SKOOBE TUOHS

SKOOBE TUOHS

----------Mostly my loud noises about me and other great independent writers.

Review
4.5 Stars
One Sip at a Time- Keith Van Sickle

   This is a series of anecdotes, penned by an English-speaking American dabbling in life in France. It is an easy to read, short book with the capacity to raise a smile, if not to add a great deal to one’s own understanding of the entente cordiale. The author’s joie de vivre is infectious, even if one is sometimes left a little nonplussed about quite why.

   As the author points out himself, his and his wife’s, um- no actually, his, difficulties with a very different culture and language, provides the colour to this book. Note well, that the author declares himself as anything but some bilingual Québécoise superhuman. Van Sickle is the average, and more usually male, voyager who struggles in anything but a native lingo. Well, that’s the picture he paints. I suspect that in reality, he is the sort of person that brings enough of himself to any social situations to compensate for those that make little positive impact, whatever language is being manipulated. He certainly has the confidence to point out his insufficiencies to his reading audience, which does help draw one into his ‘sips’.

   In the connections that make up the thin thread of connective story we see the couple dip in and out of ‘francophone’ culture, in varying, if generally geographically close, locations. The book is not so very different from a couple of dozen books written by British and Irish individuals that have tried escaping the perpetual grey for the nicer bits of France. So this doesn’t add much in the way of knowledge to anyone that has read any of these, nevertheless, this book is well worth a read if one has any sort of interest in ‘French-English’ détente. This is lightweight draft, from a bonhomme raconteur that can only appeal to the many Anglophones that have faced the torture of trying to use school level French for real communication. So yes, definitely, this reviewer is amongst its natural audience.

   Van Sickle seems to be particularly keen on making the Swiss, the people of my adopted nation, the butt of several stories. He, and of course his misses, his linguistic enabler, lived for a while in the Swiss Romande Canton of Neuchâtel. While en Suisse, we are more inclined to find the butt of humour amongst the people of the ‘Hexagone’ that is truly French, and particular amongst thsoe fine residents of Paris that feel only they can speak la langue française. Certainly, in that superior capital, not even the people of the once officially independent province of Provence are recognised as speakers of anything close to acceptable French.

   Worth a read during the bon voyage.

AMAZON LINK

 

Review
4.5 Stars
Anya and the Power Crystal- N. A. Cauldron

     This is a really good book for the ‘between years’ reader and younger adolescents. Well, so says I, from the distance of my 60s and many years from having even the connection of children of such ages. I enjoyed delving into Cauldron’s fantasy adventure, with its traditional fight between generally righteous good and the forces of evil. The writing is exuberant, pacey, entertaining; surely a reflection of the author’s own joy in the telling. The plot is moved along without delaying information dumps, telling us just enough to paint the required pictures. I genuinely felt that Cauldron easily puts herself in young shoes.

     This is the second in series, and though I haven’t read the first book I had no difficulties with the story or the interesting range of mainly adolescent major characters. The fantasy elements were a nice mix of stock-in trade fantasy and material original to the author’s mind. There is loads of potential for at very least the completing of a trilogy, with plenty of unanswered plot twists, without over-treading too many familiar paths. I see no reason why this shouldn’t build into a well followed, long series. I would have loved reading about Anya’s world as a child, and perhaps especially having it read to me as my interest in fantasy worlds lagged some way behind my reading ability.

     The emphasis on a strong female heroine, sorry I’m old enough that I still struggle with the use of a non-gender specific hero, is very much the trend. That is a clear reflection of the empowerment of women throughout all the major strands of modern society and culture. Cauldron’s writing is very much of the ‘Queendom’, with the female protagonist balancing the best of, with the worst of gender. That is something of a relief, running as it does against the grain of so much modern writing, even though the negatives of gender are mainly in the form of the traditional wicked witch. I am very pleased to say that some of the boys are written with real individuality as well. In short, there is balance enough that young males will find characters to dream through rather than simply of. This is definitely a ‘Hermione Granger’ rather than a ‘Harry Potter’ story, however, Cauldron keeps a Rowlingesk balance in her Queendom. I’m sure that the greatest part of Rowling’s success is her ability to make all children, um- and grown-up child, feel that given another time and space that they could be a character in her fictitious worlds.

