Monday, September 17, 2012

More Pure Picklewiggle Fun

My kids get older. (You can read that as I feel a lot older as their tastes move from picture books to chapter books to young adult fantasy.) I find myself enjoying more and more opportunities to recapture a bit of their youth by reading younger fiction. If you read my previous reviews of Amelia Picklewiggle, you already know I'm a big fan of the straightforward story lines and the whimsical artwork. I took a look at two upcoming books. (That's right, I got pre-release privileges. Go ahead take a moment to bask in the glory.) I knew I'd enjoy them, but I didn't expect to be quite so enamored with them.

First, I took a look at Andrew's Counting Clowns.  You probably already know I enlist the help of my beautiful youngest daughter Abby for children's books, but there was nothing doing with this one.  I can get her to read below her level and even enjoy books that are appropriate for someone half of her very mature eight years of age, but a counting book crossed the limit, and I just got an exasperated roll of the eyes and a stare that was more pitying than vicious.  So, this one's all me.  I have to be honest.  I don't remember learning to count.  I remember my mother taught me, and I remember what a tremendous accomplishment I felt when I reached ninety-nine and then my mother told me the "Big One Hundred" came after that.  I was confused a few months later in kindergarten because the teacher asked who knew how to count to a hundred and I didn't realize that one hundred and a hundred were the same thing.  I wonder if I would even remember learning how to count without that embarrassing moment.

I do, however, remember teaching my kids to count, and children's counting books always played an important role.  My beautiful (and much smarter) wife and I spent countless hours reading to the kids before they were even coordinated enough to hold the books.  I wish Andrew's Counting Clowns had been available.  The art is beautiful and hilarious.  The bright colors are sure to keep the little one's attention, and yet it's not filled with the strange and condescending feeling that so many "educational" books for young readers seem to produce.  You can believe that when my oldest boy gets off his rear and starts producing grandkids we'll be reading this book to them right before we rile them up so they're completely unmanageable and hand them back over.

The next of Picklewiggle's books I cracked open was Millie the Mummy.  Although this was also below her age level, I managed to get Abigail to look at it.  Let's just say I'll be spending the next week or so having to hide the toilet tissue from an eight year old who wants to wrap herself in it to pretend to be a mummy.  The plot revolves around a young mummy decorating for her school's Halloween party.  Since the whole town is filled with ghosts and goblins, there are a bunch of funny moments.  Abby giggled forever when we discovered Walter the Werewolf.  (I was named after my grandfather, who was most definitely not a werewolf but nonetheless was without question a Walter.)  For quite some time, I was Walter the Werewolf amid squeals and eight year old giggles.  She also got a kick out of the janitor, Mr. Frankenstein, who helps Wanda the Witch up a ladder. (He picks her up.)  Once again, Picklewiggle proves that she knows what kids love.  The language is plain and non-pedantic.  The art is funny and beautiful.

The last of my Picklewiggle trio is the same Halloween series.  Victoria the Vampire tells the story of...well...a vampire named Victoria.  This was another giggle fest.  First off, the little vampire sleeps in a four poster coffin with a canopy.  It took a while to get Abby to calm down enough to keep reading.  Then, Wanda the Witch and Victoria dress up as ghosts to try to be scary.  Okay...a witch and a vampire want to scare their friends so they put on bed sheets with eye holes.  Abigail giggled Abigail.  Millie makes an appearance in this one as well, and they recruit her to also dress up like a ghost.  The three little ghouls (sorry, bad pun, I know) continue scaring their friends.  The sight of a Frankenstein Monster cringing at the sight of a bed sheet ghost is priceless.  Eventually, they decide to go back to Victoria's house to watch movies.  What kind?  Scary movies, of course.  
I love that Picklewiggle's books don't talk down to kids.  They're geared toward a young audience, but they don't treat the audience like numbskulls.  Keep writing Amanda, and maybe when Abby has kids of her own I'll still be able to sit down and read with her and think of her as my little girl.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Picklewiggle. The Name Alone Says It All

I just love that I do what I do.  I haven’t had a real job in forever.  Instead, I get to read, write, eat, sleep, and play with my kids all day long.  I love when all of these things come together.  They did over the last few days.  Amelia Picklewiggle’s children’s books did it for me.  I got to read them, write about them, eat treats with Abby, and play with her while she gave me her expert commentary on Tessa’s Troubles, Samuel’s Big Day, and A Day at the Circus.  The truth is, she’s too big for these books and has made her way into chapter books, spending hours devouring far more advanced stuff.  I think she’s happy for the time we spent on these ones, though.

