Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Searching for Inspiration and Character... and Magic?

Today I'm delighted to welcome authors Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr to my blog with a joint guest posts, celebrating their Magician's Workshop series. Volumes 1 and 2 are already available (see details below), but what turns a novel into a series, and will there be more?

 What's New At The Magician's Workshop by Christopher Hansen and J. R. Fehr

The Magician's Workshop is going to be an epic tale that we expect will span several volumes. Volume One introduces the reader to the characters and the world and explores the pressures that exist for kids in a world where everyone can do magic. Volume Two deals with the kids entering the coming of age ceremony that everyone has to participate in.

Our inspiration for characters is everywhere. Every encounter—no matter how brief—is a story waiting to unfold. We’ve also spent a lot of time studying theories of personality. This knowledge has helped us craft the voices of our characters and imagine how they might react in a certain situations. 

Of course, this is a book about The Magician’s Workshop, so there has to be some magic in it. But the magic in our book is not like any kind of magic we know of. We spent many hundreds of hours creating all the details around this new magic for our book. We had to figure out what a world that was based on this magic would look like—what rules governed it. Then, as we figured out the wide variety of magical powers possible, we could start thinking about characters. We wanted to find the magical powers that were the right fit for each character. We tried to make these powers feel like they were a natural outgrowth of that character, like an expression of their very souls.

When we started writing, we anticipated a story with a handful of primary characters. But new characters kept showing up, and we liked them. We found ourselves writing additional scenes and chapters with these characters. This was dangerous because soon we had enough material to fill several volumes. We had to make a difficult choice: cut out half of the characters and their stories or allow the story to grow. At first we decided to cut. But when we went to actually delete the scenes, we didn’t want to say goodbye. We looked at each other, and a big smile grew on our faces. “We’re keeping them!” we said. “This is going to be mega!”

So, these novels are really different than a traditional fantasy story. There isn’t one specific main character. There are several point of view characters who our readers can relate to in different ways. Each one has their own gifts and weaknesses. The two who get the most attention in the stories, though, would have to be Kai and Layauna. Both of them have unique talents and have a grandparent with grand expectations. But while Kai wants to do his own thing and have fun with the magic he creates, Layauna is terrified of her creations and seeks the approval of her elders.

Kai is a silly goofball who loves to spend time with his friends. He’s supportive and encouraging to people yet at the same time isolated and cut off from others. He wrestles with a lot of big issues relating to his place in the world. Layauna, on the other hand, doesn’t have the time or freedom to be silly. She desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but instead she makes horrible, savage monsters. 

Like all of us, the characters in The Magician’s Workshop struggle with who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to do.

While we were writing, we got to play with these characters, inside this fantastical world, and now we are so excited to share this world with you, for you to enjoy. 

I'm excited too. I love that the stories are character driven, and that you've made the world make sense - magic as nature rather than deus ex machina perhaps. Add those ever-relevant questions of coming of age, and this will surely be a series to watch. Thank you so much for visiting my blog, and I'm delighted to have hosted you.

About the books:

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One

Authors: Christopher Hansen, J.R. Fehr
Published by: Wondertale, California
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
ISBN: 1-945353-11-2
Genre: Coming of Age, Fantasy, Magic
Ages: 12 and up.
Length: 85,000 words / 290 pages

Book Links:
Amazon * Goodreads

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume Two

Authors: Christopher Hansen, J.R. Fehr
Print Length: 273 pages
Publisher: Wondertale
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
ASIN: B01N988TW7
Genre: Coming of Age, Fantasy, Magic
Ages: 12 and up.

Book Links:
Amazon * Goodreads

Return to the world of The Magician’s Workshop: Where Dreams Become Reality.

In Volume Two, the Festival of Stars has finally arrived, and the Color Ceremony is about to commence. As children from all over the islands gather to stand before a puller, one question remains: who will have a Color, and who will be found void?

Rejoin your favorite characters as they step forward and receive a label that will have the power to dramatically alter the course of their lives forever.

About the authors

Christopher Hansen

The first glimmering Chris Hansen had that there was far more to reality than he had ever imagined occurred six days after his ninth birthday. “Christopher!” cried a wise, old sage. “Life is full of deep magic. Miraculous things happen all the time and all around us, if you know where to look for them.” Full of expectation and childlike optimism, Chris began searching for this magic, prepared to be surprised and amazed by it. And he was: he found Wonder! Now he’s chosen to write stories about it.

J.R. Fehr

When J.R. Fehr popped out of the womb, he knew there was more to the world than the four boring hospital walls that he was seeing. “Zango!” his newborn mind exclaimed as he saw people appear and disappear through a mysterious portal in the wall. As a child he found life wowtazzling, but as he grew older the cold water of reality hit him, and the magic he once knew vanished. After spending some wet and shivering years lost in a joyless wasteland, he once again began to see magic in the world. He writes because the Wonder of true life is far grander than anything he ever thought possible.

Where to Find Them

Website * Facebook

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Have you ever called someone Messy?

Today I have a very cool young guest on my blog. Her name is Misry and she's here from Paromita Goswami's middle-schoo, teen and YA book, Grow Up Messy, published by Ficus India. So, find yourself a comfy chair and a cup of tea or coffee. Let's talk with Misry.

Misry, can you tell us something about your family and the place where you live?

