Sunday, 27 April 2014

Fallen Angel by John McCuaig

As with some of my favourite fantasy stories, belief needs to be suspended before reading too much of this story. Having said that, the fun action in this story makes it worthwhile to not think too hard about why a Police Inspector who no longer has faith in God would suddenly start running around with a 'soldier' priest assisting him to commit crime after crime, to rid the world of a new evil that threatens to upturn everything. I made myself comfortable with this very quickly, by noting that these are extraordinary times - calling for extraordinary measures. The things the Police Inspector sees would have convinced her very quickly that there was something supernatural occurring. Once I had let this go, I could then get on with simply enjoying the action in this fantasy. And enjoy it I did... very much.

Well worth the read. And if the author writes a sequel, with the priest and the Maggie the Police Inspector finalising their clean up in other parts of the world, I will keenly chase that down as well, for another exciting read!

Gary Williams

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Stolen (Stolen #1) by K.A. Krisko

This story was like a current rip that gently, but powerfully, takes hold of you while swimming in the ocean, pulling you away from the shore just gently enough to be unnoticeable until all sight of land has disappeared. But seriously, this story really got me in. It just seemed to amble along, drawing me in without me actually realising it. I like books that are actually full of action, but that don't have you holding onto the book (or device) with white knuckles.

Stolen takes you through lots of twists and turns. I'd love to describe it turn by turn, but I don't want to add spoilers to this review. Suffice to say, at each turn, a new aspect of sorcery or some form of enchantment is introduced, meaning that the next part of the book is never what you thought it would be.

I always like to write a review based on what I've read in the book and how it made me feel - what it stirred in me. I think it's better to do this than attempt to ask the author 'what did you mean by..." Early in the book I sensed that there was a post-apocalyptic' feel, and just maybe there's a bit of a warning message in it for us, albeit one veiled in allegory. This may be just something I picked up on and not the author's intention, but I then again, the 'Charter of Dispersal' from the old, abandoned city is pretty hard to read any other way. Apparently, these people realised that big cities don't work, and deliberately pulled out of them to save civilisation. But... there's an underlying tone, some hints, that makes the reader suspect that this may well be propaganda from the forefathers of this newer, smaller version of civilisation. I think this gives the book a real depth.

The best way to get more knowledge about this intriguing land and its fascinating people is to read the other books in the series. Have no doubt, I'll be reading those as well.

A great read.

Gary Williams

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Friday, 14 February 2014

The Changeling Detective by Phillip Berrie

This book was intriguing and a lot of fun to read. The author manages to make the changeling thing quite believable, with his description of what he can and can't do... and we get to ride with the character in first person as he discovers new aspects of his ability he didn't know about. I suppose near death experiences will do that to you.

The twists and turns in this book are subtle, so that I was unaware of exactly how it managed to keep me so hooked all the way. I love the humour in this book! A little way into the book, the changeling detective decides the time has come for him to be honest about his abilities to a woman who becomes his new sidekick. Shortly after, as he is just about to become intimately involved with her, he tells her, "I can be any man you want me to be!"

The quality of this novel is superb. I hardly found any typos or omitted words (and I always do - even with the huge volume publications). I notice that the author offers services, such as continuity checking, to other indie authors. This novel is a shining beacon leading the way for other indie authors.

My only complaint about this book is that the sequel isn't written yet. So, you'd be doing me a big favour if you also read this book, and then also told the author to get on with writing a sequel!

Gary Williams

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Monday, 10 February 2014

Buried Appearances - D.E. Haggerty

I know it's been a good book when I feel disappointed that it's coming to a close. That's how I felt with this book - like I'd miss her and her new found family.
I was initially surprised by this book's first person, present tense description of everything as it happens, right now, seen though the eyes of the girl it is happening to. At the start of the book, she's an angry character, that has no family left in the US, but by the time she gets to Holland and nervously approaches family she has never met and is warmly received... I feel relieved, making me realise just how effective this first person, present tense writing style has been.

