Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Light Of Burning Shadows by Chris Evans

Musket and cannon, bow and arrow, and magic and diplomacy vie for supremacy once again in this second epic fantasy adventure from acclaimed author Chris Evans. As the human-dominated Calahrian Empire struggles to maintain its hold on power in the face of armed rebellion from within, the Iron Elves' perilous quest to defeat the power-hungry elf witch, the Shadow Monarch, takes on greater urgency.

The Iron Elves, shunned by their own people for bearing the mark of the Shadow Monarch, and desperately wanting to forever erase this shame, became legendary for their prowess on the battlefield as the Calahrian Imperial Army's elite shock troops. But when their commanding officer, Konowa Swift Dragon, murdered the Viceroy of Elfkyna, he was exiled, and these brave elves were banished to a remote desert outpost, doomed and leaderless, their honor in tatters.
Recalled to duty to reform his regiment from the dregs of the Imperial Army, Konowa thwarted the plans of the Shadow Monarch at the Battle of Luuguth Jor -- ensuring that the fabled Red Star, a source of great natural energy, did not fall into Her hands.

Now Konowa must cross storm-tossed seas to seek out the lost elves and the prophesied return of another Star somewhere in a desert wasteland roiling with mysterious power, infernos of swirling magic, and legends brought back to life in new and terrible ways. And the fate of every living creature will come to depend on a small band of ragged and desperatesoldiers, whose very loyalty to the Empire they have sworn to serve is no longer certain. When death is but a temporary condition, a terrifying question arises: who is the true ally -- and fearsome enemy -- in a growing conflict that threatens all?

This is the second book in the Iron Elves series. I read this one and the first back to back, and I'm throughly entranced. The characters are well-defined, and the plotlines intricately woven into the narrative. This series stands out not only for the adventure, but for the humour interlaced with the hardships. I'm very glad I discovered this series. It is recommended for all fantasy/sci-fi fans.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

GIVEAWAY!!!! $20 A GALLON by Christopher Steiner

Imagine an everyday world in which the price of gasoline (and oil) continues to go up, and up, and up. Think about the immediate impact that would have on our lives.

Of course, everybody already knows how about gasoline has affected our driving habits. People can't wait to junk their gas-guzzling SUVs for a new Prius. But there are more, not-so-obvious changes on the horizon that Chris Steiner tracks brilliantly in this provocative work.

Consider the following societal changes: people who own homes in far-off suburbs will soon realize that there's no longer any market for their houses (reason: nobody wants to live too far away because it's too expensive to commute to work). Telecommuting will begin to expand rapidly. Trains will become the mode of national transportation (as it used to be) as the price of flying becomes prohibitive. Families will begin to migrate southward as the price of heating northern homes in the winter is too pricey. Cheap everyday items that are comprised of plastic will go away because of the rising price to produce them (plastic is derived from oil). And this is just the beginning of a huge and overwhelming domino effect that our way of life will undergo in the years to come.

Steiner, an engineer by training before turning to journalism, sees how this simple but constant rise in oil and gas prices will totally re-structure our lifestyle. But what may be surprising to readers is that all of these changes may not be negative - but actually will usher in some new and very promising aspects of our society.Steiner will probe how the liberation of technology and innovation, triggered by climbing gas prices, will change our lives. The book may start as an alarmist's exercise.... but don't be misled. The future will be exhilarating.
Giveaway Rules
1. The giveaway starts Saturday, July 25th and ends on Wednesday, August 5th at midnight.
2. There will be five winners, who will be chosen with a random number generator.
3. For one entry, leave a comment. Your email MUST be in the comment to be included.
4. You can get another entry by doing any or all of the following; follow this blog, twitter about this giveaway and post the twitter in your comment, or link to the giveaway on your blog.
5. Winners will have three days to respond with mailing addresses after email notification.
6. Winners must live in the U.S. or Canada, and have a street address. Hachette doesn't mail to P.O. boxes, sorry.

