Keith Fenwick kicks off The Skidian Chronicles series with this introduction to the alien race known as Skid. The basic concept is that of a civilization so advanced its citizens don’t know how to do much of anything other than exist within it. Other authors have mined this idea for many years (examples include Asimov, Herbert, and even L. Ron Hubbard) but it still makes for an interesting read. The action starts with an existential crisis on Skid, their automated food supply systems are about to fail, so they decide to abduct some likely residents of Earth who can make it all better. Unfortunately, Skidians do not have the first clue of what they actually need. Regardless, in quick order, four solitary humans are snatched and the Skidian ship flees Earth once detected. Due to a series of early mishaps, two of the humans are dispatched almost immediately; leaving a female American travel consultant who was hiking in the woods on her way to a yoga class and an Australian, no .. (cough) I mean a New Zealander farmer with his three semi-working dogs as the sole hope of the Skidians.
Fenwick has fun with the stereotypes of both Kiwi and American, as well as the advanced-but-do-nothing Skidians. The book is well-written and easily creates the world of Skid for the reader. The pacing of the story could use some work, as things run on a bit 3/4 of the way through and the ending is definitely abrupt. There are many plot points left hanging, which I assume will be picked up by the balance of the series. Nonetheless I very much enjoyed the book and am definitely interested in seeing what’s next for the clueless Skidians.
(Disclosure: I received a free copy through Veracious Readers Only)
Jill Hand has written a completely entertaining thriller which incorporates a sometimes comic view of family dynamics surrounding inheritance positioning within a ruling Southern family. I say “ruling” since we in the United States sometimes use extreme multi-generational wealth as a proxy for royalty and most of us know places where there are families so rich they literally can get away with murder. In White Oaks, the family patriarch assigns an illegal bucket list item for his four grown children to arrange and the fun begins. The twists, turns, betrayals, and daft-yet-plausible behavior combine into something you’ll want to read in one sitting.
The writing and craftsmanship is impeccable, and a distinct pleasure to read. White Oaks is one of those books to savor as skimming would miss too many wonderful, and snarky, observations. I recommend without reservation.
I purchased the paperback book directly from the publisher.
is one enjoyable read! Ken Preston combines the mob, old school vampires, the
press, and a wide range of other characters to create a gritty story set in the
United Kingdom. The writing is very tight and thoroughly coherent. Joe Coffin
is the archetype of the large hard man with a tender heart, just what you want
when vampires are involved. Someone in Joe’s world can identify evil much
easier than routine law enforcement ever will. Joe doesn’t walk through things
unscathed, but you get the sense he will be standing at the end of the day,
even if he is missing a few parts in the process.
you like an entertaining book written in an episodic format, this is highly
recommended. The ending comes with a few dangling plot lines, but I presume
they will be dealt with in the next episode, which I am about to acquire.
(Disclosure: I received a
free copy through Veracious Readers Only)
The Untold Tale is an epic fantasy related through the eyes of Forsyth Turn, Lord of Lysse Chipping and secret spymaster to the King. He also happens to be the younger brother of a rather more extroverted hero Kintyre Turn; slayer of dragons, scourge of the evil Viceroy and his minions, who is always accompanied by his faithful sidekick (and biographer) Bevel. As Shadow Hand, notoriety is discouraged regardless, entirely in turn with Forsyth’s personality as an introvert.
action begins when the Shadow Hand’s men rescue a woman who has been tortured
by the Viceroy’s man Bootstrap. It soon becomes clear Lucy Piper (or Pip) isn’t
from Forsyth’s world. Lucy seems to have strange insights into the mechanics of
his world, greeting him by name when she regained consciousness. Forsyth has
read of legends speaking of entities from beyond; Readers, second only to the
Author itself who created the world and everything in it. Forsyth knows he must
do whatever it takes to repatriate Lucy to wherever it is she truly belongs. He
must fight the forces of the Viceroy, his glory-hogging brother, quests, and
his own growing love for Pip to achieve her safe return.
I enjoyed The Untold Tale on a number of levels. At first, I’m reading it as a period fantasy and Lucy shows up with obvious anachronisms, which I initially attribute to poor writing having seen it all too often. J. M. Frey threw me a head-fake and I fell for it. I love it when that happens! Chastened, I read on to the end of a very compelling story. Frey injects some political correctness moralizing midway through but evenhandedly dials it back to where it is not off-putting for a reader. She also creates a second-half very complicated relationship situation which cannot resolve itself into a mostly happy ending without the use of a MacGuffin. Regardless of where you fall on resolution believability, it does engage thought on the topic and perhaps that was the entire point. I recommend The Untold Tale without reservation.
(Disclosure: I received a free copy through Veracious Readers Only!)
Murphy’s Luck 3 continues the adventures of Murphy Drummer, a one-man demolition derby of bad-luck or sole protector of the possible, depending on your point of view. Benjamin Laskin opens the story with Murphy’s CIA Elite Hippie Unit, Granola Team Six in-laws being captured by a small but scrappy 99th largest South American crime cartel. They pin their hopes on a black helicopter-flying friend Frank to come and save their patchouli-wearing backsides. Frank knows when he needs help, given the improbable odds, and just who to recruit; a man to whom odds mean nothing and a former supermodel-turned-assassin with a score to settle. Murphy comes along to protect the enterprise from the inevitable bad luck which follows him everywhere he goes. How will Murphy and the team rescue the in-laws, find the buried treasure, and make it back to Eureka, Kansas in time for daughter Phaedra’s birthday party? Will the cartel move up in the rankings and open an Adventure Bed & Breakfast?
Benjamin Laskin has crafted an extremely fun read, with recurring gags, wicked puns, witty dialog, and characters you could almost see. Frank reminded me most of the American President in Hot Shots – Part Deux, with all of his missing organs from past military engagements. The concept of a personal jinx field around an individual has been explored before, but never in so lighthearted and entertaining a fashion. Having a town basically quarantine Murphy and his similarly afflicted offspring seems entirely rational, given the alternatives. Plus, who doesn’t like to read stories of former supermodels who are now walking arsenals? Murphy’s Luck 3 will provide the laughs, bring your own oatmeal cookies!
Buckle up and sit down to read Zeus is Undead when you’re fresh and alert, otherwise you will miss out on the little gems Michael G. Munz has sprinkled throughout. This installment occurs after the events of the Zeus is Dead book; Zeus is newly undead (as in not-dead), has rewarded the faithful and punished those who collaborated in his previous death. Athena has been rendered immortal, but no longer divine, which means things hurt a lot more than they used to when she battles. The storyline loosely follows her quests to improve standing with Zeus in order to be divine once more. To improve prospects of a movie deal for the book (as well as pull-through sales for the previous book), two mortals are also engaged to help out. Together (mostly) they have to deal with an upsurge in zombie activity while Zeus is preoccupied by Lovecraftian cosmic entities, making demands backed by incriminating footage of Zeus doing what he does best. Hera will not be amused.
I enjoyed Zeus is Undead very much indeed. Seriously, read it slowly because the density of jokes, mythic or business references, and puns are non-stop. Michael G. Munz has produced a rollicking tale which ranks among those of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Piers Anthony. Since the best two of those three are no longer writing books, for their own personal reasons, there is definitely a market and ample room for Munz’s efforts. I’m now motivated, by Baskin’s Mighty Pink Battle-Spoon™ (chortle), to find some ice cream and read the previous book as well.
Before being tasked with the obvious, I did forego doing much writing last month for reasons other than my readers’ welfare. (untangle that one!) As referenced earlier, Feral Cat LLC needed an infusion of cash, and rather than pulling it out of the personal vaults I did some project work. Happily it is now over, and Feral Cat has a couple more years of funding in place without being beholden to anyone else. All good!