Tessa’s Troubles tells the story of a rescued Dachshund shopping for Valentine’s Day presents with her owner, Mommy.  Abby says, “It’s a really cute dog, and dogs really are spoiled in stores.”  It’s a sweet story, and I quite enjoyed it.  I have to say that the art is playful and whimsical.  It’s a fine picture book, though I think Tessa’s troubles are far behind her by the time this book starts.  I enjoy the interactions between Mommy and Tessa, and anyone who’s ever had a rescued dog will recognize the situations.

Samuel’s Big Day tells the story of a dog waiting to be adopted and how a family chooses him from among other dogs at the fair.  Abby says, “Sammy was sad because nobody wanted him, but somebody did want him.  He just hadn’t met her yet.  Most people have somebody that want them, Dad [Somehow over the last year, I’ve become Dad instead of Daddy] and they just need to get out and find them.”  Pretty profound for an eight year old, huh?  The story is cute and heartwarming, and even though it touches on the cliché about the scruffiest or tiniest or ugliest dog getting picked, it doesn’t embrace it.  It was a great book, and any kid still in picture books will love it.

A Day at the Circus was another good one.  Abby, of course, immediately began bugging me to find a big top somewhere near us, and promptly lost interest in discussing the book.  Of course, the excitement itself was as good a vote of confidence as any quote could have been.  The art, like the other two books, is whimsical and fun, and I quite enjoyed the book and again think it would work well for younger kids.

I have seven kids, and all of them are past the point where these books will appeal to them fully.  Still, I remember reading books like these to all of them, and it’s highly likely that my oldest will be frustrated because of Picklewiggle because now I’m in all-out grandkid mode.  So come on, Zac, get off your rear, find a wife, and give me grandkids.  You, too Nate.  Nic, what’s up with that girl you took out?  Any hope for the pitter patter of little feet?  Get busy.  I want to hold little kids again (aptly named WJ after their doting grandfather.)  I’ve already got the books picked out I want to read to them.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Slice of Heaven

Today, I’m fortunate to have a moment to interview Heaven Liegh Eldeen, a fine author and a remarkable person.  Get to know her.  Her story is inspiring and incredible.  I had a chance to interview her, and I’m more than glad I did.  I’ll be reviewing her book The Demon Side in a few days.

You have multiple genres and audiences.  Do you find yourself slipping into YA writing for your more mature projects, or the reverse?  Ever accidentally write an erotic scene into a YA novel and have to rewrite it?

I have a philosophy about something similar to what you’re asking. Don’t put porn in my movies and don’t put movies into my porn. If I’m writing an erotica tale, I try very hard to keep it in that genre. Last thing I want is someone expecting a YA story and getting the full Monty. So when writing my YA novels I tend to stay away from sex completely. That’s not to say there isn’t some hot make out sessions but I like to keep it clean. I have slipped up a few times with making those make out sessions too hot but the editing gods have caught me, luckily.

All that talent and beauty, too!  Heaven's Photo
Tell me your thoughts on the independent publishing movement.

I am all for it! Some of the most amazing authors and stories that I have found have been self-published works. The self-publishing world has come a long way. The bindings, the formats, the stories are everything you’d expect from a large publisher. And for those naysayers, don’t judge a book by its publisher.

Do you write full time or part time, and how do you manage it?

I have the pleasure of being what I like to refer to as being a domestic engineer or more commonly known as a housewife. People assume I have all the time in the world to write but believe me that is not the case. Between daily chores, kissing owies, and a million “Mommy, look at this” and “Hey babe, I can’t find…” it really leaves no room for writing. But, I have a found a method that works for me depending on the time of year.

