Sunday, December 29, 2013

Have Wormhole, Will Travel - Review

Tony McFadden’s speculative fiction story, Have Wormhole, Will Travel, is set in Australia and the descriptions of Sydney and the bay are nicely done. The story starts with a woman, Sabrina, certain that she has identified vampires. She is actually seeing two aliens--Callum, and Jacob. They (and many other aliens) have been hanging around Earth for more than 400 years. Sabrina enlists her friend, Mandy, into her attempt to prove these two men are vampires. Sabrina also mentions her beliefs to another friend, Jackie.

Along with the young women who are pursuing Callum and Jacob to see if they are vampires, there is the element of potential Earth destruction. It seems that Callum and Jacob are from a distant planet where the civilization monitors other sentient worlds, looking for advancement that could become a threat to their own planet and culture. When Callum reports that scientist Sam Sheppard is close to developing wormhole travel, his superiors decide that the sentients on Earth must be eliminated. (Sam Sheppard's sort-of girlfriend is, conveniently, Jackie.) Callum doesn’t like the decision to wipe out Earth’s humans, and tries to sabotage the scientist’s work.

There are some funny bits in this story and the characters of Sabrina, Jackie and Mandy are well developed. Callum and Jacob are indistinguishable until the last third of the book. The science presented is done in an articulate manner, but I don't know enough about string theory and wormholes to be able to say if any of it was sufficiently and scientifically accurate--even on a speculative level. Maybe that doesn't matter.

The third person presentation works well, especially to give the actions and reactions of the many characters. In all, Have Wormhole, Will Travel is an upbeat read, although I found much of the story a bit glib.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kauai Temptations - Review

Kauai Temptations: A McKenna Mystery
Terry Ambrose © 2013

I downloaded the eBook from the “Read Now” section of NetGalley.

Protagonist Wilson McKenna is the victim of identity theft, and he’s furious. A retired skip-trace professional, he returns from a mainland visit to his Hawaii home to find overdrafts on his bank account. He admits to his banker that he gullibly had given his social security number to a person on the phone. (I expected credit card fraud and other ramifications from this, but they never came). A box of new checks had been stolen from his postal box, and on the island of Kauai, expensive purchases were being made. McKenna heads to Kauai to find the perp.

One reason the book caught my attention was the Hawaii setting. I’ve never been there (never plan to go), but books in that setting usually offer a touch of the exotic. This one didn’t, and I was amused to be caught up in the urban workings of this little island rather than the expected descriptions of lush scenery, marvelous beaches, craggy clefts... Author Ambrose has references to those things, but gave greater detail to the weird traffic patterns, strip mall layout, and abundance of coffee bistros. It was all a bit refreshing, and nicely done.

As for the story, Ambrose gets protagonist McKenna tracking leads on a very serious crime setup. McKenna will not back off from the investigation, even at the insistence of local law enforcement. His tenacity nearly gets him killed, but solves the case.

For me, the first-person presentation was well done, with witty moments, middle-age anxieties and pompous renderings that made Wilson McKenna very real. Secondary characters (including a car) were also good.

This is the second book in the McKenna mystery series. Possibly more to come. Light and fun reading. I’ll look for them.

Learn more about the author at his Web site.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chinese Whiskers: A Novel - Review

Chinese Whiskers: A Novel
Pallavi Aiyar
2012 by St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1250014484 (ISBN13: 9781250014481)

I borrowed this book from my Public Library.

Cover art and illustrations for Pallavi Aiyar’s Chinese Whiskers are quite lovely, and those are what got me to check out the book. And I read it...all the way through...even though the characters are cats. I’ve had cats living with me, and dogs, and gerbils and horses. I truly enjoy the company and antics of my four-footed friends. But I'm not fond of animal personification, and this book is no exception.

I appreciate the study presented of Chinese society, with political and economic upheavals; the writing and story development are all good. But when the cats were commenting and offering opinions on this....Really? Many scenes have these felines responding in a typical catty way, but in others, they are nearly erudite and display emotions on a level that I just couldn’t buy into: being intrigued about their family progenitors I found quite peculiar.

