Oct 22 2014

Strong and Free

Today our nation lost a soldier. A man dedicated to protecting and serving our country. And today a family lost a father, a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew. Friends lost a pal to laugh with and confide in. Animals lost an owner to feed them and love them. In the grand scheme of things maybe the life of one man who got up in the morning and put on a uniform and did his duty just like any other day doesn’t seem like much. But it should, because it is huge. Where once he shone a light in his unique way, now there is a void left behind, and all who call themselves a member of mankind feel that void.

Thank you, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, for serving our country. Thank you for being a father, a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a friend, and a pet owner. Thank you for being you.

And to end, a great quote: “But I hope most of all that you understand that even though I will never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you.”

Dec 10 2013

Review: The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock

2 out of 5 stars.

James P. Blaylock is considered one of the fathers of the steampunk genre. This book, The Aylesford Skull, marks his first novel in this genre in twenty years.

The story follows Professor St. Ives, an explorer and inventor, who has decided to settle down in the country with his wife and children after a life full of adventure and danger. The arrival of an old nemesis, Dr. Narbondo, puts a hitch in his plans when his son, Eddie, is kidnapped and he is forced to set out on a journey to rescue his son and put a stop to Narbondo’s depraved plans.

Things start out right with an atmospheric prologue including a dark and stormy night on the River Thames and an ambush by pirates of a mysterious cargo. The villain, Dr. Narbondo is introduced in the prologue as well, and he is revealed to be both clever and menacing, a villain worthy, in fact, of a Sherlock Holmes story in character and set up.

Rating the story itself, I have to give high marks to Blaylock for the idea of the storyline and the creativity of his ideas. Although the actual execution of his writing is not perfect, the underlying bones of the story are solid. He is very adept at describing creepy villains, villain’s lairs (one in particular with ghostly bridges hanging over a foggy city – very strong mental picture), creating a disturbing or spooky atmosphere and coming up with mystical and supernatural elements. His action sequences are solid and alive, and he several times makes use of dramatic irony to build suspense (before you ask, here is a definition of dramatic irony http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/170979/dramatic-irony).

I would say that the highlight of this book was, without a doubt, the action sequences. Each scene was well thought-out and choreographed, easy to follow, and delivered a satisfying thrill. Along with the action, the violence of the story is well-written. It is told with enough description to get the grit across but without being overly dramatic or needlessly bloodthirsty. This is clearly Blaylock’s forte and any time Blaylock wrote action I found myself actually entering into the story and becoming present within it.

The scenes in between the action, however, often felt a bit stale, unrealistic, or even made up of useless filler. For example, at more than one point in his quest to rescue his son, St. Ives is found to be having a sit down dinner with his friends and discussing all manner of topics from jam pots to bird watching. It happens on page 151, 186, and on page 266 and every time I couldn’t help but feel myself being pulled out of the story to wonder why on earth Blaylock bothered with these scenes. In an adventure book you never really want to feel the story slow down and I think Blaylock allowed for this to happen a bit too often.

The professor’s character was also a bit lacking in both substance and feeling. He is obviously a man that has lead a rich life and has deep feelings for his family, but I found Blaylock’s portrayal of him to be very superficial and two dimensional. This is a character that Blaylock has written multiple times in the past and he should therefore know how to write St. Ives perfectly, but instead I was left with the impression that Blaylock had no passion left for his main character.

This phenomenon is highlighted all the more by the immensely compelling secondary character of Finn Conrad. Finn is a hired hand on St. Ives’ farm and takes part in the adventure of the story in many stages. Where St. Ives felt distant and flat, Finn was exciting, colourful, had an intriguing background, and gave the story a lot of the heart and depth of feeling that it needed. I actually wanted the story to be about Finn Conrad instead of about St. Ives and it is a shame that Blaylock, who is obviously capable of writing compelling characters like Finn, would let his main character fall so thinly to the page.

I am not a steampunk connoisseur by any means, but I am familiar with the genre and therefore knew at least a bit of what to expect. In terms of action and suspense, this novel delivers, but in terms of the tell-tale things that really mark a novel out as steampunk rather than just Victorian era fiction there wasn’t much. There was indeed a lighter-than-air airship, and even a few passing mentions to toys being made out of gears and steam engines, but that was about it. In technical terms this is enough to warrant the steampunk label, but I was expecting a few more interesting inventions or even more of a mention of steam engines; these things really could have added to the character of the story and it was a disappointment that they weren’t present.

There were more than a few errors, typos, and clumsy writing in the story. For example the beginning of chapter one has a bit of a shaky tense issue between present tense and past tense. Then there are a few clumsy moments of repetition on page 91 where “would have been handsome” is said twice in the same paragraph and again on page 96 where the descriptors “Despite terror” and “despite horror” are written very closely together. On page 177 we get the typo “fred” instead of “fired” and on page 183 “nosed” instead of “nose”. Many times, the phrase “It came to him/It dawned on him” is used to begin a thought, as if the author simply couldn’t think of any other way to put it. Just one of these errors would have been easy to forgive, but when there are so many it becomes impossible to overlook them, especially when one considers this is a professionally edited and published work.

Lastly, a rather fun inclusion in this story is the arrival of a character named “Arthur Doyle” (on page 147). Although never expressly introduced as the author of the Sherlock Holmes books it is all too obvious that this is indeed the famous Arthur Conan Doyle by the comments and descriptors given to him. His inclusion is likely an homage to the stories that influenced and paved the way for the steampunk genre, and it is certainly a veiled suggestion that the stories that Doyle would write, and especially his clever and evil villains, may have come out of, at least partially, the adventure he shared with Professor St. Ives.

The Aylesford Skull is indeed a thrilling steampunk adventure. I enjoyed the story, the time period, and the genre. My only wish would be for a bit more writing prowess in order to show off Blaylock’s great creativity.

Oct 19 2013

Review: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

4 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal is the first book in a series of mystery novels with heroine Maggie Hope set in London in WWII.

The beginning of a book tells the reader a lot of things about the story they are about to read. They either decide they are interested and can’t wait to read on or they decide to put the book down and move onto more promising reads. MacNeal knows her genre well and this novel starts off with a wonderful atmosphere, some impending doom, a false scare, and lastly – what we all hope for in a good mystery novel – a murder.

If this book has a fault (and that is a big “if”) it is that after the exciting prologue things seems to stagnate for a while and nothing really big happens in the way of plot. Maggie gets a job working for the Prime Minister and we are introduced to the people that matter in her life and her back story. However, in a poetic way, this actually works with the story mirroring Britain hovering in “the bore war” as they waited for the inevitable air assault from Germany. The excitement and action do begin again in earnest after the bombs begin falling on Britain and after this event it hardly lets up. All the effort that went into what I would call the first act to set up the backstory of the characters and their emotional ties, pays off big time in act two because MacNeal can focus much more fully on the action itself without having to over explain why the characters feel or act a certain way.

MacNeal did meticulous research for this novel, adding to the ability of the reader to immerse themselves in the story. Often when dealing with a historical novel the author can overtax its readers with long passages on history or, a much worse offense, simply omit it altogether and allow the reader to fill in the gaps themselves. In this case it is obvious that MacNeal soaked up the time period and the people as much as she could before she began writing. She steeped herself in British culture, the landscape of London, the war records, and real-life people who lived through the war and worked with Mr. Churchill. The research is so thorough that the reader feels as if they have actually been transplanted back in time and can visualize, feel, smell, and hear London as it was back then.

Certain things really help to enhance the believability of this story: the dialogue the characters undertake regarding their political views in multiple scenes includes viewpoints not only from the British, but from the Irish and the tensions caused by the IRA, from Americans, and even from German sympathizers. If these characters had lived in London during that time, and especially if they were working with the PM all of these issues would have been on the forefront of their minds and so their inclusions were not only important but necessary.

The descriptions of the British people’s customs and national personality were not only accurately, but I think, lovingly portrayed as only one with a deep appreciation and connection with the culture could manage. I found myself actually wondering if MacNeal were British or American herself (before you Google it, she’s American), which is some of the highest praise I can render given my own love for the British culture. The little bit of humour infused into the novel is also befitting to an English mystery novel. British humour is its own entity, and I believe the humour presented is quite the right style. For example, on page 14 a character states, “There’ll be no blood, toil, tears, or sweat until I have some goddamned tea.” And on page 66 the PM makes a joke about labels for boxes of 12-inch gun muzzle protectors stating “I want a label for every box… saying ‘British, size medium.’ That will show the Nazis…who’s the master race!”

MacNeal also has a wonderful handle on the landscape of London – how rails were torn down for metal for munitions, the protection of important monuments such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the blackout covers for the windows. Her descriptions are, at times, breathtaking, and are often used to set up a coming scene. For example on page 42, after a paragraph description of Herrick Street, MacNeal concludes with, “Under the heaviness of the water droplets, flowering trees wept pale pink petals down into the gutters.” and on page 121, describing the attack of the Luftwaffe “There were hundreds…of planes circling overhead, black insects against the sky, leaving silvery vapor trails against the blood-red clouds, darkening in the setting sun.”

