Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: Dark and Deadly Things by Kelly Martin

It is a strange feeling in life to watch your ghost hunter of a father live on TV while eating popcorn next to your dead mother.

That’s not entirely true. It is a strange feeling to be sure and my mother is most assuredly dead. But she isn’t next to me. She’s across the room, standing between the old mahogany grandfather clock that needs to be dusted and the old cabinet television that belonged to my grandma in the eighties. It doesn’t work anymore, the television that is. Now the cabinet is used as a stand for the newer TV version, one that you don’t have to get up and change the channels on.

I watched them die. I watched them all die, and I could say nothing as my father was accused of the crime. Only he didn't do it. The black shadow did... only no one will ever believe me.

And then there is Abel Hale. His entire family died at the hand of the black shadow, and he thinks I can help him get revenge.

If I could do that, I'd already gotten it. As it is, I go with Abel because it is the easiest thing to do.

Nothing is ever easy.

Seeing ghosts is a curse, but Abel's curse is something I never expected, something I fear.... something I can never trust.

Only he's all I have.

And I'm the only thing standing between him and the truth.
Review: Rating- 5
I hate horror. I hate scary things. I hate being scared. I hate all things that go bump in the night or that flicker out of the side of your eye. I’m queen of being paranoid. I can’t enter a room without turning a light on first. I can’t go upstairs unless someone is with me. I think you get the picture.
Somehow, I don’t think any therapist worth his or her salt will believe me anyway.
I LOVE Dark and Deadly Things. It is scary and I did have to call my husband home from work just so I could finish reading it. However, it’s more than just scary, it’s brilliant, and written so well. This is Kelly Martin’s best book yet. Fans of the supernatural are going to devour this one.
The world won’t ever come into focus if I keep my eyes covered.
The story is of a girl, Elise, who can see ghosts. Her dad is a ghost hunter on TV and she used to be part of his team, but no longer helps him on his show. One night she watches her dad’s live televised showing of him hunting ghosts in a families haunted house and something goes terribly wrong, leaving a family torn apart. One of the son’s in that family, Abel, tracks Elise down and requests her help.
A soul is a soul, whether living or dead.
I’m purposely leaving this review vague, because the book needs to be read in itself, not in someone else’s review. It’s amazing, realistic, scary, and it’s hilarious. In the midst of all the crazy that goes on, Kelly Martin knows how to lighten the mood, to bring you back from that dark place.
Derek the Dick promptly doubles over, his hands grab what I assume is a very small package, and I’m sure he could sing soprano in The Phantom of the Opera right about now. Strange how my knee just suddenly rose up and hit him in the junk like that.
Pick up Dark and Deadly Things, grab your blankey, keep the lights on, and get ready for a wild crazy terrifying ride that you don’t want to miss out on.
Things happen, and we have to somehow find the strength to get through it and live our lives.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Heartless by Kelly Martin

Who is really the monster?
For 13 years, Gracen Sullivan dreamed about a red-eyed demon named Hart Blackwell who tortured her every night. Her mother freaked when she found out about her daughter's "hallucinations" and forced Gracen to go to the doctor, who prescribed some very powerful medication, which kept Hart out of her head for five years.

A week ago, Hart came back and brought a friend.
But something has changed, and Gracen is seeing Hart when she's awake too. And the other "friends" in her dreams? They have been found dead.
The police want to talk to her.
Her boyfriend has become distant.
Her dreams are becoming more and more intense.
Hell wants her.
Heaven has to stop her.
When push comes to shove, can Gracen fight the evil eating away inside her or will she be forced to embrace it and destroy the world.
Review by Patrick:

So I read/listened to this book and finished it exactly one year after Rachel did. Rachel purchased a copy of her audio book through Audible for me months ago and I just finished listening to it, and I'm looking forward for the next audio books. Kelly, I'm sorry this one took me so long to complete. I was busy, you know, like getting my CPA busy. But the wait is over, and my review is here.

Supernatural, Mystery, Heaven and Hell, Angels and Demons (and worse), Civil War, Family Drama, Lies and Betrayal, Suspense, Spells, Epic-Save-the-World-from-the-Bad-Guys theme, a little bit of love and conflicted emotions... This book has some of all of that. If you like just about anything in books, then pick this series up. You'll find something in there that you will like.

One of the things I found slightly irritating was the excessive soliloquies, where the character was thinking in their head (or sometimes having a conversation mentally, but... well that's okay). I mean, a normal person can't possibly have five or more separate thoughts after every line of dialogue in a conversation. I think this was more of a writing style of Kelly's than anything else, and it has its advantages. You really get the feel for what the characters 'feel' when exposed to new information. And in a sense we do have these emotional reactions during conversations, they just happen in the blink of an eye, and are not well thought out sentences in our head. That instant reaction to emotion is difficult to convey in a book without words, so it is very helpful in that regard. I think I was just not used to the writing style that she uses, and found it a slight distraction from the scenes in the book.

Julie Hinton was the narrator for the audio book. I've seen enough of Kelly's Facebook videos that I kind of know her voice. The first time I heard Julie Hinton start out in the first chapter of this book, I immediately thought, "Wow! She's reading it like Kelly would." She has that Southern drawl, which is perfectly fitting for the Southern characters. But she keeps her voices for characters different, distinct, and consistent. There is little higher praise than that for a book narrator.

The epilogue presents an obvious question: "How can Gracen be...?" Spoilers. Which, of course, is easily solved by reading the next book in the series. And one that I think I will, as soon as the audio book comes out. I'm looking forward to it. For now, this one gets 4 stars from me. Also, read Rachel's review as well. She has a slightly different take on the book (and recommends it higher than I do).

Keep reading, and may your dreams be Hartless.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

Do you have a grip on your business, or does your business have a grip on you?

All entrepreneurs and business leaders face similar frustrations—personnel conflict, profit woes, and inadequate growth. Decisions never seem to get made, or, once made, fail to be properly implemented. But there is a solution. It’s not complicated or theoretical. Based on years of real-world implementation in more than 100 companies, the Entrepreneurial Operating System® is a practical method for achieving the business success you have always envisioned.

In Traction, you’ll learn the secrets of strengthening the six key components of your business. You’ll discover simple yet powerful ways to run your company that will give you and your leadership team more focus, more growth, and more enjoyment. Successful companies are applying Traction every day to run profitable, frustration-free businesses—and you can too.

For an illustrative, real-world lesson on how to apply Traction to your business, check out its companion book, Get A Grip.
Review by Patrick:

Occasionally I don't just read fantasy and fiction. Every once in a while I get out a leadership book and see what someone else has said on the topic. This particular book came as a recommendation from my boss, and I have to say, it was a good recommendation.

This book was one that broke down "how to get where you want to go." It started with your big ideas, your dreams, and systematically got narrower and narrower until you got your head out of the clouds and you feet on the ground (where you had traction). It had great ideas for what to accomplish and when. My favorite idea were the rocks.

In addition to just breaking the ideas down, the author gives tools, big ones for each main idea, and supplementary tools to help enhance each main tool.

I also get the sense that Wickman actually has done this before. He gives his own business story, and countless stories of his clients who he helps through this process. These examples illustrate each point and help identify how to pull an idea together, what an exceptionally dedicated management team can accomplish, or show what happens when the team disregards the component.

Also, be realistic. You won't change your organization over night. As Wickman states, some over-zealous clients might get all components implemented in as little as six months, but some take up to three years. It takes time to change any one person's behavior, but changing how an organization thinks, reacts, and behaves takes time.

Great book. I can't wait to start implementing these ideas in my own organization. There are tips in here that seem so intuitive, but no one is doing them. I'm giving this book a high rating, because I think it really will help a lot of businesses and leaders.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

Narnia... where dwarfs are loyal and tough and strong—or are they... where you must say goodbye... and where the adventure begins again.

The Unicorn says that humans are brought to Narnia when Narnia is stirred and upset. And Narnia is in trouble now: A false Aslan roams the land. Narnia's only hope is that Eustace and Jill, old friends to Narnia, will be able to find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land. Their task is a difficult one because, as the Centaur says, "The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do." Who is the real Aslan and who is the imposter?

In the conclusion of the saga that began with The Magician's Nephew, a false Aslan is roaming Narnia, commanding everyone to work for the cruel Calormenes. Can Eustace and Jill find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land? The last battle is the greatest of all and the final struggle between good and evil.
Review by Patrick:

I didn't wait around to read this one. I wanted to get through it to say I finally read the series. So I did. I picked this one up every chance I got and read through it.

You know the old saying, all good things must come to an end. Well, that's true here as well, except it doesn't. And I'm not going to say more than that because... spoilers.

The story in this one was pretty good. It starts out in Narnia, instead of in the human's perspective. So that was a little odd, although similar to The Horse and His Boy. Eustace and Jill are once again the main human characters, but one of the things I love about this book is that it brings everyone back in and at least mentions them. All the humans, even Diggory and Polly. All the Narnians, even my favorite, Reepicheep. And of course, new characters to this story. We even get to meet the Calamenian god, Tash.

This book was wonderful. It described beautiful things in a way I've never imagined. I enjoyed the magic and mystery of it, and the eventual conclusion of Narnia itself. I think there was a wonderful and perfect transition from the beginning story of the book to the end, because once you got there, it was obvious that that would be how you got there... in complete bliss. And even though you had arrived, and were a little sad that you had left, you knew that everything was going to be okay in the end. Better than okay... perfect.

I'm really not sure what to think about this book. It was good, and it was certainly a conclusion. I don't know if it was the conclusion I wanted, but it was wonderful. If you've read the previous six, you must finish reading the series with this one. I'm going to give it 4 stars.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis

Narnia...where owls are wise, where some of the giants like to snack on humans (and, if carefully cooked, on Marsh-wiggles, too), where a prince is put under an evil spell...and where the adventure begins.

Eustace and Jill escape from the bullies at school through a strange door in the wall, which, for once is unlocked. It leads to the open moor...or does it? Once again Aslan has a task for the children, and Narnia needs them. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, they pursue the quest that brings them face to face with the evil Witch. She must be defeated if Prince Rilian is to be saved.
Review by Patrick:

Off the bat, this was another of those books that took me forever to finish. I don't just mean from when I reviewed The Voyage of the Dawn Treader until now. I mean that every time I've tried to read this series, I get stuck and put it down during this book. And I don't exactly understand why, either. This book had plenty of action and story to carry it. But even this time, I had put this book down, and didn't finish. I looked at it, and thought to myself, "I'm going to finish that book," and then I did within a few days. Maybe there is some magic in it that doesn't want you to finish it, but if you have the willpower, you can overcome it?

Eustace Scrubb makes another appearance in this book. He and a girl from his school are brought in by Aslan to solve another problem in Narnia. This time, Aslan sends them on a quest, with quite specific instructions. Of course, things never go as they should, people forget things, mistakes were made, and the optimist, Puddleglum (a marsh-wiggle), always shone a bright ray of hope (while expressing his belief that the worst was yet to come).

Interesting story, and good read. I liked it. I don't know why it took me so long to finish, and I'm looking forward to the next and last book of the series. 3 stars from me.