SKOOBE TUOHS

SKOOBE TUOHS

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

Review
4.5 Stars
The Last Gods of Indochine- Samuel Ferrer

    Great writing, and an interesting use of historical fiction with two separate but ultimately connected storylines from the past. The first story is set in the 13th Century reign of the Khmer King Jayavarman VIII and the second between the 1860s and1920s. This is a well written quality read. I found every chapter to be entertaining in of itself and so maintaining a strong desire to read on. I would have liked an ending with a few less swirling dreams and rather more ‘facts’. Most of the characters names are borrowed from history but precious little that is actually known about them. With such a thin veneer of known history perhaps the ending had to be mysterious and ephemeral, leaving a host of possible paths along with the unsubstantiated assertion that science and not religions’ unprovable possibilities dictates our fate.

    I am critical of historical fiction that use long dead names but so little of the admittedly thin history. I can forgive such a high degree of storytelling in the ancient plot, but the use of real people from modern history with the employment of so little factual information about them is hard to accept. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that many living relatives will find much to question. Ferrer avoids deformation of character and we are already a century away from their variously esteemed lives. The broad-brush strokes all feel to accurately reflect the periods, and magic aside, are very believable. Perhaps I am allowing my love of history to make me over critical of this historical fiction, and certainly many reviews suggest that I am.

    Ferrer’s descriptive writing is first class. I can imagine that all his readers entertain the same picture and social interactions almost exactly as I do. I could easily imagine myself to be an observer on the ’passenger’ boat, in the biplane, or climbing the walls of Angkor Wat. I could smell the gangrene, feel the shacking earth, hear the booming shells, recalled in the mind of the volunteer auxiliary nurse, from the front-line hospital wards of WWI. I could feel that I was amongst elephants, monkeys and exotic people in two distinctly woven times in Indochina.

    Why does the title use the word Indochine rather than Indochina, when it is written in English? I have no idea. I see no sign of a French language version of this book. And why the last gods, when that certainly isn’t in any way the case? Perhaps, once more my concern is isolated and obtuse.

    This is a very enjoyable read, especially for those that like to set their minds on travels through distant times and civilisations. Five stars, where those stupidly uninformative and variably indicative ‘likes’ are required. This book is strong on description that drives it plot rather than plot that needs description between its scaffolding. Good writers can take one anywhere in time, real or imaginary, Ferrer can do that with aplomb.

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Review
4.5 Stars
The Lumberjack- Erik Martin Willén

    Willén, in his first departure from sf space adventure/opera, has written a present-day thriller set in a generic northern forest reserve territory of the USA. Once begun the book is hard to put down, as one is driven on by the pace and tension in the story. The character elements of the evil antagonist bound along the edge of implausibility, on a tightrope between impossible and just about conceavible human physicality. In contrast, the rest of the cast of good, bad and pretty are within a more normal range of observable humanity. The plot is just about conceivable, except for the behaviour of a pack of wolves. We note that the author is Scandinavian, so of a population that has been responsible, more than any other, for demonising the wolf. The author also seems keen to exaggerate the danger from the cougar, or mountain lion as many Americans choose to call the creature. Both the cougar and wolf can on rare occasions be a genuine threat to even uninjured, but isolated, humans, especially if an animal feels cornered. But neither is exactly the danger to man in the way that brown bears are. The wild life, non-human and human is extraordinarily dangerous in this neck of the woods. The book is certainly both great entertainment and the provider of a good adrenaline rush. Anyway, for the cause, thriller writers have never been frightened to claim that some maligned animal or other is almost as dangerous a predator of humans as is another human.

    The idea of the eco-warrior, that so loves nature that he would rather see the devastation of mankind than nature is certainly not new. As our greedy species slowly destroys the planet on which we live, there will be many more examples not just in fiction but in our real lives. I have a great deal of sympathy for the ‘evil killer’ in this story, and that probably caused me to be less bothered about some of the often self-absorbed and shallow victims than I should. I would far rather live with a few billion less people and a more natural balance of wildlife. From the Earth’s point of view, we are very far short of describable as a gift from God. Perhaps in the next instalment, if Willén writes one, the lycanthrope will have a substantial degree of ‘normal’ human support. The flip-side of my reluctance to condemn the killer will surely mean that the more humanist reader, with greater empathy for the main characters, will probably enjoy the chase even more than I did.

