Entries Tagged as 'books & writing'

books & writing

Added to my e-bookshelf … Tesseracts Eighteen: Wrestling With Gods

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Don’t let the title of Wrestling with Gods, a collection of short stories and poems assemble by Liana Kerzner and Jerome Stueart, fool you. It DOES provide an overlying theme for this latest installment of the Tesseracts series … but it provides only a hint of what the reader will find inside. [Read more →]

books & writing

Added to my e-bookshelf … Railroad Rising: The Black Powder Rebellion

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I am told J.P. Wagner covered a lot of ground and a lot of topics in the course of his career as a journalist. Having ‘been there, done that’ myself, I suspect it left him with an appreciation for a broad range of interests.

That certainly appears to be the case in his first published novel, Railroad Rising: The Black Powder Rebellion. Fantasy, action and adventure, swords and sorcery? Check, check, check. Steampunk, royal court intrigue, love story? Check them all off as well. [Read more →]

books & writingrace & culture

Added to my e-bookshelf … Living History: On the Front Lines for Israel and the Jews

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WARNING: Reading Phyllis Chesler’s book “Living History: On the Front Lines for Israel and the Jews” may be hazardous to your sense of well-being. It could lead to increased levels of skepticism. This, in turn could lead to a variety of side-effects … a willingness on your part to question what we are told about the world around us, to make an extra effort to gain more information. You may even find yourself rejecting what ‘everybody knows and believes,’ in favor of a view that is more complicated, more detailed … and perhaps more truthful. [Read more →]

books & writing

Added to my e-bookshelf … “Dominions”

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Like many other Library Thing contributors, I found myself diving into Dominions, Volume 2 of the “Bladesmith” series without first having read Volume 1. In my case, that did not pose any problems with my enjoying this book … though it HAS left me wanting to go back and read Volume 1, as well as other books by James Hetley/Burton. [Read more →]

books & writing

Added to my e-bookshelf … “Downtime”

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In her book “Downtime,” Cynthia Fleece offers us a love story and a science fiction story … maybe it’s the guy in me, but I wish there could have been a little more ‘science’ in the story. [Read more →]

books & writing

(NOT) Added to my e-bookshelf … “The House of Fox”

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As I sit down to review S.J. Smith’s “The House of Fox,” I have in mind a line one hears in televised cooking competitions, where the judge has sampled a contestant’s offering and says something to the effect of ‘I admire your conception, but your execution left a lot to be desired.’

That’s exactly how I feel after finishing “The House of Fox.” [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingbooks & writing

Now that the NRA website includes a family section, with fairy tales rewritten to include firearms, top ten new NRA children’s books

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10. The Cat With The Gat

9. Duck Duck Goose…No Duck!!

8. Goodnight, Moon – Click, Click, BOOM!

7. Bazooka Joe

6. Charlie and the Munitions Factory

5. The Lion, the Witch, and the War Cannon

4. Where the Wild Things Were

3. Cloudy with a Chance of Shrapnel

2. One Fish Two Fish Dead Fish Stew Fish

1. The Wizard of Uzi
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

books & writing

Added to my e-bookshelf … “Wild Card Run”

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It’s been more than 75 years, now, since Harry Bates’ short story “Farewell to the Master” closed with the realization of who (or what) truly is ‘the master’ … bringing that story to a satisfying (or unsettling, or both, take your pick) conclusion, and setting readers off on a new path for thoughtful speculation.

Speculation over our control of technology – or its control of us – has fueled many contributions to the genre of science fiction over the years, and Sara Stamey’s “Wild Card Run” is a good addition to that tradition. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads The Undoing by Averil Dean

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The Undoing by Averil Dean begins with one drastic action and no explanation. Julian is alone and does something nearly unthinkable. The interesting thing, for the reader, is that it is entirely out of context – there is only the vaguest of hints about how we came to this point. Then we jump back a day, to see what brought Julian to the edge. Then we jump back 5 years, then 3 days before that, then a year before that. As we hopscotch through time, we begin to get a sense of the characters and events.

Celia, Rory, and Eric have been inseparable since childhood, growing up in the tiny Colorado town of Jawbone Ridge. Celia and Rory were raised as siblings (her father married his mother); Eric is Rory’s best friend and Celia’s sometime lover. They did not have easy childhoods – there were abusive parents, family secrets, desertion and death – but these three damaged people had a bond that helped them survive it all. They eventually follow Celia’s long-time dream of buying the abandoned Blackbird Hotel, planning to turn it into a B&B. Instead, the three old friends end up dead, shot to death in the hotel. Who was responsible and what pushed this relationship to the breaking point?

I love the way this story skips through time. I love the way that just when you think part of the story is becoming clearer, a new bit of backstory makes you rethink everything. There are so many threads to unravel! Dean does an excellent job of weaving the disjointed bits of backstory into an ending that completely changes the way you will view the first few pages. It kept me engaged; I read the book straight through, starting in a departure lounge at the Cleveland airport and and finally finishing over dinner at JFK.  There was no way I was going to put this one down – I needed to know how it ended! There’s not much greater praise for a novel.

My copy of The Undoing was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge by the good folks at MIRA Books.

undoing

books & writing

Lisa reads In Wilderness by Diane Thomas

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I am woefully behind on reading and reviews, but this is a great story to get me back on track. In Wilderness by Diane Thomas is a fascinating story told with a beautiful, poetic writing style. I was immediately drawn to the characters and the lyrical way the story is told made it a real pleasure to read.

It’s 1966 and Katherine Reid is dying – an unidentifiable, wasting illness that the doctors cannot put a name to and can do nothing to stop. Her life has been slowly disintegrating for the last four years, a series of tragedies, leaving her on her own with her failing health. She can’t keep food down. She is growing thinner and weaker, fading away, and the doctors can’t offer her any solutions.

One doctor tells her how, a hundred years ago, they would have told a patient like her to try a change of scenery, take a grand tour of Europe, live a little before the end. This gets her thinking. On impulse Katherine buys an isolated cabin in the North Carolina wilderness. She plans to hike in with a duffel bag full of food and warm clothes, the few things she will need in the weeks she has left. She chooses it as her place to die.

Instead, she begins to get well. She can keep food down, she’s getting stronger, and she is enjoying the quiet isolation of the forest. But when you’ve come to the wilderness to die…and then you don’t…what do you do next?

Danny is barely out of his teens and crippled with PTSD. After his discharge and a horrifying incident in California, he came to the wilderness to get away from people and his fear of what he might do. He watches Katherine as she works in the garden, as she walks to the privy, he sleeps by a chink in the cabin wall, where he can hear her breathing. When he finally storms into her life, it’s just a matter of time before he can’t keep his demons at bay.

Katherine’s story is compelling all on its own. I was amazed at her strength and thought about how satisfying it must be to choose the way you will go out; so few of us are able to do that. Danny scared me from the moment he appeared on the page. The stalking was terrifying, even moreso since Katherine doesn’t even know she’s being stalked. Their meeting was inevitable and I found myself holding my breath, waiting for the clash that had to be coming.

In Wilderness is an intriguing story and a pleasure to read. My copy was provided free of charge through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program.

wilderness

books & writing

Lisa reads Baggage by S.G. Redling

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This was a great airport book – totally took my mind off delays, screaming kids, annoying airport tv, etc. Instead, while I was reading Baggage by S.G. Redling, I could spend my time yelling (just inside my head) at Anna, who really hates February:

Over the years, terrible things keep happening to Anna Ray on February 17. First, there was the childhood trauma she’s never been able to speak about. Then, to her horror, her husband killed himself on that date.

Well, maybe this year will be different. Anna has moved to West Virginia and taken up a new job at Eastern Allegheny College. She spends her days counseling art majors – helping them with their schedules and their career goals, getting them into internships and art competitions – with her bubbly boss, Meredith. Her cousin, Jeannie, has come to town to help her make it past this anniversary. Jeannie was her savior and her rock growing up, one person she could count on in the mayhem of her childhood, and she is determined to take care of Anna. They hit the town and drown their sorrows and memories of bad Februaries past, but it doesn’t help. Anna heads off to work in the morning to find one more reason to hate the winter months: there has been a murder on campus…and Anna may be a suspect.

Anna is so pitiful that it’s hard to hate on her. Her life is a mess. She drinks way too much. She lives in a shitty apartment and she’s a pretty lousy housekeeper. It’s clear that she has never really dealt with the mess in her childhood. But you have to cut her some slack – it’s been less than a year since her husband committed suicide and anyone would have difficulty coping. Anna’s solution to every problem is more wine; she buys 6 bottles at a time to save trips. She loves her work and the students she helps, she likes the faculty members she works with, but now one of them may be a killer.

This is a good little mystery. It’s easy to connect with Anna and feel for her tragic story. There are plenty of twists and turns — Jeannie has a history at the college; Karrmen, one of Anna’s students, is in a really rough place; there may be an unrequited love interest to deal with — and some of them were not what I expected. Jeannie and Anna have a very realistic relationship. Any two people who have been so wrapped up in each other’s lives will know what buttons to push; everything will not be sweetness and light. And while I kept wanting to smack Anna around, sober her up and drive her to a psychiatrist, I also wanted to hug her and make her a home-cooked meal. The details of her past, which come out in bits and pieces, are pretty tragic.

This was a very quick read and a great choice for mystery lovers – read it while it’s still February!. My copy of Baggage was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge. For more on the author, check out her Facebook page.

baggage

books & writing

Lisa reads Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

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I’m coming to this series a little late, I’m afraid. I read Sandman Slim by Author and immediately thought of half a dozen people that I just knew would love it. Problem is, most of them have already read it! But if you aren’t familiar with this series, about a magician/hitman returned from Hell to seek vengeance on the folks who sent him there, it’s not too late! We can get caught up together.

Sandman Slim is a little like another series I started recently – Hounded by Author. Both deal with the hidden world, the people and powers that most of us do not see and are not aware of. Jack Stark – known in Hell as Sandman Slim – is a magician, someone with natural magical ability, which lets him see and manipulate this hidden world.

Sub Rosas are the secret people who look just like you, but are different. They bank where you bank. They stand behind you in line at the coffee shop. They panhandle you for the money you suddently and inexplicably have to drop into their grimy hands. Some of us also talk to the dead. Some see the future, some trade souls like baseball cards, or bribe angels for a peek at God’s to-do list. Mostly, Sub Rosas are the people that regular people aren’t supposed to know about. It’s not that we don’t like you; it’s that you have a habit of burning us at the stake when you notice us.

Slim’s magic circle – the group of magicians that he worked with – betrayed him. They sent him to Hell, making him the only living man there, owned by Azazel, one of Lucifer’s generals, entertaining the minions by battling demons in Hell’s arena. But he killed his owner, stole an important artifact and escaped from Hell. Now he’s back in LA, looking for revenge on the people who sent him there.

Slim is a great character. He went to Hell when he was pretty young and spent 11 years there; in a lot of ways, he’s stuck at that age. He’s still an impulsive kid and it shows in the decisions he makes. But he is dead-set on revenge and the people he’s after are dangerous.

I’m trying very hard not to think about anything I’m doing. Of all the iffy things I’ve ever done in my life, I’ve never had to ditch a body before. While it’s giving me a migraine right now, I think the fact that I’m not an expert at corpse says a lot of good things about me and my life choices.

There are some great characters in this for Slim to play off and there are also some great plot twists. I love Kadrey’s descriptions – they are so much fun!

In eleven years, no one’s painted anything or cleaned the pool. There are things wiggling down in the stagnant backwash that I don’t even remember seeing in Hell. This is where David Lynch groupies go to lose their virginity.

I may have gotten to this series a little late, but I will be getting caught up quickly. For more on the series, check out Kadrey’s website. This copy of Sandman Slim came from my personal library.

sandman slim

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingliving poetry

Top ten favorite lines for a Valentine’s Day poem

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10. A sonnet mailed while we two are apart,

9. Just like the first one that I sent to you!

8. Professing all the Love within my heart,

7. And all my sadness you are out of view!

6. Not soon enough, we’ll finally reunite:

5. A blaze of glory as we become One!

4. With Heaven’s guidance, we will see the Light!

3. And gaze into a face just like the sun!

2. Some things must be believed before they’re seen,

1. As I believe in you, Beloved Maureen!
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingbooks & writing

Top ten worst selling children’s books

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10. Where the Wild Things Aren’t

9. The Sated Caterpillar

8. White and Yellow Eggs and Ham

7. The Cat in the Fur

6. The Little Engine that Couldn’t

5. Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

4. Alice’s Adventures in Bayonne

3. There’s Waldo

2. Alexander and the Average, Tolerable, Fairly Good, Not So Bad Day

1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Commerce
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

art & entertainmentbooks & writing

Life after publication: Joshua V. Scher on the days after your debut novel

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(Disclaimer: I have known Joshua nearly two decades and like him and his work enough for us to collaborate regularly, so if ye seek impartiality, look elsewhere. Let’s begin.)

When Joshua Scher has the New York launch of his first novel Here & There at Brooklyn’s POWERHOUSE Arena this Wednesday November 18 at 7pm, it will have taken over two years… since he finished the initial draft: “So much time that I actually had to go back and examine the ‘dates modified’ log to figure it out.” During that period, he went through “the finding the agent thing”, the “rewriting the book based on my agent’s edits” phase, the “finding a publisher” stage, the “going through the publisher’s round of edits” chapter, and the “copy edits” episode, with everything culminating in the “all the prep work for going to market” stretch.

Now that it’s finally unleashed on the world, how is it?

“When I opened up the box full of the first advance copies… I couldn’t stop smiling. For days. DAYS.” [Read more →]

books & writing

Added to my bookshelf … “Legacy: An Anthology”

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“What’s in a word,” an English teacher once asked me as I sought just the right expression for the thoughts I wished to convey in a composition assignment. The editors of “Legacy: An Anthology” have assembled an insightful, absorbing – and entertaining! – answer to that question.
[Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson

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“On a seemingly normal morning in London, a group of people wake to find something important to them missing, something dear but peculiar: the front of their house, their piano keys, their sense of direction, their place of work.”

Can you imagine? You get up, shower, dress, have some coffee and head to the office. When you get there, the building is gone. Not demolished, not boarded up with a For Sale sign, just vanished, as if it was never there. What would you do? I would assume that I had gone insane. Who would you ask? You couldn’t very well start stopping people and saying, “Are you from the neighborhood? Didn’t there used to be a building there?” Would you call your colleagues? Sure, but – and I would be worried about this – what if they don’t answer? What if the phone number that has always worked for the office goes to some other company? Possibly even worse: what if they DO answer? What if they say they are in the building that isn’t there? What if they don’t know who you are?

Janina Matthewson doesn’t answer all of these questions in Of Things Gone Astrayshe’s more concerned with the impact it has on Robert and his family when his business – his job and office and colleagues – are all suddenly gone. The characters in this book have all lost something very important to them, and it impacts them in unexpected ways.

The story is told round-robin style, with short chapters, many less than a page long. Each chapter is from the point of view of a single character, and they tell the story in a roundabout way.

Each character has lost something, but not in the usual way we think of it. One character has lost her sense of direction; one morning, she starts to walk to the corner store and she ends up wandering for hours, hopelessly lost in the neighborhood where she has lived all her life. Mrs. Featherby has lost the front of her house. She wakes up one morning and the entire front wall is gone, with her home exposed to the street and the open air.

Over the chapters, we come to understand what these things mean to the characters. Mrs. Featherby is a very private person, very proper and dignified, and being observed from the street, having people stop and look at her house and even speak to her – it’s horrifying. Delia begins to realize that she hasn’t just lost her sense of direction on the streets, she’s lost it in her life. She’s lost her drive and her life has become kind of aimless. She meets Anthony, a widower who is losing touch with his son, Jake. They now don’t even see each other when they are in the same house – literally, it is as if they are invisible to each other. It’s an extreme sort of estrangement, as they both deal with their grief over the loss of Jake’s mother.

The stories are interesting in a tangled way. They overlap, with characters meeting each other. Some resolve themselves, but others don’t wrap up neatly. Some of them are heartbreaking (the flight attendant stopped to ask me about the book because I was crying on the flight). A rather amazing first novel.

My copy of Of Things Gone Astray was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

of things gone astray

 

books & writing

Lisa reads <A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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This was an odd one. I knew it would be odd as I sat trying to sort out the cover of the novel, a photo of a hallway turned sideways; it’s a great way to set the tone for the rest of the book. A Head Full of Ghostsby Paul Tremblay is the story of the Barrett family – Mom, Dad, and two daughters, Marjorie and Meredith. They were the subject of an early reality TV show, one that ended tragically; now, years later, Meredith is finally telling her story to an author for a memoir. Interspersed with her conversations with her ghostwriter are excerpts from a blog that recounts the TV episodes in great detail.

The Barretts were sadly typical. John Barrett lost his job at a local factory. Sarah Barrett was trying to keep the family afloat on bank teller salary. The girls appear oblivious, until fourteen year old Marjorie begins showing signs of schizophrenia. The doctors they consult are unable to help. Her sister, Merry, is terrified – Marjorie has stopped being her constant friend, her story-teller, her idol, and become someone entirely new and very frightening.

I told her to get out, to leave my room, to go away.

Skeleton-white hands came out from under the blanket and wrapped around her neck. They pulled the blanket down over her face, skin tight, and the blanket formed a shroud with dark valleys for eyes and mouth, her nose flattened against the unyielding cloth. Her mouth moved and choking growls came out. Those hands squeezed so the blanket pulled tighter and she shook her head, thrashed it around violently, and she gasped and pleaded with someone to stop or maybe she said she was trying to stop. Her hands were still closed around her own neck, and I’m sure it was some sort of optical illusion or a trick or kink of memory because her neck couldn’t have gotten as thin as I remember it getting…

Scary stuff for an eight year old. Is Marjorie going crazy? Or is it something more disturbing?

Eventually, John Barrett turns to his priest for help and advice. He is the only member of the family that is religious (his wife is openly scornful) and he and the priest decide that this might very well be a case of demonic possession. And somehow, the decision is made to turn the family’s struggles and Marjorie’s exorcism into a reality TV show, although Merry was too young to know the details. The show will certainly help the family’s financial problems. Sarah is clearly uncertain about turning the whole thing into a spectacle, but John convinces her. I can’t imagine that it was what any mother would have wanted for her family.

More sad for me than Marjorie’s illness was Merry’s friendship with Ken, one of the show’s writers. She seems so desperate for attention, so lost in the drama of her sister’s illness and the way her family is crumbling around her. The idea that she has latched on to this man who is part of a team of people who are profiting from her family’s horrible situation was just heartbreaking.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the ending – a nice way to finish a mystery. You know it’s going to be bad, everything is leading up to a terrible conclusion, but you’re not sure what kind of bad it will be. Will Marjorie turn out to be faking it all, exposed on national TV, leaving the family the laughingstock of their small town? Is that worse than finding out she’s possessed by demons or that their house is haunted? Or is something else stirring in that house? Could one of these girls be an evil genius? Marjorie seems lucid much of the time, and seems to be plotting something with Meredith, but is that the demon talking?  Right up to the end, even after you know how Marjorie’s story ended, there are hints that maybe, just maybe, there is more to the story. I love that – I want a book to keep me guessing, to let me sort out alternative endings on my own.

My copy of A Head Full of Ghosts was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

ghosts

 

books & writing

Added to my bookshelf … “The Purple Heart Detective Agency”

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Chapter 1 of “The Purple Heart Detective Agency” opens with many of the trademarks of a classic Dashiell Hammett whodunit … it’s a sun-drenched day on the streets of L.A. and hard-boiled detective Clayton Grace is sitting across the desk from a beautiful dame who is offering him what appears to be a simple and straightforward ‘missing person’ case.

Fans of detective fiction will know, of course, that there’s bound to be much more to the case … you know there will be a colorful and entertaining array of supporting characters popping-up in the chapters that follow … and there will be speculation that the dame may be offering Grace more than a retainer at some point.
[Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Disclaimer by Renee Knight

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“Any resemblance to persons living or dead…” The disclaimer has a neat red line through it. A message she failed to notice when she opened the book.

Sometimes a novel really speaks to you – really seems to hit home. You can see yourself and your struggle in those pages. But what if it really was you? What if someone got wind of your deepest, darkest secret and decided to tell the world…in the pages of a “novel”? That’s the situation facing Catherine Ravenscroft in Disclaimer, a thriller by Renée Knight.

Catherine is a documentary filmmaker. She and her husband have recently emptied their nest, moving their somewhat trouble son, Nicholas, into his own apartment. They’ve moved to a new, smaller home, and as they are getting their belongings sorted out and put away, she finds the book on a table and from that point, her life begins to fall apart.

E. J. Preston, the author of this mysterious book, has somehow learned Catherine’s deepest secret, a secret that is slowly revealed to us over the chapters. It involves her son, that much we know from the beginning. We know that something happened and we know that Catherine didn’t tell her husband at the time. Preston has put his own spin on the events, told the story from a different point of view, made it into something that horrifies Catherine and would devastate her family.

We meet Preston early on and learn about his family. We learn about how he comes upon this story, and why he decides to tell it in this way. He has never met Catherine, but he believes that she is responsible for one of the great tragedies in his life and this is how he has chosen to take his revenge.

There were a couple of things I really liked about this novel. First is the idea that someone could put our deepest secret out there for everyone to see. That you could pick up a novel or open a website and there you are, exposed and humiliated. In this age of self-publishing, a story like this is completely probable and completely terrifying.

I also appreciate the skillful way the secret is revealed. I have to say that what I originally thought was way off. You think you know where it’s going, you think you know what side you’re on, but you’re probably wrong. The secret was not what I expected, and the way each piece of the puzzle comes to light made for a great story.

My copy of Disclaimer is an Advance Reader Copy, provided by the good folks at Harper Collins. It is scheduled for release on May 19th.

disclaimer

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