Friday, July 31, 2009

Winners: The Education of an American Dreamer and Year of the Cock

The winners of The Education of an American Dreamer are:

  1. Sara
  2. Karen
  3. Lisanne624
  4. Nelsby
  5. A Reader

The winners of The Year of the Cock are:
  1. Anita Yancey
  2. misusedinnocence
  3. tetewa
  4. Katrina
  5. dag888888

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you so much to Hachette for sponsoring the giveaways!

The winners have all been e-mailed for mailing information.

Thank you to all who entered!

Review: Sixth-Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me by Lisa Papademetriou

Allie Kimball is excited to be starting sixth grade. Her best friend is going to be in the same school and she is going to try out for the soccer team. But she soon learns that middle school is a very different world, full of strange new beasts, like glommergirls who never go anywhere alone and norks: a combination of a nerd and a dork. Allie realizes its time to define herself before she gets lost in the sixth-grade jungle. Sixth Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me is a funny and poignant look at sixth-grade friendships, crushes, and trying to define yourself.

I really liked Allie and her family and athletic friends. They seemed like such genuinely nice people. Kudos to the author for writing an anti-Gossip Girl!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the author lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, which is relatively close to my section of Connecticut. It was just one of those fun tidbits to learn about an author, especially one whose book you enjoyed!

This one gets seven stars. It was the perfect Summer read - light, yet potent, and fast. The reality of change in relationships was handled very well and I came away from the book with a warm, fuzzy feeling and a smile. It is definitely recommended!

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Guest Post: Fredrica Wagman author of The Lie

Fredrica Wagman, author of the new book The Lie, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote about Rita Hayworth.

Finding Rita Hayworth
By Fredrica Wagman

My fascination with Rita Hayworth began when I was very young because my mother was so enthralled with Rita Hayworth herself that she named me Rita, and although she polished my name off with the name Fredrica in the middle, it was the name Rita that profoundly connected me to my mother -- to my childhood and to that exquisite creature who ruled the sliver screen for all my growing years.

People do things like that. Pick the name of presidents and movie stars whom they admire for their newborn babies, hoping, preposterously, that the name of the famous person they admire will evoke the same magic on some poor unsuspecting little child.

I use the word "poor" because the child in full innocence sallies forth into life burdened with a name and a namesake she knows nothing about. In this case, what glowed in my mother's esteem couldn't be denied -- Rita Hayworth was a goddess, worshiped by men and women alike. She was the quintessential pin-up girl of World War II. She was the epitome of glamour and elegance. One of her five husbands was a prince and the others were iconic movie stars themselves. She had everything -- she was gorgeous; she had astounding beauty. She had children and wealth and jewels and clothes and incredible fame so that all-in-all she was a living breathing testimonial of immensely enviable success. But that wasn't all she had. She also had a secret. Buried deep within her was the knowledge of a terrible tragedy, the effects of which she bore silently her whole life; she was the victim of severe abuse -- physical, emotional and sexual, vested on her by her father while her lackluster, impoverished mother turned a blind eye to the devastation that was her daughter's fate.

The research that went into writing The Lie, dealt extensively with understanding the lives and struggles of many famous movie stars, a fascinating subject itself -- what makes them, what drives them -- but I settled finally on Rita Hayworth, not only because our names are the same, and not only because my mother thought "she was the most exquisite thing that ever lived or breathed," but because her story was the most clear-cut and the most brutal.

She was born Margarita Consuelo, the granddaughter of a great and famous flamenco dancer, so great and so famous that he was part of the court of the King of Spain. His son, Rita Hayworth's father came to this country speaking no English and earning his meager living, paltry as it was, by giving dancing lessons with his young, exquisite daughter as his partner. Fred Astaire, speaking once of Rita Hayworth said she was the best partner he ever danced with, and that statement included all his partners -- even the remarkable Ginger Rodgers. In the days of prohibition, because this country was dry with no liquor being sold, Rita's father took his young, beautiful and extremely talented daughter to Mexico, frequenting cheap night clubs and filthy dance halls where the liquor was flowing so they could eek out a bit of money on which to live by dancing for "tips". Things were so bad at times that Rita was forced by her father to catch fish off of wooden piers, often kneeling for hours in order to catch them with her bare hands and if that day she caught nothing, her father would beat her within an inch of her life, all the while introducing her as his wife and using her sexually.

This is not an unusual story. Neither for movies stars nor for the vast throngs who watch them. It is a common secret tragedy for men as well as for women, and as fascinated as I am with what makes movie stars tick -- their stories and struggles, I am even more concerned with the subject of childhood sexual abuse -- how to bring it out of the darkness and into the light for the millions of people like Rita Hayworth who have been so deeply scarred.

About The Lie:

Coming of age in the 1950's America, Ramona Smollens takes her cues about female sexuality from Hollywood movie stars. None is more voluptuous than Rita Hayworth, the redhead who knows how to please a man and becomes a volcano of passion at her lover's touch, whose image inspired American flyers on their missions in World War ll and even graced the first atomic bomb tested at the Bikini Atoll. Ramona marries young to escape her mother's house shortly after the death of her father. She takes with her a dark secret, the sort of secret one simply did not talk about and that would stalk her as she matured into her role as wife and mother, remained a devoted daughter to her own aging mother and secretly harbored an obsession with the iconic Hayworth.

The fictional story Wagman tells of one woman's struggle with the conventions of her day is a bold literary achievement. Underpinning it all is the sad, unspoken truth of the real-life, flesh-and-blood Hayworth, who was sexually abused by her father for most of her growing up. "Men go to bed with Gilda," she used to say, "but wake up with me." During Hayworth's lifetime, the public had no understanding of the depth of meaning and pain behind Hayworth's seemingly self-effacing words. To Ramona, and millions of women like her, Haywoth's on-screen persona seemed the ideal, but was in fact "the lie."

With this novel, Wagman realizes Kafka's famous dictum that "a book must be the axe to break the frozen sea within us."

About Frederica Wagman:

My name is Fredrica Wagman, but it wasn't always. I started out as Riki Barris, "Riki" being short for Rita Fredrica, born in Philadelphia where I spent the first four years of my life in my grandparents home with my mother and father and my older brother. It was a great sprawling place where there were maids and my baby-nurse, big cars, a devoted chauffeur by the name of I.J. Duckett, and the warmth of aunts and uncles and my grandparents all around us all the time whom I adored.

