fiction

Sabbath Rest Book Talk/Open Book [August 2017]

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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The aforementioned Carolyn also joins me and Rebecca Willen every month for Sabbath Rest Book Talk.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

Our selections for August were:

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: Where Fiction Is Good For You! Join us for August 2017, and we'll talk about how these books show us what we humans can learn about growing up.

Adult Book: Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

YA Book: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Children’s/Readaloud: Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

And here’s what we had to say about them:

And big congrats to Lisa Hendey, who won the signed paperback copy of Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb!

Plus, click here to check out our

NEW GOODREADS FEATURE!

It’s a list! On Goodreads! Vote for books we’ve already featured and add any books you think we should discuss in the future!

Remember, all SRBTs here on out, I’ll continue announcing the book selections and focus ahead of time, so you can read along and join the discussion a little more easily and thoughtfully. Voila, for September:

OpalsJubileeCover GoodMasterCover AnneGreenGablesCover

Adult Book: Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch

YA Book: The Good Master by Kate Seredy

Children’s/Readaloud: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR AN OPAL’S JUBILEE GIVEAWAY:

deets on the way.  

That’s it for August! While we’re here, gentle reminder: To keep on top of each month’s SRBT selections, do sign up for my monthly newsletter. For notifications that each month’s SRBT is available for viewing/listening, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

What’s your #OpenBook?

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: Where Fiction is Good for You! Join us for a monthly video exchange on how fiction makes us more human.

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Open Book/Sabbath Rest Book Talk (May 2017)

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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Before I get into this month’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk, however, I want to share some news about a favorite cozy mystery series of mine.  Yes, folks, it’s true, Amy M. Bennett’s latest Black Horse Campground installment has hit the streets!

I can't wait to read Amy M. Bennett's latest Black Horse Campground Mystery, A SUMMER TO REMEMBER! About A Summer to Remember by Amy M. Bennett

#mustread A Summer to Remember, Black Horse Campground Mystery #4 by Amy M. BennettIt’s been a memorable year at the Black Horse Campground. But someone wants certain things forgotten….

After Bonney Police detective J.D. Wilder wraps up three cold-case murders, believing that the murderer was his former partner, he tries to focus on his personal life in his new hometown and his budding relationship with Corrie Black, owner of the Black Horse Campground.

When he receives information that proves his former partner wasn’t the murderer, the case is reopened with the knowledge and urgency that the killer is poised to strike again. But who held a grudge against the three cold-case victims… and who is that person’s next target? With the help of Bonney County Sheriff Rick Sutton, J.D. probes the memories of several Bonney residents who knew the victims and begins to make connections.

Then another death occurs and while J.D. and Rick are investigating, Corrie is attacked. The attacker and the cold-case murderer could be the same person, but Corrie’s condition is critical and she’s lost her memories of the entire previous year… including the identity of her attacker and even having met J.D. Will she survive long enough to remember what happened? Or will she end up as a memory and the murderer gets away once again?

I love Corrie, JD, and Rick.  #TeamRick.  Just sayin’.  I have my own ship for JD, and Amy knows it. If you like mysteries that break your heart, make you laugh, and really make you feel like you’re hanging out with the characters (and make you crave blueberry muffins), you will  love Amy M. Bennett’s books.   Check out my reviews of previous Black Horse Mysteries.

More about Amy:

Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel, End of the Road, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009.  It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by No Lifeguard on Duty, No Vacancy, and At the Cross Road. A Summer to Remember is the fifth book in the series. When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!)  She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.  Visit her website at www.amymbennettbooks.com and The Back Deck Blog at http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.com 

The aforementioned Carolyn also joins me and Rebecca Willen every month for Sabbath Rest Book Talk.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

Our next SRBT will be Sunday, May 7 at 7pm Eastern Time.  What are we reading?

Find out on the May 2017 episode of Sabbath Rest Book Talk: where fiction makes us human! What can fiction teach us about the value of adventure?

Adult: Discovery by Karina Fabian

YA: The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

Children’s/Readaloud: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Want more? You will just have to watch this month’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk.

Remember, all SRBTs here on out, I’ll continue announcing the book selections and focus ahead of time, so you can read along and join the discussion a little more easily and thoughtfully. Voila, for June:

Sabbath Rest Book Talk selections for June 2017: What can fiction teach us about suffering?

