Sunday, October 31, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews #10: Pumpkinnapper

Book Review 10: Pumpkinnapper by Linda Banche

How could I not review this one on Halloween? I’ve known Linda for some time and I tend to forget she’s actually from the US. Why? She writes Regency romance and she does it well enough I forget she’s not British.

Pumpkinnapper is the tale of Emily, a young widow who has one of the few full pumpkin patches in a time of a pumpkin drought. Her pet goose, a fiesty thing with a penchant for biting in awkward places, does his best to keep her pumpkins from being stolen. In the midst of the pumpkin thievery quandary, Henry, the love of Emily’s younger years who happens to share a name with the goose, comes back to town.

This 75 page novella is charming, funny, romantic, lightly sensual, slightly suspenseful, and a very enjoyable read. Perfect for a Halloween afternoon/evening while handing out treats to the goblins, or geese. Smile

By the way: Pumpkinnapper was just awarded as a Finalist in EPIC’s 2011 book awards! Congrats Linda, and best of luck at finals!

Find it at the Wild Rose Press
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Music Review: Anthology, Duncan Faure

I’ve been following Duncan Faure since 1978 when he joined the Bay City Rollers as their lead singer. I was twelve at the time, but even then I knew quality music when I heard it, and quality musicians. (That happens when you grow up with musicians and music lovers.) When the Rollers broke up, I lost track of where any of them went from there, until 1999 when I got hooked up to the internet and did a search. 

Duncan’s newest album in a string of albums, with bands (including South Africa’s Rabbitt) and solo, Anthology documents his very long musical path, starting in 1972 with Orange Cash Boat. It includes 2 songs from his first band, back before he was even a teenager, as well as a few from those ‘lost’ years when he had joined up with fellow Roller Stuart Wood to form Karu. Roller fans will notice there are no BCR songs on the Anthology – a shame, as some of his best work was on those 4 albums (you can still find them, however; at least you can find 3 of them, in remade CD versions).

I was glad to see Seen The Way You Look At Me on the Anthology, since the first time I heard the song was live and it grabbed me and yanked me in. It’s a shame everyone can’t see this one live, as he shows off intricate keyboard skills along with the full vocal emotion of the song that only partly come through on CD.

I’m also glad a few of the instrumentals from his 2005 home studio release Letter From Britain was included. Every song on that CD was written and performed by Faure, not only vocals but each instrument, as well. The guitar work, too often underplayed during his career, is as amazing as his keyboards and vocals. (Of course, I’m a bit partial to Britain since I designed all of the cover and CD artwork for it.)

Overall, this album is what is should be: a nice retrospective covering a large span of years, and it comes with an acoustic demo of a new song in the works.

(A note to Rehearsal fans: yes, I did borrow names! but only as a tribute, no similarities to real musicians intended.)
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 Movie Review: The Ultimate Gift (2006)

Jason is the twenty-something spoiled youngest heir to a wealthy businessman’s throne. At the reading of the will, he gets a shock instead of an inheritance. If he wants it, he’ll have to earn it, a concept lost on him. He must perform a series of tasks created to teach him about responsibility, real life, and honest love, three concepts he also doesn’t grasp. His greatest help with his task comes in the form of a young girl who faces an intense struggle with optimism, hope, and concern for her mother.

Although the theme of the movie is somewhat cliché, it’s still charming and heart-warming. I never quite bought that actor Drew Fuller (Jason) fit the self-centered spoiled role, but he does come out nicely as the reformed Jason. Abigail Breslin (also of Nim’s Island) does a beautiful job as Jason’s young friend. This is a nice family comedy-drama with some serious tones to it.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Legal Note: no review was compensated or requested

Saturday, October 30, 2010

10/10/10 Review #9: The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Book Review 9: The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

I’m in complete awe of Joyce Carol Oates. She’s incredibly prolific with  35 novels to her name (as of 2007), and they aren’t quick, short novels. They are, from what I know so far, deep, thorough, and vast. And the actual writing is to be admired and aspired to.

The Gravedigger’s Daughter follows Rebecca, a Jewish German immigrant during Hitler’s reign, where she is barely born in America and through having a family of her own. Her father, a very intelligent man who had to leave his valued career, takes the job he can find when he arrives – a grave digger. Because of it, Rebecca grows up with an angry disillusioned father, a mother who doesn’t speak English and becomes a hermit, and the stigma of living in a cemetery. Rebecca is a fighter, though, and makes her own path. She deals with betrayal, single motherhood, and an exhausting factory job. And then she must move to save her own life and that of her child, repeating history to an extent.

Although long and winding, this story keeps moving and holds everything together so the reader stays right with it all the way to the end. Each character is distinct and has his or her own pattern of speech and flaws and aspirations. We are given a true glimpse into another world and while there is much to ponder and recognize, and many realities, there are no “right” answers or preachy passages. There are thoughts to consider and paths that might have been changed. Overall, a very insightful, intelligent, worthy read.
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Music Review: Heartland Highway, Sister Hazel (2010)

A friend introduced me to Sister Hazel a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been collecting their work, past and present. I remembered hearing one of their songs on the radio some years ago that I really enjoyed but I didn’t remember who sang it until being “formally” introduced to them.