MacNeal’s dedication to research didn’t just apply to her rendering of Wartime Britain – but also to her main character, Maggie. Maggie is supposed to be a math whiz of sorts and, before the war, was going to study at the prestigious MIT University. So when it comes time for Maggie to use her skills in coding, it is important to the integrity of the character that a little something about codes is actually conveyed to the reader. MacNeal could have taken the lazy way out and used any number of literary tricks to avoid actually having to spell out or make any codes, but she didn’t. We, as a reader, are actually walked through numerous codes from beginning to end, making Maggie’s character very believable and concrete.

The last bit of research that was necessary to make this story a success was dedicated to the person of Winston Churchill himself. The interactions that Mr. Churchill has with Maggie and the various other characters are obviously fictional representations, but as MacNeal spent a great deal of time in conversation with actual private secretaries for Mr. Churchill, I think we can rest assured that if the PM had really met any of MacNeal’s characters, his exchanges with them would be quite close to how MacNeal describes them. The charisma of Churchill is very evident as his sometimes unruly behaviour, and even a touch of that marvelous wit he was known for. It is a tricky thing to represent a real person in a work of fiction, but I think that MacNeal treated the person of Churchill with respect and honesty and her rendering of him feels very natural and true.

Another point that MacNeal delivered the goods on was that in all the best mysteries it is never enough to have one encompassing mystery to focus on, but rather you need to egg your readers on by introducing more and more intrigue as the storyline continues. This book has multiple mysteries that need solving ranging from the murder in the prologue, to the truth about what happened to Maggie’s parents, to the outcome of a plot to hand Britain over to the Nazis to a big twist involving one of the main characters. Each story is interesting in itself, but MacNeal made good use of switching between different stories to build suspense in each one and matching the level of excitement and climax in each story to keep the reader wanting to read on. MacNeal also made sure to give each mystery a personal edge to at least character so that there is a satisfying payoff not only in terms of action and suspense, but also emotionally for the reader.

Knowing this book was to have sequels, I was looking for a few things out of the ending – all of which I got. There was excitement and action almost up to the last, which leaves the reader feeling satisfied and engaged and also hints that there will be more action to come in the next books. It was also important for the reader to have a proper ending for Maggie’s first adventure and MacNeal handles her denouement perfectly with just the right amount of reflection on events past, plans for the future, and a beautifully worded, hopeful last paragraph.

So, if you’re like me, you’ll be heading out to grab a copy of Princess Elizabeth’s Spy after you finish Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.

Jul 27 2013

Review: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

3 out of 5 stars

Jodi Picoult is an author that needs no introduction as she has sat atop the New York Times Best Seller list numerous times in her career. This was, however, the first book of hers that I have read and I must say it is easy to see why she belongs on such a prestigious list, at least for this book. Her storytelling is sincere and thought-provoking, and while I may have both negative and positive remarks on the novel as a whole, there is no doubt in my mind that she puts her soul into her art and that is the mark of a true writer.

The book centres mostly around Sage, a twenty-something year old, who works nights at a bakery so she can hide a scar on her face that she feels makes her terribly unattractive. Her night job also enables her to hide from her grief over her dead parents, and her shameful secret relationship with a married man. During the day she attends a grief counselling group once a week and it is there that she meets an old German man, Josef, who quickly becomes her confidant. But everything changes for Sage when Josef confesses to her that he was a Nazi soldier stationed at the very same concentration camp that her Jewish grandmother was held at. Sage reports Josef to the FBI and an investigation begins to discover if this man, whom everyone believes to be one of the nicest old men in town, is really who he claims he was.

Through hearing Josef’s story, the FBI agent’s story, and Minka’s story some very real issues are raised about the intertwining of good and evil in each human being, as well as the question of forgiveness, vengeance and justice. This book would make a very good addition to any high school study of the holocaust because it acutely raises these questions but never implies there is a simple black and white solution. For example, on page 106 Sage asks of Leo, the FBI agent, “Is his work vengeance? Or justice? There is a fine line between the two, and when I try to focus on it, it becomes smaller and less clear.”. Or later, when Josef is done telling his story and he states, “What I mean to tell you, now, is that the same truth holds. This could be you, too. You think never. You think, not I. But at any given moment we are capable of doing what we least expect.”

