Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rules of Betrayal

Rules of Betrayal by Christopher Reich
Anchor Books, Random House; April 2011
Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages
ISBN-13: 9780307473813
Jonathan Ransom Series #3

The most riveting novel yet in Christopher Reich’s New York Times bestselling series—featuring Dr. Jonathan Ransom and his undercover-agent wife Emma, a dangerous woman with a mysterious past who has gone rogue in the high-stakes, serpentine world of international spies.
In 1980, a secret American B-52 crashes high in a remote mountain range on the Pakistan–Afghanistan border. Nearly thirty years later, and spanning locales from those peaks to New York City, a terrible truth will be revealed.
Jonathan Ransom returns as the resourceful doctor thrown into a shadowy world of double and triple agents where absolutely no one can be trusted. To stay alive, Ransom must unravel the mystery surrounding his wife—an enigmatic and lethal spy who plays by her own rules—and discover where her loyalties truly lie.

My Thoughts:

Rules of Betrayal by Christopher Reich is a suspense novel of international intrigue. This is the third novel by Reich featuring Dr. Jonathan Ransom and his undercover-agent wife Emma. In this novel Dr. Jonathan Ransom is in Afghanistan providing medical care when he gets caught in a raid that turns into a firefight. This eventually leads to Jonathan becoming involved with Division, a secret U.S. government agency, and participating in one of their secret missions that involves recovering a once lost nuclear bomb before terrorists get it and perhaps rescuing Emma.

In Rules of Betrayal, Reich provides plenty of plot twists and turns. In his world of espionage the players are all more than capable of betraying each other and no one is safe. Jonathan is entering this world of professionals as an amateur with some good instincts but little training. The bad guys are bad and you might wonder exactly who are the good guys. This results in plenty of tension and a satisfying thriller. As most people will expect, all the narrow escapes in Rules of Betrayal require you to suspend disbelief.

I must confess that I haven't read the previous two novels, Rules of Vengeance and Rules of Deception, featuring Dr. Jonathan and Emma Ransom. Although Rules of Betrayal can most certainly be read alone without the previous two novels, it did feel like I was missing some important backstory that would have help to develop the characters and their history more fully. If you're thinking of reading this series and suspect jumping into the story without all the background information would hinder your enjoyment, it would benefit you to read the previous two novels before this one (and I'm sure there will be a fourth book too).

On the other hand if you are looking for some summer escapism and like novels with international intrigue, then Rules of Betrayal won't disappoint you.This would be a great airplane book/summer vacation reading. recommended

Disclosure: I received this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.


Zabul Province, Afghanistan
Present day
They formed on the plain at dawn.
Man and beast and machine spread across the hard brown dirt in a line one hundred meters across. There were horses and jeeps and pickup trucks with heavy machine guns mounted on the flatbeds. They numbered only fifty men, and the villagers counted one hundred times that, but they were committed men. Warriors united under the banner of heaven. Sons of Tamerlane.
The commander stood in the rear of his Hilux pickup, binoculars to his eyes, surveying his target. He was tall and formidable, and he wore his black wool turban piled high on his head, the trailing folds wrapped tightly around his face to guard against the bitter cold. His name was Sultan Haq. He was thirty years old. He had been imprisoned for six years, twenty-three hours a day, in a small, clean cage in a hot place far, far away. In deference to his name, and to his habit of growing his fingernails long and keeping them as sharp as a bird of prey's talons, his jailers had called him "the Hawk." pg. 11

Haq's ears perked up. He hadn't heard about a healer in these parts. "Who is this healer?"
The boy looked away.
Haq grabbed the child's jaw in his immense hand, the sharpened nails raising welts on his cheek. "Who?"
"A crusader," someone shouted.
Haq spun. "A crusader? Here? Alone?"
"He's traveling with an assistant. A Hazara who carries medicine for him in a bag."
"Is the healer American?" asked Haq.
"A Westerner," came an answer. "He speaks English and some Pashto. We didn't ask if he was American. He cured many people. He fixed the khan's stomach and repaired my cousin's knee."
Haq released the boy, shoving him backward. His heart was racing, but he hid his anticipation beneath a veil of anger. "Where did he go?"
An elder pointed toward the mountains. "There." pg.17

Jonathan Ransom woke and knew that something was wrong.
Bolting upright, he pulled his sleeping bag to his waist and listened. Across the room, Hamid, his assistant, slept on the ground, snoring. pg. 18

For eight years he had traveled the world as a physician with Doctors Without Borders. He had worked from the top of Africa to the bottom. He had spent time in Kosovo, Beirut, and Iraq, too. Wherever he was located, his mission was to bring medical care to those who needed it most. Politics was not a factor. There were no good guys or bad guys. There were only patients.
He'd arrived in Afghanistan two months before, but he no longer worked for Doctors Without Borders. Events in the recent past prevented him from working in an official capacity as a physician or surgeon for them or anyone else. The man at the American embassy had told him he was crazy to venture into the Red Zone-the Red Zone being anywhere outside Kabul. When Jonathan said he was traveling alone, without bodyguards or weapons or any personal security whatsoever, so that he might offer medical care to people in the remotest villages, the man called him "suicidal." Jonathan didn't think so. He had calculated the risks, weighed them against his responsibilities, and found the balance equal, more or less. pg. 21

Friday, May 27, 2011


Flood by Stephen Baxter
Roc, Penguin Group, 2009
Hardcover, 496 pages
ISBN-13: 9780451462718

Four hostages are rescued from a group of religious extremists in Barcelona. After five years of being held captive together, they make a vow to always watch out for one another. But they never expected this. The world they have returned to has been transformed-by water. And the water is rising.

My Thoughts:

Flood by Stephen Baxter is a novel about a global catastrophe of Biblical proportions. It follows the fate of political hostages Lily, Helen, her baby Grace, Gary, and Pierce. With the help of the billionaire Nathan Lammockson they were freed in 2016 - just in time to face an even bigger adversary: water. The oceans are rapidly rising (not due to global warming) and it looks like they will continue to rise at an alarming rate. Flood basically chronicles the last years of dry land on the Earth, from 2016 to 2052.

