Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Friday, March 27, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #7

I’m an omnivorous reader, but romantic suspense and urban fantasy are two of my favorite genres. I snapped this book up, intending to read it right away but something (probably actual work) intervened.

13 (Tallent & Lowery Book 1) by Amy Lignor

Downloaded February 18, 2014

“Tallent” is Leah Tallent, a starchy research librarian (an homage to the author’s librarian mother) who really hates dealing with library tours, especially ones like the rowdy group currently touring the Heaven & Hell exhibit (“a literary celebration of both sides of humanity”). Gareth Lowery is a handsome,. bronze-headed, green-eyed teacher who is not at all what he seems to be. And though he’s quite taken with redheaded Leah, his motives for being in the library are mysterious and intriguing.

We KNOW from the subtitle that these two are going to get together (probably in more than one way, if you know what I mean) but from the first page, the third person/dual POV book is engaging. It delivers and fans of books like Katherine Neville’s Eight and Discovery of Witches will be entertained. (Some reviewers have compared her books to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. I’m not one to scoff at that. Like everyone else on the planet, I read Da Vinci Code when it first came out and enjoyed it thoroughly.) I’ll definitely be reading more of the books (particularly the next one which has a Shakespeare connection).

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #6

I was still living in Los Angeles when I downloaded this book and I can tell from the date I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. The city I’d lived in since I was 22 was becoming meaner and more expensive by the day and I was having a hard time staying afloat. I was balancing a crushing day job schedule with writing and a lot of time, if the choice came down to writing or sleeping, sleeping won.

200 Motivational and Inspirational Quotes that Will Inspire Your Success compiled by Kathy Collins

Downloaded August 21, 2015

Interestingly, this book is now “out of print,” but you can access Collins’ own quotes all over the internet. They seem pithy enough but back then? I’m not sure they would have raised me out of my funk.

Tsundoko no more Day #5

My father was in the army and I lived in France as a child. I’ve been trying to polish up my French skills ever since.

1000 French Verb in Context by Alex Forero

Downloaded January 17, 2016

I’m a big fan of the website A French Word a Day because Kristi Espinasse always introduces the words or phrases in context and that way they’re easier to remember.  In a way, this is a less interactive Duolingo approach to learning the language. You learn the verb. You use it in a sentence and you move on. Do I have the discipline to do that for a hundred days? Je ne sais pas, but it’s not like I can use the excuse that I don’t have the time.

Rezso is back!

Last year, I wrote a one-off novella for a boxed set called Guardians. It was meant to be about shifters (mostly werewolves), but since I can't ever just write something simple, I came up with a new kind of origin story about a character who's a shifter. The boxed set didn't sell that well (are people tired of werewolves?) but the stand-alone novella has been a surprise hit with my readers. (Thank  you all!)

The sequel is going to be out this spring--next month if I can manage it, by May for sure. I'm having an enormous blast writing it, and I hope that will translate into enjoyment for those who read it. And here's the cover!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

tsundoku no more Day #4

Reading about food calms me sometimes and the day I downloaded this recipe book, I was STRESSED. You might wonder how I can remember a random day almost five years ago, but there are two reasons—one, it would have been my father’s 94th birthday and I was missing him; and two—our landlord had just told us he wanted his mother to move into the home we’d been renting and if we could get out by the 8th, he’d give us all our deposit back. My best friend had found a new place for us in another city and he was already gone, leaving me to finish up the packing as he handled logistics on the other end. But after I downloaded this, I ended up going to sleep instead of reading.

100 Easy Recipes in Jars by Bonnie Scott

Downloaded December 7, 2015

The recipes run the gamut from cookies to soups and beverages (including the ubiquitous “Russian tea” recipe that includes Tang). About half the book is taken up with directions on how to fill your jars and decorate them afterwards, and there are some smart tips for dealing with super-fine ingredients so the presentation of the jars looks sharp. These are great for DIY gifts, especially if you include a baked batch of the same cookies so your gift recipient knows that they’ll be able to make the same tasty treats themselves.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #3

I know why I downloaded this book. I love urban fantasy and it was Halloween.

100 Days in Deadland (Deadlands Saga Book 1) byRachel Aukes

Downloaded to Kindle October 31, 2013

The blurb: “100 Days in Deadland is set in near-future Midwest America decimated by a zombie plague. In this truly unique story, our heroine— I Cash, an office worker and weekend pilot—is forced on a journey through hell that echoes the one Dante took in the “Inferno,” the world-renowned first poem in Dante Alighieri’s epic medieval tale, The Divine Comedy. In both tales, there are nine circles of hell that must be survived, and the thirty-four cantos of the “Inferno” are reflected in the thirty-four chapters of 100 Days in Deadland...reimagined zombie apocalypse style.”

