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Welcome to bookchat where you can talk about anything...books, plays, essays, and books on tape.  You don’t have to be reading a book to come in, sit down, and chat with us.

I am always glad to hear about new books that our Daily Kos members have written and published.  Congratulations to them!   If your book is not mentioned below, please post about it in the comments.  

I have bought quite a few books from DKos authors and really enjoyed them.

Coming out January 8th is Jinx by Sage Blackwood aka our Sensible Shoes.  This book is for middle graders, but I enjoyed it.


In the Urwald, you don't step off the path. Trolls, werewolves, and butter churn–riding witches lurk amid the clawing branches, eager to swoop up the unwary. Jinx has always feared leaving the path—then he meets the wizard Simon Magus.

Jinx knows that wizards are evil. But Simon's kitchen is cozy, and he seems cranky rather than wicked. Staying with him appears to be Jinx's safest, and perhaps only, option. As Jinx's curiosity about magic grows, he learns to listen to the trees as closely as he does to Simon's unusual visitors. The more Jinx discovers, the more determined he becomes to explore beyond the security of well-trodden paths.

But in the Urwald, a little healthy fear is never out of place, for magic—and magicians—can be as dangerous as the forest. And soon Jinx must decide which is the greater threat.

Sage Blackwood introduces a daring new hero for an innovative new world as Jinx is joined by friends, battles enemies, and discovers that life beyond—and even within—the forest is more complex than he can imagine, and that the Urwald itself needs him more than he could ever guess.

My favorite thing about Jinx is how he sees colored “clouds” around people so he can tell if they are in a good mood or bad.  
Page 88  

Dame Glammer was wrong-Jinx couldn’t read minds.  Minds weren’t like books.  They shifted around all the time.

And anyway, everyone could see what was right in front of their faces, surely-the white, implacable wall of Simon’s determination to get this new spell done, the pink stabs of worry that he wouldn’t be able to do it or that it would go wrong.  And battering against the white wall was Sophie, with her own brown-blue worry about Simon.

I also like the sense of adventure that Jinx has.  He is determined to seek out new things, even the most dangerous.  
Page 36

The feeling Jinx had had before, that the Urwald was reaching out to grab him, to pull him in and swallow him, had changed.  He felt now that the forest enveloped him, as if he and it were part of a single, enormous living thing.  He wasn’t afraid to stray from the path anymore-at least as long as he was with Simon and Sophie.  The Truce of the Path protected you from monsters and other humans when you were on the path.  But if you spent all your time being protected, you never got to find out anything new.

There are many questions in the story that the reader asks as well as Jinx:

Is Jinx a Listener of the trees?

Page 37

Jinx hung back.  He wanted to see if he was right about how trees spoke.

What do the trees fear that is moving in them?  What is the Terror?
Page 107  

It was summer and the trees were talking about that-about the rain and how well things rotted when the earth was warmer.  And fear.  The fear was something new, moving through the Urwald.

What is the truth about Jinx’s fellow travelers, Elfwyn and Reven?
Pages 180, 181

“Can’t you keep anything to yourself?” Jinx snapped, not caring if she thought he was nice or not.  What a blabbermouth!

“No,” said Elfwyn.

Page 192

“My stepmother was not wicked!”

The change in Reven was startling.  He wasn’t ingratiating, or charming, or fascinated, or slightly nervous-he was furious.  His eyebrows drew down like angry swords and you could believe that his eyes could cut you down where you stood.  Jinx inched his chair away from him.

Who is the Bonemaster?
Page 220

Jinx was undecided.  He wanted to go close enough to talk to the Bonemaster, yes.  But down here in the canyon away from any trees, he felt exposed and helpless.  It didn’t seem like such a good idea.  

Page 290

Jinx remembered Simon saying, Anyone could have power the way he gets it.  If they are willing to do the things he’s willing to do.

Will Jinx ever be able to learn to do magic?
Page 104

It seemed to Jinx that Simon was getting more powerful.  Jinx was not.  The only progress Jinx had made in learning was that now he could levitate a book, if it wasn’t a big one.  That was all.

Page 108

In his head he heard Simon say Of course you can’t if you think you can’t.

Finding out the answers to the questions makes the story of Jinx fascinating.

(I would like to thank SS and her publisher for sending me a review copy of Jinx).

Kelly McCullough’s new book is the third one in his Bared Blade series and came out at the end of November.  

I loved Kelly’s first series so much that I was eager to try his next one.  My earlier review of this first series:


The hero of the stories is so good at programming that his many times great aunt wishes him to do a job for her.  That she is a Fate is only one part of the problem because what she wants is so terrible, he must refuse.  

