Wednesday, October 28, 2015

PSA: Going on a short break

Hey everyone, just a brief note to say that school has finally caught up to me, and I'll have to take at least a one week break. I'll be working on my third year essay, and doing some work in Saga as part of my seminar. 

In the meantime, enjoy a picture of the sunset I took today. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente

It's Tuesday! This means I have one week to finish my third year paper, or fail. NOOOOO.

I don't actually stop reading when I'm stressed though. I just find books that I can probably read in small dosages. I thought In the Night Garden would be the book, since it's about stories, but turns out it's stories within stories within the story. Kinda cool, but it's addictive. I'm bravely resisting though - got to write my essay, and I'm using this as a reward!

My teaser:

"The midwife placed me in my mother's arms, wide-eyed and wondering. She smiled at me, her face tired and white, full of sorrow, and died with her finger clutched in my tiny hand. "

What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Warren the 13th and the All Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

This was an absurdly adorable story. I was expecting it to be quirky cute, but I didn't expect it to be this adorable! I actually read it while on the shinkansen, so if you're interested in reading my thoughts as it happened, you can do so here.

Warren the 13th is about this adorable bellhop/jack of all trades for this old, now run-down hotel. Although Warren is the heir to the hotel, he's too young to assume the mantel of responsibility, so his lazy uncle has taken over. His uncle isn't a bad guy, but his new aunt Anaconda is - she's literally a witch! One day, a mysterious stranger checks in (first time in five years!), and his Aunt Anaconda's search for the All Seeing Eye intensifies.

To me, the story alone was delightful. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but the book still had a twist that shocked me. For the record, I was eventually right, but that twist really threw me off for a moment. There's a fairly large cast of characters, but they all have their distinct personalities, and I never got them confused, even though this was a short book.

What made the book really stand out, though, were the illustrations. The book is filled with illustrations, with I think about one or two on every page. Or at least, it felt that way. The illustrations really brought the world to life. My Netgalley version is an ebook and incomplete (for the last two chapters-ish), but I can totally see this as a beautiful hardback or paperback, with glossy paper for the illustrations.

Overall, this short little book is a delightful read. I love the characters, and the story was much more interesting that I expected. I hope that we'll be seeing more adventures from Warren the 13th in the future.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Coursera: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

Hey everyone! I'm currently taking this course called "Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World", because I like to add stress to my life. Anyway, they have this mini-essay requirement, and I thought it might be interesting to share the essays, and you guys can like, give me your opinions. I need the Lit exchange! Because I'm obviously way rusty.

First week: Grimm's Fairy Tales

My essay:

Bad People Finish First: Rewarding Lying and other Bad Behaviours

To me, fairytales were stories that rewarded good and beauty while punishing evil and greed. While this holds true for many stories, such as The Goose Girl, Aschenputtel, etc there are a significant number of stories where behaviours, such as lying/deceit in "Clever Gretel" and "The Three Spinsters", abusing animals in "The Frog Prince" and "The Wonderful Musician" or a refusal to listen to bad advice, as in "Faithful John". In all these stories, the protagonists does things that most would agree are at best, not good. Yet there are all given Happy Endings, with no repercussions.

Two things these stories have in common are the gender and status of the protagonists. Both protagonists in Clever Gretel and The Three Spinsters are poor young women. Hence, it's possible that as a member of a disadvantaged group, deviousness was not only necessary, but lauded. In Faithful John, the prince has a sufficiently high status (and a loyal retainer) that he can afford not to listen to good advice, showing that the upper-classes have more room to make mistakes. Likewise, the musician in The Wonderful Musician has a valuable skill that he can use to raise his status, and choose who he wishes to friend.

The only exception is the princess in the Frog Prince, who is female, yet is never reformed. Because the story is short on details, I theorise that her behaviour is condoned because of her status, which supersedes the requirements of her gender to be a nice girl (like in "The White Snake", where the "proud" princess is changed by an apple into a loving one, or "The Gallant Tailor", where the princess, having married under deceit, cannot leave her husband).