When school is in, the minute I get home from taking my son to school I sit at the computer and set my timer for one hour. When that beep goes off I get up, stretch, and do the dishes. Then I sit back down, set the timer again. When it goes off, I get up, stretch and vacuum. And that continues throughout the day until it is time to pick up my prince of Bioncles. During summer vacation it’s not so easy. When possible my husband helps out a great deal. The times he can’t, well, let’s just say you have to have great junk food to bribe babysitters with.

I recommend introducing your babysitter to what I like to call ghetto chocolate fondue. Mix up a box of fudge brownie batter. Leave it in the bowl. Grab some marshmallows, strawberries, pretzels, bananas and let the bribing commence. Dip one item into that batter and let them taste it. In no time flat you have a babysitter until that batter is gone. One box usually lasts about three hours. Ha-Ha. It works every time!

Tell us about your latest book.

My young adult paranormal romance The Demon Side centers on Rahovart, a Demon banished to Earth over five hundred years ago. For centuries, he spends his free time feeding himself on the fear he creates by scaring Quantico, Virginia locals. A master of his craft, Rahovart doesn’t think twice when a new family, the Divad’s, move into the Victorian home he dwells in.

With a workaholic father, an alcoholic step-mother and a schizophrenic eighteen year old girl, the dysfunctional family unknowingly offers the perfect arsenal for Rahovart to plan his tricks. That is until he learns their daughter; Etta can not only see and hear Demons, but is already being tormented by Alastor, an incubus. What starts as a turf war between him, Alastor and the Arch Angels, soon becomes a battle deep within Rahovart of good versus evil and more importantly love versus hate.

How did you come up with titles?

I think about an aspect of the story and try to fit it in a title. When one strikes me as good, I repeat it over and over again using different voices to see how well it rolls off the tongue. And when I say different voice I mean every voice from valley girl to Yogi Bear. If it flows no matter what accent or voice I use to say it, it’s a keeper.

You’ve got a bunch of projects in the works.  Does it drive you crazy?  How do you keep up?

I am currently working on five other novels and at times it can be taxing. You have so many stories and characters in your head constantly squawking in your ear it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. But, I treat each one as if I were a hairdresser. I listen to them, then run and tell my husband everything they said.  We gossip about them as if they were real people. It helps keep them all straight and it keeps my mind busy. A busy mind is a happy mind.

Now, focus on one of the upcoming projects and give us a taste.

The Human Side (sequel in my Demon Side series) is currently in senior editing and will be releasing. I can’t tell you enough how excited I am. But I don’t want to give anything away to those who haven’t read The Demon Side. Don’t throw tomatoes at me yet! I do have another young adult paranormal suspense novel, Vineyard House currently in editing that I don’t mind sharing.

When Adesina Gower, an eighteen year old high school outcast thought life couldn’t get any worse than taking care of her Schizophrenic mother and ailing grandparents, she finds herself catapulted into a world of shape-shifting Druids, where no one; including herself, is what they appear to be.

 With the help of some unlikely friends, Adesina Gower or as she likes to be called Desi, soon finds herself being the only person that can save both the Otherworld and Earth from an evil grove of Druids known as The Defectors, who have summoned the god of the Underworld, Arawn, into the body of Desi’s estranged father.

Just as Desi begins to feel she has a handle on her abilities and everything happening around her, a wrench is thrown in the mix when Desi and her friends have to team up with The Seekers, a group of religious zealots created during the crusades for the sole purpose of eradicating Druidry all together, for a battle of the greater good versus evil.

What inspired you to be a writer?

It was a perfect storm of a multitude of events. It seemed all in one day the stars aligned and a writer had been born. My husband loves horror flicks. I absolutely hate watching scary movies. I do okay with the slasher films such as Friday the 13th and Halloween. However, movies that deal with the unseen, ghosts, and entities, flip me out! It doesn’t matter that I know the movies are completely fake and improbable. I can’t help but run through my house, turning on every light, screaming for my husband to hold my hand while I relieved my bladder during a commercial break. Of course, the jokester my husband is, never resisted cracking a few jokes about what a pansy I am or attempts to scare the poo out of me on our way back to our recliners.

