Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Interview with Doug Richards

 Douglas E. Richards was born on May 7th, 1962.  He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio with his parents and his sister, Pam.  He went to Finneytown High School, and then graduated with a degree in microbiology from Ohio State University, a master's degree in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin, and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. 
Douglas now lives in San Diego, California with his wife, Kelly, and his two children, Ryan and Regan.

Kira Miller is a brilliant genetic engineer who discovers how to temporarily achieve savant-like capabilities in all areas of thought and creativity. But what if this transcendent level of intelligence brings with it a ruthless megalomania?

David Desh left the special forces after his team was brutally butchered in Iran. Now he has been reactivated for one last mission: find Kira Miller, the enigmatic genius behind a bioterror plot that threatens millions. But when Desh learns that the bioterror plot is just the tip of the iceberg, he is thrust into a byzantine maze of deception and intrigue, and he becomes a key player in a deadly game he can't begin to understand. A game that is certain to have a dramatic impact on the future course of human history.

The sequel to the NY Times & USA Today bestseller, WIRED, which was also the #1 bestselling Kindle book of 2011 in two major categories, "technothrillers" and "science fiction" (19th overall).
Kira Miller is a brilliant scientist who discovers how to temporarily boost human IQ to dizzying levels. But this transcendent intelligence brings with it a ruthless megalomania. Determined to use her discovery to propel human civilization to a higher plane, despite this side effect, Kira and ex-special forces operative David Desh recruit a small group of accomplished scientists, all of whom are safely off the grid. Or so they think .

Soon Kira and her team are fighting for their lives against unknown but powerful adversaries. Worse still, while on the run and being relentlessly attacked from all quarters, Kira comes across evidence of savage acts that the enhanced version of Desh kept hidden, even from himself. Now both she and Desh must question everything they think they know. Can they trust each other? Can they even trust themselves?
And all the while, the greatest threat of all may be coming from an entirely unexpected direction. A threat that could lead to devastation on a global scale. And time is quickly running out .

How did you come up with the titles?

I was going for something punchy and interesting. The books are about a brilliant woman who finds a way, for about an hour at a time, to boost human intelligence to immeasurable levels, but this boost comes with a price. She does this by using genetic engineering to re-wire the brain (so "WIRED" seemed to make sense for a title). Since I have a master's degree in genetic engineering, I did a lot of research to make this as plausible as possible.

How did you come up with the idea for your series?

I've always been fascinated with the potential of the human brain, especially given that autistic savants, by being able to memorize entire phonebooks and calculate square roots in their heads instantly, give us a glimpse into the brain's vast potential. 

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

I've tried to include a lot of food for thought in the books. There really isn't anything specific I'm hoping readers will grasp, I just want to entertain them, yet also present concepts that I hope they will continue to think about long after they've finished the books.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

For me, the writing is the easy part. It's figuring out the plots that can drive me crazy, or even what will happen in a given scene. It's one thing to write in an outline "hero cleverly escapes from an inescapable prison," but it's another to actually figure out how this happens :)

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

My boyhood favorite was Isaac Asimov. I loved his plots, and the clever twists he always had at the end.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Just that I hope they will enjoy the books.

Who is your favorite or least favorite character to write?

Kira Miller is far and away my favorite character to write. I find her fascinating on a number of levels, and she is not only brilliant, but street smart, fascinating, and incredibly resourceful and formidable. 

Fun time!

In the point of view of any character you choose, answer these:

From Kira Miller's point of view:

What is your dirty little secret?

I have lots of secrets, but they're all plot spoilers :)   (I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you)

You're walking along and a dragon appears in front of you. What do you do?

Calmly assess the situation, and then impress it and outsmart it on so many levels, it decides to be my loyal servant.

What is your heart's desire?
To destroy the world or save it. I can't be more specific without fear of a plot spoiler.

 Bonus round!

Where can we all follow you?

My website is at www.douglaserichards.com, but I'm horrible at keeping it up to date, and to be honest, it isn't very good (although it does have some articles I've written for the BBC, Earth & Sky, Today's Parent, etc. and some samples of my work for National Geographic KIDS magazine. I find my Author Facebook page is far easier for me to update, so "Friending" me on Facebook at Douglas E. Richards Author might be the best way to go.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: A sense of Direction; Pilgrimage for the restless and the hopeful by Gideon Lewis-Kraus

 In medieval times, a pilgrimage gave the average Joe his only break from the daily grind. For Gideon Lewis-Kraus, it promises a different kind of escape. Determined to avoid the kind of constraint that kept his father, a gay rabbi, closeted until midlife, he has moved to anything-goes Berlin. But the surfeit of freedom there has begun to paralyze him, and when a friend extends a drunken invitation to join him on an ancient pilgrimage route across Spain, he grabs his sneakers, glad of the chance to be committed to something and someone.
       Irreverent, moving, hilarious, and thought-provoking, A Sense of Direction is Lewis-Kraus's dazzling riff on the perpetual war between discipline and desire, and its attendant casualties. Across three pilgrimages and many hundreds of miles - the thousand-year-old Camino de Santiago, a solo circuit of eighty-eight Buddhist temples on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and, together with his father and brother, an annual mass migration to the tomb of a famous Hasidic mystic in the Ukraine - he completes an idiosyncratic odyssey to the heart of a family mystery and a human dilemma: How do we come to terms with what has been and what is - and find a way forward, with purpose?