One thing I like about my vision of Anya is that she is ‘actually’ a realistic role model, if that makes any sense at all in a fantasy book. I mean of course, that she isn’t either impossibly beautiful or talented. She is just Anya, from the next house down the street, with typical parents, and a mixed range of friends. Wand and a bit of intuition aside, she is just one in a crowd, like just about any of us in the real world. She sometimes fails to measure up, gets her hands dirty, makes a fool of herself, fails to fit in; just like everyone else.

     I will look out in the hope of reading a few reviews from the target audience, to see if Cauldron has hit the nail as well as I think she has. After all, it is children, not life-blunted old adults that are the best guide to the writing of young people’s fiction. This book perhaps needs a bit more editing in places, but yes, this is good storytelling of a fantasy kind.

    What comes next out of the Cauldron?

 

AMAZON LINK

 

 

 

 

Review
4.5 Stars
The Gatekeeper- Michael Sisti

 

At first I thought my failure to keep a grip on the long cast of characters was going to sink me and at felt a few early point of view shifts were a little too sharp, however once I settled into this very fast paced book I really enjoyed it. Sisti has structured this story with very short chapters that add to the pacey feel. We are trotted through literally years in which a business grows from nothing into a large regional bank, and then collapses in the trauma field of the financial crisis started by the 2007 sub-prime mortgage collapse in the USA.

The gatekeeper in the male testosterone fired world is a woman, and not one modelled on a kick-arse beauty that can floor any man with a combination of looks, intelligence and gymnastic battle crafts, the likes of which have never yet actually been witnessed in real life. All the characters are just about believable, if in many cases rather clichéd. With so many actors to follow it was as well that many were solidly familiar, stock personalities.

This book makes business acquisitions and mergers seem like exciting stuff, and as if this isn’t enough there is an interesting bit of sexual intrigue as well. This is a fun read, one that once it had me hooked had no trouble keeping me so.

Sisti is a good pulp fiction writer. I mean that with the greatest of respect. He writes in a sharp entertaining, to the point, style, that draws unrepentantly on those characters that surround us all in real life. And all this is done without any demonstrable physical violence, murder, torture, or natural disasters. I’m sure I’ll read another Sisti before very long.

For the traveller, those short chapters make this book just right for reading on a crowded train.

AMAZON LINK

 

 

Review
4.5 Stars
Falling in Death and Love- Magnus Stanke

     This is a good suspense thriller written with an easy read style and a good deal of wit. The 1970s setting in Mallorca works very well, as do the bunch of main characters. All of who are unique enough that one has little danger of confusion. We read into a holiday romance that promises to be so much more, and then for tragic reason proves to be life changing for one and life ending for the other.

     This is a plot easily ruined by knowing too much, like so many popular films one sees a week too late. Try to avoid reading the plethora of spoiler reviews. Not easy I know. As to the question of converting this book for film medias, it would make a gift of a screen script.

     I don’t usually manage to read books in a sitting, however good they are, and I didn’t quite manage with this one, but not through lack of trying. Young readers for who the ‘70s are ancient history, and older readers put off by early pages of period ‘hippiness’, read on, you won’t be disappointed. This really is a good adrenaline rush read, not just another middle-aged author dreaming up a regretfully missed life of dope, speed, and sex in the sun. And yes, Sushi chefs really were moving in on Europe right back when baby-boomers were still young, even though we associate Japanese style cuisine more with western city life in the new millennium.

     The book is so well written, especially when one accounts for the fact that Stanke is German, and writing in a second language, English. Correct me if I’m wrong, someone, but I don’t think this book has versions in German, Spanish, or any other language, and it certainly hasn’t been translated by anyone other than the author. Stanke has both a feel for language and the skill to weave a good yarn.

AMAZON LINK

 

Review
5 Stars
An Aching Kind of Growing- Brittany Rowland

    This is a really engaging piece of social drama that takes us deep into the life of a marginalised and abused teenaged girl. Most of the book appears as profoundly real as any dramatic fiction I’ve been privileged to read. Sadly, I know the story is an accurate reflection on too many young lives. Natalie comes from a theoretically ‘middle-class’ home, in a middle-class street, in a normal enough town, yet her young life is for the main part anything but comfortable.

