Monday, February 29, 2016

Color Me Surprised

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I won a copy of Barcelona Adult Coloring Book by Alexandru Ciobanu from Library Thing's Early Reviewers Program. I have since been working on three pages from it to try it out, see if all they say about the trend is valid, and show you some results.

I admit, I was a little skeptical from the start. I have not colored anything since probably the late seventies (I did color one Doodle Art poster for my bedroom when I was a teen.) I'm not inclined to revisit my childhood or adolescence, either, so I doubt I would ever have given this trend a test-drive without a firm push. When I want to do something calming and meditative I tend to sew or quilt, as making something practical and useful through art appeals more to me than just art for art's sake. I wanted to give this a fair shake, however, so I tried to go into it with an open mind.

I received the review copy in .pdf format, and selected three pages from the twenty-four in the book to color, which I printed out on basic white cardstock. From the first page I worked on I found myself almost immediately calmed and startlingly clear-headed. I stopped thinking about anything but the colors to chose and the sections to work on. It's the strangest thing, too, because I never stop thinking like that, even when I'm sewing. Once I realized what the effect was, I tried to think of something while I was coloring. Within a few minutes my thoughts drifted off and I once more became immersed in the simplicity of the coloring.

I might have been a little embarrassed that a childish activity would have such a significant impact on me, but it's not really childish. All of the pages presented artistic challenges that I enjoyed, from blending colors to get the desired shade to filling in tiny spots without erasing them altogether. Most kids would find this very tough to do. The images the author used for the book were also very interesting, and not at all what I expected from a travel-themed work.

For each page in the book you also get a coloring guide page to show you what colors to use in a quasi paint-by-numbers approach (which really, really helps.) My pages in these pictures are on the right, and for comparison the coloring guide page is on the left:

This page I colored with watercolor pencils, which was easier on my hands and, since I love watercolors, made it a bit more fun for me. I liked the bold colors and enjoyed trying to faithfully reproduce all the shading from the guide page.

I employed standard color pencils to tackle this very detailed window scene, but because I can't apply a lot of pressure with my fingers without pain the colors came out lighter than I wanted.

I think my best results came while using fine line Sharpie permanent markers to color this mosaic page.

By signing up for the author's newsletter I also received a .pdf copy of Garden of Paradise, a second, 54 page adult coloring book with a variety of intricate, interesting floral designs:

I think the only drawback to the book is that the coloring pages are likely computer-generated sketches based on the author's photos, which produced a bit of static dots versus the expected lines-only pages. I didn't mind that at all, but people who want simpler/easier pages to color might. Bottom line, I highly recommend Barcelona Adult Coloring Book for anyone who needs some relaxing calm in their life. It really delivers.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 63.

For more details on Just Write, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mystery Discoveries

I like to clean out closets in the spring (okay, I like to clean anything, period) and this month I decided to tackle the kitchen cabinets and a big entertainment/storage unit we have in the living room. Both are sorely in need of organization, and one of the cabinets had a rickety top shelf that needed repair. While my guy was handling the latter, he found this in the very back of the top shelf:

We don't drink, so it definitely wasn't ours. I did a little research and found out it's a pressed glass liquor bottle from a manufacturer in Puerto Rico, and was once possibly filled with rum. I doubt it's valuable -- I seem to remember my parents having bottles like these back in the seventies -- but it is interesting to see that it was hidden in the very back of a cabinet. Perhaps a previous occupant was indulging on the sly? If that's the case someone would have had to use a ladder or climb onto the counter to reach it. But what if it was hidden for another reason?

Beneath a pile of clutter in the storage unit I also found this:

It's a beautiful stationery set in pristine condition, but it isn't mine. Since the storage unit came here completely empty (I know, I unpacked it before we moved) it's either a gift someone gave me that I forgot about, or it was left by a visitor. I've asked everyone but so far no one has claimed it. Since I'm a letter writer and architecture junkie, I'm happy to put it to use, but it does raise some questions. Why would someone go to the trouble of bringing a set of stationery on a visit, hide it in my storage unit, and then leave it behind?

