Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review of "I Like To Whine" by Penelope Przekop Author of "Aberrations"

I have been fortunate to get another review of "I Like to Whine" by a published author and her 10 year old daughter. 

Penelope's 10 year old daughter said:  I like to Whine is a great, awesome, funny book. I especially enjoyed it because I like to whine, and I know I shouldn't.  It's very annoying. Reading this book made me realize that whining is just a waste of time.  It just makes your parents mad. Peace8-)

Penelope said: I like to Whine is a great book for parents to read with their small children!  Kids can identify with the behaviors and parents can use the lessons for discussion.  I wish I had this book when my kids were younger.  With that said, I read it with my 10 year old and she still thought it was funny! 

Bleak History by John Shirley

A young man with special skills and mysterious connections to another plane of existence searches for both his identity and his brother in an urban fantasy.   Gabriel Bleak spends his life on the run avoiding entities and agencies that want to take advantage of his special skills.   His experiences and the people he meets help him to define his own purpose.  Ghostly apparitions both plague and guide him on his quest.  A near future terrorist attack fuels the paranoia that creates a government long on control and light on the Bill of Rights.  That paranoid government creates an agency that seeks to gain control of any paranormal assets.

I liked Gabriel Bleak.  He was a reluctant hero facing daunting odds.   His unwillingness to use deadly force in every confrontation made him see more real and less two dimensional Marvel comic material.   The Chinese puzzle of interlocking government agencies with questionable oversight was frightening, precisely because we have seen such manifest fiascos spread over the front page for the less few decades.   I'm not an occult fan or fascinated with the supernatural and I liked this book anyway.  

I recommend the book. 

Body of work of John Shirley

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Like to Whine by William Bentrim

If you cant promote your own book, on your own blog, what is the point of writing?
The following is a review of I Like to Whine by Kelly Jameson the author of the Award-Winning Suspense Thriller DEAD ON  the Runner-Up 2006 DIY Los Angeles Book Festival

This is a fun and different reading experience for both parent and child. Let’s face it, we all whine, even ‘us’ adults. Kids whine too, and as a parent, it can be frustrating. What I like about this book is that it reminds parents that kids have the same moods we do and don’t always know the best way to express themselves. And that whining is normal human behavior, no matter what your age. I also like the humor—I laughed out loud more than a few times—and the fun illustrations. What’s really great is the way the book is set up—the child can read the parent’s part (the wise old owl) and the parent can read the child’s part (the whining kid); both will have a few laughs while the child gets to hear how whining sounds and tries to react as a parent might. I highly recommend this entertaining children’s book for all children and their little whiners (or parents)!


Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed

A fairy tale illustrating that everyone or every dog should have it’s day. That regardless of size, shape or breed overweening ambition can corrupt and unconditional love can console. A perfect dachshund becomes flawed, despondent, abandoned and maligned. He conquers all and returns in triumph. It is a story of acceptance and redemption.

You may not recall Opus the penguin or Billy and the Boingers but Berkeley Breathed has been around for quite awhile. I admit to being a fan and having reveled in his skewed look at politics, computers and society in general. I lust for a Banana 2009 computer. The illustrations were classic Breathed and added to the flavor of the book. I enjoyed the characterizations and the anthropomorphic nature of the characters. The cover may lure parents into thinking it is for young children. I don’t feel it is appropriate for young kids. It has a dark side that may be more revealing and intense for any kid under 10. I am giving the book to my 11 year old grandson, who I feel is age appropriate for the story. I will make sure that I am available to discuss it as it has things that lead to discussion. Regardless of it being labeled for young readers, I enjoyed it. I am sure my grandson will as well with oversight.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Berkeley Breathed

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

True Blue by David Baldacci

Baldacci introduces the Perry sisters in this new release. Beth Perry is the Chief of Police for Washington D. C. Mace Perry is an ex-con, ex-cop. The story revolves around Mace Perry striving to regain her badge and finding out who framed her. A government black operation intrudes on her search and threatens her life. The interplay between sisters adds interesting color.

I always find Baldacci hard to put down. This book is no exception; it makes it difficult to get to bed because you figure just one more page which of course turns into one or more chapters. The relationship between the sisters and between Mace and Roy provide a level of tension that fuels the plot. Baldacci spends some time depicting Mace’s character as this is obviously the start of a new series of book. The book has an intricate plot with apparent parallels to current events. It is a page turner.

I recommend the book and am dismayed that a sequel isn’t immediately available. I enjoyed it.

