Saturday, October 15, 2011

Who IS Abby?

Let's call this Suspense Saturday for now because the book I am bringing to you today is full of suspense. It may seem odd but even though we know who the bad guys are, there is so much more to this little book.

Who IS Abigail Mitchell Available
   Eye of the God
   By Ariel Allison
   Publisher: Abingdon Press Fiction; Original edition
   ISBN: 1426700687

   From GoodReads:
    When jewel thieves attempt to steal the Hope Diamond, Dr Abigail Mitchell stands in their way. Abby's  faith is put to the test as she confronts the father who abandoned her, the betrayal of the only man she has  ever loved, and the possibility that she may lose her live because of the legendary gem.

  About this book:
     The book prolog tells of the purchase of a blue diamond in the 1653. Here we learn the tale of the diamond's beginnings. The book opens in the present day during Carnival in Brazil. Here we meet the girl from the Smithsonian, Abby Mitchell, as she tries to warn an art museum director of an impending theft - a theft that happens in the next few minutes!
   Thieves, Alex and Isaac Weld, steal from the museum and take Abby's beautiful ring at gun point before slipping off into the crowd of Carnival. The brothers work for a person they only know as the Broker and he takes orders from the Collectors, people who pay high prices for masters' artwork, even if that work must be stolen. In fact, it is the work that cannot be bought they seem to want most.  And now they have set their eyes on the Hope Diamond, the very thing Abby is creating a fund raiser around at the Smithsonian.
  Between the story of Abby, Alex, and Isaac, the author weaves the myths concerning the Hope Diamond itself. Those tales cover, in detail, three of the owners of the diamond and how the curse of the Hope Diamond was true for them
   When Abby returns to Washington D. C., Alex Weld poses as a freelance article writer who wishes to interview Abby. With charm and grace, he manages to worm his way into not only her heart but into the event where the Hope Diamond will be the center piece.
   Add to this the shadowy characters, Abby's father and Abby's two best friends and you have some real intrigue.

My take:
    This is a suspense story with a dash of romance, just a perfect amount to feel real without overdoing it. I did enjoy the 'back story' of the Hope Diamond but I warn the reader even this is a tale, not history. 
   The characters felt fully fleshed out to me, at least the main two characters of Abby and Alex. The reader is allowed to follow the process of the bad guys and the good guys throughout the story. The real question is not who is the bad guy; the real question is who is Abby and what is she doing? For me this was more intriguing than if the author had hidden the thieves from our view. 
    There are several questionable actions taken by Abby and others, and the reader starts to wonder what is going on here. The truth is, until you get to the end, you don't really know why some things are done. What is Abby hiding? What is her father hiding? And who are DeDe and Dow and how do they figure into the story? These are the questions that make the book suspenseful.

   I recommend this book to all readers since the romance is basically chaste and the violence minimal. After seeing other reviews, I find that women tend to like the book better than men. I suspect it is because women are less likely to demand as much realism as men.  I, for one, found it disturbing, having done major events in my time, that Abby had so much free time the week of the event. There were other things that demanded a suspension of belief but this only slightly distracted me from enjoying the story.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Son, Brother, Husband, Father - Soldiers Them All

Poetry is an extremely personal matter. For me, I prefer poems that have rhythm, cadence, and tell a story; think Casey at Bat. Free verse was never something I enjoyed and seldom can appreciate and it is much harder for me to determine if such a poem is "good" or well written. So what I am left with is, did it make me feel? I don't care much for poetry that hides underneath conventional imagery, though, to prove to an English professor anyone can use imaginary, I wrote a poem full of it. It got published! Still, I prefer imaginary that one does not have to have a code to figure out (red is for passion, green for immaturity and on and on), imaginary that speaks to your being without having dissected the poem.
So when I was asked to review today's selection, I was a bit concerned. After all, who am I to judge something so personal. To say I was glad I did would be like saying I'm glad there is a Sunday in every week.

For Non-Fiction Friday:

 Poignant Poetry Available
     I Never Raised My Son to Be a Soldier
     by David McDonald
     Pages: 76

    From Amazon:
    The second of David's poetry Trilogy "I NEVER RAISED MY SON TO BE A SOLDIER" continues a hard  and honest look at military life for those who deploy to conflict. David portrays his own emotions in some highly crafted pieces which allow the reader, to flex their own 'emotion centres'. He gives credence to the 'realities' of War which most fail to fully engage with.David lays his soul bare, it is sometimes uncomfortable, yet very compulsive reading and a rollercoaster of emotions and very humbling.

