Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Star Wars

So who saw that one coming? I certainly didn't. The revelation yesterday that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm and new Star Wars movies are in the pipeline is sparking all sorts of thoughts, but my overall reaction is one of joy.
Ever since rumours emerged more than three decades ago that Lucas envisionedStar Wars as a nine-part saga, fans have salivated over the idea of more Star Warsmovies at every stage of the game.
In the build up to the release of the first prequel in 1999, Lucas came out and said it was only ever supposed to be a six-part saga, and that with 2005's Revenge of the Sith, the saga was complete.
Numerous books and comics have been published that were set after Return of the Jedi - the "final" movie, chronologically-speaking - but the prospect of a movie set in the post-Jedi Star Wars universe has generally felt highly unlikely.
Until yesterday.
While nobody is confirming that Episode VII will pick up where Jedi left off or that it will even focus on the continuing adventures of the Skywalker family, it's difficult not to hope that this is indeed the case.
Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill might seem a little old to return to these characters at this point, but if the story has to be shaped to suit their advancing years, so be it.
And while many might recoil at the idea of re-casting the characters (Hayden Christenson as Luke!), that wouldn't bother me too much. Re-casting such iconic roles seems mellow compared to the constant digital re-jigging Lucas applies to the films - he has long-since established this world isn't sacred ground.
As Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy (whom it should be noted has produced most of Spielberg's films) points out in the video above, Lucas will maintain an advisory role in the upcoming films, although to what extent is anybody's guess.
Although he completely earned the right by coming up with the idea, Lucas' creative stranglehold on the Star Wars property has been so pervasive for so long, we'd almost been rendered unable to see beyond it. Which is why this relinquishing of control feels like such a surprise.
When the Lucas-written and directed prequels were released, it became apparent that Lucas was now surrounded by yes-men who were too afraid to challenge his ideas, unlike the creative collaborations that resulted in The Empire Strikes Back(often recognised as the best Star Wars film) and Return of the Jedi, neither of which Lucas directed himself.
And while it's probably appropriate that Lucas will get to put in his two cents on the new projects, I couldn't be happier that other people will now get a chance to tell Star Wars stories on the big screen.
Lucas apparently approves the plots of the stellar CGI Cartoon Network seriesStar Wars: The Clone Wars, but if that show has proved nothing else, it's that fresh creative blood can result in great Star Wars stories. Now in its fifth season, the programme really is quite good, often coming across as more faithfully 'Star Wars-ian' than the prequels.
So who should make the new ones? Kennedy also mentions in the video above that they are meeting with writers now to discuss ideas for a new trilogy. Oh to be a fly on the wall of those meetings.
One person I think has earned the right be involved is Dave Filoni, the Star Warssuperfan who's been running the Clone Wars TV show for all of its five seasons.
He's demonstrated time and again an ability to seamlessly integrate new elements into the Star Wars universe while remaining reverent towards what came before him.
But if I really had my way, I would hand the whole thing over to animator Genndy Tartakovsky, who was behind Star Wars: Clone Wars, the traditionally animated predecessor to Filoni's show.
Genndy's devotion to all things Star Wars comes across in much of his work (such as the cult cartoon Samurai Jack), and he's a forward-thinking creative mind with an unparalleled sense of design. It's doubtful either of these two animators will end up involved, but a guy can dream.
It's also tempting to picture big name directors (and admitted Star Wars fans) like David Fincher or Christopher Nolan becoming involved, but the cynic in me says they'll end up picking someone with less of an authorial stamp. Again, it's unlikely, but how great would it be if Spielberg directed a Star Wars film?
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a new Star Wars film is coming - the market simply wouldn't allow a brand with this much prominence to remain dormant for long.
There are many variables currently in play, but the potential for greatness is shining through at this point for me. Years after he turned into the proverbial Emperor With No Clothes, Lucas stepping away from Star Wars is the best thing that could've happened to it.
I can't wait to see what happens next.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Racketeer - John Grisham

Book Description

 October 23, 2012
Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered.

Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five.

Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge’s untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.

On paper, Malcolm’s situation isn’t looking too good these days, but he’s got an ace up his sleeve. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The judge’s body was found in his remote lakeside cabin. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.

What was in the safe? The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price—especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett’s death. And the Racketeer wasn’t born yesterday . . .

Nothing is as it seems and everything’s fair game in this wickedly clever new novel from John Grisham, the undisputed master of the legal thriller.

