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Hi dear readers:

I bring you two reviews of two books I’ve read recently. I’ve given both of them 5 stars although they couldn’t be more different.

Have a look and see what you think:

lost angeles

Lost Angeles. Trip to the edge of self-destruction

I came across this novel in Goodreads. I followed with interest the author’s reviews of other works and his blog and I must admit I loved the title. It had been on my `to read’ list for a while, and I’m pleased to say that I finally found the time to read it and I’m very pleased I did.
Lost Angeles reads like a memoir, but not your standard memoir (if there is such a thing). The book follows the protagonist, Doug, a young and articulate man from Belfast, and his travels/adventures in Los   Angeles. Doug is not in Los Angeles to see the sights, although the does see many sights (some that none of us would wish to see). From the beginning you realise that he’s there with a mission. You don’t come to realise quite how determined he is to self-destruct until much later in the book. He drinks, takes drugs, engages in casual sex, and drifts from cheap accommodation to even cheaper digs (including the `Lost Angeles’ of the title that used to be a place for sex for sale) all the time meeting real people. Some idiots, some nice but misguided, some lost and looking, some also drifters.
The reasons for Doug’s trip are slowly revealed through interspersed chapters about his life back home (I’m a bit reluctant to call them flashbacks. They’re memories, but too long, detailed and elaborate to be what’s more generally understood as flashback). You quickly realise that he’s mourning the end of what seems to have been his most significant relationship, but later you realise that there is more to it than that, and come to care and empathise with Doug even more. Because if there’s something notable about the novel is that despite behaviour that many of us would neither approve of, not adhere to, we like Doug. He might drive us insane if we met him but…whilst embarked on his self-destructive path he tries his hardest to help others and to do no harm. By the end you’re rooting for him and hope that against all odds things will work out for him.
A very personal novel, I truly enjoyed Lost Angeles. This is a novel for adults and I’d recommend it to anybody who wants to read about real people coping with life, as best they can. I look forward to many more books by Mr Louden.

Links:

e-book:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AG5NS30/

Paperback:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1477563644/

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In the Reign of the Ilev by Mary Meddlemore. A dystopia that resonates.

I have had the pleasure of reading two of Mary Meddlemore’s works before. Mary Meddlemore is a character in Forever After. A Dimensional Love Story, one of the novels I have read and loved and has also adopted the writing credits for In the Reign of the Ilev and The Seventh Sheep, a collection of four of the most whimsical and magical short stories I’ve ever read. My previous experiences meant that I was really looking forward to Ilev and it did not disappoint, although it is a very different read.

Ilev is classified under the category of Young Adult Science-Fiction, although it would appeal to readers of any age. It is the story of Nina, and 18 y old girl how is one of the Chosen Four who have been the successful ones in going through a selection process from between 40 promising youths in the City. Now the Four had to go through the Final Test and only one will be the Champion. All the champions become rulers of the City and are in charge of the Master Computer. You’ll tell me ‘not another one of these stories of youths fighting amongst themselves to survive’. Well, not really. The test consists in their being dropped some distance from the City and returning to it. Whoever is the first, will be the new Champion. Nina is very confident, egotistical, and only interested in fame, success, material things and power. She does not tolerate weaknesses or flaws and even notices that the previous champions all seem defective in some way. She goes through a number of strange experiences that make her question her identity (children do not live with their families but are all brought up together) and her perception of reality (is she hallucinating or it is really happening? Does she have feelings for Daniel, one of the other Chosen ones, or is somebody interfering with her brain?). She discovers wonderful places and beings but also horrific happenings. All the things that she thought she knew and were certain are not, and that makes her question herself and become more human.

It’s difficult to empathise with Nina at the beginning of the novel, although from her description it seems that she is a product of the society where she grew up. By the end she becomes a true heroine, confronting the terrible truth destroying and deadening civilisation, and she brings forth a new order. There is a price to pay for the changes that take place, but there is hope for new beginnings.

