Sunday, December 29, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: WISH YOU WEREN'T HERE, by Janeen Ippolito

Steel City Genie, Book 2

Allis and Cendric are back and in even deeper trouble than they were at the end of the previous book.

Gee, you'd think that finding your soul mate, the one that destiny has been trying to put you together with for 5 years, and breaking the curse that kept you apart would, y'know, kind of guarantee a happily-ever-after, right?

Not in this alternate version of Pittsburgh, where magical folk live alongside of ordinary mortals and there are different versions or dimensions of reality to deal with, and magically enhanced politics and sabotaged love spells to deal with. And oh, yeah, a really ticked off queen of the Jinn who was the worst possible future mother-in-law for our heroine. Thank goodness she broke up with sonny-boy -- but the jerk is back in her life and seems to be at the core of Allis and Cendric's new problems.

Along with trying to unravel the sabotaged love potions -- which are kinda illegal -- Allis keeps coming up against people trying to recruit her into different jobs and destinies and she's just not up for it. Don't newlyweds get a break? Not in this magical world, unfortunately.

Another fun romp in a world full of strong and detailed worldbuilding (the author's specialty -- check out her guidebooks!). Can't wait to see what they have to face next!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: NEVERWHERE, by Neil Gaiman


This is the second audiobook by Neil Gaiman in my collection, and I can see spending the rest of my Audible credits just on MORE.

Read by the author. I really think you get a lot more out of a book when it's read by the author, because the author knows the rhythm, the pace, the way the different characters should sound. It adds so much to the experience. And yeah, part of it is the accent ...

NEVERWHERE takes place in London, and underneath London, and there's some slipping through dimensions, and magic, and legend and ... I am in awe, okay? I want to write like him when I grow up.

My first taste of Gaiman's writing was when people were talking about THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. It was essentially THE JUNGLE BOOK, but instead of wolves, the baby is saved and raised by ghosts. So when I saw STARDUST in the Audible listing, I was sure I was in for a listening treat. NEVERWHERE just seals that certainty.

Richard Mayhew is one of those nice guys who are succeeding, but not really happy with their comfortable, secure lives. He has a fiance who is trying to improve him, and a job that just doesn't feed his soul. Then one day Door, an injured girl, lands on the sidewalk in front of him. Instead of stepping around her, Richard stops to help. His life doesn't just crumble from that point, it is taken away. Richard becomes one of those people who falls through the cracks, becomes essentially invisible -- he is tossed without warning into the world of London Below. He travels and takes risks and makes stupid mistakes when he doesn't learn quickly enough, and nearly gets himself killed, in his quest to get his life back.

This is one of those books where I created excuses to get in the car or do chores, so I could keep listening! What happens next? I NEED to know! Even as I'm cringing for the characters in some and spots and cheering in others and groaning in others. NEED to know, even as I'm sure it's not going to be pleasant.

THAT is the mark of a master storyteller. Lovely experience. More, please?

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: WRITING ABOUT MAGIC, by Rayne Hall

Very useful research and resource book for those who are writing in the fantasy genre.

Organized into topics that need to be considered -- and sometimes I suspect that writers don't consider, don't plan out, they just figure they'll wing it and make up their magic system as they go.

Or what's worse, they don't realize they NEED a system, they need to establish rules, before they start writing. When they come up against a problem in the story, they just throw magic at it.

And as the author points out, what's more boring than being able to fix every single problem with magic?  So you have to have limitations and consequences and rules and conflicts and barriers and ... Yeah, writing is a lot of work, but it's also dang fun!

Chapter Titles: Magician Characters; Magic Systems; Training and Initiation; Ritual and Power-Raising; Location and Circle-Casting; Costuming and Equipment; Phrasing the Spell; Correspondences; Love Spells; Sex Magic; Magical Weapons and Warfare; Healing and Protection; Ethics, Conflicts and Secrecy; Illusionists and Charlatans; Magic in the Future.

Plus the author gives exercises to make you think, and assist you in using what you've just learned, and lists of books on the topics, for further reading and research. There's a LOT of useful information packed into the book. Well worth the money and time. I can predict going back to this one a LOT when I do worldbuilding.

Friday, December 13, 2019


Here's the link for all the info:

Hope to see you there! 

This is your last chance to get a copy of the CHRISTMAS FICTION OFF THE BEATEN PATH anthology in paper directly from me.

Remember: BOOKS make GREAT Christmas Presents!!!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: TWISTED TWENTY-SIX, by Janet Evanovich

The latest Stephanie Plum misadventure of suspense and humor and wackiness and near-misses.

This time, Grandma Mazur isn't just causing trouble on the sidelines -- she IS the center of the trouble that poor Stephanie has to untangle.

Grandma ran off with a retired mobster and eloped on a cruise -- and 45 minutes later he died of a heart attack. Now, his nutso-nasty sisters are after Grandma, determined to get his money -- his ex-wife is after the money -- and his pals think the dead groom handed off some very valuable keys (no one says to WHAT exactly) to Grandma before he died. Of course, Grandma doesn't know anything about keys -- she's just planning all the fun things she's going to do with the money, once the will is read.

If she ever survives to hear the reading of the will. Because everybody wants those keys, and everything thinks Grandma has them. And the mobsters, even the retired ones in Trenton, are pretty determined and nasty folks. We're talking windows broken, fire bombs thrown through front windows, house break-ins and searches, attempted kidnappings, Stephanie getting shot ... on and on.

Typical Stephanie Plum craziness. Along with a bunch of wacko bail jumpers she has to deal with, aided by Lula with her plus-sized sense of humor shoved into a size 8 eye-popping wardrobe. Poor Stephanie is ready to quit the whole thing -- only she still doesn't know what she wants to do when she grows up. If she lives long enough to grow up.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Christmas Craft Fair in WESTLAKE -- This SATURDAY!

Will I see you there?

Hope so!

This is another chance to get your copy of the CHRISTMAS FICTION OFF THE BEATEN PATH anthology -- 6  inspirational stories that aren't quite your Granny's Christmas tales.

If you let me know you're going to be there (in the comment section) I will have a copy gift-wrapped for you ahead of time.

Can't beat that kind of deal, can you?

Books make GREAT Christmas gifts.

And of course, you'll want one for yourself, too ...

Just saying ...

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: STOLEN MAGIC, by Gail Carson Levine


Okay, let's start with a confession -- I picked this up from the library sale shelf because 1) I'm always looking for YA books to see what kids are reading so I can write what they want to read. and 2) the author's name is pretty close to mine!

That being said, I'm going to have to find the previous book to this one, because there is so much about the world of the story I need to know. The farmer girl Elodie left her island home, met a dragon and an ogre, and became assistant to one and friends with the other and the three apparently set off on adventures together. Not only that, but the dragon is a sleuth of some kind, and is apparently training Elodie in that skill.

The whole social structure of this world, with brunkas and bees and a replica of an island that keeps the volcanoes from erupting -- and endangers everyone when it goes missing -- feels like a real world, and that's a pretty nifty trick that a lot of writers out there need to learn.

Elodie and her dragon masteress and the ogre count come home to Elodie's island home and immediately run into trouble -- first in a killer snowstorm, and then with the people who give them shelter. The High Brunka who leads this community is keeper of the Replica of the island, and it has been stolen. Fortunately, the snowstorm keeps all the suspects within the massive building. When the three are separated on various errands to try to warn the inhabitants to evacuate, it might just fall on Elodie to untangle the clues and find the Replica before they're all doomed.

Fascinating world and characters. I should add that the author also produced ELLA ENCHANTED -- y'know, the book that is the basis of the Anne Hathaway movie? Yeah, that Ella. Major fun.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Black Friday Sale!

Is there a book at Mt. Zion Ridge Press you've been thinking about? Something that tempts you?

Now's your chance!

Starting on Black Friday (that's the day after Thanksgiving, if you've forgotten) all ebooks on the Mt. Zion Ridge Press website will be 50% off the regular price.

Just use the code provided here when you check out.

You have until Cyber Monday to pick out your titles and add up your savings.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: SUPER POWEREDS, YEAR ONE, by Drew Hayes

Narrator: Kyle McCarley

People with special talents or powers are divided into Supers and Powereds. Supers can control their gifts and are the elites, the ones people admire, most of the time. Even when their gifts are kind of stupid, almost useless. Powereds are looked down on. They have gifts, the ability to fly or control energy or shift shape -- but no control. That makes them dangerous. They're looked down on by Supers and pretty much the rest of the world.

There are certification programs offered at universities for Supers to become licensed heroes. This means they're safe from being sued if, for example, in the course of saving the city from alien invasion, a few buildings get knocked over and people get hurt.

What happens when a few Powereds have a chance to "fix" their control problem, pass themselves off as Supers, and attend the certification program to become heroes? That's what this book, and the series, is about. Alice can fly, Vince absorbs energy, like fire and electricity, Herschel changes into his muscle-bound alter-ago Roy, Mary is the most powerful telepath ever born, and Nick can manipulate luck. Their first year of school, sharing a dorm and figuring out where they fit in, makes for some fun, sad, frustrating, even touching adventures.

Kudos to the narrator for managing to give individual voices to the cast of hundreds!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: THE FANTASY FICTION FORMULA, by Deborah Chester

MAJOR writing guide, well worth the time and effort to read through, mark pages for reference and keeping handy for quoting -- and to re-read, maybe between every project.

Yeah, THAT useful.

And guess what, even if you don't write fantasy, this is a great writing book, period, for any kind of fiction.

I wish she had been one of my creative writing teachers.

I heard about this book either from the Science Fiction Marketing Podcast, or the Writing Excuses Podcast. Can't remember now where I heard the name and title. I just know I made a note on my iPhone while I was getting some exercise and catching up on podcasts, found the book, bought it ... and then, like everything else in life, the book sat on my to-be-read bookshelf until a couple weeks ago, when I finally opened it up and started reading.

Don't waste your time trying to find this book at a used bookstore, to save some money -- because I can bet you no writer worth her salt is going to trade this book in. Ever.

Chester walks through the whole process, from planning to creating characters to understanding the whole scene-and-sequel pairing, and show-vs-tell conundrums  and on and on, to editing and all the "do I gotta?" steps we all hate -- all the totally useful stuff. And she teaches from a slightly different angle than I've heard these principles and extremely useful and helpful tips if I've heard them before, so they struck me as new and fresh and yeah, useful!

Get the book. Invest in a paper copy, so you can underline and highlight and put sticky notes in places where you'll go back again and again. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Will I See YOU This Saturday at Skyview Lodge?

Hope to see YOU at the

Annual Christmas Craft Show At Skyview Lodge

November 9, 11am to 4pm, 336 Pearl Road in Brunswick, Ohio.

CLICK HERE for information:

Of course, I'll have lots of copies of CHRISTMAS FICTION OFF THE BEATEN PATH, the newest release from Mt. Zion Ridge Press.

Along with print copies of most of our other titles.

What are you looking for?
Historical adventure?
Young Adult?
Hey, maybe even a book of writing advice?

We have a LOT of titles at Mt. Zion Ridge Press, and this is your chance to get a print copy.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: WALLY ROUX, QUANTUM MECHANIC, by Nick Carr

Audible Original
Narrated by William Jackson Harper

Short and fun, at the end I wanted more stories about Wally and his adventures "fixing" what's wrong with the fabric of space and time.

Wally is an awkward genius teen who notices when reality doesn't work quite right, and finds a way to fix it, usually with gizmos of his own making. When he least expects it, he encounters people who understand what he's doing -- and in sweet, humorous and sad vignettes, one after another, he finds what he dreams of and tries too hard, and loses it. You gotta feel sorry for the poor guy, even as you laugh and shake your head, because even though he's a genius, there's something in him everyone can relate to.

Things just get more complicated when Wally steps through a rip in space-time and finds a world where another Wally is living the life he wants. Will he get to stay in this world? And what happened to the Wally who belongs to that world?

Listen and find out. And be prepared to say, "Hey, is that ALL?" when you get to the end.

More, please?

Friday, November 1, 2019

REMINDER: Christmas Craft Fair in Brunswick, Ohio

Hope to see YOU at the

Annual Christmas Craft Show At Skyview Lodge

November 9, 11am to 4pm, 336 Pearl Road in Brunswick, Ohio.

CLICK HERE for information:

Of course, I'll have lots of copies of CHRISTMAS FICTION OFF THE BEATEN PATH, the newest release from Mt. Zion Ridge Press.

Along with print copies of most of our other titles.

What are you looking for?
Historical adventure?
Young Adult?
Hey, maybe even a book of writing advice?

We have a LOT of titles at Mt. Zion Ridge Press, and this is your chance to get a print copy.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, by John Connolly

Narrated by Steven Crossley

Ever wish your books -- the really good ones, the faerie tales and adventures in other worlds and stories about magic and "otherness" -- would become real? Ever want to run away from reality and jump into your books, permanently?

David takes shelter from a cruel, cold, confusing world in his books, when he and his father move in with Rose. It's an odd, rundown sort of big old house, with bugs and spooky sounds and shadows. David loves his books, even when they whisper to him and say things he doesn't understand, and they sound kind of angry. He's an unhappy, hurting boy who has lost his mother to cancer, his world darkened by the advent of WWII. Then his life is invaded by Rose, and the baby she has with his father.

When David climbs through a gap in a stone wall, he ends up in a world where faerie tales seem a little familiar, but frighteningly different.  He is chased through a darkening, sad landscape to a castle where the Crooked Man promises all his dreams will come true -- for a price.

Is David willing to pay it? Will he learn from the mistakes of those who went before him before it's too late?

A sad, shadowy kind of book that is fascinating -- and sharply humorous in a dark kind of way. There are books you wish you had written, and others that you know you never could have written, and yet admire all the same. This is one of the latter.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Christmas Craft Fair at Skyview Lodge, Brunswick, Ohio -- NOVEMBER 9

Hope to see YOU at the

Annual Christmas Craft Show At Skyview Lodge

November 9, 11am to 4pm, 336 Pearl Road in Brunswick, Ohio.

CLICK HERE for information:

Of course, I'll have lots of copies of CHRISTMAS FICTION OFF THE BEATEN PATH, the newest release from Mt. Zion Ridge Press.

Along with print copies of most of our other titles.

What are you looking for?
Historical adventure?
Young Adult?
Hey, maybe even a book of writing advice?

We have a LOT of titles at Mt. Zion Ridge Press, and this is your chance to get a print copy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

New Release!

Actually, it's a re-release, but who's counting?

Raine and Kyle met while filming an episode of a TV show where he was the star and she was the protege of a screenwriter. He was a jerk and while she loved his character, she loathed him.
Fast forward 12 years.
Kyle left Hollywood and returned home to the values he was raised in, and the outdoor life. Raine became a vet.
Then fandom pressure got the network to revive the TV show. They wanted a reunion of Kyle and Raine's characters.
Or at least, MOST fans wanted it.
While Kyle tries to earn Raine's forgiveness and win her heart, someone is out to stop the show from returning. Whatever it takes.

From Writers Exchange

#newrelease #romanticsuspense #writersexchange

Friday, October 18, 2019

Currently Reading

#writingresearch #currentlyreading #fantasyfictionformula #DeborahChester 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: WUNDERSMITH: THE CALLING OF MORRIGAN CROW, by Jessica Townsend

Audio book
Narrated by Gemma Whelan
Sequel to NEVERMOOR. The Trials of Morrigan Crow

You thought YOU had it bad in school?

Morrigan has made it into the Wundrous Society, but of course, her troubles have only begun. The Elders put restrictions on her education and nobody trusts her because it's been revealed she's a Wundersmith, and the only class she's allowed to take is horrible and her professor hates her. And her unit, the people who are supposed to be her best friends and allies for life all distrust her.

Then there are the people who go missing, and threats against Morrigan's classmates that they blame on her. It wouldn't be so bad, but Jupiter North, her patron and guardian, isn't there when Morrigan needs him most. There's no one who can help her other than Jupiter, and by the time he returns, it might just be too late to do anything to fix the situation.

And of course, the evil Wundersmith, Ezra Squall, is back, interfering with Morrigan's life -- and what's worse, claiming he's helping her.

Lovely romp that was over far too soon. I enjoy returning to magical worlds with interesting characters. I seriously wish I could visit the Hotel Deucalian (sp?). When is the next book coming out? Whenever that is -- it's not soon enough!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: THE MYSTWICK SCHOOL OF MUSICRAFT, by Jessica Khoury

An Audible Original
Narrated by Suzy Jackson

Lovely, fun, not-nearly-long-enough book about a girl who lives for music -- in a world where magic has its roots in music.

Amelia Jones inherited her mother's musical talent and her flute, and her goal is to get into Mystwick and earn the rank of maestro and make magic. She learns the hard way that just because she's the best musician in her town and at her school ... that doesn't necessarily mean she's anywhere near the top when she gets among real musicians.

Especially when her grandmother seems determined to do everything she can to discourage Amelia's musical dreams and get her to have another kind of life -- any kind of life -- because Amelia's mother's death seems to be wrapped up in music and magic gone terribly wrong.

From the day of her disaster audition, when she's running late and burns up her sheet music and makes a judge's hair grow, to getting her acceptance letter and finding out that there's another Amelia Jones who should have gotten that letter, to the trials and tribulations of the first few months at school -- when it sure looks like a  ghost is out to destroy her future -- Amelia learns a lot of hard lessons, and the value of a true friend.

More please? I'm serious -- just when it looks like things are finally looking up for Amelia, and she has some answers, more complications loom on the horizon. I gotta know what happens next!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: VENDETTA IN DEATH, by JD Robb

Part of the In Death futuristic suspense series.

Dallas and Roarke and their family of co-workers and friends return.

This time the nemesis is a woman who has been cheated on and lied to and robbed, and she's out to get her idea of justice against any and seemingly every high-profile man who has done a woman wrong, if she isn't stopped. Rape, mental abuse, cheating, lying, stealing, the list goes on and on. Justification for taking justice into her own hands? Maybe if she'd just gather up the evidence she has and hands it over to authorities -- but she doesn't trust anyone to give justice to the women who have been hurt.

She takes the name Lady Justice, and that was her first mistake -- giving herself the right and the authority to decide what was justice.

Her second mistake was executing her victims in Eve Dallas' town. This clever, resourceful woman of a thousand faces and voices and tricks doesn't know what she's up against when Dallas and her team get on her trail. She even knows Dallas is getting close, but does that slow her or make her move a little more carefully? That's another mistake. But still, it's a race against time to stop her before she takes her next victim.

