Addleton Heights

October 9, 2016 at 7:31 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

31180231.jpgGeorge Wright Padgett has done it again – blown my mind with an awesome and fun reading experience.

Addleton Heights will be his third published work, but it’s an epic debut into the Steampunk genre and the world he has built and the characters he created have me smitten.

Just like everything George tackles, he writes his detective story with artistic spunk. Flare abounds from start to finish.

I believe so much in this book, the story, and the time period, I’m obsessed with the idea of launching the book release at the Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Of course, this launch is expensive (mainly because booking the museum after hours costs a pretty penny), but would be worth it.

So, Grey Gecko Press and I have set up a Kickstarter page. Please, please, if you appreciate my reviews, value my bookish opinions, and/or love supporting indie authors and publishing houses, check this out:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/greygeckopress/addleton-heights-steampunk-launch-party-at-hmns

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The Borrowers Series

October 9, 2016 at 2:55 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Borrowers

This was one of my favorites as a child and as I read it out loud to my own kiddo this week, I remembered why.  The Borrowers is simply magical and a tale every kid can get enchanted by.  The pages I read from were wrinkled with love, where I had toted it to school, to the mountain for camping, and every other place. I read it over and over again, and I’m hoping that my own kiddo will find the joy of reading this herself as she gets older.  But for now, I’m happy to read it aloud, and even happier to discover what other adventures are in store for Pod, Homily, and Arriety – as we’re about to begin reading The Borrowers Afield, which I never knew existed until I worked in a bookstore as an adult.

The Borrowers Afield

I read this aloud to my five year old today.  Not all in one sitting, but all in one day.  It was quite the affair, filled with many tea, coffee, sandwich, and taco breaks.  My voice is tired, but both our minds – despite the late hour – are alive with visions of dandelions as large as ourselves, bees to be pet like cats, and cats as large as an elephant.  I long to be Spiller, dashing around a field, “borrowing” from gypsies, sailing downstream in a soap tin.  I adored The Borrowers as a child, and just discovered its sequels recently; and despite having read The Borrowers Afield for the first time as an adult today, I think I might like it more.  I’m enchanted, and have enjoyed all my daughter’s renderings of tiny houses with oversized flowers and butterflies, on her drawing pad today, while I read on and on.  We look forward to the next book, The Borrowers Afloat.

The Borrowers Afloat and The Borrowers Aloft

The Borrowers Afloat took off just after Afield and left the Clock family living in less than desirable quarters along with the Hendrearys. It took far to long for them to actually make it down the drain the pipe and back into the out of doors, and this book along with the one after it – The Borrowers Aloft – were my least favorite. Mostly because the dangers became more and more stressful and the lives of the Clocks simultaneously more convenient but less cozy. I did very much enjoy the introduction of Miss Menzies, and so did the kiddo. We delighted in her as much as Arrietty. I still adore the entire series and these books deserve every star available to them.

The Borrowers Avenged

Finally the story of the Clocks is all wrapped up. But is it?! We lamented the ending and long to know what became of Arrietty’s whole life. Did she marry Spiller as she speculated? Or did Peagreen capture her heart as he did her mind?

It’s a shame there are no more. I’d keep reading them one right after another for years if I could.   The kiddo tried to tell me, “It’s ok mama, you’ll find that she’s written a second series about them some day.” I had to tell her “the author is dead, there’s no more.” “Sure there is, you just haven’t found them yet.” I didn’t have the heart to argue further. And who knows, maybe she knows something about Mary Norton the rest of us don’t…

Now we are off into another series of books for more adventures of a different nature.

 

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Twilight Books…

September 28, 2016 at 5:38 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

And no, I’m not talking about the twilight saga.  I’m talking about those books you pick up to read as the sun is setting – at the end of your day – and binge read until complete. I’m talking about all those glorious read in one sitting books. The kind that result in a little less sleep than you should have gotten the next day, but are worth it because you feel so much more refreshed than if you had actually slept.