Baxter presents a surprising cause of the global flood that also makes for a more dramatic threat. This is a great apocalyptic end-of-the-world disaster novel. (It's also an interesting choice when your weather consists of rain and more rain - which might have served to make it feel even more ominous.) Baxter shares many of the details of the flooding, including the science behind the cause of it and the effect of the changes. As expected, I appreciated this since I enjoy science in my science fiction.

While Baxter does jump ahead in time in order to cover the passing years, the transitions flowed smoothly for me. The years are noted when he moves forward in time as the characters age and deal with an ever-changing world. The rising sea level is also tracked. Baxter also included many chilling details of how society might react and possible outcomes. Characters may not be as fully developed as in some novels, but I thought Baxter had a nice balance between covering the flooding, its scientific cause and effects, and following the characters, mainly Lilly. The flood is the star of the story.

Because my reading time was limited this week, I finally choose to fore go some sleep in order to make more time to finish Flood. This choice alone is a good indication of my recommendation. Baxter continues this story in Ark, which I'm looking forward to reading.

Any hard science fiction fan is going to like Flood. Very Highly Recommended


Every pothole and every crevice in the road was flooded. opening

Lily had in fact been taken by a fundamentalist Muslim group, all those years ago, when her Chinook had been shot down. Now she was being held by Christian extremists. She had been passed from hand to hand over the years like a parcel in a children's game. And still it went on. pg. 4

But they were all white, and all British or American, the categories that made them valuable as hostages. pg. 7

"Things have changed in the five years you've been gone, Captain Brooke." There was distant gunfire, a hollow crump. Camden listened to something, though he wore no earpiece. "I think we're set to get out of here." He walked toward the chopper.
Just for a moment, the four of them were left alone again.
"I guess this is it," Gary said certainly. "After all the months and years."
Lily looked at them, hopeful young Gary, bruised mother Helen, brittle Piers. "We shared something, didn't we?"
"That we did," Helen said. "Which nobody else is ever going to understand."
And now they were released into a world evidently transformed. Lily said impulsively, "Listen. Lets make a vow. We'll stay in contact, the four of us. We'll look out for each other. If one's in trouble, the others come looking. That includes Grace, by the way." pg. 12

The driver said a lot of London's older buildings were being made flood-resilient - having their foundations reinforced, their lower floors lined with sandbags. pg. 18

"Nothing useful," Amanda said. "Not really. Just distractions. What we need is big engineering to keep the flood waters out. The Thames Barrier ought to have been just the start. But that's not the fashion nowadays." pg. 27

"They used to pump it away or drain it, but it's harder now the sea level has risen by a meter." pg. 27

It wasn't just London. Much of the country was in the grip of chronic flooding, which seemed to have become a regular event. pg. 30

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eight Questions

The Reading Ape brought up for discussion a series of eight questions about book blogging. Since actual book reviews have slowed down here at She Treads Softly, I thought I'd take the time to answer the questions.
Here are the questions:

1. What does book blogging do best?
2. If you write a book blog, why do you?
3. What do you think the future of book blogging is?
4. What do your favorite book bloggers do?
5. If you could tell all book bloggers one thing, what would it be?
6. If you could change one thing about book blogging, what would it be?
7. How do you think book blogging fits into the reading landscape?
8. What about your own book blogging would you like to do better/differently?

My Thoughts:

1. Book blogging can call attention to books that might otherwise not receive much publicity or introduce new readers to previously published books. Most book bloggers are very accessible and open to discussions or questions. Additionally they all share a love of reading and often enjoy many different genres.

2. Originally the impetus to start my book blog can be blamed on an online book group I was a part of in the fall of 2006. The group asked participants to share a small review of the books the group was discussing or what individuals were reading. In January of 2007 I decided a blog would be a nice way to keep track of the books I was reading as well as what I was writing for the group. The group disbanded, but my blog continued.

3. Many of the book blogs I originally read and continue to read concentrate just on the books with occasional personal posts. Some of them, and many new blogs, have evolved into featuring all sorts of events and memes beyond the books. I have no idea where book blogging is heading...

4. My favorite book blogs are all about the books and less side-show bells and whistles. If I'm reading a blog for the book reviews, I want to read book reviews, not just see pictures of you holding up a book or the cover of a book you've acquired. I want the BOOK blog to be mostly your thoughts about the books. Occasionally I'll drop reading blogs that have evolved into something else.

5. If you would describe your blog as a book blog then try to keep it about the books. If it's a personal blog, then note that.

6. Less events and extraneous posts would be a nice change. Often the time I can devote to reading through the blogs I follow is limited. It can become annoying when most of the book blogs I follow are not about books (however, I admittedly do enjoy several people who posts with interesting links to articles or other blogs related to the literary world in some way).

7. I've learned about several books I would have perhaps never discovered if not for a blogger. I like that. I appreciate those who review everything and not just the review copies they receive. If you are writing a book blog and feel as if you have no readers because hundreds of people aren't following you, trust me you do have readers so keep the reviews coming.

8. I'm comfortable with what I'm doing although sometimes I wish I had the time to write more.

Any thoughts?

Friday, May 20, 2011


Pulse by Jeremy Robinson
St. Martin's Press, 2009
Hardcover, 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0312540289
Chess Team Series #1
very highly recommended

Imagine a world where soldiers regenerate and continue fighting without pause, and where suicide bombers live to strike again. This is the dream of Richard Ridley, founder of Manifold Genetics, and he has discovered the key to eternal life: an ancient artifact buried beneath a Greek inscribed stone in the Peruvian desert.
When Manifold steals the artifact and abducts archaeologist Dr. George Pierce, the United States Special Forces Delta operative, Jack Sigler, call sign King, and his “Chess Team”—Queen, Knight, Rook, Bishop and their handler, Deep Blue—give chase. They must save Pierce and stop Manifold before they change the face of genetics—and human history—forever.

My Thoughts:

Pulse by Jeremy Robinson is a combination thriller/action/adventure/science fiction novel and the first novel of Robinson's Chess Team series. The Chess Team is an elite Delta Force unit, led by handler Deep Blue, whose members each use a chess piece as their call sign - King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook. This was pure action-packed entertainment.

In this debut outing, the Chess Team are called in to try to save Dr. George Pierce, who was taken hostage in Peru by forces for Richard Ridley, the head of Manifold, a genetics company. Ridley was after the legendary head of the Hydra. He plans to use Hydra DNA to create a serum that will make people immortal. Previous attempts at this have created "regens," people who can re-grow damaged body parts but who are also insane killers (like zombies, only healthy and fast).

Robinson's writing style is easy to follow and the plot guarantees it will be a page-turner. The chapters switch between the activities of various Chess Team members. In Pulse expect lots of adrenalin-packed action, including fighting. Although some things weren't quite fully explained, this is the kind of novel most readers will expect to suspend disbelief and take a few leaps of faith while reading.

Robinson had some pretty funny similes too, which I quite enjoyed. A few examples include:
"like a special ops whack-a-mole" (pg. 270)
"like a twisted game of hungry, hungry hippos" (pg. 294)
"like Axel Rose squealing on a scratched Guns N' Roses CD" (pg. 296)

Previously, I really enjoyed Robinson's Antarktos Rising, so I was looking forward to reading another one of his novels. Pulse did not disappoint me. It's great escapism. It's good to know that there are currently two more books in the series, Instinct and Threshold.
very highly recommended - for action junkies and fans of James Rollins


Hundreds of feet pounded the dry soil, filling the air with the ominous sound of soldiers on the march. But these were not soldiers. They were followers, worshippers of the man whose strange ship had landed on the lush Peruvian shore only a week before, the man who now led them on a trek away from heir fertile homeland and across the arid, lifeless Nazca plains. opening

Doubt filled his mind as he neared the doors. Was this worth it? Could he stand all this heat and humidity? The pay would no doubt be amazing and the company, Manifold, was renowned in the world of genetics. But the job description, well, there hadn’t been one. Simply a five- year contract and ten thousand dollars for an interview, take it or leave it. He hoped to learn more during this one and only interview, but if the work they wanted him for was anything less than groundbreaking, he’d be on the next flight back to sunny, dry Los Angeles. His job there with CreGen paid well and made headlines occasionally, but the chance to work for Manifold was too good to not, at least, consider. Of course, when he agreed to an interview he had no idea it would take place in the Peruvian rain forest. pg. 7-8

Using my father’s resources I turned to a final resource that is both hard to come by and often quite expensive— the ancient past. I purchased ancient maps from dealers around the world, legal and black market. Trade routes were revealed. Secret passages. Tunnels dug and forgotten. Each map revealed more. In this way I came to learn that the ancient past is one of the best ways to uncover secrets in the modern world. It is a belief I hold to this day and a lesson you will soon learn . . . if you’re interested." pg. 13

The big man smiled without a hint of malice for the first time. "The fountain of youth isn’t some waterfall out here in the jungle, Maddox," he said, then pointed at his chest. "I want to live forever, and the key to that treasure is locked away inside our DNA. In our genetics. And in our past." pg. 15

"The description of the creature in this purely historical text is nearly identical to the mythological description. Perhaps the feats of Hercules have been exaggerated through time and legend, but the details of the beast were so fantastic to begin with that no one in the past twenty- five hundred years felt the need to exaggerate its appearance or abilities. Because of this I am compelled to believe that many of the other aspects of the story are also real. Based on the details of the myth, finding the creature’s burial place may be possible. If the creature has been well preserved, recovering its DNA would change everything we know about physical regeneration. Mr. Maddox, we must find the Beast of Lerna’s final resting place and extract its DNA. The prize is eternal life."
"Lerna . . ." Maddox leaned forward, his eyes wide with realization. "My God. You’re talking about the Hydra." pg. 17

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Exponential Apocalypse

Exponential Apocalypse by Eirik Gumeny
Jersey Devil Press, 2009
Trade Paperback, 200 pages
ISBN-13: 9780578030968

Exponential Apocalypse, by Eirik Gumeny, is the tender, heart-stirring tale of crappy jobs, a slacker cult, an alcoholic Aztec god, reconstituted world leaders, werewolves, robots, and the shenanigans of multiple persons living after the twentieth-aught end of the world. It's funny as hell and, according to the author's mother, incredibly profane. Despite these potty-mouth tendencies, it is still one of the most hilarious things ever written.

My Thoughts:

Quirky really does describe Exponential Apocalypse by Eirik Gumeny. In this short novel, several (odd) stories end up merging in the end. Exponential Apocalypse features such characters as: Thor; Quetzalcoatl; genetic clones of Queen Victoria, Chester A. Arthur, and William H. Taft; zombies and an undead cow; cyborgs; a boss with x-ray eyes; the internet powered by ghosts; a cross-bred werewolf/atomic mutant; and Timmy, the super squirrel - to name a few.

It is not a book that requires deep contemplation. In fact, I could fairly say that it lacks depth as well as character development. It consists mostly of dialogue. The book begins with Thor, the god of thunder, who is working at a Secaucus, N.J. Holiday Inn, taking a call from a guest requesting more pillows. At this point, you would think it would be one hot mess and not recommended, but Gumeny actually does a good job handling the dialogue (as well as all the insanity). Each character has a distinct voice.

This is one of those books that I hate to admit I enjoyed. (It could be that Timmy pushed it up a notch.) There is the potty-mouth language, bathroom humor,and... I'm not sure it has one redeeming quality beyond the fact that I was laughing for the entire book. Exponential Apocalypse is pure, hilarious entertainment and a very quick and easy read. Highly Recommended


There had been twenty-two apocalypses to date. There were now four distinct variations of humanity roaming the earth - six, if you counted the undead. It had been suggested that there really should have been a new word to describe "the end of everything forever," but most people had stopped noticing, much less caring, after the tally hit double digits. Not to mention the failure of "forever" in living up to its potential. The last apocalypse wasn't even considered a cataclysm by most major governments. It was just a Thursday. pg. 7

Thor was still pretty ticked that God of Thunder didn't carry more weight on a resume. pg. 7

"I'd like a medium coffee please," said a fairly intimidating Queen Victoria XXX.
"We don't have medium," said a fairly intimidated girl behind the counter.
"How can you not have a medium?"
"We have short, tall, grande, venti, and collegiate."
"Well, give me the one in the middle."
"Which one, ma'am?"
"Whatever it was you said, the one that means medium."
"Short, tall, grande, venti, or collegiate?"
"You're really going to make me say it?" pg. 34