Tired of pranks and jokes, I built a self-defense mechanism in my head. I keep my eyes on the television but send my brain into La-La Land. Well, they have scary monster in La-La Land too. Lucky for me, I set the rules for that amusement park.

Short story longer, one evening I snuggle into my hubby as he turns on what is not just a scary movie, but the worse kind of scary movie, one about demons and ghosts attacking you in your sleep. How do you defend against that? You can’t. So, my defenses raise and off goes my brain to stand in line at the tea cups, when suddenly a Demon stands in line behind him.

Being the cordial little guy, my ball of pink spaghetti happens to be, he strikes up a conversation with the mortifying beast. Next thing I know, Rahovart, Etta, John, Alastor, The Arches and Rene are at the snack bar, stuffing their faces with nachos, sucking down lemonade and trading stories back and forth while I sit in the background typing every word that passes between them.

Who is your favorite character in your books? Why?

The four main characters in my novella The Demon Side are all tied as my favorite. Each one represents a different part of me on my journey from the gutter to being a productive member of society. Rahovart the Demon is, well, all of my Demons. Etta is my innocence and strength. John is my fight and stubbornness. And Rene is my ignorance.

Tell us about the hardest challenge you had to overcome in writing?

The hardest challenge has to be not listening to those who said I couldn’t do it. Doubt and fear are easy seeds to plant. But you can’t nurture those even if they may be the easiest to grow.

What advice would you give to a writer just starting out?

Never…ever…never…ever give up! Make and Google your homepages! And remember, the scales of success can only be measured by what you put in them.

Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?

I have so many! I read mostly true crime novels, but dabble in a few other genres as well. If I narrowed the list down, I would have to say my favorites are, Ann Rule, Harold Schechter, Katie Harper, Benjamin Russell, Tina Folsom, Davee Jones, Ashley Robertson, Ciar Cullen, Richelle Mead, Bianca Sommerland and Kelley Armstrong. I can go on and on, but I doubt you want me taking up that much time.

How did you deal with rejection letters?

Oh that’s easy. I throw them away. A rejection letter doesn’t mean I didn’t write a great story. It simply means it wasn’t for them. And every no I get is one step closer to a yes.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

You must hone in on your gossiping skills. I’m not saying start running around talking about everyone in your personal life. But when you have more than one book in your head or a plethora of characters, being a great gossiper makes getting it all down on paper much easier.  Think of your characters as real people and you want to give your readers all dirt on them.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?

No laughing! My husband and I made paper swords, sheet togas, and cardboard wings. We fought around my living room for a few hours to make sure all the movements for a battle scene were right and possible. Of course as luck would have it, our blinds were open and now our neighbors think we’re more than a little off of our rockers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Whole Lot of Blood for a Book Called "Bloodless"

How's that for a kick ass cover image?
I feel like I've been in hibernation over the last year.  Lots of family issues came up, the scariest of which was the diagnosis of cancer for my favorite nephew, Michael.  (Okay, I love all my niece's and nephews the same.  That was just an attempt to find out if any of my non-immediate family reads my blog.)  But everything is worked out now, including what appears to be full remission for Mike; so I figured it was time to take my blogs seriously again, and I'm back at it. Wow...what a book to start with.  Jody  R. LaGreca and Michael McCarty have produced a very good novel.  I received a pre-publication copy since it comes out in October, but you should definitely keep an eye out for it on J.R. LaGreca's Amazon Page.

I'm amazed.  Every time I'm tempted to believe the vampire genre has been completely played out, somebody comes along and proves me wrong.  In this case, two somebodies have done a fabulous job knocking me on the head with a literary hammer just to tell me, "Shut up, Rosser--there's a hell of a lot more to explore with the bloodsuckers."  This is a great book with a fine storyline and lots of excitement and fun.  It's cool enough that I'm terrified I'll be throwing out spoilers left and right, so I'm going to be very careful.