In conclusion, the Grimm's Household stories are surprisingly practical - if the deck is stacked against you, cheat. But otherwise, remain the role you are born in.


Second Week: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

My Essay (done in a rush because... school life took over):

What is "Natural"?

The word "natural" is used four times in Alice in Wonderland, and three times in Through the Looking Glass. In most of these cases, the word "natural" is used in contexts that could be broadly divided into two - positive (talking animals, dancing with Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Alice herself are natural) and negative (floating, watches and waistcoat-pockets and confusing conversations). To me, this seems to indicate that Lewis Carroll had a very specific definition of "natural" in mind.

Like in fairytales, the extraordinary is not necessarily unnatural. The world may follow it's own rules, as strange as they may be. Natural is simply the world working as it should. It is only when the rules are broken that things become unnatural. People should walk, animals should not be constrained by the artificial forces of time, and conversations should not be confusing. Break the unspoken rules, and things feel off.

But is that world natural?

Alice is a very unusual girl, as seen by her reactions to different situations. She tries to talk to a mouse in French, talks to the cats, pretends she is two people, etc. So, is she reacting naturally to a natural world, or does her reaction to this unnatural-seeming world prove how strange she is?

Personally, I think Alice shows us a new, much less cynical, way of looking at the world. She is the one that took most things in stride (see how seldom the word was used), and adapted to her new environments quickly, not letting them overwhelm her (compared to me. I would have broken down and drowned in my tears by chapter 2). This adaptability of hers is what is natural.

(score: 4)

So, these are my essays. What do you think? I'm pretty sure I have some pretty big gaps, cause of the word count and because I haven't critically analysed anything in forever.

Next week: Dracula! Currently reading the book in bits and pieces, when I can find the time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

This novel was a train-wreck. And by that, I mean the path that Evelyn Beegan took was painful to watch. She was so try-hard you just know that she's going to fail.

Everybody Rise is a book that's supposed to be a satirical look at the old American rich. So, something like Crazy Rich Asians. I'm not very familiar with American culture, but I did see a few similarities between this book and Crazy Rich Asians.

So first, a quick plot summary to get you up to speed: After years of not being in the old-money world, Evelyn lands a job at a social networking site called People Like Us (PLU). Her drive to get the numbers up makes her want to adopt the customs, to fit in with that group, and while things are somewhat smooth-sailing, her lack of money (and her father's indictment) threaten to bring everything down.

There were actually a few things I didn't understand. A lot of this book is Evelyn learning to fit in - Ok, I understand she wasn't born into that lifestyle, but she was raised in it. Her mom did go to one of the schools (even if she wasn't accepted), and Evelyn was always sent to the "good" schools. So why is she acting like she has no clue how this world works?

Oh, and here's something this book has in common with Crazy Rich Asians (I'm just gonna say CRA, because I know I'm going to have to use it at least one more time): the protagonist in both books are irritating. I found Evelyn to be irritatingly superior, and I cringed through so much of her antics. I know this book is supposed to be a sort of cringe fest, but I didn't expect it to be this extravagant. I basically put the book down a few times because I was sick of reading the same things over and over again - Evelyn does something terrible, rises a bit in Camilla's (the Queen Bee) eyes, gets over feeling terrible. And repeat.

Another thing this book had in common in CRA was that the supporting characters were so much more likeable. Charlotte definitely has her head screwed on the right way, and like with Astrid, I wanted her to be the protagonist of the story. Preston seems to be somewhere in between - messed up, but not blinded by the world. I do wonder, why can't authors tell the story from someone within that world? Those characters seem to be the most fun.

Overall, this book was hard for me to read. By the time I read half of it, I could see the path Evelyn was on, and the ending she was going to have. I did finish it though, so I guess that counts for something. And I did enjoy the look into this privileged world - and some of the characters.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan

Heya! It's time for another teaser! It's gotten really busy lately (the cold I caught last week didn't help), and while that normally cuts down my reading time, I've actually become so stressed reading becomes an outlet, and my reading has gone up. Weird, huh.

