Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Friday, December 18, 2009

Obstacles Welcome by Ralph de la Vega

Obstacles Welcome is Ralph de la Vega's story. Part biography and part self-help book, it's all about his inspiring journey to achieve the American Dream. He opens up his life to readers and grants them access to his experiences. He willingly shares what he's learned as he faced and overcame life's challenges to achieve success and climb the corporate ladder to become the president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets.

It was 1962 and Ralph de la Vega was ten years old. He and his family were waiting to board a plane at the Havana Airport in Cuba. They had been approved to leave and they were flying to Miami. Airport officials told them there were irregularities with their documents and only Ralph could leave. The decision was made. Ralph would still go. Miraculously they were able to reach friends in the States who agreed to care for him. A few days turned into four years before Ralph saw his family again. Ralph has come a long way since then and he decided to write this book because so many people have been moved by his personal saga.

I enjoyed the chapters on the author's personal life. Black and white photos of his family are included. I'm not a business person and I found myself skimming some of the chapters that focused on his corporate life. There is a lot of detail about author's work in telecommunications and the AT&T and Cingular Merger but anyone interested in business will not be bored. The book is an easy read and provides a behind the scenes look at business. The lessons can be applied to other types of work and makes this a valuable tool for anyone who wants to learn or teach leadership principles.

Disclaimer: I am a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program. Although Thomas Nelson Publishing provided the book at no cost to me, this review is my honest opinion of the work

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 27, 2009)

ISBN: 978-1595552648

Hardcover: 272 Pages

Price: $24.99

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Plague War by Jeff Carlson

Plague War, a mix of sci-fi, military adventure and political intrigue, is the second book in Jeff Carlson's post apocalyptic trilogy. The nightmarish landscape presents a chilling albeit believable picture of a world devastated by a nanotech plague. The book works as a standalone but to get the complete story of how our world got so screwed up you might want to start with Plague Year.
Nanotechnology designed to fight cancer is accidentally released and has killed most of the world's population. The nano-plague, something like a flesh eating virus, freezes at elevations above 10,000 feet so the surviving population flees to the mountains.

Dr. Ruth Goldman, a researcher, has produced a vaccine that will inoculate the survivors against the plague but the government won't release it because it doesn't benefit their own agenda. The U.S. government wants to use the vaccine as a tool to decide who will live. So Ruth is on the run, searching for survivors and hoping to inoculate as many as possible. Traveling with her is Cameron Najarro, a survivor from Sierra Nevada. But the government has their own plans for the vaccine and they'll stop at nothing to get to Ruth. Not surprisingly there is also a group of rebels who are interested in finding Ruth. But another catastrophic event is coming; one that may cause a war that will change things forever.

This riveting and original tale paints a bleak picture of technology gone awry. There's plenty of action but this is essentially a character driven survival story. Carlson depicts the desperation of his heroes with great clarity. And the sexual tension between Ruth and Cam only adds to their despair. It's terrifyingly real and comes to a conclusion you won't see coming. A third book, Mind Plague, is out this month.

Publisher: Ace (July 2008)
ISBN: 978-0-441-01617-4
Pages: 321
Price: $7.99


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny is a traditional mystery - a charming whodunit starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Although it is the fifth book in her Three Pines mystery series, it's the first one I've read. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy. The likeable and realistic Gamache hooked me and Penny has a new and enthusiastic fan. She offers much more than an absorbing mystery. Her colorful descriptions and quirky characters bring the small Quebec village of Three Pines alive.

The book opens with a conversation in a cabin located deep in a forest. Two men, Olivier and a hermit discuss some primeval mythology and eminent chaos. Shortly after, a strange man is found murdered in the village bistro owned by gay partners, Olivier and Gabi. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his homicide team are called in to investigate. Evidently there have been other murders in Three Pines and the locals are familiar with the team but no one admits to knowing the victim, or so they say, which adds to the mystery. Olivier seems to be the prime suspect until the inspector ferrets out more and more secrets. Suddenly anyone of the villagers could be the guilty party.

It's great fun and an entertaining ride for those who love a good whodunit. There are lots of twists and turns to fool the reader but not the inspector who is relentless in his introspective manner. The author kept me guessing for most of the book. I enjoyed the characterizations, the references to food, antiques, art and literature and the charming setting. And Ms Penny has a wonderfully dry sense of humor that makes her voice a joy to read. As I mentioned I haven't read the previous books but I found this one worked well as a standalone. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'll be looking for the previous books in the series as well as any to come.

Publisher: Minotaur Books (September 22, 2009)
ISBN: 978-0312377038
Hardcover: 384 Pages
Price: $24.99

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Beautiful Mess by Diamond Rio

Beautiful Mess is a song that was recorded by the country music band Diamond Rio in 2002. It's also the title of their new book. I'm a fan of their music and I was excited to get a review copy of the book from the publisher, Thomas Nelson. Diamond Rio is a very successful band and I loved getting a look into their personal lives and career obstacles.

The book begins in 2005 with a concert that didn't go well. Lead singer, Marty Roe wasn't singing well and some people, including the other five band members thought they were at the end of their careers. Then the book goes back twenty years in time to the band's early days, tells how they got together and provides biographies of the band members. The men share their struggles in both their professional lives and personal lives and relate how friendship and faith helped keep them together. Readers also learn about their charity work, especially with the Big Brother/Big Sister organization.

The pace of the book started out slow but picked up and held my interest. There's lots of fascinating history relating to country music. Black and white pictures are included and add a lot to the narrative. I was impressed by the band's commitment and the hard work that led them to achieve success in the music business. Their story is inspiring. They stuck together through thick and thin, stayed true to their music and resisted using drugs and playing around. They stress that there is always hope, even when you think you've hit bottom. Lead singer Marty Roe hopes that their story will encourage readers and show that a mess can become beautiful. I think they've succeeded.

This is a NelsonFree Edition, meaning you will get the book in three formats. Purchase the hard copy and you can download a free audio book and a free e-book for one price.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (September 15, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-1595552686
Hardcover: 288 pages
Price: $24.99


Friday, December 4, 2009

The Dog Who Was a Cat Inside

I always thought Spike had a dog inside him and now I've just found this short about a dog who has a cat inside him. It was done in 2002, the director is Siri Melchior

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Life After NaNoWriMo

I won NaNo with 50,997 words five days before the finish date. I could have continued and added to my word count but instead I opted for a rest.

For those unfamiliar with National Novel Writing Month, also known as
NaNoWriMo, it's a writing project held every year in November. Participants sign up and attempt to pen a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and November 30. Chris Baty started the project in 1999. At that time there were twenty-one participants. This year, 2009, there were over 170,000 from all over the world.

I waited a few days and opened my doc expecting to be bedazzled with brilliance. NOT! I knew it would be a mess. After all I wrote whatever came into my head, kind of like stream-of-consciousness - a continuous flow of crap. Actually it wasn't all that bad. It will only take a few years to clean it up.

So what did I get out of NaNo? A lot. It was a personal challenge and a motivating experience to get past procrastinating. And I accomplished my number one goal. My reason for signing up in the first place was to get past my annoying habit of editing my first three chapters ad infinitum.

Those who have entered writing contests know that they usually require only the first three chapters. Agents, editors and publishers usually require three chapters to be submitted. A new writer can get stuck polishing those beginning chapters forever. This was the first time I wrote something straight through without going back to edit. It was liberating. Now the whole gist of my novel is there in front of me and it's so much easier to go back and revise when I have a pretty good idea where it's all going. So that's my real prize and what NaNo is all about - learning to be a better writer.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Letters to Rosy by C. Ellene Bartlett

Letters to Rosy by C. Ellene Bartlett is a tale of intrigue, kidnapping and mysteries of the past. The story unfolds through letters between two aging friends who do not want to take their secrets to the grave.

Rene Dubois, who is now living in Germany and Roselee Payton who resides in America were teenage friends in the fifties and sixties in Bartsville, Georgia. They each harbor dark secrets from the past and decide to unburden themselves in a series of letters to each other. Rene writes to Rosy and tells her about Ken Mitchell whose daughter, Sasha, disappeared. His wife, Marsha, was consumed by grief and died in a hospital. A year passed and Ken went on a cruise and met a woman named Bridget who he became interested in. He also met a man whose daughter looked exactly like his missing Sasha except for her hair color. Rosy writes back. She tells Rene the story of Mendy Arnold who was kidnapped along with her six year old daughter, Misty. The child was forced to watch her mother being raped. Meanwhile her husband, Trevor, was having an affair with a woman he met that morning. Both women are anxious to hear how the tales conclude and eagerly await the letters.