 About this book:
      This book contains graphic war poetry from the front,  from the home front, and from the family perspectives. It tells not only the soldiers' stories but also their families'. Readers should be aware, there is some profanity.

My take:
     To me, good poetry has always been poetry that moves me, to laughter, to tears, to FEEL. So when it comes to I Never Raised My Son to Be a Soldier, much of the book excels. A warning readers, these poems can pack a powerful punch. I could not read it in several sittings, let alone one. It is too much like watching the landing at Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan over and over. There are no Where Have All the Flowers Gone found within these pages.
   McDonald's choice for his introduction, an excerpt from Marching Song, was perfect to set the tone for these poems. It gave me goose bumps, a foretelling of what was to come with many of McDonald's own poems.
   The first set of poems deal with the politics of war.  There is some profanity but it does reflect the sense of frustration with this aspect of war. From there the reader moves into the front. Here the imaginary in the poems are blunt, clear, and graphic, reverberating the nature of their subject. The Orchestra was one such poem. The next poems tend to deal with people left at home and later are poems dealing with PTSD.
    One poem in particular stuck with me, What is Happening. The dedication at the end of the poem says it all. Another, Dreaded Bad News, has a twist that you might not see coming but McDonald manages to carry the poem through to that twist providing an even more poignant ending.
    In some ways this book spoke directly to me. A Military Man is such a poem. Having been in the reserves, I full well knew we sent troops to the front with virtually no weapons training because there were no funds to provide bullets for training the Reserves and National Guard. Yet we activated over a hundred thousand of them. I believe those who were actually in the fighting or had someone dear in the fighting will be quite affected by I Never Raised My Son to Be a Soldier.
      If you read nothing else from this book, please read: The Promise; I Think Daddy Will Go to Hell; Through a Kid's Eyes; and Our Honoured Soldier as well as the ones I have already mentioned. It will give  you not only a taste for McDonald's poetry but will, I hope, move you as it did me.
    This book, like my blog, could use with some better editing but it does not distract from the reading of the poems.

     I will say again that poetry is a very personal thing and who am I to say what is good or bad. However, I was deeply affected by many of these poems and trust that many of you will be as well.  I believe that anyone who is interested in how war affects people will find this a good source.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

5 minute Mysteries and Influence over all.

Okay, so I am still setting up this blog.  If you have been following it, you may have noticed the About Me section is gone. Oops! Didn't mean to do that. Oh, dear so is the What I Review section. Dog gone son of a gun. Well, never fear, our blog now has two of us as you can see from the contributors section.  We will need to put up new pages with all the information that disappeared and even more. (Yeah, I finally learned how to do pages. What can I say?) So look for our new pages by the end of next week. Meanwhile we keep blogging along.

Throwaway Thursday's Choice:
   I love puzzles. Each day at breakfast we work at least two code word puzzles and sometimes a crypto family puzzle.  I prefer either extremely hard puzzles, some I have been known to work on for years, yes - that's right, years -  or I like easy puzzles that can be solved in less than 30 minutes. I also like the 20 questions puzzles but I truly like the 20 question puzzle that doesn't really need any questions asked if one only thinks at a bit of a slant.
     Here's one of those for you:
     A man walks into a snack bar and asks the girl at the counter for a glass of water, she pulls a gun, he says thank you and leaves. Explain this.

   Today my choice is a puzzle book.  Actually it is another series of books but for now I will give you just one.

    Cleverly Crafty 5 Minute Mysteries
    By Ken Weber
    Published by: Running Press
    Pages: 192 including solutions

    From Amazon:
    As Ken Weber says, there are two kinds of people: the ones who love mysteries and the handful who don’t. The throngs who wait eagerly for every new book in the Five Minute Mysteries series will be richly rewarded with this one that takes us from city to country, from a bank to a beach, and all over the world. They’ll encounter detectives, thieves, and murderers, a sub-lieutenant searching for deserters during the Napoleonic Wars, an undercover KGB agent and a centurion in the Roman Empire. In all, there are 40 mysteries-40 chances to fly away from the drudgery of normal life for five minutes of high drama in another time and place. Sign us up!

