Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass

Kira Solomon is a Shadowchaser.  She knew even as a child that she was different.  She could sense the truth about people by touching them, and could discover truth from inanimate objects as well.  When she reached puberty, her power increased to the point where her touch became deadly to humans.  That's when the Gilead Commission stepped in, took over guardianship and trained her to fight the beings steeped in Shadow.

Kira is given a dagger of enormous power by her handler that he has come into possession of.  He is killed once he gives her the dagger by the forces that have come to Earth to steal the dagger and its power.  Kira is left with the dagger and the knowledge that an Avatar of one of the Fallen will stop at nothing to get the weapon so that he can take control of Earth.

She is sidetracked when a new player enters the game.  Not sure who he is or what he wants, Kira fights him also, but soon realises that he is the true owner of the dagger.  This is Khefar, a Nubian warrior who has lived for four thousand years, cursed to remain alive until he has saved the same number of lives that he has taken over the years.  His companion is a demigod who is Anasi, the Spider God. 

Khefar and Kira join forces to fight Enig, the Avatar who will kill anyone in his path.  Will they be able to defeat this powerful force, or will he gain the dagger and capture Kira for the Shadow side?

Seressia Glass has written an exciting entry into the urban fantasy genre.  Her heroine is a strong but believable character, and she is careful not to let the love story between Kira and Khefar overwhelm the story .  This book is recommended for urban fantasy and science fiction readers.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Weight Of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar

Frank and Ellie Benton have suffered the ultimate parents' nightmare.  Their seven year old son, Ben, was struck with a fast-moving infection and died almost overnight.  Understandably, they are crushed.  After months of plodding haplessly through their daily routines, an opportunity appears.  Frank's company, a pharmacutical, gets the raw ingredients for their new top-selling drug from trees native to India.  The company needs someone to go and head up operations there.

Desperate for a change, the Bentons agree to move to India, hoping that it will be a fresh start in a place with no memories of their son.  Ellie thrives there, making new friends and falling in love with India and its people.  Frank has a rougher time. 

Frank's job provides problems along with the opportunities.  The Indian workers are different from those he has managed in the past, creating conflict.  There are bribes that are paid to local governments, a different scenario than he has encountered.  Wages are low and working conditions are harder than in American factories.  The biggest conflict concerns not only his workers but the entire area.  The company has bought the rights to the trees that their top-selling drug is created from.  The local population has used those trees for centuries, and have established harvests and markets.  They are now forbidden to do so; their livlihood sold to a foreign company by their government.  This creates constant tension and as things deteriorate, protests and riots.

A new relationship starts to help Frank.  He takes an interest in the son of their cook and housekeeper.  This child, Ramesh, is a bright child, engaging and outgoing.  Frank and Ellie offer to pay his tuition to a local private school.  Soon they are taking him on weekend trips, and he is a guest at dinners they give for their friends--dinners prepared and served by his parents, who are there as servants rather than guests.  Frank becomes more and more involved with Ramesh.  Both Ramesh's parents and Ellie start to feel uncomfortable with his focus; Elllie because she thinks he is trying to replace their son, and the parents because he is weaning their son's allegience away.

Things come to a head as Frank attempts to find a way to take Ramesh back to America when he and Ellie finish their tour in India.  The book sweeps along to a shocking climax that the reader will not soon forget.

I can't recommend this book highly enough.  The writing is lush and quiet,  but provides a steady increase of suspense.  The conflicts between industrial nations and those countries providing resources and labor are starkly outlined.  How marriages survive tragedies and the way individuals rebuild lives is explored in a deft manner, providing insights without being heavy handed.  This book is recommended for all readers.  It is a stunning book that the reader will remember for quite some time.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shadow Dance by Angela Carter

Angela Carter introduces the reader to a London that isn't talked about in the tourist guides.  It is the London of detached working class men and women scruffing out a living.  The book centers around two friends.  Morris is married to Edna, but rarely goes home to her.  His best friend, Honeybuzzard is an eccentric figure.  Physically attractive but emotionally blunted, he sails through life, using everyone around him for his own purposes.  Morris and Honeybuzzard haphazardly run an antique store, stocked by their forays into abandoned houses where they steal the items they sell.

Honeybuzzard has been away for several months.  A promiscious woman who slept with both the men and most of their acquaintenances, was found raped and cut horribly about the face.  Ghislaine has now returned to the neighborhood after getting out of the hospital, horribly disfigured.  The rumour mill says that Honeybuzzard may have been the culprit, although the offical report blames a roving gang. 

Honeybuzzard has also returned, with a new lover, Emily, in tow.  The book follows the lives of these characters as they meet and fall apart and struggle into new configurations. 

Shadow Dance is Angela Carter's first book, and it is my introduction to her writing.  The writing is stark yet compelling, and her deft touch introduces characters that inhabit the mind long after the last page is read.  This book is recommended for fiction readers.

Meet The Howlers! by April Pulley Sayre

April Pulley Sayre has created a wonderful book about howler monkeys that will be a huge hit with children.  Most children love monkeys, and this book reinforces that love through an exploration of a typical howler monkey family.  The roles of the father, mother and children are discussed in a fun, rollicking way that will leave children amused while increasing their knowledge.

Each set of pages has a catchy rhyme about what is happening on those pages.  Topics include care of the young, food, living conditions and utility of the howling sound the animals make.  For older children, there is also another section that gives scientific facts about the topic.  This combination of rhyme and fact makes the book usable for a wider age range.  Parents can introduce the book to a young child through the rhymes and as the child gets older, interest in the scientific facts will increase. 

The illustrations are done by Woody Miller and are absolutely enchanting.  The howlers are seen swinging in the trees, sleeping, resting, eating, and in several memorable illustrations, howling.  The images make the howling seem like enormous fun; viewing them makes the reader want to join in and howl along. 

This book is recommended for children from two to ten.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg

Hurry Down Sunshine is Michael Greenberg's painful memoir of the summer his fifteen year old daughter was diagnosed as bipolar.  Bright, outgoing and verbal, he and his wife didn't notice that Sally was edging closer and closer to the edge.  She was staying up all night, writing frantically in her journals and walking for hours in New York. But it was summer with summer's relaxed structure and they thought it was the typical teenage behavior of finding one's self and one's voice. 

Then came the day when it became apparent that this was more than normal teenage angst.  Sally became very agitated, unable to stop talking and babbling, eager to share her revelations.  The family took her to the hospital, and then were appalled to find that she needed to be admitted to the psychological ward.

The book details family reactions.  There was guilt, disbelief, and incredible amounts of worry about what would happen to Sally in the future.  Compounding the issue, the author had a brother that had always struggled with mental illness.  Seeing his maladjusted life, the pain of realising that his daughter might be headed down the same road was almost unbearable.

Yet the book is inspring also.  The reader walks with the family through recovery as different drugs are administered, each with it's own set of side effects.  Sally was able to come home as the summer progressed, and by the time the summer was over, was able to go back to her high school.  The book details how her struggle changed the family and its dynamics forever, as they learned to live with this lifetime affliction.

This book is recommended for those struggling with the diagnosis of mental illness or for parents facing any type of life-altering issue in their child's life.  It is also recommended for those who have been diagnosed, giving hope for how to live with the new reality.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick is a continuation of her book The Greatest Knight.  Both books cover the life of England's greatest knight, William Marshall.  The Greatest Knight covers Marshall's early life and his service to Richard The Lionhearted.

In The Scarlet Lion, we follow Marshall in the last years of his life, from 1197 to 1218.  His marriage to Isabelle de Clare is his bedrock, and she is no typical medieval wife.  Instead she is recognized as his partner and helpmate, and she is Irish royalty in her own right.  Together they make a formidable pair as they help move England forward during the wars of conquest that are so frequent. 

For most of this book, Marshall serves King John, the last son in his bloodline who ends up King of England when his four other brothers die in various ways.  John is mercuical and cruel, delighting in pitting his couriers against each other and quick to take offense.  William and Isabelle must thread a wary path between serving John and becoming part of his cruelties. 

The couple have ten children and the reader gets to see how children were raised and the part that they played in consolidating power.  It was a common practice to take children as hostages for their parents' loyalty, and John took the Marshall's two oldest boys into his court as young men.  This created tension and conflict between the king and his subjects, and often between parents and children.  The female children were expected to make marriages that furthered alliances between the great families.

The reader gets to see court life during the reigns of  both King John and King Henry, who came after him.  There are intricate power plays and balancing acts to stay in favor and retain family inheritances and lands.  During this time, there was constant war between England and France, England and Wales and between the various knights who were each jockeying for power and influence.  William Marshall kept his honor and word through various travails and prevailed as a beloved leader.

This book is recommended for historical fiction lovers.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman by Ogo Akubue-Ogbata

Nikiru is born into a wealthy Nigerian family.  She is able to attend a private boarding school with her sister, Nonso.  Born into privilege, she feels secure but finds out how fragile security is when her father dies, leaving her with a stepmother who hates her and her sister.

Farmed out to relatives, Nikiru reaches down within herself and finds a way to get back to school.  She finds she has a passion for engineering; an innate ability to make mechanical items work.  While at school, she meets and falls in love with Ejimonye, a political science major.  They marry, and the book follows their lives; their triumphs and failures and children and love and disasters that befall them.

Ogo Akubue-Ogbata has created a special viewpoint into the African experience of the last half of the twentieth century.  Set in Nigeria, the book also follows events in Sierra Leone and Uganda.  The reader is able to view colonism from the viewpoint of those colonized, and how that colonization reaches its grasp into everyday life of those who endured it.  It also shows the similarity that all women share in life as they grow up, fall in love, marry and have children in their turn, often while trying to balance family and work.  This book is recommended for readers who are interested in African history, and for those who enjoy family sagas.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Finding true love is possible in just 90 days. Renowned clinical psychologist, Dr. Diana Kirschner, uses the latest research, clinical and personal experience to show you how. Dr. Diana knows the questions single women everywhere face: "Why am I attracted to the wrong kind of guys?" "Why is he just not that into me?" "Why can't I seem to find the One?" She also knows the unconscious mistakes that women make over and over again in love-regardless of age, work success, or the type of men they are dating.

Over the years Dr. Diana has received countless inquiries from single women about writing a how-to guide on her work. Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love is that book.

Love in 90 Days is fun, savvy and based on the latest research on singles, online dating and healthy relationships. Loaded with step-by-step instructions, checklists, and weekly homework assignments, this revolutionary love book is also an intensely personal journey for each reader. Love in 90 Days guides you along your own path towards self discovery with proven and effective dating advice and tough love. Dr. Diana dispels common misconceptions about love relationships and dating, and share personal stories from women who have successfully completed the Love in 90 Days Program. There's also a chapter devoted to the special issues faced by African-American women, single mothers, and women forty-five and older.

Giveaway Rules

You MUST, MUST, MUST leave an email address in order to be entered in the contest. I hate to have to throw out entries because I have no way to notify winners.

1. The giveaway starts Tuesday, February 2nd and ends Friday, February 12th at midnight.
2. There will be five 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!

All right ladies; let's find out how love works.  Valentine's Day is right around the corner!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Searching for Tina Turner by Jacqueline E. Luckett

Lena Spencer has it all.  Married to Randall, one of the few black CEO's of a major corporation, she has a lovely home, all the material possessions one could wish for, a son in college, a daughter about to graduate high school and a circle of friends who love her cooking and advice.

But that vision is on the outside looking in.  From the inside, Lena has reached age fifty-four and feels empty.  Her son has left college due to drug problems and her daughter rarely talks to her.  Her husband uses her as a tool to further his career, and her friends are fair-weather ones.  She feels as if she has nothing that is truly hers and that she has lost her dreams in the service of others.

Lena's dream is to operate a photography studio.  She's had a business plan for years, but has put off starting her business as her husband climbs ever higher in the corporate world.  Instead, she has helped him write speeches, strategized meetings, and served as his hostess.  He kept promising that her turn will come, but now that it's time, he still refuses to support her in finding her dream.

Desparate to carve out something for herself, Lena finds a biography of Tina Turner.  Reading how Tina left her husband at age forty-five and went on to become a bigger musical star without him gives Lena the courage to insist on her plans.  When Randall won't help, she moves out and takes the steps necessary to make her dreams a reality.

This book is recommended for all readers.  Jacqueline Luckett has captured the feeling of imprisonment that many women face, along with the reality that they have given up what they wanted to help everyone they love find what is important to them.  This is an interesting debut novel.

The Nightmare Navigator by Billy Bonsangue

Nightmares are a very real thing to many children, and parents who have children who suffer from nightmares know intimately how it can disrupt the entire family.  In The Nightmare Navigator, Billy Bonsangue uses verse and colorful pictures to list all the common nightmares that might be plaguing a child.  He lists scenarios like monsters under the bed, feeling like you're falling from a great height, something following you in the fog, and spooks in your bedroom at night.

But after listing all the horrors, the author turns the book around and lists ways the child can turn the scary situation around into one that is pleasureable.  Feel like you're falling?  Tell yourself you can fly and suddenly it's an amazing adventure.  A horrible beast in your room?  Welcome him and tell him you've been waiting to play with him.

I love this book!  The rhymes are catchy and the pictures bright and colorful.  I can see this book quickly becoming a favorite of children suffering from nightmares, with the request to read it each night before bedtime.  Parents will be pleased to find something that might help defuse the situation.  This book is recommended for children 5-10, and for parents looking for resources to help them help their child overcome fear of sleeping and nightmares.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Topless Prophet by Alan Markovitz

From the book:

"There are 2,500 topless clubs in America with gross revenue exceeding $7.5 billion.  Topless clubs entertain an estimated 1,000,000 customers every day and employ 350,000 workers to serve them.  Topless clubs serve more alcoholic beverages (and, I would add, at a higher average price) than any other type of nightclub and are open more days and hours than any other type of nightclub.  Of particular significance, topless clubs pay more state and local taxes than any other type of nightclub and receive less corporate branding than any other type of nightclub."

These are just some of the surprising facts that the author, Alan Markovitz, shares about his life as the owner/operator of the #1 rated topless club in the United States.  Markovitz grew up in Detroit, the child of a Holocaust survivor.  When he finished high school, he was at loose ends.  He was accepted and tested to be a figher pilot for the Israeli air force, but ultimately declined.  He went to college in premed, then later business, but again just wasn't satisfied.  He started working at a topless nightclub, and immediately saw the business opportunity that hadn't been exploited there.

When Markovitz started out, most topless nightclubs were lower class establishments, with the typical clientele being biker or other gangs, or blue-collar workers.  He saw that there was a niche not being filled.  There was room for an upscale club that would cater to businessmen and professionals.  This is the type of club he started, along with his father and an older man in the business as partners.  His vision was correct, and it led to a lifetime in the business, multiple clubs, and wealth.

While the language is rough, it is interesting to read how the success came from a standard business model, and how Markovitz talks incessently about business concepts like quality of service, return on investment, loss leaders, location, etc.  Not everything is business talk, and there is certainly a downside.  Markovitz has been shot twice and one of his partners hired hitmen to kill him.  There were incidents with law enforcement and local municipalities. 

This book is recommended for both those interested in topless nightclubs, and surprisely, those interested in business and how to succeed in a business. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Currency Of Time, Brandon Stuart

Patrick Felson, 70 years old, wakes one morning and stiffly makes his way down the hallway to start his day.  But this day is different for Patrick.   As he is staring at a collage of family portraits in the hall, he feels a terrific pain and realises he is having a stroke.

When he comes back to consciousness, he slowly begins to realise that this is not the same date he woke up on.   Somehow, he has been transported back a decade.  His wife, who he loved dearly, but was estranged emotionally from, is still there.  Patrick goes to her and tells her how much he loves her and they have a perfect day.

When Patrick awakes next he has traveled back another decade.  He is able to reconnect with his children.  This pattern continues; each time Patrick awakes he has retreated another decade and is able to rectify some of the emotional damage he has done to himself and others.  This continues back to his childhood and the trauma of losing a sibling.  Patrick comes to realise the factors that have held him back his whole life and start to change them.

This book is recommended for general fiction readers.  Stuart has created an interesting framework for the book, and the reader moves with Patrick from decade to decade, wishing as he does that things had been different and pleased that he is undoing some of the emotional damage.  The book is life-affirming and leaves the reader with positive thoughts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Island Of The Swans by Ciji Ware

In Island Of The Swans, Ciji Ware follows the life of Jane Maxwell.  Born into genteel poverty, the daughter of a minor noble, Jane is a tomboy who lives to escape the strict rules of her upbringing and indulge in madcap adventures.  She is joined by her sisters and a neighbor boy, Thomas Fraser.  As Jane grows, she is forced to become more ladylike and respectable.  She grows into a raving beauty, and her job is to make an advantageous marriage that will help out the family fortunes.

Jane catches the eye of Alexander Gordon, the fourth Duke of Gordon.  Her heart belongs to her childhood friend, Thomas, but he has gone to America to help the Crown settle the country.  When news of his death gets back to England, Jane agrees to marry Alex. 

But word of Thomas' death was premature, and he returns to England time and again over the decades.  Jane is caught between her marriage and children with Alex, and her lifelong love of Thomas.  Which man will win out and keep Jane for his own?

Ciji Ware has created a gorgeous tapestry of the time period, woven around the love conflicts of Jane Maxwell Gordon, fourth Duchess of Gordon.  She weaves in information about the politics of England at the time, famous men, Scottish dancing, poetry, food, and the state of women's status.  This is a glorious book and is recommended for lovers of historical romances.