    This book would benefit from a good edit, as a few sloppy sentences and typos take away some of the shine of quality. Despite that, I feel no hesitation in giving five stars as an entertainment. Willén generates constant interest and, in crucial scenes, real tension. There are a couple of plot weaknesses, stretch marks rather than holes, as events in different locations run in rough parallel, but not ones that detract seriously from the page turning rush. This is a great holiday read, that can be put down between bus journeys or swims, as enjoyment doesn’t require a very deep concentrate on plot detail. This is anything but an over-complicated whodunit type of thriller. But for a stronger attention to the detail of sentence structure and perhaps the inclusion of a few deeper nuances of plot, ‘the lumberjack’ could be a modern equal of any Alistair Maclean thriller. I am sure I will read other books by this author to add to this, and to the first of the Nastragall space operas that I read and reviewed a couple of year ago.

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Review
4.5 Stars
How We End Up- Douglas Wells

     I was swept along by this multi-shaded literary social drama. Even when the colour of life was bright dark shadows always lingered, ready to overwhelm any, or all, of the three main characters. On the face of it, these people have been dealt a more than reasonably favourable hand in life, but none played it out at all well. This is a deep-dredging read full of soul searching, variously damaged character and of the randomness of life’s dice that are never afraid to roll. We see great opportunity contriving to yield far from great results. Sometimes the less than satisfactory play of events, emotions, preferences and addictions are overcome by great strength of character, and yet more often they are compounded by ingrained flaws.

     This book is not only well written, it is also pacey and extremely gripping drama. The characters all feel real to me, being an individual whom can be seen to have perhaps made less of himself than apparent opportunity might suggest. I guess that most people might agree that they’ve underachieved in some key ways, if they are prepared to dissect their lives with brutal honesty. Brutal honesty isn’t something that hides between the lines in this books pages.

     Some readers appear to find some comedy in the characters flaws. I found little of that, apart from an occasional smear of black humour. However, there is certainly cartloads of irony in certain attributes that should/could have given life-long advantage, but which were overwhelmed by deep-running rivers of inherently flawed character. Wells has a deep understanding of intrinsic, often genetic, behaviour that usually dictates life despite rather than because of the paths we are placed on, and the deviations we discover for ourselves. We are what we are. The frog will always be a frog. Dreaming of being a famous poet or a princess may just lead one that way, but even if the path is found, more than often, one’s innate character fails to let one stay on it.

    Finally, on the basis that any news is good for advertising, then Bushmills whisky should do very well out of this book. I wonder if the brand may be the author’s favourite tipple, or perhaps he just has shares in this famous old Northern Ireland Distillery.

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Review
4.5 Stars
El Cajon- Joel Shapiro

     One thing is for certain- this book gives El Cajon, California one heck of a reputation and one no city would want. Another thing, for certain- people don’t do well when addicted to Vicodin. Opiate addiction is very topical. One can only hope the medics and pharma people get a conscience before too many more people have their lives torn apart by addictive prescription drugs. But what the heck has that got to do with this book. Well, apart from the fact that Haim, the first-person narrator, is still somehow alive and even gets a few things right, there is a serious warning here. We see a few heroic deeds, but not from an actor one would ever wish to emulate. He is the very antithesis of John, Die Hard, McClane. A film about Haim Baker would not create quite the same sort of wannabe buzz.

     Before you take a first overdose on opiate-based medicines, read this book. However, don’t read this book if you are planning a trip to San Diego County, unless you are open to having your mind changed.

     This is a book which quickly becomes hard to put down, but not necessarily because you are enjoying it. Frustration with the first person, no hoper is going to drive you to distraction. Like the effect of the dumb principle in the high-tension film drama, one can’t believe the stupidity for walking into trouble, while not being quite irritated enough to switch channels. Actually, that is probably not so different to having a mild addiction to Vicodin.

