Perfection Unleashed by Jade Kerron

Perfection Unleashed, by Jade Kerrion

Jade Kerrion wants to know:

“What would you do if you came face-to face with perfection,

and it looked just like you?”

Jade Kerrion, author of Perfection Unleashed

Jade Kerrion, author of Perfection Unleashed

Personally, I’d be quite surprised. All kidding aside, I just finished reading Perfection Unleashed, by Jade Kerrion, book one in a series I’d describe as a brainy, emotional X-Men-like adventure. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was intrigued by the idea of a sci-fi take on perfection—one that wasn’t based on creating the perfect android. Before I go any further, here’s the description from Amazon:

Two men, one face. One man seeks to embrace destiny, the other to escape it.

Danyael Sabre spent sixteen years clawing out of the ruins of his childhood and finally has everything he wanted–a career, a home, and a trusted friend. To hold on to them, he keeps his head down and plays by the rules. An alpha empath, he is powerful in a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution, yet his experience has taught him to avoid attention.

When the perfect human being, Galahad, escapes from Pioneer Laboratories, the illusory peace between humans and their derivatives–the in vitros, clones, and mutants–collapses into social upheaval. The abominations, deformed and distorted mirrors of humanity, created unintentionally in Pioneer Lab’s search for perfection, descend upon Washington D.C. The first era of the Genetic Revolution was peaceful. The second is headed for open war.

Although the genetic future of the human race pivots on Galahad, Danyael does not feel compelled to get involved and risk his cover of anonymity, until he finds out that the perfect human being looks just like him.

Perfection Unleashed by Jade Kerron What I liked about Perfection Unleashed, is that rather than populate her story with comic book characters, Jade created characters with abilities that, at least to me, I can easily believe will be part of the next round of human evolution. Whether they are humans we can imagine having evolved naturally, such as Danyael Sabre, an alpha empath; or humans created through genetic engineering, such as my favorite character, Xin; a computer genius and clone of a “Twelve hundred BC queen, military general, and high priestess from ancient China,” Jade ensured each character and their uniqueness felt plausible. The time she spent delving into the mind of Danyael, the alpha empath, left the reader feeling, ironically, not only empathetic, but also fully aware of the danger Danyael’s ability could pose to the rest of humanity.

Perfection Unleashed is only the beginning of what promises to be an exciting series. While the action is almost non-stop, from the break-in at Pioneer labs and escape of some genetic mutants gone wrong, to the final action-packed escape scenes, the primary purpose of book one, it seems, is to introduce us to the characters and set up the coming conflict between humans and their derivatives.

While a few things, such as whether mutants like Danyael were a result of genetic manipulation or simple evolution confused me, I truly enjoyed Perfection Unleashed and look forward to the next two books in the series, the newly released Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon. I’m also eager to find out more about Galahad, Danyael’s genetic twin (only physically, as Galahad is not an empath). While scientists created Galahad to be the perfect human, exactly what traits were engineered into him and why, are only hinted at in book one. Looks like I’ll have to read Perfect Betrayal to find out more.

Daniel Craig, Perfection Unleashed

Perfection Unleashed!

One last note—Daniel Craig. That’s right, Daniel Craig, as in James Bond. While reading Perfection Unleashed, I imagined Daniel Craig playing the role(s) of Danyael/Galahad. He not only possesses the perfect body, but more importantly, the ability to display emotional pain while looking gorgeous. However, after I finished reading Perfection Unleashed, I stopped by Jade’s website only to discover she had another actor in mind for the role. (It just goes to show, authors are not always right). Anyway, if you’d like to hear Jade defend her selection, as well as answer a few other intriguing questions, be sure to stop back on Dec. 12 when I’ll be hosting an author interview and book giveaway with non other than award-winning author, Jade Kerrion!  (I’m hoping we don’t come to blows over the whole actor thing!)

Advertisements
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

For avid readers there are many books that are enjoyable, many we might even consider brilliant, but only a few that actually leave a lasting impression on us—for me, Seraphina is one of those books.

With her novel, Seraphina, Rachel Hartman joins the ranks of JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling and CS Lewis. Much like Middle Earth, the alternate-medieval world Hartman populates with dragons, half dragons and humans is so well drawn, so interesting, I would give anything to visit it.

