Santa Paws

Book: Santa Paws

Author: Nicholas Edwards

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 1995

On a cold winter’s day, the week before Christmas, a young stray puppy brings a holiday miracle to the town of Oceanport. It starts with a young widow, who has lost all faith in humanity and needs someone, or something, to talk to. An older woman slips on the ice and breaks her hip, sure to have frozen to death had a strange little dog not sounded the alarm. Then there is the little boy who fell into a fountain, rescued by a four-legged hero. The town soon starts calling him Santa Paws, the hero dog, their Christmas miracle. What they don’t realize is that Santa Paws is hoping for a miracle of his own- a family and a place to call home.

Santa Paws is a cute, quick read, quite apropos for the upcoming holiday. It was fun to read, but it was definitely targeted to a younger reading audience, not only in content, but in structural level. Admittedly, I tend to read a lot of kid’s and young adult age books, but often times I do not find their writing style to be so age appropriate. This one, however, is definitely right around the 3rd-5th grade reading levels. As I said, aside from not being used to quite that writing style, it was a fun, cute, festive read, and had me wishing for a puppy of my own (never mind the fact that my apartment is questionably big enough for me, my roommate, and the cat….).

Overall, I give this book 3 ½ pages. It is not a must-read, but it is good, especially if you have or work with children. That being said, have a happy holiday season, peace and goodwill to all!

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Book Review – The Three Pigs by David Wiesner

Title: The Three Pigs

Author/Illustrator: David Wiesner

Format: Hardback

Written: 2001

Published: 2001

 

The Three Pigs is one of my favorite books of all time.  It is a simple children’s book that takes a rather unique twist to the classic story of the Three Little Pigs.  David Wiesner wrote and drew a fabulous story that will charm and enchant readers of all ages.  It is a very distinguished book having won a gold Caldecott medal in 2002.  Indeed the Caldecott is for the illustrations which are gorgeous and well placed in a book and though reading is many times focused on the words sometime the pictures in the book play an integral part of the story such as Manga which I am often fond of reviewing.

 

Still, David Wiesner takes his illustrations to levels beyond that of a manga and does intricate details, adding little things to help make the story come alive.  One of my favorite scenes from the book is when he masterfully uses the negative space on a page.  There is a portion of the book that has nothing more than a two page spread with one page being entirely white while the other has a very small illustration, it seems under whelming to describe but when in the middle of the story it captures the imagination and makes me love the book even more.

 

I was first introduced to this book in a children’s literacy course and fell in love with it from that point where I had to buy it as soon as I could and for a children’s picture book it ranged around fifteen dollars which was rather steep for a poor college student and in some ways is what I consider a bit pricy for a book, but when it comes to The Three Pigs it was worth every penny.

 

Not only is the book a joy and a pleasure to read and has enthralled me so it is also a joy to share and read aloud as the three pigs start off in the middle of the story we are oh so familiar with before escaping that story to discover a new world and meet new friends from various other tales such as the cat and the fiddle and a dragon.  I think my favorite part of the book aside from the portions where it is nothing more than picture pushing the story along is near the end when the words get messed up.  I won’t tell you how that came to be as it would ruin the end of the story and I always feel that a surprise at the end it half the fun of reading, but all the same it is fun to read half words and sentence which entertains young listeners to no end!  Over all I can’t give this story anything less than a five star rating and recommend this to anyone and everyone to read once through.  It really won’t take up much of your time to do so and really you never know you might find yourself just as tickled over it as I was!

Writer Wednesday – Kathryn Sullivan

I first met Kathryn at a convention a couple years ago, intrigued by her “Chicks Dig Time Lords” antho.  Since then we’ve run into each other in several places here and there, most recently inside the covers of Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells.  This is her.

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m Kathryn Sullivan. Hi!

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I write young adult fantasy and science fiction. I’ve been writing since I was young and had several short stories published before a publisher decided to take a chance on my books. I’m also owned by a large cockatoo.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
THE CRYSTAL THRONE and TALKING TO TREES are my young adult fantasy books with wizards, elves and talking horses. AGENTS AND ADEPTS is a collection of my short stories – some fantasy, some science fiction – and the talking horses snuck in there as well. I have a short story in CLOCKWORK SPELLS AND MAGICAL BELLS with elves and dwarves, and my children’s picture book, MICHAEL AND THE ELF, was just released by a different publisher.

I’m a big Doctor Who fan and I have a short story in a Doctor Who anthology by Big Finish, an essay in the Hugo-winning CHICKS DIG TIME LORDS and a review in OUTSIDE IN. More information can be found at my website: http://kathrynsullivan.com

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’ve been working on two projects. The first is a YA science fiction book set on a colony planet, and the second is a continuation of my galactic agents series from three short stories in AGENTS AND ADEPTS.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My family were big readers. There was a bookcase full of books in the bedroom my sister and I shared and my parents expected us to read if we got up early on Saturday. There were shelves of books in our basement – my brother’s collection of Hardy Boys, my sisters’ collection of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton and others, my mother’s set of the Oz books and my father’s big collection of science fiction and fantasy. I remember my mother reading the Oz books to my younger sister and I.

I also have fond memories of my public library, which when I was very small was inside the fire station.

What are your three favorite books?
Only three? My three favorite books from my past, the ones which influenced me, are Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS, James Schmitz’s AGENT OF VEGA, and James White’s HOSPITAL STATION. Favorite ones I like to revisit are Janet Kagan’s MIRABILE and Diana Wynne Jones’ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Usually three. Right now I just finished IRON HEARTED VIOLET by Kelly Barnhill, on my Kindle I’m reading THE CROW GOD’S GIRL by Patrice Sarath, and the book beside my bed is WORLDSOUL by Liz Williams.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Lose all track of time.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
And the answer depends on what mood I’m in. When I was in my teens and twenties I would re-read THE LORD OF THE RINGS once a year. Now I might go on a Janet Kagan binge and re-read all her stories. Or I’ll look at the stack of new books waiting-to-be-read and instead re-read all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles series or Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden universe. Or Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series. Or…

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Eventually. I’ve got a big stack of books in the to-be-read pile. But it depends on who is doing the recommending and if their taste is similar to mine. I don’t pay any attention to NYT bestsellers.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very. I’m usually on panels about new YA books and I’m the one who will bring a list. And I let my local public library know if I’ve found a new author or book they should get.

What do you look for in a good book?
Characters that catch my interest, good world-building and an engaging plot.

Why do you write?
I started writing when I was 14 because the science fiction and fantasy of that time had very few female main characters. I wanted more stories with characters I could identify with. I continue to write because I keep coming up with characters and stories that demand to be told. When characters start stomping around in your head demanding that you tell their stories, believe me, you tell their stories.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I just retired last year from the job I loved as an academic librarian. I wanted to be a librarian in the moon colony, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From everything around me. Newspaper or magazine articles might trigger a story idea. I look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day site (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html ) every morning and check a couple of anthropology news sites as those have also been good story triggers. Sometimes just an interesting picture will do it.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I need deadlines.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
Two of my sisters have been freelance artists, so I know they understand how much work it is. I’m sure some of my friends and co-workers probably thought I was very antisocial because I always seemed to be busy when they wanted to do things. But now I have friends who understand there are times when I’m busy and times when I need a break.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I keep hearing that all writers are rich and that they make a lot of money when a book is published. I’d like it to be true, but, sadly, it’s not.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Patience, persistence, and knowing when you need editing. Self-publishing has become so easy for some that they take no time to make their work the best they can before rushing into print. Some don’t even try sending their work out to publishers. Others try the big traditional presses but not the smaller presses or e-publishers. There are a number of good small presses and e-publishers who are looking for authors.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, lots. I sent my first book out when I was fourteen – taught myself how to type, looked up the markets – but neglected to see what the standard manuscript format at the time was. Single-spaced, typed on both sides of the paper – I’m not surprised that one was rejected as quickly as it was.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
There’s been a few audio and media projects I would have liked to have been involved with. I would have loved to have written a Doctor Who book but I couldn’t think of a book-length idea.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KathrynSullivan.author) and a webpage (http://kathrynsullivan.com) . I also go to several science fiction conventions and young writers conferences during the year. I enjoy talking with fans; they re-energize me to get back to my next story.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m not sure what they’d be surprised by. Maybe that my cockatoo plays catch. She has a great pitching beak and the signal when she wants to play is often her toy landing on the laptop keyboard. Though that’s mentioned on my Facebook page. That along with being a Doctor Who fan, I’m also a big MacGyver and Stargate SG-1 fan. Though recently I’ve been watching more Phineas & Ferb, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, The Legend of Korra and Transformers Prime. It’s probably no surprise that I’m looking forward to THE HOBBIT.

