October 18, 2010 · 5:39 pm
Book of Nathan: A Novel by Curt Weeden and Richard Marek (Oceanview Publishing; $25.95; 264 pages)
“Dan Brown meets Janet Evanovich…” Roxanne Black
Co-authors Curt Weeden and Richard Marek have teamed up to create a fascinating novel that is part mystery and part life lesson. Their main character is Rick Bullock, formerly a successful Madison Avenue advertising man who turned agnostic soul saver when his beloved wife, Anne, died from a brain tumor. Rick has refocused his life and manages a shelter for men in the inner city. He knows his clients and when one of them named Zeus is accused of a high-profile murder, Rick makes it his task to prove the accusers wrong.
The first person narrative is an excellent vehicle for combining the disparate elements of the tale. Rick’s thoughts and actions are consistent with a man of high moral principles. Fortunately, the authors have resisted portraying him as a saintly type. He is capable of trickery and a little arm twisting to obtain the resources needed to travel to Florida where Zeus is incarcerated. Lacking funds for the journey, Rick calls in a favor from a buddy in his advertising past, Doug Kool, who is a fundraiser par excellence for a big nonprofit.
The team Rick takes to Florida is a rag-tag group. Some of them are helpful for the mission (Doc Waters and Maurice) and one is a genuine bundle of precocious trouble (Twyla Tharp – no, not that one). This reviewer was reminded of The Wizard of Oz and the pilgrimage that Dorothy made with her band of seekers. Amazingly, the story line manages to stay reasonably tight and manageable regardless of the wide variety of characters. Oh, did I mention that an extremely wealthy man also plays a part? Indeed, the reader will discover more than the identity of the killer by the story’s end.
The values and moral judgements presented are all too real and not off the scale of everyday issues we all face. Kudos to Weeden and Marek for delivering their message in such an entertaining way. Highly recommended.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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Tagged as a novel, accusers, advertising, agnostics, an innocent man, Bernie Taupin, bizarre group, Book of Nathan, book review, books, co-authors, comedy, crime, Curt Weeden, Dan Brown, Dorothy, eccentric characters, Elton John, entertainment, fiction, Florida, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, hardbound release, high moral principles, human values, humor, investigation, Janet Evanovich, Joseph's Reviews, journeys, Kindle Edition, lawyers, life lesson, lighthearted, Madison Avenue, male protagonist, morality, murder, music, mystery, New York City, novels, Oceanview Publishing, petty crooks, pilgrimages, rag-tag group, recommended books, religion, Richard Marek, Rick Bullock, Roxanne Black, Ruta Arellano, seekers, snappy dialogue, the super-rich, The Wizard of Oz, trickery, truth, Twyla Tharp, whodunits
July 18, 2010 · 11:43 am
Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens (Delta Trade Paperbacks)
This debut novel by Shawn Klomparens became a must read when I finished his second novel, Two Years, No Rain. The location and protagonist are quite different – this story being set in San Francisco rather than San Diego, and the main character a woman (Jessica Zorich) rather than a man (Andy Dunne). What permeates both books is the slightly unnerving sense of impending danger. There is an undercurrent that lurks in the background which the reader cannot ignore.
Jessica is an attractive red-headed advertising copywriter with a hesitant, non-committal approach to life that is not serving her best interests or desires. She begins her tale by bemoaning the relationship rules she has invoked with her upstairs neighbor/sometime boyfriend Patrick McAvoy. Their interactions could be labeled “Push Me, Pull You” after the Dr. Doolittle character.
Patrick is not at all exciting for Jessica because he is stable, trustworthy and reliable. The story picks up its pace when a tall mysterious artist named Josh Hadden fixates on Jessica at a party that Patrick arranged. Sensing the attraction, Jessica enjoys feeling like the center of someone’s attention. Josh is lusty, aggressive and deeply committed to his political beliefs!
Although Jessica has had difficulty with her romantic ties with Patrick, she makes easy transitions to a new job and a quirky semi-relationship with Josh, a lithographer who is intent on melding modern technology with the age-old art. Her one life-long relationship is with her sister Katie. These two sisters are portrayed as each other’s bedrock.
