Review: Roots: Insights From the Tree Alphabet of Old Ireland

For a few decades, two old apple trees shared a back yard with me. Over the years I got to know them well. My canning shelves filled up with applesauce, pie filling, apple butter, and bags of dehydrated apple chips. There was nothing I didn’t know about my apple trees. Or so I thought.

Olivia Wylie’s book explores the connection between trees, ancient poetry, unusual botanical insights and a very old Irish writing system called Ogham. I was drawn back to the apple trees to learn more of their secrets.

Now I know that the apple tree is the embodiment of perseverance. I learned that Brehon law designates it as a Noble of the Wood. I learned how apple trees are connected to Beltane and Samhain, and why people of northern Europe depended on them for their very lives. I even learned about the apple trees connection to King Arthur and Avalon.

And that’s just one of the Ogham’s stories. Just one character in the language. There are twenty Ogham symbols, and each one carrys a rich treasure trove of meaning.

Olivia Wylie is not only the author of Roots: Insights From the Tree Alphabet of Old Ireland, she’s also the illustrator. Her artwork melds each tree with the Ogham in a delightful mix.

I quite recommend this book. In fact, I’m rooting for it! (I apologize).

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Review: Blood Calls

At first glance, you might think Blood Calls is a vampire novel, but you’d be wrong. At second glance, you might think it’s the story of a boy and his dragon, but you’d be only half-right. Just stop glancing, sit down, and read! This delightfully smart and witty adventure story cracks the tropes and sets a high standard for fantasy adventure.

I especially enjoy what I call ‘new eyes’ in storytelling, where we learn about the world through the eyes of characters exploring new lands and societies.  First we meet Corbin, who’s been sobered up just long enough to be sent away to the country of Sunal as a ‘junior diplomat’,  where it seems he’ll be wallowing in endless meetings, with occasional breaks to indulge in drink and debauchery.  But there’s so much more in store for him and his bonded dragon pal, Blood. As Corbin slowly comes into his own, we explore the world, his dragon bond, and even flashbacks to his childhood right along with him.

He soon befriends a street urchin named Dante, who’s fashioned himself a small newspaper empire. Dante becomes another set of new eyes for us to see through.

And then there’s the magic. Lots of magic, complicated magic that’s intriguing without being confusing.  And there’s battles, and swordplay, and a pretty love interest, of course – but author Charles D. Shell brings it all to life with a fresh approach.  The heart of the story comes from the people who are tossed together by circumstances,  and must learn to trust, respect, and even love each other.  It’s not as sappy as it sounds! There’s lots of snark, sarcasm, and ‘oh crap what did I get into now’ action.  That action slowly ramps up, ever higher, and never slides backwards. It’s a gasp-aloud, read one more chapter even though it’s already 2am, kind of book.

I have to mention that I rather enjoyed the use of modern language in place of the typical flowery fantasy talk, and the various crazy situations that border on the absurd, without becoming unbelievable.  I highly recommend Blood Calls, and will be avidly watching for the next book in the series. Five stars!

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My Influential Authors

Over in the Book of Faces, I was tagged by my delightful friend, author B.G. Thomas to play the Influential Authors Game. Basically, I am to list 15 authors who have influenced me. This doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoy these authors works – I’ll be listing at least one that I find highly disagreeable (I will leave it to you to figure out who that is!)  Being influenced by an author and liking their work does not always go hand in hand.

Rather than simply quick-listing 15 authors in Facebook in response to this meme, I decided to expand the concept here.  I hope you find my list interesting, and perhaps you’ll pause to think about the authors that have influenced your life, too. Continue reading “My Influential Authors”

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Review: The Opening Bell

The Opening BellAs a kid growing up on the outskirts of Los Angeles, I can’t say I ever watched wrestling, but I also didn’t *not* watch wrestling. It was often part of the background of my life, along with golf and roller derby.

I’d chosen to listen to the audio version of The Opening Bell, the first book in J.B. Garner’s “Three Seconds To Legend” series. I thought it would be a good companion for my 20 minutes of commuting twice a day to and from work. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how well I’d resonate with a story set in the world of wrestling, but it didn’t take me very long to immerse. When I realized I was actually looking forward to my drives, I knew just why. Continue reading “Review: The Opening Bell”

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Push It Forward

The Push Chronicles Vol 1

Indie writer J.B. Garner writes about superheroes, but he is a bit of a superhero himself. In his blog, Musings of a Starving Author, he not only talks about his own books, but frequently turns the spotlight on other indie writers, through interviews and book reviews.

J.B. Garner pays it forward. I believe it’s time the readers pay it forward to J.B. Garner. “How can I do that?” you may ask. Good question! It’s easy and fun.

STEP ONE: Pick up Book One of The Push Chronicles

STEP TWO: Add The Push Chronicles to your “Want To Read” list at Goodreads.

STEP THREE: Enjoy the book!

STEP FOUR: Post a review at Amazon and Goodreads. No, you don’t have to write a huge, brilliant manifesto. Write a sentence or two from the heart, and give it some stars. Done and done – you’ve been entertained AND you’ve made a difference. You’ve paid it forward.

Need a teaser for Indomitable? Sure, we can do that!

Irene Roman never wanted to be a hero. She was a scientist living an otherwise normal life and that was enough. One fateful evening, though, Irene discovers a betrayal that undermines everything. One event that, in a literal blink of an eye, changes not only her life, but the future of the entire planet.

Now the world is inhabited by people with powers and abilities far above those of mortal men and women. The repercussions of superhuman battles on the Earth are great and terrible as lives are shattered, communities destroyed, and mankind’s destiny is plucked from its grasp. At the center of it all is Irene, who not only is one of two people on the planet who knows the cause of this unbelievable change, but is one of the few people who may be able to stop it. The only problem is the only other person who does know will do anything in his vast power to keep the world in its terrible altered state.

Who dares to claim the right to choose humanity’s fate? What price will Irene pay to be the hero she never wanted to be? In the end, will Earth return to the safety of the mundane or will it remain in the chaos of the superhuman and supernatural?

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Review: The Book Of Speculation

The Book of SpeculationI have to admit that I first became interested in The Book Of Speculation after learning from Goodreads about her over-the-top method of submitting her debut manuscript to publishers.

As if writing a book isn’t daunting enough, learning that she handcrafted aged pages and hand-bound enough ‘old’ books to submit to various publishers… well, I was impressed with her tenacity and absurdity.

Author Erika Swyler explains her method at her Tumblr site in “Adventures in making a fake old book”.

The plot hinges on the idea that a particular old book is such a fascinating object that it could consume someone’s life. It felt very important to create that experience for a person reading my manuscript. It was a simple thought: if they connected with the manuscript as an object, it would pave the way for connecting with the story. I had next to zero experience in bookmaking when I decided to bind and age the manuscripts. I might have balked if I’d known from the start how much of my life the project would devour. — Erika Swyler in an interview with Shelf Awareness

When an author is invested in her work to that level, I have to believe she’s given her all to writing the story, too. At least, I hoped so. And the synopsis promised me mermaids and carnivals. She’d landed a publisher with her unconventional methods, and so I decided to give her story a chance.  I’m glad I did.

The story is really two tales, one set in the distant past (and written in past tense), and one set in present day (written in first person).  The stories are connected, and as I read, the connections between the two became clear. I could attempt to describe the plot in some clever words, but I feel the story really should speak for itself. You can read an excerpt at Tor.com, and if the words intrigue you, perhaps you should allow a new-old book into your life—just as a librarian named Simon Watson did.

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Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep?

A dear friend’s dream just became a reality. As we all know, the best dreams come true not so much from sleeping as from hard work. This author has put in the work. I’ve not only read the book, I have been lucky enough to know little Nika Thought-werk in another world (it’s complicated. Just smile and trust me), and have spent quite a bit of time with this clockwork girl. Just as I would with any friend, I slowly got to know her over time, and came to appreciate her talents and her quirks. I learned not to use long words, and tried to be helpful if she ran down and needed her key turned.

When it became clear that a book about her life was in the works (or is that werks?), I was thrilled. To have the rare privilege of getting to know a character to the point of calling them a close friend, before reading their book, is a once in a lifetime experience.

Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep? is an epic adventure with lovable, likable, but certainly not perfect characters.  Whether you are comforted by the underlying message of the book, or are simply enjoying it for the adventure, I can assure you this is a singular tale, the likes of which you haven’t read in a long, long time. Please take a moment to  read the full synopsis, quoted below. And might I request you linger a bit over the final sentence. This truly may be a groundbreaking novel in the realm of classic fairy tales.

This tale of the Robot Nika (Volume One) is available for $9.99 in a good old fashioned, comforting, hold-in-your-hands  paper book.

Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep“An epic fantasy that echoes some of the most beloved classic children’s tales of all time, E. P. Isaacs’s Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep? inspires children to see themselves for who they truly are—and never let go.

Nika Thought-werk may not be made from ordinary flesh and bone, but this doesn’t make her any less loved by her friends—or any less needed by those who find themselves in trouble. Although she is made of porcelain, glass, and wax—a doll brought to existence through the astonishing work of a doctor in 1894 Ireland—Nika refuses to live a life that is anything short of extraordinary.

As she makes her way through tornadoes, a lake filled with stew, giant bubblegum bubbles, and a sheep-napping, Nika must find the strength to go on—even when faced with the gravest of dangers.

Along the way, she meets friends of every size and shape—all of whom help Nika learn to see herself for who she truly is.

This enchanting kid’s tale bravely tackles some of the issues that transgender children face, providing readers with hope and encouragement that they are not alone in their quest to find their true identity.”

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