Review: One Hundred Sideways Miles

I typically don’t do book reviews, but this was a must…

100 Sideways Miles is a creative plot about an epileptic boy’s teenage life as he struggles to find out who he really is in a world that seems to be prewritten. In typical Andrew Smith fashion, the characters are well developed, and as the book progresses, you become lost in the relationship between the main character, Finn, and his best friend Cade. Throughout the story, Finn has to fight through hurdles such as his condition’s seizures, the conflicting, but charming relationship with his father, and his sheltered existence. Now add the fact that he is a teenage boy and must deal with constant sexual impulses, raw emotion and his imminent future, and you get “100 Sideways Miles.”

The storyline is simple and captivating. Finn, the ever-introspective protagonist that can charm you with his raw innocence, is struggling to understand who he really is, especially once he meets Julia. Julia, the Chicago transplant (Woohoo Windy City!), is an enchanting, but mysterious young woman who comes into Finn’s life at a very puzzling time. As the pair’s relationship grows, Finn begins to understand that much like him, Julia is a wounded and confused. Later, once an uncontrollable wedge is placed between Julia and Finn, the boy becomes confused and inconsolable. However, luckily with the help of his hilarious friend Cade, Finn teeters on the edge of breaking out from his shielded life as a boy with epilepsy. Finally, during a road trip, Finn stumbles along a powerful incident that helps him decide what is actually important in this thing we call life.

I enjoyed “100 Sideways Miles” the way I feel generations before me enjoyed Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I have to honestly disagree with anyone who criticizes that this is a book about nothing, as that’s the farthest thing from the truth. The book’s pace, much like a teenage boy’s life, is slow moving, but intense. Every page is packed with young ambition and insight, which was thoroughly refreshing. If you’re looking for a great book to relax over with coffee or a beer (“These are a few of my favorite things”), then this is the book for you. Once gain, well-done Mr. Smith.

A Request to All Amazonians!

I’m not sure about the intelligence of Amazon’s suggestion-engine, but it what cool to see the below e-mail this morning (see attached picture). On that note, if you haven’t already, I’d greatly appreciate it if you went to my book on amazon and reviewed it if possible. This will be my only shameless blog-post about the subject, but unfortunately, amazon reviews tend to have strong influence in our modern day publishing world. 

My thanks!

Justin Alcala

http://www.amazon.com/Consumed-Justin-Alcala-ebook/dp/B00NJ5CGM8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413381655&sr=8-1&keywords=justin+alcala+Consumed

screenie

The Well of Inspiration

Well of Inspiration

Ah, October, the best month in Chicago by far. Why might you ask? Well, that’s easy. Not only does it bring forth the most beautiful of seasons, autumn, and not only is it the month that my wonderful wife and I were married, but for thirty-one days we prepare ourselves for one of the best holidays in the world, Halloween. Every year, just about the time when the scary decorations are put on store shelves, a certain spark erupts in my belly, waking me from my slumber like some revenant crawling out of its grave. Sugared thoughts of frightening costumes, spooky lawn decorations and haunted attractions stir in my mind as I watch ghost shows, drink Octoberfest brews, and reread the classics such as Poe, Stoker and Shelley.

It’s also a peak time for me as an author. It’s as if my fingers are starved to devour the keyboard in order to spin tales that make blood curdle and spines tingle. Countless monsters are born, and even more victims slain across the pages of my works during this wonderful season. Yet, for as much as I could spend countless hours talking about my relationship with the holiday, babbling about the fire that Halloween lights under my cauldron, the excitement of it all also begs another question, one more so related to writing. What is it that makes writers tick?

Some writers are just always on. For them it’s a gift. They have this endless well of ideas and inspiration that allows them to constantly create at anytime, anywhere. For the rest of us however, creativity takes energy, stimulation and motivation. Even the most prolific writers of all time had habits that helped them create their best works. For T.S. Elliot, not only did he sneak away to a quiet porter’s lodge to write, but he also did so while wearing green ghoulish makeup that made him feel like a cadaver. For Faulkner, he wrote his bet works only after a glass or six of whiskey- the good stuff mind you. And as for H.P. Lovecraft, the man of weird fiction could only pen during the darkest hours of night in order to invent his Cthulhu mythos or legends of the Necronomicon.

So what is it that makes you excited to write? Perhaps it’s being somewhere special or reading a book that encouraged you to write in the first place? Being a writer, be it poetry, journalism, fiction, nonfiction, blogging, can be extremely challenging. What takes most people seconds to read may have cost you hours to write, and in those hours, you probably had to drive yourself to stay motivated. Sometimes it’s easy, but often, we must dig down deep and sip from that inspirational well that keeps us excited to create.

Recently, I read an article that had surefire ways to keep a writer motivated. In the column, there were tricks like creating tight deadlines, removing distractions, and forcing yourself to pen even when you were exhausted. While I agreed with what the author was trying to express, their suggestions sounded more like punishment than inspiration. Writers shouldn’t have to physically or mentally abuse themselves in order to create a great story, poem or blog- it’s quite the opposite.

Ultimately, all that we have to do is remember that writing is different for everyone. Simply know yourself, know what keeps you ticking, and use it to your advantage. Anything else is subjective.

So writers, the next time you are having trouble finishing a story, completing a blog or finding that last line of a poem that would really make your work feel complete, remember what makes you want to write. Go back and read your favorite book, visit that place that makes you feel alive, or in my case, listen to Halloween music in the middle of April. I think that you’ll find it truly works. Because so long as you find what makes you tick and continue to feed it, you’ll also find that you’re often writing your best works.

FUN FOR WRITER’S (Contests and Grants)

NEW VISIONS AWARD

https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/new-visions-award

NO ENTRY FEE.

STORIES OF RESILIENCE CONTEST

http://ourstoryproject.herokuapp.com/pages/contest

NO ENTRY FEE

THE FEMINIST WIRE GRANT

http://thefeministwire.com/2014/06/feminist-wires-1st-annual-poetry-contest/

$10 ENTRY FEE.
The winner will receive publication in The Feminist Wire and $200. The 1st runner up will receive publication in The Feminist Wire and $100. Deadline October 1, 2014. Submit up to 3 poems (no more than a total of 5 pages).

A Touching Early Review of Consumed

Direct Link: http://www.codesandwrites.com/2014/09/arc-review-consumed-by-justin-alcala.html?m=1

Home
About
Review Policy

Sunday, 14 September 2014

ARC Review: Consumed by Justin Alcala

Author: Justin Alcala
Publication Date: September 11, 2014
Published by: Zharmae Press
I received the e-ARC/Media Kit from the publisher for the blog tour.
 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sergeant Nathaniel Brannick is trapped in Victorian London during a period of disease, crime, and insatiable vices. One night, Brannick returns from work to find an eerie messenger in his flat who warns him of dark things to come.
When his next case involves a victim who suffered from consumption, he uncovers clues that lead him to believe the messenger’s warning. Despite his incredulity, he can’t help but wonder if the practical man he once was has been altered by an investigation encompassed in the paranormal. That is, until he meets the witch hunters, and everything takes a turn for the worse.

Nath’s Thoughts:

One of the beauties of knowingly reading outside your genre is that you get to experience the story with no expectation/presumption. I had that exact experience when I read ‘Consumed’, walking into the threshold its mesmerizing, terrifying Victorian horror world with little idea of what was going to happen and what I would be subconsciously looking for. It was a pleasant experience overall, something I am grateful for — something I might do again in the future, for a limited set of genres (‘genre’ as in ‘what is actually in this book’, not as in ‘what age group this book is targeted for’).
Consumed was — to me — the story of a broken, lost man’s journey back to a meaningful, purposeful life. Granted, that journey involved a murder mystery to solve, vampire hunters and their targets swarming parts of London, an addiction to opium, and a shady work partner. But putting back together pieces of a broken life is the essence of Nathaniel Brannick’s emotional journey — this was what I saw him doing between the lines of the action. Each event in the book was a wake-up call for him, and with each screw-ups and near-misses he was forced to see what he had been doing to himself and his life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the action and the twists within the plot weren’t great. Consumed was so quick-paced, and throughout the wild ride, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to guess what would happen next — and most of the time I would guess the wrong thing! Every scene, character, and setting in this book lived and breathed horror. Even in the lightest moments, I could still feel a lingering sense of terror, of a dark shadow lurking in the background. I had a hard time trusting every new character, to the last moment their motivations were explained. And even after the last page, the question of whether Nathan had chosen the right allies still lingered in my head. Who were crazy, and who were not? To what extent did everyone tell Nathan the truth? I must say I was quite delighted to know that a sequel is a possibility. Nathan’s story simply couldn’t end where it did in Consumed!
Character-wise, Consumed has a lineup of interesting, quirky characters. Whilst some of them did fill archetypal roles, they didn’t feel archetypal — talk about Davis, the womanizing/overeating detective partner; the witch-hunter siblings Vasile and Vasilica Ivanescu (the latter delighted me a lot — a fighter female in historical fiction :D); Nathan’s lively, not-quite-the-shrinking-violet-proper-lady late wife Catherine; the cat appropriately called ‘Hades'; a lot of others. And, of course, one just can’t leave out Nathaniel Brannick. A brilliant detective with flaws and heartbreak, a distinct way of speaking (I found his sarcasm endearing), and a honest voice. Nathan’s voice was one of the things I adored about Consumed. It was era-appropriate in terms of grammar and vocabulary choice, but it didn’t feel faked and I didn’t have to strain to read it (as I sometimes had to do some other historical fiction work, as they tried really hard to emulate classics).
Overall, Consumed was an enjoyable haunted-house-roller-coaster ride in a foreign theme park for me. Apart from a few paragraphs of chunky dialogue/exposition towards the conclusion, I liked everything that I read. Whilst this book didn’t shatter my world the way some other books did in the past, I would still recommend it to older teenagers and adults who are keen to read an action-packed, distinct historical horror. I think ‘Consumed’ won’t disappoint.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5
 

