Read & Reviewed (book I've read; not my books)

The Contradiction of SolitudeThe Contradiction of Solitude by A. Meredith Walters

I'm 46% done with The Contradiction of Solitude: This book is giving me my writing groove back. This book is so well written! It's been a long time since a book swayed me with words. Like The Sea of Tranquility kind of sway. Or, Gone Girl. Or, Falling Under. Or, Unteachable. This book has all of that. This book is why I write. This books inspires me TO WRITE. I'm almost afraid to finish it because I think I know what's coming, but it's so damn good and powerful. ♥ — Mar 13, 2015 03:34PM —

I included my previous status update in this final review because I think it's important to mark the place that I was coming from, and where it lead me to...

The Contradiction of Solitude had a number of things going for it.

The writing was beautiful; the story was not.

The foreboding for me started about halfway through, literally, just after this status update when I picked the book back up to finish it. It's the curse of being a writer who reads.

Deep breath and a big sigh

So, here we go...

From a writerly standpoint, it's important to have a character arc. It's okay to have more than one POV and even make those narrators unreliable, but you must have an arc in your characters. In other words, a character must change and must be three-dimensional to be believed all the way to the end. Believability is essential to keep the reader engaged.

I got lost about halfway through, and that's too bad.

To my original premise, you must have character arc and it must be believable. It wasn't.
(view spoiler)
It's a big story from my writerly point-of-view...
Big stories can get like that, but every facet must be dealt with. You cannot gloss over small details. The story must hold together.

That's all I'm going to say. If you hear and feel the heartbreak in my final summation in comparison to the original enthusiastic status update I gave, then you can imagine how it feels writing this review. I'm a little sick about it. But I can't just leave it, especially since I started out with such a rave status update.

The thing is...

The thing's five-star writing with what devolved into a story I am unable to rate. At all.

I won't be the only one.


On Amazon this book has 80 reviews and nine of those are 1-stars. The majority of which look like they are from her fans... I don't like books with secrets that never get truly resolved. It tends to mislead readers. Readers like to know what they are going to experience. It's a writer's job to let them know. It's not good business to upset your fans. It's just not. It's okay to take a risk, but resolution that makes sense is also key to taking that risk in the first place. Just sayin'...

It really goes back to character arc for me. There was not one redeeming quality about Layna. Not one. She needed one.

So, Ms. Walters, next time you go out on a limb with your fiction have someone else beta proof it for you. I would gladly assist you. It was a big story, but it could have been so much more.

View all my reviews On an Edge of GlassOn an Edge of Glass by Autumn Doughton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars Can I just say I LOVE Autumn Doughton's writing and her ability to weave a story so eloquently? I'm not sure that's the right word--eloquently--in fully explaining my feelings about this novel and this author. Effortlessly? Beautifically? Amazingly? These are the adverbs that came to mind while reading this book.

On an Edge of Glass draws you in with the simplest yet most elegant and easily recognizable premise: boy meets girl. Then! Doughton creates this intricate little story that is actually so much bigger than the page, virtual or otherwise.

Autumn Doughton writes characters that readers will fall in love with and care about deeply. You will feel with them. I especially loved Ben. Boy, did I love this guy. And Ellie? Well, she was complicated and stubborn (to me) and sometimes she didn't get out of her own way enough to see her life for what it was or where she was going. And yet? Somehow, Doughton makes that okay. There's a certain underlying reassurance within Ms. Doughton's writing that will make you, as a reader, believe that everything just might work out. Hope? Maybe.

As a reader, I trusted her.

As a writer, I just admired her writerly ways and her beautifully spun words. Her turn of phrase and description seems effortless but powerful.

Like these lines: "A cool autumn wind picks up, blowing the smells of buttered toast and nutmeg and red currants over to us. The trees sketched out against the bright blue sky are tipped in flames. A few dried leaves--as brown as packaging paper--scatter to the ground around our feet."

See that there? Awesome prose. You can smell and feel the autumn in her words.

And then! There is the incredible ease with which the author tells this story, how it all unfolds. She makes it all look so easy which actually reveals the intricate depth of her writing. Amazing, probably because Doughton is never hurried, and the story never feels rushed. Instead, Doughton takes her time and lays the story out with just the right amount of detail both in description and character building and meanwhile her use of dialog is also just so perfectly believable.

"I wanted to grill these but I noticed that the propane tank on the grill is empty."

I scrunch my nose. "Yeah...I'm not even sure how that thing works, and my instincts tell me that I should stay away from devices that combine gas and fire."

Sweet dialog. Just sweet.

I write more complex storylines so I openly admire Doughton's style. It's refreshing and it never feels forced.

This is a sweet romance with unforgettable characters and such a nice style of writing compared to so many other books I've read in New Adult / Contemporary romance that tend to come off as formulaic. Not this one.

So. Read On An Edge of Glass just for the pure enjoyment of reading and falling in love with characters one page at a time. Go ahead and get lost in a story that slowly reveals itself as its own sweet perfection.

View all my reviews The Acting Class or The Acting Class or "acting in love" by D.C. Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very few writers have the gift of captivating readers from the very first pages. It's what all writers aim for, but few achieve. Yet, D.C. Bell has taken charge of this small literary room at the top. As a reader, I was riveted. As a writer, I was enchanted.

I received a message from this writer a while ago. One of those `will-you-please-take-a-look-at-my-work? I-love-yours' kind of notes. I usually turn these away because I'm hyper-focused on my own stuff. Selfish. Self-involved. I can't be reading other people's stuff and when I do it is `anonymously' thank you very much. All I usually say is the `call-me-when-it's-published-yada-yada' line.

Yet, within the opening paragraphs, D.C. Bell captured my imagination and swept me up by essentially mirroring a rant style of writing that was reminiscent of the ever famous Gillian Flynn of "Gone Girl" fame and this writer's current literary crush.

I quickly realized that I was in for a true literary experience, and treasured it fully because they are so rare. I was captivated by the first person narration and at the idea of being given a personalized tour of the famed and fabulous--a privileged glimpse into the world of acting--by the effervescent heroine of this amazing storyline, Miss Sherri Dawn Ferrell.

Sherri doesn't mess around; she'll pull readers further into the story with every word she utters.

"...I admit it, I'm addicted to the Daily Mail. I'm addicted to gossip," I say.
George smiles my way.
I relax into a collective laugh.
Mission accomplished.
Because guess what?
I hate gossip.
Gossip liquefies my brain, bores me to tears, but it is the conversational lubricant of my business, like men need to talk about games with sticks and balls."

Part romance, part thriller, "The Acting Class, Part 1" pulled me right in to an iridescent world providing a rare glimpse of the primped and privileged. I quickly got in line and followed Sherri through the various twists and turns of this "matrix" and fell in love with both Sherri Dawn Ferrell and this Shane Loring. Believe me, I was already there with the insanely famous actor named George.

But now, we're back to Shane Loring.
Shane. Loring.
Say it slow.
Warning: You'll be crushing on Shane.

Sherri Dawn describes him this way:

"And I have worked almost every day with the man to my right.
He's the first major and pulse-spiking crush of my life. A massive, ridiculous, leg-trembling crush. Cacophony of cannons. Thunder of hooves. Heart-stopping. Seriously, I'm sure I've damaged veins and valves. And yet for every moment in his presence I have been entirely and completely professional.
Because I am a professional.
And so is he.
He is a Prince.
He is "The Prince."

Not so fast. It's not easy, not 'that' easy anyway. Readers discover fairly early on in "Part 1" that not everyone is what they seem and that there may be just as many users as abusers gracing the proverbial stage and hankering for fame's light to shine upon them.

Sherri's insight serves as an essential guide wire just like one we might need for a trapeze act.

"And if you think it is some kind of awesome thing to be discovered by the modeling business, by the scouts who haunt every shopping center and beauty contest, and sell you to the agencies and take a slice of your commissions?
You may well find you are a flower.
Whose stem has been cut."

There are perceptive lines of prose such as these throughout that will literally cut you to the core. You'll be amazed and surprised. And it's not just Sherri's telling of this story that captivates, but readers may also sense the underlying deep soul of this guy, Shane Loring.

Lines like these:

"You're a sweet girl. You've got some tough in you, maybe a whole lot of tough, but to me you're really kind of innocent. So don't let your feelings run away with you, Okay? And neither will I. Love. And all that stuff. It's not a good idea to fall in love in this business. That could really mess up a good working relationship. This is just a job, you know? But it's our job. And we don't want to screw it up," and he was out of that tiny dark dressing room, with just a glance over his shoulder.
"Okay. Love. And all that stuff. Yeesh. Not good. Got it."
But he was already out the door.
And the door clicked behind him.
And clicked on my soul.

Need I say any more? My prediction? Readers will be reading Part 1 of "The Acting Class" over and over and all but begging or, at the very least, chanting for the next installment. Hopefully, D.C. Bell can deliver as soon as humanly possible.

Five Stars. Hands down. More please.

Katherine Owen
Author of "This Much Is True" & other emotional romantic literary fare.

View all my reviews The Opportunist (Love Me With Lies, #1)The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tarryn Fisher is a talented writer--her mechanics and style alone are incredible and she wields them spectacularly with this novel The Opportunist. My latest novel This Much Is True has been compared to her story and style (which I have not read until now) so I thought I would finally check out Fisher's book The Opportunist and see for myself what some reviewers are talking about with this type of comparison.

I was not disappointed nor surprised by what I read in Fisher's novel The Opportunist. Perhaps the old saying it takes one to know one is essentially true. Fisher likes to serve up angsty story lines as much as I do; it seems. Bonus!

Some time ago, I bookmarked the Urban Dictionary website after looking up the word mindfuck. Now, every time I open the site from the bookmark that word comes up defined for me. It makes me laugh and seems to apply to Ms. Fisher's story line with The Opportunist as much as my own work. Yes. That's what we have here with The Opportunist--a total mindfuck. Olivia Kaspen is an opportunist. She is emotionally closed off--although the reader doesn't know why for much of the novel--and even when we do find out, it doesn't really explain away Olivia's cold hearted actions at all and what she's done to those around her.

Fisher takes a huge risk with this novel in garnering any kind of sympathy for this type of main character/heroine, if you will, but like a car accident that we are unable to look away from, readers will plow through this storyline just to be able to put it all together for themselves by the end. I believe readers will find it a tough go to like Olivia pretty much through the book. The frustration with this girl and her inability to admit to any kind of truth whatsoever must strand a few readers; but the saving grace for many must be Caleb. Readers want to know Caleb and try to understand what happened between these two; or didn't. I can only imagine the number of readers ready to throw their Kindle/book and yell at Oliva, "Come on! Just tell him!"

Then, just when you think you have it all figured out, Fisher does the unexpected. It's a risk when she writes a single chapter from Caleb's point of view that essentially re-calibrates the entire story line for her audience. Nothing is as it seems. Everyone in this story has their reasons and is an opportunist in their own way. Huh...

I bought this book some time ago. I'm sure the table of contents (lack of) has been remedied and some of the formatting that proved distracting has been fixed, but these were minor things that did not take away from the ultimate fascination that I had with this novel. Fisher's ability to weave back and forth between the present and past was masterful. I liked the brevity of style in terms of detail that effectively allows the reader to fill in the story for themselves.

As readers, we know these two by the end of the book and we want things to work out, even though we're not sure how that's going to happen because they get in their own way so often that it seems nearly impossible. And I feel lucky because I waited to read The Opportunist until now because books #2 and #3 are available so I can plow through the other two books and finally learn Olivia and Caleb's complete story at the end. No waiting. Awesome!

Five Stars - The Opportunist is deep, edgy, dark, and filled with angst. Where have I heard that description before? Oh, and we're both from Seattle so there you go...

View all my reviews The Sea of TranquilityThe Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

LOVED IT!!!!!! I just finished reading The Sea of Tranquility for the second time. I have more to say, but I have to think about how to give my review the justice this book so deserves. Wow!!!

Finally wrote a review...

I LOVED this book. It's so good that it's staggering and almost makes it impossible for me to write myself. Almost.

My favorite line are these: “Daylight won’t protect you from anything. Bad things happen all the time; they don’t wait until after dinner.”

A powerful line indeed because it is the epitome of the story and where she is coming from so clearly.

And then, there is this one (a stunner line if there ever was one):

"I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I'm pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk."

Nastya is shattered in what would seem permanent ways; and then there's Josh Bennett, who painstakingly seems to put her back together piece by piece. I also think Drew and Tierney do the same for her in different ways. I LOVED this book!!!!

I am a writer. I have a huge crush on Gillian Flynn because of Gone Girl and now Katja Millay because her writing and character development is at the perfection level like Flynn's in a different way.

I've read enough New Adult or Mature Young Adult or whatever "they" want to call it these days to unequivocally state that The Sea of Tranquility outstrips them all. This book is so well written from its believable dialog to the exceptional first person point of view to pacing to plot development to story line that it could serve as a study guide for how good writing is done by any writer who desires to improve their own work by learning from Katja Millay.