Right now, I'm working through Science of the Magical, which looks at the miraculous events in history and mythology and sees if it could have been possible. It's a really easy and enjoyable read so far (I'm nearing the end).

My teaser:

"I am not sure whether George R.R. Martin is aware of it, but in his Song of Ice and Fire saga, known on television as Game of Thrones, he is carrying on Norse mythology when he leads Brandon Stark to his destiny with a raven. What is particularly interesting is that Bran always sees and follows the raven in his dreams while he is in the form of a wolf."

This might seem like a literature analysis, but it's actually part of a chapter on the relationship between ravens and wolves, and if the Norse myths could be, in fact, based on things observed in nature.

What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Still Life by Louse Penny

I opened the Overdrive app one day and noticed that they added a bunch of Louise Penny books! It's been a while since I read her stories, so I decided to do a sort of reread. At my slow pace, since it's a really hectic week.

Still Life is the first in the Inspector Gamache series, and introduces the reader to Three Pines. Jane, a secretive person who just got her art accepted to her first exhibition (the art thing is important), is found dead. At first, everyone suspects a hunting accident, but things aren't as straightforward as they should have been. Inspector Gamache has to work with his team, and a deadweight in the form of Yvette Nichol, to solve this case.

The main attractions of the book are the characters and Three Pines itself. It's been a really stressful month, and it's going to continue for about two more weeks, so it was relaxing to escape to somewhere different. Even if there's a murder. Why are the most peaceful places in books always ruined by violent death? ;p

As for the characters, they're all fabulous. Although knowing a bit about the characters later on, some of the interactions make me tense. Peter and Clara? Please please please don't continue on your paths. Gamache and Jean Guy? You two have this awesome mentor-mentee thing, and I'd really like it to continue. Yvette Nichol? Go home please. So many different feelings for the different characters.

I loved this book, and it was a captivating read that took me away for a while, even though it's not the first time I read it. I can't wait for a bit more time, where I can start on the second book. Hopefully the library got most of her series.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Manhattan Mayhem edited by Mary Higgins Clark

Manhattan Mayhem is a collection of mystery short stories, and obviously, I had to request it from NetGalley. Mystery!

But, as much as I would like to say so, the book wasn't a unanimous hit. I liked quite a few of the stories, but I didn't understand (or connect) with a fair few either. It's probably a matter of personal taste, but I would say that the number of stories I didn't get/was bored with was roughly the same as the number of stories I loved, while the rest were fairly normal. So instead of talking about the stories I didn't get, like the play, I thought I'd just pick out a few of my favourite short stories from the collection.

White Rabbit by Julie Hyzy: How can I not love anything that has Alice in Wonderland as an inspiration? I thought the story was well-done, and the twist at the ending definitely surprised me. I was completely fooled by the author.

Three Little Words: About a terminally ill patient who was killed. There's family drama, and I spent a lot of the time wondering who on earth killed her. Obviously, I was wrong (again), but there were some great moments of tension here.

Damage Control by Thomas H. Cook: A girl dies, and her foster father is contacted. It was an interesting look at how people can see the same event differently. I was left wondering who's perception of the events was the truth - and we'll never know, since the only person who knows her intentions is now dead.

Serial Benefactor by Jon L. Breen: My second favourite story in this collection! It's about a series of mysterious murders, and while the murderer is never explicitly mentioned, I have my own suspicions. Whether I'm right or not depends on whether the narrator is an unreliable narrator.

Red Headed Stepchild by Margaret Maron: My favourite story in the entire book, even though it's not really a mystery. Even though it's on the short side compared to the other stories, the author packs a punch and a twist in it. I really enjoyed reading it.

So these are my favourite 5 out of 17 stories. On the whole, the collection was enjoyable, although there weren't enough stories that I loved that would make me buy a permanent copy. Borrow it, yes, but not buy it.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty

It's Tuesday! After an interesting start to the week, I'm now sick. Sadly, I don't have the luxury of recuperating in bed with a book.

Right now, I'm reading Broken Dolls, which has been amazing so far.

My teaser:

"I've never even been able to finish Bambi. Most people are traumatized by the mother dying, whereas the fact that the story revolves around deer is what gives me the creeps"

What is your teaser?
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Accidental Office Lady by Laura Kriska

I've seen this book a few times (in Kinokuniya), but never bothered to pick it up. But, since it's available through overdrive, I decided that, why not, since I'm already looking for a job.

Really, I don't know why I do this to my self. First, I take that class which basically made working in Japan sound terrible for ladies (no career path, really tough time when you're a mom, etc). And now, I read a book that reinforces that idea. Good thing the book was written a fairly long time ago though, so I can hope that things have drastically improved since then.

The Accidental Office Lady is the story of Laura, the first Western lady to ever work at the Honda head office. According to her, she has deep ties to Japan, being born there, and having gone for an exchange at Waseda. But of course, this is what, 1980s Japan? And things don't go as smoothly as expected. Among other things, Laura has to wear a uniform, is bossed around by the queen bee of the secretaries, and has general problems fitting in to the culture.

One thing I didn't get about Laura was how fluent in Japanese she was. In the prologue, she talks about how her "first words were Japanese", on some days, "spoke Japanese exclusively", and generally gives off the impression that she's very, very fluent in Japanese. But as the book goes on, she talks about having to have people explain things in English and Japanese, which confused me. Isn't she supposed to be fluent? How is there a language barrier? I'm guessing that she's like me, ok with conversation, but unfamiliar with business/office Japanese. This was a huge motivator to actually go practice keigo.

One thing I did understand, in fact it's one thing I worry about, are the cultural differences. By the time I graduate, I'd have spent 5 years in Japan, but assuming I can get a job, I don't know if I will be able to navigate things smoothly. Reading about Laura's experience makes me fervently wish that things have gotten better, or I have no idea how I'll last for long periods of time.

Basically, this book is like a worst-case scenario for me. Assuming I can get a job (big assumption there), I'll be going in ready to adapt to the situation as and when it needs be. You know, to change the things you can, but accept the things you can't. But you know, if things turn out to be more egalitarian, I would be thrilled.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

As always, I bought a book when I was coming back to Fukuoka from Singapore. This time, I was had to transfer at Hong Kong (and Taipei), and while I wasn't enthused about the transfers, I was happy to be able to stop by Page One in Hong Kong. I remember buying Unseen Academicals there, and this time, I bought Snuff.

Snuff is a City Watch book, staring Sam Vines (who's Sir Sam Vines by now). Only this time, he's not in Ankh-Morpork. He's in the country, and it's as uncomfortable as you think it is. But, Lady Sybil has decided that Sam and young Sam needs a vacation in the country, and there's nothing to be done. While young Sam discovers a new interest in poo, Sam finds what happens to be a murder.

And you know what happens when a copper has too much time on his hands.

Do you know something really strange? I was halfway through this book before I realised there were no chapters. Basically, I just read it for as much as I could, and didn't even notice that there were nothing more than section breaks.

Ok, but back to the book. As usual, I laughed at many, many places. What's not usual was the fact that I was touched by the book too. It deals with Goblins, a somewhat 'new' species (or rather, I've never really heard of them). The City Watch has many diverse beings in it, but goblins are a first. The way Sam basically fights for goblins, who were seen as less than human, was unexpectedly touching. That is a nob with a heart of gold.

If I had a complaint, it would be that not enough of the City Watch appears. There's a well-meaning and will probably be a good policeman in the countryside, but he isn't Nobby Nobbs or Carrot or any of the usual gang (though that is probably for the best for the countryside). I also really enjoyed reading about the different Watches in the different cities - that was amusing.

The first half was very much a city vs countryside kind of thing, and if you're not familiar with the countryside (like me!) or how the people are normally seen, it may be a bit strange. I get that he was lampooning the stereotypes, but I wasn't familiar enough with them to actually laugh. I started laughing a lot more in the later part of the book, when the investigating gets underway and more of the Watch appear.

