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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Little Bit & Big Byte: A Day at the Beach - Craig T. Feigh

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

The World is Your Litter Box by Quasi

The World is Your Litter Box
by Quasi
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Hard cover, 112 pages
$9.95 $11.95 (Canada)
ISBN-10 1402752962
ISBN-13 978-1402752964

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!

The Sassamon Circle by Louis Garafalo

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Outskirts Press (April 19, 2008)
ISBN-10: 143272066X
ISBN-13: 978-1432720667

The Sassamon Circle is historical fiction based on the mysterious death of the Indian John Sassamon. Sassamon was a Wompanoag who lived in Massachusetts and died in January 1675. A 'Praying Indian', Sassamon was able to communicate in English and native dialects which allowed him to function in cultures that were distinctly different from one another.

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

Fiscal Pear and Shimmer in the Call of the River Whale - Olivia Brooks-Scrivanich

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.

The Rabbit and the Snowman - Sally O. Lee

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

Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th and Days of Infamy by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen

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)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312363508

Days of Infamy (Hardcover)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (April 29, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312363516
ISBN-13: 978-0312363512

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Eagle's Brood - Jack Whyte

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

Nina Bangs Does it Again!

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

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve - Christoper Andersen

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

Inquest on Imhotep: Beyond the White Walls - Derek Adie Flower

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 by Alexandra Tesluk

“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

The Singing Sword - Jack Whyte

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.