This is a first-person story that starts out with a BANG, and doesn’t let up. Aukes’ style is readable, action-packed, and enjoyable, so it’s no surprise to find out that she’s a bestselling author (and a Wattpad star!) The setting is refreshingly different and her heroine, Cash, is extremely relatable and likable. I’ll definitely be reading more of Aukes’ work. (She’s got a new post-apocalyptic bounty hunter trilogy coming out next month and a science fiction novel coming this summer.)

Monday, March 23, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #2

I used to be a food writer, so I read cookbooks for fun, not just to discover new recipes.

100 Casseroles and Main Dish Recipes by Chris Carraveau and Ann Carriveau

Downloaded to Kindle November 10, 2014

The subtitle of the book informs the reader/cook that the recipes were gleaned from church and community fundraising cookbooks. My mother and grandmother had a whole collection of those spiral-bound books and they always seemed to be a mixed bag. Many of the recipes started out with opening a can of soup, and a lot of them seemed to be ingredient by ingredient replicas of commonly available recipes found in similar cookbook. The authors here seem to have just cherry-picked recipes from their own collection.

I was disappointed there wasn’t any commentary between the recipes. (I like reading about how authors got a recipe from their Great-Aunt Edna who was a terrible cook but had one signature dish that was fantastic, or how the original recipe was invented to work around war-time rationing and Depression-era financial woes and yet still turned out to be a family favorite.)

The formatting of the book is funky (it looks like it was just shoveled into a file without regard to how it would look) and some of the titles and recipes are repeated, but if you enjoy “retro food” heavy on the meat and dairy products, there are a lot of comfort food recipes here, especially those involving ground beef, noodles and cheese. Chances are, though, you already have these recipes in your kitchen, hand-written in faded ink on food-stained index cards with a cheery greeting like, “From Kate’s Kitchen.”

Random lobsters

Apparently random lobsters are showing up on sidewalks on both the East and West Coasts. The last time that happened, I wrote this story, The Next Best Thing.

Priscilla Newnam had seen some peculiar things in her 87 years, but she had never seen anything like the bug that crawled across her spotless kitchen floor one sunny July morning as she was eating her oatmeal. For one thing it was huge, at least a foot long, maybe more. And it was strange in a disturbing way. It looked like what you’d get if you mated a roachy bug to a lobster. She decided it probably was some kind of mutated crustacean that had somehow crawled up from the harbor and found its way into her house. And now she was going to have to deal with it before she’d had a chance to finish her coffee.

There wasn’t much that Priscilla Newnam was afraid of but the sight of the creature scuttling across her kitchen linoleum was…unsettling. Priscilla’s husband Tom had been a lobster man, and once or twice he’d brought home some strange things he’d found in his pots. There’d been a yellow lobster once, a freakish thing that he’d sold to the owner of a clam bar in Massachusetts who wanted to keep it in a tank to attract customers.

A reporter and photographer from the Cape Courier had come up to the house to interview Tom about the one-of-a kind find. The photographer, a young fellow named Julien Thibidoux, had take Tom’s picture holding the yellow lobster up by one claw. Then Julien had taken a picture of Tom and Priscilla just because he wanted to and sent it to them later. That had been thoughtful of him, Priscilla thought. She still had the picture on her bedside table.

As she watched the thing move from one end of the kitchen to the other, Priscilla decided that she was going to play the “age card” and turn the problem over to someone else. She hardly ever did that because she didn’t want people to start thinking of her as an old biddy, someone who’d outlived her usefulness. But just this once, she decided she would call animal control and let them handle it.

When she described what the thing looked like, the dispatcher sounded skeptical but said she would send someone out right away.  Because Priscilla had a young voice, the girl on the phone didn’t dilly-dally around asking her foolish questions like, “Are you sure that there’s really a foot-long bug on your floor? Priscilla hated people who assumed that because you were no longer young, you were somehow stupid. She’d been a math teacher until she was 65 and she could still do long division in her head.

The animal control officer they sent was a young man, just out of college from the look of him and he took one look at the thing on her floor and said “Fuck me.” And he didn’t apologize for the profanity in that falsely smarmy way so many people did when they were talking to old people. As if they’d never heard a bit of salty language. Priscilla liked him for that.

“You ever see anything like this before?” she asked him.

“Yeah,” he said, surprising her, “I have.” He excused himself and went back to his truck and when he came back, he had a little collapsible trap with some kind of stinking bait in it. 

“What are you going to do with it?” she asked him.

He didn’t look up as he answered, his attention focused on coaxing the thing into the trap. “Gonna ship it to the university. Marine biology professor up there is paying $100 for specimens. He says they’re showing up all over.” It belatedly occurred to the exterminator that Priscilla might claim ownership of the bug so he added, “I’ll split it with you.”

She waved away the offer. She knew young people always needed money and Tom had left her comfortable. “No, just ask him to email me when he knows what it is,” she said.

“Email?” he repeated, as if he’d never heard the word before.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Tsundoku no more Day #1

I’m going to be reading in alphabetical order. First up is…
Scuze Me While I Kill this Guy by Leslie Langtry

Downloaded to Kindle 7, 2014

This is a first-person comic crime novel told by Ginny Bombay, a snarky single mother who comes from a long line of assassins. Tonally, it reminded me a lot of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books with her likable cast of characters (boyfriend Diego, brother Dakota, aka Dak) and her deadpan narration of the silly events that unold.

Langtry is a USA Today bestselling novelist and there are nine other books in her “Greatest Hits” series. (And it’s not the only series she’s written.)

“I turned the engraved invitation over in my hands and sighed. I hate these things [family reunions]. We only held them once every five years, but for some reason this time, the reunion was only a year after the last one. That meant someone in the family had been naughty. That means one of my relative was doing to die.”

Tsundoku no more--reading the books on my TBR list

One of my best friends gave me a Kindle for Christmas ten years ago. She knew I loved reading and buying books and she also knew I was struggling financially as a freelancer in Los Angeles. That was when I discovered the "free books" newsletters and it made me feel RICH to know I could SHOP and BUY books any time I wanted. So I downloaded anything that sounded interesting and actually filled up my Kindle cache and had to dump some books out to make room for new ones.

Now that I'm more financially secure, I buy at least as many books as I download for free; but I haven't gotten around to reading most of them. I know I'm not alone. The Japanese even have a word for buying more books than you can possibly ever read--Tsundoku. 

In the last few weeks, my workload has fallen off dramatically. Most of my work comes from Los Angeles, which is in lockdown. My clients in France, Norway, and Italy are all okay, but they're all in self-quarantine or lockdown. I am fortunate enough to have a bit of a cash cushion, so I'm not freaking out (yet)  but my state is about I'm being careful about money.  Which means not buying anything that's not edible or a paper product.

Instead of worrying, I'm burying my anxiety by writing. But I've also decided to start reading my way through my substantial (and eclectic) collection of unread books. I'm going to post on that adventure every day with a few words about the book in question. (Kind of like that "short story a day" challenge I did with Brian Lindemuth back in the day.) It'll be something to give me structure and it'll free up space on my Kindle for more books. (And if, God forbid, I run out of Kindle titles before the pandemic runs its course, I have a few bookcases full of books as well.)

Now more than ever, we're all in this together.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Anxiety Baking

It's a thing and in normal circumstances, I'd be all over the recipes being posted. (I especially like the recipes for quick breads because bread is the staff of life and it's ALL good.) But I'm living in a household with someone on a strict diet and I'm not mean enough to fill the place with good smells. (I  used to live in an apartment overlooking a grocery store with an in-store bakery. When they baked their cinnamon rolls and honey bran muffins, it was all I could do not to run over and buy a dozen. (They also fried their own chicken, which was even worse. And it was GOOD fried chicken.)

So, not doing any baking. But that doesn't mean I can't write about baking and live vicariously. About a year ago I bought a series of cozy covers from the awesome Lou Harper of Cover Affairs. They were meant to be cozy mysteries, but I decided instead to make them cozy romances in the vein of my Halliday Theater and Meredith Manor Hotel stories. (And by "my," I mean books written under the name Katherine Moore. I borrowed my pseudonym from my maternal grandmother. My other grandmother was also named Katherine, called Kate, so I still have a 'sudo on reserve if I need it.)

The stories are set in the small town of Heaven, Washington--a place not unlike the small Pacific Northwest town where I actually live. I've already fallen in love with the characters and am having a lot of fun pairing them up and adding recipes. (I used to be a food writer and was the "Chocolate Editor" for for a year. I've also worked as a caterer. So food is one of my passions.)The books are going to have a lot of really good recipes (I am friends with a woman who's just been voted one of the top pastry chefs in Portland), but here's an instant gratification recipe that's a variation of those "cake in a cup" recipes you can find online.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Notorious Minds boxed set Cover Reveal

What does it take to commit the perfect crime?

Delve into these dark and twisted tales by twenty USA Today and International Bestselling Authors. No matter what kind of crime story typically catches your imagination, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

Conspiracies, political plots, and yes, even murder, are just a few of the crimes waiting inside this box set. Discover a narcissistic grandmother running an underground syndicate, or a support group bent on murder…and even a serial killer who turns his victims into fairytale creatures.

