Quantcast

Cross Country by James Patterson

Miriam at Hatchette Group sent Cross Country by James Patterson for my review. However, while I’ve been an avid James Patterson reader for some time, I decided to have the biggest James Patterson fan I know review it. My mom, Pat, offered to review the book for me. I’m sure my review will follow sometime in 2009.

About the book (from Amazon.com):

In this 14th Alex Cross thriller, Cross, a Washington, D.C., police detective, takes on a very different quarry—a human monster known as the Tiger with ties to the African underworld. When the Tiger and his teenage thugs butcher writer Ellie Cox, her husband and children in their Georgetown home, Cross is devastated because Ellie had been his girlfriend in college. The Cox family massacre proves to be just the first in a series. Cross pursues the Tiger to Nigeria, where the profiler finds himself at the mercy of corrupt government officials who may be working with the Tiger.

Here’s what Pat had to say about the latest in the Alex Cross Series:

James Patterson’s Cross Country is a page turner from beginning to end.

Alex Cross and Brianna Stone are called to a horrific crime scene, one of the worst murder scenes Cross has encountered in his entire D.C. police career. Families are brutally murdered in their homes. One scene involves Cross’ ex-girlfriend Ellie Randall Cox and her family, and the death of the entire family. Ellie was a reporter who uncovered a series of brutal murders happening both in the United States and Nigeria, Africa.

Cross ends up in Africa on the trail of a notorious killer, Tiger, and his boy killers. From the moment Cross sets foot in Nigeria, he is kidnapped, beaten, and shot at. The fast-paced style that Patterson has cornered the market on continues in this latest Alex Cross story. Everyone Cross comes in contact with is dying or in danger, and eventually, Tiger follows Cross back to Washington, D.C.

This book is fantastic, and I would rate it with 5 stars. It will keep readers glued to the page until they are finished. This is one of the better books in the Cross series, and setting a portion of the tale in Africa was unique and believable.

***Don’t forget about the Gods Behaving Badly Contest, which runs through January 5 at Midnight EST.***

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Marie PhillipsGods Behaving Badly is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. What would the ancient gods of Greece and Rome do in today’s 21st Century world? Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, a phone sex operator; Apollo, the God of the Sun, a television psychic; Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and Chastity, a dog walker.

The gods have weakened since their days on high at Mt. Olympus, and they are all crammed into a dilapidated home in London, getting on one another’s nerves. The conflict truly begins one night during a taping of Apollo’s psychic show where Eros shoots a love arrow into Apollo’s heart, leaving him powerless against his love for the next person entering his view. Unfortunately, that person happens to be a mortal named, Alice, who cleans the theater where the show is taped. Alice and her friend Neil, who both love one another but are too afraid to make a move, become the center of conflict in the gods’ world.

What has been fascinating about the Greek and Roman gods for many centuries has been their human-like qualities. While they are powerful beings ruling over the human world, they are much like the average mortal in their desires, weaknesses, and arrogance. Phillips easily highlights the human-like failings of these gods and accentuates those failings with “unlikely” professions for them in the modern world.

Watching these gods cope with the 21st Century is a hilarious delight, but even more delightful is Phillips’ use of language. From Aphrodite’s bottom “bouncing like two hard-boiled eggs dancing a tango” (page 89) to Phillips’ description of Neil as a teenager, “an ugly, spotty, skinny-arsed spoddy minger” (page 88). The dialogue is witty as well: “‘. . .you’d better come quick. I’ve got a god passed out on my kitchen floor and I think the world’s about to end.’ (page 213).”

One of the best scenes in this book comes when Apollo finds Zeus in the upper floors of the house staring at the television much like a zombie would. He’s lifeless, but still a god able to stand on his own and still strike down mortals with lightning. Reading this section brought to life the dilemma that often faces many of us, do we unwind too often in front of the television rather than through more challenging activities, like games, competition, reading, and exercise? Is this section a commentary on the lives we continue to lead now, watching television, zoning out, and withdrawing into ourselves away from society. But, I digress.

With an interesting cast of characters from a Christian Eros to a drunk, DJ in Dionysus, Phillips uses her cast of characters to dramatically set the stage for a modern day Greek comedy of errors and missed chances. Even readers who do not have a firm background in mythology will enjoy this book.

If you think this book sounds interesting, you should check out Hachette Group’s discussion with the author, Marie Phillips, on Blog Talk Radio.

***Contest***

Hatchette Group offered to give away 5 copies of the book to my readers with U.S. and Canadian addresses only.

For those international readers, I am offering my gently used copy, so please inform me that you are an international entrant.

For one entry, leave a comment here telling me who your favorite Greek/Roman god/goddess is and why.

For a second entry, blog about the contest or place it in your sidebar and leave a comment here telling me where I can find it.

Deadline is January 5, Midnight EST.

Check out these other Reviews:
Booking Mama
Books Books and more Books!
Diary of an Eccentric
Book-a-Rama
A Reader’s Respite
Booklorn
The 3R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Sophisticated Dorkiness
A Life in Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Fizzy Thoughts
The Boston Bibliophile
A Novel Menagerie
As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves

Fixing Hell by Col. (Ret.) Larry C. James, Ph.D.

Fixing Hell by Col. (Ret.) Dr. Larry C. James, Ph.D. is a nonfiction book about how one army psychologist takes on the task of cleaning up after public relations nightmares at detention centers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Dr. James is sent to reform these prison/detention centers after scandals break out regarding the treatment of prisoners and detainees. After conducting research and reviewing the Stanford Prison Experiment, which details how otherwise “good” people can commit atrocities in a prison system, Dr. James heads to Cuba.

He outlines some ground rules before he gets to Guantanamo Bay. One of the main rules he sets forth is that leaders must be seen and present. James walks throughout the complex at different hours of the day, even at 2 a.m. He finds that some of the guards on duty in the wee hours are asleep at their posts, while others claim to have never seen a colonel or other military leaders.

Dr. James leaves Guantanamo only to be sent shortly thereafter to Abu Ghraib following the highly public denigration of Iraqi prisoners at the detention center. Soldiers at the prison disrobed prisoners, posed them naked in a human pyramid, and shot photos of the incidents, which were later plastered all over the news. As a psychologist, Dr. James was sent to the detention center to clean up the facility and establish protocols to prevent further incidents.

The audio of this book was well read and engaging. It certainly kept our attention during our early morning commutes, and it was intriguing to get an insider’s look at the military’s psychology department and protocols. My husband enjoyed the details about how Dr. James remedied the problems at Abu Ghraib and the insight those details provided about the actual facts of the situation.

However, the last chapters of the book slowed down the flow of the book for us. Dr. James offers a great deal of explanation about how the media played up the Abu Ghraib incidents and printed misinformation that maligned the reputations of fellow psychologists and himself. While we understood his need to set the record straight, the information was unnecessary given the timeline he issued throughout the book. Any reports placing him or his colleagues at the detention centers during the scandalous incidents could easily be dismissed.

With that being said, anyone interested in military or war history will enjoy this insider’s look at the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, and the military’s psychology unit.

About the Author:

Colonel Larry C. James, PhD, served as the Chief, Department of Psychology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the past five years. In this capacity, he also was the Chief Psychologist for the Army’s northeast region and had responsibility over 100 psychologists in this region. Currently, Dr. James is the Chief, Department of Psychology, Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii. During the Military’s response to 9/11 at the Pentagon, Col. James was the Chief Psychologist for the Mental Health Task Force. Dr. James has been awarded the Bronze Star and the Joint Service Commendation medals for his superior and distinguished services during the global war on terrorism. In 2003, he was the Chief Psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at GTMO, Cuba, and in 2004 he was the Director, Behavioral Science Unit, Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. Col. James was assigned to Iraq to develop legal and ethical policies consistent with the Geneva Convention Guidelines and the APA Ethics Code in response to the abuse scandal. Also, while at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Dr. James was tasked with developing a mental health clinic to deliver services to approximately 8,000 prisoners.

***Don’t forget my giveaway for an inscribed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Deadline is Dec. 21 and the contest is international.**

***Check out the winner of the Green Beauty Guide and an announcement about First Book.***

You Lost Him at Hello by Jess McCann

Jess McCann’s You Lost Him at Hello is part of a TLC Book Tour and I want to thank TLC and Jess McCann for sending along the book for my review.

Despite being married myself, this book has some great advice about how to embrace yourself and become confident–know your product and learn how to sell it. In the dating world, confidence is everything, even if you don’t feel confident all the time. McCann lays the groundwork for each single woman in this book, seeking to provide practical applications of sales techniques in the dating world.

The best part of this book is the personal stories of her own dating snafus and those of her friends. These tidbits bring the practical advice to the forefront, detailing how the techniques can be applied to improve each woman’s dating life. While a lot of self-help books talk about making drastic changes to your routines and lifestyles in many instances, McCann offers some small steps you can take to get results. Check out Adventures of Wanderlust‘s post to see how small changes worked for her and her girlfriends.

Here are some main things to keep in mind, which may seem like common sense:

1. Know yourself and love yourself
2. Remain confident and share your opinions
3. Make eye contact and express interest in discussed topics, even those outside your comfort zone
4. Don’t be a telemarketer of dating; you cannot convince a man to be interested if he isn’t
5. Make yourself available and change up your routine to meet guys in a variety of places to prime the pump–keeping your options open until commitment is broached

I wanted to share this passage with you from McCann’s book, page 37:

My friend Kayla is the worst dater. . . . Kayla’s biggest problem is that she doesn’t really know who she is. She hasn’t yet figured out the kind of person that makes her Kayla. If you asked her if she was a Democrat or Republican, she would say that she’s not into politics. . . . She thought she was being easygoing by staying neutral, but instead she came off looking like she wasn’t smart enough to form her own opinion.

This book provides personal stories, saleswoman insights, and tips on how you can change how you interact and attract men. My favorite icebreakers are on page 75:

That drink looks good, what is it? (don’t most men drink beer?)
Didn’t you go to my high school?

One of McCann’s friends likes to ask guys if they’ve ever been waxed. Now that is one I certainly never would have thought to use.

While some of the advice in this book is common sense, other advice will help those who are still single and tired of playing games, getting dumped, and living in love limbo. There is some great insight into how to gauge men’s interest from how they look at you, converse with you, and how they interact with women.

I highly recommend this book for women who want to change their dating outcomes and find a steady relationship that will fulfill them and make them happy. I also think that this book has wider applications for women, teaching them how to become confident and skilled at engaging others in conversation not only on dates, but in friendships and the business arena. McCann does an excellent job of weaving advice into personalized experiences to engage the reader and help her own the lessons inside these pages.

Check out the next stop on the tour, Life in Pink.

About the Author:

Jess McCann is unlike any dating coach out there. Instead of the usual therapy-based date coaching, Jess takes a unique approach to finding and keeping the right person for you. Through her education and experience in business, she has made the remarkable discovery that dating is really a simple series of techniques that anyone can learn and succeed with.

At thirty years old, Jess was on top of the world. After graduating college, she had started her own sales company, where she single-handedly recruited, trained and managed a thirty-person sales team. She was chosen as one of America’s top entrepreneurs by Sir Richard Branson and traveled the world on his Fox reality show, The Rebel Billionaire. Having discovered first-hand that the art of sales directly translated into her dating life, Jess began counseling women, teaching them logical and proven sales techniques that they could use on their own dates. She continues to teach the fundamentals of sales and dating to women across the country.

***Don’t forget my giveaway for an inscribed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Deadline is Dec. 21 and the contest is international.**

***Stay tuned for The Green Beauty Guide winner, which I’ll post tomorrow, Dec. 18.***

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Joshua Henkin‘s Matrimony is more than just about how marriage and love can withstand the test of time and the struggles each spouse faces. Julian Wainwright’s struggle as a writer to finish his novel and to juggle his marriage, life, a job, and his friends amidst his creative endeavors is central to this novel. In a way, Julian’s dedication to his art is like a marriage and it is not surprising that some of his friends and even to an extent his wife, Mia, believe that he should settle down with a “real” job.

Matrimony opens as Julian begins his tenure at Graymont College in Massachusetts and meets his first friend, Carter Heinz. Eventually through their travels they both meet, fall in love, and marry their college sweethearts, Mia and Pilar, respectively. Upon graduation, each couple makes decisions that change their lives and their relationships.

Julian moves to Ann Arbor, Mich., with his wife, Mia, who has become a graduate student in psychology. He wants to write his novel, but he finds agreeing to teach composition at the university is disheartening as it is challenge, especially in terms of the progress he makes on the novel. Carter and Pilar apply to law school in California, but eventually the pressure they place on one another and themselves crushes their marriage.

Henkin’s writing style will relax the reader and carry them along through these characters’ lives with ease, but this ease also can distance the reader from the characters. Check out this passage from page 45:

Mia’s hair was matted to her forehead; it stuck in clumps against her neck. A drop of rain rolled down her chin, and Julian brushed it off with the sleeve of his windbreaker.

They drove home soaked, as if someone had thrown them fully clothed into Boston Harbor. When they stopped at the turnpike to get their ticket, Mia twisted the water from her hair. As she drove on, Julian fell asleep to the rhythm of the car, his nose, his whole face, pressed against the window.

Although the novel’s cadence is calming, the characters are well-developed and intriguing enough to keep reading and discovering where they plan to go next. One of my favorite minor characters from the novel is center stage in Julian’s world early on–Professor Chesterfield. Julian’s professor has established his own workshop rules, including Thou Shalt Never Use Pass-the-Salt Dialogue and Thou Shalt Not Utter the Phrase “Show Don’t Tell” When Discussing One Another’s Short Stories. At one point in the class Chesterfield asks the students when it is appropriate to have characters pass the salt in a story (page 10). The answer from Julian is expected, but Carter’s answer is fantastic and sets up the tension between these two characters early on; this one scene is the foundation for their tension, competition, and friendship.

Although Julian is a writer and other writers can identify with his daily word/page count struggles, he seems dispassionate about his work, about his teaching position, and his marriage. It is only until one event shatters his image of his marriage does he become passionate enough to take bold action.

Throughout all of these struggles each character hits a wall, stumbles, revises their outlook, and moves past the initial obstacles in their way. Although this book is not fast-paced, it presents a great cast and sheds light on how love and marriage can last through a number of trials so long as the parties involved want their relationship to thrive. Julian’s evolution throughout the novel moves at a glacial pace like the progress on his novel, but the culmination of these changes is the light at the end of the tunnel. This is one book you can curl up by the fireplace with and relax.

Stay tuned for the giveaway details. . .

About the Author: (According to his Website)

Joshua Henkin’s grew up in New York City, his mother the daughter of a hat manufacturer, his father the son of a famous Orthodox rabbi who lived in the United States for fifty years and never learned any English. His mother: a secular Jew who went to Bryn Mawr College and Yale Law School. His father: a law professor at Columbia who attended Yeshiva University and fought in World War II and who has remained religiously observant. Joshua Henkin is a product of these varied backgrounds, and of this happy marriage.

Matrimony is a New York Times Notable Book, and Joshua Henkin is available for book group discussions; here’s the reading group guide. If you’re interested in checking out some updates of his recent book discussions go here and here.

Joshua Henkin has offered to giveaway an inscribed copy of Matrimony, a great holiday gift, to one winner anywhere in the world. Yes, this is an international contest.

Enter by leaving a comment here about this post to qualify for one entry. Please include an email or active blog so I can contact you for an address.

Deadline is December 21, Midnight EST

Also Reviewed By:
The Literate Housewife
The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
She is Too Fond of Books
Age 30 – A Year of Books
Books and Cooks
Reading Room
Bookfoolery and Babble
A Reader’s Journal
B&B Ex Libris
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?
Shelf Life
The Boston Bibliophile
Trish’s Reading Nook
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Confessions of a Real Librarian

Owen Fiddler by Marvin D. Wilson

Marvin Wilson’s morality tale Owen Fiddler chronicles the bad behavior of one man–Owen–from his early years as a boy through adulthood and how his life spirals out of control. He meets his wife Jewel and they have a daughter Frenda, who becomes the light of Owen’s life. Frenda is Owen’s foil in this tale.

Owen is a womanizer, a drunkard, a liar, and behaves horribly toward his mother, stepfather, and brother. When the reader thinks nothing can get worse for Owen, it does. Not once throughout the novel does Owen take responsibility for his actions or the consequences. There is always someone else to blame–his brother Paize, his stepfather, his friends, and others.

Not only is Owen an unlikeable character, but the author introduces us to a cast of unique characters, including Lou Seiffer (Lucifer) who is a truck driver that lends Owen money and Kris (Jesus Christ). The reader will have a hard time rooting for Owen to get a brain and evolve, but his daughter Frenda makes the reader want Owen to improve at least for his daughter’s sake, if not his own. The novel is fast-paced weaving in and out of the past to tell Owen’s story and that of his family, but in some sections the author’s thoughts on the subject are interjected rather than allowing the characters’ thoughts and feelings take center stage (see page 143)

Flat-footed just a couple of inches taller than Frenda. With her heels on, she stood a little taller than he did. His male ego was being spanked a wee tad. She could sense this, also sensed he was too proud to say anything about it. . . . Men. . .so tough on the outside and yet so easily bruised on the inside.

Although Frenda would care about how her date, Robert, felt while she was wearing heels, the earlier character buildup for Frenda does not support the sort of sarcastic statement about males being tough on the outside and easily bruised on the inside.

On page 119:

Cigarette tasted nasty. He snuffed it out amongst the dozens of other butts in the ashtray. Dim lights, cheap plastic checkerboard table coverings, the sights and sounds surrounding him: the working class indebted proletariat, his colleagues in misery. . .it all cast a gloom over him.

The above passage does have some great description to place the reader in the scene with Owen, and the reader can smell and taste what surrounds him, but in the same moment, it seems the author enters the scene. Uneducated Owen is not likely to know the term “proletariat” unless he’s been educating himself in between his romps in the hay and nights on the barstool. There are a number of these passages that can distract the reader, but there also are some great descriptive passages that capture the reader’s attention. Check out page 24:

An officer, a sullen five foot ten stocky bad omen, called out to her from the front lawn, “Mrs. Fiddler?”

Marvin Wilson tells a story of one man, an everyman, and his descent into oblivion and the perilous journey that leads to his salvation. Readers looking at today’s society and how it has deteriorated can take away a lesson from this book. It is not only an evolution of Owen Fiddler, but can become an evolution of readers and others in today’s me-first society. I applaud Wilson’s efforts to espouse change. Christians could find fault with some of the scenes near the end of the book, though readers should cast aside their indoctrination and take from this book its overall message–forgiveness, change, and selflessness are important to reforming ourselves and society.

I’d like to welcome Marvin D. Wilson, author of Owen Fiddler, to Savvy Verse & Wit to share his transformation from a “free spirit” hippie to a disciplined individual and writer. Here’s his thoughts on his own transformation:

Freedom through Discipline

I was able to go to college on a music scholarship. My father was a poor Christian minister, and had I not been born with the gift of music, the advantage of higher education would have been denied me. Thanks to my God-given talents, I was able to go. I was a music major with a thespian minor at Central Michigan University. At age eighteen, I thought I knew everything. I had talent, intelligence, youthful bold confidence and a brash attitude, and a social/political/religious view of our world (this was the late 1960’s, mind you) that was one of “I know everything.” And anyone who disagreed with me (especially my parents and any authority figures in the older generation, those despicable leaders of the hypocritical oppressive “Orwellian – big brother” government of the times), were dead wrong. I was a “Free Spirit,” venturing forth into a brave new world that me and my Hippie friends were forging with our new lifestyle, our drugs, sex and rock and roll religion of freedom.

In my freshman year at college, I met Professor Stephen Hobson. He was my choir director and my private lesson voice coach. He looked to me to be in his late sixties. He was (well, he seemed to me at the time) stodgy and stiff, and a strict disciplinarian. He demanded of me a level of self-discipline and rigorous diurnal practice regimen that I was completely without the ability to understand, let alone adhere to. One little flutter in-between voice registers, any tiny slippage in tonal and/or pitch control when singing my assigned lessons in his torture chambers he called a “practice room” every Wednesday, he would stop playing his piano accompaniment, look at me with this “you know as well as I that that was not good enough” expression and demand that I try it again. Over and over … until I got it perfect. Perfect according to his obnoxious elitist opinion.

I couldn’t stand that man. He was asking way too much of me, and for no good reason. I did not see the need for such a tyrannical imposition of discipline on me and my life, my singing, my anything. I was writing songs about freedom and liberty, gigging at night in my rock and roll band, getting over to thunderous applause at the hands of my Hippie peers, why did I need discipline? I was a one-of-a-kind talent; my uninhibited, serendipitous, wild and natural style was destined to become the standard for future generations. Professors in decades to come would teach their students how to emulate ME!

Ah, but those of you with any substantial life experience can guess the rest of the story. I never “made it” as a big impact famous rock and roller. I eventually wound up playing for modest money in little disco bars, playing live juke-box cover tunes for young people to get drunk to and screw each other. But I had learned something along the way.

I learned that in order to become “free” with anything, any pursuit, any hobby, any career, any craft, any aspiration of great accomplishment, you had to go through the discipline first. I never made it as a big name musician, but I did learn how to play my instrument. To this day, I am free when I pick up a guitar. I can express emotions, elevate my consciousness, get all heaven-bound and glorified, and anyone around me will experience the same thing I am feeling. It’s a miracle I can produce, at any time, in any place, on any guitar of reasonable quality. But it took years and years of discipline to reach that plateau. Years and years of overcoming sore fingertips and blistered split open calluses, learning the scales, studying the modes, practicing the positions, emulating the recordings artists, getting so familiar with the neck I owned it as an extensions of my hand.

Towards the end of my bar-playing nightclub career, Professor Stephen Hobson came out to see my band. I had called him, letting him know we were playing in his town that week. Even so, I was surprised to see him in the audience – remember, this is a classical musician, a prim and proper professor, a patron of the fine arts, someone who goes to operas and symphony performances. For him to go to a dance club and listen to a top forty band was rather impressive.

And you know what? He was impressed with our performance. I went and sat at the table with him and his wife after the second set and he was beaming. He had wonderful accolades to bestow upon me and my ensemble, complimenting the vocals, the arrangements, our use of dynamics, our overall command of our instruments. And it was then that I told him what I had wanted to say for several years. I told him that I finally understood what discipline meant, what its value was. I knew, I told him, that undertaking the arduous discipline of any given art or craft was the necessary and ONLY way to get free within that art or craft. I told him that I finally appreciated what he had been trying to get through to my thick headstrong skull all those years ago. I knew I had been a special student to him, he had a great amount of belief in my talent, and I also knew I had been a disappointment to him, because he never “got through to me” when I was under his tutelage. I apologized to him for that shortcoming and assured him that his teaching had stuck with me all these years and had now been realized in my life and practice.

The now retired Professor Stephen Hobson’s eighty-year-old eyes filled up. He said, and I quote, “Then my life, my career, has been worth it!”

We hugged. Long and sincere. That was the last time I ever saw him. He died a couple years later. I will never forget Professor Stephen Hobson and what he taught me about applying discipline to my life in order to get beyond boundaries and break free. It applies to relationships and marriage, to any career, to any sport, to any hobby, to any life pursuit whatsoever. If you want to eventually be free, you must initially go through the discipline. It may sound like an oxymoron, “Freedom through Discipline,” it did to me as a young Hippie, but it makes perfect sense to me now.

God bless and keep you, Professor Stephen Hobson. Your legacy, your teaching, lives on.

***

The above was a post on Free Spirit Blog last summer, 2008. It was very well received, one of the most popular posts of the summer. And I thought it would be appropriate to re-post it here in keeping with your suggested topic for today, Serena. The message, the teaching it contains, is one that benefited me greatly when, as a man with no professional resume of a writer whatsoever in his mid-fifties, took up the sudden path of desiring to be a published author.