What can I say? I love the series, the characters, the interaction, the constant growth in relationships. And hurrah, another baby for Mavis and Leonardo.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A peek inside (the insane asylum ....)

I'm so grateful to the lovely folks at NF READS for inviting me to be interviewed and blather a little bit about my different universes, the writing process, and just creativity in general.

Please click HERE to read the interview, and consider sticking around to read about other authors they've hosted. You might find something you'll like and want to explore further! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Will I see YOU at the craft fair, this coming Saturday, September 21?

For more information, follow this link:

I will be here, selling copies of CHRISTMAS FICTION OFF THE BEATEN PATH, hot off the presses!

Not your Granny's Christmas stories!
The new 2019 anthology from Mt. Zion Ridge Press.
This will be the FIRST opportunity to buy a copy.
Get them while they're hot -- Christmas stories (and any books, as far as I'm concerned!) make GREAT Christmas presents!

Hope to see you there!!!
And don't forget to check out Mt. Zion Ridge Press's growing catalog of great fiction "off the beaten path."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU, by Ally Carter

A Gallagher Girls novel

Narrated by Renee Raudman

What fun! Another romp with Cammie Morgan and the spies-in-training at the all-girls Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women.

The first Audible book in the series was in introduction, Cammie's first few weeks at the academy, dealing with her family heritage and being a legacy. All the pressure of being the headmistress' daughter and figuring out how to fit in actually overrides the totally unique world of learning to be a spy -- starting in 7th grade.

Cammie and her friends/roommates, Liz and Becks, are sophomores. Bad enough the new teacher for Covert Ops is a gorgeous male teacher, but the spoiled daughter of a US Senator somehow manages to get through all the subterfuge and diversion to keep non-spy-talented girls from waltzing through the gates. Worse than that -- this girl gets put in the room with the three pals.

Then during a Covert Ops training, Cammie runs into a local boy, and there's a spark, and she is suddenly torn between her legacy and the allure of a normal and ordinary life. Or at least making this cute boy who likes her think she's a normal, ordinary girl. Learning to speak dozens of languages and kill a man with just an uncooked piece of spaghetti is nothing compared to the hazardous world of high school dating and figuring out boy-speak.

Not just a fun romp, but a delightful return to a familiar world and familiar characters. More, please?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Get Your Copy of CHRISTMAS FICTION OFF THE BEATEN PATH soon -- live and in person!

For more information, follow this link:

I will be here, selling copies of CHRISTMAS FICTION OFF THE BEATEN PATH, hot off the presses!

Not your Granny's Christmas stories!
The new 2019 anthology from Mt. Zion Ridge Press.
This will be the FIRST opportunity to buy a copy.
Get them while they're hot -- Christmas stories (and any books, as far as I'm concerned!) make GREAT Christmas presents!
Hope to see you there!!!
And don't forget to check out Mt. Zion Ridge Press's growing catalog of great fiction "off the beaten path."

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: SYNAPSE, by Steven James

Obtained through Netgalley for review purposes.

RELEASING: October 8.

Master of suspense (and dang good writing conference speaker/teacher) Steven James shows he can thrill and send chills up the spine in the future, too.

There were a lot of reasons to snag this book to read, starting with the fact that I've been in one of his classes, I have a few of his writing books, I've read and made notes on his Writers Digest articles, and my publishing partner fan-girls over him. And yeah, I wanted to see what all the hype was about regarding his fiction.


SYNAPSE is set in the near-future, where Artificials (androids, artificial intelligence, whatever you want to call them)  are evolving and becoming Human enough to make people nervous. They're asking the big questions about life and death and life after death.

Enter Kestrel, a minister who has just lost her child at birth. She's asking questions, but maybe not the right ones. On the way home from the hospital, a terrorist attack occurs in front of her and she jumps in to help, since that is where she is trained. The terrorists are Purists, who are resisting the "rise of the machines," to use Terminator parlance. This brings her to the attention of the authorities, who are investigating. Her background isn't clean, so she's suspect for a while.

Things get even more complicated when her estranged brother sends her a "gift" in the form of Jordan, an advanced-model Artificial. Jordan is asking questions about forgiveness, life-after-death, if he has a soul, and why God allows horrible things to happen ...  Kestrel isn't in the best emotional shape to take on an Artificial in her life -- especially when her parents were murdered by one years ago. She gives Jordan a chance, though, and they change and challenge each other, while getting in the way of the wrong people.

Other reviewers refer to James' stories as a roller coaster ... yeah, but the roller coaster starts slowly, subtly, and you're hooked before the big drops and sharp turns hit. Hang on! Don't bang your head if you get thrown out of your seat. Just when you think you have all the players identified and you know what teams they're working for, the field and the uniforms change.

