Fantasy Patch

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Blurb:

Picture This! Danté Roenik creates ad campaigns, reveling in the fine art of rendering his concepts on million-dollar canvasses financed by big-budget clients. Intoxicated by the sheer power of directing public opinion, he dares wage war against the conglomerate behind a worldwide anti-depressant increasingly associated with sporadic violence. To juxtapose his images with reality, he enlists a mixed palette of business tycoons, his fiancée/attorney, a team of corporate-spy soldiers of fortune, one resurgent news anchor, and the best TV-production crew in Chicago. But the sharp lines dividing perception from truth begin to blur when the darker motives shaping mass media come to light. Forced to re-examine the ethics of designer pharmacology, Danté is painted into a corner, his future about to be erased as patients die, clients lie, and unhealthy doses of murder prove too hard to swallow. Too late to whitewash the stain of deceit, Danté must decide who deserves to appear in his picture, the true subject an unfinished self-portrait way past its own deadline. It’s not what you see, not what you get . . . But all you could ever imagine. Let Danté show you how . . . With a Fantasy Patch!

My Take:

Fantasy Patch by author Stephen Geez is another of the few indie books I really enjoyed. This is the second Geez novel I’ve read. The previous one, while an excellent story, could be a little slow at times. However, this one is all action from the get-go. Geez is a skilled storyteller, to be sure. He’s also brilliant at creating believable characters that really jump off the page.

Mr. Geez adds elements from the real world into his story, and makes it seem as if Danté Roenik is somebody we’ve seen on the evening news, exposing the evil deeds of Big Pharma and the corporate empires. If you enjoy action, intrigue, and reality in your stories, get this book.

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Crazy From the Heat

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Blurb:

‘I WAS THERE WITH THESE TWO GIRLS ONCE; THEY WERE STRIPPERS. THEY SAID ‘DAVE, WE’D LIKE YOU TO GO UPSTAIRS, THE TWO OF US, WITH YOU. ‘ SO I SAID, ‘OKAY’. IT WAS AUGUST, AND IT WAS HOT AND SWEATY AND HUMID, AND WE COMMENCED TO DELIVER THE GROCERIES AT 138 BEATS PER MINUTE OR MORE. ONE OF THE GIRLS HAD $1500 IN SINGLES AND FIVES AND TENS, HER END-OF-THE-WEEK TIPS AND PAY AND EVERYTHING IN HER G-STRING. NOBODY NOTICED, YOU KNOW, WHEN THE G-STRING CAME UNDONE — WELL, I NOTICED — NOBODY NOTICED THE MONEY, LIKE, FLOATING AROUND. I WOKE UP AT SOME POINT AROUND DAWN, THE TWO OF THEM WERE ASLEEP, AND ALL THREE OF US WERE COVERED WITH MONEY, EVERY SQUARE INCH OF SKIN HAD A DOLLAR BILL PASTED TO IT — THERE WAS NOTHING BUT. THE WHOLE BED WAS COVERED WITH BILLS. OUR BODIES WERE COVERED WITH BILLS. THERE WAS BILLS IN MY UNDERWEAR. TAKE A LITTLE PICTURE OF THAT. ‘ So begins perhaps the ultimate rock autobiography. Throughout the late-seventies and eighties Van Halen were the archetypal American rock group. Whats more they were also the highest paid band in the history of show business, taking a cool $1 million for a night’s work at a festival in 1983 and making the Guiness Book of Records.

My Take:

I’m a big fan of rock and roll memoirs. They are always entertaining for one reason or another. Diamond David Lee Roth does not disappoint. This is a no-holds-barred look into the 1980’s hedonistic culture that once populated the pages of magazines like Circus and Hit Parader.

Roth, known for his rapid-fire linguistic reportage, shares snippets of his time traveling the globe both with and without the mighty Van Halen. From a glimpse into the childhood that formed the man, to his tumultuous years in one of the biggest bands ever, to his alone time, away from the rock and roll life, traveling through the jungles of South America, Dave lets us have just a peek into his wild and crazy world.

This is a fun read, to be sure. The only downside is, he barely scratches the surface when discussing studio time with Van Halen. As a fan of their music, I really hoped to learn more about the creative process of this amazing band. Overall, I recommend this book—especially if you’re looking for a few good laughs from the Diamond one.

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Exposure

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Blurb:

Ann Rogers appears to be a happily married, successful young woman. A talented photographer, she creates happy memories for others, videotaping weddings, splicing together scenes of smiling faces, editing out awkward moments. But she cannot edit her own memories so easily–images of a childhood spent as her father’s model and muse, the subject of his celebrated series of controversial photographs. To cope, Ann slips into a secret life of shame and vice. But when the Museum of Modern Art announces a retrospective of her father’s shocking portraits, Ann finds herself teetering on the edge of self-destruction, desperately trying to escape the psychological maelstrom that threatens to consume her.

My Take:

This story follows Ann Rogers from childhood to dysfunctional adulthood and what might have been a promising career following in her late father’s footsteps as a known photographer.

Ann began her introduction into the photographic arts as her father’s young model, posing in various states of undress that stirred controversy while garnering her father with notoriety in the art world.

However, there are secrets that creep into her adult life that lead her to drugs, kleptomania, and other disastrous choices. The ending left me a little disappointed, but this is an intriguing story.

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Dance of the Lights

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Blurb:

Frank relishes fast success and early retirement–until the monotony turns to boredom and loneliness thrusts him into a desperate struggle to protect the people he cares about most. Beverly thinks moving south will mark a new beginning, but consuming grief steals control of her own destiny and threatens her very survival.

All twelve-year-old Kevin wants is attention from a man he can respect, yet tragedy proves even that might never be enough.

Together they must discover their own brand of unexpected love, a promise forged in adversity, enduring through loss, and sustaining that infinite potential to achieve more than any one person can alone.

Through it all, they’re teased by the mystery of those dancing lights, a million pinpoints in every imaginable color swirling into images of extraordinary lives, their brilliance whispered in the simplest truths as they discover new ways to teach us all.

My Take:

This is one of those stories that grabs the reader from the opening chapter and leads us on a wild ride. A young boy loses his childhood to the darkness of a family life gone askew. A young woman just beginning her journey loses her life in a tragic accident. Enter the mysterious lights that strengthen those left behind. These lights appear to restore those who have been lost. But is this really her?

Author Geez touches on some dark issues in this incredible story, including abuse of children and the elderly. But this one doesn’t leave us feeling hopeless or worn down. The writer weaves enough light into the story to keep readers turning the pages in search of the truth about those strange lights. Is there really a way to return from the dead? You’ll have to read it for yourself!

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The Almost Moon

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Blurb:

A woman steps over the line into the unthinkable in this brilliant, powerful, and unforgettable new novel by the author of The Lovely Bones and Lucky.

For years Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now grown children. When she finally crosses a terrible boundary, her life comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined. Unfolding over the next twenty-four hours, this searing, fast-paced novel explores the complex ties between mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, the meaning of devotion, and the line between love and hate. It is a challenging, moving, gripping story, written with the fluidity and strength of voice that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

My Take:

The opening pages of Alice Sebold’s follow-up to The Lovely Bones catches a woman killing her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother. This scene sets the pace for the rest of the story, as the curtain is yanked back, exposing severe dysfunction within the family unit. Our POV character attempts to convince herself — and thus convince the reader — that she committed the horrible deed out of love and sympathy for her debilitated mother. We see through this falsehood, recognizing the fact that this character hated her mother.

Sebold has a knack for writing strong stories inhabited by interesting characters. And it’s these very characters that drive her stories. If you haven’t tapped into the beauty of Ms. Sebold’s work, get with the program.

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Slivers of Life

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Blurb:

These twenty short stories are a peek into individual lives caught up in spectacular moments in time. Children, teens, mothers, and the elderly each have stories to share. Readers witness tragedy and fulfillment, love and hate, loss and renewal. Historical events become backdrops in the lives of ordinary people, those souls forgotten with the passage of time. Beem Weeks tackles diverse issues running the gamut from Alzheimer’s disease to civil rights, abandonment to abuse, from young love to the death of a child. Long-hidden secrets and notions of revenge unfold at the promptings of rich and realistic characters; plot lines often lead readers into strange and dark corners. Within Slivers of Life, Weeks proves that everybody has a story to tell-and no two are ever exactly alike.

My Take:

This book is a nice sample platter of what a gifted artist can do with words and situations. There are twenty short stories in this collection, and each one offers a voyeuristic gaze into various lives and moments in time. These are mostly normal people caught in not-so-normal situations. There always seems to be a little twist at the end of each story. I love the way this author’s mind works. I am a huge fan. Get this one NOW!

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I Know This Much Is True

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Blurb:

On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother, Thomas, entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut, public library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable. . . .

One of the most acclaimed novels of our time, Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True is a story of alienation and connection, devastation and renewal, at once joyous, heartbreaking, poignant, mystical, and powerfully, profoundly human.

My Take:

Wally Lamb is a great American author telling amazing stories. I’ve been privileged to read a few of his works over the years. This one caught my attention because of the Oprah’s Book Club label. While I’m not a big fan of her former program, Oprah Winfrey sure can pick winners when it comes to books. I Know This Much Is True is one of a dozen or so I’ve read with the OBC designation attached. I’ve not been disappointed.

With this tale, Lamb takes on mental illness and twin brothers. His carefully constructed story is tight, deep, and fully developed. This story touches on alienation, religion, family, and reproduction. At 900+ pages, this book is long. But take my word, the journey is worth the time. I recommend pretty much anything from this author.

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The High Road: Memories From A Long Trip

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Blurb:

What drives a man to spend 26 years performing night after night? To persevere through a stifling tour bus, bad food, strange women, flared tempers, a plane nearly blown from the sky? Just how did that troubled military brat with a dream claw his way from dirt-floor dive-bar shows to the world’s biggest stages?

Aviator, author, and Country Music Hall of Fame drummer Mark Herndon lived that dream with one of the most popular and celebrated bands of all time. He learned some hard lessons about people and life, the music industry, the accolades and awards, how easy it is to lose it all . . . and how hard it is to survive, to embrace sobriety, to live even one more day.

Herndon’s poignant memoir offers a tale at once cautionary and inspirational, delightful and heartbreaking, funny yet deeply personal. From innocence to rebellion to acceptance, can a man still flourish when the spotlight dims? Are true forgiveness, redemption, and serenity even possible when the powerful say everything you achieved somehow doesn’t even count? That you’re not who you and everyone who matters thought you were?

Mark Herndon refuses to slow down. So look back, look ahead, and join him on the trip.

He’s taking The High Road.

My Take:

Mark Herndon played drums for the country band Alabama for nearly thirty years. So imagine his surprise when the three founding members of the group (all cousins, mind you) decided that he never really was an actual member. This despite the fact that the man appears on pretty much every one of their album covers over the years. He’s there in the videos as well. And let’s not forget he’s been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame as a member of, yes, Alabama.

You’d think Herndon would be bitter, having given so much of himself to this popular act. But that’s not his style. As the title suggests, Mark Herndon took the high road in telling his story. This memoir is really about his life, with glances inside the fame machine.

Herndon is a talented drummer, a father, a licensed pilot, and an author. He got his start as a heavy metal/hard rock drummer before getting the gig with the then-unknown Alabama. It was his sound that gave the group that little something extra that made them stand out from all the other country bands.

From what I’ve heard and read elsewhere, Herndon was the nice guy of the band, always staying late to sign autographs and meet fans. The others, according to many fans who’ve met them, had egos or attitudes. I’ve never met them, so I really can’t speak to that. What I can say is, this is one of the better memoirs I’ve read in a long time. Herndon is one of those guys who just has an interesting story to share.

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Mother of Pearl

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Blurb:

Capturing all the rueful irony and racial ambivalence of small-town Mississippi in the late 1950s, Melinda Haynes’ celebrated novel is a wholly unforgettable exploration of family, identity, and redemption. Mother of Pearl revolves around twenty-eight-year-old Even Grade, a black man who grew up an orphan, and Valuable Korner, the fifteen-year-old white daughter of the town whore and an unknown father. Both are passionately determined to discover the precious things neither experienced as children: human connection, enduring commitment, and, above all, unconditional love. A startlingly accomplished mixture of beauty, mystery, and tragedy, Mother of Pearl marks the debut of an extraordinary literary talent.

My Take:

I’m not a big Oprah Winfrey fan, but I will say this: The Oprah Book Club sure picked a lot of great novels. Mother of Pearl is one of those reads. I chose it based solely on the Oprah seal of approval on the cover.

What Melinda Haynes accomplished with her debut novel is nothing short of brilliance. There is a subtle undertone of sadness running through this story set in the deep south during the 1950s. Lives are never going to be what those who live them hope they’d be; expectations—unless negative—are usually unmet. Valuable Korner, a white girl and 15-year-old daughter of the town whore, finds her life intersecting with that of Even Grade, a black man just trying to live the life handed to him. Family secrets are unearthed, leaving young Valuable struggling against awful truths from the generations that came before.

This is a story of redemption. Love leads to commitment after tragedy, and empty lives find fulfillment. Haynes manages to pull this off without that sappy feeling. This is one of those books I have kept on my shelf long after reading. It is worth your time.

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The Ice Storm

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Blurb:

The year is 1973. As a freak winter storm bears down on an exclusive, affluent suburb in Connecticut, cars skid out of control, men and women swap partners, and their children experiment with sex, drugs, and even suicide. Here two families, the Hoods and the Williamses, come face-to-face with the seething emotions behind the well-clipped lawns of their lives – in a novel widely hailed as a funny, acerbic, and moving hymn to a dazed and confused era of American life.

My Take:

As the blurb states, this novel has a little of everything: sex, drugs, suicide, wife swapping, and tragedy. The 1970s were clearly a time of disappearing inhibitions. The author manages to encapsulate that wild and crazy decade into a compelling story featuring two families. Rick Moody’s brush strokes are magnificent, painting vivid images of family dysfunction. A solid piece of writing.

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