Book Review: Noor by Milton C. Toby

While Seabiscuit is perhaps the best-known Thoroughbred in history, Charles S. Howard owned another remarkable racehorse that should never be forgotten. Irish-bred Noor dominated the 1950 racing season, setting world records in victories over Citation and winning the Hollywood Gold Cup by defeating a Triple Crown winner, the Horse of the Year and the previous year’s Kentucky Derby winner. Sadly, that fame faded as he failed to sire champions, and Noor was buried in an unmarked grave in Northern California decades later. Veteran turf writer Milt Toby recounts Noor’s colorful career and the inspiring story of racing enthusiast Charlotte Farmer’s personal mission to exhume the Thoroughbred’s remains for reburial in central Kentucky years after the horse was inducted into the hall of fame.

It is not often that I get to read a book about something that is very close to my heart and that is a real story, Noor by Milton C Toby is one of those books. I was lucky enough to get to read this book through Walker Author tours, but I was drawn to read it because of my love of horse racing and my Great Grandfathers Love of the subject Noor.

I grew up on my Great Grandfather’s knee learning about racing and learning about the Irish bred horses. Being that his side of my family is where I get my half Irish side this came as no surprise. He always favored Irish bred horses, and taught me to, something that holds true at the track for me even today.

Milton C. Toby brings everything to life again in a vivid wash of well put prose. Not only does he cover the life and racing career of Noor, but the journey to find him again. So many people do not understand what can (and often has) happened to a horse that while perhaps well known is not in public graces as much as say Secretariat, when they pass. Often they are put in a little known place and forgotten, much like what happened to Noor.

This book made me both sad at what happened to Noor and then Happy at the fact he was able to find his place in the pantheon of famous racers we can now visit. For all my love of this horse instilled in me by my Great Grandfather I did not know the final end to his story until I read Noor by Milton C. Toby, I am so happy I did. I can happily say I am making a trip to Old Friend’s this summer in honor of my Great Grandfather so see the living legends and those who have passed on. Thanks for the great book Milton!

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: The Vital Needs of the Dead by Igor Sakhnovsky

What needs might the dead have? Our loved ones stay with us after they’ve gone. Love, death and memory breathe in unison in the novel by Igor Sakhnovsky.

The Vital Needs of the Dead is a tender coming-of-age story set in the provinces of the Soviet Union in the second half of the 20th century. At the center of this story, praised by Russian critics for its blend of realism and lyrical sensibility, lies the relationship of young Gosha Sidelnikov with his alluring and mysterious grandmother Rosa, who becomes his caregiver when he is virtually abandoned by his busy and distant parents. This relationship colors Sidelnikov’s subsequent forays into first love and sexual awakening. Even after her death, memories of Rosa accompany him into his adventures as a provincial student. Then, one miserably cold winter night, her voice commands him to immediately depart for a place he’s never been before, precipitating a mysterious chain of events.

My first thought with Vital Needs of the dead when I started reading it was that not everyone is going to understand this book. As I continued reading I continued to feel that way. For those born in a privileged western world that have not had to deal with the experiences of something like Soviet run Russia they cannot always identify with what is going on.

Now I am one of those who was born in the Western world but I have done a lot of reading of this era and like to think I can connect with what is being told. Igor Sakhnovsky writes a very detailed story that is full of images that seemed to speak of me. Gosha is a character that I could really connect with and so I was interested in his story and what was happening to him throughout.

Some of the translation could be a little bit rough but for me that did not really take away from the book. A lot of times I think you have to read a book in its mother tongue to get all of the subtle nuances of what is being told. I would recommend this book to someone who is willing to take the time to understand what the story is telling you.

My Gemstone Rating:


Blog Tour Guest Post: Josi Kilpack

Within my process of learning to write, I can attribute a great deal of my education to becoming a critical reader. Up until I began writing, I had been a voracious reader for many years, reading anything I could get my hands on. I finished nearly every book I picked up and very rarely did I not like a book. However, after writing my first story I realized there was an actual craft; a set of skills necessary to write the rightway just as there is a craft to architecture or painting. I already read books on parenting, marriage, cooking, and personal finance; certainly there were books out there that taught someone how to write. In fact there were, but beyond non-fiction books on novel writing there was also the realization that every novel I picked up was an instruction manual in disguise. I quickly found that by studying the way an author told their story I could learn a thing or two about the craft and get my reading fix in the process. So, instead of just reading for entertainment or edification I started reading to learn the craft of writing, the structure of fiction, and how to best develop characters people would want to read about for three hundred pages. I would finish reading a book and ask myself what I liked, what I didn’t like, what I would have changed. Did I like the ending? Did I relate to the characters? Were there any parts of the story that could have been stronger, were some things overstated? It was rather fascinating to dissect plots and characters, holding each piece up to the light as I studied it from a new perspective. I then tried to bend and mold the elements I learned into my own stories.

But, something happened through these exercises; something I hadn’t expected. Once I was critically evaluating the elements of a book it became harder and harder to get lost within the pages. Whereas I used to finish 98% of every book I picked up, I soon found my percentage dropping farther and farther as I found more and more storylines that, for one reason or another, I just didn’t like. These days, I probably only finish 1/3 of the books I pick up. The downside of the development of this critical reader who is consistently reading over my shoulder, is that it’s not always easy to find a good book. When I’m reading it’s hard to turn off my “internal editor” and let the story sweep me away.

The upside is that when I like a book, I really, really like it. Another benefit is that reading is very much an educational experience for me. Not only am I learning about whatever time period, culture, or person the story features, I’m also learning about the book’s structure, character development, plot, and basic usage of words, dialogue, and description. Since I only get captured by great books, I figure I’m getting the best education I possibly can. It’s not uncommon for me to be reading and stop in order to scramble for my notebook where I write down a certain word I liked, or a sentence structure that had great texture, or I jot down a character idea that was triggered by the story. Then I run back to the book and get lost once again. In this sense I’ve learned to write from some of the great writers of my time—Sue Graphton, John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, John Shors as was as some of the classic writers such as Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie, and Edgar Allan Poe. What better teachers could a writer want? And they’re all available for nothing more than a library card.

There are days when I pine for the reader I once was, the reader who was happy with anything over 200 pages, and yet in the long run the sacrifice of that part of who I was, has made room for another part of me that even a year before I wrote my first novel I didn’t know existed. It’s an amazing journey, these lives we live, and a fascinating vista when we stand on the verge of who we are and look back at where we’ve been and all the people who helped us get here. Once we can look over what we’ve done, we can then turn and face the horizons of where we are going. It’s my core belief that regardless of who we are and where we want to end up one day, good books will lay that groundwork one way or another. I know it’s been true for me.

Blog Tour Guest Post: The Decline of Self Control by J.R. Slosar

The Decline of Self-Control

The only thing that might be surprising about public displays of rude behavior is that the recent episodes of three public occurrences were one right after another. The incidents of yelling “you lied” at the President, or ranting and cursing at a line judge in sports, or grabbing the mic at an awards ceremony to announce someone else’s entry was better, were incidents that cut across politics, sports and entertainment. These public examples are symptomatic evidence for the decline of self control. We can blame media, politics, competition or even the insistence of our Constitutional rights to express ourselves anyway we want too. But clearly, it is a cultural trend. Loss of self-control is evident in many areas and emerges from a culture that is defined by excess. Excess is everywhere. Americans are overweight, buried in debt, overusing medications, and cheating more than ever before. We even put more people in prison per capita than any other country. Our budget deficit and health care spending seem to have no upper limit. When you consider all of these problems of self control, verbal rudeness is just a minor symptom.

The only thing that might be surprising about public displays of rude behavior is that the recent episodes of three public occurrences were one right after another. The incidents of yelling “you lied” at the President, or ranting and cursing at a line judge in sports, or grabbing the mic at an awards ceremony to announce someone else’s entry was better, were incidents that cut across politics, sports and entertainment. These public examples are symptomatic evidence for the decline of self control. We can blame media, politics, competition or even the insistence of our Constitutional rights to express ourselves anyway we want too. But clearly, it is a cultural trend. Loss of self-control is evident in many areas and emerges from a culture that is defined by excess. Excess is everywhere. Americans are overweight, buried in debt, overusing medications, and cheating more than ever before. We even put more people in prison per capita than any other country. Our budget deficit and health care spending seem to have no upper limit. When you consider all of these problems of self control, verbal rudeness is just a minor symptom.

The decline in self-control is connected to an increase in cultural narcissism-our sense of entitlement, grandiose expectations, immediacy, and demand that we are so special-we deserve everything now. Entitlement and immediacy leads to impulsivity and declining self-control. Researcher Jean Twenge has written two books describing the growth of narcissism-her recent effort is titled The Narcissism Epidemic. The growth is a cultural trend, with roots in the 70s, and initially put forth by social critic Christopher Lasch. Today’s version, Cultural Narcissism 2.0, has created a culture of excess that involves three factors. These are the speed of technology, technology coupled with media, and extreme capitalism. These factors are cumulative and interactive and define our day to day behavior and relationships. We haven’t fully realized the cumulative effect of these combined forces on our lives. The water level has been slowly rising, but now we sense it is above our shoulders. Even then, we run the risk of drowning. Like the frog that will jump out of hot water, but if put in water that slowly boils, it stays in the water and dies.

All of our social and legislative policies reflect our cultural narcissism and encourage and advance the decline in self-control. Deregulation has become a religion and has led to extreme risk taking that caused the financial collapse. Extreme risk taking is a behavior that emerges from declining self-control. The road to success in today’s deregulated “free market” is not to choose a profession and to be competent. That takes too much time and is too hard. Instead, it is far easier to be a broker. A broker in a deregulated jungle is king. The dismantling of rules and boundaries wafts down to the individual. In an era that prized deregulation, we have deregulated our internal mechanisms of self-control. Self-control at this point can only be reined in by what everyone seems to resist and hate—increased rules and regulations. Just as a child cannot grow without rules and boundaries, an economy cannot recover and grow without them either.

Some call today’s youth Generation Me. But many of them want to become Generation We. This new generation will have the courage to regulate, the courage to overcome the arguments of socialism. They will dispute the entitled positions like the one that says we have the best healthcare system in the world. They will replace consumption with competence. They will replace self esteem with self-control. They will redefine what success means. Their internal mantra will be an old one —moderation in all things.

J.R. Slosar is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Irvine, CA, and an adjunct assistant professor at Chapman University, Orange, CA. In the past 25 years he has provided direct clinical and consulting services in a variety of diverse settings. He is the author of The Culture of Excess: How America Lost Self Control and Why We Need to Redefine Success (ABC-CLIO, Nov.. 2009) Visit or call 949-851-8277 for more information.

Giveaway: Blog Tour The Host by Stephanie Meyers


So here is how to Win this book We have 3 copies! The first thing you need to do. And this is required to particpate.Is Comment! This give away will be open til the 6th of July.

And some other ways to get entries:
Follow this blog (1 entry)
Put our Button on your blog (1 entry)
Put is in your blog roll (1 entry)
Join the feeder service (1 entry)
Follow me on facebook (1 entry follow the FB link on the sidebar)
Follow me on Twitter (1 entry Follow twitter link on sidebar)

Create a post on your blog advertising the contest and linking back to us here at Fire & Ice for the contest. make sure you post the link to your post in the comments. (1 entry)

Book Review: Blog Tour: The Host by Stephanie Meyers

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

The Host is an amazing sci-fi novel. Set in the note to distant future Stephanie Meyer has outdone herself again in an amazing genre.

The Host is an amazing work of art where the main Character Melanie Stryder has been taken by an alien race set to take over the human race and annihilate it and make it a perfect sibilant planet, to stop all wrong, make everything peaceful, and run smooth. Medical care is far improved and so far out of human understanding that most anything can be fixed except Melanie Stryder who is a host for one of the life forms taking over the earth, but Melanie is not giving up her body without a fight and leads her host on an adventure that shows it that not everything they have found is bad in a world that does not seem to really need a lot of fixing. Swirled into the adventure is Jared, Melanie’s love who is one of the people managing to dodge becoming a carrier of a host himself as he helps lead a group of people living deep in the Arizona desert between Tucson and Phoenix. While Melanie pushes the creature inside her with her strong emotional draw and care of her little brother and Jared she learns to work with and help teach these hidden people and learns how to help them survive, in the meantime the question always looms through out the book…. What to do with the creature buried deep in her neural net, how to possibly separate it from Melanie and allow her to reunite fully with Jared.

It’s a page turning, PG novel that is certainly a good read for anyone wanting a good novel without the need for the sex sells industry. I picked it up by chance seeing it on a shelf at a bookstore and thinking I’dd give it a go since its by the same author that brought us the Twilight Sage, and if you check the publish date it was published in the middle of the Twilight Saga. Pick it up give it a read and pass it on to a friend.

Author Interview Blog Tour: Jeffrey B Allen

And in our final blog tour installment post, we have an inteview with Jeffrey B Allen

AJ: Why did you choose abuse and overcoming it as the journey for this particular hero in his need to grow up?

JA: I always thought there could be nothing worse than growing up as a boy without a father. I knew many who had. Perhaps they lost there father to divorce or maybe to an unfortunate premature death. But when I really thought about it, an even worse scenario would be to have a father whose tyrannical abusive behavior trapped a family within a prison of fear and oppression. What went on behind the closed doors of a house that was filled with such fear and loathing was beyond all my comprehension. Most of the time the neighbors, teachers, even fellow church goers failed to recognize the subtle cries for help, because those signs were so well hidden by fear.

John is twelve year old boy who lives with the fear everyday of his life. He wonders why. He sometimes thinks it is his fault. John has feeling he cannot explain; feeling of emptiness and loss that grinds away at him and causes him to be a sort of recluse.
Although his mother seems strong she is not. John senses that and forms a protective bond with his mother. He asks her why his father hates them, but she will not tell him. When the violent explosion takes place it is the perfect stepping off point for John. The story is free to explore how a twelve year old boy would deal with his horrible situation if only he could take it into his own realm and steer the events.

The strange thing about GoneAway is that John is not steering the events quite as much as the reader believes he is in the beginning. The appearance of some of the strange characters and the revelations that take place in the story make that fact very clear. The last chapter also clears up any doubt the reader may have over the medium in which John is traveling.

AJ: What made you decide writing was for you?

JA: I tried to be a painter. I was good, but I knew no matter how much practice I forced upon the years ahead of me, I would never be great. I played music, and the same thing occurred to me; I could become good, but never great. I was always good at writing; therefore, I felt with enough practice I could become great. I am still practicing, but with every word, sentence and paragraph, I find myself in concert with art and music. Words paint pictures in reader’s minds, and words well placed end to end up[on a piece of paper are like a perfectly composed score when done correctly. I am striving to get it right, and I am having fun while trying. I may never be great, but if I keep practicing, I feel I have a bit of chance.

AJ: What did you have to go through, evolution wise, to create such a strong path that moves along in the growth and survival of the characters in GoneAway Into the Land?

JA: That is a very difficult question. To answer the question properly I would have to give away quite a bit of the story. In its basic form, the story is filled with several things John must overcome and find out about himself before he will be able to return to the Great Office of the Purveyor. Candy is but a symbol for something greater. The Purveyor is much more than the one to bequeath sweet things into the world. John’s quest to kill his father is much more than just a mission to end his father’s life. All of the main characters have a purpose. For instance Mellica. He is John’s alter ego, and Sara, well everyone who has read GoneAway knows who she is. When horrible things happen in our life we naturally search for answers. I believe there is a spiritual nature to our search, and I believe our answers may not come in this life, but they will come.

AJ: Where do you find your inspiration?

JA: Inspiration is as much a mystery of the human spirit as imagination and ingenuity. I believe one of the strongest driving forces behind the rapid evolution of mankind, and now our freefall into technological advancement is nothing less that our knowledge of our own mortality. If it were not for that uniquely human quality there would be no reason to be any more creative in our techniques of survival and territorial defense than was had by all previous generations.

The simple answer to your question is that I am aware I am going to die, and I know approximately, if all goes as planned, that my heart will stop beating between the ages of seventy five and one hundred – closer to seventy five statistically, but my grandmother lived to be one hundred and two, so I have decided to write until I am one hundred years old, and then I will take two years off — retired at last, but I will have left a legacy, a book or two on the shelves and that is enough for me.

AJ: What is your favorite writing environment?

JA: Late at night, or early in the morning. Somewhere between ten o’clock at night and three in the morning. I am in front of my computer and I am sipping a glass of red wine.

AJ: Any advice for Young writers out there?

JA: Read as much as you can get your hands on. Keep reading and eventually you will be able to write better than you thought. If you want to write as a writer, then you must learn the rules. Once you learn the rules, read more and see how the best writers who ever lived bent the rules, but notice how they seldom, if ever, broke them.

Thank you,

Jeffrey B. Allen

Guest Post: Jeffrey B Allen Author of Gone Away Into the Land

Continuing on with our posts this week from the wonderful blog tour with Goneaway into the land is a fantastic guest post by Jeffrey B. Allen.

And My Question for our wonderful guest post:

What does one go through when dealing with writing such emotional stories?

Emotions buried beneath the thin skin of the writer; emotions unknown
to the writer, and emotions aching for a way to express themselves, to
be felt and heard. I believe writing is a form of self evaluation.
It is a therapy of sorts, but so are all forms of artistic expression.
There is a need for artists to expose themselves through their
medium. You may wonder why, but to me it is simple. Authors, like
painters, sculptures, or actors, want to stir the emotions in others.
An author who writes romance or an author who writes horror both wish
upon their audience the same thing, to invoke a reaction.

GoneAway is a complex tale of reconciliation told from the point of
view of a twelve year old boy. Dark thoughts are common in boys of
that age, especially if they are traumatized. On the other hand, a
journey into a place where a young boy would fantasize about killing
his father would have to be taken from the context of what the boy is
familiar with, and what he loves most. In John’s case, he loved
powerful machines such as locomotives, and he loved candy, as most
children his age do. And he adored his mother and his sister Marny.
Most of all, he hated his father, and rightly so. His father was a
nasty beast, abusive, self absorbed, and embittered by having been
excommunicated from his community of religious zealots.

I was forced to confront many of my demons while writing GoneAway. I
found places inside myself where I did not want to go, and I wrote
upon the pages descriptions that I was not sure would be understood by
my family. In the final analysis, GoneAway is a story for everyone.
Let it be known that I was not abused as John was, and I did not name
my father a beast. What I did do was to draw upon pleasant and
unpleasant periods of my childhood and my adult life to develop the
threads within the story. I drew on philosophical and historical
knowledge, and I also spent many hours researching mythology and
biblical facts and fables, as well as ancient history to bring life’s
diversity into the story. Then I used my ability as a writer to cause
the many threads of GoneAway to be cohesive for my reader.

There are some who say I succeeded in evoking emotion. I hope they
are correct. Time will only tell.
Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed.

Jeffrey B. Allen

Book Review: Blog Tour Gone away into the Land by Jeffrey B Allen

John, a twelve-year-old boy, travels into a place where he will battle his father (the beast) and rescue Marney, his younger sister, and in the process save the Land from its own demise. John’s journey to find his sister and seek ultimate revenge on his abusive father will lead you into a wonderland that happens to also be experiencing the abuses of greed and tyranny, yet on a much grander scale. He and his mother find themselves embroiled in a civil war that threatens both the Land and the World. John’s harrowing struggle will embrace the child within you, while challenging the philosophical and spiritual unknowns of those who have GoneAway. Yet, for all of its upheaval, GoneAway ¿ into the Land, will leave you with a feeling of hope, and a yearning for more.

Gone away into the land came up to me as a book to read for a blog tour. And I am so glad it did. This book was fantastic, and in a month where I have read some bla books it was nice to have a stand out among them. Not saying all of my books this month have been bla, they haven’t but Goneaway is one of the best.

Jeffrey Allen spins a fantastic story about John and Marney. The pacing in this book is positively wonderful; it is slower than a lot of books but just right for the tone of this novel. He reveals a little bit of the story at every turn. There are some things I personally didn’t see coming, but I wont give them away I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Honestly if you enjoy a good yarn pick up Goneaway into the land. You will not regret it at all. It is wonderful read. And it is perfect for summer reading.

Book Review: Chemical Cowboys by Lisa Sweetingham

For nearly a decade, Ecstasy kingpin Oded Tuito was the mastermind behind a drug ring that used strippers and Hassidic teenagers to mule millions of pills from Holland to the party triangle–Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.

Chemical Cowboys is a thrilling journey through the groundbreaking undercover investigations that led to the toppling of a billion-dollar Ecstasy trafficking network–starting in 1995 when New York DEA Agent Robert Gagne infiltrated club land to uncover a thriving drug scene supported by two cultures: pill-popping club kids and Israeli dealers.

Gagne’s obsessive mission to take down Tuito’s network met unexpected challenges and personal discoveries that almost crippled his own family. Weaved into the narrative are the stories of Tuito’s underlings who struggled with addiction as they ran from the law, and the compelling experiences of a veteran Israeli police officer who aided Gagne while chasing after his own target–a violent Mob boss who saw the riches to be made in Ecstasy and began to import his own pills and turf warfare to the U.S.

Chemical Cowboys offers a taut, behind-the-scenes glimpse into an international criminal enterprise as daring as it is deadly.

I used to be huge into the true crime genre, and I had read them all. But than I lost interest. I am not sure why, but for the most part I just decided they all kind of started to sound the same. No offense to any of those authors, but they did. So it is a rare book that can pull me back into my thoughts about true crime being decent. In the last year only one book has done it. Until now. Chemical Cowboys is a stunning masterpiece of a Crime Novel.

Lisa Sweetingham weaves such a wicked web about this king pin, with characters that you will remember. Some of them you will love and some of them you will love to hate. I really can not think of to many words that would do this book justice. Other than it is grippingly good.

You will get into the underbelly of the beast, and follow the scum as they go. It’s graphic and descriptive and you can picture yourself there in the action. So if you’re a lover of action, and Crime this is a book for you. Even if your not I recommend you pick it up and take a look at this book. I am so glad I was given the chance to read Chemical Cowboys. It was a refreshing breath of new air into a genre I have missed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...