I borrowed this book from my Public Library.
2011 by University of Nevada Press
ISBN 0874178576 (ISBN13: 9780874178579)
This novella is set in the 1840s at the end of the Second Seminole War, and details the great American dream of all pioneers who settled the western lands. But these are black pioneers. Black-Seminole: Tru, free-born in the Everglades and recently orphaned; his two younger siblings, Toby and Kate and his teenage Calusa wife, Tall Deer.
These stalwart, industrious folk have been driven West and are caught up in politics and expansion in Indian Territory. They strive and survive in what we think of as the "American Way" even when they aren't recognized as Americans--or Seminoles--or free. Yet they persist.
One of my favorite entertainments is watching soccer. Through my trusty satellite dish I follow the English Premier League (EPL), Italian Serie A, watch a few Mexican league games, and this time of year I'm a faithful follower of the North American, Major League Soccer (MLS).
At the beginning of the season, I was watching/listening to an MLS Houston Dynamo game. At the beginning of the game, I wasn't in the room with the TV and kept hearing the commentator talking about Tally Ho. I realized he was referring to the goalkeeper. Tally Ho? When I viewed the game, I learned the player's name is Tally Hall. I still got a chuckle from my mis-hearing, and once when I watched a Dynamo game on a Mexican channel, their commentators seemed to find the name Tally Hall (ho) amusing, too. (Mr. Hall is an excellent keeper with an impressive shutout record)
I started thinking of when I might give a character a name like this--one that the reader might misread, or get a sound image that could be amusing or disruptive. I think if I described a fairly unimposing character near the beginning of a piece but knew he would be important later on (say, page 98 and on), giving him a name with impact could be helpful. Readers would be more likely to remember a name such as Tally Hall than they would Ron Smith.
A few weeks ago I was again watching a Dynamo game, still aware of my reaction to the goalkeeper's name. They were playing the Chicago Fire, and that team made a substitution. Hunter, was the name on the new player's jersey. Then information came up about the young man…His first name is Hunter. Hunter Jumper?
Okay. Tally [Ho] Hall and Hunter Jumper in the same game.
I snickered and laughed about Hunter Jumper (the name, not the player). It's akin to Kandy Caine, Slim Pickens, or River Banks. Almost too humorous without having a purpose--in fiction especially. Of the books I've read where this play with names occurs, I usually start thinking the authors have rather inflated senses of self as they assume their wit is topnotch and universal. I also found myself distracted from the story.
Would I ever tag any of my characters like this? Maybe. A minor character with this type of impact name could be used to show personality traits of the story's more central characters: the protagonist could be polite and nonjudgmental; another character could react by being subtle and snide, asking, "Do you raise foxhounds?"; or the gregarious, no-tact person would say "I can't believe your parents did that to you!"
Too much of this, unless I were writing satire or attempting humor (neither of which I do), could appear I was making fun of my characters--or I that take myself too seriously. I'd definitely try not to be too clever.
Which brings to mind another soccer player...this one from the EPL Manchester United team...with a neat name, Tom Cleverly.
This book was loaned to me by a friend.
I enjoyed reading Pioneer Doctor: The Story of a Woman's Work. It was refreshing to see the struggles and accomplishments of a western woman, when so many biographies (and fiction) focus on the men of the West. Often the woman is the "supportive wife" the "hardworking sod-buster" and while those have always been necessary to the growing, 18th Century society, I like reading about a professional woman who succeeded in harsh social conditions.
Mari Graña has set down the a biographical story of her grandmother, Mary Babcock Atwater, who carved out opportunity in the frontier west. It begins at the end of the 19th century, during an era in women's history when those with strong will and positive thinking made a difference for the rest of us.From Book Page:
When Mollie Babcock stepped off the train in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1890, she knew she had to start a new life. She'd left her husband and their medical practice in Iowa, and with only a few hundred dollars in her pocket and a great deal of pride, she set out to find a new position as a physician. Due largely to the fact that the mine owner's young wife was expecting their first child, she took a job as doctor to the miners at Bannack, Montana, and thus began her epic adventures in the Rocky Mountain West.
Using a narrative style, Graña portrays of Dr. Babcock's emotional problems of dealing with a divorce and trying to make her way in the male-dominated medical profession. Graña gives good pictures of both Mormon-dominated Salt Lake City, and the mining towns. She paints a vivid picture of both the harsh mountain environments and lifestyles of the times. She shows how Dr. Babcock dealt with not only the medical problems in the mining camps, but also tackled issues such as domestic violence and sanitary worries.
Through this book, I was enlightened about some of the circumstances of the mining areas--several of which are near where I live. There were a few places where the exposition of her situation seemed a bit long, but overall, I found this a well-written and fascinating story about a person who should be considered a true hero of the West.
Mari Graña is a freelance writer an editor in Santa Fe. Her book, Begoso Cabin, a regional history of New Mexico, won the Willa Cather Award (from Women Writing the West) in 2000 and the Southwest Writers Award in 1997.
I like a good mystery, and Shirley Wells's title, Silent Witness had some extra perks, too. I downloaded it to my Kindle after reading a blurb about it. At first I thought the book would be related to the BBC TV show of the same name, but it's quite different.
From the book page:
After his ex-wife bled to death in a bathtub covered in his fingerprints, the case against Aleksander Kaminski seemed open and shut. Though sentenced to life in prison, he swears he's innocent, a claim supported by his current wife.
Private investigator Dylan Scott finds himself drawn back to dreary Lancashire in a search for justice. The evidence against Kaminski is damning, but having been unjustly jailed himself, Dylan is compelled to pursue the case; if there's even a small chance the man is innocent, he has to help. The other obvious suspect--the victim's second husband--has a watertight alibi. But Dylan has a strong hunch that as usual, there's more going on than meets the eye in Dawson's Clough.
The deeper Dylan digs, the more secrets he unearths. The question remains: If Kaminski didn't murder his childhood sweetheart, who did?
Plenty of twists and turns in the story line, and Dylan Scott is a great character to lead the reader along the curvy path. This is the third mystery featuring this protagonist. I hadn't read the previous stories, but had no problem knowing him. The good characterization continues with the people who populate this interesting story.
I especially like that Dylan has a good relationship with his family. A few problems between him and his wife, yes, but it was evident they would work them out. The couple also has a teenage son, and it was refreshing to find him easy-going, not rebellious, and supportive of his family and the new baby girl in their midst....Yea!
This family interaction, as much as I approved, didn't distract me from the mystery of who killed Kaminski's wife. His parents believe he's innocent, and they have hired Dylan. Kaminski's wife is devastated by her husband's incarceration. She runs an canine rescue facility; the veterinarian who treats the many animals is very protective of her. Dylan's prison interview with Kaminski doesn't clear up much, in fact it adds more mystery to the mystery.
Several times I thought I had this solved, only to have my idea quashed by new (and logical) information. In all, Silent Witness was very enjoyable, with characters I will be glad to read more about.
I found Beyond Boundaries at my Public Library. A well written book about the fascinating subject of neuroscience. Since all of my own Science Fiction titles have "brain anomalies" as standard for most of my characters, I am drawn to neuroscience books. I especially appreciated the analogies used by Duke University neuroscientist/author Miguel Nicolelis: music and futbol (soccer)--two of my passions. I think that helped the book resonate well with me. Historical information about the neuroscience through several centuries was quite interesting, as well as the current different camps of approach to research.
The overall book explains and verifies the ability of the brain to interface with non-biological entities. The publisher's info on the book page states: "Imagine living in a world where people use their computers, drive their cars, and communicate with one another simply by thinking....His lab is now paving the way for a new treatment for Parkinson's, silk-thin exoskeletons to grant mobility to the paralyzed, and breathtaking leaps in space exploration, global communication, manufacturing, and more."
Beyond Boundaries was published in print in 2011, and is now available electronically. I'm wondering if the new edition will contain updates on some of the original books predictions. In the last chapters of the books, Nicolelis had speculated on where all the research was now headed. And already many of his hopes and projected uses for brain-machine interfaces have come to be. New organizations are springing up to advance this, too. Interesting concepts that have me anticipating breakthroughs in medical applications--and sooner than later.
Beyond Boundaries is a good introduction to this future potential for our brains.
I downloaded Jeremy Robinson's Antarktos Rising (Origins Saga, Book 4) after reading a clip about it on Indie Snippets. I guess the story could be called dystopian, since the Earth has suffered a massive change. The change is environmental, not sociopolitical. But something else is occurring that promises more devastation.
From the book page:
A phenomenon known as crustal displacement shifts the Earth's crust, repositioning continents and causing countless deaths. In the wake of the global catastrophe, the world struggles to take care of its displaced billions. But Antarctica, freshly thawed and blooming, has emerged as a new hope. Rather than wage a world war no nation can endure, the leading nations devise a competition, a race to the center of Antarctica, with the three victors dividing the continent.
It is within this race that Mirabelle Whitney, one of the few surviving experts on the continent, grouped with an American special forces unit, finds herself. But the dangers awaiting the team are far worse than feared; beyond the sour history of a torn family, beyond the nefarious intentions of their human enemies, beyond the ancient creatures reborn through anhydrobiosis—there are the Nephilim.
Very well written, this is the electronic version of a 2007 title. I am writing this book review several weeks after finishing the book, and I vividly remember all the characters—their personalities and importance in the story. I was a bit bothered by the red herrings thrown out about Mirabelle's background. In some ways her parentage and marriage, while vehicles in the emotional story, could have been set upfront, rather than making them mysteries.
The story itself has action, emotional drama, environmental conundrums. Each are presented with convincing realism, even if drawn out a bit. And The Nephilim...Regardless of my beliefs on this, the circumstances were well written. Very visual.
I could have been happy with a bit less melodrama, but overall, Antarktos Rising was a satisfying read.
I downloaded Michael Wallace's book, Mighty and Strong after reading a blurb about it. The subject was something I knew little about, and the mystery involved intrigued me.From the book page:
Son of a polygamist leader, Jacob Christianson is approached by the FBI to infiltrate a millennialist cult similar to his own church. [The FBI] lost an agent, tasked to penetrate the cult and investigate a plot to kill a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate. The agent is no longer communicating, and they fear she's either dead or a hostage.
This is a sequel to Wallace's thriller The Righteous, Mighty and Strong. I haven't read that one, but it isn't a prerequisite to appreciating this book. The characters are well defined and distinctive. The writing is very good, especially the action scenes. I have read a few other titles that deal with polygamist cults, but they have been from the point-of-view of outsiders--and generally written by authors that eschew the practice of polygamy. Hence, I found this story enlightening as well as interesting.
Mighty and Strong provided a mystery that went beyond the missing FBI agent, as a girl from the cult is found murdered...Add to this a lot of emotional intrigue, and this is a book that I won't soon forget.
What fun! I really enjoyed S.H. Hughes' book Hotel Carousel. Science Fiction mystery, with sometimes kitschy humor. Neat. I downloaded it after reading an overview on an online site.From the book page:
Janski Fox had a plan. Buy gold Armani Wellingtons on her credit card. Obtain a refund. Now she's over 24,000,000,000,000 miles from home irradiating drain hair to repay the debt. When a chewing gum failure destroys the ship taking Janski to join a mineral ore mining team, what's left crashes at the Hotel Carousel, where a non-paying guest soon realises Janski is the perfect mouthpiece to help it confess its crimes--hopefully she won't die like the others did! As well as staying alive, Janski must prove she's not a jewel thief, outwit a bunch of Psi officers wishing to excavate her mind, convince a mad professor that scooping out her brain isn't such a good idea and save Muse, a royal fugitive who has the genetic hots for her. And then there are the manoeuvring tests... Hotel Carousel: All Aliens Welcome!
I finished this book several weeks ago, and due to myriad complications just got a chance to write the review. I didn't have to go back to the book to find names, situations, etc., because I remembered them all. A sign I enjoyed the book.
The omniscient narrator keeps the story from getting out of hand, and also inserts these great descriptions of the "guests" at Hotel Carousel. They're all from somewhere else, and since Janski is totally out of this galaxy--very few of them (except Muse) resemble anything she knows. But this telling about aliens doesn't get overdone. It's applied skillfully and when needed.
All the characters were distinguishable not just by their quirky alienness, but with distinct personalities that played throughout the book. The several mystery elements were straightforward, which is important in a book with so many peculiar characteristics. Along with sleuthing to save her job (and her life) Janski is involved in action scenes that are believable and well portrayed.
Hotel Caoursel is witty, well written and a fun read.
The Royal Wulff Murders: A Novel is a well-written story with great descriptions and sense of place. The mystery involves fly fishing, and for outdoor enthusiasts, there's a lot here to enjoy.From Publisher:
"When a fishing guide reels in the body of a young man on the Madison, the Holy Grail of Montana trout rivers, Sheriff Martha Ettinger suspects foul play. It's not just the stick jammed into the man's eye that draws her attention; it's the Royal Wulff trout fly stuck in his bloated lower lip. Following her instincts, Ettinger soon finds herself crossing paths with Montana newcomer Sean Stranahan.
Fly fisher, painter, and has-been private detective, Stranahan left a failed marriage and lackluster career to drive to Montana, where he lives in an art studio decorated with fly-tying feathers and mouse droppings. With more luck catching fish than clients, Stranahan is completely captivated when Southern siren Velvet Lafayette walks into his life, intent on hiring his services to find her missing brother. The clues lead Stranahan and Ettinger back to Montana's Big Business: fly fishing. Where there's money, there's bound to be crime."
Through the course of this mystery, author Keith McCafferty (a name you might know if you read Field and Stream magazine) provides interesting facts on fly fishing and the whirling disease that infects trout in many Western waterways. He also has integrated details of tracking, and types of weapons—beyond rod and reel.
For me, the main protagonist, Sean Stranahan, could have been developed better. He often fades behind more dynamic characters. Perhaps that withdrawn/bland aspect is part of his character. Sheriff Martha Ettinger, however, is well developed, with personality coming through—strengths and weaknesses.
The character of Velvet LaFayette is too mysterious to be believable, and the fact that Sean becomes captivated by her seems to add to his blandness. I didn't find her as compelling as she is purported to be and read through her scenes wondering when I'd get back to the main story. Not that she isn't part of the main story. Velvet is the reason Sean became involved in the murder investigation, but she dominates more of the story than I thought necessary.
But then, I like mystery stories to have the mystery front-and-center. Although crime solving is a major part of The Royal Wulff Murders, overall it has too much Romance for me.
Other characters and their settings are dynamic and well presented, from fishing guide Sam, to tracker Harold Little Feather, and the rich summer fly-ins who populate the story and the Montana riverbanks.
There is a long monologue that ends the mystery. I had felt the story got overly complex at times, and here it seems as if McCafferty was writing his way out of corners. Then there are the wrap-ups, which, if the romances hadn't been so prominent, wouldn't have been needed.
Throughout, McCafferty presents very nice use of language that make the scenes spring to life, and the character of the Treasure State—Montana—come to the fore. I'm a Montanan. It rings true.
A FOUR star title, with reservations caused by my personal preferences. A good outdoors mystery.
The Blasphemer is a very well crafted, Espionage/Political Thriller. The writing is good with an interesting storyline that the author, John Ling, calls "faction" in that it has so much based on facts from current events. He gives the connections in the Author's Notes and essays at the end of the book. These facts are were informative, and he worked them into the story efficiently and believably.From the book page:
When Abraham Khan releases an e-book condemning radical Islam, the consequences hit him fast and hard--an armed fanatic smashes into his home one evening, trying to kill him. He survives the harrowing attempt. Just barely. But will he survive the next one?
Maya Raines is the security operator brought in to protect Abraham. She is tough and committed. The very best at what she does. Always one step ahead of the threat.
But Abraham is no ordinary principal--he will not hide, and he will not stay silent. And as rage explodes on the streets and the nation is propelled to the brink, Maya will have to ask herself the hardest question of all: how far would you go to protect one man's right to speak?
I liked the characters. Maya, while exceptional at her defensive work, also has the empathy to understand people; yet she doesn't let it intrude on her duties. And she doesn't let her own fears and pains compromise her job. Maya and her mother, and another operative, Adam, are well-drawn and compelling.
So to are the various other characters, from the manipulative "Magellan" who plots to kill Abraham Khan, to the Muslim woman who gruesomely loses her life in a street riot.
Fast paced, with plenty of firefights as well as sleuthing, The Blasphemer is not one to miss.
I downloaded the Kindle edition of L.J. Sellers' The Gauntlet Assassin after reading about it at an online book site. Mysteries always attract me, and this title combined mystery with another of my favorite genres--speculative fiction, in that the story takes place a few years in the future.From book page:
The year is 2023 and ex-detective Lara Evans is working as a freelance paramedic in a bleak new world. She responds to an emergency call and is nearly killed when a shooter flees the home. Inside she finds the federal employment commissioner wounded, but she's able to save his life. The next day Lara leaves for the Gauntlet—a national competition of intense physical and mental challenges with high stakes for her home state. She spots the assailant lurking at the arena and soon after, she lands in deep trouble. Who is the mysterious killer and what is motivating him? Can Lara stop him, stay alive, and win the Gauntlet?
Lara Evans is a good character; we see her tough side, as well as her inner worries and fears. Her altruistic need to win the Gauntlet competition seemed a bit overdone, however—sort of Joan of Arc-ish. But her other strengths (physical and mental) kept me engaged.
Sellers did a good job of giving backstory and slowly merging it into Lara's side of the tale. I had no doubt it was all important, even if a bit obvious. An unexpected turn at the very end was a good touch.
The slightly-dystopian view of the future world was predictable—today's grievances extended and becoming global actuality. The government-adopted Reality show method of awarding grant money to states was an interesting twist that could have had more play. I kept wondering what other "events" were launched for other money distributions.
L.J. Sellers writes a well-paced story, with action and decent character depth. The Gauntlet Assassin adds to her collection of interesting novels. It's available in print and electronic editions.
A few weeks ago, author Joel Goldman offered the Kindle edition of The Dead Man (Jack Davis Thrillers) for free and I grabbed a copy, hoping for a good mystery. I didn't let the "thriller" tag deter me (I often avoid thrillers) and read through the grisly prologue with growing interest.
Here's the story overview from the GoodReads book page (the Amazon page was filled with hype, and not much about the actual story):
Milo Harper wants former FBI agent Jack Davis' help. People in Harper's study of the human brain are starting to die--and dying exactly in the very ways they have dreamed...Harper wants Jack to get to the truth and counter lawsuits aimed at the foundation. But when Jack investigates, the truth explodes: a serial killer is lurking inside one of the most advanced research facilities in the world. For Jack, the case will shatter illusions, raise ghosts, and take him onto both sides of the law--and into the path of a murderer's terrifying rage...
This is the second of the Jack Davis Thrillers, but I wasn't too lost on Jack's life without having read the first. Goldman put in backstory when his protagonist was triggered to memories. At first, when this happened during a fairly active scene, it seemed intrusive, but I got used to the style.
All the characters were well-drawn and believable; the "thriller" aspects (blood, gore, graphic violence) wasn't too much to bear, and the story resolutions were effective. That's resolutions--plural--because protagonist Jack Davis has relationship issues to deal with, as well as his odd health condition, and his forced retirement from the FBI.
A lot going on, here. Most was handled well, although the ventures into the points of view of other characters didn't seem necessary, and a few scenes really gave away too much. But then, from the cover and the prologue, I had determined the perp early on. I read along, learning more about Jack and wondering when he would pickup on the clues.
In all, since it had few editing and formatting glitches, The Dead Man was a satisfactory read from a competent writer.Joel Goldman at Goodreads
I read a lot of Science Fiction, but dystopian stories aren't usually the ones I choose. I often find them a bit overwhelming with their dismal view of the future. Of course, that's what dystopian stories are about, but many of them focus more on this wrecked and depressing future than on the characters. I like a character-driven story. The titles I've read that give me the characters I can care about have been by Octavia Butler and Paolo Bacigalupi. I'm sure more authors would meet my criteria, but I haven't found them...until now. I've added Juilianna Baggott to this list.From the Goodreads book page:
"Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost--how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers...to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small.
This overview of Pure snagged my attention, and the character of Pressia pulled me in to her story of surviving a fractured and disturbing world, where odd wraiths can attack from underground, where finding food and water is a hopeful consideration, and where deformities are the norm...deformities such as Pressia's where the doll she was holding when Detonations happened is now permanently fused to her hand. Her physical change is nothing compared to other people. Her grandfather has a fan lodged in his throat that whirrs as he breathes. Her friend, Bradwell, has birds embedded on his back—still alive and living through him. Everyone has some odd alteration...Except for the Pures
The Pures have become nearly mythical, even though everyone can look up to where they live in a massive hermetically-sealed Dome. That thriving mini city is home to people without deformities, without starvation and attacks by Groupies (a multi-fused people gang). A place some wish they could get to, while other want it destroyed.
When Pressia meets the Pure, Partridge, who was driven out of the Dome by his need to find his mother, she learns new things about herself and the blasted world around her. How she assimilates her new knowledge is deftly told. Her emotions, often conflicting, about Pures and the Before, are realistic and heart-wrenching. Partridge, too, is a fascinating character. Through him and another Pure, Lyda, life within the Dome is presented not just as a camera-view of this future place, but with the emotional needs of the characters.
Baggott is noted for her excellent YA fiction, and while the major characters of Pure are in their youth, the story and writing offer excellence for anyone. Although I noted a few plot line conundrums, I won't mention them because 1) they were small and would also be Spoilers, and 2) I was reading an ARC--these aspects in the final book might be different.
Without reservation, I recommended Pure as a fascinating, well written story. It's also the first book in a series. I look forward to the next.