Echo

July 1, 2015 at 3:45 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

imagesTitle: Echo

Author: Lorena Glass

Genre: Fantasy/ Romance

Length: 408 pages

I was sent a free copy of Echo by the author in exchange for an honest review. (I am not otherwise associated with the author.) In my honesty, I must say, I’m not a fan. However, that wouldn’t keep me from recommending it to people I’m sure would be. (That’s one of the joys of being a bookseller, I can find all sorts of things to put into people’s hands that will make them happy even though it’s not my particular cup of tea.)

Other reviewers refer to this as a young adult fantasy story, but I didn’t get that from it at all. The main character is in her twenties and her lover is in his fifties. That’s not really young adult material in my book. There is, however, time travel, undying love, and a number of other fun details that might call to teenage readers these days. I think more than the young adult crowd, though, romance readers who favor Diana Gabaldon’s work or historical fiction gurus that enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge might find Glass’s work enjoyable.

I appreciate all the characters went through to stay committed to each other, but I’m not a fan of the whole soulmate concept – that only one person in the world is meant for you ever. I think that people decide to be soulmates, and that is not just fine, but a beautiful thing. But overall, I found the story awkward and the telling of it a little awkward as well.

The setting is definitely original – you don’t get a lot of Gaul and people speaking Latin in most historical fiction.  It was a nice touch to keeping me flipping through to take a look around, so to speak, but I was not as riveted as I would have preferred for such a tale.

Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean it can’t be for you – check out some other reviews: https://bernieandbooks.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/requested-review-echo-lorena-glass-read-6615/

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All Shiny and New

June 27, 2015 at 12:03 am (Events) (, , , , , , , )

The Bookshop Hotel has a new face! And back. And inside for that matter.  It’s been re-edited and fine tuned and re-published by the marvelous Grey Gecko Press.

9781938821905-Perfect11391781_10152864165140583_8634856621779098009_n

And right now, you may download this updated version for FREE: http://store.greygeckopress.com/products/the-bookshop-hotel

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The Martian

June 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Book-Review-The-Martian

Title: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Genre: Science Fiction

The Martian is freaking amazing.  Just as amazing, it seems, is the author Andy Weir, as I was just as entertained by his essay and interview in the back of the Broadway Books edition I was reading.

In addition to being clever and snarky, the book has a fun history.  Originally it was self-published on a website.  It got such a following that it was then released for kindles… and was so popular there that Weir got a book and a movie deal practically at the same time.

Oh, and, Weir loves Doctor Who, so there’s that.

I’m a little late to the game, I wish I had discovered him sooner so I could say something original and exciting about The Martian (I would have loved to interview him) – so this review will be short and void of spoilers.  But if you’re in the mood for some suspenseful comedy set in space, all MacGyver style with the science, you need some Andy Weir in your life.

I can’t wait to see what he writes next.  If you’ve already read The Martian, you might also want to check out the work of Heinlein and/or George Wright Padgett.

In case you haven’t seen it yet – here’s the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue4PCI0NamI

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A Chick Lit Weekend

June 22, 2015 at 10:48 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sometimes a girl just feels the need to read some check-lit.  I read two novels this week that I think fit the bill – one more Anne Tyler – esque and the other a little more Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.

Title: A Scattered Life

A_Scattered_Life_CoverAuthor: Karen McQuestion

Genre: Women’s Fiction

A Scattered Life embraces the art of telling a story from three different women’s viewpoints.  When done well, this is a nice way to allow things to unfold like an onion but still maintain a linear storyline.  McQuestion does it well.  Time your reading to finish the book right before bed so you can sleep after, because you’ll feel like you’ve lived three lives all at once when you turn the last page; it won’t exhaust you, it’s just nice to immediately fall into a slumber after living so much.  McQuestion writes for young adults as well, and I’m looking forward to see what she has to offer when she crosses genres.

Title: Vanity Fare

18880674Author: Megan Caldwell

Genre: ChickLit

Book references, pastries, coffee… umm, yeah that’s right up my alley.  Except there’s definitely a romance novel chronology to the book that distracted me from my book envy, pastry drooling, and coffee binging.  (Ironic, I know, as I am the author of The Bookshop Hotel and the characters totally tried to get romancey on me while I put them to paper.)  All in all, good stuff.  It’s something I will definitely recommend to lit-snobs who need a break from heavy reading and chronic romance readers who are looking for something less pornographic that will gently encourage them to dip into the classics.

