Book Review: Wildcase: A Rail Black Novel by Neil Russell

Hi again!

A little over a year ago I read a novel from a first time novelist, Neil Russell. City of War was a well-written thriller in the vein of Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler with a bit of the pulp of Elmore Leonard. It pulled together an appreciation for Hollywood, art, history, and intrigue that blew me away.

So when Russell asked if I’d review Wildcase, his follow-up to City of War, how could I possibly refuse? Especially when the new book ratchets up the intensity of City of War to eleven.

Where City of War focused mostly on the present day, with a bit of history thrown in, Wildcase relies much more on political intrigue and mystery in the present with a whole plot woven through it based in the events of the past. But don’t worry, Rail Black still kicks some serious ass with a bombshell at his side.

Where Hollywood and the California coast were central to the first book, Wildcase offers an interesting view of Las Vegas. Though I’ve been to Vegas personally a couple of times, even if I’m on a casino floor I’m as far from the high roller tables as I am from the moon. Rail Black knows people in high places and gets more than a touch of preferential treatment. And he knows how to handle those high rollers.

But more than that, Wildcase is a thriller with strong social commentary woven throughout. Sometimes the United States seems to pay lip service to a number of injustices around the world, from hunger, animals hunted to extinction, and war to entire generations murdered or sold into slavery. Individuals and particular organizations do what they can to save those they can, but there’s only so much they can do. When the authorities turn a blind eye to inhumanity it’s a bad thing for everybody.

In Wildcase, Russell introduces us to a group of characters who did what was right during World War II and saw it spiral wildly out of control over the next 60 years. It’s much more than a cautionary tale about good intentions however…

Even with the social commentary, this book has the same tight writing, great story, and pacing that keep you guessing at how the pieces fit together. It kept me turning pages more than a few nights wondering how everything would come together at the end. And it does come together in a spectacular ending.

If you like thrillers, give Wildcase from Neil Russell a shot. And if you haven’t read City of War yet, I’d encourage you to pick it up as well. Both are available in paperback or for the Kindle at Amazon.

I can hardly wait to see what’s next from Russell!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.
–Fitz

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American Idol 10: Chris Medina Speaks on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Everybody at my house is a big fan of American Idol. Though I initially resisted watching the first couple of seasons, by season 3 or 4 I decided to take the plunge and here we are at season 10!

Well, one of our favorites was Chris Medina, who’s touching story caught our attention during the auditions and we rooted for him through Hollywood Week. His fiancee Juliana was in a car accident that caused a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Chris has stuck by her through thick and thin. It was amazing to see the judges – Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler be equally touched by his story at the initial audition when they met Juliana.

Unfortunately, Hollywood Week didn’t work out for Chris. Though he made it to the Top 40, he didn’t make the cut to the top 24 and had to be sent home. But through it all he’s kept a smile on his face and his head high – an inspiration to everyone, including his fiancee.

He had a great interview with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show the other night, and here’s what he had to say:

Be sure to watch American Idol on Fox to see the top 24 perform this week!

–Fitz

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Book Review: Alphabet Woof by Sherrie A. Madia, illustrated by Patrick Carlson

Hi there…

Who knew alphabet soup could grant a dog the ability to speak? I certainly didn’t. Though we heard Dug express himself in Pixar‘s movie Up, I also didn’t realize that dogs had a lot on their minds beyond food, play, and going outside. I doubt that the two dogs at hour house would want to do more than complain about the squirrels in their back yard.

In Alphabet Woof! by author Sherrie A. Madia, Moxy, the family dog, makes a mess. After that, it’s as though his wish came through and he could express his innermost thoughts!

Let’s start at the beginning… Moxy is an excitable dog who chases a bee and then decides he’d really like a taste of whatever magical dish Aunt Mabel has fixed for the family to eat. The little boy narrating the story slips as he’s sitting down at the table and his foot knocks over the bowl of alphabet soup his Aunt had made. This makes more than a little bit of a mess, which Moxy is more than happy to help clean up.

While cleaning up the mess, Moxy speaks up and says to the Mom who’s offering a cloth to help clean up the floor – “Oh here, let me get that. It was partly my fault.” When she figures out who spoke, she screams and then the family tries to figure out what happened. Evidently the soup was imbued with a magical property that allows one wish to be granted by “Just one special person – or dog in this case – who wishes a wish while enjoying my cooking.”

It seems that Moxy had a few things on his mind he wanted to share!

Told in a loose rhyme, Madia answers the question I think we’ve all wondered from time to time… Just what is our pet thinking? This leads the family on a magical journey that helps them understand what is most important about communication and that is talking to the people who matter the most – our loved ones.

Written for families, I think that though the rhymes lost me at times, Alphabet Woof! will be fun for kids and parents to read out loud together. I read the book out loud to my two daughters ages 5 and 9 and they both giggled at the situations Moxy and his family got into. It was a lot of fun to read together.

The illustrations by Patrick Carlson are bright, inviting, and colorful from cover to cover and I think that really helped keep us in the story as we could see what was happening on each page. I think children young and old will enjoy Moxy’s vibrant adventure as they go from suburbia to Hollywood and back again by the end. All of the character’s faces and body language make it easy to see how each is feeling as they experience the story.

Madia, Ph.D. is a communicator at heart – whether working as a Managing Partner at EyeCatcher Digital, a marketing consulting firm, talking to students at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, or talking to her kids. In addition to Alphabet Woof!, she has co-written several survival guides for business marketing and job hunting, including The Social Media Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business Exponentially with Social Media, The Online Job Search Survival Guide, and S.E.R.I.A.L.PRENEURSHIP: The Secrets of Repeatable Business Success. Madia has also worked extensively within the not-for-profit sector, including facilitation of a $28 million grant from the Department of Education for Temple University‘s Center for Research in Human Development in Education (CHRDE).

Carlson has been cartooning since 1991 and has created characters and illustrations for folks all over the world. In addition to Alphabet Woof! he also wrote and illustrated Too Tall Joe – the story of a mile high man and how friendship is based not on your appearance, but on who you are inside.

Alphabet Woof! was a fun, colorful adventure for kids and parents alike. Hopefully Madia and Carlson will team up again in the future for more of Moxy’s adventures!

For more about Alphabet Woof! check out the Alphabet Woof! website. And for more of Carlson’s work, check out his site.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these books below!

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