Saturday, October 31, 2009

Giveaway: Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Audiobook)

Each story in this jubilantly acclaimed collection pays testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing circumstances.

“Each one of these stories left me really gasping and profoundly moved.” – Oprah Winfrey

Available in CD and Digital Download formats.
Listen to an excerpt
Listen to the Interview with Uwem Akpan.



Thanks to Hachette Book Group I have three copies to give away!

Contest runs from October 31, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST November 21, 2009. Winners will be announced November 22, 2009. Open to residents of US and Canada only. No PO boxes.

To enter:
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.
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  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
  4. 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.
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Review: How NASA Builds Teams by Charles J. Pellerin

Every successful organization needs high-performance teams to compete and succeed. Yet, technical people are often resistant to traditional "touchy-feely" teambuilding.

To improve communication, performance, and morale among NASA’s technical teams, former NASA Astrophysicist Dr. Charlie Pellerin developed the teambuilding process described in "How NASA Builds Teams"—an approach that is proven, quantitative, and requires only a fraction of the time and resources of traditional training methods. This "4-D" process has boosted team performance in hundreds of NASA project teams, engineering teams, and management teams, including the people responsible for NASA’s most complex systems — the Space Shuttle, space telescopes, robots on Mars, and the mission back to the moon. How NASA Builds Teams explains how the 4-D teambuilding process can be applied in any organization, and includes a fast, free on-line behavioral assessment to help your team and the individual members understand each other and measure the key driver of team performance, the social context.

Moreover, these simple, logical processes appeal strongly to technical teams who eschew "touchy-feely" training. Pellerin applies simple, elegant principles from his physics background to the art teambuilding, such as the use of a coordinate system to analyze the characteristics of team performance into actionable elements.

The author illustrates the teambuilding process with entertaining stories from his decade as NASA’s Director for Astrophysics and subsequent 15 years of working closely with NASA and outside business teams. For example, he tells how the processes in the book enabled him to initiate the space mission to fix the Hubble Space Telescope’s flawed mirror.

Free downloadable resources will help you:

Identify your teammates’ innate personalities

Diagram your culture (And compare it to your customer’s)

Measure the coherency of your project’s paradigm (Get this wrong and you will be fired!) and

Learn to meet people’s need to feel valued by you.

Further, you can download and use Pellerin’s most powerful tool for influencing the outcome of any difficult situation: the Context Shifting Worksheet.



Received from the publicist for review.


This was remarkably readable, well written, not overly technical, and easy to read, but dense. The chapters are a nice length, with lots of descriptive charts and graphs. The fascinating insight into various personalities and the way they interact was really enlightening.

This one gets four stars. Its explanation of how managers and managees can work together towards a mutually beneficial result is an attitude which is sorely lacking in 99.9% of Corporate America. I only wish the HR department in the last corporation I worked for had read this book! It truly should be required reading for management in big business. It is really that good. The anecdotes from the author's own personal and work experiences really help to tools into a recognizable context which reinforces their message.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Guest Post: Shiraz author of Defenders of the Scroll

Shiraz, author of the book Defenders of the Scroll, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



One of the big influences in my writing was something I was afraid to do for the longest time. Travel. I didn't have an actual fear of travelling, but of missing things at home while I was out travelling. I had a close group of friends growing up and summers together were amazing. I didn't want to miss the parties, the hanging out, the general summer stuff, if I went away. But then came the summer that one of my best friends, Mike, got a co-op job in Finland, and another one, Mark, got a job on an archaeological dig in Hungary. I figured that if I backpacked through Europe that summer I could meet up with either of them if I got homesick or lonely.

So it was that I embarked on my first journey on my own away from home. I landed in England where I toured the south countryside. Being a King Arthur enthusiast I HAD to visit Arthur's supposed grave site, as well as Glastonbury Tor and Stonehenge. Staring at those huge stones was something I'll never forget. It was the moment that I was sure that the trip was a good idea. Soon after I was off to continental Europe and hopping from country to country. I was never actually alone except when I wanted to be since just about every other backpacker was friendly and there was this camaraderie in which people would hook up and travel for a while, and then go their separate ways. Also, for you readers like me, many hostels had bookshelves with a "leave a book, take a book" policy, so I always had something for the train.

I did make it up to see Mike in Helsinki, and he took me catamaraning in the Atlantic as well as to a few of the famous Finnish sauna parties. In Hungary, Mark's boss let me participate in the dig and I helped unearth a skeleton of a man who we discovered to be a thief because his hand had been cut off as punishment. The dig was determined to be a Roman outpost, which meant that the Roman empire extended past where we were, which was pretty big news. I don't have pics from the dig, but at one point we put sunglasses and a hat on the skeleton and posed with him.

Eventually, I made the call home to my friends and what I feared most had come to pass. Apparently, there had been a HUGE birthday bash for one of my friends that had been dubbed the party of the century. Hundreds of people, music off the hook, alcohol flowing. They told me I picked the WRONG year to travel, then asked if anything interesting had happened on my trip. Well, I told them I saw Lord of the Rings done as a play in a real castle in Finland. I cliff dived in Greece. I dug up a skeleton. Oh, and I partied with about a million at the Eiffel Tower while fireworks went off overhead. I could hear the jaws hanging on the other end.

That trip cemented my lust for travel and the places I've been to since have greatly influenced my career and my writing. Germany was conducive to writing a vampire novel (which I hope to release later). Japan, India, Spain (grrr), and more taught me about how cultures can come together or clash, and that is, and will be, shown in the DotS series. If you haven't travelled much, or at all, I recommend that you find a way to do so. It opens your eyes, your mind, your world and your opportunities in it. Well, that's what I've found so far.




About the book:

A teenage boy.

A dark wizard.

A mystic scroll.

And the fate of a world hangs in the balance...

When Alex "the Axeman" Logan is pulled from his world to help a young princess, named Dara, save her kingdom from the Shadow Lord, he thinks there has been a mistake. He's a teen guitar player close to failing 11th grade, not some defender of the realm. All he has are some school books, his wits, and his love of fantasy movies.

Overnight his life is history. Alex must confront the Shadow Lord and his minions when he is thrust into a land that has changed from a magical paradise to a barren, hopeless, helpless realm invaded by a dark army. But Alex is not alone. He has the help of Dara, a magic scroll, and a band of unlikely companions drawn from his own history books: a hardened Roman Legionnaire, a swift Japanese Samurai, a fearless African Warrior, a fiery Amazon Archer, and a spirited Shaolin Monk.

Can Alex become more than he believes and lead his small band of Defenders to the Hall of Shadows, the birthplace of the Shadow Lord? The fate of the realm and everyone in it rests on him.



About Shiraz:

Shiraz was raised just outside Toronto, Canada, but has since lived and worked in Germany, Japan, and Australia as a software developer. Shiraz has typically developed business software, but more recently, he has been making the move to video games. He designed and project managed the games for several interactive movies including “Snowbirds,” which won the 2006 Intellichoice Award, and “The Dolphin Bay Project,” which has been showing at MOTE Marine Labs in Florida for five years now. He also just posted his first iPhone game, “Drop Zone Elite,” on the app store through his company Gambatte.

Shiraz has been writing for fun all his life, but it wasn’t until he teamed up with Rupinder Malhotra, at R.M. Productions, to create several Series Bibles (instruction manuals for developing specific shows) for some children’s animated series, that he took his writing to a professional level. “Defenders of the Scroll” is actually based on one of those bibles.

If all goes well, he plans to spend his days making games and his evenings writing novels, hopefully from different, beautiful places each year.

Picture courtesy of the author. It is his favorite Halloween picture of himself, in honor of his guest post here on Halloween!




Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: The Atlantis Revelation by Thomas Greanias

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.


Received from the publisher for review.


First off I must say that I haven't read the author's first two books in the series so that, of course, affects my experience.

The book certainly throws you directly into the action and continues throughout the fast paced, quick read. The pervading stink of wealth and the descriptions of billionaires and their playtimes because rather wearing quite quickly.

This one gets three stars. For an adventure novel it was really rather boring with characters that did not even manage to be marginally likable. The religious overtone was also irksome. And the ending was just plain lame. The book really just didn't do much for me. It was okay, but not wonderful by any means.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Giveaway: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold Audiobook

It is a story of unspeakable tragedy and loss, but also of abiding love and even joy. With its astonishing force, THE LOVELY BONES has captured the hearts of millions of readers around the world.

Available in CD and Digital Download formats.
Listen to an excerpt.
Watch the movie trailer.
Visit the official movie website at LovelyBones.com.



Thanks to Hachette Book Group I have three copies to give away!

Contest runs from October 30, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST November 18, 2009. Winners will be announced November 19, 2009. Open to residents of US and Canada only. No PO boxes.

To enter:
  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. 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.
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Post one comment for each entry.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winner: 250 Stickers from UPrinting.com

The winner of the 250 stickers from UPrinting.com is Jaime!

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you so much to UPrinting.com for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Review: The Great Waves of Change by Marshall Vian Summers

In The Great Waves of Change, Marshall Vian Summers explains the steps you can take to navigate our increasingly turbulent and uncertain times. In the face of such uncertainty, Summers presents a revolutionary new way of knowing a unique process that can be applied by people everywhere. By understanding the Great Waves and by connecting to a deeper authority within, you can find the strength, courage and inner certainty to adapt and to become a contributor, not a victim, to a rapidly changing world.


Received from the publicist for review.

I had hope that this book would be positive and hopeful. It wasn't. It was mainly a great deal of fear mongering and unsettling Doomsday predictions reminiscent of Y2K such as:

There will be environmental refugees, and there will be war refugees on a scale never seen before.

There were a couple of messages about balance in your life, and such, that, when taken independent of the rest of the text, were beneficial.

You must establish this foundation within yourself before you can commit yourself to anyone or anything.

This one gets two stars. I'd had higher hopes for it, but unfortunately it did not deliver. The cloying religious tone was disconcerting, and the message was not hopeful in the least. I found nothing particularly positive in the message presented and was left feeling disconcerted and uncomfortable. I can only recommend this to fans of apocalyptic books.

☆☆= Didn't Like It



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Winner: 100 Postcards from UPrinting.com

The winner of the 100 custom postcards from UPrinting.com is MJ!

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you so much to UPrinting.com for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Arnold Beckhardt author of Black Gold

Arnold Beckhardt, author of the book Black Gold, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



My fifty-five year working career as an engineer came to an end in 1997 when my partner in a small software engineering firm died quite suddenly. We had founded a small consulting software engineering firm some ten years earlier after we retired from IBM. After my partner died I decided it was time for me to think about retiring for good. (My wife of sixty two year's tells me that I had decided to retire five times before and wondered whether I would make it stick this time!) After I retired "for good", I couldn't just play golf every day of the week and I found the need to create something. While I had written technical papers and trade magazine articles I have never tried anything like a long story. It was very fortuitous that about the time I started to do some serious research, a Creative Writing Class was announced at our local library. I suddenly discovered the pleasure of the research that went into the creation of a story that was based on historical events. That's how my new career as an author began!



About the book:

Large scale oil development in the Caspian Sea part of the world started in the late 19th century and Russia was the dominant player until very recently. The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline by a consortium led by British Petroleum has changed the dynamics of the relationships in the Caspian energy corridor. Black Gold is a story of the game between who has the oil and who needs the oil. Roy Neely, sixty-five-year-old-widower, ex Air Force Vietnam fighter-bomber pilot, former CIA surveillance trainer and retired FBI psychologist takes on a sensitive assignment: How to protect the flow of oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe. The clock is ticking on a plot to disrupt the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Neely accepts the challenge to protect the pipeline while struggling to find meaning to his own life after the sudden death of his wife.



About Arnold:

Arnold R. Beckhardt is a retired IBM engineer who specialized in the development of military weapon systems and civilian space programs, including key components of the Saturn-Apollo moon rockets. He was a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot in World War II, flying treacherous Himalayan air routes over China, Burma, and India. Later he served in the U.S. Air Force reserves, piloting the first generation of transonic jet fighters while working as an aerospace engineer for NACA, the federal aeronautic agency that later became NASA. After retiring from IBM, he ran an international software engineering business based in Florida and Tennessee.

Before becoming a novelist, Beckhardt published technical papers and magazine articles. He published his first Roy Neely novel TURNAROUND in 2007 at the age of 85. He continued his writing career with this second Neely novel, GOERING'S GOLD, published in 2008. His third Neely novel, BLACK GOLD, published in September 2009. Beckhardt earned his degree in aeronautical engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1944. He and his wife Greta now live in Vero Beach, Florida.




Review: Ecoholic by Adria Vasil

Ecoholic is an eye-opening guide to separating the green from the greenwashed in the maze of products lining our shelves. Unlike other eco guidebooks, Ecoholic names names and gives you the dirt on what not to buy and why, as well as the dish on great clothes, beauty products, home supplies, and more.

We all know that the earth is in trouble, but we’re often left scratching our heads over how to change things. How do we avoid poisoning the planet and ourselves with the products we slather on our scalps and squirt onto our floors? And what safe alternatives actually get the job done?

