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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

School Of Possibilities by Seita Parkkola

This was a curious book. I would have pegged it as targeting middle school kids even if it didn’t say so on the back cover. Storm is a troubled child sent to a school for troubled children where he meets Stepford Wife types of kids. Outside of school he meets India who is a self professed guard. How Storm interacts with his peers, family and school comprises the gist of the book.
This is a dark book. There are no adults portrayed with any redeeming characteristics. For some reason I was reminded of “Brave New World, 1984 and Lord of the Flies”. As an adult I found it very depressing and I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be worse for a kid. Parents with no back bone, an evil guidance counselor and mindless kids abound. The few redeeming characters are other “lost” kids. There are either a lot of confusing elements or symbolic references that I am missing.

I was under the impression that Finland had a high suicide rate and I was attributing the dark nature of the book to the nationality of the author. It didn’t take much research to discover that while they are suggested to be a bit dour, the Finns fall in the midrange of suicide statistics.

The characterizations and descriptions were well done. Storm’s despair was poignant and painful.

This book is worth reading but I think that high school might be more appropriate. The total lack of any adults of value is disturbing, in that a child at risk may find it entirely too easy to slip into the despair that Storm experienced.

Body of work of Seita Parkkola

Web Site: none found

Friday, May 28, 2010

Instinct by Jeremy Robinson

This is the first of the Chess Team books I have read. A weaponized virus threatens the world. The Chess Team is sent in to discover a cure. This Chess Team is substantially different than the one you had in high school. Monsters, mental illness, mysteries and politics characterize the story.
To say this was a rousing adventure is to truly understate the velocity that surrounds this story. Fast paced action threatens to overwhelm you page to page. I felt the characters needed more background but that may have been provided in the first book of the series. I intend to get that book as I really enjoyed this book. The plot was fantastic as was the setting. I’m not sure how to classify this book. It is speculative but not grossly far fetched. Coonts and Cussler come to mind when I try to think of comparable stories.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Jeremy Robinson

Web Site:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Interveiw with Helen Ellis, Author of THE TURNING: What Curiosity Kills

Many thanks to Helen Ellis for this great interview. Helen shows her humor in this great interview.

1.) Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
I had a dream that I looked into my medicine cabinet mirror and my face was not my own. It was inhuman. And fuzzy. And I could see in the dark.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
Okay, Bill, I’ll admit that I just had to look up the definition of “gestalt,” which Webster’s defines as “a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts.”

So I’m still confused. But here’s how I work. I write a sentence. The first sentence of What Curiosity Kills is “I knew there was something wrong with me when I fell asleep at school.” And then I play the game that goes, “And then what happened? And THEN what happened?

The good news is you’ve given me a new video blog idea for my website,, “Diary of a Luddite: How to use a dictionary.”

3.) Is your process to outline and then fill in the blanks or just sit down and start to tell a story or ?
90% sit. 10 % write .

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?
YOON! Yoon is a bad boy who lives life “on the fence.”

5.) Do you have cats?
Yes, two tuxedo brothers, Shoney and Big Boy (who lives up to his name). You can see their photos in the banner of my website. Tune in April 21, for the video: “Diary of a Luddite: How to teach your cat to answer the phone.”     Shoney & Big Boy -->

6.) What do you like the most about writing?
Solitude and flying time.

7.) Where do your new story ideas come from?
Just like our New York City subway security bulletins advise: I see something, I say (write) something.

8.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
In Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, he says to write as fast as you can so you can outrun the self doubt. I wrote The Turning in less than six months. I’m still sweating!

9.) Who is your favorite author and why?
I do love Stephen King. He’s prolific, creative, and I like a good scare.

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

Helen, thank you so much for your candid remarks and terrific interview.  
Want to see or here more about Helen?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Turning by Helen Ellis

This is one of the more thoughtful middle school books I’ve read. I’m not really sure if it is more for younger high school or not. I think it can and will appeal to both audiences. Mary discovers a secret about her own life that she never dreamed of facing. Mary’s relationships with her family and friends undergo some major revamping with what she learns.

Ms. Ellis deals with the insecurities that kids have in a tasteful and insightful manner. As an ex-guidance counselor for this age, I felt she captured their feelings very accurately. Fish or fowl is often the question with teenagers or in this case feline or not. The mystery was prolonged to the end. There was sufficient tension and moderate action to hold your interest. The life and death aspects were portrayed somewhat graphically but I don’t think at a level of intensity to frighten the younger reader. The book was well done and it appears that it will be a captivating series.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Helen Ellis

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Whiplash by Catherine Coulter

Coulter is at her best in this book. A complicated, convoluted plot with intense action and lots of mystery characterize the story. New characters provide fresh input even though Savich and Sherlock have personality to spare. Conscience free drug companies and political intrigue round out this captivating story.

Coulter writes a good mystery and keeps one captivated and entertained through out the story. Dillon Savich and his wife Lacey Sherlock are once again in the thick of things. Coulter appears to use them as the glue to tie her books together. Erin and Bowie could carry the story line in a stand alone, separate novel. Savich and Sherlock’s interaction with each other and Erin and Bowie is fun to read. Perhaps more than many of Coulter’s book which often are not intended to exercise your intellect or provide you with insights into your life, this book forces you to contemplate the ethics of the corporate world. There are murders, assaults, psychotics, psychic powers, fires, bombs, shootings, history and love stories in this book. In other words, there is something for everyone. I have enjoyed other Coulter books and I enjoyed this one.

I highly recommend it.

Body of work of Catherine Coulter


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Executive Intent by Dale Brown

I’ve missed a couple of Dale Brown’s thrillers. This takes place a few years after Tin Man. An insipid president is faced with multiple international incidents and reacts with timidity. An assertive vice-president deals with the crisis with the help of retired General Patrick McLanahan.

Dale Brown keeps one foot in the present and his head and the other foot in the near future. He projects current events into the near future with often painful clarity. His stories are always loaded with action and techno-wizardry. My only criticism of this book is that recent history is referred to but not explained. If you have missed a couple of books (which I have done) you are not quite sure why some things are happening. The same thing is true with his characterizations. If you weren’t familiar with the major players you would feel left out. I think a little back story work would have improved the readability. With that said, I still enjoyed the book. It moves fast and leaves you hanging, wanting more.

I recommend the book .

Body of work of Dale Brown

Web Site

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Keepers of the School-We the Children by Andrew Clements

This is a middle school focused book. It sets the stage at a converted factory that serves as a school. Left to the community, the eccentric ship captain that founded the school leaves an interesting legacy. Ben and Jill delve into the mystery of how to save the school from developers.

The character Ben is dealing with personal issues that are going to be quite common to the current generation of kids. His feelings and frustrations are clearly expressed and should make it easy for kids in similar situations to find common ground. The tentative relationship between he and Jill also seem quite realistic. This is an age where dawning awareness begins to show itself.

I recommend the book. I think it will be a good series.

Body of work of Andrew Clements

Web Site:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Get a Free Kids Book From Borders

This is a pretty cool program. Your kids under 12 read 10 books, keep a list of them, take it to Borders and get a free kids book. You don’t have to buy the 10 books at Borders. The program doesn’t seem to have any strings attached. Link
Here is the ad.

This was not a paid blog and I got nothing from Borders or any of their affiliates for mentioning the program.

Crash Dive by Larry Bond

This is a collection of short stories about submarine warfare. The stories were, for the most part, penned by the men who lived them. The statistics showing the loss of boats and lives were daunting. The stories show the character and courage of the sailors that were courageous enough to fight our countries enemies from beneath the sea.

I didn’t know that submariners were all volunteers nor did I realize how much submarine action took place on the surface of the sea rather then beneath the waves. I toured a WWII submarine one time. I’m over 6 feet tall and I know I would never have survived in a sub. Between cracking my head and my shins I felt lucky to survive a walking tour let alone a cruise in war time. The people that staff submarines are a special breed. They are better educated and more accomplished than the rest of the navy. They may be working on a nuclear reactor or peeling potatoes but they do it underneath the waves. If a ship springs a leak there is a high likelihood that no one will be injured. If a sub springs a leak while submerged there is a high likelihood no one will survive. T

These stories are illustrative of the finer attributes of the warriors willing to put their life on the line for their country.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Larry Bond

Web Site:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl

This is billed as a triple threat novel. The triple threat is FBI agent Nicole, TV reporter Cassidy and prosecutor Allison. These three cooperate and help each other in their daily work. A young woman’s murder, a stalker and a U.S. Senator are the volatile mix that creates this literary cocktail.

Ms. Wiehl created likeable characters with realistic flaws. These women are not perfect which adds authenticity to the story line. There is plenty of action and treachery in the book. Just when you think you have the plot down pat you will find yourself in a sliding skid that totally changes your direction. Abuse, homelessness and blind loyalty combine in a spicy mélange of intrigue. Betrayal is exhibited in multiple situations. I enjoyed the mystery and lament over the fragility of both life and ego.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Lis Wiehl

Web Site:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stanford University’s 7th Annual Company Of Authors Event.

This sounded cool and I checked out the link. You may find it interesting.

Stanford's Continuing Studies department recently sponsored its seventh annual Company of Authors event, which showcased new works by twenty-three Stanford authors.

Since Pick of the Literate covers new books, literature, and targets the online literary community, I thought my readers might be interested in reading about or watching part of last weekend's event. Here is the link to the article covering the event, and links to the videos covering the two of the six event panels - Poetry Rules and Life and Imagination.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

An Interview with James Boyle, Author of Ni’ll The Awakening

Thank you James for taking the time to respond to an interview.

1. Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?

This novel was an exercise that worked well. I had a character I'd used in a sketch (a small town cop) and I tried to put him in a horror story. I also wanted the story set in something besides the usual horror venues like the cemeteries, ancient mansions, and centuries-old spots we're used to. Oregon is relatively new in that respect. My horror novel turned into an urban fantasy, but everything else turned out well.

2. Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?

It differs from work to work. Especially in shorter stories I often know how the whole story will play out before I put a word on paper. With my novels, I am a much more organic writer. For Ni'il: The Awakening, I really had no idea of the concept of the ni'il beforehand. It grew out of the story.

3. Is your process to outline and then fill in the blanks or just sit down and start to tell a story or?

Yes. I usually have a general idea of where the story is going and even a few scenes, but not a lot of specifics. I have found often that the story will often ignore your outline in some surprising ways. However, it can be very inefficient, involving a lot of rewrites. If I do get stuck, I often use an outline to get me back to the core of the story.

4. Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?

It's hard to write a novel, or series of novels if you don't really like your main character, so Dan Connor, the police chief hero has to be my favorite. He's a down to earth kind of guy who takes his job of protecting the citizens of Placerton very serious. I like his values (some would call old-fashioned) and his sense of humor and the fact that he doesn't think he's anything special, even though he clearly is.

5. What do you like most about writing?

I like it when everything is clicking and the story is flowing as fast as I can write it. It is an indescribable feeling, almost like a trance. It feels less like I'm writing the story than just channeling it from some higher source. I think it's the same thing as musicians call “being in the zone.”

6. Where do your new story ideas come from?

Wherever I can get them. And I can find them everywhere: the news, history books, conversations with my friends, overheard conversations among strangers, television, movies. I play “what if” a lot. The most insignificant thing can inspire a new idea. What if...? What if...? I already have way more ideas than I have lifetime to write.

7. What advice has helped the most in your writing?

Develop a thick skin. Writing is a tough gig, especially these days. There is much more criticism and rejection than there is praise. You have to believe in what you're doing, work at getting better every day and surround yourself with supportive friends. Don't let the world squash your dream.

8. This seems to be your first book, do you have something new in the works?

Actually, I have already released a sequel entitled Ni'il: The War Within and am now working on the third and final volume of the trilogy. If all goes well, the third volume will be released next winter. If you want to get technical, this is actually my third novel. The first two are just too awful to show anyone who is breathing. But they are important because I showed myself I could write a book-length story.

9. Who is your favorite author and why?

I don't know that I can name a single author as my favorite. The author I'm reading the most right now is Jim Butcher, namely The Dresden Files. I'm reading them primarily because they're a hoot. Fast paced, full of action and comedy, but serious all the same. It's a private eye novel with magic instead of gun play. They're a lot of fun. They're also in my genre.