Editorial Reviews Review

The Racketeer  was one of Amazon's mystery/thriller Best Books of the Month picks for October. A Q&A with the author:
Grisham3Describe The Racketeer in one sentence. 
A federal judge is murdered, and our hero in prison knows who did it, and why.
What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?
Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Sweet Tooth; a friend’s manuscript; and a Kindle Fire loaded with daily newspapers, magazines, and about three dozen books.
Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?
The Adventures of Tom SawyerA Confederacy of DuncesThe Grapes of WrathLittle Drummer Girl
Important book you never read?
There are so many. Atlas Shrugged, though I’ve been told for the past 30 years that it’s unreadable.
Book that made you want to become a writer?
To Kill a Mockingbird made me question race for the first time in my young, insulated, white life. It also inspired me to try and write something great.
Memorable author moment?
I received a note from Harper Lee, along with an autographed first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird.
What's your most prized/treasured possession?
A first edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, signed by the author.
Pen envy - book you wish you'd written?
Harry Potter – he’s the only dude I can’t outsell.
Author crush - who's your current author crush?
I’m 57 years old.  Crushes are for sophomores.
What's favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?
Don’t get me started. I can waste enormous amounts of time, and with no guilt whatsoever. Currently, I’m doing so on the golf course, playing a game that I took up only four years ago and is driving me nuts.
What do you collect?
First editions, primarily Faulkner, Hemingway, and Steinbeck.
Best piece of fan mail you ever got?
The letter began: “As the newly elected President of the Arkansas Bar Association, it is incumbent upon me to suggest various topics for your future novels……” I don’t think I finished reading the letter.
What's next for you?
I’m hard at work on Theo 4 -  “Theodore Boone, The Activist.”
>See all of John Grisham's books.
>Read a New York Times review of The Racketeer
(author photo by Bob Krasner)


Praise for THE LITIGATORS:'Grisham is brilliantly comic in a novel that is full of zest and brimming with memorable characters and rich storylines' -- The Sunday Times 'A superbly plotted legal thriller' -- Sunday Express Praise for John Grisham:'The best thriller writer alive' -- Ken Follett, Evening Standard 'Grisham is a superb, instinctive storyteller' -- The Times
John Grisham's work runs the gambit. Some serious, some funny, some nostalgic, and some sporty. But no matter what you know you're in for a good read. This one is no different. 'The Racketeer' falls somewhere between the seriousness of 'The Confession' and the fun of 'The Litigators'.

Our friend, Malcolm Bannister, is a lawyer who is in jail (I'll pause for your jokes here) for a crime he didn't commit. (Another pause). Fortunately for him the unfortunate demise of a Federal judge and his lady (hot, young, sexy, hot, you get the picture) friend is his key for early release. No clues, no witnesses, no leads, and no evidence. These frivolous minor details don't bother the FBI and they don't really bother Malcolm. He knows the truth and the Feds will pay dearly for it. Of course when dealing with the Feds and a jailed lawyer, "truth" is more of a mythological punchline than anything else.

While 'The Racketeer' is a fast read make yourself slow down, especially near the end. There are many pieces to this puzzle and you'll miss it if you read at the speed in which John writes. I mentioned earlier that our boy Malcolm goes through some pretty extraordinary lengths to get what he wants and that IS NOT an exaggeration. But then the question we must ask ourselves is; what is the price of freedom? What would you pay for or suffer through just for the chance to be free? You're about to find out. Oh... and what if that taste of freedom was seasoned with a bit of revenge?

Malcolm has people to pay back, but before he does that he must deal with this little issue of piecing together a plan with more moving parts than the space shuttle and a failure rate of my high school algebra class. Will it work? Well that depends on your working definition of "work". Either way it'll be fun. And it was fun. With every new Grisham book there are always the litany of superlatives that follow it. "King of the legal thriller", "America's greatest storyteller", "John Grisham is uber-popular", "John Grisham is Jason's best friend", "John is a magnificent storyteller". While I don't doubt these claims, I've never once bought a book based on a five word praise fest. I rely on other book lovers like myself. You don't know me, but I ask you to trust me on this; Grisham is the man and he's earned it. That's my eight word praise fest.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Heart of Ice - Lis Wiehl

