In accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Confessions of a Literary Persuasion. All books I review are either borrowed, purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for my honest review of the book in question.

20 December, 2008

Book Review: Playing with Fire Whining and Dining on the Gold Coast by Thomas G. Schaudel

Read and Reviewed for armchair interviews
Have you ever gone to dinner and had a bad experience? Maybe your food wasn’t cooked right, or you found something that shouldn’t be there in your soup bowl. Perhaps you were witness to one of your fellow patrons being extremely rude and pushy. However, what do you do if you are the chef, and the customer’s complaint is just too off the wall for you to handle?

If you are Chef Tom Schaudel, you write a book about those customers. Tom writes in his introduction: “By my math, I have fed over two million Long Islanders in the last forty years. One million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and fifteen have been wonderful; eighty five have made this book.” Playing with fire introduces readers to these most memorable characters that Tom and the staff of his four restaurants have met over the last forty years of being in the business.

From the moment I saw the table of contents which is laid out to look like a menu and the illustrations beginning each chapter, I knew I was in for a treat with this book. Chef and author Tom Schaudel shares these humorous “horror” stories of some of his best worst behaved customers. From the woman who tried to walk out of the restraint with a Christmas tree attached to her pocket, a grandma who liked to flip the bird at everyone in the place when not helped fast enough, the awkward situations of the woman on a date who is so drunk she is passed out on the ladies bathroom floor, and the young married couple who tried to redeem a counterfeit gift certificate given them as a wedding gift, as well as many others. The stories are told in a light hearted way that make the reader see how sometimes the wait and kitchen staff just have to have a good sense of humor to survive the night. I appreciated the recipes scattered through the pages, and while I don’t cook a lot of seafood myself I did see one or two that I would like to try some night for dinner.

Playing with Fire is a lighthearted romp through the restaurant industry and those nightmare customers who frequent it, as seen by the man behind the scenes.

17 December, 2008

Book Review: Signature by Ron Sanders

Read & Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

On the celebratory night of New Years Eve, four colleagues- academics all – welcome in the new year of 1346. Their leader Titus Mack has invited them to his home in the observatory outside of the outskirts in unprotected land with an arm of the colony coming up from the depths nearby.

Titus, begins to show and tell the trio of academics about the information that he has researched with the help of his advanced computing program Solomon over the past year since any of them had seen him last. His revelations show them a past history that has been erased from the history books, that the actual date is 2509 rather than 1346. He starts to show them why their world is strongly atheist with little religion at all. During his lecture, the perimeter of the Observatory is breeched my members of the colony, and the men are abducted and taken down into the depths of the underground colony.

The men find themselves in a strange world where nothing is what they know. Religion leads these people. In the years that they have been shuttered underground it has evolved into a society ruled by rituals and rules like nothing the four men have encountered before. The men are taken to meet the judgment of Mama and the ‘Postle, and nothing they do will let them escape this fate that has been handed to them.

I had a little bit of a hard time getting into this book. I found the first twenty or so pages slow reading. However I am glad that I pushed past and kept reading. Signature is an intellectual thrill ride that makes you think. It explores topics like what would happen if religion was segregated from the everyday world, and what would the world be like if its history was erased and restarted. This book was short, but really made me think while I was reading it. While I can see it not being something that everyone would enjoy, I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I originally thought that I would.

I enjoyed this book so much that I have two paperback copies to pass along to readers.

Both are autographed by the author, one is slightly worn from being toted along in my bag on the bus to school and work.

Both have been registered at Bookcrossing.

Leave a comment with a way to contact you, and why you would like to read the book.

I'm leaving this open until the 31st of December, and will announce the winner on January 1 or 2nd.

Bookk Review: Resurrecting Randi by David P. Shephard

Read & Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

On the first day of the new semester, Professor Travis Harrison’s life is starting to look up. His first book has been published, and is jumping up the best sellers list, and he is engaged to be married to a wonderful and supportive woman. Life is no longer constantly reminding him of the tragic death of his daughter Randi in a car accident ten years ago.

Then he met Layla Sommers. The troubled nineteen year old, latches onto Travis, and soon he is fending off her unwanted advances (including an inappropriate sexually explicit e-mail). She seems to see Travis as someone who can save her from her chaotic life. After Travis responds to her phone call pleading for help, he seems to be her savior. He did keep her from committing suicide. Travis on the other hand, finds himself a temporary father figure as he agrees to sponsor Layla, and let her live in his home during the month of recovery time the hospital wants a suicide watch kept on her.

Already battered by Layla’s previous advances, Travis struggles with his feelings of attraction to this confused girl child. When he realizes how much Layla physically resembles his lost daughter Randi (and what she might look like at this age) Travis is hit with the submerged grief he has for his lost daughter. During the month that Layla is a part of Travis’s everyday life he sees his life change. His girlfriend leaves him, he struggles with feelings of attraction towards Layla as a young woman, and guilt because she reminds him of what his daughter might have grown to become had she not died at age nine. Travis and Layla’s relationship quickly deteriorates, eventually leading to his arrest as the murderer of Layla’s abusive ex-boyfriend.

Despite all the drama that Layla brings into Travis’s life: The upheaval of his re-emerging grief, the pushing away of his fiancĂ© that happens with Layla living in his home, and the eventual destruction of his career as a writer and as a professor after his arrest. Travis finds positives to Layla’s presence in his life. She brings moments of tenderness, compassion, and love into his life. She lets him feel like a father again. Layla helps Travis face the grief he feels over the tragic loss of his daughter’s life.

Resurrecting Randi is author David P. Shepherd’s debut novel. It is an extremely well written story with highly developed characters. I enjoyed the twists and turns the plot took and was completely surprised with the ending. This book takes its readers deep into the psyche of Travis and Layla, and is an extremely well written psychological drama. I enjoyed Resurrecting Randi very much and look forward to seeing what this author writes in the future.


I enjoyed this book so much that I have two hardcover copies to pass along to readers.

