Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book with a View August 2011

Book Title: The Pineville Heist
Author: Lee Chambers
Reviewer: Dana Micheli

In Pineville, Nothing Is As It Seems...

Lee Chambers' novel The Pineville Heist (based on his award-winning screenplay of the same name) may have been intended as a teen thriller, but anyone who reads it--regardless of their age--will find it impossible to put down. I know I did, and I absolutely loved it.

Seventeen-year-old Aaron Stevens has everything a kid could want. As the son of wealthy mill owner Derek Stevens, he lives in a luxurious mansion, surrounded by hi-tech toys and a designer wardrobe that most people only dream about.

But underneath this idyllic surface, Aaron's life is anything but perfect. He's lost his mother to cancer, and his relationship with his workaholic father is turbulent, to say the least. To make matters worse, the Recession has taken its toll on the small town of Pineville. Businesses are closing, people are losing their homes, and they've begun to look upon Aaron's father—and Aaron--with a combination of jealousy and distrust. Aaron's wealth has begun to feel like a prison, and his father, a warden. He finds solace only when he is rehearsing for his lead role in the school production of Hamlet, or when he is walking in the woods on the outskirts of town.

One day, after a particularly nasty fight with his father, Aaron is hiking among the trees when he discovers a mysterious white van with two security guard uniforms and two Halloween masks on the seat. He wants to investigate further, but he's late for play practice and continues to school. It is only after he overhears the sheriff talking about a $5 million heist at Pineville Savings and Loan that he realizes he has found the crooks' getaway vehicle. Along with his two friends, Mike and Steven, Aaron returns to the forest. But when they get there, the van is gone, along with any proof of Aaron's story. The boys are about to leave when they stumble upon the robbers' hideout and are pulled into a web of violence, intrigue and murder that threatens everything that Aaron holds dear.

As he races to uncover the truth about the robbery, Aaron is faced with the realization that everything he had believed about his life, his town, and those closest to him may be a lie. For every layer he peels back reveals yet another secret, and Chambers' tight prose promises—and delivers-- a hairpin turn with every page.

Learn more about Chambers' work at http://leechambers.com/

Purchase for Kindle Reader only 99¢.

Title: L.A. Blues
Author: Maxine Thompson
ISBN: 978-1601623072
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011
Reviewer: Yvonne Perry

Healing the Racial Divide

Nine-year-old Black/Spanish Zipporah Saldano (a.k.a. "Z") made a panicked phone call to her father, who lived across town, to let him know that her mother, Venita, was being beaten by her latest live-in boyfriend. That phone call changed Z's life forever. Even though Z was sent to live in a loving, foster home, she blamed herself for getting her father killed, having her pregnant mother put in jail, and sending her siblings into multiple foster homes. She turns to alcohol to cover the pain she refuses to feel.

Z decides to become a cop and join the LAPD, hoping to stop some of the gang violence she and her people have seen way too much of. Her time on the force is cut short when her drinking problem causes her to be fired after her partner is killed. Her downward spiral lands her at rock bottom where she has no choice but to deal with the pain that is destroying her life. She joins AA and finally begins sorting through the years of emotional agony she has buried within her heart.

This story takes the reader deep inside the home and hearts of Z's infertile foster parents, Daddy Chill and Shirley, who love all their foster children unconditionally. Even after Z and her foster siblings reach adulthood, Shirley continues to provide emotional support during the hardships this bunch experiences quite often. Shirley even takes in the children of her drug-addicted foster child, Chica, and raises them as if they are her own grandkids.

When death hits close to home and nearly devastates the entire family, Z, who has become a private detective, begins her search for their loved one's killer. That search turns up more answers and secrets than she ever anticipated finding. I'm thankful for a happy ending to this tragic story that caused tears of compassion to well up in my eyes as I read.

The storytelling skills of this author are great. The story is told in first person. While I was a bit puzzled by the narrator's shift from present to past tense (sometimes in the same sentence), I must admit it helped define the protagonist's character. I finished the book in one weekend even while tending to my young grandsons because I couldn't put the book down. I had fallen in love with the characters and had to see what was going to happen next. The pace of the story is perfect.

Knowing that inner healing can change an entire culture—and ultimately our world—I recommend this well-researched book to all races because it gives hope that our Black and Latino brothers and sisters can take responsibility for their choices and find peace within themselves. There is no place love cannot reach!

Title: Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road
Author: Neil Peart
ISBN: 1-55022-546-4 (cloth) 1-55022-548-0 (paper)
Publisher: ECW Press
Reviewer: Tracey L. Brackett

At the tender age of sixteen I was introduced to a band called Rush. The Canadian trio filled my ears as well as my soul and to this day Rush still rocks my world.

Unfortunately, after the tour to support their album, Test for Echo, ended on July 4, 1997, the band disappeared. Rumors spread that one of the trio had cancer while others heard they simply broke up.

In 2002 the explanation about the band's hiatus was finally revealed to the world and the truth was exposed. Neil Peart, Rush's King of Kings drummers, lost his nineteen-year-old daughter to a car accident on August 10, 1997 and his common-law wife went into a deep depression and died of cancer ten months later.

So, on a rainy, late summer morning on August 20, 1998, just two months after his wife's funeral, without any reason to carry on and having no interests in his work or his life, the drummer of drummers secured his home, revved up his BMW R1100GS motorcycle and rode down the driveway of what used to be a happy home. He didn't know where he was going, but he would let his bike lead the way.

For fourteen months, Neil ventured 55,000 miles of highways and byways from eastern Canada to the American west coast and Mexico. All the while, keeping a journal of everything he experienced.

When he finally placed the kickstand down on his bike in early autumn of 1999, he began piecing together the notes from his journal and titled the book to describe how he felt about himself. Thus, Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road was born.

This book will warm the hearts of Neil's long-time fans as well as anyone who wants to read a sad, yet uplifting story. While Neil details out the events of his travel, he sprinkles in the memories of his once-happy life. By the time you finish the book, the entire picture is before you—and you understand.

Neil divides his piece into two books: Book One is titled Riding the Healing Road, which specifically records every rain drop and winding turn he experiences on his journey. Book Two Homeward Angel, On The Fly is peppered with his reflection and his determination to look and move forward.

The author brings humor and intimacies into the book and allows the reader to watch the dissection of his spirit, his mind, heart, and his "little baby soul." Neil introduces us to his best friend, Brutus, and his alter ego, Ellwood, which is actually his middle name. We also become acquainted with Carrie Nuttall, the woman who was ". . . the answer to a prayer I hadn't dared to voice, or even dream" and on September 9, 2000 became his wife.

The only frustration I had with the book is the amount of ad nauseam and unnecessary detail. I found myself many times in frustration screaming "GET ON WITH IT" and would rifle through pages of description-overkill of a rock or how the wine tasted on his tongue.

Many words the author uses such as nadir, majordomo, euphoniously, gelid, and vicissitudes were so unfamiliar to me that I found myself looking to Webster for clarification. The extremity of pointless detail became so exhausting that it took me quite a while to get through the book. I found his writing style arrogant and vain.

I've labeled Neil a narcissistic wordsmith as I now realize how much he loves his words. It is very clear to me after reading this book and listening to his lyrics for the past thirty years that he wants his readers and listeners to know just how much he loves his words and how well he can put a plethora of complicated words together to invoke a simple meaning.

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, although frustrating and sometimes exhausting, is a must read for any Rush fan, rocker, or those who like a complicated read with a good ending. Delightful and fun, yet heartbreaking, this book will not only give you a new outlook on life, but will motivate you to buy a motorcycle and "Take off to the Great White North."

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