Monday, March 31, 2014

Epistolary novel that will grab you with each dramatic thread and weave you into a fantastic modern plot.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook
By Maria Semple (Author) 
Kathleen Wilhoite (Reader)
Little, Brown & Company; Unabridged edition (April 16, 2013)
Amazon $14.98, ISBN-10: 1478978945
A review by Ginger Dawn Harman

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is an epistolary novel that will grab you with each dramatic thread and weave you into a fantastic modern plot. Humorous, absorbing, and well developed characters will not only entertain the reader but consume you. Set in Seattle, the reader is whisked away into the world of PTA mothers, Microsoft, TED talks, and the Russian Mafia. There are so many stories that the reader/listener will not become bored. Bernadette Fox, a promising architect, who suffers from social anxiety and has become manipulated by a virtual assistant, Manjula Kapoor, located in India.

Suddenly after all seems to fall apart, Bernadette has disappeared. Fourteen year old daughter Bee and top Microsoft executive husband Elgin are swept into a plot by reports from the FBI, overboard tiger mothers, and a promised trip to Antarctica. Their love for Bernadette evokes a wistful energy and a degree of frustration. Bee, the young genius must decipher emails, cryptographic codes, and correspondence from the government to track Bernadette however, it may be too late.

It is almost impossible to pinpoint Maria Semple’s style of writing.
She is a crafted story teller that gives the reader a contemporary tale that is part memoir and part mystery, and also provides so many different perspectives by each character. Parts are written in first person narrative as daughter Bee but the author quickly switches to social satire formed by e-mails and letters. I found this to be fresh and unique. The tone is upbeat and the pace of the novel is full speed ahead.


Kathleen Wilhoite
Kathleen Wilhoite does a fantastic job reading. This was my first book that I have heard that she has narrated. Wilhoite has a talent for emoting the characters and has wonderful inflection. Her comedic timing and personality bringing each word to life. I was really impressed with how well she could switch from 15 year old Bee to Indian virtual assistant Manjula Kapoor. Switching between dozens of distinct character voices without a hiccup requires immense theatrical skill. Moreover, I felt as if I were inside the book and it was presented on stage before me.

Kathleen Wilhoite and Maria Semple have combined their talent with a plethora of emotions using both word and voice.  Humor, frustration, and suspenseful turns and twists will delight those who are ages 18 to 99. I'd highly recommend this book if you're looking for something to entertain and listen to on a road trip or like me, cleaning the house. The story is easy to pick up after pauses and takes the reader to the right place.

Friday, March 28, 2014

5 Star Oorah! Motivation and impulses that lead to emotional transitions.

Hurricane Ginger by Bud Rudesill
Moonstrike Press; December 30, 2013
Amazon Digital Services, $2.99, 59 pages, ASIN: B004LGTRWQ
A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman
Five Stars



I first came across the novel Hurricane Ginger by, Bud Rudesill while on Pinterest. I was named after this hurricane and my interest was immediately piqued that a fiction had been written surrounding this storm. 
 
The Real Hurricane Ginger
Even more astonishing was the opening line and the description of the heroine, Ginger Van Fleet. After all, “Sir, perhaps her name is no coincidence. I believe it’s Ginger. She’s a bit like that damned hurricane. Small, tenacious, and a ____ load of a problem.” I was hooked and more than intrigued. Bud Rudsell has crafted an amazing short and his talent of voice and dialogue are superb.

The novella begins as Hurricane Ginger barges ashore. Camp Lejeune’s proud elite are summoned by the Executive Officer, one is a young Marine named Luke Ferrell who is described early on as, “proud of my country and I wanted to stay in the United States. It’s my home and I want to go to school, and become an engineer.” Yet, he was drafted and now with his company from Camp Lejeune, he has been ordered to rescue war protesters. With their yacht in peril near the Intercostal Waterway, these young men are greeted with verbal abuse such as “baby killers” and an array of epithets from young college war protesters who are oblivious to their current danger.
Bud and his wife Shelia Bolt Rudesill
Luke Ferrell, who returned from Da Nang, Vietnam as a mine sweeper is now confronted with rescuing Tim Cuttabank and escorting Miss Ginger Van Fleet home to Richmond. Now readers, do not think this is an average boy meets girl love story. It isn’t. There is something unique and wholly current in this novella. The plot is enhanced by government and military cover-ups, psychiatric hospitalization, and an attempted murder.




Visit Bud Rudesill's website
The author has an amazing talent for authentic dialog. I would expect nothing less than a bit of foul language for a group of military folks. Furthermore, it is not overdone and offers several lines of humor provided by Luke’s father. The author has included emotional qualities to his dialog. For example, “I have to keep my mouth shut about Nam though. All of these guys want to believe they were fighting an honorable war, and that their conduct deserves respect. They want the public to treat them like they’re heroes—like the WWII vets were.” “Instead, smart ___, pampered kids call them names and throw dog ____ at them.” 

 I also was rather delightfully surprised at the quote reference to New York Mayor John Hylan, “the real menace of our Republic is the invisible government which like a giant octopus sprawls its slimy legs over our cities, states and Nation….Your vote has little to do with how this country is run, nor any other country for that matter.”

The romance in Hurricane Ginger develops slowly and naturally. I also have to give Bud Rudesill extra marks for the scene in which Tim Cuttabank and his family reenter the plot. Bud Rudesill convincingly illustrates how his characters can actually make their lives mesh in the real world amid all the chaos that forms. For such a short fiction, I was astounded that it didn’t need any more or less. This novel will be more appropriate for 30 and over. I do not feel the younger generation will understand the esprit de corps nor the background of Presidents Johnson and Kennedy. 

Visit Bud Rudesill on Goodreads
However, Bud Rudesill takes this very suspenseful set up and imbues it with enough adrenaline to keep readers eagerly and anxiously flipping the pages. After all, when a Hurricane comes ashore who knows what path it will take? I could gush for another few hundred words about Hurricane Ginger but I’d rather just send you off to get started on this terrific story. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did. I highly recommend Hurricane Ginger by Bud Rudesill.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Strong characterization, exquisite sensory language and rock-solid storytelling

Daimones (Daimones Trilogy) 
by Massimo Marino
A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman
 

Strong characterization, exquisite sensory language and rock-solid storytelling make Daimones by Massimo Marino a must read. Dan Amenta begins his morning with ordinary routine. Newspaper, breakfast, and the familiar commute to work at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland establish a solid start. Within the first chapter, Massimo Marino captures the reader’s attention with small indirect details that evoke mood, tone, and setting. The author accomplishes this with strong word choice and tense emotions. Vivid details that contribute to the mood include: investigations into animal deaths, loss of employment, and Unsettling events, which continue that February night.
 
Usually, novels of this kind involve a search for a way to live, but that possibility is eliminated within the first few chapters, after contact with a young man named Michael from Facebook. This development adds a nice, shadowy jolt to a well-established trope. They are not alone. Surviving selective human termination, Dan with his family must learn to create a life that challenges morals, purpose, and regain lost knowledge. Along with the interpersonal relationships between others and future generations.
 
Connect with Massimo Marino on Goodreads.
The novel is written in the first person narrative. Book shelved as post-apocalyptic, I personally find Daimones to be more a Science fiction thriller that is well balanced in pace for the reader. Chapters are not too slow and not too fast nor frantic. Daimones is a comfortable read. Just as in real life, readers need breathers now and again. This was very important for this novel since the author uses several symbols and hidden clues for the reader to decipher. For example the number 98, the name of Dan’s wife Mary, to early centers of civilization in particular the Mesopotamian city of Eridu are key elements in the novel. Furthermore, the word choice of “Palladium” for the center of knowledge really struck my curiosity since it is a rare chemical element, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena. This connection of the great goddess of wisdom enhances the subtle conflict of emotion, religious beliefs, and logic along with ethics.
 
 
Several quotes were provided for the reader including Latin, Albert Einstein, and Ralph Waldo Emerson that greatly add to the plot and develop the theme of adaptation to progression. My favorite quote was “Expiating a sin does not mean doing something opposite to wallow in guilt, but to use that same guilt to achieve full knowledge of the sin. The fault lies more not in having committed certain acts, rather in having carried them out without reaching their intimate knowledge. And this leads to committing a wrong again and again.” Moreover, the author has a talent for prose. His descriptive analogy of bad thoughts were described as “dangerous if left to simmer and weaken the heart slowly and invisibly. Like termites that destroy the beams of a house, secretly, in the dark until it's too late and everything collapses.” Many of the metaphors have thought provoking wisdom to the slight hint of humor.

Massimo and I at the 2014 Geneva Writers Conference.
With a plot that functions intermittently; Marino probes more deeply into characters’ motivations, interactions, and emotions, with the outcome even more absorbing. The characters are very well developed and plausible. The dialogue between characters, use of flashbacks, and thoughts were engaging while revealing each personality. This book will appeal to fans of science fiction, fantasy and post-apocalyptic thriller. The front cover was masterfully done with appropriate font and colors. Daimones is an unusual, intelligence, and compelling read. I highly recommend Daimones by Massimo Marino.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gang Spies by Peter St. John

Gang Spies by Peter St. John




 Move over, Hal Roach's "Little Rascals", there is a spy code named "Vogel 5" in the English village of Widdlington, a dead body has been found, and the gang is on a full mission of patriotic spy-hunting. Posters declaring slogans such as: `Walls have ears', and `Be like Dad, keep Mum' are the reminders of residents under the stress of World War II. Peter St. John has once again emphasized community, interpersonal relationships, and sculptured a marvelous novel. The sixth installment of the Gang series, Gang Spies  will bring delight, suspense, and captivate the reader. A dash of intrigue, part realistic historical fiction, the novel is appropriate for middle readers and adults and is an excellent demonstration of giving characters a unique and compelling voice.


A new Irish lodger from The Women's Land Army has arrived to stay with Peter and his Aunt. Megan Sheptry brings friendship to Peter when he needs it most but in the end will Peter's life be safe? `Careless talk costs lives', this is a lesson that Peter must learn. In addition, the new vicar, Reverend Han Vonvanderbildt has special interests that leave many of the gang suspicious. With gal pal Jenno Bryce by his side, Peter must decipher who his loyal friends are. Not to worry readers, there is always a cart race to help get your mind off the "nest of spies," The gang must translate Morse code, decrypt the punch holes on cigarette packages to find out who the spy is but it may be too late!

 

My favorite character is Jenno Bryce. The cheeky statements made between her and Peter is enough to make one burst with laughter. For example, only Jenno would get away with telling Stinky that "You cackle a lot, but don't lay any eggs" or make a point like "If'n yew're not roight in the head, then Oi'm Mussolini's godmother." Each character is very well developed and you become emotional connected to each of them. 


When the gang takes on the task of secretly removing a trash bin fixed to the bus-stop pole, the author is so articulate with his imagery that I felt as if I were part of the task. Moreover, As Peter crawls through the pipe to gather information; I felt the scrapes and anxiety as the plot evokes more danger ahead.


Biographical elements appear in the six novels from the author's personal life. It is this connection that Peter St. John has created devoted readers. In the words of Jenno Bryce, "It `appens to be true. An' if'n yew want ter stay moi friend, yew'd best `old yer turpitudinnous twaddle of a tongue an listen." I honestly could not stop after each novel and now I am rather sad because I have to eagerly await the new novel. 



Peter St. John's Gang Spies displays all his talents as a novelist, but is also spiced with playfulness and entertaining prose that seems to paint rather than describe a memory like a treasured photograph. Gang Spies by Peter St. John is not only given my highest recommendation but is my favorite of the gang series novels.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sigrid Fry-Revere

The Kidney Sellers
A Journey of Discovery in Iran
By Sigrid Fry-Revere
A book review by Ginger Dawn Harman
 
 

Dr. Fry-Revere’s brand-new ethnographic research book, The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran addresses exploration of the medical ethics of compensating organ donors and that takes the reader deep inside Iranian culture, providing insight into and understanding of how Iran has solved its kidney shortage crisis. This powerfully argued new research book makes clear that the wider the gap between ethics and medical technology becomes, the harder it is for a government and ethnopsychologist to bridge it: put simply, what is good for one side is bad for the other. It is also clear that the need for serious action has never been greater for those who suffer from kidney disease. An estimated 26 million adults, or one in nine Americans, have chronic kidney disease, and another 20 million are estimated as being at risk of developing the disease. Dr. Fry-Revere’s years of research have led her to investigate, how it is possible that in Iran there is a waiting list to be a donor, while in the United States hundreds of thousands of people have died for lack of a kidney? Putting her own personal safety at risk, without knowledge or consent from the Iranian government, the author traveled the country and interviewed kidney donors, recipients, Iranian transplant staff, medical transplant physicians, and Anjonman staff, who provided much information on the historical to current practices in Iran. With nine binders of just video transcripts alone, Dr. Fry-Revere and Dr. Bahar Bastani have documented the raw and honest data affording possibilities for answers to the American kidney crisis.


