Monday, January 30, 2012

Imaginary travels

Okay, I guess it's time to post those book reviews, before continuing my last week of real-life travels with Mum. As always, enjoy coffee while reading, and follow the links for my gather reviews.

I'll start with Joshua Muggleton's Raising Martians, a very approachable, easily-read description of the life and interests of a Martian I know rather well, since he's my nephew. Joshua does a great job of humanizing an Aspergers syndrome diagnosis, putting face and character to the child who gets bullied in school, and helping adults see the thought processes behind what might seem to be stubborn rebellion. A great book if you have any contact with children with Aspergers or high-functioning Autism, or just kids who don't seem to fit in. Enjoy a 3-star well-balanced coffee as this book balances humor, honesty and serious study of an illness that affects so many.

Next is A Roman Peace in Briton by Joe Tackett, first in a series of novels of Britons and Romans. The author creates a nicely convincing and detailed ancient society with an authentic mix of good and evil on all sides. Lots of characters, not all of whom survive. Lots of battles. And a nicely important role for women in politics. Read with a 5-star intense dark cup of coffee.

Moving to more recent history, Katrina Parker Williams' Trouble Down South and other stories portrays the lives of black Americans in the southern US with stark and sometimes startling detail. The voice feels authentic and the writing's complex and determined, leaving some truly haunting images in the reader's mind. Read with a 5-star bold, dark coffee.

Pamela Thibodeaux's The Visionary is set in present-day Louisianna and tells of young, upwardly-mobile, successful twins resurrecting old houses and struggling not to resurrect their own past. Faith and fiction are nicely balanced in this tale of tough Christian romance and forgiveness. Enjoy with a 3-star well-balanced coffee.

There's more romance in Christine Cunningham's First Snow as Nelly and Hasan slide on assumptions and miscommunication while falling in love one snowy Christmas. Relationships can have slippery slopes, even without overly-helpful siblings pulling strings. Enjoy this short tale with a 2-star bright lively coffee.

Phillip Thomas Duck's One Quick Kiss is heavier on the sex and deep characterization than romance. Billed as Sexy short stories, these stories pack of serious emotion and provide a great introduction to the author's longer works. Writing from male and female points of view with equal skill, and diving deep into human torment and hope, these tales demand a 4-star rich elegant coffee to complement their rich elegance.

I have other reviews almost ready to post, but I'll end this collection with something completely different--a set of 14 Valentine Puzzle Quizzes from the Grabarchuk family. There's one that annoyed the mathematician in me, not because it was wrong but because I needed to think to prove it right--shows how much I like thinking. But as usual the puzzles are nicely drawn, the kindle controls well-defined, the answers easily accessible and (apart from that one bit of geometry) convincingly explained. With full color, lots of hearts and even some flowers, they're a perfect set to while away some time by the kindle or computer. Have fun, and drink a mild, crisp 1-star coffee.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Just visiting...

I'm visiting Lee-Ann Graff Vinson's Wiring Commando blog today, where she shares the joy of winter snow, children, dog, and family-time. Lee-Ann has interviewed me and I really enjoyed answering her questions. I'd love to answer yours too if you follow this link to meet me. See you there!



Lee-Ann Graff Vinson is the author of Georgia's Smile (a woman afraid to leave her husband), Love's Trust (a young woman reporter in Iraq, saved by man who was meant to die), Callie's Fate (unhappy circumstances bringing a woman and the Marine of her dreams together with hopes of more), and Love and Liberty (Captain Dana Jenkins, taken prisoner, while holding another captain's heart). Stories of love and war, freedom and hope, from Gypsy Shadow Publishing.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Travels: real, virtual and imaginary

Does time speed up or expand in the waning days of a wonderful vacation? My Mum's been staying with us since early December but leaves next week. So now the days are flying by, but what days! It feels like we've hardly stood still (or sat still) this week (except in a car). Time speeds and we race across the miles, packing a years' worth of visits into two final weeks. Luckily, time seems to carry a suitably expandable suitcase. Anyway, here's a brief record of our travels, with apologies to all the friends we've not visited, emails we've not answered, invitations still languishing in inboxes, facebook comments unread, phone-calls unreturned, etc...

Real visits: 
to a wonderful friend with two wonderful cats.
to Tillamook (with another wonderful friend) to enjoy the scenery and Mum's yearly taste of the world's best ice-cream




with another friend (we are blessed with such good friends) to Annie Bloom's bookstore where we  admired another cat and bought a few books...






to Newport and the aquarium, and








to beaches, views and wonders of the glorious Pacific Northwest;







Virtual Visits:

to Brenda Youngerman's Fiction with a Purpose Tuesday Spotlight, where you can read my interview with a friend just as real as any other even if we've never met

and to Lee-Ann Graff Vinson's Writing Commando's Author Sunday interview, where you'll find my interview this coming Sunday;

and Imaginary Visits:
 
I'll post the book reviews soon, but in words and imagination I've shared in:

  1. The life of an amazing young man with Aspergers Syndrome in Joshua Muggleton's Raising Martians
  2. the lives of Romans and Britons in Joe Tackett's A Roman Peace in Briton
  3. the stretched to breaking point world of two young people rebuilding their lives and trying to bury the past in Pamela Thibodeaux's The Visionary
  4.  the wounded world of slaves and slave-owners in Katrina Parker Williams' Trouble Down South and Other Stories
  5. the delightful world of Christine Cunningham's First Snow as two lonely people dance around each other's needs and concerns
  6. the disturbing worlds of Phillip Thomas Duck's short stories in One Quick Kiss
  7. the scary world of monsters, humans, and the curious creatures in-between in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Firebound
  8.  and the confusing world of Grabarchuk's 14 Valentine Puzzle Quizzes.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Breaking things

Maybe it's sunspots. Maybe it's just me.

Yesterday I watched a DVD with my Mum. We hoped to watch the whole series before she goes back to England, but the DVD player broke. I'm lucky though; at least I got the disc out first.

Today a friend took me and my Mum for a drive. I brought my GPS along to help us not get lost. "Turn right," said the kind electronic voice, then fell silent while the screen went black. I'm lucky though; my wise friend found her way.

This evening I plugged my kindle into the computer. "Drive E needs reformatting before use," said the nice little window that appeared. I'm lucky though; I pressed cancel instead of ok.

Realizing that "things" tend to break in threes, does the fact that my kindle's still working mean something else is yet to break? Do I dare use my cell-phone, the washing machine, the car?

Or maybe it's just sunspots, or the rain.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Card Sharp

As part of Lightning Book Promotions blog tour for CardSharp, I'm posting information about Paul Oliver Westmoreland's first Vincent Ward novel, and offering a link to his very appropriately-named website, http://www.powbooks.com.
The author's initials POW provide a perfect backdrop to his writing, and CardSharp is an enjoyable children's novel that offers excitement and information in equal portions, nicely packaged in a thoroughly engaging tale. So

visit his site at POW Books


follow the Read now link to download sample chapters


or go here to read my review of CardSharp on gather.com


... a nice blend of art, history, information and modern-day action, enjoyably English with a pleasing international flavor, attractively produced and well-designed to encourage young readers to read, think and have fun.


For more stops on this tour, visit

23rd Shelia @ Sheila Deeth
24th Crystal @ Inspire
24th Connie @ Character Connection
25th Heather @ SupaGurl Book
27th Jacque @ Good Family Reads
28th Jennifer @ Mommy's Reading Too..
28th Aine @ House of Miller
29th Michelle @ Things Sent My Way
30th Molly @ Reviews By Molly
 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Momentous moment of trivial organization

"What book are we reading next month?" asked a friend at our local book group.
It took me a moment to wrangle my phone out of my pocket. Then I mis-typed the password, again. But two screens later I was clicking on "calendar." Scroll to February, click on Thursdays ('cause that's when we meet) and there it was.
I actually used my phone to answer a question, so I guess my phone really is getting me organized after all.
Of course, there's still a long way to go, but that "task list" on it says I need to post some more book reviews, so here they are. Plus coffee. Always coffee. And no ratings because I really don't like rating books.

The book we talked about last night was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. The science of cell-lines fascinated me, and the ethics of health care and poverty gained a very human face in Henrietta Lacks' family. It took a few chapters before I was hooked, but I really enjoyed the book. Drink some 4-star complex coffee with this--it's a complex, intriguing tale.

It seemed oddly appropriate that I received a review copy of Bernice McFadden's Gathering of Waters while reading Henrietta Lacks. Reminiscent of Marcus Zuzak's The Book Thief, Gathering of Waters rebuilds the world of Emmet Till's horrific murder, peopling it with very real characters, avoiding prejudgment, and creating glorious space in ignominy for hope. I loved it! Recommended with a 5-star bold, dark, intense cup of coffee.

Another totally absorbing tale is Rust by Julie Mars. New York artist Margaret Shaw asks the help of New Mexico car mechanic Rico as she raises her sights from two dimensions to three. Filled with imagery of land, art and relationships, in perfect balance, welded by emotions as metal is by fire, it's a skillfully woven, beautifully constructed novel, elegant and complex as a 4-star cup of coffee.

Finally, here's the book we read last month at our book group. At Home, by Bill Bryson, is filled with tidbits and deep recreations of history and mystery. Curious details and personal anecdotes build onto tales of Capability Brown, John Constable and more. The Industrial Revolution rolls over England's green and pleasant land. And there's something for everyone--a perfect book for dipping that just might keep you reading while you enjoy that well-balanced 3-star cup of coffee.

Monday, January 16, 2012

virtual reading while real-world organizing

Is it true that things have to get worse before they get better. I'm trying to get organized... Meanwhile I'm trying to find time to read and write. Meanwhile my to-read-and-review pile grows taller--as does my virtual read-and-review pile, though I did, at last, remove already reviewed books from my rapidly overflowing kindle, which leaves a little more space for more books, but not a lot.

Anyway, here are four books removed from the kindle after an enjoyable week of reading and organizing (and hey, I did write 8,500 words of Infinite Sum, the sequel to this summer's upcoming Divide by Zero).

Starting with science fiction (where else) the Apocalypse Gene, by Suki Michelle and Carlyle Clark is an exciting young-adult dystopian novel filled with believable technology, fascinating multi-cultural mythological references, and an intriguing blend of folklore, sci-fi and romance. Enjoy with a bold, dark 5-star cup of coffee.

Still in a word of sci-fi mysteries, Mike Arsuaga's Supspecies Inc continues the story begun in Subspecies, where vampire and lycan tread a fine line between living and hiding in the modern world. I almost wished this were two books rather than one--there's so much going on. The curious moral and ethical questions give an intriguing depth to the tale as characters wonder where they fit into God's scheme of things. And the sex scenes, of course, add lots of heat. Terrorism, nationalism and economic collapse all have their place too, and the series moves forward in a way that leaves me eager for book three. You'll need two cups of coffee perhaps, a 4-star complex flavor paired with 5-star intensity.

Carrie Green's short story collection, Sugar is Sweet, is grounded in the real world but builds some deeply haunting mystery with excellent writing, haunted hope and scary touches of fantasy. Another in her set of short story collections, it's highly recommended--enjoy with 4-star elegant complex coffee.

G.E. Johnson's Love and Wrath is the first in a series, blending chick-lit's clamor and glitz with doom-laden suspense, chakra-balancing massages with Christian prayer, and romance with violent revenge. Lots of backstories and detailed conversations flesh out the tale and characters, and there's love and wrath aplenty. A 1-star light crisp coffee will go well.

Pam Young's Night Sounds is firmly set in the real world too, in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and the odd coincidences of inter-related friend and villain just might make sense. It's a slow novel that takes on heavy topics of abuse and recovery with stark realism, but the ending offers some sweet notes of healing. A 5-star intense coffee would be best with this long, intense tale.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Starting the New Year organized?

Me organized? It doesn't sound terribly likely I know. But our oldest son has finally dragged me into the 21st century with the aid of a smart-phone. I've linked it to a shiny new gmail account, resulting in emails, a totally chaotic address book full of random disconnected contacts, and a calendar, all easily (?) accessible from that sliver of plastic in my back pocket.

I kept thinking I ought to get organized and answer some of the those facebook, linkedin, gather, squidoo and twitter emails piling up in my old (non-gmail) inbox. But instead I'm getting organized making facebook, linkedin, gather etc send their mails to a nice new address... Then I get distracted... Then I look for wallpaper and ringtones and try out the GPS... And then...

Well, and then I make dinner. But in case you were wondering why I've not posted your book reviews or replied to your emails yet, please blame organization. Who knows, this time next week I might finally learn what year it is.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Flower Child nominated in Preditors and Editors !!!

I was heading over to http://critters.org/predpoll/shortstorysf.shtml to vote for a story I'd read and I saw my own name! Really! Flower Child's been nominated under

Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story published in 2011...

Runs round the room in amazement--one of my stories, nominated!!!

Runs round the room again!!!

Runs out of exclamation points...

Anyway, if you liked Flower Child, please vote for me--just follow the link, click the button by Flower Child, add your name and email and copy the magic code (for verification) lower down the page, then click on the link in your email when you receive it.

I think I'll just go run round the room again...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

New year already? Really?

We played some board games yesterday and realized I still hadn't put them away since Christmas 2010! Procrastination rules. But tidying them up means hiding away reminders of the kids. I like to keep them around, board games and kids. Since the "kids" are all grown, I guess I'll probably keep those board-game boxes piled under a table till Christmas 2012.

Highly recommended--Settlers, Dominion, Railroad Tychoon and El Grande...

Meanwhile, Happy New Year!And here's a few children's book's I've been reading to usher in new hopes and new inspirations... (and coffee of course).

Cardsharp, by Paul Oliver Westmoreland, is the first in a series of adventures centering on art historian Vincent Ward. And yes, someone who studies art can have seriously exciting adventures. A wonderful way to introduce the modern teen to the wonders of serious art, this series promises to be great fun. It's a pleasing blend of history, authentic information, and thoroughly modern action, told with an enjoyably English accent and spiced with a convincing international flavor. Enjoy this easy-reading adventure with a 2-star lively easy-drinking cup of coffee.

The other books will all get rolled into one review since they're part of series. I got hooked on Erin Hunter's warrior cats after my husband gave me the first series for Christmas 2010. Christmas 2011 brought a boxed set of series 2, Warriors, the New Prophesy, and I'm still hooked. If anything, there's even more depth to the stories and feline characters now as they seek the wisdom of their ancestors when human Two-Legs threaten their home. Highly recommended. Enjoy with 4-star complex coffee flavors and read them straight after your kids.