I like the way the authors write.  That's generic and non-spoiling, right?  Of course, when both authors are lauded in the writing community, what did I expect?  (I mean really lauded, too, with Bram Stoker nominations, and real industry recognition.  Read some of LaGreca's poetry and you'll figure out why.)  As an example of the clear but sensual writing, take a look at this excerpt:

Dressed in a black satin gown, its sheen reflected the melodrama of night, which
loomed as a backdrop all around her. Whether it was a nightgown or a slip looked uncertain. The
one sure thing remained; Annie’s shapely form looked liquid as it shimmered with sensuality.
There was no mistaking her intent. Her breasts swelled upward generously and her blonde hair
looked luminous against her glowing eyes. They shone with an electric power, which stopped
both men dead in a draw.
In a plea of surrender the men looked at her, only to notice she held a serving of
strawberry parfait in her slender hands. She spoke again in a sultry voice, pitted in the valley of
the undead, a voice that could steal hearts like a thief of dreams.

So you already get that this book is loaded with eroticism and deep sensual language.  Don't take that to mean that it's one of those swooning "Vampires are misunderstood sex toys, not killing machines" books.  The undercurrent of undead danger is clear throughout the book.  I'm not saying you don't root for the bloodsuckers, you do.  It's erotic and romantic; but it's also horrific.

Alright...if I write any more, I'm going to give things away.  Keep your eye out for the book and pick it up in October.  You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Behavior Book I Actually Liked

So, by now you know I have seven kids, and the youngest is seven (almost eight, Dear Lord!)  You also know I hate, absolutely hate, when an author talks down to my kids.  That usually means that I hate all of the "moral instruction" children's books out there.

Gerry the Giraffe Learns Why It's Good to Share somehow avoids all of the pitfalls that so many modern moral tales don't.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's the incredible art.  The pictures are somewhere between realistic and cartoonish in a way that really appeals.  The book was a little young for Abby, but even at seven, she giggled at the pictures.  Gerry and his brother are realistic, even with some anthropomorphic expression.  The pictures are simple, but lovely.

Maybe it's the nature of the story.  I thought it would be some kind of a boy who cried wolf (maybe giraffe who called lion would work better) story, but it wasn't.  There wasn't a fake consequence to selfishness manufactured to make it more of a fable.  There was guilt.  It feels bad to be selfish.  Maybe even more important was that it feels good to be selfish while you're doing it, and the bad feelings come when you realize what you've done.

I liked it, and I hope Cressida Elias can keep up the quality with more books in this serious.  I have some relative's rugrats who are just getting to the right age.

See the reviews of this book on Amazon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Penance, by Poppet and Camael

Here's the blurb on Poppet's new compilation with Camael:

By the author of Darkroom, Quislings, Dusan and Djinn...
Win Cummings is a man conflicted; how much is too much, how far is too far?
He's yet to be a real player in this game where there are more losers than winners.
Living in Penance is like living in a Hell without heat, that is until Ava sets her sights on him.
The battle of the sexes is about to be begin, the stakes are for life, who will fall first, the King or the Queen...remains to be seen.

You already know I'm a fan of this very independent writer, and Penance continues it.  It's different than Poppet's others.  Maybe that has to do with the nature of collaboration.  There is something remarkable in the slow buildup of emotional power that ends up frenzied by the end of it.

One of the very interesting things about this particular book is the rapid fire shift of POV from Ava to Win and back.  Sometimes, it's a little confusing, but I think that has to do with the format of my copy.  Still, you see through Win's eyes and then through Ava's.  I went through a hell of a lot of emotions in regards to the characters, from anger to disgust to pity to joy.  Poppet has a skill at getting you to join the emotional roller coasters her characters ride.

It's another winner.  It's not as obviously dark as most of her books, but if you like Poppet, you'll love this one.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For the Heart of Phillip by S L Danielson

I don't really read much gay erotica, and I have to admit I was a little bit afraid to start.  Maybe that makes me a middle aged homophobic, I don't know.  What I do know is that the book was well written with characters I alternately wanted to get to know, scream at, worry about, and smack.

The characters are all extraordinary self-centered.  Then, they're remarkably empathetic.  You think you understand them and Danielson changes direction with them and you're thrown for a loop.  It's crazy.  She creates believable characters that are undeniably stupid and then completely astute.  That's the mark of a skilled writer.