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Spike and Spanish

June 19, 2015 at 4:22 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

SPIKE front coverTitle: Spike, The Mixed-Up Monster

Author: Susan Hood

Illustrator: Melissa Sweet

Genre: Picture Book

Ay, caramba!, we just read this before bed this evening and we love it! First off, I’m a sucker for an axolotl.  I discovered them about two years ago when an avid reddit surfer sent me some images they had found. Strange but cute creatures are kind of our thing, and an axolotl definitely fits the bill.

I remember thinking there should be a picture book about them.  I love kids picture books featuring the odd ducks of the planet and offer educational value at the end of the story.  I have tons of them lined up in my head that I haven’t written yet.  My favorite thing about Hood’s book is that she incorporates Spanish words through out the story and thesusan-hood-spikepic last few pages include research about the creatures who made an appearance.  There’s so much educational value to this book and I can’t wait to own a copy. (We read from a library book.)

Referred to as a water-monster by the Aztecs, I was introduced to these tiny creatures as Mexican Walking Fish.  Either way, they are super cute, come in all different colors, and if ever there was an animal worthy of a picture book it would be this one.

I absolutely adore Melissa Sweet’s illustrations.  They are bright and spunky and the kiddo was riveted by each and every page.  Sweet captured the essence of the story with care and finesse and I look forward to seeing more of her illustrations on picture books in the future.

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Storyboarding

June 17, 2015 at 9:48 pm (Art) (, , , , , )

Today I am storyboarding for a children’s book for my mother-in-law… we’ll hand the pictures off to a real artist when I’m done.

Photo on 6-17-15 at 3.18 PM

“It was a dark, rainy day.”

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A Classic Book for Every Myers-Briggs Personality Type

June 16, 2015 at 10:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Anakalian Whims:

Jane Austen for the INTJ win. I have a Persuasion quote tattooed on my arm.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Recently at the Flavorwire office we’ve become obsessed (in a skeptical and dubious way, of course) with the Myers-Briggs personality test, a pop-psych phenomenon which sorts us all into one of 16 categories, each with a unique combination of four letters. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Intuitive or sensing? Thinking or feeling? Perceiving or judging? Now take all your results and combine them, and you have your MBTI personality type! (If you want to take a quick version of the test, try this one). While we don’t advocate your running out and switching jobs based on this result, a personalized reading guide can’t hurt. So in the spirit of summer reading — and summer self-inquiry — we offer a novel that we think would suit each MBTI result.

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A Review on Nerve & A Few Thoughts on Christian Fiction

June 16, 2015 at 7:00 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

imagesI have mixed feelings about Nerve by Bethany Macmanus.

As a reader I felt the Christian themes were awkward.  Having attended a Baptist University where, though I am a fellow Christian, people were constantly using breathy voices and calling on the Lord and praying over me and my sins in a manner that often made me uncomfortable.  Some were sincere friends and followers of Christ, many were frauds participating in group think and social customs of the Bible Belt.  Therefore, I have to say that personal experience greatly affects my ability to enjoy Christian fiction. Ironically, since my own cozy fiction – The Bookshop Hotel – has a churchy reference or two (maybe, if you look for it really hard).  A testament to the fact that although it’s a completely fabricated story with no roots in any people I know personally, world views have a tendency to seep through an author’s writing.

As someone who has grown up with Bethany Macmanus in my sphere of family friends, I know that these dialogues, prayers, and sentiments were sincerely written.  Something that rings false to me in the dialogue, I am quite certain was meant whole heartedly and rang true for the author when she wrote it.  She is one of the kindest, loving, and God-fearing women I have had the pleasure to know in my life.  I’ve never seen her without a smile and a sweet disposition.

Many with life experiences concerning physical ailments and reliance on God to get them through those ailments will find this romantic suspense novel something they can identify with and find comfort in.  I, on the other hand, had a hard time relating to Wren in any way as she struggled with romantic desires for two love interests, discomfort with whether things and people she encountered were destructive to her spirit, and dealing with creepy stalkers and dead ferrets.

