Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Review: Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy

 Here is the definitive book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the name Anonymous, by the woman theChronicle of Higher Education calls “the leading interpreter of digital insurgency” and the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.” Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global collective just as some of its adherents were turning to political protest and disruption (before Anonymous shot to fame as a key player in the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street). She ended up becoming so closely connected to Anonymous that some Anons claimed her as “their scholar.” Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy brims with detail from inside a mysterious subculture, including chats with imprisoned hacker Jeremy Hammond and the hacker who helped put him away, Hector “Sabu” Monsegur. It’s a beautifully written book, with fascinating insights into the meaning of digital activism and little understood facets of culture in the Internet age, such as the histories of “trolling” and “the lulz.”

Trained as an anthropologist, Gabriella (Biella) Coleman examines the ethics of online collaboration/institutions as well as the role of the law and digital media in sustaining various forms of political activism. Between 2001-2003 she conducted ethnographic research on computer hackers primarily in San Francisco, the Netherlands, as well as those hackers who work on the largest free software project, Debian. 


I became acquainted with the world of conspiracies and injustices much like any other woman does: my husband. When we met, the man talked nonstop about the government and the illuminati. "What if...", "I bet...", "Orwell was right..." and other like lines peppered our conversations. In an effort to understand part of his world, I picked up this book for early review.

My first impression of Anonymous, following the Steubenville Rape Case, was simple: these are people who are just as angry about the world as I am, but with better computer skills.

After reading this book, I know it's a bit more complicated than that. Reading this, it was almost hard to remember that it was nonfiction. It felt more like something out of Agents of Shield--when the main character manages to finally get into the infamous organization and finds the secrets the media lets out are only the tip of the iceburg. There is so much information, in fact, that I struggle to grasp a general summary to review.

The best I can do: It's not what you think. Whatever you think--it's not. Read this book. Or, wait for the movie (as I'm sure there will be one.) In fact, I'd like to advocate for a movie. It would make millions. Even if you're not all that in to conspiracies or government drama or trolling, you will be captivated by this book. At least, you will be if you're interested in people or the internet. If you're not, then I'm not entirely sure we can be friends because people fascinate me.

The one thing I kept thinking was "Man, Coleman is living the reporter's dream." I don't mean journalism majors who want to be on The View or newsanchors who report on small news. I mean the journalists who go into the field, go undercover, and risk everything to uncover truth about the human race, or parts of it. The ones who bring Ms. Frizzle pride by living out her mantra "Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!"

I'm getting off topic. I didn't give myself the normal cooldown time I do when I read a book. My mind is still racing with everything I read. I'm excited about this book and I love that feeling. Buy this book! There's no way you'll regret it. (Dear publishers, make a movie. Please.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: The No Panic guide to adopting a teen

No Panic! How to Adopt an Older Child is a practical, hands-on guide, navigating readers through the sometimes complicated process of adopting an older child, from inception of the idea through to a final transformation into a happy, forever family. Covering topics such as how and when to decide to adopt, fundraising, picking agencies, domestic vs. international adoption, parenting your new child, and transitioning into a new family dynamic, No Panic! is an honest, positive, and uplifting account.
Full of usable tips and tricks, resources, and ideas, parents are empowered to follow their hearts on integrating a new family member completely and permanently. Above all, No Panic! is an incredible love story in which one American family and one Ukrainian teenage boy fall in love, changing the course of both of their lives forever.

Bethany M. Gardiner, M.D. is a seasoned homeschooling mother with over a decade of experience in homeschooling her own children and teaching co-op classes for other homeschoolers. A National Merit Scholar that was accepted into the Honors Program at the University of Florida, she graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Mathematics and a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Statistics. Following college graduation, she attended medical school at the University of Florida and graduated with Honors in 1994. After completing medical school, Dr. Gardiner did her internship and residency at the University of Florida's Urban Campus in Jacksonville, Florida where she received the Resident Student Teacher Award. Upon completion of her residency, Dr. Gardiner joined Interlachen Pediatrics in Orlando, Florida. She is a board certified pediatrician and an internationally board certified lactation consultant. In addition to her homeschooling activities, Dr. Gardiner is very involved in volunteer work, including serving as a leader of her daughter's girl scout troop for the past seven years and a merit badge counselor for her son's Boy Scout troop. Currently, Dr. Gardiner lives in Utah where she enjoys hiking, whitewater rafting, reading, traveling, and writing. She remains maried to the same man she met as a freshman in college 25 years ago.


I first picked up this book because one of my high school friends is a social worker. She recently went on Facebook asking those who were able to sign up to be foster parents. While I'm not in the financial place for it, I really want to foster and adopt children in the future.

I also really admire this friend of mine and wanted to see if this book would be worth her time or of interest to her.

And I was so, so hoping I could. But let me start off with the good points.

Pros: This book has a good message. It's an important message. Teenagers are not 'too old' or 'too hard' to adopt. They need love just as much as any infant. I can stand behind that.

Cons: Have you ever read something by a person who doesn't write every day? They just don't have a grasp on their literary voice. Reading this brought me back to my high school days, peer editing the paper of a jock who wouldn't write unless his graduation depended on it.

This book has such a great message--it's definitely a message everyone needs to hear. The writing style is just not my cup of tea.

Star rating:
3 of 5

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: How to be rich

You probably don't feel rich. Rich is the other guy. Rich is having more than you currently have. But you can be rich and not feel it. And that's the problem. Andy Stanley is convinced that most of us are richer than we think. We just aren't very good at it. It's one thing to BE rich. Andy wants us to be GOOD at it!

Andy Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and the founder of North Point Ministries (NPM). Since its inception in 1995, North Point Ministries has grown from one church to five in the Atlanta area and has developed a global network of 30 churches.
Each Sunday, more than 36,000 people attend NPM's five Atlanta-area churches: Browns Bridge Community Church, Buckhead Church, Gwinnett Church, North Point Community Church, and Watermarke Church.
Andy's books include How To Be Rich, as well as Deep & Wide, Enemies of the Heart, The Next Generation Leader, and How Good Is Good Enough? Andy and his wife, Sandra, live in Alpharetta, Georgia, and have three grown children.