Book Description

 April 5, 2011
Elizabeth Avery could easily be the girl next door. But what she has planned will make your blood run cold.
At first glance, the crimes appear random. Arson. Theft. Fraud. Murder. But these are more than random crimes. They’re moves in an increasingly deadly game. And the one element they have in common: a woman who is gorgeous, clever . . . and lethal.
Elizabeth Avery has a winsome smile and flawless figure, but underneath is a heart of ice. She’s a master manipulator, convincing strangers to do the unthinkable. And she orchestrates it all without getting too close. Until now.
When Elizabeth ruthlessly disposes of an inquisitive young reporter, her crime catches the attention of Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce, FBI Special Agent Nicole Hedges, and crime reporter Cassidy Shaw. They know they’re dealing with a cold-blooded murderer who could strike at any time. What they don’t know is that they’re already on a first-name basis with the killer.
And one of them may be next on her list.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of James Patterson's Women's Murder Club books will find the same friendly crime-solving vibe in Wiehl and Henry's appealing third Triple Threat novel (after Hand of Fate) featuring federal prosecutor Allison Pierce, FBI special agent Nicole Hedges, and Portland, Ore., TV crime reporter Cassidy Shaw. At the Portland Fitness Center, Cassidy joins the boot camp class run by the beautiful instructor Elizabeth Avery, unaware that Elizabeth served time in a juvenile facility for two horrific crimes committed at age 13 when she was known as Sissy Hewsom. The icy sociopath has already had her fellow former inmate, firebug Joey Decicco, burn down the home of Sara McCloud, her gorgeous lawyer boyfriend's money-grubbing ex-wife, and Elizabeth now wants Sara and Sara's small son, Noah, dead. The authors smoothly bring together the various story lines, including a sharp subplot centered on Nic's breast cancer diagnosis. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Fans of James Patterson's Women's Murder Club books will find the same friendly crime-solving vibe in Wiehl and Henry's appealing third Triple Threat novel (after Hand of Fate) featuring federal prosecutor Allison Pierce, FBI special agent Nicole Hedges, and Portland, Ore., TV crime reporter Cassidy Shaw. At the Portland Fitness Center, Cassidy joins the boot camp class run by the beautiful instructor Elizabeth Avery, unaware that Elizabeth served time in a juvenile facility for two horrific crimes committed at age 13 when she was known as Sissy Hewsom. The icy sociopath has already had her fellow former inmate, firebug Joey Decicco, burn down the home of Sara McCloud, her gorgeous lawyer boyfriend's money-grubbing ex-wife, and Elizabeth now wants Sara and Sara's small son, Noah, dead. The authors smoothly bring together the various story lines, including a sharp subplot centered on Nic's breast cancer diagnosis. -- Publishers Weekly

Wiehl and Henry have a knack for creating villains you wouldn't want to run across in your daily life. ...This novel is an exciting addition to the Triple Threat Club series. 4 stars. --Romantic Times
About the Book The Triple Threat Club novels follow three fiercely intelligent women--a TV reporter, a Federal prosecutor and an FBI agent--as they investigate crimes as current as today's headlines. The Triple Threat women have faced intense situations before...but never such a cunningly cold-blooded murderer. Elizabeth Avery is a stunningly beautiful woman. But her perfectly managed exterior hides the ice cold heart of a killer. She ingeniously manipulates everyone who crosses her path to do exactly as she wishes-from crime reporter Cassidy Shaw, who thinks Elizabeth is her new best friend, to a shy young man Elizabeth persuades to kill for her. As Elizabeth leaves a trail of bodies in her wake, Federal prosecutor Allison Pierce and FBI agent Nicole Hedges must piece together clues from seemingly unrelated crimes. Can they stop her before she reaches her unthinkable, ultimate end-game?

My Review:

My favorite aspect of the Triple Threat Series is the realness of the three main characters. Though they each have high profile jobs and face untelling dangers, they are regular women, struggling with self-esteem, weight, and even a possible cancer diagnoses. Their reactions are believable and endearing, the bond between them never in question, even if circumstances create a brief distance between them.

This particular story is action-packed, with countless twists that keep the pages turning quickly. Almost three or four separate stories in one, the evil mind of Elizabeth took her places I could not have possibly guessed in advance. A master manipulator, she found ways to have others do her dirty work for her, so it came as a surprise when she took matters into her own hands, so to speak. A serial killer who made sure she could never be to blame.

I would not categorize Heart of Ice as Christian Fiction, so much as a great suspense novel. There are a few moments where Allison or Nicole question their faith, and prayer becomes a greater part of the story at the end, but it was not a common undertone throughout the story. There are many adult elements, handled as tastefully as possible while still painting a true picture of what these characters were capable of doing. Obviously, the numerous, seemingly unrelated crimes and murders take center stage, making this more of a thriller than what I would refer to as Christian Fiction.

