Saturday, July 15, 2017

Made for Me (Made for Me, #1)Made for Me by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Abrielle has trouble making decisions. She relies on her personal computer to make them for her, even to the extent of what to order for dinner on her first date with Sampson. Sampson was less than forthcoming when he completed the online dating questionnaire. Being an android didn’t seem like essential information. He was also a little careless when he decided to join Abrielle in a glass of wine, because alcohol shorted his circuits, but he was able to tell her how to reboot him and the rest of dinner went well. Sampson was commissioned by an elderly ballet dancer for companionship. She emancipated him in her will, but he had developed a taste for human females. Abrielle was liberal enough in her thinking to not be prejudiced toward androids. This unlikely couple became an item, and due to a glitch at the fertility clinic, find themselves in a position to adopt a child. Life would seem to be idyllic except for the fact that androids have an expiration date.

Made for Me starts well. The reader is attracted to the somewhat ditzy idiosyncrasies of Abrielle, and the voice of her character shows the first few scenes in an engaging way. Then Sampson takes the viewpoint, and he reveals his doubts and worries, again in a convincing way. However, the narration fails to remain consistent and turns into telling the story in place of showing it. There is very little dialogue that might allow the characters to present the story in their own words. What the reader gets instead is a recitation of often sterile facts. When the adopted child, Norrie, takes a turn with the narration, her voice is anything but child-like.

Ms. Schloesser Canepa has created some interesting concepts in this futuristic tale. One that I liked was the idea that Abrielle is working in a fertility clinic at the start of the book. After she and Sampson agree to adopt a ‘mistake’ that the clinic made, she goes to work for a cemetery that specializes in biodegradable ‘burial pods’ that sprout into apple trees. A story about the marriage of an android and a human has great potential. It might resume where Blade Runner ended. Made for Me didn’t satisfy me in that regard. Sampson and Abrielle’s life together was just too mundane. This is petty, and I know it, but I couldn’t shake the idea that Sampson (with a ‘P’) was supposed to be Samson. Made for Me is a quick and breezy read. Don’t let the ranting of one cranky old man dissuade you. See for yourself.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Long Time No Posts

I'm reading a very, very long book about the pioneers of rocketry, which I will review by and by. In the meantime, I didn't want you to think I'd quit reading. In fact I read a pre-release book for an Australian author, Cenarth Fox. I believe that's his real name--cool huh? His book is called Tricky Conscience, and it doesn't have a cover image yet, so I thought I'd plug A Little Rebellion, which, in my opinion, is my best effort and is half price for the month of July at Smashwords.

Buy at Smashwords $1.50

Now, here is my review of Tricky Conscience by Cenarth Fox.
When I hear that it has been released, I'll remind you.

Why can’t people do the right thing? Bernie’s idealism gave him a brainstorm. If he could concoct pharmaceuticals to ease the torment of mental illness, why couldn’t he formulate one to give wrongdoers a bad case of conscience? Well, he did just that, but the world that beat a path to his door did not bring accolades. A crooked—that is typical—politician, assorted drug lords, and a greedy employer are determined to squelch, steal, or exploit Bernie’s formula. He is ill equipped to defend himself from the various menaces, and would most likely succumb but for a quartet of old ladies with a surprising capacity for mayhem.

Tricky Conscience has an Australian accent, which was an education for a Californian reader. Cenarth Fox’s foray into the realm of humor is a departure from his earlier work, and it shows a breadth of skill. The characters are well formed, if sometimes hapless. However, Mr. Fox does great villains. The prose is, how shall I say it, invigorating? Maybe athletic. So, take a walk on the down under side. It’s good for a laugh.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Michigan Boy and the Great War

A Colleague in ShadowsA Colleague in Shadows by Jack Adler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Kirk was not a diplomat, but he found himself rubbing shoulders with some of the most influential statesmen during the years prior to the United States entering World War I. Fresh out of college, this neophyte from Michigan is the assistant to the unofficial spokesman for President Wilson. Based in Paris, Kirk is sent to gather intel in London, Petrograd, and Berlin. Perhaps it’s because he is such a callow youth that he is able to disarm some of the most prominent figures in the Great War. He also disarms some young ladies.

