Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Giant Smugglers - Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon

The Giant Smugglers
Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon
ISBN 9781250066527
eISBN 9781250066534

I was privileged to read a review copy of this book months before it was released. From the first glimpse of the cover, through reading the description of the book I was very keen on reading it. It did not disappoint. This was the first book I have read by either Pauls or Solomon and I really hope there will be more. I must warn you this is a highly addictive read. If you find at times you have a hard time putting down books, this will be one of those reads. If you repeatedly say one more page or one more chapters you will definitely find yourself doing that with this read.

This book is a wonderful story, it is the story of friendship, the story about doing what is right. It is also in part a story about family. And it is a great adventure. This is the story of Charlie Lawson, a young man who is currently at odds with the world. He is 13 years old, great at racing games, does not like is mom's boyfriend and is angry with his brother who left a year earlier to travel with the fair. But his life changes by a meeting with someone different than himself, very different. For Charlie meets a giant a real live GIANT who is hiding in an abandoned warehouse across from Charlies flat. Soon Charlie is stuck with a lot of responsibility for his young shoulders, there is an evil organization trying to capture the Giants and use them as a source or new enhancement drugs, a group helping smuggle the giants across the country, and his loyalty to his new friend.

Charlie and Bruce develop an immediate friendship. And soon Charlie is showing Bruce kung fu movies and sharing laughs. But those who would put Bruce in a lab are really close and getting closer every second. This story includes some great chases, a few surprises and some amazing places to hide a giant.

Last year I read 177 books and this one was #6 on my top ten list for the fiction books for the year. I really hope it ends up being the first in a series because it was such a wonderful read. So pick it up and give it a read I am sure you will be entertained.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Journey - A.J. Gillette - Geoterra Book 2

Geoterra Book 2
A.J. Gillette
Hidden Lake Press

I read this book immediately after finishing book one, Exodus, in this series. Finding a new series with three books out and nine planned is a wonderful place to be. I must admit, I absolutely loved book 1 and I did really enjoy book two, but at paints it seemed like it was trying too hard. A.J. (Alfred) Gillette in a new name in Canadian Science fiction, he has release the first three books in the Geoterra series and has a few other projects brewing. This is proving to be an awesome series and I eagerly expect the rest of the books.

The book in some ways reads like a Spider Robinson book or like Stainless Steel Rat books by Harry Harrison. A little bit of science, a little humor and a lot of fun. Is this a deep read by no means, does it ask a few questions worth thinking more deeply about, defiantly.  It is entertaining, highly. 

This book is slower paced than the first, but the crew of the 5 ships have some interesting adventures. We have a few crew members who face near certain death, we have accelerated pregnancies, the threat of imprisonment. The aid from some very advanced races. And encounter a race so small they are not visible to the humans. A lot happens in this short novel. And throughout the story are interspersed pop culture and sci-fi references from the 80's, 90's and 2000's. We see some interesting developments within the crew dynamics. 

The story is driven mainly by the characters and their goal of starting over again away from Earth, and away from Interstellar travel. They desire to start a new earth where the choice to not have interacted with other races had been made. But The journey is long and the obstacles many and with every encounter they are either making friends or enemies. And some of those enemies are very determined.

This book was a fun read. And I am really looking forward to where book three will lead. If you have not read his books I give them a big thumbs up and say give it a go.  

The books are available on both Kindle and Kobo.

Books by A.J. Gillette:
Geoterra Series:

#1 Exodus
#2 Journey
#3 Arrival
#4 Chaos
#6 Order
#7 Geoterra
#8 NewTerra

Other books by A.J. Gillette:
Being Yeti

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A Liturgy of the Heart - Douglas Ross

A Liturgy of the Heart
Douglas Ross
Principled Dynamics

I have read this book through three times now. Each time I get a little more of it. In some ways it reminded me of one of my favorite books over the last 15 years, Jacob the Baker by Noah Ben Shea, which is a book that I read at least yearly. It is also reminiscent of Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman or The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. But with your underlying catholic beliefs it comes across more at Henri Nouwen or Thomas Merton. I have already recommended this book to a number of friends all of whom have found it useful and have deeply engaged with the material. I am looking forward to meeting with them and discussing this book face to face. It would make a great read for a discussion group of book club.

I have sat thinking about how to write a review of this book for a number of weeks. I know I enjoyed it, I know it has had an impact on both my heart and my mind, but I struggle to put it into words. In many ways the book speaks to learning again that the heart is the seat of the soul and not the head. In our intellectual and academic society that knowledge often gets forgotten and we start living more and more from our head. As we journey with Douglas we learn to see and listen to our hearts again, and through balancing the heart with the mind find our path and purpose. Douglas puts into words what some of us suspect, or get glimpses of. As such I will simply provide a number of quotes from the text itself to give you a small feel, and hopefully it will be enough to entice you to give it a read and see what sort of impact it has on you and your heart.