This is a good book, and the sexuality of the characters doesn't really matter.  They're interesting and engaging and irritating and...well, I guess the word for it is "realistic."  Great book, and I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Evil Playthings, A Review of Angelic Knight's Toy Soldiers Anthology

I think I've figured out why these books are so damn disturbing.  There's something burned into our consciousness about toys that demand innocence and joy.  Yet, some of the best horrific imagery is the kind that takes these aspects of our culture and somehow transforms them into something sinister.  The strangest thing is that it doesn't take a lot of work.  A little scary music in the background can turn an innocuous rocking chair into the tool of the Prince of Darkness.  A close-up makes a smiling monkey with cymbals look like an incarnation from the gates of Hell.  Sometimes I think Joy and Terror come from the exact same place in our collective psyche, as though toys and fun represent nothing but escape from the evil in our world.

Okay, that's all the psychological junk, now lets get to specifics.  This book is a fun read.  Sometimes, I just couldn't get the image of my brothers and I shooting rubber bands at toy soldiers in our various play war maneuvers out of my head.  It was strange to read horror and have the standard horror emotions mixed with childhood memories.  It actually made the book scarier and more difficult to put down.  Here are some highlights

There's a particularly chilling story, Last Line of Defense, by Phil Hickes.  I have to tell you, I may have been clouded by a population of children at my house the size of most football programs, but this one scared me.  It's filled with standards in the genre, too, nothing really original.  That's not a criticism.  Hickes uses the stereotypes in a way that makes everything fresh.  I was happy to see stories involving nutcrackers, and I have to say that nutcrackers are probably the scariest of all toy soldiers.  I particularly enjoyed The Nutcracker's Game by Lisamarie Lamb.

I liked Jack M. Horne's poem, The Guard, and of course, the Angelic Knight crew was represented well with a poem from Blaze McRobb, a strangely poignant tale by Stacey Turner that makes you wonder if Disney got Toy Story all wrong, and more.  I liked the collection and you should pick it up.  It's a good production from a great independent publisher.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Review of Demonic Dolls

My daughter Bethany is ten years old now, and she still has golden curls that are almost like ringlets.  When she was abut one and a half, I visited my parents house with the kids for Christmas.  We arrived at about midnight, and my dad was already out for the night.  Right around six in the morning, I sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee.  My dad walked in and we caught up a bit.  Suddenly, he got as pale as a sheet and stopped mid-sentence.  I asked what was wrong, and he pointed down the hallway.  I looked around the corner, and there was my toddler in her little princess outfit walking down the hall.  He thought she was a china doll come to life.  We all laughed, but I'm not sure he ever got over it.

My wife will punch me if I say, "My name is Talking Tina..."  My sister banned gifts of china dolls for my niece.  If I go into a toy store and there are dolls on the shelves, my daughters guide me toward stuffed animals and games.  Face it, to a lot of us, dolls are creepy and scary.  Enter Angelic Knight Press, a fabulous independent publisher of speculative fiction.  Their initial anthology in their Satan's Toybox series is called Demonic Dolls, and they are...demonic and dolls.

Some of these stories are super cool.  Adeline, by Melissa Farrar, is an interesting treat.  Scott Goriscak's Playing with Dolls is a typical Goriscak gem.  I really enjoyed Stacey Turner's Soul Collector as well.  You'd think nobody could do an "unsuspecting people end up in haunted property and they're the last to know it was haunted" story and still make it worth reading, but Turner does.  Blaze McRobb, the knight who is not quite angelic who heads up this indie publisher has a fabulous introductory poem.  Here's a taste.

And so the girl, now is sitting, still is sitting, still is sitting, on the shiny floor of horror, deep inside the room of gloom. 
And her eyes have all the knowing of the dolls around her showing, and the knowledge still is growing, deep within this eerie room.

Want to take a guess to whom he's offering tribute?

Great anthology at a great price.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A review of Quislings, by Poppet

I think Poppet is one of the neatest independent authors around.  I reviewed Siethe, previously.  Let me warn everyone.  Poppet doesn't write for kids nor for the faint of heart, so don't pick up her books looking for sunshine and lollipops!

