Monthly Archives: July 2010

Proud Racer Series, by…well…me.


Right, what kind of writer wanna-be would I be if I never shamelessly promoted my own writing?  Why, on the front page I’ve listed my other blog, Isn’t the Lettuce Brave? as well as touted my contribution to Touring Old Blighty.  I’ve even mentioned NERDA’s World, an ASL v-log that is seriously suffering from neglect at the moment, and that’s not written in English!

So, here you are, my shameless plug about my own writing, so that we can get it out-of-the-way and get on with talking about real authors, already.

When I was working for the Department of Mental Health in South Carolina as a sign language interpreter, I was sent often to a psychiatric hospital to play the hurry up and wait game.  The rules of that game include being on the hospital grounds for a set amount of hours a day so that any Deaf/Hard of Hearing patients that might be receiving treatment at the hospital could have language access.  The reality of it was a lot of sitting around, reading books, finishing paperwork, and waiting to be called down to the ward.

During one of those long days, an idea began wiggling its way out of my head and into a word processing program.  I missed my dogs dreadfully every time I had to be away from them, and I guess that day I was missing my first greyhound, Hunky.  I started thinking about how his life was before he came to me, when he was growing up, training, and eventually making a go at racing.  In a few days, the first in the Proud Racer Series, One Greyhound’s Journey was finished and I was looking for a publisher.

In a nutshell, the story starts with a puppy being born on a greyhound farm in Florida.  He is given his Name and sent to School, so that he can learn to be a Proud Racer like his father was.  In truth, Hunky was a mediocre racer, but his father, Fond A Hulk, was a star of the Florida racing circuit.  The story follows Hunky to a few tracks, then back to the farm before he is Petted Out, which means he is released to an adoption group for re-homing.

The other star of the novella is Hunky’s sibling, Marky.   Called Re-Marky-Able by the Nice Lady who whelped and raised them, Marky was born with a defect that caused all of his feet to be flat.  This prevented him from racing, so Hunky had to leave his brother behind every time he left for School or to go to the track to race.  In the end, he left Marky behind one last time to be Petted Out, but met a whole new cast of characters at his new home, including a new “brother” called Henry,  a sister called Jeany, and cats called Franny and Zooey.

In the greyhound owning community, One Greyhound’s Journey was met with cries for a sequel, so that those who followed Hunky’s story would know what happened with Marky.  Who knew that shy, flat-footed boy would become almost more of a star than Hunky?  Along came A Tail of Two Brothers, the sequel to One Greyhound’s Journey, in response to Marky’s fans.  It seems that Marky has been released for adoption as well, and unbeknownst to Hunky has come to Hunky’s New Home as a foster dog.  The brothers are reunited and spend some time catching up, before Marky goes to live with Hunky’s Aunt Lisa, and has a New Home of his own.

The third book in the series is probably my favorite (well, after Hunky’s, because you never forget your first love, do you?) and definitely the one of which I am the most proud.  Blind Faith is the story of a greyhound that changed my life when she came to live with me at 10 years young and left far too soon just a week shy of her fourteenth birthday.  Shotgun Liz, or Lizzard, finds a lot of the time that she can’t remember her early life on the farm, or at the track, except for in her dreams.  She has come to live at Hunky’s house, and meets his housemates Jeany, Bo, and Profile along with the foster dogs that are there with her.  Lizzard, who is mostly blind,  hits their lives with hurricane force and doesn’t let go, whether she is breaking out of her wire crate, re-arranging the trash on the floor in the den, or generally bossing the young pups around.  Through it all, she has faith that this home will be hers soon, and she’ll no longer be a foster.  Copies of this book are available only through me at this stage.

Finally, the fourth book is about the newest member of my family, Daisy.  Racing at Jacksonville and Sanford Orlando as FTH Oopsie Daisy, she is guided through the process of adjusting to her new life by Profile, now a Bridge Angel who appears only to Daisy.  There is a Mommy to look after, a Jeany NOT TO CROSS, and scores of other new experiences waiting for Daisy in Half Crazy.  To be honest, I am the least thrilled with the cover of this one and will most likely be re-releasing it with new cover art, if I don’t put all of them in one book first…which I may do.  Stay tuned, if you’re one of the handful of people interested in what my dogs have to say.

Now, you’ll notice if you’ve clicked on any of the links above that some of them link through to Amazon and some to  I have published all of these books with either Penman Publishing, Inc. (One Greyhound’s Journey, A Tail of Two Brothers, and Blind Faith) or (Proud Racer, Proud Racer: Half Crazy) but only some actually have ISBNs.  (That would be a lesson I’ve learned along the way…always get an ISBN on your book or it won’t sell anywhere save out of your car’s boot.)  I hope that you’ll give my little books a chance so that you can get to know the greyhounds that have changed my world for the better.

In loving memory of Hunky (Fond A Hunk), Jeany-Bean (Bud’s Lady Jean), BoBo (Flashy Jo Star), Profile (Mo Tivator), Lizzard (Shotgun Liz), and Marky (Re-Marky-Able) as well as Franny and Zooey, my fearless feline greyhound-testers.  Thanks to all of you for making my world a more complex and beautiful place.

L-R, Profile, Lizzard, Hunky, Bo and Jeany (and me, holding on for dear life)

The Immortals Series, by Alyson Noel

I want to state for the record that if I were still a teenager I’m certain I would love these books.  I would be painfully shy (again) and certain to lose myself in the characters that do and say things I would never dream of doing or saying.  I’d be so happy that there is another Twilight series (just with slightly different supernatural/paranormal bits) that I’d be over the moon, Blue or otherwise.

However, I am an adult, and a member of that crowd that read YA/teen fiction, so I’m going to talk about this series as who I am.  Sadly, who I am didn’t care for this series as much as I would have liked.  If you ever see me diving from the YA/teen section toward Nicholas Sparks, you’ll know it’s because the fourth in this series, Dark Flame, has been released and I’m looking for it with a view to purchase.

I’m not sure what it was that kept me reading these.  I do have an OCD-like condition that forces me to finish books I’ve started unless they are just so bad that I physically can’t make myself turn the pages.  The Immortals Series didn’t fall into that category, not by a longshot, but there were times when I found myself skipping over paragraphs as I read.

Right, so what are these books about?  Hard to tell you too much without a spoiler warning, so I’ll give you the basic idea.  Ever Bloom, our main character, is involved in a car accident that not only takes the rest of her family from her (including the family dog) but grants her the ability to see auras and telepathically read thoughts.  After her recovery, she is sent to live with her aunt Sabine, who was her father’s twin sister, in California.  She can hear other people’s thoughts all the time, and drowns out the noise with her iPod.  The noise is worse if she makes physical contact, so she tends to wear heavy hooded sweatshirts (that also hide the constant iPod use) and avoid people.

Her life is turned upside down with the arrival of Damen at her new high school.  Damen is glamorous and handsome.  He drives a fancy car and has girls wilting in his wake.  But he only seems to have eyes for Ever.  Could it be that they’ve met before?

Seriously, there are tons of Twilight similarities in this book.  Ever is clumsy and self-loathing, like Bella.  Damen is sharp, handsome, and mysterious like Edward.  They see each other across a parking lot and BAM, love.  Sound familiar?  But if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll see that this story really wasn’t new when Ms. Meyer created Bella and Edward.  What about Heathcliff and Catherine?  Remember Romeo and Juliet?  With that in mind I really can’t fault Ms. Noel for the plot.  It has stood the test of time and is a guaranteed draw for the YA/teen crowd.

I like the twist about who is whose soul mate that surfaces in Shadowland.  To be honest, I think that Blue Moon was modeled (as far as Ever’s story is concerned) on New Moon.  Interference beyond the control of Ever and Damen drives them apart in the second book, but to Ms. Noel’s credit Ever does not completely shut down like Bella did in New Moon.  She works through the problem as best she can, which I think is part of the reason I stuck with these novels.  Ever, for all her faults, is just more believable to me as a teenage girl than some other current heroines.  The storyline has been there and done that, and some of the things that happen in the book (supernaturally speaking) don’t have enough explanation to suit my 30-something mind…but again, that’s why they are aimed at a younger audience.

If you really liked Twilight, if you’re on Team Whomever, if you are a teenager for real or in your mind and want a book to get lost in, this is a good series to choose.  Well written?  In parts.  Irritatingly maudlin?  In parts.  Totally YA?  You betcha.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Oh, dearie me as they say here in the UK, was this a hard book to read.  Difficult and challenging, it made me simultaneously embarrassed and proud to be Southern.  Let me try to convince you that this HAS to be your next book, if you haven’t already read it.

PS- Please know that when I say colored, it’s because that is the term used in the book, but I’m shuddering at the wrong-ness of it even now.

The story is set in early 1960s Mississippi, and centers around the lives of three women who become unlikely friends.  Skeeter is a white woman from a middle class family who was raised by her treasured colored maid, Constantine.  Aibileen is a colored maid who has raised seventeen white children and uses each one of them to fill the hole left by the death of her own child.  Minnie is a colored maid who is full of fire and anger and boundless compassion and loyalty.  They are brought together when Skeeter decides to write a book describing the lives of colored maids in the 1960s South.  The women come, one by one, and tell her their stories, from how to get a colicky baby to sleep to how to avoid being accused of stealing the silver.  Each of the three women tell a part of the story from their own perspectives, and the chapters are written in their voices.

