December 1, 2015 at 3:55 am (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , )

41lhLBusoML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTitle: Wren

Author: Regina O’Connell

Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy

Format: Kindle/ Ebook

One of the perks of being an indie author is that I encounter a lot of other indie authors.  In doing so, I discover a lot of reading material that most people might not.  With all this non-mainstream discovery, I get passed a lot of duds and a lot of gems.

Wren was neither for me.  It was a good book among a lot of good books.  It didn’t blow me away, but I didn’t feel like I wasted my time either.  It was enjoyable and if the right person came along, I’d pass along a recommendation – not in a sing its praises from the rooftop sort of way, but in a there is an audience for everything sort of way.

Wren is a book for someone with an hour to kill who is in the mood for a fast-paced action/ dystopian fantasy.  You are quickly dropped into the story and it’s easy to devour it.  I read it in one sitting – so clearly it’s a fun way to pass time.

I’m not sure it will make a lasting impression, though.  It’s not a story that will stay with me.  It is a story that will compel me to read whatever O’Connell puts out next, when I have the time, just to see.  She’s piqued my curiosity and I’m glad I had the opportunity to take a peek into her imaginary world and keep her writing career on my radar.

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Party Lights

November 29, 2015 at 8:33 pm (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

7744084.jpgTitle: The Summer We Read Gatsby

Author: Danielle Ganek

Publisher: Viking

Genre: Literary Romance

Length: 292 pages

Something about seeing all the Christmas lights go up, and holiday party planning for the winter, led me to this book – despite its summer setting in the Hamptons heat.  I suppose the deep autumn of Texas has similar weather patterns to summertime in the country of New York, but I don’t know as I’ve never been there.  I just know that it’s anywhere from the upper 80’s to the lower 40’s all this Thanksgiving week, depending on the moment and precipitation.

Christmas in Texas always has a flair of Fitzgerald about it to me anyway.  This is the time of year when people pull out garden lights, candles, splashes of extravagant color, sparkly dresses, and dine outside where it’s cool.  This is when we cook breakfast together in over crowded houses and drink mimosas until noon, only to start pouring wine in its place by lunch.  (Naturally we evolve into beer and football by mid afternoon, but that’s not very Gatsby of us is it.  We only have so much ridiculous classy flair before we go full on redneck, after all.)

Still, there’s an appropriate place in my winter heart for this summer read, and I loved every second and every page of this witty little romance that had a Whole Nine Yards touch of mystery.  I say romance, but the romance isn’t as much for *the guy* as it is for a house – Fool’s House – and a pair of sisters.

Ganek didn’t pull any punches, she created a perfect piece of over the top fiction with all the glitter and glam of the overly fictitious.  All those moments you’ve had in your life when you’re staring at people thinking, what a character, they could be in a book.  They are in a book.  This book.  The storytellers, the actors, the gay guy, the foreigners, the artists, the deceased benefactor, the millionaire, the villains, all the archetypes that don’t quite fit their mold… they’re all here, fluttering about like a party of confetti and lights, ready to entertain.

I loved it.  It’s a keeper and I’ll read it again.


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November 28, 2015 at 4:11 am (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , )

11afaa7de106d6896ac64fa74e2657dc.jpgTitle: Anemogram

Author: Rebecca Gransden

Publisher: Cardboard Wall Empire

Genre: Mysterious Fiction

Length: 242 pages

anemograph: (ə·nem′ə·graf, -gräf) noun Meteorol. An instrument that makes an automatic record of the velocity, force, or direction of the wind.

anemogram: An anemographic record

From start to finish Gransden’s work had a haunting feel to it.  The description itself required to ask her before I agreed to review the book if I should be concerned… if there were any Lolita elements to the story.  I was not emotionally in a place to handle anything involving molestation or inappropriate relationships.

No, the author assured me.  No, I assure you.

Still, page by page, there’s the constant wonder if you’re about to get hoodwinked by the story.  Gransden’s prose is songlike and her subject matter is mysterious and disconcerting, without ever crossing a line.  Or did it? I’m still not sure.

Just as a ghost-like girl weaves in and out of the woods, in and out of society, almost like a dream, the story weaves in and out of itself – chapter-less – smoothly, but with the momentum of a sharp breeze at your back on a day you know you should have worn a sweater.

Something of the story feels a little Elizabeth George to me, and a little bit Chuck Palahniuk.  (Two authors with nothing in common, except somehow they hung out in the recesses of my brain while I read Gransden’s work.)  I wonder what she thinks of them.

