Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Still hiking

The Ninja Librarian is still hiking.

Sequoia National Park
Spider Glacier
Hope I'm doing as much writing and drawing as he does on all our trips!
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Gone Hiking

The Ninja Librarian is taking a couple of weeks off to go hiking.

To entertain you while I'm gone, I'll share a few photos on random days :)

Spider Meadow
Glacier Peak Wilderness
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Middle Grade Review: Quicksand Pond

28797122 

Title: Quicksand Pond
Author: Janet Taylor Lisle
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. 240 pages (Hardback)
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Newbery Honor winner Janet Taylor Lisle’s gorgeous and profound new novel about a pivotal summer in two girls’ lives explores the convictions we form, the judgments we make, and the values we hold.

The pond is called Quicksand Pond.

It’s a shadowy, hidden place, full of chirping, shrieking, croaking life. It’s where, legend has it, people disappear. It’s where scrappy Terri Carr lives with her no-good family. And it’s where twelve-year-old Jessie Kettel is reluctantly spending her summer vacation.

Jessie meets Terri right away, on a raft out in the water, and the two become fast friends. On Quicksand Pond, Jessie and Terri can be lost to the outside world—lost until they want to be found. But a tragedy that occurred many decades ago has had lingering effects on this sleepy, small-minded town, and especially on Terri Carr. And the more Jessie learns, the more she begins to question her new friendship—and herself.

My Review: 
I picked this one up to fill the "Q" slot in my middle-grade alphabet reading challenge. I didn't realize until now that it won a Newbery Honor, though I'm not totally surprised. Or maybe I am, because I ended up with mixed feelings about the book. On reflection, those mixed feelings may be in large part why it's a prize winner.

The story is strong, and at the start it feels like it's going to be kind of a sweet story about a growing-up summer. You know the sort. Peaceful, with everything sorted out in the end. But things get more and more unsettling, and disturbing, and Jessie doesn't always know what is the right thing to do (nor does she always do what I would wish she would). Because of that, I was in some ways unsatisfied, and definitely not at peace. The ending leaves some things unresolved or not made clear, which always bugs me a little (I must have an awfully conventional streak in me, because I want to know just how it all works out, and not be left trying to interpret clues).

In the end, the importance of the book doesn't lie so much with how satisfying the story feels, but with the insights it shares about judgement and the assumptions we all make about others. As with a number of new books I've read recently, it's clear that Jessie's parents don't always act in the best ways, though they are clearly loving parents who want to take care of their children. But are they always good people? Jessie is clearly reaching an age where she'll have to ask that question more and more.

My Recommendation:
This is worth a read. It certainly brings up the question of gossip and how what we all think we know may be wrong. It's a little disturbing, and not the peaceful read I was expecting, but the author is addressing some important issues about rushing to judgement. We can all use a reminded of the dangers of that.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Quicksand Pond out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Monday, July 9, 2018

Cozy Review: Shelved Under Murder


 

Shelved Under Murder: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (July 10, 2018)
Hardcover: 300 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1683315957
Digital: ASIN: B075QJHPR9
 

Blurb:
Autumn leaves aren’t the only things falling in the historic Virginia village of Taylorsford—so are some cherished memories, and a few bodies.

October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it’s leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts. Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library. But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.

The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own pallet knife. A search of the artist’s studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff’s chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she’s recruited to aid the investigation. It doesn’t seem to be an easy task, but when the state’s art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy’s deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband’s name.

That’s when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind. Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder.

Review:
Although I received a review copy in a timely fashion from the publisher via NetGalley, I am unable to post a review, as I got busy (moving and all that), and didn't finish the book before it expired. Since I was more than 1/3 of the way in and enjoying the story, I will probably pick up a copy and finish once it is available. My rating will hinge in part on whether my very early conviction about who dunnit is correct, but I can vouch that the writing is strong, the characters interesting and reasonably well-developed, and the setting interesting (okay, maybe I'm a little biased to libraries).

The Ninja Librarian missed the boat this week, but author Victoria Gilbert didn't, and has stopped by with a great guest post--thank you so much!

Dream Casting – Why I Don’t

There’s a very popular activity in booklandia where authors “dream cast” their books. This means they find actors—I use “actor” to refer to both male and female performers, by the way—that they feel would be the perfect person to portray their characters on screen.  This information is often posted on their blog, or in a guest blog post, or on Twitter and other social media sites.

I’ve done this in the past, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone from having fun with this activity. But I no longer participate, and I’ll tell you why.

I have two reasons. One: the best person for a role may not be the actor you assume, based mainly upon appearance, to be the perfect fit. Two: if your book does get turned into a movie or TV property, your comments about the actors you particularly “want” in the role might come back to bite you.

