Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Defying Gravity by Cherie Reich

Defying Gravity (Gravity, #1)Defying Gravity by Cherie Reich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delightful read! Defying Gravity is a fast-paced and exciting read with a sweet bit of romance thrown in. Linia and Alezandros are on a collision course, their planets sworn enemies. When Linia is roped into a war she did not expect, and Alezandros is sucked into a wormhole, they meet in dire circumstances with only stereotypes and cultural misunderstanding to guide them.

The scene where Linia and Alezandros cannot see each other, but can only converse through a hole in the wall was sweet and touching. Even though their planets were at war and enemies, they draw together to survive and dare to fall in love.

This book is not just a sci-fi thriller, but also examines societal issues, defies your assumptions, and enchants you with the hope of love overcoming all obstacles. Even though the book was short, I was drawn into it and got to know the characters well, their inner desires and yearnings, and the way they approached challenges and hardship.

Read it. I guarantee an enjoyable experience.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Smashed by Smashwords Conversion

Update! My Book Passed their Premium Catalog, and I now offer Smashwords Conversion Services. Please see my Book Formatting Page.

I saved Smashwords for last. After all, I've already tackled Kindlegen, .opf files, .ncx, know how to type in HTML and wrestled with style sheets. How hard would Smashwords be? It's ONLY Microsoft Word, right? And formatting for Createspace and dealing with mirrored margins, odd/even pages, and renumbering of pages was a much bigger pain, right?

Well, technically, Smashwords is for dummies. So I guess it makes me a dummy. Following their instructions was easy. It's getting a good looking .mobi file and .epub file that was the killer.

You see? Smashwords only takes a Word doc of .doc type, not .docx type [which is what Office 2010 automatically saves a Word doc as]. So first of all, make sure to save your doc as [Office 1997-2003 compatible]. This makes it a .doc type. Secondly, delete that Table of Contents you put in and all the hidden bookmarks you used to generate your toc.ncx and toc.htm files. That's right. You must now type in all your own bookmarks.
And notice where that red arrow is pointed? Make sure that "paragraph" mark is NOT highlighted, i.e. not blue. Requires very precise mouse, or use "Shift-left arrow" after it is all selected to deselect the "paragraph" mark. Furthermore, notice how Chapter 5 is centered? Get rid of it. Trust me! Your Kindle on PC will left-justify it whenever you hyperlink to the Chapter heading, but leave it centered when you page to it.

As if that wasn't frustrating enough, you must delete the guide bookmarks you put in for Kindlegen, "toc", "start", "cover" and "text" and place them on empty Paragraph Marks so as NOT to interfere with the Smashwords marks. Otherwise, your table of contents could be cut off at the offending mark.


So, how did I get Kindle for PC to recognize where my "toc" guidepoint? I created a blank paragraph before "Table of Contents" and attach "toc" bookmark it. I also did two blank paragraphs before where I wanted my document to start, attached the "start" bookmark and "text" bookmark, but I have to admit that the converted .mobi file starts at the Acknowledgments which is the first Smashword file TOC entry. Not having access to the conversion code, I cannot tell you why it does not pay attention to the "start" and "text" bookmarks. It just doesn't.

Have you ever wanted to go "topless", er, I mean "coverless?" on your Kindle app? The only way to have your image show up is to import your cover image into your Title Page and select the image and bookmark it "cover". If you don't, your Kindle book on Kindle for PC will be coverless. You've seen those, right? The ones you downloaded and it only has the generic blue book with the golden bookmark. Well, now you know how to join the blue book club.

Images. Here's the rub. Smashwords will not resize your image to fit the epub file. Whatever doesn't fit will be cut off. I just randomly made my images smaller and hoped for the best, not having a Nook to test with. So make sure your inline cover image is small. How small? I went for 4" or less for width. The other trick is to remove the first line indent on your image or it might get kicked into the next page. Having a blank page in an e-reader always looks bad.