     This book is extremely violent and at times exceedingly crude. Urine and blood seem to be constantly pouring in equal and often mixed volumes. And this book gets the near fatal stages of opioid addiction about right- except that PI Haim Baker somehow still manages to function, and even kill the right bad people. The book also highlights the terrible world of people trafficking, focussed here on girls bashed and drugged into the sex industry. Actually, that part of the book is particularly sickening. Sickening for the sane and those merely into substance rather than people abuse, that is! But, just as we know that nearly every neighbourhood has an addict at deaths door, we also know that not all our children are safe wheresoever we live. I choose to see a second serious message from Shapiro. That even in places with a veneer of respectability such abuses can be hidden.

     The writing is fast paced, and generally of a good quality. However, the grammar is far from conventional. For example, the disappearance of the period, the comma, is used to convey rapid and often chaotic and stressed, stream of consciousness, thought. Shapiro writes well enough to usually pull this off. However, one would want to load up with plenty of oxygen before reading some passages aloud. Even if there was pause for breath, one would have to check the audience first. Haim isn’t exactly shy about some excruciatingly detailed body malfunctions.

     Haim is like the most down-beaten, unprepossessing, suicidally inclined private eye one has ever read about, and then some. If it wasn’t for the kindness buried in his soul and for the reported damage in his personal life which has helped draw him low, many might jettison the read unfinished. That would be a pity. But to sustain any credibility, either Haim dies next time out, or breaks his addiction.

     Yes, the book deserves five somethings, though five pain killing white tablets may be more appropriate that five yellow stars. But for those that eagerly consume thrillers in which the least bad guy eventually wins this is a good fix. I would absolutely recommend this book for those that like no-holes plugged entertainment. The pictures Shapiro paints look disgustingly real to this reader.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Ape Mind, Old Mind, New Mind- John Wylie

A well written academic book written in a style and at a scientific level that most of us can connect with, even if we can’t quite compute all the scholarly depth that make up the full picture. I definitely place myself in ‘the superficial understanding’ category but never felt intimidated by complexity. Wylie reexplores evolutionary biology bringing into play his clinical and philosophical knowledge and private observations in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and medicine. Wylie’s observations which build into a broad psychological theory that fits as a complementary extension to classic Darwinism, add considerably to our conventional understanding of human evolution. With the obvious exception of many dogmatic scripturalists, I think this book has a lot for all those interested in why we are what we are questions. Wylie adds to our understanding of personality evolution, looking at the intellectual creature that with all the psychological baggage we carry from our ancestors.

I did rather question some of what I read to be rather afterthought attempts to tie in sacred spirituality and philosophy. I guess some attempt at this is, though, beneficial if it might draw in all but the most dogmatic of ‘Abrahamists’. Anyway, arguably, religion could not be left out of a fully rounded ‘thesis’. Otherwise I had no personal issues with any ideas in this very well written book. Nearly always, Wylie found simple ways of distilling out the complexity of his arguments. A few more real-life anecdotes from Wylie’s career would I’m sure add a great deal of enjoyment for the general reader, without losing the focus required by the more scholastic. This is a serious book, exploring the whys and wherefores from a full range of psychological illnesses balanced against normal, (average), behaviours, that make us the deep thinking but not always rational creatures that we have become.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Life Unfinished- Martin White

     White has created a very readable biographical fiction out of the life and times of Franz Peter Schubert. The book is very engaging, even for one that knows next to nothing about the ‘engineering’ of music. Period history is my fascination here, along with my naive appreciation of the music itself. I now know a good deal more about the history of the classic period of European music than I did before the enjoyable experience of reading this book.

     There are many books and films about the life of Schubert, all rather building on the same store of facts and sometimes rather weakly anchored conjecture. The widespread, if not consensual, view is that Schubert was bisexual. That is based only on the certainty that many of his acquaintances and friends in the worlds of music, theatre and painting were of diverse passions. Though whether he caught syphilis, a disease that in this account almost came to finally define him from a rare sexual encounter or from a promiscuous existence is debatable. In fact, contemporary records give little evidence that he even suffered from that particular disease, although his general decline in health is well documented. What is known as undisputed fact is that Schubert was extremely socially awkward. He was often shy to the point of this being psychologically overwhelming to his character and even damaging to his career.

