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.