Thursday, April 30, 2009

Waiting for Spring

Waiting for Spring
by R. J. Keller

(CreateSpace / 1-440-46116-3 / 978-1-440-46116-3 / April 2008 / 480 pages / $14.95 / Kindle $3.19)

Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM

Tess Dyer not only waits for spring, she is waiting for much else, in this leisurely novel which explores various aspects of contemporary family and parenthood, love and community, and the impact on them of addictions (of various sorts) and self-destructive behavior. Tess’s mood is as bleak, her emotions as frozen as winter in an isolated Maine community, to which she has fled following upon divorce, to try and build something of a new life for herself. There she finds friends – and lovers as well – most of whom have just as many problems as she does. She has not escaped life, in coming to a new place, renting her own apartment, taking up a new job, and developing a circle of new friends. She has just replaced all the old problems with new ones, but the novel also focuses on how she grew and came to deal with them, in slightly less self-punishing ways than previously.

The reasons behind Tess’ unhappiness, her divorce, and her dysfunctional childhood as well as much else about the demons that drive her are revealed at a deliberate pace, and with considerable skill. They are shown, or rather unfolded for the reader to discover, by Tess herself, a gritty, witty and seemingly tough survivor, who cleans homes and offices for a living and lives for art and love. Failing love, she has settled, over and over again, for sex and has enough self-knowledge to know there is something wrong, something unhealthy about that. Tess’s voice, and the characters of her friends and family that she sketches for the reader have considerable charm; otherwise this book might have seemed appropriate fodder for – if not Jerry Springer, then Oprah, at the very least. This book is told in first-person, which gives a very immediate feel to what Tess experiences and feels, but which also limits any exploration of how other characters react to her, save filtered through her own perceptions. Why do other characters in Tess’s world love and trust her? That question is scanted, but it is more a reflection on the way this story is told than any shortcoming of the author’s.

Editor’s Note: According to the authors’ website, proceeds from the sales of the book will be donated to Spruce Run, a local organization which deals with domestic abuse.

See Also: The Author's Website
The Spruce Run Website
Celia's BNN Review
R. J. Keller's Blog
R. J. Keller's Authors Den Page

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Voyage Beyond Reason

A Voyage Beyond Reason:
An Epic of Survival Based on the Original Journals of Benjamin Wade

by Tom Gauthier

(Outskirts Press / 1-432-71234-9 / 978-1-432-71234-1 / March 2009 / 408 pages / $18.95 / Amazon $17.05 / hardcover $30.95 / Amazon $27.85 / Kindle $6.40)

Reviewed by Juliet Waldron for PODBRAM

The first person who walked between the glaciers into a pristine valley, and then managed to come back and show the others how to get there, had a certain gene. Nowadays, this particular gene doesn’t get a workout very often, but here’s a story about a young man who possesses it, and what it made him do. A Voyage Beyond Reason is a novelization of the journals kept by Benjamin Wade during a voyage by kayak that took him from Baja to Colombia.

The title is apt. Ben Wade was in good physical condition and knew how to handle his craft, but other than that, there seems to have been little understanding of what his plan would entail. He cheerfully heads out equipped with a road map of Mexico, which obviously doesn’t contain information about the treacherous tidal currents of the Sea of Cortez, the place where his journey begins—and very nearly ends. He doesn’t know Spanish, he has little knowledge of the political situation in the various countries whose borders he’ll be crossing, and he isn’t an experienced seaman. You wonder if he’ll make it. There are storms, bad water, disease, hunger, fear, loneliness, and the occasional shark looking for a light snack. In short, it’s standard reality show fare: a more or less unprepared person pitted against Nature and his own limitations. In this case, however, there is the very real possibility that Ben Wade isn’t going to survive.

Survive he does, though, rescued (when necessary) by dumb luck, the kindness of strangers, Providence, and his own strength and perseverance. Ben has a lot to prove to himself, and a lot of growing up to do, but he seems, pretty clearly, to have done both during his journey, which does indeed end where he’d hoped, in Colombia.