Mystery discoveries are great story starters. Imagine your character finding a beautiful old liquor bottle filled with something other than liquor: a message, jewels, rare coins, or perhaps something more gruesome, like teeth, or wedding rings. A stationery set becomes even more interesting when your character finds a half-finished frantic letter in the very bottom, or a list of names being crossed out, or old hundred dollar bills tucked in every envelope. Using a mystery discovery as a story starter is like undertaking a reverse treasure quest -- your character begins by finding the treasure, which compels them to backtrack to find out how it got there and what meaning it has.

Have you ever made any mystery discoveries in your home that would make good story starters? Let us know in comments.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Sea Above

Here's a lovely time lapse video by Chris Pritchard to remind us all to look up a little more often (with background music):

Skylight from Chris Pritchard on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sub Op

Here's a bit of info on an open call from Third Flatiron for a SF antho I spotted over on

"The theme for Hyperpowers features space opera and military science fiction stories. Space operas are dramatic, large-scale science fiction adventures focusing on character and plot action. We’ll be looking for page-turners, adventure stories that keep us on the edge of our seats. Mindless mayhem just doesn’t cut it. We want compelling science fiction tales that wake our emotions and stimulate our imagination. Submissions are open and are due March 15."

For more information, check out Third Flatiron's submission guidelines page here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Save Your Shelfari from Goodreads

As you Shelfari users know, sometime in the next couple weeks (I've seen several dates mentioned, but March 16th seems to be the most popular) will shut down your site and merge you and your library with that den of iniquity known as Goodreads. Fortunately Library Thing is coming to the rescue, at least in offering a new home for your online library:

"Now you can import your Shelfari library, and receive an automatic upgrade to a free lifetime LibraryThing account! Here’s how to do it:

Export Your Shelfari Data

You’ve got a couple options when it comes to exporting your Shelfari library, and can either directly download a file, or have one emailed to you. See Shelfari’s instructions here.

Sign Up for LibraryThing

It’s quick and free! Head over to and click “Join Now.” Enter your desired username and password (we also recommend including your email address, for password resetting purposes), and you’re good to go!

If you’ve already got a LibraryThing account, you can import your Shelfari library to your existing account.

Import Your Shelfari File to LibraryThing

Once you have your Shelfari export file, go to our Shelfari Import page and upload it there."

I have been a member of Library Thing since 2005, and I think they are marvelous. That said, if you'd rather keep your online library on a site that posts reviews for books I've never written, I understand completely. In fact I encourage you to stay away from Library Thing. We're not your sort, really.

For more information and all applicable linkage on how to save your Shelfari from Goodreads, go to Library Thing's blog post here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Reedsy, Take Two

Okay, thanks to comments by B.E. and Sheri, I might have more info on Reedsy, which is apparently an online service to collaboratively write, edit, typset and export books for self-publication. If their free writing/typset tool exports publication-ready files properly formatted for every type of digital platform, then it's definitely a godsend for indy authors (and me!) I'm not sure that it does yet, however, so I'm hanging onto my reservations.

The money for them evidently comes from hiring one of their freelance editors -- I'm thinking ala Upwork, where Reedsy takes a cut from every transaction. I can't confirm this. I had to watch a video simply to find out the editor thing. There aren't any rates for these editors listed on the website; you have to request a quote. They also limit the number of editors you can contact to five at a time (or possibly five period) for a quote. This is still beyond annoying to me. I also could be wrong about what I just typed, too.

You know what frustrates me most? That it takes me three days and about a thousand clicks to find out information that I'm still not sure is correct. A simple About page with the information printed in text would assure me that I'm not dealing with a bunch of college kids running something out of their dorm room. Bottom line, be careful. Read the fine print, that is, if you can find any.

Monday, February 22, 2016

TBR Challenge

I have been sewing so much this month I haven't been reading much at all, and now I need to balance out my two favorite pastimes. Also, I have a pretty nice stack of books waiting to be read, including The Naturalist, my latest ARC from LT's Early Reviewers Program which arrived this week:

To get myself motivated, I'm going to try to read all these books before or by February 29th so I can start March without any leftovers in the TBR. Anyone want to join me and try to read through most or all of your TBR by the end of the month? Toss your name in comments if you do. No prize involved, I'm afraid, but it could be fun to see who can successful slay their TBR in a week.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 59.