Anything else we should know?
For those who are interested, I have a list of conventions that I’ll be attending on my webpage (http://kathrynsullivan.com/appearances ).

Thank you!

 

Book Review – The Jigsaw Woman by Kim Antieau

Title: The Jigsaw Woman
Author: Kim Antieau
Format: Paperback
Written: 1996
Published: 1997

The Jigsaw Woman is such a complicated book that I don’t know where to begin. At first it appears to be a modern retelling of Frankenstein, but it quickly morphs into something so intricate that the Frankenstein aspect becomes a subplot. This book is so rich with mythology that I almost want to describe it as Pagan fiction. It’s the type of book where you have to pay attention to every page or risk missing critical details as the main character spirals through past lives and recurring evil.

Keelie wakes up on an operating table, born into an adult body that has been pieced together using three dead women. She tries to make sense of the meaning of her life and her creation. Her existence is immediately fragmented, and she begins a quest to understand the pieces. As the memories of her lives before her deaths begin to surface, she learns how her component parts came to die. Her perception of the world begins to shift, and she is plunged deeper into the memories of her own past lives, stretching from the Amazons to prehistory and back again.

For any writers out there, it is incredibly depressing to realise that this is Antieau’s first novel.

One of the things that is striking about this book is the strength of the characters. In most novels there are well-developed male characters, or well-developed female characters. This novel has both. It is a story about women’s magic, men’s fear, and the identity crisis that both genders face. I could describe it as brilliant feminist literature, but I think it transcends that to become a story about people, life and death.

This novel feels like a call to arms. The research that has gone into it is detailed, and draws on a lot of obscure material. I would describe this as Pagan fiction because the connections to the Neo-Pagan movement are strong, down to the wording of particular blessings and philosophies. They are woven into the narrative with an ease that is breathtaking, and form such a strong core that it is difficult to imagine any other world view existing.

For readers who are not interested in philosophy and the subtext, the book is still a dramatic tale filled with mystery, abuse and death. It is dark fantasy at its best. The twists are surprising, and each turn brings new suspense. This is the type of book that I need to read in a single day, because there is no way I would be able to sleep at the end of a chapter. It is also a book that has excellent rereading value. I give it 5 out of 5 pages.

Book Review – The Decembrists by Kimberly Richardson

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Arranged in a chapter-a-month first person format that goes between the two main characters, The Decembrists tells the story of Sophie Joyce, a “young writer” (although she’s 37 and just now finishing her first novel), and Hilliard Ravensdale, a many times published author, who meet in a coffee shop following Sophie’s grandfather’s funeral and fall in love.

I’m going to stop you right there.  Because Sophie claimed she loved her grandfather and she was sorry that he was dead and all, but after the funeral, she went home, cried in her apartment for an hour – because it was cold?! – and then went to a coffee shop to sit in the land of the living.  Then she comments about shallow it must be of her to have to stay in the land of the living, even though she’s off for two days for bereavement.  And this is like, page four of the book.

I already hate Sophie.

I don’t care that she wants to be in the land of the living, but she’s so unaffected by her grandfather dying that she cries because she’s cold and then meets Hilliard in the coffee shop and goes on a date with him.  Let me tell you what I did when my grandmother died – I cried.  For three years.  I’m still crying.  Yeah, you put one foot in front of the other and life has to happen, but you don’t meet somebody and go on a date the next night.  You just don’t.

And Hilliard, well, he’s pompous and arrogant, and not unlike my last boyfriend.  And since these are all the qualities I hated in him, I’m not too pleased with Hilly, either.  (And what the hell kind of a name is Hilliard, anyway?!)  Oh, and in the beginning of the book, he establishes that Sophie’s black because, well, “I’ve never asked out a black woman before,” and “I never saw a black woman blush before,” and… gah!  Has he not seen black people?  And why was Sophie’s race so damn important when we don’t get any description of him at the same time?

So the story is a love story between the two of them [wtf], and it progresses a month/chapter at a time with the POV switching between the two of them.  Except that there’s not really any difference in the voice of Sophie or Hilliard, so if the chapter heading didn’t say a month and a name, you’d have to wait for them to say something like “Sophie’s birthday is coming up…” because there’s no other way you can tell.  Have I mentioned that reasons like this are why I’ve shied away from first person in the last few years?

I found some other issues with the book too.  In the exposition parts, the chapters are long and poorly organized.  Many of them could have – and should have – been broken up into a couple chapters.  They jump from one thing to another like crazy and just don’t flow well a lot of the time.  Also, Kim clearly is not a fan of dialogue tags – which is fine, I’m not either – but when you’re butting up what Hilliard said against what Sophie thought of the comment, you’re too busy keeping track of who’s talking to lose yourself in the story, which is what all of us want to do when we read something.

And there are some things that happen that just drive me nuts.  I know this is nit-pickey, but I don’t want to know who buys somebody’s tampons.  Ever.  (Unless I’m reading a coming of age book, I don’t want to read about periods, well, period.)  And not so nit-picky, Hil calls Sophie “Goddess” through most of the book.  I really dislike saccharine-sweet over-the-top pet names for couples in relationships.  And they’re writers.  I’m tired of reading books about writers when nothing extraordinary happens because of it (Stranger than Fiction is a great book about writers – something happens because she’s writing, as opposed to writing being all that happens.)

Anyway, as the book progresses, we eventually find ourselves reading things that they’re reading (ahem), and whatever they’re reading *should* be slightly indented as a block quote, but Kim et al have decided to change the font instead.  And it’s big and it’s ugly and it’s annoying to read for more than a sentence at a time.  (I would not ever, ever, ever read Hilliard’s stuff, btw.  Or his sister’s poetry.  Or…)

At chapter 12, the author messes with the book’s format a bit, and gives us a specific date instead of a month, and writes in third person.  We learn Hilliard’s secret… in a manner that I wish I hadn’t learned it in… and [removed because of spoilers].  Then there’s an epilogue in Sophie’s point of view, although it doesn’t say that, the worst name I’ve ever read in a book of fiction, and a nicely wrapped up twenty years following the story.  Just picture the bow in your mind, since Kimberly made sure that we had one.

Honestly, this book isn’t even a little bit my cup of tea.  According to the back of the book, “Award winning author Kimberly Richardson turns her literary eye to the world of sex, control, uprisings, secrets, and lies, all wrapped within a story worthy to be called modern Gothic.”  Yeah, all that stuff’s there, but it’s a friggin’ romance.  One more in the string of “hurtful man with woman who can’t seem to land anyone better.”  And I’m tired of this crap.

I’m giving the book a three out of five pages rating.  If you like that sort of crap romance, give it a read.  There’s a full story line here, although it needs a bit of polishing, and I’m sure there’s a niche for it that’s just not me.

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I don’t know why this is required, but here it is:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book from Kimberly Richardson (independently of this)  and used in in conjunction with  First Rule Publicity and the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review-A Home For Christmas

Title: A Home For Christmas
Author: Deborah Grace Staley
Format: Electronic (Kindle)
Written: 2003
Published: 2003 print/ 2011 Electronic

This is not the review I intended to write this week.  The review I was planning on writing was for another book that I loved, but I cannot let this book go unremarked.   Be warned SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW

It, more than any other book I’ve read this year, has made a lasting impression.

A young female physician takes a visit to the small Tennessee town she remembers fondly.  Her mother is a socialite ashamed of Tennessee and its ways, but the doctor’s grandparents were the only real home she ever knew as a child.   The story is a heartwarming Holiday read about how she reconnects with the colourful small town and practices medicine in the old way.

Of course there’ s a romance, and the romance and feeling of love she gets are key to how the town of Angel Ridge becomes home to the doctor at last.

But then it happened.  The thing that left me wishing I’d never even heard of this novel, let alone spent time reading it.

The male love interest–a Pierce Brosnan handsome, down-to-earth construction worker–beats his brother nearly to death.   Because of the usual Romance Novel Misunderstandings this True Love man becomes so enraged that he calls the “love of his life” a whore and almost kills a man.   Of course they break up.  And of course he apologises, brings flowers and jewelry and swears it will never happen again.   The novel ends with their New Years Eve wedding.

 

This is supposed to be romantic.  Anyone who has known a classic abuser knows this story well.  Only we know it from the true beginning.  We know that after the wedding–three months, six months, two years–he will lose his temper again.  He will hit another person.  Maybe her.  Maybe their child.  Then he’ll apologise and bring flowers and swear he’ll never do it again.  Until he does.  Until she’s dead or fled to a shelter under an assumed name.

I’m so angry that this was passed off as an escapist romance, as an ideal love relationship.   Women don’t need to be led to believe that this pattern of cruelty is “love”.  They don’t need to think that Happily Ever After comes when he apologises the first time.  Because there is always a next time.  If you live with an abuser there is always a next time.

Amazon and GoodReads won’t let you give a book “zero stars”.  I’m really hoping that my fellow bloggers here won’t care when I give this book Zero Bookworms.

Book Review – Morpheus Road: The Black by D.J. MacHale

Title:  The Black

Author: D.J. MacHale

Format: Paperback

Written: 2011

Published: 2012

The Black by D.J. MacHale is the second in a series.  You can go back and read my review of the first book called The Light.  It was a good book and I will start off by saying that this book will have spoilers for The Light so you are warned!

Entering into The Black I knew that this was in some ways a retelling of the first book only from the perspective of Cooper.  As D.J. MacHale says in his foreword he always wanted to explore the reasons why the dead when communicating with the living were always cryptic rather than spelling out clear messages.  He said it was a fact that always bothered him despite how good of a plot device it was, such that he himself used it.  In the end D.J. did a wonderful job.  He gave an interesting sight to the afterlife and why and how things happened as they did.  There were a lot of little surprising twists as you learn what was and wasn’t done by Cooper and what sort of help he got along with why he did the things he did.

Over all I liked the book but it was a bit lengthy and got a bit boring as I mostly knew the outcome of the end of the book despite not knowing the whys.  Additionally it was a bit tiresome reading over scenes I had already read only from a new perspective.   The book was also a very large info dump, it explained a lot of thing and helped it all make sense but it was still tedious at times.  In a way I would say that The Black is your classic second book of a series, where it is a lot of connecting information and set up with a lot less action not that D.J skimped on it as there were several fight and action sequences.

In the end, I think I would have this book a three out of five pages.  It was good but hard to get through at times and is an important read if you want to read the last book in the series which I plan to do when it becomes available in the library because I am curious how things will end and the overall story plot is still quite good even if the second book is a little more difficult to get through.

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