A Voyage Beyond Reason is a fine adventure story. There were occasional grammatical/typographic errors, but the book is generally well put together and easy to read. There is what I’d call an “inspirational” subtext which some readers may like, but which may grate on others. My other caveat is that at 389 pages, it is far longer than it needs to be. This is something an editor could have remedied, but I put it down to the affection the author clearly has for his young subject. If you are a fan of the “true adventure” genre, ocean-going, exotic locale variety, or, if you are a Survivor junkie, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

See Also: The Hardcover Version (note the different reviews)
Tom Gauthier's Authors Den Page
Tom Gauthier's Website

Saturday, April 25, 2009

They Plotted Revenge Against America

They Plotted Revenge Against America
by Abe F. March

(All Things That Matter Press / 0-982-27222-7 / 978-0-982-27222-0 / February 2009 / 254 pages / $16.99 / Kindle $8.79)

Reviewed by Malcolm R. Campbell for PODBRAM

Terrorism frightens people because it operates outside the traditional rules of war. It's hard to combat because the attacks are no longer limited to people wearing military uniforms at well-formed battle lines: they can happen anywhere, at any time, and they may well target people who don't have any direct knowledge of the peoples and issues involved. Part of the terror is the pervasive feeling that nobody’s safe.

This is the arena of Abe F. March's chilling novel They Plotted Revenge Against America. The novel is chilling, not because it's filled with “just more violence” in the Middle East, but because the story occurs on American soil as survivors of the American attack on Baghdad blend in to mainstream society to personally extract revenge against everyday citizens.

They Plotted Revenge Against America is a plausible, sobering, intricate and effectively plotted story about a group of well-trained, well-coordinated teams who slip into the U.S. with forged papers and then painstakingly work through a plan that will infect food and water supplies with a deadly virus.

These team members are not the gun-wielding, grenade-throwing stereotypical terrorists we see in most TV shows and movies. They are everyday people who have suffered personal loss and who want to fight back. Once their mission is complete, they plan, if possible, to go back to their normal lives. As the mission unfolds, they alternate between excitement and doubt while trying to avoid detection, and in the process, they discover while blending into community life, that Americans are not the monsters they expected.

March’s story tends to humanize both the terrorists and their victims, showing Americans as largely unconcerned and ill-informed about the agendas and issues involved in the long-time conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors. On the other hand, the terrorists see themselves not as criminals but as soldiers responding to what they view as acts of war taken against their communities.

Since the overall mission leader is a double agent working for Israel's Mossad, group members must not only avoid Homeland Security and other U.S. law enforcement agencies, but the highly effective Israeli intelligence agency as well. This subplot is a nice touch in a book that suggests we're more vulnerable than we suspect.

On a minor note, it’s a shame to see books from some of the newer publishers being printed in a sans serif body type. This is not only “not done,” but has been shown via many years of legibility studies to make blocks of type more difficult to read. That said, the book is not only a great story, but nourishing food for thought.

See Also: To Beirut and Back: An American in the Middle East
The March of Books Review
Abe F. March's Authors Den Page

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Devil's Feathers

Devil’s Feathers by David Chacko
(Foremost Press / 0-981-84186-4 / 978-0-981-84186-1 / December 2008 / 268 pages / $14.97 / Amazon $13.47)

Reviewed by Jack Dixon for PODBRAM

Onur Levent has just begun his annual holiday on the Turkish Aegean coast. Holiday, though, means something different to Levent than it means to most people. Although he genuinely tries to leave his work behind, it follows him like a bloodhound. His holiday in the sunny resort town of Bodrum is interrupted by a phone call, and Levent is handed the task of solving the murder of a man with a murky background, dubious business acumen, and apparent connections deep inside the Turkish shadow government.

A nameless man, or rather one with perhaps too many names, has been burned alive in his car in the bustling coastal resort town. Levent must solve the puzzle of who torched the victim and why, and resist the urge to investigate the victim’s own colorful criminal background. Levent is as intrigued by the victim as he is by the hunt for his killer, but he forces himself to focus on the hunt. Still, he finds himself tugging at threads in spite of himself, even though he knows they will lead him to places he should not go.

Meanwhile, the investigation draws Levent away from the beaches, the dinner parties, and the nightlife that had been packed into his holiday plans. One suspects, however, upon getting to know Levent, that he secretly prefers the investigation to the beaches and the parties.

Well-paced dialog, clear and thorough descriptions, and believable dramatic scenes keep the story flowing nicely. The plot develops well, with a fine balance of action and mystery.

The intrigue and the intricacies of Detective Levent’s investigation held my attention in spite of distractions that periodically kept me away from this solidly written and finely edited book. I returned to the story easily after short periods away, as my interest held the details fresh in my mind. Fine books like this stay with you even when you’re forced to put them down for a time.