  About the book:
    Here I haven't much to say since the product description says it all. There are 40 short scenarios with a mystery involved in each.  The reader must solve the mystery. Remember, these aren't too tough and are mysteries suitable for young adults and some even younger. I must say one thing, though. If you get this on a Kindle be sure to mark both the page you are reading and the page where the answers are so you can use the go to feature.  I have this in paperback but one of the complaints on Amazon is the difficulty in going between the mystery and the answer. Given that you also have to find the answer once you get to the place they start, you may be accidentally seeing other answers which is really not fun at all.

My take:
     As I said, I have several of these books. The first one I recieved was outstanding but others had mysteries that were too predictable.  Some of this is because as you do them, you start to know what to look for in the scenario. Some of this is because the books are for young people and as we age we learn more giving us a bigger pool of knowledge to draw from. How many times on TV crime shows have we seen the killer forget to move the car seat either up or back, thus giving himself away? Someone new to mysteries may not have seen that 10 dozen times already.  So, I can't say this book is 'easier' than the first book I had but I can say it is better than some of the middle books.
    The writing style is simple and as direct as it can be without giving away the clues. I enjoyed the different settings and the different characters in the snippets which made solving the mystery more fun. 

  I liked this book and would suggest it for anyone into fast reason puzzles or as a gift for someone who like simple reason puzzles. Oh, yes and the answer is the man had the hiccups. 

Wednesday October 12

Wild card Wednesday is here! Boy how time does fly when you're trying to pack for the winter, clean the house for a showing (our house is for sale), create a new blog, and read all at once.  Haven't figured out how to combine all those things into one simple task yet but as Harrison Ford said in the Raiders of the Lost Ark - "I'm working on it." Yes, I am one of those people who collect movie lines. If you have some favorites, please share.

Today, since I am not quite through with my new books, I am bringing you another oldie but goodie. It is another non-fiction but trust me, it is an outstanding book.

    Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
    By Robert B. Cialdini, PHD
   Publisher: My book is out of print. Revised book: Harper Paperbacks
    Pages: mine w/o index 306 Revised edition: 336

  From Dr. Cialdini
  "It is through the influence process that we generate and manage change. 
As such, it is important for those wishing to create and sustain practical change to understand fully the workings of the influence process. Fortunately, a vast body of scientific evidence now exists on how, when, and why people say yes to influence attempts. From this formidable body of work, I have extracted six universal principles of influence--those that are so powerful that they generate desirable change in the widest range of circumstances." 

 About this book:
      Dr. Cialdini outlines six principles of influence in his book, giving detailed information about each, including stories from his own life where he has been influenced. I can't forget the pretty girl at his doorstep, taking a survey. Oops, Doctor! He gives examples of where the principles have worked, what the reason is behind each principle, how it can be used, and how to tell when it is being used on you. These principles are reciprocation, commitment/consistency, authority, social validation, scarcity, and liking/friendship.

My take:
    It is unfortunate that I haven't read the revised edition. I fear some of what I remember may not be in the revised edition and I hate to disappoint you. Still, I believe the revised book must be outstanding because the edition I have was simply GREAT. 
    When I first went into fundraising for a small political party, I looked for help wherever I could find it. I picked up several books on raising money and picked the brain of many people. Michael CLoud, a fantastic speaker and a raiser of many a dollar suggested this book to me. My first thought was, "How is this going to help with fundraising?" After starting the book, my thought was, "Boy, I recognize these studies!"  I had studied psychology for years in college but we never, ever looked at those studies the way Cialdini does. And Cialdini answers such questions as: why do political candidates put out so many yard signs? - social proof or validation; why do Krishnas give away flowers? - reciprocation.
   The writing style is simple and elegant. It drew me in with the short stories Cialdind uses for illustration. It kept me there with straightforward explanations for how and why people react to a given circumstance.
    Over the years I have recommended Influence to an untold number of friends and business associates.  I believe if there is only one book a salesman, a manager, a fundraiser, a boss, or just about anyone reads to help them understand and get ahead in this world, Influence should be THE book. The value of the book goes way beyond the cost of buying the book which is more than I can say for most books of this nature. Influence would be cheap at four times the price and then some. It can save you money, it can help you make money, it can even help you understand some of those pesky emotions we have.
    Here's a real life example from my former work.  Decades ago there was this little toothpaste company that was at the bottom of the heap. It changed one line in its commercial advertising. That change shot them into third position of all the nation's toothpaste companies. Remembering this, I used this and what Cialdini wrote to add two simple lines in my fundraising letters. I more than doubled my usual donations and responses. So what did Gleem toothpaste say in their ads? "We know it is not always possible to brush three times a day." And what did I use? We know not everyone can be on the front lines fighting but can you help those that are?  It is up to you, dear reader, to discover what principle these two things represent by reading Influence.

