Just when you think that everything under the sun has already been "done," something like Alex Bailey's novel The Future Memoir of Ann Jones: A Time Travel Romance with a Splash of Magic hits your radar.
This is a charming, refreshing and fun read, and I was immediately drawn in by the intriguing title. After all, the phrase "future memoir" is counterintuitive.
Although the story is book-ended by letters, I quickly became happily immersed in the plot and forgot where the story was in time and space. It was a bit of jolt at the end when the spell was broken and I was brought out of it, but nevertheless, I appreciated the author's distinctive approach, which she pulled off so well.
The main character, Ann Jones, is extremely likeable and provided many laugh-out-loud moments, and the author has created a quirky but loveable cast of supporting characters. While I enjoyed the story, characters and the subplots, it was wanting to get to the bottom of the knitting club, which Ann joined, that kept me coming back for more. A knitting club where no one knits? Bizarre rules reminiscent of a cult? The club brought to mind the lyric in the Eagles' song "Hotel California: "You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave."
The author does an excellent job of unfolding the mystery of the knitting club, a little at a time. Dare I say it? Like rolling out a ball of yarn and letting the thread trail slowly behind it.
Readers will not be disappointed with this novel. The Future Memoir of Ann Jones is a pleasing mix of eerie suspense and romance, with the splash of magic promised in the title. I recommend it for those who enjoy sweet romances and cozy mysteries.
Want to learn more about the book and the author? Follow Alex Bailey on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Amazon.
I find it so interesting to wonder why someone selects a book to read. Is it the cover? The description? Knowledge of the author? The title? What is the overwhelming reason a person chooses one book over another?
In the case of Kalen Cap's young adult novel, The Ancient Tripod of Peace: A Teen Thief-Catchers Novel, the title is what caught my attention. And I'm glad it did. I have never read anything like this novel.
The plot centers around three teens, Lexi, Trevor and Gil, who are drawn into a world of cyphers, ancient artifacts, secret societies, theft, and moral questions about the treatment of animals. As part of a school project, the trio is on a quest to find a connection between ancient Greece and Shakespeare, something they embrace with varying degrees of enthusiasm. I have to say that while reading this novel I had to look up a many of the author's references to ancient history, art and literature. This isn't necessarily bad—I'm all for acquiring new knowledge—but it distracted me from the flow of the book.
Many subplots round out this book and enrich the story. I was pleased to find that so much of the novel was based in fact, and that the philosophical sects—the mathematikoi and akousmatikoi—were real. The author cleverly resurrected them to form a parallel story line. I think readers of any age will enjoy the philosophical questions this book raises.
The characters, whose relationships to each other is skillfully revealed as the book goes on, did have their own distinct personalities, but I felt they could be more compelling.
The one thing that left me scratching my head was what the ancient tripod looked like. I just couldn't wrap my head around it. I had to look it up, and there were several descriptions of its function in ancient times, so that left me a little confused.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy the novel. It was very Dan Brown-esque and put me in mind of a YA version of The Da Vinci Code.
Oh, Hennepin County Maple Grove Library, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
1. You are always there for me.
You have great hours and a digital presence that is available 365/24/7. So many books! So many ebooks! So many audiobooks! So many happy memories! It brings me great comfort to surf your web site and scroll through your app, making wish lists of books I want to read. And oh, how happy you make me when you pop into my inbox telling me that one of my digital holds has been automatically checked out to me. A little library love goes a long way!
2. You go above and beyond.
Interlibrary loan. Enough said. Love it!
3. You are fun!
Where else can I take a free class to learn about 3-D printing, and make my own thingamajig on your cool 3-D printer? You do things like invite a police canine officer and four-legged partner to visit the library and give a demonstration. I mean, who does that? Yes, dear library, you do.
4. You are a beacon in a dark world.
Minnesota winters are long and dark. Long, dark days. Long, dark shadows. Long, dark moods. But you never succumb to the winter blues; you always lift me up in your cozy reading areas. I'm sure you know this, considering your vast repository of knowledge, but cozy is practically a requirement to get through a Minnesota winter. Why, you even gave me a book on Danish coziness! Yes, I had to wait in line for it, but it was even more meaningful when it was my turn! I love to walk through your stacks, looking for my favorite authors. Sometimes, I select a book at random and bring it home, and you never tell me this is silly or foolish.
5. You are smart.
You help me with all my homework. (Translation: research for my books.) You taught me about the Great Depression. And the history of the Army Veterinary Corps. And the evolution of the Hennepin County and Minneapolis park systems. And so much more.
6. You are soon to be my neighbor.
That's right. I'm moving in! Well, not exactly. But come next month I can be at your front door in three minutes. It’s a dream come true...living within walking distance of my local library. We are about to be besties!
7. You wear your rainbow proudly!
You embrace the LGBQT community with library celebrations, including pride festivals, picnics, and even story times.
Oh, dear library, if only we could all be like you, the world would be a better place.
Photo credit: www.hclib.org
There are many reasons why I decided to self-publish Stealing Away, my young adult (YA) novel about a teenage identity thief, as an e-book.
The first reason is relatively straightforward: After working on the manuscript for seven years and submitting it to many literary agencies, I have not found an agent to represent me.
The other reasons are more complex and reflect my triumph over my struggles with self-worth and fear of embarrassment. To move forward into positive change, we have to let go of the things that are holding us back--whether they be a negative person, fear, or a lack of confidence/poor self image. The latter being my particular problem.
As a Gen-Xer (those born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s) I came of age during the “Golden Age of Publishing” (approximately 1946 through the early 1980s), when publishers were churning out printed books. As a teen I wrote short stories and a lot of bad poetry, but it was my dream to publish a YA novel. Between 1996 and 2003 I published seven non-fiction books with Lerner Publishing, the largest school and library publisher in the United States, and published scores of freelance articles. But things changed for me in the early 2000s when the Internet was in full swing, offering a platform for anybody to write anything, and freelancing became more competitive and less lucrative. So I returned to my childhood dream and started writing a YA novel.
For years I clung to the idea that my first YA novel would be traditionally published by a top New York City publishing house. Hard cover copies of my book would sit smartly in bookstore displays nationwide. Then it would be translated into many languages. Eventually, there would be a movie.
I finished Stealing Away in 2007 and pitched it to agents. Some expressed interest and asked to see the complete manuscript, but all ultimately passed. So I re-wrote the book, made it considerably better, and submitted it again to another round of agents, with the same result. Although I knew it was a good book, I let my discouragement override my belief in myself.
In 2015, when I began writing sweet romance novels and self-published them as e-books, my husband encouraged me to do the same with Stealing Away.
Despite my foray into self-publishing, I told my husband that I would not—and in fact I would never—self-publish my precious YA novel. This treacherous act would betray my life-long dream. It would be an admission of failure. And what would people think if I became one of “those writers” who couldn’t get a novel published? At this point, my book had languished for a few years, waiting patiently for me on a thumb drive. Not long after that conversation with my husband, I powered up my computer and opened the document. I realized I had not worked on the manuscript in two years. It was a stunning revelation. I had abandoned my book—this thing that I loved and had spent years working on—because I was unable to see beyond my own stubborn thought patterns and beliefs.
Thus began my “journey from no.”
It was time for me to reconsider—and maybe reconfigure—my childhood dream. But change is hard-won, and must be coaxed and coddled. Most of all, it has to be earned by taking a hard look in the mirror, facing your demons and deciding once and for all to let them go.
I thought back to my original arguments about why I would never self-publish my YA novel. I had presented the reasons to my husband as irrefutable facts and with indignation. But if I was going to change my circumstances (i.e., publish my novel), I would have to take out my arguments, examine them one by one, and reconsider the alternatives.
First, it has been my life-long dream to traditionally publish a YA novel that would make a big splash. And who wants to let go of a dream? But I had to ask myself, was that really my dream? If I stripped everything away, would I see that my goal—on the purest level—was to write and publish a YA novel? I realized I had three options: I could continue to submit the manuscript (i.e. doing the same thing expecting different results), I could leave it to die in the shadows, or I could publish it myself.
My second argument was that self-publishing would mean I had capitulated and admitted failure. Failure? Really? I took a look at my “failure” as I writer, and when I had gathered together the bits and pieces of my writing career, I realized I was wrong. I could not be a failure as a writer, because I had already succeeded as one. I have published seven non-fiction books. I was once the editor of an award-winning children’s history magazine. I have written two “sweet romance” e-books that, while sell only modestly, do sell.
The third argument against self-publishing, “what would people think?” has been the biggest obstacle over the years and the nastiest demon to overcome. I realized the notion of what other people might think of me was, in fact, the real reason I struggled with the idea of self-publishing, no matter how much I hated to admit that. I worried about what my "high-brow" former work colleagues in literary and artistic circles would think, and imagined them snickering at me. It suddenly seemed absurd that I wasn't pursing a dream because I was afraid of what a handful of people—who I really didn't like anyway—thought of me and my work.
Stealing Away is almost like my child, and I think that’s why I clung to it for so long. But after years of nourishing the manuscript, I decided to do what any good mother would do—I set it, and ultimately myself, free. I sent the manuscript to a professional copywriter and hired a designer who created a beautiful cover. I bought an ISBN number and made a website and book trailer. And then I sent Stealing Away out into the world to find its place.
And it has. And when I look at my book on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com, I no longer care what people think of my self-published work, because now—at long last— can think of myself and my accomplishments with pride. I love what I have done. And love that I had the courage to change.
My experience, this "journey from no," puts me in mind of a quote from one of my favorite writers, Victorian novelist George Eliot, who wrote: "It is never too late to be what you might have been."
All it takes is a willingness to change.
A fun and funny paranormal mystery with some romance thrown in!
I’d never read a paranormal mystery (or paranormal anything!) before so I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down with Kim Cox’s “Haunted Hearts,” the first in the Lana Malloy series. While Lana and Tony are the main characters—and they are wonderfully drawn, especially Lana’s internal conflicts— it is Lucy, the ghost, who steals the show. The way the author describes Lucy and her antics made me feel like I was in the story with her and I could visualize her perfectly. I love it when a book makes me laugh out loud, which this one did. And it had just enough suspense and mystery to keep me interested to the end.
You can read a lot more from Kim Cox, including the entire Lana Malloy series, as well as many others!
As I develop my characters I tend to do a lot of “what if” thinking, wondering how each might react in certain situations. Kind of like, “What Would Autumn Do?” or “What would Meg do?” Then I got to wondering, what type of advice or pearls of wisdom would my characters impart, based on their personalities, if you ran into them on the street or sat with them over a cup of tea? (Like Martha does for Autumn!) Practical, gentle Autumn would give far different advice than grumpy, but likeable Meg. And in her seventies, Martha’s advice would be a mix of experience and hindsight. So I’ve written five pieces of random advice each of these characters might give someone. It’s a way of getting to know my characters…for you and for me. Here goes:
“Your home is a sanctuary and everywhere you look, you should see something beautiful.”
“Try to do something creative every day. Making something makes a better you.”
“Engineer your environment for success.”
“You don’t live in a vacuum so don’t let yourself suffer in one.”
“Denim is the new black.”
“People will hurt you but the trick is learning not to let them.”
“Sometimes in loneliness you find yourself.”
“Say what you mean. It’s better to put your real feelings out there. And remember, you can always change your mind.”
“Sometimes you don’t know best.”
“Forgive everyone, especially yourself.”
“Don’t force things. If something is not coming together there’s a reason.”
“There’s always a better way to do something, but you must be open to finding it.”
“The ache of grief never goes away but it does subside. You
must be strong enough so you will emerge whole again.”
“You’re never too old for love.”
“Denim is the new black.”
People often ask me how I could have written a book about an identity thief when this very real crime impacts millions of innocent people each year. My answer is always the same: "Read the book, then let's talk."
But they're right to wonder, of course. Identity theft is a significant problem costing millions of dollars each year and stealing the financial reputations of innocent people. And here's a new twist: More and more, identity thieves are stealing birth dates and social security numbers from children, and this fraud isn't detected for years.
In the spirit of preventative action, I offer the following advice and resources to prevent identity theft:
Take steps to protect yourself from identity theft:
It's funny where our minds go, and the connections and associations the holidays bring. The past few days I've been thinking about some of my favorite children's/YA books and remembering some of the Christmas scenes from them. At the risk of sounding corny, they make me feel all warm and fuzzy, and ready to curl up by the fire and read the stories all over again!
Here are four of my favorites:
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1935
A dear friend of the Ingalls family, the wily Mr. Edwards battles the elements and a flooded creek so he can bring Christmas presents to Laura and Mary.
[Laura] heard Pa piling wood on the fire, and she heard Mr. Edwards say he had carried his clothes on his head when he swam the creek. His teeth rattled and his voice shivered. He would be all right, he said, as soon as he got warm.
"It was too big a risk, Edwards," Pa said. "We're glad you're here, but that was too big a risk for a Christmas dinner."
"Your little ones had to have a Christmas," Mr. Edwards replied. "No creek could stop me, after I fetched them their gifts from Independence."
What Katy Did by Sarah Chauncey Woolsey (pen name Susan Coolidge), 1872
Once flighty and selfish, an accident caused Katy to become an invalid for a number of years, and she gains a new, mature perspective on life. In one scene, her aunt gives her $5 before Christmas, because she knows that Katy will want to use it to buy gifts for her siblings.
"I didn't know what to give you for Christmas, Katy," she said, "because Helen sends you such a lot of things that there don't seem to be anything you haven't already. So I thought I'd give you this, and let you choose for yourself. But if you've set your heart on getting presents for the children, perhaps you'd rather have it now." So saying, Aunt Izzie laid on the bed a crisp, new five-dollar bill!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1869
The Christmas morning where each of the March girls receives a little book under their pillows, from their mother:
Then [Jo] remembered her mother's promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey. She woke Meg with a Merry Christmas, and bade her see what was under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared, with the same picture inside, and a few words written by their mother, which made their one present very precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage and find their little books also, one dove-colored, the other blue, and all sat looking at and talking about them, while the east grew rosy with the coming day.
Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink, 1936
Set in Wisconsin in the 1860s. The Woodlawn children run wild and have high adventures that typically get them in trouble. On one occasion, spunky little sister Caddie falls through the ice and has to spend Christmas in bed, subdued and chastised by her mother, who is always scolding Caddie for her tomboy antics.
Christmas came and went while Caddie was still recovering. She had intended to spend some of her silver dollar for presents, but it still lay snug and safe in the wooden trinket box, because she was not able to take it to the store. They hung their stockings by the fireplace on Christmas Eve and Santa Claus came down the chimney here in Wisconsin, just as he did in Boston and St. Louis. But the apples and nuts which he packed around the toys were strangely like those which they themselves had picked.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!