Will and Quetzalcoatl pulled up in front of a run-down bookstore in the middle of a bombed-out section of an abandoned town in a once-quarantined country in the middle of a state that was disowned by the government and handed over to hobos in the hope that they'd either stop being hobos or die.
Neither one had happened....
Instead, hippies, philosophers, English majors, and all manner of unemployable or otherwise destitute types flocked to the Hobo state. Some came to liberate themselves from the shackles of authoritarianism, others to peddle various illicit wares. Some simply adhered to more bohemian ideals. A few had gotten lost. None of them paid rent. pg. 51

Chester A. Arthur XVII stopped just long enough to grab Victoria by the elbow and say, "The Dunkin Donuts guy is giving away free donuts!" before running off again.
"Alright," said Catrina, "maybe you can think about him like a brother."
Queen Victoria XXX laughed and said, "Well, it's gotta be the same with you and Thor, right?"
"Thor's more... Thor's something else."
Thor came running out of his room in only a towel, shampoo still in his hair, chanting, "Donuts! Donuts! Donuts!"
"Like a cousin who used to eat paint chips," she clarified. pg. 136

Friday, May 13, 2011

You're Next

You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz
St. Martin's Press, July 2011
Advanced Reading Copy, 406 pages
ISBN-13: 9780312534912
very highly recommended

Mike Wingate, abandoned by his father at four and raised in foster care, is finally living the life he always dreamed of—he’s happily married with a precocious 8-year-old daughter, and his construction company is about to finish a “green” housing development that will secure a solid future for them all. But then something from his own past, a past he doesn’t even remember, comes back to visit terror upon him and his family.
Shady characters begin threatening Mike and, when he reports them, the police seem more interested in Mike’s murky past than in protecting him. Now, with Mike, his wife Annabel and daughter Kat suddenly under attack from all sides, Mike turns to Shep, a dangerous man—and Mike’s only true friend— from his childhood days in foster care. Together they will do whatever it takes to protect Mike’s family against the hidden men behind the terrifying warning, “You’re Next.”

My Thoughts:

In You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz, Mike Wingate, who was abandoned by his father when he was four and grew up in the foster-care system, has worked hard to build himself a life of stability. He is happily married to Annabel, father of Kat, and a successful home developer. Following the publication of his picture in the paper, a couple of hired heavies show up at an awards ceremony honoring Mike. They know all about his family and clearly are trying to threaten them.

Mike inexplicably finds himself a wanted man with few clues or answers to why this is the case - even law enforcement officials are treating him suspiciously. He ends up calling the one person who was in the foster-home with him and will know how to help him, Shep. While Shep is a career criminal, he is as close to Mike as a brother and will do everything he can to help Mike protect his family and find out who is behind the threats and why they have targeted Mike and his family.

The tension begins building right from the start, although the real heart-stopping action starts a bit slower as Herwitz establishes the characters, background, and setting. Once the real action takes off, however, it is at a quick pace. As questions are answered, more arise, and the layered plot takes a couple surprising twists and turns. It felt like the last two-thirds of the story went much faster than the beginning.

Gregg Hurwitz has done a fine job in You're Next. It is a fast-paced thriller that kept me up too late last night because I had to finish it. That fact alone should be recommendation enough.
Very Highly Recommended

Disclosure: I received this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.


Prologue (Courtesy of Gregg Hurwitz's website since my copy of You're Next is an ARC)

The four- year- old boy stirs in the backseat of the station wagon, his body little more than a bump beneath the blanket draped over him, his hip sore where the seat belt’s buckle presses into it.
He sits up, rubbing his eyes in the morning light, and looks around, confused.
The car is pulled to the curb, idling beside a chain- link fence.
His father grips the steering wheel, his arms shaking. Sweat tracks down the band of flushed skin at the back of his neck.
The boy swallows to wet his parched throat. “Where . . .where’s momma?”
His father takes a wheezy breath and half turns, a day’s worth of stubble darkening his cheek. “She’s not . . . She can’t . . . She’s not here.”
Then he bends his head and begins to cry. It is all jerks and gasps, the way someone cries who isn’t used to it.
Beyond the fence, kids run on cracked asphalt and line up for their turn on a rusted set of swings. A sign wired to the chain- link proclaims, IT’S MORNING AGAIN IN AMERICA: RONALD REAGAN FOR PRESIDENT.
The boy is hot. He looks down at himself. He is wearing jeans and a long- sleeved T-shirt, not the pajamas he’d gone to bed in. He tries to make sense of his father’s words, the unfamiliar street, the blanket bunched in his lap, but can focus on nothing except the hollowness in his gut and the rushing in his ears.
“This is not your fault, champ.” His father’s voice is high-pitched, uneven. “Do you understand me? If you remember . . . one thing . . . you have to remember that nothing that happened is your fault.”
He shifts his grip on the steering wheel, squeezing so hard his hands turn white. His shirt cuff has a black splotch on it.
The sound of laughter carries to them; kids are hanging off monkey bars and crawling around the beat- up jungle gym.
“What did I do?” the boy asks.
“Your mother and I, we love you very much. More than anything.”
His father’s hands keep moving on the steering wheel. Shift, squeeze. Shift, squeeze. The shirt cuff moves into direct light, and the boy sees that the splotch isn’t black at all.
It is bloodred.
His father hunches forward and his shoulders heave, but he makes no sound. Then, with apparent effort, he straightens back up. “Go play.”
The boy looks out the window at the strange yard with the strange kids running and shrieking.
“Where am I?”
“I’ll be back in a few hours.”
His father still doesn’t turn around, but he lifts his eyes to the rearview, meets the boy’s stare for the first time. In the reflection his mouth is firm, a straight line, and his pale blue eyes are steady and clear.
“I promise,” he says.
The boy just sits there.
His father’s breathing gets funny. “Go,” he says, “play.”
The boy slides over and climbs out. He walks through the gate, and when he pauses to look back, the station wagon is gone.
Kids bob on seesaws and whistle down the fireman’s pole. They look like they know their way around.
One of the kids runs up and smacks the boy’s arm. “You’re it!” he brays.
The boy plays chase with the others. He climbs on the jungle gym and crawls in the yellow plastic tunnel, jostled by the bigger kids and doing his best to jostle back. A bell rings from the facing building, and the kids fly off the equipment and disappear inside.
The boy climbs out of the tunnel and stands on the playground, alone. The wind picks up, the dead leaves like fingernails dragging across the asphalt. He doesn’t know what to do, so he sits on a bench and waits for his father. A cloud drifts across the sun. He has no jacket. He kicks the leaves piled by the base of the bench. More clouds cluster overhead. He sits until his rear end hurts.
Finally a woman with graying brown hair emerges through the double doors. She approaches him, puts her hands on her knees. “Hi there.”
He looks down at his lap.
“Right,” she says. “Okay.”
She glances across the abandoned playground, then through the chain- link, eyeing the empty parking spots along the curb.
She says, “Can you tell me who you belong to?”

Monday, May 9, 2011


Zor: Philosophy, Spirituality and Science by J. B.
CreateSpace, November 2010
Trade Paperback, 268 pages
ISBN-13: 9781452895406
highly recommended

"Zor" explores the relationship between philosophy, spirituality, and science by asking one simple question; where do you turn when life's core beliefs become suspect?

That is the dilemma confronting Jonathan Brewster, a middle aged money manager from Boston, whose "chance" meeting with a Haitian dwarf named Zor, spirals out of control. Forced to defend his life in a series of intense debates concerning negative ch'i, emotional addictions, neuron networks, placebos, vipassana meditation, the collective unconscious, laws of attraction, sub-atomic entanglement, Nietzche, metta, God, and happiness; John is reluctantly drawn to a new reality.

Rising above his crisis of conscience he restructures his life for the greater good, only to be challenged by the ultimate betrayal

My Thoughts:

Zor: Philosophy, Spirituality and Science by J. B. (author Ray Clements) is a unique novel/self-help book basically about creating positive ch'i and the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit. This message is spread through Zor's discussions with J.B., or John Brewster. The meetings between Zor, a Haitian dwarf, and Brewster, a successful middle-aged money manager, are always unplanned and usually take place in a bar called Jake's, where Brewster stops in to drink every day after work, before he heads home.

Zor never lectures Brewster, although he does challenge him. They simply engage in philosophical discussions. When Brewster questions Zor, he replies with information. In their discussions Zor covers topics like creating positive ch'i energy, the adverse health effects of negative ch'i, the existence of God, organized religions, meditation, universal connectivity, quantum physics, visualization, and love.

Zor is, at its heart, an allegory. Zor is symbolic of anything that challenges our mind set and makes us question our actions. He is the force of change for every person who has achieved what most people would call success but who are still unhappy. All of the information about obtaining a positive ch'i is presented in a very simple, accessible manner that could be adapted to many different belief systems. In some ways it reminded me of Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. Not in the sense that it was comparable in any way other than the fact that it is trying to teach through a novel.

If only evaluated as a novel, Zor would not be considered a success by most readers: there is very little plot and the characters are not well developed at all. But where Zor succeeds is in the simple way it presents the message that there is a connection between philosophy, spirituality, and science and creating positive ch'i energy. Others have compared Zor to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book that is referenced in Zor. In fact, there are several other book recommendations within the narrative if a reader wanted to pursue further information. Additionally readers could check out the website.

Ultimately, although I can't say I totally agree with all of Zor's conclusions, it surprised me how much I truly enjoyed this seemingly simple book. Highly Recommended

Disclosure: The author provided me with a review copy.


There are two things you need to know about Zor.
First - the man is brilliant. A native of Haiti, he stands less than five feet tall boasting broad shoulders and a muscular build. Classically handsome, with mocha skin and European features that suggest mixed ancestry. Zor is charmingly soft spoken with a disarming, Caribbean lilt.
Second - he destroyed my life. opening

"Those boys were filled with negative energy, slowly devouring them like a flesh-eating virus. They were desperate to unload their ch'i onto me, but when they realized I was unwilling to respond in kind, unwilling to share in their anger, unwilling to accept their gift, they had to move on. The weight of their retained burden was overwhelming." pg. 5

Through its many transformations four things remained constant: the red neon sign over the door, he oak bar along the back wall, the full length mirror behind the bar, and me. pg. 38

Many people want to go to a bar where they know your name; I just want to go where they know my drink. pg. 39

"It's really quite simple," Zor cried triumphantly. "You just need to recognize cause and effect. Everything is the result of something else. To have, what you have not; you must do, what you do not." pg. 49

"This....is about creating a flow of positive emotional energy. You can't simply ask your wife how her day went. After revealing your good news you must specifically ask her to tell you something good in return. Every night when you get home the two of you should make it a point to exchange positive energy, and only positive energy. This will re-establish a level of positive emotional associations that will pave the way for some of the passion your marriage has lost." pg. 57-58

If I knew then what we were about to go through, I would have packed up our things, put the house on the market, and taken my family as far away from that Haitian Horror Show as possible. pg. 66

"You give up on your dreams and all you have left are nightmares." pg. 110

"If you are unhappy with where you are, stop dwelling on everything that brought you here." pg. 111

"Every time we have a negative thought, feeling or emotion we need to immediately determine its origin and deal with it; deal don't dwell. If we fail in our immediacy we run the risk of transference, erroneously crediting the negative ch'i to the wrong source." pg. 144

"Metta," continued Zor. "Love without self-interest. Finding joy in the joy of others is the only path to happiness. That is where positive ch'i originates. That is where you need to be." pg. 253

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pitch Dark

Pitch Dark by Steven Sidor
St. Martin's Press, April 2011
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780312354145

It’s Christmas Eve, and Vera Coffey is on the run. She doesn't know the men who are after her. She has never seen them before, but she has seen the horrors they visit on people who don’t give them what they want. Vera has something they want badly. She’d give it up if it weren’t the only thing keeping her alive.
The Larkins have known the toll violence takes on a family ever since they were trapped in a madman’s shooting rampage. They've been coping with the trauma for nearly twenty years. Now, on a cold and lonely winter morning, Vera collapses at their roadside motel. And she’s brought something with her. Together they'll have to make one last stand against an evil that has followed them further than anyone could've imagined.
With a thriller so fast-paced that it’s impossible to let go and an ominous sense that everything is destined to go wrong, Pitch Dark is an intense read from a master of suspense.

My Thoughts:

In Pitch Dark by Steven Sidor it is Christmas Eve and Vera Coffey is on the run. She has stolen an artifact, an artifact that her boyfriend had stolen for Horus Whitehead and a cult called the Pitch. Now she is being pursued by unknown, murderous cult members. Just outside of a small town in northern Minnesota, Vera picks up Adam, a nineteen year old college student who has run out of gas. Adam is the son of Wyatt and Opal Larkin. The Larkins, survivors of a shooting spree that occurred almost twenty years earlier, now run a motel in American Rapids, MN. While shooting rampage left Wyatt with one eye and unanswered questions, it enabled Opal to have visions.

As a snow storm moves in, Adam directs Vera to the motel. Also staying at the motel is pulp fiction writer Max Caul. Max knows the Pitch is much more than a simple cult - or a plot device for his novels. He has encountered Horus before. The importance of Opal's visions is clear to Max, who stays at their motel every year, but not to the Larkins.

Once all the characters and backstory are in place, Pitch Dark is a fast-paced supernatural thriller and a quick read. Although Vera, for me, is not a very compelling character, the Larkins and Max are, so once they are introduced the story is more intriguing. I did note, however, that none of the other characters are given the some level of care that Max receives. We are even told very specifically what kind of soda Max drinks and microwave popcorn he likes.

There also are some elements of the plot that feel familiar, for example: all sorts of evil converging on a small town, during a snow storm and a small band of people trying to keep a relic from an evil hoard. Furthermore there are parts of the story that are never fully explained or important details are missing. I'll have to admit that I didn't care for the ending at all. For me, the novel started out very strong and then ended weak, with an opening for a sequel.

All in all, Pitch Dark did hold my attention. I'll recommend it.

Be sure to check out Sidor's website for A Chunk of Hell, a free prequel story to Pitch Dark. Sidor writes on his blog: "The story is a pulp weird tale written by one of the characters. It triggers all the events in the book."

Disclosure: I received this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.


After her second close encounter in the last twenty-four hours, she couldn’t hold back the fear. Death had Vera on the run. She knew what to expect now. She had witnessed him up close. Death had shown his face to her in that West Side greystone back in Chicago. Six times over he did it. pg. 8

Horus believed in destiny, and in destinations foretold. He didn't believe in maps. Not the kind other people used. He carried a numerical tapestry in his head. It scrolled by constantly. A secret GPS system guided his every move. pg. 11

Horus Whiteside entered the unnatural blaze.
He believed he was not a man at all.
He was part of a larger whole hat reached back for Eternity.
The Pitch. pg. 14

His devoted believers, small in number, their fervor and willingness to please made all the difference. They were devoted. He hoped he had enough of them this time to get the job done.
He faced the gathering.
"Praise the darkness. My brothers and sisters, we must be thorough. We must be vicious in our quest. Tonight the thief has confessed that his girlfriend took the artifact and ran away." pg. 15

This woman was still his wife. True. He worried about her. Yes, constantly. Because... when Opal spoke, more often than not, a torrent of words flooded forth, as if she couldn't get them out of her mouth fast enough..... She spoke of a malignancy strangeness lurking in the world. She had walking nightmares. Darkness, she said, crept through the streets and entered people's hearts while they themselves were unaware of the changes taking place.
Demons lived among us. pg. 18

After the shooting.
Wyatt had taken a bullet in his lung. A broken dagger of glass hung in his eye. That hadn't been the worst of it.
Opal, his pregnant wife, spread out and dying on the restaurant floor. He saw her blood. pg. 26

She had her visions, too. Once or twice after the shooting, then not for years, and now they'd come back.
With a vengeance. pg. 38

"The Pitch are coming for you. Leave now. The Pitch are coming." pg. 51

Opal didn't appear to understand the importance of her visions.
Max wasn't about to explain. Not now. How could he? No one would believe him. He'd learned the hard way how reluctant people were to give up their assumptions about reality. pg. 53

Chan told her about his special assignment. A freaky group needed him to steal something for them. They couldn't do it themselves. It wasn't the danger involved that bugged them, it was freak rules. They were a kind of sect and another sect took their stuff. They wanted it back. He didn't ask too many questions.... Vera thought it sounded too weird. She didn't like the name the group called themselves, either.
The Pitch. pg. 61

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tabloid City

Tabloid City by Pete Hamill
Little, Brown & Company, May 2011
Advanced Reading Copy , 278 pages
ISBN-13: 9780316020756
highly recommended

In a stately West Village town house, a wealthy socialite and her secretary are murdered. In the 24 hours that follow, a flurry of activity surrounds their shocking deaths:
The head of one of the city's last tabloids stops the presses. A cop investigates the killing. A reporter chases the story. A disgraced hedge fund manager flees the country. An Iraq War vet seeks revenge. And an angry young extremist plots a major catastrophe.
The City is many things: a proving ground, a decadent carnival, or a palimpsest of memories—a historic metropolis eclipsed by modern times. As much a thriller as it is a gripping portrait of the city of today, Tabloid City is a new fiction classic from the writer who has captured New York perfectly for decades.

My Thoughts:

Set in New York City, Tabloid City by Pete Hamill follows a myriad of characters, at least 16, for one 24 hour period. Each new section in the novel lists the time, character, and location. Sam Briscoe, the 71-year-old editor in chief of the New York World is the central voice of the novel. The voices of each character are followed as the action all culminates in one location.

Characters include: Sam Briscoe, editor of the New York World; Josh Thompson, a disgruntled, disabled war veteran; Helen Loomis, a long time "rewrite man"; Cynthia Harding, a socialite and longtime lover of Sam; Lew Forrest, an elderly successful artist; Myles Compton, a hedgefund manager on the run; Freddie Wheeler, a vindictive gossip blogger; Sandra Gordon, Cynthia's adopted daughter, Myles lover, and vice president of an ad agency; Ali Watson, a police detective on the anti-terrorist task force; Bobby Fonseca, a young journalist; Malik Shahid, fanatic, Muslim fundamentalist, son of Ali Watson; Beverly Starr, a comic book artist; and Consuelo Mendoza, an illegal immigrant from Mexico.

Tabloid City is ostensibly a murder mystery, but despite what the synopsis says, the murders don't actually occur until around page 100, in a novel of only 278 pages. Before this the large cast of characters are introduced. In the end all the action culminating at one location with the murderous threat of the want-to-be jihadist, felt contrived. Making this the main focus of the plot didn't work for me.

Several of the characters have no real purpose in the plot other than to tell their story. They may have connections to other characters or to each other, but their presence in the novel makes no difference. The character of Beverly Starr could have easily been left out. Lew Forrest knew other characters, including Consuelo Mendoza, but both of them made no difference in the final plot. It's almost as if Hamill wanted to write a book with some short story character sketches. Perhaps the over abundance of characters was also meant to mimic the crowded streets, reflect a "there are eight million stories in the Naked City" attitude, but in this case it didn't work.

What does work in Tabloid City is Hamill's descriptions of a newsroom. It stands out and shines above the rest of the novel. It's a tribute to what is becoming a dying occupation. You know that Hamill is intimately acquainted with a newsroom, the hustle and flow, the action and excitement. The Sam Briscoe character was the highlight of the novel. Tabloid City would have been a better novel had Hamill left out the contrived plot focusing on the murderous young extremist and tightened the focus to make the novel about the last day before the printed paper closed in favor of an online version. Perhaps something reminiscent of O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster.

Additionally, there is no doubt that Hamill is a very good writer. He knows New York City and his familiarity with the city shines through his prose. He expertly captures not only the location, but the energy of the city. His fans know and expect this. His use of dashes to set off dialogue rather than using quotation marks helps establish a frantic, staccato pace that mimics the bustle of the city.

Hamill also displays his wide range of knowledge of artists, writers, and musicians. While I was able to follow his very noticeable naming of artists and writers, having taken quite a few art history classes and being generally well read, and his knowledge is impressive, I'm unsure that most readers are going to be acquainted with all the names he drops. Perhaps that won't matter, but then it begs the question: If it doesn't matter, why mention so many names?

Tabloid City does a great job mourning the death of print journalism, the loss of a lover, how time changes everything, and it even has a glimmer of hope, but the lackluster murder/mystery is no mystery. If I was giving a number rating, I'd give it a 3.5, so we'll call it highly recommended, especially for fans of Hamill.

Disclosure: I received this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.


Here comes Briscoe, seventy- one years old, five foot eleven, 182 pounds. He turns a corner into the city room of the last afternoon newspaper in New York. He is the editor in chief. His overcoat is arched across his left shoulder and he is carrying his jacket. The cuffs of his shirtsleeves are crisply folded twice, below the elbows. His necktie hangs loose, without a knot, making two vertical dark red slashes inside the vertical bands of his bright red suspenders. He moves swiftly, from long habit, as if eluding ambush by reporters and editors who might approach him for raises, days off, or loans. Or these days, for news about buyouts and layoffs. His crew cut is steel gray, his lean furrowed face tightly shaven. The dark pouches under both eyes show that he has worked for many years at night. In the vast, almost empty room, there are twenty- six desks, four reporters, and three copy editors, all occasionally glancing at four mounted television screens tuned to New York 1 and CNN, Fox and MSNBC. A fifth screen is dark. Briscoe doesn't look at any of them. He goes directly to a man named Matt Logan, seated at the news desk in the center of the long wide room. Other desks butt against each other, forming a kind of stockade. All are empty. opening

–Where was I? he says. Oh, yeah. The Fonseca kid got the mother. Her son was admitted to Stuyvesant two years ago. Now he's shot dead in the street.

Logan makes some moves on the keyboard, and then Briscoe sees six photographs of a distraught thin black woman pointing at a framed letter.

–That's the mother, Logan says. The letter is from Stuyvesant. When he was accepted.

She is staring into the camera, her face a ruin, holding a framed photograph of a smiling boy in a blazer. The woman is about thirty-five, going on eighty.

–The quality sucks, Briscoe says.

–Yeah. We don't have a photographer tonight so Fonseca shot it with a cell phone. Anyway, that's the vic in the other picture. The dead kid. In his first year in Stuyvesant, after winning a medal for debating.

Logan points to a young man's body on a sidewalk, facedown, chalk marks around him.

–Then he's dead, late this afternoon. Shot five times.


–The usual sh*t, Logan says. Drugs. Or someone got dissed. So say the cops. Who ever really knows? But there's a Doom Page angle too. The mother lost her job six weeks ago. They're gonna throw her out of the house, and the cops think maybe the kid started dealing drugs to save the house.

–Put that in the lede. If it's true.

–I already told Fonseca. pg. 6

Briscoe knows in his heart that it wasn't the end of cigarettes that took the music out of her. Not really. With Helen, it was the final triumph of loneliness. Young Helen Loomis was only one of many great reporters he'd known who were drawn to the rowdy newspaper trade because of the aching solitude in their own lives. Their own pain was dwarfed by the more drastic pain of strangers. As bad as your own life might be, there were all kinds of people out there in the city who were in much worse shape. Their stories filled the newspapers. And for a few hours, the lives of reporters and rewrite men. Until the clock ticked past all deadlines. And the profane, laughing city room emptied. Helen Loomis was now a straggler at a late- night party that was already over. When the deadline was gone, she had nothing left but cigarettes and loneliness. The music of her prose was gone forever. pg. 8-9

And carrying coat and jacket he walks to his dark office at the far end of the city room. Thinking: The kid, that Bobby Fonseca, has loneliness in his eyes too. Except when he's writing. Briscoe unlocks the door. Flicks on the lights. Hangs his garments on a gnarled coat tree he carried away when P. J. Clarke's was remodeled. On his desk, there is a wire rack holding folders. One is marked "Newspapers." Full of dismal news clippings or printouts about shrinking circulation and shrinking ad revenues and shrinking page sizes and rumors of extinction. Layoffs, buyouts, furloughs. The papers themselves were a subset of the main story of Doom, everything that had followed the obliteration of Lehman Brothers that day in September 2008 . In the newspapers, everybody was hurting. The Times. The Tribune Company. McClatchy. The Boston Globe. Gannett. The San Francisco Chronicle. Briscoe didn't know if anybody really cared, except the people who made the newspapers, the people he loved more than any others. In his mind's eye he sees the three young techies working on the World website in their small uptown office. Culling stories from the newspaper, from the AP and Reuters. Lots of raving blog messages from readers. This just in. Breaking news. Nobody in the city room bothered to read the site. Not even Briscoe. But one man certainly did. The man they all called the F.P., the F***ing Publisher. pg. 9

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Penguin Group, May 2011
Advanced Reading Copy, 306 pages
ISBN-13: 9780670021048
highly recommended

Once again, Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.
The narrator of Caleb's Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe's shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb's crossing of cultures.
Like Brooks's beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha's Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart. Evocative and utterly absorbing, Caleb's Crossing further establishes Brooks's place as one of our most acclaimed novelists.

