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review 2017-03-22 18:53
Defensive Zone
Defensive Zone (Portland Storm Book 15) - Catherine Gayle

Defensive Zone is the 10th full-length novel in the Portland Storm series, a series that has created an immense fan base of romance lovers and hockey fans!

 

This book focuses on Cody "Harry" Williams, a defenseman for the Portland Storm, and Dani Weber, the impetuous daughter of one of the coaches.  Dani has harbored a not so secret and not so subtle crush on Cody for a long time, much to the chagrin of her father.  After an incident last season, Coach Weber knows more about Cody than he wants to and has ordered Cody to stay away from his daughter.  But Dani isn't taking no for an answer.  She knows that there is more to Cody than his buttoned-up, bowtied facade and she is determined to find out what it is.  She calls him Dirty Harry, after all...!

 

One of my favorite things about this series, besides the hockey, is that they each have a very serious focus beyond the romance.  But this novel takes a bit of a different direction than most of the other books in the series.  Cody has a secret, one that he is not all comfortable sharing.  And that secret makes the theme of this novel acceptance without judgment.  At first, Dani's quest to find out what he's hiding is just about having fun, but then she realizes that there is a lot more to the ginger-haired hockey player than she realized and she jumps in head first.  And once she has decided that she wants something, she will not be stopped.

 

Through the first third to half of the book, I really just wanted to slap Dani.  She's young and she acted it.  She was extremely narrow in her vision, wanting what she wanted and to hell with anything that didn't further that goal.  She was dismissive of Cody's protests, almost scornful of his reasons for pushing her away.  Her attitude was beyond selfish and she annoyed me to no end.  But then things began to change when she finds out more about Cody and his family.  Then she grew up and became the woman she needed to be.

 

As I said, this book was very different from the others.  Less actual romance and a lot less hockey, but no less full of emotion and thought-provoking situations.  I love Catherine Gayle and I love that she keeps her readers guessing.

Source: thecaffeinateddivareads.multifacetedmama.com/?p=12775
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url 2017-03-21 15:14
The Soundtrack of a Novel

 

“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” 


Walter Pater’s said that. It’s a famous quote of his, more famous than he is. When I first heard it, I checked him out, to find he was a nineteenth-century art critic and literary theorist who was born in the East End of London.

 

Some think that this quote is bunkum, and that art doesn’t move towards being music, but the idea resonates with me. Why else would Leonard Cohen have moved his writing sideways from prose and poetry to lyrics (oh! the money, maybe…).  Music often enhances reading; I played Bob Marley all the time when I was consumed by A Brief History of Seven Killings 

 

When I write, I’m always aware that certain scenes make a sort of music in my head. My characters, right from before I had anything published, always listened to music, often (this is possibly why these stories weren't published!) for long, closely-described scenes.

 

Then I read the critically acclaimed Teddy Wayne, and heard about how he created a ‘soundtrack’ to his most recent novel Loneran unsettling story of obsessive desire. In his article, Wayne says…A great deal of pop songs are also about romantic obsession and loneliness (often in the same breath), and many ostensible love songs, when you examine the lyrics, are really avowals of stalker-like pursuit or thoughts of the object of desire; the British seem to have a particular fondness for this kind of ballad

 

Wayne chose ten tracks that informed his portrayal of his protagonist. I’m writing book four of the Shaman Mysteries, Flood Gate, and I'm doing the same thing. My chosen tracks each represent a character, and I’m finding wonderful inspiration from listening to these songs. Follow the links to hear the music.

 

In order of appearance:

 

Larry Waish is a small-time poultry farmer who recently lost all his hens in one of the many floods that plague the Somerset Levels. What he’s discovered, is that his neighbour is to blame for his loss, and he’s hopping mad. Larry really loves Country and Western and plays The Eagles Heartache Tonight  a lot, while he’s trying to cope with what happened between him and Jack Spicer at Harper’s Coombe 

 

Jack Spicer, who’s real name is John, farms 200 acres of Somerset land, as his family has for generations. He's recently lost his daughter, and is helping bring up her daughter, baby Olivia. He knows he's been driven to do wrong, and t’s tormenting him. He's a bit of a classical buff, and listening to the slightly sinister tones of Shostakovich’s first piano concerto helped me build his character. By the end of chapter one, Jack is dead.

