Monday, December 14, 2015
All the fun of getting new books to read -- without the guilt of spending money!
And another bonus -- books you know you won't read again get passed on to new homes, and people who might just decide they're keepers.
At the December meeting of my ACFW chapter, we had a book exchange. I decided since I had so many books still waiting to be read, I wouldn't bring anything home. Until ..... I saw a Debbie Macomber book was in the pile. A book I hadn't read yet.
Well, that's not hard -- she has so MANY published now. Even if you have all the Cedar Cove books and snatch up every new Blossom Street hot off the presses, there are still a lot more books to find and read -- and keep.
THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS is actually 2 novellas, plus a knitting pattern and Christmas recipes. What fun!
The first novella -- the title story -- is about Cassie, who is tired of being lonely and wants to find her perfect match for the perfect Christmas. The trials and mishaps she endures at the hands of a professional matchmaker are funny and cringe-worthy at the same time. Everybody has been in a situation similar to at least one Cassie has to endure. At the end, of course, she finds true love. But she has to fight for him -- against him!
The second novella, CAN THIS BE CHRISTMAS? follows a handful of people stuck on a train when the storm of the century interferes with plans to travel home for Christmas. At first they're all caught up in their own concerns, sorrows, and problems, but as they band together to make the situation less miserable, and as a few Christmas miracles happen, a miserable night stranded in a storm turns into a celebration, providing healing and hope.
Well, what else do you expect from Debbie Macomber? Add it to your collection.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Ain't it swell?
Readin' good books
by a friend?
Couldn't resist that...
I've been waiting a while to read this book. I do try to pick up copies of books by my writing friends ... but with so many books already on my shelves and in my various reading apps on my iPad ... not so easy actually READING those books. (You'd think reading 1 book per week would be pretty easy to do, wouldn't you? HAH!)
HOG INSANE is the first book in the Denton and Alex Davies mystery series by Carole Brown, a fellow member of ACFW-Ohio. It's been glaring at me every time I opened up my Kindle app for what feels like months, tapping a metaphorical toe and saying, "Well? When's it gonna be MY turn?"
Well worth waiting for -- but take my advice -- don't wait! Read this one, because the next one is hot off the press, BAT CRAZY, and I know it's going to be just as much fun, with a healthy dose of "Don't go in that dark building!" and nail-biting and "Come on, come on, don't trust him!"
Denton and Alex are a newly retired couple who have set off across the country in an RV. He's pretty happy about it -- she ... not so much. Personally, I think Alex nagging Denton about eating more healthy is her way of getting back at him for dragging her around the country. The "hog" in the title is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and figuring out what happened to it and why and where it is after the rider is killed is just a small part of the mystery.
I like Alex and Denton, their byplay, their affection and frustration toward each other, their partnership. It was a fun book, even though there was lying and murder and threats and danger, and even one nasty guy who took a shot at their dog! Read the book, get hooked on Carole's characters and the series. You won't regret it.
Monday, November 30, 2015
The latest installment in the Stephanie Plum series is another grin-gasp-cringe-giggle-gulp adventure. There's a sense that Stephanie is starting to grow up, that she's putting more thought into her adventures, even when she stumbles into things that most of us would avoid at all costs. She has a couple of close calls in this one -- and honestly, sometimes you just want to reach through the pages of the book and slap Morelli until he gets some sense. Yeah, he's the grown-up in the partnership, or at least, the hopeful partnership, but ... well, he's a guy. And he's Italian, so that explains a lot of the brain damage. (Hey, I'm Italian, so I can say that, it's from experience! Italian men are ... well, let's just say sometimes I really wonder how Christopher Columbus got across the Atlantic, y'know?)
Anyway .... yeah, this is another FUN book. A fast read. A treat and a reward for me getting some major writing and editing chores done. There are a couple homicides, a not-so-grieving widow, a fraternity that makes Animal House seem a little tame, some wacko faculty and administration people, a plan to spread the plague, missing people, and the usual assortment of wackos that Stephanie has to track down and return to jail. Along with more amazing costume changes by Lula and several of Ranger's cars get destroyed yet again. I hope he has good auto insurance ...
What can I say? I never get tired of this stuff.
Monday, November 23, 2015
That's why I'm thrilled that another book in the series is coming out in 2016. The wait has been way too long.
Meanwhile, we have this lovely in-between tale, where many of the characters we've met in previous stories, as Kit and Nita learn their duties and grow up and juggle being teens with saving worlds and sometimes the universe, participate.
Because this one is a HUGE intervention.
A planet's moon is about to literally fall down on top of it. Ecologic disaster. Extinction of several races that share the world. While it isn't easy by any definition to shift the entire eco-system of a planet to other planets that have been prepared to take the many varieties of life on this world -- and it's not easy to prepare those worlds to take them -- it's do-able.
What doesn't seem to be do-able is convincing some of the residents of this world to leave ... They know their world is on the verge of death, which means them, too, but they don't want to leave. Finding out why, and finding out a way to persuade these people to choose life, is part of the assignment for Nita and Kit and Ronan and Dairine and Tom and Carl and the rest of the gang, from Earth and from other worlds. Can they do it?
Like, duh -- READ THE BOOK and find out.
Umm, Diane? Please write faster??????
