Conor Kelly and the Four Treasures of Eirean: A fantasy adventure

Ali Issacs’ Tir na Nog trilogy begins with this fast paced, breath-holding adventure.  The cover describes the hero, Conor Kelly as “Descended from gods/Raised by mortals/Friend of the Fae”, but a less likely hero you will never meet. This novel will have special appeal to the YA audience because Conor is a late teen, trapped in an unresponsive body.  He can not move or talk, but he can think, and his crafty thinking skills serve him well.

At the beginning of the story, Conor, alone in his wheelchair in a deserted hospital hallway meets up with Annalee, a Sidhe Princess who kidnaps him, transporting him to the Land of Tir na Nog, a land of Irish legend and myth and the home of the Sidhe, a benevolent fairy folk. Soon Conor has reason to wonder, Can Annalee be trusted? Is she friend or foe? and What does she expect of Conor?  Early on Conor discovers he is related to Lugh, god of lightening and has special powers.  His quest is nothing less than the restoration of the Four Treasures hidden away and also sought by Bres, a powerful and evil king.

The multi-stranded plot, many twists and turns, and cliffhangers at the end of almost every chapter keep the reader invested throughout to its conclusion.  This reader, for one, is looking forward to the second book in the trilogy.

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ASTRAY by Emma Donaghue: A Review of a Short Story Collection

As I read the stories in this 2012 published collection, several seemed familiar, and I finally realized where I had originally read them. I had encountered them in The New Yorker over a period of time. Although I did not recall the author’s name, her style and type of topic her stories are based on was what rang a bell. Many of the stories are based on newspaper clippings or snippets of history.

The Houston Chronicle referred to it as “one of the best books of the year” in 2012, and every story is of “New Yorker quality”, whether a longer piece or a very short, short story. The book is divided into three sections: “Departures” (My favorite of this section was “The Widow’s Cruise” where a scheming lawyer decides to take advantage of a grieving widow, only to have his plan boomerang on him.), “In Transit” (My favorite of this section was “The Body Swap” which tells of a little known plan to steal and hold for ransom Abraham Lincoln’s corpse.  Its denouement is a humorous, “gotcha” ending which made me chuckle.), and “Arrivals and Aftermaths,” more or less miscellaneous stories (My favorite  of this section was the shocking and true story, “Daddy’s Girl.”).

The author chose her title expressed in the front from a thought in Virgil’s Aenid:

“…We wander, ignorant of men and places,

And driven by the wind and the vast waves.”

Indeed, all of the characters in all of the stories have gone adrift or “astray” in some way or another.

It is a masterful collection.

ANOTHER COZY MYSTERY: A Review

A cozy mystery, defined, is: someone gets killed, but it’s a really bad person anyway, and there’s minimum graphic and gore, and is the perfect read to cozy up to on a cold day.  Cozies are pure escape reading, and some of them are quite good–entertaining anyway. I have just finished the third of a mail package sent by my husbands cousin who lives in California.  I can’t wait to tell her that the author lives in Friendswood, Texas, not ten miles away from where I live.  According to a stamp in the front of the book, the cousin purchased it at a used paperback shop in Grover Beach, CA.  Lends a whole new meaning to the phrase, “small world” hmmmmm?”

The Cat, The Quilt, and the Corpse by Leann Sweeney, an award winning mystery writer, is in her “Cats in Trouble Series”. She has a line on the cover which says, “When cats are in trouble, their nine lives come in handy.”  The corpse in question is the lowest of the low, a catnapper! And the quilts?  Quilts made for cats, of course.

Widowed ten months ago, and  having moved to a small (really small) town in South Carolina from Texas, Jillian returns from an overnight quilt show to find her house broken into and one of her three cats (Katrina rescues, pure bloods) missing. How she tracks down her missing cat, discovers the corpse of the catnapper (making her and several prospective cat-loving friends ,suspects) is the gist of this story. Small town characters abound and if Jillian learns nothing else, it’s not to rely on first impressions.

This is an interesting story of making friends, being the outsider and the speculation of much gossip, and the important relationships we can forge with our pet-friends.  It is worth a read.  It is cozy.

TUESDAY TEASER

Ok, PWR members and friends thereof, it’s time for your Tuesday Teaser.  Let us know what you’re currently reading by randomly opening your book and copying two or so lines to tease us into adding your current read into our TBR (To Be Read) List. Be careful not to include any spoilers.   Here’s mine from The Cat, The Quilt, and The Corpse, a cozy mystery by Leann Sweeney from her “Cats in Trouble” series:

Several crates of cats which had been rescued from the dead cat-stealer’s house have just arrived at the cat-quilter’s home for temporary fostering.  “The Siamese  began wailing its head off, and my three [cats] ventured into the foyer to check out the noise.  Merlot (one of her cats) took one look at those crates (full of rescued cats), hissed and hightailed it back to wherever he’d been hiding.  But apparently Syrah (her second cat) wasn’t bothered, and Chablis (her third cat) was too drugged to care about possible unwelcome visitors.”

