Month: August 2014
Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom by Shanna Groves is a heartwarming and funny book. After Groves gives birth to her son, she begins losing her hearing. This is the story of the many adjustments she had to make, told in a humorous way that, even though it’ll make you laugh, doesn’t diminish the seriousness of her experience.
You’ll laugh and cry as Shanna learns to cope with her changed circumstances, and how to convert a loss into a gain – the new perspectives she gains on life and living that make her, in my humble opinion, a much better person.
Written like a novel, with great dialogue and description, this book will educate, entertain, and enlighten. The author’s got grit, and i give her four stars for it.
They say, ‘better late than never. I signed up for the Turning the Pages YA Blog Tour, and was scheduled to do a review of Kimberly Loth’s Kissed on August 17. Unfortunately, I suffered a major hack of my email account, cutting me off from the necessary files, and then an unplanned business trip completed the isolation until recently. Well, I always keep promises – even late – and I found the book worth reading and reviewing, so here it is.
Review of Kissed
Kissed by Kimberly Loth, which I received a review copy of, is a hard novel to categorize. In some ways it’s a coming of age story, but on another level it’s a bit of social commentary that in its treatment of radical fundamentalism and cultism is right on the mark. It also has some elements of thriller that keep you reading as you follow Naomi in her perilous journey to escape her father’s insane clutches. This is fiction that reads very much like it was ripped from the pages of some tabloid – Loth might not live in the U.S., but she’s got the number of the cultish groups that infect this country like a creeping fungal itch.
This is Loth’s first novel, but she has shown herself to be a master of her craft. This is a book that I put in the must-read category, and even though it was billed in being a YA novel, adult readers will find it fascinating.
I give Loth a firm four stars, and predict that her next offering will soar even higher.
About the book and the author
Kissed (The Thorn Chronicles)
by Kimberly Loth
Trapped in a dark cult, sixteen-year-old Naomi Aren has lived a quiet, albeit unhappy, life nestled deep in the hills of the Ozarks. With uncut hair, denim skirts, and only roses for friends, Naomi seldom questions why her life is different from other kids at school. Until the day her abusive father, who is also the cult’s leader, announces her wedding. Naomi must marry Dwayne Yerdin, a bully who reeks of sweat and manure and is the only one person who scares her worse than her father.
Then she meets Kai, the mysterious boy who brings her exotic new roses and stolen midnight kisses. Kisses that bring her a supernatural strength she never knew she had. As the big day approaches, Naomi unearths more secrets of about her father’s cult. She learns she has power of her own and while Kai may have awakened that power, Naomi must find a way to use it to escape Dwayne and her father—without destroying herself.
Buy the book: http://amzn.to/1oeQAPf Only 99 cents
About the Author
Kimberly Loth can’t decide where she wants to settle down. She’s lived in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Utah, California, Oregon, and South Carolina. She finally decided to make the leap and leave the U.S. behind for a few years. Currently, she lives in Cairo, Egypt with her husband and two kids.
She is a high school math teacher by day (please don’t hold that against her) and YA author by night. She loves romantic movies, chocolate, roses, and crazy adventures. Kissed is her first novel.
Connect with the Author
Author Philip Gibson has introduced a novel way of writing about history with his hashtag history series, using fictionalized social media posts based on historical facts to show history from a totally different perspective. In Houston #70, a retelling of the Apollo 13 mission through tweets, posted by well-known personalities of the time such as astronaut Jim Lovell, or news anchor Walter Cronkite.
Experiencing this historic event through a series of 144 character tweets is a bit weird at first, but you quickly get caught up in the tension and excitement, and much like what happens when the twitterverse comes alive during breaking news today, you find yourself sucked into it as if it was just happening.
I previously read Havana #62, an account of the Cuban Missile crisis, which was not bad, but had a few entries I found hard to swallow. Houston #70, on the other hand, is completely credible. I can imagine that if Twitter had existed back then, these are just the sort of things that might have been posted.
Kudos to Gibson for coming up with a new way of sharing history with a general reading audience. You’ll find this book entertaining and well worth reading.
I received a free review copy of Houston #70. I give it four stars for creativity.
