Friday, December 23, 2011


Today, I'm honored to be part of author Ian Healy's blog tour for his release of Just Cause, which is the first release on New Babel Books.

BEX: You started writing in Junior High – can you tell us who your inspiration was? A teacher? Another writer?

IAN: I can't put my finger on anyone in particular as being inspirational to me beyond my parents, who encouraged reading and indeed read constantly. I remember walking down the hill to the library with a duffel bag once a week and climbing back up to go home with it bursting full of books. To say I started writing in Junior High is like saying I started breathing then. I have always been a writer and a teller of stories. It just took a more serious focus around that time period.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yes, Dear Reader, There are Vampires

Dear Bex:

I am not telling you how old I am because it's not your business. Some of my friends say there are no vampires. But I say, "If you see it on the Internet, then it's so."

I have written several blogs who have given me different replies including seeking professional help and requesting to know just what kind(s) of drugs I am on and where the blogger may procure them.

I have finally resorted to your humble blog with your 28 followers. So, Bex, please tell me are there really vampires?

A Reader

Monday, December 19, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol

Brad Bird ... Director
Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec ... Writers
Bruce Geller ... writer on original television program


Tom Cruise ... Ethan Hunt
Jeremy Renner ... Brandt
Simon Pegg ... Benji
Paula Patton ... Jane
Michael Nyqvist ... Hendricks
Vladimir Mashkov ... Sidorov
Samuli Edelmann ... Wistrom
Ivan Shvedoff ... Leonid Lisenker
Anil Kapoor ... Brij Nath
Léa Seydoux ... Sabine Moreau
Josh Holloway ... Hanaway
Pavel Kris ... Marek Stefanski
Miraj Grbic ... Bogdan

I confess, I'm not much of a Tom Cruise fan. So, my husband and I paid IMAX prices to see Simon Pegg. I'm pleased and surprised to say it was worth it!

First of all, the IMAX version of MI4 is not 3D. Thus, you do not have to wear the stupid ill-fitting glasses, which you have to recycle and then pay for every_single_time you see a 3-D movie. For the most part, I haven't seen a lot of 3D that's worth the extra admission and glasses rental, anyway. However, MI4 was well worth the IMAX screen. The effects, particularly in Dubai, were stunning. In addition, this version of MI was much more of an ensemble cast than the prior versions. There's much more interplay among the stars and it's not just the "Tom Cruise" show. Actually, Cruise was pretty impressive. Simon Pegg as the nerd Benji promoted to a field agent, did an amazing job.

MOVIE REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney
Additional: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (characters: Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson)


Robert Downey Jr. ... Sherlock Holmes
Jude Law ... Dr. John Watson
Noomi Rapace ... Madam Simza Heron
Rachel McAdams ... Irene Adler
Jared Harris ... Professor James Moriarty
Stephen Fry ... Mycroft Holmes
Paul Anderson ... Colonel Sebastian Moran
Kelly Reilly ... Mary Watson
Geraldine James ... Mrs. Hudson
Eddie Marsan ... Inspector Lestrade
William Houston ... Constable Clark

Sherlock Holmes is facing his biggest case ever and it has to begin on the eve of Watson's wedding to Mary. Sherlock's willing to fight alone, but his arch-enemy, Dr. Moriarty, is not going to let Dr. Watson go Scot-free for foiling his plans.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: John Logan (screenplay), Brian Selznick (book)


Ben Kingsley ... Georges Méliès
Sacha Baron Cohen ... Station Inspector
Asa Butterfield ... Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz ... Isabelle
Ray Winstone ... Uncle Claude
Emily Mortimer ... Lisette
Christopher Lee ... Monsieur Labisse
Helen McCrory ... Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg ... Rene Tabard
Frances de la Tour ... Madame Emilie
Richard Griffiths ... Monsieur Frick
Jude Law ... Hugo's Father

Hugo Cabret's twelve when he loses his father to a tragic fire. His Uncle Claude takes him in. The only memento Hugo brings from his past is an automaton, a small metal man that he and his father have been working on to restore.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Take Shelter

Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols


Michael Shannon ... Curtis
Jessica Chastain ... Samantha
Tova Stewart ... Hannah
Shea Whigham ... Dewart
Katy Mixon ... Nat
Natasha Randall ... Cammie
Ron Kennard ... Russell
Scott Knisley ... Lewis
Robert Longstreet ... Jim
Heather Caldwell ... Special Ed Teacher
Sheila Hullihen ... Woman in Road
John Kloock ... Man in Road
Marianna Alacchi ... Bargain Hunter
Jacque Jovic ... News Anchor
Bob Maines ... Walter Jacobs

So, what makes a really good thriller? In my opinion, the film's got to touch a nerve or two. In the case of Take Shelter, writer-director Jeff Nichols hits three big ones:

* Killer storms
* Ecological Disasters
* Inherited insanity

Curtis is a blue-collar construction worker who spends most of his days in a rural Ohio setting drilling holes. He's got a nice life, his lovely wife Samantha. The only hitch you see at first is his daughter, Hannah is in need of a cochlear transplant to help her hear.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Muppets (2011)

Director: James Bobin
Writers: Jim Henson (characters), Jason Segel


Jason Segel ... Gary
Amy Adams ... Mary
Chris Cooper ... Tex Richman
Rashida Jones ... Veronica Martin
Steve Whitmire ... Kermit / Beaker / Statler / Rizzo / Link Hogthrob / The Newsman (voice)
Eric Jacobson ... Miss Piggy / Fozzie Bear / Animal / Sam Eagle / Marvin Suggs (voice)
Dave Goelz ... Gonzo / Dr. Bunsen Honeydew / Zoot / Beauregard / Waldorf / Kermit Moopet (voice)
Bill Barretta ... Swedish Chef / Rowlf / Dr. Teeth / Pepe the Prawn / Bobo / Fozzie Moopet (voice)
David Rudman ... Scooter / Janice / Miss Poogy (voice)
Matt Vogel ... Sgt. Floyd Pepper / Camilla / Sweetums / 80's Robot / Lew Zealand / Uncle Deadly / Roowlf / Crazy Harry (voice)
Peter Linz ... Walter (voice)
Alan Arkin ... Tour Guide
Bill Cobbs ... Grandfather
Zach Galifianakis ... Hobo Joe

They're back! Twenty-one years after Jim Henson's death, I hadn't expected to see another Muppet movie, but I was there on opening day with my heart in my throat not quite sure what to expect.

Gary and Mary have been dating for ten years and it's time they celebrated their anniversary. Gary's delighted to make Mary's romantic dream of visiting Hollywood come true. There's just one small hitch: Gary can't leave his brother, Walter the Muppet fan (and puppet) behind.

MOVIE REVIEW: Arthur Christmas

Director: Sarah Smith
Writers: Peter Baynham (screenplay), Sarah Smith (screenplay)


James McAvoy ... Arthur (voice)
Hugh Laurie ... Steve (voice)
Bill Nighy ... Grandsanta (voice)
Jim Broadbent ... Santa (voice)
Imelda Staunton ... Mrs. Santa (voice)
Ashley Jensen ... Bryony (voice)
Marc Wootton ... Peter (voice)
Laura Linney ... North Pole Computer (voice)
Eva Longoria ... Chief De Silva (voice)
Ramona Marquez ... Gwen (voice)
Michael Palin ... Ernie Clicker (voice)
Sanjeev Bhaskar ... Lead Elf (voice)
Robbie Coltrane ... Lead Elf (voice)
Joan Cusack ... Lead Elf (voice)
Rhys Darby ... Lead Elf (voice)

Let's face it, the holidays are an easy target, particularly when we have slack years in film. Every year, film makers capitalize on the season and bring out a new Christmas film. Most, I don't go to see in the theater. Fewer still get added to my movie collection. Arthur Christmas is a notable exception. Frankly, I'd go back and see this film once more during the season just because the effects on the big screen are that exceptional.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Sisterhood, Everlasting -- Ann Brashares

Carolyn Keene, Louisa May Alcott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder sold me on serial fiction back when I was a kid. As an adult, Diane Duane, Jim Butcher, and Anne McCaffrey continued that trend.

So, when I started reading YA, I looked for characters I could follow, too. I stumbled on Ann Brashares's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants quite accidentally, but I got hooked. Ms. Brashares writes likeable characters that readers want to follow through their lives.

BOOK REVIEW: All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky -- Joe

Young Adult is the new black. Big name authors are defecting from adult fare and writing for a younger audience. Not to worry, though, adult readers. Even if your favorite authors are now writing for your kids (or grandkids) much of young adult is very much worthwhile for all ages.

When I heard Joe R. Lansdale had written a young adult, I had to grab All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky. I wanted to scream when I realized the story took place in the Dust Bowl. I've been doing research for a YA based in that time period for months now. Damn.

But, on with the review:

BOOK REVIEW: Silver Shark -- Ilona Andrews

I was delighted to hear my favorite urban fantasy duo has branched out into science fiction. Duo, you ask? Yes, Ilona Andrews is actually Ilona and Andrew Gordon, a married couple of late from Central Texas who met in Composition class and probably keep that initial spark burning by writing romances together.

Ilona describes this novella as a billionaire and secretary romance, except the secretary can kill you with her mind. That's a pretty apt description. Please note, this story is about a fourth the length of standard Ilona Andrews fare. By definition, a novella is a short novel, generally about 17,000 to 40,000 words in length.