Filled with tips on everything from which seafood is safe to eat to getting the hormone disruptors out of your kids, your carpets, and your love life, Ecoholic is a witty and indispensable guide to the small ecochoices that make the biggest difference.


Received from the publicist for review.

This was certainly for the upper middle class as it discusses designer organic jeans and pricey skin care lines that Julia Roberts uses. Other suggestions, such as the Slow Food Movement, just reinforced the author's view. The book is definitely not meant for the average person who does not get two hours for lunch and can't afford $20 for 8 ounces of artisinal cheese. It would have been significantly better had the author even considered those outside her own class and included more options that don't require an Amex black card.

This one gets four stars. While I enjoyed it, it could have included more less expensive options. I did enjoy the wide range of subjects covered, from jewelry to eco-friendly sex, which are not normally seen in "green" books. This is a comprehensive guide for the interested, and a solid reference to refer to again and again.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guest Post: Carol Sue Gershman author of The Jewish Lady, The Black Man And The Road Trip

Carol Sue Gershman, author of the book The Jewish Lady, The Black Man And The Road Trip , stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



Black, homeless and quietly he walked. Let us call him Harold.

He walked all day and I wondered how that could be possible. But the truth is, he did! He was in supreme physical condition; tall, slim and shirtless with a flat stomach. Walking at a slow and even pace, people stopped their cars to offer him money. He politely took it from the passing driver and then he quickly turned and walked on, almost as if he had to get back to his job. He particularly liked walking on the island that I lived where there were bridges and waterways.

Sometimes I would see him on the sidewalk of a busy highway. It has been years now that I have followed Harold, intrigued by this homeless man. The Florida heat does not seem to bother him; perhaps he was brought up on one of the tropical islands and enjoys the warmth. He is in better shape than most young men and a stand out amongst homeless men. He might be handsome if he was cleansed and dressed appropriately.

He might be anybody's son, husband or lover. Could he be my Pygmalion? What does your new boyfriend do? “Well, he walks.”

From experience I know there is nothing more wonderful than walking, letting thoughts come and go while the body becomes invigorated. When I was in my late forties, my boyfriend at the time invited me out for a walk. I kind of laughed, thinking it was a strange kind of date. But Paul, on this wonderfully romantic date held me close as we walked embracing each other through the small and interesting streets of Key West, Florida.

There were many walks to follow all with wonderful memories. Paul gave me a life time gift of walking for pleasure and exercise. I remember telling my girlfriend and she laughed at me. “Walking, he took you walking. So what is that?” She did not understand that it was bigger than any gift he could have given to me.

Where did Harold go at night? Where did he sleep? Had he found a special place for himself? Had he made friends with neighbors who invited him to sleep on their property? Did he have any other possessions other than the pants and shoes he wore or the shirt tied around his waist? What was his real name? Did he ever go to school? Did he have a high IQ? Where was he from?

This lonely walker with a stench, and I knew he had one, as I was one of the people who gave him money, fascinates me. I need to approach him. I need to find out who he is. I need to find out what has compelled him to live a life of walking. I need to know him and write about him. I need the world to meet him so that we can know his story.




About the book:

A MEMOIR A SENSUOUS, SALACIOUS, SEDUCTIVE ADVENTURE IN LOVE!

"The Jewish Lady,The Black Man and the Road Trip" is an entertaining, humorous and inspiring celebration of racial diversity in a sexually supercharged relationship between two sixty-plus lovers. Author Carol Sue Gershman navigates you through an honest and juicy adventure of self exploration and obsession while you witness the evolution of a strong, determined woman whose love for romance, passion, culture and companionship takes her and her lover Xavier on the ride of their lives. "This racy, romantic and poignant memoir will re-define the way the younger generation views the mature, young and adventurous at heart." Lisa Silvera, Thinking Media "The Jewish Lady,The Black Man and the Road Trip" celebrates race relations while serving as a poignant travelogue. The reader rides shotgun as this interracial couple embarks on a five-week action packed road trip from Miami to Montreal in her hot yellow Mustang convertible. They visit her dynamic family and discover a level of intimacy that neither has ever known Women of all ages will emerge enlightened and relieved to learn that sex later in life still smolders with passion, remains spicy and is here to stay!



About Carol Sue:

Constantly reinventing herself, Carol Sue Gershman attended the Miami Dade College memoir class thoughtfully morphing her two and a half page story "Adventure in Love" into a book.

Her past travel stories are widely read and enjoyed by many.

After spending 25 years in New York City, she was one of the first to arrive into the new phenomenon coined “SoBe” or South Beach, Miami Beach.

She is currently writing her second book while working to craft laws to ban smoking in residential buildings.









If you'd like to pick up a copy of Carol Sue's book The Jewish Lady, The Black Man And The Road Trip click on the cover image below.





Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman

From acclaimed bestselling author Laura Anne Gilman comes a unique and enthralling new story of fantasy and adventure, wine and magic, danger and hope....

Once, all power in the Vin Lands was held by the prince-mages, who alone could craft spellwines, and selfishly used them to increase their own wealth and influence. But their abuse of power caused a demigod to break the Vine, shattering the power of the mages. Now, fourteen centuries later, it is the humble Vinearts who hold the secret of crafting spells from wines, the source of magic, and they are prohibited from holding power.

But now rumors come of a new darkness rising in the vineyards. Strange, terrifying creatures, sudden plagues, and mysterious disappearances threaten the land. Only one Vineart senses the danger, and he has only one weapon to use against it: a young slave. His name is Jerzy, and his origins are unknown, even to him. Yet his uncanny sense of the Vinearts' craft offers a hint of greater magics within — magics that his Master, the Vineart Malech, must cultivate and grow. But time is running out. If Malech cannot teach his new apprentice the secrets of the spellwines, and if Jerzy cannot master his own untapped powers, the Vin Lands shall surely be destroyed.

In Flesh and Fire, first in a spellbinding new trilogy, Laura Anne Gilman conjures a story as powerful as magic itself, as intoxicating as the finest of wines, and as timeless as the greatest legends ever told.


Received from the publisher for review.


This one gets three stars. It didn't really do much for me. I found the character names a bit difficult, not Tolkien difficult, but different enough to disrupt the flow of reading. The story itself was okay, but left me vaguely unimpressed. The violence in the story wasn't for me either. I also found the thinly veiled religiosity of the "Sin Waster" a bit off putting. I just felt that overall it was a good book, but just not for me. Someone who reads fantasy on a regular basis may find it a bit more engrossing.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Guest Post and Giveaway: Sylvia Engdahl author of Stewards of the Flame

Sylvia Engdahl, author of the book Stewards of the Flame, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



I’ve been asked to describe my writing space. That can be done in one word: my computer. It doesn’t matter what surrounds it, though I do need a comfortable chair as I sit there at least ten hours a day, whether writing or doing the freelance editing work by which I earn income. I have a desk next to it, usually piled high with stuff I haven’t time to put away, and bookcases, crammed full with books I haven’t time read. But the computer is all I really care about, as it’s what sets me free to be creative.

I have never been able to put things into words without seeing them as it do it. I don’t speak well, and would be unable to express ideas by dictating into a voice recorder. I wrote Enchantress from the Stars and my other YA novels with a typewriter, of course, as that was all we had then. It was a struggle because I have poor finger coordination and can’t type accurately, besides which I am constantly changing wording around, so I spent a lot of time making paste-ups; I have to see my work in a clean form in order to progress with it. Then when I got old enough to need reading glasses, it became impossible, because a page in a typewriter was too far away to see with reading glasses yet too hard to focus on with my regular glasses. That was when I got my first computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80. It was before the days when home computers had adequate software for word processing so I programmed it myself (I had been a professional programmer when I was young).

I got my first PC in 1987 and my life has been vastly improved ever since. The ability to revise constantly and see the current version of every sentence means everything to me. I jump back and forth in a book while working. I don’t always write the chapters in order, and I often think of improved wording for something previously written while in the middle of something else, going back to fix it before I forget. Furthermore, I can lose myself in what I’m saying on the computer in a way I never could without it, and I’m much less inhibited than I used to be when forced to commit words to paper. I usually don’t get the ideas for action in a story until I’m in the midst of writing scenes.

I rarely look at paper anymore. I published Stewards of the Flame and its sequel myself—literally myself, sending finished PDF files to the printer—and all that was done with desktop publishing software; I didn’t print hardcopy except for a friend. This is partly because I have vision problems now that make the screen much less tiring for me to read than the small print of a book. But it’s mainly because it’s at my computer that I feel most comfortable.




About the book:

When burned-out starship captain Jesse Sanders is seized by a dictatorial medical regime and detained on the colony planet Undine, he has no idea that he is about to be plunged into a bewildering new life that will involve ordeals and joys beyond anything he has ever imagined, as well as the love of a woman with powers that seem superhuman. Still less does he suspect that he must soon take responsibility for the lives of people he has come to care about and the preservation of their hopes for the future of humankind.

This controversial novel deals with government-imposed health care, with end-of-life issues, and with the so-called paranormal powers of the human mind. Despite being set in the distant future on another world, it appeals not just to science fiction fans but to a wide range of readers who question the dominant medical philosophy of today’s society, or who value personal freedom of choice.

Read an excerpt:


They went to a restaurant on a side branch near the island’s main waterway. Undine was a water world, and canals permeated the seaward areas of the city. “Like Venice,” Carla said, “on ancient Earth.”

Jesse wanted little to do with food, but Carla ordered for him anyway. She also ordered wine, and poured him some. Jesse accepted the glass gingerly. “You’re offering me this?” he asked in amazement.

“The drug they gave you wore off hours ago. I checked the file on it to be sure.”

“But all the same—”

“I believed you when you said you’re not an alcoholic,” she said. “I want to know.”

“Whether I can stop with one or two, you mean? Carla, I’m not going to want any of this for quite a long time.”

“Yes, you are. To hell with their goddamned aversion games! A few days of treatment can’t affect you unless you let it. Don’t.”

Impressed, he took up the glass and sipped it. Her eyes were on him. Presently he began to eat, and found he was hungry.

Carla seemed radiant, even elated, as if it were she who had escaped from prison. Her color was high. “You won!” she said. “It’s good to see you able to celebrate.”

“With wine, you mean?” He raised his glass. “It’s nice, but not worth the price. Was it for this I let you risk your job, and God knows what else?”

“Not for this. For a principle. And in the end, there wasn’t much risk.”

“You managed an official discharge,” he agreed. “How?”

She averted her gaze. “I’ve got a close friend on the staff. He—does favors for me sometimes.”

“Then I was not really cleared for release.”

“No. The substance abuse unit would never have let you go. Psych had to override, which required some hacking. That part was easy, but without the staff signature seal you wouldn’t have got past the door.”

He frowned; hacking could be a criminal offense. “Why should you stick your neck out for me, Carla? Before you brought my clothes the first time, you’d only talked to me for five minutes.”

“Sometimes that’s enough.” She smiled at him. “I do what I can, Jesse, and you’re from offworld. It’s bad enough for the rest of us, but when they start in on offworlders—”

“Medics are a pain everywhere,” he said, trying to be fair. “I suppose they mean well. Here, they seem to have got hold of all the funds they want, and I’d judge that makes them even more arrogant than on Earth.” That was the root of it, of course. Compulsory treatment couldn’t have been established without unlimited funding. He knew, without wanting to know, that the thing itself would not be hard to get people to vote for. Ongoing medical care was a blessing; most people would believe anything they were told about the need to force it on those who didn’t want to be blessed.

“They mean well,” Carla agreed. “So did the Verquistas, I’m told.”

“It’s not quite as bad as that,” Jesse said. “The Verquistas were a political party. They had the citizens of New America so thoroughly sold on their platform that there was no opposition to them; bit by bit, people on that planet voted away their own freedom.”

“And how do you think it is here?” she demanded, with some bitterness.

“Well, I guess the majority supports the medical lobby,” he said, “since they do seem to get the funding. I must say I don’t see how they get so much in a colony as small as this, though my ship’s cargo manifest showed that it’s a rich colony. But they’re not the government, after all.”

“But Jesse,” Carla said, “they are. Didn’t you know that?”

“Know what?”

“That the Meds are the government here, literally. There is no colonial administrator other than the Hospital Administrator. There is no legislative body other than the Medical Review Board. There’s no police force apart from the ambulance officers; all crime is classed as illness, and untreated illness is considered crime. That’s why they picked you up.”

“God!” Jesse said, staring at her. For the moment he couldn’t think of anything more to say.

“It’s one reason the Hospital’s so large,” Carla went on. “All our government offices are in it. As for funding, the Board levies taxes and skims health care costs off the top. They say all treatment’s free, of course, but we pay through the highest tax rates of any colony in the League.”

Horrified, Jesse protested, “All colonies have free elections now; that’s Colonial League law.”

“Oh, the Board is elected. The Administrator’s elected, too. We have campaigns just like anyplace else; there are lots of candidates and the vote’s close sometimes. But they are all Meds. It’s in our constitution—you can’t run for office without a medical degree.”

He sat for a moment, toying with his wine, absorbing all this. “How did it get into the constitution?” he asked finally.

