Thursday, December 29, 2016

Charge UP: How your body works. Why you feel the way you do. What you can do about it. by Sherri Jacobs

Full review still needed. It's coming, I promise, but in the meantime, if you need help getting your health on track and are wanting to clean up your diet to be better for you, but not "go on a diet", this is a good place to start. I've worked with Sherri Jacobs for  4 years, (on and off for "tune ups" and refining things after the initial interactions) and her recommendations have made a remarkable difference in my life and health, not just in weight management, but in energy, stamina, sleep abilities, breathing, and other areas. Plus, I have yet to leave after seeing her without a smile on my face. We laugh a lot together, and work as health partners to scope out problems and plans. This book reflects many of the things we've covered in our time together, plus lots more, and puts options in your hands in clear language. Worth it.

(Available as e-book on Amazon, free if you have the Kindle Unlimited. )

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Goodbye LiveJournal

This blog (and my one on dreamwidth) started when I moved my journal from live journal at the recommendation of my friend moem. Today, she posted this, which made a lot of sense to me. I really haven't been to LJ in years, and am already trying to reduce my social media interface. (For those who know me on other platforms, I still post, but you're not gonna see a lot of details from me, mostly pictures, or reminders that I'd love it, and you,  if you bought my book.)

Anyhow, here's one more picture, in fond farewell to LJ:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons

If it's any indication how good I thought this book was, I've been to my favorite liquor store 3 times while reading it and once since I finished. Bitters, herbals, and amaros, be they apéritif or digestif,
are my beverage of choice in the spirits world. What a lovely setting to explore recipes, lore, and information on a subject of which I am quite fond. Informative, clearly written, beautifully illustrated, and well organized, this book will be a delight to any cocktail enthusiast (except perhaps my husband, who was thinking of getting this for me for the holidays, and had to think of something else. But that was not a strike against the information in the book, more that Blogging for Books stole his thunder.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Magic Academy Book One: The Fire Test by E.R. Ross

Sent to me by a friend, who met the author.

I'm not much of a gamer, but this book really brings the appeal to life. I can see that this would be appealing to teens both entering the fantasy/role-playing games, as well as fantasy literature. Magic, but not the obvious sorts, and a school for magicians that is decidedly un-Hogwarts. Characters are engaging, and I like that the female lead is dark-skinned, because my friend's daughter, who is decidedly non-Caucasian, used to say that fantasy depresses her because "all the chicks are white skinned and big boobed, or white skinned and athletic. I can't be a character because I'm dark and strong, but not big or athletic." She's now an amazing young woman, fighting for climate change and for LGBTQ rights at university in North Carolina. I'll tell her about this book so she can rejoice.

It's the first in a series. It would be interesting to see where the author takes it from here.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

In Memoriam by Nathan Burgoine

I've been meaning to read some of this author's works since he was someone I enjoyed on the forums of BookCrossing back in the old days, and he has remained good friends with one of my dearest friends. This Kindle short read turned the "meaning to" into "I'm glad I finally did". A great premise and story line, with James, faced with a terrible diagnosis and a very short time to live, acknowledges the one regret in life he has about "the one that got away". I mean, who hasn't dreamed of the ultimate do-over? 

Good writing, plus a good plot, characterization, and pace mean I will be seeking out more of 'Nathan Burgoine's writing.

From the publisher:
With one diagnosis, editor James Daniels learns that he's literally running out of time. Looking at his life, he sees one regret: Andy, the one that got away. Andy was the first man that James ever loved, but Andy has been gone for years, and might not want to be found.

But as his cancer progresses and James starts to lose his grip on time and memory, it might just be that time and memory are losing their grip on James, too. 

It's the biggest and most important re-write of his life. Restoring love from nothing but memory might be possible, if the past isn't too far gone to fix.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale  is a lovely blend of fantasy and fairy tale, with a strong female lead facing not just the challenges of society, but those of nature and myth, too. As with other books built on Slavic legend, there was a bit of familiarity to those of Ukraine, with a slight difference, like the tartness of a crab apple to a Pippin plucked fully ripe from the tree. I was singularly surprised , but not disappointed, when the elements I expected or anticipated didn't play out. Arden did a good job at capturing the ugliness of crowd mentality in the townspeople, depicting personalities of the jealous and disappointed, relating the interplay of that which we delegate to fantasy with real life, and showing different sorts and strength of love. Overall, I enjoyed this book and will look for more by this author.

Thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for sending this copy my way.

Tags:  2016-readalternate-historycreaturesearly-review-librarythingfirst-novel-or-bookfantasyi-liked-itmagical-realismwill-look-for-more-by-this-authoradvanced-reader-copy 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World

I received this book nearly two months ago, but just was able to finish it. This was not because I was busy, or didn't like the book, but more because Javaczuk, my ex-bartender husband, who lived in NYC for a bit, and who still holds a fascination for the art of spirits tucked it away to read. (To be fair, I knew he would, and as I had other books to occupy me, and a good bit of art as well, I was fine. My only qualm was that it delayed my thoughts on the book for Blogging for Books, and the publisher, from whom I got my copy.) This review is a combination of both our thoughts: the expert and the novice.