I picked up this book because my family is in a rough place. We had it good--so good--until we didn't. At the time, my husband and I were both working and pulling in about $1200 a month. We felt rich. My husband lost his job. I picked up extra hours. Our monthly income: $800. We still felt okay. Richer than when we first moved into our apartment.

Then I had my baby and lost my job. Suddenly there was no income coming in. I picked up a nannying job: $400 a month. It covered rent, but we needed more if we were going to eat and keep the Internet.

We swallowed our pride and turned to the state. Now we have enough for a month's worth of food if we eat ramen and hot dogs for the last week, and enough for a can of formula if my daughter hits a growth spurt that my body can't quite keep up with.

I read this book for the same reason anyone in my position would--I want to be rich again. When Stanley said most Americans considered 37K a year to be a pay cut, I laughed. I'd be happy with 24K a year--about $2000 a month to cover necessities and start a savings account for our daughter.

Then I read more. I have a microwave, even if only the left side of it works (don't ask). My husband and I are both healthy if you ignore his broken collarbone. We are fed and we are warm and, while a little uncomfortable, we're happy. I still don't feel rich. But I do feel less poor. But there's more.

I discovered that when we were rich, we were bad at being rich. I knew it at the time, like when my husband bought a TV instead of a crib or an xbox instead of a breast pump set. But even beyond that--we weren't helping anyone. We could have gone down the street and gave money to the food pantry that had helped us out before. We could have taken advantage of the 10 for $10 deals at our grocery and made a whole bunch of sack lunches for the homeless downtown. We didn't. I spent my money on my sister, which is a certain kind of selfishness because I love her. Or I bought video games (to bond with my sister).

I'm kind of new at being Christian--I'm still figuring it out. But this book is honest practically to the point of being revolutionary, and everyone should read it.

star rating: 4.5 of 5

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: The New Indian Slow Cooker Cookbook

Chef Neela Paniz grew up in an elegant Indian home, where her mother's cook prepared wonderful delicacies on a daily basis--the same marvelous regional dishes that she recreates for those lucky enough to dine in her Los Angeles-area Bombay Cafe. Now Neela has compiled a collection of recipes for her best dishes--focusing on the light, the healthy, the fresh, and the easy-to-prepare. Two-color throughout.
The rich and complex flavors of classic Indian dishes like Lamb Biryani, Palak Paneer, and chicken in a creamy tomato-butter sauce can take hours to develop through such techniques as extended braising and low simmering. In The New Indian Slow Cooker, veteran cooking teacher and chef Neela Paniz revolutionizes the long, slow approach to making Indian cuisine by rethinking its traditional recipes for the slow cooker.

She showcases the best regional curries, dals made with lentils and beans, vegetable and rice sides, as well as key accompaniments like chutneys, flatbreads, raita, and fresh Indian cheese. Using this fix-it-and-forget-it approach, you can produce complete and authentic Indian meals that taste like they came from Mumbai, New Delhi, and Bangalore, or your favorite Indian restaurant.

Featuring both classic and innovative recipes such as Pork Vindaloo, Kashmiri Potato Curry, Date and Tamarind Chutney, and Curried Chickpeas, these full-flavor, no-fuss dishes are perfect for busy cooks any day of the week.

My Review:
"No one in India uses a slow cooker."

At least, not yet. This book piqued my interest because, growing up in an Indian home, I thought "Slow cooker? That'd be nice!" Usually my husband and I can only cook Indian on Sundays, when we have the time to devote to it. But to have dinner cooking while we work was something I had to try.

It's not like I've never used a crock pot before. I already know that chicken curry freezes and reheats really well in a slow cooker. But I didn't have any idea how to make it fresh in a slow cooker without it becoming a complete disaster. And that's curry--never mind Dal or Chutney.

I was so pleased to find recipes for childhood favorites like Tikka Masala, which my dad and I actually "cheated" at and bought premade packs to make it. I had previously thought that if my father couldn't make it, it was ridiculously complicated--this is fortunately not the case.

What I admire most about this book is the educational aspect. Along with each recipe is a little piece of history behind its origin, so we get a better idea of how the English and Portuguese influenced Indian cooking.

I was excited to share some recipes with my father, and definitely have some people in mind that I'll recommend this book to.

Star rating: Five of five with a complimentary burp.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Review: Admissions essay bootcamp

ASHLEY WELLINGTON, MA, founded college prep company Mint Tutors ( in 2010. With degrees from Princeton University and St. Andrews University in Scotland, Wellington has worked with several premier tutoring agencies. She lives with her husband and daughter in New York City.

Founder of elite college prep agency Mint Tutors, Ashley Wellington shares hard-hitting essay-writing advice tailored to each student's strengths and potential pitfalls, inspiring students to write as if guided by their own personal college admissions tutor. 

My Review:
"College essays do more than just showcase your writing ability; ideally, they illustrate your priorities, admirable traits, creativity, and academic promise."

Besides being a  beautiful example of how to use a semicolon, this sentence serves as the book's thesis statement. In 176 pages, Ashley Wellington shows us how to turn away from the old "grammar + sob story = perfect essay" formula to start writing admissions essays that really show off who we are. She walks you through everything from finding your student type (I'm a dabbler with a dash of secret prodigy) to how to write cliches if you're really set on writing them.

While I'm a bit past the age of admissions essays, this book makes me wish job applications had an essay section--I'm sure now I'd be able to get any job I want. But the reason I picked this up was to see if it was good enough to pass on to my sister, who is nearing that age of college applications.

The good news: I would buy this for her in a heartbeat.
The bad: The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way in this entire book was the second to last sentence: "I hope you found this guide helpful."

First of all: Yes, of course I did. You do this for a living! Don't go doubting yourself by introducing the possibility that anyone could find this book unhelpful. If it was unhelpful, I wouldn't have made it all the way to the end. Second: This is a book, not a blog post. Own that.

Star rating: Last sentence aside, five of five.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Book Review and Author Interview: Genesis, a Graphic Novel by Jason Quinn

The greatest story ever told begins with Genesis. Witness the Biblical creation of the world, the tempting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the tragic story of Cain and Abel, before joining Noah and the animals on the voyage of a lifetime. Told in a vivid graphic format,Genesis: From Creation to the Flood, is the perfect introduction to the Old Testament. Experience life in the Garden of Eden and life on board the Arc as Noah, his family, and the animals embark on a voyage that will end in a new beginning for life on Earth.

Jason Quinn is the award winning author of Campfire's Steve Jobs: Genius by Design and Gandhi: My Life is My Message. He learned to read with Marvel Comics and was devastated when his teacher told him Spider-Man did not exist. He has worked in publishing for the last twenty years as an editor and writer, working on everything from Spider-Man to Barbie. He moved to India in 2012 and currently works as Campfire's Creative Content Head.

Naresh Kumar is a resident of New Delhi, India. He describes himself as a seeker who is continuously trying to learn as much as he can. He views his art as an expression of his curiosity about the world. In Genesis: From Creation to the Flood, Naresh has produced a work that reads like a great animated movie, exciting, child-friendly and full of wonder and imagination. His past work for Campfire includes Julius Caesar, They Changed the World: Edison, Tesla & Bell, Frankenstein, and Robinson Crusoe.

My Review:
In the age of turning classic books into graphic novels, it was only a matter of time until someone looked at the Bible to do the same.
That's not a bad thing. The Bible is confusing. Among Christian communities it's prescribed as required reading for children, but who can really keep up?
I remember trying to read the Bible as a kid and getting lost in all the footnotes and bloodlines to really appreciate and think about what the stories were about. Things became clearer with the creation of Veggie Tales, a cartoon series that simplified the Bible and left you with the morals of the stories.

Graphic novels do about the same thing. Things that were a bonus in this book:
-Family Trees
-acknowledgement of other cultures and religions with similar stories
-The fact that the serpent had legs in Eden.

Of course there are other factors that are debated and controversial that weren't included in this novel (perhaps for good reason). The two biggest being Dragons and Giants.

We've established that the serpent has legs in Eden. Every culture has some rendering of Dragons. Who's to say the serpent wasn't a dragon instead of an odd sort of lizard man?

Also, Giants. The children of Fallen Angel and Man. Did they help Noah and his family build the Ark? We may never know.

Star rating: Five of Five. I hope for more in the future.

Author Interview:
What prompted you to create a graphic novel of the Bible?
 I’ve always found the Bible fascinating. They call it the Greatest Story Ever Told for a reason, actually, it’s more like the greatest stories ever told, there are so many cool stories and great characters and some brilliant visuals. I used to have an illustrated bible as a kid with some great pictures in it and really the book was made for the graphic novel medium.

You mentioned similar stories to Noah from other cultures. Do you think this is a coincidence or did they all stem from one story and get lost in a game of telephone?
 Actually, I could have mentioned similar creation stories too and even similar stories to Cain and Abel. The indigenous Australian people have a very similar story to Cain and Abel with two brothers one of whom gets whacked on the head with a stone axe. It’s strange but there are many similarities between stories in the Old Testament and stories in other cultures, which yes, they could well have become distorted through a mammoth game of telephone. Mind you, I’ve always believed that there is a finite number of plotlines and the infinite is the personal stamp we put on the story as story-tellers. So one guy telling the story of a flood in Mexico will tell it quite differently to another guy telling the same story in say India. Culture and surroundings play a big part too because you want your audience to relate.

Do you think the Serpent started out as a dragon?
 It’s more than possible, or maybe dragons started out as serpents. You know how lots of people have an innate fear of snakes, unless it’s a massive horror movie boa constrictor a snake doesn’t look that terrifyingly impressive and so for a big strong hulking brute of a man like say Saint George to be scared of a little adder seems a little bit wussy, so we transform this snake into a great big fire breathing dinosaur who can fly rather than slither around on the ground. That said, if you live in an area where there are lots of venomous snakes you don’t have to dramatise them, they are something that will have injured at least someone that you know and so you’ll be raised with a healthy fear and mistrust of them. I think if the serpent was a dragon, Eve would have been too freaked out to listen to him, but a snake, a serpent, at that time, before all the bad stuff came into the world, she would have found harmless enough to listen to. Having said that, I always enjoy hearing other theories too.

You didn't mention the nephilim at all; is there a reason for that?
 There were several reason behind not including the nephilim. One was that in the bible itself they are only mentioned in passing and I felt to include that passage would simply confuse the reader without really adding anything. If however, we had been doing a book simply on the Flood itself then yes, we could have developed the Nephilim into more significant characters. In Genesis itself you almost get the feeling the writer was about to say more about them but then events took over and they were cast to one side.

While we're on the subject, do you think the nephilim or their offspring ("mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.") might have been helping Noah and his family out?
 It is certainly possible that they either helped or hindered Noah in some way, otherwise, you wonder why they were mentioned here at all. However, with popular opinion divided on the actual identity of the Nephilim themselves, I left them out, possibly filing them away to use in another book at some stage.