Monday, November 2, 2015
When I realized that the newest In Death book had been released, I went to Overdrive and was able to access my local library system and immediately download the book and start reading. Yeah, I confess, I kind of pushed aside my current Work-in-Progress that I hope to get done by the end of the month, but as Eve Dallas learned near the end of the book, a little break from the pressure and time crunch really does do a lot of good.
DEVOTED IN DEATH is about the hunt for two -- quite frankly -- sick young idiots who think they're in love. They may be devoted to each other, and they may be jumping each other's bones every chance they get, but the fact that they get their "high" after torturing and killing people .... nuh uh, that ain't love, baby. Darryl and Ella are two selfish young twits who set off across the country on a crime spree, and when it turns bloody and they discover that the excitement of blood and death aids in the sex, well, that's all the justification they need.
It's up to Eve Dallas and her team to identify these two monsters, find their lair, and stop them before they can use up and murder their latest torture victims. The suspense of the ticking clock alone was enough to keep me reading, but what brings me back time and again to the series is the development of the relationships between the characters, and the growth of Dallas and Roarke in their relationship and their marriage. She's growing as a person, learning to see things through others' eyes, even though she still doesn't quite get all the friendship and marriage "rules." The people, the growing "family" that has collected around Homicide Lt. Eve Dallas, make up the best part of the series.
Monday, October 26, 2015
DODGER, by Terry Pratchett, revises the world and times of Charles Dickens, so that the famous author actually interacts with the Artful Dodger, known as Dodger by everyone around him. Dodger is our hero -- as indicated by the title. He makes his living by going through the sewers of London, scavenging what other people lose or throw away, and making use of them, or getting the found items to people who can make use of them. He knows the underground of London like the back of his hand.
This comes in handy when he witnesses a young lady being brutalized and intervenes. Suddenly he is a hero, and in protecting the helpless young lady who happened to marry the wrong prince and get on the wrong side of his powerful father and interfere in the wrong way with political machinations and alliances and marriages ... well, Dodge finds himself suddenly in the spotlight and interfering with a lot of other things going on above ground, and meeting famous people, such as Charlies Dickens and Disraeli.
The Pratchett wit and social commentary and tongue-in-cheek humor are still there, just *sigh* toned down from what we're used to in the Discworld books. Still a fascinating story, and further proof positive that the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett was a master of his craft. He shall be greatly missed.
Monday, October 19, 2015
I love stories set in a familiar setting, that keep taking us back to see what else is happening in the lives of old friends, and introduce us to new friends we've met along the way. While we watch Lydia and her husband deal with the emotional problems of their adopted daughter and the heartache of her mother's slowly deteriorating physical and mental health, we also get to peek into the life of another old friend, Bethanne, who remade her life when her husband walked out on her and their children.
Bethanne's life is good. She is now married to a man she met while on a road trip -- another story -- and their long-distance commuter marriage is taking a toll on them. Not to mention that her ex-husband is willing to do anything, no matter how underhanded and manipulative, to win her back. It isn't that the selfish jerk really loves her, but now that she's successful and has proven she can live without him, she has value again. She's nothing more than a prize. It doesn't matter that she's married -- if he wants her, he's going to get her back. Or so he thinks ...
Then there's Lauren, who has decided she has waited long enough for her local celebrity boyfriend to grow up and marry her. She can see that he will never put their life together ahead of his career -- and of course, as soon as she breaks up with him, he's willing to pop the question. Too late! Lauren has found someone else, and they "click" from the moment they see each other from across the jewelry store where she works. Of course, the ex-boyfriend doesn't know how to take "go away" for an answer, and then there is all the baggage both of them are carrying. But this is Debbie Macomber, and once her characters grow up and learn their lesson, they earn their happily ever after.
Always a treat to return to Blossom Street!
Monday, October 12, 2015
It's even more rare when I chuck all the items on my do list for the day and just lie down on my couch and read the whole day away. What makes the experience even sweeter is when it's a book I heard about when it was just a twinkle in the author's eye, and a chuckle in her voice as she talked about her idea!
HAND ME DOWN HUSBAND
Rosanna's story could have taken place in the next county. The farming community has its share of characters -- the oblivious, the caring, the self-important, the interfering, the ones who can't say no, the grieving, the lonely, and the ones who care to the point of frustrating the ones who really don't want their help. Yeah, you've been in a community like that. Then there are the people you just want to grab by their ankles and slap them against the wall until they straighten out.
Which just proves Rosanna knows how to write characters that are real, and make you care about them.
Suzanne is a teacher in a small church-run school who cares about her students, adored by her students, and overlooked and unappreciated by everyone else -- her family, the school board, and people in church who only see her when they need help but never notice when she needs help. She has had to fight -- quietly -- for what she has in life, and has made some resolutions she sticks to, no matter how inconvenient. Such as no hand-me-downs -- she's not taking anyone's discards anymore, in terms of clothes, furniture, and even boyfriends.
Mitch is a widower, going on two years when the story starts. When he is talked into taking over as principal of the school, he notices Suzanne and really sees her like no one has in her entire life. He appreciates her, he sees how she is taken advantage of, As they change from co-workers to friends to something deeper and sweeter, they face a number of obstacles -- the difference in their ages, interference from his family, matchmaking friends who want Suzanne with someone else, and their own still-healing wounds.
Lovely debut novel -- and I'm not just saying that because she's my friend.
