Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Review/Bargain Ebook - Annie Begins

I'll admit it; I found Annie Begins, by Michelle Toth, when I was checking my own sales rankings on Amazon. I guess customers who bought my books also bought hers. (Only, as her sales rankings would suggest, more people have bought her book.) I thought the cover was eye-catching. I thought the description sounded intriguing, it got great reviews, but most of all, I was excited to read some intelligent women's fiction by an independent author.
Annie Begins takes place in the mid-nineties during the dawn of the internet age. Annie and her best friend/boss, Stephen, are starting up a business called, a pioneer in the internet dating scene. However, Annie is no expert on dating. Her biggest source of action is from her newly divorced crush, Paul, who doesn't seem interested in being much more than friends. As Annie pines away for Paul, her young cousin April, who is gravely ill with cancer, decides that a family friend named Eddie is her perfect match. Annie has to decide how to follow her heart and follow her instincts, and ask for what she needs.

I thought this book was very well done. Annie is a truly likeable, yet flawed character who I rooted for the entire way through. Michelle Toth has a great handle on both dialogue and description, which I think is rare. Usually it seems authors are good at one or the other. In addition, she's either from an internet background or she's incredibly well-researched. The matchmaking internet business subplot was really interesting.

I also thought Toth was rather brave in her writing. There were some heart-breaking scenes, both with Annie's sick cousin April and with the awkward mistakes Annie makes with Paul. She didn't shy away from these scenes, and they were quite powerful.

The one criticism I have is there was a lot of explanation about Annie's emotions - a little too much, I thought. There was enough action and dialogue that I felt I could have inferred Annie's emotions without all that.

But overall, it was a great read and I recommend it. And it's only $2.99 on Amazon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Survivors by Amanda Howard - Bargain Ebook

The Survivors
This is another one to add to my ever-expanding to-be-read pile. It sounds like it has hints of the Hunger Games combined with some paranormal elements as well, but in a very unique way. Plus, it's based off of the Salem Witch Trials, which is a subject I find fascinating!
It has several five star reviews on Amazon, and right now it's only $2.99! The link is up top, in blue.

Product Description:

In 1692, when witch trials gripped the community of Salem, Massachusetts, twenty-six children were accused as witches, exiled, and left for dead. Fourteen of them survived.

The Survivors is the first installment of the tantalizing tales of the fourteen ill-fated Survivors and their descendants, who have been content in hiding for over three centuries. Isolated on a Montana mountainside, only Sadie, the rogue daughter, dares to abandon the family’s sacred hiding place. But no matter how far Sadie runs, something always pulls her back.

On a muggy summer night in Tennessee, she witnesses a shocking scene that will change her life forever. It is the first in a sequence of events that will drag her from the human world she’s sought to belong to for over a century and send her back to her Puritanical family and into an uncertain future filled with cunning witches, mysterious nosferatu shape-shifters, dangerous eretica and vieczy vampires, millennia-old mythology, and the search for her own mortality. After all…


The Survivors will steal your heart and invade your mind. Fall into the pages of Sadie’s life, a world so frighteningly similar to your own, you’ll find yourself wanting to go to the Montana mountains to find the Survivors for yourself.

And it is only the beginning.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Department of Lost and Found

I just found this bargain kindle book for only $1.99. What a deal! I've been wanting to read Allison Winn Scotch for a while, and this book looks great. It's about a senator's aide (I love politics as a subplot) who discovers she has breast cancer. That prompts her to go back and interview past boyfriends so she can figure out mistakes she's made and get her life on track.

The inexpensive price may not last, so I'd buy it now if you're interested!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Eli Potter and the Dragonfly Dog

This weekend we drove to my dad and step-mom's house on Plum Lake, in Wisconsin. There was no television nor internet, so one thing we did to entertain him was read him the first Harry Potter book.
He LOVED it. So much, that he immediately decided that he's no longer an alien, but a wizard instead. This is a big deal, because he's been an alien for well over a year now.
Anyway, when we weren't reading to him, Rich took Eli into the woods for a walk, and Eli wanted to gather sticks and leaves to make some potions. Rich told him that if he found some dragonfly wings that those are super magical. Rich didn't think there was any danger of Eli actually finding dragonfly wings. But he was wrong.

That evening Eli found a dead dragonfly and plucked off his wings. Immediately he put together a potion and cast a spell to produce what he's always wanted: a dog.
He told us the dog would arrive within the next twenty-four hours.
We all laughed it off.
So the next evening we're going for a walk, and a guy drives up in a truck and says, "Did you guys lose a dog? There's one walking around in the campground over there."

Eli was convinced it was his dog. We had to explain about a million different ways why we couldn't take it home with us.

When he finally accepted our answer, he started campaigning for a hamster instead.

If he's as good at magic as he seems to be, he just might get one.

Eli at the 4th of July Parade, holding out his candy bag

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Black Widow and Mean Girls in Fiction

Blog Gang - Spiders

There are so many types of spiders, and people  have such strong reactions to them. But I can think of only one type of spider that has served as inspiration for countless female fictional characters... the black widow.

I did a little reading on Wickipedia about the black widow spider. Turns out she's bigger, stronger, and lives longer than her male counterpart. Oh, and sometimes after mating she'll bite off his head and eat him. (But this is the exception, not the rule.)

Why is this such a popular model for female characters in movies, books, and television? Here's my theory: People like role reversals. The excepted, accepted modus operandi is that in any couple, the man is the strong, stoic one who is isn't quite as sensitive or emotional as the woman. The idea of a woman who can not only take or leave her man, but bite his head off if she so desires, is appealing because it breaks the norm. Keep in mind, I'm deliberately talking in stereotypes here, because in fiction stereotypes are sometimes necessary.

So who are some of the best, or most famous black widow-like characters? Here's a partial list:
  • Scarlet O'hara - Her husbands have a habit of dying, although that's not (necessarily) her fault. But to paraphrase Rhett Butler, the most macho guy ever, she can only bring misery to any man.
  • Hedda Gabler - If you aren't a theater buff you might not have heard of her, but she is the creation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Hedda marries for money, but she's in love with her husband's academic rival. However, jealousy and greediness propel Hedda to literally destroy this man, making her a very unsympathetic character. Is it her fault, or is she a victim of society?
  • Lady Macbeth - Although it's her husband who actually does the killing, many people feel Lady Macbeth is the more evil of the two. "I've given suck, and know How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me ; I would, whilst it was smiling in my face, Have pluckt my nipple from his from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I so resolved, As you have done for this." That's hard core! 
  • Lolita - Honestly, I've never read it, but the original work sounds like it's actually about a girl who is the victim of pedophilia rather than about a man who is tempted and seduced by a soulless twelve year old. I include Lolita however, because I believe she served as inspiration for lots of other characters who do fit the black widow prototype. Alicia Silverstone in The Crush, Julia Stiles in Wicked, and Kerri Russel in The Babysitter's Seduction. Okay, I watch Lifetime Movies for Women a little too much.
But that leads me to another point. The examples I gave are obviously from many years ago. I'd love to hear people's opinions on some more modern black widow characters!