Friday, October 14, 2011

National White Cane Day -- October 15

In honor of National White Cane Day, I'm offering just a bit of an education. People who are using a white cane are either blind of visually disabled. I've used a white cane for ten years now and I've learned a lot from it and often as not been a teacher for people who've never encountered one before.

So what is a white cane and what does it mean? A white cane helps visually impaired or blind people get around.

They use the white cane for two reasons. One, it's kind of like the "STUDENT DRIVER" sign you see on some automobiles. It tells you to beware and clear the road for someone who might perhaps not be as experienced as you are.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

COMMENTARY: Everything old is new again

And how.

I just got an advert for a company that is selling reconditioned vintage manual and electric typewriters. They give the typewriters a new sporty coat of paint often two-tuned in hot shades of red and purple and they make sure the works are operating to spec. For this, consumers are paying $500 and up.

And that's a "sale" price. By the time I saw the ad, most of the machines were on hold or sold, too.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Directors: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
Writers: Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman

Marion Mack ... Annabelle Lee
Glen Cavender ... Captain Anderson
Jim Farley ... General Thatcher
Frederick Vroom ... A Southern General
Charles Henry Smith ... Annabelle's Father (as Charles Smith)
Frank Barnes ... Annabelle's Brother
Joe Keaton ... Union General
Mike Donlin ... Union General
Tom Nawn ... Union General
Buster Keaton ... Johnny Gray

Up until last weekend, I'd only seen clips of silent films. Oh yes, I knew how they were done. The film was projected on a screen and a musician played along. In the finer movie houses, they had an organ. In the lesser, a piano.

When a friend told my husband and I that The General was showing at the Tennessee Theater, we had to go see it. I've seen the theater's Mighty Wurlitzer organ whenever they have a regular talkie. Their house organist gives a topical performance before each film, but I've never seen a silent was they were done back in the old days.

MOVIE REVIEW: Attack the Block

Director: Joe Cornish
Writer: Joe Cornish
Nick Frost: Ron
Jodie Whittaker: Sam
John Boyega: Moses
Luke Treadaway: Brewis
Terry Notary: The Creature
Alex Esmail: Pest
Joey Ansah: Policeman 1
Flaminia Cinque: Italian Woman
Paige Meade: Dimples
Leeon Jones: Jerome
Jumayn Hunter: Hi-Hatz
Adam Leese: Policeman 2
Chris Wilson: Arresting Police Officer
Lee Nicholas Harris: Police Officer - swat
Franz Drameh: Dennis

Sam's walking home from a late-night shift at the hospital. She's chatting with her Mum on her cell-phone and not paying attention to her surroundings. The minute she rings off, Sam belatedly realizes she's wandered right into the hands of a street gang.

Of course, she's mugged. She runs home, calls the police, and they go out in a van and attempt to find the hoodlums who robbed her.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Prospect of My Arrival -- By Dwight Okita

“You’ll be the first baby ever to be given the chance to preview the world—before choosing to be born or not. You will have three weeks to make up your mind.” Dwight Okita

I first encountered The Prospect of my Arrival when I served as a judge in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards Contest. The 5,000 word excerpt was one of the half dozen which has haunted me for the years since, particularly because the story is one of the most unique I’ve ever read. Prospect was a finalist in both the 2008 and 2009 ABNA contests and has well-deserved the positive commentary in both venues.

Finally, the book's coming out and I was fortunate enough to receive an Advance Reader Copy from the author. It's been a long three-plus years to wait, but I can tell you the end result was well worthwhile.

How many of you would choose to be born if you had a chance to preview the world you’d be born into? Thanks to science, that’s the opportunity Prospect has been afforded.

Scientist and “Facilitator” Dr. Trish Mesmer introduces Prospect to the Pre-Born Project. He will get a chance to meet a range of people from all walks of life to help him make up his mind whether to be born or not. These people, who Trish terms “Referrals”, will form a type of knowledge base around Prospect that will help him make up his mind whether to choose to be born or to return back to the gene pool. The latter choice may well mean that Prospect is never born, Trish cannot answer that question. He may go back to a “pool of possibilities to be born another time.” Or not.

Prepared with a wallet, cellphone, ID, credit cards, spiral notebook, pens, computer tablet, and snacks, Prospect goes out into the world unguided to explore. Prospect is allowed to live in a twenty-year-old body developed especially for him. This body has no fingerprints, but gains knowledge from a special chip called a Cybersavant which allows Prospect to understand and interact with the world. He will have gaps in his knowledge and these gaps are going to cause him some trouble according to Trish. He’s got to watch out for his weaknesses and just do the best he can.

Of course, not everyone supports this experiment in ultimate choice. Prospect gets threats via the phone to leave the “abomination” of the Pre-Born Project. From what source these threats are coming from, he doesn’t know. On the other hand, Karl Bangor of Big Farm Corp, one of the executives of the corporation who designed the body Prospect inhabits, doesn’t see the Pre-Born Project quite the same way as Trish. It’s a nuisance to him and he just wants Prospect to decide to be born. That’s the best outcome for his employer and he’ll do what he can to make that happen including urging the Referrals to support a birth decision so Prospect can hurry up and be born.

Prospect has several Referrals scheduled, from the woman who’s to be his birth mother to Irene, an elderly greeting card designer who is dying of cancer. Prospect is scheduled to run the gamut of life experience in order for him to make an informed decision.

Prospect is a strong and different story which is difficult to classify, because it contains both elements of dystopic science fiction along with a touch of Young Adult coming of age. Those of a philosophical or ethical bent will want to discuss the implications of a child's choice on whether to be born along with other aspects of Prospect's near-future world.

Prospect’s character is written so well you want to nurture him and guide him through the best of what this world has to offer. Frankly, from the beginning, I hoped that Prospect would be born because I felt the character’s sweetness and willingness to experience life non-judgmentally would be a fine addition to the gene pool.

And those of us with maternal instincts are occasionally biting our nails through the more difficult encounters. Prospect gets lost, finds his way and finds unique opportunities through the experience. Reading this story is very much akin to the exhilaration of your first carnival ride followed straight on by getting lost in the gritty works of the midway.

All is not rosy. His future mother is the first Referral. Prospect learns he has a sister, Joyce, who may well have met a bad end. Another referral, Trevor, was chosen because he’s a difficult person to deal with (in his own words) and he’s opposed to the Pre-Born Project.

I was asked by the author what scene touched me the most. That's a difficult decision and even harder to place in a review for fear of spoilers. For me, the most compelling scene in the book was with the greeting card author who is dying from cancer. Given a moment, Irene could create a verse that so reflected a person's life. On the page, you saw the beginning in Prospect with all the sweet potential and the end in this author with all the bittersweet poignancy. The contrast was as sharp as black and white and one of the most beautifully and compassionately written scenes I've read in a long time.

Prospect has definitely evolved through the two early iterations I had the privilege of reading via the ABNA until now. All those questions asked via in the open reviews of Dwight Okita’s work have made him a stronger writer. He’s also the kind of person who accepts criticism with stoic grace. I admire his perseverance and I still predict that his prospects are going to be bright for his future in writing.

For those of you interested in ordering The Prospect of My Arrival, the soft cover will be available in October with the Kindle version to follow in November.

To order the book, please visit 'The Prospect of My Arrival' at The link will not be active until the title is released and that may be towards the end of September.

Rebecca Kyle, September 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Life of Bees--Sue Monk Kidd

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books I'd take with me if I was stranded on a desert island. So, when I compare a book to Harper Lee, you know I'm serious. I don't do it often. To me, it'd be like taking a literary goddess's name in vain.

The Secret Life of Bees was recommended to me by a very dear friend from Austin after I'd read The Help and found Stockett's work good but somehow lacking.

Yeah, I guess I am asking someone to "paint a starry night again." (Joni Mitchell) That really can't be done, but I'll settle for some excellent Southern fiction with racial undertones that offers more than just an anemic description of the turbulent Sixties.

And yes, I got just what I wanted and then some. The basic story, Lily Owens is fourteen years old living with her father, T. Ray. Her mother was killed when she was four in a domestic accident with a gun--Lily is not sure whether it was her fault or not, but she blames herself. Since then, T. Ray has recruited Rosaleen, one of the peach pickers who worked for him, to act as surrogate mother for her. Rosaleen's a heavy-set Black woman who doesn't spare her tongue on anyone, but Lily knows that Rosaleen loves her.

When Rosaleen gets in trouble with some White men when she and Lily are walking into town for Rosaleen to go register to vote after passage of the new Civil Rights Act, Lily realizes her caregiver might just end up being killed. She undertakes to break Rosaleen out of the hospital, where she's been confined after a "fall" which caused her to have a concussion.

Armed with nothing but a vague memory of her Mom, the name of a town "Tiburon", and a picture of a Black Madonna, Lily and Rosaleen take off to find someplace safe. Considering this is a young White girl and an older Black woman traveling alone in Jim Crow South, this is a daring undertaking. Luckily, they find a Black farmer who's willing to take them three miles from Tiburon.

There, Lily finds a jar of honey with the Black Madonna on the label. She and Rosaleen go to the Davenport house and meet the "Calendar Sisters", August, June, and May. These three women are beekeepers who bottle and sell honey with the Black Madonna label. There, they discover a unique type of matriarchal spirituality which centers upon a Black Madonna statue and an admixture of Catholicism. Lily also may well discover the truth about her mother.

