Monday, November 10, 2014

41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush - Excerpt

As the years passed and the sting of defeat subsided, Dad fully embraced his new life. Nothing gave him greater joy than being at Walker's Point with his family. He loved to organize tennis matches, pitch horseshoes, play speed golf at Cape Arun­del (scoring was based on a combination of strokes and time), and entertain a constant stream of family and visitors. Perhaps his favorite thing to do was fire up his Mercury-powered Foun­tain speedboat, the Fidelity, and race through the water with the throttle at full blast. At age seventy-nine, he sent an e-mail to his grandchildren boasting that he had topped sixty miles per hour. "I felt about 19 years old," he wrote. While he fol­lowed politics closely, he was content to stay out of the arena. He liked to describe his role in the words of a Mandarin adage: "Stand on sidelines hands in sleeves."

Although Dad was retired from government, he was not fin­ished serving. He gave his time and his name to causes that mattered to him, just as he had all his life. He served as Chair­man of the Board of Visitors at the MD Anderson Cancer Cen­ter in Houston, a widely respected cancer hospital. He founded the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, and he loved to drop into classrooms as a surprise guest lecturer. He supported military charities and visited troops around the world. Mother continued to serve as well, creating the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and reading books to children every summer at the Maine Medical Center in Portland. Throughout their lives, George and Barbara Bush have been two bright points of light.

Mother and Dad have traveled widely in their retirement. Dad loved to fly-fish, and he visited some of the world's great­est spots: Islamorada, Florida, with his friend Ted Williams; Canada with his grandson Jeb Jr.; and the river Test in Eng­land. He kept the family golf tradition alive by serving as the honorary Chairman of The First Tee and attending Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches. Occasionally he used his status as a former President to get himself invited to great golf courses like Augusta National or Pine Valley. And he loved to assemble interesting foursomes, such as the time that he and Jeb played with Arnold Palmer and Joe DiMaggio.

In November 1998, Mother and Dad took one of their most meaningful trips when they chartered a plane to Florida to be with Jeb on election night of his second race for Governor. He ran a great campaign and won 55 percent of the vote. For the first time in more than two decades, brothers served together as Governors. Mother liked to point out that one in eight Ameri­cans lived in a state governed by one of her sons. Dad expressed his pride a little more quietly. On the day before Jeb's election, he wrote, "People will call to congratulate us, but they will never begin to know the true depth of my feeling toward my sons. It will be what life is really all about for me right now." 

I too was thrilled that Jeb won. In our early years, our seven-year age separation seemed to matter, but as we got older, we became not only brothers but friends. He is a man of convic­tion with a great deal of inner strength. I was confident that the people of Florida would benefit from his leadership -- and I was right. He was a strong and accomplished Governor. 

After my 1998 reelection as Governor, Dad predicted that speculation about a presidential campaign would follow. He was sure right. Prospective advisers, fund-raisers, and organiz­ers all over the country urged me to enter the race. As I told Washington Post reporter David Broder, I felt like a cork in a raging river. I was determined not to get swept away. I would make the decision for the right reasons and on my own terms.
More than any presidential candidate in recent history (with the exception of Hillary Clinton), I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. For all the so-called burdens of the presi­dency, I knew how much Dad had loved the job -- the honor of leading a great country and the opportunity to make decisions that would change history. After my experience as Governor, I felt that I could handle the work. I understood the scrutiny that my family would face, and I was concerned about our daugh­ters. But I had learned from my father's experience that it was possible to serve as President and leave office with your family stronger than before.

Mother's example also gave me confidence. One of her great contributions to my father's political career was ensuring that he never had to worry about whether she could handle the pres­sure of the presidency and at the same time hold our family together. That confidence is liberating. I was blessed that Laura gave me the same peace of mind.

Finally, I believed, as Dad did, in living life to the fullest -- in pushing yourself to your limits and working hard for the causes in which you believe. I believed strongly that America needed a new direction on issues like education, taxes, and military readiness. And I believed that I could help provide the leader­ship that the American people sought.

I never felt the need to ask Dad for a direct opinion on whether I should run. I knew he would support whatever choice I made. And I knew from watching him my whole life that he believed everyone has a duty to serve. After a lot of soul-searching, I decided to give it a shot. I announced my can­didacy on June 12, 1999 (coincidentally, my father's seventy-fifth birthday).

I was aware that there would be inevitable comparisons be­tween Dad and me, some good and some not. He had assured me that I should feel free to criticize any of his decisions with­out fear of offending him. As he wrote in a 1998 letter to Jeb and me, "At some point both of you may want to say, 'Well, I don't agree with my Dad on that point' or 'Frankly I think Dad was wrong on that.' Do it. Chart your own course, not just on the issues but on defining yourselves. No one will ever question your love of family -- your devotion to your parents." 

When reporters would ask how my father would affect the race, I joked that I had inherited half of his friends and all of his enemies. The truth was that he didn't have many enemies, and I was able to pick up many of his friends. I had no qualms about Dad's friends supporting me. I was running against a sitting Vice President at a time when the country appeared to be se­cure and the economy appeared to be strong. And as it turned out, I needed every vote I could get.

Pays rich tributes to his father
On election night, Mother and Dad led a huge convoy of family to Austin. A celebration began late in the evening when Vice President Gore called to concede the election. He then called back a little later to retract his concession. My lead in the pivotal state of Florida was less than a thousand votes -- too close to call. A multiweek recount began. I asked Jim Baker to lead my legal team in Florida, while Laura and I retreated to our ranch in Crawford, Texas, to await my fate. Dad on the other hand was obsessed by the news. He constantly called Karl Rove and Jim Baker for updates. He called me frequently too. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was worried. "Dad, I'm at peace," I said. "Stop watching TV." 

Eventually, the legal dispute worked its way to the Supreme Court. On December 12, 2000, thirty-five days after the elec­tion, the Court delivered its judgment. By a vote of seven to two, the Justices determined that Florida's haphazard recount process violated the equal protection clause of the Constitu­tion. And by a vote of five to four, they concluded that Florida could not complete a fair recount in time to meet the deadline for the Electoral College. The electoral count stood; I had won. After receiving the news that I had been elected President, the first phone call I made was to Mother and Dad. They were thrilled.

The next day, I addressed the nation from the Texas state capitol. As Mother and Dad watched the speech on television from bed at their home in Houston, the reality of the moment hit them. Dad later wrote, "I saw a couple of shots of George and Laura holding hands. I saw in his posture, in the way he walked, in his smile the same mannerisms and expressions we have known ever since he was a little boy." He continued, "As the camera focused on George and Laura walking into the chamber my body was literally wracked with uncontrollable sobs. It just happened. No warning, no thinking that this might be emotional for a mother or dad to get through -- just an erup­tion from deep within me where my body literally shook. Bar­bara cried, too. We held hands. Just before he began to speak we saw in George's eyes the emotion he was feeling. We know it so well. He did not 'lose it,' but he was clearly moved and his mother and father knew it for fact certain."

Shortly before the moment that so moved Dad, Vice Presi­dent Gore had delivered a gracious speech conceding the elec­tion. That prompted an unexpected phone call. George H.W. Bush called Al Gore to congratulate him on his strong cam­paign and courageous speech. "I've lost a few times myself," Dad told him, "and I know how you feel."


Reprinted from "41: A Portrait of My Father." Copyright © 2014 by George W. Bush. Published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hope to Die by James Patterson

After a numbing fall to the depths of disappointment with Cross My Heart (Alex Cross), the 21st installment in the Alex Cross series, bestselling author James Patterson returns with his most famous character in a sizzling sequel which will restore the confidence of the faithful in his skill as a master-storyteller, and earn him many more new fans. With his reputation as the world's most popular thriller writer at stake, Hope to Die is a high-risk gamble which will either bury the fiasco that was Cross My Heart (Alex Cross) or put the final nail in the coffin of a legendary fictional character, Alex Cross.

Which way will the scale swing?

