Category Archives: books

Free – this weekend only!

I haven’t really mentioned my writing recently on this blog, but besides chasing chickens and gardening, I’m also an author. The first three books about Molly Claire, time traveler and professional ghost hunter, are now available on Amazon.

GhostscoverHere’s a brief blurb from the first book:

Molly Claire was found aboard an abandoned boat in the San Francisco Bay, wearing an old-fashioned nightgown and a bloody jacket too large for her. The crew of the boat was never found, and the family of the girl never came forward to claim her. She was just five years old.

Now, nineteen years later, Molly Claire has no memory of anything that happened to her before that night – nothing remains of her early childhood except the screams that torment her nightmares. But that’s not the most unusual thing about her: Molly Claire can slip through time, an ability she uses as a professional ghost hunter.

But when she and her two partners take the case of another young child, also haunted by nightmares and screaming, Molly Claire’s current life and her past collide in ways she never imagined in her worst nightmares.

Will Molly Claire discover a way to save this little girl from the bloody future in her dreams? And will she be strong enough to save herself from a web of betrayal and conspiracy she has no idea even exists?

You can read the beginning on Amazon, and if you would like to try the entire book, it’s going to be FREE all this weekend.

I have also set up a facebook page, where I will post all the blogs from here, plus random chicken/garden/homesteading/writing goodness. You can find me on facebook here.

And, of course, if you like the books, and want to be notified first whenever a new one appears, please join my email list. I promise not to spam you – it’s only to let you know of new books!

Advertisements

Year in Review – Including Best Books of 2015

2015 was incredible. In the garden, we took down two old rotten sheds, paved a long section of pathway through the garden, and built a duck coop for our new animal additions, and built a greenhouse.

Outside of the garden, I took the trip I’ve been dreaming of for half my life to Iceland, Great Britain, and Venice.

I would have also published my first book, but I decided to delay it until I finished all three in the trilogy, and release them at the same time. So basically, I wrote three books in 2015. A little more tweaking, and they’ll be ready to go out in Spring, I think.

Additionally, this was the year of me being the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Seriously, I loved being 42.

And of course, I read a ton of books in 2015. I made my yearly goal of 150, just barely – hey, I didn’t read at all during my month abroad! I ended up with a total of 152.

Out of those, here are my favorites, beginning with nonfiction.

1: Real Food for Rabbits, by Laura Wheeler

rabbitsI talked about this one in my last post. But basically, it’s a fabulous book for people with either pet or meat rabbits, who want to feed their animals with natural food, not commercial pellets.

2: Book Cover Design Secrets, by Derek Murphy

book1

Sometimes a particular book comes to you at the exact moment you need it. This is one of those books. It’s absolutely brilliant – Derek tells it like it is, often going against the commonly believed and published “truth” about cover design. If you’re an Indie writer, this book MUST be on your bookshelf. I borrowed it through Kindle Unlimited, and then immediately went and purchased a copy – it’s that good!

3: The Compassionate Carnivore, by Catherine Friend

Friend_CompCarniv_mech.indd

Really good explanation of what I’m trying to do on my little farm, and why I’m doing it.

4: The Nourishing Homestead, by Ben Hewitt

book1

Yes. Just read this. He has a few things wrong (I disagree completely with his views on wheat, for instance) but the majority is so, so right.

5: My Garden, the City, and Me, by Helen Babbs

book1

Wonderfully written, interesting little book about gardening on a rooftop in London.

6: Grow a Little Fruit Tree, by Ann Ralph

book1

This book should be required reading for any backyard gardener with an interest in fruit trees. Wow – so much helpful info! Everything you think you know about planting, pruning, and growing fruit trees is wrong…read this book and find out why. It will completely change your gardening game plan.

7: Adventures in Yarn Farming, by Barbara Perry

book1

I admit it; I’m fascinated by sheep and shepherds. I would love to own sheep, but I can’t quite figure out how to fit them in my backyard farm…plus they are just ever so slightly illegal where I live. So I read these books and dream of the day I can move to the country and have my own flock. Icelandic sheep, definitely, after experiencing the wonder of those sheep in their home country!