When I was four we moved into our own small house which was very hard on my mother who was used to all the space and all the help that everyone there could provide. My mother became quite depressed when we moved away from my grandparents and a hard time ensued after that for my brother and me. My father was a dentist, an oral surgeon who specialized in extracting teeth which was a kind of speciality in those days, although barbers were purported to have been doing it for years without all the training and all the honors my father collected at the University of Pennsylvania's dental school.

I attended schools first in the suburbs of Philadelphia and then in the city which was where we moved when I was eleven years old. I was married at a very early age, shamefully early, to Howard Wagman. Had five children, lost one, attended the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College after the children were born, and was writing fiction and poetry for as long as I can remember.

Fredrica Wagman is the author of six novels — Playing House, His Secret Little Wife, Mrs. Hornstien, Peachy, and Magic Man, Magic Man —and The Lie, just released in April 2009.

Thank you so much to Fredrica for joining us today! If you'd like to pick up a copy of her book The Lie click on the cover image below.

Review: How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell

The perfect, compact listen for today's fast-paced world, How Successful People Think (derived from Maxwell's previous book, Thinking for a Change) will teach listeners the 11 secrets successful people know. Arranged in an easy-to-follow format, America's leadership expert, John C. Maxwell, will teach listeners how to expand their thinking and achieve their dreams.

The 11 keys to successful thinking include:

Big-Picture Thinking - seeing the world beyond your own needs and how that leads to great ideas
Focused Thinking - removing mental clutter and distractions to realize your full potential
Creative Thinking - thinking in unique ways and making breakthroughs
Shared Thinking - working with others to compound results
Reflective Thinking - looking at the past to gain a better understanding of the future.

Received from the publisher for review.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (3 CDs/3.5 hours).

Well, this one was a great disappointment! The book was infinitely boring. I'm not sure if it was the reader, Chris Sorensen, who made it that way, or it was just the material - I'm leaning towards the material. The author is a pastor, which may explain part of the preachiness of the text, but does not make it acceptable.

The author was also a conceited prick! He constantly talked about how he ran so many companies, blah, blah. I wanted to smack him! He also mentioned how smart he was to "take advantage" of 9/11 to get half-priced tickets to The Producers and a great deal on a hotel room! How insensitive can you get?!

He obviously has no clue as to how normal people live because he mentioned Merck as an example of unselfishness for giving away 250 million tablets of one of their drugs. No, really. Um, did he check out how much those pills cost the company? It's probably a drop in the bucket of their multi billion dollar annual profit. And he considers them so saintly! Ha!

This one gets five stars. If it hadn't been only three discs I would have given up after disc one. This is obviously intended for an upper middle class male audience, just like the author himself. I cannot recommend this to anyone. At all. Ever. Just skip right over it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pre-Review: New Bookcase

Since I am now getting review books in almost daily I need to segregate them to a new location so they don't get commingle with my "regular" books and get lost. So, alas, I need a new bookcase. Just as I was considering the affordable bookcase purveyor options I was offered a great opportunity from CSN Office Furniture and Office Chairs to select a bookcase from their site to review!

As I don't have the room, or the sheer number of books required, to replicate Belle's (actually the Beast's) library from Beauty and the Beast I decided to go with something a bit more reasonable. After much hemming and hawing and use of the evil measuring tape I decided upon the Ameriwood 3 Shelf Bookcase in White. It will coordinate perfectly with my other white Ikea-type furniture and be the perfect new home for all my review books.

Since I am now the master of assembling Ikea-type furniture I fully expect this to be a cinch to put together and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. I'm sure my UPS guy will be thrilled as well to deliver it! :)

New Book Arrival: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The publisher, Delacorte Press, generously sent me a copy of The Maze Runner for review.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

Review: The Devil's Company by David Liss

From the acclaimed author of The Whiskey Rebels and A Conspiracy of Paper comes a superb new historical thriller set in the splendor and squalor of eighteenth-century London. In Benjamin Weaver, David Liss has created one of fiction’s most enthralling characters.

The year is 1722. Ruffian for hire, ex-boxer, and master of disguise, Weaver finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, pitted against Jerome Cobb, a wealthy and mysterious schemer who needs Weaver’s strength and guile for his own treacherous plans.

Weaver is blackmailed into stealing documents from England’s most heavily guarded estate, the headquarters of the ruthless British East India Company, but the theft of corporate secrets is only the first move in a daring conspiracy within the eighteenth century’s most powerful corporation. To save his friends and family from Cobb’s reach, Weaver must infiltrate the Company, navigate its warring factions, and uncover a secret plot of corporate rivals, foreign spies, and government operatives. With millions of pounds and the security of the nation at stake, Weaver will find himself in a labyrinth of hidden agendas, daring enemies, and unexpected allies.

With the explosive action and scrupulous period research that are David Liss’s trademarks, The Devil’s Company, depicting the birth of the modern corporation, is the most impressive achievement yet from an author who continues to set ever higher standards for historical suspense.

Received from the publisher for review.

This was the book that would not die. Seriously, it went on for what felt like forever!! It was 369 pages of small type on very large pages. I thought it would never end!

That said, the story itself was quite interesting, although I was a bit uncomfortable with jumping in on the third book of a series. Even though it is part of a series, it was a perfectly nice stand alone book. The characters were interesting and engaging even though I did not know what had happened to them in past books.

This one gets six stars. It was an interesting story, brought down from seven stars by two things. First was the sheer length of the book. The book was just too darn long! Second, was the fact that on almost every single page the main character mentioned that he was Jewish, or made some reference to it. Seriously, I think after the first fifty times we got it! It was very, very distracting. I think the book may be more enjoyable for readers who have experienced the first two books.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Have you read more than 6 of these books?

For the Love of All That is Written had an interesting post entitled Have you read more than 6 of these books? and I, of course, had to check it out. Here are my results. Text in blue is from the original post at For the Love of All That is Written.

Have you read more than 6 of these books?

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so i can see your responses!