Simply put, James Patterson seems totally unfazed by the rampant criticism with which Cross My Heart (Alex Cross) was received. This is apparent as the story continues in the same vein and in the same JP trademark short chapters. Patterson really surprised me by entering enemy territory with Marcus Sunday and his true-crime book The Perfect Criminal hogging the limelight in the introductory chapters. As the story progresses he captures in vivid details, though blurred at times by the necessity of the plot, the fate that befell the Cross family in Cross My Heart (Alex Cross). The picture becomes clearer with each new chapter, focusing on plot of the villain to wreak a final storm on Alex Cross while Alex is working on his own plan to unleash a befitting retribution.

Hope to Die (Alex Cross # 22) by James Patterson is explosive, riveting and enthralling with high-octane action sequences, superb dialogue and a fantastic storyline. Alex Cross is simply superb, as always, and the pain he feels comes right through the pages of the book. I have always loved the Patterson books for the simple reason that they are entertaining. Hope to Die is no different and I get hooked from the beginning. Pure habit forces me to flip to the last page and see how it ends. Hope to Die is one of the best Alex Cross novels, with an intimate and equal portrayal of all the main characters. With a climax that is both surprising and unexpected, a far cry from the frustration of Cross My Heart (Alex Cross), Hope to Die is one of James Patterson's best novels in a long time.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Flesh and Blood: A Scarpetta Novel (Kay Scarpetta, #22)It's Thursday, June 12, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr Kay Scarpetta is physically still at home though her mind has already left for the Florida vacation she had planned along with her FBI profiler husband, Benton Wesley. She's in a celebratory mood as it's her birthday and didn't quickly notice the bright copper coins that flashes like shards of aventurine glass on top of the old brick wall behind their house. Dr Scarpetta feels a chill at the edge of her thoughts. Is it someone merely playing a game with pennies or is there more intent to it than meets the eye? Why would someone leave seven shiny Lincoln pennies, all heads up and all dated 1981? Instantly, she realizes that her birthday plans are about to go off beam.

When a deranged sniper is on the loose, Detective Pete Marino of the Cambridge Police insists Scarpetta to examine the scene of a shooting close to her home, not willing to settle for any of her medical examiners or her deputy chief Luke Zenner. The sniper's victim is identified as a high school music teacher, Jamal Nari, who recently shot into the limelight when he was inadvertently placed on a terrorist watch list.

What is baffling about Jamal's death is the tweet announcing it. It came about 45 minutes before he was actually shot. To add to this weirdness is the admission made by one student to the crime, though no one is willing to believe it. Did Leo Grantz really kill Jamal? What is the motive? As Scarpetta and Marino delved deeper into the case they unearthed startling evidences that established connection between a series of deaths in New Jersey and the killing of Jamal Nari in Cambridge. And it is up to Scarpetta and Marino to find out the killer and bring the case to its logical conclusion.

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell is the twenty-second book in the long-running Kay Scarpetta series. This installment is a notch better than the twenty-first book, Dust (A Scarpetta Novel), though it is nowhere near the readability of the earlier books in the series. While the plot in itself is engaging and the author's fine writing style keeps one going, there are a lot of unnecessary details forcing me to skip pages and paragraphs at regular intervals. If Flesh and Blood were trimmed down to about three hundred pages or less instead of its present staggering 384, I honestly believe that it would have been one of the best Kay Scarpetta novels Patricia Cornwell has written. Sadly, in her bid to write a heavy tome of a book she has added details that are annoying and frustrating for a reader like me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stephen King's Revival Will Rock You to Your Bones

This period piece set in the mid-20th century about faith and addiction is so petrifying that author Stephen King was quoted as saying, "It's too scary. I don't even want to think about that book anymore. It's a nasty, dark piece of work. That's all I can tell you." For fans who have missed his trademark spine-chilling harrowing tales with the sedate Mr. Mercedes: A Novel which was more in the mold of a thriller than a horror novel, Revival marks a triumphant return to a genre which is almost synonymous with his name.

Revival by Stephen King is the story of Jamie Morton and Reverend Charles Jacobs, whose lives disturbingly interlock, with serious consequences, for fifty long years. Jamie was only six years old when the Reverend Charles Jacobs with his beautiful wife Patsy and infant baby first set foot in the sleepy hamlet. Like most people in the small Methodist congregation, Jamie quickly bonds with the Minister and his family. Jamie and Jacobs share a lot of things in common, but electronics was their abiding passion. Things seem to be going great for everyone.

Though the Reverend Jacobs is an affable man: well-loved and adored, everything he stands for crumbles under the weight of grief and fury, transforming even his very own life. A gruesome car accident claimed the lives of his wife Patsy and their child, leaving Jacobs devastated. The horror of the accident left an indelible mark on Jacobs. He begins to question his faith and the very purpose of his existence, and buries himself in the pursuit of his hobby - electrical experimentation to tap into the secrets of the universe which is "one of God's doorways to the infinite." Physically and emotionally exhausted, Jacobs's harsh experience drained him of all his faith and belief in God prompting him to give a fiery sermon which would have made an atheist hang his head in shame. He was sacked and asked to leave town.

At the other end, Jamie grows up to be a rhythm guitarist but in a whirlpool of drugs, sex and rock `n' roll, traveling and performing all over. He's no longer the devoted Methodist youth that he once was. He has matured over the years and has become a skeptic. A chance reunion with Jacobs at his electricity-based carnival act sparks off a chain of events which take both Jamie and Jacobs to the edge. Jacobs too is no longer the amiable minister that he once was. He has been transformed almost beyond recognition - a frenzied man intent on unearthing secrets which are beyond the realms of humanity. Jacobs heals people with the electrical inventions he has made but Jamie discovers that there are more to it than meets the eye.

In Revival, horror master Stephen King crafted a tale of two men brought together by faith, separated by tragedy and reunited by their obstinate passion for the extraordinary. It is an unsettling story of a man driven by an unquenchable passion and a scientific curiosity that borders on madness. It is a spellbinding supernatural thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat with the frightening portrayal of its main characters and the suspenseful plot which will leave even long-time fans gasping for breath. Revival by Stephen King is designed to rock you to your bones.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Escape (John Puller series) by David Baldacci

20767918Bestselling author David Baldacci returns with a thrilling new suspenseful, action-packed story full of mystery with military CID investigator John Puller. Just the third book in the John Puller series following Zero Day (John Puller Series) and The Forgotten (John Puller Series), The Escape is a book that will entertain and enthrall readers from cover to cover, with John Puller heading an eclectic cast of characters. The Escape follows the trail of a war hero and top US army investigator extraordinaire Puller and his partner US intelligence officer, Capt. Veronica Knox, as they are hot in pursuit of an escapee from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

But for Puller, the assignment is fraught with professional and personal dilemmas. The escaped convict is none other than his brother Robert Puller who is a major in the US Air Force. Robert has been convicted of treason and national security crimes. As John digs deep into the case, he realizes that there are many others pursuing his brother, and will resort to any means to either bring him to justice or silent him permanently. John races against time to find Robert and unearth the truth behind his brother's conviction where nothing is what it seems to be.

And finding a man who doesn't want to be found is a tough proposition. As Puller pieces together the jigsaw puzzle, Robert is also determined to clear his name and hacks into the national database. To throw off his pursuers, he has also changed his appearance, but for how long? Will John find his brother before the others? David Baldacci masterfully weaves an interesting an interesting story full of suspense and surprises. Puller's character has gone from strength to strength, and is likely to become one of the most fascinating fictional characters in recent years. But while the story is enjoyable as whole, it lacks depth and heart, and is burdened with excessive details, and many readers are unlikely to revisit the story again.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Gray MountainIn nineteen ninety-three, John Grisham delivers a stunning and suspenseful novel, The Pelican Brief: A Novel, which revolves around the assassination of two Supreme Court justices, and the female protagonist Darby Shaw undeterred by the threats to her life uncovered a deep-rooted presidential conspiracy. Twenty-one years later, Grisham returns with a female protagonist for only the second time in his illustrious career as he crafted another stupefying legal thriller, this time not targeting the highest echelons of government but the deepest pits of the dark and perilous world of coal mining.

Set against the backdrop of the Great Recession of 2008, Gray Mountain by bestselling author John Grisham follows a 29-year-old female Manhattan associate attorney who gets downsized and is forced to leave her Wall Street law firm two weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers to work a year in the small-town of Brady, Virginia. Samantha Kofer's journey from New York's largest law firm to a small legal aid clinic in the heart of Appalachia with a population of 2200 as an unpaid intern borders on the ludicrous. Yet, that is the only possible route back to her job in the future.

When Samantha meets Mattie Wyatt, her new boss and the head of the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic, she realizes there's much to learn and that Mattie has a lot to teach her on how to assist people who face genuine problems. It enables her to work on things she had never done during her three-year stay at New York's Scully & Pershing. Apart from actually preparing a lawsuit, Samantha also gets to work her way around courtrooms, topping it with a tongue-lashing from a judge. Samantha's work forces her to get deeper into the problems of her clients Taking up cudgels on their behalf, she begins her own investigation to get to the bottom of their stories without ever realizing that in coal country searching for the truth and standing up for it means putting your life on the line. She also stumbles upon secrets that should have remained buried deep in the mountains forever, and the connection between small-town politics and Big Coal. But Samantha is not discouraged by the numerous threats that she received and is taking the fight into the enemy's camp.

Author John Grisham paints a dark picture of the coal mining industry, the danger it posed to environment and the lives of people. He is scathing in his portrayal of the people involved and how far they are willing to go to have their way, even to the extent of murdering and poisoning streams and wells. Though a dazzling legal thriller, full of suspense and action with its plot twists and surprises, Gray Mountain is primarily an issued-based novel that takes up the cause of defenseless people and the environmental hazard coal mining has brought about by ripping off the tops of hundreds of mountains in Appalachia. It has not only poisoned the ecosystem but is instrumental in the rapidly vanishing wildlife and threatens the very survival of human beings living around coal mining areas. Grisham is brilliant as ever but the central premise of the story may not appeal to some readers.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

The Burning Room (Harry Bosch Series #19)The maverick Los Angeles Police Department homicide Detective Harry Bosch has come a long way since he first made his appearance in the 1992 detective mystery thriller, The Black Echo. In that premier book of the series a man found in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam was just another statistic for the police department. But when Harry Bosch stepped in it became personal because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war.

Twenty-two years later in his nineteenth avatar in Edgar-winner Michael Connelly’s superbly crafted The Burning Room, Harry Bosch and his new partner, rookie Detective Lucia Soto, are tasked with an unenviable job of solving a very old case with a lot of twists and impediments. It concerns a case which begins almost ten years earlier with the drive-by shooting of Orlando Merced as he played with his band in Los Angeles's Mariachi Plaza. The bullet that struck him in the spine caused grievous damage leaving him paralyzed.

When Bosch and Lucy get to work they are confronted with lack of evidence which make the investigation all the more difficult. They got a vital lead when an anonymous tipster informed Detective Lucia Soto that the shooting of Orlando Merced is connected to the 1993 devastating fire which took place at the Bonnie Brae apartments that killed nine victims, mostly children. Incidentally, Soto could have been one of the children consumed by that raging fire twenty years ago but survived while some of his friends didn’t. The mariachi musician was a victim of a conspiracy to bury the truth behind the arson as he was believed to have known the people involved. Bosch and Lucy also unearthed connections between the two incidents with the robbery of an EZ Bank.

With powerful people coming into the picture, master storyteller Michael Connelly skillfully maneuvered this compelling police procedural with a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Juggling between suspense, crime and mystery, there is no dull moment as Harry Bosch just simply refused to fade into oblivion and reinvented himself through the deft handling of his character by Connelly. Beautifully written and wonderfully paced, The Burning Room is not only for die-hard fans of the series but also for new readers who want to explore the world of Harry Bosch.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning

Book Cover ImageIn the village of Lauscha in Germany, things have been done the same way for centuries. The men blow the glass, and the women decorate and pack it. But when Joost Steinmann passes away unexpectedly one September night, his three daughters must learn to fend for themselves. While feisty Johanna takes a practical approach to looking for work, Ruth follows her heart, aiming to catch the eye of a handsome young villager. But it is dreamy, quiet Marie who has always been the most captivated by the magic—and sparkling possibilities—of the craft of glassblowing. As the spirited sisters work together to forge a brighter future for themselves on their own terms, they learn not only how to thrive in a man’s world, but how to remain true to themselves—and their hearts—in the process. 
The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning is the first book in The Glassblower Trilogy and was originally published in 2003 in German. This astounding work of cultural and historical romance is beautifully rendered into English by Samuel Willcocks, and the novel will be of immense delight to anyone with a bit of interest in German history and culture. There is much more than I anticipated in the book. Apart from the joy of reading it, the book leaves a comforting feeling that everyone can be happy in his own way, if one is brave enough to set one’s priorities right.

In the book author Petra Durst-Benning tells the story of the three young Steinmann sisters who live in the glassblowing village of Lauscha in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth century. Johanna, Ruth and Marie must look after themselves when their father Joost Steinmann passes away unexpectedly one September night. But making a livelihood in the village is easier said than done as glassblowing is a male-dominated craft. The Steinmann sisters are so well-conceived and developed that their characters are so lifelike and believable. As you leaf through the pages, you will laugh and cry with them, and at times feel the need to reprove them.

Beautifully written and well-researched, Petra Durst-Benning painted a sweeping portrait of the fascinating characters that populated the book as well as the profession which they are involved in. The Glassblower is a fascinating lesson in German culture and history, and without ever exceeding the limit of credibility, the author brilliantly crafted a powerful story of women’s emancipation, the ideals and aspiration that is burning within each individual even within the confines of a hopeless situation and how one can be happy and content in one’s condition if one’s heart is in it.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Story Behind the Book, Bestseller

I suppose there’s always a story, isn’t there? Best Seller is my fifth novel. When I’d written my first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, I had high hopes and very na├»ve aspirations about its success. I connected with favorite authors online and sent personal messages when I read and enjoyed their books. I posted reviews, and suggested to my online friends that they read this particular book. I did what I was supposed to do in order to build a platform.
So, when my first book was released, I went to two or three of these favorite authors and asked if they’d be willing to read and review it. And imagine my surprise when they declined! They were always polite about it, or indicated they didn’t have the time, but it hurt. 

I took that tiny piece of reality and created a novel (Best Seller) from it. One where a young woman who doesn’t even realize how talented a writer she is pins all her hopes on the possibility that her favorite author will read her manuscript and love it so much that she’ll open doors for her. Doesn’t every aspiring author (actor, musician) hope for a similar stroke of good fortune?

So that’s where the story originated. That’s the small kernel of truth that blossomed into a novel. But the real story isn’t so much about Robin and her book as it is about Robin’s journey into adulthood, her reconciliation with people she’d pushed away.

ABOUT THE BOOK:  Set in New England at the time of the American Bicentennial, BEST SELLER is the poignant story of a displaced young woman struggling to figure out who she is within the context of her hometown and the carefully masked dysfunction of her family.

"Everything can be fixed by writing a check." Words to live by for Robin Fortune's wealthy father, until he can't buy her way back into college after she's expelled for dealing pot. Now he chooses not to speak to her anymore, but that's just one of the out-of-whack situations Robin's facing. At nineteen, she feels rudderless, working in a diner by day and sleeping with a buddy from high school by night - all so strange for her because she was always the one with the plan. While her college friends plotted how to ensnare husbands, she plotted a novel, which she scratched out into a series of spiral-bound notebooks she hides in the closet. But now, there's nothing. No vision, no future, no point. In fact, the only thing she feels she has to look forward to is that her favorite author, Maryana Capture, is paying a visit to the local Thousand Words bookstore. Robin surmises that if she can convince Maryana to help her get her novel published, she'll finally get herself back on track. Except that life never takes a straight path in this intensely satisfying coming-of-age novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHORMartha Reynolds ended an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and began writing full time in 2011. She is the author of five novels, including the award-winning Chocolate for Breakfast (her debut novel), Chocolate Fondue, Bittersweet Chocolate, and the Amazon #1 bestseller Bits of Broken Glass. Best Seller is her latest release. Her essays have appeared in Magnificat magazine.

She and her husband live in Rhode Island, never far from the ocean.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Revival by Stephen King


A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Hardcover:416 pages | Publisher: Scribner | Publication: November 11, 2014 | ISBN-10: 1476770387 | ISBN-13: 978-1476770383


Good Music Brighter Children Good Music Brighter Children  

Good Music Brighter Children is written for parents, educators or anyone who wants to build a bigger, better brain using music. Scientific studies indicate that children introduced to classical music at a young age read earlier and perform better on achievement tests. Adults can also revive tired brain cells using music. This book gives you a step-by-step program that any parent or individual can follow. You’ll discover how introducing your children to good music can accelerate language development, improve math and science skills, enhance physical coordination, strengthen memory and reading retention, and benefit children with learning disabilities. Discover how to choose an instrument and music teacher for your child; how to get your kids to practice and how character traits such as confidence, responsibility, creativity and teamwork are taught when learning a musical instrument. Learn how to introduce your child to the music community and how to appreciate all kinds of music. Last, if you want to advocate for music in your schools, this book gives the ammunition and data to do so. Also includes a 35-page Resource Section on the best music, books, and DVDs for kids.

Sharlene Author Sharlene Habermeyer:

Sharlene Habermeyer, MA has spent over twenty-five years researching the effects of music in the brain development of children. She is passionate about how people of all ages learn and how music is a catalyst for learning. She holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Art from Utah State University and a Masters degree in Education from Pepperdine University, Malibu, California.   In 1999, she started the Palos Verdes Regional Orchestra (now the Palos Verdes Regional Symphony Orchestra). It currently boasts over one-hundred members.   Sharlene’s initial inspiration for Good Music Brighter Children came from the extensive work she did with her severely learning disabled son, and finding that music was his strongest catalyst for learning she began passionately researching the effects music had on the developing and mature brain. A college instructor, a popular speaker, and a consultant, she is the mother of five boys and lives with her husband in Torrance, California. She has spoken at parent conferences around the United States including the Parents as Teachers Conference (PAT) and the Crucial Years Conference in Missouri. In August 2014, she will be speaking at BYU Education Week.

Praise for the Book    
Largest Independent Book Reviewer in the U.S.: Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media, LLC “With a scientist’s eye and an artist’s voice, Habermeyer examines everything from the benefits of music for the developing brain to music’s ability to improve cultural awareness. This is an encyclopedic, invaluable resource for anyone who believes in music education. A magnum opus, fact-filled and inspiring on the benefits of music.” -Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media, LLC    

National Music Organization: Music and the Brain “A great resource for both parents and teachers. Anyone interested in music or the overall well-being of children will not be able to put this book down.” -Lisha Papert Lercari, Director, Music and the Brain    

University Professor: Dr. James Catterall Sharlene Habermeyer outlines why music is important to learning, and provides parents with excellent suggestions for launching and sustaining a musical influence in the lives of their children.” -James S. Catterall, professor of education and co-director of Imagination Project at UCLA  

Mother/Lawyer/Ballet Teacher: Shauna Bird Dunn “Carefully researched and highly readable, Good Music, Brighter Children is written for musicians and non musicians alike. It is filled with wisdom, insight and helpful tips to bring music into the home for all ages and stages of childhood.” -Shauna Bird Dunn, JD, MPA Utah Young Mother of the Year, 2010

What's Shirin Reading?

Unfortunately, I haven’t really had much time to read recently mainly due to juggling school, writing and extracurricular activities. What makes it worse is that I’ll buy books even though I haven’t got the time, so I’m currently backlogged—I have about twenty books I need to read! I have read quite a few that I enjoyed, though, and I’ll be sharing two of them.

The first is the latest novel I finished reading back in August: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell. It follows the story of Winston Smith, a man who lived in a British dystopia. The government (Big Brother) has a secret police, uses indoctrination/brainwashing and propaganda to oppress the population. The novel demonstrates the dangers of any totalitarian government, be it Communist or Fascist. While the story’s pace was slower than what I am into and there wasn’t much dialogue, what I found intriguing was the concept behind the story. It was a bit creepy, no doubt, because it depicts a dystopian society of the not-so-distant which is quite possible. And it’s strange, as some things have already begun to unfold in our world, i.e. government surveillance of the regular folk by means of technology. The story did not have a happy ending, but I find that books, movies and TV shows that do not have conclusions with rainbows and unicorns are actually quite memorable.

The second novel is either one that people seem to like or hate, and that would be Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card. It follows the events of Empire (which I very much enjoyed as well) and depicts a future after an American civil war between the red states and blue states with a ‘bipartisan consensus’ president who seems to be interested in turning the States into a global empire; democracy is kept solely as a facade. This novel didn’t have a happy ending either, but I liked it nonetheless because it shows the dangers of politics and war, but was action-oriented and about people stepping up to make hard decisions and sacrifices (some of which the reader may not like, but understands).

S.S.Segran is the bestselling author of AEGIS RISING, the first book in the Aegis League Series. In crafting the premise for the novel, she drew from the inspiring imagery of the Pacific Northwest, the intriguing potential of the human mind and above all, her abiding love for adventure, science fiction and mystery stories. She enjoys drawing, horseback riding and is an ardent fan of parkour and freerunning. S.S.Segran is a proud member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets in British Columbia.

S.S.Segran is also the founder of Aegis League (, a non-profit organization whose goal is to support youths living in places and conditions that deny them opportunities to grow. The mission of the organization is to provide life-skills training and micro-loan funding to help them launch small businesses in the communities where they reside. Partial proceeds from the sale of her books go to this cause.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she’s full of surprises

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.

In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to “help real people with real problems.” For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.

Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.

384 pages
October 21st 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah a century ago in January 1920, the famous fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot was introduced by Agatha Christie in the novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. After forty-two adventure-filled novels set between World War I and World War II, with some of the later novels set in the 1960s, The New York Times splashed an obituary on its front page when he died of heart complications in the final novel Curtain which was published in September 1975.

Almost forty years later, detective Hercule Poirot is resurrected and makes a triumphant return in The Monogram Murders: The New Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Mystery by poet and crime novelist Sophie Hannah. Best known for relying on his `little grey cells' for solving crimes, the story is set in the early years of Poirot's career and is told from the perspective of a new character, Inspector Edward Catchpool of the Scotland Yard, from whom Poirot takes over a case concerning a troubling series of murders as it's "a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective."

The Monogram Murders is a classic Christie novel and begins on an ominous note when one February evening in 1929 a distraught woman named Jennie enters a London coffee shop where Hercule Poirot is having a quiet supper. With a disheveled appearance and strange look, it's not difficult to guess she's terrified. When Poirot offers to help her, Jennie made cryptic and puzzling remarks and was adamant that no one can help her because she's as good as dead and that the crime must never be solved. When two women and a man are found murdered in three separate rooms about the same time in a hotel with monogrammed gold cuff links inserted into their mouths that same night, it becomes all too apparent that no ordinary sleuthing work will help solve the case.

Detective Poirot is unable to make sense of the murders and wonders if it has any connection with the woman he encountered at the coffee shop. While he tries to piece together the jigsaw puzzle, the murderer is preparing to snuff the life out of a fourth victim. The story follows Poirot as he wades through layer after layer of baffling clues and mysteries in his quest to solve the strange murders and it will require all his wit, wisdom, brilliance, subtlety, creativity and deductive prowess if he is to find the murderer before it's too late.

Bestselling author Sophie Hannah's fine writing and the compelling plot line are the strong points of this new Hercule Poirot mystery. Recreating and resurrecting an iconic detective who has been laid to rest by the queen of crime is a daunting task, yet Sophie has done a commendable job by going back to the early years of Poirot's career which has allowed her the freedom to toy around with her characters and at the same time avoid the pitfalls of having to deal with his death. What we have in the end is an absorbing story true to the legacy of its original writer, and in the process created a major event for crime fiction lovers the world over.

s_Sophie Hannah
Sophie's Website