    Natalie is a bright girl who is blighted by having a physically abusive father, and an emotional detached mother. She is the constant scapegoat for every wrong, for every misfortune, for every failure in her family, while being personally deprived of all but the necessities for life. No wonder then, that she ends up on the streets and as the victim of further abuses. Thankfully the author stood clear of introducing sexual abuse as well. Perhaps that on top of everything else wouldn’t have only detracted from credibility. The main thrust of the story is that Natalie is let down by the care system as much as by those close to her. That is a woefully familiar story, as cash strapped social programmes fail in almost every corner of the world.

     The story is very well written from a technical point of view, and very well crafted as a story. This appears to be this author’s first real leap into fiction writing, from a non-fiction writing background. I hope there is far more of her penetrating fiction to come. This is the sort of book that encourages all right-minded people to be generous towards those that are struggling; especially the young, routinely down on their luck and short of consistent support. Natalies exist in every towns’ shadows, marginalised by systems that just about support the luckiest, but which seem only to make the lives of the emotionally and physically deprived comparatively and inexcusably more intolerable.

     I recommend this book to all those with less than solidly frozen hearts, as a reminder that most street kids, usually driven by desperation to petty crime, or worse, don’t volunteer for their roles; even when that sometimes appears to be the case. This is powerful writing that, as others have said, makes this book hard to put down.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Dark Web Rising- Eugene T Schurter

   I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, about young adults set in a world of internet espionage, hacking and quasi-legal government institutions. The young computer wizard that out hacks a ‘governmental’ hacker and then gets chased across the United States, only to be hidden by big business good guys, sounds a little trite. In fact, the story works well, and is very entertaining. I’m sure the author wrote this with younger readers in mind, but this sixty-year-old thoroughly enjoyed it. This would work well as a family entertainment film script.

 

   The story is well written, though because I had slightly negative expectations it did take me a few chapters to get into it. Once I was on-board, I was hooked, and only too keen to find out how the story would be resolved. The plot is stretched beyond the credible in parts, rather overblowing both the ability of the young to be truly independent, and of the ability of even a young computer savant to be quite so talented. But then this is entertainment, in the best traditions of YA writing. This plot, about the youth that outwits the power of out of control secret forces within the state, is well written, and because of that, almost believable. There were rather too many typos in the Kindle version I read, but I’m sure they will be corrected at some stage. The subject matter is a little nerdy, but the adventure certainly isn’t. Being interested in coding and computer technologies certainly isn’t a requirement, especially as the plot is set a little in the future, looking at technological capabilities that are not yet quite here.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Christiana of Chibok- David Damey

   I enjoyed this high adrenalin short story, and yes there is no crime in that, but don’t ever forget to reflect on the truths told by fiction. That the subject matter uses the backdrop of the real story of the 276 abducted, imprisoned and abused girls, taken from their secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, makes it deeply poignant.

   I have no idea if any of the story is based on detailed fact, but am sure that all of it has been experienced in individual realities. That it represents well enough the actual conditions faced by the girls is evident enough from the reports that have seeped out. A number of these women, for that is what cruel life quickly made them, have got back to their homes, each, hopefully, to eventually find the strength to report their own harrowing experiences. However, as I write in October 2016 we hear that about 200 of the original group are still missing, as they have been for the last two and a half years.

   I would like to think that this well written, powerful, drama, helps to raise the conscious of the world, though little seems too move governments to action unless there’s some promise of gaining political or economic influence. As a reader I assume that this Christiana is a fiction, though at least one girl of that name was taken. I hope all readers use the story as a spring-board towards finding out more, and then helping spread the word. Too few are doing enough to end the victims’ nightmare.

