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Friday, November 11, 2016

Giant Slayers
Jeff Altabef & Ken Altabef
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Release Date: September 20th 2016

It doesn't seem fair to call this a retelling of David and Goliath, because the book is so much more than that. However, at it's base, that's what we have here. Filling in gaps and expanding on details, the authors introduce you to young David, brave and restless and more than a little Luke Skywalker around the edges. Far away, a young princess explores the world around her. Fierce despite her sex, and savvy beyond her age, Michal is every bit a heroine. When these two meet as David is called to use music to save the king from nightmares, their story is a bittersweet one. 

This one has it all, witches, heroes and heroines, kings, princesses, and even a giant. 

What I loved: Sure, we all know the story of David and Goliath, but this book is an exciting, fresh look at the tale. Though I knew where the story was heading, I found myself desperately reading to see what happened next. 

What I didn't love: There are spots, especially at the beginning, where this book took up more space than it needed to. While I appreciated the attention to building strong characters, the result was a very slow, windy start. 

All in all, a good read. Recommended. 

About the Authors
Jeff Altabef lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and Charlie the dog. He spends time volunteering at the writing center in the local community college. After years of being accused of "telling stories," he thought he would make it official. He writes in both the thriller and young adult genres. Fourteenth Colony, a political thriller, is his debut novel. Jeff has a blog designed to encourage writing by those that like telling stories. You can find his blog, The Accidental Writers Workshop, on The Patch. Jeff also rights a column for The Examiner under the byline - The Accidental Writer.
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Ken Altabef- As a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America member, my short fiction has frequently appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I also had stories in Interzone, Buzzymag, Abyss & Apex, Unsettling Wonder and Ominous Realities. 
ALAANA'S WAY, my 5-part series of epic fantasy novels is published by Cat's Cradle Press. Described as "cutting-edge fantasy from the top of the world" the arctic setting and unique characters will bring something new to even the most jaded fantasy enthusiast. You can preview this work and others at my website
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

To my son on his first birthday

My son, my sweet boy, how are you already such a little man? It's only been a year since they put you, tiny and new, into my befuddled arms, and yet there are moments when I cannot remember a time when my day didn't begin with your smile.

As your first year winds to a close, I find myself nostalgic already, and reflecting on the twelve months that have been the best, and some of the most challenging of my life. From those first weeks and months where you just would not sleep to so many days fretting over this cold or that ear infection, I've worried over you a lifetime's worth already  and we're only just beginning. I've also gotten to watch you with such wonder as you've become my favorite little person.

I can't believe how much you've learned, but also how much I've learned about you, your daddy, and especially myself.

I've learned that you have two parents that get very nervous about very different things.

You like to play in the dishwasher. I usually check to make sure there are no knives in reach and smile, because I see a baby delighting in exploration. Your dad sees potential pinched fingers, head bumps, and bloody noses. When you dump your cereal on the floor, I chirp that floor food is the best food, and your dad grimaces over the dirt you're ingesting.

You also love the television. Your dad sees you glancing up as you play with other things and developing just fine if it is on occasionally. I see your exploration stopping and suddenly have visions of you getting held back in the first grade. When you stain an outfit we love, your dad throws it in the wash with the "real" detergent (instead of my hippie plant-based option), and I grimace over unnecessary chemicals touching you.

In short, you have two neurotic parents, but we complement each other well. Good luck with figuring out how to navigate that in years to come.

I've learned that I have to be happy as myself, too. 

I struggled early on with trying to give you everything I wanted you to have, which was quite a list. I wanted to have enough money to save for your college and never have to worry about whether or not I could afford something you needed. I wanted to have enough time with you that I would never miss anything new, and always be the face that appeared to comfort you when you cried. I wanted to set good examples for you of working hard and being driven. I wanted you to never question whether or not you were my first priority.

It took me much of your first year to learn that I couldn't give you all of those things- at least not all at once. It took me a bit longer to be able to admit that, in order to be the best mother I could for you, I also had to be my best self. My best self is driven and ambitious, someone who takes pride in a job well done and derives satisfaction from working very hard. My best self is open and social, but also needs alone time for reflection and contemplation. My best self is the person who feels like she will burst with happiness when she sees you smile because you see her, but also sometimes wishes you didn't cry just because she left the room. Frankly, my best self is the me who spends her days working at something I am good at, and her evenings, weekends, mornings, and random afternoons when she ducks out early focusing 100% on you.

I am sure I will feel guilt throughout your early life over being a working mom. I am sure I will feel a mix of shame and annoyance every time someone judges me for working instead of being with you. I am sure I will continue to rail against the fact that we could also get by if your Dad elected to stay home with you instead, but no one (including him) will ever try to make him feel guilty about it. But mostly I am sure that I will always, always, always do what is best for you first. If that changes, then I will work to find a new best self to be your best mom.

I've learned to let things go. 

Your mom is obsessive about some things, kid. I am willing to bet that, throughout your life, the very few arguments you will overhear between me and your dad will be about scheduling. I am a planner, to a fault, and your dad is not, to a fault. Periodically, these traits clash. We're usually both wrong.

I will always want the calendar on the fridge to be up to date. You'll get used to it. But I am learning to calm down about some other things.

You make it hard to be on time all of the time, something I like to do, and I am getting better about not letting that make me anxious. I hate clutter, but have made myself start thinking of the toys that litter my floor as happy memories instead of clutter.

You will grow up and find new ways to become an affront to my compulsions, I will try to keep adapting!

I've learned that you are exactly who you are

When you are much older, you will know what it is to daydream about what your child will become. If you inherit any of my compulsion to plan, you may even have a strategy prepared for making those things happen. Perhaps, like me, you will want a child that loves to read so you will ply them with books. Perhaps, like me, you will want a kid that is adventurous with food so you will start giving them Thai food at 7 months old.

And eventually, like me, you will learn that your child is exactly who they are. As a parent, I can try to influence the things you love. I can share what I love with you, but already, at age one, you have taught me that you are going to be exactly who you are. I cannot change that, nor do I want to.

Despite surrounding you with dinosaur or astronaut themed everything, you constantly reach for the only truck toy you own. I have tried over and over to get you to love avocado, but you remain lukewarm at best.

I will continue to show you the things I love, and to delight in the things we love together, but I also respect the little personality that shines through more every day. I love watching you be perfectly you.

I have learned new definitions for worried, happy, and love. 

I felt those things before, and those feelings were very valid and very real. I feel them differently now with you.

When you're sick, or in the second after I see you fall and bump your head or leg or arm (which you do approximately 15 times a day), I feel like the worry might actually break me.

I still am amazed to find how happy sitting on the couch and watching you play with a paper towel tube can make me.

And love. Oh kid, no matter what comes from here on out, what difficulties we face, what fights we inevitably have, always know this: you are loved. You are loved intensely, fiercely, and fully. Always.

This is just the start, my son. I can already tell that your next year, like your first, will have challenges and joys. I hope it involves less illness, because your immune system has got to be top notch by now. I hope you eventually just accept your fate when it comes to diaper changes. I hope you stop biting me...and the dog. I hope you still want to snuggle, though I already see you getting too antsy to get back to your exploration to do that as much. I hope you learn so many words so you can tell me what you need.

But most of all, I hope you keep teaching your Dad and me new things about you and ourselves. I love watching us all grow together.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A pact with my mom friends

Dear Mom Friends,

Holy crap, I need you. You all keep me sane and give me someone to talk to when motherhood makes me feel alone and crazy at time. I love you guys. And because I love you guys, I am going to make you some promises so we can all continue to be a little more sane.

