The Quick and the Dead

August 29, 2015 at 3:49 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Unknown-1Title: The Quick and the Dead

Author: Louis Lamour

Genre: Western

The phrase “the quick and the dead” is an old one.  Ancient.  Biblical.  It even inspires a line in the Apostle’s Creed, made easy to memorize by an popular Rich Mullins song:

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried 

CHORUS:
And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man 

I believe that He who suffered
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God’s mighty right hand
I believe that He’s returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men

Despite my religious background, I first knew this phrase from watching the western with my dad.  I think it was the Sam Elliot one, if I recall.  (Not to be confused with the unrelated story starring Sharon Stone that came out in the 90’s.)

Unknown-2Sadly, however, I’d never read the book.  I grew up on westerns.  I’ve seen every John Wayne movie a dozen times over.  A running joke growing up was when the song The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence came on and my dad would snicker and say “John Wayne, he did it.”  By the way, that’s my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie… not It’s a Wonderful Life.  Not Shop Around the Corner.  But the western where John Wayne swoops in and delivers all his token John Wayne lines.  (Maybe it’s my second favorite Jimmy Stewart movie, actually.  I really love Shenandoah.)

Despite all this western movie culture that was instilled in the very fiber of my being – I’d never read a western until this week.  Historical fiction, sure.  But not an actual serial western.  Which is even odder when you take into consideration how I enjoy taking the western paperbacks under my wing at work, running them most Saturdays until you couldn’t squeeze another title on the shelf even if you tried.  I love the old men that shop there.  Some are wonderfully sweet.  Some are highly inappropriate and should probably never go out in public.  But I love them all, and I love helping them find their Comptons and Cottons, Keltons and Grey, and above all – Louis L’amour.

The realization that I have made a point to read a title from every section in the store yearly but never tackled westerns came slow and tickled at the corners of my brain for quite awhile.  I wanted to try the Sacketts first, but the first one wasn’t in stock that day.  So I grabbed the first familiar title I knew.

It’s such a marvelous book.  It was such a relaxing and easy read, despite the suspense of it all.  I have half a mind to read the whole dang section now.

In time. I will, in time.

Until then, I think I feel a movie night coming on…

What’s your favorite western (book or movie)?

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Wild

August 29, 2015 at 3:27 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

I wrote this review for work months agoUnknown, and it was posted on our website for a time, I think.  I suppose it’s about time I share it with my own audience.

Title: Wild

Author: Cheryl Strayed

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.  It is what it sounds like: a memoir about an out of control woman who strays.  It could very easily be placed in the same category of Eat, Pray, Love, by my Christian counterparts especially, but somehow I can’t lump the two together.  As a writer, Cheryl has more Bill Bryson (author of A Walk in the Woods) qualities than Elizabeth Gilbert ones.

Cheryl is lost, inappropriate, cheats on her wonderful husband, divorces, does heroine, has almost a complete disregard for herself while simultaneously worshipping her own wants.  It should not make for a good read.  But somehow it does.

Cheryl doesn’t relish in these moments.  She doesn’t glorify them or justify them, she just tells her life how it was, and how she discovered that being comfortable in your own skin, alone, in the wilderness, can be just the provision a lost soul needs.  She doesn’t abandon a marriage for a grand tour and love affair with an air of flippant disregard- instead she tells a story of how when you have a huge hole in your heart you drown yourself and everyone around you.

Though the Pacific Crest Trail is long and grueling, Cheryl’s book about her trek is not.  She is down to earth, shockingly honest, clever and witty about her past ignorances, and leaves you feeling a sense of hope for not just yourself, but for everyone who struggle.

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Paper Towns

August 23, 2015 at 1:47 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

51hgkNew+XL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Paper Towns

Author: John Green

Genre: Young Adult/ Teen Fiction

I loved it.  It seems silly to enjoy teen fiction so much, right now, in my thirties.  It feels like I should be chalking it up to a pre-mid life crisis of sorts – but I have an old soul, I already had my mid-life crisis, I think.  If I didn’t, I’m screwed when the real one comes around.  I’m not sure my brain can handle all that drama.

But it’s not a mid-life crisis.  It’s just that despite the fact that people will roll their eyes at John Green because he seems like he’s probably that typical sappy teen coming of age crap that everyone is writing – there’s a reason he’s so popular and everyone else just isn’t.

John Green is an excellent writer.

He doesn’t just write snark – he embodies snark.  He has the snark on lock-down.  And though people think he only writes super confident teens that we all wish we had been, he doesn’t do that either.  The main character of Paper Towns is not confident.  He’s nerdy and very un-self assured.  He’s in love with the self assured one, and you discover that no one is as self assured as they’d like to pretend to be.

I loved how Green pulled in Walt Whitman’s themes from Leaves of Grass.  So much so, that I long to make a pile of Leaves of Grass paperbacks to display next to our piles of Paper Towns at the bookstore.  But I haven’t.  It’s not my job to do that anymore and I’m trying desperately to only do *my* job and not be the over achiever type A that I naturally am and work my ass off outside my pay grade.  I’m not used to be a “regular” employee anymore.  Between my previous management experience and writing a character who owns her own bookstore, my brain wants to run things and instead I’m just running the books.  Which is definitely relaxing, until I have to keep my perfectionism in check – and then it’s stressful.

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar makes a sneak appearance as well.  I’m always down for a good book that recommends other good books.  Margo, though I disagree with half her sentiments, appeals to me.  I understand her.  I’ve been her.  I’m just not her anymore.  Though, often, I feel pieces of her tugging at my personality from time to time.  Ultimately, I chose to be more like Q.  People probably see me more like Q.  Although, at that age, I don’t think people really saw me at all.

So now I’m re-reading Leaves of Grass.  I couldn’t leave it lingering in my brain that way without tackling it again.  I haven’t perused it since high school and it’s long overdue.

Have you read John Green?  Do you find him oddly relatable?

And finally, do you plan to or have you seen the movie?  I have not, yet.

Unknown

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Good Books That Were Simply Too Easy to Put Down

August 12, 2015 at 3:38 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Some books are great, the kind of books that you can’t live without and can’t understand how you ever lived without them.  We’ve all read them, the books that leave you forgetting to eat and avoiding the restroom – or bathing – for as long as it takes to finish the book.  You simply can’t tear away.  And when a moment arrives that you have to set it down, you moan, weep, you begin to go through withdrawals and ache until the moment you can pick it up again.

And then, there are books that are really good, but you don’t feel that way about them.  At all.  Like that dude in college you friend zoned.  Like that pie you ate, because after all it IS pie, but it doesn’t taste like your Grandma’s.  Like that pretty song you’ll hum, but you won’t go out of your way to learn the lyrics or play on repeat…

So here’s to the good books I’ve read recently that I genuinely thought were good, but still found far too easy to put down.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Fun paranormal fantasy noir fiction – however, Dresden finds every female he encounters attractive.  Either this guy is the most appreciative wizard ever, or he just doesn’t get out much.  Felt like I was reading a sixteen year old living in his mama’s basement dream hero, which is all well and good and entertaining, but in between readings, I wasn’t exactly itching to get back to the story.  Still read the book in a few days, but it’s the genre and length of something I’d usually devour in one sitting and… I just didn’t.

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

I checked this out from the library.  Absolutely adored the first few chapters, but set it down for some reason or another and never felt compelled to get back to it.  Due date came and I turned it in.  One day I’ll finish, but it doesn’t seem like a pressing matter.

Which brings me to my next review…

UnknownTitle: The Pharaoh’s Cat

Author: Maria Luisa Lang

Genre: Fiction

Length: 178 pages

I got this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  It’s cute.  I was actually pretty excited about it.  It seemed like a fun cozy for an ancient Egypt nerd like myself.  But, I discovered as I read that being narrated by the Cat isn’t as cute as I thought.  Instead, it’s highly distracting and I find it hard to get caught up in the story because the cat brain is awkward.

Lang’s writing is good.  The setting is fun, I always enjoy a good bit of ancient Egypt; and I love that the author considers herself an amateur Egyptologist, it shows in her writing.  I’d even go so far as to say that I might read The Pharaoh’s Cat again some day – with my daughter, perhaps.  But I wasn’t riveted and the character of the cat didn’t move me, like it moved the Pharaoh, I did not feel the bond that was formed throughout the novel.  I didn’t really laugh…

Read a more glowing review of Lang’s novel here: http://ebookreviewgal.com/review-of-the-pharaohs-cat-by-maria-luisa-lang/

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TUESDAY TALK WELCOMES TARA MELANIE KERR

August 4, 2015 at 12:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Anakalian Whims:

One of my reviews was quoted – and this is a great interview. I’m looking forward to reading Mary Green.

Originally posted on jo lambert - writer:

This morning I would like to welcome Tara Melanie Kerr.  Not only  has she written a prequel to Pride and Prejudice, her life is very much involved in all things Regency.  In her words..’sewing her own petticoats and dreaming of Colin Firth.’

