Sunday, October 28, 2012

At The Queen's Command by Michael Stackpole

Put your literary boots on.  Michael Stackpole is ready to take readers on an amazing journey.  Imagine a retelling of the settling of the North American continent by the British, jerked slightly askew.  Yes, there are touchpoints that the reader will recognize from their history classes, but Stackpole's version is infinitely more entertaining.

Captain Owen Strake has come to the Mysterian colony to make his mark.  Shunned by Norillian society and his extended family due to a Mysterian birth father, he has little chance to rise in traditional ways.  A successful mission will secure enough of a future that he can retire with his wife to the countryside and move away from the artificial society he chafes under.  He has been charged with surveying the uncharted lands of the Queen's colony, Mystria, and giving a report of any possible enemies such as rival Tharyngians and the Twilight People who were the original inhabitants of the land. 

When he arrives, he realises that this land is nothing like anything he has seen.  There are new animals, and magick is not something that is feared and scorned as it is at home.  As an individual who has some magick ability, this is a new idea, that his abilities could be honored rather than feared.  The people are warmer and more welcoming to strangers, and as he becomes more acclimated, he realises that this land suits him much better; a land where a man is evaluated for his character rather than his wealth or position.

But all is not well.  There is an undercurrent of unrest, as the plans of the Tharyngians to attack Mysteria and gain control of all the land become clearer.  There are those who wish for Myteria to break free of the Queen's control.  As Owen works on the surveying, he discovers that a Tharyngian commander he had faced on the battlefields of Europe has taken command here.  He is determined to rule the entire land, by force if he must.  He has built a huge fort that is manned by creatures raised from the dead by sorcery, along with an overwhelming force of highly trained soldiers used to winning every battle. 

Owen, along with those who love Mysteria, are determined to defeat the Tharyngians for the Queen.  There is Nathaniel Woods, a huntsman and guide, highly skilled in the survival skills of this new land.  Kamiskwa is one of the Native people, and he and Nathaniel open this society to Owen.  There is Prince Vlad, the Queen's nephew.  Vlad is a scientist first and foremost, and he loves this new land that he has been given to rule.  Together these men create a ragtag army of colonists who will stop at nothing to win their freedom to live as they like.

This book is highly recommended.  The minute I finished the last page, I rushed online to buy the second volume.  There is humor, magic, strange rituals.  The book is a rousing history with battles and the story of a land forming a society, but then thrown in are items such as men raised from the dead, giant wurms (wingless dragons), who fight along with their owners, guns that are fired by men with their fingers serving as the firing power to send bullets on their way.  There is intrigue, strategy and military battles.  This is a rousing history that is both whimsical and rousing and is recommended for a wide genre of readers.  Those who love history will enjoy this twist on reality.  Those who like fantasy will also find it an excellent read. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Excerpt from Heaven Should Fall by Rebecca Coleman

“What in the hell is that?” asked Elias.
“That’s Stan,” Cade explained. “The guy you’ve heard me
talk about a million times. This is his place. He’s dressed up
like Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
That’s Stan?” He walked over and peered closely at the
photo. Then he looked over his shoulder at Cade, his upper lip curled in the first grin I’d seen out of him.
Interested?  Check out the blog tour for this exciting book at this location. 
Amazon writes:
Alone since her mother's death, Jill Wagner wants to eat, sleep and breathe Cade Olmstead when he bursts upon her life—golden, handsome and ambitious. Even putting college on hold feels like a minor sacrifice when she discovers she's pregnant with Cade's baby. But it won't be the last sacrifice she'll have to make.

Retreating to the Olmsteads' New England farm seems sensible, if not ideal—they'll regroup and welcome the baby, surrounded by Cade's family. But the remote, ramshackle place already feels crowded. Cade's mother tends to his ailing father, while Cade's pious sister, her bigoted husband and their rowdy sons overrun the house. Only Cade's brother, Elias, a combat veteran with a damaged spirit, gives Jill an ally amidst the chaos, along with a glimpse into his disturbing childhood. But his burden is heavy, and she alone cannot kindle his will to live.

The tragedy of Elias is like a killing frost, withering Cade in particular, transforming his idealism into bitterness and paranoia. Taking solace in caring for her newborn son, Jill looks up to find her golden boy is gone. In Cade's place is a desperate man willing to endanger them all in the name of vengeance…unless Jill can find a way out.

Rebecca Coleman is the author of "The Kingdom of Childhood," an ABNA 2010 semifinalist. She received her B.A. in English literature from the University of Maryland at College Park and speaks to writers' groups on the subjects of creative writing and publishing. A native New Yorker, she now lives and works near Washington, D.C. Visit her at

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Revised Fundamentals Of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Benjamin Benjamin is stuck.  He has drifted ever since his family life imploded, leaving him without anyone to share his life with.  Since he has spent years as a stay-at-home dad, his career prospects are dim.  Benjamin takes a class for caregivers, where he learns the technical aspects of home care along with the ability to be helpful without crossing the boundaries that separate a caregiver from his patient.

Then he meets Trav.  Trav is nineteen years old, a young man with MD, whose life expectancy is limited.  Each year the disease takes more and more from him, leaving him more dependant on his mother and his caregivers.  Against his will and knowledge, Ben finds himself becoming involved in Trav's life, pushing him to do and want more than what life has on offer.

As the book progresses, Ben and Trav take off on a cross-country trip.  Along the way, they encounter several lost souls and along with seeing the sights, take the time to create a space of helpfulness for the various people they encounter.  Will Ben learn to move on and take charge of his life, or will he remain a detached, uninvolved man barely making it through his days?

Jonathan Evison has written a compellingly readable book.  The reader quickly learns to care about Ben, and pulls for him to get past the tragedy of his life.  Ben is a man many of us know; someone whose life doesn't work out the way he plans, but who can still take the time to care for others as he learns what his purpose is.  This book is recommended for all readers interested in individuals evolving and building successful lives when faced with difficulties.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The New Republic by Lionel Shriver

Edgar Kellogg must have been insane.  He threw over a promising career as a corporate lawyer to try his luck at being a journalist.  Of course, people with actual journalistic experience are having difficulties finding work in the changing newspaper environment, but that doesn't deter Edgar.  He uses some old connections to wrest an interview and emerges from that experience with an assignment as a stringer in Barba, Portugal.  The paper needs a stringer as their assigned reporter to the area has gone missing.

Barba?  Haven't heard of it?  You're not alone, no one would have except for the terrorist actions going on there.  Barba is a remotely settled, backwards region that has one claim to fame; a rebel terrorist organziation that is willing to bomb regardless of loss of life in their quest to gain Barba's independance from Portugal.

Edgar arrives in town ready to take up where the missing reporter, Barrington Saddler, has left off.  He has keys to Saddler's house and car, his office and former work.  He finds Saddler's favorite bar and meets the other journalists covering the independance group.  He forms relationships with them and interviews those Barbaians willing to go on record.  In short, he is primed for the story of his life. 

But nothing is happening.  The terrorists seem to have gone into hibernation.  Is this just Edgar's bad luck, or is something more going on?  Edgar's determination to discover what happened to Saddler and why the bombings have stopped leads him to the story of his life; a story sure to make any journalist's career.

Lionel Shriver has written an entertaining, dark comedy about the entire topic of terrorism, and particularly how it is covered by journalists.  There is a symbiotic relationship between the two groups as neither can exist without the other.  Shriver is known for novels that touch on relevant topics and The New Republic is no different.  This book is recommended for readers interested in how news is reported and even shaped by the men and women who devote their lives to explaining the world to the rest of us. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Age Of Desire by Jennie Fields

The Age Of Desire opens in Paris.  Edith Wharton, who has just written The House Of Mirth, is attending a literary salon.  Her eyes are drawn to a newcomer, a man named Morton Fullerton.  He is charismatic, compelling, and draws the attention of men and women alike.  For some reason, he seems attracted to Edith, a position a married woman in her forties is not used to.  Especially one such as Edith, who has lived her life married to a man whom she has, at best, a friendship with, no love or passion. 

The book follows the unfolding of several related tales.  There is the lifelong friendship between Edith and her governess, Anna, who stayed on with her for life, serving as her secretary and first reader.  There is the thread of Teddy Wharton, who becomes mentally ill as the book progresses, leading to constant worry.  Then there is the love affair that blossoms between Wharton and Fullerton, where Edith learns to love and the joy of sexual bliss for the first time in her life.

Jennie Fields has written a compelling book about Wharton, who is a familiar figure in American literature, one of the first successful American women authors.  It is a portrait of the life of an upper class woman, who winters in Paris and spends the summer on a palatial American estate, who is friends with Henry James and other famous individuals of her time.  The book follows the facts of Wharton's life faithfully, and as Fullerton refused to destroy Edith's letters, even has the validity of including those private thoughts from her.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction, and those interested in life in the upper echelons of American society, the American Downton Abbey.