  1. No thank you cards. I will always send my relatives and coworkers and others without kids. But I will give your kids a birthday gift. You may do the same for mine. Lets not add more to our to-do list in exchanging thank you cards until our kids are old enough to write the damn things themselves.
  2. In that vein, I will try to make every birthday party, but lets not get all pissy when life happens and we all miss the occasional one, OK? 
  3. Don't ever clean for me. Seriously. Let your house be as it is when I am coming over so I don't feel any pressure to clean mine for you.
  4. I won't discipline your kid unless I am babysitting or you expressly ask me to. And likely not even then. I will stop our kids from physically hurting each other or themselves, but addressing behavior is on you because we will inevitably feel differently about how to handle things. 
  5. I will always warn you before bringing a sick kid around yours, and we will stay home if ours is really sick. I will not skip every event when my kid has a sniffle, because I would never leave the house. But I also get that sometimes you can handle a kid with a cold, and sometimes you just cannot, so I will leave that decision to you. 
  6. Ask me for help! Whether you need a night out or someone is ER bound and you need a dog walker. Given what my own life looks like, I cannot promise that I will always be able to answer the call, but I promise that I will do everything I can to be there when you really need back up. 
  7. You never have to say "I love my kid, but..." because I know your love your kid. No matter what you have to say, I won't question that. If you didn't love your kid, we probably wouldn't be friends. You can just bitch to me about whatever happens to be killing you at the moment without feeling like it needs qualification. 
  8. I will try to drag you out of the house if I feel like you are losing it. Because we all are losing it sometimes. If you sound frantic or stressed, I am going to start asking when we can do dinner or a movie or go for a walk sans kid. It might take 6 weeks to make our schedules work, but we need to keep an eye out for each other's sanity! 
  9. I will not bring my kid if you ask me not to... even if it means I can't come. We all need to honor those nights when we just want adult time. If the sitter cancels, we will be respectful and sit this one.. 
  10. I will try not to make you feel judged... I spend a lot of time questioning my decisions and thinking I am doing things wrong. Sometimes, you will do something and I think for a moment "Yay! I did/do that better." And then I will feel guilty as hell about it. However, it will happen. Trust me, there will be many more moments where I sit and wish I could be as good a mother as you are. So I am not going to lie to you and say I will never judge you, just as I am pretty sure you couldn't say the same, But I can promise that I will do my best to keep those thoughts minimal and in my head, so you never feel judged. Because beyond any glee for feeling confident about one thing, the thing I need to feel more is the empathy we have for each other. 
I am sure this list could be longer. As our kids get older, I am sure the way we support each other will change, too. But for now, I can promise you these things with the hope that we can help ease the load just a bit. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Nika Blog Tour and Review

I was happy to participate on the Nika blog tour and receive a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Nika begins with a breathy bang as our narrator is kidnapped. Taken to a strange, luxurious home she must bide her time and wait for answers. When they finally come, she comes to understand that she is the key to ending a dispute between two powerful races.

What I loved about this:
The story here is incredibly unique and exciting. As someone who reads a lot of paranormal YA, often plots can feel recycled. This is not the case here. Nika's tale is extremely fresh and imaginative. D.H. Gibbs has taken some familiar YA characters and given them a new world that is full of intrigue and possibility. I am looking forward to see what else this world has to offer.

What I didn't love:
The author seemed a little too excited to get to her very cool plot points. The writing at the beginning is exceptionally rushed, which sacrifices some very important and necessary character building. For example, though we see the story through Nika's eyes, the reader has absolutely no hint that she is more than a hundred years old until someone else tells her of her history. Of course it makes perfect sense to her, but as the reader who had no idea she had this background, I was confused both by the premise and her reaction to it. All in all, the book suffers from being almost exclusively "tell" with very little "show," which was frustrating because the story was so strong.

Nika: A Seychatka Novella
by D.H. Gibbs
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 96
Release Date: March 1st 2016

Summary from Goodreads:

Taken off the streets Nika is thrown into an unknown world where she's held captive. As an orphan, she has been on the run and must find her way out before they discover her secret. But these people held the knowledge of her family and who she is. Will she be able to find out before her secret is revealed? After hundreds of years, Demyan has finally found the rightful ruler of his race. Unfortunately, she doesn't know who she is and is doing everything in her power to escape him. Time is running out and Demyan has to convince Nika to take her rightful place otherwise the battle will be lost and his race extinguished.

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Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble 

About the Author
With an active imagination and a love of art D.H. Gibbs has chosen to combine her talents by writing and illustrating books. She writes for both the children and young adult genre, where both of her debut books has been published and is available on amazon. Her new children’s book will be coming out in 2016.

D.H. Gibbs hails from the Caribbean where in her free time she reads, paint and travel when she can.

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