Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: Showdown at Shinagawa

Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to BrazilShowdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil by Bill Zarchy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There actually was a showdown at Shinagawa, detailed in the first chapter, but many more stories unfold as noted photographer, cinematographer and blogger Bill Zarchy delves into tales of global escapades while shooting documentary footage for corporate clients. At least mostly documentary footage for corporate clients, one of the best accounts describes a doomed sci-fi thriller that was supposed to be his big break. Each chapter tells a different story of shooting on various projects, and they all offer a snapshot of what that particular film was like. He also helpfully offers links to some of the footage, which I think is a great way to deliver an additional punch to a great description.

Zarchy writes in a laconic but engaging style, and doesn’t shy away from poking fun at himself - especially his height in some of the Asian communities - or describing his reactions to touching scenes where he is filming the effect of medical technologies in poor communities. Particularly since some of his stories go back a couple of decades, it’s interesting to hear accounts of global faxing and checking for hair in the camera equipment. If you have ever wondered what a globe-trotting cameraman life looks like Zarchy gives you great insight, and seems like a guy who would probably offer you a few pointers too, if you asked.


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Please note, while there may be affiliate links or payment for reviews, all opinions are my own. You can't buy a good review from me, people. I am way too mouthy for that.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: The Pa-la-ti-shan


Follow a young idealist, Bernie Green, through the intrigue, backstabbing, secret-keeping world of Pennsylvania Democratic politics as he starts out as an Iraq war vet working as a “Constituent Service Representative” to foul-mouthed Gov. Slattery as he is somehow talked into running for state representative by the Governor, who just knows he’d be perfect for the job. His life seems to be falling into place - he wins the race, marries the woman of his dreams and gets a posh job at a prestigious law firm (state rep is only a part time gig, you know.) However he has a penchant for making enemies quickly thanks to his refusal to compromise on certain issues, and he manages to make those enemies right off the bat, within 10 minutes of meeting powerful NRA lobbyist Bob Worthington. All of a sudden he is embroiled in a number of scandals, and his past, as well as his wife’s, is coming back to haunt him. He’s pretty sure Worthington is behind it, but can’t figure out how.


This was a great political novel, although I have my doubts as to how many state reps are pushed into office and retain their ideals as Green did. The novel had short chapters and a lot of characters, but it did come together nicely in the end. My one complaint was the punctuation was a little lax, unless the lack of the Oxford comma was intentional, in which case I’m seriously annoyed. But it was a good read, especially if you have always wondered what goes on behind closed doors at the local level.  

Please note, while there may be affiliate links or payment for reviews, all opinions are my own. You can't buy a good review from me, people. I am way too mouthy for that.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Review: An Enigmatic Escape

An Enigmatic Escape: A TrilogyAn Enigmatic Escape: A Trilogy by Dan Groat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An Enigmatic Escape is actually three stories that intertwine into one tale of the three Blaylock brothers, who come from a less than ideal family life, and how they conquer their past - or don’t. From the very first story, Groat engrosses you with his description of a descent into madness and leaves you wondering exactly where that came from. You vaguely figure it out in snippets revealed in the subsequent stories, but as with most stories it’s the journey that will stick with you more than the destination.

I found it interesting that all three stories were told from “outsiders” perspective but still weave you into the story of the Blaylock brothers more so than that of the actual story teller. All in all the writing was superb, and being a Missouri girl myself I was thrilled to read bits of the Midwest entwined in the descriptive narrative. I look forward to a full length novel from Groat, as I figure if his shorter stories are so engaging a full length book would be impossible to put down!


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Please note, while there may be affiliate links or payment for reviews, all opinions are my own. You can't buy a good review from me, people. I am way too mouthy for that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Review: Daisy Chain

Daisy ChainDaisy Chain by Nancy Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when you challenge yourself to write a story based on the last line of the story you just wrote? What if you kept that up for 10 stories? Author Nancy Morgan has done just that with Daisy Chain. While some of the stories have similar elements, none of the stories are related to each other. Characters come in the form of a woman slowly losing herself, a man mourning the death of his best friend, a gambler who may be willing to part with her youth, a middle aged woman desperate for a baby, and woman recovering from a brain injury, among others.