As if that weren't enough, Smashwords takes your file and converts it to ten different formats. Different bugs hit different formats. So you download and view each format, fix a bug in one format and introduce it in another format. Some, like PDB are hopeless. They don't recognize extended character set so all of your curly single and double quotes are mangled. Ditto with foreign characters.

The final result is that you must save different Word documents for different bug fixes. Then when you upload the doc, make sure to uncheck the formats that will not work with that particular fix. Then make sure the last doc you upload is one that works with the HTML and Javascript. Although who'd want to read online when the HTML links don't work!

Technically, nothing in the Style Guide is hard to do. If you want them to generate your table of contents, or you trust them, they will sweep up everything that is in Header <H1> format and make a TOC entry. This is after they told you to make everything "Normal" The lesson in all of this is to use your Smashword formatted document as the template for all of your subsequent works. Then generate your Kindlegen and ePub from altering the Smashwords doc.

The problem with having no table of contents is that the user cannot easily jump through your document in EPUB, and we all know that EPUB is an important format now that almost all devices are moving toward it. For example, I want the reader to be able to refer to the map at any time with a single click. If all my chapter headings had been named "Chapter X", it would have been easier.

Therefore it is worth your while to make sure you have a Table of Contents generated into NCX form, and not just one that is hyperlinked at the beginning of the book. The unfortunate thing is that Smashwords does not receive the MSFT Word generated TOC. Wouldn't want to make our lives too easy!

I hope this document has helped you to avoid a few pitfalls. I do not know if my file will pass their "Premium Screen" yet. Wish me luck!

Anyone know any hints and tips? Please add to the comments. Perhaps it was easy for you, please share. Thanks.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Black Eagle Force: Eye of the Storm by Ken Farmer and Buck Steinke

Black Eagle Force: Eye of the StormBlack Eagle Force: Eye of the Storm by Buck Stienke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved the fighting and action scenes. The technical descriptions of the advanced weapons were first rate. It was like reading a dream list for special ops. So many weapons, aircraft, advanced electronic equipment. The homemade EMF 16-gauge nail spittin' coyote gun was also a wonder to behold.

While the initial action as non-stop, bloody and exciting, the story slowed to the pace of a country BBQ complete with sweet tea and a picnic. Unfortunately for our heroes, the villains were really bad, into drugs, arms dealing and even human trafficking, kidnapping people for sex slaves.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, flirtation was going on full force. Now, we all know men love six-foot blondes with dark blue, almost violet eyes. But how many knew they had expertly applied eyeliner, smokey-grey eyeshadow and glossy red lipstick in the middle of a firefight? The tea and beer continue to pour while the bad guys regroup on their private island.

"All the way back to the ranch, the two beauties carried on like a couple of school girls at a sleepover."

My favorite character is a the red-headed sister, a technical whiz, named Blaze who improved her coil-gun to multibarreled and replaced the 16-gauge nails with 7mm bullets. while her brother flirted with the 6-ft blonde and stirfrying Hunan shrimp, she was busy redesigning her EMF 6-barrel "Gatling". Wow!

Of course there's a conspiracy involving high government officials and the final showdown was exciting as they rescue the sex slaves because some of them were Americans, but not before the hero and the 6-ft blonde share some quiet time in her condo. A bigger problem remains, but I'll leave it to the reader. Suffice it to say, the ending was full of serious weapons, including MIG-29's and of course Blaze saves the day with her incredible brains.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jochebed - Mother of Moses


Exodus 6:20 And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses
Jochebed was a slave living in Egypt. The children of Israel had moved to Egypt during a horrendous seven year famine. At the time, Pharaoh gave the children of Israel the best land in the delta area to raise their cattle. However when the friendly Pharaoh died, the Egyptians became envious of the Israelites and enslaved them. The new Pharaoh hated the Israelites so much he ordered all infant boys to be slaughtered upon birth.

Imagine yourself pregnant, unable to sleep as your neighbors howled and mourned for their slaughtered sons. You're praying that you have a girl, that she'd be spared. Every night, when you tuck in your firstborn, Aaron, and your daughter, Miriam, you pray for the unborn child.

The birth of the child should have been a joyous occasion, one for celebration. But in Jochebed's case, it was one fraught with anguish and fear. For a baby boy was born.
Exodus 2:1 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
2:2 And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
2:3 And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.
By faith, Jochebed hid her son from the authorities. But try as she might, the baby grew too noisy and she could no longer hide him. When you read the Bible story, it is easy to gloss over it. After all, we all know there is a happy ending, that Moses was found by Pharaoh's daughter. But put yourself back in time with Jochebed.

Trembling and prayerfully, Jochebed had to not only give up her son, but place him in the hand of God. She did not know the ending. Her tears mixing with the pitch and slime, she carefully wrapped her precious infant in a blanket, kissed him for the last time, and rocked him to sleep. Sobbing and tripping over her feet, she tiptoed to the river's edge, away from the eyes of Pharaoh's guards, and placed him in the basket.

Could you do this? Not knowing what would happen to your baby? Behind her, certain death for the baby. In front of her, the mighty Nile infested with ferocious river crocodiles. Jochebed knelt at the water's edge, said her prayers, and gently, ever so reluctantly, pushed the little ark into the water.
Exodus 2:4 And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
2:5 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
2:6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.
2:7 Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
2:8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother.
2:9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the women took the child, and nursed it.
What a happy circumstance God arranged for Jochebed. Not only was Moses safe from harm, but his own mother would be nursing him and getting wages for it. You can bet Jochebed thanked the Lord God for blessing her with this opportunity. She made the most of her few years with Moses and taught him her unfeigned faith, a faith so strong that when Moses reached adulthood, he forsook the riches of Egypt and chose to be numbered with the Hebrew slaves.
Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God,
Moses' faith stemmed from his mother's faith, from the moment he was born, to when she put him in the river, and then later gave him back to Pharaoh's daughter. She knew she had only a few short years with him, but her influence on him was immeasurable.

Mothers, you too have a calling, to not only nurture and care for your child, but to pray for him and show him your faith, so that by example, he will learn to depend not on himself or the world, but on God. May God richly bless you and your family.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Fifty Shades of Mother's Day Porn (Safe for Work)