For both the mixologist and the lover of fine cocktails who knows nothing about making a proper drink, this was an interesting book. It is praiseworthy for its comprehensiveness, Simonson's ability to make the reader feel as if they are observing these pioneering mixologists with short, simple descriptions, and its ability to put the modern cocktail movement in historical context. From my point of view, I was happy it spurred Javaczuk on to try some of the recipes provided. It also was just plain interesting reading, introducing the novice (me) to some of the finer nuances in crafting a cocktail. The general index, and the index of people interviewed/corresponded with were also helpful, but made me realize this was essentially just one (plus a few outliers) city, which made me wonder who else was out there, in untapped regions. It also made me realize that my personal slap-dash method of making a drink would make most people shudder.

Only thing other thing that would have been nice to have seen would be some pictures of the bartenders and bars, as some of Simonson's media articles have done, but understand that there are cost considerations in publishing a book.

This certainly will hold a place of esteem (and be a point of reference) in our collection of Mixology books.To end with Javaczuk's thoughts, for he certainly knows far more on the subject than I do; "As far as I know, this is the best book existing on the subject. Brilliant piece of research.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Gates of Hell (The Shards of Heaven, #2) by Michael Livingston

The demons of the internet have eaten my review two times now, which is really not very nice, especially since this is a book I looked forward to reading, enjoyed while reading, and looked forward to telling the online world. (insert swearword of choice, because all of them have probably gone through my head, when I realized my first review was gone, and when the replacement review blinked away before my eyes.)  But back to the point:

When last seen by the reader, the characters from The Shards of Heaven had seen better times. Antony and Cleopatra are dead, their children held captive by Octavian, probably the only character in the book having a good day.  As Caesarion and his companions carry the Ark of the Covenant through secret tunnels to bring it to safety, they meet misfortune, battle, a cave-in and shard enhanced battle with Juba of Numidia. It was very much of a cliffhanger.

The dust has settled a bit in the The Gates of Hell. Selene and Juba, despite a forced marriage have found joy together. The peace in their relationship is threatened as Juba is called by Octavian to once again wield the Trident of Poseidon to defeat Rome's enemies. And that's just the start of things.

Once again, Michael Livingston has taken history, and tucked a little fantasy and supernatural into the crevices and crannies of known time. As a reader, this delights me no end. Livingston's writing is crisper, sharper in this second book, helping the mind create clear depictions from description. His characters have grown also, exhibiting a complexity very true to life. The tug of good and evil forces, whether in a battle or within an individual, helps bring even more humanness to both the heroes and villains of the story. The tale begins in Rome, then heads on a journey through the old world, to the waters of the Nile, to even the very Gates of Hell, all with history, intrigue, and a little magic.  And yes, I did cheer out loud at a few happenings, and laugh at the Easter eggs I caught. All in all, it was a good adventure.

2016-read, advanced-reader-copy, alternate-history, great-cover, made-me-look-something-up, met-or-know-the-author, part-start-of-a-series, read, secret-history, taught-me-something, thanks-for-the-map, tor

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Longbourn by Jo Baker

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader in possession of a comfy seat and a cuppa, must be in want of a good book.

This was sent to me by a friend, who knows my love of books and Austen. It's essentially the Upstairs-Downstairs of Pride and Prejudice. The problem is I like the originals of each so much that this inevitably fell short. It had moments, but overall, didn't engage me.  I think if someone was unfamiliar with how the things we now depend on appliances and devices to do  were done in days when electricity wasn't around, it might have been a bit more interesting, but I know a little about that, having lived in a third world country for a bit in the days before electricity was around or reliable and a telephone was a new and amazing device. I've heard there's a series on TV now (probably cable or PBS), but I'm not sure I'll watch. I prefer my Austen firsthand.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let There Be Laughter by Michael Krasny

Interesting commentary, but there were times I found myself using the "Playboy Technique": reading it just for the jokes. There are definite characteristics of Jewish humor that the author explores, both scholastically and, of course, with humor and examples. Though not all of the jokes stem from the Ashkenazi and immigrant experience, many do, so it was a bit like revisiting my mother's Uncle Izzy at his candy store on the corner, or sitting in Tante Sophie's kitchen hearing the women of the family chatter and sip tea through sugar cubes held in their mouths. Many of the jokes and stories only confirmed my wish that I knew/remembered more Yiddish. Such a wonderful language that risks disappearing, even though many of its colorful words and expressions have become part of our everyday lexicon. It is one of the biggest regrets of my life that I haven't retained the language I heard my mother and her siblings speak during my childhood.

And, for the record, I actually got to use one of the jokes, appropriately, the very day I read it.