   The writing is very exciting, and should be a disturbing, read for all of us that sleep comfortably at night. The action is centred on the bravery in one girl’s struggle to survive. Let all the screams be heard.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
These Thy Gifts- Vincent Panettiere

 

   This is a very well written book in which the author uses a fictional story to emphasise the real need for serious cultural changes, and ideally doctrinal ones, in the Catholic Church. These may or may not be genuinely in progress, but we can’t doubt that many ordinary Catholics are doing their level best to see that the good practices prevail. Other religions and institutions of many sorts have been exposed for similar evils, but the unnatural sexual denial demanded of the Catholic priests actually makes that church a particularly easy hunting ground for the paedophile, misogynist, and cruel manipulator of the weak. The churches should be the greatest bastions against evil, but they actually only shield these crimes and far too often. The secrecy of the hierarchy and lack of accountability in that church have also made it vulnerable to penetration by big crime operations, especially financial ones. The historic evils of the ‘European Churches’ are well documented and, as that history recedes into the mists of time, they can be easily forgiven. But that so many of these practices endure to this very day, can’t.

   Panettiere looks beyond the sacrament, the alter rails, the impenetrable walls of the established Catholic Church. It is undeniable that the Church, worldwide, has continued to act as a law unto itself, rather than before God; and worse, as a corrupt hierarchical institution that protects its own while claiming to be protecting the trust of the congregation, It habitually glosses over problems rather than cures them. Panettiere looks at the Catholic Church in the United States, though actually the setting could be almost anywhere that the Pope has significant flocks.

   We follow the story of an American priest of Italian descent who is everything a priest should be. One that despite not being truly chaste, so having to live with his own crippling ‘sins’, eventually exposes some rotten apples. Actually, it is the propaganda that any but the most unusual of individuals can be entirely inactive sexually that has got the church into such hideous problems. But enough of that, that is my bias declared, a bias that greatly oversimplifies Panettiere’s generally well-measured ‘observations’ in this story.

   Names, places, characters, and details vary immensely in real life, but the fictional characters’ behaviours have all been commonplace. Paedophilia, alcoholism, aggrandisement, and financial and ‘political’ corruptions are certainly far from unique sins of the Catholic church, but they are made all the worse by the fact that the Church pretends to be sitting closer to God, high above the sins of ordinary men.

   The majority of honest men, and still only men, in the high places in that church, are silenced by the control exercised on their careers, by lies and deceit, and even in the extreme through fear for their very survival. Even the worst depiction of man in this fiction, the coward at war, the priest that enjoys the ministry of prostitutes, the filth that seeks his own advancement at every opportunity, all aspects of the ghastly Dykes, is all protected by the hierarchy, which he in turn becomes a key part of. He may be an extreme, but his parallel is far from unknown in real life. This fictional deviant was only too happy to help hide the legions of paedophilic priests, so helping obscure his own sins. But that is enough for plot giveaways. For more, buy and read this really necessary, psychologically revealing, fiction.

   At times some of the support characters rather melted together in my mind. Perhaps, because I was unable to sustain much continuity in my reading. I enjoyed the book immensely despite that. In truth, only half a dozen characters needed to be clearly distinguished for the book to be fully appreciated. It isn’t necessary to follow every path and absorb all the chronology to fully enjoy reading ‘These Thy Gifts’. This isn’t some corny crime write that depends on some ridiculous clue buried deep on page two hundred and thirty-two.

   Sometimes good fiction can be used to explore sensitive issues in a far deeper psychological way than can cold hard reality. Voices in the real world are so often blurred and rendered weak by lies, deception, obfuscation, deception and fear of legal challenge. Fiction is free to penetrate deep into the ‘engineering’ of observed truths. Panettiere outlines this terrible modern history, quite brilliantly. He lays bare the cracks in a one thousand, if not truly two thousand, year old system of unaccountable leadership. Unaccountable to either distant God or downtrodden people, so to most men and nearly all women. Perhaps someone should write a fiction in which the Catholic Church is saved by the nun that becomes a pope. Man, as the Church, may not like that, but I’m happy to risk my soul by saying that God would be delighted.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
The Lives and the Times- Amit Verma