Carla said, “It was approved by vote, of course. People thought it would be a waste of money to duplicate too much in a new colony. Obviously medical judgment had top priority. The history books say we have a unique arrangement that eliminates unnecessary bureaucracy.”

“And nobody pushes for constitutional change?”

“Oh, no. Almost everyone’s happy with this system. People feel secure with it; they know their health is being protected. Those who’ve grown up here don’t object to forced treatment even for themselves. But I—well, I knew that you, being from offworld, probably would.”




About Sylvia:

Sylvia Engdahl is best known as the author of highly-acclaimed Young Adult science fiction novels, one of which was a Newbery Honor book and a finalist for the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year in the Rediscovery category. However, her trilogy Children of the Star, originally written for teens, was republished as adult SF, and she is now writing fiction only for adults.
Engdahl is a strong advocate of space colonization and has maintained a widely-read space section of her website for many years. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, and currently works as a freelance editor of nonfiction anthologies.

More information about Stewards of the Flame, the topics with which it deals, and its newly-released sequel can be found at www.stewardsoftheflame.com. Her main website is at www.sylviaengdahl.com.



Thanks to the author I have one copy to give away!

Contest runs from October 26, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST November 2, 2009. Open worldwide! No PO boxes.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

FTC Concerns

As you may have noticed, I've been a bit upset (cough) about the new FTC guidelines. This post from Charlotte's Library, brought to my attention by The Shady Glade, makes me feel significantly better.

You may want to check it out. It's short and sweet, yet incredibly informative.



Review: The One Hundred by Nina Garcia

"Simply put, these items make me feel classic. And there is no substitute for feeling this way. Ever."

In the wildly popular The Little Black Book of Style, fashion authority Nina Garcia showed women how to think about personal style in an entirely new way. Encouraging readers to creatively assert their style identities, Nina showed women of all ages how to hone and self-edit a distinct fashion voice.

With her style philosophy firmly out in the world, Nina decided to address the most popular question readers consistently ask her: Exactly what are fashion's timeless pieces?

The One Hundred answers this question and provides women with a tangible style map to follow when planning a shopping trip and stocking one's closet. With illustrations from world-renowned fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo, The One Hundred contains the 100 items that Nina believes will never go out of style, and that have become absolutely indispensable for any woman reaching for her own eternal fashion look.


From the library.

A couple of my favorite quotes from the book were:

Life is too short to save our nest clothes or our best Champagne for the big events.

If I leave you with one last tip, it is to always buy a black cashmere version of an item if it comes in a black cashmere version.

This one gets four stars. It featured lovely illustrations and frank text, but it was obviously intended for the upper middle class.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Winners: The Love Revolution

The winners of The Love Revolution are:

  1. cherdon
  2. Wanda
  3. Danielle a.k.a Yellie
  4. enyl
  5. Luvdaylilies
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Saturday, October 24, 2009

Guest Post: Bob Brooker and Kaye O'Dougherty authors of Football is for Lovers

Bob Brooker and Kaye O'Dougherty, authors of the book Football is for Lovers, stopped by to share with us a piece they wrote.



Love. Watta concept! We’ve made it part of our song lyrics and greeting cards and movies and books. We feel it in our hearts. We speak it to our children and our mates. We desire it for those we care about - and for ourselves.

Now, with Football is for Lovers, we’ve even connected love to football.

Have we gone too far?

We think not. Actually, speaking of lyrics, we’re fans of “love is where you find it; don’t be blind: it’s everywhere.” Because we really believe love can be just about anywhere in your life that you want it to be.

Okay. There may be an exception. Okay, okay. Maybe several exceptions. But basically, if you think about it, not all that many.

Let’s say you’re getting ready to take out the garbage. This is not usually considered to be a fun activity, but it is necessary for the health and well-being of your beloved family, yes?

Even so, you may be thinking, “But why me?”

Well, let’s get real. It has to be done, however you feel about it. And you wouldn’t be doing it if you could have palmed it off on someone else.

So – you apparently do not have the choice not to take out the garbage (unless you want to deal with the flies in your kitchen, which, hands down, is obviously a whole lot worse than the garbage removal).

However, you do have a choice as to how you will do it. Okay. Let’s not get crazy. You don’t have to whistle a happy tune or sing Kumbaya. But - and we can hear you groan all the way across cyberspace – you can do it with love.

Oh, take a Bromo!

Anyway, watching football is a lot like that. If your life partner is a football fan, football is going to be there. On your TV screen. Week after week after week after . . . well, for a long time.

As with the garbage (and please refrain from any unpleasant garbage comparisons here: it really will not help with the agenda we are about to propose), you can accept the football watching (yes: it’s okay to call it an obsession if it makes you feel better) with a scowl . . . or . . . okay, fair enough: you really don’t have to smile. Just accept it with love in your heart.

Oh, yes, you can! Look at it this way: you love the big (or small) football-obsessed lug, don’t you? And he loves football. Only not more than he loves you. Really.

Don’t know what’s going on? Trust us: football ain’t exactly rocket science, and to make it even easier, we wrote Football is for Lovers to make the learning curve about as steep as your average pancake. Plus we’ve thrown in a lot of . . . um . . . interesting ideas to add spice to the game watching experience.

And here’s the bottom line: anything you do with love just feels better than anything you do without love. So if it’s something that must be done . . . might as well get the full payoff, yes? And we’re pretty sure there’s nothing on the planet – maybe even in the universe – that pays off more grandly than love.




About the book:

Can learning about football be sexy? According to Football is for Lovers, when it comes to your love life, football can be better than oysters.

The good news is that Football is for Lovers makes the basics so . . . well, so basic that learning the game is easy as eating an ice cream cone. And just as much fun.

With anecdotes, illustrations, and a lot of laughs, Football is for Lovers not only makes it easy to understand the game, but also shows you how to put an end to the TV clicker wars, improve your relationship, and spice up your love life.

It just takes looking at the game of football a little bit differently.

Then again, since Football is for Lovers contains references to football great Jerry Rice in a pink tutu, images of paintings by French artist Jean Dubuffet, an alert about the dangers of speaking Northeastern Mandarin, an explanation of the value of M & M's in a relationship, and a Burma Shave sign, to say it looks at football "a little bit differently" may be something of an understatement.

But if your football-obsessed partner has been making you a 'football widow' from August NFL pre-season through the February Super-Bowl, thus convincing you that you hate football, this little book may be just the 'different look' you need to discover that, after all, Football really is for Lovers!



About the authors:

Bob Brooker and Kaye O'Dougherty have been adventuring together for a lot of years now. They first met at a recording studio on 42nd Street. Yes, that 42nd Street. They recorded a commercial for E.J. Korvette's, who went out of business soon thereafter.

Bob is an old saloon singer who, as Bobby Brookes, recorded for Victor and Capital back in the day. Kaye has trouble carrying a tune in a bucket. Nevertheless, over the years, as Brooker and O'Dougherty, the two have collaborated on a variety of theater projects, performing, writing, directing, managing, and producing. In keeping with the changing times, they have even created a cyber alter-ego named eBobb.

Recently, Bob and Kaye both took long-overdue turns at being rather mature college kids. Kaye now holds a Bachelors Degree in the Humanities from St. Peter's College in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Bob was graduated magna cum laude from Montclair State University with a BA in Theater, and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.




Friday, October 23, 2009

Guest Post: Hank Schwaeble author of Damnable

Hank Schwaeble, author of the book Damnable, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



When is a horror novel maybe not a horror novel?

Genres in fiction are extremely important from a marketing perspective, and far from merely being a sales device, are actually a very useful tool for readers. Genres provide a relatively efficient way of matching reader tastes with the appropriate style and subject matter. They provides a shorthand for readers who don't have unlimited time on their hands to determine which among the hundreds of books published every month falls within the zone of their interests.

What I wanted with my first novel, and what I knew I wanted even before I wrote the opening line, was to write a horror novel with a noir feel to it. I've always enjoyed hard-boiled detective novels, loved the elegance contained in the lean, spare prose, and thought the dark side of humanity explored in noir lent itself perfectly to a horror story. So perfectly, in fact, I never could understand why it was so rare to see the two merged.

The idea for the book grew out of a vague notion I had for a scene where a man is killed trying to save a woman from an animated corpse. Not a flesh-eating type zombie, but one that seemed to have a purpose. I sat down and wrote a draft of the scene, which eventually became the prologue, then bounced the idea around in my head and came up with the plot for Damnable.

Job one following the initial idea was coming up with a protagonist. I knew I wanted an unlikely, reluctant hero. A guy who was extremely tough, but battered and bruised and cast aside by society. Not a detective, but someone forced to act like one to get at the truth.

What I came up with was Jake Hatcher. An ex-special forces interrogator who'd been disgraced and imprisoned for essentially doing what he was trained to do. A guy who brought an unusual skill set to the table, but one that made an intriguing analog to the dark forces he was investigating. A man who has long assumed that if there was a hell, he was heading there, and who discovers he may just be the only chance everyone else has of not joining him.

So just like the protagonists of hard-boiled detective fiction, Jake Hatcher is battling his demons. But as he digs for the truth about his family, this worldly skeptic also finds himself battling real demons, and in doing so is forced to confront the reality of Heaven, Hell, damnation, and the implications that reality holds for him, and everyone else.

In writing Damnable, I drew heavily on my background as a special agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, primarily in trying realistically to portray the approach and mindset of a military interrogator. Having conducted numerous interrogations during my years as an agent, and having had extensive training in the techniques and psychology involved, I wanted to bring an authenticity to both the military and the law enforcement angle that I find frequently lacking in movies, on television, and in books. And I wanted it to be authentic not only when it came to how real interrogations are conducted, but also a similar also regarding the general forensic and procedural details involved in the various disciplines depicted.

So, about ten to twelve months after I started, I had Damnable. But what, exactly, did I have? A horror novel? A thriller? A mystery? A suspenseful noir? One of the problems with having a novel that incorporates elements from a number of genres is that you have a hard time figuring out what to call it. My agent and I decided it was a supernatural thriller. Penguin bought it, and stamped HORROR on the spine. To be fair, it certainly is a horror novel, but hopefully readers will find it also to be a an exciting thriller, a suspenseful mystery, and a riveting noir.

But most importantly, I hope readers just find it to be a highly entertaining page-turner, and one they thoroughly enjoy. That, of course, is for each one of them, and only each one of them, to decide for themselves. Genres be damned.




About the book:

Special military operative Jake Hatcher, a skilled interrogator trained to extract information by all means necessary, is serving jail time for doing his job – a little too efficiently. A letter from his mother, requesting his emergency release to attend the funeral of his brother, springs him from temporary hell. There’s only one problem – he’s an only child. And unbeknownst to him, there’s a much worse hell waiting in the wings.

After confronting his mother, Hatcher sets out to learn about the brother he never knew, and look into the circumstances of his death. This seemingly idle foray leads him to dead people who don't stay that way; a seamy supernatural community filled with creatures that thrive beneath the streets of New York City; cops unconcerned with either protecting or serving; and the most gorgeous women he’s ever met, temptresses whose entire existence revolves around the pursuit of pleasure and the perpetuation of evil.

The driving force behind much of Hatcher’s journey is the scheme of wealthy eccentric Demetrius Valentine, a man with complex motivations involving large-scale revenge, wickedness, and torture. His goal is to avenge the death of his parents through fulfillment of an ancient prophecy connecting the rise of the prince of hell to the end of heaven. The ever-resistant and unlikely hero, Hatcher discovers that only he can stop Valentine and put an end to his diabolical madness.



About Hank:

Hank Schwaeble is a thriller writer and practicing attorney. His first short story, "Mugwumps," appeared in the anthology Alone on the Darkside in 2006. In 2007, he won a Bram Stoker Award for the anthology Five Strokes to Midnight, which he co-edited with Gary Braunbeck. The book includes three of his short stories.

A graduate of the University of Florida and Vanderbilt Law School, Schwaeble is a former Air Force officer and special agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He has conducted major criminal and counterintelligence investigations for the Air Force and the Department of Defense.

A distinguished graduate from the Air Force Special Investigations Academy, he graduated first in his class from the Defense Language Institute's Japanese Language Course, and was an editor of the law review at Vanderbilt where he won four American Jurisprudence Awards.

Schwaeble is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association. He lives in Houston, Texas and is currently working on his next novel.




Winner: Fierce Style

The winner of Fierce Style is Lynz Pickles!

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Review: Football is for Lovers by Bob and Kaye

Intimacy, romance, sex, M&M's: a whole new way of looking at football... Why fight over the TV clicker during football season when you can share the joy instead? With Football is For Lovers, you'll discover a whole new way of looking at the game of football that could thrust your love life into the torrid zone, add a little merriment to your relationship, and have you calling for a quarterback sneak...Among other things. Yes. Football is For Lovers. Really.


Received from the publicist for review.

I must say that I don't actually know anyone who does football so I'm no football fan. I even flip past it on television since it just bores me so this was an interesting departure for me.