   I most highly recommend Influence to everyone, whether they be the seller or buyer, the asker or donor, the boss or employee. This book is simply written but deep. The reading level is YA and above, though an avid reader much younger could read it and quite possibly benefit from it.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Doors into Unknown Worlds

100 Cupboards
By N. D. Wilson
Publisher: Yearling

Twelve-year-old Henry York wakes up one night to find bits of plaster in his hair. Two knobs have broken through the wall above his bed and one of them is slowly turning . . .Henry scrapes the plaster off the wall and discovers cupboards of all different sizes and shapes. Through one he can hear the sound of falling rain. Through another he sees a glowing room–with a man pacing back and forth! Henry soon understands that these are not just cupboards, but portals to other worlds.

100 Cupboards is the first book of a new fantasy adventure, written in the best world-hopping tradition and reinvented in N. D. Wilson’s inimitable style.

About the book:
       Henry has come to live with his Uncle Frank, Aunt Dotty, and  his three cousins when his parents are taken hostage in Colombia.  He really doesn't know these people and it takes him back a little.  His parents have always been extra protective of Henry but his uncle and aunt are so much different, even letting his ride in the back of their pickup. 
       When Henry get to his new home, he finds himself on a farm, a place unfamiliar in many ways. His bedroom is in the attic, where his three cousins corner Henry to get to know him better. Henrietta, his middle cousin takes to Henry right away, although Henry is a little unsure of her and everything else.
       Late at night he hears noises coming from behind his wall which has been covered over. Eventually, trying to find the source of the noises, he uncovers a wall containing cupboard doors. Henrietta catches on to him and  becomes his partner in crime as they discover not only that there are worlds on the other side of the cupboards but also as they explore those new worlds. Only trouble is, they release an evil witch into their own world!

My take:
     I loved the cousins in this book.  Henrietta is inquisitive and daring. Anastasia is cute and funny. Penny is just straightforward and practical.  They remind me of my nieces! Henry is tumbled into a world he is just not ready for having been so protected by his parents.
   The story itself is a little involved, looping between the cupboards and looping between cupboards and 'real life'.  At times I wondered why we learned about some of the places Henry and Henrietta explored because it seemed to be off track from the story. Little did I know there was so much more to the story than just this first book!
    The worlds the kids explore are exotic at times and Wilson does such a good job of describing them that I could almost smell what Henry smelt and feel what Henry felt, from the spongy moss to the crumbling rock wall. Even the weird ballroom came through clear in my mind. Authors often have a hard time presenting descriptions of exotic places clear enough that the reader can see it as if they were there.  Wilson has no problem with this.
      I was constantly wondering what was behind each door. And all through the book, I was wondering, just what is Aunt Dotty and Uncle Frank really hiding.

  I did enjoy this book.  I enjoyed it enough to buy the second book in this series, Dandelion Fire.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys early to middle grade fiction. The read is easy but the plot is involved. I also would recommend the second book in the series.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

For a Good Time Call---

Throwaway book - a fun to read book without much seriousness, easy to read and easy to give away.

I love throwaway books.  You read them once, maybe twice if they are truly fun and then you pass them on to friends, to enemies, to the goodwill. Or if you're like me, you stick them on your shelves just in case you have an overnight guest who wants something quick and easy to read.  These books are not keepers by any means. You don't keep them as classics; you don't even keep them because they have something profound written in them. Most people don't even keep them. But I do so love them anyway. It is like taking a vacation. You can go somewhere profound like the Mexican ruins, or somewhere memorable like overseas, or somewhere beautiful like the Canadian Rockies. Or you can just go to the local amusement park for the weekend. I see books as a vacation and throwaway books are those trips to the local amusement park.