As with all of Poppet's writing, the characterization here is not lacking.  She creates dark and mysterious personalities placed in extraordinary circumstances.  Setting the book in the midst of Mayan cultural ramblings and modern crises is an especially neat treat for me.  It's a rich and powerful tapestry of setting and atmosphere.

I liked this book so much, that I'm guarding what I say so I give nothing away.  Experience it for yourself.  You'll love it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Trouble with Ap Miller

Okay, so this was intended to be a blog reviewing books generally intended for adults.  I don't mean erotica or high violence books, I just mean I'd intended to review for an audience of adults.  Along comes Ap Miller, the wonderful husband and wife writing team of Andrew and Patricia, and although they have a number of books for adults, they sent me The Boogedyman.  Bekah, my oldest daughter, fell in love with that one and even wrote her own review on her own review blog.  (Give her a thrill and leave her a comment.)  Okay, no problem.  One YA book and I could get back to shooting, screaming, kissing, and all that.

Except my daughters really love Ap Miller, so when they sent me Peter and the Pumpkin Patch, I had to read that.  (Yes, I'm the kind of guy who reads every single word before I let my kids read them.)  Okay, next thing you know, I had to do a review of that one because my youngest daughter Abby insisted it needed to be said.  Alright...soon people are sending me children's books left and right.  So, I reconcile myself to reviewing some of those as well.  The way I figure it, this is Rosser's Relaxed Reading Reviews.  Give your kid something to do and you'll get to relax for a little while, right?

So then, I pick up Ap Miller's new book, the Trouble with Tessa, and it's good.  My daughters love it even though it's a little young for them.  They're wonderful children's books about a rescued dachshund, Tessa.  I read the book and it was remarkable how easy it was to imagine a child rather than a dog.  Mommy is spoiling Tessa and Mommy knows it, but she spoils the dog because it's a rescued dog.

Tessa has a problem.
She loves to whine to her mommy.
She is very spoiled, and sits on the floor by
her mommy’s desk and cries.

I'm getting to know Andrew and Patricia, and I know about the real Tessa, and maybe that makes my take on the book a little one-sided, but I loved it.  For any of us who have ever had a rescued dog and dealt with the real fear of abandonment, you know what I mean.  Ap Miller wrote this book as a tribute, and it's special to me.  It's special anyway.  It's a great book, and you should pick it up for a kid in your life.  It's the first in a series, and you might as well pick up all of them.  If I know Ap Miller, your kids will love them.  You'll love them, too.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Abigail's Review of Where Hummingbirds Come From by Adele Crouch

I’ll have to content myself to a life with a family that’s just more interesting and, well, cooler than me. My wife is both smarter and better looking than me.  My four sons are all stronger, smarter, and far more handsome.  On top of that, all three of my daughters are more clever and more fun on any given afternoon.  Okay…yes, you counted right.  I have seven kids.  Yes.  Seven.  Okay?  It helps to close your eyes, shake your head, and just pretend you didn’t know.

With all of my kids, I’ve read thousands of children’s books.   When independent publishing came along, there was a flood of really bad children’s books on the market.  A bunch of folks who didn’t understand that children weren’t idiots just started pumping out junk and expected me to not only put it in front of my kids but to pay for it.  Ugh!  Few things irritate me more than that.

I’m happy to say that Adele Crouch is not one of those writers.  Her beautiful and simple story is the opposite in fact.  It’s short enough that I…oh, wait.  My daughter is reminding me that she’s the one reviewing this book, so here you go.  My lovely Abigail Mae has this to say:

Tweet tweedy tweet…Oh, didn’t see you there.  What is that you want to know?  Oh, what I think of Where Hummingbirds Come From? Well, I guess I could tell you a little. I just think it’s  a wonderful book!  All the games I play have something in them that has something to do with birds.  This has my Mother Nature love on the ball! Hummingbirds, streams, flowers, and even snow!  Awesome! Okay, back to what I was doing.  Tweet tweedy tweet…

It just gives me chills to think about how well my wife has raised that seven year-old despite my best efforts to spoil the daylights out of her.  I’m getting the nod from her that I can get back to my comments, so..It’s short enough that I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but let me say that it’s a wonderful book.  The story unfolds on a grandmother’s knee as she recounts a story about the origins of hummingbirds.  It’s loving and nostalgic, and most importantly, it didn’t make me want to shoot somebody for treating kids like they can’t like something tender and sweet.