Monday, October 5, 2015
MAGGIE FOR HIRE: Maggie MacKay, Magical Tracker #1
Maggie MacKay is, as the series title says, a Magical Tracker. She jumps back and forth between Earth and the Other Earth, working as a bounty hunger for magical creatures -- like vampires and ghouls and such. Think a smarter, more talented Stephanie Plum with black leather, stakes, and holy water.
Told in first person, there's plenty of snark, and snippets of Maggie's background and memories. She has an interesting family -- including the evil uncle she never knew about until she has to keep him from tearing down the border between the ordinary Earth we all know and the Other Earth -- which could make a lot of problems. One tough chick with an attitude, a seer for a mother, an ordinary, almost too cute twin sister, and other assorted problems. Then there's the too-gorgeous Elf she's forced to accept as her partner on this mission ....
Lots of fun. I plan on reading other books in the series, just for fun. Or maybe a reward for finishing major writing projects. After I get about 20 books off my to-be-read shelf ...
Monday, September 28, 2015
GHOST BOX tends more toward the X-Files side of things.
This book and author were talked about a lot at the recent Realm Makers conference, and not just because the cool cover art was a finalist for the Parable Award. The book really pushes it into Christian horror -- yeah, there is such a category -- and spiritual warfare. Beyond Peretti.
What's a ghost box, anyway? It's a means of hearing the voices of the dead, trying to communicate with the living world. And a gigundous one is being built in LA, as a building. Where else would it be built? It outdoes that huge spire in Dubai. Yeah, that big. And weird things are going on underground, and strange creepies are being drawn to the tower in preparation for the grand opening. Think the explosion in the first Ghostbusters movie, cubed, to the 10th power, and remove all the cuteness. Yeah. Like that.
Reagan Moon, our hero, is a reporter for a paranormal newspaper called the Blue Crescent. The thing is, he's pretty much a skeptic. At least, until he gets drawn into the weirdness going on with the tower, with the serial murders of mediums throughout the city, and the murder of his girlfriend a year before. That's just the tip of the slimy, occultic iceberg.
Just shows how good this book is, that despite knowing it's going to get really freaky in a few more pages, I kept reading. And not just because our book club chose this book to discuss this month. I could follow Reagan Moon on a few more adventures. No problem at all.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Ever pick up a book, suspecting you were going to argue with the author or at least get uncomfortable reading his arguments? This is one of them. MacArthur confronts some of the problems we have in the church today, pointing out the infiltration of poison, weakness, heresy and other types of attacks which are the many weapons of Satan to destroy the church, destroy our witness, and make us ineffective, destroy the salvation message, make us look like idiots in the world. And thanks to the feminist movement, make us look like sexist bigots on top of it. Oh, heaven forbid we should be sexists. Get a clue: men and women ARE constructed differently and have different minds and different abilities and different responses to the world. They are made to work in HARMONY, not unison. Like, duh!
There were places I did argue with him, but he brings out scripture and looks at what it says, rather than doing what so many teachers on both sides of the issue do, and decide what they WANT scripture to say, and then twist and ignore and rewrite and add to what's there. I read a review of one of my books and I was horrified when the reviewer made reference to events that weren't even in the book. Obviously she had been thinking of someone else's book, or decided she wanted those scenes in there, and she was going to act like they were ... yes, weird. But isn't that what so many people nowadays are doing to the Bible? They chop out what doesn't fit how they want God to be, and use the rest of scripture as a weapon to dominate and attack and browbeat anyone who disagrees.
I had to rethink some of my ideas about women's roles and men's roles in the church, but found some clarification. There are many roles men and women can both fill OUTSIDE the church. There's nothing wrong with women writing books and teaching, and speaking at crusades and revivals -- but those aren't worship services, those aren't part of the regular church structure. They're special events.
Here's how I see it: women have stepped into leadership roles in the church and replaced men for TWO reasons: first, the men have wimped out, gotten lazy, and put their own desires first, so that there is a vacuum in the church leadership. And second, men have used the Bible as a weapon (ignoring their responsibilities and focusing on their authority) to crush women and abuse them, so women have fought back. Hey, if England had treated the Colonies properly instead of being abusive and greedy and dictatorial, there wouldn't have been the American Revolution. Like, duh!
If men follow the example of Christ as they fulfill their responsibilities in the leadership of the church, then women won't have any problem acting as the Bride of Christ.
Monday, September 14, 2015
Mary Ellis and I are part of the Ohio chapter of ACFW, plus we're geographically close enough we can get together semi-regularly and talk about writing. If you're a writer and you don't have writing friends close by, FIND SOME. There is nothing more encouraging and stimulating than people who know what you're going through -- even if they don't write the same type of books as you.
Anyway .... A LITTLE BIT OF CHARM is part of Mary's New Beginning Series, featuring Amish sisters whose lives are torn apart when their parents die in a fire. They create their own lives, taking chances, exploring different Amish communities and cultures, and even follow their hearts and dreams. Rachel is the third King daughter, and she decides to have an adventure after the wedding of her older sister, Nora. Instead of heading home to Lancaster, she decides to go to Kentucky -- why? Because she loves horses and wants to be near Thoroughbreds, maybe even get to work with them.