In some ways, this is a story about attitudes and actions and reactions all around us today, including the brutality, hatred, and fear that arise when people force their vision of the world on everyone who disagrees with them.

So many layers. So many different speeds and textures, all woven together into a complicated picture that I sure hope will have a sequel. Thanks.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: WALK TWO MOONS, by Sharon Creech


Narrated by Hope Davis

Newberry Award Winner

Sal is a 13-year-old whose life has been entirely uprooted. Two stories interweave as she goes through a journey of the highway and of the heart.

When Sal's mother leaves them, Sal's father moves them from Kentucky to Euclid, Ohio, making her leave behind their farm, their trees, their chickens, their dog -- everything that makes up Sal's world. Sal doesn't want to know about this new relationship between her father and Mrs. Cadaver -- an ominous name in itself. Things get even stranger and confusing when Sal meets the girl who lives next door to Mrs. Cadaver, Phoebe -- who immediately gets Sal wrapped up in her wild, suspicious imagination. Phoebe believes Mrs. Cadaver killed her husband, and there's a lunatic on the loose in the neighborhood, and then there's their bizarre English teach who not only makes them write journals, but then reads entries from their journals out loud, in class.

Phoebe's personal trials mirror Sal's, and Sal relates Phoebe's life on a ride out west with her quirky, adorable grandparents who can't seem to avoid trouble, both funny and dangerous. Little by little, Sal explores the pain of her mother leaving, and why she isn't coming home.

I highly recommend this lovely, warm, sad, thoughtful, entirely too short book about pain and loss and friendship and love.  The narrator makes all the characters come alive. Entirely lovely experience.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: STEELHEART, by Brandon Sanderson

Narrated by MacLeod Andrews
Book 1 of The Reckoners

Who are the Reckoners?

Well, they're people who are out to destroy Epics -- the name for what are essentially mutants or superheros. But in this dark world created by Sanderson, they are nothing near heroic.

The Reckoners are the heroes -- kind of.

The narrator, David, is a little boy when his father is killed by Steelheart, a new Epic who has the ability to turn anything that isn't living tissue to steel. Every Epic has a weakness, and that day, totally by accident, David's father made Steelheart bleed. Ever since, David has been trying to figure out Steelheart's weakness, so he can get revenge for his father.

Then he meets the Reckoners, who have come to the perpetually nighttime city of New 'Cago (Chicago), which Steelheart has made his kingdom. David wants to work with the Reckoners, share all the research he has done, and persuade them that the plan he has created to destroy Steelheart can work.

Nearly 13 hours of listening time -- compelling, and will leave you aching for the ugly, fear-filled, grim world David and the Reckoners live in. By the time the end comes, the surprises can take your breath away. But Sanderson lives up to his reputation as a master storyteller and worldbuilder, because every surprise makes sense. I have a good backlog of books waiting in my Audible app, but I'm really tempted to buy the next book in the series just because I gotta know what happens next.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING, by Ray Bradbury

A book on BEING a writer, more than a book on the writing craft.

Part autobiography.

It went way too fast, and yet there's a lot of meat for digesting, slowly, so maybe the smaller portions, highly condensed, are a wise choice. This is a collection of essays on writing Bradbury wrote over several decades.

I enjoyed remembering the books I had read, or short stories, and the movies I had seen as he talked about the various journeys to get them written. I had a little bit of shock to realize that a story I read in an English class magazine was written by Bradbury. Mind-blowing -- "name" SF writers having their stories appear in required classes in school. Of course, I remember when "Rocky" was coming out, and we had some scenes from the script in our English class magazine, so ....

Even if you don't write SF or fantasy, this book is highly useful for just getting into the mind of a writer and seeing that we don't all do it the same way, we don't all have the same journey, we don't all run at the same pace or learn things the same way. What works for YOU is the right journey to take and the right tools to pick up and the right approach to use.

Thanks to the master for making clearer what I've been learning for some time now, and will probably have to keep learning, as I go along.

As a note: I have a big stack of writing craft/writing resource books that have piled up, and my goal is to read at least 1 each month. Here's hoping -- and hold me accountable!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: ROSE OF THE OATH, by Hope Ann

Legends of Light 1
A Beauty & the Beast Retelling

I need to read the other books that tie into this story, especially the one that sparked the whole curse and prophecy and involves the ancestress of the heroine, Elissa.

Very well done, a new angle on Beauty & the Beast.

Elissa and her orphaned siblings are living life on the edge, tormented by news of approaching war. Plus there are the wolves howling in the distance, constantly. Wolves are especially tormenting for Elissa, because as we learn once we're deep into the story, she has a scar from a wolf attack -- the same attack that killed her parents.

The Beast carries multiple scars, also from wolf attacks. He wears the skins of the wolves that he has killed, without number, for centuries. He calls her Beauty, and she slips up and calls him Beast, because that is what he seems.  While he would like to explain the curse and the situation, he can't -- the same curse that traps her in the castle with him has taken his voice. Yeah, it's frustrating, for both of them. The bits and pieces of the story are revealed in his thoughts and writings and the snippets of news she hears about the outside world from the one person who, with no explanation, is able to get through the shield of magic and visit her at the castle.

There is prophecy and betrayal and learning to forgive and to care, and in the end, willing sacrifice. Elissa nearly dies, and is left marked by scars, just like Adrian the Beast, whom she has learned to love. That's not a spoiler, is it? Because this is, after all, Beauty & the Beast retold.

A very satisfying retelling. I really do need to get the other stories, to find out how the rose ties into the curse and betrayal and treason and the King's oath and the sacrifice that the Prince must make someday....

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: NEVERMORE: THE TRIALS OF MORRIGAN CROW, by Jessica Townsend

Audiobook, from Audible

Ever feel like everything is stacked against you, and no matter what you do, you're going to get blamed for anything that goes wrong -- even if you weren't anywhere near when it happened?

That's what life is like for cursed children in this fantasy world. Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide, considered cursed and the cause of all misfortune around her -- and worse, she's doomed to die on the next Eventide, midnight on her birthday.

Her adventure begins when Eventide comes early, and the strange, flamboyant Jupiter North comes to whisk her away to the magical city of Nevermoor. She becomes a resident of the hotel he owns, where her room decorates itself to suit her and chandeliers grow from the ceiling and there are rooms where shadows become real and ... Whew! Too much to tell.

Morrigan is something of an illegal resident, and the authorities want to snatch her up and throw her back into the country where she's not exactly welcome ... and the only chance she has to stay in Nevermoor is to pass all the tests and trials and become a member of the Wundrous Society. She has to demonstrate her gift -- but what is it? She doesn't know, and Jupiter, her guardian, isn't telling.

Major fun. Another one of those books where I kind of grudged having to stop listening. Real life gets in the way an awful lot, y'know? The reviews recommend this for fans of Harry Potter and other stories where kids are whisked away into magical, sometimes dangerous worlds and adventures, where their only weapons are their own wits. The next book, Wunder Smith, is on my gotta-get list.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: RILEY MACK AND THE OTHER KNOWN TROUBLEMAKERS, by Chris Grabenstein

Audible Original

This is along the lines of a radio drama -- about a gang of middle school kids who pull off some pretty incredible, almost unbelievable schemes, to right wrongs and bring about justice and make sure that crooks pay up.

Riley Mack and his friends start out dealing with a bully who is stealing from kids younger than him -- and happens to be the son of the sheriff, who has a grudge against Riley. By the time they're done, they've rescued a stolen puppy, foiled bank robbers, saved his mother's job, recovered all the stolen 7th grader treasures, and exposed a puppy mill.

Riley made one stupid, temper tantrum mistake a few years before, and got himself labeled a troublemaker, which makes it hard for him and his friends when they're trying to be the heroes. Between an actress who loves her costumes, a tech genius, a slightly slow muscle-bound member of the team, and a geeky kid who wants to join the club, Riley has his hands full.

Major fun. The characters are likable and I was drawn into their lives immediately, even when they were a little "out there." I cringed a number of times, wanting to shout "Don't do it!" but that would be silly -- I was getting my morning walk at 7am, and the people in the neighborhood would not appreciate me yelling.

I really hope there are more adventures of Riley Mack and his friends available, or at least in the planning stages. Fun!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: IF WISHES WERE CURSES, by Janeen Ippolito

Steel City Genie, Book 1

Janeen is a rock star -- and I'm not saying this just because I want her to publish one of my SF series ... (well, maybe a little sucking up....)

She is a creative genius when it comes to world-building (check her nonfiction manuals on world-building if you don't believe me), she runs a publishing company, she indie publishes, and she does the incredible, fun, Indie Book Magic podcast with H.L. Burke, who I fear I will also fan-girl over. Remember my review of her book, COILED? Yeah ....

IF WISHES WERE CURSES is humor, magic, fantasy, mystery and romance, all rolled together. With some snark for seasoning. Our heroine is half human and half .... something magical. She has ideas, but doesn't know for sure until she gets some unasked-for answers in the book, because she doesn't know who her father is.

It's because of the unknown magic in her blood that curse marks are put on her to restrain her magic. When she kills a bear shifter in self-defense, that heritage makes her highly suspect, and she's put under even more restraints. She can't even teleport or go to her favorite coffee shop for some caffeinated support. She needs it, because if the bear shifters find her, she's dead meat, and she's not allowed to use magic to defend herself. How can that be fair, guys?

Then there's this guy who, apparently, she keeps meeting and making an instant connection with ... and forgetting as soon as they say goodbye. And he forgets her. Ever feel like the world is out to get you? Cube that, and you know what our heroine is feeling.

Do they find answers? Do they get their happily-ever-after after kicking some major vampire butt?

You gotta read this one. Just for the FUN, but also to see how great storytelling and world-building is DONE. When my to-be-read mountain comes down a league or two, I'm getting the next in the series. Addiction warning!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: THE ADVENTURES OF TOM STRANGER, by Larry Correia

An Audible Original

Subtitle: Interdimensional Insurance Agent.

I guess this could be considered science fiction. Definitely snark, comedy, political and social satire, and a few other labels. Apply as you see fit.

Giggle fest time.

Consider: the narrator is Adam Baldwin -- from Firefly. So when there are references to the part Baldwin played, and a comment that "in this universe, Firefly played for five seasons" plus several movie spinoffs, and in another dimension the president is named Baldwin and happens to be an ex-actor who played a space cowboy .... yeah, I think the narrator had a lot of fun doing it.

When there are multiple universes, and someone powerful (an inventor and arms dealer) takes out an interdimensional insurance policy on ALL the permutations of himself, you have to call in the best insurance agent out there to make sure things are handled and bills are paid and ... whew! There are problems with a rival insurance agent, and a visit to a call center from worse-than-hell, and dealing with aliens who trashed the wrong planet. Can you see where I'm going with this?

Plus the author himself shows up in the book, multiple permutations of himself, where he's a SF writer who skipped the wrong classes in school and ended up messing up every part of his life. Hmm, regrets or just a tongue so firmly planted in his cheek it went out the other side of his face?

Fun. Silly. Some language. And the many and various accents and voices employed for the many characters just upped the ante. Makes me want to borrow my brother's copy of Firefly -- and maybe binge watch a few seasons of Chuck, too.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: EVEN TREE NYMPHS GET THE BLUES, by Molly Harper

Audible Original

I already downloaded another audiobook by this author -- does that tell you how much I liked this one?

It's a standalone novella in the Mystic Bayou series -- which I have to look further into.

The heroine is a tree nymph named Ingrid who has decided to move to a town in Louisiana where other mythological and magical people have found sanctuary and formed a community. In this far-too-short story, she arrives with plans to buy a farm, raise cows, and make and sell ice cream. Sounds like a good plan to me, and a way to become instantly popular!

Of course, there are hiccups in the plan, starting with bureaucrats and scientists and a sad part of her history when another handsome scientist tried to take advantage of her -- so when the resident handsome scientists falls for Ingrid, she and he are in for a hard time.

Since this is a romance, need I bother to assure you there is a happily ever after?

This was an interesting presentation, because the chapters went back and forth between the POV of the heroine and hero, with a female narrator and a male narrator. Took a little getting used to, but what does that matter? It was a fun book, and over way too fast. I hope the author tells more stories about Ingrid in the next Mystic Bayou book I get. Because I certainly will!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: CIRCE, by Madeline Miller


This is one of those books you don't want to put down -- or in this case, turn off. I chose it as my entertainment on a long (8-plus hours each way) trip, and I was almost upset to arrive at the hotel, turn off the book, and get out of the car!

CIRCE is the story, in her own words, her own pain and hopes and thoughts, of a figure from Greek mythology. I knew Circe only as one of the characters Odysseus met on his long journey home from Troy, but her pedigree goes far back and spreads wide to encompass so much of the familiar in mythology.

I was impressed. I wished I had written this book! Loved it immensely. Captivating -- and made those hours of driving go fast. I was really ticked when some torrential rain grew so loud, I couldn't hear the narrator, so I had turn off the book!

Circe is born to a scheming nymph and one of the Titans who still retained some power after siding with Zeus in the rebellion that brought the familiar Greek gods to power. Her siblings are more beautiful and powerful (and nasty) than she is, and she literally has no one to depend on when the revelation that she does have power after all makes the Olympians fear her. Exiled to an island, she makes her own life and struggles for her own purpose and happiness. A woman alone must take drastic, cruel actions to protect herself. If you know the legends, then you know what I'm talking about. I won't give anything away here. Then Odysseus stops at her island and she changes her mind, and makes several decisions that put a new spin on several Greek legends.

Put simply, you GOTTA listen to this book, or read it, whichever is most convenient for you. I was hooked from the first few minutes.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Summer Reads: 99 CENTS now through August 31

Looking for Summer Reads?

All the Tabor Heights year 1 books are NOW on SALE at all major ebook outlets.

Just 99 cents each, through the end of August.
How can you resist?

Tabor Heights: A friendly little town on Ohio's North Coast, where sweet romance is always in the air.

You can find them all at Mt. Zion Ridge Press:

#summerreads #Ebooks #salebooks