Tag Archives: book review

Spirituality for America, Ed McGaa~Eagle Man

Spirituality For America may be our only hope. It is straight up raw truth.  A must read for everyone. Ed McGaa is a man of great insight and truth.  He points out that “Truth is truth which cannot be altered”.
This book is full of rich history about humans and Spirituality given in story form.  It draws one into what appears to be conversation.  It is about seeking knowledge and recognizing our duty to speak out and make a difference.  It’s about learning to think independently, and removing ourselves from contributing to a system of oppression. The need for truth and ceremonies are what is needed if we are to survivie. Becoming aware of every part of
Nature is a must if we are to be conductors of truth, and find answers to our world crisis.  Observing Nature may be our only saving grace. It is important to know yourself and what you are going to do concerning the environment.

Sandy Nail

Mitakuye Oyasin!
We are all related!

While I’m like many people who find politics and religion fascinating subjects, I don’t generally discuss either in public forums. All too often those discussions devolve into: “Anyone who disagrees with me is eeee-VIL!” and the name-calling and idiocy begins. Plus my tolerance for bigotry is extremely low–from all sides. (bigotry is a sign of a lazy, sloppy intellect and thus, irritates and bores the snot out of me)

That said, I’m going to blog anyway about a book that covers BOTH religion AND politics. What the hell. This is my blog and I think this book is worth reading.

Optimized-SforASeveral things make this book especially interesting.

The first is the author. Eagle Man is a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe and this book is autobiographical in many respects. He covers his military service (Marine combat pilot), his childhood, his world travels and his involvement in Lakota spiritual ceremonies: yuwipi (spirit calling), vision quests, sweat lodge and the Sioux Sun Dance (he participated in six!).

He writes about many fascinating people from history: Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Genghis Khan, President Eisenhower, Black Elk and Custer. And people he has known: Ben Black Elk (who served as his father’s translator for Black Elk Speaks), Fools Crow and Bill Eagle Feather.

Throughout his position is that Organized Religion takes people away from their connection to the earth. Because of that, we’re facing environmental disaster. Earth will survive, but people may not. To reverse the trend and begin repairing some of the damage, he suggests a return to Natural Way Spirituality that acknowledges the Creator is a great mystery and people should learn to live together instead of trying to establish dominion over earth and other people.

What makes this book stand out from some others I have read about Native American spirituality is that it is NOT theoretical. The author has walked the walk and now talks the talk based on his personal observations, experiences and historical facts. I can’t say that I agree with all his conclusions, but I don’t fault his methodology. He sounds like somebody I could sit down and have a discussion with.

My only real complaint about the book is that is filled with references to other interesting sounding books and my list of “gotta read that, too” books has about doubled.

Available on Amazon.

And They Just Keep Getting Bigger: Spellbound, by Larry Correia

I could be saying that about the actual book itself. I purchased Spellbound in hard cover a few months ago and it’s been sitting on my desk, looking… huge. I’m spoiled by the comfort of reading on my Kindle. Print books are so clunky and awkward. But anyway…

Putting on my writer hat for a minute. When crafting a plot, the writer needs to keep thinking in terms of “upping the stakes.” The fastest way to lose reader interest is to introduce conflicts and situations that just don’t matter. Who cares if Spiff Bunkerson has to choose between coffee or tea for breakfast? What diff does it make if Spiff tells his boss, “I quit,” if he has another, better job waiting in the wings? The key to tension is risk. Danger can come in many forms: physical, emotional, psychological. True suspense comes not from the danger itself, but from what is at risk.

Larry Correia knows how to up the stakes.

In his Monster Hunter International series and in his Grimnoir Chronicles, Correia doesn’t mess around with run of the mill monsters. Spooky little creepies vulnerable to holy water or a splinter just aren’t big enough or bad enough. Correia’s characters have to tackle gods. When reading any of his books, you learn to cringe whenever a character has to open a door. Anything could be on the other side. Zombie elephants, anyone? Giant robots? How about Godzilla’s and King Kong’s foul-tempered love child?

It’s not just the increasingly monstrous monsters upping the stakes. If it were, then these stories would be nothing more than B-movie romps. Uh uh, it goes much deeper than that. One element runs constant through all of Correia’s books, and it is that constant that lifts his writing out of gobble-’em-and-forget-’em story pile. Sacrifice. Every time you think his characters can give no more, Correia ups the stakes. He rips away what little comfort they’ve earned and demands to know, “How much more you got?” Your life? Liberty? Honor? Dignity? Love? Reputation? Friends? Family? The world and every human in it? It’s all at risk.

Back up a minute and let me tell you a little about Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles. In a melding of steampunk, pulp noir and B-movie homage, the story is set in an alternative history, 1930s America. “Actives,” people infused with magical powers, are increasing in number and no one is sure why. On the surface, the big conflicts seem to be between “Actives” and “Normals,” those who have no magical ability. America is engaged in a Cold War of sorts with the Imperium–pre-World War II Japan. The Imperium has plans to conquer the world. There is, however, a threat much bigger than that. The Power is coming from somewhere and something is pursuing the Power. The Grimnoir Knights are a secret society of Actives self-tasked with saving the world, originally from the Imperium, and now from the dark entity pursuing the Power across worlds. Jake Sullivan and other Grimnoir knights are also faced with a battle on the homefront against their own government who want to round up the Actives and enslave them for the “good” of all society.

In the preceding novel, Hard Magic, the Grimnoir knights prevented the Imperium from wiping out America with a Peace Ray. Shady government types managed to twist that act of heroism around to fuel the hatred against the Actives and use it as an excuse to properly “control” them. (Correia draws spooky parallels with the real Progressive movement, from President Wilson through FDR, trying to destroy the Constitution and reshape America for “enlightened” ends) You don’t need to read Hard Magic to understand the story in Spellbound, but you’ll enjoy the series more if you read the books in order.

Back to sacrifice. A lesser writer would delineate between good guys and bad guys by making the good guys nice, always on the right side of the law, and of course good-looking, while the bad guys sneer and kick puppies. Correia draws a more powerful distinction. Good guys are willing to sacrifice themselves while the bad guys are only willing, and eager, to sacrifice others. That, my friends, makes for memorable characters on both sides.

But don’t think these are lofty, philosophical novels. No, these are high-octane action with lots of guns, battles, chases, twists, turns and high emotion to make for a thrilling read. Enough bright spots of humor, too, to ease the tension a bit before it ratchets right back up again.

The Healing spells on his chest were certainly earning their keep tonight. Sullivan got to his feet. The lack of noise from the courtyard indicated that his team had gotten all the mechanical men. “Thanks.”

Toru just grunted a noncommittal response as he lifted the feed tray to check the condition of his borrowed machine gun. They didn’t see the final robot inside until it turned on its eye and illuminated the Iron Guard in blue light.

Sullivan’s Spike reversed gravity, and the gigantic machine fell upward to hit the steel beams in the ceiling. Sullivan cut his Power and the robot dropped. It crashed hard into the floor where it lay twitching and kicking. The two of them riddled the mechanical man with bullets until the light died and it lay still in a spreading puddle of oil.

“Normally, this would be the part where you thank me for returning the favor and saving your life.”

“Yes. Normally… If we were court ladies instead of warriors,” Toru answered. “Shall we continue onward or do you wish to stop and discuss your feelings over tea?”

Sullivan looked forward to the day that the two of them would be able to finish their fight. “Let’s go.”

Spellbound: Book II in the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Discovered: Author is on my must buy list

Purchased: from Amazon, $16.50, November 15, 2011

Lights! Action! The Garden on Sunset, by Martin Turnbull

I met Martin Turnbull several months ago when I happened upon  ‘The ‘Garden of Allah’ novels blog. At the time he was shopping his novel to agents. I liked his energy and sense of humor, so started following his blog. I chimed in with some words of encouragement. As he kept hitting brick walls, I sez, Hey, just because agents don’t think your book is a good fit in the current market, doesn’t mean they’re right. Have you thought about self-publishing?

Martin did think about it. He did the research, figured out what was involved and decided to go for it. This week it paid off. The Garden on Sunset went live on Amazon. Whoo hoo! I bought the ebook a few days ago, read it and am happy to report that I am most pleased Martin didn’t let the nay-sayers dissuade him.

(from the book description)

When Marcus Adler’s father runs him out of Pennsylvania, he can think of only one place to go: 8152 Sunset Boulevard, the home of luminous silent screen star Alla Nazimova, who visited him on his sickbed when he was a child. But when Marcus gets to Hollywood, Madame Nazimova’s home has been converted to a hotel. Marcus checks into The Garden of Allah and starts his new life. He soon finds friends in Kathryn Massey, who ran away from her overbearing stage mother to become a journalist, and Gwendolyn Brick, a hopeful actress from the Other Hollywood—Hollywood, Florida—who wants to try her luck in Glitter City. The three naïve hopefuls band together to tread water against a tidal wave of threadbare casting couches, nervous bootleggers, human billboards, round-the-world zeppelins, sinking gambling boats, waiters in blackface, William Randolph Hearst, the Long Beach earthquake, starlets, harlots, Harlows and Garbos. But how will they get their feet inside Hollywood’s golden door?

(Odd thought, pardon me, but it’s on my mind. What exactly determines “historical” fiction? Rule of thumb in antiques: fifty years makes it vintage and a hundred years make it antique. Would a story set in the 1920s-1930s qualify as a period piece or an historical? I think my rule of thumb will be, anything older than me is historical. I can do that. This is my blog.)

What really intrigues me is Martin’s passion for Hollywood. Hollywood in its glory days. The Hollywood that set the standard for glamor and style. Ever since Martin ended the agent-quest, he’s been writing articles about historical Hollywood. He writes about the movers and shakers, movie stars, and legendary places. The Mocambo nightclub, Schwab’s Pharmacy, Sunset Boulevard, Bullocks Wilshire, and famous theaters like Earl Carroll’s and the Palladium. If you have any interest at all in the Golden Age of Hollywood, you’ll love Martin’s well-researched and highly entertaining articles. Just as cool, too, has been following Martin’s own Hollywood-story starting with his article, My Big Fat Hollywood Meeting, about his first encounter with a movie producer. It’s a hoot.

The Garden on Sunset didn’t disappoint. Martin brings Hollywood and its stars to life. But wait, there’s more! There’s dish on journalists and gossip columnists and studio heads and talent scouts, too. I fell in love with Marcus, Kathryn and Gwendolyn (Oh, that Gwendolyn! You never know what that girl will do in order to be discovered. Her antics had me laughing and wincing) in their struggles to follow their dreams and their hearts, and it’s a tough town for that. It’s a story, too, about friendship and love, mostly learning how to love yourself and be yourself in a place where such values aren’t usually valued.

Good job, Martin. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

The Garden on Sunset (The Garden of Allah novels), by Martin Turnbull

Discovered: The author’s blog

Bought: on Amazon for my Kindle, January 4, 2012, $4.99

 

Fate’s Mirror, by M. H. Mead

I know when a novel is good when it invades my dreams. I stayed up too late reading Fate’s Mirror and wanted to continue, but my eyeballs refused to cooperate. It’s as if I continued reading. In the dream-novel I was trying to save the hero, Morris, from a terrible fate.

Actually, my dreams didn’t do nearly as good as the author.

Set in 2043, Morris Payne (Parr, Parish, etc) is a viker, a super computer hacker and genius who lives a self-satisfied existence in a suburban computerized house named Sweetheart. He makes his living “researching” and exploring the ‘verse. To his clients he’s Surfer Morris, cocky and cute and arrogant. In his own mind, he’s a swashbuckling privateer, the terror of the virtual high seas. It’s only when assassins try to murder him by blowing up Sweetheart that the truth about Morris is revealed. He’s severely agoraphobic, terrified of the real world. He can’t even eat food touched or prepared by another human being. Pretty much the only person he’s had direct contact with in years is his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Kali. She’s out of contact. So he turns to a private investigator, one of his clients, Aidra. It isn’t Surfer Morris who shows up at Aidra’s door, but a shivering, weeping, terrified young man. Aidra has a teenaged son, a struggling business and a pitiful bank account. She can’t turn Morris away. That’s a mistake. It’s not paranoia when someone really is trying to kill you. Morris and Aidra learn Kali was murdered–horribly–and attempts are made on Morris’s and Aidra’s lives. It’s not until Morris stands to lose everything and everyone dear to him that the layers and depths of the truth begins to unravel. The NSA (yes, that sneaky government spy shop) made some serious mistakes fooling around in developing ECs–electronic consciousness. Now the ECs, who have dubbed themselves the Fates, are threatening the entire world. Unless Morris can stop them, the NSA will use extreme measures that will pretty much destroy the world, too.

I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I’m finding cyber-punk to my taste (Robert Sawyer, Daniel Suarez and a few others–and now M. H. Mead). I’m non-nerdy and not especially good with a computer, but I find the whole idea of a virtual world as real as the real world compelling. Fate’s Mirror feeds my love of action-adventure tales and mythology, too, by its immersion into Morris’s virtual world where he’s a pirate on a pirate ship. The sea battles are as well drawn and vivid as any of the 19th or 20th century swashbucklers I devoured as a kid. And then! Mead developed Loki, another EC, into a full-blown trickster god and takes a turn into the world of Norse mythology. So we have hacking and agoraphobia and betrayal and spies and flaming battles on the high seas and Ragnorak. That all sounds messy and crowded for one novel, but Mead pulls it off with well-drawn characters and tight plotting and strong writing.

The best part of the novel is Morris, an unlikely hero. He’s not the heroic figure he imagines himself to be in the virtual world. He’s spent a lifetime using his agoraphobia to conceal himself from the real world, when he’s actually hiding from himself.  His real self is much, much better than the virtual Morris, but it takes a crisis for him to figure it out. No wonder I worried about him so much that he showed up in my dreams.

Now I have to go download more of Mead’s books.

Fate’s Mirror, Kindle Edition

Discovered: Via the author’s tweets.

Purchased on Amazon December 29, 2011, $2.99.

A New Addiction: Junkie, by Robert P. French

I’m going to go out on a limb and say something that many people are going to take as an insult or else think it’s snobbish or just plain weird. I’ll say it anyway. I don’t expect terrific quality from self-published books.

Bear with me, because I’m not insulting self-pubbers at all. In fact, I love them. Self-pubbing as a viable method for getting one’s books before readers is in its infancy. Those writers who are coming into it without having been published by a traditional publisher tend to be… rough writers. What most self-pubbed novels remind me of is pulp fiction. For those of you too young to remember when us old folks rode dinosaurs to work, pulp fiction consisted of cheap paperback novels, mostly mystery, romance, Westerns, soft-core porn and science fiction, written fast, produced fast and released in mass quantities. They weren’t meant to be great literature. Many of the writers described themselves as “hacks.” Despite that factory-inspired method of writing, pulp fiction produced genuine stars. Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Lawrence Block, Barbara Cartland, Robert Heinlein, Donald Westlake and many others. Those were good writers. Some have produced classics. I see today’s crop of self-pubbers as cousins to yesterday’s pulp fiction writers. I don’t expect great literature. Usually I’m satisfied with readable. I’ve found a few self-pubbers worth watching. Their work is raw, they need experience and some editorial help (or maybe a lot of editorial help), but if they hang in there, they’ll produce some good fiction someday.

Then I read Junkie, by Robert P. French. I found something I wasn’t expecting. A writer with the “It” factor. The “It” factor is like art, impossible to explain, but I know it when I see it.

French has created Cal Rogan, ex-cop and heroin addict. Cal kept me on an emotional roller coaster throughout the entire novel. A sad, frustrating, heartbreaking game of will-he-won’t-he. He wants to be clean, he’s got so much at stake, but the pull of addiction is so powerful he’s helpless before it. Cal lies and promises and betrays. At times I hated him. Yet I found myself rooting for him, begging him from my reader’s chair to beat the heroin. The hardest part of it is how far and how hard Cal fell. He’s smart, tenacious, he was a really good cop. Then he blew it. In spite of that, at heart he’s still a good cop and he wants to do the right thing. Junkie has a strong mystery and some well-drawn villains, but the true conflict at the heart of the story is between Cal and the monkey on his back.

The story: Cal’s best friend commits suicide, but Cal knows it’s murder. That’s when Cal starts making promises. He promises the victim’s mother to leave it alone, then promises the father he’ll not only prove it was murder, he’ll bring the killer to justice. Meanwhile Cal’s ex-wife is engaged to be married and threatening to take Cal’s daughter 2000 miles away. He promises he’ll get clean for his daughter, and promises himself he’ll be reinstated on the police force. He promises the cops he didn’t murder his friend. It’s a twisty, tricky, action-filled story– just the way I like them.

This novel isn’t perfect. There’s some roughness around the edges, a few places that need an editorial kick in the pants, and it needs another go-round with a proofreader (which says a lot for the quality of the story telling that my inner editor never tried to grab my Kindle out of my hands). French definitely has the “It” factor. If he keeps writing, keeps honing his skills and developing as a writer, he’ll be up there with authors like John Sandford, Michael Connelly, and Robert Crais.

What about anyone else? Have you discovered any self-published fiction writers rising from today’s version of pulp fiction?

 

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