It’s as W. Somerset Maugham said, “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

So when I am at my most miserable, I set in place the habit of reading cozy “twilight” books. I create down time where there is none, to devour what will rest my brain from my own crap long enough to kick start my next day.

51BbTTPu1kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOn Sunday, it was The Azalea Assault by Alyse Carlson. I saw the Victorian mansion surrounded by gardens and trees and grabbed it instantly. The watering can, the tagline “Murder is bad for publicity…” What’s not to love?  I can’t get enough of these cozy mysteries and this one is on the list of one of the better of them. It’s definitely an all in one sitting book and it inspired me to take a closer look at the weed situation in my garden this week. Which was lucky all in all because I found jalapeños and bell peppers for the kitchen.

Last night, however, it was The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy for an honest review – and full disclosure, she’s my cousin’s wife. But I can say without hesitation that I was pleased.  And I read it all at once.

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Available Now for Pre-Order, Release Date December 27, 2016

I enjoyed her previous book, her debut into the psychological thriller genre, The Good Neighbor but I also recognized why so many found faults with the plot that were pointed out in other reviews.  Banner definitely stepped up her game and took previous criticisms to heart for The Twilight Wife and it is leaps and bounds better in content and quality. Still brain candy, the twists not as surprising as a typical reader of the genre might like – but perfect for snuggling up with for a few hours when your own life is not something you want to think about anymore.

Also, and I said this about The Good Neighbor as well, Banner’s book screams to be made into a movie. Sleeping With the Enemy, The Net, and a number of other 90’s classics we could not do without would love to share shelf space with a film version of The Twilight Wife.  These are the stories we wear pajamas, drink a lot of wine, and eat the greasiest pizza while reading and watching.

So next time you find yourself out of sorts, too tired to look at your calendar to figure out when the next paycheck arrives and how soon it will be for you to make your next grocery trip… when you’re cranky about work, too exhausted to sleep, and definitely leaving those dishes in the sink overnight… download a copy of a twilight book… a cozy mystery, or a bit of women’s fiction like Azalea Assault and The Twilight Wife. Once you’ve read those, holler, I have an endless list to share.

If you have a Goodreads account – come find me, I share book lists and reviews there as well (Goodreads Author A.K. Klemm). Also, remember that I am an Amazon Affiliate and greatly appreciate you clicking through my blog to make your Amazon orders. It helps pave the way for me to continue reading, writing, and sharing my love for books with you (http://amzn.to/2d7edMl).

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Meet Felix Gomez…

September 19, 2016 at 2:47 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

1150191._UY200_.jpgTitle: Nymphos of Rocky Flats

Author: Mario Acevdeo

Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Mystery

Meet Felix Gomez, Iraqi-vet Vampire P.I. who has been called to Denver to investigate an outbreak of Nymphomania.  It sounds silly because it is. But it’s equally adventurous and well written.  It’s a slightly older title, but the series is still fresh with a current addition that came out in April (Rescue from Planet Pleasure).

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Mario and Me at Dragon Con 2016

At Dragon Con people would walk up to the WordFire Press booth and ask, “Do they come with pictures?” To which Acevedo would, without skipping a beat, reply, “No, only scratch and sniff.”

I laughed every time.  It just didn’t stop being funny to me.

I think that’s how Felix Gomez will be as I continue to read the series.  I’ve never been so amused as while reading Nymphos of Rocky Flats.  It has all the excitement of the X-Files with the plot development silliness of Eureka.  Just as I had settled into the pace of the book and thought, “Ok, I’m ready for all this to wrap itself up,” he’d toss something else at me and I’d giggle, “Maybe not…”

I enjoyed having a vampire story-line with a more realistic life story being dropped into an absurd universe (Iraqi War Vet meets Vampirism, Werevolvishness, and Aliens) – as opposed to the typical unrealistic life stories being dropped into a more familiar world (Two-hundred year old man falls in love with high school teen in the mundane school cafeteria; I’ll take aliens over high school again).

