Saturday, September 26, 2020

New Release Sample: VIRTUALLY LONDON


More important than getting Doni away from the house while Gram took care of serious business was introducing Doni to Angela, the owner of Divine's Emporium. If there was something "broken" inside her, Angela would sense it first and get to work, and give us some clues about what to do to help her.

Granddad always said Angela was the heart of the town. I was always ready for another excuse to go to Divine's and look for treasures. Introducing Doni to one of my favorite places in town was just one more thing I could do to help her settle in and feel welcome. We had a line of credit at Divine's. There was always something new and wonderful to find there, and Gram never got mad when I brought home something. Other girls liked shoes and clothes and makeup. I liked the odd treasures and books and just digging in the back rooms and dreaming. Mostly dreaming that one of these days, a sleek new computer like no one had ever seen outside an electronics show would mysteriously appear on one of the shelves, and I could bring it home for a song.

It also helped that I was best friends with Bethany Miller, Angela's goddaughter. Since Bethany almost grew up there, when she wasn't at her dad's diner, I nearly grew up there, too.

"You like books?" I said, about the hundredth question I had asked since we took off across town on Uncle Jinx's ancient mopeds. The motors were quiet enough we could talk, and there was hardly any traffic because everybody was either in school or at work.

About then, I realized I had missed the Yearbook party. Not good. But on the plus side, I had missed a lot of boring end-of-the-year activities in my other classes. Some of our teachers gave us quizzes that didn't affect our grades at all, and they thought we didn't know it.

"Love books." A little spark of interest lit Doni's eyes, and I nearly fell off my moped in shock.

"Great. Angela has a huge book room. You can take anything you want. But show me what you pick, because we might already have it at home. Most of the rooms on the third floor are library."

"Really?" Doni put both feet down and the moped stopped short, whirring a little before the engine shut off. Her eyes were wide and she had color in her cheeks for the first time since her hot bath faded.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

New Release Sample: VIRTUALLY LONDON


Gram fussed over Doni. She called her Doni, which the fuzzy-headed, exhausted, brave little critter seemed to like. From the moment the family lawyer retrieved her from the authorities who had custody of her after the accident, she had been hearing "London," spoken with tones of disapproval and command. Later, when she had nightmares and talked in her sleep about those horrid months of hanging in limbo, I learned no one ever sent her out of the room before they talked about what a burden and bother she was.

The rest of the morning was spent in getting Doni settled in the room next to mine, digging through the attic and the cellar for some furniture, getting her a long soak in the old-fashioned claw-foot tub with orange-scented bath salts, and then filling her up with a huge breakfast feast. Gram was just like Mrs. Zephyr, and believed in healing through lots of good cooking.

Doni was pretty quiet the whole time we got her settled. Every once in a while, I looked over and saw her lip trembling a little, but she never cried, never whined, never said much of anything. She also never smiled, except when Gram hugged her and Uncle Jinx swore for three minutes straight after hearing how the Hallidays didn't even have the decency to deliver a nine-year-old when they relinquished custody of her. They sent her by plane, alone, and then she figured out how to take a bus from the airport. I think the fact that someone got really cussing hot furious on her behalf raised her self-esteem about fifty points.

After Doni's bath, Gram sent us to Divine's Emporium to do some shopping. She wanted Doni to decorate her new room to suit herself, and get more furniture than just a bed, a chest of drawers, and some shelves. Besides, wandering around Divine's would distract both of us while she and Uncle Jinx got to work on tying up all the legal details. Gram went to school with Mr. Carr of Carr, Cooper and Crenshaw, the big-wig law firm in town, so he was our family lawyer.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Off the Bookshelf: MAKE MINE MAGIC, by Shanna Swendson


Audible, Only From Audible


If you haven't read the Enchanted Inc., series by Shanna Swendson, you really do need to. Fun!

She's got a thing for ordinary, brainy Texas girls falling into a magical community in New York -- because that happens in the Enchanted series, about a company that specializes in creating spells for the magically gifted community -- and it happens here, with Claire, our heroine.

