All tagged Self-Published

A Twisted, Gripping, Disturbing Thriller: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

Our lives are made up of choices. Big ones, small ones, strung together by the thin air of good intentions; a line of dominos, ready to fall.

I don't think a book has left me feeling so intensely uneasy as Abigail Haas' newest, Dangerous Boys, did. 

Like in Dangerous Girls, Haas takes readers on a time-shifting journey, shifting between the present and the events leading up to a tragedy. In this case, three teenagers--narrator Chloe, her boyfriend Ethan and his brother Oliver--enter an empty home but only two emerge from that house as it burns to the ground. 

The reader is left wondering which brother survived the fire? Whose at fault? Was it self-defense? An accident? Or something more insidious? 

I was curious about Colleen Hoover’s Slammed after I saw Tammara Webber (whose book Easy, I very much enjoyed) raving about it and then it subsequently landed on the ebook bestseller list. However, I tend to shy away from self-published books* unless they’re by an author I’m familiar with or it’s a book that’s been recommended by a reader whose taste I trust. 

Once Atria (a Simon & Schuster imprint who’s seemingly buying every popular self-published novel) purchased Slammed and reissued it, my curiosity resurfaced. 

Slammed begins with high school senior Layken (yes, there are weird names in this book, and yes, Layken sometimes goes by “Lake”) moving from Texas to Michigan with her mother and brother, following the sudden death of her father. Naturally, she meets the 21-year old hottie across the street, Will, immediately after she pulls the moving truck into the driveway. They go out on one date—a pretty strange date—that includes homemade sandwiches, little personal information exchanged and a visit to a slam poetry event. 

We both finish our sandwiches, and I put the trash back in the bag and place it in the backseat. I try to think of something to say to break the silence, so I ask him about his family. “What are your parents like?”

He takes a deep breath and slowly exhales, almost like I’ve asked the wrong thing. “I’m not big on small talk, Lake. We can figure all that out later. Let’s make this drive interesting.” He winks at me and relaxes further into his seat.

(I actually thought Will was kidnapping Layken when I read this—thankfully, they just went to a poetry slam.)

The poetry slams like the one the pair goes to on their first date are probably the strongest element of Slammed, creating an interesting backdrop for Will and Layken’s story. Hoover does a nice job of capturing why this expressive form of spoken-word performance would so grip people, especially teens. 

{Review} Angelfall by Susan Ee

Beads of water cling to him like in a dream. The combined effect of the soft light behind him from the bathroom and steam curling around his muscles gives the impression of a mythological water god visiting our world. 

Angelfall by Susan EeThis is not a mythological water god, rather it is Raffe, an agnostic angel created by Susan Ee in her post-apocalyptic self-published novel, Angelfall.

Penryn or Pen, whose world has turned into a nightmare of gangs of roaming scoundrels, witnesses the brutality of celestial beings de-winging the handsome angel Raffe who becomes her ally in working to regain the world she once knew. She wraps his wings in a bundle to protect them from more damage. They’re carried with him as he navigates with Pen this frightening new world.

Without wings, Raffe is vulnerable. With them he is nearly invincible.  Pen’s theory is that they can be reattached like a human’s thumb. Together they search for an angel-surgeon to perform the feat.

Angelfall kept my interest with its fast-paced action and unusual characters.

Raffe (the wingless agnostic angel) plays a central role in the story. Angels have swept the earth creating an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it shattered existence. Food, shelter and safety are only memories. Broken lives along with literal debris from a once a thriving world litter the pages like dominoes scattered across a playroom floor. 

Pen, from whose eyes and mind the first-person story evolves, struggles as she always has to hold her family together. She’s a teenager who’s versatile, strong, savvy and determined. Her mother’s mental instability and paranoid insanity means that monsters and demons have been her constant companions for years, therefore this new world’s not new to her.