Rachel gets her chance, gets a job at a horse farm ... and soon enough finds herself pulled between two worlds. What has a stronger hold on her heart? Her Amish heritage, her family, her faith, her love for horses, her non-Amish friends, her growing comfort in non-Amish ways and clothes? And who of her three hopeful suitors will win her heart?
I'm not gonna tell you. But I will tell you that even though Amish romances are definitely not my "thing" (even though I do have plans to write a book with some Amish characters in them someday) I do look forward to reading more of Mary's books. And not just because she's my friend!
Monday, September 7, 2015
Yeah, Cinderella and other faerie tales that promise happily-ever-after without considering all the problems that arise when you actually have to LIVE with the guy ... mess us up.
Then, as Darby, the heroine of CINDERELLA SCREWED ME OVER, discovered ... all those princes turned out to be problems in the making. She's been hurt, betrayed, abandoned by so many guys who started out as a faerie tale prince, that she's somewhat cynical. So when Jake comes into her life and rescues her shoe and then her ... she's hesitant to take the chance that this time, he's the real deal.
Throughout the book, as Darby runs into situations that remind her of the un-princely princes in her life, she offers readers a case study, referring to the faerie tale and just what prince un-charming did. The entire book is clever and fun. Well worth curling up on the couch on a rainy day or taking to the beach, or in my case, sitting under the ceiling fan indoors in the shade on a hot summer day.
Monday, August 31, 2015
Jo Marie is our host at the B&B that she bought with the insurance money when her soldier husband died in Afghanistan. She is still healing from the loss, and her pain is stirred up when, just for a short time, she is given the amazing hope that maybe Paul didn't die in the helicopter crash, but has been healing and making his way out of the country.
Meanwhile, a new set of guests are facing ghosts from their pasts, old pain, new chances at love, failed dreams and new dreams -- basically straightening out their lives and hearts. Expect a big sigh of satisfaction when you close the book. And some frustration, because the publisher has enclosed a "taste" or sneak preview of the next book, and of course, it stops at just the right place where you want to keep reading!
As always, Debbie Macomber delivers. A good book for curling up in the evening and escaping for a couple hours at a time.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Karen Hancock has created a solid, multi-layered, complex world in this first book in the Legends of the Guardian King series. THE LIGHT OF EIDON deals with prophecy and politics and treachery and the search for truth and loyalty and hope and ... yeah, there's a LOT to take in. Intense.
Our hero is a young prince named Abramm who has gone into the holy orders. He doesn't see himself as a warrior and politician like his many older brothers, and has a true hunger and thirst to know Eidon, the god of his land of Kiriath. However, on the verge of taking his vows, Abramm's world starts to fall apart. He learns that his family has been decimated and he is next in line to take the throne if anything happens to the current king. It doesn't matter that he doesn't want the throne, there are those who consider him a threat, and others who consider him a pawn.
Before he knows it, Abramm is fleeing for his life, not sure who to trust -- and ends up on a slave ship, bound for a brutal land where evil forces rule and even success in the game of combat can result in punishment. While Abramm fights for his life, and struggles with painful spiritual questions as he doubts Eidon and everything he has believed in, his twin sister hunts for him, to rescue him. She must deal with her own questions and crises and lack of faith, as well as a society that denies her everything she took for granted as a princess and a free woman.
I hope I didn't give too much away -- and I'm frustrated that I have so many more books waiting to be read! It's going to be a while before I can justify buying the next volume in the series. But the wait is going to be well worth it.
Monday, August 17, 2015
In this fourth installment of the Heroes of Olympus series, the follow-up to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, Rick Riordan endeavors to find out. Ouch! Talk about your past coming back to bite you! At one point, Percy and Annabeth -- who have fallen (okay, she was pulled, and he jumped in after her) into Tartarus -- run into some nasty creatures who inflict on them all the dying curses of all the monsters and villains they have fought and defeated in the past.
Let me tell you, that's a LOT of curses, and a lot of suffering.
Annabeth and Percy struggle through Tartarus -- a place that makes Dante's Inferno seem like a visit to the best amusement park in the world -- while their friends left behind on the Argo deal with one nemesis and attack and challenge after another. I know that authors are encouraged to be cruel to their characters, to put them through the wringer, but ... I'm glad I'm only reading about the trials and tribulations of the children of the Greco-Roman gods, not participating with them.
Another enthralling read, with more character growth and discovery for these teenagers who are learning the hard way how to be heroes.
I also learned the joys of using Overdrive with this book -- an app that lets me borrow e-books from my local library. Even better, if there's a waiting list for the book I want, I can put my name on the waiting list, and it delivers the book to my electronic bookshelf for me. Nice!
Monday, August 10, 2015
I was perusing the stacks at Half Price Books, looking for research books for writing Steampunk, and found the Agatha H series on an end cap. I am definitely going to have to go back and get the other two books that were available. This series is a fun read. As I understand it, it ties into the Foglios' Girl Genius series of graphic novels. I could be wrong ... But I'll have fun learning where I'm wrong!
In the Steam world of Agatha H, there are the Sparks -- technical geniuses, creative, crazy, obsessed, and sometimes dangerous. Think mad scientists on steroids, so obsessed with their inventions they don't realize they're giving their monsters an order to destroy them. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. They rule -- or used to rule -- their own countries. Then came the Other, with slaver wasps and hive engines, turning people into zombie-like creatures and devastating civilization -- and wiping out the Sparks and their kingdoms. Baron Wulfenbach is out to save the world, taking many small kingdoms under his control/protection. It needs saving, but maybe not by his methods. We'll see. Our heroine, Agatha, attends a university, works as assistant to one of the lesser Sparks who has been taken under the control and protection of Baron Wulfenbach, and fights to translate her creative dreams into reality. Without much success. Then comes the day when her entire world is destroyed, her foster parents go on the run, and Agatha is mistakenly taken aboard the Baron's flying city, to use her as leverage against a mercenary she just met that day, whom the Baron thinks is her sweetheart. Well, people do get the wrong impression when they catch you running around your workshop covered in grease and wearing nothing but your underwear ... ah, these creative geniuses....
That's just the start of the fun and danger and melodrama and adventure and a touch of romance -- and a lot of stereotypes turned on their heads. Slowly, most often by accident, Agatha learns the truth about her life, the lies that have been woven around her to protect her, and it's a lot of fun to follow along. Read the book -- pray for a movie!
Monday, August 3, 2015
Homicide Lt. Eve Dallas has a fan -- from the title, an obsessed fan. Someone who thinks she/he and Eve have a lot in common. So much, that he/she is going around systematically eliminating anyone who was disrespectful to Eve, who got in the way of her doing her job, of bringing true justice to futuristic New York.
The problem, as insightful Dr. Mira points out (I wish I had a Dr. Mira in my life, y'know?), is that eventually Eve's "true and loyal friend" is going to be disappointed in her. Eventually, in the course of doing her job, Eve will disillusion her obsessed fan, and he/she will decide to punish Eve. And what happens if this fan decides that Eve is being held back by the people in her life, and it's time to eliminate them? After all, Eve doesn't need anyone else, just this true and loyal friend ....
Shades of Stephen King's "Misery," with an obsessed fan who wants things all her way ...
Get ready for another visit to futuristic New York and characters we've come to know and love, as they race against time and an unhealthy dollop of insanity. Read it in whatever version you can get your hands on.
Monday, July 27, 2015
THE INN AT ROSE HARBOR takes us back to Cedar Cove, where we get to run into a few good friends, revisit a few places we've come to love.
Jo Marie Rose is a recent widow -- and even more tragic, a recent bride. After her soldier husband dies on a mission in Afghanistan, she is ready to start over. She buys a B&B in Cedar Cove.
Her first guests, Joshua and Abby, grew up in Cedar Cove but have been gone for years, each with their own painful past to deal with. As Jo Marie gets to know her neighbors and runs into people readers have come to know and love in Cedar Cove, her healing begins -- and so does the healing of her guests. As each finds a chance at love, there is the promise of a healing relationship and hope in the future for Jo Marie as well.
What can I say? Debbie Macomber always delivers, and it's a bonus when she takes you back to meet old friends. A good book for putting your feet up on a warm Sunday afternoon and just read straight through.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Full of photos and illustrations, it's a treasure trove for those wanting to understand what's involved, those who are considering dipping a toe into the culture -- and for those who want to try writing steampunk and aren't quite sure what's acceptable, what's considered "in" and what violates every precept -- and could be the start of a new facet or division within the whole steampunk universe.
It's kind of overwhelming -- but fascinating. I highly recommend starting your tour of the whole phenomenon here, if only to find the authors and titles who are at the core or genesis of the culture and mindset, so you can read their books and short stories. I have a lot more books on my to-be-read list now, thanks to this book. And maybe a little better understanding of what I need to do to make my book true to the flavor, look, and feel of steampunk.
Monday, July 13, 2015
This time, Stephanie is in danger she didn't put herself in through dumb luck or kultziness -- Ranger is in danger, and Stephanie steps in to help. That kind of changes the dynamic. And she's learned a few things over the years, so it makes sense when she actually does something smart -- even when it means risking her life. Of course, Ranger and Morelli are there to team up to protect her, and roll their eyes and glare at each other, and you can almost hear them wondering why they put up with her.
Because they love her, just like readers do. This particular adventure or misadventure or romp or whatever you want to call it is a lot more serious than previous books. Maybe Stephanie is starting to grow up? I saved this one for a reward for getting a number of goals accomplished, writing-wise and promotion-wise, and I actually read it in one day. I haven't indulged like that in a long time. Well worth it! Always fun to return to visit old friends and watch them scramble and scream, and chuckle at their foibles. If you haven't read any of the books yet, I highly recommend you start at the beginning, just because the relationships have grown through the years, and you don't want to miss a single stumbling step along the way.
Monday, July 6, 2015
I like how she explains the "rules" of the secret race/society that call themselves the Oculi, without halting the action and pace with a data dump. There's humor, fear, anger, danger, betrayal, hunger for belonging and being normal -- if there really is such a thing -- and two sides of a terrifying transition in a young woman's life, told through two viewpoints. I like Reid and Josie both, and certainly hope the author comes up with a couple more books (at least) about their further adventures.
The Oculi are people who have essentially the power to make what they see in their imaginations real. That can be terrifying when you don't realize you have the power -- and it can be funny. It can also be dangerous when a group decide they have the right to control everyone else with the power, and decide who lives and who dies. What's worse is when those who stand against them might just be no better a choice, no less dangerous and domineering. And there's Josie, who has been told a lot of lies all her life, supposedly to protect her, but isn't quite sure who to trust anyone.