David Chacko writes with the ease of a polished storyteller. Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of frequent simile; I prefer that they be used sparingly. But Chacko turns similes like an expert potter turns fine art; I found myself looking forward to his creativity, and smiling when I wasn’t disappointed. Chacko’s style effectively conveys the aura and the mindset of the main character, a skilled veteran homicide investigator who holds his ideals loosely enough that he’s able to swim among personalities and situations that fall far short of them. This solid character’s ability to accept the underside of life without embracing it himself gives him a distinct edge in bringing his investigation to a successful, if harrowing close.

Devil's Feathers is a good mystery, with plenty of intrigue and well-drawn cultural flavor. I felt present in the Aegean resort town, immersed in the essence of Turkish culture and social mores, and absorbed by Levent’s dogged pursuit of elusive facts. A good writer takes the reader along for the ride; Chacko accomplished that admirably with this book. It’s the first of Chacko’s books I’ve had the pleasure to read, but it won’t be my last.

See Also: Al Past's Review of Echo Five
The Author's Website

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Submission Guidelines 2009

PODBRAM sails ahead with new submission guidelines! Did you think this was going to be a review of the last book by the funniest author in American history? Although I have read many of the earlier Don Martin books, I have never even seen a copy of this final release in 1986. The only Don Martin book I have managed to hold on to is a copy of Don Martin Steps Further Out (1975). I gave my copy of Don Martin Bounces Back (1963) to my niece many years ago, but I shall always remember fondly the misadventures of Fester Bestertester and Karbunkle. May Don, Fester, and Karbunkle rest in peace with great big grins on their faces!

This post noting all the changes at PODBRAM over the past six months or so is long overdue. None of this information is something I suddenly made up or even any sort of official policy change. The rules themselves have not changed, but the reviewers at PODBRAM have. All the changes can be simply traced back to a point at which a reviewer was added or additional book types or genres were added to the acceptance list. Let's sail ahead:

(1) No genre, publisher, or type of book is automatically disallowed, with the sole exception of books published by Lulu. I am continuing our policy of leaving that mass of submissions to the able hands of Shannon Yarbrough and his Lulu Book Review. I consider LLBR as a companion site to PODBRAM and I always encourage Lulu authors to apply there.

(2) Although no books are automatically disallowed, cheaters will be caught at the first gate. These generally include any POD book that has already sold well simply because it has a famous person or event listed in the title. Get-rich-quick and weight-loss schemes easily fall into this category, too. Historical fiction, political nonfiction, and a few others will be researched for the cheater gene, but most will pass the first gate. Generally, if your book title looks like one either The National Enquirer or The Wall Street Journal would love, you will be blocked at the gate.

(3) Unless a specific reviewer makes a decision to accept a specific book in an electronic format, all submissions must be in the form of actual print versions of published books.

(4) If your book is accepted for review at PODBRAM, except in very rare cases, you will get one. The rare cases are those few pieces of junk that somehow make it past the gatekeeper. When that happens, we shall be in touch with you via e-mail to discuss your options. Sometimes our PODBRAM reviews are harsher (read more explicit) than those we might post for the author at Amazon. These are the only cases in which we shall not automatically post a review at Amazon.

(5) All the PODBRAM reviewers post their reviews at Amazon. These vary from a direct copy and paste to a totally, freshly composed review, and anything in between. No posted Amazon review will be rated at less than three stars. We do this because (a) we know how much pie in the sky is slung about in the massive numbers of Amazon reviews and (b) we are playing this game to help authors, not hurt them.

(6) As the head curmudgeon, I shall never post another review at B&N because those clowns lost all my identifying remarks on the large number of individually composed reviews I had posted on their site for PODBRAM authors. The reviews are all still there, but you cannot tell which ones are mine, and all mentions of other PODBRAM-reviewed books are gone, too. Any of the other PODBRAM team members are free to post reviews at B&N if they want, but I'm taking my marketing talents and going to Amazon!

(7) Your review will be posted on additional sites according to the particular team reviewer. Yes, I know this is not exactly fair, but it is a better deal than you will get anywhere else. Most of our reviewers have at least one other site on which they post PODBRAM reviews, and remember, in many cases, these will be separately composed. You may get a reviewer who posts only at PODBRAM and Amazon, but at least that reviewer has specifically chosen to read your book, so he or she is very likely to enjoy it.

