Saturday, 7 February 2015

I seriously think that two subjects are missing from our schools' curriculums.

I seriously think that two subjects are missing from our schools' curriculum.

The first is financial awareness that will teach our children about money, loans, interest rates, credit cards, credit status and how not to end up with a pile of debts before you're twenty. I am very proud to say that this is something we taught our daughter. She had a credit card quite early on, but used it sensibly paying off the total due each month simply to build up her credit rating. These she has continued with and the result is that at the age of just twenty-two, she was accepted for a mortgage. Way to go, babes!

The second is self-control. People seem to fly off the handle at almost anything these days; the answer to their problems seeming to be violence and/or abuse. Ignoring the fact that it's not pleasant for the recipient—or those around them, it doesn't do the perpetrator any good either. They are also a victim. The physical abuse that is imposed upon their body by increases in blood pressure and hormones et cetera has a proven effect. The correlation between anger and illness is known. Those who explode with anger are at a greater risk of strokes and sudden death. But there is also the injury that they do to themselves at the time. An angry driving punching a car window is a good example. Those things are toughened. The only thing the 'doer' is going to break is his hand, but the anger causes such a huge lapse in judgement that self-preservation is forgotten. If we learn the skill of self-control, we could achieve so much more in these situations: resolutions rather than things like injury, stress and maybe a criminal record.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

SHADOWMAGIC: John Lenahan

A Lord of the Rings for the 21st century. Only a lot shorter. And funnier. And completely different.
Conor thought he was an average teenager. OK, so his father only had one hand, spoke to him in ancient languages and was a bit on the eccentric side but, other than that, life was fairly normal. Until, that is, two Celtic warriors on horseback and wearing full armour appear at his front door and try to kill him. After that, things get pretty weird.
Shadowmagic is a fantasy adventure for young adults (although grown ups will like it too). Written by one of the most popular magicians in the country it brings a fresh approach to the genre and will have a broad appeal beyond the fantasy sections.

A good read with a well-constructed twist at the end ... but it only gets three stars. Why? Because while some things were well thought out and put together, other things lacked attention.
The author is obviously a swordsman (or has spent a great deal of time researching the art) because his descriptions here are beautiful. They flow with grace and you can feel every blow. However, his knowledge in other, simpler affairs is lacking. There is a scene where our hapless hero is attacked by wild boars and, in the ensuing battle, he kills one of them. The next morning they are tucking into bacon from said boar. Sorry John, but you can't cure bacon overnight. It would have been pork chops for breakfast.
Okay, so maybe I'm being picky here, but it is a fact.
Still with the boar incident, having slain the beast, our hero is immediately chastised with the words, "We don't kill animals in The Land without their permission."
What? Did I read that correctly? You mean that you have to walk up to your prospective lunch and say, "Excuse me, Mr Rabbit, but I'm feeling a bit peckish. Mind if I kill you?"
Well, the rabbit is hardly likely to say, "Yes, mate. You go ahead. Don't let me stop you." is he? Not unless he's a very depressed bunny rabbit who has lost the will to live. Or is it that you only have to ask and that once you have popped the question, it's thwack, regardless of the answer.
To make matters worse, later on, the error is compounded. They are roasting five of the little blighters. So they managed to find not one, but five suicidal rabbits!
Overall then, the plot was good and scenes beautifully compiled. The characters were vivid (if a little over-forgiving) and the magic well crafted, but it lacked polish. It may well be published by Harper Collins but if so, they need better proof- and beta-readers.

Friday, 8 March 2013

EARTHLINK: IMPACT: Sarah Barnard

Sci fi with a troubled teenager, aliens and spaceships.
What if they are up there, monitoring us, and the planet? What if the planet has grown, developed, become conscious in some way? What if just one person could hear that consciousness in pain? What if that one person had just crashed a stolen car after a night of drink and drugs?
Sage is eighteen years old and, ever since she can remember, there's been a voice in her head. She'll tell you that she doesn't hear voices, they don't tell her to do anything. It's just a single voice, and it doesn't speak, it screams. She hears an unending scream as if the voice is someone in constant agonising pain.
She's been told she's hallucinating. She's spent time in psychiatric care and on strong drugs that cut her off from her feelings, and she hates all of it.
But she's not hallucinating, the voice is all too real and Sage has been watched for years in the hope that she's not the only one who can hear. When Sage puts her life in danger, and it's clear that she is unique, intervention is necessary.

A short story of about 20,000 words, this is a wonderful story. This was one of the few books that made me look forward to going to bed for my evening read. I loved it. It's sci-fi with a sound, down-to-Earth feel to it. The storyline was good, the writing was good and it had been properly proofed (something which can often be sadly lacking in Indie books) so it was an effortless joy to read. I could rant on about it for ages, but then the review would be full of spoilers so I'll be brief. The writer portrayed Sage beautifully. She made me remember what being eighteen felt like--all the inner turmoil that goes with that age, but Sage has something extra to contend with. Her realisation of what that something is, is the story. The adventure unravelled before me at a good pace with sound supporting characters and scenes. I look forward to the sequel. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

SUMMON YOUR DRAGONS: Roger Parkinson


Is Azkun an ancient hero returned to save them all or just a madman with absurd ideas about dragons? The King of Anthor has no time for ancient heroes and even less time for dragons. Old crimes are coming back to haunt him and old enemies are stirring on his borders. His last hopes may lie with Azkun, whoever he is. This is a gritty fantasy with no elves anywhere.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers.

This book is well-written with beautifully portrayed characters, places and events. It kept me enthralled to the end and should have been a five-star book, but it's not. The book built up hopes and dreams. We were looking for the triumph of good over evil but what we got was a deep sense of hopelessness and desperation that left me feeling depressed. The main character, who had led us all with his visions and dreams of summoning dragons and the dawn of a new future, never did summon one. In fact, the dragons turned out to be no more intelligent, charming or magical than a T-Rex. The end didn't just dash our hopes. It smashed them to pieces and then trampled on them. To conclude then, for the writing skills and the storyline, I would recommend the book. For the ending ... sorry, I don't.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

BLACK ON BLACK: K D Wentworth


Frankly, he preferred Humans. Rescued from a slave market by a human trader and raised as his son, one question has haunted Heyoka Blackeagle through the years. Who and what is he? He feels human, indeed he feels like a somewhat alienated member of his father's tribe. So what if he is seven feet tall, furry, and equipped with retractable claws? Human is as human does ... right?

A superb story, well written with great characters. The author has managed to take us into a culture that is so very different to ours through the eyes of the Hrinn, Heyoka Blackeagle. We learn with him about who and what he is and feel his confusion as he struggles to understand his people and their ways. The skill of this author is the manner in which he takes us down this path and helps us understand this race so alien to our own. A superb read.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

PERFECT CRIME: Jack Erickson

A San Francisco wife plots to murder her philandering husband by being in two places at one time.  She commits the Perfect Crime and starts an exciting new life with a sexy new boyfriend, living off the life insurance policy of her murdered husband. Until her doorbell rings one night ...

A short story of 32 pages and a super little read.

Monday, 4 March 2013

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED: Nick Shaw

An astounding attempt to help the survivors of a crashing plane results in the famous journalists becoming embroiled in a life and death mafia mystery. The veiled 'Eagle' has disappeared, leading the daring duo on a trail of danger, intrigue and murder. Corruption, politics and violence hurtle at breakneck speed in a race to save the day. But who is the Eagle? Who wants him so badly that they're prepared to kill? And can Stanford and Simone find him before it's too late?

This short story (about 10,000 words) is beautifully written. It smacks of a classic 1960's detective story and was a delight to read.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK: Seumas Gallacher

Jack Calder and his former SAS colleagues at ISP, a specialist security firm, are saved from certain death when an ex-Gurkha is killed smothering a deadly grenade thrown into a lunchtime Chinese restaurant in the West End of London. They learn that murderous turf wars are raging between Asian Triads and Eastern European mobsters vying for control of international fiefdoms of drug smuggling, people trafficking, prostitution and money laundering. An unexpected visit from the highest levels of international law enforcement offers Jack and the ISP team a means to use their black operations skills to wreak a ruthless retaliation against the drug lords.Unlikely partners emerge in their onslaught against the gangs as the warring criminal factions threaten an unholy alliance to repel them. The pursuit spins across Europe, Turkey and North Africa before a final reckoning.

Absolutely brilliant! Loved it from beginning to end. Superb story, well written, good presentation. What more can I say?

Saturday, 2 March 2013

STEPFORD USA: Lada Ray

Psychological mystery thriller set in an idyllic Massachusetts town harboring a dark secret, STEPFORD USA will dazzle you with an array of funny, outlandish, dangerous and utterly realistic characters. Who committed rape and murder: a corrupt police chief, crooked politician, millionaire-nerd, or womanizing banker?
Ladies from the Stepford Knitting Club know it all, except that the town has been hijacked by criminals posing as pillars of local community. That's where Jade Snow comes in. A new breed of amateur sleuths and international journalist, she's thoroughly at home in the brave, new, globalized world, but unprepared for one challenge: the dull existence in this sheltered American town. And that's exactly where she ends up after getting married and pregnant. Aided by a super-intelligent calico cat and a psychoanalyst from New York, Jade's on a mission to solve baffling mysteries, uncover a local conspiracy and turn this sleepy paradise upside down... if she can survive the attraction to an enigmatic convicted rapist, and the encounter with a desperate killer. 


This is one of those books I just 'found' on my eReader. I had no recollection of downloading it (although I must have) but thought, 'what the hell, I'll give it a go'. It was a great surprise too. I thoroughly enjoyed the tale and it is one I would definitely recommend to others. It was well written and well presented with full, rounded characters that kept me reading to the end, and if there is a sequel, I'd definitely give it a go. The book would easily get five stars but for one thing--and this is purely personal. The psychic leanings didn't quite appeal to me and I felt the book could have stood equally as well without them. The character's own vivid imagination and investigative nature could have supported all of her visions (there aren't that many) which, for me personally, would have enhanced (note I say enhanced, not improved) the believability. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

THE BONES OF THE EARTH: Scott Bury


The Dark Age, eastern Europe: the earth has decided to rid itself of humanity with earthquakes, volcanoes and new plagues. Civilizations, even the mighty Roman Empire, crumble under the pressure of barbarian waves that are fleeing worse terrors. Rejected by his own people, pursued by a dragon, young Javor heads for Constantinople, the centre of civilization, looking for answers to the puzzle of his great-grandfather's dagger and the murder of his family. On the ancient, crumbling Roman highway across haunted, deserted Dacia, Javor rescues the beautiful Danisa from a human sacrifice. He cannot help falling in love with her. But Danisa has her own plans, and when she is kidnapped again, Javor has to wonder: what is the connection between his dagger, his lover and his enemies?

A very well presented tale of fantasy set in the time of ancient Rome that kept me reading to the end. Grammar, punctuation and presentation were good throughout ...except for the penultimate chapter. A final proof on this wouldn't go amiss as it yanked me out of the story quite rudely, and that was a shame because it was a good tale with great detail and wordcraft. Despite this, though, I thoroughly recommend.