  1. Your cranky, colicky, screech owl baby sleeps through the night.
  2. Your husband covers your ears with muffs and comforts your cranky, colicky, screech owl baby all night.
  3. That bad case of diaper rash, you know, the angry, screaming red, oozing, peeling, burning patch? It was all in your imagination.
  4. Your older children cheerfully decide to take up all diapering duties.
  5. Your toddler aims into the toilet without missing.
  6. Your clingy two-year-old stops hugging your thighs while you sit on the toilet.
  7. Your children play games on your cell phone while you hide in the closet with ye olde land line.
  8. The baby's practicing her screech owl routine. Your husband kindly takes her outside for a walk around a 25-mile perimeter reservoir.
  9. After you finish your Mother's Day breakfast-in-bed, you find the kitchen sparkling clean, all pots and pans washed and dried, all food items returned to their proper place and the garbage taken out.
  10. Your nine-year-old started an organic garden, won first price with his giant cucumbers. When asked what his secret was, he points to the diaper pail.
  11. You score orgasmic joy from your trip to grocery store. Not only does Mr. Hershey follow you home, but so does Mr. Lindor, Mr. Ghiradelli, and Mr. Nestle.
  12. Your son's video for his Kentucky State Float is voted up by all your friends and he gets an "A".
  13. Your school-aged children wake up with the rooster, make their own sandwiches, brush their teeth, clean their ears, and are standing at the school bus line while you're cuddling with your formerly cranky, colicky, screech owl baby, now cooing like a morning dove.
  14. Your husband decides you need more sleep, not just at night. He insists you take your naps, twice a day, and fixes you snacks when you awake.
  15. After your children turn your finger-painting party into a paintball slug fest, your husband sends you out to get your hair done while he calls the cleaning crew.
  16. Your mother-in-law shows up unexpectedly with a giant box of Godiva chocolates and a great new book she wrote, How I Raised the Perfect Husband and Father
  17. You go through your junk mail and find an envelope with a hundred dollar bill and a note, You're my random act of kindness today. Since you have eight kids, I figured you could use the dough.
  18. Your child wrote about you in his famous mothers in history assignment. Only problem, he entitled it Fat-most Mother in History.
  19. Your mother-in-law shows up with a nanny in tow. She's syndicated her Perfect Husband and Father program and wants to try it on your sons.
  20. To save money on diaper wipes, your bright twelve-year-old has enlisted the family dog's help. "But, Mom, it's all licked clean and no rash."
  21. Your home-schooled high school senior was not only admitted to all the Ivies, but he's scored you a book deal and a spot on Oprah.
  22. Your children pool their pennies and buy you an E-Reader!
  23. Your mother-in-law and her drill sergeant Nanny-in-Tow have rearranged all your kitchen cabinets, your spice rack, and your linen closet while training your sons the art of cooking, cleaning, and pleasing women.
  24. You ask your husband, "What do you want for dinner?" He answers, "Don't worry, I'm taking you and the kids out."
  25. You ask your husband the next day, "What do you want for dinner?" He answers, "Don't worry, the kids and I are cooking."
  26. You ask your husband the following day, "What do you want for dinner?" He answers, "Don't worry, we'll have leftovers and tomorrow's your birthday. The kids and I have--oops, never mind."
  27. Your husband comes home from Bible Study (Genesis Ch 3) and announces, "Did you know I'm supposed to do all the work, and your only job is to desire me? And from now on, I'm going grocery shopping so you won't pick the wrong fruit."
  28. You barely weaned your latest baby and your pregnancy test has two PINK lines!
  29. Your kitchen floor is always spotless clean. You ask your ten-year-old daughter how she manages. She points to the family dog.
  30. Your family throws YOU a party on each of your children's birthday to thank YOU for the hard work and pain.
  31. For your birthday, your husband takes the kids camping and gives you an American Express card for you and three of your best girlfriends to go to a beauty spa for the weekend.
  32. You burned dinner again, but your entire family's chowing down. "Yum, best grub in town." "Love this, will you make it again?" "You're the best cook ever." Their eyes are watering, their throats are struggling, once or twice, someone looks like they're about to hurl, but when you look over, there's a brave thumb's up.
  33. Your kitchen has been invaded by chocolate. Your teenage daughter and her girlfriends signed up for a Chocolate marathon bake sale. Your only job is to go to the store and buy the bourbon for the Chocolate Bomb Bourbon cake. The heavenly scent of chocolate wafts through your house.
  34. Summer's coming up. Your family is concerned about your health. Every morning, you lift weights with the babies, jump obstacle courses with your toddlers, chase your school aged children to school, run with the dogs, exercise your lungs with the teenagers, and what? Your husband wants to do calisthenics at night?
  35. Your children have just finished redecorating your dining room walls with their delightful artwork and your mother-in-law brings a camera crew from her book tour How I Taught my Daughter-in-Law to Keep House.
  36. You're struggling through your first draft. Your husband and kids tip-toe around the house saying, "Shhh... Mommy's talking to her characters again. Don't disturb her."
  37. Your attention wanders. You scream, "Lady Godiva!" Your daughter shows up with a plate of chocolate. "You called?"
  38. You've gained twenty pounds from all the chocolate. Your husband says, "I prefer you pleasingly plump." Your son says, "Great, now I'll get to drive since it's too cramped behind the wheel." Your daughter says, "Let's go shopping!"
  39. You died and went to Heaven. Saint Peter tells you to relax. Everyone runs with their scissors pointed down. No one goes out without a jacket. And the lights are always on, so you'll never sit in the dark again.
  40. Your son-in-law is the founder of the hottest Social Networking startup and gifted you with friends and family stock.
  41. Your daughter-in-law is a PhD in Mathematics and has asked you to supervise her homeschooling curriculum.
  42. Your grown up children call, text, e-mail, and video chat with you constantly, asking for untold amounts of advice, and following through with live updates and progress reports.
  43. Your last kid's Skatepark Video goes viral on Youtube.
  44. Your mother-in-law reads an excerpt from Chantel Rhondeau's upcoming romantic suspense about a suspected murderess and calls to ask you. "Anyone we know?"
  45. Before you answer, you gift her Joan Szechtman's timetravel romance, Loyalty Binds Me, about King Richard III's romp in the 21st century and buy her a one-way ticket to England to find her own ancient king.
  46. Your best college buddies plan an reunion at your favorite college hangout after reading Michele Shriver's heartwarming story After Ten.
  47. Your daughter springs for tickets to the 2012 Nationals in Omaha where your best writing buddy lives after downloading and reading Life on the Edge, a story of love on the ice.
  48. Your mother and you collaborate on her memoir, inspired by the fascinating and nostalgic story of  Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl by Carol Bodensteiner.
  49. Your husband studies David's techniques of subduing and pacifying women in Michal's Window and rolls you into a Persian rug to re-enact.
  50. You turn on your E-reader the day after Mother's Day and realize your children have gifted you all five books mentioned.
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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Blessed Mothers of the Bible (And One Cursed)

Mother is the most honored title given to women in the Bible. God's first blessing to Adam and Eve was for them to be fruitful and multiply.
Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply
Adam named Eve to be a mother.
Genesis 3:20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
God also tested and tried his servants by denying motherhood. Sarai, Abraham's wife, was barren until a miracle resulted in the birth of Isaac. Rebekah, Isaac's wife, could not conceive for twenty years until she brought forth twins, Esau and Jacob. Leah, Jacob's first wife, was a fertile puppy, but his favorite wife, Rachel, suffered from barrenness for many years.

When God punished the Abimelech on behalf of Abraham, He closed up all the wombs in his household.
Genesis 20:18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.

A child was a blessing from God, and being barren was a curse. Yet in most, if not all cases, a woman who was barren prayed and was eventually rewarded with a child.

Sarah (Blessing):
Genesis 17:16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
Rebekah (Blessing):
Genesis 24:60 And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.
Leah (Blessing):
Genesis 29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. 
Rachel (Blessing):
Genesis 30:22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and
opened her womb.
Deborah (Blessing):
Judges5:7 The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. 
Samson's Mother (Blessing):
Judges 13:5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. 
Naomi, through Ruth (Blessing):
Ruth 4:17 And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. 
Hannah (Blessing):
1st Samuel 1:19 ...and the LORD remembered her.
1:20 Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD. 
Michal (Cursed):
2nd Samuel 6:23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. 
Michal's name stands out like a sore thumb among the mothers of Israel. She is the sole example of a woman judged by God to remain childless, to never celebrate a Mother's Day. Or did she?

2nd Samuel 21 contains the sad note that David, Michal's husband, took..."the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite (her sister's husband) 21:9 And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD"

Being a mother is more than just bearing children, it is caring for them and bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. God blesses mothers, whether natural or adopted.
Psalm 113:9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.
The seven reknown barren women in the Bible are: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Manoah’s wife, Hannah and the woman Psalm 113:9 blesses. This is Michal who represents Zion/Israel. Like Israel, who is depicted as the cursed fig tree, empty armed and barren, she stands at the end of time blessed and happy with a multitude of children.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

How to Tame a Tiger Mom - Jokes and Battle Plan


Q: When is a Chinese mother most dangerous?
A:When she's armed with a minivan near a school zone and the bell is about to ring.


Q: Who was the most blessed Jewish Mother in history?
A: Bathsheba, she had one thousand daughter-in-laws

Q: What are the two classes a Chinese Mother will allow her child to fail?
A: Acting and Fiction Writing

Q: American mothers play music to their wombs, Indian mothers practice yoga and hum to their wombs. What does a Chinese mother recite to her womb?
A: Multi-variable Calculus and Differential Equations problem sets.

