Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for April 2011

New Story Review at SBR for Dave Freer’s novella “Without a Trace”

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Folks, Dave Freer’s “Without a Trace” (from the new Naked Reader e-books, www.nakedreader.com) was a fun middle-grade read about two kids from South Africa, Mike and Amos . . . Mike’s father has just fallen into a coma, and he’s afraid of being taken away from his home, so he and Amos go on an adventure and fall into a parallel version of South Africa.  Their adventure is fun, and it carried me along effortlessly — I enjoyed reading “Without a Trace” thoroughly and truly hope it finds its audience.

Here’s the link to my book review at SBR:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/dave-freers-without-a-trace-effective-ya-suspense-with-parallel-worlds/

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Posted in Book reviews, Books, Writing

Baseball (Mostly Brewers) Updates: Marcum, Greinke, Hart — and a bit about Vinny Rottino

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The Milwaukee Brewers look to be much better this year with the addition of pitchers Shaun Marcum (acquired in a trade from the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason) and Zack Greinke (acquired in a trade from the Kansas City Royals in the offseason), but up until tonight we Brewers’ fans had little idea of how well either would pitch as Marcum hasn’t been fully right (he had an arm strain/shoulder injury in spring training if I recollect correctly) and Greinke remains on the disabled list (DL).

But tonight, Marcum pitched extremely well, throwing seven shutout innings in an impressive 6-0 Brewers win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh.  Marcum mixed his pitches well and effectively, baffling the Pirates’ hitters while efficiently moving through the Pirates’ lineup — only one hitter reached third base, while Marcum gave up only one walk and four hits with four strikeouts recorded.  (In the eighth inning, left-hander Zach Braddock came in and struggled a bit, which was why he was lifted in favor of right-hander Kameron Loe after Braddock only managed one out while allowing two walks with a wild pitch.  Loe got the final two outs without undue drama, then left-handed side-armer Mitch Stetter came in and pitched a one-two-three ninth.)

If Marcum continues to pitch like this, Brewers’ fans will warm up to him in a hurry.

At any rate, the news on RF Corey Hart is positive; he took batting practice without pain and is expected to go on a rehabilitation assignment soon to one of the minor league teams in order to prove his injury is sufficiently healed for him to return as the everyday RF.  Hart is now hoping for a return to the line-up by April 22, which is when the Brewers’ next home-stand begins.  This is wonderful news, especially because Hart had a breakout year last year (Hart was my pick as Most Valuable Player for the Brewers in 2010).   Getting Hart back will be a tremendous help.  

As for Zack Greinke, he threw 25 pitches in a simulated game and felt no pain, which means his broken rib has probably healed enough that he, too, will be out on a minor-league rehab assignment soon.   The hope now for Greinke is that by the end of April, he’ll be ready to pitch for the Brewers.

Please see this update from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for further details:

http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/119722294.html

And finally, my favorite minor-league utility player, Vinny Rottino, currently remains in the Florida Marlins minor league system and has started the season with the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Marlins’ Class AAA affiliate (that is, their highest-level minor league team).  So far the 31-year-old Rottino is batting only .065 with one hit in 12 at-bats, but has a .353 on base percentage due to taking several walks.  (Stats taken from Rottino’s games through April 11, 2011.)

Here’s a link from the Racine Journal-Times, where the headline reads, “Pirates give Jaramillo a Chance; Taschner, Rottino still have Hope”:

http://www.journaltimes.com/sports/article_28fa5ae2-6585-11e0-bb13-001cc4c002e0.html

Here’s a relevant quote from the article, including a response from IF-OF-C Vinny Rottino himself:

Since signing with the Milwaukee Brewers as an undrafted free agent Feb. 3 2003, Rottino’s modus operandi has been to play every game with abandon and wait for his chance. His mindset remains the same eight years later.

And after hitting .307 with eight homers, 69 RBIs and 22 stolen bases for the Suns last year, Rottino believes he has positioned himself to make it back to the major leagues.

