Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: Bluff by Lenore Skomal

Title: Bluff
Author: Lenore Skomal
Publisher: self-published
Publication Date: September 3, 2012
Source: e-galley provided by Novel Publicity Blog Tours for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

"To the medical world, I was a host body, surviving only to bring a new life into the world. And while I wanted to die more than anything in the world, I never wanted this. No, I never wanted to cease to exist. This was the worst death of all.”

Jude Black lives in that in-between, twilight place teetering on death but clinging to life in order to bring her baby into this world. Only she knows the circumstances surrounding her mysterious fall off the bluff that landed her in the hospital being kept alive by medical intervention. Only she knows who the father of her baby is. In this poignantly crafted literary novel, the mystery unfolds and the suspense builds as the consequences of Jude’s decisions threaten to reveal everyone's deceptions, even her own. Bluff offers a sensitive look at essential questions such as the value of human life, the consciousness of those in a coma and the morality of terminating life support. At the core is the story of a tragically misunderstood woman who finds peace, acceptance, understanding and even love on her deathbed.

My Review:

OK readers, if you read the descriptor information above, and remember this post I did about self-published novels, you know this review is a BIG DEALIO for me.  I generally do not accept self-published novels for review, but when I saw this one available through a Novel Publicity tour, the description was just too darn good to pass up.  I had to break my own rule for a hot minute and give it a shot.

Overall, I'd say that I'm glad that I did.  This is not (I repeat, NOT) the type of poorly-edited, full-of-plot-holes self-published work that I have (unfortunately) had too much experience with in the past.  This book is absorbing, provocative, and is sure to linger in your mind for days after you finish the last page.

Bluff had many pros and cons for me, but the biggest pro is that the plot is full of intriguing and (in some cases) controversial issues.  Sexuality, drug use, infidelity, termination of life support--these topics are all woven into a novel that already has a large and diverse cast of characters.  I was never bored, or at a "slow point" in the book, because there isn't one.  The hits just kept coming.

The book is told from a wide variety of perspectives.  At the center of the novel is Jude, who fell (jumped? was pushed?) off a bluff near her house.  She ends up badly injured, in a coma...and oh yeah, five months pregnant.  You do get Jude's perspective for some of the novel--she seems to have what I can most closely equate to "locked-in syndrome", wherein her body is unresponsive, but mentally she is alert and aware of what happens around her.  

At the same time, in between chapters told from her perspective, you also get the POV of nearly every other character in the book: Frances, her best friend.  April, her estranged sister.  Paul, her lawyer.  Mary Shannon, her nurse.  And many others.  One of the great things about this wide variety of characters is that it made me feel like I was putting a puzzle together, trying to figure out Jude's true nature.  Is she the snarky but caring individual that Frances portrays?  Or is she cold-hearted and withdrawn, as April seems to think?  My impression of her was constantly evolving, which served to heighten the mystery surrounding the central questions of the novel: how did Jude fall off the bluff?  And who is the father of Jude's baby?

However, these two pros (the many controversial issues, and the big cast of characters) also worked against themselves and became cons at various points in the novel.  In terms of the many issues, I often felt like this book was having a bit of an identity crisis--it couldn't decide what its true central purpose was.  A good example is the problem concerning Jude's life support.  In the beginning of the novel, this seemed like it was going to be a hotly-debated topic among the characters as the plot moved along.  However, by the end, the potential controversy fell a bit flat, and wasn't debated much at all.  It left me wondering why this was introduced so strongly to begin with.  It seemed to me that, at times, the author got a bit ambitious with the scope of the novel, and would have done better saving some of these issues for a separate book.

The same goes for the cast of characters.  I appreciate books that tell me the story from multiple POVs, but this one was overkill at times.  I counted 13 different POVs before I stopped keeping track. This was great at times (see above: putting together the puzzle!), but at other times, it was just frustrating.  I felt like I wanted these characters to be more deeply developed, but they were each given such little time to explain themselves, that I was sometimes confused.  For example, Mary Shannon starts out hating (like, really hating) Jude, but midway through the novel she suddenly has a change of heart and considers them to be "friends".  This was explained very abruptly, and left me wishing that this emotional transition had been explained further.  Plus, some of the perspectives just didn't seem necessary (Officer Murphy, Dr. Jefferies...).  The important details in those characters' stories could have been told from an already-existing perspective.  So again, I got the sense that the book was a little overzealous in this department.

Overall though, I'm sticking with my original statement: this is a captivating novel that is worth a read.  It is not light reading--some of the topics/events are dark, violent, and/or sexual in nature.  (Violence involving women and children is involved--just a warning for those that may be sensitive to that.)  And I do wish that it was a bit more directed at times.  But if you don't mind the tenebrous and multi-focused mood of the novel, I can promise that this one will leave you in suspense more than once.

Want to win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of Bluff?

  1. Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official Bluff tour page.
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I've posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the tour page linked above.
About the author: Lenore Skomal wants you to eat her books. Her passionate desire is to touch your heart, inspire you, and luxuriate in the world of the written word. She is an award-winning author with the single goal of resonating with others. Winner of multiple awards for blogging, literature, biography and humor, her catalogue spans many genres. With 30 years of writing experience, 18 books published, a daily blog and weekly newspaper column, the consistent themes in her work are the big issues of the human experience and adding depth and voice to the intricacies involved in living a multi-dimensional existence. She has won many Society of Professional Journalist awards, the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference honorable mention for best fiction, Writer's Digest 73rd Annual Fiction Contest, New York Public Library's Best Books for Teens 2003, and most recently, the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award for humor for “Burnt Toast.,” her first anthology of her award winning humor columns. From journalism, to literary fiction, to humor and biography, her writing is consistent, if not in genre, then in message. Connect with Lenore on her website, Facebook, GoodReads, or Twitter.
Get Bluff on Amazon.
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  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my novel Bluff and for your review! And a special thanks for being part of my blog tour. :) Lenore Skomal

  2. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful review, Kelly, and for temporarily divorcing your stance on self-published books to give Bluff a proper reading. So glad you joined us on this tour. When you have a moment, please cross-post to Amazon and GoodReads.


  3. Ahh I'm glad you liked it overall! Way to give this self-pub a chance :) Can't wait to read BLUFF, myself... thanks for your balanced, thoughtful review!

  4. Lenore and Emlyn, thank you for the opportunity to review! I am happy that my self-published worries were disproved with this novel.

    @Karielle, I hope you enjoy it too!

  5. I'm glad you reviewed it as well. Always happy to hear of great self-published works.


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