Rene and Rosy have riveting stories to tell, although the situations are sometimes implausible. The plot is complicated by too many supporting characters and it is often hard to stay focused. Adding to the confusion is the head hopping - changing the point of view frequently. It pulled me out of the characters thoughts and emotions before I had a chance to connect with them. The characters never came alive for me and the back history on each character, slowed down the pace. A list of characters is included at the beginning of the book and it did help me keep everyone straight. Despite the technical flaws I read through to the end, anxious to see how Bartlett tied it all together. It was an ending I didn't see coming. The author certainly shows promise in this debut novel and I'd be interested in reading her future works.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC (November 24, 2008)

ISBN: 978-1598587609

Paperback: 196 Pages

Price: $14.95

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Ocean City Maryland Beach Erosion

The so called "storm of the decade" really did a job on the shoreline of Ocean City Maryland. The worst beach erosion was north of us in the area of 143rd Street, where properties are literally sitting at the edge of a ten foot cliff. The beach was due for replenishment in 2010. Now the timetable will be sped up and the scope of the job will be increased.

Much of the beach was inaccessible but at our entrance sand was pushed into a ramp so city vehicles could have access. The area was heavily used by visitors who wanted to take advantage of Sunday's sixty degree weather to fish, collect shells or take a walk by the water.

I took lots of pictures so when I come back to watch the replenishment I'll have before and after photos. I've posted a few here. Click on the picture for a larger view.

If you look close you can see JP standing on our balcony surveying the aftermath of the storm.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving


Breaking News I'm a NaNoWriMo Winner

WooHoo!! 50,997 Words with time to spare.
More on my NaNoWriMo experience to come.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

What I'm Reading...

Here's what's on my TBR pile. NaNoWriMo has taken over my life this month but reviews will follow - I promise.


"Savage Days Haunted Nights by Bennett Kremen portrays Dorian, a man trapped in a harrowing struggle between good and evil, striving now perilously day after day to conquer this. It's an arresting tale, suspenseful and driven by forceful action from the first page to the last. Criminals, professors, socialites, prostitutes, poets and ordinary people animate every chapter of this saga, revealing some of the darkest secrets of the back streets of Chicago and New York and, in one chapter, a breathtaking adventure on a bleak, forbidding tundra in the wilds of Alaska. Revealed here also are the very deepest recesses of human character and the agonies of love amidst the moral challenges of our age."

LETTERS TO ROSY by C. Ellene Bartlett

"An ocean apart, two elderly women, Rene Dubois, in Germany and Roselee Payton in America spent time in the late 50's and early 60's as teens in the town of Bartsville, Georgia, a small town outside the city of Atlanta. Mendy completed the terrible three. Bound together by love for each other once again became a trio. Rene's urge to write letters to Rosy and reveal the story of Ken Mitchell who lost his wife to insanity and the disappearance of his little girl Sasha. He was teetering on the brink of destruction. A year of grieving brought him back to his normal state of health. He took a cruise to Germany. At the Captain's Dinner, an unexpected meeting enhanced his obsession to find his daughter. Another unusual meeting in the park, in Berlin, ignited Ken's imagination. Bridget was elated with the turn of events when tragedy struck, driving her into the arms of a trusted friend. Rosy was intrigued and relieved by Rene's letter and was encouraged to tell her own story of Mendy's abduction and rape witnessed by her six year old daughter Misty. Mendy Arnold and Misty vanished from a busy Street in Atlanta, Georgia. At the same time Trevor, Mendy's husband was engaged in a torrid affair with an Auburn-haired beauty he met the same morning. The first letter to Rosy started a downhill avalanche. There was no stopping now; the horrors of yesteryear became a reality once again. Born Charlotte Ellene Bartlett in Clarkston, Georgia. After WWII moved to Stockbridge, Georgia. Divorced with two children was hard. Met Air Force Sergeant and spent 34 years traveling the U.S and four years in Berlin, Germany. Husband passed away in 1996 and met Donald Blatchford in 1999. Now resides in New Port Richey, Fl. Took up painting again after 40 years and started writing. "Letters To Rosy" is a first novel."

PLAGUE WAR by Jeff Carlson

"Researcher Ruth Goldman has developed a vaccine with the potential to inoculate the world’s survivors against the nanotech plague that devastated humanity. But the fractured U.S. government will stop at nothing to keep it for themselves."


"Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures- from first editions of Charlotte's Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word "WOE" woven in it-lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling."


"Can a band comprised of six very talented but very different musicians make a difference with their music?

What made it possible for Diamond Rio to weather the storms inherent in the fickle world of fame and fortune and go more than two decades without a single lineup change? Any reader in search of transparency and a behind-the-scenes look into the life of the band as a unit as well as the individual lives of the players and singers will be well satisfied. Can true loyalty exist within the competitive, seemingly unforgiving music industry? In Beautiful Mess Marty Roe, Dan Truman, Jimmy Olander, Brian Prout, Gene Johnson, and Dana Williams each has an entire chapter devoted to his personal and professional life. The book’s tone is a welcome rarity—not written from one player’s perspective, but from all six as they “meet in the middle.” Beautiful Mess is a wild ride from the edge of disaster and a little-known secret to an ongoing heart-warming revival."

COMING FOR MONEY: A novel of International Finance by F.W. Vom Scheidt

"How much money is too much? And how fast is too fast in life? Investment star Paris Smith steps onto the top rungs of the corporate ladder, only to discover he is caught between his need for fulfilment and his need for understanding, between his drive for power and his inability to cope with his growing emptiness where there was once love. When his wife disappears from the core of his life, Smith s loneliness and sense of disconnection threaten to overwhelm him. When he tries to compensate by losing himself in his work, he stumbles off the treadmill of his own success, and is entangled in the web of a fraudulent bond deal that threatens to derail his career and his life. Forced to put his personal life on hold while he travels non-stop between Toronto, Singapore, and Bangkok to salvage his career, the embattled financier is deprived of the time and space he needs to mourn the absence of his wife and to objectively assess his future options. In the heat, turmoil and fast money of Southeast Asia half a world from home and half a life from his last remembered smile Paris Smith finds duplicity, comradeship, and power. He also finds a special woman who might heal his heart."


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Giveaway: Sins of the NIght by Sherrilyn Kenyon

This month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and my life is totally on hold until I pen 50,000 words. 36,507 so far. Come December I will be posting umpteen reviews once again. But for now here's a giveaway. Just leave a comment and on Friday I'll pick the lucky winner of:

Sins of the Night (Dark-Hunter, Book 8) (Mass Market Paperback)

"In the realm of the Dark-Hunters there is a code of honor that even immortal bad boys must follow: Harm no human. Drink no blood. Never fall in love.

But every now and again a Dark-Hunter thinks himself above the Code. That's when I'm summoned. Who am I? I'm the one thing the fearless fear. Step over the line and it's my wrath you will face. Nothing can touch me. Nothing can sway me. I am relentless and unfeeling.

Or so I thought until I met a female Dark-Hunter who goes by the name of Danger-it's not just her name, it's how she lives her life. She doesn't trust me at all. And who could blame her? She alone knows that I'm here to be judge, jury and most likely executioner of her friends. Yet she is my key to saving some of them. Without her, they all will die.

Dangereuse St. Richard is a deadly distraction. Something about her is reawakening a heart I thought was long dead. But in a race against evil, the only hope mankind has is that I do my duty. And how can I do my duty when it means that I will have to sacrifice the only woman I've ever loved?"


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Glenn Beck's Common Sense - The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine

I recently read Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine and I found the book to be a thought provoking read. Conservative political commentator Glenn Beck hosts a talk radio show and a television show. He's an author and an entrepreneur who has become well-known for his polarizing and controversial views but his book is filled with his own brand of common sense.

Thomas Paine was an author, inventor and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. In January 1776, he published Common Sense, a pamphlet that called for colonial America's independence from Great Britain. He thought government was a necessary evil. That British oppression was inevitable as was American independence. A copy of his pamphlet is included in the book. Glenn Beck compares that crucial time in history to the erosion of our freedoms today.

His narrative is a reminder of how our rights are being constantly stripped away. Beck talks about unparalleled spending, special interest groups and insider corruption. He asks that we leave the Republican Party and the Democratic Party and devote our time and money to those who represent our values. He calls for a second revolution, but one that takes place in our minds and hearts. His book makes a case for getting involved and taking a stand for democracy and hopes his book will be a starting point for Americans to learn more about our country. A list of additional reading is included.

