An excellent young-adult tale of mystery and fantasy, Briggs writes of brothers Haydn and Ewan Barlow, whose strange discovery of a rune-carved archway on their father's land leads to the entrance into a world of magic and wonder. Once found in the land, Karac Tor, the two are said to be destined for greatness, but only if they can survive the tragedies and battles that befall them while seeking their route back home. If they do live to tell their story, will the Brothers Barlow truly be the rumored 'champions' of the mysterious land?
Briggs has an excellent way of writing a detailed tale without too much being revealed. True friends and enemies are anyone's guess as the brothers lose, find, and lose each other on their journey through the land, but only an atom of a large and complicated truth is unveiled in the ending, flawlessly leading into another twisted and meandering tale of adventure and suspense.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008
An excellent young-adult tale of mystery and fantasy, Briggs writes of brothers Haydn and Ewan Barlow, whose strange discovery of a rune-carved archway on their father's land leads to the entrance into a world of magic and wonder. Once found in the land, Karac Tor, the two are said to be destined for greatness, but only if they can survive the tragedies and battles that befall them while seeking their route back home. If they do live to tell their story, will the Brothers Barlow truly be the rumored 'champions' of the mysterious land?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Eagle is the final book in Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles, a true historical fiction take on the Arthurian tales. It is also the second book that completes the story of Clothar of Gaul, legendarily known as Sir Lancelot.
The story begins after Clothar and Arthur have become close friends and military compatriots. Arthur is king and soon decides to send Clothar back to Gaul to engage trade and agreements with like-minded kingdoms across the channel.
Clothar, between Gaul and Britain, is instrumental in fighting many of the enemies found on the island and in modern-day Europe, including the forces of Attila the Hun.
His friend and king, Arthur, begins to show his vulnerability and matters in Britain begin to deteriorate and Arthur asks Clothar for one last request, which Clothar has difficulty in performing.
The Eagle is a fitting end to Whyte's tale of Arthur's Britain. There are some chapter's of battle but a majority of the book is spent on continuing to develop Clothar's character. The author also explains his opinion of some of the more juicy tales of the supposed love triangle between Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I'm sure this new-fangled genre of so-called 'roman noir' requires a certain audience to attract interest and keep it, but I was not a part of that audience.
The only way I could possibly tell you what the book is about is by reading the back cover, and even then, it isn't completely clear. The invention of a brand new genre of literature is great and all, but if you can't back it up with some good can't-put-it-down, balls-to-the-walls reading, it's not going to do much good.
So, here's what I got from my 94 pages of reading - this Agricola governor dude has gotten himself into a coliseum full of poop and is now being called to resign by this spy, whose married to a chick that Agricola's friend and doctor fancies. Okay, first off, I didn't know they had 'spies' back then, and two, it's already a bit too Bold and the Beautiful for me. But oh, wait! The spy ends up dead. Woo hoo! Gladiator brawls for all!
Not exactly. This lovelorn doctor guy suddenly becomes Sherlock Holmes Jr. and takes it upon himself to find out who murdered this spy. Sure, it may help clear the governor's name if he does that, but I thought 'governors' and emperors and all them were pretty powerful people on their own. Can't they just have their accusers buried in a pyramid or something?
I wasn't thoroughly impressed with what I read, but that is one person's opinion. If this sounds like your type of reading, hitch a chariot and go for it.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The name ignited a light in Carl’s mind. Saint. He’d been covertly recruited for Black Ops and given his life to the most brutal kind of training any man or woman could endure. He was here because he belonged here. To the X Group. An assasin. The most effective killer in the world. And yet . . . Carl Strople struggles to retain fleeting memories that betray an even more ominous reality. He’s been told part of the truth--but what’s the rest? Invasive techniques have stripped him of his identity and made him someone new--for this he is grateful. But there are some things they can’t take from him. The love of a woman, unbroken loyalties to his past, the need for survival.
From the deep woods of Hungary to the streets of New York, Saint takes you on a journey of betrayal in a world of government cover-ups, political intrigue, and one man’s search for the truth. In the end, that truth will be his undoing.
- Publisher's Description
Well, wow. That's about I can say about this fast paced thriller. I couldn't put it down. The 2nd book in the Paradise collection continue the story of Project Showdown. It's like a psycholigical Bourne Identity, with a Christian tilt. You can't trust anyone, nothing seems true and everything is out of place for "Carl." Luckily a few people come into his life and help him see the truth. And the Truth will set Carl free.
Posted by Brian at Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
'A Civil General' is a fictionalized account of the General George Henry Thomas story. Thomas earned his reputation as one of Civil War's toughest fighting generals in battles like Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Ringgold. His story is told through the first person point of view of a friend and subordinate - Colonel William Swain, a regimental commander.
Great pains were taken to make this book as historically accurate as possible. This accuracy extends all the way to language the characters use. The dialogue is well done and reads easily. The scenes from the section of the book dealing with the Battle of Chattanooga, the campaigning in Tennessee and its aftermath are very interesting and detailed. The illustrations that are used to depict them use enticing, historically accurate imagery.
The first person telling of the story develops and become more interesting as the pages turn. The second half of the story reads very quickly as the Col. Swain develops a love interest, Neala, and goes to visit her. The romance between them is tender and very well done. He communicates with her by letter and eventually marries her.
With all the sound and fury of the battles through Tennessee coming to a climax in the middle of the book, the death of General Thomas shortly thereafter unfortunately transforms his funeral into the climax of the story. The unfortunate way that several of the Washington elites and senior generals handled themselves before and during the funeral is jaw dropping and embittering. The epilogue notes that Mrs. Thomas never attended a military event. After reading this account of what happened, I can't say I blame her at all.
A Civil General by David Stinebeck and Scannell Gill (Sunstone Press, 2008).
Price: $20.95, Softcover, 6x9, 160 pages.
Posted by Skeeter at Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
~Norma L Betz
This is a delightful first novel from an author who shows great promise.
A young woman is faced with the death of her last relative - the aunt she was named for and who helped her when her parents were tragically killed when she was nineteen. Through love, support and financial assistance, her aunt made sure she completed college and graduate school. As young adults do, Suzanna allowed the distance to grow between them as she established her life and career. Now, her only family was gone and she had to face the obligation to sort through the life that is gone. Any adult who has faced becoming an orphan can relate to the multitude of emotions that one suffers through.
With her companion, Quincy, a five-year-old Weimaraner, Susanna heads to the home she has inherited from her aunt. When she arrives, she meets the people who have shared her aunt's life and the haunting questions about her past. She inherits a treasure trove of history from their ancestor Abigail Adams, including some of the letters she wrote to John Adams in the beginning of the Revolution. Susanna becomes inspired by Abigail's letters. And, she becomes inspired by her aunt's life as she gets to know her aunt's friends, and finds that they are embracing her as a friend as well. It is the story of the strength of a family of women... the quiet strength that keeps them going through life. While Suzanna is admiring it in Abigail and her Aunt Suzanna, she comes to realize that it is something else she shares with them.
Unfortunately, the wealth of the treasures become a target for someone unscrupulous and causes grave danger to Susanna and Quincy and their new friends, as well as the beginnings of love.
Anyone who is interested in American history will enjoy a journey into some of the letters of Abigail Adams during the early years of the Revolution. The journey is memorable and a remarkable window on the world of 1775.
I really enjoyed this book!
The critical side of me has to complain loudly about the font used for the letters of Abigail Adams. It was nice to have a font change to distinguish the letters from the story, but the one used was difficult to read, which made it harder to enjoy the wealth of the letters and to enjoy the book.
If I were to give any advise to Norma Betz, I would say DO NOT HOLD BACK. I felt like she was always trying to neatly package and contain her characters, yet she had created these wonderfully deep characters who wanted to breathe. Let them breathe! Quincy, too!
I hope Norma Betz follows with a second book!
Her website is found here.
Posted by Flag Gazer at Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Many of you are familiar with her blog http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/ and her Hook the Agent contests. She also has many crit opportunities for her blog followers.
Over-all, she's just one of those really helpful people that try and make a difference by sharing her time, words of wisdom, and giving other's a chance to get a leg up in the elusive agent hunt. That being said, her new e-book release is now available:
This can be purchased for $9.99 on Authoress's blog (the link is above). It is an e-book, so talk about instant gratification!
The resources that she gives you are priceless. You could spend months and months researching these things on the web, read books on getting published (which are certainly not going to be cheaper), and would still be left wondering where to start.
Authoress has given you the tools, the lists (I so love lists), and the places to go so that you can too can find an agent, and then how to go about getting an agent that is right for you.
If you have written, are writing, or even thinking about writing something, this is a tool that you NEED. Go visit her blog, look around, and order her book. I promise you won't be sorry!
Oh yeah, and tell her Terri sent you...not that I get a kick-back, but I have a secret fantasy that maybe she's Nora Roberts, or JK Rowling, or Diana Gabaldon and I'd like to have brownie points!
Monday, November 10, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
In A Time of War:
The Proud and Perilous Journey of
West Point's Class of 2002
By Bill Murphy Jr
Bill Murphy's book follows a small group of the graduates of 2002 - friends who stay close through West Point, advanced training, deployments, marriages, children, wounds and death. From around the globe, their friendship bonded them together.
The book follows these young officers in many settings and experiences. As life unfolds, Mr. Murphy shares the all too human successes and disappointments, the wounds external and internal, the death of friends and the mourning of friends and family. They serve. They sacrifice. And, most of all, they stay friends.
Since this is a true story, nothing fits tidily in a box for the plot. But, the people are so memorable that you will never forget some of them....
Drew Sloan -
Drew was wounded in Afghanistan, after many surgeries to rebuild his face, requested deployment to Iraq. He is currently at Harvard in graduate school.
Todd lost his life in Iraq - October 31 2003 - leaving behind his new wife Jen.
Tim was an Apache helicopter pilot who lost his life in Iraq on April 1, 2006
Their stories should be on the front pages of newspapers in this nation. Unfortunately, they are not. But, Bill Murphy tells their stories in this remarkable book that everyone should read.
The author's web page is http://www.inatimeofwar.com/
Posted by Flag Gazer at Monday, November 03, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Joseph N Chappelle
This is the story of an owl who is injured, taken to a rehab facility and then escapes and begins a quest to find his family. This children's book is part fact, part fiction and lots of fantasy, but there are no illustrations to assist the gaps in the story line.
One must suspend all logic while reading this book. It flits from reality to fantasy and back again. I felt that many pages had fallen out - that the story was denied its destiny to flourish. There were too many sections where the story never finished and went off in a different direction. There is amazing creativity here, but the story should have been fuller and longer.
It is a shame, as it raises many philosophical questions that are good for children to ponder.
Posted by Flag Gazer at Sunday, November 02, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The Lance Thrower is the next-to-last book in the Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte, historical fiction writer. This book introduces Clothar the Frank, who mythically becomes known as Sir Lancelot.
This book begins with an aged Clothar, making one last visit to Brittania to make some things right by his old friend, Merlyn. He remembers his adventures...
...which start as a young boy in what today is France. The person he has always believed is his father, is Ban, king of Benwick. The story unfolds with Clothar learning of his true heritage and that he is to study under famed bishop Germanus, in Auxerre. Germanus has a school for boys, catering to the noble-born to learn high academics, leadership and warfare.
Once Clothar is finished with his school, he is on an errand back to his home when his world is turned upside down. His train is attacked and he finds himself alone in country. He eventually finds a mercenary that is willing to travel with him and guide him to Ban's army.
The middle portion of the book deals with the feuding that follows Ban's death. Ban's oldest son, Gunthar is an evil sociopath but Ban decreed that his second son, Samson is to be king. This causes what Clothar refers to as Gunthar's war, which ends abruptly and causes Clothar to reconsider his life, which has been war for many months.
Clothar decides that he is going back to see Germanus and serve his mentor. Germanus, who must soon leave for Italia to meet with the pope, sends messages to people in the far-off island of Brittania. One message is to be delivered to the bishop there, to have him orchestrate the crowning of a new high king. A young man named Arthur.
Clothar makes his way to Brittania, but his travels are not smooth and his initial months there frustrate him. He misses the coronation of Arthur and he has trouble finding Merlyn. But once he does, he delivers his messages and goes to find Arthur.
Most of this book is the building of Clothar's character. This is an excellent book with less narrative than some of the author's other books in the series. At times it is fast-paced but is also contemplative. As always, the historical background is full in Jack Whyte's books. This book leads into the final book in the series, The Eagle.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
A Psychic Perspective, 10 Steps to More Love, Wealth, and Personal Happiness by Phyllis King is a practical, common sense sort of book about perspective and finding happiness. It doesn't require very much psychic intuition to discern the power of positive thought, the importance of taking action, and what patience and persistence really mean in daily life. It does take a skilled hand to integrate all of those affirmatives into something genuine and meaningful. The best parts of this book are exactly that.
How to make better choices and enjoy the outcomes of that fills this book. The book is roughly divided into four parts. By far the largest part, the first 99 of the books' 195 pages, is a biography of the author. The next fifty pages define the Perspective the author draws from her personal experiences. Then there are the 10 Steps to More Love, Wealth, and Personal Happiness the book is named for. There is also a 30 day plan "to jump start your life".
This book makes for a very quick read. The approach the author took is intuitive and pleasant. If you are looking for a cookbook for personal happiness with exact measures of ingredients, this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you are comfortable with measures like a pinch of this and a dash of that, this book reads as though the words are spoken by a friend.
Everything promised on the cover is here. There is more too. There are frank discussions of creating love, wealth and finding truth. To find it, you must practice enough patience and persistence to actually read the book. It's worth it.
Posted by Skeeter at Sunday, October 05, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Uther is generally acknowledged as the seventh book in the Camulod Chronicles series, although it is a separate account, deviating from the point of view progression of the third book. It can be read anytime after the third book, The Eagle's Brood.
In the Foreward, the author states that he hesitated to publish this book, as it is an alternate account of the life of Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur. The previous incarnation of Uther's life in this series is told from Merlyn's perspective. But, having read Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow, parallel books from Ender's and then Bean's point of view, he decided to publish Uther, as it gave him the confidence that it would be well received.
The story begins when Uther is a young boy. He begins to understand who he is. He easily understands that his father and grandfather are powerful in the Pendragon tribe, but also that his mother is different. Of course, his mother, Veronica is the daughter of Publius and Luceiia Varrus of Camulod, making Uther central in the rebirth of Britain.
As Uther takes leadership, he makes strange friends, the strangest being a Cambrian of another tribe. Nemo is a short, squat, ugly and silent female that becomes Uther's celebate military subordinate....and much more.
If you've read the previous books, you know how the book is going to end, but the author fills in many gaps in the story as previously told. One large previous mystery is who killed Merlyn's wife, Deidre? That question is answered in this book.
This nine-hundred page book was full of long narrative. There was much more narrative than the previous books, it seemed, and less dialogue. At times, it was difficult to make it through a section, but much of the narrative, also, was full of information and history. Again, for the reader, it could be a slow read due to the fact that it's a parallel novel. But, the author did an excellent job at developing Uther's character along with Nemo, Garreth Whistler and Owain of the Caves. All interesting characters.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The Roswell Legacy
By Jesse Marcel, Jr., and Linda Marcel
With a foreword by Stanton T. Friedman
Publisher: New Page Books
Do extraterrestrials exist? Are the otherworldly visiting earth now? Do we have alien craft invading our airspace?
These questions have been around since the 1940’s. According to author Jesse Marcel, Jr. the answer is yes. In his book, The Roswell Legacy, he documents the events leading up to and after the alleged crash of a spacecraft found by a ranch hand in Roswell New Mexico in 1947. There has been an ocean of speculation of what actually crashed on the ranch back then, but one thing still remains constant: The U.S. Government to this day claims the recovered debris from the crash site are either from a weather balloon or a top-secrete device for detecting pressure waves from a nuclear blast in the Soviet Union. In either case according to Marcel, the debris from the wreckage do not match the materials from either a weather balloon or pressure detector would have been made of.
When he was eleven, Jesse’s life took a turn down the road to strangeness. One summer night his father Major Jesse Marcel, Sr., excited, brought in a box of debris, and scattered them on the kitchen-floor, claiming a flying saucer had crashed 75 miles northwest of Roswell. That night Jesse Jr. had the privilege of handling and inspecting the pieces of something that would forever change his life.
Major Marcel an officer in the Army Air Force, successfully trained in radar, worked as an S-2 Intelligence Officer assigned to the 509th Composite Bomb Group in Nevada. He briefed and supplied intelligence to the flight crews before the missions to drop the atom bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. To say the least Major Marcel had the credentials to identify whether or not the wreckage was a balloon or part of a secrete piece of equipment.
According to Jesse Jr. the superior officers of Major Marcel forced him to pose for pictures with a radar target, which had some resemblance to the actual wreckage but was not the actual debris.
The book is a great fast read and will keep the reader hooked from the first page to the end if they have an interest in UFO’s and government cover-ups. One thing for certain is Major Marcel knew what he saw and thought it came from somewhere else other than Earth.
I am convinced there is something that happened near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and the government did cover it up. Even if nothing happened there the City of Roswell has benefited from the story for over 60 years in the tourist industry. If you visit there today you can’t go anywhere without bumping into some sort of alien paraphernalia. I visited there last year and had a blast. If you are planning a trip there pick up this book for a great companion and who knows who or what you might find there.
Operation Blue Light: My Secret Life Among Psychic Spies by Philip Chabot with Laurie Anne Blanchard is a coming of age story that takes an unexpected turn and just keeps going. It crosses into adventure and changes a young man's life forever.
"This is a true story" the first sentence of the Preface promises. That promise seems to be confirmed by the reactions of others to the things that Philip discovers while trying to master a gift as powerful and consuming as the one he describes. He learns to leave his own body and sense the situations of others. When he describes the experience to a girlfriend, she predictably shuns him. He publicly predicts the appearance of a rainbow, and then is ostracized as a freak. To the amazement of his employer, a newspaper publisher, he uses his predictive skill to be in the right spot to get the best pictures of car wrecks, visiting politicians, and current events.
With a subtitle like "my secret life among the psychic spies", I expected something more akin to a James Bond type of story, or even something involving the well known attempts at psychic remote viewing. Despite the tempting quotations from MKULTRA documents, that isn't what this story is about. The cloak and dagger stuff doesn't happen until the story is much more than half told.
This book flows like a stream of consciousness. It is personal, interesting and fast paced. Some of the details in the story are challenging. The rationale for Mr. Chabot's time in a psychiatric ward is troubling. He discusses becoming an agent for the communist block at the height of the Cold War. The biggest challenge for me by far was an arranged marriage with the granddaughter of Chairman Mao. Nothing specific about her is ever mentioned, not even her name.
I recommend this book because of its personal and gripping story of a young man coming of age with a powerful and impressive gift. Its magnitude overwhelms him. The best part of this story is how Philip reconnects with his father. Philip makes the choice to lay down this gift and just walk away. It is believable and understandable. That is compelling reading.
Posted by Skeeter at Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Can you hear me now? Good.
Looks like Miss Cleo has some competition in Philip Chabot, a now-retired photographer who records some of his pivotal experiences with his psychic and telepathic abilities in "Operation Blue Light: My Secret Life Among Psychic Spies".
Based in the sixties, Chabot (which is a pen name) speaks of the mental out-of-body sensations he receives when his best friend Brian gets to second base with a girl (Chabot was in his bedroom, Brian in his own home) and his is-she-or-isn't-she girlfriend Ann sleeps with another guy (Chabot says he was "feeling and seeing things from Ann's perspective"). Oh, and let’s not forget Chabot’s prediction of a rainbow two months ahead of time (which apparently came true). And amidst all this, Chabot struggles to find a job as a photographer, eventually ending up as a specialty advertisement artist under his father’s rule. One things leads to another, and he’s eventually in a motel room have a telepathic conversation with the British, Russian and Chinese via a one-sided telephone call.
Sound strange? It is. Sound farfetched? Definitely.
But the way Chabot writes his story is too intriguing not to pay attention. It reads like a lost-boy-finding-himself sort of tale, but with an interesting and unique twists and turns. Some of the tale seems a bit too outlandish to be entirely truthful, but certain things, such as his smart-ass attitude with the FBI and CIA after the infamous international phone conversation, are just too funny and powerful to mark off as fictitious.
It’s an interesting book, definitely worth a look, but I’m not convinced it’s entirely true. That would really suck if he could read my mind right now…
24, it ain't.
John P. Lintz, Sr. tries, he really does. But not much can be saved from this clustered mess of a story. All the happenings are so muddled together, the book loses most all its purpose less than twenty chapters in (and they are short chapters).
We've got JJ, a former pro soccer player, who becomes an agent paired with Mexican beauty Elena for a mission to...do something. Then, somewhere in the mix, a David Koresh wannabe (despite what he says) runs a sorry excuse for a religious movement just so he can smoke some dope and get laid. Oh, wait - then it switches to a fire fight between the rogue Zetas and some other people who have a deadly dislike for their commander. Bang, bang, four are dead, and instanteous new lovebirds JJ and Elena are assigned to take fingerprints and photographs of the corpses wile resisting any chance opportunity to have sex...okay, and we're back to the Koresh dude, who's been found out...
I just couldn't sort through the mess of tales to find the core purpose of the book. The stories have potential and Lintz had a great idea going, but he just couldn't their unfolding as well as I had hoped.
Sorry, JJ - you're no Jack Bauer. Head off with Elena and find something else to do for a while.
Youngster feeling unhappy and down? Give him a haircut.
It sure helped Johnny Big Ears, the character in John Paul Padilla’s inspirational children’s tale of the same name, in which Johnny, as you can pretty much guess, has big ears. He’s starting his first day of kindergarten and, thanks to Mom, now has a spiffy, curly new ‘do to make a good first impression. However, some recess bullies find humor in Johnny’s augmented lobes, teasing him and calling him names. But does that get Johnny down? No, sir! In the midst of paying no attention to the bullies, he befriends other friends, like Charlie Freckles, who, like him, are unique in there own special ways. (I do love how their last names reflect their special qualities – really, what are the chances of that?)
A well-constructed tale with a beautiful message, Johnny Big Ears is a delightful story that all kids (and a few adults) should read or – and pardon the extremely obvious pun here – lend an ear to. Perhaps there should be a sequel called Sally Big Nose? Just teasing.
Divorcing Dwayne is the first book in an upcoming trilogy about the life of Francine Harper and the man in her life - Dwayne. Francine has chosen the man who made her father roll his eyes and her mother proclaim he "wasn't worth loosing her pants over."
Francine's life unfolds with the consequences of bad decisions - the primary one is Dwayne, and all of the secondary ones revolve around him, too - the jail time, the murder trial, driving the bulldozer into the mini mall, getting a role in a movie and being chased by the mob.
Francine, with the help of her best friend, Ray Ann, lives her life in living color in the small town of Pickville Springs, Georgia. One can say that Francine never had a crazy thought go unfulfilled, as she races through her days.
As Francine said, "Well, gee, Ray Anne, my husband's been cheating on me, I have reason to believe he's a hit man for the Mafia, and now he's doing the soundrack for some Hollywood movie! .... I feel like I've been asked to join a parade and told to march behind the elephants."
This book is laugh out-loud funny. It is a definate must read for any woman who can look back on her life and question some of those decisions made in her youth (that would be all of us - right?).
J L Miles has a gift of story telling. This is a delightful book - funny, poignant, real. I am looking forward to the next two books - Dear Dwayne and Dating Dwayne.
Posted by Flag Gazer at Friday, September 19, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
The Crossroads of Faith and Freedom
LTG (Ret) William G Boykin
My first introduction to General Boykin was amid the slime campaign of the left in the early years of the War on Terror. I had never heard of him before - most had not - after all, he was a member of Delta Force, became the commander of Delta Force and finished his career as the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence at the Pentagon.
Reading General Boykin's book is taking an action tour of the history of the last decades of the 20th Century. He takes you through Ranger School, the end of the Vietnam War, the qualifying for the new unit, Delta Force, the Desert One action during the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Sudan, the War in Greneda, Panama and the capture of Noriega, Columbia and the hunt for Pablo Escobar, Waco, Mogadishu and the event known as Black Hawk Down and hunting war criminals in the Balkans. Boykin was in the center of the action at all of these historic events.
I learned a great deal that I did not know about these historic events, including the source and reason for the rock music while Noriega was hiding in the Vatican Embassy. No, it isn't any of the reasons the press told us about. The events are given clarity and reason.
Throughout the most dangerous conflicts in the world, good men are wounded and good men die. General Boykin shares their heroic stories. He also shares the story of his faith - the thread that kept him moving forward and doing the right thing while he was protecting our country.
This is a book full of noble stories and heroism. It reads with the tension of a well crafted novel. Anyone interested in history or the military should read this book.
Posted by Flag Gazer at Saturday, September 06, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
NEVER SURRENDER: A Soldier's Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom By Lt. General William "Jerry" Boykin.
I have been given the opportunity to host an online giveaway here and on my Cluttered Eclectic Mind blog for LTG Boykin's wonderful book.
If you would like to be entered into the drawing, leave me a reply here. There will be five winners chosen at random.
Lieutenant General (Ret.) William "Jerry" Boykin recounts the battles fought, and the faith that has sustained him through his amazing career in the Army Special Forces, Delta Force and The Pentagon. The legendary battles, one of which was portrayed in Black Hawk Down and other similarly life-shaking experiences laced through his true-life story make it read like an action adventure novel.
Posted by Ron Simpson at Thursday, September 04, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
In the year 2022, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cultic religious fanaticism have gotten out of hand. The world is still recovering from a deadly computer virus that killed many thousands of people 10 years ago. Since then, a religious cult sprang into existence with a zealous purpose of getting rid of all advanced technology. From this landscape, Unholy Domain comes forth.
David Brown is the college-age son of, supposedly deceased, Ray Brown, who was accused of releasing the virus that wreaked worldly havoc. As the furor between the extremists builds again, David is caught in the middle, not wanting to be involved, even though is has hacking and AI talents like his father, and ashamed of his name because of his father. Then he receives a post-dated message from his father which turns his world upside-down.
As David looks for secrets to his father's past, he finds danger close on his heels. Someone does not want him to find out the truth.
Unholy Domain is a fast-paced thriller about what could happen if technology gets too smart and cultists overreact to technology. It was a good, quick read with lots of action, intrigue and a little romance.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Before Superman, there was Smallville...and before Smallville, there was Krypton. While the CW Network has the first precursor covered, Kevin J. Anderson has taken on the task of the second - and has done an excellent job.
Anderson's story follows the father of future Earth dweller Clark Kent (Kryptonian name Kal-El) as he seeks to improve and secure the stability of Krypton and its many cities with his undeniable scientific acumen and clever inventions, most all of which keep getting confiscated and destroyed by the Kryptonian Council and its commissioner, Zod. (Sound familiar, Smallvillians?) But when an friendly alien visitor sends the population into a tizzy - oh, and the city of Kandor gets scooped up and taken away by yet another slightly-more-unwelcome alien visitor - Zod seizes the reigns of power and begins his quest for Kryptonian domination. And while Zod erects statues of himself and basically strokes his ego, Kal-El daddy Jor-El spots an historic meteor that is more likely headed in Krypton's direction, resulting in total chaos and planetary destruction and considerably less time for Zod to brag about his so-called "good intentions".
Confusing? Oh, yeah. But it is equally enthralling, especially when you incorporate the mess of personalities present in the story, like future Zod wife Aethyr and his faithful, silent golem Nam-Ek. The detail is masterful, leaving questions up in the air that the popular television show may consider addressing before series' end. (What was up with Donodon's tentacle beard? And was Zod really that stuck on himself?) It all adds up to an action-packed, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-laser-beams story that'll whet the appetite of any and all sci-fi lovers.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
This is the book I've been waiting on.
In The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis, the reader finally gets to see the sword come out of the stone, Arthur crowned high king of Brittain and Merlyn become the famed sorcerer.
The story begins as Merlyn, Arthur and their companions leave back for Camulod. It is becoming time for Arthur to learn the ways of the cavalry and infantry so that he can become the Commander when his time comes.
The first half of the book moved somewhat slowly, the author putting all of his pieces in their spots. During the last third of the book, though, I could hardly put it down.
Merlyn loses many of his loved ones and, because of the madness this brings on, he turns to a collection of potions, poisons and weapons he has had for many years, since the invasion of Lot of Cornwall. His metamorphosis is rapid and complete.
This was an excellent book, despite occasionally feeling that I had to push through the first half. Even then, the author spends lots of time on historical facts of life in this Age.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The Fort at River's Bend is the 5th book in the Arthurian saga called The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte. The Fort, as the author has described it, is located at a place in northern England now called Hardknott Pass. The intent of this book is to have a setting where Arthur can learn in general solitude.
Caius Merlyn Brittanicus has decided to flee Camulod because he perceives a mole in the camp. A mole that he believes to be loyal to his enemy, Peter Ironhair, a man expelled from Camulod many years earlier for his contrary ways and who is trying to kill Arthur. Merlyn takes Arthur and his closest friends to Ravenglass, near River's Bend. King Derek of Ravenglass offers up Mediobogdum, as River's Bend is called in exchange for protection from that side of his kingdom.
Merlyn and company live in general peace during that time, as does Camulod. There are relatively few battle scenes in this book, compared to the others so far. It is a time of development, especially that of Arthur.
But, by the end of the book, Arthur is approching manhood and there are rumbling of Ironhair's influence in Cornwall to the southwest. So Merlyn makes the decision that Arthur's quiet instruction is finished. It is time to move back to Camulod and begin practical growth as a soldier in battle.
A lot of this book was slow,battlewise, but the author did a good job of piling on historical information and keeping mild things happening, keeping the reader's attention. I enjoyed this book and it was a quick read even though it wasn't full of action.
Monday, August 18, 2008
A well written, interesting twist on the vampyre myth. Loved the way the author incorporated truths into the fiction. Very fast read, as it was hard to put down.
The story centers on a serial killer in hollywood, targeting specific individuals. An interesting crime investigator gets involved, and gets more than he bargains for. Creatively put together, with awesome wit. I'd definitely recommend it!
Posted by treehugginchef at Monday, August 18, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
If you lived in a small town when you were growing up, or are just redneck enough, you'll know exactly what's going on in this story.
That's what makes The Front Porch Prophet so hilarious and relatable. Author Raymond L. Atkins' subtle implementations of dry humor and unlikely-but-possible situations are what drive this otherwise melancholy perspective on a man's slow battle with cancer while residing in the small town of Sequoyah, Georgia. The story's bulk are the family branches of the slowly succumbing Eugene Purdue, bringing in characters with rich personalities and wonderful side stories. Each character is described throughout the entirety of the book; this includes the local eatery's religious owner, Hoghead (who unintentionally renames the drive-in with a combination of Bible tidbits and dining specials); Estelle Chastain (whose mean little dog meets an unexpected demise by an aerial porch); real estate buyer Truth Hannassey (who finds a love match in Eugene's ex-wife); and deputy Slim (who would freak out if he ever found out about that stolen school bus).
The story is rich and lively, easing the emotional break of Eugene's gradual degradation (even with grenades to ease the boredom). But his familial friend A.J.'s reluctant role as caretaker and possible Grim Reaper shows a tenderness and emotion familiar to many who have lost a loved one. Between Estelle's reckless driving and A.J.'s battle of words with Eugene's dog Rufus lies a story of heartbreak, loss, and emotion. A fantastic read.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Mage-Guard of Hamor is the latest book in the Recluse series by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., fantasy and sci-fi writer. It is 15th book in the series and the second and, presumably, final book about Rahl of Recluse and his adventures on the large island of Hamor.
Rahl, in the previous book, Natural Ordermage, has foiled an attempt to wreck trade between Hamor and Recluse and other states. He is a mage-guard and a natural ordermage, but has problems holding his temper and dealing with not getting his own way. His has been taken under Taryl's wing. Taryl is an older and very powerful ordermage who sees Rahl's potential where the uppity mages of Recluse did not.
The story starts on a boat to Recluse. Rahl is on the delegation to report the problems at the end of the last book. He is met cooly by those in power but he is excited to meet his love, Deybri, a healer. She loves him but does not want to travel to Hamor, where Rahl must stay. She also realizes his power and is afraid of what might happen between them.
Upon his return to Hamor, Taryl and Rahl are ordered to participate in quelling a rebellion. They begin a long trek across Hamor where they meet rebels all the way to the end battle. Along the way, Taryl is trying to teach him how to be a proper mage and deal with those in power.
There were times in this book where the pace was quite slow. The author used this slowing of the pace to make his sudden action seem that much more explosive. Those familiar with his writing did not get anything new. He tends to be very descriptive of surrounding, i.e. colors, shapes of items that otherwise wouldn't be important. It was, otherwise, a good book, continuing to fill out the world that he created.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Well, if my lack of respect for former president Clinton wasn't solidified before, it is now.
In Petrovsky's novel based on Bill Clinton's sexual escapes with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the affair is shown in a more personal light; though the story is told from the view of Clinton, it does evaluate both sides of the issue, including the public's quickly-changed opinion of their Commander-in-Chief due to lying and perjury, and Clinton's insatiable, unquenched thirst for sexual fulfillment. Okay, the latter goes a bit too deep for my tastes, but it does rather thoroughly demonstrate what Clinton's motive was behind his actions, no matter how gruesomely detailed.
Still, the neutral view goes only so far, as there is progressively more and more pushing of how his actions were wrong and how his perjurous response showed his lacking suitability as the leader of the United States. A closer look at Lewinsky's point-of-view on the issue might've curbed the conservatism and brought back the neutrality.
Though Petrovsky's writing style is strong and supported by beefy, realistically dialogue, there is a certain emotion lacking from the words, something that might've made Clinton's supposed guilt more believable. Nonetheless, the story seems dead-on with the actual happenings, and just proves that none of us really know what goes on behind closed doors...
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
"We're waiting to hear the first explosions. I've got a bad felling. Rotten luck has plagued this operation since we started. Half a day out of Derna, Te Aroah IV began flooding and stalling; for two nights we've fought shorts in the electrical system, and the patches and bypasses we've rigged are not being helped by this rain."
This is the life of a member of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) on the hunt for the "Desert Fox," German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Hard, dirty, and constantly battling the forces of nature as well as the enemy.
"Killing Rommel" is a "memoir" of R. Lawrence 'Chap' Chapman's life as an officer in the British Special Forces. Steven Pressfield does an excellent job of interweaving WWII battle facts, world events, real life officer memoirs and accurate historical detail into a thrilling tale.
I haven't been one to read too many WWII books, whether they are fiction, fantasy or pure fact. My interest generally lay about 3500 years earlier. However, I am generally impressed and have found myself drawn into this story. I'm currently about halfway through the book and simply can't wait to finish it.
I recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest bit of interest into WWII. Especially when Field Marshal Erwin Rommel once stated that: "The LRDG caused us more damage than any other unit of their size."
Posted by Brian at Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Sunday, August 3, 2008
To have straw for brains, this scarecrow is one smart cookie.
Blume J. Rifken's crop protector finds himself in a hefty predicament when Tally the friendly witch exhausts her power to grant the scarecrow his wish of trick-or-treating with his family's children, Seth, Sue and Holly. To help her out, the scarecrow devises a plan to get a wish of her own granted with the help of a wishbone...that's in the farmhouse across the field. To retrieve the bone, scarecrow has Tally relieve him of some of his straw so the kids will take him inside to restuff him. Though their sneak-and-snatch trick initially seems unsuccessful, the book takes a twist and ends on a happy note.
The story is adorable, but different, not like many fantasy stories that have a reiterative, straight-forward concept and lesson hidden in its depths. Here, the concept of sharing and helping one another is prevalent right from the beginning, so the suspense of the tale allows the reader to derive more from the words and images than just a life lecture. The illustrations, done by Carl W. Wenzel, are exceptional, painting the exact picture the words portray. A beautiful story, perfect for the youngster in your life.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Book four of The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte continues the story of Camulod from the point of view of Caius Merlyn Brittanicus. Half Roman noble stock and half Celt of Brittain.
Merlyn has found Arthur, son of Uther, his cousin. Arthur is heir to the throne of the Eire (Irish) and also the rightful heir to the Celtic leadership also, in addition to his importance to Camulod (Camelot). Merlyn takes on the responsibility to be in charge of making sure Arthur is raised noble, educated and strong.
Merlyn is also beginning to seed his reputation as a sorcerer. There were a couple of situations in the previous book, The Eagle's Brood, where Merlyn does some simple trickery. He doesn't think much of it, but it lay the foundation for more seeming magic in The Saxon Shore. One thing that helps this along is his new-found half brother, Ambrose, who could be his identical twin brother, instead of a half-brother only a few months his younger. Ambrose is also instrumental in subtly fanning this growing reputation.
As the title suggests, the continuing Saxon invasion is always a subtext in this story, although, as he has done previously, the author doesn't usually focus his story on the subject of the title. In fact, very little words are wasted on the Saxons. There are many threats to the safety and growth of Camulod and to the general status of Brittain as a whole.
This was a really good book, a bit slow at times, but generally more wide sweeping than the previous book. We begin to see the legend of Merlyn beginning to take shape and Arthur begin to learn and grow to his coming legend.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Who knew computer chips could be so cute?
Craig T. Feigh's venture into authoring a computer-related children's book is a quite a gem, incorporating simple computer knowledge of cursors, the Internet, browsers, and viruses to tell of Little Bit and Big Byte's story of losing their dog and wave-surfing with a filthy-looking floppy disk.
The concept is extremely unique for a children's book, making it all the more interesting, even to a "seasoned" reader such as myself (at 18 years old). Yes, I actually quite enjoyed the book, and even preoccupied myself with finding the hidden bones in the illustrations, created by Patrick Carlson, found on each page. True, I am easily entertained, but that's not the point.
Kiddies who are showing an infinity for a keyboard can learn simple computer concepts from this book, including the incorporation of Webster's dictionary (who likes building sandcastles of book-shaped dinosaurs), the game joystick (Big Byte and Little Bit's younger sister), the aforementioned keyboard (a friend Big Byte has a massive crush on), and the mouse cursor (pet dog with a head shaped like a mouse's pointer arrow), just to name a few. Instead of the same old 'see-spot-run' tales, Feigh's delightful anecdote adds a fresh twist to a usually consistent genre.
However, I do wish the floppy disk crab had his own storyline. I just wanted to hug him to 'bits'!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Hard cover, 112 pages
$9.95 $11.95 (Canada)
This is a delightful book, written by a cat, Quasi, on the care and feeding of the feline in your life. For those of us who love cats, this is not only informative, but incredibly, laugh-out-loud funny!
Quasi teaches cats how to do and get anything they want (not that I am sure that my cats need any instructions on this!)
Quasi's basic philosophy centers on the first chapter, "How to Look Cute". Once a cat has mastered that, all things are possible - 'How to Get Your Human to Buy Your Favorite Food', 'How to Get Your Humans to Sing and Act Like Complete Idiots', 'How to Annoy Humans with Allergies', '20 Good Places to Hide', to name a few of the delightful chapters. Quasi has definately figured out how to have the good life with his humans and is not shy about sharing his tips and tricks!
I found myself reading portions aloud to share the delightful wit.
Anyone who loves cats, will be delighted with this book!
Publisher: Outskirts Press (April 19, 2008)
This story takes place during the period fifty years after the arrival of the Pilgrims. The death of Sassamon and the ensuing trial, leads to a collison of culture and a war. It delves into the tensions between the cultures that eventually led to King Phillip's War.
Mr Garafalo paints an amazing picture of the times and the culture - allowing you to picture the buildings, the clothing and the environment of the story. The story revolves around a fictional English family and a fictional Wompanoag family in the lead up to a war that was devastating to both sides in the conflict. He develops characters that are easy to relate to and understand and gives you a sense of the thoughts of both the English and the Indians.
This is a period of history that is not taught and is difficult to find in history books. Mr Garafalo has done us the gift of handing us a part of our history that we did not know about. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the early history of the country.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
It's seriously a hard-knock life for a pear.
Poor little Fiscal Pear gets tangled up in a wild web of confusion in this adventurous tale of heroes and villains. Starring a motley cast of unusual characters and unlikely saviors, the story finds the fruit in a crosshairs of a scissor-happy fiend who wishes to enhance the business of the Bakery of Pears by using the little guy as a walking, talking attraction (as opposed to an integral ingredient in a delicious pie). But his lightning bug buddy Shimmer, along with several other odd land-dwellers, are bound and determined to keep him out of their foes' grasp, no matter what it takes.
Brooks-Scrivanich's simple, straight-forward writing makes this quick read ideal for youngsters who are refining their reading skills. Though the detail of some characters and settings are lacking, most of the story can be pictured immaculately by the reader as the chaos progresses. But, as most stories go, there is a happy ending for our heroes, delivering a valuable lesson in friendship and trust.
Who would've thought a bunny and balls of snow could get along so well?
In Sally O. Lee's delightful children's story, a rabbit discovers the long-abandoned snow creation of a group of children and quickly befriends the stocking-capped, coal-smiled figure. But when the seasons change and his friend is no longer there to welcome him in the lonely field, the bunny feels the loss of his stick-fingered pal. But as winter comes back around and the snowman is assembled once more, the two are reunited among the trees of the white-blanketed field.
The book is crammed with pleasingly colorful illustrations from the author, and they assist the story better than would images with fewer details and visual adornments. The pencil sketchiness of the pictures also provide a complementary kiddish feel to the book. The story is told in straight-forward grammar, but is delightfully (and ironically) warm, cozy and inviting, giving the fuzzies to readers of all ages.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I was sent a copy of Days of Infamy by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. Since it was a sequel, I had to go buy Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th so I could read the whole story. I am glad I did.
Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th and Days of Infamy tells an alternative history to the attack on Pearl Harbor that opened the US involvement in World War Two. The main difference between the real history and the alternate history is the presence of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto as the commander of the naval attack on Pearl Harbor instead of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. Yamamoto was not present during the battle and his presence as the commander here changed the course of history.
Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December actually tells more story than that day. It tells a rich story of the build up, politically, economically and militarily to the confrontation between Japan and the US.
An interesting subplot is the fact that there are several characters that are friends that wind up on opposite sides of the war. I found the character of Mitsuo Fuchida to be well written and likable. As a matter of fact, most of the Japanese characters were written to be likable people. The novel ends with the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Days of Infamy immediately takes up the story. With Yamamoto in charge of the attack, the Japanese press the Americans, bringing in one of their battleships to pound the island at night. This is where the divergent history really starts to be noticeable.
Vice Admiral "Bull" Halsey is at sea on his flagship, the USS Enterprise. Halsey was a tough guy, a real fighter. His portrayal here is exactly what you would expect of him, given the situation. He goes on the attack. This turns the battle from a lopsided Japanese victory we all know from history into something else. Exactly what else will depend on where they take the third book.
One of the things I really liked about the story was the intense amount of factual information it contained. Info about ships, planes, military procedures, real history and culture was very exact and accurate (I checked). Like Clancy does in his novels, Gingrich and Forstchen us these technical details to provide an accurate backdrop to the story that gives it a bit of the "I am there" feeling. Some readers may not like that amount of detail, but I do. As a big military history and equipment buff, it allows me to tie in my own knowledge with the story and make it that much more enjoyable.
Some people have complained about the "cookie cutter" characters of Roosevelt and Churchill. But I have no complaints. They are not big characters in the book, so they do not need to have the character development that happens with the others.
Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th (Hardcover)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (May 15, 2007)
Days of Infamy (Hardcover)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (April 29, 2008)
Posted by Ron Simpson at Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The Eagle's Brood is the third book in the Camulod Chronicles (Camelot), leading up to the Arthur legend.
The story's point of view changes in this book to Caius Merlyn Brittanicus, son of Picus and grandson of his namesake, Caius, of the first two books. Merlyn is half Brittish-born Roman and half Celt, a product of cooperation between two peoples. He becomes a thoughtful leader of his people. His cousin, Uther, on the other hand, is a powerful warrior, often bloodthirsty and cruel. Because of his cruelty, his relationship with Merlyn is permanently damaged.
This book tells of life in the Brittain as the Colony at Camulod struggles to maintain against powerful foes that come seemingly in waves. The Saxons are a real and sometimes perceived threat but the biggest threat is from Lot of Cornwall, whom Merlyn and Uther hate from boyhood.
Another, new threat, is the threat of religious change. The author spends lots of paper on discussing historical moments in Christian history from the 5th century, regarding Pelagius and Augustine. I think that this subject will come up again in subsequent books, due to it being unresolved in Brood.
While I enjoy the author's craft of writing, I found some of the setting and content to be overly sexually graphic. The story could not have gone anywhere, as it was created, if not for the sexual situations involved, but I found that word choices, depth of the description of the scenes, and the amount of times that he mentions Uther's "manhood" to be too much. While I understand that a book about this subject and time period will have these situations, this book spent way too much time with graphic sexual scenes for good taste.
Overall, the story is a bridge between setting the environment of Brittain at that time and the coming of Arther. As such, there are many ideas thrown into the story, seemingly at random, although the reader probably knows that some of these ideas will come up again in later books.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Okay, I'll admit that I am a sucker for Nina Bangs...not only can the woman write one heck of a hot, steamy sex scene, but the men in her books are straight outta fantasy land (in a REALLY good way).
Her latest book, Eternal Pleasure, is book 1 in the "Gods of the Night" series.
It mixes the "end of the world" prophecies with a group of eleven men that are the ancient souls of ultimate predators. They will fight a war with the ultimate evil to save mankind, and along the way, you can count on Ms. Bangs to liven it up with a strong unsuspecting female, Kelly Maloy, who falls for uber male Ty Endeka, one of The Eleven.
With each new book that Nina Bangs writes, she just gets better and better. IMHO this is her best book to date, and I can not wait for the next one!
You can visit her site at http://www.ninabangs.com
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Christopher Reeve became the world's Superman, but his real-life struggle with spinal cord paralysis showed a strength far surpassing the comic book hero's, present both in him and his wife, Dana. Their stories, from their time of meeting to their reunion in heaven are eloquently recalled in Christopher Andersen's Somewhere in Heaven.
This heart-breaking recollection of one of the most beautiful relationships to see Hollywood collects the family's best and worst times, from Christopher's first sight of his future wife to the horse accident that left him paralyzed. Their story, dotted with emotionally shattering moments, was one of true love and trust, as Dana took the full-time role of caregiver to her disabled actor husband, who, from his first awakening post-accident to his very last breath, felt the hardship of raising a family without the ability to physically interact with his and Dana's son, Will. But through their hardships and struggles came hope and inspiration, as their constant lobbying for stem cell research brought spinal cord paralysis to its highest awareness and amazing breakthroughs, often in Reeve himself.
Upon Reeve's devastating death, Dana continued her husband's inspirational endeavours until stage-4 lung cancer reunited her with her husband less than two years later. However, son Will and Christopher's children with actress Gae Exton, Matthew and Alexandra, continue their parents' motivational work to raise awareness for spinal cord paralysis through the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. And it is through them, as well as the timeless works Christopher and Dana left behind, that they will live on in the hearts of millions. An absolutely beautiful, tear-jerking read that should be on every bookshelf.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Hey, I'm all for tombs and mummies and Egypt and anything related, but if you have to go through this much trouble to disturb the resting place of an Egyptian god, you begin to wonder if it's really worth it.
When an archaeologist gains possession of a expansive piece of property in Egypt that potentially houses the lost tomb of Imhotep beneath its ground, it becomes the target of a pharoah-worshipping religious sect named the Sons of Set, whose Head Priest sees it more as a cash cow than the inner sanctum of a religious entity. Their overwhelming desire to gain ownership of the tomb - which they're not even sure is actually there - drives them to kidnap the archaeologist's newfound love and fiancee, track them with a nosy, hash-addicted servant, and pose as the local electricity company. Ah, such rowdy hi-jinx.
The story starts off slow, and if no interest lies in Egypt or its ancient gods, you'll be pretty much put off from the beginning. But gradually, a slipshod story forms that gains more stability and purpose, even though the occasional murder or sacrificial ritual will confuse it a bit. Those looking for an Egyptian-based thriller may pass this one by for a more fluid and sensible tale, but if Egypt is really your thing, Imhotep is worth a look.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
“The Ashes of Innocence” is a dark and moving memoir told by Alexandra Tesluk. The words flow off the page like they were spoken by an old, beloved aunt. Seen through her eyes, heard with her ears and completely heartfelt, this story is intimate and intensely personal.
Beginning with her first childhood memories, Alexandra uses words from her native language as spice to develop a depth of expression, as a child would, growing with fresh discoveries in vocabulary and context. She is fatherless. Her “moja tato”, her father, has vanished in the chaos of World War 2 and the shadows of the Iron Curtain that followed. Rather than disappearing into Stalin’s Soviet Union, Alexandra’s mother moves the family to Canada to face a life as “displaced persons”.
When her mother remarries, Alexandra gains a violent, alcoholic stepfather. Unable to escape her own sense of displacement, Alexandra is betrayed, abused and abandoned. Her alienation is beautifully rendered in emotional snippets adrift in the timeline of her life. She writes with a desperate foreboding that hems in her experiences, stitching one awful circumstance to another.
Somehow she never lost faith, so from the crackling shell of childhood emerges hope and empowerment. In adulthood, with its own highs and lows, sincerity and authenticity, Alexandra finds a truth – some things lost are lost forever. Innocence is replaced with grim determination and resolve to break the vicious cycle of abuse and loss. Though she never quits searching for the father she lost so long ago, she does find companions who help her. With their help and a guiding belief in the fundamental worth and dignity of all human beings – the long struggle to make a broken little girl whole once again is complete. Alexandra discovers herself and a lifelong, fulfilling love.
“The Ashes of Innocence” is a story that emphasizes the complexity and uniqueness of human beings, as creatures of self-image and choices, finding understanding through their search for meaning. It has a subjective touch that is both delicate and devastating. It may be too intense or subjective for some, but for those who can hear Alexandra speaking through these pages, this is a journey is worth taking.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
With a title like The Singing Sword, you'd think that most of the story is a telling of the creation of the famed Arthurian sword, Excalibur. While it is true that Excalibur is forged in this book, it is a minor and later part of the book, although it plays a destructive role in the final battle scene.
The Singing Sword is the second book in the Camulod Chronicles and is told from the point of view of Publius Varrus, a Roman born in Britain, and his friend/commander, Caius Brittanicus, leader of the Colony, an irregular stronghold of Roman ideals and discipline in Britain where the Roman forces are steadily being withdrawn back home to defend the home turf, a historical fact that essentially began the Dark Ages.
Our main characters are neck deep in defending their Colony and making new laws that must cover the changing world that is Britain in the 4th century A.D. There are new threats coming in addition to the Saxons and Celts.
The feud between the Senecas and Varrus continues with a black hate in this book. Claudius Seneca, who we thought was dead toward the end of The Skystones is not! He survived Publius' humiliating plan of death for him. He has returned with power and Varrus and Brittanicus must find a way to keep Seneca from exacting revenge on them.
Both Varrus and Brittanicus become grandfathers in this book. Both of these births are results of marriages of state between the diminishing Roman presence in Britain and the Celts. These births are also forerunners of Arthur, as we find out in the blurbs on the back of the books.
I really enjoy Jack Whyte's writing style. While not blood-thirsty for battle scenes, he paints a realistic picture of the world as it begins to enter the Dark Ages. His large battle scenes are often short or even implied. He seems to want to spend more time with character than explaining the macro-ness of armies battling. He also makes efforts to be historically forthcoming regarding the Roman ways of society and military. He is educational along many subjects of technology of the time.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
One of the most controversial and compelling issues the world has seen is covered in this fictionalized recapturing of the trial that made the world think twice about religion and science: The State of Tennessee vs. J. T. Scopes, also known as the Scopes Trial.
Written in poetic prose, Jen Bryant tells the views of several townspeople, including open-minded youngsters and stern-believing adults, as the trial unfolds in the courts of their small town of Dayton, Tennessee. The unshakable resolve in some and lingering faith in others will cause even the most steadfast of believers to think twice about the situation.
Bryant's straight-forward writing exemplifies the '20s, while the lax format allows even the most uninformed to delve into this book with interest and curiosity. The situation of the trial, Christianity versus Darwin's evolution, may cause some Christian parents to raise an eyebrow if their child checked it out, but it doesn't favor one side or the other; rather, it subtly teaches the American right to religious freedom and acceptance. Some characters stay adamant about their beliefs, while others walk away with a newfound knowledge of themselves and others. An quick, but powerful read.
Monday, June 23, 2008
The Skystone is a different take on the Arthur legend, beginning before Arthur, Merlin, Galahad and Lancelot supposedly lived, before the Romans abandoned the island of Britain. It is the first book in the Camulod Chronicles.
The story follows Gaius Publius Varrus, a soldier and second in command to his friend, Caius Brittanicus, Roman commander of a large contingent in Britain. From history, we know that the time setting of this book is the decline of the Roman empire. Publius is seriously injured in an ambush by the savages of northern Britain and the story unfolds his new life after his service to the empire. His motivation is to find more of the skystones, stones of ore that produce a strange but almost magical metal. A sword made from this metal would be exquisitely exotic.
Publius becomes entangled in a bloodfeud not originally from his family, but of his friend and compatriot, Brittanicus. The Seneca family and the Brittanicus family have been feuding for several generations and Publius, by sheer accident becomes involved. Along with searching for the skystones, seeking revenge upon a certain young malice from the Seneca tribe is his motivation.
This is a wonderfully written story, full of historical facts about the Roman empire and military, centered in Britain in the mid-4th century. I found the book/series in the fantasy section at my local big box book store. There was no magic involved in this book, but is hinted at for the coming books.
I really liked this book. The author is a master of character and developing relationships with those characters. The book is not as action-packed as some I've read recently, but it kept my attention very well, with well-paced dialogue and excellently written scenes and appropriate sequels.