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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Delacorte Press; 308 pp.

This book manages to be ultimately uplifting even though it covers some of the most gruesome subjects of modern times. It's a rare opportunity for us to get an intimate glimpse into the daily life of Africa; touching on many of the complex issues facing this great continent today. Topics such as genocide, HIV and female circumcision are woven into the fabric of the story much like a spider weaves his beautifully crafted web.

All of the characters in the novel are brought to life skillfully. The main character, Angel, is just an amazing literary creation. Her day-to-day hardships, which are many; and successes, small as they may be, are portrayed through the world of her small home baking business. Her beautiful, decorative cakes are described so clearly, we can almost smell them! Tragedy has struck her family again and again; but she refuses to let it get the better of her. Her stoicism and ability to survive in the face of the worst events imaginable are a lesson to us all.

I am a fan of The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency series, but those stories are shallow and sophomoric compared to Baking Cakes in Kigali. This book delves so much deeper and goes into so much more detail; and indeed, the writing is better. Thanks are due to Library Thing, Delacorte Press, and Gaile Parkin for their consideration in sending this book for review through Library Thing's Member Giveaway Early Reviewer's program.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Forgotten Man by William Graham Sumner

Sparks Media, 38 pp.

Here is an essay (originally given as a speech) on economics, politics and social structure written by a Yale University professor in 1916 which is amazingly reflective of our country's current situation--over 90 years later!! Some of the language and some of Sumner's ideas do come across as slightly archaic, hardly surprisingly, considering it was written nearly a century ago.

The focus of this small tome is the everyday working man and woman; i.e., middle-class America by today's nomenclature. It expounds on the problems that stem from the government providing relief to many needy categories of people and institutions and this always takes away from, and is ultimately paid for by, the everyday working man and woman. These poor souls (that would be most of us) are constantly bearing the brunt of the governements' liberal practices. In light of today's headlines and the predicament we find ourselves in currently, this book is certainly an interesting read. If only someone had taken heed 93 years ago.............

Thank you to Library Thing and the publishers for their consideration in sending me this book for review.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Great Ship of Knowledge, Volume I by William Bailey

Perfect Paperback, Publisher: Bailey, 509 pp.

This book is a gem of a science fiction story. That's not all it is. It's a cry for the people of the world to wake up before they destroy the planet they live on. And it's a very realistic depiction of the holocaust and destruction that will take place if we continue on the present path. In this regard, it is truly frightening in its vivid and seemingly very realistic portrayal of current events escalating into apocalyptic proportions with the final outcome being an all too possible, human-wrought, Armageddon. The people that we follow in the story are living out a dream sequence, even as their physical beings are being stored in limbo onboard very elaborate space craft bound for a new planet to inhabit. They have been enroute for a thousand years, and are now just arriving at their destination. These "dreamers" who are to populate the new world, must first virtually live out a life on the Earth of a thousand years ago and the nightmare of the Armageddon that occurred then. The powers that be felt in this way, they would learn to respect their new world and all mankind would live in peace after they had seen for themselves what the stupidity of religious and racial hatred did to the Earth. How these "dreamers" were saved from the destruction of Earth is only hinted at, and is to be explained in detail in later volume(s).

The depiction of the strife that led to the Earth's destruction; as well as the portrayal of the advanced space traveling crew, "dreamers", futuristic equipment and gadgets, space craft full of specimens from the old world that were salvaged and are being transported to the new planet, holographic workers of all kinds, complete with elaborate costumes; and especially vivid descriptions of various modes of futuristic transport is awe-inspiring. I have read alot of science fiction books, and never has one painted such a vivid picture in my mind; as if a movie were playing in the background. This story just begs to be made into a movie--3D please!!!!

The foreword describes the eerie birth of this story; that alone is truly frightening. In it, the author also explains that he is not a writer, and is rather poor in English subjects, including spelling and tense; as mentioned by an English teacher he had originally asked to look over the manuscript. I appreciate his honesty and I must say, he is absolutely right. As far as English is concerned, this book would appear to be a pretty rough draft greatly in need of massive proofreading, spelling corrections and heavy editing. The tense issue is a prevalent one. Sentence structure is very poor, with long, run-on sentences full of ambiguity. Ordinarily, the problems mentioned in this paragraph would have turned me off of a book I was reading. I used to think that was the main reason I read; to experience elegant usage of the English language, which is truly an art form of its own. I've changed my mind after reading this book. The story that is told here, is worth it!

