Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bonnie McGee left a life as a teacher to circumnavigate the world on a yacht with her husband. Voices On The Wind is the story of that voyage. The book starts with the famous poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”. McGee’s yacht shared the same name, Road Not Taken, and provided the means for the couple to embark on a voyage that few of us have the courage and daring to attempt.

The book is a series of stories about the various places and people encountered along the way on the voyage. The reader is transported to far-away places rich in animal life and beauty, and discovers along with author the cultural visions of the people in those places. McGee narrates the values and beliefs of these tribal people of Africa and Australia and South America and the Tahitian islands. The overriding value of all these people is that of sustaining family relationships, and the work ethic of the West is viewed with surprise and suspicion. When, they ask, does a man spend time with his family and friends? The need for money and material possessions is greeted with astonishment. Most of these tribal people share their possessions with those around them, and take from the environment only what they need to survive for that day or week. Storing up treasures is foreign to them.

Another interesting theme of the book is the sailing language and concepts the reader encounters. One of the longest stories in the book tells of how the couple survived Hurricanes Irma and Jason while wintering in Australia. To hear the tale of what is required to survive such a harrowing natural event is eye-opening. The reader learns how dangerous it is to enter harbors, and how sailing through storms is a test of courage that few of us will ever have to endure.

This is an oversized book, and the reason is the gorgeous photographs that illustrate every page. There are shots of scenery from islands to jungles to bustling coastal towns. Animals such as elephants and sea life and an intrepid sea-faring dog are portrayed. There are scores of images taken from the yacht, showing the glorious maritime scenes that the couple was able to see daily. Many of the pictures show the various people met. There are scenes of tribal women performing traditional dances, of tribesmen paddling long canoes, of men performing the fishing work that sustains life. Above all, there are photographs of the many children. All are curious, interested to see how life is lived elsewhere, and smiling smiles of joy and welcome.

This book is recommended for readers who enjoy travel books as well as for those interested in hearing about reaching out and grabbing the dream of another life. Those who indulge will come away inspired and refreshed. This is a gorgeous book and one that is highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman

In Bad Mother, Ayelet Waldman talks about how all mothers are made to feel like they are performing poorly as mothers, regardless of their choices.  Waldman is married to the novelist, Michael Chabon, and together they have four children.  She gives the reader an intimate view of the choices she has made as a mother, and the negative feedback she has gotten for some of her choices.

The book is written in eighteen chapters, each discussing common parenting issues.  The stay-at-home mom vs. the working mom is covered, and how each is criticized for what they choose for their family.  The marriage partnership and how work is divided is a chapter.  Chapters I found especially relevant was one about how they elected to abort a child identified with birth defects, and one that talked about how to discuss sex and the parents' sexual history with one's children.  I also liked the chapter about the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship which gave me new ways to look at this common issue through a new filter.  The chapter about helping children with their social relationships and not dragging your own angst into the issue was timely, and I loved the chapter about hating homework.

This book is recommended for all readers.  Those who are parents will recognize themselves, or at least the issues that most parents face, while those who have remained childless will gain a better understanding of what family life is like. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Impossible Motherhood by Irene Vilar

Impossible Motherhood is the memoir of a woman who had fifteen abortions in fifteen years.  Although many will find the author totally unsympathic, others will read her story and understand what motivated her.  Irene Vilar lost her mother at age eight, when her mother opened the car door while the car was in motion, throwing herself out and killing herself in front of her child.  Having learned from her mother that a female should be pleasing to others, Vilar stuffed down her feelings about this event and channeled her emotions into her schoolwork, succeeding to the point that she is accepted to college at age fifteen.

Leaving her family behind in Puerto Rico, Irene attends Syracuse University in the Northern part of the United States, an environment as different from Puerto Rico as is imaginable. At fifteen, she is left by her father at the college, knowing no one, with little money and little life experience.   Her family experiences are bleak.  Her father is an alchoholic, who cheats on all the women in his life.  Two of her brothers are drug addicts.  Vilar falls under the influence of a professor at the university and ends up staying with him for a dozen years.  He is sixty years old when they meet, and Irene is sixteen.  He insists on his freedom, never paying her way but insisting that she pay for her food, and half of any vacations, as well as paying him rent.  Since a child would tie him down, he insists on no children.  His basic rule was that he took but did not give back to anyone.

Irene's only rebellion, as she saw it, was forgetting to use her birth control.  Her pregnancies were acts of rebellion against this overpowering influence, a way of asserting her independance.  Yet after a month or two, the thought of losing him overwhelmed her, and she would abort another baby. 

This book, although it is hard to read at times, is recommended for all women; feminists,women caught in dependant relationships that are bad for them, mothers who want to avoid their daughters falling into this trap as well as any woman ambivalent about abortion.  Vilar's life story shows the dangers of giving up independance and control of your life to anyone else, of needing someone so badly that you rebel against your ideals.  The reader is simultaneously repulsed by the fate of all these babies and compelled to read further to hear how Vilar overcame this life and all it entailed. 

The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

In this, the fifth book of The Chronicles Of Narnia, Lucy and Edmund have returned to Narnia without Susan and Peter, who are now too old.  Their cousin, Eustace, considered obnoxious by everyone except his parents, is brought along with them, although he is fond of telling them that Narnia and Asland do not exist and are just a figment of their imaginations.

They arrive to find that King Caspian has decided to take a voyage on his royal ship, the Dawn Treader.  He plans to sail to the end of the world and find out what lies there and along the way.  He has pledged to determine the fate of the seven lords, friends of his father, who went on expedition when Caspian was a child and then never returned.  Lucy, Edmund and Eustace accompany Caspian, along with other characters the reader has met in previous books of the Chronicles.

The company encounters many strange lands and people.  There is the Land Where Dreams Come True, the Land of Deathwater, the Land of the Dufflepods, and the land where three of the lords are found to have been asleep for years.  The reader is drawn along on the adventure, interested to hear what will befall the company next.  At the end of the book, Caspian returns to Narnia, while the children return to their world.  This book is recommended for readers of all ages, and is especially recommended for families to read together.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Death In The Stocks by Georgette Heyer

Arnold Vereker has been found murdered and his body has been left in the stocks on the village green.  Vereker was wealthy and as the police investigate, they discover many characters who had a motive to kill him, most of them his relatives. 

There are his half-brother and half-sister, Kenneth and Antonia Vereker.  Arnold was their guardian and kept them on a very short lease.  Antonia is engaged to Rudolph Mesurier, the accountant at Vereker's business.  Arnold had just discovered that Mesurier had been embezzling funds and was ready to prosecute him.  Kenneth is also engaged, to a venomous but beautiful woman named Violet Williams.  She flirts with every man she encounters, and makes it clear that her affections can only be bought and paid for, never freely given.

