Sunday, July 27, 2014

WeWriWa - D is for Dedication


Welcome to another edition of "Weekend Writing Warriors", hosted at the "WeWriWa" blog.  Click the cool graphic I snagged from the site to go there and see how you can join too!

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My 8 sentences today are from the "Proverbs 31 - D is for Dedication" entry posted during the "2014 Blogging from A to Z Challenge":

Cooking a meal takes effort; cooking 18,615 meals (3 meals a day x 365 days x 17 years) takes dedication.  Facing danger requires effort; facing danger every day for 730 days during a two-year deployment takes dedication.  Writing one blog post takes effort.  Writing a blog post starting with each letter of the alphabet during a single month takes dedication. ...

When we put forth effort, we receive reward.  Maybe it is money; maybe it is satisfaction at a job well done or from making a difference.  One reward we get from dedication is reputation.  When one cooks a tasty meal, one hears, "That was a great meal!"  When one cooks 18,615 tasty meals, we hear, "You are a wonderful cook!"

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What people or things in life have earned your dedication?  Have any suggestions, critiques, compliments?  Comment below; I comment back! :O)

Friday, July 25, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Endangered by Jean Love Cush


SYNOPSIS

To save her son from a legal system bent on sending African American men to jail, a young mother agrees to an unprecedented, controversial defense offered up from a team of crack lawyers, in this debut novel that speaks to race, class, and justice in America.

Janae Williams, a never-missed-a-day-of-work single mother, has devoted her whole life to properly raising her son. From the time Malik could walk, Janae taught him that the best way to stay alive and out of trouble with the law was to cooperate. Terrified for his safety, she warned him to “raise your hands high, keep your mouth shut, and do whatever they say” if stopped by the police. But when a wave of murders hits Philadelphia and fifteen-year-old Malik is arrested, Janae’s terror is compounded by guilt and doubt: Would Malik be in jail if he had run?

Blocked at every turn from seeing her son, Janae is also unable to afford adequate legal representation. In steps the well-meaning Roger Whitford, a lawyer who wants to use Malik’s case to upend the entire criminal justice system. Janae simply wants her son free, but Roger, with the help of an ambitious private attorney, is determined to expose the system’s hostility toward black boys.

Offering a startling and unprecedented defense, the lawyers spark a national firestorm of debate over race, prison, and politics. As Janae battles to save her son, she begins to discover that she is also fighting for her own survival and that of the future of her community.


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REVIEW

Like "Waking up White" by Debby Irving, reading "Endangered" was not always a comfortable experience for me.  It was like being Dorian Gray and looking at the picture a decade or so after it was first painted.  (For those who haven't read "The Picture of Dorian Gray", it's like looking in the mirror after a rough night.)

If I got treated the way a lot of young, black men do simply because of the color of my skin I would be indignant too.  Heck, I might be downright hostile.

I sympathize with Janae's situation.  The advice she had given her son, Malik, to do whatever the police told him to do probably lessened the chance that he would be seriously injured upon arrest.  I struggle along with her wondering if that advice actually worked against Malik in getting him caught in the first place (instead of escaping injury by running).

In steps Roger Whitford, an white attorney from the Innocence Project, who offers to take Malik's case.  On the one hand, you would think a mother would jump at that chance.  On the other hand, Janae is right to question Whitford's motives.  He is at least as interested in trying his own theory on justice for young, black men in general as he is in representing Malik in particular.  And the high-powered lawyer from the high-powered law firm working with the project as a favor to his boss (and because he is black) takes an interest in Janae as well as the case.

Cush writes very well about potentially sensitive subject matter.  Some people will deny the problem.  Some readers will be outraged at the defense used in this work of fiction.  Using stories to get one's point across is a literary device in use for thousands of years.  Hopefully "Endangered" will do the same.  I can see this being required reading in English classes around the country.

After reading "Endangered", I know two things:
1) that this book deserves as wide an audience as possible; and
2) that we will be hearing more from Jean Love Cush in the future.

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AUTHOR INFORMATION



A native of Philadelphia, Jean Love Cush worked for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office directly out of law school before spending three years as a family law attorney helping low-income women escape domestic-abuse situations. After moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana, she hosted a weekly radio show called A View from Summit, where she covered such topics as public safety, urban violence, and inner-city education. Cush now lives in Illinois with her husband and two children.

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(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of "Endangered" from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my unbiased review.)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Friendship Friday: World's Best Story!

I am really excited to tell you about an innovative new contest platform for both readers and writers. Laura Fabiani of iRead Book Tours is now a proud sponsor for World’s Best Story!

More and more authors and writers are discovering the power of readers. Books are written for the reader audience, so why not have a say in telling others we think a writer’s story has blockbuster potential? That’s what World’s Best Story allows you to do.
In view of this, I hope you will join me in helping to spread the word and to sign up as a member of World’s Best Story to find talented storytellers and get great prizes. 


But first let me tell you more about World’s Best Story.



World’s Best Story was launched at BookExpo America on May 28. It’s the first social contest to reward readers and writers with exclusive partner prizes. So what does this mean for you?

If you are a writer:

1. Submit your story. Entering is free and the entry period ends Aug 12.
2. Prizes include publishing contracts, celebrity master classes, trademark and IP protection, book tours, big box retail distribution, PR and marketing support and more!
3. Top ten finalists and grand prize winner will be announced at the Toronto International Book Fair on November 15, 2014.

If you are a reader:

1. You get the chance to be the judge, discover new stories and win great prizes.
2. When you sign up to become a member, you automatically get $10 to spend at Beyond the Rack. Signing up is easy, requiring only your name and email.
3. When you rate and vote you’ll get a chance to win cool prizes, and the grand prize package includes a $2000 shopping spree at Beyond the Rack!

So how can you help spread the word? There are several ways:
  • Write a post about it and you can enter in a giveaway for a $20 Amazon gift card and one of 6 $25 Beyond the Rack Gift Cards
  • Add the World’s Best Story logo on your blog with a link back to their site.
  • If you are an iRead tour host, your post will count toward your incentive program if you do the above.
  • If you are not yet an iRead tour host, join and you will qualify for the incentive program
  • Tell all your readers about WBS through social media networking.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


THANK YOU!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Forever Man by Pierre Ouellette


SYNOPSIS

From the author of The Deus Machine and The Third Pandemic comes a fast-paced thriller about the power of harnessing life itself—and the deadly secrets it conceals. Portland, Oregon, was once a beacon of promise and prosperity. Now it’s the epicenter of a world gone wrong, its streets overrun by victims and hustlers, drifters and gangsters. Lowly contract cop Lane Anslow struggles to keep afloat—and to watch out for his brilliant but bipolar brother, Johnny, a medical researcher. Lane soon discovers that Johnny is part of an experiment veiled in extraordinary secrecy. But he has no idea who’s behind it, how astronomical the stakes are, or how many lives might be destroyed to make it a reality.

Now Johnny’s gone missing. To find him, Lane follows a twisting trail into a billionaire’s hilltop urban fortress, a politician’s inner circle, a prison set in an aircraft graveyard, and a highly guarded community where people appear to be half their biological age. Hunted by dueling enemies, Lane meets a beautiful and enigmatic woman at the center of a vast web of political and criminal intrigue. And behind it all is a sinister, desperate race to claim the biggest scientific prize of all: eternal life.


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REVIEW

Wow! What a book.

"The Forever Man" starts with a nearly-as-old-as-Moses man digging in a graveyard after dark, while his 'security' and staff stand guard (far enough away that they do not see exactly what he is doing.)  Though it nearly kills him, he unearths a tiny mummified body and twists one of the forearms off.  Ugh.  He then arranges with his second-in-command to have the rest of the security team take a (permanent) vacation.  Nice guy, huh?

At least I don't think the author has done this purely for shock value.  The old man, Zed, is about 120 years old, and for most of his life, has considered himself 'above' everyone else.  Society's rules do not apply to him.  Granted, his earlier home life was not all beer and skittles.  But during the San Francisco earthquake, he turns in his 'partner' and manages to walk off with a bag of expensive jewelry.

In the ensuing years, the gap between the haves and have-nots has gotten even larger, although everyone is playing a numbers game.  The well-to-do live in high-security gated communities and talk about themselves (and each other) as a 35-60, or a 42-70 (etc.);  the first number is the age they appear, while the second number is their actual physical age.  People in the lower economic strata consider themselves lucky if they have any kind of job and a roof over their heads; most don't.  In their areas of town, a crime lord called "The Bird" only allows his coins to be used.  Since most people get paid on debit cards, Bird acts as a bank and changes their plastic for the coin of his realm ... skimming a hefty 50% 'service fee'.

Against this nightmarish backdrop, we have Lane and Johnny, two brothers.  Lane is a nearing-50ish contract cop - a 'temp' if you will.  All the danger, none of the benefits.  Johnny, two years younger, is intellectually brilliant ... and subject to the wild emotional swings of a person with bipolar disorder.  He has been working on genetic manipulation that will allow cells of the aged (and wealthy) to effectively reset themselves, thus providing the patient near-eternal life.

Remember Zed from the cemetery?  He's the bank ... and ruthless enough to send Johnny and the other two geneticists to their deaths in a plane crash.  Except Johnny has a flash of brilliance and jumps off the plane before it starts to taxi to the runway.  Then he disappears for his own good.  He leaves the airport pronto, steals a copy of the technology from "Mount Tabor", and attempts to contact his brother, narrowly missing one of several hit squads attempting to seal his deal.

It constantly amazes and disgusts me the lengths to which people will go to ensure they at least maintain the status quo, or, preferably, consolidate more of societal power and wealth in their hands, while denying the same to everyone else.  And in the end, they will never be able to keep it.  It's part economics and part physics:  the more you try to hold onto, the harder it gets.

And most of the characters are betraying each other right and left.  Even if they have made deals.  Even if they have shaken each others' hands.  But then, they're not exactly ladies and gentlemen.  Lane and Johnny are true to each other, even though they spend very little of the book 'together'.  Likewise, Lane and Rachel do a good job at having each others' backs through some pretty thrilling and frightening circumstances.  You even find some *ahem* residents of the aircraft boneyard prison who have more integrity than most of the glitterati on the outside.

Most of what I read are cozy mysteries.  You know, nothing terribly disturbing reiterated on page after page.  Cute animals are the norm and maybe a romance or two thrown in for good measure.  "The Forever Man" is a much darker kind of a book - but it's a thriller as opposed to a horror novel.  I found the introduction (in the graveyard) difficult to stomach.  Thank goodness, that part was relatively short, and Ouellette's skill as a writer takes over and has the readers alternately cheering when Lane escapes one of the various traps set for him and getting riled up at the depths to which some denizens of 'humanity' have sunk.

Bottom line?  I recommend "The Forever Man", especially if you want to get riled up in service of a 'cause'.  I will keep my eyes out for Ouellette's other books too.

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Pierre Ouellette entered the creative realm at age thirteen as a lead guitarist for numerous bands in the Pacific Northwest, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, and later played with such jazz luminaries as saxophonist Jim Pepper and bassist David Friesen. He has had two novels published in seven languages and both optioned for film. He has also authored two biotech thrillers published in paperback under the name Pierre Davis, and directed and produced The Losers Club, a documentary about struggling musicians. Ouellette lives in Portland, Oregon, where he now devotes himself exclusively to writing fiction and playing jazz guitar now and then in a little bar just down the street.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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(Disclosure:  I received access to an e-copy of The Forever Man from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours and NetGalley, in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)

BOOK REVIEW: Granny Skewers a Scoundrel by Julie Seedorf




SYNOPSIS

Granny has a new addition to her arsenal of crime fighting weapons as Fuchsia, Minnesota’s most colorful detective. Now, along with her famous crook-hooking umbrella, she’s acquired a scoundrel-skewering knitting needle. And just in time! Residents of Fuchsia seem to be dropping dead like flies! First, it’s Granny’s neighbor Sally (who gives up the ghost in her weed-filled front yard), followed by Esmeralda Periwinkle (the squirrel lover on Main Street), and then, Mr. Nail, owner of the local hardware store (who is squashed when dozens of bags of fertilizer fall on top of him). Granny is baffled. Who is behind this murder spree?

Granny enlists the help of her sort of boyfriend Franklin Gatsby, the town’s police chief Cornelius Stricknine (or “The Big Guy”), her reality-show loving neighbor Mavis, and her own son Thor. And, of course, the special assistance of her menagerie of pets — including Mr. Bleaty, the goat. Soon Granny is hot on the trail of this dastardly murderer. Unfortunately, when Granny herself is poisoned, everyone insists that she cool her crime solving ways and stay indoors and out of harms way. Of course, that’s never going to happen! Not when Granny knows all the secret passageways and tunnels that run underneath Fuchsia. Out she goes–and watch out, you evil doers! Granny will solve this mystery–you can bet your pink undies, she will!



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REVIEW

I love Granny!  (Do you think she'll adopt me?)

Like most cozy heroines, Granny just seems to attract trouble.  Maybe she lived a quieter, younger life, though, and now has to squeeze all that crazy into the years she has left.  Last evening she foiled kidnappers and burglars, with the help of her menagerie.  This morning, she goes (in nightgown) to check on her neighbor, whose grass has grown too high.  (But with a name like Hermiony Vidalia Criony, you just know she was not going to have a quiet life anyway.)

She doesn't take guff from the local law boys either, telling them to their faces that she helps them keep their little town of Fuchsia, Minnesota, safe.  And Granny is just one of the colorful characters in this most colorful of towns.  I was laughing out loud just reading the names:  Chief Stricknine, Mr. Bleaty (a goat), Mrs. Periwinkle and their brother and sister citizens and furry denizens.  (If the board game "Clue" is looking to franchise, they should check into Fuchsia.  Seriously.  "So-and-so" in the garden with the (insert miscellaneous weapon).  Priceless.)

I don't do spoilers.  If you've been here before, you know that.  In this case it would be a crime to tell you how everything turns out.  Far be it from me to deny anyone the pleasure of reading how "Granny Skewers a Scoundrel".

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AUTHOR INFORMATION



Julie grew up in a small Minnesota community. She knows the value of neighbors looking out for neighbors.

Julie has worn many hats during her lifetime. She has been a waitress, barmaid, activities assistant, store clerk, office manager and for the last 14 years has worked in computer repair, and finally owning her own computer repair business. In January 2014 she closed her computer business to write full time.

Her most important career in her estimation has been wife, mother and grandmother. Nothing could equal the gift of nurturing and watching her children and grandchildren grow.

Julie is also a columnist for the Albert Lea Tribune. Her column “Something About Nothing” brings a little fluff to an unfluffy world. She believes there is always something underlying in the nothings we talk about. In 2011 she self-published “Whatchamacallit? Thingamajig?. It is a book about grandmothers and grandchildren. It was a collaboration between her grandchildren and Julie. Along with a glossary and lots of weird words, it is a mystery that reveals to the characters grandchildren who Grandma used to be.

In 2013 Julie signed a contract with Cozy Cat Press for the publication of her Cozy Mystery “Granny Hooks A Crook.” It fulfilled one item on Julie’s bucket list. Granny lives in the fictional town of Fuchsia, Minnesota. The Fuchsia, Minnesota books are a series. Granny Skewers A Scoundrel, book two in the series was released in March 2014. The Fuchsia books are unusual cozies with a little satire about small communities and an over the top Granny that gives a new meaning to old.  Julie also writes free lance for the Courier Sentinel and the Albert Lea Tribune. She also is designing a line of shirts, cups and other material to complement her books.

Never quit dreaming is Julie’s motto. Dreams are the gateway to fun, fantasy and the future.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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(Disclosure:  I received an e-copy of "Granny Skewers a Scoundrel" from the author and publisher via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion.)

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Booknificent Thursdays

Monday, July 21, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Gold Diggers, Gamblers and Guns by Ellen Mansoor Collier





SYNOPSIS

During Prohibition, Galveston Island was called the “Free State of Galveston” due to its lax laws and laissez-faire attitude toward gambling, gals and bootlegging. Young society reporter Jasmine (Jazz) Cross longs to cover hard news, but she’s stuck between two clashing cultures: the world of gossip and glamour vs. gangsters and gamblers.

After Downtown Gang leader Johnny Jack Nounes is released from jail, all hell breaks loose: Prohibition Agent James Burton’s life is threatened and he must go into hiding for his own safety. But when he’s framed for murder, he and Jazz work together to prove his innocence. Johnny Jack blames her half-brother Sammy Cook, owner of the Oasis speakeasy, for his arrest and forces him to work overtime in a variety of dangerous mob jobs as punishment.

When a bookie is murdered, Jazz looks for clues linking the two murders and delves deeper into the underworld of gambling: poker games, slot machines and horse-racing. Meanwhile, Jazz tries to keep both Burton and her brother safe, and alive, while they face off against each other, as well as a common enemy. A soft-boiled mystery inspired by actual events.


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REVIEW

You just know it's about to hit the fan when the city's sole Prohibition agent is out on the town with a society reporter at one of the better speakeasies.  Sure enough, they step outside and someone tries to gun down the agent.  Maybe the language and the dress has changed since nearly 100 years ago, but the gangs and the drive-by shootings haven't.

"Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns" reminded me of the movie "The Sting" in time period.  I guess that would make Jazz and James (Agent Burton) the Newman and Redford characters.  There were a ton of double-crosses to keep everybody guessing and to ensure that the path of true love would not run smooth.  And you know that will continue because Jazz is not a shrinking violet kind of a doll.

The book also reminded me of "Guys and Dolls" without the singing and big dance numbers.

"Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns" is, in itself, a wonderful romp through another time and another place that you can take right from the comfort of your own home.  It is also the third in Ms. Collier's "Jazz Age" series of mysteries, which means I'm going to have to go back and catch up on #'s 1 and 2, because I really like the character of Jazz.  She is like the little sister I never had.

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AUTHOR INFORMATION



Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.

A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications).

FLAPPERS, FLASKS AND FOUL PLAY is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS, released in May 2013. She lives in Houston with her husband and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.

“When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past until I began doing research, and became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s. Finally I had to stop researching and start writing, trying to imagine a flapper’s life in Galveston during Prohibition.”

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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.)

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday 56: Gold-Diggers, Gambers and Guns


"The Friday 56" is hosted at Freda's Voice.

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grab you.
>*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It's that simple.


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As I turned to go upstairs, I heard a slight tapping on the window, almost a clawing noise 
.
Nervously, I peered through curtains, and sucked in my breath: On the front porch stood Agent Burton, bruised and battered, a black eye starting to darken, his suit disheveled and torn.
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Sound interesting?  Do you speak 'flapper'?  There will be a review of "Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns" on my blog on Monday, as part of a tour set up by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours and you're all invited back! :O)

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