Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Seasonal Reading

Creepy Shorts by Lisa M Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here are monsters under the bed, the disembodied hand in the closet, an evil talisman, a malignant teddy bear and a school bus ride to the River Styx. These stories are a delight for young adults and old codgers as well. They relate the childhood angst lingering in the souls of all of us, and those indiscretions we all committed. Of course, we shouldn’t talk to strangers, of course we shouldn’t sneak into R rate horror movies, we all knew better than to take a shortcut through the vacant lot, but we all did it and there were consequences. These stories are crafted with wonderful twists and turns—who knew Zeus could drive the bus?

Lisa Griffiths has a knack for the unnatural. She filled Creepy Shorts with some great demons and ghouls. Her prose has a light, enchanting storytelling quality to it. The characters are genuinely crafted. They are real people in unreal situations. She is good with the monsters as well. Read Creepy Shorts but don’t turn out the light.

Lisa is a member of the La Verne Writers' Group.

$2.99 only at Amazon so far.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Redemption CoveRedemption Cove by David Calder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coding ace, Ben Adams, raced headlong into the abyss. Leaving the bar in a Bellevue, Washington snowstorm, too drunk to drive, he was tee boned by an SUV. Waking in the hospital, he found himself in a body cast, uncertain he would ever walk again. A little mail delivered to the hospital revealed that his wife had divorced him, and a visit from his boss informed him that he’d been canned. During weeks of therapy, both physical and psychological, he managed to walk again, and to start thinking about how to cope with the future. Another piece of mail was his mother’s will. It gave him ownership of a cabin on a lake in British Columbia, and he made the happy discovery that his severance package contained a half million dollars in stock options. With his course of action obvious, Ben retired to the lakeside cabin to seek redemption.

The first thing he discovers at Laketown, BC, is that a mysterious tenant had recently vacated the cabin and that the real estate agents who managed the rental owe him a substantial sum. When Ben tries to transfer the windfall from the stock options to a local bank, he learns that the Security and Exchange Commission has frozen his account. The next dilemma that confronts him is the likelihood that his property is on Indian land and he will have to vacate. That is, if the hostile Indians don’t kill him first.

Redemption Cove is a marvelously crafted tale with loads of drama, intrigue and suspense. In addition to the aforementioned hostile Indians and legal trouble, there is a tragic love affair, a hungry grizzly bear, a wounded goose and the specter of hidden treasure stashed by Ben’s abusive father. David Calder has put together a masterful puzzle, and he threatens to keep the ball rolling with a sequel. This reader for one hopes that he hurries. Redemption Cove is a must read—don’t miss it.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Crime and Corruption

Joseph Morgan is the proverbial big fish in the small pond of Overton, Colorado. He has power and he wants more. His youngest son is police chief by Joseph’s decree and now Jack is running for county commissioner. Vegetarian rancher, Frank Jarret is running against him. Chief Jack Morgan receives an order from his father to discredit Frank shortly before the election. Frank is in Durango on business when Jack Morgan takes several deputies to Frank’s Lazy J ranch with the intention of planting two kilos of cocaine there. Instead, Jack claims that Emily Jarret produced a gun and he began firing. This excites the deputies to open fire as well. When the smoke clears, Emily and daughter, Katy, are dead. Two years later, Jack Morgan, in hiding under an alias, is found dead in his rare book store. Two of the deputies involved are found dead, Frank Jarret has vanished and the new police chief, Marcia Williams, must find the killer.

The Seventh Stage is a brilliantly executed crime story. The pace develops the suspense in a highly polished way. All characters are artfully fleshed and the scene shifts elevate the tension. Mr. Nichols’ prose flows smoothly as does his dialogue. A skillful eye renders the settings so that the stark beauty of southwestern Colorado is alive on the pages. The reader will not guess the outcome as the lady police chief traces her leads. This reader strongly recommends The Seventh Stage.

The Seventh Stage is currently unavailable at Amazon. I got my copy from the author. When it becomes available, it's a must read.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Grandpa Wasn't Crazy After All

Nick couldn’t believe his luck when a hot blond came onto him. When something seems too good to be true, it usually isn’t. Holly had a motive—she was being manipulated by her psycho sister, Hanna. Holly and Hanna’s father worked with Nick’s grandpa on an underground bunker in the days of President Kennedy when the world teetered on the brink of Armageddon. Both men were silenced by the government, but not before her father leaked to Hanna the fact of a fortune in gold bullion hidden in the secret tunnels. Nick’s grandpa was supposed to have drawn a map of where the gold was stashed, and Hanna was determined to get it no matter who she had to kill, including her sister and Nick.

Underground is a fast-paced story with a compelling plot and excellent character development. Mr. Chaus’ prose is smooth and flowing. The historical references are on the mark, and the technology is accurate. The reader will vividly visualize the scenes. Underground is a quick read, and one you won’t want to set aside.


Saturday, September 24, 2016


Rum, the lash and sodomy, according to Jim’s father, that was all there was to the Australian navy. Nevertheless, Jim found himself in the engine room of a destroyer about to be rammed amidships by the aircraft carrier Melbourne. The impact throws Jim so violently that it breaks his leg. The ship is split in two and the stern is sinking with the propellers in the air. Jim’s mate, Charlie, carries him to a lifeboat, and returns to rescue the hated petty officer still trapped in the engine room. The stern sinks before Charlie can return to the deck. When released from the hospital, Jim goes to console Charlie’s wife, Big Red. There he meets Jenny who is also lending comfort to the widow and new mother. After much dithering, the government convenes a Royal Investigation into the loss of eighty-two men under the command of Drunken Duncan, captain of the lost destroyer. Jenny’s younger brother is trying to evade the draft, and her mother is campaigning against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Jim is nominated to officer training school, and eventually finds himself combatting underwater saboteurs in the Mekong River where he is forced to garrote a teenaged Viet Cong soldier attaching limpet mines to the hull of a ship.

This complex story is propelled by Mr. Regan’s intimate knowledge of all things relating to the Australian navy. Written in Australian English, the American reader will enjoy the quirky terminology, and occasionally be forced to consult reference material for a definition. My sketchy description above only touches on a fraction of the story. Although 91,000 words—not quite epic length—WTF is an epic tale that is based on true events. Not being conversant with Vietnam era Australian history, I cannot say which things are true and which are not, but the weight of the narration is certainly convincing. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. Do yourself a favor, read it. It’s also a bargain. John Regan should raise his price.

I am unable to do as much for this writer as I would like. WTF was free at Smashwords when I downloaded it. It is $1.99 now and Smashwords won't let me review it unless I buy a copy. (I shouldn't be such a miser). It isn't available on Amazon US, so Goodreads can't find it. I did review it on Amazon AU. Your bet to buy a copy is Smashwords.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Sound and the FuryThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A dysfunctional Mississippi family has a black family of six for servants. The story begins in the voice of Benjy, formerly Maury, who is a thirty-three-year-old babbling idiot, mute and unable to care for himself. Everyone except his parents agree that he should be in the insane asylum. Next, Quentin assumes the narration. He is away at Harvard, but his ability to articulate is no better than Benjy’s. Finally, a third person narrator tells the story of angry Jason, who is working to support his hypochondriac mother, wanton niece, also called Quentin, and of course, the six black servants, who are treated little differently than slaves. It is, however, the matriarch of the black family, Dilsey, who keeps things together. There was also Caddy, who may, or may not have committed incest with her brother, Quentin. I’m vague on this because Caddy, who was a major player when Benjy told the tale in his psychotic jabbering, dropped out of the story except for fleeting and imprecise references. And that’s the whole story.

When I last went looking for reading material, I thought I should broaden my literary scope, so decided to try Faulkner for the first time. He being one of the foremost American writers, I expected something on par with Hemingway. Little did I expect a story that makes Tom Robbins’ hopped-up prose sound conventional, and rivals Lewis Carroll for craziness. Great swaths of The Sound and the Fury are completely lacking punctuation and capitalization, and huge sections are the mind-stream of madmen. It is so complicated, that I never really assimilated who all the characters were. The business of there being a male and female Quentin wasn’t clear to me until the last chapter, when female Quentin takes off with a showman in a travelling carnival, but what became of male Quentin remained unclear. There is no conventional plot or story line that builds tension until the main character either triumphs or dies as in most novels. Many things are left unresolved, like the question of the supposed incest. I have a hard time not thinking that those pundits who acclaim this as great literature are the same folk who refused to stand and say, “The emperor has no clothes.” If I had written this, you’d laugh at me.


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Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the days when Britons were menaced by ogres, dragons, pixies and Saxons, a mysterious malady descends across the land robbing all of their memories. An elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, cudgel their besotted brains to remember things that happened only a short time ago. On a morning when Beatrice slumbered late, Axl forces the memory of their estranged son to the forefront of his mind. He recalls that they intended to make a journey to visit him in the village where he took refuge after some familial conflict. Along the way, they acquire the company of an ogre slaying Saxon warrior, a geriatric dragon slaying knight of King Arthur’s court and a Saxon boy with a dragon’s bite on his belly. Beatrice has a mysterious pain and is advised to seek the counsel of a wise monk. En route to the mountaintop monastery, they encounter a bereaved woman who is sworn to torment a duplicitous boatman for separating her from her beloved husband. The couple should be advised to be wary of taking boat rides from strangers. In the end, no one will be found to be as they seem, and no one lives happily ever after.

The reader should be advised that this is a very dense book. Why then did I read it? Well, it was required reading for the La Verne Writers’ Group. My problem is primarily the pace, which is glacial, and is made so mainly by the dialogue. No character can open his mouth without embarking on a Hamlet-like soliloquy. On they drone, and repeat themselves to infinity. My other problem is the multitudinous viewpoints and tenses. We are treated to storytelling by a first person narrator, third person viewpoints from various characters’ heads and first person ‘reveries’ by characters, particularly the knight who rambles garrulously for way too many pages, and he spends a great deal of time talking to his horse. I’ve told all this in the foul light of my opinion. If you like that kind of thing, Buried Giant is for you. Apparently, somebody likes it, because Kazuo Ishiguro is a bestselling author. As I age, I am forced to say more frequently, “I just don’t get it.”

It may seem mean spirited, but I'm not going to link to this book. After what I said, do you really want to buy a copy?

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