This one gets four stars. For a sports book it was remarkably enjoyable. The text was lovely, friendly, feisty, and fun with a great flow. The nice illustrations genuinely help to explain the text. The book is also packed to the gills with interesting football trivia. Overall I found the book quite helpful and would certainly recommend it to other curious football neophytes.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Favorite Audiobook Readers


Over the past couple weeks I've received a few inquiries about my favorite audiobook readers. Obviously, without an excellent reader an otherwise good book can become yawn worthy or worse. My favorite readers, as listed below (in no particular order), provide consistently excellent performances.
  1. Lorelei King (Stephanie Plum series, etc.) She is also a genuinely nice person and pretty too!
  2. Paul Michael (Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, etc.)
  3. Scott Brick (Steve Berry, Stephen J. Cannell, etc.)
  4. Donada Peters aka Wanda McCaddon (Agatha Raisin series, Elizabeth George, etc.)
  5. Jim Dale (two words - Harry Potter)
  6. Stephen Fry (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, Paddington series)
  7. David Suchet (Poirot series)
  8. Hugh Fraser (Poirot series)

A special note on books read by authors - as a general rule avoid them! I know it sounds silly, but most authors just can't read well, even if it is their own material. The sole exception of this rule is Neil Gaiman. He is awesome when he reads his books.

I hope that helped things a bit and if anyone has any other favorite readers to add to the list, please let me know!



Winner: Mrs. O

The winner of Mrs. O is sharon54220!

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Douglas W. Jacobson author of Night of Flames


Douglas W. Jacobson, author of the book Night of Flames, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



Getting it Right . . . Doing Research for Historical Novels


As the old saying goes, “The devil is in the detail.” One of the reasons I have always loved historical fiction is that it is a truly marvelous way to learn a bit of history. Some authors of non-fiction (Stephen Ambrose comes to mind) have a flair and style of writing that make their work enjoyable and easy to read. But, in my humble opinion, there’s nothing quite like curling up with Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance or Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth for the ultimate reading experience . . . and, a great way to learn history.

And that brings us to the issue at hand. Writing good historical fiction places a special burden on the author, the burden of getting it right. And getting it right doesn’t stop with the big stuff, the dates and locations, the battles and who won the war. It gets right down to the detail. For example, what would a serf in the thirteenth century be likely to eat for breakfast? What type of profanity would a soldier likely have used during the Napoleonic wars? Did the troopers of the Polish cavalry carry lances during World War Two?

It’s the detail that immerses the reader in the time and place of your story. It’s the scent of the kerosene lanterns and the smell of the boiling cabbage, the sticky mud of the footpaths and creaking of the yardarms that give a story its life and vitality. It’s what makes it real. But, making it real, of course, means doing the research.

When I set out to write Night of Flames I had been studying and reading about World War Two for most of my adult life. I knew a lot, but not nearly enough. For instance, I wanted to write about the Polish cavalry because the notion of horse-drawn armies in WW2 has been largely ignored even though almost all the armies in the first few years of the war—including those of Germany and Russia—relied heavily of horses for transportation. But how was a Polish cavalry brigade organized? What type of weapons did they carry? What did their uniforms look like? How far could they travel in a day? Where did they find food for the horses and who re-shod them when necessary? Did they really charge tanks?

Let’s stick with this issue for a moment to pursue the ways and means of research. You can learn a lot on the Internet these days and, indeed, I found numerous websites filled with detail about WW2 era cavalry. I also found a marvelous book entitled, The Cavalry of World War Two, chock full of information about specific cavalry regiments from Poland, France, Germany and Russia, their organization and leadership, the types of horses and weapons, battles and anecdotal accounts. But the most fascinating of all was my experience at The Battle of the Bzura Museum in Kutno, Poland, which I visited during one of my trips to Poland. It was a treasure of maps, artifacts, displays of uniforms and weapons, canteens and knapsacks. And, even more fascinating, was an encounter the next day with an elderly gentleman in Walewice, Poland who happened to be sitting on the front porch of his home while we were wandering around the town square looking for some type of commemorative plaque. Through the translation offered by my friend and Polish history scholar, Slawomir Debski, the elderly gentleman confirmed that the Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade did, indeed, cross the Bzura River and confront a German infantry battalion in that town on 14 September, 1939. He knew . . . because he was there. And that’s the best kind of research.




About the book:

Painting a vivid and terrifying picture of war-torn Europe during World War II, this tale chronicles the lives of Anna, a Krakow University professor, and her husband Jan, a Polish cavalryman. After they are separated and forced to flee occupied Poland, Anna soon finds herself caught up in the Belgian Resistance, while Jan becomes embedded in British Intelligence efforts to contact the Resistance in Poland. He soon realises that he must seize this opportunity to search for his lost wife, Anna.







About Douglas:

Douglas W. Jacobson is an engineer, business owner and World War Two history enthusiast. Doug has traveled extensively in Europe researching stories of the courage of common people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His debut novel, Night of Flames: A Novel of World War Two was published in 2007 by McBooks Press, and was released in paperback in 2008. Night of Flames won the 2007 OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD from the Wisconsin Library Association. Doug has also published articles on Belgium’s WW2 escape organization, the Comete Line; Poland’s 1st Armored Division; and the liberation of Antwerp. Doug has just completed his second novel set in Europe at the end of WW2. You can visit his blog at www.douglaswjacobson.blogspot.com.



If you'd like to pick up a copy of Douglas's book Night of Flames click on the cover image below.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Winner: 250 Business Cards from UPrinting.com

The winner of the 250 business cards from UPrinting.com is Jaime!

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you so much to UPrinting.com for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Review: The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter

Meet Matt Prior. He's about to lose his job, his wife, his house, maybe his mind. Unless . . .

In the winning and utterly original novels Citizen Vince and The Zero, Jess Walter ("a ridiculously talented writer"—New York Times) painted an America all his own: a land of real, flawed, and deeply human characters coping with the anxieties of their times. Now, in his warmest, funniest, and best novel yet, Walter offers a story as real as our own lives: a tale of overstretched accounts, misbegotten schemes, and domestic dreams deferred.

A few years ago, small-time finance journalist Matthew Prior quit his day job to gamble everything on a quixotic notion: a Web site devoted to financial journalism in the form of blank verse. When his big idea—and his wife's eBay resale business— ends with a whimper (and a garage full of unwanted figurines), they borrow and borrow, whistling past the graveyard of their uncertain dreams. One morning Matt wakes up to find himself jobless, hobbled with debt, spying on his wife's online flirtation, and six days away from losing his home. Is this really how things were supposed to end up for me, he wonders: staying up all night worried, driving to 7-Eleven in the middle of the night to get milk for his boys, and falling in with two local degenerates after they offer him a hit of high-grade marijuana?

Or, he thinks, could this be the solution to all my problems?

Following Matt in his week long quest to save his marriage, his sanity, and his dreams, The Financial Lives of the Poets is a hysterical, heartfelt novel about how we can reach the edge of ruin—and how we can begin to make our way back.


Received from the publicist for review.

Although I wouldn't consider this laugh-out-loud funny, it was amusing and infinitely readable.

Some of my favorite quotes were:

Early middle age is such a creepy time, and I constantly find myself wishing I were more the younger me.

It's the devil's taunt - watching people stupider than oneself making fortunes.

This one gets four stars. It was amusing and readable with great gems like "financial ebola". The tone was very nice, with a very real feel to it. Although it did remind me a bit of Weeds it was still a fun read with a nice style. It certainly left me wanting to investigate other books by the author.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

Belladonna Johnson can see ghosts. It’s a trait she’s inherited from her mother’s side of the family, like blue eyes or straight hair. And it’s a trait she could do without, because what twelve-year-old wants to be caught talking to someone invisible?

It is convenient, though, after Belladonna’s parents are killed in a car accident. They can live with her the same as always, watching the same old TV shows in their same old house. Nothing has changed . . . until everything changes.

One night, with no warning, they vanish into thin air—along with every other ghost in the world. It’s what some people think ghosts are supposed to do, but Belladonna knows it’s all wrong. They may not be living, but they’re not supposed to be gone.

With the help of her classmate Steve, a master of sneaking and spying, Belladonna is left to uncover what’s become of the spirits and to navigate a whole world her parents have kept well-hidden. If she can’t find her way, she’ll lose them again—this time for good.


Received from the publisher for review.


This was a lovely read with the book itself printed in a nicely sized type and a wonderful font.

The book was immediately reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's books, and instantly engrossing. The level of action and suspense was consistent throughout. The plot itself also held up nicely through the entire book.

This one gets five stars. It was just perfect! The book was delightful and charming with lovely, likeable characters. As it is the first in a series, I will be eagerly waiting future books. And, as the first in a series it was a great start, but also perfectly formed as a stand alone book with a satisfying level of closure and no unfortunate cliffhanger.

★★★★★ = Loved It



Guest Post: Ruby Dominguez author of The Peruke Maker


Ruby Dominguez, author of the book The Peruke Maker, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



The Peruke Maker: A Wigmaker
--Guest Blogger Ruby Dominguez, author of THE PERUKE MAKER

The Peruke Maker played an important role in keeping society supplied with the latest in hair fashions like wigs and queues (hair pieces usually worn hanging in the back of the head) for men, and curls, braids and knots for women and barbering services as well.

A wig or queue was a fashion necessity for men of the gentry and successful businessmen, especially during public times when the courts were in session. Being able to afford a wig, or sometimes several wigs, was a means of showing one’s social status. Even the lesser sort (those with little money to spend) wanted to own a wig or queue.

The Peruke Maker’s loving and patient traits in my book were based on my own father’s character and further developed through Internet searches.

A point of no return, he begins the heartbreaking journey of his life and that of a man’s vindictive soul, down Ipswich Road towards his shop with his daughter’s dead body in an oxcart which he had taken down from a locust tree where she was hung.

In his shop, he starts the painstaking, creative process of making a wig of his daughter’s mutilated scalp and ripped-off red, long hair.

With surgical precision, he stitches his daughter’s scalp, vein by vein, skin by skin with a fishhook-like needle and sews it through a weft to hold it secure.

He meticulously weaves a few straws of hair at a time and pulls each back into a tight knot.

Many hours pass and finally, he sets the wig on his daughter’s bloody, grotesque head and as he bows his head in meditation, he recites an incantation with tears streaming down his old and sad, yet vengeful face.

An unsettling waft of cold breeze passes through the room and makes the wig sway and a spell is cast upon the wig and takes a life of its own.He had lost his wife Kate who was hanged in Gallows Hill prior to losing his daughter Bridget to the same horrifying fate.

Blood starts to trickle down Bridget’s lifeless, tortured looking face amidst the Banshee’s forlorn wails echoing over Gallows Hill.

The Peruke Maker’s vengeful curse hastens chase for the innocent and is carried off by a whirl of ill-omened wind that transgresses all natural laws of time and space.

The Salem Witch Hunt Curse unearthed from necromancy, violates the course of natural events in a modern day world, relentlessly in quest for the avenger of innocent blood.




About the book:

Salem 17th Century - A bizarre and deadly detour in history!

The witch hunt hits feverish peak. Fear of the devil is as real as God. Witchcraft is a hideous crime a person could commit and is punishable by death at the Gallows Hill for the victims accused of sorcery.

Driftingly, a red-stained full moon streaked with ominous dark haunting clouds is witness to the strange forewarn of the vicious lashing of wind and distraught flying bats, over dead bodies swinging precariously in the wind by the branches of the locust trees.

River reflections of Bridgetâ's scantily clad youthful beauty with long, flowing, wild, red hair, is frozen in fear amidst the overture of the Bansheeâ's foreboding and bloodcurdling wails of imminent death, that of her own.

The Peruke Makerâ's vengeful curse hastens chase for the innocent and is carried off by a whirl of ill-omened wind that transgresses all natural laws of time and space. But love and forgiveness triumphs beyond the grave and a chance at love and life is bestowed upon the worthy, at midnight of the Autumnal Equinox.



About Ruby:

Ruby Dominguez is challenged by the conflicting complexities of the past and future. Undeterred, she strokes with pen the somber and bright hues of her visions. She currently resides in San Francisco and works in the field of property management/leasing. She has been a recipient of the "Editor's Choice Award," by the National Library of Poetry in 1999 and 2007 for her published poems in the SHELTER OF SHADE. Visit her website at: www.outskirtspress.com/theperukemaker, and blog at www.salemcurse.wordpress.com












Monday, October 19, 2009

Giveaway: 100 UPrinting.com Postcards


My blog sponsor, UPrinting.com, is allowing me to do the most fabulous giveaway! One winner will receive a set of 100 custom printed postcards!

UPrinting's postcards aren't just for mailing, they're perfect for invitations, thank you cards, note cards, or blog advertising!


Contest runs from October 19, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST October 27, 2009. Winner will be announced October 28, 2009. Open to residents of US. No PO boxes.

The winner will receive: 100 custom printed postcards
Size: 4x6; Paper: 14pt Cardstock Gloss; Printing: Full color both sides
Shipping is free!


To enter:
  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what you'll use the postcards for. 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. 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.
  5. Grab my button (in sidebar), post it on your blog, and leave me a comment with a link to your blog. If you already have my button, leave a comment telling me that.
Post one comment for each entry.
Each comment must include your e-mail address.

Disclosure: As a gift for hosting this giveaway, UPrinting.com will be sending me a set of 100 postcards as well.