Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: The Storied life of A.J. Fikry

For lovers of literature, book stores and quirky characters, this is the book for you. 

But I want to put this disclaimer at the beginning - the only problem, and this could be a deal-breaker, is the language. (f-word used multiple times). Such a shame. It's not even needed.

OK. that being said- I really enjoyed this book. AJ Fikry is a fickle book store owner, a widow and from India. When a young child shows up in his book store, orphaned, his world changes. He changes. His vision for his future opens to include new people, including Amy, a publishing house agent who makes the trip to his store a couple of times a year to sell books.

Book readers will love this story because of all the literary references. There are conversations about telling what a person's personality is like based on what books they like to read. Reading lists. The conflict between paper books and electronic readers. And more. 

Non-book readers and readers alike, will like this story because the characters are quirky yet believable. Its easy to see yourself in these  characters and their weaknesses, insecurities and frailty. Its a story about being dealt a hard hand and persevering, finding joy along the way.

If not for the language, I would buy this book and share it with all my reading friends. It s a great, great story!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Time Seller

We are first introduced to Anton in 1017. He is a disgraced soldier living a quiet life with his wife and young child. When an undefeatable monster appears, his life changes forever. 

And by forever, I mean we are again introduced to Anton, now known as Simeon, in 2017.

One of the best parts about "The Time Seller" is the way Abel Keogh plays with time. The concept of manipulating time is very complex and its very believable throughout the story. 

There are several things that make this story engaging. One of them is the setting. Throughout the novel we are jumping between time periods--old-timey fantasy and high-tech modern time. Both settings are believable and engaging. While reading, I was sad to leave one period but then I started the next and I was just as interested to read on. 

The characters are also unique and authentic. Anton is a strong, complex character faced with moral decisions and he makes the best decision he can, even if its not perfect. All the supporting characters are strong and developed. I loved that each character had strong motivation and moral compass. 

The only thing I would caution is that this is definitely an adult book. There is violence against a child and there are adult themes. I recommend this book for adults and older, mature teens maybe.

This is a great time traveling, time manipulating adventure. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: Amy Snow

"Amy Snow" by Tracy Rees is a fantastic book for someone who enjoys regency era but not regency romance.

A small babe is found in the snow by Aurelia, a young heiress on a large estate. Aurelia brings her inside and informs her parents that she is keeping the baby and names her Amy Snow. From that point on, feisty Aurelia loves Amy. By the rest of the household, she is seen as a second-class citizen. Especially by Aurelia's mother, who has not been able to hold on to a pregnancy since Aurelia. 

Aurelia and Amy have a strong bond that eventually earns Amy a place as Aurelia's handmaid. Then Aurelia becomes sick and the household is heartbroken, knowing she will die young and probably never marry. While Aurelia is still in relatively good health, and in order to avoid a marriage to a man she doesn't love, she leaves on a trip around England with her aunt. Amy is left behind, feeling confused and heartbroken.

It isn't long after Aurelia returns that she passes away. In her will, she leaves Amy a letter. A letter with a secret. By deciphering the hidden message, Amy is thrust into a treasure hunt. Following clues, Amy learns how to stand on her own and also uncovers more secrets she never knew Aurelia was hiding.

The interaction between Amy and Aurelia were so authentic. I wished I could read more about Aurelia before she died. She was such a head-strong character. Amy was fun to follow because of her growing self-awareness. There is a love-story element and it was almost too much for me. But it wasn't the typical regency romance. Phew. 

Then ending, though I had guessed at it early, was still rewarding and fitting. A good read for those who enjoy treasure hunts with clues dropped along the way, mixed with regency and a little romance.
  

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book Review: Veritas

veritas
"Veritas" is half murder mystery, half horror, with bits of love story and adventure thrown in to make it a compelling page turner.

Hester is blind and deaf and has heightened awareness of sound and smell. In fact, they are powers she holds because she is a Demi-god in Stonehenge, CO 1892. Raised as the only child in a wealthy family, she has everything she wants except the freedom to pursue the man she loves, Tom. She and Tom have the ability to communicate telepathically. And despite the restraints her parents put on her, she and Tom are lovers.

