A too short, short story about the conditions that existed during the US Civil War from the perspective of a nurse.
Based upon actual letters by Cornel...moreA too short, short story about the conditions that existed during the US Civil War from the perspective of a nurse.
Based upon actual letters by Cornelia Hancock, a US Civil War nurse, this is a well written historical fiction that I recommend if you are interested in the day-to-day horrors of war as opposed to the battles. Which is what intrigues me the most, reading about the actual human losses which puts a realistic face on the tragedy of war. Too bad it was just not long enough. Regardless I give it a 3.5 stars.
Available as an ebook (free) at Barnes & Noble.(less)
A self published children’s book that gives some insight into issues kids may be facing with their parents t...moreOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
A self published children’s book that gives some insight into issues kids may be facing with their parents today, especially when it concerns a step parent - an often difficult relationship for children. It has sweet and fun color illustrations.
About: Billy and Susan have been living with grandma and grandpa for the past year while dad has been away fighting for their country. They miss him a lot and their mom too, who has recently passed away. Their newest concern is that Daddy has remarried. They now have a new mom – a stepmother. They have heard all the bad things about stepmothers from stories and both are scared. As they imagine all the horrible things this new evil stepmother will do to them, they become even more uncomfortable at the prospect of meeting their new mom.
But when they meet Daddy’s new wife they find that she is pretty, and it turns out she is also very nice. When she meets both children she promises to try and be a terrific stepmother and get to know them better so that maybe some day they will love her as much as their dad does.
Thoughts: An important short story for boys and girls to help them transition into a new family arrangement in a positive way. It has a thoughtful introduction for the adults at the beginning to assist parents to in turn help their children understand the stereotypes and scary thoughts that may be concerning them about a new and different parent - a relationship which often holds much angst and tension.
The book has 30 colorful pages, sweet illustrations, and meaningful and important text for small children to read. Not all stepmothers are evil or wicked, even though there are many stories which tell them that they are. Like most of William’s books it has a creative and cute twist at the end which is fun and intriguing, and a listing of Bill’s other wonderful children’s books is also at the end of the book. Highly recommended, it’s a 4 star read that is helpful for growing and changing families in understanding a complex and often difficult relationship.(less)
A historical fantasy set in 1494 Barcelona during the Spanish inquisition. It’s an exciting novel that con...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A historical fantasy set in 1494 Barcelona during the Spanish inquisition. It’s an exciting novel that contains a strong intelligent heroine and a magical book that has esoteric knowledge which everyone is literally dying to possess.
About: Nadira, is a tiny young woman who barely looks her age. Although in her 20’s she appears 17. Of Muslim descent (and called Moorish during this time period), she arrives in Spain as a small child. Abducted from her desert home as the proceeds from war she is sold as a slave along with her mother to a Spanish master.
Amazingly, before leaving her homeland her mother taught her to read and write in their native tongue. Even more unusual is that Nadira’s new owner, a once Jewish man, trains her in various other languages. Giving her extraordinary abilities as a reader of Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew which makes her among the few who have the skills needed to read a controversial and blasphemous book - the Hermetic of Elysium.
When Nadira is “taken” again but now from her new Spanish master by the English lord - Baron Montrose, she is at first resistant. But things change for her rather quickly when she realizes this man is of good character and swears to protect her with his life, if only she will help him avenge his brother’s death and decipher the contents of this esoteric book.
Thoughts: An easily read novel that I did not want to put it down, it has a strong female character (my favorite), a strong and likable male lead, and a scattering of interesting side characters which creates an interesting and colorful ride. I particularly liked that there was only light sexual references and romance.
The story feels like it’s historical fiction with a thread of the fantastical (which is turning out to be one of my preferred type of fantasy). With writing that is intelligent, imbued with literary and philosophical knowledge, including key issues around human nature, what is good and evil, and a solid definition of ignorance and knowledge. All the while presenting a way for readers (like me) to get some world history without even realizing it. Considering it happens during an intriguing and volatile period there is plenty of opportunity for some very nasty bad guys – the Black Friars, to do horrible inquisition type things.
What didn’t I like about this book? Absolutely nothing, since it was just one of those great reads that gave me a needed escape. It’s a 4.25 star in my opinion since I could not decide which way to go; 4 star or 4.5 stars. Kudos to this author who apparently self published the book under a different title before finding its current home. But the best yet is there is a sequel coming soon, which I will be excitedly waiting for.
Looking for some basic structure on the short story? This is probably not the book you want.
It does however try and persuade you n...more2.5 stars actually.
Looking for some basic structure on the short story? This is probably not the book you want.
It does however try and persuade you not to write. Which is really very sad. One should not dissuade people to have creative outlets, which is my reason for the two stars.
On the upside: If you are in a writing group (and ignore the negative bits) there are some excellent exercises, and guideline on what to do and what not to do when in a group to be helpful to each other.
The best and most helpful bits: There is a great short glossary of terms and definitions used when writing mainly short stories and more; and a story check list that looks to be helpful.
I suggest borrowing a copy to make notes, copy the glossary, and checklist then return it. That's what I did. (less)
The adage: "getting old is not for sissies" should be the subtitle for this book. Although Weil does so kindly and realistically t...more2.5 starts actually.
The adage: "getting old is not for sissies" should be the subtitle for this book. Although Weil does so kindly and realistically the truth of the matter is there is nothing we can do to completely stop aging. But we can live a healthy life, a balanced life, a contemplative life.
This book is an overview of one of my favorite health, diet and well being books by this Physician/new age science guru who mixes Eastern and Western medical advice. He debunks a lot of myths, tells you what he thinks and gives the reader a real life plan that one can work with. Although strict it feels like if you do your best to follow this advice you will be that much healthier
I would recommend you skip this book and move onto the one linked below for a comprehensive guide to logical holistic health that will optimize your anti aging plan:
A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition of...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition of a twelfth-century Sufi poem and is done in predominantly fall colors with a mix of ancient and modern styles.
About: A conference of birds is led on a quest by a poet who has turned into a hoopoe bird after a disturbing dream. Gathering them together, he wishes to know the reason for all the wrongs in the world and a way to change them. But to do so they must find the king – Simorgh.
As they travel a long and arduous distance, the birds come to realize that each of them is but a tiny piece of an immense and larger whole. Flying through the daunting terrain (valleys of tribulations and mazes) to reach their goal, most will not survive the trip. But those that do will receive a gift - a realization that what they are seeking from their quest can be found inside each of them.
Thoughts: Read several times over, allowing the art and poetry to settle, this book gets better with each subsequent read. It’s deep message is told metaphorically, visually, and simply, with a spiritual twist that transcends religion. A tale which moves us to know we are all on a journey to one place, a trip which many may not entirely understand.
It has only a small amount of writing but mostly images that appear to be tempera paint and carved block print on beautiful thick colored paper (I would love to see the author’s originals). The images are done in warm earth tones except for the culmination of the story where Peter Sis uses cool and vivid colors to give the crescendo a significant visual meaning. Importantly the art work feels both ancient and modern giving the impression that it is an old story told in a new way.
A relevant rendition that is just as meaningful today as it was a thousand years ago. I can see this book sitting on an office or home table, or in front of a comfortable chair or sofa, since it is a relaxing read. This is a terrific holiday gift for a special person, professional, or family. I give this book a 4 star rating. I loved it and will read it again.(less)
A historical gothic thriller set during the great depression in the rural south. It has a thread which lin...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A historical gothic thriller set during the great depression in the rural south. It has a thread which links to the US Civil War. Readers won’t guess what the source of the horror is until two thirds through the book; be prepared to linger at the edge of your comfort zone and have a hard time putting this book down.
About: Main character Frank Nichols is a WWI vet turned college professor. His girl friend Eudora and he have decided to marry after a several year affair which has destroyed her marriage and his career.
Against the advice of his deceased aunt they move into the house she has given him in her will. The small Southern town where the house is located (near the river) is where Frank plans to write his historical book. It will be about his notorious and cruel ancestor whose plantation was also located “across the river”, where he was horrifically murdered at the hands of his slaves.
Our narrator, Frank, and his young wife do not recognize what lurks just beyond the river, even though he has been warned by a variety of sources not to venture into the woods. But soon they and the entire town will be caught in a tangle which will alter their lives and the landscape completely .
Thoughts: I found Those Across the River in audio at our local library, and think it is a perfect read for Fall since the climax for the novel is set around Halloween. The reader has a slightly sad and light southern accent – perfect for Frank. Interestingly he also has a variety of deeper accents which are effectively used for the other Southern characters in the novel. All work very well in helping make this book a heartbeat-increasing pleasure to listen to.
With its historical thread I was thinking that it was going to be a realistic thriller, but after finishing think that I would define it as horror. I liked the dark paranormal aspect although would not recommended it for “sensitive readers”. There are some interesting and gory scenes - one in particular a graphic sexual encounter which may shake up some readers; it did me.
I would recommend it for those who enjoy Southern gothic stories, thrillers with a paranormal edge, horror aficionados, and anyone with an interest in the US civil war (sadly only a too short thread as I found myself wishing for more). I liked that everything did not end up in a “traditional story tied bow”, and give this audio book 4 stars. I will be watching for more from this author since it did surprise me. (less)
An awarding winning novella, that has a dark and lovely rendition of a numb...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought in a graphic novel trio review.
An awarding winning novella, that has a dark and lovely rendition of a number of combined ancient fables. It’s gorgeously illustrated and celebrates Japanese mythology.
About: A young Buddhist monk who is at peace with his life is in charge of a small temple set in some beautiful mountains in Japan. While attending to his his daily rituals and household maintenance he is emotionally accosted by two animals/spirits who want to live in his place. In their attempt to finagle the little church from the Zen priest, the fox falls in love with him. Later when his life is in danger from another selfish faction who would like to live his life, the fox spirit has no choice but to attempt to save him.the dream hunter
Thoughts: This is a stand alone story from the Sandman series which I am only just learning about, it was apparently written after the series had been “retired”. Technically not a graphic novel, this is really a story with a lot of illustrations. Happily they are gorgeous – I love Japanese art. The text is incredible too – complex and yet very easy to read, which is a big favorite style for me.
It won several awards in 2000 including a Bram Stoker and a Hugo. In my research I also became aware that several other versions of the book have been printed and are using other artists in a more traditional comic book format, including a very recent version. A warning for parents is that it is adult in nature with some very dark themes, so I would not give this book to children or immature teens. The story contains “dream hunters” which are particularly menacing – very cool but scary. I am thinking nightmares.
I loved this book at 4 stars and I am now a fan of Neil Gaiman. Believe it or not this is the first of his books that I’ve read. So what’s next? Perhaps American Gods before the movie comes out? I better get cracking!
