Category Archives: New Writers

“All Our Wrong Todays” – why don’t we live like The Jetsons?

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is a Sci-Fi novel that explains why we don’t live like the Jetsons. Let’s face it, by this time we were supposed to have flying cars, world peace, Moon Colonies and teleportation machines. What happened to the future that the 1964 World’s Fair promised the Baby Boomers?

What happened to the future The Jetsons promised us?

What happened to the future The Jetsons promised us?

Tom Barren, the hero of All Our Wrong Todays is the man who ruined the future for all of us. It turns out that the utopian future really did happen.  Things were going smoothly right up to the point where time travel was invented. That’s when Tom travels to the past, and in a matter of seconds, unintentionally changes human history. When Tom returns to the “present” he finds it has become the messed up  world we live in today. Oh, by the way, his actions also destroyed the time machine, so there is no way he can go back and undo the damage he created.

The 1964 World's Fair promised us a perfect future

The 1964 World’s Fair promised us a perfect future

There have been many time-travel novels, but All Our Wrong Today’s is one of the best. Instead of getting hung up on technical jargon, Elan Mastai delves more into the psychological and ethical issues of experimenting with technology of unlimited power.

When Tom comes back from the past into our “wrong today”, at first all he sees is how technologically backward we are. Then he begins to realize that his  own life has improved. He has merged with the person he is in this new time line.

What really happened when the World's Fair ended

What really happened when the World’s Fair ended

In his own time, Tom was a screw-up only child. In our world, he is a rich and famous architect, with a wonderful sister. Tom also meets a woman and falls in love. Tom realizes   that the technology of his world had muted the senses of people. Our world may be harsh and often terrible, but it also allows people to truly feel every experience.  But is it right for Tom to continue in this false world that was created by accident? Shouldn’t he try to change time back? Is there any way he can get the best of both worlds and merge the two realities?

Elan Mastai author of All Our Wrong Todays

Elan Mastai author of All Our Wrong Todays

We don’t want to reveal too much of the plot for fear of ruining the exciting twists and turns of All Our Wrong Todays. Suffice it to say that Elan Mastai is a brilliant writer who brings all the characters of these fictional time-lines to life. We look forward to reading more by this gifted author.

A Farther Shore – Ireland’s Long Road to Peace

A Farther Shore  by Gerry Adams is the fascinating story of the negotiations that resulted in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which created a road map for peace in Northern Ireland. Some consider Gerry Adams a terrorist, while for others, he is a great civil rights leader. Since 1983, Gerry Adams was the leader of Sinn Fein, the political group closely associated with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). A Farther Shore was written in 2003 when the details of the negotiations were fresh in mind. A Farther Shore still holds up today, and gives the reader a wonderful historic perspective.

British troops in Northern Ireland

British troops in Northern Ireland

It is difficult for people outside of Ireland and the U.K. to understand just how desperate the Northern Ireland situation was in the 1970s through 1990s.  There were daily shootings and bombing. People could be imprisoned indefinitely without trial and the British Army was a large occupying force. At one point in Norther Ireland, there was 1 British soldier for every 3 Catholic males between the ages of 16 and 60.

Margret Thatcher tried unsuccessfully to beat the IRA using the military

Margret Thatcher tried unsuccessfully to beat the IRA using the military

It seemed impossible that there could ever be a negotiated settlement. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, and her goal was to militarily destroy the IRA by any means, legal or illegal.  The British have always portrayed themselves to the world as the epitome of “the rule of law”. However, the law did not apply in Northern Ireland.  British SAS forces had orders to “shoot to kill” rather than arrest suspected members of the IRA, even if those people were unarmed.

Gerry Adams in Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams in Northern Ireland

The RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) was in many ways worse than the British Army. The RUC was supposed to be the police force protecting all the citizens of Norther Ireland. In reality, it was the force of the Protestant majority only, and considered all Catholics to be the enemy.

At one point Northern Ireland had 1 British soldier for every 3 Catholic males between 16 and 60

At one point Northern Ireland had 1 British soldier for every 3 Catholic males between 16 and 60

As well as the Catholic IRA, there were many armed Protestant “Unionist” paramilitary groups. The Unionist groups were technically illegal, but in fact were often being given intelligence and weapons by the British and the RUC.

Lord Mountbatten killed by IRA August 27, 1979

Lord Mountbatten killed by IRA August 27, 1979

The brutal methods of the British and the RUC did not destroy the IRA, and instead made it stronger. Once the British began to treat  ALL Catholics in Northern Ireland as the enemy, the Catholics turned to the IRA as the only force which would protect them.  The IRA itself continued bomb and gun attacks.  On August 27, 1979 the IRA killed Lord Mountbatten in Ireland in a bomb attack and killed 18 British soldiers in a separate attack in Northern Ireland on the same day.

