Book reviews are on sabbatical…

There’s been a lull in my “Book in a Minute” reviews on the blog page. I switched libraries, then I had a shoulder injury, then I left the new library, then I tore up my knee and spent a couple of months catching up on Netflix. Now I’ve become a vice-president in charge of marketing and communications in my husband’s new engineering consulting firm. Because apparently there wasn’t enough chaos in my life.

Now things seem to be getting back on their usual rickety tracks and I’m finding more time to write (and think) about books again. Expect some new reviews soon and possibly even some news about some new writing from me in 2019–although possibly not under this pen name. Details when I’m able to share more with you!

As always, check out my Facebook page for news too.

 

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Nathan’s Back!

nathanasnathanOf course, in my heart, he never really went away. Despite that miserable final season of Castle,  I know he’d land on his feet. And of course he has.

For a number of years, the main reason people seemed to visit this site (other than book reviews and shameless self-promotion of my own books, of course) was to contemplate the magic that is Nathan Fillion. Don’t believe me? I have the stats to prove it. For a while, it seemed like Nathan should be paying me his publicist’s fee. But then I got busy with career stuff and kid stuff and marriage stuff and library stuff and kind of neglected Nathan for a while.

Today, I intend to start rectifying that mistake!

So here’s Nathan in a short fan film, I think it first popped up at San Diego Comic Con this month.  It’s Nathan as Nathan. Nathan Drake, that is. Apparently, Nathan Drake is a video game version of Indiana Jones. So maybe a male Lara Croft?

Who cares, it’s Nathan-licious and that’s what counts, right? More Nathan news to come, fellow Fillion fans…

Book in a Minute: Jane Eyre’s Sisters

I know, I know. It’s been a minute. What can I say? New job for me, husband who’s starting up his own new business, shoulder injury, moving — you name it, I’ve got the excuse. I can’t promise a lot more reviews in the future, but this was a fascinating book, so I thought it’d be worth taking a minute to break my long silence!

Jane Eyre's Sisters: How Women Live and Write the Heroine's StoryJane Eyre’s Sisters: How Women Live and Write the Heroine’s Story by Jody Gentian Bower

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A little slow and ponderous in places–kind of reads like it might have begun life as a doctoral thesis. But what an excellent, under-discussed topic!

As a writer, I’ve sat through countless workshops that try to stuff women’s lives into the “hero’s journey” format laid out by Joseph Campbell. The format was picked up by Hollywood script doctor Christopher Vogler and is widely touted as the only story worth telling.

Personally, I’m not entirely sure I buy the theory that all great stories must fit Campbell’s hero’s journey in the first place. I definitely don’t believe that all great stories about women fit that mold. So Jane Eyre’s Sisters by Jody Bower was a welcome discovery. I’m not sure I agree with all her conclusions, either, but I’m just thrilled that SOMEONE finally decided to analyze the great works of literature that resonate more with women than with men!

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Book in a Minute: I Remember You

I Remember YouI Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disappointing! I was sold by the fact that the super-talented Simone St. James, a worthy successor to Daphne Du Maurier, wrote a rave review of this book. And many others have also loved it and found it super-scary. But for me it was utterly meh.

Three frenemies in dire financial straits have bought an old house on a remote island with plans to turn it into a bed & breakfast for outdoorsy, nature-loving tourists. They decide to go to the island in the depths of winter to do their renovations so they can start raking in the cash from tourists as soon as the weather breaks. Yeah, nothing wrong with that idea as anyone who reads suspense can tell you. Of course things start going creepily wrong right off the bat. There’s the charter boat captain who drops them off and warns them they’ll be totally alone on the island and he may not be able to get back to rescue them right away if the weather turns. There’s the word GOOD-BYE spelled out in seashells on the floor of the cottage. There’s that other person they keep glimpsing from a distance but can never meet. At least, maybe it’s a person…

If it were just a tightly written short story or novella about this trio and their adventures, I think I’d have been all in on this story and loved it. But there’s a parallel story about a doctor whose son has been missing for three years. I found that plot excruciatingly slow-moving and hard to believe. (view spoiler)

Lastly, there was the translation. At least, I hope it was a bad translation. Because the language was so clunky and reportorial, not at all visual and evocative, which to me is what a ghost story needs.

I listed this in my “Did not finish” shelf because I pretty much skimmed my way through the last ten chapters. I did my best in honor of Ms. St. James, but next time she recommends a read, I think I’ll just re-read one of her own books instead!

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Book in a Minute: Catching Dreams

Catching DreamsCatching Dreams by Karin Celestine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How are there not tons of reviews of this sweet little book?!

This is an adorable and very quick read. Part of a delightfully illustrated series about a little animal family featuring Baby Weasus, a baby weasel adopted on Christmas Eve by King Norty, King of the Weasels. And featuring their equally adorable friends, Panda, Emily and Small.

In Catching Dreams, Baby Weasus has a bad dream. King Norty gives him a dreamcatcher, and later, Weasus wants to return the favor, so Emily teaches him how to make one of his own. Each book in the series features a simple craft like this, with instructions on how to make the item.

We shelve these books in our children’s picture book section at the library where I work, but they would make excellent gifts for older kids too. And fun little party favors, even for grown-up occasions like baby showers.

I love these books and am on a quest to tell the rest of the world about them!

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Book in a Minute – Library Edition: The Clairvoyants

The ClairvoyantsThe Clairvoyants by Karen Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Karen Brown won acclaim for her debut The Longings of Wayward Girls, a suspenseful novel about two missing girls. Although her new book, The Clairvoyants, is also billed as psychological suspense, it’s really more accurate to describe it as a coming-of-age story with dark, supernatural overtones.

Martha and her sister Del grow up on a farm in Connecticut. When Martha is only 7 years old, she has a vision of her great aunt. Unfortunately, her great aunt has already been dead for many years when they “meet.” As a child, Martha is only mildly disconcerted by the event. It seems to be an isolated, intriguing fluke. But in her late teens, a harrowing incident triggers her strange gift again. She begins experiencing more visions of the dead — most not as pleasant as her great aunt.

Hoping to leave the dead behind, Martha flees to college in Ithaca. There she finds romance with a brooding photographer named William. But her idyll is disrupted when the past comes calling in the form of her impulsive sister Del. Just as Martha tries to reconcile herself to being her unstable sister’s caretaker, a fellow student on campus vanishes. Martha’s visions return with a vengeance.

Although the missing girl is pivotal to the plot of The Clairvoyants, Brown’s story is too leisurely paced to feel like suspense. Her focus is less on finding the missing girl and more on understanding Martha’s unwillingness to use her “gift.” Indeed, Martha’s reluctance to get involved in the case becomes a symbol for her reluctance to take charge of her own life.

Readers who enjoy women’s fiction with a dash of magical realism, such as Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic and Sarah Addison Allen’s The Peach Keeper should enjoy The Clairvoyants. Like these authors, Brown uses the suspense genre to explore the rivalries that shape women and their relationships with one another.

This review originally appeared at “Between the Covers,” the book review blog for the Baltimore County Public Library. For more great reading ideas, check out all the reviews there.

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Going Political

Image of airport protests over the weekend from Reuters
Image of airport protests over the weekend from Reuters

Yep, going political on the blog today. So if you think that might bug you, move along…

An open letter to my pro-Trump friends (and yes, I do have several) who have said, “This isn’t a ban on all Muslims. It’s only a ban on the seven countries that pose the greatest threat.”

You are partially correct. It’s not a ban on all Muslims.

However, it also does not ban immigrants from those countries which history shows us pose the greatest threat to the United States with regard to domestic terror attacks. The nations included in the ban are as follows:

Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Where is Saudia Arabia, home of most of the 9-11 hijackers? What about Pakistan, birthplace of at least one of the San Bernardino shooters? How about Kyrgyzstan & Russia. birthplace and previous home of the Boston Marathon bombers?

Nope. None of them are on the list.

So you are indeed correct, it is NOT a ban on all Muslims.

However, this ill-thought-out, sloppily executed order has banned many already thoroughly vetted refugees from coming into this country. Many of them are coming from places like Syria, countries we have frankly helped to destabilize with our many years of half-hearted war in that region, our short-sighted diplomatic policies there, and our apparent complete lack of understanding regarding the various sects of Islam in that part of the world and how they do (or more often, don’t) fit together. 

Basically, we helped break a number of these countries. Surely the least we can do is to help clean up the mess by allowing those desperate to escape to come here and live with us.

You may say, “Well, my president isn’t the one that created their mess.” But yes, he was. The previous president was your president, whether you like it or not. Just as, although the majority of voters in this country did not actually vote for Donald Trump, Mr. Trump is in fact their president now. Either every U.S. President is the president for all of us, the spokesman for all of us, the man we employ to implement our will; or he has no authority at all and this great experiment in democracy is at its end.

If, as I believe, each president is the president for all of us, then each president carries the burden of all his predecessors. That’s essentially the definition of the job: volunteering to come in and clean up the mess you think the previous guy made in the office.

Banning refugees who have already spent years having their credentials checked will not clean up that mess. Handcuffing Iraqi interpreters who worked with our soldiers won’t help clean up the mess. Separating a five-year-old child from his parents while checking his paperwork won’t clean up that mess. Sending a Cleveland Clinic doctor back to her homeland, where she had the nerve to go and visit family for a vacation – that will not clean up our mess in the Middle East. Detaining those who have Green Cards and other thorough documentation of their right to be here – that does nothing to clean up our mess in the Middle East.

In fact, nothing about this policy will clean up the mess made by the Obama, Bush or any other previous administration in the Middle East. It will merely add to the series of mistakes we’ve made in that region, mistakes which scream how little we understand the groups active there, the issues at play, and why the hell we are there in the first place. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world and gives a new recruiting tool to groups like ISIS.

Worst of all, this ban will do nothing to make any of us here in the United States safer.