Saturday, January 28, 2017

What Have Birds And Puppies To Do With Childrens Books?

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

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

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

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

I'm sure I must have read more children's books recently, but my records are out of date, my to-read list is buried in emails, and my basement ...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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Which comes first, the mystery or the murder?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Who Will You Meet in 2017?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

What Might The Future Bring?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What did you read in 2016 ?

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

217 pages

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

Sweet Memories by Steena Holmes
Krim Du Shaw by Talia Haven

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

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

The Seadog by Aaron Paul Lazar
President Lincoln by Demi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reluctant Savior by Ralene Burke
Hot Start by David Freed

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

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

OtherWhere by Garry Grierson
Time Assassins by R. Kyle Hannah

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

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

Paralyzed by Alana Terry
Exchange by Dale Cozort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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