Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Together We Will Win by Karen A. McWhirt

As a child, I used to get junk mail all the time.  Having one of those ambidextrous names, you'd be amazed at the sort of mail I'd receive.  I've always remembered quite clearly receiving mail that requested of me to have my testicles checked for cancer.  At the time I was young and had no idea what either testicles or cancer were.  The only reason I even remember this small bit of memory is that the look on my mom's face when she saw it went pure white and that was a rare occasion. 

Until I read this book, that snippet of memory is all that I could tell you about testicular cancer.  That was the extent of my knowledge.  Sure, I've known people with cancer, but I couldn't tell you anything in depth about it.  As for testicular cancer, well I only know of a friend of a friend.  I can't say that I wasn't aware of it, but I certainly couldn't educate anyone.

'Together we will win' is the motto that was adopted by the author and her son during his battle with cancer.  Ian contracted the disease in his teen years and sadly didn't survive far into adulthood.  This book is his moving tale, told from Ian's perspective.  A friend saw me reading this and scoffed a bit, stating that it just looked entirely too depressing to read.  I admit that cancer isn't exactly a ride at the circus to read about, but I didn't find myself depressed and sad at all reading it.  It was rather more like an educational tour with a few jokes along the way.  Yes, it's terribly sad how much Ian suffered, but this book doesn't take us into that suffering for long.  Ian doesn't focus on the pain, but rather on the love surrounding him. 

Alright, I'm afraid I've gotten all rambly again.  I'm blaming it on the cold weather and the snow freezing my poor little brain!  In a nutshell, this book had me so engrossed that I felt as if I were an intimate friend of Ian's.  I feel privileged that this wonderful family allowed me to be part of such an immense part of their lives.  If you're looking for depressing and sad, this isn't it.  This book is of love, hope, inspiration and education.  Honestly I learned so much from this book.  I found myself just the other day spouting off random cancer facts that somehow just clawed their way into my brain while I was engrossed in the book. 

This book would be perfect for every young man out there to read.  Sadly, the world doesn't work that way.  None of them are going to pick up this book and read it just for the sake of reading.  The ones that do read this book will be the ones that suspect that they themselves have cancer or know someone else who does.   As a parent, I'm extremely glad that I've read it.  I have two sons and the valuable information inside may one day help alert me if one of them is showing symptoms.  In the meantime, I've enjoyed a touching story and I'm so thankful that both Ian and Karen have the strength to share Ian's story with the world.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Rose for My Mother by Nancy Lee Canfield

In this extraordinary true story, parapsychology expert Nancy Lee Canfield reveals how her early years shaped and prepared her for a lifetime of studying the paranormal.  A Rose for My Mother chronicles Canfield's turbulent childhood in and out of foster homes and orphanages before the age of thirteen, her early marriage at seventeen, and her awakening to paranormal phenomena.  A Rose for My Mother is an intriguing blend of memoir and the study of parapsychology.  Taken from the back of the book

OK See what I've just copied from the back of the book?  Read it, and then forget it!  I'm not saying it's not all true, but...well it just doesn't fit as correctly as it probably should.  Alright, alright!  For me!  It just doesn't fit as correctly as it probably should for me!  I did get the paranormal parts of the story, although it wasn't as predominant as I thought it would be.  Yes, I suppose you could say this is a memoir of sorts.  I will, however, agree that this is an extraordinary true story.

Nancy starts out by letting us know that she obviously can't recall every single detail of what has occurred, so she's done some research to make it as true to life as possible.  Yay!  We all have memories from our childhood, but we all also have faulty memories that make us remember things being a specific way when, in reality, that was only our perspective of it.  OK...marching on!

For me, there were two major points of interest regarding this book.  The first is that I had such a sense of deja vu while reading and the second that I didn't find out the point of the title of the book until the end.  Every so often, I would read an excerpt from Nancy's life and think to myself 'I've read this before...but where?'  or 'That reminds me of something..but what?'  Even now I still have that feeling of deja vu, as if I'd read this book before and remembered parts of it, but that's just not possible.  Now, knowing that this book has a paranormal element to it, you may be asking yourself if I'm just saying that so that it'll seem to fit in better with the book.  NOPE!  If you've read any of my other reviews then you know I'm honest to a fault in my reviews, even if it comes across harshly sometimes.  I'm honestly not sure why I had that feeling, but I've found it entertaining and enjoyed it.  As for the title of the book, there's a key happening in the book.  Well, that doesn't really help either...and I can't go into it without giving a spoiler.  I'll explain it in a different manner.  The title isn't really about a rose or Nancy's mother, at least not by my understanding.  It symbolizes Nancy's realization that things are not always as they seem or how we remember them and that there's beauty even in the most dire of circumstances.