I understand I reviewed an ARC, but I couldn't help but notice every character had light skin, when (If they were from the East) at least some should have been darker. Is there a reason for this?
The book is set in and around the Middle East where, skin is fairer than say further East. True most of the people aren’t blonde and blue eyed (although you will get a few) but also they aren’t particularly dark. The general look is fairly Mediterranean, where some people are olive skinned and others a little paler. Bearing in mind that we are dealing with the early years of the human race when people didn’t get around as much as they did later and so skin tones would be pretty uniform as there would not be so many outsiders mixing with the characters.
Finally: Will there be more?
I certainly hope so. Obviously Genesis is a great place to start but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other great stories in both Old and New Testaments. As a child I always enjoyed the Bible stories and Bible movies, not from a religious point of view but because they are great stories where anything can happen. I also love the stories in the Indian epic the Mahabharata and in the same way I don’t feel these stories are only for Christians or Jewish readers but for anyone who loves a great story, regardless of their religious beliefs. I remember seeing the movie Samson and Delilah as a kid and for me I didn’t equate it with the Bible at the time, it was just a great adventure about this guy who was a bit like Superman but instead of Kryptonite being his weakness it was having a haircut.  The Samson story is great for a graphic novel as is Moses and David and Goliath and well, so many others.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I have a very, very good reason for not posting lately

Here she is:
Please note the new-mommy/hasn't-slept-for-more-than-two-hours-straight/It's-only-been-THREE-WEEKS? eyes and disheveled I-work-from-home-I-don't-care-anymore hair.

So I can't really be spending my very little free time on things that don't make money. Now that my Dear daughter is a little older (And now sleeps for 3 hours at a time) I have more time.

However, to give you an idea of why I won't be posting weekly just yet (and to throw myself a pity party) here are my finances:

PayPal: -825.42
My Bank: -235.19
Hospital: -36,000 and some change. I don't know. it hurts to look at too long.
Library: -25.10
Husband's doctor: -1,248.60
Husband's bank: -30.00
Mother-in-law: Sooooo much, but thank god she's a saint and we don't have to repay her until we're rich and famous.

Right now I'm freelancing, making $6-$30 at a time towards the paypal so I can use it again. Then I'll focus on my banks so I can use those again.

This is fun, and I like doing this. But it doesn't make me money. Plain and simple. I don't expect this blog to be active for quite a while. I'll check in every so often with a review or interview (most likely interviews because they take less time) but...yeah. I'm sorry.

We'll meet again, though. Soon.

Book Review: Sleep Time Stories; The Adventures of Pee Wee

 About Edward R. Ritvo
Dr. Edward R. Ritvo, M.D., is a retired Professor of Child Psychiatry at the UCLA Medical School who has written some 100 scientific articles and several books on autism and Asperger’s disorder. The author is board certified in psychiatry and child psychiatry, had a child development practice for many years in Los Angeles where he specialized in six areas – autism, child behavior disorders, childhood schizophrenia, depressive disorder, mental disorders, and developmental disabilities. He has written several scientific books but Pee Wee is his first venture into children’s literature.

What is believed to be a pioneering “sleep time” genre of children’s literature has been introduced by child psychiatrist Edward R. Ritvo, M.D. Dr. Ritvo, an internationally acclaimed autism researcher, shared a collection of sleep time stories shared with three generations in his family by publishing Sleep Time Stories: The Adventures of Pee Wee. The importance of this innovative children’s literature rests in the fact that sleep time stories promote bonding between the child and parent/caretaker which is a key foundation to developing a healthy child with strong self-esteem. “Sleepy time stories are powerful in that they convey to the infant that they are loved and are special to their parents who care enough for them that they devote this special experience each evening,” explains Dr. Ritvo.

My review:
Pee Wee the Ant is adorable. While my brand new human puppy is a bit young for sleep training, The stories are fun to read and call for the child to interact with you as you read. I look forward to when my daughter is old enough to answer me when I prompt her (Where do you think Pee Wee is going? Can you see his house?) and to follow along with the gestures the stories suggest (If you squint your eyes really small, you can see his house! Go ahead and try.)

The Adventures of Pee Wee is in that happy place between "This story is way too depressing to be a good bedtime story" (I love you forever, I'm looking at you.) and "That story was so exciting that now no one wants to sleep and mommy has to read her math textbook to get anyone to calm down" (Dr. Seuss is for the daytime.)

Star rating: 4 of 5, but with high expectations once Dear Daughter can interact with it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Author Interview: Charie Lamar

Distantly related to Mary Shelley on her father’s side, CHARIE D. LA MARR has created a genre called Circuspunk which is listed at Urban Dictionary. BUMPING NOSES AND CHERRY PIE is her first work in her new genre. She also has upcoming stories in Alex S. Johnson's heavy metal anthology Axes of Evil and Shwibly Magazine, James Ward Kirk's Bones and Ugly Babies 2, In Vein for the benefit of St. Jude’s Hospital, Chupa Cabra’s We Walk Invisible, Dynatox Ministries’ Witches!, Ripple Effect for Hurricane Katrina relief, Surreal Grotesque,Oneiros’ Books CUT UP! and other anthologies. She was September's featured writer at Solarcide. She is known for writing in many different genres from crime to bizarro to erotica and even Seussian. She is currently editing a Circuspunk anthology trilogy called The New Whakazoid Circus—the Greatest Show on Paper. And she has just sold a bizarro book to James Ward Kirk Fiction called Squid Whores of the Fulton Fish Market.

Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie is a book of short stories in a brand new genre—Circuspunk. It contains 26 stories about the circus, carnivals, sideshows, midways and fairs featuring clowns, magicians, freaks, carnies and the crazy cast of characters that go along with them. “This ain't your mama's roller coaster ride! That is unless your mama does acid before hitting the amusement park!” says Mimi Williams, author of Beautiful Monster. “Hate clowns or love them, you are going to enjoy reading her zany and sometimes poignant look at a world we both love,” adds Jim Rose of the Jim Rose Circus and author of Freaks Like Me. This is a wild ride of stories that begins with the rape of a circus poodle by one of the show’s rescue mutts and doesn’t let up until an overweight daredevil Elvis impersonator becomes a circus stuntman—diving 35 feet into a flaming kiddie pool of water. In between, the combination of satire, splatter and the wild and wacky will have you laughing, with brief respites of stories that will touch your heart and make you think. A professional clown for 9 years, Ms. La Marr tells it like it is, like it should be and like those of you who with clown phobia would like it to be. Put on your rubber nose, put your big shoes up on the coffee table and enjoy Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie. The first Circuspunk book ever!