Paige, Pen’s sweet and dearly loved sister, at eight years of age is confined to a wheelchair. Pushing Paige through the debris strewn streets and all the while  keeping her mother under some semblance of control is not an easy task. Then, Paige is ferreted away by angels who do not have much use for humans while her paranoid mother wanders off on her own path. 

The basic plot is breathless and absorbing.

{Review} Come See About Me by C.K. Kelly Martin

Love is real and real love lasts. I used to feel sorry for people who didn’t believe in it—the people who were lonely with someone else or lonely alone. For awhile I was was one of the lucky ones.

C.K. Kelly Martin, who’s written several marvelous young adult novels, couldn’t find a traditional publisher for her first book for adults, Come See About Me.

According to Martin, no one knew how to market a novel with a 20 year old protagonist. Come See About Me certainly isn’t a teen novel, it’s mature and addresses themes that are not seen in the YA category. And since “Adult” fiction typically features older narrators, not a recent college dropout, it couldn’t be marketed as “Adult.” Essentially, a marketing problem* prevented this novel from hitting bookstore shelves. 

This is absolutely perplexing to me.

Luckily for us, Martin couldn’t keep to herself the story of Leah, a young woman who’s life has wholly stalled following the death of her boyfriend, Bastien, who was killed while crossing the street in Toronto. She flakes on her job, fails out of school, hides from her friends and family—she can’t move forward because of the loss. She wants to be alone with her memories and sadness over what should have been, over their lost future together.

Alone is what’s easier. Everyone else would prefer that I pretend my life hasn’t been hollowed out. They believe their expectations should carry some weight with me. Only Bastien truly carries any weight and people try to use that fact against me too and tell me what he would want for me. Some of the things they say about that might be right, but since he’s not here he doesn’t get to decide how I should handle his absence.

The early chapters, in which Leah recounts her relationship with Bastien, were incredibly difficult for me to read. The two went to high school in British Columbia together, though they weren’t even friends—acquaintances is a better description—and connected later, when they both went to college in Toronto. Their love was the forever sort, not the college dating temporary sort.

{Review} Easy by Tammara Webber

Ignore the icky cover—this one’s worth reading.

College was probably the time in my life that most influenced the sort of person I am as a “real adult.” (Note: Adulthood is highly overrated.) It’s where my mind was opened about the world beyond the U.S., where I discovered that Women’s Studies was a legit major and where I met my super-cute husband who also knows how to fix stuff around the house. 

Yet college remains an elusive setting in fiction.

Yes, it appears in high-brow literary fiction on occasion, but that’s not usually my wheelhouse. Young adult fiction is limited to high school settings and most adult fiction ignores this formative and interesting time. The only book I can think of in recent memory set in college is Charmed Thirds/Jessica Darling #3, which I dearly love. Oh, and Jennifer Echols’ Love Story, which was just an okay read for me. So, when Jane at Dear Author recommended Tammara Webber’s Easy as a good read set in college, I clicked “Buy Now” without even downloading a sample. 

Easy is set in a southern state college and follows Jacqueline through the first semester of her sophomore year. She’s at the state school despite being an excellent musician because that’s where her boyfriend of three years, Kennedy, decided to attend as a legacy. At the beginning of the novel, two things happen:

  1. Kennedy breaks up with Jacqueline; and
  2. One of Kennedy’s fraternity brothers, Buck, attacks and attempts to rape her in the parking lot after a frat party.

Jacqueline is saved from Buck by a senior who’s in her economics class (he’s always in the back of class, drawing in his sketchbook), Lucas. However, despite his protests, she doesn’t report the crime. She then starts seeing Lucas all over campus (he holds down several odd jobs to pay his way through school) and her roommate Erin (a character I was quite surprised that I liked so very much) encourages her to pursue Lucas as a bad boy rebound fling. At the same time, she’s assigned an economics tutor, Landon, because she missed two weeks of class and a midterm, with whom she starts a kind of, sort of, maybe flirtation over email.

While this makes it sound like easy is the story of Jacqueline finding a new boy, what Easy is really about is Jacqueline finding her way back to herself.