Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: Isis by Douglas Glegg

Iris and her brothers move with their mother to their Grandfather's old house in Cornwall.  There, they find old tombs with ancient legends attached to them of those who have called back the dead.

Iris is fascinated and inspired as well by the myth of Isis and Osiris and is in a local play about the same.  But when tragedy strikes, her love for her brother makes her do a very foolish thing.

Sad and atmospheric, with wonderful illustrations.


The Legend of Isis and Osiris is fascinating.  There are many versions but the consistent parts are that the gods Isis and Osiris were siblings and married in the ancient Egyptian tradition.  When their brother Set kills Osiris, Isis goes back and retrieves his body parts (he has been dismembered and the parts scattered) all but one.  She uses magic to conceive a child, Horus.  Horus will eventually overthrow Set who took over the throne after he killed Osiris, and restore balance to Egypt's lands.


In the book, Iris is inspired by this story and the Legend of the Cornish Weeping Woman which was told to her by the house's Caretaker, Old Marsh.  

Is is really a good idea to try and cheat death?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: The Yard by Alex Grecian

Title: The YARD

Author: Alex Grecian

When I write my yearly top ten books that I love...The YARD will be among the ten.

This book takes place in Victorian London right after Jack The Ripper conveys his message of terror.

Now there has been  murder squad formed by Scotland Yard. Walter Day heads the murder squad and the first order of business is one of their own has  been murdered and left in a trunk for dead. One by one murders happen and people disappear. With the help of forensic pathologist Dr. Kingsley, the two men hunt clue-by-clue and take London apart to find who is murdering their own and many more.

I loved this book. While there are some unsettling moments they are well worth the bile in the stomach. It has to be in this historical cozy in order for us to understand the what, when, where and why of the story.

From page one you are drawn into the story and the characters.

A side note (I loved the dancing man), don't miss this moving and extremely riveting mystery. ********** ten stars.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Ebola The Natural and Human History of A Deadly Virus - David Quammen and A Lot to say about the true FACTS about Ebola

  • File Size: 1627 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 3, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00O3GS0FE

This book is mostly excerpts from the author's book Spillover (which I have in my TBR pile pending still).  It has been updated in light of current events.  It is an incredibly educational and informative book about Ebola, its history and what is known about the disease.  it is an excellent resource for those who want to get to the truth of all these fear-ridden headlines in the news right now.  I have read many of the source materials the author used, and found this to be a well thought out and put together presentation and summation of what we really need to know on the subject.  And the best part, is that the author presents the information in a readable and understandable way.  HIGHLY recommend.

Some of the facts and my thoughts in this time of Media-Induced FEAR:

Ebola has been around since 1976 where two outbreaks occurred in the Sudan and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Formerly Zaire).  Since that time, as of today's date - 6,599 deaths have been reported per the website below:

Chronology of Ebola Virus Disease outbreaks, 1976-2014

In 38 years, that is an average of 173.66 deaths per year.  Now I am not saying that is good or okay, but compared to the Flu, or Malaria or even rotavirus (which killed kids in the midwest this year in the US) which kills about 1/2 Million children every year, it is still not the killer the media makes it out to be.

Why the big deal?

Well - it is SCARY!  

The GROSSness factor and the high lethality rate for those who do get it make it terrifying - the stuff of nightmares.  

But the way to put fear into perspective is to examine the facts:

The high lethality rate in Africa is due to a number of factors:

  • Misdiagnosis - When you go to the doctor, they need to examine the most likely causes.  In Africa, there are quite a few to examine - Malaria being incredibly common and having many similar symptoms.  You never look for the exotic at first, you look for the most likely.  You eliminate the most likely, then look further. Unless there is an outbreak, it is not your first thought.
  • An outbreak starts with exposure to the reservoir (the animal, insect, plant or whatever that harbors the virus naturally and does not get sick from it).  In the case of Ebola it is unknown, but bats are suspected.  All other cases result from contact with the bodily fluids of the sick individual (OR as frequently occurs, Gorillas and Chimpanzees also get infected and die from Ebola).  These first cases are in rural areas where medical care is not necessarily equipped to handle a disease such as Ebola.  So the disease starts in these rural areas, where family and friends care for the victims without appropriate facilities or barrier nursing supplies and procedures to reduce exposure.  So they get infected, and then those who care for them get infected, and so on.
  • Burial practices - Family members or friends wash the body in preparation for burial.  That means they are washing bodily fluids infectious with the virus and exposing themselves to it.  
                   Look at your hands - do you have any scratches or torn cuticles or any other breaks in the skin on them?  I can see several on mine at the moment.  The virus could get into any of those.  And that is only the ones I see - many are too small for that.  Then you have to wonder about the hands of those rural peoples, working the land and what their hands are like...