On your nightstand now: 
Ray Garton’s “Scissors” and Jim Rose’s “Freak Like Me”. Ray is a good friend from Facebook and Jim blurbed “Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie”.

Favorite book when you were a child:
 Many Moons by James Thurber. Still is. I love the humor in it. In so many ways, it is not a children’s book. He does an amazing thing that any children’s author should take into consideration. He recognized the fact that parents would be reading the book to children and added some chuckles and laughs directed at them, too.

Your top five authors:
 Tough question. I would have to break it down into five classic authors and five contemporary. Classics would be Faulkner, Steinbeck, Swift, Hawthorne and Twain with honorable mention for O Henry. Contemporary would be Daniel Silva, Christopher Moore, Michael Connelly, Joe Hill and Margaret Atwood.

Book you've faked reading:
 Never!!! I was the kid whose parents had to yell at them to put the books away and turn out the lights.

Book you're an evangelist for:
 As I Lay Dying. I cannot stress enough how important it is that every writer read it!! Using 17 distinct narrators including a dead woman jostling around in a casket was brilliant.

Book you've bought for the cover:
 Once in the grocery store, I picked up a copy of Daniel Silva’s “A Death in Vienna”. It looked interesting. I was totally blown away. He has become a favorite author – I bought all the books befoe “A Death in Vienna” and have been a first day of publication purchaser ever since. Best five bucks I ever spent on a book.

Book that changed your life:
 Once, I was having a very hard time in my life. I found myself in a New Age store, somehow thinking that if I found the right crystal that called out to me, it was going to help. I must have looked like I was
losing it because a complete stranger walked over and handed me this little book and said, “Read this, you need it.” When I went to buy it, I found out she had already paid and left the store before I could thank her. It was called “The Knight in Rusty Armor”. I think it is about 97 pages long and it totally changed my world. Since then, I have probably given copies as gifts to 25 people. Every time I need a copy to give for a present, I buy out all they have at Barnes and Noble. It is a must read for anyone.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:
 One of these days, I want to take another crack at Ulysses. It drove me nuts the first time. As I recall, it ended up thrown against a wall. I love The Dubliners, but can only take Joyce in short increments thusfar. Maybe I will get through it this time.

Why any human should plunk down cash money for your book:
 Actually right now, it’s books. “Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie”, my collection of Circuspunk stories with Chupa Cabra House came out on December 6. “The Squid Whores of the Fulton Fish Market” my NYzarro book with JWK Fiction came out in Kindle on December 30 and is due out in paperback any day. Humans who are not faint hearted and don’t mind some well-intentioned, off color humor, but like to laugh should plunk down cash money. Or use those nice gift cards they got for Christmas. Both books are snarky and have bite and snap to them. James Ward Kirk said it was hard to edit the Squids and laugh at the same time.

What made you decide to write this book in the first place?
 I decided to write Bumping Noses and create the genre Circuspunk because when I tell people I was a professional clown for 9 years, it is amazing how many people say “I $#%$^$ HATE clowns!” Or “Clowns scare the crap out of me.” I figured if people want to blow up clowns, let’s do it, but let’s do it MY way—with broad strokes of satire and tongue firmly in cheek. It is my antidote for clown phobia. I wrote Squids as a dare from my boyfriend Alex S. Johnson—author of “Bad Sunset:. Joking around I said I should write a book called “The Squid Whores of the Fulton Fish Market” and he said, “Dare you.” BAD thing to say to me.

What is your writing style?
  I have a fancy office, but I seldom use it. Too quiet. Although it is nice in the middle of the night. There is a streetlight right outside the window and it is very pretty. Mostly I write with a laptop on my knee, sitting on the couch with my PA sitting across the room so I can call out questions to him. I have three dogs who are usually right here with me.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
 Full time. It is hard right now, Alex is in California and with the three hour time difference, it is tough mainting a schedule. Also one of my publishers is in Indiana and the other in Arkansas. One cover artist is in Arizona, the other in Massassacusetts and the designer of the second cover in Europe. So I kind of live on a global time clock and take naps.

 What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
 From Bumping Noses, I hope they will realize that clowns are just people in makeup and end this clown phobia insanity. From Squid Whores, I just hope they will walk away thinking, “She is one funny and insane chick!” As they start to read more of my work in anthologies and upcoming books, they will be surprised to see how many different genres I can work in.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
 Visit my Circuspunk page at Facebook  or my home page  Also read some of the 25 or so anthologies I did this past six months with stories in everything from Steampunk to Horror to Sci Fi to Erotica and just about anything in between. Some are out now – many come out within the next month or so. They can also come to Reddit Books on Monday the 6th of January to my 12 hour Ask Me Anything session starting at noon. I would love to hear from them!

What did you like about writing this book, and books in general?
 I just love writing – anything! Been at it since I was six years old.

What is the tone of the book? Satire? Humor? Informative? 
Both are very broad satire and funny. I am not above poking fun at people and stereotypes of people. I find that to be disarming.

Where can the book be bought? 
Amazon, Barnes and – the usual online sources. I understand some bookstores are already selling used copies of Bumping Noses. So it is on shelves – somewhere.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Guest writer: Charie La Marr, Author of Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie

Note: Today Charie will be on Reddit Ask Me Anything. Go find her!

Hi my name is Charie D. La Marr, creator of the genre Circuspunk. Some of you might know me from Facebook as Persiphone Hellecat and some might even know me from the nine years I spent as a professional clown as Kotton Kandy.

So why, do you ask, does a person who spent nine years wearing the motley suddenly start writing stories where clowns blow up? First of all, that is only a part of Circuspunk. Circuspunk can bring in any other genres that you want—from romance to sci fi and everything inbetween. The stories include circuses, carnivals and fairs, midways, freak shows and sideshows, clown, magicians, freaks, acrobats, carnies … all of it!

And the reason is simple. Behind all that splatter and funk, I love the circus! This is a very irreverent, but loving look at a subject near and dear to my heart. But I just got tired of hearing people say, “I #$%$%$% hate clowns!” I would show them my picture and they would agree that as a clown, I was adorable, but they still hated clowns and wanted to see them wiped off the face of the earth. So I decided, if people want to blow up clowns, let’s do it MY way—with tongue firmly planted in cheek. And so Circuspunk was born. I hope that it makes people laugh and desensitizes that clown phobia. I consider it an antidote.

Now, that is not to say that I don’t understand clown phobia in children. As a clown, I took many courses in the psychology of children and how to handle them. I understand that we raise our kids telling them not to talk to strangers. And yet the first time they see a clown, they push the kid into the clown’s arms and get out the camera. I would freak too if my parents made me hug the strangest person I ever saw! I learned to get down to their level, stay back and talk softly and work to gain their trust until they came to me. I would talk about what was on their t-shirts, what their favorite subject in school was, anything to loosen them up and gain their confidence. And the truth was, I ended up in literally thousands of baby books because I never met a kid who ended up not liking me.

Sadly, I cannot say the same of their parents. I was a performing clown. I did magic shows, I walked around with magic tricks in my pockets and puppets. I was not a gumball machine. I didn’t give out cheap trinkets or make animal balloons. I saw way too many parents allow young ones to suck on those balloons and once saw a kid have to have a cheap ten cent ring pulled out of her throat.

My message is simple. Love us. We walk around all day in costumes that sometimes weigh close to ten pounds with wigs and full makeup in the hot sun. We get shin splints from working on unforgiving concrete surfaces. We work hard taking classes and keeping our skills and talents sharp and growing. And we ask nothing more from you than a smile. Is that a lot to ask for?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Book Review: Statue of Ku by Tricia Stewart Shiu

The second book in the Moa Book Series follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Once on the ground, however, they find that their search is less about retrieving a treasured family possession and more about tracing a healing path in their genetic lineage to its true beginning. Their journey involves magic, sacrifice and discovering their unique healing gifts, which live within all of us. Their story intertwines with that of the real boy, Ku — his questions, his travails and, eventually, his triumph. In their continuing search for the Statue, Hillary and Moa find that the answer to every question they seek is where they least expect it and that healing gifts are not lost but merely forgotten

Tricia Stewart Shiu is an award-winning, screenwriter, author and playwright, but her passion lies in creating mystical stories. Her latest series, The Moa Books, which includes "Moa," "The Statue of Ku" and "The Iron Shinto," were, by far her favorite to write.

 My Review:

Pros: A good story with a solid plot. Interesting scenes and gripping when in past tense.

Cons: I wasn't a fan of the present tense segments; I was far more invested in the story when it switched to Ku's story and read in past tense. This may be just a personal preference, though.

Movie Potential: I'm afraid not. The most I see is a cartoon series.

Writing style: As I mentioned, I believe Tricia's past tense writing is far stronger than her present tense. That's not to say her present tense was horrid, just not as good.


Characters: I had an easier time imagining Moa and Ku. Hillary and her family, however, I sometimes had to stop and remember which name belonged to which character. This, also, is most likely a personal trait. Unless characters are brilliantly unique and stand out I tend to have trouble telling them apart.

overall rating: 4/5

Friday, January 3, 2014

Author Interview: Tricia Stewart Shiu

Interview for “Statue of Ku” 

Tricia Stewart Shiu is an award-winning, screenwriter, author and playwright, but her passion lies in creating mystical stories. Her latest series, The Moa Books, which includes "Moa," "The Statue of Ku" and "The Iron Shinto," were, by far her favorite to write.

On your nightstand now:
Amazonite, a beautiful, iridescent healing stone in a wood stand. various tinctures and remedies. I’ve also got a Valentine’s Day card with a frog on it from my daughter, the illustrious illustrator of the Moa Series.
Favorite book when you were a child:
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. I loved imagining what it would be like if I spent the night in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. How exciting to bathe in the fountain and dodge security guards!

Book you're an evangelist for:
It doesn’t happen very often, but the most recent book I evangelized was “Journey of Souls” by Dr. Michael Newton. Anyone who asked me how I was, got an earful about this incredibly insightful book.