Claire is in New York for her honeymoon ... except the groom didn't make it. And she isn't even two days into her trip before she's starting to think she dodged a bullet. The guy fled during the rehearsal, and when he didn't show up for the ceremony, she turned it into a party for her friends, then decided to go off and enjoy the trip that she put together. And she is enjoying herself -- except for every time she has to explain that yes, reservations were for two, but no, the other party didn't make it.

So when she helps a blind woman who is knocked over in what appears to be a failed mugging attempt, Claire is ready to make friends and have some company. And next thing she knows, people are coming out of the woodwork to make friends with her and invite her to lavish parties, and gift her with ball gowns so she's properly dressed. And then she finds the expensive-looking, antique-looking amulet that the little old blind lady slipped in her sweater pocket, and the more questions Claire asks, the faster and deeper she is pulled into the invisible society of wizards and magically gifted and a struggle to determine who is next to rule the wizards of New York.

Being a librarian, Claire knows how to do her research, and she's in her element when she finds a doorway no one else can see in the New York Public Library, leading to a hidden library of magical lore. Look out New York, look out wizards, this Texas girl is going to fix things before her honeymoon is over. 

Major fun, and just as satisfying as the Enchanted, Inc. books. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

New Release Sample: VIRTUALLY LONDON


Jinx roared up the driveway from the shed in the back, where he stored his motorcycle, and skidded to a stop in the gravel. He gunned the engine a few times, twisting the handlebars and gave me his, "Weren’t you in a hurry?" look. I signaled for him to cut and he did. Jinx was a lot more alert than people gave him credit for. He only pretended to be off in another dimension to irritate people.

"It's London." I pointed at her.

Jinx shrugged.

"Aunt Lenore's London."

Jinx jumped off his motorcycle so fast he almost knocked it over. He was up on that front porch with such speed, the force of the wind from his movement made the screen door bang open and then shut again. He grabbed Doni by her shoulders and turned her around and out of the shadows of the porch.

"Hey, sugar," he said, in a thick molasses drawl. For some reason, he always talked like a good-old-boy to anyone under four feet tall. Don't ask why. "Where's your folks?"

That was so not the thing to say.

Doni's eyes welled up with tears and her lower lip trembled. She didn't burst into tears. Doni was never a crier and certainly never a wailer or a sniveler. I didn't know that then. All I knew was that my cousin had showed up on the porch without any warning, without any parents, and looked like she was going to burst into tears. I panicked.

"Gram!" I grabbed Doni's shoulder to drag her into the house.

I didn't get to school, and I ended up sharing my bag of treats with Doni, which helped. She liked those particular candy bars. Candy at eight in the morning helped her relax a little and open up and talk. My theory was, she figured someone who would unload a whole gob of candy bars on her had to be friendly.

Gram was happy to see her, even though Doni brought the news that Aunt Lenore and Uncle Thad had died. More than four months before. The Hallidays couldn't be bothered to notify our family. Aunt Lenore's maiden name wasn't known to the foreign media, and the death of a do-gooder scholar who never caused any scandals to report didn't create much of a blip to the media in the U.S., either.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

New Release Sample: VIRTUALLY LONDON


It took about three seconds for what Doni said to sink through my gotta-hurry-for-the-last-day-of-school panic. I had an excuse. The fuzzy-headed, awkward kid in front of me was not the little girl in a Minnie Mouse costume in the frame on Gram's mantle. Aunt Lenore wasn't real big on photos. She wasn't real big on writing home, either.

"You're London? My cousin? Lenore and Thad's daughter?"

My first thought was to ask where her parents were, because obviously they weren't anywhere in sight. I liked Aunt Lenore and Uncle Thad, although I had never seen them face-to-face. They called whenever they were in the States, going from one investigative assignment to another, and sent pictures maybe once every twenty months or so. Usually those were pictures someone else took. They had an aversion to cameras that weren't used for their research. They sent cool presents from places no tourist ever visited, and books by the ton. All of us learned to read at least two languages besides English so we could make use of those books.