  1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  6. The Bible
  7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  11. 11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
  18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  26. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  27. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
  28. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
  29. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
  30. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  31. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
  32. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
  33. Emma - Jane Austen
  34. Persuasion - Jane Austen
  35. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
  36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein
  37. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
  38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
  39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
  40. Animal Farm - George Orwell
  41. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
  42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  43. Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
  44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
  46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
  47. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
  48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  49. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  51. Dune - Frank Herbert
  52. Cold Comfort Farm
  53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
  55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
  59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
  62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
  63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
  64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
  65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
  66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
  67. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
  68. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
  69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
  70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
  71. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  72. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
  73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
  74. Ulysses - James Joyce
  75. The Inferno – Dante
  76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
  77. Germinal - Emile Zola
  78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  79. Possession - AS Byatt
  80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
  81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
  82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
  83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
  86. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
  87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
  88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
  90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
  93. Watership Down - Richard Adams
  94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
  95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
  96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
  97. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
  98. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
  99. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

My Total: 27 of 100 read

My thoughts: Huh! Not to shabby, really. I read quite a few of them in high school as we only read banned books. Yea for my public school education! And yea for my mom and grandmother instilling in me a love of reading from an early age and thinking it was completely normal that her 14 year old was reading Brave New World voluntarily!

If you'd care to participate, feel free to leave me a comment with your number completed!

New Book Arrival: Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta

The publisher, Hachette, generously sent me a copy of Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz to review.

All Ana Ruiz wanted was to have a traditional quinceaƱera for her daughter, Carmen. She wanted a nice way to mark this milestone year in her daughter's life. But Carmen was not interested in celebrating. Hurt and bitter over her father Esteban's departure, she blamed Ana for destroying their happy family, as did everyone else. A good man is hard to find, especially at your age Ana was told. Why not forgive his one indiscretion? Despite everything, Ana didn't want to tarnish Carmen's childlike devotion to her beloved father. But Ana knows that growing up sometimes means facing hard truths. In the end, Ana discovers that if she's going to teach Carmen anything about what it means to be a woman, it will take more than simply a fancy party to do it...

Interview and Giveaway: Charrie Hazard author of Falling Into the Sun

Today Charrie Hazard, author of the book Falling Into the Sun, is joining us for an interview and a great giveaway!

Beth: Hi! Welcome to Beth's Book Review Blog! It's great to have you here today! Thank you for taking the time to join us and answer some questions.

Can you tell us a little bit about Falling into the Sun?

Charrie: The novel begins when protagonist Kate Nardek discovers her neighbor's suicide. She realizes the kind of despair that spurred Michael's self-destruction fuels her thirteen-year-old son's violent blowups. This prompts her to seek psychological help for her son Josh, a decision that propels her not only into the labyrinth of mood disorder diagnosis and treatment, but also on a spiritual journey that forces her to rethink her beliefs about mental illness, good and evil, blame and judgment, and even death.

Parallelling her journey is that of her dead neighbor, whose soul flies into the center of creation. There, he discovers something has noted every twist of his life. This being's perfect knowledge generates the healing salve of perfect, non-judgmental compassion. Michael is given a choice: He can face the truth behind violent episodes in his recent life or he can choose the seeming bliss of ignorance. He chooses the harder path: knowledge.

Beth: How much of the novel is based on your actual experiences?

Charrie: A good bit. When my son was thirteen, I, like my protagonist, discovered my neighbor's suicide. The suicide forced me to acknowledge that my son's increasingly volatile behavior was not simply the result of lax discipline or poor parenting, as my pediatrician had repeatedly claimed. Consulting a psychologist was the first step in a long, torturous and heart wrenching path to an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment of my son's mood disorder. In the course of eighteen months, my son was diagnosed first with oppositional defiance disorder, then depression, then anxiety disorder, then bipolar disorder. He was treated for bipolar disorder for a number of years with limited success. At the age of nineteen, he went off all medication for about a year, researched his symptoms, and decided he had severe anxiety disorder. He returned to his old psychiatrist, who concurred, and he is now being successfully treated for that disorder and is making good grades and good friends at the University of South Florida. The intervening years were very difficult for my family. However, for me, they were also a time of great spiritual growth. I often tell my son that he has been my greatest teacher.

Beth: What is the significance of the title?

Charrie: The title comes from the passage in the book in which Michael's soul flies into the center of creation. The passage states: He moves faster than light, disintegrating time, jumping dimensional barriers. Pure energy speeding to its source. A spark falling into the sun, ageless as
a photon.

The phrase not only suggests the soul's relation to God, but also serves as a metaphor for Kate's spiritual journey, in which she must learn, among other things, the Hindu concept of surrender, or, as her godmother calls it, "free-falling into God."

Beth: What is the main message you want readers to take away from the book?

Charrie: A central theme of the novel is that, contrary to the vision of God so many of us grew up with--an old man with flowing white hair, sitting behind a judicial bench, gavel in one hand, a list of our sins in the other--God is a non-judgmental, compassionate being, that infuses all things and views all creation as perfect. Kate comes to refer to God as "She" and envisions Her as a glimmering sprite, filled with laughter. This joyful, creative force can turn any situation, no matter how horrendous, to good. Hand in hand with that is the theme that fear and judgmental attitudes are two of the greatest blocks to a fully-realized life.

Beth: Do you have any special writing routines? Do you always write in the same place at the same time of day?

Charrie: Sometimes I wish I could run away to a cabin on the coast and just write, with no distractions, no other responsibilities. But then I think my life would be very one-dimensional and for that reason, I probably wouldn't have much of import to say. The truth is, with three children and a teaching job at the University of Tampa, I am pulled in many directions. That said, I try to write first thing in the morning. That's when I'm freshest and I have the most "alone" time. I try very hard when I write a first draft of anything to turn off my very critical, internal editor. The early buds of any creative endeavor are very fragile and need to be nurtured, not judged and knit-picked. There is a time for editing, but never in the early stages of a project.

Most important, I commit to writing every day for at least twenty minutes no matter what else is going on. That keeps me in the groove. Often, young writers will not sit down to write unless they have a large block of time set aside (when I was in this frame of mind, I never wrote
because I never had the time). I have found that if I commit to writing at least twenty minutes a day (which is not overwhelming and is always doable, no matter what my schedule) I ultimately average much more than that on a daily basis.

Beth: I'm always curious about what other people are reading. What are you reading now?

Charrie: I'm always reading. Not only do I belong to a book club, but my children are constantly asking me to read books they have read so we can discuss them. I also insist that my writing students read as well (and whatever I make them read, I, of course, must read). I just read Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin at the request of my seventeen-year-old daughter. As all of Atwood's books, it is incredibly well written (the word play is a joy). I am now starting Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts, at the request of my thirteen-year-old daughter. Last semester I
had my students read Schindlers List, by Thomas Keneally. I read it some twenty years ago, but re-read it with my students. The best book I've read in the past year from my book club was definitely The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Wonderfully funny and heart warming. The best book that I've read this past year that I chose on my own was A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini.

Beth: And finally, do you have a favorite book of all time?

Charrie: This is a very difficult question and I don't believe it really has an answer. There are so many books that I love, from Little Women, to To Kill a Mockingbird to Pride and Prejudice to War and Peace. But if, on the spot, I had to pick a book that had influence me from an early age
and the messages of which had stuck with me, I'd have to say The World of Pooh, by A. A. Milne. I remember my mother laughing, at times uncontrollably, when reading me the silly adventures of Pooh and Piglet and Owl and Rabbit, or the woes of Eeyore. I understood her laughter fully only when I, in turn, read the book to my children and discovered the beautiful wisdom underscoring Pooh's outlook and the unconditional love expressed by Christopher Robin's "silly ole bear." I have never forgotten as a child my mother reading me the passage in which Pooh and Piglet are walking through the forest on a very blustery day--so blustery that Piglet's ears are trailing straight out behind him. Piglet, always a very fearful little animal, says in a quacking voice to Pooh something to the effect of: "Perhaps a tree will fall on us." Pooh
ponders this idea for a moment, then replies, "Perhaps it won't." What more can I say!

About Charrie:

Charrie Hazard is an award-winning journalist, formerly working as an investigative reporter and editorial writer with the St. Petersburg Times. She left journalism to pursue teaching and fiction writing, and today is an adjunct professor of writing at the University of Tampa in Florida.

Charrie is the Clearwater, FL branch president of The National League of American Pen Women, Inc., and her work is published in literary journals such as Sunscripts: Writings from the Florida Suncoast Writers' Conference, Snowy Egret, Palm Prints and Wordsmith.

Charrie Hazard currently resides with her husband of 24 years and their three children in Safety Harbor, FL.

Thank you so much to Charrie for joining us today! If you'd like to pick up a copy of her book Falling Into the Sun, click the cover image below.


Charrie has generously sent me two copies of her book Falling Into the Sun, to give away to two lucky readers!

To enter see below:

Contest runs from July 28, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST August 18, 2009. Winners will be announced August 19, 2009. Open to residents of US only. PO boxes are fine.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to 10 entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post about something you learned/liked/etc. from the interview. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber. If you're already a follower or subscriber, comment telling me that.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
  4. Tweet about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your tweet.
  5. Leave a comment on any other post (anything except another giveaway, i.e. reviews, interviews, Bored Now, Mailbox Monday, Library Loot, etc.) and leave a comment here telling me which post you commented on. You can do this up to five times for five additional entries.
  6. Follow me on Twitter (link in sidebar) and leave a comment telling me you're a follower. If you're already a follower, comment telling me that.
Post one comment for each entry.
Each comment must include your e-mail address.

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Book Arrival: The Atlantis Revelation by Thomas Greanias

The publisher, Atria Books, generously sent me a copy of The Atlantis Revelation for review.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Raising Atlantis and The Atlantis Prophecy comes an explosive new international thriller jam-packed with political and prophetic intrigue.

Beneath the city of God,

A centuries-old secret awaits.

And every power on earth wants it.

The adventure begins with the wreckage of a sunken Nazi submarine and a shocking legacy of Hitler's quest for Atlantis. Archaeologist Conrad Yeats discovers in the ruins of the Third Reich the key to an ancient conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of every major government. Suddenly Yeats is plunged into a deadly race across the Mediterranean, hunted by the assassins of an international organization that will stop at nothing to ignite global Armageddon and revive an empire. And only Serena Serghetti, the beautiful Vatican linguist he loved and lost, can help him save the world from the Atlantis Revelation.

Praised by the biggest names in thrillers, The Atlantis Revelation is an unforgettable blockbuster.

Guest Post: Eric Greitens author of Strength and Compassion

Today I'd like to welcome Eric Greitens, author of Strength & Compassion, who will be doing a short guest post!

From Eric:

I’d like thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you and your readers. It has been a truly wonderful experience sharing the stories in Strength & Compassion, and I am delighted to share the story of creating Strength & Compassion itself with you and your readers.

Strength and Compassion began as a box of undeveloped negatives from my humanitarian work – from Mother Teresa’s Home for the Destitute and the Dying in India, to the Project for Unaccompanied Children in Exile in Croatia, to the refugee camps of Rwanda. Originally, I did not plan on creating a book. But as I began to share the photographs at conferences and gatherings, audiences began to connect with the people and stories behind the photographs.

When I first embarked on putting the book together, I never expected it to get the response that it did – ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year award or the Grand Prize at the New York Book Festival! I am so fortunate that this book is continuing to touch people. I have been particularly pleased with the responses of Paul Rusesabagina (manager of the Hotel Mille Collines during the 1994 genocide, and inspiration for the film Hotel Rwanda) and Bobby Mueller (co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines), two men who have contributed to the book because of its inspiration and beauty.

Strength and Compassion is really a book about what we can learn from others – their strengths can move us to find our own. The situations of many of the different people featured in the book, such as refugees in the wake of the Rwandan genocide or the extreme poverty of indigenous people in Chiapas, Mexico, are those of incredible hardship, rough circumstances, and even great evil. And yet, the people of these places aren’t waiting for their lives to change. These essays document people who show incredible strength, courage, and faith; people from whom we can learn the true meaning of these virtues. These pictures are of people whose stories should break your heart, but instead, the pictures actually act to inspire, and leave one with a feeling of hope.

I hope that you stop by and check it out!

About Strength & Compassion:

This collection brings together the best of Eric Greitens' award-winning international humanitarian photography work with a striking series of essays. Engaging photographs from Rwanda, Cambodia, Albania, Mexico, India, the Gaza Strip, Croatia, and Bolivia are combined with bold, intelligent essays on Strength, Pity, Dignity, Courage, Faith, Time, Hope, and Compassion. Though the photographs for this book were taken in different countries and amid different struggles, a common theme emerges: even in times of great hardship and in the face of great evil, people with strength and compassion can live with courage.