But I credit the author for her writing expertise, which had me reading to the end when I would have otherwise put the book down after the first few chapters. This is a well-written book, and if you don’t mind your major characters being domestic pets, then you’ll find it a good read.

Ms. Aiyar has written several books—without animal characters. Check out her Web site.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hard Ground: Woods Cop Stories - Review

Hard Ground: Woods Cop Stories
Joseph Heywood
May 2013 by Lyons Press
ISBN 0762794216 (ISBN13: 9780762794218)

I borrowed this book from my Public Library.

I find books of short stories both practical and mind-boggling. For me their practicality is in the brevity—something I can read when time is limited and I don’t want to get wound up in a long tome. The mind-boggling comes because I have no talent for writing short stories. When I find an author, such as Joseph Heywood, who can present depth of character, sense of place and a compelling story in fewer than 15,000 words, I’m awed.

Heywood has done this in Hard Ground: Woods Cop Stories. These stories depict the lives of Conservation and FWG officers. They are set in the UP of Michigan, a region Heywood knows quite well since it’s his home base for his writing, photography and outdoor enjoyment. Each story presents a different aspect of the jobs of game wardens and conservation officers. I liked the stories that are set many decades ago, as they give perspective on how the professions have changed with the times. The characters in each story (men, women, young, old) are very distinctive, and none of the stories seem repetitive, showing Heywood’s versatile writing.

I look forward to reading Heywood's WOODS COP books, and his historical novel Red Jacket.

Visit his Web site to see the variety of his activities. Really nice. Publishers Weekly has an interesting interview with Heywood. Read it here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

New eBooks


These are two covers of new e-books that have recently gone live. GITP created the covers for each, and also formatted the e-book layouts for Nook and Kindle.

I'm happy to welcome indie author Joe Pfeiler to the GITP family.
Also the acclaimed author, Patricia Nell Warren and her company, Wild Cat Press International. Read a recent interview with Warren here.

Visit their websites to learn more about them and their interesting titles.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Publishng Mergers & DNA Books

1. Lots of (bad?) news and possibly more monopolies. Shelf Awareness (SA) reported on the consolidation of American publishers into one mega company. This on the heels of approval of recent mergers by many international governments and the U.S.

2. The same SA issue had an article about DNA-books. Huh? Yes. Books to be injected into the need to read. Weird Science, but now an actuality. Don't dash off to get injected. It's still a speculative and new science, but think of the possibilities?

More information on this can be found in this MIT article.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Birmingham Revisited

I received a galley of Rosalie Turner's March with Me from her publicist who knew my interest in history.

March With Me
© 2013 Rosalie T. Turner
Cypress Creek Publishing
ISBN 978-0-979237553
~ 215 pages

The story and timeframe of March with Me could be called near history. It starts in 1963, 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Fifty years ago in May 1963 the city of Birmingham, Alabama became a focal point in the ongoing Civil Rights Movement. The Movement hoped to implement what were merely words on legislative papers into realities for the hundreds of thousand United States citizens who were still without equal rights. This is near history, because many of the people who were involved in the events, so meaningfully described by Turner, are still living.

Yet in the U.S., most people younger than sixty years old, no matter their ethnicity, are sorely lacking in knowledge of this pivotal time. Blacks and whites less than thirty years old quite often take for granted the social structures of today (still flawed, but immensely improved over 1963) without an inkling of what it took to reach this state. Rosalie Turner's book March with Me is a fine attempt to open eyes and minds to the realities.

Through the thoughts and activities of two Birmingham residents, the story begins in that volatile May of '63 and extends into the 1970s to show the long-term emotional affects of the Civil Rights Movement. Turner's writing is fluid and the language well thought out to portray the vitality, despair and hope of the times. The main protagonist is Letitia, idealistic and naive, as she becomes involved in the historic Children's March. She and her older brother are eager for confrontation, while their parents and most adults are fearful of repercussions from any overt action against white authority. At this time, bombings of black facilities—particularly churches--and lynchings of black citizens were still facts of life in Alabama.

