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Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

If the name E.L. James is not high on your list of authors as the seasons are about to change by the time you reach the end of the season, you will. James has written the "Shades of Gray" trilogy.

It is a trilogy based on a simple premise: an author receives and assignment to interview a billionaire entrepreneur. That seems like a simple enough assignment but it is far more than that.

Working closely with the subject of her interview, Christian Gray, Anastasia Steele, a person who is very innocent in the ways of the world and the ways of love, finds herself wanting Gray more and more.

Gray, acting aloof, finally admits that he, too, wants Ana and they begin a physical affair where Gray's addiction to an individual style of sexual encounter may seem to some like a giant step backward in the writing world. Gray has an obsession with rape and the willing Steele succumbs to his domination.

Interestingly, though many would have it otherwise, the Fifty Shades of Gray has been atop the New York Times best-seller list for weeks.

Indeed, it is a very quick read as the scenes are vivid and they move quickly from one point to the next.

Gray, a driven entrepreneur billionaire is a man with special tastes and it takes a woman with similar tastes to last with him. In this case, the more-than-slightly naive Steele is that woman. Indeed, Steele finds that she is attracted to the sexual lifestyle that Gray advocates.

The writing is good, description is excellent and if James, a London-based writer, keeps her slightly irreverent, yet searching voice then she will be on the NYT's bestseller list again and again.

Her writing style is simple and direct and her scenes, though quite graphic, also work with the story she has crafted. It would seem that James' work has actually touched on a nerve that many people would like to think has been cleaned from society, but it seems like it hasn't.

James' work is quite good and she deserves the success she is creating.

If you are looking for a good quick read for an afternoon or evening or a long weekend, the you may find Fifty Shades of Gray is that work.

As it stands now, James' work has not only drawn the attention of the reading world and the NYT bestseller list, but she has also captured honors for from GoodReads as 50 Shades has won an award for Best Romantic novel.


How Will You Measure Your Life?

No one could have known, on listening to a commencement address, that the speaker was battling demons no one should have to fight, yet he was doing it and the battle was helping him to form ground-breaking insights, answering many questions that have troubled people for many years.

When Dr. Clayton Christensen stood in front of an audience of Harvard Business School graduates two years ago, no one - unless they were very close friends or family - could have known that he was waging a battle that he ultimately won against personal demons.

The key demon he was fighting - a form of cancer that had already claimed his father - set Dr. Christensen on a path of discovery. Indeed, it is funny how a one's battles with demons like cancer or other serious life issues leads one to question even the fundamental assumptions they have made during their lives.

Usually, one finds that the deeper the questioning, the more assuring are the answers one finds, though one can never be 100 percent certain. In Dr. Christensen's case, his battle with cancer, which most of his students and many, if not all of the parents attending the graduation, probably didn't know of the internal battle and daily worries that he faced.

He used the speech as a chance to deliver to his audience, drawing on his own long experience with business, some guidelines that would help those in the audience to find meaning and happiness with their lives. His speech, which was to become the basis of his book "How Will You Measure Your Life?", also describes the stovepipes of negativism one can easily fall into. They are traps that lead to unhappiness and if one finds oneself in them, there is only one sure cure, changing your life so that they are no longer part of your life.

One thing that Dr. Christensen found, as his battle against cancer deepened, was that the question: "How Do You Measure Your Life?" became more and more urgent and he believed it was very important to share his insights with family, friends and students.

His ground-breaking work, a work that forces us to look inward so that we can become more successful looking outward, tries to answer such questions as: "Will my job be satisfying?;" "Will my relationships be enduring?;" "How can I avoid compromising my integrity?"

Dr. Christensen, who did beat his demon, may find that his work could be seminal as more and more people look at their lives and try to determine whether the course they have chosen or may be choosing is the right one? At the very least, Dr. Christensen's work will help to ensure everyone from a freshman to long-term professionals to the freshman's parents - who are dealing with their own life issues - that the choices they have made are the right ones and, if they are still dealing with issues, Dr. Christensen's work will likely point them in the right direction.


Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Imagine a President of the United States attending a black-tie event at Ford's Theater, waiting for the comedy to begin, only to have an actor sneak pull back the curtain of the Presidential box, cock and firing a single round into President Abraham Lincoln.

The actor, John Wilkes Booth, then leaped to the stage shouting "Sic Semper Tyrannous" - "this is what happens to tyrants" - only to miss his landing and break his leg.

He was spirited out of Washington by a series of Confederate sympathizers, many of whom were highly placed in the government or who had vested interests in seeing the south brought low after the war (making it effectively a northern colony) so they could dump their shoddy merchandise at inflated prices on the South.

If you aren't familiar with the history of the United States, you might have considered this just another story. However, when you stick the name Bill O'Reilly on the book, it suddenly develops "gravitas," as people recognize him. O'Reilly is already an accomplished author and host of the "O'Reilly Report." His name and that of Martin Dugard assure that the book is based on good history and research.

That O'Reilly can take history, look at it closely and turn it into good, solid entertainment is just a plus for the writing team. O'Reilly's skill as a historian and commentator, plus Dugard's skill as a researcher, has taken what is likely the most egregious act of cowardice in the last 147 years and has turned it into a first-class police story.

That the work also includes a fiery gun battle, the arrest of some high-ranking Union officers and officials, just adds to the work. O'Reilly and Dugard have a right to be proud of the work they have done. They have refocused the public's eye on one of the most cowardly acts in US history. Who knows what would have happened had Lincoln lived out his term? Would Johnson have been the next president or would another pragmatist? How about Seward? In other words who knows and to think that it took a TV show host to get us thinking about ourselves in a new way.

One thing that Lincoln's shooting was to change forever was the security service surrounding the president. A new "Secret Service" was established whose sole function is protection of key Washington players and the Presidential family. If the Secret Service (or even just the Pinkertons) had been on duty that night our history might have changed for the better because Lincoln likely would have survived, as would have Seward and several other lower level members of the Lincoln team. As O'Reilly posits it would have been a different country, wouldn't it?


Book Review: Women With Super Powers

When Elton John sang, "The Bitch is Back" he certainly couldn't have been privy to the "Bitch in Black" that Keith Kornell would bring to life more than 35 years later. Had he known, he wouldn't have made such ado about nothing, for Kornell's character in his novel, Super Born: Seduction of Being, is fierce. She was fierce well before her exposure to the "Epsilon Radiation" that will not only change Scranton, PA forever, but super-size her sexual fervor.

In this in-your-face extravaganza of hard-nosed, tough talking reportage, the reader sees what a "Bitch in Black" can become given no small quantity of radiation exposure, and superpowers. Yes, superpowers. A super-powered single mother who must decide how to disguise, yet utilize, her newfound powers runs us through this Kornell romp with aplomb. Did I mention superpowers?

All nickels have two sides, and on the other side of this Geiger Counter offending coin is the radiation's effect on the men folk. One could argue, and many women would still argue, that men couldn't become any more dim-witted, more full of folly, or just dumber, they would be wrong. Look it's happening to me.

O'Malley's sounds like my kind of refreshment center with its cheap beer, recently empowered women, and the anchor to Kornell's story. This pub, frequented by our narrator, presents nothing less than a perfect backdrop to the biting dialogue and raucous ramblings borne from this flunky newsman.

The dialogue is wonderful, the stream-of-consciousness observations by Seduction of Being's quirky narration, welcome. It's as though James Joyce discovered Quaaludes before "Finnegan's Wake." While not for the faint of heart nor the easily offended, this is a must read for those who have ever bit their tongues rather than let them fly. Oh, did I mention superpowers? A gripping, compelling, roller-coaster read!


