Welcome to our stop of Brian Tashima's Secret of the Songshell book tour, hosted by Bewitching Book Tours. I literally just finished reading this book, so everything is still fresh in my memory and has yet to be lost in the confused abyss that is my brain. But before I tell you what I thought of the novel, I'm going to turn it over to the author for a little while.
1. Your main character Joel Suzuki, has Asperger's Syndrome. Why did you choose to include that in particular?
Joel is partly based on my son, who has Asperger’s. Secret of the Songshell all started when, a couple of years ago, my son asked me to write him a book. When I was working on ideas for the protagonist, I thought about how my son — because of his condition — could do some amazing things that seemed like superpowers to me (memorizing patterns, noticing and remembering tiny details, etc.) So, I set out to create a character for whom Asperger’s was a boon, rather than an obstacle that had to be worked around.
2. How did you come up with the names for your characters?
Joel is an Asian-American character, and I chose Suzuki as his last name because I figured that most people were familiar with the Suzuki car company and, maybe to a lesser extent, Ichiro Suzuki the baseball player. Felicity Smith’s name came from an older story idea I had that involved therianthropes – kids who can transform into animals. She was going to be able to transform into a cat, so, you know, cat . . . felis . . . Felicity . . . you get the idea. But Felicity also means “happiness,” which happened to work out very well with the main theme of Secret of the Songshell, which is about the pursuit of, well, happiness.
3. What was your favorite scene to write in Secret of the Songshell? Your least favorite?
My favorite scene, by far, was the climax scene, where Joel confronts the bad guy. I actually wrote a draft of it before any other part of the book. My least favorite was a scene near the beginning of the book that I ended up scrapping, so I guess now you could say that I don’t have any least favorites.
4. Do you have a favorite character, or do you love all of your children equally?
I love them all, although I will admit that Felicity is especially fun to write because she’s very feisty and sarcastic.
5. Looking back, if you could change one thing about Secret of the Songshell, what would it be?
The good thing about being independently-published is that if there was something I wanted to change about the book, I could just go back and change it. I haven’t made any changes to the text and I don’t plan to, but I am having a new cover design made. I like the cover I have now, but people have told me that it looks more like a book geared towards adults rather than teens and younger readers.
6. Is there anything new that you're working on that you can tell us about?
Secret of the Songshell is the first of a planned seven-book series, and right now I’m working on the second book. I was hoping to have it out by the fall of this year, but I’m not sure I’m going to make that (self-imposed) deadline as I’m still only on page 57 of the first draft! I’ve found that things tend to move slower when you’re trying to promote one book and write the next one at the same time.
7. Did you ever want to be anything other than an author? If so, what? What made you decide to be an author?
Like Joel, I wanted to be a rock star. I’m a singer/songwriter/guitarist and have been playing in bands all my life. Writing a book was something that I’d always wanted to do, though, and when my son asked me to write something for him, that was the catalyst that I needed.
8. What authors do you look up to?
As a kid, I read tons of fantasy novels and was a big fan of Tolkein, Piers Anthony, Alan Dean Foster, and many others. These days, I find Joanne Rowling’s personal story to be very inspirational.
9. If you could be anyone for an entire day, who would it be?
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, so that I could know how it feels to be able to play the drums so amazingly well.
10. If you had a code name, what would it be? Why?
I would go with “Spooky Hero,” which is a nickname one of my buddies gave me in college. It’s based on my middle name and sounds pretty cool.
This or ThatChocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate
Chicken or the Egg? Egg
Prequel or Sequel? Prequel
Coffee or Hot Chocolate? Coffee (decaf)
Happily Ever After or To Be Continued? To Be Continued
PC or Mac? PC
Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars
Okay, while I have to admit that you have good taste in books (Tolkein is a god), your choice of classic sci-fi leaves much to be desired. You can't beat Star Trek!
I do agree with the cover redesign, though. Just looking at the original, it doesn't really give the reader any indication of the story it contains and may be misleading to the target audience. It doesn't exactly scream inter-dimensional fantasy adventure to me.