Published by Carolina Academic Press

When I was first approached through my website to review this non-fiction, I thought why choose me? I am not a medical or law expert. I am now thankful for the opportunity because this book has taught me a great deal. In today’s society, many have become accustomed to, “if it doesn’t affect me then it is not my problem.” It is our problem. With the alarming data of black market of kidney sellers who abduct, and exploit, everyone has either an acceptability to respond or to turn one’s head. Unfortunately, it is not until something becomes out of control that policies are rushed and passed into law. This is not only dangerous but creates a desperate quick fix. The Iranian government has a legal system that is working and which could be used as a model for the kidney organ crisis that we face in America. At heart, this is a book about finding solutions and maintaining ethics.

Dr. Fry-Revere’s, The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran, is a thought provoking, well researched, and educates the reader to the importance of the kidney shortage crisis. The author shares in it personal stories of her childhood abroad and her time at the University of Geneva. As a young woman, she was given a foundation of global ethics by wide-ranging discussions with her parents, and her own experiences with street urchins in Naples, and such things as the suffering of lepers, and death met in the form of a dead body discovered in Rio de Janerio. This personal honesty sets a minor theme to the book as to what is more important. A person’s life and well-being and what is the monetary value of a life. Many of the stories are moving enough to raise tears, “Steve’s Story” provides psychological insight to waiting for a kidney in America.




In contrast, a mother in Iran, sells her kidney in order to pay for her daughter to attend university, and a young man sells his kidney to pay his Diyya. In addition, the book provides several examples of the negative stereotypes and labels one receives in America and Iran when donating/selling a kidney. It was also interesting to read the difference Dr. Fry-Revere and Dr. Bahar Bastani had in cities such as Kermanshah, Shiraz, Isfahan, and Tehran.

The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
 
The kidney shortage can be solved. This has been proven in Iran. Some may find the Iranian approach disagreeable. Moreover, the Iranian legalized compensation program for kidney donation is not without flaws. The United States does have a kidney donation system through altruistic means. Yet, most that receive a kidney are well-to-do, leisure class, and upper middle class. It is important to note that most expenses for the donor are not covered by medical insurance. Meanwhile, the poor, average working class, and unemployed have to watch their family and friends die on dialysis or wait for a second class cadaver kidney that statistically has a very low chance of coming.

Ms. Shahnaz Abdulwahaz, Afghan dialysis patient. In Iran, only Iranian citizens can get transplants at government expense. More photos at this link
The price of this book is appropriate and the front cover is intriguing. It has a simple eye-catching design that evokes a powerful message. The choice of the Iranian flag and red lettering conveys energy, passion and action. The reading audience or level of experience that is needed to use the information in this book would be ages 25 and older. Physicians, political law makers, researchers, medical students, and those looking to understand the kidney shortage issues will benefit most from this work. I have not been able to locate any existing book that covers this type of research on the market. The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran does not use stilted language; it is very readable as well as technically accurate. The author takes great care to explain the religious and cultural difference in Iran to help the reader understand the background.

Sigrid Fry-Revere, J.D., Ph.D., is the founder and president of the Center for Ethical Solutions, a non-partisan, non-profit, public charity dedicated to educating the public on issues in patient care ethics. Dr. Revere has more than a hundred articles published in newspapers, journals, and trade publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, The Journal of Clinical Ethics, and Pediatric Nursing. Sigrid is also the medical ethics consultant to the Washington D.C. Regional Transplant Community's Organ and Tissue Advisory Committee. I highly recommend The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran by Sigrid Fry-Revere.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monkeying Around on a Monday!

