Book Review: Athena by Heather B. Moore

I should feel proud of myself, I read almost half of Athena in a day. It also took me a couple weeks to get to that spot in the book, but that’s besides the point, I’m sure. Of course, my reading habits aren’t why you’re here today. So let’s get down to business.


When I heard about the Newport Ladies Book Club, I was excited for the authors (as I consider them author friends) to have such an awesome project get picked up. As the authors spoke about it, I thought it’d be a great series to get my wife. When Heather asked for reviewers, I jumped at the chance. Then I realized that between my wife and I, I had the stronger internet presence and it’d be better for me to review them. Still, my wife got books I wanted to get her. I, on the other hand, wasn’t prepared to actually enjoy the series.

Athena is the fourth book in the side-by-side storytelling concerning the Newport Ladies Book Club (since all four novels take place over the same time period). The thing I liked about the series was that I could connect to each of the four characters. No, I’m not a woman, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share a connection.

With Athena, I think I shared the most. Ten years ago, I lost my mom to cancer. It wasn’t exactly unexpected. But I see some parallels in my life to Athena’s. Athena’s mother was the glue that held her family together, in a similar fashion, so was mine. Athena gave up some things in life to take care of her ailing father. I, on the other hand, left my mission early to go home and help out my father. (There were other factors, but this is the relevant one.) Athena also never took care of herself. Sure, she enjoyed her job and had her workouts, but she didn’t have anything else in her life. And that’s not exactly a complete parallel, but there have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve ignored my own needs in favor of someone else’s. Not recognizing my needs has caused me a lot of unnecessary grief until  I finally see what’s missing and how to fulfill that need.

Now, out of the four books, there have been a few supporting characters. Up until this book, Olivia’s older natural daughter was my favorite and most interesting. But Grey, Athena’s…uh…boyfriend?…sure…boyfriend because my favorite supporting character. A lot of guys dislike the sensitive guy in…well…anything. (I maintain that Edward Cullen is by far the most unreal guy in fiction.) Grey was a very sensitive character. However, he has a past that is delved into pretty decently in this book. Of course, I’d actually like to see a book about Grey.

So, this is a possible SPOILER!!!!!! so if you don’t want to read any, go ahead and jump down to the “END SPOILER” point. Also, I’m writing the potential spoiler in italics to offset it easily for readers.
Athena learns a little about Grey’s past. His father left his family when he was younger and his mother checked out of reality. Grey blamed his mother for what she did. And Grey apparently hated life enough to have attempted to slit his wrists in order to leave this world. Grey is very embittered with his mother throughout the book.

Grey also dated “project” women (for lack of a better term) as a way to cope with his mother’s “checked out” status. But when he met Athena, he found someone who was different. She was a “project” in her own right, but a different project.

Athena was quite bothered by how much Grey disliked (and even distrusted) his own mother. Which I found ironic because while she was alive, Athena really wanted her mother to but out of her life more. It was only after Carmen died, that Athena appreciated her mother’s presence. This was another parallel for me. Having lost my mother, I appreciated her more and projected that appreciation onto others. I even got put in my place once by a friend who had a strained relationship with her mother. It was less than a year after my mom died and she was complaining about her mother. I tried to express how she should be more appreciative of her mother. This friend reminded me how her mother and my mother weren’t the same person. My friend’s definition of “mother” was different than mine.

Something that interested me about Athena was that she played both the damsel in distress and the heroic chick toward Grey. He saved her time and again (in an emotional way) and when mention of Grey’s past is brought up, she goes into this protector mode. Almost as if she wished she could go back to the past and protect Grey from his mother’s depression.

END SPOILER

I liked that Grey was human. In Olivia, her husband is only a jerk because he feels betrayed and is trying to hide what betrayals he’s faced. In Daisy, her husband was just selfish (enough said there). In Paige, she found Mr. Really-Good-And-Still-True, but she chose the other “men” in her life (her innocent sons). In Athena, she has a man that is human. That expresses his pain and sadness and anger and past, something that isn’t “macho”. Of course, I think men in generally need to be better at stating who they are and not what society dictates “should” be shared. In modern western society, it seems that men aren’t supposed to have feelings, aren’t supposed to have emotional pains. And I’m glad Heather Moore wrote a character that broke that stereotype.

So, in the end, I really did like Athena. It was very well written in my opinion. I’m glad I got the opportunity to review this series thanks to Heather’s offer.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

 

Book Review: Paige by Annette Lyon

First, before I get to the review, please note the website address for my blog. Some still use the old one.

