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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