About Eric:

Eric Greitens was born and raised in Missouri, where he was educated in the public schools. He was an Angier B. Duke Scholar at Duke University where he studied ethics, philosophy, and public policy. Selected as a Rhodes and Truman Scholar, he attended the University of Oxford from 1996 through 2000. There he earned a master’s degree in development studies in 1998, and a Ph.D. in politics in 2000.

Eric's book of award-winning photographs and essays, Strength and Compassion, grew from his humanitarian work. His doctoral thesis, Children First, investigated the ways in which international humanitarian organizations can best serve war-affected children. He has worked as a humanitarian volunteer, documentary photographer, and researcher in Rwanda, Cambodia, Albania, Mexico, India, the Gaza Strip, Croatia, and Bolivia.

Eric is also a United States Navy SEAL officer, and he currently serves with a reserve unit at Special Operations Command. He has deployed four times during the Global War on Terrorism: to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. He has served as the Commander of a Joint Special Operations Task Unit, Commander of a Mark V Special Operations Craft Detachment, and as Commander of an Al Qaeda Targeting Cell. His personal military awards include the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

In 2005-2006, he was appointed by the President to serve as a White House Fellow. The White House Fellowship is a non-partisan, non-political appointment that is considered America’s most prestigious fellowship for leadership and public service.

Eric is a sub-3 hour Marathon runner and the winner of the Shamrock Marathon at Camp Fallujah, Iraq. As a boxer, he won two Oxford Boxing Blues and the Gold Medal at the BUSA National Boxing Championships.

Eric used his combat pay from Iraq to start The Mission Continues. The Mission Continues empowers wounded and disabled veterans to continue their service to their country and communities as citizen leaders here at home. Eric currently serves as volunteer Chairman and CEO. He has contributed over 2,500 volunteer hours and in October 2008, the President of the United States awarded Eric the President’s Volunteer Service Award in recognition of Eric’s inspiring and national leadership on his work with wounded and disabled veterans.

Eric is a Senior Fellow at the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, where he teaches on public service, ethics, and leadership.

Thank you so much to Eric for joining us today! If you'd like to pick up a copy of his book Strength & Compassion click on the cover image below.

Mailbox Monday - July 19 - 25th

Mailbox Monday is hosted by The Printed Page and is where we share all the books we received in the mail over the past week. I, personally, am no longer going to include books I receive for review, since they're already covered in their individual New Book Arrival posts.

FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD INDIE KONKIPUDDI HAS ALWAYS DREAMED OF BECOMING A FASHION REPORTER. She'd do anything to land an internship with glamorous Celebrity Style magazine — even babysit publisher Aaralyn Taylor's two-year-old son. Indie's neurosurgeon dad can't understand why Indie would want to spend her weekends picking Play-Doh off of someone else's Persian carpets, and pretty soon she starts asking herself the same thing.

Then Indie finds out that (1) Celebrity Style is in trouble, and (2) Hollywood's hottest star is having her wedding dress made in a village in India. Indie's sure she's scored the juiciest gossip in town — the kind of story that will put the magazine back on the map and finally land her the internship! But when things don't pan out exactly as planned, Indie wonders — will Aaralyn ever see her as anything more than just the hired help?

For a friend abroad.

Bestselling author Susan Vreeland returns with a vivid exploration of one of the most beloved Renoir paintings in the world

Instantly recognizable, Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece depicts a gathering of his real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a cafe terrace along the Seine near Paris. A wealthy painter, an art collector, an Italian journalist, a war hero, a celebrated actress, and Renoir’s future wife, among others, share this moment of la vie moderne, a time when social constraints were loosening and Paris was healing after the Franco-Prussian War. Parisians were bursting with a desire for pleasure and a yearning to create something extraordinary out of life. Renoir shared these urges and took on this most challenging project at a time of personal crises in art and love, all the while facing issues of loyalty and the diverging styles that were tearing apart the Impressionist group. Narrated by Renoir and seven of the models and using settings in Paris and on the Seine, Vreeland illuminates the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era. With a gorgeous palette of vibrant, captivating characters, she paints their lives, loves, losses, and triumphs in a brilliant portrait of her own.

For a friend abroad.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Awards: Kreative Blogger

Wow! This week I received the Kreative Blogger Award from both Reading at the Beach and Books and Needlepoint!

Thank you so much! I'm speechless! Well, as speechless as I ever get! :)

I'm now charged with listing seven favorite things:

  1. chocolate
  2. food scented shower gels from Philosophy
  3. books
  4. my cats
  5. shortbread cookies
  6. sparkly nail polish
  7. Doctor Who
And sending the award on to seven other bloggers (in no particular order):
  1. Book Soulmates
  2. Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings
  3. A Novel Menagerie
  4. Queen of Happy Endings
  5. A Journey of Books
  6. My Life In Not So Many Words
  7. Boy With Books

Interview and Giveaway: Carol Henson Keese author of The Angry Thunderstorm

Today Carol Henson Keese, author of the The Angry Thunderstorm, is joining us for a great interview and giveaway!

You can see my review of the book here.

Beth: Hi! Welcome to Beth's Book Review Blog! It's great to have you here today! Thank you for taking the time to join us and answer some questions.

Congratulations on your children's book, The Angry Thunderstorm, being published! Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Carol: Thank you for the book review and for your interest in The Angry Thunderstorm.

Rachel Henson, the illustrator, and I are very excited about having published The Angry Thunderstorm. For me, working with Rachel was the most rewarding part of this adventure because Rachel is my niece. Most people do not know that she was only sixteen years old when she conceptualized and created the pictures for the story. She is a remarkably talented artist and writer; and I predict a wonderful future for her.

As a child, I was always frightened of thunderstorms. The wind. The lightning and thunder. These are powerful and scary events for children who can't quite comprehend the scientific details of these natural occurrences. As I grew older, I began to recognize the importance of storms for the environment and came to appreciate them. When I became a mother, I was not surprised that both of my children had the same fears and anxieties when it came to experiencing thunderstorms. Instead of focusing on what was happening during the storm, I tried to help them focus on why it was happening. "The Thunderstorm has to sound his thunder to give us a warning." "The Thunderstorm helps light a path for all the animals that need to find shelter." "The Thunderstorm's winds have to blow strong so that he can clean the air we breathe." By providing honest and understandable reasons for each event, they began looking at storms differently.

The Angry Thunderstorm was written based on the explanations that I gave to my children. They were encouraging ideas that helped them move beyond their fears. It is my hope that the book will help other young readers on their journey from uncertainty to understanding.

Beth: What is the main message you want readers to take away from the book?

Carol: The main message of The Angry Thunderstorm is that Thunderstorms are our friends and they help our world. There is a also a beautiful underlying message too. We should never base our opinions of a person or thing on first impressions. Instinctively, we tend to shy away from harsh or negative people only to learn later that there was some circumstance or event that contributed to their behavior the first time we met them. When we get to know them better, we understand their temperament and allow for their attributes, no matter how unpleasant they may seem on occasion.

I see this message come through more and more during the read aloud. Young readers will look at the cover and say, "Oooh, he's scary!" Or, "That's a scary book." By the time we have read to the end of the story, they love the storm and think of him as a friend.

Beth: What made you decide to write children's books?

Carol: I recently read a blog posting by Julia Lawrinson titled, Why I Write For Children, that really sums up why I chose to write for this audience. Lawrinson states that children have a relationship with books that is lost to most adult readers which makes writing for them so intense and wonderful. Children care passionately about what they read - or about what is being read to them. I think this is because they truly experience a story. Their minds are open and they can actually take a walk with the character of a story - or become friends with a thunderstorm. This makes children the ultimate audience to write for.

Another thing I have only recently learned since publishing this book- Writing for children is the most humbling of experiences. I may have written the story. I may have told the story. But in the end, it is the character of the story that really speaks to the child.

Beth: Do you have plans for another children's book?

Carol: I am preparing to begin the illustration process for the second book. The target for release is October, 2010. Although I cannot share any of the details, I am very excited about the story. Beyond that, I have several ideas that I hope will become books.

A couple of things readers can expect from my stories:

As a young reader, I always enjoyed books that were written in rhythm and rhyme. Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss were among my favorites. I decided early on that rhythm and rhyme would also be my writing format as well. Telling a story in this format requires a great understanding and use of language. While it can be challenging to write a story in this manner, the end result is often extremely fun and beautiful.

I also like to use a robust vocabulary. This is an area where I have received both praise and criticism; but I strongly feel that a good vocabulary begins at an early age. Overcoming challenging words is a satisfying accomplishment to a young reader. Even the younger children, who cannot yet read, can learn to pronounce difficult words and learn their meanings through the context.

Beth: Do you have any special writing routines? Do you always write in the same place at the same time of day?

Carol: My experience has been that a good idea can present itself at any time or place. Instead of having a special writing routine, I will simply jot down an idea as it comes to me. This means that I usually have multiple stories working at the same time. If I hit a block with one story, I am able to go to another story with a fresh outlook. It is almost like a "round robin" style of writing.

Beth: I'm always curious about what other people are reading. What are you reading now?

Carol: I just finished the book, I Am Potential, by Patrick Henry Hughes. A friend of mine recently attended a conference where this young man was a guest speaker and she was moved by his story, so she loaned me his book. The premise of the book is based on eight lessons on living, loving and reaching your dreams. Normally, I try to avoid self-help books because instead of finding them encouraging, they tend to have the opposite effect on me. However, this was a good read about a young man who had so much working against him from the very beginning of his life. Yet, he looked beyond his disadvantages and made the very best of what he was given to rise above. It truly made me thankful for what I have been given; and it made me want to try harder to get where I want to be.

Before that, I read Rose Bowl Dreams. If you are a Texas Longhorn fan, I highly recommend this book by Adam Jones. Having been born and raised in Austin, Texas - this was practically required reading.

Finally, the best book I have read this year is It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For by Roy M. Spence with Haley Rushing. A truly fine look at what makes a company or brand legendary – discovering your purpose beyond making money.

Beth: And finally, do you have a favorite book of all time?

Carol: My favorite children's book of all time is, Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch. I could never finish reading this story to my children without getting a big lump in my throat.

My favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. This book just welcomes you into a "tired old town" and a slower time. The story examines humanity at its best and its worst. As great as the movie is - the book was a hundred times better. I have read it many times and and never tire of it.

About Carol:

Carol Keesee is employed with a leading advertising agency in Austin, Texas. This role brings her great satisfaction and joy; however, the role that she cherishes most of all is being a mother.

"My children are my purpose. Some of the deepest and most complex questions about life have come from my children," says Keesee. "I think it is important try to answer these questions in a way that is truthful and encouraging, and on a level that can be understood. The Angry Thunderstorm is a thought-provoking alternative to the way things may seem. The story asks one to look beyond the bad and find the good."

Keesee is married with two children and resides in Austin, Texas.

Thank you so much to Carol for joining us today! If you'd like to pick up a copy of her book The Angry Thunderstorm, click the cover image below.


Carol has generously sent me a copy of her book
The Angry Thunderstorm,
to give away to one lucky reader!

To enter see below:

Contest runs from July 26, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST August 16, 2009. Winner will be announced August 17, 2009. Open to US residents only.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to 10 entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post about something you learned/liked/etc. from the interview. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber. If you're already a follower or subscriber, comment telling me that.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
  4. Tweet about this contest using the Tweet This button below. Leave a comment with a link to your tweet.
  5. Leave a comment on any other post (anything except another giveaway, i.e. reviews, interviews, Bored Now, Mailbox Monday, Library Loot, etc.) and leave a comment here telling me which post you commented on. You can do this up to five times for five additional entries.
  6. Follow me on Twitter (link in sidebar) and leave a comment telling me you're a follower. If you're already a follower, comment telling me that.
Post one comment for each entry.
Each comment must include your e-mail address.

Library Loot - July 19 - 25th

Here goes this week's Library Loot!


Recipe for disaster:

Celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle comes to Trenton to participate in a barbecue cook-off and loses his head --literally.

Throw in some spice:

Bail bonds office worker Lula is witness to the crime, and the only one she’ll talk to is Trenton cop, Joe Morelli.

Pump up the heat:

Chipotle’s sponsor is offering a million dollar reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the capture of the killers.

Stir the pot:

Lula recruits bounty hunter Stephanie Plum to help her find the killers and collect the moolah.

Add a secret ingredient:

Stephanie Plum’s Grandma Mazur. Enough said.

Bring to a boil:

Stephanie Plum is working overtime tracking felons for the bonds office at night and snooping for security expert Carlos Manoso, A.K.A. Ranger, during the day. Can Stephanie hunt down two killers, a traitor, five skips, keep her grandmother out of the sauce, solve Ranger’s problems and not jump his bones?


Habanero hot. So good you’ll want seconds.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Giveaway: Red to Black by Alex Dryden

A spy thriller, a love story and a chilling look at a resurgent superpower...

At the dawn of the new millennium, Finn, an MI6 spy, and Anna, a colonel of the KGB, have been sent to spy on each other. Instead they find a love that becomes to only truth they can trust. A source deep within the Kremlin tells Finn of a plan, hatched in the depths of the Cold War, to dismantle the edifice of the communist state and to bring about the rise of a new imperium within Russia: a plan to control the whole of Europe. Finn's masters in London are blinded by the new wealth pouring out of Russia and he must leave the Service and work in secrecy to uncover the deadly threat it poses to the freedom of every one of us.

Up for grabs is my slightly abused, cat slept on ARC edition.

Contest runs from July 25, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST August 14, 2009. Winners will be announced August 15, 2009. Open to residents of US only. PO boxes are okay.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to six entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber. If you're already a follower or subscriber, comment telling me that.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
  4. Tweet about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your tweet.
  5. Leave a comment on any other post (anything except another giveaway, i.e. reviews, interviews, Bored Now, Mailbox Monday, Library Loot, etc.) and leave a comment here telling me which post you commented on.
  6. Follow me on Twitter (link in sidebar) and leave a comment telling me you're a follower. If you're already a follower, comment telling me that.
Post one comment for each entry.
Each comment must include your e-mail address.

Review: Red to Black by Alex Dryden

A spy thriller, a love story and a chilling look at a resurgent superpower...

At the dawn of the new millennium, Finn, an MI6 spy, and Anna, a colonel of the KGB, have been sent to spy on each other. Instead they find a love that becomes to only truth they can trust. A source deep within the Kremlin tells Finn of a plan, hatched in the depths of the Cold War, to dismantle the edifice of the communist state and to bring about the rise of a new imperium within Russia: a plan to control the whole of Europe. Finn's masters in London are blinded by the new wealth pouring out of Russia and he must leave the Service and work in secrecy to uncover the deadly threat it poses to the freedom of every one of us.

Received from the publisher for review.

I really, really wanted to read this since it got such wonderful reviews from Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, both of whose work I just love (House and Kingdom are simply wonderful!).

The story was powerfully real and had the same believable quality as The DaVinci Code, transporting the reader to an alternate view of the world that is at once familiar and quite sinister. The story feels so real that it reads like non-fiction. It really does feel as if you're reading Anna's journal or listening to her tell her story. It's almost haunting. It also made me realize just what sort of world we live in now and makes me very, very glad to live in the U.S.

This one gets seven stars. It read almost like a movie with the narrator describing the scenes, which made for rather enjoyable reading. While I didn't particularly care for, or about, the characters, the story immediately drew me in and held my attention. I found myself anxious to learn more. The book was a very good spy story with a fast pace and an interesting plot.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆

Friday, July 24, 2009

Winners: Knight of Desire

The winners of Knight of Desire are:

  1. Chris
  2. tetewa
  3. Jake
  4. Belinda M
  5. I Heart Book Gossip
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for sponsoring the giveaway!

The winners have all been e-mailed for mailing information.

Thank you to all who entered!

Review: Law of Connection by Michael Losier

Over the years, Michael Losier earned a reputation as "the Law of Attraction How-To Guy," the first to turn Law of Attraction concepts and principles into practical tips and advice that are useful in daily life. Now, he's using the same listener-friendly approach to help people start or improve relationships at home and in the workplace the right way: by using the interpersonal communication model known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

With Law of Connection, people will:

  • Understand the four different communication styles (visual, auditory, kinesthenic, and auditory digital); learn the strengths and weaknesses of each style; and know where and when to implement which style
  • Discover how to apply language strategies and recognize patterns (reframing, pacing, installing, presupposing, chunking up/down)
  • Become experts at building, breaking, and repairing rapport
Each section is complete with:
  • easy-to-grasp explanations
  • examples of everyday and modeling conversations
Law of Attraction showed listeners how to attract what they want. Law of Connection will teach them how to ensure that the relationships they attract will be harmonious, productive, and profitable.

Received from the publisher for review.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (3 CDs/2.5 hours).

The audiobook was read by the author. Normally this would be a good thing, but this particular author had a rather whiny voice. Thankfully I only had to listen to him for three discs!

The "Expert Edward" section was helpful, in that it provided an "in context" discussion of the four communication styles in action. Unfortunately for me, I apparently don't fit into any of the styles (surprise, surprise!). :) I gather I have qualities of each style with no dominant style. Guess I'm unique!

Obviously the author has never attended corporate training events as he's regurgitating the techniques that all corporate trainers use and that all attendees hate. These techniques have the trainers treating the attendees as kindergartners instead of the adults they actually are. I sincerely hope no trainer actually follows his deluded suggestions.

This one gets six stars. This is essentially a boring collection of information intended for salespeople or trainers. It provides no real new or interesting information to the reader. Also, I have no clue why this is called Law of Connection as it seems to have nothing to do with any Law of Attraction techniques I've ever read about.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Book Arrival: Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

The publicist, FSB Associates, generously sent me a copy of Benny & Shrimp to review.

An international sensation, this addictively readable tale asks the question: Why is it so impossible to get a relationship between two middle-aged misfits to work? The answer lies in the story of Shrimp, a young widowed librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order; Benny, a gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village's Old Bachelor; and an unlikely love that should not be as complicated as it seems. Reminiscent of the works of Carol Shields, this quirky, humorous, beautifully told novel breathes new life into the age-old conundrum that is love.

Guest Post: J.R. Hauptman author of The Target

Today I'd like to welcome J.R. Hauptman, author of The Target, who will be doing a guest post for us!

From J.R.:

The Effects of Deregulation on the Airline Industry

My novel, “The Target; Love, Death and Airline Deregulation,” is primarily a human story, a tale of one man’s struggles with himself and a world that for him, has been turned upside down. However, there is a strong undercurrent to the book that might cause a feeling of unease in the reader; it is a sense of potential revolt and impending disaster. Given the current disastrous economic situation in our country, it may turn out for this book to be unfortunately prophetic.

Airline deregulation came about in the late Nineteen-Seventies due to the fact that the Civil Aeronautics Board, which regulated that industry, had become too politicized. The CAB decided what airlines would fly what routes, at what frequency and what fares they could charge. Both Presidents Johnson and Nixon, having the powers of appointment, approval and veto, used this vital component of our national transportation infrastructure to reward their political allies and to likewise punish their enemies. The ideal solution would have been to reform the industry and allow more competition in route awards and fares, but the action chosen was what became the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.

The promoters of airline deregulation proudly declared that the Act would result in free market entry by both established and startup companies, more competitive fares and result in better airline service and cheaper tickets for traveling Americans. An added benefit foreseen but not often publicly touted by economic “conservatives,” would be an anti-inflationary check on airline employee wages in this highly unionized industry. They privately salivated over the prospect of putting the final screws into the coffins of labor unions.

Rather than recount the past three decades of instability and chaos in the airline industry, let me point out the results. First, the concentration of the industry. Promoters of deregulation were unaware, or simply ignored the fact that the airline business is extremely capital intensive; it takes a lot of money to operate and maintain a modern fleet of jet airplanes in any semblance of flight frequency, safety, and reliability. Further, free market entry by small upstart airlines was nipped in the bud by a simply Darwinian fact of economic life; the Big Fish eat the Little Ones. The big carriers, having huge cash reserves, would simply match or undercut the fares of the low cost carriers and run them out of any competitive market. The result is, that eventually, the industry went from many high quality carriers serving large, medium and small market cities to a very few major carriers, deemed “too big to fail,” skimming the long haul routes, leaving the medium and small markets to be served by contract carriers operating smaller, regional jets.

Secondly, was the overall degradation of service. Economic gurus touted the idea that airlines were finally solving the problem of excess capacity, or “too many empty seats.” The problem was and continues to be that with fewer major carriers dominating “Hub” markets, they are not only able to fill those empty seats, it is established practice to cram more seats into airplanes, making current air travel an exercise in torture. Additional factors, such as fuel prices, weather delays and security issues only exacerbate these problems and make the travel experience even more unpleasant.

The effects of unbridled deregulation on our national economic system are currently there for us to witness every day. Airline deregulation was followed by deregulation of the public utilities, energy, and truck transportation industries, to mention a few. Worst of all were the complete dismantling of critical securities and banking safeguards. One of my first jobs, after my airline underwent a sham bankruptcy orchestrated by a corporate raider, was as a securities broker. My mentor there had come from trust department commercial banking and early on, he warned me; “Just watch; the banks want to get in on the securities business because the bankers see huge profits on the commissions we earn and it will mean disaster for both.”

How right he was! The Glass-Steagall act of 1932 was passed during the Great Depression and placed a barrier between Commercial and Investment Banking, which is essentially a securities function. Glass-Steagall was largely ignored during the go-go days of the Nineteen-Eighties, and then repealed to obviate any undue embarrassment of those who were charged with regulating these industries.

The result has been overall irresponsible and some outright criminal behavior by those who manage and regulate banking and securities. They have turn these crucial businesses into veritable “Crap Games” by designing a plethora of shady products designed primarily to line their greedy pockets. The list is lengthy; the junk bonds used for “Greenmail”, the savings and loan and Enron scandals, credit card usury by the banks, the abusive banking, securities and insurance bailouts with abusive compensation schemes, sub-prime lending; on and on, the list seems endless.

Nothing is more representative of this sickness than the Madoff Scandal. Those who are currently involved in trying to solve this mess are less guilty than Madoff only by degree. Nonetheless, they seem to be repeating the same arrogant mistakes of their sordid past. They ignore the risk at their peril and that of our nation. That risk is Revolution; populist and potentially bloody.

About The Target:

"THE TARGET" is set in the late nineteen-eighties and tells the tale of the tumultuous first years of airline deregulation and the shocking effects it had on that industry and the people who worked there. In those days, Carlo Clemenza is known as the most hated man in the airline business. A dedicated corporate raider and union buster, Clemenza uses junk bonds, uncompromising Soviet styled negotiation tactics, sham bankruptcies and ruthless abrogation of union contracts to crush competing airlines and to bring airline workers to heel. His methods have earned him countless death threats yet he struts with arrogance, surrounded by cadres of security toughs. Virtually thousands of professional pilots find themselves compelled to start their careers over or find them at a sudden and complete end. The airline grapevine echoes daily with the plaintive cry, "Why doesn't someone kill that SOB?!" Only one pilot decides to seriously take up the cudgel and he makes Carlo Clemenza THE TARGET! His chase will take him to the far corners of the country as he finds himself also the object of pursuit.

About J.R.:

J. R. Hauptman has been a professional pilot for nearly a half century. Barely twenty years old, he began as a military pilot and for almost two years, he flew combat support missions in the Vietnam War. Upon leaving military service, he was hired by a major airline and was initially based on the West Coast. His flying career was interrupted by the turmoil that racked the airline industry during the early days of deregulation. In the interim, he worked as a travel agent, as a stock broker and even trained dogs and horses. In the late nineteen-eighties, he returned to aviation, flying jet charters and air freight. He concluded his career flying corporate jets and now lives in Florida. He is completing his second work, a non-fictional social commentary and surfs every day, waves or not.

Thank you so much to J.R. for joining us today! If you'd like to pick up a copy of his book The Target click on the cover image below.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Book Arrival: Pistonhead by Thomas A. Hauck

The author, Thomas A. Hauck, generously sent me a copy of Pistonhead to review.

Charlie Sinclair plays guitar in a rock band and works on an assembly line.

His best friend is a drug addict. The girl he wants is unattainable. His apartment is filled with mice. People in the audience throw bottles at him. His mother has a creepy new boyfriend. The kids from his old neighborhood hate him. The band's manager is clueless.

This is the story of one week in Charlie Sinclair's life. One week that changed him forever.

Charlie finds success. But in a way he does not expect. He never gives up. He's a Pistonhead.