Wednesday, July 27, 2011

8,000 words and I know where the mother went!

I went to Borders with a friend last week and drank a final coffee in their coffee store. We used to go there to shop, read, write and share ideas (and drink coffee of course). Alas, no more. I dropped in on Saturday to see the "closing down sales" and found the great deals (Buy one get one half off) all replaced with boring 10% discounts and shelving chaos. And no coffee! They've stacked the tables and chairs in a corner so there's no place to drink your own brew either. Very sad.

Anyway, last time we went we got out paper and pencils and wrote our entries for the local writers' group's competition. The prompt was something to do with expectation and reality not being the same. My story was about a boy, and when I read it to my friend she asked, "What about his mother and his sister?" Good question I guess.

Coming home I typed the story up ready to send while questions meandered in my head. Soon I was typing chapter two, chapter three, and even chapter four. My boy lives in a bigger world now. He's met a girl. And last night, while washing up from dinner, I finally found the answer. Mother and sister? They went the same place as the girl he's met came from, where all the girls went... The story continues. 8,000 words and counting (and writing too).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More books, and my Kindle's battery's running low

I wonder how long a Kindle battery last? Can you overuse it? At Christmas my shiny new Kindle would work for two weeks without recharging--a delight since I didn't have to worry about it running out in the middle of a trip, or the middle of a book. But last week it lasted from Monday to Saturday, and this week it needed recharging on Monday again. Help! I'll soon be plugging it in like my phone every night. Given how much power it takes to download books, I'd better be careful only to switch the WiFi on when it's plugged in.

Still, even a couple of days is long enough to finish a few books. So this weekend's collection includes three "real" books and three on Kindle. Half-and-half I guess.

As usual, click on the blue links for longer Gather reviews, and read the coffee recommendations as flavors, not ratings. (I still don't like ratings.)

I'll start with a book I'd been seriously looking forward to reading, Lee Harmon's Revelation, the way it happened: A book that mixes fascinating in-depth research with a fictional account of father and son reading a new piece of writing from the apostle John. The result gives and intriguingly different view of how the famous Bible book would have first been perceived, with lots of great detail about the fall of Jerusalem, the rise of Josephus, and the geography and politics of the first century. Brew some balance full-flavored 3-star coffee before you read this one--you'll need several cups.

Another book that's spent too long on my to-read list is Backstop, by J. Conrad Guest. I was lucky enough to win a copy of another of the author's books--One Hot January--and the author kindly sent me a copy of Backstop at the same time. The baseball reference didn't really intrigue me since baseball's not a British sport, but the picture of a woman's hand the promise of a love story in nine innings caught my eye. Now I know lots more about baseball, more about sports in general, and I have more sympathy for the nature of man. A nicely told tale, to be read with a 3-star balanced smooth coffee.

Next comes the Velvet Thorn, by Olivia Villa-Real,a story of a priest committed to his vows and a woman committed to her marriage, and the way love's thorn comes to pierce both their sides. There's a memoir type feel to this one, with events that ride the tide of accident, best read with a 2-star light easy-drinking cup of coffee.

Another unconventional love story is In a Celandine World, by Catherine Thorpe. Here a young woman has fallen in love with her imaginary friend, but perhaps there's more to she and he than the eye perceives. Moving to a Wiltshire village in England (with intricately rendered dialect), Willow finds her love and many other things only imagined before. Read with a 1-star mild, light, crisp coffee, and stay awake for some surprises.

Another paranormal world is offered in L.A. Jones' Tales of Aradia: the Last Witch. A neat cross between Superman and Twilight, it tells of a high school girl in search of her identity, in a high school where many identities are curiously hidden. Read this one with a 2-star easy-drinking coffee--it's a fun read.

And finally there's a collection of short stories, LA Noire, as noir and as compelling as the game seems from all the ads, and a delightful reminder of those noir movies that created the genre. You'll need a 5-star bold dark coffee for this intense collection.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Welcoming Emily Edwards, author of the Trouble with Being a Horse

I reviewed Emily Edwards' children's book, The Trouble with Being a Horse, yesterday, and today I'm delighted to welcome her to my blog. Her horse story is an enjoyable tale of a young girl learning that communication is definitely more than words, plus a fascinating insight into the world of horses--more than a story, and more than a moral tale, it's a children's novel with real character and real character development. So, over to Emily...

Topic: character development
When I first came up with the idea for “The Trouble with Being a Horse,” I had thought it would be a light-hearted, adventurous tale of a girl’s exciting exploits in a horse’s body. It wasn’t until I sat down to actually write it that the character of Olivia began to develop into a troubled girl with far deeper issues than winning horse shows and showing off to friends. As I began to plot out what would happen, I realized that the story wouldn’t work if it was just an adventure story full of horse details and if Olivia wasn’t a character of substance. I wanted the book to resonate with its readers on several levels, not purely on the entertainment level.

Olivia’s desire to become a horse, which triggers the main action of the book, is partly caused by her life circumstances of being poor, not having any friends, and being ignored and misunderstood by her family, which in turn create her general feeling of unhappiness. She na├»vely believes that being someone else—even a horse—would be better than her current situation in the world, and when she unwittingly makes a wish to become a horse she doesn’t really think it would happen. Olivia is so used to things not working out for her that even her wishes are half-hearted. What she doesn’t realize at the beginning of the book is that she has the ability to make her life better, but it is only when she becomes a horse and she tries to take responsibility for herself and actively make decisions that things start to turn around for Olivia.

Throughout the book, Olivia is a reluctant heroine. She wants her life to be better but is hesitant to take steps to improve it. She doesn’t know how to make decisions and is caught in a situation that constantly forces her to make them. She makes a lot of bad choices, but it’s through this process that she grows and learns to appreciate the life she had as a girl. Olivia is far from a character to be idolized, but I hope that if readers take anything from the story it’s a message of taking responsibility for oneself and that life is a process of trial and error and mistakes are just life experience. And that for some reason, horses help us to realize things about ourselves faster than we might on our own!

Emily Edwards is from the small town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and has a PhD from Trinity College Dublin from the Centre for Gender & Women's Studies. She has wide-ranging writing experience and currently works as a Research Associate. The Trouble with Being a Horse is Emily's first work of fiction, and is published by Single Stride Publishing. She has been an avid equestrienne for over twenty years, participating in Pony Club and the Trinity College Dublin Equestrian Team.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

With Kindle, Book and Coffee Mug in Hand

Time for some more book reviews, with related coffee recommendations. Click on the blue links for full reviews on Gather, and fill your coffee cup with an appropriate drink. Just remember, the stars are for flavor, not ratings.

Starting with two scary novels, both intriguingly shaded with hints of faith:

The Keepers, by Monique O’Connor James, is set in post-Katrina New Orleans, where a young Catholic woman is seeking a new beginning after the death of her mother. Good and evil battle for her soul, guilt and forgiveness for her mind, and paranormal temptations loom. It's a fascinating tale, sometimes slow, sometimes intense, to be read with a 5-star bold dark brew of coffee in hand.

Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum, by Stephen Prosapio is set in the outskirts of Chicago where a TV station is filming a ghost-hunting special with rival teams--Xavier Paranormal Investigators, led by a mysterious young man with curious powers and secrets in his past, and the somewhat less honest Demon Hunters. A nicely balanced tale with scares, gentle scenes, mystery, history and resolution, this is one to enjoy with a 3-star smooth cup of joe.

The Dragons of Chiril, by Donita K. Paul, is aimed at younger readers but similarly blends fantasy and faith, raising interesting questions about how and why we believe. The faith is a little more overt in this one, but the story carries it well. To be enjoyed with a 2-star lively cup of coffee.

Moving on to a paranormal tale with a very different background:

Lost Voices, by Sarah Porter, starts with an unlikely premise and turns into a really intriguing novel, tackling tough questions from such a different angle that every thought is new. Abused girls turn into siren mermaids luring sailors to their deaths, but who's guilty and who innocent when the wounded take revenge? Drink a 4-star elegant complex coffee while reading this one.

And from mermaids to horses:

The Trouble with Being a Horse, by Emily Edwards, is another childrens novel tackling forgiveness and the trials of miscommunication. Young Olivia feels constantly misunderstood and wishes she was a horse, but some wishes are dangerous. Nicely detailed, well-imagined, and a really fun read to be enjoyed with a 2-star lively cup of coffee. Plus author Emily Edwards will be visiting my blog tomorrow, so don't forget to come back and read her post!

I hadn't realized I'd been reading so many paranormal books. Anyway, here's one to take you down to earth:

Forgiving Jesse, by Sara Dean, tells the story of a rebellious teen who feels himself betrayed by everyone, but perhaps the person he most has to forgive is himself, and perhaps that's the hardest thing to do. A nicely told story, the author channels her teen protagonist very effectively. Drink a 5-star dark cup of coffee and enjoy this novel's intensity as Jesse finds his way.

One for the younger kids:

Philip and the Angel, by John Paulits, is a delightful children's novel with great dialog, great kids, cats and dogs... and what more could you ask. A nice adventure, with a pleasing lesson to be learned. Parents and grandparents will enjoy a 1-star light crisp coffee while reading with the kids.

And finally two short books for the grown-ups:

Sneaky Shenanigans, by Violetta Antcliff, is a fun Irish romance to enjoy over your morning coffee--1-star, light and crisp. Very sneaky. Very sweet.

Intoxication, by Tim Kizer, isn't quite so sweet, centering as it does round three short mysteries filled with murder, secrets and lies. You'll need a bold dark 5-star coffee to read with this.

Hmmm. Lots of books there. But some were short. I don't really read that fast, not even when loaded with caffeine!

Monday, July 18, 2011


The proofs arrived from Lulu and they look good (though the yellows have an oddly greenish tinge on the print inside. Maybe I'll blame it on the light.) I guess I need to proof-read them all now-- kind of the point --so I apologize in advance for being slow to post and respond on the internet...

Two Bible study guides--lots of references for me to check before I add them to my free downloads collection.

Dribble-It--a year's-worth of 50-word stories and poems, with space for readers to dribble their own words too.

Joshua's Journeys--a collection of 3-minute read-aloud stories based on events from Leviticus through Joshua in the Bible. And

A Bible Book of Laws--a child's-eye view of the Ten Commandments with questions to send the adults searching through their Bibles.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

This week's book reviews

The sun came out, the weeds grew tall, and yardwork called. But now it's raining again, so here's this week's book reviews. As usual, click on the blue links for full reviews on gather, and grab yourself a coffee while you read. (Recommended coffees refer to style, not ratings.)

This week's books are quite a mix, starting with:

Maria Juana's Gift, by T. Lloyd Winetsky: A novel that reads like a memoir, filled with contrasts and peopled by characters with real needs and real concerns. Jake and Tina meet at an ESL teachers' conference and move to the Mexican border to practice their skills. A doctor promises to care for their baby. And something goes wrong. Drink a 3-star balanced, full-flavored coffee while you ponder questions raised in this tale.

Moving on to a very different part of the US:

Kiss me Quick before I shoot, by Guy Magar: This one really is a memoir, written by a Hollywood producer and director, full of great pictures and fascinating details about life with movies and TV. It's also built on a childhood in Egypt cut short by the military coup on 1952, and it builds up to a wonderful relationship between Guy and Jacqui, plus her struggle with and recovery from cancer. A 2-star bright, lively coffee will go well with this bright lively tale.

The redemption of George Baxter Henry, by Conor Bowman tells of the unfortunately initialed lawyer GBH as he takes his family to France in an effort to rescue his marriage and his firm. Meanwhile his son needs rescuing from drugs, his daughter's growing up, and his mother-in-law is determined to have more than her say. Irreverent, but ultimately likeable despite his sins, GBH finds a place of temporary peace in the French countryside, while deception and addiction finally give way to hope. Go for 4-star complex coffee flavors with this one.

The Preacher, by Camilla Lackberg is also set in Europe, on the coast of Sweden where a young policeman awaits the birth of his child while investigating recent murder and less recent disappearances of young women. Darkly atmospheric, set under a sweltering summer sun, filled with characters and character; one to read with a 5-star bold dark coffee.

Flip, by Martyn Bedford takes teen readers to the North and South of England, where young Alex has just woken up in a stranger's body. The novel comes up with an explanation for the how, but far more interesting is the question raised of what constitutes identity--if someone else's neurons are firing, can I still think like me? Gives a whole new meaning to teen identity crises, and is a really fascinating, satisfying, evocative read, definitely intense enough to be enjoyed with a 5-star intense-flavored coffee (but be careful when you laugh).

And finally, there's Sanctuary, by Tanya Hanson, third in her Hearts Crossing Ranch series. If you go to Nights and Weekends next week, you'll find my full review of this lunch-break e-book. A romance set among a Christian community in Colorado, where two cancer survivors meet during a wedding, it deals with those questions of why does God let people get sick, and how do you make a future when cancer cells are limiting your life expectancy. Drink a mild light 1-star coffee with this one (but take two lunch-breaks; it's longer than the previous books in the series).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who is Origin?

I typed my name into Amazon to see what books would appear--just checking, I thought. But what I found wasn't quite what I expected...

Genesis People at $137.63

Drabble-It $131.63
Storyteller Psalms $ 147.63
Exodus Tales $137.63
Thanksgiving! $143.63
Revelation! $143.63
Mongrel Christian Mathematician $131.63

What's with all the 63cents? And what's with those prices?

Genesis People is the only one I expected to find from this list (it's also available for $9.99). The rest, I thought, were just on Lulu (at much smaller prices).

I'm sure no-one's ever going to pay over $100 for one of my books, but who on earth is "Origin" and how can he/she/it even offer my books at those prices? And how do I get the original Genesis People to appear on my author page (with cover) instead of this vastly inflated cover-less one? Aghghgh!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Phantom Beep

"It's outside," said my son yesterday, more right than he knew. It beeped on and off all through the day, and by evening the street was empty and we still didn't know what it was. We walked from room to room, checked the microwave, changed batteries in smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, electric clocks--even stared at the heating system for a while. But the beeping, not quite loud, not quite queiet, just carried on. We wondered at the inanity of making something beep when it's battery's low without giving a visual signal. Then we wondered if anyone had left a cell-phone lying around. Not a battery? Nobody knew. And this morning it was beeping again, sounding convincingly outside though we knew it had to be in.

I checked the garage--well, I drove the car to the station and back, then happened to look at the wall. Our FIOS box had a nice red light  next to the green one. Was that there before? Shifting boxes (our garage is a little full) and squeezing round the car I saw it said "replace battery," but when I checked the internet it seemed such batteries can cost $100! Help! No way! So I phoned frontier.

The lady with frontier was very nice and incredibly patient with me. She waited while I ran up and down-stairs looking for the right size screwdriver to open the box. She waited while I prodded and poked and finally found my way in. She sympathized when I told the battery weighed a ton. And she phoned me back when I disconnected the plug and cut us off. Finally everything was put back together and it turned out a power surge had confused the system. Battery's fine. No need to pay. And, at last, the beeping's stopped!

So that was my morning...
I added some subpages to my weebly website too, and worked on the header (see pic). Do check it out. Do weeble. It's easy and fun!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wombles and Weebles

Does anyone out there remember the Wombles of Wimbledon Common? I kept seeing people with new "weeble" websites today and found the words wombling, wimbling, wombling free buzzing round in my head. Ah well. Weeble is free, and it's pretty easy too. So I made myself a weeble site, and now I'm pondering how to link it to my blog, or link my blog to it. Anyway, should you wish to visit, here's my weeble page:

Would love to see you there.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Nice surprise in the mail

I went to the Permanent Press website for details of a book I was reviewing last week, and my eye was caught by the title of an upcoming release, All Cry Chaos. It's probably the mathematician in me; mention chaos in any kind of literary manner (as opposed to kids and families) and it quickly ignites that chaos theory spark. So I clicked on the cover and saw this Publishers Weekly quote:"Readers, especially the mathematically inclined, will relish this intellectually provocative whodunit." Wow! Definitely something I'd like to read...

Fast forward to yesterday's  mail delivery where I found a parcel with some gorgeous stamps (see picture) from the Permanent Press. And there, inside, is a copy of All Cry Chaos, all for me! How cool is that? So now this mathematically inclined reader is struggling to keep her fingers from opening the book... must finish prior reviews... must finish prior reviews... must finish... must...

Thank you Permanent Press!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Exciting News

Well, I'm pretty excited finding my books for sale in a different venue. I just got the email from Lulu to say that Storyteller Psalms and Genesis People are now on the iBookstore. So I wandered over there and found A Bible Book of Numbers and Revelation as well. Now, if I just had the right sort of device to read them I could see what they look like, but they certainly look good on the page. If anyone buys one, I'd love to know what you think!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reading and Dependent

I remember when they said my oldest son was at last an "independent reader." I was so proud, and now he's grown up. I'm still proud of him of course--proud of them all--though he reads the sort of book I'd never understand and has no interest in fiction. Still, Independence Day, and independent reading got me wondering--if all my reading is done at the request of publishers, writers, publicists, etc, does that make me a "dependent reader"? So, I pondered, then I rebelled. I read lots of books for review last weekend, and added one "just for me." Then one turned into three, but it was an Ursula Le Guin series, so I have a good excuse. And that got me wondering, which writer would I most like to be. I wish I could write half as well as Ursula Le Guin!

Anyway, here are my most recent reads, with links to book reviews on gather, and suggested coffee strengths. For more about coffee, see the left hand sidebar. They're not ratings (I hate ratings), but they are flavors (and I love the taste of coffee)!

Starting in outer space:
Paradise 21, by Aubrie Dionne doesn't come out till August, but it's one well worth looking out for if you enjoy science fiction. There's a great blend of action, adventure, alien creatures, dystopian mystery and personal relationships, all bound up with some pretty neat questions about love and morality. When you finally get your copy, read with a cup of 3-star well-balanced coffee.

Fast Forward into the Future, by Kelvin O’Ralph
, is a youthful time-travel romance starring a wannabe writer who learns, through time travel, that he's going to succeed. Set in England, it's a story of self-doubt despite time-travel's sureties. Fairly short, and certainly written with a feeling of youth and speed, drink a 1-star light crisp coffee while reading this one.

Land of Nod: The Artifact, by Gary Hoover is another young-adult novel, this time with a mysterious machine providing the impetus for adventure, while the young protagonist searches for his missing super-scientist father. Drink a 2-star lively coffee (decaf perhaps) with this one.

Then there was that Ursula Le Guin trilogy: Gifts, Voices and Powers, by Ursula Le Guin--irresistable, lyrical, thought-provoking, imaginative... what other adjectives can I come up with. A really enjoyable series, to be enjoyed with whatever coffee or other drink you choose, but I'll recommend a 4-star rich, elegant, complex one to match the imaginary world.

And now, for variety, heading into the past:
A Kingdom’s Cost, by J.R Tomlin, takes the reader back to Scotland in the time of Robert de Bruce and the English King Edward Longshanks. I loved historical fiction as a teen, and this book takes me back to that enjoyment--all the fierce, fearsome beauty of country, freedom, love and war. Enjoy the elegant complex flavors of a 4-star coffee with this one.

To finish, there are some great poetic short story treats for the end of your reading meal, like chocolates to go with a bold dark 5-star coffee: Inklings, by Aparna Warrier. Fun, strange, thought-provoking, or just lingering on the inner ear, a perfect end to a perfect read.