Sunday, September 18, 2016

Featured Book: The Battle for Darracia: Books I - II - III by Michael Phillip Cash

The Battle for Darracia Books I, II, and III, are now combined into one epic novel!

On the planet Darracia, an ever-widening social gap between its inhabitants is causing turmoil that is fracturing a once peaceful world.

Struggling with his identity, nineteen year old Prince V'sair must harness the power of the elusive Fireblade, the secret to a warrior's heart, in order to overcome his uncle Staf Nuen's lust for supremacy.

Will the energy of the Elements guide the young prince to his true destiny or will Staf Nuen conquer Darracia?

About the author:

Michael Phillip Cash is an award-winning novelist and screenwriter. His novels are best-sellers on Amazon under their genres – Young Adult, Thriller, Suspense, Ghost, Action Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Horror.

Michael writes full-time and lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wonderful wife and screaming children. You can follow him @michaelpcash.

Connect with Michael on:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Featured Book: The Checkmate Formula by Alan Sellers

This extraordinary book presents the powerful results of thirty years of observing and evaluating real-world success patterns of billionaires & visionaries. It unravels the intriguing mystery of how grandmasters in business achieve success, and presents a novel and compelling way to perceive the world of business. After reading it you may never view or approach business quite the same way again.

THE CHECKMATE FORMULA answers two questions: what are the essential factors in business that dictate success or failure, and how do serial winners win consistently? Revealing a pragmatic roadmap used by the greatest business minds, it shows how to perceive reality differently through techniques like The Great Awareness, think differently through approaches like The Great Enabler, and act differently using the greatest force multiplier of all -- The Decryption Key. It simplifies & deconstructs business into understandable truths, and reassembles them into practical guidelines for creative thinking and result-generation.

You’ll learn how to address major issues like capital raises, strategy and the customer acceptance riddle, and what it really means to understand the big picture -- with a generous dose of examples and insights from the business elite (including colorful analogies to chess and art). It’s an engaging read that will benefit entrepreneurs & executives wanting to “up” their game, and founders wanting to beat the odds.

About the author:

Alan Sellers has a history with members of the Forbes 400, and with multiple founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs and inventors at companies of all kinds – high and low tech, start-up and large, domestic and international. For decades he has observed and studied, first-hand, recurring patterns in the real business world. He has served in numerous C-level operating roles, including Chairman, CEO, Chief Legal Officer, CFO, and Chief Administrative Officer at NYSE ($5 Billion), NASDAQ ($25 Million), and private companies from start-up to mid-size. He practiced corporate law & accounting at internationally ranked firms, and brings partner-level private equity and venture capital experience. Alan received, with accolades, a degree in Economics from Yale, an MBA from The Wharton School, a CPA (New York), and a law degree from Columbia University. He is professor at a CEO Institute, and his interests include the military, politics, art and law enforcement.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review: The Patriot Threat by Steve Berry

In an innovative new approach, Macmillan Audio and Steve Berry have produced an expanded, annotated writer's cut audiobook edition of The Patriot Threat.

The 16th Amendment to the Constitution legalized federal income tax, but what if there were problems with the 1913 ratification of that amendment? Secrets that call in to question decades of tax collecting. There is a surprising truth to this possibility-a truth wholly entertained by Steve Berry, a top-ten New York Times best-selling writer, in his new thriller, The Patriot Threat.

His protagonist, Cotton Malone, once a member of an elite intelligence division within the Justice Department known as the Magellan Billet, is now retired. But when his former boss, Stephanie Nelle, asks him to track a rogue North Korean who may have acquired some top secret Treasury Department files - the kind that could force the United States to its knees - Malone is vaulted into a harrowing 24-hour chase that begins on the water in Venice and ends in the remote highlands of Croatia.

With appearances by Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Mellon, and a curious painting that still hangs in the National Gallery of Art, Steve Berry's trademark mix of history and suspense is 90 percent fact and 10 percent exciting speculation, a provocative thriller that poses a dangerous question: What if the federal income tax is illegal?

From the library.

As soon as a new Steve Berry audiobook becomes available at my library I immediately add it to my requests so I can listen to it as soon as possible so I was quite excited to pick this up during my weekly visit.

While I enjoy the books I prefer to listen to them as audiobooks since Scott Brick does such an amazing job with his performance and this was no different.  Cotton, President Daniels, and Stephanie Nelle just aren't the same without his voice bringing them to life.

While I don't love Cotton as a person his adventures are always entertaining and I actually found this one more entertaining since it didn't feature his rather annoying girlfriend Cassiopeia Vitt *spoiler alert* whom he broke up with in the last novel.  There was a much more relaxed feel to this book and the story focused much more on the adventure without the distracting side story of their love affair, both of which made the book infinitely better than previous installments in the series.

The mystery itself was genuinely fascinating.  I'm sure no one would be at all surprised to discover that our government outright lied to us for almost a hundred years about how they are illegally taxing us.  While earlier volumes focused on issues that didn't directly affect most readers taxes sadly affect everyone and, as such, the discussion of their potential illegality was quite intriguing and, frankly, frustrating.  It was especially disheartening to discover that the original tax documents only called for the rich to be taxed and that the poor (who can least afford the weight of a tax burden) were not supposed to be taxed at all.  So, according to the original documentation 99% of us should not be being taxed at all, let alone at the crippling current rates.

The second half of the mystery regarding the (again) criminal actions of the blatant refusal to honor the nation's debts to Haym Salomon and his descendants was all too easily believable as well.  Sadly, the fact that readers can immediately go along with the fact that our government willfully mistreated such an amazing and generous human being and allowed him to die in poverty with not so much as a thank you (let alone repayment of even a portion of what he was owed) should be disturbing but it isn't.  It just disgusts me that a nation whose freedom was facilitated by generous loans from Solomon ignored, and continues to ignore, this debt.  The Founding Fathers slipped several notches in my regard after reading about their frankly criminal, let alone immoral and inhumane, actions regarding Solomon.

Overall, while this was quite interesting and the performance was excellent, it left me depressed and disheartened after finishing it.  It's just further confirmation that our government is corrupt to the core and has been since the country was founded.  I'm frankly a little less proud to be an American after reading it, since I now know how the government treated the people who gave it the tools to make it the great nation is is today.  The Machiavellian nature of the Founding Fathers is despicable.  This is a very, very good read and I certainly recommend it, but you should also prepare yourself to lose a large chunk of faith in your country by the time you finish it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Featured Book: The Willing by Gary Smith

At the age of Sixty-Five, a retired Warren Steelgrave is getting bored with life. He decides that unlike his friends of his age he is not going to sit around playing golf, waiting to die. He is going to Italy to start the last chapter of his life and find adventure.

Be careful what you wish for, adventure is what he finds. He falls in love with Cindy O’Brian a singer songwriter in his Italian language class in Florence Italy. Little did they realize the chain of events that would engulf them. Someone was watching, but who and why?

He discovers she might not be who she appears to be, but, still decides to help her flee Italy, and the chase begins.

Before it’s over there will be two dead bodies, a secret government file, a jealous husband, fake identities, a safe house, personal betrayal as the FBI is searching for them and others want to kill them both.

About the author:

Gary Smith was born in Hayward California. Gary Smith is a retired Electrical Contractor, photographer and writer who has family in the United States and Italy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum might not be the world’s greatest bounty hunter, but she knows when she’s being played. Ken Globovic (aka Gobbles), hailed as the Supreme Exalted Zookeeper of the animal house known as Zeta fraternity, has been arrested for beating up the dean of students at Kiltman College. Gobbles has missed his court date and gone into hiding. People have seen him on campus, but no one will talk. Things just aren’t adding up, and Stephanie can’t shake the feeling that something funny is going on at the college—and it’s not just Zeta fraternity pranks.

As much as people love Gobbles, they hate Doug Linken. When Linken is gunned down in his backyard it’s good riddance, and the list of possible murder suspects is long. The only people who care about finding Linken’s killer are Trenton cop Joe Morelli, who has been assigned the case, security expert Ranger, who was hired to protect Linken, and Stephanie, who has her eye on a cash prize and hopefully has some tricks up her sleeve.

From the library.

I finally, finally got around to listening to this and I'm glad I didn't rush when it first came out since it wasn't really that great.

I know that all the Stephanie Plum books have a formula and that's why we like them.  They're comforting and you know there will be a) sexy times, b) humor, c) a bit of action, d) a happy ending.  However, this formula also leads to a bit of boredom since what used to be fun at the beginning of the series is now just yawn worthy.

The characters are just the same and everyone performs their roles flawlessly.  Stephanie continues to be bumbling yet inexplicably desirable to both Morelli and Ranger.  Ranger is still mysterious and hot.  Grandma is still out of control and smile worthy.  Lula is still wild and an amusing sidekick.  Morelli is the only one with a bit of character development this time around and that by perhaps only a half step.

