Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"Murder on the Orient Express" by Agatha Christie

I read this once before, as a teen -- it's probably the first Agatha Christie mystery I encountered.  I'm not a huge fan of hers, but this particular story charms me for some reason.  I really enjoyed the 2017 movie version (review here), but it'd been probably twenty years since I last read this and I couldn't remember enough of it to tell just how much the movie changed.  I did remember the solution to the case, though.  

The story, just in case you're somehow unaware of it even though it's one of the most famous murder mysteries of the 20th century, is about a man getting stabbed to death on a train.  Detective Hercule Poirot just happens to be on that train too, and he sets about trying to figure out which one of his twelve fellow passengers is the murderer.  

The solution is outrageous and stretches my credulity... and yet, I totally dig it.  It might not be the most logical mystery ever, but somehow, it feels very right.  I'm not at all sure how Christie pulled that off.  I read the whole thing in a little over a day because it races along at such a jolly pace, and is so bright and fun -- a perfect summer read!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for murder and discussions of kidnapping.  I would let my 10-year-old read it if he wanted to.


This is my 18th book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club and my 10th for the Mount TBR Challenge 2018.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"Guns of the Timberlands" by Louis L'Amour

Man, oh man, is this a well-crafted story.  I am in awe.  This book is almost depressingly good.

I say that because I'm working on revisions of my latest western, Dancing and Doughnuts, and I'm feeling very critical about my own storytelling efforts right now.  And when I read something so tautly plotted, with superb characterizations and action scenes I can never dream of matching... I sometimes get depressed.  Not always.  Sometimes, I get inspired.  And, actually, this book did help me think through some stuff about antagonists that was really helpful for my current writing projects.  So that's good.

But mostly I read this as fast as I possibly could, muttering, "It's just not fair!  It's not fair!  Whyyyyyyyy is he such a good writer?  Noooooooo!" and other similarly whiny things.

This is kind of dumb review.  Sorry.  The truth is, this book blew my tiny little mind, and I'm still reassembling the pieces.

So there's this rancher named Clay Bell who is basically... imagine if Wolverine was not a mutant, but just a really great guy who is helpful and hard-working and nice.  Keeps to himself most of the time, minds his own business, but still helps others when they need helping.  But also goes a little berserk if you get him too angry.  Slicing and dicing, just not with the aid of adamantium claws, if that makes sense.  And then imagine there's a bad guy who wants to cut down all the trees on Clay Bell's land because he's got this contract to deliver rail ties to the railroad, and Bell's trees are perfect and really ideally situated, and does it actually matter that Clay Bell literally owns that land and those trees and has a perfect right to say, "Nope, can't cut down my trees, bub" if he wants?  

Well, yeah, obviously it matters.  The bad guy doesn't think so, but hahahaha, joke's on him, cuz he's basically just picked a fight with a declawed Wolverine AND all his not-quite-superpowered cowboy friends, and this is not going to end well for you, Bad Guy!  Mwahaha.  Good will triumph.  After a lot of shooting and punching and some stuff getting burned up.

Also, there's a girl.  She's almost engaged to marry the bad guy, but duh, she's simply powerless to resist falling in love with Clay Bell.  Who probably looks exactly like Hugh Jackman.  Or a young Alan Ladd.  Love is inevitable.

Also, there's this kinda old dude who sorta runs the town, and he was not evil.  When was the last time I encountered a guy who runs a town who is NOT evil?  I don't even know.  It was great.

This is still kind of a dumb review.  Just read the book.  It's awesome.  I might just go read it over again.  And then watch the Alan Ladd movie based on the book, because I haven't seen it yet, but I own it already, so I should just watch it, shouldn't I.

(From my Bookstagrammer adventures)

Particularly Good Bits:

He glanced over at Coffin, fine lines of remembered laughter showing at the corners of his eyes (p. 2).

A large -- rather forceful gentleman?"  Clay's expression was almost too innocent.  "With a mustache and an opinion?" (p. 14).

These men who stayed had not been wealthy men, but they had been steadfast men, confident men, strong with an inner strength that knows not defeat.  Such men had built this town, had kept it alive, and would make it grow (p. 18).

She had never been a girl who depended upon others for pleasure, excitement, or entertainment (p. 43).

It was midafternoon and the sun lay like a curse upon the town (p. 66).

Jud Devitt was a man with an eye for a well upholstered blonde (p. 135).

Randy Ashton was a girl who looked as if born to a dance hall, but she was a girl whose heart only beat in tune to cotton print and kitchens (p. 137).

Too long had these people lived by the gun.  These men and women had crossed the plains, they had fought Indians and outlaws, and they had built homes where it took strength to build and courage to fight -- and the willingness to fight was still a social virtue of the highest order.  The town was not yet tame (p. 165).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for western violence, a big of vague innuendo, and possibly a few cuss words, though I don't recall any at the moment.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

"Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me" by Lorilee Craker

I got this book from my mom for my birthday a couple months ago.  My mom and I sort of discovered the Anne books together when I was like six or seven years old.  Maybe eight.  Anyway, a friend of hers told he we would love them, and that friend was right.  Mom read the books aloud to us, we watched the Sullivan movies over and over and over, and they generally informed my childhood about as much as the Laura Ingalls Wilder books did.  Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls were my kindred spirits.

Anyway, as soon as I learned of the existence of this book, I knew I needed to read it.  I put it on my birthday wish list and was not at all surprised when my mom decided to give it to me.  I should probably loan it to her sometime, because I think she'd enjoy it too.

Lorilee Craker was adopted as an infant.  After having two sons, she and her husband adopted a daughter.  In this book, she entwines her own childhood, her adoption of her daughter, and Anne's fictional life in a sweet, lyrical way.  She meditates beautifully on how all of us, adopted or not, often feel "bereft, left behind, and left" just like an orphan, and how our Heavenly Father fills that hollowness within us with his love.

Oh, and you know how I said both Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls were my fictional kindred spirits (or maybe spirit animals) when I was a girl?  Lorilee Craker was inspired to write this by Wendy McClure's book The Wilder Life. Isn't that an intriguing coincidence?


(From my Instagram.  Yes, that is my hair.)

Particularly Good Bits:

Experiencing true friendship after a poverty of loneliness is like suddenly having access to the treasure chest in Villa Villekulla (p. 41).


What I didn't know then was that even after you've found the one, a good and steady love, only a Father's love, on the Bread of Life, can really make you full.  Only a Father's love can make you belong (p. 59).

I want to teach my daughter how to act when someone trips her wires and that it's okay to be angry but not to sin.  I want to teach her the difference as I continue to understand it (p. 125).

In my experience, secrets hold you hostage, while the truth, though painful and scary, leads to peace (p. 184).

Through Anne, Maud speaks volumes about the desire we all have to belong and to matter to the people we love.  Coutless readers, including me and my girl, have come to understand friendship, abiding love, and the power of redemption in a more significant fashion (p. 220).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG because both the author and her adopted daughter were conceived out of wedlock, which might cause some kids/preteens angst or make them ask questions they're not ready for the answers to.  NO inappropriate scenes, bad language, or other truly objectionable content.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Revealing the "Dancing and Doughnuts" Cover

Without further ado, here it is!!!!!



Do you love it?  I love it.  It's from the same artist who did the cover for Cloaked and my short story "No Match for a Good Story" and I think it continues the look of my series so perfectly.

What's this book about?  Well, someone's been spiking the apple cider at a Kansas dance hall owned by a family with twelve daughters.  No one in the small town has been able to find the culprit.  A hungry Civil War veteran drifts into town and decides he's going to solve this mystery for them and earn the reward the family is offering.  It's my version of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," which is probably my favorite fairy tale.

I'll be releasing this in August, and I'll be calling for ARC readers a month or so before the release, so stay tuned for that if you like reading free books before the rest of the world gets their hands on them!  Meanwhile, Dancing and Doughnuts already has a Goodreads page, so click here to access that and add it to your to-read list!

Meanwhile, feel free to visit me elsewhere online to interact with me in other places and ways!  I've got an author website where you can sign up for my newsletter, a Goodreads author page, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and an Amazon author page



Tell me what you think of the cover!  Doesn't it blend well with the previous two?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

My Kids' Take on the Greatest Showman Book Tag

My three kids, Sam (10), Jellybean (8), and Mad Dog (6), also love The Greatest Showman.  And they love books.  When they saw my tag post, they decided they wanted to fill it out too!  So here are their answers to the prompts :-)  (My husband Cowboy got in on the fun once in a while too.)


(They helped me choose all these gifs too.)


~’The Greatest Show’: Name a book that’s as entertaining as a circus

(Sam) The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
(Jellybean)  The Ghastly Battle by Winter Morgan
(Mad Dog)  Flora the Dress-Up Fairy by Daisy Meadows


~’A Million Dreams’: Name a book that’s set in a fantastical world

(Sam) Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
(Jellybean)  Lost in the End by Winter Morgan
(Mad Dog)  Holly the Christmas Fairy by Daisy Meadows


~’Come Alive’: Name a book that makes you outrageously happy

(Sam) Big Truck, Little Truck by Jan Carr
(Jellybean)  Domino by Ellen Miles
(Mad Dog)  Trixie the Halloween Fairy by Daisy Meadows
(Cowboy) Lawrence by Janet Morgan Stoeke


~’The Other Side’: Name a book that changed your mind about something

(Sam) The abridged Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle
(Jellybean) Otis by Ellen Miles
(Mad Dog) I refuse to answer on grounds that it may incriminate me.


