Tag Archives: Books

Crowdfunding is Cool

Cover

Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I talked about a crowdfunded short film that I kicked in some money to support.  This was not the only project that I’ve contributed to, but it is the first one to be completed that I’ve been able to anticipate the release.  (Read: I didn’t forget about it after I gave them money.)  They sent out a few updates, but didn’t overwhelm my inbox.  There a lot of additional upcoming projects that are doing a great job of sending out updates as well.  This is just the first one that I’ll get to actually see.

Maybe it is a little strange coming from someone who has never had a campaign of their own, but I think crowdfunding is awesome.  Seriously, I love it.  I’ll troll Kickstarter and Indiegogo when I have a chance just to see what kind of cool stuff is out there, and there is always something cool out there.  It gives me the chance to tell someone that I believe in their idea too.

The light went on for me with Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter campaign.  I discovered it just before it closed, and started doing some research.  I really wanted to support someone who obviously had such passion about what they’re doing, but I was a bit skeptical at the same time.  How did this whole crowdfunding thing work? There were questions, and I needed answers.  Unfortunately, my wheels turned too slow for me to get in on the awesomeness, and it is something I really regret (they do say that you regret the things you don’t do.  They’re right.)  Since then, I’ve contributed to lots of projects.  If I’m honest, I can’t remember how many.  Sometimes, I’ll kick in something for a project and forget about it.  Then I get an email or a reward in the mail and I’m reminded about how amazing I think the project is all over again.  Probably not the smartest thing (Okay, I know it is definitely not the smartest thing, but nobody’s perfect.)

There are some amazing artists out there doing really incredible things, and I can help get them there.  Following your dreams is scary…especially when it requires an investment to even get your dream off the ground.  I like to think of it as funding someone’s dream.  The fact is, I’m not made of money, and I can’t contribute much.  I’ve never backed anybody for more than $100.  However, I figure if you have a bunch of people like me who can kick in like $25 each…it will get you a long way.

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”

– Inception

Yesterday, one of my projects announced that you can pre-order the short film on iTunes.  It will be officially available on  on November 5, and it looks so awesome that there was no way I could keep it to myself.  I can’t remember for the life of me what my reward is supposed to be…again (this would be the second fourth time I’ve had to look it up.)  The short film is titled Little Favour and stars Benedict Cumberbatch & Nick Moran and was funded through Indiegogo  Yeah, I was fairly certain that it wouldn’t suck when I read the synopsis, but then I heard about the cast and was prepared to throw my money at them.

Here are some of the other projects that I’ve contributed to…there may be a couple of more, but I can’t remember if I got to them in time or not.  I guess I’ll find out when my reward arrives.

Adam Suzuki and The Method – Born Out of Mischief Album

Stephen Elliott – Happy Baby Movie based on the book of the same name by Stephen Elliott

Devil’s Panties/Jennie Breeden – Devil Girl & Angel Girl Plush Dolls based on the Devil’s Panties web comic

Jill Thompson – Scary Godmother Doll based on the Scary Godmother Comic Book series

Save the Coney Island Mermaid from Extinction – Parade

The album by Adam Suzuki and The Method.  This was a project that didn’t send out any updates, so, of course, I forgot about it.  Once they got the funds they got to work and made a kickass album.  Then I got an autographed copy of the CD in the mail.  Truly awesome music, I played it for at least two weeks straight.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2007

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next was the Mermaid Parade, my name was on a banner in a parade on Coney Island…that’s a long way from home and I’ve never even been anywhere near there. (except possibly an airport) However, they got hit hard by Sandy and I couldn’t stand to see such a cool tradition end because of the capriciousness of Mother Nature.  I’m from Oklahoma, and we know a bit about about storm devastation.  We also know all about community and pulling together to put things right again.  There were PDF’s of freak flags for me to fly and something that’s coming in the mail too, but I can’t remember what I picked.  It will be a surprise upon arrival. (Some days, opening the mailbox is like Christmas!) This came just after I finished writing this post.  Are you ready?  Temporary tattoos and buttons from parades from previous years!  Awesome!

Happy Baby is in post production now, and Stephen Elliott is great about sending updates.  It doesn’t hurt that I also subscribe to the Rumpus daily emails, and Letters in the Mail and…I’m just going to stop there.  I really love the community that The Rumpus has built, and as a passionate reader, exploring new authors is always a bit of a thrill.  A copy of the script is mine!

The dolls are new, but I look forward to my daily dose of the Devil’s Panties every morning.  Jennie Breeden’s comic never disappoints, and I spent many hours laughing my way through the archives to catch up after I’d gotten hooked.  To the point that I would have to make myself a deal.  I would get to read one for every project I finished, that way I would actually get stuff accomplished.  Why wouldn’t I jump on the chance to be part of bringing Devil Girl and Angel Girl into 3D?

Jill Thompson’s Scary Godmother doll campaign was something I discovered through a tweet by Neil Gaiman.  She’d worked on Sandman with him, and while I haven’t read about the Godmother who helps kids not be so afraid of things, I think that is an awesome idea.  I love the artwork, and I can’t wait until my own set of postcards arrives.  I only wish I had enough money to contribute more because this doll is adorable!

