Monday, August 22, 2011

Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven

Velva Jean Learns to Fly. Jennifer Niven. Penguin Group (USA). August 2011. 432 pp. paperback. ISBN #: 9780452297401.

Velva Jean Hart is tired of small town living, including a husband who is part preacher and part moonshiner. She'd been told she had a wonderful voice and a record producer actually made a record of one of her "Yellow Truck..." songs, telling her to look him up if she ever got to Nashville, Tennessee from rural Appalachia in Alluvia, North Carolina. So she sang every song she knew as she left her home all the way to the point in Tennessee where she got a flat tire. But Velva Jean is a spunky gal and managed to conquer this problem, find a place to live, and make a friend who would help until Velva Jean finally found a job. Even after those difficult challenges, in which she bore rejection after rejection, she still managed to find a place where people could enjoy her voice and zesty personality! But a record contract did not loom, especially after she was told she needed years of music experience before she'd be ready for recording. She didn't care - she just kept writing song after song after song!

Life, however, changed dramatically with the breakout of WWII, and Velva Jean's brother, Johny Clay, introduces her to a flying lesson that changes her passion forever. She goes on to become a female pilot and joins a select group of women flyers carrying out secret but no less dangerous missions within America. Here the story mixes her increasing love of flying, desire to do more for the war effort, and the horror she experiences as tragedy after tragedy happen to those she loves and others she doesn't know. Some die by attack but some are killed because of human mistakes; the latter are just as devastating and Velva Jean is responsible for bringing it to the attention of those who should be doing something about it.

There is much more day-by-day description of what an amazing woman Velva Jean and other women flyers like her become. It's a quick, shocking way to grow up but this plot is filled with humor and persistent dedication, the essence of Velva Jean's personality.

This novel has some very slow parts but does evolve into a funny, interesting and wonderful historical fiction piece that elevates the place of women in a time when they were expected to stay home and sew for the war effort. It includes as well the respect these women flyers known as the WAFS or Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. Jennifer has depicted a slice of life in the war that few Americans know about, and Velva Jean Hart is an unforgettable, spunky gal who stands for the best women contributing to the war effort at that time! Nicely done, Ms. Niven!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Eden Prescription by Ethan Evers

The Eden Prescription. Ethan Evers. Createspace Publisher. October 2010. pb. 326 pages, ISBN #:9781439276556.

An unanswered question looms large in the minds and hearts of both cancer patients and those without but fearing this killer disease. Dr. Elliot Lindell is a scientist operating outside of the normal medical community. He's spent years coming up with a cocktail of unusual ingredients that include an acceptable cancer drug combined with Vitamin D, ginger, gingko, pomegranate, and other hard-to-access natural products. He's also a computer whiz who has invented a computer model that simulates the growth, division, and destruction of cancer cells upon reception of this new and successful cancer cocktail. Annika Guthrie is his brilliant assistant, a woman highly and idealistically motivated by the possibilities inherent behind a cure for this devastating disease.

This thriller story has drug companies vying for possession of the most effective drug and the formula for the most potent combination to do the job of destroying cancer cells. The money is their motive for obtaining what will finally constitutes a wonder drug for cancer patients. The plot thickens when bits of information leak to the right and wrong parties, and an international hunt ensues that includes attempts at theft and murder, actual murders, and faked murders. It turns out The Eden Project is an international finance group with powers and funding to accomplish anything from wars to blatant collapses of key financial countries, always geared to their own recovery and the surpassing of their own wealth and power wherever they operate.

The reader will be riveted to this tale in which victory begins to seem impossible and a confusing war of individuals and groups clash with increasing intensity to the point where the reader is unsure who is friend and who is foe. However, knowing that the bad guys lose doesn't stop one from furiously reading ahead to the striking end. Somehow in the midst of all the chaos or mayhem, one gently learns a lot about not only drugs and plants but also how cancer cells supposedly operate under varying conditions, what works at destroying parts of the cells, and what might be a more powerful, less destructive cure for those suffering from the actual disease.

Speculation is rife on what could possibly happen to the medical community if a cure for cancer were ever found, of the making and unmaking of fortunes, of those who use science in a faithful, humanitarian, professional way and those who do the severe opposite. The Eden Prescription is a sometimes too repetitive but constantly thrilling read about what perhaps lies ahead in the future for anyone and everyone involved with finding a prescription cure for all, with implications larger than longer life for all.