Tag Archives: Mary Pauline Lowry

Tammy’s Top Ten Indie Books of 2012

Top Ten Tuesday2

Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my friends who are celebrating this day! At this moment I am probably opening presents with my family, including two very excited children (ages 12 and 13), but I wanted to post a Top Ten for The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday Freebie today. I read so many indie books this year, and I wanted to highlight my favorites.  In trying to narrow down the list, I came up with eleven titles, and I just couldn’t eliminate one, so my Top Ten is actually a Top Eleven:)  Here they are, in alphabetical order:

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1. A Dark Time by Dennis E. Bradford.  This unconventional murder mystery stood out for its atmospheric quality and stellar writing, not to mention some very interesting characters. You can read my review here.

2. The Accordo by Roberta L. Smith. This ghostly tale is filled with complex characters and carefully researched details that make for a page-turning story of revenge and terror. You can read my review here.

3. Auraria by Tim Westover. Technically, Auraria is not an indie, but the small and quirky Q&W Publishers fits into my definition of indie, so I wanted to add it to my list.  Westover’s imagery is evocative and magical, and this is one tale that needs to find more readers. You can read my review here.

4. The Destroyed by Brett Battles. Brett is such a prolific writer, I’m amazed that he can keep the quality of his writing at top form, book after book. But he manages to do just that, improving with every book he writes. The Destroyed is a Jonathan Quinn thriller, and one of my favorites. You can read my review here.

5. The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry. I loved this coming-of-age story about a young girl whose less-than-perfect life causes her to run away from home, chasing after a man who plays a big part in her awakening sexuality. It is filled with characters that you will grow to love, and Lowry’s writing is exquisite and spare, a perfect style for this unique tale. You can read my review here.

6. The Gateway to Hell by Ray Mileur.  I loved this thriller with strong characters and lots of police action. Mileur has created one of my favorite fictional characters in PI Mike Shannon, and I hope to read another story about him soon. You can read my review here.

7. The Jesuit Papers by A. B. Fowler. This story surprised me. From the cover I expected something more scholarly and dry, but it had romance, action and mystery, as well as an exotic setting, all elements that made The Jesuit Papers a winning story. You can read my review here.

8. The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity. Carefully researched and full of dramatic action, this indie deals with a controversial subject matter, but Atchity keeps the action going and the reader will not be able to stop turning the pages. You can read my review here.

9. Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo. This page-turner police procedural is unique for the relationships among its characters. Giammatteo jumps back and forth from present to past to tell the story of how some friendships can stand the test of time, and what happens to them when promises are broken. You can read my review here.

10. Realms of Gold: Ritual to Romance by Terry Stanfill. I love when authors go back to the past to add depth to a story that takes place in the present, and Stanfill does this wonderfully. This story is full of carefully researched details about archeology and was not only fascinating to read, but a delightful romance as well. You can read my review here.

11. Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible by C. G. Bauer. My first love is horror, and this book delivers it and then some. Bauer’s tale is well-paced and filled with creepiness, and its 1960s small town setting makes it even creepier. You can read my review here.

I’m looking forward to reading more indies in 2013!

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THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE by Mary Pauline Lowry – Review; And My 100th Post!

That’s right, people.  This is my 100th post!  I know this because WordPress told me my last post was my 99th.  I’m very excited to have reached this milestone, and reviewing The Earthquake Machine is a great way to celebrate.

I’m happy to report that the state of independent publishing is alive and well, thanks to Mary Pauline Lowry.  I have had the privilege of reading and reviewing quite a few indie books that were well-written and constructed, but my favorite so far is The Earthquake Machine.  Filled with beautiful writing, stunning imagery, and a story you can get lost in, Lowry’s debut is a wonderful example of how to write a book.  It is an unusual but powerful story of one girl’s journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

Rhonda is a fourteen-year-old whose home life is less than happy.  Her father owns a pharmacy and is a workaholic, and brings “medicine” home to his wife to keep her subdued. Her mother, Louise May, is depressed and lethargic from the pills she is being forced to take. Rhonda’s only happy moments are spent secretly spending time in the evening with Jésus, the Mexican gardener who lives on the property.  Jésus is kind and honest with Rhonda, and teaches her Spanish while he describes the life he left behind in Mexico, carving fantastical animals out of wood.  Rhonda instinctively hides her knowledge of the language, as she knows her father would not approve of their friendship. But when Jésus is suddenly deported back to Mexico, Rhonda’s life starts to come unhinged.

In a terrible turn of events, Louise May loses the battle to keep her sanity and commits suicide.  When school friends invite Rhonda along on a river trip on the Rio Grande, she goes along, hoping to forget about the horror of losing her mother.  But an illicit encounter one night in camp with Mansk the tour guide propels Rhonda to run away. And so begins her journey.  Afraid that she may be crazy like her mother, Rhonda decides to run away from the group, hike to Mexico and find Jésus. In a beautifully lyrical passage, she swims across the Rio Grande to the Mexican side, wanders naked through the desert, and finally comes to a small village where she finds help in the form of a bartender named Juan Diego. He helps her on her way by cutting off her hair, giving her clothing and procuring a donkey to ride for the rest of her journey to find Jésus. Finally, to go with her boyish disguise, Rhonda changes her name to Angel. (To avoid confusion, I will continue to call her “Rhonda” for this review.)

During the trek to locate Jésus, Rhonda runs into several groups of dangerous but colorful characters, each one acting as a catalyst that propels her forward on her journey. When she finally gets to her destination, she settles in with Jésus and his mother and learns how to paint alibrijes, the colorful wooden animals that Jésus described to Rhonda back home. She also befriends a miserable old American woman named Genevieve who plays a large part in explaining the title of the book (which I won’t give away here). But the idyllic life in Mexico is short-lived, and tragedy for Rhonda and her friends is just around the corner.  Lowry brings everything full circle as Rhonda is forced to make some tough decisions about who she really wants to be.

Lowry does a wonderful job weaving metaphor and imagery throughout her story. In particular, the Rio Grande represents both the separation of Rhonda’s old life and her new one, and the crossing over from innocence to adulthood. Change is a constant theme: Rhonda changing her name to Angel and “becoming” a boy by cutting her hair are just two examples. Because Rhonda is going through puberty, Lowry skillfully describes her emotional state as she falls into adulthood. Rhonda thinks eating will give her a woman’s curves, and so she stops, because she’s not ready to grow up. Jésus’ mother finally gets her to eat by telling her “it’s food that makes you a woman, and being a woman makes you strong.”

Burgeoning sexuality plays an important part in the story, although the sexual passages in the book have been criticized by some reviewers.  But in my opinion, these scenes enhance the book and are in keeping with the theme of growing up. Rhonda, who doesn’t know the word “orgasm,” refers to her sexuality as a moth, and near the end of the story when Rhonda meets up with Mansk again, he calls her a moth with “…a darker beauty than butterfly beauty.” One of the funnier scenes takes place when Rhonda introduces the old woman Genevieve to “the earthquake machine,” and you’re just going to have to read the book if you want to know what I’m talking about.  And yes, it has to do with sex.

Lowry’s writing is spare and clean and she has mastered implied information; she doesn’t tell you more than you need to know.  There are beautiful sentences throughout like this one, after Rhonda and her friends sneak out to buy coffee and pan dulce: “Surely the men would be able to see coffee and sugar racing through their veins.”

In dreamy prose, The Earthquake Machine takes us on Rhonda’s adventure from innocence to maturity and back again. Lowry has a knack for storytelling, which is evident by how lost in the story I found myself. Rhonda’s journey is an unusual one, but her emotions represent those of every adolescent girl.  I was entranced from beginning to end, and I hope The Earthquake Machine reaches a wide audience. If Lowry doesn’t have an agent for her next book, I’m guessing she soon will.

Many thanks to the author for providing a review copy.

You can purchase The Earthquake Machine from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and you can visit the author’s website here.

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Tammy’s Top Ten Books on My Spring Reading List

Wow, it’s Tuesday again?? Time is flying by, and my reading list is getting longer and longer…Here is my Top Ten for this Tuesday, presented by The Broke and the Bookish:

1. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. Release date: May 1, 2012. The final book in Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms Trilogy. Graceling and Fire are two of my all-time favorite YA books.  They are so original and I love the characters so much, that I can’t wait to read Bitterblue.

2. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore.  Release date: April 3, 2012.  The cover has changed, but I’m still very excited to read Moore’s latest. In fact, I like this cover even better than the first one.  Looking for some comedy with your horror? Moore’s the guy for you.

3. Starters by Lissa Price. Now available.  I keep hearing amazing things about this book, but it’s going to have to wait until I catch up with some of my review books. Oh, the anticipation…

4. Railsea by China Miéville. Release date: May 15, 2012.  This YA book from Miéville looks fantastic. Although I have to admit I haven’t enjoyed everything I’ve read by him, a couple of his adult books are all-time favorites of mine.

5. The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King. Release date: April 24, 2012. Yes, yes I know. Another Stephen King book. Yes, I love The Dark Tower, and I can’t wait to read this installment.

6. The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry. Now available.  Mary asked me to review her book, and I am so looking forward to it! She recently had the cover redesigned, and it’s really beautiful. Can’t wait!

7. The Destroyed by Brett Battles. Release date: March?  Hmmm, not sure about the release date, but my buddy Brett will soon release the next chapter in his Quinn series. Isn’t the cover eye-catching? If you haven’t read this series yet, where have you been??

8. Pure by Julianna Baggott. Now available.  I just mentioned this in another post, and it’s another book I’m anxious to read, but will probably have to set aside for now.

9. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. Release date: April 24, 2012.  I’ve been hearing a lot about Julie’s new series lately, so here it is, on my list. I love the cover, I’m a sucker for tears of blood!

10. Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru. Now available.  I’ve never read Kunzru before, but his latest takes place in the Mojave Desert where I grew up.  That alone is a good enough reason to read this book!

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In My Mailbox #1

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by The Story Siren.  This is my first time participating, and I’m quite excited! It’s a fun way to share books that you have received recently.  In the past week I have received and am looking forward to reading and reviewing:

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington. Release date: 3/6/12. Received an ARC from the publisher.  Jessica Shirvington is Australian and I believe this is the first book she has had published in America. It looks pretty good.  Here is the description from Goodreads:

It starts with a whisper: “It’s time for you to know who you are…”

Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before.

Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human—oh, and same goes for her.

A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden…

The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry. Release date: Now available.  Received an e-book review copy from the author.  Mary wrote me a very nice email and asked me to review her book. She has also written a book called The Gods of Fire based her experiences as a firefighter, which has been optioned for film by Bill Mechanic.  I’m really looking forward to this one. Here’s the description from Goodreads:

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 Jesús, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, 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 explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.

The Day of First Sun by Sheryl Steines.  Release date: Now available.  Received a paperback review copy from the author. This book looks like a lot of fun! I got a very nice email from Sheryl’s publicist, Donna Brown, asking if I’d like to read and review Sheryl’s book. Then Sheryl herself mailed me a copy of the paperback with another very nice note it in.  Here’s what the book’s about:

When Princess Amelie of Amborix is murdered by magical means, Annie Pearce and Bobby “Cham” Chamsky of the Wizard’s Guard are called in by the FBI. Their job is to help solve the crime while keeping the non-magical world from discovering the existence of the Wizard Council.

During their investigation, Annie and Cham discover that Princess Amelie’s death is connected to a series of other crimes in the Chicago area. A larger plot involving, a vampire, a rogue wizard and an army of soul-less zombies is revealed, but can Annie and Cham discover who is responsible before The Day of First Sun?

Street Creds by Zach Fortier.  Release date: Now available.  Received a paperback review copy from the author.  I reviewed another book of Zach’s recently, Curbchek, and even though I considered my review to be on the harsh side, Zach wanted me to read and review Street Creds as well.  How could I say no?  Here’s the description from Goodreads:

Street Creds is a look inside the world of street gangs and the cops that work them. I worked the street for many years before I entered the Gang Task Force, joining it with the idea that I could rise to the level of violence of any banger I encountered – a really stupid idea. I wanted to “earn back” the respect of the citizens for the police; I grew up in this city, and I worked its streets the best way I knew how, feeling that I had a firsthand understanding of what the citizens were experiencing. The increasing frustration at gang crimes, drive bys, robberies, never feeling safe with your kids in your own neighborhood – I wanted to do what I could to make that fear go away.

Once I was inside the task force, though, the reality was a rude awakening for me. The task force was poorly managed and staffed by detectives mostly out for themselves, and the internal politics made success incredibly difficult and almost impossible – almost, but not quite.
Street Creds is my story. Against the odds, outnumbered by gang members, and with very few allies in the department and only the bare minimum of support. Having witnessed bad cops, brutal crimes, and realizing the department had been compromised, the cost was much higher for me personally than I anticipated; however, while on the task force, I achieved a 100% conviction rate of every case on which I made an arrest.

Seven Ways to Die by William Diehl. Release date: Now available.  Received an e-book from the publisher for review.  William Diehl passed away in 2006, and this is the book he was working on at the time.  It was finished by Ken Atchity and is now being released exclusively as an e-book from Barnes & Noble. I don’t read a lot of mystery, and I’ve never read Diehl before, but I’ve heard great things about him. Here’s what the book is about:

From the Nez Perce Indian reservation in Idaho to New York’s Central Park is a straight line right through Bill Diehl’s last and most intriguing lead character, Micah Cody.

There are seven basic ways to die. In 1969 Dr. John C. Cavanaugh catalogued them all in his Primer of Forensic Pathology-Cast Studies for the Novice M.E.

Micah Cody is a 30-something NYPD captain of homicide, who’s founded a special unit known as TAZ with city-wide license to take over any investigation at all, with special focus on serial killers. Now its ultimate challenge is on the loose in Manhattan, with three victims already whose causes of death seem like intentional defiance of TAZ’s existence—and four to go in four deadly days leading up to Halloween. Chronicling it all with great amusement is the Capote-like award-winning crime writer Ward Hamilton who, egged on by his sexually voracious socialite bedmate, is determined to bring TAZ to its knees journalistically.

Captain Micah Cody’s Nez Perce name is “Youngest Wolf” from his ability to communicate with the animals and read nature’s signs. As all hell is breaking loose in Manhattan, the wolves in Central Park howl, the peregrine falcons shriek their warnings—and Micah is listening.

Seven Ways to Die is a non-stop, sexy read with Diehl doing to the end what he did best throughout his bestselling career.

And how will I find the time to read all these, you ask? Good question! I have even more books in line ahead of these, so off I go to read…

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