Tuesday, April 25, 2017

To Kindle Direct Or Not To Kindle Direct

There's a fantastic kindle authors contest going on - kindle storyteller 2017 - and you can enter it any time up to May 19th. All you have to do is

  • release a book on kindle - at least 5,000 words and no less than 24 pages in print; all your own work; not violating any laws etc - 
  • create a print version - easy using the new kindle beta print, which looks almost the same as Createspace but without distribution to other vendors, 
  • make sure you use the right keywords (simple to cut and paste) and
  • enroll your book in kindle direct.

All of which should be really trivial if you happen to have a novella lying around almost completed on your computer. I had three, and I had wonderful friends encouraging me to try. So I published them all.

  • Obey the first rule - easy; 
  • obey the second - fine and a perfect chance to try out that kindle print - I LOVE the covers! (Not sure I like the fact that you have to pay full price to buy YOUR OWN BOOK, but they say they'll fix that when it's out of beta - DO NOT MOVE YOUR CREATESPACE BOOKS TO KINDLE BETA YET!!!)
  • obey the third - no problem
  • and then I forgot the fourth.

Somehow I'd neglected to check that creating a book on kdp is not the same as enrolling in kindle direct. So I followed the links, read the fine print, and panicked.

The question isn't so much should I enroll those three small books I'm so proud of in kindle direct. It's do I dare take the risk.
  • Do I know for absolute sure that no one will find more than 10% of one of the stories cached on, say, the now-defunct gather.com website, or on our (password protected) writers' group site, or in separate chapters posted as separate stories on one of my blogs, or ...? If I don't, I risk breaking the rules by enrolling in Kindle Direct. And if I break the rules, I risk Amazon closing my kindle account, which would remove a whole slew of non-kindle direct books. 
  • But that's not the only risk. What if someone accuses me of plagiarism? I won't know who accused me. I won't be guilty (I know that for sure). But how will I defend myself? - I have a friend whose kindle book was removed because of a false accusation; all his emailed proofs of innocence seem to be read and ignored by robots, not by real people who might understand. Do I want to take that risk? 
  • Then there's the fake downloads risk. Various authors have suffered this one, with strangers blighting their books by masses of downloads in a single day, resulting in Amazon deducing they've gamed the borrowers system and removing the book.

The more I look at it, the more I'm almost afraid to even publish. But for sure I'm scared of Kindle Direct, so I'll skip the contest (I wasn't going to win it anyway), ease my stress, and just enjoy the fact that it did inspire me to release:

Enjoy!

What's In A Mystery?

I read a book called "The Mystery Tomb" recently. Can you guess, it was a mystery? Characters had mysterious backstories. Locations revealed unexpected treasures. Desire and intention collided while truth slipped and slid, awaiting the final reveal. Mystery for sure. "Deadly Spirits" is a mystery driven by a wonderfully human narrator whose favorite spirits come in bottles, but whose life revolves around mysterious deaths. "Raining Men and Corpses"? has to be mystery and humor for sure. Meanwhile "Dead Shot" is a more juvenile mystery-adventure with deeply serious themes.

Then there's "Girl With All The Gifts." But it's that horror isn't it? Except it's also a mystery, filled with the question of how, why or what she is, and how, why or what she might hold as the clue to the future. A mystery that doesn't  resolve all it's clues, Gifts proves all the better perhaps for not doing so, and lingers in the mind. Does that make sense?

"Enemies of the Batsu" doesn't answer all its questions either, in this case because it's part of a series. Never quite revealing what created this futuristic Japanese culture, it drives another forward arc in the direction of finding out.

"Fever Tree" is literary mystery, starting with the curious question of who its protagonist might be, then wending its way to why he is there and where his path will lead. "The Coyote Hunter of Aquidneck Island" offers one mystery to its characters and a completely different one to intrigue the protagonist and reader--definitely literary mystery too.

But what's in a mystery.

The ones I loved most of the books above had great protagonists--flawed, but serious and caring; not too sure of themselves, so I might like them more than they like themselves. Their mysteries range from twistedly complex to simple human nature, but they're neither trivially resolved nor teasingly hidden away. I guess I might look for an honesty in the story that lets me believe it's worth my while trying to work things out as I read. And I like great locations too--as in locations sufficiently described as to seem real and great, not necessarily ones I'd want to visit.

My question, of course--as I contemplate writing mystery and decide I'm probably not good enough--is what's in a mystery for other readers? Why makes you choose one mystery over another, one mystery author, or one type of mystery?

