Monday, September 30, 2013

Strictly Analog / Richard Levesque


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Science Fiction

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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Author:

Richard Levesque has spent most of his life in Southern California. For the last several years he has taught composition and literature, including science fiction, as part of the English Department at Fullerton College. His first book, Take Back Tomorrow, was published in 2012, and he has followed it with other science fiction and urban fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories..

Description:

California has won the war and is controlled not by a government of the people, but by Cal-Cor, an all-powerful corporation that controls information and whose shares are the only trading currency. Cal-Cor develops new technology that will deliver not only total control to information, but also to the minds of everyone who is plugged in. Lomax, a private detective, gets pulled into the mix when his daughter is accused of murdering a key Cal-Cor employee.

Appraisal:

I skipped my normal selection routine for this book after I read the opening sentence: “I was dreaming about Las Vegas when the ferret woke me.” Yup, no contest, I was all-in.

This was a fun read. Told in first person, Lomax, our main character, is a cool guy carrying a lot of baggage. The world Mr. Levesque builds, set in some not-too-far future, is a believable extension of modern-day American. The States have gone to war. California won and is where the party is. The other states are where you get shipped to if you screw with Cal-Cor--the corporation that runs the Sunshine State.

Lomax lost the use of one eye in the war of independence, which prevents him from operating iyz. Iyz are a potential extension of Google Glasses. Everyone who’s anyone wears them to stay connected. The Iyz hook to the web, and information is projected from the iyz to the user. Images and information are manipulated using two thimble-like devices. Some folk even have their finger controllers embedded. Because our hero has only one eye, he can’t operate iyz, so he’s digitally impaired—hence the title of the book, and the name of his detective agency—Strictly Analog.

I love sci-fi that builds worlds populated with interesting social and technical possibilities. Here are a few concepts I particularly enjoyed:

Lomax and many other people can only afford to live in one of those storage facilities where you rent by the month to store your surplus junk. His front door rolls up.

All purchases are made with ‘shares’ on a card—no money, honey.

He may be analog-only, but he uses a banglight to save his daughter when she’s attacked by a gang of thugs—illegal, and no bigger than a lighter, this neat device sends crippling pain through a pair of iyz—handy if you don’t wear them.

Cars are all electric, but they come with noisemakers to simulate an engine, or perhaps a purring cat, or roaring tiger.

And, of course, iyz. And therein lays the plot, because some techno genius has developed a better and more direct way of communicating and controlling everyone who uses them. Finding this renegade sucks Lomax into a vortex where his teenage daughter’s life is at risk. Lomax may need to go digital to save her.

Format/Typo Issues:

Too few to mention.


Rating: ***** Five stars

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kiss Me, Tate (Love in Rustic Woods) / Karen Cantwell


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Sweet Romance

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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Author:

Karen Cantwell is the author of the successful Barbara Marr Murder Mystery series which consists of four novels with a fifth coming out soon. She also has a paranormal romance Keep Me Ghosted. To learn more about Ms. Cantwell check out her website, blog or connect with her on facebook.

Description:

“Tate Kilbourn was Bunny Bergen's long-forgotten, secret high school crush. But that was 24 years ago, and a lot has happened since. Devastated by a nasty divorce, trying to juggle kids, bills and her new job - not to mention a boatload of insecurities - the last thing Bunny needs is to fall for Tate again. But then she finds herself working with him, and gee, he sure did grow sexier with age...”

Appraisal:

Don’t mistake this series to be like Cantwell’s Barbara Marr mystery series. These look like they are going to be sweet romance stories with Cantwell’s special brand of humor. Bunny Bergen is probably like no other person you have ever known. She is one of those misunderstood people that really are coated in sugar and filled with optimism most of the time. The worst thing she could ever be called on was referring to her control freak of a sister, Deena, as “Demon,” a name she deserves by the way.

In this book Ms. Cantwell introduces us to two dysfunctional families dealing with elderly parents and how their own brand of dysfunction has affected both families. When Bunny a beautiful, busty, blonde divorced mother of two teenaged sons is hired as a receptionist for the Rustic Woods Nature Center she is reintroduced to her old high school crush, Tate Kilbourn. Tate, a widower with a smart, sassy, but well behaved, teenaged daughter is now the head naturalist at the Nature Center. The sexual tension between Bunny and Tate is immediate and neither is willing to acknowledge this because of their own damaged psyches.