My Thoughts:

In Caleb's Crossing, author Geraldine Brooks takes the scant information regarding Caleb Cheeshahteaumauck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, and fashions a fictional colonial historical narrative surrounding his life. "Caleb's crossing" refers to not just his crossing from the island to the mainland, but his crossing from one world into another. In actuality, though, this is the story of our narrator, Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a Calvinist minister. It is set in Massachusetts during the mid-1600's, first at the settlement called Great Harbor on the island that is now Martha's Vineyard and later at Cambridge, by a young Harvard College.

While Bethia is the narrator and her life forms the core of this historical novel, her covert friendship with Caleb allows Brooks to explore the conflicts between the two cultures, as well as the conflicts created by the social and religious customs of the times. Bethia secretly becomes a friend to Caleb, a Wampanoag, before he comes to live with her family to study with her father. She secretly instructs him even while he teaches her his language.

As a girl any further education beyond the rudimentary lessons her father has already taught her is withheld from Bethia, so she must learn in secret, listening to the lessons her father teaches to her brother, and, later, the two Wampanoag young men, including Caleb. Bethia continues her clandestine learning when she ends up going to Cambridge to work while the young men receive further studies.

As she did with Year of Wonders, Brooks has taken a little known historical fact and used it as an inspiration for her novel.She does an excellent job bringing history to life with the language used and the period details. Brooks also thoughtfully shows the role of religion in the community and the conflicts between cultures. Bethia is an especially intriguing, well developed character, firmly placed in the historical setting. She is conflicted, wanting an education but knowing it is not allowed, and struggles to find a way to learn but stay with in the societal expectations of the times.

The character of Caleb, however, is not as well developed as one would expect. In the first section of the novel, when Caleb and Bethia meet as young teens and form a secret friendship, Brooks does a much better job with his character than in the remainder of the novel. His character fell flat in the end. It almost appears that Brooks felt inhibited to fully use her creative license to explore his character once he was at Harvard. Perhaps it would have been better to use his real story as inspiration for her novel, and then not worry about following the few known facts.

Geraldine Brooks is a brilliant writer, though, which helps to transport Caleb's Crossing from what could have been an average novel to a highly recommended one.

Disclosure: I received this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.

Since this is an ARC, I have selected excerpts from Chapter I, found at Penguin books.

He is coming on the Lord’s Day. Though my father has not seen fit to give me the news, I have the whole of it.
They supposed I slept, which I might have done, as I do each night, while my father and Makepeace whisper together on the far side of the blanket that divides our chamber. Most nights I take comfort in the low murmur of their voices. But last evening Makepeace’s voice rose urgent and anguished before my father hushed him. I expect that was what pulled me back from sleep. My brother frowns on excessive displays of temperament. I turned on my shakedown then and wondered, in a drowsy way, what it was that exercised him so. I could not hear what my father said, but then my brother’s voice rose again.
“How can you expose Bethia in this way?”
Of course, once I caught my own name that was an end to it; I was fully awake. I raised my head and strained to hear more. It was not difficult, for Makepeace could not govern his tongue, and though I could not make out my father’s words at all, fragments of my brother’s replies were clear.
“Of what matter that he prays? He is only—what is it?—Not yet a year?—removed from paganism, and that man who long had charge of him is Satan’s thrall—the most stiff-necked and dangerous of all of them, as you have said yourself often enough. . . .”
My father cut in then, but Makepeace would not be hushed.
“Of course not, father. Nor do I question his ability. But because he has a facility for Latin does not mean he knows the decencies required of him in a Christian home. The risk is . . .” ....

Caleb is coming to live in this house.
In the morning, I did not speak of what I had overheard. Listening, not speaking, has been my way. I have become most proficient in it. My mother taught me the use of silence. While she lived, I think that not above a dozen people in this settlement ever heard the sound of her voice. It was a fine voice, low and mellow, carrying the lilt of the Wiltshire village in England where she had passed her girlhood. She would laugh, and make rhymes full of the strange words of that place and tell us tales of things we had never seen: cathedrals and carriages, great rivers wide as our harbor, and streets of shops where one who had the coin might buy all manner of goods. But this was within the house, when we were a family. When she went about in the world, it was with downcast eyes and sealed lips. She was like a butterfly, full of color and vibrancy when she chose to open her wings, yet hardly visible when she closed them. Her modesty was like a cloak that she put on, and so adorned, in meekness and discretion, it seemed she passed almost hidden from people, so that betimes they would speak in front of her as if she were not there. ....

Now, here, in the scant days I have left before Caleb comes to us, I have decided to set down my spiritual diary, and give an accounting for those months when my heart sat so loose from God. I have gathered what scraps of paper I could scavenge from my brother’s store, and I intend to use whatever moments I can eke out before each day’s weariness claims me. My hand is unlovely, since father did not school me in writing, but as this relation is for my own eyes, it makes no mind. ....

God alone ordains the damned and the saved and naught that I set down on these pages can change that. But since Caleb is to come here, trailing about him the smoke of those heathen fires and the scent of those wild, vision-filled hours, I need to be clear in my own mind and honest in my heart where I stand with regard to such matters, so that I can truly put them from me. I must do this for his sake, as well as for my own. I know that father sets great store in Caleb. He sees him, more than any other here, as a great hope to lead his people. Certainly Caleb seems to want this also; no one toils at his book more diligently; no one has gathered such a rich harvest of knowledge in the scant seasons he has had to study these things. But I also know this to be true: Caleb’s soul is stretched like the rope in a tug o’ war, between my father and his own uncle, the pawaaw. Just as my father has his hopes, so too does that sorcerer. Caleb will lead his people, I am sure of it. But in which direction? Of that, I am not in the least bit certain.