I hope you'll find yourself a coffee as you follow the links above to my reviews on Goodreads:

  1. Mystery Tomb will be best with some complex four-star coffee.
  2. Deadly Spirits deserves a well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored three-star blend
  3. Raining Men and Corpses will go well with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.
  4. Dead Shot needs a mild crisp one-star cup
  5. Girl with All the Gifts needs some rich dark five-star coffee
  6. Enemies of the Batsu probably merits a strong dark five-star drink too
  7. Fever Tree should be read with some elegant, complex four-star coffee
  8. As should the Coyote Hunter of Aquidneck Island.
Enjoy.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Are the Genders Equal in Childrens Books?

Today I'm delighted to welcome  Sonia Panigrahythe author of Nina the Neighborhood Ninja to my site. (Click on the link for my review, or find it on Amazon here). Lots of picture book and storybook heroes are boys, so it's nice to read this one with valiant Nina as the protagonist. And it's great to read how Sonia feels about those children's characters.

Gender Equality in Children’s Books, by Sonia Panigrahy


Over the past decade, I grew into the role of an aunt to my network of friends and family with children. Having been a book worm as a child, I was excited to share the love of reading with them, opening a new world of imagination and knowledge. We often say that a child’s brain is like a sponge and books are a wonderful way to help them absorb life’s lessons.

The books society produces reflects the lessons of what our society chooses to teach its members, including its youngest members. Progressive societies see education as a social equalizer, as noted by educational reformer, Horace Mann. However, browsing through the colorful spines of children’s bookstores, I found that the books on the shelves were perpetuating social inequality. I continually noticed that it was much easier to find empowering books for boys than for girls. There were plenty of adventurous male characters to choose from, but when I searched for similar stories for young girls, I found the selection dismal. It was heart-breaking knowing how empowering books can be for children, but realizing for girls, many books were doing just the opposite.

Plenty of children’s books, read by our society’s members with the most expansive, impressionable, and open minds, are in fact subtly telling little girls how to and not to behave. The girls I know are adventurous in the same way boys are. Yet, the children’s books available to them, while many portraying girls as smart, they will not put a girl as the lead strong character. What is it that our society is teaching our children by allowing children’s book to foster inequitable gender roles that don’t allow our girls to be both smart and strong?

We continue to lack enough books that allow all children to find universal and valued themes of confidence, curiosity, braveness, creativity, strength, intelligence, kindness, compassion, generosity, and resilience. Storylines are not representative of girls as they are, but rather, what they are told to be. Our literary orbit continues to revolve heavily around boy’s needs, but this needs to change. If the books that are published are about appealing to a mass market, then appeal more to the 51% of the U.S. population-- females. Girls need to have a place in the literary orbit, and that includes also being at the center of the superhero narrative. Children need to see themselves in books—it validates their value in society.

This inequitable portrayal of females in narratives detrimental to girls, but it is harmful for young boys to be taught and then reinforce narrow, limiting stereotypes. It was with this sense of inequity for young girls and boys that I decided to write my book, “Nina the Neighborhood Ninja.” It features a young girl of color named Nina, about 5 years old, who is the brave superhero courageously leading the way using her brains and strength to creatively and kindly rescue those in need. Just like most of the girls I know.

Thank you so much, Sonia, for writing the book, and for bringing the problem to our minds. You've got me thinking I really should try again to get my Hemlock stories published  -  their strongest protagonist is a girl, and she rescues the boys ... well, except for the ones who are teasing her. She makes them think they're frogs.

About The Author:

Author Sonia Panigrahy is a public health professional, world traveler, adventure seeker, and fitness enthusiast. She believes that life is too short to be bored! 
Nina the Neighborhood Ninja was created out of Sonia's lifelong love of reading. As her family and friends begin to have children, she looked forward to sharing this love with them. She believes that books are a powerful way to empower impressionable young minds. 
Sonia was surprised that she could not find books for girls ages 3-6 years that realistically identified females as intelligent, physically tough, brave, and adventurous. She was disappointed that girls continue to be excluded from the heart of the superhero story. 
After unsuccessful attempts to find a young girl superhero protagonist on the pages of a book, especially one of color, she gave up. Then she created her own. 

Follow Sonia on her Facebook Author PageTwitter @SoniaPanigrahy, and on Instagram



Sunday, April 9, 2017

Who do kids learn their lessons from?

Who do kids learn their lessons from? The obvious answer is from teachers at school. Perhaps from parents at home. But what about from teddy bears, dogs, birds or snakes? If they're reading books, they might learn lessons from all of these. And if they read the first book in my list below, the parents just might learn the odd lesson too. So from where or what did you learn your most important lessons?