Jack Adler’s A Colleague in the Shadows tells the how and why of the run-up to America entering the war. It recounts Wilson’s stubborn push for ‘Peace Without Victory’ and the resistance his plan encountered in European courts. The United States dawdled for three years, enduring shipping loses at the hands of U-boats, and unrelenting pressure from allies to send American troops to France. Mr. Adler tells this story from an innocuous viewpoint. Kirk Johnson is a reluctant participant in global affairs, but he handles his tasks with aplomb. This story is remarkable in how it places an unremarkable character into such momentous events. It is well told, and the characters well developed. A Colleague in the Shadows is an entertaining way to revisit some history.

This book has some issues that I would be remiss not to mention. I have corresponded with the author, and he has told me that he has no control over the publisher who failed to correct numerous glaring errors. I make this disclaimer with Mr. Adler’s permission. It is a great book, sadly, it has been published by a poor publisher. I hope that you can enjoy it while overlooking the typos.

71500 words

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

If You're Tired of Hearing About Russians...

History of Russia in 100 Minutes by Tanel Vahisalu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Russians are an unfortunate melding of Vikings, Mongols, and Slavs. Their history is dominated by one recurrent theme—failed ideology. Repeatedly, one ruler takes control with the intention of instituting reforms, and the subsequent ruler reverses them. Ivan the Great broke the yoke of Mongol domination and expanded Russian influence. Ivan the Terrible succeeded him, subjugated the people, and nearly lost Russia to Sweden and Poland. Under the reign of Catherine the Great, the people enjoyed “freedom of speech, political stability, and great victories.” Along came Alexander I who reverted to “autocratic governing.” Nikita Khrushchev ended Stalin’s reign of terror and promoted agrarian reform. During Brezhnev’s “Era of Stagnation” the Soviet Union “became politically, economically, and socially backward.”

This student of history is unaware of any society that has exterminated as large a percentage of its own population as the Russians. Famines, pogroms, wars, and purges have decimated vast segments of the populous at numerous times throughout the history of the place we generally call Russia. Famine during the “Time of Trouble,” following the rule of Ivan the Terrible, decimated one third of the inhabitants. During World War I, Russia may have lost 1.7 million, during the Russian Civil War, after the Bolshevik Rebellion, total casualties have been estimated at 9.5 million. Then came Stalin. Stalin was surely the most murderous in terms of sheer numbers and probably also in percentage of the population. Mr. Vahisalu cites at least fifteen million dead. Other sources have dared to claim twenty-nine million.

Tanel Vahisalu is from Estonia, long part of the Soviet Union and liberated after the collapse of that body. He now resides in Finland. The reader can tell that he has written this delightful history from a front row seat. History of Russia in 100 Minutes covers every momentous event in clear, concise prose, giving the reader the essential facts of who, when, and what happened. The text is linear and chronological. It is followed by chronological lists of events, the rulers, historical figures and even a glossary, making this reader friendly history an excellent reference book for future study. Too many people avoid history. They don’t like it, and to their peril, they are responsible for its endless repetition. According to Mr. Vahisalu, Catherine the Great’s attempted reforms went nowhere. People of the twenty-first century need to look at their own situation in the context of history. History of Russia in 100 Minutes is a great place to start.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