     He fantasised about several women in his life, most either simply tragically unsuitable or deliberately chosen because of the extreme unlikelihood of any possible union. Whatever the deep reasoning for these ‘affairs’ never leading into meaningful shared physical relationships, he certainly had a talent for focussing his heart on those that were socially unsuitable. Whether servant or aristocrat, the women he cherished were consistently well above or below his social station. Schubert himself was born very much into the educated upper classes, all be it very far short of its summits. White builds on these known elements along with commonly conjectured plot based on his eventual death from syphilis. The second half of the story buildings very much on the medically observed course of the disease and its then treatment.

     White’s description of the music, especially of Schubert’s more serious works, which were rather passed over during his life, are very poetic. One is drawn into feeling like a genuine spectator not just in the room, but also one privileged to glimpse many imaginative and plausible mental thoughts. Although there is a drift into substantive speculation I have confidence that White never loses connection with what we know from genuine contemporary records.

     I have far from a complete idea as to how much of this book has been based on previous novels and films, and how much has been sparked with true originality. Not that that can make much difference to the enjoyment of this very plausible and generally sympathetic interpretation. What matters is that this is a very well written piece of biographical fiction based available documentation.

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Review
4 Stars
When a Stranger Calls- Karen S. Bell

     Writers enjoy having the power of God over their characters, but what if they also attract the forces of the devil? What if the power of life and death in a fiction translates into a ‘real’ existence, if some elements of the authors omnipresence on the page slips into physical life? The book is very much paranormal, some of a magical realism bend and some with a quasi-religious one. Through excepting the premise that many good versus evil, religious/paranormal boundaries collide in mystical ways one can enjoy the book. Most of us have little trouble suspending belief to enjoy a good yarn. I preferred to read this is the imagined world of a psychotic personality in total meltdown. This was easy given that the book is written in first person. I enjoyed this as a false reality from which we are supposed to hope the character voice, Alexa, will escape. I was a bit underwhelmed by the lengths Bell went to in exploring the threads of the story as it drew to the end, as for me the detail rather reduced the power of resolution. Climatic events, both in life and books, are best enjoyed without distracting reflections on the rationality of the mechanics.

     This book is well written, describing Alexa’s world in a way that easily paints strong scenes in one’s mind. As a writer, I can appreciate the mind games as Alexa the well-established, if quite famous, author, struggles to complete her trilogy. Some of the other characters, especially Margaret, her book editor, are very well-rounded. I may have enjoyed the book more with a few chapters written from the mind of Margaret, watching the mental breakdown of her number one selling author.

     This is the second book of Bell’s I have read. She is a very gifted writer who might achieve greater success with psychological thrillers without the distraction of paranormal elements. Provided, of course, she could find the discipline of scripting her stories without occasionally falling for the convenient escapes of the unrestrained supernatural.

     It should be obvious that I enjoyed this book more for the qualities of Bell’s descriptive writing than the story it tells. However, I am sure that those that relish the buy-in to the paranormal will find this to be a great read. There are plenty of original elements as well as standard themes of the paranormal and mystical realism genres. We have here a, ‘watch what you wish for’ morality tale. The allegorical foundations of the theme resonate throughout. The four stars rather than five isn’t a devaluation of the Bell’s work. Rather, it reflects my view that this book, despite all its qualities, didn’t do talent full justice.

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Review
5 Stars
Execution of Justice- Patrick Dent

   This is an action-packed thriller centred around themes of white slavery, 1970s middle-eastern politics, military undercover operations, crime, psychological damage and revenge. It is very fast paced, fast enough to be an action-packed blockbuster film without the book-gutting re-write. The writing is immediate, easy, generally well composed and professionally edited. And boy, is it both far-fetched and time-evaporating exciting. Yes, this is very much a ‘boys with guns’ action book, ably supported by a couple of powerful female characters that almost make it to being main-characters. John Drake fights two major protagonists, the first being a cruel and dominating father and the other the classic man of evil, as close to the devil that Homo sapiens can conjure.

   The plot is clever enough, though the quickly obtained Rambo skills of the ‘good guys’ team are certainly implausible. Some of the violence is very graphic, so be warned, but no worse than one seen in over 18 category action films. The written words bite depends, as it always does, on the pictures the reader chooses to visualise. At least it is easier to tune out of graphic detail in a book than while watching a film.