How does Ilev compare to other dystopian novels of the genre? There is action; there are interesting characters, fantastic situations, a love (?) interest…and much more. Nina is an interesting narrator, not knowingly unreliable (she does not care enough about other people’s opinions to lie) although she becomes confused as to the nature of reality at points. She grows and changes throughout the novel and comes to appreciate the value of cooperation, of stories, of history, and of freedom. Winning is no longer the main goal and total power becomes clearly identified with evil. The City in Ilev is a terrible creation but not so far away from our daily lives and experiences. You can’t help but compare your life with that of the inhabitants of the City and wonder if it’s time to become a Chosen one and destroy the order that’s keeping people from really experiencing life and the universe. Given a chance, would you be a Nina?

This novel could be read as a straight adventure sci-fi novel (although somewhat more challenging that many), but it has a message, learning points and reflections that would satisfy more sophisticated readers. I can only say that I hope Mary Meddlemore (and the writer behind her) keeps writing. I’ll keep reading her. I hope you do too.

Link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009GXHI84/

Thanks for reading and if you’ve liked it, leave a comment, share, and of course, don’t forget to CLICK!

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I’m bringing you as today’s guest author another writer I met through Twitter, who has been kind enough to agree to talk to us not only about her current novels and the coming ones in the Emilia  Cruz series, but also provides an insight into readers’ interests when looking at mystery novels. What are the most important elements of a mystery novel? Carmen decided to ask her readers. I leave you with Carmen Amato.

Carmen Amato’s Personal MysteryCarmen%20Amato

I recently asked readers on kindleboards.com which elements they found most important to a good mystery novel. Their choices were:

A. Flawed and complex characters (i.e John Rebus, Harry Hole)

B. Twisted plots that take precedence over character development

C. An unusual setting (i.e the Arkady Renko series set in Russia)

D.  Sense of humor (i.e. the Stephanie plum books)

E. Authentic forensic information (i.e. books by Patricia Cornwell)

The digital discussion was lively. The overwhelming majority of respondents voted for A and B. Readers want to see intriguing characters and plots that leave them wondering what will come next. Many felt that the two went together rather than having one predominate.

As a mystery writer I couldn’t agree more. Those two central concepts drive my mystery series featuring Emilia Cruz, the first and only female detective on the Acapulco police force. Drawing on my own experiences living in Mexico and Central America, the series takes on Mexico’s drug war and official corruption against the backdrop of the country’s rich cultural heritage.

The series launched last August with the Kindle exclusive novella MADE IN ACAPULCO and continues with the full-length mystery novel CLIFF DIVER which will be released to Kindle and in print on 30 January. The next book in the series is HAT DANCE, scheduled for release in summer 2013.

Here’s what the Emilia Cruz series has in store not only for kindleboard.com fans but for all mystery lovers:

The Main Character

The series is as raw and action-filled as the headlines coming out of Mexico today but just like the country, Emilia Cruz is both resilient and warm-hearted. An Acapulco native who had to grow up too fast, she’s been a cop for nearly 12 years and a detective for two; a woman in a squadroom that didn’t want her and is still seeking to break her. But Emilia isn’t afraid to defend herself and get what she’s rightfully earned. She’s a good liar, a fast thinker, a determined investigator and a mean kickboxer.

And she’s lonely.

Interesting Secondary Characters

Emilia doesn’t know how to handle gringo Kurt Rucker, the manager of a luxury hotel in Acapulco. A former soldier, he has the confidence and leadership qualities she admires. A triathlete, he’s calm under pressure and knows what he wants. But is Emilia ready for a relationship?

Her first high profile case will bring Emilia to the attention of Victor Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of Guerrero, and Acapulco’s ambitious mayor Carlota Mendoza Perez. Each has a dangerous personal agenda and the power to both help or hurt Emilia.

As an added fillip to the character line-up, there’s a revolving door in the detective squadroom and a different lieutenant will be in charge in each book.

Twisted Plots

There’s the Acapulco that tourists know; the sweep of the most beautiful bay in the world, the majesty of the clear blue Pacific, candlelit nights on the beach, and luxury hi-rises. There’s also the Acapulco that is a prize to be fought over by drug cartels–the city that is home to hookers and thieves, the streets where life is cheap and poverty is as pervasive as the wind off the ocean. Both of these versions of Acapulco will feature in the books, each clawing at the other and forcing Emilia to survive between them. No investigation will be easy, no crime will be simple.

The Special Sauce

A mystery series often has an extra bite if there is a continuing thread resolved only in the last book and the Emilia Cruz series is no exception. Throughout the series, Emilia keeps a log of women who have gone missing in Acapulco and she is always trying to find out what happened to them. They are las perdidas—the lost—and we’ll see how successful she can be.

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Enjoy the following excerpt and we’ll see you in Acapulco!

 

The diver stretched to his full extension then pushed off. His back arched and his arms went wide and he looked like a crucifix as he sailed over the rocks. His arms rose over his head and his hands came together right before he impacted with the water. A spume of froth shot skywards and he disappeared into the depths as the crowd on the plaza gasped and applauded.

The diver popped out of the water beyond the rocks and the crowd applauded again. It took a few minutes before the next diver climbed onto the tiny platform on the cliff face. He was older, with a black suit and a heavy torso, and a less athletic look than the first diver. When he carefully turned his back to the ocean the crowd murmured excitedly.

“He’s got guts,” Kurt said. The back of his hand brushed against hers.

The diver launched backwards off the cliff face and twisted in the air. As his body rotated close to the cliff the crowd gasped, but he made a clean entry into the ocean, the water rippling out around him. The applause was wild.

As the sun set, they watched the other men laboriously climb up the cliff face to the small natural platform, stretch and limber their muscles, and dive past the rocks to the perfect spot in the ocean far below.

“That’s me,” Emilia said as the youngest diver in the red suit stood poised on the platform again. The sinking sun was blood-streaked behind him, blotting out his swimsuit so that he looked naked and raw.

“What do you mean?” Kurt asked. His hand turned and a finger stroked the inside of Emilia’s thumb and forefinger.

“That’s me.” Emilia’s hand turned of its own accord and gently played with Kurt’s. He was looking at her, not at the cliff divers, and Emilia heard herself babble nervously. “Going off a cliff, not ready for it. Not knowing if I’m going to hit the rocks and be smashed to pieces or not.”

Emilia watched as the young diver swung his arms and rolled his neck and she wondered if he was doing it for the crowd’s benefit or if it was a release for his fear. He hunched his shoulders forward, then pulled them back. His knees bent and his thigh muscles rippled and then he launched himself into the air. For a moment he was silhouetted against the spectacular sunset and then he curled himself into a somersault. The crowd gasped in unison as his body rotated and his hair seemed to kiss the cliff face. Then he stretched out, straining for distance, and completed a soaring arc that plunged him into the water like an arrow shot from a bow and Emilia felt the strain and the pain and the rush of cold water.

Thank you very much for reading and thanks to Carmen for the mouthwatering excerpt from her novel and also for her insights into her creative methods.

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I have two announcements. You’ll be pleased to hear that I have two guests in my blog next week. My Friday guest is an author and dear Twitter friend and we’ve plenty of laughs in the last few months. I had to bring him here. My guest Tuesday is an artist whom I also met through Twitter, but he does not write books…Hopefully if technology doesn’t fail me this would be quite a different post to my usual ones as it will involve….music!

Before I forget…You must recall my post about blog of the Year 2012. Lovely Jenna Brooks has returned the favour and given me another star. Now, I’m not promising you it will be here because as I was telling you technology isn’t my strong point. But just in case I don’t manage…now I have 2 stars!

 

And of course I had to leave you with a reminder of my offerings.

‘The Man Who Never Was’

Mancover(EnAmaz)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TWRT22

And don’t forget my new series of novellas, Escaping Psychiatry about a psychiatrist and writer and her adventures.

‘Cannon Fodder’ (Escaping Psychiatry part 1)

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AKWO8Z6

‘Teamwork’ (Escaping Psychiatry part 2)

Teamwork2 V 0065

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AKWSQJA

And ‘Memory’ (Escaping Psychiatry Part 3)

Memorycover

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AKWVRCS

Thank you for reading!

Living in the Gap

“Ruffled feathers and endless squawking over a minor difficulty is typical of a crow’s life. I lean back on the counter and realize that could be my line….”

Opinión y actualidad

Opinión sobre noticias y asuntos de actualidad

Los escritos de Héctor Browne

Blog (algo literario y algo viejo) de un Licenciado en Letras, diplomado en edición, y Profesor de Lenguaje.

Priscilla Bettis, Author

The making of a horror novelist.

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