Glenn Beck's apocalyptic view of the future of America fuels his writing. He doesn't trust our elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, to represent the people properly - the people who elected them and pay their salaries. In today's political climate, many people agree with him. Even if you don't agree with everything he says you may be inspired to take a closer look at our political parties and their role in government today.

Publisher: Threshold Editions; 1ST edition (June 16, 2009)

ISBN: 978-1439168578

Paperback: 192 Pages

Price: $11.99

Article Source:,-Inspired-by-Thomas-Paine&id=3191613


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Track of the Cat - An Anna Pigeon Mystery by Nevada Barr

Track of the Cat, written in 1993, was the debut novel in the Anna Pigeon series. I've read and enjoyed several books in the series by Nevada Barr so I decided to back track and read the first. Those who like strong women protagonists, wonderful descriptions of setting and a good mystery will enjoy the law enforcement ranger's first adventure.

Anna Pigeon leaves New York City after her husband dies and moves to Texas. She is now working as a law enforcement ranger at Guadaloupe Mountains National Park. Anna is hiking and discovers the remains of a fellow ranger, Sheila Drury. It appears she was killed by a mountain lion and an autopsy confirms it but Anna is not convinced. She believes the claw marks and scratches were faked. Although her superiors close the case, Anna conducts her own investigation. Sheila's relationship with another woman and incriminating photos lead Anna to suspect Sheila's lover. But Sheila's work to promote public use of the park was opposed by ranchers, hunters and other park employees and suddenly Anna has more suspects than she can handle. She's a tough cookie but she finds herself in mortal danger when she

The Anna Pigeon series takes readers to various locations and provides a different setting for each whodunit. Anna is a unique and three-dimensional character with plenty of flaws. She is not always sympathetic but she is realistic and believable. The others are not as well fleshed out but the heroine and the extraordinary landscape over shadow the flat secondary cast. The plot is well crafted with plenty of twists and turns. I didn't find enough clues to help Anna solve the case but that might be a good thing because it kept me reading and I was more than satisfied with the ending. The others in the series only get better.

Publisher: Berkley (June 3, 2003)

ISBN: 978-0425190838

Paperback: 272 Pages

Price: $7.99

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa

Dirty Little Angels is Chris Tusa's first novel and it's a doozy. The story evokes comparisons to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Both books can both be called Southern Gothic complete with flawed, off-center characters. Both give voice to the downtrodden, depressed and rejected while examining the human condition. Tusa's gritty writing style is not for everyone but it suits Hailey Trosclair, the teenage protagonist, just fine. It's all told from her prospective. Readers can easily visualize Hailey's despair and confusion.

The setting is the slums of New Orleans, where the Trosclair family lives in financial hardship. Hailey's mother suffered a miscarriage and a back injury and she's depressed. Her adulterous husband drinks, he's out of work and spending his days in the pool hall. A divorce seems inevitable. Older brother Cyrus hangs with a bad crowd and has been arrested a few times. Hailey and Cyrus spend more and more time with Moses Watkins, a preacher and ex-con, who is converting an abandoned bank into a drive through church. But Moses is not the answer to their prayers. Instead he leads them on a path to crime and violence.

Chris Tusa writes with raw haunting realism and a keen insight into human psychology. He provides vivid details about his character's lives and they're not pretty. This is not a fast paced thriller; it's all about characterization and setting. The story is bleak, the people are teetering on the verge of hopelessness, it's not a book for the faint of heart or for those who like happy endings. Despite the grim realism it's a powerful look into the struggles people face as they go through life and it will linger in your thoughts long after you close the cover.

Publisher: Livingston Press (March 30, 2009)

ISBN: 978-1604890303

Pages: 170

Price: $15.95

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Monday, November 2, 2009

So Sue Me, JACKASS! by Amy Epstein Feldman and Robin Epstein

So Sue Me, JACKASS! by Amy Epstein Feldman and Robin Epstein is a book that will answer all the legal questions you've been afraid to ask - no matter how outlandish they may be - and it does it in a practical, easy to understand and humorous way.

Amy is a nationally syndicated legal columnist and general counsel for The Judge Group, Inc., an international business solutions provider. She's been asked every question you can imagine and then some. Friends, relatives and employees go to her for a multitude of reasons, not the least being she doesn't charge them $200 per hour for a consultation. Her sister Robin is an author, stand-up comic and former sitcom writer. She convinced Amy she should write a book - that it would be incredibly useful for people who don't have a relative who's a lawyer. Robin is a television writer but she shares a love of the law with her sister. Together they wrote So Sue Me, JACKASS!

