Fall Festival Fun

September 21, 2014 at 8:55 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , )

Yesterday was the 2nd Annual Fall Festival at Good Books in the Woods.  A picture paints a thousand words, so here ye be:

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#DidntMakeItToTheFestival raffles happening today (and possibly later this week) on twitter.

If you’re interested in being a vendor next year, contact Good Books in the Woods on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GoodBooksintheWoods

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Doubles Match Before Bed

September 20, 2014 at 3:22 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

doublesTitle:Doubles Match

Author: Meb Bryant

Genre: Suspense / Short Stories

Format: Kindle Ebook

Doubles Match KILLED me! It’s so good!  I have to warn mothers, however, that little Emma reminds me so much of my kiddo that the kidnapping was a rip through my gut.

Spoiler: It works out in the end – read the whole story!

Definitely worth the 99 cents as a nightcap, although I admit I received mine as a gift from the author.  I’m enjoying my kindle specifically for these short gems that I’d otherwise miss.

 

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Unholy Hell

September 20, 2014 at 2:32 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Angelbound-Front-Cover-640x1024Title:Angelbound

Author: Christina Bauer

Genre: Paranormal/ Action Romance

Format: Kindle Ebook

Unholy Moley! (as Myla Lewis likes to say) That was cool.

Life in Purgatory, post Armageddon (the demon, not the event), fighting other demons in an arena gladiator style has 18 year old Myla Lewis pretty busy.  She’s part demon, among other things, and can do some serious damage with her tail.  But as with any fantasy adventure, things are about to get more complicated…

This was a pretty fun (older) teen romantic adventure.  You’ve got all your key elements: a pretty stellar and unique world, a kick-ass heroine, and a hot prince.  Fans of the TV Show Supernatural, The Mortal Instruments series (books and movie), as well as Buffy and Lost Girl, will get a kick out of this fast paced read.  It helps that the first in the series is a free kindle download, but it’s definitely worth the extra bucks to find out what happens next.

Although I definitely get the teen fantasy vibe from it, I’d only recommend it for 17-19 year old teenagers, not younger ones.  Maybe I’m old fashioned, but there’s a few too many f-bombs and sexual angst for me to hand it over to my younger nieces and nephews, even if I was reading John Grisham at 12 that doesn’t mean I’m going to push that language and sexual energy into their lives with purpose.  If a 14 to 16 year old picked it up on their own, I wouldn’t stop them though.

All in all, it’s fun zipping around killing things as a chosen one for a few hours.  Fun story, can’t wait to read the rest of Bauer’s work on a rainy weekend.

 

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HPB Humble Turns 12

September 19, 2014 at 3:03 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the coolest things I get to do as a part time Event Coordinator, is host parties! And not the sit in someone’s living room and sell products parties – but the kind that involve books, exciting authors, food, live music, and art.

As of September 2014, Half Price Books has had an Humble location for 12 years.  This is the third birthday/anniversary celebration I’ve organized for them.

P1000371Literary Agent Lorrie Patel and Author Edward Castro

P1000378Edward draws a crowd while reading his book Hanna’s Magic Light and passing out goodie bags and cookies.

P1000381Art by Shaka

P1000397Author Kaiya Walker and fan.

P1000423George Poe jammin’ on the piano with some curious kids.

We had a blast!

This next Saturday, I’ll be at the 2nd Annual Good Books in the Woods Fall Festival (September 20th), it should be equally awesome.  I love bookstore events, they are my favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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Guns and Roses (and E-readers)

September 16, 2014 at 5:20 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

This post has nothing to do with Guns and Roses the band.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to tease you that way.  Actually I did.  This is about my new book-gal-crush Rose Gardner, brain child of author Denise Grover Swank.

Rose GardnerTitle: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Genre: Mystery (Romantic Suspense)
Format: Kindle

I downloaded Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes solely because it was free and on kindle.  I just recently got a kindle for the first time, because my home library is primarily in storage for the moment, and as a reviewer I couldn’t stomach adding more physical copies to a collection I couldn’t even access.  So e-reader it is for now, aside from the stash of books I toted to my temporary digs with me, and if I’m going to be reviewing ebooks, I need to know how to read them.

So Denise Grover Swank’s free ebook was my guinea pig, my learning curve, my book to help me decipher buttons and technology, my reminder that I really am 105 at heart.

