Sunday, October 17, 2010
Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex
by Alice Turing & Francis Blake, Illustrator
(Chutzpah Publishing / 0-956-65660-9 / 978-0-956-65660-5 / September 2010 / 420 pages / Amazon UK 20 Pounds Sterling)
Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM
We easily believe what we ardently desire to be true.
This is the tagline for Alice Turing’s novel, Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex, which tells the story of a book (called That Book) and a New Age movement called Psychic Dancing that takes Great Britain by storm. Leo, a mentalist by profession, knows it’s a scam. It has to be a scam, and he’s both envious and contemptuous of whoever thought it up first. Henrietta also thinks it’s a scam, because Henrietta knows all about brainwashing – and she really doesn’t want to experience that again. Yet, both Leo and Henrietta find themselves sucked into the Psychic Dancing uproar because Belle and Denzel believe it whole-heartedly. And Henrietta loves Belle. But Belle loves Leo. And Leo doesn’t want to believe he’s fallen in love with quirky Denzel, but Denzel won’t have sex with him until Leo admits he’s gay.
I was expecting a humorous romp from this book, and perhaps an exploration of belief, desire, and illusion, explored through a bizarre psychic hoax that might turn out to be real. From the description on the cover, I thought the romantic quadrangle would involve the farcical nonsense of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While it started out this way, I wasn’t sure what to make of it halfway through. The tangled love story is more raw and painful than humorous, and my growing dislike for Leo and Belle throughout the book made it hard for me to root for them ending up with fragile Henrietta and sweet but weird Denzel. There were lengthy internal monologues and scenes that didn’t move the plot forward. I know the current fashion in dialogue tags is to use only says (if anything) – but for me, it drained the life and rhythm from the dialogue scenes. This is, of course, only a personal preference.
The writing is technically without fault, and the book has a quality look and feel. The cover design may not be the final version, since I have an ARC, but it’s colorful and interesting. The editing is clean, and wide margins make the pages easy to read. There are some great lines in here – including some particular (but crude) advice from Denzel that I’ll probably never forget. The overall premise is intriguing, but the execution did not win me over.
Editor's Note: The cover shown here is the final cover. The reviewer had a pre-release copy. This book is currently available only from Amazon UK or directly from the author. See her website for details.
See also: Alice Turing's Unusual Website
Another Review of the Book
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Talion by Mary Maddox
(Cantraip Press / 0-984-42810-0 / 978-0-984-42810-6 / March 2010 / 296 pages / $12.99 / Amazon $9.35 / Kindle $1.99)
Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM
When Lisa Duncan’s parents decide to separate their daughter from her pot-smoking friends, they send her to spend the summer at Hidden Creek Lodge in Utah, which is owned by her aunt and uncle. They have no idea that there is much greater danger to their daughter than normal teenage hijinks: Lisa has attracted the attention of a serial killer who has chosen her as his next victim and who is more than happy to follow her to a remote Utah vacation spot. In her first days at Hidden Creek, Lisa meets Lu Jakes, the abused and timid daughter of an employee at the lodge. Although Lu is below Lisa’s perceived social status (Lisa calls her Trailer Girl), the isolation of the lodge throws the two girls together, and the stalking killer decides that two victims could be better than one. Lu Jakes is particularly interesting to him because she is already dazed and downtrodden. Little does he know that Lu sees things others do not – shining ethereal creatures called Delatar, Black Claw, and Talion, who may just provide her an edge that he won’t expect.
Mary Maddox’s tightly woven thriller is a smooth read, with clear vivid narration and fully formed characters. Writing in third person narration, from multiple perspectives, Maddox has used the clever strategy of placing narration from Lu’s perspective in present tense, while everyone else’s perspective is past tense. This serves to make the text surrounding Lu just a little disjointed from the other scenes – as if she doesn’t quite share the same timeline as everyone else. The strange creatures that she sees, including the Talion for which the book is named, provide an interesting twist to the story – although Talion is not as significant in the climax as I expected. Were Talion and his fellow creatures guardian angels, demons, or the hallucinations of a mentally disturbed girl? I expected some room for interpretation here, but considering his title role, I did expect to see a lot more of Talion.
Despite the two teenage protagonists, this is not a book for YA readers. The violence is on par with adult thrillers along the lines of Thomas Harris or James Ellroy. I’m not crazy about the cover image; I’m still not certain what it is meant to portray. The supernatural element of the story might have been more thoroughly explored, but overall this is an excellent suspense thriller, smoothly written, and well edited.
Dianne's GoodReads Review
Read an Excerpt from Talion
Interview with Mary Maddox
Another Interview with Mary Maddox
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie
by Jacqueline S. Homan
(Elf Books / 0-981-56794-0 / 978-0-981-56794-5 / September 2009 / November 2009 / 456 pages / 422 pages / Hardcover $27.95 / Amazon & B&N $25.15 / Kindle $5.99)
Jacqueline S. Homan is one of those special authors that I discovered because of PODBRAM. If I had not begun PODBRAM just over four years ago, Jacqueline never would have found me, and therefore I would never have heard of her or her books. Out of the many new authors who have submitted multiple books to us for review over the past four years, Jacqueline is the most improved. Her writing and book production have gone from somewhat crude, repetitive, and only adequately proofread to outstandingly researched and detailed and proofed at a professional level. Her chosen nonfiction subject matter has reflected Ms. Homan as a compassionate muckraker in four separate areas of American culture, and Divine Right is arguably the most important of these to America’s future as a nation of honorable leadership.
Divine Right is a detailed exposure of the deep history of religion in America. If the book has a fault, it is that the author expends a considerable amount of print space on too much detail from the B.C. period and the early days of A.D. time. For example, I could not care less about the birth and death dates of early rulers. The second, much lesser, negative issue with the book is that there are no front matter pages including the technical publication elements and such. I got the ISBN from a sticker on the back and the November publication date from the printer’s notation on the last page. The reason I mention this is that both Amazon and B&N list the book as being published in September 2009 with 34 more pages than are in my copy. I wonder if the front matter has been accidentally deleted from my copy? Regardless, I have no complaints about the 422-page edition I received. I want to mention one final little negative: if you are of the modern, rabid Christian Evangelical bent, I cannot be held responsible if this book gives you a heart attack!
Although Divine Right is not a comedy in any sense, Ms. Homan made me laugh out loud numerous times with her phrasing. Her carefully composed, brief statements of scathing poignancy describing certain taboo religious issues are what pushed this book over the top for me. She is obviously a feminist of the deepest sort, and she knows how to pointedly describe the misogynistic destruction of freedom in America! What is the book about? This is it, the bottom line, and Jacqueline tells the story from the bottom up. Christianity has been a male dominated subculture from its earliest beginnings to the modern takeover of America by Tim LaHaye’s Council for National Policy. Ms. Homan minces no words when she tells us what she thinks of these ideas!
