Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Angels and Avalon

Author Catherine Milos was kind enough to send me an e-version of Angels and Avalon after I failed to win the goodreads giveaway for it.

Angels and Avalon was, for me a bit of a departure from what I usually read. The focus was on mostly good characters; God and Goddess, Angels, and a very good human. Of course Lucifer is also present so not all is wonderful.

The premise: Avalon is a paradise created by Goddess, hidden from the view of other divine beings who would destroy it.

I enjoyed the idyllic setting of Avalon (not Arthur's Avalon) but as is always the case, the paradise is invaded (I guess the book would have become boring otherwise). The Elysian Fields are a myth after all.

We have angels behaving as badly as humans, ... or angels, who knows? We have love, envy, violence, hate, kindness, tenderness and abuse.

Angels and Avalon spans several lifetimes and got a bit confusing towards the end because of this. Not horribly so, and it is an integral part of the story so it can be forgiven by the reader.

The activities of the characters in Angels and Avalon may give pause to more fundamental Christians (Goddess?), but my advice to them would be: It's fiction.Further as a Christian the story does not offend me in the slightest. Lucifer is Lucifer, so it is no spoiler what he is about.

Angels and Avalon is at its core a heartwarming tale of love (see? not my usual fare). But is not saccharin sweet or cloying. A good balance. Author Catharine Milos has given us a nice, clean, often gentle story, yet there are plenty of moments of evil and horror to keep the story balanced. I think if you give Angels and Avalon a look you will find it a pleasing read, Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Humanity's Hope

I won a print copy of Humanity's Hope By Greg P. Farrell in a Goodreads firstreads giveaway.

Humanity's Hope grabbed me immediately and kept me hooked til the end. A good apocalyptic story. It is set actually in the post-apocalypse but refers generously to the pre-time keeping a running account of both.

We have zombies and other unpleasant creatures (which would be a spoiler to share here), survivalists, political machinations and the ultimate fight for control. I particularly enjoyed the creation of Camp H. I really get into the nitty-gritty of building survival camps, as well as the relationships of the survivors. What others may see as the mundane aspects of a post-apocalyptic story is what really grabs me.

Author Greg P. Farrell expands the zombie lexicon by differentiating between slower and faster zombies. so, thanks for that. Plenty of moderately gory action, no sex. We have a world gone mad, full of interesting characters with well developed motivations. All in all, an excellent representation of the genre.

I do hope I was given an uncorrected proof because there were a lot of typos to contend with and hopefully they have been corrected.

Purely personal preference: Toward the end of the book the story went into a turn that while surprising, took me to a place I don't usually go (again, it would be too much of a spoiler to tell here) but does not pose any problem for most readers. Again "personal preference", and does not diminish the quality of the story at all. In fact I would guess that many or even most readers will find it adds positively to the book.

Humanity's Hope is the first installment of the Humanity's Hope series (I don't know how many are planned). Readers of post-apocalyptic stories in general, and zombie-apocalypse stories in particular should have a great time with Humanity's Hope by Greg P. Farrell. Enjoy!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Stranger In The Woods

I won a copy of The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel in a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.

I don't usually read and review non-fiction works, but The Stranger in the Woods caught my eye as a survival oriented book. I did enjoy the book. It is well written, informative, and allows the reader to make their own value judgments.

The Stranger in the Woods is the story of Christopher Knight (no not Peter Brady of the Brady Bunch) aka the Hermit who lived off the grid for almost thirty years in the woods of Maine.

Author Michael Finkel was able to earn the trust of this recluse who really just wanted to be left alone. Mr. Knight survived by stealing from neighboring summer cabins.

The author goes into some exploration of the psychological aspect of Knight's behavior presenting various suppositions of what, if any, psychological disorder may be at work here. Again, no authoritative diagnosis is given (the book would have lost all credibility with me if it had).

The Stranger in the Woods does give an interesting peek into human behavior, not only from the subject, but also from his many victims. It shows that in this case, as it is often with many situations, there are no simple answers, no one size fits all explanation. Which leads me to a bit of self revelation here.

I am a retired psychotherapist. Although I never dealt with this particular situation, I did regularly deal with complex human situations. This is why I don't normally read such works. Basically my response is: Been there, done that. I don't share this to diminish The Stranger in the Woods, it is a well written and fair presentation of the situation. For me personally, the story made me sad, the emotions this man had to deal with throughout his life are heartbreaking. Setting aside for a moment the illegality of his acts, he was actually dealing with his personal needs pretty well. But of course, we can't set aside the illegal acts.

So, taking into account personal and professional biases, The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel is an excellent book which can be enjoyed on several levels of complexity; ranging from simple survival adventure to deep issues involving mental health and the human behavior spectrum. I do recommend it to readers who want to explore such themes. Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

On The Edge Of The Chasm

On The Edge Of The Chasm by Amy Joy was a new experience for me as a reviewer.

First, the disclaimer: I know Amy Joy, we attend the same church. I can't say that I know her well or that we are "close friends" but we do know each other. Also "Amy Joy" is her first name. Since I didn't ask for permission to post her last name, and her by-line says only Amy Joy, that is the name I will use here.

When I found out she was going to publish her book (actually a series of books) I offered to proofread it. I didn't set out to read On The Edge Of The Chasm with the intent of reviewing. After a very short time I though to myself: "This is a really good book".

Followers of my reviews know I don't often review non-fiction works. It's just not my thing. But Amy Joy's writing style is so easy to get caught up in I didn't have my usual reaction to non-fiction.

On to the book. On The Edge Of The Chasm is to me an attempt to build a bridge between science and religion. I say "to me" because I have not discussed such things with the author. So all such pronouncements as to genre, theme or message, are mine and mine alone. Presented mostly as a memoir, Amy Joy does a beautiful job of moving from instructive information to entertaining storytelling.

The story blends her academic career in the hard sciences of geology, paleontology, mathematics and history with her Christian understanding and faith. The most refreshing aspect of her writing is that she goes to some effort to assure the reader that she is not presenting herself as the final authority in this sometimes contentious debate. She does not attack anyone's belief. She does offer questions and viewpoints which encourage the reader to consider what they believe.

Amy Joy gives us a peek into her personal history, at times heartbreaking, while at others funny and heartwarming. Another theme of the book speaks strongly to me; deal with what is going on rather than crying over what should be.

Although On The Edge Of The Chasm does fit into the "Christian" genre, it also fits into "Science" "Coming of Age" "Memoirs", and a smooth blend it is. Were I not a Christian reading this book, I don't think I would view it as a propaganda piece, the authors Christianity is just another piece of the story. It stays firmly in the realm of "this is how it is".

On The Edge Of The Chasm is the first in a series of five books (I really hope she lets me read the rest), and is due for release in November of this year. I asked Amy Joy's permission to post my review here because that was not the original purpose in reading the book (she said okay).

I recommend On The Edge Of The Chasm by Amy Joy, for those willing to examine how science and religion can not only coexist but actually enhance each other. Enjoy!


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Carmine: The Rise Of The Warrior Queen

Carmine: The Rise Of The Warrior Queen by Alan Janney is apparently connected to The Outlaw series by Mr. Janney. This is the first book I have read from this author.

Carmine definitely makes me want to read more of Mr. Janney's work. It satisfies my craving for good apocalyptic stories. Our heroine, the aforementioned Carmine, is a genetically altered female attempting to bring order to a new kingdom in the wake of ongoing societal collapse (no spoiler; this is from the cover).

Most of the main characters are in their late teens or early twenties (made me feel a bit old), so I'm guessing this is the target audience. But unlike other books aimed at that demographic, Carmine does not necessarily make folks my age the bad guys, okay by me (big of me, huh?).

Great action. The main characters are by turns; sympathetic, frustrating, humorous, endearing, frightening, aggravating, but always well developed. although the violence is at times quite graphic, it is well balanced with moments of humor and levity. We also get romance; budding, unrequited, sometimes coerced and artificially enhanced. Not much in the way of sex, but plenty of sexual tension. 

The only glaring mistake? Using the word "eluded" instead of "alluded" in a reference to Of Mice And Men.

At the end of the book Mr. Janney makes the generous offer of a free copy of Book one of The Outlaw series. Think I'm gonna go for it, Alan Janney appears to be a new author on my horizon (I can almost here some of you saying "about time!"). Carmine: The Rise Of The Warrior Queen is seriously worth your time. Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Policewoman (Redux)

Hi Everybody, I wanted to let everyone know that Author Justin W.M. Roberts fabulous book The Policewoman is available on Amazon and through a Goodreads Giveaway at Goodreads.com. I encourage everyone who reads this to check out this book. You won't be disappointed. As I said in my review, The Policewoman has found a place in my personal top 5 books, and I wanted to help promote this book. I'm posting info about Mr. Roberts and the already award winning The Policewoman .  I took the liberty of asking Mr. Roberts some questions  that occurred to me. I've posted them here following his personal info. This is my first attempt at such an undertaking, so apologies for anything I might have missed.

                                                                      Justin W.M. Roberts

Justin W.M. Roberts was born in London, son of a British Army General, and grew up in Hong Kong, Germany, and England. After graduating from Hull university with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Psychology, he continued traveling and living Europe, Africa, and Asia.

He currently lives in Indonesia where he is an analyst of political affairs and an active promoter of secular humanism.

Authors of military thrillers are welcome to PM him for book reviews.   

2017 Gold Medal Winner of Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest (Fiction-Military genre)

Interview Questions
What inspired you to write The Policewoman?
I love action heroines, but I couldn’t find one that I really like. I then decided to write my own book.

How long did it take to write?
2 years.

How long have you been writing, and what started you on this path?
The Policewoman is my first book. I’ve always wanted to be a full-time writer and this what I do ever since I retired from teaching.

Do you follow a strict outline, or does the story evolve as you write?
The story evolved on its own. The antagonists were initially Serbian organ black marketers, but then I changed them to Irish drug smugglers. 

The Policewoman is such a powerful story; do you realize how high you have set the bar for yourself in writing the sequel?
Yes. In fact, I’m trying to make the sequel to be just as good as The Policewoman, but I’m struggling.

Do you expect to continue the storyline beyond a second book?
There will be a third book and possibly a fourth.

Re: The mechanics of your writing, do you set specific times to write, amount of words/pages during a session?
No, I just write when I have the time.

Since I asked you this question privately, I know your answer but I wanted to ask it again here because I think non-writers, like me, will find it quite interesting. When you write does the progress of the story ever surprise you, or take you in a direction you didn’t anticipate?
Yes, it does. I may write about someone doing something, but then that person winds up doing something else. It’s as if the character has its own personality.

Given the competitiveness of the publishing world in general, how do you feel about the response to The Policewoman so far?
The response has been very positive. The Goodreads average rating is now up to 4.33 with more than 150 reviews.

As I wrote in my review of The Policewoman, I challenge the reader to not be emotionally affected by the story.  As its creator, was it as much of an emotional roller coaster for you?
If you read the Goodreads reviews of The Policewoman, a lot of readers wrote that some parts of the book made them cry. Here’s my favourite comment “Not many books make me cry but this one managed it twice so when I’d finished it I had to watch cute animal videos to calm myself down!”
I love books that could evoke a lot of emotion. I couldn’t find one, so I wrote my own. I’m not a sensitive person, but some parts of the story made me cry when I wrote them.  

I know you are now involved in promoting Policewoman, but did you, or will you, take time to decompress after The Policewoman?
Not until Hollywood makes it into a movie.

These are the questions that occurred to my feeble brain, is there anything you think readers need to know about The Policewoman that I missed?

The Policewoman won the 2017 Gold Medal from Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest (Fiction – Military genre).  I have entered it into two other book award contests. Wish me luck!
I was given an e-version of The Policewoman for review by author Justin W.M. Roberts.

The Policewoman has joined my personal list of favorite books, in fact I would place it in my top five. It's that good.

First off let's get the genre out of the way. The Policewoman is at its heart an action/adventure/romance. It is also a crime story, a special ops primer, and a real culture lesson for some of us.

The Policewoman is no boiler plate, formulaic, predictable good guys versus bad guys story. Our hero and heroine are not invincible superheroes but they are nobody to mess with. There is a lot of information here detailing how special ops teams function. This did make the story take a bit longer to develop than the reader may be used to. But it is definitely worth it, it enhances the story as the action and suspense build.

The Policewoman is a very intense story and will grab the reader viscerally, much more emotionally engaging than most other books in the genre. I dare you to not get emotionally hooked, I dare you! But there are moments of levity and downright humor to help lighten the vibe from time to time. This balance is integral to the story, keeping it from being one note and oppressive.

Basically the story is Indonesia, England and Ireland are fighting a drug cartel. No "measured responses" no diplomatic interference. Just no holds barred all out war.

The story is set between Indonesia and Great Britain, so there were a lot of cultural references that were new to me and added flavor to the story.

Great action scenes, graphic violence, not as graphic sex, love both romantic and filial, bureaucratic roadblocks, honor, duty, service and patriotism.

I just found out from the author that a sequel is forthcoming. Once you have read the book you will be as surprised and intrigued as I.

I loved this book. If you like your action/adventure to be more in depth and realistic, The Policewoman by Justin W.M. Roberts (if you look him up on line, be sure to include the W.M. or you'll get the wrong author) will satisfy for sure. Though his bio does not give any such info, The Policewoman reads to me as written by some one with more than a passing knowledge of the field of special ops. I highly recommend this book! Enjoy!

Mike here again, many thanks to Justin W. M. Roberts for taking the time to answer my questions. Personally, I think that as good as The Policewoman is, his chances for winning The Independent Publisher Book Awards are very good.