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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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).

IMG_1311.JPG

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…”

Felix Gomez 1 - 4.jpg

 

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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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

October 16, 2015 at 6:10 pm (Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , , )

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman

Review by Guest Blogger Elis10419572_853266564768515_9044367270498300191_nabeth K. Simmons

There’s no right way to love a book. For me, there are books I am in love with because of their story and there are books I am in love with because of the figurative and literal places in my life I ended up reading them. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is brain-fluff wrapped up in too many truths about growing up. Because of that paradox, and the fact that I’m currently ignoring that I am technically an adult, I fell in love with it immediately.

The week I found it was one of the longest weeks of my new adult life. I worked 30 hours in closing shifts at work in six consecutive nights on top of going to school four days in a row and all the homework that comes with it. I was in no way looking for something to occupy my time. There was none to spare.

In between class and work, I walked into Book People in Austin just a couple blocks down from my campus. This two-story bookstore has become my new happy place in between responsibilities since it is large enough to wander and contains hundreds of books to leaf through. Usually I pick a book at random, read a couple chapters and put it back on the shelf when I leave. I haven’t wasted my time and a book gets to feel loved.

On my second day of work, I wanted something easy. I didn’t want to wander, I just wanted to hide. In this particular bookstore, Neil Gaiman’s works have their own shelf and almost every book, its own personal review by the booksellers. Without pausing to even read the synopsis of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, I grabbed it and rushed to hide in the chair resting up against the classics section with a cup of coffee.

And I disappeared.

Gaiman has this magical simplicity to his writing where a 19-year-old college student can cancel out the constant foot traffic of a busy bookstore and be emotionally invested in the life of a 7-year-old boy who grew up suddenly and quickly after he met the strange Lettie Hempstock at the end of the lane with her ocean. The story is told in a flashback of a middle-aged man who you can tell never quite felt young. Innocent maybe, but he didn’t know that until he no longer was.

When I came back to reality an hour later, I decided this book was what I needed that week. I couldn’t have even told you why, but there wasn’t any way I could’ve left without it.

I didn’t pick it up again for several days. Work and school got the better of me and I might have gone insane a few times over the course of the weekend. Sunday night was night 6 of 6 of closing and after serving angry people their coffee, I had an insane craving for diner food. I wanted coffee and waffles and the kind of food coma that comes shortly after. And I wanted a place to read my magically simple book and not worry about having to leave.

So Magnolia’s it was. A 24 hour diner in the middle of Austin with omelets and giant pancakes sounded wonderful at 9 pm on a Sunday. Little did I know that the last day of the Austin City Limits music festival was just letting out.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I looked behind me and saw the multitudes waiting to cross the street and wait for hours for the same pancakes and omelets. My mission then changed from finding diner food to racing the masses for a table. They had won Magnolia’s, but there was the 24 Diner off of 6th Street that they wouldn’t have time to walk to. I raced to the heart of downtown Austin and beat the majority of the masses.

After saying it was just me, the hostess smiled at me and said there were several spots open on the bar if I wanted to eat immediately. I had beaten the swarm people. I had my spot. And I was not moving. Busy people behind the bar gave me menus and I told the waitress I just wanted a cup of black coffee and a waffle. 10 minutes later, I had a giant waffle in front of my face and the ACL crowd had begun to take over, yelling drink orders over my shoulder and squeezing in the 6 inches of air available at the bar. I did not care. I had my spot. I was not moving.

I opened my book and disappeared again. I met the villainous Ursula Monkton and her twisted desires and methods of making everyone happy. She was a Dolores Umbridge-like character that you hated simply because there are too many controlling, manipulative, and oppressive people like her in real life. I got to know the Hempstocks better and found out they were the family everyone wishes they had as friends growing up. The kind that just took care of things and knew enough to make you think they knew everything.

I was vaguely aware people being replaced with more people on my left and on my right, but I couldn’t tell you how many. The bartenders ignored me entirely, leaving my sticky plate as a marker that I deserved to sit there, only interrupting me to ask if I wanted more coffee. I looked up and it was 11:15. Neil Gaiman had done the impossible and canceled out a swarm of ACL attenders.

The next day, I had no brain function. I went to class and stumbled through the day just waiting for when I could disappear again. I made it to Mozart’s on Lake Austin and fought my way through the line of fellow Austinites to buy a bottomless cup of coffee and made my plan to disappear.

I discovered that oceans can be put in buckets, if you ask nicely enough, and that there are some people whose hearts just need more time to grow back. Different people remember events in different ways and some things are best forgotten.

And then it ended.

I felt like I had gotten pulled out of a dream by having a bucket of ice water dumped on my head. I had not planned on it ending and now that it had I was a little lost. The only thing I could think to do was write a thank you note to Neil Gaiman and share it with everyone. Whether he will ever see it is anyone’s guess, but anyone who can make a week like mine slightly less defeating deserves some recognition.

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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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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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The Ice Sisters Cover Reveal

December 17, 2014 at 11:43 pm (Fan Art) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Glorian Legacy Series by A.L. Raine is about to begin.

Not long before it’s in print for you to read and enjoy!  For now, here’s the cover!

ALRaine book one

Cover art by Gershom Wetzel of Aoristos.

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Greystone Valley

November 23, 2014 at 3:19 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Greystone Valley“Which one of these could I read out loud to my daughter?” I always ask that question when perusing piles of books these days.  Not necessarily because I will read the title to my kid, but should she walk up and say, “Read it LOUDER, mommy,” because I’m not reading out loud at all – I want to feel comfortable with the words coming out of my mouth and falling on her ears.

