Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Book Review: Under the Dome

Under the DomeI picked up this book after watching the first season of the TV series inspired by this concept. I originally thought it was based on the book, but the more I read, the more I realized that “inspired by” is far more correct. If you’ve seen the TV series, you know it’s a survival story. The book, by sharp contrast, is a disaster story.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and despite its massive length, could not put it down. I read and read until I was done, a Behemoth of a book concluded in about 4 days.

The premise is simple but oh so complex. One day, suddenly, without any warning, and without any explanation, an impenetrable dome seals Chester’s Mill and all its residents within. The first few chapters of the book give us an omniscient view of the disaster, showing us first a plane crashing into the dome, then an animal getting cut clean in two, then a woman who lost her hand, and then crash after crash as unwary travelers along the stretch of road leading into and out of the town smash against an invisible barrier.

A few important differences between the book and the TV series: In the book, the dome does NOT cut off sound, radio waves, phone signals, Internet, or TV. People can talk freely across the dome, but the military has largely cut it off as they attempt to keep the situation under control.

But the most important difference is that in the book, the dome is not some kind of freak micro-environment capable of sustaining life. It’s a death trap, slowly warming over the course of the next few days. Soot, exhaust, and fumes build up within the dome and do not dissipate. It starts to smell very bad.

The cast of characters in this book is overwhelming and hard to keep track of. That’s not really a criticism, just a fact. There are nearly 2,000 residents of Chester’s Mill on Dome Day and many of them get at least a moment of spotlight as the omniscient narrator creates a picture of life within.

I’m not usually a fan of the omniscient narrator because I love my character stories, but it worked here. And it was a character story — the character was just an entire town. Oh, and the town had some problems! Among other things, it was apparently the biggest meth lab in North America. The global viewpoint allowed the narrative to shift wherever it needed to be, whenever it needed to be there.

Much of the disastrous nature of this story was self-inflicted. The town put its faith in the wrong leaders — a power-hungry criminal, a man too weak to stop him, and a woman suffering from an unfortunate addiction to painkillers. The military tried to declare martial law and put Barbie (Dale Barbera) in charge, but he was a newcomer to town and the people outside the dome had no way to enforce anything within. Too bad for the citizens of Chester’s Mill.

There is a lot more I could say about this book, but basically I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good disaster story. Don’t let it’s length stop you — it has to be as long as it is. Stephen King does not waste words.

Title: Under the Dome

Author: Stephen King

Published November 10, 2009

 

TV Series Review: Under the Dome Season 1

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WOW!

I am absolutely blown away. I have not binged so hard on a series since … I can’t remember the last time I binged this hard on a series. I can’t stop watching it. I’m impatient to finish writing this review so I can get on to season two. (So if there are any typos, it’s because I didn’t wan to stop to do a spell check!)

Premise: An entire town and its surrounding areas, about a ten mile diameter, suddenly and inexplicably get trapped under an invisible, impenetrable dome. This happens in the pilot. The pilot spends a few minutes warming up, but once that dome smashes down so hard and fast that it cuts a cow clean in half … well, the action never stops after that.

There are dirty secrets in this town, some intriguing characters, some crazy characters, and the mystery of the dome. What is it? Where did it come from? Will it ever leave? And how will they survive beneath it?

There are a lot of intersecting subplots here that would take too much time to outline in their entirety. Besides, I don’t want to spoil anything for you. If you like mysterious, dramatic science fiction you should definitely check this out. But make sure you have time to watch a few episodes at a time because believe me, you won’t want to stop!

Now on to season 2…

Mind Games VBT Week in Review

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What a busy week of touring! I kicked it off with some marketing tips at:

Pure Jonel Book Reviews

I had a bit of fun talking about my top choice of superpower at:

Sara’s Organized Chaos

I get a lot of questions about what it’s like to write with a visual disability, most recently from:

Whispering Wind Book Reviews

 

REVIEWS

“I absolutely love the mixture in these books and they do not disappoint. “

“So I realllllly loved this book! Each book is just better and better and I can’t wait to see what Christine has in store next!”

 

Thanks to everyone who has supported my tour, especially the wonderful tour hosts! Day after day, it makes me smile to see terrific new reviews. :)

 

And don’t forget to sign up for the Amazon gift card. The contest ends Tuesday!

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Mind Games Week in Review

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This week has mostly been a week of great new reviews! But I did get in an interview with Desert Rose who, like so many others, wanted to know:

~Rose: Do you plan on writing other books after this series is finished?

