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Kevin Peter's book reviews

Kevin Peter

Member
Sword of Order – A review of the novel ‘Advent of Darkness’


“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions” - Albert Einstein

Storytelling is a much envied skill, a story well told can make us laugh and weep, we become one with the characters and it can change even everyday moments into those of epic proportions.

This is what author Gary Caplan sets out to do with his novel, ‘Advent of Darkness’, the first book in the ‘The Chronicles of Illúmaril’ series of fantasy fiction. And for this he has created one of the most intricately original and fascinating fantasy world that you will ever see. One day John Gideon, a war veteran finds himself taken away from his home into a different world, a world full of magic and illusions, science fiction and the reality of war. This new world, Illúmaril is said to be that of his ancestors and he soon learns that in spite of the many mythical creatures that inhabits this new world, it mirrors his old home in many ways. And when evil forces threaten to disrupt peace, he must seek help from the wizards like Ragan and a host of others to discover not only his true lineage but also his destiny as the saviour of this new land.

What Gary does nicely from time to time is to layer the main story with subtle commentary on the state of affairs of our ‘real’ world in relation to the made up one. The author is at his lyrical best when he describes the various mythical creatures and the numerous battle scenes. Even though there are a lot of characters and places and hence a whole lot of names, as you get into the story you will realize that you needn’t memorize the name of each and every person to really enjoy the story as the languid and free flowing writing keeps you thoroughly entertained.

Highlights worth mentioning are the excellent prologue, which very neatly captures the reader’s attention and you will be hooked on for the rest of the book. The book also comes with a trove of supporting materials, the original maps and illustrations are a nice touch and further heighten the fantasy experience for the reader. There is also this portion in the end which is shown as Gideon’s journal entries, explaining in detail various information and basically serving as a reference tool for fans wanting to know more about this fantasy world, this is pure ingenuity at its best and will be a haven for the obsessed. John Gideon’s journey to discover his power and his coming to terms with his fate is nicely done and is written with such mastery and skill that it is bound to have your rapt attention throughout.

Like the author himself has mentioned in the beginning of the book, the author’s friend Basil Varian deserves special mention for coming up with a lot of ‘exotic’ character names along with the author. Advent of Darkness has deep, intelligent characters, who are accompanied by smart and innovative writing and use of language. This novel shows that it can stand on its own in this genre and is the perfect example of a modern epic fantasy. The grand battle scene at the very end is the perfect finale you could have hoped for until you pick up the second book in the series, ‘Return of the Ancient Ones’.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
The Kid I Knew – A review of the novel ‘Lone Horseman’

“Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Long before the age of reason, men looked up at the sky through their telescopes in an attempt to find intelligent life and other worlds in the universe, all the while ignoring the intelligent life that exists in front of them and the magical and mesmerising world they live in. While many people consider the possibilities for achievement the human mind and body are capable of, very few travel that path, and so very seldom do men achieve the ultimate satisfaction of becoming who they were meant to be.

Author Richard Dawes returns with a brand new novel ‘Lone Horseman’ which is the fifth title in the Tucson Kid Western series. This brand new saga of the Tucson Kid finds him accompanying a father and daughter on a cattle drive from Nevada to Arizona. A young girl of eighteen, Nora Eddington, seeks new experiences and adventures before going off to college to become a writer. And new experiences are exactly what she gets on this trip. The Tucson Kid as usual is at the forefront of bringing justice to a violent situation, and is also instrumental in transforming this naive but intelligent girl into a mature young woman.

Lone Horseman is different from the other books in the series. The author has narrated the tale from the perspective of a woman recounting her experience of meeting and spending time with the Tucson Kid. And this is where it gets so interesting, because it is fascinating to see how easily Richard slips into the voice of Nora, the ‘writer’ of the Tucson saga in this book. It’s also interesting to see the different ways the story of the Tucson Kid can now be told, since he has already become an established literary hero. That being said, the book still retains all of the elements that make this series so enjoyable, the action, the romance and the intellectual word play are all there. But unlike the lone mission plot line of other books in the series, here it has a more episodic feel with Nora remembering each and every incident and ‘fight’ that furthers the myth of the Tucson Kid.

In Lone Horseman we are given a different perspective on The Tucson Kid. It's refreshing and interesting to see him through the eyes of a young girl who is also a writer. Since Nora is depicted as a keen observer, the narrative is very detailed and explorative. This time, having the companionship of a naturally curious and inquisitive woman, we get to see the Tucson Kid open up more, and are able to get a better understanding of the inner workings of his psyche. And Tucson as usual is at his intellectual and philosophical best when he’s not shooting people down.

For fans of the series, reading about their favourite Kid in a new light will be a unique experience. For new readers, it will give insight into the writing prowess of Richard Dawes who has successfully created this alternate female voice to tell the tale of this magnificent fighter. Lone Horseman is in some ways a genre defying book for it makes you think a lot and savour the great insight into the human mind that Richard so effortlessly narrates through the Kid.

Life altering and life affirming, the tale of Lone Horseman is as much about Nora Eddington as it is about the Tucson Kid. Called to leave the normal, consensual world given to her by her parents, Nora must step into the dark and dangerous world of struggle, power and achievement inhabited by Tucson. It’s a new direction the author has taken with this book and this effort must be applauded and appreciated. Lone Horseman has made the wait for the next book in the series ‘Comanche Gold’ much more exciting!
 
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Kevin Peter

Member
Within your grasp – A review of the book ‘The Everyday Space Traveler’


“Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased” - John Steinbeck

From staying in caves surrounded by dim lit fireflies to staying in penthouses surrounded by light emitting diodes, if there is one thing that has remained constant, it is our curiosity and our natural tendency to explore the unexplored. We're natural wanderers, being the only species that you can find in all corners of the world and it is this curiosity that will propel us to continue with further exploration of space.