First of all, my usual opening question – tell us a little about you

Kerr MelanieI  studied linguistics, English and theatre at the University of British Columbia and law at the University of Alberta. I am a reckless lover of clotted cream, a staunch defender of the semi-colon and a fierce opponent of unpleasant music.I proudly live in Edmonton, Canada, where I raise my three babies, sew my own Regency costumes, organise Regency costume events, blog on all things old and English, endeavour to take over the world and occasionally practice law. I also write novels inspired by my love of Jane Austen.

 When did you first become…

View original 1,517 more words

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Introducing Psycho Cat (and a Sucker)

July 28, 2015 at 1:08 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

61OhIWNdMOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title: CATastrophic Connections

Author: Joyce Ann Brown

Genre: Cozy Mystery

First of all, I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.  Second, however, I chose it out of a long list of options from a ton of authors because 1. I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries 2. I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries that feature pets 3. I’m a sucker.

In this case, I’m totally ok with being a sucker.  I’ll admit there’s a tad more “psycho cat” than I enjoy –  but I’m not a big cat lover and the few cat mysteries I’ve read involved the cat being a swanky background character, not a constant topic of discussion.  Die hard cat lovers, though, would probably love this book.  (I’m a dog person. *Gasp*)  I imagine that Lilian Jackson Braun fans will be the best fit for this series, but I haven’t actually read her books yet.  (I tend to lean toward the Cleo Coyles of the genre.)

The mystery is fun an upbeat, which fits the bill for a cozy; and a lot of the action is driven by dialogue.

What won me over, in the end, were the quotes at the beginning of every chapter.  I’m a sucker for that as well and love jotting down references for me to find and read later.  Better than that, I love already knowing the reference and nodding my head along with the witticisms and wisdom of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the rest of them.

Brown has an easy breezy writing style, appropriate for a summertime cozy.  I’d recommend this series for a road trip or plane ride, something to dive into to pass the time that won’t take too much energy or focus to read while things are going on around you.  If your attention strays just the slightest bit, you have a friendly nudge back into the story: “Must I remind you? We are essentially in the middle of a detective mystery.” I tend to enjoy a little meta-fiction every now and then.  Also, there are many short chapters, rather than fewer long ones, which I find makes for better vacation reading because it’s easy to find appropriate stopping points at a moment’s notice.

I already downloaded the second book in the series to my kindle and look forward to spending some time with Joyce Ann Brown’s characters again.

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Drugs, Hallucinations, and Time-Travel

July 25, 2015 at 11:40 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Most people dive into their drug induced literature in the high school and college years.  I didn’t have time for all that – I was in school, a lot of school, back then.  So now, in my early thirties – I’ve stumbled into a curiosity I didn’t really have before.  I’m not curious enough to DO the drugs – just enough to read about people doing them.  Sure, I read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces 15808242back in the day.  Requiem for a DreamFight Club… I’ve read the usual suspects.  But sparingly, and not in the same year.This year, however, I noticed a trend.  And it wasn’t purposeful.  First, Philip K. Dick and then some.  Then, this week, City of Dark Magic
by Magnus Flyte and Screw-jack by Hunter S. Thompson.

What is real? What is not real?  These are the hard questions for a fiction writer from a long line of dementia patients.  But for all my solid grounding in cold hard facts and realism, I’ve always steered pretty clear of drugs and enjoyed the fantastic staying between the pages of a book and not parading around my living room.City of Dark Magic is weird.  Really weird.  The storyline travels and veers and rants, and I love that about it.  No strictly linear annoyingly plot pointed story here.  So much so, I refused to shelve it in Fantasy at work, instead I placed it in the literature section, hoping someone would pick it up for the same reason I did – historical dives into Beethoven.  Time-travel? Is it?  You’ll have to read and find out.  I can’t say without spoiling it, but I will warn you, it involves ingesting the genius musician’s toe nails.

UnknownScrew-jack was a nice little taste of Hunter S. Thompson.  I’d never read anything by him, and obviously I know who he is and what he stands for – because I don’t live *entirely* under a rock – but I’ve managed to never finish any of the stellar movies made about him or his work either.  A fan over heard this at work, and handed me Screw-jack to devour over lunch.  What a trip! It’s about a 45 minute read (it’s only three short stories), and let’s just say, I hope that last one was really about his cat or I might have some trouble digesting his bio later.

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The Curse of Cozies

July 22, 2015 at 10:44 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

The curse imagesof cozies is that they completely suck you into worlds of absolute silliness, and mid-read, you’re totally ok with that.  Why?  Because, inevitably, there’s coffee, fuzzy pets, books and knitting, and a few dead bodies that require you to summon your inner Nancy Drew for.

My latest cozy mystery read was Victoria Abbott’s The Christie Curse, the first in a book collector series – that I now, of course, have to collect.  It can share shelf space with my Laura Childs and Cleo Coyles, with my Alice Kimberly series, and D.R. Meredith books… as they all tilt ther hats to their parents: Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie – who have inadvertently become the founders of the genre though they weren’t known for knitting or cooking themes.

The Christie Curse has proven itself to be one of the better books of the genre, especially if you count the other book themed cozies I have already read.  Homicide in Hardcover by Carlisle is another bibliophile cozy 61OhIWNdMOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_mystery, and I enjoyed it, but the story didn’t hold a candle to Abbott’s book.  Researching Agatha Christie, chasing top secret book industry scoops, browsing personal library collections filled with first editions… The Christie Curse is simply full of all my favorite things, including the Irish uncles who aren’t exactly on the up and up.  Add some bipolar cats and an adorable pug – of course I thought this was a great book.  Abbott didn’t pull any punches either, there’s a fabulous Italian lady who constantly shouts “Eat! Eat!” at our protagonist, and recipes in the back so that we, too, may partake in the deliciousness.

Currently, I’m reading CATastrophic Connections by Joyce Ann Brown and look forward to having an official review posted for you soon.

What cozies have you read lately?

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A Cranberry Cove Summer

July 13, 2015 at 12:10 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Casey of Cranberry CoveAuthor: Susan KotchUnknown

Genre: Teen Fiction

Publisher: Hibernian Publishing

Length: 207 pages

Ice Cream Parlours, boogie boarding, kayaking, sail boat racing, pizza, high school parties, and hunky life guards… mix some teen angsty romance in and you’ve got a cute beach read that is perfect for summer.  Susan Kotch delivers the perfect one with surfer girl Casey Whitman playing the role of Gidget.

Casey of10473070_810968012059_3950441201297687075_n Cranberry Cove is a fun read and my only regret while reading is that I wasn’t doing it in the sand, baking on the beach.  I love reading on the beach and Casey is a girl after my own heart – a sun-baking reader and go-getter who isn’t afraid to get dirty.
I’m looking forward to future adventures of Casey’s, but I’m hoping she keeps her head on straight and doesn’t turn into a ninny.  I’m also hoping she doesn’t leave her beach life behind in all the excitement of growing up.  Casey reminds me a bit of the Robin Jones Gunn Christy Miller series my older sister had on her shelf growing up, I think girls that like one series would enjoy the other.

Peaceful at Manhattan Beach

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Haunting Jasmine

July 11, 2015 at 12:58 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have a cousin I’ve never met.  She married my actual cousin that I grew up playing with on a good chunk of our weekends when we were kids – and special holidays – so she’s not really MY cousin, but I have a habit of adopting people that way.  My family is weird, he’s the great grandson of my Grandfather’s sister, but I spent more time with their family than a lot of people spend with first cousins.  Unfortunately, he flitted away out of state and I haven’t had a chance to spend time with his lovely bride.

She’s been a published author for quite awhile now, longer than I’ve been running this blog, but I had conveniently lodged that information into some lost corner of my brain – until recently, as he and I played Scrabble over Facebook.

Anjali Banerjee is the lovely woman my awesome cousin chose to spend the rest of his life with and I’m so pleased to finally read one of her books.  While reading Haunting Jasmine, I felt like perhaps we were kindred spirits, as we have both written about bookstores, and clearly have a mutual passion for the written word.

She’s just way better at using those words than I am!

Title: Haunting Jasmineabanerjee-2l-haunting

Author: Anjali Banerjee

Genre: Women’s Fiction

If you’re in the mood for a haunted bookshop, a fabulous Indian aunt, a god hanging out with Dr. Seuss, Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter, and a number of other ghosts – then you might need to find yourself a copy of Haunting Jasmine.  Set in the north west, there’s a nice bit of ocean, some chilly weather, rain, hot tea, and a divorcee you might want to spend a day with in Seattle.

The writing is easy to get into, and she made lucky choice to use the word wafted – we all know how much I love that word, I think.

There’s a bit of a romance, but nothing too over the top to actually place it in the romance genre – it’s more about Jasmine and her journey to understanding herself and the nature of her aunt’s shop.

It’s definitely worth a bubble bath or day off, and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. :-)

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