I write this review now because the author has been waiting for it for sometime.  I was sent this book from her in exchange for an honest review, but I think I’d have to sleep on it a bit before I truly know what I think of it.  It deserves pondering, and discussion.  It deserves a re-read in varying moods to see if that changes my own perception of things.  How much of what I feel now is Gransden’s writing skill and the mood she wanted to portray and how much is because of my own current mood?

Anemogram would make for an excellent book club selection and I’d recommend it to a group who typically chooses mysteries, although I’m hesitant to place it in the category.


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Learning Dangerously

November 24, 2015 at 5:31 am (Education, Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , )

Title: The Year of Learning D13542507.jpgangerously
Author: Quinn Cummings
Genre: Parenting/ Education/ Humor

I found The Year of Learning Dangerously tucked on a clearance shelf at work as I was cleaning the last hour of my shift.  I bought it that night on my way out the door, and spent the following day off reading it.

I laughed.  I laughed so hard I couldn’t breath.  I loved it, every page, every moment, every encounter Cummings had with fellow homeschool families as she tried to find “her tribe.”

I couldn’t sit and read silently, every few lines I had something to share with whoever happened to be sitting next to me.  I laughed, they laughed, we laughed until we cried.  We felt for Cummings, all her quirks make her endearing to me.  Her anxieties and personal electro-magnetic field make her my spirit animal.

While I laughed and felt camaraderie with Cummings in all her panic attacks, all her self doubt, but ultimately in her absolute decision that this was the lifestyle for her – my husband, apparently, spent that time doubting our educational plans.  Plans we’ve had in place since before kiddo was even born.

It’s interesting how everyone’s life experience can be so different despite living and breathing the same air and being part of the same bubble.  I see the world for what it is and find more determination for our lifestyle choices.  Others look at the exact same thing and come to a completely contradictory conclusion, and give up.

Whatever your life choices, whether you are a homeschool family or simply people who love to laugh – Quinn Cummings’s memoir is fantastic.  I couldn’t put it down and my abs thank me for it.

On a kick for parenting humor, I picked up It Sucked And Then I Cried by Heather B. Armstrong.  I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far her snark is outstanding.

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Notes from a plane at 38,000 feet

November 14, 2015 at 2:49 am (Uncategorized)

Anakalian Whims:

Wonderful post…

Originally posted on Antigua and Barbuda Views:

How I like to write How I like to write

Ask David Nicholls (author of One Day) why he is drawn to Thomas Hardy: ‘because it’s “big and emotional and moving and people identify with it”‘.

I watched the critically acclaimed ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ (Thomas Vinterberg / David Nicholls adaptation) on the plane from Gatwick to Antigua (direct flights daily folks!).

With a 7.2 imdb rating I know I am not alone in the pleasure that I consumed from such a bewitching story so beautifully portrayed.

However the story got me thinking about bygone days and how much more creative we were then. The ladies yearned to play piano and everyone wrote letters with an elegant hand.

Today we are in such pursuit of endless happiness that there is a loss of creativity. In the past, people sat more with any sadness that befell them and used it. There was no Ben and Jerry’s nor…

View original 232 more words

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Spend the Holidays with Pout-Pout Fish

November 14, 2015 at 1:00 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

613r-T9OAbL._SY494_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish

Author: Deborah Diesen

Illustrator: Dan Hanna

Kiddo and I fell in love with The Pout-Pout Fish about three years ago when we discovered The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark.  We had a slight aversion to the possibility of “baby talk” in the writing, but were won over by the fun poetry and the fabulous underwater illustrations. (Read my original post here.)

In addition to our joint love of underwater children’s stories, Kiddo has taken on a serious love for Christmas that can be countered only by my mother’s.  These two, I’m not kidding, have enough Christmas spirit for the entire nation. All of America could abandon the idea of Christmas altogether and my kid and her grandmother would still have us all covered. (I’m a little more ba hum bug, but you know – yin and yang and all that.)

So you can imagine our excitement when the publisher sent us a copy of The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish.

“The Pout-Put Fish is like SANTA!” the kiddo exclaimed, seeing his very merry Santa hat atop his very un-merry face.  We’re not Santa promoters in our house – in the modern day sense that has become tradition, but rather in the currently untraditional traditional sense where we talk about the history of the original Santa stories and how the legend of a good man became a magical myth.  Yet, with all our reading and exploration of wonderful tales and things that promote vivid imaginations, we’ve fallen in love with stories like the Rise of the Guardians by William Joyce and so on…

Come the holidays, we have another household tradition.  We like the concept of four gifts (or gift categories that promote specific, well-thought out gifts in moderation): What You’ll Wear, What You’ll Read, What You Want, and What You Need.  So as a parent of such a household, I especially love the line, “And his gifts had meaning/ Plus a bit of bling-zing/ And his each and every friend loved/ Their just-right thing.” No meaningless haphazard gift giving for the Pout-Pout Fish! (Thank you, for that, Deborah Diesen, it truly does mean so much to us.)