It's also a bit of a 'who dunnit' - almost like a 'cold case', as the heroine, with the help of new found relatives to translate, plays detective and gradually picks up peices and examines them on a path to understanding just what happened to her grandfather during World War II. The writing style allows the reader to see an in-depth exploration of various clues in the heroine's mind, but without 'over-telling' the reader the conclusions they should reach from this. The main we get from this is an understanding of her reasoning behind each next step as her investigation unfolds.

I suppose the other reason it engaged me so quickly was because the stakes are so high for the main character. A letter she receives out of the blue could be the key to changing everything; she may not be the still-scorned descendant of a Nazi sympathiser after all, and she may not be as alone as she feels - she may have family somewhere else in the world.

Gary Williams

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Sunday, 26 January 2014

I Call Myself Earth Girl - Jan Krause Greene

This is something quite unique. I've never read anything quite like this book... and it had me from the first chapter. I'm just not sure how it enticed me so soon and so thoroughly. I'll have to read it a second time, soon, to figure out how she did that! I actually found that, although I didn't really have much time to spend reading this book... I kept reading it to the detriment of other things I should be doing!

I wondered how I'd feel, reading a book where the main character is, supposedly, a human girl named Ella, whose eyes glow with golden light, but by the time the little girl had grown to where this began to happen, the author had given just enough 'scientific' and medical rationale to make me quite comfortable with the fact that her eyes glow with a golden light sometimes - mainly when she's upset. And she's legally blind, but sees with her mind... whether her eyes are open or closed. It sounds ridiculous the way I've written it here, but in this book, these concepts just progress in a seemingly natural way.

The quality of this book is second to none. When ever I read a book by an indie author, I normally collect a list of typos and even editing suggestions and then forward these to the author. With this book, I've hit an all time low - in the number of typos that is. This book must have really been put through the ringer and is a credit to the numerous beta readers, story editors, line editors and proof readers involved as well as the author herself, since I hardly found any errors; and the few I found were mostly simple punctuation omissions. Bear in mind that I normally manage to find one or two of these in the Dan Browns, Robert Ludlum and Stephen Kings of the world - so I tip my hat to the author. Superb quality.

This book deals very well with that situation where, on an intuitive level, we are sure something is true, but we allow others to convince us not to trust the feeling - or we rationalise it out of existence all on our own. This book has quite a balanced approach, with characters sitting squarely on both sides of the equation. I found myself wishing, though, that there were more 'Ellas' in the world we live in, to help us overcome this fear of following our intuition and, as Ella says herself, to remind us to "pay attention to the important things."

Excellent read. I'd recommend to all - seekers of all things spiritual and skeptics alike.

Gary Williams

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Sunday, 19 January 2014

Behind Blue Eyes - D.M. Wolfenden

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought this book was going to be about vampires, but a big part of the story is really about a little girl prepared to overcome fear and help an injured vampire, Cain. This inspires protective instincts toward the child that Cain didn't think he could feel any more - maybe even echoing the life he had before he became a vampire, back when he had a wife and daughter.

I expected the thriller/horror parts of the book, but it's also a bit of a romance, with unexpected twists and turns tearing characters apart - just as they seem to be getting comfortable with one another. And the thriller aspect kept me guessing until almost the last line of text on the last page!

This is a fascinating story that spans the best part of one hundred years, since vampires don't have the limited life span of humans. I identified with Cain enough for it to give me a hint of what it must feel like to be alive for such a long time, without the ability to participate in a normal life. He spends much of his time watching others life their lives.

Something quite different to what I expected... and thoroughly enjoyable.

Gary Williams

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Thursday, 9 January 2014

G'day USA - Tony McFadden

This book users the same fascinating format as G'day LA, where chapters alternate between first and third person, giving us the overall perspective in third person and then that's backed up with the internal experience and thoughts of the hero (in first person).

When he writes his books, Mr McFadden seems to dabble in infinite variations of his already successful formula. In another of his books, one of the main characters is framed, and ends up in jail while her boyfriend, Eamonn Shute, spends some of his riches figuring out who framed her - the reader knows pretty early who this is, and has to watch them figure it out.

The variation of that formula in this book, is that G'day USA is more of a 'who done it' (the reader doesn't know the real killer) and, in this case the falsely accused makes a run for it and has to figure things out for herself (she probably developed her detective skills in the last book, G'day LA). We get updates here and there on what 'the killer' is doing... but we don't know who it is. In this regard it, sort of, reminds me of Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code', where we find out late in the book that two characters are actually one person (while trying not to give too much away).

I am now a definite fan of Tony McFadden, and this is another great read by him.

Gary Williams

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Saturday, 14 December 2013

Family Matters - Tony McFadden

As well as being fun to read, Mr McFadden's books are always technically amazing. This one tests a character he defined in the book before this one - even further than he did last time (note that the reading order doesn't seem to matter much - I read them in the wrong order!)

This makes it an interesting exercise on how hard it is to be a decent cop. In the other book, Detective Dan McCready had followed his gut and came very close to convicting an innocent woman for murder. In this book, he's challenged again... when his previously successful brother fails off the rails and helps the underworld, in order to pay off his gambling debts.

So, read and enjoy watching a cop trying his hardest to solve a murder - that his brother may well have been involved in. Meanwhile watch his brother deploy a similar skillset, more or less in the opposite direction.

Oh, and he doesn't have his usual cop partner with him, instead partnering with an FBI agent from out of town, that probably doesn't have the experience in field work that Detective Dan McCready has, compounding any jurisdiction issues. Even more tension for the detective.

Also, I enjoyed watching the underworld pull both of their strings, sort of, in concert. Another good read by this author.

Gary Williams

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Thursday, 12 December 2013

g'day L.A. - Tony McFadden

A fascinating thing about this book is how every alternate chapter is written in the first person and third person. So, every for every chapter written in third person, there's a chapter after that written by a male author - thinking and feeling as a female.

This means you get the first person 'feel' of the girl realising she might be able to set up the bad guy for a fall. Then, in the next chapter, we get the third person description of the bad guy that's excited at how he has actually set her up, and how she's taken the bait. And so on.

It is worth reading the whole book to get to the fight scene three quarters of the way through. We get a first person description of the fight as the model turned actress struggles with the bad guy - catches him out with a few kicks to sensitive areas! Again, we get both sides of the chase, capture, evasion, retaliation and it keeps you guessing as it turns each corner (a maze of corners would be better analogy).

I also enjoyed the characters... and I dare say anybody who has had anything to do with show business will recognise the 'realness' of these characters - the victims, the exploiters and the rare stable person that can actually make a career out of any type of show business.

As with Mr McFadden's other books, again quite unique, and cleverly executed. I've read a few of his books now and, as ever, will reserve my judgement until I've read all his books, but I am getting ready to make that statement that you only make about great authors: "with Tony McFadden books, you just can't go wrong".

Gary Williams

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Monday, 9 December 2013

Three-Year Rule (The Rule #1) by Alaina Stanford

The author spends the first chapter introducing the main character as a lady that writes about the 'Pseudo persona' that we think another person wants us to be when we first meet them... and then goes straight to work with that concept. This is the second book I've read from this author, and she seems to have a fascination with - and a gift for - defining the characters once, and then redefining them again. It definitely makes for interesting reading.

I've said elsewhere that I'm not much of a fan of romance - if I can actually see it - but I'm very happy for it to hold the story together, invisibly (which it probably almost always does in the most captivating books). I could push through the few times the romance became visibly exposed, waiting for some more technically interesting action (like the potential explosion when a character reverts from their more palatable 'Pseudo persona' back to their normal, less congenial self).