What I didn’t expect were the author’s deep thoughts on life to make subtle waves in some of his writing. Hints at politics and undertones on what might be Acevedo’s worldview were made but never formulated completely.  Having met the man, I know he is intelligent, well-read, and has a lot of wisdom regarding the world. As much as I enjoy his humorous banter, in both real life and his books, I’m interested to hear or read what his deep thoughts on life are.

Aside from deep thoughts, this book is all guy all the time but one girls can enjoy too.  It sells in mass market paperback form at the bookstore to middle-aged men like hotcakes all the time, but I plan to start pushing it toward more ladies.  The trade paperbacks have a longer shelf life, but honestly, I think it’s just because of where they are located. I’m already mentally planning a place to feature them for Halloween as I type.

A previous reviewer referred to the Felix Gomez series as Dude-lit. “When Girls Go Wild… Call in the Undead” the tagline of the book says.  If this doesn’t place it in that fabulous sub-genre of Dude-lit, I don’t know what would.  The fact that the book is the first vampire novel ever to be declassified by the U.S. government is another tell-tale sign.

Ironically, scantily clad women in hooker boots is not sub-genre specific, merely a hint that it’s urban fiction as it’s something that women expect to see on their chick-lit as well.  It is a consumer behavior impulse I will never quite understand – like how magazines for men and women alike feature half naked women on the fronts…  And despite the book being classic dude-lit, I’m a chick and I loved it. Then again, as a character in Rocky Flats points out: “Earth women are surprisingly complicated…”

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Side Note on Content & Ratings: I was pleasantly pleased that with all the hinting and perverted jokes, the book isn’t actually raunchy.  The movie version would probably still be rated R for nudity, but there’s a reason the books are not classified as erotica, and for that I was grateful. If it had been, I’m not sure I could look the author in the eye again – and I really like him, he’s fun.  There’s more porn in the Outlander series than in Rocky Flats.

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My Trip to Atlanta – Part Two

September 13, 2016 at 4:23 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Centennial Olympic Park

Maybe it’s because this was an Olympic year and I just introduced my daughter to the joys of binge watching the best gymnasts in the world blow everyone’s minds.  Maybe it’s because it was the twenty year anniversary of the night Keri Strug wowed us all with her stellar commitment to herself and her team.  Maybe it’s just because I like parks…

IMG_1242.JPGMy favorite part of Atlanta – the city, not the trip – was Centennial Olympic Park.  I had to walk through it every day to get to the Vendor’s Hall for Dragon Con; and I am so glad I did.

Atlanta as a whole had a wild, unkempt feel to me, sporadically blasted with moments of finely controlled beauty.  I’d walk from Joseph E. Boone, where the grass I think, had never been cut, to stepping into the symbol of perfection itself: Centennial Olympic Park.

img_1238Honestly, I enjoyed the contrast.  As an environmentally friendly foraging hippie, I loved that the lawns were more like meadows.  I found joy in poking along overgrown sidewalks with the opportunity to inspect local wildflowers.  I even found a luna moth one morning, something I had never seen in person before.

But as a lover of community parks, I also found myself drawn to the twenty-eight million dollar completed project. City cleaners sweep, scrub, and constantly pick up trash, keeping the park immaculate. The statues seem to gleam, both from their artistic beauty and the city’s over all effort to maintain “curb appeal.”  I found myself wondering what was there before 1996 and learned that it was a city block of old industrial buildings, some abandoned.  The difference to Atlanta citizens when the park was first erected must have been startling.

img_1245I stopped to take pictures of some of the statues when I was there. I got some curious looks before people started stopping and taking pictures too. “Sheep” my friend called them, but I think it just takes someone noticing something beautiful before others stop and look up. And the monuments there are very beautiful.

