle blogger. He lives and works in Chicago. When not working he can be found camped out in his apartment watching the latest films and newest television shows.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Author Interview with J.H. Moncrieff (The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave).

What is "The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave" about? 

Short answer? It's about a young boy's struggles with a cursed teddy bear. Deeper answer? It explores how it's human nature to be afraid of things we don't understand, and how that fear often triggers a very negative reaction.

How do you decide on a topic for one of your books?

I'm inspired by travel. Almost every trip I've taken has resulted in at least one novel idea. Often, it’s a 'what if' question that inspires me. I usually feel like I haven't chosen the topic so much as it's chosen me.
Would you consider "The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave" the darkest book you've written? Has it been the one that has affected you the most?

I don't know if it's the darkest, but it's quite disturbing in a lot of ways. I didn't expect Josh's relationship with his stepfather to get as ugly as it did. Part of me was afraid it would be too dark for Samhain, but I had to be true to the story and the characters.

What is your writing process like?

I have what I like to call an 'organic' writing process. I'll get a bit of an idea from something, and within a few days, a character will show up and start telling me the story. My job is to write down what the protagonist says as fast as I can.

What kind of research goes into it?

Maybe it's my journalism background, but I'm a stickler for accuracy, which can often mean a lot of research. Thankfully, I've found a professional researcher I can rely on, so I no longer have to spend weeks searching for details like whether or not slaves in 1700s Dutch Caribbean had pillows, or what dental care was like in ancient Egypt. From my very first professional novel, I relied on experts--I have a list of cops, firefighters, stunt drivers, forensic anthropologists, and even oilmen I can count on for fact-checking.

How did your writing evolve?

My first books were epic tales of a fish family who lived in terror of a bear that stalked them under the ocean. (Apparently I've got a thing for bears!) I was five when I wrote that series, and hopefully I've learned about a little thing we call 'suspension of disbelief' since then.

I think I used to fall into lazy writing when I was younger--characters that were caricatures, settings that were non-existent, etc. I strongly believe it's our job as writers to always push ourselves to be better than our last story--as long as we don't slip into the perfectionism trap.

What is currently on your own bookshelves? 

I love Stephen King, of course, but also Susan Hill, Daphne du Maurier, and the occasional John Saul. Barbara Kingsolver, Timothy Findley and Elizabeth Berg are my favorite literary writers, and I love Joanne Fluke's cozy mysteries. When John Douglas releases a book, I have to buy it--he's one of the first FBI profilers and one hell of a crime writer. I also love reading memoirs, non-fiction accounts about dark times and events in our history, and cookbooks.

What have you read recently that you've really enjoyed?

"The Ruins" by Scott Smith. I was surprised by how good that book was--it's simply brilliant, and very creepy. I also read a couple of short romances by Elle Rush--"Leading Man" and "Candy Cane Kisses." I don't usually read romance, but I quite enjoy her books.

Why scary stories? What attracts you to this genre?

Horror is very freeing. I've written mysteries and suspense thrillers, but in those genres, readers expect the guy to get the girl (or vice-versa) and the hero must triumph in the end. I love that calling something horror means you can do whatever you want and get as dark as you like. If a reader picks up a horror story, they know that anything can happen, and that's pretty exciting.

Since I never know how my own books will end, it's best to call them horror. That way, no one is disappointed when things get nasty.

What are you working on now?  
I'm working on a new twist on the sea-monster myth and a series of horror novels set in ancient Egypt.

Thanks for having me!

J.H. Moncrieff loves scaring the crap out of people with her books--when she's not busy being a journalist, editor, book doctor, and publicist. In her "spare" time, J.H. loves to travel to exotic locales, advocate for animal rights, and muay thai kickbox.

J.H. Moncrieff: Website | Twitter | Facebook
The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave: Amazon | Samhain | Kobo | B&N

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hudson Valley YA Society: Lance Rubin, Nova Ren Suma and Tommy Wallach.

Where: Oblong Books, Rhinebeck, NY.
When: Sunday, April 26, 2015.
Who: Lance Rubin (Denton Little's Deathdate), Nova Ren Suma (The Walls Around Us) and Tommy Wallach We All Looked Up).

It was a beautiful day for a drive upstate.  The sun was shining and flowers could be seen everywhere. I had almost forgotten what flowers looked like after this past winter.

After eating a delicious hamburger at Terrapin...wait, it wasn't just a "hamburger." I usually don't eat burgers out because I never feel well after and I always think the reason is the restaurant must use cheap meat.  However, this menu boasted local Hudson Valley meat.  Not only that, you could pick your bread, toppings and sauce.  I went for the burger on a soft brioche roll, topped with smoked Gouda and Maple Mustard sauce.  Yum.  Anyway, I digress. 

The authors started the event by telling a little bit about their books and reading from them.  One astute attendee stated that all their novels have a thematic similarity of death and they were asked to address this observation.  Nova explained that she was always interested in an afterlife and ghosts and feels there is a lot of drama and urgency of those moments.  Lance said that he thinks a lot about death and time.  He often asks himself, "Where was I two years ago? Three? Five?"  He then got the idea that what if you could look ahead to a date?  Would it change your life?