For more details on Just Write, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Beyond Annoying

While trawling for freeware I came across a mention of Reedsy (?) who are currently offering a free writing/typeset tool. I found that much, hence the link, but the (?) is because I can't figure out what the heck this thing is. Editor marketplace? Digital platform? What? Everything else on the web site is so glutted with gleeful meaningless advertising and testimonials by earnest new authors that I can't find any actual service info.

Case in point: look at their About page. Evidently they have big plans for the publishing industry, and they were founded by four dudes in the UK. That's it. When you click the "learn more" button it doesn't actually take you anywhere (or maybe I'm supposed to watch these informative videos. I hate watching videos. Where is the text?) Or maybe I have to sign up on Facebook to get the gist. Sorry, no Facebook here.

I'm utterly perplexed. Is this the hot new way to tell everyone about your new business? By not telling them anything? How innovative.

Look, I know I'm an old writer chick, and grumpy most of the time, but please. Before you try to take over the publishing industry from your hip new web site, how about providing potential clients (one might have been this grumpy old writer chick) some actual information? That's not too much to ask, is it?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Little Boxes

I found this lovely video while looking through hand made art films. The maker has a shop on Etsy here where you can see more of and buy her work (background music, narration by the artist):

Tommy's Hut from Historia Films on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sub Op

Here's an open call for a S/F survivor-themed antho: "In this SF/F anthology, we’re looking for stories of everyday trauma survival -- from a barmaid on an intergalactic space station who was abandoned by her parents, to a farmer’s son bullied by his peers, who withstands and resists their abuse. We also welcome stories with a war setting, such as stories about veterans and refugees. The key component for all of these stories is how relatively ordinary characters survive and thrive, given the traumatic experiences they’ve had.

Note: we aren’t necessarily looking for happily ever after. Trauma survival rarely ends in happily ever after, though it can, and hopefully will, end in closure and a coming to terms.

We’re soliciting speculative fiction up to 10,000 words, though we prefer 4000 – 8000. Payment is 3 cents / word for print and electronic rights, to be published by Lethe Press. You need not be a trauma survivor yourself to submit. Simultaneous submissions are fine."

Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: May 1st, 2016.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Serves Me Right

I'm having a lot of fun participating in Library Thing's Early Reviewers Program. I try to put my name in for at least a couple of books each month, mostly non-fiction that I want to read. Occasionally I'll request an author or title at random, but always in paper. I did request one electronic copy of a book that is part of a big trend. A trend that I have regarded with some mystification, if I'm to be completely honest.

When I put my name in for it, I admit, I thought "Oh, I'll never win that one." You know what happens when you think that, yes?

You win.

Which I did.

So yesterday a .pdf copy arrived in my inbox, courtesy of the author/artist:

I do think getting a book I can print out is very cool, and I will of course try it out and write it up. Perhaps I'll even fathom the whole trend once I do. This adult coloring book features travel-themed illustrations based on the city of Barcelona, Spain, which is a gorgeous place.

Now to find some adult crayons . . . .

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Tale of Two Pincushions

Quilt show season has arrived, and I was considering attending one of the national conventions to meet up with some friends and wallow in fabric. It's always a bit dangerous for me to go to the big shows, as there's always so much I want to buy, and I really don't have the money to splurge on anything. I managed to talk myself out of it after I sorted through my fabric stash last week; I probably have enough fat quarters and yardage to circle the planet. I'm also just now getting over the last dregs of my URI and I don't want to risk being infected by some sniffly attendee who should have stayed home. So this year I'll probably just go to the county quilt show next month and let that be enough.

I have been sewing quite a lot lately, and while I was cleaning up my work table last night I noticed the state of two of my pincushions:

The little china cup pincushion on the right is one I made myself. I got the cup from a thrift store and used some scrap fabric, a handful of fiberfill and my hot glue gun to make it. It turned out so pretty I hardly ever use it. I needed some short pins for some binding, though, so I grabbed it off the shelf where it lives and impresses everyone with how organized I am (not). This pincushion really symbolizes the sewer I wish I was: elegant, tidy, and always attractively engaged.

