All posts by Nancy E. Dunne

About Nancy E. Dunne

Nancy is a certified American Sign Language/English interpreter, a novelist, and a sighthound owner who is currently living in South Carolina. An avid reader from a young age, she is currently writing every time she has a moment and reading as much as she possibly can...while still managing to eat and sleep.

Just a quick note about NaNoWriMo…

Yep, that banner across the lightbulb says “Participant” because that’s what I’m going to be, come 1 November 2010.  The National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo to its closer friends, is a project out of the Office of Letters and Light.  I can’t hope to summarise it better than they have themselves, so from their website:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.”

I have friends who have done this and I watched from the sidelines, wishing I had the skill and ability to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  I was missing the point.  Published or not, this program encourages people to write…which is the only way to become a novelist, blogger, or just interesting person to have at parties.  It’s good for my creativity, it’s good for my ability to meet a deadline (which currently is nil), and it’s good for meeting other people just as insane and fascinated by writing as I am.  Should be a good time…I’ll check in here with my progress so stay tuned.

While you’re waiting, head over to NaNoWriMo (gosh, I feel like an insider calling it that!) and check out the other programs on offer with the Office of Letters and Light, like the Young Writers Program, the Great NaNoWriMo Book Drive, the 2010 Night of Writing Dangerously (held in one of my fav cities on the planet, San Francisco), and April’s Script Frenzy.

Cross your fingers…November’s going to be a crazy month here at Well Read.

 

The Great Dog Bottom Swap, by Peter Bently and Mei Matsuoka (illustrator)

Okay, one more post today because 1. I haven’t updated Well Read in a shameful amount of time, 2. I absolutely adore this book, 3. I haven’t done nearly enough posts that focus on anything but YA fiction, and finally 4. I’m trying to avoid doing laundry.  I may be Well Read, but I am certainly not Well Pressed.

The Great Dog Bottom Swap came to my attention thanks to another colleague of mine, Julian, who demanded that I stop what I was doing and read the entire thing on the shop floor.  Looking back I think he was daring me not to laugh, but laugh I did and I know you will too.   The basic premise is an explanation of why dogs greet each other by sniffing each other’s bums…a question that I know has kept many a parent and child alike awake long into the night.   It all goes back to a fabulous party where the dogs who attended were asked to remove their bums and leave them in something like a cloakroom.  The illustrations are top notch and the rhyming quality of the story will make it a good one for early readers…though I wouldn’t discount it as a favourite for parents alike to read aloud…if you can stop laughing long enough to read, that is.

This is a fantastic find in picture books that is destined to become a classic.  We gave it to my niece recently for her birthday and while she (at age two) was more fascinated with the birthday cake shaped hat that played “Happy Birthday” that accompanied the book, the adults at the birthday party read it aloud and laughed until they cried.

Angel, by L.A. Weatherly

Back I go to YA fiction, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.  I want to talk today about Angel, by L.A. Weatherly.  I read an ARC of this book (thanks much to my colleague, Roz, for lending it!) because I needed a filler for a weekend.  Honestly.  Roz had been telling me at work that I HAD to read it and she thought I would LOVE it…something that usually puts me off a book immediately, regardless of who it is that is doing the pleading.  I guess that’s because my taste in books is pretty eclectic…no really, I do read more than just books with pretty covers and/or the latest YA Kissy-Bitey/Growly/Floaty book that turns up in the bookshop.  I promise.

Let me start by saying this is NOT another Fallen Angel Meets Teenage Girl/Boy and Falls In Love book.  Not by a longshot.

At first seeming like yet another in the constant parade of supernatural romance books for teens that we’ve seen in the wake of Twilight, Angel soon becomes something very different.  Though written for teenagers, it is lacking in the misguided and immature longings for adult intimacy that plague many YA novels.  While there is a romantic aspect and interest in the plot, it doesn’t subsume the rest of the story, but serves as a secondary plot that helps the primary cause along, if that makes sense?

It’s hard to write a proper review of this book, really, without giving away spoilers, so I’ll tell you what I know and then take away the bits that you need to find for yourself, fair?  The main characters in the book are Alex, an Angel Killer or “AK” and Willow, a girl who has grown up without the knowledge that she is half Angel.