   First, please don’t be put off by some rather dubious reviews. Authors have no say over who reviews their work, whether they wish to flatter with stars or trash with their absence. I took the trouble to make contact and ask the author about what had happened. He had a book signing event on his own academic institutions campus. We can’t control our popularity. I admire Verma’s honesty, especially in this world where the honest authors have to compete against an overwhelming pile of deceit in the book marketing business. Some or all of these over egging reviews may not be on other popular reviewing sites, in which case this opening paragraph is of only obscure relevance. (I read on Amazon.com)
   This book is written with a very Indian voice, with a common rhythm of English spoken on the sub-continent. That style is exactly right for the book, however, a good edit to internationalise the sentence structure, and improve some word choices, is needed. There are also grammatical errors that distract from the flow.
   I would have preferred a title along the lines of ‘June’s Dream’. The prologue to the book seems to be misplaced. In my opinion, it adds nothing to the later folds of the story.
   I actually loved reading this book, feeling drawn to look at a class-based mind-set, a detachment from the less fortunate masses that pervades on the Indian sub-continent. I felt the harshness, the magic, the dust, the rural backwardness and the strange mix of modern and ancient that I associate with India. The bizarre dream of June allows for the development of so many elements of life, for some penetration satire, and for the surrealism that invades some many of our dreams. I sensed the deep frustrations that pervades those attempting to turn India into the truly modern country it should already be, but for the failures to unlock its potential. The story, the dream, breaths the rhythms of a billion people from a host of interlocking, connected but independently acting cultures, that generally put their own needs before those of the greater society. The biggest democracy in the world needs to be what on paper it should have rapidly become after 1947, a date which is already a long-lifetime in the past. Verma is an accomplished writer with a great story, but one rather let down by poor execution. I don’t know who edited the book, but I do know that they’ve done the author less than justice. Verma’s satirical humour is deserving of much better presentation.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Dead Down East- Carl Schmidt

   The main character of this book is private-eye Jessie Thorpe, and a relatively believable one when compared to so many private sleuths from fiction. This the first in Schmidt’s proposed series of books, is unsurprisingly based on one of Jessie’s first cases, and certainly his first murder. Jessie is a bit of a middle-class smart arse, who at the start of the book has had an interesting life but perhaps not achieved a great deal. Jesse has many skills, as a guitarist in a group, an odd job carpenter and now as a gumshoe. He is also toying with the idea of writing. Quite a lot of him is quite possibly a younger version of Carl Schmidt the author.

   The book runs on a fuel of wry-witted observations from Jesse. The voice is very much confident middle-class, white, American. Jesse is definitely macho, but far from Rambo, relying on the ability to disarm with words rather than violence. Jesse has a firearm but not one that is habitually to hand. His so far unused shooter has been given the name of an ex-girlfriend. The feminisation is presumably supported, though it wasn’t instigated by him, through seeing Rhonda as a dissipater of threats rather than a projector of them. Rhonda is carried to give a bit of Dutch courage when felt necessary, and hopefully discourage harmful activity from the psychologically less restrained. Courage without gin, that is. Jessie would never drive inebriated unless absolutely unavoidable. Hopefully Jesse won’t become just another fictional private-eye happy to spray lead first and follow leads second.

   The actual murder mystery is inventive, solved with mathematical logic and, it has to be said more than a reasonably likely quotient of good luck. Isn’t that nearly always the case in real life? If there is one thing we can say is generic to police everywhere, it is that why often make good traffic cops but generally hopeless detectives. It seems the cops of Maine are, at least in this story, little different.

   I feared for a moment as the story veered in the direction of psychic practitioners. I can’t deny I was relieved that the case was solved in a sensibly scientific way. I notice that book two in the series is out, ‘A Priestly Affair’, and hope that it displays a normal range of modern detective skills to achieve what I assume will be another PI success.

   The murder mystery, at least in this first book, was more of an anchor around which to build interesting back story and a range of secondary characters than the be all of the read. The book would have worked equally well without any murder at all. The fun here is in what is happening outside the mechanics of case solving. This isn’t much of an intense thriller, being more about the drama that flows around the murder. If I may borrow images from film/TV, this is more James Garner as Jim Rockford than Bruce Willis as John McClane. Actually, Jesse Thorpe mysteries would adapt perfectly to the TV series format. The book opens with reflections on modern classics in book and film, as Jesse and a fishing buddy with an academic background actually fish on ‘Golden Pond’.
   The writing itself is good, especially where Schmidt allows space for idle chat and scene setting, rather than to the intricate plays of the case. I like reading modern fiction that doesn’t suffer the James Patterson disease of needing a spectacular at the end of each chapter. Yes, there is interest to keep the reading flowing, without a felt requirement for thirty world ending events. We get just enough of the landscape in the authors mind to build our own real feeling interpretations, to visually create our imagined or recall the real backdrop, of the State of Maine. I had no trouble feeling that I was visiting the murder scene.

