Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Reviews and Ethics

As someone who not only reads books, but writes them, I try to maintain an independent outlook when reviewing other authors' work.

Generally, I don't find it difficult, in that I won't even read books that haven't caught my interest by page 50. This means that 95 percent of the time, the book will give me little to complain about.

One thing I won't do is write an out and out pan of a book. First, I wouldn't waste my time reading a book that bad. Second, it seems unnecessarily mean to write such a review. Finally, I wouldn't want anyone to think I was doing anything like this.

How sad is it that a publisher (or author!) feels the need to write fake bad reviews in order to compete? As sad as paying a PR firm to provide good reviews? Maybe more so.

Anyhow, instead of tearing each other down due to jealousy or insecurity, authors should learn from and support one another. That's my philosophy, anyhow.

So listen up, haterz. Chillax and get a grip.

Graffiti Alphabet "T-Shirt" in the form of 4 Different Colors

Graffiti Alphabet, Graffiti Letters

Graffiti Alphabet "T-Shirt" in the form of 4 Different Colors

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ebooks as Gifts

I've often thought one of the downsides of ebooks is that they couldn't be wrapped and given as gifts. Well, they still can't. But they can be given as gifts now.

Amazon has launched a service that allows ebooks for Kindle to be emailed as gifts.

Kobo has also announced a similar service, which will start in early December.

Now, they need to work on a way for authors to sign them. :)

NO Graffiti is (a Crime)

NO Graffiti is (a Crime)

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Crashed': A Walk Down Hollywood's Mean Streets

Review: CRASHED (Hallinan Consulting, LLC 2010)
Author: Timothy Hallinan

CRASHED is one of those novels that's a bit hard to categorize. It's sort of a thriller combined with a whodunnit.

However, it starts out looking very much like a crime caper. The story takes place in Los Angeles and surrounding area. The protagonist is a burglar named Junior Bender (which kept reminding me of Junior Walker, but that's another story) who's enlisted to steal some artwork from the home of a big criminal-type guy. But really that's neither here nor there, because after a chain of Rube Goldberg-like events involving a safe, some diamonds, a chandelier and a pack of Rottweilers, Junior ends up in a compromising position. Thus, he's convinced (i.e., blackmailed) to work for crime queenpin Trey Annunziato. Trey inherited the business from her gangster father, who she's rumored to have offed. Anyhow, Trey wants to go straight. And she forces, er, hires Junior to babysit the star of a porn film trilogy that's supposed to finance her way out of the underworld. That star is Thistle Downing, a destitute and drugged-out former child star of major proportions.

Okay, so the story is really about a burglar sort of hired to make sure this dazed and drug-addled former child acting prodigy shows up and actually makes this porn movie. And even though Junior is supposed to be working for Trey (who's tough, but not totally unsympathetic), he ends up feeling conflicted when he sees what's happened to Thistle (super talented child who's grown up into a worn down nub of her former self). Oh, and by the way, it turns out that someone's trying to kill Thistle. However, another person is murdered instead.

Hmm. That sucks.

This is one of those stories that could so easily slip into mere cliché in lesser hands. After all, the child star-turned-drug addict has become almost a Hollywood icon. Plus does it come as a great surprise that Junior is divorced and his ex-wife gives him grief over visitation with their daughter? Something about burgling houses doesn't sit well with the ex. Imagine.

However, what makes this book absolutely worth the reading is the way it's written. Timothy Hallinan has a way with description that's brilliant, but seems effortless (which it's not, of course) and writes dialogue so snappy and engaging, it disappoints only when the scenes end.

Junior may be a burglar, but in a literary sense, he follows in the footsteps of Philip Marlowe. He does so without being imitative or derivative.

Hallinan puts his unique stamp on the hardboiled genre and makes it his own. Whether its the description of traffic on a rainy night in LA or the feeling of being up at three AM, unable to sleep, Hallinan writes in a way that's wholly fresh and memorable, as if it were being done for the first time.

Like all good hardboiled mysteries, this one has an awesome cast of characters, including everyone working on the set. Each ends up being a suspect -- complete with his or her own eccentricities. Not to mention the solicitous Doc who keeps Thistle mostly conscious via judicious drug administration, while passing himself off as a dead celebrity he resembles.