In the story world of Angel, we’re not looking at the celestial beings that sit on clouds, strum harps, and eat Philly cream cheese…we’re talking about creatures who feed on energy to survive, and have searched for a new home now that theirs can no longer sustain them.  The energy rolling off humans in waves is perfect for the dietary needs of these beings, and the Angels find humans to be easy prey due to their need to “believe.”  Churches of the Angels are formed and the populace flock to be touched by these beings, so that they may know the peace and love this contact brings.  Peace, love, and total mental destruction, that is.  So-called Angel Burn is irreversible and devastating, and is the thing from which Alex is fighting to save humanity.  He was born and raised for this life and it is all he knows…until he meets Willow, half-angel yet a direct threat to the beings and their invasion of Earth.

The twists and turns the plot takes weren’t new, but put together into a story took me along, breathless, for the ride.   Angel is well worth a look for those fans of YA paranormal romantic fiction as well as sci-fi/fantasy readers.  You have GOT to read this book.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

The Black Magician Trilogy, by Trudi Canavan

It has been several months since I finished this trilogy and I’ve been purposefully waiting to add it to the blog because I wasn’t sure what I was going to say.  To be honest I’m still not sure, but I’m going to go on and try to put into words what I’m thinking…I mean, why should this post be different than any other, right?

This trilogy was recommended to me by a co-worker and I can say on a very basic level that I did enjoy it.  The characters are well developed and I felt like I knew them and cared about what happened to them, a vital part of storytelling.  The plot…well, I found myself getting bored a few times because it would crawl along and then BAM! Lots of action!  There would be a plot twist that didn’t really go where I thought it would and not in the “Wow, I didn’t see that awesomeness coming!” kind of way.  It was more the “hmmm, wonder why she decided to go THAT way with the plot” kind of way.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all three books, but felt it was a bit more of a sophomoric effort than the sci-fi/fantasy I normally enjoy.

Sonea is a street kid who runs with a gang of boys in Imardin.  Every year, the magicians from the Guild hold the Purge to drive the undesireables from the city.  This year the gang is front and center at the line of magicians and they launch an assault against the barriers the magicians put up.  None of their weapons or missles make it through save one: Sonea’s stone knocks one of the magicians to the ground.

This means, of course, that she has magic, but the only ones with magic are from the esteemed families, and they are inducted into the guild.  A hunt begins in the first novel, The Magician’s Guild, for Sonea, to bring her into the Guild and train her.  What she does not know is that if she isn’t trained the magic within her could kill her, so she resists the Guild and goes into hiding with the assistance of the Thieves.   Book two, The Novice, follows Sonea’s training in the Guild and leads her to discover a horrible secret about the High Lord.  The third book, predictably enough entitled The High Lord, further investigates that secret as well as brings Sonea into her own as a magician.

There are many characters in the book that I found myself really liking.  Lord Dannyl, Ambassador for the Guild, is one of them.  The relationship that he forms while in the field on assignment with one of the people he meets (I’m purposefully vague here, so I don’t spoil it) is one of the most genuine I’ve found in a novel not set in the real world.   Lord Rothen is the classic father figure, and when Sonea leaves his immediate guardianship I could feel his heartbreak and worry for her.  There were also characters that I didn’t like…the High Lord Akkarin being one of them.  My feelings for him changed by the third book and I felt a bit cheated…here is a fabulously faceted man that we don’t get to know until the end.

If you haven’t read any sci-fi/fantasy before this is a great read to pull you gently into the genre.  Terry Goodkind/Robert Jordan/Mercedes Lackey she is not, but Trudi Canavan did manage to spin an intriguing story in this trilogy.  Grab a copy and let me know what you think.

I’d Really Like to Eat a Child, by Sylviane Donnio, Dorothée de Monfreid (Illustrator)

Back when I was still working in the children’s section at Waterstone’s, I would often pause in the NEVER ENDING struggle that is keeping the picture books in some semblance of order to quickly read through one that caught my eye.  This one not only caught my eye and held it, but also prompted me to read it aloud in the store because it made me laugh THAT MUCH.

The message in the book is obvious:  listen to your parents because they really do know best in some situations.  The baby crocodile wants to eat a child, but doesn’t want to eat his own breakfast even though his parents plead that it will help him grow up big and strong.  He stalks the child and finally pounces, at which time the child laughs at the tiny croc and pitches him back in the water.  Result?  Tiny croc starts on a pile of bananas in order to grow up big and strong.