Please note according to my searches the version I read is not available in the US. It is however available in the UK and Canada. (less)
A “literary tragicomic” that is translated from Norwegian. It’s a short but challenging read which is at t...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A “literary tragicomic” that is translated from Norwegian. It’s a short but challenging read which is at times brilliant, heart-wrenching, sadly funny, and with some interesting bits which require mathematical knowledge to fully understand their references.
About: It is told in the first person by an aging woman Mathea Martinsen. She is a cerebral individual, currently obsessed with death, and perhaps possessing a social anxiety disorder. She stays in her apartment with little desire to connect with anyone other than her husband. With no children, her life consists of the television and going to the store, while simultaneously trying to avoid and connect with her neighbors.
When she finally realizes something is missing from her life – that she wants to be and feel important - she attempts to set things right in a dilapidated series of too-late actions. It seems the harder she tries to be someone, and to connect with others, the worse things become. While she remains oddly positive, as the title suggests she only feels smaller. As her muddled attempts become more desperate, her descent leads to a culmination which is not entirely expected and completely heartbreaking.
Thoughts: One of the reasons I love translated literature is that it helps me to think differently. This book definitely did, and then some. It pushed me to re-read passages, research references, and to do quite few “Googles”. I would even say that with so many looking up of references while reading this ARC, it felt like it was not completely finished.
However, many of the analogies were brilliant and curious. The author has a variety of these interesting tidbits scattered through the story line coming directly from Mathea’s thoughts and actions. An example is that Mathea puts many thing into numerical concepts and theories, speaking to her connection with the world and her relationship to her husband – his nickname and even the title is a reference to a numerical theory.
So, I was a bit conflicted about this book. But remembering it is an ARC I will be searching for a finished copy to compare the two. Perhaps footnotes for the Norwegian cultural references and math connections would help? I don’t always want to stop reading to find an answer to a question.
Recommended for readers that enjoy translated fiction, mathematical logic, and for those looking for a much deeper read. I give this short and intellectually intense book 3 stars as it is in its ARC format; more if my concerns have been addressed in the finished copy. (less)
An adorable mystery for middle grade readers – especially boys! It h...more3.5 stars actually Original review with links and more posted at Layers of Thought.
An adorable mystery for middle grade readers – especially boys! It has incredible black and white line drawn illustrations. It can be seen as a book for literary minded and reluctant readers and as an introduction to this fine American author.
About: Eddie is the nick name for Edgar Allen Poe and the story is based upon the author’s humble beginnings, as we find out more about how he was born, raised, and lived.
Young Eddie attempts to get himself out of trouble when a powerful next door neighbor’s prized rooster and the local tom cat are hung on a weather vein in a bag during the middle of the night. Eddie is blamed for creating the ruckus by the entire neighborhood and especially by his father.
Thoughts: I just loved this cute short story, the drawings are lovely black lined and delicately done and will break up the reading for younger or reluctant readers. The story is cute and has a deeper appropriate age level message – which states “if you know who you are and are honest and truthful that is what matters most - even if others do not believe you”.
The story has a touch of the speculative. Our young hero has his own personal imp - which is based upon one of Poe’s stories “The Imp of the Perverse” (actual story is linked on the blog). Eddie experiences the human conundrum where one often chooses to follow an internal voice (called by Poe the “imp”) rather than a better and more reasonable form of logic, therefore creating many human problems. Poe believed that it is human nature to follow this “imp” which persuades us to wait until the last minute to accomplish important responsibilities.
This book can be seen as a roll model for children, as well as for youngsters whose interest are literary rather than athletic or social. An important story about one of my favorite classic authors. 3.5 stars for this perfect Halloween “treat” rather than a bag full of candy – or in addition too! (less)
With gorgeous graphics, this is a sci fi novella for adults or...moreOriginal version posted at Layers of Thought with a trio of reviews.
3.5 stars actually!
With gorgeous graphics, this is a sci fi novella for adults or mature and older teens. It is a metaphor for an existential trip that most of us unexpectedly take at one time or another - like the main character.
About: It’s a graphic take on Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novella The Electric Ant, which was first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in October 1969. It’s based around an android questioning his reason for existing after he discovers that he is not actually a human as he has believed. His shocking discovery leads to questions about who he is, his purpose, who created him, and if his behaviors are his own or programed by someone else. By opening himself up and examining his “pre-programed tapes” takes a trip into the past via some type of a time-warp. As he digs around inside his inner workings, it can be seen as a metaphor for an examination of his “psychological self”. Psycho-babble for sure but never the less a key concept.
Thoughts: Definitely an adult novel as there are some very adult themes and images, sexual scenes and nudity (although the rude bits are glossed over). Three artists contributed to the novel but the main images displayed are by Pascal Aline.
The one thing that bothered me about the book was that the main character’s diggings and his apparent time travel felt unclear to me. I found myself wanting more and think I would like to read the actual version of Dick’s novella to compare. Hopefully Dick’s writing of the android’s existential experiences will be clearer in the original story. With that said, the graphics are completely wonderful, most of the story is darn good, the ending was one that I really liked and is completely appropriate as it reflects the time in which is was written - the late sixties. So on balance it’s a 3.5 stars.
Extra Info: Marvel Comics adapted "The Electric Ant" as a limited series, in 2010. Produced by writer David Mack; French artist Pascal Alixe; and with covers provided by artist Paul Pope. Also for an interesting indie short film based around the story which is about 6 minutes long link below. Cool but I was not crazy about the ending. Its called "All Gates Open" - http://vimeo.com/6793981(less)
An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for book...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for book lovers as well as fans of the author and the genre.