Characters telling each other that they needed each other, and deeming that a verbalization of love, also didn’t sit well with me.  Again, I can chalk this up to personal experience tainting my ability to digest certain plot points – which is not an issue with the writing at all.  Need and love are such drastically different things in my world, with need often times being the exact opposite of a loving sentiment.  In my own writing, I’ve used need as a red flag to characters not being in the right place at the right time for each other, as opposed to the DTR that gets them together.

I think if you’re an avid romantic suspense or Christian fiction reader, this book will be right up your alley.  I definitely read a lot of books with romantic elements and enjoy a mystery every few titles I read, but romantic suspense has never been my favorite – and Christian fiction is a genre I tend to avoid, aside from Jan Karon, whose books (crossed with, hopefully, some Kate Morton) are closer to what I strive for in my own existing series.  I also have a tendency to prefer exploring religious themes in fiction within in the sci-fi genre – like Philip K. Dick, C.S. Lewis, and Mary Doria Russell titles.

These, of course, are all personal preferences and have no bearing on the merit of Macmanus’s work.  I can think of many people I would recommend her books to, and I will continue to purchase her titles and support her as a friend and fellow indie author.  But, as an honest book reviewer, I have to say that I wasn’t smitten with Nerve or its characters.

The editing was done well.  Not that I’m known for being a grammarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I noticed no flaws in grammar or any hiccups that would distract me from the story – something I highly appreciate after a poor editing job done on my own book from the first indie publisher who picked me up (fabulously re-done and re-released by Grey Gecko Press just this month), as well as other indie titles I’ve reviewed as a blogger.  It’s nice to see things so well done the first time out the gate, so there is definitely a kudos to professionalism regarding this title.

I think it is important to mention that though I consider Bethany a family friend, this title was *not* given to me in exchange for an honest review.  I purchased the title, read it, and am choosing to share my honest review with my public.  Some might wonder why I would share such an on the fence review regarding a friends’ work – I do it with purpose!  I think people scanning reviews might come across less than stellar star ratings for this novel (very few! I only see one on Amazon as of the writing of this post) and I’d like to offer some insight to the author and the public.  I strongly feel like this is *not* because there is any problem with the story or the characters, but with the perception of the readers who leave those reviews and how they might feel about people in the real world who speak this way.  It’s amazing how life experience can manipulate your views on a story, even in the most light hearted of genre fiction.

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Books to Read in One Sitting This Summer

June 12, 2015 at 9:41 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

This week I read three books, of different genres, each in their own sitting.  And if you’re looking for something to fill a nice, summer day, I recommend you give them a go too.

Unknown1. The House of Paper – Carlos Maria Dominguez

This is a beautiful and mysterious 103 page book about bookishness, and I love it.  Prettily illustrated with so many quotes I was itching to underline, I cannot wait to purchase my own copy.  (I checked it out from the library.)  Bibliophiles will adore the title and author references, as well as the social commentary regarding people who build private libraries our of their book collections.  Goes down best early in the morning with your coffee, or perhaps late at night with your tea.

2. The Colossus – Sylvia Plath

51h4UamM5bL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ After reading The Bell Jar, I was in desperate need of getting to know Plath a little better.  The Colossus and Other Poems is only 83 pages long, but rich is hauntingly gorgeous descriptions.  I read somewhere that someone once described this collection as the coldest summer poetry available – and I tend to agree. If you’re from Texas, this is a good one to sweat out the morning in your garden just before brunch (or second breakfast) while your kiddo frolics with the dog and collects dead flies.

3. High Moon – E.J. Boley

Werewolves, gypsies, cowboys, and vampires – I just devoured this paranormal western while hiding indoors during the hottest part of the day. If Cormac McCarthy decided to pick up a punctuation habit and tell supernatural tales, it might come out a little bit like this. Except Boley manages something I’ve never experienced in a McCarthy novel – FUN. Using familiar phrases and titles as chapter headings was a nice touch.  Being set in Texas is always a nicer one.  Can’t wait to read Boley’s future endeavors.

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My Issue With Sylvia Plath

June 11, 2015 at 3:48 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , )

412FYKPYEWLDisclaimer: If I was a coward or a sensible human, I’d post this as some sort of fictional work.  I am neither.  But if you know me and would rather pretend this post isn’t real, for the sake of our friendship, that’s cool.

