Books · Reading · Writing

Cups of Coffee and City of Lies by Sam Hawke

img_1189Nothing goes so well with a cup of coffee or a spot of tea than a good book. I have been nursing a mighty good one called City of Lies by Sam Hawke, a fellow Reider*.

And it is glorious. Great characters, great world-building with a touch of classic forensics. It is about  food-tasters – someone who checks for poison in a head of state’s dishes, a rather dangerous profession to be sure. This involves a brother and sister whose family are tasked with protecting their Chancellor (the head cheese of their country) from assassination, especially poison.

When their Uncle Etan fails and dies along with one Chancellor, the brother and sister must work together to keep the new Chancellor from their enemies. The sister, Kalina, was to be trained initially, but as a sickly child, she lacked the constitution.  The duty then passed to her brother, Jovan, who seems to have a kind of autism similar to Asperger’s. This makes it tough for him to deal with stressful situations, like attempted assassinations on his chancellor, Tain, who as it happens, is his dearest friend. Both siblings have strengths and weaknesses that make this story ring so true despite the fantastical setting.

img_1054-1The opening is simply sublime. If you are a fan of epic fantasy, this is one to buy and keep forever.  I recommend this book with all my heart and soul. Even if there are no dragons. Well, a dragon will guard this book on my special book shelf once I am done enjoying the book fully. I am now a big fan of Sam’s. I think you will be too.

*Reiders are writers, both published and working toward publication, who are under the tutelage of the Queen Of the Known Universe, Janet Reid, agent extraordinaire and shark of many teeth.

Books · Quotes · Reading

Books & Beginnings VIII

1884Reveal: Most readers will recognize the iconic opening line of George Orwell’s 1884 from my Books & Beginnings VII post. This book cemented my natural distrust of authority. Lord, Help me, it’s been almost a half century since I first stumbled across Orwell only to watch his vision of the future become reality.

Indeed, I believe people can be easily convinced that 2+2=5 in today’s world. At twelve or thirteen, I never believed this book would ever be reality. Learning to think for oneself was still a thing back then. Now it is not taught at all. I know. I work in public education.

It was nearly the infamous year that I read 1984. It was the early 80s, maybe the last couple of years of the 70s. Orwell’s vision had not happened as our technology had not yet advanced enough. Today, in 2018, this book is more relevant than it has ever been since its publication in 1950. The wonder is that it has yet to be banned. I expect that is coming.

Up Next: Fantasy continued to be my obsession. Although, horror played its part. This one surprised me for my mother brought it to me, and she vocally dislikes fantasy. I took it second-hand from her (I often did this – my mother read at an obscenely rapid rate so she always had a large discard pile. My father read slowly but he remembered every word. He too is a writer). Skeptical, I opened it and became a great fan of this author.  Maybe there were fantasies my mother did like only I believe she saw this book as history in that often hidden romantic mind of hers.


The day my uncle Comlach came home, I was just six years old.

Books · Quotes · Reading

Books & Beginnings VII

img_1101REVEAL from Books & Beginnings VI – A Wizard of Earthsea introduced me to Ursula Le Guin. Aside from falling in love with the story, I found a mentor, an inspiration beyond the boys’ club of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, and all of those guys. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the boys. Do not take anything away from the masters. They are great.

I was a writer from age six. I had volumes upon volumes of notebooks filled with stories by the time adolescence reared its ugly head.  I wanted to write fantasy like Tolkien. I had read children’s books by female authors that toyed with fantasy, A Wrinkle in Time, for example, but Le Guin’s work was elevated somehow. Like a Tolkien. I saw a master in her. Something rich beyond the text, an invisible force made manifest in words.

Society kept trying to tell me what I couldn’t do, what I shouldn’t do, what I mustn’t do as a young female.  I never listened. I was the first girl to play Little League baseball in my neck of the woods. I played guitar. I hunted, I camped, I played football and soccer in the dirt with dozens of boys.

I could not be forced into a dress, and I did not associate with girls much. I did like this weird insistence that girls must be pretty, and well-behaved Boys could be Jabba the Hut, and that was fine.  I was not going to be pretty and I was developing a temperment that would scare the flab right off that Star Wars monster.  Remember, horrible gender dysphoria followed me into adolescence. Reading Ursula Le Guin told me “Keep fighting. Do what you want.”

ash background beautiful blaze

In seventh grade, in my honors English class, I wrote a paper on Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 that for whatever reasons made my teacher giddy. She read it to the whole class. As a reward, aside from the big shiny A, she handed me the next book of a great beginning that I will share with you. She felt sure I would enjoy it or at least appreciate it. She was right.


It was a bright, clear day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Books · Quotes · Reading

Books & Beginnings VI

img_1100REVEAL: The beginnings lines from my post Books & Beginnings V comes from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. My fascination with angels and demons was deepening at this age, and this was a good introduction.

Soon after, my schooling began to interfere with my education. I was taken out of my Catholic school and received a scholarship into an exclusive school where I was a total alien. Poor among rich kids, a rebel without a clue, and suffering from intense gender dysphoria. The other students despised me as a matter of course.

I had little interest in them. I endured being stuffed in lockers and their constant teasing by silence. I would not speak a word during the school day. I wrote. It was tough balancing the much more intense school reading load with my own reading, but I managed.

I was too young to see lots of the popular movies that came out during my childhood years such as The Exorcist and a few years later, The Omen. However, no one could stop me from reading the books. I became intensely interested in the demonic, how such malevolence worked, if demons or the devil could manifest themselves as more than whisperings on the soul like the vile Wormwood from The Screwtape Letters. As my adolescence grew close, I became darker and darker.

img_1054Then, at the sunset of my 11th year, came the time of the year, starting on September 22nd annually from my 8th through my 22nd years, I would reread The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  That made me hungry for dragons, something far from this dull and dreary world. That drove me to the bookstore and a search of the shelves. Fantasy was less popular then than it is now, and there were not that many titles to choose from so I read them all.

This book was important because it introduced me to an author who would have a profound influence on my own writing in years to come. From this first line, I knew I would love this book.

The Island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.

Books · Quotes · Reading

Books & Beginnings V

LordOfTheFliesI cried for days after finishing Lord of the Flies. I knew those boys described in this devastating tale. I was friends with boys very like Golding’s British school children.  I knew in the same circumstance, more of them would be Jack (a violent bully) than Ralph (the kind, logical, courageous, and thoughtful protagonist). All I could think about was the fat kid, Piggy. Everyone has known that insufferably awkward and shy kid. I had mistreated and lost him as surely as Ralph did when I was a young beast myself.

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.   – Lord of the Flies, William Golding

It terrified me to realize children are NOT innocent. They are basically cruel beasts when absent security and supervision. Without guidance and love, they turn into little monsters that grow well-fanged. Yes, most children are like the bullying Jack. Few are like the logical Ralph or the empathetic Piggy or the strange and mystical Simon.

People like Ralph often stand alone;  isolated, despised. Power and fear cannot abide logic and light, and often the masses will rise against such voices. It takes such courage to defend the Ralphs of this world, simple and logical who speak unpopular truths.   To paraphrase Winston Churchill, when people stumble upon the truth, they often run away as fast as they can and pretend nothing has happened.

In the course of this brilliant book, the mystical Simon, also an outcast, makes a chilling statement that echoes through time. This simple observation destroys our desire to find some external enemy to defeat so as to solve all our short-comings.

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”

assorted books on shelf


Lord of the Flies is the beginning referenced in Books & Beginnings IV. Do not watch a film adaption of this book. Read it. A film cannot do it justice.

Next up, I found a very thin book hidden in my parent’s now infamous bookshelf. It was by an author I had already enjoyed. It had a funny title and strange format. It was a book of great humor that made me think in ways that I never had before. Then it kept making me think for the next forty years and counting, the mark of great literature.

I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them…