Monday, January 25, 2010

What I'm Reading

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger
"From the day Cobb and Mary meet kayaking on Maine's Allagash River and fall deeply in love, the two approach life with the same sense of adventure they use to conquer the river's treacherous rapids. But rivers do not let go so easily...and neither does their love. So when Mary's life takes the cruelest turn, she vows to face those rough waters on her own terms and asks Cobb to promise, when the time comes, to help her return to their beloved river for one final journey."

Kill Dress by John Young
"April, Joi, Nancy, Heather, and Kim were the best of friends. After losing her boyfriend, Kim was devastated and needed a vacation. Traveling to Louisiana in order to relax and clear her mind with her friend Joi, the two ladies discover an old woman whose ancient ancestors made dress garments for Queens Nefertari, Cleopatra, and the Queen of Sheba. Little did Kim know that these dress garments were made out of secret mystical fibers that had an uncanny sensual effect on some men. After Kim had a gorgeous dress made for her by the old woman, she and her friends find out that the sexy enchanted dress was more than they had bargained for. This amazing dress that Kim had decided to wear was affecting the sexual senses of a number of men, including arousing the killing senses of a brutal serial killer. Even TV reporters, talk show personalities, and other media outlets were starting to believe that the hypnotic, beautiful dress had something to do with the killings. Many believed that if Kim were to destroy the dress then the killings would stop. However, Kim defiantly decided that she should wear the Kill Dress no matter what the cost in order to show women that they have the Constitutional right to freedom of expression."

The Liberation of Henry Belmont by Steve Godofsky
"When Henry Belmont learns that he has ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and has just three years to live, he doesn't make any phone calls. He doesn't rush to tell his friends and family. He tells no one. He doesn't want to be pitied for this fast approaching end to an unspectacular life. His life could have been different. He could have been something else, maybe even someone else. But he isn't going to waste the precious time he has left. Henry decides to spend the rest of his life doing the things that previously were relegated to fantasy. And in the end, he will find the freedom to be the person he's always wanted to be in The Liberation of Henry Belmont. Author Steve Godofsky grew up in Long Island, New York and now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. The author of Mind Reader and Questionable Therapy, Steve is currently working on his next novel."

Size Eight in Size Zero World by Meredith Cagen
"Meet Lindsay Chandler-a 32 year-old New York working wife and mother with old-fashioned values who thinks she's living a fairy tale life (she's not). Then an unexpected friendship with her upstairs neighbor (he is smart, successful, sophisticated and sexy- she's not) unleashes her passion and re-ignites her sparkle. This liaison causes her to question the way she lives her life. Yearning for a storybook ending, she decides to make changes in her life, embarking on a quest for self re-invention."

Buried Alive by Roy Hallums
"Contractor Roy Hallums recounts the harrowing ten months he was held captive by Iraqi insurgents, the heroic rescue by American troops, and the faith that helped him survive it all."


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unearthed - An Anthology of Suspense

Those who like haunting stories of supernatural suspense will find Unearthed: An Anthology of Suspense just what the doctor ordered. There are four original stories by four different writers. Edmond Cheng, author of Illusion, sent me a digital copy for review so I read his contribution first.

Thomas and Karen Chan have been married for three years when things start to go bad. It all begins with a visit to his office from Aunt Wai Ha, the mother of his good buddy, Jonathan. The old woman confides in Thomas. Jonathan's wife Helen is having an affair and he must be the one to tell his friend. Thomas promises he will. That night he tells his wife about the visit and she's shocked. Coincidently she had a visit also, from Jonathan who told her Aunt Wai Ha has been dead for months. Thomas tries to put this strange experience behind him but stranger things are about to happen. Is it really Helen who is having an affair or is it Thomas' wife, Karen who is seeing another man? Is the ghost of Aunt Wai Ha haunting Thomas or is he imagining everything? Soon it's impossible to tell reality from illusion.

Edmond Cheng is Chinese, and although the English is not perfect, the mix of cultures adds richness to the story. Part mystery and part ghost story it's also a cleverly plotted psychological thriller. An engaging read that will keep you guessing until the end.

The other three stories are also intriguing. In Last Fragment by Shawn McPike, carpenter, Stuart Nichols accepts a job from TJ McDermott and has problems right from the start. Strange occurrences put his life in danger and make him question his own sanity.

