Thursday, October 4, 2012

Head Games by Kevin Alex Baker

Published synopsis:

Aspiring actor Jordan Patrick is rapidly realizing the world has no use for another theatre student. Desperate to prove his talents have value, he agrees to work for Dr. Foster, a psychologist who secretly hires performers to infiltrate the everyday lives of his patients, and then stage situations which advance their therapy. Once they're in, Foster's players trick his clients into situations designed to make them confront their issues.
This part-time job becomes Jordan's toughest role yet as he's assigned to follow an eccentric patient named Julie, lie his way into her life, and help Foster rebuild her trust in men.


Some people, no matter how big their problems are, are afraid to see a psychologist. On Wilder Campus, they should be. On the surface, Dr. Foster’s theories are sound. Why spend years trying to get resistant patients to change when there’s a faster way to get them to help themselves; and get off the therapist’s couch in weeks or months instead of years. All it takes is a few well planned interventions to help them face their problem and move forward. They have no idea these actors have infiltrated their lives simply to facilitate change, so no one gets hurt. When the patients have made significant enough improvements, the actors simply fade into the night. No harm done. Right?
But what happens when someone makes it too personal? When the lines between acting and feeling become blurred. What happens when no one knows who to trust anymore?
In Head Games, Kevin Alex Baker weaves a web of intricate lies, plot twists, and humor so well, the reader gets caught up and doesn’t want the book to end. But it has to so you can find out what’s really going on. You’ll read every page eagerly as a professor’s head games turn a college campus into a nest of deceit, love and murder. Not necessarily in that order. This review asks a lot of questions and so will you as you turn the pages, looking for that key clue that will make everything make sense.
I thank the author for a review copy and I give the book five stars.

Purchase Head Games by William Peskett here:

Enhance your exports by William Peskett

Published synopsis:

‘This is a serious business book. If it’s cheap laughs you want, stick with “In Search of Excellence”.’ So begins this satire of 21st century life disguised as a science-fiction guide to doing business on other planets.
Follow Dave Smart, business studies lecturer, as he leads three business colleagues on a tour of discovery to the Smiling Disc star system, 19 light years from home. Their main purpose is to investigate business practice on Kalista-mm, the larger of the system’s two planets, and gather material for Dave’s new book, ‘Doing Business on Other Planets.’
Visits to a sulphur mine, a old-established bank and a drinks company give the Earthlings surprising insights into the business practices of aliens who have developed along somewhat different lines from us. It’s not only that they have big moustaches and white blood, or that they drink sulphuric acid and lay eggs. The inhabitants of Kalista-mm are the epitome of political incorrectness, and are disarmingly honest about their shortcomings.
Of course, the main benefit of studying a way of life very different from ours is that it teaches us more about ourselves. The group’s observations provide plenty of scope for taking cruel swipes at many of things we hold precious about our own dear planet: government, big business, justice, democracy, climate change, science, religion and do-gooders generally. It all adds up to a hilarious jaunt around a little-known quadrant of the galaxy and a satisfying dig at many of our own sacred cows.


It’s a dedicated man who will travel to another planet when it takes nineteen years – one way – to get there. Dave Smart is that guy. Ever seeking a new way of doing things, he travels to Kalista-mm to learn about their culture and business practices. Unfortunately, what he learns is that no one should emulate those practices. Ever.
The aliens on Kalista-mm are absurdly nonchalant about worker safety and benefits, the environment and everything else that would make Earthlings cringe. Unless you happen to be in such professions as politics, big business or banking.
In William Peskett’s novel, Enhance Your Exports! Doing Business on Other Planets, he expresses his concerns, and the concerns of many, regarding the fate of our world if certain practices are continued. This often witty diatribe against the state of the world leaves very few topics uncovered. He touches on mining practices, air pollution, environmental issues, employee rights and pay, accountability in business practices, government response times, weapons of mass destruction, chauvinism, government bailout of the financial industry, and the list goes on. If you made it through this much of the list, you will have found the thing that made me give the book a lesser star than I would have liked.
I think Mr. Peskett was too ambitious for one book. Where his writing portrays these situations humorously and his perceptions were often dead on, there were simply too many of them. The reader is overloaded. As the book nears the end, the effect becomes lost because the reader has so many things to be outraged by that it becomes difficult to keep adding to the list. I think that Mr. Peskett is an excellent writer and I applaud his efforts. I simply wish all of the world’s woes were spread out over more than one book.
I thank the author for a review copy and I give the book three stars.

Purchase Enhance Your Exports here:

Bras, Boys and Blunders by Vidya Samson

Published synopsis:

What’s a girl gotta do to get her first bra, her first kiss, her first love?
If you thought the Middle East was all about fatwas and burkhas, think again. Join the fun as Veena, a naive teen from India, bungles her way through adolescence on the island of Bahrain. Laugh out loud as she deals with the intricacies of stubborn bras, crazy parents, racist classmates, first love, and the No-No Club, an abstinence club that degenerates into the Yes-Yes Club.
If you’ve ever struggled with body image issues, ever wanted to be different from what you are, ever wanted a hot guy or girl you couldn’t have, or if you just want a good laugh, this novel is for you, whether you’re nine, ninety, or anywhere in between.


Are teenagers the same everywhere? If that question means ‘do they all have the same insecurities’ then the answer seems to be yes. Veena at fifteen is, in her opinion, woefully inept at anything that doesn’t involve being the smartest student in the class. She doesn’t know how to get the boy she likes to notice her. She is looking for a cure for what she sees as her boy-like figure, and her family could star on ‘Are You the Biggest Bunch of Dysfunctional People in the World’ and easily take home the grand prize. In other words, she’s a typical teenager.
The island of Bahrain is a tossed salad of immigrants looking to find a better life than they had in the country they left behind. Veena’s school is multicultural with students from different parts of the world uniting under one roof, which should be a good thing in a perfect world. Instead, it brings under a microscope the prejudices that still abound over country, morals, skin color and religion. In her world, the Arabs, whites, Indians, Pakistanis and other races did not leave their prejudices behind when they left their native countries. And Veena feels the brunt of that every time she speaks in her Indian accent.
So how can she be a normal teenager? If she likes a boy, she can’t talk to him privately because she could be expelled from school. She can’t have friends over without fearing that her pessimistic mother might drive them to suicide. She can’t even get a bra without her mother having a major meltdown. But, through it all, Veena is still able to experience her very first kiss from the boy who doesn’t care about any of that. All he cares about is her.
Vidya Samson does an excellent job of showing the world that regardless of prejudices and hostilities, a teenager is a teenager. No matter where they are in the world, they’re all looking for answers to some of life’s most basic questions. I thank the author for a review copy and I give the book four stars.

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Raising Wild Ginger by Tara Woolpy

Published Synopsis:

Parenting is hard. That's what Edward Rosenberg has always assumed although his only experience with children has been as the drunken uncle. Now the love of his life, Sam DaCosta, is yearning for fatherhood. Edward's been sober for years. He and Sam are in a good place. Why rock the boat? On the other hand, how can he deny Sam his dream of a family?
Then they meet Ginger. At twelve she's been through more than either Edward or Sam can imagine. She's seductive, secretive and dishonest. But somewhere between stealing his cash and alienating Sam, Ginger manages to wind herself into Edward's heart. Can the three of them create a family? Or will Ginger blow them all apart?


Edward and Sam are a committed gay couple who seemingly have it all. Nice house. Great careers. Amazing friends. But, Sam is unsettled. His biological clock is ticking and he wants to be a father. Unfortunately, Edward's not too keen about being tossed into the murky realm of parenthood but is open to exploring foster care through their attorney and close friend, Henry. And for Henry, the uncanny timing of his and Edward's conversation could not have come at a more perfect time as he already knows of a 12-year-old girl, Ginger, who desperately needs a good home.

After Edward and Sam sift through a wad of red tape to become foster parents, Ginger is finally introduced into their lives. The transition is anything but smooth. Acting as a buffer, Sam is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Ginger, the victim of severe sexual and physical abuse, nearly pushes Edward to his breaking point as he contemplates sending her away to what would amount to her seventh foster home. Sam, however, is determined to keep Ginger and ultimately takes on the role of mother and father while Edward glowers in the background.

Edward eventually comes around and Ginger slowly starts to settle in to her new home. Sam breathes a big sigh of relief, but continues to keep one eye open in case Ginger has a slip up and starts acting out again. As the saying goes, all's well that ends well and "Wild Ginger" concludes with a very happy ending.

I give "Wild Ginger" four stars. It's a very sweet story that gently unfolds to reveal Edward and Ginger's journeys of self-discovery as Edward learns that history does not have to repeat itself and Ginger discovers she can recreate herself to leave her dark past behind. "Wild Ginger" also shows that it really does take a village to raise a child. "Wild Ginger" is tactful and beautifully written, and is sensitive to what otherwise could be very touchy subjects. Kudos to Tara Wooply for crafting such an unusual story.

I thank the author for a review copy.

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