Body of work of David Baldacci


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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Eight by Katherine Neville

The story seemed like one that Dan Brown and Sandra Brown might have collaborated to create. It is a study of mysticism and mysterious formulas, treasure, clues and a wealth of historic personages wrapped in emotional relationships. A mysterious, ancient chess set is the center piece of a frantic and fanatic hunt detailed in the 1790’s and the 1970s. Whosoever holds the chess set will rule the world, according to legend. The forces of good and evil have been striving to capture the board for a millennium.

Neville bounces back and forth from the 1790’s to the 1970’s without promoting a great deal of confusion. Her characterizations have depth, breadth and color. There are times where it appears she may have read a little too much Clive Cussler but the introduction of historic figures and preposterous chases is very entertaining. I’m not sure if there is an attempt to challenge the intellect but regardless, the book is a fun read.

I recommend the book and look forward to the sequel, "The Fire".

Body of work of Katherine Neville


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hunted by Brian Haig

A frightening story of corruption and violence, Haig shows that lack of morals is not restricted to foreigners. A lurid story of corruption at the highest level in the “new” Russia, “The Hunted” showcases the KGB role in modern Russia. A young entrepreneur finds that democracy doesn’t truly exist when a mafia, KGB consortium conspires to steal his fortune. He discovers the corruption is as rampant in the USA as in his home country. The depths that politicians sink to further their own goals with out regard to human rights is depressing, especially considering the book is a fictional account of a true story.

Haig portrayed an ambitious, talented couple with compassion and interest. Alex and Elena would be likeable and interesting without the violent story line. The character development was superb. The story line was dismayingly frightening. There was a surreal feel about the story that suggested improbability. In historic perspective the story may have been less lurid than reality in the “new” Russia. The lack of concern by high officials in both governments for human rights was depressing. It put totally new perspective on the whole illegal immigrant debacle.

I enjoyed the book, I recommend it. It was unpredictable and depressing on occasion but it didn’t just hold my interest, it snatched it, grappled with it and squeezed it without mercy until I turned the last page.

Body of work of Brian Haig

Defiance by Alex Konanykhin is the non-fictional account of the trials and tribulations faced by the author as a young Russian entrepreneur. It is reviewed here.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

A love story with a city sounds preposterous but Conroy pull it off with panache. If Pat Conroy does not love Charleston, he writes rather convincingly that he does. The man defies typical literary comparisons due to the sheer majesty of his prose. I found myself moved to tears on some of his descriptions. His story is of a group of eclectic friends who grow and thrive together in a tumultuous time. Their maturation is fraught with often torturous progress.

The characterizations in this book are marvelous in their depth and color. Their realism surpasses the reality of some folks I know. Conroy doesn’t just paint a portrait or caricature, he grows a character from a carefully nurtured seedling to a full blooming thorny rose. Many of his characters are not likeable but you receive enormous insight to their motivation. It seems hard to believe that it has been 14 years since Pat Conroy has graced us with his treasured words and one can only hope the next installment in literary nirvana doesn’t take so long. Calling this book a mystery would surely be a misnomer but there are mysteries aplenty. I try to only read books that I anticipate liking, I seldom find books I truly love. “South of Broad” is a book that I love, I urge you to read it and introduce a little of Pat Conroy’s love into your life.

Body of work of Pat Conroy

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Friday, September 11, 2009

The Calling by David Mack

An ordinary guy hears other peoples prayers and tries to answer them. This is an unlikely premise that works surprisingly well until Tom Nash hears a prayer more frightening and sinister than he has ever heard before. Nash’s response, his experiences and the surprising things he discovers about himself comprise the gist of the book.

The clear portrait painted of Tom Nash, depicts an ordinary guy trying to do extraordinary tasks. The clarity of the portrait helps to add credence to the unlikely premise of hearing other’s prayers. The introduction to a previously unknown sub-culture is met with a realistically cynical response. Mack did a nice job with the characters, including the feisty but terrified, young victim. The storyline flowed well, the gaps were filled in and the plot provided enough mystery to intrigue and motivate continued reading.

I enjoyed the book, I recommend it. It is pretty obvious it will be followed by a sequel which I will make every effort to read as well.

Body of work of David Mack

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

International Literacy Day

We all know the joke about what assume means. Well most of us assume that everyone else is literate. As a matter of fact in my home county there are 60,000 functionally illiterate people. That is a correct number and everyone I have mentioned that to has been astounded. Bucks County is an affluent suburb of Philadelphia. We are not a 3rd world country. We have a terrific county wide library system and yet look at that number.

What does illiteracy mean? It means you can't read the instructions on a gas pump. You can read the want ads in the paper which leads to your being unemployed. It often means anger and frustration. A large number of incarcerated folks are illiterate but not stupid. Being treated as if you are stupid tends to encourage some people to violence and aggression. Illiteracy doesn't just mean you can't sit down and read a book, it means your entire way of life is impacted negatively.

Now ponder not an affluent suburb but a third world country where illiteracy may be at 90% or more. You don't need to read to pull yourself up by your bootstraps but if you intend to do anything but lift your body, literacy is crucial.

September 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17, 1965. It was first celebrated in 1966. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Celebrations take place around the world. Some 774 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 72.1 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bill Walker, author of “A Note From An Old Acquaintance”:

I would like to thank Bill Walker, Author of “A Note From An Old Acquaintance” for his guest post today. I asked Bill if he could write about how he progressed from graphics designer to author and what motivates him to write. It is always interesting to see what motivates the creators of our literary entertainment and enlightenment.

From Bill Walker
Author of “A Note From An Old Acquaintance”:

The irony is that I've always been a writer, from about the age of eight. I wrote my first book at ten, called The Adventures of Mouser, which was a modern day pastiche of Ben and Me, a story about a very intelligent and inventive mouse. Graphic design came much later and very much as an accident.
My father, a lifelong gadgeteer, was getting into computers toward the end of his life. One of the programs he purchased was Adobe PageMaker. I think he got it simply so he could see how the novel he'd started would look in print. After his death, I inherited his computers and software and I guess I started wondering the same thing: How would my books look professionally typeset? Well, I started messing with the program and enjoying another aspect of creativity. In fact, it was almost a complement to what I did with my writing in that it used a different part of my creative mind.
Anyway, around 1998, I had just finished writing Titanic 2012. I was also (and still am) an inveterate collector of books. At that time I was buying a lot of signed editions from Cemetery Dance Publications and had become friendly with Rich Chizmar, the publisher. In one of our conversations, I told him about my new manuscript. He said, "Let me take a look at it." I was flattered, but Rich's meat and potatoes is horror, so I harbored no illusions that sending him Titanic 2012, a mystery/love story, would amount to anything.
Well, a couple of weeks later, he faxes me a contract. He wanted to publish it. And when I told him that I wanted to do the book design for it, too, he said to run with it. That one book led to a freelance career that continues to this day. For me, graphic design is another important aspect in the presentation of the story. My goal as a writer is to entertain and perhaps provoke a bit of thought. My job as a book designer is to make that book as attractive and as readable as possible. The last thing anyone wants is a reader fighting the page because of poor choices in typography and layout. So, that is how I came to be working both sides of the fence.
One Review
Thank you very much Bill for your words and the insight as to your motivation. Readers if you are so inspired you can get Bill’s books at Amazon.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Two pals play pirate and have unusual friends. Of course the fact that one of the pals is a fireless dragon and the other nerdy lizard does play a part in their unusual friends. This is a delightful story of homework avoidance and dealing with peers.

I enjoyed the repartee of Danny and Wendell. It could have been my grandson and his buddy bantering back and forth. Their adventure was cute and age appropriate for the target market. I gave the book to my 11 year old grandson and his first question after reading it was when could he get the next one.

I enjoyed the book and my 11 year old grandson enjoyed it, we both recommend it.

Body of work of Ursula Vernon

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Hidden Man by David Ellis

An attorney suffering agonizing, debilitating grief over a personal tragedy is thrust into defending a childhood friend against murder charges. A mysterious Mr. Smith pays a inordinate retainer for Jason Kolarich to defend his childhood buddy. Child molestation, violence, kidnapping, the mob, threats, corruption are all a part of this outstanding mystery.

Jason’s guilt was initially annoying. The guy seemed completely unable to cut himself a break. Further reading helped to bring the perspective of the overwhelming personal tragedy clear. Accepting responsibility and guilt for other’s actions characterized Jason. I empathized with his proactive approach to being threatened. We all are susceptible to the flight or fight syndrome and when loved ones are threatened, overwhelming, massive retaliation seems reasonable. The overwhelming revulsion toward child molestation explained the overt behavior of many of the characters.

Ellis did a terrific job on creating his characters. It was inspiring to see Jason pulling himself out of the morass of grief onto the path of tepid sunlit normalcy. The fruits of the mystery tree did not fall prematurely; Ellis let them ripen slowly keeping a tense interest throughout the book. This is one darn good story.

I highly recommend this book. Jason Kolarich’s climb off the sliding board of despair would be a sufficient reason to read the book, the nail biting mystery and resolution of issues were a delightful bonus.

Body of work of David Ellis


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