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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Carbon Copy: Alpha Man - Gary Turcotte

The only adjective I can think to accurately describe this book is 'interesting'.

Not that the story is bad or anything - it's just...odd. You have an agent whose identity is constantly put under the knife so he can assume other identities. (So maybe Joan Rivers is a secret agent after all...) But in the midst of one of his latest reconstruction operations, his mind is implanted with knowledge of the alien sort...literally. The alien's name is Roswell and he likes Jell-O. I am deadly serious here.

This agent, Derek, and a few of his agent buddies (amazing he can figure out who they are with all the nip-tucks going on) go along with this weird alien thing and one of them, Janet, gets implanted with a hybrid 'superbaby'. The males of the group get the treatment they would more likely receive at a sperm bank - make your deposit, and your payment is the joy of creating more weird alien hybrids. Oh, wonderful.

Then the story weirds out when Derek and Janet are abducted willingly, given new faces, and decide "Oh, I don't want to do this 007 stuff anymore - I want to raise a family and go to Wal-Mart!" So they have to fake their previous identities's deaths and assume their new ones in order to find any peace and quiet.'s not like anyone could recognize them anyway. Let's just hope they're well supplied with Jell-O.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Artist Within - Whitney Ferre

"The Artist Within" is Liberation in three steps and fifteen exercises. The subtitle proclaims this book to be a guide to becoming creatively fit, but it is so much more than that. In equal parts "The Artist Within" is a companion, coach, creativity workshop, and collaborator.

The methods author Whitney Feere uses in this book are straight-forward, practical, and understandable. Anyone can do them. The only thing that is uncommon is the result! It works. Most people spend their workaday lives using the logical, verbal and analytical parts of their brains. The way the author introduces the reader to "the artist within" is to use these different exercises to stimulate the other side of the brain. By giving that portion a recognizable voice, it makes a connection with it easy with practice. The exercises the author leads the read through build upon one another effortlessly. You create from the start! You can get even more resources from the author's website

The exercises are organized as explorations in the most commonly acknowledged principles of design: emphasis, balance, proportion, harmony, contrast, rhythm, and repetition. Each exercise builds a new confidence in oneself as well as materials and methods of creating different kinds of art. Each variation in these concepts and techniques is intuitive, quick and most importantly, fun.

If you want to discover or develop your creativity, this is the book that was worth waiting for and will get you in touch with a part of yourself that can't wait to meet you too.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Strength of a Sparrow - Tim Anders

"The Strength of a Sparrow" is a catchy urban romance with generous helpings of suspense, discovery and family history. Largely seen through the eyes of a young actress, Bouvette Sherwood, and based on her true life experience, this story is an interesting read.

The story begins in an Italian restaurant in the upper east side of Manhattan in 1946. A 25 year old Bouvette meets Hughie, a distinguished older man with a taste for Dewar's White Label Scotch. Bouvette, or "Boo" as her friends call her, learns more about Hughie, she finds he has a secret. He is a Roman Catholic priest.

As their romance develops, so does the intrigue of a forbidden relationship. Time and passion raise the stakes, and when Bouvette becomes pregnant, the story becomes a full fledged suspense. This developing romance with its surprising twists builds velocity as it moves along. It's well paced and filled with warmly developed characters and locales that sparkle with personality.

"The Strength of a Sparrow" is a rich and structurally complex story. The changes between the viewpoint characters, Bouvette and Hughie, are unusual for a traditional romance. Another viewpoint character, the author, appears late in the story to add another colorful square to this interestingly quilted, patchwork story. Bouvette and Hughie each make some hard choices and those decisions determine lives are changed lives forever. The story morphs into autobiography there, closing the curtain on the author's parent's romance.

Because this story is based on events that really happened and involves real people with real human strengths and weaknesses, some scenes are intense.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Bouncing Boy - ILIA

A boy confused for a bouncing ball helps save a village from a disease of head-grown flowers and sour-puss attitudes. Awkward concept, but it surprisingly works.

ILIA's unique tale of Jack, a full-faced and -bodied kid and victim of quite a jab and insult in his small village, leads the child to a life of glutton after being cast out of his village and into the wilderness beyond. But an old man, witness to the birth of the Sad Situation, a sudden growth of odiferous flowers atop the villagers' heads, seeks the boy's assistance in finding the disease's cure. The unlikely duo head out from the village into the unknown in search of the antidote, encountering many an obstacle along the way. But will their efforts be enough to save the villagers?

There's good moral behind the story, but it seems a little weirdly emphasized. The first few pages are almost dedicated solely to the teasing and insulting poor Jack receives from the villagers, highlighting the cruelness of the villagers and the slim likelihood that Jack would ever put one pinky finger towards helping them. But I guess that is the moral...not do unto others as they do unto you, but rather do unto those with stinky flowers on their heads.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blood Lines (NCIS) - Mel Odom

Talk about a complicated father-son relationship.

NCIS's Shel McHenry's father pops up missing and McHenry recruits his fellow teammates to help him figure out what's going on. Turns out a drug ring in Vietnam has a past connection to him and he's running from a potential imprisonment or execution due to an unintended murder. Now NCIS must hunt down the decades-old corpse of the victim to uncover the truth.

Mel Odom is an excellent writer, through and through; he flawlessly injects needed shots of drama in all the right places. Each character's personality shines through, including Shel's God-fearing brother Don, an uplifting dose of religion sparingly added to the grim tale. Odom packs the tale with bushelfuls of adventure and nail-biting suspense that is a rarity in some of today's novels.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Baron Thinks Dogs Are People Too! - Laurie Dean

What's a puppy to do when he can't find a best friend?

Laurie Dean writes of precocious puppy Baron, a family pet that, despite energetic and rowdy playing and caring from his owners, decided one day to wander into the road. Don't worry, he's okay - he just has to pass obedience school! When he finally makes it home, he finds some of his friends leaving, like Dad, who's in the Air Force, and the neighborhood kids that finished their fun and playing in the snow. Will Baron find the friend he's seeking?

This story is just too cute for its own good. Maybe it's my soft spot for dogs, but the concept is absolutely adorable. Kevin Collier's accompanying artwork just adds to the story, increasing the tale's impact. It's easy to understand and should be present on every dog-loving kiddo's bookshelf.

Too Tall Alice - Barbara Worton

Four inches can seem like four miles to an eight-year-old.

So is the case for Alice, who's had a little bit of a growth spurt and is now four inches taller than her classmates at Cherry Tree School. Like many of a similar age, Alice wishes only to fit in with her buddies and not be able to get a good look of the top of their heads. Her Mom and doctor say she's healthy and fine, but Alice doesn't feel that great. Things are made worse when, while in her bedroom, Alice overhears conversation between her neighbors and parents, who speak of their daughter's vertical advantage. When Alice falls asleep at last, she dreams of a place where only tall girls reside, girls with futures in basketball, modeling and the circus. Will Alice ever feel comfortable with her height?

Worton's writing is very fluid and light, but Alice's unsure sentiments are evident and strong. Its message of self-esteem even in times of difference or awkwardness is pure and influential, surely to help kids (and maybe even a few adults!) with issues of self-image. To be noted also is illustrator Dom Rodi's whimsical sketches and images accompanying the book, mixing various elements to create a crowded, yet thought-provoking tale.