Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: Book Review

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson

“You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.

The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?”

I love this book.  For one, I love all things English.  Also, I love when cultures clash, and we see how people deal with it.  I thought this was an excellent book, with major characters who were older, and wiser but who still made mistakes. Both were dealing with grief – Major Pettigrew had lost his wife years before, and was also dealing with the very recent death of his brother. Mrs. Ali had lost her husband.

The romance here was everything I wanted.  There are mistakes along the way, issues as they try to figure out how to navigate tough waters, especially considering the fact neither has dated for a very long time. The characters are complex and well developed.

And then add in the children and family. The fact that the author deals with these issues was probably made the book for me. Romance is often shown as a whirlwind story between two people. This book shows how others opinions affect us, and also how our relationships affect them. I honestly wanted to flat out slap his son so many, many times.

The prose and dialogue are both well done.  There are outside issues affecting things as well (the town is facing development), and it even includes a Lord of the town, who is facing hard challenges on his land (something that is quite true for many English Lords).  I loved the cultures, the questions it raises for discussion and the happy ending.

The time line goes well. I never felt frustrated or annoyed, and it seemed well paced. Though I will say that the son’s story made me frustrated just by his selfishness (though the story does address that).  An interesting hint for parents at well.

Go read!

Waiting for Autumn: Book Review

Waiting for Autumn” by Scott Blum

In the tradition of The Alchemist, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and The Celestine Prophecy, this enchanting semiautobiographical parable follows the inquisitive Scott as he finds himself in a parking lot where he meets a cardboard-sign-toting homeless man named Robert with a penchant for changing lives. With Robert and the sleepy black lab Puppy Don at his side, Scott embarks on a spiritual awakening and attempts to heal his past while confronting the spirit of his dead fiancée, learning the power of nature, exploring the spirit plane, and discovering the true nature of the universe. On this unique journey of self-discovery, various healing and spiritual modalities are revealed, including shamanic soul retrieval, ancestral healing, harnessing of lunar energy, conscious cooking, kirtan, manifesting, and lightworking. This easy-to-read book is a charming and affecting story of one humble soul’s profound awakening on the path to facing an extraordinary dilemma between his spiritual calling and earthly life purpose.” via Amazon

This book was given to me by someone, and we often do not seem to like the same things (He did not like To Kill A Mockingbird. He is also 67 and I am 27).  However, I was fully willing to read it… I did not know at all what it was about. It is certainly… interesting.

This is not the kind of thing I would ever normally read.  I was also not really looking to be enlightened.  For this kind of book for self-discovery, it was very unique, interesting, and had some good moments. The human interaction is quite good and I loved Puppy Dan.

There are apparently others, “Summer’s Path” written after but actually the prequel, and “Winter Moon Rising” the third, final book.

These books are very metaphysical and apparently have many Native American traditions in them.  It has communing with nature, a spirit realm, etc.  It is really about a man’s journey to find inner peace. He meets unique characters along the way.

Scott Blum is the founder of DailyOM.

The North Water: Book Review

The North Water by Ian McGuire

Length: 270 Pages

“Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship’s medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.

In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring?

With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, Ian McGuire’s The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions.”

Okay… So to be honest up front, I gave this book a two. It was also our book club pick for April (I was the host this month).  Three of our members gave it 1 star, I gave it a 2, someone else gave it a 4, and one gave it a 5.  So we had a nice range of opinions, and this was one of our liveliest debates. I research several different lists and this one was on many of them, plus it is:

One of The New York Times Book Review‘s 10 Best Books of the Year – National Bestseller – Longlisted for the Man Booker Priz – A New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller – Named a Best Book of the Year by Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, New Statesman, Publishers Weekly, and Chicago Public Library”

However… I don’t think the blurb really prepared me for what this book was about. I personal opinion is that the last 100 pages or so could have been condensed, or completely changed.  After a certain major event (spoilers for the end), it felt like it slowed to a crawl, and almost never picked back up. Plus, the final big event almost fell flat because of it.  I was disappointed.

**Spoilers**

The blurb says something dark in the hold.  The book starts out with a man killing a another man for money, then following a little boy, knocking him out and raping him. Oh and then he does rapes a cabin boy aboard the ship, and finally kills him. I just was not prepared for that.

I have to say, the overall writing was amazing. It is very in tune with the time, the language, the history, etc.  They story was dark, and yet conveyed the struggles these men would have really faced.  The whaling was excellently described. The sealing hurt my soul. As did a scene involving polar bears.  There is cannibalism, death, murder, and more.  All the grim darkness you could just about imagine. And amazingly, with basically one female character in the beginning, mentions of whores in another town, and one maid at the end.  Of course, also true to the time and the job.

