Archive for May, 2011

Author Rick Chesler talks about his new release.

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Author: Rick Chesler

First of all, thanks to for having me on their blog! I’m here to discuss my latest thriller novel, kiDNApped, out now from Chalet Publishers in both e-book and paperback editions. kiDNApped has been described as either a technothriller or “science thriller” because it incorporates elements of science and technology upon which key plot points hinge. Here’s the back cover description from the book:

A priceless biotechnology, an FBI agent, and an unspeakable act of familial betrayal collide in a tropical kidnapping more twisted than a DNA double helix.

When a renowned scientist with a solution for global warming is kidnapped at sea, FBI Special Agent Tara Shores must unravel a high-tech trail of S.O.S. messages encoded into the DNA of living cells. As each decoded message brings Tara nearer to the missing genius, it also takes her farther from help than she ever thought possible.

A lot of readers have asked me, “is that real?” Referring, of course, to the biotechnology featured in the novel where messages are coded into the DNA of bacteria. The answer is yes! A Japanese group, led by Masaru Tomita of Keio University, wrote four copies of Einstein’s formula, E=mc2, along with “1905,” the date that he derived it, into the bacterium’s genome, the string of A’s, G’s, T’s and C’s that determine everything the bug is and will ever be. The inspiration for the scientific core of the story in kiDNApped is two-fold:

1. That DNA can be used as a data storage medium, in essentially the same way that you can store characters on a magnetic disc. This is based on real life scientific research that has been published for several years now. In fact, at the end of kiDNApped, I list these papers in a Suggestions for Further reading section for those readers who would like to know more about the science behind the story.

2. The real life work of Dr. J. Craig Venter was also an inspiration to some degree, especially his tropical ocean expedition to collect genes from marine microbes. There is a link to his work at the end of the book (literally, with the Kindle version, which I think is a cool feature of e-books).

But cutting-edge science and technology aside, at the core of kiDNApped lies a rip-roaring contemporary adventure tale about an FBI agent in pursuit of a missing scientist. Set in the islands of Hawaii, where I lived for five years, the story is an island-hopping romp through some of the most beautiful terrain on the planet.

Also worth mentioning is that kiDNApped is the second in a series of thrillers, the first of which was Wired Kingdom, which also features FBI Special Agent Tara Shores. That novel deals with some completely different areas of science and technology, and is also available now as an e-book or in paperback. A third Tara Shores thriller is now in the works, and will be titled SOLAR ISLAND.

I’d be happy to answer any questions or comments you may have in the comments section of this blog, or you may visit my website at

Find more science fiction/ thriller books of this kind over here

Author Cynthia Chapman talks about her Books

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Author: Cynthia Chapman Willis

Have you ever loved a dog or shared a part of your life with a special pet? The relationships between people and animals can be fascinating, wonderful, sometimes heartbreaking, and often healing. In my novel, Dog Gone (Square Fish, a division of Macmillan), I explore the relationship between a girl and her dog, both mourning the loss of someone that they love. In Buck Fever (Feiwel and Friends, a division of Macmillan), I explore another kind of bond–that between a boy and a wild animal he is supposed to hunt.

In Dog Gone, my first novel, twelve-year-old Dill (short for Dylan) is coping with the loss of her mom. In addition, Dill needs to figure out what to do about her beloved dog, Dead End. He keeps disappearing and returning home covered in nasty stains and smells. Dill worries that Dead End has become a part of a pack of local dogs that are terrorizing and killing the livestock of farmers in the community. If Dead End is traveling with this pack, he is in danger. Dill’s dad, struggling with his own mourning, will not put up with a misbehaving dog. And the sheriff has vowed to put a stop to this pack. So, how far will Dill and her good friend, a boy named Cub, go to uncover the truth about Dead End while Dill tries to hold together her family, which seems to be falling apart?

In Buck Fever, Joey MacTagert’s dad wants his son to use his special skills to carry on the family tradition of hunting. However, Joey hates the idea of killing animals. He is much more interested in hockey and drawing. To make matters worse, Joey has, through his love of drawing, gained the trust of a legendary local deer, called Old Buck, by spending time in the woods sketching this animal. This is the very deer that Joey’s father wants his son to shoot. Joey wants to make his father proud, but how, he wonders, can he point his rifle at Old Buck? As Joey struggles with this, trouble escalates. Joey decides to try and conquer his fear–his buck fever–for his dad. Unfortunately, trying to be something he is not has consequences for Joey.

Although Dog Gone explores the often grim reality of canine pack instincts, and Buck Fever deals with some of the harsh realities of hunting, these novels also celebrate the devotion between people and the animals that they care about. In these relationships, there is often healing.

Author Biography:

Cynthia Chapman Willis is the author of middle-grade novels for children. She wrote Dog Gone, for ages 8-14, before, during, and after her commute to her job as a writer and editor of elementary school Reading textbooks and associated materials for children. Dog Gone, based on a dog Cynthia and her family had when she was growing up in New Jersey, was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “satisfying, appealing . . . a well-told story, spiced with humor and facts on animal care.” And, “Willis, an author to watch, keeps the narrative tightly focused on Dill and her resistance to facing her grief.” Publishers Weekly described Buck Fever, Cynthia’s second middle grade novel, for ages 9 to 14, as “. . . a satisfying novel.

Discover some  more interesting children’s books of this kind here:

Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a fantastic, fiction novel capable of amusing readers with its timeless love story, exciting writing style and incredible science fiction context. The novel has characters that you will love, a unique concept and structure.

Henry DeTamble is a librarian who travels involuntarily through time. A genetic mutation causes him to spontaneously travel through time, disappearing from view, leaving behind his clothes and possessions and arriving naked in another time and place. It is a curse for Henry who often has to turn to petty crime to feed and clothe himself and run from people, thugs and police. When Henry returns to his present time, he brings with himself the bodily injuries he has suffered back with him. Sometimes he travels back in time and visits an earlier version of himself. The place that he often visits is the meadow behind Clare’s house where he meets her during her younger years and she falls in love with him.

The Time Traveler is not an average time travel fantasy involving a machine and scientists eagerly trying to explore the space time continuum. It is a heartfelt love story of two people who must live with this curse. The novel pushes on philosophical questions of meaning and purpose.

Ms. Niffenegger describes the world so realistically that the readers will find themselves believing that some people are actually plagued with involuntary time travel. Each section begins with the date and the ages of the main characters and sometimes when there is more than one version of Henry is present, then multiple dates are mentioned. This is the best thing about this novel that the story is told from two different perspectives. This way we can see Clare’s fear every time Henry leaves and how his actions in the past or future affect her life in real time and to see Henry’s struggles to cope with his “illness” while trying to remain safe and keep the secrets that he shouldn’t reveal to anyone.

This is one of the most interesting and powerful book that is destined to captivate readers for years to come.

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

Water for Elephants will make you fall in love with the very interesting and well developed characters of the novel. It offers a well- researched glimpse into the circus life during the Great Depression. The pages of the novel are burst with rich descriptions and action. Readers will be drawn into the world of ringmasters, elephants and sideshows. They will also experience the world of nursing homes and old age.

As the novel begins Jacob is an old man in an assisted living home. His memories are sparked by a nearby visiting church and a creeping helplessness that assaults his aging body. As the older Jacob fights to survive the indignities of old age, he recounts the story of his life with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular show on Earth. After his parent’s untimely death in a car accident, the 23 year old grief stricken Jacob robbed of home and future jumped onto a passing train and entered a world of freaks, drifters, misfits and a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression. Jacob hires on to the care for the show’s menagerie as he was a veterinary student who had almost earned his degree.

The novel addresses the often unscrupulous practices of a traveling circus, the rowdy atmosphere and the antiseptic corridors of the assisted living home. Readers view all this through Jacob’s perspective as he rages helplessly against the decrepitude of old age and the secrets of the past.

Gruen researched circuses and animal behavior extensively before writing this book. Her careful work manifests itself in writing that is descriptive and easy to read.

Five Books that Every Student Must Read

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

Here is a list of five books that every student should read. Though the list of such books seems to be endless but I personally recommend these books because of the plot and the themes that authors talk upon through them. Readers are invited to share with us the name of any other book that they believe will fit into this category.

1.To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee-0099549484: The book tells us the story of Scout and Jem’s childhood in Alabama and how a series of events shook their innocence, shaped their character and taught them about human race. This novel is a great source of discussion about themes, character development, plot development and many other issues that touch on the lives of the students.

2.The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon-1841154938: An epic novel depicting two Jewish boy’s aspirations to create comic books in 1940’s and save one of their families from Nazis. The book works on so many different levels. It has the thrill, action and pacing of a comic book yet also has beautiful language, memorable characters and moving, non-manipulative drama of the finest literary novel. It is rare to see excitement, sadness, history, and humor mix so seamlessly together.

3. Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton-1433213680: The novel tells us the story of a Zulu priest in South Africa, whose son has been arrested for murder. The priest accidentally meets the father of the man his son has killed. This book is the story of these two fathers. The story can teach children about violence, race issues and the results of acting without thinking.

4.Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin-0141034262: This is the story of Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer who tried to climb Pakistan’s K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Though he failed to reach the peak but the attempt led him to build schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is an inspirational tale that students must read. The book will also educate children about the culture in the Middle East.

5.The Life of Pi by Yann Martel-0156030209: This is a fantasy novel that describes a boy stranded on a boat in the Pacific, with a host of zoo animals including a tiger and hyena. Martel’s elegant and beautiful prose throughout make it a good read for students. Spirituality does indeed play a major role in the pre- life boat segment of the book and as told in the novel’s prologue this story will really make you believe in God.

Book Review:The Things they Carried by Tim O Brien

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

Both a war memoir and a writer’s autobiography, ‘The things they carried’ is a collection of interrelated stories. Being a war story,there are some truly disturbing, graphic and violent scenes.But readers will also find haunting, funny , surreal or ironic scenes. According to the publisher of the book the book is ‘a work of fiction’ and in no real sense can it be considered a novel. The author complicates the presentation of the story by creating a fictional protagonist who shares his name. Readers should remember that this book is a fictional work rather than a conventional non fictional, historical account.

While this book is a complete and cohesive work of art, many of its component stories could stand alone as independent pieces of literature. However, this book is classified; it is and will remain a profoundly moving masterpiece.

The protagonist Tim O’ Brien is a middle aged writer and a Vietnam War veteran. His primary role in the book is remembering his past and reworking the details of these memories of his service in Vietnam into meaning.  Through a series of linked stories, O’ Brien illuminates the characters of the men with whom he served and draws meaning about the war from meditations on their relationships. Visceral, haunting, provoking and gripping—these stories will rip into you. By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, O’ Brien places ‘The things they carried’ high upon the list of best fiction about any war.

Book Review: Just Kids by Patti Smith

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

Just Kids is a tenderly evocative memoir by Patti Smith and a haunted elegy for both her soul mate Robert Mapplethorpe and a lost New York City. Patti Smith tells us that fame didn’t come easily to her at all, but only after a lifetime’s immersion in the “radiance of imagination”, a childhood fueled by books and Sunday school, poetry and prayer and pop music.

Ms. Smith tells us how a sight of a swan produced a transcendent moment of being: “The swan became one with the sky . . . and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passersby, my mother, the trees, or the clouds.” Ms. Smith was a precocious reader who was often punished by her teachers for day dreaming. She worked in a toy factory when she was a teenager and slept on a cot in the laundry room of her parent’s house in South Jersey. She writes of becoming pregnant at 19 in New Jersey, giving up her baby and heading to New York for a fresh start. In the Brooklyn city she discovers that her friends with whom she had intended to stay had moved away but fate introduced Ms. Smith to Mapplethorpe.

Ms. Smith and Mapplethorpe soon became roommates, soul mates, friends, lovers and muses. They were never starving artists in a garret but the romanticism and myth making of “Just Kids” and their tenancy in the tiniest room at the Chelsea Hotel, brought them pretty close to that ideal. She enshrines her early days with Mapplethorpe this way “We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed.” They went to museum together where they were able to afford only one ticket. The one who saw the exhibition would describe it to the one who waited outside. They loved the same totems and ornaments, valued the same things though in different ways.

Smith’s memoir of their friendship, Just Kids, is tender and artful that begins and ends with the phone call that tells her of the death of Mapplethorpe (sleeping youth cloaked in light) who shared her transit from obscurity to stardom without sacrificing their vision along the way.

Book Review: The Unbroken:A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

Laura Hillenbrand, author of the bestselling novel ‘Seabiscuit’ tells the true and inspiring personal tale of redemption and resilience of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes that are too incredible to be believed.

The Unbroken is the story of Louie Zamperini-a juvenile delinquent turned Olympic runner turned Army hero. The swiftly moving story takes the reader from Zamperini’s early beginnings, his swift rise to track star, the Berlin Olympics and then to the World war. This is where the story really blooms.