The story is compelling and the subject matter important, but when it came to dissecting the actual writing of the story, however, I found myself a bit disappointed. To begin with, as a caveat, I will admit that I am a literary fiction reader and so my review comes from the bias of someone who is used to that kind of a book. The thing about Picoult is that she is fully capable of writing sentences and paragraphs that simply drip with beauty, but she doesn’t seem willing to do that full time in this story. As I began to read the book I found little gems here and there, such as on page 8, “You can relinquish your home to move into assisted living, or have a child move overseas, or see a spouse vanish into dementia. Loss is more than just death, and grief is the gray shape-shifter of emotion”, but I found myself hungering for more. It bothered me that an author obviously able to write with force would allow her writing to fall into a more typical style.

Until I got to part 2. Part 2 of the novel is a tour de force and truly an achievement; it is so visceral and real. This section of the novel deals entirely with the story of a holocaust survivor and I admire the fact that this section in itself takes up well over 150 pages; it would seem shameful, almost, to try to put down the recollections of a survivor (even a fictional one) in a single chapter. Picoult’s dedication to details in this time period, and her researching of historic facts, as well as her obvious knowledge of real survivors makes this section feel real. We’ve all read holocaust survivor stories before, but I must admit that this rendition was perhaps the hardest one I have ever read; for though the characters were not real, their experiences were. This is where Picoult really shines as an author as well as her voice through Minka is a beautiful piece of literature, of story, of truth. Her descriptions in this section are breathtaking, for example on page 209 as she describes SS soldiers, “They smelled like hatred.” Everything took on a new life and I suppose this was intentional as Minka was a writer herself. As hard as it was to read about the atrocities of the holocaust, I found myself revelling in the beautiful way it was written.

I know that there is a need, especially in a story such as this where multiple characters are written in first person, to vary your voice and vocabulary and that was likely why Picoult chose to reserve her most visceral writing for Minka, but I still found myself wishing she had found a way to put more of that kind of writing into her other characters. Instead I found that when compared to Minka everyone else felt rather shallow and one-dimensional and that is a shame given the statements the novel is attempting to make.

Picoult’s use of a literary device of a separate story intertwining throughout the book actually confused me greatly when I first started it. The book actually begins with the start of a different tale in italics, a prologue of sorts, of a young girl sitting in a bakery with her father. As I said, this confused me at first, as I had no idea who these characters were, where they were, or even what time they were supposed to be in. I think that Picoult could have found some creative way to anchor these characters right from the get-go instead of leaving them in limbo for as long as she did. It drew away from the story itself for me, because I was constantly trying to figure out what this story meant. However, the book is called “The Storyteller” and perhaps Picoult meant for us to simply assume that there would be a story apart from the main narrative. In any case once the story is explained it mirrors the events that unfold in the book beautifully and helps to enforce and deepen the themes.

When the book returns to Sage’s story from Minka’s I found myself focusing on a few things I wish Picoult could have done better after such an incredible feat of writing. For starters there is a great deal of stress placed on the fact that Sage thinks she is ugly because of a horrible scar on her face. This scar is alluded to again and again, but the story of its origin is painstakingly hidden. Too painstakingly. When telling a story it is important to have these little secrets to keep your readers interested and wanting to know what happens, but in this case I feel like it was more than a long time coming. The story of her scar seems like it would naturally be told so many times before it actually is so that I can actually feel the effort that went into not revealing it -this, to me, seems a bit clumsy.

The other issue around the scar and Sage’s apparent self-worth issues is that they just seem to disappear without any real motivation or resolution beyond meeting a new man. Perhaps it is the feminist in me, but I was sort of hoping for a bigger “ah-ha” moment in the story for Sage after reading for pages about how she hid from life than her finding a boyfriend. It seems to me that she wakes up one day and decides she’s okay with everything without ever really dealing with any of her issues head-on.

This book also had a few predictable moments in it in terms of the connections the characters would make, but there is one very good twist that Picoult saves for the very end of the book that brings chills to the spine. It is this chilling twist that actually made me feel the dénouement of the story was not quite what it could have been. This book asks a lot of big questions about forgiveness, about the good and evil in each of us, and about the effect of terrible deeds to not only victims but to perpetrators, and it felt to me that in light of these questions, in light of the amazing part 2 of the book that the ending came a little too soon and a little too ungraciously. I was expecting some enlightenment in the final paragraphs but instead all I felt was a distinct dullness inside.

If, however, Picoult’s intention with her ending was to get people to think about the book long after they’d finished it, she succeeded completely. In this way Picoult shows herself truly an artist for she has created something that requires a response of some kind. It is simply not possible to read this book and not have it sit under your skin and dare you to not think about it.

What I must end with is simply this: that I have only scratched the surface of this book and of Picoult’s dedication to her craft. While I have a few disappointments leading me to give this book a lower rating than my previous reviews, I still say that it is well worth the read.

Mar 14 2013

Review: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

It is a rare occurrence in today’s quick-fix best-seller fiction, but every so often you stumble upon a book that takes your breath away – a book you know you will read over and over and it will never get stale.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is such a book.

What is surprising about this book is not so much that it that it is written with incredible skill and care, but that it is the debut novel for the author and Brunt seems to have jumped right over first novel territory into a place where she has a mature and beautiful voice: artful use of language, an insight into literature, and an understanding of the way a story should be woven not only in terms of plot but in terms of layers of descriptions, similes, and symbolism.

Brunt’s descriptions of places, people, and memories are not only clever and perceptive, but precise. For example, she is able to describe the essence of the main character, June, with one sentence: “Crocodile was a name Finn invented for me because he said I was like something from another time that lurked around, watching and waiting, before I made my mind up about things.” (Pg. 7)

Brunt doesn’t tend to rely on the tried and true similes but comes up with her own fresh ideas, for example: “Greta’s talk is like a geode. Ugly as anything on the outside and for the most part the same on the inside, but every once in a while there’s something that shines through.” (Pg. 52)

The most apt descriptor for this story would be a love story. And then another love story…and so on. It is about a girl and her uncle, a girl and her sister, a sister and a brother, an artist and his secret lover, a father and a mother, a girl and her forbidden friend; and all these love stories are bound together and revealed by the terrible, and wonderful, things we do for love.

The book begins with June Elbus and her older sister Greta being painted by their Uncle Finn who is dying of AIDS in 1987. The time period itself is a refreshing change in a world where most books are set either further in the past, in the present, or in some yet to be discovered future.

When Uncle Finn does die, June is left with a gaping hole in her life that no one understands. In fact she is often begrudged of her grief because Finn was just an uncle after all. But to June he was much more than an uncle. He was the one person who could read her heart and make her feel special; he was the person June felt she couldn’t live without.

Brunt’s descriptions of June’s grief and the fear that comes with it are so sincere that anyone who has lost a love will feel their heart being embraced by such aching phrases as “Not only because Finn had never told me…but because there was no way to ask him about it. And until then I don’t think I really understood the meaning of gone.” (pg 55) and “I understood how just about anything in the world could remind you of Finn…Things you’d never even seen with Finn could remind you of him, because he was the one person you’d want to show.”

In the shadow of this unbearable grief is a whisper of hope in the form of Finn’s secret boyfriend, Toby, who shows up in June’s life to deliver an old Russian teapot from her uncle. The relationship between these two people who loved Finn deeply, but were never allowed to meet, is at once awkward, sweet, hilarious, and eventually intimate. Even as the pressures of the outside world threaten to tear them apart their bonds grow and together they manage to find a sense of hope.

With so many different relationships making up this story it is little surprise that the climax involves the bringing together of all these stories, but even if you can see it coming it does nothing to curb the mounting suspense as you wait for something, or everything, to break.

Five out of five stars, but only because there is no way to give her six out of five.

As an end note it must be mentioned that Brunt gets an extra nod of admiration from me for referencing A Wrinkle in Time in her book.

Jan 24 2013

Review: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

Strings Attached by award-winning author, Judy Blundell, is a definite must read for lovers of young adult fiction that packs some depth and brilliance instead of just fluffy teenage romances, vampires, or books about the cool kids at school.

The story follows the life of Kit Corrigan, a teenage dancer from Rhode Island trying to make it to Broadway in New York City in 1950. She has fled from her family home, her on-again-off-again relationship with her boyfriend Billy, and has landed smack dap in the clutches of her boyfriend’s controlling father, Nate Benedict. Nate is offering Kit a way to make it in the big city in return for the seemingly simple promise of any news Kit might receive from Billy.

I must admit when I first began the novel I felt a little like the author had just thrown me in the middle of something without giving me a sense of time or place. Every writer knows that one of your first jobs in telling a story is to tell the audience where they are, when they are, and who they are with. Judy just plunges her reader into the middle of the story on page one and you are left feeling distinctly out of the loop. I had previously read What I Saw and How I Lied, and knew the caliber of writing Judy was capable of so I kept going. And I’m so very glad I did.

I guessed right from the get-go that Judy’s dropping of her reader in the middle of the story was more than likely a device to increase suspense and interest. At first it felt cheap to me. I thought, okay just give me the background and get on with it! But then I realized that Judy was dedicated not to just telling the current story about Kit Corrigan in New York in 1950, but of where Kit came from, who her family was, and how she got to where she was.

In fact by the time I reached chapter 4 (which is page 30) I found it impossible to put the book down. Judy is a master of story and even though I knew that Kit obviously had to end up in New York in 1950 I found my heart racing to find out the details of a specific story that happened in 1935 or 1947. The chapters are linked by clever devices that makes the stories told seem real. For instance the presence of a balloon in the present will remind Kit of a story that involved balloons when she was a child, and it is precisely connectors like these that make this story feel authentic in its narrative.

Judy’s descriptions are breathtaking as well. Whether it’s the simple description of an object in a room, the palpable tension between our young heroine and a sinister older man, or the aching honesty of young love the reader is gripped and plunged right into the moment head first. Phrases like “Lust, liquor, and legs – that’s where I came from. That’s who I was.” and ” Suddenly, I realized that he wasn’t holding me in an embrace. He was holding me up, or preparing to, and the first alarm began to clang inside me.” are littered about in this novel as if these kinds of apt deductions about life and human interaction are commonplace in every piece of literature rather than something special.

The history and place of New York in 1950 is expertly researched, as well as Rhode Island in the 1930’s and 40’s. You get a definite sense of the sights, quality of air, culture, and changes that were happening during those decades. The dialogue used by the characters is also appropriate for the time period in which it is set and Judy doesn’t fall into the trap of throwing in cultural phrases just because she has to – it all feels very natural. There are a few scenes between Kit and some chorus girls that are full of the authentic kind of banter you’d find back stage at any sort of show that really highlight Judy’s knack for getting into the culture and feel of a time and place.

As a young adult novel it does navigate a lot of the same issues you would find in any old book for teens, but they are handled not with a blatant “here’s the issue”, but rather with something much better and something that gains my respect – they are handled with a story. Judy expertly navigates themes of love, betrayal, friendship, secrets, lies, and in the end beautifully brings all of these things together in a way that shows no life and no decision is completely unattached to another in a thrilling climax that also ties together the snippets life stories of all of the main characters.

A five out of five stars for sure and a must read not just for young adults, but for adult adults too!

Dec 28 2012


Hello everyone in blog-land…

In my searches to find ways to get my book “out there” I stumbled upon a review site www.selfpublisingreview.com

I am considering not only having my book reviewed on this site but becoming a reviewer myself.  If I want to do this I need to prepare 2 reviews before applying and will be posting those reviews on this site for your reading pleasure.  And if I become an official reviewer I will also post those on this site! 

I have not decided which books to review yet, so if you’ve read a book recently that was amazing (preferably not on the best seller list, please) let me know and I might just review it!

I’ve also contacted a local radio personality that has a book club to see if they might read my book. 

Embrace Truth,

Kayleigh E Suggett

Aug 23 2012

Dear Frankie

Hello folks,

My latest release, Dear Frankie, is now available for sale via www.lulu.com/shop

It will also be available to buy via your regular online booksellers within a few weeks.

BUT if you buy it from lulu I receive a better cut of the profits AND you get 5% off.

I’d also like to let you know I’ll be placing a large order of books based on interest to sell to my family/friends which is an awesome way for you to buy my book but not pay shipping. 

So let me know at kaysuggett@gmail.com if you want in on that.

Please also take your time to look at the new “Dear Frankie” tab of this website. 

Thanks and as always,

 Embrace Truth,


Oct 18 2011


You know about space trains right?  They are wholly uninteresting affairs that go whizzing from one planet to another carrying all those souls who are so unfortunate as to not own their own spacecraft.  That means they are full mostly of shabby, dull, boring, angry beings who write nasty things on the walls like “I hope your mother ate a Glucofuster!”

If you don’t know what a Glucofuster is you’d better not ask anyone.  It is a horribly horrible word and should not be uttered, even if only to ask what it means.

So space trains really are quite pathetic.  The only redeeming factor about a space train is the horn.  They have such wonderful horns that sing such lovely songs that blare out into the universe at top volume.  The stars have been known to, on occasion, wear their earmuffs when a space train is passing by just to deafen the noise, they are that loud.  But the rest of space’s inhabitants quite enjoy a good loud train honk.

Why all this nonsense about space trains you ask?  What about Lara and Rune and Rhett Blat you ask?  You think I forgot all about them, don’t you?  Well, if you continue to have such little faith in my narration skills I will have to write something truly nasty into existence for you.  You wouldn’t like that would you?  I could write that you stub your toe, or get a nose bleed, or get dumped!  So just watch yourself and show a bit more gratefulness or you might find a whole bunch of calamities just waiting for you.