In Help Me by David A. Stelzig, Mario Pinelli is a functioning alcoholic who believes he's responsible for the death of his wife and sister. Ex-lover, Barbara Stevens thinks she's being stalked and calls him for help. He can't help getting involved, thinking he will atone for past mistakes but he becomes a target himself.

In Crown of the Earth by Seth E. Lender, Detective Nicole Marcos has only one lead in the murder of her sister but it may cost her, her life.

All four stories are entertaining mysteries with characters that are flawed but sympathetic. They're not easy reads, but tales that make you think. I'm sure we'll be seeing more from these talented writers.

Publisher: Midnight Showcase

ISSN 1555 - 5496 VOL. 109-22ED

E-book: $5.99

Paperback: $13.95

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn

The Silver Skull is book one in a new series - Swords of Albion. Author Mark Chadbourn gets things off to a smashing start with a swashbuckling hero who battles the Faerie Realm in an alternate Elizabethan England. Chadbourn, has won the British Fantasy Award twice. A former journalist, he's written eleven novels as well as non-fiction. This is the first book of his that I've read. It won't be the last. I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining historical fantasy adventure.

Will Swyfte is the greatest of Lord Francis Walsingham's spies and there are those who wonder why a spy would want to be so well known. But it's only a facade so the people will have a hero to look up to and Will can cover up his real duty and the true purpose of the spy network. But now England is threatened by a supernatural force that intends to eradicate the human race. Beneath the Thames a procession of lights moves toward the impregnable Tower of London where a special prisoner and a powerful artifact have been kept for twenty years. The building is breached, the guards killed and the prisoner, a powerful doomsday weapon, is released. Now England's greatest spy must fight the darkness before the nation is destroyed. He's vowed to protect his Queen and country from a secret enemy, the Fae, who are consorting with Spain. He has another reason for hating the forces of Faerie. When he was younger they stole his one true love and he can't forget her. If Will can't stop the enemy from acquiring three magical artifacts, the Skull, the Key and the Shield then England will fall.

The historical detail in this book sets a believable backdrop for a spy who could pass for a fantastical James Bond. Will Swifte, adventurer, swordsman, rake and the greatest spy is a larger than life character. James Bond has his Q and Will has Dr. John Dee, a member of the secret service. He provides the incredible gadgets for Will and the other spies. I thought all the characters were well developed and sympathetic. Tension abounds and the scare factor is high as they are pitted against supernatural threats and a bit of horror in a late sixteenth century paranormal England. Chadbourn sets a fast pace with plenty of twists and turns. Nothing is as it seems. It's an excellent read. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

Publisher: Pyr (November 24, 2009)

ISBN: 978-1-59102-783-6

Paperback: 425 Pages

Price: $16.00

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon

The Wolf's Hour, written in 1989 by Robert R. McCammon, is an awesome book! I was hooked on page one and I finished it in record time. It immediately went to the top of my keeper list. I can't believe it took me so long to discover it. This is not your typical werewolf tale. The novel is actually two stories in one book. It's a World War II adventure about Michael Gallatin, an intelligence agent in the midst of trying to stop the Nazi agenda. It's also the history of Mikhail Gallatinov and how he becomes a werewolf. The two men are one and the same and McCammon weaves Michael's past and present together seamlessly.

In 1944 Allied Intelligence gets wind of something coming which might ruin the allied invasion of Europe. They need more information and Adam, the agent who has it, is in Paris being watched by the Gestapo. Master spy, Michael Gallatin, is called out of seclusion to retrieve the Intel. He parachutes into occupied France and contacts Adam to arrange a meeting. Adam is killed but Michael escapes. He pretends to swallow a cyanide capsule, but instead shifts into a werewolf and kills the Gestapo. The dangerous mission then leads him to Berlin, the center of the Third Reich, to put down a secret Nazi plan called the "Iron Fist." The story shifts to the past. It's 1918 and Mikail Gallintov sees his parents and sister brutally murdered by a Russian death squad. The same fate would have been his but the assailants were killed by wolves. In the chaos, Mikail is bitten. But these are no ordinary wolves. Mikail becomes a lycanthrope and lives with the werewolf clan in a Russian forest.

This extraordinary story kept me reading into the wee hours of morning. I especially enjoyed Michael's introduction to the world of lycanthropy. No one has ever done it in more detail and so beautifully real. The characters live and breathe. Michael is the ultimate alpha hero. There's action aplenty and some of it is graphic and pretty brutal - the worst of it is committed by the humans. McCammon's depiction of Europe and the war will please fans of history. Lovers of the supernatural will be intrigued by Michael's conversion to a werewolf. And those who enjoy spy and military stories will find this one will hold their interest. It would make a great movie. I highly recommend it.

Publisher: Pocket (August 15, 1990)

ISBN: 978-0671731427

Mass Market Paperback: 432 Pages

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Until Now by Denise Skelton

Until Now by Denise Skelton is a wonderfully realistic and cleverly written romance. Two people cross paths and their lives are forever changed. Although they have both sworn off getting involved in serious relationships they begin to change their thinking. The multicultural characters have many challenges and conflicts to overcome but love conquers all. The author likes to give her stories happy endings and this one is no exception.

Terry Myers' life is spinning out of control. She and her two sons live in Chicago. Terry's ex is a deadbeat dad, remarried and working on his third baby with his new younger wife while Terry struggles to put food on the table for their boys. Things go from bad to worse when Terry loses her customer service job at the mall.

F.B.I. agent, Wade Nelson carries his own baggage including a traumatic past with an abusive father. He has just moved back to Chicago and has to deal with him again. Terry has a really bad day and she runs into Wade at the market. He gives her a helping hand and she doesn't expect to see him again. But Terry's son attends Thomas Jefferson High School where Wade is working undercover as an English teacher, looking for someone selling illegal drugs. Wade catches her son involved with a group of boys who are smoking and in possession of marijuana. Events throw them together in many situations, some funny and some very emotional. There is a definite attraction between them but Terry has sworn off men and Wade has his own agenda.

Mystery and romance spice up an entertaining story. Real life situations give depth to a story that is emotional yet amusing. Terry is African-American and Wade is Malaysian. The racial diversity not only defines the characters but also gives readers a chance to learn about other cultures. Terry reminds me of the character on "Desperate Housewives" who is always getting into goofy and humorous situations. Terry is not always likeable and sometimes her antics are implausible. She works in customer service and yet she talks on her cell phone and ignores a customer. The result is that she loses a job that she needs desperately. Still, I sympathized with her. Being a single parent is tough and I wanted her to find happiness at the end. I like the fact that the romance between her and Wade develops slowly. Readers get to know the characters as they get to know each other. It's an engaging read about romance and relationships.

Publisher: First Chance Publishing (November 6, 2009)

ISBN: 978-0979087738

Paperback: 336 Pages

Price: $9.99

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Coming for Money: A Novel of International Finance by F.W. Vom Scheidt

It's been said that money is the root of all evil. Actually it's the love of money that causes all the problems. Some people will lie, cheat, steal, and do whatever it takes to make more money and those actions will eat away at their moral and ethical values. In Coming for Money: A novel of International Finance by F.W. Vom Scheidt, the author tells a tale of morality and the nature of man's relationship with wealth. It's also a fascinating look into the world of high finance. The author is a director of an international investment firm and he draws on his own first hand experience giving the story substance and meaning not always found in fiction.

Paris Smith is an International Investment broker at the top of his game. He knows how to make money, lots of money, and it's the impetus and motivation that keeps him going. When his wife becomes ill he takes off to care for her. When he loses her he's overwhelmed by loneliness and starts to think about his own mortality. He tries to compensate by losing himself in work and he gets involved in a fraudulent bond deal that threatens to ruin his career and his life. His integrity is challenged and fearing failure, he starts his own investigation, traveling between Toronto, Singapore and Bangkok and racing against a deadline to complete a one hundred million dollar bond transaction gone wrong. In the process he finds himself and meets a woman who may be the one to heal his heart.

The story is well written. It's fascinating and fast paced, filled with schemes, corruption and corporate intrigue. It's also a character driven study of a man's struggle to find himself. The first-person narrative provides an intimate look inside the mind of someone who is too focused on wealth and material possessions and wants to find real happiness. The hero is flawed but sympathetic. He feels guilt, hurt, betrayal and anger. Readers can understand his conflicts both internal and external. The underlying themes are universal and thought provoking.

I enjoyed the book immensely and was left thinking about a quote by George Lorimer, editor of the Saturday Evening Post from 1899 until 1936 - "It's good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven't lost the things that money can't buy."

Publisher: Blue Butterfly Books (October 1, 2009)

ISBN-13: 978-0978498283

Paperback: 264 pages

Price: $24.9

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Savage Days Haunted Nights by Bennett Kremen

Savage Days Haunted Nights by Bennett Kremen is a crime drama about a man who is a walking contradiction. Dorian embodies a mix of good and evil and the opposition between his conflicting ideas, behavior and feelings threatens to drive him crazy. The story will take you to Chicago, New York and even the wilds of Alaska and Kremen's detailed descriptions will put you right in the thick of the action.

Dorian and his girlfriend, Ana, live in Manhattan and work the flea markets together. She finds the items to sell and he does the heavy lifting and rents the truck. Two weeks ago she left him because he decided he wanted a baby. Without her sales expertise he's having trouble making ends meet and he makes a big mistake. He borrows $15,000 from a loan shark and has no means to pay him back. The interest piles up and Frankie wants his money. Then Dorian makes an even bigger mistake. He runs into Frankie near Sully's Pub and when Frankie demands his money, Dorian becomes belligerent and gets in his face. He threatens Frankie, emphasizing the fact that he's from the old West Side in Chicago, Capone territory. This doesn't sit well with Frankie and before long the word is out that Frankie is gunning for him. Dorian holes up in his apartment and thinks about his past. He was a dyslexic boy who couldn't read and ended up hanging with a bunch of hoodlums. When he got a little older he made his way to New York with a bag of stolen money. He wanted to do better and he painstakingly wrote book reviews and essays but his impaired ability to comprehend written words made it a very slow process and he couldn't make a living at it. When he met Ana the two of them scratched out a living and he was happy. But then things went sour and now he's afraid to go outside. Dorian hears that Ana is being threatened and his old violent nature surfaces. There's no way he can allow Ana to be terrorized. He leaves the apartment via the roof and manages to buy a gun.

This is a story about buried hopes, the choices people make and the consequences that result. Dorian is a convincing character and the author makes you privy to his thoughts as he tries to analyze his situation and how to deal with it. Will he learn from past mistakes or continue on a destructive path? There's plenty of suspense and action along the way. It's an engrossing read on many levels. I expect we'll see more from Bennett Kremen.

Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (October 12, 2008)

ISBN: 978-1419655029

Paperback: 278 Pages

Price: $15.00

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ariel Hyatt's Music Success in Nine Weeks

This is a book specifically written to show musicians how to promote their bands. I'm not a musician, so you might wonder why I would be interested in reviewing it. Some years back I was involved in band publicity in a very small way. My son studied piano and guitar. He played in a number of local bands and they cut a few CDs. At one point he envisioned a career in the music world. Aside from being an appreciative audience, I helped with publicity and started a web site for him. Although he is now involved in other pursuits, such as raising a family, music is and always will be a part of his life. And now my two grandsons are on the brink of starting piano and guitar lessons. Who knows, I may be promoting them one of these days so I read Music Success in Nine Weeks by Ariel Hyatt with an eye to the future. Wow, have I been out of touch. There is so much more to promoting these days.

Ariel Hyatt has solid credentials. She founded Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR, a music publicity firm in 1996 and she holds workshops and boot camps to teach musicians how to achieve success. I was very impressed with her step by step guide. She doesn't miss a thing. The book is packed with great ideas. So much has changed and so many new avenues for publicity have been opened up by the digital age it's easy to miss what might be an important step to success.

With week one the author begins by creating an atmosphere for setting realistic goals then week two teaches you how to write a good pitch to describe your music. Next she tells you how to optimize your website and get visitors to join your fan base. Week four is all about Cyber PR, using social networking sites to connect with fans. In week five you will be creating your blog and in week six a band newsletter. In week seven you will learn how to grow a healthy fan email list. The internet is important but you still need an offline presence. Week eight shows you how to connect with people in person. Week nine helps you create a product line, CDs, tee-shirts, etc. the book may seem high priced but it's well worth it and you also get a free lifetime membership to Hyatt's closed online Mastermind Forum where you get support and can meet other musicians.

Ariel's book is not a lot of hype and self promotion. She teaches musicians how to promote themselves. A lot of the advice is applicable to other professions, especially artists and photographers. The book is easy to read and fun to follow. I recommend it to anyone who is serious about getting more publicity and is willing to devote nine weeks to doing it.

Publisher: Ariel Publicity; First edition (June 20, 2008)

ISBN: 978-0981633107

Paperback: 152 Pages

Price: $34.99

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Sweet By and By written by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck

I'm a long time fan of Sara Evans. I love her music and I enjoyed watching her dance on the TV show "Dancing with the Stars," but I had no idea she could write - and write so well. The Sweet By and By is a collaborative effort by Sara Evans and Christian romance writer, Rachel Hauck so I don't know how much of the story was really Sara's but I do know that I enjoyed reading it. It's a story about reconciliation and relationships - a couple in love, a mother and daughter and a person's relationship with God. It's a bittersweet story that will tug at your heartstrings.