Adult Book: The Moviegoer, Walker Percy

YA Book: A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

Children’s/Readaloud: What Do You Do With a Problem, Kobi Yamada

That’s it for May!  While we’re here, gentle reminder: To keep on top of each month’s SRBT selections, do sign up for my monthly newsletter. For notifications that each month’s SRBT is available for viewing/listening, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

What’s your #OpenBook?

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Sabbath Rest Book Talk (May 2017): What can fiction teach us about the value of adventure?

December’s SRBT & Open Book

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup! To which I’m arriving typically late, but what of that?

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In the interests of being as efficient with my time as I possibly can, I’m killing two birds with one stone, I link up my video Sabbath Rest Book Talk with Carolyn’s Open Book.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

This month’s focus was compassion, and our featured fiction is…

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

Inspirational Romance that brings the reader the joys of Christmas all year long: ORNAMENTAL GRACES by Carolyn Astfalk

Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch

Sabbath Rest Book Talk for December 2017 with Erin McCole Cupp

The Strangers at the Manger (Chime Travelers #5) by Lisa Hendey

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and as-yet-unread shoutout to Unearthing Christmas by Anthea Piscarik

Sabbath Rest Book Talk for December 2017 with Erin McCole Cupp

See the video here or click on the thumbnail below.

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Advent Anticipation = Delays

Advent 2016 Updates from Author Erin McCole Cupp

By Andrea Schaufler (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

 

On-the-ball news

Tomorrow, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It’s a perfect day to read “Working Mother.”What if Mary had to get a job? WORKING MOTHER #ebook by Erin McCole Cupp

“Working Mother” is my novelette that answers the question, “What if Mary had to get a job?” It’s only 99 cents, and it’s a quick read, but if you struggle with Mommy Guilt of any variety, “Working Mother” will be a balm to your soul.  I promise.

Updates on Passed Deadlines

Sabbath Rest Book Talk for December has been moved to Sunday, December 11 at 7pm Eastern.  God willing.  Click on the SRBT link at the start of this paragraph for more information.  This month’s focus will be COMPASSION.  This month’s featured fiction will be: Chime Travelers Book 4: The Strangers at the Manger by Lisa Hendey (Children’s); Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch (YA/clean New Adult); and Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk (adult romance).

Vanished, Book 3 (as in third and final) in The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan is now scheduled for a December 28, 2016 release.  We ran into some scheduling snafus with the cover designer… and with the author, if we’re being truthful here.

 

#OpenBook and Sabbath Rest Book Talk!

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

an-open-book

In the interests of being as efficient with my time as I possibly can, I’m killing two birds with one stone.  In addition to reviewing books for #OpenBook, I’ve started a monthly event on Facebook Live over at my author page.  It’s called Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and in it I’ll talk about a few of the books I’ve read in the past month in terms of how they, as fiction, help us grow in humanity.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

For the August episode of SRBT, for the the thumbnaily-thing below to watch the video on YouTube:

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: Where Fiction is Good for You! Join Author Erin McCole Cupp for a monthly interactive event where we'll discuss all the ways fiction builds up our humanity.

And here are links to the books discussed in August’s episode, focusing on EMPATHY:

LunarChronicles

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

 

Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean

 

RolandWestLoner

Roland West: Loner by Theresa Linden

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book: June reads for July Reviews!

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

an-open-book

One thing can be said for having a couple of complications dragging out weeks after super minor abdominal surgery: there’s lots of time to do nothing but sit in bed and READ!   Perhaps that’s the only thing to be said for it, though; being unable to work on one’s own writing and publishing is pretty frustrating.  That said, today is the rescheduled release date for UNCLAIMED, Book 1 in The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan.

Jane EyerFinal-FJM_Low_Res_500x750

Unclaimed cover art Copyright 2016 Fiona Jayde Media

I was chomping so badly at the bit to get that up and running by June 24, but instead I was propped up in bed with my iPad and this guy for my reading buddy.

SiggieReadingBuddy

Funny story: five days after I came home from  the hospital, Siggie (above) suddenly started sniffing around my belly and instead of making me take his tennis ball out of his mouth to play fetch, he just gave it to me.  The two days later I was back at the doctor, and lo and behold! I had an infection developing.  Of course, if he were really intuitive, he wouldn’t have kept trying to jump directly onto my belly… but he’s still a good recovery companion.

Okay, let’s look at what I got to read in June…

Testing Liberty & Fight for Liberty by Theresa Linden

I really cannot rave well enough about the Chasing Liberty trilogy.  If you took The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, and 1984, wove them together with a fresh, deeply human sensibility and gave it just the lightest sprinkle of holy water… you might come close to getting a series as fast-paced, powerful and satisfying as Liberty’s three-part tale.

I loved Chasing Liberty, butTesting Liberty Brown Red in Testing Liberty, Linden really ups the ante.  It was like in Chasing we got to see the veneer of Aldonia’s oppressive deep green culture scraped painfully off, and then in Testing, we dive down deep, deeper into the hearts and lives threatened, destroyed, and changed for good or ill by the conflict between the Regimen’s culture and the inner drive for freedom and independence that some of the colonists live out for themselves… and are getting ready to share with Aldonia on a wider and far more risky basis.   Usually the middle installment in a trilogy is the most difficult to keep spinning on a lively axis, but Linden turns that idea on its head and somehow makes Testing even more heart-rending and engaging than its predecessor.

FightForLibertyAnd then in Fight for Liberty, it all comes so satisfyingly full-circle.  Something Linden does so powerfully in this conclusion(ish) to the series is that the encourages us to look at the future of freedom (and, frankly, the present) through the lens of our history.  The way she approached a renewal of personal freedom as a rebirth of the ideals and courage of the American Revolution is a tack we don’t see often taken in speculative fiction.  It works.  Fresh, engaging, honest and uplifting, we can see our future as fraught with danger… but also promising courage and hope and the best humanity has to offer.

Fight for Liberty dropped on July 4! Keep an eye out here for an in-depth interview with Theresa Linden later this week.  

The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem

The tomb

It’s the story of Mary and Martha illuminated in a way you’ve never imagined.  In this conclusion (I think?) to the Living Water series, Stephanie Landsem gives us a rich backstory on why Martha is the way she is–a controlling, put-upon, neat freak who’s never satisfied.  I’d never before considered the kind of heartbreak that might have gone into making a Martha.  Landsem took my preconceived notions of a picky, spoiled, overly pious Jewish daughter and made her into someone who’s been through just as much as any of us has in on our way to becoming the fragile, cautious creatures we can be… until we let Christ come in to our lives and change us.  This third book has just as much delicious angst as The Well but just as much sweet satisfaction as The Thief.  For readers who like a good ends-tied-up series, this last book makes that happen but infuses the ending of the trilogy with great energy; it left me happy for the characters (each in his/her way) but still sad to see it end.  Highly recommended.

At the Crossroad by Amy M. Bennett

At the Cross Road: Book 4 in the Black Horse Campground Mystery Series by Amy M. Bennett (Oak Tree Press)

People, I just adore this series.  It’s really so much fun to read.  Okay, I realize I just said that about a series with a body count, but hey, take me as I am.  In At the Crossroad, Corrie, Rick, and JD all have to face the past–their own and the ghosts of others.  The mystery is fast-paced, crisp, and richly human.  The storytelling is clean, and the violence and relationships are never gratutitous.  All these characters have come to feel like family to me over the years, to the point that, yes, I’ve declared myself #TeamRick (and Crossroad makes that seem even more possible than No Vacancy did… but I’m sure Amy will keep us guessing).  In fact, I kind of know who I want to set JD up with, but Amy would pee her pants if I told her, because it’s so outlandish… Anyway, I hope that the fact that these characters have taken on their own lives in my imagination (am I writing Black Horse fanfic in my head?!?!) is endorsement enough.

After the Thaw by Therese Heckenkamp

AfterTheThawCover

A sequel to Heckenkamp’s Frozen Footprints that yet stands strong on its own, After the Thaw is a story of courage, healing, redemption, self-sacrifice, and the value of honesty.  The plot was fast-paced and kept me well invested in the future of heroine Charlene, the people she loves, and the people who sought to use her for their own ends.  Serious and tragic but with a great touch of humanity, Thaw kept me turning the pages and caring about the characters.  Should Charlene really marry Ben?  I mean, he’s a good guy, but is he the guy?  And what is going on with Clay and that pregnant girl?  For all the angst of the beginning and middle, the end is super satisfying with a touch of just-right sweetness.  Tough but still clean, this would make a great beach read.

Sunflowers in a Hurricane by Anne Faye

Sunflower Front CoverA sweet, touching story of healing, forgiveness and closure, Sunflowers in a Hurricane weaves together the lives touched, smote and healed by an unlikely friendship. When single-mom Cheryl must clear out her estranged mother’s house, daughter Ruth becomes the garden help and Mass companion of elderly widower George next door.  The move brings Cheryl face-to-face with her difficult past, a past she’s been evading ever since Ruth was conceived, as well as with her fears for her own and Ruth’s future.  Meanwhile, George stands courageously and compassionately in the face of his own past losses resurfacing in ways he hadn’t expected. The two households mirror each other in ways that make us think more deeply about the nature of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and redemption.  Faye turns a tale with an honest kindness often missing from family drama fiction these days, while keeping readers hooked on the story.  This was an uplifting and enjoyable read you’ll want for your beach bag!

Don’t forget to link up YOUR reviews over at Carolyn’s!

More About DYING FOR REVENGE

Dr. Barbara Golder's DYING FOR REVENGE murder mystery with a touch of police procedural and a whole lot of edge-of-your-seat suspense

I’m happy to host Dr. Barbara Golder on her book tour for DYING FOR REVENGE.  I reviewed it here and gave it a super-solid five stars, but if that’s not enough to convince you, here’s more!

Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback

Dying for Revenge Synopsis:

Someone is killing the rich and famous residents of Telluride, Colorado, and the medical investigator, Dr. Jane Wallace, is on a collision course with the murderer. Compelled by profound loss and injustice, Jane will risk her own life to protect others from vengeful death, even as she exacts a high price from those who have destroyed her world. DYING FOR REVENGE is a story of love, obsession and forgiveness, seen through the eyes of a passionate, beautiful woman trying to live her life — imperfectly but vibrantly — even if she won’t survive.

Who’s this author, though?  

Dr. Barbara Golder is a late literary bloomer.  Although she’s always loved books (and rivals Jane in the 3-deep-on-the-shelf sweepstakes), her paying career gravitated to medicine and law.  She has served as a hospital pathologist, forensic pathologist, and laboratory director.  Her work in forensic pathology prompted her to get a law degree, which she put to good use as a malpractice attorney and in a boutique practice of medical law, which allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom when her children were young.  She has also tried her hand at medical politics, serving as an officer in her state medical association; lobbying at a state and national level on medical issues, writing and lecturing for hire, including a memorable gig teaching nutritionists about the joys of chocolate for 8 straight hours, teaching middle and high school science, and, most recently, working for a large disability insurance company from which she is now retired.   Her writing career began when she authored a handbook of forensic medicine for the local medical examiner office in 1984.  Over the years she wrote extensively on law and  medicine and lectured on medicolegal topics.  On a lark, she entered a contest sponsored by the Telluride Times Journal and ended up with a regular humor column that memorialized the vagaries of second-home living on the Western Slope.   She currently lives on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee with two dogs, two cats and her husband of 41 years.

 

Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback


Oh, you want an excerpt now?  Well, just to please you:

 

John had just touched my face in his familiar way when the phone startled me out of my sleep. It was one of those vivid dreams, the kind that it takes a minute or two to realize you’ve passed from it into wakefulness. I was especially unhappy because, since his death five years ago, the only way I ever saw my husband or felt his touch was in my restless slumber. The phone rang again, insisting that I answer. In my line of work, a call in the middle of the night is never happy news. It means that death has come calling, unexpected, or violent, or both. It’s the time of night when teenagers run off the road, when drug deals go sour, when sick old men die, the man inside having given up the struggle to keep the man outside alive, when drunken spouses abuse each other to death. At the end of it all, somebody calls the medical examiner and I am pulled out of my orderly world into someone else’s dark night. I wondered idly what particular nightmare I was entering this time as I punched the keypad of my cell phone.

“Yeah?”

I am not particularly civil at three in the morning. Fortunately for me, the cops who are on duty at that hour — the ones most likely to call — aren’t too sensitive. This time it was the sheriff of San Miguel County himself who answered. His voice called up his lanky frame, thinning red hair, pockmarked face and crooked nose.