I’ve been reading far more non-fiction than I used to, and it’s heavily weighted in favor of practical books relating to homesteading, gardening, or animals. But I also still read tons of fiction.

8: Fool’s Quest, by Robin Hobb

book1

So good. I can’t even…it’s just so good. I love how Hobb ties everything together in this one, all of her various series just fitting together seamlessly. Book one of this particular series made my Best Books list last year, and I expect she’ll make the list next year, too.  My favorite series of hers, although to really get the most pleasure out of it, you really should read her others, first.

9: Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis

book1

So charming and fun. It was a delight to read, and after I finished, I immediately downloaded the rest of the series. There were equally good.

10: The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne Valente

book1

Valente’s writing is SO yummy. It’s old-fashioned and modern and hip and nostalgic and you can’t skip even a single word. No one writes like Valente; she’s just incredible.

11: The Hollow Boy, by Jonathan Stroud

book1

This book deserves way more than five stars. Take all the stars! Honestly I am just blown away by how good this series is, and this book in particular. Every one I know needs to read this book right now!

12: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

book1

I’ve been a fan of Novik’s dragon series for a long time now, so when I first heard this was coming out, I was a tad disappointed. What, no dragons? No Napoleonic War? No men who (a tad disconcertingly) call their dragon ‘dear’?  But yowza. I was blown away by this. It’s head and shoulders above her dragon series. It’s truly the best fantasy I’ve read for ages.

 

Okay, it was super hard this year to pick an over-all favorite, because numbers 11 and 12 were SO incredible.  But I’m going to give the title to:

13: Miss Buncle’s Book, by D.E. Stevenson

book2

This isn’t the most amazing, life-changing book in my list. It’s not even the best written. But it is a book that I hugged to my chest when I was done reading, because I grew so intensely fond of it. It made me happy, and once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. I stayed up way too late, and skipped watching two of my favorite tv shows for this book. And the sequels are great, too – I think I may even like the second book a triffle more.

And there you have it: 2015 was a year of glory. But I have a feeling 2016 is going to be pretty spectacular too….

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

So normally I save up my favorite books for a blog post at the end of the year.  I’m breaking that tradition in order to tell you about this fantastic book I just finished.

It’s brilliant, people.  If you’ve ever had an interest in growing fruit trees – lots of fruit trees – in your yard, but never thought you had enough room, this is the book you need.

book33I pre-ordered this on a whim, and it was delivered to my kindle last night, around bedtime.  I started reading it…and let’s just say I was late getting to bed.  I couldn’t put it down.

Everything you ever learned about growing and pruning fruit trees is wrong – and everything she says makes so much sense.

Totally going to get a peach tree this year…and a cherry…and a plum…oh yeah.  I love my espaliered pears and apples, but stone fruit don’t work well as espaliered trees (unless you fan-shape them, which I don’t care for, AND I’m running out of good espalier garden spots.)  I’m so excited to give this a try!

Best Books of 2014

I read 155 books this year – although I joined Kindle Unlimited, which put me in a feeding frenzy of very short and very niche books, most of which I didn’t bother listing or rating unless they particularly struck me.  Here, however, is the roundup of my very favorites, counting down to the Book of the Year.

#12: Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too: The Modern Step-by-Step Guide to Preserving Food by Daniel Gasteiger

book4

After checking out a ton of books on canning from the library, this one quickly became my go-to reference. I bought a copy immediately.

#11: Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

book5

So good.  One of the best that Hobb has ever written.

#10:  Traveling With Your Octopus, by Brian Kesinger

book6

I love Brian Kesinger; not only is a supremely talented artist, he is an all-around wonderful guy.  When I received my autographed copy, I couldn’t resist posting a picture and comment on his facebook:

With tremendous delight, I received my copy of “Traveling With Your Octopus” today. My own cephalopod, Oswin, is particularly anxious to pick up some tips for our own upcoming travels together. I believe he will be expecially intrigued (or perhaps concerned?) by the page on Egypt, as that is one of our destinations! Perhaps I should not allow him to read it at bedtime?