(8) Drum roll, please... the strip-search reviewer is generally retired, so your errors are not likely to be counted and the reviewer is not likely to check out every crevice with a magnifying glass! I could not go on like that, so I had to make a decision last year to mostly give up actually reading books for review and composing reviews. The editing alone for PODBRAM takes up a lot of my time, and I have two other blogs to feed!

(9) Don't get too excited about my retirement because the dunk tank is still full of ice-cold water! We still look at every facet of your book, from the cover design to the blurb on the back. The text better be edited and proofread or you will be receiving one of those intimate little talks about not posting your review.

(10) The way to acquire a review at PODBRAM has not changed. You must submit a simple, polite request to the editor at ice9 at nctv dot com or make a comment on any post at PODBRAM. You must include three things: the title of your book, your name (and pen name under which the book is published if one is used), and an e-mail address where you can be contacted.

(11) We do accept submissions from publicity firms; however, direct submissions will always be moved to the front of the line. We do this because many books we have accepted from publicity firms have never been received. We are not one of those fly-by-the-pajama-pants blogsites. If we accept your book for review, we have fully researched its quality and we expect not to have to waste our time herding an invisible book through our system. When I say the front of the line, I am referring to the acceptance stage of the process. All books are read and reviewed in the order in which they are received by the reviewer.

(12) Interviews require a considerable amount of my time. If you are accepted for an interview, it is because I think you truly have some particular knowledge that will be helpful to our readership, most of whom are probably POD authors themselves. You can request an interview, but only a few will be chosen.

(13) Whenever I receive a review request, the first thing I do is to locate the book at Amazon and elsewhere online. You will receive brownie points if the book has no reviews at Amazon or if little or no past Amazon sales are apparent. Aside from the cheater titles and subject matter, the first way to get a demerit is to have a load of glowing, five-star reviews and one or two that just happen to mention that the proofreader was absent that day. We have a red flag on the field of play! I know who the paid review sites are, too, and those will also earn you demerits.

(14) An informative, professionally appearing website will earn a brownie point, but an overly promoted one built by a paid professional will bring a dreaded, but unexpected, demerit.

(15) If I discover you to be one of those annoying nuisances who spam the author message boards and marketing sites with your repetitive, promotional hoopla, your book won't be accepted for review at PODBRAM.

(16) Tell me some good news! We at PODBRAM strive mightily to be the best of the POD bloggers. There are no ads on the site. There are only tons of links to other respectable reviewers, articles of interest to authors and their readers, and more telling of truth to power without snarkiness than you will find anywhere in the POD blog zone. We always include links to other websites and reviews from your PODBRAM review. You are free to use any review we write at PODBRAM, in whole or in part, in any way you wish in your book promotional efforts. We keep in touch with our authors as much as they individually require. The only exception is that all authors must communicate through the editor unless the individual reviewer accepts direct communication as a special case. No books are ever resold for profit at Amazon or anywhere else. All books reviewed stay on the reviewer's shelf as a worst-case scenario. Some are passed on to other reviewers, such as our fellow authors in IAG, some are donated to libraries, and some are given to prospective readers who like the particular genre. All operations at PODBRAM are, to quote the late Frank Zappa's second album title, Absolutely Free.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mozart's Wife

Mozart’s Wife
by Juliet Waldron

(Hard Shell Word Factory / 0-759-94310-9 / 978-0-759-94310-0 / February 2005 / 354 pages / $15.95 / Kindle $6.00 April 2004)

Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM

Discovering this book was a slap-to-the-forehead moment for me. Of course! What a great subject! Most readers (myself included) know little more about Wolfgang and Constanze Mozart than they might have seen in the movie
Amadeus, where what few insights were portrayed were notoriously inaccurate (being based on a work of fiction in the first place). Even if one loves Mozart's music, as so many do, and loves books about music and musicians, the personal lives and character of these two celebrities are largely unknown. In fact, the person who delves further into history will find that Constanze, in particular, has been treated unflatteringly and even harshly by the chroniclers, as so many famous women of history were. What a great opportunity to learn something about one of musical history's notable people!

Juliet Waldron reinterprets the life of Constanze Mozart in most convincing fashion in this splendidly researched and masterfully written account of her life from young teen to aged widow. Constanze is not a perfect woman: she has her faults. As a naive young girl, she is swept off her feet by the dashing and famous young prodigy, delights in his sensuality, and willingly marries him hardly knowing what kind of life she is in for. Her new husband, she comes to learn, is a spendthrift and bon vivant. Though devoted to her, he also works diligently to cultivate a whole city full of aristocrats, church officials, wealthy merchants with attractive daughters to be taught, networks of influential, often jealous artists and composers, and platoons of flashy, high-living show people. In addition, he must travel frequently, and, in whatever time remains, write immense quantities of music that will please the paying public. In addition, her in-laws appear from time to time to add to the misery.

An attractive, talented singer herself, Constanze has a hard life, though one not without its pleasures. She has status, she has clothes, and they generally live in sumptuous lodgings (which they can seldom afford). Custom does not allow her to manage their finances, however, and while both husband and wife delight in their children, she finds childbirth terribly difficult, debilitating, and on occasion, tragic. They quarrel from time to time, and when she finds proof that Mozart has strayed, she cannot resist straying herself.

The famous death scene in
Amadeus is recast in Mozart's Wife, probably to fit the available evidence more closely. (As such, it is considerably more ghastly and affecting than in the movie.) The movie concluded at that point, but the real Constanze lived to be 80, discovering what love in a stable marriage is like, developing a keen sense of financial management, and helping pass on much of her first husband's music to the world. This period of her life is given full measure in the novel.

Ms. Waldron does a wonderful job of recreating an authentic feeling of life in 18th Century Austria. I am a music lover myself, and I enjoyed reading the names of the composers and other luminaries he ran across in his brief life: Salieri and Sussmeyer are fairly well known, but other lesser-known names were just as intriguing. Would you believe Casanova? In sum,
Mozart's Wife is a thoroughly entertaining and even informative novel. The writing, editing and proofreading are very nearly perfect. There is an extensive bibliography of sources at the end.

I would call
Mozart's Wife a fictional autobiography, though some might term it (or wish it) a romance. I wouldn't object, remembering that Ernest Hemingway once pointed out there is no such thing as a romance with a happy ending. Mozart’s Wife is highly recommended for fans of historical fiction and those interested in classical music.

See Also: Hand-Me-Down Bride (just released)
The High Spirits Review (scroll down the page)
Juliet Waldron's Website

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Women of Magdalene

Women of Magdalene
by Rosemary Poole-Carter

(Kunati, Inc. / 1-601-64014-5 / 978-1-601-64014-7 / September 2007 / 288 pages / $24.95 hardcover / $18.21 Amazon)

Reviewed by Malcolm R. Campbell for PODBRAM

“It’s easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out,” New York World reporter Nellie Bly wrote in her “Ten Days in a Mad House” expose about the poor conditions and mistreatment of patients at Blackwell’s Island asylum in New York in 1887. Deplorable by today’s standards, the approach to mental health then wasn’t far removed from the days when professionals considered the insane to be those suffering God’s punishment or the Devil’s possession.

The fictional Magdalene Ladies Lunatic Asylum in Rosemary Poole-Carter’s darkly beautiful novel fits perfectly into a time period when the treatment of female mentally ill patients was likely to be neither moral nor effective. Confinement was often a matter of convenience for the families of women viewed as domestic failures who were best kept out of sight and out of mind.

When young Civil War surgeon Dr. Robert Mallory arrives at the Louisiana institution for employment as general practitioner after the war, he soon sees that God and the world have forgotten the women of Magdalene, and the only devils on the premises are the asylum’s owner Dr. Kingston, his former assistant Dr. Hardy, and their dictatorial matron.

When Robert questions Kingston about the inhumane treatment of the women housed in the former plantation mansion, Kingston discounts Robert’s competence to judge what is right and proper in the realm of mental illness. Later, Robert will ask why no women are ever cured and allowed to leave the facility. Cures? There are no cures, only what Kingston describes without noticeable guile as “sanctuary.”

In Poole-Carter’s haunting, yet gritty prose, Magdalene floats almost dreamlike within a misshapen world of malaise and mist that will ultimately claim all who remain there--and for a high price. Robert, like the women, arrives at the asylum having been harmed by the world and with a growing expectation that he will be injured further by the methods and practices within the shelter of Magdalene’s walls.

This novel casts multiple spells over its readers and its characters. Readers with a growing understanding that the abuses at the fictional Magdalene were drawn from the world of standard abuses of the times, won’t be able to forget what they see there. As for Robert Mallory, in spite of his resolve, he’s not sure he can complete his personal journey out of the past and cure what ails Magdalene before he becomes yet another shadow alongside the old plantation’s dark river.

