A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Semiosis by Sue Burke

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it.  And it didn't disappoint.  I loved the premise—both the tiny colony trying to survive on a strange planet and the idea of this planet having intelligent flora. 

I really enjoyed the story being told over multiple generations by different characters, and how, until closer to the end, each chapter was almost like a short story.  I loved watching the culture developing and changing, while still mostly holding true to their peaceful aim.  It was a bit of light in a dark world. 

Because of the changing points of view, I did occasionally feel a bit distant from the characters and sometimes mixed up minor actors, but I wouldn't have had it told any other way.

The fascinating premise was somehow both the book's strongest point and the thing that made me unable to give it 5 stars.  I didn't have a hard time believing an intelligent plant.  I did have a bit of a hard time swallowing the plant being so quick-thinking and quick to adapt, since plants are a life form that live in what we would think of as slow motion.  I also couldn't quite believe its facility with human language, and I thought the plant sounded too human—though also quite plant-like in some ways.  I loved the way it changed, but things like the "humor root" just felt too easy.  Still, such a unique viewpoint and premise.  And who knows:  maybe this is how an intelligent plant would really be.   Maybe I'm thinking too much like an animal. 

Semiosis is a very, very interesting book, and I absolutely loved the imaginative plants and animals and the sentience of so many things.

I strongly recommend it to people who love nature and its amazing variations, both real and imagined.

This is a definite 4.5 stars.  Almost 5 stars.

After I wrote my review, I read some by other people.  One reviewer talked about how it was very enjoyable because it didn't have a standard story arc.  

I hadn't thought about it in exactly those words, but that's probably why I enjoyed the first several chapters more than the last few.  As I said above, they were more like interconnected short stories in the same universe, and I loved the ride.  I never knew what to expect from the next chapter, and they focused on different aspects of life on Pax.  I liked how there weren't a lot of clear-cut bad guys.  I never knew which characters would be important in the future--or even which ones would survive.  It was very unpredictable.  Then, when it started getting more "let's defeat the bad guys in a big action-packed climax" it lost some of its unique beauty.  

Then, of course, I read another review that said they didn't like the book all that much because, basically, it didn't have a standard story arc.

You can't please all of the people all of the time.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Cruising Alaska on a Budget only 99 cents!

Upper Dewey Lake, from Sksgway
I'm having a sale on Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide.  For today and tomorrow, it's only 99 cents!  Even if you miss the sale, you'll still get a discount for the next few days until it returns to its normal price.

If you want to discover Alaska without breaking the bank, that 99 cents will pay for itself many, many times over.  The book includes tips on finding good cruise prices, how to anticipate or avoid hidden costs, information on public transportation, and many ideas of great things to do in port for little or no money.

I highly recommend an Alaska cruise, especially if you like wildlife and nature.  If you dedicate some time to watching the water, you're almost guaranteed to see marine life from the deck of the ship.  If you want to see a glacier, Alaska's the place to do it.  If you're a hiker, there are so many nice nature strolls and rigorous hikes within easy reach of where your ship stops. 

It's a paradise of green and blue and white.

So start planning!

Buy Cruising Alaska on a Budget on Amazon--99 cents!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

"To the Guacanos at the Syracuse Zoo," by Chen Chen

I'm not a big fan of poetry:  pointless line breaks (why not write it as a paragraph or at least break lines at logical pauses?), lack of punctuation (you hate it 'cause it's useful?), fragments of thought that often don't make any sense (okay, so sometimes the putting of them together in your own head to make your own meaning makes it stronger, but sometimes...it's just fragmented and rough draftish). 

Reading poetry often feels like a chore to me. 

However, I just read a book of poetry for a summer reading challenge.  It was When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Futher Possibilities, by Chen Chen.  I actually quite enjoyed it.  My favorite poem was "To the Guacanos at the Syracuse Zoo," and you can read it at this website:


Friday, July 13, 2018

My short story on Pseudopod!


For those of you who aren't familiar with EscapePod, Pseudopod, PodCastle, and Cast of Wonders, they're part of a family of well-respected literary podcasts that were among the first and now longest-running shows of their kind.  Escape Pod does science fiction, PodCastle does fantasy, Cast of Wonders is aimed at the young adult who like speculative fiction, and my story appears in Pseudopod, the horror podcast. 

Now, I don't write a lot of horror, and this story, "A Learned Man," is not a gruesome slash-em-up.  The host of the episode, Alasdair Stuart, calls my story "Horror of the rarest, subtlest vintage.  Expertly, chillingly done."

"A Learned Man" appeared a while back at Electric Spec, but now it has new life (and voice) with Pseudopod.  The reader, Wilson Fowlie, does and excellent job making it come to life.

Listen (or read) for free here:  Episode 602 of Pseudopod:  A Learned Man

If you like to encourage the arts, please leave a comment in the forum or share on social media.  Thanks!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Five Stars for A Perfect Universe by Scott O'Connor

Amazing.  I read this because it was on a list of books for a reading challenge.  I'd never heard of the author, but from the first few pages I was hooked.  The stories just blew me away.  I'm not even sure why they were so good, but the writing pulled me in and didn't let go.  The emotions were powerful, the characters compelling, the subject matter unusual.  Many of them took some strange small thing and made it central in such a beautiful way that I just kept thinking, "I wish I'd written this."  The settings and microcultures were real.  Everything…just a masterpiece. 

None of the stories wrapped us as much as I like.  They all left me hanging, hungering for more, wanting these characters to find more peace, more definite solutions, more answers.  Yet despite my preference for conclusions that are…well…conclusive…I loved these.  There was always just enough…just a bit of hope or a bit of closure.  Yet they kept me thinking about them afterward. 

I enjoyed the common thread that wove through most of the stories—a movie that was important in different ways to different people.  However, it did seem strange that this common thread was missing in only a couple of stories.  However, maybe I just missed it because I wasn't watching for it in the beginning.  I'll have to read the whole collection again.  And for the first time in a long while, I look forward to re-reading a book.

Five stars, no question--and I do not give five stars lightly.  In fact, I just looked back and for the last 50 novels or short story collections I've read, this is only the second one I've given 5 stars.

I will absolutely read more by Scott O'Connor

Warning:  a bit more profanity than I like, but not excessive.  And it's not exactly a light and happy read. 

Check it out from your local library or buy on Amazon:  A Perfect Universe; Ten Stories

Sunday, July 8, 2018

My Short Story in Ember; a Journal of Luminous Things

My short story, "The Curse," about a woman haunted by a decision she made years ago, is out in <i>Ember; a Journal of Luminous Things</i>.

The cover art is beautiful, and there's more artwork throughout, so I'm excited to get my contributor's copies and see how it all looks in print.   

If you're interested, use this link to get a 35% discount:   https://go.egjpress.org/e31-brasher  There's a fancy limited-time edition and a trade paperback. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Heard Museum, Phoenix

I went to the Heard Museum in Phoenix for the first time a few days ago (I know, I know...I should have explored this well-respected museum much sooner). 

I was a bit surprised by its focus.  I was expecting more ethnographic, historical, and archaeological displays, and not quite so much art, but I enjoyed the mix.  And, if you look at the website, it clearly states "Heard Museum; Advancing American Indian Art."

Temporary Exhibits

The museum has a lot of temporary exhibits, so you can go multiple times and always see something new.  My favorite of the temporary exhibits was "Symmetry in Stone:  The Jewelry of Richard I. Chavez."  He's an amazing jewelry maker, often cutting coral, turquoise, jade, and other stones into small pieces that he then fits together like perfect mosaics.  Beautiful stuff.

Permanent Exhibits

The most interesting permanent exhibit to me (and the most heart-breaking) was "Remembering our Indian School Days:  The Boarding School Experience."   I also enjoyed the "Home" display with information, pottery, baskets, katsina (AKA kachina) dolls, clothing, jewelry, etc. from the different Arizona tribes, along with cultural information about each one.  I just wished they'd had better maps that showed where each lived at different times in history.

Some of the sculptures scattered around and in the courtyards were really cool.

My Favorite Exhibit

My absolute favorite part (I'm such a kid), was "It's Your Turn; a Home Studio."  It's a hand-on, interactive exhibit about the daily home art of various tribes.  You can build a hogan with giant legos, put together puzzles, and make crafts!!!  Totally cool.  And it gave me lots of inspiration for activities I can do with my kids at the library.     

If you go...

Remember that they're one of the museums that participates in the Culture Pass program, where you can get two FREE tickets by checking out a Culture Pass at your local Phoenix-area library!  They also have discounts for seniors,children, AAA members,  FREE entry to Native Americans, FREE entry to active-duty military and their families during summer, and FREE first Fridays in the evening.  They also participate in Bank of America's "Museums on Us" program.  These special free and discounted entries may not apply during special events. 

Various daily tours are free.

We spent about 5 hours there.  You can leave in the middle and have a picnic on their pretty grounds or go to a nearby restaurant and come back.  Alternately, you can spend a LOT of money on sandwiches and such at their cafe.

The bookshop and museum store are open to the public without paying admission.

The library (for reading and studying there but not, I believe, for checking out books) is open Monday-Friday. 

They also have programs such as hoop dances (I LOVE hoop dances), lectures, and other special events, sometimes for additional fees. 

For more information and pictures: