Books

Not full book reviews, but recommendations, impressions and random thoughts.

open books, grass

Summer Reading Report

Summer is definitely in the rearview now, so I thought I would report on how I did with my list of intended summer reads.

I’m happy to say I finished reading all the books I named in my June 12th post. And a few others besides.

Here are one-sentence reviews (an exercise in brevity inspired by horror writer Priscilla Bettis). The book titles link to my full reviews on Goodreads.

Sunwielder by D. Wallace Peach
In vivid, graphic prose, this book tells the story of a farmer turned soldier in a brutal and endless war, who receives a gift that grants him a unique relationship with death.

Best Friends and Other Lovers by J.F. Kaufmann
A trio of spicy love stories, including a Christmas-themed tale that warms the heart as well as… other places.

Sailing to Redoubt by C. Litka
A delightful old-fashioned adventure story in which an aspiring archaeologist finds himself on a sailboat in tropical seas with a pair of enigmatic twin sisters.

The Daemoniac by Kat Ross
A twisty mystery in which a whip-smart young woman detective races around 1880s New York City to track down a diabolical killer who may not be human.

The Journey by Suzanne Miller
A hopeful post-apocalyptic story in which two young people seek healing and truth in a world devastated by climate change.

Alchemy by Mark Ryan
A sparse but intriguing story about an alchemist, unfortunately diluted by long sections of passionate poetry.

The Two-Blood Legacy by J.F. Kaufmann
A detailed paranormal romance and family saga about gorgeous werewolves, wizards, and vampires in the present-day western U.S.

Hope by Terry Tyler
A compelling and frighteningly realistic dystopian thriller in which a young woman becomes enmeshed in the heartless machinery of a near-future UK engaged in brutal social engineering.

Those were the books on my list, but I actually read several more.

Surviving Sanctuary by P.J. O’Brien
A very long (nearly 500K words) but exceedingly engaging book in which a young American man looking for an ex-girlfriend’s missing sister visits a country (that doesn’t exist, but should) and learns a great deal about its customs and history. (Full disclosure: I started reading it quite a while before summer began.)

All Shapes and Disguises by Lee-Anne Stack
Reviewed in an earlier post.

A Year in the Life of Leah Brand by Lucinda E. Clarke
A page-turner about a woman having a really bad year that jolted me from schadenfreude to sympathy and back.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
A fun read about children with special talents on a secret mission that was just the thing to read while recovering from That Virus.

The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach
A dramatic and beautifully written fantasy set in a gorgeously realized world that is not without perils, especially to those with the power to heal death.

Now back to the TBR!

botanical books with illustrations of plants, old camera, old map

Stress on Which Syllable? Pronouncing Botanical Latin

There is a small scene in my novel Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey, in which two characters are talking about plants they’ve seen on a recent walk around the (fictitious) island on which the story is set. One of them rattles off several botanical names and asks whether he has pronounced them correctly. The other character (who is the narrator) responds by saying, “I must admit, I sometimes hesitate to say the Latin out loud. So often, there’s someone eager to jump in and correct one’s pronunciation. ‘No, my dear, the accent should fall on the first syllable.’ That sort of thing.”

That sort of thing probably occurs regularly in gatherings of serious gardeners, such as garden clubs and exhibitions. Most of my communication about plants happens on this blog, where all I have to worry about is spelling those sometimes lumpy botanical names. And italicizing them, of course.

Nevertheless, I sometimes find myself wondering about pronunciation. Like language in general, botanical Latin has its quirks. For example, many genus names are based on people’s surnames. Botanists’ names, I assume. Bergenia, Dahlia, Fuchsia, Mahonia. Lurking behind these pseudo-Latin monikers are dudes named Karl August von Bergen, Anders Dahl, Leonhart Fuchs, and Bernard McMahon.

But consider how those Latin genus names are usually pronounced: BerJEENia, DAYlia, FYOOshia. To be honest, I’m not sure whether the last one is MaHOnia or MahoNEEia, but I do know that Bernard’s surname was likely pronounced in a way that could be rendered as McMaan.

Maybe my suggested genus name pronunciations are not official, but only the way garden variety gardeners pronounce them. Maybe serious botanists simply add “-ia” to the correctly pronounced surnames? Somehow I doubt it, even though I don’t frequent gatherings of such individuals.

A few weeks ago, I attended an event at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific. There was a plant sale. Even though my garden is full to bursting, I actually bought two plants. One of them was labelled Tweedia caerulea. Wikipedia tells me the correct name is actually Oxypetalum coeruleum. I think I’ll stick to Tweedia, as it’s easier to pronounce. Now all I have to worry about is making sure the little plant survives the winter, as its native region is southern Brazil to Uruguay. Its flowers are an unusual shade of blue, and of course I’m a sucker for blue flowers.

Oxypetalum caeruleum, Tweedia caerulea
From Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

For those who fret about pronunciation, this article is somewhat reassuring: Pronouncing Botanical and Latin Names from the University of Washington.

Featured image from Pexels.