   I really enjoyed this book, which delivers exactly what the hype suggests it should. One just has to suspend belief a touch or two. The hard men are hardly slowed by broken ribs or ruptured ligaments, and have powerful enough auras to keep away a storm of bullets. Fortunately, in the end, the baddies are all a touch weaker than the ‘better guys’. Some may also doubt the plausibility of certain actions sanctioned by ‘friendly’ political and military forces. However, on that score, my view is that Dent is entirely accurate. It isn’t only one’s enemies that are expendable even in are major democracies. There is only one plot aspect I thought didn’t fit, that concerns the behaviour of John senior mid-way through the book. I won’t risk a spoiler other than by adding that devious and life-risking manipulation of the son by the father became rather incredulous.

   This is a great week-end read. Thriller writing done well.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Matriarchs: Eliza's Revenge- Susan McDonough-Wachtman

   A light-hearted, entertaining post-feminist twist from a committed feminist writer?

I’m not sure that McDonough-Wachtman would accept that as an even partly accurate statement, but that was the sense of her writer that reading Eliza’s Revenge gave me. It is nice to read books from her generation of feminist writers that manage to be affirmative for women, while accepting that female governance doesn’t naturally take the thorns off pink-tinted roses, or indeed those blooms of any other hue. Men in this story are still agonists but, refreshingly, at least not protagonists.

   We are some way in the future, with a story that is set on a female controlled planet. This world’s environment is well governed by its women, though from the human perspective in a rather worryingly narrow ‘religiously’ organised way. The whole planet has the feel of being moulded by a tree-hugging, socialist, governance of pagan feminist priestesses. This is certainly no utopia, though we begin with that expectation. There are sinister undertones of unnatural practices and manipulation of male genetic characteristics. The men of this planet are now as female as Barbie Dolls, while some of the women certainly aren’t all ‘sugar and spice’ humanists.

   The writing is rather head-hoppy which doesn’t help the flow of the story, but the overall read is entertaining. Whether philosophical thought really stretches from entertainment into a substantive speculation I can’t really decide. Certainly, there are some important pointers about the directions humanity might move in, and the subsequent effects. The science fiction is a story enabler, rather than a serious framework; a fantasy setting in which to play with social perspective. Where one is obliged to give stars then I would give five, for the overall readability and quality, even if these stars twinkle rather than shine a consistent and penetrating bright light.

   I got the sense that McDonough-Wachtman is capable of writing with a great deal more ambition than she showed here. Far too many corners were cut with a convenient fantastical twist, and the tone was far too tongue-in-cheek to give any hard bite to the plot. This is a general readers book, not a genre scifi, and though it may well be appealing to rather more female than male readers that really isn’t a defining quality. The point that a matriarchy is no more capable of maintaining utopia from subversion than a patriarchy is well made.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Kings of Paradise- Richard Nell

 

Using stars, if books can ever be fairly classified in such a blunt way, this book requires five.

The first thing to note is that there isn’t much paradise here, even in the relatively mild climatic conditions of the south. Secondly, there are kings, legions of princes and princesses, and every kind of human ogre, and all have very tough lives, many characters hardly rising above the shitpits of crude existence. Generally, this is a story about the brutish nature of humanity, seen in the evil waves of real history and not just in these dystopian pages. The knife cuts every bit as deeply, with just as much pain, as in any human conflict. Little of it is truly fantastical, though we get a glimpse of fantasy spells in the final chapters, though nothing as far-fetched as fire breathing dragons in the first long tome of this eventual trilogy. The overall tone of the book is a plausible if dark read, and not at all one I recognise as fantasy genre. In fact, when fantasy elements crept in they didn’t seem to fit well at all. The balance of reality and wizardry is not my biggest problem here though, that being the overall weight of words.

There are two excellent 80,000 word stories in this long volume, plus 40,000 words of material to save for later. The quality of the writing easily sustained this reader, but as two books in a series, one about the south and one about the north, what is good reading could have been brilliant. The two main stories might be better weaved separately in the proposed series of books, rather than threading separately around each section by section. A minor grievance, as is often the case with indie authors, is that the editing isn’t always quite up to the quality of the descriptive writing, but all in all the production is very good. Some sections of the book, which may have faced late rewrites, are certainly less well chiselled.

I can see one reason for putting all this into one book, that being because the story of Ruka is just too bleak even for the dark side of grimdark, however that could be lightened considerably without losing the terror in his character. The story of the priestesses could easily be written lightly enough to act as a counterfoil, which to some degree it is anyway. I have to admit that a book focused simply on Ruka would have many readers reaching into their drug cabinet.

As mentioned, the book moves further from a classic dystopian genre towards fantasy as the abilities of Kale ‘mature’. In my view the ‘game of thrones’ feel of the script is strong enough without superpowers, and certainly Nell writes great storylines that really don’t need the escapology of supernatural talents. Exaggerated human skills, even out of body experiences, fit the foundations of the book’s world very well, but the creeping in abilities of Nordic gods, in my opinion, don’t.

My interested was sustained, I really wanted to get to the conclusion. However, when the end came we had already passed several far more powerful climaxes. That was certainly a disappointment, if one that isn’t uncommon in planned trilogies. Authors need to hold back some storylines of course, but the biggest ‘bang’ in every book in a series should be in its final chapters.

Would I read more by this author? Yes, for sure. But also note that I already feel I’ve read at least two of his books.

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Review
3.5 Stars
Caligation- Bhri Stokes

      The main character, Ripley, believes himself to be in a dream. The reader needs to buy-in as the focus shifts towards the dream being a new reality; a very strange one, but reality nevertheless. This either works for one, or it doesn’t. I am reasonably good at suspending belief, however, this story lost a good deal of its ‘believability’ for me. The book has some excellent reviews, so probably I am unusual. From the point at which I felt obliged to see the story as more than the telling of a dream I could no longer make any sense of the animal effigias attached to every semi-human. For me, fantasy needs to at least hold a thin string to scientific and/or philosophical plausibility. The buy-in isn’t helped by some serious structural problem with the book. The constant and insufficiently marked point of view changes, head-hopping, is very distracting. Often all we get is a line-break between the thinking and actions of varied changing characters, which often flicks to different locations and time frames. Then on top of that we have the confusion of the characters twinned animals communicating telephonically, with the warning of italics, but again without clear point of view direction. There are quite a few ungrammatical links between phrases, which sometimes jolted my progress. They didn’t distract me for more than a moment, as the story’s buzz was so good. However, the liaison between sentences doesn’t always bear up well under scrutiny.

     The book could be improved dramatically by simply employing different typeface for different species, so helping one with the shifting scenes and characters. Changes in physical script would have also helped to give a greater variety of voice. Okay- this sort of typeface manipulation is frowned on by many literary purists, as of course traditional standards of grammar and sentence construction can make any point of view shift perfectly clear, but I think that this book is a case in point for the use of such devices. There is such a complexity of ‘communication’ between the characters, and a such a strong requirement in the writing style to shift focus quickly, that I think a mix of unorthodox cues for the reader is entirely justifiable.

     So why then am I actually very positive, able to report that I enjoyed the book so much? Well, clearly it could be a lot better with a comprehensive rewrite. However, this is great entertainment. I had no trouble in finishing the book, when usually with so many structural faults I would have abandoned it very early on. Stokes’s writing draws very clear pictures and plenty of colour. I got a very strong sense of what her strange creation looks and feels like. The story and the speculative thinking behind the book is strong, bringing together many mythological ideas and rebuilding them in an intriguing way. With comprehensive editing this could become a really good fantasy novel rather than just a really good story. The ending is very thought provoking. I liked that very much.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Surfing with Snakes & Dragons- Roger J. Couture

 

We read in the minds of characters, which are all by degree, hedonistic, narcissistic, masochistic, and deeply psychologically introverted. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily uncaring and detached from others, far from it. But deep exploration of subject character is so much the essence of these individualistic snakes and dragons. All the characters are flawed, troubled by the direction of their lives, and struggling between living for the moment and their worldly, practical, daily responsibilities, by concern for their own well-being and that of others. None of the main characters are uncaring of others, but they are all certainly self-absorbed. Perhaps most of us are, perhaps that is the message?