Based on the description of your book, I know there may be some touching family scenes as well as a little drama and comedy. But can you tell us what more to expect?
Woven into the engaging stories in “Statue of KU,” are powerful rituals. Although these rituals are deceptively simple, they are deeply transformative and enriching. They also serve as signposts, leading the reader through the story and creating another layer of connection.
What made you decide to write this book in the first place?
Statue of Ku” is the second book in the Moa Series. After I finished, “Moa,” the first book, I immediately felt compelled to write “Statue of Ku.” The natural progression of the story pulled at me, even when I wasn’t writing, and I write it very quickly (in about three months.) Looking back, my decision to write was more of a compulsion, or need to release the information out into the world. The stories and rituals still tug at me when I read them.
What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
Each of us has at least one divine gift to remember. The moment we wake up and retrieve the memory of who we are and what we are here—on earth—to do, the adventure begins.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
What is the tone of the book? Satire? Humor? Informative?
The tone of “Statue of Ku” is, at times, light and at other times, heartbreaking. Ku’s story is one of resilience and rebirth and it is intertwined with Hillary, Heidi, Molly and Moa’s journey to uncover the mystery of Ku and discover their own connection to his story.
Where can the book be bought?
Statue of Ku” is on Kindle
as well as Barnes and Noble and bookstores everywhere!
When did you first meet Moa? Did her words come true?
I first met Moa while I was on vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii. My family and I had spent the morning at the beach and afterward, we headed back to our condominium, ate a light lunch, and took a luxurious siesta. Although I’m not usually a mid-day napper, the fresh sea air and sun lulled me into a light sleep—the kind where I felt like I was awake, but I was actually deeply asleep.
I heard a voice say my name and a part of me awoke. I use the word “part” because I could definitely feel my body touching the soft material on the couch. And yet, another part was keenly aware of a young woman with dark hair standing over me. It felt real, but dream-like, so I decided to go with it and ask her her name.
She pronounced a long Hawaiian string of letters, which seemed to go on for minutes. After repeating the name three or four times, she told me to call her “Moa.” Through my exhausted, sleepy haze, I remember being skeptical. If this was, indeed, a dream, I would ask as many questions as possible. So I did.
Why was she here? Where did she come from? How could I be sure she was who she claimed to be?
Instead of any answers, she flashed a mental picture of a woman and said that she was a long lost friend of my mother-in-law’s. She told me the woman’s name (Sharon) and explained that my mother-in-law and she had lost touch 15 years before and had been orbiting around one another trying to reconnect.
I awoke from that nap, slightly groggy. That was an indication that I was definitely asleep. Perhaps it was just my creativity kicking into overdrive, I reasoned, and decided to go on with my day.
My mother-in-law and I walked to a park with my daughter and began playing. Suddenly, there was a squeal and we turned to see the woman from my dream charging toward us with her arms stretched out wide. As my mother-in-law introduced me to her long-lost friend, Sharon, I tried to gather my wits. Here was the same woman from my dream, someone I’d only seen a mental picture of, and she was standing on the grass right in front of me.
She and my mother-in-law exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. For the next few hours, I tried to make sense of what happened. I had never had an experience like this before, but there was no denying that I saw a picture in a dream before I met someone and then they showed up in real life.
When I went to sleep that evening, Moa visited again. She answered the other questions I’d asked earlier that afternoon and wanted me to know that I was protected and should share my experience with the world. Since this was definitely my first metaphysical encounter, I had no idea how to form the correct words to share what had happened. How on earth, I asked Moa, am I supposed to convey such undocumented, unsubstantiated, unusual information?
She said that our world exists on many levels which all play simultaneously. Her analogy was of a DVR. Several shows can be playing at the same time but are on different tuners. That, she said, is where she existed.
When I awoke, I began writing and continued to do so. The story evolved into “Moa,” then the following two sequels, “Statue of Ku” and “Iron Shinto.” My daughter, now nine, took the cover photos and illustrated all three books, as well.
Since my visit with Moa, I began an extensive and sometimes circuitous search to explain my metaphysical experience. I took classes on mediumship, Huna, energy work and through my education, I learned to create healing essential oils and elixir sprays and incorporated that information in the book. Not only did my experience with Moa inspire me and guide me through four-and-a-half of the most challenging years of my life, I also believe that writing about those events and including information I received about that inspiration and guidance, brought my own deep physical, mental, emotional and spiritual transformation and healing. Writing, editing and publishing Moa has opened doors to a new way of understanding myself, those around me and the energy we share.
What would you say to those who are skeptical of the healing activities mentioned in your book?
Whatever your belief or understanding of the metaphysical world, I believe that if one person is transformed through learning, then we are all transformed. I truly believe the Moa I met, came through in this work and, just as I connected with her as I wrote, those who read the book will experience her as well.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Review: I will Never Forget by Elaine C Pereira

 Elaine C. Pereira is a retired school occupational therapist who worked with special needs children. She earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Wayne State University and later completed her master’s degree. Pereira and her husband Joseph live in southeastern Michigan with their cat, Snoopy, and two big dogs, Bailey and Maddee. Together Pereira and her husband have five adult children; Joe’s three sons and Elaine’s twin daughters, five young grandchildren and a teenage granddaughter. Life is good again.

I Will Never Forget is the exquisite portrayal of the author’s talented mother, Betty’s, extraordinary and humorous journey through dementia. Through superb stories of Elaine’s childhood, including her controversial name, tales of smoking dragons, and a near paralyzing accident, her mother’s wonderful character is revealed. As their mother-daughter relationship evolves, Elaine referees her mom’s uncharacteristic verbal assaults and masterful Houdini-like disappearances. Elaine relishes in Betty’s dazzling visions of her own mother and then witnesses her mom’s stunning rally to take control of her own destiny. Finally, Elaine accompanies her mother down her one-way journey as her brilliant mind is slowly destroyed by Dementia’s insatiable appetite for brain cells.

My Review:

Pros: This is the kind of book that draws you in. It intrigues you at first, but soon it has you by the heart and you almost don't want to know what happens but you have to read on. A book written with so much passion and love that, even if you've no experience with dementia, you become a lot closer to understanding the point of view of someone who does.

Cons: It made me cry. Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely an unusual experience for me as far as non-fiction goes.

Movie Potential: Yes, I can definitely see this as a film. Most books of this genre feel like they would be made-for-tv lifetime movies. But I could see this one in theaters.

Writing style
: Passionate. Poignant and soft, gaining volume and speed at times and slowing down to a contemplative pace at others. Fantastic.

Format: hardcover

Overall rating: 5/5

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Author Interview with Elaine C Pereira

 Elaine C. Pereira is a retired school occupational therapist who worked with special needs children. She earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Wayne State University and later completed her master’s degree. Pereira and her husband Joseph live in southeastern Michigan with their cat, Snoopy, and two big dogs, Bailey and Maddee. Together Pereira and her husband have five adult children; Joe’s three sons and Elaine’s twin daughters, five young grandchildren and a teenage granddaughter. Life is good again.