See Also: The Powell's Review
The March of Books Review
The Author's Kunati Page

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Review Site Launched

The all-new POD-dy Train book review site has just left the station. The site was launched on April 7th with its official All Aboard! introductory post. The founder of POD-dy Train is a reviewer of both traditional and POD books, and an author of both types, too. Very little personal information has been released so far concerning the identity of this new blog's founder. He/she works in the publishing industry in New Yawk City and plans to review only self-published books for the new blog. Only print copies will be accepted for review. An e-mail address has been provided for contact. There are no mentions of queries, genres, or other special requests on the site, at least as yet, so I cannot offer any further details at this time. I assume that these issues will be forthcoming and I can then add the site's review request details to The De Facto POD Review Ring Chart. Like Cheryl Anne Gardner at POD People, The POD-dy Train also offers insights into the business world of the major POD companies.

I cannot take credit for discovering The POD-dy Train site on my own. Shannon Yarbrough of The Lulu Book Review sent me an e-mail yesterday, asking if I had seen POD-dy Train's review of PODBRAM. One of the unique concepts presented by this new blog is that other POD review sites will be reviewed, too. An author will be able to check out the reviews at POD-dy Train, the Ring Chart at PODBRAM, and the interviews at Breeni Books to comprehensively research all the potential online review possibilities for his book. I cannot thank you enough, POD-dy Train, for all the kind words you have said about PODBRAM in your review. I hope the PODBRAM team can continue to live up to your high expectations!

Now let's take a little train ride down into that old, dark, familiar tunnel containing some of the reasons why POD has such a disgraceful reputation in some circles. There are several ways in which an author can declare himself to be as unprofessional as the next guy. I read through this review, and I can only say that the reviewer seems be no tougher on the author than I have been on a few at PODBRAM. It is also quite obvious that this author has had success that I can only dream about. Some of the tackiest responses I have received from authors are ones that I essentially gave four stars instead of five, and that clearly seems to be the case here. I say essentially because we don't use star ratings at PODBRAM; however, I did give four stars to the same books at Amazon. Visit all the links and be sure to read all the comments. I think you will be aptly entertained, if nothing else!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Kindle Report

A new series of posts has already begun here at PODBRAM entitled The Kindle Report. Please note the new series in the link list down the left column of this page. I have been researching and developing The Kindle Report since late last year, but I had to get all my website transition stuff settled before I would have enough time to devote to this new project. The first installment of The Kindle Report appeared March 11th as Al's review of Carla Kelly's Marrying the Captain, the first review at PODBRAM written after actually reading the Kindle version of the book. Dr. Past followed his review with an informative article that was very popular at PODBRAM entitled Kindle the Gorilla. You will now find those two posts, this one, and the several that will follow listed under The Kindle Report.

This post is only an introduction to the series. Coming over the next several weeks, probably spanning the time through May, the series will be interspersed with our regular book reviews from the PODBRAM team members. I do not yet know the order in which these posts will appear because a lot still hinges upon exactly how the process unfolds. What are probably the best two books available on Kindle formatting are on their way to me to read and review upon arrival. These books have been written by POD authors and released in both print and Kindle formats. My four books have all been released in the Kindle format, but I did not complete this project until just days ago. That was just one of many developments I was awaiting before taking the project to the next level. My four nonfiction, semi-reference books each present challenges on four separate levels when uploading them into the Kindle format, and these levels are somewhat above that of most average fiction novels. Whether or not these two books I plan to read and review help me to better understand the processes of Kindle formatting will be a leading question. What can I learn from them that I can impart to authors who have much simpler POD books or authors who have yet to publish via POD or Kindle are yet more questions. For those of you who are not aware, one of the best things about Kindle is the same as one of the big reasons I moved all my websites to Blogger: you can freely and easily change and update your material! This means you might learn something from The Kindle Report long after your book has already been available in a Kindle version, and you can update your work. Once you have joined The Kindle Generation, you can have almost total control of your books from that point onward. When someone tells you that the proofeader must have been drunk when you published your book, you can fix it!

