Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sweat by Mark Gilleo

Sweat. Mark Gilleo. The Story Plant. August 2012. 366 pages. Available in trade paperback and E-book format. ISBN #: 9781611880519.

Senator Day and Peter Winthrop are on a trip to Saipan, meeting Lee Chang, the owner of a factory.  They will make a movie about the fine working conditions and fine quality product being produced.  Simple story, right?  Wrong!  That will be the most placid scene the reader will experience because the remainder of the book immediately turns into a frenetic paced race to upend the "bad guys," as it used to be called. For the Senator and Peter have a bit of feminine entertainment after their business is over, never realizing the after effects will change their world forever!

Mark Gilleo has written a novel about the outsourcing of labor to countries where workers produce in "sweatshop" conditions, where one pregnant girl is just a burden to be discarded, that is until her workers mastermind a way to bring public attention to the young girl's plight.  It is Jake Patrick who takes a summer internship while awaiting his future academic studies.  It is he who shows little interest in his father's business until he receives a secret message and enlists others to help solve what he perceives to be a devastating injustice and soon enough finds to be an international scandal.

Jake initially has no idea what and who he is up against - the Chinese businessman who thinks nothing of killing employees; a doctor who is willing to lie and perform other unethical acts to guarantee his paradise living, a town detective chief who follows one law and it's not one created by any government, a government representative who prides himself more on fostering business and generating money than caring for the precious gift of life, and so much more.

Sweat is a political thriller that will engage any and all readers.  It's all too real a possibility and it is the hope of a young idealistic man who guarantees that integrity is larger than all the dirt bags taking advantage of the few for the almighty "buck!"  Very well written and highly recommended!!!

Allah's Revenge by Pete Barber

Allah's Revenge. Pete Barber. PJ Publishing. May 3012. 354 pp. trade paperback. ISBN #: 9780985523008.

Terrorist fiction is on the rise and Allah's Revenge is at the top of the list of a possibility that could create death and mayhem enough to destroy any nation or nations.  This plot involves the creation of a nanobot that could be used for energy production (the obvious disguise herein) but instead is used to dispense a chemical that instantly kills its victims, leaving a deadly charcoal residue.  Horrors!

The plot is simple but potent.  After the first attack on a British subway, the race is on to find both the killer and the technology that created such a viral disaster.  In the process, others will die and as usual any and all Arabs are suspect. One journalist who is an okay Arab is mistaken as such initially but then manages to reclaim freedom and vows to take down whoever is behind this insane plot.  

The goal seems almost ludicrous in the light of the devastation being unleashed, the freeing of Palestinian prisoners.  

The story gives a very good description of how a terrorist is groomed for what comes to be believed as a divine mission for Allah.  One senses the slip from rational to psychotic will and tenacity that guarantees success.

Yes, the plot for more assassinations will be foiled but it's a roller coaster ride that Pete Barber crafts to rivet the reader and create tension and an almost sick feeling as the story progresses.

Nicely done, Pete Barber and may it never happen in reality!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Journeys on the Silk Road by Morgan & Walters

Journeys on the Silk Road: A desert explorer, Buddha's secret library, and the unearthing of the world's oldest printed book. Morgan and Walters. Lyons Press. September 2012. 336 pp. hardback. ISBN #: 9780762782970.

Here is the account about Aurel Stein, the archaeologist, and his dog, Dash, and their astounding journey across what is known as the Silk Road, a journey traversing China, Tibet, India and more lands.  Funded by the British government, Stein's job was to look for valuable pieces that would add to Great Britain's museum collection; but Stein's interests lay in a different direction.  So he found no difficulty finding enough "gems," figuratively speaking to make his funders happy.  But the rest of the story is magical and adventurous, and Morgan & Walters leave no stone unturned (literally and figuratively) in describing the preparation, journey, and eventual findings that riveted Stein.  Indeed those discoveries are still touching the lives of millions of readers, explorers, adventurers, and tourists, professional and lay included.

The authors describe how Stein's first journeys to Central Asia led him to wonder where the first Buddhist writings could be found and how that religion was transformed as it began in India and evolved into its state in China.  As the journey across deserts and mountains was so vigorous and life-threatening, the authors describe how selective Stein was in choosing his aides.  Sometimes the decisions proved pivotal and once almost disastrous.  The descriptions are so vivid the reader can feel the storms, heat, brutal cold and other forces of nature such as avalanches that defy the imagination but which were survived by Stein and his team.

Stein first is entranced by the artifacts inside Lahore Museum, ancient Buddhist statues, amazingly with decidedly Western features. Then the murder of the Scottish adventurer, Andrew Dalgleish, makes Stein realize what treasures existed so that others would murder anyone seeking to find those treasures.  Soon the competition of others and the need for funding fueled his desire to get moving on this treasure hunt to the mysterious settlement of Loulan that another adventurer, Sven Hedin, had discovered in 1899. The Buddhist images and wooden documents, as well as a form of early paper kindled Stein's fascination and goals.

The book also describes the writings of Xuanzang who taught Buddhism and wrote about these teachings on scrolls, all based on his journeys to India.  This was the gold mine hidden in a cave which Stein was seeking and which he eventually found.

