Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What will tomorrow's children's books look like?

We had cloth books when we were babies, card books as we grew older, and "real paper" books when we finally learned to read. Actually, my brothers graduated to real paper books pretty early. I was a slow learner and just told and retold stories until the headmistress threatened me with a microphone. Then I learned to read, and have scarcely stopped to draw breath since. But what about our kids?

My sons had plastic books when they were babies, card books as they grew older, and real paper books when they finally learned to read. If I remember rightly, one of them went straight from card to Harry Potter. Perhaps that was his incentive, just like the microphone was mine. But about grandkids (not that I have any)?

A new generation will grow up with computers - computer babysitters with bright noises, computer stories with baby-talk and toys, then, maybe, their own personal ereader when they learn to read? Perhaps?

One of the picture books I read this week feels like a very cool technological jump that keeps its roots firmly in good storytelling and reading for fun. There are "stamps" letting readers interactively "jump" to extra information (and back again). There are links so those so permitted by their parents might email the author. And there's even a rather cool music video (with a dog!). But none of it gets in the way of a thoroughly enjoyable story with laugh-out-loud family antics and a pleasing conclusion where a dog finds a home. I love this book--Bear with Bear by Hagit Oron. Enjoy on a nearby computer with happy child (or with the child inside you) and drink a well-balanced, full-flavored three star coffee.

Werner Stejskal always invites emails from his readers too in his Oliver and Jumpy stories. The series is finally coming to an end, and I read the last two books recently, stories 55-57, and stories 58-62. As befits a long-running picture book series, the last book acknowledges a child's increasing reading skills by offering more words per picture. Sillandia really comes to life in a way it didn't quite for me before, so I enjoyed this final volume best. Plus it's got a story for Christmas! Enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Another Christmas story with a very modern twist is Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anne Zoet. Computers allow young Darryl to interact with his Brazilian friend Burrball (a sloth) and inspire him to wonder how Christmas could be combined with saving the trees. The result is a bright picture book with smooth-reading rhythm and rhyme, cool suggestions for kids' activities leading up to Christmas, and an enjoyable environmental message. A good book to enjoy with some more easy-drinking two-star coffee.

And then there's The Unusualasauruses: 15 playful dinosaurs by Efrat Shoham, a book with very cool pictures, very unpronouncalbe dinosaur names, and lots of fun, best enjoyed with some mild, crisp one-star coffee.

But I still think future children's picture books will look more like Bear with Bear than anything else.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is Coffee a Mystery?

I've fallen behind with posting book reviews, so now I'm going to try my best to catch up before Thanksgiving... before Christmas... before New Year... before... Before sometime, but it's a mystery (and so are the books I'm reviewing here). A friend suggested I should retire before the mountain of incomplete reviews completely swamps me. She might be right. Anyway, the deaths and sorrow in these tales aren't caused by book reviews or mountains, but by people and the various trials of life. I loved reading them. I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to post my reviews. (Blame birthdays. Blame old age. Blame dry rot... Just don't blame the coffee. I need coffee!)

First is the book whose author visited my blog yesterday (at The Valley by Brandon Daily is a haunting tale of Appalachia, told through the eyes of vivid characters, and glimpsed through the mist and fog of years and tears. Slow, languid, haunting and beautiful, it's one to enjoy with some rich elegant complex four-star coffee.

Love In A Time Of Apartheid by Frederic Hunter is another literary masterpiece deserving elegant, complex, four-star coffee. Set in South Africa in the eponymous time of apartheid, it brings two very disparate characters together and reveals the cracks, not just in the system, but also in the lives of rich and poor, powerful and weak, young and old. It's a love story, oddly, but the romance is fueled with time and place, people and hope. Enjoy!

S. R. Nair's A Perfect Murder and Other Stories invites readers to India to explore a world of people and relationships, colored by dreams of the States, respect for the past, and hope for the future. Sometimes dark, sometimes curious, sometimes delightfully amusing, these complex stories deserve more complex four-star coffee.

Madison's Song by Christine Amsden is set in the States, but in that slightly skewed part of the States where magic and monsters are real. The characters and relationships feel very real as the story follows a young woman who never thinks highly enough of herself, struggling to cope with family rejection and betrayal, the wounds of love, and the possibility that gifts just might carry God-given responsibilities. It's a wonderful story, complex and powerful, and you don't need to have read the whole series to enjoy it (though I do recommend the series). Fill your mug with some complex four-star coffee and start reading.

