Thursday, 31 December 2015

Book review - Killer Cupcakes, by Leighann Dobbs

This appalling book neatly illustrates how not to do writing. It has practically every fault there is, starting with the amateur writer's hat trick - adjectives hanging off every substantive like goldmark jewellery on a bogan, 'lay' used intransitively, and endless pointless descriptions of the minute details of trivia such as people eating their food, taking showers and so on. Miss Dobbs appears to have no idea of the purpose and function of the apostrophe, and as far as the story itself goes it is ill-conceived, unrealistic and unbelievable.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Book review - Must Love Dogs, by Claire Cook

This entertaining novel is well conceived and written, and I would have been able to rate it higher had it not been for the pervasive subtle racism that infuses the first half of it. I found this so very distasteful that it affected my enjoyment of the book.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Book review - The Circuit Rider's Bride, by Ray Anselmo

Ray Anselmo truly never disappoints. When I received The Circuit Rider's Bride, I was a bit ho-hum about it. I thought 'a lurve story set in the Old West. Yawn'. I should have known better; Anselmo's never written anything I didn't like, and this book is no exception.

The story commences ordinarily enough, with the popular trope of an arranged marriage where the man is less than willing. But within a very few pages, the big twist appears. I'm not going to spoil the moment of discovery for potential readers, but I will just say that this book is different.

On the level of romance, it's a nice, well-written love story, squeaky clean and with believable characters and plenty of drama. On the level of inspirational fiction, it's a great piece of Christian fiction, with some very solid bible knowledge behind it. I don't know whether the vast knowledge of the bible's teachings on certain things that's displayed in this book is the result of diligent research or if Anselmo just knows his bible that well - but either way I am hugely impressed. Nevertheless, readers uninterested in the spiritual message will not find it a burden. There is no lecturing by the author, as we see in less skilfully wrought works of this genre.

On a socio-political level, the book has a real presence too. It's a lovely pice of ammunition in the fight against racism.

All around, a fabulous read, and I could hardly put it down.

The Circuit Rider's Bride is available from AMAZON. While you're there, check out my own romance novella, Operation Tomcat.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Short story review - The Girl Who Wanted To Be A Princess, by Bruce Lansky

Squarely in the tradition of children's 'morality' tales, this story reminds us that when we get our wish, sometimes it is not what we expected.

There seems to me to be a mismatch between the age of the protagonist and that of the intended audience. This kind of 'morality' story is generally written for young children, under 8 or so; by the time a child has reached her teens she is more sophisticated and requires more sugar coating on the morality pill. Yet the protagonist here is a teenager, and the tone of the writing, matching the content, reads as if it's intended for quite young children.

Nicely done, but lacks the spark that would give it appeal to adults as well as children.

This story can be downloaded free on AMAZON.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Book Review - The Enemy We Know, by Donna White Glaser

Solid, multifaceted characters and an ingenious plot combine to make a truly riveting reading experience in this blood-curdling psychological thriller. It was really, really scary, and there was such a wide choice of villains that I didn't even suspect the real killer until the last few chapters. Very well done.

The Enemy We Know is available from AMAZON.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Book review: Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That [sic] Invented the 20th Century

This brief account of the life of the interesting Nikola Tesla, who apparently invented everything important in today's technology, was fascinating and nicely written.

I did think the notion of proof was tossed about with a little more abandon than I like to see in a work of non-fiction. To demonstrate a thing is not to prove it. But as the main thrust of the book was an historical account, this is not of such moment as it would be in a more technical work.

This book is available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Book review: Love Handles, by Gretchen Galway

A combination of traditional boy-meets-girl love story and corporate mystery, Love Handles is a good, solid read with plenty of character interest. A convoluted set of workplace and family intrigues added texture and entertainment to what would otherwise have been a bland Mills and Boon-style romance.

The writing is smooth and competent, although I did notice a few places where better proofreading would have been an asset.

The one major criticism I do have of the book is the inclusion of several pornographic scenes, which did nothing at all for the plot or the characters and were therefore, to my mind, a fit subject for the editor's blue pencil. If those had been left out, it would have been worth another star from me.