As to things that my friends loved – the language, Drax (who we debated on between Sociopath and Psychopath and landed on Psychopath), and the general overall story.  I will say we all mostly agreed that the ending could have been better.  The friend who gave it four stars did so because she wanted to see a better fight between Drax and Sumner.  The 2 star/1 stars of us had issues with the timeline. And violence. Oh it is brutally violent and the language is quite awful within (as to be expected of whalers but still).

Overall, I suppose give it a chance but just go in warned about the actual content.

The Princess and the Page (Book Review)

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley:

“A dark secret lurks in Keira’s family. She comes from a long line of Word Weavers, who bring their stories to life when they use a magical pen. But for generations Word Weavers have been hunted for their power. That’s why Keira is forbidden to write. When Keira discovers her grandma’s Word Weaver pen, and writes a story for the Girls’ World fairy-tale contest, she starts to wonder if anyone ever truly lives happily ever after. Inspired by the life and times of Gabrielle d’Estrées, a real French princess who lived during the 1500s, The Princess and the Page follows the mystical journey of a modern-day ‘royal’ who goes from having a pen in her hand to wishing for the world at her fingertips. ”

I saw this book at the SOKY Bookfest, and instantly fell in love.  Just the name grabbed my attention, and I had to go find out what it was about. After reading the brief description, I was hooked.  This is the story I would have wanted as an 8 year old. I had to have a copy. The author signed it to “Princess Fallon.” My inner child was giggling in glee.

Now, I will say this is certainly a child’s story.  The writing is perfect for 8-10 year olds, as are the characters. So while I loved it, part of me was unfulfilled.  Now I need an adult version of this story as well.

I read it, and told four different people I knew with little girls that they needed to get it immediately.  I love the idea of being able to have stories that you write come to life.  The dynamic between the mom and daughter is important, and I thought it was a fun take on the fairy tale every little girl dreams of.  In a moment of anger, she quickly writes that the bad person wins. And it comes to life.

This is a fast paced book – as it probably must be to keep young readers’ attention.  I personally wished for more development, and more of the mom’s story – but again, I’m an adult so things differ there.  The writing is fun, and the snippets at the beginning of each chapter are cute.  Character wise, Kiera was fun (but also trying to figure out who she was, and I wish we had seen more of that develop), Bells was a bit selfish, and Chet was the cute romance factor.

This book also shows that our words have power. The things we do can affect everything (though maybe not change the past), so I feel like that is a great lesson.  The end was fun, and slam packed with a nice twist.  It leaves plenty of room for future books without leaving us hanging on a cliff.

Read it to your kids! Read it for yourself!

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus

The Lilly Singer Adventures by Lydia Sherrer

First, let me say that I met Lydia Sherrer in person at the SOKY Bookfest. She was actually on my Young Adult Fantasy Panel. She was very vibrant, a great dresser, and was quite funny.  I enjoyed talking with her before and after the panel, and am very glad that I received the first two of her books for moderating the panel (and really wish I had bought the third and fourth).  There are four + a novella currently published and there will be a total of 12.  She funded the publishing of these books via Kickstarter, which is kind of awesome. I wish I had had the chance to talk with her more.

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus – the Lily Singer Adventures is a witty, fun-filled urban fantasy series about a bookish and awkward wizard, Lily Singer, her troublemaking witch friend, Sebastian Blackwell, and her talking cat, Sir Edgar Allen Kipling. They must work together to save the world from magical mayhem and bring peace between magical and mundane races. Will they succeed? Or will the world be plunged into an era of darkness and war?” via Kickstarter.

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings

Saving the world is such a bother when it makes you late for tea. By day, book-loving wizard Lily Singer manages library archives. By night? She sleeps, of course. In between, she studies magic and tries to keep her witch friend Sebastian out of trouble. Much to her displeasure, he finds it anyway and drags her along with him. From unmaking ancient curses to rescuing a town lost in time, Lily and Sebastian fight to avert magical mayhem. Meanwhile, Lily’s mysterious past begins to unfold–a past hidden from her by those she trusts most. Will she be able to discover the truth despite them?”

At only 240 pages, this is a quick read. You really won’t want to put it down. I was a little amazed at how much I loved it.  Lily is a librarian, and prim/proper, and loves Tea. How could I not love this book?  The snarky humor between her and Sebastian is also great.  I was not expecting the format of the book, but found I loved it. Basically, you get two stories from Lily’s point of view, and an interlude between them from Sebastian’s point of view. I liked having two different stories in one book.  I also love the witch/wizard concept. The stories are serious but light hearted, and I liked getting to know the characters and the world.

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus: Revelations

After finishing the first, I immediately picked up the second. Again, a quick read, but I think this one goes even more in depth to the story and character of Lily, and I really wish I had bought 3 & 4. In an attempt to decide if I could spend any more money (I couldn’t), I found the novella for free on Kindle! I instantly downloaded it and finished it that night. There is now a TALKING CAT! What can be better than that? A sarcastic, snarky cat to boot. It ends on an almost cliffhanger, and I am getting the third/fourth book soon.

“Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus: A Study in Mischeif” – A Novella

Now this was just cute. I loved the chance to see these two actually meet. And reading it after the second book worked well. Truly adorable. I love these two. And the cat.

Hey look! I’m back :)

It has been six months since I wrote a blog post. Woah.

First, sorry.  Things has been kind of hectic, and I just let writing slide.  My husband was back in school, my son is crazy (in a good, energetic, terrible threes kinda way), and from October on was crazy at my job, then it was the holidays, and such, and such.

Basically, I just let my blog go. I was still writing reviews though, and you can see those in the following:

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/book-review-mississippi-blood/article_49b191bd-aa19-5035-8a9c-ba2fbb279d33.html (go read this, it is awesome!)

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/the-man-who-loved-birds-author-leaves-major-holes/article_51942091-d79a-5490-b78a-6575b51d3371.html (the ending of this book greatly upset me, and I felt there were holes, but it was an interesting story).

The Bourbon Thief: A Family with Bourbon in its Blood and Blood on its Hands by Tiffany Reisz: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/bourbon-deliversa-book-of-intrigue/article_1b5a12c6-b962-5a36-b0b6-546a1bb60ffd.html (5 Star book. Loved it)

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/opulence-a-reminder-of-culture-and-community/article_8cfb1a06-7c6a-5a4b-b833-807ff383550d.html (Again interesting read but I felt things could have been more in depth or less jumpy)

The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter by John Pipkin: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/astronomy-novel-falls-short-of-the-heavens/article_51af751e-7572-5831-8f3f-547667a38644.html (the title says my feelings. Fell short. Was really disappointed).

The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/journalist-is-on-target-with-fast-paced-sequel/article_553db823-00a8-5248-a7b7-10c7cc01d1e8.html (great sequel, fast paced)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-reunites-old-friends/article_8258034d-483f-5f91-b2bc-1faec1e2a6f3.html (great!)

That should about catch it, and I will update my publications page.  Overall, I’ve read quite a few.  For my goodreads challenge of 2016, I read 50 books. I’m hoping for 55 this year, and plan to exceed that – I’ve already read 25! Here is the list: https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/7034581

I will be reviewing a few of those over the next week. I have several that will be eventually published in the Bowling Green Daily News. I also will be doing a post over the SOKY Bookfest!

Have a great day guys!

NaNo: Using Tools When You Can!

As I mentioned before, I generally plan nothing when writing. Doing this with a short story is not so bad.  For an entire novel? Kinda difficult for me. It shoved me into lots of corners.  So this time, I decided to try and plan ahead.  I looked around on the internet (because I wanted to hit as many points as possible), and found Annie Neugebauer’s site.  She has lots of great worksheets, which are free!

You can find the worksheet and others here. I found this worksheet rather helpful and I hit lots of good plot points.  My friend came up with a few ideas, we brainstormed, and I kept some of his and some of mine and mashed some of ours together. I still have a few things that are fuzzy towards the end, but they are outlined enough that I can get to them and have a general idea where I am going. Which means I can still write by the seat of my pants a bit. 🙂 Ah the rush.

I went over my plotting worksheet a few minutes ago. I’m really happy with whats there. In case you are curious, my three sister’s are called “Ember, Ash and Blaze.” Their mother is Seraphina, and they have an aunt named Amber. That’s all you get to know for now!

I currently have 10,080 words on the story, on 32 pages in Word.  It makes me happy to see that.  I’m going to start rereading it tomorrow to get my bearings, because it has been a bit since I did much with it. I wrote every day for like 15-20 days straight and then fell off the wagon hard. That’s my normal.

Oh how stressful Nano shall be… I need coffee…

Prepping for Battle

I’ve done NaNoWriMo technically twice, but last year I did not truly participate due to my mother-in-law passing away on November 2nd. However, last year I did do writing prep in October, and if you are curious about previous blogs, click here for a list of them. I won in 2014, but I wound up completely scrapping my project half way through (20ish thousand words) and starting over.  In the end I wrote over 50k, but I only kept about 30k.  Sad days.

This year, I’m hoping not to do any of that craziness. I’m going to start working on my story now, and it is a project I started earlier this year.  A friend has been helping with some research, I have pinterest board, and for the first time ever, I’ve almost completely plotted out a story.

So when prepping for battle, be aware that nothing goes as planned. Some people may argue that since I scrapped what I had and restarted, I may not have won in 2014. To me, I did. I wrote all of that, even if I went crazy, switched perspectives, added characters, and completely rewrote what I had to the point of adding new scenes and a new narrative. Not at all what I planned.  If you cannot tell, I do not usually plan much.

This year, I hope to change that. The story I wrote in 2014, actually came from a short story I wrote about Dragons, and a dragon ride (the first in centuries).  The short story was great. I pantsed it and went on with the story. I decided instead of third I wanted to do first. I fleshed the story out so much more.  Then after NaNo, when I was trying to finish it, I hit a wall.  A friend read it, and reported to me that I had no real villain. Oops. I had been so focused on the character, and the war, that I did not think about the fact that I needed something more central to focus on. I still love that story, but I’ve put it aside for now. Once again, I’m going to have to rework what I have and I just need a break.

So pantsing may work for some people, but right now I need a story I’ve planned. Enter “We Witches Three.”  I’ve planned and plotted and am researching. I’ve started the beginning of it. I know where I want to go.  I’m going to hash out what I have tonight, and really start reexamaning. I had meant to all this craziness starting in October, and really get used to writing every day again. Starting a new job in August, with this being one of two of my busiest months of the year, made things hectic.  Why can’t Nano be in like July?  There are hardly any kids here in July…

So are you a pantser or a plotter or both? I’d be interested in hearing your tales!

(Side note – I submitted a new book review last night for “The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter.” 2.5/5 – I will link it when it is published.)

 

NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us!  I think I may start setting an alarm on my phone to yell at me to plan and plot and write.  October is one of the intensive advising times for me, and I’ve had 8 – 9 appointments some days, and I average at least four a day with other things I have to get finished. It’s been fun.

I didn’t talk much about it before, but my new job as Academic Advisor is awesome. I’m loving it, and I’m so happy I can say that. Between that and my book review writing, I’m a pretty happy person (now if only I could get paid for my book reviews. Free books is pretty awesome though).  I advise students within our program, work with faculty to make improvements, and also completely redid our department’s website.  I’m hoping to be coming up with some more projects soon.

My hubby is also back in school, and will graduate with his degree next December, which will be awesome. Xander is doing well, and crazy as per normal. He loves Superman, and Spiderman, and superheros, Toy Story, and is still obsessed with the TMNT, and loves Turtles.  He likes Disney movies and penguins, he is playing a limited amount of video games (Spelunky and Rayman) because my husband is a gamer (and I’ve started playing those too).  He has a great vocabulary, we read every night (current the Illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), and we build houses and knock them down and fight the Foot and all kinds of fun stuff. By the way – if you love my blog you can always get my kid something fun (https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/giftlist/1I0FZU079G5KW/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_4) or to read (https://amzn.com/w/WXOZXRZ237AB).

Isn’t he cute? He tells us he is “too big” for things he doesn’t want to do (including using the toilet which is not going well), and that his “butt is gone” when we need to change his diaper.  He be silly.

I’ve also been making Story Wreaths (as I call them), and here is my latest which was a birthday present for my friend Candace:

I also made a book pumpkin!

So there is a brief overview of things I have been doing.  I have not been writing much besides my many, many book reviews and things I do for work.  Tomorrow, that changes!

As a side note, I kinda want a new blog title. What do you think?

Have a great night!  Tomorrow I begin the NaNoWriMo prep, talking about what I will be doing, my plans, how I won before, and what I plan to improve this time around!

Anyone there?

*peeps around the corner*

Hello? Anyone there?

*crickets*

Ah well.  I have returned! And I apologize.  I’ve long been absent from my blog.  Starting a new job, and the hubby returning to school has been quite an adventure. A busy adventure that has left me falling asleep before 10 most nights.  Also, I’ve been reading quite a bit and had several reviews in the Bowling Green Daily News.

However, NaNoWriMo is approaching! And I’m determined to win again this year. I just updated my novel, We Witches Three, and I’m fixing to start prepping like crazy to get ready for it. I’m thinking for lunch at work I shall start shutting the door and working for an hour in my office. Wish me luck. I’m going to create a board of inspiration.

By the way, I love my office.I love my job!

Other than that, we’ve been busy bees. I need to super clean.  I’ve painted my living room, kitchen and hallway. For future reference, wallpaper border is the devil.  I have one wall left in my living room and I have to paint the trim (my plan for this weekend).  I have yard sale stuff to post on Facebook and many clothes to go through. I also plan to go through all of Xander’s toys and get rid of some stuff.

So, more on writing in my next post.

Thanks for sticking with me guys!