Admission ~ Jean Hanff Korelitz

  • Title: Admission
  • Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Public Library
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  “Admissions. Admission. Aren’t there two sides to the word? And two opposing sides… It’s what we let in, but it’s also what we let out.”

For years, 38-year-old Portia Nathan has avoided the past, hiding behind her busy (and sometimes punishing) career as a Princeton University admissions officer and her dependable domestic life. Her reluctance to confront the truth is suddenly overwhelmed by the resurfacing of a life-altering decision, and Portia is faced with an extraordinary test. Just as thousands of the nation’s brightest students await her decision regarding their academic admission, so too must Portia decide whether to make her own ultimate admission.

Admission is at once a fascinating look at the complex college admissions process and an emotional examination of what happens when the secrets of the past return and shake a woman’s life to its core.

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  I am a huge Tina Fey fan and I love book to movie adaptations.  When I found out the Tina would be starring in an adaptation of a book called Admission, I had no idea what the book was about, but I hurried off to the library to check it out anyway.

Admission is a book with a good story to tell and solid, if at times, tedious writing. It centers on Portia, a Princeton Admissions Officer who is aloof to the point of dysfunctional, trying to hide her insecurities and inner most secrets. During the course of the book, she is dealing with another busy season of vetting Princeton hopefuls, meanwhile her carefully cultivated lifestyles starts to crumble.

While it was predictable, the story itself was fresh and interesting. There may be others in existence, but this is the first time I’ve encountered a book set among college admissions staff. I found the process of admissions fascinating for about the first third of book (if that), before it grew tiresome. I ended up skimming those sections from that point on. We get it, there are a lot of kids and parents who pin there hope on Princeton. It is not just about academics. There is no golden ticket. Yadda yadda.

I felt bad for Portia and her trials and tribulations, but at the same time I wanted to shake her yell at her to take life by the horns. As dysfunctional as she was, I figured there must have been some large tragedy in her background.  Nope, not  really. She just over-reacted to a few big bumps in life’s highway.

I am not sure that I would actually recommend this book to anyone. It really was too slow-paced for my taste. It would probably generate good book club discussion, but I am not sure how many of my book club people would make it through the entire book.

As for the movie, if the previews are any indication this will be a VERY loose adaptation.  I would classify the book as the drama, whereas the movie is being sold as a comedy.  Regardless, it stars my girl, Tina, so you know I’ll be there to see it!

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Author Interview: David Holley ~ Eden

Author, David Holley

Author, David Holley

I recently had the opportunity to chat with artist-turned author, David Holley, about his debut novel, Eden. It is an adventure story about the survivors of a plane crash and their struggle to get back to civilization. During the course of our conversation, we were able to make contact with one of the survivors, Maaka, for a few moments via through his headset.

Be sure to stick around until the end of the interview to receive an exclusive offer available only to fans of Silk Screen Views.

Here is the transcript of our recent discussion:

DV:  David, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s begin!

You have an interesting background in very different areas. What brought your focus to writing? Why did you decide to take on the challenge to become an author?

DAVID:  As an artist I have always wanted to challenge myself and not be confined to one medium. In the past I have worked in film, street art, fine art and now writing. I like to put myself in situations that I’m uncomfortable with. To me the journey is always the best part. Even more than the finished product.

DV:  Your bio describes you as an artist. How did writing a book compare to creating visual art?

DAVID:  To my surprise the creative process is remarkably similar. Like any creative pursuit I would brainstorm my ideas until I had one I really liked and with any good idea that usually brings more ideas and the whole thing just snowballs from there.

DV:  Which do you prefer Dali or Van Goh? Vettriano or Renoir? Star Wars or Star Trek?

DAVID:  I love Van Gogh but I just came back from Spain and I saw Dali’s house, theatre and museum. I came away with a much bigger appreciation of his work. Like any art, it’s about context and what was happening during their time. After understanding what was happening to Dali, I came away very impressed. Vettriano over Renoir. Star Wars over Star Trek, but I do also love Star Trek!

DV:  What was your favorite book as a child?

DAVID:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

DV:  That was a favorite of mine, also! Who are currently your favorite authors? What are you reading right now?

DAVID:  Cormac McCarthy, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer are some of my favorite authors. I am currently reading The Executioner’s Song by Mailer.

DV:  Let’s talk about indie publishing. I am fascinated with the democratic nature of self -publishing. Eden is an independently published book. What has been your experience with indie publishing?

DAVID:  We are living in an extraordinary time period. Because of the digital age anyone can publish anything. That said this is also, in my opinion, one of the toughest industries to break through because of the pure volume of books that are coming out by the droves. The experience has been nothing but rewarding but I will allow that it’s tough and super competitive and you need to be on it all the time. I spend at least 2-3 hours a day everyday networking, reaching out to people and on self-promotion.

DV:  What do you to promote yourself? Can you give a few examples for our aspiring authors out there?

DAVID:  I feel every author will have a different opinion on how to promote oneself. For me, I wanted to do something in social media beyond writing a blog or just posting self promotional messages. So instead, on my FB page and on twitter I decided to post current events that report cataclysmic events that are happening around the globe almost on a daily basis. I was surprised by the frequency of these earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Since my story is loaded with speculative fiction I thought this was the best and most interesting way to do my social media spin. I realize this will be a slow burn as far as building an audience but for the ones who discover it I think the payoff will be worth it. As for personal promotion, I have strategically sought out people on Goodreads and Shelfari who I think would be my audience and have offered my book to them in the hopes that they will enjoy it and pay it forward.

DV:  On LinkedIn, you are listed as CEO of Misery Loves Company, which is listed on Good Reads as the publisher of Eden. Do you hope to help other indie authors publish their books, or is this primarily a vehicle for self-publishing?

DAVID:  I hope in the future I can play a role in helping aspiring authors realize their dream of publishing their work but for now Misery Loves Company is vested in the release of the Eden Book Series.

DV:  Do you plan to always publish independently, or would you like to eventually work with a publisher?

DAVID:  I would certainly entertain an offer from a major publisher if the deal was right. I am very conscious however of selling my eBook at an affordable price. I have noticed the price of eBooks from major publishers have been $12-15 which I think is ridiculous.

DV:  Let’s talk a bit about Eden. Was this your first attempt at a novel?

DAVID:  Yes.

DV:  How did you go about writing this book? Did it start with the character or the concept for the story?

DAVID:  I came up with the idea to write Eden when I was hosting a party and I was complaining that I haven’t read a good adventure story in a while and my daughter Mia said to me, “You should write one then.” And so I did.

DV:  Smart girl. How old was she at the time?

DAVID:  17

DV:  Has she read Eden? What did she think?

DAVID:  Yes and she enjoyed it very much. She is like you in that she doesn’t know what will happen next and always tries to pry it out of me. 😉

DV:  What are some of the influences that helped shape Eden?

DAVID:  At the time we were dealing with some personal loss. My girlfriend had recently lost her father to cancer and I too lost my father who was a hero to me. Because of that I wanted to write a book about losing someone you truly loved.

DV:  I totally got that in the book. I was very moved by Luna’s grief. Did you get emotional while writing any of these scenes?

DAVID:  On several occasions, yes. I am not the emotional type but writing this book really released some demons that I have suppressed for years. This was a very cathartic experience for me in many ways.

DV:  Did you have any rituals or routines while writing this book?

DAVID:  It took me a year and a half to finish Eden. Which meant writing almost every day. Sometimes for just an hour. Sometimes I would write over 10 hours. It depends if I was in the zone or not.

DV:  What was your drink of choice while writing Eden?

DAVID:  I am a single malt scotch guy. Either McCallan, Dalwhinnie or Oban depending on my mood.

DV:  If there was a sound track, what bands/songs might be featured?

DAVID:  Some Radiohead for sure, maybe a Modest Mouse song and Arcade Fire too!

DV:  So, I noticed when I cyber-stalked you, I mean when I researched you for this interview, that your arts seems to make some bold political statements. Tell me about that?

DAVID:  It’s all about context. The art I think you are referring to was the Evildoers Series, which was done during the Bush years. Needless to say that was a dark time in this country and I was merely reflecting the sign of the times. Not all of my art is political and my most recent stuff has been more introspective and personal.

DV:  Do any of these themes play into Eden?

DAVID:  Not specifically no. But I do believe that we are going through a major climate change and we must accept certain facts moving forward.

DV:  Survival skills feature prominently in the book. What is your personal proficiency with survival?

DAVID:  None. I had to do a ton of research about that.

DV:  What 5 items would you hope to have with you if you were stranded?

DAVID:  Well from my research I learned a knife, flint strike, and suitable clothing is all you need.

DV:  If you were stranded, what role would you play among your fellow survivors?

DAVID:  I would listen to Noah and do what he said.

DV:  (Laughing) Good call! So, I have to ask, there are a lot of similarities to the TV series LOST. Were you are fan of the show/J.J. Abrams?

DAVID:  I was for the first season but then really hated it after season three and stopped watching it altogether. It’s funny I never even thought about Lost while I was writing Eden but I realized afterwards there would be comparisons. Although I will say, unlike the tv show I actually have an ending and my story will make a lot more sense than what happened on Lost.

DV:  So, Tom and Hank . . . homage to Cast Away? How do you typically choose the names of the characters?

DAVID:  That’s what you would call mere coincidence, but I like that. Nice catch! I love coming up with names and most of my characters are based off of friends and family.

DV:  Mia’s character has some interesting abilities. Have you ever had a black cat, Friday the 13th kind of moment yourself?

DAVID:  When I was 8 years old I had a dream about my grandmother who came to me in a dream. I woke up later that day to find out that she had died in her sleep. Creepy, right?

DV:  Way creepy, but kind of comforting in a way. Noah is a pretty awesome character. I am sure all the gals want to know… boxers or briefs?

DAVID:  Commando of course! Sorry I couldn’t help myself.

DV:  (blushes) Oh my. Did not see that one coming! Moving along . . . would you rather have a super-power gift like Mia or more of a solid reality based skill set like Noah’s? What would that power or gift be?

DAVID:  Honestly a power like Mia’s is dangerous and scary. I would not want that power. In the later stories that power will only get stronger and scarier. So to answer your question I would love to have Noah’s skill set. Wouldn’t you?

DV:  I am totally a super power kind of girl. (grins) While we are at it, sword, light saber, or magic wand?

DAVID:  I am a pretty decent fencer so I will go with light saber just because it’s way more badass than a sword.

DV:  Did you mentally cast any of your characters with actors? If so, who?

DAVID:  A couple came to mind while writing I think Tom Hardy would be a perfect Noah and Evelyn could be played by Jessica Chastain.

DV:  In the story of your life, who would play you?

DAVID:  I have been told by several people that I look like Javier Bardem but I don’t see it. Were both Spanish, so…

DV:  I can totally see that. David, I understand that you may have a way for us to make contact with the survivors of Flight 316. Let’s give it a try.

DAVID:  {response} That’s right Valerie, I’m picking up a frequency, standby. Okay I think I got someone, whenever you’re ready.

DV:  Anyone out there? Can you hear me? Over.

MAAKA:  {answering} What? Hold on, Panger, I got someone in my ear. Who’s this?

DV:  Hello? Who is speaking?

MAAKA:  This is Maaka. What do you want?

(DAVID:  Maaka is a rather formidable young man of Maori descent. He and a few others escaped as their fishing boat went down during the tsunami. They have joined forces with the survivors of Flight 316.)

DV:  We are trying to get a feel for the situation there in New Zealand. Maaka, my understanding is that your fishing boat wrecked as a result of the tsunami. Can you tell me how long you’ve been stranded?

MAAKA:  Christ how should I know? We were out for three weeks before the tsunami. As far as I can tell it’s been seven days maybe eight.

DV:  Was this your first nautical emergency?

MAAKA:  Hardly, but this was the first time where we lost crew members. Wait, bugger that! I forgot about that incident off the Nelson Hook a few years ago. Life at sea is not for the faint of heart, eh?

DV:  Your family is certainly not faint of heart. Yet, your crew mate and brother, Atua, is very different from you. Would you say that the two of you are close?

MAAKA:  I would say that we’re family and leave it at that. Do you always get along with your family? I dunno, let’s just say we have differing points of view about most things but we can at least agree we’re family.

DV:  Is that why you are so close to your mate, Pango?

MAAKA:  He’s my best mate and he’s got my back. And he’s definitely someone you want on your side, believe me.

DV:  What were your initial thoughts when Noah and Mia walked into your camp?

MAAKA:  Well look what the cat dragged in.

DV:  You and Pango seem to keep yourselves separate from the rest of the group? Why is that?

MAAKA:  Have you met that lot? They’re nothing but a bunch of hoity toity Johnny Rottens if you asked me. I can’t be bothered with their blather.

DV:  That seems especially true when it comes to Noah and Max. You don’t seem very fond of either one, care to explain?

MAAKA:  You’re right about that, mate. I don’t care for captain bossy pants or his first mate, Ashy Sinclair. They both seem too big for their britches, eh?

DV:  Is there any of the Flight 316 survivors with which you have bonded?

MAAKA:  Jacob Turner seems like a good bloke. The others I don’t really pay much mind to.

DV:  What did you do to make Inspector Harris dislike you so much?

MAAKA:  HA! You would have to ask Mason about that, mate. I personally love the guy, really. I think he just doesn’t understand me, you take my meaning?

DV:  What is your situation currently?

::: Static :::

DV:  Maaka? Maaka? I think we may have lost him. I guess we will have to wait for the next book to see what is going on down there.

In the meantime, David, let’s get back to you.  Have you had much of a chance to connect with fans of Eden? What is your coolest fan moment so far?

DAVID:  I’ve had some really great moments just from people around the world who emailed me to tell that they really enjoyed the book and when the next one is coming out? I loved that and validates everything I am doing moving forward. Honestly all I have ever wanted as an artist was to entertain people, nothing more.

DV:  The cover indicates that this is book 1. What is your timeline for book 2?

DAVID:  I’m working furiously to finish Eden Book 2 for a September 2013 release.

