Thursday, August 28, 2008

Recommended Reading: The Mandy Dyer Mysteries by Dolores Johnson

I'm recommending a fun murder mystery series today. Specialized murder mysteries (where the main character is a caterer, or a cook, or a wedding planner, or shows dogs, or races horses, etc. - and funny enough I have read series with all of those) seem to be making a splash the last 10 years, but I haven't come across many that feature a dry cleaner. The Mandy Dyers Mysteries by Dolores Johnson fills that void, and does it very well.

The first of the series is Taken to the Cleaners, first published in 1997.

Mandy Dyer is all business. She has to be. Left high and dry by her would-be-lawyer ex-husband, Mandy turns to her uncle's Denver dry-cleaning company-and soon finds herself in charge. Now, amid the hissing presses, rattling rails, and the fanciest computer system around, Mandy is making a go of it-even if her social life isn't. Then Betty the Bag Lady comes in with a man's suit, slashed and stained with blood.

How much evidence can one piece of clothing hold? From the blood to knife gashes and some long strands of blonde hair, Mandy, working alongside a handsome Denver detective, soon realizes that the garment, too small for murder victim-just might fit the killer. But with a prominent lawyer dead and a potential witness missing, returning this suit to its rightful owner isn't going to be easy--until Mandy, a woman who suddenly has one too many men in her life, figures out how to make a killer come clean.

Mandy is a fun and humorous protagonist, who feels very real and approachable. The characters are likable--even down to Mandy's cat--and the story flows well. The mystery may be a little more solvable than I would have liked, but I enjoyed the book so much it didn't bother me too much. And I did run to the library afterwards to read the rest of the series.

Taken to the Cleaners
isn't going to change your life or perspective of the world, but it's perfect for a light, fun read. The rest of the books in the series are: Hung Up to Die; A Dress to Die For; Wash, Fold, and Die; Homicide and Old Lace; Buttons and Foes; Taking the Wrap; and Pressed To Kill.

Dolores Johnson worked as a journalist on newspapers in Oregon, California, Wyoming and Colorado, but she always wanted to write and sell a murder mystery. You can find out more about Dolores Johnson and her books on her website.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Word of the Week #17

bruit - [broot] - transitive verb (which just means a verb that takes an object. But before you go being impressed, I had to look it up)

Definition: to report, to noise abroad

Usage: Presidential hopeful Barrack Obama's choice for VP was widely bruited about in the media before it was officially announced.

Interesting trivia: Bruit comes from Old French, from the past participle of bruire, "to roar."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review of Enjoying the Journey from Paradise

Another book review (and interview) of Enjoying the Journey has been posted over on author Carole Warburton's blog, Musings from Paradise.

"I've never met Jaime Theler, but after reading the book she co-authored with her mother Deborah Talmadge, Enjoying the Journey--Steps to Finding Joy Now, I would like to. Mainly I'd like to find out how it is that someone as young as she is has managed to capture so much knowledge and wisdom in her life."

Wow. I'm blushing. Click here for the full review.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: Harry Potter. . . I mean, The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff

An acquaintance has been telling me all summer that I simply have to read The Hound of Rowan, the first book of The Tapestry series by Henry H. Neff. I finally got it from the library and read it.

The Hound of Rowan has many elements beloved by Children’s/Young Adult fantasy fans, among them:

  • A normal young boy, who is even a bit of an outcast, that has a surprising, almost magical experience one day out of the blue.
  • Missing parents (in this case, a mother).
  • A mysterious letter that tells the boy about an unheard-of school he can go to.
  • A magical world that coexists with the non-magical, secret to most everybody.
  • A boarding school made up of First Years, Second Years, etc. (Hmmm. I didn’t know we really did that in America).
  • Classes in magic (only called Mystics).
  • A school sport that the different classes play against each other, and which the main character excels at.
  • A really evil bad guy that almost destroyed the world as we know it, that everyone thinks is dead, but really isn’t.
  • A prophecy about a child that will defeat the bad guy.
  • In order to raise the bad guy into power, they need some of the main character’s blood to mix in a cauldron to finish the “elixir.”
  • An unfortunate thing happening to a classmate at the end of the book that everyone seems to blame the main character for.
  • Awards given to students at the end of the school year, and the main character receives one for his courage.

Any of that sound familiar? I felt like I was reading Harry Potter in an alternate dimension. In Neff’s dimension, Harry’s name is Max McDaniels.

Harry—I mean, Max—lives with his bumbling, overweight father after his mother’s mysterious disappearance two years ago. At the Art Museum, Max has a strange vision of a tapestry, and then he is plunged into a magical world. He is a Potential, offered a scholarship at Rowan Academy in New England to become one of the magical guardians of the human race against The Enemy, the remnants of the followers of the bad guy named Astaroth (who everyone says is dead, but really isn’t). You’ve got the normal boarding school-type stuff, a little love interest, magical creatures, and another student that hates Max’s guts—although why he does is a complete mystery to me.

