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 Further Adventures of Mac McClellan!

May 14, 2015 at 11:01 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

5129Niw-m5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Deadly Ruse
Author: E. Michael Helms
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense
Length: 237 pages

Retired marine, private eye, sexy girls, whiskey, drugs, diamonds, casinos, the good ol’ South… what more could you ask for in a genre crime novel?

I enjoyed my second adventure with Mac McClennan. Despite the self-depricating B-movie references to its own plot points, closing a Mac McClennan book always leaves me wanting more Mac.

Of course, Mac has women fawning over him and his older gentleman charm. His girlfriend can take care of herself, but still finds it in herself to swoon into a faint in the opening chapters. Our heroes tote guns, our villains are scum. It’s all around good, fast-paced fun set in the sun, with just the right amount of danger.

I look forward to Mac’s next adventure, since he’s on the verge of being an official P.I. now…

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To Live And Die By Books

April 24, 2014 at 6:40 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“She never wanted me to save her, only to love her as she was.”

– from The Archivist

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The awful truth of it all is that madness isn’t beautiful.  But it can be made to sound like it is by literary giants who suffer from it or have had someone close suffer from it.  Anyone who has read the works of Sylvia Plath or T.S. Eliot could tell you this.  Martha Cooley makes this so utterly clear in The Archivist.  Reading Cooley’s work is like coming home.

“Her anger lay just under the surface, and it governed.  I was foolish to think I could urge or lead her anywhere.”

If you’ve known or been close to a manic depressive, you know how maddening this can be.  You know how frustrating the inability to react properly to anything that goes on in their head.  You know how quickly you, too, can be sucked into their reactions and find yourself angry as well.  You also know how wonderful is the defense mechanism of diving into a good book or hiding away with your journal and pen.

“People with special powers are frightening to love.  That’s why Eliot and Vivienne were doomed by the way – why their marriage was bound to fail.  They terrified each other.”

The literary mind finds safe places where it can… inside the pages of books.

“[…]While denial is useful, it has its price.  There’s no such thing as identity without history.”

So many quotes from Cooley moved me with their simplicity and truth.  They are words that I feel in my bones.  “Authentic moral resonance,” Robert Taylor of the Boston Globe called it.  Resonance is always felt in my bones, for all their conditioning I am oddly hyper aware of them.  They are undeniably tied to my passions – my loves – my needs – my life.

The ArchivistIn 1998, Steven Moore of the Washington Post Book World, wrote: “It is rare and gratifying to read a novel about people who take literature seriously, who practically live and die by books…”

It’s not so rare anymore with the likes of Diane Setterfield, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and Kate Morton lurking about.  These days there is a whole sub-genre of fiction dedicated to it featuring titles like The Secret of Lost Things and The Little Book.  My own book is a feeble attempt to honor these authors with a dose of what suited the publishing company at the time.  The Bookshop Hotel is a bit of a romance – but one where the main character is quite in love with books and her small town more than in love with another human.

Poets, a marriage, diaries… Possession won awards and became insanely famous.  Somehow, however, Cooley’s book got buried once it ceased being a New York Times Bestseller – but it should never be forgotten.

I think I’m drawn to these kinds of books because I always find peoples’ relationships to books telling of what their relationships to people are.  Sampling someone’s library is like peering into their soul and seeing where their loyalties lie.  Or, if they have loyalties at all.

There’s a quote on page 47 that I find so familiar –

“She had become familiar to me physically as well as intellectually; I knew her dark brows and good coloring, […] the slope of her neck, the slight overbite of her upper teeth.  I was familiar with the details, yet she eluded me.  Something to do with her motives remained completely beyond my grasp.”

I find this true of many people I’ve encountered.  And many books too.  You hold them, weigh them in your hands.  You lovingly caress their spines.  You know their smell, you know what they are saying.  You know their stories, their backgrounds, their recurring themes.  But you couldn’t begin to comprehend why they are telling you and what motivated them to do so.  You’re not always certain what they want you to do with the information.  That part belongs tucked away in someone’s secret heart and one can only guess.

“I sat at my desk, staring at the note and struggling to make sense of it.  I remember feeling a peculiar detachment – as if I were someone else, trying to unravel a mystery that was captivating but in which I wasn’t personally implicated.”

The Archivist is a must have for any book lovers library, especially for those who live and die by the printed word.

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The Bridge of San Luis Rey

February 1, 2014 at 3:46 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Bridge of San Luis ReyTitle: The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Author: Thornton Wilder

Illustrator: Jean Charlot

Publisher: Heritage Press

I didn’t care for Wilder’s work.  It didn’t capture me.  It left me pretty uninterested.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was, however, feeling the edition.

I read from the Heritage Press edition.  Beautiful blue cover, fine blue buckram boards with gold. I love reading books on acid free paper and I really enjoyed the color lithographs.

Lithograph illustrations are gorgeous in general and Jean Charlot’s work was the most enjoyable part of this title to me – aside from a few lovely quotes.  There’s no denying that Wilder has a way with words.