Gerry Adams & Bill Clinton 1995

Gerry Adams & Bill Clinton 1995 at Queen’s University. Clinton also met with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party  Ian Paisely.

A Farther Shore is the story of how the groups battling in Northern Ireland came through those dark days to sign a peace accord in 1998 which came to be known as the Good Friday Agreement. Gerry Adams admits that his is not an unbiased account. He rightfully states that it may be 50 or 75 years before anyone will be able to write a story about Northern Ireland from a neutral, unemotional perspective. A Further Shore is Gerry Adam’s account of the Sinn Fein struggle and its involvement in the peace process.

Gerry Adams and Prince Charles share a friendly moment. Margaret Thatcher must be turning in her grave.

Gerry Adams and Prince Charles share a friendly moment. Margaret Thatcher must be turning in her grave.

The negotiations that lead to the Good Friday Agreement took decades and included a huge number of people, countries and political and paramilitary organizations. Just to name a few these included, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, U.S. Senator George Mitchell, Ted Kennedy, the IRA, the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Ulster Unionist Party, and more.

Results of the popular vote accepting the Good Friday Agreement

Results of the popular vote accepting the Good Friday Agreement

This was not a simple matter of just having groups sit down and talk to each other for a deal. Many of these groups hated each other and would have no direct conversations with each other, even if they were in the same room. The IRA and the various unionists paramilitary organizations were illegal and could therefore not even show up directly for any talks.

Senator George Mitchell ad Gerry Adams

Senator George Mitchell ad Gerry Adams

Peace would never have been achieved without the involvement of South Africa and The United States.  At one point,  representatives of all the involved Northern Irish  parties (other than the paramilitary groups) traveled to South Africa. There they met with Nelson Mandela and the ex-leaders of the all -white government.  There were long discussions about how it was possible to achieve a lasting agreement even among groups that had fought each other for decades. The Irish peace negotiators were inspired by the South African example.

Nelson Mandela & Gerry Adams

Nelson Mandela & Gerry Adams

United States Senator George Mitchell lead the negotiations that resulted in The Good Friday agreement.  Most Americans, even to this day, are not fully aware of the incredible achievement of Senator Mitchell. The fact that he was able to hold together such a diverse group and get a workable accord would have seemed impossible given the history of the conflict.

A Further Shore is a wonderful read, and Gerry Adams is a terrific writer.  Gerry Adams’ writing style is very personal, which makes this tale of an individual’s journey, rather than a dry historical document.  Gerry Adams sprinkles the book with amusing anecdotes. For example, at one point, he took a break from negotiations which were  taking place in an old castle.  As he walked the grounds of the estate he found himself being followed by a herd of wild cats who lived in the nooks and crannies of the old castle. Throughout his political life Gerry Adams has tried to continue to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and family. Despite having been imprisoned by the British and shot by Unionists, he has kept an amazingly positive outlook on the future and truly believes in the possibility of a better future for future generations throughout the world.

A Further Shore is a very inspirational book since it shows that seemingly “endless” conflicts can be resolved.  It is easy to think of today’s problems in the Middle East and elsewhere as completely insurmountable.  A Further Shore shows that there is always hope and possibility. Of course, the problems of Northern Ireland have not all been solved. The IRA and the Unionist military groups still exist. The political situation is still incredibly complex and fluid.

Just this week an election was held for the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Unionist group the DUP came in first 28 seats. In a stunning success, Sinn Fein came in second with 27 seats. It was a hard-fought election, but the fighting was with words, not guns or bombs.  A Further Shore tells the tale of what made this possible.

Rogue Heroes – a fascinating book about the SAS in World War II

Rogue Heroes by Ben MacIntyre is a fascinating story  of the British unit in World War II which created an entirely new way of fighting the Nazis. It reads more like an action novel than a history book, except that all the characters and action sequences really happened.

The SAS (Strategic Air Service) was the brainchild of David Sterling, a young British Lieutenant who was more known for his  parties, drinking  and lack of discipline than his military skills. He felt that the middle ranks of the British Army had no imagination whatsoever, and were still trying to use tactics from World War I.

Jock McDiarmid and his SAS team o a raid in the North African desert

Jock McDiarmid and his SAS team o a raid in the North African desert

Lieutenant Sterling envisioned a small group of highly trained soldiers which would  strike the German air bases in North Africa using hit-and-run guerrilla  tactics. This concept may seem common-place on today’s battlefields, but at the outset of World War II, this was a brand-new concept. At the time, commanders were still relying solely on full scale frontal assaults.  As a result, the traditional Army men were very hostel  to Sterling’s concepts.