To give Neff credit, it isn’t completely a Harry Potter knock-off. The students don’t get their magical creatures until after they get to school. They don’t have brooms or use wands (yet) and there isn’t a slimy teacher that detests Max. There is a little more technology at Rowan than Hogwarts in the place they call The Course, which is a lot like the Holographic Deck on Star Trek. There aren’t any house elves either, but a reformed ogre and reformed man-eating hag named Mum that was, frankly, a little creepy. In fact, there were a few creepy things about the book, like the fact that other adults encourage Max to lie to his dad, Max lets strange people into his house when his dad is out of town (with absolutely no hesitation), and lets some strange guy sleep over, too. As a mom I was thinking, “Are you crazy?!” Neff must not have young kids.

The Hound of Rowan was an okay read. I honestly couldn’t get past the Harry Potter parallels and ended up finishing the book just to see how many more ideas would be the same. Now, I know that any story that is vaguely similar to Harry Potter runs the risk of being accused of copying, but the number of similarities were too glaring to overlook.

Unfortunately, Neff couldn’t copy the great character development of J.K. Rowling. The characters were a bit flat, and, in the case of Max’s roommate, David, changed out of the blue. I read one scene and had no clue where the new David had come from, because all of a sudden he was this amazing magical bookworm that had figured out where Astaroth was imprisoned, when before that scene he was almost furniture. Furniture that coughed a lot (which was all the thought I had given David).

By all means, if you’re looking for another Harry Potter (not another great story like HP, but the same story), read The Hound of Rowan.

As an author, my biggest question is how in the world this even got published. I really want to know, because I have this great idea about a girl that moves across country and her first day of high school she is drawn to an amazingly good-looking boy who seems for some reason to hate her guts. It turns out he’s a . . . demon, yeah . . . and even though demons usually eat teenage girls, and she looks scrumptious to him, he is a reformed demon and so only eats wild animals, along with his demon “family” that also only eats animals. The girl and this demon fall in love, but she also becomes best friends with a demon hunter, so this weird supernatural love triangle thing ensues. And, did I mention that my main character is a bit immature, but for some reason all these supernatural beings love her to death.

I think it would sell…

Monday, August 18, 2008

Word of the Week #16

chichi - [SHEE-shee] - adjective

Definition: Affectedly trendy

Usage: Even though I like to think of many of the adolescent girls running through the mall as chichi, according to Google it's a DragonBall (kind of like Pokemon?) character. Hmmm.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another Enjoying the Journey review

From author Liz Adair over on her blog.

"Enjoying the Journey is a book that needs to be read in pieces to allow for pondering in between times. It would be great for a morning devotional, because it will brighten your whole day."

Click here to read the full review.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Word of the Week #15

In honor of the Olympics.
**Photograph by Rolf Hicker. Visit his website at**

vexillology - [vek-sil-ahl-uh-jee] - noun

Definition: The study of flags

Usage: Flags of the World is the Internet's largest site devoted to vexillology and boasts more than 72,000 flag images.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Recommended Book: These Is My Words by Nancy Turner

I apologize for slacking on the blog lately. I have 3 kids that are so done with summer break (and each other, and me) and are taking up more time than normal. When school starts in a couple weeks you'll see a virtual explosion of blogs.

"A nice girl should never go anywhere without a loaded gun and a big knife." --Sarah Agnes Prine

Today I recommend another of my favorite books, These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 by Nancy Turner.

These Is My Words
is the first in the Sarah Prine Series. Based on Nancy Turner’s family memoirs and set in diary format, the novel follows Sarah and her family as the travel from the New Mexico Territory and carve out a new life on a ranch near Tucson in the 1880’s. To steal a sentence from the School Library Journal, “Turner describes the trip in such detail that one has a sense of having traveled with Sarah, experiencing all of its heartache and sadness, its backbreaking exertion and struggles, its danger and adventure, its gentle and lighter moments.”

Sarah is vivacious and gifted young woman, who starts out in the book as an illiterate 17 year old. Her writing changes and evolves as Sarah pursues learning through books and not only self-educates herself, but grows as a loving wife and mother.

These Is My Words is beautifully written, sometimes heartbreaking, but overall heartwarming and uplifting. I hated to put the book down, and fell in love with spunky Sarah. I loved how well the diary format worked, and finished the book with the resolve to write in my own journal more faithfully. Sarah’s story continues in Sarah’s Quilt and The Star Garden.

Nancy Elaine Turner began writing fiction as an assignment for a class at Pima Community College. My book club called Nancy Turner after reading Sarah's Quilt and she was very nice and funny.

One little tidbit she told us that you may not find elsewhere was that she spent a frantic day or two putting together an actual small quilt to send to her publisher so they could see what she envisioned for the cover of Sarah's Quilt. I wonder if she sewed a quilt for The Star Garden, too. You can find out more about Nancy Turner at her website.

Monday, August 4, 2008

word of the week #14

pusillanimous - [pyoo-suh-LAN-uh-muhs] - adjective

Definition: Lacking in courage and resolution; contemptibly fearful; cowardly.

Usage: While throwing those little red berries from bushes at passing cars, my friends deserted me in a pusillanimous manner when one driver slammed on his breaks and leaped out of his berry-splattered car to yell at us.

*true story*

Saturday, August 2, 2008

An interview with little old me

Here's an author interview about my latest book, Enjoying the Journey. The company who did it, Reel Line Productions, did an awesome job editing most of my ramblings. I found that I do much better writing things down, and even talking in front of groups, than talking in front of a camera. *blushing* I hope you still enjoy hearing some of my thoughts. If nothing else, the peaceful background music is nice...