J. B. Hawker's Cozy Campfire Shorts combines familiar teen horror themes with an amusing sense of mystery and sweetly surprising romance into a collection of interlinked short stories. It's a truly fun read. Enjoy with some bright, lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Deadly Catch by E. Michael Helms is a well-plotted mystery with a perfect sense for character, dialog and place, a cool beginning to a series perhaps. A combat veteran fishes a dead body out of the water when he goes out on a rented boat. Meanwhile his life is unmoored from his past. But this military man's not too haunted, too wounded, too confident or too dark. And this novel is one to enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Finally, Raven Black by Ann Cleeves is the first in her Shetland series - a collection that I've been glued to on TV and that my husband bought for my birthday. It's a book series with plenty to offers fans of mystery, of authentic out-of-the-way places, of police procedurals, of the Shetland Isles, and of TV. The characters feel just as real, but there are enough differences to make the story fresh and new when revisited on the printed page. I love these books! Enjoy with elegant, complex four-star coffees!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Have You Visited The World Of Literature Recently?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Brandon Daily, author of A Murder Country and the Valley, to my blog, with a post about the joys and tribulations of being published. Having read both books, I'm delighted to have the chance to learn a little more about the author. Welcome Brandon.

(And readers, please click on the book titles above to read my reviews. The Valley has just been released this month and looks set to be a real must-read.)

The World of Literature

by Brandon Daily

            Back in 2012, I was a high school teacher who had written a full-length novel as a dare to myself (to see if I could write something long after having only written short fiction for a Creative Writing class in college).
Like any writer, I had dreams and illusions of having that novel published, but I was (and still am) a realist, and so I realized that it probably wasn’t to be. The publishing world seemed like a glitz and glam Hollywood world from some old-time movie, where brilliant story-tellers hung out together and talked of stories and fictional worlds. The thought of joining that world played itself out in my mind often. So often, in fact, that I thought, “Why the heck not try to be part of that world.” And so I sent out submissions of the book to a dozen publishers. Then, the next week, I sent it out to a dozen more. And another dozen the next week. And then I waited.

When the rejections started coming in, I thought it was proving my point—I wasn’t meant for that world. But then one day in May 2013, I received a message from Knox Robinson Publishing saying that they were interested in my novel, A Murder Country, a literary and historical thriller. They wanted to publish that little book that I wrote to prove to myself that I could.
            The next year and a half of my life raced by and dragged on, all at the same time. My September 2014 release date seemed to never come, while, simultaneously, arriving before I had fully wrapped my head around the fact that I could actually call myself an “author” (something I still have never been able to say aloud—so many people come up to me and say, “You’re an author?” And I reply back with an embarrassed smile, “Ah, I wrote a book. That’s it.”). And then it was released, and I realized that my perception of the world was changed.
            From September 2014, I was able to see the publishing world for what it is: very real and very much business-oriented. Though I’ve met many authors since being published, I have never been invited to an exclusive party to talk about character-creation with other authors, there’s no secret handshake that I was clued in on. There was no glitz, there was no glam. I could say that I was disheartened by this. But, truth be told, I wasn’t. Instead, I found a new excitement, something I’d never had before. I devoted myself to the work and ideas of the work—to the books, not just mine, but to the stories that others were telling, the things readers were reading and talking about.
After being published, I became fascinated not by the publishing world but by the book world. And I loved it. I followed blogs and reviewers, awards and competitions I’d never heard of. I began to subscribe to book magazines and journals, reading up—studying up—on the writing practices of established authors, the diets of classic writers; you name a topic related to authors and their books, I read up on it. And what baffles me now (and I’m pretty sure I realized it at the time) is that none of this made me a better writer or allowed me to market A Murder Country more effectively, it didn’t help with creating the plot of my next book; instead, I found a love for the world that I now lived within. And it is a world that I still happily live within—a few weeks ago, when Bob Dylan was announced the Nobel Winner for Literature (I’ll hold off on giving my thoughts on this announcement, for fear of offending anyone’s opinions), my mind was blown, along with the rest of the literary world, since I’d been following the process for the past year. Before having a book published, I would have heard the news and thought, “Cool,” and nothing else of it. But now I am invested in what literature is and what it will become, and so the topics I normally would have sloughed off now hold a deep and personal meaning.
            During those two years, from when my first novel was released to today, on the eve of my second novel’s publication date (The Valley—November 15, 2016), I stand appreciative of the opportunity I’ve been given. On a daily basis, I remind myself of the fact that somewhere out in the wide world is a person I’ve never met, and on their bookshelf is a book that I wrote. I remind myself that someone I will never know will open The Valley and immerse themselves in the strange world that lived within my head for years before I put it on paper. I remind myself that my thoughts have been added to that brilliantly beautiful and expansive world of literature so that one day, long after I’ve died, some kid will pick up a book called A Murder Country or The Valley and become lost within the words, and that someday that kid will come to know the world of literature for himself.