   Schmidt is yet another in the band of independent authors who write as well as, and better than some, lauded authors, but most of whom will never get the lucky, or ‘contacts’ enabled, breaks. For those that like reading good books from good writers rather than just good books by the fashionable few in the front shelves of book stores, I have no reservations about recommending this author. And of course, I hope Schmidt bucks overwhelming statistics to become a fiction writing success.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
In the Garden of Weeia- Elle Boca

   This is a light weight novella, which I think is aimed primarily at secondary school level. That doesn’t mean that adults that enjoy Hogwarts and Narnia won’t enjoy reading about Weeia. The lively little story kept me well entertained, though this sort of fantasy is no longer exactly my thing. I would have been a very enthusiastic reader it my early teens.

 

   There is certainly some originality in Boca’s characters and at least in this book their superpowers are kept almost in the bounds of the possible. That was perhaps why Boca suggested that if I really was going to get off my backside to buy and read any of her already well reviewed books I might be best starting with this one. By the end, I was left wanting to know a great deal more about the only stone-cold character. Perhaps in a next in series the minerals of that magnetic personality softens. We seem to be in an almost contemporary fantasy world, as is Harry Potter, Ernie could pop around to see you the reader. However, Boca has developed her own mythology to weave her stories into rather than merely reinterpreting well-worn fantasy ‘lore’.

 

   The book is well enough written, into a quickly paced short read. There are editing errors, as there nearly always are, but not enough to agitate even my glacially slow reading rhythm, which is inclined to pause on every other word. What a relief to find a real series that isn’t fixated on the ‘undead’ of some sort or other.

 

   I won’t ever be in the Boca fan club, but I do like her parallel race idea, which though certainly not original is developed in an original way. For some strange reason I was reminder of a 1968 TV series about ‘humans’ given superpowers: The Champions. Um- there is no real connection to Boca’s urban fantasy- unless the Champions were helped from their crashing plane by Unelmoija (Dreamer). Except that perhaps there is, because both that half-forgotten TV series and this book worked by keeping a close contact with real, every day, life. It is the very ordinariness of the characters that make some fantasies work.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Love's Long Road- G. D. Harper

   The plot is set in the second half of the 1970s and is so well researched and or remembered, that it gave a really genuine feeling of realism to me, one who lived through this period and even visited some of its chosen physical spaces at a close chronological age to the main character. I short, this was read by me as accurate real-life fiction. Before reviewing I took the trouble to ask the author if he/she is a contemporary of that period. I got no answer, but I was informed that the book is ‘only’ fiction.
   I am surprised by a number of negative reviews I’ve read about this book. We all have our very individual and subjective opinions. Mine is that this is an excellent read. It is very journalistic in style, deeply psychological, and is as profoundly revealing of the main character in as much that isn’t said as is. This is really strong first person writing. What are any of us prepared to reveal of ourselves, of our strongest, often unflattering, behaviours? The mixed vulnerabilities and strengths of Bobbie were totally believable to me. One of the best drawn characters was only a ghost behind the story, until the very last pages, that being the father of an early tragic boyfriend of Bobbie’s.
   For me, the book is all the better as contemporary dramatic fiction for having a strong social message. In the end, it is a book of hope, harsh, brutal, real-life hope, but hope none the less. Unlike some reviewers I see this as a profoundly moral book, a morality drawn as much from the gutters of British life as from its more wholesome features.
   It is my belief that this book deserves readers and perhaps especially ones that believe they have no dirt in their own souls. This book seems to hurt a range of readers. That suggests to me that Harper has hit some very rusty old nails right on the head. Please don’t leave it too long before you get your hammer out again, G.D. Harper, whoever you are.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
The Marijuana Project- Brian Laslow