I have a natural ability to write, much like my innate musical talents. No problem going pretty far with it with relatively little effort. But in order to really break loose, to have the freedom of being able to write so well that I could be considered as one worthy of not only publication but a following, an actual readership, well … that took work. Lots of work. Major discipline. But I just applied what Professor Stephen Hobson had taught me all those many years ago to this new endeavor. Read the best. Read, read, and read, with the eyes of a student. Study the tutorials. Read the “How-to’s.” Surround yourself with professionals. Learn from them. Practice. Write everyday for hours even when there is no inspiration. Write. Work. Practice. Write. Work. Practice. Get critiques. Take the hard criticism and get over it, learn from it and improve because of it. Over and over and over and over until you get it right. Strive for the best, for perfection. Never settle for just good enough.

Even when I thought I had it down pretty good, I ran into an editor that jacked me up so tough I almost threw my hands in the air like, wow – I don’t know if I can really do this. But she believed in my basic talent enough to tough love me through three months of mentoring that taught me how to take my writing to an entire different and higher level. The next tour stop at Helen Ginger’s blog, Straight From Hel, is all about that, so I don’t want to steal any of her thunder, but for the whole story just bop over there tomorrow. Any novice author dealing for the first time with a first rate but “don’t give a wit about your feelings” editor will be heartened by reading about my struggles. If I can make it through such an experience, so can you.

Here’s the thing. Bottom line time. God given talents are great. Use them. Use them to make your living and to help others. Maybe even just for fun. A little entertainment amongst friends. But it is incumbent upon us as professionals, in any field or industry, to strive to be the best that we can be. That is if you want to. Don’t have to. Go ahead and be mediocre and limited if that’s what you want. But if you like the idea of freedom, then undertake the discipline. Do the work. Do it to be free. There is a vast limitless freedom available to those who truly seek it. The freedom to fly, to soar and break through boundaries you never imagined, never thought possible when were still languishing on – the lazy shore of the undisciplined.

About the Author:

Marvin D Wilson is a family man, married for thirty two years with three grown children and five grandchildren. He is a self-described “Maverick non-religious dogma-free spiritualist Zen Christian.” He resides in central Michigan and is a full time writer as well as a young adult mentor at his church, Shiloh’s Lighthouse Ministries, where he also is the CFO for the ministry and runs a free food pantry and free clothing distribution center.

Marvin likes to write fiction novels. He enjoys delivering spiritual messages in books that are humorous, oftentimes irreverent, always engaging and thought-provoking, sometimes sexy and even ribald, through the spinning of an entertaining tale.

Prize and Giveaway information

Marvin likes to hear from his readers! Feel free to email him at: marvwilson2010@gmail.com

His very popular blog, Free Spirit, is at http://inspiritandtruths.blogspot.com/

Marvin’s Myspace is at: http://www.myspace.com/Paize_Fiddler

Owen Fiddler’s Myspace is at: http://www.myspace.com/owenfiddler

The official Owen Fiddler book website is http://www.owenfiddler.com

***Don’t forget to check out the next stop on Owen Fiddler’s Virtual Tour–Straight from Hel ***

***Don’t forget my Pemberley by the Sea contest. It ends on Dec. 10 at Midnight EST. Sorry open only to U.S. and Canadian addressed residents.**

***And The Green Beauty Guide contest, which ends Dec. 16 at Midnight EST.***

Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

Most women will look in Cosmo or other beauty magazines for the latest cosmetic and fashion tips, but what many of these magazines don’t tell you is that the products manufactured by these companies are using chemicals and other compounds that once your skin absorbs them could cause other ailments or problems. While I don’t readily wear makeup or use cosmetics, I gladly took on a TLC Book Tour stop for Julie Gabriel’s The Green Beauty Guide. I love holistic looks at our everyday lives and books that seek to provide an alternate perspective to how we live our lives whether its from turning holiday celebrations green or learning how to reduce our own carbon footprints.

The Green Beauty Guide goes beyond the typical fad advice given by glossy magazines, providing the reader with recipes to create their own natural shampoos, facials, and other products, while at the same time providing readers with the know-how to become savvy cosmetics shoppers. Check out the Ten Commandments of Green Beauty at the end of Chapter 2.

Through a combination of science, insider information about the cosmetic industry and government regulation, and common sense, Gabriel dispels some of the myths espoused by the cosmetics industry. For instance, did you know that the skin absorbs about 60 percent of the substances applied to its surface? I didn’t, but now that I do, I plan to be more careful about what solutions I use. Think about your morning routine. . .how many cleansers, lotions, and gels do you use before you leave the house each day? Examine the ingredients of those bottles, and you’ll see exactly how many chemicals you expose your skin to every day. Given the complexity of skin and other systems throughout the body, it is no wonder that diet, exercise, and other behaviors can influence how well those systems function. Beauty or the health of your skin is tied to all of those things and more.

One of the best sections in the book discusses green washing, which will help those newly interested in the “green” movement to discern which products actually are safer for them and made from natural products, and which are merely using the presence of natural products to claim they are “green” or organic. Gabriel even provides Green Products Guide with a one-, two-, three-leaf system that categorizes how natural a product is. Other helpful sections of the book provide ways to make your own green beauty products, with a list of necessary tools, ingredients, and tips on where to purchase the ingredients. I also was surprised to find green beauty tips for babies in terms of diaper area care, massage oils, baby wipes, and bathing for babies.

Overall, this guide has a great many tips for those looking to expand the care of themselves and their environment into cosmetics and beauty care. I recommend this for those who wear makeup, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and other products, which is pretty much everyone. We all should take better care of our planet and ourselves, and what better way than to start with the beauty products we use.

Julie graciously offered to write up a guest post for today’s stop, so without further ado, I’d like to thank her for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share with us how The Green Beauty Guide was born.

Thanks a Lot for Your Rejection by Julie Gabriel

My book, THE GREEN BEAUTY GUIDE, is dedicated to my daughter. It would be nice to say that she made me not a green goddess, but this is not true. She made me a green junkie, a green paranoiac, and sometimes a green pest. Being an Aries, she possesses enormous powers of persuasion. Basically, she made me write THE GREEN BEAUTY GUIDE when she was two weeks old. Not a two-week old newborn, but a two-week young fetus.

Three years ago, I was obsessed with writing a book on green pregnancy. As I went through my “certified organic” pregnancy, which I meticulously planned for the whole twelve months – and that means three-month detox before the conception plus normal nine months of pregnancy – I could not be happier than share the joy of having the pregnancy the green way. I wanted to tell moms that it’s fun, healthy, and perfectly doable, to be pregnant and green.