During a routine search mission over the Pacific Ocean, Louie’s plane crashes into the ocean and after that what happens to him over the next three years of his life is a story that will grip you, draw you in and keep you glued to the pages. The author tells the story as a nearly continuous flow of suspense. She opens with a gripping two page glimpse of Zamperini in mortal danger lying on a raft in the Pacific on June 23; 1943.Zamperini with other three survivors of the crash got stuck in the sea for 27 days. “Sharks glided in lazy loops around them, dragging their backs along the rafts waiting.” “Spotting a plane, Zamperini fires off two flares only to discover that it is a Japanese bomber.

When you reach the end of this man’s incredible journey, you will be awed by the scope of her writing. It is clear that Laura did a vast amount of research while writing this book.  This book of 500 pages almost has everything: crime, poverty, rags to riches, to rags to riches again, Hitler, shark attacks, religion, Cruel Japanese Guards, booze, sport and redemption. After reading this story, you will cheer for the man who somehow maintained his self hood and humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered.

Book Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

A spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical thinking and Nora-Ephron-isms for a new generation is all what Tina Fey’s Bossypants is all about. But what this book isn’t and what initially confuses things is, is a memoir. A question that needs to be answered about this book is that Is Bossypants a memoir? According to Newsweek “this is a memoir, not a humor sketch.” USA Today calls it a straight up “memoir”. But if we go by the L.A. Times, it says that “Fey simply tells stories of her life” and” manages to completely avoid a memoir’s biggest pitfall –oblivious narcissism…”  Entertainment Weekly says it’s a “genially jumbled memoir-esque collection”and The New York Times implicitly denies Bossypants being a memoir.

Fey begins with a hagiographical portrait of her father and moves on to her years as a chubby nerd. Her stories from The Second City Comedy Theater in Chicago, Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock make it abundantly clear that she is adept at negotiating any and all obstacles at her workplace. At first Bossypants appears to be just more of the same-Tina Fey on the cover with her airbrushed face framed by two large and hairy male arms and the back is filled with fake and self deprecating quotes regarding her appearance and talent. But from inside her book is filled with collection of autobiographical essays that are extremely funny. Particularly hilarious are her chapters on her honeymoon and having a child.

But Tina Fey shares only selective information with her readers. While making jokes at her own expense she maintains an inviolable sense of privacy. It’s the more freewheeling, improvised chapters that capture Fey at her sharpest.

Tina Fey’s Strength as a writer and a performer is that she has never been afraid to make comedy out of female vulnerability or to twist it around, to invert it and to give it a provocative edge.

Elizabeth Baines reviews her latest Books

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Author: Elizabeth Baines

Don’t we love the idea of magic? But don’t we put our faith in science? How do we reconcile those two things? But then, are science and magic so very different after all?

These questions have always obsessed me and I guess it was inevitable that I would often be concerned with them in my writing. In my first novel, The Birth Machine, which has just been reissued by Salt Publishing (2010), children in a den in the woods weave a magic spell:

They should strengthen the spell. A snail bobbed, woodlice flickered. Stir thirteen times, thirteen times unlucky, unlucky for some.’

As the novel progresses, the spell will seem to come to a terrible fruition.

Running parallel is another story: years later, one of those children, the now-adult Zelda, lies on a hospital bed about to give birth, and the Professor of Obstetrics explains to his students about the wonderful new technology which will induce her baby. But is this technique any less an act of faith, a kind of spell, as that of the children, and how much less likely to go wrong? And how much of those things that happened in the past will have consequences for Zelda in the present situation?

In my most recent novel, Too Many Magpies, also published by Salt (2009), a young mother is married to a scientist. His rational scientist’s world-view is comforting to her and seems like a safety net for their children. But then one day she meets a charismatic stranger:

‘On the baby’s first birthday the Smarties on the cake went frilly round the edges. The first sign of odd things happening… He said it was magic.’ But then the magic turns sinister and her life, and that of her children, are turned upside down.

In The Birth Machine, so-called rational ‘science’ and technology can turn out to be very non-rational, acts of faith merely. In Too Many Magpies, too much belief in magic can get you in hot water. But the message of both novels is the same: we need to be rational, but we ignore at our peril the possibility of things we would never have guessed…


Elizabeth Baines is a writer of prose fiction and prize-winning plays for radio and stage. Her short story collection, Balancing on the Edge of the World, was published by Salt in 2007 and was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor.Elizabeth was born in South Wales and now lives in Manchester. She has been a teacher and is also an occasional actor.

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