PICKY EATERS by S. J. Higbee: A Review

One doesn’t think of a dragon as a picky eater, but one doesn’t think of a dragon as a grandpa either, does one? This delightful story by blogging friend and Starblind series author, S.J. Higbee is so much fun to read. She had me at the beginning lines when the grand-dragon, Castellan thought his grandkids/dragonets were up to something and “tip taloned across” the cavern where he was babysitting them. Sammy Jo, the dragonet queenling reminded Castellan of his departed wife, she was so much like her grandmother, and she had inherited the skill/gift of time travel as had he. Her father, Rondell, in Castellan’s opinion, “the waste of skin and scales who ended up with [his] daughter,” Emmy Lou provides much humor as the beleaguered son-in-law in the story.

Such detail is given to the dragons’ lair (for example, as Higbee describes Emmy Lou’s “sleeping mound” of golden coins as “chinking as she settled down” for a nap after an energy expending adventure of traveling in time), and the characterization of each of the dragon characters is exquisite. I know from comments and conversations on her blog Brainfluff that dragons are one of her favorites, and she certainly does them justice in this story.

This is a rollicking read for all ages and members of the family. I highly recommend it. It is available in paperback from Amazon and may be available on Kindle as well. Proceeds from the sales go to National Health Charities. UK

FIRST LINE FRIDAYS

First Line Fridays, or Friday Firstliners, as I choose to corrupt the name originated with Hoarding Books and is also hosted by Wandering Words, two blogs worth checking into. “They” ask readers to open a book they are reading, or one they are anticipating reading and copy the first line or so in order to pique readers’ interest in reading the book. My Friday Firstliner is from The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard, a book I have started thinking toward my upcoming “Celebration of Color” challenge (more on that in another post–hint: the cover is red.)

“The day began when the alarm clock (given to Phyllis by her mother when she started service) went off and on and on and on until she quenched it.” Phyllis is a servant in a big house, and the novel seems to be (I’ve only read 22 pages.) a Downton Abbey/Upstairs Downstairs set in the 1930s. It will be a good “getaway read” while I work on my online class.

BOOKWORM: A MEMOIR OF CHILDHOOD READING by Lucy Mangan, THURSDAY REVIEW

This lovely, nostalgic memoir/reading list is written by a “born and unrepentant bookworm.” A book for all readers who love books and all things “bookish,” Bookworm deals with both British and American authors. It describes books Mangan loved from ages one to three when she was still being read to (Most were UK authors and unfamiliar to this American reviewer.) and books from the time she learned to read, to her choices during her “coming of age period,” both physically and intellectually, as a reader.

The books mentioned range from Barbar the Elephant (She did not like it.) to Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier. (She describes herself, as a discriminating reader, thinking this one was “dense, beautiful, astonishing.”)

One of the best “to the reader” asides of the book, and there are many delightful ones, comes near the end where Mangan gives advice to parents of bookworms: “We are rare and we are weird…there is nothing you can do to change us…Really, don’t try. We are so happy, in our own way…Be glad of all the benefits it will bring, rather than lamenting all the fresh air avoided, the friendships not made, the exercise not taken, the body of rewarding and potentially lucrative activities, hobbies, and skills not developed. Leave us be. We’re fine. More than fine. Reading’s our thing.”

This was a most enjoyable Book about Books, a continuation of a challenge left from 2019. It was a gift from Deb Nance of Readerbuzz.

TUESDAY TEASER

Tuesday Teaser, brought to you by the Purple Booker asks that you grab a book you are reading and copy a few lines in order to “tease” someone else into looking into that book for further reads. Here is my teaser for Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come, a non-fiction look at an introvert exploring extrovert territory, by Jessica Pan.

Summing up the results of her one year experiment, Pan writes, “It was more than I ever could have hoped for when I started. I feel more in control of my life because I can extrovert.” She goes on to describe the many new things she can “handle” which she couldn’t before as a result of saying “yes” to things that were definitely out of her comfort zone before as a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

This has been the best non-fiction read of 2020 for me. I highly recommend it.

STACKING THE SHELVES ON SATURDAY

ADDING THESE THREE to my TBR shelf:

Also have been re-reading this blogger friend’s book in preparation for my Advanced Writing class this fall.

I don’t teach creative writing; I teach writing argumentatively towards an academic audience, but this little book reminds me what writing is all about and has a ton of ideas to teach real-world writing, which makes up the second half of my semester.

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

Saturday mornings are dedicated to kids. What they’re reading and what they like.

Today’s recommendation of one of my favorites, the “Horrible Harry” Series.

Some kind person left these in my Little Free Library.

Harry is the typical second (and third) grader, not HORRIBLE; however, the situations he manages to get himself into are indeed just that–HORRIBLE. This is a laugh-out-loud series of chapter books that boys, especially, will adore.

DRIVING WITH BUDDHA

I have just finished the road-trip books by Roland Merullo that have a philosophy side to them. I was hooked early on by Breakfast with Buddha ,the first book in the series and really enjoyed meeting Otto, his screwy sister, and her boyfriend, the semi-Buddhist priest, Rimproche. At first I was skeptical (as was Otto) about all this meditation and enlightenment “stuff,” and followed more closely Otto’s efforts to show Rimproche the “real America.” Picturing the Burgundy, gold-trimmed robed priest playing miniature golf and bowling was a fun thought, but soon I began to pay more attention to the Holy Man’s words. I think Otto’s reaction followed the same trajectory. By the end of Breakfast, I, like Otto was beginning to really like Rimproche and to wonder if there wasn’t something to this meditation “thingy.”I began to notice and sometimes read columns and articles that touted the value of meditation that came my way.