Love Handles is available from AMAZON in paperback, ebook and audible formats, and also from SMASHWORDS.

If romantic comedies are what floats your boat, why not check out my own romantic novella,  Operation Tomcat?

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Book review - Rhyming Words are for Everyone? by Barry Peabody

Treading in the hallowed footsteps of Mr Kipling comes Barry Peabody, with verses replete with warmth, wry wit and social commentary.

From the chilling warning of The Man Who Drinks Alone to the saucy humour of Selling Oneself and Just Before the Dawn (my personal favourite) we ride a roller coaster of laughter and sobriety. Of particular note to me were the capable way in which the rhythm made dear to us by Mr Kipling is wielded by this poet, exemplified in Song of the Sword, and the rich visual imagery his lines call forth, most particularly in the wonderful river song, Alpha and Omega.

In many of the poems, the poet's passionate love for his wife beats so strongly. Mrs Peabody is a lucky woman, I think. And Meeting A Friend had me crying real tears, as I am sure will be the case with anyone who's lost a dog.

All in all, a wonderful collection, which will appeal greatly to any admirer of Kipling. 

Rhyming Words Are For Everyone? is available from AMAZON and SMASHWORDS.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Book review - Innocent in Las Vegas, by A.R. Winters

This is a mildly entertaining mystery, but I cannot rate it very high due to its lack of originality. The whole thing reads like Janet Evanovich fan fiction. The incompetent, cake-scoffing novice detective, the parents, the darkly powerful and mysterious mentor, the delinquent granny - every element of the Stephanie Plum novels is present - except the hamster. Sadly, this author lacks Evanovich's flair, and the whole thing falls rather flat.

Innocent in Las Vegas is available free on both AMAZON and SMASHWORDS. If you're into humourous crime/romance, you may also enjoy my own Operation Tomcat.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Book review - Game, Set, Match, by Nana Malone

Good grief, was it really necessary to describe in detail our hero having a wank in the shower? Lacking even a gesture at eroticism that would at least qualify it as porn, it's just mindless vulgarity, its only purpose to offend, like young punks hawking and spitting in the street. Later we get the same blow by blow of the heroine masturbating. This book is just nasty.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Book review - The Lot Attendant, by Jason Cornelius

What killed Jordie? Was it suicide by police, as might be the legal finding if the matter were examined by a coroner? Was it 'collateral damage', an execution performed in a desperate emergency to prevent the loss of more innocent lives? Or did he, in fact, succumb to a deadly illness left untreated?

In this darkly gripping examination of the anatomy of a sick man's progress towards his eventual death, we see laid bare the anatomy of the progress of a terrible sickness of the mind, named in the final pages as 'acute generalised anxiety disorder'. Even today, anxiety and depression disorders are often dismissed as trivial, and Cornelius shows us in stark detail the worst case results of this terrible illness. Not only terminal, but deadly to so many others. It is an indictment of the American health system, which denies necessary and life-saving care to the poor.

Aside from this, however, it's just a very, very fine piece of work. The writing is beautifully tight, and Cornelius has had the good judgement to use as his setting and cast situations and types with which he is clearly familiar. The work is disciplined and focussed, and one can hardly believe it is the author's first novel.

The Lot Attendant is available from AMAZON in both ebook and paperback formats.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Book review - If I Break, by Portia Moore

This book isn't really badly written overall, despite poor editing and substandard English. However, the subject matter is so mind-numbingly tedious that I could hardly finish it. "I also start to realise how unbelievably boring my life is," says Moore's protagonist at one point, and for me this really summed up the book.

I did persevere with it, though, pressing on to the end, and in the final chapters, when the surprise twist was revealed, I found it improved a great deal, and the ending was masterfully done.

If I Break is available from AMAZON in e-book, paperback and audio formats. While you're there, you can preorder my own new romantic comedy, Operation Tomcat, which releases on Friday.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Book review - Dead Wrong, by Leighann Dobbs

A group of sisters face disaster when one of them is suspected of murder in this light-hearted romance.