It was half-way through the book before the book took a thrilling twist... leaving me exposed to some of the romance aspects a tiny but too long... but, once that kicked in, it was worth the wait. It was like boiling a frog - where the creature doesn't notice the cold water gradually warming. I hadn't noticed the gradual increase of pace until about three quarters through, after which time I read the remainder, without putting it down, with white knuckles!

Now I realise this author has another tool in her arsenal - it gradually became the same race against time that I experienced in her 'hypnotic journey' series. It turns out this book has well and truly enough thrills for someone as allergic to romance as me!

Gary Williams

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Sunday, 1 December 2013

Have Wormhole, Will Travel - Tony McFadden

This book was great fun to read. Now where did Bram Stoker get his inspiration from Dracula? Aliens! Aliens... that have been here for many hundreds of years, checking that we're not about to develop space travel and do to their planets, what we've done to native races on Earth... turn up and wipe them out.

It's got a bit of everything in it; it's a bit of a Sci-fi, with scenes from another planet, a bit of romance (across species!), oh... and a race against time to save the Earth. This book weaves the occasional fact among an added layer of fiction quite well - it makes it believable enough to enjoy the ride. Also - I'm from Sydney, so I enjoyed all the 'sight-seeing' in this book - almost like watching a picturesque movie made in my home town. A good fun read, that's quite unique.

This is the third book I've read by this author, since I discovered him through `Goodreads'... and I daresay I'll read some more of his books.

Gary Williams

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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Unprotected Sax - Tony McFadden

Read in March 2013 — I own a copy

I really enjoyed this book - the first I've read from this author. The characters are well-developed and the good guys rushing to beat the bad guys, with the assistance of the slightly more palatable bad guys, gave me plenty of inspiration to keep turning pages. The main character is complicated - a reluctant tough guy... that happens to play the sax well enough to return to that to make a living, after a military stint. There's also some chemistry at work between him and the singer in the band, and the story continually thrusts them together, then drags them apart again, which, along with the good cops trying to figure out who the dirty cop is, adds plenty of meat to the story.

This isn't one of those turn the page as fast as you can thrillers, like a Matthew Reilly or a Dan Brown - it's intriguing enough to keep you interested and turning pages, but I find, you can take a breath and relax and enjoy the journey a lot more. Having said that, I was definitely turning the last few pages faster... I hadn't noticed the pace slowly building to a climax until it really had me in its grip.

I like discovering an author that has already written so many books, because I can then go back and read the rest of their 'library'. I'll definitely be doing that with Tony McFadden, because I'm keen to see if he's perfected the formula this well in his other books. And from his bio, he intends to keep on writing, and writing, and writing... No complaints from me.

Gary Williams

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Forbidden Quest (Hypnotic Journey, #1) - Alaina Stanford

This book is, as the author says from the outset, a bit like a video game. A simple, quick, fun read that defines four characters in their 'normal' lives, then re-defines the four characters again as they enter their adventure world. This is interesting from a technical standpoint, as the characters that was a bit shy in the real world, suddenly becomes a powerful sorceress, and the complete bitch becomes a nature-loving elf, at one with - and importantly - in control of all the animals.

I'm not a romance fan at all - I could never read something that is purely a romance. But, this story is probably held together by romance - almost like an unseen substructure, which is good, because if I could see to much of it... it would probably put me off.

It kept me reading, waiting to see the fate of the fearless foursome (my name for them, not hers). I read that the author has many children (and grandchildren)? I hope they enjoy reading this as much as I did. It's a lot of fun.

I found myself feeling like I was a kid again, madly flipping the pages of one of Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five' books! All over... a lot of fun and you can read it in a few short sittings.

Gary Williams

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Treason's Choices: Seovann's Tale - Jennifer Bresnick

Read December, 2012 - I own a copy

Having already read The Last Death of Tev Chrisini, I found this book an extremely enjoyable foray back into that world, as Ms Bresnick bestows upon us, morsel by morsel, some of the history of Seovann, and his sister, Sanemki, and their relationship with the Chittura - a Delai Lama-like spiritual leader of the walled city, Sheidanou, where most of the action happens in this novel.

It doesn't matter if you haven't already read any of the other books set in this unique world - this work is self-contained and stands up on its own. If this is your first adventure in this world, you may find yourself hungry for more adventures into this fascinating, and very complete world... I've found myself chasing down this author's work, and have even joined a small throng of people gently encouraging the author, via her blog, to finish her next instalment set in this world.

Gary Williams
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Book 'Em - An Eamonn Shute Mystery - Tony McFadden

Read October, 2013 — I own a copy

I've said in another review of these Eamonn Shute stories how much I love his lifestyle. This guy has the lifestyle we all want. If you think you don't deserve or wouldn't enjoy a lifestyle like his -
I know a couple of therapists that seem to have a great reputation and am happy to pass on their details! We get a hint that in the past he has won the lottery - and we don't really know whether this was the real focus of his unfinished PhD in maths or not... maybe he was just lucky. Whether he was 'just lucky', or skewed his odds somehow, the millions he won allowed him to ditch the cold of Ireland for the tropical heat of Miami, buying the whole top floor of a building overlooking the beaches and scoring a lovely girlfriend along the way.

So, there's the perfect lifestyle that most of us can picture ourselves in (soon to be all of us - after a few sessions) and I was probably already entranced, well before parts of this lovely lifestyle threaten to unravel. The lovely girlfriend is falsely accused of murder and... off we go. Oh, and did I mention that Eamonn came from a really bad, down and out part of Ireland... so bad he thought it necessary to become a bit of an expert in martial arts - so he's quite at home in a bar fight.

So, the scene is all set, and it lights, camera, action. Off we go, racing against time, to find out who really committed the murder that the lovely girlfriend has been accused of. There's plenty of twists and turns in the finer details of the plot.

By the end it was, sort of, like riding along with a racing driver around a race track... you can see a corner coming, but the driver doesn't appear to have even thought about hitting the brakes yet; I could tell I was almost at the end of the book, and disaster still hadn't been averted. Sure enough, just like the racing driver, Mr McFadden knew he had just barely enough time to hit the brakes and throw you around that last corner, and onto the home straight.

It was a great read. And, like I said, I'd probably be happy to read about Eamonn doing boring day to day stuff, let alone an adventure of this scale.

Gary Williams

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Last Death of Tev Chrisini - Jennifer Bresnick

Read in September, 2012 — I own a copy

I know I've really enjoyed reading a book when I feel that pang of regret as I approach the last page - the realisation that my time with some newly found friends is about to come to an end. This is probably why I found reading the glossary, after I had finished the book, to be a lovely reminisce of the characters' long journey across this intriguing landscape. It brought back to me some of the extraordinary details earlier on in the book.

Don't let the fact that this book has a glossary deter you from reading it, because I found that the context, along with some introductions and explanations given on the run, generally gave me a fairly good idea of the names of the races of people, the capital cities, the rulers, and the local thugs.

I must admit, early in the book I found myself thinking, "if this Tev character is immortal - why don't we see him being killed and coming back to life again", like we might have seen by the second page of your typical action novel? But then think about the title - he's done all that -and this is his final journey toward understanding exactly what he is, and why he is the way he is. Having said that - there's no shortage of action in this book, and it was really dumb of me to have a preconceived notion of this poor guy being constantly killed and coming back to life!

I found myself wanting, hoping that Ms Bresnick found a way to write a sequel (even a prequel), so that I could re- kindle some of the friendships made in this tome... and then I found Seovann's Choice. I even avidly consumed a short story written in a similar-feeling world, called 'The Earth Stepper's Bargain' - still trying to scratch that itch.

So, a plea to Ms Bresnick; It can't be that hard to find another source of action, waiting to sweep across the intricate, rich tapestry that was established in this novel, can it? But then... Ms Bresnick does not appear to be one for taking the easy road.

Gary Williams

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