The book is reported as fact based fiction. Americans will understand better than me the balance of truth and augmentation. However, the writing certainly comes across as highly informed. The Project starts with a good use of flash-forward prologue, but be warned, it is really only at the very end that this intensity of action is picked up again. But yes, there are thriller genre elements that touch this story, lots actually, although much is alluded to as possible or likely rather than shown.
The story is compulsive rather than gripping. What we really have here is an in-depth dissection of one man’s ethical morality. Sam is a very conservative ex-military prototype; working in the cutting edge of modern technology as an expert on all types of security protocols and their technical and physical implementation. The character is a family man with strong conservative Christian values that are as more white middle-class cultural than definitively religious.
Sam is driven to go against his cherished principles by taking on a client that is growing and trading medical grades of marijuana. He struggles with his conscience believes the mantra that soft drugs lead to hard ones and then quite possible the subsequent fall of society. Yet, financial greed, his passion for security and a ‘realisation’ that it is better to guard a drug factory, securing the substance, rather than let crime elements get control, allow him to embrace the job.
The book is very topical, but it isn’t really about the drug at all, rather the conscience processes of one middle aged man facing an ethical dilemma. For a time, his values look to be in danger of submergence in the process by greater issues. Sam remains variably conflicted to the end, with certain family and friendship problems regularly intruding into his purely business life. An equally good story could have been written about the ethics and security issues of banking, or alcohol production, or even the business of prostitution. Marijuana is merely the theme.
The process of securing the factory, comes to be explored in very great detail, yet always as a reader I felt detached from Sam. While the characters around him are made of consistent stuff, Sam isn’t. Too often I was left thinking that Sam just wouldn’t have done that. As such, it was hard to empathise with him. I may have had more of an affinity if the book had been written in the first person, allowing me to see through him. I felt that Sam was being manipulated to fit a security plot rather than a plot being weaved around his character. His picture needed constant readjustment, in order for me to get up to ‘speed’. Or should that be up to ‘weed’. A lot less detail and a bit more intrigue would also have helped. The interesting subject of controlling drug use among vehicle drivers comes up obliquely, adding some needed bite to Sam’s sometimes rather wishy-washy moral seesaw.
This is a very interesting book, looking at the working of industrial security through one presumably mostly fictional studying. We are concerned with one factory producing medical grades of marijuana for an inconsistently regulated, and very poorly understood market. I’m very pleased I read it. This is well crafted entertainment, that puts every dot and dash of real-life security issues in a fictional account. However, I have to say that the story is not at all what the title and early content led me to believe I might read. Both the real groups, those that always oppose recreational drug usage and those that consume recreational drugs, may be disappointed by the books content. That’s a pity, because this is a very interesting, very detailed, account, which works bit by detailed bit into convincing psychological drama. This is a compelling and provoking dissection of one man’s personality, inconsistencies granted. And yes, there are exciting, even climactic, moments.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Inevitable Ascension- V.K. McAlister

This book is video game fast, with video game deaths and outlandish main actors’ superpowers. For me, there is far too much action and far too little story. However, I am not an intended reader; of that I’m certain. This is millennial generation writing with the modern addiction for frenetic virtual reality action. Of its sort, the writing is very good.
Some reviewers have made a lot of its religious content. Sorry, but I’d didn’t really get that at all. I read purely traditional dystopia with a few biblical names. For me, the kick-arse female, with physical superpowers is all a bit passé, as I’m sure is the feeling of increasing numbers across all post teenage generations. Why do futuristic women have to eat testosterone bars? The steampunk I loved, despite its erratic appearance. I wouldn’t have known that the book had two writers, except for a couple of apparent continuity slips and rather inconsistent standards of grammar. The time travel elements were clever, always reappearing in the anything but Abrahamic time lapse Eden.
I’m sure this book will appeal to many of the video games generation. But it isn’t for lovers of character development and crafted language even in that category. Until it all gets much too fast and overcomplicated towards the end I enjoyed it. The first few chapters are particularly good. I don’t recall any sex or romance whatsoever, except what I thought was being implied between the two main characters. The bits of the book that lean towards comedy are by far the best. They at least allow the reader to relax once in a rare while. Perhaps sci-fi/fantasy comedy is the direction best suited to this writing team.
I don’t hesitate in giving this book five stars, because though it is definitely not for me I know it will draw many fans. This is video in words