“She had a new way of fingering a wine-glass, of exchanging an adieu, a new way of entertaining a door that told everything.” – pg. 97

Monday, Half Price Books in Humble will be hosting a book club meeting.  It starts at 7:30 pm and we’ll be discussing this title.  It’s fairly short, only 137 pages long, and can be read quickly if you’re interested.  I’d love to hear from people who are passionate about this title – always curious to know what makes something classic to the world that simply didn’t move me.  After all, it won the Pulitzer in 1928.

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Like Calligraphy

January 30, 2014 at 2:36 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Voltaire's CalligrapherTitle: Voltaire’s Calligrapher

Author: Pablo De Santis

Publisher: Harper

Genre: Fiction

Length: 149 pages

You know it’s been a rough week when you’ve managed to 1. worry your best friends 2. drive your husband batty 3. inadvertently offend your readers 4. write not one, but two overly pouty blog posts and 5. manage to take a whole week to read 149 pages.

Especially when those 149 pages are so delicious.

Not just delicious, witty and divine.

De Santis doesn’t just write about calligraphy and a master calligrapher.  He manages to make his words sound like calligraphy.   And his story is woven with the same sly craftiness as runaway ink.

Normally, I would recommend someone read this in one sitting over a cup of the best dark coffee blend they have.  I didn’t do that.  I spent a week sucking down a chapter at a time – and his chapters are only a page to three at best.

There are castles and print shops, automatons, and poisonous fish… dark corners and forbidden candlelight… Oh my! What terrifying fun!  You won’t regret diving into the adventure.

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Teres – It’s About Time

December 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm (Fan Art, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

TeresTitle: Teres

Author: Gershom Reese Wetzel

Publisher: LucidBooks

Genre: Science Fiction

I read this book in April of this year (2013) when it was still a pdf file. Go back in time a few (or ten) years and I remember listening to Gershom (my dear friend) talk about his ideas regarding a character named Teres.  I remember a very cool dinner party at Macaroni Grill with Teresa Noreen, who seemingly semi-inspired the character Wetzel invented in his mind.

She was stunning.  So is the book.

I read the book in approximately three to four hours.  I believe it’s 300 pages or so long.  It was riveting, and I was doing a real time discussion as I read with the author, searching for mistakes.  There really weren’t any that I recall.

I’ve been leery about posting a formal review on any of my typical sites (shelfari, goodreads, amazon, etc.) though.  Not because I don’t like the book – I love it – but because I have the great honor of being mentioned on the back of the book and I don’t want any potential customer to feel duped or think my thoughts are self-serving or insincere.

back cover Teres

I feel too close to write an unbiased review, but I am way too excited about Teres to leave my thoughts undocumented.

Teres is all action and go from start to finish.  It’s glorious sci fi patterned stylistically after typical books of the genre, but with a depth that is not easily comparable in anything else I’ve read.  Wetzel may not have intended on delivering such a moving message about life, government, and religion, but by nature he’s a wise messenger and that couldn’t help but come across in his writing.

As I mention in so many of my posts, I am a sucker for dystopian societies, and this one is right up there with the infamous Big Brother from 1984 and Libria from the amazing film Equilibrium.

What makes Wetzel’s work so engrossing is what a visual masterpiece he has created.  He is first and foremost an artist, then a graphic designer and author.  His writing is enhanced by the images his fingers itch to draw out on paper.   It’s also really cool that he has the ability to do all his own cover and concept art.

I can’t wait to see more from this character – and her creator.  I see sequels and graphic novels and films of the Aeon Flux caliber in Teres’ future.

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L.B. Simmons to Release Second Novel

June 12, 2013 at 5:48 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The author of Running on Empty not only just got her first book trailer released into the ether, but tomorrow will start the publishing process of her second book. The release date for her next book is July 13th, 2013.

For those who loved L.B. Simmons’ Running on Empty, or merely want a small taste of her writing before diving into a full novel, comes the novella “Recovery.”

“It reads like a long epilogue to Running on Empty,” Simmons says about her latest book, “Let them know that they will need to read RoE to know what’s going on!”

RecoveryFull

The back jacket reads…

I have the perfect life.

I’ve finally found my happy ending.

I fought through the loss of one husband, lucky enough to be given a second chance at a lifetime of happiness. Settling into our new lives, however, may not be as easy as it seems.

What really happens after the fairytale ending? What happens after the prince rescues the princess? After he sweeps her off her feet and carries her off into the sunset? Do they truly live happily ever after?

Well…

This is our story.

Even though itL.B.Simmons is only 30,000 some odd words in length, both the author and her readers are excited about this new installment and her upcoming book signing tour.  Remember that you heard it here first… she will be in the Houston area signing copies of her books in early to mid August at two Half Price Books locations.

L.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science. She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.
Contact her:
http://www.facebook.com/lbsimmonsauthor – Facebook
http://www.lbsimmons.wordpress.com – Blog
http://www.twitter.com/lbsimmons33 – Twitter
lbsimmons33@gmail.com – Email

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The Price of Excellence

February 20, 2013 at 4:20 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have a love/hate relationship with education.  Or should I say formal education.

I love to read, I thoroughly enjoy research.  But most my teachers over the years would tell you I was a horrible student, if they even remember me.  My work was typically mediocre, often done at the last minute.  The ones that do remember me probably remember a fairly obstinate and argumentative irritant, not really someone you want filling out your back row.

EducationI went to a very expensive private university.  Between the severe debt it put me in and the obsession with appearances, it left a really bad taste in my mouth.  I think in many cases, college is pretty useless these days.  It doesn’t really prepare you for anything, merely gives you four years to either party a lot or exhaust yourself with work – depending on your financial situation.  I feel betrayed by universities and the entire education system.

Yet, I find myself longing for the chance to go back and get a frivolous Master’s degree.  I watch movies only to be wooed by the montages of students in glorious libraries.  I fall in league with nerds like Rory Gilmore and Felicity Porter and lean toward books like May Sarton’s The Small Room.

The Small RoomThe Small Room is a 1960’s novel about a professor teaching in a woman’s college called Appleton.  Don’t judge too quickly, it is most definitely NOT Mona Lisa Smile.  Instead it is a social commentary of the very tender and sometimes volatile relationship between teachers and students, and how an entire campus reacts to the scandal of the theft of intellectual property.

Rather than an emotional feminist vs. anti-feminist story one would expect from the setting, The Small Room is about exploring the many nuances of excellence in education… and the price of obtaining it for both teachers and students.

“What is the price? […] The price is eccentricity, maladjustment if you will, isolation of one sort or another, strangeness, narrowness.  Excellence costs a great deal.” – Carryl Cope of Sarton’s The Small Room.

Frankly, education is such a moving and sensitive topic.  Who isn’t brought to tears by Dead Poet’s Society? Who doesn’t stand and applaud Mr. Holland’s Opus or The Emperor’s Club? Who doesn’t watch Finding Forrester on repeat?

Then on the counter balance… Who doesn’t laugh their butt off reading Kaufman’s Up the Down Staircase and acknowledge how utterly familiar it sounds?

Wellesley_College_Tower_Court

While reading, I imagined Appleton to be a smaller version of Wellesley.

May Sarton’s The Small Room is delightful and truthful.  Without full on hating on education altogether, it takes into careful consideration the heavy weight being a teacher or a student can be on a human being and their relationships.

“[…] before she went to sleep, she wondered whether just this were not what you did take on if you chose to be a teacher… this, the care of souls.” – The Small Room

I have a 1976 Norton Library edition (featured above) and I fell in love with the book immediately.  Long before I picked it up to read it, Sarton’s novel was part of my personal collection.  I remember being so struck by the green leafy cover, the musty smell, and the promise of imaginary academia while holding the book in the used bookstore.  The novel has lived up to the promise of its cover (and its smell!) and I think any alumni or teacher would appreciate the ethical discussions within its pages as Sarton and her characters attempt to define the price of excellence.

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Guest Post by Joey Pinkney

January 25, 2013 at 6:49 pm (Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve been peeking in on Joey Pinkney’s blog for awhile now. It’s a book blog too. We’ve been playing follow-tag on Twitter for ages… you know we follow each other, for whatever reason someone un-follows someone, and then a while later says “Oh Hey, That Person Looks Neat,” and then we’re back to following each other again… I’m sure you’ve played it with a few people too.

So this time I said something about it. The guy is super cool about being pleasantly called out on this game we’ve been playing… a game I only noticed because his profile picture is unmistakable and I genuinely enjoy his posts.

After a little chat, he agreed to guest blog for me. Yay! I love having guest bloggers and doing interviews.  It makes me feel like Oprah.  Meet Joey:

joey-banner

Southern Strife Book Review by Joey Pinkney

Title: Southern Strife

Author: Valerie Stocking

“Southern Strife: A Novel of Racial Tension in the 1960s” is Valerie Stocking’s sophomore effort. The notion of “sophomore slump” does not apply. This novel is a powerful portrayal of America’s not-so-distant history in dealing with the false concept of this country being a melting pot.

“Southern Strife” is refreshingly offensive. I say that because Valerie Stocking sculpted the characters in a realistic manner and not in a way that would fit in a neat, little box. Stocking’s portrayal of racism within the pages of “Southern Strife” is like an honest parent’s portrayal of Christmas. (“Honey, there is no Santa Claus. I bought you those presents under the Christmas tree…”)

The author uses Willets Point as a microcosm of the effects of racism on both black and white people in 1960s America with twelve-year-old Joy Bradford uncomfortably stuck in the middle. With her scotch-loving aunt being one of Willets Point’s key socialites and her narcissistic mother seeking the affections of her divorce lawyer who is also the leader of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, Joy’s experience with racism is more than casual.

“Southern Strife” is much, much more than a story about racism. There are many points and counterpoints cleverly woven into the fabric of this novel. Coming in at a healthy 435 pages, “Southern Strife” is not a short read. There were a few lulls in the plot here and there, but that is to be expected in a book of this length. The author makes great use of non-linear storytelling. As the time periods ebb and flow, situations become more clear yet more complicated.

Read More.valerie stocking southern strife

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