Abby’s seven, and well into chapter books, so maybe it says a lot about Adele Crouch that she still liked a picture book.  I liked it, too.  I also liked that she has a number of her books on Amazon with translations included.  This would allow you to practice another language while enjoying time with your kids.  Pick this one up, folks. Happy reading.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Ladies Temperance Club Farewell Tour by Jeff Lee

The promotional blurb for this book reads "Think Thelma and Louise meets Lucy and Ethel."  That's about all the review you need for this book. The premiere ladies-getting-back-at-the-world movie combined with the premiere comedy duo of all time is a great description.  The basic premise:  An abused woman with an alcoholic boyfriend stands up for herself by crushing his neanderthal head with a football trophy.  Friends help her dispose of the body, and it's time for a road trip. I really liked the story and the characters.

I love a book that deals with a serious theme but doesn't take itself too seriously.  It would have been far to easy for Lee to make an overwhelming and bitterly biting book attempting to assault the reader with its pure and honorable significance.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of those flavor-of-the-month, pedantic, self-promoting works of vanity out there.  Lee doesn't fall into the trap.  He realizes he's writing a book, here, and the premise is far more geared toward developing the characters and showing their quirks than making any kind of comment on society.  Take a gander at this excerpt:

Let’s see…” Francine thumbed through some of the ads in the tourist guide.
We’ve got Sluts on Ice at the Tropicana.”
She turned the page.
Naked Sluts on Ice at Caesar’s.”
She turned the page again.
Or Forbidden Naked Sluts on Ice at the Rio.”
Kay and Vonda exchanged a pair of noncommittal shrugs. It didn’t make much
sense to either of them. After all, they could see the same thing for free in the RV’s
shower – minus the two-drink minimum, the choreography and all those silicone
Honey,” Vonda topped off her glass. “If it’s all the same, I don’t feel much like
seeing anything naked. Or on ice.”
Okay…” Francine continued thumbing through her complimentary tourist
guide. “But it ain’t gonna be easy.” 

I just love the satire.  I love the comment about the shower minus the silicone.  It's good stuff.  It would be way too easy to preach at us.  Come on, the book is about a woman who kills her abuser.  How can an author avoid it?  Lee does a heck of a job letting us feel the outrage and the empathy without directing us to.  I was very impressed.  The ending was a little more subtle than I expected, but hey, driving off a cliff has already been done, and RV's are a whole lot harder to drive than convertibles.

This is the first thing I've read by Lee, but you can bet it won't be the last.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ragnar the Murderer by Lily Byrne

I reviewed this book some time ago for another site that has, alas, not fulfilled all of the promises made to me when I was recruited to, for example staying on the internet!  I liked this book, and I think it's a worthy read, so I'm posting another here.  Interestingly, I didn't keep a copy of my first review, and since the site at which I put it is gone, baby, gone; I'm just writing a new one.  If it ever pops up again, it will be interesting to know if I changed opinions on anything in the five or six months since I first posted.

First off, fair warning.  There are explicitly erotic scenes in this book.  Don't read it if you're squeamish, and don't give it to little children.  I have to tell you though, it takes a good author to write an explicit sex scene and not come off like a Penthouse letter.  Byrne does fine.

The story's good too.  It has a bit of the whole Romeo and Juliet thing going on, with two lovers from opposing tribes rising above the difficulties that poses.  Usually, that makes a story boring, trite, and ho hum.  Byrne has done a fine job with historical research, though, and her setting along with the work she put into it pulls the book out of the "been there, read that" territory and makes it a great read.

If you like romance novels that have a bit of adventure to them, and you enjoy erotica; you'll like this book.  It's inexpensive on Amazon, so what are you waiting for?