The story became a metaphor for what it means to be alive. ~Lance.

Tommy admitted that everytime he does something, he thinks about how many more times he'll get to do it.  For example, he's seen Star Wars 30 times.  He'll probably only get to see it 30 more times and then...that's it.  "It makes me sad." He confessed. 

Jennifer from Oblong Books.
What was the most challenging scene to write and what was the most fun?  Nova said that the murder scene was a bit frightening to write.  However, when she did, it surprisingly became fun because it was " not her."  She felt like she was channeling the moment and the terror.  Her most challenging was the beginning.  The opening few paragraphs took her four weeks.  Nova said that she has a way of not being able to move on without a starting point and many times felt like a failure.  "I couldn't find my way in."

It was very interesting to see that these published authors have as much doubt as anyone.  In Lance's novel, the self eulogy was fun to write and the hardest was a part in the book called "The Sitting" which is the time you are waiting to die. 

Tommy said there is a moment in the the book where two characters spend the night together.  He had a hard time with the morning after scene until he made it just dialogue and then it became the most fun.  The most challenging was the 2nd part of the book because it is structurally complicated.

How did they get to YA?  Tommy said he wrote six books before his published one. He had no intention of writing YA, but then the YA idea came to him. Lance always thought he was going to be an actor and did some acting and screenplays.  (He is also the voice of the Berenstein Bears.) However, he eventually realized the lifestyle of an actor wasn't what he wanted. He read Hunger Games and had a "What if?" moment and he put the idea for a screenplay into his book.  Nova observed that none of them came to YA intentionally.  She had an MFA and was mostly writing short stories and adult novels (literary fiction). When she worked at Harper Collins she was a Production Editor and came across the book Feathered by Laura Kasischke and was blown away.  "This is YA?" She thought and realized that this is what she should be writing.

Their advice for writers? Lance advised that you should treat your writing as if you already have a career in writing.  Focus on the doing of it.  Tommy stated simply, "Write."  Start writing what you want to write. 

What I loved about this event was that it wasn't so much a Q&A, but more of a discussion.  The authors fed off each other's comments and contributed to a conversation that was inspiring and exciting.

~I am giving away one (1) signed copy of The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

City of Masks - Audio.

Title/Author: City of Masks, A Cree Black Thriller #1.

Read by: Anna Fields.

Genre: Supernatural

Publisher: Blackstone Audio.

Source: Library.

Synopsis:  In City of Masks, the first Cree Black novel, parapsychologist Cree and her partner take a case in New Orlean's Garden District that leaves them fearing for their own lives. The 150-year-old Beauforte House has long stood empty, until Lila Beauforte resumes residence and starts to see some of the house's secrets literally come to life.  Tormented by an insidious and violent presence, Lila finds herself trapped in a life increasingly filled with childhood terrors.  It takes Cree's unconventional take on psychology and her powerful natural empathy with Lila to navigate the dangerous worlds of spirit and memory, as they clash in a terrifying tale of mistaken identity and murder.

Midnyte Musings: I have very mixed feelings about this book.  It is about a "ghost buster," so that alone sold me.  Also it takes place in New Orleans, double win.  I also appreciated the fact that the main character Cree (short for Lucretia) is in her 40s, so I could relate to her better than the young ingenues who dominates most stories. 

I enjoyed the debate of whether ghosts exist and why they exist and exactly what they are.  I find discussion on this theory very intriguing.  Cree explained that the people who see ghosts are like people who can hear higher frequencies.
There's only one world, this one.  It's just bigger and stronger than we know. ~Cree.
The ghost story is intriguing and I enjoyed that part.  In fact a few of the creepy parts are SO creepy they made my heart pound.  Some of it reminded me of the manifestations in The Shining or the movie Poltergeist.  Unfortunately, those passages are few and far between.  I agree that a good ghost or Horror story doesn't need many ghostly encounters or it would be gilding the lily, however, the other creepy parts just didn't have the same impact.  There is one part of the story when Cree stated that Lilah told her " of the most terrifying tales..." and then it was second hand and it was telling, not showing.  

The writing was good for the most part.  I could envision the mansions in the Garden District, the terrain of the gardens, the levee, but I think the author could have pushed it a bit more.  I don't want to read that a character reminded someone of Alan Alda, I want it to be described.  Describe his friendly face and hangdog expression.  Descrebe his sharp nose and downturned eyes.  Also, there were was just a few ramblings as well.  To describe a feeling she compared it to the first time she saw a tornado, but I feel it delved into it a little too much.  The plot was also pretty predictable and it was annoying me that Cree couldn't see see something that was obvious.

There is also a love triangle between Cree, her co-worker and the family doctor she meets during her journey, but it definitely wasn't the main storyline of the book.  My favorite character was Judith, the receptionist at her office.

Narration: The narration was very effective and Anna Fields portrayed the characters well.  I would have liked to have seen more drama from Cree.  My favorite was Judith and how she portrayed her heavy Long Island accent.
City of Masks is entertaining and I liked the fact it took place in NOLA.  I would recommend it for a light and easy read for fans of paranormal mysteries.  

Other Editions:


Monday, March 9, 2015

Life As We Knew It.

Title/Author: Life as we Knew It (Last Survivors #1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Genre: Post Apocalyptic, YA.

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers. 

Source: Purchased.

Synopsis: Miranda's disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth.  How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun?  As summer turns to Arctic winter, Mirander, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart pounding story of Miranda's struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all -- hope -- in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

Midnyte Musings:  I have to admit a guilty pleasure of mine is "disaster porn."  All those bad movies with tidal waves and asteroids and polar ice caps melting...there is something very appealing about them to me.  I guess I like seeing how people people behave and how they survive, not to mention all the geological changes that happen. 

In Life as We Knew It, the disaster is when an asteroid crashes into the moon and moves it much closer to earth.  Eeek!  Told by teenager Miranda in a series of journal entries, we learn how the world changes and how she and her family cope. 

I don't know if you'd call it overly exciting, but I found it very interesting and compelling.  Even when they are simply trying to figure out how to do laundry I found it interesting. 

I liked Miranda, but wasn't totally drawn to her.  However, I did enjoy how she wasn't a Mary Sue.  She is, at times, selfish, sullen and jealous - which is in keeping with a teenage girl, but she matures and grows throughout the book.  A lot of the writing seems to be the same, repetitive thoughts, which I guess is what a teenage girl has as well, but this didn't deter from my enjoyment of the story and what she was going through.  What I did admire was her attitude.  She knew there was a good chance she might die and if it were me, I would be freaking out.  Miranda, did sometimes get morose, but she had a good attitude.  She basically just wanted to live as long as she could and that's what she strove for; not only for herself but for her family as well.  The other revolving characters added to the story as well, her mother and her two brothers.  She talks about her relationship with each of them and how they change throughout the book and become stronger. 

Some parts of the book were tragic and heartbreaking and I don't know much about science to understand if everything that could happen, would happen, but this was an easy to read book.  I already looked up the sequels and will be reading them as well. 

An interesting look at the survival of one girl and how she and her family cope with a post-apocalyptic setting that is suddenly thrust upon them. 

Other Editions:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Title/Author: Brood by Chase Novack.

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction. 

Publisher: Mulholland Books.

Source: Library.

Adam and Alice are reaching the age when some of the children created by the fertility treatment that spawned them begin to turn feral. Will they succomb to the same physiological horror that destroyed their parents? Every change brings on terror--the voice cracking as it changes, the swelling of the breasts, the coarsening of down into actual hair. Their aunt, Cynthia, oversees renovations to the Twisden family's Manhattan residence--torn apart by the children's parents at their most savage--and struggles to give her niece and nephew the unconditional love they never had. Meanwhile, in the world outside, the forces of good and evil collide as a troop of feral offspring threatens to invade the refuge Cynthia is so determined to construct behind the Twisdens' walls.
Midnyte Musings: Brood, is just as strange and entertaining as it's predecessor, Breed.  The story follows Adam and Alice after they are adopted by their aunt Cynthia after the death of their parents.  They return to the home they grew up in, but adjusting to a "normal" life is very difficult.  Unfortunately, the twins are products of their parent's controversial fertility treatments for which they had to go out of the country to obtain.

In the first book we discover that there are hundreds if not thousands of children who are the product of these fertility treatments.  These offspring have also had effects of the treatment (some mild, some extreme) passed onto them.  They find solace by finding their own kind and living on the fringes of society.  I can't help but wonder what's out there, or who's out there in New York City's hidden spots and crevices.

I did appreciate the setting and could easily visualize the areas of Central Park, East Side neighborhoods and the sidewalks of Park Avenue as the characters occupied them. 

The story is told in several different points of view, the twins, Aunt Cynthia, and even some villains who are after these children for their own reasons.  I have to admit, I really only cared about Adam and Alice's and Cynthia's story for the most part.  Either the other characters appeared too briefly or I just didn't connect to them.  I would have liked to have seen more of the pyschology of the twins and what they were really going through and what they thought of what they were going through.  They just seemed to accept it.

Novack does a great job convincing me to believe the strange and sometimes fantastical turn of events in this story.  From runaways, to a mayor's son going missing to a hidden population and their darkest secrets. 

I don't think that a lot was resolved in this story, but I still feel it is an easy book to read and the pages flew by.  That being said, the style was simple and some may say a bit too simple, but it detract from my own enjoyment of the story.

Brood leans toward over the top but I found it imaginative and fun.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Feature & Follow - Save your books! (2/26/2015).

Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Click on the links to visit their blogs and find out more about this great meme.

This weeks Question:
Your house is burning down and you have time to select three books you own to take with you. What three books?
Oh sure! Only three?  I have several signed books by Robert McCammon so probably one of those, one of my signed Charles de Lint books and my signed book of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

What 3 books of yours would you save?

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