Good luck!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ravens by George Dawes Green

The Boatwrights just won 318 million dollars in the Georgia State lottery. It's going to be the worst day of their lives.

Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko pull up at a convenience store off I-95 in Georgia, their only thought is to fix a leaky tire and be on their way again to Florida-away from their dull Ohio tech-support jobs. But this happens to be the store from which a 318,000,000 million dollar Jackpot ticket has just been sold -- and when a pretty clerk accidentally reveals to Shaw the identity of the winning family, he hatches a ferociously audacious scheme: He and Romeo will squeeze the family for half their prize. That night, he visits the Boatwright home and takes the family hostage, while Romeo patrols the streets nearby, prepared to murder the Boatwrights' loved ones at any sign of resistance.

At first, the family offers none. But Shaw's plot depends on maintaining constant fear-merciless, unfaltering terror-and soon, under the pressure, everyone's sanity begins to unravel . . . At once frightening, comic, and suspenseful, RAVENS is a wholly original and utterly compelling novel from one of our most talented writers.

Stunning is the only word that comes to mind after finishing George Dawes Green's novel. It lures you in immediately and the reader cannot tear themselves away from the story. Not only is the plot suspenseful, but the characters are so well done that the reader will imagine that they are reading about their own neighbors. Seeing what is behind the crime for the criminals, how the family starts falling into Stockholm syndrome, and the heart-stopping resolution makes this one of the best books I've read this year. It is the kind of book that once the last page is read, the reader will rush out to find anything else that Green has written. This book is highly recommended for suspense readers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Deadly Habit by Andrea Sisco

Penelope Santucci has a problem. Separated from her husband, she went to get some belongings and found him murdered. Now the police are circling around ready to arrest Penelope, or Pen as she's known, as they think she had the best motive and opportunity. But that's not all the problem. There's the hundred thousand dollars she found that happens to belong to the local mob boss. He's not amused when she doesn't give it back to him. There's her mother-in-law, who tells everyone that Pen is guilty and tries to bar her from the funeral. Finally, there's Pen's mother, the typical helicopter mom who can't give up hovering even after the kids are grown.

But Pen has help on her side also. She has gone to her childhood priest, and soon has him and her sister, who is a nun, helping her investigate. The priest knows one of the best defence attorneys in town and convinces Marco to be Pen's lawyer. All three try to rein in Pen's impulsiveness as she attempts to find out who killed her husband, to varying degrees of success.

There are lots of suspects. Paul, the ex-husband, was the attorney for that mob boss, and it was a stormy relationship. There were rumors of him blackmailing court personnel and maybe even buying off judges in order to win cases. His business partner was dissolving the partnership due to Paul's shady business practices. Paul wasn't one to remain idle and had started a relationship with a local beauty, Stephanie. The problem was that he didn't stop playing the field with Stephanie, and she wasn't happy to have the relationship end.

Andrea Sisco has done an impressive job in her debut novel. Penelope Santucci is a heroine who the reader will not soon forget; an infectious, exasperating, lovable character. The other characters in this novel are also well-drawn. The tone is comedic, and the reader will find themselves laughing out loud over and over. This book is recommended for mystery readers who are looking for a light-hearted read.
Reviewed for Book Pleasures

Friday, July 17, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

In Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri has written eight stories about relationships. Each story draws on the Indian immigrant experience, or that of being an immigrant parent's child. The stories explore many different types of relationships. The first, Unaccumstomed Earth, explores the relationship between a grown child and a parent as the parent grows older and loses a spouse. Lahiri delicately explores the disparity between what the child imagines the parent feels and wants, and what those desires are in reality. Other stories explore relationships between husband and wives, between those immigrant children who choose nontraditional partners who aren't Indian and their families, or sibling relationships.

The last three stories share a common thread. Two Indian families are friends. One returns to India for several years, and when they return to America, stay with the other family for several months. The returning family has a teenage boy while the host family has a daughter just entering her teen years. In Once In A Lifetime, this story is told and the distant relationship between the children is discussed. In Year's End, we hear the son's story as he enters adulthood. His mother has died and his father has remarried, giving him stepsisters. In the book's final story, Going Ashore, we hear the story of what has occurred to the young girl of the host family, and then, these two meet again and become lovers.

Unaccustomed Earth is a New York Times Best Book Of The Year. I enjoyed this book, and I'm often not a fan of short stories. Each story related another dimension of human relationships, often exploring topics I'd not considered. Lahiri has an innate understanding of the myriad human relationships, and the skill to write about her understanding in a way that provokes thought. This book is recommended for all fiction readers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

John Sutter's life changed dramatically ten years ago. That's when his wife, Susan, shot and killed the local Mafia don at the end of their affair. Now, John is back in town and Susan wants to reunite and remarry. There are two problems with this plan. One is the disapproval of her parents, who are millionaires and who support Susan and happen to hate John. The other is the son of the murdered Mafia don, who is interested in seeing Susan back in town and wants revenge.
Over the years, I think I've read most of DeMille's books, and always found them to be exciting page-turners. I'm sorry to say I didn't have the same reaction to this one. It missed the mark for me. The majority of the book was spent going over and over the relationship with Susan's parents. The resolution of that issue seemed rushed and unlikely to me.
I'm sure I'll be lined up to read DeMille's next, but won't really recommend this one to many readers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Last Light Over Carolina by Mary Alice Monroe

With a warm voice that brings the South to life, New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe writes richly textured novels that intimately portray the complex and emotional relationships shared among family, friends, and the natural world. Here, in Last Light Over Carolina, Monroe tells the haunting and touching story of a longtime shrimp boat captain and his wife of thirty years the day he is injured at sea.

On an otherwise ordinary day, in a small shrimping village off the coast of South Carolina, a boat goes missing. The entire town rallies as all are mobilized to find the lost vessel. Throughout the course of one day, flashbacks of Bud Morrison, the captain on board, and Carolina, his wife, reveal the happier days of a once-thriving shrimping industry juxtaposed with the memories of their long term marriage.

Through her wonderfully evocative storytelling and keen insights into the human heart, Mary Alice Monroe has yet again delivered an exceptional and engaging work of fiction. Pat Conroy once said that “every book that Mary Alice Monroe has written has felt like a homecoming to me,” and Anne River Siddons wrote that “Monroe’s voice is strong and true.” Now, once again, Monroe brings the South to life with a lyrical and evocative story about past mistakes and second chances.
I really enjoyed this book, since I am from this area of the country. I know exactly the kind of town this book portrays. At the beach in lower North Carolina and upper South Carolina, families for years have gone to the town of Calabash. Calabash is a town with around 40 seafood restaurants, and they serve shrimp right off the boats. It is one of my favorite memories of growing up.

It is sad to see how this industry is changing. Cost of diesel fuel, dumping of shrimp on the market from overseas, the hard work involved, all these factors are leading to the end of a way of life. Monroe captured that life, and I enjoyed reading about it. Her characters rang true, and again, I've grown up with each type portrayed in the book. This is a wonderful portrayal of a slice of Southern life. It is recommended for all who love Southern fiction.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Acclaimed novelist Anne Rivers Siddons's new novel is a stunning tale of love and loss.

For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly--happily married, totally in love with each other, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story does...in loss. After Cam's death, Lilly takes a lone road trip to her and Cam's favorite spot on the remote coast of Maine, the place where they fell in love over and over again, where their ghosts still dance.

There, she looks hard to her past--to a first love that ended in tragedy; to falling in love with Cam; to a marriage filled with exuberance, sheer life, and safety-- to try to figure out her future. It is a journey begun with tender memories and culminating in a revelation that will make Lilly re-evaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.