True and Tragic Tale

The Merrell Saga: Based on a True Story from the Red Stick War of 1813-1814The Merrell Saga: Based on a True Story from the Red Stick War of 1813-1814 by Charles E. Sowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the time of the time of the War of 1812, wild Indians may have “raised commercial crops, owned slaves, and bred racing horses” but that did not make them less wild. Jack Merrell lived with his young wife and infant son on the fringe of the Creek Nation. Zealot, Josiah Francis, AKA The Profit, and William Weatherford, AKA Red Eagle, threatened war against the white settlers encroaching on their land. The threat posed by the warlike Creeks, known as Red Sticks, moved Jack to sign on for a six-month stint with the militia. While he languished idly in one of many hastily erected forts, the Red Sticks attacked his and the surrounding farms while most men were preoccupied with tending their fields. Women and children were clubbed and scalped by the murderous savages and left for dead. News of the massacre reached Jack by the slow and unreliable mail system of the time. He, naturally, lapsed into a deep depression, however, neither his wife, Sarah, nor his son, William, died. Both were slowly and painfully nursed back to health. Jack, on the other hand, threw himself into the quest for revenge with careless abandon. He sustained nearly mortal wounds in a desperate attempt to drive the Red Sticks out of Alabama, but he also did not succumb to his injuries. Just as in the case of her own near brush with death, Sarah only received word that he had died. Neither received what should have been the happy correction. What transpired over in the next few years was as tragic as the near mortal wounds themselves.

The Merrell Saga is the novelized account of family history. Mr. Sowell did years of genealogical research before composing his excellent account of the disastrous chain of events that befell his ancestors. As a lover of historical fiction and family history, this book struck a sympathetic chord in me. If this story had not been true, one would be tempted to think that the unthinkably cruel coincidences that befell the characters were the result of the twisted imaginings of a deeply troubled author. The prose may lack a little sophistication, but it does not detract from an excellent, and moving, tale.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ripples Through TimeRipples Through Time by Lincoln Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calvin’s devotion to Emily bordered on codependent. When Emily died, he found no reason to continue living. At eighty-five, or was it eighty-one, he felt no stigma attached to visiting her grave and then joining her in a better place, but first he called his daughter to say goodbye. He said it in less than uncertain terms, which triggered Bethany, not to rush to his side, but to call her brother-in-law to ask him to do a welfare check. Edward liked the much older Calvin and gladly complied. This led him into a desultory visitation through the past and a firm refusal to drive Calvin to the cemetery. The old man’s response was the revelation of Edward’s darkest held secret.

Ripples Through Time is the reliving of a lifetime through family vignettes told in the course of one profound morning. The flashbacks are related in random order, in various voices, and from various viewpoints. This, although artfully done, is a challenge to reader to keep in mind who is narrating. The several characters, who tell their stories, sometimes in first person, sometimes in third, are fully developed and not lacking in individuality. If not conventionally written, Lincoln Cole has found a fascinating method to weave his tale. The conflict of threatened suicide contrasted to hopelessness at the end of life is artfully laid onto the pages. Ripples Through Time is a poignant story that probes depths that are resident in every family. It is a book I recommend without reservation for everyone, especially the loyal members of the Rave Review Book Club.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51 by Marcha A. Fox

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Get ready for Thyron. He is a peda flora telepathis; in other words a sentient, bipedal, telepathic plant. He not only communicates telepathically, he acquires knowledge remotely. While imprisoned at the infamous Area 51, he stumbled onto a treasure trove of information and overdosed himself by assimilating it, which caused him to lapse into a dormant state. This triggered a panic in Gabe Greenly, astrobotanist for NASA. Greenly nursed Thyron back to a healthy state and was rewarded with a handful of seedpods.

Thyron’s vegetable chauvinism makes him highly opinionated. He bristles at the nature of paper, he thinks lumber is a crime against botany, vegetarians are serial murderers, and a harvester is a weapon of mass destruction. He cuts Gabe some slack since he is a fruitarian and can gain sustenance without killing the fruiting plant. This makes for a strange relationship, because Gabe is bound by his security agreement, which forbids abetting an escape, and Thyron’s goal is to get off the earth at all costs, along with an artificially intelligent robot—since disassembled—and a humanoid girl.

Marcha Fox has not only created a phyla, she has invented multiple vocabularies. The psychic terminology is plain enough to understand, but you might want to read The Terra Debacle on an ereader with a built-in dictionary to help decipher the botanical terms. This is a brilliant story, extremely well written and with great character development. It is off-the-wall in a way that is similar to how Tom Robbins grabs the reader and shakes him. The research is profound and convincing. It is loosely aimed at the young adult audience, of which I am not a member; however, I recommend it for anyone who wants to venture into a leafy new world.

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Release date: May 30, 2017

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