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Our Souls to Keep – Book Review

Posted on by marvazon

I had the pleasure of receiving an advanced copy of Our Souls to Keep. I knew it was a YA novel, which probably didn’t prepare me for the beginning. In what could only be described as a jolt to the system, the book began with a bang that grabbed my attention. From there, I relished the thought of seeing what else Caruso would come up with.

Throughout the book, I kept noticing that it didn’t follow convention. No, it went in so many directions I hadn’t seen before in YA novels. If you’re looking for a happy tale where boy eventually wins girl of his dreams, falls in love, and lives happily ever after, this isn’t for you. If you want something brutally powerful, and at times, heart wrenching, then read this book.

The premise is fascinating and quite original. Demons and Angels are not new in the literary world by any means, but this is a great take on them. With unpredictability oozing out of every single word, I truly didn’t know how this novel would end. But what an ending it was; powerful and thought-provoking. Some details were left open, but that gives me hope that a sequel will follow. I’ll most certainly be one of the first in line when it does.

An intriguing Young Adult novel with a very original plot. A solid debut from Caruso.

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Memoirs of a Conflicted Writer: Part 3

Posted on by marvazon

This is a true tale about my journey to becoming a published author. Most of the situations are factual, but character names and some speech have been invented.

October 12th 2010

 

 

I open Microsoft Word and stare at the screen for a few seconds. My mind can’t focus. I run through different ways to begin the novel, but none is striking home. I walk to my bookshelf and pick a number of books out. Some are hefty hardbacks, hundreds of pages long. I sit back down and frown. If I can’t even figure out how to start a book, how am I going to write a hundred plus pages?

I close my eyes and visualize the protagonist’s house. I think it’s a good place to start. It’s clear in my head, right to the last detail. I begin typing. The words flow out. I type so fast; I can see Word pointing out many errors. But I don’t stop. Some of what’s appearing on the screen makes no sense. I stop after two pages and sigh.

I read it back and make some grammatical corrections. But something’s wrong. I open one of the many books on my shelf. They all look so polished and clear. I also remember something a good friend once told me: “The number one rule of writing is to show and not tell.”

I frown and hit the wall in frustration. There is more telling than showing in my manuscript. I delete everything I’ve written. I start again from scratch. My cell rings, but I ignore it. The ideas are pouring out again. I try to craft sentences in as clear a fashion as possible. When I read it back this time, it’s much better.

I reach the third chapter, and the clock strikes 9 p.m. I stand up and stretch. My cell rings again. I ignore it and stare out the window. When I do look at phone’s screen, I see 25 missed calls. I call my friend, Kevin, back. He answers after three rings.

‘Where’ve you been all day?’ he asks.

‘Just busy.’ I grin.

‘What’s up with you lately? You haven’t been out in a while.’

‘I’ve just got a lot going on right now,’ I say. ‘I’ll catch up with you soon.’

I hear Kevin breathe down the phone for a few seconds. ‘What’re you doing now? A couple of the guys want to go into London. I could do with my wingman.’ He sniggers.

‘Nah,’ I say. ‘I’ll give it a miss.’

‘Seriously, Marvin, what’s up with you?’

I smile. ‘I’ve started writing my book, and I can’t stop.’

 

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Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) – Book Review

Posted on by marvazon

After seeing the movie trailers for Jack Reacher, I thought I’d take a look at the novels. Killing Floor seemed to be the best place to start, being the novel that introduced us to Jack Reacher’s universe.

The book does not waste time on settings. We are thrown straight in from the first page. While eating his breakfast and minding his business, Jack Reacher is arrested for murder and hauled into the police station of a small, quiet town. The story begins to unfold after that, and we start to piece the puzzle together with our protagonist.

The main thing I love about this book is Jack Reacher himself. He is what I like to call a throwback to the action heroes that filled the silver screen in the eighties. He is so confident in his ability to survive the most hostile of situations, even if the people he’s up against are double his size.

Although others assisted in solving the case and saving the innocent bystanders, Reacher was pretty much a one-man team. As a fan of the old-school legends, I found that aspect of the novel awesome, but somewhat predictable at the same time. At no time did I feel scared for Reacher. Every dangerous situation was handled as if he were on the training ground, where his assailants were told not to hit too hard. But as I read on, I came to realise that the book was about Jack Reacher first, and everything else, second.

The book itself was a fantastic read. The mystery cranked up with every page, even to the point that it seemed implausible. But Child kept peeling the layers as the story went on, and it kept making sense. The detail in the novel was brilliant. I was impressed with the amount of research that must have taken place. I found a few convenient resolutions to problems, but that didn’t happen often.

The short sentences helped to maintain the novel’s fast pace. But they were sometimes too short, which made the prose a bit harsh. It distracted me during the beginning of the novel, but I quickly got past it. My other minor issue was to do with Reacher himself. His character was depicted as an indestructible force, but he also had his moments of human emotion, even vulnerability. I found a few of those sections somewhat forced and slightly unbelievable. But those were small issues, and nowhere near enough to disrupt my enjoyment of the book. I found it to be a scintillating read.

I would recommend it to lovers of thrillers and mystery novels. I would just advice every reader to prepare for graphic violence. This novel most certainly doesn’t hold back.

 

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Step on a Crack – Book Review

Posted on by marvazon

 

I really enjoyed Step on a Crack. In the novel, Michael Bennett is a New York City detective caught in the middle of a hostage situation. As if that’s not enough, he’s also the father of ten adopted kids. And his wife is a cancer patient.
At the begining, I felt the author was juggling too much, but as time went on, all my fears evaporated. The novel moved at a fast pace and didn’t linger too much on scenes that slowed the prose down. I found it to be an engaging read with interesting characters.
I am one who welcomes multiple POVs in a novel, but I felt that some were unnecessary in this book. Other than that, it simmered with tension.
The ending also took me by surprise, but a good one. I would recommend it to crime readers, although I must add that nothing here hasn’t been done before. All in all, a great introduction to Detective Michael Bennet by James Patterson

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Memoirs of a Conflicted Writer: Part 2

Posted on by marvazon

This is a true tale about my journey to becoming a published author. Most of the situations are factual, but character names and some speech have been invented.

July 17th 2009

 

Kevin drifts yards ahead of me in a very short space of time. I call his name out, but the loud music drowns it out. I steadily manoeuvre through the crowd with my right hand out. I get a number of angry glances, but I continue. I eventually reach the bar’s entrance, but there’s a queue to go outside. After another three minutes, I walk out and immediately turn left, to the section cordoned off for smokers. I notice Kevin holding a lit cigarette and talking to a young lady—probably in her early twenties—with flowing blond hair. I squeeze through a few more people before reaching him.

‘Marvin. Where have you been?’ he says.

‘Do you know how hard it is to even get out of that place?’

He laughs and diverts his attention to the woman. ‘This is my friend, Marvin,’ he says to her.

She smiles and extends her hand. I shake it and nod. ‘Hi, Marvin,’ she says. ‘I’m Lara.’

‘Hello, Lara.’

‘So what do you do, Marvin?’

‘He’s in IT,’ Kevin interrupts. ‘But he really wants to be a writer.’

Her eyes widen. ‘Really? You want to be a writer?’

‘Ridiculous, isn’t it?’ Kevin says.

‘Why is that ridiculous?’ she says. ‘I think it’s great.’ She faces me. ‘What kind of stuff do you want to write?’

‘Seriously?’ Kevin says. ‘Where is he going to find the time to write? He’s already got a job. Besides, do you see him as the writer type? Where is he going to get ideas from?’

She shrugs. ‘But who is the writer type? You can’t tell what people do by the way you see them.’ She looks at me. ‘What do you think I do?’

I exchange glances with both of them and shrug. ‘A nurse?’ I finally say.

‘She laughs. ‘I’ll let you off there. I actually get that a lot. It must be something about me. No, I’m a Solicitor.’

‘See,’ Kevin says. ‘That makes sense, more than him being a writer, anyway.’

She edges closer to me. ‘Look, Marvin. I don’t know you or anything about you, but if writing is what you want to do, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re not good enough or smart enough to do it. Only you know what you’re capable of.’

A broad smile covers my face. ‘Thank you for saying that.’

‘My pleasure.’ She turns toward Kevin once more. ‘I’m going inside now.’

She walks past him and he quickly stubs his cigarette. ‘You coming,’ he says to me.

‘I’ll be there in a minute.’

He heads back to the bar’s entrance and I smile to myself. It’s funny to think how words from a complete stranger can be an unlikely source of motivation.