But seriously, folks, Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie is a hell of a book (pardon the apropos expression). I did not find it as singularly engrossing or riveting as her Eyes of a Monster, but the overall significance and comprehensive, professional presentation of Divine Right make it Jacqueline Homan’s best book. Considering that Monster is about the first gay hate crime prosecution in America, but Divine Right is a subject that has been affecting the lives of millions for centuries, I think you get my point. If you are a feminist, have a deep mistrust of what has become of Christianity in modern America, or just want to read a well researched tome on the subject chocked full of irreverence, rather than holier than thou arrogance, then you will love Jacqueline Homan’s Divine Right.
See also: Jacqueline S. Homan's Blog
Nothing You can Possess
Classism for Dimwits
Sunday, August 08, 2010
Noah’s Wife: 5500 BCE
by T. K. Thorne
(Chalet Publishers / 0-984-08364-2 / 978-0-984-08364-0 / October 2009 / 366 pages / $16.95 / $15.25 Amazon / $4.99 Kindle)
Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM
The title is a little deceptive, in that this is not a Bible-based retelling of the story of Noah, his family, their animals and an ark that enables them all to survive a flood. It is rather an attempt to recreate a very particular world, that world of Neolithic humans, over 7,000 years ago, living along the shores of a freshwater lake in what is now Anatolia, a world just beginning the transition from hunting and gathering to herding and farming, where tribal peoples are beginning to settle into established towns. It is a new world, torn between worship of an earth-mother-goddess and a sky-father-god, where time is measured by seasons and the phases of the moon, and where a human is old at forty. There is no such thing as a written language; knowledge, traditions, and skills must be passed verbally and by demonstration, and the people living in the villages across the mountains are foreigners. This world is realized very thoroughly and skillfully; the author conveys very well the feeling that this is truly the dawn of civilization, the seed time from which all the rest of human history sprouted. This material was the dimmest of cultural memories to the various writers of the Old Testament books of the Bible – as well as scribes recording in other traditions. A scattering of these traditions and names are worked into the story: Tubal-Cain, Vashti, a garden in Eden. Accounts of a horrific, world-ravaging flood is common currency in folklore; a race-memory which argued such a shattering event had really occurred – and if not extended world-wide, at least happened in a place where humans lived, and survived the experience, passing down the stories to their descendants.
While many historians had placed the source of the Noachian flood tale in pre-historic Mesopotamia, in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, T.K. Thorne moves it to the shores of the present Black Sea. Recent explorations have pretty well proven that the lake was once much smaller, and river-fed, rather than a salt-water body, open to the Mediterranean, although it is still a matter of conjecture as to whether it filled gradually, or in one catastrophic rush of salt-water. The author builds her plot around the catastrophic-rush scenario; but takes the time and the most of the book to relate the lives of Na’amah, the wife of Noah, her family and her friends, and the circumstances which lead to them and their herds and working animals, all taking refuge in a house built like a boat. Besides being a wife, Na’amah is also shepherdess, seer and priestess – and afflicted with Ausberger’s syndrome, a relatively mild form of autism. Na’amah sees and notices much, being almost inhumanly observant and hypersensitive to certain stimuli. She relates very well to animals, obsessively well, but less well to people. Being a story written in the first person has its limitations, in that we hardly ever see the character telling the story from the outside, but in this case, it makes for a tightly focused tale, and a singularly unforgettable character.
See also: The BNN Review
Theresa Thorne's Website
Sunday, August 01, 2010
The Brimstone Papers
by David Chacko & Alexander Kulcsar
(Foremost Press / 1-936-15440-4 / 978-1-936-15440-1 / June 2010 / 244 pages / Amazon $13.47 / Kindle $5.99)
Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM
The Brimstone Papers is a worthy successor, or perhaps more accurately, a worthy predecessor (though published later) to Gone Over, reviewed by me for PODBRAM on September 16, 2009. Taken together, the two books amount to a fictional narrative of the adult life of a real historical character of note during the American Revolution, Israel Potter. The Brimstone Papers deals with Potter's life as a young man as the Revolution lurches into motion. Gone Over opens with Potter as a captive of the British and his recruitment by them to spy on his countrymen. It is an extraordinary life, and Mssrs. Chacko and Kulcsar have rendered it in a highly readable and absorbing fashion.Recapping the Wikipedia entry, "Israel Potter (1744-1826) was... born in Cranston, Rhode Island. He had been a veteran of the Battle of Bunker Hill, a sailor in the Revolutionary navy, a prisoner of the British, an escapee in England, a secret agent and courier in France, and a 45-year exile from his native land as a laborer, pauper, and peddler in London." Such a man is clearly a fine subject for fictional treatment, all the more so because most details of his life are largely unknown.
The two books flesh out Potter's life in most convincing and stylish manner. Perhaps their finest accomplishment is conveying the sense of the times – grand times, we think today: revolution was in the air. Great deeds were being done, by our worship-worthy forefathers. But few people would have thought that at the time. The colonists would have felt terribly over-matched against the mighty British Empire, sandwiched between British Canada and the (mostly) British Caribbean, threatened by large, well-equipped armies (including German) conquering American cities at will. Spies and loyalists were everywhere. Everything was in doubt, living was hard, and fear and anxiety would have been the order of the day. Chacko and Kulcsar convey this ambience well, much better than conventional histories— but then ambience is one of the strengths of good historical fiction, or it should be.
As The Brimstone Papers opens, Israel Potter is a young man who obtains some land at long odds and is beginning to work it and make a life for himself (after an unhappy episode as a sailor, not described in the book). Harshly raised by his grandfather and inclined to oppose British oppression by whatever means necessary (rendering him a lapsed Quaker), he is sent to report to a relative, a rich, domineering merchant opposed to independence in Providence, Rhode Island. The events which follow result in his joining the militia and seeing action at the battle of Bunker Hill, splendidly described and perhaps the most riveting section of the book.
Gaining a measure of responsibility from his experiences, Potter joins the crew of a hastily prepared warship, badly outfitted under a captain of dubious effectiveness, and sails into a complete disaster. This is the point at which the companion volume, Gone Over, opens. The venality of war profiteers, the incompetence of authority, and the turning of the coats of those of feeble loyalty make today's diplomatic snarls seem tame, however similar. Even Israel Potter was not immune. If he is a hero (I wouldn't call him one), he is a hero with an asterisk by his name.
Both The Brimstone Papers and Gone Over are first-rate, worthwhile reads. I would rate them with the Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels by Patrick O'Brian, surely the touchstone of the genre.