Several big fat books owned by me, mostly paperbacks

Why I Like Long Books

One of the benefits of publishing in today’s milieu is that book length is no longer as rigid it was in the days of print-only, trad-only publishing. Especially in the case of ebooks, where length is measured in time needed to read a book, rather than its physical bulk. If a writer is inspired to create in short forms, they shouldn’t hesitate to publish those works, or consider them inferior because they’re short.

pocket watch and book

Short fiction ranges from micro or flash (a few hundred words or less), through short stories (1,000 to 10,000 words) to novellas and novelettes (10,000 to about 50,000 words). Some say a novel has to be at least 80,000 words, but I figure anything over 50,000 may squeak into that category, as a “short novel,” perhaps.

Short fiction is generally published in the form of collections (single author), or in anthologies or journals (multi-author), as well as singly on writers’ blogs.

Now that’s out of the way, I can say that in general, I prefer long books to short, and novels to collections or anthologies. In high school, I was the kid lugging around the biggest, fattest books from the school library. I particularly recall Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, which was three inches thick and could injure your foot if you dropped it.

Several big fat books owned by me, mostly paperbacks
Several big, fat books I have read.

Why do I prefer long novels? Because reading is analogous to writing, it may be argued that by visualizing as they read, the reader continues the work of the writer. It takes a similar sort of mental effort for the reader to run a mind-movie as for the writer to create the script for it (the book).

But works of short fiction are not always worth the trouble. You get to know the characters and they’re gone. You appreciate a setting, but you’re kicked out of it when the story ends. Or it’s all minimalistic–a character in a situation, without much detail or context. In a novel, especially a long one, you can settle in, get to know the characters, become friends with some of them, return to their world day after day, and feel bereft when you close the book. (We’re talking about a well-written, interesting novel here, folks. We know that whether long or short, they aren’t all like that.)

Spines of several big fat books owned by me, mostly paperbacks
Books featured here: Les Misérables / Victor Hugo ; Maia / Richard Adams ; Anna Karenin / Leo Tolstoy ; A Place of Greater Safety / Hilary Mantel ; …And Ladies of the Club / Helen Hooven Santmyer ; Black Water : the book of fantastic literature / edited by Alberto Manguel. (And yes, that last one is an anthology of short fiction.)

Short fiction doesn’t linger in my memory the way long novels do.

A book of linked or interrelated short stories, on the other hand, has possibilities. They take place in the same setting, possibly in different time periods. The same characters may appear in more than one story. There may not be a unified plot, but figuring out how the various stories fit together can be interesting.

Fellow writers, what do you think? I see reviews of short books on your blogs, so I know you read and enjoy them. Long reads or short–which do you prefer, both to read and to write?

By the way, my 2018 novel, She Who Comes Forth, is having its final two free days on Amazon August 20th and 21st (today and tomorrow). It’s shorter than the books in the photos for this post. Click the cover image.

All Shapes and Disguises by Lee-Anne Stack

Local Author Book Review #17: All Shapes and Disguises by Lee-Anne Stack

This is another in my occasional series called Local Author Book Reviews, featuring authors from the Greater Victoria (British Columbia) region whose books are included in the Greater Victoria Public Library’s Emerging Local Authors Collection.

Book Description:

Kate, Pearl and Colin are back for another wild adventure. Vacationing at her family’s remote cottage in northern Ontario, Kate rescues a stranger who’s been injured after losing a blueberry patch dispute with a bear. His captivating charm immerses them in a world of gold, murder, and real estate conspiracies. But is he the real deal? With night whispering its arrival, Kate is challenged to confront one of her greatest fears.

My review:

Kate O’Malley (first encountered in Clamming Up) is back, along with her friends Pearl and Colin. This time, the trio is vacationing in Kate’s family’s cabin (known as The Camp) on a lake near Timmins, in northern Ontario. This setting, clearly based on a real place known to and loved by the author, informs and illustrates the story. Even the mosquitoes and leeches are included, as well as bears, moose (there’s a really good scene with one of these), otters, and other wildlife.

Before the fun begins, though, a prologue shows the final moments of a woman’s life. The means of her death and the reasons for it constitute the mystery element of the book, one which emerges gradually amid activities such as fishing, swimming, and boating. Another character emerges as well—Ben Brodan, whom Kate rescues after he’s injured while eluding a mother bear. It turns out Ben was a friend of the deceased woman. As Kate and her friends help him out, they are drawn into a legal tangle involving gold, mining claims, property transactions, contracts, and shady enterprises. Kate and Ben are also drawn to one another, introducing an element of romance.

Even though it takes a while for the mystery to manifest, there is always something exciting going on. Kate and the others know how to enjoy themselves, whether they are fishing, cooking, playing board games, or imbibing an impressive array of beverages. (In fact, a complete menu for a stay at a rustic lakeside retreat may be derived from this book.)

The point of view and narrative voice is Kate’s, in short chapters with catchy titles. A few even shorter untitled chapters briefly show nameless persons carrying out sinister deeds. A couple of local eccentrics and an Ontario Provincial Police detective with the memorable name of Tuffanski round out the supporting cast.

The motives and methods are figured out after a number of harrowing situations and with the help of friends in the right places, a few lucky breaks, and some tech. The ending is satisfying. I recommend this book unreservedly to anyone looking for a realistic mystery with an upbeat style. The vicarious stay at The Camp is a bonus.

open book against blue sky with white clouds

Indie Books for Summer Reading

I’m not working on a major writing project this summer (although I am paying attention to what’s going on in my brain, and making notes). So I expect to get a lot of reading done.

Here are 8 books queued up on my two e-readers (not in any order):

  • The Journey / Suzanne Miller
  • Hope (Operation Galton Book 1) / Terry Tyler
  • Alchemy / Mark Ryan
  • Sunwielder / D. Wallace Peach
  • Sailing to Redoubt / C. Litka
  • Best Friends and Other Lovers / J.F. Kaufmann
  • The Two-Blood Legacy / J.F. Kaufmann
  • The Daemoniac / Kat Ross

These are all indie-published books!

The list may be added to, especially if I join another Goodreads Reading Round, in which case I’ll have to rev up my reading efforts.

I almost always review the books I read. I post reviews on Goodreads, and on Amazon or Smashwords, depending on where I acquired the book. So look out for reviews!

Does anyone else have a “Books to Read This Summer” list to share?

Science or Magic image for Herbert West Series

Another Look at The Friendship of Mortals

After reading a post on Story Empire about Amazon A+ content, I decided to create some images for that purpose. At the very least, I thought, it was a good reason to mess around with Canva. They have added a lot of elements recently, including free ones, so there’s more scope for different effects than when I first started using this graphic design tool.

This is the image I put together to represent The Friendship of Mortals, my first novel and Book 1 of the Herbert West Series.

The Friendship of Mortals A plus image

Those of you who have read the book may know why I included some of these pictorial components. Those of you who haven’t read it may be sufficiently intrigued to do so!

Amazon: US UK CA or mybook.to/FofM
Smashwords Barnes & Noble Kobo Apple Books

This and my other A+ efforts may be seen on the Amazon.com pages for the books in the HW Series. Have they generated a deluge of sales? Not really, but I had a bit of fun creating them.

Has anyone else created A+ content on Amazon? What do you think of this feature?

SHE books info

Smorgasbord Book Reviews -#Action #Supernatural #AncientEgypt She who comes forth by Audrey Driscoll

Here is a splendid review for She Who Comes Forth by the redoubtable Sally Cronin.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Today I am reviewing She who comes forth by Audrey Driscoll…an intriguing action adventure set in the land of the Pharoahs.

About the book

Recently turned 21, France Leighton travels to Luxor, Egypt, taking with her two legacies—an antique cello and an emerald ring. Instead of the archaeological adventure she expects, she gets a lecherous dig director, hidden agendas, a risky balloon ride, and an enigmatic nuclear physicist. In the mysteries of the ancient tombs, France realizes she and her gifts may imperil the world—or save it.

More Details:
October 1962. The developing nuclear missile crisis in Cuba is of no concern to Francesca “France” Leighton. Recently turned 21, France travels from her home in Providence to a job at an archaeological dig in Luxor, Egypt. She takes with her two legacies—an emerald ring from the grandfather she never knew, and an antique cello from his friend, a man…

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She Who Returns ~ Audrey Driscoll ~ #Travel Adventure Fiction ~ #Sequel ~#Review

I was thrilled to wake up to this review of She Who Returns, from Jaye Marie.

Anita Dawes and Jaye Marie

Every decision has consequences, and logic gets you every time.

France Leighton is studying Egyptology at Miskatonic University, hoping to return to Egypt via a field school offered by that institution. But France has a talent for rash decisions, and things are complicated by the arrival of her twin half-brothers from England. Edward and Peter are contrasts—one a rational scientist, the other a dabbler in the occult—but they are equally capable of persuading France to help them with dubious schemes.

France does return to Egypt, if not quite the way she intended. She encounters old friends and new enemies, and challenges rooted in her previous adventures and her family’s complicated history. Accusations of antiquities theft drive France and her companions into hiding in the Theban Hills west of Luxor. An attack from the unknown turns an adventure into a desperate predicament. On the brink of yet another failure, France must…

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SHE books info

Smorgasbord Bookshelf 2022- Share an Extract from your latest book – #Action #Adventure SHE Who Returns by Audrey Driscoll.

I’m over at Sally Cronin’s bounteous blog today, with an excerpt from She Who Returns, which will launch on May 1st.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

In this series you are invited to share an extract of 500 words from your most recent book published within the last 12 months. Details at the end of the post.

The aim of the series

  1. To showcase your latest book and sell some more copies.
  2. Gain more reviews for the book.
  3. Promote a selection of your other books that are available.

Today an extract from the adventure SHE who returnsby Audrey Driscoll, on pre-order until May 1st. The book is the sequel to SHE who comes forth and both books are on offer during the pre-order period.

About the book

Every decision has consequences, and logic gets you every time.

France Leighton is studying Egyptology at Miskatonic University, hoping to return to Egypt via a field school offered by that institution. But France has a talent for rash decisions, and things are complicated by the arrival of her…

View original post 1,534 more words