Writing as someone who has opened, read and enjoyed a preview edition of The Valley, I can attest to its being a beautiful and expansive piece of literature, a book I'd be proud to have on my bookshelf. Thank you Brandon, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Brandon Daily can be found on Facebook at
on Amazon at (where you can find both books)
and on Twitter at

Find out more about the Valley:
My review :
A haunting prologue sets the reader up with questions and mysteries right from the start. Who is thed oddly unmoored mother Quinn? Who is dead--really? And who is the child? But readers are drawn beyond the questions, lyrically led to ponder the past and enter the Appalachian valley, “a place of ghost and pine, where magic plays through the land like children crossing a stream,” a place “made of stories: a place created on the miseries of the living.” There they meet the woman, the priest, the people, all evocatively described, mystically and vividly real.
There’s a sense of mist and shadows over this story—the mist of a morning run, an evening walk, hot water—the shadows of unknowing, and always the trees, like prison “bars keeping something out or keeping something in.” There’s a sense of contrast too, the black powder of the miner with the white of a junkie’s snort. And there’s music.
It’s easy to become lost in this slow languid tale, but the mystery of these people, interconnections, guilts and sorrows, will surely draw you on. A timeless story binds Cherokee past with present as the Great Spirit watches, as the white-masked demon kills. A mirror reflects the reader’s life and worries in other lives. And the whole is, like Adeline’s song, “A story to be felt by the ear and tasted by the skin.”

Disclosure: I read a pre-release version and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How Good Are You At The Art Of Negotiation?

Virtual Tour Author: Cindy Koepp Featured Book Releases: 
Remnant in the Stars The Loudest Actions November 7 – 21, 2017

I have some fascinating guests on my blog today. If you sit quietly - don't slurp your coffee - they might just teach you something of the gentle art of negotiation. Cindy Koepp, author of Remnant in the Stars and the Loudest Actions, asked them to visit here, and I'm very grateful to her. You might want to go and find Cindy's books ( after you've met these characters. But first, over to you Cindy, Ella, Burke and Sacaran.

The Art of Negotiation

Ella Font (EF): Good morning, everyone. My name is Ella Font with the Interdimensional News Network, and I’m here today with Coalition Ambassador Burke Zacharias and Aolanian Ambassador Sacaran Asiki Raman. They are the negotiators for the Coalition and the Aolanians, and they’re headed out to meet some potentially new friends. Hello, Ambassadors. What can you tell us about the mission you’re on?

Burke Zacharias (BZ): We’re going to Monta, an inhabited planet circling a binary star, to initiate first contact with the locals.

Sacaran Asiki Raman (SAR): We find two of the major civilizations, and we go to introduce ourselves and form an alliance, if we can.

EF: How did you find out about them?

SAR: (leans closer) What do you say?

EF: (louder) How did you find out about them?

SAR: An Aolanian scout ship finds them.

BZ: (mutters) And evidence that the League was there ahead of us.

SAR: What?

BZ: Nothing.

SAR: (Eyes Burke suspiciously)

EF: It’s pretty safe to say that the locals won’t speak any language we do. How will you handle communicating with them?

BZ: Well, I’ll have to work on learning their language, and hopefully they’ll be interested in learning ours.

SAR: There is also value in having a linguist or other people with you to learn the language as well. Some people have greater ability in languages. They serve as translators, if necessary.

BZ: (Scowls) No. Absolutely not. There’s too much danger in using a translator.

SAR: Using a translator is an acceptable solution. I do not say it is ideal, but it is possible. I have used this strategy before with success.

BZ: (Shakes his head) Too many layers of separation between the negotiator and the local representative. No. Too dangerous.

