Saturday, August 19, 2017

Racing Destiny by L.R. Barrett-Durham

Though at one point in my life I was enamored of the likes of Rosemary Rogers, and Kathleen Woodiwiss, I rarely intentionally pick up a true romance these days. (ha! See what I did there?) I'll read books that have love stories in them, but that's about as far as I go toward Romance-- unless one is recommended to me.

A few months back, I read (or tried to read) a novel that proclaimed to be a mystery, but delved heavily into what I would call, without hesitation, bad romance. My remarks on the book expressed that, which caught the interest, and greatly amused, a friend of mine, who is both a prolific author and talented artist. She challenged me to read one of her books, and I accepted. Did I mention her name is LR Barret-Durham?

Racing Destiny is indeed a romance, but it is also a science fiction novel, set in an Atlanta of the future. The world the author has created overlays nicely on the Atlanta I know. It is also a world where Hover Craft racing has capture the hearts and imagination of the entire population (enough so that popular racers are recognized wherever they go.) Rayna Jones was born to race, like her father before her. And her arch rival, Draven Prestage, was also born to race, and born to beat Rayna. There's that old sexual tension pre-race, and a steamy bet between the two drivers.  Then Barrett-Durham mixes it up a bit, and steps beyond the usual romance frission, to add some interesting twists and turns to the plot. While I honestly kinda skimmed over the scenes involving passion, and have a pet peeve about the use of the word "sexy" (show me, don't tell me) in any book, the story kept my attention. I liked finding the similarities and differences in my Atlanta and the Atlanta of Racing Destiny. It was a science fiction world, but not so far removed that it became unfamiliar. The writing was clean, fast paced, believable. And I was entirely delighted to see Easter eggs in there from things I know are passions in the writer's own personal life and knowledge base, presented in such a fashion that they were informative without being didactic or out of place. Bottom line? I'm still not a romance fan, but I've already downloaded one of LR Barrett-Durham's fantasy novels to see how she does there. If I like it, there are lots more, because this is one prolific author.

Review from Amazon:
 Author of the International Indie Sensation, The Trust Series, L R Barrett-Durham delves into yet another genre and takes us to heights we never knew imaginable. FOUR SECONDS That’s all that stands between Rayna Jones, and her egocentric arch rival, Draven Prestage, as she competes in the Thirty-Second Annual HoverCup Championship, to defend her title as victor, and to secure her second HoverCup in the most dangerous sport on the planet. Convinced that Rayna’s rookie year victory was only beginner’s luck, Draven is determined to show his saucy little minx of an adversary exactly who is boss. As they're about to hover back out onto the racetrack, they make a private wager. If Rayna wins, Draven takes a season off. If Draven wins, he'll have Rayna at his mercy for an entire week. Rayna has no intention of letting Draven outdistance her, or use her for his plaything. She may only have a four second head start, but for her... it's a lifetime. “L.R. Barrett-Durham switches gears from fantasy to sci-fi adventure with deceptive ease. Her romantic heroes continue to ring true, yet still take us by surprise. Racing Destiny is a stellar achievement.” -- Martin Powell, author of The Halloween Legion™

Monday, August 14, 2017

We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

You know that satisfied feeling you have after reading a book that just pulled you right in? That was me when I finished readingWe are the Ants. There were so many moments where the situation, or the author's way with words just pulled me in and held me close. I'm not a teenage boy, being raised by a single mom. My boyfriend didn't commit suicide. I'm not having a rough time at school. My brother and his girlfriend aren't expecting a baby. My grandmother isn't losing her memories. I'm not periodically being abducted by aliens. It's not up to me to save the world. But dammit-- I was right there with Henry, every step of the way.

And lest you think I'm kidding about the way I got sucked into the words on the page, try this one on for size:
 "Dreams are hopeful because they exist as pure possibility. Unlike memories, which are fossils, long dead and buried deep."

I'm definitely going to look for more by this author.

From the publisher:
There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.
 (less)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

West of the Moon by Margi Preus (2014)

I really enjoyed this book. It's one I found on a book exchange shelf, and consider myself lucky to have done so. It's a wonderful blend of story, myth, and folk-lore, weaving the three elements together pretty seamlessly. It's written for the younger set, but be forewarned that the bogeyman is real, and there could be some scary, which also has plusses for many. But the best part? At the end of the book, is an author's note, explaining that the idea from the story, and various bits and bobs within, came from a diary kept by her great-great-grandmother. How cool is that? Preus includes more notes from the diary, a photo of her great-great-grands, as well as some sketches. There's also a section with some further information on elements in the story, a glossary, and bibliography. My bookish heart is happy.

From the publisher:
Astri is a young Norwegian girl desperate to join her father in America. After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.

Brief thoughts on Into The Water, by Paula Hawkins

Well, Paula Hawkins can write. This is the second of her books I've read and while in didn't grab me by the throat and not let go the way her first did, it was still engaging. (The first was The Girl on the Train; I didn't see the movie.) The story was told from multiple points of view, which, for me, was a bit cumbersome, because I find it less easy to flip back to review who is who on an e-book than in a book-book. Still, it told its tale well enough, even if perhaps a tad transparent at times.

From the publisher:
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Saga of Medical IDs and Fitness Trackers

I have an allergy to natural rubber/latex.* While this comes as no surprise to many, it just might come as a surprise should I be somewhere, with a medical need, and unable to speak. For years, I wore an ID bracelet associated with one of the larger alert systems. It briefly told my medical condition, and then gave a phone number to be called to get more extensive information. The bracelet was clunky and stark, a big red Staff of Asclepius, and though it wasn't as obvious to others as to me, I always felt that it was some sort of a brand, labeling me as a health failure. I remember the joy I had when my husband, for a birthday gift, got me a smaller, rather pretty bracelet that fit my wrist better. While it was still from the medical alert company, it worked well with jewelry, when I wished to add something else to my wrist. But someone still had to call a number to get the health information needed, should I not be able to supply it. Plus, I was charged a yearly fee for the privilege of having my private information stored with the company. We eventually found another medical alert bracelet that was again non-clunky, made of silver (a metal I wear a lot in jewelry) and had the back engraved the back with my allergies. I've worn it many years. The engraving is wearing down a bit, now.

At some point, I learned about a company called Road ID. They make a product that is geared toward runners and bikers, should they become incapacitated out on the road. It is a superb medical alert tool. My Road ID had my name, my allergies, and my emergency contacts-- no need to call some company. The band could be changed to different colors, and though it was not recommended necessarily by the company, I often slipped the tag onto my watch for an alternative to a silicone. Wearing it gave me confidence to walk more on my own, knowing that should something "not good" happen, my needs and next of kin could be found. Even better, I could wear it swimming, an activity I love and was eager to resume.

From top: Road ID (wrist slim) , Buddha's head, Spire, Generic Medical Alert

About the same time I found Road ID, I began delving into the world of fitness tracker. My first was a simple Fitbit Zip, which I loved, because it told me my steps, and was much easier than the pedometers I'd tried. Eventually, my guys got me a Spire, which is good for someone who has a respiratory condition. Spire has served me well. Mine was one of the original devices when the company started, and they recently upgraded me to a newer model. It's a really cool instrument for monitoring activity, breathing, tension, focus, calm, etc. I am very happy with mine for those reasons.

Things change, or maybe they progress, or expand. While my spire and Road ID worked in combo, I also needed to monitor my heart rate. (At last check, Spire was working on this, but it had not yet been added to the devices bag of tricks). I decided to try the FitBit Alta HR. It tracks heart rate, steps, can give visual feedback for those things to me from my wrist, phone, or computer. (Yay!) It comes in a bunch of pretty colors as well as metal bands for a dressier look, all easily interchangeable. (Another yay!) It doesn't contain latex. (This one gets an Alleluia!) And, Road ID makes an ID that fits it specifically. (They have a whole link to IDs for wearable devices on their webpage.)


Fitbit Alta HR with Road ID in place

My Road ID for my Alta HR arrived today. And yes, I am a happy gal.






* other stuff too, but the latex allergy is why I started wearing an ID bracelet

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The New York Times: Footsteps: From Ferrante's Naples to Hammett's San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World by New York Times

What a stupendous collection of columns from the New York Times Travel section! It's a literary tour around the world. The first thing I did was to peruse the table of contents to see which of the books I had read. Some of my favorites are there, so it was an added delight to enrich my impressions with more details of location, author, and story. Some of the columns I'd read in the Times, other were new to me. Additional bonus? I was able to add a couple of books to my "want to read" list.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books, the publisher, and the travel writers and editors of the New York Times for providing me with such marvelous armchair traveling.

From the Publisher:
Before Nick Carraway was drawn into Daisy and Gatsby s sparkling, champagne-fueled world in The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald vacationed in the French Riviera, where a small green lighthouse winked at ships on the horizon. Before the nameless lovers began their illicit affair in The Lover, Marguerite Duras embarked upon her own scandalous relationship amidst the urban streets of Saigon. And before readers were terrified by a tentacled dragon-man called Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft was enthralled by the Industrial Trust tower-- the 26-story skyscraper that makes up the skyline of Providence, Rhode Island. 
Based on the popular New York Times travel column, Footsteps is an anthology of literary pilgrimages, exploring the geographic muses behind some of history's greatest writers. From the "dangerous, dirty and seductive" streets of Naples, the setting for Elena Ferrante's famous Neapolitan novels, to the "stone arches, creaky oaken doors, and riverside paths" of Oxford, the backdrop for Alice's adventures in Wonderland, Footsteps takes a fresh approach to literary tourism, appealing to readers and travel enthusiasts alike."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Small Admissions by Amy Poppel

Took me a little longer than usual to get into the story of this book, but I'm glad I stuck it out. Some moments of amusement and also insight, such as the picture below from about 3/4 through the book:

"At every meal in Deutschland they ask if you want your water flat or "mit gas."  You, my dear, are flat. Kate has gas. We need both kinds. We need loan analysts as well as carbonated people who jazz around. the bubbles may look out of control, but ultimately they know in which direction they're going."

I like to believe  I'm the latter type.

From the publisher:
One admission can change your life...forever.

When ambitious grad student Kate Pearson’s handsome French “almost fiancĂ©” ditches her, she definitely does not roll with the punches, despite the best efforts of family and friends. It seems that nothing will get Kate out of pajamas and back into the world.

Miraculously, one cringe-worthy job interview leads to a position in the admissions department at the revered Hudson Day School. Kate’s instantly thrown into a highly competitive and occasionally absurd culture, where she interviews all types of children: suitable, wildly unsuitable, charming, loathsome, ingratiating, or spoiled beyond all measure. And then there are the Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

As Kate begins to learn there’s no room for self-pity or nonsense during the height of admissions season or life itself, her sister and friends find themselves keeping secrets, dropping bombshells, and arguing with each other about how to keep Kate on her feet. Meanwhile, Kate seems to be doing very nicely, thank you, and is even beginning to find out that her broken heart is very much on the mend. Welcome to the world of Small Admissions.