Recovery, Senator Johnston, and A Book Review

Aurora and the Denver Metro area are recovering in the wake of the horrible tragedy early Friday morning. Twelve people are dead, the youngest six years old, all of them young. The killer, James Egan Holmes, had assured himself a place in history as a monster. I don’t understand why such a designation would be desirable, but I don’t plan mass killings in my spare time, either.

I don’t apologize for not linking the killer’s name to an article. If you must read about him, find it yourself. This is the last time. his name will be mentioned here.

Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston  posted an amazing blog entry. I was going to try to summarize it, but you really ought to read it. I would vote for this man if I could. I already knew I supported his work on the Education committee in that state. I now wholeheartedly support him because the man comes from love, no matter what. You cannot go wrong with that. Some of the high points in the post were a reminder of all the people who rushed to the rescue of the injured; of all those who saw the movie and walked away unharmed; of the powerful love with which our city, state, and country is responding to the incident. He is right; love that pulls us into action to support the injured and the families of the lost and to try to prevent future atrocities will save us.

The United States is famous for giving. We volunteer. We open our doors and hearts. One way we express our loving willingness to support those who have been harmed, whether by nature or by monsters, is to open our wallets. If you want to donate to help those hurt in this shooting, click here. Giving First is a safe, reliable place to give money to those who will be caring for the injured, included those with mental trauma.

Book Review: Mercedes Lackey’s Hyperactivity

Mercedes Lackey is being hyperactive this year. This is her release list this year:

2012 A Host of Furious Fancies with Rosemary Edghill
2012 Arcanum 101: Welcome New Students
2012 Crown of Vengeance with James Mallory
2012 Dead Reckoning
2012 Home from the Sea
2012 Redout
2012 Witches
2012 World Divided

Dead Reckoning

With Dead Reckoning Lackey and Rosemary Edghill begin a new series for the Young Adult audience. The main characters, Jett, Honoria Gibbons, and White Fox, are all young, hyper-capable, people investigating the mysterious disappearances in the post-Civil War Wild West. They band together when their investigations all seem to lead to Allsop, Texas. Jett has the misfortune of being present when a horde of zombies invades Allsop and kills all the inhabitants. Luckily, she escapes to tell the others what she’s seen so they can begin figuring out what’s going on.

Overall, this book was just good enough for me to recommend it. Of the characters, Honoria Gibbons, a wildly inventive young woman who refuses to let her gender get in her way, and White Fox, a white man raised by a Native American tribe after surviving the destruction of his parents’ wagon train, were the best developed. Jett, masquerading as a male gunfighter as she hunts for her brother, had the most appealing back story but she came across as a caricature. The plot was cute, but not all that compelling. The action scenes, however, were great and kept me reading. I will probably read the next book in the series, but I’m not really impressed. Dead Reckoning struck me as an attempt at capitalizing on the lucrative Young Adult market with no commitment to contributing to it.

I will be reading more of Lackey’s prodigious output this year. I hope what’s coming up will be an improvement.


Today, I’m still struggling to remember that we really do live in a good world. I offer you what gives me peace at moments like this, the closing lines of Desiderata:

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. –Max Ehrmann, 1927

Dead Reckoning


Still Here, Really! And A Couple More Book Reviews

Yes, I’m still out here! My darling granddaughter has presented me with more challenges than I expected. I have had to confront such things as arthritic bones that I don’t remember being quite so stiff, the effects of not having had to be on the floor a lot, and the impending horror of a mobile infant in my overstuffed abode. Ah, well, these things will work out, I’m sure, especially because I am totally entranced by the child.

I’m sure you can see why!

One thing I can do is read. A lot. After all, a cranky baby can sleep in my arms and still allow me to turn pages. As a result, I have a couple of books to recommend to you.

Book Reviews

The Wandering Gene and The Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA
by Jeff Wheelwright

Mr. Wheelwright explores the path of a gene for breast cancer most often found in Jewish women to a small group of Hispano women in southern Colorado. He traces this bit of DNA through the wanderings of the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews up through the Spanish Inquisition and the forced conversions, attributing the gene’s emergence in the San Luis Valley to known or unknown Jewish ancestry.

The scope of the book is breathtaking. Wheelwright explores vast amounts of history, documents the history of genetic science and some current arguments among the scientists, and follows the personal tragedy of a family, all in the same book. Although the sheer volume of information is occasionally overwhelming, the story he weaves kept me reading. By including the story of Shonnie Medina and her family, he made the urgency of genetic research personal and immediate. Reconstructing her personality from her family’s recollections, he paints a picture of a woman the reader would have liked to meet, doomed by her DNA and, possibly, her religious beliefs. Much of the book is, by necessity, given over to broad overviews of history, religions, and past racial beliefs. The Medinas’ story brings all of it down to a pinpoint focus. Wheelwright makes a subject that I would not ordinarily care about, genetic research, interesting by placing it in a human context. I recommend this book, even though you may not care about the purported subject matter. It’s about so much more than just genetics.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

It’s 1946, in post-war London. Author Juliet Ashton, having had a wildly successful book, is casting about for a subject for her next book while living immersed in the dismal ruins of a bombed city. She receives a letter from a man she has never met, asking for information about Charles Lamb. Thus begins a correspondence leading her to discover the saga of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands between England and France, which was cut off from England and occupied by the Nazis. She ends up traveling to Guernsey to discover the stories of the people there and tell them to the world. What she finds changes everything for her.

This delightful book is written in the form of letters and telegrams between Juliet and others, including her publisher Sidney, her best friend Sophie, and the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The Society was created on the spur of the moment to save some people out after the Nazi-imposed curfew. As the book progresses, Juliet and the reader find themselves immersed in the society of Guernsey as the people begin rebuilding their world after the War. I had never known about the fate of the Channel Islands. The English, barely able to muster a defense for the mainland, let them fall to the Nazis without any resistance. The people on the island were expected to provide for the  soldiers, feeding themselves on what was left over. By the end of the war, both they and the Nazis were starving. The letters in this book describe the conditions the people in Guernsey experienced in the language of recovery and returning to normal. Juliet herself, depressed by the rubble of London, finds healing and calm in Guernsey. If ever you wanted to read a story of the triumph of the human spirit, this is one of the nicest I have ever read.

So there you have it. Eventually, I’ll have to review something I don’t like. I usually don’t waste too much time on lousy books, though. There are too many good ones out there to bother with sludge.

Have a wonderful, miraculous Monday! And go find something yummy to read!

Book Review: Santa Olivia and Saints Astray

I’m writing this quickly as my granddaughter sleeps. Amazing how easily we forget how much work babies are! She likes playing kissy games with Grandma when she’s awake and not grumpy, though. That makes up for a lot!

Today I’m reviewing Saints Astray by Jacqueline Carey. It’s a continuation of the story she started in Santa Olivia, which I highly recommend. In fact, I might as well review both of them. I should warn you, there may be spoilers here.

In Santa Olivia, Carey constructs a very believable near-present-day situation. A plague has gone around the world and wiped out large portions of humanity. When it was at its worst, the US government built a wall against the Mexican border and surrounded some small border towns, isolating them and declaring their inhabitants not only not citizens, but nonexistent. The people were encouraged to stay to provide services for the military. No services are provided for the people. The society in the town degenerates quickly into a gang-run government supported by the military because it provides a single point of contact with the community. Even the name of the towns taken over this way is eliminated; they become Outposts. The story takes place in Outpost #12, previously known as Santa Olivia after the town’s patron saint.

The main character, Loup Garron, was fathered by a soldier genetically modified by the government who planned to marry Loup’s mother. Unfortunately, he had to leave before Loup was born. The general in charge of Outpost #12 has promised any citizen who succeeds in winning a boxing match with the best boxer among the soldiers two tickets out of Outpost #12. Loup’s brother trains long and hard to win the tickets for himself and Loup, but is killed in the ring by accident. Loup, now orphaned, takes the guise of Santa Olivia to avenge the townspeople, knowing that she will lose her freedom and maybe her life if she is caught.

From the beginning, Santa Olivia is written with humor and compassion. Loup Garron is an engaging character who easily finds a place in the reader’s heart. She never views herself as a victim, willingly using her inherited abilities to retaliate against the military for their abuse of people who no longer have any rights or even legal existence. The theme of the book is justice for the underdog, including Loup at the end. I really enjoyed this book, often laughing out loud and crying occasionally. If I were rating this book on a five-star system. I would give it six.

Saints Astray,starts where Santa Olivia ends. Loup and her girlfriend Pilar have escaped Santa Olivia and are headed for a town in Mexico populated by other children of the genetically manipulated soldiers. The original men have died, but their children are very much alive. For the first time in her life, Loup is accepted for what she is. She and Pilar take jobs with a security company whose primary interest is in Loup. The company provides high-priced bodyguards for numerous international celebrities, who are always interested in something new. Pilar accompanies Loup on her bodyguard assignments, being billed as a high-powered administrator and organizer

Back in the US, an investigation of the Outposts has begun, with Miguel Garza, the other Outpost #12 citizen who Loup helped get to the outside world, as a major witness. When he disappears, Loup decides she has to rescue him, even though she is an outlaw in the US. If she is captured, she will be imprisoned with no possible escape. She is determined to go ahead, because no one else will fight for the freedom of the people in Santa Olivia.

