Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

I read this after my eldest daughter gushed over and over about it and I’m glad I did, but not for any real reason found in the book. Don’t get me wrong it was all right. I enjoyed parts of the story and the characters seemed mostly very real to me, but like others who’ve commented I felt the dialogue was too much/ too heavy in parts (and in other parts dead on); I didn’t care for the drunk Dutchman and his role; or fully understand the connection to Anne Frank (other than it was local). Pretty much, I think the back 1/3 of the book just wasn’t as well written and developed as the first 2/3.

Why I am glad I read it though is I believe Green did a very good job of injecting into the story (and thus into me, the reader) the yearning, heartbreaking, character-searching and angst-ridden soul of a teenager, offering a glimpse into the thoughts, aspirations and musings of my own precious teen. That’s worth way more than any stars.


Then there are the books I should have read but didn’t, or did with so little regard for what was in them. I read them—or not as the case often was—for assignment, for a grade, because somebody said that I should. I didn’t read them for pleasure, not usually. Nor for what they said about the world and about human nature. Not for the mysteries they exposed about life.

That’s not to say I didn’t read. I loved reading and have teachers and good parents to thank that my passion for books became strong and long lasting. But given the choice what I chose to read back then did not ask too much of the reader, not with language, tone or content. They had more to do with nightmaresinternational espionage, occasionally a dragon, certainly a cowboy or two, than with complex multi-layered works that wrestled with universal dilemmas. Not that both can’t deliver a rousing good story, I just tended to stick to the formulaic ones that fell within certain central themes and avoided the more thought-provoking taxonomies of the human condition (nor did I ever talk like that).

George Bernard Shaw—a playwright I never read but probably should’ve—once said, “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a shame to waste it on children.” I’ve found myself thinking about that a lot as I turn the page on another year, with the next chapter a few pages back just sitting there looming alongside my future membership card to the AARP. I think about where the time went and those books I should have read and I wonder how in the world did so many words slip past me. Words once belonging to such a long, storied list of authors I’d fail just mentioning a handful.

There is another famous saying though (un-attributable, but backed up by science nonetheless): You’re only as old as you feel, and with that sentiment in mind I’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to re-visit what should have served as my formative discover-myself-in-literature years. For the next year, starting with January, once a month I plan to read a work from one of the greatest writers ever known—or not if you believe in those identity theories—the Bard of Avon himself, William Shakespeare.

(Oddly enough, Shaw himself, apparently, would have thought such a commitment ludicrous, at least in terms of following down that path in pursuit of a serious observation into social problems, as he disapproved of Shakespeare as a thinker and philosopher and to show it coined the term bardolatry.)

That said, it might be too late for Shaw to change his tune, but it’s not too late for me. Besides, with Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour having given up the ghost, I need something to fill their esteemed place.

Here’s my list of books and the month I’ll be reading them. If you’re interested in tagging along and sharing your own thoughts, I’d love the company.

  • January              Hamlet
  • February            Romeo and Juliet, of course
  • March                  Much Ado About Nothing
  • April                     Macbeth
  • May                       Henry V
  • June                     The Sonnets
  • July                       A Midsummer’s Night Dream
  • August                 Othello
  • September         King Lear
  • October               The Tempest
  • November          Julius Caesar
  • December          The Winter’s Tale and Twelfth Night


When Is Your Reader Ready?

I had the chance today to guest blog over at and because it was day 1 of my 2 day Kindle eBook Giveaway, I took the opportunity to reflect on what that promotion meant in terms of readership.

For starters, giving my work away on such a large scale endeavor meant I no longer had any part whatsoever in selecting my readers, which was kind of nice as a self-published author. I solicited reviews after spending a fair amount of time on blogs and book sites before soliciting anyone’s time and opinion.

What handing out hundreds of copies for free means is a plethora of personalities and unique book perspectives, i.e. readers who perhaps aren’t interested or even ready for a book like mine. That’s not to say that Departure is exclusive, it’s not. Honestly, it’s written with no one reader in mind but the story experience itself, which includes all the human nuances and life experiences that a reader brings to it.

And you’ll see, as I point out in the guest post on Shayna’s blog, sometimes life just hasn’t caught up enough to make the story come alive inside every reader who could possibly get their hands on it. That’s a risk every author takes. There are no exceptions.

Click here to visit Shayna’s blog and my guest post, and then click on over to Amazon and my Kindle Free Day and get a copy of the book for yourself.


First Lines: The Dead Lion

Thought I’d begin a new thing here where I share the first few lines of my favorite books. There are many, but to start, and because I’m a loathing, self-loving writer, I’ll turn of course not to someone else’s but to the book I am working on at the moment:

In the late evenings of that summer he would sit with her photo at the table in the middle of their small kitchen and by the light of the lowly stove lamp study the old road atlas. There all the land opened wholly before him, pallid and bleak in the dim lit night, the corners reaching skyward and curling, the paper folds thin and deteriorating, like life itself, and he like a wretched lost pilgrim searching for what he knew not amongst the smudges and gray silhouettes, a bloodshot array of roadwork, some mark perhaps on that pale depthless country on which to affix for himself a crude bearing. —The Dead Lion, by moi

Guest Post: A Lovely, Anti-Hero

This weekend I had the opportunity to write a guest post at Guiltless Reading, an exceptional blog from a writer based in Canada. Also included is a giveaway, both a signed paperback and an eBook edition up for grabs to those to enter. So click on over to Guilltess Reading and read what I have to say about writing a book that begs the reader to root for the anti-hero (okay, she’s not nearly as bad as Snake Plissken).



A Guide for Readers

I have been fortunate in the three months since launching the book to participate in a number of writing discussions, interviews, readings, forums, etc. A pleasant surprise from those experiences is the degree of thought and introspection it required of me to answer certain questions about the novel. That sounds strange since I wrote it—and perhaps it may just be a matter of me needing to offer up something better than, Just because to answer why I omitted quotation marks or chose not to translate the Italian—but these questions encouraged me to dig deeper into the how I told the story and not just what the story was about. And honestly, it was just great fun, like being a student again in a way.

Back when I was a student, however, time spent pondering over the many symbolic interpretations of style, device, or storytelling seemed wasted to me and was often a discussion I always felt inadequately prepared for in class—as if I had read some entirely different passage than everyone else. I could not get past the perceived futility in trying to guess, for instance, whether or not in writing about a great white whale, the author (Melville) was actually writing about elusive goals, or was it to him just a fishing story of the one that got away (not likely).

But now having written a couple of novels of my own, I can appreciate these discussions with greater understanding and appreciation for the idea that it’s not only possible but probable that the author them self could not have grasped all of the supposed symbolism in their work. And that actually makes perfect sense to me. How often are we met in our daily lives with moments that mean something more to us simply because we can relate it to a greater whole. Often, right. I believe it’s that way with writing a novel, too. Writers are working hard to present this perfect vision they have in their minds, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, and it is only after they are finished that they can step back and put some distance between those various parts and look at the whole to visualize how they connect to one another, even something as un-relatable as choosing to not translate a foreign language, or the omission of quotation marks.

One of the most difficult things of growing old is the regret for not doing or being something different than who we were. I enjoy talking about literature and books and contemplating how they make you think and relate the story in someway to your own life, your own tiny piece of humanity. Those days sitting in a classroom would not be wasted, for sure.

This rambling on does have a point and it’s this: As in most literature, after reading this book there will be questions that arise. What happened after? Before? Why this and not that? And so on and so forth. I could give my perspective as the author, and have before, but some of the pleasure and purpose to reading is to relate this world to your own, to discover and share in some common ground. To force the deeper question. With that in mind I’ve spent the last few days putting together a Reader’s Guide for the novel. You can find it to the right of here, just click to download. It, too, may be a work in process as ideas come to me about the book, but if you’re interested in connecting with the story in a more meaningful way, I hope it will serve as a good start.

NC Author Tribute month

Over at Booksie’s Blog, Sandie is reviewing books by North Carolina authors, of which I am fortunate to include myself. She says of the intention behind her tribute is to:

…set aside June to celebrate all things North Carolina.  All books reviewed in June will either be by a NC author (born here or currently living here) or have a North Carolina location.

Today she writes about A Lovely, Indecent Departure. See what she has to see about what calls is “a masterful debut.

On a side note, June is full of equally exciting news & events surrounding the book

  • If you haven’t signed up for my Goodreads Q & A, please consider joining. I love talking about the book, but more than that I love talking about the writing craft and the passion that fuels the stories we read.
  • Also, if you’re in the Wake Forest, NC area on Friday, June 8th, I’ll be giving a reading and book signing at The Storyteller’s Bookstore downtown. You can find more details here.
  • Lastly, you’ll find in all of tomorrow’s three print editions of The Wake Weekly, an interview I gave to the paper’s owner and editor, Clellie Allen.

Thanks for visiting my blog and please feel free to drop me a comment any time.

A Lovely book review for “A Lovely, Indecent Departure”

Megan, from the book review blog, Love, Literature, Art and Reason, calls A Lovely, Indecent Departure “a literary novel, a thriller, a mystery all wrapped up in one package.”

Check out Megan’s complete review:

To order your a paperback copy today click here, or select the eBook format of your choice from the menu to the right.

Check out the other reviews of the book by clicking over to the Reviews page above, or simply click here.

Did I mention the hot librarian?

John Updike once said that all his works were literary fiction because they were written in words, but he didn’t really like the term as he felt it limited him in his writing. I can appreciate that sentiment as in the month or so since releasing my first novel, I’ve struggled with the labeling because honestly, I’m not really sure what it means (I don’t think I’m alone on this either).

The trouble with associating my novel—or myself as an author—in a category that seems to have so much uncertainty about it looks risky in terms of marketing the novel—and so far I have yet to find a book site that did not ask the genre. After all, my story has suspense, it has action-adventure and romance. But it also has a very serious side as it tackles a complex, universal theme about law and child rearing. The people are complicated, the subject universal, the style lyrical and poetic. And so, when I was made to choose a genre, I chose literary as I felt it best described it. I’m just not sure in what way?

I am disappointed and always conflicted when people ask what genre is my novel. It’s just fiction, I tell them. More often than not they press for more (Okay, it’s like literary fiction, if you must), but I wonder in giving that to them if they don’t then imagine a story without action-adventure, without suspense, without romance.

So, in my zealous effort to cover all those bases, I quickly add: but there’s a flirty, hot librarian in it.