My ReviewThis book has proven to be very hard for me to pin down. There were parts that I loved so much that I could barely contain myself, yet there were a few others that seemed to fall flat regardless of the incredible feats they were describing. There is nothing about this story that is boring, however; in fact, it is one of the most imaginative books I've read in a long time. Think of something along the lines of the world of Pandora from James Cameron's Avatar, except explored at much greater lengths and less concerned with the laws that govern the natural universe.
Besides when Joel and Felicity are training with the wavebows, there isn't really any down time in this book. There's always something going on that's different from what came before it, with some new challenge for them to face. Usually, it works perfectly and the reader gets caught up in whatever new adventure is being undertaken. There are times, however, that things are rushed and not enough attention is paid to the details, making some pieces of the plot seem rather meaningless. For instance, I absolutely loved the parts with the Heatwraith in the Flaming Fields and Nineteen and the "gator-eels" in Prism Valley, but I wasn't a huge fan of most of the time in the Jungle of Darkness where it would just say that they would face some sort of monster and move on.
Regardless of all of the extremely creative creatures and settings in Secret of the Songshell, my favorite part of the novel was always Joel. It was cool to see everything from his perspective, and he always does in fact have something interesting to say.... when he's being himself that is. Joel seemed to lose himself and just become a cookie cutter character at times to keep the story moving along, when actually he is anything but. My favorite section of the novel was the first few chapters before he meets Marshall where it was just Joel being.... Joel.
The only other complaint that I have is that it doesn't seem like the readers are given much credit for their own skills in figuring certain plot points out. Two major character identity "twists" were built up and hinted at almost nonstop throughout the novel, making the actual reveals less than spectacular.
An incredible feat the Brian Tashima did pull off in Secret of the Songshell was some very impressive world-building. Much like something Tolkein would write, there wasn't a single detail left out of place or Spectraland-themed question left unaddressed. The sheer amount and variety of original creatures and other beings is incredible on its own, but this world was so filled to the brim with its own history, dynamics, and even politics that it really felt like I was steeping into the pages of the book and into another dimension.
Rating: 3 stars
This excerpt comes from the very beginning of the novel, and is actually what originally drew me in because of how unique of a main character Joel is.
You can view the excerpt from Chapter One here.
About the BookJoel Suzuki gets a huge surprise when he bumps into his favorite rock star while walking down the street. You see, this particular rock star -- multiplatinum bandleader Marshall Byle -- is supposed to be dead.
Joel gets an even bigger surprise when Marshall makes him the offer of a lifetime: the chance to become a rock star himself. There's a catch, of course, but this one is a little different. To unlock the shortcut to success, Joel must travel to an alternate world where his unique brain waves can be combined with the sound waves of music to create magical effects. If he can learn to harness these powers, he will be able to write songs that capture the hearts of millions.
As a sensitive sixteen-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome living in a single-parent home, Joel leads a stressful life full of bullies, bad grades and money woes. Figuring that stardom will solve all of his problems, he accepts Marshall's offer. But once Joel arrives in the new world, he finds himself faced with an unexpected audition that is unlike anything he has ever imagined....
About the AuthorBrian Tashima was born and raised in Hawaii and has been a resident of Vancouver, Washington since 2000. In addition to being an author, he is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who has won a Hoku award (Hawaii’s version of the Grammys) and has had his music featured in short films, international compilations, and numerous other forms of media. He is currently a member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), Willamette Writers, Northwest Independent Writers Association, and three Vancouver/Portland-based rock bands.
The Giveawaya Rafflecopter giveaway
January 7 - Guest Blog at Mom With A Kindle
January 7 - Promo and Review at Honest Variety Books
January 8 - Interview at Fang-tastic Books
January 9 - Interview at Roxanne’s Realm
January 10 - Promo at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
January 11 - Guest Blog at The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
January 12 - Interview and Review at Marked By Books
January 12 - Interview at Books, Books The Magical Fruit
January 13 - Guest Blog at Monique Morgan
January 14 - Guest Blog and Review at Moosubi Reviews!
A copy of the novel was provided for us in exchange for an honest review.