It didn’t take me long to become fully immersed into both family dramas and I sympathized with every member, except perhaps Demon; I suppose every family has one of those though. The way Cantwell dealt with these damaged families was realistic and handled with care. The only complaint I have is I wish the scenes between Bunny and Tate were a little less PG-13, the heat was there. As you can well imagine there was a lot going on between trying to raise teenagers and deal with their school projects, brothers who are finally ready to face reality and deal with the past, and then add elderly dads into the mix while trying to deal with a budding romance. Stir in a sister from hell and you could say things were hopping. I think this could be a fun series as we get to know the residents of Rustic Woods on a more personal level.

FYI:

Although Barbara Marr and Colt Baron make appearances they are just cameos. I don’t think you would need to have read the Barbara Marr’s mysteries to enjoy this new series if you are just looking for a little romance.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found a small number of proofing errors in this book that mostly involved missing or extra words.


Rating: **** Four stars

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sliding Past Vertical / Laurie Boris


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
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Author:

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and a regular contributor to the multi-author blog, Indies Unlimited. This is her fourth novel.
For more, visit Laurie’s website.

Description:

Sarah Cohen is a walking disaster. She means well, but the ex-diver’s hasty decisions wreak havoc on her life in Boston. Good thing Emerson is a phone call away in Syracuse, with a metaphorical mop to clean up the mess. Their long-distance friendship can be excruciating for him, though. Years after they shared a brief college romance, he’s still in love with her. When everything goes wrong, Sarah takes another plunge: back to the scene of her last mistake, to start fresh. Unfortunately for Emerson, the move puts her too close for comfort. Her attempts to straighten her life’s trajectory are sometimes amusing and sometimes catastrophic. With Sarah around, is anyone safe?

Appraisal:

This is the third Laurie Boris novel I’ve read. Sliding Past Vertical has one significant difference from the other two, there isn’t a major character with a fatal illness. But the qualities from her previous novels that made them both excellent reads are present in Sliding Past Vertical. Characters you can relate to, with typical human flaws and mostly likeable. Even those you don’t care for are realistic and not unlike people you’ve met in real life. The stories each have real world plots that shine a light on the human condition in an entertaining way while possibly enlightening the reader about their fellow man.

As for the specifics of this book, I liked Sarah, the protagonist. At least for me, that is important. If I don’t like the main character, warts and all, I find it harder to care what happens to them. However, the character I related to the most was Emerson. It was obvious early on that Emerson’s feelings for Sarah were much deeper than hers for him. He’s been biding his time and now sees his chance. How and whether this will resolve itself is a question until the very end and one that could easily have hit a false note, regardless of the resolution. Somehow Boris hit the perfect pitch.

FYI:

Some adult language and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.


Rating: ***** Five stars

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fundamental Problems / Michael J. Tobias


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Short Story Collection

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
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Author:

The author holds degrees from several education institutions. He has held positions in several churches and held a range of jobs during his career. The author is currently working on the first part of a trilogy.

Description:

A collection of six stories in a variety of genres.

Appraisal:

I spent a lot of this book asking myself - why? Fundamentally I wasn’t sure the purpose of the stories.

The first tale is, like the collection, titled Fundamental Problems. It resides in the sci-fi genre and is about two men on a space ship who arrive at a planet called earth and inform the 8.1 billion people living there that they haven’t been following the rules of the Creator. As a result they have a day to respond to the charge or the planet will be destroyed (shades of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). For Creator, read God and for the rules read the ten commandments.

The story is filled with entirely unfamiliar names of people, planets, galaxies, races, dates and so on. They are introduced in a stream with little explanation – therefore the reader has to readily accept and believe the author. I struggled with this. The ending was supposed to be wry, however the whole story structure left me unclear and unsatisfied.

The second short, Literary Snob, suffered this same issue with belief suspension. The genre this time is best described as crime. Across a nameless city women are periodically emptying their bank account of all their cash. The next day they are no longer in possession of the money nor their memories of the event.

Enter Harry Wyndham, PI, to investigate. He follows the trail to a couple who are using an unusual method to drug the women. By the time he tracks the perpetrator down we learn Harry is not what he seems and the criminals have managed to steal some extremely high tech gadget and are using it in a revenge plot. I seriously struggled to accept the premise and found the plot messy. Almost as if the author had started out with one aim in mind and concluded with an entirely different one.

The Muse is just that. The narrator arrives at a flat where two friends are playing some music. The guys talk about writing music and stories. And that’s it.

Gradual Epiphany is a coming of age type recollection. The narrator meets a girl and joins a church to get closer to him. The pair don’t get on, but the narrator gradually begins to wonder if there is a God (initially starting out as a sceptic) and eventually undertakes a psychology degree. The questioning of a higher being’s existence continues…

The Crossing is another story that starts out down one path but concludes in another. The narrator is in a bad way, life is not good. The guy, Mike, seems to have lost a lover. Then he receives a voicemail from her, yet several pages on we learn his girlfriend is dead (!). Is this a paranormal event?

Amazingly the dead woman, Kate, calls again. But wait, she’s not dead. She thinks he’s the one who died and is calling from the grave. Each still lives in the home they shared – but the addresses are different. So they arrange to meet. He goes to Kate’s flat. The voice is the same, but the person is different. Confused? Me too.

So the pair become friends, but marry other people. Then Mike suddenly dies and she begins to question whether they should have actually developed a relationship… and that’s it. Messy, unclear and confusing.

The final story is The Minstrel’s Tale. This was in the fantasy genre. It, like some of the earlier stories, assumes the reader has a knowledge of the people and places within. It opens with the narrator, a squire, discussing his Lord, Youngblade, who is the finest swordsman in the country. One day the pair happen across a stranger and give him shelter. It transpires the stranger is in fact a killer, and an extremely talented one. Youngblade attempts to take the stranger prisoner, but is easily bested and killed.

So the squire enters the killer’s employ. Again this is a confusing tale. Lots of unfamiliar names and races thrown in, discussions of the variety of Gods that inhabit the world, a lot of discussion about the stranger’s motivations. Well over halfway through the squire is finally named as Pelos, but for some reason the killer doesn’t like this and changes Pelos’ name to Cattis. Thoroughly confusing. The writing is at times garbled and there is repetition in word usage which just adds to the situation.

Here’s an example of the writing:

And so, my two-year odyssey began. I saw much, learned much and forgot much. Most of what I forgot, I did so intentionally, a manner of ‘unlearning’ you might say. One of the things I learned was just how much I had to forget.

Why?

Format/Typo Issues:

Repeat word usage.


Rating: ** Two Stars

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Powder Burn / Mark Chisnell


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Action-Adventure

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
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Author:

Raised on the east coast of England, Mark Chisnell left home to travel the world where he raced sailboats (participating in the America’s Cup) and other adventures. Before turning to fiction he wrote numerous books and magazine articles on sailing as well as working in television. He now has several novels available. Powder Burn kicks off a new series starring Samantha “Sam” Blackett.

For more, visit Chisnell’s website.


Description:

“Sam had given up her Manhattan job, and her cute apartment in Brooklyn. She’d abandoned her astonished boyfriend to the charms of ESPN, and flown off into a new dawn to chase her dream of becoming an investigative journalist.

Three months later, alone in a soulless internet cafĂ©, she’s facing some cold, hard facts; she’s unpublished, unhappy and broke. And right then, the gorgeous Pete Halland blows into her life – headed for the mythical Powder Burn mountain to write history and blast into legend.

If she throws in her lot with Pete and reports the story for National Geographic magazine it could rescue her ambitions, but he’s holding back some crucial information – the question for Sam is... what?”

Appraisal:

There was a time when I read a lot of books that were in a non-fiction subgenre that, for lack of a better term, I’ll call armchair mountaineering. Most of those I read are long out of print, but a relatively recent and well known example is Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Many of those took place in the Himalayan mountains, as does Powder Burn. Although the story largely takes place in a fictional Himalayan kingdom, Chisnell’s descriptions of the area and the personalities of the types of people who find adventure there fit reality, or at least my perception of it formed from reading those other books.

The story, which I don’t want to say much about, is also different from the typical thriller due to the setting and the personalities involved. Of the main characters, some of them you’ll like (especially Sam, the protagonist), some you won’t, and others you’ll feel ambiguous about, but all add to the tale in a good way. A fun, relatively quick read and a great start to the series.

FYI:

A small amount of adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.


Rating: **** Four stars

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kalieri Tales: Kaserie’s Choice / Susan Stuckey


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Fantasy

Approximate word count: 8-9,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
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Author:

Susan Stuckey “graduated from college multiple times with different degrees and enough credit hours for even more degrees. In the midst of the college courses she met and married her husband, and is still happily married many years later. Always an avid reader … She resumed her affair with writing when the ‘nest’ emptied and has continued writing (off and on–usually off) until the present day.”

Find out more about her at her website or connect with her on facebook.  

Description:

“Kaserie, a slave girl possessing potential magical powers, is held by the ruthless and brutal Halurdow, who intend to corrupt her talent for their own use. She escapes and flees to the Temple of the Twin Gods where she must not only confront her formidable enemies, but also her own father.”

Appraisal:

Eighteen year-old Kaserie, a Liheiren Kalieri, has been a slave for the past eight years working in the kitchen of the Boar’s Breath Inn. She has had a miserable and restricted existence as the barbarians who enslaved her wait for her Liheiren powers to manifest.

The plot moves quickly in this novelette as Kaserie’s father, a Seeker, manages to spirit her a message of where to seek refuge. However she must act fast as her shields are failing and when they do the Halurdow Shamans will attempt to turn her into a Seeker also. 

As Kaserie escapes and heads to the Temple of Azrael, we learn more about her people and Kaserie’s own potential growth as a powerful heroine. Once she makes it to the temple her true nature begins to slowly reveal itself to her with the help of a couple of wolves and a Liheiren Ranger named Thaenad. Kaserie is faced with making some difficult choices and seems to have a good head on her shoulders as she weighs the advice she is given and then decides for herself what actions are appropriate to take.  It is a fascinating story and I see potential for a wonderful series to develop.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant errors.


Rating: ***** Five stars

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Guest Post from Laura M. Kolar, author of Canvas Bound


*steps into Big Al’s blog*

*looks around*

Hmm… my critique partner, Erica Luke Dean told me there would be flowers here. She did get a whole bouquet, didn’t she? I mean, I don’t need much. A carnation or two would do.

All right, I’ll forgive the no flower thing, it’s not like I get them any other time. My hubby thinks flowers serve only two purposes. 1) To apologize for something you did wrong, and 2) for decorating caskets. According to him, he rarely does anything wrong enough to warrant flowers, and I’m not dead yet so I guess I’ll have to wait for those. (Hopefully it will be a long wait.)

What my darling husband doesn’t understand is that it’s not about the actual flowers. A guy could pick them from a field and he would probably get extra brownie points for exerting the effort of doing the picking. The point is that he thought of her and made a public display of it. This is especially true in an office setting where many other women will see the flowers. Women are jealous by nature. They won’t admit it and some definitely have more tendencies than others, but deep down, we all have a little green monster of envy in us.

In writing, I battle my green monster almost daily. When I first started, I was jealous of people who were finishing their manuscripts before me and moving on to querying. Then I was jealous of those who were querying and gaining agents or publishers before me. And now I’m dealing with competing against all those other great books out there to read and authors I know who are hitting best seller lists.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy for the success of my fellow writers. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I love the literary world so much. For the most part, everyone is very supportive of each other, especially other authors. But I personally have to work at tamping down my green monster and being confident I’ve written a great story that people will love and share with others.

So I may not get flowers as often as I’d like and I probably never will, but at least the ones I’ve gotten haven’t been ‘laid to rest’ with me.

If you’d like to know more about me, what I’m working on, or maybe what my favorite flower is, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook and the web.


Thanks so much to Big Al for having me here today!



Thanks for being here, Laura. I wish Erica would have warned me in advance, but I was able to run out and pick this from my neighbor's backyard. I'd forgotten how mean their dog is, but I escaped with only minor injuries.

Pick up your own copy of Canvas Bound from Amazon US (ebook or paper), Amazon UK (ebook or paper), or Barnes & Noble. And be sure to enter the giveaway below.



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Monday, September 23, 2013

English Like It Is / Richard Marsh


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-Fiction

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
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Author:

A former journalist, publisher, and “coffee house poet,” Richard Marsh is the author of several books ranging from novels, to poetry, to non-fiction like this one.

For more, visit the author’s website.

Description:

The English language doesn’t have a body governing what is and isn’t correct usage. Its nature is to change and evolve. That is both good (it makes the language adaptable to new words or for the meaning of a word to expand and evolve when needed due to a changing world) and bad, causing existing words with precise meanings to, through what the author calls “Contraction and Bleaching,” lose meaning and precision.

English Like It Is is a reference, of sorts. It isn’t a comprehensive usage guide, instead focusing mainly on words and phrases where the meaning as actually used is changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.

Appraisal:

I have friends who think I’m a grammar nerd. I guess objecting to a comment on facebook that says something like “there gong too be out of my site soon,” is too fussy. Maybe I am, but if so I’m just an apprentice or grammar-nerd-in-training. Perusing English Like It Is drove that home for me.

Each entry in this book focuses on a specific subject, usually a single word, collection of related words, or a saying, and explores how it is used and misused. Each section discusses proper usage, common mistakes, and has examples from some major newspapers in the UK of the word being used in context, both correctly and not.

That the incorrect examples are so plentiful from sources where the example was composed by a professional wordsmith and approved by an editor who is presumably a expert on such things (the true grammar nerds) shows how hard it is to achieve perfection. But for the grammar-nerd-in-training, this volume should help.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.


Rating: **** Four stars

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ever Near (Book 1: Secret Affinity) / Melissa MacVicar


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Young Adult Romance / Paranormal

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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Author:

Melissa MacVicar lives on Nantucket Island with her husband and two children. She is a full-time teacher who loves classic rock, watching football, and reading anything that is romantic and suspenseful. Ever Near is her debut novel.

Description:

Nantucket Island is haunted, but only sixteen-year-old Jade Irving knows it. Ignoring the disturbing spirits isn’t an option, because one dwells in the enormous historic home she shares with her newly blended family. Jade is finding it more and more difficult to explain away Lacey’s ghostly, anguished tantrums, especially with Charlie, her gorgeous, almost step-brother, living right across the hall.

When a power-hungry ghost hunter tracks down Jade and blackmails her, Jade’s secret teeters on the edge of exposure, and her entire future hangs in the balance. If anyone finds out Jade can talk to ghosts, her life will be forever changed.

Can she save herself, free Lacey, and hang on to her tenuous connection with Charlie? Or will everything she ever wanted slip through her fingers?”

Appraisal:

Up until now Jade has been able to simply remove herself from places that a ghost appears. She has always found them frightening and has done a good job ignoring the fact that she can see and hear them at all. Jade has never shared that she has this ability with anyone. Not her mother, grandmother, or even her best friend. The problem is that she and her mother have moved into a house that has a troubled and confused spirit, and the ghost is now entering her dreams. There is no escape.

This story is told in a first person POV, which I generally don’t have a problem identifying with, however I found I just could not connect with Jade. I felt like I was being told a story that lacked the discovery factor, too often too many words were used that did not move the story forward.

I also had a problem suspending disbelief because Jade did not seek answers or ask her mother, grandmother, or best friend questions. She chose to open up to a boy she had the hots for?  And then worries she might lose him because he MIGHT think she is crazy? Of course he is going to think she is nuts. Their relationship didn’t warrant that level of trust yet. I just didn’t buy it.

Jade was a whiny and weak protagonist who did seek help from a local personality who gave ghost tours of the area that almost ended in tragedy when he tried to use her to further his own career. The way she handled this situation did not sit well with me, it was wrong on too many levels. Things could have taken a much worse turn and they were well on the way to that happening near the end of the story because she refused to seek advice from her mother or grandmother.

Okay, now that I got that off of my chest. The history and description of the Nantucket Island was well written and beautifully described and I liked the ghost story part of the book. The fact that Jade kept a journal of her encounters was interesting because she spent so much time denying they even happened. I was also glad that she spent time researching Lacey to find out her story. Why she was stuck on this earthly plane, and why she didn’t cross over when she died. It was a tragic story and I did sympathize with Lacey. It really is too bad that Jade never took the opportunity to ask her questions while she could.

Things didn’t work out too well when Jade was ignoring her gift/curse, so when Jade asks her Gram if she could cast spells and stuff on people her Gram laughs and replies “Well, I don’t believe in that, but some people do. Plus, those things are against our church’s teachings, so I wouldn’t if I were you. You don’t want to mess with that part of it. The evil, demonic part is better left alone. You leave it alone, and it will leave you alone.” I am not so sure I would put much stock in that statement either. Especially after the way some of the ghostly encounters physically affected Jade.

Perhaps now that Jade has a better understanding of her gift, and is more willing to ask questions, this series has potential to move forward with more intriguing ghost stories.

Format/Typo Issues:

I read an Advanced Reader Copy and I found no significant editing or proofing errors.

Rating: *** Three stars 


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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bad Way Out / C. Hoyt Caldwell


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Thriller

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

C. Hoyt Caldwell lives in the Tennessee Mountains and writes books. Bad Way Out is his debut.

You can learn more about the author at his blog.

Description:

E.R. Percy is the best moonshine maker in the Tennessee mountains. But business isn’t as usual when one day he finds a naked giant in his brewing shed. Then a local girl is found stabbed to death and the competition for an illegal high steps up. Milo, tired of being outdone by E.R. offers him a job he can’t refuse. Unfortunately he does.

Appraisal:

The author claims in his bio that he’s not smart enough to be subtle. On the strength of this excellent book I have to disagree with him.

The action takes place in Maiden Falls where, as E.R. says, you only end up if you’re lost or hiding. As a result there’s a whole host of fascinating and gritty characters on show.

E.R. spends most of his time making moonshine and selling it to the locals. He has a distant relationship with his wife, Rose, and is estranged from his father. He makes enough money to survive, but life doesn’t change much. Only meth heads cause him any trouble, all supplied by local bad boy, Ford.

But from the first pages E.R.’s life is gradually turned upside down. A girl is found dead, then her teenage sister, Eva, begins to throw herself at E.R. and a huge guy appears in his brewing shed – naked and unconscious.

Then, tired of losing business, Ford’s boss Milo makes E.R. a job offer – sell his drugs. But E.R. doesn’t do drugs and he says no. Unfortunately Milo is somewhat unhinged and undertakes an increasingly vicious campaign against E.R. and then his family. All the while he’s fighting Eva off, strengthening his bond with Rose and investigating the local girl’s murder.

As the pages turned the story became increasingly engaging and enthralling. E.R. narrates the story in first person so the reader receives his hillbilly vernacular and behavior in full flow. It’s done sufficiently well that this adds to the story, supporting the action which occurs as a consequence of the moonshine maker’s upbringing and nature.

Here’s an example of the writing:

Cousin Crick was asleep in the lawn chair in front of an old shack I used for my second still. How that poor chair supported his fat ass, I’ll never know. Crick came close to 30 pounds with about 20 of them located in his chin.

There are some grim elements – murders, torture and the corrupt church – but these are delivered with a wry sense of humour and are by no means gory or black. There’s also a strong family and friends message in the narrative.

The tension ramps up really well and by the latter half of the book all I wanted to do was turn the page and find out what happens. The ending is well done and ties perfectly together.

All in all an excellent read.

FYI:

Some sex and violence, but nothing in the extreme.

Format/Typo Issues:

A couple of typos.


Rating:  Five *****Stars

Friday, September 20, 2013

System error: in your favour / Iain Clement


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“Iain Clements is a freelance writer, originally born in the United Kingdom but currently based in Bangkok, Thailand.”

Description:

“The world is in the midst of the worst financial crisis in recorded history. The 24 hour rolling news stations are struggling to keep up with the number of banks collapsing, companies going into administration, and the wider effects these issues are having on the public.

Many experts are trying vainly to explain just what is going on, but in London's Canary Wharf district computer specialist Kate Meer understands all too well the cause of these seemingly unconnected problems. A new artificially intelligent computer system called C.A.R.L that she designed is out of her control.

As events in the world continue to spin out of control and the global financial markets embark on a roller-coaster ride, Kate has to join forces with James Gold, a notorious hacker, to try and regain control of their renegade system before it’s too late.”

Appraisal:

The premise of artificial intelligence run amuck when an anthropomorphic computer develops a mind of its own has been done to death. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another story that treads similar ground (no story is ever completely original) and this one has potential. However, with most people having better understanding of computers and how they function, it is harder to for the reader to suspend disbelief and maintain that suspension to the end. I struggled with that some, but was mostly able. However, this wasn’t my only concern with System Error …


My other issues were largely technical. Proofing issues such as using the wrong word (“David seemed monetarily put off by the question…”) or outright typos (“‘Typical of head office not to inform tell us’ mused on the investigators.”), to start.

Then there was convoluted syntax, as in “Kate sat at her computer terminal late on Wednesday afternoon with the fading light of the sun shining through her half-lowered blinds on her floor.” What were the blinds doing on her floor? Another example, “…he would have put money on betting that this application would be rejected,” seemed a touch redundant (“would have bet” is much clearer although I guess technically he could have bet something other than money).

Last, the ending cheapened the story and whatever impact it might have had. Explaining why would be a spoiler, so I won’t say more, but the story would have been at least marginally stronger had it ended before the last chapter.

FYI:

Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

A large number of proofing and copyediting misses.


Rating: ** Two stars