“Can we read it again tomorrow?” Kiddo asked when we were through.

“Of course.”

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The End of Summer… Beginning of Christmas

November 8, 2015 at 4:10 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The thing about living in Texas is, the second summer truly ends – it’s not really fall, it’s already Christmas.

The weather tells us so.  Retail tells us so – we went from Back to School displays to Christmas trees almost over night.  Halloween and Thanksgiving disbanded before we even manage to get there.

The reality of this set in as we read picture books tonight.  Kiddo selected a book by Adam Rex called Tree- Ring Circus, a summery affair regarding a lot of animals and a tree losing it’s fall leaves.  It’s got a deep south summery vibe, because even though the tree looks bare, it radiates warmth and feels like a warm summer day.  I’m craving pop corn, ice cream, and trail mix just looking at the illustrations.  The tree becomes an unlikely “hiding place” for a runaway circus clown and his friends, even though there is no hiding in a barren tree on the verge of keeling over.

Of course the animals and the tree itself seem to be lost on my five year old.  She’s more interested in the rapid growth pattern of the tree that grew from the seed and the thunder storm at the beginning of the book.  A tree that grew from a seed to something large enough for an elephant to perch atop in a matter of three sentences.  We do so get hung up in the funniest of details sometimes around here.

For me, it’s details like the fact that my daughter LOVES Christmas books. We’d read them year round if I let her, but I can’t bring myself to do it.  I limit her to one Christmas book a month in non-Christmas seasons.  But as it is November, and therefore practically Christmas in Texas – we’re upping our Christmas book game.  I already have one Christmas picture book review scheduled to post and now, we’re posting another…

61vrBjeJWFLTitle: Casey’s Bright Red Christmas

Author: Holly Dufek

Illustrations: Paul E. Nunn

Publisher: Octane Press

We were sent a promotional copy in exchange for a review.  We’ve never heard of Casey & Friends until this book, but apparently it’s a fairly established series with several previous titles.

As good old Texas girls, we were equal parts excited about the country farm aspect as well as the novelty of the snow featured in the background of all the pictures.  So far, we’ve had snow one time since the kiddo was born, and it didn’t manage to stick to the ground.  She’s fascinated by the stuff and is constantly asking me when we’re going to get some.  I think this may be part of why she likes Christmas books so much – they’re almost fantastical when you’ve grown up in the Lower Coastal Plains Region of Texas.  We have sun, rain, woods, and beaches – no snow, no mountains.

Now, that we’ve met Casey & Friends, we’re definitely going to look for the other titles: A Year on the Farm, Big Tractors, Combines, and Planters & Cultivators.  (I’m not sure if this is the best idea for a little girl who already prances around singing the FarmersOnly.com jingle every chance she gets.  I promise we’re not THAT country.)

“Can I have a note?” kiddo asks.

“Of course, this is technically *your* review,” I tell her.

“My favorite part is where they all say SURPRISE.  Also, dear people,” I love the way she says this, like she’s addressing a letter to my blog followers, “I wonder if you would like to read this book. It’s an awesome book and it’s a great time to read this book right now.  Because it’s lovely.  And I would like it if you read all the other versions.  I bet we could get them at the library, I always have a great time there.  I wish everyone would have lovely days at the library…”

There are more glowing superlatives, but they are mostly the excited ramblings of a five year old loving to hear herself talk.

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It’s a Keeper

November 7, 2015 at 1:06 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

keeper-front-revTitle: Keeper

Author: S. Smith

Genre: Middle Grade/ Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

Length: 200 pages

Many moons ago, it seems like forever now, S. Smith sent me a copy of Seed Savers, the first of her young adult series set in an America where growing your own food has become illegal.  Children were being taught about seeds and produce gardens in whispers; collecting, saving, and planting seeds a prison-worthy offense.

The story couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  It was the summer of 2012, I had a small daughter at home, my husband was out of work, and I had just started spending more time and care actively growing more of our groceries.  On top of that, I was beginning to learn how to forage and was focusing my daughter’s future education on as much regarding sustainability and self-sufficiency as possible.  I wanted taking care of ourselves to come as naturally as literature does for me.  I wanted finding edible grapes in the forest to be as simple as knowing that 2+2 = 4.  Then Seed Savers happened and it felt like the stars had begun to align.

