Thursday, October 19, 2017

"The Waystation: 'Cause Dead's Not Really Dead" by Laurie Jameson

First of all, I want to start off by letting you know that the author of this book contacted me and asked if I would read and review her book. In exchange for doing so, she provided me with a free digital copy of “The Waystation.”

I’m not normally all that fond of highly spiritual books, but I did really enjoy this one. While there are a great deal of religious overtones to the story, these aspects are presented in a way that those who are not highly religious will still enjoy the tale the author has woven.

The Waystation in the story is a resting spot part-way between death and a person’s final destination. Some who arrive are taken from the Waystation directly to their reward; some remain for a time, helping to run the Waystation and to provide comfort and refreshment for those passing through; and as expected, some are on a journey that none would enjoy.

Be warned, there is some violence in this book. Some of the characters are drug dealers, others are drug users/addicts, and some are in relationships with them. It is not a constant aspect of the story, but in this case, it is a necessary part and to have left it out would have done a disservice to the tale as a whole.

After an initial description of the Waystation and it’s current caretakers, we are dropped into the story of Cara, Tony, Rachel, & Marco. While each also has their own tale, these four have very intertwined stories throughout the book.

Tony is Cara’s boyfriend. He sells meth for Marco and has also begun taking steroids to help him “bulk up.” Unfortunately for Cara, the combination of the drugs and steroids makes him often quite unstable. When he loses his temper, he takes it out on her. Cara asks Rachel to talk to Marco (Tony’s supplier) in the hopes that Marco can calm him down. Unfortunately, this backfires and Rachel blames herself for what happens next.

The stories are all very intertwined, both before any of their deaths and through to what happens when they arrive at The Waystation and each begins the next portion of their journey. We also learn the tales of those who have been the caretakers at the Waystation for a while. As with my other reviews, I don’t want to go into more detail here because I believe you will enjoy reading those tales yourselves.

I did run across a few issues with typos while I was reading, but only a few and not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book. As you have probably guessed, I do not read a lot of religious themed books, though I did really enjoy reading this one. Too often such tales leave me feeling that the author was trying to beat me over the head with a religious theme, but I didn’t feel that way reading this book. While there is often a very religious theme within, it is so greatly intertwined with a well-written story that I enjoyed it. I would recommend giving this book a try, as the story it told had me hooked enough that I have already recommended it to several of my friends.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization" by Nancy Holder

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I chose to read and review the official movie novelization of the recent Wonder Woman movie. I have been a long-time Wonder Woman fan and have seen multiple versions of the character’s backstory, read and collected most of the Wonder Woman comic books, and collect just about anything related to the character that I can get my hands on. In other words, it was only a matter of time before I read this book.

One of the things I do enjoy about movie novelizations is that, as with any book, you get to see inside the characters heads in a way that you aren’t able to when watching the movie. In this case, we are able to learn from Diana’s thoughts what she thinks when she first meets Steve Trevor. We see her first impression of him, of his world when she returns to London with him, and their opinions of each other in greater detail than can be seen by simply watching the movie. There is much more depth to the characters that can be picked up by reading what they are thinking rather than just by watching their actions.

However one of the problems with movie novelizations is that often the book seems to have been rushed through the publishing process. In this case, it felt like the editing/proofreading did not receive as much attention as it needed to truly make the book great. A number of times typos and other errors made me pause in order to reread a passage or two. While the editing wasn’t too bad overall, I do wish more time and effort had been put into it. The book would have been much more enjoyable for me had there been fewer errors.

Normally I would go into a bit more detail about what happens within this book, but as popular the as the movie was I expect that many people have already watched it by now. As such, the only detail I could add in here that most folks aren’t already aware of would include the thoughts that the characters were having, but doing so would give away more of the story than I prefer. Hopefully, if you enjoyed the movie and want to know more of the details that they were forced to leave out, you will seek out this book. Even with the errors that I found while reading, I did enjoy it and was glad that I had taken the opportunity to read it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

"Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini

I very much enjoyed reading this novel. It gives a very enlightening look at life in Washington, D.C. from shortly before Abraham Lincoln takes office and continues on for many years after his assassination. The story is told from the perspective of Elizabeth Keckley, a seamstress who was born into slavery but who had managed to purchase both her and her son’s freedom.

Elizabeth is a very talented and much sought after dressmaker who is brought to the attention of the newly-elected president’s wife Mary. She is hired to modify an older gown for Mrs. Lincoln to wear at the inaugural ball. Elizabeth understands that this is a test of her abilities before being offered the much sought after position as the First Lady’s Modiste. It is not long after that before a number of government officials return to their homes in the southern states and talk of secession begins.

During all of this time, we are given an inside look at life in the White House from the perspective of Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker. She is a hard worker and over the years becomes a good friend and confidant to Mary Lincoln and her family. She is there to see the good times and the tough times. We see Mr. Lincoln begining by trying to hold the United States together, and then through the more difficult times with a number of states voting to secede and form their own government, thus starting the civil war.

As this book is told from the perspective of a black woman, while there is mention of the battles that are fought during the war, we are not overwhelmed with combat tactics or the horrific results of many of those battles. Victories and losses are mentioned, but not described in great detail.

Over the years Mary Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley became more than just employer and employee, they developed a deep friendship and often relied upon each other for emotional support when times grew tough. After Mr. Lincoln’s assassination, Mary and her children leaned a great deal upon Elizabeth. Elizabeth was there for Mary Lincoln during the funeral of her husband, she was there for her to help pack the family’s belongings, and she was there to help them find a place to relocate to in Chicago. Elizabeth also did her best to help Mary adjust to her new circumstances and to help her to find a way to repay the debts she acquired while living as the First Lady and purchasing beyond her means. Even her husband hadn’t been aware of the extent of her debts before he was killed.

The author of this book clearly did a great deal of research on Elizabeth Keckley. When I started the book, I hadn’t realized that it was about a woman who truly existed and had even written her own memoir. This is a work of historical fiction told from Elizabeth’s point of view, but there is still a great deal of truth in the tale. I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the time period or who wondered what life was like for a free black woman who had been born a slave as compared to the lives of the other women around her.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

"Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life" by Christopher Reeve

This biography starts off talking about when Christopher Reeve was thrown from his horse during an equestrian competition, breaking his neck and leaving him paralyzed. In the beginning, he wasn't certain that he wanted to live. His wife Dana promised him that if he still felt that way at the end of 2 years, that they would find a way for him to end his suffering. Fortunately, after those two years he no longer felt the same.

This book jumps back and forth, letting us see Christopher at different points in his life. Sometimes we are shown glimpses of him during his youth with his family, and in other sections we are shown segments of his recovery after his accident.

At one point he tells us a story of when he accepted a "free personality test" and how that led him to a short period of time with a group is scientologists. I enjoyed the tale, especially where explained how he realized it was little more than a means for them to collect large sums of money from people who were looking for a way to improve themselves and their lives.

Christopher tells us a number of quite inspirational stories from throughout his lifetime about both the good times and the troubled times he has lived through. We are told about how he feels that he became a better father after he was paralyzed than he was before. It caused him to truly listen to his children in order to be able to help them with their problems. It also allowed him to spend more quality time and become closer with each of them.

Before long he began to help with fundraising and spoke with politicians about supporting research for ways to help heal and repair injuries that left people paralyzed and/or otherwise in need of full time medical care. Such care costs a great deal, and those costs will often continue for far longer than most people would be able to afford. Christopher helped to raise lifetime limits that insurance companies granted to individuals.

Christopher Reeve did so much more than that as well. He truly was an inspiration to many and never gave up hoping and working towards someday being able to move and possibly even walk under his own power again. This book does not continue until the end of his life, but it does show that he was making much more improvement overall than any of his doctors had thought would ever be possible considering the severity and length of time that had passed since his injury.

If you wish to know how truly amazing he was, then you will want to read this book. I learned a great deal more than I had previously known about what he went through in his later years and how he managed to remain such a positive force despite having survived something that would have destroyed the spirit of many others.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"The Dead of Night" by Jean Rabe

This book starts off shortly after recently elected Sheriff Piper Blackwell has passed the sheriff's exam, thus earning the right to keep her job. She has gone to the park to meet with an elderly gentleman who is often considered by many to be prone to conspiracy theories. Not too many of the locals seem to take his complaints too seriously.

Mark "the Shark" Thresher explains to her that he has been robbed, his bank account drained of a lifetime of savings. He may or may not be a bit on the crazy side, but Piper promises to find out who took his money and to get it back for him. It is quite late and raining very hard when he leaves the park, asking Piper to wait a bit to make certain that he isn’t being followed. As she is leaving, she slips in the mud and trips over some bones that were uncovered by the rainstorm.

The bones appear to be that of a child, seemingly murdered and buried in the park a very long time ago. Who did they belong to? And why doesn’t there seem to be an open case for a missing child from around that time? A case that old will be more difficult than usual to solve, yet that is just what she intends to do.

These are two very difficult cases for Piper and the others in the sheriff’s office to solve. Add to that the fact that they are still short-staffed and need to hire several people to fill in the gaps, stop someone who is repeatedly destroying neighborhood mailboxes, and of course deal with the usual drunk drivers and other problems that arise in any small town and you can imagine how busy everyone in the sheriff’s department is. Piper has been learning a great deal in the few months she has been sheriff, and while growing more confident in her position she still feels her lack of experience quite strongly.

Piper’s father has been declared cancer free, and she wonders if he is considering running for Sheriff once it is again time for an election. She feels that if he does, he would likely regain the office quite easily. He has the experience she lacks and is still recognized as having been a great sheriff. If he did become the sheriff she could then rejoin the military, but does she really want to? She may not have expected to win the election originally, but now that she has been in the office for a while, she is coming to enjoy the job and starting to earn the respect of those she works with.

Then Piper starts to feel like someone is following her. She starts receiving emailed threats coming from her own account telling her to leave the case alone if she values her life. Her car has a brick thrown at it and obscenities painted on the sides. Someone clearly doesn’t want her trying to solve one of the cases that she is working on.

This book had so many twists and turns that it kept me guessing the entire way through (usually incorrectly). I very definitely recommend reading this one. My only complaint is that the next book in the series is still being written by the author, meaning that I’ll need to wait quite some time before I can buy a copy to read. I’m looking forward to that release date, even though I realize that it will be some time yet as this book was only just recently released.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Dead of Winter" by Jean Rabe

Today I read the first of the Piper Blackwell mysteries. I want to start this review off by stating up front that I consider the author a friend, though she does not know that I am reviewing her book here today. As with all my previous reviews, I bought my own copy of the book from Amazon. This was not a solicited review.

The book starts on Piper's first day as Sheriff. Her father had been the previous sheriff but was forced to retire due to a cancer diagnosis, and a number of people suspect that she won the election based solely on her father's name.

The man she beat out for the position is currently her deputy sheriff. He doesn't believe she can do the job and is waiting for her to fail the sheriff's exam in a few months. Once that happens, he will step into the position that he feels should rightly have been his all along. While Piper has never worked in a sheriff's office before, she has spent the last 4 years in the military as an MP and been awarded a number of medals during her time serving in Iraq. Had her father not been diagnosed with cancer, she would likely have remained in the military rather than returning home to help him through his cancer treatments.

Piper hadn't actually expected to win the election, and on her first day she is called to the site of a murder. Her deputy doesn't make any attempt to disguise his opinion that she has no place even trying to be the sheriff. He and a number of others in the department feel that she is too inexperienced for the position and are resentful that a girl who is at most half their age is now their boss.

Despite all of their obvious resentment and attempts to show her up, Piper is determined to stop what quickly turns from just the one murder into an obvious serial killer in a small town that has never before had to deal with something so sinister.

Unfortunately, most of the others working in the department seem to be determined to solve the murders on their own, thus proving how unfit she is for the position. It is very difficult to accomplish anything when it seems that everyone else is working against you and doesn't want you around. Piper needs to prove to everyone (including herself) that she can do the job and deserves to be the town’s sheriff.

I absolutely loved reading this book. It sucked me in and I only set it aside to sleep at night. (I finished reading it in only 2 days.) The plot was clearly well thought out and well researched. I did run across a couple of typos, but they in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the story. I very definitely recommend reading this one. If the second book is even half as good, I'm in for a real treat once I start reading that one!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Incubation" by Laura DiSilverio

Today’s book, “Incubation,” was a post-apocalyptic young adult novel told from the point of view of a young woman being raised in a government facility. Most of the Earth’s population has died off after several waves of a deadly flu pandemic have passed through society. Now most children are raised in an inkubation dome where they are educated, grow crops, and train for future occupations. They are referred to as “apprentice citizens” until they come of age and have either served as soldiers for 6 years or volunteered as a surrogate to help repopulate the planet.

Everly has a promising future as a biochemist and is working on a way to reduce the number of locusts that endanger the planet by eating the limited crops that are able to be grown. The locust swarms have thus far proven resistant to everything scientists have tried, but Everly has some theories and ideas that she is working on that seem promising.

One day she discovers that her closest friend, Halla, is planning on running away as she has been hiding the fact that she is pregnant. The father of her baby was another resident of the cube who had been sent to work as a soldier before learning that she was pregnant. Halla plans on running away because she realizes that her baby will be taken from her and given to another family to raise. There are not enough babies currently being born and far too many people who desperately want children.

Halla does not have a permit to have a child, and with the father having just started his 6 years of military service, her only hope of keeping her child is to run away. She knows this will make her a wanted fugitive with her only hope being to find the resistance, having them help her assume a new identity, and relocating to a distant province. She believes that her baby’s father will want to run away with her to raise their child together, but first she must escape and find her way to Atlanta before her pregnancy is discovered.

Everly, Halla, and their friend Wyck flee from Inkubator 9 together in the middle of the night after having gathered what limited supplies they can to help them survive the long and very dangerous journey. Along they way they discover how unprepared they really are for life outside of the Cube, but they are determined to continue on and find their way to Atlanta in order to help Halla reunite with Louden before their child is born.

This was a very absorbing look at what might happen in a society that faces possible extinction and the steps they feel are necessary to prevent it. My only complaint is that it ends on a cliffhanger and I don’t yet have a copy of the sequel. So If I want to know if Everly and her friends can escape from the dangers they encounter and what happens next (and I definitely do), I’ll need to track down the next book in the series. Hopefully it will be as enjoyable to read as this book has been.

"The Waystation: 'Cause Dead's Not Really Dead" by Laurie Jameson

First of all, I want to start off by letting you know that the author of this book contacted me and asked if I would read and review h...