“Aren’t you just Dr. Mary Sunshine! Wake up, Jane Wallace, you’ve got a case.” His gravelly chuckle broke up a bit. Call reception isn’t always good in the mountains.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I rubbed my eyes and took another stab at civility. “What’s up, Tom?”

I sat up, stretching my neck and trying to come to consciousness. Tom had used my first name, something he never did, preferring to alternate between Dr. Wallace when he was vexed with me, and Doc when he approved of the way I was executing the demands of my office as Chief Medical Examiner for the Western Slope of Colorado.

“Oh, big dealings right here in Mountain Village. We got ourselves a celebrity murder, we do.”

The words were flippant and out of context with the somber nature of such early morning calls. There’s a certain propensity toward inappropriate humor among those of us who work regularly among the dead and the degenerate. I wouldn’t put it past any of my law enforcement brethren, least of all Patterson with his avuncular style, to string me along for the sake of a little joke to liven up an otherwise routine death. I could jest with the best of them. 

“Just as long as it’s not Mitch Houston, we’ll be fine.“

Houston, Hollywood’s current favorite leading man and a very hot commodity, had moved to town several months before, buying both a trophy home in Mountain Village and a remote cabin on a thousand acres in one of the basins in the Wilson Peaks, in a display of conspicuous consumption excessive even for Telluride, Colorado, my adopted home on the western slope of the Rockies. The silence at the other end of the phone did not bode well for my career on the comedy circuit. I sat upright, awake, my mind suddenly clear, and feeling dismayed.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked.

Any murder is a tragedy, but this one was going to be a pain in the ass to boot.

 

But is it really any good?  Don’t just take my word for it:

 

“Barbara Golder joins the ranks of Chesterton’s bloodthirsty heirs as she spins a tale that will delight mystery fans. With Dying for Revenge in hand, your beach experience is now complete!” Mark P. Shea, Mercy Works

Dying for Revenge dives into the deeply personal place in so many hearts with ‘justifiable’ reasons for revenge… but the face of mercy is entwined in the unexpected turn of events. You’ll be captivated…”  Patricia M. Chivers, ABLAZE Radio WNRE-LP 98.1 FM, Catholic Church of Saint Monica

Dying For Revenge is a darn good medical thriller — a page-turning plot and vivid characters — with a stop-you-in your tracks twist: the costs of revenge. It’s a gripping story — I defy anyone to put it down.” Deacon Dennis Dorner, Chancellor, Archdiocese of Atlanta

“When medical brilliance and a riveting plot collide, you get Dying For Revenge — a story of intrigue, murder, and faith that will leave everyone suspect but only one guilty…” Rev. David Carter, JCL, Rector Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Chattanooga TN

“I know it sounds cliché, but I honestly couldn’t put this down. It isn’t just who-dun-it, but it’s the story of the power of understanding in a world that’s afraid of self-knowledge.” Joan Watson, Director of Adult Formation, Diocese of Nashville

 

Okay, hopefully by now you’re ready to fork over the cash: Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback

If you’re still on the fence, get to know Dr. Golder on social media and such:

Great book!  Get your copy today!

An Open Book: Beach Reads, Teach Reads

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

an-open-book

Dying for Revenge by Dr. Barbara Golder

An Open Book Linkup: Dying for Revenge (murder mystery)

This book rubbed the salt in the wound of what’s wrong with our culture today, publishing and otherwise.  Here we have a slick but gritty, sharp-edged murder mystery better than most secular crime novels I’ve read, but just because the main character side-eyes liberal culture and is struggling with/considering/reconsidering Catholicism, it’s going to be looked over.  It really shouldn’t be.  Don’t YOU people pass it by, anyway.

Okay, now that I have that off my chest, Dying for Revenge is the first book in a (hopefully well-populated!) series focusing on the work and struggles of Dr. Jane Wallace, a medical examiner and lawyer who has faced crime in her own past and come to hide from it in the mountains and canyons of Colorado.  I finished it in the space of three days and would have taken less time if I could read in the car without getting car sick.  Part cozy, part police procedural, part woman-in-peril (though Jane is so no-nonsense, that when the actual peril comes, I was almost blindsided), and with an enticing, mature, exile-from-The-Troubles, will-they-won’t-they-can-they? love interest in Eoin Connor, Dying for Revenge kept me on the edge of my seat in every possible way.  The climax was perhaps the most surprising–and surprisingly satisfying–part of the plot.  In the end, it’s just as much a mystery to solve as a progression of soul for the main character.  Look for more about this here on June 5, if you’re not already convinced to buy Dying for Revenge.

