Monthly Archives: July 2011

Book Review – The Festival on Lyris 5

The Festival on Lyris 5 – Great Sci Fi at a Great Price!

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Nick Daws
Format: Kindle

Dishonorably discharged from the Ten Stars Space Fleet, Captain Richard Barrett spends his day drinking and womanizing.  It’s an okay life but not entirely fulfilling until a telepath – Julie Halloran – enters his life or rather saves it.  Grateful for feeding him information during a poker game where his life had been at stake, Richard listens to Julie’s proposition for him pilot a craft.  The issue and the opportunity is that the ship will be filled with illegal drugs bound for the Festival on Lyris 5.  The festival runs for three weeks and is held once every ten years.  Given the lawless nature of Lyris 5, it offers the perfect opportunity for enterprising drug runners to make big money.  Seeing the opportunity and looking to shake things up a bit, Richard agrees to take the job.  What he doesn’t know is that the very balance of power in the Ten Star System is in his hands.

Nick Daws’ “The Festival on Lyris 5” is a fun and entertaining short story reminiscent in style to Joss Wheadon’s Firefly with a touch of Asimov’s classic Foundation’s Edge thrown in.  Daws tells the story in first person which is perfect as the reader feels the same thing that troubles Barrett throughout – that something more may be going on than he is being told.  This fun and sometimes quirky short story is paced perfectly and introduces us to what feels like a prologue to something much greater at the same time the main story arc is satisfactorily closed in climactic fashion.  I especially enjoyed the story elements involving the issues of prejudice suffered by the telepaths and how they are “tracked” using mind sweepers.

I hope this is the beginning of future chapters in the Ten Star System.  At $0.99 on Kindle, this is a great read!

Book Review – Deadly Departed

Deadly Departed Sometimes Life after Death can be a Killer!

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Tom Ryan
Format: Kindle

The newly appointed constable of Port Isle was understandably anxious as he approached the lumber mill.  After all, this was his first death investigation.  As he and the mill supervisor walked into the expansive and dangerous lumber yard, the supervisor explained his shock and dismay at the gruesome accidental death of a young female office worker crushed under a stacked log pile that had given way.  In an attempt to uncover and positively identify the body, the constable finds evidence clearly showing that the log pile did not give way by accident and that the tragic death was in fact murder.  While the mystery of who committed such a crime plagued the constable, and even more and perhaps greater mystery filled his mind –how was it that one could be murdered in the land of those already dead?

Tom Ryan’s “Deadly Departed” is definitely not your run of the mill (pun intended!) murder mystery and that is its strength.  If you can imagine a cross between David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” and Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” then you might be somewhere in the ballpark of what “Deadly Departed” is like.  “Departed” is an imaginative and clever romp into a unique “purgatory-esque” afterlife.  Ryan creates such a unique and at times bizarre world that it is almost impossible to guess how the plot will resolve and unfold.  None-the-less, it all works resulting in a very entertaining read.

Ryan’s writing is spot on – good pace, great descriptions, impressive world building, engaging characters and fun turns of phrase.  I have no idea if Ryan intends this to be a series, but with a world so unique one could see how this could really blossom into a multi-novel offering.  If you like standard fare and mainstream reads, this may not be for you.  If however, you enjoy something very different that will likely be something you remember for quite some time to come, you won’t be disappointed in “Deadly Departed.”

Book Review – The Escapades of Glamour Grans on Holiday

The Escapades of Glamour Grans on Holiday – Golden Girls go to Africa!

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Micki Street
Format: Kindle

Life doesn’t slow down after sixty, for some it just starts getting interesting.  Searching for adventure and excitement, Dotty, Wilma, and Nora decide an African beach holiday and Safari are just the ticket.  However, con man and drug lord Lucas talk the women into visiting his country in an attempt to use them as hostages to avoid a drug bust by the local and international authorities.  What starts as a vacation quickly turns into a harrowing adventure for the grannies.  Tropical storms, opium drug busts, and treacherous mountain roads are just part of their escapades.  Fortunately for them, they have an ever watchful guardian keeping them just one step out of harms way.

Micki Street’s “The Escapades of Glamour Grans on Holiday” reminded me of late 1980s American Television series The Golden Girls.  In fact, this could be the screenplay for a “Golden Girls Movie”.  Sure, there is the whole drug lord and law enforcement operation to get the bad guys, but this part of the story arc is really background material.  This novel is first and foremost a comedic adventure of how a group of grannies find themselves making one ill informed move after another and winding up in a heap of trouble.  Like the Golden Girls, each granny has a very strong character – especially Dotty who is the group’s ring leader.  Also, these grannies talk about sex a lot!  It reminded me of my fraternity days.  I say – good for them!

All in all, “The Escapades of Glamour Grans on Holiday” is a light, fun read.  There were a couple of times where the perspectives shift around in the same scene making it a bit uneven, and I did wonder what happened to their collective common sense in some situations but then I reminded myself to suspend a bit of disbelief and just enjoy.  I’m sure these ladies will find themselves in more trouble in the future and look forward to Street’s future offerings.

Book Review – Doodling

Doodling – A Modern Day Parable

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Jonathan Gould
Format: Kindle

Struggling to keep up with the ever increasing pace of the world, Neville Lansdowne eventually gives in, lets go, and the world literally leaves him behind to fend for himself.  At first, Neville doesn’t know what to do; Earth is all he has ever known though lately it was hard to enjoy as it moved so fast around him.  But Neville soon realizes his not the only one to have been thrown off.  Others have left before him and they populate the universe on various asteroids and planets trying to make the best of life after the world has left them.  As Earth continues increasing its pace, it threatens to destroy itself and all who have left.  Can Neville and the others save their old world and themselves?

Jonathan Gould’s Doodling is a modern day parable exploring what happens when one lives to work instead of works to live.  In tongue and cheek fashion, Gould exposes Lansdowne to the outrageous characters in the universe that if he is not too careful, he could quickly become.  There are the “toaster” people who illustrate how crazy our lives can be when consumption of “things” become religion.  Then there is the aimless asteroid where it is impossible to know where one is going because there is no destination.  Finally, there is an intriguing look at what happens when responsibility and self sacrifice can become self destructive.

Doodling is an entertaining, light, yet deep novel.  After first reading, it seems like just a quick fun romp through Gould’s imagination, but upon reflection layers of messages reveal themselves.  I can’t pigeon hole Doodling into one genre but to me it felt like an adult version of the Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  Currently, $0.99 on Kindle it is well worth a read.

Book Review – Salted Away

Salted Away – Espionage, Murder, and Mystery on the Exotic Island of Cyprus

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Gina Drew
Format: Kindle, Paperback

When a Russian Orthodox priest from northern Europe is found dead in a monastery on the island of Cyprus, Greek Chief of Cypriot police Takis Koniotis is called in to investigate the murder.  Across the green line, or buffer zone, separating the Greek and Turkish sides of Cyprus, Safa Ziya, the Turkish Cypriot police senior investigator, is brought in to investigate a similar murder; both victims foreigners and found stabbed multiple times.  However, neither investigator is aware of the other’s research given the physical, political and cultural barriers that separate the two.  As bodies being to pile up on both sides of the island, Koniotis and Ziya’s lives intersect, the only question is will they work past their historical cultural differences to cooperate or search in vein for the killer – a killer who can manipulate them both.

Gina Drew’s  “Salted Away” is an intriguing and engaging well paced read that looks at the world of espionage and what happens to those involved years after end of the cold war.  Drew leverages her experience as a foreign service officer investigating international crime and espionage to create a complex and believable set of characters.  Who to trust?  What are their motivations? And how does one ensure they are not “retired with prejudice”?  I especially enjoyed how Drew wove in the political and cultural history of Cyprus and its ongoing conflict through her marvelous descriptions of the island, its iconic architecture, and the influence of British colonialism, Greek and Turkish cultures and UN oversight.

“Salted Away” is the second in Drew’s Koniotis Mysteris Series of six books.  Having not read book one, I can say that it in no one detracted from my enjoyment of this second installment as it stands on its own.  Quite the contrary in fact, I look forward to reading more of the series.  Fans of international espionage and political intrigue are sure to enjoy Salted Away.

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Book Review – Soul and Shadow

Soul and Shadows – Echoes of the Past

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Susan McLeod

Available: Paperback

Egyptologist and illustrator Lily Evans finds her visions and dreams of ancient Egypt inspirational for her paintings.A wealthy and famous English archaeologist happens upon Lily’s work and believes that they are the result of a connection Lily has with the unsettled soul of an Egyptian priestess – Amisihathor. While Lily does not believe in such things, her visions and dreams become more and more intense as does her romance with Kent – the grandson of the very archaeologist who discovered the Amisihathor’s tomb.Lily begins to learn of the priestess’ long buried secrets and soon finds her own life at risk as she gets closer to the truth.

Susan McLeod’s Soul and Shadow provides an interesting look a the social parallels of ancient Egypt and today; greed, desire, politics, love, betrayal, and romance are timeless.I especially enjoyed the sections of the novel which recounted the life and times of Amisihathor.McLeod’s writing, cadence, and style is spot on in these sections and her considerable research and expertise in this area shines.I did however find the early romantic interactions between Lily and Kent a little forced early on in the novel though this improves as the story evolves.

Soul and Shadow is a brief novel at 124 pages and I longed for more of the ancient Egyptian parts of the story. McLeod’s writing style is very refined and enjoyable to read; I look forward to her next offering.

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