And have I mentioned that the story is funny? Junior can crack wise with the best of hardboiled detectives.

There's a scene in which he's tailed by a strange car that starts incredibly tense and ends hilarious.

Then there are the descriptions. Such as the lawyer who has the requisite low scruples, bad attitude and "eyes so deepset they looked like raisins someone had pushed into raw dough." Not to mention that he spoke in "the kind of voice Tom Waits probably has when he just wakes up and he's got the flu."

Like most hardboiled private eyes, Junior knows his share of shady cops and people of ill-repute. However, his limits are tested by having to walk a fine line between Trey's thugs and Thistle's interests, while protecting himself and his family, not to mention avenging the murder victim's death.

Since Thistle is the focus of the story and Junior's concern, it could be easy to overlook the murder victim. To Junior's credit, he doesn't. In fact, the revenge factor really made the story for me. After all, even though Thistle has been used, she still enjoys the advantage of being cute and talented. She is, if nothing else, a survivor. Frankly, she comes across quite strong and capable during a press conference, despite her addictions. The murder victim, on the other hand, came to America, bought into the dream and died senselessly without achieving it. So who cuts the more tragic figure?

Just saying.

Banksy Graffiti "Graffiti Area Wall"

Banksy Graffiti,Banksy
Banksy Graffiti "Graffiti Area Wall"

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

A fellow writer and blogger Jenny Milchman has a great idea for a new annual observation: Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

Why bookstores? Because they are places that focus on books and reading. Children should be exposed to retail environments that are about more than toys and games. And, let's face it, bookstores (at least, the brick-and-mortar venues) are being threatened by the upsurge in ebook purchases.

As a writer and reader of both print and e versions of books, I'd hate to see the bookstore go the way of the dodo bird.

Which is why I think we should encourage our kids to seek out bookstores. And, of course, libraries. But that's another story. :)

In any case, mark your calendar to celebrate the first annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day on Dec. 4, 2010. And if you don't have a child, go to a bookstore, anyway. :)

Graffiti Sketches: Graffiti Alphabet PAS

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Graffiti sketches - Graffiti Alphabet Letter PAS. Graffiti sketches with color combinations of red and white

Graffiti Alphabet : Uberdose.de BERLIN - ABC

Graffiti Alphabet, Graffiti Letters A-Z
Graffiti Alphabet : Uberdose.de BERLIN - ABC

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

'Every Bitter Thing': A Taste of Brazilian Justice

Review: EVERY BITTER THING (Soho Crime 2010)
Author: Leighton Gage

This latest installment in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation Series starts off with a seemingly random collection of murders. The only obvious tie, at first, is the modus operandi -- a gunshot to the gut, followed by a deadly bludgeoning. The victims consist of a divorced petroleum engineer in Rio de Janiero, followed by an author of books on human sexuality (sort of Brazil's answer to Kinsey), then the son of a Venezuelan foreign minister. This last one sets off alarms and brings Brazil's federal police into the picture.

Enter our hero, Chief Inspector Mario Silva, a man of sardonic humor who walks the fine line between dealing with local homicide investigator Walter Pereira and appeasing his own politically-motivated boss, Nelson Sampaio, by giving him the "mushroom treatment" ("keep in the dark and feed him shit"). Silva has a dour sidekick, Amaldo Nunes, who doubles as a thorn in Pereira's side. The two men, along with a cast of other colorful characters, doggedly investigate the seemingly unrelated cases that came before in order to get to the bottom of the potentially explosive matter at hand.

Meanwhile, other murders start occurring, revealing a heretofore unseen pattern. Once the pattern is revealed, the detectives end up in a race to find the killer.

Author Leighton Gage has an amazing facility for dialogue. He writes it with dry humor and the feel of snappy "old movie" banter. The story moves at a nice clip, as well. The pacing is perfect and, with each revelation, one is compelled to keep reading further.

Although the series is named for Silva, he is actually at the heart of an ensemble of cops. Each of them is distinctive. All of them play an important role in unraveling the mystery.

And while I had my suspicions about the killer, I think Gage does a nice job of hiding the ball in plain sight, thus playing fair with the reader.

In the end, the story is about the ways that justice can go wrong and how righting it can involve crossing the line.