As for readers, this book is a must-read because it's incredible and captivating and the story will stay with you long after you've read the last page.

I LOVED it!!!

Katherine Owen
Author of When I See You Seeing Julia Not To Us

View all my reviews If You Stay (Beautifully Broken, #1)If You Stay by Courtney Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book! It's always a good sign of a good book for me when I am thinking about the storyline or the characters days after; and so it is with If You Stay.

Pax is beautifully broken as the subtitle implies. Mila less so. They meet under extraordinary circumstances ~ awful,, in fact which makes their relationship seem so unlikely as to working out. They do indeed come from two different life spectrum of good versus boy gone bad. However? I liked Mila well enough but I loved Pax and that feeling just got stronger as the book went along; and as a reader, we get a glimpse into his past. Even at his worst, Pax was still endearing through all these simple actions he took in his pursuit of Mila. That's what made this story a standout and made it work for me. Pax was something special even when he was trying really hard not to be.

Mila was an interesting character--a bit of a conundrum for me, frankly--because she behaved more timidly at times than I thought she should. In some ways, she was overshadowed by Pax and there's a part deep into the storyline (towards the end of the book) that I was disappointed that she didn't go more directly after what she wanted, but I suppose that here Ms. Cole was trying incorporate human flaws and weaknesses in her character by nature. Mila is a bit passive even when we don't want her to be. Her strength comes in the positive influence she has on Pax and I think that is ultimately what makes this story work so well. #lovedit. #readit.♥

View all my reviews Injured ReservesInjured Reserves by D.C. Bourone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Injured Reserves” is a haunting story by DC Bourone that will stay with you for a long time. Bourone’s artistic ability to weave a literary masterpiece out of ordinary characters that become bigger than life in the process is extraordinary indeed.

As a reader, I’m taken in by DC Bourone’s ability to tell a story. As a writer, I’m enthralled by the level of talent inherent in DC Bourone’s writing. It’s not an easy story to either read or write. “Injured Reserves” is, at times, horrific, harsh, and emotionally raw. Driven? Most definitely. Even knowing the inevitable ending at the very first will not sway readers or this writer from wanting to finish it in one sitting. And, at its ending, I predict that you will just sit there lamenting it’s over, even as you feel this captivating pall come over you because it’s finished and there is no more to do or say. “Injured Reserves” is like discovering a shooting star. We behold its glorious light and wondrous existence just as it flares across the universe and disappears. At the end of “Injured Reserves” you’ll sigh deep and struggle to breathe, if only for Billy and his men.

DC Bourone’s writing is amazing. Here are a few of my favorite passages:

"Lose the rhythm. Lose the mission. Lose your life."

“They called it "the package," and often, "The Bitch," and ten feet away Keith lay beside her ribbed steel sheath the size of a child's coffin, spot welded bolts and wire clips with lead seals every three inches around the stamped rim. Oh, how she had been loved. Cherished. Multiply buried and at least once poured into, and then chipped out of concrete, judging by her scabbed and sandy skin. A leprous queen, waiting decades for the right price and her crown bright as the sun. One of the fabled Six Sisters, lost in a distant age when the flagging Russian Bear had relaxed his grip.”

“They had lost the rhythm on another rocky beach, in Croatia, where they had just been shot into blood puppets. And Billy knew they were losing it here as the voices of the medics, normally clipped and dry as pilots landing a plane, grew increasingly frantic. Strangled curses, shouts for O negative and Ringer's solution and Hespan blood extender rang high over the howl of the engines, merged with a rising crescendo of chirping Braun monitors Billy recognized as the last song of dying hearts.”

“Billy wondered if purgatory could be this dream, where he relived perhaps his finest moment and most certainly his greatest despair, and tried to find the balance.”

What an amazing literary style! “Injured Reserves” reads as poetic and lyrical as a sheet of music shimmering off the page. This is a fantastic novella by a very talented writer--however mysterious--DC Bourone. All I can say is more, please!

View all my reviews

Thoughtless (Thoughtless, #1)Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens
No rating: intentional

The title is apropos ~ Thoughtless. It almost serves as a warning sign. I seriously thought about doing a DNF (did not finish) status, but I gutted it out hoping for resolution. It didn't happen. I'm aware it is not a popular sentiment for this popular book. Read on, if you want. SPOILER from here on out...
[ I wrote a book that contained infidelity (Not To Us), so it's not like I necessarily have a problem with cheater stories, but it takes fortitude and strong character development to pull it off, especially when it involves your main characters. So. That wasn't necessarily my problem with this book, I'll keep to specifics here, while it is so fresh in my mind because I really have to express my feelings about this book. As a writer, I had these problems with Thoughtless:
  • underwhelming female character development
  • too much telling versus showing too many scenes that did not move the story line forward
  • too much melodrama (described by Robert McKee in Story as: "Melodrama is not the result of overexpression, but of under motivation; not writing too big, but writing with too little desire.") Yep; that about sums it up.
Kiera Allen - She's 21, not seventeen, but she acts like she's still in high school. She has two years of college under her belt and a great boyfriend and yet in the very first chapters she is whining about the long car trip (they've left Ohio for Seattle) and missing her family. NONE of this side show stuff is followed upon. Her family, that she is so close to and would die without, doesn't even factor into the book until late in the story, when her sister Anna comes and pulls the story line out of the muck that it's fallen into, by this point. I mean, within the first few chapters, she's practically having sex with her boyfriend in a strange guy's house and it turns out to be the bad boy rocker singing on stage that she was instantly attracted to, on what, page four? Where's the love and devotion for Denny? I just never saw it. Ever. Kiera has too many thoughts in her head and acts out sexually too many times to actually be considered a good girl. I had a problem with the whole I'm offended by swear words and yet cheating on Denny was no problem at all. It never really seemed to come back upon her. She never experienced guilt that I could see. So the whole offense of swear words just made her unbelievable as a character. OMG. And, her inability to make a decision about ANYTHING, including these two guys as well as what classes to take at the UW, which if she is two years in she would have a major, just didn't ring true. Again. OMFG. I mean, my God, Kiera, make up your fucking mind already and move the fuck on. Denny Harris is a non-factor. He starts out strong, but he is the oblivious Aussie from the get go and willingly leaves his supposedly plain girlfriend with his hot guy friend Kellan Kyle, while he goes off for job in Tucson for a few months. The whole angle of intermittent phone calls was never explained. Why was Denny drifting from Kiera? Why? I thought there might be something with the other character Jenny in the story line, but no. Nothing. In the end, we find out Denny's not quite that stupid, but he certainly took his chances with leaving Kiera knowing full well what Kellan was like around all women. Kellan Kyle, the only redeeming character in the story, who saves this story from the dregs of repetitiveness and the long boring descriptions (I don't need to know what everyone is wearing in every flipping scene). It's HIS story line about his childhood and his own personal character change/arc that takes place in the story that Stevens did get right. This book got picked up by a traditional publisher who just published the story as is and I found numerous mistakes, two of which involved Kellan being referred to as Kyle. WTF. Anyway, this story line is an interesting one; (it's amazing that I would say that after all I just said before; huh?) it just got mishandled. This book should have been about half as long. A good edit would take out all the unnecessary scenes and get rid of the telling versus showing sections that took place throughout the book, especially at the end. Whatever. Most readers will love it. They'll ignore their inexplicable dislike for the heroine and focus solely on the bad boy rocker, Kellan Kyle. And, who could blame them? Will I read the two sequels? OMG what could Stevens possibly write in two additional books that is new and not just a repeat of the same literary mistakes in this one, along with a whole lot more whining from Kiera about what she's not getting? I don't know if I can take it; and, at $7.59 a pop for a Kindle version on dreck that should have been fixed by her big-time publisher, I can buy other books, including Indie ones, that are 100 times better in writing and style and story line (The Sea of Tranquility, Falling Under, Easy, Gone Girl, mine). Personally, I'm quite capable of finishing this little story in my head all on my own. Kiera gets Kellan despite her lack of likeability. Why bother? View all my reviews

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gillian Flynn is an amazing writer. I loved this story "Gone Girl" from start to finish. As a writer, I love the way she wields her craft and provides permission to all writers with her daring implication to write the story the way it needs to be written. No qualms with language, no qualms with moral code and the way things should just be done in a story, not in this novel.

I have more I want to say about this one. I just need to get my head wrapped around all of it.

