Thursday, December 26, 2013

Introducing... The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

This hands cannot do.

Even interlaced across a pregnant woman's stomach, even if the will that webs the fingers desires nothing more than to protect the unborn in her-- not even this is sufficient to form a barrier against the flash of light and a cloud that grows not into a mushroom, but rather into a thick tree with a dense plume; a tree to shame Odin's, a tree to make Adam cover the inadequacies of his, a tree even Shiva would stand back from in awe.

And bright.

-- The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani

TLC BOOK TOURS REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: The Survivalist Series by A. American

When TLC Book Tours presented the opportunity for me to read and review a survivalist series, I was intrigued. I've always been fascinated with survival skills. I have been ever since reading Cold River by William Judson as a kid. So I agreed to do this tour, hoping to recapture some of that excitement and fascination I had with Cold River.

This tour is to bring exposure to the entire Going Home series, but it is to shine a spotlight on the latest in the series Escaping Home in particular. I was provided the entire trilogy, but assured that I was only asked to read and review what I wanted or could in the time given. Well, I only made it through the first book. Here is my review:


When society ceases to exist, who can you trust? After the collapse of the nation’s power grid, America is under martial law, and safety is an illusion. As violence erupts and threatens those he loves, Morgan Carter must decide whether to stay and defend his home or move to a more isolated area, away from the government’s prying eyes. He and his family are reluctant to leave their beloved Lake County, but—after a spate of suspicious activities at a nearby refugee camp—all signs point toward leaving. Still, Morgan and his friends aren’t going to go without a fight—and they’ll do anything to protect their freedoms.

Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 30th 2013 by Plume
ISBN 0142181293 (ISBN13: 9780142181294)

About the Author

A. American has been involved in prepping and survival communities since the early 1990s. An avid outdoorsman, he has spent considerable time learning edible and medicinal plants and their uses as well as primitive survival skills. He currently resides in North Carolina on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest with his wife of more than twenty years and his three daughters. He is the author of Going Home and Surviving Home.

My Thoughts
This had been a good week.
Well, don't get too comfortable there, Morgan. Things are gonna go downhill from here.

Morgan is a "prepper". His life is all about preparing for the worst, in order to make sure his family is cared for in the event of an emergency that has people cut off from government assistance and  surviving by their own means. While he is away from home on business, everything computerized suddenly falls dead. And, of course, these days that is just about everything that runs on electricity and a lot of things that run on gas, including all newer cars. It appears that something like an EMP or solar flare fried all computer chips, and Morgan is hundreds of miles from home.

Now why a prepper like Morgan is driving a newer car and not an old one with a carburetor, I don't know. I would expect more of a serious prepper. But driving a car that could be disabled by a major event like an EMP he is, and now he has to get home to his wife and kids. Along the way he meets a number of characters that will likely become lifelong trusted friends. 

Having known a couple of prepper-types myself, there are a few traits that I have found common among preppers. First is a certain smugness, believing that they are privy to something you are not. Another (also common among conspiracy theorists, who are often one and the same with preppers) is the idea that they are so “special” (so smart, so fascinating, so important, so dangerous) that there is a spotlight shining on them making them viewed as an obvious threat to the government. I had a friend who got so paranoid and distrusting of the government that he started to think the helicopters flying overhead were looking to inhibit the personal freedom of people like him (not that it was perhaps just a news or medical helicopter, or a police chopper looking for a bank robber or something. There was always something dark and sinister about the chopper flying overhead.) So this book is no different. I felt that same smugness emanating from the pages.

Now as far as the story goes, I had a really hard time with it in the beginning. Within the first 50 pages, I considered putting the book down and not even finishing it. The constant minutea of Morgan's everyday existence is tedious. Page after page of stoves, knives, food preparation, night vision goggles, all of the supplies he’s carrying and what he is doing with all of it throughout the day. How much things cost at the store, and how much change he gets back from the clerk. Bodily functions, etc. It’s non-stop and I found it mind-numbing. 

But then the story began to pick up, and the tediousness of daily activities became more minor to the story, and I found a reason to keep reading. 

However I also found myself really uncomfortable with all of the stereotypes in the book, particularly early on.
“There was a little Indian guy behind the counter, dot not feather.” (p. 14)

“I glanced over and saw four of them moving in my direction. Then one of them called, “Hey, white boy, where you goin’?”

...Four of them were coming across the parking lot toward me; all of them were wearing hoodies.” (pg. 26)

“Walking into the store, it was like the millions of other independent little stores around the country. There was an Indian couple behind the counter…” (pg. 36)

“The truck lurched to a stop, and two guys that looked like characters out of some bad hillbilly movie climbed out.” (pg. 37)
I just found myself sort of cringing, my skin crawling, everytime I read another of these passages. Again, this is one of the things that made me consider putting the book down, but then it settled down after the first 50 pages.

I realized while reading this book that I now understand what Simon Cowell meant on American Idol when he would say that someone’s song choice was “self-indulgent”. That was how this felt to me. It was like when I am self-indulgent in my writing. When I try to write, I fill the story with little details that most people would be bored with, and tedious actions and minutea, and with personal indulgences like favorite songs or poems. My dialogue tends to be tiresome and awkward, because I know the feeling that I want to relay through the words, but I'm not effective in the execution. My own writing is very self-indulgent, and that is really how this author writes as well.

This reminded me of the Left Behind series. It is an educational lesson and purportedly prophetic warnings presented in a fictional story. I find this format can sometimes bug me even while it is interesting.
My final word: This is a novel written for other preppers. The average person would be so bored reading about Nalgene bottles and Merrell shoes and packs with Alice straps, and what MRE is being eaten every day. Again, I really do understand this indulgence. I got bogged down in the same tedium when writing my own story. I’m interested in all of those little details in my own story, because I'm living it through those details, But then the story winds up full of such details that can bore everyone but the most avid enthusiast.

The story can get very immature and juvenile at times, with rampant vulgarity, juvenile jokes and crass talk. It is written for men and teenage boys and those seriously interested in the prepper lifestyle and why they do it. I had a hard time getting through the first 50 pages, but in the end I would probably read the other books in the series, just to find out what happens with Morgan and the others.

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

Cover: A-
Writing Style: C
Characters: B-
Storyline/Plot: B
Interest/Uniqueness: B

My Rating:

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and publisher Plume, I have a set of the entire trilogy to giveaway to one reader. This giveaway is open to anyone with a US and Canadian address. Just use the entry form below to enter.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Monday, December 2nd:  She Treads SoftlyEscaping Home
Tuesday, December 3rd:  The Blue Collar Prepper
Wednesday, December 4th:  The Apartment Prepper’s Blog
Friday, December 6th:  The Prepper Journal
Saturday, December 7th:  Back Door Survival
Monday, December 9th:  Florida Hillbilly
Monday, December 9th:   Being 5
Tuesday, December 10th:  Reviews from the Heart  - Going Home
Wednesday, December 11th:  The Weekend PrepperGoing Home
Thursday, December 12th:  Cheryl’s Book Nook
Friday, December 13th:  Reviews from the Heart - Surviving Home
Monday, December 16th:  The Prepared Ninja
Wednesday, December 18th:  The Weekend PrepperSurviving Home
Thursday, December 19th:  Reviews from the HeartEscaping Home
Friday, December 20th:  Sweet Southern Home
Monday, December 23rd:  The Weekend Prepper - Escaping Home
Thursday, December 26th:  Cerebral Girl in a Redneck Girl
Monday, December 30th:  Mental Foodie
TBD:  Prepography

And don't forget about the other books in the series.  Surviving Home was released earlier in 2013...

...and the author's latest Escaping Home, third in the series, was just released.


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Introducing...The Troop by Nick Cutter

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...


The boat skipped over the waves, the drone of its motor trailing across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The moon was a bone fishhook in the clear October sky.

-- The Troop by Nick Cutter

Saturday, December 14, 2013

ARTICLE SHARING: Dean Koontz interview

BookPage has an interesting article with prolific author Dean Koontz this month, where he talks about writing, his sociopathic father's attempt to kill him, and his mother communicating with him from the grave. Check it out!

Friday, December 13, 2013

QUICK REVIEW: Red Sky in Morning by Paul Lynch


It's 1832 and Coll Coyle has killed the wrong man. The dead man's father is an expert tracker and ruthless killer with a single-minded focus on vengeance. The hunt leads from the windswept bogs of County Donegal, across the Atlantic to the choleric work camps of the Pennsylvania railroad, where both men will find their fates in the hardship and rough country of the fledgling United States.

Language and landscape combine powerfully in this tense exploration of life and death, parts of which are based on historical events. With lyrical prose balancing the stark realities of the hunter and the hunted, RED SKY IN MORNING is a visceral and meditative novel that marks the debut of a stunning new talent.

My Thoughts
Night sky was black and then there was blood, morning crack of light on the edge of the earth. The crimson spill sent the bright stars to fade, hills stepping out of shadow and clouds finding flesh. First rain of day from a soundless sky and music it made of the land. The trees let slip the mantle of darkness, stretched themselves, fingers of leaves shivering in the breeze, red then goldening rays of light catching. The rain stopped and he heard the birds wake. They blinked and shook their heads and scattered song upon the sky. The land, old and tremulous, turned slowly towards the rising sun.
I got nervous with this first paragraph, with its rather ostentatious narration that had me second-guessing my decision to review this book. However I am happy to say that, while this story remained highly narrative, it settled down with all the pomp and circumstance.

Coll kills a man and goes on the run, leaving behind his pregnant wife and family. This story primarily follows his escape and time on the lam.

Occasionally I got confused over who the narrator was, as it kept changing perspectives. It would just say “she”, and I’d have to try and figure out who “she” was.

There are some other characters beside Coll, but he is the main one. His wife Sarah is barely mentioned, but I did like the way she was described as having "a face built for sadness".

The writing was so stilted that it read like one of those movie scenes of chaotic imagery, flashing from one scene to another with very little dialogue.

This book reminded me of “The Wake of Forgiveness” by Bruce Machart, I recognize that this novel is well-crafted, but I found myself a bit bored at times. As stated earlier, it is primarily a narrative novel, and I enjoy dialogue.

My final word: There is a fair bit of vulgarity, but it stays true to the Irish culture and characters. I didn't really like Coll. There were few times that I really viewed him as a vulnerable and likable man...
“...til he could shake no more and he lay there sodden in the moist arms of grief…”
...but most of the time he was just a selfish coward. Overall I liked this story, but it was a little slow for me.

My Rating: B


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.