Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Between NaNo and preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I kind of forgot to do a review this week.

So instead, I'll just tell you how thankful I am for all of you.  Happy Turkey Day, everyone.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Grumpy Old Menopause - Carol E. Wyer

For women of a certain age -- and I count myself among them -- the so-called "change of life" can be no laughing matter.  Hot flashes are just the start. Later on, menopause brings us such joys as an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, to say nothing of mood swings to rival the teenage years -- at a time in life where at least some of us are dealing with actual teenagers.

And the medical profession, by way of helping us through it (as if women haven't been going through menopause for centuries without clinical assistance) and -- let's be honest -- in an effort to monetize yet another "ailment", offered us hormone replacement therapy. Except that the therapy turned out to be worse for our health than the symptoms it was supposed to alleviate.

Yeah. We could use a bit of humor about now.

Enter this book. Wyer wrote Grumpy Old Menopause as a companion volume to her How Not to Murder Your Grumpy -- a self-help book for women whose husbands had retired and were at loose ends (many of which loose ends were their wives' last nerves). That book was an A-to-Z list of activities for your "grumpy" so he would get out from underfoot and leave you alone.

Grumpy Old Menopause follows the same A-to-Z format, except the entries here include much useful advice about coping with menopause -- everything from herbal remedies to exercise to activities to take your mind off your changing body (raising alpacas, anyone?). And she includes a number of jokes to lighten the mood, at least one of which made me laugh out loud. No, I won't tell you which one it was! Go read the book!

One caveat: Grumpy Old Menopause is aimed at the UK book market, so some of the slang terms might be unfamiliar to American readers. (Suck it up, honey. They have to parse our slang often enough.) But for us women of a certain age, it's worth the trouble.

Notes: Wyer is my fellow contributing author at Publication date is November 25, 2013. I received an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mother of Wolves - Zoe Brooks

Mother of Wolves is a novel of magical realism that features a strong female protagonist in a native culture.

As the novel opens, Lupa is married to Toro, the king of their tribe, the Lords of the Earth. He has been offered a shipment of guns by the local guards, and he is readying a party of men to go to receive the shipment. Lupa has a bad feeling about the meeting -- and as it turns out, her fears are justified.

When Toro does not return home, Lupa goes to investigate. She uses superior tracking skills to determine that Toro's party was ambushed and her husband killed, leaving her with their children to raise alone. Her anger over his murder and her lust for vengeance fuel the rest of the story.

Time and again, men discount Lupa's intelligence and cunning. And time and again, it leads to their downfall. Lupa disguises herself and marries the commander of the guards responsible for Toro's death, and then bides her time until the day she can take her revenge. Later, sought for the commander's murder, she goes to ground in her people's territory, calling on the spirits of the land and her own ingenuity to evade those looking for her. And as the men of her tribe watch her carry out her plan, the Lords begin to examine their beliefs about Lupa -- as well as about the competence of women in general.

It's never quite clear where the novel takes place -- whether it's a specific location on earth or in a fantasy world. But it doesn't matter. The themes of the novel -- the treatment of native populations by their conquerors, and the treatment of women by men -- resonate no matter where the story takes place. I enjoyed Mother of Wolves and look forward to reading more of Brooks' work.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stone's Ghost - Melissa Bowersock

I know, I know -- Halloween was last week. But November, too, tends to lend itself to dark and mysterious goings-on. So I offer you a ghost story that's less scary than introspective.

You may remember when the city of Lake Havasu, Arizona, bought the old London Bridge from the city of London, England (the one that crosses the Thames today is a new span), and rebuilt it over the Colorado River as a tourist attraction. The main character of Stone's Ghost, Matthew Stone, lives in Lake Havasu. His livelihood is due in part to the bridge -- he owns a jet ski rental place and is, by all accounts, a great guy to work for. He's dating a wonderful woman and is kind to his mother, who lives nearby.

And then one night, crossing the bridge, he nearly runs down someone. He returns to apologize, and discovers that she's a ghost.  Matt doesn't believe in ghosts, but he finds himself drawn to Janie. Bit by bit, he pulls her story out of her, and the more he learns about her, the more he is able to come to grips with some of the kinks in his own thinking. But will he be able to sort out his own head in time to keep from losing the best parts of his own life?

This isn't a horror novel, despite the "ghost" in the title. The reader can never quite decide whether Janie is real, or whether she's the manifestation of things Matt has kept himself from thinking through. And that's okay, because it's Matt's transformation that really matters.

Stone's Ghost is well-written and well-edited, and written in an engaging style. I heartily recommend it.