Jade Freedom Fitzgerald owns a vintage shop and she's about to marry Max Benson, a lawyer from Whisper Hollow, Tennessee. Max comes from a wealthy family and Jade feels unworthy of them. When she left home ten years ago to go to college she buried a sordid past and she has lied to Max about her past and her parents. Jade's future mother-in-law, June, wants her to invite her mother to the wedding and she gives in. When Jade's hippy mother, Beryl and her wild younger sister, Willow, show up three weeks before the wedding Jade is forced to confront old wounds.

This is a fast and engrossing read that flows so smoothly you will not believe it was written by two people. The family dynamics are realistically portrayed and the characters brought to life with very real emotions. Flashbacks of the past add depth to this emotional page turner and the end will satisfy.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 5, 2010)
ISBN: 978-1595544896
Hardcover: 272 Pages
Price: $19.99


Monday, January 4, 2010

Diving Into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

This year I'm going to do more writing, more reading and more reviewing. So here's the first Camp Swampy review for 2010.

Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is classic science fiction; a well-told tale of space adventure and dangerous exploration that will keep fans of the genre turning the pages. The time is 5,000 years in the future and the main character, a woman known only as Boss, explores abandoned and drifting space ships and ends up tackling some complex issues.

Boss is a loner, an ethical woman who takes tourists to visit safe wrecks and specializes in salvaging abandoned spacecraft, but her real love is the historical value of the ships. When a blip on her sensors leads her to a derelict ship, she's astounded to discover it's a Dignity Vessel, a five thousand year old Earth-made ship that could not possibly have survived. The ancient ship contains unperfected stealth technology, the same technology that killed her mother when she was a child. It's an enormous find and she's determined to investigate further. Boss recruits a top-notch team of space divers but she doesn't reveal her suspicions about the ship, preferring to hear their unprejudiced opinions. When the team members recognize the vessel, one member is panic-stricken. Squishy spent years in the military trying to recreate the tech on old ships, with disastrous results. She urges Boss to abort and blow up the vessel, but Boss is determined to recover the secrets of the past. The team takes well rehearsed precautions but still two of divers die while exploring. Squishy reports the deaths to the authorities and they declare the wreck off limits. Boss retires but the past still haunts her and she knows that stealth technology in the hands of the military may lead to intergalactic war.

Rusch is the author of the "Retrieval Artist series" and a former editor of "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction." She's also written romance and mystery novels under different names. This book is actually three tales woven together to form an intense story with depth and history. The characters are not as well developed, except for Boss, whose first person narration makes the reader an eyewitness to the vast, silent realms of deep space where even the smallest error in judgment or equipment will bring disaster. It's an eminently readable book with just enough science to make it real and Rusch raises some moral and ethical dilemmas in a thought provoking manner. The story is compellingly human and technically absorbing with suspense that builds to fevered intensity and culminates in a plausible and explosive conclusion.

Publisher: PYR (November 24, 2009)

ISBN: 978-1-59102-786-7

Paperback: 267 Pages

Price: $16.00

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year! Wow. Where did the time go? I feel like 2009 came and went in flash. It was a year of goals - some met and some not. The biggest one, literally, is losing the pesky ten pounds that has now crept up to twenty. So I'm carrying that one over and putting it at the top of my 2010 Goals list.

Number two is the third Ezine challenge. 100 Articles in 100 Days Marathon Challenge began at 12:01 AM and goes until 11:59 PM April 10th. I've submitted my first article and have plans for many more. I want to win those prizes:
#HAHD Certificate of Achievement
Original Limited-Edition EzineArticles #HAHD Trophy Mug
Limited-Edition EzineArticles #HAHD Mouse Pad
Limited-Edition EzineArticles Giant Beach Ball
Limited-Edition EzineArticles Hat
But most of all I want the push to write every day. It keeps the juices flowing and the increased traffic is an additional bonus.

Number three is a writing workshop that starts on January 4th. A month-long plotting boot camp led by drill instructors, multi-published Delilah Devlin and Elle James. I'm really looking forward to working with these two ladies and honing my craft.

And there are hundreds of books to be read...

It looks to be a very busy January. Hope you all have a great year!