Lunch with Buddha continued the saga, Rimproche now married to Otto’s sister with a small daughter. This second book dealt with another road trip, but also with Otto’s maturation of a spiritual side which was clearly necessary for him to survive the death of his beloved wife. It went into detail about his meditations, his seeking for enlightenment, and the relative success he had with both. My inquisitive mind and spirit “ate this up”! By this point I had found a columnist in our Houston newspaper that came out each week, featuring self-care and advocating guided meditation as a way to destress, relax, and change one’s busy lifestyle. I downloaded twenty something guided meditations and began enjoying them on a regular basis. In fact, I became “good at it” and saw a definite relax in my normal “driven” attitude and lifestyle.

That’s when the fun began. Book three , Dinner with Buddha (published in 2015–hopefully there will be a book four, maybe “After Dinner Coffee With Buddha,” LOL, because this book upped and amped the plot 100%. Otto’s little niece turns out to be a very special child with special abilities (bordering on superpowers, LOL). Plus sinister Chinese strangers seem to be stalking her and her family and join the “chase” across country in the third road trip. Talk about action! The final meet-up in Las Vegas, of all places, is action packed and eerie to say the least. Otto comes to a turning place in his life and the end of the book gives us his dramatic decision. All of this action and many side-trips to National parks and scenic places manage to tie in all this meditation recommendation with an appreciation of Nature and a sense of cosmic and spiritual benefits to those who seek.

The three road trips with Otto and Rimproche have not only been a darned good, fun read, but they have enlightened my way of thinking about meditation specifically and “religion” in general. Who says a novel (or series of novels) can’t make you think?

FIRST LINE FRIDAYS

Both Hoarding Books and Wandering Words have First Line Friday memes. The idea is to copy the first line (or so) from what you are currently reading to see if someone else would like it too.

This is the first line from the second story “Big Driver” in Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars. “Tess accepted twelve compensated speaking engagements a year if she could get them.” Spoiler alert: The story includes a violent, graphic rape.

After reading “1922” about a man who murders his wife (see post last Friday, “Friday Firstliners”) and now “Big Driver” in which an innocent cozy mystery writer is brutally raped after speaking in a small town and taking a short cut home, I think I have had enough of this book. This is not the Stephen King who wrote The Stand trilogy or The Dark Tower series I admire as a favorite author because of his masterful writing style, but a writer who has nightmare ideas and jots them down as short stories. I think from now on I will stick to well-written novels like Mr. Mercedes or Dr. Sleep, which demonstrate the versatility and cleverness of King’s writing style rather than his weird short stories.

REVIEW: REDHEAD BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD by Anne Tyler (2020)

Ann Tyler’s latest offering, Redhead by the Side of the Road, delivers what we have come to expect from Ann Tyler: excellent characterization, “ordinary” protagonists, and middle aged angst.

The opening lines, “Micha Mortimer is a creature of habit,” introduce us to the most neutral man in the United States, and our first impression of him, as well as our empathy for him is just that–neutral. Micha is a handyman and manager of an apartment building who also runs a computer fix-it business, “Tech Hermit.”

The storyline is described as being, “an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who finds those around him just beyond reach.” We, as readers, are vaguely interested in Micha, this vague man who just “doesn’t seem to get it,” yet is satisfied with his mundane life. He goes about his scheduled routine, a specific day for each household chore, a specific daily round of activities, beginning with a morning run. It is on one of these runs that the reader sees the world through Micha’s myopic eyes, as he looks at a fire hydrant and sees it as a person, “a red head by the side of the road”–thus the title.

The book/narrative itself is not dull nor myopic, it is written in a witty, clever, detailed, pleasing style and never loses the reader from the first line to the last, a darned good read.

a darned good read

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012): A Review

Billed as a “literary adventure story,” Penumbra’s was a delightful read. Set during The Great Recession in the US, we find Clay Jannon, the protagonist and narrator up to his eyebrows in mystery thanks to his new night-shift bookstore job.

There are many strange things about the bookstore, first the fact that it’s open 24 hours, second that there are “customers” who come in during the overnight hours. The customers are strange themselves, hurried, older, “driven” and they do not buy many books, but instead hold cards that allow them to “check out” books from the “wayback” stacks. When he finally peeks into one of the massive tomes, these requested books, Clay finds out they are all written in some kind of code.

Who better at breaking a code than the attractive “computer-geek girl” who becomes more than a friend to Clay and his wealthy junior high geeky friend who finances and participates in the wacky adventure the three undertake to solve the 21st century mystery.

Even stranger than the bookstore is the its namesake, himself, Mr. Penumbra. A true “character” has been created here, a likable, peculiar, eccentric old man who reveals not only his respect for Clay and his computers but his “connections” with a medieval, possibly dangerous cult/sect.

This book has everything: things to make you laugh, things to make you sigh, as you travel all over the country to solve all things Penumbra. A great read!