U.S. Route 99 by Michael Newlon

route 99U.S. Route 99 by Michael R Newlon is yet another coffee table, travel book in his series—this one just as stunning and interesting as the rest. As always, Newlon uses photographs to set the mood of his trip and get the reader excited to begin. He begins this time with a photo of Cadillac Jacks in Sun Valley, California. Seeing the historic building puts the reader in a nostalgic mood and indicates that this trip will be one full of beauty and historical significance. And, as is his usual, he provides a photo of the vehicle that makes it all possible…this time parked beside a Historic Route 99 sign, putting the reader in the mood for a drive.

Before getting on the road, Newlon gives the reader a little backstory and some pertinent information. He starts with the Porsche. As the original owner of the 1969 Porsche 912, Newlon drove the car for a decade before storing it for almost three decades. When retirement rolled around, he decided to get the car a complete rebuild and chassis overhaul, perfect for long-distance highway cruising. Newlon then takes the time to explain highway terminology and signage. For those readers who do not know much about highways or traveling, this is a welcome little detour. A final interesting tidbit is about the maps he uses throughout the book. He explains that they are from a 1959 atlas. The reader will enjoy Newlon’s use of maps because they are augmented with information bubbles. These bubbles contain not only pertinent trip information, but also point out how the current alignment is different from the one the reader would see today. This is helpful to the reader who needs a visual aid to understand the twists, turns, and changes the highway takes.

The body of the work details Newlon’s terminus to terminus trip, starting at the Mexican border in Calexico, California and ending at the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington. U.S. Route 99 was actually decommissioned in the 1970s for reasons such as signage confusion and safety issues, but Newlon drives the “full surviving length,” which is now made up by mostly state highways. Despite this change, he finds the original 1926 alignment still mostly intact. Along the way, he reports such historic sites as former location of ancient Lake Cahuilla, Cadillac Jacks and the Pink Motel, and the town of Yreka. As can happen on any trip, alongside beautiful scenery, Newlon also runs into less than favorable weather and requires an unexpected pit stop before reaching his destination…only to turn around and begin another journey.

Once again, being a passenger in Newlon’s Porsche is an absolute pleasure. His book is both intellectually and aesthetically pleasing. Being photo-heavy and text-light, Newlon conveys a large amount of information in a small space. The reader will learn a lot about U.S. Route 99 and highways in general. The photographs are both beautiful and informative. Newlon writes an interesting travel book that is peppered with his humorous point of view about the things he sees. Because Route 99 was decommissioned, Newlon becomes a detective of sorts, searching for signs of the old route and noting how the highway and towns evolved side-by-side. This is not just a travel book, it is also a work of art, a history, and a practical guide rolled into one interesting and humorous package.

U.S. Route 99

Travel America’s “Pacific Highway” in a Classic 1969 Porsche 912

Michael R Newlon

Copyright 2010

http://www.highwaytripbooks.com/

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Bedbugs by Ben H Winters

Bedbugs is a horror novel narrated by an insomniac, unemployed mother who has anxiety problems.  Told through Susan Wendt’s impressions, the reader is never sure what is truth and what is imagined by this woman who is so influenced by media and her own insecurities.  The novel blurs the line between reality and imagination at every turn – it is not until the very last chapter that the reader learns the true story and knows who to believe.

The story begins with Susan Wendt searching for the perfect place for her family to live.  Susan has recently quit her job at a law firm to pursue her painting.  Her husband Alex makes decent money photographing jewelry and watches for a commercial company.  Their daughter Emma is a well-adjusted child who is watched by a young nanny in the mornings and early afternoon.  After months of searching, Susan has found a place that sounds too good to be true – it is a charming, two-story home in Brooklyn with a bonus room in which Susan can paint.  The house is everything they have been looking for and they can afford it; they fall in love with it on sight.  Susan even loves their landlord, an eccentric old woman named Andrea Scharfstein.  Susan and Alex decide to move in.

During the first night in the house, the reader learns that Susan is not as care-free and happy as she lets on.  After her husband and daughter are fast asleep, Susan continues to unpack because she has terrible insomnia.  She is sure that her husband resents her for not working and staying home to paint while he is stuck in a lousy job instead of taking artistic photographs, she chastises herself for not being able to paint and for wasting money on a nanny when she doesn’t work, she thinks about her mother’s untimely death…all these self-deprecating thoughts make her unable to sleep.  That first night she is sure she sees a man standing outside her daughter’s window.

Then things start to go very wrong with the house and her marriage.  Alex is stressed about work and Susan blames herself; she starts having horrible nightmares filled with blood and gore.  Susan begins to notice little problems with the house – there are cracks, loose outlet covers, uneven floorboards, and most bizarre of all – a faint pinging noise with no discernible source.  When Susan finally steps into the bonus room to paint, there is a horrendous smell and a strange photograph with a bloody fingerprint.  Andrea tells her the story of the couple who lived there before them, but something doesn’t seem right to Susan.  One day, Susan meets Louis – the elderly handyman and friend of Andrea’s – and learns that there was a tragedy in the basement and a subsequent darkening of the houses’ atmosphere.  But all of this is just the beginning of Susan’s terror-filled journey…how much is reality and how much is a product of her anxious brain? Is she losing it or is there a menace in her home?

Bedbugs is an intense and suspenseful narrative told from the perspective of a likable woman with glaring psychological issues. From the very beginning, the reader connects with Susan and feels like he truly knows her.  He wants to trust her and believe her reality, but at the same time, his objectivity is constantly questioning her perceptions.  This novel does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing – any time another clue is revealed it only adds to his confusion.  This story is a real page-turner – the reader will be hooked until the very last page!

BedBugs

Ben H Winters

Copyright 2011

 

Dark Passage by Griffin Hayes

 

Dark Passage is classified as a paranormal thriller and it definitely lives up to the hype; be warned, this novel contains images so chilling that it may keep some readers up at night, squinting into the dark corners of the bedroom, searching for signs of grotesque creatures…

 

The first chapter is a vague yet poignant look into the past.  An unnamed boy is alone in a house that is clearly run by a mother with OCD.  The reader learns from snippets of the boy’s thoughts that his mother is a germaphobe who is also abusive.  She uses the idea that there is a monster living in the room at the end of the hall to terrify her son into obedience.

 

The book then switches to the present where the reader meets Tyson Barrett.  Tyson has insomnia and has not slept in six months.  He is about to join a clinical drug trial for Noxil, which treats PTSD and is supposed to stop his nightmares so that he can sleep for longer than a few minutes at a time.  The next chapter switches to another narrator, Dr. Hunter, who has just begun at Sunnybrook Asylum.  Dr. Hunter learns that on the 8th floor, which is reserved for patients who have committed violent crimes, lays Brenda Barrett.  Brenda has fallen into a coma, but shows unusually high brain activity.

 

The reader is left wondering how all of these characters relate to each other.  When Brenda seems to speak to Dr. Hunter even in her comatose state and when things start appearing from out of Tyson’s dreams, the situation just becomes creepy and the reader cannot help but read on in hopes that the mystery will be solved and the nightmares that are bound to appear will be vanquished.

 

From the beginning, Hayes captures the reader’s attention with the image of a terrified boy and the terror does not stop there.  Page after page, the past is pieced together and the future becomes more and more frightening and uncertain.  At times, it may seem as if Hayes is falling back on psychological horror story stereotypes, such as a traumatized boy losing his mind. But this is not the case.  Readers will not be disappointed in the ending; the nightmare lasts right up until the very last page.

 

Dark Passage

Griffin Hayes

Copyright 2011