While Letitia gets battered by fire hosing and the Birmingham Police riot squad, Martha Ann, her white, privileged contemporary, hears the news and wonders what it is all about. Her family doesn't live in the city, her father is a bigot, her mother doesn't work and has hired help...Letitia's mother who does day work for this family several times each week.

The aftermath of the Children's March, compounded by the 16th St. Baptist Church bombing a few months later in which four girls were killed, garnered national and international support for the Movement. But author Turner doesn't delve the politics; she continues her focus on the emotional element of the events: how Letitia's attitude changes, how Martha Ann harbors questions, how families proceed with their lives. This is one of many strengths of the book.

I would have liked more reaction from Letitia regarding the lackadaisical (unprofessional) medical care provided for her grandmother and most blacks. It is mentioned, but not explored in Letitia's thoughts. In the '50s and through the '70s, I was incensed by this discrimination, and I expected it to have more impact in this story than it did. I also wanted a bit more about Letitia's college years at a black institution; it is only mentioned in passing toward the end of the book. Likewise, I wanted to know Martha Ann's reasoning in her employment decisions; after showing the volatile reactions of her father in other parts of the book, I felt a lack of detail at this phase that could have expanded Martha Ann's character. It almost seemed as if Turner were rushing past these events to get to her very powerful ending.

For me, this 1975 ending to March with Me encompasses everything Rosalie Turner hoped to convey with this book. Letitia and Martha Ann are face-to-face and talk about those years gone by. To tell how it happens would be a spoiler, so I won't. :-) Suffice it to say the circumstance is dramatic and the interaction is poignant.

Of twelve Discussion Questions at the end of the book, I was particularly drawn to two: How do our attitudes toward race develop? and What can an individual do toward racial and ethnic understanding an reconciliation? These seem to be the questions that shaped Turner's story. They are profound and will be answered differently by nearly every person who takes time to contemplate them. After reading March with Me people will contemplate, and through Turner's insightful presentation, they just might come up with positive answers.

Rosalie Turner has published five previous books.
Turner and her husband have homes in Birmingham, Alabama and Angle Fire, New Mexico. Learn more about Turner and this title at her web site and her blog.

Historical information can be found at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Obliterated - Review

C.J. Hall has written an interesting story about a future apocalypse and surviving it. Set in the Southwest, Obliterated begins with a woman hearing noises and looking to downtown area and seeing a lot of destruction. The destruction is being caused by some otherworldly type vehicles in the air. She begins getting things together so that she can leave her house. She calls her husband and they take to the hills. The way they survive, trying to avoid the invaders as well as people who are panicking because of all the destruction, is extremely interesting and very well researched. The description of the hills and mountains where they take refuge is very believable.

I don't know that I would have as much common sense as was shown by the characters in this book. The subtitle, Would you know how to survive, is very apropos. I don't think most people would know how to proceed if their world was suddenly devastated and they were forced to live by their wiles.

The alien invasion was a good setup for this type of a story, but it could just as easily have been some horrible natural disaster, or political upheaval. By giving it the space invaders touch, Hall has managed to keep this from seeming like a extremists survival manual. Some of the information got a bit long but at the same time it was all very important, and is especially important if you are interested in knowing what to do under circumstances similar to these.

Characters were distinctive, although the dialogue often got lengthy. Generally well written.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Foxy' Tale - Review

My goodness a book about vampires.? Not something I would usually read. The word vampire was right there in the title but I bought the book anyway. Maybe it was the delightful cover design. At any rate, Karen Cantwell's Foxy's Tale: The Reluctant Vampire Book 1) Foxy Anders getting a new life together in the heart of DC was lively and really interesting. It had some really funny parts, too. Fortunately, for my reading tastes, they vampire part didn't show up until late in the book--actually that's not true, the vampires were hinted at from the very beginning but it was subtle and it didn't interfere with this story about Foxy.

Throughout the book there was a switching of point of view many times and that took some getting used to. Sometimes it seemed omniscient, but other times it was just a third person presentation. I'm rather picky on this type of thing, but I kept reading and got used to the style. Not only did we get Foxy's point of view, but that of her teenage daughter, Amanda, her two tenants, Myron Standish and Knot, and her daughter's boyfriend.

All of these characters were very interesting and sometimes whimsical. They were distinctive and well-written. Near the end of the story when the vampires showed upf or real, the action moved very swiftly--almost too swiftly. Because of this, the ending felt a bit rushed.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Chief – Review

I borrowed The Chief from my Public Library.

It is interesting to have read prolific sport writer Robert Lipsyte's book right now when I am actively following and have even participated in, Idle No More—the First People's protest that began in Canada. The Chief, ends up being about American Indian heritage and reservation discord, with the feature person involved being Sonny Bear, a young prizefighter who wants to try for the heavyweight title. The story is told in first person by his friend, an aspiring writer, Martin.

The story started off rather slowly with way too much information about boxing for my taste; but I guess knowing the ins-and-outs of that sport is important. The real story seems to be Sonny accepting his heritage, and trying to do something about the discontent on his reservation in upstate New York.

The writing was smooth, although I felt the story was a bit convoluted. I'm not sure how Lipsyte would have gone about making the story more focused on the Indian situation, and without doing that it seemed The Chief was a little disjointed: boxing, Indian rights, boxing… Even the title is misleading, since that moniker never gets used. It is suggested by Hollywood people who want to make a TV movie, but it is rejected by Sonny and Martin.

In all, I found the book interesting, even with what seemed to be indecision about the book's focus.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Abacus Protocol: Sanity Vacuum - Review

I received this book from the publisher through Net Galley.

I'm always interested in science fiction books especially those about future colonies and New World type things this was sort of that way in that it takes place in the 31st century when space colonies are nothing new. What is new for the protagonist is that she's getting a new job she's always been very interested in artificial intelligence and supercomputers. Our protagonist, Vivian Skye, is from a small colony planet that doesn't like the idea of supercomputers. In fact, Vivian's family has ostracized her because of her interest in her study at school into this realm of science. Now that Vivian has graduated, her first job is very exciting to her; she is going to be working and isolated Extra-Galactic Observatory with one of the original AI computers that is close to sentience. But of course no one wants any of the AI computers to be sentient. That's what the Abacus Protocol is all about--to make certain that the computers do not become sentient.

At the Observatory, there are two scientists and a tech who maintains all of the space mechanical equipment, and there is her boss, Bryce Zimmer who oversees it all. Vivian's job is to study the computer, do updates and basic maintenance to see that everything is working well. Unfortunately, she discovers that no maintenance has been done on the AI, whose name is quirk--that's, quIRK--, for nearly 12 years. Quirk has a personality all his own that Vivian likes. Work has even had cats brought onto the station because he feels they are good for the human mindset. It's also a fact that quIRK likes the cats. A hint at his near sentence.

Everything would be working fairly well if it weren't for the fact that Zimmer, her boss, has grandiose ideas about himself and the planet that he comes from which is an oligarchy and he is trying to get back to the top rung of the political heap. Not only is his planet and oligarchs setup based on old Earth Rome, but he's also a chauvinist. He sees Vivian as a threat. He manages to put a sub-routine in quIRK's programming that causes various accidents to Vivian. His neuroses become so great that it threatens the entire space station. During all this quIRK become sentiment.

The writing in this story was very good. I could picture each scene and imagine the space station and all people very well. I like stories that are visually pleasing through words. Thea Greg's background in physics and other sciences has made this story very believable. Character development was good, and Vivian Skye, is quite likable.

The download I received for my Kindle had some formatting problems: lost paragraphing between dialogue, run-on sentences, and such. This surprised me, since I follow the Curiosity Quills (the publisher) blog, where several articles have been posted about e-book presentation. I hope the formatting for the final product has been cleaned up.

I had a bit of trouble with the ending. It seemed a little too tidy and rushed. There were several things that didn't really add up to the detail that had been in other parts of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. This was subtitled, Sanity Vacuum, and I get the feeling there might be another ABACUS Protocol story in the works.

The ABACUS Protocol

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Publishers: Did You Know?

It's a well-known fact that most of the major publishing houses have consolidated and merged and rearranged themselves many times over. This has affected magazines as well as book publishers; many of the controlling holding companies are not in the U.S.

Simon & Schuster, is an exception. Founded in New York City in 1924, S&S is currently owned by CBS. Still headquartered in NYC, it is a bastion of fiction and nonfiction, producing more than 1000 titles a year from 35 different imprints, including Pocket Books, Scribner, Atria, Fireside, Touchstone, and Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Baen Books is a more recent stalwart of American publishing. It was founded in 1983 when a huge reorganization of Simon & Schuster was underway. S&S approached Jim Baen with an offer for him to head up the S&S science fiction line (Pocket Books division). Baen, however, had different plans. He obtained financial backing from some friends and proposed to start a new company named Baen Books. The deal was done and, at the beginning, Simon & Schuster handled the distribution.

Unfortunately, many of the book publishers we have taken for granted as being American-owned and run no longer hold that distinction.

  • Houghton Mifflin Company, founded in Boston in 1832, is now HMH (Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt), with the company having purchased Harcourt (formerly Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) in 2007. Several mergers and buyouts have ensued and HMH is now owned by Education Media and Publishing Group (EMPG), an international holding company registered in the Cayman Island. HMH is a leader in the educational publications marketplace. NOTE: Although primaries in EMPG are from Ireland, one of the major investors is Guggenheim Partners, a U.S. investment corporation.
  • Alfred A Knopf, Inc founded in 1915, was purchased by Random House in 1960. Random House also bought Doubleday, and now there's a KnopfDoubleday company under the RH umbrella. It's a publishing consortium of its own, with a half dozen or so imprints. Random House, Inc. has been owned since 1998 by the German mega-media company, Bertelsmann.
  • The Free Press was founded in 1947, became an imprint of Simon & Schuster, was sold in 1960 and merged into the Macmillan Publishing Company. Macmillian, founded in London, opened its first U.S. offices in 1969. It is now part of the large German holding company, Georg von Holtzbrinck. MacMillan's American publishers include Farrar Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt & Company, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Picador, Roaring Brook Press, St. Martin’s Press, Tor Books, and others.
The publisher umbrellas have a wide span, with most of the imprints belonging to three or four houses. Along with S&S, Random House, Harper-Collins, and Penguin Group (USA) produce the majority of books we see on commercial bookshelves across the country. Former independent companies have become imprints: Farrar Straus, Henry Holt, Little Brown; and some have vanished (Fawcett, Carol Graf, Arbor).

But there are plenty of small and Indie publishers. Check out the Wikipedia page to see the more than 500 companies that are competing with the big guys.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Words and Meanings

There are many whimsical lists around that give words with the same spelling and vastly different meanings. Most often those words are from different parts of speech--comparing a verb to a noun (wind up the clock vs. the wind blew hard).

But here are some nouns that are spelled the same and have different meanings. I pulled these randomly from Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh edition.
  • tender (n)
    1) an unconditional offer of money or service in satisfaction of a debt or obligation made to save a penalty of forfeiture for nonpayment or nonperformance.
    2) one that tends as a ship employed to attend other ships (e.g. to supply provisions).
  • barrow (n)
    1) a large mound of earth or stones over the remains of the dead.
    2) a male hog castrated before sexual maturity.
    3) a cart with a shallow box body, two wheels, and shafts for pushing it.
  • date (n)
    1) the oblong edible fruit of a palm
    2) the time at which an event occurs
  • gimlet (n)
    1) a small tool with a screw point, grooved shank, and cross handle for boring holes.
    2) a drink consisting of sweetened lime juice and gin or vodka and sometimes carbonated or plain water.
This list could get quite long, but I'm stopping with the word (second meaning) I like best. :-)