Expanding upon reason one—I’m a former theatre major who did some work in costume design and technology after college. When I was involved in this career I sometimes sat in on casting calls for plays. It was an enlightening experience to be on the other side of the table during auditions. One thing I learned was that often my preconceived “image” of a character would be blown away by a particular actor.

Based on the text or the director’s expectations or other factors, I’d often form a strong idea about how a particular character in the play should look. But then an actor who didn’t resemble that preconceived vision would audition—and totally change my mind. Sure, the text said something about red hair or light eyes, and this actor had dark hair and eyes. But that didn’t matter when they could bring the character to life in a way that no one else could.

So I know that simply adhering to textual descriptions of characters isn’t always the best way to “create” a character for the screen. Which is reason one why I don’t “dream cast.” (I do use actor photos to portray my characters on Pinterest, etc., but that is just for a visual representation of how I have described the characters in my books. I’m not saying that those actors would be the best people to actually portray the characters on screen).

Which bring me to reason number two—not making a big fuss over certain actors being “perfect” for a role because…someone else might end up with that role. If your book is adapted for the big or small screen, directors, producers, and casting directors will be in charge of who gets the parts, not you. (Unless you are mega-famous, and even then the author doesn’t always get the final say).

So, let’s say you’ve been very vocal about wanting Actor A to play your protagonist. You’ve posted about this a lot, so everyone knows—or can go back to your posts and tweets and so on—to view your strong opinions. Then your book gets picked up by a film or television studio. Only, they decide to cast Actor B. Maybe your book fans get upset over this casting and there’s a lot of social media fuss that casts a shadow over the production. Do you really want this? I don’t, which is why I don’t “dream cast” anymore. I want to allow the film or television experts to do their jobs, as well as the actors, without a lot of negativity concerning casting decisions.

Which brings me to the news that A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS and SHELVED UNDER MURDER have been optioned by Sony Pictures Television! Of course, I don’t yet know what will be developed, if anything, from this option deal, but I am very excited to see how my characters and settings may be brought to life.

And I promise to keep an open mind about the casting, whatever happens. I won’t be upset if the actors don’t exactly resemble the descriptions in my books. As long as they portray the heart and soul of the characters, it’s all good!


That's fantastic news about the options, Victoria! Best of luck to you with that, and thanks again for stopping by and helping me out  :o

About the Author:
 
Victoria Gilbert, raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. She has worked as a reference librarian, research librarian, and library director.

When not writing or reading, Victoria likes to spend her time watching films, gardening, or traveling. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers, and is represented by Frances Black at Literary Council, NY, NY. Victoria lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats. This is her first Blue Ridge Library mystery.
Author Links:
Website/blog: http://victoriagilbertmysteries.com/
Facebook author page:  https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaGilbertMysteryAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VGilbertauthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/VictoriaGilbert
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoriagilbertauthor/

Purchase Links:
Amazon     B&N         Books-A-Million      Indie Bound 

And... with all that, we also have a giveaway! Enter to win a signed hardback and some swag!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Friday Flash/photo story

Okay, first off, I know it's not Friday anymore. The Ninja Librarian is leading a rather chaotic life just now, and that's just the way it is.

So, sort of a story, sort of a photo thing, mostly just me rambling about what we did for the 4th of July.

We'd been working on the house like crazy all day because we had the cleaners coming Friday and needed to clear the way for them to clean. At dinner time I realized we didn't really have anything for dinner, so I ran down to the store on my bike (as usual). I was starting up the hill toward home when I overtook a couple of heavily loaded bike tourists. It was pretty late and a long way to camping, so I asked where they were heading. The answer: "I'm not sure. I guess Half Moon Bay."

Quick calculation on my part, and I pointed out it was 30 miles (and now about 6:45 p.m.). So I did what I've long said I'd do someday: I invited the cyclists home. They turned out to be a couple of young Germans doing the coast plus. They'd just finished criss-crossing the Sierra several times and taken the train from Bakersfield, then transit to the station in our town. (Note: we had recently learned about Warmshowers.org, but hadn't signed up because we are moving. If you are interested in meeting interesting travelers, check it out).

After we ate our burgers, corn on the cob, and ice cream (4th of July, remember?) we all 6 rode our bikes up nearby Mt. San Bruno to watch the fireworks.

The summit was totally fogged in, and the wind blowing about 25 MPH. We told Julia and Christoph they were getting a true experience of Daly City.
Julia and my sons.
After that we descended to where we could actually see the fireworks on the SF waterfront, and hear those from all over the Bay.

Back at the house and thawed out, we gave Julia and Christoph a place to sleep (not *quite* on the floor, but close, things at our house being as they are just now), and saw them off the next morning.
Ready to ride!
We will definitely be participating in Warm Showers in the future, when we have a home again!

