Archive | July, 2007

Accidential Enlightenment by Stephen Banick

25 Jul

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Normally, I hate travel books. 

 I know, I know. I can hear a lot of you saying: Now wait just a minute! What’s wrong with travel logs? Well, in my opinion, they’re boring, dull and quite often have as much life to them as a day old piece of toast.  

So I will admit that I was a bit weary of Accidental Enlightenment at first. A travel book AND a self help manual? How could such a thing be possible? I opened the cover to the first page and was prepared to be sceptical of anything and everything in the book.  To my chagrin, however, I was charmed and, oddly enough, enlightened.  

From the preface (where Banick makes his own comments about travel books) to the very last page, Accidental Enlightenment was a complete and utter joy.

Imagine, if you will, being discontent with your lot in life. You wonder where you’re going, what you’re meant to be doing. Are the answers to your questions to be found inside you, or out in the real world?  After being offered a high powered job at a software company, Banick decides to drive instead of fly to his destination. This choice starts him on a journey that will change his life.

Along the way, Banick picks up hitch hikers and learns, for the first time, to really talk to people honestly. But more importantly, he learns to listen.  

When he finally arrives at his job, he’s able to listen to his heart and he knows that his heart and soul aren’t in the job; that he no longer wanted the confining walls of an office building.

So than what is a man to do? Banick decides to continue the travels he started with that innocent road trip and, like so many before him, go exploring.  But what he explores is different from so many others.

While he travels across many different lands and places in Canada, the United States and countries all over the world, what Banick explores is the different cultures he encounters, the different people.  

And still he listens. While he listens, Banick learns and begins to discover things about himself he never thought possible. By listening and learning about others, he learns hidden truths about himself that shake his world and reform it into something wonderful…. 

Accidental Enlightenment is an amazing book from start to finish. My small summarization of the plot does not even come close to describing the wonders that Banick encounters in his fellow human beings. Humanity and the world around him are present in all of Banick’s words and I believe that this is what is missing from so many other travel books.  

While other authors give us an account of what they saw, Banick gives us an account of what he felt, what he sees and hears. We are with him on his many travels, breathing in the truths of others. What is so incredible about this book are the truths, the tid bits of wisdom and knowledge that you pick up while reading it. 

 I found myself quite often reading what I thought was a simple conversation only to have parts of what I read come back to me later once they had sunk in. The truths, the power of the human spirit, is right there; we just have to keep our eyes open while reading.  

Banick’s approach is fun, simple and light. It’s never preachy, never heavy handed and as we learn about Banick’s discoveries we can’t help but learn about ourselves. Accidental Enlightenment is an absolute joy. Banick should be applauded for sharing his journey’s with us.  For as the world changed him, he has changed me and my view of the world around me.

This is an incredible book and I know I won’t ever look at my surroundings in the same way again.  

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Blood Red by Heather Graham

7 Jul

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Blood Red

Heather Graham

Mira Books

July 2007

Genre: Paranormal/Romance

  

Lauren Crow is not having a good time.

 

After accompanying her friends Heidi and Deanna on a trip to New Orleans to celebrate Heidi’s upcoming wedding, she receives bad news: her life is in danger.

 

The giver of this news is Susan, a fortune teller in Jackson Square. She stares into her crystal ball and tells Lauren to leave, to take her friends and go. Something stalks her, something wants her and she is in danger.

 

As if that weren’t bad enough, she is being followed by a man named Mark Davidson. After finding Lauren in a New Orleans bar, he doesn’t want to let her out of his sight. She is the spitting image of Katie, his first love, who was killed so many years ago by a murderous vampire.

 

Mark knows that if he lets Lauren out of his sight for one moment, Stephan will claim Lauren for his just like he did Katie. Lauren, however, is having none of this. She doesn’t believe in vampire mumbo jumbo and won’t accept the truth.

 

Until the vampire starts to hunt one of her friends. Suddenly the danger they are all in is very real and Lauren must rely on Mark for help. She must also try to ignore the growing passion that sparks to life between them.

 

But some things don’t always go as planned…

 

Blood Red manages to breathe new life into the tired genre of vampire fiction and it does it extremely well. Having never read a book by Heather Graham before I wasn’t sure what to expect; I didn’t know if I was in for a bodice ripper with fangs or a book with fangs with a touch of fire. Thankfully it was the latter. 

 

What makes Blood Red so successful is the characters. Lauren is no cardboard cut out heroine. She is tough and stands well on her own two feet. Mark Davidson, vampire hunter, isn’t the rough and ready macho man that so many hero’s end up being. In short, they aren’t caricatures. They feel like living, breathing people.

 

Graham also manages to throw a new twist on vampire lore that works beautifully. They’re still harmed by holy water but Graham has a few new twists up her sleeve. I love when an author take a paranormal element that’s already been done to death and makes it his or her own. Graham excels in the paranormal and it never comes off feeling hokey or fake. You will honestly believe, even if for an instant, that vampires exist.

 

In short, I loved this book. I was hooked from the first page and couldn’t stop reading. It’s the perfect cure for a case of the blues or to make your summer night red hot. It has something to please everyone: suspense, romance, thrills, and paranormal elements. Graham manages to be deft at juggling all her balls and never drops a single one.

If you haven’t fallen under Graham’s spell yet, what are you waiting for? Blood Red is an absolute flat out fantastic book and you’ll love every bloody moment of it.

  

Imagine This by Sade Adeniran

5 Jul

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Imagine This

Sade Adeniran

www.imaginethisthenovel.com     

Imagine this: being taken away from all that you cherish, all that you love and being thrust into a landscape that is frightening, bizarre and so incredibly different from all that you know.  

This is exactly what happens to nine year old Lola Ogunwole. Born in London to Nigerian parents, her world is torn apart when her mother abandons Lola and her brother Adebola.  They find themselves in a foster home until their father comes to claim them.  Lola thinks that her troubles are over; but they have just begun.

Rather than lose both his children, he takes them from London to Nigeria to live with family members. Lola and Adebola are separated from each other for the first time in their lives. Adebola goes to live with an uncle in the small town of Lagos and Lola finds herself living with an aunt in  Idogun.  

Idogun is unlike anywhere that Lola has lived before. Poverty is rampant in the village and there is no electricity, no indoor toilets, and no conveniences. Only a hard life and a world so removed from civilization that Lola feels like an outcast. Her one constant, her brother Adebola, removed from her, Lola feels more alone than ever.  

Her family does not make it easy for her either. For no reason that Lola can think of, her aunt hates her. She is made to walk miles and miles every morning for water. She has to learn to adapt herself to a life of hardship; a life of difficulty and a father that seems to be cutting himself off from her.  

But like all things, time passes and hardships increase. Lola starts to change and mature. No longer is she the spoiled little girl from London. Lola starts becoming a woman. But when she is tested, when something so earth shattering happens that Lola does not speak for days, something inside her changes.  

She knows that she must fight to get where she wants, otherwise her heart and her spirit will perish…. 

My brief summary of the plot does not do the scope of this novel justice. Told in diary format, we are really reading Lola’s journal; her inner thoughts, her inner demons are poured out onto the page for all of us to read. Because of her words, I find myself changed forever.  

I can’t express how good, how utterly amazing, this novel is. The fact that this is Adeniran’s first novel is astounding. There is so much depth here, so much feeling and emotion that it is hard to believe I’m not reading the work of a seasoned writer. Imagine This is pure, unadulterated storytelling and the power of it is incredible.  

Because it’s told in a diary format, we see into Lola’s head and her thoughts a lot more clearly than if the novel was told in first person or third person. Indeed, we get to read her private wishes, dreams and aspirations for the future.

After a while I forgot I was reading a novel and could picture Lola scratching away in her diary. I felt I could reach out and touch her.  

Few authors are able to render a character so completely. Lola becomes not just a character on a page or words on paper. She lives and breathes alongside you as you read her story.  I can honestly say I was blown away.

Few books have affected me as strongly as Imagine This and I know that my spirit carries a piece of Lola with me where ever I go now.  I am haunted by her; by the sound of her voice in my head, her words on the page it’s hard to believe that Lola does not really exist. It’s hard to believe that I can’t reach out and touch her. This is the power of Adeniran’s amazing first novel.

Imagine  This is not just a story, not just a novel. It’s about having the courage to face obstacles head on. It’s about finding the strength to survive and succeed that you didn’t know you had inside of you. But most of all, Imagine This is about the triumph of the heart.  

If you read one good book this summer, make sure that it is Imagine This. Your heart will thank you for it.