 

Sabbie Dare is a young shamanic practitioner and therapist who knows it is her destiny to be of service to people on the very edge of life. The victims of evil…the perpetrators of it.  Sabbie’s mad about Pet Shop Boys and pagan music which can vary from folksy to rocking, and includes groups like IncubuSucubus, Dahm the Bard and The Dolmen 

 

Kelly King was 28 when she threw herself off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. She’d never really recovered from her life in The Willows, a local authority children’s home where Kelly, Sabbie and Debs Hitchings all lived when they were children. Kelly was depressed, directionless, and addicted to chocolate cookies. In her last days, she plugged into the music of her childhood, such as Pink’s There you go.

 

Debs Hitchings is a beautician who wanders from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job. Debs turned up at the very end of In the Moors, (Book One) where she cuts Sabbie’s tortured hair, and has a small part in Unraveled Visions. In this book Debs, and the story of her past, takes centre stage. She’s known for cracking out Beyoncés Crazy in Love 

at the top of her voice as her heels skittered across nighttime pavements.

 

https://www.milesdavis.com

 

Quentin Lachapelle is a thirty-five year old photographer with a nice studio, a pretty wife, and a flourishing career. He meets Sabbie and Debs at Kelly King's funeral, where he offers to take some glamour shots of Debs, although he finds Sabbie’s dark skin tones and angled face interesting. There is more to Quentin that meets the eye…or the lens of his cameras. Quentin is a Miles Davis fan, of course. 

 

DI Reynard Buckely. Fans of the Shaman Mysteries will be delighted to hear that and Rey and Sabbie are still an item. In fact, things hot up between them considerably! Rey made his musical preferences clear in In the Moors, so there’s only one group I could play, and that’s the Stones

 

Fenella Waish is Larry’s sister. Now in her forties, but still living in their childhood home, Fen seeks help from Sabbie for longterm Ornithophobia, her paralysing fear of birds which prevents her going anywhere near Larry’s poultry shed. Fenella loves her laptop, which is her window on the world. Scared to be Lonely might bring tears to her eyes, but she plays it again and again.

 

Tara Yorkman. Before she died, Kelly was fruitlessly searching for her friend Tara, who lived at The Willows from when she was little. Kelly, in need of someone to care for, always looked out for Tara, until she was a teenager. Then she disappeared. When Kelly’s spirit comes to Sabbie in a dream, she feels indebted to continue the quest for the missing girl. I listen to Taylor Swift and other noughties music to get in touch with Tara.

 

Victor Doyle is a successful Bristol business man, a builder of local housing. Now 55, he's loaded, charming and still handsome in a chiselled way, although he’s put on a bit of weight. In the community, he’s a well-loved philanthropist, but underneath, the man is pure, unadulterated evil. I think he’d be rivitted by Pretty Women from Sweeny Todd.

 

If you're writing a novel, or a series of short stories, try finding and playing the soundtrack that perfectly accompanies the story and the characters. It can make a tremendous difference to the outcome. 

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review 2017-03-11 20:24
Black Wave, Michelle Tea
Black Wave - Michelle Tea

The more I read (and watch movies and TV), the more I value encountering something unlike anything else I ever have before. Black Wave, by Michelle Tea, immersed me in a world new to me in several ways.

 

Though there are occasionally individual queer characters in the books I read, I haven't read much queer lit where a larger community is represented, especially queer women. Black Wave is set in San Francisco in the 90s at the start, an alternative past where gentrification has strangled most of the culture(s) from the city. In addition, the world appears to be ending due to advanced climate change: it's dangerous to be out in the sun even incidentally, the ocean is a trash wave, many animals are extinct, and invasive species have overtaken the dying native flora. In other words, the environment's death mirrors a cultural and, as is soon apparent, a personal one.

 

The protagonist, Michelle (like the author), is in her later twenties, and is the kind of addict who tells herself she's not because she doesn't shoot heroin but snorts it and is able to keep her job at a bookstore. She falls in love (or becomes infatuated) easily and hooks up with many of the women who come into her orbit, despite being in a "steady" relationship with a partner more stable than she is. At one point the point of view shifts from Michelle's to her girlfriend's, who thinks she's a sociopath.

 

That feels pretty accurate, but one of the amazing things about Black Wave is that despite Michelle's objectively unlikable character, I still felt very much invested in her. In part this is due to the humor and energy of the writing. For example:

 

Michelle seemed more like some sort of compulsively rutting land mammal, a chimera of dog in heat and black widow, a sex fiend that kills its mate. Or else she was merely a sociopath. She was like the android from Blade Runner who didn’t know it was bad to torture a tortoise. She had flipped [her girlfriend] Andy onto her belly in the Armageddon sun and left her there, fins flapping.