She likes to hear my voice.  Not my singing voice, just my voice.  Which surprises me.  No one likes my speaking voice – no one.  As pretty as I sing, my speaking voice is annoying to the ears.  It grates.  I know this.  This isn’t self-deprecating, this is knowing myself.  So when my daughter wants to hear me talk, it surprises me.

Jason, the head honcho of awesomeness at Grey Gecko Press, pointed at Greystone Valley and said, “Greystone Valley for sure.”  He began telling me about the little girl, featured in her pajamas on the cover.  About Keely, about the world, about all of it.  Sold.  Well, not technically, I got a freebie copy from them on my kindle.  But I put it on my priority reading list.

And I’m so glad I did.

Greystone Valley is so much fun! With the holidays coming up and everyone setting out to buy gifts – even though it’s not yet Thanksgiving, so don’t get me started – this is the book I want to put into all the parents’ hands.

It’s not just for kids.  It’s not just for parents.  It’s for both, for the relationship you have with them.  It’s for the magical worlds you want to share with them, but instead you’re caught up teaching them about the real one.  It’s pretty spectacular in every way.

For all the kids who finished Harry Potter, who know Chronicles of Narnia like the back of their hand, and have moved on from A Wrinkle in Time… for the ones looking for that next classic fantasy and just haven’t found it yet – It’s Greystone Valley, hands down.

Charlie Brooks has created something that can stand the test of time all alone as an individual story, but I’m still tapping my fingers on my night stand demanding a sequel (for the record).

Please, this holiday season, when you’re picking out book gifts for your loved ones: remember to shop indie and shop small.  There are amazing things out there to be discovered that don’t have giant window displays or the backing of multimillion dollar publishers, but that doesn’t make them less amazing.  Charlie Brooks of Grey Gecko Press is one of those amazing authors whose book deserves a special place for a special little someone under the Christmas tree.

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Insurgent and Allegiant

November 4, 2014 at 4:28 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I read Divergent a while back.  It intrigued me enough to know that I wanted to read the rest of the series eventually, but not enough to make too much of a mad rush to get my hands on it.  Although now I have read the rest of the series, despite many people telling me not to bother, and I’m glad I did.

InsurgentSo there’s a little too many fingers curling into shirt scenes… it might be the only way Roth has seen or experienced closeness – in the form of people tugging on t-shirts or twining their fingers around fabric in a near desperate manner.  That’s ok.  As a writer, I have a nasty habit of tucking things places.  She tucked this into that.  He tucked blah blah blah.  My editor gets on me about it all the time.  I’m surprised Roth’s editors didn’t nab her for the finger curling.  But that’s not the point…

The point is, despite the teen coming of age romance that we’ve seen over and over again, I liked one major thing about THIS romance.

AllegiantTris acknowledges that Love is a Choice.

“I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.”

After Twilight and Bella’s helpless infatuation…  After The Mortal Instruments and the “to love is to destroy” mantra…  After Hunger Games and a PTSD induced marriage of comfort… I’m glad Roth had the guts to write about another kind of choice, the kind that doesn’t happen just once, but every day in every moment.

I think that every true relationship has a little bit of all of those things: infatuation, passion, trust and comfort, and thousands of choices.  It’s interesting that in one sub-genre of young adult fiction, all released within a decade of each other, all popular enough to make blockbuster films out of them… we’ve covered such a vast array of relationships in our teen romances.  It’s good for young people to see such a variety of examples.

Even though Roth’s aren’t my favorite books ever, I like that she had the courage to write the ending no one wanted, but the one that would be expected in a world such as the one her characters live in.

I still haven’t seen the Divergent movie, but I’m looking forward to the day I do a little bit more, hoping that they stick to the books and don’t go too Hollywood with it.  I also look forward to seeing what Roth will write next.

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Enchanted Ivy

October 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

EnchantedIvyCover_LoRes312hTitle:Enchanted Ivy

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Length: 310 pages

It was the matte finish that got me.  So many young adult fantasy novels have the glossy cover that screams: I’m complete brain candy and will rot your mind! READ ME!  But not Enchanted Ivy, maybe you can’t tell from the picture, but if your fingers touch the cover, you’ll know.

Ivy here is a play on words.  The main character, Lily Carter, is trying to get into Princeton (her back-up school is another Ivy League option: Harvard).  No biggie, right? She just has to pass a top secret admissions test provided by the Old Boys her grandfather went to college with and she’s in…

Insert Tolkien and Harry Potter style creatures of myth… shape shifters, a gate to a magic world, gargoyle professors, unicorns, dryads, and ivy (and trees and flowers) that obey commands, and you’ve got the fixings for a fantastical adventure that occurs in a day or two and can be read faster than that.

Cassandra Clare meets C.S. Lewis and Sarah Beth Durst brought us a fun filled fantasy with a few romantic moments or two to satisfy our girly hearts.

When I read these books, I’m mentally cataloging them… will I recommend this to kids at the store? Will I recommend this to my niece?  Will I recommend this to my daughter?  For Enchanted Ivy, yes on all fronts, as long as their school work is done.  The book is both exciting and innocent enough for tweens and teens, I enjoyed it, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time or killed brain cells in doing so.  The author, after all, is a Princeton gal herself.

As for a few cheesy soulmate lines, I both loathe them and am a sucker for them.  I met my husband when I was 14, all the first meetings and teenage hormones is sheer nostalgia for me.  Although Durst does a great job at keeping these on the very far back burner.

 

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Fizz and Peppers Got a New Cover!

September 27, 2014 at 2:12 am (Fan Art) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Remember my obsession for Fizz and Peppers? Do you also recall my adoration for Bryan Collins?

You can imagine my squeals of joy when this happened:

Munkcoverthumb

This second is my favorite. Munk really POPS!
fizz newest cover

Just thought I’d share and send two of my favorite people to promote some online love.

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