Each morning I would cut across a paved walkway made of engraved stones to get to John Portman Blvd. During the park’s construction a donation of $35 got you a stone and a message. When I return to Atlanta, because I plan to, I’d like to pay more attention to those engravings. There are stories there, I think.

img_1263The weather was gorgeous. People (Yankees! Haha) kept talking about how hot it was. I was wearing a sweater most days, not the afternoons, but definitely in the mornings.  My morning walks were the most refreshing parts of my day.  I meant to stop and eat breakfast at the Waffle House right outside the park, but never managed to wake up early enough – or if I did, I found myself dawdling in the park instead. So, I spoiled myself and got coffee at the Starbucks in the AmericasMart. I kept looking for a local Non-Starbucks coffeehouse, but didn’t find one; again, next trip.

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Beowulf

September 13, 2016 at 1:33 am (Reviews, Education) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have a confession: I never read Beowulf in high school.  Or college.  I read Canterbury Tales more times than I can count (yet only remember a handful of the stories).  I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ad nauseum – and I like that story.  But no Beowulf.  How did I miss it?

I’ll tell you how, we tried to cram so much into such a short amount of time.  We spent hours and hours in school, but spent very little time actually studying.  Somewhere along the way, Beowulf was lost to me.  I’m not sure if I was ever really exposed to it or not.  It might have been something I breezed through in a Norton Anthology and regurgitated the next day for a pop quiz, only to be quickly forgotten.  I couldn’t tell you.  I only know that I had a vague idea that it was an epic poem involving something named Grendel when I began working at a bookstore as an adult.  Even then, I couldn’t tell you if Grendel was the monster or the man.

unknownAs we began our Middle Ages/ Early Ren. (450 AD to 1600 AD) year while classically homeschooling, it dawned on me that this was the year for Beowulf. I had already read the picture book by Eric A. Kimmel to kiddo when she was a wee one, but I’m sure she was so tiny she had fallen asleep; now was the time to embrace the story.

And we did.  I read her the picture book shortly before my trip to Atlanta. It fit right in with all the Celtic and Norse mythology we’ve been reading to bridge the gap between the ancient times and our exciting year ahead.  “What a guy! He tore off the monster’s arm! I can’t even do that,” she exclaimed. She was very pleased that this particular picture book could give the story in “one-sitting, all today” as opposed to the stories of Odysseus and Troy which all took weeks of chapter by chapter to finish. I foresee reading this again and again over the coming months, she loved the story so much; I have to admit, I did too.

4cf814193a0I liked it even more when I discovered there was a cartoon made in 1998 starring Joseph Fiennes as the voice of Beowulf – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKjcoFZmKuA.  We got to watch that and call it school.  It was a lot of fun.  (There’s one for Don Quixote we’ll be watching next year when we make it into the 1700s.)

Naturally, I was curious as to the accuracy of these versions.  I won’t ever truly know, because everything is a translation, but I thought I’d give an adult version a go.  There’s so many versions out there, I think I’ll just try a different one every Middle Ages cycle.  So I took the Constance B. Hieatt version with me to Atlanta and enjoyed it immensely, especially the little extras at the end.

beowulf-cover-hiea-900

The kiddo, of course, keeps asking me why we are using “fake stories as lesson books, they aren’t real stories mother!” I keep telling her, very ineloquently, that these stories help us understand the people who told them.  Read them to her as bedtime stories and naturally she’s thrilled at the excitement of them.

We’ll collect more versions over the years and by the time she is grown she will know the story well – and remember it.  Next go around we’ll even tackle it in poem form, and eventually we’ll read Gardner’s Grendel.

Do you have any favorite versions of Beowulf?  Or, more importantly, do you know any great stories of the time period that should not be missed?