He confirmed, as expected, that is not wise to upset cephalopods at bedtime!

#9: Urban Farm Handbook, by Annette Cottrell

book3

Packed with helpful information specific to my part of the US.  Tons and tons of photographs.

#8: The Weekend Homesteader, by Anna Hess

book2

Really enjoyed this book. Great tone, and the projects were nearly all things I am either trying to do, or at least thinking about doing. Her section on growing mushrooms made me realize I absolutely need to add that one to the list!

#7: Leave Me Alone: The Introvert’s Guide to Travel, by Wya Soquiet

book1

Okay, this was fabulous. Way, way too short (it’s more of an essay than a book) but YES. This is my kind of travel book.Here’s the line that hooked me:

“Ahhh…travel. It’s an opportunity to expand your horizons, to see beautiful locals, to explore exotic cultures. You WILL make new friends! You WILL have encounters with the locals – right in their natural habitat! With any luck, you may even get invited home to dinner.

“If that last sentence makes you break out in hives, this guide might be for you.”

Hee. Finally an antidote to all those solo travel guides that assume everyone is an extrovert and WANTS to hang out with strangers every chance they get! Finally a guide that understands we introverts travel too…but we’re looking for a different kind of experience!

Only a few actual tips, but it’s hilarious, and so true.

#6: The Long Haul, by Jeff Kinney

book7

This is probably the best one since the first. Twice, I had to stop reading, I was laughing so hard.

#5: The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon

book8

A beautifully written, spine-tingling tale. Definitely will be seeking out more books by this author!

#4: The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud

book10

I honestly can’t believe this book is packaged as a middle school novel. It must be because publishers stupidly believe that people only want to read books about people their own age. Sure, the protagonists in this book are children, but the writing, language, plot, and world-building are AT LEAST on the level of a YA novel, and I would personally put on an adult level. It’s fantastic. Atmospheric, creepy, and genuinely frightening, and set in a brilliantly fascinating world. I can’t wait for the next one!

#3: Mrs Queen Takes the Train, by William Kuhn

book11So much fun. Kuhn clearly understands the royal family. He includes so many small, wonderful details, and really has a grasp on how The Queen might feel.

The only part I did not like was the “love affair” between Rebecca and Rajiv. The author seems to have no idea at all how to convincingly write chemistry between men and women. Every word Rajiv says to Rebecca is either creepy, icky, or awkward…and it makes zero sense that she would respond at all positively. The sections with the two of them were just…bad. I kept thinking she’d whack him over the head and escape, because any sensible real-life girl would surely come to the conclusion that he’s not at all dating material, and quite possibly a serial killer.

That said, the rest was quite brilliantly wonderful, and I’d love to see more fiction from this author. Just not love stories.

#2: Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Steifvater

book9

I could rave on and on about Maggie Stiefvater’s grasp of language and style for twenty pages. Her writing is just so beautiful that I find myself re-reading little bits continually. She just wraps her world around me and makes me feel everything. If I had to name just four modern masters of fantasy, Stiefvater would be one of them. I love this series so much that I even though I was eagerly counting down the days until Blue Lily’s release, I couldn’t make myself start reading it for several weeks after it came out. It just sat on my kindle, giving me little tingles of anticipation every time I saw it in my library. You can never repeat that first experience of reading a brilliant book for the first time, and I really didn’t want that first read to ever be over.

And finally, my favorite book I read in 2014!

Peggy, by Anna Walker

book12A children’s picture book, gorgeously illustrated and so cute and funny. Clearly the author knows her chickens, because Peggy is a very “chickeny” chicken. If a chicken could take a train to the city, this is exactly how she’d behave!  I love every inch of the illustrations, and every word is perfect. 

Best Books of 2013

Time for the annual list. This year, I read 162 books, and as always, it was fun to look back through them and choose my favorites.  Other than saving the very best for the end, they are in no particular order.

1) The Thinking Beekeeper, by Christy Hemenway.

510Ikh3JYAL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-41,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am very seriously planning to become a beekeeper within the next couple of years, so I have been reading a ton of books and other information on keeping bees.  This one is fantastic; Christy tells you how to keep bees the natural way, working with the bees by allowing them to manage their hive according to their own wisdom.  Bees know how to be bees, just like quail know how to be quail.

2) Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh.

51g-qVtJyoL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Allie is quite possibly the funniest woman alive.  And she is also incredibly honest, and I now understand all sorts of things about depression that I never understood before.

3) The Outfit, by Richard Stark.

41Wp+qHo7AL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-65,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Richard Stark writes pure, brutal poetry.  I savor his writing.

4) Boot and Shoe, by Marla Frazee.

41H7jOzCkLL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-31,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_It’s pretty rare that a children’s picture book makes my Best Of list, but this is a pretty rare children’s book.  Every bit of it, from the illustrations to the words to the emotions, is perfection.

5) Wool, by Hugh Howey.

61lrCdT5rGL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-66,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I stumbled across this one as a free Kindle chapter on Amazon, and I’m glad I took the chance.  This guy is an amazing writer; you think you know exactly where he’s going…and then he slams you into the ground and stomps on your brain.  In all the best ways, of course.  I love authors who can do that to me.  The two sequels, Shift and Dust, also got five stars from me.

6) Poison, by Chris Wooding.

51iOjrE3W1L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_This one gets a little more meta than I’d like, and I’d probably not have included it on this list if it didn’t also possess the best creepy scene I’ve possibly ever read.  Seriously.  I’d have given it five stars and put it on this list if that scene were the entirety of the book.  It’s that good.

7) The Quarter Acre Farm, by Spring Warren.

61T9Vehyy5L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA318_PIkin4,BottomRight,-18,16_AA300_SH20_OU01_Inspiring book on having it all…in your backyard.  I got so many ideas and schemes from this book!

8) The Food Lover’s Garden, by Mark Diacono.

51PuCajR0dL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Another completely inspirational book…this one will make you seek out all the fruits and vegetables you’ve maybe never heard of – but have been missing out on.  I now have a kiwi, a gooseberry and a chilean guava planted in my garden, thanks to this book.

9) The Sleep Thieves, by Stanley Coren.

41AIaf0+MuL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_A non-fiction that might possibly save your life.  Or at least, change it for the better.  Eye-opening and fascinating.

10) Once Upon a Flock, by Lauren Scheuer.

51WMgo-LiAL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-62,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_So charming, and the illustrations are marvelous.  Totally hit me in the heart…right where my own chickens live. This one probably would have been my pick for Best Non-Fiction Book, if I wouldn’t have read the below:

11) What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, by Jonathan V. Last.

51pUnS9Fz-L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Maybe you believe that “fact” that we’re in a population explosion, and we’re all going to run out of room and omg die if we don’t control our breeding…well, if so…you need to read this and get a dose of the truth.  That story about population explosion?  It’s been proven to be false.  Proven.  Yet people still believe it, when in fact the opposite is true.

We are all going to be in some serious trouble if families don’t start making more babies. In other places besides the US, they are well aware of this. In German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the government is actually re-training prostitutes to care for their elderly. Russia is basically committing national suicide – consider this: in addition to all the other factors affecting their population, they have 30% more abortions than births. This is…horrifying. Holocaust-level horrifying. Japan is doing so badly, population-wise, that the government is invoking increasingly more and more desperate measures to try to convince their citizens to reproduce before it’s too late. Even India is barely producing above replacement levels. (This I looked up myself, as it isn’t in the book.) And that level is dropping rapidly, not rising.

It’s a good thing I already know that humanity is not going to go extinct, or I’d be seriously worried after reading this book. Crazy, how we’re spoon-fed “information” (like population explosion) that is the exact opposite of the truth, and people just swallow it down. Maybe this book will open a few eyes.

Also appreciate that in the end, he gives some solid answers on how to improve matters. I particularly loved the section on colleges – so great!

This is my pick for my Best Non-Fiction Book of 2013.

And my Best Fiction Book of 2013?

12) Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater.