Thank you to librarything early reviewers for sending this my way.

tags: 2016-read, early-review-librarything, funny, made-me-laugh-out-loud-for-real, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-think, nonfiction, places-i-have-been, read, taught-me-something, advanced reader copy

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Driving home from class the other week, I heard an interview with Gayle Forman on NPR about this book. I came in midstream, and couldn't hear the end because grocery shopping didn't allow for a driveway moment. Nonetheless, the discussion and the snippet read grabbed my attention. It was not particularly because I related to adoption, or being an overworked mother of twins, or having a heart attack (though I do sometimes have chest pain, but it's always been relieved by albuterol, and thus far, stemmed from my lungs. My dad conked out at 61 from Coronary Artery Disease, so the question does wiggle around in my head.) I've never wanted to just walk away from it all and start anew, though have had at least two friends who wanted to, one who did, and one who got 141 miles down Interstate 26 before deciding to turn around and go home to her husband and two sons. Something about the personal backstory, the whys behind Forman writing this book, and also the tone in her voice when she talked about the experience grabbed my attention, so very shortly after, I grabbed the book. It was a quick read for me, (it's not been 24 hours since I picked it up, and I'm done) and I liked it. It fit the need for a book that took me out of my own experience, without making me grimace in pain, or plod through sorrow. For all the issues it deals with (early onset heart attack, abandonment, stress, relationship stuff. motherhood, adoption, running away) it was approachable, and the characters, while confused, even deadened emotionally, remained of interest for me. And yes, there was growth and resolution, and humor, which is always a bonus. It was a romantic book, not in the sense of heaving breasts and bed hopping, but it the way the author crafted a dark time optimistically, and let frozen lives thaw.

To be fair, I was very underwhelmed by a previous novel by Ms Foreman, and had no intention of reading this until I heard the interview. It's a good reminder for me to stay open-minded.

Tags: heard-interview-with-author, i-heard-about-it-on-npr, read, rounded-up-in-star-rating, thank-you-charleston-county-library
From the publisher: For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.

Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.

With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I'd heard good things about this book, and also had read an earlier book by the author which I enjoyed, so picked it up. All in all, 'twas a pleasurable read, though there were some style issues I wasn't so crazy about with the writing. But that's just my taste-- I was wanting a straightforward tale and should have known better than to follow a path in the woods. Barnhill has brought some interesting elements to the tale, making it seem familiar and both totally fresh at the same time. If she keeps writing, I'll keep reading.

From the publisher:
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge--with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

The author of the highly acclaimed, award-winning novel The Witch’s Boy has written an epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to be a modern classic.

Tags: 2016-readan-author-i-readfantasygreat-covergreat-titlereadrounded-up-in-star-ratingthank-you-charleston-county-library

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe

Natural Color is an astonishingly informative and beautifully put together book. As a pysanky (Ukrainian egg) artist, and a person with health issues, I have wanted to experiment more with natural dyes. I've saved my onion skins, gathered hibiscus flowers, and hoarded walnuts. I've tried a few dyes here and there, mostly without guidance, and had some moderately pleasing results.

This book, though, made me lust. And that was with the knowledge that I'd be working on a totally different material (egg shell) rather than textile. I still have many, many questions, but mostly from my end of the art spectrum, because Duerr is quite thorough and detailed in everything from how to set up your space (sigh-- if only I had the luxury of that kind of space, even without dyes! My pysanky pals, and other artists, who see where I create my art now cannot believe that I make it all happen in the fragments of scattered space I usurp in our home) to step by steps for making dye and applying to projects. Her voice is very approachable, her methods clear. Will it work on eggshell? I don't know. Will I be able to try it? Maybe.

As I said, I still need to check out specifics for my own art (i.e. How long does the dye last? Can you do layers? Will it be impacted by the removal of the wax used to make designs? How would it respond to varnish? etc.) but dang it! I want to try! Bottom line practicality for me is this may not be the book I need in writing pysanky, but it's a marvelous reference, for sure.

tags: 2016-readartblogging-for-booksfirstreads-goodreadsgreat-coveri-liked-the-picturesinspirationsnonfictionreadtaught-me-somethingwow

Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

I picked up this book because I came a brief review of it and though I usually try to avoid books with blatant infidelity as a plot point, something in the review grabbed my interest. What I found was a very thoughtful, well told story of how one can react, can grow, when faced with the sure knowledge that what was held true is false. The power of secrets can be mighty, and the author pitted that fierce strength against the equally bold, often underplayed, power of self. But what I think I really liked the best was how the author incorporated quotes of love and relationships, by writers, artists, philosophers, as chapter headings. Sometimes the quotes, so eloquent and evocative, were sheer beauty in their own, sometimes they were foreshadowing for that chapter, sometimes both, but for me, they were always that little chocolate candy, wrapped up in glittery paper, to savor along with a well told tale.

So yes, this is the story of a woman who finds out her husband, who was her high school sweetheart and only love, has been unfaithful with another man, and then goes on to discover even deeper betrayals, but it also is a story of survival, and reshaping your life when you thought it perfectly shaped. It's not a "stages of grief" novel, but there is movement and growth. It also reminded me quite clearly that I am several decades older than the characters in this novel, but it didn't put me off their lives and world.

One of my favorite quotes for the book, comes from the mouth of a local folk artist the main character knows.
"And there you go. Honey, aside from love, art is the most subjective thing there is. You're never gonna have a predictable result."

To that I'd add since writing is a form of art, books, and thoughts on books are highly subjective, too.

Tags: 2016-read, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, i-liked-it, made-me-think, read, read-on-recommendation, sometimes-fluff-is-good, thank-you-charleston-county-library, thought-provoking

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Arthur Pepper and I got together by one of those lists that offers e-books right there in your mailbox. I chose it because I wanted the reading equivalent of comfort food, and because I have dear friends named Pepper, who I miss a great deal. The novel starts with Arthur at that time of life I never want to be: one year after the passing of his wife. He's a bit of a stick in the mud, hiding from neighbors who only want to offer kindness, wearing the same drab outfit every day, grumbling about just about everything. His only friend is a fern he keeps on his window sill and waters daily. But, on that year anniversary, he decided it's time to clear out some of his wife's clothing from the wardrobe, and in doing so, discovers a charm bracelet, hidden away in the toe of a boot. It's a pretty little thing, and he's absolutely never seen it before.

What happens next is a true journey of several sorts. Arthur begins on a quest to discover more about the charm bracelet and in doing so, discovers more about his wife of many years-- things he'd never known. But there's also the challenge of self-discovery and the possibility of reshaping his own life.

A charming novel, for sure.

Tags: 2016-read, e-book, first-novel-or-book, i-liked-it, read

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

Magical realism, the language of flowers, a child on the autism spectrum but seemingly with the power to heal, a wounded family in need of reuniting-- all the makings of a book to capture my interest, and it did. Special kudos to the author for her portrayal of life with a special needs child, both from the child's perspective and from that of those around her. My heart went out to Rose, in those early days, when Antoinette's behaviors and meeting of milestones were raising questions. It was depicted beautifully, as were all the types of love that found their way onto the pages of this book. (And the dedication to the book just about overwhelmed my heart with the love there.)

Many thanks to the LibraryThing early readers program, and the ever fabulous Algonquin Publishers for sending a copy my way.

tags: 2016-read, early-review-librarything, made-me-look-something-up, magical-realism, read, taught-me-something

From the publisher:
Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when they were kids. As adults, they've been estranged for years, until circumstances force them to come together to protect Rose's daughter. Ten-year-old Antoinette has a severe form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness: she can heal things with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor's tremors disappear, changes the normal course of nature on the Kentucky flower farm where she and her mother live.

Antoinette's gift, though, puts her own life in danger, as each healing comes with an increasingly deadly price. As Rose—the center of her daughter's life—struggles with her own failing health, and Lily confronts her anguished past, they, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.

Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be “different,” The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family, and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

A friend gave me this book saying it was the best book she read all summer. I read it and am thinking I need to seriously re-evaluate our friendship. I know this received rave reviews from many quarters, but for the most part, it did absolutely  nothing for me. I did like the opening chapters, particularly the second, with the story of Lotto's birth. There was a slightly magical feel to it all, and, had the book continued in that vein, I might have loved it, too. However, it didn't, and I had a hard time continuing to the end of the book, for I could find no further foothold to boost my interest, or even my sympathy, with the characters. Even the style of the writing, and the he said/she said viewpoint,  couldn't overcome the distaste I felt for pretty much every single character after those initial pages of delight.

I guess I sometimes just don't run with the crowd. My apologies to Ms Groff. I may try another book in the future, because I admire skill in telling a story, even if it is one that doesn't appeal to me, personally.

Tags: 2016-read, everyone-else-liked-it, give-me-my-time-back, not-to-my-taste, read, read-on-recommendation, thought-i-was-gonna-like

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Baggage Check by MJ Pullen

Not too long ago, a friend of mine started posting the books for which he had been a beta reader. From what I know, he's a big science fiction/fantasy/general fiction reader, so I was more than a little surprised to see a hot pink book cover as one of the books  for which he'd been an early reader. Then, I was even more surprised to see that same book on the shelf as a new arrival at my library, thought the coincidence too much, and checked it out. I also broke one of my  unspoken rules about picking up books in mid-series (I made that rule after trying to jump into The Wheel of Time® series on book three. That worked out well, she lied.)

Anyhow, I was pleasantly surprised by the story. Usually the "group of women friends" books make me want to chomp down on some hard core fiction to get the taste of sweetness out of my mouth, but this one actually tackled some interesting issues. I'm not sorry I didn't read the others in the series (especially as one of my least favorite characters was featured in one of them) but I did enjoy the interactions between the women, their sweethearts/husbands, and families. And I did like the value placed on friendship, support, and most of all honesty and humor.

Bottom line? Families are not perfect: both those we're born into and those we make for ourselves. But if you face challenges together, there's a lot that can be worked thorough, even if it's festered for a while. MJ Pullen created a group of characters that seem genuine, who both care for each other and grow, and maybe make a mistake or two. But it's done with a light touch and a crisp writing style that made the book a pleasure to read.

tags: 2016-read, i-liked-it, part-start-of-a-series, read, set-in-the-south, sometimes-fluff-is-good, thank-you-charleston-county-library

Monday, September 5, 2016

Get Real by Donald Westlake

When a favorite author passes on to that great library in the sky, there is a profound sadness for the loyal fans. But when the author leaves a work behind, written before he died, published posthumously, it can bring true joy to a fan's heart (in this case, two fans, as javaczuk and I listened to it on a recent road trip. This particular voice actor (WilliamDufris) was amazing. We could hardly believe how many character voices he created. And the story? Dortmunder to the end. Westlake had a talent for making the ridiculous plausible, and Get Real is real Dortmunder to the last word.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Preorder Patterns of the Wheel and get a thank you gift!