The Secret Life of Bees is a powerful tale of love beyond family and race. I wish I could someday write half as beautifully or authentically as Ms. Kidd does. She's got a skill at capturing the intricacies of difficult and painful relationships that few authors ever approach. At one point, she has Lily writing an angry letter to her abusive father, T. Ray, which is ironically signed "Love Lily." This says it all and so much more.

And yes, Kidd tells more of the tumultuous Civil Rights era than The Help did. I'm not sure whether the relationship between Lily and Rosaleen is more authentic or not, I'd like to hope so. The Secret Life of Bees is well worth reading and passing along to a good book loving friend.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh (screenplay)


Brendan Gleeson ... Sergeant Gerry Boyle
Don Cheadle ... FBI agent Wendell Everett
Liam Cunningham ... Francis Sheehy
David Wilmot ... Liam O'Leary
Rory Keenan ... Garda Aidan McBride
Mark Strong ... Clive Cornell
Fionnula Flanagan ... Eileen Boyle
Dominique McElligott ... Aoife O'Carroll
Sarah Greene ... Sinead Mulligan
Katarina Cas ... Gabriela McBride
Pat Shortt ... Colum Hennessey
Darren Healy ... Jimmy Moody
Laurence Kinlan ... Photographer
Gary Lydon ... Garda Inspector Gerry Stanton

Rated: R

Gard Sergeant Gerry Boyle lives a more or less quiet life, caring for his dying mother, having a drink at the local, and occasionally hiring a pair of hookers for a wild night of debauchery. When an international drug smuggling ring hits his section of the Irish Coast, he's not particularly impressed by the FBI. Truth be told, the feeling's mutual.

This is definitely one of the oddest and funniest odd-couple cop pairing I have ever encountered. I don't recommend buying a drink in this film--not because you might have to take a break but you just don't want to have anything in your mouth for about half of the film or you might choke laughing, particularly if you enjoy British comedies such as Waking Ned Devine or The Full Monty. This is not a film for young children or those with delicate sensibilities. Violence is not a problem, but politically incorrect language and the occasional bit of sexual content is.

The Guard was money well-spent even at full price. The film was definitely a good ending for a long and over-tense week. I'm not sure I'll purchase the DVD, but I will definitely recommend that my friends who enjoy UK-based films give it a watch.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Bite Club--Rachel Caine

When you get into serial fiction, you really begin to bond with the characters. Author Rachel Caine established her heroine, Claire Danvers, as a sympathetic character from the beginning. She's been picked on by a gang of mean girls, nearly killed by some of the worst monsters around and yet she's somehow survived with her dreams and hope intact.

That's not easy in Morganville, Texas. This is a small town, which most passersby don't even notice. That's meant to be. You see, Morganville's run by vampires. When people joke about giving an arm and a leg to the taxman they aren't far wrong in Morganville. But you can keep the limbs -- the vamps just want your blood.

There's a new pair of vampires in town, Vasily and Gloriana. And, they've opened a gym, with the Founder's permission, of course. The human residents are going to learn self-defense. That sounds like a really good idea, only the gym is not what it seems. It's a cover for "Bite Club" a cage fighting pay-per-view program that pits vampires against regular mortals.

Shane Collins, Claire's boyfriend, is one of the first to sign up. He's had a lot of experience fighting vampires and he's more than willing to buff up and learn some more. When he gets offered enough money to get him and Claire out of Morganville, he's more than willing to sign up to fight on the show.

Of course, there's even more to the fighting than just the program. One of the Founder Amelie's old enemies is back in town. It's her father, Bishop, and he's ready to take back Morganville.

This is the first book where Shane's had a point of view. It's different to have an additional narrator after nine books, but Ms. Caine does a splendid job of articulating what this reader has always gathered from Shane's descriptions. He's a powerful addition to the Morganville narrators and one I'll miss if she ever chooses to silence him for whatever reason.

As always, Bite Club was a hard book to put down. Both character and action were strong. I personally was surprised to discover that cage fighting made me uncomfortable. It's not a topic I've read before, but the fights were handled well and not a huge part of the book.

With every series, I answer the question--can this book be the first book I read? The answer here is "Yes." Rachel Caine does a great job of integrating the backstory in without too many hitches. Fair warning: after I read the book, I'd probably want the first nine.

For your reference, here are the Morganville Vampire books in order:

Glass House
The Dead Girls Dance
Midnight Alley
Feast of Fools
Lord of Misrule
Carpe Corpus
Fade Out
Kiss of Death
Ghost Town
Bite Club

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel)


Emma Stone ... Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan
Viola Davis ... Aibileen Clark
Bryce Dallas Howard ... Hilly Holbrook
Octavia Spencer ... Minny Jackson
Jessica Chastain ... Celia Foote
Ahna O'Reilly ... Elizabeth Leefolt
Allison Janney ... Charlotte Phelan
Anna Camp ... Jolene French
Eleanor Henry ... Mae Mobley
Emma Henry ... Mae Mobley
Chris Lowell ... Stuart Whitworth
Cicely Tyson ... Constantine Jefferson
Mike Vogel ... Johnny Foote
Sissy Spacek ... Missus Walters
Brian Kerwin ... Robert Phelan

Rated: PG 13 (for language, racial expletive, and violence)

The Help is based upon the debut novel of Kathryn Stockett. Ms. Stockett is herself a Southerner and in part wrote the story about her own relationship with the family help.

Skeeter Phelan's just finished her degree in journalism at "Ole Miss" and she's back home with her parents trying to begin a new life. She's an outcast already among her society girls, because she didn't attend college with the strict goal of finding a husband. She's never even dated.

What Skeeter wants to do is be a writer, maybe histories, maybe a novelist. Despite her mother's concerns, she gets a job with the local paper doing the Aunt Myrna column.

Unfortunately, Skeeter doesn't know a thing about keeping house. So she asks her friend, Elizabeth if she can get help from her maid Aibileen with the questions people send in to Aunt Myrna. Aibileen's the perfect person to ask. She's been working as a domestic since she was fourteen, that's forty plus years and seventeen White babies she's raised. Aibileen's a good mama, a lot better than her employer, Elizabeth is. Every day, she teaches her charge, Mae Mobley, that she's a good and worthwhile person. That's one thing Elizabeth just does not have time to do.

Conversations between Skeeter and Aibileen begins innocently enough. Then Skeeter ups the stakes. She needs something to write about -- and what better topic than the relationship between Blacks and Whites in Jackson, Mississippi, 1963.

That kind of research in the Jim Crow South is like sitting on a powder keg and lighting matches. Nationally, Dr. Martin Luther King is preaching civil rights. Locally, Medgar Evers is encouraging the Blacks to get active. Blacks can't go to the White side of town after dark and Whites like Skeeter are suspect as agitators if they're seen in Black homes. Even researching the Mississippi laws relating to "nonwhites" is enough to get Skeeter in trouble if the wrong people find out.

Meanwhile, the "League", Skeeter's women's club, has started an initiative, the Home Health Safety Initiative, sponsored by Skeeter's friend, Hilly Holbrook. This initiative would require all homes that hired colored help to have separate bathrooms for Whites and Blacks.

As the story progresses, tensions heat up even further. The relationship between employer and employee in a lot of cases deteriorates. Participants in Skeeter's interviews wonder if it's going to be safe to go through with the project.

The Help is painfully real. It's the kind of movie every person who doesn't think racial relations matter should see. It's a harsh reminder of our past and a warning for what we could be if we ever become complacent and allow our civil conscience to slip. In my opinion, the White community in this film were a sad bunch sending money to starving children in Africa while their own servants hadn't a shot at a better life. They were cruel and thoughtless for the most part and treated people who'd raised them, their children, and cleaned up their messes with singular ingratitude.

I think the book and film came at an excellent time because of the increased racial tensions we're experiencing in the United States right now which science fiction author and physicist, David Brin, likens to the third civil war in this country.

My husband and I paid full price for The Help and it was worth every penny. I'm not sure that I will purchase the film, but I may well see it again. I'll definitely be recommending The Help to friends who teach history of the period because it contains powerful lessons about humanity and race.

The burning question all of you who read the book may want to ask is, was the film better than the book? I finished The Help in one sitting about six weeks ago and it's up there with To Kill a Mockingbird for me. One of my favorite scenes from the book is not in the film (maybe it'll end up in a director's cut). For me, most films do not quite live up to the written promise, but this one was very close. I could not have cast many of the characters better had I tried and some choices were far better to the people I saw in my head.


There are two sides to every story and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Black viewers' feelings on this film may be a whole lot different than mine. Here's an excellent review of the film from Black author, Valerie Boyd, who also teaches journalism at the University of Georgia.

Part of the sum-up for Ms. Boyd's review was:

"‎....Aibileen is now an unemployed maid, Skeeter is moving forward in her life of white privilege — and the filmmakers expect viewers to feel good about this."

My response is -- this depends on whether you're a glass half full - half empty kind of person. Every good film leaves something to the viewer's imagination. My hope was that Aibileen was going to go out and write the best-seller that was in her and set the world on fire. (And keep in mind, Aibileen had different connections with Minny working for the Foote family, so she may not be unemployed after all)

Minny had left that abusive man she was married to and her children were going to have a better shot at a decent life, particularly since she now worked for people who did appreciate her and realize the contribution she'd made to their lives.