I found the book a little on the fluffy side, and the characters might have been a little more developed, but the book works for all that. A fun read, perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Dead Wrong is available from AMAZON in ebook, paperback and audio formats. While you're there, you can preorder my own new romantic comedy, Operation Tomcat, which releases on Friday.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Short story review - Little Bad Wolf and Red Riding Hold, by Timothy Tocher

In this hilarious retelling of the classic folk tale, the Big Bad Wolf gets community service. Funny, contemporary and just all-around a great read. I'm a great fan of fairytale retellings and this one is excellent. I'll certainly be buying the collection.

This delightful story is available free on AMAZON.

Book review - Long Time Coming, by Edie Claire

This marvellous tale of a woman struggling to deal with her friend's death had me enthralled right from the beginning. It's also a romance, with a nice happy ending, but the real interest was in the protagonist's battle to recover her own memories of what really happened around her friend's death many years ago.

The central character is sympathetic and well developed, and is further enhanced by a really cute dog. The writing is smooth and professional, and really I have no criticism to level at Ms Claire, whose work I had not previously encountered. A great piece of work, and a really gripping, entertaining story. I enjoyed it very much indeed.

Long Time Coming is available from AMAZON in e-book, paperback and audio formats, and also from SMASHWORDS.

If you get it from Amazon, while you're there, you can preorder my own new romantic comedy, Operation Tomcat, which releases on Friday.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Book review - Doreen:3, by Leonardo Acebo

Who could ever have imagined in the first two books of the Doreen trilogy that the eponymous poster-child for adult delinquency would ever settle down? In true Doreen style, the book opens with her being black-balled from her club for rooting a maintenance worker in the lavatory.

Throughout the book, the hapless Doreen lurches from crisis to crisis, never really meaning any harm but almost completely devoid of even a gesture towards self-control. Only her inherited money and uber-smart daughter Betsy (who really needs to have her own series) save her from destruction.

Despite the title character's deep inner sluttishness, we see over the course of this final work a growing impulse to strive for something finer and better, and increasingly, the character grows towards - not a lady, never that, except perhaps in the sense that a mehitabel might think of it - but a degree of graciousness that, following the promptings of her parentified progeny, allows her to behave well and graciously to her friends and to her one-time rival. This gradual development of Doreen's character is handled well and believably, and the book brings the series to a conclusion that, although in some ways surprising, is deeply satisfying.

From the book's conclusion I predict that this will be the last book in the Doreen series, yet I could be wrong, and I certainly do hope to see more from this talented writer, whomever he chooses to chronicle.  

Doreen:3 is available from AMAZON. While you're there, you can preorder my own new romantic comedy, Operation Tomcat, which releases on Friday.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

book review - Doreen: Blonde Ambition, by Leonardo Acebo

This book, unlike its predecessor, Doreen, got off to rather a slow start and at first I thought it would not live up to the promise shown by the first book. But as it continued and gained momentum, I was once more caught up in the web of chaos and catastrophe woven by the inimitable Doreen, and devoured the whole book in a single sitting. The plot gains momentum steadily, like a rolling avalanche, building tension until by the ball-busting finale it is racing along in top gear.

I don't know what it is about the foul-mouthed, slutty Doreen - she's truly appalling, but somehow deeply likable. I think myself that her overweening vulgarity allows us to wallow vicariously in all the uncorseted behaviour that our middle-class upbringings don't allow us to indulge directly. In the instant book, she was ably supported by the smart-mouthed uber-brainy Betsy, brat extraordinaire, which made the perfect foil to Doreen's own vodka-soaked, cigarette-breathed, unashamedly promiscuous bitch-in-heat vulgarity.

A true novelist, Acebo writes in a way that is completely character-driven, and it is the characters alone that make the work shine as it does. Doreen inspires the same kind of affection as does Darryl Kerrigan of The Castle - there's a little bit of bogan in every Australian, and I think probably a touch of trailer-trash in every American - these types are iconic of our cultures, and the love we feel for them has much in common with our love of country.