Confused? Don't be -- I just don't want to ruin anything for you, if you like paranormal and you like YA and you like discovering new writers -- because you'll like this book.
Monday, June 29, 2015
I kinda wish I had this book in paper, so I could photocopy the checklists and have them just sitting there as I go through my next writing project. This is common sense stuff, folks -- but you know how it is, you forget some of the steps because there is so much involved in writing a great book. And I still wonder how people can insist that writing a book is easy .... yeah, just the people who have never tried to write one!
Checklists, and a brief discussion of what needs to be done in each step, include: Prewriting, First Draft, Second Draft, Submissions, and even a checklist and discussion of pros and cons and considerations if you want to try self-publishing.
One of these days, I'll have the whole series, but the ones I've bought so far are very useful, and all worth reviewing on a regular basis.
Monday, June 22, 2015
The story starts -- and throws the romantic leads together -- at a cooking competition. Kate is a control freak and Lance has some strong white knight tendencies, coming to her rescue from the start -- and maybe being just a little too friendly. At least, too friendly for a stranger ... who just happens to get on the same shuttle to the same hotel. As we find out soon, Kate has had some boyfriend issues, a guy who wants to control and dominate her life -- the kind who says she likes it when she protests his treatment. So when Lance kind of takes over from time to time, that irritates and frightens her.
I wish the author had put the winning meatloaf recipes in the back of the book -- they both sound scrumptious. This is a fast read, funny in places, frightening in others as Kate deals with some issues in her life, emotional and physical. If you like Golden Retrievers -- Kate's faithful sidekick -- and you like people who like to cook ... try it!
Monday, June 15, 2015
Jo is Green -- heavily into natural products, energy conservation, organic food, sustainable sources, eco-friendly housing. She and her friends have come to a farm they have bought -- and named Green Acres -- in the little town of Galena Landing. Their mission: Change the world.
Zachary is a veterinarian with a problem. He was dating the daughter of the vet he was interning for, and hoped to work for, but when her demands didn't match his morality, suddenly he was out on the street, with lies told about him, and no chance of a recommendation. Not good for his career. Zach came home to Galena Landing to take care of the homestead while his father dealt with sudden, serious illness. Jo and her friends moved in next door.
The clash between the health food girl and the guy who loves junk food is predictable in some ways, unpredictable and fresh and fun and surprising in others, and heartbreaking in still others. You'll ache for them both by the time they get things straightened out, in their lives, their hearts, and their souls. It's a romance, so you know how it will end, but it's the JOURNEY that's so much fun. Of course, there are more stories about Jo's roommates, so ... more fun awaits!
Monday, June 1, 2015
Miller does NOT do that. Far from it.
For beginners, this is a great book of advice and guidance distilled down to the basics, with examples. Planning, story structure, suspense and tension, the hook, assembling the plot, backstory, description -- it's all there, in plain language and simple explanations. Whew!
For those of us with more experience, this is a great refresher course. I like books that remind me of what I've already learned either by reading other books or by trial-and-error, and yet present it in a different angle, a different viewpoint, different words. Sometimes doing that makes things "click" and you get one of those "Ah ha!" moments ... and you wonder why you struggled so long. Yeah, that kind of book.
Read it. Learn from it. And if you get a chance to attend a class Miller might happen to be teaching in the future ... I'll see you there!
Monday, May 25, 2015
Of course, you have to do more than read it -- you need to apply it. Lamb gives lots of homework, but she explains why, she explains how, and she gives lots of examples.
The most important thing is to establish a presence, an image, so people know you, like you, make positive associations with your name, so they consider you a FRIEND. Someone they want to get to know through your books. So they don't think you're only there to sell them something.
You need to be real, more than just an author with a book to sell. Become someone who makes readers feel like they're real to you, that you are there, online, interacting with them, present and listening and feeling and caring.
Tall order to fill. Lamb helps you understand why, what to do, and sometimes more important, what NOT to do -- for example, automatic messages. You know how irritating robo-callers are, on the telephone? Yeah, a lot worse in the online communities. You'll get a reputation in no time ... but not the reputation you want!
Read the book. Apply it. Repeat as often as necessary.
Thanks to Michelle Huey, who led an incredible workshop at the Writing for Success conference this year, and recommended the book for those of us attending.
Monday, May 18, 2015
HYBRID was another Free Book Friday find on Nook. This is science fiction/fantasy mixed with suspense and action/adventure, with a hook taken from current headlines.
Essentially, a terrorist group has an insidious, long-range plan to devastate the US by spreading a horrific disease worse than Ebola. However .... two people have already survived early outbreaks and have been changed. Mutants, super-heroes, super-villains, it all depends on where you stand during the battle that ensues. Amanda is our heroine -- she has been living off the grid ever since she got away from government officials who consider her a threat to the health and future of the country. She has ... powers. Let's leave it at that. Then there's Karl, who is working with the terrorists, but has his own crazy-man vision of what the world will be like. He doesn't want to wipe out just the US, but most of the human race.
It's a race against time to find the terrorist plants waiting to release the disease, find Karl, find Amanda, convince the authorities to work together and not hunt down the wrong people, and then educate and train the people who are starting to change, to take sides in the coming battle. And then, there's the question of what to do with the people who survive infection. It's a strange new world coming. Will there be more books in this story line? There's already one called "Amanda's Story," a prequel. Check the author's list and see.