 ###

Now, in further news, just because: after 40+ years, I cut my hair. All the way.
First, I had my husband hack off the braid for donation.
Not so sure that was smart!
Hope that makes someone happy. What's left isn't nearly so red.
Okay, I think I can live with this!

And that's all the news from the Ninja Librarian!



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

IWSG: Long-term Goals

It's a 4th of July IWSG! Posting a day early so we can all enjoy the holiday. If you don't live in the US, you can enjoy it anyway--just eat some hot dogs or burgers, and make a bunch of noise.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to the IWSG page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.


Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
 The awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!



July 3 question - What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?


I like this month's question, because it reminds me to look beyond the disaster my writing life is right now, while we pack and fix up and clean and plan and have zero time for writing or even thinking about writing, and think about the bigger picture. I am almost able to imagine that I will be writing again soon.

My writing goals have remained pretty simple: I want to keep writing, and publishing, roughly one book a year (seems to be about what I can handle). That's been true since the start, though it took a few tries to figure out how to do the annual book. What has changed is that I want to add more short stories into the mix, and start getting those stories published rather than merely sharing them on this blog. To my surprise, I haven't changed from being pretty happy with being an author-publisher rather than being conventionally published (for my novels). I still toy with the idea of finding the right book to plug to the agents, but I find I'm also pretty committed to continuing the mystery series as is, and I recognize that my ventures into fantasy (see: Gorg the Troll, whose book is still in rough rough rough draft form) are probably not commercial. I *like* making money at the books, but it's not essential. Writing the stories and finding readers is the important thing for me at this stage of my life.

I do toy with moving a bit into non-fiction: some of our adventures in the next few years may be worthy of publication, even if we aren't young people doing over-the-top things. Maybe the AARP magazine would like to share how retirees can get out and explore the world, even afoot!

Your turn--how are your goals doing? Do you set them deliberately, or do you only know what they were in retrospect?

###

P.S. Since sales of poor Halitor the Hero remained lack-luster during the month of special pricing, I think I'll leave those sale prices in effect--just 99 cents for the ebook, and $7.99 for the paperback. 
Note: My ability to fill orders for signed copies will be extremely limited for the next year. If you want books direct from me, now's the time to order!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Non-fiction Audio: East to the Dawn

7173703 

Title: East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart
Author: Susan Butler; read by Anna Fields
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2009. Originally 1997 by Da Capo Press, 512 pages.
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:

Amelia Earhart captured the hearts of the nation after becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928--and her disappearance on an around-the-world flight in 1937 is an enduring mystery. The image we have of Amelia Earhart today--a tousle-haired, androgynous flier clad in shirt, silk scarf, leather jacket, and goggles--is only one of her many personas, most of which have been lost to us over time. Through years of research and interviews with many of the surviving people who knew Amelia, Susan Butler has recreated a remarkably vivid and multifaceted portrait of this enigmatic figure. Listeners will experience Amelia in all her permutations: not just as a pilot but also as an educator, a social worker, a lecturer, a businesswoman, and a tireless promoter of women's rights. We experience a remarkably energetic and enterprising woman who battled incredible odds to achieve her fame, succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, and yet never lost sight of her beginnings, ensuring that her success would secure a path for women after her. This richly textured biography is the perfect complement to the 2009 film Amelia, starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, and Ewan McGregor. 

My Review:  

This was a fascinating story, once we got past the requisite exposition of Amelia's family antecedents. I in fact had no idea of much of anything about this remarkable woman aside from her role as a pioneering female pilot, and her eventual loss at sea while flying around the world (and even for that, my mental image had her lost in the wrong ocean).

In many ways, Amelia seems a bit unfocused. As she enters adulthood, she can't quite grasp what she wants to do--though much of her seeming instability of purpose is a combination of shortage of funds and a tendency to run up against the obstacles placed in the paths of ambitious women in the early 20th Century. In fact, I gather from the book that she herself was pulled two ways by her need for a serious and useful career--and her love of fast cars and fast airplanes. So maybe she was an adrenaline junkie, not ADHD.

What was cool to figure out was that in spite of flying being where her fame was located, Amelia's real importance is as a social worker and above all as an advocate for women's rights. She spent much of her life fighting against the injustices of "women can't do that," and even her flying was as often as not in the service of proving the nay-sayers wrong.

The book is well-written, though I would have spent less time on the generation before Amelia and maybe moved faster through her early childhood as well. But it is clear, and aside from some issues with keeping a lot of characters straight (always a problem with audio books, especially non-fiction), was easy to follow. The narrator was excellent, which is to say, I hardly noticed it (except, I think, for one Seattle-area mispronunciation, which I can no longer recall).

My Recommendation:
Well worth reading/listening to. I'll bet the printed book has lots of photos that I didn't get to see, so it might be worth getting and reading that.

