Saturday, April 28, 2012

Getting the Solution Squared

  Some books are just fun to read.  They may be somewhat serious but that doesn't mean they can't be light as well. Sometimes a book is borderline, not quite light and not quite serious. Hunt for Red October was serious; One for the Money is not. Today's book is one in between. I once read a critique of the Wilder/Ford movie Cisco Kid which said the movie couldn't make up its mind if it were a drama or a comedy which offended me. Not just because I liked the movie, although I did, but because life is neither all serious nor all comedy. Now we have all sorts of "dramedies", those movies that are comedies with lots of drama thrown in.  TV shows as well. Mike Fontenot's Solution Squares is just the opposite, a drama with comedy thrown in much like NCIS. Written lightly about some very serious goings on, it is indeed interesting.

Solution Squared
By Michael P. Fontenot
Published by Center Mass Books
lengt: 446 pages
ISBN 1-453-83240-8

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Get a FREE copy of Doxology !!

 It's not often that we get an author willing to give out free books, so here's your chance.   We've done reviews here at A Book a Day Reviews, so check out what we had to say, and get your copy for free while you can!  The instructions are at the bottom of this post.  
                                                                     -Gabriella Wheeler

Read my review of Doxology here -- Gabriella
Read my interview with Brian Holers here -- Gabriella

                          FREE One Day Only: April 26
                       An Engaging and Haunting Southern Tale

Fathers, sons and brothers reconnect over tragedy in this blue-collar Southern tale of love, loss and the healing power of community and family.

Doxology does for small town Louisiana men what Steel Magnolias did for small-town Louisiana women, exposing flaws while showcasing their inner strengths. It is a tale of grandfathers, fathers, sons and brothers, and recreates family dynamics and memories in a way that forms a doxology, a song of praise for the male family bond, the emotional ties men conceal from the world and each other.

About Doxology

After a lifetime of abuse and loss--from fights with other boys staged for his father's entertainment, to the death of his only son-- sixty one year old Vernon Davidson is angry. He's ready to get back at God, his paper mill coworkers, and everyone else in his north Louisiana town. Constantly drunk to numb his pain, the normally cautious Vernon spirals into recklessness; drinking on the job, facing down a younger man at work over a parking spot, scandalizing his former fellow Baptists with displays of his nakedness. Meanwhile Jody Davidson, Vernon's estranged nephew, struggles to survive a similarly tragic past by self-imposed exile, inserting himself into a new, seemingly different family a thousand miles away. The two men are reunited when Vernon agrees to retrieve Jody for his dying brother so they can say goodbye-and that's when they each embark on a journey that will ultimately change their lives.

Brian Holers’ Doxology examines an impossibly difficult question: how does a man go about forgiving a God he has grown to despise after the tragedies and endless disappointments he has faced?

Follow Vernon and Jody on their road from loss to healing in this deep and moving book that will challenge and surprise you, as it takes you deep into the backwaters of rural Louisiana.

The Reviews Are In

" An Engaging and Haunting Southern Tale" ~Alle Wells, Southern Writer

The story of fathers and sons, brothers and cousins, had me laughing out loud one minute and bawling like a baby the next.” ~A. Chambers, Book Blogger

The author shapes his characters with love and respect. In writing of the Southern world in which these men reside, he avoids the use of dialect. Instead, he skillfully builds the cadence of life particular to the rural South with words pictures of that slower lifestyle. His characters meander through the telling of slow, roundabout tales, always interrupted with side forays to detail the family connections of everyone in that story. Friends, as well as strangers, visit through the open window of dusty pickups, lean on a broom or shovel throughout a conversation because the work will still be there after all the local news is exchanged. The reader longs to be sipping the sweet iced tea in the afternoon heat, to smell the smoke from the local barbeque pit before diving into a plate of tender ribs, or to taste the yeasty beer or sharp slide of whiskey across the tongue after the sun goes down.” ~Suzanne G, Author

Call me a feminist, but I have never read anything so `emotional' written by a man. No offense to all the other male writers, but somewhere down the line, I find that they are usually unable to tap into emotions as well as the female authors do. But Brian Holers has managed to break through that and has captured the true essence of emotional ties/bonds that make a family.” ~Book Blogger


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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Secular Monastery: Chess anyone?