In Jessica Z, Klomparens dazzles the reader with his cinema verite style that brings the reader along while Jessica narrates her actions and thoughts. Jessica oddly stifles her modesty, comfort and privacy when she is with Josh. She becomes prey – her mouse to his cat.
Jessica’s lack of self-protection is truly naive and shocking. Klomparens exploits the humanity that becomes apparent when we spend time with others – time enough to break through their public faces and expose the vulnerability that resides deep inside every person.
This novel is insightful and persistent in its explorations of relationships. It offers lessons about life that are both true and troubling. Highly recommended although it is not light reading.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A copy of the book was received from the publisher. Jessica Z is also available as a Kindle Edition download.
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Tagged as advertising, Andy Dunne, book review, books, California, cinema verite, copywriter, debut novel, Delta Trade Paperbacks, Dr. Doolittle, Eric Burdon, female protagonist, fiction, Heavy Cloud No Rain, human vulnerabilities, impending danger, Jessica Z, Jessica Zorich, Joseph's Reviews, Kindle Edition, lithographer, No Rain, novel, paperback, political beliefs, popular fiction, recommended books, relationships, Ruta Arellano, San Diego, San Francisco, San Francisco Nights, Shawn Klomparens, sisters, sophomore novel, southern California, Sting, The Animals, trade paperback, Two Years, weatherman
August 15, 2009 · 6:59 pm
The Findability Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach to Search Engine Marketing by Heather Lutze is a book that tells business owners how to set up a successful marketing campaign. And a successful campaign, these days, means having a website that can be found by Google and the other major search engines.
At first blush this would not seem to have much to do with writing books or even reviewing them. However, one important lesson pointed out by Lutze is that businesses often make the mistake of focusing on the macro rather than the micro. For example, a seller of TV sets may think it is easier to use internet ads with broad keywords (words that will be found by search engines) such as “TV seller” instead of “large screen plasma TVs.” But the broader terms often get lost in the back pages of search engine results; and 87% of those using search engines never look past page 3 or 4 of the results!
The lesson here is that instead of thinking macro/large, it is better to think micro/small or unique. For writers this may mean that the P.R. campaign for your new book should not sell it as THE NEXT BIG THING, or attempt to sell you as the second coming of THE BIG AUTHOR that readers already know quite well. Besides, those references to already published big books and authors are going to get lost in the back pages of search engine results. Who’s going to read you – and feed you – when you’re on page 64?
What does this mean for book review bloggers? Maybe it’s fine to occasionally review a new book by a currently unknown author, one who has published his/her first novel or work of non-fiction. If you write a review of Susan New or Joe First-Timer, your review will certainly be more easily found than the 700th review of the new book by Mr. BIG AUTHOR, who has already sold 80 million copies. And one other thing, if you write about a BIG subject, like the biggest books written by the biggest authors, what is it that you’re going to say that is unique and that hasn’t been said by the major media publications? The answer is, probably, not much.
Contra, if you’re an early adopter and reviewer of a new and rising author, you’re likely to build a lasting and long-term relationship with him/her and his/her publisher. Further, it is guaranteed that every friend, family member and acquaintance of the new author is going to read your review; something quite unlikely to occur with your review of Mr. BIG AUTHOR. (What satisfaction is there in writing the least read review of a new book?)
In summary, while The Findability Formula is a book that was intended to guide business owners rather than writers, book reviewers or bloggers, it offers everyone valuable lessons on how to use the right search engine approaches (including keywords and tags) to get people to read what you write. It’s a guide book that’s worth purchasing unless you elect – in this age of the internet – to write for just yourself, your mother and your faithful dog.
Reprinted and adapted from the Troy Bear blog. Originally posted on May 21, 2009.
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Tagged as advertising, Ask!, bloggers, book review, book reviewers, books, business books, Google, Heather Lutze, internet, Joseph Arellano, Joseph's Reviews, marketing, MSN, public relations, search engine marketing book, search engines, The Findability Formula, Troy Bear blog, Yahoo