I had the sense not to ask Doni where her folks were, while my brain skidded through questions and possibilities and discarded most of them in the space of a few seconds. I'm not bragging when I say that. Gram claims I got electrocuted by a computer when I was a baby, crawling all over Granddad's desk and teething on the mouse cord. I've had an affinity for the frustrating, fascinating gizmos ever since. Part of that affinity meant my brain wanted to process a dozen different tracks at the same time, searching for information. Unlike computers, I had a tendency to get sidetracked by anything that caught my attention. Call it ADHD if you want, but I always preferred calling it the Neighborlee Effect.

(See how distracted I just got, telling you about me, when this is Doni's story?)

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Off the Bookshelf: CRYOBURN, by Lois McMaster Bujold



This just shows how long it's been since I visited the world of the Vor lords and Barrayar.

I was so thrilled to find a book marked "A NEW Miles Vorkosigan Novel," but then I looked inside for the pub date and saw ... 2010 ... Yeah, I'm really behind on some of my favorite characters.

Well, I knew it wasn't really a NEW book since I found it at my favorite guilty pleasure used bookstore ... *sigh*

For those who don't know who Miles Vorkosigan is ... there's not enough room in this blog posting to bring you up to speed AND tell you about the book. Basically, Miles is a maniac genius when it comes to strategy and schemes and military maneuvers. At 17 he took over a band of space mercenaries and worked his way up to being the secret weapon of his emperor, and when he had a near-death experience (which very strongly relates to the big knotty problem of this book, with cryogenics and shady dealings of those who make it a big business) -- heck, he DID die, but was revived, with a few problems that led to him essentially retiring from the mercenary business and being an Auditor for the emperor. (In fact, the short blurb for that particular book says: Miles hits thirty. Thirty hits back.) Besides his regular seizures as a result of that whole experience, he was born with brittle bones thanks to an attempt to kill his parents when he was in utero, and he grew up handicapped and looked down on (and not just because he was short) by his very Russian-based society, and the guy is just HYPER!

Gotta love him. Okay, on to the story.

"Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death." That's the first line of the cover flap. So Miles comes to the planet for a conference on cryogenics, because his emperor is smart enough to know this booming business is going to affect the Barrayaran Empire, sooner or later. When protesters kidnap a number of attendees and Miles ends up lost in an underground, city-sized labyrinth of the sleeping/cold/dead, he stumbles upon the darker, nastier side of the "sleep until we find a cure for what's killing you" business. And of course, being Miles, he gets involved, and manages to twist things around to profit someone: Barrayar, his clone brother, Mark (another story, that ties into Miles getting killed and revived) and various other business associates from other stories.

*sigh* I love Barrayar, the whole convoluted series, and maniac Miles whom no one quite understands, but they love him, even though he frustrates everyone he comes into contact with ... 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

New Release Sample: VIRTUALLY LONDON


"Does Mrs. Longfellow live here?" this skinny little kid with bottle bottom glasses half-whispered.

"Yeah. Why you looking for her?"

Hey, I was just a tenth-grader in a big hurry. So sue me for sloppy speaking.

"I'm London," she whispered, and raked one hand through white-blond hair that stuck out from her head like dandelion fuzz.

"Hi, London. Nice to meet you. I'm her granddaughter, Athena."

Yes, the penchant for weird names runs in my family. Doni was named London because she was born there. I was named Athena because my flaky mother, Portia--who went to a sperm bank when her biological clock went off instead of putting up with the mess of the dating scene--thought that would influence me to be wise.

She forgot Athena was a goddess of war and, according to some of the stories, a real smart-alec with an attitude problem and a penchant for nasty jokes. Not a good role model. Mom never figured that part out before she dumped me on Gram and joined the Peace Corps when I was six. The last I heard from her, she was running an orphanage among the former cannibals in Papua New Guinea. Somewhere along the way, she figured it was easier to be a mother to twenty kids than to one.

I never said logic ran in my family.