    Sometimes I think of the weirdest stuff when getting ready to write a review.  I mean, do you think you could compare books to sports? Still, they are a lot alike.  Some books are full out action with tons of hits and danger like, say, demolition derby (do those still exist?)  Others have an abundance of hitting and action but with some down time between the action like boxing.  Others are slow and intricate and would be closest to golf where half the action is in the set up and delivery before every impact.  Then there are some books that are like chess. The action is not as important as the intricate way the pieces fit together to complete the game.  The action is all in the brain, no hits, no jabs, just straight out mental maneuvering.  And the thing is, different people like different sports for, well, different reasons. Not only that, but some people like a little bit of them all. Those who like football for the action may not like the slow delivery of baseball but those that enjoy both the action and the play calling of football, might well enjoy the stats and gamesmanship of baseball.
The Secular Monastery     The Secular Monastery is one of those books that more closely resembles chess than demolition derby or even football.  Pieces and people are moved around the set with great care, building a story that can grab your attention without constantly keeping you off balance by throwing action at you.

  • The Secular Monastery
  • By John D. Steinbruner
  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (September 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1461164621
  • ISBN-13: 978-1461164623

From Amazon:
     There’s been an apparent terrorist attack on a government laboratory that has been conducting controversial experiments using the smallpox virus. Professor David Turner is surreptitiously tasked by a wary president to investigate the incident independent of a formal commission appointed for the purpose. The assignment makes him an emissary to a powerful watchdog organization that provides indispensable assets but also subjects him to their scrutiny. Seeking to assure his independence, David enlists an American student with Iranian parentage to help him weigh evidence that Iran was responsible for the attack. He also develops an increasingly consequential relationship with an aide to the President assigned to monitor his project. As he struggles with his assignment under the pressure of politically ominous and potentially violent threat, he taps the deeper currents of global politics and personal relationships. Not able to disentangle his own fate from the outcome of the investigation, he encounters the ambiguities and dangers but also the liberating qualities of truth.

About the book:
     David Turner, a widowed university professor, is asked to do an independent review of the bombing of a CDC facility where deadly viruses are stored, including the smallpox virus. No one know why the bombing occurred but there are many theories. The president, a somewhat distant friend of David's, doesn't fully trust the independent nature of the government commission looking into the bombing so he calls on David.  He doesn't want David tainted by the official commission and so has put him in touch with Hayden Hall, a totally independent group of people with enough finances and connections to help David with a full scale investigation.  The president also gives him Amy, a presidential aide, who will keep him advised on things coming from the White House.
     David is stunned by the 'appointment' but takes it on despite his misgivings. He meets with the Hayden Hall people and finds their resources shocking.  In some ways it rivals the government's own reach.  After a thorough interview, the people there decide to help David uncover the truth about the bombing of the clinic. There are those, however, who will go to great lengths to stop David from reporting the wrong information to the president. There are those who have hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, who have a vested interest in what David choses to report.
      Lastly, can David really trust Amy?  The president thinks so but men have been lead astray before. And there is the bit that happened in the Middle East to think about when adding up the trust points.  And was Amy just a little too quick to 'like' David?

My Take:
    I enjoyed this story. Actually, I enjoyed it quite a lot except for a minor thing or two. First, the writing is good and the language is a little upscale which is a nice change from books written at an eighth grade comprehension level. But it does mean an occasional, "What does that word mean?" or "I may have to get the dictionary!" or" I haven't seen that word in months!" response. I think what it means to me is I'm not reading up to my grade level most of the time.
   The flow of the text is good, as well.  I mean, I have to appreciate someone who can come up with a character who says things like: “What can be proved and what I need to know rarely dance together."
     Steinbruner weaves an intricate pattern with tiny threads coming from nowhere - or so it seems - but that fit perfectly well. The investigation feels just like an investigation should. Bits of information here, a phone number there, a witness who sees nothing but doesn't know that they know something are all weaved into a pattern that becomes clear before the end of the book. Tiny threads actually do lead back to a spool and aren't from nowhere as they might seem in the beginning.
      By about halfway through the book I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  You know the feeling.  All is going just a little too smoothly. Well, drop it did, but less like a work boot and more like a bedroom slipper. For me that was a little bit disappointing. The twist was a subtle one and if you don't follow the book closely you might not get the full impact of the twist. But the book itself is a case of subtle writing where the danger is quite real but not in your face real. I will say that I didn't see it coming at all, which is a good thing. The story, because of its subtlety is do close to real life that it is actually scary when one thinks these kinds of maneuvers go on all the time behind mostly closed doors. 

   I would recommend this to anyone who likes intricate mind games made real. Think of the movie "Sleuth" for instance. If you like following conspiracy theories and watching Senate hearings, if you like following the scent (or money), I think you will really enjoy this book.  The writing kept me engaged and the clues and trails kept me turning the page.
   Want more? Try this interview.