Every time  I start browsing through the projects, I wish I had more money.  I would love to be able to fund so many more projects and kick in so much more money than I do now.  That’s what I think I would do if I won the lottery. I’d fund artists, just because I knew they could do amazing things if that one obstacle (which can be a big one) was removed.  Until then, I’ll just keep pitching in where I can and spreading that budget out every month.  (I do try to have a little self control….stop laughing…I said try!) Just looking through the projects, I am renewed and inspired by the talent and spirit of people all over again.  

What do you think about crowdfunding?  Have you ever contributed to a campaign?

‘Til next time,

Jessica

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Can I get An Update? Random Acts of Kindness 2013

Did you sing the first part of the title?  Awesome!  That was the idea!  Now, if the line “Can I get a witness” is running through your head too, at least I know I’m not alone.  Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for an update.  Random Acts of Kindness 2013 has commenced…well, sort of.  It is a lot of work to get ready to do all this stuff between November 1st and November 11th.  Right!

Catching everyone up…

Dexter5

Dexter

For my 37th birthday, I’m doing 37 Random Acts of Kindness.  I made a list back in September of things I wanted to do, and I shared it here.  The response I got was amazing!  So many people have offered to help and told me stories about things that they do all the time.  I want to hear your story too!  Jim Stovall has donated an autographed copy of Discovering Joye that I’m giving away in my Be Kind…Win Stuff contest.  All you have to do to enter is fill out the email form with an act of kindness that you’ve done, you’re planning to do, you do all the time…you accidentally did…whatever.  On November 11th, I’ll draw from the entries and mail you an autographed copy of the book.

Have I mentioned I have a hard time accepting help sometimes?  I may be a bit stubborn independent.  The ones who love me most were worried that I’d bit off more than I could chew. (They’ve met me.  I dream big.)  They may have heard that I work full time, decided to take a couple of college level classes “just for fun”, write two blogs, and I’m planning a Halloween(ish) party, and Doctor Who themed birthday party in there too.  There’s all the other everyday life stuff going on too.  (Have I mentioned I don’t do downtime well?)  As proud as I am that I have learned to do some advance tactical work (stop laughing, you know who I’m talking to!).  I was pretty adamant that I wanted to do all the work for this little (big) project all on my lonesome.  My planning phase for this did start in Mid-September after all….right about the time I realized that I had committed to do a lot of stuff by hand.  Have you ever drawn nearly 80 cards?  I hadn’t.  However, I have now! (well, almost 80…there’s some drawing and coloring left to do this week.)  My friends and family kept reaching out and offering to help though, and I finally realized a few of things.

1) Why should I be selfish with all the fun?  These are acts of kindness and if they want to help, I should let them share in doing nice things for people, and the work isn’t hard work (It is coloring!  Maybe some baking, and my mom just donated a quilt top so I have two quilts to donate to Family & Children’s Services!)  My friends and family love this stuff!

2) This is a lot of work, and while I would feel a great sense of accomplishment if I did it on my own…I would also be…well, I wouldn’t be fun to be around while I was doing the work.  The chances of me keeping my cool…let’s just say, I didn’t like those odds.  That kind of negates doing nice things for strangers if you aren’t nice to the people you care about.

3) Work, even fun work, is even more fun when you’re doing it with fun people.  Let’s face it, I don’t spend my time with people who suck.  They’re all pretty awesome.

4) One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to accept help when I need it, and not be so stubborn independent. (I can hear the scoffing from here.)

The great news is that help has been accepted, and major progress has been made!

The road so far…(and some of you never thought I’d get a chance to use that line!)

1) Business Cards have been ordered and they have arrived! They read “You are awesome!  Have a wonderful day.”

2) The message is finished on all the “Thank You” cards for military personnel and “Get Well” cards for the kids in the Children’s Hospital.  There’s still some pictures to be drawn and some coloring to be done.  Thank you friend! (They are all beautiful!  Stop worrying!)  We have a system.  I ink.  She colors.  It works.

3) Laundry detergent and fabric softener purchased to go in the laundromat.

4) Quarters parceled for laundromat and vending machines.  The rest of my loose change has been rolled and will be exchanged for more quarters this week. Thank you other friend!  The coin rolling/Supernatural watching marathon was awesome!  Another conversion (sorry there’s another TV show you can’t watch before bed…or not.) has been made and I discovered that I suck at rolling coin now. (Two years out of the banking industry…or an inability to multi-task when good looking men are on television.)

5) Two batches of homemade chocolate chip cookie dough made, scooped and frozen. There is still dough to be made (peanut butter and oatmeal raisin) and of course everything has to be baked just before delivery to firemen, policemen, and neighbors. (Just say “NO” to stale cookies!) Thank you for scooping while I cleaned the kitchen…next time we can switch?  (Just joking!)

6) Be Kind…Win Stuff contest to give away Discovering Joye…well, you already know that’s up. Thank you to everyone who has already written in.  I love the responses.  Please keep writing!

Jessica's iPhone Pictures 3.25.13 533There is still quite a bit to finish up before I get to go out and give all of this stuff away, but “with a little help from my friends” I’m not worried or stressed.  I’m just having fun…now, I just need to buy a new quilting hoop.  I just remembered that my loving dog ate mine.  He looks so innocent too up there at the top of the page!  Trust me, looks can sometimes be deceiving.
Inspired to do something, but need some help getting there?  One of the things that inspired me was Random Acts, a non-profit that I heard about on a Nerdist podcast with Misha Collins of Supernatural.