FTC Disclosure: I checked East to the Dawn out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Photo Friday: Backpacking with the kids

All this packing and sorting has me feeling sort of nostalgic, so I thought I'd take a deep dive into the photos for some of our earlier backpacking adventures with our boys. These are from the summer of 2005, when they were 6 & 7 years old.

We did several shorter trips in Colorado that summer, before we headed to Wyoming for our longer (I think 6 days, 5 nights) trip. The boys were small, so Mom and Dad were definitely packhorses--and we didn't know as much about lightweight gear then, either. Glad to put those days behind us, but it was fun to hike with our boys.

Did a quick overnight into the back side of the Maroon Bells Wilderness. Not the popular part, but rugged and scenic.
Kid-sized packs--you have to match the pack to the size of the kid, even if it can't hold much. Note the all-important stuffies poking their heads out to watch where we were going.
I think it was pretty early, given the amount of snow around!
A room with a view.
 Take kids outdoors and they will find their own fun! A bit of a drop-off on a snowbank, and they had an adventurous slide.
Note the judicious use of reasonably water-proof pants, though the sneakers just got wet.
The Rockies are noted for the wildflowers, and even that early in the season, we saw some. These sky pilots are a favorite--they only grow in the alpine, a dash of color in the most unlikely places.

A closer look.
In early August, we headed to Montana, to the Wind River Mountains.
With the little ones, it took a couple of days to get up here, but it was worth the wait.
Pop up a couple of tents, and we're all right at home.
 
We went even higher, until there was no shelter but the rocks.
I love camping in spots like this, but the kids always felt a little uncomfortable above tree line. We compromised and never spent too long in the alpine.
Sometimes we move camp late in the day, after exploring. The late afternoon light is the best!



Writing and drawing in camp started early for this one--he still does it, and inspires me to try to write some stories while we are out.



And, finally, a shot I really love!
You tell me what the caption should be!
If you like this, and you want more--or you want to inspire your own kids and take them hiking, consider ordering A is for Alpine--my picture book for little hikers!
https://www.ninjalibrarian.com/p/blog-page_11.html
ebook from Amazon 

And don't forget that we are all heroes--and there are still a few days left in my Hero Month promotion for Halitor the Hero!


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Cozy Review: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding

36583047 

Title: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding (Royal Spyness Mystery #12)
Author: Rhys Bowen
Publisher: Berkely Books Expected publication date August 7, 2018. 304 pages in hardback.
Source:
Netgalley.com

Publisher's Summary:

Georgie is finally able to plan for her wedding in the summer. It is going to be a summer of weddings: her mother is marrying Max, her German beau; Georgie's grandfather is marrying his next door neighbor, Mrs. Huggins; and Darcy's father is getting up the courage to ask the princess to marry him. Georgie is staying at the princess's London house when she receives a letter from one of her mother's former husbands, Sir Hubert Anstruther. Georgie is now his sole heir, and he's offering her the use of his lovely country house. He suggests she move in right away to keep an eye on the place because all might not be well since his butler died.

Georgie talks this through with her husband-to-be, Darcy, who is off to Europe again, this time to Berlin. They decide that she will take Sir Hubert up on his offer. However, when Georgie arrives, it becomes clear that she is definitely not wanted in the house. Strange things are happening, including a lively ghost and a less than friendly reception from the new butler. When a body shows up, Georgie realizes that Sir Hubert's invitation may not have been entirely altruistic and begins to wonder if she'll even make it to her wedding day.
  


My Review:  
Another great addition to a great series! A few things I particularly liked:
*Georgie doesn't lean on Darcy in this one. She figures most of it out herself.
*Other characters who've been on the fringes get some real screen time, including Georgie's mother and her grandfather (the Cockney).
*Georgie's maid, Queenie, has finally become a human, not just a punchline. Big improvement.

So how's the mystery? That there is something pretty nasty going on at the house is obvious from the beginning. Georgie might even be a little slow to believe someone is really trying to get rid of her, but of course she's not the one reading a murder mystery. I even got a pretty good idea of what was up fairly early on, so again maybe thought Georgie could have been a little quicker on the uptake. But she is careful with her suspicions, and there are some real questions about who is involved in what ways. That's a big part of what she has to work out, and I loved that her beloved grandfather (a retired policeman) comes to help. He keeps them grounded in the right behaviors toward the police.

Since this is primarily a comedic series (aside from a tendency to strew corpses about), none of the really awful possibilities come to pass, and we have a great time watching the characters work it all out. Oh, and the setting is England between the wars, a favorite of mine, and the author does her research thoroughly, so it works well. What's not to like?

