Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review--Royal Airs

Royal Airs (Elemental Blessings, #2)Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Excellent world building from Sharon Shinn, as usual. The story was entertaining, but it didn't rock my world like some of her other books. Nonetheless, it will be enjoyed by her fans, especially if they've already read Troubled Waters, the first book in the Elemental Blessings series.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

She excused herself from the heat of the cane fires and walked to the tables where the women were laying out an array of pumpkin and pecan pies, shortbread oozing with sweet jam, all of it covered with light cloths to keep the insects off. Crocks of preserves and pickled tomatoes, cucumbers, and relishes shone in the sun. Her persimmon cakes were added to the pile. While once Julia might have wondered who could consume so much food at one sitting, she’d seen the Crackers sit down to their victuals and knew the food would be little more than a memory by the time the day was done.
Barefoot children chased a brindle hound bitch through the yard, stopping long enough to beg for slices of buttered cornbread before heading down to the creek for some of the last swimming they’d do before the air and the water got chilled by winter.
Smuggler's Bride

I want to wish all my friends and readers a very happy Thanksgiving holiday. I'm thankful for my family, my health, and the joy I experience when people say my stories entertained them. Thank you all very much.

And I don't care what those Yankees claim, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1565, in St. Augustine, Florida. You can read more about it here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review--The Bondwoman's Narrative

The Bondwoman's NarrativeThe Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating peek into American history, women's literature, slave narratives and gothic novels. I gave it five stars because I'm not going to judge the author's sometimes fractured grammar and spelling. The book was spell-binding.

"Hannah Crafts" was a literate slave woman, light-skinned, able to pass for white when she needed to. The extensive research Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. puts into tracking down the author of The Bondwoman's Narrative reads itself like a detective novel, and one can almost feel his joy when certain clues cause information to click into place, authenticating the veracity of the tale.

Part of what makes The Bondwoman's Narrative so interesting is how Crafts brings a woman's perspective to the story in her discussion of relationships between mistress and maidservant, and her frank inclusion of the sexual abuse slave women faced from both their white masters and sometimes, from fellow slaves.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Antebellum US history.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Review--Rose Under Fire

Rose Under FireRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another powerful, moving, important novel from Elizabeth Wein. I say "important" because of her gift for bringing history alive for the YA (and adult) reader in her tales of the courage of young women during WWII.

Rose is an American teenager, barely out of school, who leaves small town Pennsylvania to fly planes for the British ATA (akin to the US WASPs) during the last years of WWII. There's interaction with Maddie, the protagonist of Code Name Verity, but Rose's story is unique, particularly for younger American readers who may not have a good grasp of the role American women played during the war. Rose is captured in a flight that takes her away from the Allied occupied areas, and because she's a civilian and not a military POW, she's sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp for women.

Like Wein's previous work, this novel again makes me want to stop teenage girls on the street, the ones who think YA novels are about sparkly vampires and the mopey girls who pine for them, and say, "Read this!" Rose Under Fire is about friendship between women, and survival, and sacrifice, and honor, and all those things important to a woman's life, and it's not about a woman's love life defining who she is. That, to me, is one of the most positive statements a YA novel can make for the intended audience, boys or girls.

The only thing that kept me from giving it five stars (I'd give 4.5 if I could) was that unlike Wein's last novel, Rose didn't stun me with its construction and ending. That doesn't make it any less worth reading, and I did stay up late at night to finish the book. I highly recommend it, for YA and adult readers.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013


Charming (Pax Arcana, #1)Charming by Elliott James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though the urban fantasy field is saturated with good writers, it's always a pleasure to read a debut novel by another talented author. While many of the characters are the same otherworldly species we've come to expect, Charming is highlighted by snappy dialogue, fast pacing, good action scenes and a conflicted, troubled hero who'd be right at home bending an elbow next to Harry Dresden.