More impressive than the world Seraphina lives in, however, is Seraphina herself. In a world where neither humans nor dragons accept half-breeds, Seraphina must hide her silvery scales in order to fit in.  Yet, while her scales remain hidden beneath her gown, her prickly personality and all too human tendency to lie land her right in the thick of trouble. While the characters in Seraphina have the requisite amount of special abilities, I believe the story as a whole rises above other books in the genre because Hartman focuses more on the emotional truth behind her character’s motivations than on their special abilities. Also, just as we can imagine Harry Potter’s world existing side by side with our own humdrum muggle universe; so too, Hartman makes it easy to imagine a world where dragons and humans live in an uneasy, yet peaceful coexistence. I love, love, love Seraphina and cannot wait for more books in the series.

If the above sounds more like a review than a book discussion, I apologize. Almost from page one I found myself gushing over Seraphina every time I told someone about it. However, I have saved one, if not negative, than rather much like Seraphina, prickly point for discussion.

In an interview I watched with Rachel Hartman, she admitted she has a love of words. That, my dear Rachel, is an understatement. Seraphina is filled with more “big” words of whose definition I was utterly clueless than any other book of fiction I have ever read. Luckily, I read Seraphina on my iPad Kindle app. I say “luckily” because on the Kindle application when you highlight a word the definition pops up. Had I been reading a plain old hardcover or paperback edition of Seraphina…well, I wonder if I would have enjoyed it so much.

For those of you how have read Seraphina (or perhaps some other book filled with large, unusual, or antiquated words) what are your thoughts? Does having a definition readily available increase, or even radically change your enjoyment of a book?

Comment below…I look forward to your thoughts.

 

 

Interview and Book Giveaway with Author, Walter Shuler

Joining me today is Walter Shuler, author of the short story, At The Edge Of The World. In all honesty, I decided to read Walter’s story after forming what I can only define as (and very loosely, mind you) a friendship on Twitter.

Maybe there should be a word for that? Twittership? Friendtwit?

      Definition: When two or more individuals recognize each other’s Twitter picture, out of the thousands that scroll past their screen, they are said to have formed a twittership.

Moving on… (Walter is shaking his heading and wondering why he ever agreed to do this interview.)

At The Edge Of The World isn’t the first book I’ve read after forming a “twittership” with another author. I’ve mentioned this in an earlier post, but I honestly feel that sites like Twitter and Goodreads have given me access to authors and books, which now that I no longer have a mega bookstore to browse through, I might never have known about. And, even better, on Twitter you get to know a little bit about the author. What type of tweets do they tweet and retweet? Are they simply promoting their books, or are they tweeting about writing and/or other things that interest you? The relationship is shallow at best…but it is, perhaps, one step above picking a book by an unfamiliar author simply because you like the cover.

But enough about friendtwits… 

Walter, I was surprised by how much I liked your story. When I first started reading At The Edge Of The World, I was worried…there were all these guys and they were on ships and it all felt very manly and very far away from what I normally read, and I thought, Oh no—I said I’m going to read this and now I have to read this and I’m not going to like it! 

 Walter—look at my blog! 90% of the characters in the books I read are whiny, angst-ridden teenagers—not warriors. But because I promised to read Walter’s book, I persisted. And I am very glad I did, because the ending was excellent. The ending made me smile.

So, Walter, tell my readers a little bit about yourself. How long have you been writing, do you write full time, and besides At The Edge Of The World, what other books have you written?

Well, I’m very glad that you persisted and even more so that you enjoyed the story – it was a lot of fun to write.

I guess in a way I write fulltime – I’m a freelance writer during the day, creative writer at night. I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was young. I knew after reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that I wanted to create worlds when I grew up.

Other than At the Edge of the World, I’ve also got a few other odds and ends:

Celadonian Tales Vol 1: Blood and Brass is a set of three short stories set in my world of Celadon. They’re distantly related to one another in a way, but don’t feature the same characters.

Gods of Sand and Stone is the first book in my trilogy The God Wars – the second book (Into a Dark Land) is in progress at the moment and should be out around the end of the year.

I’ve heard authors say it’s best to master the craft of writing a short story before attempting a novel. As most of your stories are on the shorter side, I was wondering if this is your plan. And, if so, what have you learned from writing short stories? Finally, are you planning a longer work?

