Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cyber-Launch Book Party for DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES by Linnea Sinclair!

This is it! You've found it! Watch out for Zombie doo-doo. Jorie really has a way of shoving people's noses in it.






The glorious day for the the Cyber-Launch has finally arrived. Actually, the party runs all day today AND all day Friday. A drawing for zombie-related goodies will be held Friday night, 7 p.m. Alaska Time. I've been waiting since June because that's when I received the Advanced Reader's Copy and reviewed it. If you pop over to read the review, you'll notice it still had the old cover. Scroll down to the Archives on the left to find it in June 2007.
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2007 has been a stellar year for Linnea Sinclair as an author, I think. She released GAMES OF COMMAND in March. I reviewed it on the old Star Captains' daughter blog. You can find it by scrolling down the left side of this blog to the link 'Kimber An's Blog.' Once on the Star Captains' Daughter blog, scroll down the right side until you find the link 'Star Captains' Log.' Click on that and look for the Games of Command Cyber-Launch in March 2007. My book reviewing really took off after that, so I created the Enduring Romance blog just for that. I reviewed GAMES OF COMMAND right here in April. Scroll down to the Archives to find it. GAMES OF COMMAND has one of my favorite heroes of all time, Branden Kel-Paton. Hey, I even have a Games of Command sweatshirt! I've talked to about five people about the book because of that shirt. Just last month I was in the grocery store with my little darlings and a lady kept looking at me funny. Finally, she said, "I love your shirt!" Loved the book, so I was eager to read and review DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES. Both novels are excellent! Even though there aren't any babies (Kimber winks at Linnea.)


