Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

First, a disclaimer: I really enjoy retellings of old fairy tales, so I was predisposed to enjoy this book. I have done my best to be objective, but I thought you should know that. 

What might have seemed contrived or even trite in this era of constant reboots turned out instead to be surprisingly refreshing and undeniably engaging in Genevieve Valentine's Girls at the Kingfisher Club. Valentine captures the panache of prohibition-era New York while maintaining a pure, genuine tone for her twelve heroines--all of whom are completely themselves. This retelling of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses is gripping, lavish, and heartfelt--to the point that I had a very hard time putting it down, and an even harder time accepting that I had finished reading it.

Girls at the Kingfisher Club tells the story of twelve sisters, all disappointments to their father, a nouveau-riche businessman who needs a son to inherit his empire. So he locks them all upstairs in their sprawling house and never lets them go anywhere or do anything. 

So of course they sneak out to go dancing at the speakeasies of New York City. When their father starts hatching a scheme to get them married off and off his hands, things come to a head and each of the girls must go her own way, and make her own way.

Through all this, there is a beautifully painted bond between all the sisters. Their dynamic is at once distant and completely devoted, and they are herded through their misadventures by the eldest, Jo, who they call The General.

The storytelling is frank and sensual, the cadence echoing the rhythms of the dancing the girls do at the clubs every night, with all the decadence of Gatsby, but oddly, with much less sentimentality. This is a tale of sisters who look out for each other, and look out for themselves--women making it in a man's world and dancing until their shoes are worn through.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a thoroughly enjoyable little novel that I look forward to reading again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I Use My Mom's Old Percolator

I guess it's no secret that I'm a bit of a coffee person. Although I would not say I am a coffee snob (because really, how snobby can you be when you add both cream and sugar to your coffee every morning), I do prefer dark roast coffee brewed very strong and I do notice a difference in how my coffee tastes depending on: A. Whether it was pre-ground B. What brand it is and C. The venue for brewing the coffee.

And that is what I want to address with you. I do not own a drip coffee maker. For years I used only my French press (which I still love), because the hubs does not like coffee, so I just make it for myself. But after I had a kid, mom started coming to visit, and between the two of us, a French press just isn't enough. So she brought over her old percolator. And I feel deeply in love.
If only this were scratch 'n' sniff!

This percolator is old. The power cord has electrical tape on it, because wires were starting to be exposed. It makes a frightening bubbling noise while it perks. And it makes amazing damn coffee. And lots of it.

It's my best friend.
See that electrocution hazard?

I get it ready at night, filling it with water and coffee and sticking in a little round filter (I am still not sure I'm putting the filter in the right spot. Oh well.) and setting it on the counter. Then, in the morning I stumble into the kitchen with no contacts and plug it in (another reason why the electrical tape was necessary). By the time I'm out of the shower, hot coffee is waiting for me. And the pot keeps it piping hot as long as it's plugged in. And if you unplug it and decide you want more later, just plug it back in and it will re-bubble!




It doesn't have measurements. I just guess at my ratio of water to coffee. This usually results in very strong coffee for me. Hence the cream and sugar.

This is my life. And I love this old percolator. And when it finally does die (although I kind of think it will outlive me), I will cry and cry and cry. And probably break down and buy a regular drip coffee maker. Because no newfangled percolator will work like this one does.
How about some awkward coffee face?

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Wolves and Men WINNER ANNOUNCED!


AND THE WINNER IS:

Laura Harris! Please email mkdupre@gmail.com to collect your book!

Not long ago, I wrote a review of a book called Wolves and Men.Well, now I am very excited to announce that I have been given permission to give away a copy of this super cool novel to one lucky winner!


Here is a brief summary of what the book is about:

The wickedness of men knows no bounds. It does not stop to consider the lives it destroys; does not feel the pain it inflicts; nor hesitates where it devours. Its appetite is destruction, and its darkness infects wherever it wounds. It prowls through night and day, seeking the weak, the innocent, and the pure. Where it finds beauty, it mars; where it sees life, it poisons; and where there is light, darkness will fall.

Charlotte Benson is no stranger to the evils of men. Plagued by terrible dreams of her past, she seeks respite in the Ouachita Mountains, at a peaceful wildlife refuge called Willow's Bend in far eastern Oklahoma. Even though she's tucked away in her tiny cabin, she knows she'll have to face her demons. But what she doesn't expect is that Willow's Bend might have demons of its own. 

When locals in Willow's Bend start talking about the strange behavior of their dogs and news surfaces about experiments in the woods, rumors run wild in the tiny community. And as Charlotte's dreams suddenly change from events in her past to those in the future, the serene mountain sanctuary she sought turns into a waking nightmare.

Natasha Wittman
With a unique blend of edge-of-your-seat suspense and coming-of-age narrative, Natasha Wittman reveals not only the darkness of men's hearts but the triumph of forgiveness and grace over grief in her debut novel, Wolves and Men.



And a little bit about the author:

Natasha Wittman is a poet, former newspaper columnist, and irrepressible writer. As an Oklahoma native, she has a unique passion for the landscapes and people of her home state, which is a driving force for many of the scenes and characters in her writing. The seed of the story for Wolves and Men was inspired by a particularly haunting dream. Natasha writes and lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband Micah and daughter Evelyn, where she enjoys classic literature, good coffee, and family. Wolves and Men is her debut novel. You can find out more about Natasha on her blog: steepandsavor.blogspot.com

 It sounds exciting, right? So, if you want to enter the giveaway, just answer the question:

What is your favorite genre?

Do you love dystopian futures? Steamy romances? High fantasy? Horror? Share it with the world! Guilty pleasures are acceptable. So is mentioning your absolute favorite book in your favorite genre. This is a safe space!

Winners will be announced Friday afternoon!

*Wolves and Men is available as a Kindle ebook, and at Full Circle Books and Blue7 in OKC. Find it on Goodreads!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Excellent Grammar and the New American Dream


I don’t know if you know this, but the American Dream is changing. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder and waiting years for the authority and freedom that comes with a head honcho position at the firm, millions (seriously, millions) of Americans are choosing to skip the headache and just work for themselves. God bless technology!

Freelancing is so hot right now.
What many entrepreneurial-minded individuals often don’t realize, however, is that every company relies on its reputation to do business. And that when you work for yourself, your individual reputation is the reputation of the company. And when that is the case, particularly in a world where most communication is done through email, text, and social media, one’s ability to present a professional, grammatically correct face is vital to making a living.


Which is why I’m frequently shocked (and appalled!) by the number of professionals out there who are so savvy in their trade and so incompetent in their phrasing. I don’t care if it is “just a confirmation email”! If it’s going to someone who might be (or already is) giving you money, you better make sure everything is spelled correctly! So that’s the PSA for today: Use good grammar!


Now, you may be thinking, My job has nothing to do with words, or even communication! I’m not some book nerd grammar nazi! Who cares if I’m always right as long as the job gets done!

Yes you do! Shut up!


Well, shame on you! First of all, you should know that everyone, whether they are self-proclaimed grammar nazis or not, loves to point out other people’s grammar mistakes, and you shouldn’t give them the satisfaction! Second, no matter what your field (or personal interests) correct communication can have a huge impact on your career. And the good people at Grammarly are here to prove it.


Grammarly is devoted to promoting healthy grammar, and as part of their endeavor, they have conducted a study of how good (or bad) grammar can affect one’s earnings, particularly for freelancers. Then, because they understand the American penchant for TL;DR, they compiled all their data into this amazing infographic:  
 



The bottom line? People with good grammar skills earn more than those without them. So if you want the big bucks, buckle down and diagram your sentences.


Just kidding! You don’t even have to do that, because  once again Grammarly, benefactor to the masses, is here to save you. They have this incredible device called the Grammarly Grammar Checker (because they are basically super heroes). All you have to do is insert your paragraph, and they will tell you whether it is correct! It will also check to see if you plagiarized. You can use this to feel superior to others as well! It is very efficient and super fun. Here is an example of what the Grammar Check looks like:



Step 1: Insert Text

Step 2: Learn about all the things you did wrong.


Use it! It will literally earn you money. 


If you have a large, intricate, or highly important project, it might still sometimes be a good idea to engage the services of a professional (ahem--like me--ahem). Grammarly also offers a ton of other services and tools for people who want to learn more about grammar and writing, and work on developing those skills. Or at the very least, you should ask another smart person to be a second set of eyes. But if you want to quickly ensure that your emails won’t humiliate you (at least for grammatical reasons), these easy to use Grammarly tools can be invaluable.


The proof is in the pudding. That you won’t have to eat anymore, because people will hire you, because your grammar doesn’t suck. Enjoy your new, pricier desserts!




*I should note that I was asked to do a post about this stuff by the people at Grammarly. But I would talk it up even if they hadn’t asked me, because I do believe in the cause of widespread good grammar, and that people who can’t be bothered are unprofessional. And also because I have been following Grammarly for years on Twitter and I like them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Day at the Theater

This past weekend, I went to go see a play with my parents. The play we went to see was a new musical called Once. In case you haven't heard of it, this is a story about a boy and a girl who make beautiful music in Dublin. This is a show that has won Tony Awards and kind of turned Broadway on its ear, so I was excited to see it. I am also always a little scared to see new shows, because I definitely love Old Broadway, and sometimes new stuff just...isn't that great. (Case in point: Jekyll and Hyde, the rock opera.

I was doubly  excited when we got there and they were letting people up on stage to look at the set close up! Cool! My dad and I immediately joined the queue. The stage was set up as what looked to me like an Irish pub, with a gleaming wood bar (that was actually selling drinks!), mirror-covered walls, and a big piano sitting center stage. It was beautiful. I took a good look around and chatted with my dad while we tried to spot my mom in the audience and wave to her. I couldn't find her.

 Then someone started playing a piano. Then a few people picked up guitars, a few others picking up violins, and one vibrantly redheaded woman started playing an accordion. They formed a circle in the middle of the stage and started singing. And I realized that this was not just pre-show fun. This was, in fact, the start of the performance. And my father and I, and a group of other audience members, were still standing on stage, holding coats and bags and cocktails. Now, to some this might be charming. But I hate audience participation. I am not a performer, and I don't enjoy the spotlight. If I were to work on a movie, I would want to be a director, or producer, or someone behind the scenes critiquing performances and telling people what to do. It's the reason that by and large I prefer to edit books rather than write them. I like to be prepared when making a presentation or performance, and I hate being put on the spot. So needless to say, I was horrified. As the audience (the lucky ones who were still in their seats) started clapping along with the music, I immediately began looking for an opportunity to run off the stage.

Eventually we made a (very awkward in my opinion) exit, and the play really started in earnest. Once is an incredibly music-driven show. In fact, the story itself is barely concrete. The plot points are vague, and the motivation behind the characters' actions seems sometimes random and sometimes simply emotional, but despite these decidedly floppy characteristics, the show is arresting and even enthralling thanks to a fantastic, almost endless soundtrack and excellent dialogue.

Boy and Girl from the Tulsa performance.
The two main characters, Boy and Girl, are perfect foils for each other, he a stereotypical tortured Irishman, and she a worldly but incredibly optimistic Polish woman. The interactions between them are sincere and often funny, and the incredible singing and instrumentation create an atmosphere that is truly alive. It is very much a love story, but more about a woman helping a man regain his love of music than about the two of them falling in love themselves. The tone is melancholy but genuine, as the Boy and the Girl learn about each other, and the Boy begins to play music again after having his heart broken, finding the strength to pursue both a career and a love life thanks to his new friends. In the Tulsa performance, all the actors did an amazing job. Their emotion was raw, their musical capabilities stellar (there is no orchestra--all the music is played on stage by the people in the cast), and their accents totally believable. It was clear that the affection between them was real, and that the music really meant something to them. And that made the show come alive.

The music (ah-such music!) is not that of a typical "musical". In fact, the show has been described as "a play with songs," which is a more accurate phrase. The songs are more akin to something you might hear at an Indie Rock show, or at a coffeehouse. The kind of music that becomes popular through word of mouth rather than intense radio play. The kind of music that college students listen to while creating pretentious world views. Which is not to say that it isn't good, because it is. Just that you will not find any jaunty singalong music and dance numbers in this show.