About: This audio version of In Other Worlds is a catalog of Margaret Atwood’s relationship with science fiction and contains a number of her unpublished lectures including those titled “Flying Rabbits”, “Dire Cartographies”, and “Burning Bushes”. In the lectures she gives examples of the books which are important to her and her perspective around science fiction and more – how each book she describes affected her development, its place in history, and how it helped to create the genre as we see it today. Also included are her personal, respectable, and well thought out definitions for the sub and overlapping genres within the broad scope of speculative literature and science fiction. At the end of the book are two short stories written by the author and read by Susan Deneaker.
Thoughts: I devoured this short read/listen, since I adore anything sci-fi and books about books. It was a complete pleasure for me. Atwood has some intriguing ideas about what the genre of science fiction is all about, especially for me considering my obsession with defining genres. That Atwood goes into depth was helpful since I learned many things from this book, which for me is what it’s all about. I now have other ways of referencing and categorizing a book.
I am certain that this is not a book for everyone, however, I would recommend it as a must read for any serious science fiction geek. It’s also good for the reference shelf since it contains loads of information on classics, and of course those interesting “speculative” genre definitions that she has provided. In my opinion it’s a great listen. I will be purchasing a paper copy for my personal library. I give this terrific nonfiction book - a big 4 stars.(less)
An accessible and life-affirming novella which takes the reader on a trip from the dark stages of addiction and abuse to a kind of whole-ness; set in a realistic and magical setting.
About: Young Jilly Coppercorn, our story's narrator, has not had an easy life. The victim of abuse of various kinds – much of it at the hands of family members - it has been a struggle to stay alive, let alone clean and drug free. Now off the drugs she is turning her life around. Then a good friend, one of her best, turns up and invites her to a concert of sorts. She is a bit worried as this friend is from her old life – her addicted life.
As she steps over doorway into the party she has an unsettling feeling akin to an elevator ride; unbeknownst to her she enters a netherworld. It is very much like our world but in many ways not - as Jilly soon discovers. There she must make a choice to stay in this other realm or to go back to her “real life”. It’s a decision that may help her find and reconcile the darker aspects of herself, the parts she has no desire in accepting.
Thoughts: This is a story set in and around Newford – it is also a realistic fantasy series. The 13th in the set, it is a standalone which features Jilly, one of the Newford series readers’ favorite characters. I can understand why. Jilly is wonderful. She is strong and struggling and imperfect. She isn’t tall, beautiful and waifish but artistic, small and messy. I like that, a lot.
Promises to Keep is dark at times, violent at others, it examines many of the issues experienced by young people (adults too) when trying to get and remain clean, as well as dealing with all sorts of toxic childhood experiences. It is also light and life affirming with a believable perspective from the point of view of a female character, which is impressive. I liked that our main character was more concerned with doing positive things like volunteering at a soup kitchen and a nursing home rather than fixing her hair or boyfriend drama.
This is my second Charles De Lint novel. My first was Yarrow, written in 1986 and read some time in the 90’s, which I count as one of my all time favorites. It was read at a time when I could not digest any fiction at all, which tells you something. In Promises to Keep I had damp eyes at times, laughed too, and said I just loved this book out loud more than once. Highly recommended for anyone who is looking for a change from some of the “kick bottom” urban fantasy out there. It is perfect for those looking for lots of realism in their fantasy, but with a more than a touch of the magical. Perfect for artists, musicians, healers and, most of all, those healing themselves. I give this story a 4.5 stars. Perfect for someone like myself who has not read any of the Newford novels; an excellent introduction I’d say.(less)
4.5 stars actually - so very close to a five! Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A perfect summer novel for those looking for something with a...more4.5 stars actually - so very close to a five! Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A perfect summer novel for those looking for something with a bit more depth in their reading. This novel has an idyllic summer camp setting in the Ozark Mountains, where an unexpected tragedy is set in motion through a series of complicated events. It is a heart wrenching and insightful story that has a diverse and unusual set of characters.
About: When Wyatt Hudy is accepted as a camp counselor for the summer term at the Kinderman Forest Summer Camp at the very last minute, he believes he will be working with children. However, he has not been informed that for the first two week session he and the other new and impromptu counselors will be taking care of disabled adults that are wards of the state. A significant fact is that Wyatt could be mistaken for one of the campers due to a physical deformity he inherited at birth. As a series of seemingly unrelated events occur, there is an incredible build up a for a completely surprising and uncontrollable tragedy; and it does not stop there. What enfolds is at once heartbreaking yet understandable, leading the reader to think about areas that can be viewed as morally and legally ambiguous.
My Thoughts: This novel made me think and feel a great deal of unexpected emotions. The author's densely descriptive and beautifully accessible language helped me to believe that I was there in the mountains in this summer forest setting. But the best part is that the story includes developed, unusually flawed, complex and diverse characters. There are entirely unexpected personality aspects for the characters -counselors, staff, and the campers especially - creating a realistic and often shocking mix. One character could be even classified as the quintessential psychopath of the most insidious kind – one that charms and which most would not remotely suspect. With the questions that this novel will naturally create for its readers, I think The Inverted Forest will be perfect for discussions, though it may bring some heated conversations to the table.
