Thursday, November 29, 2012
I came upon this lovely review of Momentos: Mick's Journey
yesterday and I'm re-posting it here with Adara's permission. I know this is a tough series to read but it's very special to me and whenever I see a positive review I can't wait to share it.
5 ***** Star review on Goodreads by Adara O'Hare
Do not read this series out of order. This is book 3 of 3.
My God, these books just absolutely wreck me. Where Loving Edits leaves you knowing that what will come is inevitable, you don't actually see the worst things happen. The second book, Tono, starts after Mick's death has occurred, so you see the aftermath, and not the pain.
This book shows us the pain of loving someone slowly dying from the later stages of ALS.
This is actually what I expected Loving Edits to have in it (before I first read that story). And it's very truthful. It reads very quickly, and with such a joy of life for the most part. I didn't want to put this book down.
The first third of the book is Mick and Paul's meeting and how they fell apart initially. The second third of the book is Mick meeting Tono and how they fell in love. (This all chronologically took place before the beginning of Loving Edits.) The final third of this book then skips forward to immediately after the end of Loving Edits and continues from there, where we see Mick's final days and how he tries to keep Paul and Tono together. We see the tough decisions that Mick and Paul and Tono and Baxter (Paul's butler/surrogate father/friend) have to make. Then there is an epilogue which skips past the events of Tono and wraps everything up.
There are minor spoilers in this book for things which happen in Tono, so you really should read the books in order.
I absolutely LOVE the Basque series for its descriptions of the Basque country and Spain. (But then I've been there and I love the country.) Sanse (pronounced "sahn-say", the shortened version of San Sebastian) is as beautiful as it is described. And the bullfight described is exactly how they happen, too. (I had the opportunity to see a bullfight in Barcelona in 1992. I managed not to throw up.) But the rich culture just drips off the pages, and it's wonderful.
You honestly don't get the full impact of any of the characters except for Mick in this book because this is his story. There are chapters which are told from either Paul's, Tono's, or Baxter's point of view, but the true richness of those characters comes out in either Loving Edits or Tono. This story really is all about Mick and who he is to these people; their subtleties are pretty suppressed as Mick's journey is told.
If you know someone living with ALS (and I do), this is a must-read story. I cannot imagine the love and pain it takes to live with someone you love going through this sort of living hell.
Bless you, Mickie, for being able to write all of this down. I know it can't have been easy.
(I'm going to see if I can stop crying now.)
A couple of reviews of Mayon I'd like to share.
Amos Lassen here: http://reviewsbyamoslassen.com/?p=19545
On Amazon: 5 stars for Mayon.
As a reader, i enjoy learning about new places, and MAYON, Ms. Ashling's historical romance set in the Philippines, immediately following World War II, accomplished that and more. In reading the author's biography, it's obvious that she has an insider's knowledge of the topography, food, and cultural mores of this complex and multinational country. Seeing it all through the eyes of John Buchanan, Ms. Ashling's American protagonist, kept me fascinated and spellbound. The budding romance between the former Marine and Gregorio Delgado, a Filipino of mixed descent, is the heart of the story, but the secondary characters help to maintain the high tension and add the necessary conflict to make this book a page-turner until the final scene. If you are looking for something different, you've come to the right place. This is a must-read...
Friday, November 23, 2012
Here's a new excerpt from my latest release, Mayon. Walk in John Buchanan's shoes for a while as he braces for another new experience.
“Now, what was it you wanted to do today?” John asked.
“Sabong means cockfighting.”
“Oh… I’ve never been to a match.”
“Then we should go. Ignacio raises some of the finest roosters around these parts; in fact, some of them are right here on this hacienda.”
THE cockfighting ring turned out to be nothing more than a large open-sided nipa hut with an enclosed pen in the center. The floor was packed dirt and there were no seats to speak of. The crowd milled about with peso bills in their hands, waving and gesticulating loudly. Most of the spectators were men. There were a few women in the periphery of the area but they stayed far back and were only there to peddle local street food. There wasn’t much chance to eat during the fight, but afterward, there would be. The vendors hung around like the constant cloud of flies, hoping to reap a part of the winnings.
When John and Greg walked in, they were treated like royalty. Crowds parted to let them through, and “Goyo” was thumped on the back in friendly camaraderie. People inquired after Ignacio, but the majority seemed happy enough to see the young overseer on his own. He was familiar with most of the men, having been a frequent visitor to this pit whenever he and the Spaniard were in the area. John felt like Gulliver again, towering over the group of men who huddled around Greg to admire his gamecock. Greg had mentioned that Europeans and Americans were aficionados of the blood sport, but right now, John was the only one representing his race, and he hoped that he wouldn’t disgrace anyone by puking up his breakfast.
There were several other handlers cradling their most prized possessions, stroking the newly groomed roosters with a gentle hand. The birds were minus wattle and comb, removed early on in their growth cycle, Greg had explained, to decrease the chances of getting torn off during a fight. It made them look different from the common, everyday rooster.