"Gone Girl" just became my all-time favorite novel beating out "The Time Traveler's Wife", "To Kill A Mockingbird", "The Great Gatsby" and, perhaps lesser known, "The Gargoyle", and "April & Oliver". Gillian Flynn just became my ultimate literary crush. As a writer of contemporary fiction, I have a true appreciation for the mastery of writing. Ms. Flynn's command of language, narrative, and dialog is a talent to behold. I first read the Kindle version of "Gone Girl"; and then I bought the hardcover copy so I could feed my incessant need to study her talent and better understand her literary technique and style. Flynn's ability to bring out both the worst and best in her characters is easily splayed across each and every page. No notion is left unexplored or unattended as Flynn effectively dismantles the romanticism that still persists around the quest for the perfect marriage, the perfect relationship, and in being the perfect beautiful couple for the world. Flynn toys with readers at the beginning and in her own fastidious way lets the story out in infinitesimal detail in the very first paragraph on page one:

"What are you thinking, Amy? The question I've asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?"

Just the choice use of the verb stormcloud bowls me over. Wow.

Readers slowly discern that handsome Nick Dunne is not all that he portrays himself to be and that his narcissism is not all that far removed from his reality, nor is he all that sorry about it.

The unraveling begins. And, it takes a while for readers to realize it is "us".

"Okay," we say, even as we start to guess what's gone wrong here. But do we?

And, just when we think we've figured it out, the story gets more sinister as Flynn subtly reminds all of us that this roller coaster ride is far from over and as she finesses further with growing intrigue and readers are introduced to Amy through a variety of diary entries. Invariably, readers will buy into all of this clever character's thoughts and feelings, hook, line and sinker. We're all but drowning in the psychotic push-pull of the back and forth narrative of these two even while we senses the unraveling that exudes so deliberately from both Amy and Nick.

Invariably, as readers, we will want to save the victims. But, which ones are they? Who do we save? Ourselves? Flynn flexes her literary brilliance throughout this novel, both in her ability to write and tell the story, but also in the subtle way she keeps all of us captivated by it. Her literary technique is second to no one else I've read. (And, I've read a lot of novels and written a few myself).

"Gone Girl" will permanently destroy any innocent notion that you may still harbor about marriage and relationships and perfection. Flynn remains unapologetic as she pulls readers along this incredible journey if only to find out how it will end. She makes no apologies for these characters' inherent flaws, for the use of fiery language when necessary, for sex, obligatory or otherwise, and murder, necessary or not.

Flynn puts a none-too-subtle literary exclamation point on the idea that all of us are only human after all and as quoted in William Congreve's play, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". The author reminds each one of us that as we trip through life and make mistakes along the way that all is not as it portends to be and that we all play an integral role in our quest to keep up with those neighbors (those Joneses in our lives) while still attempting to show the world our most perfect side. Yet, all the while, inside our own house of cards, we quake and shake and make incomprehensible mistakes that, sometimes, can literally destroy who we are and everything we have.

"Gone Girl" is a journey, however unexpected, that offers a free pass to look inside at both the disintegration of the psyche as well as the myth that surrounds the perfect marriage. Okay. You can say it's only about these two: "Nick and Amy". Or, you can acknowledge the proverbial truth of "Gone Girl" that the novel leaves us feeling bereft of our most treasured beliefs and effectively loosens the tight grip we maintain on naiveté and causes us to look at these truths about ourselves, about our lives.

It's the car accident on the side of the road that we can't look away from. Why? Because it's all true. One day you get married. You wear white. He wears a tux. You marry your best friend. You think you know him. He thinks he knows you. And yet, what we learn over time is that nobody controls anybody and things can spin out of control in an instant with the simplest cruel act even while time marches on and over you and that these things we hold onto and try to control--these precious things--whether they be people, places, or things--splinter us all into a million pieces when they break or we fall.

Gillian Flynn effectively holds up the two-way fictional mirror and allows each of us a chance to look through it; and yet, by doing so, it reflects back at us, upon us. Yes. We feel and see the truth of our mythical lives with "Gone Girl". It's not particularly pretty, this truth, that invariably holds us all captive; but, it appears to be true.

This is a literary masterpiece worthy of ten stars that will embolden the spirit much like a fine wine and the most decadent chocolate do, if ingested together, leading us to an experience of pure unadulterated indulgence and cosmic introspection. This writer is in awe of Gillian Flynn's literary brilliance as she marches bravely upon the path of storytelling and appears unafraid to tell it like it really is. "Gone Girl" is an amazing piece of artwork presented in the guise of fiction and Gillian Flynn is the master above it all.