Author Ben MacIntyre (left) & SAS founder David Stirling (right)

Author Ben MacIntyre (left) & SAS founder David Stirling (right)

In fact, Sterling probably never would have gotten a chance to try out his ideas, except for one thing. David Sterling came from a very upper class British family, and in those days, class was still  important- even in the Army. Sterling got invited to dinners with various high ranking officers, where he used the opportunity to present his plan to command generals. He was able to skip the middle-rank bureaucracy which normally would have prevented any general from seeing such a wild scheme.

The SAS in World War II

The SAS in World War II

At the time, the war was not going well for the British in North Africa. Rommel was beating back the British forces and it looked like the Germans would soon drive the British out entirely. The British generals sanctioned the SAS and gave Sterling men and equipment. The British high command did not really think the idea would work, but at this point they were willing to try anything that could possibly hurt Rommel. If the SAS  worked it would be great. If it did not, then the few men lost (killed) was very considered very minor.

The SAS did succeed beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.  The men worked in small teams that lived far out in the desert. The Germans were not expecting attacks to come from the desert since they did not think it was possible for any troops to stay in the desert for long periods of time.

With small teams of men, the SAS was able to sneak onto the German airfields and plant bombs on planes. Over the course of a few months, the SAS has destroyed hundreds of aircraft.

Rogue Heroes gives fascinating details. For example the very name “SAS” had started out as the name of a fictitious unit, long before there was an actual group. A British intelligence officer had been giving the task of creating false intelligence reports to confuse the Germans. He came up with the impressive sounding  name “Strategic Air Services”, and started rumors that this was a gigantic force which would be parachuting in to attack Rommel’s men. This larger than life fictitious unit existed long before there were any real soldiers to go along with it. Throughout the war British Intelligence continued to create false reports to make the SAS appear many times larger than it really was.

In fact,  the psychological impact of the SAS on the German troops was one of the main successes of the group.  The SAS hit and run tactics behind German lines made the German troops worry that they were never safe no matter where they were.

When the war in North Africa was won, the SAS moved to Europe and continued its work. This is where the war became even nastier.  They were so successful that Hitler himself had taken notice of them. He issued his infamous “Commando Order”. This directed that anyone found operating behind German front lines was to be immediately executed, even if in uniform and surrendering. In addition, the Gestapo carried out reprisal executions of French civilians every time there was an SAS raid.

There is one shameful period in SAS history that Ben MacIntyre left out of the book. In the 1970s-1980s the British used the SAS in Northern Ireland as murder squads to kill members of the IRA without trial. On the one hand, the British claimed that all people in Northern Ireland were British citizens. However, the SAS was given instructions to “shoot on sight” any leaders of the IRA even if they were unarmed. No capture or trial. On other occasions, the SAS did not do the killings itself, but provided intelligence to Ulster Loyalists who then carried out attacks on Catholic civilians. Even today, this period of SAS history has been conveniently swept under the rug.

Ben MacIntyre is an excellent writer, and makes history come alive. He focuses on the individual men of the SAS and we get to know these unique personalities on a first name basis.  Of course, this makes parts of Rogue Heroes very sad. War is not a game, and a high percentage of SAS men were killed due to the large amount of combat they were in.  Rogue Heroes is a real tribute to these men. It has the respect to treat these men not as superhuman, but as real people who made extraordinary sacrifices.

We highly recommend Rogue Heroes, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

 

 

 

The Art Forger – book review

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro is a fascinating novel about a beautiful young artist in Boston who makes a Faustian deal  to create and sell a forgery of a world famous masterpiece by Degas. The Art Forger raises the question of what makes a painting valuable. If a forger can create a piece identical to the “masterpiece” then why is the original artist considered great and the forger a pariah?

B.A. Shapiro author of The Art Forger

B.A. Shapiro author of The Art Forger

The Art Forger’s plot has intertwining mysteries of the present and past. It is a great detective novel, and also ends up educating the reader about the intricacies of the legal and illegal art world. For example, we learn of the great Dutch forger Hans van Meegeren, who sold forged paintings to the Nazis during World War II.

After the war, van Meegeren was charged with treason, for selling stolen Dutch masterpieces to Nazis. To defend himself, he had to prove the paintings were  actually his forgeries, and the only people he had betrayed were the Nazis. To prove his innocence, he had to reveal his techniques in detail in open court.  For the art world, this may not have been a good thing. Hans van Meegeren’s testimony was like a training manual for up and coming art forgers throughout the world. His methods were so ingenious that they are still followed by all modern forgers.

Hans van Meegeren on trial for selling stolen paintings to Nazis

Hans van Meegeren on trial for selling stolen paintings to Nazis

Claire Roth is a struggling Boston artist who is given a proposition by the city’s leading gallery owner, Aiden Markel. If Claire will create a forgery of a Degas piece, Aiden will give her a large amount of money and an exclusive show at his gallery for her own works. He is offering her fortune and a high place in the rarefied art society world.  The fact that Claire and Aiden also have an immediate sexual attraction to each other makes the deal irresistible.

Claire creates a wonderful Degas, following Han van Meegeren’s techniques. B.A. Shaprio describes this in fascinating detail which is enjoyable to read, even for those of us who know nothing about art.  Of course, creating a forgery is one thing. Selling it without getting arrested or even killed is quite another.

one of Degas' After The Bath paintings

one of Degas’ After The Bath paintings

Claire soon discovers that when she crosses the line from artist to forger, she enters an environment for which she is completely unprepared. The police, FBI, high society and even some very violent people take a dim view of art forgers. She is, after all, just a poor young woman in Boston, with nothing to protect herself except her vast knowledge of art and her exceptional talent.

We do not want to give too much away, for fear of spoiling the book. Suffice it to say that, we highly recommend The Art Forger, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

 

6 reasons Channel Awesome Is Great

Channel Awesome is a low budget internet “network” with original shows like The Nostalgic Critic, Some Jerk With A Camera, The Angry Joe Show, The Cinema Snob. As the names indicate, these are not exactly high- budget Hollywood productions, or even independent “artistic”  films. For the most part, the shows on Channel Awesome are people talking into a video camera about things they like and don’t like. Despite that, here are the reasons we think Channel Awesome is great.

  • Channel Awesome directly challenges YouTube. For a long time,  people who  wanted to post videos online and try to make some money found that YouTube was the only game in town. Play by their rules or YouTube pulls your video.  YouTube is famous for taking down videos for “copyright infringement” of a movie, even though it is perfectly legal for a reviewer to show a short clip of a film. Rumors are that major movie studios secretly pay YouTube to delete videos that give bad reviews to a film.
Brad Jones - The Cinema Snob

Brad Jones – The Cinema Snob

  • The shows are so silly they are fun. For example, Brad Jones has a series where he reviews foods. However, Brad is not The Master Chef. Brad is not filming the latest creation in an upscale Soho restaurant.  Instead, Brad reviews foods like The Halloween Burger at Burger King, or the world’s spiciest potato chip.  A lot of his reviews are filmed in his car in the parking lot of whatever fast food place he is reviewing. The honesty of his food reviews  is refreshing. Let’s face it, most Americans eat a lot of their meals at fast food places, and often consume the food in the car. It’s about time we had a show reviewing the junk most of us regularly eat.
Lindsay Ellis- formerly The Nostalgia Chick

Lindsay Ellis- formerly The Nostalgia Chick

  • New Talent gets presented.  Talented, but unknown, actors get to appear in skits or movie spoofs and have their skills seen by thousands of viewers. For example, Malcolm Ray has a recurring  comedy role as the Devil on The Nostalgic Critic. He is joined by Tamara Chambers who has spoofed a number of characters including Wonder Woman.
Malcolm Ray - actor on Channel Awesome famous for playing The Devil

Malcolm Ray – actor on Channel Awesome famous for playing The Devil

  • Channel Awesome gives us all hope of becoming video stars. The shows are so low budget and sometimes so stupid that you just have to say, “Hell I could have done that!” In fact, after some episodes you will be tempted to run down to Best Buy and get your own video camera to start a show. Instead of sitting at a desk reviewing invoices, wouldn’t you like to make money filming yourself eating cheese fries and reviewing them online?
Tamara Chambers - actress on Channel Awesome

Tamara Chambers – actress on Channel Awesome

  • Channel Awesome is an American Success Story. It is great to see a new idea succeed. The three founders, Mike Michaud, Mike Ellis and Bhargav Dronamraju, started the company in  2008 when they all lost their jobs at Circuit City.  The demise of Circuit City turned out to be the push they needed to try doing something new. Creating success out of a failure is, after all, the classic Horatio Alger story. It is made even better by the fact that the internet vehicle  they created now allows many other people to try to succeed at their own dreams.
Doug Walker - The Nostalgia Critic - (formerly That Guy With Glasses)

Doug Walker – The Nostalgia Critic – (formerly That Guy With Glasses)

  • The viewers are a part of the shows. Channel Awesome is still in its infancy and we predict that in 10 years it may have morphed into a major power on the internet. But we love watching it now, when it is still low-budget and ridiculous. The fact that sometimes the people don’t actually know what they are doing  adds to the enjoyment. It makes the people on the shows seem more like our  friends than “celebrities” we are watching.  This must be how audiences felt  in the early days of Television.  Viewers can comment and get a personal response from the actor or show creator. Shows are changed due to viewer’s responses. Its like watching a minor league baseball team. They may not be the best athletes in the world but they are your team.

 

 

The Right Burgee – the book that shocked the Yacht Club set a half a century ago

The Right Burgee by Henry Lee was a novel published in 1965 which created an uproar in the Yacht Club crowd. It put in writing all the unspoken truths about yacht clubs, and the fact that they have nothing whatsoever to do with yachts. The East Coast yacht clubs in 1965 were a social class measuring tool.

You could not  just pay a membership fee and get in.  How much money you had was only one factor. You also had to be of the proper race, religion and ethnic background. How you made your money was also important. “Old money” was many times more valuable than “new money”. If you came from Old Money it meant your family had been part of the upper classes for generations.

How to display a burgee

How to display a burgee

The Right Burgee takes place in the fictional Housatonic Yacht Club. Of course, readers in the know realized it was actually the Stamford Connecticut Yacht Club, of which Henry Lee was a member. It is well written and the characters all come across as real people rather than stereotypes. 

The Right Burgee cleverly  shows the incredible stress on people and families when their main goal in life becomes trying to prove to the world that they belong as part of the chosen few. You see, just getting into a yacht club is not enough. It has to be the right yacht club.  A bugree is that little triangular flag that people fly on the front of their boats to show what yacht club they belong to.

Burgees of Yacht Clubs

Burgees of Yacht Clubs

Not all burgees are created equal. The top of the top in The United States was the New York Yacht Club, which in 1965 still proudly displayed the America’s Cup trophy in its clubhouse. In their hearts, the members of the Housatonic Yacht Club know that despite all their pretensions their bugree really ranks somewhere in the middle rather than closer to the top.

The main character in The Right Burgee is a man who in the beginning of the story has completely bought into the whole system. His goal in life is to become Commodore of the club, and wear the stripes on the sleeve of his yacht club blazer. He has no interest in boating, but keeps a small sailboat, since that is the only way to obtain “flag rank”.

The Stamford Connecticut Yacht Club emblem

The Stamford Connecticut Yacht Club emblem

However, along the way, he begins to question  the point of the whole  system. He sees the stress his wife is under to always be invited to the correct parties. He sees how his daughter is crushed if she does not get to go to the proper cotillion.   He eventually falls in love with a beautiful woman in New York. Getting a divorce and marring her would ruin him socially forever. Not because of the divorce, but because she is Jewish. He will have to choose between love and social standing.

The America sailing Yacht

The America sailing Yacht

The Right Burgee is hard to find, but there are still a few copies floating around on Amazon. It is worth getting, to see a glimpse into the social structure of a half a century ago. It may seem silly that grown men were willing to spend huge amounts of time, money and effort just to be able to wear a blue blazer with little gold stripes on the sleeve. But it wasn’t about the jacket. It was about the right to show the world that you were better than everyone else. The yacht clubs of those days were not about who got in. They were about who got kept out.

The America's Cup when it was on Display in The New York Yacht Club

The America’s Cup when it was on Display in The New York Yacht Club

Even in 1965, the whole yacht club structure was beginning to change. Irish-Americans had recently been admitted to some of the clubs, and there was even talk in some clubs of possibly letting in Italian-Americans. Traditional members argued that letting in the Irish-Americans was the beginning of the end for the whole system. Of course, they could still not even imagine a future where Jewish-Americans or African-Americans would ever be admitted to any club with a proper burgee.

The Right Burgee by Henry Lee (The image on the cover shows someone being "blackballed - refused membership to the club)The Right Burgee by Henry Lee

The Right Burgee by Henry Lee (The image on the cover shows someone being “blackballed” – refused membership to the club)

When I was  young, I met the author of The Right Burgee, Mr. Henry Lee. He was eating at the Stamford Yacht Club, and my mother introduced me to him. I had read the book and I was surprised that he was still a member of the club all those years after its publication. However, it was obvious that the other members of the yacht club had neither forgiven nor forgotten the theme of The Right Burgee. Henry Lee was in the main dining room, eating at a large table, completely alone. The dining room was packed, but Mr. Lee was being studiously  ignored by the other members of the club, while they happily chatted to each other. As you can guess, he never became Commodore of the yacht club.

 

 

 

High Tech/Low Cost/Made In America – TIPS Sticker Stylus

The TIPS Sticker Stylus™ is a unique new tech product.  It sticks on to the end of a pen or pencil and allows you to use it as a computer stylus.  Apple calls its stylus the Apple Pencil™ and sells it for $99.00.  TIPS™ converts a pencil into a stylus at a cost of $1.99.

TIPS Sticker Stylus comes in a flat envelope

TIPS Sticker Stylus comes in a flat envelope. A pack of 6 costs $11.94, which comes to only $1.99 each.