If you like the City Watch series of Discworld, you'll probably enjoy this. If you don't know the characters - well, you may not want to read this first. I think it's best to enjoy this book after you've gotten to know the Watch and the people in it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Noticer's Guide To Living And Laughing by Margery Leveen Sher

This book was 'meh' for me, and it's partly my fault. I read the first half of the description, and thought this was going to tell me how to notice more in my life. I missed the bit that this is 97 short (one or two page) essays on the author noticing (sorry, Noticing) various things.

Ok, the entire premise of the book is that if you notice the small things in life, and learn to appreciate them, your life will be a lot richer and happier for it. It's something that I do to a smaller extent - like today, where I basically stopped to take a picture of a pretty cloud, but I was interested in trying to notice more. I realise that I tend to rush through things, so I want to notice the small, pretty things, not just the huge and breathtaking clouds.

So for me, this book on the things the author already noticed, was not very helpful. Some of the things she sees, I probably won't, because I don't live in the same country as her. Which means, I couldn't use it as a source of inspiration either.

But, the book is very overwhelmingly positive. I basically picture the author excitedly telling me about all the things she's seeing - it's very strongly conveyed through the tone. Some might find it annoying (and I can't take it for very long doses either), but I think it'll work as a form of happiness pill.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.
The cloud in question. It looked a lot cooler in real life. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

Time for another Teaser Tuesday! I've been absolutely swamped with work, which is why I've not been reading as much as I want to. Right now, I'm working my way through Everybody Rise (and the path the protagonist is on is a trainwreck - and I can't decide whether I'm going to look away or not)


"She introduced the evening's honoree, the head of European studies department at Columbia. He was the third choice, Evelyn recalled from one of the planning meetings, after the first two selections had awkwardly declined, citing the professional difficulty of associating themselves with debuntantes." 

What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Kellynch by Kwen D. Griffeth

If this was any book other than a Jane Austen Fanficton, I'm pretty sure I would have loved it. But as it is, it's the sequel to Persuasion, and was sufficiently different from the original book that I didn't really enjoy it.

First off, I read this book straight after re-reading Persuasion. It had been some time since I last read it, and I wanted to make sure the book was fresh in my mind. That may be why any little different grated on me.

Before I go into the differences, let me quickly recap the plot. Anne and Captain Wentworth have been married for three years, when Wentworth finds out that the "nice" cousin Elliot isn't as nice as he appears. He and Anne are at risk of losing their beloved Kellynch. In an attempt to save it, Wentworth goes back to sea, while Anne deals with the problems at home (although being kept in the dark about her problems doesn't really help her much).

So why did I say this book felt different from the original? Because all the characters were OOC. Elizabeth suddenly becomes nice, Sir Elliot is willing to sell Kellynch to Wentworth at a low cost (what happened to that 7 years of renting to the Crofts anyway?) and yeah, basically everyone seems to have become nicer. Except William Elliot, who as the villain of this story as way more dastardly than he was in the original. I don't really mind the OCs like Charlotte or the various tenants, or the sudden disappearance of major characters (lady Russell and Mary are barely present, and the Musgroves not at all, if I remember correctly). It's the fact that the characters seem so different from their original that irks me.

As for plot, there are a few things that I don't quite understand, like the complete lack of letters between Wentworth and Anne (and from the book, it seems like letters weren't banned, and anyway, Wentworth wasn't literally at sea the whole time), and a few passages of time that didn't seem to add up. But I can't really go into that without giving major spoilers. Apart from that, though, the plot was interesting, and I enjoyed reading that.

All in all, if this wasn't a sequel to Persuasion, if it didn't feature the much loved characters and if I didn't happen to read the original just before reading this, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more. The plot made me raise my eyebrows a few times, but on the whole, it's entertaining, with enough twists and turns and dramatic scenes. It's a pity it just isn't Austen.

Disclaimer: I received this book free as part of Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for a free and honest review.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Blog Tour: Kellynch by Kwen D. Griffeth

Hey everyone! I'm here with a blog tour post today, consisting of the book's info and a excerpt for all of you to enjoy! I'll post my review on Monday :D 

Title: Kellynch
Author: Kwen D. Griffeth
Genre: Jane Austen Fanfiction / Romance
Jane Austen completed “Persuasion” in August 1816.  It was to be her last book.  She left us with the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth and she left them approaching “happily ever after.”  What happens the day following “happily ever after?”

The story of Kellynch picks up three years after the couple married and were able to secure the Kellynch estate from Sir Walter and Cousin William Elliot agreed to waive the entailment.

It would seem all is well with the young couple, but all is not as it seems. 

Kellynch is a story of deceit and treachery as well as courage and overcoming the odds.  It is a story in which those who were assumed to be friends are not and where support comes from unexpected places.  Love again, will, be tested in a story set against the backdrop of historical events. 

Throughout the book, I have tried to remain true to the characters as Miss Austen created them.  I sought to develop and introduce new characters that would meet with her approval.  

Author Bio
When describing my life, I think Douglas Adams said it best, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Books have always been a large part of my meandering. 
I grew up on a ranch in southeastern Idaho and my friends were a mixed and rowdy bunch.  Louis L’Amour told me tales of the west, but Edgar Rice Burroughs took me to the jungles of Africa.  Sir Author Conan Doyle walked with me through the fog-covered streets of London, and Jane Austen taught me to be a gentleman.
I read several other authors but I was fourteen when I met the man.  Sitting in an English class, I chose a book from a required reading list and I was introduced to Ernest Hemingway.  His book, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” allowed Mister Hemingway, Robert Jordan, and I to fight in the Spanish Civil War and I never left Idaho.  When I closed the back cover, I knew that no matter whatever else I did, I would be a writer.  Even today, when I think back, I am still in awe of how Hemingway’s words touched the soul of an adolescent boy.

I entered the Army a year after high school and stayed in uniform for the next two decades.  The military offered me the opportunity to live my own adventures separate from the ones I lived vicariously in books.  While in uniform, I worked in a variety of fields, Infantry, Military Police, and Military Intelligence.  I worked on a psychiatric ward and later at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.  I took trips to Mexico, Canada, and twice to Germany.  I have visited the forty-eight contiguous states and desperately want to see the other two.

 Along the way, I met and kept printed friends Allister Maclean, Robert Ludlow, John Grisham, and Tom Clancy.  I had flings with several others, Joseph Wambaugh, Clive Cussler, and Stephen King.
I started to write and failed.  Repeatedly, I would start a story, only to end it and discard it as it sounded too much like the works of one of my friends.  I went through periods when I refused to read, because I was frustrated and angry with those friends.  Those friends who were what I wanted to be.

Fifteen years ago, I got sick.  I got sick and it was misdiagnosed.  I almost died, but then I met the doctor who figured out the riddle and, with his help, I started working my way back.  As I got better and my brain got stronger, stories, characters, and plots started to form.  I found my voice and I published my first book, a novella called “Dear Emma,” in February 2012.

I used to feel strange telling people, “I got better and now I hear voices,” but the statement is accurate.  I feel I am in good company as several authors have made such references.  As I said at the beginning, I am exactly where I need to be.     



The landscape of quilts moved as the woman beneath them stretched and a good morning hum accompanied the movement of bed covers.  A hand showing manicured nails appeared from under those covers and slowly lowered them to reveal a tousled head of brunette hair and then, brown eyes.  The eyes squinted as they glanced at the angle of the sunshine beamed through a nearby window.  The sun was bright, sharp, and rude; the eyes closed in self-defense.  Even so, the brightness of the intruder triggered a much more intense stretch and the accompanying hum sounded more like a groan.

“Oh, if I do not force myself from this bed this instant, people will begin to mistake me for my sisters.”

A chuckle from the distant corner of the room responded and the woman sat up.  Across from her, a rounded woman, in her fifties, sat on a chair.  On her chubby face was a smile as she studied her needlepoint from under the ruffle of a white mob cap that sat so low on her head; it could have been made there.

“Anne Elliot Wentworth, if you slept until noon, every day, no one of any importance would ever mistake you for your sisters.”

Anne Elliot Wentworth joined the chuckle and replied, “Charlotte, you have been with me since I was but eight years old.”

“And a better student there was not.”

“Let me finish.”

The older woman lowered her gaze in an act of deference, but kept the smile of familiarity, “Sorry, Milady.”

“As I was saying, you have been with me most of my life and in many ways, my best friend.  So, I believe your opinion of me compared to my sisters to be a bit skewed.”

“Yes, Milady, I might plead guilty to such a charge, but I remain convinced of my assertion.”

Anne threw back the covers and rose from her bed.  Wearing only her nightshirt, she walked to the aforementioned window.  She stood modestly to the side and looked over the lush gardens and closely cropped lawns before her. 

The gardens of Kellynch stretched along the east side of the main house and circled around to the south end.  The collage of colors that greeted her forced an intake of breath.  Though the flowers were at a distance, simply their overpowering beauty triggered the memory of their perfumes.  She shook her head slightly and marveled.

“Charlotte, I have lived here most of my life and I am still amazed at the beauty of Kellynch.  This has to be the most beautiful spot in all of England, maybe the entire world.”

“This is a beautiful house,” Charlotte nodded, “and I believe with all my heart you are the proper lady for it.  I have to admit though; being married to a fine gentleman like the Captain has more benefits than just the acreage before you.”

Anne turned away from the window and watched as her companion warmed water in the fireplace.  The older woman had originally been her nanny, then one of the housemaids, and as the years passed, she became her personal maid.  Now, due to Anne’s ascension, she had become the maid for the lady of the house.

“I am the wife of Captain Fredrick Wentworth.  How I love the sound of that.  We have been married almost three years and still I find myself repeating that in my mind.  I am the wife of Captain Fredrick Wentworth.  Through all the years of wishing it were so, I did not realize how happy I would actually be.  If but for one disappointment, I would be living the life of a fairy tale.”

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Devil's Bones by Jefferson Bass

As you all know, I'm a sucker for a good mystery story. Plus, I love Bones (except maybe season 10, because of a certain character's death). So when I saw this on sale at Popular, I figured that it was time to try a new author. Now, I just wish they had more of his books on sale so that I could buy them.

The Devils Bones follows Dr. Bill Brockton, a forensic anthropologist who works that The Body Farm, a place where bodies are left to rot under various conditions in the name of science. In this book, he basically faces three mysteries - a woman who was found burned (could her husband have killed her?), a urn of ashes that aren't really human (so where are the bodies?) and his nemesis, Garland Hamilton, who has escaped from custody and is presumably hunting them down.

While there are three more-or-less separate stories, it didn't feel like the book was overdoing it. The Garland case is a continuation from the previous books, and I thought the way the other two mysteries were integrated into the plot were well-done. I never felt confused by what was going on, and managed to keep up with everything, even though I had to stop a few times, since I was attending a conference and didn't have much time to read.

I liked Dr. Brockton as a character, and I really wish I've read the previous books in the series. I don't feel like I'm missing any particularly important information, but when he talks about a past character - well, it feels like that was a major turning point for him. I would have liked to read it. I should go see if the library has an e-copy for me to borrow.

Apart from Dr. Brockton, I liked his 'teammates', Art (police) and Miranda (his assistant). Both of them are fun to read, and they strike a good balance for me. They don't exist to show the reader how smart Dr. Brockton is (because that would be tiring), nor are they needlessly argumentative. The trio feel like a good team.

This book has a solid cast of characters, interesting mysteries that I thought were well-paced, and a great setting. I've never drunk sweet tea before, but while reading this book, I had the urge to try it.