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My Trip to Atlanta – Part One

September 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

IMG_1269.JPGMy trip to Atlanta was exhilarating. I navigated two airports, a train system, and bus routes – all things I have not done in a long, long time.  I learned about five square miles of a city I’d never been to by walking.  Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes because I was hopelessly lost.  Traveling with a flip phone in a smart phone society is a whole different ball game than traveling an unknown city in the days of payphones and paper maps. People saw me holding a real map and not utilizing GPS and there was much commentary, and confusion by others on how to read it as it doesn’t flip itself around and identify your location for you.  Even now, the word processor is telling me that the word payphone can not be pluralized.  (When did that become a thing?)  But I’m fairly certain there’s no other way to describe more than one.

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My Pet Rock. I patted it every day on my walk to the AmericasMart.

I was pretty excited about the MARTA rail system.  I’ve missed riding the rail since I moved from Dallas. Public transportation, once the stop points are identified and times committed to memory, are so much more relaxing than driving.  I like being able to read on daily commutes, I like the safety of not risking car crashes.  I like knowing that if I begin my journey at such-n-such time I am guaranteed to arrive at my destination at another specific time – down to the minute.  Atlanta excels at this. The bus route, however, is a whole other ballgame that got me pretty flustered.  The buses sort of arrive when they feel like it, the stops are relative, and the entire route based on the driver’s mood.

Everyone is very polite, though, even when they are offering you drugs.  I thought, as a Texan, that I understood southern hospitality.  When it comes to Good Mornings, sweet smiles, and a general attitude of helpfulness – we’ve got nothing on Georgia.  Any half puzzled look on your face will immediately result in someone stopping to help.  Stand at a stop too long and someone will inevitably ask you which bus you’re trying to catch and inform you, “Oh sometimes that driver likes to stop on that side of the street, be sure you check over there too or you might miss it.”  Smiles abound, even in the early morning pre-coffee grog.

I went to Atlanta to work the Wordfire Press booth at DragonCon. Convention people are exactly what I expected, after doing Comicpalooza and OwlCon in Houston, it’s pretty much the same routine, just bigger and takes up the whole downtown area instead of one convention center.  But outside the realm of the Con, everything was incredibly foreign.  I felt like I had stepped into how I imagine the 1950’s in a lot of ways, and once three blocks away from the convention hotels and gathering areas, I’ve never been reminded so often of how white I am. Politely, but with bafflement.

Houston is a melting pot. Our segregation occurs on the socioeconomic level, rather than a race level.  Latinos, Blacks, and Rednecks all live next to each other as long as they belong in the same tax bracket.  I didn’t see a lot of Atlanta, but I got the sense that things aren’t that way there.  So many times I was asked, “What’s a white girl doing on this street? You lost?” Or, the most bizarre, “Why you so comfortable talking to a black man? Is your husband black?”  At that question I retorted, “Should I be scared of you?”  “No, but these other niggers around here are cut-throat. You need to watch yourself.”  I felt like a child being reprimanded for not knowing the rules, especially when literally everyone I talked to was so very kind.  Yet, there I was a block the other side of Five Points, getting questioning glances from people who thought I was too pale to tread on their turf.  “You lost, baby? You don’t belong here.”  Or when I went to The Underground below the wrong CVS: “No, honey, you shouldn’t be down here, go up and get back to Peachtree as quick as you can, that’s where your people are,” before I even mentioned I was trying to meet anyone.

The whole experience was eye-opening and disheartening.  I enjoyed every conversation I had, even the fellow who offered me crack was very polite and concerned, keeping his distance when addressing me.  Is all of Atlanta that way, or just those neighborhoods?  Why was everyone so separate?

In my perfect world, I want to notice how much darker your skin is than mine. I want to acknowledge that freckles on you look entirely different than freckles on me. Deep, dark skin catches my eye, as a prisma color artist I am enthralled by skin tones that involve so many undertones of purple.  I want to listen to deep, milky voices bellow soul music, and that be ok. I don’t mind you calling me “white girl” but if I describe you as a black man or woman, I would like for you to not be offended.  We are different in so many beautiful ways.  To say we don’t see color is a disservice to the amazing people God created, like not noticing the difference between a sapphire and an emerald.  But we are also both human, we have troubles and trials, we have cultures we sometimes share and sometimes don’t.  I’ve never been so grateful to have grown up in Houston, where we all live side by side, work together, grow together, and learn together.  Houston has its own problems for sure, but I think we all have a cohesive love for our city and for Texas that keeps us pretty united.

I hope to visit Atlanta again.  I hope to branch out farther and see what the city as a whole is truly like, as opposed to the downtown areas I was restricted to for the duration of my stay. It has so many lovely parts and many beautiful people.

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To Be Indiana Jones…

September 11, 2016 at 4:46 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

2359468Title: Babylonian Life and History

Author: E. A. Wallis Budge

Genre: History/ Archeology

So, I want to be Indiana Jones when I grow up. Who doesn’t? Although a friend advised me that to be Andi “Tex” Klemm would be far cooler, and I have suggested that I just might have to embroider this onto a fedora.

In the meantime, I study as much history as I can.  I also subscribe to the Archeology magazine.  And the way I go all fan-girl at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, well, it’s part of what makes me awesome… right?

So my “grown-up reading time” during my 5 year old’s ancient history year was Babylonian Life and History by E. Wallis Budge.  It was neat teaching her the bare bones of the Babylonians and Assyrians out of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World, and memorizing tidbits from the Classical Conversations curriculum, while getting a deeper dose for myself. I’ll continue this effort of furthering my education while I begin hers as long as I can. If you don’t have time for that, I understand completely; but if you do, this is a worthy book to select.

E.A. Wallis Budge never ceases to amaze me. Every time I think I have everything he ever wrote I think I find 3 new titles. He’s so prolific and seems to be the end all be all on Ancient History. Found some tidbit of from the ancient world you’d like to investigate? – there’s probably a Budge book for that. His prose is nothing special, and at times even a little boring, but I love reading his work and hope to read it all before I die.

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Week 1 Summary

September 10, 2016 at 1:05 am (Uncategorized)

Because homeschooling rocks my world, and I love my honorable mention…🙂

Coffee Cups and Wild Things

This was our first week of CC (Classical Conversations) and because we were out of town for a large chunk of the previous week I chose to start school alongside the CC year. From what I gather, there are 1,001 ways to manage your Classical Conversations educational style (if there is such a thing as hardcore hippie homeschooling mamas, then I have met them now…they are all wearing shoes, but boldly declare you should teach the way that is best for your children. Something you would think is the bedrock of every homeschooling community but from my experience is not).

One of my son’s many gifts, and perhaps the one that comes most effortlessly to him, is the ability to memorize information quickly. CC is based off a lot of memorization and in class they teach little songs and chants to help the kiddos learn even before they are old…

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Convention Queen meets McCaffrey

September 1, 2016 at 2:51 am (Events) (, , , , , )

I’m not really a convention queen, I just liked the alliteration. I definitely wouldn’t mind becoming one, though. That being said, I had the opportunity to work Comicpalooza (again) in Houston a few months back, and it was amazing.

I spent a lot of time chatting up this guy:

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If you don’t recognize him, that’s Todd McCaffrey, co-author of the Dragons of Pern series –  holding up a copy of his latest book City of Angels.

I was waiting to post about this until I had read his book.  But a few days turned into a few weeks and a few weeks into a few months.  Homeschooling the kiddo took priority and a lot of ancient biographies got put ahead in line.  Now I find myself cramming 600 pages the night before I fly out to DragonCon, dying to find out what’s going to happen to this fictional tiny humanoid collection of nanotech.  I’ll be working with Wordfire Press, hopefully hanging out with McCaffrey some more, and for sure trying to get this fun bit of sci-fi into more hands.

Wish me luck at DragonCon! And if you’re in Atlanta for Labor Day weekend, swing by.  I’ll introduce you to some stellar people who love books just as much as we do.

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