I did think that the instant work could have done with a little polish. A rigorous proofread is badly needed; typos and homophone errors provided a constant, niggling irritant to me, and this could so easily be remedied. 

Doreen: Blonde Ambition  is available from AMAZON. While you're there, you can preorder my own new romantic comedy, Operation Tomcat.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Book review - The Wedding List, by Autumn Macarthur

The best Christian fiction makes its point without any overt preaching, and The Wedding List fulfills this requirement admirably. Entertaining throughout, and at times utterly hilarious, it romps through the bumbling courtship of its protagonists with high spirits and verve, beautifully illustrating the fact that Christians don't have to be all solemn and dowdy all the time.

The basic text, as I took it to be, was 'judge not, lest ye be also judged', and the points were well illustrated by the story, but those readers not wishing for a Christian message need not fear that they will have anything shoved down their throats.

A fine piece of work, whether viewed as romance, as Christian fiction or even purely as entertainment. 

The Wedding List is available at AMAZON in both kindle and paperback formats. While you're there, you can preorder my own romance novella, Operation Tomcat, which releases on 11 December.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Book review - The Cybermancer Presents, by Andrew Barber

Who has not lost a few hours, days or weeks to SIMS, King's Quest or something of that ilk? In The Cybermancer Presents, we get to experience these games from the inside, as an unlikely group of people are projected into the interior of a virtual reality game.

Of course, the game is the creation of an evil mad scientist. It just wouldn't be as much fun otherwise! I was already loving the book when the characters experienced the first game, a mediaeval RPG-type game, but when they moved into Grand Theft, Auto it got even better. I haven't played myself the game on which that one was based, but it seemed likely that if I had, I'd have found it even funnier.

But for me it all peaked when they hit The Virts. A recovering Simaholic myself, I almost screamed with laughter.

It wasn't just the gimmicks, either; those would quickly
have palled over the course of an entire book, had they not been supported by wonderfully realistic character action. It may seem a little odd to be talking about realism in such a fantastic scenario, but there is a realism that relates to types of people and how they work, and this is needed in every genre. Every character was fully believable, even the disgusting Brian. I'd have liked to see the two sexual episodes toned down a little, but tastes vary, and it's nothing you don't see every day in romance books.

Anyone who has ever played an RPG or simulation computer game is bound to love this book. For sheer FUN I don't know when I have seen its like. 

The Cybermancer Presents is available on AMAZON.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Book Review - A Dog Eat Dog-Food World, by Suresh Chandrasekaran

It isn't often that I come across a new writer who is able to wield the level of savage wit that I found in 'A Dog Eat Dog-Food World', and I consider my discovery of Chandrasekaran one of the really happy accidents of 2015.

With the piercing observation of the true writer, Chandrasekaran homes in on every ridiculous feature of our consumer culture. Caricature is not at all easy to do well; it is very difficult indeed to avoid overdoing it and descending into gross farce. It calls for great delicacy and precision in the writer, and in this case the call is not made in vain. Mr Chandrasekaran has, I believe, spent most of his working life in the world of industry and commerce, but one can only see that as the loss of the literary world, and hope that the loss will soon be remedied by more excellent books. If I had to compare this book to the work of an established writer, I should choose Evelyn Waugh, and the comparison is not made lightly.

Anyone who has worked in the corporate world, unless indeed he is one of those who have succumbed to the corporate myth to such an extent that his mind has been purged of all humour, is bound to giggle with delight all the way through this riotously funny book. It probably ought to carry a warning that it should not be read on public transport.

At the same time, while entertaining the reader to the point where asthmatic readers would do well to have their medication at hand, the book actually lays out the principles of marketing as it works in today's society in a very precise and understandable way. Humour aside, it could be used as a first-year textbook for marketing students. If only I had had this book at the time I was hired to head up a marketing department, I might not have been ignominiously fired after three months. One doesn't often see such a combination of sheer entertainment and useful information.

I will be watching this writer's career with great interest. 

A Dog Eat Dog-Food World is available on AMAZON.