In spite of the "monkey wrench" I did manage to complete today's pod cast! I hope you enjoy. This is a more personal side of me, not my usual show. There are pictures of authors! Oh and for my grammar buddies, I left one typo for you! The first one to spot it and respond below to me gets a prize.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Talk with Ginger Dawn Does Switzerland (Part One)



Book Talk with Ginger Dawn Does Switzerland

(Part One)


Titles of a book are important and equally central for a blog too. It is often the title of the book that captures the reader’s attention. Yet, in life a title is how one can identify or find relation to a particular object.  Funny how everyone wants a title. I started this blog out with Ginger Dawn Does Switzerland but I felt it sounded too much like the title of a porn movie. However, it might attract more viewers. Nevertheless, I am no porn star. Cripes! We better change the topic before I get censored. We all remember that Earl Merkel show. Lately, I have been feeling like I live in a fish bowl. 



So much pressure and scrutiny for everything that I post, what I write in my book reviews, how much I promote others, how I teach my child, keep a household, and the list goes on. I knew it would be a grand idea to take a break so that is what I did. You might be curious as to what I have been up to. Where I have been? Who was with me? Good lord the questions…




At the beginning of February, I attended the Geneva Writers Convention in Switzerland. Now, I can already hear you. “What? You are going to start writing?” I have been considering this. Yet, I am still learning to feel comfortable with the idea. I guess I should give credit to Alan McCluskey, and D.L. Nelson because they have really been encouraging me to write. So I did. I have. And well why not start off with my first writers conference in Geneva, Switzerland. It was a huge trip for me. First, I was traveling overseas alone, this was something that I have never done before. Second, I left my computer systems engineering husband in charge of home educating our son for five days. Third, I do not speak French.


My flight leaving DC was a Ginger Dawn hurricane experience. I was already emotional beyond words and I felt rushed. In addition, I was picked out of the security line to have a thorough look over by the TSA.  Even better, when I decided to pick up a last minute gift for Peter and Alan, the cash register broke with my credit card. All ended well however, and I made my flight. 


Sitting next to me was the cutest older French man. I was rather thrilled! I thought this must be a sign of good fortune because he spoke to me in French while we were waiting to board. Can you believe it? I must not look American! I shrugged my shoulders and mumbled what little French I knew and pulled it off rather well. There he is was all snuggled up in several cheap velour blue blankets. Therefore, I just had to share mine and so I handed it to him.  He unquestionably made a mistake choosing beef tips over the vegetarian meal that I chose. I gave him my dessert bar in hopes of negating the assuredly unpleasant taste of Filet d’United. 

 
Photo from http://www.jaunted.com
There was a beauty about the French man’s face that reminded me of nature. His cheeks flowed like a river, Lips like mountain cliffs that have been well explored by many a climber. As we each were served a beverage, I focused my attention on the tall man who just ordered Jim Beam on ice. He sat in front of the French man, diagonal to myself and wow did he ever look like a rock star! He was wearing the largest turquoise ring that I have ever seen and reading, How the Irish saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. He leaned forward, looking rather tired with his chin jutted to the right. When he yawned, he would brush his long fingers softly over his beard. He was obviously thinking. But what was so amazing about him was his long, slender fingers and the strength of his hands which seemed to hold a wisdom of time etched by memories. Well educated with his posturing, he held his book with his left hand and turned the pages with his right as if conducting a symphony orchestra. 




I eventually fell asleep, as the plane landed at early dawn. After a lovely reception by Peter St. John, we set off to explore the early morning hours of Geneva. I stayed at the Bois Joly Hotel, located in Crozet, France. This was rather exciting since, the hotel was in Peter’s novel, Siberian Summer (under a different name). 




I must admit that it took me forever to figure out how to turn on the damn light. The first switch I tried created a metal cascade of blinds that covered the windows. Then the light by the restroom door turned on the towel warmer. Not to mention that some switches set off the hair dryer and the French even have a switch to turn on the power outlet. 
Never leave home without a miracle in a box!
After, I checked in we stopped by Peter’s home to work on a special book project. Oh what a marvelous library he has that I explored and what an incredible dinner we had. I wish I could tell you what I ate but I have no idea what it was.

And he made me snails! This time I didn't even cry!
After he dropped me off at the hotel, I retreated to my room to settle down for the night, the moonlight revealed so many potential dreams tucked in by the Jura Mountains. I truly felt that I had arrived.  My journey had begun.