Library Thing and the author of this book have afforded me the opportunity to experience a book that I would not ordinarily have come across; and I would like to extend my thanks to them for their consideration. This book has enriched my imagination and also filled me with a new level of dread for the current state of affairs of this world we live in. Reading this book has truly been a unique and rewarding experience.

RESPONSE FROM AUTHOR:

Dear Shirley,

I woke up early this morning and saw another reviewer (yours) had posted another review of The Great Ship of Knowledge, on Amazon.com. It’s always emotional for me when I read a review of my work, and yours made me tear up! Thank you! I still find it so hard to believe that I wrote a novel.

As you know after reading “The Epiphany,” this story is truly the result of lucid dream I suffered through just after midnight, on the morning of January 1st, 2008. A dream so vivid and powerful, that it inspired and forced this 47 year old, who had never written more than 5 pages of scribble in his life, to become immediately obsessed with writing about it.

Writing this first volume, with only a highschool English class for my educational background (English was my worst class in highschool) was no easy task for me, but I knew the story had to be told, and told by me. So I just started writing and rewriting it until I felt I had written my best draft, and then rewrote it a few more times, before I had burned out and just needed to let go of my manuscript, and have the first volume printed.

I know my writing still needs help, but I’m elated I was able to articulate the words well enough for the reader to see my vision as if they were there. I’m taking steps to improve my writing skills before I write the next volume of The Great Ship of Knowledge. Two days ago, I signed up for a English comp one class, at the local community college, and after I complete that course, I will be taking English comp two along with a creative writing class they offer. The story gets more involved and detailed in the next edition, so I want to take the necessary steps now to improve my writing skills, before I pick up the pen and once again disappear into a world of thought for months on end as a writing-recluse.

Thanks again! You made my day!
Sci-fi Dreams, William Bailey

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fragment by Warren Fahy

Delacorte Press; 352 pp.

Move over Jurassic Park! Make way for the unimaginable beasts running rampant on a totally isolated, heretofore undiscovered island with biological horrors that will keep you up all night and populate your nightmares, too. This is ecological terror at its finest. A young team of scientists, and tv crew have drifted to the ends of the earth in their high tech studio-ship-at-sea while filming a lackluster tv reality show, when they pick up an SOS signal from the most remote spot of land on the planet. The drama is about to pick up speed in ways they can't even imagine, and the reality is about to get out of hand! The question changes from "who will the daily romance involve" to "who will survive and get off of this island alive; or will anyone, or anything survive?" This is a summer blockbuster adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can hardly wait for the movie this is sure to inspire. I appreciate having been awarded this book through Library Thing's Member giveaway program and would like to extend my thanks to LT, the publishers and the author for this enjoyable experience.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Preparation (H)ead Literature Suppository by Boomer M. Wadaska, Christopher Michael and Kyle Bernhardy

Illegal Pad Publishing, 237 pp.

Wow! This is definitely some crazy, off-the-wall stuff. But you know what, I think I actually liked it. It really grows on you. Three young men have contributed various writings to form this work; from poems and short stories to cartoons and musings. In so doing, they often lay bare their imaginations and gut-wrenching emotions. These three young men possess alot of creativity. Oftentimes, hormones have taken over the stories, as one would expect in young men going through, and just past, and beyond puberty. This is not literature in its finest, pure form; although every once in awhile a spark of true writing prowess shines through. No, I think this is something altogether different, and every bit as important as that literary classic. I actually felt as if I came to know these three, and that they have now been friends of mine for years. This book deserves to stand proudly next to America's Best Non-required Reading and Uncle John's Bathroom Readers in homes across the country. Good work, boys.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Pact by William Schoell

St. Martin's Press; 1988; 206 pp.

This is a well-written, fast paced story of the horror genre. I received this book through Library Thing's Member Giveaway/Early Reviewer's program. I am grateful to both Library Thing and the LT member who was so kind as to send me this book for the opportunity to read and review it. Reading books that would not have ordinarily caught my attention for a number of reasons (i.e. different genre, odd-sounding title, obscurity, simply not on to-read list due to too many choices) is, for me, a major benefit of this LT program. That is the case with this book, as I usually forego horror novels.

This story disproved my foregone conclusion of horror novels as poorly written, best-to-avoid books. I'm proud to have it as part of my library. It is actually quite captivating and well written, to boot. From a literary standpoint, the language flows smoothly. My interest was captured right away, and I found myself anxious to get to the final climax. It maintains a high level of intensity throughout and turns into quite a nail-biter. The handful of cast members are well developed by the author. A great deal of imagination has gone into creating the beast who threatens to destroy all mankind. Details pertaining to locale and history are well-researched and factual. While there is, indeed, some gruesomeness; it does not run rampant and is really only used to further the storyline. There's even romance to be found in this novel.

I would not hesitate to recommend The Pact to anyone looking for a change of pace, and a clever twist on the age-old good vs. evil drama.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stuffed Panda from a Collection of Short Stories Titled The Jewel **EXCERPT** by Stan I.S. Law

Published by INHOUSEPRESS

What a beautiful, touching story. So many emotions experienced in such a short space. I found it to be a very well written short story that immediately had my interest captured. I definitely want to read more of Mr. Law's writings.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Have a Crumby Book (a Collection of Wit & Whimsy from Cincinnati's Favority Bakery) by John Eckberg

Clerisy Press; 152 pp.

What a deliciously delightful novelty of a book! WARNING: DO NOT read this book when you are hungry. I often found myself drooling on the pages of photographs of popular billboards depicting some of Busken Bakery's finest baked goods. Their appearance is absolutely mouthwatering! I do wish that I lived much closer to Cincinnati, now. I also wish that I could have had the pleasure of seeing some of these billboards in my travels; but alas, I have not.

There is just enough history of the Busken Bakery and its founders to familiarize yourself with the chain and give you a little background on the baking industry. It was interesting and educational. For instance, I know with 100% certainty that I could never be a baker, since I learned that they get up to go to work at 2:00 a.m.

But, again, the real treat here are the photos depicting the clever advertising slogans full of puns; and most importantly, the delectable baked goods themselves! I'm definitely ready for a trip to Cincinnati now. Oh, that won't be necessary--they have a website that offers shipping of their products.

I'm glad I received this colorful book with the funny name as part of the Goodreads Early Reads program; since I don't think I would otherwise have discovered it. It was a pleasant, quick read and should be especially delightful to those lucky people who have grown up with the Busken Bakery as part of their life. I would like to thank the author, publisher and Goodreads for this treat.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain 1942

United States War Department

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; 2004; 31 pp.

This is a charming book I received from a dear friend from Devonshire, England. It is a reproduction of an original pamphlet produced by the War Department in 1942. It was meant to give a brief introduction to Britain and its people and some words of advice to the servicemen shipping over to England to join the Allies in destroying Hitler. The writing comes across quaint and nostalgic from the modern perspective.

I actually did learn a little about the geography and demographics of England. The discourse on the characteristics of Britons as seen from the American viewpoint was relatively true to form, I believe, and sometimes humorous as well.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How to Train a Rock by author Paul Steven Stone

Blind Elephant Press, 189 pp.

This book was sent to me for review as part of Library Things Member Giveaway Early Reviewers program. Thanks are due to both the author and LT for their consideration.

I'll have to be honest here. I was a little skeptical about this book before reading it. The author describes it as "Short Insights and Fiction Flights". I had no idea I what I was entering into; and expected some kind of off the wall humor, such as that you find in bathroom readers. The first story did not do much to alleviate my concern, as its subject is dog droppings on the front yard. Imagine my surprise, no, perhaps shock is a better term when the fifth story rolled around. Now, we had been leaving humor behind already for some beautiful, lyrical poetry in Listen to the Wind and an emotionally powerful essay on a child abused at the hands of a church leader. But nothing had prepared me for Pretty White Gloves, which is an insight on the descent into hell for a Vietnam War veteran. I was floored. This story kicks you in the guts. I know I have been imprinted with it for life.

From there it was a wild swing of elegantly written articles covering just about everything under the sun. Yes, there was certainly humor. And beautiful emotional articles; most centering around the author's personal life and experiences.

This book is a collection of some of the author's best articles from a long running column of his called "A Stone's Throw". I loved it! The writing is exceedingly good. I recommend it to everyone. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to review this book, or I am sure I would never have discovered it; and I would really have been missing out. This truly is a gem of a book.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Apologize by author Bradley Booth

Affluent Publishing, 324 pp.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank author Bradley Booth for granting me the pleasure and privilege of receiving his new novel, I Apologize, in exchange for the opportunity of reviewing it. This was made possible through Library Thing's Member Giveaway Early Reviewer's program.

This story is a poignant study of powerful human emotions laid bare in a drama of love, loss and grief and one man's struggle to overcome the overpowering effects of these emotions before they destroy him. The language used is simple and repetitive, but paints a clear portrait of the characters and storyline. The reader experiences a rollercoaster of emotions as his sympathies swing first towards one character and then to another. The reader is kept riveted to his seat turning the pages until the very end by a plot which is centered around an apocalyptic event from the past; which is often referred to but not divulged to the reader until the end of the book.

I found this book all the more meaningful, as it is a creation born of personal experiences in the author's life and the writing of it provided a catharsis for him.

The book's jacket design is very alluring and colorful with an air of mystery about what the enclosed novel holds in store for the reader. It should attract the attention of plenty of browsers who would do well to pick it up and take it home to experience it for themselves.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review of Excerpt from Beyond the Cayenne Walls; Collection of Short Stories

*Excerpt Only*

Author: Shaila Abdallah; Feb. 2009, Loving Healing Press, Excerpt from e-book

I appreciated the chance to download this e-book (excerpt) from the author in exchange for signing up for her newsletter. I had not read any of her material before.

The story is an interesting one and I would certainly like to read the book in its entirety. That being said; I did feel there is (way) too much flourish being used in the English language with this work. Far too many descriptions, metaphors; too much attention to embellishment. It served as quite a distraction to me. I definitely feel style could use some improvement; particularly in this regard.

Again, however, the story is an interesting one full of raw emotion and begs to elicit compassion from its readers. A full scope of human tragedy is laid out before us and we all become sympathizers.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Response from Author Karen Young

Hello, Shirley, Thank you for your positive review of my book, Blood Bayou. I'm glad my publisher selected you from a number of reviewers to receive the book. I'm glad you liked it and hope you'll look for other releases in the future. As you will see on my web site, I have written many books, but Blood Bayou is my first effort at writing Christian fiction. I was nervous at first, but words of encouragement such as you've written in your review go a long way to assuaging my anxieties. Again, thank you. Best wishes, Karen Karen Young Stone www.KarenYoung.net

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blood Bayou by Karen Young

This is my first book review in response to Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. I would like to first of all express my appreciation to the publishers (Simon and Schuster/Howard Books) for having sent me this book in exchange for a review. It has been a rewarding experience. I have not previously read a Karen Young novel, and am grateful for this opportunity to be introduced to her.

Blood Bayou was truly enjoyable. I was actually a bit surprised to discover how much I liked it. I had been a bit skeptical as I started reading the book, for a number of reasons. I don't often read murder mysteries, I had not read any works by Karen Young previously, and I just about never read a book categorized under the "Christian Fiction" genre; as it sounds entirely too religious in theme.

The story grabbed my interest from the start, however; and had me in its grip until the very end. That's not always easy to do, even by a work from one of my favorite tried-and-true authors. The characters are well defined and the story masterfully crafted. Karen Young is an excellent writer; which is all too much of a rarity these days. Time and again, I will start a "bestseller" and end up in frustration and disappointment from a poor and clunky writing style. I have found a new author to add to my "good" list!

The Christian theme of the story was not too overpowering to take away any of the enjoyment of reading it and, in fact, added a great deal of depth to the storyline. The plot was suspenseful and believable. I am really looking forward to delving into more Karen Young novels soon and would definitely recommend Blood Bayou.