Graffiti Alphabet Ichabod: Graffiti Trains

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Graffiti art on the train with the alphabet Ichabod

Banksy Graffiti Street Art "Guantanemo"

Banksy,Banksy Graffiti
Banksy Graffiti Street Art "Guantanemo"

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Psychedelic Dreams, Singleton Hippie Art

Psychedelic Dreams(c) Singleton 2010 "I tossed and turnedand flung my arms.... tumbling through the dark caverns of everyday chaos... falling deeper and deeperinto the cool watersof Saturday nightPeace....,a make~believe~for~the~moment place... And in my middle of the night sleep,skinny arms tangled in sun dried sheets,I painted smiles on the wayward facesof every haunting that's ever crossed my

Graffiti Alphabet Beast | Graffiti Trains

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Train with graffiti alphabet Beast.

Light Graffiti Calligraphy by Julien Breton

Light Graffiti
Light Graffiti
Light Graffiti
Light Graffiti Calligraphy by Julien Breton

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

'And Mozart Was Taught': Nurture, Nature or What?

Review: AND MOZART WAS TAUGHT (CovingtonMoore 2010)
Author: Ara 13

At the risk of sounding clichéd, where do I start?

To begin with, AND MOZART WAS TAUGHT is in no way an average novel. It's well above average both in reading level and the ideas expressed. It is, in fact, metafiction -- a post-modern form of writing that most authors would probably find difficult to pull off without slipping into totally self-conscious lecturing mode.

I'm happy to say that wasn't the case with this book (or, at least, it's kept to a minimum). The book has a central story about a girl named Emily who's bullied mercilessly (and for seemingly no particular reason) by her peers. She also happens to be brilliant -- her nose always in a book, which can't help matters. Jean, a math teacher, seeks to intervene on Emily's behalf after an incident culminates in violence (arguably, self-defense). Her concern for Emily grows stronger as she observes the laissez-faire attitudes of Emily's, um, father, Joe, and the school principal. All attempts on Jean's part to protect the girl simply seem to aggravate the situation, by setting her even farther apart from the other kids. Jean feels her hands are tied.

And even though Jean thinks Joe lacks intelligence and compassion, he has both in abundance. Joe is a frustrated newspaperman who encourages Emily to develop her intellect, but recognizes that he can't protect her from everything. In fact, Joe's so busy grappling with his own misplaced guilt and unrealized potential it's a miracle Emily registers on his radar at all.

During one visit to the principal's office, Jean vents her frustration after a particularly unfruitful exchange by exclaiming, "Isn't she the reason we become teachers?"

Hold that thought. Because it seems to be the essential point of the story. How much of who we are is shaped by genetics versus nurturing? How much can be taught as opposed to being intuited? And how much protection do we offer our children before it becomes overprotection? These questions are raised in myriad ways throughout the book. (And as for random chance and fate, let's not even go there ...)

Lest you think this book be nothing more than an intellectual discourse, nothing could be further from the truth. It was a most engrossing read with characters I cared about. Ara 13's prose is a playful flow of words (some of which may have you guessing at their meaning) that run the gamut of being evocative, bittersweet, clever, funny, blunt and mind-blowing. The book kept both my heart and mind fully engaged.

And while it may seem this is all about Emily, Jean and Joe, the story takes an odd turn about two-thirds of the way into the book and follows another person's narrative. Is it a spoiler to say there's a connection? I don't think so.

The book is filled with various plotlines (big and small) that cross over and connect with one another at random points. Things that may or may not have affected the outcomes of people involved in different ways.

However, fear not. Despite any narrative deviations, the reader eventually learns how Emily ends up. So that storyline gets resolved. In a highly satisfying way, in my opinion.

Interestingly enough, the conclusion introduces yet another character. One whose story is more implied than told. And the essential point -- Jean's plaintive query in the principal's office -- ironically, gets turned on its head.

Graffiti Is Art

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Graffiti is art like the picture above. Examples of graffiti art on the walls are cool. Familiar with the call graffiti street art on the walls. See also graffiti alphabet letters / Graffiti A to Z.

Banksy Graffiti - 'Vulture Capitalists' 2001

Banksy Graffiti,Banksy
Banksy Graffiti - 'Vulture Capitalists' 2001

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Graffiti Alphabet Calligraphy | Graffiti Tag

Graffiti Art
celeb tattoos
This is Cazone Tag Graffiti Alphabet from Espacedefis. Tag, urban calligraphy, is the signature encoded to form a decorative design such as graffiti surface: walls, subway cars, etc. The alphabet graffiti tag is also a way to communicate with a nickname, to appear as a young designer and mark the passage. Graffiti alphabet letters

Banksy Graffiti Street Art "Secured"

Banksy Graffiti,Banksy
Banksy Graffiti Street Art "Secured"

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Graffiti Tags | Handstyles | Graffiti Letters

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Tag is the basis and origin of modern graffiti.

Graffiti tags have thousands of years of heritage. They are the most basic form of graffiti is not to convey emotion, can be complicated requiring the use of skilled and artistic instruments, surfaces and speed.

Graffiti tags can be done with marker pen-based Ink, pen-based paint, various modified household / industrial objects, brush, scribes and spray paint.

Banksy Graffiti : Anti-capitalism for Sale, Los Angeles

Banksy Graffiti,Banksy
Banksy Graffiti : Anti-capitalism for Sale, Los Angeles

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Books Campaign: The Three Fates of Henrik Nordmark

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on "green" books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

This book is printed on FSC-certified paper.


Henrik Nordmark may be the plainest, most uninteresting person ever. Henrik is so alienated (and alienating) that he manages at one point to drive people out of a chat room by trying too hard and saying the wrong things. This would make for a very dull story – except that things change quickly. One day at the corner grocery, Henrik chases an errant plum he's dropped outside to the street and bumps into a stranger (who prevents him from lunging into traffic) wearing a tuxedo (in broad daylight!). The stranger stoops to retrieve the plum, a photo is snapped by a distant photographer and the stranger tells Henrik, "You must be careful, my friend," hands him the plum and disappears. For good.

Henrik ponders his near-death experience and vows that he shall become unique if it's the last thing he does.

The tuxedoed man is (of course) the photographer's intended target. However, the photo snapped is Henrik's. This photo is presented to three assassins, all of whom are over 90 years old and living in a retirement home. Their leader, Conrad, is blind. His cohorts Billy Bones and Arthur are (essentially) deaf and mute, respectively. Together, they comprise the world's worst assassination team.

There are three other players in this comedy of errors. Two of them are Roland and Bonnie, customers buying lottery tickets when Henrik dropped the plum. In all the excitement, their lottery tickets get switched. One is the winning ticket, but it ends up in the wrong hands.

Roland is almost (although, not quite) as hopeless as Henrik in the pathetic department. He tends to create his own problems, actually. He has a job and a girlfriend. He has a life Henrik would probably envy. However, he sees himself as a victim.

Meanwhile, there's Bonnie. She's married to Clyde. (Yes, cute, isn't it?) And they each secretly hate and plan to kill the other.

In any case, these people keep crossing paths. While Henrik searches for ways to become unique, the others keep showing up in some fashion or other, and suffer consequences. Meanwhile, the three assassins keep trying to kill Henrik and each attempt goes horribly and humorously awry.

And while the assassins' thwarted attempts may devastate others, Henrik wanders off, contemplating his plight in oblivion.

Will Henrik find salvation? Will it come from Parminder, the Indian woman who dispenses advice on the sly while working the phone banks for a religious organization?

This story, which is thought provoking and hilarious, will appeal to fans of the Douglas Adams sort. Readers who enjoy absurd humor and a bit of screwball comedy.

However, you'd be mistaken to take it for mere slapstick. THE THREE FATES OF HENRIK NORDMARK is about weird coincidence, fate and the ways life can be unfair. It's actually a harsh message, but Meades delivers it with humor, which helps it to go down easier.

The story culminates in a big finish, in which everyone may or may not get their just desserts. And Henrik's three fates? You'll have to read the book to find those out.

Bevel Style Graffiti Alphabet Letters

Graffiti Art
celeb tattoos
Examples of how to make graffiti alphabets. Live for the line and follow like the picture above. Graffiti alphabet from A-Z style bevel. Graffiti fonts

Banksy Graffiti "ABRAHAM LINCOLN" Street Art

Banksy Graffiti,Banksy
Banksy Graffiti "ABRAHAM LINCOLN" Street Art

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