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Extraordinary Temptation- Patrick McCusker

A really good read; but I need to start by saying that those with traditional and solid religious views must be prepared to read this as totally ridiculous entertainment, if at all. As an agnostic ‘believer’ I had no trouble at all with this story. If I had exacting believe in any scriptures, especially specifically Christian ones, I may well have done so.
The book is technically well written and the plot is very entertaining. The first half of the book is particularly good, and plausible enough to this reader. We start in a conventional conspiracy thriller, which is both pacey and credible. I wish to give nothing away, by saying that after the mid-point the plot becomes increasingly extra-ordinary. Even the science may be plausible, or at least be in the not such distant future. However, I’m sure we can all rest easy in the fact that the specific application of science is actually impossible. There is a lull in the pace for a while as the book metamorphoses, however, tense interest is maintained. As the plot slows it becomes increasingly creepy. We are ladled a good dollop of food for thought.
The plot of this book is actually very brave and even ambitious, as it invites us to reflect on many aspects of our humanity and ‘inhumanity’. There are some great what if’s in here, but no it doesn’t offer much ‘hope and happiness’. The theme of the lost crown of thorns is a nice change to the over-used one of the missing Holy Grail; as did the theme of the conflict between the academic lover of antiquities and the greed driven ‘grave robber’.
So an exciting book, but at by necessity this must be treated very tongue-in-cheek by religious fundamentalists of many Abrahamic colours.
I very much enjoyed most aspects of this book, best described as first half crime thriller, second half horror. Totally extraordinary.

AMAZON LINK

Review
5 Stars
The Locksmith's Secret- Tahlia Newland

   This is a total standalone that builds on the character Prunella Smith, who appeared in Tahlia Newlands earlier metaphysical, mixed genre delight, "World Within World's". This one is again a weave of differing themes and stories that interlink based around the thoughts, life and writing of the author Prunella Smith. Each of the main story elements would work as independent short stories. These superficially independent threads are spliced together into one mystical reality. The binding themes are ultimately metaphysical. Each of the four main plotlines run as strands in Prunella's possible past and certainly present being. Actually the book reflects, openly from a deeper level, many elements of Newlands real life that are flickering away in the background. Prunella isn't Newland, but she might be in some parallel existence. The Australian bush, cats, steampunk, crafts and Buddhism continually bounce around the complex reality that is the real author. All fiction carries some sense of the author. This one does everything but try hiding the connectivity. The beating heart of the book is classic romance, which is always, quite unavoidably, deeply personal. Possibly I'm not even deep enough yet, because there is another even stronger binding theme than romance, that being of female emancipation and the associated problems of finding real psychological independence from cultural and emotional ropes that affect all of us.

   The point of the book, as I read it, is that Newland is exploring different aspects of herself, not through introverted memoir but rather through extrovert expression in her layered fictional plot inventions. We have Newland herself, Prunella, Nell and Daniela, all giving us insight into each other and into one spiritual female whole. The stories strongest plot protagonist is also female, though, classically, true evil only rests in a male persona. We must excuse that device, as that is a more than fair reflection of the physical worlds in which most of us have always lived. The relative weaknesses and strengths of the sexes are after all the whole social history of mankind. The book is about both spiritual and physical emancipation. Male readers need not be put off by this review. We generally come out of these stories well. The romantic spirit wins through, but not without clear reflections from real life.
   This is a beautifully written and intelligently crafted book. It is at once, spiritual, contemporary, historical fiction, a steampunk thriller, speculative fiction, philosophical and a social commentary, and above all else, a classic romance. We are still in worlds within worlds, such that at finish I'm not sure if some sort of spiritual 'Buddhism' is driving the author, or the author is demonstrating her own magical realism. You may have to read several of Newland’s books before you can make any deep judgement. I've read them all and still can't be sure.

AMAZON LINK