Random Acts is a non-profit organization that’s aiming to conquer the world, one random act of kindness at a time. We’re dedicated to funding and inspiring acts of kindness around the world. (www.therandomact.org)

ra_logo

On their site they’ve got videos to inspire you, they’ll create promotional material to help you out, and they can even help fund your project.  There’s always something to be said for dreaming big!

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” Inception 

‘Til next time,

Jessica


The Infernal Devices – Trading Light for Dark

clockworkangle-265x400Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

If you’ve been reading these book reviews, you may have noticed that I jumped over from The Mortal Instruments series to The Infernal Devices series. What can I say? I’m capricious. Actually, I’ve heard from several sources that City of Fallen Angles isn’t actually that great, and that was my next book in The Mortal Instruments. It didn’t give me a big incentive to run right out and read that. Eventually, I’ll get to it though, I promise. However, word on the street is that Clockwork Angel from The Infernal Devices is really good, and I’d have to agree.

Leaving modern day New York and heading back to Victorian London made for a nice change of pace, and while Ms. Clare admits that some of her locations don’t actually exist, it doesn’t detract from the story. Clockwork Angel finds Tessa Gray embroiled in…adventures. Like, Clary in The Mortal Instruments, Tessa doesn’t go looking for excitement, but it certainly found her. As the series name implies, The Infernal Devices has a darker feel than The Mortal Instruments, and focuses more heavily on those outside the Shadowhunter society. Warlocks, Vampire and Mundanes all play heavily in the story, and I like it. There is a bit of mystery surrounding Tessa. Mangus Bane also makes a reappearance, and I enjoy his character. Although, he hasn’t quite developed the flamboyancy that is his hallmark when he gets to modern day New York.

This is a good, fast-paced read. Interesting plot lines with some great twists and turns along the way. Clare’s characters have depth and purpose. As soon as the cover closed on The Clockwork Angel I was cracking The Clockwork Prince open to find out what happens next. As with The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices moves quickly and expertly though the story arc. Clare has added much needed depth to the characters at the beginning that was lacking before, but has the pendulum swung too far in the other direction?

The Infernal Devices Book #2

The Infernal Devices Book #2

Enough comparisons however, let’s get into what makes this book tick. (I know! I couldn’t resist!) Let’s tackle the characters, in order of appearance…well, more or less, anyway. Tessa Gray, she’s resourceful and solid. She’s also American, and as a character she reflects that whole pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps vibe that is associated with the American Dream. Tessa’s perseverance in the face of adversity and determination to keep her emotional turmoil private is something that resonates. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still broken, and willfully blind to certain things, but that gives her humanity. The dark past gives her mystery.

William Herondale is the swoop-in-dashingly-to-save-the-day sort of guy, maybe. Uncovering the many layers of Will Herondale will take some work…and a shovel. Seriously, this guy has it piled on so thick that the only obvious truth is that the reader has no idea what the truth actually is about Mr. Herondale. He’s a broken man with secrets. It gives him mystery. (Are you beginning to see a pattern?)

James (Jem) Carstairs takes on the role of the strong silent type. The perfect foil to our young Herondale. Fair where Will is dark, quiet when Herondale is outspoken, thoughtful instead of brash, and with a mysterious illness that weakens him in opposition to William’s strength and health.  The pattern emerges, and I begin to wonder if Jem is a bit too likable.  Will he turn on us, or is his fatal flaw only the illness he bears with grace.

Then we have Jessamine. This poor girl hates everything about her life…with the exception of the wealth and privilege. She hates the role that has been thrust upon her and does everything in her power to ignore her duties and be the spoiled mundane she wishes she could be. In a cast of broken characters, she may be the most broken of them all. It is hidden beneath disdain and an air of entitlement, but there are glimpses of desperation. It is all very mysterious.

All these main character have so many hidden layers that it is like playing clue. The reader has no idea who actually plays which role. Hero? Villiain? Cannon fodder? Now, I’m all about leaving a bit to be uncovered later. There are another two books to come after all. However, everybody in this book has a secret or a dark past or unknown origins. All these hints but no revelations.  Really? Does everyone you know have a big dark secret that everybody knows is there but no one talks about? Get real. Of course people hide things, but everybody from the main character to the maid has a secret to hide. It makes for interesting reading, but it is completely unbelievable.

Don’t get me wrong, the plot is interesting, the characters have depth and layers and the pacing isn’t bad. In a novel containing so many supernatural beings, the unbelievable bit is the lengths to which the author went to make every major character…broken. The conflict arising in the plot doesn’t cause those living in the London Institute nearly as much angst as past events that we only glimpse do. Tension runs high because of mysterious events surrounding the Lightwood girl and William that no one discusses. Don’t even get me started on the leaders of the institute. Clare has gone from characters who developed too slowly to characters who’s profound mystery feels like the same kind of plot device that the lack of depth felt like in The Mortal Instruments.

However, that doesn’t detract from its’s enjoy ability in the least. I have to keep reading, if for no other reason than to uncover all the secrets! Time to grab my shovel and keep digging.

First Lines:

The demon exploded in a shower if ichor and guts.

‘Til next time,
Jessica


Fall, Halloween and All Hallows Read…Candy Too, Don’t Forget That

October is here!  The air is crisp…okay, so actually it is humid and supposed to be 90 tomorrow, but the weatherman promises a cold front is on the way.  The point is fall has officially arrived, and in addition to being able to purchase pumpkin….everything, the build up to one of my favorite holidays is beginning…Halloween is on its way!

Jack-o-lantern

Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always loved Halloween.  Whether you don a costume and wrap yourself in another persona for the night or partake in the joy of…okay, the joy of frightening people…just a little.  It is a the time of year to let the devilish spirit of the season play a bit. Yes, my house is the one that is usually decorated creepily…and I do have a motion sensor skull that plays the theme song from the movie Halloween hung right next to my door for the trick-or-treat crowd.  (It is high enough that the little ones don’t set it off, but it gets all the teenagers and adults.)  The best part is scaring the parents when that sucker goes off.  Oh, the joy I feel watching a Dad jump three feet in the air when he’s not expecting that creepy music…maybe I am just a tad evil.  Glowing eyes or a dismembered skeleton in the bushes and a graveyard under the tree all make an appearance, and I like to add to my collection each year.  (One day I’m afraid Halloween decorations will posses more square footage than Christmas decorations in the garage.)  Isn’t it grand? It is a great time of year for scaring yourself with a scary movie or book…even a haunted house or two.  Although, living by myself, I don’t indulge too much.  I may or may not get a little…caught up in the story…and when you wake up at 2:00 am, with that what-was-that-noise panic it is usually better if the last thing you read/watched didn’t include…monsters.  Let’s not talk about what happens in haunted houses.  I don’t think my best friend will ever go into another one with me…the bruise took a while to heal.  (The werewolf was going to get me and she wouldn’t go, so I…moved her out of the way.)  Next time (if I ever get one) I’m betting that there is no assuming that I’m rational and remembering that it is all fake.  (Can you say over active imagination?) Yes, I’m also the person who jumped to (mostly) joking that my dishwasher was possessed when it would switch on by itself in the middle of the night.  Nope, no faulty wiring for me…demons. (It really was just a loose wire.)  Thank goodness for level headed, electrically inclined fathers, because how would you exorcise a dishwasher? (Put your best idea, theory or whatever on removing a demon or vengeful spirit from a dishwasher in the comments.  No prizes, but serious kudos will be awarded.  That would be a seriously angry spirit, can you imagine being stuck in a dishwasher for all eternity?) Last year I stumbled upon the mention of All Hallows Read. Hmmm, interesting, very interesting.  It combines All Hallows Eve and reading, and these are a few of my favorite things. (did you sing that in your head?  I did!)  Of course I had to check it out!  That’s when I saw the video.

Yes, more Neil Gaiman.  Is it any wonder I think this man is awesome?  For all of my good intentions, I didn’t give any books last year.  There were a few copies of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven that I handed out, because…well, that just screams Halloween for me.  (The Tell-Tale Heart does too, but that story stays with you, and I don’t want to give kids, or me, nightmares or anything.)  Check out the All Hallows Read site for book recommendations, posters, bookmarks, stickers, cards, and all kinds of wonderfulness.  This year, at least one book is being given…can I keep it a secret?  Hmmm….We shall see. What’s your favorite scary story for adults?  What about chilling tales for kids, do you know any good ones?  Even if they’re totally terrifying or weepingly wimpy, I’m okay with both of those!  I have friends…and possibly relatives…who need both!  Comments are very much appreciated, because all my scariness is in decorations…and suspense novels.

‘Til next time,

Jessica


Be Kind…Win Stuff

Random Acts of Kindness planning and preparation has begun!  After I posted about my plans, my mother, who works for Jim Stovall, shared my post with him.  I got the coolest email from Jim after he heard about what I was going to do.

Jessica:

Your mom shared your Acts of Kindness blog with me.  You did a great job, and if it’s all right with you, I’m going to share some of them in an upcoming column.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for another act of kindness, you could give a book filled with your grandmother’s poetry to someone who would enjoy it.  I will provide the book.

Jim

Now you may have read about him when I posted about The Ultimate Life  or Discovering Joye.  There are so many things I could say to describe Jim, but then we’d be here all day.  I pulled this from www.DiscoveringJoye.com.  Jim’s Story sums it up pretty well.

 Jim Stovall has been a national champion Olympic weightlifter, the President of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought after author and platform speaker. He is the author of the best selling book, The Ultimate Gift, which is now a major motion picture starring James Garner and Abigail Breslin.

That email started me thinking…again. (I know it is really dangerous!)  This time I was thinking about all the wonderful responses to my kindness post.  Lots of people have reached out to tell me how much they love the idea, friends and family have offered to help in any way they can, and some people have shared the things that they do all the time for others…just because.  No holiday, birthday or special occasion needed.  So I said to myself….self, you know what would be awesome?  It would be so awesome to give this copy of Discovering Joye to someone who is doing good things for other people.  See you get Joye by giving joy…get it?  (I’m very punny…I know.)