“I’ve been given an opportunity to play baseball for a living and I know I keep saying that,” said Rottino, a 1998 St. Catherine’s graduate. “I really feel that after the year I had last year, I have a legitimate chance to get back to the big leagues.

“This is an organization where, if you perform well in the minor leagues and they think you can help the major league team win, they’re bringing you up. That’s a lot different situation from a lot of other organizations.”

Note that Rottino has played in the minor leagues for both the Brewers and the Dodgers prior to being signed by the Marlins in 2010.  And while I greatly appreciate Peter Jackel’s column (I’d wondered what was going on with Rottino and said so in a blog post from a few weeks ago), Jackel failed to note that Rottino won an award last season from the Southern League (AA) — he won an award for “best utility player/performance.”   That, along with his excellent batting average, on-base percentage and the most stolen bases he’d ever had as a minor-leaguer, must be why Rottino is so hopeful of getting a chance with the Marlins this season.

If you are as interested in following Vinny Rottino’s career as I am, please follow this link to Rottino’s minor-league page (where you can find out where he’s playing, how he’s doing and what positions he’s playing, too, for that matter):

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=OF&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=457130

I really like Rottino; his attitude is refreshing, and the fact that he’s still in there fighting at the (for baseball) advanced age of 31 is encouraging for anyone who refuses to stop believing in himself (or herself).  Vinny Rottino is another example of persistence in the face of long odds, and I hope he breaks out of his early-season slump soon as when he’s right, he’s a good hitter, an excellent fielder (especially in the infield and outfield) and a fast and smart runner.  I, too, believe that Rottino has what it takes to be a successful major league player as a utility man/defensive replacement/pinch hitter/whatever — and I hope he gets his chance this year.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Scott Walker’s first 100 days — Can We Say, “Fiasco?”

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Those of you who do not live in Wisconsin, be glad.  Because that means Scott Walker is not your Governor.

I lead with that tonight because today was the day Scott Walker, the current Governor of the state of Wisconsin, marked his first 100 days in office.   And he was very proud of his accomplishments in “creating jobs” and his “budget-repair bill,” even though the latter is stalled in the courts right now — I know this because he said so on WTMJ-AM, NewsRadio 620 in Milwaukee, WI, this afternoon.

Now, a more balanced and nuanced way to look at Scott Walker’s first 100 days is this article from the LaCrosse Tribune, where the headline says it all:  “Walker’s First 100 Days a Mixed Bag.”  See this link:  http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/b0d1725c-64b8-11e0-8a4f-001cc4c03286.html

Here’s a good quote from that article:

“Walker has pushed through an unprecedented amount of legislation,” said Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan government watchdog group. “But the way he has gone about it has divided the state in ways I’ve never seen before. And I am just not sure how we get back from where we are now.”

See, that’s where I’d fall on the spectrum — I really don’t know how we go on from here, except by recalling every single last legislator who voted for the noxious “budget-repair bill” in a possibly-illegal vote.

Here’s another quote from the article which I think is quite relevant:

“Things were running along smoothly for about six weeks and then (Walker) took a hard turn to the right and became this incredibly divisive figure,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. “The honeymoon ended quickly, but he has no one to blame but himself.”

Amen, brother!

At any rate, this is how I see it: we’ve never had eight sitting Republican Senators targeted for recall before.  (As for the eight Dems also being targeted for recall, only three may be recalled.  All eight Rs will be recalled — that is, have to run in recall elections to hold their seats — and at least five will lose their seats in the election.  So far, two Rs — Dan Kapanke of LaCrosse and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac — have already had the recall signatures turned in to the Government Accountability Board, and we know they definitely will have recall elections.  Because the GAB is not stupid, they are waiting for the other six Rs to reach the required amount of signatures, so all eight recall elections can be run at the same time.)