I bring up the trains, you see, because the noise that saves Lara and Rune just so happens to be that of a space train horn.  In case you forgot, which you probably did, we left them last in suspended animation, with Rune attempting to stop Lara from disabling the thrust of his spacecraft.  So let’s get back to them, shall we?

Right… and three, two one…

Lara had her hand poised above the large red button labelled “DO NOT PUSH” and Rune was running for his life (quite literally) to stop her.  Her hand was inching closer and closer by the second, and her face had a rather stupid, gleeful, mad look to it.  Rune’s face looked white and green and he was very nearly throwing up his breakfast.

“Stop, you stupid woman, stop!”  Rune called out.

Lara just laughed maniacally and continued her pursuit of the button.  She was simply sure that she had gone off the deep end and was in a strange psychotic hallucination.  Pushing a red button that said “DO NOT PUSH” seemed like a great idea.

Just before she managed to deploy the button the most unusual sound blared suddenly in her ear and caused her to pause.  It was the sound of a loud horn singing the tune of “Baby it’s Cold Outside”.  Rune, too heard the tone, but it did not give him any pause as he’d been hearing space train horns all his life.  Instead he lunged at Lara and toppled her to the ground with a loud thud.

Now, you’re probably thinking “Oh how cute, now they’re going to be all awkward and stare into each other’s eyes and thus begins their love affair.”  But there you are entirely wrong!

For at that exact moment Rune’s ship was pulled suddenly by the tractor beam of Blat’s ship and the extra momentum caused him to land much harder than he expected, thereby pretty much flattening Lara completely.  The resulting impact meant that Lara was knocked unconscious and it was only then that she finally realized she was still completely sane.  She was rather upset by this revelation because that meant that she was stuck on a spaceship with a klutz of a man who wore a towel around his neck.  That was her last thought before the peace of a concussion took her.

Rune swore loudly and profusely using every word he could think of and then ran back to his controls.  ”Computer, what the hell is happening?”

The computer, having not forgiven him for his earlier insolence simply refused to answer.  Instead, it posted an image of a rather rude gesture.

It was Blat’s turn to laugh maniacally as he prepared himself to board the ship he now had in his grasp.  It was perhaps his favourite part of being a pirate other than the towels – his entrance.  It was so much fun to board a ship with pirate-y ire and scary words and brandish a sword about as if he knew how to use it.

When The Golly Golly Frump Jumper was near enough Blat attached his own ship to it and boarded it by means of a very ingenious device called a Tube-U-Porter. The Tube-U-Porter was, as the name suggests, a tube.  But a special tube that stretches from one ship, attaches itself to another, and creates a doorway in any previously solid wall, the practical upshot of which is that if you are a fierce towel pirate like Blat you can board any ship you want to in any way you want to.

Blat took advantage of this fact and attached his Tube-U-Porter to the main cabin of The Golly Golly Frump Jumper.  He slid down the tube (allowing himself a rather giddy girlish “whee!” on the way down) and did a somersault through the air, thrashing his mighty pirate sword and landing with a very hearty and gruff, “YAR!”

“I’m here to steal yer towels, matey, and if you try to stop me I’ll cut you from nose to toes!”  He brandished his sword again and looked to see the effect his scary pirate moves were having.  Sadly for Blat, however, there was no one in the main cabin.  He sighed deeply and said, “Now where the toodlefrists is the owner of this ship?” (Toodlefrists being quite the nastiest word Blat could think of at that moment, even though it only rates as about a six on the Yuiloploh Chart of Nasty Words To Use in Zero Space)

Quite curiously at the same moment there was a different person on Blat’s ship at that exact moment wondering just where he was.  But we’ll have to get to that next time.

To be continued…

Aug 30 2011


This is it folks, we’ve reached ITAAOAP version 2.0.  Applause is appreciated.  Picking of the nose, is not appreciated.  It mucks up your keyboard.  No, no… oh too late.  You’ve done it now.  Nothing left to be done now but ask you very kindly to grab the tissues and clean it up.

Right, now we were at a rather thrilling part of the story where Lara (the silly earth woman) was about to disable the thrust of the spaceship, The Golly Golly Frump Jumper, and Rune was on his way to stop her.  I am sure you’ve been imagining all kinds of thrilling explosions or summersaults through the air, or even sudden kisses.  Sadly you don’t get to find out what happens just quite yet.

I’ve known for quite some time now that if there is one thing earth people absolutely hate its suspense.  Therefore, I shall leave you hanging in suspense for just a while longer and take this story on a different tack.  And for all of you out there who might accuse me of not knowing where to take the story from here, I would like to remind you that I am the narrator and therefore all-knowing.  You’re just the reader.  What do you know?  Nothing, that’s what.  You know what I tell you.

So, without further ado, we’ll just leave Lara and Rune hanging out in suspended animation for a while and turn our attention to Blat.

Blat is sort of what you’d call a pirate.  Except for the fact that he’s not in the ocean (remember it’s about to be blown up), he’s in the universe.  It’s a really really really really huge universe so he’s not notorious or anything like that.  But he likes to think of himself that way for sure.  ”Blat the Notorious Planet Pirate”.  Of course he does not pirate whole planets either, so the whole title is pretty much a lie except for his name.  Blat.

Well, not really.  You see, Blat is not his real name either.  He just goes by that, a rather more pirate-y name you see.  His real name is Blatirietta Vin Dingle Hushamusha Toodleboots and he is only four-feet tall and wears a fake beard on his baby-smooth face.  But that’s a total secret and it’s between you and me and quite frankly if you tell any of the characters I shall simply refuse to continue the story.

So Blat did not really pirate entire planets, but what he did like to pirate where towels.  Piles and piles of towels, all washed as soon as he brought them on board and then sorted by colour, size, wear, and special properties.  He had a ship full of towels, and for this reason we can easily say he was the smartest being in the universe.  His favourite towel, his current fancy one might say, always rested securely around his shoulders where he could access it in an instant’s notice.  Today he was wearing a lovely green affair with mermaid decorations on it.  The fabric of the towel was of the lushest grade (there being seven grades of lushness, one being “sadly unlush”, two being “moving toward lush”, three being “okay, I’d call that lush”, four being “that’s almost pleasantly lush”, five being “now we’re getting somewhere”, six being “good golly that feels lush” and seven being “holy mother of refinements, that’s lush”) and every time Blat moved his head he was rewarded with a soft brush of fabric against his cheek.

Now most ships were equipped with a navigation system of some kind, and Blat’s ship, Towel Muncher, was no exception.  However, instead of the traditional GPS, radar, or Space-Ur-In systems it had a towel tracker.  And not just any towel tracker, either.  It had the Traipsing Travel Towel Tracker Thirty-Three. This deluxe edition came with advanced towel facts, a towel collection sorter, the ability to detect desirable towels within a 100,000 km radius, and a cup holder.

Now, as I’m sure you can imagine, being a fearsome towel-hunting pirate holds its glamour, but it can also be quite lonely.  A ship full of lush towels is all well and good, but even the being with the most towels in the universe sometimes craves the simple company of other beings.  Of course this craving is short-lived once the other beings are encountered and are found to be quite entirely stupid and useless and then Blat remembers why he loves his towels so very much.

In any case, it just so happened that it had been a long enough time since Blat last stopped to see another being that he decided he needed to stop by his local bar for a nice pint of beer.  Yes beer.  Beer is one of those universal drinks, and I’ll not hear you telling me that’s not true.  So he steered his ship in the direction of his favourite pub, The Frothy Beer Giver, and imagined the soothing taste that would soon greet his mouth.

Of course you should know by now that no one in this story ever really seems to get what they want.  It’s a sort fun game the universe likes to play with people, never giving them what they really want, but lining up something else to distract them momentarily.  Of course the distraction seems perfectly wonderful at first, until it’s revealed to be complete tripe.

Thus it was for Blat that just as his saliva glands were functioning at an incredible rate that his Traipsing Travel Towel Tracker Thirty-Three went off.  An alarm not unlike the sound of a donkey braying resounded with flashing pink lights and a disco ball fell from the ceiling illuminating the cabin in circling glittering reflections.

“Great Gadderdooks!”  Blat exclaimed, “A vintage Cforeum Airship towel?  In navy?”  He gasped in an entirely un-pirate-y way and then recovered himself with a mighty, “Ar!”

Abandoning his idea of a drink (and his taste buds were very sore at him for that, you can be sure.  In fact they began plotting their revenge at that very moment) he turned his ship in the direction of the towel signal, narrowed his eyes to slits and sang in a deep, growling voice, “Yo, ho, ho, and a cabin o’ towels!”

In case it escaped your notice (and I’m betting that it did because most things seem to have escaped your notice so far), the towel in question was none other than the very towel lying around the neck of a very panic ridden Rune.

To be continued…

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