I devoured every moment of the book, kept thinking about the characters, keep thinking about them still even weeks after finishing it. I enjoyed being immersed in the forest setting, one that most Americans will relate to and which is imbedded in our national psyche as a seasonal event – attending or counseling at a summer camp. This is a 4.5 stars and comes very highly recommended for contemporary fiction readers. For me it was the perfect summer setting and a powerful read. It almost made a rare five star status for me.(less)
“…he thought they only showed themselves in what he called the uncertain places. Where the sea meets the l...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
“…he thought they only showed themselves in what he called the uncertain places. Where the sea meets the land, for example… or inside meets outside… or at dawn or twilight…” page 171
About: Set in early 1970’s California within the now famous wine growing region of Napa Valley, our narrator Will is studying for his degree at UC Berkley when he meets Livie, one of the Feirbrand girls. It’s almost “love at first sight”. However, Will notices something odd about Livie’s family. Something just below the surface and uncertain – inconsistencies, weird happenings, secrets between the Feirbrands, and most significantly their unbelievable prosperity.
When things start to become imbalanced, as they tend to do, and the truth about the reason for the family's wealth begins to percolate out, Will must act to save Livie from an uncertain faction. Termed “those people” they are obviously not completely of our world, and are tricky. Just how conniving Will does not completely understand until things become uncontrollable and they take a trip through the figurative “rabbit hole” into this other realm.
Thoughts: So who are “those people”? There is a clue; the book is based upon one of the lost stories of the Brothers Grimm - the Bondmaid’s tale. So fairies it is. And with this author’s take they are a blend of images from a variety of sources and not one single shape or size. There is definitely an “Alice in Wonderland” quality to this story.
It’s an adult novel that I think older teens may like it too, since the main characters move from early college into adulthood. And of course it’s perfect for those interested in “fairy stories” or re-tellings. The only niggle I had is that while reading I noticed a difference in the writing style from one section to another. For me it was page turning in areas while in other parts reading it was a slight struggle.
However there is no denying the book has an incredible premise and is jammed packed with amazing and creative details. I consider it a very worthy read, especially for readers interested in a non-fantastical primary setting since the story contains some historical details. While set mainly in the 1970’s the text travels from prohibition era through till the mid 1980’s, with a great bit where the Golden Gate Bridge had yet to be built. I liked that a lot, but my favorite part is the ending which culminates in the reason why there is less magic in the world today. I give this story a 3.5 stars. It has a fabulous setting and I enjoyed the read. It’s a perfect book for readers who enjoy “modern-ish” fantasy containing “those people”.(less)
I tried four times to get into this story but this romantic paranormal novel was not something I connected with. The writing is good but for me there...moreI tried four times to get into this story but this romantic paranormal novel was not something I connected with. The writing is good but for me there was no anchor in the story for the setting, or characters - so I felt lost.
However - I know many readers will enjoy it. I would say it has an unusual "stream of consciousness" style.
For those interested it is currently available at B&N for the Nook at .99 cents, and still may be available on Net Galley for review. The second in this series is soon to be or has recently been released.
A well written, intelligent paranormal novel with a very sexy thread. All set within a modern world, incl...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A well written, intelligent paranormal novel with a very sexy thread. All set within a modern world, including a special kind of “werewolf” - a changeling.
About: When Zoey moves to the Canadian countryside to escape city life she is hoping to find peace and healing. As a reporter with a gift of psychic insight she was devastated at not being able to help the victims of the tragedies that she wrote about. However, the change she sought with this move to a small town turned out to have a bit more excitement than she planned.
As the story opens she inadvertently meets handsome and down to earth local veterinarian Connor McLeod, as he rescues her during an ice storm. She is precariously fighting off the attack of a very BIG wolf. Stranded on top of her funky truck, in her attempt to survive she is bitten; a sentence which could lead to a “change” at the next full moon - but not if Connor can help it.
Thoughts: I’m not a big romance reader; I am however exploring speculative fiction. So in an attempt to explore all bases including paranormal romance, I chose Changeling Moon. I am glad since I enjoyed it. Quite a lot actually. It’s a story that is not all “love, fluff, and dreamy stuff” – what I generally don’t like about some romance. There are some intense and horrific scenes, with light cursing and more than a few very sexy scenes – which I would define as erotic. So readers that are looking for a “clean read” should be aware, but in contrast and for my tastes its swearing and gore were not blatant, misplaced or overdone. The sex was interesting and creative versus silly, boring, or just plain hilarious – a big plus; as the latter is another peeve of mine.
The story has an interesting paranormal creature – the changeling; which according to the story are like werewolves. However, they are not constrained to having to turn “animal” at every full moon. They can change at will while still retaining their mental and human clarity, allowing them control in contrast to the classic werewolf. It’s an interesting combination which I am unfamiliar with as I have read very little about werewolves in the past.
Author Dani Harper is a reporter turned novelist, which is perhaps why her main character Zoey feel very realistic. This experience also adds clarity and truism to the book around the reporting done in the novel - which gives the story a bit of needed depth. It is clear that Changeling Moon has benefited from the author’s writing experience.
I can’t say one thing bad about this novel. It was great for an escape; in a genre where one can be assured that there will be a happy ending and which readers expect. The next in the series is now sitting on my nightstand for a needed break from some of the “heavier” novels I have recently read and will be reading soon. At 4 stars – it is an intelligent and entertaining story, recommend for anyone wanting a romantic, thrilling and sexy read.(less)
A concise, easy to read guide for any one who is considering facial plastic surgery and procedures that go...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A concise, easy to read guide for any one who is considering facial plastic surgery and procedures that go beyond a monthly facial. If you are considering it, this is a helpful place to start.
Definitely not a normal read for me in recent years – I have been mired in fiction (mostly speculative). I decided to take a look at Fabulous Faces because I am an Aesthetician (a professional skin care practitioner – facials, waxing, makeup artistry) which makes me naturally interested in medical procedures and other efforts to look one’s best.
In years past, and within my skin care practices, I would come into contact with many people who would ask me questions about advanced skin resurfacing procedures and fillers and plastic surgery. I have also had the experiences of seeing many clients through their process– getting the real life before and after both visually and verbally. Most have been extremely happy with the results of their decisions. It is an exciting and scary choice, one which most people do not take lightly, so they are often looking for further information from a trusted source. This book is an example of one such example as it is written by an M.D. who specializes in facial, head, and neck plastic surgery.
The format for this accessible book includes short easy to digest chapters. It is concise, well organized, and informative, with real life questions around the feelings of people considering or wanting facial plastic surgery, as well as personal stories from men and women during their processes. The text moves from wondering, to researching options, the inevitable emotional examination, the procedure itself and, most importantly, the results. Dr. Adamson also includes a section on advance skin procedures - like deeper peels using lasers, CO2, and medical grade acids; as well as fillers and Botox.
I recommend it to anyone who is considering facial plastic surgery as a place to begin. It will help one to feel informed when speaking to a surgeon about the available options that he/she may be discussing with you. Most importantly, you’ll know more about what you can expect throughout the process, and then of course the possible results. 4 stars for this great little book written for the layman wanting to know more about facial plastic surgery and related procedures.
Peter A. Adamson M.D. is a plastic surgeon and Otolaryngologist (face, head, and neck specialist).
I have received this book via the publicist in exchange for my honest opinion, which is offered here. (less)
An incredible collection of short stories, novelettes, one novella, poetry and more -r...moreOriginal and a more complete review posted at Layers of Thought.
An incredible collection of short stories, novelettes, one novella, poetry and more -representing the best in the science fiction and fantasy field published in 2009. All chosen by peers from the SFWA –Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
In summary: I enjoyed every story in this great anthology, one of which is the best short stories I have ever read. Yep, it was that good. Subjective star ratings are shown for each individual work. I encourage you to read these yourself as they are an exciting bunch for anyone interested in SFF (and horror since there are many threads within this selection). Overall, I give this book a rare 5 stars.
Short Stories ~ (under 7,500 words):
“Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” by Saladin Ahmed ~ An exotic story set in old Iran where a Sultan’s physician is sent into a dusty rural area as punishment because of his directness (he confronted the king, opposing the marriage of his lover to an old rich man.) During his exile he is called to cure a hermit’s wife, who has a startling affliction. Purported to be a witch, she is in fact more. With descriptive language and light insight into some of daily practices from Muslim culture, I re-told this great tale to John over Persian food the subsequent evening. Delicious and entertaining at 4.5 stars.I remember the future2
“I Remember the Future” by Michael A. Burstein ~ An aging and dying science fiction author deals with the anger and angst from his daughter from his slights and perceived neglect toward her over the years. As he descends into a happy madness, there was a tear inducing ending. 5 stars.
Non-Zero Probabilities” by N. K. Jemisin ~ A down to earth and intelligent story, that is a “walk around” New York. It has a creative, fantastical, and magical link into a probability of sorts. It made me giggle and blush too. 4 stars.
“Going Deep” by James Patrick Kelly ~ A science fiction story whose main character is a tween girl. Living on a dying space center this girl’s genetic heritage is determined as – “space traveler”. The last in this “retired” collection, it is a relatable tale which accesses the psyche of the main character in an amazing way. A terrific story, which I want to read more of. It’s a 4.5 stars in my opinion.
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh ~ Horror, science fiction, and humor mesh in this story, where attractive dead women are frozen for reanimation and can be revived for dating and marriage purposes. Darkly hilarious and an incredible idea, this tale gave me “giggle tears”. I laughed till I cried at 4.5 stars.
Winner: “Spar” by Kij Johnson ~ A dark, horrific, and erotic science fiction short that includes an amorphous non-human alien. Not for the faint of heart or stomach. This story deserves 4 stars.
SFWA Author Emeritus – Neal Barrett, Jr. ~ “Getting Dark” ~ A southern story of sorts where the female narrator is haunting or being haunted - perhaps both? This is surreal and earthy, with a dark and sexual thread told in an authentic female voice. I give it 4 stars.
Novelette ~ (over 7,500 and under 17,500 words):
“The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi ~ Set in the future, a Laos refugee escapes his deteriorating country for the US only to find that his idealism does not work here - within the ever increasing thrill and monetary seeking society that the US has become. With an environmental thread - apparently one of this author’s major themes; this is an incredible story with interesting and sensitive cultural insight. It’s definitely a 5 stars.
“Vinegar Peace” by Michael Bishop ~ An emotional and convoluted story about orphaned parents - designated as such and put to pasture when they loose their children in death. Set in the future it is difficult, full of angst, and has a hallucination-like feel to it as it is often a natural consequence from a severe loss. Its is a 4 stars in my opinion.
“I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said” by Richard Bowes ~ A dying man is brought into a hospital and falls into various dream like states around his life and the experiences of his friends; many ill like himself from Aids-related complications. I laughed, cried and just loved this incredible story. I’m now a serious fan; this is a 5 star from an incredibly sensitive and insightful author.