See also: David Chacko's Echo Five
David Chacko's Devil's Feathers
David Chacko's Website
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I have been mulling over for months writing an article about blogging for the many authors who read PODBRAM, and the time is finally here. My personal history is that I bought myself a Christmas present in 1998 so I could jump onto the much ballyhooed super highway at the beginning of 1999. I had been waiting for the Windows 98 era to usher in a decent level of computer power and I was not disappointed. I spent most of 1999 learning about the internet and the new phenomenon of POD publishing; then I spent most of 2000 editing and technically preparing my first book, derived from articles that had already been published in a local newsletter during a period spanning more than a decade.
My next order of business was getting involved in the publishing of my own website. In order to learn as much as possible about the many procedures and concepts of website development, I wanted to learn each technique on my own. My first website was a very simple one built with Netscape Composer and hosted for free from my local dial-up ISP. It did not take very long to discover the many limitations of that concept, so the next thing I did was to buy a copy of FrontPage 98 and learn the intricacies of that software. I put up with many aggravations from FrontPage 98, combined with a basic pay site server at WebIntellects, until WI changed over to the later FP 2002 system. I got the '02 update, learned that system, and soldiered onward, but the whole thing was slowly becoming more unwieldy. The last straw for me was when I could not hang onto Windows 98 SE any longer and the time for this IBuyPower beastie that I use now had arrived. FrontPage had to be retired at that point.
Although I did not mention it earlier, I purchased the e-tabitha URL for ten years back in early '01, and I have been carrying my little URL from server to server and system to system during most of the past decade. By 2005 I could no longer ignore this thing called Blogger. The more I struggled with Frontpage 2002, the more I felt like an idiot when Blogger was essentially a free website server. I do not even remember what my first blog was - I have had so many. I began by setting up a blog separate from my e-tabitha website, but the more I worked with Blogger, and the more the company kept updating their software, making website management easier and easier, the more deeply I became entrenched as a serious fan of Blogger. At this point, you may be wondering if I have tried WordPress. The answer is that I have considered it, but the bottom line is that I like the KISS Principle too much. WordPress seems to offer a higher level system that caters to those who are more than a little computer literate, but whenever I have compared WP with Blogger, the direct simplicity of the latter wins every time. This is going to be a strong recommendation for Blogger. You will have to look elsewhere for information about WordPress because I know very little about it.
I have ten blogs now. Don't panic: only four of them are active. Two are just placeholders from older blogs to direct readers to their new equivalents. The remaining four are ones that I staked a claim to because I may want them later. They happen to be political subjects that someone else might suddenly claim at any time if I had not already done so. The placeholder blogs are just one of many concepts why I like Blogger so much. You can add, subtract, delete, archive, or rename your blogs at any time, and the Blogger system supports your efforts without a big cat fight. In other words, Blogger is very good at evolving and adapting to your needs, and that is one of my favorite characteristics of Blogger.
One of my cats could probably set up a blog at Blogger, at least a blog of the more basic, default nature. All you have to do is go to Blogger and follow the simple steps. My purpose in writing this article is not to take you through the process step by step, although that might have been my plan at one time. I think by this point, most everyone who reads PODBRAM is already more than a little familiar with how blogs look and operate. They are basically designed to look like a newspaper with three vertical columns containing a center column of text called posts and side columns of basic, strategic information and links that is used to guide the reader to whatever particular information he seeks. As soon as you sign up at Blogger, you have to select a theme. Some of these themes, or formats if you will, contain only two columns instead of three. The Harbor theme I have chosen for all my blogs is one of those few containing only two columns. I particularly like this theme because I do not want my blogs to look like a newspaper layout. The newest theme-oriented addition to the Blogger system are somewhat more exotic layouts with pictures that do not scroll and center columns of text that do. There may even be one of these with only two columns, but I have not investigated this issue because I am happy with the Harbor theme I have. Anyone who is setting up a new blog should experiment with these themes and formats, as well as colors, fonts, and other details until you have found the style that suits you. As I said, one of the best things about Blogger is how easy it is to make changes as you go. As an author, of course I want all my proofreading to be perfect, and this was always a headache with FrontPage and other systems I have used. With Blogger, if you find a missing comma when and where you have least expected it, on a post you just made or one you wrote a year ago, you can fix the mistake quickly and easily.
Google owns both Blogger and Picasa, and this makes the whole system even more agreeable. Just sign up for a Google account and password and then use it at Google, Blogger, and Picasa, the photo wrangling program similar to Yahoo's Flickr. I installed Picasa directly on my computer, as well as use it to store my photos at Blogger. The online Picasa stores all the pictures that are in all my blogs on their server. All the photos in my computer are in the Picasa version that is installed inside my computer. I use the at-home Picasa almost exclusively to crop photos because the Picasa cropping system is the simplest I have found. Remember that I love The KISS Principle! All of this stuff is totally free. Remember when I said I was feeling like an idiot struggling with FrontPage?
One of the neatest things about Blogger is their Elements page. You can go to what is called Design and click on Elements to add to your blog. These include link lists, photos, slide shows, polls, archive lists, and others of somewhat lesser common interest. Whenever you write a post, the title of that post is also a link back to that post. You can build your blog navigation however you want, using link lists, archives, or whatever. My blogs are designed to all be identical in their navigation. I build an alphabetical link list of every post I write. The archives by month and year are retained further down the left column, or sidebar, as most bloggers call it. I often put a poll at the top of the page that I set to expire at the end of the month and then I usually compose a post about the results. You can set up these lists, polls, and other elements in many different ways, in alphabetical order or in the order you choose.
The biggest limitation I have found to Blogger is the insertion of photos. You can choose the photo from your files, select small, medium, or large for its size, and left, right, or center for its placement, but that is about all you can easily do. The photo can be very large if you want, and the viewer can click it and the large version will open in another window; however, without using the HTML page offered by Blogger, this is about all you can do with pictures. If you are more adept with HTML than I am, you may wish to venture into these deeper waters where you can place your pictures more specifically within your posts. As I have mentioned, though, if you are this competent with HTML, you may wish to go check out the WordPress competition. If you look at the layout of not only PODBRAM, but any of my blogs, you will quickly notice that each post has exactly one photo. There are a very few exceptions to this. You can place a pair of medium-sized photos side by side or three small ones in the same manner without too much despair, but when you look at the column widths, particularly with the three-column layouts, you will see why it generally looks better with only one photo per post. As the commercials always say, your results may vary.
