SKOOBE TUOHS

SKOOBE TUOHS

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

Review
4.5 Stars
The Nosferatu Chronicles: Origins- Susan Hamilton

Product Details

     I love this book, particularly as a really inventive piece of speculative fiction. Hamilton does a top job of drawing together the horror genre classic vampire and the science fiction genre, specifically the sub-category of visitations from other civilisations.

     This is pure fiction that makes some use of documented historical facts and their possible interpretation, in order to build a credible vampire backstory. Nothing in the book is particularly novel, but the speculative thought and the unique way Hamilton puts the story together is both clever and very exciting. I actually became quite fond of her race of space travelling vampires, and even found myself excusing their arriving on, and manipulation of, our unique planet.

     I have always struggled with the logic behind the ‘humanistic vampire’; I struggle with all fantasy and legend that seems over disconnected from observed reality. Hamilton does a very neat job of creating a possible explanation and speculative history behind that horror genre. All the classic stuff is there, from wooden stakes to vulnerability to sunlight, and all within a new logic framework. Well, obviously this is all fantasy, however, the writing is strong enough that it allowed me to effortlessly suspend belief in the world as it appears. One can’t ask more of a speculative fiction book. Hamilton has for me managed to put the vampire legend on science fiction shelves.

     There is already a second book in the series, which I’m yet to read. I surely will. The first was a real page turner for me.

Review
5 Stars
The Last Detective- Brian Cohn

     Mixed genre- well put together; no, very well put together. Those that love murder mystery will find themselves comfortably stationed within a science fiction world and vice versa. I love writing that can shatter walls between genres, between readers fixed ideas of like, and this book does that well.

     We are in a recently invaded world by a civilisation of ‘slicks’ that mankind is still far short of understanding. Human society is in a state of decay, if not quite chaotic dissolution, as the alien culture imposes certain disciplines whilst leaving humans with a veneer of independence. Any independence is apparently dependent on an absence of resistance. Regular mass deportations to destinations unknown, are ‘accepted’ by the human administrations. One can’t help but make comparisons between the slicks as quasi Nazi or Starlin’s cabal. Perhaps those born in this century would relate better to comparison with the current, alien to humanitarian values, regime of Kim Jong-Un.

     When an alien is apparently murdered the aliens find cause for an investigation by what remains of a human police force. Painstakingly Adrian, the last pre-invasion trained detective, puts the pieces of the case together despite the lack of resources and technologies still at his disposal.

     The principle human characters are well drawn, and the unfolding of the crime is crafted in a very compelling way. This is a case for an old-time sleuth, not a ‘slick’ crime lab. Um: pun intended.

     As an independent writer and a strong advocate of my peers, I am delighted to be able to report this book as being a good example of the quality achievable outside of the traditional publishing empires. Pandamoon are one of many new small publishers. I’m certainly not in any position to endorse them, but I can say that they have at least one good writer aboard.

     Well written and, apart from a few lapses, well edited.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Finding Freedom- Brittany Nicole Lewis

I was expecting a book full of violence, both physical and psychological, with layers of cruel malevolence driving its agenda. This read isn’t like that. This is a quiet pastiche, a sensitive unravelling of years of mental mind-washing, the story of well-planned escape and months of gradual adjustment to life outside of a closed, controlling community.

Those that expect to read about physical violence and a dangerous escape from it, will be disappointed, unless like me they find something ‘spiritually’ rewarding. This is a book that deals with the evils of abusive control and the immense difficulty victims of such authority have adjusting to the freedoms of liberal society. The subject matter is all North American, but the psychology of it applies wherever individuals struggle to escape constraining ‘walls’. Many of the issues raised are as applicable to whole populations, nations, as they are to individual humans.

The book is well enough written, in a simple non-intrusive style, with ‘christian’ belief strongly emblazoned by Lewis’s words. The read is gentle and rewarding, quietly preaching the author’s private convictions. I feel most comfortable describing this as Christian social drama. I feel that those that have escaped, or are contemplating escape from the dominion of other’s, whether to find their own space with God, or to the most secular of lives, will find this a rewarding read. The cult isn’t defeated but, by the end, its effects on the minds of some are ameliorated. The main lesson is that it isn’t easy to take responsibility for one’s future from a long-term suppressing evil, to risk escape, but that the light at the end of the tunnel can be reached, and is worth reaching for.

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Coyote Sunrise- Nikki Broadwell

Provided one can suspend all logic to the point of accepting the idea of ‘shape-shifting’, meaning the metamorphosis of one species of creature into another, there is plenty to enjoy in this book. The concept is found in a vast repertoire of paranormal writing, so obviously, a great many readers embrace the concept. Alas, I don’t. However, illogically perhaps when I can’t abide the idea of species shifting, I love writing that ‘humanises’ the world of animals. And surely it is this augmentation of the animal world to point out our cruelties, our savagery, that is the point of this book.

I like the way that Broadwell uses animalistic mythologies to bring together a wealth of political, cultural and social concepts, which generally enfold ideas of individual liberty and equal rights. The humanising of animals, and the animalistic tendencies of humans are explored in depth, if rather repetitively. Some of the plot elements were certainly over used, to the degree that the read would have far more punch if reduced by a third in length.