Creature Comforts, the extraordinary life of Cassandra Jones, by Tamara Hart Heiner is the first in a series of novels for pre-teen girls, centering on the adventures of a very ordinary ten-year-old. She's a fairly observant 10-year-old, and parents would be wise to learn that their disagreements and distractions are easily visible to their kids. I'd like to have seen more resolution to the tale, but it looks like a good series with a very convincing character and voice. Enjoy with some two-star easy-drinking coffee.

Talon 2 On The Wing by Gigi Sedlmayer offers life lessons from a condor, and gentle wisdom from parents and friends. The tiny protagonist has a growth problem, but she learns to fly on her favorite bird - a really enjoyable way to make her handicap an advantage. The story touches on discrimination and loss, and doesn't sugar-coat its pill. But it soars with the birds and offers plenty of wisdom. Enjoy this modern story with an old-fashioned feel while drinking a balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

Then there's the dog, Shadow. Lessons from Shadow by Shadow/Wally Bregman is a short large book, easy for children to hold while parents or grandparents read. The stories are told from the dog's point of view and include lessons on how to cope with bullying, how not to run away from home, and how to deal with loss. It's nicely presented, simply and briefly illustrated, and the sort of book parents and children will enjoy together - perhaps with a two-star easy-drinking coffee for the adult.

A teddy bear offers counting lessons in 12 Days at the Beach with Theodore – learn to count – by Ashlee and Trent Harding. It's short (12 days long) and fun. Each day has a two-line rhyming story, a counting puzzle, and a fullpage illustration telling the tale. Children will love to "read" the pictures, moving on to counting in answer to the questions, and then maybe counting even more (how many legs on a starfish perhaps). The colors are bright. The illustrations are simple and clear. The lessons are well-drawn. And it's a really neat book, to enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

As to where the snake is, you might have to read the books to find out, or guess from what these reviews don't say. That's your puzzle perhaps.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Different Genres, Different Names?

Some authors change their names when they write in different genres. Some change their publishers. Some publishers have subgroups for different genres. And some just ... publish ... write ... go for it.

I think I was trying to be "organized" when I "went for it" and tried to get different publishers for each of my genres. I didn't want to change my name - it's mine! But I didn't want to confuse readers, so I sent my children's Bible stories to a Christian Publisher, Cape Arago Press (actually, they asked me for them, which still fills me with hope). My contemporary novels went to a literary publisher, Stonegarden.net, who closed down. Then they went to a contemporary publisher, Second Wind Publishing, who slowed down. Now they're with another contemporary publisher, Indigo Sea, and I'm wondering if book 3 will ever be released. Meanwhile my speculative fiction went to Gypsy Shadow, who "released" me for lack of sales. Then they ... well, then they went to Indigo Sea which would kind of negate the one genre, one publisher idea, except IS doesn't seem to be in a hurry to release them. Meanwhile my children's stories are with Linkville Press which .., well ... doesn't just publish children's fiction. In fact, they might be better know for more adultly scary stuff such as ...

Purify My Heart by Ruthie Madison pits Christian, Wiccan and evil against each other, offering seductive temptation to a newly Christian woman whose husband is away at war. Lots of wise lessons, lots of backstory; coincidences that aren't all engineered by God, and wise advise lurks in the shadows. It's a slow read but interesting. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee.

Maya Initiate 39 by Mr Ben involves another young woman seduced by evil forces. Never quite resolving the issues it raised, the novel takes a teenager through to adulthood, and offers readers the hope of redemption despite bad choices. Read this dark tale with some more dark five-star coffee.

Then there's Psychotic State the Novel by William Pattison, currently out of print. This ones definitely a dark dark five-star coffee book, with gratuitous violence, complex backstory, and a mix or horror, don't bully, and don't go off your meds themes that never quite gels.

I'm not sure how my innocent puppies and kittens fit with these, but Linkville Press deserves to be known for a broad spectrum of different books, from the curious fantasy of Torii, to the deeply relevant real-world issues of Etched in History, and from crime-drama Jack Stenhouse mystery to sweet animal mysteries (mine) in Tails of Mystery.

Perhaps a publisher that publishes many genres has a better chance of making sales and staying afloat than one that covers few. But what about the writer? Should I have stuck to one name, stuck to genre, or just stuck to being me?


Friday, April 7, 2017

What's In A Title?

I got a book in the mail the other day. It's title was "This Book Needs A Title." I read a poem in the poem with the same title. And I pondered, what's a title there for anyway.

The author has now produced TBNAT 2. Meanwhile I struggle to write, struggle to get my publishers to release anything, and struggle to catch up with book reviews. The writing's fun - it's just a pain being squished into an ever-shrinking corner of an ever-more-cluttered bedroom when I HATE CLUTTER! (Pause while I dream of dry redecorated basement, maybe by Christmas if I'm lucky, but hey, I'm pretty lucky to even have a basement. Why am I complaining?) Pushing publishers to publish is less fun - my publishers tend to have babies, get sick, get overwhelmed, and even close their doors - please don't close your doors, PRETTY PLEASE! But the book reviewing is always fun and doesn't tie me to that cluttered bedroom. If it's a real book (the sort that can come in the mail) I can even read and review it when the power's out. (Yeah, the power's enjoying one of its it-a-bit, out-a-bit days and the wind's driving me crazy.)

But what's in a title? I posted a picture of spooky trees and someone said I should use it as a book cover - for the Hemlock novels perhaps? But they don't have a title or a publisher, never have had, probably never will. And besides, I need to work on rewriting them. Hemlock's not a bad title on its own though, is it? At least, not when paired with spooky trees (some of which happen to be hemlocks, but hemlock trees aren't the same as hemlock's poisonous plants ...  it's still a cool picture).


Does a title have to be paired with a matching cover? This Book Needs A Title has a cool, plain, white cover with clear black text. It fits the title perfectly. Is The Bible Good For Women (the next book in the list of reviews below) has a serious brown-shaded cover with thick book-ends, and the Bible's a thick book.It conveys serious and organised (did I mention, I HATE CLUTTER), and the words are clear and bright, so maybe it works. Certainly the title is one that would catch a Christian woman's eye, and that's the idea.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple is another book for women (and I hope today will be different!). The title's certainly catchy. The gray cover with everywoman hiding her face. That's catchy. That's me. I had to read this book! Then there's Movie Trivia Madness, a title that catches my husband's eye since he loves movie trivia. He's not read the book yet, and he'll probably just get his trivia from the internet. The cover's black and bright, has a movie reel (from a distance it reminded me of a skull, perhaps not the intent), and it includes popcorn, soda and movie tickets. I think the title would attract me first, before I look at the cover.

Anyway, you can follow the links below for the covers and reviews, and find yourself a coffee to enjoy while reading:

This Book Needs A Title by Theodore Ficklestein is a freeverse, enticing and easily read poetry book. Frequently stream-of-consciousness, by turns humorous, thought-provoking, memorable or silly, it's a surprisingly enjoyable read and I'd happily pick up book 2. Find some bright, lively 2-star coffee to enjoy with it.

Is the Bible Good for Women by Wendy Alsup is a kind of whole-Bible study, looking at the fate and redemption of women from Old Testament times to New. Insights from contemporary culture turn OT tragedies into surprisingly empowering stories, and I just wished the NT applications had been viewed the same way. That said, it's a really good read, and has great reader-questions at the end for small groups to share. Enjoy this one with an elegant, complex, thought-provoking 4-star coffee.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple is another book for women, fitting a lifetime of memories into a very ordinary day that turns out very different. The protagonist (most frequent narrator) is a fairly everyday mom, struggling with life, kid and spouse. There are interlocking mysteries - strange kid, absent spouse, imaginary sisters perhaps - and interlocking "stories" told in pictures, poetry, even a book within the book. It's intriguingly different and it works. Enjoy with some seriously complex 4-star coffee!

Then, for the man in my life, there's Movie Trivia Madness by Bill O’Neill and Steve Murray. It's got lots of movie trivia.  And it's surprisingly entertaining simply as a mad, fun read. Enjoy with some bright easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

So what do you think. Do titles matter as much as covers, more than covers, or not much anyway?


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Does the Real World Hide Behind Fictional Fear?

Fear wears many different faces in novels I've read recently. In one, a dying woman is afraid for the daughters she'll leave behind. Others fear revelations from the past and struggle not to touch its memories. One woman is convinced her memories are false because nobody believed them--now she calls herself insane. There's a man who fears, very sensibly, how misguided decisions will effect his land and neighbors. Another fears the end of the world; yet another, the end of the world as he's imagined it. Some take action to end their fears, others start more fear, and others hide. But all these fears can be seen as mirrors held up to the present world. Do we hide behind our fear? Do we hide our fears in fiction? Or does fiction help us explore and recognize fear so we can act wisely instead of hiding?

Find a mug, pour some coffee, and decide which fears and which books you'd like from these.

In South California Purples by Baron R Birtcher, rancher Ty Dawson can see trouble looming (and a gruesomely dead cow). The world of 1973 is changing, but he channels his fear for the future into wise care for the present, even taking on the unwanted task of preserving law and order for a fast-growing crowd of environmentalists, hippies and bikers. The story's told with unflinching detail, lyrical prose, fast action, and a wonderful sense for people, time and place. And it's set in my beloved Oregon. What more could you ask for? Some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee perhaps?