The next limitation at Blogger I want to point out concerns the use of text. There is a drop down box with a few font choices for each post, and you can choose the size as well. However, I strongly recommend that you check out some of these choices in several different browsers and monitor resolution sizes before settling on your final choice. There is a lot more variation in exactly how the page displays according to the browser and resolution setting than you would expect. The next hint I am going to tell you should be in bold red text. If you compose directly into Blogger, fine, but if you compose in a Word document and then copy and paste it into Blogger, you might be heading for the biggest Blogger storm of all! When you least expect it, some bit of Word formatting will block Blogger from accepting the post. The trick is very simple: copy and paste your Word composition into WordPad and then copy and paste that into Blogger. It's works like a charm every time! You will likely lose any italics or other formatting details, but you can go through your Blogger document and easily correct these. You are likely to have a number of links in mind as you compose your post and you can add these in the final Blogger version, too.
Soon after you get your blog up and running, I recommend that you go to Google Analytics and set it up for your blog. This may require a bit of copying and pasting a little HTML code into your blog, but the instructions at Google Analytics are quite simple. You also should add your blog's URL to Google's search engine while you are at it. Remember when I mentioned that e-tabitha had traveled with me through many different systems? You can also purchase your own URL and use it on your blog instead of something like elmerfudd.blogspot.com. If you stay with the default system, you can name your blog whatever you want and the dot blogspot dot com will follow it. Once you have selected your URL and turned it into Google's search engine, and set up Google Analytics to track your traffic, the next thing you should do is to add Feedjit. Go to Feedjit.com and follow the instructions. As with GA, the instructions are very easy and straightforward. You can even tell Feedjit you are with Blogger and Feedjit will know just what to do. The result of all this is that Google will have your blog's URL in its system so when a potential reader puts Elmer Fudd in Google, your blog will come up on the list. Of course it helps if you are a lot less famous with a name like Floyd M. Orr so your blog is not listed on page 5000 of the Google results. If your name is too similar to a much more famous name, you might wish to consider naming your blog something else. Google Analytics will track your traffic on a day to day, week to week, month to month, and even year to year basis. Feedjit tracks your visitors on a right now basis. When your blog is young and attracting very few readers, watching your Feedjit results will be less exciting than watching grass grow or paint dry. After it picks up speed, and this could take a lot longer than you would like, you will find Feedjit's results to be fascinating reading! Feedjit will tell you where your visitors are coming from and where they are going when they have had all they can stand of you. It will show you the cities they live in and the types of computer systems they use, and of course, it will tell you which pages they are hitting and how long they are staying there. The one flaw I have found is that when you have a link to something in the post, even a picture that blows up when you click it, the visitor might leave soon after her arrival and appear not to return. The catch is that she is probably hitting the Back Button after visiting the link you inserted, but when she returns to continue reading your post, Feedjit does not seem to respond to her use of the Back Button.
Here is the hardest question in blogging, folks. How do you attract the largest number of visitors of the type you wish to attract, and how do you keep them coming back for more? The bad news is that a huge number of people out there surfing the innertubes seem to have the interests of Wal-mart shoppers in the checkout line with the patience of four-year-olds! In other words, a lot of potential readers are going to respond only to your latest posts and the latest links to those posts from other blogs and websites. When I mentioned link lists earlier, I said they could be configured in several different ways. One of the neatest things about Blogger is that you can set up a type of link list that allows new posts from any other Blogger blog to which you link to float to the top of any link list as a new post is added to that particular blog. Of course you can set up a link list, usually in alphabetical order, of a type that is static, but everywhere your blog is listed in a floating list, this is an issue that can affect your traffic. This system is really neat in the way it brings attention to new posts for readers, but you can see how an unscrupulous blogger could easily abuse this system. Let's hope that PODBRAM readers and bloggers are of a higher caliber.
The traffic issue continues as a function of how often you choose to post. The more often you post, the more visitors will continue to come to see whatever new stuff you have added. The downside of course is that if you try to post too often, with most of your posts offering very little value to your readers, they are not going to be happy with that arrangement for very long, either. Some people, particularly established celebrity commentators and such, post at the same time once a week instead of trying to constantly keep up with The Joneses. There is usually very little need to post more often than once daily, but after a while, you will see how difficult even this repetition can get. Twice or three times a week has usually worked well for me, and when I say that, I am not referring to all four of my blogs. Most of the time at least a couple of them are being ignored for weeks or even months at a time. Assuming you are only setting up one blog, I would recommend that you shoot for regular posting no less than once a week, but rarely more than once a day. Keep in mind, too, that if you do not set up a specific link navigation system in the sidebar, as I have done with all my blogs, the regular Archive system can get really unwieldy over time, with respect to a reader seeking out a particular post or subject.
This brings us to the final issue, one that should specifically be vital to any author setting up a blog. The subject matter can vary all over the map. You can be very specific or very general in your choice of subject matter. You can cover several different subjects if you choose. You can cover all your books or only one. The big catch is that unless your name is Stephen King or Anne Rice no one gives a rat's ass about your stupid little POD book. You have to offer the readers a reason to come visit. Of course your mom will read your blog just because you are you, but attracting strangers to read your little blog of twenty ways to say buy my book because it's good can be a real challenge. When I explained to you my personal blogging history, what I was trying to show you is that you can evolve your blog as your ideas grow and develop. Some of my blogs do not appear to be as old as they actually are when you look at the dates of the posts. That is because some of the material has been shifted around and linked to other sources as the Blogger system and my knowledge of my own goals has evolved. If you have only one book or several books, all about the same subject matter, this process will be much simpler for you, but the more convoluted your subject matter or the information you wish to impart with your blog, the more complicated these traffic issues will become.
Try to envision what kind of readers you wish to attract and where they will come from to your blog. The more links you can put out there on other blogs, the more traffic you will get. Just remember, too, that the more specific these linking blogs are to the subject of your blog, the more attractive your blog will be to that potential traffic. On the other hand, the wider the span of material covered on your blog, the more blogs there are that might be appropriate to link to your blog. This system presents a particular Catch 22 for relatively unknown authors. If your material is very specific, you might attract some very voracious readers of your material, but their numbers could be very distinctly limited. On the other hand, if your material is more varied, you have more options open to you when choosing the subjects you post about, as well as the number of blogs upon which you can offer your link. Only a tiny percentage of your potential audience is going to visit your blog just to buy your book. You have to offer them whatever more than that that you can conjure up. The more diverse reasons you can offer a potential audience to visit your blog, eventually the traffic will increase and watching Feedjit scroll will become more exciting than reading ten different ways to buy my book!
Monday, July 26, 2010
No Good Like It Is
by McKendree R. Long III
(CreateSpace / 1-450-58078-5 / 978-1-450-58078-6 / April 2010 / 332 pages / $15.00 / B&N $10.80 / Kindle $4.99)
Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM
No Good Like It Is is one of those narratives usually described as episodic, rambling and picaresque. The plot is the journey – and the point of the journey sometimes seems like an afterthought. If it were a motion picture, it would be that kind of Western wherein a pair of oddly assorted pals wanders through adventures involving the usual genre Western characters: Indians, bad-men, renegades, an assortment of women of rather elastic virtue, drunks, crooked sheriffs and former slaves.
The story of West Point officer Thomas “Dobey” Walls and his sidekick, enlisted soldier Jimmy Melton really seems to fall into three separate parts. The first is a prologue of how they meet and become acquainted during the late 1850s, when both are in the US Army, stationed on the wilds of the far frontier. It takes about ten chapters and seventy pages to establish their friendship and their characters – and since the whole meat of their adventure is their Civil War experience as part of the fabled cavalry unit, Terry’s Texas Rangers, and their journey home from the war, those first chapters seem a little like marking time, waiting for the real adventure to begin. Conversely, the Civil War portion of the book seems also a little rushed. Surely Terry’s Rangers had a great deal more going on during 1861-65, which would have given enough scope for a full set of wartime adventures and derring-do for the two of them?
Anyway, the real adventure begins when the two of them head home again, across the war-blasted South, with the eventual goal of finding Dobey Walls’ surviving family, who may or may not be still at an isolated trading post in the present-day Panhandle. Who knows if they are still alive, for what with the war and all, he hasn’t been in touch with them for years?
The historical research regarding things like military gear and uniforms is impeccable, if sometimes a little overly detailed, and including elements like the Confederate Cherokee characters is an excellent touch. The Civil War was extremely complicated – even in Indian Territory. I would wish for a little more of a sense of place, and landscape, since the journey of Walls and Melton takes place over a wide swath of the South and West. And what seems like an irrelevant development regarding a stolen payroll is a lead-in to a sequel – so, the rambling journey will continue, for sure.
See also: Celia's BNN Review
McKendree R. Long's Website
Friday, July 09, 2010
Kidnapped by Maria Hammarblad
(CreateSpace / 1-451-59470-4 / 978-1-451-59470-6 / May 2010 / 268 pages / $12.95 / B&N $11.65 / Kindle $2.99)
Reviewed by Donna Aviles for PODBRAM
Tricia Risdon is a young woman, driving home on a winter’s night, when she is suddenly and frighteningly taken aboard a spaceship after nearly colliding with a man who appeared from nowhere in the middle of the road. Confused and unaware of the dire circumstances she now finds herself in, Tricia is confronted by the only occupant of the spaceship – Alliance Commander Travis 152 – an intimidating man with a disfigured face who speaks an indecipherable language. After the Commander places a machine around Tricia’s head, she is able to comprehend his words as if translated into her own native English.
Travis soon learns that he has taken Tricia prisoner in error – that she is not working in partnership with William, the rebel who had appeared in front of her car on the lonely Colorado road. He is now faced with the dilemma of what to do with her and decides that she is not a threat to him or his ship and lets her roam freely.
Travis and Tricia find themselves attracted to one another and they soon become lovers, with Travis replacing his lifelong programmed allegiance to The Alliance with a newfound allegiance to Tricia. The remainder of Kidnapped, by Maria Hammarblad, is the adventure-packed and sometimes harrowing journey of the unlikely couple’s quest to break free from the ruthless control of The Alliance and make their way safely back to Earth.
I would have liked to have had more of a background on Tricia since the story takes place over the course of a year’s time and we never learn anything about her life or family on Earth. Additionally, there are many characters in the book that were not fully developed that would have given the story more depth. I found this to be an interesting storyline that began a bit slowly but picked up the pace as it went along. Two thirds of the way through, it became harder to put down as the action heightened. Technically, there were some spelling errors but not enough to cause serious distraction. If you’re looking for a science fiction novel with a romantic twist, Kidnapped is worth a look.
See also: Maria's Amazon Page
Maria's second book, Undercover
Sunday, July 04, 2010
Knoxville 1863 by Dick Stanley
(Lulu/CS / 0-557-29707-9 / 978-0-557-29707-8 / February 2010 / 228 pages / $14.50 / B&N $13.05 / CreateSpace $7.98 / Kindle $1.99)
Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM
The American Civil War began nearly a hundred and fifty years ago and ended after four years of savage fighting. There is no one left alive today with first-hand memories of that paroxysm of incredible violence that shattered the United States and then roughly stitched it together again. And the memories, especially in the South are barely diluted, even after all this time – for it was the bitterest kind of war, happening among kin and one-time friends, as it did. Fighting took place along the Washington DC/Richmond axis as the opposing armies menaced each others’ capitals, slashed across the South from Atlanta to the sea, all down the trans-Appalachian waterways and the Mississippi River, in Kansas and Missouri, which bled and bled again – and even as far west as Texas and New Mexico. Even places far removed from battlefields were not left unscathed, for the armies in blue and grey were recruited and marched away from everywhere, to the cheers of the hometown folks. But after three years of fighting, the cheers are muted, the war seems to have lasted forever, and blasted the ordinary pre-war lives of its characters into a thousand fragments. But still they carry on; and this story touches on some of the reasons why and how.
Knoxville 1863 is a worms-level view of a shatteringly unsuccessful Confederate assault on a heavily fortified earthwork bastion, a key part of the Union Army lines defending Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville was a strategic nexus, in an area of East Tennessee which had not favored secession, but where many local citizens had familial connections to the Confederacy. This is made plain in the opening chapter, where Leila Ellis, the young widow of a Confederate officer brings a special meal to the young Union officer commanding the Sanders redoubt. The Union was besieged at Chattanooga; and a force under General Longstreet was supposed to prevent the Union Army of Ohio from coming to reinforce. Longstreet threw elements of three brigades at Ft. Sanders in a bungled surprise attack, thinking that his infantrymen would be easily able to climb the sides of a ditch before the redoubt and overwhelm the relatively untried Union garrison. Instead, the ditch below Ft. Sanders turned into a kill-zone, with one of the most lopsided casualty rates of the whole war: more than 800 Confederate to a dozen Union.
This reconstruction of the event, the days leading to it, and the existence of those involved, and the aftermath, conveys the fluid mix of 19th century stoicism and elaborately observed social custom. Knoxville 1863 and A Civil General are two of the best recent novels that I can think of which bring out a sense of this. These are not modern Americans, dressed up in period clothes. The author weaves an intricate web of characters, of soldiers and artillerymen on both sides, men and boys – the relatively untried Union troops on reduced rations, the battle-worn Confederates starving and shoeless, all of them feeling the cold of a bitter winter in east Tennessee. The various characters are expertly drawn; the details of their lives, their friends and their various sympathies are conveyed in spare and workmanlike language. Each chapter and each character is almost a period steel engraving, full of vivid and authentic detail. The only criticism that can be made of this structure is that readers expecting a single straight-line narrative, featuring an unmistakably central character may be a little disappointed at having their attention and sympathetic interest split among that handful that carry the story more or less equally.
See also: The Author's Website
Dick Stanley's Amazon Page
The PODBRAM Review of A Civil General
Celia's Review at The Deepening
Celia's BNN Review of Knoxville 1863
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Rachel Cord, P.I., Still a Bitch:
A Confidential Investigations Mystery
By R. E. Conary
(Outskirts Press / 1-432-75879-9 / 978-1-432-75879-0 / May 2010 / 270 pages / $16.95 / Amazon and B&N $12.20)
Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM
Rachel Cord is a private detective, who wants to save enough money to have a breast reduction from double H to a C-cup or at least a B. She is also a lesbian who picks up beautiful women easier than cutting ice cream with a red-hot knife. Most men would envy how fortunate Cord is. I did.
When Cord is handed a missing person's case, she cannot turn it down since she needs the money to make her house payment. However, there are plenty of challenges. Rachel has a PI license to practice in Philadelphia, PA, but not across the river in New Jersey. She also has beautiful lovers on both sides of the river, and she's in danger of losing Wendy when her kinky tryst with Danny (the missing man's sister) is discovered.
Cord's problems get worse when most of the clues turn up in New Jersey, and there's a New Jersey cop who hates her and wants to throw her in jail. If she doesn't have enough challenges working on the wrong side of the river, the Philadelphia police want to know where Cord's former lover Karen is hiding. It seems that Karen is a serial killer who has been leaving a trail of dead bodies across the country, and she may be back in town.
Although I ran into a "few" missing commas and a typo or two, I read Conary's book in three days. I do not read books that fast unless the story hooks me. In fact, my favorite mystery authors are James Lee Burke, Dick Frances and Tony Hillerman. Conary brews a plot to compete with these three.
See also: R. E. Conary's Website
Review of the first book in the Rachel Cord, P.I., Series
Sunday, June 27, 2010
The Lake by William P. Crawford
(BookSurge / 1-439-23530-9 / 978-1-439-23530-0 / February 2010 / 308 pages / $18.99 / B&N $17.09 / Kindle $9.99)
Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM
What might happen if a lake, say, in California, contained water that for some reason not only kept people healthy but also caused them to speak the truth? It's not hard to imagine that there would be consequences. The Lake is basically a thought experiment which attempts to imagine just that situation, and, of course, many of those consequences.
The lake in question, located over an unstable geological area, is presumably contaminated, if that word may be understood in a good sense, by magma underneath. The exact mechanism of the beneficial effect is never identified. News of the health effects become public knowledge, with predictable results.
With no more information than given above, one can create a considerable list of possible effects: on the health care industry and doctors, for one. As for speaking the truth, Hollywood and politics might be expected to suffer severely from such an affliction. Both are dealt with in the story, as are a myriad of other notions, the whole being shot through with a wide variety of esoterica on geology, chemistry, biology, and even Ireland.
As interesting as this book might sound, there are problems: with the capitalization (as in Science, Tropics, Boomer Generation, and so on), with the narration (As he was idly reading…, As his eyes grew heavy…, and As he squirmed restlessly… occurring within four consecutive sentences), and with generally awkward style—too much telling and not enough showing. Characterization (there were many, many characters) was thin.
Independently published books need to be particularly sharp and appealing. The title of The Lake could use some punching up, as could the cover design, and the sans serif font is not especially friendly to the eye.
This is only one reader's opinion, of course. The other end of the spectrum may be found in the back cover blurb, which claims the prose is nothing short of pitch-perfect. Anyone who finds the premise of The Lake appealing might do well to use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature or try the free sample of the Kindle edition, to make an informed decision about his or her position along that scale.
See also: Another Review of The Lake
Friday, June 25, 2010
The God Patent by Ransom Stephens
(Numina Press – Vox Novus / 0-984-26000-5 / 978-0-984-26000 –3 / December 2009 / 298 pages / $14.95 / Amazon & B&N $13.45 / Kindle $9.99)
Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM
Ryan McNear, the main character in The God Patent, is behind on his child support payments and on the run from the Texas law. North of San Francisco, he meets Katrina, a troubled eleven-year-old math prodigy with a mother who lives in a mental fog waiting to die and join her husband in the afterlife. A friendship blooms between Ryan and Katrina as he uses his skills to develop her talent.
Ryan needs money to catch up on his child support payments so he can see his son again and rid himself of the arrest warrant and a possible prison sentence. When a friend working at a small Christian college in Texas offers him a job, he has no choice but to accept. It doesn't help that this Christian college wants to prove the existence of God using Ryan's computer programming skills to tap into the power of God providing an endless supply of electricity ending the need for America's oil dependency. How can Ryan say no?
Then there is the lovely physicist from UC Berkeley who captures Ryan's heart. Her brother, Dodge Nutter, is Ryan's landlord and his scheming lawyer.
I measure how good a book is by how fast I read it. I read Ransom's book in less than a week. Books that don't hold my attention are never finished. This is a story about relationships, life, death, science, computers and spirituality. I highly recommend The God Patent, which will do more than entertain you. It will make you think.
See also: The Author's Website
Ransom Stephens' Amazon Page
Sunday, June 20, 2010
McKenzie Affair by Don Meyer
(Two Peas Publishing / 0-984-07735-9 / 978-0-984-07735-9 / May 2010 / 308 pages / $14.95 / Amazon $11.66 / B&N $10.76 / Kindle $7.99)
Although I have never read any of Robert B. Parker's books in the Spenser or Jesse Stone Series, I absolutely love the movies made of the Jesse Stone books by Tom Selleck, and Meyer's Tom Monason Series is sort of a mirror image of those. Whereas Stone is an alcoholic LA cop who retires to a little seaport resort in MA, Monason is a big city cop who retires to a mountain resort town in Northern California. Think Tahoe or Big Bear for the basic scenery, although Monason's town is a bit quieter and more isolated.
A couple of people get murdered and Monason solves the case with old-school craftiness and small-town charm, sort of like Andy Taylor without the laugh track. Monason rarely fires his six-shooter he calls a wheel gun and he has an ongoing relationship with a cute deputy a few years younger. This description could more or less be applied to Winter Ghost, the first in the series, as well as McKenzie Affair. There are many plot twists and turns in this mystery that have been deliberately not mentioned here. Just as in a typical Law & Order episode, somebody discovers a body or two in the opening scene, and then the cops and medical examiner put their heads together to try to find the perpetrator. As in the best of these episodes, the unexpected plot twists make the story entertaining.
The biggest difference between the Parker and Meyer books is probably length. Don Meyer's books are quick reads of show-don't-tell characters and dialog, with very little detailed description. I usually prefer the lengthier type of read, but not in this case. I LOVE the story lines, characters, settings, and compositional style of both McKenzie Affair and Winter Ghost! This is a review of McKenzie Affair, of course, but you may wish to go back and read Winter Ghost first for a little more background on the characters. The previous crime mentioned several times in McKenzie Affair is the same one covered in detail in the first book in the series. An addendum in the back of McKenzie Affair mentions that the third book in this mystery series will be released in 2011.
I would give McKenzie Affair five stars for providing entertaining reading except for one glaring flaw. This book, and Winter Ghost as well, need to be edited and proofread a lot more effectively, particularly the proofreading. There are missing commas and overused ellipses out the wazoo, and most of the ellipses are missing their ending punctuation. There are a number of other common mistakes, too, but much lesser in frequency. These mistakes did not slow down the reading, but I did have to consciously look past them. The publisher of McKenzie Affair states on its website that its releases display distinctively constructed design details, and these are quite evident. The printer did an excellent job, but the final proofing leaves a bit to be desired. The final verdict: technical production, C-, engrossing storyline, A+.
See also: Dr. Al Past's review of Winter Ghost
Review of The Protected Will Never Know
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
by Eric Schlosser
(Houghton Mifflin / 0-618-44670-2 / 978-0-618-44670-4 / Hardcover 2003 / Paperback April 2004 / 352 pages / $13 / B&N $9.36 / Amazon $9.10)
Reefer Madness is not the absolutely must read that Fast Food Nation most certainly is, but it’s a worthwhile history lesson in America’s underground economy. In fact, The Underground Economy should have been the title, and I am not sure why it was not used instead. In deference to the 1930’s scare tactic movie about the ridiculously overstated dangers of recreational marijuana use, the topic is covered extensively in the first fifty or so pages of Reefer Madness, but that should hardly be sufficient to entitle the book. Reefer Madness was promoted as Eric Schlosser’s follow-up to his groundbreaking, muckraking, and excellent Fast Food Nation, and to some degree, it is successfully so; however, I think this book misses the obvious topicality it should have had.
I expected Schlosser’s second work to cover three major players in America’s underground economy: recreational drugs, illegal immigration, and pornography. I can hear you say Huh? already. The first two, yes, but pornography has been legal for some time and the internet has virtually exploded with free access to such, so how can it be considered a part of the underground economy? The answer would be as an historical perspective. A large portion of the book, way too much in my opinion, is devoted to the long career of one pioneer in the pornography industry and the federal agent who worked diligently for years to bring him down. The illegal immigration part of the story is covered exquisitely and with genuine compassion, but it is far too limited, covering only the strawberry portion of the agricultural industry in California. If I had composed this book, I would have cut the porno section by two thirds and doubled the page count allotted to drugs and immigration. The drug section should have covered cocaine and other drugs more extensively, and of course, the immigration section should have covered far more industries than strawberries!
Aside from these complaints, I have to say that Mr. Schlosser’s research is impeccable and his writing style strikes a perfect balance between information and entertainment. As a modern muckraker, Eric Schlosser has few peers. He chooses his subjects carefully and bulldogs the details diligently. Reefer Madness may be a little misleading in its title and a little off the mark of the real problems of 2010, but for an historical perspective on exactly how our various black markets have developed, Schlosser’s second book is an informative read. The back pages of the book indicate that Eric Schlosser’s next subject will be our prison system, but I would prefer to read an expansion of the strawberry fields.
See also: Eric Schlosser's Amazon Page
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Inside the Kill Box
by Michael W. Romanowski
(Foremost Press / 1-936-15419-6 / 978-1-936-15419-7 / April 2010 / 256 pages / $14.97 / Amazon $13.47)
Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM
We are all familiar with the police procedural, but is there such a genre as a military procedural? A police procedural is "a piece of detective fiction which attempts to convincingly depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes" according to Wikipedia. With only a few modifications, then, a military procedural might be "a piece of military fiction which attempts to convincingly depict the activities of military special forces as they perform missions." If we can accept that, then Inside the Kill Box is a military procedural, and not a bad one at that.
Set in the early 1990s during the first Gulf War and featuring a large cast of participants all over the globe, the basic story involves suspected betrayal a decade earlier, mysterious well-funded assassins wreaking death and destruction, a Saddam Hussain turncoat to be extracted, and an assortment of military personnel and civilians of several nationalities thrown together in various military actions. Gunnery Sergeant David Sweet, a participant in most of the conflicts, provides continuity throughout.
Organized in short scenes that switch from venue to venue, the story does not invite speed-reading, at least not to me. To derive the full effect, one must carefully keep track of who is who and what is what. The technological aspects are covered thoroughly and convincingly, from the procedures to the speech to the specifics of the gadgetry. I must admit, knowing the exact model of an AK-47, or the particular modifications made to a Beretta automatic did not help me enjoy the story, but those who are attracted to military procedurals might feel differently. I was gratified, at least, that all the technology and machinery did not always perform perfectly. The "fog of war" was definitely a factor, and every mission did not always end satisfactorily. That in itself was convincing. In this respect, Inside the Kill Box is an improvement upon the Tom Clancy-type tale.
Nor are well-rounded characters typically characteristic of military procedurals. Sergeant Sweet is an individual, several cuts above a Rambo-like automaton, and several other characters were fairly interesting as well. The writing style and editing were impeccable. All in all, this is an enjoyable action story that should appeal to a large readership.
See Also: More About the Author
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Above the Fray:
A Novel of the Union Balloon Corps, Part Two
by Kris Jackson
(CreateSpace / 1-449-51924-5 / 978-1-449-51924-7 / Spetember 2009 / 392 pages / $19.95 / Kindle $3.99 / B&N $14.36 / B&N e-book $2.85)
Reviewed by Malcolm R. Campbell for PODBRAM
Part I of Above the Fray (CraigsPress, May 2009) follows the exploits of protagonist Nathaniel Curry, a fifteen-year-old telegraph operator from Richmond, with the Union Army Balloon Corps from the Peninsula Campaign during the spring and summer of 1862 through the Battle of Antietam that September.
Part II begins as General Ambrose Burnside, who was placed in command of the Army of the Potomac in November 1862, is pushing into Virginia with the objective of capturing the Confederate capital at Richmond. En route, the Union Army will suffer a costly defeat at Fredericksburg in December with a battle plan that Nathaniel sees as “simple to the point of folly.”
Richmond will not fall until the spring of 1865, two years after Chief Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe has resigned from the balloon corps due to pay and logistics disputes. The Union Army Balloon Corps, a civilian contract organization, disbands in August 1863. Curry, however, is not out of the war. There’s no precise way to say just how he stays in the war without giving away the inventive plot. Both the Union and the Confederacy want him to spy for them, for he is either an exceptionally streetwise chameleon or a man protected by the gods. He is equally at home with generals and prostitutes, with Southern slaves and northern infantrymen, and with soaring above the fray of a battlefield and with slogging it out under fire on both sides of the lines.
Taken together, parts I and II of Above the Fray give the reader a balloonist’s view of the Civil War from Atlanta to Richmond to Washington, D.C. Jackson’s research is broad and impeccable, his ear for dialogue is well tuned, and his rendering of the war from multiple theaters and perspectives is stunning.
One evening Curry and his friend Vogler are sitting in camp with several of the many historical characters, Thaddeus Lowe, James Allen and Ezra Allen reading mail:
“‘Solly,’ Nathaniel Curry said, ‘you get more mail than the rest of us together.’
“‘Vogler looked over his glasses at him and smiled.
“‘What are you reading now? What language is that?’
“‘It’s German. This is the journal of the Royal Society of Prussia.’
“‘Wouldn’t they speak Prussian?’
“‘No. You’re thinking of Russia where they speak Russian.’
“‘Oh. The letters aren’t the same as ours.’”
Vogler then tells his fellow aeronauts he’s reading an account of several record-setting balloon ascents by aerialists Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher in England who reached a height of over 37,000 feet. The second flight occurred about the same time the balloon corps was at Antietam. The aeronauts are excited about the record, and they discuss the impact of the cold temperatures and thinner atmosphere on both the aerialists and their balloon.
Such accounts expand the reach of the novel to events far from the field of battle, greatly adding to the perspective of both the characters and the reader. Similarly, events Nathaniel observes at the Second Battle of Bull Run in Above the Fray, Part I, bring him to the attention of those conducting the controversial court-martial of Union General Fitz-John Porter in Part II where the issues of politics, command competency and scapegoats intertwine.
Is it likely that a young telegraph operator from Richmond would be on speaking terms with President Abraham Lincoln, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and multiple officers in both the northern and southern chains of command? Perhaps not, but Kris Jackson makes it credible and entertaining. Above the Fray, Part II is fine storytelling by an author who knows the territory. When Nathaniel Curry approaches Appomattox Court House in the spring of 1865, he has come a very long way from that long ago day when he inadvertently rode a balloon into the sky with Professor Thaddeus Lowe, that day when Lowe said, “The sun’ll not rise today, Nathaniel. You and I shall have to rise to meet it.”
See also: The PODBRAM Review of Above the Fray, Part One
The March of Books Review
Malcolm's Round Table Review
Friday, May 14, 2010
The Key of Solomon:
A Novel of the Last Days
by Howard F. Clarke
(CreateSpace / 1-440-48631-X / 978-1-440-48631-9 / March 2010 / 406 pages / $16.53 / B&N $11.89)
Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM
Jack Salter is a problem-ridden New York cop with unconventional detective skills who is sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico to bring down a wealthy CEO he believes to be exceptionally dangerous. The CEO, named Kale, uses his corporation as a cover for his ultimate goal: to acquire the ancient occult key of King Solomon, which will enable him to turn the spirit world to his purposes, the better to dominate the globe, one supposes. Murder and human sacrifice are but tools to this end. Mix in Kane's bald, ex-military security advisor and enforcer, a brave Navajo policeman, a Baptist minister unafraid to step into the battle, several rare book dealers, miscellaneous associated local policemen, a New York mobster on the hook to Salter, a couple of vicious demons from the spirit world, a troop of gangster motorcyclists, and for good measure, a centuries-old conspiracy by trusted authority figures, and you have quite a pot-boiler of a story. Will Salter put the kibosh on the bad guy? Will he even survive? Or will it be the end of the world?
Fans of this genre of tales will recognize the pattern. It need only be added that the prose is readable, with few typos and not too many miscues (such as the word "touristo”, which is not a Spanish word— the word is "turista").
Readers who anticipate a plot-driven story will not be disappointed. For my part, I found the characterizations thin and the action predictable, with everything arranged to best achieve the desired end. The plot element that came through most vividly was the city of Albuquerque, a lovely city indeed.
Nonetheless, stories where the fate of the world hangs in the balance and only One Man (or Woman) can save it are evidently quite popular. If such is your cup of tea, then you might enjoy The Key of Solomon.
See also: The Author's Website
The Author's Amazon Page
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Midnight Tequila by Suzann Kale
(CreateSpace: Stardust Zoo / 1-449-51564-9 / 978-1-449-51564-5 / March 2010 / 232 pages / $12.00 / Kindle $6.39)
Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM
Solange Duval, the fifty-two-year-old main character in Midnight Tequila, is a woman who enjoys her hot flashes, her booze, and her drugs, but misses her husband Paul-Michel, who died from cancer years earlier. Although it is never clear where the money comes from that supports her almost plush lifestyle, she does earn cash as a 900-line telephone Tarot Card reading fortuneteller. I suspect Paul-Michel may have had money or an insurance policy but that is never mentioned.
Solange also dreams of success playing the harp, and when it finally looks like she's made it in Rio, she sabotages the chance by a few flawed notes and returns to Texas.
Throughout the novel, Solange often remembers moments with Paul-Michel. To me, it was obvious her depression and need for booze and drugs was to stay numb. He may have been the only person who understood her. Even having regular sex with kinky Carlo, who tries hot-wax sex, seems to be an attempt to forget. In fact, Solange doesn't seem to have much to enjoy from life. For a companion, Solange has Bunny May, a wise, toothless diabetic cat, who shouldn't be drinking milk but does.
The story is nicely balanced between the 900 calls and Solange's "trips" through life with her equally strange friends. Solange is not a stereotypical character. She is a uniquely challenged individual and an almost lost soul, and that is what makes this story worth reading.
At times, Solange comes off as a sexy, ditzy airhead, who even in her 50s turns heads with her cute figure. She writes in a dream journal of dark places that reminded me of someone suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). There are hints that she may have been sexually abused earlier in life and Paul-Michel rescued her, the only man she probably ever loved, and losing him solidified her PTSD.
This novel, which meanders through the head of someone who has almost lost herself to darkness, is an intriguing character study and it isn't a nice place to be if you are Solange, but it is worth the read if you are someone who enjoys stories that do not follow a formula genre outline. I enjoyed reading Midnight Tequila and recommend it.
See also: Suzann's Amazon Page
Suzann's Authors Den Page
The Author's Stardust Zoo Website