               Another thing that is a practice in African countries is kissing the corpse to say goodbye.  Many do it here as well.  But think of all the virus in that corpse and see how it can spread...

  • Slow response to outbreaks - these are rural areas, with rough roads or dirt trails.  They are not experts in medicine or the spread of disease.  By the time an outbreak is occurring and someone notifies someone and it makes its way up the chain to the right person to get an appropriate response - how many are already infected?  The current outbreak was well underway before appropriate response teams arrived and by then, it needed more than they could provide.
  • Superstition -  Many still believe that sorcerers cause this disease or that the government or medical workers or those trying to help are the cause of it.  They hide from those who come to help.  They shun the sick.
  • Political instability -  Coups, rebels, wars -- the continent has been rife with them for years.  Often it is difficult to get to infected areas as a result.
  • And the outbreaks are all over -- the borders are not secured very well.  It is hard to predict.  And it isn't just in Central Africa anymore.

So that said - why am I talking about all this?  Well - I have been fascinated by epidemiology and infectious diseases and reading on the subject for over 20 years.  Many of the source books, Quammen lists in his book are ones I have read.  that's another reason I loved his book - it is incredibly well-researched.

Now -- for the facts about the disease itself.  People have visions of bleeding eyes, organs turning to mush and big pools of blood.  Uhmmmm - NO.  A lot of that was inspired by Richard Preston's The Hot Zone.  Which is a really good read by the way - he just liked to embellish for dramatic effect IMHO.  And it IS labeled as FICTION BTW.

So - the disease itself was originally called Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.  That name has since been changed to Ebola Virus Disease since in over 50% of the cases - there is no hemorrhaging.
There are five known types:
  1. Ebola Virus (Originated in Zaire) and that seems to be the most prevalent and the one that is currently spreading now.
  2. Sudan Virus (Originally occurred about the same time as the original outbreak in the Congo/Zaire)
  3. Reston Virus (Occurred in monkeys in a Quarantine Facility in Reston Virginia and did not make humans sick - this was Chronicled in The Hot Zone)
  4. Tai Forest (Originally occurred in Cote' de Ivoire)
  5. Bundibugyo (Originally occurred in Uganda)
Now the symptoms:
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle Pain
  • Weakness
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Pink Eye
  • Diarrhea
Symptoms that SOMETIMES occur:
  • Chest Pain
  • Vomiting blood
  • bloody gums
  • bloody stools
  • bloody needle prick sites
  • inability to urinate
  • rash
  • hiccups
The signs that the patient will likely die:
  • rapid breathing
  • urine retention
  • hiccups
(NOT the ones you would think)

So my message to you -- educate yourself before you let the Media increase your fears.  Educate others.  And read this or a similar book to get the truth and maybe we can get the current MAYHEM under control.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Review - Laurie Anderson Concert @ Birchmere

I had been looking forward to this for quite a while.  My friend Andrea and I originally got tickets when she was supposed to come earlier this year but the show was canceled.  So, this time around I was glad it finally happened.

I have loved her music since Big Science when I was in college.  For my college Modern Dance class, we even choreographed a very interesting dance to her song Walking and Falling.  Costumes, music, movement all intertwined to tell a story of soul searching and our place in the universe.  I think she might have appreciated it.  Of course, it was recorded on VHS back then and is long gone.  Sad.  We did get an A+ and the comment from the rest of the class when we were done was - "Well, that was Modern..."  We found that amusing.  Another interesting this is that another group in the class did their dance to O, Superman.  So she obviously was connecting with a lot of us then.

And why not?  She is a remarkable innovator with music and performance art.  Her show was an experience in sound and light.  Everything intensifying the experience of the song.  A sensory experience as well as a thinking one.  Her songs always make me think I know where she is going, but I rarely do.  that surprise factor increases the fun and often makes me think outside the lines - and isn't that a fabulous thing?

I missed concerts in the past for one reason or another, but I was so glad to finally make it.  So, Andrea and I got there a bit early.  We reminisced and got into a very interesting conversation about fiction, novels and spoilers that will be told in another blog.  Andrea had seen her perform before at the Lisner.  She even had her own story to tell from that - involving t-shirt swapping.  But that is her story to tell.  

So, the lights went down and the experience began.  New songs - none of my favorites from back in the day (a tiny disappointment) but off we went.  My favorite song was one about a dog, a buzzard, 9/11 and shifting perspectives.  It was magical - as I had expected and I loved every moment of it.  Thank you Laurie for the stories you tell and the way you tell them!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

INSPIRATION (and stuff like that)

I sold my very first book, One Bright Morning, in January of 1994. That was a Big Thrill. Unfortunately, even though I’ve had more than fifty books published since then, everything’s gone downhill from there.

Well… maybe not everything. There have been a few bright spots along the way. The first one came shortly after the publication of that first book, One Bright Morning, when a bookstore owner in Nebraska (whose name I’ve managed to forget) wrote to tell me she’d named her newborn palomino colt (or do you call newborn horses foals? Well, never mind) Maggie Bright, after the heroine of the book. Therefore, somewhere in Nebraska there’s now a twenty-year-old palomino horsey named Maggie Bright, and my character was the inspiration for her name. I tell you, that note made me cry. Actually, thinking about it made me teary-eyed for years.

Plod forward twenty years, and there have been some ups along the writing road, but not a whole slew of them. This may partly be because I’m the George C. Scott of writing contests and don’t believe you can truly judge the worth of one book over another unless you’re talking grammar and punctuation, word usage and imagery, and stuff like that. Besides, I write funny stuff. It’s usually dark stuff that wins awards.

Very well. Confession time here. The main reason I never enter contests is ’cause I’m poor as a church mouse and have a whole bunch of dogs to feed. One tiny bright spot in an otherwise colorless career was winning the Arizona/New Mexico Book of the Year Award (for mystery/suspense) in 2012 for Mercy Allcutt’s rousing adventure, Fallen Angels. The glow fades slightly when I admit I entered the contest because the mere thought of New Mexico as a literary state makes me chortle inside. And sometimes even outside. That, and the fact I had a few extra bucks lying around that the dogs didn’t consume in one way or another.

However, in recent months, something really quite nice happened as a direct result of my books. A woman named Julie Turjoman e-mailed me a while back to ask if I’d mind if she used a character from one of my cozy historical mystery series as a model for a hat in the book she was then writing, A Head for Trouble: What to Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders. Her book would feature knitted creations appropriate for the Roaring Twenties, when the books are set. Would I mind? Was she kidding me? Naturally, I gave her my wholehearted permission.

And you know what? She actually did it! A Head for Trouble: What to Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders is now in print, and she used Mercedes “Mercy” Louise Allcutt (from my “Angels” books, including the aforementioned Fallen Angels) as a model for the following stunning creations:

Julie was kind enough to send me a copy of her book, and it’s truly wonderful. I recommend everyone who knits (or even those who, like me, don’t) go out and buy one or two (or three or four, because, after all, we all have relatives and friends) copies. Here’s a link: http://www.julieturjoman.com/a-head-for-trouble-2/

Of course, you can find my books on-line, too, if you’re interested. They’re all on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle and/or Smashwords (if you have a Nook, Kobi, or whatever). In fact, here’s the cover art for my next Mercy book, Thanksgiving Angels, which will be published in April of 2015.

I’ll be giving away advanced reading copies (ARCs) of Thanksgiving Angels at the end of November. If you’d like to enter, just send me your name and home address at: alice@aliceduncan.net  I’ll drop your name into my winner-picking wiener dog’s special contest doggie dish, and Bam-Bam (my winner-picking wiener dog) will select winners at month’s end.

Also, please feel free to visit my web site at www.aliceduncan.net and my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Go out and Vote!

Everyone please get out and cast your vote today. Then go home and get lost in a good book. (LOL), it is so important to vote.



Review: Blotto, Twinks and the Intimate Review by Simon Brett

Blotto and his friend go see  Light and Frothy;   a new popular show and his friend falls for the star of the show.  After his friend is k...