Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Do Books Mean To You?

Blogaholic Designs”=I can't remember a time in my life when reading wasn't important to me. My family are all readers, and it always surprises me when someone tells me that they don't read much. I even know one person who not only has never been to a library, but who admits they have never read a book all the way through. I was so shocked by this, I was speechless (and if you knew me, you'd know how rare this is!).

Reading for information is important, but in my life, reading is most often pure escapism. Traveling to other lands, through other peoples' lives, into other realities is a way to take a mini-vacation from my own challenges. It's easy to get lost in stories and forget about the day-to-day trials and tribulations of real life. As you go deeper and deeper into someone else's universe, suddenly the importance of your broken lawn mower, long hours at work, and too-crowded schedule begins to fade away. At least for a while. Minutes, even hours, can pass free from worry and stress.

So, I challenge you, blog readers, to pick up a book or turn on your ereader. Lose yourself in a book; it can be the best therapy - and it's certainly cheaper than a shrink!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A SPY A HOME - New Review!

Blogaholic Designs”=REINVENTING ME. A New Life. New Experiences.

A SPY AT HOME – Book Review by Chris Nash

Try to put yourself in the position of a retired CIA operative, returning home to his wife and son with Down syndrome (resulting in early-onset Alzheimer's), endeavoring to do his best to look after them and ensure they are provided for. Now, just to make things a little more difficult, imagine our retired spy has managed to embezzle a little under ten million dollars from his employer. Such is the premise of A Spy at Home, the first novel by Joseph Rinaldo, already published as an eBook. Mr. Rinaldo explains how he is uniquely qualified to write this book, raising a daughter with Down syndrome and witnessing the effect of Alzheimer's on a family member, and indeed cryptically states that he'd prefer not to disclose the sources of his espionage-related knowledge. This intriguing combination of plot and story sounded unique and intriguing to me, so I happily accepted the author's offer to write a review.

The juxtaposition of a "tough guy" job with the emotional concerns attached with mental disability made me immediately think of Regarding Henry, penned by writer J. J. Abrams in a dim and distant era long before Lost. It's not a common combination of subjects, and surely presents the author with some difficult challenges. The author deals with these issues very well by writing the book as our retired operative's memoirs, only to be released to be read in the event of his death. In the preface, the narrator tells us that, yes, he is dead; yes, his son was a surprise; and yes, he's the one that killed his own wife. With those revelations out of the way, the book proceeds in whydunnit style, with the narrator telling us about events as and when he remembers them, indeed apologizing for his lack of strict chronology very early in the book. It's a very stark contrast between the strict mental conditioning required for his day job, and the day-to-day stresses and strains of looking after his son, whose welfare becomes more and more of a challenge as their lives go on.

The book does not go in for large amounts of descriptive passages; it is indeed intended as a memoir rather than a flowery novel, which can at times leave a very dry delivery but does, for the most part, definitely give a realistic feel and a feeling that perhaps some of the events reported have their basis in fact, written precisely as our narrator would report them, grappling with his own emotional detachment due to his job. This does result in a couple of areas where things are ambiguous; for example, it is apparent that some time passes through the story as the child Noah grows up, gets a job and goes to work, although I never quite felt sure exactly how old he was. Likewise, exactly when the story takes place seems a little unclear, although it is evidently in a near present due to the computer hackers that form an integral part of the espionage side of the story. That part of the story was also delivered in a gritty way - there was no attempt to picture the spy business as anything glamorous as in the movies, rather a day job whose employees have the same concerns as most of us, such as whether their families are eligible for benefits. The lack of description does make it a little difficult to feel for the characters; we only get to experience their situation. There are a couple of inclusions in the book which I felt did detract from the overall story. There are a few very awkward sex scenes; nothing particularly explicit, but extremely clumsy and they do not add anything to the tale - excluding them would have left the book accessible to a young teen audience which would be just as interested in the novel's parallel subjects. There are a couple of places as well where I feel the author slipped out of character for a moment and managed to let his own political viewpoint slip out, albeit briefly. I can't help feeling it is a line an editor would have removed before going to press. Overall, the writing and copy seemed good with only a couple of minor errors. At the time of writing, the book is available in Kindle format for $1.99 on These days, I feel it's difficult for authors to get the pricing right for novels published digitally; far too many fall into the trap of practically giving their works away and underselling their hard work. For the reader, however, this is surely a bargain.

The book does indeed raise some difficult ethical questions; we find ourselves wondering whether any amount of money would make a difference in this situation, and we are sympathizing very much with a father who, while he may be used to overthrowing foreign regimes and all sorts of covert operations, finds it ever more difficult to look after a son who recognizes him less and less and is constantly worried exactly how he will be cared for once the father passes on. Watching the story unfold as one tragedy follows another, all against the backdrop of possible discovery of the theft of the money and trying to find ways to put the money to work without raising suspicions, one feels the greatest sympathy for the characters, although curiously it is not so much for Noah and his condition, but for his father, for whom no amount of training could prepare him for the trials and tribulations he is to face as a spy, at home. It's a good story whose major strength to me is the realism of the characters dealing with very real lives without expecting the plot to magically resolve itself in the closing chapters. Mr. Rinaldo's own experiences evidently do show through in the writing here.

Joseph Rinaldo currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee. From this most American of cities he writes about the internal turmoil in the CIA, and about pirates on beautiful family-filled lakes. You've probably heard that authors write what they know. Think it's true?

A Spy at Home is available from in eBook format for Kindle and compatible book readers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Down Syndrome and D.A.D.S.

Blogaholic Designs”=If you are a dad, and your child has Down syndrome, you should check out D.A.D.S. (that is Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome). The national organization's web site is located at D.A.D.S. is a wonderful organization made up of fathers with children who just happen to have Down syndrome. Locally, our group meets once a month to talk about our kids and to support each other and compare notes and generally just to have a connection with other dads who are living our experiences.

Each child or adult with Down is different, even though they share many characteristics. Apart from similarities in appearance, they may be as different as night and day. Some may be shy, some outgoing; some may be verbal, some use sign; some may participate in sports, some are couch potatoes - wow, sounds just like typical kids and adults, huh?

John Goodrich writes a wonderful blog about D.A.D.S., and you can read his comments and link to the national organization at There are other links there as well, and if you visit the site, you are encouraged to participate in an existing chapter or start a chapter where you are. Speaking of a proud dad of a young woman with Down, I can tell you that this organization is well worth checking out!

Get on board, dads! Check out D.A.D.S.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blog Followers Are Good, But Commenters ROCK!

Blogaholic Designs”=I enjoy posting to my blog, though I don't get to it every day like I'd like to or should. And I so much appreciate the people who are now following me; let me encourage you to post comments on my blog postings. I can't know if my posts make any difference to anyone but me if I don't get posts. To those who have already commented, my deepest thanks. To those who are shy about commenting - seriously, I want comments: good, bad, or indifferent. Well, not indifferent - what would be the point of that? :)

I remember when I first started this blog, I intended to cover a variety of topics - not necessary just about the ebooks I am writing and trying to promote (e.g., A SPY AT HOME - available on Amazon - shameless plug). I intended to be interesting, controversial, funny, and informative. I think I've succeeded on most of those fronts; do you agree or disagree?

Please remember to comment. My wife, my daughter, my two cats, and I appreciate any comments you care to make. BLOG ON!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Controversy: ebooks or physical books?

Blogaholic Designs”=Two months ago, I posted a question on the Published Authors Network at LinkedIn. It was, I thought at the time, an innocuous enough question: "Ugly rumors have it that ereaders will soon replace physical books, and that because ereaders will soon have the capacity to 'check out' library books, libraries will go away, too; what think ye?"

Much to my surprise, this simple question kicked off a veritable firestorm of commentary which continues to this day! More to my surprise, the "discussion" of ebooks vs. physical books quickly deteriorated into a rather obnoxious spate of insults and name-calling. This was certainly not my intent. My intent was to spur an intellectually stimulating discussion of the merits and foibles of ereaders. Some commenters were thoughtful and added a layer of information to their own points of view. Others were just arrogant in their responses; they pooh-poohed the responses of others and interjected their own as if they had the very latest information and their answers were set in stone. Somehow, the "discussion" even ended up slopping over into a debate about evolution (I still can't figure out how that happened.), and even though I have posted a commentary here on my own blog on my views of evolution, I was stunned to see how many people have left absolutely no room in their philosophy for doubt or questions.

I know bloggers have strong opinions about things; that's one of the reasons we blog; however, I would like to see more courtesy and less knee-jerk haughtiness. You know who you are. Okay, now, let's all play nice.

By the way, have you never heard the joke: "70% of all statistics are made up on the spot." ?