The contenders themselves were bristling with excitement, almost as if they were aware of their impending fate. There was no draw in this sport. It was kill or be killed, and the gleaming curved razor attached to each rooster’s foot would be the weapon of choice. John had felt the sharp edges earlier when he’d watched Greg prepare his bird. Knowing the blade could easily slice through feathers and rend flesh to bloody tatters was so disturbing he had to turn away. There was nothing he could do to prevent the eventual outcome of the match, but nobody said he had to enjoy it. Still, curiosity prevented him from refusing to attend.
The atmosphere in the crowded hut was similar to that of a boxing match. There was an unmistakable air of aggressiveness among owners, gamblers, and contenders alike. Smoke filled the air, and those who weren’t smoking chewed betel nut, spitting on the dirt floor without reserve. John could see clumps of red-tinged spittle everywhere. Wagers were placed with bookies who determined the odds by comparing the bloodlines and appearance of each bird. Voices rose in anticipation when Greg and the other handler met in the center of the ring. This ritual, preparatory to a fight, allowed the birds to stare at their foe face to face, working them up into a feather-raising killing frenzy.
By the time the animals were dropped to the ground, they were overcome with bloodlust, attacking in a flurry of flying feathers and earsplitting screeches of battle. Spatters of blood flew through the air as the cocks fought with vicious determination. The life-and-death struggle was over within minutes. Greg’s cock won, and he strutted around his twitching opponent, who lay in a bloody heap, pecking at him a few more times to deliver the final deathblow. John looked on in distaste as the winning cock glanced left and right, flapping his wings to garner more attention. He was the champion, and he puffed out his chest like Joe Louis, crowing out his victory in ear-blasting triumph.
Greg scooped up the blood-streaked contender, checking to make sure he hadn’t been injured too badly. He whispered words of encouragement the entire time he prodded and poked, and the bristly animal seemed to calm down, responding to the gentler voice now that the battle was over. Handfuls of money were shoved at Greg, who gestured to John to pocket the bills while he had his hands full.
“Makaon na kita,” the men invited, urging Greg and John to join them in a celebratory round of drinks and finger food.
There was a shaded area off to the left of the hut with a cluster of benches and stools, where several people had gathered. Greg shoved his rooster underneath one of the more ornate benches, a gallinera, he called it, Spanish for “chicken coop.” The space under the seat was enclosed with wooden spindles, keeping the animal penned in while still allowing the air to circulate. He threw in a handful of corn kernels so the bird could celebrate his victory with a tasty treat.
Glasses filled with a milky liquid were passed around, and John took a small sip of the harmless-looking drink. “What is this?” he asked Greg, holding it at arm’s length. It delivered a wicked alcoholic punch. “It’s not going to make me blind, is it?”
“No, only drunk,” Greg smirked. “You foreigners call it coconut wine. We call it lambanog―another by-product of the resilient coconut.”
“Bloody amazing tree,” John muttered, taking another sip. It was powerful, to be sure, and he’d be three sheets to the wind if he didn’t watch it.
Mayon is available for purchase here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3401
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for almost everyone I know. Unlike Christmas, it's stress-free, and the anxiety of gift-giving, and fighting the mobs at the mall, is eliminated. This holiday is about food, family, and football (at least in my testosterone-filled clan). I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all my online friends and readers a wonderful and peaceful day. The cutie in the pumpkin patch is my darling grandson who brightens our lives each day and makes me grateful that I'm alive, healthy, and productive. In the end, that's all you can ask for.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Daddio received a great review from Barb over at Jessewave a few days ago. November is off to a great start! Here's the review:
Another great review from Don over at Hearts on Fire Reviews:
Monday, November 19, 2012
Did you know that Mayon volcano is surrounded by deep coconut forests and rice paddies? Because of the rich volcanic soil, farmers refuse to leave the area, despite the ongoing danger of a possible eruption.
Gregorio waved at a group of women washing clothes by a riverbed. John asked him to pause for a minute so he could watch them beat the cloth with flat boards against the river rocks. It looked like backbreaking work, and they were soaked with soap and water, but appeared to be enjoying themselves by laughing their chores away.
“Haven’t you ever seen this before?”
“Not really,” John admitted. “Back home we use washing machines.”
“How can a machine do as good a job as a human being?”
John shrugged. “I never really thought about it; my mother does the laundry.”
“I can’t imagine the clothes would get any cleaner that way.”
“You’re probably right,” John said. “Shall we move on?”
“We should stop and eat soon. Aren’t you hungry?”
“You don’t need to persuade me to eat,” John said, smiling. “What do you have?”
“They packed us a picnic lunch,” Gregorio said, kicking his horse forward. He headed toward a large mango tree in full bloom, more than able to provide the shade they would need. After he hopped off the mare, he began to unload some of the items he’d managed to stuff into the saddlebags without weighing them down. He pulled a folded mat from one bag and spread it out on a flat surface. It was large enough to sit or sleep two adults comfortably.
“That’s convenient,” John said. “What’s it made of?”
“Yeah,” John said, pointing at the multicolored spread.
“Some kind of grass the women weave together. People sleep on them all the time.”
“On a mattress?” John asked.
“No.” Gregorio laughed. “On the floor.”
“Bet it would be uncomfortable without any kind of cushion.”
“It’s better than sleeping on dirt.”
“I suppose so. Do you sleep on one every day?”
“No, I have a bed.”
“Lucky for you.”
“More than you know,” Gregorio explained. “I had grandparents who took care of my mother and me. A lot of tisoys have to fend for themselves.”
“It’s short for mestizo. That’s what they call half-breeds around here.”
“Was a Spaniard. He died before I was born.”
“That explains it.”
“Your height and the pine-colored eyes.”
“What’s a pine?”
“Haven’t you ever seen a Christmas tree?”
“Only in pictures.”
“What do you people use to decorate during the holidays?”
“Paper lanterns and nativity scenes.”
“Oh. Pine trees are tall and willowy, much like you, in varying shades of green.”
“I’m not that tall, and I’m certainly not green,” the Filipino stated bluntly. “Get your eyes checked.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my eyes,” John said gruffly, “I see you clearly. You’re at least five inches taller than most of the men around here.”
Gregorio blinked several times, trying to figure out if there was any meaning to this conversation. His brain said no, but his body didn’t agree. The redhead’s piercing gaze was doing funny things to his stomach. Moving before John realized how he was affecting him, Gregorio reached for more bundles from another bag and began to spread out their impromptu feast. There were several pieces of cold chicken, slices of breakfast ham, and wedges of hard cheese. John watched his guide grab a pandesal, the soft roll they’d had earlier, and break it in half. He stuffed it with ham and cheese and then handed it to his guest. “Eat,” he said.
“Thanks.” John took the proffered sandwich and shoved half of it in his mouth. “This is good,” he garbled.
“You want something to drink?”
“What do you have?”
“Nothing yet.” Gregorio stood and pulled a large knife out of another saddlebag, kicked off his sandals, and headed toward one of the coconut trees.
John watched him scramble up the tree like a monkey, reaching the top in no time. He hacked at a few branches and the nuts dropped like bombs. The man was barely winded when he came back down. He lopped off the top of one coconut and then pierced a hole in the hard shell. Putting it up to his lips, he began to drink the liquid while John stared, captivated by Gregorio’s bobbing Adam’s apple and the juices overflowing down his chin. He stopped drinking and licked his full lips. “What’s the matter?” Gregorio asked.
“Aren’t you planning to share?”
“Sorry,” he replied, embarrassed by his lack of good manners. “I got thirsty climbing.” He replicated his movements with the second coconut and handed it over to John. “Here, drink up.”
“This is fucking convenient, isn’t it?”
“If you can climb.” Gregorio grinned. “You would probably die of thirst.”
He loped away before John’s open hand connected on his arm.
Laughing, he began to climb up the much easier mango tree.
“Now what are you doing?”
“Getting our dessert!”
He grabbed a plump yellow mango and twisted it off the branch, sending it whistling through the air like a torpedo. “Catch,” he screamed at John, who moved reflexively and caught it without a problem. Gregorio twisted off another and hurled it toward John’s waiting hand. When he was back, sitting cross-legged in front of John, he stuck his knife into one end of the mango and began peeling back the skin as if it were a banana. After it was completely denuded, the plump yellow flesh exposed, he pushed it toward John and said, “Take a bite.”
John reached for Gregorio’s hand, overlaying his stout fingers over the slender ones holding up the mango. He bit into the meaty fruit, all the while staring into the green eyes that watched intently. The juices erupted, flooding his mouth with sweet nectar. Gregorio turned the mango slowly so John could bite into another side, ignoring the liquid running down his fingers in sticky rivulets. He was hypnotized by the hunger flaring in John’s striking blue eyes, not quite sure what to make of it, but unable to look away. After John got his fill, Gregorio put the seed down and began licking the juice off his fingers.
He took his time and sucked on each digit, pulling them in and out of his mouth, deliberately employing his tongue in a provocative way, making the American fidget. Gregorio was empowered by his effect on the redhead and felt his own body reacting to the moment. He wanted this to go on forever; on the other hand, he was disturbed by the physical attraction between them. What in God’s name was happening? The Marine had been handpicked by Ignacio for one of the girls. He was a man’s man and had the right medals to prove it. Still, the yearning in John’s eyes belied everything Gregorio believed to be true about him. The consequences of making the wrong assumption could be the biggest mistake of his life.
Finally, John choked out, “Are you done?”
Mayon is now available here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3401