DV:  How many books do you intend for the series?

DAVID:  Three for sure but…. You never know.

DV:  Do you already have the plot arc mapped out?

DAVID:  Totally mapped out for three but, like I said, the door is open for more. Time will tell.

DV:  One final question, who is your favorite bad-ass female character of all time?

DAVID:  That’s just it. In my opinion, there’s not enough badass female characters in stories. I was always a big fan of the comic book series Elektra Assassin. She was awesome! Although they ruined her image in the movie. I like to think Eden has a host of strong female characters and over the course of the series I will be introducing even more. Stay tuned!

DV:  David, thanks again for your time. Good luck with Eden and the rest of series!

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To find out more about the David or his book, check out www.eden-book.com .

Better yet, discover Eden for yourself! David Holley has extended an exclusive offer to fans of Silk Screen Views. You can get your copy of EDEN for 50% off. Simply go to Smashwords and enter code EH33Y at checkout.

Eden ~ David Holley

  • Title: Eden
  • Author: David Holley
  • Series: Eden #1
  • Genre: Sci-fi, Action, Adventure
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  After enduring a horrific plane crash, a small group of survivors must work together in order to withstand the harshest conditions imaginable in the remote wilderness of New Zealand’s South Island.

The year is 2022, and their epic journey, fraught with danger and mystery, will alter the course of human history forever.

Led by charismatic Special Forces captain Noah Lockheart and his wife Evelyn, an accomplished scientist, the band of weary travelers must battle the elements along with their fears, as they race toward civilization, and their hope for rescue.

Among the survivors is Mia Sinclair, an extraordinary girl who can glimpse the future. Through their trials, the Lockhearts begin to uncover the girl’s ability in spite of her best efforts to keep it hidden. But even as Mia proves to be an invaluable ally, her gift comes at an unbearable cost.

Each step brings them closer to salvation– and to unraveling the mystery of their abandonment. But just when they think they are saved, they realize that they have never been farther from home.

Eden is a bold, heart-pounding page-turner, told through the seamlessly shifting perspectives of the eccentric band of survivors. As the thriller unfolds, so do the survivors’ inextricable links to one another in a plot rife with twists and turns, till the very end.

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  Eden is the debut novel from David Holley, the first in a series. The story follows an ensemble of survivors who are trying to make their way back to civilization after a horrific plane crash leaves them abandoned on a remote beach in New Zealand.

The book is action-packed and well-paced, making it a fun read. The crash is just the beginning of a series of dangerous adventures faced by the survivors. At times, it did feel that the group was a little too remarkably well-equipped with gear, considering they had just faced at least two evacuate-now-or-die situations. It bugged me a bit, but I understand that the author had to provide means for survival. It would not have been a very interesting book had they all reached the beach and died. On the other hand, I did appreciate that the author was willing to sacrifice some characters to illustrate the full impact of the scenarios being faced.

Holley did a great job of creating a cast of rich characters. He was able to create distinct and vivid personalities through their actions and flashbacks filling in back stories. The dialog between characters is not great, it often came across as stiff and forced. However, the depth of the characters helped to compensate for this shortcoming. The author captured the humanity of his characters, making some more likeable than others, without actually casting any as a true villain. For example, Max is petulant and spoiled, but when push comes to shove, he will step up for the greater good. He is a character that I want to smack up-side the head, and yet I find him likeable.

I am going to go ahead and address the elephant in the room. There are a lot of parallels between the Lost television series and Eden. A lot. Regardless, Holley appears much more willing to resolve his mysterious subplots than J.J. Abrams. I am not going to tell you HOW, because that would ruin it for you! Not all of the subplots get resolved; it IS a series, after all.

While Eden does resolve some of its mysteries, there was one very large flaw. I felt that the book ended mid-climax. If you can remember back to junior high when we learned the arc of the plot-line, there are two more phases after the climax, so, yeah, I had major issues with this. The author introduced a new major plot twist and action sequence and then ended in the middle of it. This makes me crazy!

***SPOILER ALERT – TURN BACK NOW TO AVOID SPOILER***

I love zombies. I even think that Holley created some really creepy cool zombies. However, this development was pretty abrupt and not consistent with the feel of the rest of the book. I think this plot twist would have been better served with some foreshadowing. It also might have helped to end after an introduction to the zombies, rather than trying in the midst of a zombie encounter.

***END SPOILERS***

Considering that this is an independently published first effort, I think Holley created an entertaining story packed with adventure. If Eden were produced by a big publishing house, I would probably be less forgiving. Despite some issues, I plan to give book two a shot.

Footnote: I also want to give kudos on the cover art for this book. Indie books often suffer from a lack of budget and creativity in this area, but I think Holley’s background in art served him well. Sometimes less is more. The volcanic island image is relevant to the story without trying too hard.