Yes, I love this band. They have a very acoustic, easy sound and the lyrics are clever, smart, thoughtful, emotional at times, and always uplifting. Heartland Highway is their newest, just out this month. It’s a bit of a departure, although still along the same main road, as if feels a little heavier, a little deeper, possibly showing the many years they’ve put into the business and the independent path they forged for themselves. Lead vocalist Ken Block has been the major songwriter for the group. With this one, lead guitarist Ryan Newell has taken on more of the songwriting duties, rhythm guitarist/pianist Drew Copeland had a hand in three of the songs, and a trilogy of songs called Lessons in Love, Hope, and Faith was penned by bass guitarist/pianist Jett Beres, giving Heartland Highway a more balanced album by the band members.

Start with this one or any of the older albums (my faves are Absolutely and Chasing Daylight), but check them out!
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Movie Review: Alexander (director’s cut) 2004 

A lot of reviewers slammed this historical by Oliver Stone and many of its actors received razzie awards for the worst performances. I guess I’m odd because I truly enjoyed it. I like artsy cinematography if it’s not carried away. I love historicals. And I like going beyond the fight scenes to get to the actual story of the historical characters. Alexander the Great’s actual story is presented here nicely. I’m a bit of a history buff but not enough to know what liberties were taken. Still, it put me in view of Alexander’s inside world and provided interesting entertainment for an evening.

Legal Note: no review was compensated or requested

Friday, October 29, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews #8: Dragonflight

Book Review 8: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

It’s a wonderful thing when a reader enjoys a book so much he has to recommend it to anyone who might possibly enjoy it. This is how I came to read Dragonflight, the first story of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series.

I don’t tend to read sci fi or fantasy. This is mainly because my head settles around reality much more easily. When I have to get into an imaginary world with made-up names and places that often sound odd, I have to stop and try to think about where I am. On the other hand, I’ve watched every original Star Trek show and loved the original Star Wars movies. So with that in mind and a very high recommendation of the Pern series, I set about to find the first one to check out. Turns out my local bookstore owner is also a huge fan. She happened to have a hardcover with the first 3 stories, plus an extra. She sent them all with me.

The Dragonriders are telepathic and communicate with their dragons regularly. Their job is to prevent dangerous Threads from landing on Pern and destroying their world. However, it’s been 400 years since Threads have landed and the common people of Pern decide they no longer need them, and so stop sending support. The riders have dwindled in number, and a Thread attack is on the way.

Interesting, actually, to make the comparison to this series written in the 70s with today’s threats and disinterest in supporting those defending against them.

Either way, other than taking some time to figure out  where I was and becoming adjusted to the names and titles and such, I was drawn to Lessa right away. She’s a fighter: strong, stubborn, but also a bit naïve (much like one of my own beloved characters). When she rubs up against F’lar, a lead dragonrider determined to shape her into what she needs to be to protect the lair, and therefore Pern, sparks flair.

Dragonriders is a thoughtful but action-packed story. There were times I wished things were explained a bit better at the beginning, to avoid having to try to work it out on my own, but once it really started to roll, it didn’t quit until the end. Yes, I’ll recommend it, as well, to sci fi or fantasy fans, and to those who want to try something different for a change. Will I continue reading the series? I’m so far undecided. If so, I might have to find one that isn’t 7 pt font (or thereabout)! Or I’ll have to find it in ebook format so I can increase the font.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Music Review: Daughtry (self-titled)

I didn’t follow Chris Daughtry on American Idol (it’s not a show I tend to watch), but I did get a glimpse of him singing somewhere toward the end of whatever season he was on. His voice pulled me in, as did his style. Still, I heard three of Daughtry’s songs on the radio before I decided to pick up the CD. I’m glad I did. As is normal, the songs not on the radio captivate me more than those that are. They are deeper, more introspective, more ‘connecting’ than the commercial grabbers. Crashed is contagious: words, music, technique – very powerful, as is What I Want (featuring Slash).

The whole thing is what I want: good rock, nice guitar riffs, great voice, well-penned lyrics that touch the soul, and not overproduced. Yes, I’ll have to grab more of Daughtry. That’s a given.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Movie Review: The Merchant of Venice (2004)

I love Shakespeare. Yes, honestly. Reading it or watching it, there’s just something that pulls me in. I also enjoy Joseph Fiennes. So I expected Fiennes doing Shakespeare would be an auto win. And it was.

Bassanio (Fiennes) needs cash to woo his girl. He doesn’t have it, so he goes to a friend, who goes to a money lender and promises an actual pound of flesh if he doesn’t repay the loan. Both comedy and mayhem ensue, plus that social commentary you find in every Shakespeare play. Tables are turned, roles are reversed, comedy and tragedy mix, and while some end up happy with their outcomes, others end up with a horrid lesson and not much more.

This is a wonderful adaptation of the play that leaves you both satisfied and pondering.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Legal Note: no review was compensated or requested

Saturday, October 23, 2010


(The last three of ten reviews will come next week. For today, I want to get a bit more personal. Don’t worry, I never get too personal online!)

It’s hard for someone who understands something so easily to understand why others don’t understand the same thing at all.

