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 (www.aegisleague.org), 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

http://www.sophiehannah.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/mmcover2-200x300.jpgAlmost 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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky by David Litwack

The daughter of the Sea and the Sky by David Litwack is a stunningly constructed story of a young girl who is deeply troubled but goes out of her way to help others. Tender yet tense, it is a story that explores the issue of faith and reason, and the wisdom and discernment to choose between right and wrong. David Litwack's exquisitely crafted story is thoughtful, passionate and simply delightful.

Kailani is a young girl who is only nine years old. She is fleeing the Blessed Lands across the forbidden ocean on a tiny boat when it crashes against a rock and starts to sink. She is saved in the nick of time by Helena and Jason, children of the Republic. When the two learned that Kailani is "the Daughter of the Sea and the Sky" they are resolute in their determination to protect her and make it possible for her to get back home. They embarked on journey that will change not only the course of their destinies but also that of the Blessed Lands and the Republic.

David Litwack's sweeping novel The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky is a powerful story that follows the journey of a mysterious but charming little girl whose mere presence seems to have changed the lives of those people around her. In more ways than they bargained for, even troubled souls like Helena and Jason have seen major transformation in their lives. Superbly imagined with a tense plot which makes it difficult to put down, David Litwack has another bestseller to his name.

Amazon Link
Author's Website
Goodreads Link

The urge to write first struck when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter's editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.

Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned. His novels include: There Comes a ProphetAlong the Watchtower, and the newly released The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.

David and his wife split their time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches their fancy. He no longer limits himself to five pages a day and is thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen

22571786The Alphabet House, published in its original language in Danish in 1997 as Alfabethuset, is a psychological suspense thriller that brings to the fore not only author Jussi Adler-Olsen’s life and experiences as the son of a senior consultant in psychiatry but also as one who witnessed firsthand how life is in psychiatric hospitals in Denmark.

This novel which contains two parts set in different time periods and places is an absolutely fascinating and riveting thriller. One part is set in Nazi Germany during the World War II while the other part is set in England of the 1970s. Two British pilots James Teasdale and Bryan Young, who are childhood friends, are on a photo reconnaissance mission over Nazi Germany when they are shot down. With enemies hot in pursuit, they escaped their pursuers by boarding a train reserved for senior SS soldiers wounded on the Eastern Front. When desperate situation calls for desperate measures, the two RAF pilots assumed the identities of two mentally ill SS officers whose bodies they threw off the train. They are taken to a psychiatric hospital for senior SS officers near Freiburg in Southwestern Germany.

But the Alphabet House is not a safe place either. It holds more than the obvious concerns for the two escaping but caged RAF pilots. The condition is horrifyingly despicable as the inmates are subjected to various forms of shock treatments and experimental drug. There are also others like them who are feigning madness, and they are suspicious of James and Bryan. Their friendship, spirit and physical endurance are put to the severest test as they experienced horror unimaginable. Bryan managed to escape but James is not so lucky. He returns to find out what happened to his closest friend.

The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen is powerful, suspenseful and delightful. It sucks you in without letting go. While some may be incline to believe this novel is about war, it is not. It is only partially about war. But as a whole, it is a psychological thriller set in the secure mental hospital in the heart of Germany, with the chances of escape very remote. So real and intense is the imagery of the horrors of mental institutes that readers will feel physically transported to witness it. A compelling read by all means, this story of friendship, love and survival is a perfect thriller you won't want to miss.


The Secret Place by Tana French

20821043St. Kilda’s School, an Irish boarding school, which is brimming with teenage girls serves as the setting for the latest mystery thriller of New York Times bestselling novelist, Tana French. Located in the suburbs of Dublin, it was here over a year ago that a 16-year-old boy, Chris Harper, from a neighboring boys' school was murdered. His killer remained untraced, and the case remained unsolved. When Detective Frank Mackey’s daughter, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey, shows up one morning at the police station with a postcard that reads, "I know who killed him," the cold case takes a dramatic turn.

The Secret Place by Tana French is the fifth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series and follows Detective Stephen Moran and Detective Antoinette Conway as they delve deep into a crime which has refused to die down, and yet couldn’t make much headway. After Holly’s unexpected appearance Detective Stephen quickly questioned her and heads to St. Kilda's School where the boy was murdered and the postcard found. It was found on a pin-board called The Secret Place where girls can privately share their secrets without anyone else knowing.

Detectives Stephen and Conway wade their way through the secrets, lies, relationships, rivalries and gossips of teenage girls, and must meticulously sift fact from rumor to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the postcard and find the killer of Chris Harper. As the detectives whittled down their list of suspects to four – Selena, Becca, Julia and Holly - who usually hang out together, Detective Stephen begins to suspect that the truth might be something he doesn't want to hear.

Author Tana French masterfully crafted a superb story that is stunning both in details and prose. Her keen sense of observation and attention to details turn this simple unsolved murder case into a fine mystery suspense thriller. Her knowledge of human behavior and the psychology that comes into play in the situations described in the novel are displayed in abundance through her characters and how she planted them into the story. What is particularly striking is the atmospheric nature of the author’s storytelling which leaves one with a feeling of being transported right where the action is taking place.