An interview with Michael R. Hicks, the author of In Her Name and Publish Your Book on the Amazon Kindle is already in the works. After the review is completed of Joshua Tallent's Kindle Formatting, I am open to continuing the development of The Kindle Report. For right now, I am already committed to more than enough work for PODBRAM in the coming weeks. I chose to interview Michael because his first book has already been reviewed on this site and his second one to be reviewed is very short. Joshua's book could turn out to be too far over the heads of most of the PODBRAM audience, including me! The only way to find out is for me to give it a shot. The result of all this could mean minor, or even serious, changes to my own Kindle versions, but maybe not. You can't swim the dunk tank until you get in the water!

I have been doing a lot of research on other aspects of the Kindle phenomenon, too. You must be dying to know: yes, I favor the Kindle 2's electronic voice box to be free to everyone all the time. I could go into a lot more detail, but that will be saved for my extensive article to be posted later, after I have completed all my research. The short version is that I experimented with audio tracks, even with music, with parts of my first book way back in 2000-01. I even have something of a studio set up in my house, but I have never continued the project for many reasons. I shall address these in my later article, but suffice it to say that, yes, you can produce a whopping better product than the Kindle voice at a whopping cost in time. Of course if you choose to produce an audio version professionally, you can add cost to that whopper, too. Al and I have done several experiments to test the Kindle. When I feed it one of the worst Kindle audio nightmares from Plastic Ozone Daydream, it does choke, stumble, and mispronounce a bit, but HAL 9000 has still come a long way, baby!

The screen shot you see at the top of this article is of the title page of Dianne Salerni's new, unreleased novel. I used this to show you yet another trick the Kindle can do. You can upload any Word document you might create to read on your Kindle, including your own yet to be released book! Cheap, convenient book review trades, anyone? Let the Kindling begin!

See Also: Kindle the Gorilla
The Kindle Releases from NIAFS

Friday, April 10, 2009

Murder of an American Nazi

Murder of An American Nazi
by Tim Fleming

(Eloquent Books / 1-606-93401-5 / 978-1-606-93401-2 / October 2008 / 240 pages / $25.95 hardcover)

Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM

A third of the way through Murder of an American Nazi, I stopped reading. I didn’t stop because I wasn’t interested. I stopped because I doubted the book was fiction as listed. You see, I’ve heard over the years about the CIA bringing Nazi war criminals to the United States after WWII to help fight Communism. I’ve also read extensively about the CIA flying drugs from Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle into the United States where these drugs were sold in America’s inner cities to raise money to buy weapons that went back to Southeast Asia where they were traded for more drugs. Poisoning America was done to fight the spread of Communism. It’s been documented that the CIA even cooperated with the mafia to make this happen. I never connected all of these CIA events together until I read Murder of an American Nazi by Tim Fleming. Before I continued reading, I sent an e-mail to Fleming asking how much was true.

He replied, “... the background history of MOAAN (Murder of an American Nazi) is nearly 100% accurate. People do not realize this is so because our real history has been kept from us. And, yes, your supposition is correct. The CIA is responsible for this. One of its dirtiest covert subterfuges (I get into this later in the book) was Operation Mockingbird: the coercion, recruitment, and training of media assets at newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and TV networks across the country.”

“Frank Wisner who ran Mockingbird in its earliest days once boasted that the operation was like a ‘mighty Wurlitzer ... I can play any tune I want on it and America will follow along.’ Powerful, influential media magnates like Bill Paley (CBS), A.H. Sulzberger (NY Times), the Luces (Time, Newsweek), C.D. Jackson (Life), and Katherine Graham (Washington Post) considered themselves patriots for protecting the CIA from any negative press and disseminating its propaganda. The CIA could not have gotten away with all its dirty tricks had an independent, truth-seeking press been alive and well in the last half of 20th century America.”

Wanting to know more, I asked Fleming about his sources and he replied, “The FOIA (The Freedom of Information Act) has been a godsend to researchers, but the CIA still fights us tooth-and-nail. Many of the released documents are available on-line, but much of the content has been redacted ....”

“Other primary sources for me were The Secret History of the American Empire, by John Perkins; Blowback and The Sorrows of the Empire, by Chalmers Johnson; Best Evidence by David Lifton; The Dark Side of the Moon, by W.W. Norton; JFK and the Unspeakable, by James Douglass; Secret Agenda, by Linda Hunt; The CIA Covenant: Nazis in Washington, by Gregory Douglas; Who Will Tell The People, by William Greider; and too many more to name here. I stumbled onto this topic by reading an article written by a JFK researcher named Mae Brussell years ago.... The information is out there, but it requires one to do his homework.”