Couture quite probably exposes more of the conflicts in himself than those of others through these stories, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t also extremely observant of how others see their worlds. He writes in a highly descriptive, word-rich, and psychologically penetrating style. At times he borders on repetitive description and on says too much about what has surely already been deduced by any fully engaged reader, but he writes with such poetry, such cadence, that the overflow of description can easily be forgiven. Ultimately, nothing is decided, but every consideration is explored, possibility is left hanging, food for thought. Life is drawn to the extreme, to the fear, to toy with danger, and to them contemplate what it is that makes people repeat behaviour again and again. Couture writes with particular conviction about what it is to be a dedicated surfer, clearly a sometime overriding passion in his own life. But there is much more here, beyond the draw of the pounding sea. However, I recommend mixing the eight reads, as, for me, we start with rather too much abundant surf. There is connectivity between each story, characters spilling from one to the other, but these are truly independent constructions that can be shuffled like the cards in a single suit.

The poems at the start of each story acted as mood setters for the rich poetry of prose inside. A lot of this book is an exploration of the ‘adrenaline’ in life, in sport, in personal relationships, and at times raises one’s own hormonal beat, but this isn’t writing for the lover of the pacey thriller. This is writing for the lover of literature, for the lover of detail, for the contemplative, for those that like to enjoy the journey of an adventure rather than necessarily the climb to peak tension and final relieving climax. If one likes descriptive writing, and the analysis of what makes people tic, then this series of stories is for you. I might call these essays on the waves in life rather than stories with firmly placed beginnings or any definitive endings.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Master of The Name- Tavi Florescu

 

 

Master of the Name was for me an intriguing read, despite, or even perhaps because, it seriously challenged my knowledge base. However, I have to say that being so stretched is a mixed blessing when reading a fiction novel. I’m certain that I would have had an easier time with a stronger sense of where facts and cultural beliefs end and storytelling starts. I did wonder, particularly in the opening chapters, whether the story really benefitted from such complexity. However, the package is certainly worth a little effort, and since my reading has inspired me to investigate some very ancient, mostly Jewish, religious ‘stories’. I’m sure that even the most erudite should read on without worrying over much about the historically based elements that escape immediate understanding. This is after all an entertainment, which though strengthened by factual content doesn’t require any truths.

As to the power of words, especially names, I have no trouble getting that. Words certainly have power, both for good and evil. In this book, as in the real lives of many, even in our modern age, the very name of God has terrifying power. That physical power is held in religious text is certainly something that many religious people of varied faiths believe. Indeed, one may well be aware of the convention of avoiding writing or speaking the ‘true’ name of God, an idea appearing in by degrees in almost all mainstream religions. We can’t know what God calls himself, so then enabling priests of diverse colours to empower themselves.

Linguistics is powerful enough simply in lay usage, dictating so much that goes well and badly in relationships between individuals, ‘tribes’, and nations. When competing religions gets involved in the battle of words then poison soon flows.

At times, I felt that the backstory threatened to strangle the hunt for the murderer, to be dragging me too far from police tracks. I encourage those that have similar thoughts to read on, and perhaps enjoy a Wiki search for information when they have finished: as was my course. The ending is a revelation.

Tavi Florescu has woven his extensive knowledge base into a most exotic detective story. Whether he gets the balance correct between the background and the chase will depend on the individual reader’s preferences. This is a well written novel, which while defying conventional pigeonholing is certainly good literary fiction. As to the detective, I think I would be less intimidated by almost any ‘frankensteinian’ creations. Detective Gray and his pencil are not lightly crossed.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Fidget Spinners Destroyed My Family- George Billions
Fidget Spinners Destroyed My Family - George Billions

   This is a social drama, a psychological dystopian descent, about the self-destruction of a classic mum, dad, two children and cat family. The story slips genre into black comedy and momentarily into horror of the plausible variety, always so much more disconcerting than ghouls and zombies. This is a novella, which a fast reader may well consume in one sitting. The book could easily have been longer, though possibly that would have diluted the constantly disturbing buzz in its pages.

   This story is very well written, with clear flowing prose and only a few typos. The story is narrated through the first-person mother with a very realistic feeling voice. I felt that I was sitting listening to the mother’s distressed, sometimes questionable, and less that sober first-hand narrative, rather than, as we are directed to believe, a story cobbled together by the author from episodic conversations.