As Close As Sisters by Colleen Faulkner takes place on the opposite coast, where four girls who grew up together now face forces that might drive them apart. One might be dying. Another contemplates having a child. A third is entering a new relationship. And a fourth keeps secrets for them all. Fear of living, fear of dying, fear for the future, fear for the secrets of the past--all these are in this novel, where communication just might hold the key to moving on. Enjoy with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

More wounded women star in Outrageous by Neal Katz, the first in a sequence of books depicting the real life of Victoria Woodhull. Home life, filled with abuse, is truly terrifying, but Vickie learns to trust the company of women over that of men, and finds solace as well as fear in spirits. The real world, life and scandals are truly outrageous, but the characters are achingly human. And fears are truly overcome. I wish it was more than just part one of the story though. Well-balanced with well-told research, this is one to enjoy with a well-balanced three-star coffee.

Play House by Saikat Majumdar is set in India. The Play House in question might be the theater where a boy's mother works as an actress. It might be the home run by his grandmother, where mother is soon unwelcome. Maybe it's the apartment, never quite a home, where the mother plays at being mom. Or is it the house in the young boy's mind, where he puts together half-images, draws half-conclusions, and brings the whole construction down on everyone? This is a truly absorbing haunting novel, filled with the fears of adolescence, and best enjoyed with some dark five-star coffee.

Nos4a2 by Joe Hill is meant to scare you, of course. It's horror fiction at its best, building terror on a seriously cool premise, and contrasting good and evil in the form of a woman who thinks she's crazy but dearly loves her son, and a man who truly is crazy and loves all children. I was lost from the very first mention of a bridge between lost and found, and didn't find myself again until the end. Enjoy with some seriously rich, dark, five-star coffee.

Similarly, 1999 by Stanley Baldwin is meant to scare readers. Of course, the dreaded Y2K has been and gone, but this depiction of religious fervor and fear remains as a haunting warning against seeing answered prayer in the temptations of success. A father is drawn into the web of a charismatic teacher. His wife is subtly torn down and driven to despise herself. And his career, his work for God is blooming, except... Well, you'll have to read it if you can find it. I really enjoyed how1999 is simultaneously wise, scary, entertaining, non-preachy, and a really good read. Pour some dark five-star coffee to go with it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Does the real world hide behind fantasy?

Does the real world hide behind fantasy? Or is fantasy a way to reveal what the real world hides?

I guess I'm including George Orwell's 1984 as a favorite fantasy novel, though I might have called it science fiction once (futuristic fiction?). It certainly hid a wealth of truths that time is still drawing to light. So did Animal Farm. And so do many other books, old and new. Perhaps even the ancient plays of the Greeks had the same allure--a way to reveal what we're not meant to see, not meant to talk about--or else a way to hide, laying those truths at fiction's door.

Sometimes it's not just the weather that seems dark around here. But perhaps I'm influenced again by Brexit and the pain of my once-safe world growing ever more strange. Things that weren't talked about are okay. Things that should be talked about are hidden. And fantasy novels both hide and reflect, reflections that, maybe, reveal truths.

And maybe you'll want some dark cups of coffee with these novels:

First, not too dark, is The Trials of Nahda by Merita King. The story's narrated by a somewhat jaded investigator, sent to arrest an art thief who might hold the key to reality. Combining myth, magic and science, and reading like a science fiction adventure game, it just might make you wonder what makes you believe, and what belief entails. Enjoy the lively tale with some lively easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

Droidal by Andy Graham is a short story offering an odd blend of dark and light. Set in a dark, 1984-style world, it slowly reveals a character who is more than he seems, wounded by more than should be allowed, and strangely at peace with himself. It's an elegant, well-wrought story, best enjoyed with some complex elegant four-star coffee.

Growing darker, the next book is another short story. Tony Bertauski’s The Maze blends two different worlds—a real world tale of genius, family and loss; and a cyber-world adventure of death and rebirth, leading into different lives and the clues to escape. But will the cyber-protagonist ever be free? The story’s computer Maze blends into a maze of memories half-lost, and the reader is pulled inexorably toward a solution, just as the protagonist is pulled toward escape. Rumor has it this story might become part of a trilogy or be included in the Game Chronicles, so watch out for it. I love Tony Bertauski's books, best read with elegantly complex four-star coffee.

Everville the First Pillar by Roy Huff is set, at least in part, on our own world. Aimed at teenage readers, it offers wise lessons hidden in intriguing adventure, as college freshman Owen Sage is drawn into a mysterious world outside time, whose fate might be tied to ours. The story's slow, combining epic prose with prosaic modernity. But it's an intriguing tale, complete in itself and clearly promising more.

