Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451FAHRENHEIT 451 By Ray Bradbury

Simon & Schuster, Reissue edition (Jan 10, 2012)

Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future.

Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.

Remember this one? Yeah, it’s an oldie, published in 1953 but this is a classic. It impacted my youth instilling in me a horror that no movie could come close to – the burning of books.

I especially enjoyed the supplemental material at the end of the book where Bradbury talks about writing this novel in the public library paying .10 a half hour for the use of a typewriter. A book about burning books was very appropriately written in a library. Bradbury jokes about writing “a dime novel.” Another thing I learned was the publisher sent out 6,000 copies for reviews. Whew!

For a worthy use of time, treat yourself to a classic and don’t skip the articles that follow. It gave me chills because of how much our society has veered in the direction of mindless gratification (OMG not one more reality show!) instead of intellectual stimulation.

Reviewed by Donna for the February 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Review: THE MARKED SON by Shea Berkley

The Marked SonTHE MARKED SON – Keepers of Life by Shea Berkley

Entangled Publishing ~ August 2012 ~ 5 Stars

The son of a teen mom, Dylan Kennedy seems like he’s 17 going on 40, especially when she takes him to “visit” his unknown grandparents, unknown to him, and then abandons him with these strangers. It isn’t the first time that his mother has disappointed him, but Dylan along with the reader hopes it will be the last. His grandmother always hopes for the best, even when the worst confronts her. His grandfather is much more realistic, although he’s brought the Vietnam War home with him and sees danger in the shadows. He’s ready to deal with any threat and now he has Dylan for back-up.

Meantime Dylan has his own shadows to face. He discovers that he’s developed a strange reaction to “iron” when his grandmother wants him to hang up a skillet for her and the pan burns his hand. Okay, it’s a bit tricky to show someone that he may have hidden depths and this was an intriguing start to what he will learn about himself. While he and his grandparents wonder about his father, Dylan has a new concern. What is wrong with him? Why can he see strange shapes in the forest that no one else does?

And then there’s this girl who appears, disappears and reappears. He’s seen her before in his dreams, but now she’s become real. When they finally meet, she shares that he’s in danger. He’s from her world, but somehow he’s trapped on this mortal plane. And he has more magical powers than most wizards. Yet if he returns with her, he’ll be killed. Of course, she’s also being forced to marry Navar, an evil sorcerer so what’s a guy to do? For Dylan, it’s not a contest. He’ll follow her home and save her from the proverbial fate worse than death. Of course, along the way he’ll also have to save the endangered kingdom.

Dylan and Kera are brave, intelligent and definitely heroic with the youthful certainty that nothing “bad” can truly happen to them although they have seen and survived death and destruction. Both are wounded characters with a great deal of baggage. Dylan’s mother didn’t do right by him and he raised himself. Meanwhile, Kera’s widowed father didn’t do much better – he is the typical “go along to get along” guy which is why he won’t refuse the sorcerer who wants her. This means that Dylan and Kera have learned to face evil and depend only on themselves. Can they bond together and overcome their adversaries? Or will they always be uncertain allies?

While there are two other books in the trilogy from Entangled, it’s best to start at the beginning or the rest of the stories simply won’t make sense. They pick up where The Marked Son ends and continue the saga. Dylan and Kera are immensely likeable for all their naiveté. They were consistent and determined to find justice for others as well as themselves. Navar seemed a bit one-dimensional and could have used more depth. Sometimes, it seemed as if he should twirl his mustache like the bad guy in an old-time melodrama – and he could have used a few more minions. Overall, this was an interesting, entertaining read, a worthy introduction to the rest of the trilogy and I can’t wait to see what happens next to Dylan and Kera.

Review: ONE SECOND AFTER

One Second AfterONE SECOND AFTER By William R. Forstchen

Forge Books, Reprint edition (April 26, 2011) Apocalyptic thriller

New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real…a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages…A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.

Months before publication, One Second After has already been cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read, a book already being discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at a weapon and its awesome power to destroy the entire United States, literally within one second. It is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warns could shatter America. In the tradition of On the Beach, Fail Safe and Testament, this book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future…and our end.

Recommended to me by a friend I dived into a world that could happen any second now. This is not an easy book to read but once you start you can’t put it down.

Forstchen’s use of the overwhelming about of research he had to do for this novel is excellent. The story ebbs and flows into every area of life from what happens in a care facility when everything shuts down to the agony of a pharmacist when knows she only has enough meds for the town for a fews days. Who gets them…and who doesn’t.

This book will keep you up at night. It will break your heart and it’s a book I firmly believe everyone should read because any second now it could happen.

Review: DEAD RINGER

Dead RingerDEAD RINGER by V.B. Tenery

Pelican Ventures Book Group – Harbourlight Books (May 8, 2014) Contemporary Suspense with Romantic Elements

V.B. Tenery manages several themes in Dead Ringer—family bonds, trust, and deception—and handles each theme with style.

Mercy Lawrence is a dead ringer for wife and mother, Traci Wallace, who walked out on her family. Mercy’s nightmare begins when Traci’s husband, Thomas Wallace, kidnaps Mercy and takes her to his private island. Mercy is thrown into the role of mother to Thomas’ six-year-old son who is recovering from heart surgery.

Thomas Wallace would do anything to speed up his son’s recovery including dragging his estranged wife back to the island. When Thomas is called away to complete a CIA mission, Mercy is left on the island where she soon finds out Traci has dangerous enemies who want her dead.

V.B. Tenery captured my attention from the first chapter and held me spellbound throughout the book. Tenery shines in her ability to intertwine several sub-plots with the main plot and give the reader a satisfying ending with no loose ends.

A cast of well-developed characters populates Dead Ringer. From ultra-rich Thomas Wallace, right down to the household staff, Tenery’s characters evoke an emotional response. As much as I wanted to hate Thomas I understood his plight and his concern as a father.

I recommend Dead Ringer to readers who enjoy fast-paced suspense with romantic overtones.

Review: DESERT RAGE

Desert RageDESERT RAGE by Betty Webb

Poisoned Pen Press Lena Jones Mystery Series

From page one of Betty Webb’s involving mystery, nothing is ever what it seems. The book pushed all my “I like to read” buttons with strong female characters, an injured Yorkie, and teens in trouble. How can you ignore the opening line of the Prologue: “The first thing Ali saw when she came through the door was the blood. The next things she saw were the? bodies. ‘Why’d you kill my dog?’ she asked Kyle.” Why indeed.

Webb’s desert series set in Arizona is ripe with delightful inconsistencies that knit and purl and weave a composite picture of people with more secrets than reliability, more lies than honesty, and more immorality than fidelity. All of these mores make for an absorbing story that surprised me with one of my favorite human assets—integrity, a much sought after commodity these days—making a valuable appearance. Webb spends pages explaining the bizarre and horrendous relationship of Ali and Kyle, but less would have been more. At times, it slowed the story perceptively. That said, this book reveals effectively many of today’s societal problems, including political graft, illegal drug use, alcoholism, children left to raise themselves, isolation, and love gone wrong, that need to be talked about and improved. This is a good introduction to that discussion.

Interview with Michael Guillebeau author of JOSH WHOEVER

Author PicMichael Guillebeau’s first book, JOSH WHOEVER (Five Star Mysteries, 2013) was a finalist for the 2014 Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel: Literary Suspense, and received a starred review in Library Journal, and was named a Debut Mystery of the Month by Library Journal. A second novel, A STUDY IN DETAIL, will be published by Five Star Mysteries in March 2015. SHARK’S TOOTH, a collection of detective stories set on Florida’s Emerald Coast, was published by Ardent Writers Press in 2014. Guillebeau has published over twenty short stories, including three in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

I loved your first book, JOSH WHOEVER. I’m a huge fan of oddball characters whose humanity leaves muddy footprints Josh Whoeverall over the page. Tell us about your characters in A STUDY IN DETAIL. I grew up in the sixties, and my main characters in Study are modern people embodying sixties virtues.

Most people forget that the early sixties were dominated by characters like Andy Griffith and Matt Dillon: simple, decent straight-shooters. Paul, the POV character is one of them. He’s a good-hearted outdoorsman who just wants to run his kayak business and maintain a difficult relationship with his complex artist wife Marta. Marta disappears and the police suspect Paul of murder. But Paul finds a note in Marta’s last painting telling him that she’s faked her death to make her paintings famous, and telling him to keep her secret.