Get that? The art of communication isn’t only in learning the language; it’s also in learning to recognize what others don’t and knowing how to relay it so they will understand. That can be very tricky. I’m often asked how I do it. Honestly? I don’t know.

I do often find myself wondering how on earth a “simple” concept is so hard to “get.” But then, I’m quite sure my sister teaching me algebra (when I couldn’t “get” it from the teacher who didn’t know how to get me to understand) felt the same. Somehow, she did get me to understand, at least well enough, and sometimes well enough is fine.

I use that experience of having something so simple to her escape my grasp of understanding whenever I catch myself wondering why someone just doesn’t get it. There’s always something we won’t get.

Why? That’s easier to answer:

1) We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are innate, some learned.

2) We all have different life experiences and frames of references.

This is why traveling widely broadens the mind and increases understanding: you develop a bigger frame of reference, especially if you truly look at the culture where you travel and pay attention. I’ve lived in very small towns to the point of not having a stoplight, and in very large cities to the point of taking 3 hours to drive 25 miles. I’ve lived in 6 states and visited most of the others. I’ve lived overseas and visited several countries. I was raised blue collar, married military, and have met people of very high importance career-wise from several different fields. I paid attention to all of it. I took mental notes of similarities and differences. And I listened. I still listen, well enough to truly absorb not only what they say but how they feel when they say it.

I guess it comes down to paying attention and wanting to understand. Also, putting your own thoughts aside enough to allow room for others’ thoughts and experiences is required. There are many experiences I will never have myself, but if I listen well enough, or (a-hem) read about it in the right sources, I can almost experience it. Yes, I read widely from many sources. And I talk to people from as “everywhere” as I can. I don’t shut them out when I disagree with them; I stop to consider why they feel the way they do. It doesn’t generally change my mind, but it does help me understand.

This, since I was asked again, is how I add such a wide experience base to my characters. They get to take on many of the things I’ve seen and heard and they represent those different backgrounds. They don’t only have my own thoughts and opinions; they have viewpoints I don’t agree with, as well. No one person or group can have all the answers. But maybe, if we blend all those thoughts and experiences together, we do.


"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."
Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #7 - Rainwater

Book Review: Rainwater by Sandra Brown

I grabbed this book as one of many during a $1 clearance sale binge at one of my favorite bookstores. I’d never read Sandra Brown, and I don’t tend to read thrillers/suspense, but the cover and description didn’t look like either. At $1, there was no risk in giving it a try.

The acknowledgments at the beginning of the book note that this one is different than most of Brown’s work. Apparently, that’s true, if she writes thrillers. Rainwater is not a thriller. In fact, it’s very much literary/mainstream fiction.

I was charmed by the old time setting and the ease of the language. The characters are very full and real. Ella, the ‘widowed’ boarding house owner with an autistic son, is immediately likeable and nearly feels like a friend by the time we get to the second chapter.

I did raise my eyebrows a touch at the “Rainwater/autism” bit being a constant reminder of Rain Man. I get the point of it being called that, but I couldn’t shake the similarity. That’s my only criticism of this beautiful novel. It’s political, showing the error of Eisenhower’s cow-purchasing program that was supposed to help farmers not lose their farms in a very real, personal way. It’s optimistic through the days of the depression, which can extend to any time that feels bleak. It shows human error and cruelty, but also human resilience and honor and courage.

This one is highly, highly recommended, even at regular retail price.

Maybe I’ll give one of her “normal” books a try, as well.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Music Review: Unmistakable, Jo Dee Messina

This is the third Jo Dee Messina I’ve bought. Her first was very young-hearted, fun, and kicky. Her second was still on that level but raised a notch to show her growth as an artist. Unmistakable is much like the rest of her work: down to earth, casual, real, lightly emotional, and highlighted by her beautiful voice. “I’m Home” is my favorite of the new tracks, highlighting the comfort of being at home with someone who makes you feel relaxed and peaceful. The acoustic remakes of “Because You Love Me” and “Stand Beside Me” are also very nice.

Oh, I also appreciate that she’s in jeans and a long-sleeved tee on the cover instead of showing as much as she can and dressing like a pretentious Barbie doll. It reflects how unpretentious her music is.
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Movie Review: Casanova (2005)

Who can resist Heath Ledger? It is truly sad that we lost such a talent so early. While catching up on some of his roles I hadn’t yet seen, I threw this one in my queue. A nice choice. Don’t expect to take it seriously. Expect to chuckle at clever lines and grin at his adorable charm even while playing the part of the bad boy with a good heart. Expect wonderful scenery – who can resist Venice? – and period costumes. Expect a touch of “As You Like It” (Shakespeare). And expect a fun evening of quirky entertainment with glimpses of actual social commentary entwined.
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Legal Note: No review was requested or compensated.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #6 – A Perfect Place to Pray

Book Review 6: A Perfect Place to Pray by I.L. Goodwin

Mae Spencer is married to a revered homicide detective who has been beating her for years. Finally, an incident with their child convinces Mae to leave and hide from him.

I picked this one up as our library’s book club read a few months back. Goodwin does a nice job with atmosphere and pulling the reader in to the scene. Her characters are well drawn, engaging, and deep enough to need to figure out as you read. It’s a fast-paced novel, marked as romance but more women’s fiction.