I felt that the reader was left hanging a bit with the Foley case, the case that pits the opposing viewpoints of the three women from the beginning of the story. As it was ongoing, they worked through their doubts, but it became anti-climactic and had nothing to do with the rest of the plot, so it almost became a distraction.

Other than this, I highly recommend any of the books in the Triple Threat Series because they are well written and intriguing, this one, even more exciting and disturbing than the last.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Twelve - Justin Cronin

Book Description

 October 16, 2012
The end of the world was only the beginning.

In his internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic story surges forward with . . .


In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

A heart-stopping thriller rendered with masterful literary skill, The Twelve is a grand and gripping tale of sacrifice and survival.

Named one of the Ten Best Novels of the Year by Time and Library Journal, and one of the Best Books of the Year byThe Washington Post • Esquire • U.S. News & World Report • NPR/On Point • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Magnificent . . . Cronin has taken his literary gifts, and he has weaponized them. . . . The Passage can stand proudly next to Stephen King’s apocalyptic masterpiece The Stand, but a closer match would be Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.”—Time

“Read this book and the ordinary world disappears.”—Stephen King

“[A] big, engrossing read that will have you leaving the lights on late into the night.”—The Dallas Morning News

Editorial Reviews Review

An Exclusive Essay by Author Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin
Readers often ask where I get my ideas. The better question would be: Where don’t I?
Many people know that The Passage was born from a challenge laid down by my eight-year-old daughter to write the story of “a girl who saves the world.” This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear—it seemed a trifle ambitious—but a dare is a dare. For the next three months she joined me on my daily jog, following along on her bicycle, while the two of us hashed out the plot. As the weeks passed, I realized we were onto something much better than the book I was supposed to be writing. I put that book aside, wrote the first chapter of The Passage, and never looked back.
So don’t ever think you shouldn’t listen to your kids.
But my daughter’s challenge wasn’t the only inspiration. When I write a novel, my goal is to put absolutely everything I have into its pages, right down to the interesting thing that happened yesterday. I know I’m done when my mind feels as empty as a leaky bucket. So many influences, real and imagined, went into The Passage that I couldn’t list them if I tried. But one memory that stands out is the night my family and I tried to flee Houston in advance of hurricane Rita. Apparently, about a million other people had the same idea. After five hours on the road, we’d made it all of sixty miles. The highways were clogged with cars that had long since run out of gas; every minimart and gas station had been picked clean. I jumped the median and made it home in a little under an hour, my gas gauge floating just above ‘E’.
Rita missed Houston, slamming into a less-inhabited section of Texas and Louisiana coastline. But the experience of being in a large urban evacuation, with its feeling of barely-bottled panic, was one I’ll never forget, and is everywhere in the pages of The Passage.
So where did The Twelve come from?
Again, many places. But if I had to pick one source, it would be the strong women in my life. No bones about it: Gentlemen, if you doubt for a second that women are tougher than we are, go watch one have a baby. So here you have Alicia, the woman warrior with her blades and crossbow; here you have Amy, the spiritual leader and visionary; here you have one of my favorite new characters, Lore DeVeer, whose mechanical savvy is matched only by her unbridled sensuality; here you have a fourth woman (sorry, can’t tell you who) whose maternal strength is as powerful as any great spectacle of nature. As I wrote The Twelve, I came to understand that these powerful characters were the backbone of the tale. Even more, they are a tribute to all the amazing women I am privileged to know, befriend, and in one very lucky instance, marry.
Hope you enjoy The Twelve. All eyes.


Named one of the Ten Best Novels of the Year by Time and Library Journal, and one of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post • Esquire • U.S. News & World Report • NPR/On Point • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Magnificent . . . Cronin has taken his literary gifts, and he has weaponized them. . . . The Passage can stand proudly next to Stephen King’s apocalyptic masterpiece The Stand, but a closer match would be Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.”—Time

“Read this book and the ordinary world disappears.”—Stephen King

“[A] big, engrossing read that will have you leaving the lights on late into the night.”—The Dallas Morning News

“[A] blockbuster.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Addictive.”—Men’s Journal

“Magnificently unnerving.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Mythic storytelling.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A mesmerizing experience.”—Salon

THE TWELVE, which is the second book of Cronin's towering trilogy, can be read as a complete book, whereas the first book stopped abruptly, like a gasp. However, I urge you to read THE PASSAGE first, because the epic as a whole is a finely calibrated accretion of history, plot and character. The Twelve refers to the twelve "parent" or original virals, the death-row-inmate subjects-turned-virals from "Project Noah," who must be liquidated in order to save the world. The thrust of this book is the hunt of the twelve by Amy, Alicia, Peter, and company.