51KjJ3da-hL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-60,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_If you read my Best Books list for last year, you’re going ‘Wait, what? Wasn’t this your Best Book for 2012, too?

Why yes.  Why yes it was.  I loved it so much that I re-read a couple of months ago, and if anything, I thought it was even better.  I mean seriously…this author.  She writes so gorgeously, and she just tells you things, and you don’t believe her – until she absolutely stuns you with a massive plot twist you never saw coming.  Even though she straight-out told you.  That takes major writing balls, my friends.

I wasn’t going to make it my Best Book again, but then I thought: The Raven Boys deserves it.  I’m not sure I’ve been so completely blown away by a book since the first time I read Tolkien.

The Desolation of Smaug

I just got home from watching the second part of the Hobbit.  And there are a couple of things I’d like to say about it (and I will talk spoilers, so don’t read on if you don’t want them.)

First of all, I like that Jackson split the book into three parts.  I like that he’s adding in all the extra action from Tolkien’s appendices.  I don’t even mind the entirely new things Jackson has added out of his own head.

But.

But.

I do object to Tauriel.  Why, Jackson, why?  I think it’s ridiculous when people complain that the characters in a book or film are all male.  Not every thing needs to have female characters.  In real life, there have been adventures where the genders are not equally mixed, so why the heck is it such a problem in fiction?  Writers should be able to have whatever characters they want in their own works.  For whatever reason.  I grew up reading the sorts of books that didn’t have a lot of females in them.  It never made me feel in any way inferior.  When I reenacted scenes from my favorite films and books, I just put myself in whichever role I fancied; didn’t matter if it was boy or girl.  So don’t be jamming girl elves in just for the sake of having a girl.

Image

And if you do put in a girl elf, just make her a cool kickass character, please?  I hated – hated – the whole elf/dwarf/elf love triangle Jackson is brewing.  Really?  I can understand Kili getting a bit star-struck at seeing Tauriel (elves are seductive creatures, and it’s maybe his first time), but would an elven woman really be equally star-struck at seeing a dwarf?  Just because he’s the cute one, and “not as short as other dwarves”?  And a scene later, she’s all swoony over Legolas maybe liking her, and then crushed that Legolas’ dad doesn’t find her worthy of his son, then back to drooling over the not-so-short dwarf again.

Image

Bah.  I hate love triangles at the best of times, but particularly when they are absurd.

I do want Tauriel’s clothes, though.  So there’s that.

Overall I’m just a little disappointed by this installment of the Hobbit..  Even the first one, though great, couldn’t quite live up to the wondrous splendor of LOTR – and besides the Dreaded Love Triangle, this second part also had too much of a good thing.  By which I mean: too much Smaug.  Those scenes under the mountain went on forever.  I get that Jackson needed something climatic, but golly.  Tolkien’s way was so much better.

Still, though, it was good.  I liked it.  I just wish I could have loved it.

Steampunk Ladies Who Hunt Monsters

I’ve been secretly working on an exciting new project, and now is the time to reveal it to all of you.  You all know I’m into writing, steampunk, costumes, and monsters, right?  Well, I’m putting all those things together and creating a book.

7984203ee944ac9d598c4171dccc6a98_large

It’s a full novel, about a female steampunk monster hunter named Philomena Dashwood.  She travels the globe in search of exotic monsters, romance, and that perfect little pair of goggles.   My partner-in-crime and I are calling it “Jane Austin meets Scooby Doo” because it is such a perfect mix of humor and manners, mingled with some very real scares.  It will be illustrated with photographs taken by Tyson Vick, and he and I are creating over 80 costumes for the models and actors to wear.

The first chapter is up on our website, and I’d love to hear what you guys think!

AND, I need your help.  We need pay models, fund travel costs to photoshoot locations, and buy fabric for all those costumes, so we’ve put up a kickstarter.  You can find it here, and we have some pretty good incentives to donate to the project.

If you’re going to be at Steamcon this year, come and find me – I’ll have special ribbons and postcards to hand out, AND I’ll be modeling one of the costumes that will be featured in the book: The Steampunk Mummy.