"It took me to places I never expected. For example, I never would have believed my heart was the Promised Land nor would I have thought that walking through the valley of the shadow of death was the only way out of my self-imposed exile. Exploring aspects of the heart was frightening. Speaking about what was previously unknowable and unexplainable was challenging."

"The heart is the deepest interior part of our lives. The heart is the place where we are alone with ourselves and life itself as we know it."

"It was in this journey that I found the answers to my two major questions. Who am I and what is true happiness?"

"A liturgy is a fixed set of ceremonies that are used during public worship. A ceremony is a formal series of actions prescribed by ritual, protocol or convention. So a liturgy is a dance of worship with a specific sequence of steps and movements."

"The revelation unveils how each choice we make in our lives either moves us closer to or away from the possibility of the heart."

"You can heed the call of the heart or not. It is your choice. You are a free human being in the world. You can choose what you will when you will. The call of the heart is a call away from the world back to reality."

"Einstein said, "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one". In other words, the main event is not the main event. There is something else going on."

"Your stories explain the continual unfolding of life's duality - body and soul, mind and heart, word and deed, love and hate, work and play, sacred and profane, solitude and unity, success and failure."

"Your stories are your automatic way of relating and reacting. They are the intention behind all your actions and adventures."

"A journey into the heart is a choice. It is an adventure."

"Life is for the strong and the brave, the cunning, the survivor, the champion - you are all those things. But you can be more. So much more if you could stop doing and just be."

"My blind spots are unconscious and self-serving. In my opinion, they interfere with my inner work of my heart and cause me unnecessary suffering."

"I don't feel broken because I am so used to being broken that I forgot what it is like to be unbroken."

"Pay attention to how you are being when you are doing what you do."

"You are these people when you judge others as hypocrites. Do not judge. Accept. You are these people when you condemn self-righteousness. Do not condemn. Forgive. You are these people when you deny the illness in your heart. Do not deny. Confess! You are these people when you justify your conflicted intentions. Do not justify. Apologize! You are these people when you rationalize your diseased actions. Do not rationalize. Rectify! You are these people when you blame others for your unpleasant results. Do not blame. Change!"

Douglas's prose may not be perfect, but he puts forth perfect effort. He tries to capture his own experience and relate it in a way that we his readers can learn from it. He is a man how has been through a tremendous amount of upheaval, uncertainty and loss. And through those events he has learned some great lesson's maybe some of the most important lessons in life. And he shares them with us, in their rawness, and with humility and transparency. This book is a wonderful read with some amazing illustrations by his daughter. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Books by Douglass Ross:
A Liturgy of the Heart

With Karla Brandau:
Discretionary Effort Leadership
The Leadership of One

Friday, 20 May 2016

Read More Books Now - Brandon Vogt

Read More Books Now
Brandon Vogt

I overage over 100 books a year, but I am always interested in finding out what tools others use to increase their reading speed and retention. I have been aware of Brandon Vogt's writing for a while now and respect him as a writer and researcher. He recently offered a free 4 part video course to share some of his tips. All you need to do is sign up and you get an email every few days with a link to a video. However, that is just the beginning, you get a lot of other great resources when you purchase the course:

10 HD Video Lessons
Read More Books Now eBook
Read More Books Now Audio Book
Reading Tracking Spreadsheet Excel
Reading Tracking Spreadsheet Google

Teddy's Roosevelt's Reading Secrets
Reading Strategy BookMarks
Audio Downloads of all 10 Lessons
Transcripts of all 10 Video's

When you buy the course you get lifetime access to the resources. Last year when enrolment was open over 1000 people completed the course and only 2 did not improve their reading volume, some by as much as 10x's as many books. Professor Peter Kreeft stated of this program, "I've taught college philosophy for over 40 years. This excellent course, if taken to heart, will do more for your education than 99% of the courses in school that you ever took." And that is very high praise.

I have worked my way through the materials from the course once already and plan on going through the video's at least a second time. Even as a reader who is well above the national average there were a number of tips and tricks in this series that I found made it more than worth it. This course presents very down to earth knowledge that is accessible even by the most reluctant of readers. I have over the years had many friends ask how they could read more; this course is the answer. It puts into words some of what I do naturally and gives me a bunch of new ideas to implement. As such I can highly recommend this course.

