River's Edge Press
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
0780615644066 $2.99 www.authorjckelly.com
What happens when the world runs out of cheap oil?
This question has been reviewed in many nonfiction titles that construct "what if" scenarios and many a fiction apocalyptic novel; but few are as powerfully rendered as OIL SLAVE, which begins with a bang and proves impossible to put down: "Last night, the sun went down on our way of life. It sank into the hills, and the scorched hills whimpered as the thieves came out to loot."
The protagonist immersed in chaos is one Valerie Pushem, who has been drafted into a new military unit and is protected by her government status as she travels around a changed America on assignments that eventually lead her to realize her government's real intentions during the crisis.
Resource shortages are changing the nation with prolonged blackouts leading to chaos and disruption and increasing government involvement in regulating and protecting citizen lives. Valerie enjoys the return to simplicity and likes being forced out of routines - but is one of the first to be called into federal service as a Special Charge Police officer; there to represent the government and help keep peace and enforce security.
In the course of her duties she uncovers a deeper threat: one to the values of equality and liberty that once made America strong, and which have eroded along with the oil reserves that once powered a free nation. As she reveals thinning lines between slavery and work and fair treatment and forced labor for a greater good, Valerie finds her initial ideals and appreciation of a simpler life are unfounded, and becomes even more uneasy with her role working for the government's SCPO unit.
Her search for rebel hideouts bears fruit, but also reveals an underlying reality to the energy crisis that threatens the entire democratic system she holds dear.
Ultimately her attraction to the military, to government purposes and perspectives, and to her own sense of loyalty and duty are called into question: "If the lights were to go out permanently, I would not be erased from existence. These old-fashioned practices of the military continued to appeal to me as I liked the simplicity of papers and pens and the reek of history ... Joe and I were made to be soldiers. In order to fulfill our roles we had to set aside compassion and focus on our missions. But then they changed the rules of the game and redefined what it was to be a worthy human."
In striking contrast to other apocalyptic novels about the end of resources, OIL SLAVE is largely about changes and challenges to freedom, social change, morals and ethics, and government versus personal interests. Any looking for more than a simple survival account will find OIL SLAVE a solid pick: vivid, exciting, and packed with moral and political reflection lacking in most competing apocalyptic novels.
Five Versus Five
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477465899 $9.99 www.amazon.com
In 1990 a government experiment with a clandestine drug fails, and all participants are eliminated. Except for one. Amy is sixteen and a normal teen in most respects; but when she enters a competition with one million pounds going to the winner, a latent power is uncovered that will change her life and test the boundaries of friendship, ethics, morality and survival.
Five Versus Five is reminiscent of The Hunger Games, in that competition becomes linked to survival. It's also about a girl's blossoming powers, stormy emotions, and how these feelings tie in to a more insidious underlying ability that is blossoming within her.
The first chapters are replete with typical teen angst: Amy has a bone to pick with just about everyone, is prone to flying off the handle, and experiences the usual emotional problems with just about everyone in her life - with a difference. A dark voice within her is prompting her to violence, and is winning. As Amy begins to respond to confrontation with an almost inhuman strength and innate fighting instinct, she slowly comes to acknowledge that her blackouts, the voices in her head, and her impossible reactions to fighting are beyond the norm.
Soon Amy finds her own father and close associates are involved in a truly dangerous game: a secret group of assassins have made Amy into a killer - and want her to join their purpose. Love, hate and warfare begin to mix as Amy's key relationships, from her father to Jesse, Jake, Cot, and others, all reveal underlying secrets and purposes. And a training program will either help her to control her powers or will hone them so that she becomes something dangerous and deadly.
Chapters packed with drama and action follow Amy into a dark world as she enters the game of her life: a game that will determine her future interests and where her latent talents will develop.
Romance and violence entwine as Amy faces some of the hardest decisions of her life: decisions that will determine the course of her existence or end it.
Riveting and fast-paced, FIVE VERSUS FIVE is a recommended read for young adult and adult readers alike - with the note that there are periods of graphic violence throughout, making it a pick for mature readers.
Five Versus Five
Out of the Shadow
Amazon Digital Publishing
Any reader interested in compelling mysteries will find OUT OF THE SHADOW a powerful read, telling of one Becca Rosen, who survives a rape and just wants to move on with life. The only trouble is: she's being stalked by a psychopath who has a different agenda for her, and the police are convinced she's faking the rape to get away with her husband's murder.
Desperate, Becca hires a psychotherapist to help her handle the flashbacks and nightmares that are plaguing her -- only to find that hypnotherapy is peeling back some dangerous layers of memory even as three men, new in her life, may not be as they seem.
Her search for support and understanding from her mother falls short, her involvements with men seem confused and filled with possible danger, and as Becca faces her innermost fears, outward threats and perils rise to haunt her anew.
Becca's realization of her childhood traumas and their affect on her adult perceptions and choices makes for a moving account that gently weaves within it a concurrent mystery revolving around Becca's husband's death and her own experiences of violence.
When Becca's best friend Angela is threatened, Becca must pull out all stops to help her; even confronting her own repressed memories to get to the bottom of why she's become involved in a deadly game.
First- and third-person perspectives alternate in a series of twists and turns that offer a stunning conclusion to a story replete with intrigue and deceptions.
Like the layers of an onion, OUT OF THE SHADOW peels away personalities, motivations, underlying motives, and dark, long-hidden secrets that immerse a circle of people in a web of dangerous associations.
The conclusion is riveting, unexpected, and as satisfying as the rising psychological suspense which begins from the first page and ends with a bang.
The Devil Dancers
Hot Monkey Publishing
ASIN: B005KDFWP0 $4.90
Ceylon in the mid-1950s was a pivotal time, with forces erupting that would challenge and change the country's direction, ultimately creating a 25-year civil war that would become a way of life for many. While The Devil Dancers is a historical novel about these events, it's replete with cultural and political observations grounded in fact, and will prove a rich read for any interested in complex, detailed historical accounts.
But the entire 25-year period of civil war isn't the focus: it's just the background, here. At the heart of The Devil Dancers are six main protagonists and a host of tertiary figures who move deftly in and out of each others' lives over a four-year period.
From a Prime Minister indebted to a powerful Buddhist abbot for his political position to a former monk and revolutionary's encounter with a woman who could help him forget his past, this novel is packed with insights into the violence and conflict that are imbedded in social and political change.
The involvement and evolution of romance, spirituality, and family dynamics in the fabric of a society that is unraveling makes The Devil Dancers a multi-faceted and complex read that will demand of readers the ability to appreciate both historical setting and the mingled and changing fortunes of peoples from very different social strata.
One might anticipate from all this that The Devil Dancers would be ponderous and difficult to read: not so! From the first paragraph readers (even those unfamiliar with Ceylon history and politics) will be drawn into the landscape and flavors of the country: "9 a.m. The sun is already at its height, the air humid and thick. In the street below, morning has erupted, an explosion of noise, colour and heat. Watched by a crowd of eager customers, a man on the pavement is cooking hoppers on a charcoal stove. The aroma of food wafts under the noses of passers-by, a humble reminder of life's pleasures. A pedlar lurches past, strings of clashing saucepans strapped to his back like fish scales. Shoppers haggle shrilly with traders; neighbours shout greetings from doorways; bicycle bells trill urgently as riders dodge pedestrians and animals. Like dragonflies, women in jewel-coloured saris dart through the crowd, hovering around market stalls before disappearing in a flash of blue or green."
Fictional characters interact freely with figures from historical record, the motivations and failings of a range of protagonists are included in descriptions filled with psychological and social insights, and T. Thurai's writing imparts information deftly in a manner that assumes no prior familiarity with Ceylonese culture or history: ""There are plenty of other parasites in this country: people in positions of authority, who will resist change, who want power only for themselves. That is bad for Ceylon.""
The theme of a nation being slowly reborn is carried through each protagonist, who finds himself or herself reborn in the transformative process of a nation inching towards new options.
Especially notable are moment-by-moment descriptions of two ethnic groups dividing the nation, which move from political to personal circles as the Tamils and Sinhalese destroy neighbors and former friends, creating barriers of violence and uncertainty through which new relationships and friendships navigate like ships gone awry. Individuals with no political connections find even family relationships move from uncertain to dangerous: "Using her stick as a scythe, Manju swipes at a tall arum lily, severing its head from the stem. She does not have the luxury of choosing between her children, indulging her whims as to which she finds acceptable and which not, abandoning one and favouring another. By her efforts alone, the family has stayed together. Until now."
How such deep wounds heal and how such deep rifts eventually result in the reunification of individuals, community and country lends to a powerful saga of love, violence, and perseverance, recommended for any lending library strong in historical fiction.
Inside the Beijing Olympics
Author Jeff Ruffolo isn't just another reporter coming from 'the outside' reporting the events surrounding the Beijing Olympics: he was the only American in the senior management team of the 2008 Summer Olympics, and here provides a first-person account of his experiences and how he arrived at his unique position with the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee from his job as an Olympic broadcaster.
There were no predecessors to follow in his journey to Beijing -- and plenty of political, social and cultural barriers to field single-handedly. In fact, as explained in the introduction, Ruffolo never wanted to write this book, either. It took looming unemployment to force him to put pen to paper to write about his Beijing experiences; and once he did, the book blossomed to what you see here.
This isn't your usual scandal sheet about the Chinese, not a critical survey of their policies and politics, and not intended as a light leisure expose or read: those seeking such elements will be disappointed.
Instead, it's so much more: an open, honest assessment of experiences at the Beijing Olympics and the hard-working action taking place behind the scenes, exposing routines and decisions the general public seldom hears about, even with all the front-line reporting about China and the Olympics teams.
Ruffolo's assessment of the Chinese people as a whole is enthusiastic, candid, and captivating: "As the sole American given the title and position of Senior Expert for the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, I personally saw the greatness of the Chinese people which was clearly evident during the most majestic Olympic Games ever." It's also in honest, refreshing contrast to those who don't even think about China without preconceived notions and a critical perspective.
Unlike others who have journeyed to China and then wrote about it, Ruffolo actually moved there and gave his heart and soul to interacting with the country. His enthusiasm and admiration for the Chinese people is unbridled and refreshing: "Having first travelled here in 1999 and then moving here full time in the Spring of 2007 to work for BOCOG, I have focused my life (and this book) on the positive rather than the negative. To have this "once in a lifetime" position at BOCOG, I left everything behind in America to come to China and work for these Olympic Games."
So what events encouraged a card-carrying Republican to accept a job in China? Unemployment and opportunity led Ruffolo on an unexpected journey:" ... today through books, magazine articles or TV networks (including today's 24-hour cable news networks) the media elite in the United States constantly hammer out either an ambivalent or generally negative posture about the People's Republic. And when it came for me to make a personal decision to say either yes or no to working for the Chinese government and its largest airline, China Southern, it was an easy decision for this card-carrying Republican. I said yes in a heartbeat. I was starving."
Chapters are explicit about the process of journeying to China, preconceptions and surprises encountered once there, and provide insights on Chinese etiquette and business which will prove essential to any business reader new to interactions with the Chinese: "Let's say that you are at a formal dinner. The Chinese always conduct business at dinner because they feel they can speak freely and relaxed away from the office. This is why the Chinese always take a walk during lunch. It is not necessarily because they want the exercise. By taking a walk outside the office, they feel free from prying eyes. That makes it nearly impossible for anyone else to listen to what someone walking down a busy city street might say. This gives the boss the freedom to talk about any subject without possible future recrimination. So, at dinner it is critical where you are seated. The boss will always take the prime seat at the table. When you approach the table, the boss will ALWAYS tell you where to sit."
The focus is as much on understanding the Chinese point of view as it is about the Beijing Olympics, which are the focus of explaining and celebrating China's achievements and approaches.
From ongoing issues with security and clearance to Ruffolo's navigation of barriers to participating in the Beijing Olympics' management, this is packed with eye-opening insights, rare interactions and encounters, and accounts of journalism challenges along the way.
In short, ANY reader who would understand not just Olympics management but the cultural, media and business world processes that make up China MUST read this eye-opening account, which is as lively and engrossing as it is educational and insightful.
The Accidental Caregiver: How I Met, Loved, and Lost Legendary Holocaust Refugee Maria Altmann
9780985865405 $14.99 pbk.
9780985865412 $2.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
www.TheAccidentalCaregiver.com (please be advised there is a special 'bonus video' section on site where people who buy the book will be sent free video of Maria and Gregor Collins about town.)
Gregor Collins spent years in reality TV and as an actor, appearing on E! Entertainment, and saw successes in his career until everything came to a sudden standstill and unemployment reared its ugly head. An acting class taken during the lull jump-started his career back up, and led him to new and unexpected adventures - especially the one recounted in his memoir THE ACCIDENTAL CAREGIVER.
When he moved back into acting, becoming a caregiver for an old woman was the furthest thing from his mind. It was his acting friend Tom who answered a Craigslist ad to become a caregiver to an elderly European woman - and who leaned on Gregor to meet his new charge.
In January 2008 he's beginning to solidify his disillusionment with the acting industry:"There's an emptiness inside me, a fear that nothing will ever work out and that I'll be a loser the rest of my life. The glamor in this business is a myth."
His friend Tom is urging him to become a part-time caregiver to his charge Maria - and so he gives in and finds himself instantly infatuated with her - and accepting the position of caregiver despite having absolutely no experience.
Collins provides candid, lovely assessments that ring with honesty and vivid color: "Her inflection and choice of words are a blend of Julia Child and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. When she speaks it's like a rollercoaster whipping around a track - up and down and side to side - and then her sentences always ends on this impossibly delightful up note. She's a human songbird."
As he gets to know his new charge he discovers this woman in her nineties holds a vivid and unparalleled account of Nazi Germany - and his caregiving duties become a journey of discovery as he delves into her life and experiences and comes up with more life meaning and insights than all his struggles with Hollywood have given him.
Romance, passion, historical insights, acting world conflicts - all meld into a story of caregiving and discovery which is riveting and hard to put down: "Ernest Hemingway said, "Nothing good gets away." But how do I know if what I haven't yet achieved is what I should still be fighting for? So many questions, so little answers. But the truth is always in the now. And the now includes Maria. And that's all that matters."
Collins' journey will take him to Europe where he will explore Maria's past and walk in her footsteps through her old haunts, it will take him to the present, with his own struggles with identity, acting, and self, and it ultimately brings the reader along on a journey to inspect life's meaning and the impact two very different individuals from very different worlds will have upon one another.
Perhaps best of all, THE ACCIDENTAL CAREGIVER shows that age has no boundaries when it comes to love and meaningful influences in life; ultimately celebrating not only Maria's life, but the possibilities of and magic inherent in saying 'yes' to something different and unexpected
It's a celebration of life - and is a joyful read recommended for a wide audience.