Then there are the investigators.  Superintendant Hannasyde, finds the case perplexing, specifically because it seems so simple.  Giles Carrington is Kenneth and Antonia's cousin, and also their lawyer.  He helps the superintendant understand the relationships that exist, and they discuss the case over drinks and dinners.  A further wrench is thrown in the case when another half-brother emerges; Roger, who the family had thought dead for years.

Readers who enjoy cozy mysteries such as those written by Agatha Christie will enjoy Georgette Heyer's writing.  The character's speech and personalities place the setting firmly in England, and the mystery gets untangled satisfactorily.  This book is recommended for all readers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis

In Bitter Night, Diana Pharaoh Francis takes the reader into a fantasy world.  But this is not a pleasant fantasy.  This world is brutal and violent, where loyalty is given by compulsion spells that cannot be broken and everyone is out to best those around them. 

This world is controlled by witches.  Each witch has their own coven, and within their coven, they have soldiers who protect them with their lives, if need be.  The soldiers are of two types.  Shadowblades work at night, and can not withstand the light, while Sunspears work during the day, with darkness deadly to them. 

Max is the leader of the witch Giselle's coven; the Prime Shadowblade.  Giselle tricked her thirty years ago into giving up her human qualities to become an immortal being.  The problem is that she didn't tell Max that she would be giving up her life, her family, everything she loved.  Max hates Giselle, but cannot leave or disobey her orders. 

Now, in addition to the battles between witches, an even greater danger looms.  The Guardians, lords of all, have decided to bring down ultimate war and cleanse the earth of all humans.  To do so without destroying the earth, they need the obedience of the witches.  Both Giselle and her arch-rival Solange resist the Guardians, and their angels of destruction. 

Can Max and her crew manage to survive this new threat?  What kind of relationship will emerge between Max and Solange's Prime whom she defeated in battle and then recruited to her side?  Will the Guardians be successful or will the witches emerge as the new ultimate authority?

This book is the first in the Horngate Witches series.  It is recommended for sci-fi and fantasy fans who don't mind extreme violence.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Secret Of Joy by Melissa Senate

Rebecca Strand is at a crossroads.  She lives with Michael, but she's not sure she wants to take the next step and get married.  She has a job as a paralegal, which she knows she doesn't like, but can't get it together to move on and do something else.  Her beloved father is dying, and she doesn't know what she'll do when that happens.

Then everything changes.  Her father, in his last days, tells her a family secret.  He had an affair twenty-five years ago, and there was a baby from that relationship.  He couldn't face what he had done, and abandoned the baby and its mother; he never saw Rebecca's sister, nor had any kind of relationship with her.  No support money, no cards, no letters, no phone calls.

When he dies, Rebecca is left with huge questions.  How could someone she had loved so much and who had been such a wonderful parent to her have done such a thing?  Should she try and find her sister?  Will she be accepted by her?

After mulling it over and discovering that her sister's name is Joy and that she lives in Maine, Rebecca is pulled to go visit.  She finds Joy, who is not excited to meet her, and who insists that Daniel Strand means nothing to her.  Joy says he was nothing more than a DNA donor.  But Rebecca refuses to give up.  She falls in love with the town and develops relationships with several women there.  Even more, she fiinds Theo, who is everything that Michael is not.  Before she knows it, Rebecca has started a new life in Maine, with a rented house, a new dog and a determination to make her life what she knows she needs it to be.

This book is recommended for readers who enjoy women's literature and for those who enjoy books about family relationships and women finding their way in the world.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives is the story of a group of young poets in Mexico in the early 1970's.  The book is written in three parts.  The first part is the story of the Visceral Poet group, young poets and writers living in Mexico City, all Hispanics from various countries.  The founders of the group are Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano, who named the group after an earlier set of visceral poets in the 1920's.  That group centered around a female poet, Cesarea Tinajero, who disappeared mysteriously. 

In the first part, we meet the various characters through the eyes of a 17 year old, who thinks he might be a poet.  This young man, Juan Garcia Madero, spends his days reading and writing and discussing literature with the group members.  He also discovers his sexuality, and much of the section deals with his sexual awakenings and various partners.

The second part is written forty years later, and is written as a series of short interviews with various people who have encountered either Lima or Belano over those years.  Through these vignettes, we discover what has happened to these poets over the succeeding decades.  The story winds through several countries and continents.  Each person knows a bit of their stories, and the reader is able to slowly piece together their lives.

The third part is a flashback to the road trip that Belano, Lima, Madero and a prostitute take to try to find Cesarea and what caused her to disappear.  The events of that trip fuel the rest of the book, although the reader only realises this in retrospect.

The Savage Detectives is a book that will be considered important for years, and will probably become a classic.  Many readers might pick it up thinking it is a mystery, and they might be disappointed.  But those readers that stick around for the ride will be entranced as they enter Bolano's world.  This is definately a book that will bear rereads, and is recommended for readers who appreciate cutting edge literature and exposure to the literature of other countries.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) by Richard Polsky

In i sold Andy Warhol. (too soon), Richard Polsky takes the reader on a tour of high priced art and the dealer world of  artists, buyers, sellers, galleries, auction houses, and of course, the deal.  Polsky is well suited to this task as he has been involved in most of these roles.  As a former galley owner and collector, he purchased art and sold it.  He is intimately familiar with the big auction houses and the inside manuverings that characterize the transfer of great art from one collector to another.

The book is loosely organized around Polsky's quest to find an Andy Warhol painting for one of his clients.  They work the network, approaching known Warhol collectors, quizzing galleries, and attending auctions.  All of this brings angst to Polsky.  He had had a Warhol and sold it years ago, before the meteoric rise of art prices.  Seeing what a Warhol brought at today's prices (a million or more) made his selling that much more painful.

I found the discussion about how the art world is changing quite interesting.  Polsky sees a decline in galleries and more and more attention shifting to the big auctions.  He redefines himself in this world, changing his role to an art purchasing advisor rather than a gallery owner, and believes this is where many who want to stay in this world will end up as a career choice.  I also found the world of the super-rich and their concerns interesting.

This book is recommended for anyone interested in art, how artists work, and especially the finance of great art. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Thanks to Hachette, I'm able to give away three audio versions of Oprah's most recent Book Club pick, Say You're One Of Them by Uwem Akpan

Uwem Akpan's stunning stories humanize the perils of poverty and violence so piercingly that few readers will feel they've ever encountered Africa so immediately. The eight-year-old narrator of "An Ex-Mas Feast" needs only enough money to buy books and pay fees in order to attend school. Even when his twelve-year-old sister takes to the streets to raise these meager funds, his dream can't be granted. Food comes first. His family lives in a street shanty in Nairobi, Kenya, but their way of both loving and taking advantage of each other strikes a universal chord.