My Recommendation:

This is far and away my favorite of Rhy Bowen's series, and I think it just keeps getting better. There has been a tendency for Georgie to be sort of stupidly insecure vis-a-vis Darcy, and the author is getting that under control, which makes it all the stronger. We don't need romantic uncertainty to enjoy Georgie's trials and tribulations. This might be my favorite addition to the series, but that might just be that each on is my favorite while I'm reading it. ;)

FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC from the publisher via Net Galley, and was given nothing further from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Monday, June 25, 2018

Murder at the Marina--Release, Review, and a Visit from the Author



Title: Murder at the Marina (Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery #1)

Author: Ellen Jacobson
Publication Info: June, 2018, 192 pages (ebook) (Paperback 246 pages)
Source: Electronic ARC from the author
Purchase Links:
Amazon (US)
Amazon (CA) 
Amazon (UK)
Kobo 
Barnes & Noble 
Apple iBooks 
Google Play 



Blurb: 
A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Mollie McGhie is hoping for diamonds for her tenth wedding anniversary. Instead, her husband presents her with a dilapidated sailboat. Just one problem—she doesn’t know anything about boats, nor does she want to.

When Mollie discovers someone murdered on board, she hopes it will convince her husband that owning a boat is a bad idea. Unfortunately, he’s more determined than ever to fix the boat up and set out to sea.

Mollie finds herself drawn into the tight-knit community living at Palm Tree Marina in Coconut Cove, a small town on the Florida coast. She uncovers a crime ring dealing in stolen marine equipment, investigates an alien abduction, eats way too many chocolate bars, adopts a cat, and learns far more about sailing than she ever wanted to.

Can Mollie discover who the murderer is before her nosiness gets her killed?

My Review:
I had the pleasure of being a beta reader for this cozy mystery, and enjoyed reading it even in draft form. When the author sent me a finished copy, I meant to just skim it, and look at the parts she said she'd changed most. I soon found myself reading the whole thing, zipping along happily and trying to remember who was guilty (I had it backwards, and the clues and red herrings are so nicely scattered about that I couldn't sort it out in my head). 

The story is well put together, the characters interesting and varied, and the red herrings abound. Some aspects of the story weren't totally to my taste--Mollie is a bit crazy in some areas, in my opinion, but she's believable, and the humor is strong. The details about the sailing life are convincing (they should be; the author is a sailor!) and because Mollie is a novice, we get to learn it as we go so the reader isn't left wallowing in a sea of nautical terminology.

Mollie and her husband make an interesting pair, and I look forward to seeing how they get on, especially with the addition of a very intelligent cat to their menage. About that cat: I like how the author used the cat to reveal a few clues, without making it into some kind of super-feline intelligence. There are, however, hints that Mollie's new furry companion may be the perfect sidekick for future investigations.

My Recommendation:
A perfect summer read! Light, cozy, with just enough of a puzzle to keep you going, and full of images of warm summer evenings on the water! Beware of chocolate cravings--these characters eat a LOT of chocolate!
FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of Murder at the Marina from the author, and received nothing further from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Now for the really exciting part--a visit from the author! 
Ellen Jacobson was kind enough to stop by and tell us a bit about how she came to write this sailing mystery.

Thanks for hosting me on your site today to celebrate the release of my cozy mystery, Murder at the Marina. This is the first book in the lighthearted and humorous Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery series, featuring a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth.

My own sailing adventures and misadventures inspired me to write this series. My husband and I bought our first sailboat in New Zealand in 2012. After a couple of years cruising in those beautiful waters, we returned to the States and bought a bigger boat which we moved onto in 2015. We've since cruised in Florida and the Bahamas, labored over endless boat projects, and worked to keep our cruising kitty (savings) topped up.

I wanted to reflect my experiences learning to sail, cruising and living aboard a boat, and being part of the boating community in my cozy mysteries. You could say that there's a little bit of me in my main character, Mollie.

I thought I'd share one of the boating tidbits which I wrote about in Murder at the Marina—namely, the layout of a sailboat. When Mollie first sees her new boat, she's not impressed with the close quarters. The cabins are small, the galley is even smaller, she has to duck her head to get to the rear of the boat, and she has to squeeze pass people when moving around.

Living on a small sailboat can be difficult to adapt to if you're used to a large land-based home. Our boat has around 400 square feet of living space down below. It's definitely “tiny house” living and you have to downsize your possessions accordingly. For my husband and me, it's absolutely fine, but it will be interesting to see how Mollie copes with living in such a small space.

Thanks for stopping by! We are downsizing, but I'm not sure I could go all the way down to 400 square feet! 

Author Bio

Ellen Jacobson writes mystery and scifi/fantasy stories. She is the author of the “Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery” series. She lives on a sailboat with her husband, exploring the world from the water. When she isn't working on boat projects or seeking out deserted islands, she blogs about their adventures at The Cynical Sailor.