Disturbing?  Possibly, if you’re of the ilk that can’t see past the humor in the subject matter and plot.  Hilarious?  Definitely.  Going on my pre-planned shelf for the day I have my own kids?  You betcha.

13 Treasures, Curses and Secrets, by Michelle Harrison

(edited from a review originally posted on Goodreads.com)

To be honest, I chose this book because I am a part time bookseller (at the time, in the children’s section) and I want to be well versed in what I’m selling. What I found was a gem of a book that, while a bit shaky in parts, overall has fascinating cast of characters that I truly came to care for as the story progressed.   Michelle Harrison, former bookseller with the same company for whom I now work, has hit the mark in this series and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the third book in the series, 13 Secrets, will be even better than the first two.

Tanya is a young teenager with the second sight, and has been plagued all her life by the fey that she can see. She experiences many of the same feelings all teenagers do, not being understood by her parents, that she is somehow different…but Tanya’s feelings are based in fact. It’s only when she is sent to spend summer holidays with her grandmother that she finds out just how different she is.

The twists and turns in the story kept me guessing and involved in the book until the very end.   What started out as an exercise in good bookselling turned into a lovely story that I can read over and over.  Now to wait until February for the next one!

The Wolves of Mercy Falls, by Maggie Stiefvater

I am going to take a second here and admit that I was hesitant to read these because I normally don’t chose werewolf fiction.  I’m more “kissy-bitey” than I am “kissy-growly.”  However, I’ve been looking at these books in the store for months and finally, on the recommendation of a friend, I bought them.

These books are, in a word, excellent.  While described by some as Twilight with Werewolves, I didn’t think of it that way.  It’s written for teenagers, sure, and it does delve into typical teenage angst, but the concept is new and different, and that is something sorely missing in YA/teen fiction these days.

Grace was attacked by wolves when she was a little girl.  She remembered vividly the feel of the blood and the teeth, and the one wolf that watched from a distance, his yellow eyes troubled.  Every year, she waited for her wolf to appear in the woods behind her house in winter time, and every year he came, yellow eyes searching for her.  When she and her friends meet a boy with familiar yellow eyes, her world turns inside out.

Shiver, the first book in this trilogy, introduces us to Grace and Sam, the yellow-eyed werewolf.  Grace is level-headed and serious, and has been basically taking care of herself for most of her life.  When Sam introduces her to his world, all she can do is think about his last summer, and how the day is coming when he will shiver into wolf form and forget all about her.

The descriptions of the transitions are painful at times, but so realistic that it left me feeling as though werewolves could be real.  As a dog lover myself, I could tell that the author has and understands dogs and pack mentality, because the behavior of the wolves with each other and with humans seemed very believable to me.  The characters were fully formed and I found myself really caring about them.

There really is no way for me to talk about Linger, the second book in the trilogy, without spoilers, so I’ll just say that I was not as happy with it as I was with Shiver.  But the thing that made me unhappy was not the writing or the flow, but the actual plot.  Ms. Stiefvater tells a very good, very complex story, and it seemed to me at a few points in Linger that she was rushing to tie up that chapter so that the book didn’t get too long.  I’m now anxiously awaiting the next installment, something I thought I’d never do with a werewolf book.

This book does an excellent job of touching on subjects that are very real and very important to teenagers, while delving into aspects of adult life as well.  It truly has something for everyone and is not to be missed or overlooked in favor of more fangy reads.  Team Jacob?  This is your book.


Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic is a beautiful book. The characters grab your attention from the very start and hang on until the end. While I haven’t read anything else by Alice Hoffman, I like the style and pace of the book.

Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age and go live with their eccentric Aunts.  They find out that for generations the Owens women have had magic, and are generally blamed for everything bad that happens in the New England town where they live.  Each generation the locals basically shun the Owens women, but some unlucky men find themselves in love with an Owens woman and that relationship never ends well.

Sally is determined to change the fate of the women of the Owens family.  Gillian revels in being different and ends up leaving home.   The story unfolds as each girl pursues their own destinies that eventually lead them back to each other and to the town that has a lot to learn about the strength of the  Owens women.

This book speaks to that relationship that happens only between sisters and girlfriends, and I can pick it up time and time again and find new things.  It is beautiful and dark and uplifting and strange, and it has heart.  A truly great read, far far better than the Kidman/Bullock movie, this book is definitely not to be missed.

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 Lulu.com.  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 Lulu.com (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.