Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Liesel Meminger and her brother were put into foster care at the start of the Second World War, but Werner died on the train taking them to 33 Himmel Strasse in Molching, near Munich. Hans Hubermann is a kind, patient man who works infrequently as a painter and plays the accordion at night in bars. Rosa Hubermann is a foul-mouthed disciplinarian who beats Liesel with a wooden spoon. Hans taught Liesel to read but the only book she has is The Gravedigger’s Manual, which she found in the snow at her brother’s funeral. Over time, she acquires more books, rescuing one from the ashes of a book burning, finding one floating down the river and stealing them from the mayor’s library, although the mayor’s wife told her to help herself. Max is a Jew trying to stay out of the hands of the Gestapo. He happens to be the son of a friend of Hans who died in the first war and was the source of Hans’ accordion. Max finds his way to 33 Himmel Strasse and hides in the basement putting the family in deadly peril.

The Book Thief is narrated by the Angel of Death, who, as one might expect, has a wicked sense of humor. He also has an outlandish manner of speaking. Mr. Zusak put words into the Grim Reaper’s mouth that should never be juxtaposed. “His skin widened.”; “His face tripped over itself.”; “Her teeth elbowed each other...”; “If they killed him tonight, at least he would die alive.” are some examples that this reader simply didn’t take seriously. The author is also much too fond of sentence fragments that litter the text seemingly at random. The plot is an all too familiar one. The strength of The Book Thief is the characters. They are well developed if somewhat guilty of doing uninteresting things. There is little tension or drama, in fact, the narrator tells us what is going to happen and then takes forever to make it come to pass. The greatest fault in this book is the pace. It is leaden.

It is overly long.
Price $8.99

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

"SPOTLIGHT" Author Blog Tour!! of The Rave Review Book Club

The RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB is a proactive group
of readers and writers, that I strongly recommend 
all might consider joining

Today I am participating in their
"SPOTLIGHT" Author Blog Tour!!

Spotlighting author 
Suzanne Burke
Australian author of
Acts of Betrayal
and many other titles

Suzanne is going to share some intimate insight into herself and her writing.


Hi, and thank you so much for joining me here today on the first stop of my Rave Reviews Book Club 'Spotlight Author Tour'. Please join me in thanking my awesome host.
Today I want to share with you a part of the reason I write.

The Hopes and Dreams scattered amongst the Cracks and Crevices that are me.

It's a strange title for a post, isn't it? But that is what I'm compiled of. A mass of hopes and barely explored dreams, all vying for attention and hoping like hell not to slip through one of those cracks, or become wedged and immovable from the depth of the crevices.

At times a seething snakelike coil of unexpressed frustration and anger surfaces to be plunged back firmly beneath the veneer of acceptability we all need to possess in order to survive.

Can we survive without compromise? Oh, yes, we can survive, but in refusing to compromise, we can restrict our ability to truly live the time that fate grants us. I have needed to compromise my hopes by reducing my expectations, until, over time; the hopes have resurfaced, but in modified form. Because I had made them more attainable, and by extension less likely to show me the bitter disappointment of my failure to live up to my own versions of, Can do, Must do, Will do, and Try but can't do.


Here I can be free of all the bondages of remembered pain and disillusionment, or the freedom-hampering legacy of disability. I let them escape into the safety of a character yet to be written.
Ah, yes ... my creations; I can admonish and astonish them, move them, and flay them raw with emotion.

I can let them retaliate, fully aware, prepared for, and willing to accept, any consequence that their retaliation may bring in its' wake.

I can permit them to feel the shattering soul changing taste of new love; I give them over freely to explore and bathe in its wonder, and to lay stunned and barely breathing, whilst awaiting its slowly evolving demise.

They can laugh too loud and too long, or in some cases not at all.

They can find their own sad movie to cry over and recall with a smile, and a shake of their head. They take on with gusto the life I have granted them, they live it and see it, taste it and smell it, and they die, or they grow.

They have faults and fantasies, often combined. Good and bad coexist hand in hand within the body I have borrowed to house them. They can be unconventional, patriotic and proud, losers and winners, or simply disappear without color into the crowd. They are resourceful and brave, or broken and bent, damaged or soulless ... or simply exhausted and spent.