So today I am reviewing the series by Janet Evanovich about Stephanie Plum, a young woman who out of desperation and a lack of desire for a real job becomes a bounty hunter for her cousin. Now dear reader, there are fun people in these books: a bun-toting grandma; a father that rarely speaks; a mother who crosses herself as she reaches for the bottle. There are fun and enticing people who are introduced to us as the series progresses: a former prostitute who tends to wear clothes a little too small for her full figured frame; a boyfriend cop that Plum has an on again off again relationship with; a black ops type guy who Plum has an on again off again relationship with when she’s away from her cop friend; her boss and his secretary.

This series is fun, the action is fun, the characters are fun, even the bad guys are fun.  Each book you will be looking for the following: 

Who died so grandma can go to the viewing and get cookies? Note she does NOT do well with close casket funerals.
How is Plum going to describe her grandfather's death this time - Bought the farm? Driving that big Buick in the sky? Each time it is something different.
What is going to happen to Plum’s car this time – blown up; burnt up; plunged into a lake; stolen?
What is Lulu, the ex-hooker going to wear this time?
How many times it that simple arrest going to elude Plum before she gets her man?
And finally, how many different ways can Ranger say “Babe.”

If you want something fun to read and you haven't stumbled onto this series, I suggest you give it a try. A friend of mine said these books are just Plum good and one who have to be Plum crazy not to read books that are just Plum fun. I think he went on for several more plums but you get the idea. Please do start at the beginning of the series because like all books in this vein, the stories in the middle are always the best, after you get to know the characters and before they get stale.

That's One for the Money; Two for the Dough; Three to get Ready and so many more!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sensual - of or arousing gratification of the senses

Sensual Sunday - the day we will feature sensual things, from romance to cookbook mysteries.

Today's sensual choice is:
Will he or won't he? Available

Gold Fever - A Time Travel Romance
By Emma Daniels 
Publisher: Storm Publishing
Pages: 220

From Amazon:
Adrian O'Shea has just had the worst day of his life. Not only has his fience dumped him, his business has gone bankrupt. AND he finds himself 150 years in the past, taking the place of his great, great grandfather of the same name. Adrian soon learns that he has been returned to the past to fix up the mess his forefather was making of his life.

About the book:
     Adrian O'Shea just  learnt his fiance dumped him for his own brother, Mark, a worthless man who has already taken the family business into near bankruptcy.  Despondent, Adrian drops into a local bar but as he leaves, he passes out only to wake later lying on a barroom floor. But it's not the bar he remembered from earlier that night. As the bouncer drags him out, Adrian can't stand, feeling  like he has been beaten. Outside the bouncer puts him in a horse drawn cart. And so begins the new life for Adrian. 
     The next day he wakes, still in the cart, in front of his grandparents old house, though it doesn't look quite right. When he hears a door slam, he looks up to find a beautiful young woman. Even after he meets the girl, he doesn't know where he is.  A trip to town increases his confusion - people he doesn't know call him by name.
   Eventual Adrian realizes he in in the past, filling in for his great, great, grandfather Adrian and the girl he is so attracted to is actually his great, great grandmother Cassandra. Adrian now has three problems, his attraction to his great, great grandmother, how to get back to his own life, and finding out who is trying to kill him.

My take:
   Normally I don't read Romances because there is so little story to hang all that sensual, sexual tension and attraction on. But occasionally there is a real gem.  Good Fever is one of those. From almost the beginning, I sympathized with Adrian. While many may also sympathize with Cassandra and I did like her, my heart stayed with Adrian. I understand him.
   I like the characters in this book. Cassandra is a strong woman for the times, though not as strong as women of today. She does lean on her family but it is reasonable given it is the 1800's. Cassandra's father is another character I could identify with and probably know people just like him. (Maybe me?) This is one of the compelling parts of Gold Fever. Many of the characters are real enough the reader can relate to them easily.
   The plot is not deep nor are there any real twists.  The attempted murderer is not hidden from the view of the reader.  If there is anything the author could have improved on, it would have been making the plot more intricate and the end less stock. Never fear, however, the read is still good, particularly if you normally read Romances.
   I do have one caveat. The sexual scene about 64% into the book is extremely graphic. When I was a child, such a scene would have been considered x-rated. I suspect this is common in today's romance novels but I do want my readers to be aware it is there.
   I strongly recommend this to anyone who likes Romance novels and recommend it to anyone who likes quick, light reads with a good plot and good characters. 
    I purchased this book for $1.00 on Amazon Kindle.