Friday, May 27, 2011

LM Preston - "Bandits" - Giveaway & Review

First of all, I have to say I am so proud of LM Preston. Bandits is her third young adult novel, and her writing continues to improve. She is voracious in spreading the word about her work from attending the BookExpo America in New York City to interacting on a daily basis with her fans on Twitter. I highly recommend following her at:

As a small, independent publisher, I cannot commend LM enough for the amount of time and level of dedication she puts into her promotional efforts. LM reached out to me to review Bandits as a part of the online launch party in celebration of the book's June 1st release. After reviewing LM's previous titles The Pack and Explorer X-Alpha, I readily agreed to participate.

LM is a rarity because she writes for teenage boys. So many young adult titles are aimed at a female demographic, and it is refreshing to see an author go after an audience that is not considered "book-friendly." It is an uphill battle to connect with potential readers who are not known to frequent bookstores or libraries. However, LM carries the torch for young guys who are looking for something to read on their Kindles, Nooks and iPads.

What is great about LM's creative approach is that she intertwines a meaningful message amid the fistfights and verbal posturing common among most adolescent guys. In Bandits, she examines the damaged relationship between Daniel and his father, Rayne. The narrative begins with the murder of Rayne, a known criminal mastermind. However, before his untimely death, he was desperately trying to extricate himself from such a dangerous lifestyle. Daniel resented his father's show of weakness in this most macho of cultures. Needless to say after this act of violence, Daniel's emotions are sent into a tumultuous upheaval. He hates his father. He loves his father. He misses his father. He doesn't understand his father. He is his father.

Throughout the course of the story, Daniel tries to work out his interior confusion while unknowingly becoming a better man in the process. If his feelings weren't enough to deal with, he also has to save his planet from utter destruction. Luckily, he has help along the way. His cousin, Faulk, is a runaway pilot who wants to put the family back together. He is a source of undying support for Daniel, but also an ego-centered rival when it comes to affections of Jade, a sharp-tongued beauty attracted to both boys. Not to mention, Daniel's intrepid little brother, Nickel, plays a vital role in restoring his sibling's psyche. While the supporting cast is there for Daniel in his quest, ultimately the responsibility for their fate rests with him.

LM excels in the world of science fiction. There are many references to classic archetypes. The power to restore a planet - the pakeet - is reminiscent of Star Trek's Genesis project. The creepy, crawly vines are a nod to the devil's snare in Harry Potter. The aliens on Purgas remind me of those encountered by Star Wars' Obi Wan Kenobi on Kamino. While the whole pirate aspect is a nod to the adventures of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. As always, LM brings her own unique twist to the spectacular imagery of the genre.

At times, the detailed descriptions of each and every movement of a character slows the action down a tad. The book sustains momentum when chapters are kept to around five pages. When paragraphs get too wordy in terms of cliff features and plant life, I couldn't wait to get through them and get back to the witty, snappy dialogue. The verbal interaction among her young cast is where LM excels.

Bandits is more than capable of stealing a teenage boy's attention.

Bandits by LM Preston is available for $14.99 at and at

Review copy provided by LM Preston's Launch Party for Bandits.

Also by LM Preston: The Pack and Explorer X-Alpha

Congratulations to our winner: Victoria Zumbrum!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Greg Halpin - Welcome to Scranton - Giveaway & Review

Character likeability is subjective. In Greg Halpin's debut novella, Welcome to Scranton, Hank and Ed are not your typical valiant heroes or romantic leading men. Instead, they offer a glimpse into the mind of a twenty-something, small town male. They are rude, crude and obsessed with the opposite sex. All in all, they represent Halpin's take on the average guy. Their realistic portrayal demonstrates how good writing can overshadow the cult of personality.

The main question Halpin addresses is: Would you try to save someone you didn't like? Despite the fact that they've been friends since childhood, Hank despises Ed. Hank is the owner of the gourmet coffee shop, Cafe del Sol, while Ed is a strip club hustler. Hank likes to watch independent films at the Ritz Theater while Ed indulges in cocaine. Hank is tolerant of the differences of others while Ed is a bigoted homophobe. Hank is in a committed relationship while Ed cheats on his pregnant girlfriend. Yet when Ed's life is in danger, Hank must decide whether or not he is worth saving.

