Review of Jack and the Jungle Lion, by Stephen Jared

Retrospective stories can touch people on an emotional level, because they provide a level of intimacy that a conventional narrative can’t.  It’s as though the narrator is taking the reader aside, perhaps to a place with a cozy fireplace and (if the story is geared towards adults) a nice side table where a few drinks await, to let them in on a secret that no one else knows.  If that secret involves adventure, all the better.  The challenge when writing a story in this way is that we know the narrator overcame (or at least survived) whatever challenges they faced; the only mystery is what happened to them on their journey – and that journey had better be interesting.

Jack and the Jungle Lion is a retrospective story set during the pre-war golden age of Hollywood, focusing on how Jack Hunter, a dashing movie star reminiscent of Errol Flynn, met the woman who would become his partner.  Although on-screen Jack is the sort of man every woman wants to be with, in his personal life he’s a complete cad, unhappily married to Theda Lomond, a former star from the Silent Film era who refuses to admit that her career is on the downward spiral.  They live in separate worlds, seemingly married in name only.

Jack’s life changes forever when he is cast as the leading man in a new production to be filmed in South America.  On the way, he meets Maxine (“Max”) Daniels, who will be working with him as an animal trainer, and her two children.  Jack makes a less than stellar first impression with the practical, no-nonsense woman, but her strong spirit intrigues him in a way that no other woman has.  Before he can act on these impressions, disaster strikes in the form of a plane crash.  At this point, the story’s tempo switches to something more in line with Jack’s adventure movies, as Jack, Max, her two children, and Clancy (the co-pilot of the plane) must band together to face the dangers of the Ecuadorian jungle.  Jack learns just how strong, but vulnerable, Max really is, while he demonstrates to her that he can, in fact, do more than act the part of the hero.

Jack and the Jungle Lion is written in the often-melodramatic style of films from the 1930s and 40s, with obstacles that sometimes seem to come out of nowhere and present the heroes with life-or-death situations, and which are sometimes resolved by luck.  “Only in Hollywood,” you might say, but given that one of the main characters is a star from that era, this style works for the story.  On the whole, I felt as though I was watching one of those old Flash Gordon or Ray “Crash” Corrigan serial dramas that keep you tuning in to find out what happens next. 

Jack’s story also faithfully captures the feel of the Golden Age of Cinema, a time when the fantasy-land aspect of Hollywood had an especially strong pull on the American psyche, which was still reeling from the hardships of the Great Depression and unknowingly standing on the brink of the Second World War.  This was a time when dreams were literally being made, and some of the glitz of old Hollywood is captured by the descriptions of the people and places in Jack’s world.  Likewise, the descriptions of the jungle, and the natives who inhabit it, are equally evocative.  I could picture what Jack and his companions were seeing and doing very easily; although the immersive quality of the story would have been even more powerful if there had been equally strong detail for the other senses.

Overall, Jack and the Jungle Lion is an entertaining read that has a “feel good” ending, but you have a few jumps and bumps along the way in true Hollywood style.  If you want a story of classic romantic adventure, I suggest you give this one a look – and check out Stephen Jared’s other works, too.

 

If you want to learn more, you can contact Stephen…

…through his website

…on Facebook

…or follow him on Twitter!

Jack and the Jungle Lion is available from Amazon (E-book and Paperback)

I’ve been Interviewed!

Real life has taken its toll lately, but I have surfaced to let everyone know that Megan Ratliff, who runs The Reading List book review blog, has written a great review of The Tunnelers, and interviewed me! I talked about my literary influences, what inspired me to write The Tunnelers, and I spilled the beans about some other works that will soon see publication.

Here’s the Interview

Introducing…Solstice Author Gary Peterson!

After a hiatus that was longer than anticipated, I am back – but I’m not alone! Allow me to introduce to you Gary Peterson, a fellow author at Solstice Publishing with a number of titles to his name. Today, I’d like to share my thoughts about a recent short piece of his entitled, Return to Painter’s Island.

I must admit to having something of a fascination for the United States of the 1950s.

It’s not the aesthetics so much (except for the cars, which I love); it’s the fact that, for the first time in history, we had a society that was aggressively (and often naïvely, in my view) optimistic where scientific progress is concerned. This is the period where science fiction bloomed as a literary genre, and the notion of reaching the stars was something supported by wide sections of society – not just crackpots and visionaries. It was a time when a lot of people honestly believed that, no matter how bad a problem seemed to be, someone would invent a device or chemical compound to solve it. To me, the society of that time seems almost innocent, when I consider the challenges we are facing today (some of which had their roots in the ’50s).

But this optimism, of course, masks a darker side. The 1950s also brought us McCarthyism and the Cold War; they gave us, through television, a taste of the commercialism that was to come; and, through the emerging social consciousness that would explode in the 1960s, they highlighted how resistant North American culture had become to new ideas.

Return to Painter’s Island is set in this cultural milieu, but we are seeing it from the narrator’s perspective looking back to when he was nine years old. Jim is your typical American boy, growing up in eastern Washington State with two occasionally annoying younger sisters (Cathy and Maggie). We are shown very quickly that not all is well with his family. His father is ill from radiation treatments to remove a tumour, and is unable to work. To make ends meet, Jim and his mother work odd jobs at apple orchards. It is backbreaking work, and, combined with the pressure he places upon himself to be strong, Jim is unable to truly live life as a child. Despite these difficulties, Jim still has a child’s optimism. He sees his mother, worn out from work and worry, as someone who can do just about anything, and he shares his father’s hope for a full recovery – and a return to better times.

To get away from his daily troubles, Jim escapes to “Painter’s Island”, a 40-acre vacant lot separated from his house by a stream. There, he is able to live like a normal child – if only for a few hours at a time. He and his sisters pretend to be pirates, dig for buried treasure, build forts, and leap off of sawdust piles. Their only real toys are their imaginations, which they use to turn the rich landscape into any world they wish. In them, we see kids being kids, and their ability to take pleasure in such simple things is a strength.

Return to Painter’s Island is a nostalgia trip, to be sure, but given Jim’s background, and the fact that the narrator’s view of this time in his life is rose-tinted, it works. I would have liked to see more of Painter’s Island through Jim’s eyes, and to read more about the trouble he no doubt stirred up with his friends, but the part I did see showed me a place full of warm, sustaining memories. I enjoyed reading it, and that, I suppose, is enough.

About the Author
Gary Peterson lives near the small community of Yakima, Washington with his wife and dog. He has a B. A. Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. His hobbies include hiking, bowling, and reading a good mystery novel.

Gary has written a number of other works, including an excellent mystery novel entitled, The Old Miller Place (please see my Amazon review), and The Kidnapping of Olivia Hammond.

If you want to learn more, you can contact Gary…

…through his Blog

…or on Facebook

Return to Painter’s Island is available electronically at:

Amazon

Solstice Publishing

Smashwords

An Interview with Jeanne Bannon, author of “Invisible”

Today, I’m interviewing fellow author Jeanne Bannon, whose book, Invisible, has been released by Solstice Publishing. First off, welcome to my little corner of Net, Jeanne, and why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

Jeanne: Hi Geoff. Thank you for having me. I’m a freelance editor and have worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years. After years of editing, I decided it was time to do what I love most, writing. Invisible is my debut novel.

Geoff: In a nutshell, what is Invisible about?

Jeanne: Invisible is a young adult novel about a 17-year-old girl named Lola. Lola doesn’t fit in anywhere. She’s not pretty. She’s not popular. She wishes she could disappear and one day she does.

Geoff: What was the inspiration for Invisible?

Jeanne: Lola is a victim of bullying and for a couple of years in grade school, I was too. I remember wishing I could simply vanish. I suppose it came from that dreadful experience.

Geoff: When you were writing your novel, did you encounter any major stumbling blocks along the way?

Jeanne: Not with this one. Invisible was incredibly easy to write and I had it finished in four months. It was a gift and I probably won’t ever have that experience again. I wrote Invisible while on a break from another novel. I’m still working on that other novel!

Geoff: What was your favourite scene in the novel, if you have one?

Jeanne: I don’t want to say because it will give away something important in the novel, but it was a turning point for Lola. A point where she has to face her ‘super power’ alone.

Geoff: Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Jeanne: A wee bit. I took small bits and pieces from family and friends, but none of the characters are entirely based on anyone I know.

Geoff: I like to ask you how your experience with Solstice has been thus far. As you know they’re an up-and-coming publisher, with a rapidly growing stable of authors. How has your experience with Solstice been, from initial acceptance of the manuscript on through to publication?

Jeanne: So far so good. I like interacting with all the other Solstice authors and the feeling of support I get from them from our little yahoo group. Since this is my first book, I have nothing to compare it to. Solstice moves fast, which is something I like. Both the e-book and paperback versions are now available.

Geoff: Do you have any words of advice for people out there just getting started on the road to authordom?

Jeanne: The best advice I can give is to find a great writing critique group. I found one online and made great friends and received invaluable advice.

Geoff: Now that Invisible is out, what is the best way to get a hold of a copy?

Jeanne: Invisible is on Amazon, Smashwords, and of course can be purchased from Solstice Publishing directly.

Geoff: What else do you have in store for readers? Would you care to say what you’re working on right now?

Jeanne: I’m finishing up my paranormal thriller, Dark Angel. I hope to have it polished to a high gloss very soon and ready to shop it around by the end of the year.

 

Bio:

I’ve worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years. I started my career as a freelance journalist, then worked as an in-house editor for LexisNexis Canada and currently work as a freelance editor and writer.

I’ve had several short stories published and won first place in the Writes of Caledon Short Story Contest. My novels, The Barely Boy and Dark Angel were finalists in the 2010 and 2011 Strongest Start Contests. One of my short stories, “Thom’s Journey”, is part of an Anthology entitled A Visitor to Sandahl and is available at Amazon.com.

Invisible, my debut novel, is about a teenage girl who isn’t happy with herself and wishes she could disappear. And one day she does. Invisible is available on Amazon, Smashwords, and the Solstice Publishing website.

When not reading or writing, I enjoy being with my daughters, Nina and Sara and my husband, David. I’m also the proud mother of two fur babies, a sweet Miniature Schnauzer named Emily and Spencer, a rambunctious tabby, who can be a very bad boy.

 

If you want to learn more, you can contact Jeanne…

…through her Blog

…on Facebook

…or follow her on Twitter!

 

Invisible is available at:

Amazon (E-book and Paperback)

Solstice Publishing (E-book and Paperback)

Smashwords

You can also view Jeanne’s book trailer, too!