The TIPS Sticker Stylus™ was designed in the United States and is 100% made in the U.S. by a new entrepreneurial company based on the East Coast. (That’s right –  not all tech entrepreneurs live in California)

TIPS Sticker Stylus

TIPS Sticker Stylus

This innovative yet cost-effective new product has a number of really cool features:

  • Turns any pen or pencil into a capacitive (touchscreen stylus)
  • If you want to, you can use it as a screen stylus and write on  paper simultaneously. Even the Apple Pencil™ cannot do that.  It is  ironic that the Apple Pencil™ cannot function as an actual pencil. The TIPS Sticker Stylus™ can.
TIPS Sticker Stylus fits into a Smartphone case

TIPS Sticker Stylus easily Fits into a Smartphone case

The fact that the TIPS Sticker Stylus™ fits into a smartphone case, means it is easy to carry around without losing it.

If you are looking for a last minute holiday gift  at a reasonable price East Coast Stories recommends the TIPS Sticker Stylus™.

 

 

Ghost Man – a terrific crime novel by Roger Hobbs

Ghost Man by Roger Hobbs is an exciting  robbery novel. In fact, it is about two  robberies. One is a casino heist in Atlantic City New Jersey, and the other is a bank robbery in  Malaysia. The novel begins after both robberies have ended in disaster and death.

The “Ghost Man”  is the guy in any major robbery whose job it is to make sure that everything runs perfectly. He is the one who does all the intelligence work before the heist. He checks out the alarm system, sees where the guards are, times the police patrols, sees what kind of vault or armored car is used.

Bank robber with Uzi

Bank robber with Uzi

After the casino heist in Atlantic City goes bad and the money disappears, Jack Dalton is sent in to figure out what happened and to find the missing money before the cops do. Jack is the best Ghost Man in the world. Of course, his name is not really Jack Dalton. He changes his name and his appearance after each robbery and simply disappears. (Hence the term “ghost”).

The only reason Jack is willing to get involved in such a mess after the fact is that he owes a debt to the crime boss Marcus. Jack was the person who screwed up the Malaysian robbery years before. It was the kind of mistake that got a lot of people killed and there are still  lot of people still trying to find Jack to kill him.

Don't we all really fantasize about being able to bathe in money?

Don’t we all really fantasize about being able to bathe in money?

As soon as Jack starts to check things out in Atlantic City he realizes the situation is more dangerous than he ever imagined.  Not only must he avoid the police and FBI, but it turns out that Atlantic city has a drug lord called “The Wolf”who is a hundred times more violent  than Marcus. The Wolf wants to find the casino money for himself, and doesn’t care who he has to kill to get it.

Author Roger Hobbs

Author Roger Hobbs

In any crime novel what matters is attention to detail and pacing. Ghost Man is great at both.  Roger Hobbs has shown himself to be a master of the big crime genre.  Step by step he lays out how to pull off a major robbery down to the smallest detail. Let’s face it, haven’t we all secretly fantasized about what it would be like to rob a bank or casino?  Haven’t we  imagined what we would do with millions of dollars in cash?  Ghost Man shows how you might actually get away with it.  Then Ghost Man lets us see how even  a slight mistake can get you killed or sent to prison for life.

Ghost Man is terrific and we highly recommend it.  Roger Hobbs has also published Vanishing Games which continues with some of the same characters. Best to start at the beginning with Ghost Man, which we are sure you will love as much as we did.

Little Bunny Blogger

Little Bunny Blogger is a wonderful  website for Bunny  lovers. It features terrific pictures of rabbits and has useful facts about the care and feeding of these gentle creatures.  It is authored by Carlee, who  has always loved rabbits. One of her earliest memories  as a little girl  is that of hopping around the house pretending to be a rabbit.

Pup, Luna & Carlee from Bunny Bloggers

Pup, Luna & Carlee from Bunny Bloggers

Little Bunny Blogger includes a section on random rabbit facts. We never knew before that rabbits can run 35 miles per hour or that they have 28 teeth and 18 toes.  It also emphasizes that rabbits are not toys, but a “member of the family” that need to be treated with love and care.

Pup enjoying some Timothy Hay

Pup enjoying some Timothy Hay

Little Bunny Blogger is especially useful for those who are first-time rabbit owners, or who are thinking of adopting a rabbit. It has a whole section of “dos and don’ts” explaining useful items like what foods are good and which can be dangerous.

Piper who was found wandering in Arkansas

Piper who was found wandering in Arkansas

Carlee’s love of animals extends to dogs and cats as well. There is an adorable picture of Piper, a Labrador/hound/Beagle mix who was found wandering streets in Arkansas when only 3 weeks old.

It is great to meet another blogger who loves bunnies and other animals as much as we do. We wish Carlee and Little Bunny Blogger great success.

Frog Music

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue is a fascinating historical thriller taking place in 1876 San Francisco. The plot revolves around the murder of a young woman, but the true star of the story is San Francisco itself.

Emma Donoghue and Frog Music

Emma Donoghue and Frog Music

In 1876, San Francisco was an odd mixture of people from different cultures, all of whom had come to the city to make their fortune. There were wealthy silver & gold  miners, and destitute miners who had never found a nugget. There were Chinese coolies and Italian businessmen trying to make it big in America. Then  there was a whole “other” layer of society consisting of prostitutes, pimps, thieves, madams and corrupt policemen.

California Dreaming

California Dreaming

One of the people trying to earn her fortune is the French  dancer/prostitute Blanche Beunon. She is a star dancer, who earns extra for “special performances” for rich men. She is doing do well she has been able to save money and even  purchase a house.

Prostitutes in San Francisco 1876

Prostitutes in San Francisco 1876

Then Blanch’s view of the world is turned upside down when she meets Jenny, a young  woman who forces Blanche to see things differently. Jenny is what we would call today a Feminist. Jenny wears men’s clothing (which was illegal at the time), carries a gun, and depends on no man to make a living.

Gold Miners

Gold Miners

Jenny prods Blanche into  realizing  that Blanche’s  “fancy man”  (pimp) and his friend are really just parasites living off her work. With Jenny’s prodding Blanche decides to make a painful journey to find out what really happened to Blanch’s  baby; who her “fancy man” insists was given to a loving farm family. She soon discovers the horrors of what really happens to unwanted children.

Chinaman carrying supplies, San Francisco c1870

Chinese man   carrying supplies, San Francisco c1870

Frog Music begins with Jenny being brutally murdered. The rest of the novel is the story of what lead up to that event, and clues as to who committed  the crime. As the story unfolds we find out that Jenny is much more complicated than Blanche eve suspected. Was Jenny the real target, or was the murderer really after Blanche?

Frog Music is a wonderful book, which we highly recommend. Frog Music is based on a real murder, and the characters actually existed. It tells a fascinating historic tale.

Queen Of Kings book review

Queen Of Kings by Maria Dahvana is an exciting novel of witchcraft, gods, heroes and vampires. This is all intertwined with the love story of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Unlike most stories about Cleopatra, her death is the starting point of the book rather than the end.

Queen 1

Throughout Queen Of Kings Cleopatra wanders through the realms of the dead trying to outwit  ancient Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses. Cleopatra is willing to pay any price, even losing her soul, to take revenge on Octavian Caesar, and bring back Mark Antony from the dead.

Queen 2

 

Maria Dahvana Headley uses an extensive knowledge of Greek and Egyptian mythology to present the gods in a whole new light.  In Queen Of Kings, all of the Greek and Egyptian gods exist simultaneously and compete with each other for power and worshipers. They are willing to deal with Cleopatra, but  only to help themselves.

Queen 3

Unfortunately, many people want nothing to do with any story about Mark Antony and Cleopatra. This dates back to the disastrous 1963 movie in which Elizabeth Taylor was Cleopatra, and Richard Burton was Antony. Those performance were so bad that they forever tainted the story of Antony & Cleopatra. Wash the memory of that awful film from your memory by reading Queen Of Kings.

Queen of Kings is a great novel in which death, love, revenge and sacrifice intertwine for exciting and gruesome action throughout.  The novel culminates in an epic battle in which gods, goddesses, Roman Legions, witches and even an the Roman  Emperor battle for control of the world.

We highly recommend Queen of Kings and think you will enjoy it as much as we did.

 

 

The Killer’s Wife – a novel of the “other victim”

Can you have sex with a man night after night and not suspect that he is a murderer? Why didn’t you notice the scratches on his body and the faint smell of still-fresh blood?  Was there anything you could have done to stop his killing spree? These are the questions that haunt Leigh, the heroine of The Killer’s Wife by Bill Floyd.

Can you really have sex with a killer and never suspect?

Can you really have sex with a killer and never suspect?

Six years after her husband was sent to death row for a series of brutal ritualistic murders, Leigh has tried to rebuild her life.  She got a divorce, legally changed her name, moved to a new State. But there is no escaping the past.

The father of one of the murder victims tracks Leigh down and exposes her to the community. Leigh is no longer the friendly co-worker and neighbor. Overnight she becomes the feared and despised wife of a sadistic deranged killer. Many people believe that Leigh is not really an innocent victim at all, but actually joined her husband on his killing rampages.

The Killer's Wife

The Killer’s Wife

When Leigh feels things could not get any worse, the nightmare begins again with a series of murders using the same horrible techniques. With her ex-husband in a maximum security prison who is the killer?

Author Bill Floyd

Author Bill Floyd

The Killer’s Wife is an extraordinarily well written debut novel of Bill Floyd. It is exciting throughout and would make an excellent movie. If you enjoyed The Girl On The Train, you will love The Killer’s Wife.

 

 

Those That Wake – a novel of struggle for the human spirit

In the novel Those That Wake by Jesse Karp, a small group of people from different walks of life suddenly begin to notice things  they never saw before. Strange doors appear where there should be none. There is building in the center of New York that everyone else just walks by without even seeing it.

Those That Wake by Jesse Karp

Those That Wake by Jesse Karp

Those That Wake takes place in the not so distant future in New York City. Although the city is teeming with people, they have become completely isolated from each other with their heads always looking down  into their cell phones instead of up  at each other.

The main characters of the novel are two teenagers, Mal and Laura. They are among “those that wake”. However, there is a price to be paid for seeing things as they really are. As soon as they begin to notice what is going on, bad things happen in their lives. Friends and relatives no longer remember who they are. People tray to kill them.

Mal states that , “I think there’s a secret machinery that makes the world work that we’re not supposed to see, and we saw it. And now we’re paying the price.”

Jesse Karp

Jesse Karp

Bookstores place Those That Wake under the category of “Teen Fiction” or “Young Adult”. There is a special alienation that one feels as a teenager. Teenagers often feel that adults are trying to hide from them the true nature of the world and that adults have comfortably settled into a mind-numbing apathy. All too often, teenagers are completely correct in these assumptions.

Those That Wake is an excellently written novel and is a fascinating read for people of all ages, not just teenagers.  The point that we should never allow depression, apathy and hopelessness to rule our lives is a message people need to remember throughout their lives. We recommend this book even if your “young adult” days are many years behind you.

 

Shikar

Shikar by Jack Warner is a beautifully crafted novel about the hunt for a man-eating tiger in rural Georgia. The tiger escaped from an  illegal carnival. Since the carnival owners did not have a permit for this exotic creature, they quickly left town without reporting the missing tiger. This leaves the local people total unprepared for the attacks to come.

Shikar by Jack Warner

Shikar by Jack Warner

A full grown tiger is 650 pounds of pure muscle and can move in absolute silence with blinding speed. Shikar (which means “the Hunt” in Hindi) does a great job of describing the power and beauty of a tiger without making it out to be a monster.

Tigers normally do not hunt people. However, this one was having a difficult time finding enough game in the local woods. Finally, in desperate hunger,  it turns to hunting the slowest, easiest to kill,  animal of all – people.

A successful hunt

A successful hunt

Local deer hunters go after the tiger, and soon find out that if you go into a forest after a tiger you very quickly become the hunted instead of the hunter,.

Tiger on the attack

Tiger on the attack

Jack Warner does a great job of describing the local people as well as the tiger. You care deeply about what happens to them; especially a young poor boy who develops an almost mystical connection with the tiger.

We are sure you will enjoy Shikar as much as we did.

Brittni’s Notebook

Brittni’s Notebook is an eclectic mix of stories, book, movie & T.V. reviews, and even includes a cooking and recipe section. It is written by Brittni Kayne, a young woman in a small rural Wyoming town.

Brittni Kayne

Brittni Kayne

Brittni describes herself a “not so modern woman” as she has a love of William Shakespeare and Old English literature.  Brittni also notes that she is an “English major and not afraid to use it”. However, she does have a sense of humor about the hurdles English majors face in today’s world. In one post she says,

“During my last semester as an English major, I was required to take Senior Seminar: a horrific class in which students were pelted with literature spanning 3,000 years along with theory from the last 300 years in a last-ditch attempt to make sure we knew everything English majors ought to know before going out in the world to have long theoretical discussions with our coworkers (because that’s what people at insurance companies and restaurants like to talk about, right?).”

Despite poking  fun at  herself  Brittni does put her English degree and study of history to good use,  by providing historical context for her excellent  reviews. In commenting on the modern viewers of Game of Thrones, Brittni notes:

” If there’s one thing I learned from this season of Game of Thrones, it’s that HBO’s modern television audience isn’t so different from the audience that sat in the theaters of Ancient Greece. Today’s business executives, fast food workers, college students, and stay-at-home moms love bread and circuses as much as the Roman people who cheered on gladiators or the French peasants who attended guillotine executions during the 1700s. Perhaps witnessing a man get stabbed several times by his so-called brothers and watching his blood leak out onto the snow reminds us that traffic jams, missed appointments, or late papers aren’t the end of the world after all.”

Brittni’s Notebook also has a number of incredibly beautiful photographs of Wyoming.

Brittni Kayne in Wyoming

Brittni Kayne in Wyoming

The posts describe the  simple pleasures of a road trip or a hike, while being surrounded by beauty.

rural Wyoming

rural Wyoming

While calling herself  “not so modern”, Brittni Kayne is, in fact , a true Renaissance Woman. She is using the modern technology to produce a truly professional blog.  She has not limited herself to one theme and wants to explore all the aspects of life, from music to food and entertainment and photography.

View from a Wyoming road

View from a Wyoming road

We look forward to reading more of Brittni’s Notebook in the future, and wish Brittni success on all her future writing.