~Christine: Yes, but I’m not sure what yet. I do still have to finish the two spin-offs. Madison’s Song is in the editorial phase (and should be out in early 2015) but Kaitlin’s Tale is in early rough draft form. When I’m done with that I think I’ll do what I did for Cassie … take a writing hiatus and wait for inspiration to strike. When I force the issue, things seem to go badly. If it takes a while for inspiration to strike, I may try a writing how-to book. I’ve got some extensive notes for one already.

But there will be more stories. I’m only 37 and have a lot of years ahead of me to create!

REVIEWS

” Cassie has got to be one of my favorite female leads in a book.”

“After the intensely emotional roller coaster of Secrets and Lies, I had no idea what the third installment in this series would reveal about Cassie’s life.  This book picked up right where the second one left off, and pulled me right back into the emotional turmoil between Cassie and Evan. “

“The main thing I love about Christine Amsden’s books is that the woman gives you a STORY. ‘Mind Games’ drags you in so that you worry about characters and what’s happening to them.There are moments that are heart stopping..”

“All in all, another great installment of the Cassie Scot series.”

“Before I go ranting and raving about how awesome this book is and how you must buy it and all the others ones… because I can, just know that I highly recommend it. It’s great for paranormal and detective lovers out there. Trust me! You won’t be sorry you did!”

Game of Thrones Season 2

I finished the second season of Game of Thrones over the weekend. Season 3 is in the mail! (Netflix DVD)

Season 2 got off to a rough start, in my opinion. As a matter of fact, book 2 is when I stopped reading the books, and I was close to dropping the series for many of the same reasons. I sometimes joke about it being because all the good characters get killed off, but that’s not really it. In fact, I respect Martin for making things realistic enough that major, named, and in the case of Edard Stark, beloved characters die. The trouble is in two parts. First, there are a LOT of characters. So many that I have trouble keeping track of them all. Second, I don’t care about all the characters equally. I’d even go so far as to say some hold no interest for me at all.

I dropped the books years and years ago, well before the TV show came to the air, and my memories of this were the main reason that I’m four years behind the popular curve on this. :)

Sure enough, as I watch season 2 things start to get overwhelming again. The show bounces back and forth between dozens of important characters and there simply is no clear “main” character or even characters. In a way, this is an amazing feat. Any of them could die. Any of them could win. Most of them will lose. It’s like life. And that’s pretty cool.

The TV show did have one BIG advantage over the books — it was shorter. It also kept things moving from place to place, scene to scene, so I didn’t wonder when I was ever going to get back to my favorite characters. In most episodes, I felt certain, I would get to visit my favorites. (The imp, the dragon lady, and Arya)

After about the halfway point I felt like I had a handle on the massive story and cast of characters. The season rallied by the end, and the last couple of episodes were exceptional. I look forward to season 3.

 

River RoadIt was kind of nice to see Krentz stepping back from her paranormal series. This was a typical mainstream mystery, complete with sociopaths and serial killers. I enjoyed the suspense and mystery of it … right up until the reveal.

It’s tough to review mysteries because so often the problem is with the ending, and I don’t want to spoil it. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that I didn’t buy the motivations for one murder and one attempted murder at all. Just didn’t believe it was a good enough reason to make someone kill, nor that the person who had done the killings was crazy enough to have done them for the stated reasons. Parts of it were overcomplicated, parts convoluted, and parts of it absolutely obvious from the start.

This is why I read so few mysteries. :(

The romance didn’t do anything for me one way or another. More of a hookup than anything else, and with the characters so poorly developed, I didn’t care if they hooked up or not.

Rating: 2/5

Title: River Road

Author: Jayne Ann Krentz

ISBN: 0399165126

Published January 2014

 

Mind Games VBT Week In Review

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This week’s main attraction wasKay Dee Royal, where I gave a gave a great interview that included two length excerpts from the series. When asked:

“Who is Cassie to Evan? Can you give us a bit about the first time they meet each other?”

I replied with a flashback scene from Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2) which shows the scene in which Cassie and Evan first met! Also, when asked:

“Which scene was your favorite to write? Can you share a little of it?”

I shared a bit from one of my favorite (and most intense) scenes from Mind Games.

Alaskan Book Cafe reposted “Imperfect Parents” for me, a guest post I wrote a couple of months ago in response to some questions about Cassie’s parents and about forgiveness. Cristina has become a HUGE fan and wonderful supporter of this series.

MORE AMAZING REVIEWS!!!

Gin’s Book Notes

“Mind Games is the perfect title for book three of Christine Amsden’s new adult paranormal series: Cassie Scot because it is full of mind games. Misinformation being planted into the community, mind mages working their magic, and romantic tensions are all present as Cassie fights to bring back some order to her own life and the lives of the residents of Eagle Rock.”

Tanya’s Book Nook

“I am a HUGE fan of the Cassie Scot series and I couldn’t wait for book 3….I will tell you I was not disappointed!! Like the other two books, Cassie has a murder to solve that involves a sorcerer who no one really cares about.  Cassie is now dating Matthew but Evan is always present in her life adding just enough complications to the mix :)”

Emeraldfire’s Bookmark

“‘m completely hooked on this series! :) This is the third book in The Cassie Scot Series, and the plot is just as exciting as the first two books in the series. It was difficult for me to leave Eagle Rock behind when I turned the last page. These characters stayed with me for quite a while; and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Ms. Amsden’s next book; which just happens to be Book 4 in The Cassie Scot Series – Stolen Dreams! I want to know what happens next.”

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Stolen Dreams Ebook RELEASE!!!!

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The CONCLUSION to the Cassie Scot series is here!!!!

That’s right, Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4) is available right now in ebook format through Amazon. and Barnes and Noble.

Friend, family, and loyal series followers: I am doing another BOOK BOMB for this book — right now, today! To try to drive up that Amazon sales rank, I am asking all family and friends planning to buy the book through Amazon to do it today if at all possible. Amazon has a volatile system for ranking their books, which means that 100 books sold in a day makes a bigger impact than the same number of books sold in a week. The higher the sales rank, the more likely the book is to show up on “top 100″ lists within its categories. *All three prequel books were boosted into the top 100 in their category thanks to book bombs.*

Buy Now:

Amazon
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Book Blurb

Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

But things may not be precisely as they appear.

Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own? Conclusion to the Cassie Scot series.

TV Review: Rising Star

Rising Star Judges Group - H 2014

I’m not a fan of most reality shows, but I confess that I am developing a soft spot for the talent shows sub-genre of reality TV. I’ve been watching America’s Got Talent since season 2 and The Voice (which I reviewed a few weeks ago) since season 1. In my review of The Voice, I mentioned that one of my issues with it was that audience participation comes in too late. Which may be why, when I heard about ABC’s new live voting method, I gave this premiere a shot.

I am also not a fan of live TV. I watch 99% of my shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, DVD, or the Internet. I even watched The Voice the next day on my computer as opposed to live on NBC, and I won’t watch America’s Got Talent live until we get to the voting rounds. Rising Star is the first show in years to convince me to turn on my TV (which only has an antenna) at a specific time. So obviously, I was very intrigued by the concept.

You have to download an app onto your cell phone in order to vote. Download, installation, and use were all very simple. They ask for access to your twitter or Facebook profile, but the permissions they request are reasonable — they won’t post, they only want your public information. You can *optionally* indicate that you are willing to have your profile picture on “the wall” when you vote. My husband opted out. I opted in. (My author image is public anyway, and there is no way it hurts me if it did end up as a blip on live TV.)

Now, down to the show:

I got a sense of pilot-episode awkwardness at the outset. Host Josh Groban tossed out a few jokes that weren’t funny as he introduced the experts — Ludacris, Kesha, and Brad Paisley. I will reserve judgment on the mix of personalities between host and experts; it’s only fair to give them a chance to settle in. Josh did simply and effectively explain the premise of the show, and how voting would work.

You have to log in to vote for each new contestant as they are introduced. The app prompts you and you simply swipe the screen. The reason for this is simple: Once you indicate a willingness to vote, your default is NO. You can swipe no, or you can not vote — it’s the same thing. So they want to check at each performance that you’re there, that you’re watching, and that you’re prepared to vote.

The singers need to get a yes from 70% of voters to “raise the wall” and go through to the next round.

BUT … The experts get a vote too. If they vote NO, nothing happens. If they vote YES, the singer gets a 7% bump. This effectively means that if all three experts vote yes, the singer auditioning only needs 49% of America to vote for them. I was dubious about this part at first. I really liked the idea of getting all the say, but as the episode unfolded I understood and appreciated why they chose to do it this way. First of all, Half of America essentially needs to vote yes anyway or it doesn’t matter what the experts thing. Second, the experts votes seriously influenced America’s. You could see it in the live tracking — the second an expert swiped YES, so did a hundred thousand watchers. Finally, the fact that the experts get a big say lends weight to their advice when they give it at the end of each round. So all in all, I decided I approved of this approach.

My biggest complaint about the episode was that in two hours, we saw 10 singers (or groups of singers). It was full of the usual nonsense that draws out and weighs down talent shows like this. They put a lot of time and effort into a surprise auditioner, a sixteen-year-old girl from the audience who had sent in an instagram audition and didn’t know she’d been picked to audition too. They gave her an hour and a half to prepare a song and she got the last audition spot of the night.

