Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Cut - cops, drugs and drama

The Cut: A Wolfe Novel
Peter Churchill
Publisher:  Rhubarb Triangle (ebook)  March, 2014
Sometimes even in the world of fiction, the good guys aren't the James Bond style mannequin that the bad guys never succeed in foiling.  Wolfe is a Detective Sergeant in the Eastern Area Drug Squad, and he's been in law enforcement for a long time, used to the complexities and uncertainties of finding and trapping drug dealers, but he's never seen anything like the challenges he's about to face.

There's something afoot, as they used to say in Sherlock's day.  Cocaine in huge quantities is being shipped into the country by a new, thoroughly competent and incredibly creative, drug king-pin named Simpson, one who enjoys danger and actively loves violence.

Wolfe's been divorced and has pretty much decided that work is the only life he's going to get to have.  His hard shell seems impenetrable until, during a drug bust, he meets Tina, the junkie girlfriend of Billie, a runner for Simpson.  As Wolfe and Tina are dropped into a maze-like game of cat and mouse in search of the brilliant but deadly Simpson, a kind of bond begins to develop, but is it real or is Tina playing him?  Nothing in the dark world of drug dealing is ever really what it seems to be.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Recess is my Best Subject

Recess is my Best Subject
Peggy Mastel
Fergus Publishing, Sioux Falls, SD (2013)

  • ISBN-10: 0989770109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0989770101

Of late, there's been a lot of discussion about how to deal with education.  Factions argue about whether "throwing more money at the problem" will fix our slumping ratings as we try to compete with other countries for the best educated citizens. Politics is involved all over the place.  I invite every single person who cares about this issue to read Peggy Mastel's book "Recess is my Best Subject" because here is where the rubber meets the road ... in the land of the substitute teacher.

Which schools do best?  What are the problems that keep kids from learning?  How many of the problems kids have are related to the educational philosophy of a given school's principal or superintendent?  How do teachers get the children in their classes to behave?  What effect does class size have on a child's ability to learn?  What happens when special needs children are segregated from the other classes?  Is it better than when they're not? How do teachers reach the children of the poor who are needy in so many ways?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shemlan: A Deadly Tragedy





Shemlan: A Deadly Tragedy
by Alexander McNabb

  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1493621939
  • ISBN-13: 978-1493621934


Gerald Lynch has been at it a long time.  Getting into places no sane person would go to, handling issues that nobody should know about, but handling them "quietly" has never seemed to work for Lynch.  The proverbial bull in the china shop, he's always creating mayhem wherever he goes.  Problem is, mayhem works.  In spite of his boss' constant irritation and outright outrage at his indiscretions (leaving a body or two in his wake, in sometimes far-more-visible ways than anyone would like), he's really, really, good at getting results, so when budget cuts come, or when he doesn't do quite such a good job at the periodic physical training tests, he stays.  This time, though, he's pretty much chasing ghosts.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Legend of Team 9

The Legend of Team 9: An Away Science Fiction Book
Copyright 2012   by Norman Oro
Available at CreateSpace
Available at Amazon

This book is a short read, part of a series of sci-fi books by Norman Oro recounting the adventures of "Team 9" (think SG1 in Star Gate), in the long-standing science fiction tradition of the small group of can-do folks who are called in whenever the impossible is required to save the world, the galaxy, or the universe.

Not exactly a new theme, you say, and you'd be right, but this book is interesting because it brings in a whole new set of issues that crop up (as is often the case) when the seemingly straightforward mission goes out of control in unexpected ways that have to be dealt with.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb is a young adult (Y/A) novel about a boy who tests out of school early and becomes a photographer, only to be thrust into the headlines himself when his family becomes the target of assassins. But these aren't just any assassins. They're ghost assassins.

The setting is 1935, but it's not the same 1935 we all know. In this 1935, ghosts co-exist with the living, but only some of the living can see them. Those who can are called etherists. Johnny's sister, Melanie Graphic, is an etherist, and she belongs to a group who is dedicated to understanding how ghosts interact with the world of the living and how the ether (the area where the ghosts exist) works. Unfortunately, someone is targeting her group and killing them off one by one.

Luckily, Johnny's newspaper, The Clarion, is willing to sponsor a trip around the world, during which Johnny and Melanie have to identify the assassins, figure out what their plans are, and stop them before they are assassinated themselves. Along the way, they are accompanied by Uncle Louie and their friend, Nina, as well as a rag-tag group of ghosts.

There are a few things that I like about this book. One of them is the idea of ghosts co-existing with, and even being able to interact with, human beings. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, you have to admit that the idea is intriguing. I also enjoyed the fact that the author went out of his way to give each ghost in the story his or her own unique personality. I felt that most of the ghost characters, as well as the human characters, were described quite well. I expect that the personalities of all of the main characters will be even further developed later in the series.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book is that it takes place in an alternate 1935. The locations all have different names than you might expect. There was a Civil War of sorts that ended differently from the Civil War we all know, causing a different division of countries, and a different governmental system. Granted, that also meant that I, as the reader, had to just accept certain things as fact and didn't have a lot of familiar reference points, but I liked the imagination behind the concept.

Prior to reading this novel, I was told that it was the first in a series. So, I read it with that in mind. There are some unanswered questions in this book. I assume that they will be answered in later books. However, the main plot of this book did stand alone nicely. It just left the door open for the sequel,which is a good thing.

Although the plot flowed well, I did have trouble getting into the first chapter or two, but each chapter consists of only a few pages. So, by page ten or twelve I was hooked. I found that the story flowed well after that, and there were a few times when I kept on reading, despite intending to do other things, because I wanted to see what happened next. I felt invested in the characters, which is something that I can't say about many books.

If there's one nit picky thing I can say about Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb, it's that I wish the time didn't seem overly emphasized. The year 1935 is mentioned several times, reminding the reader of the setting, but it didn't actually feel much like 1935, especially since it's set in an alternate reality anyway. Yes, there was the mention of “newsies,” and there were occasional descriptions of clothing from the era, but it really could have been any year and the story would have been just as good.

I give Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb 5 out of 5 stars. It was well-written, entertaining, and featured well-rounded characters. I felt like the writing was appropriate for the intended age group as well. Most importantly, it left me wanting more, as book one in a series always should.

Book:  Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb (Book 1 of series)
By:  D.R. Martin
Publisher: Conger Road Press
Length:  79,000 words
Genre: Young Adult (Y/A)
ISBN: 978-0-9850196-1-7
Available on Amazon.com


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Exodus 2022, a Mass Migration





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There is something about near future science fiction that makes it easy to read and wonderful fun. Almost any reader can read it because there usually isn't a lot of space dedicated to 'world building'. Things are familiar to the reader from the start. Ken Bennett's Exodus 2022 is just such a story. The settings are familiar, the technology is usually understood with only  a few updates and the reader usually has a platform of understanding to easily accept  the 'new' or 'improved' tech. This allows authors to do what they do best; tell a story.

I have said before that there are really three kinds of stories: Man Against Nature; Man Against Himself; Man Against Man. There are, of course underlying themes: Good versus Evil; Discovery; Letting Go; Success versus Failure. But the story is usually told through the three types of stories.  In Ken Bennett's compelling book Exodus 2022, the overt story is man against man but the underlying or supporting theme is good versus evil. Will Evil triumph? Will Good? Or will this be a case of just one battle in a long, long war? Will Joe win? Will Ella? Will Beck trample them both? Or is there a greater story here than just Beck and Joe? And what of Lorna Gwin, the daughter Joe feels in his guts is his missing and dead child, though he never had a daughter?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Recruiting a Queen's Witch


         One nice feature found in online bookstores is information about the length of the story. It is such a shame more people don't use it! I fell victim to my own laziness once and bought a book that was actually a short story. But I never blamed the author for it. Lately I have seen numerous reviews complaining that the 'book' they bought on Amazon was not a full book. If the book is advertised as a novel, one has a reason to complain, but all of these were on books clearly marked as a short story.

      Good short stories take a lot of effort. One has to tell a complete story in very few words, so even more than a novel, each word has to count and many words have to do double or triple duty. The cost of most short stories range from free to about $2. Considering I buy a certain woman's magazine for the two short short-stories and a handful of puzzles and jokes, $1.99 doesn't seem too much to pay for a 10 to 90 page short story. In the magazine, these short stories are one pagers, similar to The Perfect Man, which I wrote last fall for our Halloween hop. Most of the stand alone short stories available on Amazon and Smashwords are much longer and quite good. The two from Karen Chance, The Gauntlet and The Queen's Witch, that I'm introducing today are fine examples.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Special Price on Time-Travel Duo by Paddock

     James Paddock has now combined two great books into a great package, Time-Travel Duo. Many of you have seen the review I have done of the Paddock time-travel books, so this is just a heads up on the fact you can get both books for just a bit more than the cost of one! If you haven't seen the reviews, please continue to read. These are great books!
      I purchased the first book, Before Anne After, a while back and loved the book. When I got a notice that this book was for sale, I jumped at the chance to read it. Paddock has a writing style that makes everything so smooth and easy. You can slip into the book, become part of the story, and live in the action without even noticing. I spent two nights with little sleep as I devoured the second book of this duo.
     This is a time travel story, the first one about the mother and the second one about the daughter, which remain internally consistent. A difficult thing to do in this genre.

Book: Before Anne After:
By James Paddock
Length 668
ASIN: B001CZCTCY

Friday, May 16, 2014

Twists and Turns only Time will Tell

James Paddock has now combined two great books into a great package, Time-Travel Duo. I purchased the first book, Before Anne After, a while back and loved the book. When I got a notice that this book was for sale, I jumped at the chance to read it. Paddock has a writing style that makes everything so smooth and easy. You can slip into the book, become part of the story, and live in the action without even noticing. I spent two nights with little sleep as I devoured the second book of this duo.
     This is a time travel story, the first one about the mother and the second one about the daughter, which remain internally consistent. A difficult thing to do in this genre.

Book: Before Anne After:
By James Paddock
Length 668
ASIN: B001CZCTCY

Monday, April 28, 2014

Triorion:Reborn (Parts I and II) Books 3 & 4 in the series

Triorion: Reborn 
(Parts I and II) (Books 3 and 4 in the series)
L. J Hachmeister

Reborn Part I available at Amazon
Reborn Part II expected June 2014

reviews here at abookadayreviews:

Triorion: Awakening (Book I) 
Triorion: Abomination (Book 2)

Jaeia, Jetta, and Jahx have always had a tough life.  Born (or so they believed) on the mining planet Fiorah, they worked and starved like everyone else, but they had an edge, one that they realized, even as small children, was definitely not normal.  They had abilities.  They could, to some degree, control events around them, change people's minds, or scare them witless  They could learn things by taking the knowledge directly from the minds of others, and they were growing at a very accelerated pace, both in size and in intellect.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

All Night Long by Jayne Ann Krentz

All Night Long was published in 2007 by GP Putman's Sons, New York.




My question to you is, what would you do if you were sixteen years old, and walked in to find your beloved dad had murdered your mom, and then took his own life?  The dad who was a stand up sheriff, and you daddy?  Not only were you out where you weren't supposed to be, but you tried to sneak in, and could hardly open the back door, only to turn on the light, and see the blood.

That's how this books starts...The young lady, Irene, moves away, grows up, marries and divorces, and all of a sudden; the friend, Pam, that dropped her off the night when her parents were killed, emails her that she needs to talk her.  So, Irene, who is now a reporter, buttons up her coat, and goes back to the town and the nightmare.  She stays at a lakefront cabin with unique lodge owner, Luke.

As she gets settled, she waits for her Pam to call.  Irene keeps calling Pam, and only receives voice mail.  This is what starts her to look into why her Pam doesn't call back-she goes to Pam's house, and finds her dead.  But, Irene feels that this is linked to her parents (not everyone believes her-thinks she is not right in her mind).

She and Luke discover that they both have issues, but they find themselves together.  The ending is shocking.  The who done-it is not who you think...

I would say that this is definitely a number 2 book; I enjoyed reading it, but could put it down and come back.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Division


Division

Karen Wyle
Smashwords Edition 2013


We all know someone who has identical twins, or we've gone to school with twins, or we've seen them in movies and commercials. Those of us lucky enough to actually know twins are well aware that having the same genetic code doesn't automatically mean they think the same way at all. As we go through life, different stimulus can strike us in different ways. Two people (even twins) who see a car accident don't always see what happened the same way. One could have been distracted by a bird flying by or a stray thought at a key moment. Different books they might read generate different ideas and beliefs, and as these paths diverge, individuality emerges.

Johnny and Gordon have a unique problem. Nobody sees them as individuals. They've been together all their lives but as they grew, their personalities drifted further and further apart and now it's time they went their separate ways, but due to circumstances beyond their control and a startling family secret-- they can't.

Johnny is restless; he wants to get out on his own. He's sick of having his brother in his face all the time, and has always been the more emotional and impulsive of the two. He wants to take action and stop talking about it.

Gordon's delighted with the current arrangement. All these years he's had Johnny around to help him. They finished one another's sentences. They always did homework together, played sports together, had the same friends and went, together, through the adversity of the folks who stared and pointed and thought they were weird. They had triumphed over all that adversity. Why change anything?

Now the technology is available to give each his own individual life. Johnny wants this desperately. Gordon doesn't see the point. Brothers can feud, but this is orders of magnitude worse. They must go to court, each defending his right to live as he chooses. Johnny's freedom could quite literally threaten Gordon's life. Gordon's preferred life is slavery by Johnny's standards. Is it even possible to find a fair solution?

This is one of the most thought provoking books I've read. The author puts us not only in the presence of the twins, but into their thought processes and emotional states. She tackles, aside from the issue of technology bringing us places we may not want to go, showing, in clear example, the conflicts that arise when two individuals' separate rights have to be sorted out. Does Johnny have the right to endanger his brother to get what he wants? Should Gordon have to completely restructure his life and sacrifice all he holds dear (and possibly his life) because Johnny wants a different path? Are we our brothers' keeper, or do we owe ourselves freedom?

This is adult material, difficult both from the standpoint of erotica (in the context of the story, not gratuitous, we are after all talking about teenage boys), but also from the standpoint of traditional value systems. It is a frank discussion of what it means to be an individual, of what happens when rights conflict and there seem to be no viable answers. We see the public get wrapped in the conflict, both sides angry and vindictive, and wonder how it can ever be resolved. It challenges our view of both freedom and justice, while letting us share in the lives of some very memorable characters. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Falling for the Daughters of Twilight

     There are always new takes on old mythology. Think of Romeo
Secrets, and more secrets
and Juliet. Yes, that was taken from a very old Greek tale about Pyramus and Thisbe, a tale I read long before I read Shakespeare's version. The fact is, many of the writers borrow ideas from mythology, from real life, and from religion. Some keep the tales close to the original story, some are only faithful to the basic idea or plot, and others use the story as a springboard to a much different place. If you read the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe, you will see the old bard stayed pretty true to the original myth with only the names and setting changed to protect the innocent. For a sample of the second, look no further than the tons of rewrites of Cinderella. My favorite is Ever After with Drew Barrymore, though this one almost makes it into the first category. There are also these two modern versions of note, A Cinderella Story with Hannah Robinson and Another Cinderella Story with Selena Gomez. At least these two productions give a nod to the original story, using Cinderella in the title. Then there are movies that only use the idea of a poor, mistreated, or under-appreciated girl who finds true love with the handsome prince of a man. Think Pretty Woman, for instance. Any number of stories can be generated by an idea from mythology or religion, with some fantastical results. Our new movies include, as an example of the springboard type, Thor and his brother. Today's book,  Daughters of Twilight, by Collette Jackson-Fink, uses ideas from the bible to create an intriguing story full of mystery and wonder, as well as evil and not so evil.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone (first review by Jessica Kosinski)


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (AKA: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone)

by J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic Inc. (1997)



It would be difficult for anyone not to have at least some knowledge of what has become the Harry Potter Universe (HPU). When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was first released, it became an instant classic. Children and adults alike became immersed in it.

I personally jumped on the HPU bandwagon a few years late. I caught a bit of the third movie when it came out on TV and got hooked, soon acquiring all of the books and movies that had come out to that point. I then proceeded to purchase each new book and movie as soon as they came out. It would therefore be impossible for me to review the book version of Sorcerer's Stone without at least acknowledging a few major issues between it and the rest of the HPU.

Sorcerer's Stone the Book Versus the Movie:

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Burn (first review by Tonya Cozad)


BURN
by Linda Howard

Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition 
(August 31, 2010)  
Language: English 
ISBN-10: 0345486579 
ISBN-13: 978-0345486578



Linda Howard is one of the writers that I enjoy reading. Her book, The Burn, is one of her latest ones that I just finished. I actually bought it several months ago, and started the prologue, only to put it down and walk away. I just wasn’t getting into it then. However, this last week, I had some extra time, so I picked it up again, and started it.

The book starts really differently than her normal books. I discovered that the prologue is actually a chapter midway through. The first chapter starts several years before, and the book works its way to the present. The setting is about a young lady who wins the lottery. A Very Large Lottery, and how she not only deals with all that money, but what happens to friends, family, and her life.

The second part deals with being a wealthy woman who goes on a charity cruise with her new friend. Only her friend doesn’t make it, due to a very specific reason, and what is supposed to have been enjoyable cruise becomes a nightmare-hostages, international intrigue, and yes, love (with Linda’s good love scenes) and death!

It was a very solid read. I enjoyed it-I certainly enjoyed the young lady who is named Jennifer. She has my sense of woman-ness (if that’s a word), and my sense of outrage with a mouth to go with it! I would rate this as a #4. I certainly had to put it down for a while, but I definitely wanted to come back.


TL Cozad


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)


I Wear the Black Hat
by Chuck Klosterman
Publisher: Scribner, July 2013

ISBN-10: 1439184496 
ISBN-13: 978-1439184493

Available at Amazon 

What is it about our fascination with characters that, by any normal standard, would not be welcome into our lives, and the way they keep us riveted to our chairs watching them on media programs or reading them in books? People talk about the worst of them and try to understand them long after they are gone (like Hitler), are alternately horrified and amused by the bad boys and their antics (like Charlie Sheen or Alec Baldwin), and keep bringing murderers back to life over and over again (Hannibal Lector is reappearing in cable, and Norman of Psycho fame is back again). Really? Are they role models? Does it somehow help us? Are we drawn to evil? Is it the dark side of human nature that we can't get rid of?



Chuck Klostermann has taken on the task of sorting this out. While he's not sure he's got the answers, he's certainly taking a close look at the phenomenon. "I Wear the Black Hat" takes note of our penchant for paying more attention to the bad guys than the heroes (who can be unutterably simple and boring), and our tendency, over time, to remember the bad guys more clearly because they are a puzzle. Do they choose to be bad or is the choice made for them by outside forces? Do the cartoon-ish villains in old melodramas tying maids to the railroad tracks have anything in common with the author of "The Prince," Niccolo Macchiavelli? Which is worse, a villain-on-purpose, or one that can't help himself?


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mirror, Mirror, the Reflections of Queen Snow White

Do you ever wonder if happily ever after truly is? Those of us who have lived long enough realize there is much more to life than the simple ending those old fairy tales used. What happens when the bills come in? What happens when children get sick or parents get old? We rarely see beyond the first story, Shrek not withstanding. Sometimes I make my own stories up but they are not nearly so nice as the original story. David C. Meredith not only brings us a story of Queen Snow White after that famous ending but takes us to a point in her life where she is at an all time low. This is a poignant story giving us an insight to Snow White and, as with all such tales, giving us lessons we can take home.

 The Reflections of Queen Snow White
by David C. Meredith
ASIN: BooFLF4JAG
Sold by Amazon Digital Service


Friday, March 14, 2014

Germany's Beauty and Horror in the Escape from Plauen



     In front of me, on my desk hutch, is a picture my nephew sent me from Europe. It is a candid shot of an East German soldier fleeing to West Berlin prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall. It is stunning in its simplicity and in the danger it hides with that simplicity.  It certainly is an appropriate picture given the basis of the memoir I am reviewing today, a memoir which begins with a young German child a few years before the beginning of World War II.
Available at Amazon
     Here, in America, we rarely see a first hand account of the citizens who lived in Germany during World War II. This beautifully written text brings home, in vivid scenes and deliberate word choice, what this young child experienced in those days. From chapter one, the deft hand of Stoever takes us to the place only great writers can take us, a land of emotions instead of the written word with text like this:

It was the beginning of a terrible time for the girl wearing the heart necklace. During the darkness of that terrible war, when the little girl sat trembling in basements, as exploding bombs tore the air and death hunted for victims, the necklace felt her terror, and did its best to absorb her fright. When the girl’s fear became unbearable, she would take the necklace’s little gold heart in her mouth and bite down on it to stifle the screams surging in her throat. Patiently bearing the marks of her teeth, the heart soothed her hunger pangs when she was starving, and there was nothing to eat. After the war, during the country’s occupation by foreign troops, the little gold heart trembled with her when Russian soldiers prowled their icebound house, and she was so afraid that she almost stopped breathing. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Gargoyles of Smoke, Wings and Stone

     Writing unique stories with interesting and different characters is not an easy task for most aspiring writers. Take the children's storybook for instance. How do we find a character that the child will love, indeed treasure, so much that it ends up being the captain of its own fate? And how do we find one that has never been used before? It can't be a mouse because Mickey has that role, along with some of his lesser cousins. Mrs. Potter took rabbit off the table. Spiders? Charlotte will occupy that space in the hearts of children for a long time to come. Babe took the pig, though there are others. Ducks? Hens? Horses? Dogs? Coming in with a unique character is hard especially when it has been done before.
      The world of paranormal writing is barren with little for a new writer to glean, particularly when trying to find a new but familiar face. As writers search for that one special character or species, they have gone farther and farther afield, harvesting not just vampires, werewolves, and the succubus but also the gods of mythology and the terrors of our nightmares. While each story is unique in its setup, character details, and world rules, there is little out there that hasn't been done in one way or another. Yet have you ever seen a story about gargoyles, one where the focus was not only on the gargoyles but gargoyles as the good guys? Somehow Marijon Braden has managed to be unique in a field stocked full of 'already been done' characters with her book Smoke, Wings, and Stone, bringing to life a new breed of heroes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunday Meals and Snake Neckties

       As promised, another short tale for you to savor.
       We all have them, don't we, those stories handed down through family lore?  My grandmother tells the story of the time they put up Burma Shave type signs to get her brother to stop when her car broke down.  They wanted to make sure he didn't go whizzing by. And there's a tale about my grandfather's cousin who invented the Vice Grips while he worked for a manufacturing company. My grandfather got free seconds and the wrench became known as The Jeffryes Wrench in his neighborhood as in, "Let's go borrow the Jeffryes Wrench." Of course the invention was property of the manufacturing company and not of the man who invented it, but I digress. In our neighborhood, Mrs. Lunnon told the tale of her older sons who faked a murder-kidnapping just as a crowd was leaving the theater. This was when only one film was shown at a time so the crowd was big. The boys had to hide the car for weeks because the cops were looking for it. Don't you have similar stories to be told? And a good story teller can make them a fascinating read. Sunday Meals and Snake Neckties by Peggy Randall-Martin has the feeling of family lore, a captivating story about the life and times of regular people.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Simple Tale of Ryann

     Sometimes, though I am extremely fond of huge long books, I enjoy the novella or even an occasional short story. Short stories and novellas must be excellent at the beginning, through the middle, and at the end in a way that novels can slide a bit on.  If a good novel has a few scenes that aren't quite on point, as long as they are well written, the reader won't be too phased. The novella and especially the short story doesn't have that luxury. Every word must count. Like writing an opinion piece for a newspaper, each sentence must carry meaning. Flash fiction is even more demanding because it must carry the plot and meaning in each word choice.  I like long novels because they have the time to give back stories or give lessons about plants and herbs (think Clan of the Cave Bear or Heir to Power) or weave several stories and plots together (think Lord of the Rings) as long as the stuff is interestingly written. Short stories have other strengths: Clean straight-line plots; no long winded rabbit-hole paths; no huge cast of characters to remember. One of my favorite stories, Monument by Lloyd Biggle, Jr., was one that I read  in a condensed form which allowed the point of the story to be sharper.  I enjoyed the longer version but the short version hit home so much better. To give you a taste of the various stories written in shorter forms my next few reviews will be short books, novella, and short novels beginning with Ryann by Paul Dorset.


Ryann
by Paul Dorset
Words: 28,970
Language: English
ISBN: 9781476361895

About the book:

Ryann is a young girl who lives as a sclava, an indentured servant whose life at the castle is threatened not just from the hard work and little food but also by the sadistic son of the castle's Lord. Sclava's are paid but their food, housing, and clothing are deducted  from that pay making it almost impossible for them to save enough money to buy themselves out of servitude. But there is another way, for those who are brave enough and trained enough to try it.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

History made Personal: 1066 What Fates Impose

1066:  What Fates Impose

by G. K. Holloway

Publisher:  Matador,  9 Priory Business Park, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire,0RX, UK

ISBN 978-1-78306-220-1

Available at Amazon 



"The more things change, the more they stay the same" is a sentiment we frequently hear, but this book definitely challenges that view.  There are times when change is in the air and nothing happens, but there are times (and this book is set in those times) when the world seems to shift without warning, when old traditions just seem to disappear and what was obvious one day no longer applies the next.

For those of us educated "across the pond," English history was pretty much a matter of memorizing dates, places, and names, and not many of those.  The Battle of Hastings we knew about, and William the Conqueror, but little was said about the changes of the times, the forces that brought about the war, or the personalities involved.  Most of us, sadly, know about  the problems of succession in monarchies from watching "The Lion in Winter" and that takes place many years later.  1066 brings us into the castles of the key characters and lets us see their personality differences, their strengths and weaknesses and watch the history play out.  We are a fly on the wall as they go through their lives, learning about the times and the leaders as we go.

Friday, February 14, 2014

There Will Always be a New Frontier!

Science fiction brings so much to its readers - a vision of different futures; new worlds populated by unique individuals, flora, and fauna; varied and strange political and social systems. One of my favorite things science fiction exhibits could be describe as the "Where might we go from here?" exploration.  It takes what we know of this world, its people, human nature, and advancing technologies to explore a possible future. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury both did this well, though the timeline is a bit off and not everything they predicted is going to come true. Still some of the most haunting scenes, such as the dogs set to kill an innocent person on purpose, not only remains but remind me how close we may be to that type of government. Monument by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. shows us a world light years away but one which could just as easily be an island on our own planet because the problems and solutions he lays out are the same. Jeremy Lee brings us a tale of a similar nature in his book New Frontier - it could be set here on earth as well as light years away and it explores the true nature of humans and where our social mores might well take us.



New Frontier
by Jeremy Lee
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
266 pages
Published by Neverland Publishing Company
ISBN-13: 978-0988829053

About the Book:
    In a world where corporations rule, where only one large corporation truly rules, those who run the corporation are truly above the law. From breaking into a museum to buying a captain's commission, nothing is out of reach, especially for  Davi Cardoso, son of one of the wildly successful higher ups in the Alliance corporate ladder. But the Alliance with all its rich and famous, may not last long. The International Trading Company is biting at their heels. And like all gang warfare, neither is above using tactics outside of moral law or even written law.
    The Alliance is launching a first ever faster than light ship, The Argos, using the new Alcubierre formula. But what meets them at the other end of their journey is an attack which breaks the ship almost in half. Who attacked and why? How did they get there? Davi, a playboy who purchased his command of the ship, now has to captain a ship in the middle of war instead of a photo op lark. Davi's purchases didn't end with onlyhis commission and how well will the others he brought with him fare in the middle of a battle for their lives?

My Take:
    I enjoyed reading about the future Lee has conceived. It follows what is happening today in the world. As a friend often says, "There are only ten companies in the whole world and they own everything." Not only is this future a possibility, it is a probability. The idea that corporations even run the governments of the world's nations is something not far fetched, especially when corporations use their wealth to get governments to pass laws blocking free trade. The Alliance seems to have good intentions but their members often take advantage of their wealth and position. The International Trading Company (ITC) seem to be the underdog here but their methods are less than honorable. The whole scheme works within the bounds of humans, their nature and their politics. The plot flows easily from this, making the book interesting and believable.
     The science in this book works well. There is enough to make a reader feel grounded but not so much that he might get lost in the technical aspects. Much like the Firefly TV show, not much is explained but little holds the true plot of the story to the science so the reader needs only to believe, not understand, for the story to be enjoyable.
     The cast of characters is huge. I tend to like large expansive books with lots of characters but some readers find such a large cast intimidating and it is hard to find that special someone to 'hang your hat on'. Still, I enjoyed most all of the characters and I thought Lee did a good job of bringing most of them to life with different personalities, tendencies, and goals. It would have been nice if Lee would have explored the bad guys more fully. My favorite character by far was Danny but I believe it is because I have wanted to be her since I was thirteen. I understood her the best. Davi grew on me and Shannon was a rock in all of this. I could go on but there are just so many of them!

      I do have one bone I'd like to pick with the author. It is an old complaint but one I believe needs to be drilled into new authors. When you have a cast of ten or twenty characters quit giving them names that start with the same letter (Shannon and Suresh Singh). For goodness sakes, there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet! And a big no-no in my book is naming two characters with the same two starting letters - Davi and Danny for instance- especially when they have the same ending sound.  (Rant over.)

     The execution of the plot is done by using a series of flashbacks. Like TV shows starting with a dramatic and unbelievable scene (someone seems to die, get fired, or thrown in jail) which then says on the screen '13 hours earlier' over the next scene, New Frontier takes us to the heart of the attack in the opening chapter then brings us up to date with flashbacks, some dating years before, interlaced with chapters of the present. This plot technique is being overused in movies and TV shows and was certainly overdone in this book. By the last 10% of the book, I was ready to scream when the action took a break for yet another flashback. I was tempted to skip the last couple but couldn't bring myself to do it because the back stories Lee laid out in those flashbacks were simply too dang interesting. I loved learning about the characters' previous lives, lives that brought them to this point in the book. I think Lee might have found a better way of bringing this all to the reader, a way that would involve fewer flashbacks or flashbacks that didn't break the action so often. Yet I feel the book would be less without the back stories. They were some of the best parts of the book.
    The only other complaint I have with the book is there seem to be a lack of commas. Now commas are a funny thing - too many or too few can ruin the readability, the flow of text.  For example: "As he approached the table Admiral Wellesley tried naming all the foods and delicacies laid out in front of the president and failed." The text is understandable but the readability would have been so much better if there had been an extra comma. Yet, besides the commas and a sentence fragment or two, the book is  well edited.

My Recommendation
    I truly liked this book and read it straight through. If you like science fiction which is an extension of where we are and where we might head, this is a good book. If you like understanding the why and wherefore of various characters, this will be a good read. It is suitable for a large audience, though there is some minor sex in it.

Note: If you read this book, don't let the Chapter six with the break-in of the Louvre Museum stop you. While this is unbelievable, especially in the future, it is the only place I find suspension of belief truly necessary.