Deborah, Mae’s best friend (or so she claims) is the most intriguing character. Mae herself came off to me as too weak: not because she was a victim of abuse but because she never took matters in her own hands. Deborah and Mae’s  husband made her decisions for her. At times, she showed possibilities of growth and taking control, but then it slipped again. I found no real character growth in her. She simply was pushed by others into better circumstances.

While there was plenty to consider within the book and enjoy about it, I felt like it needed more; it needed the heroine to take charge of her own life. Without that, it felt unfinished.

Yes, I’m a stickler about character growth/change. Otherwise, it’s not a full story, it’s only a scene out of a story.  I believe the same is true with real life.
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Music Review: Cradlesong by Rob Thomas

I’ve been a Rob Thomas fan since Matchbook 20’s first CD. I love his lyricism, his grit, and the deep meanings behind his songs, along with his gorgeous voice. I love that he writes his own music and that the art concept for the liner was his and that he credited his wife for song inspiration.

I also love the growth I see in each new album. Cradlesong shows a young man growing up, mixing personal issues with world issues, and depicting dark and light intermingled. Thomas is a moody artist, and it shows, but he’s also very deep and that shows, as well.

“Hey yeah/ welcome to the real world/
Nobody told you it was gonna be hard you said/
Hey yeah/ I can’t believe it/ I barely started/
Now I’m falling apart…”

" ‘Cause I didn’t mean to be mean/ when I said/
All the things I said to you/
But maybe the worst is the best I can do/ with you…”

This is personal and musical growth at its finest.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Movie Review: Undiscovered (2005)

Brier is an aspiring model on the move. Luke is an aspiring musician. When Brier decides to pull strings with help of her agent and get Luke’s career moving faster, we watch their parallel rises and the results on their budding relationship.

This indie film is everything a romantic comedy should be: fun, light, charming, with bits of passion and emotional back and forth. No, it’s not a deep-thinking movie. It’s a kick your feet up at the end of a long day and be entertained kind of movie, oh, with some nice music thrown in.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Legal Note: No review was compensated or requested.

Friday, October 15, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #5 – Lake News

Book Review 5: Lake News by Barbara Delinsky

Lily Blake is a nightclub singer and music teacher at a private school. When her friendship with a priest who becomes a Cardinal gets picked up by a shady reporter with a vendetta and reported as an affair, she is suddenly swamped by the press and loses both jobs. She flees from NY to her little hometown of Lake Henry, Vermont. In an ironic twist, her biggest ally comes in the form of John Kipling, a former NY reporter who has his own grudge against the man who slandered Lily.

I picked this one up recently because it seems much like what I write: a cultural story with literary elements and a very strong romantic line. Also, it reflects the same theme as my Off The Moon: media invasion and making up stories to sell papers, turning average people into ‘monsters’ in order to propel themselves, regardless of ethics and truth.

Lake News does have something to say. Along with the media issue, the story line revolves heavily on family relations and how parenting, or lack of, affects children’s lives over the long run. It doesn’t blame parents, however; it shows the vicious cycle of generation upon generation. It makes readers stop and think about how what they say or don’t say makes their children feel, how misunderstandings so easily mess up lives. 

Overall, it was a nice read, although there was too much repetition of thoughts and I couldn’t quite buy the premise. Would the media really stalk and hound some nightclub singer relentlessly for days because of a supposed affair with a Cardinal? Sexual indiscretions these days are pretty well just glossed over. Would that singer, who lives in NYC, after all, and fends for herself on a daily basis, so easily crawl back home and hide instead of just saying, “No, it’s not true. He lied and I’ll sue if he doesn’t retract the story”? Lawsuits come easily these days, as well. Would a nightclub fire their star singer when she’s bringing in more business? I can’t see it. Something didn’t sit well in the scenario Barbara Delinsky creates.

I did enjoy the character of John and would have liked to have been in his POV more often, and less in Lily’s. There are some nice supporting characters -- in particular, Lily’s sister, Poppy. It ends as a romance ends, with everything prettily bow-tied. But I think the strongest upside to the book is the family relationship perspective. I give Delinsky kudos for that.
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Music Review: Messenger, Edwin McCain

I loved the song “I’ll Be” when I first heard it on the radio some years back, but I didn’t think far beyond that. And then the radio station I listened to at the time had him on as a guest. He had nothing with him but his acoustic guitar and sang “I’ll Be” and another song or two, completely acoustic. Wow, his voice grabbed me. Some artists – and everyone knows this is true – need studio help to sound really good. McCain just sounds really good.

Messenger is very acoustic-sounding all the way through. It’s not, other than “I’ll Be” but it has that feel because his voice easily stands out above the music, which is also gorgeous. There’s no covering up or hiding behind production. It’s real. And the songs are as lyrically beautiful and musically.  “Prayer to St. Peter” is a stirring tribute to those who have died in war, again only McCain and his guitar. It doesn’t need anything else. The songs that do have fuller instrumental sound are a nice treat, as well.

Highly recommended.
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Movie Review: Lady Jane (1986)

Yes, I only watched this recently. It’s a beautiful film and wonderful story, acted well. There was much to think about as regards religion, politics, treachery, and loyalty. Of course, history has been blatantly disregarded in Lady Jane, which I tend not to like. To me, a historical fiction should at least keep the facts straight when using actual historical characters. Otherwise, create your own characters based on real characters, and make it true fiction.