You can connect with Ellen on:
Author Website - https://ellenjacobsonauthor.com/
Author Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/EllenJacobsonAuthor/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17395138.Ellen_Jacobson
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Sunday, June 24, 2018

#Fi50: Cutting it Fine

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!
fiction in 50   image Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration.
That’s it!  But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at acrossthebored.com) or create your own Fi50 meme pic….
and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
At this time, I haven't been able to find a source for a free linky-list, so it's just comments. I recommend posting your basic blog link below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the next-to-last Sunday of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

This month's all-too-apropos prompt is...

 Cutting it Fine

“Clive, you’re late with your report again.”

“No I’m not. It’s not past the deadline until midnight.”

I glared at my personal assistant and counted to ten. “One of these days, Clive. One of these days you’ll not talk your way out of it.”

“Chill, dude. We made the deadline.”

“Clive, you’re late with your report again.”

“No I’m not. It’s not past the deadline until midnight.”

I glared at my personal assistant and counted to ten. “One of these days, Clive. One of these days you’ll not talk your way out of it.”

“Chill, dude. We made the deadline.”

###
 
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Flash: In the Kingdom of Dust Bunnies

This week’s Friday Flash is truly flash fiction—something I’ve whipped off late Thursday because I’ve been too busy to do anything and now my guys are using my computer to watch Game of Thrones, so I can’t even do a photo page. But I did have dust bunnies on my mind, due to spending the last 3 days packing books. So here you have it... a 20-minute story.

In the Kingdom of Dust Bunnies

Everyone has heard about the dust bunnies that hold sway under the beds. They are large and fierce, it is true. But the dust bunnies most to be feared are the ones who have build their civilization behind the books on the shelves.
###

King Algernon had enjoyed a long and uneventful rule. No one had disturbed the Kingdom of Books for so long that the inhabitants had long since moved beyond the crude dust bunny stage and become sophisticated purveyors of a highly literate civilization. Rather than lurking under a bed, waiting to dodge a dust mop, Algernon lingered over his morning tea and surveyed the town. The light in the Kingdom of Books was diffuse, but adequate to admire the homes his followers had built, not to mention the elegant city hall they would be inaugurating that day.

Algernon had just finished his second cup of tea when Sneezix raced onto the terrace, horror and fear on his dusty face.

“Sire! Sire!”

“What is it, my lad?” Algernon prided himself on his eternal calm, and encouraged his followers to maintain the same. His example had no effect on the excitable Sneezix this time.

“Word has just come from the village of Second Shelf, my Lord.” The courtier stopped to pant, or possibly to gather himself in the face of horror.

“What is it?” Algernon asked again, more impatiently. “Have they a shortage of dust?” His laugh died as Sneezix responded.

“Far worse, Sire! The books have been removed, and the village destroyed. They were helpless in the face of the invasion of the giant Dust Rag, and only a few inhabitants survived to carry the word!”

Algernon leapt to his feet. “We must prepare! Sound the alarms and pass the word to prepare for evacuation!”

Even as he spoke, Algernon felt the change in the light and air. A gap appeared in the city wall, and bright light shone through, blinding the inhabitants.

Within minutes, the Kingdom of Books lay in ruins, the protective wall destroyed, and the deadly Dust Rag swooping low over the panicked populace.

Unable to stop the disaster, Algernon made his decision. He held his ground, defending his people with his own body, in the hopes that some would escape.

The sound of a vast sneeze was the last he heard.

###
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Enjoy the story? Remember it’s Hero Month—and you can still get Halitor the Hero at bargain prices! But the month is going fast!
Want a personalized, signed copy? For the month of June, use the buy button here to order a copy at 30% off! Just $8 signed and shipped anywhere in the US (I'm sorry--international orders are possible, but I have to charge the actual shipping costs, which are awful).
Prefer to order from Amazon or B&N? I'm dropping the price to $7.99 for the paperback in those places as well (shipping costs are between you and the vendor).
Like ebooks? The ebook will be 99 cents at all outlets, just for the month of June!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Non-fiction Audio: Braving It,

34007634

Title: Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild
Author: James Campbell. Read by Roger Wayne
Publisher: Tantor Audio, 2017. Original by Crown Publishing, 384 pages
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:

The powerful and affirming story of a father's journey with his teenage daughter to the far reaches of Alaska

Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to only a handful of people, is a harsh and lonely place. So when James Campbell's cousin Heimo Korth asked him to spend a summer building a cabin in the rugged Interior, Campbell hesitated about inviting his fifteen-year-old daughter, Aidan, to join him: Would she be able to withstand clouds of mosquitoes, the threat of grizzlies, bathing in an ice-cold river, and hours of grueling labor peeling and hauling logs?