Monday, May 11, 2015
Let me say right off that this author is brave and creative and has a hugely detailed world. Brave because she's writing in present tense, and that is NOT easy. I avoid it. I counsel people I edit to avoid it, because consistency of voice is crucial and it's too easy to slip out of present into past tense. Most present tense books are first person, so there's the problem of showing scenes and plot developments when the POV character isn't around.
That said ... StVil has created a whole new cosmology or theology or whatever you want to call it. There are angels, but they're not the kind I was brought up with in Sunday school. The main character, Emmy, is surrounded by the Guardians, angels charged with finding an item in a massive scavenger hunt/game of keepaway with the forces of evil. These angels are teens who died in terrible, heart-rending ways, and they are caught between heaven and hell -- only they aren't called heaven and hell, and ... it's complicated.
My personal tastes, my theology, got in the way of wholeheartedly jumping in and enjoying the story. I kept saying in my head, "Uh, no, angels don't do that," etc., etc. If you can get past that problem, you'll probably enjoy this cleverly thought out and executed series of books. Especially since on the last page of the first book, one of the Guardians violates a rule and it seems the entire world has just ... stopped.
Monday, April 20, 2015
I graduated to his apologetics, and found them very intense, requiring lots of thought, and I'm sure I could reread those books every couple of years and still learn something from them. It's silly, but I really want to meet up with him in Heaven someday and say, "So, did I do a good job? Did you like any of my stories?" because he inspired me in many ways to write the kinds of books I write. He challenged me to write in fantastical genres and use them to explore matters of faith and spirit. I honestly hope I get at least a nod and a smile. Hmm, do you think we'll still be writing books and reading them in Eternity? Hope so!
So when I discovered a new book about the Master, I had to get it. I'm pretty sure it was either on sale or free at the time. It was refreshing to sit down and take small bites of this book -- because I've been so busy the last few weeks I haven't had time for any reading! -- and reacquaint myself with his life, his education, his spiritual rebirth, and an overview of his books. In many ways, this book can be considered an introduction, as it covers Lewis's life and writing very lightly. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested, but doesn't want to dive into a 400-page biography! Next on your reading list, I recommend "Surprised by Laughter," a study in Lewis' humor and writing, by my grad school adviser, Dr. Terry Lindvall.
Monday, March 23, 2015
FESTIVE IN DEATH takes place at Christmas. Amid all the strain of preparing for Roarke's annual blow-out Christmas party, and navigating all the social obligations and niceties of gifting and holidays and decorations, Lt. Eve Dallas has to deal with the murder of a personal trainer.
Gee, hasn't everybody wanted to kill their personal trainer at one time or another? The thing is, this personal trainer deserves to die. He's a user. A blackmailer. A manipulator. An ego-maniac. And as Eve investigates all the people on his client list and then the secret list tied into the huge wads of cash found in his locker, she discovers he's also a rapist. The kind of rapist who convinces himself his victim wanted it. Yeah, he deserved to die. But the thing is, that kind of decision should be left to the courts, so that's where Eve Dallas comes in. Despite everything, she has to stand up for the dead.
I love the characters in the In Death series. The interactions. The relationships. And the process of tracking down the murderer and even understanding, a little bit, why ....
Monday, March 16, 2015
I was delighted to discover 3 more books in Shanna Swendson's Enchanted Inc., series and bought all of them, and as you can see here ... breezed through them. Devoured them. So ... I'm out and need more! Write faster, please! What happens next to Katie and Owen?
In KISS AND SPELL, Katie and Owen, Katie's grandmother and Merlin and all their friends and enemies are dealing with the fallout from the end of the last book, where the entire story took place in one breathless day while they searched frantically to get their hands on an evil jewel that would help the possessor control the world. Not a nice thing to fall into enemy hands. Part of the fallout was a burst of magic that restored Owen's burned out magic, and gave Katie magical powers.
Another part of the fallout was accusations of wizards acting against elves. Magical people start vanishing, and when Owen and Katie try to track down an ally who suddenly isn't answering his phone, they end up in ... well, a live version of a romantic comedy movie, complete with soundtrack and montages. Katie discovers that having fading magical powers isn't all it's cracked up to be -- especially when it means that her handy-dandy immunity to all magic isn't there to help her.
Will they escape fake New York and return to real New York and solve the mystery of disappearing people and stop the invasion in time? Read it and find out. And if you happen to see Shanna, tell her to write faster!
Monday, March 2, 2015
The first book, FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, was on sale on Kindle, so this was a good time.
Charming book. Fun illustrations. Somewhat reminiscent of Roald Dahl, launching with the story of a boy being ignored by the adults in his life, then tossed about to suit their schedules and conveniences, until he lands in the custody of an aunt he didn't know he had ... and then his adventures begin!
The Fludds are mapmakers from ancient times, and at one point in their history they are charged with documenting and protecting and understanding the fantastical, mythical beasts of the world. Hence the phoenix of the title. Despite believing himself unsuited for adventure, and lacking any of the necessary training that should have started years before, Nathaniel does admirably in the face of danger. Plucky hero, destined for greatness.
My only complaint is that this book was waaaaaay too short. I devoured it in no time at all and wanted more. Fortunately, there are three more books. I hope LaFevers will be writing more books about Nathaniel -- oh, and if she's listening, more Theodosia books, too? Please?