That said, it was charming, captivating, and thoughtful. Well recommended.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Legal Note: No review was requested or compensated.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #4 – Cozumel Karma

Book Review #4: Cozumel Karma by Lainey Bancroft

Maggie O’Shea is stuck. She has a distant, rarely sober mother, and a needy do-nothing sister who both rely on her. And she’s part owner of a small bar that has become her home. When it all makes her too gloomy to be around, her best friend and business partner buys her a ticket for a singles cruise. She balks, but she goes. And then she gets stranded and ‘stuck’ with a gorgeous, rich beach house owner.

I stayed up until one this morning finishing this book. That’s not horribly exceptional for me, but I also read it in three nights. I do think that’s a record.

Note: Cozumel Karma is 18+ only, as it is rather spicy.

I don’t tend to read spicy books. I love romance but I don’t need to read the manual for the physical aspects. I’ve been married for 22 years; I know how it’s done. And I didn’t realize it was so spicy when I jumped at one of the three free copies the author was offering to whoever asked first.

I jumped because I’ve read Lainey Bancroft’s work before. In fact, The Trouble With Tessa was the first book I ever read on my Ereader. It was full of amazing, rich characters and a nice look deeply inside people and society with great introspection and things to take away from the story other than the romance. There were a few issues that showed the editor didn’t quite do her job, but the story and writing style made that pretty easy to overlook.

The same is true of Cozumel Karma. I also don’t often read first person POV novels. They can be hard to pull off well and the POV character often comes out either self-absorbed or too whiny and harder to like that way. Now and then while reading, I did think I would have enjoyed it third-person better, but it didn’t quench my enjoyment.

The beginning of the story made we wonder if this was going to be something I wanted to read or if I should just pass it along. It looked like one of those “meet a hot guy and jump in bed” books that I don’t like. Yes, I’m rather old-fashioned and traditional. However, I’m not narrow minded and I loved her last book. Plus, Maggie is a wonderful character, as is her friend Pat. They hooked me. I had to keep going.

As the story progressed and Maggie changed, so did the way the story was written. It ‘grew’ with her; it opened into a deeper, more insightful story as she allowed herself to start to open. I’m not sure if it was planned that way or if it just happened, but I’m impressed. It’s a great technique. Along with technique and characters, Lainey Bancroft has a unique way of phrasing at certain times that just makes you grin, or even chuckle. I love her quirkiness that shines through. I love the balance of light and balmy mixed with intelligent thought.

Overall, this is a must read for romantics who want to be absorbed in a story and come out with something to show for it. If you don’t like spice, it’s easy enough to skip over those bits and move along (I often did the same *shrug*) although they are done tastefully.

I hear Lainey is working on a women’s fiction novel. I very much look forward to it.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Music Review: Dark Horse, Nickelback (2009)

While we’re on the subject of spicy, this CD is one of my recent obsessions. I suppose it’s funny that I skip spicy scenes in novels and yet love Dark Horse. It’s … plenty spicy. Actually, the first time I listened to it, I laughed through much of the CD. Naughty boys! And yet, somehow it isn’t disgusting as most music I would describe as naughty. No, I would describe those as vulgar. This one is very “out there” but not vulgar. I suppose some would argue.

Maybe it’s the humor of it that saves it for me. It’s obvious (how can a song called “Something In Your Mouth” not be obvious?) but just as Lainey’s scenes, they’re also tasteful, in that the phrasing is clever and played down, no nasty words intrude, and you never get the idea that anyone is being degraded. The whole CD sounds like single boys having fun, but at least in a fairly respectful manner, considering.

I would also label this one as 18+ although Nickelback does have plenty of younger fans and that actually doesn’t bother me, because it doesn’t sound seedy. I let my under 18 kid listen to it: it’s much better than a lot of that stuff he hears on the bus on the way to school! *sigh*

Anyway, for some good rockin’ humorous fun, give this one a try. Unless you’re even more squeamish than I am. ;-)
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Move Review: What the Bleep Do We Know? (2004)

I should hesitate to call this a movie, although there is some story to it in the form of a photographer who was jilted and is trying to find her way back to happy.

I also have to say I only watched the first hour and a half of the 140 minutes. I got interrupted and didn’t go back to finish it, but I got the gist enough by then.

This is an “alternative” science theory put into film. It has some very interesting points to ponder, such as the power of belief and how your thoughts actually create your world more than the other way around. It also has some rather far-fetched ideas that I just can’t buy at all. But, it does make you think, and there’s always benefit in that.

Do I recommend it? Maybe. If you’re looking for something to think about, or if you want to delve into just how the brain works (as far as science even knows). Be aware that it’s largely experts of some sort talking at you about their beliefs as though they are fact. They aren’t, of course; it’s all theory.
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Legal Note: Cozumel Karma was won in a promotional event, Dark Horse was purchased by the reviewer, What the Bleep Do We Know was rented by the reviewer. No compensation was received and reviews were not requested.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #3 - Ireland

Book Review #3: Ireland by Frank Delaney

Ireland depicts a traveling storyteller and the young man who becomes engrossed in the man and his stories. Along the way, we are treated to Ireland’s history, both fact and legend, and its mystical mythology.