The page to page reading experience is very good, with first class character development, and Broadwell’s storytelling and writing crafts bring out deep, individualistic, emotional currents. I haven’t read the first part of the saga, but felt no penalties from that. There are no hanging story lines that aren’t properly explained.

I was particularly drawn to the script by the fact that the author clearly feels that we live in a world which has become too much the environment of mankind, to the detriment of nearly all other creatures. A return to native cultures living in harmony with nature, away from those that simply steal from nature whatever they desire, may be utopian; but at least it can exist in a world of books, a world of imagination, and if it can be imagined then just perhaps it is somehow possible. Broadwell is a little soft on the main predator species, but hopefully book three will get down to the business of removing men from the cayotes world, or at least those mentally sick killers that don’t respect the idea of, and reach out for, a fair balance of nature.

Those humans that see sport in the hunt should be the sport of the hunt.

 

AMAZON LINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Rarity from the Hollow- Robert Eggleton

   Not everyone will read the story the way I did. In fact, wading through twenty or so of the at this point in time 94 Amayon.com reviews, I couldn’t find any others that were reading the exact same message.

  This is a story that’s omnipresent voice explores the decent of an adolescent girl into madness. At the books end, I imagine her institutionalised, living her conscious life entirely in an invented world of her imagination, while kept ‘physically safe’ by psychiatric nurses.

   The setting of West Virginia is irrelevant, other than that I read that it is a place where the author worked as a psychotherapist. One can read in the deprived corners of any state on Earth.

  The book is comic, by line, sometimes treading in the deep crud of extreme social and physical abuse and poverty, by chapter. Lacy Dawn is the daughter of an abusive PTSD suffering father, and a down-trodden and objectified mother. We read about how, especially after the murder of her best friend she starts to tip over the edge, eventually losing even remote connection with reality. As she descends into the protective cocoon of her imagination she engages in a range of abnormal behaviour typical of traumatised children, and especially of those children that have being exposed to the very worst of adult behaviour. Drugs, guns, and sexual exploitation of all sorts are the bread and butter of everyday life in the neighbourhood of this poor child.

   If one chooses to read that way, she ‘really’ goes on an adventure across space, engaged to marry a robot that is slowly turning into a physically ‘entire’ man. If you don’t, and I don’t. The distant shopping Mall is the furthest she ever gets from home.

For my perspective, this is book is conceptualised brilliantly, and executed well. The writing is good, as is the pace of the plot. Perhaps the ending is a little weak, but by that point where could Lacy Dawn’s mind go that could be more distant from reality, and more protective of what little is left of her sanity. The satirical plot, the harsh existence which became an escape to the stars, or the closed spaces of the mind, is very clever. The ending was appropriate, as Lacy builds her own sanctuary, one in which she is at last in control of her life.

   Where could a sequel go? To rehab from drugs and mental recovery, or further into the stars?

   The message: “however life shits on you, don’t shit on the children” is delivered so harshly that only the comical prose could carry the ‘normal’ reader to the stories psychotic conclusion. If we don’t protect and fight for wholesome family values, our societies will all decay into an impoverished, disease ridden, Hobbesian Hollow.

Lacy Dawns mental space may be unique, but unfortunately isn’t that abnormal. Well, that is the view of a relatively sane man who only understands one psychology, my own.       Get well, Lacy Dawn and let Faith rest in peace, but never her death be hidden from the judgment of society.

AMAZONLINK

Review
4.5 Stars
Mervyn vs Dennis- Niels Saunders

   A book stuffed with irreverent comedy, funny in a way that few since the 1970s and 80s have dared to be. A writer who is prepared to stick two-fingers at the stifling blanket of multicultural non-offensiveness that has been allowed to slowly suffocate comedy, and so cultural diversity. The 1970s were the highwater mark of freedom to mock, which is an exacting measure of freedom of speech. Yes, the weak need to be guarded, but they don’t need to be protected by a righteous piety which filters out everything that could give any possible offense to any Tom, Dick or Titty.

   So it is great to read a writer that is prepared to be rude, even if he completely overdoses on the comedy in what leaves, and in certain atypical social groups enters, the arse. And yet, even in this book there are groups that the author chooses not to offend. There is still an element of protectionism towards certain left of centre ‘BBC type standards’ of middle-class self-righteous piety. Perhaps that is genuinely the ground Saunders rests on, like some latter day Ben Elton, or just perhaps this author still compromises comedy to protect certain of his sacred cows.

   But all in all, and especially considering the now comparative weakness, the containment, of British humour, this book absolutely deserves five stars. Writing like this helps give me confidence that the tide can be turned against the political correctness and the sanitisation of public thought. The ‘private eye’ of diverse all has been shown a crack in the door- a hope for escape from bland multicultural sterilization. In this writing, our everybody-cultured society had been found a little air. Not all fresh air exactly, as, as I said, Mervyn vs. Dennis is far too heavily focused on bottom humour, but certainly a wind of unfettered, socially penetrating, liberating humour.

   Saunders’ writing is good, his comic timing is excellent. Now all he needs to do is put a cork in his craphole jokes and instead write to take the piss out of his own values as well as those of those that are even now almost beyond the fringe of cultural piety.

   Not suitable reading for those that think they have a social right not to be offended.          More pineapples and exotic fruitcakes, please, Mr. Saunders.

AMAZON LINK

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.

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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.

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