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I asked Linnea to answer a few interview-type questions and this is what she said:
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Kimber asked- Can you share the journey you took in creating DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES? What first inspired you? How long has this story been in your head? Did it flesh out right away or did the details come later? How did the characters reveal themselves to you?
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Linnea replied- Before I wrote science fiction romance for Bantam, I was a private detective in the St. Petersburg, FL area (before that, I was news reporter, but that’s another story…). I loved being a PI—research and puzzle-solving are two of my favorite things (well, after hitting the clearance racks at TJ Maxx or Steinmart). The Down Home Zombie Blues gave me a chance to play at being a detective again and bring in the science fiction romance part of me.
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I started writing ZOMBIE about four years ago. I have a very clear recollection of sitting upstairs in my (then) office in my (then) house in Palm Beach, FL (moved since then), pounding out chapters as my husband’s twenty-something year old daughter, Jaime, sat on the floor, reading them as they came out of the printer. Jaime makes a cameo appearance, by the way, as Homeland Security Secretary Jaime Warren in the end of the book. I felt it only fitting.
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But I never finished writing ZOMBIE because shortly thereafter I was contracted by Bantam and then I was in edits and such for the books they bought from me, including FINDERS KEEPERS and GABRIEL’S GHOST. I’m not one of those authors who can write two books at the same time. So ZOMBIE sat until the next time Bantam wanted books from me and I included several chapters with the proposal.
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My stories and characters flesh out pretty easily and quickly. That doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises. But what I end up with is very close to what I start with. I generally know most of what I need to know by the first chapter or two. Jorie and Theo were no exception. I do some freewriting before, kind of a “tell me about yourself and why I you here?”. But I learn best about my characters in action.
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I had an absolute blast writing Zombie and excellent input from some real live police officers and detectives, including Sgt. Steve Huskisson of the Plantation (FL) Police Department and Detective Sgt. Scott Peterson of the Collier County (FL) Sheriff’s Department. I’m sure they thought I was a bona-fide Signal 20 (mentally unstable person) with some of my questions, including having them theorize what they would do if they were abducted to an alien starship. But it gave me a better understanding not only of procedures that would have to be followed through the plot but also of the training and mindset Theo would have.
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What’s also fun about the book is that is went on sale November 27th. The actual action takes place starting mid-December. So the reader ostensibly could be reading the story on the day that action actually take place. Okay, not making myself clear here but I think you get the drift.
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I think of the books as “Men In Black meets CSI: Miami”. I hope readers of all genres find it a fun and fast-paced read.
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Kimber asked- Some of our guests are writers. Can you share your process for? What's your best advice on how they can improve the craft of writing to meet publication standards?
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Linnea replied- Pre-Bantam or post-Bantam? Yeah, there’s a difference. Right now my process from taking a story from rough draft to submission-ready manuscript is don’t sleep, drink lots of coffee, ignore the husband, miss a month’s worth of hockey games and write. Before that, I had a life.
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But basically, writing to contract has made me damn the fact the I’m a pantser and I try to spend the time I’m not writing, learning to plot. I really don’t recommend how I write books to any sane person. Learn to plot, however you want to define that. It doesn’t have to be a formal outline. It can be freewriting. It can be 3x5 cards. It can be using one of those writing programs like PowerWriter or WriteWay. It doesn’t matter what method. The point is to do it.
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Right now I’m using PowerWriter but I’ve used WriteWay and both are really good. PowerWriter is saving my patootie with SHADES OF DARK (sequel to GABRIEL’S GHOST). It’s forcing me to at least sketch out what is likely to happen for the next two or more chapters. It’s invaluable in keeping my notes in one place, which is really why I bought it to begin with. I build cities, worlds, star systems, cultures, political systems, interiors and exteriors of starships and space stations in addition to the usual characters and such. I was writing all this down on various scraps of paper, which I ‘d subsequently lose. Or the cat would barf up a jellied chameleon (because they never really digest those lizards) on my notes and there was no way to recover what I’d written.
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But plotting comes pretty much after you’ve learned to write. To improve your WRITING (not necessarily your book production), Dwight V Swain’s TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER is the answer. If you read only one how-to, that’s it. It’s my “Desert Isle Keeper” as AAR says.
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For me, as a reader and a writer, the crux of the story is conflict. The protagonist wants something, the antagonist prevents him from getting it. Or as excellent SF author Jacqueline Lichtenberg puts it (and her site—www.simegen.com—has a free writer’s school chock full of great tips): an urgent and undeniable I MUST slammed flat up against an equally as formidable YOU CANNOT. I’m paraphrasing that here but I hope you get the drift.
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So if you’re looking to get bought by an agent or a major publishing house, working the conflict is your story is critical. Learn the difference between conflict and complication (Jacqueline taught me that). My agent, Kristin Nelson, and I were talking about that a few months back and she said she realized that she rejects a lot of very nicely written manuscripts because the writer uses complication, and not conflict. Briefly, if Kimberly and Brad Pitt go on a picnic and ants show up, that’s complication. If Kimberly and Brad Pitt go on a picnic and Angelina Jolie shows up, that’s complication. The ants don’t care what Kimberly and Brad are doing. Angelina very sincerely gives a damn and will take action based on her feelings. {Kimber's Note: Don't worry, Angelina, I'm happily married and my husband's cuter anyway.}
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Kimber asked- What experience do you hope readers will take away from reading DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES?
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Linnea replied- The same thing I’d want them to take away from any of my books: fun. I try to write what one would watch in the old “Saturday Afternoon At The Movies” mode. Fun, fast-paced, exciting, romantic. Characters you want to cheer for. I noticed a comment by a blogger/poster on one of those more literary, foo-foo kind of book forums (where books with deep, hidden symbolism and existential angst are rated highly) and one poster sniffed down his nose that my books were “good for beach reads.” Well, golly gee gosh-almightly. Yeah, they are. That’s exactly what I want to write: good, fun beach reads. Damned with faint praise, as they say.
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But specific to ZOMBIE, I hope readers also take away a little more respect for law enforcement. As I mentioned above, I worked very closely with a number of police officers and detectives. Their jobs are to a great extent, thankless. At one point in the story, Theo notes what he was taught by his field training officer: Be courteous and polite but never forget that the next person you meet you might have to kill. Most people find that quote amusing but the truth in it is what law enforcement deals with every day. So ZOMBIE is my tip of the hat in thanks to all the men and women in blue out there.
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Kimber asked- Here’s a question I’m just curious about: If the powers-that-be asked you to write a Star Wars or Star Trek novel, would you? Why or why not?
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Linnea replied- I’d definitely think hard and long about it but I would be concerned with my ability to render someone else’s characters correctly. If I could invent my own characters for their world, sure. But I don’t know if I could properly write Leia or Kirk.
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Kimber asked- Can you tell us a little bit about your next novel? What’s the title? When is it due out?
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Linnea replied- SHADES OF DARK is due out late July, 2008. It’s the closing of Chaz and Sully’s story with started in GABRIEL’S GHOST (2006 RITA award winner.) I get asked to go into details on SHADES a lot but I’m reluctant to because it’s a bit difficult to do so without revealing spoilers for GABRIEL’S. I know. What? Not everyone on the planet’s read GABRIEL’S GHOST. Shocks me, too. But they haven’t. I’ve been shelved in science fiction and, in spite of the RITA win, a lot of romance readers aren’t familiar with my books. SHADES will be shelved in romance (I’m told) and pitched as a romance novel (some of my books are shelved in romance but that’s because store managers know my readership. I’m technically not listed as a romance author with the chain bookstores). Suffice it to say, SHADES is just as intense as GABRIEL’S. Just a lot more steamy. Yeah, I see Kimberly sitting back in shock. Me, too. I love to write sexual tension, flirtations, the longing… the chase interests me more than the capture, as they say, and my books reflect that. While I don’t slam the bedroom door shut, I don’t put my characters intimate moments under klieg lights, either. {Kimber's Note: Shocked? Me? And just how do you think I got pregnant four times? They weren't Immaculate Conceptions, Bub!}


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But SHADES, well, it’s steamy. My critique partners went….wow. I didn’t know you would write like that. ::fans self::
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I think why I can with SHADES is that Sully and Chaz are an established couple, for all intents and purposes, married. This is not wild passion exploding in the first ten minutes of meeting (something that sometimes gives me pause as to its plausibility). This is a committed relationship. Plus, Sully being Sully (see, I can’t get into spoilers here) and being a bit unique, well, making love to Chaz has a special purpose and meaning. And a very special purpose to the plot.
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I’m dancing around facts, I know. Best I can do. Here’s Bantam official back cover blurb, per latest update:
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For two fugitive lovers, space has no haven,
no mercy, no light—only...
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SHADES OF DARK
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LINNEA SINCLAIR
Award-winning author of The Down Home Zombie Blues
and Gabriel’s Ghost
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Before her court-martial, Captain Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren was the pride of the Sixth Fleet. Now she’s a fugitive from the “justice” of a corrupt Empire. Along with her lover, the former monk, mercenary, and telepath Gabriel Ross Sullivan, Chaz hoped to leave the past light-years behind—until the news of her brother Thad’s arrest and upcoming execution for treason. It’s a ploy by Sully’s cousin Hayden Burke to force them out of hiding and it works.
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With a killer targeting human females and a renegade gen lab breeding jukor war machines, Chaz and Sully already had their hands full of treachery, betrayal—not to mention each other. Throw in Chaz’s ex-husband, Admiral Philip Guthrie, and a Kyi-Ragkiril mentor out to seduce Sully and not just loyalties but lives are at stake. For when Sully makes a fateful choice changing their relationship forever, Chaz must also choose—between what duty demands and what her heart tells her she must do.
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Kimber asked- Wow! Sounds like more rip-roaring good fun! Is there anything else you want to share about DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES?
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Linnea replied- Well, if readers buy it RIGHT NOW they can be reading the action as if it was happening in real time. The story starts mid-December and involves the December holiday season (though it’s NOT a “Christmas story” by any means). So you could be reading what Theo and Jorie are doing on the day before Christmas, actually ON the day before Christmas. I think that’s kind of fun.
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Linnea Sinclairhttp://www.linneasinclair.com/ -- www.myspace.com/linneasinclairRITA(c) Award Winning SF Romance from Bantam Spectra2005: FINDERS KEEPERS, GABRIEL'S GHOST, AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESSComing 2007-08: GAMES OF COMMAND, THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES, SHADES OF DARK
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Speaking of rip-roaring good fun, I really must go finish putting together the party. Linnea will give away a prize in the drawing Friday night. If you want to enter, just make sure to comment and that your username is linked to same way for me to contact you.
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"All right! Who let Junior have coffee?"



P.S. Please be respectful of my younger friends at the party. Thank you.
;)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Children's Books for Christmas, Part 4

This is the last Sunday I'll be posting my recommendations for Children's books for holiday gift-giving.
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First up, for babies through Kindergarteners, we have IS YOUR MAMA A LLAMA by Deborah Guarino. One of my children loves this one so much, she loves it to shreds and we have to buy a new copy about every six months. This has been going on since she was a baby. We always buy the copies new, so the author and illustrator should be very pleased we're funding their retirement.

Second, we have another book for the toddlers through Kindergarteners. My son absolutely loves this one. Maybe it's because it's a father/son story and he just adores his Dad. Oh, and he loves pizza too! LITTLE NINO'S PIZZARIA by Karen Barbour.



Dads are doing great today. Here's another Dad story my children love - PAPA PICCALO by Carol Talley. This is the story of a bachelor cat who gets adopted by two orphan kittens. It's a great affirmation of the value and importance of Great Dads.

For age eight and above, THE CHRONOCLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis is a necessity of childhood. Get the boxed set. I'm highly critical of good Fantasy for any age group and I think this series is the best place for a child to start in that genre. I'm also one who is extremely careful about when my children start reading what. This depends on the child's level of comprehension and that's why it's vital to really know the child in question.

Finally, if you didn't find what you were looking for in this series of Sunday recommendations, I suggest popping over to the PBS website and accessing the web page for the show, READING RAINBOW, which is hosted by LeVar Burton. He's the actor who portrayed Geordi LeForge on STAR TREK ENTERPRISE. This is a show that's been running for over a decade, I think. You will find tons of book recommendations there!
http://www.pbskids.org/

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Favorite Early Childhood Education Books

Instead of a book review this week, I thought I'd list my favorite Early Childhood Education Books for parents, grandparents, caregivers, and anyone who wants to help children ages birth to about four years.

I'll list them in order of age appropriateness.
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YOUR SELF-CONFIDENT BABY
MONTESORRI FROM THE START by Paula Polk Lillard
ACTIVE LEARNING FOR INFANTS (this series has manuals for toddlers, two year olds, three year olds, and four year olds)
TODDLER THEME-A-SAURUS
BEFORE FIVE IN A ROW (This is a literature-based homeschool curriculum. Almost all the books are secular, but the authors are Christian.)
MONTESSORI PLAY & LEARN
THEME-A-SAURUS (there are several of these manuels)
ACTIVE LEARNING FOR THREE YEAR OLDS (remember this is a series of manuels for each age group)
FIVE IN A ROW (This is a literature-based homeschooling curriculum for preschoolers and Kindergarteners. Almost all the books are secular, but the authors are Christian)
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The authors of FIVE IN A ROW have a website with supportive message boards. Bear in mind, they are Christian. http://www.fiveinarow.com/
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One of the most important goals of Early Childhood is the child learning to read. Here are my favorite manuels for that.
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HOW TO MULTIPLY YOUR BABY'S INTELLIGENCE (I followed this loosely.)
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO READ IN 100 EASY LESSONS
PHONICS PATHWAYS
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Additionally, there are several good books on baby sign language. I only teach that if a child's thinking skills are advancing faster than her verbal language skills.
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Here are some videos for language development:
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BILINGUAL BABY

LYRICAL LANGUAGE
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We use these to help our children become familiar with German which is formally taught in later childhood. Both programs have videos for many different languages.
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That's all I can think of for now. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Children's Book Recommendations for the Holiday, 3rd Sunday

Good morning! As some of you know, I'm filling in for Lady Bronco on Sundays for November. This is the third Sunday I'm giving my suggestions for holiday gift-giving for children. These are books which I have read a bazillion times to children as a Certified Professional Nanny (one class at nanny school was on choosing books for children) and as a Homeschool Mom who uses literature-based and history-based curriculum.

One of my proudest moments as a mother is when I find a child asleep with an open book on her head. In case you're curious, that's JESSE BEAR, WHAT WILL YOU WEAR?

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I read to my children from birth. My eldest child started phonetically sounding out words a month before her second birthday. My second child did the same thing at age four. My third hasn't learned yet, but loves to be read to and sits in on lessons. I believe in teaching children to read as soon as they are able and want to. Considering that, I thought maybe some of you would like recommendations for teaching children how to read. It really is very easy and you don't need expensive curriculum. First of all, you need to read out loud to the child every day. Nurture the passion for learning they're born with. Share the love. Secondly, get a good book on the teaching children how to read. Here are my favorites:
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TEACH YOUR CHILD TO READ IN 100 EASY LESSONS by Siegfried Engelman



PHONICS PATHWAYS by Dolores G. Hiskes



I think it's important to find a good program and stick with it. Don't just try and give up after a few days. Don't push your child. Make it a fun, quality-time activity you do every day. Also, contrary to what many programs claim, your child does NOT have to learn to write at the same time. Actually, children vary on their handwriting ability based on their fine motor skills. Each child matures differently in this area and I don't worry about any lag in skills until about age eight.
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On with the children's book recommendations!
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For babies through about age six, I suggest SNOW BALLS by Lois Ehlert. Ms. Ehlert is one of those authors you can buy any book by and know you're getting a winner without cracking it open. Her stories are compelling and her illustrations vivid. Her words are in large print, which is great for early readers. Run your finger under them as you read out loud.



Patricia Pollaco is another author whose books you can buy without even looking and know you got a winner.


This is one of our favorites for the preschool through about age seven group. Other Patricia Polacco favorites at our house include THUNDER CAKE and MRS. KATZ AND TUSH, both of which are loved up to about age nine.

