A Book From Every State In the Union

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Reading a book set in the place you hail from can bring about a feeling of warm nostalgia as you recognise the places of your youth as you read it; it can also remind you of why you left there in the first place, and squash any ideas you may have for returning.

To round out this Thanksgiving week, here is a selection of famous books from each state.  Is your favourite among them, or is there something you think is worth reading but not listed?  If there is, please let me know as in 2014 I aim to read and review a book from each of the States (and maybe continents too), and would love some recommendations.  I hasten to add that none of the books listed here will be included in my quest.

books in set each state

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Black Friday, the Shopping Poem ~ John F. McCullagh

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The people crowd the entrances
at Malls all over town.
To seize the choicest bargain deals,
They’d gladly knock you down.
The retailers all hold their breath
as shopping gets in gear.
Will Santa fill his sleigh as hoped?
-or lay off more Reindeer?
There are plastic toys from China
colored with suspicious paint.
Whip out your last credit card
(-when you see the bills, you’ll faint.)
“The children must have Christmas! ”
No request will be denied.
Never mind your youngest child
has just turned thirty five.
Don’t forget a gift for you
Don’t you deserve the best?
Shopping is such good therapy
for the financially depressed.

John F. McCullagh

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy-Thanksgiving

Review: The Color of Night ~ Jack Thomas

color of nightThey’re no more than a few acres across, with streets and buildings on every side–yet Patrick Reed is inexplicably drawn to the woods behind his house. What he finds amongst those trees in the scarce light of the moon is an ancient power that is both wonderful and terrifying. He embraces this power at first… but when odd things begin to happen in Hillward, he’s the only one who can protect the little town from the darkness that lingers there. Now, while avoiding the attention of his concerned parents and maintaining a budding friendship with a special classmate, Patrick must use his new-found power to uncover the mystery of the beckoning crow before the whole town is engulfed in shadow…

3 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel from this Author, and provides a new and interesting twist on the usual fare produced for the YA paranormal fiction genre.

The characters are well written and developed, which makes them the kind of people the reader can easily identify with and want to stand behind through thick and thin.  Despite the slew of characters in this novel, at no time does the reader feel like there are too many to keep track of, although the sudden change from first to third person narrative at the beginning of the book may have some confused; I know it took me a few pages to get back on track when the change occurred.  There is some romance in this novel, a fact I was not aware of when reading the synopsis, but it is written in such a way that the characters involved are not being portrayed as overly ‘hot and heavy’, which I found to be a nice change from some YA budding romance scenes.  Because of the Authors treatment of the romantic portions of their novel, a trait of the main protagonist shines through where otherwise it may not have surfaced at all; that trait is one of purity, and to see what I mean by this exactly, you would have to read the book.

Set in a small town, the Author does a great job of capturing the essence of such a place and its heart too, while managing to weave in enough intrigue to keep the reader turning the pages until the end.  It is obvious from the way in which this novel is written that the Author has a definite end destination in mind for the reader, and it is apparent from the way the storyline progresses they know exactly how to lead the reader to that point.

Written in a crisp manner, with plenty to keep the reader turning the pages, I would recommend this book to all lovers of YA fiction.

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Review: Crossings (The Harry Reese Mysteries #2) ~ Robert Bruce Stewart

CrossingsPart mystery, part parody, Crossings is the second novel in the Harry Reese Mystery series. It’s the spring of 1901, a time when Brooklyn’s own corrupt political machine, Willoughby Street, is more than a match for Manhattan’s Tammany Hall. Harry is seeking a link between the apparent suicide of an insurance agent and the untimely deaths of two of his clients. To solve the case, he must visit gambling parlors, vice dens and, finally, New Jersey, while corrupt cops, opportunistic con men and often his own wife do what they can to mislead him.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is the second offering in the Harry Reese Mysteries series and, after reading and reviewing the third book in this series I decided to backtrack to the second.

Everything that made the characters so appealing and likeable in Kalorama Shakedown is here in this novel which makes this yet another enjoyable standalone read, as well as an equally well written part of a series. The characters are still portrayed as normal people, and I feel it is this trait that the Author manages to consistently instil in them that makes the reader root for them at every turn of the page. The Author gives all his characters witty dialogue, and places them in the kind of humourous situations that some readers may, in some way relate to and others wish they could be a part of.

Once again the locations are soberly descriptive and give an interesting insight to the reader of life in this era, the early 1900’s.  I would not say the people living in this time were naive, as things seemed to be more simple back then, but at times the Author verges on point the point of making these people seem a little slow, before realising their error and moving on in the novel.

A lot less hectic than the third book the series, there is still a great deal going on within its pages; travelling, fun and death.  This makes this book another good mystery with an unexpected ending.  I feel this series of books sits firmly in the cozy mystery genre, and would highly recommend it to lovers of this genre as well as those who enjoy an entertaining read.

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Review: The Keep (The Adversary Cycle #1) ~ F. Paul Wilson

The Keep“Something is murdering my men.”

Thus reads the message received from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle high in the remote Transylvanian Alps. Invisible and silent, the enemy selects one victim per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims.

When an elite SS extermination squad is dispatched to solve the problem, the men find something that’s both powerful and terrifying. Panicked, the Nazis bring in a local expert on folklore–who just happens to be Jewish–to shed some light on the mysterious happenings. And unbeknownst to anyone, there is another visitor on his way–a man who awoke from a nightmare and immediately set out to meet his destiny.

The battle has begun: On one side, the ultimate evil created by man, and on the other…the unthinkable, unstoppable, unknowing terror that man has inevitably awakened.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is an unusual book for three reasons; it is the first book in The Adversary Cycle, which is also part of a bigger series of books by this Author called The Secret History of the World, it is also a very good standalone read if you don’t want to find yourself tied to yet another collection.

As much I loved this book I did feel that so much more could have been done with the character development of, what I feel were the three major players in this book.  However, having said that, it could easily be argued that there are no main protagonists in this read at all as there are so many characters that are woven into this novels pages, and they are written in such a manner that they interact with each other flawlessly.  From a standalone read viewpoint this lack of development may mar some readers enjoyment of the book and leave it lacking in their opinion, but for me I didn’t mind at all and it made me wonder if, as part of not one but two series, if these characters would be revisited and explained a little more in-depth.  I wanted to know more about the mysterious red-haired man, and why the female protagonist dressed the way she did, but I didn’t find it in the pages of this instalment.  The ‘evil’ in the novel is well written, both the seen and unseen coming off the page and hitting the reader right between the eyes, and at times making it even harder to put this book down.

Despite the lack of character development, this is really a gripping and page turning read.  The Author skilfully depicts the location filling each page with menace and dread to the point where the reader begins to feel a chill in the bones.  It is not the usual run of the mill horror/supernatural story, and the only thing that sparkles in this book is the reflection of the sun off the river.  As the storyline progresses the Author makes the reader feel as if they know the kind of evil that the characters are dealing with, even throwing in some references to bygone images of the vampire; but are we really reading about a vampire, or is it just an impression the reader is given because it is easier for them to visualise this kind of creature?

My real complaint about this book was that midway through all the gore and violence, the Author suddenly decided to throw into the mix an unnecessary, in my opinion, sexual liaison between two of the characters.  Although it didn’t take anything away from the book, it certainly didn’t add any new dimension or understanding to it either, and it made me feel as if the Author had reached some kind of block, and needed something to squeeze into this space until their creative juices started flowing again.  The relationship could have been expressed in a lot more subtle and tension ladened way, given the circumstances and time the novel was set in, with no real need to resort to the easy out of ‘let’s throw them between the sheets’.  I really enjoyed the thought-provoking pages when the ‘cross’ is discussed as it made me think more about the power we let objects have over us, and I do enjoy books that make me think.

If you are looking for sparkly vampires, fluffy werewolves and a neat and tidy stake through the heart ending to make you feel good, this novel is not for you at all.  However if you enjoy reading something that makes you think outside the box, and will keep you captivated well beyond bedtime, pick this up and give it a read.  I would highly recommend this novel to lovers of the non-fluffy horror and supernatural genre, and I will most definitely be reading more by this Author.

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Holiday Week Announcement

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As we roll towards the annual turkey feast, I would just like to let you know that there will only be a couple of book reviews this week.  Like the rest of you I will be spending time enjoying the company of Family and all that entails.  I’m also going to take time this week to start prepping the donations for the Veterans Home, which I will be delivering on December 20th; anyone who wants to donate print copies of books still has time, just head over to the Big Heart Project page for details.

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