A Study in DetailEnter the second, and strongest character: Rue. Rue is a young, open-hearted New Age girl who believes the universe wants her to give Paul six months of her life to help him get over his dead wife. Rue, to me, is the flowering of the goodness of the early sixties, which resulted in the flower children we usually associate with the decade. An enforcer from a casino arrives demanding that Paul repay the $5M that he says Marta stole from the casino, a suspicious insurance investigator dogs Paul because Marta took out a $5M insurance policy shortly before the disappearance, and a new set of Marta paintings show up and Arizona. Paul goes to investigate, followed by Rue.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work? Fun, primarily. I enjoyed writing the book, and I enjoyed hanging around with Rue and Paul as these good-hearted people try to navigate a complex modern world. If there’s a message, I guess it’s just the effect that good-hearted people can have if they stay good-hearted. And solve murders, of course. It is a mystery. Sort of.

Are there authors who have inspired your work? Really, every book in the library. John MacDonald’s Travis McGee (the Shark's Toothphysical description of Paul is lifted straight from McGee.) Donald Westlake. One of my reviewers compared Study to a modern Frank Capra movie, and I take that as high praise.

Is there a book out there you wish you’d written and why? I’m tempted to say ‘Every book in the library’ again. I’m really opinionated on books—I either love them or want to throw them against the wall. Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone. Anything by Hiaasen. Westlake’s Get Real. Elmore Leonard’s Maximum Bob. Anything by Robert Parker (the live one, not all the books he seems to write since he’s dead.) Oh, and one really off the wall book. Rhonda Nelson’s The Future Widow’s Club. If that title doesn’t hook you, you have no business reading.

What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you? Where do I send your Nobel prize?

Randall Reneau DQC

Erotica Unbound by Susanna Wolf

The Play Room Logo 2Erotica Unbound

In 1959 I got my first Barbie doll and read my first naughty book. Well, not the whole book…I would sneak into my older brother’s nightstand and thumb through his hardcore detective novels for the “good parts.” I was still very naive about sex and all it took for me to be titillated was to read about the gorgeous “doll” who walked into his office wearing only a mink coat; “then there they were together inside that damned mink coat.”

We all did it as kids when we heard a particular book was “dirty” or “sexy”, and now there is an upsurge in women openly reading erotic books and literature. I became intrigued when 50 Shades of Grey became such a mainstream phenomena. Pre-sale tickets for the movie is breaking a record with Fandango It was dubbed “mommy porn,” but women of all ages were devouring the books as fast as they could read. Although the book has some very hot, explicit and provocative sex scenes, it is first and foremost a love story, soI took exception to it being labeled porn. I began to research a little about “pornography” v “erotica.”

For the most part, the answers I got from friends and family centered around artistic expression v just sex for physical gratification. I think Mary Roach, author of Book: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex made a great distinction when she said in an interview, “I would say erotica is a mixture of romance and pornography, done by someone who’s a very skilled writer. Pornography has a very focused and directed goal…erotica has a bit of art mixed in.”

The definition of Erotica is: “Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire; or literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality.” There is also a “legal definition” of pornography which changes the definition to “erotic and lewd” behavior. This is when the courts try to determine what is and what is not “obscene”. Of course this changes as cultural and societal mores change. Victoria Secret ads today are much more revealing and sensual than “dirty” magazines and postcards of the past. In the 50’s Lucy and Ricky did not sleep in the same bed, but now Olivia Pope is having hot sex with the leader of the free world on his desk in the Oval Office during prime time.

Pornography and erotica is ancient in origin, as evidenced by the artwork of many historic societies, including ancient India, Greece, and Rome. Erotic imagery was quite common and often appeared in religious contexts. The Art of Love, by Ovid, is a treatise on seduction and sensual arousal. The invention of printing led to the production of ambitious works of writing intended to entertain as well as to arouse. Now we have the internet, as well as e-readers, which allow us to privately read or watch what we want without embarrassment.

What I find is that many women still shy away from admitting they like erotica; it has a more forbidden connotation. They don’t read or write erotica, rather they read or write erotic romance or fiction. Romance author, Sorcha Grace, did a great comparison in an article for the Huffington Post in July 2013, in which she concluded there were basically no differences. If an erotic romance is a love story where the characters engage is graphically described sex, and erotica is a story centered on the characters sexual encounters, as Ms. Grace surmises, the lines have become blurred. Women want a good story to go along with the erotic nature of the book, and that is the challenge to the writer, just as it always has been.

We all make choices of what we like or don’t like without  needing to attach labels.  There is a smorgasbord of erotic material on the market, and literally in the market, for every reader.  Whether the scene is as innocent as a naked woman in a mink coat, or as provocative as sex with Christian Grey in his playroom, go ahead and satisfy that need to “look for the good parts.”

Susanna Wolf, author of the column THE PLAY ROOM, is the new erotica reviewer for
The Book Breeze.