Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rainbow's Edge - Leland Dirks and Angelo Dirks

Rainbow's Edge is about family, and secrets, and redemption.

The book opens with a Nebraska farmer rushing to the hospital to see his youngest son, who was severely injured in a car accident, and from whom he has been estranged for some time. When he arrives, he finds Buddy in a coma. But the two men discover a mental connection that allows Buddy and his dog from childhood to take the father on a trip down Memory Lane. During that week, we learn the reason for the estrangement (it's not a spoiler to tell you that Buddy is gay), and Dad has the opportunity to rethink some things -- and maybe even come to a greater understanding about his own life.

I've been a big fan of Leland Dirks's writing since I read Jimmy Mender and His Miracle Dog, and I've read several more of his books since then. This one felt a little rushed to me. A great deal of the book is, of necessity, dialogue, and of course it's not taking place in a physical space, so some of the things an author might use to help with pacing aren't plausible -- body language, for example. Still, I wished for a momentary pause now and then.

But that's a minor quibble. Dirks handles a difficult topic with his usual stellar sensitivity. And I learned a few things about rainbows along the way. Recommended.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Shaman Rises (Walker Papers #9) - C.E. Murphy

I'll get to the review in a minute. But first, a story: I discovered the Walker Papers series at about the same time as I discovered urban fantasy as a genre. I've now sampled several series, but the only ones I've stuck with until the end are Carrie Vaughn's books starring Kitty the werewolf, and C.E. Murphy's books starring Joanie Walker the reluctant shaman. When Mountain Echoes came out in 2013, I devoured it, and made a note to grab the next book in the series as soon as it came out. And then I forgot about it. It wasn't until earlier this year that I said to myself, "Hmm, I wonder if that final book ever came out?" And lo and behold, it 2014. This, Dear Reader, is what a diet of mostly indie novels does: when readers are conditioned to expect a new book from their favorite authors every few months, a sequel that won't be available for a whole year is easily forgotten.

Anyway, to the review.

As Shaman Rises opens, it's been a year since Joanne Walker first realized she had shamanic powers. Back then, she was the girl mechanic in the Seattle P.D. motor pool, running from her past and secretly in love with her boss, Capt. Morrison. By the time we get to this book, she has quit her job; she has learned of her mother's magical power in Ireland and her father's shamanic power in North Carolina and integrated them both into her own; and her relationship with Morrison is progressing nicely. Now she's drawn back to Seattle and into the final battle with the Master. She's strong, but he's ancient, and she has a lot to lose -- her friends, her lover, her city, and her life.

If you haven't read the earlier books, don't start with this one. Murphy makes very little effort to catch up readers to what's going on. Then again, she doesn't have time. This book starts off with a bang and doesn't let up; Joanie herself hardly gets a chance to catch her breath.

I love this series for its blending of Native American and Celtic beliefs. And when it comes to the pagan stuff, Murphy gets that right, too. Kudos to Murphy for that, and for bringing her series to a breakneck close. Recommended -- but read the earlier books first!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Finding Travis (No Time for Travis Book 1) - Melissa Bowersock

Life is not going well for Travis Merrill. He has pursued, and abandoned, several careers without really finding his niche. Now his wife has left him. Just about the only good thing he has left in his life is his volunteer work at Fort Verde, a rebuilt frontier encampment in Arizona. 

One night, as he's portraying the cavalry surgeon during a holiday event at the fort, he dozes off in a chair in the surgeon's quarters -- and wakes up in 1877.  As luck would have it, the fort -- then known as Camp Verde -- doesn't have a surgeon in residence. So Travis passes himself off as an Army surgeon from back East, and tries to make it look good by relying on the little bit of medical knowledge he gained during one of his abortive career attempts. As time goes by, Travis begins to realize he may be stuck in 1877 forever.

I always enjoy Bowersock's books; she has a talent for working a paranormal angle into just about anything, including historical fiction. Fort Verde is a real place, and Bowersock has clearly done her homework on the fort and her chosen time period. Travis is an appealing character, but my favorite might be his assistant, Riley -- a finer stoic Irishman you won't find anywhere.

Kudos to Bowersock for this wonderful start to her new series. Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Emotion Amplifiers - Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

It's the first week of the month, which means it's time for a review for the Indies Unlimited Reading Challenge. This month, I'm supposed to read a nonfiction book. I've chosen Emotion Amplifiers by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

The subtitle suggests this short book is a companion guide to The Emotion Thesaurus, which is already a Rursday Read, and I'd say that's the best way to look at it. In The Emotion Thesaurus, the authors give you ways to indicate your character's emotional state while not coming right out and saying which emotion he or she is feeling. It allows the reader to identify with your character more easily, and so draws them further into your story.

Emotion Amplifiers is a book to turn to when you want to up the ante. Your character's sad or angry? Well, he might go out and get drunk. Turn to the section on inebriation and you can add a few details to your scene that will indicate just how drunk he is. Then you can set up a situation that requires sober judgment, and see whether he's up to the challenge.

Now, most of us have probably been inebriated at one time or another, and could therefore fill in the blanks without a guide. But what if your character is dehydrated? Suffering from heat stroke? Exhausted? All of these states of being can make a character feel his or her emotional state more deeply. And it's at this sort of deep state that your characters can fight their internal demons, and maybe -- just maybe -- win.

Emotion Amplifiers is free for Kindle. If you've found The Emotion Thesaurus useful, I'd recommend you pick up this companion book. If nothing else, it can serve as fodder for plotting your next novel.