Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Short, but oh so good!

Just read Fifty/Fifty, a short story collection by Belfast author, Matthew W. McFarland which I received in return for an honest review. SCORE! Comprised of 11 vastly different short stories, each shared a couple of common bonds; they were clever, entertaining, and smooth, smooth, smooth. Several of the phrases he used continue to stick with me out of the sheer delight I experienced when reading them – “Fir missile” and “special robot socks which make him go fast” are two in particular. I loved both for the visual imagery invoked but also for the connection I had with them (I’m a mother of 3 boys.) The author mentions in an Afterword that “Some of the stories in this collection are complete fiction, and some are closer to reality than you might imagine.” I’d love to know more about which are which. Complaint? I’ve finished reading them for that first time! I already know that this will be my new “share” book to talk about with family, friends, and strangers after we’ve exhausted the weather situation.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Romance, mystery, teen angst, and ZOMBIES!

Just had the pleasure of reading Out of Darkness (The Starborn Saga #1) by Jason D. Morrow. This is a great story set in a time at least 60 years after society as we know it is destroyed. Humans huddle together for safety from the marauding “greyskins” in isolated villages or concentrated in cities protected by skilled guards under the direction of the powerful, Jeremiah. Mora leaves her grandmother and younger brother, Jake, in her besieged village, Springhill, to seek out and negotiate protection with Jeremiah. Along the way she encounters the brothers, Connor and Aaron, in a protected city of Salem, and discovers new abilities within herself. Additionally, secrets regarding the “greyskins” and the death of her parents are revealed. The story has everything: romance, mystery, horror, engaging characters, an entertaining story, secrets hidden and secret revealed, teen angst, and zombies. I loved it, and look forward to the next volumes in the series: If It Kills Me(The Starborn Saga #2) and Even in Death (The Starborn Sage #3).

The 5th installment in the Whiskey Creek series is another winner!

This episode tells the story of Ted and Sophia – characters introduced in the previous series’ entries. The unthinkable has happened – Sophia’s husband, Skip, has defrauded almost the entire town of Whiskey Creek and accidentally killed himself while sneaking away in the night. (He slips off his yacht while vacationing off the coast of Brazil thinking to swim ashore and run away leaving his innocent and unknowing wife, Sophia, and daughter, Alexa, behind to suffer the consequences – including the ire and treatment of the inhabitants of the town and the FBI.) This story is Sophia’s gradual metamorphosis from alcoholic, abused spouse to a capable, independent woman and mother. Yes, alcoholic – Sophia had escaped from her hard marriage through a wine bottle, and the story realistically presents her battle with addiction. The change from the icy, privileged princess of the high school memories of the series’ core characters to someone you can really get behind and root for is satisfying and a pleasure to experience. I expected this to be a hard sell but I thought the author really nailed it. The dialogues and emotions are real ones, never contrived. The daughter’s former friends act like kids do sometimes. Ted’s mom has trouble accepting Sophia back into her son’s life. And the relationship between the Whiskey Creek’s inhabitants and Sophia isn’t all wrapped up with a bow for Christmas – although positive steps are made. I was hooked by this story (this entire series) from the very first page to the end.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A thoroughly enjoyable story from beginning to end!

I recently read Through the Smoke, a new historical, by Brenda Novak. The story begins with a breakneck race through the darkened countryside in a horse-drawn carriage, and although the pace of the story does let up, the mystery and suspense remain. One of the things that I appreciate about this book (and all of this author’s books that I’ve read to this point) is that characters have normal reactions to events and take reasonable actions accordingly. Conversations make sense (and do not feel contrived) and move the action along. Suspense builds. Characters develop. This story includes details about the coal mining industry of that era which was interesting and frightening at the same time. Supporting characters and enough story left over after a satisfying ending that a sequel would be possible and welcomed.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Tasty and addictive!

Centalpha 6 – Part I by James Todd Cochrane is an interesting, fun and suspenceful start to a new science fiction series suitable for adults, young adults, and so far, older children already reading chapter books. I might even be tempted to try this one with some reluctant readers given its bite-sized, serialized format. Set in the future, Breyden Pry, the son of a senator and a high-level commando, is 16 years old and coming to the end of his military academy training. He and his friends are looking forward to accompanying the older cadets on raids against the “subs” – people that lurk in the background undermining their perfect society. But Breyden is a “star,” a natural until he uncovers something he shouldn’t on his first training raid. With good descriptions of characters, settings and blow-by-exciting-blow action scenes, I felt I could “see” the story. I think it seems like it would make a good movie or television series. While reading it, I got overtones of not only 1984 but Starship Troopers – an interesting and fun mix. My only complaint is that this little bit (Part I) is just enough of a taste to hook you and leave you wanting the rest of the story … now.