I love academic challenges like this, and I like them even better when they are good enough to publish, and Morgan’s certainly is. While she has a distinct writing style, all of the stories are independent and hold their own as short stories - although I think some could easily be turned into novellas or even full novels. There is a spiritual element to many, and I like the unknown playing a part in the stories. I’m also impressed that she fleshed out full characters in such a short word count, and didn’t rely on an ensemble to get her point across. Interesting challenge, I hope she comes up with more ways to challenge herself and publishes them.


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Please note, while there may be affiliate links or payment for reviews, all opinions are my own. You can't buy a good review from me, people. I am way too mouthy for that.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Review: Spartanica

SpartanicaSpartanica by Powers Molinar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A young adult novel full of fantasy, Spartanica is the first in a series that follows brothers Ty and Marcus as they find themselves transported from their average suburban Chicago home to another dimension. While there they discover a decimated world that may offer clues to some parts of their past and help rescue a group of children attempting to escape captors, with the help of some of the local creatures.

Spartanica is a great read, even for adults, and I think it provides an intriguing series to hook readers during middle school. There is a lot of fantasy, including super powers, an arrival to an apocalyptic landscape to navigate, anthropomorphic creatures, a hostile takeover and fantastic technology. Tweens will easily be able to put themselves in the position of Ty or Marcus, and I think that they will clamor for more in the series. Author Powers Molinar provides clear, concise writing that is quite engaging without falling into the trap of dumbing down his audience. I look forward to reading more in the series!


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Please note, while there may be affiliate links or payment for reviews, all opinions are my own. You can't buy a good review from me, people. I am way too mouthy for that.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: RSD in Me!

RSD in Me! (A Patient And Caretaker Guide To Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy And Other Chronic Pain Conditions)RSD in Me! by Barby Ingle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never heard of RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) before I read this book, although I have friends with Fibromyalgia, which sounds similar as far as managing constant pain and coming up with strategies to manage daily life with a chronic condition. RSD is a chronic pain condition generally brought on by trauma or injury, and is characterized by a burning sensation in various parts of the sympathetic nervous system.

As a social worker I really appreciate the general tone of this book of being your own advocate and being hopeful about a positive outcome. One of the main things I do is help clients taking control of their future and advocating for their own needs and future, and author Barby Ingle-Taylor does an excellent job of encouraging chronic pain patients to effectively navigate the stages of grief while maintaining a positive outlook on life. She advocates using faith, psychotherapy and associated techniques, and a support network of family and friends to work with you through even the darkest of times. Not only that, she provides practical advice on dealing with the financial issues, medical insurance, government assistance and many more general life tips. I love that she empowers those with disabilities to regard their life as important, meaningful and fulfilling. I hope to see more from her about chronic pain management, particularly with “alternative” therapies that may provide relief.

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Please note, while there may be affiliate links or payment for reviews, all opinions are my own. You can't buy a good review from me, people. I am way too mouthy for that.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review: Heist School Freshment

Heist School FreshmenHeist School Freshmen by Alan Gallauresi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a teenage brother, and Heist School Freshmen sounds like it was written by him. This is a good thing, in this case, as the story is about teenage boys who band together, led by their intrepid leader Angelo Bastillo - who now goes by Angel because it just sounds way cooler - to attempt a treasure hunt of epic proportions in their very average high school. It also meant I understood a lot of the lingo and text speak, which is very encouraging for an otherwise uncool older sister like me.

I really enjoyed the story, and I think the series has potential. The character development was detailed and largely accurate for modern teenagers. I am also a big fan of anything that gets boys to read, and I really think that this story would be great particularly for middle schoolers. It has suspense, teenage “romance,” a lot of comic interludes and even a little SAT prep thrown in, all narrated by Angelo. I would recommend this for parents looking for books to interest tween/early teens and look forward to the rest of the series being just as intriguing.


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Please note, while there may be affiliate links or payment for reviews, all opinions are my own. You can't buy a good review from me, people. I am way too mouthy for that.