I have a big family at my Dadu’s house. Let me talk about them. I visited there during Pallavi Mashi’s marriage. It’s a huge house with lots of people and many different kind of animals.  Dadu, Dida, Nilesh Mama his wife Soma Mami their identical twins Dia and Ria along with Pallavi Mashi live there. And also the white Pomeranian dogs Bura and Buri. You will just love the place. Back home, its only me, Ma and Daddy. And I don’t like it. I have nobody to play with at home.

That sounds sad. Do you have any friends there?

My best friends are Bheeru and Honey. But cross your heart that you won’t share this little secret with anyone else. Its Honey, who is my best friend ever. Bheeru sometimes fought with me and didn’t allow me to play with his goat kids. But I have long back forgiven him for that. But Honey never fought with me. We are the best buddies. 

So... just two friends?

Err.. No.. I have lots of friends. Phulwa, Robi, Boney, Honey’s younger brother are my friends.

That sounds fun. Do you have any enemies?

Enemies?? What enemies?? I don’t have any. Ma says I should make friends and play with everybody. But I am very angry when some of the boys take me for granted and always make fun of me. I don’t mind teaching them a lesson!

I don't blame you. I heard they even call you Messy sometimes. How does that make you feel?

I feel bad when someone calls me Messy. What if I can’t climb up the trees or swim across the river? I don’t ruin the plans deliberately. It just happens to fall apart at the last minute. Am I to be blamed for that? 

Do you think they'll still call you Messy once you make friends with them?

It was Raju who called me by that name first. And slowly everybody else started calling me by that name as if that is my good name. Evem Ma calls me that when she is angry with me. But I am not Messy.

No, I'm sure you're not. I guess I'll have to read your book to find out more about you though. Thank you so much for visiting my blog today.

Childhood is considered to be the best time of one’s life. What if you get a chance to live it once more with a five-year-old?
Misry, a naughty five-year-old girl, lives with her parents in a B.S.F border outpost near Indo-Bangladesh border. But with no schools and friends she feels very lonely. She tries to befriend some local village kids. But they find her incompetent in their rural antics. They nickname her Messy as most of the time she messes up their plan. Can Misry really be a part of the gang?
Set in the early eighties, join Misry in the adventures of her life.


Amazon kindle



Paromita Goswami is a writer and storyteller by passion and a rebel by choice. She says the world is full of stories and as a writer she loves to pen them down. Her work is not genre specific. From literary fiction to children book to upcoming paranormal thriller and women fiction, Paromita Goswami‘s books offer the variety of life to her readers. Grow Up Messy! is her second book. She debuted in 2015 with Shamsuddin’s Grave, a literary fiction. Besides writing, she is also the founder of reading club that enhances book reading habit in children. She lives in central India with her family.




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Monday, February 13, 2017

What do Survivors do?

One of my sons views the future with dread, imagines the worst, and believes we might all soon be dead. It's a sad point of view, but I recognize it from my own youth, when I was always sure one of the "big three" (Russia, America or China) would foolishly "push the button" and condemn us all to die. Eventually movie-makers filmed their tales - Australians patiently awaiting the end; triumphant American pioneers rebuilding it all, or downtrodden English survivors slaving on. Meanwhile I grew up and we're still here.

Meanwhile I grew up and some of those parents we relied on might not be here long, and I find myself pondering different kinds of survival--reading about them too, from Atul Gawande's exploration of late-life care to Carl Alves' alien destruction--so here are some reviews.

Atul Gawande's Being Mortal offers an incisive glimpse into that later part of life, where we age, get sick, and maybe even die. The simple idea that in the good old days parents lived and died with their children becomes a rose-colored dream--it wasn't ever what parents wanted or what they might need. And so, as society changes, our dreams of freedom color adulthood as well as childhood; and aging becomes the slow replacement of freedom with increasing loss. Gawande makes it seem possible that not all change need be loss. He offers questions that clarify thought and make decisions make sense. And he offers visions of elder care that I can almost believe I would hope for. It's an excellent book. We should all read it before we grow old, preferable with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

The Orphan by S. R. Nair is a fictional story set in India, telling the tale of a young American orphaned when his parents, who love India, die while helping at an orphanage. Sid is now an orphan too, but with vastly different expectations. When American dream meets Indian reality, his outlook is set to change. The novel explores connected themes of corruption, attitudes to life and death, riches and poverty, and the assumptions we make about other people. It's told with a movie-like detachment, offering vivid descriptions of life and country, and oddly detached insights into characters who don't quite know themselves. Enjoy with some more complex, elegant four-star coffee.

Wish You Well by David Baldacci is set in 1940s Virginia where a city girl and her brother are sent to stay on the mountain with their grandmother when their father dies. Almost orphans, they see the world through innocent eyes while the reader finds today's hates and greeds in the history of yesterday. It's a compelling, convincing tale, and the ending, while maybe predictable, feels perfectly right. Enjoy with some more elegant four-star coffee.

Life After by Katie Ganshert is set in the present day, where the sole survivor of a terrorist attack suffers nightmares and struggles to pick up the pieces of her life while totally absorbed in the wreckage of others'. Smoothly nuanced questions of faith arise--good God, bad actions, why?--all naturally attuned to the characters' lives. There's no preachiness in this novel, but there's much to inspire the reader, and a fascinating storyline to entertain as well. Enjoy with a complex, elegant four-star coffee.

