Empire Of Time by Daniel Godfrey

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For fifteen years, the Romans of New Pompeii have kept the outside world at bay with the threat of using the Novus Particles device to alter time. Yet Decimus Horatius Pullus—once Nick Houghton—knows the real reason the Romans don’t use the device for their own ends: they can’t make it work without grisly consequences.
This fragile peace is threatened when an outsider promises to help the Romans use the technology. And there are those beyond Pompeii’s walls who are desperate to destroy a town where slavery flourishes. When his own name is found on an ancient artifact dug up at the real Pompeii, Nick knows that someone in the future has control of the device. The question is: whose side are they on?

This novel is the second in a series. I read the first and enjoyed it, but I think I prefer the second book to the first, which is something I rarely experience.

In this second book, we get to follow Nick Houghton as he has become Decimus Horatius Pollus, the ambassador for New Pompeii as he and other citizens of New Pompeii are faced with the Novus Particles device, which can alter time.

The novel is fast paced, nitty, gritty, and comes with the teasing promise of maybe a third book. As it appears the author knows what he is doing as far as creating great characters, I hope that he continues with this series and, in doing, sates my curiosity. I want to know just where Daniel Godfrey is going next. More direly, I want to know where Nick Houghton is going in the future. Is there a third book coming or are we to be left wondering? Perhaps the ending was sufficient for other readers, but not this one.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this novel (and I would imagine you do because it’s fabulous), hop on over to Amazon and give them your money. But, buy New Pompeii first because it’s great, too. The link for that one is at the top of this review.

 

Forever And A Death by Donald E. Westlake

I’m going to give you a quick background on Donald E. Westlake. It’s a whopper. Ready? Here goes…

Westlake was a crime novelist hired by Hollywood producers working on James Bond movies to write a script. The story he came up with was about a Western businessman seeking revenge after being kicked out of Hong Kong when the island was returned to Chinese rule. For political reasons, the film was never made. But, Westlake held on to it like the absolute prize it is. And I’m thrilled that he did. It was published an entire decade after Donald E. Westlake’s death, so I feel sort of sad he didn’t get to enjoy the story’s success, but that is neither here nor there.

Honestly, if this book could be made into a film now, I would be pleased. But, onto my thoughts!

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I have absolutely nothing to be critical of here. There is no complaint to be expressed. This book was an absolute joy to read. Absolutely, positively, wonderful to escape into the pages and plot. Drama where drama need be, comedic relief (yes, I was shocked, too, but if you have an odd sense of humor like me, it’s there!) where comedic relief need be, and I expected nothing less from a man who was such a legend in his day.

If I could change any one thing about this book, I wouldn’t. I don’t get to say that often, either, so please photocopy this as a reference. Just kidding. Don’t do that.

If you’d like a copy of this gem, please do buy it at any book retailer, but for quick reference, here is the AMAZON LINK. 

Books I haven’t enjoyed…

cropped-snapshot_20150626_1.jpgSometimes when I go through my review pile, I come across books I don’t like. It happens and I hate it because in most cases I know there will be other people who might really love those books. So, I try my best to write an honest review and give the author their fair reviews.

I have a list of those books here. And, for the sake of fairness, I’m not going to write a full review of any of them because I don’t feel like I’m the right person to do so. However, I feel like there is a handful of books that deserve some attention and a few mentions in my blog as being books I would recommend to friends, even though I didn’t enjoy them myself.

Off Rock by Kieran Shea

This book was good,but I didn’t finish it because I wasn’t interested. The beginning is strong, as a beginning should be. Characters are fleshed out the right way, too, but the story itself found me looking for something else to do by the third chapter. iO9 gave it a great review on Amazon (link above, just click the book’s title).

The Age Of Olympus by Gavin Scott

Duncan Forrester’s research on an Aegean island is interrupted first by the murder of a British archaeologist, and then by the outbreak of the Greek Civil War. The worship of ancient gods may provide a clue to the murderer, but in such a tumultuous time, little is what it seems.

Another one I couldn’t get into. I think I had such a hard time with this novel because it’s the second in the series and I haven’t read the first one. I may remedy that one day soon. There is already a third in this series for pre-order, so I assume the author is having some good success with these books. I wish him all the best, too. If you’re interested in this book, click the title and check it out.

The Vinyl Detective- The Run Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel 

His first adventure consisted of the search for a rare record; his second begins with the discovery of one.  When a mint copy of the final album by “Valerian”—England’s great lost rock band of the 1960s—surfaces in a charity shop, all hell breaks loose. 

This one is another that is a second in a series. I have no idea why I keep ending up with books that are out of order from series, but that’s the way it happens sometimes. As a general rule of thumb, a writer’s job (when writing multiple books in the same series) is to ensure that the reader can enjoy the book out of order without feeling something is missing. That is sometimes not how it is done, unfortunately, but with this novel (which I DID manage to finish, even though it wasn’t my type) I was able to set it apart and it could easily live on its own. Kudos, Andrew Cartmel. It still wasn’t my cup of tea, but I would recommend it to others, so it is here, in THIS post instead of on its own, though I’ll give it its own rating on Goodreads and Amazon. I may actually pass this book onto my daughter as it seems more her speed than mine! As always, click the title and head over to Amazon if you’d like to know more or purchase your own copy.

 

Stay tuned for more reviews and some overdue ones! I’ve just gotten my little office nook into order and figured out what on earth was going on with my blog. Technical issues are not my strong suit. 

But, nonetheless, keep calm and read on, folks! 

 

Being Me Right Now…

If you know me personally or if you follow my blog or we’re friends on Facebook, you will know that I’ve had the hardest year of my life and am in the process of healing. It’s a process which I will never complete and my only goal is to get back some semblance of a normal life. I’ve accomplished a little bit of that. I’ve gotten to a point where I can wake up and see my family and get kids dressed and ready for school without collapsing to the floor. I can walk to the bus stop and talk to my friends and neighbors in the morning like I would any other morning. And, I can find joy in things again. But, I’m still not there yet.

As far as reading and writing goes, I’m working again.

**Waits for applause.**

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Thanks, I needed that. Working as a writer again is a big thing for me. I’m still reviewing, but I’m reviewing slowly. My brain works sort of like a wire with a short in it right now. Sometimes it works well, other times I’m shorting out and there are sparks, but no productivity. I’m going to work past that, though. Healing takes time I guess.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to start another novel soon. So, naturally, that means I’m going to spend this fall in my bathrobe, with my best friends…

I went to Ollies today and I found some really cool Halloween candies to put on cakes or cupcakes. I have no idea what to do with them yet, but this is one of those things I was talking about earlier–finding joy in things again.

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I’ve also been reading some non-fiction and science fiction and have found a few shows on Netflix that I absolutely love to watch. Science fiction novels, Mad Men, and Shameless are probably going to consume my fall this year.

I enjoy both the UK and US versions of Shameless and Mad Men is a gift from the time traveling fairy as far as I’m concerned. No doubt, if I ever have the chance to time travel, I’m going back to 1960 to rob a Sears for the clothes and shoes.

And that’s pretty much it. I’m writing and editing and submitting again. I’m enjoying things when I can. And I’m trying so hard to have something normal in my life because without something normal, I feel like I might fall apart.

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Welcoming 2016 With Stories and Changing Tastes

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Every year I keep a log of books, short stories, and articles of note that I’ve read. In 2015, I logged an awful lot of books. Some were new releases, but more often than not, not. By this log, though, I figured that I read more how-to books, gardening books, and history books than anything else. I don’t know why it happened this way, but maybe because I’ve been sort of fighting a dark depression and anxiety with hobbies–gardening, sewing, and just about anything I can do which would keep my hands busy. I’m the kind of person who needs to be doing something, even if it’s something small, such as mending a buttonhole or planting a seed. And, once I’m focused, that’s it. I’m addicted to something new and you’ll soon find me in bookshops and online seeking out books regarding my new hobby, whatever it may be. I can’t just be a novice at anything. I will constantly strive to master it.

But, in 2010, for example, I logged mostly romance and horror novels. In 2011 and 2012, same. In 2013, by some strange tap of the reading fairy’s wand, I changed directions and returned to my science fiction and fantasy roots. You see, the firsts books I really loved–and I mean REALLY loved–were sci-fi novels, comics, fantasy tomes, and short stories in magazines involving elves, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, aliens, and vampires. I started reading time travel novels again. I started picking up newer novels by authors I’d forgotten I loved so much in high school. And, I began to change the way I think about things again. I think that’s just something that happens ever so often in life. Your life changes direction, so your reading lists change direction, too.

By 2014, I’d changed completely. I haven’t completely let go of reading romance, but I want to read everything about everything. Sometimes there just isn’t enough space on a year’s worth of bookshelf for all of the books a person would wish to read. I think that might be what happens to me. I am too ambitious. But, there are just so many books!

But, back to 2015.

Last year, my children grew. My fortunes changed (sort of) with the coming of a move which will take me from living in a small 3 bedroom house with a small yard to a small 4 bedroom house with a yard that reaches beyond what the eye can see (my husband’s family’s farm). In anticipation of this move, my family and I have discussed a lot of changes. We’re letting go of cable because it won’t be available. We’re going to have an internet connection to watch Netflix and Hulu and do internety things. But, we’ve also decided that we’re going to raise some chickens and continue growing beautiful herbs and Cherokee purple tomatoes (which are to die for, by the way, and can be found at Burpee’s online). On the farm, my father-in-law and brother-in-laws (and their wives and families) raise chickens, horses, cows, pigs, and sometimes goats. And, I think my niece has some rabbits somewhere. So, with all of this in mind, I’ve been reading about soil, about how to raise animals (because I’m absolutely terrified of horses and have no clue how to manage livestock, much less live with them), and about how to live a simpler life.

Now, hold on, people. Before you start thinking ahead, NO. No, we are not homesteaders. Absolutely, just no. I have mad amounts of respect for homesteaders, but that’s not what we’re doing  at all. We’re just simplifying things and moving forward with raising our family in an area where I won’t have to worry about being so close to other people. Well, except for my husband’s family. Two of his brothers, their wives, their collective six children, and my mother-in-law and father-in-law all live on the same stretch of property, but it’s big enough that none of us have to look at each other if we don’t want to. Or unless I need to be saved from the horses (ha ha).

The beautiful part of how life changes your reading habits, though, is that when I move to my little farm shack in the middle of nowhere, I’ll have new places to read. Also, I have a niece and a sister-in-law who both love to read, too, so maybe we can exchange good books ever so often. Who knows–we might even start our own book club right on the edge of the mountain. I’m sure the new experiences I have there will absolutely reflect in the 2016 reading log. I have plans to pick up a Farmer’s Almanac and a Gardener’s Almanac next time I’m in the Dollar General store in town. And, beyond that, there’s a discount store in Beckley (about 35 minutes from me) where I can pick up as many books about flowers and plants as I want because they’re really cheap. I’d love a book about flowers so I can learn about which ones are the easiest to grow and which ones need what because I do have plans for a white rose bush and roses are not things I know a lot about, although I’ve always loved white roses (among other white flowers, I also love the white moonflowers/Datura).

bookThere are a few crime fiction novels I plan to read this year, though, and they’re already sitting on my nightstand. AND, I do have some drama, history, and romance novels sitting in my shelf, waiting on me to give them some attention. First, though, I have a book filled with the love letters between Lucrezia Borgia and Pietro Bembo. The book is called “The Prettiest Love Letters In the World” because they truly are. I’ve already taken a peek at them.

scandalsAnd, of course, it’s January 3rd, which means I’ve already read a book this year. It’s was called “Treasury of Royal Scandals” and it was published some years back, but still such a great read. Books aren’t like food–they don’t ruin after a while. They stay great. I’ve learned that there is also a book out there called “A Treasury of Great American Scandals,” which I’d like to add to my collection, too. The author, Michael Farquhar, has many books out I’d like to snatch. Seriously, where has this guy been all my life as a reader? “Treasury of Royal Scandals” was brilliant. It was a great way to start the year, in my opinion.

I’m curious to know how everyone else feels on the subject of changing tastes in books. Is it just me? Do the rest of you change tastes every now and then? I can’t imagine I’m the only person on the face of the planet who sometimes switches from medieval kings and queens to cyborgs and werewolves.

 

10 Things For Writers To Be Thankful For

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  1. Free word processing programs. A lot of writers are on a tight budget (who would have thought, right?), so sometimes it’s convenient to have free MS Word Alternatives. I’ve used Open Office many, many times and I like it quite a bit. It’s more than adequate. Remember the days when computers came equipped with Word? Those were the days, huh?
  2. Coffee pots that turn themselves off. Sometimes, when writing, one might forget to get up and turn it off themselves. Not naming any names or anything…
  3. Friends who are also writers. Online, offline, or anywhere in between, sometimes only another writer will understand what’s going on in our heads. Spouses, children, parents, and other friends may try and do a really great job supporting us, but when you have a deadline and you need a shove, sometimes it just takes another writer to kick your butt into gear. AND, they sometimes know of submission calls you’ve never heard of.
  4. A comfy writing spot. Is it just me, or do other writers out there also have a favorite spot to write? In bed? On the couch? Outside? In the car? You name the place and I promise I know a writer who prefers to write there. I even know a lady who likes to write in her bathroom floor. Beer may or may not play a role in that scenario.
  5. Failures, great and small. Without them, we wouldn’t grow and learn. We all have them. If a writer ever tells you they’ve never failed with a project, they’re just lying.
  6. A life story. Everybody has a life story. Some are normal, but of all the writers I know, I only know a few with a normal upbringing. Experiences gained through childhood and beyond shape who we are as people and that seeps into a person’s writing in so many ways. Be thankful, even if your life has been shitty. Or don’t. That’s up to you.
  7. Bookshelves (or boxes, crates, stacks…) full of books. These are our greatest tools. You can’t write if you don’t read.
  8. Beta readers. These people are crazy important. They’re our test subjects, sort of. They read our books before anyone else. Good betas give honest feedback. I have a beta I know will tell me the truth. If my book sucks, she’ll say, “Honey, this is trash. Fix this shit.” And I totally love her for it.
  9. Imagination and the willingness to use it. Why would a twenty-something scientist’s assistant take off in a beat up Ford to venture into alternate realities, knowing death was always a likely scenario? Because I wanted to write that, that’s why.
  10. Foods of convenience. Frozen or delivery pizzas, ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, microwave meals, soup in a can, Chinese delivery–while I don’t suggest on living off of these things, they come in handy when you have a deadline or when you’re at the end of your novel and you just have to keep going or else you might burst.