In the second of his stories published in a New Yorker special fiction issue, Akpan takes us far beyond what we thought we knew about the tribal conflict in Rwanda. The story is told by a young girl, who, with her little brother, witnesses the worst possible scenario between parents. They are asked to do the previously unimaginable in order to protect their children. This singular collection will also take the reader inside Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia, revealing in beautiful prose the harsh consequences for children of life in Africa.

Akpan's voice is a literary miracle,rendering lives of almost unimaginable deprivation and terror into stories that are nothing short of transcendent.

Giveaway Rules

You MUST, MUST, MUST leave an email address in your entry to be entered. I hate having to throw out winning entries because there is no way to contact the winner.

1. The giveaway starts Sunday, December 13th and ends Tuesday, December 29th at midnight.

2. There will be three winning entries, which will be chosen by a random number generator.

3. Winners will be emailed and must respond within three days in order to claim their prize. After three days, another winner will be chosen and notified.

4. For one entry, comment below with your email address attached. You can get additional entries by being or becoming a follower of this blog, posting about the giveaway on your blog, or tweeting about it on Twitter. If posting elsewhere, please provide the link.

5. Winners must have a street address in either the United States or Canada. No P.O. boxes allowed by Hachette, sorry!

Good luck! This sounds like an amazing book.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

100 Sporting Events You Must See Live by Robert Tuchman

100 Sporting Events You Must See Live is a no-brainer gift for the sports lover in your life.  Robert Tuchman's book, subtitled An Insider's Guide To Creating The Sports Experience Of A Lifetime, guides the average person in doing just that. 

The book lists 100 different amazing sports events.  Everything is here from the Masters and Super Bowl and World Cup to the Kentucky Derby, Westminister Dog Show, Calgary Stampede, Boston Marathon, Monaco Grand Prix, Ironman World Championship, and the most important down here in Tarheel country, the UNC vs. Duke basketball game.

For each event, Tuchman gives valuable information.  Categories include where the event is held, when, the significance and history of the event, notable athletes participating and how tickets are obtained.  He details travel arrangements, and even provides hotel and restaurants close by the action. 

This book is sure to be a favorite with any sports lover.  Meticulously researched, it provides help for those interested in going in person to these events, and a pleasant fantasy for those unable to go as they page through the book.  This book is recommended for sports lovers of any variety, and would be a welcome gift.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

Ren has spent all twelve of his years in Saint Anthony's Orphanage.  No one seems to know how he arrived or who his parents were, or most mysteriously, why he is missing his left hand.  This defect means that when the boys are lined up for inspection by those who come to adopt, Ren is never chosen.  Then one day a young man comes.  When he sees Ren, he falls to the ground in tears, exclaiming that this is his long-lost brother and of course, he must come with him immediately.  The Fathers of the orphanage agree, and Ren leaves with his new family, Benjamin Nab.

Within an hour, Benjamin lets Ren know that he isn't his brother.  He expects to find Ren and his disability useful in his profession; that of grifter and scam artist.  Benjamin has a partner, Tom, an alchoholic ex-schoolteacher.  Benjamin and Tom live life on the move, scamming the townsfolk in one place, then moving on.  There is little they won't do.  One of their more lucrative sidelines is graverobbing.  Sometimes they rob the corpses of jewelry but sometimes they steal the bodies and sell them to a local doctor.

One night, they get a huge surprise when a body they have dug up turns out not to be dead after all.  This is how Dolley, a huge mountain of a man, a stone cold killer who for some reason loves Ren, comes to join their group.  Tom goes back to the orphanage and gets two twin boys who were Ren's friends there.  All of the group lives in a boardinghouse run by Mrs. Sands, who also takes a shine to Ren.

But trouble is always lurking when you're a grifter.  The local rich man seems very interested in Ren, and seems to have clues about Ren's family background.  Can Ren find out who he belongs to and change his life, or will he end up a grifter forever?

Hannah Tinti has created fascinating characters in The Good Thief.  The plot is intricate and will keep readers reading to find out the next twist and turn and attempting to solve the mysteries of Ren's background.  This book is recommended for fiction readers looking for a great read and memorable characters.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

In Zeitoun, Dave Eggers takes the reader to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He doesn't narrate the story from the point of view of the government or the many agencies involved. Instead, he tells the story through the eyes of a family that lived through the chaos and the horror.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun immigrated to the United States from Syria, after a decade of working on ships and traveling all over the world. He married Kathy, an American who grew up as a Christian in America, but converted to the Muslim religion. Kathy and Abdulrahman built a life together in New Orleans. They had four children, and worked together in a contracting business. Abdulrahman handled the workers and the actual jobs, while Kathy handled the business side. In addition to the contracting business, they owned several rental houses.

When Katrina headed for New Orleans, and evacuation was recommended, Kathy and the children left, taking refuge with relatives. Although his family begged him to come, Abdulrahman decided to stay behind, ride out the storm and watch over their properties. He expected a storm like most other hurricanes; a few days without power and some cleanup from water damage and structures hurt by falling trees. Of course, Katrina was no ordinary hurricane. Abdulrahman found himself stranded in a city that was flooded beyond belief. It was a city torn by looters and crime; one that the mayor described as "animalistic".

Abdulrahman had bought a canoe years before at a yard sale as a reminder of his seafaring days. He paddled through the neighborhoods near his home, saving several neighbors stranded with no way out, and distributing food and supplies to those he found. As the days went by, Kathy begged him to leave, and the city was under mandatory evacuation. Finally, he began to think about how he would leave and reunite with his family.

Fate intervened before he left. The police came to one of his rental houses, where Abdulrahman and some friends had gathered. All four men were arrested and taken to a holding facility at the city bus station. From there, they were transfered along with other prisoners under the authority of FEMA to a maximum security prison. The second half of the book tells the story of Abdulrahman's imprisonment, and how he was treated there.

Eggers has chosen an effective method of portraying this natural disaster, made worse by human decisions. Viewing the catastrophe through the eyes of a resident provides a different focus than seeing it through the focus of a state or federal agency which is focused on policy and the safety of property and survivors. It provides a window into how quickly government is willing to trample on basic human rights in an effort to restore order. This willingness is chilling, and Eggers portrays it convincingly. This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Dyodyne Experiment by James Doulgeris & V. Michael Santoro

James Doulgeris and V. Michael Santoro have created a vision of America in the near future.  Hold onto your hats, as their vision is full of events that could happen but that all hope will not be our fate.

America, and New York City in particular, has been targeted again by America's enemies.  This time the threat is multi-pronged.  The Muslim terrorists that were responsible for the 9-11 terrorist attack have come up with a new plot.  Hijacking an oil tanker, they have turned it into the biggest conventional bomb imaginable.  They detonate it in the port of New York City, killing hundreds of thousands.  In the meantime, North Korea has smuggled in six nuclear bombs, hidden around the country and are demanding the the United States ignore their takeover of South Korea.  Both Russia and China are involved in the political manuverings that occur in the wake of these events.