1 is autographed by the author
1 is not.
Both have been registered at Bookcrossing.

Leave a comment with a way to contact you, and why you would like to read the book.

I'm leaving this open until the 31st of December, and will announce the winner on January 1 or 2nd.

13 December, 2008

Book Review: The Gypsy Morph by Terry Brooks

Read & Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

The Gypsy Morph is the third book in the Genesis of Shannara trilogy.

With the United States fallen into ruin, the Knights of the Word, Logan Tom and Angel Perez face a challenge in facing the evil that is rampaging towards them.

Logan Tom has to keep the promise that he made to the boy Hawk and his band of survivors called the Ghosts. Hawk, a magical being called the Gypsy Morph, is leading the ghosts to meet with other survivors in the wilds of Oregon. He is charged with leading them to a place of eventual safety.

Angel Perez has risked her life to help the elves in their fight against the demons of the void. She has helped the young elf Kirisin Belloruus and his sister find the legendary Lodestone. Kirisin has been entrusted with the knowledge of an ancient magic. This magic will put his people and their home of Arborlon inside of the Lodestone. Kirisin is charged with taking the magical gem to safety with the help of a small band of elves. They must get past the demon army waiting to crush the elven city and find someplace safe.

Will the Knights of the Word guide their charges and keep them safe long enough to reach the gypsy morph, Hawk’s, safe haven? Or, will the demon army from the void sweep away the survivors, be they elven, human, or mutant, and bring about the destruction of the world?

I have been a fan of the Terry Brooks writing for a very long time. The first time I read my father’s copy of The Sword of Shannara I was transported to a world of magic and conflict that I fell in love with. Sadly though I’ve not kept up with reading the Shannara books over the years. The Genesis of Shannara trilogy gave me a chance to revisit the writing of a favorite author. In this trilogy, I found a story that shows us the readers the actual happenings of the appocolyptic past that was hinted at during various points in the original Shannara books that I read so many years ago.

I really enjoyed this final instalment to the trilogy. I enjoyed seeing the emergence of the elves into our world, and the destruction that caused life as we know it to fall apart and evolve into the less technically inclined world that the Shannara stories are set in. I loved seeing how author Terry Brooks brought two of his series that I enjoyed together with the Knights of the Word being involved in this part of the history of Shannara (The series being The Knight of the Word books and the Shannara books). Reading The Gypsy Morph made me realize how much I’ve missed reading this author’s writing, and I look forward to catching up with the books that I’ve missed over the years.

13 November, 2008

book review: Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

Read and reviewed for Armchair Interviews.
Have you ever wondered what drives the health industry in touting what is correct to eat for a good healthy lifestyle? Have you ever wondered why common knowledge tells us that fat is bad, carbohydrates are good, and that to have a healthy weight you should eat less and exercise more? In Good Calories, Bad Calories author Gary Taubes tried to give readers answers to these questions, as well as showing them how this advice may not be right.
The book is split into three parts. Part one, The Fat-Cholesterol Hypothesis, looks at the effects of reducing fat and the rise of awareness of cholesterol and heart disease has played on diet in the last few decades. Part Two, The Carbohydrate Hypotheses, shows readers how the western diet slowly moved from one with more meat and fat in the late nineteenth century to one with more of an emphasis on breads and other carbohydrates. In this section, the author discusses the rise of refined carbohydrate use in meals, and how those are causing problems with both a rise in diabetes and obesity. The third section, Obesity and the Regulation of Weight, talks about hunger, different diets, and how they work or don’t with a person’s metabolism to help them lose weight or to hinder weight loss.
As a layperson, I had a hard time getting into this book. Author Gary Taubes gives his readers a whole lot of information on food, on nutrition, on different health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, and the rise in obesity. His background as a science writer shows with the completeness of the information given. I did find that the information given aimed at a lower glycemic diet with its higher protein and less refined carbohydrates very interesting, as well as the fact that diets promoting such eating habits were not new in the sixties when Dr. Atkins first started promoting his diet.

I believe this would be an excellent book for anyone interested in finding out more about the various diet trends and advice given through the past decades

13 October, 2008

Book Review: Beneath the Mask by David Ward

Read and reviewed for Armchair interviews

Beneath the Mask picks up after the events in Escape the Mask. Coriko, Pippa and their friends have found life after escaping the Spears to be not quite what they had imagined. They have spent their days working on a way to escape the Grassland. However, their nights are filled with trying to avoid falling into the grasps of the Strays – the escaped children who have become wild and feral in their freedom. The night they attempt to escape the grasslands once and for all, they find their plans thwarted. The Spears, whom they thought all dead are in fact not.

Once again captured, the four friends face the trial of Separation. Coriko, separated from his love Pippa finds exactly who is underneath the masks of the Spears. The life he is forced into leaves Coriko cold. In order to protect Pippa and keep her alive, he must do unspeakable deeds. But by doing these things, he runs the risk of losing Pippa’s love and trust. Coriko is faced with a challenge. He needs to find out what he truly values in his life, and find a way to make that happen. Even if it means finally getting free of the Grassland.

I loved having the world we were introduced to in Escape the Mask expanded. Beneath the Mask shows us who the Spears are as a culture. The book delved deeper into the struggles that Pippa Coriko, Bran, and Tia find themselves thrown into. Where the first book showed us the changes happening in the lives of the children, this book focuses on the struggles they have to make the correct choice for their continued happiness. In Beneath the Mask author David Ward has strengthened the story of Coriko, Pippa and their friends. I look forward to the third book and seeing where their adventures lead them to, and if they will finally find a home of their own.

Beneath the Mask is an adventure packed, action filled journey of discovery that once again brings some very weighty topics to the reader’s attention.

25 September, 2008

And the winner is...

Raonaid Luckwell!

Congratulations, lady luck looked kindly on you this drawing!

After reading your enthusiastic comment about the series in the entry post last week, I was absolutely thrilled to see your name get pulled.