“Divining Light” by Ted Kosmatka ~ Every once in a while you read something that just “blows you away”. That is the case with this story – consequently it is my favorite from the collection. It goes beyond any of my expectation and includes elements from several of my preferred genre mixes - horror, science fiction and an encompassing “meaning of life” thread. In my opinion it’s an impossible 5.5 stars. a memory of wind
“A Memory of Wind” by Rachel Swirsky ~ Reviewed by me in another post - linked via the title. It is based upon Iphigenia and set in ancient Greece. I gave it 4 stars.
Winner: “ Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest: Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” By Eugie Foster ~ In this consciousness-bending story – described as a “dystopian” tale - identity is a key element. The individuals of this society are required to wear masks imbued with different drugs/hormones which change daily. There is an element of blending of genders so the story will be classified as GLBT; it also contains a horrific thread. I enjoyed this phantasmagorical story at 4 stars.
Damon Knight Grand Master - Joe Haldeman ~ “A !Tangled Web” ~ An excellent science fiction short which tells the tale of a business deal made between humans and aliens on a planet other than earth. The aliens have an interesting physiology and language, and a method of self-depreciation which is beyond western behaviors. Because of this it’s a darkly funny short with an intriguing alien, written by an author who is rightly honored as a Grand Master in the field. This is my first story by him at 4.5 stars.
Rhysling Awards (poetry):
“Song for an Ancient City” by Amal El-Mohtar ~ Is about a magical ancientthe women of nell gymme's city; a short and lovely poem.
“Search” and “Fireflies” by Geoffrey A. Landis ~ The first poem speaks of a hope in finding other life forms in the stars; the other compares fireflies and the stars.
I enjoyed all three at 4 stars each.
A bundle of highly recommended stories from this “cream of the crop” collection. This was a tough one to complete. How do you review an anthology such as this? I am thinking maybe I should start working on the 2010 winners and nominees since maybe I will be fortunate enough to receive next year’s copy of the Showcase. One can dream.(less)
A darkly hilarious, and almost unbelievable journalistic journey into how “madness” is defined, recognized, and treated within western culture and the mental heath industry.
In attempt to the question “what is it that defines madness?” Jon Ronson spent two years undertaking some intriguing travels and interviews and then carrying out further research. As he examines himself, journalism, the entertainment industry, psychiatry, pharmaceutical companies and more, he blends it all together with a reflective and self effacing style. On his travels he meets a psychologist who has created a check list that is used to define psychopathic individuals – hence the book’s title.
So what is a psychopath? (Also termed a sociopath or someone with anti-social personality disorder). And why a test? In his research Ronson finds that these are individuals who are lacking in common empathy and a moral sensibility. In other words they have no guilt. A psychopath’s very nature is often hard to recognize since they are charming, chameleon like, and blend well within the general population. They also prey upon unsuspecting people in order to satisfy their desires and perceived needs. Is there more of an excuse to define them? Ronson reports that it is believed that psychopaths account for as many as 25% of the prison population; by comparison, within the general population it is assumed or speculated that the respective figure is just 1%. He examines where these individuals are most likely to appear within the “free pollution”, including a theory that a much higher percentage of the world’s most powerful positions (CEOs, politicians, world leaders) are held by psychopaths. Not too hard to imagine.
Most interestingly the book contains some shocking evidence on just how far we have yet to progress in understanding what mental illness is and how best to treat it’s varying manifestations. Ronson includes some amazing situations - one in particular I would have believed could only exist in fiction (and maybe in his novel-turned-movie Men Who Stare at Goats). In this instance a prison psychiatrist, in an attempt to “cure” his psychopathic patients of their lack of empathy, grouped them together, isolated the group, and administered LSD for eleven day periods. The results were darkly hilarious and not at all shocking. Ronson does not stop there.
This is highly recommended for anyone interested in the mental health or medical field, journalistic writing, and those with a twisted sense of humor – and I score on all of those counts! Be forewarned that this book is not for the “faint of heart” or those wanting conclusive endings. I give this book a 4.5 stars. I completely enjoyed this informing, intelligent, and darkly funny read.(less)
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and fa...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and falls in love. And it has a great cover!
About: The main character, whose name is “R”, has little or no memories of who he was prior to his “death”. So a letter is all he uses as his name. He does know a few things about himself though - based upon the suit he wears he thinks that he must have been a professional. Better yet, he was probably good looking since his appearance is not “as bad” and he doesn’t smell “as much” as the other zombies he knows. Also he has a growing ability to communicate beyond the prerequisite grunt or moan, which continues to improve as he starts to ponder about who he is and his purpose in “life”.
To complicate things more, while out on a hunt with his zombie “buddies” he gets a taste of a young man’s brains which allows him to see and feel this victim’s (or should I say lunch’s) memories. In doing so he begins to share growing feelings for a feisty and pretty young woman who is his dead meal’s girlfriend. As he explores his growing love interest, the two share a common bond - a desire to look beyond their apocalyptic world. As they do so, inner turmoil and growth abound, all mixed with a lot of drama, some violence, understandable campiness, and light romance.
Thoughts: This novel borders ever so slightly on the literary side, with its interesting and almost too lengthy existential processes – all around R’s personal growth, meanderings, reflections and angst. It is not your usual horror book since it is only mildly scary and delves into the emotional changes of a zombie beginning to remember that he was once a man.
Recommended for readers desiring a “lighter” zombie story, who enjoy some reflection mixed with romance; also for those in need of some farcical fun. It has an unbelievable ending which is also redemptive. I liked this story at 3 stars. (less)
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which ver...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which verges on the paranormal.
