TIME Great Discoveries: Explorations that Changed History

September 20, 2009

9781603200837z5 out of 5 stars

144 Pages, Young Adult

Time, 2009

Every once in awhile I get a request to review a book that doesn’t comply with The Boogle’s stated goal and I’ll agree to take a look, simply because the book is so cool and is something I simply can’t resist. This brings me to a great new addition to my collection of awesome adventure books, TIME Great Discoveries: Explorations that Changed History. This is more than your ultimate coffee table fodder. Filled with stunning photographs that capture the most amazing discoveries of our world ­– spanning the wonders of geography, paleontology, astronomy and archaeology – and combined with wonderful, classic tales of exploration, this is the perfect book for an armchair adventurer like me.

The book is filled with page after page of stunning, high-resolution, color photographs of the most amazing scenery of this world and beyond. Overhead shots of Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and Mayan pyramids are simply mind-boggling in scope and detail. The collections of ancient coins and weapons, unearthed after being lost for hundreds of years, and the fascinating bog bodies provide dazzling links to the past and remind us that our ancestors were not much different than we are. With an informative and educational narrative accompanying each discovery, the book is perfect for young adults and seasoned travelers alike.

From the depth of the diamond mine in Kimberly, South Africa to the frozen North and South Poles, to the far reaches of our solar system, TIME takes you on an adventure through time and space, visiting Shackleton’s crew in 1915 and journeying beyond the Milky Way, looking back through billions of years of supernovas and galaxy clusters. Dinosaurs and cavemen, the aurora borealis, an elk herd crossing the mountains of Montana, robots exploring the surface of Mars (if you like this kind of stuff then you’ll love Great Discoveries). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – which also makes a cameo in the cool section about the Titanic.

My daughter is 4 and just becoming interested in the wonders of the world. This is the perfect book to leave on display for her to discover and page through at her leisure, or one for me to read carefully as I sit back with a glass of wine and some light music on a lazy autumn night. Stunning, engaging and delightfully well-crafted, this is the type of book that will inspire the mind and encourage you to travel the world and enjoy the wonders it has to offer!

TIME Great Discoveries: Explorations that Changed History will be available October 13th, everywhere books are sold.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, September 2009


Soul and Shadow

September 18, 2009

51s1SFcNo8L._SL110_Susan McLeod

Susan McLeod Publisher, 2009

132 Pages, Romance

4 out of 5 stars

Reluctantly, grudgingly I’m giving Susan McLeod’s Soul and Shadow four out of five stars. Wow, that’s some pretty enthusiastic praise there, Boogle.

Let me explain.

Anyone who participated in the What Qualifies as Romance? debate a few weeks back, or has read The Boogle’s Submission Guidelines understands that The Boogle doesn’t do romance. Even books that aren’t true romance novels but heavy on romantic themes will be overlooked in favor of more gritty, adventurous books or bloody novels. I agreed to review Soul and Shadow because I love Egypt and was intrigued by the story. I continuously told myself to read it objectively, fairly, without preconceptions or memories of past fictional romantic horrors. Once I set my attitude aside and put the prejudice on hold, I was able to read Soul and Shadow with a clear conscience – and was pleasantly surprised!

Admitting that I like a novel heavy on romance is like a diehard Led Zeppelin fan admitting to his metal-headed buddies that he “kind of likes” The Beatles. I’m reminded of my childhood hatred of tomatoes – which I had never eaten – but had always insisted that I could not stomach their awful taste. Admitting that I enjoyed a romance novel is like admitting that something I want to hate isn’t really that bad and is in fact, pretty good.

Wow, Boog – this is some VERY enthusiastic praise. Susan must be so happy.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Spare me, because about halfway in I decided that I liked Soul and Shadow, and here’s why: it is very well written – even the romance stuff rings true, which is VERY hard to pull off. Writing good romance is like painting modern art. Most of it sucks but every once in awhile someone comes up with something brilliant.

