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.

Joy

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!

I’m Still Here: Setting Up The Next Year

It took a while to get over the crud we caught while the family was here, but we are well and survived the holidays so far.

As promised, here is a picture of my new granddaughter. Isn’t she gorgeous? Of course, she’s grown and filled out since this was taken, like they always do! She’s two weeks and one day old today.

And there is my grandson, discovering his first birthday cake. He was so cute as he painted himself and the newspapers in frosting!

Writing

After NaNoWriMo, I gave myself a month off from The Book. The month is nearly over and it’s time to start the next part: reading and editing and deciding if it’s actually worth marketing. I’ve been looking at some support structures for this and I will probably go with ROW80. I discovered I get more done if I’m answerable to someone. The next round starts on Monday, January 2nd, with updates every Wednesday and Sunday. I’ll let you know what I’m up to on Sunday (after my football game).

By the way, you know that writers read, correct? Stephen King said it best: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Totally, totally true. You will never get better at this job if you don’t study what other people have done. At least, that’s my excuse! Anyway, since I read pretty obsessively, I’ve decided to start reviewing some of what I read here. This is mainly because I’ve just finished two really fine books and I just have to share!

The first one was Michael Connelly‘s latest book, The Drop. I’ve been a Harry Bosch fan for several years. The Drop is vintage Connelly, filled with suspense as Harry realizes a serial killer has been operating in Los Angeles for at least three decades. He’s also working a case involving the son of his nemesis, Irvin Irving. Although Harry is most concerned with the serial killer, the police department wants him to put all his energy toward solving the young man’s possible suicide. Harry manages to clear both cases with the help of an old friend. I really enjoyed this book. As always, Connelly breathes so much life into his characters that I hate closing the book, knowing I have to wait at least a year for another one! I’m considering starting a re-read of Connelly’s books, because he is really one of the best writers out there. I end up so involved in his stories that I always have to reread to see what he did to accomplish the fine storytelling. Thankfully, he also shares about his process on his website.

Venturing down a different path, I finally started the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Why did I wait so long? George writes good books, but he kills my favorite characters. A lot, he kills my favorite characters. I understand that once a character has fulfilled his role in a story, you have to something with them, but killing them? Couldn’t you just demote them or something so they have a chance to come back and contribute some more? Exile them to some character desert island, maybe? I recognize that storytelling is the process of creating nice people who have terrible things happen to them, but hanging their heads on pikes on the castle walls? Really?

Complaining aside, what makes George’s books so powerful is his mastery of Point Of View (POV). He tells the whole story of A Game of Thrones through the voices of many of the major characters. I’m guessing he will do the same in the rest of the series. It’s a very strong way to tell a story, creating a connection with each of the characters. I haven’t watched the HBO series and don’t currently plan to do so, but I will read the rest of the series. I have to a lot to learn as a writer from George’s work. I just don’t guarantee to like the process!

By the way, I’ve met George at science fiction conventions and he is actually a nice person with a dry sense of humor, usually willing to talk to other writers about how he does what he does. If I am so lucky that he reads this, I hope he gets a good laugh out of it. And thank you, George; I always get a little better from studying your art.

Art

What with the holidays and company, I haven’t done much this month. My friend, Lori Wostl, sent me an idea for a project that I’m considering. Again, the challenge starts January 2nd, so I have a few days to make up my mind. I’ll let you know.

Joy

The holidays are all about joy and plans and family and all the best things in life, don’t you think? I know, sometimes things don’t go the way you planned and sometimes families fight and sometimes dreadful things happen. In the end, though, if we remember that we love and are loved, there’s a lot of joy to be had here. I hope your holidays have included much joy this year!

Now, go create some awesome New Year’s resolutions and have a miracle or too!