But somehow, as all new authors know, there was a problem with my “platform.” I am not a doctor; neither am I a celebrity mom. I am not even a doula or a registered nurse. In England, it’s good enough to be a nanny if you want to write books about parenting, but all I had to produce to support my case was my background in journalism, my education as a holistic nutritionist, my career in fashion media, and my growing belly. All this is hardly relevant to pregnancy and parenting, agents told me. If you were manufacturing baby clothes, sure, you can write about pregnancy, but what’s your platform? I changed the proposal back and forth, I tossed one idea after another, but it just didn’t seem to work.

Then I had a lightbulb moment. It was an actual lightbulb I was changing in our bathroom in Toronto. The bathroom was jam-packed, floor to ceiling, with my green beauty finds: organic shampoos and mineral sunscreens, herbal baths and odd-smelling stretch mark oils, homemade candles and bath salts. As a diligent green mom, I opted out of any synthetic chemicals in my beauty routine. What’s my problem? I thought. I know so much about all these wonderful, fragrant, oily and shimmery things that make us pretty, happy, and hopefully healthy. I have switched from my chemical hair colors to henna, I am using organic lotions and scrubs, and I am even making my own soaps – so why not sum it all up in a handy book? Next week I spent writing a green beauty book proposal which was shaping up very quickly and so naturally. It was growing, flowing, and eventually overflowing with great information that I accumulated over years of writing about skincare, hair, and makeup. And as I see now, it was a wise move, to embrace your real background and speak about things you know quite well. Very soon, I met the agent who was excited about my green beauty project. Adina Kahn of Dystel&Goderich, and I spent the next few months polishing my materials, and very soon she found not one but two great publishing houses who were interested in my book!

The bottom line is: never assume that you are rejected because you are a bad writer. I spent the whole year pursuing a project that was completely wrong for me at that particular period in my life. I know so much more about babies and parenting today than I did then. Not “if” but when I write a book about what it takes to be a green parent, I will be able to provide my readers with a lot more valuable information than I could two years ago.

All I want to say is this: the timing for the book is always right. It may be a truism, but whatever happens, happens for a reason. There are so many people involved in the publishing process, all of them cannot be wrong at the same time. If the book doesn’t work, it’s not that the idea is bad; maybe the time is just not right. Maybe you are not ready for this book; maybe the reader is not ready for it. Sometimes all the life wants from us is a bit of flexibility.

And I will be doing a book on green pregnancy, I promised that to my daughter. But it will be a completely different kind of pregnancy book. The kind I wouldn’t even dare to think of three years ago.

Thank you Julie for sharing your green pregnancy experiences and publishing struggles with us.


Interested in winning a copy of The Green Beauty Guide?

Leave a comment expressing what you do to reduce your carbon footprint or stay green. Please include a way for me to contact you either valid blog or email address.

Deadline for the contest is Dec. 16, Midnight EST.

***Don’t forget my Pemberley by the Sea contest. It ends on Dec. 10 at Midnight EST. Sorry open only to U.S. and Canadian addressed residents.**

Also Reviewed by:

She is too Fond of Books

Safelight by Shannon Burke

Shannon Burke’s Safelight is an ambitious undertaking that examines the decline of New York City and the decline of a paramedic, Frank Verbeckas. Through sparse and compelling language, dialogue, and plot points, Burke expertly immerses the reader into a series of dramatic scenes in which Verbeckas struggles to find himself amidst crime, disease, and the tragic death of his father.

Verbeckas is a paramedic and photographer, but his gift is capturing the reality that surrounds him, which in his eyes is the illness, death, and disease of the patients in crumbling New York City. His brother, Norman, is a top surgeon at a local hospital, and despite his arrogant manner and self-confidence, Norman struggles to break through his bully-like exterior to help his brother.

On page 138 of Safelight, the description used easily sums up the tumultuous relationship between Norman and Frank:

His eyes went wild. He swung with his right and hit me on the side of the mouth. I stumbled against the sink and he came in towards me. He was about four inches taller and sixty pounds heavier. I jabbed with my left but he twisted, dodged, and had me in his grip. He threw me against the wall. I went at him. He had me in his grip again. He threw me. I went at him, then stopped. We stood there, huffing and puffing in that tiny room.

The short, clipped descriptions of this fight between brothers quickly provides the reader with an inside perspective of how Frank compares himself to his brother and how they relate to one another.

Through a series of disjointed, but related paramedic scenes, the reader gains a sense of Verbeckas’ struggles and his downfall seems almost inevitable. However, meeting Emily, a professional fencer and HIV positive woman, becomes the catalyst that spurs Verbeckas’ transformation. Burke utilizes his sparse narrative to describe the stillness Frank feels in the presence of Emily (see page 134)

Her small, dark figure against the ruin, in that green pine stillness. Along an old mill there was a slow-moving stream, the water clear in the shallows but a deep, translucent copper color in the middle.

Being Burke’s first novel, the reader probably would not have noticed the recurrence of black flies, but given my recent review of Black Flies and my recent interview of Shannon Burke, I noticed the black flies made it into this first novel as well.

I also enjoyed the Burke’s descriptions of Frank’s photography and how he frames scenes in the camera’s viewfinder. As an avid photographer, these scenes were well described. Readers will appreciate the stark images and heart that permeates the narrative of Safelight. The evolution of Frank Verbeckas is swift and satisfying.

About the Author:

Shannon Burke was born in Wilmette, Illinois and went to college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He has published two novels, Safelight and Black Flies, and has been involved in various films, including work on the screenplay for the film Syriana. From the mid to late nineties he worked as a paramedic in Harlem for the New York City Fire Department. He now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Amy Billone and their two sons.

Pemberley by the Sea by Abigail Reynolds

Abigail Reynolds’ Pemberley by the Sea is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, but in modern times and with modern sensibilities. Who would have Elizabeth Bennet been in today’s world, and who would have been Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In Reynolds’ modern day romance, which is set on Cape Cod and in Pennsylvania, Dr. Cassie Boulton is a marine biologist who loves a good book so long as the ending is a happy one–because there are just too much unpleasantness in real life. In many ways Cassie and Elizabeth are both strong women with a sharp wit, but Cassie also is an accomplished career woman with serious ambitions and a dangerous past. One of my favorite scenes is when she and Calder are in a charming bookstore and he has merely followed her around and not said much (from pg. 29).

She paid for her purchase, and said good-bye to Ed, and then turned back to Calder. He held a book in his hand now but was still looking at her with disturbing intensity. She smiled with apparent sweetness at him and said cheekily, “Lovely chatting with you, Calder. We’ll have to do this again some time.” She made a quick exit, leaving the bells on the door jingling behind her.

The tension here is palatable, and it remains so throughout the novel, and Reynolds does a great job showing and creating sexual tension, charisma, and release between these characters.

Calder Westing III is the son of a rich, Republican, and southern political family. Like Mr. Darcy, Calder Westing is the consummate blue blood with his chiseled features, highbrow manners, and cool temperament, but passion runs deep beneath the veneer as does his loyalty and vulnerability.

Their summer romance hits them hard and fast, but it quickly fades into the background as each deals with the unpleasantness of their every day lives and the qualms they have about fitting into one another’s world. Calder fights for his love through an adaptation of Cassie’s favorite novel, while Cassie has to fight her basic instinct to flee when harsh times approach. She manages to overcome her innate, biological responses and confides in Calder, trusting that they can work through anything together.

Not only are we thrust into their romance, but the reader is introduced to Erin (i.e. Jane Bennet) and Scott (i.e. Mr. Bingley), whose romance falls off track and only rights itself on its own, not as cleanly as it happens in Austen’s novel. Caro, Calder’s mother, is another fascinating character, along with the Jim, Cassie’s mentor, and Dave Crowley, attorney and long-time friend of Calder’s family and Cassie. Joe, Calder’s father, is a force to be reckoned with, and the tension in the novel becomes almost stifling when he enters a scene. There is a wide range of supporting characters in this novel, and each has a significant role to play, which makes this more than just an Austen do-over.

Not only has Reynolds eloquently captured the tension between the characters and developed their relationships believably throughout the 400+ page novel, she has taken the time to put the reader in Woods Hole with her descriptions. It was like taking a vacation and getting lost on the seaside or in the marsh. Check out this description from pg. 422.

Cassie stood on the beach in front of the house, her arms wrapped around herself. Finally some peace and quiet. A cool breeze blew in over Buzzard’s Bay, whipping up whitecaps that broke on the shore, coming closer and closer to her feet as the tide came in. Around her lay the flotsam of the last high tide, strands of seaweed, broken shells, and here and there an empty shark egg case. Mermaids’ purses–that was what children called the egg cases when they discovered them on the beach. A used-up dead shell that once protected a baby dogfish or skate, and now it would be a child’s treasure.

Not only do the descriptions do justice to the setting and put the reader in the midst of the scene with the characters, they serve to put the reader in the characters’ minds. What is Cassie thinking? How is Cassie reacting? In some cases, the scenes serve to foreshadow upcoming events, feelings, and trials, but in others the scenes symbolize overarching themes in the text.

From the beginning to the end, this is an engrossing novel that takes the reader on a deep ride into the romance and struggles of these two characters. They are memorable, and I was sad to see them go. I hope we hear more from these characters. In terms of Jane Austen spin offs and redos, this is one of the best and could even stand on its own without the references to Pride & Prejudice, which is a clear testament to Reynolds’ talent as a writer.

I want to thank Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks for sending me this novel to review.

Also Reviewed By:
Jackets & Covers

***Reminder***

Don’t forget my contest for the writing guide Grit for the Oyster. You have two chances to enter: the review and the guest post

Deadline is December 1, Midnight EST.

Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers

Thanks to the authors–Suzanne Woods Fisher, Debora M. Coty, Faith Tibbetts McDonald, and Joanna Bloss–of Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers and Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me this inspirational writing guide for amateur writers.

This book meshes scripture from the Bible with inspirational quotes from published authors and writers as well as questions writers should ask themselves about their own writing and writing careers. I would equate this book to a writer’s devotional. It is broken down into a sometimes personal or inspirational story from the author of each section, a prayer fashioned for writers, a reflection, and a set of quotes from authors, publishers, agents, and others.

There are several references to Anne Lamont, author of Bird by Bird, and other published authors.

A couple of prominent tips in the beginning pages of this book include

1. Outlining the three steps amateur writers can take to become more qualified at their own craft.

2. Seek inspiration in the ordinary world and among ordinary people.

In “No More Detours,” Joanna Bloss has some great tips for writers who have ADD, or the inability to focus on one project at a time. Rather than write like type-A personality writers who have set numbers of words to write per day, Bloss recommends ADD writers work on more than one piece of writing at a time and gradually finishing each one by the deadline. Learn to prepare the writing space first, ridding the atmosphere of noises and tasks that are unfinished. Writers also should remember to connect with other writers and hold one another comfortable. (pg. 29)

Here’s a sample quote from this section from author Kristin Billerbeck:

“Now get busy, go write and quit making excuses. A badly finished manuscript can be fixed. A blank sheet of paper? Not so much.” (pg. 31)

My caveat to this would be that a blank sheet of paper can be remedied as well, you simply have to write!

In “Will Work for Words” by Debora Coty, there is some great advice about writing on a freelance basis for money. I will share this quote with you: “Do not be squelched by low pay rates. View nothing as beneath you, and consider each publishing experience as a step up to the next level.” (pg. 35)

Section one of the book is a vast outline of how to start writing and remain motivated as a beginning writer. For me this section of the book was a bit long, but other writers may need this kind of motivational pep talk. The nuggets of information in this section are helpful for Christian writers as well as those of other faiths.

There are some sections of this book that preached to the reader about the righteous path of writing, which could limit the outreach potential for this book. Writing is a way to express oneself and to say that writing about sex in romance novels is not the right path is to limit that self expression. In this respect, this writer’s guide falls short for me.