Refusing a Fate is not good.  One should also not believe that Zeus is just a wino who loves to party.  It can be tough to know that Pluto is waiting impatiently to get his hands on you.  And the Furies?  I leave it to your imagination.  When I read the books, I spent my time either laughing or cowering under the couch.

My earlier review of the books in Kelly's Blade series:

Broken Blade

I have read so much fantasy that I know how hard it is to come up with something new in the genre.  This is why I am delighted to say that Kelly has done it with Aral and Triss.  What I liked best about the first book was the relationship between Aral and Triss.  We and Aral learn something new and dangerous about Triss as we read.

Overviews never really do justice to the book in explaining whether a protagonist will be likeable or not.  Kelly lets us inside Aral’s head for most of the story and we share his past while watching his actions in the story to learn the answer to the question Aral wants to know, “Who is he, now?”  If justice is dead and his blades given up, where does Aral belong?  Will he survive the hunters who wish him dead and have found an ingenious way to do harm?  Can he avenge the innocent?  Is the job he is asked to do the one he should be doing?  Can old friends who oppose him be trusted ever?

And most important of all, can he become the man he once was?  Kelly makes me care enough about Aral to wish for that as I wait for the next story.

The second book is Bared Blade.  It is the sequel to Broken Blade which I enjoyed, but this one is even better.  
Aral is fully awake, now, and coming to understand that he is still needed in the world.  He still is trying to decide what Justice means now when the goddess is dead, and that is an important theme in the story.
Page 126, 127

I was trying to spot the Dyad, when a pillar of ochre light like a giant’s staff drove up from a spot maybe a hundred yards away along the bayside street and swung around to meet me.  Firespike!  The spell caster led my course perfectly, Elite work if I was any judge.  He would have batted me neatly out of the sky, if not for Triss wrenching free of my control and collapsing his shadow wings to send us plunging toward the dark water below.

Even so, the swinging pillar of orange light slid along my chest, and clipped the side of my head as I turned away from the burning pain of that contact.  It felt like I’d
been grazed by the fiery tongue of a gigantic hunting salamander.  I was already dazed from the sudden severing of my deep-channel connection with Triss when he’d broken free of my command.  Now the added pain and shock sent me to dance along the edge of unconsciousness as I tumbled through the air.

Threatened, exposed, hunted and facing incredible fighting monsters while not knowing who will betray him next, Aral keeps busy to say the least.
Crossed Blades


For six years, former temple assassin Aral Kingslayer has been living as a jack of the shadow trades, picking up odd jobs on the wrong side of the law. But the past is never dead, and Aral’s has finally caught up to him in the beautiful, dangerous form of Jax Seldansbane—a fellow Blade and Aral’s onetime fiancée.

Jax claims that the forces that destroyed everything Aral once held dear are on the move again, and she needs his help to stop them. But Aral has a new life now, with a fresh identity and new responsibilities. And while he isn’t keen on letting the past back in, the former assassin soon finds himself involved in a war that will leave him with no way out and no idea who to trust…

As I go deeper into this series, I get more and more fascinated by the character of Aral and his Shade, Triss.   This is the best one, yet, imo.    

The questions for Aral are getting harder, but the first one is still the same:

Who is he, now?  

Page 1

Today I saw a ghost in an old lover’s eyes.  I hadn’t realized how much I would miss my face until the moment Jax looked at me and saw a stranger.

Page 49

Intentions are ice.  Results are diamonds.  Both can be hard and cold or sparkle and shine, but intentions only matter as long as the heat doesn’t melt them away to nothing.  Results can’t be gotten rid of half so easily.  You can split them or polish them, even burn them in a hot enough fire, but you have to work if you want to change them.


What do his dreams mean?

Page 98

The rising sun spilled blood across the waves, red and wrathful and full of portent, like the dreams that drove me out into the light.  I am a creature of the night, an assassin and companion to shadows.  The morning sun is my enemy.  I do not seek it out, it hunts me.  Today it caught me high in the rigging of the Fortunate Lamia.

I had come looking for the winds, hoping they would blow away the thick cobwebs of my nightmares.  I found only melancholy and the burning edge of morning.

Who can he trust?
Page 41

Triss sighed in my mind.  I suppose we can’t just yell for help and trust to the goodness of people’s hearts.  Not with the likelihood that our soon-to-be-hosts are smugglers, at least.  

To say nothing of the combined prices on my head and Jax’s.  Trust isn’t something any former Blade can afford.

Not even with each other, Triss sent sadly.

No, not even that.