I love historicals in general, but this one is right up at the top of my LOVE-this-book list. Frank Delaney was born in Tipperary, Ireland, and many of his non-fiction books were UK bestsellers. He now lives in the States and Ireland was his first US novel.

This book is not a quick read. In fact, I read it in parts over time, which is quite doable since it is much like a short story series connected by a running plot line. There is so much to absorb, to learn, to revel in while lost in its pages. I ‘met’ St. Patrick and his snakes, Brendan the Navigator, Handel, leprechans, and Sir Walter Scott. I learned that Ireland is the only country whose national symbol is a musical instrument, and read about the separation of the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland, as well as the start of the potato famine and its many fights to deter invasions. The fight between Catholics and Protestants is there, with both sides equally represented. The whole story is a presentation of facts mixed with myth, round and full and surrounded by lush scenery and intriguing Irish citizens the boy meets along his journey.

In the midst of all of this is a story about a young man finding himself within his convoluted family history, and many glorious references to the art of Story.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, as its message goes well beyond Ireland itself and extends to all of us. I have Delaney’s Tipperary here on my shelf waiting. And I look forward to every minute of it.
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Music Review: Public Enemies soundtrack

This was a Christmas gift from my son last year. It’s not the genre of music I would normally buy and so I’ve been surprised at just how much I enjoy it. Like the movie, the music is old-time rough and tumble early twentieth century feel. From Otis Taylor’s “Ten Million Slaves” to Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground” along with Billie Holiday and Elliot Goldenthal’s contributions, the soundtrack tells the story of the times. It is lush and vibrant, deep and rich, echoing both despair and resilience. A worthy listen. I often have it in the background while I write.
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Movie Review: Old Dogs (2009)

I knew going in to this movie that it would be fun and easy, a quick entertainment. It was. I enjoy John Travolta and Robin Williams, and Seth Green made a nice third. There are plenty of chuckles and it’s a nice one for the whole family, safe for kids.

That said, I felt like Travolta’s role was pretty much the same character as his Wild Hogs character. It was like they took him from one setting, threw him in another, and said, “Now, repeat that performance with different lines.” Robin Williams was the saving grace of the film. He felt real and it was easy to sympathize with him. The kids did a great job, also, although as often happens in Hollywood now, many of their lines were too advanced for their ages.

Overall, it is a fun watch, nice for kicking back and unwinding when you want escape more than thought.
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Legal Note: the above media was either purchased by or for the reviewer, or rented. No compensation was received for the reviews, nor requested.

Monday, October 11, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #2 - Surfacing

Book Review #2: Surfacing by Cate Masters

When AJ Dillon, lead singer of an indie band, gets kicked out of the house, he shuffles off to Florida to stay with his grandfather he hardly knows. The one thing he does know: his grandfather is obsessed with mermaids. While working at a small resort show featuring costumed mermaids, a job his grandfather sets up for him, AJ splashes into Cassiopeia, a real mermaid with attitude.

I don’t read a lot of fantasy but I never say never, so when a fellow author was holding a contest to win her newest, I jumped in and came out with my own copy of Surfacing. To be honest, it was the indie band story line that pulled me in. I’m always on the lookout for a good music novel. This one doesn’t have a big music line, other than that AJ has lost direction with his music and has to find it again, but AJ was nicely written and I enjoyed spending time with him.

What I most enjoyed about the book was the developing relationship between AJ and his grandfather, as well as the way he learns to reconnect with his mother as he learns more about her history and therefore, understands her better. It’s a sweet story about love and forgiveness and learning to look through another’s eyes. The characters are real and memorable. The heroine – this is a romance, after all – is feisty and intelligent and gentle, as she teaches AJ a few things he needed to learn.

I would have, however, enjoyed seeing some of AJ’s story before he moved in with his grandfather. He’s made out to be a troublemaker, enough to get kicked out, and yet he comes off as humble and gentle, maybe a touch cocky but not horribly, and very personable although a bit of a loner. I can’t see that he changes a lot from the beginning of the story to the end, other than accepting his family as they are.

Overall, though, Surfacing is a nice light read with nuances of deeper issues and some fun fantasy. It’s a romance appropriate for young adults and older adults with young hearts.
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Music Review: Keep On Loving You, Reba

I have a couple of Reba’s earlier albums but I’m not a stringent follower. However, when she appeared on Dancing With The Stars last season to sing two songs from her newest album, I started to think I might have to check it out. The title track is hard to resist. When she sang it on the show, a video behind her featured scenes from some big country stars and their long-time spouses. It was a beautiful tribute to marriage and follow through even during times.

Since I bought Keep On Loving You, it’s been played over and over in my house and in my car. Yes, I carry it with me now and then. It’s rather contagious.

Strange, the opening song, is full of resilience and spirit, and those two things shine all the way through the album. There are a few thrown in that are just plain fun, such as I Want A Cowboy (and the way she describes him, who doesn’t?), several that are deeply emotional, one that’s a good warning to young girls, and the last track, I’ll Have What She’s Having, is just absolutely charming and I’ve yet to let it end without rewinding once (at least) to hear it again. If you like country music at all or are willing to give it a try, pick this one up.
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Movie Review: Neverwas (2005)

I’m not sure what made me mark this one to add to my DVD queue, but I’m glad I did. Neverwas is a psychological thriller, not scary but with suspense, about a young psychiatrist (that must have been it) who makes friends with a schizophrenic with ties to the doctor’s family history. The guy is dead-set on getting ‘back’ to a place called Neverwas, a story setting written by the psychiatrist’s father who was eventually locked away in the same hospital.

This one keeps you guessing all the way through. It’s beautifully acted and produced and leaves you thinking. Worth the 108 minutes.
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-- If you’ve read, listened to, or watched any of the above, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Legal Note: Surfacing was won in a contest, Keep On Loving You was purchased by the reviewer, Neverwas was rented by the reviewer. No compensation was received for any review, and none were requested.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #1 – Here Burns My Candle

In honor of it being 10/10/2010, I thought I’d catch up on my reviewing for books I’ve read recently and haven’t talked about yet. To make it more interesting, I’ll add a brief CD review to each post and a brief movie review, all from what I’ve bought or watched this year. They’ll be completely unrelated to the books, or to each other, and in several different genres, so hang on: it’s a potpourri of a plethora of reviewing! Any other blogger want to join in? I’ll add your links to my posts if you’ll let me know!

Review #1: Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

The setting is Edinburgh 1745, just as the Jacobite Rebellion is taking siege of the city. Lady Elisabeth Kerr is directly in the middle, being a Highlander supportive of Bonny Prince Charlie and yet married to an Edinburgh Lord whose family is loyal to King George. That’s hardly her only swaying rope, as she is wife to Lord Donald Kerr and therefore next in line to become keeper of the family fortune along with him, with a mother-in-law who favors her younger son’s wife and barely speaks to Elisabeth. She loves her husband dearly and yet must deal with rumors of his infidelity. And, she follows the auld ways of Hielanders and puts her faith in the moon, thereby putting herself at risk of being accused of witchcraft when she goes out to honor it and ask for help.

I love historical novels, especially those from American history or from Celtic history. Liz Curtis Higgs was a new author to me when I was drawn to the cover at my local bookstore and picked it up to read the blurb. She is hardly a new author, however, with twenty-seven books (as of this one), a few of which are Scottish historicals.

Here Burns My Candle is a delightful read. It’s packed full of Scottish history, and not only the facts of the events, but small details about how the nobles lived, what they ate and wore, and how they interacted among themselves and their fellow Scots. The detail is weaved in so seamlessly, I at times forgot I wasn’t there in the house or on High Street with them watching their every move. It doesn’t take over so as to tell me, “Look, the author did her research,” as too often happens. It was flowing and graceful. The plot moved along steadily but not too fast, allowing full insight into the characters, much depth, and a pleasant ride.

There were two points that threw me just a bit. I wasn’t always sure the point of view needed to switch as often as it did in the beginning. It dwells on the Dowager Marjory Kerr, Elisabeth’s mother-in-law, heavily at first, and she’s a less interesting character than Elisabeth. There were also scenes from Donald’s perspective that were less enthralling and maybe not entirely necessary. In addition, the character of Rob McPherson was one of the highlights of the novel that continued to build, and then a sudden turn of his character left me thinking, “What? Wait? That’s not right.”

Overall, though, this was a fabulous read, a must for any Scottish historical buff: part literary, part romance, fully fleshed, and I missed it when it ended. I will be picking up more of this author’s Scottish series and possibly her other lines, as well.
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CD Review: Fearless Love, Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge is an auto buy for me. I have enough of her albums to know each one will be a treat even before I open it. Fearless Love is no exception. I’m not a musician, and therefore won’t go into craft detail, but what I love most about her work is the heart and openness of every song. Her music is her. It’s honest and strong and gentle … and fearless.

The title track lets us know right off what the CD is about. It’s personal and yet general at the same time. We can all relate to each song in some manner. They’re passionate, political, angry, accepting, and inspirational. I love her call to look within and start making our own impacts, our own changes in “We Are The Ones” instead of waiting for someone else to do what we think should be done. “Miss California” is a rip-it-wide-open statement protesting intolerance on a personal and societal level. In it, we see not only the issue, but the person behind it, the frustration and fear and hypocrisy. And yet, the CD ends with acceptance, forgiveness, and understanding that we’re all just trying to figure this thing out.

Give it a listen, an open-minded, hear-what-she’s-saying listen. I dare you not to be swept away to her world and come out of it with respect for the artist as not only an artist, but as a struggling, real person. This is rock music at its best.  I can’t wait for her next.
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Movie Review: Inkheart (2008)

I admit it: I rented this one largely because it’s Brendan Fraser. Although many of his early movies are … well, early movies meant for the young crowd who want just a few quick escapist laughs, I find his more current work more fascinating all the time. (I would never have watched the Mummy if he hadn’t starred, but have watched a few times if it comes on.) He’s a captivating actor.

However, as a writer, I couldn’t help being curious about the story line. Twelve year old Meggie has the ability to bring story characters to life. As she does, she pushes her dad (Fraser) right back into a story he’d tried for years to forget, and then she has to rescue him from this world of mixed reality and fiction.

It’s a charming story, fun and thoughtful, with plenty of action and humor. Beware that time passes quickly as you watch and that any of you avid readers (or writers) out there may be drawn to wonder what would happen if your favorite characters came to life.

It’s also a huge boon to the magic of reading, an inspiration to pick up a good book and get lost in it the way these characters get lost in the story. Is it truly just fiction? Or does the fiction shape their reality? Interesting to consider.
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-- If you happen to have read or listened to or watched any of the items I’m reviewing, I’d love to hear your thoughts about them!

Legal note: Here Burns My Candle & Fearless Love were purchased by the reviewer. Inkheart was rented by the reviewer. No review was solicited and nothing was provided in return.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Book Trailer: Protect The Heart


Pausing at the trellis, she fingered a morning glory and dropped the parasol back to allow the dense blue-spotted vine to provide her shade. Its soft silky petal felt much like an infant’s cheek. Delicate and yet hardy. Calming and nurturing even as it needed to be nurtured. Her mother said, when they had last sat on the front porch together, how the morning glories reminded her of Maura. Each year the plant rejuvenated itself, became more hearty, more filled in, with more blooms.

Maybe her mother was right, but she felt more like her beloved columbine with their two layers in two shades, one softly rounded, the other pointed, as if in warning. The yellow stamen shooting so proudly from the center announced their need and longing for pollination. Maura blushed at the thought. She was, after all, old enough. Twenty-three already. Quite old enough.

“Good afternoon, Miss Laerty.”

She jumped at Cameron’s voice, amazed she hadn’t noticed his car pull in front of her house as she stood admiring her flowers. Maura shoved the indecent thoughts out of her mind while she faced him.

“Oh, good afternoon, Mr. Terry. You aren’t off already, are you?” She couldn’t help but stare at Cameron in his olive green uniform. It made her heart hurt. She didn’t want him to come back like those men at the other end of the home. With his risk-taking and high spirits, she was awfully afraid he would.

“I have nearly two full days yet. Abe and I are in town to get ready is all. Thought I would start getting used to it.” He stepped out and offered his arm. “I hoped to take you for a walk around town.”

“I’m afraid I have plans.”

“You have plans?” He looked alarmed.

“Yes. I was on my way to the home. They’re expecting me today.”

“Oh.” His face relaxed. “Well, I don’t suppose I could change your mind, seeing as I have only two days left and all?”

“For now. Two days left for now, you mean, Mr. Terry. And I expect you to come home walking, by the way. You do know I expect that.”

He bowed. “I will do my best to accommodate you.”

His grin was too charming. She had to pull her eyes away. “I do need to go in to the home for a bit, but I suppose I could leave early. Would you like to come for dinner? Father would enjoy the extra company.”

“I would be honored. Please, allow me to drive you and I’ll pick you up after if you’ll give me a time.”
Maura couldn’t refuse. After all, Cameron was leaving. She might as well enjoy the company, also, while she could. “You are welcome to bring your friend along, if you would like. You say he’s in town with you?”

“Abe? Yes, he’s in town. But he has ‘errands’ to take care of, so he says. Trying to make sure everything is set for his father while he’s away, I believe. I told him I’d have my younger brothers stop by now and then to offer help. He seems to appreciate it, but he still worries.”

“His father is in good health, though, I hear.”

“Oh yes. For a man nearly sixty, he is in good health. They are close, however, and Abe worries he will work too hard there alone. Not like you and your father or me and my own, where we put up with each other only as we are related by circumstance. If anything happens to Abe, the old man will be devastated. His world centers on him.”

“Lord willing he won’t be away long, then. Or you.”

Cameron lifted her hand to kiss her fingers.

She blushed. “We’re in public. What will people think?”

“They’ll think you’re inclined to become my wife. As I’m inclined to think you might, also.”

“Mr. Terry…”

“Please, Maura. Cameron. At least do me the favor of using my first name and allowing me use of yours.”

"I believe you have already taken that liberty.”

He grinned. “And I believe you are starting to bend to my request. But we’ll talk more of it later, after dinner tonight when we take a stroll.”

The Story:

Entrenched on his father's farm in southern Idaho's Snake River Valley, Abraham Luchner pulls up roots to join the war effort. Joined by his friend Cameron Terry, an impulsive adventure seeker, Abe determines to sever ties at home in order to minimize distractions. His greatest connection with his beloved canyon and farm is in the form of charcoal sketches he works on each night to escape his present conditions, as well as the letters Cameron reads aloud from his beloved.

Maura Laerty has been claimed as Cameron's betrothed in the eyes of the community. Determined not to become a war widow or caregiver of one more soul who needs her ongoing assistance, she refuses his proposal, at least until he returns. Despite her efforts, Maura soon finds herself saddled with responsibilities that tax her resolve and turn the townspeople away. Her greatest ally comes from a twist of fate as winding and unpredictable as the great Snake River itself.

Protect The Heart
LK Hunsaker
Elucidate Publishing
ISBN 978-0-9825299-2-8

Find it in print and ebook at most major retailers, signed by the author at
For more info and first two chapters:

Partial proceeds from sales of Protect The Heart directly from Elucidate Publishing and go to, helping injured service members with emergency funds.