"All eyes." Two words commonly spoken by the First Colony Watchers, starting in Book one--survivors of the end of the world as we know it. I shiver when I read it now, this sober siren call of fellowship to signal strength and vision, to defeat the virals. It carries an additional, deep and tacit message now--that I honor you, comrade (lover, brother, father, mother, friend, sister, soldier, daughter)--go bravely and stay safe. And keep your eyes forward, against the last remaining light of the day.

Cronin's weighty trilogy, a hybrid of mainstream and literary fiction, isn't just a story about these photophobic vampiric virals, identified variously as dracs, smokes, flyers, jumps, and glowsticks. Rather, it is a portrait of humanity in extremis. Virals, caused by a military experiment gone awry, are a malignant, violent force of annihilation. But what reserves of strength keep us fighting? How do people live in a post-apocalyptic world? Is another end coming? Or a beginning? Is the world even worth saving? THE TWELVE, like THE PASSAGE, has as much anthropology, eschatology, psychology, and philosophy, as it does gore, battle and horror.

Cronin's tilted, unconventional structure has an elegant, understated, and circular pull and propulsion, muted at times, roaring at others. He periodically pauses in the progress of the plot for his intense and luminous miniatures--mystical, sensory flights of prose and backstory elaboration, (although briefer in THE TWELVE), which deepen the intricate plot strands as well as create a vivid landscape, emotionally and physically. Gradually, he braids it all together.

The trilogy isn't linear, but it is, ultimately, progressive. THE TWELVE starts back at year zero (the viral outbreak), providing new characters and expanding on previous ones, as it steadily brings us back to the present, approximately 97 A.V. (After Virus), five years after the end of THE PASSAGE. Peppered here and there are the terse, abstract texts dated 1003 A.V. And, yes, the cliffhanger ending of the first book, as well as all strands, are eventually returned to and understood. The author is in control of his sublime, colossal narrative.

Cronin traveled every mile in the book for his research, and it shows. His sense of place is so atmospheric and sensuous, alive and turbulent, that geography is a character in itself. From the benevolent but arch company of assembled defense forces in Kerrville, Texas; to a terrifying, totalitarian-ruled labor camp in Iowa; and to a handful of scrappy iconoclasts that roam from place to place, the author's conception of a fractured world flashes and flickers with billion-kilowatt energy in every setting.

Cronin's complex character development equals any realistic literary novel. Amy, Alicia and Peter (and others) continue to evolve, although Peter, admittedly, was more of a placeholder in THE TWELVE, notwithstanding a few valorous confrontations with virals. There's no doubt in my mind that he will figure largely in the final book, now that Amy's character has expanded in surprising, startling, and inevitable ways. He and Amy are bound, as was determined in THE PASSAGE. However, as Amy is more revealed, Alicia becomes more eerie and enigmatic, and discovers an unpredictable and, well, animate love. You also unexpectedly learn more about her descendants.

But wait until you meet Guilder, and reconnect with Lila (Wolgast's ex-wife); the pages nearly howl with the portrayal of these two characters. From their skin and viscera to their organs and bowels, I have rarely encountered anyone comparable to Lila and Guilder in a horror or dystopian novel. And there are numerous and brilliant secondary characters, such as Carter, the twelfth original viral, that are graphic and memorable. Greer, from the first book, is now a military prisoner and seer. Grey, a sweeper from the first book, finds an opportunity to amend for his past sins, but it doesn't quite work out the way he planned. Also three-dimensional are the virals, a ripe and sentient life force of consummate destruction. And, there are some new developments in store regarding viral species transformation.

The final book, THE CITY OF MIRRORS, is due for release in 2014. The title is a terrific tease, but I believe I possess the prescience to interpret its significance. It gives me a soulful, excited feeling. I know what it means, where this is headed, and that makes it triply electrifying.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands) - Sarah Fine

Book Description

 October 16, 2012  14 and up  9th and up
"My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple."
A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone – she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.
As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t – the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

Editorial Reviews


"As a modern-day 'Orpheus and Eurydice,' Sanctum will be a hit with urban fantasy readers, who will love its top-notch world-building, page-turning action, and slow-developing romance." ~School Library Journal

"Many original, interesting ideas create this complex world and creatures lurking through the afterlife. [Readers] will be excited to find this is first of a trilogy." ~VOYA

"This is one of my favorite books of this year! Smart and sexy." ~Reading Teen blog

"This is an unexpected read full of hope, despair and something that's a bit dark and a little beautiful all at the same time. Sarah Fine's well crafted story and incredible world building really set the tone for this book." ~Mundie Moms blog

"I would have to say that the Guards of the Shadowlands series, if it capitalizes on its first novel's promise, will be quite gripping indeed."


"Dark, gripping, and impossible to put down. SANCTUM is smart, original, and pulls no punches -- just like Lela, one of the strongest heroines I've ever met." ~Erica O'Rourke, author of TORN“Theology be damned, though: Lela and Malachi are both likable protagonists, and readers will be happy… this trilogy opener has a lot going for it. " - Kirkus

I love the feeling of going into a novel, not knowing what to expect, and realizing right away that I'm going to like it. And that as I get further in the story keeps getting better and better, and that once I'm done I just want more people to know about the book and to read it too! Sanctum was that type of read for me. The characters were multilayered and extremely likeable, the world was fascinating, and the story made it hard to stop reading. I can easily say that it is one of my top five favorite books this year! I'm so excited to read the next book in this series.

"Welcome to Suicide Gates!"

Those words and the frightening, otherworldly city where she first heard them have haunted Lela ever since she tried to end her life two years ago. Lela knows that place is where she could have ended up if she had died, but she doesn't realize how true that is until her best friend Nadia commits suicide. Lela starts having nightmares, visions, about Suicide Gates through her friend's eyes, and she becomes determined to save Nadia from that dark place even if she has to sacrifice herself in the process. The journey is nowhere near easy though. Suicide Gates is a harsh and bleak world. Everyone who ends up there must work hard to come to terms with what happened to them and to find strength within themselves so that they can finally move on. And not everyone is able to do that.

Lela's feelings towards Nadia were powerful and the driving force behind most of her decisions in Sanctum. She did everything she could to save Nadia, even if she later regretted the choices she made. This is one of the few books where I truly felt the strong bond a character has with a friend. I remember thinking that I wanted Lela to succeed, I wanted Nadia to be saved, and I wanted happiness for them both. It really was heartbreaking, and it made me just admire and adore Lela even more. She felt so real to me. She's been through so much in her life, yet she stays strong and focused for the friend who believed in her and made her a better person.

Not only is Sanctum about friendship and sacrifice, it's about love and overcoming gripping fears bit by bit. After Lela arrives at Suicide Gates, she's captured by the Guards of the city. They know she's different from the humans who are suppose to be there, and she's interrogated by their brave and intimidating Captain, Malachi. Lela and Malachi don't trust each other at first, but once they open up, Lela begins to feel safe around Malachi and he begins to feel protective of her. There's a gut-wrenching reason why Lela wanted to die two years ago, and when Malachi finds out he helps her overcome some of her fears of allowing anyone, especially a man, to touch her. He's so respectful and let's her be in control. I absolutely loved their relationship. It was sweet and beautiful and touching. They are amazing people and brought out every single bit of goodness in each other. They are also kickass and helped each other survive along the way to finding Nadia. They're the main reason why I cannot wait to read the next book.

Sanctum brings up many heavy, emotional subjects and there are plenty of terrifying moments, but it still manages to be filled with hope and love. And when a story is awesome and has wonderful characters and relationships, it makes me really happy. The ending freaked me out so much though. (I was scared and praying it wouldn't end at a cliffhanger!) It also made me pumped for book two. I wish I could talk more about the unique world in Sanctum, but it's complex and something you need to discover and experience yourself. I highly recommend Sanctum, especially to those looking for a dark, yet hopeful read. It's easily one of the best YA urban fantasy novels I've ever read!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Reflected in You - Sylvia Day


Book Description

 October 2, 2012

THE SENSUAL SAGA OF EVA AND GIDEON CONTINUES in the hotly anticipated follow-up to BARED TO YOU...the New York Times bestselling novel of "EROTIC ROMANCE THAT SHOULD NOT BE MISSED."-- Romance Novel News

Gideon Cross. As beautiful and flawless on the outside as he was damaged and tormented on the inside. He was a bright, scorching flame that singed me with the darkest of pleasures. I couldn't stay away. I didn't want to. He was my addiction... my every desire... mine.

My past was as violent as his, and I was just as broken. We'd never work. It was too hard, too painful... except when it was perfect. Those moments when the driving hunger and desperate love were the most exquisite insanity.