I’ve been trying for days to figure out how to write this post without sounding like a bitter, unfeeling hag.  Then, I realized, more than that, I have to find a way to say what I mean to say without sounding like a pitiable, whiny, woe-is-me turd.  Finally, I came to the conclusion that I just need to say what I’m going to say, post this “review” and let it sound however it will sound; because ultimately, though I am a writer and can be precise or flowery with my words, I cannot control how you hear/ read them.  I am not that powerful.  Maybe that just means I’m a terrible writer, but we’ll let those insecurities ride for another day…

I finally read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.  It was my dead friend’s birthday and I thought he deserved a proper wallow, what better way to have a healthy wallow than to read a classic novel written by a woman who put her head in an oven?

So I took a bath, all appropriately scalding hot, and settled down into this:

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.  Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”

This, of course, made me giggle at the wisdom of my selection.

Mostly, though, I felt a familiarity about the book, the characters, and all the feelings, that just outright angered me.  She talks about things that make her sad and tired, and then how thinking about being sad and tired makes her more sad and tired.  I found one of my own personal college friends in Doreen, the party girl from the deep south.  I found myself in the narrator’s alter ego, inspired by an outing with Doreen, the party girl.

As I read, I got deeper and deeper into the narrator’s not-so-dark and twisty brain and followed her around as she thought about killing herself and received shock therapy while being hospitalized with the other crazies.  I thought of Girl, Interrupted and Susannah Keyson and realized why, exactly, this book was familiar, and enjoyable, but ultimately a deep itch under my skin.

Everyone feels that way – the way Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical character feels.  Everyone struggles to live, and if they don’t then I’m shocked.  Reading The Bell Jar I just wanted to scream at a very dead Sylvia Plath, and every other depressed person I’ve known, and even the depressed person I’ve been and sometimes still am:

WHAT MAKES YOU SO SPECIAL? What makes you so special that you get to bask in your insanity?  Nothing.  That’s what.  You’re just taking advantage of living in a world that works harder than you to exist.

That’s probably unfair, and shows an utter lack of compassion, but it’s how I feel.

Because it is hard work.  Getting out of bed every morning is a mental exercise.  Keeping yourself from crawling back in – or worse being a drunk slob for the hours you’re awake – is a physical exercise.  Every day you have to create and maintain specific habits to keep yourself from sliding into the glorious abyss of a terrible wallow… a wallow of anxieties, simultaneously deep and restless sleep, an attitude called The Mean Reds (thanks, Holly Golightly), and a conflicting desire to both eat yourself into obesity or starve yourself to death – it could go either way.

Every day is a challenge to make the counting in your head stop.  And with all this counting, it’s a struggle to actually sit down and count the things you’re supposed to.  My drawer was ten cents off at work the other day, which naturally (and I would have said the same thing to anyone else), they teased me about not being able to count – because it wasn’t actually off, I had just documented it as off.  Want to know what that sounds like?  If your brain is anything like mine, which for the sake of this entire post I’m going to assume that for many people it is, my brain processed the comments a bit like this…

A Rising Panic Attack

Recognition that this was a joke

Panic Attack Subsides, only to start up again wondering if they think you’re stupid, or, worse…

Did they catch on to the fact that you were counting dimes over top of the counting already happening in your head – the one that finds itself ticking in time with any and every clock on the wall, the one that falls in tune to your steps as you walk across tile floors, still looking at your feet when you walk even though you are now in your thirties.  The rhythm that helps you get your work done fast when you’re methodically shelving and alphabetizing, but might trip you on the street if you encounter a crack in the sidewalk – because you’re never sure if that day is a no crack day or a step ON the crack day… not until you do one or the other and the part of you begins to panic.  Did they notice this?

While all this is happening in your head, you realize your rhythm is gone.  Your heart was racing, but now it suddenly stopped altogether and you find yourself both mentally and physically trying to catch your breath, but you play it cool when you remind yourself that even though you *feel* like your head has bubble wrap duct taped around it and that you’ve been thrown into a swimming pool – that’s not what you look like.  No one sees your bubble wrap face.  They also don’t realize, hopefully, that you can’t hear them right now.

Your left pinky finger starts to tingle and you crack the knuckle to make it stop, to regain feeling.  Only this time it hurts and you look down and see it is more bent than usual.  Long ago it was broken, right now it simultaneously feels numb and broken.  You wonder if you re-broke it sometime this week and didn’t notice.

The Heart Flutters.