However, some of the tips on how to remain motivated and inspired are eye-opening. For instance, Joanna Bloss indicates that some writers are more productive at certain times than others, but what they accomplish in their off-times is as equally important as what they accomplish when their writing productivity is high. Most importantly, Debora Coty suggests each writer take a Cyber Sabbath or time away from writing and the computer to provide balance to his/her life. I agree, without time away, how will you gain perspective on what you’ve already written? How will you have gained new experiences to supplement and breath life into your writing? You can’t. Take a break. Breathe in the fresh air, then get back to work.

Interested in Grit for the Oyster? Want to win a copy? Feel free to leave a comment about this review and why you want to read this book or discuss your biggest fears as a blogger and/or writer. Deadline is November 30; Randomizer.org will choose a winner for December 1.


Check out some announcements I made on Sunday!

Cold Rock River by J.L. Miles

J.L. Miles’ Cold Rock River flows in and out of the past and present of Adie Thacker’s life and occasionally transports the reader into the thicket of plantations and slavery near the time of the Civil War. The reader travels along the current of Cold Rock River and hits some brisk rapids and undercurrents, following Adie on her journey.

When Adie is a child, her family is the picture of happiness, minus the normal angst among siblings and boy troubles. However, one day their family changes irrevocably. Her father drinks himself into a stupor, while her mother withdraws from her children and her husband. Rebecca, Adie’s older sister, falls in love, becomes a mother, and moves out on her own. Clarissa, Rebecca’s twin, is the sweetest of the sisters and wallows in food to shut out the pain. Although this story is about her family and how it evolves after a significant loss, the novel also is about family secrets and how those secrets eat up Adie and the family.

This beautiful image in Chapter Seventeen, page 162, holds a vast symbolic meaning in relation to this family’s struggles and its one of my favorites:

Hog Gap and Cold Rock still had the mountain between them with no road cutting through. The only way to get from one spot to the other was to take the two-lane highway that ran around it. In the distance, Cold Rock Mountain rested like a fat king on his throne. The sides sparkled like jewels as the sun bounced off chunks of granite embedded along the edges.

Another of my favorite passages in this book is in Chapter Three, on page 33-34, shortly after Adie’s mother becomes infatuated with Jackie Kennedy and her husband:

Mama was especially crazy about the pillbox hats Jackie wore. “Not every woman can wear them, you know,” she said. “Takes a certain bone structure.” Whatever type that was, Mama figured she had it. Every one of the dresses she made had its own matching pillbox hat, but they didn’t look much like Jackie’s. Mama used Pa’s baseball caps as a base. She cut the bills off and covered what was left in whatever fabric she was working on at the time.

Adie is a bit tough to take at first with her disjointed narrative, but eventually her ramblings endear her to the reader. She struggles as a new wife and mother, particularly when she realizes her husband, Buck, is not as in love with her as she is with him and that his mother, Verna, has secrets of her own and hopes Adie will fail.

Miles easily weaves in the slave narrative of Tempe Jordan into Adie’s story. Although these stories parallel one another in some ways, the stories shed light on the strength these women share. This is one of those novels that will stay with the reader once the last page is read, and it is now one of my top 5 books from this year.

About Author J.L. Miles:

J.L. Miles, (Jackie Lee) a resident of Georgia for thirty years, hails from Wisconsin via South Dakota. She considers herself “a northern girl with a southern heart”. Miles resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and Cape Canaveral, Florida, along with her husband Robert, where she is a featured speaker at book clubs, local schools, and writer’s workshops.


Check back tomorrow for J.L. Miles’ Guest Post about the Best-Seller Blues.

Thanks you to J.L. Miles for providing me with a copy of her book, and to Dorothy Thompson for allowing me to host this Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tour.


Also Reviewed by:

The Friendly Book Nook

Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach

Richard Roach’s Scattered Leaves follows the quest of Ben McCord, an oilman, to find the man who killed his young wife. McCord is a man on a mission, and his negative view of the world permeates the novel. The one light in his life, his wife June, is gone.

Like many of the James Patterson crime fiction novels I’ve read in the past, there is a vast conspiracy behind the death of McCord’s wife. However, some of the police procedure and gun purchasing details were unrealistic and could distract seasoned mystery readers.

On the other hand, the fast-paced plot will carry the reader quickly through the twists and turns. In some cases the reader may wonder how McCord ends up where he does, which is expected given that the novel is told from McCord’s point of view. Some of these plot twists seem outlandish and not well constructed, and the logic McCord uses to deduce his next course of action is shaky at best. However, McCord’s shaky logic is one of his character flaws, and it is this flaw that unwittingly propels him into unlikely situations and that fuels the fire propelling him to find his wife’s killer. The novel takes the reader on a journey from the Oklahoma oil fields to Texas and through Kansas, Colorado, and near the Mexican border.

One of my favorite characters in the novel is an older, hired assassin who gets the drop on McCord as he makes his way home, shooting into his moving car from the woods. This assassin is brash and had me giggling during the exchange he had with McCord in the woods after the attack. Richard Roach has a way with dry humor, which is used to ease the tension in some cases.

According to Richard Roach, Knock ’em down and drag ’em out is more McCord’s style. But, he’s honest, forthright, and oh so tender with the ladies.” Reading this book, you can tell that McCord is rough around the edges, but he’s looking to keep his tender side on the surface more often. About midway through the novel, the action gets more intense and Dr. Pettijohn is thrust into the action in a harsh way and plays an integral role in its ultimate resolution. At times this novel seemed to tell McCord’s emotions rather than show them, and some of the plot points were not necessary to propel the action, both of which could distract readers. However, in spite of these problems with narration and plot, Richard Roach’s first novel is fast-paced and has an imaginative style that will keep you reading.

About the Author:

Born in Galveston, Texas, Richard Roach served four years in USAF as drill sergeant. He attended the University of Texas. Short stories have been published in Man’s Story 2, Happy 2007 volume 20, page 58, Iconoclast 2006 volume 91, page 73, and Bibliophilos 2006 volume 42, page 54. His first novel, Scattered Leaves, hit the book stores n September 2008. His second novel, Scattered Money, will be published by Multi-Media in 2009.

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending along Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach.

If you’re interested in Scattered Leaves, feel free to leave a comment.

Randomizer.org will help me choose a winner.

You have until November 21 to enter.

Stop Back tomorrow for my Q&A with Richard Roach!

Also Reviewed By:
Peeking Between the Pages