Aijlan by Andy Graham is a novel of a broken world not so unlike our own, mistrustful of foreign people or ideas, overly committed to technology, and where power is valued more than honesty or relationships. It holds a mirror very effectively to present society. And it's definitely dark, best enjoyed with some definitely dark 5-star coffee.

Finally, The Angel Solution by John C Stipa is set in the real world, but has a computer game feel that just might be more than fantasy. As duelling archeologists seek a precious treasure, some people might be both present and absent, and some items might hold more power than can be imagined. It's an oddly enticing tale of science gone awry,computer gaming perhaps, and human ingenuity misapplied. Enjoy with some more dark 5-star coffee.

And the tales, like the world, have grown increasingly dark.



Friday, March 24, 2017

Do Pictures Tell A Story?

I love picture books, and I used to dream of filling the bookshelves with ones written and drawn by myself. As time went on, I learned how much time it takes to paint, so I narrowed my goals down to words. Then time went on.

When I had kids, I filled the bookshelves (bottom shelves so they could reach) with picture books written and drawn by somebody else. My head was still filled with stories, but my time belonged to the boys. One night my son rejected all the books I wanted to read. "Okay, I'll tell you a story," says I. But, "No," says he. "It's not a real story if it's not in a book." I bought a notebook and filled it with pictures and stories about a boy and his cat. Then they had "book week" at school. My son took the notebook to show his teacher, it went on a display stand, and it disappeared.

The pictures and the stories are still in my head. And the pictures really did tell half the story. But the kids are grown and now my picture book shelf is high on the wall filled with books just for me--and for my imaginary grandchildren I guess. There's a part of me that still feels like a small child, eager for that comfort of a different world, a well-bound world, a world with beginnings, middles and ends, and a picture for every stage. So here are some picture-world reviews. Fill a coffee mug and enjoy.

First is a picture book that satisfies the adult and the child in me. Inspired by Art the edge of revolt by Uvi Poznansky accompanies the author's definitely adult novels of the Biblical King David. But it stands alone as a beautiful picture book of famous and less famous art works, an introduction to different painting styles, and a background to the world's envisioning of the Biblical tale. The pictures may not all be "pretty," but neither's the story--as a child I would have been intrigued by its darkness without understanding of course. So... I'm not sure I'd recommend this book to children , but it's highly recommended for adults. Drink some darkly powerful five-star coffee and enjoy.

Next is another adult book (I'm saving the kids' ones till last). This is a novel I picked up because of the haunting image on its cover. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro explores memory's impact on reality through the lens of myth and legend, blending Arthurian characters with evocative history and geography, and maybe waking the sleeping giant behind relationships. The novel's as haunting as the cover, and best read over some more dark five-star coffee.

And now for children's picture books:

Clio – The Cat Who Loved To Eat by Rivka Bar-Giora is set in the very real world of a grumpy mom who doesn't want a pet, a child who does, and a street-cat who knows exactly what he wants. The pictures convey emotion and character delightfully, and a special treat is a collection of printable coloring pages for children at the end. The text is a little odd at times, but it's a fun book. Enjoy with a crisp sharp one-star coffee.

The Mouse and The Carpenter by Shabtay Benny revolves around food as well, as a mouse sets out into the world to find his own dinner, and decides to stay with a carpenter. The story offers a nice lesson in the value of compromise, and I just wish it was a little longer. Nice pastel images are pleasingly evocative. The rhythm and rhyme is smooth and unforced. And this nice short story can be easily enjoyed with a nice easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Then there's my favorite - starting and ending with the best. Princess Sophie and the Six Swans by Kim Jacobs retells a Brothers Grimm tale  with a pleasing blend of fairytale myth combined with modern day self-awareness. The princess isn't gorgeous, pampered or boring. The princes are neither fools nor heroes. The wicked stepmother's not nice, but she has reason. and the lessons of perseverance, respect and obedience are wisely drawn, as is true love. The illustrations are really amazing too! Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee, and share it with your kids, your grandkids, or your favorite picture book bookshelf.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What will you read in a dangerous world?

The news is of danger. The world's not as safe as we'd choose. Though, to be fair, we never thought London was safe. Not when I was growing up and gangsters were a strange phenomenon. Not when the IRA held sway. Not when friends asked if we really wanted to risk taking our children there before we left the country. And surely not now, because nowhere is safe. Because safety is an illusion. So I read for escape... maybe. But which books help you escape?

Self help books perhaps? They'll tell me how to protect myself against everything I've thought of that might go wrong. Except my protection goes wrong and I never thought the basement would flood that way.

Children's books? I've read lots of those. They gather me back into innocent certainties with beautifully illustrated calm. But then I grow up when I close the book.

Fantasies? They help, I guess, though I always end up ascribing fantastical beasthood to modern day fears.

Action and adventure? At least for a while I can imagine people who win.

Mystery? As if the mysteries of good and evil can be solved as completely as Sherlock Holmes on the moor.

What else? I'm not sure. But these reads were all action and dark, so find a dark coffee and choose your words well.

First is a short novel or novella, Hunted by Alison Golden. The protagonist certainly sees her world fall apart, and it's a great start to series though I'd have liked more completion in the initial story. I find myself wondering if the questions will be answered or if they'll just be a background to what comes next. It's got cool characters though, and an intriguing premise that leaves the reader free to guess. I'm not sure it will soothe your fears in a dangerous world though, since it leaves things even scarier than they started. Enjoy with a nice short shot of dark 5-star coffee.

Cold City by LH Thomson is much more down-to-earth, though it's still not always clear who the good and bad guys are--oh, how like real life! Solving a dangerous mystery while simultaneously looking at society's outsiders, recognizing the values and strengths of minorities, and bringing to life the intricacies of culture and place, Cold City is a fast, enticing read (no mean feat when it's also filled with psychological musings). It introduces a great cast of characters, and it's a great start to a series I'd love to follow. Nicely nuanced, it offers real danger with a possibility of resolution. Enjoy with some elegantly complex 4-star coffee.

Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes takes me back to England, contrasting the peace of houseboat life with London's dark underbelly, and filling its world with flawed characters, terrifying danger, and truly scary waters. It won't make you feel safe, but it might make you believe in escape. Enjoy with some seriously dark 5-star coffee.

Then The White Devil by Domenic Stansberry carries its readers to gloriously romantic Rome, except this really isn't a romantic tale. It's dark and cruel, told by a seriously flawed protagonist, and definitely more noir than action adventure. Set at a memorable recent time in history, filled with authentic detail and evocative scenes, and written in short sharp chapters, it's a fast furious read filled with trials and temptations. The danger's very personal though, so perhaps it serves to hide the world's more global, more real threat. Enjoy with several short sharp shots of dark 5-star coffee.

Meanwhile, the world remains dark but the sky is blue, and it's probably time I read something even scarier - Nos4a2 perhaps? I need coffee!






Friday, March 3, 2017

Do you feel Beloved, Loyal and Lifted Up?

I'm still living in chaos, typing at a desk that echoes every keystroke, louder and louder and LOUDER throughout the day; piling books on a bed that's so loaded with spare blankets everything slides to the floor; carefully positioning my feet between the air-vent and the multi-plug, with boxes oneither side; and leaning over a wire rack every afternoon to half-close the blinds against the sun--yes, it really does shine--it shines straight into my eyes. Meanwhile I'm trying to organize times and schedules so our basement--my office, spare bedrooms, and our family room--will get put back together in reasonable order. Plumber comes before handyman comes before painter comes before electrician comes before painter comes before... aghghgh!

Meanwhile I hide in alternate universes and read. Recently, those alternate universe have been the brightly illustrated worlds of childhood. The lessons of children's books seem oddly appropriate to me--perhaps I'm throwing childish temper tantrums as a consequence of our flood. Anyway, I've really enjoyed the books. So pull up a chair, pour a coffee, and see what you think.

Starting with love:15 Ways To Say I Love You by Efrat Shoham introduces many languages and a storyline just waiting for a child to put it into words. The pictures entice the imagination, the languages encourage learning and understanding, and the globe grounds it all in the real world. 15 more ways, with a completely different style of illustration, makes a great companion book. Enjoy them both with some smooth imaginative three-star coffee and have fun getting your child to tell their own tales.

Natasha Yim's The Rock Maiden offers a Chinese folktale with a fairytale ending and beautifully fluid illustrations. It's another story of love, this time with an underlying theme of loyalty rewarded. The text forms an enjoyably smooth read, and the pictures offer an enticing view into ancient Hong Kong fishing life.  Enjoy this one with some two star easy-drinking coffee.

A third picture book, When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, is enjoyably uplifting and pleasingly imaginative. Naturally rhyming text offers meaning and purpose to life and creativity, and gorgeously illustrations are filled with the splashy colors of a child at play. Read this while drinking some light crisp enjoyable one-star coffee.

Not all children's books are picture books of course, so here's a review of a middle grade novel, Wily and the Canine Pandemic by Michelle Weidenbenner. It's a tale that starts oddly with the point of view of a dog (or does it start with a poem...), but it quickly becomes the adventures of a misunderstood boy genius who loves dogs, some misunderstood creatures from mythology, plenty of science fiction action, and... well, it's just plain fun. Plus there's the lesson that being misunderstood doesn't mean you have to misunderstand, and persistence just might may off. Enjoy this one with a well-balanced three-star coffee.