The first twenty “pages” (I don’t know how to quantify without page numbers) or so I HATED IT.  “This is so lame!” I kept shouting at the screen.  I was mostly talking to the kindle, but I took it out on the heroine Rose Gardner.  Not that she needed anything else being taken out on her… her mother thinks she’s demonic and ends up dead, naturally the whole (small) town wants to pin Rose for the murder while Rose finds herself in a world where her mother is no longer telling her how to live.  Insert sexy next door neighbor who might be a potential boyfriend, or… of course… the actual murderer!

I loved it.  It’s gloriously cozy with less cheese than the average cozy mystery, placing it more in the romantic suspense category than the cozy realm.

By the time Rose is burying a gun under a rose bush in her backyard I was completely hooked and had mastered the art of turning the kindle page.  That is a bigger feat than it might seem, as I don’t always maintain feeling in my fingertips and I kept inadvertently hitting the next button too many times.  Without page numbers is was pretty difficult to find my way back.  So it took DAYS for me to get to Rose burying that gun, but less than an hour to wrap up the book.

So thank you Rose (and Swank) for teaching me to read (on an e-reader).  I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in the Rose Gardner Mystery series.

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Changing Scenery

September 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm (In So Many Words)

With all my book reading and reviewing, all my cozy coffee and tea posts, and the hominess of my published work – one would presume that I was a homebody.  I don’t get nearly enough credit for my nomadic nature, and now I’m feeling it kick in as I leave my house of six and a half years for the unknown.

So how exactly does a “pack rat” and a “homebody” go from 2,000 square feet to 2 already furnished bedrooms and 5×15 storage unit?

You throw everything away.

Just kidding.

But no, really, you donate half of everything you own.  At least half.  Possibly more.  I’m not done yet, but I have taken several TRUCK LOADS of random things to Goodwill this week.  They know me now.

It’s invigorating.  A little bit scary.  A lotta-bit awesome.

This also brings me to my next point:  I’ve done it.  I’ve gotten myself a kindle.

While purging my stacks of “I might read this if I get cancer”  books, and donating everything I had already read and had no intentions of reading twice… after picking carefully through my paperbacks and gifting most of them because we prefer hardbacks and trade size paperbacks anyway… after all this cleansing, I thought, how can I continue to take hardcopies for reviews when 1. it’s more expensive for the author/ publisher 2. I’m not sure of my current address, or what it will be in the future. 3. I have no place to put the books once I’ve received them.

So I am now an ebook girl. (Post on this coming soon, because I’m proving to be an ebook moron.)

Don’t panic.  My extensive library still exists.  I managed to take about 1/4 of the books we’re keeping to our current digs and the rest are in my not-quite-big-enough-but-perfect-because-it-has-made-me-get-rid-of-crap storage unit.  My reading life just looks and feels a lot different than it used to.  I’m not lounging with my three dogs in a massive home library… I’m curled up on a small couch or possibly outside with my kindle.  Dogs are in limbo, unfortunately, but we love them and they will join us soon… just not inside… instead there’s an acre lot soon to be at their disposal.

All of this comes on the cusp of a new publisher, a new writing contract, and a return (temporarily) to working full time in a bookstore sometime next month.

All that, and I just started going through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  We completed Lesson 2 this morning.  Homeschooling is going to get really interesting this winter.  Husband, Kiddo, and Me have an interesting adventure ahead…

So, readers, what’s happening in YOUR lives?

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Interview with J.L. Powers

September 7, 2014 at 6:10 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , )

BraniganlibraryRecently I had the great joy of reading Colors of the Wind by J.L. Powers.  Even more recently, I had the chance to do an interview with her! (I just can’t get enough interviews these days!)

1. How did you find out about George Mendoza? When did you first meet in person?

I met George a dozen years ago when I was asked to write a feature story about his life as an artist. I had no idea what I was getting into—and I suppose that’s a good thing.  I have to be honest and say that I’d never thought a lot about what it was like to be blind before I met him, except to sort of assume that it was like being in the dark and then to realize that this couldn’t be exactly true either. But when I heard him describe that being blind, for him, meant seeing things that weren’t there—floating eyes, brilliant sunbursts, squiggly colors flashing by—and also like looking into a kaleidoscope, with images multiplied and reflected back, I was fascinated. The artwork speaks for itself but when you know the story behind the artwork, it’s even more amazing.