Twenty Things To Do Between Writing Projects

 

booksYay! You finished writing your novel/short story/article/comic/other stuff! I used to love this period of time because of the sense of accomplishment I gave myself after typing “The End” as I grinned like a…well, whatever grins. As most writers can tell you, it’s a wonderful, wonderful day when a project you’ve been working on forever finally comes to a full stop and you’ve told the entire story, start to finish. You’ve conquered the beast!

Now what?

Well, just walk away. That’s the best advice anyone has ever given me and I’m all too happy to pass it along. Walk away from the manuscript and leave it alone. Do other things. Live your life and gain some new experiences before you do anything else. Most writers (though, I can’t speak for everyone) have a family and/or friends who love them and would appreciate knowing they’re still alive somewhere. Now’s the time to reconnect with those people. Or not. Just do stuff.

I’ve made a good list of things you can do between writing projects. I hope it helps someone.

  1. Relax and do nothing for a few days. Writing can drain a person and you need to recharge your batteries.
  2. Do something nice with your significant other. Go to the movies, have a nice dinner or just watch a documentary together on Netflix and eat grilled cheese sandwiches on the couch. Either way, pencil them in and spend some time with them. They’ll appreciate it and you will too. You need this.
  3. Get online, update your blog layout and give it a facelift. Write a fun post or two. Write emails to your friends, return emails from your friends. Clean up your email accounts—delete old emails, rearrange emails you’re keeping. Go through your social media accounts and get them all up to date, too. Get EVERYTHING online up to date. It won’t take as long as you think.
  4. Go shopping and buy pens, notebooks, printer supplies, editing supplies, post-it notes. Go home. Put these items in a box or drawer and just leave them there. Smile that you saved seventy-five cents on your notebook paper.
  5. Buy or borrow five novels or novellas. Make coffee. Start reading the first one. Keep going and read the entire thing in one sitting. Nap. Repeat.
  6. Write reviews for books you’ve read. Post them wherever you usually post reviews.
  7. Go to a museum. If you’re lucky enough to have a museum around town, take an afternoon and go.
  8. Bake a cake, muffins, or cookies. Arrange them on a pretty plate. Take them to your elderly neighbor.
  9. Find a good Youtube channel and learn something new. Sewing, baking, carpentry, anything. Learn how to make brownies in your microwave if you want to start small. Or, you could learn how to build shelves with real hammers and real nails and real wood from a real hardware store—the sky is the limit.
  10. Buy a packet of seeds and start growing something indoors all by yourself or buy a plant at the local nursery and bring it home to care for it. Digging in dirt can be refreshing to creative people. Do yard work even.
  11. Go to your book stash. Whether you store your book all in shelves or in a series of odd places around your house (or just in boxes somewhere), go find your stash. Put an empty box or bag at your feet and dig through your books. Really, really dig through them. Anything in there you know you won’t read again? Yeah, we all have a few of those. You can donate them to local libraries for other people to enjoy. Or, box them up and send them off to a friend who would like to have them.
  12. Contribute or attend a local theater presentation. Is the local theater troupe performing Romeo and Juliet? Buy some tickets to support the locals and have yourself a great time.
  13. Start a collection of something (besides books…we’ve already established that you collect those). Paperclips, glass bottles, antique dishes…whatever you like.
  14. Get a haircut. No, seriously. A lot of writers I’m friends with have told me they sometimes neglect haircuts/salon appointments. Take care of this while you’re between writing projects, even if it’s just a quick trip to Supercuts.
  15. Play music and listen to something you wouldn’t ordinarily listen to. REALLY listen. Listen for the lyrics, decide how the songs make you feel.
  16. Volunteer at a nursing home. Often, our elderly are lonesome and many of them have no one to talk to through the day. Just talking to them is sometimes the greatest gift anyone can give. If you’re lucky, you’re going to be old one day. Remember that.
  17. Read more books you haven’t read yet.
  18. Call your mother. She misses you and while you’re in book mode, she doesn’t hear from you enough. I know this because I’m a mother and I’m also a daughter—I know how it goes.
  19. Reorganize your workspace. Prepare like your life depends on it.
  20. Go snack shopping. Buy coffee, vodka, and cookies. Or, ya know, whatever you like. Now, you may begin writing your next project. I’m sure you have a million ideas by now.