To be continued…

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Win a Kindle Fire HD

Posted on by marvazon

To celebrate the release of my debut fantasy novel, The Corin Chronicles, I’m giving a Kindle Fire HD to one lucky reader. The competition will run for a month, and in order to be eligible for the prize, you will need to send your name to info@marvinamazon.com. Please state “Kindle Fire Giveaway” in the subject field. 

It’s now time for the interesting part. Please see below, an excerpt from the novel:

During Prince Ramon’s journey to the Dark World of Corin, he says:

“If I choose to do anything but believe, I might as well give in to the death of my beloved planet. As we stand here…”

In order to be entered into the final draw to win the Kindle Fire HD, please complete the sentence above and send your response to info@marvinamazon.com. Entries must be submitted by the 21st of November. The winner will be selected and announced on the 28th. Please look out for further announcements on my twitter and facebook pages.

Good luck.

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Memoirs of a Conflicted Writer: Part 1

Posted on by marvazon

This is a true tale about my journey to becoming a published author. Most of the situations are factual, but character names and some speech have been invented.

October 20th 2008

My alarm clock seems louder than usual. I cancel it and sit up, but I want to go straight back to bed. It’s the day before my birthday—the last before I hit the 30 mark—and my friends have a big celebration planned. I rub my eyes as I walk to the bathroom, my thoughts still on the conversation with my brother, Adam, last night. I turn the shower on when my cell rings. The number is unknown, but I still answer it. I’m greeted by Adam’s voice.

‘How’re you doing?’ he says.

‘Tired. I wish Jeremy and all the lads will just stop fussing.’

‘But it’s your birthday,’ he says.

I shrug and walk out of the bathroom. ‘Anyway, what’s up?’

‘Well,’ he says. ‘I was speaking with Mum this morning about what we talked about last night.’

‘And?’

‘She thinks the same as me.’

I sigh. ‘But what if I dedicate an hour a day to it, maybe even two?’ I can picture Adam shaking his head.

‘It’s not that,’ he says. ‘Do you realise the responsibility of being a writer. Every word you write will be scrutinised. Some people will absolutely slam your work. It might just be because they don’t like you, and nothing to do with your book.’

I frown and walk into my bedroom where I sit down. ‘But everyone starts off somewhere. How will I ever know if I don’t try?’

‘You’re wasting your time if you ask me. Yea, you love reading books and watching films, but it’s so different when you’re the one creating. Think about how many times you’ve criticised authors and directors. If you write, you’ll be the one in the firing line.’

‘I place both hands on top of my head. I can do this. I know I can. ‘I guess only time will tell if I can make it happen.’

‘Well, it’s totally up to you, but I think you’re wasting your time.’

I stay quiet for a few seconds.

‘Anyway, forget this writing dream. I just can’t see you as an author. You’re not exactly the writing type. You’re way too busy. Just forget about it and come round. We’ve got a party to plan.’

I rub my forehead and take a deep breath. ‘Okay, cool. ‘I’ll be right there.’ I cut the phone off and enter the still running shower. I don’t care what he says. I still want to be a writer.

To be continued…

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The Bourne Identity—Book Review

Posted on by marvazon

I first saw the 2002 theatrical version of the Bourne Identity a year after it was released, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It moved at a relentless pace and introduced a new kind of hero to the general movie-going public—one who got the job done with grit and sweat, rather than cool weapons and gadgets. The plot seemed current and relevant to our times—I believe it actually still does today—which was a very good thing.

Up until a few months ago, I never considered reading the book. I assumed it would be just like the movie, but then I read the synopsis. I immediately got intrigued and ordered it that same evening. After I finished the book, I kicked myself for not reading it sooner, for I might as well have been witnessing a completely different story.

The plot from the get-go centres on a man called Jason Bourne. We learn quite early on that he’s an amnesic, who doesn’t quite know who he is, following his shooting in Marseille, France. What is apparent, however, is that he has a number of unexplained skills, like being able to completely dismantle a gun in no time at all.

As the story moves on, he slowly pieces bits of his life together with help from unlikely sources. At the same time, he is pursued by a number of people who seem intent on seeing him dead at all costs. He ends up running for his life across Europe, while trying to gather clues as to who he actually is.