When Duncan Hartley’s wife Nicole dies and her body parts are put up for auction, he’s curious to see who gets her stomach. He’s curious because an examination of that body part will reveal a serious crime – the growing of fresh vegetables. When Pharma Security, Nicole’s former employer, wins the bid, Hartley is worried, but there’s little he can do, but flee, which he does with the help of another Pharma employee, Amy, a woman who had become disillusioned with her life, and who also happens to have been a friend of Nicole.
If you’re curious at this point, well you should be. This is a completely different kind of story, one that will suck you in like a giant Hoover. I received a free copy of In a Right State by Ben Ellis in exchange for an unbiased review. This is his first novel, but I’ll be sure to check out his next. He has a wicked sense of humor, and it comes through here. This book had be flipping pages with anticipation from the opening paragraph.
A story of a dysfunctional future when corporations are in control, In a Right State also has all the elements of a first-rate mystery/thriller. After reading this, you’re sure to have a few uneasy thoughts about how governments and big corporations relate to each other.
Private investigator Patricia Delaney is hired by Gigi Lafferty to take on an unusual case – Lafferty, after having called Delaney and asking her to investigate her husband to see if he’s cheating, arrives late for their appointment and announces that she actually wants herself investigated. An expert in using the computer to ferret out information, Delaney reluctantly takes the case. She finds nothing unusual, but when she finds Lafferty murdered at her house, she learns that her client is actually an acquaintance from her past – Loretta King, a former exotic dancer at a club where Delaney had worked as a dancer. Unfortunately, the police suspect her as the killer, and she now has to prove her own innocence.
Past Pretense by Sharon Short is a spellbinding tale of murder, intrigue, and secrets that I received a free copy of in exchange for an unbiased review. I found myself totally captivated from page one, and couldn’t put it down until the end. Short is a master at weaving a tale of suspense, with rich description of people and places that draws the reader into the world she’s created. Her use of the third person enables us to see everything that’s going on, but she skillfully plants clues that force the reader to pay careful attention. I found myself rooting for Delaney from the outset, captivated by her merging of computer skills with good, old-fashioned gumshoe work, as she sets about not only solving Lafferty’s murder, but as she delves into her own past to solve an old crime that she’d long since forgotten.
Past Pretense sets a new standard for the genre, and I look forward to Short’s next offering. While five-stars is the maximum one can give – I’d like to be sneaky and give this one six.
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge for this week is black and white photos. This is a photo I took of the citadel and cathedral in Kleve, Germany when I visited there in 2010, and then converted to black and white in post-processing. Hope you like it.
Why do you work? For money? For fame? Or, do you work because the work that you do gives your life meaning and purpose?
Unfortunately, for too many people, the economic state of the world is such that they have to work just to keep crumbs on the table and tatters on their back, so they never get the chance to contemplate these existential questions.
When I retired from government in 2012, after 50-plus years (if you consider that I began working full time around the time I was 12-years old, I’d been working for more than 55 years non-stop), I found that I could actually think about such things. While my monthly annuity doesn’t put me in the top one percent (those few who control most of the world’s wealth), along with my savings and investments, I am in a position where I actually don’t have to work in order to maintain my lifestyle at the same level as before retirement. Actually, with the free time, I can now do things I didn’t have time for before.
So, what do I do? Well, I write. Just as I’ve been doing for the past half century, only now, instead of writing early in the morning and late at night, I can write whenever I feel like it. Sometimes, I write for most of a day. I also consult – after fifty years you acquire skills that don’t exactly go away, and I feel a moral obligation to share them with the generation that follows me. Next month, I’ll be spending most of the month in the Mojave Desert working with military units preparing to deploy overseas. I’m also in demand as a speaker and lecturer. This past summer I ran a workshop on professional writing for the Rangel foreign affairs fellowship program at Howard University. I’m finding that these activities are taking up almost as much of my time as fulltime work did. Because I can say ‘no’, though, I do have control over which blocks of time get consumed. I, therefore, have time to spend getting to know my grandchildren – Sammie and Catie, and one more on the way.
Why, you might ask, does someone who worked for half a century, and who is financially secure, chose to still get up three or four days a week and leave home to work, or goes on trips of a week to a month to do many of the same things he did before as part of a daily grind? For starters, except for the demands on my time over which I had no control, I never thought of what I did as a ‘grind.’ Now that I have the ultimate say over what I do, where, and when – doing the things I’ve always done is not only rewarding, but fun. I don’t do it for the money – not, mind you, that the money’s bad. I do it for the satisfaction of knowing that I can still make a contribution. I do it because I have like seeing the results of my efforts – along with the contribution of others.
Oh, and one other thing – I love it because it gives me an excuse to leave the house periodically. For those of you looking at retirement in the near future, think about this. Being around your significant other 24/7 might sound nice, but the reality is different, and often frightening. It’s true what they say: ‘Absence does make the heart grow fonder.’
a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy that includes social or technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) usually with some deconstruction of, re-imagining of, or rebellion against parts of it (the punk) –from Steampunk.com
No way. Fantasy? 19th Century? Rebellion? Not my areas of interest.
Then I met Emma Jan Holloway’s Baskerville Affair trilogy. True to its genre (well, steampunk is a sub-genre), she includes all those tantalizing elements and more–magic, steam-powered machines, automatons that appear more real than ruse, mechanical mice and birds imbued with invisible spirits, electronic marvels that run daily lives as electricity and oil does ours, powerful egotistical men controlling the lives of London citizens–and Sherlock Holmes. What a marvelous mixture of mayhem!…
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Summer is not a good time to be in or near Houston, Texas. The low lands, mostly marsh, hold the heat like a steam bath, and it’s hurricane season, so it’s not really a good place for summer vacation. But, when you live there, you have no choice.
For 14-year-old Mark Eckert, who lives in a wealthy community halfway between Houston and Galveston, though, it’s a time of adventure and exploration. He’s looking forward to his first year of high school, and his summer is much as summer is for any teen in that part of the country – hanging out with his friends and dodging the older neighborhood bullies who’re determined to pound him into the sidewalk. A normal summer – until the hurricane hits and leaves a shrimp boat lodged in a tree near Mark’s house; a boat containing partially eaten corpses. Mark’s father, a Houston cop, discovers that the dead men have been eaten, not by animals, but by another person. As it that not horrible enough, more partially eaten corpses start turning up in the neighborhood and a torrid summer turns deadly in a hurry.
Joe McKinney’s Dog Days is a horror novel with a unique twist – it’s also a coming of age novel. A unique blend of genres that will leave you chilled to the marrow. McKinney knows his stuff, and he knows how to spin a great yarn. I received a free review copy of Dog Days, not sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised – chilled – shocked – and entertained. I grew up just north of Houston, and I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable spending the night back in my home town ever again.
A five-star book in class of its own.
A group of PnP authors (myself included) penned the various chapters of this book. Check it out at Amazon.com.
It’s time again for a blog for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer Support Group. If you’re interested in adding your voice, pop over and join. This month, I’d like to address the issue of how much plotting is necessary (or not) before you write that magnum opus.
When you write, are you the type who just sits down to the blank page and start letting the words flow, or do you need a detailed roadmap before you can move? There are those who write best ‘by the seat of the pants,’ and those whose creative juices don’t flow without detailed charts and timelines to guide them. The war between the pantsers and plotters has all the implacability of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
That, however, is really not necessary, because there is a third way – the middle way. Maybe it’s because I’m Buddhist, but I find the middle ground far more comfortable and comforting than hanging about the extremes. I find that especially so in my writing.
I don’t start with a totally blank sheet, with no idea where my characters are going – but, I also don’t start with a detailed, hour-by-hour timeline. Generally, I begin with an idea of the story’s main theme, work out a rough chapter breakdown, a character list, and the time frame of the story. Then, I begin to write. The character list and time frame keep me focused, but as I write, other directions pop up, and if interesting, I take them. The aforementioned guides, along with the rough breakdown, helps me to know where I made the turn and help me to get back to my main track. I’ve done this with every book (over 40 now), and it works for me.
My only problem – I can’t think of a label to describe what I do. Any suggestions?
Qigong (pronounced chee-gong) is an ancient Chinese healing, meditation, and exercise technique designed to bring the body’s systems into balance through the flow of qi, or energy, through the body’s pathways. While the benefits of this ancient Oriental art are still being studied, many in the western world swear by it – myself included.
I was excited, therefore, when I received a free review copy of Meridian Qigong: 14 Qigong Exercises to Energize, Heal and Restore by Tevia Feng. Feng, who began his study of qigong as a child, takes the reader through the history and background of the art, and then gives step-by-step instructions for 14 exercises designed to get an individual started in opening the pathways to allow proper energy (qi) flow.
While some of the many pages of introduction is arcane, it is worthwhile plowing through it before beginning the exercises. As with any exercise program, it helps to know one’s limits to avoid injury. Feng cautions the neophyte to go slow, and not expect too much. The discussion of the 14 meridians, in particular the Ren (governing) and Du (conception) vessels, will no doubt be viewed as a bit esoteric to newcomers, as will some of the other philosophical explanations in Feng’s book. If exotic history is not your thing, feel free to skip these parts – not the parts that explain how to go about doing the exercises, though – these are important.
If you’re interested in improving your mental and physical health, but don’t want to go to the trouble of getting a gym membership, this isn’t a bad place to start. Feng doesn’t promise miracles – and despite the heavy prose, does a fairly credible job of introducing the art of qigong in my humble opinion. For those who don’t believe in the efficacy of traditional healing arts, this book won’t convert – but, it will reinforce the view of those who have already encountered Asian arts (martial and healing). Believer or nonbeliever, this is an interesting book.
I give this book four stars.
Thomas Berrington is an Englishman in the service of the sultan who controls much of Moorish Spain. Known as qassad, the butcher, Berrington is a physician and a warrior, and the sultan trusts him as no other. When the sultan asks him to investigate a series of strange murders in the harem, though, Berrington finds his loyalty put to the test. With the aid of the young eunuch, Jorge, he must contend with the intrigues within the royal palace of Alhambra, or die trying. The first victims are mere servants, but when one of the sultan’s pregnant wives is slain, the stakes soar.
The Red Hill by David Penny is a novel set in Moorish Spain during the period when Europeans are striving to expel their Moorish masters – a battle between Christianity and Islam, and between personal loyalty and loyalty to a higher cause. The more Berrington learns about the murders, the higher the stakes for him personally.
Penny is a master of devious plotting with a cultural twist, while at the same time making the story relevant to modern readers. I received a free copy of this book for review, and wasn’t disappointed. This is a great weekend read – a book that you’ll not want to put down until you’ve reached the stunning conclusion.
The easiest five-star review I’ve given this year.
I received a free copy of Bob Moats’ Triple Threat Box Set in exchange for my unbiased review. I’ve read some of Moats work previously, and looked forward to this, the introduction to each of his three mystery series. Each offering had a few hiccups, but I wasn’t disappointed.
In Classmate Murders, Jim Richards, a 60-year-old ex-security guard (who quit his job because his bosses were jerks) learns that a classmate from 40 years earlier, who recently sent him a strange email, has been found dead. With nothing but time on his hands, Richards and his friend Buck go back in time (not literally, of course) to find out what happened. Some of the dialogue sounds a bit forced, but we’re dealing with a 60-year-old dude who is something of a computer geek, so what is one to expect?
Arthur Doyle, the hero in Doyle’s Law, is a veteran Detroit cop with anger management issues. When the mayor’s children are kidnapped, though, Doyle is just the man to work as liaison with the FBI in investigating the case – or is he? Nonstop action in the classic noir style, with a no-nonsense hero who’d sooner bust a suspect’s face than read him his Miranda rights. I only have one complaint – his name was used too many times in the opening chapter. Given that there were only three characters – Doyle, his love interest, Gwen, and his boss who calls him on the phone, ‘he’ would have sufficed. Looking for a way to describe Doyle’s Law, I finally came up with ‘bumpy roller coaster.’ Left me pretty sweaty by the end.
Major points to Moats for saving the best for last. In Fatal Rejection he pulls out all the stops in technique and story – telling the tale of a serial killer from the point of view of both the killer and the victim. In the opening chapter we meet Derek Harcourt as he prepares a victim, Stacey Kimball, for her end, but the chapter opens through the victim’s eyes and only switches to the killer after Moats has built the suspense to boil. From there, it goes on in whiplash fashion from killer to victim and back again at a pace that leaves you breathless – as it takes a surprising turn near the end.
Moats demonstrates his ability to write mysteries in varying styles quite well. While some of the dialogue, as previously mentioned, is a bit stilted, it doesn’t take away from the overall quality of the stories. Reading Triple Threat was a well-spent few hours.
Fatal Rejection is definitely a five-star story, but the dialogue issues in the first two pull the entire set down to a mere four-star story.