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

One day, a while ago, a major computer company held a two-day seminar in how to become a more effective resource for the company and the funny thing was that the conference focused on just seven items.

How, we all wondered, could someone become successful using just seven items? We all asked - at the start of the seminar, anyway - how it was possible. Why, one could think, there must be at least 10 or 15 measures and ways to become effective.

That was before we were introduced to an international bestseller "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", a highly perceptive work by Stephen Covey. Covey spent hours studying the interactions of individuals and groups and found that, believe it or not, that there were seven key habits that, when workers made them part of their lives, made them better workers.

Covey, widely respected in leadership, has found that effective leadership cuts across professional and personal life and those who are best able to integrate the habits he has found for success, are usually not only the leaders of a particular group, but also always called upon to help with projects as they arise.

One secret that Covey does share is what he calls the "paradigm shift." He believes that before you can become effective in your work or home life, you must realize how the world actually works and that is the "paradigm shift" you must make.

The shift affects how you look at work and work time and how you look at your home life and your home time. In order to make each better, you must work to your fullest potential in the office. The same is true at home; before you become a better father or husband, you must learn how to use your time much more effectively. Time use is one of the seven key habit changes we have to make.

Another is just two words "positive thinking." For example, a seminar leader may ask after taking a drink of water "Is this glass half-full or half-empty?" Usually, that elicits a few laughs or coughs but then some brave soul will answer "It's half empty, of course, you've just drunk half of it" The instructor then replies: "You can look at it the other way, there's still half-a-glass of water available for you to drink so isn't the glass half-full?" It's just that little shift in thinking the positive versus negative view that makes Covey's work important because it shows you that just a simple change in perception can change the outcome of anything, provided you are ready to make the leap and say: "You know, he (the instructor) is right." And, once you've made that shift, nothing can stop you from achieving success.

This is not an easy book to understand and may take you two or three passes through it to understand and make the changes you must make in your time management skills or your power to be proactive, however, once you've mastered all seven (we've only touched on a couple here) parts of your life, you'll find your work and home life should be much better.


Mission to Paris: A Novel

Alan Furst, a master story writer and best-selling author, has returned to World War II as the setting for his work Mission to Paris: A Novel. Indeed, the setting for Mission is in the run-up to World War II as the Nazis begin working their mind-games against the French.

An American star, Frederic Stahl, is on his way to make film for Paramount and the Nazi propaganda machine's secret department is cranking itself up to use Stahl - or so they think - as part of their plan to destabilize France from within and its will to win.

What they don't know about Stahl is that he, too, is an agent, working for the American Embassy against Germany. Stahl is aghast and horrified by the Nazis and what was to become known as "the final solution." In 1938, though, the Nazis could not reveal their true agenda to the world or they would have quickly been cut off by the rest of society so they had to work behind the scenes to do their deeds.

The key to his novel, though, is Furst's ability as an author. His works are called "page-turners" by the trade. Some have called him the best spy novelist in the business this generation, on a par with the master spy novelist John LeCarre. After reading him, we would have to agree.

The list of characters that Furst's fertile imagination creates and the reality you feel is amazing. Take, the Baroness von Reschke, a famous beauty, a deeply committed Nazi who is also deeply committed to the operations against France. As noted, the intimate scenes in which she is involved are well drawn and believable. Indeed, each character, as noted, is just that believable, including the Nazi thugs, Janoz and Lothar, who, though they seem just from the trees, are also quite creepy as assassins.

This work must have taken a great deal out of Furst because of the way he details the film cast and crew; members of the diplomatic community and Stahl's lovers. Like a puzzle, not only is each piece a small work of art that is meant to fit into a larger work, the whole of Mission to Paris is greater than the sum of its parts.

Whether you read it the old-fashioned way, as a standard book, or you download the Kindle version, you should be glad you did.

Hopefully, Furst will remain as prolific as other writers of this genre, as reading his work is something you should not miss.


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