The survivors in Carl Alves' Reconquest: Mother Earth are survivors of a very different type, rebuilding after an alien invasion. The story's classic science fiction action adventure, with tongue in cheek scenes, scary scenes, TV-style scenes, space opera scope and, of course, an all-American hero at the center of it all. It's fast, furious fun, best enjoyed with some bright lively easy-drinking two-star coffee (plus the odd dark five-star cup for the blood and gore).

And so the survivors survive. Will you?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Do you have a favorite publisher?

Disaster struck and our basement flooded - the family room where we watch TV, where I work on my computer, where I live most of my life... all under several inches of water. Now the TV's in the living room, the computer's in the kitchen, the bookshelves (those that survived) are stacked on a tarpaulin, and the books (those that survived) are hidden in boxes in the garage.

My husband has great plans for remodeling at this point, since water has already begun the job. He's not sure, however, how books will fit into the scheme. Perhaps we have too many (still?). Perhaps I should get rid of some... get rid of some bookshelves too... perhaps. But packing the books into boxes was like revisiting old friends - so glad I didn't lose this one; so delighted to share memories of reading another. The thought of throwing out those that were spared has me quietly despairing, and pondering of course, which ones shall remain.

Which leads to my question: Do I have a favorite author (must keep all of yours Aaron Lazar)? Do I have a favorite publisher (Permanent Press books, luckily kept on a higher shelf, therefore dry)? A favorite genre - I'm not sure I can answer that one. A favorite book? They're all favorites - books are my friends.

Of course I have incredibly kind real friends too - you know who you are. And I thank you for helping recover bookshelves, books, TV, computers, other furnishings, and strip out carpets so walls could dry, and take Mum out to a dryer place, and walk the borrowed dog, and generally keep me sane while disaster struck.

Anyway, if I claim the Permanent Press as a favorite publisher, I should probably try to work out how to justify the claim. I'm not published by them - in fact they rejected my novels (I almost said they rejected me). They publish in multiple genres, not always even close to my favorites. They publish lots of different authors, several of whom might be favorites, but several not. And they publish hardbacks, which are definitely not my favorites (they take up too much space). But I'm lucky; my Permanent Press collection is all paperbacks (and all dry). And I'm lucky because they keep sending me books, and I keep realizing, while I might not have chosen this book for myself, it's always well worth the read and always something to look forward to. Those brown envelopes arrive; I read the label; and I think hurray - they've sent me another good read.

So here are reviews of three Permanent Press novels recently or soon to be released:

The Third Hell by Connie Dial is a novel by one of my favorite PP authors, but it's not part of the series I've so enjoyed. Instead it's a standalone novel of love and loss, blending police procedural, social commentary, romance, murder mystery, family drama and more. It's incisive, powerfully convincing, and totally enthralling and I love it. Enjoy with some elegant, complex, four-star coffee, and the story will haunt you in all the best ways.

Our Marriage Counselor by Carl Tiktin is a very different book, darkly humorous, fiercely provocative, starkly real and still, though not my favorite genre, powerfully absorbing. It's the story of characters I don't like, doing things I wouldn't approve, and inviting consequences that hurt. But the characters are so real you have to keep reading. Their motivations are so convincing you have to keep thinking. And the ending, unpredictable and real, makes the whole thing make satisfying sense. Enjoy with some darkly intense five-star coffee.

Then there's The Mask Of Sanity by Jacob M Appel, a novel of grim darkness told with just the right level of detachment to allow the reader to observe, question, dread and ponder without ever being overwhelmed. Violence and horror are there, but told sparingly, with no attempt to shock, so the fact of the character rather than his deeds dominates the tale. It's intriguing, dark, cruel and invites that dark question--how well do we really know anyone? You'll need another dark five-star coffee with this one.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Meet the Cats

My Mum loves cats.
They seem to quite like her too, and we had a lovely time visiting them at a cat cafe recently. But now Mum's back in England. My home is dogless, mumless and catless. And I'm reading books. I love books. Sadly, though, they're not so soft and cuddly as cats and they usually don't wrap themselves around my neck. They were great to share with Mum though, before she left.

Having watched all those cats, a book entitled A Cat Is Watching by Roger A. Caras seems like a good place to start. It's an well-balanced mix of psychology, anecdote and opinion, and I really enjoyed it. Share it with your favorite feline and a cup of well-balanced three-star coffee.

Some of the cats at the cafe were more playful than watching. I had great fun with one who loved to bounce after feathered toys. No bird will be safe when this cat finds a home. But surely the cat knows the toy isn't real. Is it playing or training? Do Cats Think by Paul Corey might help find the answer. It's a personal account of life with many different cats, each with their own quirks and natures... and thoughts, perhaps. And it's a lovely book to share with a cat and a warmly elegant four-star coffee.

Turning now to some seriously fictional cats, the felines of Journeyman Cat and other novels by Virginia Ripple do most definitely think. They watch. They plan. And they work with their human companions in magic and politics. Religious themes underpin these stories, giving them focus and strength, but they are never intrusive, and the adventures of cats and their humans are truly gripping. I'm sure Mum would have loved this had she had time to read it. Enjoy with a middle-grade reader or young adult, and drink some well-balanced three-star coffee as you read.

