Friday, June 29, 2012

A Virgin in the Philippines by W.H. Johnson

A travelogue extraordinaire! What a wonderful way to learn about the Philippines. Johnnie Johnson takes us on his first eye-opening six week trip in 2011 and we share his learning experiences right along with him.

Johnnie married a Filipina, Fay, late in life. This relationship is where Johnnie opens up his heart as well as his life to a new way of living and learning.

Being an educated man, Johnnie is able to articulate to his readers all the wonders of the Philippines with ease. We get to walk the colorful countryside and visit the rice fields. We ride on Lorries and Jeepneys on our way to family get-togethers.  His wife has a large extended family and Johnnie learns to fit right in.

We share Filipino culture in the preparation of delicious meals shared and the honest conversation spoken freely representing the culture. We go to church with Johnnie and Fay where his inner most thoughts are expressed to the reader.

Johnnie enjoys his visit as any reader can tell. However, he doesn’t sugar coat the problems in the Philippines. The government is in need of major improvement. We see this as Johnnie describes the ordeal Fay goes through trying to renew her driving license.

The people are optimistic, but Johnnie can’t help wondering why at times. For such hard working people, he thinks they should be better off than they are. He finds it mind-boggling that services offered are so inexpensive. He knows this first hand because he had to visit the dentist.

My daughter-in-law is Filipino and I feel I understand her better from reading A Virgin in the Philippines. Her extended family resembles Fay’s family in many ways.

Thank you to Johnnie Johnson for such a beautiful insight to daily life in the Philippines! I wish you and Fay much happiness and many more visits back to enjoy the Philippines.

Ruins by Vanessa Mills

Blameless and Screwed

Vanessa Mills wrote a very intense short story dealing with child abuse and the court system. A family of six children, four girls and two boys, lived with their neglectful mother, Claudine, and hardworking father, Eddie.

Eddie is accused of abusing the children, when in reality it is Claudine’s sleazy boyfriend doing the abusing. The mother was guilty herself of hitting her children besides looking the other way during the boyfriend’s abuse.

The father had no control over the court system.  Trying to the best of his ability to gain custody of his children, he eventually lost. In a most despicable way, his children were brainwashed and used in court for the mother’s benefit. The result is frustrating.

There is nothing worse than feeling helpless in your own life. Not being able to prove you are the better parent must be devastating. It was for this particular father, Eddie, and his children.

Depending on one’s point of view, the ending may be uplifting. Whatever the reader’s opinion, we are left routing for the children as they made their own decision.

Vanessa Mills wrote “Intermissions” in her story. These are worth reading over a few times as they touch our inner soul. They are apropos to her story and will bring tears to your eyes.

Ruins is a well written story which will break your heart and leave you furious with the court system.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Allah’s Revenge by Pete Barber

A Threat of Nanobots

Pete Barber has given us a fiction thriller about extremists who wish to do the United States harm. It is told in current time with painstaking research as it is a sensitive subject. The terrorist attack was carried out by an Islamic militant group called Allah’s Revenge. They killed two hundred innocent people in London, England and many world leaders at a G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea. The Vice President of the U.S. was killed in the G20 summit attack.

The Weapon of Mass Destruction is a mist of nanotechnology. Once released, people breathe in the mist and are dead within minutes. Allah’s Revenge recruits an Arab named Dawud Ferran, aka David Baker in the U.S. to do his dirty work with the WPD.

The main character is a British detective named Quinn. He puts his life and job on the line to get to the bottom of the terrorist’s plot to destroy the world. He travels to Jerusalem where he manages to take control of the WMD situation. Before he heads home, once again Quinn’s bravery is put to the test. The WMD is released in Phoenix, Arizona. Is Quinn successful in saving the world? Does he get home in one piece? You will have to read Allah’s Revenge to find out.

Pete Barber created many memorable characters in Allah’s Revenge. There are detectives, reporters, politicians, and of course terrorists. We get to see the inside of a terrorist attack through Pete Barber’s accurate research.

There’s even romance in Allah’s Revenge. A good story isn’t complete without a love interest, even in the midst of a terrorist attack.

The book is a definite page turner as the suspense keeps the reader engaged. It’s a well written action thriller with historical background to be enjoyed. The characters and places come to life for the reader.

Let’s just hope it stays fictional!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Chair by Peter Simeti

 Mind over body?

This was my first graphic novel to read and review. The format resembled a comic book. It’s drawn in black and white; I would compare it to charcoal art.

The story is about Richard Sullivan’s final days on death row. Simeti leaves nothing out when he describes prison torture, including extreme violence which results in murders, and deep psychological torment.

Sullivan always protested his innocence. This meant nothing to a prisoner on death row with a few days before being executed. He thinks about his life and how he ended up on death row. This isn’t easy as he witnesses prison guards beat and rape other prisoners. He also has learned what crimes his fellow prisoners committed in order to be on death row. It’s not a pretty picture and all this messes with his mind.

The final days are the worst for Sullivan. The guards are more violent to him physically and emotionally. He is at the end of his rope. This results in outbursts of anger as he is just shy of insanity at this point. He does lose it completely and it’s pretty horrifying.

The graphics are violent, no doubt, but it is equally violent as to what goes on in Sullivan’s mind, especially on his final day. I think it proves our minds are more fragile than our physical bodies.

The end has a twist to it which I won’t spoil for readers.

Hats off to graphic artist, Kevin Christensen, for a job well done. 

The book is labeled for adults, mature audiences. I agree.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For the Love of Sam by Derek Haines

A Woman Scorned

Talk about getting screwed over by your friends! Poor Sam goes through hell in the midst of getting a divorce. He’s not exactly innocent. He had an affair with a sexy co-worker, Susannah, some ten years prior, but his wife, Beckie, never forgot or forgave him.

It was this indiscretion that Beckie festered for ten years when she suddenly threw it in Sam’s face. Out the door he went, and into a flea bitten dump to lick his wounds.

Sam was basically a nice guy who worked for an insurance company. He didn’t revel in his new surroundings which made him feel sad, alone, and confused. This was not a good time to start a new relationship, but that is exactly what he did.

He met Gail when she hit his car in a parking lot. After a quick tea in a diner to exchange insurance information, Sam thought nothing more of it. Gail called the next day wanting to see Sam where she fell head over heels in love with him.

Not being able to say no to Gail as she protested her love for him often, Sam went along for the ride taking some kind of solace in seeing Gail. It took his mind off his divorce and neurotic wife, Beckie.

When Susannah called and asked to see him, again Sam couldn't say no. They picked up where they left off like it was ten years ago. Poor Sam doesn’t know that it is her husband who is sleeping with Beckie! He doesn’t put two and two together and realize this is why Beckie decided to throw his long ago affair in his face all of a sudden.

If that isn’t dark enough, what Sam goes through now I can’t write about because it will spoil it for the reader. Let me just say Sam went through hell. Was anyone there for him?

Nothing is predictable in Derek Haine’s novella, For the Love of Sam. While being a dark novella about relationships and so-called friends, it is a great read.

As always, Derek develops his characters so well that you can’t put down any of his books once you start reading. None of us want to live through what Sam lived through or did he?

Pick up your copy of For the Love of Sam to find out!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Destinies by Karleene Morrow

Becoming the Empress and Ruler of All the Russians, Sophie Auguste Friedrike, was only fourteen when her mother made sure she became princess of Russia. The tsarina of Russia, Elizabeth Petrovna, was searching for a wife for her nephew who would inherit the crown.

Leaving her small town of Stettin, Poland, she met the tsarina and her heir in Russia. In 1762 Sophie became Katherine II.

Known as Katherine the Great, the Empress was literate, cultured, and loved the arts. Throughout Destinies, Karleene Marrow proves how she painstakingly researched every event during Katherine’s 34 year reign.

To not only enlighten her readers with facts and knowledge, but to entertain at the same time, Karleene Morrow writes her historical novel, Destinies, using Katherine the Great’s point of view plus a young boy, Christian, who emigrated from Germany to Russia with his family and friends searching for a better life. The way Morrow skillfully does this is what makes this book extraordinary.

Katherine II is known for her sex scandals and her desire for power.  Morrow includes her political decisions and many of her lovers. During the day Katherine II was a powerhouse of a political leader, and at night she could not go without a man.

We see Christian grow up from a boy into manhood in Destinies. We meet and love his family and friends. He has strong family values and morals that he struggles with on his journey. His relationship with the Gypsy’s is my favorite. His life, along with his family and friends, is not an easy one. Emigrating from Germany and putting down roots in Russia was an unbelievable feat.

Going back and forth between Katherine the Great and Christian’s life was easily done. There is never a time where I got lost or confused. This is a longer book than most, but it never felt like it. I could not put it down. The story is terrific!

I recommend this book for readers of all ages. In my opinion, reading a historical novel that is well researched and written, is the best way to learn.

I’m hoping Destinies will have a sequel. I would love to read another historical novel by Karleene Morrow.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Teeth in the Dark by Sean Roney

Real Life vs. Reality

What a different kind of story this was for me! I don’t play video games, however, Teeth in the Dark was a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.

Saraj and her co-worker friends are creating a virtual reality game. Saraj takes the game to an extreme level and thinks the game is real. From snow-covered dirt roads, to the scents of evergreens, to the aromas of baked goods, Sean Roney delights his readers with extraordinary descriptions.

Elk’s Crossing has official colors of green and black which are displayed and sold by merchants. And what characters the merchants are! To name a couple, a sexist rat and a perverted brute come to mind.

I had the feeling of standing right next to Saraj as she tried to avoid traps and pranks created by her co-workers in their effort to perfect the game.

This short story came to life for me.  It was fun to read something where I actually felt anxious as Saraj was crazily thinking this was real life. I wondered how far she was willing to go.

I was left with the impression that Saraj struggled with her identity. In the game she looked completely different and seemed to like her virtual self a bit more than her real life. I wonder about that . . .  how far can programmers actually take their skill?

Septimity by Derek Haines

A Trilogy at last!

After reading Hal and February the Fifth, Derek Haines has finally honored his readers with the last of his trilogy, Septimity!

Septimity is September's grandson. September is the eldest son of December the Ninth, and a grumpy old man. September thought he was going to be the new Supreme Potentate of Gloth. However, due to running into a brick wall, literally, this did not happen. His unexpected death gives Septimity and his six brothers a shot at the title.

This family is absolutely hysterical! Not only will it remind you of your own family, morons and imbeciles included, but the situations they encounter trying to obtain the Supreme Potentate of Gloth will in no doubt have you relating your own family situations to this science fiction story. Kids are kids even on the planet Gloth!

Derek Haines entertains his readers with his two most amazing traits. First is his sense of humor, and second is his strength of building his characters even if they look like lizards!

After reading Derek Haines books I think I have come to realize he expresses his own personal views on life through his apropos vocabulary in his characters and excellent writing skills. Reading between the lines and having a good laugh is a treat.

Goblin Tales for Adults by Jack Eason

You'll change your mind about goblins!

Obadiah introduces Glob to the mother of all goblins, Hermione Fingletook. She explains why goblins never know where they came from. She says each new goblin is born from a specially selected acorn which she picks. Once born, she determines their purpose then fills their minds with knowledge they need to survive before sending them out into Goblindom.

I never thought I would enjoy a story book about goblins! Jack Eason brought a family of goblins alive with such writing skill I felt a warm place in my heart for each goblin. They are described so vividly it's hard not to love each character in every tale Eason tells.

The fantasy tales told are one exciting adventure after another of five goblin brothers. There are humans involved, called 'humins' to the goblins, but these are friendly humans! 

The tales are truly enjoyable to read and have fun with. I think it would be a wonderful book for all ages.

Spy Hunt in Dixie by Max Connelly

I was looking forward to reading this book but was very disappointed. The beginning was terrific and I was hooked. Then out of the blue it started reading like another author took over. That is when I lost interest. However, when I am asked to review a book by an author, I have an open mind and was dedicated to finish the book hoping for a return to the beginning hook. I'm sorry to say it never happened.
I started reading the book on my flight to visit my mother. I was so confused 35% of the way into the story, that I thought I would reread it from the beginning to my mother. She is an avid reader and loves history. I said nothing to her about my thoughts, just telling her it's a book I said I would read and review.
We thought we were either stupid or going crazy with how the book was written. Like I mentioned before, the difference in writing styles were integrated into the story and it was extremely confusing. We weren't sure who was doing what or what was going on much of the time. There were so many points of view, but I don't think Max Connelly has mastered how to write whose point of view the reader is supposed to be reading.
There were also many times I thought I knew what a word or phrase meant, but it was used incorrectly, therefore continuing to make the story more confusing.
By the time we were 73% into the book, we were both counting the pages to be finished. The end of the book being the most confusing, we had no idea what was going on with which characters. There were so many characters and so many name changes, it was just absurd.
Avoiding naming certain political characters in the very end I'm figuring was a bias on Max Connelly's part, but once again, not really sure.
Most of the book felt like I was reading what I would read from a political reporter. This was supposed to be historical fiction. I felt like I could tell when Max was writing (which I actually enjoyed) and when this phantom writer took over.
I am sorry to say I cannot recommend this book for anyone in particular because of the writing, point of view confusion, and too many characters without enough depth to make the story enjoyable and not confusing.