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Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey

Adam Henig. CreateSpace, $6.99 trade paper (118p) ISBN 978-1-5007-5149-4

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Henig tracks the life of Alex Haley after the publication of his path breaking book, Roots, offering a sad reminder of the potential downsides to achieving one’s dreams. He begins by offering some social context on the TV premiere of the mini-series based on Haley’s book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, which detailed his family’s history from Gambia, through slavery, to the present. The amazing response to the story made Haley an overnight sensation. Everywhere he went, he was mobbed. “In Philadelphia, a dozen guards were needed to protect the author.” The saga opened the eyes of millions around the world to the nature of the African-American experience and spawned a craze for genealogy. But Haley’s stardom was marred by an ill-conceived lawsuit against his publisher, Doubleday, as well as scholarly questions about his research methods and accusations of plagiarism. Adding to these problems, Henig discusses Haley’s womanizing, which cost him three marriages, and his inability to handle money responsibly. Henig recounts the highs and lows of Haley’s life with sympathy, addressing the critiques honestly. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/09/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Orphan of Torundi

J.L. McCreedy. Penelope Pipp Publishing (penelopepipp.com), $4.99 e-book (294p) ISBN 978-0-9882369-3-6

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When an orphaned girl raised by missionaries on the fictional Pacific island of Torundi is sent to an American boarding school in Malaysia, mystery and intrigue pop up around every corner. Questions arise, including why 16-year-old Sam Clemens was abruptly sent away after years living on Torundi, why the enigmatic Gabe Jones is always antagonizing her, and what all of this has to do with Sam’s unknown parentage. Even as Sam delves into these mysteries, she is dealing with being around other teens and living in the big city for the first time. Unfortunately, this story wavers uncomfortably between thriller and comedy, and it doesn’t find a balance between fish-out-of-water hijinks and danger-laced adventure. Sam bounces from one problem to the next, and little time is spent developing the characters or setting—her new friends lack depth, her burgeoning romance life fails to convince, and certain plot points are predictable. Nevertheless, McCreedy (Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen) lays the groundwork for a potentially promising series, which may yet pay off down the road. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/09/2015 | Details & Permalink

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From the Sky: Arrival

David McGowan, $2.99 e-book (251p) ASIN B00NLDK7YC

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This stale trilogy opener unimaginatively depicts a destructive alien invasion that resembles many such events in fiction and film. The Californian town of Camberway is besieged by suspicious flying saucers, and when more strange things start happening, Camberway's residents must use all of their wits to survive. The aliens' searchlights and vaporizing beams are straight out of The Twilight Zone and War of the Worlds. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, and there are too many individual stories to keep track of. McGowan is clearly inspired by the idea of human responses to unimaginable disaster, but the conventional plot never goes anywhere new. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/05/2015 | Details & Permalink

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