After Fleming’s second reply, I started reading his book again. Murder of American Nazi, a riveting history that caused me to lose sleep while connecting the dots, reveals who may really rule America and how. It reads more like nonfiction than fiction.

You may not want to read this book because you could lose sleep, too. After all, the truth will not set you free. On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who wants to know the truth and loves what America once stood for (I’m talking about what the Founding Fathers created more than two hundred years ago), buy the book and read it. Warning, if you do, your world may never be the same.

Murder of an American Nazi may also shed light on the war in Iraq: billions of American dollars gone missing during that conflict while Bush was in the White House and the huge profits Halliburton has made from the war.

For sure, if Murder of an American Nazi gains the attention it deserves, the CIA will not be pleased.

See Also: About the Author
Tim Fleming's Authors Den Page

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bark up the Right Tree

Bark up the Right Tree:
Lessons from a Rescued Dog
By Jessie & Ruth Tschudin

(BookSurge / 1-439-21424-7 / 978-1-439-21424-4 / January 2009 / 112 pages / $12.95)

Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Jessie the black lab, rescued from a shelter and now living with her new family, has written her very own book to share her lessons learned in a whimsical, easy to read style that serves to shed light on the important issue of abandoned animals.

Impeccably edited and formatted for visual appeal, Bark Up the Right Tree has the added bonus of recapping Jessie’s experiences on the “PAWS For Lessons Learned” page at the end of each chapter. These are, in fact, universal lessons (take care of those you love, look for and bring out the best in each other, let go of the past, make good use of today) that can be taken to heart by dogs and people alike.

Jessie’s book, and her new life after being rescued, is spiritually inspired by her new owner Ruth who envisioned Jessie’s role in the Kids N Kritters campaign to help homeless children and animals find the loving families that they need. Through prayer and perseverance, this appears to be becoming a reality. Unfortunately, since the book only covers the first year of Jessie’s new “rescued” life, the story ends when she receives her Therapy Dog Photo ID. I would have liked to have read more about her work as a therapy dog, and her “Waggin’ Wagon” adventures that were referred to throughout the book but never truly materialized for the reader.
Bark Up the Right Tree includes many color photos of Jessie and her new family and friends, and the cover has a professional look and feel. I could easily see it being marketed at veterinary offices and pet stores. Jessie’s book is a delightful tale that will be sure to please animal lovers of all ages.

See Also: Another Review of Bark Up the Right Tree

Friday, April 03, 2009

Winter Games

Winter Games by John Lacombe
(AuthorHouse / 1-434-36475-5 / 978-1-434-36475-3 / April 2008 / 336 pages / $16.99 / $15.29 Amazon)

Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM

Tim Sutton, 24-year-old owner of a comic book store in a small New Hampshire town, is the central thread in this thriller by first-time novelist John Lacombe. Tim has an older brother, Eric, a brilliant misfit, who has disappeared years before. When an odd, encrypted plea for rescue, seemingly from Eric, appears at Tim's store, it launches Tim on a strange odyssey across the United States, to China, and finally to North Korea, of all places.

Tim is a normal person, but worked into the narrative with him are an assortment of CIA and FBI agents, Army Rangers, drug kingpins, and two almost mythologically adept super-warriors, the kind who can render themselves invisible, are immune to fatigue and environment, and are unexcelled in the use of every weapon known to man, with a familiarity with cutting-edge technology thrown in at no extra charge. As an added plus, the American agent of lethality is a smallish woman with red hair.

The story, at first a basic missing person case, eventually thickens with the agendas of the other characters: interagency rivalries, super-agent vs. super-agent, and the intrigues of the various national entities. This is satisfying. This type of thriller lives on complications and duplicity. The conclusion is not quite the expected one, but satisfying nonetheless. The text is smoothly edited and reads easily. I had a few issues with style, however. The characters' names were used too frequently (eight times in fourteen lines, in one sample, and twenty times on two pages, for example), some of the flashbacks could have been integrated more smoothly, and some of the characters did way more blabbing to other characters than they realistically would have done. CIA agents, for instance, are famously close-mouthed, but in this story they explained on and on to non-agents out of narrative necessity.

I think we can write these off to first-time novelist rough edges. Most readers of thrillers are not professors of literature. A lover of the genre would have a good time with this book.

See Also: More About John Lacombe
The AuthorHouse Winter Games Page