I strongly suggest this book for anyone who enjoys memoirs, drama, or just wants a fascinating read.  If you're picking it up for the paranormal aspect, you'll find it, but if that's all you're looking for, you may be disappointed.  There's so much more to this book that you'd have to cut away huge chunks of it to peel it back just to the paranormal parts. 

After the Last PR by Dave Griffin

PR stands for Personal Record.  You may have already known that, but I sure didn't!

After the last PR is a book about the virtues of running.  It's about the disciplines a runner develops and how those disciplines positively impact the runner's life. Taken from the back of the book

Basically this book is a short synopsis of Dave's life as a runner, from the very beginning to where he's at now.  He's learned several life lessons from running and has passed those lessons on to his children.  Dave takes an inspiration look at not only his own running career, but also at how running has changed the lives of others he's known. 

The book is beautifully written.  As a non-runner, I think I got something different out of it than a runner or prospective runner would.  For me, it was more about watching a man find himself.  I'm sure a runner would be more easily able to identify with everything that Dave's written.  If you've been thinking about running as a hobby or lifestyle, I can't think of a better book to motivate you. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December/ January Book Choice

I normally choose one book per month.  There are more than enough awesome books released each month to pick a new favorite.  Since I was such a slacker though, I really feel like I need to extend December's choice through the month of January as well.  My apologies to all of those authors who have books being released next month, but you're out of the running for choice of the month! 

Tempted by Fate is the third installment in Kate Perry's guardian series.  Not only his this a wonderful series with kick ass female characters, Kate's just awesome.  Over my reviewing career I've met several authors who just really impress me such as Desmond Evans and Pamela Grandstaff.  Kate's another one of these authors who I just literally adore.  She's just such a fun and amazing person!  I can't get enough of her writing, but I also love reading her books because she's just awesome :) 

If you haven't checked out the guardian series by Kate, I strongly suggest you do.  It's action with a touch of paranormal, comedy and romance tossed in.  That's not even to mention how inexpensively you can order them online!  Enjoy!

Peas and Bananas: Outside with Lil Boo by Daddy Bookins

Lil Boo is exploring outside!  What fun!  From eggplants to bats- off go my hats!  OK, only one hat goes off, but this was just such a fun little rhyming book!

The pictures are bright and colorful.  There is one sufficient paragraph on each page with a wonderful little rhyme at the bottom which leads to the next page.  There are lots of fun little facts about several different items.  Everything is covered from types of watermelon to spider facts.

My five year old grabbed this book and ran for dear life with it.  I had a terrible time pulling it away from his grubby little hands long enough to review it.  My only complaint with this book is the font.  It's beautiful and flourishy, but makes it difficult for young readers like my son to make out the words and letters.  My son was absolutely entranced with the book, however, and it worked wonderfully for me to read it to him.

Peas out, Daddy Bookins!

Schloss Valkuriz by Felicia N. Cheung

A chance encounter with the handsome Lord Kessler leads iara to the magnificent castle of Schloss Valkuriz where she finds a new and exciting romance.  Haunted by recurring dreams of past sorrows in which she relives the episode of her last encounter with her lover, Iara learns the truth behind a dark secret buried in the past.  A secret protected by the immortal beauty of a sacred rose whose very essence is preserved by the faithfulness of a promise now forgotten.  A promise which, if broken, would lead to horrifying consequences.... - Taken from the back of the book

I was really looking forward to reading this book.  Sounds enticing, doesn't it?  The front cover is awesomely done with the beautiful rose and lots of pretty blood.  I can't say it was a 'bad' story.  It wasn't even terrible, and I think I would have preferred if it were.  At least with a terrible story I can find lots to say about it, even if it is all negative.  This book just left left me.   I enjoyed reading the book.  It was subdued with a nice mysterious background.  The characters were included in the story.  There was a plot.  It had a beginning, middle and end.  Basically, I really hate saying it, but for me this book was mashed potatoes.  They're decent to look at and they taste alright and they fill you up, but they're certainly no bacon mushroom burger.  Though it was a decent read, it's forgettable....perhaps even bland.  If you have nothing else to read, I definitely say go for it!  I can't find one single thing wrong with this book that would keep me from suggesting it.  Just, on the flip side, I can't find one single reason to suggest it.

I'm a Slacker!

I didn't just capitalize slacker because it's the title of this post, but because I'm a slacker with a capital 'S'!  OK, I haven't really been slacking, just not doing one job so that I'd have more time to focus on others, but sadly this was the job that has been let go for the past few weeks.  Thankfully, I've finally caught up on Christmas demands (other than the prerequisite joy which will be going on for weeks yet) and I'm all settled into the house (except for painting the living room but that will wait until previously said joy has started to wane).  Now it's time to crack down on reviews!

To start off, I still haven't drawn December's winner for the Amazon gift card!  So...let's see what we have here.............Rick! 

Check in soon to find out who January's winner is!  Also, lots of reviews coming up soon!  I've already done the reading and now it's time to tell you what I think!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mush by Clay Morgan Wilson IV

Seventy year old Clay Morgan and two of his sons are taking a three thousand mile, cross country road trip mostly down Route 66, to his third son's wedding.

Making a deal with their father, Dad will tell stories if they seek his favorite snack...microwave pigskins.  He weaves a Christian based comic romance where a devoted Klansman and his daughter fall in love with people they shouldn't.  There is a California town called Opportunity, where people are crazy about their pigs, a young pastor finds love for the first time, and lives are changed when God places a Ray Charles CD in the cafe juke box.

Through it all, Dad becomes a hero when he gives a heart-felt wedding toast to the newlywed couple and influences an in-law to stand up for himself.  However, he creates unforgiving enemies by expressing a negative opinion at the rehearsal dinner. (Taken from the back of the book)

Ah, Clay Morgan, how I long to hear more!  I think I enjoyed this road trip across the country more than the characters did.  The story between Clay and his sons is sweet, but the 'chronicle' that Clay weaves is breathtaking.  Everything is worded in such a manner that you just get sucked right in, but I found myself being disappointed every time I was pulled away from Opportunity. 

I strongly suggest this book.  It's a sweet and charming family story, but there's a real gem hidden inside.  The town of Opportunity is truly a gem.  I'm not sure what Clay has in mind for future, but I strongly suggest he write a book that is only about Opportunity and it's inhabitants.  I'm just absolutely in love with it!  We have murderers and lunatics and characters that are just so outlandish they have to be based on real people.  I want more!  Though this is an over all sweet read (Yes!  I keep using the word 'sweet'!  It just describes it perfectly!), I strongly suggest you pick it up just for the Opportunity factor.  It's the best little made up town I've read since Mitford, and that's saying something!

Tranquillity Initiative by Joan Meijer

Tranquillity Initiative is a medical thriller in which President Charles Anderson-in order to put a stop to an endless war with Astrakhan, and to salvage his presidency and bid for reelection-authorizes the Tranquillity Initiative, the illegal use of anthrax weaponry.

Two of the bombs are stolen off of the Trabzon Base in Turkey.  They are smuggled into New York by Micha Rodan's terrorist group.  Seeking explosives for an IED, the terrorists open one of the weapons and find nothing but strips of tin foil.  When they dump the foil and the invisible anthrax germs it accompanies outside a building off 42nd Street, the germs are swept into Times Square by a light evening breeze.  As the disease unleashes its fury within the city and around the world, and with the terrorists always one step ahead of them, Doctor Cassandra Williams, an anthrax expert from the CDC, and Richland Powell, the junior senator from new York, race frantically to stop Rodan and his men before they properly deploy their second weapon and bring the city's death toll from hundreds to millions. (Taken from the back of the book)

As political/terrorist books go, I have to admit this was the most fascinating that I've read.  In the beginning I found myself drifting off and having a little trouble staying in line with the context of the story.  Basically, politics is dry to me and I was a little bored out of my skull.  Soon, however, that changed.  I began to get intimate glimpses into the lives of specific individuals and found myself anxious to find out what would  be happening next.

The first big thing that hit me about this book is a specific talent that Joan has as a writer that I've rarely seen, and I've read A LOT of books.  Throughout the book we're presented with several characters who have contracted the anthrax virus through one means or another.  In a matter of a few short paragraphs, Joan was able to make me care about those characters.  One character was presented on one mere page, but I loved her and cared about her as if she'd been a life long friend.  I've been going over and over this in my mind and I still can't figure out how she did it.  Even if this isn't a book you might be interested in, if you're a writer, you might consider picking up this book to learn a few hints on character creation.  I'm stunned at the way that Joan has taken a mere glimpse at a person and made them someone I cared about.

Secondly, this is not the type of book that really affects you fully while you read it.  Each individual story line does, don't get me wrong, but the over all tone and reflection of the book doesn't hit you right away.  I found that once I reached the end, the entire story changed for me and I found myself clapping my hands with glee.  It's a week later and still I'm churning this story in my brain and coming up with new thoughts that I'd missed before.  Though during reading it can be dull and dry at times, the after effects of this book are what make me suggest it as a good, thoughtful read.

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All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.