 I Will Never Forget is the exquisite portrayal of the author’s talented mother, Betty’s, extraordinary and humorous journey through dementia. Through superb stories of Elaine’s childhood, including her controversial name, tales of smoking dragons, and a near paralyzing accident, her mother’s wonderful character is revealed. As their mother-daughter relationship evolves, Elaine referees her mom’s uncharacteristic verbal assaults and masterful Houdini-like disappearances. Elaine relishes in Betty’s dazzling visions of her own mother and then witnesses her mom’s stunning rally to take control of her own destiny. Finally, Elaine accompanies her mother down her one-way journey as her brilliant mind is slowly destroyed by Dementia’s insatiable appetite for brain cells.

On your nightstand now: 
The hard cover of I Will Never Forget-A Daughter's Story of Her Mother's Arduous and Humorous Journey Through Dementia.  It’s always there.  But I think what you really want to know is what am I reading:  Behind the Old face by Angil Tarah-Ritchey.
Favorite book when you were a child: 
Cinderella, which is now my granddaughter’s favorite although she’s pretty little.
Book you've faked reading: 
Just HS and college history books etc.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Firegal... Rising from the Ashes by
Gina Geldbach-Hall – crazy cool cover and title.

Book that changed your life:  Honestly?  Mine!

Why any human should plunk down cash money for your book:
(I’m chuckling reading the question and trying to think of a funny comeback equal to the task, but …)   My book is not a side splitting humorous tale of a crazy dog like Marley and Me; I get that.  But it is not a dark, foreboding, depressing, boring story just about someone’s tough life at the end as they’re old and gray anyway.
I Will Never Forget is a powerful, true account of a kind, brilliant, trailblazing woman who earned her BS in chemistry, or all things, in post WWII and then uprooted as a single woman to move across state lines for a new job!  We are an international world today, but it was very, very different in the late 1940s. 
This memoir is rich in descriptive detail, character development and presents honest and sometimes humbling stories of a family in various stages of crises alternating with happiness and calm. 
In a society where we think nothing of spending $4.00 on a cup of coffee – well many Starbucks patrons do it, although I’d rather have a draft – in three or four days, you could have a real, tangible, meaningful, wonderful and real book! And not an empty cup to recycle. 
There are many good books on dementia but mine is one of the great ones!

Based on the description of “I Will Never Forget” I know there may be some touching scenes as well as a little tragedy. But can you tell us what more to expect?
I Will Never Forget details superb stories of the author’s childhood through which her mother, Betty’s wonderful character is revealed.  From the controversy about Elaine’s name, tales of smokin’ dragons, the feisty teenage years and her near paralyzing accident, a woman of great character and depth of soul is portrayed.

Their strong mother-daughter relationship gradually evolves as Elaine matures, marries and becomes a mother herself, of twin girls no less!   But as the years advance, Betty’s characteristic kindness wanes.  She starts to exhibit flashes of hostility, paranoia and gradually begins her one-way journey through the dark corridors of mind zapping Alzheimer's.

Although clearly mystified by her mother’s goofy behaviors and bizarre thinking, Elaine does not appreciate the extent of her mother’s decline until one tumultuous explosion of reality.  The crazy drama continues as Elaine referees her mom’s uncharacteristic verbal assaults, escapes so exquisite as to impress Houdini, Betty’s fascinating visions of her own mother and finally her stunning rally to take control of her own destiny. 

I Will Never Forget is a heartwarming, funny and powerful true story pertinent to anyone touched by the insidious effects of Dementia.  Learn from Elaine's unwitting mistakes as she naïvely weaves through Dementia’s unpredictable haze to capture insightful and effective intervention strategies.  Accompany the author through her journey, as her mother's brilliant mind is slowly and unpredictably destroyed by Dementia's ravenous appetite for brain cells.

What made you decide to write this book in the first place?
My mother’s rich life but eventual, incredible journey through dementia is a story that needed to be told and, inspired by casual but genuine remarks from friends who said, “You should write a book,” I did! 

For far too long, I lived in denial and ignorance, as Mom declined.  Despite warnings and information to the contrary, I saw my mom as more functional than dysfunctional.  My professional expertise as an OT should have afforded me a better understanding and recognition of my mother’s paranoia and memory issues in the beginning.  But like many families, I was too close to the situation. 

I felt that if I wandered aimlessly in ignorance, how many other caregivers did too?  If I learned by trial and error how best to manage Mom’s tirades, personality changes, agitation and hostility, perhaps in sharing my story openly and honestly, I could help others learn from my unwitting mistakes and know that they are not alone. 
What is your writing style?
I wrote I Will Never Forget on my laptop almost exclusively at the kitchen table, surrounded by countless windows, near the heat vent and typically with the counter TV on low. 
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Neither and both:  I had retired as a school occupational therapist not long before Mom’s dementia really took hold rendering her unsafe.  Almost a year later after nearly unbelievable drama and escapades, Mom had declined so rapidly she was virtually incoherent.  I started writing then, pages here and there of better times and current issues.  A month after she passed away I made a conscious decision to move the drafts past the cathartic stage and into the revealing book it deserved to be and forged ahead full time. 
What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I want readers, especially caregivers to learn from my unwitting mistakes.  I stumbled in oblivion trying to use logic and reasoning to affect changes in someone devoid of the capacity to process rational thought.  It baffled me.  Eventually, though, I adopted far more effective strategies that I share in the book.  
I want caregivers to know they are not alone in their journey with their parent, spouse or friend, that there is help out there, that they need to take care of themselves first before they can care for someone else, a concept that is, by definition, foreign to caregivers. 
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
I post monthly on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room and have had a few posts on Maria  One is slated to run mid February. 
What did you like about writing this book, and books in general?
Initially the manuscript served a cathartic purpose.  But as I delved into finishing it, I loved writing about who my mom was as seen through my eyes as a child, how she helped to mold a mouthy, feisty teenager into a woman who can and did move mountains in her behalf. 
What is the tone of the book? Satire? Humor? Informative?
Honest, occasionally funny and sarcastic, revealing, thoughtful, provocative.

Where can the book be bought?
Author signed copies are available from me via the USPS; just contact me  734-395-3615

Barnes & Noble