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Finally, for the older children, check out the Step-Into-Reading, Step 4 books by Random House publishers. This non-fiction series covers everything from the Titanic to Pompeii. My eldest child couldn't get enough of them!



That's it for this Sunday, Blog Buds! Now, go out there and make a difference in a child's life by getting her a new book for Christmas.

;)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cyber-Launch Book Parties

As some of you already know, we're throwing a Cyber-Launch Book Party for DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES by Linnea Sinclair right here on the Enduring Romance blog November 29th and 30th.
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To get an idea of the lunacy involved, you may want to look to the left hand side of this blog and click on the link 'Cyber-Launch Book Parties' under the heading 'Special Blog Columns.' That link will take you to the parties for NEFERTITI by Michelle Moran, MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND by Lisa Shearin, and LOTTERY by Patricia Wood.
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Can't get enough hot goblins and mummies singing Kum-bah-yah around a campfire on a beach in Hawaii? Pop over to my blog http://starcaptainsdaughter.blogspot.com/ . Scroll down to the low-lower right hand side to the heading 'Star Captains' Log' and go searching the old archives for the Cyber-Launch Book Parties for SWEET SENSATION by Gwyneth Bolton, GAMES OF COMMAND by Linnea Sinclair, and MY FAVORITE EARTHLING by Susan Grant.

Well, gotta go. I usually take Sundays off the Internet, except email and responding to blog comments. However, I'm covering for Lady Bronco on Sundays for November. Check back here in the morning for great books to buy for children. The holidays are coming! Give a gift which will impact a child for life.
;)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

THE BURIED AGE by Christopher L. Bennett

I've mentioned how I don't usually read STAR TREK novels, except for novelizations of the movies or big episodes. My reason has been there's little room for character growth, which is important to me as a reader. For forty years, the Star Trek universe has been growing. The frachise had to be careful about how authors were allowed to grow the characters in the novels. This is because they had television series and moves still in production. Right now, there is a movie in production involving the original television story. I'm skeptical because the characters from the original Star Trek show are cultural icons, dearly loved by fans all over the world. It's going to be a monumental task doing them justice in a re-make. There are no Star Trek television shows in production at this time.

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I was drawn to the cover of BURIED AGE and induced by it to read the back cover. The idea of Picard going on an archaelogy dig on an alien planet intrigued me, so I thought I'd give Star Trek novels one last try. It seems the lull in television series-making has allowed the novels to really grow. While there is nothing really new about Captain Picard in this novel, his character is expanded upon and given substance and reason for.

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THE BURIED AGE starts with the destruction of the USS Stargazer by the Ferengi. Picard destroys the Ferengi ship and saves most of crew by carrying out a brilliant tactical maneuver. However, Starfleet still feels compelled to investigate him for negligence and such. Losing a starship is devestating for a captain like a Picard and he considers leaving Starfleet. Instead, he takes a leave of absence and explores his interest in archaelogy.

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This is where it gets interesting. For all his courage and might, we learn Picard isn't quite as brave as all that. He meets up with Guinan, the lady who will be his bartender on the Enterprise one day and you know her nack for turning people inside out. Good listeners are like that, you know.

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The thing about Picard is he's afraid of romantic relationships. Oh, sure, he gets laid almost as often as Kirk did, but he's completely incapable of maintaining a romantic relationship. He's inept and scared. Thank goodness for Guinan, a spiritual big sister to him, or he would have no womanly balance in his life at all. Of course, he develops a sisterly relationship with Counselor Troi eventually too. Troi is another one of my favorite female characters because she's another wonderful listener. Guinan and Troi are non-threatening because they are trusted sisters - not potential sexual partners who might learn enough to be an emotional threat. Without them, Picard would be half a man.

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So, Picard gets involved in an archaeological expedition to an alien world. This is where a lot of people complain there's too much detail and techno-babble. I agree there's a lot, but I can speed-read. Besides, it stretches the brain to read more technical Sci-Fi once in a while.

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Poor Picard. A couple of his team members bring their children. It's no surprise to me that a man who fears and is inept at romantic relationships would also be terrified of children. There is no creature more honest, basic, and intuitive than a child. No one can lay a man emotionally bare faster than a child! Being a former trained nanny and now a mother, I absolutely enjoy being around young people all the time. There is nothing more amazing than seeing the universe through their eyes. So, it's no surprise that I had enormous pity for Picard at this point in the story. There's such a joy he missed by being bottled up in fear.

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Despite these faults coming forth in THE BURIED AGE, Picard isn't diminished as a character because most of us know we're all human and we all have faults. Picard is made real by all this.

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In any case, during the process of exploring the ruins of the alien planet, Picard's team de-ices a woman frozen in time. Of course, she falls in love with Picard. At this point, the female reader might think, "Oh, berrruther, here we go again with the zitty teenage boy fantasy of having alien women wanting to jump into the sack every other page." This is, like, the third time a woman's jumped Picard in the story and, of course, she has wide and uplifting breasts. You knew this wasn't a Romance novel, right? Give teenage boys a break. After all, they're just venturing forth into a universe of women. At about fifty years of age or so, Picard really ought to know better. Besides, don't call teenage boys zitty unless you're willing to be called a wrinkled old prune too!

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Where was I? Oh, right, Picard getting jumped by hot alien women. Needless to say, things get really complicated from this point in the story. Besides Guinan and Troi, Picard also benefits from the steady wisdom of Lieutenant Kathryn Janeway. Yes, she's the future Captain Kathryn Janeway of Voyager fame. So, yanno, cut Picard some slack. Sure, I can't understand what's so attractive about a bald white guy...




Um, well, okay, maybe I can understand the appeal just a little bit...

Hmmm...oooh...yeah...

"He's dead, Kim."

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I know that! (sigh) But, what a wonderful legacy Yul Brynner left us. {Note to Self: Sew an Egyptian kilt for husband.}

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Okay, I'm back. All silliness aside, this is a great novel for Trekkies who miss their beloved characters, especially Picard, Guinan, Troi, and Janeway. There's a lot more dimension to them than I found in Star Trek novels a few years ago and a great adventure too. Now, I'm inclined to buy some of the other new ones out this year too.




Sunday, November 11, 2007

Children's Book Recommendations for Holiday Gift-Giving, Part 2

Hey there, Blog Buds! This is the second Sunday of children's book recommendations whilst I fill in for Lady Bronco who is taking November off book reviewing for a myriad of real life reasons. First up, we have a fabulous book for the babies and toddlers you know. Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle team up for POLOR BEAR, POLAR BEAR,WHAT DO YOU HEAR? They've teamed up for several children's books, but really you can go into any bookstore and find a book by Eric Carle and know you have a winner without even cracking it open.
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For the preschool through about third grade children in your life, pick up BARN DANCE by Bill Martin Jr and John Archanbault. It's a rythmic story you can almost sing to.
To expand the horizons of the little girls with too many Disney princess dolls, get MUFARO'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS by John Steptoe. The Cinderella story can be found in many cultures throughout the world. This one is from Africa.

For children starting to read chapter books or seven to 10 year olds, try the MAGIC TREEHOUSE series by Mary Pope Osborne.

My children gobble them up! She sends two beloved characters through a new adventure each book. These adventures cover topics from history and science, everything from the Titanic to gorillas.

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One word of advice, you might want to ask the parents if the children you're giving books to already owns them. These are all popular children's books. The Magic Treehouse books are a series with new ones coming out all the time. It's a good idea to find out which ones the child might already own.

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Happy Sunday and Happy Shopping, All. Pop over to Amazon.com if you can't wait.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

UNLUCKY by Jana Deleon

You know I only post positive reviews, so take what I'm about to say in context. I'm not interested in the Mystery genre. Nearly all of the Romantic Suspense novels I've tried to read bored me. The characters were stamped out with cookie cutters, the plots followed tired formulas like a paint-by-the number picture, and, of course, there was always the Standard Issue Sex Scene. I steer wide around those sections of the bookstore.
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Unless Jana Deleon's name is on the cover, or she recommends a book.
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So, why does Jana Deleon grab me with her blend of Romance and Mystery when so few authors of similar flavor do? Why did I choose her debut novel, RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU, as my Book of the Year for 2006 over my usual fare of Historicals and Science Fiction?
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Jana Deleon has an original voice as an author. Some people don't get her brand of humor, but I totally do. Her characters go multi-dimensional the first time they step onto the page. I can't stand predictable plots which Romance and Mystery are infamous for, but she keeps me glued into the story. She's also strong on secondary characters. Most Romances I read focus totally on the Hero and Heroine and the secondary characters are cardboard. This bores me. In real life, there's so much more to a romance. We all have weird friends and family members.
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UNLUCKY starts out with the heroine, Mallory, stopping into JT's Bar for a cold one after a long, hard day at work in the construction business. Did I mention Jana's tendency to mix totally hot babes who would be stereotypical Romance Heroines if not for their totally non-traditional Romance Heroine jobs? Mallory has the standard tiny waist, perfectly sculpted legs, and boobs which stand up on their own, but, believe me, you don't want to meet this lady in a dark alley with a nail gun! If she didn't nail you with it, her bad luck would probably drop a piano on your head. One of her previous boyfriends brought along extra protection (and I'm not talking about a c-o-n-d-o-m here) on a date and accidentally blasted a rather important part of his male anatomy. Needless to say, she has a hard time getting a date, gorgeous though she may be.
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Anyway...where was I? Oh, popping into JT's for a cold one. So, she pops into JT's and is bribed into cooling a pool game because Scooter bet two hundred on the town drunk who happens to be a priest. Cooling means Mallory hangs out with the guy they want to lose so her bad luck rubs off on him. Sure, other women can destract male gamblers, but they have nothing on Mallory.
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The plot starts twisting when Mallory learns her uncle, Harry, who owns the construction business she works with and is like a father to her is putting together a big gambling tournament with some major shady characters - a politician, several criminals, and such. He's about to lose his business due to medical bills. Determined to save her uncle's keester, Mallory signs on to 'cool' the cards. She intends to get together the money he needs to keep from going under.
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What Mallory doesn't know is one of the dealers, a damn Yankee no less, is an undercover agent. His name's Jake and he's there to find out what happened to his partner and who made it happen. Jake's partner left behind a wife and child. Mallory is too caught up to really notice him at first, but Jake wouldn't be a man if he didn't notice her. And, of course, he is a man.
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The tournament gets going and things heat up. All the baddies show up and Mallory can't believe her uncle actually invited them. Then, Jake gets assigned to her table. The two lines of determination collide and allign and sparks fly.
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I won't say anymore, except that the Heat Level is Highly Sensual. The book's in the stores now or you can order it off Amazon.com.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Children's Books for Christmas

Surprise! It's Kimber An filling in for Lady Bronco on Sundays for all of November. With the holidays fast approaching, I thought I would share my favorite children's books with you. It's time to think about shopping for all the children in your life, whether you personally gave birth or adopted them yourself. The fastest way into a parent's heart is to do something thoughtful for his or her child. These are books which I have read a bazillion times to many children as a nanny and as a mother. Today's books are suitable for boys and girls. I've arranged them by age group. Today's books have rhyme and/or meter. Got your pen and paper handy? Here goes!
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HAND, HAND, FINGERS, THUMB by Al Perkins. This one's great for babies and toddlers. It comes as a board book too, which I highly recommend because the littluns will love it to shreds.








THE WIDE-MOUTHED FROG by Keith Faulkner. The frog in his book is very proud to be a wide-mouthed frog who eats flies...until he runs into an alligator who eats wide-mouthed frogs! This one's great for toddlers and preschoolers.











WE'RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT by Michael Rosen. To do this one properly, you really must clap or slap your knee. My children especially love the part with the wind, "Wooo-wooo! Woooo-woooo!" This one will hold on to toddlers through Kindergarteners.

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BRINGING THE RAIN TO KAPITI PLAIN by Verna Aardema. This one is based on an African folktale. It's excellent anyway, but if you want to be completely blown away you must buy or check out from your local library the Reading Rainbow video for it. That's the PBS kids' program hosted by LeVar Burton (Geordi LeForge on Star Trek The Next Generation.) The reader for it is James Earl Jones. You know, he's the guy who did the voice for Darth Vader in the original trilogy. Oh my goodness, it's mesmerizing! This book will enthrall all ages, but is especially loved by Kindergarteners through Fourth Graders.




I won't be doing books for Middle Grade or Young Adult. They warrent their own individual reviews just like grown-ups. Happy shopping, Everyone!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Historicals & Picture Books

Hungering for Historicals? Pop over to Clean Reads (link's on the sidebar.) The past several reviews have been historicals.
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I've decided to talk about my favorite children's picture books on Sundays throughout November while Lady Bronco takes her break from reviews. Even if you don't have children, you'll benefit from this because the holidays are coming. People are making babies all over the place these days. Odds are good you have grandchildren, neices, nephews, or children of friends you want to buy presents for. Besides books being adored by children, you can draw some satisfaction in knowing you played a small part in a child's potential for greatness by giving him or her an excellent book. So, pop in Sunday with pen and paper handy.
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This won't be any extra work for me. After years as a nanny and a homeschooling mom, I can quote these books in my sleep. "Yertle the Turtle was kind of the pond. A nice little pond, it was clean, it was neat..."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

FUSION FIRE by Kathy Tyers

So I was looking for more variety in my Science Fiction Romance and it occurred to me that there could be Science Fiction with strong romantic elements. I remember reading Kathy Tyers' Star Wars novel, TRUCE AT BAKURA. I thought she handled Han and Leia post-Return of the Jedi but pre-marriage pretty well in that. I found her website and looked up her booklist. She's not an incredibly prolific author, but she has won acclaim for the books she has written. In recent years, she's been widowed and returned to college, so her output of Science Fiction has slowed down even more. Nevermind that.
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I wanted FIREBIRD, but it wasn't readily availible to me here in Alaska. I didn't want to wait around for Amazon to deliver so I grabbed FUSION FIRE off the shelf. FUSION FIRE is the sequel to FIREBIRD. Now, I really need FIREBIRD!
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FUSION FIRE picks up where FIREBIRD leaves off. There's a synopsis of the first novel at the beginning and it's just wonderful, but I still think FUSION FIRE would be most enjoyable if the first book is read first. Anyway, Lady Firebird is newly married and pregnant, the result of her romance in FIREBIRD. It's rare to find a married romance, a pregnant heroine, less-than-graphic-nookie, and a powerful couple all in one novel. To say nothing of finding all that in a Science Fiction novel.
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FUSION FIRE is darker than I like my Science Fiction to be. I prefer fun and adventure. However, Kathy Tyers' ability to bring out the dimension of her characters and their motivations and such makes up for that.
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The story starts with Firebird wondering her house because, like many pregnant women, she can't sleep. You can tell the author has been through this herself. No fakey Padme-pregnancy ala Revenge of the Sith in this extraterrestrial yarn! She takes on an assassin in the dark and I believed it. She shares a telepathic bond with her husband which is typical when his species mates, but it's not typical for her species. She's adjusting to it, however. It's interesting to follow how they interact. The whole telepathy thing is carefully done, consistant, and believable.
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Firebird has no choice but to adjust. She has nowhere else to go. Going back to FIREBIRD, the heroine was supposed to carry out a suicide mission. She's a princess, but there's no tiara for her. The royal family she was born into lives under a law which considers all royal children beyond the heir and the spare to be 'wastlings.' It is the wastlings' duty to die gloriously for their gods in battle. This is to prevent family members from contesting succession to the Throne. However, she chose Life even though she has no political ambitions. Now, she's been tried, convicted, and sentenced to die a horrible death. Worse yet, this law also forbids anyone in the royal family besides the Queen from having children. The spare heir may have children only if the Queen fails to produce. And, as mentioned, Firebird is pregnant. With Twins!
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Firebird's husband, Brennen, isn't exactly a carefree soul either. Another powerful family is convinced by a prophacy that Brennen's family will destroy theirs.
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So, there are two major intergalactic factions who want this couple dead. The ante is upped when Brennen's brother and his wife and his three children are murdered in their beds. The youngest, a pre-teen girl, is forced to kneel for her execution while the murderer telepathically shows her what he intends to do to the rest of her family. This part really sent chills up my spine.
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As anyone who's ever been pregnant can empathize, Firebird feels exceptionally vulnerable anyway. What the assassins all seem to be completely stupid about is that it's really stupid to threaten a Mother Bear. All Alaskans know this. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs. Stay far, far away. Never surprise her. Never, ever annoy her. Especially when she's packing heat.
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One of Firebird's sisters tries to use her new throne to loosen up the old laws which could lead to Firebird's reconcilation. Another sister plots Firebird's murder to prevent this from happening. Talk about a dysfunctional family! Will forgiveness and peace win out? You won't know because this is not genre Romance. You're not promised a 'Happily Ever After.' However, you'll really want one with each page you turn.
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The underlying theme of this novel seems to be how some people twist religion to suit their own purpose, even to the point of twisting it to justify the murder of innocent children. While espousing devotion to their religion, they're actually using it to gain power for themselves. Meanwhile, those of pure faith struggle to hold onto it in the face of this evil. Very pertinent to our times, I think.
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I still recommend you read FIREBIRD first, but you don't have to. It's obvious Firebird and Brennen enjoy, ahem, 'Wedded Bliss.' However, the romance is demonstrated by the deep emotional bond which empowers a couple to lay down their lives for each other. The sweeping intergalactic epic tale will keep you going from start to finish with plenty of high-tech gadgetry and really cool space battles, slinking assassins, nasty scum the likes of which Han Solo would know all about, and intriguing alien species.
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And you won't be horrified if your ten year old reads it either. There is violence, but no gore. Lovemaking takes place behind closed doors making the Heat Level Sweet.