Second, I hope to blog here more often. But until then you can read my posts on MormonGeeks or LDSWritersBlogck. Of course, I’ve not been the most active at either.

Third, I feel I owe an apology to two people. The first is Heather Moore. I had agreed to review Paige, put it off, and ended up forgetting about it all together. For that, I wish to publicly apologize to her. And second, to Annette Lyon. I mean, it is her book and out of the four authors of The Newport Ladies Book Club, she is the one I am closest friends with. Hopefully she’ll accept my apology and the fact that I am always ranting and raving about how awesome Chocolate Never Faileth is. (Seriously, that’s a book I’m hoping that will have a sequel.)

Fourth, oh yes, this is a review.

After having read Olivia, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the character of Paige. I saw her as this mousy little girl who was a stereotypical late-20s Mormon mom. But then I read Daisy and saw her stand up for herself against a very pissed off Daisy and thought “This chick just got a lot cooler.” So I was much more excited to read Paige, looking forward to her viewpoint of that face off.

Paige is the story of a recently divorced mom who doesn’t trust men. The more I read Paige, the more I kept thinking “Hey lady, get it through your thick skull that not all men are jerks!” Then, I hoped she’d realize that it was trusting herself that she needed.

My wife really connected with Paige’s character because she fears some tragic accident where I die and she’s left to be a single mom raising our kids. And when she mentioned that, I realized how I’ve had those fears. No, there’s no way I’d ever be a single mom. But it isn’t impossible for me to be a single dad. And I just gotta say, that’d suck.

For me, there are a few themes in Paige. The first is priorities. She reminds me of Rachel’s mom from FRIENDS, who said “I went from my parents’ house, to the sorority house, to my husband’s house.” Paige has only had her one boyfriend, who she married and divorced. She doesn’t know anything else about relationships, it seems. And I feel that it is quite interesting as there are a lot of people out there who only have one relationship and don’t know what it’s like to breakup with someone or even be without a companion.

The other theme I saw was placing value on friendship. Paige gives the air of having no real friends prior to this story. I don’t mean to say that cruelly, but rather, she just never placed an importance on friendship. My opinion is she had casual friends. She’s not an unlikable person, she just never put much effort to her friends. The thing that kind of bugged me was that she recently moved back to California. And by the way it sounds, she was there less than three years previously. Why did she not have any friends from before? She was active LDS and had no one in her old ward to whom she could turn? There aren’t married student wards in Southern California like there are in Utah. In her defense, of course, she was doing her best to avoid her old life and anything that reminded her of her ex. But again, she wasn’t unlikable. Just a plot point I had an issue with, but didn’t really detract from the story.

All in all, I did like Paige. I felt like she had a good story about gaining personal strength. And I definitely enjoyed the “she’s got young kids” comments made toward Nick Jr, PBS, and chicken nuggets.

I give Paige four out of five chocolate brownies.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

 

“Stupid” Quotes

I haven’t posted on here randomly in a while. But today, I figured I’d share some of my favorite quotes with the word “stupid” in them (or at least, referencing someone who is acting like a complete idiot/moron/stupidhead/etc.)

I present you my top 5 favorite “stupid” quotes. (One of them has “idiot” instead of “stupid”. Close enough.)

5. “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Albert Einstein’s quote here is great. No clue how human stupidity keeps growing/going? Really? Example one: Jersey Shore was given the green light to start filming sometime ago. Example two: Jersey Shore was given the green light to start filming a fifth season just a few months ago. That’s 5 times more stupid than we were 5 years ago.

4. “Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.” I do not know who to attribute this to, but it is so true.

3. “Stupid is as stupid does.” This line was said brilliantly by Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. It was actually said many times throughout the film. Sadly, thanks to advances in the internet, this seems to have taken on a new meaning.

2. “You can’t catch stupid.” This is from one of the best TV shows out there that is being cancelled too soon: Eureka. Sheriff Carter is talking to Deputy Jo Lupo and explaining how everyone at the geek haven known as Global Dynamics is acting stupid, to which Jo replies “Carter, you can’t catch stupid.” Of course, Zane’s following line of “This may be my favorite conversation of all time” adds to the hilarity of the moment.

1. “It’s not their fault they’re stupid.” This last one is attributed to my friend Katherine. Katherine and I have been friends since we were 12 or 13. Our senior year of high school, we had American Government together. In this class, we had one day where we were to work in groups of 3 or 4 on a paper. Since Katherine and I sat next to each other, it was pretty common that we worked together on stuff like that. Our assignment was something like this:

“A large group of people are stranded on a desert island and decide to setup a new nation. Answer these questions in relation to this scenario.”