No comments:

What Makes a Good Book?

bookWhat makes a good book? Is it well-developed characters or a strong story arc? Is it a specific genre or a certain writing style? Don’t Google the question unless you’re prepared to sort through hundreds of slapdash opinions. Everyone has an answer, and none of them are the same. But perhaps that’s exactly what makes a good book? Maybe it’s not poetic hyperboles, dramatic irony or well-placed flashbacks as much as the author’s ability to connect with the reader as a whole- an ability to take them places through alluring and comprehensive thoughts.

            “The Alchemist”, by Portuguese author Paulo Coelho, is an international best seller that has been published in 56 different languages, with over 65 million copies sold. Its captivating plot is about a shepherd boy who experiences mysterious dreams that take him on a journey to fulfill a greater destiny. The story is simple and charming. The writing style is very humble, so humble that it is one of the most translatable novels of all time, and the characters are basic, but captivating. There is no complex storyline, no unexpected ending or hidden agenda. Yet, according to the AFP and Guinness Book of World Records, The Alchemist is one of the best selling books in history. But why?

            It’s easy to comprehend once you understand the author. Believe it or not, it took Paulo Coelho only two weeks to write the book in 1987, and as he explains it, it’s because the story was already written in his soul.

            “When you really want something to happen,” he explains through an old king in the book, “the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true.” This core value of the novel is something that all readers can relate to. It’s something that nearly everyone understands and associates with. We all have hopes, dreams and destinies that we chase. Coelho just makes it relatable through a great story.

            So why then do some readers put so much value in cerebral plots or structurally complex stories? Why do they like speculative metaphysics or multiple narrators and storylines? Well, that can be like asking why do people like certain colors or types of food? For some readers, it’s the relationship that they build with the book. Larger, more complicated stories keep readers on their toes, creating a literature-romance that has them constantly thinking about where the story might go next. For others, its not so much a story they’re into, but the addictive characters that they can revisit in books with thousands of pages and multiple sequels (I know that I’m not as worried about what magical creature Harry is chasing in “The Dresden Files “ as much as what will happen to Michael, Murphy, Butters, and the slew of other side characters). Or perhaps, just like anything, some people just want a book that tailors to their lifestyle. Logical thinkers prefer intelligently written books, while dreamers enjoy stories that some might consider a bit unordinary.

Regardless what the reason, more than any other article I’ve read or theory that I can muster, there’s one element that always seems to stand out in every great book. It’s not its complexity, multifaceted worlds or innovative ideas. Then again, its not its straightforwardness or minimalism either. A great book, compared to an average one, knows how to connect with what makes readers human. Well-written settings and descriptions are a perfect compliment to a tale, but they can never take the place of identifiable plots and characters in a story.

According to the NY Times “Best Seller List,” the top three books as of 2014 thus far are “Hopeless” by Colleen Hoover, “All the Light We Can Not See” by Anthony Doerr, and “The Shoemaker’s Wife” by Adriana Trigiani. All three books are titans in their genre, yet none of them are excessively intricate. Instead, they deal with human characters and the challenges they have, whether it’s dealing with the devastation of World War II or multigenerational love. They are, for lack of better words, “human-books.”

So the next time you’re looking for a new paperback to take on your flight, or downloadable story to read during your lunch break, remember that no matter what reviews may say, no matter how many copies are sold, books are reflections of what makes us human. Think about what you’d like to get out of a story before making your selection. After all, it’s what you are as a human that makes you like the great books that you do, not the other way around.

“Consumed” Book Signing: Days of the Dead Horror Convention

                                            Days of the Dead Large

Join me November 21st-23rd, 2014, at the Chicago Marriott Convention Hotel for the “Days of the Dead” Horror Convention. I’ll have copies of Consumed, and will be signing them, as well as giving away great prizes. There will be vampire babes and drawings at my booth, “Consumed.” And don’t forget that Consumed is due September 11th, 2014. 

Days of the Dead Convention..

Chicago Marriott Hotel

50 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg IL 60173

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 650 other followers