Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Book with a View January 2009

Tuey’s Course
Author: James Ross
Publisher: Xlibris (2008)
ISBN: 978-1-4363-8994-5
Pages: 285
Reviewer: Barbara Milbourn for WITS

From the first book in the Prairie Winds series, Lifetime Loser, author James Ross shows his penchant for exposing the bad guys—those unscrupulous and unsavory among us in the fields of real estate, law, accounting, and governance who play dirty politics and prey upon the well-intended but not-overly-astute average Joe. In Tuey’s Course, Ross ratchets up the heat and widens the gap between the haves and have-nots, shining a glaring light on a wider-than-you’d imagine ring of greed, power, and hypocrisy in white America.

Twenty new characters combine with several we already know in an intertwined series of quick-moving and interesting plots and schemes, some of which come to bear heavily on the shoulders of protagonist WeWildapheet Ulysees O’Tweety (Tuey).

Tuey is an excavator married to his high school sweetheart (LaVournique) for nearly twenty years and living, as he would say, among his own kind on the edge of town. His gapped-toothed constant smile, poor black man’s dialect, and innocence have us sympathetic as he struggles under a mountain of injustice bestowed on him by a host of animal look-alikes at city hall.

The government’s incessant message that his business isn’t welcome in their town presses down on him and strains his marriage, but when Tuey tries to make things right he becomes further alienated by the city and victimized by bank president Harold Syms. Syms is portrayed as a sly fox who has numerous people in his pocket and skillfully beguiles them to join him in using other people’s money to increase his and their personal wealth. One of Syms’ deals is with a local farmer/landowner who decides to sell the family’s land adjacent to the golf course for development. Syms stands to exact a hefty profit for himself, of course. In exchange for a necessary easement through Prairie Winds Golf Course, J Dub and Curt, who have met Tuey and understand his plight, insist that Tuey be awarded the job of running a long sewer line for the project. This brings Tuey into the fold of the colorful Prairie Winds family.

Much of the time we’re back in the company of the regulars—in and out of casinos, the clubhouse, and the golf course—and enjoying their antics. Is it my imagination, or is Ross hinting that there might be a somewhat rotten apple in the barrel?

Tuey’s Course happens to overlap with Finish Line at the time Curt is battling cancer. A knock-out, athletic govie-gal who can play the game catches Curt’s eye and brightens his world at the same time that weather set-backs, equipment breakdowns, mounting friction at city hall and at home have Tuey crying for help and relief. He turns to religion in a church in his neighborhood where congregants pray for him and believe there are mighty lessons to be learned from the animal kingdom. He turns to the regulars at Prairie Winds, including Puddles who leads him to a cave. Here is where Ross flexes his fictional muscle. The reader is uncertain whether they are in a dream or real time, but the plot sorts itself out and the book comes to a surprising and quite climatic ending.

Ross’s writing shows an increasing level of skill that includes the simultaneous climax toward the end of the book, a lot of satire, and fantasy—something new for him. Knowing Ross, he’s dropped a few crumbs along the trail that we might expect to surface in some future tale. I’d bet there will be more about the human tooth from Lifetime Loser, certainly some further romantic development with Curt, and I wonder if something might be lurking about the GPS killer.

A word about the new characters: some are caricature-like and compared directly to animals for reasons which become obvious, and others are so rife with stereotype that at times you think the author is kidding until you realize he expects you to say “typical.” He is certain that we all have noticed these characters around us, we’ve all formed opinions, and in most cases, we’ve mostly turned a blind eye and gone on with our own business as usual.

I’ve read and enjoyed all three of Ross’s books so far. This past weekend I was far from home driving through the St. Louis area when I caught myself looking to the right and left for signs of Prairie Winds and lime green skull caps.

Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers
Edited by Irene Watson, Tyler R. Tichelaar, Victor R. Volkman
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690989
Reviewed by Vicki Landes for Reader Views (11/08)

Not too long ago, the only way to obtain the coveted title of ‘author’ was to sign with a traditional publishing company…and that was only for the extremely lucky ones. The hopeful author spent a great deal of time writing query letters, contacting agents and editors, nervously waiting for replies, and knowing there are many more ‘no thanks’ in this business than ‘welcome to the team.’ With the advent of self-publishing, the industry has literally exploded with hundreds of thousands of books on every imaginable subject. But when everyone from your grandma to your neighbor’s cat has the ability to publish a book, what can you do to ensure yours stands out above the rest? Editors Irene Watson, Tyler R. Tichelaar, and Victor R. Volkman believe they have the answers.

“Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers” is a compilation of podcast interviews of award-winning authors, editors, publishers, publicists, business owners, consultants, freelance writers, and book reviewers. Within 200+ pages, they guide the prospective writer through many of the obstacles faced and common mistakes made in DIY publishing while making certain the finished product is as marketable as those published by established publishing companies. Further, and as many new authors come to realize, there is just as much work after your book has been published. “Authors Access” continues to provide sound information on promotion, obtaining book reviews, hiring a publicist, and making the most of today’s technological advances.

With an already innumerable amount of publishing how-to books on the market today, what makes “Authors Access” so special? Consider this: most of these types of books are written by one, sometimes two or even a small group of experts in a specific field of the greater publishing world. This person, whether a published author, editor, or agent has extensive experience doing whatever it is that they do best. However, their how-to books are limited to their road to victory. Want a second opinion on how to be a publishing success? Read another book…and another and another. With “Author Access,” you have the advice, the techniques, and the proven track record of many professionals from all aspects of the business…and in one concise book. Additionally, there is a natural flow to the book; organized and edited in such a way that there is seamless cohesion despite the number of different ‘expert voices’ sounding out.

Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers is a must-read for any first time writer or self-published author looking to improve their skills. As a self-published author myself, I’ve got lists of ‘mistakes made’ and ‘lessons learned’ from my experience. As I read Authors Access I kept finding myself saying, “Oh, great idea!” or “I wish I’d thought of that before.” My lists are now being supplemented with “here’s what to do next time.” There’s a wealth of information in these pages; enough to keep you motivated and on the right track without bogging you down in ‘information overload.

Although self-publishing has allowed many writers to fulfill their dreams, it has also inundated the industry with books considered substandard and unmarketable to traditional publishers. Many wide-eyed, naïve authors have taken advantage of the opportunity to self-publish and their efforts have turned into an expensive disappointment. Within “Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers,” you’ve got experts and their invaluable knowledge at your disposal. Editors Irene Watson, Tyler R. Tichelaar, and Victor R. Volkman do have the answers!

The Last Cowboy
Daniel Uebbing
Robert D. Reed (2008)
ISBN 9781934759134
Reviewed by Danelle Drake for Reader Views (10/08)

With eager anticipation I opened the book and was consumed from beginning to end. “Hey, baby, this is America. It’s a free country.” Even for those who would never admit it, everyone (both men and women) loves a cowboy. Bringing up visions of the sweat-covered hottie out on the tractor or the Wrangler-clad bull rider on television, the cowboy is the all-American fantasy.
Henry Dunn, “The Last Cowboy,” reads like a crazy man. He puts the best of them to shame. Beginning with a duel where both participants, he and the sheriff, were both barely able to stand, much less shoot, Henry starts a killing spree which really never ends. Rarely showing any heart, Henry is a cold, cold, uncaring man. He is consumed by the fact he wants to return to his girlfriend in Kansas. None-the-less he relieves his stress by bedding prostitutes whenever available. One encounter left him with more than he bargained for; killed the mother and now caring for the child. The Kid, barely a toddler, learns the ropes quickly and almost instantly becomes the cowboy’s partner in crime.

Both serious and down-right hysterical at the same time, this book is worth the read. From dance class to tae kwon do, I carried the book around for days while my daughters attended classes. When asked what I was reading, I would giggle and say, “I am reading ‘The Last Cowboy’ a book about a drunken cowboy that could have been written by a drunken cowboy.”

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