If anything, Saints Astray is an even better book than Santa Olivia. Loup finds acceptance in the world for the first time but chooses to capitalize on her difference to bring attention to the Outposts. She chooses to help Miguel even though she is risking her freedom to do so. Over and over again, Loup chooses the greater good over her own because it’s the right thing to do. While this book could have been preachy and serious, Carey again employs humor and hope while never downplaying what Loup is up against. Saints Astray is about the triumph of the individual over the impersonal evil of government gone overboard.

As a side note, the reactions of Loup and Pilar when they discover how much technology exists in the world outside Outpost #12 are hilarious. It’s nice to see technology as something that allows people to exceed their reach rather than a dehumanizing influence.

As you can tell, I enjoyed both these books immensely and could not recommend them more highly. I hope you find them as much fun as I did.

Book Review and Work In Progress

I have a cold so I’m mostly working on staying warm and getting well at the moment. I have noticed that creativity and stuffed-up sinuses do not go well together. I have some thoughts about why this is, but they’re a little too gross to share.

Anyway, I wrote a book review over the weekend of Mercedes Lackey‘s newest offering in her Five Hundred Kingdoms series. Ms. Lackey constantly inspires me and I have read nearly everything she has written. She favors strong female characters, but doesn’t shy away from strong men either. Her work is definitely worth studying as a writer, because she appeals to a wide audience without losing her personal integrity and commitment to quality.

Review of Beauty and The WerewolfCover of Beauty and The Werewolf

Beauty and The Werewolf takes place in Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms universe. While I haven’t read the whole series, I read a short story placed in it. The setting is a medieval world where magic and paranormal events are the norm. We also have the Tradition, a force that tries to assure fairy tale endings onto people with paranormal abilities.

Bella Beauchamp is the eldest daughter in a household that includes her father, a stepmother and two stepsisters. Bella took over running the household when her mother died and simply continued doing so when her father remarried. She and her stepmother do not get along well and Bella sees her stepmother as a flighty social climber who is training her daughters to be much the same way. Resigned to being a spinster, Bella puts on a red cloak and goes to see a Granny to learn about herbs and their uses for healing and spicing. She thinks of becoming a Granny herself when the current one dies.

On her way home in the dark, Bella encounters a wolf who bites her, despite her efforts to prevent it. After the wolf disappears, she returns home. The next day, the King’s soldiers come to take her to Duke Sebastian’s house so she can be quarantined until she can prove she hasn’t been transformed into a werewolf. The wolf that bit her, you see, is actually a werewolf. During her stay, she meets the Godmother and is introduced to the idea of the Tradition, which has begun to push her in a fairy tale path. She begins studying fairy tales as well as curse, because Duke Sebastian has been cursed to be a werewolf rather than being bitten or inheriting the trait. As the book goes on, Bella increasingly has to battle the Tradition to achieve an ending that she chooses.

First let me say that I love Merceded Lackey’s Valdemar  and Elemental series. After reading Beauty and The Werewolf, I must read the rest of the 500 Kingdoms books. Bella’s fight to live her own life and not the life the Tradition tries to force her into is symbolic of the societal pressures everyone faces. Ms. Lackey masterfully employs the Tradition as a tool for espousing your own life and making your own choices. She also incorporates theme of service to others. At the beginning of the book Bella serves her family unstintingly and with few complaints except those she keeps to herself. When she is quarantined, she begins serving the Duke in the same capacity, managing his invisible servants and the household. She has a strong work ethic and hates to be idle.

The 500 Kingdom books  are written for Luna, a division of Harlequin books, so you can guess that they are romances with happy endings. Beauty and The Werewolf has a happy ending chosen by Bella and her partner, despite impediments like  a werewolf, a scheming mother, and, of course, the Tradition. This novel clearly illustrates Ms. Lackey’s commitment to people living and being responsible for their own lives. At the same time, she writes a darn good story with humor and grace. I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to you.


I have made some progress on a polymer clay project that emulates stained glass. I hope to finish it today or tomorrow. Here’s what I have so far:

Background for stained glass projectSorry for the blurry picture. I shot it on my work table, which has a glass cutting board over a piece of graph paper. The camera didn’t like the light bouncing back from the flash!


It’s hard to be joyful when you don’t feel good, isn’t it? I’m definitely struggling with that today. On the other hand, I’ve had the perfect excuse to sit around the house in my jammies and play with books and blogs and the like. Now I get to spend some time at my clay table, still hanging in my bathrobe and staying warm. What’s so bad about that?

Doing what you enjoy always perks you up. Right at the moment, I mostly get to do what I enjoy most, although it isn’t bringing in any money. Still working on that part!

Have a terrific Monday, however you spend it! Don’t forget to keep an eye (and heart) open for miracles!