I hope you enjoy reading Immortals:The Crossing just as much as the past books.

I'll be sending off the congratulations e-mail in just a moment.

18 September, 2008

Book Giveaway: Immortals: The Crossing by Joy Nash

Well, It's my turn to host the book giveaway for author Joy Nash's 50 books in 50 days giveaway. I have to admit, that I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, as life has gotten in the way of my tackling the to be read mountain, but it looks like it will be worth waiting for.

Here are the contest rules:
1. The drawing is open worldwide
2. You must leave a comment on this post with a reason why you would like to read this book.
3. Your comment must have a way to contact you, it can be email, blog info, or for those of you who wandered here from bookcrossing, a bookcrossing member name.
4. I will announce the winner on September 25th (and will stop accepting entries on the 24th).
5. You can get a second chance in the drawing by letting your own blog readers know about my giveaway. Just share a link to your promotion :)


Joy Nash
Urban Fantasy Romance
Dorchester Love Spell
Release: September 30, 2008

ISBN 10 0-505-52767-7
ISBN 13 978-0-505-52767-7

Author's website
Immortals-series website
Immortals Myspace
Immortals on Dorchester website

Contact Joy:


USA Today Bestselling Author Joy Nash returns with another installment in Dorchester Publishing's Nationally Bestselling multi-author series, IMMORTALS.

Demigod Manannán mac Lir (Mac) is on the trail of Artemis Black, a stunningly dangerous woman who's inexplicably able to intertwine life magic with death magic. For the safety of his people, he should destroy the desperate witch—once he learns her darkest secrets.

Readers of paranormal romance and urban fantasy will enjoy this adventure filled with black magic, nasty demons, hot immortals, dark humor, steamy sex, and a heart-thumping descent into a modern version of Dante's Hell. Available September 30. 2008.

11 September, 2008

And the Winner is...

The name drawn from the hat for the copy of True Detective by James A. Huebner is: A Real Librarian from over at Confessions of a Real Librarian!

Watch your mailbox for my e-mail.

Thanks to everyone for entering. I have two giveaways coming up next week, so check back again.

02 September, 2008

Book Review: Mr Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace

Read and reviewed for Armchair Interviews

Henry Walker, the negro magician, is a weak, thin and shaky black magician. An un-coorordinated sort of person, every night he drops cards, misses his cues and fumbles his way through his act. His show, part of the attractions offered at Musgrove’s Chinese Circus, is the sort that gives those watching a feeling of well being because even if life is bad, it can’t be as bad as this guy’s. But one summer night when the circus is stopped outside a small town in rural Mississippi Henry disappears as unexpectedly as he originally appeared in Jeremiah Musgrove’s office looking for work four years earlier. Three white teenagers decide that the world needs one less black man around. What they discover about Henry Walker is that the magician is not exactly what he seems.

What follows is a tale that spans over decades. Told from the viewpoints of Henry’s fellow circus performers and others that his life has touched, the varied story takes us through the years. Back to when he first learned magic, and survived the tragic loss of his adored sister Hannah, through his troubled life. Each story of Henry’s past is told from a different viewpoint, and is just a little different from the one before, until as a reader you don’t know what to believe until the story wraps itself up. I found myself entranced with this book and found in it an enchanting story dealing with loss, identity, the limits of magic, and how a person’s actions can influence others. The story crashes over the reader, leaving them to wonder, did Henry Walker make a deal with the devil for his magic, or was he instead just a gifted magician who had been run down by time?

This was an extremely well crafted and exiting story that hooked me from its first page. I’ve had this author recommended to me over the years, but while familiar with his prior story Big Fish through the quirky film adaptation I had never read any of his books. Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician hooked my imagination, and I know I will be seeking out more of Daniel Wallace’s writing in the future.

Author's web site
Book format: paperback
Publishing date: 8 July 2008

19 August, 2008

Book Giveaway: True Detective by James A. Huebner

I've come to the realization that my books to be passed on box is getting very full, so in order to help along some cleaning and organizing of said box (as it houses my bookcrossing available books as well), I am going to do a drawing for my trade paperback copy of True Detective by James A. Huebner. The review was posted yesterday, and can be read here.

This copy is a trade paperback, the corners did get a tiny bit dinged up in mailing and then when riding in my bag for reading oppurtunities on the bus and in waiting rooms. It is autographed by the author. It has also been registered at bookcrossing (as I do to all the review books I pass along). The winner is not expected to use the bookcrossing info, though I would love to see a response to the book after it gets read. Mostly because I'm nosy, and like hearing what others think of the books I share.

There are a couple rules for this drawing as I had an interesting amount of anonymouse entries on the last one.

1. Leave a comment on this post, with contact info. Either a blog link, or an email. I need a way to contact the winner.
2. To get an extra entry for the drawing, post about the contest in your blog, and send me a link to the post (either here or via e-mail is fine)
3. I will contact the winner, and if I do not hear back in 5 days I will pick a second name.
4. This contest is open worldwide.

I will accept entries for the drawing until 10 pm. on September 10, 2008 and will post the winner on September 11, 2008 (fitting given the subject matter and setting of the book).

I've got a few more give aways coming up in the next few months so come back and visit the blog again :)

18 August, 2008

Book Review: True Detective by James A. Huebner

Read and revieved for Front Street Reviews
New York City cop, Sergeant Detective Marlowe finds himself in a new place. Coming back to work after an extended leave of absence, sitting through sessions with a therapist that he believes he doesn’t really need, and starting work in a new precinct with a new partner. On their first night together, they discover an odd crime in Battery park. Someone has left a carefully stuffed cadaver skin, hanging above the water that formed one of the park’s boundaries, holding a sign that says SS New York on it.

In the days and weeks that follow Marlowe learns more about his partner. Both he and his partner Detective Captain Cross both had been touched by the events of 9-11 in ways besides helping with the rescue, and eventual body removal from the tower’s rubble. Both had been involved in investigations and arrests concerning the attacks on the World Trade Center. Marlowe finds that his partner cross believes that the “body” they found in the park was connected with the terrorists, and is adamant about discovering who did it and why before New York is attacked for a third time. The cadaver, along with a very prominent suicide/homicide and a sting on a well known local drug dealer all start to seem like they could be intertwined. Along with the stresses of work, Marlowe is starting to doubt the sanity of his partner.

I found the story a bit slow at first, but it built up to a nice pace. Author James Huebner has built a strong story based in mystery. As a reader I enjoyed following narrator Detective Marlowe on his journey to find the source of the “darkness” that is threatening his city. It becomes a tumultuous journey as he strives to figure out where the many cases they are investigating might connect, and which, is the true crime. We see Marlowe grow as a person with the discoveries about his self that he makes with the help of his psychiatrist, and his own personal reflection while on and off duty. I found True Detective to be a wonderful look into the police procedures of the daily work life of a modern day New York City Police detective. This was a great story, full of twists and turns, with a surprising twist of an ending.

14 August, 2008

Book Review: Escape the Mask by David Ward

Coriko and his partner Pippa are slaves to the Spears. The children are Twosies, children who have lived in the grasslands and worked at finding the shards that the Spears want mined from the sands for many years. Coriko – who doesn’t remember a life outside of captivity relies on Pippa for friendship and support as they struggle through each day trying to meet the gather quotas and keep from angering the Spear guards and the punishment that comes afterwards.

However, they find their life changing slowly when two newcomers are captured and brought to the grasslands who speak the same language as Pippa and Coriko. They bring news of unrest in the outside world, and the possibility of war. When the Spears suddenly start changing their gathering totals for the day, and are attacked by enemy archers inside the grasslands, the four friends team together with two other slave children to try and survive. The violence towards the Spears increases and the children find themselves looking for ways to free the other slaves, escape from the cave complex that they are kept in, and get past both the Spears and the attacking soldiers.

Escape the mask is the first book in The Grasslands Trilogy. The story explores the idea of freedom. Coriko and his friends find themselves free from the torture and cruelty of their captors, and faced with freedom from the slavery that was the life they were accustomed to. After they find freedom, each child has the opportunity to discover more about themselves, and who they are. They grow from slaves with no identity to individuals with very distinct strengths and weaknesses. I found the story engaging. I enjoyed watching the six children grow as they found strength together to break free from imprisonment and discover who each person is.

This is a great introduction to a new series, and I am looking forward to reading the next book when it is published.

Author's web site:

13 August, 2008

a Neil Gaiman Extravaganza

Fashonista Pirahna is having a Neil Gaiman extravaganza of a give away. I thought y'all might like to know about it. go find out how to enter here

Prizes being offered are: an ARC of Neil's newest book The Graveyard Book (to be released on September 30, 2008), a Graphic novel version of Coraline, Gaiman's Bath Surprise: one Stardust bath bomb and one Comforter bubble bath, which Gaiman has written about in his blog, A hardcover copy of American Gods, $25 to a charity of choice, and more?

12 August, 2008

50 books in 50 days give away

Joy Nash’s Immortals: The Crossing--sixth book in Dorchester’s USA Today Bestselling series Immortals--hits the bookshelves on September 30. But 50 lucky readers will win autographed copies on or before that date!

Yes, that’s right – 50 copies of The Crossing will be given away on 50 participating websites and blogs, which means readers have 50 online chances to win this hot new paranormal romance during the 50 days between August 12 and September 30.

Find out where you can win a copy at by checking out the list

I will be offering a copy here on Confesions of a Literary Persuasion in September, so be sure to check in and enter when the time comes

(I'll also be doing a few other give aways in the next month or so as well so check back for those as well)

14 July, 2008

for the Joss Whedon fans out there.

This is not book related, but entertainment related.

Joss Whedon has a limited time web series premiering tomorrow (which will be available only until 20 July 2008).

It looks quite good, and has some very familiar faces in it. (click on the image to head over to the dr. horrible web site.)

03 July, 2008

May I have the envelope please?

The lucky winner of George Carlin's When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? is...



I'll be contacting you for mailing info, and this will go out the next time I head over to the post office.

26 June, 2008

BTT: Definition of a reader

What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader.” A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?

Growing up, I heard the phrase "she's a reader" alot. As a child (and even now), I read alot. I read to experience new worlds, to visit places I someday hoped to visit, and to find out "who done it". I also read to escape the unhappiness of teasing at school, and family issues, but that is a whole different story.

As such I kinda hate the title reader. Yeah I read, so do a whole lot of others in the world.

But I think anyone who reads for pleasure is a "reader". Be they a child, teen, or adult who only reads once in a while, or those like myself who devour books in their free time. I think that anyone who has been drawn into a story and visited the world that the author has created is a reader whether they liked the book or hated it.

On a side note. I have a tote bag full of kids books for when friends bring their children over to visit. I love hearing "Can I get the books?" being asked as soon as they walk into the apartment.

25 June, 2008

In memory of:

As most of you have heard by now, comedian George Carlin passed away earlier this week.

His comedy has meant alot to me over the years. I remember watching his televiseed performances on the then young cable network with my dad, and listening to his recorded shows also with my dad (along with the Duck's Breath Mystery Theater, and the Firesign Theater), and I have devoured all his books over the years.

As I had just Finished listening to George read the audio version of his last book When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? on the day of his passing, I would like to pass along a copy of the book in his memory.

This will be a gently read used hardbound copy of the book that has been registered at Bookcrossing. Leave me a comment telling me what George Carlin's comedy meant to you, and a way of contacting you.

I'll draw the winner's name on July 2, 2008. This is open to anyone anywhere in the world.

So long George! Thanks for all the laughs!