Even if you only pick up 1 tip from each of the 10 videos you will drastically increase your reading speed and comprehension. In fact, Brandon is so confident that the course will work for you he offers a money back guarantee. He will no invoice you until after 30 days. If you do not find the course useful just let him know and he will refund your money. And if you are still in doubt you can get access to 4 free quick lessons that are a sample of what Brandon teaches here. or if you are reading to take the plunge go and buy the course Read More Books Now!

So give it a try but time is limited course enrolment is currently only available until May 27th so get registered now.

Books by Brandon Vogt:
Saints and Social Justice
The Church and New Media
The Saints' Favorite Books
Catholicism: The New Evangelization Study Program
Read More Books Now

Contributed to:
One Body, Many Blogs: A Guide for Christian Bloggers

Monday, 16 May 2016

A.J. (Alfred) Gillette - Author Profile and Interview

A.J. Gillette is a technology guru, he is also a musician and writer. His first book Geoterra was published in 2005 and took him over 8 years to write. He has now published 3 books in the last year and seems to have found his stride using NaNoWriMo as a focusing force behind his writing. Currently he has 4 books available and a few in the works. A.J. or Alfred took some time to answer 20 Questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More, so here he is in his own words.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

I started reading Science Fiction in High School and continued to enjoy it through college and university. I ramped up my reading when I graduated and once our kids were grown, I realized that although I loved reading about new worlds, I wanted to build one of my own.

2. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

My wife Julianne, edited my first novel and has supported me in all of my crazy adventurers. Friends and family read my books and tell me that they are really good. I have discovered over the years of writing and playing music, that friends and family don't make the best critics. If you are not good at something, they won't tell you.

3. Knowing your computer science and programming background I was surprised that your book with not Hard Science Fiction. Was that a deliberate choice?

I like to read about stories and worlds. I felt that I had to create personalities that people could relate to. I read about theoretical physics, gerontology, advancements in medicine (Stem cell research, biological 3D printing) and try to work aspects of these things into the stories. I observe interpersonal relationships around me and work that into my books.

4. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

Anne McCaffery,  Elisabeth Moon, Paolo Bacigalupi, Robert Saywer, Eric Flint, David Weber, Dan Wells, Diana Gabaldon, Morgan Rice, Eliza Green, Suzanne Collins, Hugh Howey, John Scalzi.

5. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

You would think that I would but not really. I perform weekly at open mics in the Ottawa area, where I play covers that range from Seals & Crofts to Ed Sheeran. When I listen to music, it's usually songs from my set lists so that I burn them into my brain. When I write I generally don't listen to music.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

A good question. I woke up one day over the Christmas break with a complete book in my head. I generally create notes for topics that I will write about in each chapter of a new book, but don't start writing until November 1. NaNoWriMo is a great way to create a book in a short period of time. My first book was written over an eight year period. Each time I sat down to write, I had to read the entire book to figure out where I was at. With NaNoWriMo you can keep the whole book in your head from start to finish. The outline is basically done to you sit down and write, don't correct typos, don't edit, just write.

7. Your Geoterra series started as a trilogy, but is not planned to be 9 books. What spurred the change?

I generally only read series that have more than three books. I wanted to create a story that would appeal to people like me. The plan was a double trilogy and I started with book four because it placed me far enough in the future to have a free hand with future science. I went on to write three quarters of book five, but I couldn't use it for NaNoWriMo, because it was already started. Exodus was my first book written as part of NaNoWriMo. Journey and Arrival followed on as NaNoWriMo projects as well. When I got to the end of Arrival I realized that there was too much of a gap between it and book 4 (Geoterra) so I decided to add three more books in between. The series will now be a triple trilogy.

8. For your Geoterra series do you have plans or outlines for the remaining 5 books? Are they in progress? If so at what stage?

Yes and Yes kinda… Exodus, Journey and Arrival are all complete. The next three have tentative titles, and I have started making notes with respect to the extension of the story that will tie into what is now book 7.

9. Do you have any books in development outside of the Geoterra series?

Yes, there is one called Evolution that is loosely based on the science behind the book "Genome". In that book it talks about how some species go extinct, because only females are born. The book explains that the chemical makeup of the Genome favors the female Genome and when an extinction event happens, it happens almost overnight. The book explores what would happen to society when this occurs in the human race.

There is another book coming that explains the origin of the Yeti. I'm really excited about this one, but don't want to give too much away.

10. Being a programmer and teacher do you see yourself ever writing non-fiction to pass on some of the knowledge you have accumulated over years in the technology industry?

