Friday, August 27, 2010

Final Summer of My Utah Writers: I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER

I have tried some fun things on this blog, but I must say that reading and responding to some of the FAN.TAS.TIC Utah authors has been so so so enjoyable. I do NOT want to stop reading and writing about these fine novels, and so I won't. But I will post them on my writing blog: The Write Groove. Readers of this blog will still see my mini reviews on this site under "Read My List."

Now onto this most fascinating novel: I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells. First I have to say I received some funny comments when people saw me reading this book. My daughter-in-law read the title aloud and then added, "Glad to hear that, Renae. I was worried." My sons asked me if I was going to write my own versions, such as I am Not a Bad Driver or I am Not Hard of Hearing. Haha.

The most common reaction, however, was laughter out loud! Seriously, many thought this was a humorous novel, and when I told them it wasn't, they asked why then was I reading it. So here are the reasons:

1. Dan Wells, the author, hosted WRITING FOR CHARITY on August 21, 2010, and he was absolutely hilarious. Yes, he did plug his book, but it was in a charming, self-effacing way. Reassuring us that he was NOT the model for John Wayne Cleaver, he did admit to having a fascination for reading and talking about serial killers. Rather than sending him to a shrink, his friends requested that he stop talking about them and write about them.

2. Cheryl Bago, book-seller AND frequent guest blogger on Throwing Up Words, wrote about a possible up and coming/returning trend in YA: mysteries and horror novels - sort of in the Lois Duncan and R.L. Stein realm. At least she receives frequent requests for these genres. Well, I Am Not a Serial Killer fills both bills! And WHAT A PAGE TURNING TREAT IT IS.

3. I mean how many YA novels have you read where the main character possesses many of the traits of a serial killer, and yet, he is funny, likable, and sympathetic as well as irritating, scary, and courageous.

4. The plot is twisted, and I mean in a good way. SURPRISES! Interesting COMPLICATIONS that pull at your heartstrings. I'm serious!

5. The characters are intriguing. Mom and Auntie are morticians - don't know of many women funeral directors, but these 2 are good at what they do. Sister Lauren Bacall Cleaver is a moody rebel, and Max, John's one and only friend, is a loner who can be pretty funny, too. I like and trust John's psychiatrist, too, because John, who likes few people, likes and trusts him. He "gets" John. Besides the main character, Mr. Crowley is an especially compelling character. All of them are well developed with layers that demand our attention. Love it.

6. While reading, I would sometimes go, "EEE-YOOO" because John's dark thoughts would trouble me, but then I read the next paragraph and would think, "Oooooh! He's fighting so hard against being something he really doesn't want to be. Will he be all right? He will make it, won't he?" Dan keeps his readers off balance this way, and that makes reading all the better.

I know this book isn't for everyone, and I doubt that I would have picked it up if Dan hadn't charmed me and 150 other people into giving it a try, but I really enjoyed it. Creepiness and all. I just saw where Alpine School District teachers are reading it for their book club. Can't wait to see if it makes Alpine's approved book list. I'm doubting it as, you know, the district is in Utah County! It may be violent, but there is little to no swearing!

BUT it makes my approved list. Just be warned.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer of My Utah Writers: THE DARK DIVINE

If you are a fan of the Twilight series, you will enjoy Bree DeSpain's The Dark Divine. And if you DON'T like Stephanie Meyer's vampire trilogy, you'll STILL like Divine. Bree's first published novel is a paranormal romance that EXcludes vampires, but focuses upon the other scary but alluring monster who wants to do what is right. (Isn't the cover DIVINE, too?)

Grace Divine, the pastor's daughter, is the main character who must go against her near-perfect brother in order to support Daniel, a troubled friend whom they both loved at one time. (Click HERE to read the first chapter!)

While there are similarities between Grace and Bella of Twilight fame, Bree pulls in enough twists and turns to end the comparisons. I do enjoy Bree's stronger female lead, but like all 16-year-olds, affairs of the heart can weaken the best of intentions.Sigh.

Check this out, if you don't believe me!