But once there, Aidan embraced the wild. She even agreed to return a few months later to help the Korths work their traplines and hunt for caribou and moose. Despite windchills of 50 degrees below zero, father and daughter ventured out daily to track, hunt, and trap. Under the supervision of Edna, Heimo's Yupik Eskimo wife, Aidan grew more confident in the woods.

Campbell knew that in traditional Eskimo cultures, some daughters earned a rite of passage usually reserved for young men. So he decided to take Aidan back to Alaska one final time before she left home. It would be their third and most ambitious trip, backpacking over Alaska's Brooks Range to the headwaters of the mighty Hulahula River, where they would assemble a folding canoe and paddle to the Arctic Ocean. The journey would test them, and their relationship, in one of the planet's most remote places: a land of wolves, musk oxen, Dall sheep, golden eagles, and polar bears.

At turns poignant and humorous, Braving It is an ode to America's disappearing wilderness and a profound meditation on what it means for a child to grow up--and a parent to finally, fully let go.


My Review:  

This book gets some criticism for feeling at times a bit trivial, or not exciting enough, or even for focusing on the relationship between the author and his daughter (okay, that one puzzled me, since that's what the story is *about*). In some ways, though, the critics are right. This isn't an epic death-defying adventure, though there are moments. The thing is, it doesn't have to be. Maybe it only makes sense to people who spend a lot of time in the wilderness, but to me the details about life in the bush are important. I wanted to know what it was like to build a cabin by hand in the 21st Century. And I sympathized with the misery they all felt at times during that episode. The backpacking and boat trip flow more naturally out of the cabin-building and trap-line experiences that make up the first 2/3 of the book.

I get the criticism, though. The blurb makes it sound like the book is all about the river-running expedition, when in fact it is about a) the things that made it possible for James Campbell to believe his daughter could make that trip, and b) the relationship of father and daughter at a crucial turning point in her life. And maybe I'll add a c: the book is also about the way a wilderness addict is born.

Maybe it's because I'm a parent whose kids are making the shift to adulthood and independence, but I was fascinated by the delicate dance of parenting and freedom that Campbell engages in with his daughter. When he--and she--finally reach the point where he can trust her completely to do the job at hand, it's a triumph for him as much as for her. It's also a point we all have to reach some time with our children. Campbell just had the opportunity to experience it in a concrete, I'm-trusting-you-with-our-lives kind of way. And that's cool. The biggest thing that bothered me was the way Aidan's mom got left out of the growing-up adventures, and the sense that Aidan bonded in a very mother-daughter way with Edna. I'm not sure I could have been gracious about that if it were my daughter.

The writing is solid, with a believable memoir feel (not over-written; some might say it's a little under-written). The audio is excellent, really capturing Campbell's feelings as he recalls the important or scary moments.

My Recommendation:

So this might be a book more for people who are already into the idea (at least) of living in the wilderness than for those just looking for an adventure tale. It's also for parents wondering how you let your kids grow up.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Braving It out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Middle Grade Fantasy: Granted, by John David Anderson

35068662

Title: Granted

Author: John David Anderson
Publisher: Walden Pond Press, 2018. 325 pages (hardback).
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for. But even so, there is someone out there who hears it.

In a magical land called the Haven lives a young fairy named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. Ophelia is no ordinary fairy—she is a Granter: one of the select fairies whose job it is to venture out into the world and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day.

It’s the work of the Granters that generates the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do, and to keep the Haven hidden and safe. But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds. On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of potential wishes gets granted.

Today, however, is anything but typical. Because today, Ophelia is going to get her very first wish-granting assignment.

And she’s about to discover that figuring out how to truly give someone what they want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.
 

My Review:  
This book has a lovely cover, and a story to match. Honestly, I'd have read it just for the pleasure of having a character named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. But the story is well worth it on it's own.

A co-worker recommended this to me in part because it reminded her of my own book, Halitor the Hero. Not the same story at all, but the books share a sort of gentle ironic humor, and a hero(ine) who tries perhaps too hard and keeps failing until the mission is accomplished. I loved the story, and felt that the tone was just right--a little funny, a little whimsical, and a whole lot adventurous.

My Recommendation:

This is a book that will probably delight readers from 7 or 8 on up. The writing is pretty accessible without being simplified, and the story is gentle enough for younger children to read and enjoy. And maybe we can all reclaim a little bit of magic!


FTC Disclosure: I checked Granted out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

#fi50 is coming!

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!
fiction in 50   image Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration. Bonus points for hitting 50 exactly.
That’s it! But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at acrossthebored.com) or create your own Fi50 meme pic…

and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
At this time, I haven't been able to find a source for a free linky-list, so it's just comments. I recommend posting your basic blog link below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the next-to-last Sunday of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.



The June prompt is: 

Cutting it fine.

You can use the prompt as a title, or just as a spark, or a piece of the story, or ignore it completely. Really, there aren't many rules, other than 50 words or less. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Friday Flash: The Tomb of the Strange Feast

The Wendig Challenge this week was to write a story that had something to do with food. I'm still neck deep in prepping our house for sale (looking at every. single. book. to decided if it goes or stays...), so there was no time or mental energy to write a story. But I remembered this one, which fits the requirement, though it feels a little odd to post humor in response to a memorial sort of thing--Wendig's call for stories was inspired by the death of Anthony Bourdain.

Still: food. And I don't think many of you saw if the first time around, in 2013!

This one is meant for the kiddies. Well, and the grownups.

The Tomb of the Strange Feast

Mom never was a good cook, but that night she really outdid herself.  Her smile when she brought in dinner didn't convince even Lily, and she's only five.

"Brussels sprout-tofu casserole, with non-fat cheese," Mom announced, all bright and enthusiastic, the way grown-ups sound when they are trying to convince kids of the wonderfulness of something they really don't like it.  Totally fake.  Mom could pretend, but we all knew she didn't like the food she made any more than we did.  She didn't even put crumbled potato chips on top of the stuff, the way Nana does, which at least means there's some part of her “hot dishes” a kid can eat.

Trouble was, Mom was on a health-food kick.  Health food and bad cooking are a really awful combination.  When my buddy Lianne's mom cooks healthy food, it's things like grilled veggies and chicken breasts.  Kind of boring, but you can eat it.  Sometimes she gets these veggie-burger things that are really good, especially with plenty of ketchup and mustard.  You’d hardly know they were healthy.  But my mom makes Brussels sprout-tofu casserole, and tofu "cheesecake" for dessert.  Sometimes I think I should run away from home.

So that night Mom put the pan on the table, and we all just sat looking at it.  Lily looked like she was about to cry, and Dad swallowed hard.  The stuff looked nasty and smelled worse.  Mom was still trying to smile, and she served each of us a nice big heaping pile, but she had to work harder and harder to keep smiling as she went on.  She knew.  That’s the worst part: Mom knows she's a lousy cook.  She always has been.  Used to be, she just went ahead and made hot dogs and frozen pizza and stuff like that, which was fine.  When she was dieting, she’d get those “Lean and Mean” frozen dinners, and I got pretty used to them, too.

But last month she got hold of this book about fat kids and how bad eating and junk food was going to kill us all, and maybe that’s true.  But in our family, Mom’s attempts to cook her idea of healthy food are going to kill us all a whole lot sooner.  Like this casserole we were all staring at like gawkers at a traffic accident.  Horrified and fascinated at the same time.

Dad’s a real hero.  He smiled at Mom and picked up his fork.  “I’m sure it’s marvelous, Dear,” he said, and plunged his fork into the heart of the steaming pile on his plate.  He didn’t take a bite, though.  I figure the telephone saved his life, because before he could lift the fork, his phone rang, and he got up to answer it.  Mom doesn’t allow our phones at the table, so he had to hunt for it, and when he found the right one, it was Mom’s phone that was ringing after all.  I don’t know why they don’t use different ringtones.  Maybe they haven’t figured out how.

Anyway, Mom got on the phone and came back a minute later with her purse in her hand.  “Poor old Mrs. Carruthers is sick, and she needs me to go pick up her medicines.  She uses that discount drug store on the other side of town, so I’ll be a while.  Don’t worry about saving dinner for me—I’ll grab something while I wait for her prescription.  Just clean up when you finish.”

Mom has a sort of business running errands for the old people in our neighborhood.  I’m not sure how many of them pay her, but she does it for all of them, regardless.  Mom’s a great person.  She just can’t cook.

When the door closed behind her, Dad, Lily and I looked at each other, then at the casserole.  Then Dad stood up.  “Karla, you get the shovel.  I’ll bring this stuff.”

“I’ll get that dessert thing,” Lily said.  We’d tasted that before and knew better than to do so again.  Of all the things to mess with, dessert is the cruelest. Your mouth is all set for something rich and sweet and instead you get tofu. There ought to be a law.

Dad began scraping plates back into the dish, and I got the shovel from the shed.  By the time I’d picked a good place, Dad and Lily were outside, and I held the dish while Dad dug a hole with a few quick stomps on the shovel.  We scraped in the mess, shoved the dirt back over it, and sprinkled some leaves over it to make it less obvious.  Then we loaded the dishwasher and Dad took us to the Burger Prince and got us burgers and strawberry shakes.  They make their shakes with real fruit, so we decided that was close enough to health food for tonight.

That was hours ago.  When I looked out my window just now, with the moon lighting up the yard, I swear I could see that fresh pile of dirt and leaves moving.

I really hope we’ve seen the last of that strange feast.


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!