Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jason's 'Top 10 Books' for 2013

Well, 2013 was a very busy book year, but it was also a slow book reading year.  I don’t know if I was just busy or just very particular with what I read and what I spent my money on, but I didn’t read as much this year as I have in previous years. 

So while I have fewer books from which to choose, I also think having fewer books means that I really had to pick the crème de la crème!  As I look over this list I see familiar faces like Eric, Steve, and Rachel, as well as newcomers like Rebecca and Terry. 

But new or old these writers all have one thing in common, they can write the stink off a skunk.  Reading is so much better when you have good material to read.  I think reading should be fun, I think reading should be something that one looks forward to, I think reading should be savored like good food and great wine, and I also think that reading should be a part of ones soul.

It's damn sure part of mine.

So here it is, one man’s opinion on what he thinks are the best books he’s read in 2013.  The books that kept him up at night, the books that made his heart beat, the books that made him reaffirm why he does what he does, the books that left impressions on his soul like Play-Doh, and the books that made him write this blog and caused him to suddenly start writing in third person.  

**The title will take you to my review and the author's name will take you to their website.**

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Upcoming work:

‘A Wanted Woman’ – April 15th, 2014


Jason's Take:
Eric is simply my favorite author.  Period.  An amazing talent that is known to those who have read him and missed by those who don't.  You're asking "how can you miss something that you've never seen/read?"  Steve Jobs already answered that question in the tech arena.  Eric answers it in the literary one. 

Eric's FaceBook Fan Page 

Eric's Twitter

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Upcoming Work:

‘Dog Training the American Male’ by L.A. Knight – July 2014
‘Sharkboy’ – August 2014



Jason's Take:
My man Steve.  This man already has two books on my 'best book I've ever read' list.  I wonder how many he'll have when it's all said and done?

Steve's FaceBook Fan Page


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Jason's Take:
This book doesn't come out in the U.S. until May 27th, but I've already started telling my people about it.  This is a 700-page book but it reads like it's 50.  I hate to sound cliche' but damn if this book isn't fu*king epic in every damn sense of the word!  Put this one on your 'to read' list now... you can iMessage me a thank you later.  

'I Am Pilgrim' FaceBook Page

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While Rebecca doesn’t have a title or release date set for her next book she did say this about it – 
“It's about the biblical Queen Esther, an orphan who was taken into the harem of the king of Persia (Xerxes, in my novel), and went on to become queen. She must stand up to the most powerful advisor in the empire and sway the king if she wants to save her people from genocide. This book is a sort of biblical ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ with a touch of ‘Game of Thrones’”.

Jason's Take:
This is one of those books where the cover just grabbed me.  This is just a gorgeous cover!  Luckily the magic doesn't stop there, I really enjoyed this book as well.  Usually religious-fiction book don't grab or hold my attention.  Rebecca did... so did Javan!  

Rebecca's FaceBook Page

Rebecca's Twitter


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Jason's Take:
Roman-fiction is my FAVORITE genre and lately it seems like when I do a search for new stuff, all I get is crap.  Ben isn't a new voice but when I talk books in the bookstore, his is a name that most of my people haven't heard of.  I make sure to remedy that.  Rome, seen through different eyes.  

Ben's FaceBook Page

Ben's Twitter


Upcoming work:

'Hannibal: Clouds of War'
February 2014 (UK Date)




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Jason's Take:
One of Grisham's very better books!  And yes, I meant to say 'very better'!

John's FaceBook Page


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'Arena' by Simon Scarrow



Jason's Take:

This book was actually made up of five different eBooks released every two months or so.  Having to wait two months for each story gave me a new respect for crackheads.    

Simon's FaceBook Page

Simon's Twitter



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'Apacheria' by William Altimari


Jason's Take:

I did a FaceBook post saying something like, "can anyone help me find a GOOD Western?"  Next thing I know I'm downloading this book.  This wasn't a good Western, this was a GREAT Western!  I wrote William after I had written my review for this book and he writes back a THREE PAGE letter back.  I won't say what was in the note but it was one of the nicest and most personal letters I have ever received from an author.    

William's FaceBook Page


Upcoming work:

‘Rider in the Rain’ 
 Mid-winter release date



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Jason's Take:

Damn.  What can I say about K'wan?  I think the thing that I admire most about K'wan is the fact that he grinds his ass off!  He's been in the game a long time and truly respects the craft, his fans, and the art.  2014 looks like it will be a busy publishing year for him... I can only hope a cookbook is in the mix somewhere).  

K'wan's FaceBook Page

K'wan's Twitter


Upcoming work:





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Jason's Take

Rachel is another writer who is constantly busy!  Always writing, editing, submitting, traveling, reading, proofreading, blogging, and cupcake-ing.  The general public has been thrust into the world of '50 Shades', but Rachel has been putting out (hehehe) good erotics stories LONG before it became mainstream.  Haven't read anything by her?  Change that in 2014.  Your imagination (and blood pressure) will thank you.

Rachel's FaceBook Page

Rachel's Twitter

Upcoming works:



Friday, December 13, 2013

'Poster Child: She Could Be You' by Vernica Roberson

At the time I wrote this review (July 2013) I have not read one non-fiction book this year.  That's of no surprise to anyone who knows me.  I read non-fiction less than I work out.  So why this one?  Well basically, the author is a friend of mine and she asked me to.  Granted it took me a while, but again... if you know me then you know that I read according to how I feel, not when I should.  

I was also apprehensive because anytime a friend asks you to read something you always wonder how they will react if you didn't like their work.  I mean let's be honest.  Authors have thinner hides than some onionskin Bibles I know.  Don't laugh, they do!  But I let her know like I let everyone know; I'll read it on my time and give you an honest critique, are you OK with that?  She was so, I did.  

And let me tell you, she has nothing to worry about.  

This is one of the shortest yet most heart breaking short story collections I've read in a long, long time.  Like I said earlier, I'm not a non-fiction reader.  I'm fiction junkie 99% of the time.  Any of the violence, cruelty, and hurt I read about I can detach myself from because I tell myself that it isn't real.  

Not so with non-fiction.  Even less so with this book.  

Matter of fact when I was reading this book I actually texted Vernica to ask her if these stories were truly real.  She said “yes" and I said "damn".  

Every one of these stories is real and every one of these stories will touch and haunt you.  The stories focus on HIV and AIDS and how it affects the person with the disease as well as the people around them.   Vernica writes that it was an "honor and a privilege" to be invited into these women's lives.  I don't doubt that at all.  But it damn sure couldn't have been easy... no way it could have been easy.  These eight stories are difficult to read because of the subject matter, but they are eight stories that should be read because they are as poignant today as they were when AIDS blasted into our consciousness in the last 1970's and changed our world forever.

Here are a few that really tore at me:

'Ms. S' - This old lady... while her body may spill the secrets of her age, her spirit never will.  Unfortunately living free and young comes with consequences.

'Tameka' - This sister was a TRIP!  Easily the most colorful character in the book… and I couldn't stand her ass!  The worst type of evil (in my opinion) is doing evil with full knowledge knowing that you're doing evil.  I read this entire story shaking my head and secretly wishing bad things would happen to Tameka.  And no, I didn't feel bad in the least bit doing so.  

'Vivian' - This one was shocking because of the revelation at the end of the story.

'Amy' - If there is one story that stands in this collection that stands out as the most heartbreaking and raw, this one would be it.  Even now I'm having trouble putting just how... raw this story was.  It's impossible not to feel her pain and you wish so much that you could just reach in the book and take some of that pain away.

'Holley' - is another story that made me upset while I was reading it.  But unlike Tameka, I was mad at Holley because she was malicious.  I was mad because Holley was just stupid.  Sorry, but she was.  Her husband Ralph wasn't any better but damn Holley... really?!  I know it's probably not fair to want to backhand this woman, but hell, she needs it.  

At the end of each story Vernica gives us facts and figures about HIV and AIDS as well as information in case we need to reach out to someone for help.  These facts coupled with the true stories really make you sit up and think about how AIDS has affected our neighborhood, community, and world. 

Vernica is very passionate about this subject and it is evident in her writing. There are a few small areas where she gets preachy (the Mona and Vivian stories for one) but I assume that's to be expected when you are around this every day.  It's always hard for first time authors to make a splash in today's book world and it's not easy. But if you're going to do it, then I suggest writing about something that is true to your soul. 

Vernica did.  And it shows.

9781483404585

Thursday, November 21, 2013

'My Birthday, Your Gift'

So this year I turn the big 32 (shut up, that's NOT a typo and if you question me I will murder you in your sleep).  And even though it's my birthday I want to give YOU the present!  The gifts are eBooks from a few of my favorite authors.  All you have to do is enter the contest, send the correct information, cross your fingers, pray to Jesus, and hope against all hope that you'll win!  

The Contest:

- Pick a number between 1 - 25,000.
- The three closest answers will win.

The Rules:

- The contest starts 
November 25th, 2013.
- Only ONE entry per person per eMail.
- All contest entries must be sent to rubiconreader@icloud.com  
- Entries sent elsewhere will not be eligible.
- You must have an active iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, or Amazon Kindle.  Incorrect eMails will not be hunted down.
- The contest will end when I have three winners.
- Winners will be notified via eMail and you will have three days from the time I inform you that you've won in order to claim your prize.  
- eBooks may not be substituted.
- If you have any questions please send them to me - rubiconreader@icloud.com

The Prizes:
If you are chosen as the winner then you may choose from one of the eBooks/authors listed below.







‘With This Ring’

Click on the author's name and it will take you to their website, click on the title and you'll get a description of the book.

Monday, November 4, 2013

'The Ascendant' by Drew Chapman

I have an angel at Simon & Schuster who sends me boxes of books from time to time.  This book was amongst her latest offerings and it showed up at just the right time.  When I opened the book I found a form letter written by one of the editors giving this book glowing recommendations.  Immediately my "BS" meter clicked on because really, what do you expect an editor to say about a book they worked on?  

That it sucked?  That they should use better discretion when signing new writers?  That the only thing worse would be if Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts collaborated on a new series?  No, you expect them to praise and laud their new author like their the next Roman Emperor. So I'm always wary when I see high praise for a first time author with a new book, even an author who has quite the entertainment resume like Drew.  "Reader beware" right?

Well... not this time.  This time the book matches the praise given.  

Like the editor I couldn't put this book down.  It's blazing fast and it almost feels as if it's written like you aren't supposed to read it slow.  Did you ever wonder what the love child of Danica McKellar and Jason Bourne would be like?  No?  Yeah well... me either.  But for the sake of this review just go along with me.  Garrett Reilly is a numbers genius. Actually that's not entirely true. He's the type of numbers genius that other number geniuses hate. (Along with a majority of us normal intelligence folk).  

But Reilly has another amazing trait that stands out that causes people to hate him, he's a total dick. His intelligence comes with heightened sense of self and he's a master at using it. He has no problem getting into into a bar fight or getting into a barmaid. To him they serve the same purpose. He burns crazy amounts of testosterone while screaming and pumping his... err... fists. But no matter how uninhibited the barmaid or how satisfying the head butt, Reilly's first lust is numbers. 

Unfortunately, like most lustful endeavors, it'll get you in trouble. And Reilly is deep in it. He's seen a sinister numbers pattern in the U.S. treasury as well as something else a bit more ominous. Someone is trying to royally screw with the United States and the U.S. Military needs Reilly's help to track them down. 

Good luck with that.  

Reilly's bad attitude extends to most everything, but nothing faces his ire like the U.S. Military.  Even if one part of the military is a drop dead gorgeous woman with muscles and soft parts in all the right places. But will she use her womanly charms for good or evil?

The different forms of conflict that take place in this book are a thrill to read.  You never really know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Well, except for the enemy, we find out who those fools are pretty early. And the enemy in this book is pure-D ruthless.  They are waging a new war against U.S. and for a new war you need a new soldier. Their strikes are done with precision and while our leaders are bickering over who gets credit for what, our enemy is planning another surgical strike. And trust me here people, these strikes are bad. And by bad I mean "whoop-ass"!

Drew is a very good at not holding back when the story dictates a certain path. I enjoy writers who do that.  Now I will mention this; there will be times you will have to suspend a lot of "reality belief" when reading this book. It's not a bad thing per se, but if you read a lot in this genre there are a few places and situations where you're like "dude, seriously?"  BUT... this is a very fast read and the author can't cover every nuance, plus this IS a fictional story so... 

Reilly makes his decision and proceedes to piss off every big wig in our government while the enemy continues to launch more than a few devastating blows.  Part of the story takes place in another country and while you know the story lines will connect, you start to wonder if they'll connect. 

And then they do.  

The action taking place in the U.S. is thrilling enough, but the unrest happening across the ocean could almost be it's own story.  Man, if you think OUR politics and politicians are corrupt, call me after you read this.  

This book was so much fun.  Half geek, half testosterone, all action.

Friday, November 1, 2013

'Blood Crows' by Simon Scarrow

Twelve books in and Simon is still writing like he has something to prove.  After a bit of a Macro/Cato hiatus, Simon takes us back to the Roman legion with all the action and blood that we have grown to love.  And expect.  But this story had a weird... feel to it.  I read this book so pissed at Cato that I was actually rooting against him.

After having themselves soiled with having to do the bidding of Narcissus, Centurion Macro and Prefect Cato are finally able to do some "decent soldiering".  Unfortunately it's on the dreadful island of Britannia with all of the charm and luxury that she affords.  Caratacus is still harassing the Empire and the Emperor needs to put him down.  You know... especially since the Emperor stated "mission accomplished" a few years back. 

Caratacus and his band of barbarians are as brutal a group as Rome has fought.  Death on the battlefield is seen by most ancient tribes as the honorable way for a warrior to die.  However, if you're fighting Caratacus and happen to live through it, death might be seen as deliverance.  But despite the brutality of the barbarians, it pales in comparison to our new king of the ball, Centurion Quertus.  This is where my contemptuous for Cato begins and also where this exciting story starts to get even better.

Quertus is a soldier who takes immense pleasure in breaking the locals.  And by breaking I mean abject slaughter.  The twist here is that he's not entirely out of line with his orders, just his methods.  And he should probably take a remedial course on 'How to Treat Superiors 101'.  Prefect Cato has been ordered to take command of the fort and he finds he must fight the enemy as well as rogue Romans. 

Simon has written antagonist in his books before, but few have made me hate them the way Quertus did. I hated him with such fervor that I started to hate Cato for being... well... Cato.  Macro on the other hand was exactly what you would expect.  Matter of fact, near the end of this book he is put in a situation and well... shocking and brutal is all I can say.  I loved it! 


Through all the pain, broken bones, and spilt blood Simon still manages to show us the glory of Rome.  As I mentioned earlier, this is the twelfth book in the series and it's as strong as the rest of them.  Good can only shine if there is darkness.  With Caratacus roasting Roman soldiers on the outside and Centurian Quertus being an insubordinate ass on the inside, Cato and Macro are stuck in it.  Bad for our legionaries, good for us readers.  Simon Scarrow is a definite leader in the increasingly crowded field of Roman historical-fiction.  Books like this continue to prove that.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

'Sycamore Row' by John Grisham

The beginning of 'A Time to Kill' opens with one of the cruelest act that could ever be committed on a fellow human being.  That scene will forever be seared in the minds of anyone who has read it. 

The ending of 'Sycamore Row' will evoke that exact same emotion. 

I digress but let me quickly throw this in since I'll get this question five thousand times a day until Christmas.  "Is this book really a sequel to 'A Time to Kill'?  It depends on what your definition of "sequel" is.  If to you a sequel is a book that includes the same characters as the previous book, then yes.  If to you a sequel is a book that continues on the same storyline as the previous book, then no.  There are references to Carl Lee and “that verdict” but not enough (in my opinion) to call it a continuation of the storyline in 'A Time to Kill'

I know that's splitting hairs and to be honest... it really doesn't matter.

'Sycamore Row' is a GRAND SLAM in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, last game of the Series, off a pitcher that, up to that point, has thrown a perfect game.  If you think I'm exaggerating I would love to chat with you after you've read this book.  Seriously.   I'm an unapologetic fan of Grisham and while I think he is a magnificent writer, I'm under no illusion that everything he writes is gold.  (*Ahem*, 'The Last Juror', 'The Racketeer').  But there are the gold ones like 'The Broker', 'The Confession', 'A Time To Kill'...

And now 'Sycamore Row'.

This story centers around a colorful old man named of Seth Hubbard.  Seth is old.  Seth is dying.  Seth is rich. Unfortunately the rich part is the one that draws the attention of everyone.  Even if said rich is only speculative, and not yet proven.  Seth is a shrewd yet successful business man with a plan that, on the surface, looks like he's lost his damn mind. He kills himself, leaves behind a new will that cuts out his children and bequeaths 90% of his estate to the Black maid.

A white man in the Deep South leaving the bulk of his rumored riches to his Black hired help... yeah, can't see why that would be a problem.  Although the will is explicit in its direction and clear in its execution, you know it'll be challenged. Why?  Because there hasn't yet been a law written that is above the scrutiny of the mighty and great wisdom of the all-knowing attorney.  And so begins the circus.

We do have the pleasure of witnessing the antics of Harry Rex and beloved Lucien once again. These guys. I swear, there isn't enough alcohol in Ireland to sate those two. Despite their quest to become the reincarnation of 'Bartles & James', Ford County would be one hell of a boring place without them. And Jake would be lost.

Ah yes Jake.  Life hasn't gone exactly as our brave lawyer hoped.  Of course he did try a double murder case for only $900, so I'm not sure what he expected from good ole' Ford County.  He's brought into this battle courtesy a mailed letter from Mr. Hubbard himself.  Now contesting a will does seem dull and boring, and I'm sure in real life it is.  But in the hands of John Grisham, following all this mess is pure joy. 

Lettie Lang is the Black housekeeper who is the heir to this (potential) windfall.  And because of such the leeches and distant family have all shown up to "help her through this rough and difficult time".  Not only that, but she doesn't heed the advice of Jake and surrounds herself with one of the most jerk-off character I've had the pleasure of reading in a Grisham novel.  I'll only say he's a lawyer from Memphis, TN and I was literally laughing out loud at this clown.  Think of it like this... what if Al Sharpton had an entourage? 

A good writer tells you about the interaction between characters.  A great writer makes you feel the interaction between the characters.  I wasn't sure if I liked Judge Atlee or not.  At times I was cheering, other times I was found myself using words that I specifically invented for that lawyer clown from Memphis.  I wanted to hug Dell and ask her if she's make me some shrimp-n-grits while bumping that ample derriere against me.   My respect for Sheriff Ozzie grew and my distain for Seth's "family" only grew.  And by "grew" I mean "like cancer". 

The last time I felt such hatred and bile for a person(s) was Travis Boyette in 'The Confession'.  And unless your father's name is Lucifer, you will too.  Remember how I said a great writer will make you feel the interaction between the characters?   With the loathing I had for this family, I felt that interaction between those characters and ME!  His offspring are probably the only people who could make a suicide (by hanging no less) feel like a bloody escape. 

Now... I'm going to warn you that there are two parts in this book that will make you pause.  (Don't worry no spoilers here.).  The first is an incident that involves Lattie Lang's husband.  The father of the family he affects comes to speak to Jake and that conversation... if your eyes don't get a little bit wet then you have a heart of pure concrete. 

The second part I alluded to earlier is the ending.  'A Time to Kill' has one of the most disturbing openings you'll read.  'Sycamore Row' has one of the most disturbing endings.  The more you read the faster your heart beats. And the faster your heart beats the more you read.  As you read this book you wonder "what does this have to do with that?", "what is the significance of that?"  And then it hits you... right in the gut.

Hard.

'Sycamore Row' is history.  'Sycamore Row' is symbolic. 'Sycamore Row' is a place of pain.  'Sycamore Row' is a place of beauty. 'Sycamore Row' is one of the best books I've read this year.

*Personal note: John Grisham has had a few give-a-ways and contests with this new book of his.  I entered but I didn’t win.  (No surprise there if you’re familiar with my luck)  You know what I wish John would do?  I wish he would have a contest and then the winner(s) of the contest get to come to his house, sit on the porch, drink sweet (very sweet) iced tea, snack on boiled peanuts, and just listen to John tell stories.  I’ve said this before but John has that old school, old soul, old traditional Southern way of telling stories.  And it translates perfectly to paper.


Google Hangouts and FB question and answer sessions are great ways to connect us with our favorite writers.  But imagine… just imagine a weekend in Mississippi immersed in the Southern culture, shooting the breeze on a slow Saturday afternoon with one of the most engaging storytellers writing today.  THAT would be something.  OK enough mindless meanderings from a book lover, back to your regularly scheduled life.  And reading.