Friday, October 2, 2015

Short and Sweet Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

I’ll put it right out there at the start of this review: I love science fiction. Call me geeky if you must, but here’s the deal, while The Martian, by Andy Weir may be technically categorized as science fiction, it’s really ‘science that could maybe happen someday’ and that, along with Weir’s incredible ability to make what could have been a very dry, science geek sort of read into a compelling and even humorous page turner is what makes this book one heck of a great read.

By a very unfortunate turn of events, Mark Watney finds himself alone and abandoned on Mars. It’s a long time until help could arrive, and that presumes that NASA knows he’s there and in need of help, which they don’t. Oh, and he doesn’t have enough food to last that long anyway, which leads to one of the most attention grabbing first lines I’ve read in a while, “I’m pretty much fucked.”

But don’t let that fool you, Watney is one smart and practical guy. He’s the MacGyver of Mars. If he wants to be rescued he needs to find a way to let NASA know he’s alive and he needs to figure out how to stay that way.

 For those of you who took AP Science Everything in high school, you may relish some of the finer details of each step and process as he works toward that goal. For those, like me, who spent more time in Humanities and English Lit, fear not! Weir has done an awesome job of making both kinds of readers follow happily along, explaining just enough of the science to make us appreciate the challenges, celebrate the successes and kick ourselves that we didn’t see the disasters coming, just as our hero does.

Will science save the day? Will Mark Watney survive? You won’t just want to know, you’ll need to know and that’s why you’ll turn the page. Once you get to the end (and I’m not telling you anymore, you’ll have to find out for yourself!) be sure to go a little further and read Weir’s letter about why and how he wrote this book. He is a geek, the kind of guy who wrote this for fun and put it out there to share with just a few until everyone else found out about it and it became an award winning, best seller and Matt Damon vehicle.

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie. Damon seems perfectly cast to me, in my mind his voice and Watney’s are one in the same. But movie and science aside, The Martian will go down as one of the best adventures I’ve ever been on. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Short and Sweet Review: Shattered Secrets by Lana Williams

Lana Williams wraps up her Secrets Trilogy with this third installment, Shattered Secrets. While it can easily stand alone as a suspenseful Victorian romance, for those who have read the previous two books this story spins a fun and satisfying tale of two people who struggle to come to terms with their feelings for each other, while also wrapping up the lose ends of a continuing suspense-filled plot.

Whew! That sounds like a big task but Ms. Williams is more than up to telling this tale and making it a delightfully fun story in the process.

When Lucas returns from Brazil to inherit his murdered brother's position as Earl of Berkmond he finds he's also inherited two young and rambunctious nieces. He also find their temporary governess, Moira, whose heart he broke years before when he left England after a terrible accident left him disfigured and tortured by demons he could not share with her.

Moira loves this man, despite his eye patch, gloomy disposition and mysterious head aches. She remembers the man he was and wants to help him, but she doesn't know if she can trust him. Lucas, meanwhile, is wary of sharing the ominous reason behind his headaches...and his desire to leave all he loves behind and return to Brazil.

But when Lucas' friends-and their wives-arrive, it's clear the mystery and danger that started it all is still lurking in the back alleys of London and, if they don't stop him, they may lose everything.

Want to curl up on a chilly night or a sunny beach with a good book you can't put down? This is the one. Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Short and Sweet Review: A Knight's Kiss by Lana Williams

Whether or not you’ve already discovered Lana William’s Vengeance Trilogy you can comfortably lose yourself in this intriguing novella. We first met Sir Hugh, loyal subject of Sir Royce, in the first book of the trilogy, A Vow to Keep. Now, in A Knight's Kiss, Ms. Williams builds upon what was already an interesting character, helping us to understand his past and appreciate where this new adventure could take him.

Sent on a covert mission by Sir Royce to ferret out possible insurrection against the king, Hugh finds his mission complicated by lovely and strong-willed Liza. Now a widow, Liza was not happily married. The only love she’s known in her life has been a cruel version. But she has more important concerns now as the owner of a pub and a brewer of ale.

On a side note, with the rise in microbreweries today I found the topic of brewing and a glimpse into what medieval breweries were like to be fascinating!