Monday, February 23, 2015
Loved it. Major fun. More frustration on poor Katie Chandler's part, but at least she got to spend the entire day with the love of her life, Owen Palmer.
Poor Owen -- his heroics at the end of the previous book burned out his magical powers. That kinda-sorta saved him from being considered magical Public Enemy Number 1 by most of the magical world. But of course you know some people will never be reassured. Especially when the "quest" of the title is to get custody of the most powerful magical item Merlin created. So powerful he realized no one should have it, but he wasn't able to destroy it. Supposedly the item has been lost ... until now. Being magically immune now, Owen and Katie are the perfect choice to hunt for the item and put it somewhere it can't influence the power-hungry of the world. Destroying it would be nice, but there's no Mount Doom available to destroy this particular "one ring to rule them all" problem.
Another lovely romp by Swendson. I raced through it in two days, and wished it would have lasted long. If you haven't picked up this series yet, DO start with book one and devour your way through to the end. Well worth the effort ... which is really no effort at all.
Monday, February 16, 2015
Shanna Swendson's Enchanted, Inc., series holds a special place in my heart. The day I got my Nook -- one of the first batch sent out by B&N -- the first book in the series was the first book I bought. I had picked up a bookmark for the series at a writers conference and I loved the whole concept: magic in clear view in New York, but only a few people who aren't magical can see everything ....
Our heroine/narrator, Katie Chandler, is an immune -- magic does not affect her. Despite all the illusion spells cast by the magical community to hide their presence -- and their ears, wings, and other magical attributes -- she sees it all. That makes her very valuable to the magical version of Microsoft, developing and overseeing all magic through the world. So she gets hired .... and I fell in love with the series and character and situation from the first chapter.
MUCH ADO ABOUT MAGIC is the 5th book in the series. It's been a while since I checked for a new book because, hey, when you keep looking for something and it isn't there, you kind of get discouraged. MAN, was the wait worth it!! Yes, I bought books 6 and 7 at the same time because Swendson delivers, consistently. I devoured MUCH ADO in about a day and a half (hey, I had to deal with all that snow hitting Northeast Ohio ...) Lots of fun! Essentially, Katie and her boyfriend, Owen, probably the most powerful wizard in the world after Merlin -- and yeah, he's in the story too -- are up against a new corporation competing with theirs, selling spells people can use to hurt others, and then selling spells to protect against the first ones, and manipulating situations to make Katie's bosses look like slackers. Then things get really nasty when the smear campaign gets personal: Framing Owen to make him magical Public Enemy Number 1.
Lots of fun, lots of cheering for the good guys, laughter, and booing at the bad buys. You really need to start with the first book, but I guarantee you'll zip right through all of them and then you'll be like me, restraining yourself from writing to the author and begging her to WRITE FASTER! We want MORE!
Monday, January 26, 2015
You want a gritty, painful fantasy set in a big, kind of frightening yet fascinating world?
You want a story that'll keep going because the ending of the story just guarantees more adventures of your heroine who has been pushed past the point of "enough" and keeps going?
Read STORM SIREN by Mary Weber.
This was the book offered along with the free book one Friday from B&N. It intrigued me, but I hesitated because, quite frankly, I have books numbering in the triple digits waiting to be read, print and electronic.
Then Mary posted on the Speculative page on Facebook and mentioned that was her book and ... that kinda changed things. I bought it on Nook and ... wow. It grabbed me from the first painful scene. Secrets within secrets, danger and war, vile creatures, misunderstood magic, prejudice, politics, treachery, slavery, villainy, and one wounded heroine who must grow past her wounds and self-hatred and fears.
You gotta read this book. You'll get pulled in. You'll get to the final scene and want to scream, just like I wanted to. And you'll probably be relieved that there's another book in the series coming.
Good job, Mary.
Monday, January 19, 2015
Here in the seventh book in the series, Lady Claire is preparing for her wedding to Andrew Malvern -- finally! -- but gets sidetracked when Alice, Jake, and the Stalwart Lass get into trouble in Venice.
Lady Claire's recurring nemesis, the American millionaire Meriwethor-Astor, turns out to lend a hand ... without knowing he's doing so. We have fun, white-knuckle adventures with diving bells and underwater dirigibles, slave labor, evil bureaucrats, burning airships, and a couple of krakens thrown in for good measure.
Would somebody please tell our beloved author that she writes too slowly? More, more, more!
Monday, January 5, 2015
I love her Young Wizards series. No, it's not the American version of Hogwarts -- this is a learn-on-the-job kind of wizardry. It started with a young girl hiding from bullies by ducking into the library, and this book kind of nudged her to take it off the shelf. It was titled, "So You Want to be A Wizard."
The rest is history.
I'm not sure how I found her online bookstore, but every once in a while offers come through for revised editions of the previous books, and this year, a great Christmas present -- a short Christmas story in the Young Wizards series.
What do you do with a wizard from another universe who, quite frankly, looks like a Christmas tree? Well, in this story, you invite him to Earth for Christmas and decorate him!
Take my word for it, it's not as silly as it sounds, and there's a lot of profound thought as well as fun, mischief, humor, and a chance to meet up with old friends in this story. I loved it. And another great Christmas present was to hear that there will be a new Young Wizards book coming out. But of course, not soon enough!