The book is divided into topics and written in a question and answer format that is easy-to-use and fun to read. The sisters offer sanity-saving legal advice that entertains while giving you peace of mind. I was hooked as soon as I started reading Chapter 1: Your Job - Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Sell Your Soul to the Devil You Go! Amy answers such questions as - Is it illegal to make people work on National holidays? The short answer is NO. Or how about: Do you have any rights when it comes to a smelly coworker? Well, it depends where you work. The sisters offer some practical advice in case your town doesn't have an official policy for stinky employees. Boy, I could have used some of this advice in my previous life as a municipal drone. But even if the questions don't pertain to your life they're still informative and entertaining. The author's stories and humor make them a hoot to read. It's useful and fun and highly recommended.

There is a disclaimer. This book is not meant to be a substitute for getting your own lawyer should you need one. As Amy says "Let the very first piece of legal knowledge I bestow be this: He who acts as his own lawyer has a jackass for a client."

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Your Job
Chapter 2: Your Money
Chapter 3: Your Love Life
Chapter 4: Your Kids
Chapter 5: Your Online Profile
Chapter 6: Your Home
Chapter 7: Your Pets
Chapter 8: Your Ride
Chapter 9: Your Health
Chapter 10: Your Death
Chapter 11: Rights You Don't Have
Chapter 12: Our Conclusion

Check out the website at:
Publisher: Plume (September 29, 2009)
ISBN: 978-0452295742
Paperback: 320 pages
Price: $15.00


Friday, October 30, 2009

Kabul24 by Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson

The reports of arrests and kidnappings of Westerners in the Middle East are truly horrifying. I've often wondered why people travel to areas of unrest and put themselves in jeopardy. After reading Kabul 24 I have a better understanding of the dedication and faith of those who choose to answer a call from God and serve oppressed people. Kabul24 by Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson documents the kidnapping of twenty-four people who worked for Shelter Now International (SNI). The eight Western missionaries and sixteen Afghan coworkers were helping Afghan refugees rebuild their lives following decades of war.

There was nothing unusual about the Friday that changed their lives. It was the third of August in 2001 and it was blistering hot. Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer visited an Afghan family they had befriended. The women brought a Christian movie and a crowd of friends and neighbors joined the family to watch it. Their intent was not to convert the family but simply to share the gospel story because the family expressed a desire to learn more about Christianity. But Dayna and Heather were arrested by the Taliban that day for infringing on Sharia Law and eventually the others in their group, Peter Bunch, Katrin Jelinek, Margrit Stebner, Georg Taubmann, Silke Duerrkopf and Diana Thomas were taken into custody as well. Sixteen Afghan men were also arrested and held separately. They had been under no pressure to convert and they remained committed to their own Islamic faith but the Taliban accused them of converting to Christianity. They were held in a section of the prison separate from the two Western men, beaten and tortured. The hostages were denied the basic rights we take for granted. There are shocking descriptions of their interrogations and the prison conditions but they never lost hope and their faith and devotion is truly inspiring. The incident preceded the 9/11 attacks.

The source material for the book included raw film footage of interviews with the SNI hostages, Eberhard Muehlan's "Escape from Kabul" and letters and court documents. The amazing story is very well written and reads like a novel. There are black and white photos included. It gave me a chance to learn first hand about a different culture from the safety of my home and it made me thankful to be living in the United States. It's an inspirational and thought provoking account of real faith and answered prayers. A definite page-turner, I highly recommend it.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (September 29, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1595550224
Paperback: 320 Pages
Price: $14.99


Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake provides a fresh new look at love and loss, life and death in the early days of World War II. It's a powerful treatise on the side effects and emotional turmoil of war that touches everyone. The story jumps between the residents of a small town on Cape Cod who believe the war doesn't affect them and a female radio broadcaster in London who tries to convince them it does. Eventually their lives intertwine in surprising ways proving that no one goes untouched in wartime.

The story follows the lives of three women in the early 1940s. The very proper Miss Iris James is the postmistress in Franklin, Mass. Iris is all business but one day she does the unthinkable and doesn't deliver a letter. The fragile newcomer in town is Emma who marries Will Fitch, the local doctor. Iris and Emma listen to Frankie Bard on the radio. Frankie is an American war correspondent in London. She's working with Edward R. Murrow broadcasting her impressions of the war to the people back in the U.S. When America is drawn into the war, the lives of these three women come to a head.

Although Blake appears to have done her research on the war years, this is not a story about battles and soldiers. It's a story about the people at home, their attitudes and how the war effects them. The story doesn't always flow smoothly and it unfolds slowly. I didn't really become involved until I read several chapters. Once I did I enjoyed the book. The situations are emotional, but I found it hard to connect with most of the characters. It might be due to the head-hopping which is disorienting to me. At times, the author switches the point of view from one character's head into another, sometimes in the same paragraph, making it tough to get attached to them. The book is called The Postmistress but I thought Frankie was the focal character and easier to relate to. She gives readers a good view of the atrocities happening in Europe - the bombings, death and the refugees. Despite the flaws, the story is thought provoking and captivating in parts. The author does bring the time period alive and she captures the war atmosphere, the desperation of the refugees and the attitudes and complacence of the Americans. It's well worth a read.

Publisher: Putnam Adult (February 9, 2010)

ISBN: 978-0399156199

Hardcover: 336 pages

Price: $25.95

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Grin of the Dark - A Macabre Tale by Ramsey Campbell

Remember the demonic creature in a clown suit in Stephen King's "It." Master of horror, Ramsey Campbell takes a different but equally chilling approach and uses the eeriness of clowns to create a psychological mystery in his novel The Grin of the Dark.

Campbell's cleverly crafted plot is more psychological page-turner than horror story. There's none of the violence that is usually found in the horror genre. The unrelenting sense of impending dread provides the chills. The sinister atmosphere and malevolent presence in cyberspace raises goose bumps and the first person narrative style immerses you in the madness.

Simon Lester is a film reviewer who is left jobless after a stint with a controversial magazine comes to an end. He works at a gas station and is forced to move in with his girlfriend and her young son. Her parents take every opportunity to remind him he's not worthy of her. Finally things start looking up. A former professor hires him to expand on his thesis and write a book about silent film star, Tubby Thackery, whose outrageous antics used to cause riots in his audiences. Research proves difficult as Simon embarks on a journey that exposes him to some surreal scenarios and e-mail exchanges with a snide film buff. Disturbing events take place as Simon delves deeper into Tubby's life. Is he being persecuted or is it his imagination? The reader is never quite sure because the only perspective is Simon's and the unreliable narrator is obviously losing his grip on reality.

The suspense is all the more brutal because it builds slowly through the excellent use of atmosphere, dialogue and internal monologue. The macabre story is dark but also has some genuinely humorous moments. Deliberately misspelled words, doubled consonants and anagrams add a unique twist. That being said, The Grin of the Dark is not an easy read. Parts of the story are confusing and the detailed descriptions sometimes become repetitious. Lester is not a particularly likeable protagonist and the end of his tale is predictable. But ultimately the story is extremely convincing and well worth a read.

Publisher: Tor (July 2008)
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1939-5
Pages: 400
Price: $25.95

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Experiment - A Novel by Richard Setlowe

I'm still at the beach and thinking water so here's one of my all time favorite novels about man and the ocean. The Experiment - A Novel by Richard Setlowe

There have been many stories about men who live under the ocean, including comic book hero, Aquaman, who made his first appearance in 1941 and later became part of the "Justice League of America."

But the one that sticks in my mind is about Harry Styles, a most credible and incredible hero. For those who haven't read THE EXPERIMENT by Richard Setlowe, Harry is the protagonist, the aquatic astronaut in this medical science fiction thriller.

Aerospace engineer, Harry Styles, is thirty-six years old; he has a wife, three young children and a home in Los Angeles, California. He also has terminal lung cancer. The family is enjoying a barbeque one afternoon when Harry decides to give his eleven year old son a snorkel lesson. The two submerge to fill the boy's face mask. Harry surfaces, choking and fighting for breath, and ends up back in the hospital.

He's close to death when Dr. Karl Steinhardt approaches him. The researcher in respiration and oxygen assimilation offers him a chance to participate in an experimental operation. He's developed an artificial gill and he needs a volunteer to test it on. Harry's lungs would be replaced by gills. Harry is told he will never regain consciousness; never know if the operation is a success. But he also knows that no experiment is a complete failure, science will learn from this. He's fascinated and yet horrified at the same time, but he takes the chance to make his mark on science.

Against all odds Harry awakes and finds himself enclosed in a huge glass prison, able to breathe only underwater. As his family becomes more alienated from a man who must spend his days submerged Harry tries to deal with the loneliness of his new silent life. The haunting conclusion both moves and terrifies and will stay in your mind for some time to come.

Setlowe makes the fantastic believable because he's populated his tale with characters who struggle with real issues. They're vulnerable people with emotions that communicate feelings readers will identify with. The detailed descriptions of Harry's illness and his family's grief are heart wrenching. This thought-provoking plot touches on science, ecology, spiritual issues, moral dilemmas and most importantly what it means to be human. It's a terrific story that moves swiftly but is told with great depth. And it's one that will remain with you long after you turn the last page.

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston; 1st edition (April 1980)

ISBN-13: 978-0030417450

Pages: 299

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm Bugged - How to get through a Nor'easter

I'm in beautiful Ocean City MD and in between Nor'easters I whiled away an hour in the book store - like I don't have enough books on my TBR list. I picked up a copy of Asimov's Science Fiction and lo and behold, there was Jeff Carlson on the cover. If you read my previous post you'll remember I reviewed his post-apocalyptic novel Plague Year. I loved the book so I was forced to buy the magazine and read his short story, A Lovely Little Christmas Fire.

"It's a sprightly tale in which two intrepid bug-hunters must dampen the holiday spirit of some “macho” termites as they all make an unholy mess of the holiest of Christian holidays."

It seems Carlson likes to write about bugs. I like to read about bugs. They seriously creep me out, even more than Zombies do. Actually, I like Zombies. There's not much that bugs me. Get it.
Anyway, I enjoyed the story. Pick up a copy of the December 2009 issue. It's all good.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Plague Year by Jeff Carlson

I just finished an awesome sci-fi thriller that resonates because it's so believable. If you like post-apocalyptic fiction pick up a copy, you won't be sorry.

Nanotechnology gone awry is the terrifying and all too believable premise of Plague Year, a post-apocalyptic novel by Jeff Carlson. This high-energy thriller is book one of a trilogy that recounts the tale of a chilling doomsday scenario. What is nanotechnology? Simply put it's the engineering of tiny machines. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A human hair is about 25,000 nanometers wide. The benefits of nanotechnology are limitless, the dangers unthinkable and when humanity is forced to take to the hills - literally - it may very well mean the end of the world.

A rogue scientist unleashes nanotechnology designed to fight cancer. But the tiny medical robots destroy other cells as well and they spread at an alarming rate killing everything under an elevation of 10,000 feet. Cam Najarro, a ski bum, along with a small group of survivors are camped on a California mountaintop in the High Sierras. In order to survive they make trips below 10,000 feet to forage for supplies but exposure to the machine plague is dangerous and they can't remain below for long periods of time. When they exhaust their supplies, they cannibalize the weakest members of their group. Their situation is looking bad when a survivor from another mountain camp shows up. Hollywood traveled through the valley and barely made it through the plague zone to find them. He's looking for others to join his camp. There are mixed opinions and some choose to stay put. Out of those who decide to make the trek to the other mountain, only Cam and Sawyer survive and at a terrible cost to their health. Sawyer claims to know something about the plague and this new camp has a radio but no one is picking up their transmission.

Meanwhile the U.S. capital has been set up in Leadville, Colorado, which at 10,150 feet is the highest incorporated city in the United States. The best minds in nanotechnology are there working on a cure. Ruth Goldman, a researcher aboard the International Space Station thinks she can develop an ANN (anti-nano). She's brought to Leadville but she discovers that not everyone is interested in stopping the plague. The politicians and the military want to use it as a weapon of mass destruction.

This thought-provoking sci-fi thriller is one of the most realistic looks at a post-apocalyptic future I've read. The premise is original and highly entertaining. Carlson paints vivid descriptions of the devastation and what it means to live above 10,000 feet elevation. He's assembled a rich cast complete with all the weaknesses and flaws that make them human. His characters are a microcosm of humankind at its best and worst. I love the way they pull the reader right into the story and reveal the back history as the plot develops. The science is plausible and detailed without slowing the pace. The story kept me on the edge of my seat until the last page. I'm looking forward to reading Plague War, the second book in the trilogy.

Publisher: Ace; First Printing edition (July 31, 2007)

ISBN: 978-0441015146

Paperback: 304 Pages

Price: $7.99

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