Family dynamics also play a big part in developing the Divine plot, and that strengthens the "normal" in paraNORMAL! All in all, the novel is a romping page-turner. Way to go, Bree!

The Lost Saint, Bree's second book, is a sequel to The Dark Divine, and it will be available in December! These books are 2 reasons paranormal romances are ALIVE and WELL!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer of My Utah Writers: ONCE WAS LOST

I'm a BIG Sara Zarr fan. BIG. If you search this blog site to see how many times I've written about her, you'll find out how much I like this author; this person. Two reasons: 1) She is a remarkable writer; 2) she is a kind person.

When she presented at JCIRA last May, Sara talked about how she enjoys writing about family dynamics, and all three of her books testify of her expertise in so doing. Another important element she incorporates into these stories of families is a sense of hope.

While I really liked Story of a Girl and Sweethearts, I treasured Once Was Lost. It is my favorite SZ novel. Now this sort of amazes me because ofttimes authors who launch a critically acclaimed FIRST book fail to match their own success with their subsequent novels. Not so with Sara. She just gets better.

In Once Was Lost, Sara weaves together a story of lost faith, lost family ties, and lost family member. The catalyst that brings this all together is the kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl from one of the town's most respected families. But the Shaw family isn't the only ones experiencing loss.

Samara's pastor-father becomes less and less a father as he becomes more involved in shepherding his flock, comforting the grief-stricken Shaw family, and working with the exuberant youth counselor Erin.

Samara's mother slowly lost herself to the inebriated state of alcoholism. Sequestered in a rehabilitation facility, Sam's mother disappears into healing, which leaves Sam feeling even more alienated.

Sara pulls all this together with such tenderness that readers hurt for every character, but the weaknesses of each do not leave us without hope. That's what I love about this story. There is just not enough hope in families or society today. Because faith and hope prevail, the reader closes the book feeling that Samara and her family just might make it.

Make sure you pick up this book! It will touch your life.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Last Friday evening, I lounged on our deck, periodically enjoying the view as I read the last third of A.E. Cannon's novel The Loser's Guide to Life and Love. My husband busied himself with mowing, trimming, and watering our thirsty back yard. Occasionally, he interrupted HIS yard work and MY reading with a comment: "Are you enjoying yourself?" or observation: "I hope you're not overdoing."

I ignored his sarcastic remarks because a) I know he loves to work in our yard; b) I could NEVER do it to his satisfaction; and c) I really was enjoying myself! The July evening was much like the June midsummer eve described in the novel, minus dragonflies flitting about everywhere. And every few paragraphs, I laughed out loud - you know "lol". I've read humorous books that make me smile, but not so many that prompt audible giggles, chuckles, or snorts. (Yes, I even snorted.)

Loser's Guide is a perfect YA summertime read. It has fun elements like the lazy feel attached to long, warm days, a summer job that isn't the best but beats most part-time work; and most importantly, a summer romance based upon deceit. Yes, Ed's job at a movie rental store opens the door to the romance. Because he HAS to wear a name tag that claims the wearer is "Sergio," Ed adopts the persona of a romantic Brazilian transplant when the beautiful Ellie enters the store and his life.

(I couldn't help but remember the summer I was 14 and met a cutie in Las Vegas on our trip to Southern California. I lied and said I was 16 and for 3 hours I enjoyed a summer romance with a very handsome 18-year-old who was heading for college. We even wrote each other for about hmm 3 weeks.)

Besides the complicated premise, Ann (aka A.E.) develops endearing characters: the very funny Ed; the patient and slightly satirical Scout (aka Aurora Aurelia); the handsome geek Quark; and the deeper-than-you-think Ellie. I also love Ali, and who in the world of this novel doesn't love the exotic store owner who brings mystery, charm, and a Midsummer Eve celebration where "friends and friends-to-be" are invited to party from dusk to dawn?

This is a light-hearted romp readers will truly enjoy. It was the pick-me-up I longed for after reading wonderful, but sad novels about desperate teens. I LOVED Losers! And I really like that Ann Cannon, too!

P.S. When I finished the last page, G.E. finished the yard work. He turned to me and said, "Hmm. I feel like the paid gardener hired by a rest home." Bless him.