Prepare to delve into an elite killing team who made a mistake, an oil rig filled with secrets ready to explode, and a reporter uncovering a treasonous plot.
Uncover how fatal passion, jealousy, and fear can be to a group of royal marines and learn from a detective who is far from home fighting demons from his past in order to stay alive.

This fantastic boxed set comes from Fire Quill Publishers, and will be on pre-order from today (St. Patrick's Day) for 99 cents until publication day (October 13, 2020). AND if you preorder now, there are goodies!! See how to grab the bundle here.

Order on:


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Reading for the Apocalypse

In a parallel life I would have been an epidemiologist. Ever since I read Guns, Germs, and Steel, I’ve been fascinated by the interaction of plagues and society. (Another book along the same lines that has been in my library for years is Plagues and Peoples, along with Ken Alibek’s book about the bio-weapons lab he ran. It’s called Biohazard and it will keep you up at night.) Laurie Garrett’s book The Coming Plague is a sobering, informative read. You might have seen her interviewed on The Rachel Maddow Show recently. She did not have good news about COVID-19. And the Band Played On, the monumental work about the AIDS epidemic by Randy Shilts (who died of AIDS at 42.) is a must-read.

I’ve been thinking of fictional plague books lately. I’ve read a lot of them, and am wondering what else is out there that I haven’t read. I subscribe to the service K-lytics, which tracks genres in books, and a few months ago dystopian books—particularly ones featuring disasters like plagues and EMP episodes—were all the rage. I’m wondering if people are still fascinated by those “what if” books now that we’re in a real-life plague crisis of our own. Would reading those books now allay anxiety or make it worse? Could anything be worse than refreshing news feeds every two minutes?

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell: a review

When a teenager is lured into an obsessive relationship with a teacher 30 years her senior, the emotional fallout lasts for decades.

This novel seems inspired by novelist Joyce Maynard’s relationship with J.D. Salinger. Seeing the May/December romance through the filter of the #metoo movement is an ingenious way to explore the characters, both in their past and in their present. It is also reminiscent of Philip Roth’s THE HUMAN STAIN. It is, of course, crafted to be current and controversial, but mostly it’s a little creepy. (In the 2000 sections where Vanessa is 15, it is genuinely disturbing seeing the way Strane “grooms” her. No wonder her mother reacts the way she does. The writer also brings in Monica Lewinsky and her infamous relationship with President Clinton. “She seems nice,” Vanessa says when she and her mother watch Lewinsky’s interview with Barbara Walters. Her mother, seeing the situation from a 20th century perspective, is not convinced.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

To be added to the TBR list--The Grace Kelly Dress

Or more accurately--the To Be Read Bookcase. (I've gone way beyond a bookshelf of unread books.) This one had me at the cover. The Eiffel Tower? You know I'm there. It also comes with a lovely recommendation from author M.j. Rose, so bonus.  (I trust other writers when they tell me a book is good.)
Here's the book description: 
Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

Brenda Janowitz' work is new to me, so lucky me--because she already has a handful of wonderful-sounding books in her backlist, so I'll have days of fun reading. Check out her book on Amazon (The book is everywhere, but I have a Kindle, so Amazon is my go-to.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

It's Women's History Month. A few thoughts.

I don't know about you, but the history classes I took in high school and college (Women's History wasn't yet a subject) were pretty devoid of women. There was Betsy Ross and Dolley Madison, possibly Abigail Adams. There was Harriet Tubman and Sacajawea and Madame Curie and Florence Nightingale.  There was Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt. (Amelia Earhart offered to give Eleanor Roosevelt flying lessons but FDR vetoed the plan.) And there were was Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great, two of the greatest, most influential monarchs who ever lived. (And no, Catherine the Great did NOT die the way you think she did.)

Madame C.J. Walker
And then there was...who else? Marie Antoinette? Joan of Arc? I learned the name of every single explorer who ever traveled up the St. Lawrence River or set foot on the South Pole or traveled across the Sahara Desert. But none of my teachers ever mentioned Wu Zetian or Nellie Bly (I wanted to be a reporter when I grew up. I was crazy about Nellie Bly.)  There was no mention of female astronomers, mathematicians (R.I.P. Katherine Johnson), or explorers. I learned about Henry Ford but not about Madame C.J. Walker.

So many amazing women have touched and changed history. This month I'm going to catch up on my reading about them.

Allison Pataki, the author of The Traitor's Wife (Benedict Arnold was the traitor in question), has written an engaging article on 7 Forgotten but Extremely Influential Women from History. Check it out here.