Skeeter was going to see that Blacks could have a better/different life in New York. Yes, she was going to have a better job in New York, but she would use that position to start really working in the Civil Rights movement and make a true difference in race relations.

Mae Mobley (who would not have had a chance had it not been for Aibileen) was going to become a strong, competent woman who was different and better than her Mom.

Hilly was going to have a nervous breakdown and end up totally disempowered in Jackson society--she could never look at chocolate again without screaming.

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

COMMENTARY: Fail to the Chief

Today marks the thirty-seventh anniversary of President Richard Nixon's resignation. I originally watched this speech from my Aunt Marjie's living room in Colorado Springs with my Mom, my grandparents, Aunt Marjie and Uncle IJ.

I wasn't sure what to expect when we heard there'd be a special report. We didn't usually have the television on at Aunt Marjie and Uncle IJ's except for the news.

The sound of this announcement was ominous. President Nixon was going to be speaking to the nation. Trouble had been brewing over Watergate for the past two years. The first we'd heard of anything was in 1972--the break-in of the Democratic Headquarters during the previous presidential election campaign.

Then, we heard that more break-ins had happened at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. For those of you who don't know, Ellsberg was the Defense Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1972. Those papers incriminated a lot of politicians regarding the war in Vietnam.

For those of you who weren't even born yet, here's an excellent chronology of the events from The Washington Post.

I was angry sitting there in that little living room with that great big television set. I didn't support the Vietnam War and I wasn't happy with the direction our country had taken.

It was also the first time I'd felt betrayed by a politician. Yeah, I worked on Nixon's campaign in 1968. I was eleven and my best friend at the time had an aunt with the State Republican Headquarters in Oklahoma. There was free pizza, what can I say? Truthfully, Nixon would not cut it in Today's GOP. He wanted socialized medicine at one time.

We all knew Congress was gathering votes for an impeachment. I knew some of my family did not believe that Nixon himself was guilty. Nobody really knew what the President was going to say.

Here's what Nixon said.


I went outside to the garden to cheer. Yeah, finally. We could stop hearing about the impeachment and move on to have a trial. That would answer the questions about Watergate for good. Nixon would get whatever he deserved. Justice would be served.

Yeah, right. A month later on Sunday morning, Gerald Ford pardoned his former boss. His thoughts on the matter: "It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must."

A lot of people said that the country needed to move on after two years of trauma over the Watergate incidents. A lot more people were angry and believed that Ford sold out to Nixon on a pardon deal. Ultimately, even Ford admitted that the decision to pardon Nixon cost him the election to Jimmy Carter.

My husband Tony, who was of the first camp, argued with me about this for literally years. I think he finally gave up when evidence continued to mount post mortem that Nixon was guilty. The fact that I am still tenacious as a bulldog about the argument surely has nothing to do with it.

But, I wonder. If Richard M. Nixon had gotten his just desserts, would those following him to office have been so free with their illegal activities? Think of the Presidential scandals since: Iran Contra under Bush I, Monica Lewinsky under Clinton, and finally "W" with the lies that began the Iraq War.

Admittedly, Nixon would have been in a White Collar facility, but wouldn't his presence there have quelled some of the megalomania that engendered the above incidents? And wouldn't his presence in jail mean to the American people that justice does get served to both the high and the low?

We're never going to know that. But I personally believe that knowing there are consequences to your illegal actions and seeing someone has gotten those consequences served up to them fairly is a good deterrent.

What I didn't know until today was that Gerald Ford carried a piece of paper around in his wallet listing the US Supreme Court decision Burdick v. United States, which stated that the acceptance of a pardon indicated the presumption of guilt.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills

Ewan McGregor -- Oliver
Christopher Plummer -- Hal
Mélanie Laurent -- Anna
Goran Visnjic -- Andy
Kai Lennox -- Elliot
Mary Page Keller -- Georgia
Keegan Boos -- Young Oliver

Rated: R

What do you do when your Mom dies and your Dad announces he's gay?

If you're Oliver, you do your best to keep up. But your Dad's making up for forty years of lost time in the closet. That's not going to be easy to handle, particularly when you are still trying to reconcile the truth with your memories of the past. Worse, his father's got cancer and is in denial about how much time he has left.

Oliver's also struggling with his own life. Unlike his parents, he's having serious commitment issues. When a French actress with similar problems appears on the scene, he wants to try love again.

Beginners is a huge bite from a slice of life that's a mix of bittersweet and the pain you get when you've accidentally chomped down on a piece of tinfoil. All of us know our parents aren't quite truthful and most of us really don't want to think of what happens behind the bedroom doors. It's particularly rough when Hal is doing his darnedest just to conform in a world that has not accepted him. This is a heartbreaking story and one far too common in a society that remorseless demands conformity.

The story's told in a series of flash-backs that give us a clue about both Oliver and Hal's younger lives. Kudos to casting and Keegan Boos who has done a commendable job as young Oliver.

The film was definitely worth the matinee price I paid. I doubt I would see Beginners again; however, I would strongly recommend it to anyone who's interested in strong, real-life drama that's well-acted all around.

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Page One: Inside the New York Times

Director: Andrew Rossi
Writers: Kate Novack, Andrew Rossi
Stars: David Carr, Carl Bernstein and Bruce Headlam
Rated: R

People talk about freedom of information, but information really isn't free. Someone's got to pay for the gathering of that information, producing the information into stories that your Grandma can understand, formatting the stories for print or the web, publishing that information.

Over the past forty years, we've had a revolution in the transfer of information. Back in 1971, when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, it took him several months to get these documents to the various press outlets. He had to deal with the cost of copying, then mailing the documents around to the chosen outlets. After the New York Times received those documents, their reporting staff had to verify the information contained within them as bad they could.

Last year, when Julian Assange of Wikileaks released even more information about governments, diplomats, etc, the release of the information was nearly instant. All the material was digital and could be sent to the New York Times via computer. The only delay in reporting this information came from the paper's staff doing the best they could to censor so they could protect people in sensitive positions.

Originally, advertisements paid for the all the preparation of news materials. Now many Internet sites such as Monsterboard, Edmonds, and direct retailer sites have thinned down the ads even in the Sunday editions.

So, are newspapers dead? The staff of the New York Times explores this thesis in a fascinating documentary that's well worth a watch for anyone who's intrigued by media. On-the-street reporter, David Carr, took the lead in this story. Carr's a middle-aged man who's a former cocaine addict and single parent on Welfare. He also managed to defy the odds by getting his job at the Times at 52, when most reporters are burned out.

Filming of Page One began before any one of the paper's staff knew that there would be massive layoffs. The film covered this event in heartbreaking detail. What they reveal about the newspaper business is fascinating and still very newsworthy.

I am not a fan of most documentaries, but I'd be glad to see Front Page again. The information presented was done in a compelling manner and the cast kept me watching.

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Where Things Come Back -- John Corey Whaley

Thanks to Charlaine Harris and the duo of Cami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Creatures) the modern Southern Gothic novels are going to have a nice bit of space on our bookshelves.

John Corey Whaley's debut novel Where Things Come Back is an excellent addition to this tradition. While the story occurs in Arkansas, Charlaine Harris's neck of the woods, there's still the element of the slow boil, religious element, and strong family that you often see in Southern stories.

About the only feature Lily, Arkansas has in abundance is trees. So seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks. Everything changes when a reclusive ornithologist named Dr. John Barling comes to town and discovers the long-dead Lazarus woodpecker living in those trees.

Next thing you know, the name "Lazarus" is applied to everything in Lily from burgers to a carnival. And Cullen's praying that the Lazarus miracle will happen for his missing brother, Gabriel, who looks eerily like him, but Cullen believes is the better person.

Cullen's life is having a carnival ride life, experiencing love for the first time while seeing his own family deteriorate over the loss of two young men. The story's dark and yet has that odd Arkansas humor that creeps up and makes you laugh at odd moments.

Where Things Come Back reminds me somewhat of Stand by Me probably because the story begins with Cullen and his family viewing the body of his cousin, Oslo, who died due to drugs. It's a grisly beginning and the inevitable end for a young man who wasted his chance. But there's also the bonding of friends and family evidenced by Cullen's brotherly love for Gabriel and his friendship with Lucas Cader, who keeps him going through the roughest times.

This book is for the sophisticated young adult reader who's a bit tougher, with a bit of a dark sense of humor, and can appreciate the nuances of a textured life. There's some strong language and adult content within the pages. In my opinion, the content is probably not worse than many kids younger than Cullen's seventeen years have experienced from the media.

My one issue with the book is that I really wish the chapters had been dated. I found myself having to stop and sort out timelines for myself while I was reading. In the end, I would still strongly suggest Where Things Come Back to the audience I listed above. I actually wish I could have read the story when I was Cullen's age.

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

COMMENTARY: Someone's going to get hurt

Yesterday, a meme went around Facebook that I found intriguing. I don't like memes much. I see a whole line of the same thing copied and pasted and my brain just turns off. Maybe it's the "color outside the lines" part of my personality, but if I like the idea I'll try to re-write the meme and post it in my own words.

This was one time where I didn't follow my rule. The experience provided an interesting issue for me.

I copied the following meme and posted it on my wall listing the names of my Top Five friends.

Say you were a serial killer. What would your facebook friends do? Here are the rules: Go to your profile and look at your friends on the left.

1 turns you in:
2 knows but doesn't tell anyone:
3 is your partner in crime:
4 is your first victim:
5 tries to kill you:

#4 was a huge ouch. I nearly stopped there because the first victim was a very dear friend and the mother of three boys. But it was all a joke.

Everyone was taking the post as a joke until I had a question from a friend I do not know very well: "Becky, not for nothing, but has anyone you know ever been killed for sport?"

I replied I had not and I hoped I never did.

His answer: "Then can you imagine how this thread might appear to people who HAVE known such a murder victim?"

Well, that chilled me to the bone. One thing I do have is an overabundance of imagination and that question gave me chills, causing me to recall Deliverance and The Most Dangerous Game right off the top of my head.

I promptly apologized and removed the thread. But, that got me thinking. What do friends and families of murder victims think of mystery novels that are similar to what happened to them?

I've come to dislike the mystery authors who are working in a certain profession, such as detective, lawyer, etc. and write stories based "loosely" on the cases they've worked. That's always felt too close to the bone, like they're taking advantage of their experiences. Well, and what they're writing can hardly be called fiction, can it when the character's just a thin veil over themselves?

I've purposely made my stories up not based on anything I've encountered in my research, but you know how stories are. Art imitates life. Sooner or later, there's going to be someone like my killer or victims that others can relate to.

I comfort myself by the fact that this is just fiction. Some of the greatest most inspiring tales have come from the suffering of fictional characters. Heck, you really cannot tell a good, page turner without making your Main Character suffer. As super agent Donald Maass says: "As authors we like our protagonists. We are tempted to protect them from trouble. That temptation must be resisted." For the sake of the reader and our own story, we've got to stir the pot even if it means our 'babies' suffer in the process. “If there is one single principle that is central to making any story more powerful, it is simply this: Raise the stakes.”

The most reader suffering I'd ever considered was my occasional twisted reasoning and sentence structure. Okay, I hoped they would empathize with my characters, but never to the point of PTSD type memories.

I know I cannot control another person's reaction to my work, but I still have questions. I guess the big ones are these:

Should fiction writers avoid rehashing 'real' stories? True, there is nothing new under the sun, but is it a good idea to take a real case and mash it up for your story?

What would you do if some real criminal copied your fictional character's actions?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Ghost Story -- Jim Butcher

Last year, Jim Butcher left Harry Dresden fans with the mother of all cliffhangers. Our favorite wizard, Harry Dresden, was critically wounded by a gunshot, bleeding copiously, and falling into the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan. This ending was worse than the infamous Dallas cliffhanger because readers cared deeply about Harry Dresden.

Ghost Story, the thirteenth Dresden Files book, opens with ghostly Harry in an alternate version of Chicago. He's given a choice: to move on or to return as a ghost and solve his murder. Of course, there's a catch. If he doesn't solve his murder, at least three people he cares about will be badly hurt.

Knowing Harry as we all do, this really isn't much of a choice. When people he loves are at risk, he'll do whatever it takes to make sure they're safe. In the last novel, Changes, he risked many of his friends' lives, sacrificed the woman he once loved, and killed an entire race of evil vampires just to keep his daughter, Maggie, from being sacrificed. Now it's time to see the consequences.

When Harry returns to this world, he realizes those choices have changed Chicago in ways he'd never have imagined. It's May and the city's locked in a monstrous blizzard. But there's more, Karrin Murphy, who still does not believe Harry is dead is forced into a mutual-aid agreement with crime-boss Marcone to prevent a new evil, the Fomor, from taking over, the Grey Ghost is wandering the streets, and the Corpsetaker is back.

Many of Harry's old allies are almost unrecognizable. Molly Carpenter, his Padawan-wizard, is now a vigilante who people on both sides fear. Dr. Butters, the ME who figured out vampires were real, is back and he's got a new sidekick. Karrin's hard-edged with grief over losing him just as the two of them were about to discover each other.

New characters are coming into the fore. "Fitz" an Oliver-Twist type young man with magical powers and his gang to be rescued from an evil sorcerer. An interesting name choice, since "Fitz" means illegitimate child.

Ghost Story isn't entirely classic Harry Dresden. Harry's engaged in a lot more introspection than the usual fast and furious action. Butcher manages to make those thought processes real to the reader so we get to see some dimensions to the character that have heretofore been masked in movement.

What sets Jim Butcher apart from many of his contemporaries in urban fantasy is that his characters do develop and change over time. Butcher's worked diligently through the years to build a coherent and believable world. Actions have their consequences and there's no better example than what we are reading in this portion of the series.Ghost Story provides an excellent bridge between his earlier work and what will follow.

I can't honestly say it is possible to pick up this thirteenth book without at least having read Changes. I'd suggest you start from the beginning and read all the Dresden Files books. They're well worth the effort:

1. Storm Front
2. Fool Moon
3. Grave Peril
4. Summer Knight
5. Death Masks
6. Blood Rites
7. Dead Beat
8. Proven Guilty
9. White Knight
10. Small Favor
11. Turncoat
12. Changes

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thanks, Mr. Alexander!

This last Wednesday, The Onion proposed a brilliant solution to the problems with Congress resolving the current US deficit issues. Send eighth grade civics teachers in to show the partisan chest-pounders how to behave. Pity it was just a joke, because I think eighth grade teachers might have just gotten that group of over-age schoolboys to behave.

That reminded me of my eighth grade Government teacher, Mr. Alexander. Junior High really warped my reality as far as teachers were concerned. Up til then, my teachers were all White, middle aged women.

In seventh grade, I got my first minority and male teachers. The minorities were great. I loved both Mrs. Reynolds for Science and Mrs. Henry for Choir. The males, not so. Our art teacher was seriously creepy. He ended up getting fired before the end of the year because he tried to hit on one of my shyer classmates. The coach I had for History practically tripped over his knuckles walking into class. He carried a custom-made paddle with special air holes designed to increase the pain and suffering of any student he used it on. As he boasted, "It'd make strong boys cry." He'd slap that paddle whenever he got bored with teaching us--which was most of the time.

I admit it, the minute I walked into my Government class, I was more intimidated than I'd ever been with any teacher in my life. I was 5'5" at that time and I about fell over trying to look my Government teacher in the eye. His name was Mr. Alexander and he was the tallest darkest skinned man I'd ever met. I was doing my best not to think about either the Art class creep or the History class sadist at that point.

I took a deep breath and got a front and center seat as usual. Being blind as a bat, I was always stuck up there. Who knows? Maybe it did improve my grades.

"So," Mr. Alexander said after taking roll. "How many of you like government?"

He got a pretty negative response from us. Our generation was being forced to go to war, getting hurt and in student demonstrations. There wasn't a lot of like or trust going on then.

"How many of you like these?" He held up a dollar bill. Our response pretty much took a 180-degree turn.

"Well then, if you like money, you better at least learn about how Government works." Mr. Alexander went on to point out the symbolism of the dollar bill. He added. "The US government prints our money. Through labor laws, they determine how much money you're going to earn and with taxation, they also tell you how much you're going to keep. Your government also effects whether you serve in the military, get a student loan, and a whole lot more."

A whole lot more of us were interested after he got through with that speech. Mr. Alexander managed to do what few of our teachers had done so far, he'd made the subjects we were learning in school relate directly to our every day lives.

I got a lot more comfortable with Mr. Alexander through the year. Mr. Alexander might have looked intimidating because of his height, but he was genuinely a very nice man. He'd sit down at a desk to talk to the shorter class members so we weren't craning our necks.

Yes, to answer the question you are probably wondering about, he went to school on a basketball scholarship and he coached the school team. He was nothing like the coach I'd encountered the year before. He didn't need a paddle in his hand to get order, I'm not sure I ever saw Mr. Alexander with a paddle. He occasionally raised his voice when the class got unruly. Normally, he spoke in a quiet manner, but if he needed to you could hear him all the way down the hall.

And, unlike that History class, I learned a lot in Government. That class is where I wrote my first letter to my GOP Congressman--about the national debt. The letter was Mr. Alexander's idea since I griped about having to live within my allowance when the government did not. No, I never got an answer to that letter from my GOP congressman. I never got an answer to a darn-near identical one I wrote in 1985 when I was first out on my own, newly married and struggling to make ends meet while the government was going further in debt. Most of the time I don't get answers to my letters, but I still write them because as Mr. Alexander told me if we don't speak up, we aren't going to get heard--and maybe if enough of us do speak up, we'll start something.

Mr. Alexander walked us through the Constitution. That's the first time I'd read the document in its entirety. He also told us how the Constitution could be amended. Like I said, he could have told the folks insisting on a Balanced Budget Amendment that they couldn't do that.

He also taught us how laws were made. He omitted the part about posturing and partisanship. I learned that on a Senior Class field trip in Urbanology. Our class's consensus after we saw the Oklahoma City Council behave like grade schoolers was that they'd all be kicked out of the Student Council if they acted like that.

Yeah, it's a pity Congress didn't have a Government teacher like Mr. Alexander or our Student Council sponsor in High School to call the membership down when they acted like children this last week. They might have gotten something done before the stock market dumped $700,000,000,000 worth of value.

I did get the Government Award that year. I may still have the certificate somewhere in my papers. I hope I thanked Mr. Alexander for that. I definitely do thank Mr. Alexander for all he taught us.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

COMMENTARY: Too big to fail--too expensive to keep big

I grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Up until the 1980's, the state had rules against branch banking. In a city with 650 square miles of area, it's pretty annoying to have to go back to your bank to make a transaction. ATMs were scarce at that time. I never understood why the Oklahoma State Legislature wanted to keep banks so small.

That all changed in 1982 when Penn Square Bank went under. That failure sent the entire banking infrastructure into chaos. Overnight, OKC banks started falling like dominoes. At that time, we joked the branch bank was the FDIC. Worse, Oklahoma was in a recession that some of the older folks likened to the Great Depression.

Just imagine what the situation would have been like had Oklahoma adopted the practice of allowing branch banks. We wouldn't just have single failures, several smaller banks across the city could potentially have gone down at once.

I remember driving downtown one Sunday on some school errand back in the mid-1980s only to see a bunch of cars around our bank. We knew at that point that they were being audited. Sure enough, they were closed for business the next day. Same thing with any bank. If you saw cars in the area when the bank was normally closed, it'd be closed for good very shortly thereafter.

Thanks to FDIC insurance, our deposits were always covered. All we had to do was just write our last check on the defunct bank to a new one and start a new account. We gave up on vanity checks pretty quickly and settled for the plain vanilla freebies the banks gave out.

Failures happened more frequently than I care to remember. Some years, we had accounts in three separate banks.

The scandals were interesting. At the "Gold Dome" bank, the President of the bank had collateralized Remington sculptures from the Cowboy Hall Of Fame's collection on display at his home. Those same sculptures also had loans on them from a couple of other banks.

When we moved from Oklahoma in 1998, we had a box of 'souvenir' dead checks from half a dozen banks. I can't tell you how many we went through before we finally settled on one the last few years.

When we moved to Oregon, we had a different option: Bank of America. For a state that liked local businesses, Oregon had no problem with branch banking. There were branches all over the city with ATMs in a lot of the places where we'd want to go. Since there was a branch right around the corner from the first place we lived in Beaverton, we grabbed an account there. The folks were friendly and helpful and actually helped us get acquainted with the area. Yeah, we had some issues with a wrong address on our checks, but the bank had the situation squared away as quickly as possible.

Austin had a BOA convenient to us, too. Same thing about good hours, friendly and helpful people. Back then, I knew I could count on my bank to be there when I needed them. That was pretty refreshing, actually.

Knoxville not so much. When we first signed up, we learned our branches here had abbreviated hours and even more abbreviated service. Both TX and OK branches of BOA would take secure documents for shredding. TN will not. The list goes on. Worse, when I first encountered the downtown TN branch, the lobby was so stinky with cigarette smoke, I could barely breathe.

The only reason we haven't changed banks is the local ones might just suck more. When I first came here, the "big" bank had the UT-K coaches dressed in orange as advertising spokesmen. No discussion of locations, hours, interest rates, or insurance, just a strong suggestion that the bank supported the Vols. Oh and I think we got a sport koozie with our deposit. :(

2008 comes along and BOA is going under. They've got to have help from our government. And, of course, they get it because they're "too big to fail."

They're too big to pay taxes, either. I was pretty mightily annoyed when we had to make an arrears payment on 2009 and I realized we were writing our check to the IRS on a bank that was paying zip, expected to be bailed out whenever they got in trouble.

Big surprise when I saw this article below. BOA's potentially going to break up. Why? What it comes down to is they're not profitable enough as one big entity. They're going to sell off the banks that aren't profitable and get sleeker and slimmer.

Hide and watch, our measly Knoxville banks might just end up being owned my someone local. With my luck, it'll be the orange koozie bank.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

COMMENTARY: If it was Aunt Samantha instead of Uncle Sam

There never would have been any "Trickle down" because nobody likes a drip.

We wouldn't borrow money and turn around and cut our income. Aunt Samamantha would call that, "Cutting off our noses to spite our face."

We wouldn't be in debt. Aunt Samantha doesn't believe in spending what you don't have.

Women wouldn't have babies just to starve and poorly educate them to face an uncertain future.

Aunt Samantha believes in education. That means an equal shot for everyone to get at least through high school. Kids who want to go through college should also get a chance at loans and grants if they work hard and keep their grades up.

If Aunt Samantha wanted people to do something, she'd tell them what she wanted and then pay them after they'd done it to her satisfaction. Handing out money based on an unwritten agreement is a fool's game.

Aunt Samantha believes in compromise. She doesn't think any good plan came from everyone coming to the discussion table agreeing with each other. She also believes in Time-Out and spanking, though she realizes that most big boys get the wrong idea when she wants to turn them over her knee.

Aunt Samantha remembers that our Founding Fathers came to this country to escape a State Religion. If someone insists on bringing Christianity to the table, Aunt Samantha's going to bring the Holy Bible and read the Sermon of the Mount to them so they'd know precisely what Jesus said about taking care of yourselves and your fellow persons.

Sure, corporations have a right to exist. But if they're going to want their freedom, don't expect Aunt Samantha to be their Sugar Mama and clean up every mess they make.

Aunt Samantha likes people in uniform. That goes for all the men and women in public service from fire, police, and soldiers. If she saw them on the street, she'd thank them. She wouldn't deny them care if they'd gotten ill or help for their families if they were injured. Aunt Samantha keeps her word to them because they've been faithful to her.

Aunt Samantha wouldn't allow political organizations to call themselves "parties" if no one is having fun.

Aunt Samantha doesn't like gripers. Her motto is: "When you're in a hole, you shut up and stop making it deeper."

Tea would be a refreshing beverage served for a pick-me-up, not a party bent on put-downs of almost everything this country fought for the last 235 years.

(c) Rebecca Kyle -- 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Very Bad Men--Harry Dolan

I first encountered Harry Dolan's work in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards contest. Bad Things Happen, which is the predecessor to this book, had me wondering for almost two years what the character was doing buying a shovel. What was he going to bury and why?

Dave's settled down as the editor of Grey Streets magazine. He's even gotten married to police detective Elizabeth Waishkey and he's happily settled with her and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Sarah.

He really didn't expect to get another case when he picked up the manuscript submission for Grey Streets. But those pages depicted a murder that had already occurred and listed the victim for the next crime.

The reader knows Anthony Lark committed the crime from the beginning. Lark's got some serious issues: words evoke colors. That point of view is one that is both eerily fascinating and makes the reader want to jump right out of Lark's head as soon as possible.

The story's intricate enough that you might need to make careful note of who-done-what particularly since the story is so fast-paced. The end's definitely worth the wait and the writing does not disappoint. Harry Dolan has a skill for creating memorable characters and places. I like the Ann Arbor setting, because it's one that really has not been depicted in mysteries very frequently and it's good to go to a new place.

Very Bad Men is the sequel to Bad Things Happen. For the most part, this sequel stands alone, but if the premise or setting intrigues you, I would consider reading the books in order.

Rebecca Kyle, July 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Downpour -- Kat Richardson

Back in 2006, I picked up the paperback of Greywalker because the title intrigued me. I started reading and I couldn't stop. I told several friends about the series and predicted it would be one to follow.

Downpour is the sixth book in that series. The title fits in more ways than just describing Washington State's weather. Private Investigator, Harper Blaine, is literally deluged with trouble. She is still recovering from a shooting where she's died for the third time (that she knows of) and returned to this world. One more death and that's it for her. As she says, "Getting shot's not like it looks in the movies." It's been six months, and she's just now getting back on her feet. Harper's got an important job tasked to her the first time she came back from the dead: to help the denizens of the Grey, the space in between here and The Big Sleep.

Since "ghosts and vampires don't pay the bills." Her initial assignment is traveling up the Olympic Peninsula to a place called Crescent Lake on a follow-up of a background check for a regular legal client. The witness she's investigating, Darin Shea, seems wrong to her, but the surroundings are even worse. "Blood Lake" the locals call the place and that fits better.

Harper's working on the Shea background when she stumbles upon a burning car. She tries to rescue the driver only to discover the accident is not happening in the here-and-now, but in the Grey. When she runs the tag, she discovers the driver, Stephen Leung, has been missing for some time and nobody's filed a report. As a Greywalker, she's obligated to help solve this case so Leung can earn his rest.

Add to that, Seattle PD Detective Rey Solis is on her case about the disappearance of her ex, Will Novak. Harper could tell him what really happened, but he's definitely not going to believe her.

Downpour is even more atmospheric than its predecessors which mostly take place in Seattle. Blood Lake's an eerie and fascinating setting and the skillfully woven intertwined plots will keep you guessing long into the night.

I confess, I'm getting tired of the "kick butt heroine" that urban fantasy spawned. Instead of the tank tops and tramp stamps, Harper wears regular clothes and carries her ferret Chaos around. Harper's got weaknesses, but she's making the best of her lot with humor and intellect. I enjoy Harper's relationship with her current squeeze, an off-the-grid computer genius named Quinton and the "carpet shark" Chaos. Think you get all the fun of having a ferret around without the nasty chores.

It is possible to read Downpour without its predecessors. Richardson has woven enough backstory in without annoying infodump to give new readers a heads up and old readers a refresher. Still, I'd recommend that you start from the beginning if you enjoy noirish fantasy with a Raymond Chandler flavor. Here's the Greywalker series in order:

1. Greywalker
2. Poltergeist
3. Vanished
4. Underground
5. Labyrinth
6. Downpour

Friday, July 1, 2011

COMMENTARY: Slutwalk -- Knoxville

There are days I'm really glad when my family doesn't call. I could imagine the conversation today.

Aunt Jeanne: Do you have any plans for the weekend?
Me: Not really, but tonight I'm going to the slutwalk

That would have taken some explanation. It might for you, too. Slutwalks are protests which started in April 2011 in response to a Toronto police officer advising college women that rape would be less if they didn't dress like sluts. Since then, cities all over the world have hosted slutwalks to increase awareness of rape.

Why did I want to attend? For my best friend's non-verbal autistic daughter who was raped by her grandfather. For my high school classmate who was raped by a stranger and she was blamed for wearing shorts in 100 degree weather to play in her own backyard. For an author who had the guts to stand up in a room full of people at a sci-fi convention and tell people, "Yes I was raped." For so many others....And ultimately, because I've been damn lucky and I know it. I don't want other people's lives to depend on luck. I want something to change and I believe that change starts with awareness.

About fifty people came out for Knoxville's first Slutwalk. The event happened in conjunction with a monthly celebration that happens in downtown Knoxville's Market Square and surrounding area called First Friday. First Friday consists of gallery openings, performances by musicians and a local drum circle.

I was surprised that a third of that group was male, including one of the organizers. Participants were dressed in everything from a pink satin corset and platforms to regular street attire. I wore a red shirt in memory of my Mom, who was always too afraid to wear her favorite color because it would mark her as a "streetwalker."

While our spirits were high, we were people on a mission. We were there to help heal victims by giving them a chance to speak out and affirm to them that they were not to blame for their rapist's choices. We were also there to raise awareness about the seriousness of rape and to defend victims' rights for all people affected. We were there to increase awareness of what rape is and start encouraging society to place responsibility for crimes where it belongs: squarely on the shoulders of the people who choose to commit those crimes. Period.

Yes--people. Rape is not just a feminist issue. Rape effects everyone. If the victim is female, she's got male family and friends who have to support her. One in every ten rape victims is male according to the USDOJ. And those male victims have to have been hurt pretty badly to report. Male rape is the most under-reported crime there is.

Tonight, we stood in a circle and shared why we'd come. This was a difficult experience, but I believe a cleansing and healing one. More than a fifth of the group had experienced rape, some at the hands of people close to them. Some were in tears, others enraged and needing to find a positive outlet for their emotions.

Listening to people's stories was one of the hardest experiences I've ever had, but very worthwhile if it helped people to heal. Many had not spoken of their attack in public til now. Part of me wanted to cover my ears and run. Another part wanted to reach out and embrace the folks who were hurting so badly.

This was a very loving and open environment, encouraging even. Tony surprised me when he confessed to the group that he'd managed to escape a pedophile. I still can't remember how a grade-school friend and I escaped a band of older boys who jumped us as we walked home from school.

There was no pressure on us to do anything. If we chose, we could just hang out where we'd originally met up. Or we could walk around in groups and pass out pamphlets to the people gathered on Market Square for First Friday. Tony and I joined a group of three with a great young male spokesman who was there in support of his fiancee.

Reactions from the people on Market Square were varied. Folks my aunt's age and older were shocked at the vulgar language (slut) and the clothing. Most women were supportive, but we felt we might have worried some young women. And, some of the guys in party mode were really enjoying the sight of the costumed slut-walkers.

Fine, let them enjoy as long as they don't try to harm anyone. That's the purpose of the slutwalk, to get attention for a serious cause in a fun way for both participants and audience. Ultimately, to get across the message rape really isn't caused by the clothes victims wear, or the way they wear our hair or anything else. Rape happens to people of all ages, colors, sexes, in all manner of circumstances and dress--the crime is caused by a rapist's sick urges to hurt and dominate another human being by force or stealth.

One of the women in the group works with high school students and talked about ending the 'rape culture' in our country. I hope we have taken a valuable step tonight. Even if we've raised the awareness in just a few people, that's enough. They'll spread the word.

Imagine, one Toronto cop lit the fire with just one word. It's an honor to be part of a group that's carrying the torch across the world.

There's more planned. We're going to be raising money to hold a parade march later on this fall. Johnson City and Jonesborough, TN will be holding their own slutwalks on July 23.

That torch will hopefully catch fire and keep going. It's time men accepted responsibility for their actions and women were free to enjoy their bodies themselves without fear of harm. It's time we teach our young boys how to properly respect themselves and others. And finally it's time only a freely given "YES!" means consent for sex.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Ladies of Trade Town

DISCLAIMER: one of the stories in this anthology, "Do Unto Others", is mine. I considered not reviewing the book, but the work is consistently excellent. On an ethical note, I'm going to refrain from reviewing my portion and let other reviewers speak.

An anthology's like a well-programmed radio station. Both anthology editors and program directors must consider the content flow. While the stories are not precisely alike, you've got to have a fit that keeps readers moving from one story to another without any dissonance.

The are four editors whose collections I will buy without question. Martin H. Greenberg (RIP), Marion Zimmer Bradley (RIP), Esther M. Friesner, and Lee Martindale. I have learned more about crafting short stories from just reading the works these editors have chosen than any writing class.

Ladies of Trade Town offers both reading pleasure and excellent writing examples. I'd recommend the book for teen readers and above. While the subject matter is prostitution in its various forms, there's very little erotic content.

The anthology opens with an introduction by Elizabeth Moon. I don't usually read introductions, but I've read hers twice.

  • "The Ballad of Eskimo Nell Revisited" by Jim Reader is a 'steamy' tale that should be added to steelman John Henry's Urban Legend. So, I did:

    Wikipedia entry for John Henry (Folklore)

  • "First Fruits" is Merlyn Finn's initial foray into fiction and I daresay it will not be her last. She transports us to an Asian flavored mythic future where bioengineering creates a beautifully crafted 'peach' of a love story.

  • "Dreams of Blood and Milk", Mary A. Turzillo's alternate history details rights of sex-workers who serve vampires when a wannabe actress with a past tries to find a job on Broadway.

  • "What a Man Wants" by Cecilia Tan occurs in a future Japan where wealthy men utilize robotic wives. When a corporate CEO offers one of the best WifePilots a chance to control his own wife during a strategic business deal, the pilot discovers he's in far deeper than he ever expected.

  • "A Touch of Ginger" is a short story from the world a full-length novel by Melanie Fletcher featuring Doyle and Marcott, an investigative team which spans centuries of expertise. I will never think of the phrase 'finding a stiff in a hotel' the same way again thanks to her uproarious opening. Ms. Fletcher also deserves credit for the cover art as well.

  • "Queen of Knaves" by Tracy S. Morris takes us back to high fantasy realms as the Queen of Whores must serve the Queen of Knaves in order to save their kingdom's heir.

  • "In the House of Allures" by Rob Chilson takes us to a distant future where an aging prostitute revisits her past in order to secure a better life for her daughter.

  • "Silk and Steam" by Brandie Tarvin returns us to wartime in a steampunk Europe. She ably answers a question how a woman can establish and thrive in a small town with the permission of the town's wives.

  • "Art" is a minimalist definition of what a Japanese brothel hit upon hard times does to improve their status. Gloria Oliver's got a unique gift to explain a cultural phenomenon.

  • "Do Unto Others" written by me. Feel free to add your comments if you've read it.

  • "Duty Free" by Mark Tiedemann gives food for thought about contracts and intentions. I normally yawn through legal arguments, but this story from his Secant Universe had me turning pages and wanting more from this world.

  • "Mother Laurie's House of Bliss" by Catherine Lundoff is another crime investigation tale. When a highly-placed official dies in his presence, a youth hoping for freedom from prostitution must face a magical trial.

  • "The Lady of Trade Town" is by the editor. A faithfully-wed captain about to face the front for the first time is given an extremely awkward present from his troops.

  • "The Last Virgin" by Jana Oliver takes us to a very unexpected place, Heaven, where sex-work still occurs.

  • "The Oldest Profession?" follows on a similar vein with God settling an age-old argument between Adam and Lilith. Melinda LaFevers's sense of timing and humor struck the perfect end-note for the collection.

Ladies of Trade Town is available here at HarpHaven Press's site.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Ingenue -- Jillian Larkin

Like Jillian Larkin, I'm a strong fan of the 1920's flappers and the Jazz Era. I read her debut novel, Vixen with a good deal of interest.

And frankly, I was somewhat tepid:

"This is an interesting read and a very light taste of the times. If you really want to read about the Roaring Twenties, read F. Scott Fitzgerald and other writers of the time. Vixen is; however, a fun beach, or in this case, stuck at home during a snowstorm, read."

I will still recommend Fitzgerald, because he lived during the period rather than researched it, I was much more pleased with Ingenue. It's always good to see when a writer really begins to shine.

Here's the Amazon review with some additions:

takes up a few weeks after Vixen left off. The original cast of narrators has moved from Al Capone's Chicago to New York City with a new addition. Vera Johnson, the eighteen-year-old African-American sister of jazz pianist Jerome Johnson, has discovered her brother is on a mob hitlist and she's coming to New York to warn him. She's joined by Evan, the horn player in Jerome's band.

Meanwhile, Gloria Carmody, the runaway deb, is hiding from the mob in New York City with her African American lover, Jerome. The formerly wealthy young woman has to resort to stealing food in order to survive and in the racially-embroiled climate of the 1920's, she and Jerome are hiding their love. Both still have hopes of finding a career in jazz, but they've quickly discovered the Mob's blacklisted them.

Gloria's former best friend, Lorraine, is managing a Mob-run speakeasy called The Opera House. She's angry at what she believes was Gloria's betrayal and working under direction of a mobster who wants vengeance on the couple.

