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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Red - by Ted Dekker


“The Stakes of the mind-bending story spun in Black are raised to a new level in Red. In one world, Thomas Hunter must lead a small, highly trained force of 30,000 against an unstoppable army of a million warriors. In the other he will face an evil beyond the scope of his imagination.”

Book two of Ted Dekker’s “Circle Trilogy” takes the hero Thomas Hunter deeper into his “dream world.” Here we find that Thomas has been living, dreamless, in the world of Elyon for 15 years. While only eight years have passed on Earth. The Plague has been release in several cities all over the world with no antidote and a madman at the helm of it all.
The followers of Elyon now live in the seven forests and fight to protect these holy sites from the Horde. During this time Thomas of Hunter has been training the "Forest Gaurd" ans has become the supreme commander. He is loved by his people, and feared the Horde.
As the story unfolds Ted Dekker unveils further mystery and intrigue which keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

I dare not reveal too much here for “Red” is a pivoting point for both “Black” and the final book “White.”
Click here for a video trailer for "Red."
Click here for an mp3 audio readiing for "Red."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Black - by Ted Dekker


“By day's end, three million people will be carriers of the deadliest virus in history. There is no vaccine. There is no anti-virus. The world's only hope is Thomas Hunter, and he has already been killed. Twice. Enter an adrenaline-laced epic where dreams and reality collide - and the fate of two worlds hangs in the balance of one man's choices.”


Ted Dekker’s Black is a rollercoaster ride of action, adventure, intrigue and downright nastiness. The book follows the life of Thomas Hunter, an ordinary, down on his luck man. Due to a failed “import opportunity” he becomes the target of hit. While escaping from his would be killers, he suffers a head trauma and wakes up in an alternate reality. At first this new reality appears to be a world where no one gets sick or hurts and there is no sadness. There is want for nothing and the people are guided by white bat-like creatures called “Roush,” whom appear somewhat angelic and follow their creator named “Elyon.”


However, Thomas soon realizes that a deadly virus is soon to be released that threatens all he cares about. The pace quickens as both worlds are intertwined in the actions of one man, Thomas Hunter.


This is a 3 part series called "The Circle Trilogy" by Ted Dekker. Click on the following link to hear a brief reading of Black. Black-MP3

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Susannah's Garden by Debbie Macomber


Her father dies, her mother is having difficulty coping and with her memory, her daughter is miserable with her life at college and determined to make everyone else, especially her mother, miserable, too. On top of it, her dreams are haunted by her high school boyfriend and sorting through her father's papers creates mysteries.

Though overwhelmed by this chapter in her life, she reunites with her best friend from school, learns the depths of her love for her husband and family and learns to understand her mother and her father.

This is an enjoyable book about the life changing events that the death of a parent can create and how we cope with it, learn from it and move forward.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell

Enemy of God is the second book in the Warlord trilogy by Bernard Cornwell. It continues with story of Arthur as written by Derfel, a Christian monk who was previously a Druid warrior in Arthur's employ.

The story continues where The Winter King left off. We follow southern Britain and the tragedies, successes, love and treacheries that occur to our main characters: Derfel, Arthur, Lancelot and others.

The author takes the reader through a wide range of emotions that completely immerse you into the story. I found myself in tears at one point, at a tragedy.

The title refers to Arthur, who, from the early legends, is thought to have been a follower of the Druid religion. In southern Britain, in the time of this story, the Druids were fighting very hard to maintain their religion against the Christian monks, who were heavily converting the British to Christianity. Again, in this book, much of the dynamic, contrast and even humor comes from the conflict between the two religions.

Again, I highly recommend this series to anyone. It is at times barbaric (because it is set in the Dark Ages) but is a wonderful tapestry of what the legend of Arthur may have been like.

Book three is called Excaliber, and I will be reading it next.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front is the first book in The Dresden Files.

Imagine Raymond Chandler writing a detective story that features a wizard in modern Chicago and you have the idea behind Jim Butcher's series.

Harry Dresden is low on money when the Chicago P.D. brings him in on a case. A double murder has been committed with black magic. One problem for Harry is that he is a suspect. The bigger problem is the black mage behind the murders knows Harry's name. When a black mage knows your name, he can use his magic to kill you.

This book is a definite page turner as Harry races the clock to see if he can stop the black mage before he gets killed.

Fans of the books in the Hard Case Crime line will enjoy this series. Any fan looking for a good series will be hooked from the start of this story.

Recommended.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hitler's Judas by Tom Lewis


Hitler’s Judas
By Tom Lewis
Published by VP Publishing
294 Pages / Fiction




An impressive page burner, Hitler’s Judas, the second book in the Pea Island Gold Trilogy by Tom Lewis is a grand experience.

In the midst of World War Two, Martin Bormann is the closest man to Hitler and possibly the second most powerful man in the Nazi regime. In the wake of Hitler’s insane plan to invade the Russians, Bormann designs a covert escape to an island off the coast of North Carolina, and a heist of fifty million in gold.

The story is packed full of real and memorable characters from the era. The setting is crafted with fine detail and the tension is wire tight. Lewis guides the reader through a maze of deception, murder, and war with little effort and does an impressive job getting the reader to the end.

Reading the book took me back in time to those holiday evenings listening to my grandpa tell stories of his training to be a “belly gunner” on a flying fortress, though he never saw combat and ended up being a butcher in the Army Air Corps. The movies we watch and the books we read, show us the devastation of combat in Europe and the lives our civilians living at home. This was a nice trip to the other side of the fence and read about our enemy, even if it was fiction

Hitler’s Judas is a must read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction of the World War Two era. Packed with suspense, tension, and great writing, I recommend this book for anyone searching for something different to read. The author’s note at the end suggests though Hitler’s Judas is based on fiction, Martin Bormann with his persona and access to virtually anyone and anything, had the ability to escape to South America and may not have died in the bunker bombings at the close of the war. That gives you something to think about…

Tom Lewis lives in New Bern, North Carolina. In addition to the Pea Island Gold Trilogy, He has written five other novels, a collection of short stories, and a nonfiction book. Visit his web-site www.tomelewis.com

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

Step aside, Duane "Dog" Chapman. Meet Stephanie Plum, Trenton New Jersey's latest fugitive apprehension agent (aka bond enforcement officer and bounty hunter).

In Seven Up, the seventh book written by Janet Evanovich in the Stephanie Plum series, we find our humorous heroine aimlessly chasing after a semi-retired mobster named Eddie DeChooch for skipping his bond. DeChooch just happens to be an elusive old geezer, who is terribly depressed about his impotence.

Throughout the course of this book (and in typical fashion), Stephanie and her hilarious sidekicks (Grandma Mazur, Mooner, Lula, and Dougie) manage to chase fugitives, discover dead bodies, dodge gunshots, attend funerals, ride a Harley, purchase a pig heart and escape kidnapping three times. You'll get to meet all of her other nutty family members too.

Stephanie is not without her love interests. She has a long standing romance with Joe Morelli, a vice cop with whom she has had an on/off fling since she was six years old. They are even engaged, or at least they keep spreading that rumor. But she has a steamy chemistry with fellow bounty hunter, Ranger, whose mysterious ways make her lust and fear simultaneously. She finds them both irresistible and complicated.

There is never a dull moment as Stephanie Plum chases bail jumpers till the very end. You will laugh out loud and flip through each page quickly as you anticipate each new twist and adventure. And you'll discover Miss Plum is the sorriest and luckiest bounty hunter ever.

This is a series novel, so it is helpful to start the series at the first book, One For The Money. However, Evanovich tends to re-introduce each character and their background in each book, just in case. I recommend reading the whole series in sequence.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Duty by Bob Greene

In honor of the passing of Paul Tibbets on November 1, 2007, I immediately went back to the book written by Bob Green - Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War.

Bob Greene made a trip home to be with his dying father. Living quietly, almost anoymously, in the same town was Paul Tibbets - the man who flew the Enola Gay and dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, leading to the end of World War II.

Bob Greene was able to meet Paul Tibbets and to spend time with him. Through Paul Tibbets, Bob Greene learned about the ingrained sense of honor and duty he always saw in this father and in the ordinary heroes of the time of World War II.

This is a deeply personal journey, and one that is easy to embrace.

If you know any one from the WWII generation, this is a journey you should take. I intend to reread it now in honor of Paul Tibbets and all of the WWII vets.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Ambler Warning by Robert Ludlum

The Ambler Warning is a psychiatric thriller ghostwritten under Robert Ludlum's name, published after his passing.

Hal Ambler comes to his senses, slowly, in a maximum security psychiatric hospital/prison. He is able to escape and to try to piece his life back together, only to realize that he doesn't exist. He comes to find out that he is the key in potential transition of China into being a economic world player.

There are too many twists and turns in Hal's journey to find his identity and memories, but this is a thrilling ride of a book in the same direction as the Bourne trilogy.

I found this book on a grocery store shelf and decided to buy it after reading the back blurb. I love a psycho-thriller. This one is excellent.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Brief History of the Dead - Kevin Brockmeier

When you die, are you really dead? Can you keep on living through memory? Kevin Brockmeier's January release is built solely on these questions and many more, delivering a thought-provoking, deep and powerful novel unlike any other.

The Brief History of the Dead revolves around Laura Byrd, a wildlife specialist employed by the Coca-Cola Corporation that is sent out to Antarctica to find uses for the slowly melting ice for the popular soft drink. However, a slight snag in the plan occurs - the world is wiped out by a lethal virus while she's freezing her buns off (now that is some bad luck for ya), and her accompanying colleagues Joyce and Puckett, in a helpful sense, abandon her and their station to seek help across the icy depths. Hold up - it gets better.

Every other chapter deals with another world entirely - one housing those who have passed from the Earth. But it isn't the heaven-or-hell afterlife the majority of the population had envisioned - it is yet another city that expands on its own to house the bloating census. Confused? Be patient.

While these stories seem to have little to do with each other, Brockmeier gingerly intertwines them about half way through the book, making two worlds one...in a sense. Turns out this parallel city the dead folks are shacking up in is powered by the memories of those on Earth. And, since a lethal virus rarely shows mercy to its victims, Laura winds up being the last remaining person on Earth. Only her memories and the people retained in them remain in the city. But what if Laura dies? What will happen to the city and its occupants then?

You'll have to read it to find out. But even still, Brockmeier's mind-bending writing skill is so interesting and twisted, one will have a hard time putting this 252-page novel down. And his intriguing insight into the afterlife and this supposed memory-driven plane may give even the most religious of people something to contemplate.

But be forewarned: You may never look at another Coca-Cola can the same way again.

Natural Ordermage by L.E. Modesitt

Natural Ordermage is the 14th volume of L. E. Modesitt's Recluse series of fantasy novels. It is the beginning of a new character in a two-novel series within the Recluse series. His name is Rahl and he is a natural ordermage, a new facet of the magic in the world of Recluse.

Rahl is from Recluse and, as in the other books that deal with the order side of magic, any person on that island that has order abilities has to either be trained or exiled (Those gifted with the chaos side of magic are immediately exiled). Rahl tries to hide his seemingly limited abilities with order but it is discovered by a local magister and this magister is also corrupt. Rahl soon finds himself at Nylan, the order wizard training facility/city on the other side of the island.

Rahl must soon come to grips that he cannot be taught well with his type of control over order. This leads to exile to Hamor, a larger continent across the sea that is more of a melting pot than the people of Recluse.

Natural Ordermage is typical Modesitt writing. He has a earthy style that I like. I was excited when I found this book at the store. His settings in Hamor impressed most due to the fact that there, both order mages and chaos mages work together in society. In his earlier books, if the main character was an order mage, it was inferred that chaos was evil. Likewise, if the books focused on a chaos mage, then order was given a negative-connoted, fundamentalist desciption. So, in Hamor's society, Rahl joins and works with chaos mages. It was a refreshing change of pace.

Modesitt's Recluse series, while not as popular as the Wheel of Time or some other fantasy series's in stores, is an excellent study in the typical fantasy character, who has a big flaw, but works very hard to overcome adversity through and in spite of his flaw. One note with this series, it is recommended that it be read in the order in which he published the books. While his timeline skips around tremendously from book to book, it is quite satisfying how he weaves details from other stories into the current storyline. I enjoy this series.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Code of the Woosters - P. G. Wodehouse

If Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry (Wooster and Jeeves, respectively, in the TV version of the series) co-authored a book, the result would be The Code of the Woosters.

More commonly known for the mis-adventures of Bertram "Bertie" Wooster and his clever servant, Jeeves, Wodehouse writes British humor at its best, sliding the duo into sticky and befuddling situations that, through Jeeves' ingeniousness, they are eventually pulled out of.

Code follows this exact pattern. The endless chaos that ensues in the story involves a cow-creamer, policeman's helmet, a frightful lug of a man named Roderick and two family engagements. Sounds confusing? It is, but hilariously so. Wodehouse's ways of intertwining mystery, suspense and adventure with light, chuckle-enducing hilarity perfect this novel, getting Bertie into so much trouble, it seems he can't get in any deeper...until he does. As is expected by many a Wooster relative, Jeeves usually comes up with an sneaky, all-satisfying route to resolution. Wodehouse, however, throws flies in the ointment, as is an expression in the book, by halting Jeeves' idea train, resulting in more of the complications and misunderstandings prevalent in the story.

The plot twists at the end of each chapter force the reader to continue on to see whether Wooster can get out of each predicament in one piece. And though Wooster oftentimes seems slightly air-headed and, to use the most accurate word available, useless, the reader can't help but feel bad for him in times of trouble and happy upon his escape. Jeeves has to be the most lovable character, though, for behind the silent lackey is a brilliant, logically- and psychologically-driven mind that refills the grave that his master has unintentionally dug for himself. Wodehouse has made a perfect pair in Jeeves and Wooster, and Code is but one example of proof.

The only mystery that remains long after one has finished the book is why a cow-creamer is so darn important to these people.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Mystery Method - Mystery

I couldn't finish this. Maybe it's just my being born a female and reading this, I don't know, but I laughed and laughed and laughed. Sorry, Erik von Markovik, no offense.

I enjoyed the show, I really did. The Pick-up Artist on VH1 was fun, different, experimental, and like well-constructed reality shows, had me wondering who would win the grand prize in the end. But I'll bet dollars to donuts the contestants didn't have to read this book.

It's not bad. It's interesting...to the point right before it becomes a confusing smattering of words that really contains only a simple message: Go get 'em, tiger!

I came into this book with an open mind, taking full note of the book's subtitle ('How to Get Beautiful Women Into Bed'). As a female, I figured I wouldn't agree with the perspective from which it was written, and I had that spot on. But, for gents seeking a heart-felt, long-lasting relationship with a woman, I don't believe they'd agree with the approach much either.

Though Markovik - sorry, Mystery - claims the techniques described within the book's pages is that of a Venusian artist (a play off of Venus, the goddess of love), all the actions, terms, politics and suggested approaches scream "player". Which is fine for those wishing to be a player. Not so much for the ladies who have likely spent years of their lives telling the little buggers off. And with a few of the techniques described ('negging', 'indicating disinterest', etc.), I can't say I wouldn't be socking any "budding Venusians" within five feet myself.

Ironically, out of the whole book, Mystery gives one line of clever advice to budding women picker-uppers that could easily substitute the whole book on its own on page 128: "Go, and be in the field, and listen to your intuition there." Which makes sense and is completely contradictory to Mystery's teachings of selective moves and sayings. But, hey, who am I to judge? Whatever works for you.

All I'm saying is that, in the course of things, when you've got a rugged stud that looks like Gregory House nursing a beer alone at the bar or, on the opposite side of the club, a guy with a fuzzy top hat and leopard-print coat parading a Playboy-bound pixie on each arm, I'm pretty sure I'd suddenly need a refill on my drink.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Second Horseman by Kyle Mills


Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (May 1, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0312934173
ISBN-13: 978-0312934170

Like every Kyle Mills book I have read, The Second Horseman follows a similar patern. Mills likes to have his stories with flawed heroes in need of redemption. He also likes to use government agents/officials gone rogue as the bad guys.
Although his characters all seem to follow the same pattern, his books are very different. The heroes are all vastly different people, with different lives and personalities. So it works and each story is compelling.
The Second Horseman is centered around Brandon Vale, the best burglar you could find, as long as you looked in prison. He was framed for a crime he did not commit, which has him pretty irritated at Richard Scanlon, the ex-FBI agent who framed him.
Scanlon has uncovered a plot by Ukranian organized crime to sell nuclear weapons on the black market and the first customers are a new Islamic militant group with designs on ending the Israeli presence in the Middle East, permanently. To get the warheads into American hands, Scanlon needs the best burglar he can find. Fortunately, Scanlon knows just where to look.
All Vale needs to do is pull of the world’s greatest heist to get the hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the Ukranian warheads and save millions of lives. Sounds easy, right?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

I read this book about a year ago, but I ran across it in a book search and remembered that I liked it so much that I thought I post up a short review.

A Walk in the Woods is an account of the author and a friend taking on the Appalachian Trail, a cross country trail that extends from north Georgia all the way into northern New England. It's a funny and true tale of their adventures and hardships involved in hiking and living off the land....most of the time.

He tells of how your outlook on humanity changes when you embark on this kind of trek. He accounts the weird people he and his hiker-mate encounter on the Trail.

I highly recommend this book to anyone. It is a universally lovable book.

Nothing to See Here by David L. Post


Successful Dr. Allan Sarnover – psychiatrist, is at the top of his game when his world is turned upside down by the bizarre actions of his manic wife Cassie. Sarnover soon finds himself as a single parent with a seriously declining practice, and his life in the throws of insanity not unlike the patients he treats.

Cassie in the first chapter of the book, “splits for the coast”, then two months later returns home and is caught stoned, and in bed with a new lover. Thus, Cassie has decided to file for divorce and get custody of their ten-year old son Mitch. This begins Alan’s whirlpool of cataclysmic self-destruction and strife.

The court system and Cassie wearing Alan down to commit unthinkable deeds and pushes him over the edge.

Nothing to See Here is one of the best psycho thriller stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading. The book is filled with tension as Alan systematically falls into mental illness and bad decisions. It definitely makes you ask yourself questions about the human psyche. Could I be pushed this far? My best friend? My wife? How well do we really know the people in our lives?

I was drawn into the darkness and suspense of the story as Allan went from a stand up citizen to murderer. The characters, dialogue and setting are very real, and Post pulls off a superb ending.

Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Eldest is Christopher Paolini's second installment of the Inheritance series. The story continues where Eragon left off, in Farthen Dur.

Eragon and Saphira, now heros, travel to the home of the elves to continue magical training. Eragon learns not only deeper magic but becomes literate in the elven language, which is important in spell-casting.

After his training, he must join forces with the Varden and meet the Empire's army and fight.

The author branches out to 2-3 different story lines in Eldest. He follows Roran, Eragon's cousin. Roran is also being pursued by the enemy and must make difficult decisions that effect not only him, but all of his village.

Eldest has a decent storyline (if quite predictable) and the characters develop a little. The author seems to have grown in his writing, although I'd not put him in the same league with the staples in modern fantasy. I've read other reviews on big sites and, while this series gets a lot of bad reviews, I don't believe it's as bad as they say, just not world class.

The author did two things that I did not appreciate much as a reader. First, it seemed as if he had a list of a couple dozen $10 words that he wanted to slip in occasionally. His writing overall is simple (a compliment) but some of the archaic words he uses are used inappropriately. The other thing that got me was a certain chapter that started out talking about religion and ended up being a very poor and ill-placed preaching job. I personally disagree with what he had to say but besides that, it just didn't fit in the story.

I give Eldest a "C". The writing was a little more mature but he countered his gains with some weird choices that left me shaking my head.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Madeline L'Engle



Madeline L'Engle

November 29, 1918 - September 6, 2007

As a lifelong bibliophile, I still have a collection of books that I adored as a child. Madeline L'Engle time series was one of my favorites. It was also the first science fiction/fantasy that I read. I always loved the time books - A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time.

Later in my life, I rediscovered Madeline L'Engle as a writer for adults and a Christian writer. She wrote fiction and non-fiction. One of my favorites is Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. A prolific writer of over 60 books, she brought great joy to many readers across the age spectrum.

When I learned of her death, I picked up my copy of A Wrinkle in Time and rediscovered the joy she had given me so very long ago.

Farewell, Madeline L'Engle. Thank you for the journeys!

http://www.madeleinelengle.com/

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Gospel According to Hollywood - Greg Garrett

I'm not a religious person. I believe in God, but have a lot of questions. I don't believe in denominations and thus don't claim one. But even I found this to be a great book.

This June release from religious novelist Greg Garrett covers some of Hollywood's most popular films and emphasizes the underlying similarities to Biblical stories and anecdotes. And The Passion of the Christ isn't the only one covered here - did you really think Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was only about an aspiring wizard and his untapped strength? Think again.

Garrett emphasizes some of the obvious religion-twinged releases, like the Keanu Reeves flick Constantine, M. Night Shyamalan's Signs, and the '89 release Field of Dreams. But, through in-depth analysis and seemingly long nights of movie-watching (such a tough job, I tell ya), Garrett pulls religion out of unexpected films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Matrix, and the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke. Oh, and let's not forget E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. Oh, yes, he gives insight into the family flick as he makes supported and insightful comparisons of the lovable alien's life to Jesus the Son's. (Seems like a long stretch, but really, it's not.)

Garrett covers the accuracy of the Devil's existence (as well as history's biggest movie baddies), different people's definitions of being 'saved', the way through which one can live their life righteously, and...how to buckle a swash? Yeah, he doesn't know either. But nonetheless, he fills 165 pages with his gathered knowledge of movies and the Force Within. Yes, yes, Star Wars gets some plugging, too - read away, potential Jedi Masters.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Eight by Catherine Neville

Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 0345366239
ISBN-13: 978-0345366238

The Eight is a complex thriller and is not for the casual reader. The entire book revolves around the game of chess. It would help the reader to have a working knowledge of the game, as the game is central to the plot and theme.
The story has many layers. It is really two intertwined stories set centuries apart. It starts in 1972 with Catherine Velis, a computer expert, as she is sent to Algeria to work for the nascent OPEC cartel. The second story is centered around Mirielle de Remy, a novice nun at the Montglane Abbey in rural France.
The centerpiece of the story is the search for the Montglane Service. It is an ancient chess set, created by an ancient people, lost in time and once belonging to Charlemagne. The service is the subject of many mysteries and legends and thought to hide a secret that will grant the owner unimaginable power. It is the desire of many, kings, queens and the powerful, to own the service and gain the power it hides.
In the middle of the French Revolution, the service is brought out of centuries of hiding, throwing Mirielle into an ancient game of power and intrigue that has gone on for hundreds of years. Mirielle is soon involved with some of the central figures of the
French Revolution, and they also want the Service. Her story leads her to find the origin of the Service, lost to time in ancient Africa.
Catherine is caught up in the same quest, only centuries later. She is manipulated into searching for the pieces of the chess set. She also finds herself looking for the origins of the set. Things start to heat up and she cannot tell who is her friend and who is her enemy. She is surrounded my conspiracy, assassination and betrayal.
She finds the Mirielle’s journal and traces her story as she searched for the origin of the Montglane Service and the riddle behind its power. She finds that she is now the centerpiece of the game on the side of the men and women that are protecting the service from the evils of man.
Cat and her allies are faced with a choice, if they gather all the pieces and can figure out its hidden riddle, just what will they do with it?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

Nothing beats the original. Casino Royale proves that.

Ian Fleming's first venture into the life of James Bond is, to say the very least, a fascinating read that, when compared to the modern-day amped-up film version featuring the scrumptious Daniel Craig and an Aston Martin with a V12 engine, allows the classic elements of Fleming's timeless series to come back.

Not that there's anything wrong with Daniel Craig. Or an Aston Martin. Or Daniel Craig in an Aston Martin.

However, there is no pleasure like falling deep into Fleming's brilliantly constructed detailing and scenery, absorbing the full meaning of Bond's settings and actions. Much like its film version, Fleming's account of the baccarat match between Le Chiffre and 007 can send one's heart into a flurry, with tiny twists that have enormous impact. And though the mysterious Vesper Lynd's demise doesn't match the book's, the 181-page thriller's version is just as stirring, answering questions and raising many more.

It took me a while to get through this book because of time constraints, but it was worth the time spared. I'm not much for the shoot-'em-up genre, but Fleming's writing is much deeper and more detailed than any meaningless action tale. Casino Royale delivers a power not often found in many hero-villian-damsel stories. Fleming's penetration into Bond's mind as he contemplates the truth behind right and wrong ("The Devil has no prophets to write his Ten Commandments and no team of authors to write his biography. His case has gone completely by default.") and his true feelings for Lynd will give any reader a few things to think about.

And now, having read only a fraction of the brilliant Bond series, I can see why the suave sophisticate has decorated the bed stands of millions through its time...though I'm sure a few ladies have wished he'd decorate their bed instead.


Also see: Grasshopper's Casino Royale Review

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hellgate London: Exodus by Mel Odom

Publisher: Pocket Star

ISBN-10: 1416525793
ISBN-13: 978-1416525790

In the year 2038, London lies in ruins. Demons are invading our world. The Royal Army has been almost totally destroyed. The fate of the world is in the hands of a small group of dedicated warriors.

The Knights Templar were destroyed hundreds of years ago, or so they let the world believe. They have existed in hiding. Leading an underground existence, they have trained and prepared for this moment for generations. But even this outstanding group of warriors was not prepared for the total onslaught of the demons.

Simon Cross grew up training to be a Templar but lost his faith. Simon no longer believed in demons. He turned his back on the Templar path and traditions. Abandoning his father and the only life he has ever known, Simon left the London underground and headed for South Africa. When the demons do invade, he is not there to fight alongside the Knights. He was not there to say goodbye to his father, who died in a desperate attack on the demon hordes.

Simon does everything in his power to get back to London and join the fight. But his former brothers in arms think he is a traitor and may not want him back.

Warren Schimmer has lived his life in misery. Friendless, Warren has learned that the world is his enemy. Warren has lived his life from moment to moment, never giving much of himself, never expecting help or kindness from the world. Warren has been a victim for most of his life, but he has a secret.

Warren is one of the few humans that can use the magic the demons have released into the world. As he grows on power, he is drawn into the world of the Cabalists. The Cabalists have been preparing for the demons to return to our world, but they desire to control the demons and the powers they wield. Soon, Warren is brought into contact with Merihem, a powerful demon with plans to become the most preeminent power on our world.

The two men wind up leading the different groups and soon are in opposition. The Templars seek to find a way to drive the demons from Earth and rescue humanity. The Cabalists seek to gain the demon's powers and rule the world.

Hellgate London: Exodus is based off the the video game Hellgate London. Exodus is an intriguing blend of fantasy and science fiction, with plenty of excitement. I normally do not like books based off of video games, but this one hooked me. You can count on me buying the next two books. Simon Cross is a hero in search of redemption. He has always been a man tilting at his personal windmills and when the demons invade, he comes into his birthright. Simon cross is simply a hero, a paladin on a quest to save humanity. He has a problem with authority and has a habit of going his own way. He is a character that I can identify with, and that is a large part of why I enjoyed the book so much.

History of the Millenium (So Far) - Dave Barry

If Dave Barry's account of this millenium (so far) and the previous one holds any truth, it's a wonder how the human race has survived this long, especially with Bode Miller crashing into everyone.

Barry brings a humorous recollection that isn't completely accurate to the book shelves, but for anyone familiar with his past column work with the Miami Herald, it isn't a far stretch for the comedic writer who tells it like it is...or how he thinks it is, anyway. In Millenium, we get an invitation into his mind, and let me forewarn you - you may need a few new pairs of undergarments to get through this fast-paced page-turner, because it is downright hilarious in every single sentence.

Those with a devout political standing may not take a liking to this if they don't have much of a sense of humor. But independent voters should roar with Barry's book, with its wonderfully worded jabs at both the Democrats and Republicans. Bush, Gore, Cheney, Condoleeza, Saddam, Osama - no one is spared.

Barry's historically-inaccurate account of years 1000 to 1999 are hilariously mixed with modern properties, like mathematician Charles Babbage (inventor of the computer's ancestor) and his passing while waiting to "talk to somebody from Technical Support"; or the 'Y1K' problem with parchments' wording being turned inside out ('OTTO' becomes 'TOOT' is the example used). Even Bach is placed into the mix with his unforgettable hit, "Just Fuguen' Around".

Flash forward a few hundred years and we've got Tiger Woods claiming every known sports award (just because he can) and presidential candidates spreading their influence to much younger audiences with appearances on Scooby-Doo and the Teletubbies. (Forewarning: There was some lip-locking involved here, disturbingly enough.)

Barry has always humored me with his columns, and this book is no exception. Not everything is laughs, though - out of respect for the 9/11 attacks, he doesn't cover the year 2001 in this book, even though he has "no doubt that many stupid things happened" during that time.

If you're looking for a good, hearty laugh, pick up this new release. I can't wait until he lets loose on 2007...boy, will he have a hey day!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Winter King - A Novel of Arthur by Bernard Cornwell

The legend of Arthur in during the Dark Ages in Britain is a tale that has never been proven to truly exist due to the sad lack of writings from that period, hence the name Dark Ages. In his Notes at the end of the book, Cornwell gives a synopsis of the historicity of the legend of Arthur some of the characters of his story.

The Winter King is a story written from the point of view of Derfel, a Christian monk who, in the guise of re-copying passages of the New Testament (for his Bishop cannot read), is writing the tales of Arthur as he experienced them as Arthur's warrior and friend. Derfel's story begins with the birth of Lord King Uther's son and heir to his throne. Mordred is born crippled and Uther is old. The rulers of the factions of southern Britain make pacts to ensure the prince's upbringing is safe.

But when Uther dies, we find how brittle the peace was during his reign is Lord King, for kings begin to fight amongst themselves and sweeping battles and barbaric executions commence.

Conspicuously missing so far are Arthur and the lordly Druid, Merlin.

Arthur soon arrives on the scene and he befriends Derfel, who is really the main character in this story. Derfel goes from being one of the outcasts of Tor, Merlin's lair, to being one of Arthur's battle commanders.

Merlin enters the scene in a most unexpected time and place but the Druid is an odd pagan in that he has no interest in the politics and war and skirmishes of Britain. His only interest is in the Knowledge of Britain, which are possession that will allow Britain to return to the pure Druid nature that existed before the Romans and Christians entered.

The main pivot for the story happens when, as a show of peace, Arthur is betrothed to the fair Ceinwyn, princess of a rival piece of a Britain. But at the the betrothal, Guinevere enters. Arthur is completely taken with her and abandons his betrothal to Ceinwin and goes off to marry Guinevere. What follows are years of bloody war between the factions of Britain, all caused by a broken betrothal.

Bernard Cornwell's vision of Arthurian Britain is a fantastic story filled with bravery, tragedy, love and gore and is an excellent read. He gives a gritty mural of life in the Dark Ages, a time of much death, superstition and violence.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert Parker


I’ve got to tell ya that I’ve found another favorite author. Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert Parker, is #34 in the series, and is written just the way I like them.

The book opens with a former teen-age runaway turned madam of a bordello April Kyle walking into Spencer’s office asking for help. The two have a relationship from previous years and the emotion shows. Spencer who has a soft spot for April agrees to help her with the problem of allegedly being harassed by an unknown assailant. Then there is a couple of murders of which anyone could be the trigger puller.

The deeper Spencer digs the more he finds out that at every turn and question someone is lying to him about what’s really going on, including April. The story is packed with bad guys, and bad-good guys that beat the living crap out of anyone who crosses them.

Hundred Dollar Baby ends with a bang that really doesn’t surprise, but the dialog in the story is great. Parker sprinkles minute details that make you feel as though you are there on the streets of New York investigating the mobsters with him. To me this is the greatest thing a writer can do in a story.

Again, this is the kind of book I like. It yanks you in, and is a great ride. Fast paced, not sludged up with a bunch of back-story and sub-plots. Has some damn funny parts too. I caught myself laughing and talking out-loud when there was no one around.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rogue Angel: God of Thunder by Alex Archer

I received an advance copy of Alex Archer's Rogue Angel: God of Thunder.

Publisher: Gold Eagle (July 10, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0373621256
ISBN-13: 978-0373621255

I have read all of the Rogue Angel books. The premise is that Joan of Arc's sword, which was destroyed the day she died, has been reformed and is now in the possession of an archaeologist, Annja Creed. The sword has some mystical properties and for some reason causes Annja to be a trouble magnet. She is often drawn into fantastic adventures, quite often to right a wrong or bring justice to the downtrodden.

God of Thunder is no different. It is part murder mystery, part action adventure.

Like most good adventures, God of Thunder starts off with a gripping action sequence. Annja is attacked by four men who are masquerading as law enforcement. She immediately is involved with a chase and running gun battle. At first she has no idea why these men are gunning for her.

Then Annja receives a mysterious package from and old friend. Before she can talk to him, he is brutally murdered. She must solve a riddle he friend left behind before she can continue his search for the mythological Thor and his magic hammer, Mjolnir. Along the way, she meets up with a varied cast of characters that all contribute to the story. Her mentor,Roux, and his nemesis, Garin, are thrown into the mix. These books are always more interesting with the two of them involved.

In this book, we see a little deeper into the relationship of Roux and Garin as well as their relationship with Annja. I think that the repercussions from the ending will be interesting to see in the later books.

God of Thunder is one of the better books in the Rogue Angel series. I picked it up and could not put it down, even to sleep (that is until I could not keep my eyes open). It is a book that keeps your attention and makes you want to keep turning the pages. A good read, I recommend it.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Omen by David Seltzer


The Omen is a book about the Anti-Christ and how he is born into the living world. I do go to church though I’m not a Bible prophecy expert. I don’t think the story follows the book of Revelation all that close. Consult with your local Pastor for guidance.

The Omen opens with up and coming Presidential hopeful Robert Thorn flying to Italy for the birth of their son. Upon arriving at the hospital he discovers the “death” of his child. Fearing a mental brake-down by his wife, he takes the offer of substituting an orphan child named Damien for his blood child.

As the child grows, strange things start to happen. The first of which is his nanny committing suicide by hanging herself from the rooftop at Damien’s birthday party. Then a distraught Priest with a shadowy past attempts to convince Robert Thorn that Damien is the Son of Satan and according to legend has to be killed in a church with the seven daggers of Meggado.

The story amps up with creepy action all the way through. It’s a short read and has some pics from the movie inserted for visuals. If you’ve seen the movie don’t bother with reading the book, but if you’re planning on watching the movie, I’d read the book first. There are some things in the book that will help you understand the movie a bit better.

Not the best book I’ve read and it sure doesn’t belong with the Left Behind series if that’s your style. It’s predictable and has some dragging spots but I think that adds a bit to the creepy-ness.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson


I just finished reading Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson. It is the true story of Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock II, a Marine sniper in Vietnam. Gunny Hathcock is a legend among the Marine Corp and all the Snipers across all services. He has a record of 93 confirmed kills, although there are over 300 unconfirmed kills that could be accredited to him.
This book is an excellent look into his life and into the formation of the Sniper as a Marine and later, military wide fixture. It was written using official Marine Corp records and personal recollections of participants. It is an outstanding read and offers a look into the life of an incredible man. Gunny Hathcock was the epitome of a Marine. He was also a warrior’s warrior. The tales told in this book may seem to be unbelievable, but all that I have read about him corroborates with this book.
I was impressed with the writing and the overall story. While being a true story, it was not bland at all. It really put you into the moment.
For more on Gunny Hathcock, you can read a full post at my blog, http://www.clutteredeclecticmind.blogspot.com/

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Patton's Panthers by Charles W. Sasser


I recently picked up a copy of Charles W. Sasser’s book, Patton’s Panthers. It is about the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American tankers to see combat in World War Two.
I have read quite a bit of the history of World War Two. It has always been a fascinating subject, but the story of these men and the war from their point of view was a real eye- opener. I have always known that the country and the military was segregated back then. I have always known that racism was prevalent and pervasive. But I never truly understood what that racism really was like. This book really opened my eyes and it made me angry.
I am angry and ashamed. These men fought for their country, fought valiantly and well, yet their country did not fight for them. They endured the same hardships as the white troops, fought in the same battles, yet were ignored by history. I am thankful that their story has finally been told.
The 761st Tank Battalion was called the Black Panthers. Their motto was “Come Out Fighting.” And they lived up to that motto. They fought for 183 days straight. They fought in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. They fought their way across Europe and into Germany. They took horrific losses. They defeated more than 130,000 enemy soldiers. They captured thirty towns and liberated concentration camps. All of this and still there were senior officers that still would say that the black soldiers were cowardly and lacked drive. Lies and slander.
Paul Bates was a major when he assumed command of the 761st. He told his troops that even though the Army thought the black soldiers would not fight, that the 761st would prove them wrong. He refused to believe that the men under his command were not worthy to fight. His men came to love him.
I first picked up this book to read more of Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers, an Oklahoman who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his fighting in France. But in reading it, I found many, many more heroes. The 761st only had one man run, a white major. Not one single black soldier refused to fight. I cannot even begin to tell their story here. I can only tell you to read this book.
The black soldiers in World War Two paved the way for the end of segregation. Staff Sergeant Johnnie Stevens fought his way across Europe and returned to Ft. Benning and received his Honorable Discharge. He was waiting at the bus station wearing his dress uniform with a chestful of medals. He started to get on the bus to return to New Jersey and home when the bus driver barked, “Hey, boy! You got to wait a minute!” Johnnie’s first reaction was, “Here we go again, nothing has changed.”
The 761st fought in four major Allied campaigns, across six countries. They received 391 medals for heroism, with 7 Silver Stars, 56 Bronze Stars for Valor (SSG Rivers was later awarded the Medal of Honor by President Clinton). All of this and nothing had changed.
There were eight veterans of the 26th Infantry Division with whom the 761st had fought with in France waiting to get on that bus. A tough looking white sergeant stepped forward and grabbed the bus driver’s lapels.
“Hey, don’t you see those god-damned medals on that man’s chest? He was with us in combat, now he is gonna get on this god-damned bus, and he is gonna ride up front with us.” The sergeant growled. “Got it? Sergeant Stevens, get on the god-damned bus.”
Something did change, and it is a good thing it did.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon is a fantasy book written by Christopher Paolini while still in his teens. It is a NY Times bestseller and has been made into a movie.

Eragon is a young teen-ager who finds what he thinks is a smooth stone in the Spine while hunting for food. The stone turns out to be a dragon egg.

With the help of storyteller, Brom, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, embark on an adventure to kill those that have killed his uncle. In this adventure, Eragon finds that he more than the humble farmboy that he has always been.

Their adventures lead them across and out of Algaesia, the dominant kingdom which is led by the evil king, Galbatorix. He encounters large, battle-hungry Urgals, dwarves and a very powerful and equally evil Shade named Durza. His adventures culminate in a fierce battle to save the Varden from the Shade and the Urgals.

While it is a great achievement for a teen-ager to write a novel and have it sell so well and make a movie, Eragon is a predictable but pleasant read. Chapters are short and the action is furious. The entire book, less the prologue, is written from Eragon's point of view. Many of the themes the author employs are typical fantasy themes. The poor farmboy cum hero (i.e. the Chosen One), the epic journey across the lands, magical helpers, a wise old guide and an epic battle to end the book. This is not a criticism but a categorization as this is a young adult fantasy. For the adults who love to read young adult fantasy, Eragon is a must-read. It is solid, if predictable.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum

The legend of Jason Bourne is dead...gone with the aftermath of the battle at Treadstone seventy-one. Or is it? A grisly murder in Kowloon, near Hong Kong is "signed" by Jason Bourne.

Meanwhile, the man that was the legend of Bourne, David Webb, is teaching Oriental studies at a northeastern college with protection from the United States government, married to Marie St. Jacque and is recovering from his split trauma. He is remembering more and is under constant therapy with Mo Panov, psychiatrist and friend.

Suddenly, the government protection is gone and so is Marie. Kidnapped, but by whom?

Webb, begins to transform back into Jason Bourne in order to track down this new imposter assassin. But who is calling the shots? The meat of the book is covered in layer upon layer of misdirection and cloak and dagger espionage. But why is Webb needed, as Bourne, in Hong Kong? The answer has global consequences as the treaty that governs Hong Kong is to come to an end in 1997.

Supremacy takes Bourne/Webb in a different direction than expected...not having anything to do with Carlos the Jackal. Ultimatum will take up that battle. Supremacy is heavy in silent death, couriers, weapons and strategy, building until the end. There, again, were long sections, though, that the author had to explain (politics of the region, strategizing and general talk) that slowed the pace until the next action scene came along.

Again, if you've seen the movie, there is absolutely nothing in common, although both are good in their own media.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

If you've seen the movie(s), you can probably forget most of it. Some of the names, places and a few events transfer from the book to the movie, but the novel is 100 times more complex, as it should be.

The book starts off with a gun battle that ends up with Bourne being nearly fatally injured. He is nursed by to health by a drunken physician in the Mediterranean and he starts on his trek to find out who he is...he has amnesia.

We follow him as he finds a name in Jason Bourne, finds money in a Swiss account and a finds an enemy, the assassin called Carlos. He falls in love with a woman named Marie St. Jacque, a Canadian economist.

The Bourne Identity is a solid espionage thriller with roots in the CIA, Vietnam, Swiss banks and the Soviet Union. Bourne, parallel to trying to find out who he really is, is also starting to remember his past and finds that in order to keep his own life, he must seek and destroy another, the assassin, Carlos.

The action is fast and furious with occasional sequels of long narratives to explain to the reader the background of the characters of Carlos and Bourne. For a novel written in 1980, there is a lot of still-impressive technology woven in the story. It's fun to read about the massive use of payphones as an anonymous way of communicating. Definitely before the use of cell phones.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows




Price Listed: $17.99 on Amazon.com
May be more depending on the store

Pages: 759







I got my hands on this book July 21st and read it all the way through as most Harry Potter fans have done. I was not disappointed. In this book Harry becomes 'of age', which, in the Wizarding World, is 17 instead of 18 in our 'Muggle' (non-magic) world. At this age all protection and charms given to him from his dying mother warding off the greatest wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort, is ended. And this leaves Harry an open target for Voldemort. So all kinds of bad guys are out to get him, and throughout this book, Harry must escape being captured by them.

The last book explains that there was a prophesy made, that Harry must be the one to kill or be killed by Voldemort. It ended with Harry making plans to destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes. A Horcrux is an object that someone can put a part of their soul into, making it difficult to kill that person. Harry starts this book out on the quest to destroy the Horcruxes, of which Voldemort had several. Then and only then can he be killed.

We find in this book that one of the Horcrux is a key to the Deathly Hallows. According to Wizard legend, if 3 objects are found that was previously given by Death to 3 wizard brothers, the owner will be the master of Death. Harry is torn in this story between locating all 3, and destroying the Horcruxes.

Harry Potter fans will not be disappointed. The action in this book is frequent between escaping the bad guys and battling Voldemort. Beware, like books 5 and 6, the good guys and the bad are going to have casualties. I think all will be satisfied with the ending, and it definitely won't be what you expect. Since this book is less than two days old, I will not give out the ending here. If you are a Harry Potter fan, and you have read the other books, buy it, you will like it. If you have not read the previous books, you unfortunately will probably not be able to follow the story.

Conquerors' Legacy by Timothy Zahn

We come to the conclusion of the Conqueror trilogy with only a couple of characters with a complete understanding why wars with the Zhirrzh have taken place. This book, unlike the first two, alternate points of view between the Human and Zhirrzh perspectives.

There are a several different story lines going by this time, a few with the Zhirrzh and a couple with the Humans. For the Zhirrzh, war preparations are being prompted by a warring faction and the Overclan Prime is only wanting to go to war if it's needed. They are also fighting social upheaval related to the Elders and their dependence on the fsss organ. The Humans are struggling identifying which races are their allies. One warring race may turn out to be an ally while a seeming ally that are experts at double-talk are attempting to get on the side of the Zhirrzh.

The key to the upcoming conflict is whether or not those few that understand that it's radar used by the Humans and the Commonwealth is a deadly weapon against the Zhirrzh. But will that knowledge make it to the key characters in time to save lives and avoid more conflict?

The suspense of Conquerors' Legacy seems to be overdrawn out in relation to the first two books. It's almost as if the story lines are dragging a bit to resolution. It's been around 10 years since I last read this trilogy. I remembered several details from the first two books, but I don't remember much from the Legacy. But overall, it's a good cap to the story. The main characters have to make some hard decisions, choosing between family/friends and the larger picture of interstellar racial war.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Conquerors' Heritage by Timothy Zahn

Conquerors' Heritage is the second book in the Conquerors trilogy by science fiction writer, Timothy Zahn. The point of view of this book is of the Zhirrzh, the aliens that attacked and killed virtually all of the battle group commanded by Pheylan Cavanagh in the first book.

Heritage brings in the political world of the Zhirrzh, a humanoid race that is unique in that prior to adolescence, an organ, called the fsss, is taken from the back of their neck and safely stored. This organ is the loosely anchor point of the Zhirrzh's soul, in that once their mortal body ceases to function (death), they become an Elder, a ghostly figure that is mainly used by the mortal Zhirrzh for communication over distances, small and vast, and also for spying. If an Elder's fsss cutting were to be destroyed, then the Elder would cease to exist.

The politics of the Zhirrzh people is made up of clans spread over the eighteen worlds to where they have spread. One clanless group, called the Overclan, is the seat of power. The Zhirrzh protagonist, Thrr-gilag, is summarily stripped of his job as alien specialist, due to the escape of the Human prisoner, Pheylan Cavanagh and his bond-engagement with a woman with a rival clan is stricken. But, Thrr-gilag is also attempting to, illegally, help his brother, Thrr-mezaz, commander of the Zhirrzh forces at Dorcas, a hotspot beachhead claimed by both Zhirrzh and Humans, to gain a tactical advantage by providing him with a fsss cutting for and Elder to spy on the Humans.

The question begins to seep out...Who is the Conqueror?? The Zhirrzh (from the Human point of view in book one) or the Humans (from the Zhirrzh point of view)? Both say that the other attacked first. One Elder finds out at the end of Heritage.

Heritage continues immediately where Pride left off, although this book has more of a political plot with a few skirmishes. It's not slower or harder to read, just a different color, especially since it's from an alien point of view. I think Zahn does a great job in creating an alien world of tradition and slow change contrasting with the character of Thrr-gilad, who is an educated but free mind. He's not so sure that his society is telling the truth.

A review of Conquerors' Legacy will be forthcoming.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Conquerors' Pride by Timothy Zahn

Conquerors' Pride is the first book in a trilogy by Timothy Zahn dealing with human/alien first contact. It takes place a few hundred years in the future and Earth has already come in contact with several other "neighborhood" civilizations. It is at this point when Pheylan Cavanagh, commander of a battle group, encounters a new and unknown spaceship. His attempts at contacting this new race ends in disaster. His entire group is wiped out and he is the sole survivor...He has been captured as a prisoner of war.

Pheylan's father, Lord Stewart Cavanagh is a former politician and leads an illegal band of friends and associates to try to find his clues to his son's location as they have not found his remains in the wreckage.

Meanwhile, Pheylan undergoes interrogation from the alien species, calling themselves Zhirrzh. His main interrogator, Thrr-gilag, is a patient expert on alien contact and is in charge of extracting information from Pheylan to gain and advantage over the humans in the coming war. The thing that they cannot agree on is which side fired first. Thrr-gilag accuses the humans of using an Elderdeath weapon on the Zhirrzh ships and Pheylan says that the Zhirrzh they only tried to communicate with them and the honeycomb-shaped ship fired their deadly lasers and wiped out the the human force.

This is a very entertaining space opera with quick chapters, smart characters and interesting alien features. I'd read this series several years back and in a lull in my reading material, decided to pick it up again. I'm glad I did. It's an excellent sci-fi story.

Black Wind by Clive and Dirk Cussler

Clive Cussler has always been one of favorite reads since a good friend recommended him (Thanks Mabel!). His stories focus on marine and underwater subjects and his characters are bigger than life. Dirk Pitt is his long-time hero, a tall, tanned, green-eyed stud that is quite adept at saving the day and the world. His sidekick, Al Giordino, is shorter, very muscular and a most trustworthy friend. Recently, in Cussler's book series, Pitt has discovered that he has two children, Dirk and Summer. They have joined Dirk, Al and his NUMA friends in these grand adventures.

In Black Wind, the gang discover that someone is attempting to bring a deadly, tweaked version of smallpox back from extinction in order to cause major political and economical change in the Far East and into the United States.

As in all of Cussler books, Black Wind is a fast-paced, hard hitting action adventure mixing the civilian NUMA gang, militaries and mercenaries moving to a climactic end. Pitt, Giordino and family are witty in the face of death, brave against tall odds and clever in tight situations.

Cussler, in most of his books, employs somewhat of a formula with his adventures. His intro usually takes place well in the past. The story starts with a rescue by Dirk Pitt and ends with Pitt and Giordino doing the impossible. The author usually puts himself into the book as a cameo of sorts. Even though I knew it was coming, it still surprised me. Some like this cameo, some don't. I think it's rather funny. Cussler (and Dirk Pitt) is also the owner of many classic automobiles. He will usually include one of this collection in his books, usually in a car chase. This is good fun.

Even though the author sticks to a formula for most of his novels, I still enjoy reading them as they are very informative of marine and diving subjects and deal with a global tragedy that can be prevented.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien


I read this classic epic every couple of years. In that way I emulate Christopher Lee (who plays Saruman in the movies) who has said that he reads it once a year. Also, I got the illustrated editions for my birthday a couple of years ago.

Alan Lee, the illustrator, does a masterful job of capturing key and whimsical moments of Middle Earth adventures. Lee also had a big role in the artwork in the movies.

My favorite character is Sam. Solid, stable Samwise Gamgee. Sam does not change throughout the adventures of LOTR. He is always faithful to Frodo. He does not ever trust Gollum. He calls Aragorn, Strider, even though he becomes the king. He reveres the elves. He never gives up assisting Frodo in the quest. He's so down to earth to the point of being gullible. And he gets the girl in the end! Sam makes me cry at times.

The Lord of the Rings isn't all quests and battles. There's plenty of comedy too. One way to create mirth is to put two different races together and make them work. The good natured competition between Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf is a good example. At the battle of Helm's Deep, these two keep a running of tally of orcs that they slay in battle. Another example is Gimli and Eomer arguing the fairness of Galadriel. Then there's the constant childish banter between Merry and Pippin.

Since the last time I read the series, I'd read some "light reading" in The Silmarillion. So this time around, the story was deeper and more meaningful. Tolkien's Middle Earth is an enormously rich mixture of cultures, landscapes, histories and characters. It is the standard to which all fantasies are compared.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The School for Husbands by Wendy Holden



ISBN: 0452285887
Format: Paperback, 320pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $14.00

What if you could send your spouse to a school for husbands? He could learn to groom himself properly, help take care of the children, and help with chores around the house. All those things, that for the most part, you nag him about already.

Well in The School for Husbands Wendy Holden has imagined just such a place. With humor and a sharp eye we are introduced to Sophie and Mark. While their marriage is not perfect they are relatively happy and in love. With the birth of their son Arthur this happy family picture seems to be complete.

While Mark loses himself in work Sophie starts to feel neglected. It does not help that Mark’s work colleague, Persephone, seems to be out to get him even if he is clueless about the whole situation. So with the help of her overly involved mother Sophie packs up Arthur and leaves.

What Sophie does not know is that her mother has paired up with an old fling to make sure that she follows through with a divorce. Simon seems to have it all, a successful lawyer rolling in millions, but he is less than a nice guy. Greedy, selfish, and down right detestable Simon and Sophie’s mother Shirley scheme together.

Meanwhile Mark has enrolled in the School for Husbands hoping to save his marriage. While Mark works his way through classes Sophie and Simon get closer with some help from Shirley. But Mark is not going to give up his wife and child without a fight.

One of the things I enjoy most about reading something written by Wendy Holden is the light feeling of it. At the end of a hard day this is the kind of escape I enjoy most; you know that whatever craziness happens there is going to be a great happy ending.

Just plain fun and frothy, The School for Husbands, is the perfect book for summer. While there are not any surprises to be found you will enjoy the drama and the humor that fills each page.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Brotherhood of hte Wolf (Runelords Vol. 2) by David Farland

Book two of The Runelords series continues not long after book one ends. The Wolf Lord, Raj Ahten has begun to conquer some of the kingdoms of Rofehaven, using his massive Voice to either persuade surrender or to bring down the castles.

Meanwhile, the newly crowned Earth King, Gaborn Val Orden is Choosing those who will be loyal to him to help him in his fight against the Wolf Lord. Gaborn must decide how he is to defeat Ahten as the Earth has called him to save life and not to destroy it.

But, a new and ancient force is issuing from the Earth; the reavers are a giant race of hideous creatures that are pure evil in their conquest. All three...Raj Ahten, the Earth King and the reavers...meet at Carris for an epic battle.

The magic used in The Runelords is one of hoarding endowments from your servants, as I've written here. It's an interesting set of rules to live in.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf was a little slow to begin although it's ending battle takes up almost the final third of the book. One thing I've noticed in this series (I've not read anything else by this author) is that a whole novel may cover three to four days total. In fact, from the beginning of the the first book to the end of the second only covers a few weeks time. This in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but it can be a bit disorienting to read half the book and only cover a day, especially is you are reading other things concurrently. It took me a few weeks to read this book because I was reading the Harry Potter series also. I didn't find any real chronological inconsistencies with the story, but it was really tightly packed with background and parallel chapters.

Like I mentioned above, the pace may have suffered at times due to the seemingly slow rate of time per page, but the final battle scene is epic, to say the least. I found it hard to put down at work and was eager to see what came next. The overall plot seems to demand more due to the short supply of time involved in the book.

Overall, this has been an enjoyable series so far. Not my favorite, but one to continue to read along with the many other things I want to read.

Monday, June 4, 2007

David Anthony Durham's Acacia


I was extremely excited to get an advanced copy David Anthony Durham's epic fantasy Acacia because Durham is a Black man. Durham disproves the common belief that Black people do not read or write science fiction or fantasy. David Anthony Durham joins the ranks of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Samuel R. Delaney in proving that Blacks do write science fiction and fantasy.

I am very ashamed to admit that I expected to see a book full of Black people using magic against orcs and dragons. I pictured something like a Wesley Snipes inspired Lord of the Rings. Thank goodness I was wrong.

There were no black people introduced until about 250 pages into the book, but I was not disappointed. For one thing, Durham's writing is so beautiful he could have been writing chick lit and I would not have minded. However, he did deal with two topics that I feel hits the African American community right at its heart: drug addiction and slavery. Durham mixes these three elements (fantasy, drug addiction and slavery) exquisitely resulting in one of the most original fantasy novels I've ever read.

At the heart of the Acacian empire is its king Leodan Akaran. He is the 22nd Akaran king to rule in peace. The Acacians have created a rich and prosperous empire that has built its wealth on enslaving its people and selling another portion of its people away to the Lothan Aklun in exchange for a drug which pacifies its users so that they will never be able to develop enough will power to complain about their life. Despite being a king that has enslaved thousands, Leodan is a kind, loving, and troubled man who loves his children more than his kingdom. Which brings up the question: can you rule a kingdom if you don't put your empire above all, including your children? The answer that question is no. Since during a banquet, Thasren Mein successfully travels from Mein Tahalian and assassinates Leodan.

Before his death, Leodan developed a plan to send his four children to the four corners of the known world with four separate guardians. Leodan hoped that eventually his four children would reunite and reclaim the Acacian throne.

Hanish Mein, the cheiftain of the Mein, is supposed to be the bad guy in Acacia. But, to Durham's credit, the line between the good guy and bad guy is so blurred that I ended up cheering for the bad guy. It didn't hurt that Hanish was this incredibly intelligent, charismatic, and extremely muscular.

Another element which sets Acacia apart from traditional fantasies is the use of magic. There is no magic (or fantastical elements) through most of the book. I was beginning to think it wasn't a fantasy novel. But towards the end of the novel, magic is used. There still weren't any orcs, dwarves, or goblins running around. However, Durham plans to release two more novels to make a trilogy. So for you orc lovers, there is still hope.

In conclusion, I loved this book because there are so many ways it can be examined, critiqued, and explored. A three hundred page thesis could be written on the race and gender relations alone. Time magazine has listed this novel as 18th of its 50 things to do this summer. I agree. In fact, I read most of this novel on a bus trip to a science fiction convention. It made the horrible 10 hour greyhound delay almost enjoyable! If you only read one novel this summer, I suggest you make it Acacia.







Sunday, May 27, 2007

Jade Tiger by Jenn Reese



Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Juno Books (October 1, 2006)
ISBN-10: 080955674X
Price: $12.95

From start to finish Jade Tiger is a page turning adventure. You have it all; romance, mystery, suspense, travel, and some more adventure not to mention some edge of your seat action. Once I picked this on up it was hard to put down.

Shan is half-Chinese and half-American woman who grew up in China as part of a group called the Jade Circle. When they are attacked by an unnamed group who are after the precious jade animals that they take their name and power from Shan and her father are forced to flee.

Once in America both refuse to give up the search for Shan’s mother who stayed behind. Shan studies with different martial arts masters and searches for the missing jade animals hoping that they will somehow reunite her with her mother. When she spots one of the animals in a magazine photograph she tracks it down immediately.

But it turns out that Shan is not the only person looking for the animals of the Jade Circle. So what Shan hoped would be an easy retrieval turns out to be a problem. But with the help of Ian, a professor she saves while trying to rescue the jade animal, and his comic relief friend Buckley Shan is soon flying around the world to discover another missing animal from the Circle.

From there the story takes off. Shan and Ian are a perfect match as they uncover the mysteries surrounding the Jade Circle and the locations of its sacred animals. Along the way women from Shan’s past, members of the Jade Circle, slowly start to come back into her life. Shan must not only recover the animals but prove that she is worthy to do so.

Shan is a great character. Part Laura Croft, Indian Jones, and Bruce Lee she fights her way though the book, and like a good guy every time, not only kicks the bad guy’s rear but gets what she came for too. But while Shan may seem super human she is far from it and it was nice to see that even she could still get hurt or get weak in the knees from a kiss.

Jade Tiger was a lot of fun. Well written and fast paced it moved you along quickly to a satisfying conclusion. I only hope that Jenn Reese’s next book is as good

Friday, May 25, 2007

Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini


Circle of Quilters: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel (Elm Creek Quilts Novels)


by Jennifer Chiaverini

ISBN-10: 074326021X

Book 9 in the Elm Creek Quilts Series


As life takes some of the Elm Creek Quilters in different directions, there are openings for instuctors at Camp. We meet the applicants and suffer through their decisions, the assembly of their applications and their interviews.

The new characters are warm and likable, sad and hopeless, and joyful and creative. There histories merge into the circle of quilting and the bonds of creativity and friendship.

Some of the stories are obvious, but you find yourself rooting for the outcome, and welcome them into the Elm Creek Quilters.

I have never been sorry that I picked up the first book in this series in a remainder bin. I still don't quilt, but I get great joy from these books and the characters that are all too human.

Book 1 - A Quilter's Apprentice
Book 2 - Round Robin
Book 3 - The Cross-Country Quilters
Book 4 - The Runaway Quilt
Book 5 - A Quilter's Legacy
Book 6 - The Master Quilter
Book 7 - The Sugar Camp Quilt
Book 8 - The Christmas Quilt

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Christmas Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini



The Christmas Quilt
by Jennifer Chiaverini


ISBN-10: 0739458817
(not yet released in paperback)

Book 8 in the Elm Creek Quilts Series


This volume takes us back to the relationship between Sylvia and Sarah. Finding the blocks for an unfinshed quilt stuffed in the Christmas decorations, leads to Elm Creek Manor stories from the antebellum era, through the Great Depression and World War II, to the present. All of the quilt blocks are stories of their creators and their times.

As Sylvia and Sarah explore the foundations of the Christmas traditions of Elm Creek Manor, they find that though our traditions may differ, our memories are all about family and friends and the simple virtues of joy and hope buoyed by the spirit of giving.

I especially enjoyed this volume in the series. The presentation of our Christmases and the memories they evoke went from bitter-sweet to joy to sorrow to humorous to contemplative. It was reflective of the many Christmases we have all experienced.



Book 1 - A Quilter's Apprentice
Book 2 - Round Robin
Book 3 - The Cross-Country Quilters
Book 4 - The Runaway Quilt
Book 5 - The Quilter's Apprentice
Book 6 - The Master Quilter
Book 7 - The Sugar Camp Quilt

Tokyo: Exploring the City of the Shogun by Sumiko Enbutsu, Katsuhito Nakazato (Photographer)



Paperback: 68 pages
Publisher: Kodansha International (June 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 4770030339
Price: $ 24.95

I have a friend who grew up in Japan and we have spent hours swapping military brat stories, my own of Spain for hers of Japan. I was fascinated by the images her words brought to mind and I have wanted to visit Japan ever since. But living in a foreign country is completely different from spending a few days there. It can be hard to see and do all the things you would like to but a good guide can help you make decisions.

Tokyo, though very modern and efficient, is an old city. Founded by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603 it was first called Edo but was renamed Tokyo in 1868. Tokyo is full of history, having been the center of government, business, and culture for over four hundred years. Exploring the City of the Shogun was designed for the ‘non-Japanese speaking residents and visitors to explore this complex mega-city on their own’ focusing on the historical aspects.

The first thing I noticed about this book is the beautiful photographs taken by Katsuhito Nakazato. Deserted graceful stone bridges, a shelf full of glass bottles containing a rainbow of pigments, or a crowded shopping street; each photograph is lovely.

The book is divided into eight different walks that focus on the Edo period of Tokyo. There is a map of the walk detailing the route which includes the names of buildings and landmarks in English and Japanese forms. As well as the closest station entrance, estimated time of the walk, and estimated distance. It is all rounded out with the interesting history of the area.

The walking directions given seem very detailed and clear. I can’t vouch for them myself since I have not traveled to Tokyo yet but you are given easy landmarks; restaurants with the opening and closing times are included and souvenir shops with a recommendation to visit on monthly fair days. The writing is fresh and always interesting, pointing out landmarks or bring to your attention an over looked shop.

I was very impressed with this walking guide. It has wonderful photographs, key details about the places to visit including the history of the place which really brings what you are seeing to life. How else would you know that one building survived a fire but its neighbor was rebuilt in the 1920’s?

I want to visit Japan more than ever now that I have read Exploring the City of the Shogun; and I know exactly which book I’ll be taking with me for the journey