The story was bland and the "mystery" boring and tedious.  I frankly didn't care what happened or when as long as it ended quickly.

The reader, Lorelei King, however was her usual amazing self.  She did a beautiful job making each character come to life and made listening to the story infinitely more enjoyable.

Overall, despite the excellent reader the book was just plain blah.  I didn't dislike it, but I didn't really like it either.  It was just sort of there like a glass of room temperature water.  If you've read the other books in the series it might be worth it to take a look at this as well but you won't be missing anything if you don't.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

Monday, September 12, 2016

Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere.

But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else . . .

From my personal collection.

This series was recommended by a friend who had heard good things about it before she read it so I picked up the set while shopping at Barnes & Noble one day.  I was actually rather surprised to find it in the romance section rather than the fantasy section where I'd initially looked for it.  Frankly, unless there is a giant 180 degree change in character personality in the next two books I genuinely have no idea how this could possibly ever become a romance.  Angry sex, sure, but romance, not so much.

The writing in the first couple chapters was slightly below expectations.  It was okay, but just that.  It wasn't bad enough to stop reading (think dollar store chocolate) but it certainly didn't draw you in and keep you wanting to read more (think Godiva truffle).  I'm not entirely sure if the writing actually improved over the course of the book or if I just stopped caring but by the end it didn't seem as much of a train wreck.  If the series hadn't been recommended to me I probably would have just shrugged, called it a loss, and abandoned it midway through the first chapter.

The author also clearly read Anne Rice's Beauty trilogy (quartet now, I suppose) and the similarities were beyond minimal.  Pleasure slaves - check.  Gold body paint - check.  Decorating the slaves with jewels - check.  Grooming and pampering of slaves with perfumed oils - check.

The sex scenes (all two of them) were rather yawn worthy.  Thankfully there were no "throbbing manhoods" but the vagueness of the wording left me wondering at points.  I actually had to remind myself in one scene that yes, the character was indeed receiving a blowjob.

The lack of descriptive detail was not restricted to the scenes with sexual content.  There was an instance where the author noted that "a ceramic" was broken.  She never did say what the ceramic was.  Was it a ceramic vase?  A ceramic dog?  A giant ceramic wall hanging ouroboros?  We'll never know because she never told us.  I actually found this inordinately distracting and zoned out wondering just what it could have been that was broken instead of focusing on the (supposedly) climactic scene.  Later, there was a scene where the author had a servant running under the belly of a horse which left me wondering for an unnecessarily long time just how big the horse was and how small the servant was and completely zoning out on the rest of the scene.

What concerned me the most, however, was the pedophilia that the author felt acceptable to include.  This wasn't just slightly underage seventeen year old with an eighteen year old, it was middle aged men with thirteen and fourteen year old boys.  It was like "Dude, really?  That's just not cool."  Thankfully that was not an issue with the main characters who were both of age but the mere inclusion was a bit unnecessary and distasteful.

Overall, this was a decent read.  Was it something I'd force on all my friends?  No.  But it didn't deserve Fahrenheit 451 treatment either.  I actually closed the book and felt completely neutral about it.  Do I want to read the second book?  Sure.  Did I feel the need to start it moments after I finished the first?  No.  Really, the best I can say about it is that it was good.  It was definitely a solid three and while I wouldn't say that I particularly recommend it I don't recommend against it either.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Featured Book: Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly

Cosmos is a flower. Cosmos Screen is a patch of cosmos flowers observed at the age of five; iconic pleasant first memories for the author. It is from this screen that he relates the story of his life. It is also the screen beyond which he relates something of his ancestry.

The story follows the author from that cosmos screen in rural southern Alabama in 1930, through the Great Depression of the thirties, World War 11, his college years, then through his professional development as an artist educator, and describes his travels to forty-six countries.

Throughout all of this the author threads stories of his secret struggles to satisfy his sexual desires while maintaining the secret of his, and his older brother's, homosexual life. Religion, racism, homophobia and poverty are described as issues against which the author struggles along with the alienation that these issues develop for the author and for his brother. Intriguing stories told with analytical insight.

About the author:

The author is a retired university professor, who describes his struggles of life in a fundamentalist religious family, a homophobic and racist society, and rural southern poverty. He left home at the age of 18 and served three years in the United State Air Force. He attended the University of Hawaii, the University of Florida and George Peabody College of Education. He taught art and World Geography in junior and senior high school. He earned his doctor's degree in 1965 after which he became a university professor who obtained recognition as an acclaimed art educator. He is an artist, a photographer, a world traveler, an atheist and an advocate for racial and gay rights. He has lectured and exhibited in Denmark, Brazil and China. His travels have taken him to forty-six foreign countries with one trek along the Silk Route in the Gobi desert of China. He has enjoyed home stays in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Irkutsk, Russia as well as Kunming, China, Uzbekistan and Denmark. In this story, he relates the events of his life and examines them from an optimistic philosophical reference. His pain of having to live a secret life, his sexual explorations, his seeking companionship and love are described without blame. His family's economic struggles as a Southern sharecropper established a fear of poverty that permeates all other events. At the same time he credits effusively those who aided him or directed him on this journey. The Cosmos Screen is the backdrop against which he tells his story.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Featured Book: Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash

Cave Kiddos is a fun book about four Paleolithic children who share the experience of developing and learning important words and concepts.

Join Alk, Haha, Lala, and Zee as they discover the world around them.

About the author:

Eric Jay Cash became fascinated with speech and developmental learning when he worked with his children who are both delayed speakers. He lives in a cave on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and two cave kiddos.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Featured Book: Being a Captain is Hard Work by Carole P. Roman

Captain No Beard is determined to travel to Dew Rite Volcano.

He won't listen when Mongo predicts a storm or Linus indicates they are headed in the wrong direction.

He insists Polly cook in the galley even though the seas are getting rough.

What's a crew to do with a stubborn, know-it-all captain?

Will they convince the captain he is barreling headlong into danger, or will Captain No Beard jeopardize both his safety and the crew’s with his single-minded determination to go where he wants?

About the author:

Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of the much lauded children’s book Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life. Her experience as a former social studies teacher is wonderfully apparent in her popular If You Were Me and Lived in… series, which now includes more than sixteen books.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Featured Book: If You Were Me and Lived in... Egypt by Carole P. Roman

Join Carole P. Roman when she visits the stunning and exciting land of Egypt in the newest book of her informative series.

Learn why this ancient land often called "the cradle of civilization.”

Travel down the Nile to discover Egypt's fascinating history.

See the land through the eyes of a youngster like you and understand what life is like in this exotic place.

Don't forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair world traveler.

About the author:

Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of the much lauded children’s book Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life. Her experience as a former social studies teacher is wonderfully apparent in her popular If You Were Me and Lived in… series, which now includes more than sixteen books.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Featured Book: Betraying the Dragon by Robert G. Kay

In this sequel to “Pass Me The Rice,” retired Navy Lieutenant Kay accepts an Admiral’s invitation to return to Vietnam for a specific purpose.

When that task was completed and all the US Forces withdrew from Vietnam, Kay joins the Defense Attaché Office, Vietnam.

This organization replaced the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam and was responsible for managing the remaining US support for the Vietnamese government.

Kay describes the mounting dread that encompassed the South and the ensuing events that led up to the country’s collapse in April 1975.

About the author:

Born and raised in Northern New Jersey to parents of Greek-American descent, he enlisted in the Navy for four years. Attained the rate of Quartermaster-Signalman First Class and became UDT qualified. After the Navy, he attended the University of Minnesota receiving a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a BSME in Engineering. Upon graduation in 1963, attended Navy OCS and received a commission as an Ensign. In 1967, he volunteered for Vietnam duty and was assigned as Senior Advisor to Junk Force Coastal Group 41. Later transferred to Staff Headquarters, he established a monthly Advisor’s Newsletter that won the Chief of Naval Information’s Best Newsletter Award for 3rd Quarter ’67. He extended his tour to become Senior Advisor to VN River Assault Group 24. With less than two months to go, he was wounded and medevac’d home. After his leg was amputated below the knee, he retired from the Navy. Commander Naval Forces Vietnam, Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, requested that he return to Vietnam to head a unit to assist VN Navy Disabled Veterans. His Anthropology degree made him a natural Advisor. When the US Military withdrew from Vietnam in March 1973, he joined the Defense Attaché Office, Saigon as the Administrative Officer for the N-4 Logistics Office. After eight years in-country, he, his Vietnamese wife, and three-month-old daughter were evacuated to the States in late April 1975 when the North Vietnamese had surrounded Saigon. He then joined PERA (CRU-DES) in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as the Repair Engineer for Battleships and Cruisers, and after twenty-two years of Civil Service, he retired. They now reside in Pensacola, FL where he works at his writing.