From Grief to Grace by Jeannie Ewing

An Open Book Linkup: From Grief to Grace by Jeannie Ewing (non-fiction, self-help)We all grieve in some way, because it’s a fallen world: we all need to cope with things not going according to plan, in ways both big and small.  From Grief to Grace is a manual on how to navigate that pain, from simple disappointment to world-changing heartbreak.  Ewing does not focus merely on death-related grief but on any kind of soul-pain that knocks us down to depths we’d much rather not visit.  Instead of looking at grief as something to just “get through,” she gives us tools and the gift of her own personal experiences with grief, so that we can see our own suffering not as something to fear but as rungs on a ladder to God.  How a book like this manages to be both practical and spiritually weighty is a testament to the author’s skill.

At the Crossroad by Amy M. Bennett

An Open Book Linkup: At the Crossroad by Amy M. Bennett (Black Horse Campground Mystery #4, cozy mystery, suspense)I am so excited to read this next book in The Black Horse Campground Mysteries.  I can’t rightly say that I’ve read this and can give a review yet, but it is loaded onto my Kindle and it’s what I plan to have in my waiting and recovery rooms while I’m in the hospital for tomorrow’s gallbladder eviction (in fact, if I can steal a moment today to start reading, I most surely will).  Amy Bennett has the dual gift of writing with a tender touch and a light heart.  Each book is filled with characters facing believable struggles and everyday events but turned in an extraordinary way.  The plot of each book keeps you guessing until the absolute very very very last minute.  In this latest installment, we’ll get to see which direction the love UST triangle takes.  I love JD, but I think I might be Team Rick?  Maybe.  Maybe?  Maybe.  I mean, a man who bakes is pretty difficult to resist…

This month’s audiobooks:

Anne of Avonlea (narr. Mary Sarah) by L. M. Montgomery

An Open Book Linkup: Anne of Avonlea (classics, audiobook)I’d read Anne of Green Gables in college for kicks and giggles but never read any of the other books, so this was a first for me as well as for my children… and husband.  We listened to part of it on the way home from a Memorial Day road trip, and he said it made the trip go a lot faster than it would have otherwise.  We even giggled together over Davy Keith’s mischief, the tragedy of the blue hall, and I think hubby laughed louder than I did over a certain package being obediently yet quite reluctantly tossed into the school woodstove.  So far I still like the first installment of this series best, but Avonlea is still well worth visiting, even in this perhaps more episodic tale.  The narration on this one is nice but seems to have less wonder and perhaps too much whimsy, and the different voices of the characters were barely distinct from one another.  All in all, though, it was a well-done production, and I’m glad we got to enjoy it.

Anne of the Island (narr. Barbara Caruso) by L. M. Montgomery

An Open Book Linkup: Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery, narrated by Nancy Caruso (classics, YA, audiobook)This version has my favorite narrator of the three Anne books we’ve listened to so far as a family.  Caruso’s voice has a timeless quality, and she gives each character a different voice but manages to avoid making any one of them a caricature.  The story itself was typical, delightful Anne, again more episodic than narrative as Green Gables is.  The narration in this production, however, really made it work for me best of the three Anne books we’ve heard.

Have you read/heard any of these yourself?  

What did you read this month?  

Don’t forget to linkup your reviews with Carolyn Astfalk!

An Open Book: May the Fourth Be Bookish

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

an-open-book

Ugh.  I know, I know.  That post title is pathetic, but I’m running on fumes here.  What kind of fumes? The kind that broke me enough to give in to… audiobooks.  Audiobooks have been around longer than books, actually, because hello? Storytelling around the fire while digesting the freshly roasted mammoth meat?

I, however, just never got into audiobooks, because:

  1. I can get to the end of the story so much faster in my head.  Why would I wait around for someone else to read it for me?
  2. All my time available for audiobook listening, if I could get past that first issue, is spent in the car with kids, and you can’t listen to grown-up audiobooks if you have little pitchers and their big, giant ears in the backseat.