The sugar bowl pincushion on the left is one I bought from Kathy at Strange Notions, who also made it. It's my favorite "work" pincushion that is always parked at my elbow, and it's been working overtime since it arrived at Casa PBW. The dogs knocked it over and broke off one of the handles, which I then imperfectly glued back together. It's riddled with dressing making pins, and big pins for heavy-duty work, and at least one of each type of hand-sewing needle I use. It also guards my favorite thimble. This pincushion really shows the sort of sewer I am while I work: busy, untidy, and indifferent to appearances.

I admire the "order" pincushion -- it reflects the ideals all those quilting books and shows tell me I should strive for -- but I love my "chaos" work pincushion, because like me it isn't perfect.

Organization is wonderful, but creation itself is often a messy business. Don't kick yourself if you don't work in an atmosphere of 24/7 pristine perfection. I think the key to working well is to be comfortable in your work space, which is something only you can define. If that means embracing a little chaos over order, go for it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Resource for the Novice

Most self-help books are fairly general, particularly when the author is addressing anyone instead of a targeted audience. 52 Small Changes for the Mind by Brett Blumenthal suffers a bit from the one-change-fits-all approach, but still offers plenty of ideas and resources for those looking to make mindful changes in their lives for the first time.

I would not recommend following this book as the weekly guided program it was intended to be. Not all of the changes are small (Be a Guru) and some will be costly (Get Out of Town). While I appreciate many people will like the Get a Rubdown change, those of us who are disabled, suffer from chronic pain or simply not comfortable with being touched by strangers would absolutely not benefit from it. Any changes in regard to diet should be first discussed with your physician before implementation; some may cause problems with certain medications or conditions.

This book is well-written, and has much to offer the mindful-living novice, but it probably should have been formatted as a resource reference versus a program guide. If there is a person out there who can actually make and maintain all these changes in 52 weeks? I bow to you in advance.

Just as an aside, I am all about mindful living, and have been for quite some time. Out of curiosity I counted how many changes in the book I'd already made in my life before reading it. 42 out of 52 -- and that took me about twelve years, give or take. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Library Thing's Early Reviewers Program.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Wishing You

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Just Write Saturday

Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day I'm going to have Just Write today, so I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 54.

For more details on Just Write, click here to go to the original post.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Cat Stories

There are a million zillion cat videos on the Internet, but this one is truly hilarious (with background music):

Stories we make up about our cats from Wiggly Piggly on Vimeo.

Dedicated to:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

One Last Laugh

This is something I wrote when Jericho was only a few years old. It still cracks me up.

My Cat's New Year's Resolutions

1. I will not catch lizards. If I do, I will not eviscerate them on my human's bed pillow.

2. I will not cough up hair balls on my human's prized 1940 Dresden fan quilt.

3. When my human enters the kitchen, it is not always to get me Pounce treats. I will be understanding about this.

4. I will kiss my human before I wash my butt.

5. I will not grab my brother in a stranglehold and pretend to tear out his throat in front of my human's guests.

6. When I have gas, I will be polite and go fart in the other room.

7. I will not lie in the litter box pretending I am Simba Master of All He Surveys while my brothers are waiting to use it.

8. The flat cans with the smiling fish on them are not for me.

9. I will not knock over and rearrange the large stacks of paper my human produces to make a bed for myself.

10. I will not sit and stare at my human when she sits in the bathtub, no matter how weird I think she looks with those tea bags and that mayonnaise on her face.

11. I will stop plotting to get rid of the short humans.

12. I will stop trying to squeeze between the balcony railings to catch dragonflies. I will remember if I miss it's a three story drop into a canal.

13. Whatever my human drinks in those mugs is too hot and not for me.

14. I will not glare, hiss, or growl at the guests who smell like dog. I will understand some humans are simply not worthy of feline ownership.

and finally --

15. I will not sneak into the closet, climb into the big box and chew off the corners of my human's author copies.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Shelter Visit

I went to the local no-kill cat shelter with my daughter and a friend this morning so we could visit, and I made a donation to honor Jericho. That made me feel better than I have all week. I also successfully resisted the urge to adopt a new cat (a bit hard when I met a cat who looked a lot like Jeri; you can see him at the top of picture #14 below.)

As we're getting older we've decided to think very carefully before we bring any new pals into our household; we want to make sure we'll be around to look after them. In the meantime I'm going to volunteer more time to help the shelter and some other rescue groups in our county.

Here are some of the lovely creatures we got to cuddle with today:

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Quilting Therapy

One thing that I do when for whatever reason I can't write is sew, usually on a quilt. Really excellent therapy, as it's fairly mindless yet comforting work, and it always makes me happy. Today I finished this quickie lap quilt:

To make the top I followed this YouTube tutorial by Valerie Nesbitt, which shows you how to make it in 40 minutes from scrap strips. I did every step the same except for the sewing after the last cut, which I skipped so I could get the long stripe effect.

Monday, February 08, 2016

So I Don't Sit Around and Cry All Day

Hey, sorry I'm showing up late and unprepared (again!) -- losing a furry pal who has been with you for almost twenty years takes a bit of a toll. Jeri was also our last cat; we've just got the dogs now. It always leaves a huge hole in your life when you lose a pet, but I guess that's the ultimate price tag of being blessed with all that unconditional love and devotion.

Anyway -- I will not weep on you today. I do have some random weirdness to share, in hopes of lightening everyone's spirits. Here's the first weird thing I found this past week:

Yep, they are now making maple and bacon flavored Pop Tarts. My maple and bacon-loving daughter is over the moon. I'm a bit more skeptical -- these things were really nutritional black holes to begin with -- but bacon? Really? What's next, beef and cheddar flavor? Uh, Pop Tarts, that was not a suggestion.

My guy took me out to dinner over the weekend to an Asian buffet we love, and with our check they always give us each a fortune cookie. Here's mine:

That's not one but two fortune cookies in the same package. I debated on whether to open it or save it as an oddity, and then I just caved today and opened it up:

There were two complete cookies inside, and each one had a fortune. Since I usually get the grim, stern-sounding fortunes I braced myself, but each one was kinda nice: "A love relationship takes on an added dimension" and "A friend asks only for your time and not money." Since both already came true it's also a little creepy, but there you go.

I think I'll make a point to visit the cat shelter this week and make a donation in Jeri's name. That seems like the best way to honor my pal.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

I have to cancel Just Write as today we lost our cat Jericho, and I've been too upset to sit down and write anything except this.

We were blessed to have this lovely creature as part of our family for so long. Jeri had been frail but reasonably healthy over the last six months, and then today his body just started shutting down. Once we were sure he wasn't going to rally we took him to the vet so he didn't have to suffer. He just turned nineteen years old last November.

Jeri boy, I'm going to miss you every night when I go to bed and you're not there to curl up with me, but I'm so glad you were part of my life. I love you, pal. Have a safe journey.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Hodge Podge

Library Thing just sent me a heads-up that the first book I'll be getting from their Early Reviewers program for 2016 is The Naturalist by Darrin Lunde, which made me give a sniffly cheer. I love all things Theodore Roosevelt, and the author has impressive credentials. Darrin Lunde currently works as "a Supervisory Museum Specialist in the Division of Mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History." Before that he worked at the American Museum of Natural History, where "he led field expeditions throughout the world." He also "named more than a dozen new species of mammals and provided valuable scientific insights on hundreds of others." From his bio the guy sounds like a total Indiana Jones, so I expect he'll write a terrific book, too.

I haven't gotten much of anything done this week writing-wise, but being under the weather gave me lots of time to sew and think. I probably needed the break, too (I never think I do until I'm forced to take one.) Once I do get all the fever/congestion/aches behind me I'd like to do a workshop on the blog. It's been ages since I have, and I always have fun with those. I was thinking I might do one that details some ways on how to take an idea and turn it into a novel, soup-to-nuts fashion. If there's any other topic in particular you'd like to see me cover, throw me some suggestions.

What's up with you guys? How is the writing going in your corner of NetPubLand? Anyone read a fabulous book lately and want to share a rec? Let us know in comments.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Nailed It

200 hours + 13,000 nails + 14.9 miles of thread = art (background music):

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Sub Op

I'm still sick. Yeah, I know, but when was the last time I called in sick at the blog? Honestly I am getting better; just still a bit sniffly and wrung out.