So, I want to hear about the things you are doing to pass kindness on to others.  It doesn’t matter how big or how small.  Volunteer work, providing a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on for a friend in need, paying for a stranger’s coffee…whatever you do to pass on kindness, let me know!  Fill out the form below with your Act of Kindness and a winner will be drawn on November 11th, 2013 to win an autographed copy of Discovering Joye by Jim Stovall.  The winner will be contacted via the email address provided (so double check to make sure it is right!).

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Discovering Joye…This May Be the Coolest Thing Ever


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This is not my normal book review…for a couple of reasons.  Discovering Joye is a book about discovering Joye Kanelakos’s poetry and melding it seamlessly with Jim Stovall’s own story.  Both of these are powerful and moving on their own, but together it is just…wow.  Truthfully, I’m pretty familiar with both the poetry and the story.  My grandmother is Joye Kanelakos, and my mother has worked for Jim Stovall for more than 20 years. (I wonder how these two talented people came together?  Any ideas?)  My mom would bring Grandma Joye books and notes from Jim, and she would send him homemade baklava in return.  I think both of them feel like they got the better end of the deal.  Grandma loved Jim’s books, and she loved feeding people.  (I have no idea how many crumbs were washed out of pockets that woman crammed cookies into as people walked out the door.)  Jim’s books are special.  They are different than anything else I read.  They are thought provoking and uplifting, and that’s no small feat.  Grandma’s baklava was kind of the same.  You’ll never taste anything quite like it.  There was something special in her touch that transformed those ingredients in a way I’ve never been quite able to duplicate.  Both of these remarkable people feed your heart and soul.

Having known Jim Stovall for more than 20 years, through my mother, I’ve gotten to hear his story a few times.  It is always one that inspires me, and I go back to it when I’m feeling particularly unmotivated or as if I don’t have an impact.  His story always gives me the jump start I need to get moving again and make things happen.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve told myself that the next time I say to myself “someone should do something about that” that person is me, and just go and do it….even if that thing is just the dishes.  “You can change your life if you change your mind,” has seen me through some frustrating days too.  Before I read Discovering Joye I would have said that I knew this part of his story well enough to tell you a good part of it myself.  However, when paired with the poetry, the “discoveries” and the story take on a new depth.  I walked away from a what I thought was a familiar tale with new insight and perception…inspired all over again, by both of them.

Some of Grandma Joye’s poetry followed me through childhood.  In Discovering Joye you’ll find some of my childhood favorites like “Plink Plank” and “Fairies and Other Good Stuff.”  They arrived in letters, usually handwritten on notebook paper, accompanied by drawings she’d made, and they will always hold special places in my memories.  Those poems sit side by side with evenings on the front porch of her home watching the fire flies wink and blink, listening to her talk about fairies who lived in the mimosa trees, Penny the Peacock, and later about life, books and writing,  and family. Reading those we found later though is a gift of a different sort.  Since Grandma Joye passed away, I return to her poems time and again.  It is like being able to have those front porch talks about those things we never got the chance to discuss in person.  Reading her poetry in conjunction with Jim’s story brought new life to the poetry too.  It changed the “conversation” with my grandmother because I read her words in a different light.  Apparently, she isn’t finished talking to me quite yet.  That is a gift of immeasurable value.

So I recommend this book on so many different levels.  If you’re a poetry nut, this is a book for you.  If you need a little pick-me-up…guess what, Discovering Joye has you covered.  If you just want to read a good story, you’ve got that too.

When I remember to keep the book I’m reviewing with me as I write my post, I try to leave you with the first line or so to give you a sneak peek.  This time, I want to give you my favorite poem.  This is one that I have all over the place…just in case I need a reminder.

New Light

I open my eyes to you

     Bright shiny morning,

While some lonely half-dream

     Still clouds my mind;

And I worry your presence

     By pulling in yesterday,

Plucking out moments

     I should leave behind.

Sweet friend and companion,

     Refresher of souls,

I rise to your joyful

     Awakening at last.

And I gather your warmth

     As a maiden her lover.

Embrace me, sweet morning

   Black shadows are past.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

P.S. Keep a close eye out in the next few days…there’s a contest coming!

 


Calculated In Death

9780425250730_p0_v1_s260x420Did you think I had stopped reading?  Nope, not me.  I’m always reading something or other.  Calculated in Death, by J.D. Robb in my growing “have -read”.  I love this series.  Set in the not so distant future, Eve Dallas is a homicide detective in New York City.  I’ve lost count of the number of books in this series, but I have them all, and it takes up a considerable amount of shelf space.  One of the great things is that each book can be read as a stand alone, but if you read them in order you get to see the characters grow and change, which is always fun for me.  The first book in the collection is Naked in Death and this is where we first meet our eclectic cast of characters.  Most of the cast of favorites gets to make an appearance in the latest installment to arrive in paperback.  (It was just the latest installment, but Thankless in Death came out in hardcover before I finished reading.  I swear this woman never sleeps!)  The cast of characters has grown so extensive over the years that not everyone gets a cameo in every book, but old favorites pop up from time to time for a visit.

9780425148297_p0_v1_s260x420One of the things that I adore about this author is her characters.  They are all very easy to relate to.  Eve Dallas is strong, intelligent, funny, broken, determined, committed, stubborn, and, above all, believable.  It is easy to see something of yourself in an aspect of her personality.  Well, it is easy to see something of yourself in all of her characters.  J.D. Robb marries the suspense of a great mystery novel and realistic world building of future New York, in which it is hard to come by a hot dog that is anything but soy and harder to get real coffee, with the friendships and relationships that have been building since Naked in Death was released in 1995.  With an average of two book releases a year in this series, fans don’t have to wait long for their next dose of Dallas.  Eve’s no nonsense attitude and frequent misuse of cliche can be a bit addictive for readers looking for a suspenseful escape from reality, even as her fumbling to figure out relationships and people endear her.  Toss in handsome as sin Roarke, with his jet black hair, glacier like eyes, and hint of an Irish accent…seriously, who can resist that combo?

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention the romance?  J.D. Robb is a pen name for Nora Roberts. (Holy cow is this woman prolific! ) There’s romance.  The relationship takes a back burner to the case at hand for the vast majority of each of these novels, so, although it is written under the pseudonym of a romance author, I never think of them that way.  I read it for the suspense, the drama, the death defying stunts (there are a few of those too).  The romance is just…icing.

J.D. Robb novels are always a great escape.  They are a way to set today behind and jump into the future and someone else’s problems for a few hours.  Imagine what 2053 will really look like, and just…well, cling to the edge of your seat.  Hey, that’s my idea of a good time.

What’s your great escape novel?  Do you have any juicy mystery recommendations?

‘Til next time,

Jessica


Urban Shaman: Holey Entertaining Mashup

Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy

urbanshamanThis is a book that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while.  It kept popping up on recommendation lists and in conversations about genres I enjoyed, but I never picked it up for one reason or another.  It was that fateful trip to Dallas to Half Priced Books that I finally found this sucker…well, for a price I was willing to spend.  Books are expensive and I have a habit to feed.

I know, I know.  What about the library?  I have this thing with libraries.  They are fantastic, beautiful, fascinating places.  Two issues for me though.  Issue the first, they want the books back.  When I like the book, I don’t want to give it back.  It is mine.  I want to hold it and squeeze it and call it George…or something like that.  Second, when I am given a time frame in which I have to do something, I immediately procrastinate until the very last minute.  It is a failing.  Then I end up having to give back the book that I don’t want to give back, but I never actually got a chance to read because I put it off too long.  Oh yeah, it is stupid. (Every time I say/type/read “stupid” I hear it in Debra’s voice from Empire Records.) Luckily, used book stores will let you buy used books for half off the cover price, and then buy them back from you if you don’t want to keep them (Like I ever don’t want to keep a book, pfftt).  This would be why I had to buy two new book cases this month.  (There are two bags of books to go to the used book store…probably…maybe…most likely.)

Urban Shaman is about the merging of cultures in an individual at its heart.  Joanne Walker (legally, Siobban Joanne Walkingstick, see what I mean about merging cultures?)  She has an Irish mother and a Cherokee father and she gets dumped into the deep end of being a shaman in Urban Shaman.  By trade, she’s a mechanic for the police…she also attended the police academy, so technically we discover she’s an officer although she’s never spent a day in the field and she doesn’t think of herself that way.  In her mind she’s a mechanic.  Then again, good old Joanne doesn’t think she believes in things like “gut feelings” either.  All of that changes when she sees a woman being chased, and just knows that she has to help her.  According to her she feels like she’s “going to puke” if she doesn’t help this mystery woman.  The catch is, Jo sees her from the window of a landing airplane, so location is an issue.

This book was really enjoyable.  I like Joanne.  Maybe because female, native american mechanics in this genre remind me of Patricia Briggs’s character, Mercedes Thompson.  Mercy has long been a favorite of mine.  Maybe because I just like strong female characters.  Whatever the reason, I like Jo Walker.  She’s smart and sassy.  Joanne rolls with the punches in this story, maybe a little too much though.  She takes a near death experience that awakens her shamanistic powers, healing herself as she’s discovering said powers and conversations with a Celtic god in stride with very minimal doubt or freak out.  Now, she’s told up front that doubt is going to get her killed, but hey, human here.  I’d have more than a passing acquaintance with doubt and a major melt-down or two if any of that happened.  This is only the first book though, so maybe the breakdown and freak out stage is coming.  Strength and sass can only get a character so far, at some point they have to be vulnerable and human too.  Otherwise, I’m not going to be nearly as invested in the next stage of the story.  Ms. Murphy hints at plenty of vulnerability, but we never really see anything other than the cracks in the windshield that Joanne patches over.

I can certainly see the tie between shamanism and the vocation of a mechanic.  Both of them are healers in their own ways.  The first deals with the spirit and the second deals with something physical and outside of the individual.  It makes sense for someone who has tried to move away from anything dealing with her culture or upbringing to be drawn to a profession like mechanic.  It is as far away as Joanne could get from healing the spirit, mind or body and still fix things.  Not just fixing anything, but repairing something that requires attention to detail, patience, experience, and knowledge.  Not coincidentally, fixing up cars doesn’t leave a lot of room for introspection either. (Not that I actually have any personal experience with this, mind you.  I can’t even change my own oil.)

Part of the appeal in this novel is the melding of cultures too, and that is a purely personal thing.  My father’s family background is Irish and Cherokee while my mother’s is Greek and a mix of a bunch of other things including Osage.  There is a rich religious, mythological, and mystical culture in all of those.  It is fascinating to read something that pulls in parts of my own heritage and uses it as plot points.  Part of me finished the book then sat back to think.  Wow, could you imagine throwing a couple of Greek gods in with all that madness?  (Hmmm…..interesting thought there.)

The plot felt forced in places though.  I don’t want to give away any more spoilers than I already have, so I’m not going into great detail here.  Let’s just say the plot has some holes that you could drive a Mack truck through.  There could be great explanations and fills in the next books though.  The characters are flat in spots where there could have been a lot of depth.  With Joanne, I gave some examples, but this is true of the supporting cast as well.  Some of it could be mystery.  There’s this Gary dude, and I think there is a lot more to him than meets the eye…otherwise he makes no sense.  Another thing, for a world in which, normal people don’t know about this, they sure are accepting of it, and there sure are a lot of people in her circle who do believe in…supernatural thingamajigs.  As I said, this is the first book, the depth could come in the subsequent books.  It certainly did with Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.  All the reviews of this book have indicated that the next two in the series Thunderbird Falls and Coyote Dreams are much more engrossing novels.

Even with all the holes, I didn’t want to put this book down.  I needed to know what was going to happen next.  The action moved at a quick pace with no real sense of lagging, and the reader stays intrigued and needing to find the answers right up to the end.  I loved the fact that C.E. Murphy has obviously done her research on Celtic mythologies, because her depictions of the pantheon and elements completely sync up with everything I’ve read.   There were no discordant notes there.  (Believe me, I’ve read a lot on this subject.  I’m not an expert, but I know when something doesn’t fit with all the other stories!)  I wish the same could be said for the Native American side of things.  Joanne does point out that things seen/mentioned aren’t even Cherokee and questions that.  I found it interesting that the character has more knowledge of the Native American side of her heritage, although she’s ignored it since she was 15, and yet that rich heritage isn’t explored in this book.  Joanne doesn’t really know much about her Irish heritage, but everything is focused around that history and mythos in the novel.  I found that odd considering the title of the book, Urban Shaman.

This series has eight books that I can find, and possibly some spin offs.  The author’s site is a bit disorganized.  I couldn’t actually find a list of books that she’d authored under any of her pseudonyms, but it was fun.  Even though I didn’t find what I was looking for, I poked around for a while.  There are definitely chuckles to be had.  I also discovered that she does comic books and there are pseudonyms.  Since comic books are quickly becoming a new interest of mine…hmmm, there are thoughts again…dangerous!

Has anybody else read this author?  Please let me know what you think in the comments below!

‘Til next time,

Jessica

The reading order I’ve been able to find goes thusly:

Walker Papers #1

Walker Papers #1

Anthology:Banshee Cries Walker Papers 1.5

Walker Papers 1.5

Walker Papers #2

Walker Papers #2

Walker Papers #3

Walker Papers #3

Walker Papers #4

Walker Papers #4

Walker Papers #5

Walker Papers #5

Walker Papers #6

Walker Papers #6

Walker Papers #7

Walker Papers #7

Walker Papers #8

Walker Papers #8


City of Glass: A Fragile Peace

The Mortal Instruments Book #3 City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

So you may have noticed that I’ve become a bit obsessed. I have read nothing else since I picked up the first of the Mortal Instruments series. They really are quite good. If I didn’t know there were two more, I would tell you that City of Glass is the climax, the epic battle, the resolution, and the answer to all the questions. There are two more books. Obliviously there are still questions to be answered, and this can’t be the resolution that it feels like. I don’t even know what questions need to be answered?  It seems like it all got wrapped up so nicely!

For the first time since I got into City of Bones, I have no idea what’s coming. I’m stumped. It. Is. Awesome. In the last three books, I had a sense of what was coming. Not the shape, size, or exact color of events, but, with a reasonable amount of certainty, I knew where things were going. There weren’t many big freak outs happening here, some really good surprises, yes, freak outs, no.  The big, icky looming thing would get resolved, the sneaky agenda revealed, and everyone happy in the end… well, more or less. There were great surprises, don’t get me wrong, some heartbreaking ones at that, but the story arc followed the path I expected. Now, I’m lost without a map, and I kind of like it. (This in no way, shape, or form refers to my actual sense of direction, thank you very much.)

I’ve become kind of attached to these characters, and even though this felt like resolution to the epic fight that has been happening, they didn’t make it out unscathed. They’ve all come away with scars, and not just the ones left on them by the Marks they use to fight the demons. There is a lot of healing left to be done, and lots of change to come to grips with.  Death, betrayal, political upheaval…and that’s just the beginning.  Regular change jacks with our minds and emotions on the best of days, this kind of change…Well, I figure there will be growing pains.  Not everyone may have grown in good ways either? Okay, now I’m just grasping at straws…or am I?

There’s the emergence of a character toward the end of this book who I can see stirring the pot. Someone with very good intentions….well, you know what they say about those. This person has been an influence, maybe even a driving force the entire journey, but there’s an active role to be played now.  One of those people that you know about but you don’t really get to know very well.  I think we’ll be getting to know this character better…a lot better.  There’s been a lot of upheaval, and people aren’t as they were.  How can they be when nothing else has stayed the same? I can see this character attempting to exert former measures of control, but I don’t know how that’s going to play out at all. (Hint: I don’t think it will go over well.  Does it ever?)  It will be interesting to say the least!

Obsession aside, I may take a bit of a break from Ms. Clare’s world, just for a book or two. The characters are in a good place…I want them to be able to enjoy it for a moment. With a series like this you know the good times won’t last.  Can I stick to it, and let them have their fleeting happiness?  Will I end up caving, just because I am an impatient person who just can’t wait to find out what happens next?

First line:

The cold snap of the previous week was over; the sun was shining brightly as Clary hurried across Luke’s dusty front yard, the hood of her jacket up to keep her hair from blowing across her face.

Have you ever gotten obsessed with a book or series?  Which one?  Don’t leave me out in the cold here, my friends.

‘Til next time,

Jessica


The Dresden Files…The TV Mini-Series and the Books…Well, Sort of the Books

Netflix

Netflix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have I mentioned I discovered Netflix?  I think I did, but let me say again, I LOVE NETFLIX.  Several years ago, I read a handful of books from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.  I really liked them.  They had a real noir type of feel to them.  Harry Dresden, was your stereotypical private eye, except he wasn’t.  He was a wizard. (I know, I know.  I read books with magic?  You’re all shocked and amazed.)  Well, I had no idea that in 2006 there was a 13 episode TV Series made about good ole Harry.  Netflix recommended it for me.  Thank you, Netflix.

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The Dresden Files stars Paul Blackthorne as Harry Dresden and Valerie Cruz as Lt. Connie Murphy.  Does that guy look familiar to you?  I spent the first ten minutes of the first episode trying to figure out where I had seen “Harry” before.  No, I did not immediately pull up IMDB….I was having a moment.  Phones, iPad and laptop were not within immediate reach.  Yeah, yeah, the ultimate laziness, I know.  It happens.  Blackthorne now plays Quentin Lance, Laurel Lance’s father in the CW’s Arrow.  

Have you notice how the CW in general and Arrow in specific have some great actors that came from other franchises?  There’s John Barrowman a.k.a. Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood.  Paul Blackthorne from The Dresden Files, Stephen Arnell from Private Practice and The Vampire Diaries, Katie Cassidy from Supernatural…sorry, I got a bit side tracked just thinking about it…and looking at www.imdb.com.  (It’s a rabbit hole, just stay above ground unless you’ve got some time on your hands.)

English: Network logo for The CW Television Ne...

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does, actually he’s the only one out there.  He’s hung his shingle out and his phonebook ad (yes, as in Yellow Pages) reads:

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment
Now Harry has some issues with technology.  It isn’t that he doesn’t know how it works, like certain friends and acquaintances of mine, it just doesn’t work around him.  So, Harry is old school.  A good day is when the answering machine didn’t eat the tape.  This is more like my relationship with the GPS than anything else.  (I know how to work them, I just seem to be resistant.  The signal either disappears, is 100 yards behind me, or I’m sent on a wild goose chase.  Now, if I hand the infernal machine to someone else, it works perfectly…..oh, maybe I’m MAGIC!  Okay, maybe not, but it was a nice thought.)  The police, namely Lt. Connie Murphy, call him in to consult when the case takes a turn for the “weird”.  Since business is usually on the side of …. well, for Harry, business generally sucks.  Apparently wizards who don’t do love potions, parties or provide clients with an endless supply of cash just aren’t in high demand, well at least not for clients who can pay.

The Dresden Files are fast paced, interesting and the magic isn’t half bad either.  Admittedly, I was a bit worried about the way they would approach the whole casting spells, etc. for television, but it is really rather well done.  Harry’s wand is a drum stick and his weapon of choice…a magically charged hockey stick.  Well, this is Chicago after all.  The pilot episode is titled Storm Front I’m sure this is no coincidence as the first book in the series bears the same name.  I wish my memory was a bit better, because I’d be able to tell you if this is a True Blood sort of thing where the books just play a loose framework for the show or if they stick pretty close.  Actually, I’m glad I don’t remember, because I’m going back to check out the books again.

Storm Front

Back when I first read the Jim Butcher books, Harry Dresden didn’t really draw me in as a character.  For a girl in her early to mid-twenties, I guess I was looking for books with a bit more…romance maybe?  I don’t know.  I remember reading and really enjoying the first three or four maybe even five books before moving on to another series, but I didn’t commit. (Maybe the no commitment thing was just me in my twenties…)  I think it is time to revisit them.  As mentioned, the first book in the series is Storm Front. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know how it goes.

When I was taking a peek to see how much I really remembered about the books, I came across the audio book…narrated by James Marsters.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Spike is Harry Dresden in the audio books.  (Please remember the accent was faked in Buffy.)  I don’t typically go in for audio books, for some reason I find them distracting, and the stories aren’t nearly as engrossing for me. However, I can see Mr. Marsters being a very believable Harry Dresden.  Maybe I just miss Spike…maybe it’s both.  Well, now I have 15 more books to read….that list really doesn’t ever get shorter.  It just gets longer!

Did you know you can check out my literary “grocery list”?  I’m trying to remember to update my goodreads.com list frequently, so they are all on there and there’s a link on the left hand side of the page near the bottom.  Want to make a recommendation?  Have you read something and know I really shouldn’t bother?  Just want to know WHY something made the list?  Comments, questions, and emails are always welcome.

What is your favorite television show?

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica