Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Truth About Us --- FREE TODAY!!!

I just received word from author Dalene Flannigan that her book, The Truth About Us, is FREE today!   For today only - March 22nd - you can download an e-version of her book.

Here's the summary, courtesy of GoodReads: What happens when the past catches up to the present and the truth surfaces? Three women, roommates back in college, find their lives forever altered when one of them feels compelled to confess the secret sin of their past.

And whose truth is it?

'The Truth About Us' weaves the past and the present in a page-turner that explores the shifting quality of truth, and the cost of secrets.

And here's the link to my review (I really liked this book).    So, just passing the word along, if you'd like a copy for yourself!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview with author Mary Pauline Lowry

Mary Pauline Lowry, the author of The Earthquake Machine -- one of my new favorite books -- was kind enough to not only do a guest post on my blog recently, and send me information about the beautiful new book cover, but she also graciously agreed to do an interview!    And yes, I did take a moment to do a little happy dance of glee when she agreed.

What was your inspiration for The Earthquake Machine?

Growing up I became tired of reading books and watching films about male protagonists who go on adventures while their female love interest waits patiently for them at home. (Think The Alchemist or Legends of the Fall). I vowed to write a book with a brave female protagonist who has her own adventures, travels and sexual awakenings.

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

My favorite part of writing the book was making up “Las Verduras,” a band of female Mexican bandits who pretend to be men so that they will be taken seriously as robbers.

Do you listen to music when you're writing?

The only album I can listen to while writing is The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. So I either listen to that, or don’t listen to anything.

You've traveled to many places --- if money (and timing) were no issue, where would you go to tomorrow?

It seems like the older I get, the more I allow money and timing to interfere with travel plans. If there were no obstacles, I think tomorrow I would go to Chile to write, practice my Spanish, and climb the Andes.

I've never been to Austin --- any favorite, must-see places?

Barton Springs Pool is a must-see place. It’s an acre-sized spring fed natural pool with water that’s 68 degrees year round. I grew up swimming there; and I worked there as a lifeguard in high school and college.

I’d also recommend that visitors go on a walk or run on the Hike and Bike trail around Lady Bird Lake in the center of Austin. It’s always been my favorite place for some outside time in the city.

Thank you very much, Mary!!!!!!

If you'd like more information about The Earthquake Machine, you can read my review --- and you may visit Mary Pauline Lowry's site (where you can learn all about her, and her book).

this is Mary Pauline Lowry --- doesn't she look nice??

NEW Cover Reveal --- for the Earthquake Machine!

 Isn't it gorgeous?!!    I didn't mind the old cover .... but this new cover art is stunning....

And in case you'd like to know a bit about the book----
The book every girl should read;  and every girl’s parents hope she’ll never read.

The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.

Author Mary Pauline Lowry

Wordless Wednesday ---- face

Dekum Bldg face 1-ip

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hooked by Jamie Smolen, MD

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): Buddy, a scrawny, introverted, pimple faced teen, can't resist the lure of the beautiful and seductive Sidney who offers him a pain pill...the way to instant fun and excitement, and for Buddy, a false sense of acceptance. He rapidly descends into the ugly and brutal world of prescription drug addiction. His only hope is to choose the sober path of recovery...not knowing that true happiness will be his greatest gift.

And here's what I thought:    If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may be wondering what this book is doing here.  It's not the kind of thing I usually review.  It's definitely not the kind of thing I usually read.

However, I had been contacted by the publisher to see about reading and reviewing it.  I will admit I had some misgivings, because this is not the kind of story I would usually pick up.  However, I thought I would give it a try --- and in my mind, I knew I was agreeing to do this mostly because I know that prescription pill abuse among teens seems to be on the rise.  So maybe I agreed to read it partly because I felt a bit guilty -- that it was something I should read, but probably wasn't going to really love.   Kind of like a vitamin pill.

I am not going to lie and say that I loved this book.   I will say that it had some interesting parts -- and I think that there are some people who will find that this book is not only really relevant to them, personally, but helps them if they are coping with this issue (either as someone who is using drugs, or someone who loves someone who is using drugs).    Personally, however, this book did not resonate with me -- and it's probably because I just never felt like I truly understood, or liked, the main character.

Instead of feeling like I got to know Buddy, or really felt like I understood his motivations, I felt more like Buddy was there as a vehicle to not only explain why teens might start to abuse prescription drugs, but also as a way for the author to give the reader a ton of information not only about drugs, but the recovery process.    The author does a good job of (through Buddy) showing how it feels when you take certain drugs.  The author also does a great job of imparting a lot of information about the effects of drugs, what certain drugs do to you, and what can happen in an overdose.  However, when this happens in the story, it's just done in a way that I didn't care for.  Example: Buddy has overdosed on some pills, and paramedics have shown up -- and he's coming out of it, and hearing the doctor explain everything. (p 61-63).   There's a lot of information here about the effect of opiates, and what the doctors did to help him .....   but I find it odd that Buddy, who is just starting to recover, would be able to not only hear everything the doctor is saying, but completely and clearly retain it.  As I said - it's like the author is using Buddy as a vehicle to get a lot of information across ..... but then as a result, Buddy, himself, just didn't feel that real.   I would have found it more realistic if the author had Buddy reading some of this (and thus, as a reader, I'd be learning about it), rather than overhearing it.   His inner dialogue was something that just never struck me as completely believable -- and frankly, when he was talking to other characters, he didn't always sound realistic, either.

When Buddy finally hits rock bottom, then he's on the slow climb to sobriety and recovery - and luckily, meets someone who helps and supports him.  I did like that the author gives us both sides of this --- that we see Buddy when he becomes addicted to prescription drugs, and then we see him when he's going through recovery.

It is quite clear that the author is very passionate about this subject, and he does have personal experience, as well as a lot of professional experience, with addiction.   I believe that this is an important topic, and I think that there will be teen readers, and parents, who will really find that this book not only resonates with them, but is helpful in understanding addiction and recovery.

I understand that like any reader, my reactions to this book have a lot to do with my own life experiences.  I'm not a teen, I don't have a teenage child, I never abused drugs, and no one in my family abused drugs, either.  That's not to say that I didn't know people who did drugs ---- but when I was a teen, prescription drugs just weren't what was popular.  I knew kids who smoked pot, took mushrooms, and did cocaine.   The drugs I hear about these days are not only prescription medications, but heroin is apparently becoming popular again.   It's scary -- and an important topic.  Books like this one, for some readers, are important - so if this is a topic you find interesting, or if it's something happening in your own life in some way, then I'd encourage you to give this book a try.  Please don't let the fact that the book didn't resonate with me keep you from picking this up.  

Rating:  I am not going to give this book a rating.  I don't think it's quite fair --- this is a book that I think readers react to on a very personal level, so I don't think my usual ratings would necessarily apply.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Blogger Confession ... about no lovin'...

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers "confess" and vent about topics that are unique to us. Feel free to share, vent and offer solutions. Just keep it respectful - no bashing authors or other bloggers!

Hosted by two bloggers, Karen at For What it's Worth and Tiger from All Consuming Media, the Confessions are a great opportunity to have some conversation --- and this Monday's question is:  Everyone LOVES that book! Why don't I? How do you handle being the one reviewer who doesn't like a book that's taking the blogosphere by storm? Do you write a review? Pretend you didn't read the book?

It has happened where I pick up a book that everyone is raving about, and when I start reading, I feel like I've somehow missed something.  At first, I wonder if there's something wrong with me.  And then, I start wondering about all the people who say they like the book ---- do they really like it, or are they going along with everyone else who likes it?  It's kinda like when you like a guy ..... and maybe he really likes something that you don't happen to like as much (like a certain sport, or a certain sports team) ... but you say you like it because you like him, and you want him to like you.   And don't say this kind of thing hasn't happened, in even a small way, to a lot of us....

Anyway, getting back to the question -- if I really don't like a book, I just don't write a review.  That's not to say that every review on my blog is of a book I completely love.  I have written reviews of books that I didn't like a whole lot, because I feel like I do my best to write a balanced review.   However .... if everyone out there is loving a book, and I read it and don't like it, I just make a note of it .... and then maybe come back to it later.   I've had it happen before -- I read a book and don't like it, then come back to it after a few months and totally enjoy it.   Maybe at that point, I'll get what everyone had been raving about, and will feel more comfortable writing a review.   Reading is a funny thing -- everything else going on in your life when you're reading can totally have a bearing on how you react to a story, or a character, or anything else in a book.

That being said, there are some books that I have tried to come back to, and have tried to like, and just found that I don't like them.   These include She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (which my one cousin raved on and on about), and Catcher in the Rye (which I have now read 4 different times, at different points in my life, and still completely despise every time I read it).

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else is saying.   Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Next Full Moon by Carolyn Turgeon

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  font-family: Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 19px; text-align: left;">This thoroughly compelling, gorgeously told tale, begins as the weather turns warm enough to swim in the local lake, twelve-year-old Ava is looking forward to a lazy summer, and her crush, Jeff is most definitely taking notice of her. Everything is going beautifully. Until Ava starts to grow feathers—all over her shoulders, arms, and back. Horrified, mortified, and clad in a hoodie, she hides out in her bedroom missing her dead mother and worrying about the summer, and the rest of her freakish life. Carolyn Turgeon has a gift for imagining magical worlds. In Ava’s case, this other-worldly place belongs to the Swan Maidens, one of whom is Ava’s mother. Ava goes back and forth between middle school and this magical realm taking the reader along for an exhilarating, extraordinary ride.

And here's what I thought:  Beautiful.  Imaginative.  Dreamy.  Lovely.

As you can see from the above summary, Ava's life seems to be progressing smoothly ... until she gets closer to her thirteenth birthday and starts to grow feathers.  These are no ordinary feathers; they are soft, beautiful, swan feathers.  And from that point on, Ava's life takes a turn into the mysterious/magical, as she discovers more about not only her mother, but about herself.

Ava's a well-written character --- she's a believable 12 year-old, with her emotions sometimes on a bit of a rollercoaster, just over a boy she likes (not to mention the whole feather thing).  Lucky for her, she's got a good best friend (even if she's a bit odd at times), and a supportive father.  She's annoyingly impulsive at times, but at the same time, pretty thoughtful about what she begins to learn about the Swan Maidens.

I also liked how the author gives us a different twist on the whole growing-older-you-are-changing time of life that we experience at 13 (or around that age).   The early teenage years are a period of sometimes turbulent changes (physical, emotional, etc.) -- and here, the twist is that Ava is changing into something completely unique.   It's definitely a different way of approaching that period in a girl's life -- and what I really appreciated was that Ava doesn't berate herself for being different.  At first, she's not that happy about her looks, especially compared to the popular girls at school, then understandably, begins to panic when the feathers start coming in.  However, when she discovers the power that lies in her feathers, and understands what it is to be a swan, she then embraces who she is.  Her change is what makes her feel powerful.   That's positive -- and that's a powerful message to girls reading this book.   Her change also makes her view some of her other classmates differently; if she has this magical secret, maybe someone else does, too.  Just the idea is something exciting (and imagine if that kind of thing could explain someone's behavior, for example).

As with all of Carolyn Turgeon's books, this book is beautifully written.  She has a way of being descriptive without sounding too overwrought or flowery, and she's got an even pace throughout this book, steadily building towards the ending.   However, Turgeon doesn't take things too seriously -- there is an absolutely awesome scene in the book where Ava changes into a swan in front of her best friend, and then proceeds to start honking at her. Loudly.   Or here's another example, earlier in the book, when Ava is still growing her feathers: "Imagining herself, suddenly, covered in white feathers, her black hair piled on top of her head, riding around on the top of an elephant.  The crowds would laugh and roar and applaud as she guided the elephant around the ring.  Maybe she'd stand on the elephant's back and wave a baton with tassles on the end the whole time.  Tassles on fire."  (p 39)

As Ava is twelve (almost thirteen), I think this book would be loved by younger teens -- but I think it would be an enjoyable book for older teens, and adults, to read, especially for those readers who like a bit of magic in their storytelling.

First sentences:  It started with a feather.  One little white rounded feather resting on her pillow.  Ava didn't think much of it, though, considering that it was a bright Sunday morning and there were only three weeks left of school and in just over a month she would turn thirteen and the whole summer stretched out before her like a long shimmering gift.

Thoughts on the cover:  Absolutely perfect.  It doesn't get better than this --- beautiful imagery that perfectly suits the story; eye-catching without being too distracting.

And a few additional comments:    I will admit that I have a bit of an author crush on Carolyn Turgeon.  It all started when I picked up a copy of Rain Village from my library, and got completely caught up in the book  (I'm planning on re-reading and posting a review soon).  Then, I saw that a new book (2011) would be coming from her, Mermaid -- and I quickly ordered a copy for my library (of course, planning to try to get my hands on it before anyone else.   Selfish librarian, I know).  I loved Mermaid --- gulped it down and posted my review ..... and then, went a step further.   Contacted the author, with a gift I made her of a mermaid necklace that I made for her (with a pendant, flourite stones and pearls).  I was a bit amazed at my own audaciousness (because I have never, ever done something like that).  And ---- she was so gracious about it all, and sent me a book.

And then, sent me this book.  When I opened the envelope and saw this book, I did a little happy dance ...  and I just felt so special.    Thank you, Carolyn!!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Short guest post from Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Earthquake Machine

I had read and reviewed Mary Lowry's awesome book, The Earthquake Machine recently (click on the link for my review), and she graciously agreed to give me a guest post.  I'm also hoping to post an interview with her soon.

First I want to thank Jo for hosting me here at Fluidity of Time. It’s exciting to be guest posting here because I love the slightly surreal aesthetic of the blog, Jo’s insightful reviews and the way she includes the first sentences of every novel she reviews.

The blog’s name has inspired me to write about the way time is addressed in my novel The Earthquake Machine. In the novel, which mixes elements of realism and the fantastical, 14 year old Rhonda runs away while on a river rafting trip in Big Bend National Park. She swims across the Rio Grande River to Mexico, leaving behind her country, language, friends and family to make her way across a strange land in search of her family’s yardman Jésus.

With the help of a peyote-addled bartender on the Mexican side of the border, Rhonda transforms her appearance so that she can “pass” as a Mexican boy named Angel; and she sets off across the desert on a burro named Pablo. Her watch stops and Rhonda leaves it behind, realizing it is useless anyway because out in the desert time is measured by the sun moving across the sky and not by hands on a watch.

And the longer Rhonda is in Mexico, the more she realizes that in that country time is perceived very differently than in the United States. People don’t have a rush-rush American attitude. And things unfold at a very different pace.

During her journey, Rhonda/Angel learns that time is indeed fluid and is one of the many things that changes when one crosses the border into Mexico.

How cool!!!  Thank you, Mary!!!   For more information about this great book, please visit the author's website.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tagged and answering .....

I have been tagged --- by Kat at No Page Left Behind.   And, before that, by Jenni Elyse.   And I put off answering this tagging for a few reasons:   1) I don't know 11 other bloggers well enough to tag them.  Or at least feel comfortable tagging them; and 2) I don't always like talking about myself.

However .....  there were some interesting questions, and I thought it might be okay if I answered some of them.   And I'm not going to follow the rules --  I still don't feel like I can comfortably tag anyone else (and really, this is a prompt for me to be a bit more social).   What I will do is go back and read their posts, and then visit who they tagged .... and comment!!!!   And maybe I'll think of someone to tag!

Here goes:   From Jenni Elyse:
1) What is your favorite book of all time?   It's too hard to choose a favorite, but at this moment, the one that comes to mind is: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

2) Who is your favorite author?  It's a tie between China Mieville and Neil Gaiman.

4) When did you start blogging? And Why? (I combined questions)  I'm about 2 1/2 years in now, and I started blogging because I wanted to share my thoughts on what I was reading with other readers.  Plus, I had started reading a lot of blogs and it looked like it would be fun to do.  I do need to be a bit more social, so I'll be working on that.

6) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?  I just got back from Portland, Oregon - but if I could take another vacation (where money was no issue), I'd go to Scotland.

7) If money were not an issue, what would you buy yourself at this very instant?  I have my eye on a few poppets in Lisa Snellings' Etsy shop.

8) Who is your favorite actor?  Johnny Depp comes to mind because he's pretty versatile.  However, I like Gary Oldman.  And I like Meryl Streep -- she's cool.

9) What is your favorite movie?  Becket --- it's an old movie with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole.

10) Who is your favorite musician/band?  Really hard to narrow this down, as I have really, really broad musical tastes.   Today, I'd say Garbage (even though they haven't put out a new album for a while). I think Dave Grohl is a musical genius.  I love Sinead O'Connor's first album (The Lion and the Cobra.  Listen to it -- it's amazing).  Ask me this question again tomorrow, and I'll have a different answer.

11) What is your favorite song?  I'll Fall with your Knife by Peter Murphy.  and Only Happy When it Rains by Garbage.

And from Kat:
1) Do you have other hobbies besides reading?  I like to take photos in old cemeteries, and also of old buildings.  I make a lot of my own jewelry, so I do some beading from time to time.

2) Breakfast, lunch, or dinner?  Breakfast.

3) What is a trip that you are dying to go on?  See #6 above.  Although if I could go back to Venice, like in October, that would be nice, too.

4) What book do you want EVERYONE to read?  A book that makes them laugh, breaks their heart, and makes them want to re-read it once they've finished it.  I would want everyone to find that kind of book for themselves.

5) What is (or would be) your favorite karaoke song?  I'm on Fire by Bruce Springsteen.

8) What is your biggest pet peeve?  Today, drivers who believe I am psychic, and thus, do not feel the need to give any kind of signal before braking, turning, etc.  I also dislike people who drive under the speed limit .... it makes me crazy.

10) Christmas or Halloween? Halloween!!!!!

11) What does your dream home library look like?  Large, with bookshelves that go to the ceiling, and go all the way around the room - and with comfy chairs and a sofa.  I would love the sensation of being enveloped by wonderful books.   I do have a nice library in my own house ... but it's not as large as I wish it could be.

Whew!   Now, I'll be going back over the next few days and checking out who said what when they were tagged!!!    And if you'd like me to tag you, please let me know --- I'm sure I can dream up some questions!

Back from vacation --- thank you for your patience!

Just wanted to say thanks for your patience while I completely unplugged during my short vacation (I had limited wi-fi access at times, so I completely unplugged from the Internet .... and tv, too).  

Also wanted to say thank you very much to the wonderful State of Oregon -- because I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Astoria, Newport and Portland.   A special thanks to Powell's City of Books for simply existing --- can I say how wonderful it felt to wander around, surrounded by other people who love to read????   Oh yeah .... it's like Book Nirvana.

I was very good and kept my purchases under $40......

And another special thank you to Voodoo Doughnuts ---- I don't usually like doughnuts (the last time I ate one was probably 6 years ago ... maybe) and now, I am a Voodoo devotee.   I am already pining for another bacon maple bar......     which kinda sucks, since I live outside of Chicago and don't have any way to get another of these .... although my hips and butt will thank me for not eating more doughnuts.
So .... back now at home, and although I'm in for an 8-straight-day work stretch starting tomorrow, I'm looking forward to doing some reading, and some blogging, and trying to get through the 2000+ things in my Google Reader.    I was able to post two reviews yesterday, but now, I'll be back on my regular schedule.

Have a wonderful rest of the week, everyone!!!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, Book 1)

Summary (courtesy of NetGalley):Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

     Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

And here's what I thought:  Historical details + intrigue + a cool main character who trains as an assassin?  Count me in!   

As you can see from the above summary, we have a story where the main character's life completely changes, and where she seems to discover her true purpose --- although it's not always clear who she can trust (even herself).   Things are not always what they seem, and in fact, there is more to Ismae than meets the eye.   Ismae is a character I liked, and her voice in this story is quite clear -- and she's got a sense of humor about things, as well.  She's a keen observer of things and people around her (of course), and she's smart -- so I found her a fun character.   Her character also develops throughout the story, which I appreciated. The pace evenly increases in speed, so I found I was caught up in the story and realized I was reading faster and faster .... always the sign of a good book.

I really enjoyed all of the details in this story --- how Ismae receives not only physical training, but training in all sorts of poisons --- it's clear that being a good assassin is to be an artist of sorts.  I will admit .... this is a character I'd gladly exchange places with for a few days, because I think it would be exciting ... and cool.  I relished how the author gives us a main character who, although talented and attractive, is not perfect.  She has her doubts about what she's doing, and what the outcomes may be.   I admit that I didn't remember that much about Brittany's history, although I had a little familiarity -- and that made me want to learn more.  I appreciate that -- that a fictional story with historical details makes me want to seek out more information.  The author was descriptive with not only the characters, but the settings --- it's clear that she did a lot of research when she was writing this book.

I also liked how the author gives us not only these things, but also the details about the God of Death, and how his mark may be seen on those she is instructed to kill.  The whole connection that she has to this god give this story more depth, and a bit of magic -- but not so much that it's unbelievable.  Rather, it's a more spiritual kind of connection, which I liked. I had moments of remembering back to things I liked about Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon

Definitely a good story, and I'm already looking forward to the next book!   This book is due to be published April 3, 2012 --- and I'd recommend grabbing it if you can!

Thoughts on the cover:  Beautiful - and so appropriate for the story -- eye-catching and nicely done. 

First Sentences:  I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch's poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb.  That I survived, according to the herbwitch, is no miracle but a sign I have been sired by the god of death himself.