You won't come or stay for the story itself, but you will become immersed in a beautiful, emotional musical performance. It is a beautiful if somewhat shallow show, and while I doubt it will become a timeless Broadway classic (it strays too far from the typical Broadway formula for that--at least, that is my prediction, despite all theTonys it won), it will definitely stick in the mind of anyone who sees it.

And I will definitely be purchasing the soundtrack.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Outsider (Flawed #2) is LIVE! #NA #paranormal #thriller @beccajcampbell

Outsider_CVR_SML

Outsider Book Release and Goodies

This week marks the release of Outsider, the second book in Becca J. Campbell's New Adult Paranormal series Flawed. To celebrate, Becca is hosting a giveaway and a book sale!

The Prize Pack

The giveaway at the end of this post is for a prize pack that includes: one autographed paperback of Outsider, one 12" x 18" poster of the cover art, and two square collector's buttons (one of Empath and one of Outsider). Please note, this giveaway is open to those with an address in US or Canada.

Empath buttonOutsider Button

The Book Discount

The regular price of the Outsider eBook is $3.99, but for the first week, you can purchase a copy for only $2.99 (ends January 12th). On Jan. 13th, the price increases to $3.99, so make sure to get your copy now! Here are the purchase links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes


About Outsider (Flawed #2)

After a psychopath tried to kill his friends, Josh Schuyler figured 'normal' was far off. The real problem: Josh's friends have all acquired supernatural abilities, while he's still the same average guy.

Josh has always believed he was destined for greatness, but he's been out of college for two years without a clue of his purpose. After watching his friends and siblings develop superhuman traits, he wonders if he might be meant for something grand, too. Can Josh even hope for an extraordinary event in his own future? And how long must he wait for this transformation - if there is one?

When Alex met the Schuylers, she was grateful for new friends to whisk her away from her lonely life in California and give her an escape from her divorced, bickering parents and aimless future. But Josh won't drop his defenses, and Alex isn't sure she wants to trade her old life for this new, uncertain one.

Nicodemus has an amazing ability he's been milking for years to get whatever or whomever he wants. Things are going great until a young woman - Alex - inadvertently busts his latest swindle. Nic is furious when he discovers his power has been disabled, and he vows to find her in order to wreak his vengeance. She will be punished. All he needs is a little help from his friend, Ethan Black.

Josh has been waiting for his big break, or for the chance to be a hero, or just the opportunity to stand out in his own, extraordinary way.

Will Josh discover his purpose in time to stop Nic?

More Flawed Books

Empath eBook cover SMEmpath (Flawed #1)

Supernatural empathy isn’t a gift, it’s a curse. Anywhere she goes, Jade’s emotions are replaced by those of the people around her.

Jade grew up in a suburb of Colorado Springs, protected from other people by her parents. Now she faces college—and the world—with nothing to shield her from unwanted feelings.

When Cam, a classmate with a major crush on her, unintentionally hijacks her emotions, Jade struggles to keep from being carried away in feelings of attraction. When Ethan, a psychopath with a thirst for fear, fixates on her, the emotional impact could be lethal.

Caught in a deadly trap, Jade must untangle the emotions and find a way to use her empathic curse to overcome this killer or be overcome by him.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Kobo | Inktera | Scribd

Pulled (A Flawed Short Story)

Pulled_CVR_XSMLEight-year-old Juniper has been labeled many things—troubled kid, orphan, runaway—but none of her foster families have known what she really is: a girl with a unique and brutally inconvenient ability to teleport.

Her spontaneous jumps are not only beyond her control, they get her into trouble. When Juniper disappears, no one believes her wild stories, so she's stopped trying to convince them.

One day when Juniper gets pulled away, finding her way back is harder than ever. Stranded on the side of a deserted highway, she must rely on her own instincts to determine who is a creepy stranger and who she can trust.

Resourcefulness may get her home, but is getting home enough when you don't have parents that love you?

Juniper knows something most people don’t: there are others like her with unexplained abilities. Until now, she’s exercised stranger-danger caution, but maybe these people can offer what she needs.

Will Juniper find a family she can share her secrets with?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Kobo | Inktera | Scribd


About the Author

IMG_9817 a lowresBecca J. Campbell is the author of the Flawed series as well as Science Fiction novels Foreign Identity and Gateway to Reality, and Sub-Normal, a series of short stories.

An avid lover of stories that tiptoe the line between fantasy and reality, Becca looks for new angles on bridging the gap between the two. She holds a special place in her heart for any story that involves superpowers or time travel. Her passion is defying the limits of her own creativity. You can find her on her Author Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Amazon.

Giveaway

Enter the Outsider prize pack giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Book Review: Wolves and Men by


Is anyone else looking for something not-quite-horror to read this fall? Because I have a little something for you. Natasha Wittman's Wolves and Men delivers sufficient creepiness, action, and nature scenery (which for some reason I always associate with fall) to keep you feeling frisky and leave you with a satisfying read.

One of my very favorite things about reading books is seeing characters that like books as much as I do. For me, it just adds a whole new level of intimacy with the main character and I have also discovered a lot of new reading material by seeking out books that my favorite protagonists had read. This might be why I ultimately enjoyed Natasha Wittman's work. In Wolves and Men, the protagonist is a brainy, highly troubled poetry major who not only uses the wilderness to sort out her problems, but frames her experiences amid the myriad books she has read and loved over the years. This is a novel that is rich in literary allusion, and no slouch when it comes to a well-built character and a sense of suspense. 

Right off the bat Wittman begins building mystery, surrounding her main character, Charlotte, in vague memories of a painful past, as well as a strange and secluded physical landscape that takes the form of the Ouachita mountains. Charlotte has been sent to a remote woodland cabin to contemplate the issues—among them the death of a friend and a subsequent eating disorder—that led to her taking an imposed break from college. Yes, there are references to Thoreau, and yes, the descriptions of the landscape are beautiful and poetic. It is in these descriptions that Wittman really hits her stride, establishing Charlotte as a woman at a loss. A young woman who has been pushing herself to the limit in an effort not to deal with what is really troubling her, and a woman who will be forced to confront much more than the demons she brought with her.
Because there is more than just gorgeous scenery in Willow's Bend. A strange disease caused by the imposed interbreeding of wild dogs is infecting the residents and leading them to acts of staggering, inhuman violence. Charlotte is forced to flee for her life with the few people not infected, and in the process, she must run straight into the arms of her inner problems. By learning to trust Roden, the only man not infected, and a man with a painful past of his own, Charlotte is able to finally articulate what exactly brought her to Willows Bend in the first place. 

All that being said, this is a novel that does a lot of things well, though a reader needs to be on his toes to keep on top of reality. Wittman incorporates elements of a mix of genres, and while the story itself ends up meshing, the novel treads a fine line between action and chaos. Taken at face value, Wolves and Men may seem like a simple horror/survival novel about an outbreak of a mysterious and threatening illness, the truth is much more gratifying. Instead we are treated to a fairly realistic portrayal of how rabies affects human beings, and a highly relatable personal journey to healing and redemption. The more touchy-feely moments are juxtaposed nicely with the brutality and callousness of disease outbreak and quarantine.

There is no denying that it is a pleasure to read about Charlotte. She is a character with incredible insight into others and eventually, into herself. She is practical and easygoing, and it is certainly easy to see how readers, particularly young, female ones, would relate to and even admire her. As she struggles just to stay alive amid the chaos that is thrown unceremoniously into her lap, we see her grow, and we see her learn just what humans are capable of when pushed to the breaking point. That is, she is able to see the thinnest line that separates humans from animals and fights to stay on the human side of the line. And all this is accomplished through the eyes of a voracious reader, one who is able to put her incredibly harrowing experiences into the context of fiction, and move forward into the reality of her future. Through Charlotte, Natasha Wittman has created a poetic landscape, full of lush, vivid detail, and a thoroughly romantic character through which to enjoy it. This is a novel for fans of many genres, but particularly those readers who are most concerned with character growth.
Bottom Line: This adroit little novel will provide pleasing page turning and leave the reader feeling satisfied.

***Natasha will be having a book signing on October 24 at the Hastings in Norman. There will also be a chance to win a Hastings gift certificate! Definitely go check it out. You won't be sorry.***