Fiction

bookcover: 
Mort
Author: 
Terry Pratchett
Series: 
Diskworld
Publisher: 
HarperCollins e-books; Reissue edition
Genre: 
SpeculativeFiction: 
Rating: 
10
ISBN/ASIN: 

0062225715

Description of Sales Url: 
Available from Amazon
Review: 

Mort is my first forey into the Discworld domain of fantasy author Terry Pratchett, and I found it fascinating. Perhaps it is fate when the teenaged boy, Mort, fails to get a job on his visit to the hiring fair in Sheepridge, and in the dark long after everyone else has gone home, is apprenticed to Death. The book is written in third person, and Death speaks in capital letters without the need for speech.

Death in Discworld is the familiar figure we know, and yet he is not. Because this Death has built a family, now comprised of our protagonist Mort, Death's daughter Ysabell (of the silver hair and eyes and a figure reflecting too many chocolates) and his manservant named Albert (stick-thin, raw-nosed and some two thousand years old.) This family lives in a non-reality outside of time and space "known to the few astrophysicists who have taken really bad acid" in which Death has carved a domain where his human family exists. Death's home contains myriad parts, including a stable where live the finest of Death's live horses, a black garden, a library where resides the books into which each soul is written; a kitchen where Albert cooks meals for Mort and Ysabell.

Before Death begins to teach Mort how he performs his office, and of course, it all goes awry, Mort agrees he wishes to "learn the uttermost secrets of time and space," and is sent on his first job to clean the stable, where he meets Death's horse, Binky.

I can see why Pratchett's books are so popular. Mort is everyman (or perhaps Everyboy) and Death is a surprisingly sympathetic character; one can certainly understand why he would wish to have a vacation. Pratchett's blend of myth and humor is charming like a fairy tale, humorous in a personal way, compassionate, and quirky. I can see why his books are so popular.

bookcover: 
The Hill bookcover
Author: 
Karen Bass
Publisher: 
Pajama Press
Genre: 
Action-Adventure: 
Fiction: 
SpeculativeFiction: 
Rating: 
9
ISBN/ASIN: 

978-1-77278-002-4

Description of Sales Url: 
Purchase from Pajama Press
Review: 

In Karen Bass's The Hill,When the private plane Jared insisted on riding crashes, he is rescued by Kyle, a Cree boy who ought to be wearing a cape, given the circumstances. Jared is an unlikable spoiled rich kid flying from unlikable parent A to unlikable parent B. Jared is a city boy, completely unfamiliar with nature. Luckily for them both, Kyle is his polar opposite. Jared's refusal to listen to Kyle's advice forces them to climb the hill, a place forbidden by Kyle's Kokum (grandmother) and cross into the terrifying territory of legend, where they are stalked by the relentless Wihtiko, a virulently carnivorous creature out of the Cree spirit world.

All I can say is that this story works on many levels, and even if it is speculative fiction, has a ring of truth. Jared's journey occurs because he is forced out of his insular rich kid kingdom to a strange wild place where he must confront evil. He must rise to the challenge. If he gives in, he and Kyle will both die. We share his experience as he pushes past his boundaries, and struggles to survive.

I especially like how Karen Bass captures the voice and personalities of two boys who are polar opposites. Not only does the story show how they come together, it also shows how, in many ways, the boys are not as dissimilar as they believe. Jared has both of his parents, though he is essentially so apart from them he might as well be an orphan; and while Kyle has only his grandparents, he is so deeply steeped in his culture, he knows his place in the universe in a way few people do. The setting is rustic; the boys' relationship is dynamic; and the monstrosity hunting them is quite as terrifying as any creature out of a horror movie. Gripping story.

bookcover: 
Author: 
John Gaiserich
Publisher: 
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: 
Fiction: 
Rating: 
8
ISBN/ASIN: 

978-1517528638

Description of Sales Url: 
Purchase from Amazon
Review: 

The Prelapsarians paints a portrait of a devastating future. The eruption of the Yellowstone super-volcano sets into motion a series of events that reduces mankind to a primitive and violent existence. These types of books work best if the journey from here to there is a plausible one. The author has to sell us on the new reality. I'm happy to say that that's precisely what John Gaiserish did.

I usually start reviews talking about characters, but I'm going to break that tradition and instead talk about the setting. Set in the south of Russia, the world is rich. It's alive. It's described in fantastic detail, with all the information you need not only to bring the world to life, but also to place events in historical context. This isn't easy to do, particularly to someone like me, who usually focuses on characters and action. However, the descriptions of places and events captivated me, bringing every vista into sharp relief.

The narrative follows a group of men who were soldiers of fortune before the disaster. When the super-volcano blew, they happened to be in Russia and had no way of getting back. They were well suited to survival in their new situation, and spent the early years learning how to survive even better. The book takes place many years after the eruption, in a world where powerful Oligarchs rule through force of arms, while smaller groups, like the main characters, try to eek out a meager existence in the ever-growing shadow of those more powerful, better armed, and better provisioned.

Many of the conversations between characters talk about religion, philosophy, and morality, though The Prelapsarians doesn't come off as preachy, nor does it try to get you to pick sides. But seeing how personal beliefs change (or sometimes don't change) is one of the more interesting takeaways from this book. These conversations gave me not only deeper insight into the characters themselves, but also insight into the real the world as well.

If you like rich, detailed dystopian fiction The Prelapsarians is a good choice. However, if you're put off by extreme graphic violence, or extreme profanity, this book will take you well out of your comfort zone.

bookcover: 
Cover of Mario: Coming of age
Author: 
George Hatcher
Series: 
Ambulance Chaser
Publisher: 
Casa Hatcher Press
Genre: 
Fiction: 
Rating: 
9
Description of Sales Url: 
Purchase from Amazon
Review: 

Hatcher has a style all his own. In this book, Mario Coming Of Age, the author introduces us to ten year old Mario and his life in East Los Angeles. The story is a slow build, taking us to all the ins and outs of Mario and his everyday struggles to survive in his hard-beaten neighborhood.

Mario’s life is no bed of roses; he and his friends scrap for every morsel, and only the love of his aunt keeps him going. I found the journey a bit tedious at times, but in the end I had to conclude, the way the author approached the story gave me an opportunity to get to know Mario and his immediate circle of friends, almost intimately.

This is a story of love, responsibility, jealousy and finally, revenge that unfolds as the years fly by. We see the times change irrevocably, as do Mario’s good fortunes. Yet one thing stays the same—Mario’s determination to better his aunt’s lot in life. Everything he does is to provide for his aunt. He is obsessed with making her life better. The author’s style is as conversational as barber parlor gossip. His main characters ring true in their environment, and while one is empathetically human, the others may be hard to like, but impossible to forget.

bookcover: 
Jack Strong bookcover
Author: 
Walter Mosley
Publisher: 
Open Road Integrated Media
Genre: 
SpeculativeFiction: 
Rating: 
7
ISBN/ASIN: 

9781480489141

Description of Sales Url: 
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Review: 

Dating back from when I was in college and had to read Devil in a Blue Dress to compare it to the movie of the same name, I have been a Walter Mosley fan; that’s been a long time I’ve had to read a lot of the Easy Williams series. The curious novella,Jack Strong,is the first work of Mosley’s that I’ve read that was speculative fiction. The point of view character, Jack Strong, is no ordinary man, but is not only physically compiled of the bits and pieces of a number of people, but mentally composed of their unbearable intimacies, the things they knew (while they were alive), the secrets of the dead, and sometimes their hidden impulses. With this chaos in Jack’s head, he wakes in a Vegas Hotel room. We find later he had been taken there by a doctor and nurse.

Reading the character of Jack Strong is an experience that must be like living as Tara, in the United States of Tara, or inside the head of Shirley Ardell Mason, the woman about whom the book Sybil was written. Jack Strong is, as he puts it, “schizophrenic with side orders of multiple personality and delusions,” except that the memories he has are also reflected in his patchwork body. The book is written in first person, but that first person fluctuates between Jack and whichever of the personalities needs to be on stage.

The premise is an ambitious one, and plays out a somewhat obtuse pulp fiction plot. If I had a criticism, it would be that the story begins “in media res” to the point that it is a struggle to figure out what—and who—is going on. The questions come in cascades: whose memories are these? why is he going to the casino? Why did he kill these thugs? Why is this character made up of other people? The answers are in trickles. Tom Grog, representative of the Convocation, could provide explanations, but he says only that Jack is “the phoenix” and Grog is only there to witness Jack’s “rebirth and transformation,” and only leads to more madding questions. While Jack Strong lacks the ring of meticulous truth of Easy William’s voice, he is a character who is strong and in control, almost the template of a dissociative X-Man lead woven of strange twists. Mr. Mosley, I feel compelled to ask, where is the rest of the story?

bookcover: 
Woman in Jeopardy Bookcover
Author: 
George Hatcher
Series: 
Ambulance Chaser
Publisher: 
CasaHatcherPress
Genre: 
Action-Adventure: 
Rating: 
10
ISBN/ASIN: 

978-0-9965927-1-0

Description of Sales Url: 
Purchase from Amazon Kindle store, Itunes or any brick and mortar bookstore
Review: 

Hatcher is a gifted writer and this is clearly obvious in his book, Woman In Jeopardy.

The author plot moves with a smooth pace while pouring on enough suspense to keep the reader turning the pages to find out what happens next. The dialogue is realistic, and the diabolical mindset of Francisco, the key player, and Carmen, the underdog were vividly portrayed with Hatcher's ability to create sympathetic characters that raises this novel to the next level. Although not all of the personalities are given equal treatment or enough stage time to become fully developed, those that are such as Elena, Manuela, Milton and his sister Delores, prove that the author has the skills necessary to craft a story with protagonists the audience can like, hate and relate to.

In addition, Hatcher obvious yet never heavy-handed messages about the strength of Carmen’s love for her sister, that she sacrificed herself to protect her, and in the end, did what was necessary to revenge her death, without a second thought, give the novel added depth. Overall, it is a book that grips you and doesn't let go until the last page has been turned.

bookcover: 
Author: 
Lanie Kinkaid
Publisher: 
Griffyn Ink
Genre: 
Rating: 
8
ISBN/ASIN: 

9780983587743

Description of Sales Url: 
out of print: see used
Review: 

America has no King. Our founding father's insured us that, and hopefully we will remain "unkinged" and our constitution will hold out. But it's a fact of our times that, politics notwithstanding, celebrity is king. We might even take it one step farther: Rock is King. From the sixties on, hordes of screaming fans have been falling in and out of obsession with the rock star of the moment, and there are even some who hold their own long after any fifteen minutes of fame has long since evaporated. And as much as music consumers feel that someone becomes an overnight star, such a thing is never overnight. Before the moment when John Q Public realizes the person on the stage, at the mike, on the television, on the screen, on the radio, in the youtube, in the itunes library has a gift, that entertainer has spent long hours, months, years, sometimes decades developing what may be a flash in the pan, or G-d's own gift. It is something fans do not consider: that behind every gifted artist is a boatload of time spent developing that gift. So when a writer chooses to write the story of a rock wannabe from the point of view in the trenches rather than from the audience, it is an angle that feels new to us. And yet not completely new, because of how many fans are themselves frustrated artists who had some talent and some dreams and either gave up before their time, didn't have the grit or talent, or maybe just didn't have the Kelsey to do it.

Yes, Kelsey. Every artist needs a Kelsey. I'm referring to Kelsey Conklin, the protagonist of Lanie Kincaid'sKelsey's Song. I may have picked up this book thinking that Kelsey was going to be a Susan Boyle; but I soon figured out that Kelsey, having grown up as the only sensible manager in an exceptionally dysfunctional home, has an entirely different talent from singing. She has a gift for management. And her new neighbor, JD Hewlitt, the scruffy guy with band pipe dreams, needs some of that management to rub off on him and his daughter Andie.

JD is new to parenting, and has come into his daughter in much the same way as Diane Keaton's character in Baby Boom: from out of the blue. JD's new daughter a is six year old handful who is completely out of control and does not want anything to do with a father. It is sheer luck and proximity that bring together JD and Kelsey, in the same way that two distinct drops of water touch, and suddenly they're just one bigger drop, and there's no demarkation where the lines might have once been drawn.

Everything about this story rings true. Proximity brings together couples (yes, I read somewhere that a high percentage of weddings occur just because people live near each other). Yet the success of their relationship has a lot to do with what lies beneath the surface. Both JD and Kelsey are icebergs, with most of their secret past underwater. With buried secrets to negotiate, JD and Kelsey are both off on life quests that are completely different in nature in ways that would simply not intersect—except that in the process of solving a multitude of life-problems for each other, and developing a friendship, they manage to fall in love AND solve each other's problems.

Why does it work? Because the characters are so complete. JD and Kelsey live on the page, and beyond the page. They are not cookie cutter characters, but have lives that are bigger and grittier in dimension than those of most characters in simple romance. This book is a little charmer, even if you haven't dreamed of being the girl "with the band," whether or not you worship music and bands (but might be even more fun if you do.) Kelsey's Songwas an enjoyable read which I heartily recommend.