We were bound by our need. And our passion would take us beyond our limits to the sweetest, sharpest edge of obsession...

Editorial Reviews


—The Book Reading Gals
“Eva and Gideon…make Bared to You richer and more real to me than many of the contemporary books I've read in a while.”—Romance Junkies
“I became so attached to Eva and Gideon that I actually hurt for them. I shared their pain and their joy as they fought to keep each other.”—Joyfully Reviewed
“When it comes to brewing up scorchingly hot sexual chemistry, Day has few literary rivals.”—Booklist
“[Bared to You] is full of emotional angst, scorching love scenes, and a compelling storyline.”—Dear Author

From the Author

"Is it possible for two abuse survivors to have a functional romantic relationship?" -- Eva Tramell

Eva's question is the core of the Crossfire series. The answer she receives ("Absolutely."), gives her hope that she can find her way there with Gideon. I hope their continuing journey touches you the way it has me. We all deserve a happily ever after.
Customer Review
Yes I read the whole book in less than half a day - I will not give away any secrets of the book in this review.
I couldn't put it down. It was so intense and made you want to turn the page to see what was going to happen to both Gideon and Eva next. At times my heart ached for both of them. I love how the author brought everything together in the end. And yes we get more of a glimpse into Gideon's problems. But more important we get a good feeling of the intensity of their relationship. I am very happy that the author wasn't replicating anything that resembled Fifty in this book. This was her own work and was very well written. Her attention to detail is much better than EL James. I have to say at the end of this book I think Gideon is hotter than Christian Grey....
Now this has me waiting for the third book until December.....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Robert Gupta - Music, The Mind and Medicine

Music, the mind, and medicine: A Q&A with Robert Gupta

Can music be a medical instrument? In a moving talk from TEDMed, Robert Gupta reveals that it certainly can be. He gives as an example the work of neuroscientist Gottfried Schlaug, one of the pioneers of melodic intonation therapy. Schlaug noticed that, while stroke victims with aphasia could not utter a sentence, they could still sing the lyrics to songs. In these patients, studying music essentially rewired their brains.
This issue is important to Gupta because, after college, he found himself caught between his two loves—neuroscience and the violin. While he chose the violin, he didn’t end up playing only in concert halls. Thanks to a violinist friend who suffered from schizophrenia and ended up living on the street, Gupta found himself founding the organization Street Symphony, playing for the homeless, mentally ill and incarcerated.
“The musicians become the conduit for delivering the tremendous therapeutic benefits of music on the brain to people who would never have access,” says Gupta. “The beauty of music offers them a chance to transcend the world around them.”
The TED Blog wanted to know more than Gupta was able to share in 18 minutes. So we’ve asked him some questions that came to mind while watching his talk.
There’s some fascinating neuroscience behind the blend of medicine and healing. Why has it taken time to bring this into medicine?
There’s this holistic, sort of new age-y, aspect of music being healing and that sort of thing, and that has slowly been filtering away, because of Oliver Sack’s “Musicophilia,” “This is Your Brain on Music.” Also because so many scientists are amazing musicians. They understand the power of music. They understand the power of art. And it’s something that I’ve been so thrilled that it’s been part of the consciousness here at TEDMED. That the E in TED stands a lot more for entertainment, and that what the arts are able to do sometimes transcends what science and technology alone can do. I think that it’s been a long time coming.
There’s been a lot of quackery in music — building chairs out of speakers and having you immerse your body in it — stupid things like that. But there’s been a lot of progress in neuroscience — ways that we can see the brain with fMRI, also with the way that we can track certain concentrations of neurotransmitters like dopamine very, very closely. I think, the next step in neuroscience and music is to be able to actually track which neurons are being activated from the auditory cortex, the ones that are right next to the ear, to the actual emotional triggers that can get us to secrete neurotransmitters. We cannot see that pathway yet because it’s something outside MRI. So in a way, neuroscience is still catching up to it. But in the clinical sense, we can clearly see where stroke victims, victims of brain trauma, with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, with autism — we can see there’s a clear effect that music is having. And I see it happen with mental illness in my daily work with Street Symphony.
You’re talking about using this medicine in regard to neurological disorders where it sort of makes sense that the brain processing is really a part of the healing?
Very much so.
Does it feed into other areas, or is that strictly the realm of quackery? I mean, clearly you’re not curing cancer with this.
No, I’m not. But at the same time, there are also a lot of pathways we don’t yet understand that go deeper than the brain, or below the brain. There is evidence that it affects our endocrine system, because music lowers our stress hormones, like cortisol. At the same time it boosts human growth hormone. And these things are transient, they’re difficult to study. So no, I’m not going to say yet that music can cure cancer, but music has been shown to lower anxiety in chemotherapy wards, which can lead to the process and sort of progression of healing itself. It can also lower heart rate, it can lower blood pressure. And if it’s lowering stress then we’re removing a barrier to fundamental healing itself.
Street Symphony is a project that you just launched to bring music to homeless.
It was specifically to under-served communities. And we’ve honed that into serving specifically mentally ill individuals living within homeless and incarcerated and veteran communities. I started this with Adrian Hong, another TED Senior Fellow last year in 2011. He works with Human Rights activism in North Korea. We just started with events, out of my relationship with Nathaniel Ayers who I spoke about at my first TED Conference. And it’s really been a TED story for me, because the inspiration at TED and seeing the other TED fellows and their support and the support from the TED community, has launched this thing in a way that I didn’t think would be possible, and so quickly. We’re still trying to figure out what exactly it is. But it’s become something where we’re actively bringing music outside the concert hall alone.
Where do you play?
We play on skid row mainly, for clinics and shelters. We’ve also gone into a number of prisons in downtown L.A. And I’ve driven up to play at a couple of asylums as well. Just before I came out here, I was playing for a group of nine combat vets from Vietnam in a group therapy session, and on Monday I’m going to be playing for a group of injured veterans that are having plastic surgery done to rehabilitate any number of organs. It’s a complete pilot, it’s very flexible. The next step for us is to start a program to work with a psychiatrist or a social worker and gauge what exactly is happening in the course of therapy accompanied by the music, so that we can track that.
What’s the short-term response been like?
It’s been kind of overwhelming. When we play, there’s this dynamic that breaks, especially if it’s in a prison. The dynamic of the entire care is punitive, of course, whereas the music is an offering. You can feel it in the room. And then you see people, whether they are criminals or they are veterans, they start weeping when we play. Of course, the ones who are weeping are already in the right emotional state. But we hear, “That’s just what I needed to hear.” And especially those that have a higher sensitivity to it. It goes beyond what we do in the concert hall alone. It goes beyond beauty for the sake of beauty. And in that sense, music becomes the perfect conduit for human service.
What do you play?
We play serious programs. We’re doing Beethoven and Haydn and Mozart, even stuff up to Schubert and Schumann. And at first we thought maybe we should keep it a little bit accessible, do some tangos or show tunes. But a part of this is to humanize classical music, to make it accessible. If we could make it accessible to that public, we can make it accessible to anybody. And it’s on us now, as musicians and human beings, to humanize the process of making music — to humanize the composers themselves, to tell the stories of these composers and why we love that music. And the second that you do that, the audience comes 10 feet closer to you. If we can do it with that audience, we can do it with anyone.
What’s the response from the music community been?
Oh, it’s really a lot of fun. Suddenly we’re playing for a group that is incredibly receptive. Also, we’re not playing for the microphones hanging from the stage for direct-release to iTunes. At the same time, it’s the exact reversal of roles. Because when you come to see an opera at the Kennedy Center, you’ve subscribed and you’ve bought tickets, so you’re ready for the experience. Here it’s the exact opposite. We’ve got to prove ourselves within 10 minutes, because there’s nothing to say to them that they can’t just walk out. At one of our first performances in the asylum, this group of people that were very severely mentally ill started three or four of them walked off and left during our concert. I was just playing alone, and I thought, “Oh, it’s just not for them.” Their therapist told me later on that they left because they had tears streaming down their faces and they were sobbing and they didn’t know how to handle their emotions, and it was their emotions that landed them at the asylum in the first place.
So we’ve heard things like that — it’s overwhelming. Suddenly the purpose of why we’re making music has changed. It’s not about the ideal of perfection any longer, it’s about actually offering something.
Do you ever compose with medicine in mind? Is that something you think could be done? Or would it even be worth doing?
It’s interesting. I haven’t done it myself. There are a couple composers who have done it. There’s one composer who’s written music specifically for hospital spaces. Also, I ran into a pianist once that just plays in the lobby of a hospital. And he told me that one of the doctors came up to him some time and said, “You do more for healing here in the lobby — for the families, for the patients — than I can do in the operating room.” I would consider it, but it’s one of those sort of foreboding territories out there which I’d like to venture to at some point, but I want to find my anchor first.