Thursday, November 27, 2014

100 Days of Gratitude - Leland Dirks

Happy Thanksgiving! This seemed like the perfect book to review today.

In the summer of 2014, there was a challenge going around on Facebook: For each of the next seven days, post three things you're grateful for. Leland Dirks took that ball and ran with it -- not just for a week, but for a hundred days (and more -- in fact, he's still at it).

Dirks lives in an off-the-grid home in southern Colorado with his two dogs and, sometimes, a cat. In the mornings, he takes the dogs out for a walk, and brings his camera along. He posts many of the photos he takes of his neighborhood on Facebook, too.

Somebody suggested to him that he put the two together and publish them. So he did.

100 Days of Gratitude is only available in hard copy, but it's worth the price. The photos are stunning (and I would say that even if I wasn't a nut about the Rockies) and the sentiments are clearly heartfelt. It would make a terrific holiday present for anyone on your list who loves mountains, or the desert, or dogs or cats, or gratitude. And since that covers just about're welcome.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wonders of the Invisible World - Patricia A. McKillip

I seem to be reading a fair number of short works lately. Rest assured that I'll be back on the novel track pretty soon. But first....

When I grow up, I want to write like Patricia McKillip.
McKillip's fantasy novels are almost all told in a lyrical, once-upon-a-time voice. I marvel at her ability to sustain that voice throughout an entire novel. (When I met her, I told her so. She thanked me and said, "It's hard." Yeah, I can just imagine.)
Some of the stories in this collection have that same fairy-tale feel to them; one, "Kelpie," has an Edwardian artiste feel, with a dollop of faerie; and a couple of them feel very modern.
The title story tells about a time-traveling researcher who is sent back to meet Cotton Mather; the result felt darker to me than Connie Willis's books on the same general topic.
My favorites in this collection are probably "Byndley," in which a mage tries desperately to find his way back to an enchanted wood, so he can return something he stole from the fairy queen who lives there; and "The Doorkeeper of Khaat," the final story, in which a young poet agrees to help his terminally-ill father end his life.
But we're talking about minor degrees of favoritism here. I can't think of a single story in this collection that I hated. If you've never read any McKillip, this collection would be a good way to sample her work. Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Art Collection: Three Short Stories - Carla Sarett

I liked Carla Sarett's stories in 13 Bites Vol. 1 and Summer Dreams, anthologies in which I also participated. I  So I felt confident that I would enjoy the three short stories in The Art Collection. I was not disappointed.

All three of the stories in this collection have art, or works of art, as a theme, and there's a mystery at the heart of each one. My favorite is probably the final story, "The Captain's House." It's about a woman who volunteers with the committee that runs a historic house on Philadelphia's Main Line. The house is a showcase of period decorative arts, but something's not quite right about at least one of them.

Sarett's characters are well-drawn and believable. In particular, I loved her description of the president of the board of directors of the Captain's House, Evan Beamish: "a tall, white-haired man who seemed serenely absent-minded. He wore an endearingly bright yellow bow-tie, and he seemed somewhere between the ages of sixty and ninety. It was hard to tell. He might have looked the same at forty." I'm pretty sure I've met that guy, and I'd bet you have, too.

The Art Collection is a quick read that I very much enjoyed.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Passage to Belize - L.A. Lewandowski

Passage to Belize is a short story -- really, a quickie travel memoir -- about the author's adventure Belize with her mother-in-law, Rose Marie.

Rose Marie's health is failing. She and her husband used to take cruises together; now that he has passed away, the author agrees to go on a Caribbean cruise with the older woman. At each port of call, they go in search of local art -- not the ticky-tacky made-in-China stuff, but authentic pieces by local artists.

When they arrive in Belize, the city outside of the port area is locked down due to recent violence. But the author is determined to find some local art to take home -- and where there's a will, there's a way.

This is a quick and entertaining read that I very much enjoyed.