The Dyodyne company, along with the military, is the best hope America has of confronting and defeating the terrorists.  The company, under the guidance of Sarah Randall, has come up with a method of precisely locating and tracking terrorists.  This is accomplished with the use of a virus that interacts with the person's DNA, turning them into a radio beacon that can be tracked anywhere.  Sarah becomes romantically involved with Tim Hatcher, a career military man, who helps the team overcome the problem caused by depending on wireless phones, as he is an expert on satellite tracking.  Together with diplomats and CIA operatives, they  race against time to save America from her enemies.

This book is recommended for thriller readers.  The action is fast and furious, and many readers will stay up late, desparate to read just one more chapter and see if the plot will be defeated before all is lost.  The Dyodyne Experiment is a fast-paced thriller that will keep the reader glued to its pages. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Ex-cop Mason “Mace” Perry and lawyer Roy Kingman investigate the death of a partner at Roy’s law firm, uncovering surprising secrets from both the private and public world of the nation's capital. Soon, what began as a fairly routine homicide takes a terrifying and unexpected turn-into something complex, diabolical, and possibly lethal.

Giveaway Rules
You MUST, MUST, MUST leave an email address in your entry to be entered. I hate having to throw out winning entries because there is no way to contact the winner.

1. The giveaway starts Sunday, November 21st and ends Friday, December 4th at midnight.
2. There will be three winning entries, which will be chosen by a random number generator.
3. Winners will be emailed and must respond within three days in order to claim their prize. After three days, another winner will be chosen and notified.
4. For one entry, comment below with your email address attached. You can get additional entries by being or becoming a follower of this blog, posting about the giveaway on your blog, or tweeting about it on Twitter. If posting elsewhere, please provide the link.
5. Winners must have a street address in either the United States or Canada. No P.O. boxes allowed by Hachette, sorry!

Good luck!  I've listened to several of David Baldacci's books and they are great, and do well on audio.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Manhattan Prophet by Jake Packard

The world of The Manhattan Prophet is disquieting.  It is set in New York City after a nuclear bomb has been detonated there by terrorists, destroying American life as we know it.  Thousands of poor and sick have been herded into Central Park, now known as Shantypark, where they live lives of desperation, forced to remain there by the police.  The police have become para-military and have taken control of most areas of civilization.  Their leader has no intention of giving that control up, and will use whatever force is necessary to retain his power.  News organizations have been pared down to a few government-sanctioned ones, and the only information going out is thoroughly vetted. 

Into this environment Salem Jones emerges.  The child of parents who are criminals and both imprisoned, Salem has grown up in prison, and is now being released, having reached adulthood.  Even though he has been in a prison environment, stories of his effect on others has reached the outside.  He has turned prisoners into nonviolent men, and created sanity and peace in the prison.  The story of his emergence is eagerly waited worldwide, as everyone wants to know more about this man.

Maria Primera is the reporter chosen to tell Salem's story.  She is assisted by her cameraman, Herbie, the child of hippie parents who raised him to believe in everything and nothing.  On the day of Salem's emergence, he manages to evade all the media and crowds.  The police want to control him; millions just want to see him.  Salem moves to Shantypark and starts to spread his message of hope there.  He performs miracles, healing terminal patients and unarming men bent on violence.  Maria is caught up in his story, and both are caught up in the turmoil caused by those wanting to be free and those determined to keep control.

This book is recommended for readers who enjoy urban fantasy.  Readers should be aware that there is an abundance of violence and adult language in the book.   

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spook Country by William Gibson

This book is written in one of my favorite genres; the intersection between sci-fi, urban fantasyand cryptic events.  As someone whose love for Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle trilogy leads her to read it multiple times, William's Gibson's Spook Country allows me to add another author to my collection in this genre.

Gibson drops the reader into the middle of a big puzzle, and then reveals clues in the stories of three separate groups.  There is a prize out there although it is unclear what it might be, and everyone is trying to locate it for their own purposes.  The first group is made of The Old Man, a former government operative and his employees.  This group also includes Tito, a Chinese-Cuban young man brought in to perform the heavy work, and some of his relatives. 

Another group features Hollis Henry, a former rock star turned investigative journalist.  She is working for a secretive character called Bigend, who owns the magazine that has just hired Hollis, and who wants her to locate Bobby Chombo for some reason.  Chombo is a genius programmer, heavily into computer-generated art, and apparently, part of the plot to locate whatever it is that's out there. 

The final group is made of Brown, a government operative who seems to be a functionary in some nameless government agency.  He has kidnapped Milgrim, a high-functioning drug addict.  Although a drug addict, Milgrim has utility as a translator.  Brown keeps him under control by feeding him drugs.

The book concentrates on bringing these three groups together, and their interactions allow the reader to slowly comprehend what all are searching for.  Gibson creates a landscape where information is key; no one's life is private, and technology is an integral part of all plans.  It is a futuristic thriller/spy novel, and the spare language Gibson employs is perfect for a plot that is slowly revealed.  This book is recommended for sci-fi and fantasy fans.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tirissa And The Necklace Of Nulidor by Willow

Tirissa wakes up one morning, going about her day with her adopted family.  But this day is not like any other.  A spell is cast on her village, and everyone she knows is affected.  They become dazed and unaware of their surroundings; victim of The Deadening.  Tirissa runs to the house of the local herb lady and healer, and hears that a wizard may have put on this spell.  It is similiar to the spell in the old stories of what happened to the town of Nulidor.  First, The Deadening occured, and then a second spell that killed everyone there.  The healer tells Tirissa that she is the only one who can save the town, as she is the only one unaffected. 

Scared and alone, Tirissa starts out and journeys to the house of a more powerful healer.  That woman gives her more information and a silver necklace that has come down through the ages.  As Tirissa journeys, she meets a group of wood nymphs.  They tell her the missing pieces of her background.  She is the child of a wood nymph and her human lover.  That explains why Tirissa is not affected by the spell, and why she has access to magic such as hiding inside trees and talking to stones and forces of nature.

Tirissa picks up some allies on her trip.  Oglo is a troll, hundreds of years old, that had fought against the forces of evil once before and lost.  Now he is eager to go with  Tirissa, to help her and to redeem himself.  Along the way they get another member of their party, Storge.  Storge is a n'er do well who finds himself pressed into service as a king's guard.  He joins Tirissa and Oglo on their journey, reluctant at first to help but becoming a valued member of their group as time goes by.

It is good that Tirissa finds friends along the way, because she also finds many enemies.  There are the horrific Beaks; men who transform into huge birds that attack humans, stabbing them as they swoop down.  There are Kings and Princes that want to stop Tirissa's mission, hoping to gain power through helping the evil wizard that created the spell.  There is a hellhound named The Tracker, who tries his best to bring down Tirissa.  Finally, there is the wizard himself, with all his power and weapons.  Can Tirissa stop his evil spells before everyone is destroyed?

Young readers will enjoy this rousing adventure.  Tirissa is just twelve, and shows resourcefulness, loyalty, compassion and courage.  The plot is exciting, and both heros and villians are imaginatively created.  This book is recommended for children 9-12.  It could easily be the first book in a series of Tirissa's adventures, and children will be eager to read of further tales.

Join Tirissa's Facebook fan page for a chance to win a free copy of the book:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

She Had No Enemies by Dennis Fleming

Mary Michelle Fleming, known as Mickey to her family, was eighteen when she was brutually murdered by a serial killer.  Noticing her walking home from a grocery store, he followed her and stabbed her and slit her throat, leaving her for dead after attempting and failing to rape her.  Mickey was the baby of the family, with seven siblings, one of whom is the author, her brother Dennis.  She had graduated high school and was ready for college and the rest of her life when Anthony J. LaRette, Jr. stole her dreams and plans from her.

But Larette didn't just kill Mickey.  He also stole the heart and soul from the family.  The author writes movingly of what the aftermath of such a brutal crime is, and what it does to the survivors.  The Fleming family had not been the success story that we often expect families to be.  Their history was full of abuse, emotional and physical, from alcoholic parents who let their demons escape over and affect their eight children.  Dennis, like many of the siblings, got out of the house as soon as he could.  He escaped himself into drugs and alcohol before realising that he wanted something more from life.  He found the military and it helped him escape his background and find a purpose.

The book follows the family in the years after Mickey's murder until the execution fourteen years later of her murderer.  The killer was found and arrested within two weeks, a blessing to the family, and one that was possible because Mickey found the strength to run for help even with her deadly injuries.  It was determined once LaPrette was imprisoned that he had killed other women.  He claimed to have killed thirty women, and law enforcement tied him to twenty-four. 

Dennis Fleming had moved back home after his military career to try to help the rest of his family.  After the murder, the old patterns of abuse and inter-familial betrayal re-emerged.  His first marriage failed, and his wife and daughter left for another state.  He entered several other relationships, some to hide his pain, and some to try to bring some stability into his life.  Others in the family sunk into alcohol or drug abuse.  Quarrels among family members erupted over money and possessions, and some members were estranged from others.

Fleming refused to let this one event determine his entire life.  He continued his education, and although he made his living in a scientific lab, he spent his afterhours life writing and creating film as a way to process his thoughts on life.  This creative outlet enabled him to carve out a successful life, never forgetting Mickey, but refusing to let a tragedy define him.

So much of what Dennis writes rings absolutely true.  His description of the initial feelings after a loved one dies is stunning in its accuracy.  He explores the hate he feels towards the killer, and how for a while his only desire was to kill the man who killed his sister.  He writes about how it feels to go into a store and see magazines and newspapers selling copies based on the crime against a family member.  Finally, he writes of the acceptance and ability to move beyond this personal tragedy.  He viewed the execution of the man who murdered Mickey, but not out of vengance.  He witnessed it to represent the family and to close the circle.  Dennis Fleming is not an advocate of the death penalty; he believes such killers should be imprisoned and studied to understand what causes such behavior.

This book is highly recommended for readers searching for ways to move past tragedies, as well as for those interested in criminal justice and books about criminals and what motivates them.  It shows the human side of the other victims of crime; those left behind to carry on and try to make sense of random, unspeakable violence.  I came away from reading this book full of admiration for the author and what he has been able to accomplish with his life. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

In The Art Of Racing In The Rain, Garth Stein has chosen to tell his story through the eyes of a dog, Enzo.  Enzo comes to live with Denny Swift as a puppy.  Through the years, he is there as Denny meets Eve and marries her, and as they have their daughter, Zoe.  He is there as Denny starts to have success as a race car driver, and is treated as a full member of the family.

Then tragedy strikes.  Eve sickens and dies young, and Denny is caught up in a fight with her parents for custody for Zoe.  The fight gets vicious, and he loses custody while things are being resolved.  Through all this grief, Enzo is there as a steady touchpoint for Denny and Zoe, bringing them solace through his love and loyalty.

The reader hears how the custody battle works its way out over the years.  Enzo gets older and starts to deteriorate physically.  The book, in many ways, is the story of Enzo's life as he looks back over it as he nears his own end.

This book is recommended for animal lovers.  Many dog owners rave about this book, and it is one that they recommend highly and will remember for a long time.  For me, computer nerd that I am, the whole device of an animal narrator never really clicked as I found it impossible to engage with the viewpoint that Enzo understood the human world and what makes humans act as they do.  His philosophical discussions on being trapped in a dog's body when he should surely have been created a human just didn't ring true for me.  Still, this book is very popular, and most readers will enjoy it immensely.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chocolate-A Love Story by Max Brenner (R)

A chocolate lover's delight (and which of us aren't chocolate lovers?), Chocolate-A Love Story by Max Brenner is a cookbook brimming with delicious recipes of all things chocolate.  If you can imagine a category of food, there's a chocolate recipe here to make it.

The author, Max Brenner, is a world-renowned chef, specializing in chocolate confections.  He opened his first chocolate shop in 1996; a traditional candy shop where he chatted with customers while mixing chocoate on the marble tabletop.  This start grew into a worldwide chain of restaurants called Chocolate by The Bald Man. 

Some of the recipes include Bohemian French toast chocolate sandwiches, Control Freak chocolate spread, Politically correct Sacher torte, A therapuetic chocolate pot pie, My lost childhood chocolate birthday cake, Guilt-free fried chocolate truffles, Controversial cherry soup, Innocent meringue kisses, Well-disciplined ladyfingers and Frozen very hot margaritas. 

The book is laid out in a way to facilitate cooking.  Each page has the recipe on the left page, with a graphical representation of the dish on the right page.  This allows the cook to lay down the cookbook and not worry about mixing ingredients from one recipe into another on the same page, a mistake most of us have made once or twice.  The ingredients are all those that are readily available, and the directions are clear and concise.

With Christmas coming up, readers will be tempted to buy multiple copies; one for themselves and others to give as thoughtful Christmas gifts.  This book is recommended to readers that love to cook, and cooks that love to read.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dust by Susan Berliner (R)

Karen McKay notices something strange as she returns home one afternoon.  A small dust funnel appears inside her house.  Instead of normal dust, this dust is multi-colored; blue, red and green.  The funnel picks up a small figurine as Karen watches, then drops it, breaking it into pieces.  Karen thinks it is strange and does a bit of computer research about dust funnels, but then decides it is a strange one-time occurance and goes on about her business.

But it isn't a one-time occurance.  In the following days, the dust seems to be targeting the condos where Karen lives.  Numerous people are targeted by the funnel, which picks up objects and hurls them at the victim's heads, catching them unawares.  The condo occupants start to realise that the number of incidents are no accident.  People are falling, having car wrecks, slipping in the shower or down flights of stairs.  Several are hospitalized and some don't make it that far, dead at the scene of their attacks.

Karen and her ex-husband, Jerry, band together to figure out what is going on and how to defeat this evil that is threatening life and limb.  Over the next few days, they learn more about the dust's methods, it's likes and dislikes.  Can they figure out how to defeat the dust before it defeats them? 

Susan Berliner has written a story that will be enjoyed by those fans of cozy mysteries.  Although there are deaths, the violence isn't graphic or stomach-turning.  The heroine, Karen, is a fresh character; a research librarian with a need for knowledge and the impetus to defeat evil where others might turn away.  This book is recommended for mystery and thriller readers.

Bookstore Signings: 10 Lessons I've Learned

by Susan Berliner, author of DUST

Although I'm still new to the bookstore-signing scene, having done just two (the most recent one earlier this month), I am quickly learning what works and what doesn't work for me. Here are my conclusions:

1. Most authors can't just sit behind signs with pictures of their book covers and expect to generate sales to strangers. Of course, that'll work if you're a world-famous author like Stephen King. But most of us have to stand in a main aisle and introduce ourselves (and our books) to customers.

2. Don't be shy and reserved. I once watched an author spend hours slumped in a chair, not promoting her novels at all. The only books she sold were to friends.

3. Don't be loud and obnoxious. I watched another author scream at people (from his seat) as they entered the bookstore: "Do you like [name of genre] books?" Nearly everyone said "no" and I didn't see him sell a book.

4. Be friendly and outgoing. I wear a badge that has both my name and a picture of the cover of DUST and stand at the front of the store as a kind of unofficial greeter, smiling at people as they enter. Most make eye contact and some even say "hello" to me. Then I go into my spiel: "Hi. My name is Susan Berliner and I've just published a book called DUST." (I hold up the book.) "Do you like supernatural thrillers like those written by Stephen King or Dean Koontz?" Most people say, "no" or "sorry," and I thank them for their time.

5. Let people who like your genre skim through the book. I hand fans of paranormal fiction—about 20% of the people I talk to—my book while I summarize the plot: "DUST is a supernatural thriller about an evil swirl of dust that terrorizes a condo development..."

6. Find something about your book that will intrigue the customer. Since DUST is based on a real weather phenomenon called a "dust devil," I ask people if they've heard of dust devils. If they haven't, I explain dust devils are miniature tornados that arise suddenly on hot and dry spring days. I then tell them my novel was inspired by a dust devil incident in which an auto body shop collapsed, killing the owner. "It happened in Maine," I say, "so I thought Stephen King would write a novel about dust." All this time, the customer is looking through my book. Often, when I've finished my explanation, the person will offer to buy a copy.

7. Try to close the sale immediately. If the person doesn't want to buy the book, I thank him or her for listening and give him/her a DUST bookmark. Some people say they might buy the book later, but few of them ever return to my table. I usually sell DUST immediately or not at all.

8. Take a photo with the buyer. I walk the customer back to my table to sign a copy of DUST and have a picture taken of both of us with the book. (I post some of the best photos on my Website and Facebook pages.)

9. When dedicating a book, always ask the person for the spelling of the name. At my last book signing, I had two unusually spelled names: "Krisy" and "Annabela." If I hadn't asked for the correct spelling, I would have written both names incorrectly.

10. Wear comfortable shoes. After standing for more than five hours at my November book signing, my feet were killing me!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pendragon's Banner by Helen Hollick (R)

Set from 459 to 466, Pendragon's Banner is the second book in Helen Hollick's Pendragon's Banner Triology.  It tells the story of Arthur of Britain, who fought, conquered enemies and brought peace to England.  It also tells of the love between Arthur and his wife, Gwenhwyfar, better known to most readers as Guinevere.

A king's life was one of war, of alliances and betrayals.  There were few families of royalty, and the balance of power between them and the desire for more power fuels much of the action in this book.  Arthur had many enemies, men who wanted the kingdom he had carved out.  Some of these included Lot, husband of Morgause, Arthur's stepmother; Hueil, a Northern ruler who attempted to defeat Arthur and even his own uncle, who persuaded Arthur's council to split the kingdom. 

Arthur had other enemies.  Morgause was a sworn enemy and cursed him that she would see all his sons dead.  Winifred was his first wife, put aside when he met Gwenhwyfar, and resentful of that, wanting to force Arthur to acknowledge her son and willing to join with his enemies to accomplish her goals.  There were other women also, slaves he took, women he had affairs with and the Lady of the Lake, who bore him another son.  Women's lives were hard; their children lucky to survive to adulthood.  There were many ways to lose a child, war, accidents, illnesses, plots.  Children were pawns in the power plays of the powerful, and as they grew, they learned to desire and scheme to gain power for themselves.

Hollick has created a realistic tale of this ancient history and this mythological man.  Arthur is shown as a warrior first and foremost, quick to go to battle, to defend what was his or claim more.  He is shown as a man greatly in love with his wife.  But Hollick also shows the dark side of Arthur.  That love did not prevent him from having other women.  Reflecting the violence of his time, slaves were treated as chattel.  Those who lost battles were maimed or blinded, or simply killed.  In one gruesome episode, Arthur has Lot and Morgause's daughter killed after Lot's defeat, to eliminate her as a problem in the future. 

Readers of historical fiction will enjoy Hollick's tale and be eager to read the other books in her triology.  Arthur Pendragon's reputation has survived for centuries, and a glimpse into what life must have been like in his court is fascinating.  This book is recommended for historical fiction readers as well as those interested in a complex tale of power, corruption, love and war.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


President of the United States Donald Vanderdamp is having a hell of a time getting his nominees appointed to the Supreme Court.  After one nominee is rejected for insufficiently appreciating To Kill A Mockingbird, the president chooses someone so beloved by voters that the Senate won't have the guts to reject her -- Judge Pepper Cartwright, the star of the nation's most popular reality show, Courtroom Six.

Will Pepper, a straight-talking Texan, survive a confirmation battle in the Senate? Will becoming one of the most powerful women in the world ruin her love life? And even if she can make it to the Supreme Court, how will she get along with her eight highly skeptical colleagues, including a floundering Chief Justice who, after legalizing gay marriage, learns that his wife has left him for another woman.

Soon, Pepper finds herself in the middle of a constitutional crisis, a presidential reelection campaign that the president is determined to lose, and oral arguments of a romantic nature. Supreme Courtship is another classic Christopher Buckley comedy about the Washington institutions most deserving of ridicule.

Giveaway Rules
You MUST, MUST, MUST leave an email address in your entry to be entered.  I hate having to throw out winning entries because there is no way to contact the winner. 

1.  The giveaway starts Sunday, November 1st and ends Friday, November 13th at midnight.

2. Winning entries will be chosen by a random number generator.

3.  Winners will be emailed and must respond within three days in order to claim their prize.  After three days, another winner will be chosen and notified.

4.  For one entry, comment below with your email address attached.  You can get additional entries by being or becoming a follower of this blog, posting about the giveaway on your blog, or tweeting about it on Twitter.  If posting elsewhere, please provide the link.

5.  Winners must have a street address in either the United States or Canada.  No P.O. boxes allowed by Hachette, sorry!

Good luck!  I love Christopher Buckley and think this book will be a gas!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bear Portraits by Jill Greenberg (R)

A visual feast for those who love bears, Jill Greenberg has captured the many aspects of bears.  The book is full of portraits of different kinds of bears, polar bears, Kodiaks, black bears, Russian and European Brown bears, and grizzlies.  There are pictures of cubs and pictures of mature bears.

Many would be tempted to only show the cute side of bears, but Greenberg is not afraid to shoot portraits that show the power and ferocity of these animals as well.  Moving from portrait to portrait, the reader is aware of how humans came to view bears as central to so many myths and legends.  One fact that I'm always surprised at is how small the bear's eyes are in relation to the rest of their features. 

Along with the portraits, there are quotes about bears by various famous people and authors, from Homer to Homer Simpson.  One of my favorites is "The alleged power to charm down insanity, or ferocity in beasts, is a power behind the eyes"--Ralph Waldo Emerson.  At the end of the portraits, there is a spread that tells about each bear used in the book; type of bear, height, weight, geographic region, movies the specific bear has been in and their name.   

The book would be a great gift for anyone who loves bears, or anyone who appreciates nature photography.  The portraits are not shot as most nature photography; instead the individual bears are shot with lighting that highlights their features and characteristics.  Those lucky enough to own this book will treasure it and display it proudly.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Financial Lives Of The Poets by Jess Walter (R)

The economy hasn't been kind to Matt Prior.  A business newspaper journalist, he decided to make the big jump to start his own business.  His business idea?  A website where investors could go to get investment advice written in poetry.  Hmmm, how's that working out for you Matt?  Not well.  Having used his savings to start the site and quickly realizing that there was no market, Matt jumps back to his newspaper job, just in time for the layoffs that are plaguing that market. 

So, Matt is unemployed, savings gone.  His wife, Lisa, went on her own get-rich quick scheme; buying scores of collectibles from Ebay that she planned to store for a few years and sell at a huge profit.  To finance this, she has maxed out their credit cards.

Matt has social problems as well.  He is the caretaker for his father.  His father's dementia increases every day.  Matt's two boys are moving further and further away from him as they grow up.  He discovers that Lisa has struck up a relationship with her high school sweetheart online, and it seems ready to move into a more physical realm.

There they sit, Matt unemployed, Lisa employed in a marginal job, no savings, deep in credit card debt.  Matt hasn't even told Lisa that he's been avoiding a foreclosure notice on their house.  He visits their financial planner and cashes out everything left.  What to do, what to do?  Stressed, he leaves his house one night to go get milk for the morning cereal.  At the local 7-11, he falls in somehow with a group of stoners, who take him to their apartment, where he gets stoned for the first time in twenty years.

Suddenly, his great revelation occurs!  He can sell pot to finance his way out of financial crisis.  There is a whole market of older, professional men and women who used to smoke and would probably jump at the chance to buy some pot from someone they trusted.  Matt uses his entire retirement savings to finance this new career choice.

This all sounds bleak, but in reality, this is one of the most upbeat books I've read lately.  I laughed out loud repeatedly, following Matt on his adventures.  Jess Walter has a perfect ability to write characters that breathe and stretch on the page, individuals you know in your own life.  This ability to make believable characters allows him to stretch reality, as the reader can always see what led the character to make what would normally be a horrible choice.  It's fairly uncommon that I read one book by an author and rush out to find more by him, but I'm rushing out for more Jess Walter books.  This book is highly recommended for fans of literature and current events.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Desert Hedge Murders by Patricia Stoltey (R)

Retirement is supposed to be relaxing, right?  It's not working out that way for Sylvia Thorn.  Retired from her job as a judge and at loose ends, she agrees to accompany her mother's group of friends on a Las Vegas trip.  The group, who call themselves the Florida Flippers, travel together several times a year.  Usually Sylvia's brother, Willie, travels with them, but can't this time, so Sylvia agrees to go with them and ride herd.

There's another newcomer to the group, a woman named Patsy.  No one seems to know much about her except for the Flipper who invited her, Sandra.  Things get off to a rough start when the group gets to the hotel, and a dead body is found in the bathtub in Sandra and Patsy's room.

Then Sandra disappears.  The group tries to stay on their routine and go to a deserted mine that has been turned into a touring site.  The manager there says Sandra has beat them there.  Relieved they enter the mine, only to find Sandra's body twisting over a crevice in the mine. 

Now there are two dead bodies, and mystery galore.  It turns out that Sandra's husband is under investigation for hedge fund fraud, operating without Sandra's knowledge in Nevada.  Worse, most of the Flippers have invested savings with him.

Sylvia steps in to solve the mystery with the help of Patsy and of Willie, who has joined the group after he and Sylvia's father get alarmed when they can't contact the group by cell phone.  There are law enforcement officers to dodge, along with a certain FBI agent that seems very interested in Sylvia as well as the crime.  Will they solve the mystery before more tragedy occurs?

This debut novel stands up very well.  It is recommended for mystery readers, especially those who enjoy the "cosy" mystery genre.  It appears that this is the start of a series, and I'd be interested in reading more adventures featuring Sylvia and Willie. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hellbound Hearts, Anthology (R)

Readers looking for a book that reflects the terror-filled parts of Halloween will be interested in this anthology.  The theme of these stories is some connection with Clive Barker's hit movie, The Hellbound Heart.  Each story reflects the world of the Cenobites, a merciless collection of horror-producing stories that are not recommended for bedtime reading.

Authors in the collection include Neil Gaiman, Conrad Williams, Sarah Langan, Chaz Brenchley, Nancy Holder, Tim Labbon and Kelly Armstrong, among others.  The stories are graphic and not for the faint-hearted.  These are stories for fans of full-blown horror.  Many revolve around a puzzle that as it devolves, takes characters into a bleak, horrific world filled with demonic beings.

This is my current car book, the book I dip into while waiting at appointments.  Now that twilight is coming earlier and earlier, the background provided by Nature emphasizes the horror of the stories.  Fans of this genre will be delighted with this new addition to the horror bookshelves. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly (R)

This is Michael Connelly's 15th book in his series about Harry Bosch.  Harry is a homicide detective in LA.  He lives for his job, and for his 13-year old daughter, Maddie, who lives with her mother in Hong Kong, and who he sees every couple of months for a few weeks.

As the book opens, Harry and his partner are assigned the next homicide.  It seems a routine shopkiller murder; the victim an elderly Chinese man who immigrated to this country with his family and opened a store, then expanded to a second one.  Harry and his partner soon discover though, that this killing isn't as routine as it seems.  The storeowner was paying a weekly tribute to one of the Chinese Triads, the organized crime gangs that operate in both China and the United States.  There is a good chance that this was a Triad killing, as the shopowner had told them he would stop paying due to lower sales.

Having identified the Triad operative who collected the tribute and is probably the killer, Harry and Chu, a policeman from the Asia Group Unit in the LA Police, start surveillance, hoping to find a way to make their case.  They are surprised when the suspect comes out with a large suitcase, obviously on his way to flee the jurisdiction.  Harry suspects that the man has been tipped off on the police investigation, something that could only occur from the inside.

To prevent the man's escape, he is arrested at the airport.  The plan is to hold him until evidence can be found, but then a new, startling episode occurs.  Harry gets a video on his cellphone.  It is footage of Maddie being held hostage in Hong Kong, and there is a message that Harry must back off on the suspect or she will be harmed.  Harry drops everything and flies to Hong Kong.  There, helped by his ex-wife and her new partner, a man who works in security, they race against time and the Triads to find Maddie before she is hurt.

Fans of the Harry Bosch series will not be disappointed.  I liked the first part which showed the routine workings of a murder investigation.  It showed the beaucracy and budget and political considerations that often hamper police work, and seems much more realistic than many books that portray everything falling into place almost magically.  The book changes tempo as Harry moves to Hong Kong.  The suspense rachets up with every new encounter, as the reader anxiously follows to see if Harry will be successful.  This book is recommended for mystery and thriller readers.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Your colleague's husband's sister can make you fat, even if you don't know her. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse. These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another are revealed in the studies of Drs. Christakis and Fowler, which have repeatedly made front-page news nationwide.

In CONNECTED, the authors explain why emotions are contagious, how health behaviors spread, why the rich get richer, even how we find and choose our partners. Intriguing and entertaining, CONNECTED overturns the notion of the individual and provides a revolutionary paradigm-that social networks influence our ideas, emotions, health, relationships, behavior, politics, and much more. It will change the way we think about every aspect of our lives.

Giveaway Rules


1. The contest starts Saturday, October 17th and ends on Friday, October 30th.

2. Winning entries will be chosen by a random number generator.

3. In order to claim your prize, you must respond to the notification email within three days.

4. For one entry, comment below and tell us how you use social connection media such as Twitter, Facebook, etc, or if you aren't interested.

5. For extra entries, you get one more for any or all of the following: become or be a follower of Booksie's Blog, post about the giveaway on your blog, or tweet about it and send me the address.

6. Winners must have a street address delivery in the US or Canada. No PO Boxes allowed, sorry!

Good luck! This looks like a great book!

Angels by Chuck Fischer (R)

Angels is the latest pop-up book by Chuck Fisher, complementing others he's done such as Christmas In New York and Great American Houses and Gardens.  It is a stunning, gorgeous book that would make a perfect book to leave out for visitors to open and spend time with.

Each page opens to an amazing 3-D popup.  It's difficult to give the sense of how intricate and eye-catching each popup is.  These were done by Bruce Foster, a master paper engineer.  The reader can look at these again and again, finding something new to delight the eye on each viewing.

Along with the popup on each set of pages, there are informational sections on each set of pages.  The pages are broken into categories. The Origins Of Angels exploring the historical timelines and all the cultures that had a history of angels.   Angels as Messengers look at Biblical angel messengers such as the burning bush with Moses, or the angels that saved Daniel in the lion's den.  A Hierarchy Of Angels explains the six tiers of angels and the differences between such entities as cherubim, seraphim, thrones, dominions, virtues and powers.  There is an entire set of pages devoted to the Archangel Michael, with what I found to be the most visually appealing popup with rich red tones and an elaborate dragon.  The page for the Archangel Gabriel talks of how he was the one who told Mary her babe would be the Savior, and explores whether Gabriel is the only female angel.  There is a section on angels in art and music.  The final popup is on Angels of the Zodiac, with each sign assigned a specific angel.

This is an amazing book.  The intricate popups with their moveable parts, and the text explaining angels make this a feast for the eyes as well as the brain.  This book is recommended for all readers, and those who are able to view it are lucky indeed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes (R)

What a difference a year makes in the lives of royalty.  As The Tudor Rose opens, we meet Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of King Edward IV.  She is getting ready for a wedding to the Dauphin of France, a man she has never met.  Word comes that the marriage offer has been rescinded, and she is comforted by her father.  Secure in the love of her family, she is a happy young woman, easily able to overcome this rejection.

But a year later, her life has changed dramatically.  King Edward has died, and life changes forever.  Her uncle, Richard, who should be serving as protector of the new King, Elizabeth's brother Ned, instead takes the crown for himself.  Worse, he imprisons both Ned and Richard of York, the eight-year-old brother known as Dickon.  Elizabeth and her sisters and mother are living in santuary in a monastery.  They agree to move to the castle under King Richard's protection, but then disaster strikes.  As history fans know, the Princes in the Tower are murdered to eliminate the threat to Richard's crown.

Filled with hate and scorn for her uncle, and knowing that the crown should now be hers, Elizabeth agrees to join forces with Henry Tudor, who has been living in France in exile.  Henry has royal blood to substantiate his claim; he is related to King Arthur of the Roundtable.  With the knowledge that Elizabeth will marry him if he defeats Richard, Henry invades England and kills Richard in battle.  He is crowned King.

Six months later, he marries Elizabeth.  Far from her romantic dreams, it is unclear if he wants her for herself, or just to consolidate the royal bloodlines and end the civil War of The Roses.  Elizabeth is a warm, outgoing woman and marriage to a cold, calculating man like Henry is difficult for her.  They have four children.  Arthur is the eldest, raised to be the next King, while Harry is known now as Henry the Eighth.  Margaret becomes Queen of Scotland, marrying King James.  Mary is the youngest girl. 

While she is content with her life and children, there are always troubles in a royal household.  There are various pretenders to the Crown, and Henry must defend his right to rule.  Two pretenders over the years both claim that, far from being murdered in the Tower, that instead the Princes escaped and that they are Dickton, now grown.   Many rally behind them, and even Elizabeth is torn between her desire to believe her beloved brothers are still alive, and the common sense that knows that they are indeed gone forever. 

The book follows Elizabeth and Henry's life.  It gives an inside look at royal marriages and the restrictions royal women lived with.  It is ifascinating to see the background that produced Henry the Eighth, whose impact on English history was so significant and long-lasting.  This book is recommended for lovers of historical fiction.  Margaret Campbell Barnes has done an excellend job of researching Elizabeth of York's life, and of putting the reader into her shoes to get a glimpse of the obligations and constant manuvering for position those who were royal lived with.