Fabulous news! If you preorder Patterns of the Wheel through through Ta'veren Tees at you'll get a free mini pencil case as a thank you! (This is the new version from Tor, with 20 additional drawings and some other goodies, which will be in bookstores October 25.)
If you're at DragonCon this year, stop by and say hello to the fine folks at Ta'veren Tees, who will be on Floor 2, Booth 102D-104D with Planet Comics. There's some great stuff there, plus the can help you preorder your copy right there on the spot.

Pre-orders also available at your favorite bookseller. f you've already pre-ordered, no worries! Save your preorder confirmation slip and you can enter it in a drawing next week to win prizes. Information to follow.

Thank you so much for all your support!

Preorder Patterns of the Wheel and get a thank you gift!

Fabulous news! If you preorder Patterns of the Wheel through through Ta'veren Tees at you'll get a free mini pencil case as a thank you! (This is the new version from Tor, with 20 additional drawings and some other goodies, which will be in bookstores October 25.)
If you're at DragonCon this year, stop by and say hello to the fine folks at Ta'veren Tees, who will be on Floor 2, Booth 102D-104D with Planet Comics. There's some great stuff there, plus the can help you preorder your copy right there on the spot.

Thank you so much for all your support!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw by Mark Crilley

I am a self taught folk artist. As a kid, I loved to draw, but my art teacher in school didn't like my style and told me I had no talent. If she'd taken the time to work with me , instead of stifling my creative yearnings, the paths I chose in life might have been different. Instead, at nearly 60, I got my first art lessons along with David, from Becky, courtesy of Mark Crilley. It's been a lot of fun. Just in time, too-- my coloring book comes out in October from Tor Books. Imagine if I'd had Becky's help in the creation of that. Thank you blogging for books and publisher for sending me my copy of this graphic book.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

I'd like this book even if I didn't know Mary Robinette Kowal wrote it. But the fact that she did, had me quivering in anticipation until I could get my hands on a copy. It's got that MRK touch that brings a story to life. I think all her work in her other life, which include dramatic speaking, puppetry,  and voice acting, really helps shape her conversations so that they actually sound like conversations that occur in real life. They're not overly stuffed with information, the pace and emotions are realistic, and you can hear the characters speak in your head (or at least I can. And it's not that I'm hearing voices in the she-needs-medical-evaluation sense, but that the author has given life to her characters through their words, thoughts, and action, and I, as the reader, benefit from that.)

So, I've been to Regency England (with magic!) with Mary, and to Mars, and a bunch of other places. This time, she took me to WWI, and introduced me to the Spirit Corps, England's secret weapon that gets real time battle information and military intellegence from British soldiers on the front. The only catch is that these are soldiers who have died, and their ghosts are reporting in before following the light to whatever comes next. The details they are able to give, such as where they were, which direction the shot came from, etc, helps to give the British command valuable information.

In the meantime, Ginger Stuyvesant, an American who is engaged to intelligence officer Captain Ben Harford, is one of the mediums of the Spirit Corps. She and her circle discover there's a traitor in the system, mucking up the works, and helping the Germans who want to destroy the Spirit Corps. Even though she and her colleagues provide valuable information, they have a hard time convincing those in charge that there is a true threat. And when that threat is aimed at the Spirit Corp itself, Ginger and company move into action.

There's a lot to like in this novel. I did have a quibble or two with a couple of stereotypes, but they ended up being kind of fun against the other characters. Also, I did roll my eyes and groan, and complain to my husband that I thought Michael Livingston had a hand in getting one of the troops in the trenches mentioned. (Turns out, I was right, but had to wait 136 pages to the Acknowledgements to find out my hunch was correct. The man is everywhere!) There's also a love story (though that's not the, pardon the expression, thrust of the story. It's all very proper.)

My main dissatisfaction? That I have to wait for MRK to finish writing something else for me to read. Whatever it is, i'm pretty sure I'll squee with delight when I get my hands on that, too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Summer Dragon (The Evertide, #1) by Todd Lockwood

Dear Todd,

Cut it out, will you? You're already an incredible artist (award winning, in fact), and  your art contains the very images that already populate the brains of fantasy readers when someone says "picture a dragon." Do you know how hard it is to walk into a bookstore and not see a cover by Todd Lockwood? Give us a break.

And then, if that's not enough, you're a nice guy. You actually talk to people at conventions, make friends, interact, and even get out there on the dance floor. Talk about being approachable. Jeez.

So now, you wrote a book. Well, actually, not just a book, but as the cover says "First Book of the Evertide", which I got, because I'm a friend, and thought you should have the support of those of us who know and like you. But come on, Todd, the book is in its third printing already, and it just came out in May 2016! I picked up a first edition, (pre-ordered, in fact) and when I heard how many had sold, I figured it was because of the kick-ass cover art or the drawings by the artist/author included inside.

But damn it, Todd. You can write. You can build worlds as well as draw them. You can craft characters with ink, and not just in your art, but with your words. I don't even like coming of age tales, but got sucked right into Maia's world, hopes, conflicts, and determination. She's an amazing young woman. There's even a touch of the philosopher in you, too. It's just not fair.

Plus, you broke my heart, right in two, with one of the drawings. You know, that father-daughter drawing at the start of chapter 22. The tenderness and love in his eyes, as he gazes down at his little one; her joyful posture as she stands below him balanced on her back legs, looking adoringly up at him. I love the personalities you've given your dragons.  There human fathers who yearn for what Malik had in that moment when his little qit gazed up at him in that drawing.

So anyhow, Todd, I'm kind of annoyed at you, because you've set a hard standard for us other artists to live up to. So, please put away your dreams of creating Dragon Symphony and Ballet, and give us a chance, okay? You don't want us to die of despair before the next Evertide book comes out, do you?

Thank you so much, and would you mind signing my copy?

tags: 2016-readmet-or-know-the-authori-liked-the-picturescreaturesgood-worldbuildingdragonsfirst-novel-or-bookgreat-coverpart-start-of-a-series 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout

A love story, though an understated love between mother and child. Lucy Barton's life is told more by what was left unsaid. But, as her writing teacher told her, we all have one story to tell. This is Lucy's, and it's fascinating. We are made of where we come from and where we go

Tags: 2016-read, an-author-i-read, made-me-look-something-up, read, thank-you-charleston-county-library, thought-provoking

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Dream Come True

My mother married my dad in 1943. She was true to him to her death in 2009. He was the love of her life. But in all honesty, she had another love, that she met in 1962 and then, in 1986 travelled back to see again: The Grand Canyon.

I was 5 when my family bundled into our sky blue Country Squire station wagon, and drove across the country stopping at as many national parks as we could between our home in Silver Spring, Maryland and our destination in California. My mother's excitement as we approached Grand Canyon National Park was palpable. The set up for visitors in 1962 was a little a bit different than it is now, I'm told. We bundled out of the car, tired from our journey. My mother, an amateur geologist and enthusiastic rock hound, looked off in the distance, and sighed with joy, until my brother tapped her on the shoulder and suggested she turn around. What she turned to see was the full beauty of that aptly named canyon, truly grand. It took her breath, her speech away, and she wept fro the sheer glory of it.

She spoke of its beauty the rest of her life. She and my father planned to travel back for their 40th anniversary. When he died in 1981, 2 years shy of that anticipated time, she thought this meant she'd never get back.  But returning to the Grand Canyon was a dream, one she fulfilled five years later with the help of my brother, Erico, and his wonderful wife, Heather.
Erico and Ruthe on the Rim of the Canyon

It was not the trip you might expect. My mother had Multiple Sclerosis, and at that time, was in a wheelchair, only able to walk short distances. True, she did exercises every day to help maintain strength and muscle tone, but she also needed at least one nap a day to restore her energy. What they'd planned, with the help of the park service, was quite amazing. They spent a couple of days on the surface, resting and preparing, then, with the assistance of the rangers and staff, Heather, Erico, and Ruthe joined a mule team, and rode down the canyon. Ruthe, who really had never ridden a horse, who had multiple sclerosis, and lacked leg strength and balance, who wore corrective glasses to hep combat her diplopia, got on a white mule named Miss Piggy and rode to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Ruthe and Heather Prepare for the Descent

The trip was both beautiful and breathtaking. Ruthe was placed in line immediately behind the lead guide, with Heather following her. Heather told me, when we got together after the journey, that Ruthe got so tired at times that Heather would look at her, slumped on the mule, then look to the side and see the drop off to the Canyon floor below, and wonder how long it would take her to jump off her mule and catch Ruthe as she slid off her own mount. When not calculating that, she would wonder how to tell those of us not on the trip that Ruthe had slipped off the mule and fallen to the river below. But just when Heather thought her tiny mother-in-law was about to put the calculations to the test, Ruthe would straighten, and then turn around a flash a beaming smile at Heather. 

That's my mom, beaming!
They made it to the bottom safely. I'm not entirely sure, but I do think Ruthe was airlifted out rather than riding back up. (I'm scanning family pictures now, and in the album, all the pictures on mule are in a descent, then the bottom, then taken from a helicopter.) I do seem to recall that once back up, there was another rest period, then travel to California for a mini family reunion, which javaczuk and I were able to fly out and join for a few days. 

She made it! At the Colorado river
The US National Park Service is celebrating its Centennial anniversary. All summer long, I've been enjoying social media images of the glories that one can discover in the parks part of the diverse system. But none of those images, as spectacular as they are, have made me as happy as discovering the pictures taken on that 1986 trip.

As a side note: In going through the boxes of memorabilia this summer, I found this letter to my mom from Grand Canyon National Park Lodges.

It's ok. Not her address any more...

To Ruthe, one of the highlights of her life was riding a mule down that "gorgeous hunk of rock." To me, the Grand Canyon wasn't the only thing that was grand or inspiring on that journey. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Homegoing: A novel by Yaa Gyasi

There's a reason this is one of the most talked about books this summer. The basic back-of-the-book blurb doesn't give the true power of the story, which follows two half sisters from different villages in Ghana, and the lives of their descendants, for 3 centuries. It's quite a tale, and an eye opener for me. I read a lot, and have experienced the lives and conditions of Africans and African Americans in many books, some quite visceral and explicit in detail. However, the linear story, added to the individual ones made this quite compelling. This says a lot, since each story pretty much stands alone for the character it focuses on. In some cases you learn a little about the previous generation/main character, in other, nothing at all. And, as the stories alternate between the decedents of each sister, this made the family tree in the front of the book exceedingly valuable for me.

I am not a lover of short stories, so the fact that I liked this book so much, which is very much like a book of related short stories, indicates the power of the writing. My one complaint is that I really do want to know more about most of the characters and their lives, and also to know more definitively the back story before their births. My knowledge of African history is not my strong suit, so I did do a bit of reading on that to help shore up the knowledge base of where the story begins. For me, as a white reader, I was quite involved and quite moved/impacted by many of the experiences. It is not my heritage, nor my history (for despite living in the South much of my life, Southern heritage is not my family heritage.) I am curious to hear how other readers, for whom aspects of this story are incorporated in their own family history, relate.

Tags: 2016-read, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, i-heard-about-it-on-npr, made-me-look-something-up, read, read-on-recommendation, taught-me-something, thank-you-charleston-county-library, thought-provoking, will-look-for-more-by-this-author, wow

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay

This book cover kept catching my eye, so finally, I gave in. I really enjoyed the story, characters, and dilemmas that occurred, though I did feel a bit removed from it all, (but at times so did Stacey, so I guess I'm excused.) There was a lot of hard living, drinking, and more uses of the f-word than even my mother (which says a lot). But overall, I came away glad I read it. The snippets of Stacey's work were interesting, and I'd kinda like to actually read her poem that was based on Frankenstein, even though it's got a lot of grimness in it. (The book was about the poem, which was a book, itself, becoming a movie.) I will look for more by the author.

Tags: 2016-read, first-novel-or-book, great-cover, i-liked-it, made-me-look-something-up, read, will-look-for-more-by-this-author

The Wake of the Bloody Angel (Eddie LaCrosse 4) by Alex Bledsoe

Dang! Another review I let languish. Sorry Alex Bledsoe, especially since I really enjoyed the book. I picked it up because I was so taken with the Tuva series, that I wanted to see how your other books were. Couldn't get the first in the series, but I was able to jump right in with this one, thankfully. Some books are great romps through whatever world they're set in, and this was one. There was enough history similar to our own, and enough that had nothing to do with this one to keep me both amused and on my toes. (I'm partial to pirate tales, being from Charleston, where they once sailed our seas, and where Anne Bonny got her start, and nearly her finish, and Sted Bonnet graced the gallows at White Point Gardens.) You did give me an ear worm though, and I'll have to see how song plays in the next book of yours I read.  I like Eddie La Crosse.

(Quietly hums  "Brandy, you're a fine girl, What a good wife you would be, But my life, my love and my lady is the sea.")

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Bookshop on the Corner: A Novel by Jenny Colgan

A librarian in Birmingham (the UK one not the US one) gets laid off, and decides to open a mobile bookshop -- in Scotland. Sounds like a fun premise for a light read, right? And after all, I like books about books, because usually I get at least one good title to put on my wishlist. And a light read is sometimes just the ticket.

Aside from being completely misnamed, "The Bookshop on the Corner" was indeed a

Even with my ARC frustrations, I still enjoyed the book. I'd like to thank the publishers and Library Thing early reviewers program for my copy of the book, and the author for one of the more entertaining Message to Readers.

2016-read, advanced-reader-copy, books-about-books, early-review-librarything, made-me-look-something-up, read 
quick, light read. ("On the corner" makes the shop sound land based, when in fact, it is in a van, and rides the country side. Also, the actual name of the shop is "The Little Shop of Happy Ever After", which I expect was the original title of the manuscript, but that some editor found too twee, and changed it. I have no problems with changing the book title, but make it fit the book!) The main frustrations I had with it might be because I was reading an ARC. I am in the habit of looking up words I don't know as well as books mentioned which are unfamiliar. In this case, I looked up probably 17 words, two of which I was able to find meanings for. The others, thinking they possibly could be British slang I sent to various British and Scottish friends, who also were stumped. I can only assume I have somewhat unaware friends, or else these are typos that will be corrected before the final publication. As to books, aside from well-knowns, like Harry Potter or Swallows and Amazons, I was also singularly unsuccessful, even using I sincerely hope there is a glossary of books mentioned for readers who wish to follow-up on interesting sounding books. But as I said, these may be ARC frustrations, and really didn't interfere too much with the telling of the story.

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton

I got a little snitty reading this book, complaining to my self, and to husband, that if someone's going to write a time-travel book, at least they should know history. I even went to tweet about it, but then had the sudden thought that the things that were bothering me, might actually be a plot element, and I shouldn't go all history major on the author, but be patient and read the book. Glad I listened to myself (and  stopped the tweet before I hit "post"). It allowed me to figure out one plot twist, but be surprised still by another. 

Let me ask you this: if you could go back in history and change one thing to fix the wrongs of the world, what would it be? I love a book that's food for thought.

tags: 2016-read, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-think, read, science-fiction, thank-you-charleston-county-library, time-travel-reincarnation-etc

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

I never come away from a Chevalier novel without knowing I have gained something. Sometimes that "something" is a wonderful bit of fiction, but often, it also is that more elusive classroom of life, where I have learned a bit more about the subject of which she's written. It can be painting a masterpiece, weaving one of my favorite medieval tapestries, finding fossils, or as in this book, more about trees and our nation's history in the early to mid 1800's. The story starts in the swamps of northwest Ohio (okay, I admit it. I didn't know there were swamps there) with the somewhat hapless and luckless Goodenough family, who are, indeed, good enough to make a mess of things, including planting the orchard that would allow them to claim ownership of their land. (Now that decree I did know about: to claim a sake of farmland, there needed to be 50 trees planted as an orchard in 3 years of settling, to show you were really serious about farming the land.) The story bounces back and forth between James and Sadie, sometimes sideswiping their surviving children, and then moves to follow the youngest, Robert, as he travels west. (The day Robert first saw the giant sequoias of California was the day I also discovered old family pictures from 1962 when my own family discovered them as well.)

Chevalier has woven two actual figures into the novel, both of whom have crossed my interest radar in the past: John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) and William Lobb, each of whom helped transport trees (actually seeds, seedlings, and saplings) from their natural environment to new ones, often miles and growing zones away.  Fascinating stuff, how we changed our world through plants. And because that fascinates me, the story built around it interested me, too.

Tags: 2016-read, an-author-i-read, made-me-look-something-up, read,  taught-me-something, thank-you-charleston-county-library

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore

It tickled me to read this book in June (even though the June in this case refers to a girl named June rather than the month. The book uses a dual narrative, one past, one present, to tell the story of the summer of 1955 in a small town in Ohio, when Hollywood came to town, and the repercussions it had into present day for Cassie, a young woman still fresh from the death of the grandmother who raised her. As Cassie hides from the world in the grand old house she inherited, Hollywood again comes knocking, when she finds that she has inherited the entire estate of the star of that long ago movie. Even though there were a few plot devices and foreshadowing that was easy to spot,  Miranda Beverly-Whittemore surprised me on one element.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and the publisher for sending me this copy.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chapel of Ease by Alex Bledsoe (Publication date September 6 2016)

I believe in magic. I don't mean the hocus-pocus stuff, but in an underlying magic that is the song and beauty of our world, something, that, if we're very lucky, or very blessed, or maybe blind, stupid drunk, we can occasionally unlock. I think it's that belief that makes me like books that give secret histories-- a magic woven in between our own known world and history that, in the telling, doesn't necessarily change what we, the unmusical, know, but once we learn gives added dimension. I think this is also one of the reasons I like Alex Bledsoe's novels of the Tufa so much. The Tufa are magic hidden in plain sight. And in each of Bledsoe's four Tufa novels, we get a little glimpse of the song that carries them.

This novel, Chapel of Ease, is due out September 6, 2016. I am completely grateful to Diana Pho at Tor Books, for not making me wait that long, and getting me an ARC. Chapel of Ease stands apart from the first three books (The Hum and the Shiver, A Wisp of A Thing, The Long Black Curl) as it is partially set in New York City, but overlaps for a portion of the book with the familiar setting of Cloud County. My experience with the other three books was to get completely lost in the rhythms, melodies, and words laced throughout the story. With this book, though the novel is essentially about a musical written by a Tufa, to open off-Broadway, the music didn't carry me as much, but the telling of the story did. Maybe that's because I also happen to love books that weave two story-lines. And, if one is in the past, and one present day, even better. From the moment this story started, through to the very last lines, it held me. (See plot summary kindly provided by Tor Books here.)

Reading this in the wake of the horrific shooting in Orlando also helped a bit in my processing of that tear in our fabric of humanity. The explorations of differences in groups of people, in sexual orientation, in beliefs, and even in the biases of country vs city/city vs country that were so carefully, and eloquently developed within the plot helped with my own inner dialogue.  It all flowed quite naturally, as a piece of the plot, not like the remuddles I've seen plastered on other stories to bring them up to date. I'm so very happy to have a novel that presents a really interesting non-stereotypical gay man as a main character, not as a sidekick. I, as a straight woman, really liked being inside his head, and in his heart. I also liked yet another glimpse of the magic that may be hidden in our world, and how it may not be confined only to those mountains in Cloud County.

I have to wait a bit for the next novel in the series (even for an ARC) but I will try to be patient. We're headed to our mountain cabin in Rabun county, and I may even dust off my dulcimer. But, before that, I have a big decision to make: which of Alex Bledsoe's series do I explore next?