My Review:

Pros:   It was far more interesting than I thought it would be. I expected some sort of drab monologue about a man who walked quite a bit. It was, admittedly, the exact opposite.

Cons:  This is where reading personalities comes in. I prefer fiction books and dragons. There were no dragons in this book, at least not literally. It was a great read, but not something I spent more than an hour at a time flipping through the pages.

Movie Potential:   Not quite something I would line up to see, but perhaps something that would haul in a fine revenue from almost-middle-aged persons on up.

Writing style:  Easy to follow, almost as if you were having a conversation with the author and hearing of his escapades.

Format:  Kindle. Mind you, a real proper kindle and not my iPod this time. No problems reading.

Overall Rating:  3/5

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review: The Metaphysical Double Life of Eri Lane

Everyone knows that fourteen-year-old Eri Lane is different. She is too intense, always tells the truth, and she somehow knows things she shouldn’t. Her confused teachers know she’s different. The means kids know. Her hardworking single mother knows. The cute, nerdy senior that she loves knows. There is just something about Eri Lane. But none of them know just how different, because absolutely none of them know that there are actually two worlds, the world of Dream and the world of Wake. Only Eri Lane and her best friend Malcolm Harris know that.

Eri and Malcolm never sleep, since they were twelve they have been among the special guardians of the boundary between the two worlds, known among themselves as the Awake. Now it’s November of their sophomore year, and Eri has been having a hard enough time trying to repair psychic leaks all night, and then navigate the ups and downs of being the black sheep of Marchland High School for the Gifted every day, (not to mention protecting Malcolm, who is openly gay, and their other best friend Ashley, who is too nice, from bullies), when a strange new creature shows up in the world of Dream, wreaking havoc and possibly even attempting to tear open the barrier between the two worlds. Now, Eri has to figure out how to stop it/him, how to save the world, and most importantly, whether or not the world is worth saving.

My Review:

Pros:   This is a fascinating book that keeps you reading. The change in tense between the Dream world and the Awake world is a bit unusual (though not unpleasant) at first, but you get used to it.

Cons: The ending felt kind of incomplete. There were no plot holes, and everything was wrapped up--but it all seemed a bit too quick. I expected more mystery concerning the mom, but it didn't happen.

Characters: I would ask for more backstory, but at this point it would be like asking for their biography. The main characters are well thought out and mostly everyone else is developed, if not in the Awake world then in their Dreams. The only person I felt that could have used a bit more spotlight was Eri's mother. In the book, there's a big mystery introduced that involves Eri's mother. It's not really talked about, though--Eri just says what it means and it's never, ever mentioned again.

Movie Potential: It would be a pretty cool movie, I admit. Not really a live action movie, though. I feel this would do better as an animated sort of film. Something along the lines of Popoyo and Spirited Away.

Format:  Kindle, a few typos here and there.

Overall Rating:  4/5

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Coming Up

I have this blog planned out for quite a while. Every review is scheduled about a week apart, to give me space for unplanned surprises, like a book that needs to be reviewed on a certain date or if I decide to host a giveaway.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: Shaman, Friend, Enemy

Patients with fractured souls, clients threatened by deadly ancestor spirits, and now the paparazzi–it’s all in a day’s work for techno-shaman Olivia Lawson. Livvy has rocketed to the top of the shaman world, bringing old friends with her but also attracting new enemies.

Even as her career soars, her personal life spirals downward. Broken bonds and lost love finally force her to confront the terrible secret of her beginning in shamanism. Despite being attacked by dark shamans and navigating a spiritual plane that seems out of control, Livvy’s single-minded quest steers her into dangerous territory and puts her on a collision course with those dearest to her.

No longer interested in walking a fine line, Livvy discovers that–when the one thing you need is the one thing you can’t have–you’ll risk everything.


My Review:

Pros:   This was an excellent sequel to it's partner novel, which I reviewed three days ago. Reading this, I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed in my choice to review these two books at all.

Cons: It felt short. Normally I love short books because they're easy to get through and I have more time to read more books. But I felt like there was a whole other chapter missing--perhaps the next book in this series. I got so involved with the characters and the story that I was shocked to find myself at the end of the last chapter.

Characters: There were some definite advances made with most of the characters. A couple previous characters, though, seemed faded out by comparison. I felt like I know so much about Livvy and her best friend Min, even about her mother and SK. That is brilliant. But I want to know more about the other shamans from the first book. They didn't get as big a spotlight this time around, almost seeming as if they were pulled in last minute.

Movie Potential: I stand by my decision that this would rock as a movie. After reading this second novel, and noting its length, I would put the two books into one movie. Not sure how the transistion would go, but it could work.

Writing style:  still consistent, still enjoyable

Format:  Still kindle, with no problems.

Overall Rating:  4/5