This powerful premise is developed through dialogue laced with profanity and sexually explicit language. Hank is not depicted as a saint. He is hesitant to respond to Ed's call for help. He is reluctant to do the right thing. He doesn't want to take charge of the situation and shoulder the responsibility. This is a complex, emotional response to what may seem like a straight forward dilemma. Hank is not one who gladly rises to the challenge of saving the day. Instead, he exhibits the characteristics of a genuine antihero.

When a protagonist doesn't fall into a cliche and think/say/do the expected thing, it lends credence to the narrative. Real life isn't black and white, and good writers live in shades of gray. When characters are composed of both merits and faults, they are ultimately more believable and authentic. Their true natures are revealed by the choices they make under difficult circumstances. Do they rise to the occasion or do they fall short?

In fact, the city of Scranton, itself, is featured as a multi-dimensional character, and Halpin fleshes out the mindset of those who live there. In fact, he explains that despite the feeling of self-hatred the city imprints on its residents, many are so close to their city that they tend to view it as a member of the family. Halpin also highlights the lack of opportunity throughout the region from the impossible odds of obtaining a job with the Scranton School District to Ed suggesting Sinatra should have been singing about Scranton with the words, "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere." Halpin continues by addressing the long held politically incorrect views of older residents in regards to non-whites and gays, and extols the younger generation for being more open minded about community diversity.

Halpin also features colorful asides in regards to area landmarks and local innuendos. Mickey Gannon's Irish Pub in North Scranton is considered the gathering place for the children of the city's elite despite being a nondescript watering hole. Due to the uneven male to female campus ratio, the girls of Marywood University are believed to be sex-starved, yet unobtainable. While Cooper's Seafood House is mocked for
its out of place architecture, but viewed sentimentally for its ship regalia. Across various settings, Halpin illuminates how Scranton culture is immersed in contradiction.

Overall, a raw look at the different forms a love-hate relationship can take.

Welcome to Scranton by Greg Halpin is available for $9.95 at and at

eview copy provided by the author.

Congratulatons to our winners: Carol Wong & Karen!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lynda Fishman - Repairing Rainbows - Giveaway & Review

This is a book that is hard to read. Repairing Rainbows by Lynda Fishman is an emotionally gut wrenching story. It is a first person account of a thirteen-year-old tragically losing her mother and two sisters in a plane crash. The Air Canada flight went down on July 5, 1970 and Lynda vividly recounts what it was like to try to pick up the pieces of her young life. Making the situation even more difficult, her father retreats into himself leaving her alone in her grief.

I have to admit this book is so powerful I needed to take a break from it after about 100 pages. Lynda's writing elicits such an overwhelming feeling of empathy from the reader that it is like you are right there with her living the nightmare. It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit that she was able to move forward. When I picked up the book again after some time away from it, I was in awe of Lynda's indomitable will to focus on the positive.

But what I liked most about the remainder of the narrative was how honest Lynda was about the continuing struggle to cope with the fragility of her mental state. The turmoil she went through will always be a part of her and she openly acknowledges this indisputable fact. It is a continual uphill battle that she will face for the rest of her life. As a reader, you can't help rooting for her.

You root for her when she meets and falls in love with her soul mate, Barry. When the two get married and start a family, they balance each other perfectly. Barry also lost his mother when he was a child and his father when he was a teenager. The shared bond of pain allows them to form a deep, mutual understanding of each other. It is a beautiful union to behold and you feel grateful that the two of them were able to find each other.

Being the one left behind after a loved one dies in a plane crash is a lonely, unique designation. That is why it is quite touching when Lynda feels such a connection with the victims' families of 9-11. When she lost her mother and sisters, support groups did not exist. She was not put in touch with the surviving members of other families who lost loved ones on that Air Canada plane. She could not really relate to other children who lost family to cancer, a car accident, etc. She was unwillingly assigned to a new category of loss. One that not many people will ever experience.

The book concludes with a section regarding the paranormal. Lynda connects with a medium named Sandy who is able to channel her deceased family members on multiple occasions. Whether you believe in communication after death or not, Lynda receives specific, detailed messages from beyond the grave. It is a fitting way to conclude the book by illustrating that while she may not be able to physically see them, her mother and sisters will be beside her for the rest of her life.

Overall, this is a painful story that is worth the struggle to read.

Repairing Rainbows by Lynda Fishman is available for $18.00 at and at

eview copy provided by the author.

Congratulations to our winner: Nancye C. Davis!