Post-it notes are raining on your head, but they are in teals and oranges and easily arranged and filed into your handy-dandy mental filing cabinets – alphabetized and roughly dated.  (Yes, I have those.  If I’m too terribly distracted, the notes turn yellow and green, they’re only their orange and teal shades when I’m looking directly at them.  The filing cabinets are the old metal kind, the ones you find on the side of the road or in ancient school building, rickety and decidedly thrown away by someone more sane than me.)

During all of this, life goals and contingency plans are running in the background.  What if my husband dies? I could come back to work full time here.  We’ve accomplished x,y,z so it’s probable.  But I can’t count dimes, that might be a problem.  If he died by car crash, I go _____.  If he dies by _____, I go ______.  If I die, he does not die…. If this than that.  It takes me 30 seconds to map out a life plan from a newly presented scenario.  It takes another 30 seconds for me to make a list of resources I think I need to implement this life plan effectively.  Life Plan 3,069 logged away in filing cabinet 192, June 2015.

Your ears pop – as though you’ve ACTUALLY been under water, which briefly makes you wonder.  Wonder about what?  The Matrix, of course, are you in The Matrix?  Or God’s brain?  My husband thinks we are all synapses in a giant God-head’s brain.  I ponder the biology of that while I – or you –  think about The Matrix and how Neo didn’t realize he was stuck, naked, in a bubble of goo while his brain was plugged in to what he thought was real.

Suddenly, you’re cold all over and briefly wonder if you might be in goo too.  Then you realize that for some inexplicable reason (the smell of old books? the comfort of the books? the smell of the person who just passed you by?) you’re not in goo, you’re just horny and why haven’t you ever had sex in a library or a bookstore?  Oh, because the NSA is watching, yes, that’s why.

Less than a minute has passed since you were teased about the dimes and your inability to count.  People have been talking around you, and you’ve even piped in – whether sensibly or not, you can’t be sure – and finally a customer asks you a question.  This part is easier.  The question is a book title, or an author.  (I honestly don’t remember now.)  But when someone asks something like this, it’s easier to get around all the warehouse like noise in the mind.  The color coded post-it notes of fragmented thoughts are discarded, the flow-charts of contingency plans for life are swept momentarily aside and you consult your filing cabinets and bookshelves for the answer to their question.  Maybe they asked you about dystopian fiction and you’re walking them through a list of your favorites. Maybe they just want a book that reminds them of red fields of grass, which they have to read for sophomore English – naturally you pluck up Catcher in the Rye by Salinger and they marvel at how you knew, or (depending on the customer) take it for granted that of course you knew exactly what they were talking about because they described the book so well.

The point is, this is constant and every day.  Everyone has a thousand things happening in their heads that no one knows about.  And frankly, not everyone needs to know about.  When I’m having a hard time quieting the characters for my fiction, who like to gather around my filing cabinets and gab at me, or making the what if flow charts stop, when I can’t seem to stay out of the damn bubble wrap pool party – I chatter.  I get clammy and chatter to whoever will listen.  Because if my mouth is running, then I don’t have to listen to the chatter in my brain as much… I can ever so briefly shut them the hell up.  The point is, I’m not sticking my head in any ovens.  I make do.

It’s not fun.  It’s not easy.  It’s down right exhausting.  It’s noisy, and it’s lonely.  It is an effort to remember to feed myself and to feed others, and when I eat – not to eat too much.  I am held together by the fact that I must sweep and mop this floor every day, that the things happening in my husband’s head are far worse than mine so someone has to keep it together.  That some people out there have worse problems – like being raped and or being torn from limb to limb as they refuse to renounce Christ.

Yet, this twat, who was an amazing writer and artist, who had two kids that needed her… stuck her head in a freaking oven.  Would that be easier?  Yes.  Was she crazy?  Yes.  But no more or less than anyone else, in my self-admittedly judgmental opinion.

Despite all that, I checked out her Bed-Book and read it to my daughter – it’s a lovely children’s picture book, and am currently reading both her diaries and her letters to her mother.  Because I like her, I do.  I feel like I know her and have been her.  I feel like if I am not careful, I could be her again – but at least I’ll have the sense to keep my head out of ovens.  (Although, when I was a kid, I used to bend over in the laundry room, holding a button down, to dry my hair in the clothes dryer – very effective…)

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