Why did it never occur to me that it’s not just contemporary pulp on audiobook but literary classics as well?

So that library trip when I stumbled upon this on our weekly trip to the library:

The Adventures of Odysseus by Hugh Lupton & Daniel Morden, Illustrated by Cristina Balit

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This was my very first audiobook, and since it wasn’t packaged as an audiobook, I was cleverly tricked into picking it up.  I didn’t even see the CDs in the front and back of the gorgeously illustrated covers until we were in the car and headed for our next task.  The Odyssey was one of my favorite reading assignments from college, and I was pretty sure there wasn’t anything completely untoward for both shifts of kid to hear (I’m more comfortable with kids learning of the horrors of war than the seduction of the flesh, frankly).  I was not disappointed in this version: there’s nothing immodest, and the retelling of the tale does not skip over the violent parts (Polyphemus and Scylla aren’t tidied up, for instance).  The narrators never use syrupy voices-for-the-kiddies.  I loved hearing Second Shift cheer when Odysseus sent the arrow through the axe handles.  All in all, I highly recommend this version.  Everyone can listen to the story while those who aren’t driving and can’t even read yet can appreciate the gorgeous, stylized illustrations.

Once we’d enjoyed that, I tried thinking back to literary classics I’d tried to get First Shift to read but which they’d eschewed because they prefer non-fiction so blastedly strongly.  The first one that came to mind was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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I’ve struggled to get my older kids to read fiction, because their interests are limited, and they don’t see the point in fiction.  Even if they never, ever enjoy fiction (sniffle!), fiction-reading is still a part of learning how to be human–seeing how characters face conflict and deal with it, for good or ill.  Then there’s the ability to follow along with literary allusions without getting lost.  Both of those tasks can be conquered adequately (perhaps not well, but adequately) through audiobooks–force-fed to unwilling brains while on long car rides.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those books that my kids just did not want to read but that we enjoyed listening to (maybe not as much as the next one, but more on that in a bit).  Narrator Jim Dale handled the ridiculousness with the exact right amount of wryness but still kept it whimsical.  I enjoyed this version immensely, moreso than I ever enjoyed the text version or any movie version (Sorry, Mr. Carroll).

Lastly, a book I read only once in my college years: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

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The story, as always, is wonderful: the tale of an unwanted orphan who finds family in the most unlikely pair of brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.  The example of a flighty but well-meaning girl who gets into particularly feminine adventures, who in turn learns from each hilarious mistake she makes, is a precious example I really wanted to share with my three young ladies.  Hearing the story now as a parent myself was that much more poignant than it had been when I was a childless college student, struggling to pass her own exams and such.  I love how much of a family story this is, with appeal across the ages.

As for this production in particular, the editing in this one could use some smoothing out, and I think the narrator went a little too far on the wry side and not far enough on the wonderment side.  That said, we had a great time listening to this one.  Second Shift loved it as much as I did; as Cordelia Chase would say, “Overidentify much?”

Adding audiobooks to our homeschooling has already been such a boon.  First Shift has phenomenal reading skills, but they shy away from personal stories; Second Shift loves fiction but struggles mightily with reading.  Audiobooks have given us the opportunity to share literature with each other, discuss it, talk about conflict and description and language.  I can’t believe I’ve let us miss out on this rich resource for so long.

In the time I’ve had to read books rather than listen to them, I’ve started in on From Grief to GraceFrom Grief to Grace coming out next month by Jeannie Ewing.

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I’ve also read another Chime Travelers book by Lisa Hendey, but that one won’t be out until Christmas, so look for a review in, say, November.

Do you have reluctant readers?  How do you tackle their challenges?  Do you use audiobooks?  What are some of your favorites?  And don’t forget to link up with Carolyn!

PSA: New Release from Annie Douglass Lima

Hey there, readers!  Please welcome longtime blogfriend and Clean Indie Reads writer Annie Douglass Lima as she shares her latest publishing news as well as offers a free copy of one of her books.  Take it away, Annie!


I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.

First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?


The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).  


Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

 

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

 

 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

 

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30!



Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and
later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.


Connect with the Author Online:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

 


Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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