10. What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

There are two things you absolutely need to do everyday. You need to write. It doesn't matter what you write or how much, but you need to get in the habit of writing everyday. The object is to make the act of putting together sentences and paragraphs as natural as possible. It's practice, just like a musician practices playing scales until it's second nature. You have to make the mechanics of writing second nature.
Second, read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read the classics. Read genre fiction. Read poetry. Read newspapers. Read the back of cereal boxes. Every time you read, you are exposing yourself to the way another writer put sentences and paragraphs together. How she organized her book. See what works and figure out why. See what doesn't and figure out why. Would you have handles it differently? Why? How?
Lastly, and maybe most important, develop a thick skin. Learn what you can from criticism of your work, but never let the naysayers crush your dream. If you truly want to be a writer, write.

James, thanks for the great answers. I am reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files as well. I find they compare favorably with Glen Cook’s Garret Files. Your advice to the want to be writer is also great. I have seen that advice from most of the successful authors I have interviewed. To be a writer you have to write.

Thanks again for the great interview.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Guest Post by Author James Boyle of Ni'il, The Awakening

On Becoming a Writer

Another question I'm often asked is when/how did I decide to become a writer. Believe it, or not, the clouds didn't part one day and a brilliant beam of light pinion me to a spring meadow. There was no epiphany. But it's all I've really wanted to do since high school anyway.

To begin with, I've always been a voracious reader. I was blessed to be the oldest child of two parents who would rather read than watch television, or go to the movies. Reading has always been an important part of my life. And when I say reading, I mean broad-based reading: mysteries, crime, historical fiction, horror, classic literature, westerns, I read it all. I even tried to read a Harlequin Romance once, but couldn't do it.

I was voracious. And I didn't just read and enjoy the story. I imagined stories like the ones I'd just read,

Somewhere around sixth grade, I read Treasure Island and was so enamored of the romance of the pirate I had to read every pirate novel I could get my hands on. There were probably three. The scarcity of pirate novels was terribly frustrating. I still remember thinking to myself that I'd just have to write my own. I couldn't do it, of course, but that's the first time I remember thinking it.

In high school, I became a reporter for the student newspaper and was good at it. I became the editor, then the editor of the yearbook. I began to try my hand at fiction, but never actually finished a story until I was eighteen.

I went to college, as a journalism major, but quickly discovered that I didn't really want to be another Woodward or Bernstein so much as a Kurt Vonnegut. So I switched majors to English, began to seriously study the craft of fiction, and the rest is history.

After thirty plus years of practice and study, I'm beginning to figure out what I'm doing.

I still haven't written that pirate novel.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ni'il, The Awakening by James Boyle

Police Chief Dan Connor is faced with something beyond his experience. A pragmatic soul, he is thrust into a frightening situation involving supernatural forces. Who he allies with and how he proceeds with define the rest of his life.

This story includes native Americans, ecology, mystery, murder, love and the supernatural. It takes this wide range of ingredients and blends it into an exciting and tension inspiring read. Boyle very clearly shows that our past can shape us but that our consciousness can allow us to determine how we let the past mold us. Boyles characterizations were excellent. He shows Dan and Stephanie as real people, who have made real mistakes and allows their characters to come to peace with their past and their future.

There is a message in the book that Boyle promotes without preaching. He does a good job in allowing the reader to form his own decisions. I look forward to seeing more from this new author.

I highly recommend it.

Body of work of James Boyle

Monday, May 3, 2010

7th Heaven by James Patterson

I enjoy the Women’s Murder Club. I don’t know if the TV show was canceled or just lost in the shuffle but I enjoyed it as well. A young, rich scion disappears and is presumed dead. Boxer gets a lead which she tracks down with her new partner Conklin. Joe, the Fed, is now living with Boxer who is still unable to make a permanent commitment. In the midst of the search for the missing young man, a series of brutal, arson murders intrudes.

Typical of Patterson is the number of intriguing sub plots. The brevity of the chapters allows the numerous subplots to work. I enjoy the women of the Murder Club. They have each other’s backs. I have seen this characteristic quite frequently in women I know. They are extraordinarily supportive of each other, particularly in times of crisis. Sadly once the days of athletic teams are over, I haven’t seen the same level of camaraderie in the men I know. But as this is a book review rather than a psych eval, I shall move along. There is plenty of action, some solid head scratching to try and determine who the bad guys really are and plenty of human interaction. I enjoyed the book. However if you are planning on reading it at the beach, you may want to take two since you will breeze through it in no time at all.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of James Patterson

Review of the book: