Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reading Challenge Update: April 2014

Here is where I stand with the challenges I have joined after the month of April (only challenges that I read books for this month are featured here):

Ebook (15/25)
12. Chasing Prophecy by James Moser
13. Spark by Michael F. Stewart
14. A Stormy Knight by Amy Mullen
15. Written for You by Joseph Cognard

Audio Book (8/25)
7. The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
8. Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

100 Books in a Year (46/100)
38. Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
39. Chasing Prophecy by James Moser
40. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
41. The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
42. Spark by Michael F. Stewart
43. The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
44. Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
45. A Stormy Knight by Amy Mullen
46. Written for You by Joseph Cognard

Historical Fiction (6/15)
6. A Stormy Knight by Amy Mullen

British Book (5/12)
5. The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

Free Reads (18/30)
17. The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
18. A Stormy Knight by Amy Mullen

Author Alphabet (14/26)
13. The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
14. Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Written for You

Written for You
by Joseph Cognard
published by author
August 2012
ISBN n/a
Why Read?: Review
Challenges:  E-Book, 100 Books in a Year

As the artistic director of a community theatre, I am always eager to read new plays, so I jumped at the chance to read Joseph Cognard’s Written for You, a three-act contemporary drama about an aspiring author just trying to get his book read while going crazy in the process.

Bob took his therapist’s advice and wrote a book, but no one will read it – not his therapist, not any of his coworkers at the publishing agency, not even his family.  Already stressed out from his finance job, this sets Bob on edge and he begins hearing voices.  When people who have actually read his book go missing, Bob is convinced his book is somehow responsible.  On the brink of total madness, Bob discovers that he is not all that far off from the truth.

Cognard’s style of writing slightly absurd realistic situations reminds me of a cross between Christopher Durang and Sam Shepard.  However, there are some parts of the play that point to a first-time playwright – mainly, the minutia in the stage directors, which are normally not seen in a play, or if they are, they are added into the print addition from the stage manager’s book after the initial run.  Also, while the dialogue is strong, the lack of action in many scenes made it feel less like a play and more like pages of conversation in a novel. 

Written for You is not a bad first attempt at a play, and with a little tweaking, I can see it going on well in smaller, experimental theatres.  Joseph Congard has some quirky insight into the writing and publishing industry that really made Written for You an enjoyable read.

Rating: 3/5

A Stormy Knight

Title: A Stormy Knight
Author: Amy Mullen
Publisher: Astraea
ISBN: 978-1-62135-176-4
Why Read?: Book Club
Challenges: E-Book, Historical Fiction, Free Reads, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts:  I loved the mystery and the secret passages, but the romance in this fell a little short for me as the characters seemed to flip flop too much. I did also enjoy the historical aspects as I do not read much set in the Middle Ages.

Rating: 3 stars

Elsewhere Online: April 2014

As you know from my Stacking the Shelves posts, I review for two other websites ( and As I cannot post my reviews there and here, but I would still like to count the books I read for the challenges, I am going to have a post like this at the end of the every month listing the books I reviewed and what challenges the went towards.

Title: The Mark of the Dragonfly
Author: Jaleigh Johnson
Challenges: Author Alphabet, 100 Books in a Year

Title: Because It Is My Blood
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Challenges: Audio Book, Author Alphabet, 100 Books in a Year

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Terminals: Spark

The Terminals: Spark
by Michael F. Stewart
published by Non Sequitur
April 2014
ISBN n/a
Why Read?: Review
Challenges:  E-Book, 100 Books in a Year

Michael F. Stewart's newest adult series, The Terminals, takes an interesting look at religion and the afterlife.  The first book in the series, Spark, focuses on Gnosticism and the idea that every life contains a spark.

Lieutenant Colonel Christine Kurzow just wants to die.  Because of inaction on her part, her whole unit was killed in an insurgent attack.  The Army, however, will not let her die and sends her to  join a secret unit called the Terminals.  Everyone in this unit is on their deathbed, but until they do die, they are tasked with finding terminal patients will to let their deaths mean something.  Through the use of a psychic, they befriend killers in the afterlife learning their secrets so that those in this life can stop future attacks or rescue prisoners.  The case Christine gets assigned to involves a dead serial killer who has a busload of children held captive somewhere.  The killer was Gnostic and believed that by collecting the sparks of those he killed, he could achieve greatness in the afterlife and be reborn.  Charlie is a terminally ill Gnostic monk who is eager to help Christine, but the afterlife is not at all what he expected, and getting the killer to give up the location of the kids is a very difficult task.  Meanwhile, Christine is still suicidal and the fading hope for this case just makes things worse.

This is the second book by Stewart that I have read that concern Gnosticism, and I would have to say he has a very good handle on the subject and that is why this is the first afterlife he tackles.  the idea of using dying patients to reach those in the afterlife to solve crimes is a very interesting idea which Stewart has obviously thought out well, although there was a point or two where my understanding was a little fuzzy.  Also, this novel is not for the squeamish.  There are some very graphic seasons of torture that had me turning away a points.

Michael F. Stewart has some amazing story ideas and I cannot wait to see where The Terminals series goes next.  Spark was a great introduction to this intriguing world.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: 4/20-4/26

First Reads from Goodreads:
The Science of Shakespeare by Dan Falk

Received for Easter:
Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Peculiar

Title: The Peculiar
Author: Stefan Bachmann
Publisher: Green Willow
ISBN: 978-0-06-222769-0
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges: Audio Book, Free Reads, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: Normally, I enjoy listening to books, but this is one I wish I had read.  I had trouble understanding some of the voices which made it hard to focus on the story.  What I did get, though, was a cute story with a great cliffhanger.

Rating: 3 stars

Monday, April 21, 2014

Anansi Boys

Title: Anansi Boys
Author: Nail Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Torch
ISBN: 978-0-06-051519-5
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges: 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: This is technically the sequel to American Gods, but it can definitely be read as a standalone.  In fact, I think the story was more fun than American Gods.  But focusing on just one god - actually, on his sons - it made for an entertaining and cohesive story.  I really hope Gaiman tries some more novels focuses on a single god.

Rating: 5 stars

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: 4/13-4/19

For possible review (on Bookloons):
Incinerator by Niall Leonard
Deception's Princess by Esther Friesner
Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper
The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher
Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer

First Reads from Goodreads:
Death by Probability by Urno Barthel
The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley

Requested from Paperback Swap:
Dancing Wheels by Patricia McMahon
Daughter of Darkness by V. C. Andrews

Bought on Amazon:
The Code of the Hills by Nancy Allen
Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway
Confession by Carey Baldwin

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chasing Prophecy

Chasing Prophecy
by James Moser
published by Skookum Trail
January 2014
ISBN n/a
Why Read?: Review
Challenges:  E-Book, 100 Books in a Year

James Moser's Chasing Prophecy was not at all what I expected, but in the best way possible.  This coming-of-age story deals with issues that I have never encountered before in a YA novel...and Bigfoot.

Mo Kirkland is a pretty typical teenager.  He is a regular student, sometimes bullied, and in love with his best friend.  Yes, he does have two moms, and that is how he has fallen in with the local cult, the Bethlehem Family, which is best friend, Prophecy Bethlehem (he still calls her Kazzy) is part of.  When the Bethlehem Family leader dies and the government comes after them for tax evasion, claiming they are not a real religion, Max, his moms, and his other best friend, Max, get involved in trying to help.  Little does Mo know that he and Max will be turned into drug mules.  Not liking the turn the Bethlehem Family has taken, Kazzy and her mom escape and agree to help the US Marshals.  The Bethlehem Family, though, has plenty of resources and soon Mo's life is turned completely upside down.

Moser starts Chasing Prophecy as a typical YA contemporary about a boy who will do anything to impress the girl he likes, including jumping off a bridge and searching for Bigfoot.  However, Moser slowly weaves in a much darker story that takes this from light fiction to something much more real.  While his characters and plot are strong, it is the themes that really set Chasing Prophecy apart from anything else in the YA market today.

If you want something different and not super fluffy from your YA, Chasing Prophecy is a great pick.  James Moser has created something unique here and I hope to see more from him.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: 3/30-4/12

For possible review (here and on Bookloons):
Running Through a Dark Place by Michael J. Bowler
How About Never - Is That Good for You? by Bob Mankoff

Mayhem in Maryland by Candice Spear

First Reads from Goodreads:
The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
Murder at Cape Three Points by Kwei Quartey

LibraryThing Early Review:
Midnight by Mari Adkins
Mystic Guardian by Patricia Rice

Requested from Paperback Swap:
Daughter of Light by V.C. Andrews
The Overloaded Ark by Gerald Durrell

Selection for Astraea Press Book Club:
A Stormy Knight by Amy Mullen

Bought at Wizard World Comic Con St. Louis:
Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow by Masashi Kishimoto
More Starlight to Your Heart 2 by Hiro Matsuba
Full Metal Panic! Overload! 2 by Shouji Gatou & Tomohiro Nagai
The Great Plan by Chase Wheeler
Skip-Beat 1 by Yoshiki Makamura
Kamikazi Kaito Jeanne 1 by Arina Tanemura
Red Handed by Matt Kindt
Super Spy by Matt Kindt

Friday, April 11, 2014

Parnassus on Wheels

Title: Parnassus on Wheels
Author: Christopher Morley
Publisher: Melville
ISBN: 978-1-935554-11-0
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges: 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: Definitely a lost classic!  This novella from the early 20th century is an adorable story about a bored farm woman who wants an adventure so she buys a bookseller's wagon.    A wonderful, fun story about books and love at any age.

Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spotlight: The Infinity Program

Title: The Infinity Program
Author: Richard H. Hardy
Genre: Science Fiction
Paperback available at: Amazon

Book Description:

Jon Graeme and Harry Sale are unlikely friends. Harry is a world-class programmer, but his abrasive personality alienates co-workers. In contrast, Jon is a handsome and easy-going technical writer, the low man on the IT totem pole.

Sharing a love of nature, the men set out together, planning to go their separate ways--Jon on a hike and Harry, fly fishing. Three days later, Jon arrives at the rendezvous point, but his friend is nowhere in sight. When Jon finds Harry unconscious on the floor of a cave, Harry claims to have been lying there the entire time. But he is neither cold nor hungry. What Jon doesn't know is that Harry fell into an underground cavern, where he came into contact with an alien quantum computer.

Back at work, Harry jettisons his regular tasks and concentrates exclusively on inventing new operating language to access the alien system. In the process he crashes his office's Super Computer and is fired. Jon convinces the company to give Harry a second chance, arguing that the system he has invented will make them millions.

Jon has no idea what havoc Harry is about to unleash.


About the Author:
Richard H. Hardy was born in Glasgow, Scotland, during a week of relentless bombing raids just before the close of World War II. The day he was born an incendiary bomb fell on the church across the street from where he lived, so he is fond of saying that he entered the world with a big adrenaline rush.

His family later moved to England and then on to America.

After college Richard bounced through a series of temporary jobs as he traveled around the country, wanting nothing more than to write fiction. A job driving a library van allowed him free time to write several short stories and work on a novel.

He and his wife moved to New Hampshire, where he took an entry level job at a software company. He was soon promoted to the technical writing department and ended up producing over 500,000 words of online documentation. After a few years he was promoted to the programming department and ended up as the Senior EDI Programmer, creating EDI maps and writing UNIX scripts and troubleshooting on AIX systems throughout the U.S. and Canada.

After he retired, he started writing fiction again. The Infinity Program is his first published novel.

Where to find Richard H. Hardy: