Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review: Pilgrennon's Beacon by Manda Benson

Dana is autistic, but considered functional enough to be in regular school classes. Despite the best efforts of her foster parents, she endures the cruelty of uninformed teachers and schoolyard bullies. Dana also has a secret: she can talk to computers. There’s a wi-fi gadget implanted in her brain. Unknown to Dana, she’s the product of an experiment by Ivor Pilgrennon, a scientist with a bit of a Frankenstein complex.

When an attack at school sends Dana to the hospital for an overnight stay, she picks up on a distant computer signal that seems to be offering her a safe haven: Pilgerennon’s Beacon, calling the subjects of his experiment to the isolated island where he’s hiding out. She soon finds herself involved with Jananin Blake, a brilliant physicist and the inventor of the gadget in Dana’s brain. Jananin hates Pilgrennon, and is appalled by his experiments, which included unauthorized use of her invention. But her own moral compass is as skewed as Pilgrennon’s.

The adventure that follows is like a mad roller-coaster ride, with Dana caught between the two scientists, wondering whether she can trust either of them, finding herself in circumstances that demand she stretch her abilities to the fullest. It’s a trip down the rabbit hole, with forays into the world of virtual reality.

This is a thriller, an action-adventure book complete with world-wide conspiracies, chase scenes, a dollop of fighting and explosions, mysteries and madness. But there’s tenderness as well, little acts of caring, touches of pathos. Through it all, we see the two scientists gradually changing, as Dana struggles to make sense of a world that too often “doesn’t compute.”

It’s a hard book to put down, and I’m looking forward to the sequel. Highly recommended.

Check out Manda's website at

Thursday, January 20, 2011


This is my granddaughter Maggie's review of The Door in the Sky that her mom posted on Amazon. None of the adult volunteers who were going to post reviews in exchange for free books have done so yet. I know some have backed off because Amazon only allows customers to post, so if that's the problem, feel free to send me your review by email or in a Facebook message, and I'll put it on my blog like this one.

This is a great book, my daughter loved it so much that she wanted to do a review of it herself. I'm going to type it for her. She is 7 years old but at a 4-5 grade reading level and is always looking for new books to read. Here is her review.

This is a book called "The Door in the Sky" which is #2 after Mountains of the Moon. It's about a little girl named Sammy. At the start she's in the gym and she's really really scared to go up a rope. She goes to the back of the line slowly so no one will notice her. She tries to figure out a way to get out of climbing the rope and then the bell rings.

She goes home and decides to talk to her cat, Peaches. Even though Peaches is not even a year old yet she talks back just like her old cat, BB did just by saying meow. They both take a rest and then when they wake up Peaches gets down and pats the rug near the window and there is moonlight there. She walks up the moonbeam! They go on an adventure to go see her old cat BB. The walk through the glass in the window!

They come to a castle and she shows Peaches how to ring the bell to get Selena to come. They go to a hall full of doors and there's a dragon, but don't worry, she's a nice dragon. The adventure that they go on helps Sammy not be afraid of climbing the rope any more.

It's a really cool story!

- I had to take a lot out of her review, she wanted to give a play by play of the whole story! I didn't want her to give the whole thing away. Happy reading!-

Monday, January 17, 2011

Public Speaking for Introverts

I've been painfully shy or socially challenged most of my life, preferring to work "behind the scenes" with as little public contact as possible. The necessity of earning a living didn't allow me to be as reclusive as I would have preferred, but I did gravitate towards work that allowed me to spend most of my time hiding in a corner, working on my own.

About fifteen years ago, I started feeling prodded to do more writing and to share what I wrote. Call it fate or whatever you like--I just knew I had to do it. I began sharing poetry and songs in church, then moved on to occasionally filling the pulpit as a lay preacher. At least I could hide behind a podium so they couldn't see my knees knocking. I went on to joining writiers' groups, both receiving and offering critiques of my work. I finally went back to school to "lock in" my assorted credits by earning an AA degree, which required I take the dreaded speech class.

Now that I'm getting more serious about promoting my writing, I know I have to get out to meet the public. I've visited classrooms, sold books at bazaars, and started handing out bookmarks and other materials to anyone who will take them.

I've gradually come to understand that the best way to deal with fear is to follow the advice I put in the mouth of my character Samantha (Sammy), in The Door in the Sky. Get help if you can, practice, and finally just do it, even if you have to do it scared. I'm still doing it scared, but I'm told it doesn't show, so at least I'm learning to fake a calm I don't feel. And it does get a little easier with practice. A friend once told me that the first 100,000 times are the hardest.

This past month I've been a visiting author at the Tenino library (my second library visit) and once more served on several discussion panels at the Rustycon science fiction convention. They even gave me a time slot for reading and signing my books, and I actually had an audience. I will admit I was mildly terrified before each event, but I did it anyway, and hope to continue "practicing" on a regular basis.

I'm making myself available as a speaker for libraries, schools, scouts, or any other group that would like to listen to a story and/or discuss books, writing, and publication. Although most of my writing is focused on children, I can gear my presentation to adults as well.