Tuesday, February 26, 2013


For the past week, I've been suffering from the most horrendous cold and cough, just like the rest of America.  Strangely enough, the book I have been reading dealt with a subject that made me glad that all I had was a cold.

'Fever', written by Mary Beth Keane, the author of the extraordinary 'The Walking People', is not a run-of-the-mill historical novel.  It delves into the tragic case of Mary Mallon, a.k.a. 'Typhoid Mary', an Irish immigrant with a talent for cooking.  The first known healthy carrier of typhoid fever, Mary came to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, ignorant of the danger she posed.

Cooking for upscale families and determined to rise above, Mary unwittingly spread typhoid among the members of the households; some survived, some died.  But as the bodies piled up, one enterprising and ruthless 'medical engineer' hunted her down and placed her in quarantine at North Brother Island, where she was kept in isolation from 1907 to 1910.  After her release, she was banned from ever cooking again.  But, as history teaches us, she defied the edict.

The facts are in the public record, but Ms. Keane takes Mary's story a bit further.  Exploring Mary's life in a more humane way, the author brings to the reader's imagination the terror and guilt Mary felt every day of her life.  But the burden of guilt could not keep Mary away from the job she loved the most:  Cooking.  After her release from quarantine, Mary became a laundress, a job she considered well beneath her.  But the temptation to cook grew too great, and under assumed names, she worked in a bakery and a hospital.

I was mesmerized by the retelling of Mary's story, especially so when I read about the relationship between her and her lover, Alfred, who was quite a tragic figure, himself. 

Early 20th century New York is brought to vivid life in this compelling story of a dynamic woman who just couldn't stop herself from following her dreams at the expense of human life.

Mary Beth Keane, an award-winning author, was chosen as one of the '5 Under 35' by the National Book Foundation.  'Fever', her newest offering, will be published in March 2013 by Scribner.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

'101 Ways to Rock Your World'

If you're like me, a little inspiration goes a long way.  Although some of the inspirational posts on any social website can be a bit...much, it's the simplest ones that tend to stay with me.  I have many friends who write, either for pleasure or profit.  Sometimes, even both.  I'm one of the 'writing for pleasure' folks, and there are times when I just don't want to sit down and devote an hour or two or five to the story on which I'm working.

And that's where inspirational posts come in.  I was recently offered a copy of '101 Ways to Rock Your World', written by radio personality and inspirational guru, Dayna Steele.  I felt a bit apprehensive when I received the package; "Is this yet another long, vapid, new-age book full of rambling, nonsensical tips?"  

Nope, dear reader.  It's not long.  It's not rambling.  And it makes sense.

Dayna has listed 101 ways to not only inspire the reader to succeed in business, but also in life.  The tips are common sense:  Write a handwritten note to someone (who doesn't love getting a piece of personal, real-life mail?); dress for the job you want; pick one thing you want to accomplish each day.  And so on.

The book is a 'quick read', but it stayed with me.  I try to do some of these every day, such as waking up early, having a plan for the day, and thinking positive.  The other tips are just as worthy, but start small, and before you know it, you'll be doing each tip every day.

We all need some success in our lives, and this simply-written (and amusing, I might add) book is key.

And the bonus?  You can download the list from Dayna's website and carry it with you all the time...or tape it to your bathroom mirror...or share it with coworkers, friends, and family.

By the way, I do have to put a plug in here for her husband's novel, 'Specific Impulse', a book I reviewed last year.  Apparently, Charles Justiz has been fortunate enough to be  inspired every day by his wife.

And now we're the lucky ones, too.

Dayna Steele is a successful entrepreneur, Hall of Fame rock radio personality, and the author of 'Rock to the Top'.  '101 Ways to Rock Your World' is available through www.iuniverse.com 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

'The Watchers'

As much as I hate to do this, I have to write a negative review.  It pains me, it really does.

But 'The Watchers' by Jon Steele disappointed me.  This little Book Hog tries to read a few books a week, and the time I had to devote to this story was overwhelming.  Point:  The story didn't go anywhere until right near the end.  Big sigh.

Oh, the whole premise was familiar and exciting; it seems to be based on 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' by the incomparable Victor Hugo.  But that's where the similarity ends.  Although 'The Watchers' carries the theme of supernatural 'good vs. evil', it took forever for the whole story to go anywhere.

Editing would have been the best choice for this story.  Cut, cut, cut.  With no remorse.

Here's the gist:
Marc Rochet is a man-child, devoted to being the bell-ringer at the Lausanne cathedral in Switzerland.  Katherine Taylor is an introspective hooker.  Jay Harper is an amnesiac detective.  When they finally meet, the battle is on against the forces of evil determined to open the gates of Heaven.

That's about it.  The back stories are very, very, very long.

If you have time to waste, read 'The Watchers'.

And let's hope Mr. Steele listens to his editors.