And question #2 went something like this: “Should the more intelligent people be automatically placed into leadership based off their knowledge?” (First, of all, what nation actually has the most intelligent people in political power? Answer: NONE of them. And second…) Without skipping a beat, Katherine responded with, “No, it’s not their fault they’re stupid.”

When we turned in our paper, the teacher said he didn’t like the answer to #2 (our group of 4 believed he thought the answer was “yes” and that he would be included as one of the “intelligent ones”. Those who know Mr. Martinez may ROFL now.) Katherine of course gave a brilliant BS response and this “It’s not their fault they’re stupid” will forever be my favorite “stupid quote.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Book Review: Daisy by Josis S. Kilpack

One of the things about the Newport Ladies Club is it removes the cliche “The woman is always right.” Yeah, both Olivia and Daisy have “the man is wrong” in them. I like the fact that we have imperfect women and, more than anything, it’s okay they’re imperfect.

Is it bad to want to scream at a character and ask “What on Earth is your problem?” or “Grow up, Moron!”? No? Okay, cause I wanted to do that with Daisy. The thing about Daisy that was a little disappointing is I already knew what was happening to her having read Olivia. Was that a major problem having some things spoiled for me? I gotta say, in a way it was. On the same token, knowing all the negative things that would happen to Daisy made me wonder how she reacted to them.

The thing that made me really enjoy the story was Daisy’s bff-like relationship with Paige. In reading Olivia, I judged Paige to be this mousy, spineless little girl. In reading Daisy, I learned I was grossly mistaken. Let me just state, I wanted to yell “Go Paige!” for one of her acts.

One thing we know about Daisy early on is she has two daughters, one of which is about to have a child of her own. Now, this is a sem-spoiler alert. Daisy has man issues in the book (but not romance book man issues, thank goodness). Regardless, if I had written this book with these characters, I would have had Daisy end up with her ex-husband, Jared. Sorry Daisy (or Josi), but that man is an unsung hero.

If I were to rate it on a scale of 5, I give it a rating of “Three failed relationships”. (Yes, that’s a 3 for those who don’t understand that comment and/or its humor. I found it funny.)

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Author Apprentice: LDStorymakers

As has become my tradition, this is my 3rd annual LDS Storymaker-faux-reality-show casting. This time, we’re going with being able to tell self-employed authors “You’re fired!” (Shoot, I was tweeted that once during the conference, actually.)

In thinking of this post, I realized, I don’t want Donald Trump to be the one that gets to say it. I’m going to give the honor to the one and only great author known as Brandon Sanderson! And instead of Trump’s children being in the boardroom with him, we’ll have the obvious choices of Dan Wells and Howard Tayler as Brandon’s assistants. I mean, they’re his awesome writing excuses cohorts. (And I am out of excuses, according to my name badge.) To add some femininity to this team, Annette Lyon will be her grammar nazi guru self in making sure everyone will be in line  and Julie Wright will add her fun style and blog flakiness bookstore knowledge to the other talents.

(UPDATE: This was missed for some sick-brained reason) Now, for this show, I needed a host…well…a hostess. So I’ve decided that Jaime Theler needs to host. She likes to be in charge of writing conferences instead of participating in them, so I figured she could host the show for Brandon since he can’t be bothered until the “boardroom”.

This time it’s the men vs women for a bit until the Donald…I mean….the Brandon decides to mix them up a bit.

(Yes, there are repeat names from my previous years’ posts. But hey, I run out of names I want to use, okay!)

Women:

Elana Johnson: Elana should win the apprentice because of her kindness to one another. She works hard, even when overcoming a sinus infection. Her book Possession is awesome (well, from the 1/4 – 1/3 that I’ve read of it, I’m getting there slowly!) Does she have the kindness to be Brandon’s apprentice?

Sarah Eden: Sarah should win for her humor and quick wit. Speaking even without a voice is a very notable talent. Just listening to her speak at LDStorymakers 2010 I had to purchase her books for my wife. Does her wit get her through to the end?

Josi Kilpack: Josi may or may not threaten to kill Brandon off in the Sadie revamp Wedding Cake. But even if she doesn’t, this award winning mystery author (with a few non-mystery books also under her belt) has made ordering skills. And by mad I mean she said “T.J. will help you, David (Wolverton). NOW!” (Okay, I may have added a word or two there.) Can her polite attitude have her standing tall at the end?