Giveaway Rules:

1. The giveaway starts Saturday, July 11th and ends on Wednesday, July 22th at midnight.

2. There will be five winners, who will be chosen with a random number generator.

3. For one entry, leave a comment. Your email MUST be in the comment to be included.

4. You can get another entry by doing any or all of the following; follow this blog, twitter about this giveaway and post the twitter in your comment, or link to the giveaway on your blog.

5. Winners will have three days to respond with mailing addresses after email notification.

6. Winners must live in the U.S. or Canada, and have a street address. Hachette doesn't mail to P.O. boxes, sorry.

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other.
But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy's closest friends for what will be revealed.
Once again, Hilderbrand masterfully weaves an intense tale of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of endless summer island life.
I enjoyed The Castaways quite a bit. It was the perfect summer read, although I found the premise that four couples who are in a group could commit the adultry that Hilderbrand had her characters commit, and still have their lives go on as before. Hilderbrand created believeable characters outside of this issue, and all of the plotlines were satisfactorily resolved. This book is recommended for those readers ready for a book that entertains.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Probability Angels by Joseph Devon

Matthew is a new probability angel. He is still learning how he became one, what it all means, and what he can now do. A person becomes a probability angel when they give their life so that another can live. Matthew did that when he chose to be shot during a robbery, saving his wife. Probability angels work individually with humans, pushing them in life situations. They have photographs of all the probabilities that a situation's outcome could have, and the angel pushes the human towards one. As the book opens, Matthew is working with a priest at a wedding, who is sobbing in the bathroom. His crisis? He is in love with the bride. Matthew pushes him, and the priest leaves to resolve the issue and confront the bride.

There are many other angels. Epp is one of the most influential. Born a slave thousands of years ago, he has worked with so many people and has so many skills that he serves as a resource and leader for newbies. Kyo is a former samurari. He has also been an angel for many hundreds of years, but is different in some ways, as he refuses to push humans. There is Mary, a former nun who is now a gorgeous woman. There are many others, and they all know each other and work together in a loosely organized way.

But all is not perfect. Probability angels get life energy from pushing humans. There are those who get tired of the work and stop pushing. They turn into zombie-like creatures, who eventually start to eat angels for energy. There is conflict and positioning for power in the angel structure. Hector is the leader of these dissidents. He wants to be the probability angel leader and starts a war targeting Epp and those close to him. His army is made of the zombies and some angels who are loyal to him. There is an epic battle for leadership of the angels and how their work will be structured for the coming centuries.

I would love to meet this author. Anyone with this much imagination, who can write such a sustained fantasy, must have a unique mind and would be fascinating to talk with. This book is recommended for fantasy and sci-fi readers, as well as readers looking for an offbeat read. Devon has created an alternate world and made it come alive. His characters are well developed and believable. The reader is taken to another world and lives in that possibility while reading. This is an interesting book that I won't soon forget.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


The perfect read for today's fast-paced world, How Successful People Think (derived from Maxwell's previous book, Thinking for a Change) will teach listeners the 11 secrets successful people know. Arranged in an easy-to-follow format, America's leadership expert, John C. Maxwell, will teach listeners how to expand their thinking and achieve their dreams.

The 11 keys to successful thinking include:

Big-Picture Thinking - seeing the world beyond your own needs and how that leads to great ideas

Focused Thinking - removing mental clutter and distractions to realize your full potential

Creative Thinking - thinking in unique ways and making breakthroughs

Shared Thinking - working with others to compound results

Reflective Thinking - looking at the past to gain a better understanding of the future.

Thanks to Hachette, I'm able to give away five copies of this book. Rules of the giveaway are:

1. The giveaway starts Saturday, July 4th and ends on Wednesday, July 15th at midnight.

2. There will be five winners, who will be chosen with a random number generator.

3. For one entry, leave a comment. Your email MUST be in the comment to be included.

4. You can get another entry by doing any or all of the following; follow this blog, twitter about this giveaway and post the twitter in your comment, or link to the giveaway on your blog.

5. Winners will have three days to respond with mailing addresses after email notification. Good luck!

6. Winners must live in the U.S. or Canada, and have a street address. Hachette doesn't mail to P.O. boxes, sorry.

Good luck!

Friday, July 3, 2009


From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Pelecanos (Drama City) delivers a dignified, character-driven epic that succeeds as both literary novel and page-turner. In 1985, the body of a 14-year-old girl turns up in a Washington, D.C., park, the latest in a series of murders by a killer the media dub "The Night Gardener." T.C. Cook, the aging detective on the case, works with a quiet, almost monomaniacal, focus. Also involved are two young uniformed cops, Gus Ramone, who's diligent, conscientious and unimpressed by heroics, and Dan "Doc" Holiday, an adrenaline junkie who's decidedly less straight.

Fast forward 20 years. Detective Ramone, now married with kids of his own, investigates the murder of one of his teenage son's friends. The homicide closely resembles the earlier unsolved Night Gardener murders. Holiday, now an alcoholic chauffeur and bodyguard, follows the case on his own and tracks down Cook, long retired but still obsessed with the original murders. While the three work together toward a suspenseful ending, Pelecanos emphasizes the fallacy of "solving" a murder and explores the ripple effects of violent crime on society.

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette, I'm able to give away five copies of this book. Giveaway rules are:

1. The giveaway starts Saturday, June 27th and ends on Wednesday, July 8th at midnight.

2. There will be five winners, who will be chosen with a random number generator.

3. For one entry, leave a comment. Your email MUST be in the comment to be included.

4. You can get another entry by doing any or all of the following; follow this blog, twitter about this giveaway and post the twitter in your comment, or link to the giveaway on your blog.

5. Winners will have three days to respond with mailing addresses after email notification. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Shimmer by Eric Barnes

Meet Robbie Case: the 35-year-old wunderkid CEO of Core Communications. In just three years, based solely on a technology no other campany has been able to replicate, Robbie's taken Core from a relatively unknown, family business into a $20 billion company with more than 5,000 employees. And, in the process, he has become a rock star, worldwide, for his vision, leadership and wealth. The only problem? Robbie is living a lie. The technology is a scam, the financials are built on a Ponzi scheme of stock sales and shell corporations and Robbie is struggling, everyday, to keep his company alive...to protect the friends who work for him and all they've built. The game is coming to an end. And Robbie is the only one who knows the truth. Or is he?

In a debut that could have been ripped from today's headlines but was, in fact, imagined years earlier when the author came to recognize through his own business dealings that "people believe what they want to believe", Shimmer is the story of a high-tech crusade nearing it's end--a novel that charges the atmosphere with suspense and delivers complex characters you want to believe in--in spite of their flaws.

Eric Barnes is the publisher of the Daily News in Memphis and The Memphis News. He was formerly COO of a communications corporation, a reporter, and an editor. He grew up in Washington and Alaska, working construction and in the fisheries. Eric has an MFA from Columbia University and his fiction has appeared in The Portland Review, The Northwest Review, The Greensboro Review, and Other Voices. His website is http://www.ericbarnes.net/.

As a CIO in real life, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Barnes has done several things extremely well. He captures the ambiance of a technology company spot-on, and his characters are familiar to anyone working in a technology field. The character of Perry, the inscrutable guru who knows all but isn't quick to share his insights, was quite well-drawn. Further, the chapter describing how a technology company works during a crisis felt immediately familiar to me and captured the crisis mode and how each person on the team works through to solve the crisis trigger. I had some problems with the premise that the best technology gurus in the world wouldn't have discovered the essential flaw in the programming sooner, but that point probably wouldn't be noticed by most readers outside the industry. Shimmer was a read that kept my attention throughout and I hated closing the cover when I finished. This book is recommended for readers who enjoy current fiction or technology issues.