That’s where it got very real for me.  I have known women in the South as I was growing up whose voices I heard resonating through the characters, black and white.  This isn’t Mammy at Tara.  These are educated women on both sides of the color line, reduced to play the parts society has dictated for fear of jail time or worse if they stray.  This is a powerful book, about friendship, trust, loyalty, and equality, and deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelf.

The Evernight Academy Series, by Claudia Gray

Start with what you know, right?

Lately my reading tastes have leaned toward what one of my colleagues at the shop calls “Kissy-Bitey” books, i.e. those that have characters who are vampires.  I think you can figure out what’s kissy and what’s bitey.  The first foray into this sub-genre for me, as for many of us adults that now frequent the YA or teen sections in bookstores and libraries, was the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer.

By the way, may I just take a minute to address those adults in question:  There is nothing wrong with getting your books from the YA/Teen section.  A lot of fiction aimed at kids aged 13-21 these days is very well written and worth a look, so stop pretending you were really browsing the tail end of adult fiction or catapult yourself toward sci-fi when someone catches you standing in front of the likes of the aformentioned Ms. Meyer.

Right, so back to the review.

Evernight is the first book in this series (which at this point has three books but I understand will have six by the conclusion).  While I feared the worst when I picked this series up, it completely surprised me with its depth of characters and realistic teenage dialogue.  Veering off sharply from what seems to be the prescription for a best seller in the Kissy-Bitey category (girl moves to new school, girl meets fascinating boy, one of them is a vampire and BAM, unrequited love), the focus of the first book is on Evernight Academy where Bianca (who, she explains, was named for a Shakespearean character, a bonus point in my geeky book!) is to begin school in the fall.   There is a very sweet relationship between Bianca and her parents, which breaks rule number two of the current trend toward angst-ridden vampire loving teenagers.  I found myself torn in several places in the novel between cheering for her to go back to her parents (who turn out to be vampires, sorry if that’s a spoiler but it’s not that hard to figure out) or hoping she will run off with Lucas, the mysterious guy who starts off trying to save her from herself and ends up being the only one that can save her at all.

Stargazer is the second book in series, and while it does leave me reminded a bit too much of New Moon when Edward leaves Bella for the majority of the book, I didn’t find Bianca to be quite as maudlin as Bella.  Lucas has a secret that is revealed at the end of Evernight, and has to flee Evernight Academy and leave Bianca behind.  While the bits of the story that focused on her clandestine meetings with Lucas left me a little cold (pun most definitely intended), her relationships that form with other students and teachers at the school in his absence are a lot of fun to watch as they unfold.  I suppose you could carry the Twilight similarity a bit further and say that I am firmly Team Balthazar, but really I’m too old for that sort of thing.  Now where was that Douglas Adams book again?  Is this the Sci Fi section?  Where is George Orwell, because THAT is what I was really after…

Hourglass was the most frustrating of the three books in this series for me, but it was a good kind of frustrating.  Unlike other series where the story is neatly wrapped up in a bow at the end, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with where the story ended up by the last page of the book.  I don’t want to give too much away, but big changes happen for Bianca, Lucas, Balthazar and some of the others, starting with a fire at the school and including some time on the run for Bianca and Lucas with a gang of vampire hunters called Black Cross.  I think the fact that I was so frustrated by the book was a good sign because I came to really care about the characters, so much so even that I was outraged by the ending.  But the good thing is that there is another one in the works called Afterlife, due out in March of next year.  If only I can wait that long.

Fans of other Kissy-Bitey teen fiction will like this series, I think, if they can hang in there past the first bits of Evernight.  As I am finding is the case with a lot of YA/teen fiction, the beginning of the book is slow going but I promise you won’t regret it.

A day late and a blog short…

You might say that I’m playing copycat here.  You might also say that it’s about time.  Further, if you’re really feeling snarky you might say For the LOVE of PETE, isn’t it enough that you already have two active blogs, several near dead blogs and serve as a commentator on a travel blog?

You might be right, but I’m not telling to whom I’m speaking.

My childhood friend Amy recently rolled out a new book blog called Eat, Sleep, Read, and has inspired me to do the same, mainly because we don’t tend to always read the same things AND, as a bookseller, I need practice in both writing reviews and being able to talk about the books I’ve read intelligently.  It seems that I also need to work on shortening my sentences.  Yikes!

I’m also inspired by Jules, who is currently writing for 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s book blog and a general mecca for all things lovely, fun, and just plain cool.  (eisha, I’m thinking of you too, when I think of 7Imp.)

I hope that you’ll find your next favorite book here or at the least some good discussion about your least favorite!  Welcome to Well Read.