But back to our story! Hugh’s mission is more difficult-and dangerous-than expected, and to complicate matters, Liza turns out to be a lovely and attractive distraction he didn’t plan on and maybe can’t afford. However, Liza could be just what he needs to accomplish his mission...not to mention kindle a long lost hope for passion and happiness for them both.

Definitely a fun read that will lead you to want more of the same. Luckily, Ms. Williams has provided it in the rest of the Vengeance Trilogy. Check it out! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mental Floss Blows My Mind!

Okay, you may have read that title and thought that I have extremely good dental health...well, I try. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a site I've discovered. They have these wacky, informative and fun short videos that recap a variety of topics. Just pick one that appeals to you.

As a writer I enjoyed '79 Common Mispronunciations'. The host, John Green, is hugely entertaining on a topic that you might think was just a step above watching paint dry. But really, when he instructed me in the proper pronunciation of Harry Potter's 'Hermoine' and added 'They should have been a couple but life is full of injustice and Weasleys' I was hooked!

So, maybe you don't care one way or another how people pronounce some of these words, although it can be very annoying! (I'm talking to you, verbal manglers of Illinois...that 's' is silent, people!) But as an author I really enjoyed '43 Words Invented by Authors' where I discovered that Chaucer invented the word 'twitter', thereby laying the groundwork for that 140 character behemoth that not only limits spaces but words, drastically narrowing the odds that anything Chaucer wrote will ever show up there!

Alright, do I have to use a three letter word to get your attention? Then check out '20 Misconceptions About Sex', hosted by Dr. Aaron Carroll. But beware, it can be clinical. You don't have to be an author to find the subject matter fascinating, but I would recommend it for Romance writers--it's very illuminating!

And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Mental Floss's offerings. They tackle all kinds of misconceptions and explanations, from make-up to mating seasons, alcohol to allergies, founding fathers to...cheese names?? So the next time you are passing time on hold with your cable company, check Mental Floss!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Short and Sweet Review: Breaking Point by C.J. Box

Breaking Point is the 13th installment in the Joe Pickett series and for a while there the reader may be worried that 13 is not Joe's lucky number! But it is C.J. Box's, because this book, as with all the others, is one hell of a ride.

Once again Joe is dealing with his resourceful wife who worries about him, his girls who sometimes treat him like he's a relic of another time and federal agencies that don't respect him, let alone the rights of the citizens of Saddlestring, Wyoming.

When Joe is forced to help hunt down the father of his daughter's best friend, things don't go well. They go south. And they go up into the mountains with their rough terrain and vast expanses of beetle kill pines.

Fans of this series are used to watching the moral and physical battles Joe wages with not only criminals but all levels of the law and government. This installment finally finds common sense at the helm of the local sheriff's office, but that can't help Joe when the guys from the EPA decide to makes up the rules as they go.

Joe, of course, will be Joe. And that's what we love about him. Watching Game Warden Pickett 'go rogue' in the name of what's right is what keeps me coming back. And did I worry about all that beetle kill that's as dry and combustible as Joe's almost absent friend, Nate? I live in the Rocky Mountain west and totally appreciate it's ramifications...and of course I appreciate Nate.

Nate and Joe's relationship has taken a beating over the course of the last few books, and they are both changed men. But I'm hopeful future installments will bring them closer. We'll see. On to #14!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Publishers BAN Exclamation Marks?!?

Anyone who has corresponded with me personally knows that I do love my exclamation marks! But a fellow writer has told me she's heard of a publisher that limits authors to one lonely exclamation mark per BOOK! That's just nuts!!

Okay, so I get that publishers don't want us to get carried away in print. They may even want us to express our emotions with words rather than punctuation. But honestly, the exclamation mark is as valid a punctuation mark as commas and periods and I don't see publishers clamping down on those puppies! In fact, if you have a tendency to run-on in your sentences your editor may even suggest that you apply a few more commas and periods. Perhaps even a semi-colon!

But the lonely exclamation mark sits like the wallflower of grammar, unwanted and discouraged despite its effervescent enthusiasm for expression...

Despite my better nature, I will continue in my efforts to tamp down my exclamatory inclinations. I appreciate that it's overuse lessons its effect so I will pull as many as possible, sending them whooping and hollering back to whatever spot in my brain the over-animated writer in me resides. I miss them already, poor little things. But really, I can't promise to hold it down to just one. (!!!)

**exclamation point courtesy of