Monday, 30 November 2015

Book review - #IAm16ICanRape, by Kirtida Gautam

What an amazing journey this has been. Unlike a novel that exists merely to entertain, #IAm16ICanRape is a member of a class which I would describe as literary activism. Such books are rare; most writers with a sociopolitical agenda choose to pursue that agenda via the medium of non-fiction. When it is done, if it is done well, as is certainly the case here, the reader cannot remain unchanged by it. So when I say journey, it is not a mere figure of speech for reading a long book. I learned from this book, and having learned, am forever changed.

In this book, the phenomenon of rape is dissected through the media of the points of view of the many different players in the drama. We are accustomed to think of rape in terms of the criminal and the victim, but just by using this technique, Gautam clearly shows how ripples spread out from the crime, affecting many, many more people. Like a drop of ink in a bowl of clear water, its darkness spreads and spreads. This, more than anything, for me showed the whole 'rape' issue in a different and more terrible light.

If the book is viewed as a text, I am not fully competent to evaluate it, not being qualified in psychology. The reasoning laid out in the appendix seemed believable to me, but as I say, this ventures into a professional area where I'm not at home; therefore, I will not comment about the psychological reasoning given in the appendix. Viewed as a piece of literature, however, I can and do say that it is a remarkably fine piece of work, broad and deep and life-changing. Like all gifted writers, Gautam engages the reader from the beginning and maintains that engagement throughout the work, even for the rapist, a character wonderfully drawn, and rivalling any character I have ever read for sheer repulsiveness.

I had only one real criticism of the work, and it is really an issue of presentation rather than anything going to the core of the work. Throughout the book there are many phrases and sentences, even groups of several sentences, in a language which I take to be Hindi, although I am aware that India has a number of languages, so it might be something else. My point, however, is that it is not English. Although one doesn't wish to be ethnocentric, and the country and culture of India are central, even cardinal to the work, the thing is that this edition has been translated into (or perhaps written in) English, and is therefore intended for English speakers to read. It is therefore a flaw when parts of it are unable to be read. I would have much preferred to see the English for these sections given, perhaps in parentheses immediately afterwards IF the foreign language was really necessary, but I suspect that in many cases this was not so. I do not, of course, refer to single words or phrases, such as 'beta', which are accessible enough from the context.

All in all, though, a fine, fine piece of work, and for a debut novel, really extraordinary, and I should be surprised if this book does not live on as a classic text in its subject.

#IAm16ICanRape is available from AMAZON in both e-book and paperback.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Short story review: The Effect-Displacement Assassin, by Danielle Ste-Just

An excellent piece of writing, startlingly original and well done - but I did find the ending a little weak. In my opinion, the place to have ended the story would have been on the presentation of the award - the terrible moment of the scientist realising she had spoiled her own lifetime triumph would have been the most climactic ending, and running on after it, I felt, robbed the story of much of its impact.

The Effect-Displacement Assassin is available from AMAZON. While you're there, you can preorder my romance/crime novella, Operation Tomcat, which will release on 11 December.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Book review: UnEnchanted, by Chanda Hahn

I'm a big fan of fairytale retellings, and UnEnchanted didn't disappoint, although I found the concept slightly derivative. As a fairytale retelling it was competent, as a high-school story it was competent, and all round the book was a pleasant way to idle away a couple of hours. But somehow it never realised its early promise; it was not so much that there was anything missing - klutzy, lovable heroine, check - loyal sidekick, check - ancient evil, check - just that there was nothing special to make this book rise above the great mass of similar books out there.

UnEnchanted is available from AMAZON and SMASHWORDS.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Book review: Hostile Witness, by Rebecca Forster


Hostile Witness is billed as a legal thriller, and I don't know that I really agree with that classification; although it's true that the whole thing is about a murder trial, nothing in the plot hinges on a matter of law; it is all about matters of fact. To me, it seemed more appropriately designated a psychological thriller.

This, though, is just by the way - this quibble certainly didn't affect my enjoyment of a complex and brilliantly excecuted thriller. It was exciting, believable and scary as hell. The courtroom scenes were beautifully done, and if Ms Forster is not in the law herself I am sure she has at least logged many courtroom hours in the pursuit of verisimilitude. The characters were engaging and realistic, in the psychological sense. An excellent beginning caught the reader from the first page, and the book didn't let go. I'd certainly like to read more from this author.

I was slightly irritated at the apparent carelessness of the proofreading of this fine book. Frequent homophone errors (not that frequent, but I did notice at least four or five, and that is four or five too many for a published work) were a nagging irritant.

Hostile Witness is available on AMAZON in ebook, paperback and audible editions, and also on  SMASHWORDS.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Book review - Children of Ur, by Scott Rhine

Set in the Ryoku universe, Children of Ur did not engage me as much as the other two Ryoku books. I believe the reason for this was that unlike the wonderful Aaron Walker, I found the protagonist, Redwing, rather two-dimensional and consequently, to me, much less interesting.

The other criticism I have of the book is that there was far too much backstory being dumped through the opening chapters; it was still trickling in at 24% and with this much explanation of background required, I felt it would have been better done in a prologue. One cannot rely on the reader having read earlier books in the series, and while this book technically stands alone, Redwing was a creature of the previous book and did not fully come alive in this one.

It was an entertaining read, despite this, and the ending is lovely - a triumph of wit and cunning.

Children of Ur is available from AMAZON.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Short story review - Bean Mother - A Story of Lost Magic, by Danielle Ste Just

This eerily strange interpretation of the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk tale will make a dedicated Ste Just fan out of every reader. I almost held my breath as I read it. I hesitate to say much, lest I take away from a reader's discovery of this remarkable story, but I will say that if you haven't read it, you have a great, great pleasure in store.

Bean Mother - A Story of Lost Magic is available from AMAZON. While you're there, you can preorder my own new romantic comedy, Operation Tomcat.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Book review: George Milne, Cat Detective, by Roddy Murray

From time to time I take a punt on an author who is completely unknown to me, and what a delightful surprise this one was.

George Milne is the most humdrum individual alive. Completely lacking anything approaching initiative, he drifts through life like water, trickling down the path of least resistance, until a hilariously improbably sequence of events supervenes, forcing George farther and farther away from his comfort zone.

Reminiscent of Tom Sharpe at his best, this book was one of the most sheerly entertaining I have read this year. The writing is not particularly polished but is solidly competent, and the extraordinary cast of characters are all beautifully drawn. I laughed out loud many, many times while reading it.

George Milne, Cat Detective is available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions.

If you enjoy a good laugh, check out my new romantic comedy novella, which will release on 11 December. You can preorder it  HERE.

Book review: Ridiculously Simple Self-Publishing: E-Book Formatting 101, by Terri Main

Like all of the Ridiculously Simple series, this book lays out essential information in a well-planned, easy-to-follow lesson. Main is a professional educator and it can well be seen from her work that she is no stranger to the lesson plan. The material is well organised and comprehensive, and is delivered in a straightforward manner without any waffle or boasting, which on its own makes it stand out above the general run of non-fiction ebooks of this type.

I found the level at which the material was aimed just right - there is on the one hand a presumption that the reader has a basic familiarity with MS Word (which one would ordinarily assume to be the case with any writer with a completed manuscript), and on the other hand the book stops short of going into the realms where only nerds may tread. The book is well conceived and well executed, and is a wonderful resource for the first-time self-publisher.

Ridiculously Simple Self-Publishing: E-Book Formatting 101 is available from AMAZON.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book Review - The Contract, by Biju Vasudevan

A young boy loses his innocence; a young man takes it back by storm. In this beautifully symmetrical novel, we see the cycle of innocence to evil to innocence completed, the circle closed.

Vasudevan's English works in the veins like champagne, sparkling and fizzing and making one happily dizzy. I'd have liked to see him hold a little more tightly to the conventions of English grammar, and I do feel the book needs editing, but it will take a special editor with extreme delicacy of touch to do justice to this book, and to this very gifted author's unique and distinctive voice.

The Contract is available from Amazon, in both paperback and kindle formats.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Short story review - A Question of Defense, by Terri Main

If only this story could be true. It paints a so-enticing picture of a race of people who actually practise Christianty. A whole planet full of them.

Well written and conceived. I wished it had been longer, but that was just because I was enjoying it.

A Question of Defense is available from AMAZON.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Book review - The Irrational War, by Ray Anselmo

Following on from the events in The Slave Auction, The Irrational War depicts, as may be expected from the title, a war waged against the Scotia community.

The book is structured very differently from its predecessor, with the single problem stated right at the beginning of the book, which gave it a unity that perhaps the first book did not have; on the other hand, I enjoyed the slow build and stripping away of layers that characterised The Slave Auction, and found this, more simply structured, book less compelling.

It's a good read, though, and embodies the very best of Christian fiction, in the way that right principles are shown, are demonstrated, and never, ever is there any preaching. Would that more writers could master this more difficult, but so much more satisfying and effective technique of storytelling.

The characters are sympathetic and the plot well constructed, and the whole is beautifully resolved at the end. A very satisfying read.

The Irrational War is available from AMAZON, both singly and in a paired deal with The Slave Auction. While you're there, you can also preorder my own new romantic comedy, Operation Tomcat.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Book review - Genevieve, by Barry Peabody

At first this book presents as a deep, broad, wide family saga in the tradition of R.F. Delderfield. And a very nice one, too. But wait - there's more! As the book unfolds, more and more aspects become evident, each one nestling within the enfolding hills of the story of the extended Wetherby family like wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree.

The first surprise is the element of erotica, with its naughty spanking scenes. Although I'm not in general a fan of erotica, I had to say this is very well done, with authenticity (as far as I can tell) and grit, while at the same time good taste is never offended. Peabody well knows the distinction between erotica and pornography and never strays from the right path, even while one can almost taste the sweat. I've not often seen erotic passages handled so well - especially given the extreme nature of some of it, the fact that at no time did this rather prudish reader find it offensive speaks volumes.

The second surprise is the gripping adventure novel of the trenches of the First War, which emerges in the second half of the book. Again, I'm not a fan of battlefield scenes, but I could hardly put the book down. I could smell the cordite so that it stung my eyes. Beautifully executed, and if Mr Peabody is not a veteran of active service I should be very much surprised.

Finally, as the book draws to a close, the mounting tension of the final chapters gave me one of the most exciting espionage reads I've ever encountered.

It's an unusual combination, but the disparate elements somehow manage to combine and work well together, giving the reader a wonderful read across at least four genres, even if romance is not taken to be one of them.

There were a few places where I felt the work could have done with a little more polish, but all in all a highly satisfying read, and I really cannot wait to see what Mr Peabody will give us next.

Genevieve is available from AMAZON and SMASHWORDS.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Book review: The Morwitch and the Dragon, by Jennifer Redmile

A fast-paced, action-packed fantasy thriller, The Morwitch and the Dragon is sure to appeal to the YA audience. It opens excellently well, with immediate character engagement, and the action doesn't let up throughout the book.

I would have liked to see the characters a little more developed and a bit more dramatic tension - if I had one criticism of the book it was that the solutions to the many problems faced by the intrepid hero and heroine always seemed to fall a little pat; at no time is the reader in any real doubt of their eventual success, and I thought a bit more uncertainty at times would have enhanced the story. But a very creditable beginning to a series which I feel sure will enjoy great success.

The Morwitch and the Dragon is available from AMAZON.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Book review - Not Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining, by N. Lalit

This is a charming story, and I did like it, very much. I was unable to give it more than three stars, though, because the author's English is just not up to the job. He can clearly write; whether the problems with this story's language are due to an overly ambitious attempt to write in a language which is not his own first language, or whether they have been caused by less-than-competent translation, who can tell; I can only judge the finished product, and the language needs a lot of work.

This story is available from AMAZON.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Book review: Brendon & Carson's Ninja Training and Adventures, by Rod Stoner

When I accepted this book for review I was mistaken about the nature of it; I thought it was going to be one of those novels that turn out differently when you choose different options at various points. It is actually a book of puzzles, and I wasn't willing to spend hours doing them, especially on my Kindle. I really don't know how suitable e-format is for a book of puzzles that include a lot of mazes and 'hidden letter' puzzles, but then I'm reviewing the content, not the formatting.

The puzzles themselves seemed like good ones for anyone who likes that sort of thing and there are plenty of them. The way they were all bound together by the ninja story was nicely done. The book would be a good resource for a rainy day, or for a sick child confined to bed.

A word of caution, though. The book needs to be properly proofread. Things like 'have went', and plurals formed with apostrophes, may be overlookable in independent fiction for adults, but a book that's intended for children should never set such an appalling example. Because of this, I was unable to award the four stars I'd have given the book otherwise.

Available from AMAZON  in both ebook and large print paperback. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Book review - Destiny and Faith Get Stuck In The Country, by Teddy O'Malley

This book is a marvellous illustration of the advice that is constantly being given to modern writers - show, don't tell. Children's books, at least the better ones, always contain some didactic element, and O'Malley has slipped hers in with beautiful subtlety, showing the young reader a number of desirable behaviours that include flexibility, kindness and true and whole-hearted acceptance of people with disabilities, including the all-important inclusiveness of making it easy for them to share in everything with the rest of a group. For this reason, the book should appeal to parents and teachers as well to its target audience. Very nice work indeed; a great addition to the library, classroom or home. 

Destiny and Faith Get Stuck In The Country is available from AMAZON in large print paperback.

While you're at Amazon ordering your copy of Destiny and Faith Get Stuck In The Country for your child, check out my new romance novella; you deserve something for yourself. Preorder Operation Tomcat HERE.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Book review - Daily Habits: How to Win Your Day, by Prashanth Savanur

This book doesn't make grandiose claims, but for anyone who is determined to bring about a change in his life, it provides a sound blueprint for taking control.

I once heard it said that all of the systems work if you do them. I am sure this book is no exception. I couldn't give it the full five stars because the English is dreadful, but this shouldn't necessarily put off a potential reader, as long as it is the content only that is of interest - Savanur's English is by no means bad enough to obscure his meaning. It is just like talking to a foreigner who has a heavy accent and makes mistakes - it doesn't mean you can't understand him. The content is the more important thing in a book such as this.

Daily Habits: How to Win Your Day is available from AMAZON.

While you're about it, you can preorder my new rom-com novella, which will be released on Amazon on 11 December. It's a quick, fun read. Preorder HERE.