~’Never Enough’: Name a book that you’ve re-read more than once

(Sam) Song of the Ean by Emily Nordberg
(Jellybean) The Littlest Snowman by Charles Tazewell
(Mad Dog) The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan & Jan Berenstain


~’This Is Me’: Name a book with a character that reminds you of yourself

(Sam) Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
(Jellybean) The abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
(Mad Dog) The Berenstain Bears: And Baby Makes Five by Stan & Jan Berenstain
(Cowboy) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle


~’Rewrite the Stars’: Name a book with a forbidden romance

(Sam) The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede
(Jellybean) Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy by Daisy Meadows
(Mad Dog) Flora the Dress-Up Fairy by Daisy Meadows


~’Tightrope’: Name a book with an adventurous main character

(Sam) Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
(Jellybean) Lost in the End by Winter Morgan
(Mad Dog) Robin Hood


~’From Now On’: Name a book with a wonderful family (related or otherwise)

(Sam) Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright
(Jellybean) Duchess by Ellen Miles
(Mad Dog) The Berenstain Bears' Easter Parade by Mike Berenstain

Friday, May 25, 2018

"The Greatest Showman" Book Tag


Eva over at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness tagged me with this tag that I believe she also created!  She knows how much I love The Greatest Showman (2017), so she knew I'd love doing this tag :-)  Thanks, Eva!

Rules are:
  • answer the questions
  • tag whoever you want 
  • using her graphic is optional, but recommended



~’The Greatest Show’: Name a book that’s as entertaining as a circus

Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett is EXTREMELY fun.  There's a wonderful audiobook version too.  I heartily recommend both to people of all ages.  The audiobook is actually funnier than reading the book yourself because the reader, Julian Rhind-Tutt, has the most wonderful variety of accents and a dry, ultra-British way of delivering the lines.  



~’A Million Dreams’: Name a book that’s set in a fantastical world

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis has one of the most fantastical worlds I've ever encountered.  I was agog.



~’Come Alive’: Name a book that makes you outrageously happy

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery is like eating a bowl of delicious ice cream.  Or maybe an entire carton.



~’The Other Side’: Name a book that changed your mind about something

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer made me believe that Sherlock Holmes pastiches were worth reading after all.  Some of them, anyway.



~’Never Enough’: Name a book that you’ve re-read more than once

How about The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien?  That's actually three books (technically six...) and I've read it half a dozen times.



~’This Is Me’: Name a book with a character that reminds you of yourself

I relate a lot to Anne Elliot in Persuasion by Jane Austen, which is part of why that's my favorite of Austen's novels.  I am overdue for a reread and hoping to sneak it in later this summer.



~’Rewrite the Stars’: Name a book with a forbidden romance

I keep overthinking this and trying to find a romance that's totally forbidden like in Romeo and Juliet.  But how about a romance that's just frowned upon by society?  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte totally has one of those.  Young, poor governess falls in love with approaching-middle-age, rich man.  Nobody approves.  They don't care.  Also, it's my favorite book EVER.



~’Tightrope’: Name a book with an adventurous main character

Constance Kopp, the titular heroine of Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart, is definitely adventurous!



~’From Now On’: Name a book with a wonderful family (related or otherwise)

I'm going to copy Eva on this one, because the found family withing The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is pretty much as wonderful as they come.



Now... who should I tag?  I'm kind of crunched for time today, so I'm just going to tag Flowers of Quiet Happiness, Meanwhile in RivendellMovies Meet Their Match, Any Merry Little Thought, and Lavender Spring even though I haven't had time to look back through their posts and see if they've seen this movie or not.  But I know they all enjoy both books and movies :-)  If YOU loved this movie and want to do this tag, then you're hereby tagged too!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Want to be in on the Cover Reveal for My New Book?


The cover for my next book, Dancing and Doughnuts, is allllllllmost ready for the big reveal.  Like I did for Cloaked, I want to have some of you help me share it with the world by doing a cover reveal on Tuesday, May 29. 

In case you haven't heard me talking about this book already, Dancing and Doughnuts is my next Once Upon a Western story.  It's a retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" set in post-Civil War Kansas, and I'll be sharing more about it during the cover reveal :-)

If you would like to join me in showing off the cover on your blogs or in social media this coming Tuesday, May 29, please email me at rachelkovaciny at gmail dot com with "Dancing and Doughnuts cover reveal" in the subject line.  All participants will receive my gratitude, fake internet points, and an imaginary hug :-)  And get to see what the cover looks like before anyone else!

I will send participants the cover image no later than Friday, May 25, to give you a couple days to set up your posts.

If you want to know more about my books, please check out my website, rachelkovaciny.com -- you can even download a free story there, my winter western called "No Match for a Good Story" that blend elements of the Sheherezade story from The Arabian Nights with characters from my Sleeping Beauty retelling, "The Man on the Buckskin Horse."