George 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:
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.
Title: 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).
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…”
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.
Title: 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.
Title: Archimedes and the Door of Science
Author: Jeanne Bendick
Publisher: Bethlehem Books
Genre: Children’s Biography
I love these Living History Library books and Jeanne Bendick has a wonderful way of introducing great people in history and what they did/discovered on a child’s level without truly “dumbing” anything down. These books should be a part of any child’s library, and for sure any homeschoolers’ library. My kid’s eyes have been opened to so many ideas because of this book. At age 5, she’s already been checking out levers and experimenting with density while playing in the bathtub, she showed me how her ball has a pattern of concentric circles on it and informed me that it was three dimensional… These aren’t things that would be in her vocabulary without me reading this book out loud to her this month.
I’m playing hooky from work. To be fair, I have what I’d like to call the plague. It’s not the plague, but the green crap I’ve been coughing up out of my chest, the high grade fever, and the over all attack on my body has made me contemplate the potential peace of kicking the bucket. Instead, unable to physically kick anything at all, I’m home wrapped in blankets when it’s easily 100 degrees outside.
Briefly, between fever dreams yesterday, I thought it would be amusing to read Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and chronicle my own impending doom – but alas, I passed out about two seconds after the thought, slept for a few hours, and arose only to hack more crap out of my lungs, cry a little, and crawl back onto the futon… the bed was too high to climb.
As amusing as a post on Garcia’s work would be while I drink my calories in the form of honeyed tea and chicken broth, I have no desire to spend the energy it takes to walk across the room in search of it. Instead, I reached to my right where I had been cataloguing my ancient literature collection, prior to plague, and plucked up a thin little piece called Egyptian Myths by George Hart. It took me two days to read all 80 pages, because – you see – I’m dying. But I made it. And my laptop, conveniently in arm’s reach to my left, said “Hey, You have been USELESS for days. DO SOMETHING other than sleep and troll Facebook.” Did I actually hear the computer speak to me? It’s possible. After all, fever dreams.
All in all, I am surviving, and this little George Hart piece has helped me feel as though I didn’t entirely fry all my brain cells with my 2 day fever. I learned some things I didn’t know, refreshed some previous mythology tales I hadn’t heard in a while, and found a cool list of suggested further reading. It was a great addition to the Ancient History stuff I’ve been studying with my kiddo over the last many months, and it went hand in hand with the arrival of my Archaeology magazine subscription. If you can get your hands on one, it’s a great addition to any library.
Title: Deadly Dunes
Author: E. Michael Helms
Length: 220 pages
E. Michael Helms has done it again. He’s written a fun, spunky mystery involving Mac McClellan, and I find myself crushing on him much like the overly spirited cop, Dakota. Mac is the token ex-marine turned P.I., equal parts gentleman and appropriate amounts of perve. Cunning, but not too lucky.
I like that in this installment, Helms works in the fact that private investigators don’t have the luxury of only working one case at a time if they want to get paid. Mac has to take time away from the big case everyone is grumbling about to an unseemly one that will cut him a check. As per the norm with Mac McClellan books, it was easy to get into, a breeze to read, and satisfying to finish.
My only lament was due to my over excitement at the possibility of more archaeological tidbits. I love archaeology and was anticipating Mac going a little more Indiana Jones in this book than usual due to the nature of the big case. This is to no fault of Helms, who included what was appropriate for the story and the characters, merely a personal disappointment.
As usual, I look forward to the next Mac McClellan book. He’s a personal favorite of mine and made a great addition to my summer mystery binge reading.
Be sure to follow E. Michael Helms on twitter: https://twitter.com/EMichaelHelms
Cozy mysteries are where I go to find solace when I’m too tired for anything else… when my imagination is too exhausted to fly with dragons… my intellect burned out or otherwise occupied reading homeschool material to my daughter. Cozies are for bubble baths, for “I’m so tired, I can’t sleep” nights (thanks, Sarah). And right now, I’m hooked on a few new ones.
Manor House Mysteries
So far, I’ve read Grace Under Pressure and Grace Interrupted by Julie Hyzy. The series stars Museum Curator (and mansion manager) Grace as she sleuths around a small town, helping the local police solve the murders that keep happening at her new job. Naturally, there’s an unfortunate past relationship that didn’t go well, and a new budding one with the local landscaper to keep us involved in the character’s life as she manages to avoid looking like a serial killer – because in real life, how many people are tied to so many murders? The touch of tourist seasons, southern drawls, and Civil War reenactments remind me of home.
Library Lighthouse Mysteries
I’m now in my third installment (Reading Up a Storm) of the Library Lighthouse Mysteries by Eva Gates, which began with By Book or By Crook. This series features a lighthouse that has been renovated into a library. Book Nerds and Jane Austen references abound while the newest librarian and the library cat stumble across – yep, you guessed it – one murder after another. Again, no one would dare think the Nancy Drew wanna-be is indeed a serial killer with no many murders suddenly happening right under her nose, and of course, she’s the heroine with a terrible romantic past and TWO attractive men vying for her attention. Brain candy indeed. Each book in this series have occurred within weeks of the one previously and all during summer tourist months near the beach. Southern drawls, check. Meddling mothers, check. (Booked for Trouble) Food stuffs and baking references, check. Also, weird guy who pretends to be British… this character confuses me, but I got used to him.
Next up, a Miranda James series that begins with a title called Bless Her Dead Little Heart. Seriously, how can I pass that up?
- City of Ember – DuPrau (January) *
It took awhile for me to read City of Ember out loud to the kiddo, but she loved it. I loved it. Both of us were enthralled with the city under the ground. The most beautiful aha moments when the story peeled it’s way back and made itself known were written all over my five year old’s face, and I loved watching her discover the patterns of storytelling. I highly recommend this book for children, but I especially recommend it as a family read a-loud.
- Last Child in the Woods – Louv (February)
This book is my motto and mantra for parenting and has been long before I read it or knew about it. It’s truly the only parenting book I’ve read so far that I think is worth a darn. And it’s not just worth a darn, it’s amazing, and should be read by every citizen of the planet Earth, or at least America where we’ve succumbed to too many silly rules. I read this back in February, but now in May I still find myself thinking about it as we now live on a golf course ironically named Walden, where the rolling hills and ponds are not for playing in or experiencing first hand, but for driving by in a cart (walkers are looked at funny).
- One Day in the Woods – Jean Craighead George (February) *
Charlotte Mason curriculum followers look for Jean Craighead George in the bookstore often. Specifically these One Day titles that I rarely see. I snatched this one up the second I came across it and it was a joy to read it with my little girl. We love the woods. We love discovering the woods. And although I don’t follow Charlotte Mason thoroughly, this is definitely a wise educational choice for someone wanting to raise their kid as close to the natural world as they can.
- Pym – Mat Johnson (February) #
Bizarre, and I loved it. Mat Johnson is snarky and clever, and thoroughly well educated. I found myself riveted by the idea of Edgar Allen Poe’s little known novella having a basis of truth. I found the not-so-mythical Pym amusing and the creatures encountered in the depths of the snow a fascinating take on social commentary and dealing with racism. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but worth the time of every student of social customs, genetics, and race relations.
- Power of a Praying Wife & Power of a Praying Parent- Omartian (February)
I was encouraged to read this by a marriage counselor in our area. In some ways it’s great, pray for your spouse, constantly. That’s a good message. Some of the how to’s, however, were a little bit out of not just my comfort zone but my belief system as well. About 3/4 into the book, if I remember currently, Omartian just seems to begin to embrace a lot of fluff Christian mysticism, putting power in anointments and rituals as much as in the prayers themselves. And that is not where power lies. Power lies with God alone, not oils being sprinkled on your family’s belongings.
- The Sterile Cuckoo – John Nichols (February)
I cried pretty early in the book. I still have not seen the movie starring Liza Minelli, but it is on my list of things to watch eventually. Sometimes I feel so much like Pookie in my soul, it’s scary.
- The Gardener’s Year – Karel Capek (February)
I find gardening memoirs exceptionally soothing. This one was no exception.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Gaiman (February) #
This book was a joint read in a book club with my co-workers at Half Price Book (as was Pym). I had posted a review written by someone else on my blog that Neil Gaiman himself read. I adore this book, and will probably read it again and again for years to come. But I cannot write a review that does it justice, nor one that competes with the review already posted here. Hers was heartfelt and lovely, and mine could not capture that level of personal involvement no matter how hard I try. It would take me years to write something half as eloquent (and I’m speaking of both the book itself and the review).
The nonfiction book we are reading along with this one is The Ocean of Life. Topically, some mythology criticism would be more appropriate, but I was moved by the word ocean and therefore thought I’d read about bodies of water in general.
- The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell (February)
- The Pale Horseman – Bernard Cornwell (March)
- Lords of the North – Bernard Cornwell (March)
- Sword Song – Bernard Cornwell (April)
- The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell (April)
I am so in love with the Saxon Series by Bernard Cornwell that I have written a novelette as an ode to Uhtred. You’ll just have to download it when the ebook is released. Right now it’s in the hands of my publisher awaiting either a blessing or the axe.
Currently, I’m reading Death of Kings. Also, if anyone knows of a great biography on Alfred the Great or any of his children, I’d love to check it out, especially come this fall as our homeschooling ventures move into the Middle Ages.
- The Castle in the Attic – Elizabeth Winthrop (March) *
The Castle in the Attic was a childhood favorite of mine, I was so excited to read it to the kiddo. We enjoyed our time fighting evil magicians and venturing on a quest together, and I look forward to reading her the sequel.
- The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan (March)
Marina Keegan was a writer of significant merit before she died far too young. I find her series of essays, published by her teachers and family after her death, inspiring. She was diligent. She had a goal to develop her craft and be a better writer every day than the day before. I admire that and if there is any stamp she left on the world, it is absolutely that diligence is something to respect and aspire to. She was also, apparently, Harold Bloom’s research assistant. I officially want to be someone’s research assistant, I hope at the age of 32 it’s not too late for me to add that to my bucket list. Anyone willing to show me the ropes?
- Corruption – Camille Norton (March)
When I was in my twenties, I found most poetry pretentious. It annoyed me to read a lot of it. Sure, there’s beauty in it, but I did not have the true respect for it that I have now. The older I get, the more I enjoy the concise manner of poetry. How someone can have the fortitude to dwindle their words down to only the most beautiful elements and retain meaning. Maybe it is social media and the realization on twitter that saying something truly profound and lovely in few words is indeed hard. So, the older I get, the more often I find myself plucking up poetry books. Edna St. Vincent Millay and Housman are my favorites, but Camille Norton has great talent and is worth keeping an eye on. I look forward to discovering more of her work. (Currently, I’m falling in love with Pablo Neruda, I know, I’m so very late to this party.)
- Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion (April)
Still my favorite zombie movie, so fun! But it was an even better book. Marion is funny and brilliant. The Gray’s Anatomy excerpts at the beginning of each chapter were an especially nice touch. I read this on my lunch breaks at work, and it was just the thing I needed to enjoy a rest between a lot of hard work. People think bookstore jobs are leisurely, and they can be, but I work my tail off. Seriously, I used to have a sizable ass, now I can’t find it anymore…
- Endurance – Lansing (March) #
I like to read nonfiction books alongside my fiction books. I alternate and pair up topics and bounce around genres like a rabid animal hungry for words, words, more words. Nonfiction always, naturally, takes me longer to read than the fiction counterparts. This was paired with Pym, for its arctic scenery and lost on a journey scenario. It’s fascinating, until its not. I tore through a good chunk of the book and then couldn’t force myself to finish to save my life, until I did one day. Like the members of the crew, I found myself in a state of listless drudgery. Being lost isn’t fun. The play by play was accurate and thorough, and a little bit painful. Glad I read it though. Wouldn’t necessarily encourage anyone else to.
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan (April)
A bookstore, a secret society, and data. My heart went pitter patter. And the cover glows in the dark. Seriously, how could a book be any more awesome?
- His Majesty’s Dragon – Novik (May) #
Napoleonic Wars with DRAGONS. THAT TALK. This pleased me to no end. Also, it’s a series, so expect to hear more from me on the subject. It’s also one of the co-worker read a-alongs with a nonfiction pairing book club picks, so later this year expect me to happily share a (hopefully) good history title.
- The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (May) #
This book started out good, and slowly became AMAZING. So lovely and beautiful. Despite the present tense that I hate, Morgenster’s writing voice is wonderful. It’s unique, but grounded. She gives you all the detail without overselling any of it, just a taste so that your imagination may run wild. There’s a teaser toward the end regarding a museum… I’m curious if she’ll ever elaborate on that. In the meantime, I think I’ll be picking up The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. It seems like an appropriate book to follow the mood… Also, I’ll be reading Under the Big Top by Bruce Feiler, as this is another pairing selection that I’m reading along with others. I’m also eyeing Topsy by Michael Daly and a biography of Barnum. I might just run away with a circus this year…