As with the film, the story moves at breakneck speed, but includes more intricate schemes and plots. This novel is very much in the same mould of John le Carré’s spy thrillers, with huge emphasis on the KGB/CIA spy activities during the 70s and 80s. The movie, however, modified it to suit the times, which helps to explain the vast differences.

The antagonists seem to come from everywhere, but the beauty of this novel is that Jason genuinely doesn’t know who they are, or why they’re hell bent on killing him. This also leaves us—the readers—in a state of confusion, adding to the mystery. The author, Robert Ludlum, keeps things from us for much of the novel, relying instead on a slow revealing process.

 The story does start to drag around the middle, and the entire concept is quite implausible at times. Also, as we witness Jason recollecting fragments of his life at random moments, Deus ex Machina sometimes springs to mind in a few of these scenes. But all in all, it’s a thoroughly engaging read, especially if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief from time to time. Eight out of ten stars.

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London 2012 Olympics

Posted on by marvazon

We go through life hoping to witness something majestic and everlasting in our minds. I genuinely believe that all of us here in Great Britain witnessed just that with the recently concluded Olympic Games. I for one feared the thought of following the legacy of the fabulous display in Beijing. But after London’s closing ceremony drew to its conclusion, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly patriotic.

As I believe is a common trait around the world, we generally don’t take the time out to step back and appreciate ourselves. Self-Appreciation should never be confused with vanity as they’re not the same thing. The London Olympics, however, made all Britons take note of just how significant we are around the globe. Our nation put on a show we can tell our children, and them, theirs.

From the stars of yesteryear to the current crop, our entertainers showcased their incredibly diverse talents to the world during the opening ceremony, giving the entire nation hope and belief. But at the biggest stage of all, the competitors—from all countries—put on the best show for us fans by giving it their all.

We can now proudly say in the years to come that we witnessed Usain Bolt’s record-braking victories, or Jessica Ennis’ sublime performance. Even if I never get to witness something quite as magnificent in my lifetime again, I will always have London 2012.

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The Dark Knight Rises—A Review

Posted on by marvazon

After watching The Dark Knight four years ago, I immediately wondered how Nolan could top it. Inception came two years later and showed me that we were in for a treat with the third Batman movie. Naturally, with a film this hotly anticipated, reviews were bound to come in thick and fast. Being Nolan, everyone was expecting near flawless reviews, but that didn’t happen. While the ratings have been very high, it just hasn’t seemed high enough for a film we all hoped would be better than the Dark Knight.
The film begins with a magnificent mid-air set piece that will literally leave your jaw on the ground. It is even more amazing when you discover that CGI was not used, but rather, real stunts men. Right at that moment, you realise that you’re in for a treat.
When the focus shifts to Gotham, we witness a city at peace, one where the police literally have nothing to do. Bruce Wayne is a recluse who never ventures from the confines of his mansion, even when hosting a party. But things change very quickly after he encounters a cunning cat burglar who intrigues him.
This movie had a lot to live up to in regards to villains. Heath Ledger’s role was one of the most sinister performances in a super hero film. In Bane, however, we have a completely different kind of nemesis for Batman. The Joker was a sociopath with no reason for his obsession with anarchy. He answered to no one and just wanted to see the world burn.
Bane, however, has a deeper reasoning for his desire to spread carnage across Gotham, one you will enjoy discovering during the course of the movie. While his performance is more about body language and expressions than pure acting, he is mesmerising. You really feel genuine fear for Batman when he comes up against this behemoth of a man. It’s a fascinating duel of brawn in contrast to the duel of the mind between the Dark Knight and the Joker.
The Dark Knight Rises is not your typical super hero affair. It is rather bleak in comparison to the more upbeat alternatives. While watching Bane carry out his diabolical plans for Gotham, it’s surprising just how far the film allows him to go. At one point, I thought Gotham would actually get destroyed.
It’s easy to see that this was Nolan’s biggest budget, for the action is at times, breathtakingly relentless. The movie erupts into scenes of carnage when approaching its conclusion; I for one was on the edge of my seat. When the movie wrapped, I immediately realised why some have been critical, it is quite different from the previous film, but it had to be.
The Dark Knight was to the trilogy, what The Empire Strike Back was to Star Wars—the setting for the grandstand finish—and this movie rounds it off quite spectacularly. Emotional, thought-provoking and utterly unforgettable, The Dark Knight Rises concludes possibly the best super-hero trilogy of all time. Absolutely Brilliant.

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