Several books later (Seed Savers, Heirloom, and Lily), we finally have the fourth installment of S. Smith’s world.  The girls, Lily and Clare, have done a lot of growing up.  Siblings Dante and Clare have received a lot more education during their stay in Canada.  Rose is being indoctrinated… bad guys are getting closer and closer to turning everything upside down as rebels have begun starting riots in the street.  Soon, all four kids find themselves in Portland, Oregon, where Seed Savers headquarters has been stationed under a forested park in the city for years.

More and more, the series is resembling the fast paced action political drama of the Divergent series – without the killing, and with the added fun of things like Dandelion syrup being discussed.

Although I was sent an advanced reader’s copy of Keeper, I still made a point to pre-order a final copy for my kindle.  The book is a keeper in every format, and it’s just worth it to be as supportive as possible of this story, help it get told.  I’m looking forward to the day Smith gets a movie or mini-series deal.  Better yet, the homeschool mom in me votes for it to be a Netflix original.

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The Havana Treatment

October 27, 2015 at 4:15 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

31RZD3GdDVL._AA160_Title: The Havana Treatment

Author: Peter Devine

My first Peter Devine book was True to the Code, a series of short stories that were as much historically educational as philosophically motivating.  As much as I enjoyed my first taste of Devine’s prose, Havana Treatment was infinitely more riveting.

Peter Devine has an uncanny ability to put you in the middle of a character’s big moment only to take you right back out again.  Each short story in Havana Treatment introduces you to a whole person in a just a few moments or hours, leaving you with a solid understanding of who they are, but wanting more of the story.  Described as an exploration of the shelf life of a romance, Havana Treatment doesn’t disappoint, and each story is as compelling and oxymoronically uniquely typical as the next.

The human race is completely infatuated with the idea of love, and after spending time with Devine’s characters, it is easy to see why.  A moment with someone can become a lifetime of dedication.  A person’s soul can be boiled down to one momentous story that could have seemed so unimportant at the time, but because the encounter was so genuine it shapes someone forever.

Devine has such a strong grasp on these realities. His experience and all the people he has met in his life shape the wisdom in his tales; but in all his travels and worldliness, Devine still captures Americana and our ideas of romance like no other.

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Peace Like a River

October 25, 2015 at 2:31 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

PeacelikeariverTitle: Peace Like a River

Author: Leif Enger

Genre: Fiction/ Literature

One of the few tragedies of working in a bookstore is seeing the popularity aftermath of a book.  When there are fifty copies of something for $1 we clerks get in the mindset (if we haven’t read the book yet) that the title was a fad.  Not just a fad, but it was clearly a book not worth keeping or re-reading.

Note to shoppers: just because a lot of people don’t keep their books and just because a book isn’t something people jump to re-read, does not mean it’s not worth reading in the first place.

For this very reason, it has taken me years to getting around to reading Peace Like a River.  Not just that, but I was tentative and checked the book out – I didn’t even purchase it!

Next time I see a beautiful hardback, I will.

Peace Like a River is all soul filled and gorgeous with running themes concerning miracles, family, God, and consequence.  It’s not what I would call a happy book, but it’s not a sad one either.  I think it is one of the few in this world written truthfully about human experience, religious families, and the nature of people who function within the knowledge of an ever present God.  People without the faith of Jeremiah Lands just don’t live lives like Jeremiah Lands.  Some might think that would be a blessing – to go through life without such scruples.  I mean, look where it got him. The fictional character finds himself in the precarious position of being a good and godly father to a fugitive, his other son – though revived from death at birth by a miracle – is a severe asthmatic.  His daughter is an insanely intelligent poet, but becomes a target in their war with existence.

How exhausting.

But Jeremiah Lands, even in pneumonia and illness, never seems exhausted.  The guy is a far cry from energetic, but he is steady.  He is solid.  He is the kind of father I think many hope for, despite his oldest son’s resistance to him.  That sort of resistance is natural, I think, when it comes to family and God. It happens.  And it happens very much just like that.  Davy is a good person with scruples of his own, he was raised right and chooses I think what many of us would choose in certain situations.  But the consequences of his choices make faith hard, and the lack of faith makes each choice harder than the next.

I needed this book this year.  And if you see a copy in a bookstore for a dollar, snatch it up quick.

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