Heather Moore: While she’s stuck in the past (Heather writes historical fiction), she’s also taking over the Whitney Awards for next year. I think she also has four or five books coming out in the next fifteen months (I may be exaggerating, but it is a lot and it is a short period of time). Will this award winner show everyone else just who can truly be in charge?

Lisa Mangum: Editor? Check. Author? Check. Apprentice? Sure, why not. Lisa Mangum recently joined twitter (as she was the only one on a panel that didn’t have an account) and is good a learning and growing. (Seriously, if she took on an apprentice, I’d want that job.) Does this woman who can do it all have what it takes to prove she just can do it all?

Stephanie Black: The “other” and MUCH more awesome LDS author Stephanie (and personally, the one I’m gonna go up to and speak with). She’s won the Whitney. And when I say “the Whitney” I mean that only one other author has won the Whitney award for Mystery/Suspense in the five years of its existence. Can her “I refuse to lose” attitude (or rather “winning streak”) give her the killer ending she deserves?

Tristi Pinkston: We’re talking about a mom…who writes….who loses weight….who manages finances well…who gives out advice….who edits….yeah, she does a lot. She was also in a car accident and stuck in a wheelchair and still showed up in style/class at Storymakers. (Go Tristi!) Can she prove that not even a wheelchair (and a fake reality show) stop her from winning this whole thing?

Men:

Don Carey: Devoted husband. Author. Hard worker. Frequent traveler. (Seriously Don, is there a trail between SLC and Dallas with your name on it?) Will these things have prepared him for being the co-chair at LDStorymakers? And will that prepare him for Author Apprentice?

Robison Wells:  Whitney Award Winning (I hope he likes hearing that he won award he helped create) Rob could use the fact that one of Brandon’s lackeys sidekicks. And another one is/was in a critique group with him. Or he could just use his honesty to his advantage and work his way to the end and defeat the competition?

Marion Jensen: Funny man (and that’s not funny looking for those that just thought that–including Marion) Marion is always ready to play games with the best of them. One of his faves is Dominion and I’m not sure if that’s Dominion the game or Dominion over society. But will his humor help him dominate the competition to be Brandon’s apprentice?

Jeff Savage: Jeff is awesome! Need I say more? Yes. Okay….Jeff is an author who was this close to pulling out of the business (if memory serves). Instead, he’s got a string of rotten awesome luck in the fact that he has 5 novels between the 2012 Storymakers and shortly after 2013 Storymakers. Plus, he’s always awesome at giving advice (he gave me some in a “you’re wrong to think you’re worthless” kind of way.) Can Jeff’s never-give-up attitude (or is it almost-give-up-until-I-try-once-more) get him to the end?

James Dashner:James is one of few to have been a guest on multiple episodes of the Big 3’s writing excuses. (Brandon, Howard, and Dan are “the Big 3”? Couldn’t think of something better T.J.?) As he’s dashed out some bestsellers, will he be able to dash his way to the big finish?

David Farland/Wolverton: Almost as bad as the “Marion/Matthew” complex from Survivor: LDS Authors, he may be older than the rest. He may need some help carrying his books. But this is not an author afraid to kick someone in the pants. Daily at that. Can he be the Runelord to rule them all?

Kirk Shaw: Editor. Author. (Did I already do that pattern for someone?) Kirk is awesome! Gives great advice. Leads well. (Maybe he has no need to win this.) But can Kirk’s great attitude, boy next door smile (as described by someone I know), and leadership skills make him a viable candidate for this apprenticeship?

This year, I’ll go with narrowing it down to a final four….two men and two women make up this final four. And they are, in no particular order: Jeff Savage, Lisa Mangum, Heather Moore, and Rob Wells! Why? How should I know. Just random.

But the winner of the Author Apprentice: LDStorymakers (remember this is no wise real and has absolutely no value to anything or anyone’s lives but my own messed up mind) IS……Jeff Savage!!!!

I think I’m running out of pseudo-reality shows. Can one be created that I can use next year? Any thoughts?

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Take A Moment

With kidlet #3 arriving soon, I’ve felt massive amounts of stress weighing me down. Every week I tell myself I’m not gonna plan for anything, and every week I feel so booked that I remind myself that “next week will be emptier and I can relax.

Sanity is important to me. In order to achieve that, balance is required. And one thing that I do to help me balance is to freely write. Whether that’s a free-write from a writing prompt, write something completely random, or work in my WIP somewhere other than the next scene, I feel much more grounded and balanced when I do it.

My mind gets so full sometimes that it’s nice to release some of the random ideas, especially with my WIP. This past week, I decided I didn’t like the way chapter 4 ended and just wasn’t feeling what chapter 5 would be. Well, I ended up writing “Chapter X-1” because I know it’ll end up as the 2nd to last chapter (at the very least). It was such a helpful task to look far enough ahead and mention things that I’ve only considered having happened, but definitely feel like they should happen.

Writing is so nice, especially when I just take a moment let the thoughts freely leave my mind and get into the Word document. But it is only one of many options for what I can do when I just need that mental numbness.

What do you like to do when you need to take a moment?

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Visit Me and Banana Split

I finished Josi Kilpack’s Banana Split! Why am I so excited? Because my goal for reading 10 books this year is 20% done. Yay!!!!!!! I’ll be reviewing it here in a moment.

First an announcement:

So, you know how this blog is so awesome? You know how you sit there every time you read a post from me and think “I wish T.J. would write some more”? Well, guess what, my goal of blogging more in 2012 has suddenly hit reality because I’m on blogging for two more sites right now.

I’ve been given the opportunity to write once a week on the LDS Writers Blogck website. This is an awesome group of authors with great thoughts and insights to be shared. You can read my first post here.

I’m a little more excited about this 2nd one. I was asked to join some friends of mine at a blog called Mormon Geeks. These are some of my closest friends and I’m so excited to have joined their boat shortly after it left shore . . . yeah . . . that was kind of an odd metaphor. Anyway, the blog started a few weeks ago and I joined it this past week with two awesome posts, if I do say so myself. Gotta say, though, the other posts on the blog are friggin’ awesome, also. So if you like anything in the sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, steampunk, gaming (video or non-), etc, then I think this site is worthy of some attention. Also, there are some friggin’ awesome points made in some of the points.

Okay, I can talk about that site more another time, or just check it out. Now, on to my review.

Most importantly, look at that cover! Seriously, have you gone to any site that shows all of Josi’s Sadie Hoffmiller books? (There’s a link above that’ll take you to Josi’s site where you can see the 7 delicious covers.) These covers are awesome! They are perfect for the target market. I know I’m an accountant, but I recognize good branding and marketing too. This screams of “cozy mystery” and not in any bad cliche. If my wife really liked cozy mysteries, then just looking at this cover would tell me I need to buy it for her.

While Banana Split wasn’t my favorite book ever written, it was actually good enough to make me want to read the rest of the series. If you are unaware, Banana Split is the 7th book in a series and more interestingly, it is the 1st I’ve actually read. (To be honest books 1 and 2 are on my bookshelf. There’s just something about receiving a brand new book and having to read it and ignore the stuff I already own. That’s ADHD for ya-squirrel!)

So, should I start for likes or dislikes? I’m gonna guess that Josi will probably read this review at some point, so I’ll start with dislikes.🙂

It was a little long for me. Personally, I could have lived without a few things here and there. What? I don’t know exactly, I’d have to reread the book to find them. I also really didn’t like that every time I read the book, I kept wanting to eat something (especially desserts).

Something that kinda bothered me was how it felt like 2 stories in one and the one really had nothing to do with the other. I felt like I ate a little too much red herring to enjoy the salmon feast. (FYI, I hate seafood, but it was the best way to describe this.)

The word nerd / grammar Nazi guru in me did catch a few errors. I don’t know why I notice these more and more than I used to. Maybe it’s reading one too many posts by Annette Lyon. It honestly makes me feel arrogant and prideful. Nonetheless, they were there. One thing I learned from Lisa Mangum at LTUE is the difficulty it is for an editor to find these errors. And in all honesty, most of them would have been easy to miss, in my opinion.

Yeah, enough hashing out on the negatives…if you call them that.

Something I really liked was how quick the chapters went by. I wasn’t stuck in the middle of something when I had to put the book down to help my pregnant wife or one of our children (again, helping my pregnant wife). I’m sorry, but I really love short chapters. Now, if each page was a new chapter, I’d be annoyed. I don’t like them that short.

If I were to tagline what you’re about to read for Banana Split, I’d say “flow your way through a Hawaiian mystery with Sadie Hoffmiller.” Her writing was very smooth. I can actually read another Sadie Hoffmiller book. But, more than likely, my next book to read by Josi will be Daisy, the 2nd published book in the Newport Ladies Book Club series. And until I get to review that and anything in between…

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.