 

I may also personally respond to Michelle because she's a writer, one who's even published and had a sort of local fame. Around the midpoint of the book when she moves to L.A., the narrative is deconstructed as she attempts to write a new book. It becomes clear that not everything we've read so far is as it happened. Another aspect I liked is that somehow this sudden shift doesn't feel like a trick as can happen in many modernist and post-modernist writing and metafiction. How and why I don't know, but after some minor readjustment on my part as a reader, I was still invested.

 

I've often noted what a structure fanatic I am, and the last major selling point of Black Wave is the way it beautifully spins out in the last third.

 

Tangents were Michelle’s favorite part of writing, each one a declaration of agency: I know I was going over there but now I’m going over here, don’t be so uptight about it, just come along. A tangent was a fuckup, a teenage runaway. It was a road trip with a full tank of gas. You can’t get lost if you don’t have anywhere to be. This was writing for Michelle: rule free, glorious, sprawling.

 

As the world ends, people begin dreaming vividly and lucidly about others who exist in the real world, all over the world. They're dreams of connection and love where identity is fluid, and some begin living in them, like Michelle's bosses at the bookstore who hand over the business to her. So the world ends, but somehow Michelle's in a good place, and so was I.

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review 2017-03-09 21:56
Hag-Seed
Hag-Seed - Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed is Margaret Atwood's entry in the "novelists take on Shakespeare's plays" lineup, and is her take on The Tempest.

 

Felix, the director of a Canadian theater festival, and a lover of Shakespeare, is planning his latest extravaganza: a production of The Tempest, starring a teenaged gymnast as Miranda.  And then he finds his assistant has betrayed him and taken his job.  His daughter, Miranda, has just died, at age 3.  He is a broken man.

 

And so, using an assumed name ("Mr. Duke"), he goes off into the wilderness to become a hermit, living only with the spirit of his dead daughter.  After a while, he revives enough to stalk his former assistant on the internet, as the latter goes from success to success.  He also eventually becomes the leader of an inmate rehabilitation program, teaching literacy and job skills, down at the local prison. 

 

His teaching method: staging Shakespeare.  The prisoners are both cast and crew (the "job skills" part) for plays like MacBeth and Julius Caesar.  His next production: The Tempest.

 

And then he finds out his former assistant, now a government minister, is going to be attending the performance.  And a plan forms in his mind.  One that will involve some of the special skills of his cast, who include pickpockets, ex gang enforcers, black hat hackers, and a crooked accountant.

 

I dithered between giving this 3.5 and 4 stars.  The writing is pure Atwood.  The plot, however - it's that fourth act that gives me pause.  Is it as good as Oryx and Crake or The Handmaid's Tale?  No.  Is it still an interesting and entertaining novel?  Yes, absolutely.

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text 2017-03-04 04:48
Book Reveal and Giveaway for Finding Purpose by Tiffani Lynn

Finding Purpose

by Tiffani Lynn 
Publication Date: April 4, 2017 
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Preorder: Amazon
Once upon a time, when Quincy Hannigan needed saving, he was there to hold her hand. Years have passed since she was that weak, broken girl; instead, a strong, intelligent woman stands in her place. She’s making the world a better place one arrest at a time and has everything she’s always wanted—except Judson Rivers. When Judson’s father died suddenly, he dropped out of college and became a Navy SEAL. He left everything from his old life behind, including the girl he loved, but never told—Quincy. After ten years, Judson’s military career ends abruptly when the vehicle he’s in runs over an IED. He has his hands full learning to live with one leg, PTSD and a civilian life he wasn’t ready to return to. Judson and Quincy are reunited when their mentor dies. Once Quincy realizes the depth of his pain, she knows it’s her turn to be the savior. Years of pent-up passion are unleashed, but it may be too late if Judson can’t crawl out of hell. Quincy has every intention of healing this wounded warrior before his demons are the ones who determine his fate.

About Tiffani Lynn

Tiffani currently resides in Florida with her husband, three daughters and chunky yellow lab. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in social science and spent five years working for Hospice. When she’s not writing or taxiing her children around she enjoys reading and attending concerts. Tiffani is also a crazed fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, and the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.
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