Katherine Owen
When I See You Seeing Julia Not To Us

View all my reviews Reason to Breathe (Breathing, #1)Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a writer of contemporary adult fiction; granted YA (young adult fiction) is not always my thing. As a reader, I struggled with this book because I am older and wiser and would not handle things the way fictional Emma and even her closest friends do, but as a writer I KNOW and recognize the deftness and brilliance of Rebecca's Donovan's literary talent. Donovan is an amazing writer of YA fiction because she gets it and portrays her young characters on every page so perfectly.

"Reason To Breathe" is heartbreaking on so many levels and just as hopeful on others. Donovan's command of literary style will leave you breathless in the last pages and you will have to read it more than once to fully understand its meaning and this ending, until you finally make the connection back to the title. For that chapter alone, I say bravo to Ms. Donovan. Brilliant storyline, engaging dialogue and unforgettable characters will keep you riveted, "riveted," I say, to this literary work of art.

Katherine Owen
Author of Seeing Julia, Not To Us, & When I See You

View all my reviews Barely Breathing (Breathing, #2)Barely Breathing by Rebecca Donovan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Left breathless in Reason To Breathe, I quickly picked up Barely Breathing and got immersed in the story. For a while, I was even able to breathe again because it looked like Emma was on the mend and growing in so many ways. Whew!

I don’t want to go into too much detail about Barely Breathing because readers just have to read Reason To Breathe in order to go on to this one and try to figure it all out. For this reader/writer, the single word that describes Barely Breathing is heartbreaking. And, for me, this inevitable heartbreak takes place over the course of the novel in this slow agonizing way.

Once again, I have to say that I am so impressed with Ms. Donovan’s writing and her patience in allowing the story to unfold. As a writer, the thing that I was most amazed by was Donovan’s talent in letting her readers in on what is about to happen. Her ability to draw her readers in was so subtle and so well done it’s incredible. There isn’t so much as surprise in this novel as there is this ever increasing build of tension as readers must feel, as I did, this overriding sense of dread as well as this acute helplessness that there is “nothing” I could do to prevent the bad from happening. It’s a heavy feeling—this angst—accompanied by this ever present concern for Emma that I think most readers must feel for this particular character throughout the book.

Truly? At times, Emma was so frustrating and I just wanted to scream at her: Stop what you’re doing right now! At other times, my heart ached right along with hers, especially when it was clear that all she wanted was to be loved and try to love those closest to her in return. What was interesting about all these characters, that we’ve come to know from Reason To Breathe and now here in Barely Breathing, is that life goes on and people can be so self-absorbed and miss the very pain and suffering of those around them. Just completely miss it. That happened again in this book.

Donovan’s last chapters of Barely Breathing will bring the story to yet another cliffhanging moment. As a reader, I felt that I truly understood where Emma was at and could vaguely understand why she did what she did. But, it didn’t make me happy. And now, I’m just sad, plagued by the angst of the storyline, and more than impatient for the release of the third book. I can’t wait for Out Of Breath. Can’t wait.

Readers will be drawn into Barely Breathing, disappointed when it’s over, and a little bothered by the heartbreak within this story line. And yet, this invisible thread of hope for these two will wend its way through to you, ensuring your return for the third installment in the series. But, like me, you’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

As I’ve said before, I am in awe of Ms. Donovan’s writing talent and her ability to weave complicated storylines and the fearlessness with which she crafts each one and the inevitable questions she leaves readers with at the end of each novel. Brilliant, once again, Ms. Donovan. Brilliant!

Katherine Owen ~ Author of Seeing Julia, Not To Us, & When I See You

View all my reviews EasyEasy by Tammara Webber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book last evening and finished it at four in the morning because I couldn't put it down!!! The story line is riveting. The bad boy hero Lucas is sexy, wonderful, and intriguing--all at the same time. The heroine Jacqueline appears to be the typical college co-ed in dire need of finding herself and not being so easily eclipsed by her ex-boyfriend in every aspect of her life. Although Jacqueline falls a little flat for me in comparison to our heroic bad boy Lucas, the overall character arcs for both of them kept this reader/writer entertained long enough that I was able to hang in there and look past this because of the overall depth of the story. The subtext with Lucas's own personal story is exquisite on so many levels that readers will be amazed by this particular plot line revelation and they definitely won't see it coming.

"Easy" is a gripping novel that explores the nuances and trappings of college life, the decisions young adults often make based solely on their life experiences or lack thereof. "Easy" also shows how an individual's life can so easily change or be redefined (good or bad) because of a single event.

Author Tammara Webber's deft exploration of adult subject matters including easy sex versus saying no, rape, violence, an individual's need for power and control, and the gender differences and perceptions that still exist in relation to all of these topics is powerful as well as bold. Nicely done, Ms. Webber! I Loved it! "Easy" is an awesome read!

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PoughkeepsiePoughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four stars...This is an intriguing premise of a story, especially that of Blake Hartt and Livia McHugh. Ms. Anastasia does a great job in the first part of the book setting up the two main characters. To a certain degree, I could sympathize with the individual sad stories of Blake Hartt and his "brothers", Beckett and Cole. However, the story got a little lost about halfway through with so many characters and subplots and became much too violent. I think language can serve as an important subtext to a story, but, at times, the dialog with Beckett just seemed to take all these characters to the proverbial gutter. And, it's not okay to kill people and it seemed at some point that particular moral code was abandoned by everyone, except Livia's father, John McHugh. I almost got the sense that this novel contains some autobiographical elements as it relates to the overall plot and subplots which can weigh down or muddle a story's intention as good fiction. As both a writer and a reader, I sometimes find it's best not to tell every character's story in a novel and let readers fill it in for themselves. Poughkeepsie would have been more riveting if the focus had remained on Blake and Livia, their unlikely pairing in a world that functions on labels and one's social standing, rather than the dark world Anastasia leads us into.

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Hazy Shade of Winter (Kindle Single)Hazy Shade of Winter by Chris Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The brilliance that is Hazy Shade of Winter, January 9, 2012

By Katherine C. Owen

Chris Roberts' mastery of language reads like music on a page. Some people can read musical notes, some can only listen, most all can be moved by such lyricality. This is five-star quality literature at its finest with the use of language that is indeed lyrical and seemingly forms a wistful stanza. The character of Blaine is drawn deeply and we feel her pain in the very first sentence:

"When by the frost of the windowpane and all that descends from the sky are dying snowflakes, it is a canto."

Roberts does a brilliant job of foreshadowing for readers what will transpire by the end of this short story. I'm not sure that all of us catch it in reading it the first time through, but it's there. Blaine must battle the downside of fame and her manic-depression and she still attempts to cope with the death of her father and abide the sins of her mother. All of this has left Blaine assailable and, perhaps, inevitably unable to co-exist with her poetic talent.

Roberts' prose sums her up so nicely with this:

"It is all of it a curse and a blessing and it is verse and it is all of it so entirely, so utterly hers."

My favorite lines from this work:

"But this time it is different. The awakening from the episode, the restoration of clarity and consciousness are swept outward, away from the tangible familiarities of the sitting room. Her desk and the beloved star-patterned floor rug are given flight, along with the fine drapes that clutch at the broken window, hesitantly, then finally let loose to succumb to winter's wind."

This is an intriguing short story. It is brilliant, evocative, and beautiful. It leaves this reader (and writer) wanting more of Chris Roberts' work and envying him for his discernible literary talent.

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Sacred SinSacred Sin by Virginia Llorca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great read!, January 9, 2012 By Katherine C. Owen

Sacred Sin by Virgina Llorca is evocative, intimate, and sexy. The intriguing adult story contains flashes of brilliance about an amazing woman named Jenny who is mysterious, magical, and somewhat mad. A state she openly acknowledges as she seduces not only the men that she has magnetized to her in life, but the readers who get drawn into this story. Llorca weaves an intricate tale with her writing style that feels both autobiographical and intimate, even though Sacred Sin is told in third person.

This reader was somewhat bewitched by Jenny and had to throw out the semblance of a moral code, at times, in order to better understand this deeply drawn character that is Jenny Agnoli. Can you be in love with two men at the same time? And, be with them both? Apparently, you can. Llorca's novel takes us on a thirty-year journey from the time Jenny is a baby where readers get a glimpse of young Jenny and attempt to understand this amazing girl through the eyes of her first love, Barney. And then, the writer propels readers forward with the introduction of the magnetic Danny who becomes the love of Jenny's life and possibly her soul mate. But, alas, there are questions there that Llorca impels readers to consider. Can you love more than one person at the same time? Can you need them for different reasons?

I loved all the characters in this novel. Somehow, I wanted things to work out for all of them even though a certain amount of madness or a spell of some kind seem to come over all of them, at different times, in terms of the way they dealt with Jenny and her manic-depressive state(s).

Sacred Sin was a thought-provoking story by a very talented writer and one I will think about long after the last page I read. I look forward to reading more of Virginia Llorca's work.

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