McLeod’s writing feels autobiographical, and deeply personal, which humanizes Lily’s thoughts and feelings. We’re right there with her, and we hope she ends up happy. The story is about Lily and a guy, or a couple of guys, and an intriguing and mysterious necklace that conjures images of 3,000 years past. Unfolding in parallel, we follow Lily in the present day and Amisihathor, (Lily’s past life?) in ancient Egypt as they engage in melodramatic yet genuine pursuits of love. It reads like a soap opera at times, with exchanges between lovers that summon memories of daytime television.

“Nothing will stop us.”

“Nothing,” she repeats, flinging herself against him.

And it’s here that I admit my weakness – as much as I can’t stand romance novels, I have a soft spot for shows like Melrose Place, 90210 and Dynasty. Soul and Shadow is right there with them, hamming it up in the most sincere and loveable way. By the end of the book I wanted – no I needed to know if Lily would end up with Kent, or if she’d get back together with her ex, and what will happen to Briggs?!!??

It’s a good book, a quick read, and an easy way to pass the time. Check it out.

Strengths: easy reading, good writing, strong and realistic dialogue

Opportunities: novels told in first person are difficult, especially when a lot of thing happen when the narrator is not around. We have to settle for being told vs. being shown

Will appeal to: this novel is for romantics and sentimentalists only!

Soul and Shadow is available on amazon.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, September 2009


Tribute to the Swayz

September 15, 2009

Yeah, I know, this has nothing to do with book publishing but I always thought Patrick Swayze was a good guy, despite his cheesiness. Two of his movies made it into my list of the Top Ten Best Worst Movies Ever. Make sure you check these out…Roadhouse was PS at his best.

RIP Johnny Castle, Dalton, Jed…you put up a gallant fight.

16789-16104 

 

 

 1952-2009


This Time

September 13, 2009

TT_CoverJoan Szechtman

Basset Books, 2009

343 Pages, Fiction

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

When the Portland Chapter of the Richard III Society decides to restore the 15th Century ruler’s good name and discredit the Shakespearean version, they do what any big-thinking historical society would do: travel back in time, kidnap the man himself and bring him into the present day to testify on his own behalf. Let me get one thing out of the way: when I first heard the premise for this book I did not think it could work, but it does.

Vast amounts of money and resources are put to work to revise a couple of seemingly historical footnotes and once Richard III arrives in the 21st Century we have a sentimental fish-out-of-water story where a lonely man struggles to rebuild a family. The book is most interesting when we see the world through Richard’s eyes. Questions aside, and there are many questions, we join the simple yet elegant King of England as he learns about everything from the Internet to formatting Excel spreadsheets. Most mesmerizing is Richard’s discovery and reaction to the Holocaust and the issue of prisoner treatment that suddenly emerged. With a prior reference to the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison debacle and Richard III’s own treatment of prisoners, not to mention the fact the he is a prisoner himself, this theme is explored briefly and then quickly set aside as the book becomes a romance story where Richard is conflicted between passion and 15th Century dogma.

And this is an example of what prevents this book from being great. Many times during the story, the author puts Richard in a situation that could be absolutely fascinating but we never learn what Richard thinks, or how he is reacting. I wanted to be inside the head of a 15th Century person who is seeing New York City for the first time. I wanted to know how utterly frightened Richard III was when he took his first airplane flight, and join him as he browsed the history section of his first modern bookstore. I wanted to experience his utter confusion and fascination when learning about the Internet.

These things are amazing to experience for the first time, even when you’ve grown up in THIS century but Richard accepts everything he sees at face value and never questions how something so damn big can get off the ground. When he’s at the airport, he even chooses to do a crossword puzzle instead of standing at the window watching the planes take off and land (on a side note: is it even possible for him to do a crossword puzzle, something that depends on one’s knowledge of trivia and popular culture?).

But the author has sacrificed these moments for the sake of moving the story along. The pace is very quick and I was able to finish the book in a couple of days. The writing is sound, the characters are good and Szechtman is a sentimentalist whose first novel has a lot of heart.

One last thing that must be addressed is the issue of time travel. This is not an uncommon devise and has been used in many books and films, with varying degrees of scientific explanation. The Back to the Future movies used a car powered by plutonium or lightening, traveling at 88 miles per hour, with a weird electrical do-dad called a flux capacitor, and a dial where you punched in your destination date and time. This worked. On the other hand, the Terminator movies sent men and machines through time with no explanation whatsoever. We are forced to accept that in the not-too-distant future, after most of the world has been destroyed by a nuclear holocaust, there exists one or more devises that allow for time travel. This also works and we accept it because all we want is explosions, car chases and enough ordinance to end the Iraq war, so we’re willing to accept this necessary malarkey about time travel.

This Time falls somewhere in the middle, and while adequate explanation is given to the time-travel devise called Q-Trip, the technological possibilities surrounding the machine open a gigantic scientific can of worms that cannot be ignored. If 21st Century scientists are able to pluck a person from his place in time and set them in confinement, as they do to Richard III, what is stopping them from abducting Hitler, or the 9-11 hijackers, or any of history’s most terrible villains?

The scientists are even able to send a camera back in time to record history to be watched on TV in this time. Imagine the historical mysteries that could be answered with this technology! We could learn how the pyramids were built, witness Moses parting the Red Sea and discover who really shot JFK! But this monumental scientific achievement is used for a very small purpose, to restore the reputation of an obscure King of England.

This Time does not address these possibilities, and it doesn’t need to because it merely sets the stage. This is a book that made me think, that got my imagination running, that generated new and fascinating ideas, and in doing so, exceeded my expectations in a way I never thought possible. Nice work, Joan, you pulled it off.

Strengths: strong writing, good pacing, interesting premise and likable characters

Opportunities: missed some opportunities to address what we take for granted to someone with no background, some scientific holes

Will appeal to: sentimentalists, history buffs, romance readers

This Time is available from AbeBooks and Atlas Books and will be available on amazon December 12th, 2009.

Visit Joan Szechtman’s website.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, September 2009


Legendary Sidekick – in 4D!

September 7, 2009

Legendary_Sidekick(3)John M. Haley

CreateSpace, 2009

454 Pages, Science-Fiction, Experimental Fiction, ???

3 out of 5 stars

This epic tale of a young man with extraordinary powers who fights evil across time, and two planets, is nerd paradise. Written in the humorous and outrageous spirit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Legendary Sidekick in 4D! is John Haley’s first novel, a unique and unconventional story about wars between samurais, demons, weirdos and geeks. Fresh out of college, the hero is hired as the sidekick to the buffoonish Caped Avenger, and takes the name Errand Boy or as he’s later called, “Eb.” He departs on his journey, or series of journeys, time-traveling and jumping back and forth between worlds as he meets a quirky cast of angels, knights, samurai and three oddball brothers named Sloth, Spork and Bones.

The story is part sci-fi, part adventure, part comedy and something that never takes itself seriously. The author’s eclectic imagination drives an adventure story through a world that is surprisingly very much like our own, but filled with super powers and surprises.

Filled with poems, lyrics, symbols and elaborate diagrams, this is a book unlike any I have ever read. An avant-garde exploration of the superhero epic, the book succeeds in its originality but suffers from its rather disorganized view of itself. This is a book that can’t decide what it wants to be. Jumping back and forth between the past and present tense, the author’s inventive world never quite makes it to the page the way he imagined. For a universe that is intended to be completely original, it is filled with many Earth-like objects and practices such as chocolate chip cookies, going to church, roasting marshmallows, and that arcade claw game where you try and pickup toys and teddy bears.

It could definitely use an edit to tighten the story as this is a long book that took awhile to read. The choppy storytelling lacks structure and sacrifices narrative for gimmicks, some of which payoff.

There is a lot of energy but sadly, not a lot of plot. Hard to digest in big chunks, the book could benefit from less dialogue and more context. I wanted more history of this world, more explanation as to what was happening – why it was happening. Action-packed, with lots of fight scenes, it was sometimes challenging to tell what was going on and who the reader should root for.

To be fair, this is a book that does not take itself seriously and the writing is fun and meant to amuse. A passage I especially liked happens when one of the characters seems to cast a spell over a demon, “…its flesh tanned by the pound to a patchwork of select browns, none of which were found in chocolate, fine furniture or musical instruments, or an any race of human flesh. These were the spectrum of rotting meat and swamp mushrooms. The tans of vomit and the browns of feces…”

If you’re a fan of oddball science fiction and creative worlds were superheroes and sidekicks battle spirits and magical beasts then you might want to check out Legendary Sidekick. The author clearly had a great time writing a story that is definitely one of a kind!

Strengths: original with quirky characters and witty dialogue

Opportunities: longish, confusing at times, too many characters

Will appeal to: science-fiction fans who like their stories with a twist of humor

Legendary Sidekick is available on amazon.

You can check out the book’s trailer here.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, Spetember 2009



Hey, don’t forget to check out…

September 3, 2009

Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy (very funny). It won Honorable Mention for General Fiction at the Eric Hoofer Book Awards in 2003.

Here’s a cool little page about the book’s characters, with drawings by Lupi!

And here’s what people are saying…

 

Reports of Elvis’ death were greatly exaggerated; this book sets you straight as to what really went on. Will this topic ever stop being funny? Try this light and fun read.

-2004 Writer’s Notes Book Awards

 

Elvis, the first man to set foot on the moon? You must read this well-crafted book to find out! Mark McGinty’s humorous take on the first moon landing of Apollo 11 takes us through the preparation, the actual space trip, and the never-to-be-forgotten first step on that yellow orb in the sky!…This is a must-read and highly recommended for all you space buffs who love a lot of humor tossed in. Good job, Mr. McGinty! I want to read it again…

-Lila Pinord, author of Min’s Monster

 

A wonderful romp in never-land…The author has peppered his story with enough real facts and detail to make you want to believe it… The reader will enjoy meeting a wide variety of delightfully crazy characters. The story is fun, the characters are complex, and the idea is certainly original. If you’ve ever been intrigued by all those conspiracy theories that are constantly emblazoned on the pages of the supermarket tabloids this will be an interesting read.

-Robert Barclay, Midwest Book Review

 

An entertaining book which provides a fresh and innovative approach to Elvis’ fictional adventures.

-Nigel Patterson, Elvis Information Network

 

Available right here!


Book Publishing Glossary

September 2, 2009

If you haven’t checked out Nathan Bransford’s blog yet, make sure you head on over. Mr. Bransford is a literary agent who regularly spills the beans on the publishing industry. There is a TON of information for writers, both aspiring and accomplished. I hit his site about once a week and always surf away with something new.

Right now it’s Writer Appreciation Week, and he has some good stuff about that but what I really like is his Book Publishing Glossary. No need for me to explain what that is, but here are a few of my favorites…

Earn out – When your book has earned more revenue than you were paid as an advance it is said to have “earned out.” From here on out you get royalties on all “net sales” and all subrights income. Congratulations!
Flow through – In some contracts when there is subrights income (see “subrights”) the author’s share of the revenue is allowed to “flow through” directly to the author without being held by the publisher until the end of a royalty period.
Pitch letter – An agent’s letter to an editor telling them why they absolutely need to buy a book the agent is shopping.
Warranty – The part of a publishing contract where the author swears on their life that they are not plagiarizing anyone and everything is on the up and up (see also “Indemnity”).

Head on over but be warned – Mr. Bradsford’s site is a virtual black hole – be preparred to spend a lot of time there!!!


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