I'll be looking forward to the next installment.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veterans Day

Dr. Murray looked like he was about to say something, but
Carville spoke up, saying stubbornly, “I still don’t believe the
United States surrendered.”
“A peace treaty is not a surrender, Carville,” Charley said. “I
am sure there is more to this than we know.”
Indeed, when Captain Doyle returned there was a full report. A
peace treaty had been negotiated restoring Great Britain and the
United States to their antebellum status.
“But what of the prisoners?” Charley asked Captain Doyle.
“A Yankee trader from France bound for Charleston put into
port a few days back. That is how we got the news. The governor
is not interested in having a gang of Americans roaming through
Kingston, and asked if we would ‘host’ them for a while longer
until they can ship out with their countrymen.”
It was that simple. Men who two days earlier would have run
each other through or blown each other to pieces, now were up on
deck toasting each other’s countries with carefully rationed grog.
Captain Doyle wisely put a limit on the amount of alcohol served,
knowing that it wouldn’t take much to re-ignite the conflict on a
smaller scale.
“Captain Fletcher told me I do not understand men, Mr.
Bryant,” Charley said in bemusement later that night. “I have to
agree with him.”
Mr. Bryant shrugged his shoulders. “They fought when they
needed to fight. Now they’re anxious to go home. We sailors are
not complicated creatures, Doctor.”
--Sea Change

November 11 is Veterans Day in the US, formerly known as Armistice Day. It marked the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the end of World War I, but now it's the day we salute the women and men who fought for us. They are the ones who defend our country from foreign enemies, and we owe them our respect and gratitude for doing that difficult job.

I'm proud to live in a community that hosts an excellent VA Medical facility. I've visited friends being treated there, and I'm always impressed by the caring individuals who work so hard to give our veterans their health care. It's not a perfect system, and for many veterans and their families there's far too much waiting and red  tape, but it's a vast improvement over what existed 100 years ago.

In the best of all possible worlds, we wouldn't need standing armies and navies (and the Marines, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard) but until that day, they do the work that needs to be done.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Joy of Imagination

She continued to unpack her belongings as the youngster arranged her dolls on her bunk. A new doll with a china head was part of the crew and Mattie addressed them in a low voice as she played.
“…and you must always obey the captain’s orders or else she’ll maroon you!”
“Perhaps we can have a tea party with your friends there?” Lydia said a touch frantically. “If you cooperate and have your lessons with me each morning, and do your chores, we will have a tea party later in the voyage.”
“Pirates don’t have tea parties, Miss Burke, that would be silly.”
--[WIP] The Pirate's Secret Baby

I was taking my daily walk around our neighborhood and saw two little girls playing in a front yard. A tree had been cut down, large circles of wood were scattered on the ground, and the girls were rearranging them to be a "fireplace" and "kitchen" in their pretend house.

I loved seeing this. Here are two budding mechanical engineers, or architects, or building construction majors, having fun outdoors in the fresh air. They had no electronics or pink plastic castles or adult interference, just the power of their own imaginations.

My imagination is my primary tool and my daily walk helps hone that tool. I don't wear headphones or earbuds while I'm walking, and keep my phone off. This is my time where the fresh air and walking motion jars ideas loose from my brain. I do take a small notepad and a pencil, and my neighbors are used to the sight of me going from nearly four miles an hour to a full stop, jotting down a snippet of dialogue or a plot point before it can get away.

And for whatever it's worth, I don't think tea parties are silly at all. In fact, I hunted high and low to find a non-pink tea set (bless you, Fisher Price!) so my sons would have tea parties with me when they were small. We all enjoyed them, along with an array of stuffed animals like Windy and Peetoo (the boys named them), bear puppets who also, I was assured, enjoyed a good cup of pretend tea.

So here's to the joy of using your imagination! I raise my (pretend) tea cup to all the little girls and boys who still have the most fun by using the best toy of all.


Friday, November 01, 2013

Review--Carla Kelly's Christmas Collection

Carla Kelly's Christmas CollectionCarla Kelly's Christmas Collection by Carla Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As always, Carla Kelly brings the angst, but also the hope for a better tomorrow. I'd read two of these stories in other collections, two were new to me, but all were enjoyable.  Kelly's stories of ordinary people are every bit as satisfying, if not more so, than a thousand Regency tales of dukes and heiresses.

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