Back to positives: It really was fun to sit in my living room, discuss the pros and cons of each singer with my husband and son, and to swipe a YES or a NO. I loved seeing the instant results (results shows being my least favorite part of any talent show). The first three singers all made it through, making me wonder if America had a soft touch (I voted NO on two of the three myself and was beginning to wonder if I was just grumpy). Then a couple came on whose energy and enthusiasm couldn’t make up for the fact that they didn’t sound all that good together. America voted overwhelmingly NO, restoring my faith in our overall good taste. (And in truth, the first three singers were fine. I just wasn’t wowed.)

Of the experts, Ludacris earned my absolute respect last night. He not only said exactly what I was thinking 99% of the time, but his personality was a great mix of fun/friendly and honest/serious. Kesha struck me as a bit superficial. She put a lot of importance on the right look or, in a couple of cases, some random personal connection. And she was a bit of a soft touch overall. Brad Paisley hasn’t made a huge impression on me yet; I am again reserving judgment here.

Back to some weaknesses: There were too many sixteen-year-olds auditioning. One of the things I like about both The Voice and America’s Got Talent is that they’ll take anyone — any age, look, gender, etc. I hope to see a more diverse selection in the coming weeks.

I’m also wary of the commercials. Like I said early on, I don’t watch broadcast TV anymore. Haven’t in years. And last night reminded me why. It’s not just the existence of the commercials, but the truth is that the show was perfect fun for the whole family except that in between singers, there were commercials for shows like Mistresses, earning the question from my 8-year-old: “What’s a mistress?” I have a strict policy of answering honestly at all times so I did, but I really resent having had to answer that particular question last night. The level of sex and violence in the ads surprised me after so many years away from it. My kids are getting older, staying up later, and it’s summer so they are up until 9 or 10.

Finally, one aspect of the show confuses me: The west coast. I don’t live there (I’m in the central time zone) but I didn’t understand how this show would work when they rebroadcast it later. Josh explained, but I’m not wrapping my mind around it. I can’t imagine it being as satisfying to be out on the west coast, watching a rebroadcast. From the sounds of it, if the west coast votes are high enough they could change the results for someone who didn’t make it through, but that’s not what it looked like as I watched it. The people who got voted off just … left.

Overall, I think this is a fun new approach to a talent show competition. I have a few small reservations, but overall I am excited to watch again next week!

Mind Games Tour Weekly Recap

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For those of you who don’t know, Mind Games is the first book I have toured on my own — without the help of a virtual book tour service. My reasons for going solo aren’t important, but it has been a learning experience! And one of the most important things I’ve learned is this: Daily blasts of tour stops through social media become redundant and it’s not long before followers tune out.

This wouldn’t be a problem if I were running a short-term tour, but Mind Games will last through July 15 and then the next day, July 16, I will begin a three-month tour for Stolen Dreams, the last Cassie Scot book! That will be six months of straight promotion.

So instead of daily posts, from now on I’m going to do a week in review. I will highlight each stop, with excerpts and discussion. There is a link to each stop – please feel free to visit and leave a comment.

Reviews

Another bunch of terrific reviews this week!

 

 

“This exciting addition to a fun new adult fantasy series continues to reveal more about the complicated Cassie Scot who has to juggle her duties to the town as a deputy and the obligations inherent in being a member of a very powerful magical family.” — A lot is going on in this book; I’m so glad I still have readers on the edge of their seats!

 

“Mind Games is another great book in the series and I definitely agree with the author, Christine Amsden, that the books need to be read in order. ” — A girl never gets tired of being told she’s right!

 “Cassie is brave though not perfect. She makes mistakes. She has doubts. In other words, she’s human, not just a paper character in a book. The author is great at creating characters that are so real the reader can identify with them, the good and the bad ones.” – I love reviews that focus on character. This reviewer really seemed to get Cassie. 

  • Mary’s Cup of Tea (Warning: Contains huge series spoilers — if you have not read books 1 and 2, read at your own risk.)

“So, what will she do? Well, I have to admit I thought for someone who is suppose to be so smart, she sure is making a lot of mistakes and trusting the wrong people. When this book ends, she makes another huge mistake or I think it is.” — Not every review is glowing, but I value every opinion. 

Guest Articles

 

Interviews

 

  • Shah Wharton – How do I write? Where is this series going? 

 

  • Hide the Matches – What sort of research have I done? Is this series connected in any way to new age religions, paganism, or the occult?