Saturday, December 17, 2016


Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
Sonia Shah
Sarah Crichton Books
Farrah, Straus, and Giroux
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-374-12288-1
$ 26.00
250 pages

"Cholera kills people fast.  There's no drawn-out sequence of progressive debility.  The newly infected person feels fine at first.  Then half a day passes, and cholera has drained his or her body of its fluids, leaving a withered blue corpse."
Pandemic sounds like a science fiction thriller.   Unfortunately, it can be all too realistic and could happen.  
How do we prevent it?   One way would be to read Pandemic.
Most of us do not plan to be exposed or infected with cholera.  What would you do if you were on an airplane from Haiti to Florida in 2013?  
This particular flight was delayed.  The crew disinfected where a cholera infected person had been the previous hour.   What if you had been on the plane with a person suffering from cholera?  They probably felt fine when boarding the flight.   Could you contract cholera by being on a plane with an infected person?
It seems as if the more advanced medical science becomes, the more contagious these diseases become.
Author, Sonia Shah chose to write a readable and understandable journey following the cholera epidemic to demonstrate to everyone, even those not in the medical field, how a pandemic happens.
Shah understands these diseases and has personal experience with the MRSA bacterium herself and in her family.
One of her sons had contracted the disease.  Being a thirteen-year-old boy, she was accustomed to seeing skinned knees and sores.  When he complained about a bandaged sore on his kneecap, she investigated only to discover the sore was boils.  It was a staph infection called MRSA.
MRSA is a nasty disease.   It was first identified in the 1960s and by the year 2010, had killed more people than AIDS.  This disease tends to infect and reinfect family members for years frequently causing people or lose a limb or their life.   How does anyone stop it?
Treatment is painful and takes weeks or months to recover.  How can anyone cope with this?  How does a family conquer this antibiotic-resistant bacteria?
Pandemic is a must-read for everyone.   It realistically explains the precautions in an easy-to-understand manner that makes you a little more cautious in public places and especially boarding planes.
Be prepared.  Read Pandemic.

The Flame Bearer

The Flame Bearer
Bernard Cornwell
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-225078-0
$ 27.99
284 pages

"When we are young we yearn for battle.  In the firelit halls, we listen to the songs of heroes. 
Then the day comes when we are ordered to fight with the men, not as children to hold the horses and to scavenge weapons after the battle, but as men. ... We are almost men, not quite warriors, and on some fateful day we meet an enemy for the first time, and we hear the chants of battle, the threatening clash of blades on shields, and begin to learn that the poets are wrong and that the proud songs lie."
Before the year 1000 A.D., England was a group of tribal kingdoms.  Since the Romans left, there was constant fighting over land and religion with little time for peace.   The invasions from the Vikings were constant.  Throughout the years many of these kingdoms were merged into larger ones through marriages, battles, or treaties.  
Finally, there is some peace due to a treaty between Sigtryggr, Northumbria's Viking ruler and AEthelflaed, Mercia's Saxon queen.
Lord Uhtred has been waiting years for this one opportunity to regain his inheritance of Bebbanburg.   Uhtred's uncle stole this fortress when he was only nine-years-old, selling him into slavery while slaying his father.   To Uhtred it seems as if the stars are finally aligning for his one chance to regain his inheritance.
In this time, every battle determined whether the land would become Daneland or England.  Even though we know the winner today, it was a struggle with a close victory.
The problem for a series of many books is the continuity of the story.  Can you read The Flame Bearer and enjoy it without having knowledge of the other books?   Being this is the tenth installment, probably not.  I do not recommend this as a stand alone book.  The reader needs to know the past relationships and experiences to appreciate these sagas.
That said, I relish in delight in reading these books.   The reader is with Uhtred with every decision, every battle, every conversation and watching as he learns and evolves in his personal character.   Admittedly I did not like Uhtred initially and often wondered if he was supposed to be a protagonist or antagonist.    His bullying nature became instantly antagonist but softened throughout the years due to tragedies and loss. 
Though always an excellent fighter, now Uhtred relies on intelligence and strategy more while planning his moves as well as his enemies. 
The Flame Bearer is historical fiction.  Cornwell does play with inventing events to fit the needs of his story while utilizing real events and real people from the year 917 A.D.   However; history is not well-documented during this time.  
Bringing characters to life in The Flamed  Bearer is enthralling as well as allowing the reader to understand the people, the land, and the constant threats of war even from Constantin from Scotland.
Read Bernard Cornwell's story of Uhtred who really existed while envisioning his quest in taking back his home of Bebbanburg.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Cold Kiss

The Cold Kiss
John Rector
A Forge Book
Tom Doherty Associates
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-7653-6662-7
$ 7.99

"We were the only ones inside except for a man whispering into a pay phone on the other side of the lunch counter.  I don't think we would've noticed him at all if it wasn't for his cough.  The sound, wet and choking, was hard to ignore. 
I did my best.
Sarah didn't."
Sometimes running away seems like your only choices within minutes.   
What would you do if you saw an older man who was coughing and having difficulty breathing?   Most of us would choose to ignore him.
It appeared as if the man's car had died outside the diner.
What would you do if this man asked to ride with you?  What if he was willing to pay you $300?  
Nate and Sara agree to give the man a ride.  That is a mistake that can cost them their lives.
John Rector is an award-winning writer who currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska.  Cold Kiss is his debut novel.  Other books written since are The Grove, Already Gone, Out of the Black and Ruthless.  His next book 2017The Ridge is expected to be released in April of 2017.
The Cold Kiss is an uncomfortable thriller.   Why uncomfortable?  John Rector expertly entices the reader inside the story making them feel as if they have become the protagonist feeling the realistic emotions.   The action is fast-paced with an undercurrent of a threat as the story progresses.
Rector's writing is outstanding in the area of characterization.   Each person becomes real, complete with a physical description but also allowing the reader an insight into their dreams and aspirations as well as their flawed pasts filled with poor choices.
Most of the story occurs at an out-of-the-way Iowa motel during a blizzard.   What could go wrong?
The story is well-organized and written with a voice that feels hypnotic.  You don't want to put this book down.
Cold Kiss is the perfect book to read on a cold, wintry night. Even hot chocolate is not enough to stop you from being chilled by this thriller. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Love's Christmas Past

Love's Christmas Past
Susan M. Baganz, Jewell Tweedt, Rachel James
Prism Book Group
San Bernadino, CA
ISBN: 9781519368775

Three gifted women authors masterfully join their talents creating a collection of three short stories all in one cover in a historical setting all with realistic characters all hoping to find love this Christmas season.
Council Bluffs' author, Jewell Tweedt created an entrancing novelette, Christmas Bells, with her protagonist, Connie Rose Simonson.  Connie manages two cafes on in the frontier town of Omaha, Nebraska during November of 1878. 
Connie is a recent widow who is also raising her seven-year-old son, Andrew.  She enjoys being extremely busy to the point of exhaustion.
With an invitation to a birthday party where there happen to be puppies, the two look forward to Saturday.
Dr. James Connor also works until exhaustion.  Being a lonely bachelor is easier if you are busy especially when you are the only doctor within a thirty-miles radius.    For a booming frontier town, that is a lot of responsibility for one person.
Rachel James is the author of another story in this collection entitled, A Medieval Christmas. 
Nola is experiencing morning sickness.   Her mother, Lady Langley, logically has made this conclusion.  As an unwed woman with a social standing, she realizes that she could marry a man beneath her station or become a member of a convent, hopefully, close enough to observe her child grow.
The Earl of Beauwater needs a wife.  A man of distinction needs a companion and heirs.  With his brother's dying wish is for to marry, can he find a particular woman to fulfill his responsibilities and dreams?
In Fragile Blessings by Susan Baganz, Grant and Lily anticipate the birth of their first child. Unfortunately, the baby dies during its rough delivery.  How does anyone heal from the death of a child?
Misfortune has company when there is a fire leaving three Catholic children orphans at a nearby farm. 
Who would care for three children with an entirely different religion?
These three stories join in themes of Christmas and hope.  All three have practical problems reflective of the time period and even today.
These three short novelettes have an intended audience of women who enjoy reading historical fiction, Christian novels, and romance.  All are thoroughly engaging stories transporting the reader to another time and place.
Love's Christmas Past is the perfect gift for any woman who enjoys historical Christian romances.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lesson's Learned- Grace's Secret

Lessons Learned- Grace's Secret
Jewell Tweedt
ISBN: 9781536847024

" know that you can't change the past, only the here and now."
Grace Freeport is a well-respected school teacher in the frontier town of Omaha.  She thoroughly enjoys working with each of her thirteen students but her past still secretly haunts her.
On a typical November day in 1874, the school day begins as usual.  However, the weather quickly changes with a little snow, and temperatures are plunging with the wind accelerating.  
For a classroom with children, the weather can be frightening, and when their teacher steps outside to access the weather, the impending storm is terrifying for everyone.
Fortunately yesterday, Grace had taken the precaution of running a clothesline from the school to her home.   She is well aware of storms in the plains and knows how quickly a blizzard can become dangerous.   Leaving a note of their location, Grace carefully led the children holding the line and each other, to the safety of her home where she knows there is plenty of wood and food.  
So what is her reward for saving the children?   Grace tries to move past her past and reveals her secret.  Now, the mayor's wife wants her fired.
Grace's past is now becoming a part of her new life.   Complete with a feeling of guilt; she learns the value of friendship, loyalty, and love.
Lessons Learned- Grace's Secret is an excellent example of a perfect historical Christian romance.  Perfectly balancing all three genres into one novel is masterfully accomplished in this book. 
Local author, Jewell Tweedt has written numerous books in this Omaha-based series during the last few years.   Many of the characters in this story were in her previous books,  A Bride for the Sheriff, A Lady for the Lawman and Gold in My Pocket. 
Lessons Learned is a part of this series but can also be a stand-alone novel.    Knowing the backgrounds of the characters and their past experiences enrich the story and allows the reader to understand better the choices of each character as they move beyond their problemed past.
Lessons Learned-Grace's Secret is the longest in this series and shows how the author has developed in her writing with superb characterization and well-developed plots including realistic situations based on the history of the area.
Lessons Learned-Grace's Secret has life lessons that every person daily needs to reinforce in moving on with every person's life.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Off the Hook

Off the Hook: A Christmas Ornament Adventure
Author- John Arvai II
Illustrator - Eminence System
Light the Lamp Publishing
ISBN: 9780997941739 - mobi
$ 4.99
76 pages

Why do we have ornaments on a Christmas tree?
Is the reason decoration?   Many trees combine ornaments given as remembrances of family members or memorable events.
Would you be surprised to discover that there is a purpose for the decorations, probably one that has been kept a secret from you?
On Christmas Eve, while most people are asleep and dreaming, each ornament diligently goes to work.   It is the ornaments responsibility to fix the tree lights, tighten screws on the tree stand, and even guard the cookies and milk from pets.   This annual event requires each decoration to be "off the hook."  
The star on the top of your tree is different and not an ornament. 
All the ornaments cooperatively work together to activate the star which is a location transmitter lighting each rooftop to be seen only by Santa.
This year the Thompson family has a problem.   They just don't know that it exists.  
During their annual Christmas Eve party, the family cat somehow toppled the star, falling into an empty gift bag which Aunt Connie brought to her home.  
Once she discovers the star, she believes it is a gift to decorate one of her many trees.
What will happen to the Thompson children when Santa is missing their home?   Without a location transmitter, how will their home be found?
How can their Christmas be saved?
How can the family's ornaments possibly save Christmas for the children?
Off the Hook is a wonderfully creative story with the illustrations perfectly matching the text into a logical and well-organized original Christmas story for children of all ages.  Numerous themes surround this short book such as cooperation, friendship, prejudice, stereotypes, diligence and doing not what is easiest, but what is the right thing.
Surprisingly, each ornament is an independent character with an individual personality humanizing each and even revealing a little of every person's hidden prejudices and biases.
The colorful illustrations perfectly match the text entrancing readers from as young as 2 to 102 focusing on the individual ornaments and the children.
When not being a US Army veteran, an IT professional, husband, and father of three children, he enjoys hockey and using his imagination to create a beautifully original story.
This enchanting Christmas novel is available as an e-book or a paperback. 
Off the Hook is a wonderful Christmas story that will endure the test of time becoming a new family traditional story to be shared with generations.