About: Arriving at his most recent boy’s school, the story’s narrator is among a number of “marginal” young adults living at the facility, perhaps with behavior problems or mental health issues – quintessential “lost boys”. The school appears to be their last resort before incarceration or asylums.
The story has a murky and gothic feeling – being set in an icy wintery season, containing dysfunctional adult characters, and taking place within decrepit halls and dusty corridors. Amazingly the story teller is never named. Lost in the system and within himself, our narrator tells his tale via cryptic journal entries, through which we see that he is “damaged” as he enters yet another broken educational facility.
Enter Willy, a charismatic, intelligent and contrastingly wealthy roommate to our story teller. He sees through the façade of the school and its teachers, and assists the boys to understand they are of value – especially our unnamed character. But this comes at a price, and as the story progresses the reader can only guess what is really going on.
My Thoughts: Through the narrator’s journaling, appropriate for a young person’s developing writing skills, the reader is led on a dark roller-coaster ride with only small glints of hopefulness. We see a lack of self worth, dark teacher student conflict, and a crooked system where the needs of the lost and disabled are not met by teachers/administrators. This is contrasted with emerging feelings of self discovery, including youthful romantic angst, and some normal coming of age fun and games.
Robert Dunbar’s grasp of the human experience is heart-piercing and he clearly understands these lost souls. Here, Willy is speaking to our main character:
“You don’t know what you are. You’re lost in yourself and you can’t always be. Would be a tragedy. Yes? No? Don’t nod like that. You don’t understand. Are you even awake enough to hear? It would be a tragedy because you feel, and you can’t imagine how rare that is, not yet. But you could. Be strong. If you survive long enough.”
One thing I think may be difficult for some readers is accessing the narrator’s language – a key to the story. It is choppy with some stream of consciousness thought which gives it a dissociative feel. However, I loved it and was at the edge of my seat while reading the book. The author effectively uses this and a variety of techniques to create a combination of angst and chills
In summary Willy, with its bits of resolution and redemption, was hard to put down. I think that it will be enjoyable for many mainstream readers, especially those who enjoy coming of age stories, stories that border on paranormal, and those that leave the reader wondering how it will all work out. There is some light m/m romance and glbt intimacy with tasteful sexual allusions, and also some slightly strong language and gore. This novel is distinctly intelligent, emotionally insightful and alarming; the reader is left with only a reference, a wonder, and a delicious dark suspicion of what has actually occurred. This genre-blending story gets 4 stars in my opinion. I loved it!(less)
An intriguing book of very short literary stories with mostly horrific speculative twists. It has an unusual...moreOriginal review post on Layers of Thought.
An intriguing book of very short literary stories with mostly horrific speculative twists. It has an unusual insight and quirkiness with unique and thought-provoking stories, and some that will leave you with a smirk.
This is author Ben Loory’s first book of odd tales, yet he has published many in literary magazines over the past several years. His new collection feels like modern and bizarre fables - a book for those looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.
The stories range from downright silly and funny to completely strange, while others will make your heart ache and more than a few may prevent you from sleeping. The stories in the book contain themes ranging from talking octopi who live on land rather than water and live like humans, to monsters of various kinds and much more. Definitely an adult book with some mature themes and not recommended for youngsters; it’s a book for “kids at heart”.
I read the book in it’s ARC/ebook format, but I have seen the paperback copy at our local indie book store. It is small, thin and easy to handle or to carry with you. Perhaps pick it up and read when there is a extra few minutes to fill, maybe before bed, or any time where one is interested in a mind altering, or potentially guffaw inducing “quickie” – each story will only take a few minutes to read. I give this collection a 3.5 stars and just love the interesting cover with the orange tentacle, UFO and blue water back ground. (less)
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey v...moreOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey via internal biological internet connections into an intriguing online world.
Trouble is well known online as one of the best and most notorious “crackers”. She is a future version of a hacker, where cracking is breaking through IC(E) – the acronym for the complex security systems which simulate actual ice. Intriguingly, web users have connections to the web via “dollie ports” and “brain worms” giving a “virtual reality” experience to being online, where one smells color.
A story set in a dystopian US where things have gone environmentally sour, the beaches are so polluted that visiting them is toxic. Political factions have set in place laws which make “cracking” illegal and dangerous. As the stakes become higher, Trouble disappears in an effort to protect herself.
What brings her out of hiding is that someone is using her name. Not happy (neither are some significant powers that be), she emerges to set things right. As Trouble lives up to her name - she and her friends have an interesting and not entirely safe romp into an online and real-world futuristic adventure.
Trouble and Her Friends is cyberpunk. It is a subgenre which is characterized by a high tech dystopian environment with characters that are of marginal class standing. It is also said to have a “noir-ish” feel. Which are perfect descriptions for this science fiction novel.
Melissa Scott uses many intriguing science fiction concepts - for example the “dollie ports” and “brain worms” which actually hook the user up to the net through implants into the body. Beyond the nerdy bits she also has included romance (lgbt), virtual sex (nicely done), and the experience of traveling the net via internally hard wired brain connection with some excellent results.
I could not imagine a writer being able to tell you about a virtual web experience as it occurs in Trouble’s world. But she does – and very well at that. Scott uses a technique that toggles between real world and internet experiences, using italicized letters for the virtual world travels and normal text for the real world experience.
Despite the description, the book is very accessible and is actually a mystery thriller set in a darker future time. There are strong female characters (another favorite element) and it has some realistic science (another one too). I will be looking at this author and this subgenre more. This is an impressive novel with a redemptive ending. I give it 4 stars.(less)