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That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official New Frontier tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Queen and Commander of the Hive

Also Available through Smashwords
As promised, I am introducing you to another book that walks the line between totally serious and a farce. This middle ground is where readers find books with substance and a light touch; where the drama doesn't overwhelm the reader and the humor doesn't drown the tense emotions. Janine A. Southard's "Queen and Commander" delivers a compelling story concept with interesting world building complete with a unique society structure. She does all this without burring the reader in pages of description and instead lets the reader learn through immersion; a technique I love.  

Queen and Commander (The Hive Queen Saga)
By Janine A. Southard
ASIN: B00BRM2XVE
ISBN-13: 9780988646858

About the Book:
Test Day, the big day where all sixteen year olds discover what society feels they should do for the rest of their lives simply based on the answers of the Test. And that is what those sixteen year olds will do no matter their personal plans or desires.  No one can study for the test, or so society tells everyone, but maybe, just maybe, a Perceiver could if she was really,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Portals in The Space Between

I love good, light hearted reads. Like so many television shows and movies, the stretch from deadly serious to completely slapstick covers a lot of territory. Take cop shows for instance. The road runs from Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Blue Bloods. Somewhere in the middle resides NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles; while closer to Blue Bloods, the humor of those shows keep it lighter. Then we have S.H.I.E.L.D. - lighter still- and Chuck before we get to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. All of these were shows I watched, but for different reasons. Books run this distance as well and if you are in the mood for a middle of the road Science Fiction that has some seriousness coupled with a light touch, I have two for you.  "Queen and Commander" by Janine A. Southard tells a tale of six young people who get their own spaceship and go off to see the universe.  "The Space Between" by Scott J. Robinson relates the story of an invasion of earth and other worlds. All these worlds just happen to be connected by a magical gateway. Both are entertaining reads, well developed and containing interesting settings. Today I will introduce:

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Undead have Stories to Tell

Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble
     Anthologies are cool things. You get to sample several different writers or, if the collection is from a single author, you get to sample several different aspects of the writer.  In the collection "The Undead at War and Other Stories", Kevin Long shows several sides of himself. There are poems and short stories with twists and turns.  I don't pretend to understand everything this author is saying but I will say I enjoyed the ride. So much so that I want to see more.

About the book:
       The first story, "Bubba's Burger Barn", is a unique and interesting time travel story with a built in loop. While far from my favorite in this group of tales, many will find it exceedingly funny. And I did feel for the protagonist, Yank E. Flagg. Drops and drips from our life sprinkled into a future setting kept me on
guard for hidden commentary on our nation and her policies. Mostly it was the time loop that got to me and Flagg.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mens et Mania: The MIT Nobody Knows


Mens et Mania: The MIT Nobody Knows
Samuel Jay Keyser
Publisher: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2011)


We all know about the Seven Wonders of the World (with more being built every day); some things are just mythic. We can look at the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon or see photos of Dubai's tallest hotel and see right away that they are unique, stunning, and beautiful. But when it comes to the abstract landscape of the intellectual and scientific, we don't really "see" things the same way. To most of us, MIT is a set of buildings in Cambridge Mass. along the Charles River that provides a counterpoint to Harvard on the other side. They do law and politics, MIT does science and math.

But what makes for a school that for generations has spun off new inventions and technologies? How does that work behind the scenes? What do the people there see? Jay Keyser gives us a peek into this world.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Was Solomon the Peacemaker?


Point of view is one of the most important elements of story telling. After a point of view is selected by an author, how to handle that point of view is the next necessary step. First person tends to be the easiest for the reader to follow. But if an author is not careful, the story may bounce between past and present tense and can feel uncomfortable to some readers.  When a story starts out: "The snow was falling when George came to me";  then jumps to: "I am standing in the doorway watching George turn the book over" and then moves back to: "George went to the door and threw the book back at me," the reader can get whiplash trying to discover whether we are in the present or talking about the past. One of the most popular book trilogies lately does this from scene to scene.  The story was strong enough to carry the wavering between tenses. However, most writers don't have a story and plot so absolutely compelling. On the other hand, first person can slip into a passive voice also a disaster for the reader as it becomes boring.

Today's choice, "Solomon the Peacemaker" by Hunter Welles, is written in the first person. Yet, it is unique unto itself. The story is a confession. Not your typical confession, where the author is pouring out his heart about some happening and his involvement. This is a real confession as in the cop is asking questions and he is telling what happened. I love cop shows and get on the edge of my seat during the suspect grilling; from the beginning this hooked me.  But there is more to this style Welles has chosen.  Right away we learn the voice and words of the interrogator is redacted. The reader must decipher the interrogator's words based on the confessor's answers. This interactive play will hook some people right away - people like me- while others will find it too cumbersome to be bothered with. It will be their loss. Even the font Welles' uses feels like a typed police confession.