Friday, May 13, 2011

Joining Up by Jack McGuire

Author and screenwriter, Jack McGuire, offers readers a page-turning work of historical fiction in Joining Up, telling the tale of two young boys, Bobby and Will, who escape from Saint John's orphanage and Gingrich, the "sallow-faced headmaster who should have been a prison guard," to join the ranks of Brooklyn's Red Legged Devils of the 14th regiment. The runaways embark on a quest to find the Fourteenth, which takes them to Pennsylvania, spurred on by the heroism of the Fourteenth.

McGuire offers a powerful memorialization to the Fourteenth regiment, echoing the words of William Burleigh, his story ensures that history will never forget the dauntless regiment; "The gallant Fourteenth forget them not: our gallant boys who, for the nation's life, stood amid the battle grime and noise and were baptized in its flames and blood!" Along the way, the boys encounter Scalawag muleskinner, Dinky Dolan, an Irishman of whom they are not sure what to make, but cannot help but be amused by his antics, and his black teenage cohort, Daniel. After they are persuaded to join up with his wagon train, the snaggle-toothed muleskinner convinces them to sign the "Dolan papers," mixing their blood together in the signing of the contract, binding them to him until Harper's Ferry, carrying grave threats and consequences if they do not comply. The boys are taken on the adventure of a lifetime and when they finally don the "Union Blue" that they have so ardently pursued throughout the novel, the Union Army and the Confederate Army are about to engage in the battle that would change the tides of the war and the course of history, The Battle of Gettysburg.

The story is a powerful reminder of the courage and valor of the Fourteenth regiment, told by a Brooklyn-born Civil War history buff, interweaving historical facts with an exciting tale. By fictionalizing possible conversations between the great names of history and those who fought for our country, readers are offered a new perspective on the tales of the Civil War, bringing the events of the war to vivid life as the plot unfolds.

Joining Up is a profile of American life during the Civil War times, showcasing different subsets of society, from the harsh headmaster who has a soft spot for war heroes, allowing Captain Andrew Whelan to visit his brother, Will, on a day that is not designated for visiting, allowing "exceptions for the army," illuminating the reverence to which the army was held, to the simplistic life of the Dutch Amish in Pennsylvania, and the life of the Union Army, told through the story of Andrew.

McGuire artfully synthesizes the various factions of American society to portray life during the Civil War, adding a human element to the events of our nation's history. Joining Up is the ideal book for anyone who enjoys history, an adventure, or a well-told story, providing readers with the riveting account of Bobby, Will, and Andrew as they fight for justice.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gold Standard of Thin by Kathleen Rowland and Janice Rowland

In Gold Standard of Thin, Janice Rowland and Kathleen Rowland offer "a guide for steady weight loss and rich health." The Rowlands address fitness from the inside out, providing readers with inspirational "nuggets for your inner self," curing the underlying motivations for binge eating and depression that precludes us from being active. By teaching us to "stop feeding our feelings," readers are able to break away from the cycle of depression, frustration, and disappointment that lead to eating, which in turn leads to more depression, frustration, and disappointment.

The Rowlands offer delicious recipes that are as tasty as they are healthy, helping dieters to stick with their diet programs by providing them with ideas for healthy eating that will not leave them feeling deprived. Among their recipes are: Banana Peanut Butter Rolls, Cilantro-Lime Steak Fajitas, Beef Rib Roast with Shallots and Herbs, and Lobster Salad with Lemon and Basil. One of the strengths of these recipes is a true relevance to modern social situations that tempt us to "cheat" on our diets, often leading us to return to former eating habits.

Perhaps you are entertaining and do not want to serve your guests diet food; Glazed Ham with Sugar Snap Peas, Carrots, and Leeks is an elegant and delicious dinner for eight. For others whose challenges include snack time, lunch at work, or eating at home alone, there are appropriate recipes for every situation, encouraging consistent and sustainable healthy eating.

In the exercise portion of Gold Standard of Thin, the authors address both traditional exercise and encourage fun ways to burn calories and build strength from sailing and gardening to Nintendo Wii and horseback riding. By making fitness an enjoyable proposition, readers are motivated to get fit, have fun, and maintain their exercise programs. Through the variety of suggestions offered, dieters can never grow bored with their fitness regimes, finding ways to keep their program fresh.

In a market pervaded by unhealthy fad diets that only lead to water weight loss and breaking down lean muscle, Gold Standard of Thin offers real solutions for real health from real women and for real women. Through the application of their advice, readers will find weight loss simple and manageable, demystifying the often-daunting task of dieting and exercising. Janice and Kathleen Rowland guide dieters down the path to real, healthy, and sustainable weight loss. It is through a program of solid advice, nutritious and delectable recipes, and enjoyable exercise that they teach readers that getting fit can actually be fun!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Death's Dream Kingdom by Jessica Penot

Jessica Penot's Death's Dream Kingdom is a stunning masterpiece, telling the tale of Cera, a woman who transcends the ordinary after her murder. In life, she lives the life of the average wife and mother of three; in death, she becomes extraordinary.

After a man slits her throat while she is jogging, Cera is initially unaware of what has transpired, waking in the grass and thinking she fell; however, she has not awakened to the world that she knew, greeted by Sin, a woman in a white slip who has come to take her "home." She refuses to believe that she is dead, returning home to her sobbing husband and children, who cannot feel her caress or hear her voice; "She was there, but they couldn't hear her."

As time passes, her children grow and move on, and Cera, who can see into her husband's dreams while she lies beside him, sees him beginning to dream of other women as "time tarnishes all images and their memory of Cera was fading." When Sin returns to her, she relishes in being touched and seen again, no longer invisible.
She is "more than dead but less than alive" and is persuaded by Sin to spare herself the suffering of becoming a ghost, haunting her family, watching them move on. She quickly becomes entrenched in the netherworld between life and death, filled with ancient gods, ghosts, and demons, discovering that Earth is composed of two kingdoms, "one for the living and the other for the rest."

While there was nothing special about her in life, Cera has mysteriously been singled out by those in between worlds as "special," becoming a reaper, guiding the dead home. She possesses "gifts and visions" and has "lived and died a hundred times at moments when the stars crossed and her gifts were needed," leaving her ancient lover, Arawyn, a banished underworld god, to wait for her to return to him again. Their fates have been intertwined for "millennia" from the days when Cera was a priestess who offered herself to him, taking mercy on the village girls and sparing them. As Cera becomes more entrenched in the politics of the netherworld and her fate, Penot leaves readers breathless as the story unfolds.

Penot creates a truly artistic and original representation of death and the afterlife, drawing readers in, quickly consuming them with the story of one woman's fateful journey of ordinary to extraordinary, and holding them riveted as they unlock the secrets of Cera's fate. Death's Dream Kingdom creates an extraordinary world for readers, engrossing them with the folkloric depiction of old gods, The Underworld, and those who walk the earth, invisible to mortals.