Finally, Clara, Gloria's cousin, is in New York with her new beau, Marcus. She's moved to Brooklyn to avoid her former 'Queen Sheba of the Flappers' image and a lurid past.

These four young women are caught up in a web of gangland machinations during a very turbulent period in our country's history. The jazz was hot, the liquor and pleasures forbidden, and the people were trying to get past the devastation of World War 1 and the flu pandemic that happened before.

The narrative is much faster-paced than the original novel. I actually read Ingenue in one sitting, where I left Vixen several times. Ms. Larkin opened both stories with a bang, but didn't quite carry the pace on the first try. Of course, this time Larkin's got a bigger buy-in when, Bastien, a skeevy character from the previous book, is killed in front of Vera. Right up front, you know that Gloria and Jerome are at risk and perhaps the others as well.

The characterization is deeper achieving a stronger balance between plot and people. This is definitely an improvement, I initially was more interested in the plot than the people. This is not a good thing for someone who is primarily a character reader like me.

I believe Ms. Larkin has had a chance to get to know the three original characters (Gloria, Lorraine, and Clara) and she's conveying their needs and wishes much more strongly.

In the first book, Gloria read more like a 'paper doll' to me. She's now much more real, strong, and committed to the path she's chosen.

Lorraine is still Lorraine. She's spiteful and doesn't think things through. I'm actually looking forward to seeing what Ms. Larkin does with her in the final book. Not every character grows at the same pace as her 'sisters' and she may come out a heroine in the end.

Clara's been my favorite from the beginning. She's obviously not the privileged deb that Gloria and Lorraine are and she's doing her best to fit in to society while hiding her past. In Ingenue, the struggles deepen, as she tries to learn who and what she really wants to be.

Vera Johnson makes an excellent addition to the cast enabling Larkin to further explain the racial tensions of the period. She's a bolder, girl-of-the-street than the other three and she adds some authentic sass to the crew. I have a feeling that like me, Ms. Larkin was fascinated with the glimpses of Vera she gave us in the first book and wanted to add her story to the other girls'.

There's not really a serious parental warning on this book. Sex (which is a word I would not use in an Amazon review because it may well automatically throw the darn thing out) occurs offstage. The language is less than young adult girls would hear on television or the playground. There's drinking, but Prohibition defines the era.

As with every series, I feel like it's a reviewer's responsibility to comment on whether you should read the first book to understand those subsequent. In this case, the first book Vixen does explain why the characters are in their particular predicaments. If you are fascinated with the period, I would read Vixen first. It is possible to read between the lines and pick up the issues reasonably well in the sequel, kudos to Ms. Larkin for making the 'middle child' stand on its own.

I'm excited about the new branch of historical fiction coming into the young adult genre. History's a weak subject in the school system and books like these can engender love of the often under-appreciated topic in youth. Additionally, people like me who are fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald get a chance to read more about a favorite period in history. I'm definitely looking forward to the third book, Diva, which will be available in 2012.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


At about three, I went to visit my Aunt Bea's farm. They had a pet squirrel whose name I do not recall. I had a wonderful time petting and feeding that little fuzzy squirrel and I wanted one of my very own. I didn't have a pet at that time, so it seemed fairly reasonable to me.

When I pointed out a free-roaming squirrel to my father, thinking I would get a pet, he grabbed Uncle Jack's gun and shot it right in front of me. Keep in mind, I was a city kid and I had never seen a gun fired much less an animal die. Right then and there, my father was worse than the hunter who killed Bambi's Dad.

Then, he suggested we take the squirrel home for dinner. My reaction was beyond sickened and appalled despite assurances from my father and his family that squirrel tastes "just like chicken."

Needles to say, the squirrel did not come home with us. We didn't visit the family farm much after that either and I became a passionate squirrel advocate from that day on.

Fortunately, there were no more squirrel shooting incidents. Either my father was ashamed of himself or me, I will never know.

I grew up in an older neighborhood with a lot of established nut trees. Most people thought there were enough nuts for all. Mom and I loved watching the squirrels play and got a kick out of them fussing at us or the cats. (Yes, I finally got a cat)

My Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Dick (from Mom's more civilized side of the family) actually fed their squirrels. They have a lovely home at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. As the years progressed, their squirrels got tamer and tamer until the final generations were so gentle they'd perch on Uncle Dick's shoulder and take food from his hands. Just don't be late with breakfast, though. They learned to hitch their claws into the screen door and swing, banging the door until the human occupants woke up and offered their repast.

Move forward to my marriage. Again, Tony and I lived in an established area. I wasn't aware we had a 'pet' until Tony asked me where I got the nuts and why wasn't I sharing.

"What nuts?"

He pointed to shell fragments on our front porch.

"Not mine," I told him. "I'm allergic to pecans, remember? And I would share nuts." (I might not share chocolate, but that's another story altogether)

The mystery was solved a couple of days later when we saw a male squirrel on that pillar eating pecans. Now, you're going to ask how I knew he was a male. Even I could see his 'nuts' from a distance. That little squirrel would be the envy of every human male save for a few porn stars who cannot wear "cheap motel" jeans (i.e. no 'ball room')

He was christened Mr. Big Nuts on the spot. And yes, Tony and I bought pecans at $4 per pound and left them on our front porch for him.

Imagine Tony's surprise when he climbed up on our garage roof to effect some minor repairs and nearly got shot with a pellet rifle.

"Hey!" He yelled in the direction of the shots. "Whoever's firing, stop! I'm up here!"Meanwhile, I'm on the ground torn between calling the police and screaming myself.

That's when we met Mr. Farmer, who was a cat-e-corner backfence neighbor. (That's Oklahoman for diagonal, y'all) Mr. Farmer explained he was shooting at the 'tree rats' who were stealing his pecans.

"Next time you shoot, you might want to give some warning," Tony advised Mr. Farmer, not the least bit ameliorated by his explanation. "Someone could get hurt."

A few days later, we met Mr. Farmer under more pleasant terms. He explained that he collected the nuts from his trees and ate them. He was stunned and disgusted to learn that we fed the squirrels.

"Don't worry," I told him. "We buy the nuts from the supermarket."

Mr. Farmer just shook his head.

All would have been peaceful had I not been reading in the backyard, minding my own business when I hear the crack of pellet gun fire and something whizzing a little too close to me for comfort.

I wasn't near as nice as Tony was when I yelled for Mr. Farmer to stop firing. I advised him if I caught him at it again, I'd file a police report and I'd keep filing them until he stopped.

No response from Mr. Farmer, but apparently my threat worked. At least, neither one of us caught him firing on us or the squirrels. However, we began aggressively feeding Mr. Big Nuts and the rest of his family, partly in hopes of keeping them away from Mr. Farmer and his pellet rifle.

While we were shopping in one of those wonderful boutique shops, we saw a cute card with a squirrel on the front of it. The poem went something like this:

Happy is the squirrel in the wintertime
For all the nuts for off the trees
And crack so he has plenty of food

On the inside, it said: Hope you freeze your nuts off this winter.

Right on the spot, we bought that card and signed it "Love, Mr. Squirrel" and sent it without a return address to Mr. Farmer.

Less than a week later, Mr. Farmer's house had a for sale sign in the yard. He apparently sold cheap, because next Spring we had a brand-new neighbor who didn't like pecans and was fine with sharing her crop with Mr. Big Nuts's kids.

And best of all, we could enjoy our backyard without worrying about gunfire.

BOOK REVIEW: Never Eighteen -- Megan Bostic

It's always good to see a friend and fellow writer succeed. At the infancy of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards competition, I was certain Megan Bostic would get published. While Megan is an excellent wordsmith, she also understands marketing very well. She worked hard at getting her name out: networking, doing excellent video reviews of other writers' excerpts, and creating a blog.

I was pleased to receive an ARC of Never Eighteen, Megan's debut novel which is to be released in January 2012.

I had the dream again. The one where I’m running. I don’t know what from or where to, but I’m scared, terrified really.

Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. But in the short time he has left there’s one thing he can do: He can try to help the people he loves live—even though he never will.

It’s probably hopeless.

But he has to try.

My TBR pile is high and I'm years behind, but the minute I read the blurb and the first sentence, I had to read further and I didn't stop until the end.

Being seventeen going on eighteen is tough enough, but add to that the knowledge that you've got a terminal disease. Some kids would go dramatic, some would just hide, some would do selfish things. Austin's on a mission to change the world--at least, a the little part of it that he can.

"Maybe if we all just tried to put the pieces back together as soon as they fell out of place, the puzzles in our lives would feel more like an accomplishment than a chore."

This quote is the only place where I stopped reading. I immediately typed it into my iPhone and turned it into my Facebook status. Since then, I've advised Megan to make t-shirts, buttons, and bumperstickers. The quote's a whole lot clearer than the old saw, "a stitch in time saves nine."

While Austin is a good and generous person, he does have some making up to do. One of the most memorable scenes is when he goes to the home of one of the kids he bullied in elementary school.

The relationship between Austin and his best friend, Kaylee, is wonderful. They've been friends since third grade, but as the pages turn, we see them grow into much more. It's totally believable and much better than teen books that are written strictly as a romance.

I think the best thing I can say about Never Eighteen is that Megan's not just created a memorable character in Austin, she's constructed a positive role model for both kids and adults. This book is definitely an excellent addition to the libraries of readers of all ages.