2. Did you do much research to tell George’s story, or did you let him tell his story to you?

George told me his story, several times, on different occasions and I kept getting more detail over time. We were initially working on a glossy, coffee-table style artbook, but couldn’t sell the concept to any publisher. Admittedly, it took me awhile to put two and two together and realize that this would make an amazing picture book, but finally I did, and here we are.

3. You have written award-winning novels for young adults and you’ve edited two collections of essays. What made you decide to branch out into the picture book arena?

I’ve always loved picture books but it’s an astonishingly difficult genre to write and to break into. George’s story seemed perfect for it—a story of perseverance, a story where his disability becomes the literal source of inspiration for him as an artist.

It is clearly a picture book but I’ve had several high school librarians tell me that this is also a good book for reluctant readers at the middle-grade to high-school level because it isn’t a cutesy story and it doesn’t have illustrations that are clearly aimed at the younger crowd. So it seems like a picture book for all ages, if that’s possible.

Amina4. Can you tell us a bit about your young adult novels? (Which one do you recommend my daughter and I read together first?)

I have 3 young adult novels, though one of them (Amina) is currently only available in Australia.

The Confessional, my first novel, is a gritty novel about a young man getting murdered and it explores the problem of violence among young men and their friends. I’d recommend you wait until your daughter is late teens just because it is so gritty. But that all depends on the kid, right? It explores important questions about friendship and loyalty and faith so there’s lots to talk about when you do read it.

This Thing Called the Future is a great novel for 12 & up, an entertaining read about a young woman growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. Just as Khosi starts falling in love for the first time, a loved one starts dying of a mysterious disease, a witch curses her family, and she is being stalked by a man with shape-shifting powers. The book deals with the HIV-AIDS epidemic as well as the very real problem of young girls being preyed upon by older men, and it introduces American readers to the clash between traditional Zulu culture and the so-called modern world.

Amina is for 10-14 year olds, if you can get ahold of a copy here in the U.S. It tells the story of a young girl, Amina, an artist growing up in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her father is taken captive by al-Shabaab, and her brother is abducted to be a soldier. She is left to fend for her pregnant and ill mother and her elderly grandmother in a dangerous, violent city where young women are vulnerable. Will her artwork save her—or be her demise?

I would recommend Amina to start with (again, if you can find it—it just came out last year but isn’t available in the U.S.), then This Thing Called the Future, and last, The Confessional.

5. Will you and George work together to tell more stories? (We love his illustrations and your storytelling and would love to see more.)

Well, that’s an interesting idea, one I hadn’t really thought of. This book really required the publisher to have a vision for using George’s paintings as the main illustrations, so I’m grateful that Jill, our editor at Purple House Press, had that vision. I’ll have to explore the possibility, obviously with George. Thanks for the idea!

braniganlibrary106. Colors of the Wind doesn’t just feature your writing and George’s paintings, there are also drawings by Hayley Morgan-Sanders. Did you work closely with Sanders as well, or was she hired separately by the publishing company?

She was hired separately by the publishing company. It worked out well, didn’t it? I’m grateful for Jill’s hard work designing this book as well; she did a fabulous job.

7. I review children’s books and conduct interviews with my three year old daughter. She wants to know how a female author could write about a man’s life so well. (She is convinced that you must be a man because the story is about George and he is a man!)

My first novel, The Confessional, was first-person view point multiple narrators, all young men. I spent lots of time observing young men to write that. My second novel, This Thing Called the Future, features a young modern South African woman as the protagonist. And my third, Amina, features a young modern Somalian woman as the protagonist. So far, none of my novels have featured protagonists exactly like me—a white woman who grew up as a minority in a blue-collar Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhood along the U.S.-Mexico Border. It’s not that I’m uninterested in my own story, only that I have had compelling stories I wanted to tell about people who are not exactly like me and I believe that any novelist can and must explore the lives and stories of people who are, in some way, different than themselves. But often, it turns out that our differences are more surface than people think—but we focus on those surface differences until they seem really important. So I guess in the end, I feel like I write about people, and since I’m a person, I’m writing about people who are basically similar to me. Having said all that, I am a very careful researcher; I invest a lot of time and money into travel, friendships, and research so that I can write with as much accuracy and authenticity as possible. And I always have people from the group in question read and vet my manuscripts for possible errors. If one of them says there is a problem, no matter how minor or how major, I change it.

8. In your bio it says you teach English at Skyline College in California. Has teaching English helped you write better, or hindered your ability to produce more work?

Teaching writing and literature has helped me become more intelligent about how the writing process works and to talk about the elements of any kind of written work. This, in turn, has definitely made me a better writer. I used to write and sort of hope everything would come together. I didn’t understand the elements of a story and I really really didn’t understand the process of revision. I was afraid to truly change things because I was afraid I would ruin things. Now I just go at it. Nothing is sacred. Teaching definitely did that for me. Being able to see the problems in another person’s writing allows you to begin to see the problems in your own.

braniganlibrary89. Have you done any book tours yet? Presented Colors of the Wind at Elementary Schools or Festival Events?

We did two events in El Paso, Texas and one in Las Cruces, New Mexico, all with children in attendance who did artwork after the event. It was great fun. We have an upcoming event in September in Santa Ana, California and I hope we have a good showing there. We haven’t YET gone into schools but I hope this book will lead the way.

10. What is one thing you’d like your readers and fans to know about you?

I travel as much as possible. The world is a fascinating place. Travel expands your ability to understand other people, to love the world, and to see how complex problems are so that you can never again offer facile solutions to the problems that plague the world. Literature—from picture books to novels—is a form of travel without ever leaving the safety of your own home. So encourage reading for people of all ages, and encourage people to read as much and as widely as possible!

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Teres: A Review

September 7, 2014 at 4:44 am (Uncategorized)

Anakalian Whims:

I will recommend Teres every day, every time, to every reader…

Originally posted on CoffeeScribble:

“…So we’ve got this plane ride to see to its end….a millionaire to embody, and your body to recover, if possible. Oh yeah, and a world to recover from the maniacal powers that be. Did I miss anything?”

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As someone who generally does not pick up dystopian novels, I found myself more than surprised by Teres. Set in the near-apocalyptic future, the reader is allowed a glimpse in the life of this remarkable woman named Teres. I say glimpse, because we meet her just before everything in life she has ever known changes…for good. From the get go you are thrown into the middle of this off kilter world and submersed into Teres’s life, I enjoyed the element of living in her thoughts and getting to be an onlooker as she works everything out. But don’t worry, if you’re a fan of action this story is not just…

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The Secret Life of Captain X

September 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

P1000345Title:The Secret Life of Captain X

Author: Mrs X Nomore

Genre: Memoir

Length: 232 pages

If the title isn’t ominous enough, what comes after it tells you all you need to know: “My Life with a Psychopath Pilot.”

I was on the fence about this book.  It sounded so intriguing, but psychopaths (as the author mentions) are often described in ways that don’t address the mundane in them – it’s always some fantastical Hollywood version, involving axes and whatnot, rather than the every day drama a psychopath will stir up.

Part One is well written (well, the whole book is well written) although a tad whiny.  It’s hard to read the first half of the book and not think, “Ok, the guy is a manipulative turd, but a person doesn’t have to dwell on everything that sucks for so long.  People, especially in relationships, have shitty years… but to be victimized for twenty-two years, there has to be more than this one sided ‘I was always lonely’ business.”  She sounds miserable from the start.  But hang in with Mrs X Nomore and her story – she’s letting you know what makes you a target.  She’s identifying the reasons why she was blinded by the love bombing and the falsehoods… she WAS lonely and unhappy, she was seeking love, she did not have many solid relationships with people nearby.  As someone already feeling isolated, she was in the perfect position to be duped.

Despite my annoyances at all the red flags (that though I may not have identified as psychopath behavior would have turned me off real quick, now, not necessarily a year or two ago), the story propelled me rather rapidly into the graphic details of Mrs X’s discoveries during the divorce.  The man really was a sick freak, trolling the internet for prostitutes, girlfriends, and more victims all during their marriage.  I could have done without some of the descriptions and skimmed over a lot of Captain X’s sex site postings that are quoted in the book.

This book is not for the feint of heart.  Well done, Mrs X Nomore, for getting out of there and finding your therapy in writing.  I think it’s obvious that writing the book was healing for you and your purpose of raising awareness about psychopathy is succeeding.

This book makes you realize how easy it is to want to judge and say decisively what you would or wouldn’t do in a similar situation – but no matter how hard I try to put myself in the same situation in my mind’s eye, there’s really no telling.  Although I may have crossed paths with psychopaths and sociopaths over the years, I was never married to one, and a marriage bond makes all the difference.  How do you try to be “one” with someone who has no conscience, no empathy, no remorse?  You don’t.  As soon as you find out, you run for the hills.

Despite her age, Mrs X Nomore has a young writing voice.  She seems pretty hip for someone with arthritis, replaced hips, and a grown daughter.  I giggled when she called her new apartment her new “digs.”  It was hard to reconcile the age she kept telling me she was with her writing and her story.  Mostly because of social constraints, I think.  It’s easier to envision a nineteen year old being duped in such a fashion – much harder to know she married him at thirty-nine and she was getting divorced during her “golden years.”  It’s just another point she has to prove to the public: It doesn’t take a young girl to get suckered by a man like this – just a woman looking for a relationship.

I both love and hate the way this book is structured, mostly because it presents some very specific implications:

Psychopaths exist.

This level of deception happens….

and the deceiver is not who you’d expect.

Psychopathy (/saɪˈkɒpəθi/) (or sociopathy /ˈsoʊsiəˌpæθi/) is traditionally defined as a personality disorder characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse, and disinhibited or bold behavior. It may also be defined as a continuous aspect of personality, representing scores on different personality dimensions found throughout the population in varying combinations. The definition of psychopathy has varied significantly throughout the history of the concept; different definitions continue to be used that are only partly overlapping and sometimes appear contradictory. – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

In the epilogue, Mrs X Nomore concludes:

I didn’t move to Costa Rica to escape psychopaths.  They are everywhere, easily blending into a crowd.  We shouldn’t live in fear, but we must be aware that up to four percent of our population is made up of these social predators, and we should avoid them at all costs.

She also lists a plethora of additional resources for continuing your education on the topic, as well as finding healing if you have been a victim.

 

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Afternoon Tea Part One

September 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000339Title: Gunpowder Green

Author:Laura Childs

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Length: 244 pages

With autumn in the air, it’s back to hot afternoon tea (as opposed to iced sweet tea) and my dive into cozy mysteries.  Even though in Texas, fall tends to be more of a state of mind than an actual weather change.  Post Labor Day it’s still in the nineties, but there’s rain and I made a trip to the grocery store just for tea bags.

Many of my afternoon teas happen on the back deck.  My backyard table is actually newer and nicer than my kitchen table and it’s where I prefer to take my meals and spend time journaling and reading, if the weather allows.  It’s nice to spend time, even if it’s in a book, with people who feel the same way:

“I think it’s time we thought about lunch.  Margaret Rose baked cranberry bread yesterday, and I threw together some chicken salad earlier.  Why not fix trays and eat out here where we can enjoy the view?  It’ll be ever so much nicer.” – pg. 149

Laura Childs, The Indigo Tea Shop, and Theodosia Browning aren’t just about tea though.  There are gardening elements, I am finding, in each of her tea shop mysteries.  (Apparently, the gardeners in town tend to be a murderous bunch, and the tea shop sorts the sleuthing kind.)  I love hanging out in small towns with historic districts, antique dealers, garden extraordinaire, and party goers.

“Timothy Neville adored giving parties.  Holiday parties, charity galas, music recitals.  And his enormous Georgian mansion, a glittering showpiece perched on Archdale Street, war, for many guests, a peek into the kind of gilded luxury that hadn’t been witnessed in Charleston since earlier times.” – pg. 212

Reading this inspired me.  I am an event coordinator and I adore bookish parties, cozy festivals, people gathering in gardens, and atmospheres that allow for coffee, wine, or cups of tea, and quiet conversation or a people reading books.  Fall is a good time for these sort of events, and though my Fall is already planned, not everyone’s is.

A lovely lady at Fuller’s Country Store has agreed to guest blog for me soon about tea parties she’s hosts.  I don’t know the details, but I’m pretty excited to find out and scroll through photographs of the upcoming event.  Stay tuned for “Afternoon Tea Part Two” for the details, the pictures, and a review of Laura Childs’ third Tea Shop Mystery: Shades of Earl Grey.

 

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