Here’s the link to the best site on the Web that’s working to recall the Republican 8:

www.recalltherepublican8.com

But getting back to what Wisconsinites feel about Walker, there are some people who believe Walker is doing well — not many, but some.  This article from Eau Claire (WEAU) had locals grade Scott Walker; here’s a link:

http://www.weau.com/home/headlines/100_Days_in_Office_Locals_grade_Scott_Walker_119722794.html

Now, here’s what the folks said:

“You know, I’d give him an A-minus, and the reason I’d give him an A-minus is that he’s doing the best he can,” says Regla Garcia, adding people should give all politicians their fair chance to do their work.

“I’d say he’s getting like a B-plus. He’s balancing the budget and he’s evening things out,” says Ken Holm, adding that Walker could work on his negotiation skills a little bit more.

“As a former teacher, I know a little bit about grading, and I would give him an F,” says Paul Hoff, mentioning the funding cuts to education and collective bargaining as reasons for Walker’s failures.

“I’d give him a big fat F. I don’t think he’s done what anybody expected him to do,” says Mary Jurmain, who says she plans on leading recall efforts against the governor when he becomes eligible.

Now, notice the two nice scores?  One said Walker needs to “work on his negotiation skills” and the other basically said Walker hasn’t had enough time yet to prove whether he’ll be any good or not.  While the other two were very blunt — they gave Walker Fs, and one said that not only will she work to recall the Governor, she plans to work very hard to recall him and implied that she is looking forward to doing so.

That, in essence, is what Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin.  He has divided my state like no one else; he currently has about a 40% approval rating, with a strong 30% Republican disapproving of his policies — that is, his own party disapproves of him that much.

And that, exactly, is why I say that Walker’s first 100 days have been a flat-out fiasco.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin (aka WisDems) had this to say today about Scott Walker’s first 100 days, at this link:

http://www.wisdems.org/news/press/view/2011-04-100-days-of-disgrace

And a relevant quote (all of this is from Mike Tate, Democratic Party Chair):

“We knew it was going to be bad, but nobody could have predicted it would be this bad. Scott Walker’s first 100 days in office have been an unqualified disgrace.”

Then, a bit later, the press release goes on with:

“In his first 100 days, Scott Walker has torn Wisconsin in two in a deliberate plot to drive wages and benefits into the dirt and hasten the concentration of power in the hands of the wealthy few.

The good news is that Wisconsin has seen through Scott Walker and his schemes. The working families of Wisconsin are standing up and taking their state back.

Scott Walker’s first 100 days were a disgrace. Let us hope for Wisconsin’s sake he uses the next 100 to change from his disastrous course.”

In case you’re wondering why Mike Tate took such a hard line, perhaps you missed this story about Scott Walker’s major Republican fundraiser Bill Gardner and his money-laundering, who has a plea agreement pending to save him from jail:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/159886/scandal-fitzwalkerstan-top-donor-pleads-guilty-money-laundering-scheme-aid-governor-walk

This is a story from John Nichols of the Nation; he points out that while Scott Walker was against high-speed rail, he definitely was for this one donor’s rail system — and no wonder, as Gardner illegally funneled thousands of dollars to Walker.  Gardner is going to plead guilty to two felony counts of money-laundering in order to get a suspended sentence; he also will receive a $166,000 fine, while seven employees — those Gardner coerced, mind you, to give money to Walker — are all fined $250 apiece.  This is the largest fine the Government Accountability Board has ever leveled against any single contributor.

Anyway, this only caps off what I already felt about Scott Walker — and let’s not even start about last week’s Supreme Court race, which is still in doubt (the 14,000 votes the Waukesha County clerk found at the last minute has apparently tipped the race to incumbent Justice David Prosser, but the GAB has refused to certify the election and has called clerk Nickolaus “incompetent” thus far), or I’ll really get mad — and that’s this:

Walker must go.  Recall.  Recall.  Recall.**

——

** You may have noticed that my tag says “Scott Walker, temporary Governor.”  That’s because I firmly believe Walker will be recalled and will be voted out as soon as the recall election is held (in January or February, 2012).  In Wisconsin, we cannot recall a legislator until he has served one full year — but we can start getting signatures in November of this year.  My own state Senator, Van Wanggaard, can and will be recalled at the same time, as I’ve said before due to his own “yes” vote for the “budget-repair” bill that eliminated collective bargaining for public-employee unions despite Wanggaard being a former policeman and police union member.

Just reviewed Stoney Compton’s “Alaska Republik” — Enjoyable alternate history, but . . .

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Folks, I’ve rarely had such a struggle to review a book as I just did with Stoney Compton’s second novel, ALASKA REPUBLIK.  This book is fun — it’s an alternate history where the Czar never fell, North America is full of smaller countries (a smaller USA, a Confederate States of America, the Republic of Texas, the Republic of California, the First People’s Nation, and Deseret, not to mention British Canada and French Canada), and Alaska is fighting for its independence in 1987-8 . . . but because it’s not deep, this book isn’t as good as it should’ve been.

Now, having a book you flat-out enjoyed, but one that nags you, that says, “I should’ve been better, and here’s why,” is not a pleasant experience.  But I had to call it as I saw it; here, there’s a fun story with a really well-thought-out alternate history (which I talked about in my review for RUSSIAN AMERIKA at SBR several days ago), but it lacks depth, and that hurts the story.

Still, for pure storytelling enjoyment, if you like alternate history, you will truly enjoy both of Compton’s books.

Here’s a link to my review at Shiny Book Review; have at:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/alaska-republik-good-but-not-deep/

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Book reviews

New Review up at SBR for Amanda Green’s “Nocturnal Origins”

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I just reviewed NOCTURNAL ORIGINS by Amanda S. Green, an urban fantasy set in Dallas with shape-shifters, murder, police procedurals and a great deal of suspense; I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Please go read my review, and see why I believe Amanda Green is a writer to keep your eye on:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/amanda-greens-nocturnal-origins-is-quick-smart-and-sometimes-shocking/

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 8, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Quick Note about Naked Reader

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Folks, I’ve been remiss about discussing the Naked Reader, which is at nakedreader.com — they’re a new e-book place and so far, they’ve accepted extremely high-quality manuscripts from Sarah A. Hoyt (writing as both herself, and as Sarah d’Almeida), Amanda S. Green, Kate Paulk, and Dave Freer . . . and I’m fortunate enough to get to review them all for Shiny Book Review.

Note that I’ve already reviewed DEATH OF A MUSKETEER, and will shortly be reviewing Green’s NOCTURNAL ORIGINS, Freer’s WITHOUT A TRACE and Paulk’s IMPALER, and I can tell you from what I’ve skimmed that all four of these books are very, very good.   Better than that, they’re all in different genres — the first is a “Three Musketeers” pastiche that adds in stronger roles for the women in the Musketeers’ lives, the second is urban fantasy/suspense novel set in the present-day, the third is an alternate history located in South Africa (with suspense) and technically would probably be classified as a young adult/YA novel, and the fourth is a historical fantasy about everyone’s favorite vampire, Vlad the Impaler, who lived in the 1400s.

But best of all?  This is a new e-book publisher that seems to really be going places: they know what they’re doing, they’ve accepted very high quality stuff, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about them so far.

Plus, they want people to review their stuff, which is always an excellent sign.

So please, if you want to read good e-books, go to nakedreader.com and buy some — Heck, buy several.  And if you’re looking for a good place to send your work, try them out as well, but keep an eye out as to when they’re open for submissions next and remember, always be professional.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Just reviewed Stoney Compton’s “Russian Amerika” at SBR

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Folks, a new review is up for your delectation at Shiny Book Review, as I just reviewed Stoney Compton’s RUSSIAN AMERIKA . . . read this book.  It’s an excellent alternate-history and good “coming of age” tale with some rousing battle scenes; I enjoyed Stoney Compton’s book quite a bit and think you will, too, if you give it a chance. 

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/stoney-comptons-russian-amerika-well-conceived-alternate-history/

Note that my review for Compton’s second book in this series, ALASKA REPUBLIK, will follow later this week.

Now, back to Wisconsin election returns . . . at least, for me.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 5, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Book reviews