Q: What is a Chinese mother's favorite algebraic equation?
A: a+a, a*a, a**a

Three Chinese mothers and a Jewish mother were sitting around a mah-jong table.
The first Chinese mother says, "My son graduated top of his class from Harvard and is now an executive at a biotechnology company making $250,000 a year."
The second Chinese mother says, "My daughter received a National Science Foundation grant and finished her PhD in three years and is now a research scientist with her own lab."
The third Chinese mother says, "My son and daughter-in-law just sold their genetic engineering start-up for $5 billion in cash and stock."
The Jewish mother shrugs her shoulders. "Oy vey! My daughter's a writer."
The three Chinese mothers exclaim in unison, "Ai ya! What does she write?"
The Jewish mother slaps the tiles down. "Your children's paychecks."

King Solomon was playing chess with the Queen of Sheba.
Sheba: Do you believe in Heaven or Hell?
Solomon: Both.
Sheba: Heaven I believe, but not Hell.
Solomon: That's because you don't have one thousand mother-in-laws.

Daughter: Mom, I'm taking C++ next semester.
Chinese Mother: Only a C? Must have been invented by Americans.

American Boy: I got a B- on my test and my parents took me to Chuckie Cheese to raise my self-esteem.
Chinese Boy: I got an A- and a big box from Amazon.
American Boy: Wow! Your parents are cool! What's in the box?
Chinese Boy: Workbooks, practice tests and a hat to cover up the bald spot they left on my head.

A Chinese mother leaves a one-star review for Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mom: She's a slacker.
Friend: Why is that?
Chinese mother: Anyone with time to write isn't driving her kids far enough.

Q: American mothers turn the dial to find the right channel. Jewish mothers turn the dial to heat up their hairdryers. What dial does a Chinese mother turn?
A: The speed dial of the metronome while her child practices piano.

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Do you have any jokes? Please post them in the comments below.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother Survived Machine Gun Strafing and Bombs

Whenever I count my blessings, my mother and father are top on the list. My mother grew up in a world much different than what I'm used to. Her childhood was spent ducking under bridges to hide from Japanese bombing raids. She experienced the terror of men in low flying aircraft spraying civilians with machine gun fire. She saw bodies blown into pieces at a spot she had just vacated a few seconds ago. She's even experienced Japanese quality control gone wrong! A bomb went through the roof of her house, down three stories and landed on the ground floor unexploded.

At the young age of nineteen, my mother immigrated to the United States of America. She gave up her homeland so that her children could have a better life, the chance to become a Christian and live in a land of opportunity and liberty. Because of the hardship of her upbringing, my mother taught me never to take anything for granted, to work hard and be appreciative. While my mother was not the most emotional or pampering type of mother, she showed her love by doggedly defending us and supporting us against bullies whether teachers or other children. She also stressed the role of education and simply expected us to succeed without her pushing or prodding.

Mother's Day is around the corner. My mother loves to read, and her house is stacked wall to wall with books. I'm grateful to my mother for allowing me to be born, raising me with love, teaching me the value of hard work, and giving me an appreciation and love for the arts, music and literature.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Allegiance, a Thriller by Derek Blass

Allegiance, a ThrillerAllegiance, a Thriller by Derek Blass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whichever side you are on about the immigration debate, Allegiance hits you in the gut. Set in the borderlands of Arizona, in the frontera between the US and Mexico, Allegiance tells of the invisible war between migrants, militia, and drug mafia. Loyalties shift with the sands of the desert as Cruz Marquez, the activist lawyer finds himself imprisoned by a cruel and sadistic tyrant.

The story draws a complex thread around the debate, intertwining the poignant story of El Santo with the abused drifter, Tyler, and the mafia boss, Tzompantli, whose rite of passage was the fire beard, a network of burn scars where his beard would have been.

The action escalates when the unlikely alliance hits the militia compound with nonstop fighting, tension and violence. Women are not left out of the mayhem as Cruz's wife Sandra plays an unwilling but crucial role within the militia compound. A subplot with a group of teenage drifters enhances the depth of the story, and the ending is satisfying as Cruz insures safety for his family and the young drifter Octavio's social conscious is developed.

Hard hitting, Allegiance includes bad language, worse attitudes, and gruesome images. Be prepared to have your gut wrenched and your heart broken, as there are no winners in this relentless border war.

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