And not all books about children are children's books. I'll add a few more reviews here, starting with an adult novel about a mother with an autistic child. Yes, I'm personally interested in autism, so the topic was bound to catch my attention. But Daniel isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach isn't a personal experience story or a self-help book. In fact, it would probably be risky to use it for self-help as, among other things, it explores the honest doubts a mother might have about the vaccines and the prognoses given her child. But it's an enthralling novel, filled with memorable characters, humor, pathos and hope. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

There are picture books written for adults not children as well, such as Uvi Poznansky's Inspired by Art series. I've just enjoyed Fighting Goliath and Fall of a Giant, amazing collections of images, ordered by storyline rather than by artists, and hauntingly portraying the battle of David against the giant. These picture books form part of the author's David Chronicles. Quotations and comments with the pictures bring artists and art to life, inspiring the reader to see David through different eyes, and surely enticing them to read the novels (which I love!). Enjoy this elegant art with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

And finally, there Christopher Geoffrey McPherson's beautiful little volume, the James Murray Mysteries Companion. Like Uvi Poznansky's Inspired by Art books, this book contains the pictures that inspired the author, together with his research on the history, people, movies, buildings and dreams of old Los Angeles. It's a cool book to read, a great book for LA history references, and a perfect addition to the series. Enjoy with some more elegant complex four-star coffee.

So... will the sun come out this afternoon? Will the basement stay dry if it rains (it has done so far--I think we're winning)? Will I ever get around to writing the rest of my overdue book reviews? I'm working on it...


Thursday, March 2, 2017

What if styles make more difference than style?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Julie Ann Wambach, author of Games of Make-Believe, to my blog. I read and reviewed Games of Make-Believe a little while ago (click on the link for my review), and I was intrigued by the different styles and voices used in the novel. Getting the chance to ask the author why she wrote it that way is a real treat. So, pull up a chair, pour yourself a coffee, and see what she has to say. If you leave your own questions in the comments I'm sure she will answer them.

So, Julie, thank you for joining me here, and please can you tell us:

When writing Games of Make-Believe, why did you decide to write in multiple styles?

To use multiple styles, as I did in Games of Make-Believe, is not new, but readers seldom encounter such a technique. Some readers, as Sheila has, recognize and question the use of multiple styles, while other readers either don’t notice it or instinctively reject it. I agree with those who criticize multiple styles that the technique challenges strong character development and tidy endings. I knew Games of Make-Believe would encounter such responses when I decided to use several styles. Here’s why I did it, anyway.

For me, the decision was focused on Games of Make-Believe being the story of a dysfunctional family with several characters agreeing to pretend they are the perfect family, until it becomes impossible to continue. I wanted subtle family dynamics, rather than the easier overt violence usually imbedded in family stories, and the fairytale feature was there from the start. To describe the family, I needed to show in what specific time with what specific pressures were family members impacted.

These basics meant don’t use a single point of view because a family is not one person. It meant don’t use a third person narrator with multiple points of view throughout. The voice of an omniscient therapist gave me the willies. It meant no series of first person chapters because the real outside elements would be distorted.
           
So, I decided on snapshots. You might see my design differently if you consider Games of Make-Believe a series of short stories with recurring characters told in several styles. Think of A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Eagan.
           
This decision opened the possibility of varied points of view, as well as several persons, voices, and tenses. I didn’t make separate style decisions arbitrarily. I thought about each part, sometimes for months, and I often tried other styles before I knew I had the best way to tell that portion of the book. You might notice I even used a newspaper to show how Hal really received his honor. You can bet he’d tell a very different story. Renny, as any committed artist, is always in present tense. The fairytale portions are always in third person omniscient because that’s folk tale style. There are even two groups that speak as one in first person plural.

Open up, dear writer. Give yourself room to do more. To write this way is horrendously challenging, but it offers you vast opportunities for artistic expression. Especially when no single traditional style would work.

Thank you Julie. I love your reason for Renny to be present tense! Very cool. And I remember noticing the third person omniscient fairytale portions. It all works really well, and it's fascinating to see how you crafted all the pieces and characters together. Yes indeed, a family is not one person. And yes indeed, we should challenge ourselves! Thank you Julie for challenging us with this explanation, and for your novel.

My thanks to the Cadence group for putting me in touch with this author.



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
ASIN: B01MQGHGBH
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.

ABOUT THE BOOK
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.

WHERE TO FIND THE BOOK

Amazon kindle

 Nook    

Kobo


 ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.

WHERE TO FIND THE AUTHOR

AND WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE







WITH THANKS to

b00k r3vi3w Tours
Website * Facebook * Twitter

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.