I have granted them existence so I can survive.

By doing so, I have resuscitated my hope, and given form to some of my dreams.

It's all a question of balance between the reality of the one and the unfettered joy of the other.
How glad I am that I do this crazy, exhilarating, terrifyingly glorious thing. This freeing, dominating, amazing thing, we call writing.

Thank you for being here to undertake a part of this journey with me.

Suzanne Burke lives, laughs, writes and enjoys her life in the beautiful harbor-side city of Sydney Australia.

She is a mother and grandmother, now in her sixties, and considers every moment of every day as a precious treasure to be valued and explored, and not simply endured.

Her non-fiction works are written under the pen-name of Stacey Danson.

They are both challenging and thought provoking works covering the earliest years of her life, the topic of child abuse and the PTSD that accompanied her into her later years  are not, by virtue of their subject matter an easy or comfortable read, yet so many have read them. She will be forever grateful that her readers have assisted in raising the awareness into this painful and enduring evil.
An awareness that is vital in any efforts to stem this tide of inhuman acts perpetrated on the most innocent of us all … the children.

She escapes into the world of fiction in her thriller and suspense novels, continually exploring other genres such as paranormal and dystopian, and always delighting in the magical escapism offered in the written word.

She is an avid reader and reviewer who enjoys sharing the works she explores.

Follow Suzanne online:
Twitter handle - @pursoot

Website -

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sick to DeathSick to Death by Greg Levin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gage had stage three pancreatic cancer. After despair came anger and a self-righteous urge to flex his “nothing to lose” muscles. He satisfied his murderous urges by dropping lethal amounts of cyanide into the cocktails of known pedophiles and rapists. Soon he coaxed two members of his support group to join him. Ellison succumbed to his cancer after only a couple of hits but Jenna had found her calling. What was Gage to do with the monster he created?

Greg Levin is a darkly funny guy. Sick to Death is loaded with gallows humor and irony. The characters are fairly well developed but this is a story that is mostly told as opposed to shown. For the ominously breezy tale that it is, it moves a little slowly. Mr. Levin also lets his political agenda shine through the pages for which I do not begrudge him however much I may be in opposition. Nonetheless, Sick to Death is a clever story that is good for a laugh.

Only available at Amazon

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

American Government, Inc.

This is an unconventional book, so I will write an unconventional review. I opted to read it because the description sounded like my own book, Capital Blues. The similarity ended there. First of all, George Abraham Lyndon is a pseudonym. The author tells us in the afterward that he chose the given names of the three presidents he admires most. One must worry about anyone who claims to admire Lyndon Johnson, the founder of the Great Society that still burdens us sixty years later. American Government, Inc. is a parody of a hypothetical Donald Trump presidency as viewed by a denizen of left. The story is told as pure narration by a researcher 130 years in the future, therefore, there is no dialogue nor developed characters. The characters are merely names that the narrator continually pummels. The only good guy is, not surprisingly, named Lincoln. The hypothetical president is named Powers and he runs a mega corporation that he uses to build all the projects he proposed in his campaign promises, such as the southern border wall and a myriad of infrastructure projects. Paradoxically, the infrastructure projects create plenty of jobs but the unemployment rate still rises. Naturally, Powers prospers personally from all this. On the first day of his presidency, he signs something 250 executive orders that the reader is expected to digest. This book was made for skimming. Of course they are all Donald Trump’s ideas and they are put forth with the implication that they lead to catastrophe. The catastrophe they incite is no less than civil war. American Government, Inc. is a short book and I guess the best thing I can say about it is that it’s priced right. It’s free.

I only found it at Smashwords. Here's the link if you're brave or foolish.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Good Idea at the TimeA Good Idea at the Time by Greg Carter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flying Officer Hacker had a knack for doing things “detrimental to retaining rank.” He was also a highly effective fighter pilot. Wing Commander Padshaw had a knowledge of Chinese languages. Commanding Officer Marsland ran an air base in the middle of the Indian jungle. Coronel Connor led a mule train through the monsoon to resupply the air base. A mysterious civilian named Smith seemed to know everyone and everything. The paths of these, and even more characters, converge and diverge as the British try to dislodge the Japanese from South East Asia.

A Good Idea at the Time is a unique book in that it follows several concurrent plots. There are scads of characters, all well developed, and given singular voices with which to tell their stories. Mr. Carter has told this tale of the perils of World War II from scores of viewpoints. The narration gets into the head of nearly every character who is introduced. I can hear the editor types scratching this book off their ‘Want to read’ list, but that would be a mistake. Once the reader makes peace with the juggernaut that is the narration of A Good Idea at the Time, it becomes a very compelling read. One will find a little bit of Catch 22, a little bit of Mash and something completely different that can’t quite be categorized. The plethora of characters will require some discipline to keep them straight but it’s those characters and the vivid depiction of aerial combat that made this reader unable to stop, until I got the end, and fell off a cliff. The ending is truly a whiskey, tango, foxtrot experience. Unorthodox as it is, I loved it.

97,000 words
$4.99 at Smashwords; $5.12 at Amazon (What's that about?)

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Friday, December 30, 2016

In the Dreaming HourIn the Dreaming Hour by Kathryn Le Veque

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Victory Hembree committed the greatest sin possible in pre-civil-rights era Mississippi and her nasty redneck father responded just as we knew he would. The doctor who delivered the baby smuggled her from the ante-bellum mansion in a Coke crate covered with bloody towels while claiming she had been stillborn. Eighty years later, Victory’s granddaughter receives a letter from beyond the grave charging her with the responsibility of finding the woman who had been that forbidden child. Add to the mixture, creepy cousin Clyde who has a perverted attraction to granddaughter, Lucy, and knockout Sheriff Beau Meade who has a more acceptable attraction to her. Lucy is reeling from a recent divorce and fantasizes leaving her defense attorney job in Los Angeles to restore the family estate to its former glory. Maybe she will also let the alluring sheriff make his move, but first she has a task and only a few days to accomplish it.

In the Dreaming Hour is a well-crafted tale of love lost, racism and redemption with a component of terror and violence. Katheryn LeVeque is a fine storyteller whose characters are well developed. The author calls In the Dreaming Hour a contemporary romance. In the opinion of this reader, it is more than that. In fact, the romance element is secondary to the rather complex plot.

Katheryn LeVeque was kind enough to speak to our La Verne Writers' Group. She is a very successful self-published author with sixty books to her credit. The group agreed that we should give her a try. My opinion is that she is a better storyteller than writer.

Price is $4.99
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Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everything that was known about aeronautics was wrong. The Wright brothers started in a hole of misinformation and had to discover all of what they eventually learned the hard way—often by falling out of the sky. Beginning with gliders on the soft, sandy hills near Kitty Hawk, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, they studied the physics of lift. They abandoned that first glider to a local fisherman whose wife removed the fabric from the wings and made dresses for her daughters. Two years later the first powered Wright Flyer flew exactly four times. The longest flight was fifty-nine seconds. When the brothers began to publically demonstrate their machine in a field outside of Dayton, the United States government paid no attention. The first real notice they received was from France. Wilbur and Orville agreed that they should never fly together so that if one were killed, the other could continue their work. Another remarkable fact herein revealed is that the team did not solely consist of the Wright brothers, there was a Wright sister, Katherine, whose support played an invaluable part in the success of her siblings’ endeavor. Plus, they had a mechanical genius running the bicycle shop who built the Flyers’ engines. There is infinitely more to the story of first flight than we learned in school.

David McCullough has a long reputation of being one of America’s greatest historians. In The Wright Brothers he has told the story of a uniquely American triumph. The insight into the singular characters of these obsessed inventors from Dayton, Ohio, is told in brilliant clear and clean prose that reads like a novel. The depth of Mr. McCullough’s research is, as always, phenomenal. The reader is drawn intimately into the race to build the first successful airplane. We share the determination, single-minded persistence and emotional backlash as the Wrights devote their nearly ascetic lives to the goal of flight. If the term ‘Must Read’ is a cliché, so be it. The Wright Brothers is definitely a must read.

Great last minute Christmas present.

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