One sign of a good book is when I have to leave the story for a few days and I am eager to get back to the characters to see what is happening which is how I felt about Crossed Blades.  I cared about the characters and they were always in a lot of danger.  The story is fascinating and fast paced, and when it was finished I was even more intrigued.  I am eager for the next story, Blade Reforged, coming in July, 2013.  

It is better to read dirkster42 in his own words:

Look, Everyone! I published a book!
by dirkster42

Books that are not new, but are still available by our DKos writers:

David Seth Michaels

    The Dream Antilles

My earlier review is here:


My earlier review:  

In the beginning is the quotation by Carlos Fuentes:
"A writer should never know the whole story.  He imagines one part and asks the reader to finish it.  A book should never close.  The reader should continue it."
With that quotation in mind we begin a journey with the narrator and protagonist who the people of Tulum call “the Don” and who calls himself a lizard.  He loves to sit under a tree in his yard, but he is not just sleeping the day away:
Page 3

Mostly, I’m alone with my dreams and my thoughts, and mostly, I’m content.  I like being by myself.  Mostly, I amuse myself with thinking. Wondering. And with my imagination.  And with stories I find.

There is a rich delta, a river delta where the river of dreams nourishes the ocean of stories.  That’s where I like to set up my chair.  I cast slowly, and watch what my net brings in.  Sometimes the catch is some distant memories, seemingly insignificant recollections from decades ago in distant places.  Sometimes it is just an old boot, disquieting, disappointing.  And sometimes a story in the net sparkles and glows, filling me with admiration and delight, moving me to feel my heart thumping in my chest, reminding me to find a notebook with some unused paper in it…

Page 4

The stories come from the ocean, and some seem to come from the clouds.  Of course, the sea carries stories here.  They float and drift, sometimes sticking to each other.  If you look carefully, you can see them in the turquoise water.  They look like round bubbles, small, shiny spheres.  Some stories also seem to come from the clouds.  I don’t know where they originally come from, but there they are in the clouds.  The wind carries them to the Yucatan.  You cannot see these with the naked eye. At first you can feel them lying on your skin.  The sun is ever so slightly blocked.  As if a thin cloud were standing in front of it.  The stories fall from above.  At first they feel like the other sea breezes, damp, sweet smelling, but when you pay attention, you find the story lying on your arm or forehead.  These are the most delicate, airy, gossamer, beautiful stories.  Once in a very great while you might even discover one of them hiding on your face.  You think you are wiping away the mist, or the sweat from your brow, or even tears.  But when you open your hand, you can see it.  It’s a little, bright story.  It’s on your hand, shining there, opening for you, pulsing…

And so I was sucked in to the life style of Tulum and into the lives of Don Obdulio, the curandero; El Kid, Mari Estrella who wants to help turtles, and Ramirez, a mysterious bad guy who tempts our narrator to leave his comfort zone and go to Cuba.

Reading the book is like going on vacation and sinking into a new world that is magical.



Five Day Dig by Jennifer Malin  

I enjoyed this story!

and others by Jennifer that I have not read:


The Evolution of Everything: How Selection Shapes Culture, Commerce, and Nature by Mark Sumner

The review at the B&N site was written by me.

Brotherhood of Joseph: A Father's Memoir of
Infertility and Adoption in the 21rst Century by Brooks Hansen

This was a fine book which I then gave to my daughter who has adopted two children.

Her Final Year: A Care-Giving Memoir and His First Year: A Journey of Recovery by James Downey and John Bourke

I learned so much from this very honest story.

A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts about James Holman

I loved this book.  It was an exciting story about an amazing man!

Children’s stories

Bruce Coville  

I enjoyed these stories very much and there are many more on his page at B&N.

   The Monster’s Ring
   Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher

The Rendering: The CyberSkunk Files by Joel Naftali

Now in paperback…it is a fun read.  Middle Grades.


Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

A very poignant story.  I highly recommend it.  It is for adults as well as YA.

Haunting Emma series by Lee Nichols (wife of a DKos writer)

I enjoyed the books and then I gave them to a young adult who also enjoyed them a lot.


Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction

David Brin

   The Postman
   River of Time
   Startide Rising
   Uplift War
   Brightness Reef
   Infinity’s Shore
   Heaven’s Reach

R. A. Salvatore

My oldest son loves his books.

Diaries of the Week:

Write On! NanoReviseMo
by SensibleShoes

US Since 1865: The Seventy-Year Struggle to Give Women the Right to Vote
by Dave in Northridge

Contemporary Fiction Views: Cultivating Conversation
by Brecht

NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


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