When one of the ghosts that constantly badgers Hester, clues her in on a new murder in town, her life is flipped upside down. And things get more complicated from there.

The first time I read anything from this book was for a first chapter online critique group. It read like a horror story and I was intrigued. It was just enough to horrify me but not gross me out. The character of Hester is what drew me in. She is so unique and strong, yet vulnerable. She stayed with me several days after I read.

The only critique I have is that some of the storylines are not resolved. But then again, this is the first in a series. At the same time, I wish they'd been addressed a little more.

I loved the setting. Stonehenge, CO! How did she come up with that? 1892. So very unique. I enjoyed the way Coleridge explores the senses with Hester. Everything has a unique smell, even emotions. The love triangle is not overbearing, which is always a relief for me. (I'm not opposed to romance. I just don't love romance novels.) The world building is well done with intriguing plot twists. 

But the writing... its good. Good writing. This is an author who is not just a good story-teller but a student of the craft. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next.

Favorite quote:
"The doctor leads me to a chair, smelling of everything good and normal in the world. Cinnamon, chocolate, cold wintry air, dried lavender, pine needles, healthy horseflesh, and a male body kept clean with the daily application of warm water and soap. It's an unbefitting thing to admit, but I could sit here and inhale Kelly for hours."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Book Review: Big Magic



 "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert is based on the premise that creative magic is all around us. Magical creative ideas are floating around us waiting for someone to grab on and make them a reality. 

It’s interesting but the first two sections of the book, I didn’t really buy. I’m more a believer in inspiration and God’s influence. But once I made it to the third section about giving yourself permission to be creative, I really started to enjoy the book. 

One of my very favorite quotes is how we can respond when doubt creeps in and we wonder what we are doing and why. Most creative people hit this roadblock at some point and multiple times. We wonder-
Why am I spending so much time on this writing/painting/music/etc?
I’m not any better or more creative than anyone else?
Is anyone going to care?
What if they don’t care?
What if I totally stink?
What am I doing?

Elizabeth Gilbert says:

"'Who the *bleep* do you think you are?' your darkest interior voices will demand.
"It's funny you should ask," you can reply. "I'll tell you who I am: I am a child of God, just like anyone else. I am a constituent of this universe. I have invisible spirit benefactors who believe in me, and who labor alongside me. The fact that I am here at all is evidence that I have the right to be here. I have a right to my own voice and a right to my own vision. I have a right to collaborate with creativity, because I myself am a product and a consequence of Creation. I'm on a mission of artistic liberation, so let the girl go."

I love that! It is my new creative mantra and gives me permission, validation, encouragement to keep creating.

Another quote I love is about being perfect.
"It starts by forgetting about perfect. We don't have time for perfect. In any event, perfection is unachievable: It's a myth and a trap and a hamster wheel that will run you to death. The writer Rebecca Solnit puts it well: 'So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it's also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun'

As a writer, I also appreciated all the personal experiences she shared about her own writing and publishing life. One story that I got a kick out of was the background to her short story “Elk Talk.” I don’t want to give it away here, but it really is a great story. About the fickle world of publishing.

Big Magic is well written and Gilbert’s voice is so distinct, easy and fun to read. So, although I didn’t agree with everything in the book, I did appreciate a lot of it. 

I recommend this with a grain of salt. 

Another great quote is:
We all need an activity that is beyond the mundane and that takes us out of our established and limiting roles in society (mother, employee, neighbor, brother, boss, etc.). We all need something that helps us to forget ourselves for a while--to momentarily forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our duties, our failures, and all that we have lost and screwed up. We need something that takes us so far out of ourselves that we forget to eat, forget to pee, forget to mow the lawn, forget to resent our enemies, forget to brood over our insecurities. Praye rcan do that for us, community service can do it, sex can do it, exercise can do it, and substance abuse can most certainly do it (albeit with god-awful consequences)--but creative living can do it, too. Perhaps creativity's greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us remporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are. Best of all, at the end of your creative adventure, you have a souvenir--something that you made, something to remind you forever of your brief but transformative encounter with inspiration.

the story about "Elk Talk"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: Shatter

"Shatter" is a new-release by Nikki Trionfo and it is awesome!
But I'm getting ahead of myself.


First, take a look at this cover-
So great, right?


And the tag line-
three bodies.
two liars.
one killer.
Even better!

Salem's life is falling to pieces, shattered, by the recent death of her older sister, mentor and friend, Carrie. Others are convinced it was a freak accident but Carrie doesn't buy it. Something feels wrong. But Carrie's is not the only recent death. When Juan Herrera, a farm worker, turns up dead in her father's peach orchard, her father becomes a suspect. Salem knows there is more to the story in both murders and knows if she wants answers, she's going to have to find them herself. Uncovering the mystery leads her into dangerous gang situations, tense confrontations, new relationships and a never-saw-it-coming ending.

There are a lot of reasons why I enjoyed this book. Salem is awesome. At the start of the book, she is fragile, having just lost her sister. She is timid and accustomed to following her sister's lead. The loss Salem feels is real, raw and transfers from the written page straight to the heart. But she doesn't stay weak for long. Throughout the story, she grows and develops, through trial and error, and becomes strong and confident in her own self. Yay for strong female leads!

I also enjoyed the plot. I started reading this book at a time when I was frequently interrupted by children. And so, the first few chapters, which include several flashbacks and jump around a bit, were confusing. But overall, Trionfo did a great job of slowly introducing characters so that I remembered who they were and why they were important. She just led me right along until I was so immersed in the plot I couldn't wait to get back to the story each night.

Another thing I loved about the plot was that it was about farming and peach orchards! The conflict between the Growers, the Farm Workers Union-and also the immigrant workers and the influence of gangs was woven together in a way that made it all make sense. There is also a love story that is not teen-age-angst-y, which is a relief. It is complicated in the best sense of the word, because of ethnicity, gangs and trust issues. The mystery itself keeps you itching for each new clue. The diversity of characters is great with the Hispanic gangs and immigrant workers and white growers, which feels so fresh and new in the book market these days.

I'm excited for my 16-year-old daughter to read this book. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book. It's a great fresh read!

Also- I talked to Nikki Trionfo at the Storymakers Conference last weekend and she is every bit as cool as her book!



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Cinder Heart



Cinder Heart by Amy Linnabary, is a Cinderella retelling and everyone knows I cannot resist a good retake on the classic tale. 

The Amazon blurb:
Sixteen-year-old Gabriella just wants to finish high school without ticking off her stepmom and being forced out of her father’s house. When she finds out she’s the girl prophesied about in the fairytale Cinderella, her world gets turned upside-down.
Things get worse when the cute senior, Hal Charm, finally discovers that she exists. Add a fairy godmother, the powers of fire and speed, and a villain other than her stepmom and Gabbie’s life goes up in flames.
Now she's forced to decide between ignoring her destiny to save her friendships, or risking discovery to become the hero she needs to be.

Gabby is a character that most high school girls can relate to. And truthfully, most high school girls can relate to the way Cinderella is oppressed and the feeling that they are special but its hidden and is yet to be discovered.

Anyway, Gabby has goals to just graduate and move on with her life. By the end of the novel, her goals have grown and so has she. She is no longer a victim but a powerful force to be reckoned with. Her relationships all feel very real, with her step family and teachers. The relationship she has with her best friend is one my favorite parts of the book. And of course all the YA romance lovers will enjoy the male lead, Hal. He is both mysterious and vulnerable. 

Linnabery does a great job of taking the classic fairy tale and turning it around to make it fresh and new. Some of the classic characters take on new roles and a new villain is on scene. The setting is contemporary and ready for action. This is also the first book in a series and sets the stage nicely for a broader setting and story arc. 

Get ready for a new, exciting series that fair tale lovers will enjoy!