While I'm going through tissues like crazy, here's an open antho call for supernatural horror short fiction set in New York's Hudson Valley: "We want original, supernatural horror stories set within the Hudson Valley Region within the State of New York (please note that New York City is NOT considered a part of the Hudson Valley). The time period for your story is up to you–past, present, future, alternate history–but it must take place whole or in part within the Hudson Valley. Hudson Valley is a real place, with a real history, so please respect the reality of the setting. Scare us, creep us out, give us the shivers, make us laugh. Be Gothic, modern, Lovecraftian, Victorian, Steampunk, whatever. Just set your story in the Hudson Valley.


Any & all submissions must be set in & around New York’s Hudson Valley.
No gratuitous sex, violence, or profanity
No pornography of any kind. If there is sex in your story, it must be important to the story– and must abide by rule #2.
No stories centered on rape, torture or child molestation. We’re not interested.
No fan fiction.
Your story must be a complete story– we’re not interested in excerpts.
It must be your ORIGINAL work.
Do NOT include any artwork"

Length: 2-8K; Payment: $25.00 + contributor copy, query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 1st, 2016.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

While I'm Achooing

I'm still feeling pretty under the weather, although I think I'm over the worst of the sniffles. While I'm recovering I thought I'd recommend a movie I watched yesterday for any of you who are P.D. James and/or Jane Austen lovers.

Masterpiece Mystery! adapted Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, which was the late author's murder-mystery continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I did read the book when it was published, and I think this production is pretty faithful to it. Among its many charms it is very suspenseful, features ordinary-looking actors versus the usual beautiful people, and offers a satisfying look at Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship six years after they marry.

It's a clever whodunit, but it's also a window to a fascinating time period. The way criminal cases were handled back then in particular is a real eye-opener. It's 180 minutes long, and split into three episodes, so I really should call it a mini-series.

I'm going back to bed (sniff!). See you all tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Off to Achoo

My guy brought home an upper respiratory virus he picked up at work, and promptly infected me. I must stop kissing this man before I spray him down with Lysol. Anyway, I'm going to take a sick day to sip chicken soup, read and be miserable. See you tomorrow.

Monday, February 01, 2016

PBW's Book of the Month

My first 2016 pick for book of the month is Silent Melody by Mary Balogh, which was originally released in 1997 and again in August last year in a repackaged trade format. I'd never read the original book, and when I read the cover copy I was a bit leery. Emily Marlowe, the female protagonist, has been a deaf mute since childhood. Profoundly handicapped heroines are incredibly difficult to write, particularly when they can't hear or speak dialogue. Also (for obvious reasons) it's often painful for me personally to read this sort of story.

Mary Balogh doesn't use deafness as an element of entertainment in this novel. It's something that defines Emily's character physically, and certainly creates obstacles for her in every day life. But this isn't the deaf girl love story you might think. Emily herself isn't emotionally crippled by her inability to hear or (at least at the beginning of the book) speak. Much like the blind hero Mary wrote in her Survivor's Club series, Emily copes with her handicap, tries to keep it from ruining her life, and ultimately boots it off center stage by sheer force of personality. This isn't the poor little deaf girl trotted out to make everyone instantly sympathetic. Actually there were a couple of times I wanted to shake Emily until her teeth rattled.

As a writer I know what a technical challenge this book had to be to write, but what I loved about the story was that it didn't focus on Emily's deafness as the hub of all conflict. That was nicely handled by the male protagonist, Emily's brother-in-law, Lord Ashley Kendrick. Probably one of the most screwed up romantic heroes I've read in a long time. Ashley's life seriously and repeatedly derails as he and Emily are brought together, and it doesn't end there. The guy is a walking train wreck. I felt so sorry for Ashley that when he behaved like a complete ass with Emily I really wasn't surprised. From there I was hooked, and as the twists and turns of the story swept me along I kept thinking, Okay, I got this now -- and then in the next chapter I found out I didn't. What should have been a simple love story turned out to be a very twisted, suspenseful read that evolves so beautifully that by the time I finished it I was pretty much speechless.

Bottom line: beautiful story, terrific read, and the kind of quality writing we just don't see anymore out there in historical romance land. I highly recommend Mary Balogh's Silent Melody, and predict it will be one of the best romances you'll read in 2016.