It is impossible to cover all the aspects of this topic for which Stein dedicated his life.  Every chapter of this momentous book is an adventure story that will rivet any reader, whether or not he or she has any interest in this subject. Indeed it reads like adventure fiction as well as historical fiction.  The scholarly reader will be as satisfied as well as the lay reader is with the depth and diverse approaches to this comprehensive subject.  Morgan & Walters have created a classic work of archaeological study that will be relished inside and outside the academic and archaeological world.  Superbly crafted, mesmerizing, and informative! A must read for those who love great books!

Monday, September 3, 2012

I'm Just Sayin'! by Kim Zimmer

I'm Just Sayin'!  Kim Zimmer.  Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated. August 2012. paperback. 320 pp. ISBN #: 9780451234902.

Kim Zimmer, famous star of Guiding Light, the well-known soap opera of afternoon television for decades, tells her engaging story as an actress.  Whether you are a die-hard fan of this eminent TV show or just interested in what makes actresses tick, this is a very readable and interesting look at the personal and professional life of an actress.  Sometimes actresses and their world get a bum rap, and this book is probably more about the norms of such a life than the seedy, outrageous reports that the media often choose to focus on! It's much more enjoyable herein!

Kim Zimmer describes how she was bitten by the "acting" bug at a very early age.  Her family always supported her, albeit somewhat worried about the erratic nature of the acting profession.  Her years in Chicago are carefully described, a choice of location that she deems truly shaped her skills as an actress in a more positive way than would have been possible in New York or Los Angeles.  During that time, she describes the famous actors and actresses she got to work with who helped shape and mentor her acting skills.  

First, after many, many jobs as an actress in plays, she landed a job with the TV show, The Doctors, which was short-lived but taught her that she could indeed do this type of work  Then we learn of her marriage to A. C. Weary, fellow actor, which led eventually to the birth of her three children.  A. C. is a stay-at-home Dad for quite a while in order to support Kim in her evolving career. Their deep love and respect for each other is obvious.  

Finally, Kim tracks the history, development and eventual demise of The Guiding Light, the show on which she spent so many years acting as the character Reva Shayne in multiple plots and counter-plots.  This is the most fascinating part of this memoir as Zimmer describes the role that actors, actresses, producers, directors, make-up artists, agents and more play in making a show run smoothly, addressing the needs of all.  It's also the world where the viewer or reader begins to see the role of advertisers and sponsors in not only financially supporting a show but in calling the shots in areas such as wardrobes, number of actors and actresses, and much more.

Even aside from the above synopsis, there is so much more in this funny, intimate, passionate, and dynamic memoir.  Kim Zimmer has penned a book that will do much for the profession of acting and opened a world to readers of all types, one that is guaranteed to rivet and perhaps even motivate readers galore!  Very, very nicely done, Kim Zimmer!

Rhythm of My Heart (Irish Pride Series) by Kemberlee Shortland

Rhythm of My Heart (Irish Pride Series). Kemberlee Shortland. Tirgearr Publishing. July 2012. 279 pages. E-book sold at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major E-Book Sellers.

Kieran Vaughan's tolerance has struck bottom.  His dreams of playing the "blues" before a larger, more appreciative audience has been reduced to playing in seedy pubs where the customers are so drunk they haven't a clue to what they're hearing.  Add to that he's been cheated out the money he has rightly earned by his thief of a boss, but continuing to play in the filthy dump where he works is better than being, as his boss puts it, on "the Dole." (Irish name for welfare) He wonders if he'd be better off going to America where he understands people really understand and love the type of music he so passionately embraces and shares! But his huge debt makes even that a far distant dream!  Depressing enough?  Kieran's luck may be about to change in a totally unexpected way!

Eilis Kennedy is in a similar situation.  She's a gal who has an amazingly beautiful voice but she gave that up so that she could begin a hopefully more lucrative career as a a finder of new talent.  Find the greatest singers and offer them a record contract!  Sounds like a dream, right?  It's not so for Eilis as she's also had an unfortunate history with a lover and is besieged by Fergus, a man whose style alternates from brutally bossy to being a suave sexual harassment poster boy! Eilis is totally repulsed and frightened by him.  For reasons that emerge later in the story, however, Eilis has the ego of a flea and just can't seem to escape her own circumstances, believing she's totally untalented and would do worse in whatever place she would escape to!

Then one night, she travels to "The Little Man Pub" in Northside Dublin and is completely besotted by this gorgeous hunk of a guy who croons out the blues in a style Eilis knows could make him a star for sure.  Their contact is both frustrated by the tense sexual electricity stunning both of them and a bit of caustic banter coming from the cynical side of both who seek to protect their egos from  more battering!  However, the fire has been kindled and will not be put out! 

Onward this sexy, spark-laden story progresses.  Fergus becomes even more angry when he learns Eilis is attracted to Kieran in more than a professional manner and so becomes even more aggressive.  Kieran and Eilis begin to play a cat and mouse game leading them to an ultimately very passionate union eventually but with plenty of conflicts between each scene, ranging from fighting, threats, physical illness, violence and more!

Rhythm of My Heart is a romance story told in a tense, pumped-up, passionate way by someone who knows exactly how to balance the tension of characters falling desperately for each other but riddled with self-doubt and manipulation by other predatory creeps!  Very, very nicely done, Kemberlee Shortland!!!