   My only complaint about the story was the abrupt ending. I would have liked to hear the completed story of the family from the tragic peak we are left on. I feel a need to know if disintegration or renovation of the mother to child relationships was the eventual outcome.

   I had a sort of personal interest in the story that only added to its poignancy, one that is all too common in western culture. I have lost a parent through the ravages of alcohol. But believe me, such a direct connection isn’t a required ingredient for one to get the full taste of this sad tale.

   I have an issue with the cover as on the book at this date, September 2017, in that it really doesn’t reflect the content. The big youthful, blood-smeared, smile gives the impression that one is in for some sort of zany horror comedy. That isn’t the case. Too many books are falsely sold, or not, by misleading covers. This book doesn’t need a creepy cover to sell it, just the publicity it deserves, which I like to think will be boosted by this and other reviews. True or not, the family disassociations and disintegration explored in this social drama are tragically reflected to varying degrees in many real lives.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Edging- Michael Schutz

 

     An intense read, high on adrenaline to the end. Not all the loops in the story quite join at the end, though some of this is almost certainly intentional as Schutz sets his readers of for a second edging. There are a few copy errors, but none that came close to spoiling my read.

     In my view, the book has a little too much pace to it to really built the horror, increasingly lacking a juxtaposition between normality and evil abnormality which really put’s teeth on edge. So not quite Mary Shelly or Steven King, but a great read by any standards. This is very much the sort of book that I would be happy picking up as a pot-luck read from the airport lounge.

    As to the plot, I am inclined to make the noun plural. There are many elements that might have been better divided into two separate stories. The first, about the drug culture and it’s dangers to society was by far the most powerful. The second plot, the devil working through the minds of his devotees and captured souls and the physical manifestation of his evil, provided the meat of the climatic ending but lacked the conviction of the narcotic story. There is connection between the two plots, but not a direct and strong enough one for my liking. Perhaps Edging II will bind the plots together with more conviction.

   Overall, I recommend this book to those that like to feel the rush of a fast paced, edge-of-seat entertainment. Reading this is like watching a movie, exciting but lacking enough detail to properly join all the dots, entertainment trumping exacting plot, rather than a book plot stripped of logical continuity in the making of a film. That doesn’t make the book unreadable any more than making an exciting movie unwatchable, on the contrary, both can be great entertainment; that being very much the case here.

    This raises the question of whether this book has potential as a film. It absolutely does. With well-engineered special effects, it could be a real blockbuster.

    As I did, you may want to compartmentalise the plot elements a little. But, yes, this is a quality read. I have no hesitation in awarding the five stars I do to most books that raise my interest enough to solicit a review.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Drip (a gothic bromance)- Andrew Montlack

   

    I laughed a lot. I’m inclined to that with all vampire books- I mean, they can’t be real. But Montlack can make the macabre funny, frightening, possible, stupid, and yes, scary, all within a few sentences. Drip is a good book, whether one reads with a focus on pure comedy or as satirical horror/speculative fiction. The words are well put together. I’m glad this was written as a straight book, rather than an adult comic, as books are always better if one is free to paint one’s own pictures. Films have damaged so many good books. Montlack is very much out of the multi-media suite; being a jack of many trades doesn’t always work, but I’m pleased to report that this is great entertainment.

 

    There are some great characters. JD and George apart, I have to say, I was quite drawn to Cerri. If I feel through the proverbial rabbit hole into the plot, her relative sanity, and certain attractive qualities, would have made her my go to person. This book has loads of the old vampire stuff in a fashionable modern environment, mainly that of big business. Think bloodsucking bankers, except that they are not bankers, in what is on one level an often-seen story of business greed. On other levels, it’s one that quickly slips off the path of sanity.

 

    Reading this had me in a sort of split hemisphere frame of mind, one side, left or right, up or down, whatever, was laughing at every other line; the other was all, “This is getting quite worrying, almost scary”. There are few original ideas, are there ever, but Montlack puts those he uses together in a very individual way. What’s to say?-  Except, read it!

   

    Now, how did I write all that without a gulp of coffee?

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