And, should you find a cat cafe near you, enjoy the playfulness of cats.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

An Intimate Plate?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Ukrainian author Olga Petrenko to my blog. Her book has the enticing title, Intimacy on the Plate, which inspires me to wonder

  • What is an intimate plate?
  • And what inspired her to write this book?
If you want to the know the answers to these questions and more, please read on. 

Olga Petrenko grew up in Ukraine, where she learned to appreciate traditional Eastern European hospitality and homemaking. As an adult, she studied the chemistry of foods for their unique effects on the human body and mind. She poured the next 10 years of her life into creating the recipes contained in the aphrodisiac cookbook, Intimacy On The Plate: 200+ Aphrodisiac Recipes to Spice Up Your Love Life at Home Tonight.

Can you resist? Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, Olga. And I guess my first question is... Aphrodisiac recipes? What does aphrodisiac really mean?

The word “aphrodisiac” comes from the name of the Greek goddess of beauty and love, Aphrodite. Aphrodisiacs are any substances that increase libido when consumed. A meal created using aphrodisiac ingredients is a delicious feast that awakens sexual desire and builds attraction between two people. Combine the right timing and romantic atmosphere, and anyone can experience the power of aphrodisiacs in their own home any time they want.

Potent and romantic aphrodisiac dinners are available to each of us. Thanks to our modern understanding of the chemical composition of traditional ingredients, such as amino acids, vitamins, and trace elements, we now know exactly how they increase sexual activity naturally for both men and women.

Thank you Olga. So... what can you tell us about your book.

Why I Wrote Intimacy On The Plate

I wrote Intimacy On The Plate to share fantastic recipes that can help you create and share intimate meals for and with your partner. It will help you understand which foods hold the power to help you create passionate meals and enhance lovemaking with someone you care for. I’ve gone out of my way to include scientific explanations about how and why these ingredients strongly affect human sexuality, as well as snippets which will enhance your appreciation of the recipes presented here.

My goal in writing the book was to help lovers create a sensual and intimate meal without having to spend countless hours tracking down hard-to-find ingredients. You will have a new and informed understanding of what special roles ingredients, preparation, and planning play in the way you enjoy cooking.

The recipes presented I’ve chosen come from many diverse sources. Some are very rich and filling, while others are very light. I’ve included full-course meals as well as appetizers, snacks, and smaller entrées, so you will never run out of options for something to spice things up at home. They are all designed to awaken the sexually creative person within you. Used correctly, they will spur your imagination and enhance your hidden erotic nature. Your partner will enjoy both the artistry that goes into the flavor of each recipe, as well as the unique libido-enhancing qualities.

Making the Most of Each Meal

As with all meals, the effort put into the visual presentation is just as important as the preparation of the ingredients themselves. The visual aesthetic of a romantic meal has a strong influence on building sexual desire. Skillfully prepared ingredients and a beautifully served meal will raise both you and your partner’s desires. It will prime you for an unforgettable sexual experience, highlighting the joy you are bound to experience together.

Remember: great recipes are not set in stone. They exist only as a guide, and the motivation to pique your imagination. Figure out what you like about them, try new and exotic ideas, but do not forget about the traditional dishes proven by centuries of use around the world. I am certain that if you take the time to give your body what it needs to optimize its sexual function and give you partner the attention they need to feel ultimate intimacy, you will experience a loving physical relationship like no other. Bon appétit! 

Thank you so much, and I think I feel hungry now.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What Have Birds And Puppies To Do With Childrens Books?

Sometimes a children's book offers just the change of pace that an adult (this adult anyway) needs. Typically (but not always) shorter, it's great for those brief moments between unwelcome tasks (like throwing away memorabilia destroyed in a basement flood). Usually upbeat, at least by the end of the story, a children's book can be great for lifting the spirit. And the questions raised, while frequently fascinating, might be just far enough away from everyday life to provide an open window where real ones feel closed. Plus, kids books often include animals - birds and puppies in these...

The Strange Round Bird by Eden Unger Bowditch isn't short, but it's an excellent children's novel, nicely written so periods of fast action are comfortably interspersed with periods of dialog, problem-solving and thought. Sadly you might not get to read it yet, as it's still pre-release. But why not read books one and two of the series, so you'll be ready (The Atomic Weight of Secrets and The Ravens of Solemano)? If you know any young readers with intelligence and imagination, why not feed them by letting them read too? Strange Round Bird is an elegant complex tale to be enjoyed with elegant complex four-star coffee.

Shorter, but similarly well-researched, with a similar basis in science (more turn of this century than turn of the last though), Purple Pup by Karl Steam introduces children to the ideas of modern genetics through the eyes of a purple puppy. There's a delightfully clean and simple storyline--Black Beauty meets modern science perhaps--and there's plenty of adventure and food for thought. Enjoy with some well-balanced smooth three-star coffee.

Then there's Talon, come fly with me by Gigi Sedlmayer, a tale that's filled with fascinating facts of geography and nature as a missionary's daughter tries to save the egg of an endangered condor. Matica has faced human cruelty herself, but she learns to value her differences as the story progresses. Love and patience are rewarded, and purpose is revealed in the problems God sets before us. The action's fast but the storytelling is slow, making this a good book perhaps to read to a child at bedtime. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

I'm sure I must have read more children's books recently, but my records are out of date, my to-read list is buried in emails, and my basement ... well, let's not think about that. It must be time to sit down again with a good book.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Which comes first, the mystery or the murder?

Our family mystery is how did so much water get into the family room, bedrooms, storage room and furnace room of our house. It's an ongoing issue, so no story arc yet--no sense of completion. But at least I've got my computer up and running again, except I have to put it away to feed people since it's sitting on the kitchen table.

In between disposing of soggy boxes bursting with ruined memorabilia, watching sons cut up and drag away soaked carpet and underlay, moving furniture, panicking about surge protectors that clearly didn't protect (perhaps they didn't have water surges in mind when they designed them), ..., I have on occasion sat down and lost myself (and my woes) in a mystery novel. Such novels are good for losing yourself (and your woes). They helped a lot (as did amazing family and friends -- you know who you are; I couldn't possibly have coped without you!). So here are some reviews. If your coffee maker's not plugged into the same socket as your computer, pour a mug of favorite brew and see what you'd like to read next. Meanwhile, I will hope you don't have too many woes.

The damp, I supposed, reminds me of cold damp places like the Shetland Isles. So my first two reviews are for books two and three of Ann Cleve's Shetland Quartet. White Nights introduces the concept of being depressed because of too much sun rather than too little. In the gray of an Oregon winter, it's almost hard to imagine, but the author brings those nights of endless day to vivid life with mysteries hidden in the mist. Then the third book, Red Bones creates a cool blend of murder mystery and family drama. They're both thoroughly satisfying reads, whether or not you're following the TV series, best enjoyed with well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Killer Christmas, an Emma Wild Mystery by Harper Lin is the first mystery in a romantic holiday themed collection. It's a short, fast, enticing Christmas read with pleasing family relationships and recipes! Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee and a plate of Christmas cookies (if you have any left over).

Then there are the ghostly cat paws in Leighann Dobbs' Ghostly Paws. Cozy with a touch of paranormal, Mystic Notch looks like being a fun series and I'd love to read more. The cats are great, and their point of view is very pleasingly rendered, as is that of Wilhelmina, struggling with her curious inheritance and the mystery of a sweet lady's death--oh, and the fact that the sweet lady's ghost wants her murderer found. Enjoy this lively mystery (especially if you love cats) with some lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

And finally, since I also love dogs, I have to include one more mystery in this collection--The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club by Duncan Whitehead. It's kind of a cross between Pushing Up Daisies and James Bond - slightly detatched narration, oddly detatched characters with quirks and horrors and more, and a murderer hiding in a high-class park where sweet dogs walk. The dogs' owners probably aren't sweet old ladies though, and this is a cool tale filled with clues that find and lose the scent, very civilized murders and betrayals, and great good humor.

Enjoy, and I'll post some more reviews when I switch the computer back on, after making lunch perhaps... Life is lived in the kitchen!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Who Will You Meet in 2017?

The snow has turned to freezing rain, or at least to the threat of freezing rain. We're trapped in the house again. My mother, over here from England, can't get out to see the wonderful place she's visiting. But welcome visitors spent their morning here, drank coffee and chatted with her. So now Mum's world has expanded just a little again, despite the contractions of ice. And now her nose is back in a book as she meets imaginary characters in their imagined worlds. Should I bring her back to reality with more coffee, or post some book reviews?

Some of my recent reads have brought deeply real characters into my life--characters who teach, who learn, or who just ask me to walk beside them awhile. Writing these reviews reminded me to wonder, who might I meet in 2017? How will I know who I've met (or will I just walk blindly by)? How will I make the year's strangers welcome, whether they're real or imagined, as we walk side by side. Perhaps I'll offer coffee, or I'll read, or I'll write.

As for you, please find a cup or a mug, fill it up with your favorite brew, and see if you might like to meet the characters from these books:

First is Peter Joseph Swanson's Group Home, a fairly short novel that brings to life the world behind the doors of a home for people with developmental challenges. The truth is that carers have challenges too, that plans to ease problems create their own challenges, and that all these characters are vividly real, whether they live behind or in front of the walls. The truth is, we all live parts of our lives behind walls. Enjoy this short, intriguing, beautifully conversational book with some well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Games of Make-Believe by Julie Ann Wambach asks readers to walk beside a woman, from grim past to struggling present, as she works her way through betrayals familial and religious, and finds her fairytale endings firmly grounded in feet of clay. The story feels very personal, as if it's told this way because this is how it happened. The characters feel very real and struggle to find meaning in miseries. And spiritual hints devolve into quotes and affirmations without offering help. It's a long intense read, best enjoyed with some intense five-star coffee.

Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson allows readers to listen in on conversations between an art collector and a modern Shylock as they ponder being Jewish in a Gentile north of England, being fathers of errant daughters, being spouses of absent wives (one dead, one dying) and, perhaps, being victims of poor communication. Artistically, it's written as a modern take on the Merchant of Venice. Emotionally it's amusing, embarrassing, and deeply thought-provoking. And intellectually, it's a cool invitation to discuss many topics, see many points of view, and take a different angle on seeing ourselves. Enjoy some seriously complex four-star coffee with this one.