Hmm… that’s an interesting question. I wrote At the Edge of the World mostly as a one-off, simply because I wanted to do a historical fantasy story. Blood and Brass is another matter. Those stories are really intended as prequels for longer tales that are to come. For instance, once I wrap up The God Wars, I’m going back to the world of Celadon with a new series that picks up where The Clockwork Men from Blood and Brass leaves off. It’s in progress, and will be titled The Breaking of Northwarden.

With The God Wars trilogy, I had a different reason for keeping the story short. I’ve always been heavily influenced by some of the great early fantasy writers and this trilogy was my homage to that largely-disappeared format. Books like Michael Moorecock’s Elric saga and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series have stayed with me for decades. I really think that with the predominant shift in fantasy to massive tomes (no offense to Mr. Williams or Mr. Martin), something has been lost. I wanted to go back to that older storytelling style with these books. I also think shorter works are a little less daunting for those interested in getting into the genre for the first time.

If I’ve learned anything, I’ve found that it’s actually harder to write short fiction than it is a sprawling epic. They’re very, very different beasts and what works well in longer books doesn’t fly well with short stories or novellas even.

As far as longer works are concerned, you betcha! The Breaking of Northwarden is only in its second chapter and somewhere around 20,000 words already. The rest of the series will be stay in keeping with that, too.

Your website is called, “Halla Litriocht, The ramblings of Walter Shuler.” What does Halla Litriocht mean and why did you choose that name for your website?

Halla Litriocht is Irish Gaelic for “hall of literature” – I’m a self-professed armchair historian and Celtic-o-phile, so for me it was a natural choice of name. It does make for some difficulties though, as you might imagine. Most people can’t pronounce it, much less remember it to type it into a browser bar! Heck, I had to get clarification from Tommie Kelly on one of our podcast episodes when we interviewed him just to make sure that I was saying it right!

If you had to recommend one fiction book, one non-fiction book and one book on writing, which books would you recommend?

Oh, my…that’s really, really, really hard. Most of the books I love are part of a series, so recommending one that’s a standalone will be a challenge. Let’s see…

Fiction: Bard by Morgan Llewellyn would probably be my top recommendation for a standalone book (series would be very different).

Nonfiction: A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester.

On Writing: Creating Characters by Dwight V. Swain

Finally, what is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Hmm. There’s been quite a bit, much of it good and some of it rather bad. I’d have to say the best piece of advice that ever came my way and one that I would unhesitatingly pass along to any new writer in any genre is this – Use beta readers. Use them religiously.

Thank you, Walter.

Thanks very much for having me on! By the way, I’m currently reading your book, Wheels, and am enjoying it quite a bit!

So, if like me, At The Edge Of The World is a bit different from what you normally read, my advice is for you to take a night or two off from the teenagers and vampires. Expand your imagination. In both time and money, At The Edge Of The World is a small investment. I promise, it will make you smile. It may even inspire you to attempt your own short story.

To help you on your own reading adventure, Walter has generously donated an eBook copy of At The Edge Of The World (any format). Click below to enter and win. You will not be spammed–I promise! The winner will be contacted via email on Saturday, 9/22/12. GOOD LUCK!

Entries are now closed. Our winner (initials J.B.) has been contacted. Thanks to all who entered.
Walter’s book is on Amazon. It’s a great deal and wonderful little story. For .99 cents, you can’t lose!

Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore: Join Our Book Discussion!

Welcome to a discussion of Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore. After reading my thoughts, please respond by adding additional comments, opinions, and feel free to heartily disagree with me. (If you haven’t read Bitterblue…spoiler alert, you might want to check back after you’ve read it.) Here goes…

Having read Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore, I was excited to read Bitterblue. Kristin Cashore calls Bitterblue a companion to Graceling and Fire. To me it feels more like a sequel, in that I can’t imagine reading Bitterblue without having read, at least, Graceling. I’ll get to the reason, later.

What I Loved

In Bitterblue, Cashore managed to create a villain so scary, so horrible he didn’t even need to be present in her story. In fact, he was long dead. The villain I’m talking about, of course, is Bitterblue’s father, King Leck.

King Leck’s grace (talent) was the ability to make people believe whatever he wanted them to believe. Unfortunately, King Leck was also a psychopath who would both commit, and make others commit violent, unspeakable acts.

In Bitterblue, though King Leck is dead, the people whose minds he controlled are alive and trying to live with the memory of the awful acts committed under his reign. As a way to move forward, Bitterblue’s advisors have convinced her to pardon all who committed horrible acts while under King Leck’s control. If it were only that simple…

In the story, Bitterblue knows her father did awful things, but she doesn’t know exactly what he did. While pardoning prior acts under King Leck’s rule seemed like a good idea, Bitterblue begins to realize that trying to pretend the past didn’t happen is not helping the people of her kingdom heal. Their stories need to be told.

As I read Bitterblue, I could almost feel King Leck’s presence hover like a heavy gray cloud over every page. Cashore is brilliant—she created the ultimate bad guy. If you believe God gives us free will, then King Leck is the anti-God. Imagine trying to fight someone who can totally mess with your mind. What was also brilliant…well, perhaps simply more logical…was the way King Leck was finally defeated  using the ultimate weapon, a mother’s love for her child.

To sum up what I loved about Bitterblue:

  1. King Leck: Who I believe is one of the scariest villains ever created.
  2. There were many unique and beautiful passages. That it was well written is no surprise. I would expect no less from Kristin Cashore.
  3. In fantasy and sci-fi it’s typical to have characters with special abilities, but for some reason, I’m not sure why, Cashore’s world, filled with characters possessing very specific talents (graces), feels fresh and unique. Maybe because it opens up the possibility of having a grace that is totally useless.

What I Didn’t Care For

Given my use of the word Brilliant, you would think I loved Bitterblue. I didn’t. Rather, I should say, I loved it AND I hated it. At times the story flew by, while at other times it felt like it was taking me forever to read. To put it simply, here’s why…

I believe Cashore tried to tackle too many social issues. She brought in so many minor characters I couldn’t keep them straight. It felt like she included them just so she could make a statement about a cause she felt strongly about. The main cause that drove her story, helping people heal by talking about abuse, rather than pretending it didn’t happen, was enough. Yet, then she had to throw in gay rights and women’s rights. For me, whenever she introduced these secondary issues, it completely stopped the story. I would shake my head and wonder why that chapter or line of dialogue was there. (Don’t get me wrong, I agree with her take on these issues, but I think they would have been better served in their own story.)

Another reason I didn’t absolutely love Bitterblue was that I found Queen Bitterblue slightly annoying. The reason, I believe, is that most of the characters treat her like a child. Also, I didn’t care for Bitterblue’s love interest. He wasn’t nice, and in fact, was rather mean, at times.  It bothered me she’d fall for a man with so few redeeming qualities.

The final reason I didn’t absolutely love Bitterblue is purely personal. A “not my cup of tea” issue, rather than a comment about the writing. When Cashore finally reveals what King Leck did to his subjects, we learn he’s not just evil (as in the killing, torturing and greedy type of evil), as I had assumed, he’s downright perverted. Personally, I read to escape and I was more than ready to escape Bitterblue’s world.

The reason I wouldn’t read Bitterblue without having read Graceling and Fire, is that many of the minor characters came from these earlier books (including Leck). Yet, even having read these two books, I had a tough time keeping the minor characters straight.

Would I recommend Bitterblue? YES, absolutely. Some of the most memorable stories are the ones you both love and hate. In that regard, Cashore succeeded! (And I will never forget King Leck!)

So, here’s where I open it up to you (and when I say you, I mean all of you…even Kristin Cashore, if she cares to respond.) Do you agree, disagree, or perhaps have something entirely different to add to the discussion? I look forward to hearing from you!

Young Adult Books: To Review or Not Review…?

Ever since I launched my blog, ScifiWriterMom.com,

I’ve been trying to decide how to position myself concerning book reviews.

#1. Do I even want to position myself as a book reviewer? As an author, I have to say that writing a book review scares the heck out of me. My inner author is freaking out, jumping up and down, and shouting at the top of her little inner author, high-pitched voice that every other author out there is better than me, so where do I get off writing reviews! (Sigh… I wish my inner author would shut up.

#2. If I do decide to kill…I mean, duct tape my inner author’s mouth shut, and position myself as a book reviewer, what type of books do I want to review? The obvious choice is the genre I like to write, young adult, science fiction and fantasy. But, there’s my inner author again, ripping the duct tape off her mouth (Yeee Ouch!) and shouting, “Great, now you’re judging your competition. And lest you forget—they’re ALL better than you!”

Excuse me for a second…

Okay, suddenly I’m feeling much better about myself. Now where was I?

Right. The problem with sticking with one genre is boredom. However, since this is my blog, I suppose if I really want to read and review something else; a murder mystery, for example, I can. Problem solved.

#3. Big sigh! What if I absolutely hate a book? Ugh! Am I willing to post a 1 or 2 star review? The answer to this one is easy, No. Knowing, first hand, what it’s like to pour my heart and soul into writing a book, I could never publicly rip someone’s story to shreds.

So, over the past year, I’ve experimented with being a book reviewer. I’ve tiptoed around, sometimes even stated a fairly strong opinion, and I’ve basically stuck to reviewing young adult, science fiction and fantasy books (…ones that I enjoy).

However, now that I have a new blog (If you haven’t noticed—it looks a bit different) I’m no longer going to (pretend) to do book reviews. Rather, I’m going to hold book discussions.

Beginning with Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, I’m going to discuss what I liked, what I didn’t like…and then pose some questions. After that, I’m going to open it up to readers, writers, and even the author of the book being discussed, to chime in with their thoughts. Since my goal is to become a better writer, and through this blog, help others become better writers, I feel that a book discussion will be much more productive than a review. I hope my readers think so too.

Join me this Friday for my first Book Discussion featuring Bitterblue by Kristan Cashore. (By the way…has anyone else noticed a little blue bird flying around my blog?)

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

 

This book has about 3 or 4 different covers, as far as I can tell!

From Amazon:

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. 

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My favorite cover

What intrigued me about Across The Universe wasn’t the promise of another YA love story or even a murder mystery set aboard a generation ship. No, what intrigued me was a premise that, in my own geeky way, I’d often wondered about.

What if we could be cryogenically frozen alive? Would we dream? Would we have any sense of the passage of time?

As a long time sci-fi geek I’ve read plenty of stories in which the author assumes we will have this capability in the future and then uses it as a device to allow characters to travel hundreds of years across the universe to reach other planets. Beth Revis, however, is the first author (I’ve read) who actually ventures into a character’s mind while in this frozen state of animation. I won’t give away what happens–

SHIVER!

But make a note: I get all claustrophobic just thinking about it!

Another intriguing premise Beth Revis tackles is:

What if you’d lived your entire life within the confines of a spaceship, your one hope being the promise that your generation would one day see landfall–only to have that hope taken away?

In Across the Universe, Beth Revis brings these two premises together and examines them through the eyes of two teens who, along the way, solve a mystery and…fall in love.

Across the Universe is a fun and fascinating young adult read. While the ending felt a bit rushed, and the mystery, for me, wasn’t all that much of a mystery, the problem Beth sets up for the next installment in the series (A Million Suns), is intriguing enough to keep me hooked.

Choose your cover.

 

The Good Fairies of New York, by Martin Millar

“Dinnie, an overweight enemy of humanity, was the worst violinist in New York, but was practicing gamely when two cute little fairies stumbled through his fourth-floor window and vomited on the carpet.”

I love opening lines and have been sucked into reading many a book simply because of a line like the one above. And, I must admit, in The Good Fairies of New York, Martin Millar delivers line after line of witty and memorable quips from fairies and humans alike. What he doesn’t deliver is an engaging story. On page 183 of 242 pages I finally thought, Enough! I don’t care anymore.

It wasn’t the writing…which, certainly contains bits of brilliance. Writing, which in many ways is better than a good percentage of the books I’ve read and reviewed on this website. It wasn’t the characters…a few of whom I may even remember years from now. It was the story. To me it felt as though he’d written four or five different stories, sliced them into small segments, and then pasted them together like a colorful, but confusing mosaic.

The Good Fairies of New York is not a long book, yet feels full of enough characters to fill a J.R. Tolkien trilogy. Millar spends one or two paragraphs on one plot line then skips to another and another. One chapter might contain three different plot lines, taking place in three different locations, in only two and a half pages. It was confusing and distracting. I wanted him to spend more time on the relationship between the two humans, Dinnie and Kerry. As it was, by page 183, I knew nothing much more was going to happen. Moreover, while I cared about the humans, I really didn’t care about the fairies.

Let me finish by saying, in all sincerity, I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy The Good Fairies of New York exactly the way it is. (Neil Gaiman, who wrote the introduction and who is one of my all time favorite authors, loved it.) Martin Millars’ style and language is almost enough to recommend the book. For me, however, I need more than cute. I need more than clever. I need a good story.

Would I read something else by Martin Millar? Certainly. Probably. However, next time, it will take more than a catchy opening line to hook me.

The Soulkeepers, by G. P. Ching

When fifteen-year-old Jacob Lau is pulled from the crumpled remains of his mother’s car, no one can explain why he was driving or why the police can’t find his mother’s body. A beautiful and mysterious neighbor offers to use her unique abilities to help him find his mom. But in exchange she requires Jacob to train as a Soulkeeper, a protector of human souls. He agrees to her demands, desperate for any clue to the mystery of his mother’s disappearance. But soon Jacob finds himself trapped in a web of half-truths, and questions her motives for helping him.  (From Amazon)

I finished reading The Soulkeepers, by G. P. Ching, while on vacation. Honestly, I had downloaded this eBook some time ago based on its cover and because it was free. Having an eBook out, myself, which I often promote with free giveaways, I’m well aware that many people download free eBooks and then never read them. (Sigh…) Anyway, for some reason I finally opened up The Soulkeepers and gave it a go. I was hooked from the first sentence.

Death lived up to Jacob’s expectations.

I was further hooked after only the first three chapters. G. P. Ching knows how to keep her readers turning pages. What probably surprised me the most, however, was that I continued to read The Soulkeepers. I say this because, once you’re well into the book, Ching begins introducing religious elements. And while the story is engaging, to me it felt a bit preachy at times. That said…my youthful inspiration to become a writer was C. S. Lewis and his novels about Narnia. Ching, like C. S. Lewis, offers a tolerant view of religion that I whole-heartedly agree with. Maybe my problem with her message is that I’ve heard it before. For a tween or teen it could be enlightening, even inspiring.

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia

One theme I truly appreciated in The Soulkeepers revolved around this question:

Do you think a person is only as good as the worst thing they’ve ever done?

What a great question and Ching does an awesome job of making the reader think about it by exploring it in her novel. She also clearly understands teens. Their angst and their feelings of powerlessness under adult rule are conveyed realistically and sometimes heartbreakingly so through her two main characters, Jacob and Malini.

I highly recommend this book for the tween and teen readers in your life who like sci-fi and fantasy. It’s even got a bit of romance. Better yet, it’s book one in a series. Check these out too:

Cat Girl’s Day Off, by Kimberly Pauley

Full disclosure: Kimberly Pauley was in my writer’s group for (sadly) only a short time before she moved to London. She started writing Cat Girl’s Day Off while here in the Chicago area, and so I’d already read the first few chapters. Understand that I in no way felt obligated to read this cute little YA cat fantasy of a novel because I didn’t know Kimberly long enough to feel obligated and—even if I did—she’s in London!

But read it I did. Purely, I might add, for selfish reasons. In the short time Kimberly was in my writer’s group, I quickly discovered she was one of those writers who’d show up and say something like, “Oh, I just wrote this. It’s not very good…blah, blah, blah.” And, of course, I’d  read it and think, Really? This is your first draft? I should quit. Right now. I should just quit writing immediately. Sigh…

Seriously, Kimberly’s an amazingly clever, quirky, little writer who somehow knows how to take what many of us might consider a lame premise (i.e. cat whispering) and turn it into a wacky, wonderful, page-turner of a novel. (Heck, if Michael Jackson could make a hit out of a love song about a rat, anything’s possible.)

In Cat Girl’s Day Off, Kimberly introduces us to Nat Ng, a girl whose superpower is, of all things, the ability to communicate with cats. The kind of superpower that practically begs you to make fun of it. (Hey, Cat Girl, want some milk? Meowwwww) Even worse, Nat is the middle child—the middle girl—in a family of super-talented geniuses (Her sisters’ abilities include levitation, lie-detecting, and the chameleon-like ability to blend into one’s surroundings).

Like any good writer, Kimberly forces Nat to face her biggest fear: everyone—especially her high school peers—learning about her ability. When a spoiled pink cat belonging to famous Hollywood blogger Easton West insists that the person who looks like “his person” is really an imposter, Nat’s star struck friends (and the only two people besides her family who know about her ability) insist she help them find the missing blogger. Chaos ensues as a film crew, complete with screaming divas and hunky actors, that Easton West had come to town planning to cover, descends upon their high school to film some scenes.

While there’s plenty of mystery, humor, and nail-biting scenes, my favorite part of Cat Girl’s Day Off are the scenes with the cats. It’s easy to picture this as the next Pixar or Disney animated movie with scenes such as the one where a whole kitty litter load of cats descend upon Wrigley Field to help Nat and her friends try to capture the villain.

Cat Girl’s Day Off is clever and fast paced. The characters, from Nat’s super-talented, dysfunctional family, to the clever, neurotic, and heroic cats made it a Super Fun, summertime read!

Find out more about Kimberly Pauley at: http://www.kimberlypauley.com/

Other books by Kimberly Pauley include:

 (Which I’ve also read and highly recommend!)

Twitter, Goodreads and Browsing For Books: The Key, by Pauline Baird Jones

Sheepishly, I must admit, I’m just your typical hypocrite who, on the one hand, bemoans the fact that I no longer have a local bookstore to sip coffee at and browse books; while, the next minute, I’m clicking over to Amazon to buy another book.

I miss being overwhelmed by a bountiful array of book covers—that sensation of so many books, so little time I used to get walking into a bookstore. I’d pick up one book and turn it over to read the back, only to have another glossy cover catch my eye. I’d look through the stalls searching for the perfect cover/back page combination that would make me say, “Enough—this the one!”

Online, my field of vision is limited to a page, a few square inches of Internet. I know there are thousands—millions of other books out there, but I can’t see them. I can’t grab them. What if one of them is the next book I should be reading?

That’s where Twitter and Goodreads come in.

I’ve just finished reading The Key, by Pauline Baird Jones, a book I never would have picked up, or known about, had I not met the author on Twitter. It’s actually the third book I’ve chosen this way. And it’s suddenly occurred to me that as my Twitter and Goodreads’ following grows, so does my field of vision. While Goodreads offers me lists and recommendations, on Twitter I actually get to interact (of course, in a limited way) with the author. So why did I pick The Key? On the author’s Twitter picture, she’s wearing this funky, steampunkie looking hat—a hat that intrigued me and prompted me to check out her books. I have to say, I’m so glad I did!

For me, The Key has all the sci-fi elements I love. It’s got tech and adventure; but most of all, it’s got great characters. There’s also humor and romance and, of course, most it takes place between humans and aliens with special abilities.

The main character in The Key is Captain Sara Donovan. We meet her after she’s crash-landed on a planet and been rescued by a good-looking, though not-much-one-for-words, alien named Fyn. Sara and Fyn quickly became two of my favorite fictional characters. Sara is strong, smart, sassy and, since this is science fiction, more than your average female. Plus, she can play piano, dance and sing! In short, she is everything I’d want my daughter to be. Heck – I want to be Sara! Fyn is strong, mysterious and humble. While he could easily be just another knight in shining armour, he falls for the one girl who, for the most part, doesn’t need one…or want one.

The Key isn’t great literature, but it is great fun. If you love Star Trek, Dr. Who and you’re looking for a book that takes you away from it all and leaves you smiling, this is the book for you.

I wanted to ask Pauline if she ever served in the military. Her ease with military lingo and battle scenes read to me like firsthand knowledge. Who knows, maybe she’ll honor me with a comment.

The Key is the first in Pauline Baird Jones’ Project Universe series, which includes: The Key, Girl Gone Nova, Tangled in Time, Steamrolled, Dreamspell Steampunk and the newest release, Kicking Ashe.

Read more about Pauline Baird Jones and check out some of her other books (she writes mystery and nonfiction too) at: http://paulinebjones.server101.com