16 June, 2008

Book Review: Tin Lizard Tales by Schuyler T. Wallace

Read and Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

What do you get when you put a retired couple on a train for a month? Take them from Bakersfield, California across the United States to the east coast, then North into Canada and head them back west again, across the Canadian wilderness? Tin Lizard Tales is exactly that. Part travelogue, part historical look into the cities they cross through, and part discussion/rant on various issues brought about by the former. Tin Lizard Tales is author Schuyler T. Wallace’s recollections of the cross country trip he and his wife Carol took via Amtrak (in the USA) and the VIA Rail (in Canada).

Tin Lizard Tales attempts to show various parts of the country in current days, what the author and his wife saw and visited while touring the country. The history lessons come when the author adds in looks into the history of the areas they’ve traveled in, and the cities that they visit. Even the title of the book is a bit of history, gleaned from the old time railroaders’ name for streamliners. Here and there Mr Wallace slips away from his format and shares with us his opinions and essays on topics such as homelessness, the meat packing industry, and the service encountered on the many trains he and his wife rode on their trip.

Author Schuyler T, Wallace has the following to say about his book: “I was prompted to write this book by a lot of reading and large amounts of coffee. Strangely enough, that’s probably what you will need to get through it.” I don’t drink coffee, but I don’t know if it would have helped me speed through the book any faster than I ended up doing. There is a lot of information between the first page and the back cover of this book. I could only read it a chapter or two at a time before setting it aside to process what I had read. The portion I had trouble with most, was when the author talked about their visit to the World Trade Center site, and his exploration of the events of 9/11. Even though it’s been almost seven years since the attacks, it’s still a very raw subject. I skimmed through those chapters and on to the rest of the Schuylers’ visit to the city that never sleeps. I did enjoy the descriptions of the scenery they traveled through especially the descriptions of the length of track traveled along the Hudson River, and while crossing Canada. I’ve traveled long distance via Amtrak as well, and it was a memorable experience. Reading Tin Lizard Tales reminded me of that experience, and made me look forward to perhaps exploring the country by train travel again some day.

12 June, 2008

Book Review: Keeper and Kid by Edward Hardey

Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

When Jim Keeper receives a call out of the blue from his ex-wife Cynthia’s mother, the last thing he expects to hear is that she is in the hospital. Jim drops everything to drive up to Boston to find out what the favor he has been told she needs to ask him is. A week later, when going to pick up what used to be their dog Arrow, Jim is faced with a huge problem that he was not expecting.

It’s been four years since He and Cynthia divorced, a little over three years since he had seen her last. His life in those years has changed significantly. He now lives in Providence, and is partner in a two man salvage shop. He spends his days looking for buyers of the stuff his partner and best friend Tim finds (everything from old mantelpieces salvaged from houses that have been demolished to antique toys), and running their warehouse. He has also just moved into a house with Leah, his current girlfriend.

Cynthia has passed away, and rather than going home with the dog he was expecting, he is introduced to Leo. Suddenly he is finding himself father to a three year old, whom he wasn’t even aware he had. Jim finds himself transporting home a toddler, and his belongings. He cannot fathom what has just happened, and can not figure out how to break the news to Leah.

His life becomes one of introduction to this small child who speaks of strange kid things such as the tv show Kipper, and who only eats round foods. Everywhere he turns, his small home he had been making with his girlfriend Leah is over run with bright colored toys, and child sized clothing. He is struggling to survive as a single parent, learning to cope with daily childcare and toilet training. Through all this, there is an urgency to get Leo integrated into the life he had, and to convince Leah to give him and Leo another chance.

Keeper and Kid is a warm and sweet story of a man and child thrown headfirst into each others lives. Edward Hardy has created an engaging look into life, as a new parent, as a single parent, and the receipt of an unexpected gift. Jim Keeper, a man who never thought about children in his life grows through the story. I found myself immersed in the book, and quickly sped through it to find out how Jim, Leo, and Leah survive the shock of being thrown together so suddenly.

05 June, 2008

Book Review: Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese

Read and Reviewed for Front Street Reviews.

Down to a Sunless Sea is a collection of fifteen short stories written by Mathias B. Freese. I have mixed feelings about this slim book. On one hand, there are a few gems in the collection. Then on the other hand, there are others that just seem to fall short of the mark. It took me a longer time than I usually take to commit myself to reading this book.

The author, uses his experiences and observations gained from twenty-five years as a clinical social worker and psychologist in crafting his stories. Most of them, are rather dark, keeping with the author’s dark view of humanity (something he has readily admitted to having). However, a few of the stories show both humor and a moving look at how we view life. In the introduction, Down to a Sunless Sea is promoted as “plunging the reader into uncomfortable situations and into the minds of troubled characters.” This is a very apt statement, but in my opinion a few of the stories just seemed abrupt, and the characters not given as much of an opportunity to establish themselves as they could. The stories, written over a thirty-year time frame delve deeply into the human psyche, and are excellently written if a bit raw and packed with emotion.

I found the story “Alabaster” to be one of most moving of the collection. This story introduces an old Polish woman and her daughter. The mother, a survivor of the Holocaust and her devoted daughter live in the neighborhood, but do not easily interact with their neighbors. They sit together, and alone, until their lives are brightened briefly by a small boy who is too young to know of the tragedy that they had lived through. He, after hearing from the old woman of her experiences during WWII, reads the tattoo she still carries out loud, wondering who 7859912 was. A person, the old woman can not tell him was herself as others had seen her, an undesirable, and not the alabaster armed young girl she once was.

The other stories I found enjoyable in the collection were:
“Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Father was a Nazi”
“Mortise and Tenon”

29 May, 2008

BTT: What is Reading, Fundamentally?

Suggested by: Thisisnotabookclub

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

(Two weeks late for Reading is Fundamental week, but, well…)

To me books are a way to share information, stories, facts.

There is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and letting your eyes skip across the words below, and imagining the story alive while reading. However, I do enjoy audiobooks for the reasons that sometimes you are in a situation where you can't focus on a book but have the time to listen to a story (like long car trips, or a daily bus commute). Mangas and comics are graphic forms of story telling, they still engage your mind while reading them.

Of all the formats listed, the ones I don't really take part in are e-books. I have trouble with headaches caused by too much time staring at the screen on a regular computer. The newer reading devices are nice (I've gotten to play with a Sony E-reader) but as nice as they are it's just not the same as holding a book in your hands and flipping through the story in print format.

01 May, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Mayday edition

Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do?

I actually usually have a book with me in my purse. However, should I be stuck without one, I would probably pick something up to read in the terminal. If for some reason I wasn't able to do this, I would probably find some paper and write or sketch while waiting to fly where-ever.

25 April, 2008

upcoming reviews

The blog is going on the back burner for a few weeks as I finish up classes for the semester. However here's a list of some of the books I will be reviewing and sharing with y'all as soon as I have free time again :)

Keeper and Kid by Ed Hardy
Tin Lizard Tales: Reflections from a Train by Schuyler T. Wallace
Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese
True Detective by James A Huebner

24 April, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Spring!

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

I've been noticing tulips, and dafodils blooming, and the little May violets poking their heads up early over the past sunny and warm week. Also my daily walk have seen lots of wild rabbits hopping on lawns enjoying the greening grass (and I suppose sitting on shallow nests under bushes since the same three have been in the same yard all week). Last night we had our first real spring rain of the season. I love spring showers with their gentle warm sprinkles. I find it fun to walk through them as I ended up doing after class, as opposed to rushing to dryness when autumn rains take place.

I don't notice a change in my reading choices per say when the weather gets nice. But, my choices of reading spaces totally changes. I love to settle down with a good book in the hummock of a tree's branches, or sitting leaning against it's trunk feeling the grass tickle my legs, and the rough texture of the bark behind me. I revel in reading in dappled shaded area where you get little bits of sunlight dancing around you. I love to read outside, even though I have to be careful of the sun's rays.

I actually find myself reading gardening books more in the winter in anticipation of spring, and while lighter fiction does pop up a little more often in the warmer weather I still reach for the heavier fiction and non fiction about the same as in colder weather.

How about you? Does the weather change how you read?

17 April, 2008

Book Review: Without Blood by Alessandro Baricco

Read and reviewed for Armchair interviews

Hidden in a small hole beneath the floor of the farmhouse, Nina witnesses the bloody end to a war which had torn the country in two. Salinas, the leader of one side, kills her father for the horrendous crimes done in his hospital by his side during those war years. The resulting fight, leaves both her father, and brother dead. However, when her hiding spot is found by the boy who is with Salinas, Tito, and left undisturbed her life changes in ways she is not expecting.

Many years later, now an elderly woman, she runs into the elderly Tito who is now a lottery ticket seller in a large city. Tito, the last of the three men involved in the deaths, recognizes her instantly. He has his fears of this girl child from his past, now a grown woman. She invites him to sit down and have a drink with her, and then tells him about what happened to her after he saved her life, all those years ago.

Without Blood is a short but engaging story. It examines the ways that war affects people, and how a simple kindness can bring strength when needed. The exploration of the human psyche and the way the story delved into human suffering and happiness made this small book a very engaging read. I expected a story about revenge, after reading the first part, and was very surprised by the way the second part of the story unfolded. This was the second novella by Alessandro Baricco that I have read, and I look forward to exploring more of his writing.

27 March, 2008

Bokk Review: A Place to Belong by Paul Miller

Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

When eight year old Paul sees his parents returning early from a trip to Florida, the last thing he expects to hear is that his family will be getting smaller, as he and his parents move to Florida. The move means leaving his older siblings (who are married or grown enough to support themselves), and his mentally disabled brother Johnny in Detroit, MI. Paul finds his world spiraling out of control as the move to Florida turns into a zigzagging trip across the country. When they reach California, life settles down enough to allow Paul to return to school, make friends, and hope that the constant uprooting will end.

Then Paul’s mother dies, leaving him with a father who is becoming more violent, and unstable. Believing that his wife had been cheating on him, and that Paul knows who the supposed boyfriend is, he beats Paul for not answering his questions. Paul, deciding enough is enough, borrows the bus fare back to Detroit from one of his older brothers. Unfortunately for him, no one in his family wants him back.

So, he lives in an unhappy situation at his sister Mattie’s house until he finds himself with a choice to make. To stay in Detroit, living with family who don’t want him, or to move to Dearborn, MI and become the foster child to a childless couple named Montayne. Paul chooses the latter, moves and stays with them for a year, until his itch to wander kicks in, along with the slow failure of the Montayne’s marriage.

Paul leaves to hitch hike across the country. He goes from Michigan south, and then heads west again. Finally he finds himself back in California, in the town where his mother died, and his father still lived. Paul was given a chance to try and come to some closure with his father, find out why they had moved so much and to try and find what he wanted with his life.

A Place to Belong is a story of a young man whose life has been turned into turmoil.
We witness Paul as he deals with abandonment as his parents leave him alone for days and weeks at a time, and slowly get caught up in a life of petty theft. It isn’t until Paul meets some very spiritual people in his travels that he starts praying to a god that has suddenly become a more friendly and approachable being. This book deals with some pretty heavy issues as Paul struggles to find the strength in him, and a place where he will finally belong. I found the book to be gripping, and found myself feeling for Paul as his travels bring him from a confused boy of eight to a sixteen year old finally finding his place in the world.

20 March, 2008

Book Review: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

"The Middle Place is about calling home. Instinctively. Even when all the paperwork—a marriage license, a notarized deed, two birth certificates, and seven years of tax returns—clearly indicates you're an adult, but all the same, there you are, clutching the phone and thanking God that you're still somebody's daughter." – Kelly Corrigan

Thirty-six year old Kelly Corrigan was living a very content life. She had a job she enjoyed, a wonderful husband, two beautiful young daughters, and a great relationship with her family. Then, one evening she discovered an unexpected lump in her breast. Before long, she found herself facing the results of many tests – she had breast cancer. Kelly, who still considers herself George Corrigan’s daughter, finds herself facing her middle place. Before starting chemo treatments, Kelly draws a cacoon of safety around her – her family, her friends, and her desire to survive. She plans a the cancer is gone party for one year after her diagnosis, and calls back home to her parents.

Kelly’s life becomes a changing one of chemotherapy, loss of hair, weakening body as she goes through treatments, and through it all her strength is supported by her husband Ed, and her father. However , six months into her treatments, Kelly finds herself facing a phone call of her own. Her father has been diagnosed with bladder cancer. Suddenly, she finds herself plaugued with worries about not only herself, but her father as she tries to help support her parents from the opposite side of the country.

The Middle Place, is a journey through illness, and health, where strength and support are. found in places that the author does not expect. Kelly Corrigan writes a memoir that is both humerous, as well as thought provoking. She makes her readers feel like they are a part of her family, sharing her stories of growing up and her recovery from cancer with honesty, humor, and a fantastic flair for storytelling. I started the book on a day I was myself laid up with the flu, and found myself engrossed by it. It made me laugh, as well as bringing me to tears as the subjects of love, family, friendship, illness, cancer, and even death are touched on.

13 March, 2008

Book Review: In Search of Molly Pitcher by Linda De Pauw

Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

When eight grader Peggy McAllister reads about the Rattletop Award, a prize awarded to a graduating eighth grader for excellence in social studies, in her local paper, she knows, this is something she wants to win. So when her social studies teacher mentions the contest to his class, in conjunction with a required research paper as part of the class’s coursework, Peggy picks the name that draws her attention most from the list of possible paper subjects handed to the students.

Despite her teacher’s misgivings, Peggy decides to do her paper on a little known subject, the female revolutionary war hero Molly Pitcher. Peggy, with the help of her grandfather, and his friend - local historian Mrs. Spinner sets out on her research. Peggy finds that there is not a lot known about Molly Pitcher, the books she finds about her subject are few and varied from children’s literature to out of print and rare books. Armed with her box of index cards, Peggy finds herself tracking down information through old newspaper accounts, the few books with solid information, and records of first person testimony as she tries to separate fact from misinformation through the tangled records of the past. Will Peggy find enough to write a strong paper, and win the first Rattletop Award?

In Search of Molly Pitcher does several things with its story. The book introduces readers to how research is conducted, the differences between primary and secondary sources for information, and ways to keep research organized. The author’s interest and background as a historian shines through the story, and makes the book an enjoyable read. Searching for Molly Pitcher has a strong plot, which is an enjoyable one to read. It introduces a not as well known historical figure in a way that makes the history of her life exiting, and not boring. This is a great introduction to the Revolutionary War, and the process of researching and writing a research paper.

29 February, 2008

Book Review: Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars by Mabel Armstrong

Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

Have you ever looked up at the sky and wondered at what you saw? Who has made discoveries among the stars in the past and present day? Reaching for the Stars provides some answers to questions such as these.

The book is laid out in a way that introduces readers to women who study the stars from ancient times, to current day. Each woman is given an overview of their life, including the influences that drew them towards astronomy. This glimpse into the lives of female astronomers gives readers an idea of why these women fell in love with the stars, and what they accomplished in their lifetimes. Even now, the field of astronomy is still very male oriented, and it is nice to see the past and current contributions and advancements to physics, and how science looks at space and the stars by women scientists, and enthusiasts.

Starting back with the Greek Hypathia, who created the astrolabe that sailors used to measure the positions of the stars while at sea, to Hildegarde of Bigen who as well as the music and medical writings that she is more famously known for believed that the earth rotated around the sun in a time when most people believed otherwise. The book then moves forward, through the dark and middle ages to examine when and how astronomy became a science through the works of Caroline Herschel and her brother in eighteenth century England. From there, the book moves to the period of time from 1890 through the early 1940’s when women scientists who worked low paid jobs processing massive amounts of data for the Harvard observatory. The book finally moves to study the time from the 1920’s, when American universities first started awarding doctorates in astronomy, through the 1980’s when federal legislation opened all university programs to women, and their numbers increased in all the scientific fields. The book concludes with the work of well known women astronomers in the turn of the twenty-first century.

This book is a wonderfully written reference book for anyone who is interested in the backgrounds of the many women who have advanced the study of the stars over the years. It looks at the rigid standards of societies look at a women’s roles, their struggles with running a household, raising children, and their love of the stars. I saw some well known names, among the lesser known women who advanced the study of astronomy in a time where women were not considered to be candidates for advanced degrees in the field. I personally enjoyed the mixture of biographical material with information on the types of tools used, the historical impact of the past on the study of the stars, and the more detailed explanations and illustrations of terms commonly used by astronomers as well as different types of stellar subject studied.

22 February, 2008

Book Review: Rusty Son of Tall Elk by Charles H. Bertram

Reviewed for Armchair Interviews

When ten-year old Russsell “Rusty” Weaver set off on a logging trip with his uncle Evan, and his two older brothers, the last thing on his mind was Indians. His job for the two week trip to float the log rafts down to St. Louis was to scout ahead, find good landing spots, and start dinner each evening. But when river rats steal the boat, Rusty ends up attracting the attentions of a group of Cheyenne Indians that are headed back West after buying guns.

Rusty, is taken back with the Cheyenne. He finds himself adopted into the family of Chief Tall Elk. The chief, father to a red haired daughter of mixed ancestry, believes that to have two red haired children will bring good luck to his family and tribe. Rusty, finds himself hundreds of miles from home, in a new “home” where he doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the customs, and where everything seems to be new and unusual.

Rusty Son of Tall Elk transports readers back to a time when much of the United States was still unexplored. The story explores the differences between the lives of the settlers, and the Native American tribes that were still fighting for the survival of their culture in the threat posed by Westward expansion of the United States. Rusty is faced with hard decisions for a child to make. Can he find a home with these Cheyenne? Is there a way for him to enjoy the freedoms and responsibilities that his new life is allowing him to experience? Will his family back in Illinois ever find out the truth of his disappearance, or will they believe he is dead? I found Rusty Son of Tall Elk a great start to an encompassing story. This is the first in a four book series, and I look forwards to reading more in the continuing adventures of Rusty.

ISBN-13: 978-1-933255-43-9
Publication Date: April 2008
Publisher: Nartea Publishing
Author's Web Site:

08 February, 2008

Book Review: The Diva's Fool by Silvia Foti

Read and Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

Alexandria Vilkas, a reporter for the Chicago based Gypsy magazine, is interviewing world renowned opera singer Carmen Dellamorte about her passion for tarot cards. During the interview, Carmen’s understudy in a moment of anger utters the name of the opera, Macbeth. This is taboo in the operatic circles, as it is considered a part of a 400 year old curse in which if the name of the opera is uttered out loud while in production a cast member will die. After a stunning final performance, Carmen steps on stage during her curtain call and collapses. She has been as the police will discover shortly, poisoned.

Alexandria is pulled into the mystery surrounding Carmen’s death for three reasons. Her first reason is her interview with the diva before her death. The second reason, Carmen entrusted Alexandria with a box of material to help her ghost write a biography of Carmen’s father - a box which may contain clues to the diva's death written in her own hand. Finally, and most importantly to Alexandria, the third reason, it was predicted that she would have to solve this case in order to become a member of the secret society, the Order of the Tarot.

Her boss at Gypsy Magazine changes her story from one about celebrity usage of Tarot cards, to one that finds and reveals the murder responsible for Carmen’s death. Alexandria finds herself learning more about Carmen’s past, family, and career as she investigates the murder. She finds herself in a race against time to find an answer to the question that everyone is asking.

Has the curse claimed another victim, or are there other sinister plots in play to bring down the diva?

The Diva’s Fool is Silvia Foti’s second mystery with reluctant detective Alexandria Vilkas. It is also, the first book in The Tarot Chronicles series. I was a little reluctant to start this without having first read Skullduggery, however the story is paced well enough that you don’t feel as though you have missed something by not having read the introductory book. Paranormal themes have recently started to creep into every genre from science fiction & fantasy to thrillers, mysteries, and romance. It is also, a theme that is extremely hard to write and have come off convincing and not cheesy. The adventures of Alexandria Vilkas ended up grabbing my imagination while reading. The fact that the story is set in Chicago, the city I grew up in and still live near was another good thing for me while reading. It was extremely easy to imagine Alexandria running around the city I love. Like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books, The Diva’s Fool shows another layer to Chicago, one filled with ghostly encounters, and where nothing is what it seems. I found the book to be thrilling read filled with murder, music, and unseen forces at work. I am looking forward to reading Silvia Foti’s first book, and her future books.

Publication Date: April 2007
Publisher: Echelon Press
Author's Web Site:

25 January, 2008

an update of sorts

Just so people don't start to think I've abandonded the blog. December was hectic,, I read a bunch of books and caught up on reviews. These have been posted to the blog in a postdated format (so y'all will have to scroll down for them). I'm still working my way through a few of the books on my to be read & reviewed pile and will continue to post them here when I get them done...

However, I started classes again, so my updates will most likely end up being on Fridays when I don't have class time constraints.

I'm looking forwards to seeing what 2008 brings to read, and sharing it with y'all!

24 January, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

What's your favorite book that nobody else has heard of? You know, not Little Women or Huckleberry Finn, not the latest best-seller ... whether they've read them or not, everybody "knows" those books. I'm talking about the best book that, when you tell people that you love it, they go, "Huh? Never heard of it?"

I don't know that I can recomend just one book. I tend to read alot and I tend to read a wide varietyof genre's and read a whole lot of unknown author's. In fact, since I started reviewing, I've been introduced to a lot of new and little known authors. So feel free to poke around the archives and see if you see anything that catches your eye.

One of the books that definately stands out though of the books I've reviewed in the last year was Sigourney's Quest by Gordon Snider, as well as Flight of the Goose: A Story of the Far North by Lesley Thomas.

But, I think caligula's advice is great. Visit your library and just look for something new to you to read, steering clear of well known author's. Try a book you wouldn't normally pick up. You might be pleasantly surprised!

15 January, 2008

Book Review: Bang Crunch by Neil Smith

Read & reviewed for Armchair Interviews

Bang Crunch is Canadian author Neil Smith’s debut collection of short stories. It contains nine short stories all about pretty ordinarily average people, who find themselves in rather unexpected situations. I didn’t know what to expect when I opened up the book, while snuggling up on my sofa, against the cold weather outside with a large mug of tea. What I found between the covers of this slim novel captivated me and left me wanting to read more by this extraordinarily talented author.

These are a few of the introspective stories in Bang Crunch:

Isolettes introduces us to a young set of parents dealing with the extremity early birth of their child. The story examines the frailty of the new life, and the struggle the young mother has with finding love for the incubator found, baby wrapped in tubes and sensors.

Green Florescent Protein is about Max, a teen struggling to cope with several new situations. He recently moved to a new home in Westmont. His mother, a wacky, sober ex drunk who talks to his father’s cremated remains (which are housed inside a curling stone), deciding to give herself a “life overhaul”. He also is struggling with a new feeling of attraction past friendship with his closest friend Ruby-Doo.

The B9ers What happens when a survivor of a benign tumor starts a support group for others in the same situation? The B9ers captures the struggle of a group of people trying to return to normal life after a close call. They don’t get the support and sympathy they need, since their tumors were not malignant, but still struggle along after surgery.

Bang Crunch Is a look into the life of a girl with Fred Hoyle’s Syndrome, which ages her a year a day.

Scrapbook Amy and her boyfriend struggle with the attack on a University German class that ends with the death of eight women. He was one of the survivors of the attack. This story delves into the what ifs? Why did this happen? The storry delves into the emotions of guilt and anxiety of being a survivor.