It's not out of the question, but there are way smarter people in that space. I'm more of a generalist which means I am pretty good at a large number of things. I can't really say I'm an expert in many areas though. I think that experts should write non-fiction.

11. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

Wow that was a long time ago. I don't think there was any one author. We lived a long way from the closest library and my family did have money to buy books.

12. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?

Right at the moment, I'm waiting for the next Outlander book, the next book in the "Name of the Wind" series by Patrick Rothfuss and the next book in the Partials series by Dan Wells.

13. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

TV shows seem to come in and out of favor. Currently I watch Grey's Anatomy, The Arrow, The Flash, Elementary, Castle, Saving Hope, Rookie Blue, Vampire Diaries, NCIS, and Outlander.

14. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well-rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

The dragon rider series by Anne McCaffery explorers many different aspects of a society rebuilding itself. The inter-personal relationships are fascinating. The Partials series by Dan Wells is a little closer to earth and does similar things. On the non-fiction front, the book Genome, Long for this world, The youth pill. On the business front, The Alliance, Zero to One and the startup owner's manual.

15. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

My characters have personalities of their own and they tell me what to write. They each speak in a certain way and choose words accordingly. If you were to ask me what Beth would say in a given situation, I would be able to answer. Mary would respond differently as would Jacob and Martin.

16. Most of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

All of my books are DRM free. I hope that people copy them so that I get more readers. I think that authors and musicians need to establish a community before they should consider locking people in.

17. Some authors monitor torrent sites contact them to remove their content. Do you have plans to do so are have someone do so for you?

Nope, I hope that my books are freely distributed to the world. If people like them, hopefully they will tell me and compensate me for my efforts.

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

Interesting question. I started with a college education (Electrical Engineering Technology) and then went on to do a University Education (Computer Science). The motivator was basically the difference in compensation. Having done both, I would say that University was easier and didn't really add much to the college education that I already had. I think education is the best investment that a person can make in their life. You invest time and money and it pays your salary for the rest of your life.

I have always been lucky in that I know in advance what I am going to enjoy. I picked electronics and computers because I could see the role that they were going to play in my life time and I wanted to be part of that. Students should think had about what they enjoy, save the top choice as a hobby and select the second one as a career.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

I generally don't read a book more than once, so it would have to be books that require enough thought to inspire me to want to read them more than once or books that I need to survive. In no particular order…

Book 1: Some kind of survival guide. I don't know much about living on a desert island. Should contain a complete guide to edible plants and how to prepare them.

Book2: A book on how to fish, types of fish and how to clean and cook them.

Book3: A book on how to get rescued, if you're stranded on a desert island.

Book4: The complete dragon rider series by Anne McCaffery because the story is inspiring and contains nine books under one cover.

Book5: The taekwondo encyclopedia by General Choi. It would provide reading to help cope with stress and exercises that would help me stay fit.

Book6: A book on navigating by the stars so that I could figure out where I was.

Book7: Right now I'm reading "The startup owner's manual" that would be one because it's more of a reference and you need to read it 10 or 20 times to really get it to sink in. Not that the knowledge would do me any good on the island.

Book8: The Bible: I've had it read to me all my life (in Church) but I've never actually sat down and read it from cover to cover.

Book9: The Quran: I would need it translated to English, but I would like to understand more about other religions.

Book10: The Torah: Again I would need a translation.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Life is too short to do things that you are not passionate about. If you want to write, then start writing. You'll know soon enough if it's for you. Participate in NaNoWriMo. It will force you to complete your first book and you will have the support of the rest of the world. You will be able to find local authors at libraries, coffee shops and various other public venues. NaNoWriMo has write-ins that happen all over during the month of November.

I had the privilege of meeting A.J. a number of years ago through work. I was greatly impressed with his passion for technology, his breadth of knowledge and his intense and yet jovial personality. When I found out he had written a book I had to read it. (Even buying it from a platform I do not enjoy that much.) I devoured the first book and can say it has been a long time since I found a new fiction author I have enjoyed so much.

It is not surprising that Robert J. Sawyer is an author who shaped his writings, for one of my first thoughts while reading his work was that it was like a cross between Sawyer and Heinlein. His writing is very enjoyable to read and I look forward to reading more of his works. You can read about part of the reason why he started releasing his books here. And if you have not read his book go give them a try they are excellent.

Books by A.J. Gillette:
Geoterra Series:

#1 Exodus
#2 Journey
#3 Arrival
#4 Chaos
#6 Order
#7 Geoterra
#8 NewTerra

Other books by A.J. Gillette:
Being Yeti

Author profile and interview with A.J. Gillette