Please note that I read an e-galley of this book, so any quotations and/or page numbers may differ upon final publication.   

The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry

Summary (courtesy of the author): The Earthquake Machine, a fun, fantastical and exhilarating tale, explodes the distinction between Young Adult and adult coming-of-age novels, even as it explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish.
The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.

And here's what I thought:  Hmmm...  where do begin?  This was a story that was a little unusual, and sometimes a bit extraordinary .... and once I had finished it, my mind kept coming back to it.  I kept turning things over and over again in my head --- the main character, the story, some of the supporting characters, the setting.  Either way, it all adds up to a fascinating read.

Let's begin with Rhonda, who at 14, seems wise beyond her years.  I will say that I didn't always love her, but I consistently found her to be an arresting, interesting character.  She's at once self-sufficient and smart, and at the next turn, makes no effort to plan ahead.  She's savvy and street smart ... and then has moments of being quite naive.  But she sees the world in a really unusual way -- at times a clarity that I found startling.  

Her relationship with her parents is certainly frustrating.  Example: "Rhonda had always wished for the space to have secrets of her own.  She wasn't allowed a lock on her bedroom or bathroom doors.  Her parents wouldn't even argue about it with her.  When she brought the subject up, they beigely steered the conversation to calmer topics." (p. 12).   I can see where she would just seethe under the surface -- and I wasn't surprised when she ran away -- because I had the sense that there would be something to push her over the edge.

However, it's when she runs away that things sometimes take a somewhat surreal turn.  Her encounter with the guide on the camping trip is written beautifully, but then it's hard to say what's really happening (and if it's happening only in her own mind).  This unsteadiness with the storyline, and what Rhonda is experiencing, makes the story compelling, rather than uneven (which I found unusual).   But it's when Rhonda crosses the river into Mexico that things really become a bit dreamlike in places.   Her journey, not only across the miles, but also into a different identity, is something I found absorbing.  And it really is all about the journey here, not necessarily her final destination.  "She cried for Rhonda, because being a girl shouldn't have to be so treacherous, and she sobbed because she'd buried her old self.  She mourned her own passing, the pain of her transformation.  And finally, she cried in relief at having really done it.  She'd wanted, like her mother, to kill herself.  But she'd fought the destructive urge.  Instead of blotting herself out, she'd shed herself and become someone entirely new."  (p 103).   The determination to undergo the transformation, and to keep pushing forward despite any odds, was really something else.

The author's writing style is descriptive, enough so that you can almost imagine where you are, how things taste, how things feel.  I think that's a rare thing -- to feel as if you are experiencing the story first-hand, not just through the main character.   Is everything completely believable and realistic?  I don't think so, but it didn't spoil the story for me.  If at times, things felt like they were entwined in a peyote dream, that was okay with me.

And what's the Earthquake Machine?  Not telling --- you'll need to read this story for yourself.  

I found this to be an oddly affecting story, and I'd like to revisit it again at some point.  In the meantime, I'd encourage you, if this sounds like an interesting read, to seek it out.   I've included information on the author, as well as a review from the Huffington Post, if you'd like to know more, and here's the link on GoodReads.

First sentences:  Everything in Rhonda's house was beige.  Beige rooms, beige couch, beige table and chairs.  Even the painters whose landscapes hung on the walls had been stingy with their palettes.  When Rhonda complained to her mother about the lack of color, insisting that it stifled her, Louise May sighed wistfully, as if she'd also rather have red walls, purple couches, yellow table and chairs, but still she insisted the house was tasteful.  The only brightly colored item in the house was a quilt that Louise May had pieced together herself, just for Rhonda, from pink squares of material.   Rhonda would lie on her bed and trace the pink quilt's pattern with her fingertips, naming the different shades: hot pink, shell pink, rose pink, baby-girl pink.

More information about the author: Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, construction worker, open water lifeguard, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women.
Author Mary Pauline Lowry

Mary Pauline Lowry is currently a novelist, screenwriter, and regular contributor to the Huffington Post. When her novel, THE GODS OF FIRE, based on her experiences as a forest firefighter, didn’t sell, Lowry hopped on a plane to Hollywood and convinced Bill Mechanic to option the book for film. (Former CEO of 20th Century Fox, Bill Mechanic has produced films such as TITANIC, BRAVEHEART, FIGHT CLUB, & CORALINE).  Lowry wrote the screenplay, and the film is now in pre-production.
Huffington Post early review
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