Who was this derelict dead man who had stolen her precious cat? And more important, who had stabbed him to death?  If only the cat could talk.

 

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS: A Tribute to Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Today’s musings are about a friend, in fact my “adopted” little sister, Debbie Nance.  Where do I start to list the things she has done for me?  Maybe at the beginning, when I first met her.  We were either at a Library Board Meeting or a Third Tuesday Book Club meeting when I was asked to give someone my e-mail address.  With the distain that only a Senior Citizen who thinks e-mail and other computer frivolities are a “waste of time” and for people who are “too lazy to pick up the phone,” I said (confession: I probably turned up my nose and gave a scornful “sniff”), “I don’t do e-mail.”

With no hint of judgment or condemnation, Debbie said “Oh you really should; you would enjoy it.” and explained to me that a volunteer at the library could help me set up an account, and I could use the computers at the library any time the library was open. Thus began my journey to technological savvy. With Debbie to answer my questions (and no question was judged a “dumb question”) I soon was saving myself a trip to the university to “do things required on line”, for I could do them at the local library.  That led to our (my husband and my) realization that we really needed a computer at the house, and with the help of a young man we had met at the Senior Center Learning Lunch, who really wanted to help Seniors just because he was such a fine, Christian young man, we set up a desktop computer, later added a laptop just for me, etc. etc.

And all of this because Debbie was kind enough to tell me in the gentlest way possible that I “really should…” Thank you Debbie for bringing me into the twenty-first century (perhaps kicking and resisting the whole way) and introducing me, not only to your wonderful blog (www.readerbuzz.blogspot.com) but to the blogging community.  And, as Paul Harvey used to say, you can see the results here for yourself, which is “the rest of the story.”

 

BEFORE AMEN by Max Lucado: A Review

This is a review of a re-read.  Every so many months, I check it out from my church library and give it a re-read as a check up on my prayer life.  Yes, I have bought the book, more than one copy as a matter of fact, but I always end up giving my copy away to someone who needs it just as much as I do.

This week I re-read the simply structured book, saying “Um hum, ok” and “Hmm, not so good”… as I read. The model prayer, the pocket prayer, as the author calls it because it can fit in your pocket, is simple:

Father,

you are good.

I need help.

They need help.

Thank you.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

That’s it. All you need to effectively pray are in those lines. Each succeeding chapter is a meditation or musing upon each line in the Pocket Prayer.  It begins with “Father” and thinks about what it means to have accessibility to God because He is our Loving Father.  It is a first chapter rich with nuances and thought-provoking concepts.

My favorite chapter, perhaps because I am so big on, “Give me applications, so I can USE this…”is the one that presents the line, “They need help.”  Lucado points out that when we see a Mom struggling with a screaming toddler, yanking her by the arm, we need to pray that line, “She needs help,” not be judgmental or condemning. Every morning when I go out to pick up my morning paper and maybe put mail in the box for the postman to pick up, I stand at the end of the sidewalk, paper in hand and look at each house on the cut de sac, praying that particular line, “They need help.” I look at and linger over each house, those families I know well and have known for a long time, and those I just wave at when I see them drive by. I pray specifically for needs I know about: illnesses in the extended families, broken or shaky relationships, small and demanding children and/or adolescents, whatever needs I know about.  I give a generally “Bless them in whatever way they need at this time” request for houses whose occupants I don’t know by name or know anything about them, but see them often–going to work, taking the kids to school or getting their mail or papers in.

Every line has ways you can put that line to work in your prayer life, applications you can make and start doing that makes you feel a part of the Lord’s work.

Max Ludcado is my favorite inspirational author, and this practical, convicting, applicable book is one of his best.

 

 

HOW TO BE BOTH: A REVIEW

Ali Smith’s 2014 publication, How to Be Both,  is a novel written around a novel, and is one of the strangest, yet best written books I have read.  It’s theme (This is a guess.) is androgyny. The beginning reads like poetry and is even placed on the page as such.  If there is a “story” it is that of a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to study under and apprentice herself to a fresco painter in Italy during the Renaissance.  Her characters in her paintings, like herself, are androgynous. The novel is also the “story” of a modern day  girl whose mother has just died.

The girl in the second novel, George, (named after the song “Georgie Girl” by her raised-in-the-sixties mom) takes a trip to Italy with her mother and young brother to view the tower where the artist from the first novel has painted some of the walls.  It is a present day museum. The mother and daughter “experience” the frescoes and share intimate thoughts/musings not often shared by a teenager and her mom.

After the mother dies, George visits a nearby museum where parts of the fresco details by the artist she and her mother admired are displayed.  She visits frequently which brings comfort and revelations about herself.  The one person who seems to understand George’s grief and deals with it along with her, a girl from school, is scheduled to move to Denmark shortly after she and Georgie begin to be friends just as they have begun to question whether they may be interested in becoming more than friends.

It is a strange book because it has no chapters, not even any sections, no barriers or boundaries between novels/stories, and thus becomes a challenge to read. It is a prize winning novel, definitely real literature, and perhaps a message to readers who explore its layers and depths.

I probably will need to and want to read this book again at a future date.