SAR: (Squints up at him) Then I hope your facility for languages is excellent.

BZ: (Crosses his arms over his chest) I’ll do well enough.

EF: (Looks back and forth between them) I see, well, um, if everything works out as it should, what do you hope to accomplish?

SAR: (shakes her head. Slips a weathered fingernail under the edge of a silver disk on her head and pries it lose, makes an adjustment and puts it back on and winces). Again?

BZ: She wants to know what we’ll accomplish, and you’re worried about me communicating? Well, Ms. Font, ideally, a full alliance. We don’t want the League to have control of the planet in any way. If that doesn’t work, at least a trade agreement. We could certainly use another friendly source of resources. Most of the asteroids are mined out, and the trans-Neptunian objects are tougher to mine.

EF: What do you say to critics who think the Coalition should avoid any sort of military-based treaty?

BZ: Military-based treaty?

EF: They’re saying that the Coalition should not be provide for the defense or protection of any but our own world and our colonies.

SAR: I say that has short sight. Each member of an alliance must do the thing they are best at. Asking my people to provide defense is foolish at best. Aolanians, though, are very good stellar cartographers and astrogators, something humans struggle with when a computer is not available to help with the numbers.

BZ: To a point, Ambassador Raman is correct. The Coalition can’t spread itself too thin, but at the same time, we can’t have our allies being destroyed by the League.

SAR: We see what the locals are like when we encounter them. They are, perhaps, stronger than we expect. Arriving at the conclusion without sufficient data does not give favorable results.

BZ: (mutters) Something we agree on?

SAR: What?

BZ: Nothing important.

EF: Well, um, that’s all we have time for today. Thank you both for joining us, and good luck on your mission. This is Ella Font, and you’re watching the Interdimensional News Network.

And I do hope their mission communications go well!

About the author: Originally from Michigan, Cindy Koepp has a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. After teaching for fourteen years, she pursued a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has five published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently working as an optician in Iowa and as an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press.

Find her at:
Twitter: @CCKoepp


remnantinthestarscover_1200x800About the Book: Remnant in the Stars: Two hundred years ago, the Aolanian home world exploded and a remnant of survivors escaped.

As their convoy combed the galaxy looking for a new world to colonize, they discovered Earth and were given permission to establish a temporary base while they continued their search for a new home world. When an Aolanian exploration vessel goes missing after transmitting a garbled distress call, the uneasy alliance between the humans and the Aolanians is put to the test as two anti-Aolanian groups jockey to use this opportunity to press their own agendas by foiling the rescue mission.

Because his daughter was onboard the Kesha when it vanished, Calonti Sora reluctantly signs on as an astrogator with the Gyrfalcon, one of the ships in the search party. There he meets up with an old human friend, Kirsten Abbott. Together, they work to overcome prejudice and political plots as they race toward an enemy no one could expect.

Find it on Kindle at
loudest_actions_cover_1200x933About the Book: The Loudest Actions: First contact missions are hard enough, but they get even tougher when the negotiator has an ego the size of a gas giant.

Burke Zacharias, a first contact researcher, is chosen to spearhead humanity’s first official contact with Montans, an insect race that has already had a run-in with less friendly humans. Although his words and overtures toward the Montans are cordial enough, the Montans are put off by how he treats the crew of the scout ship that brought him to the world.

With other, less friendly forces trying to establish a foothold on the world, the negotiation must succeed in spite of Burke, or the Montans could be facing extinction.

Find it on Kindle at

Find out more. Follow the Tour.

11/7 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
11/7 The Seventh Star Interview
11/8 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Interview
11/9 Jordan Hirsch Review
11/10 Magic of Books Guest Post
11/10 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! Top Ten's List
11/11 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post
11/11 Novel-ties Review
11/12 Top-Tens List (Blogger Picks Topic)
11/13 Darkling Delights Guest Post
11/14 Enchanted Alley Guest Post
11/15 Bee's Knees Reviews Review
11/15 The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn Guest Post
11/16 Jorie Loves a Story Review
11/16 The Word Nerds Guest Post
11/17 SpecMusicMuse Review
11/18 Jorie Loves a Story Q and A
11/18 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Guest Post
11/19 Deal Sharing Aunt Interview
11/20 Jorie Loves a Story Review
11/20 D.L. Gardner Blog Guest Post
11/21 The Swill Blog Review
11/21 Willow Star Serenity Review