Finally there's Making The Elephant Man, a producer’s memoir by Jonathan Sanger, which invites readers to come alongside the producer in a wild exciting ride that culminates in a wonderful film. For anyone who wants to learn how films are made, what producers and directors do, who designs the costumes and masks, or even who chooses what colors a film should be made in, this is the perfect book. For anyone looking at how creativity results in a wonderful creation, or for anyone wondering if they'll ever succeed creatively, the book is filled with honest inspiration, enjoyable colleagues, and a sense of overcoming odds as well as having odds in your favor. Enjoy this book, preferably just after watching the movie, with a well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

So, which of these people will you walk alongside this year? Who will you meet, in real life or in fiction? And will the weather improve?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What strange worlds are coming soon, or are they already here?

The future had its bleak turns during my childhood. I wrote stories about the end of the world, where an anonymous someone in Russia, China or the USA pushed a button and blew us all up. I wanted to stand on a tall tower watching the bombs, because I was sure the tower would fall and I wouldn't need to survive the aftermath, and also because I wanted my eyes wide open. But it didn't happen.

One of my sons suffers from similarly bleak views today. Meanwhile my mum, who lived through the Second World War in England, has a much more honest view of the past. Her world was threatened dailly. Her disasters appeared on her doorstep and drove her to hide in underground shelters. My disasters and my sons are just in our heads, at least for now.

And then there are books. Fiction offers an escape, a place to explore different ways, a chance to see through different eyes, and maybe even an opportunity to realize the end's not today, and the future really hasn't happened yet, so why panic... yet. Don't panic. Find coffee, read book reviews, and all will be well.

Lost Secret of the Vikings by Charles A. Salter is the fourth of his Kare Kids Adventures. The children in these books face scary futures with courage and imagination, and the books are designed to encourage self-confidence and independent thought in middle grade readers. Someone is trying to tamper with the world's future by accessing lost secrets of the Vikings in this tale, and readers are taken on an intriguing trip to distant parts of the world. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

For adults, and especially for adult fans of urban fantasy, Cursed by J. A. Cipriano (first in the autho's thrice-cursed mage series) introduces a character who can't remember who he is, but finds himself defending an unknown woman, battling monsters, and wielding unexpected powers. It's gruesome in places, but the voice is convincing and consistent, doesn't dwell too much on the gore, and promises much more to come. The novel is complete in itself and a great addition to anyone's urban fantasy collection. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee.

Empire of Traitors by Serban Valentin Constantin Enache is an adult epic fantasy with complex mythology and prose, and a sense for the mundane bound deeply into the epic. Fate weavers weave many threads in separate chapters from vastly different parts of a complex world - a sort of Game of Thrones crossed with Dungeons and Dragons and grown longer perhaps. It's one to enjoy slowly, maybe a chapter at a time, with many dark intense five-star coffees.

The Call of Agon by Dean Wilson offers similarly dark fantasy nicely balanced with good humored banter and a cool blend of characters - simple, complex, mysterious, honorable, treacherous and more. The story's set in another well-wrought fantasy world, and might best be enjoyed with some rich four-star coffee.

Divine Pursuit by Joanna Grace is the fifth in a series of novellas, so a little confusing perhaps to new readers. Romance blended with Greek mythology and Texan trucks, plus occasional side trips to Europe, it's complex, physical, and fun. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee, but you're probably best to start at the beginning.

Monday, January 16, 2017

What Might The Future Bring?

As the world around us changes, it's intriguing to read about changed worlds, and to wonder what will be. For me it's particularly intriguing since the books I wrote as a teen all involved drastically changed worlds - perhaps I was writing dystopias before I knew the word. But I was writing as a teen and it's probably just as well those strange tomes never saw light of day, though some of the short stories weren't bad.

Anyway, here are some book reviews of tales set in "different" worlds where people are recognizably ourselves, but situations are changed. Grab a coffee and see what you think.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the screenplay by J. K. Rowling, was kind of a must-read, though I haven't yet seen the movie. The Cursed Child was a serious disappointment by comparison. Rowling's screenplay is clean and tight, uses all the right terms (and explains them for the uninformed), and, while not absorbing the reader into characters' interior lives, as a novel might, does bring scenes to vivid life, as long as the reader has a modicum of imagination. I wasn't sure I'd like it, but I loved it. Enjoy with some elegantly complex four star coffee.

Next is The Amber Project by J.N. Chaney, an intriguing middle grade novel set in a dystopian future where surviving humans live in an underground city that's gradually decaying. Should the government concentrate on maintenance or seek to save the future; should it care for the people it has, or steal their freedoms for the sake of those who come next; should it be honest if honesty hurts? These questions and more arise in the course of a thought-provoking, action-filled novel where mysteries and backstories are revealed with perfect timing. Enjoy with some more elegantly complex four star coffee.

Who by Karen Wyle pushes present day technology to a not-so-farfetched future and makes the impossible not only real but seriously fascinating. What if technology could maintain a digital copy of yourself after death? What if that self could relate to and communicate with your loved ones? What if that self were self-aware... but not always aware of who might tamper with its code? Scary, intelligent and fascinating, this is grown up good old-fashioned science fiction, best enjoyed with elegantly complex four star coffee.

Conjesero by Carl Alves is set in the present, but again in a slightly changed world; this time one where monsters might not be as imaginary as we think. A good cop finds his friend horrifically injured and begins a manhunt for a serial killer, except it's never quite clear if the killer is fiend or man. Soon he's compelled to compromise safety and maybe even honor to save lives. Lots of characters' stories intertwine in this complex tale, which has the feel of a TV series waiting for a contract. Enjoy with some very dark five star coffee.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What did you read in 2016 ?

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Krim Du Shaw by Talia Haven
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6 pages
Krim Du Shaw
626 pages
Embrace the Fire
Embrace the Fire by Stephen England

217 pages

people also read
The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Crows and the Jewels by Peter Joseph Swanson
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person also read
The Crows and the Jewels
Eclectic Shorts by Walt Socha
Eclectic Shorts
it was amazing
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The World's Greatest Psychic by Barbara J. Guardino
Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon
The Handsome Man's Deluxe Café by Alexander McCall Smith
it was amazing

Sweet Memories by Steena Holmes
Krim Du Shaw by Talia Haven

Off the Chart by Smith Hagaman
Pyre by R.B. Kannon
The Bear Who Loved Chocolate by Leela Hope
NW by Zadie Smith

Do Not Find Me by Kathleen Novak
it was amazing
A day with Moo by Kerry McQuaide
Nakamura Reality by Alex Austin

The Seadog by Aaron Paul Lazar
President Lincoln by Demi

Oliver and Jumpy, Stories 34-36 (Oliver and Jumpy, the Cat Se... by Werner Stejskal
Falling for Chloe by David Stearman
Where the Bodies Are by L.V.  Gaudet
The Good Life by Marian Thurm

Five Bullets by Larry Duberstein
it was amazing
Rainbow Gardens by James   Malone
Set the Night on Fire by Connie Dial

An All-Consuming Fire by Donna Fletcher Crow
Lost in the garden by Kerry McQuaide

Elphie and Dad go on an Epic adventure by Hagit R. Oron
Born to Magic by David Wind
Nagah and the Thunderegg by Darrell Mulch
Deadly Traffic by Mickey Hoffman

Chalk's Outline by J.J. Hensley
it was amazing
Getting It Right The Second Time Around by Jennifer Frank
Thirty Days of Red by Geraldine Solon

The Essence of Aptitude by Esha Bajaj
Road To Shandara by Ken Lozito

Eclectic Shorts by Walt Socha
On Trial by Zanna Mackenzie
Miriam by Mesu Andrews
Voice in the Wilderness by H.L. Wegley

The Motion Clue by Case Lane
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
it was amazing
Snake Holes by Becky Villareal

Shades of Fear by Dara Ratner Rochlin
The Anthology of Murderous Connections by D.L. Scott

Feathers for Peacock by Jacqueline Jules
Me too! by Lea Kirshenberg
Moo knows numbers by Kerry McQuaide
Moo is missing by Kerry McQuaide

The Quarryman's Wife by Mary E. DeMuth
The Harvest by N.W. Harris
All the Feels by Danika Stone
it was amazing

Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Murder in the Marais by Cara Black

Hitler, Mussolini, and Me by Charles Davis
Clamour of Crows by Ray Meritt
Whispers of the Dead by James Litherland
The Vault by Paul Nemeth

The Wrong Time by Robby Charters
it was amazing
Mercy's Sunset by Lindsay Luterman
Chocolates in the Ocean by Eva O'Reilly

An American Gothic by Alice K. Arenz
Finding Amanda by Robin Patchen

That Dog Won't Hunt by Brandilyn Collins
Waking Dream by J.J. DiBenedetto
A Piper's Song by C.K. Johnson
The Music of Us by Uvi Poznansky

The Passover Surprise by Janet Ruth Heller
really liked it
One False Move by David Callinan
Kill Switch by Steve N. Lee

Murder at the Johnson House by S M Senden
Initiated to Kill by Sharlene Almond

The Making of Socket Greeny by Tony Bertauski
Kaitlin's Tale by Christine Amsden
Love Without Limits by Nick Vujicic
Shy Violet by Sherrie Hansen

Dream Reunion by J.J. DiBenedetto
Halfskin by Tony Bertauski
it was amazing
Seeds of Foreverland by Tony Bertauski

Oliver and Jumpy by Werner Stejskal
Drayton, the Taker by Tony Bertauski

Oliver and Jumpy, Stories 40-42 (Oliver and Jumpy, the Cat Se... by Werner Stejskal
Asphalt Asylum by Steve Theme
Cast a Road Before Me by Brandilyn Collins
Halfskin (The Vignettes) by Tony Bertauski

The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
Slave Again by Alana Terry
Field of Graves by J.T. Ellison
Shadow of Death & Saturnalian Affect by Frank A. Ruffolo

Deadly Gold by Ken Baysinger
Indian Boyhood by Charles Alexander Eastman
it was amazing
Children's book by Bat Oren

Oliver and Jumpy, Stories 43-45 (Oliver and Jumpy, the Cat Se... by Werner Stejskal
The Pilgrim Journey by James Harpur

Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge
A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton
it was amazing
Revival by Stephen King

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
Guy Novel by Michael Ryan

A Chimerical World by Scott M. Sandridge
Jane Blonde, The Perfect Spylet by Pear Jam Books from JillMar...
Children's book by Agronomist Avilak
Etched in History by Amanda Marie

Unholy Trinity by K. R. Morrison
really liked it
Embrace the Fire by Stephen England
The Best Bet by Hebby Roman

The two Miss Parsons by Jill Marshall
The Traveler by Eric Morse

Fate's Crossing by J.R.   Smith
Killing From Inside by Bea Brugge
The East End Beckons by Ian Parson
Different Ways of Being by Alan Balter

City of Saints by George Weigel
it was amazing
Where Love Begins by Donna Fletcher Crow
New In the Neighborhood by Tracy Krauss

The Reluctant Savior by Ralene Burke
Hot Start by David Freed

Coincidences by Maria Savva
The Burnt Fox by Neil Grimmett
Blacklist by Sara Paretsky
The Patient's Resource and Almanac of Primary Care Medicine by Agnes Oblas, ANP-C

Signal Failure by David Wailing
it was amazing
Bravo and Elphie by Hagit R. Oron
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

OtherWhere by Garry Grierson
Time Assassins by R. Kyle Hannah

Purrball Meets Burrball In Brazil by Anne Zoet
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

15 Ways to say Good Night by Efrat Shoham
it was amazing
The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor
Where Love Restores by Donna Fletcher Crow

Paralyzed by Alana Terry
Exchange by Dale Cozort

Children's Books by Meytal Raz-Nave
Children's books by Meytal Raz -Nave
The Sleeping Beauty & the Dragon by Peter Joseph Swanson
Capital Partners by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Stuck In the Neighbourhood by Tracy Krauss
Concrete Carnival by Danner Darcleight
it was amazing
A Taste of Blood and Ashes by Jaden Terrell

The Dog Who Dared to Dream by Sun-mi Hwang
Vain Pursuits by J.B. Hawker

Second Chance Grill by Christine Nolfi
Meeting of the Mustangs by Cathy Kennedy
Oliver and Jumpy, Stories 49-51 (Oliver and Jumpy, the Cat Se... by Werner Stejskal
Oliver and Jumpy, Stories 52-54 (Oliver and Jumpy, the Cat Se... by Werner Stejskal

Oliver and Jumpy, Stories 46-48 by Werner Stejskal
Delilah Dusticle and the Cursed Tempest by A.J. York
The Secret of Bald Rock Island by Charles a Salter
it was amazing

Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place by Charles a Salter
How Three Brothers Saved the Navy by Charles a Salter

Children's book by Alkahera Sabag Abed Alhai
Making Manna by Eric Lotke
The Three Worlds by Nara Duffie
In Passing by J.R. Wirth

Not My Life by Bob Kat
it was amazing
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by John Tiffany
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

Stories of Music by Holly E. Tripp
The Bestowing Sun by Neil Grimmett

Out There - The Ten Most Likely Places to Find Life in Our So... by Darren Beyer
Fifty Nifty Facts about Cats by J.M. Chapman
Gifted and Talented Test Preparation by Gateway Gifted Resources
Gifted and Talented Nnat2 Test Prep - Level a by Gateway Gifted Resources

Children's book by Nava Almog
Children's book by Nava Almog
it was amazing
Space Puzzles by Ceri Clark

The Christmas Horse and the Three Wise Men by Isabelle Brent
A Mage of None Magic by A. Christopher Drown

Transport by Peter Welmerink
Devouring Wind by Dale Cozort
The Discovery of Socket Greeny by Tony Bertauski
The Fall of Brackenbone by Roy Huff

Grace by Howard Owen
it was amazing
Graceful Immortality by Robert Downs
The Word Game by Steena Holmes

Multitude by Peter Joseph Swanson
The Crows and the Jewels by Peter Joseph Swanson

Magic Poetry by Píaras Ó Cionnaoith
Eden's Wish by M. Tara Crowl
Eden's Escape by M. Tara Crowl
Orphans of Time-Space by Robby Charters

Elphie Goes Trick or Treating by Hagit R. Oron
it was amazing
Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle
WHY Did I Love (Hate) That Novel? by Brandilyn Collins

The 7 Secrets of Happiness by Linda Johnson
Love in the Time of Apartheid by Frederic Hunter

The Valley by Brandon Daily
Cozy Campfire Shorts by J.B. Hawker
Madison's Song by Christine Amsden
Deadly Catch by E. Michael Helms

A Perfect Murder and Other Stories by S.R. Nair
it was amazing
Oliver and Jumpy - the Cat Series, Stories 55-57, Book 19 by Werner Stejskal
Oliver and Jumpy - the Cat Series, Stories 58-62, Book 20 by Werner Stejskal

Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anne Zoet
Bear with Bear by Hagit R. Oron

Hearing God in Conversation by Samuel C. Williamson
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Lessons from Zachary by Sandy Scott
Getting Religion by Kenneth L. Woodward

Children's books by Anat Umansky
Little Lek Longtail Learns to Sleep by Bette Killion
it was amazing
Falling Into the Mob by Steve Zousmer

A Small Saving Grace by G Davies Jandrey
Conflict by Walt Socha

Night in Alcatraz by Jean Harkin
Devil's Spring by Aaron Paul Lazar
Nina the Neighborhood Ninja by Sonia Panigrahy
Santa's Rescue Dog by Monty J. McClaine