Author Jason Klassi’s book ‘The Everyday Space Traveler’ is the perfect travelogue cum guide that you could take with you on your first space trip, but wait, here’s what makes it doubly good, it serves just as well as a book you could immerse yourself in, providing great insights into the human way of life here on earth. Filled with colourful photographs and artwork, this book will also act as your own private spaceship that will take you on a once in a lifetime journey into space and back without you even having to leave the confines and comfort of your sofa.

The author through this book takes us on a tour through the solar system, starting off from our lives here on earth to the wonders in space. The Everyday Space Traveler reminds and illuminates our minds to the wonders and forces of nature that the cosmos is capable of. The book also talks about what might be in store for us if we fail to understand our world better and our role in it. This is in many ways a book as much about getting a grasp of space travel as it is about understanding and utilising our time here better. This book is bound to inspire children and young adults to turn to science and understand science's role as a metaphorical candle to remove the darkness surrounding our lives.

The author suggests that one should make the inner space strong before venturing out into outer space. By withdrawing from everyday life, you must prepare yourselves to enter a new one and then when you return from there to your everyday life, you must utilize your new knowledge and new perspective to bring about a positive change back here. Apart from this, the book also talks about the challenges of living in outer space. There are segments on terraforming Mars and establishing space colonies that will further propel space exploration. Jason Klassi’s writing immerses you into the wonders of awe that space travel promises to everyone and the book itself is set in an easy to read and understand layout and language.

Jason Klassi through this wonderful book instils in us the knowledge of recognition of the unimaginable vastness of space and the uniqueness of the not so unique planet Earth that we call our home. Perhaps the most important message you could take away from this book is not to take for granted our lives and our home on this beautiful planet Earth. He inspires you to believe and hope in the greatness that we humans are capable of as we move forward into the future.

A must read for any space enthusiast.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
Last Man Standing – A review of the novel ‘South of Good’


“Adventure is not outside man; it is within” - George Eliot

Author Randall Reneau’s latest novel ‘South of Good’ is the first in a series of Hardin Steel books with its titular protagonist Hardin Steel. Stainless to those close to him, Hardin is an ex DEA officer turned elected sheriff of a small county in Texas. When Rory, his girlfriend gets kidnapped due to his association with a long time friend Wes Stoddard, a drug running pilot; that’s when everything starts going south. Hardin and his PI friend Buck and Wes have to now deal with Mexican drug cartels, a Russian Mercenary and Cuban gangs and also find a way out of the various dangers which seem to be creeping up on them from all sides.

South of Good introduces Hardin Steel as the sheriff / vigilante dishing out justice to those who deserve it; he is a rugged adventure seeking hero who always seems to be one step ahead of his antagonists. The good thing about author Randall Reneau’s writing is that he seems very sure of what he has set out to do. There isn’t any trickery or trying to sensationalize the story or awe the reader with poetic prose. He is a good old story teller in the truest sense of the word, someone who is in complete control of the pacing of the story and the dialogues his characters speak. His main focus isn’t necessarily on concealing the ‘mystery’ in the adventure story but rather on great characterizations and this is what drives the story forward too. He manages to catch hold of the reader’s attention early on and leaves them always wanting more. And that is where the beautifully crafted character of Hardin comes in handy, because no matter what else is going on in the background, you will always be thinking about what Hardin’s next move will be and guessing how he will react next. Along with him, Randall has created some interesting supporting characters as well and they float in and out of the story overwhelmed by our hero.

Even though this is the first book in the series, Randall has created his characters and given them such settings that it is more than implied that they all have been in each other’s lives for a long time. You have to hand it over to Randall for the unpretentious ease with which the plot lines and themes come to him, almost as if he has been living this alternate life of the protagonist in secret. Balancing economy of words with reading fluidity, Randall Reneau has created a highly detailed and accurate landscape for his characters to operate out of. By establishing the flavour and the routine the characters follow in this book, he has already made it easy for the readers to acclimatise and look forward to the rest of the books in the series. And having a super villain like Frederick Ochoa and making Hardin come one up on Ochoa every time is pure guilty pleasure inducing material.

At the end, it’s hard to say who has left you more impressed, the no-nonsense hero Hardin Steel or his creator Randall Reneau. South of Good is a masterful example of how a talented author can manipulate readers at a very visceral level with quick pacing and rapid development of the plot that helps to create a sense of tension that begins on the first page and never lets up. With an excellent plot, well drawn characters and detailed descriptions of red hot scenarios, this should easily find top slot in any reader’s wishlist.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
Ties that bind us – A review of the novel ‘The Lion Trees’


“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans” - John Lennon

As I finished reading the novel which fully deserves that loosely and widely used epithet ‘magnum opus’, I realized that The Lion Trees was much more than what it claims to be and definitely wiser than what I could comprehend in the first reading. And yet, it is those first impressions that matter most of the time and of which I’m about to share with you. As I close my eyes and look back at the book, certain images that my mind crafted while reading this novel comes alive to me in spurts and in solitary, of connecting with another individual, experiencing their angst, their remorse, their resolve, their happiness, their endings. And when I think about it, it sometimes feels like I’m drifting in and out of sleep, recollecting images from a dream that I’ve seen or perhaps one I’m seeing right now but I know they were from a book, from a novel that is as real as fictionalized reality gets or perhaps and funnily enough from pure fiction shot with an absolute dose of honest reality.

Author Owen Thomas’s two part saga on family and the lives of individuals that make up such a social unit form the base for his novel, ‘The Lion Trees’. Juxtaposing with the moral and social environment of America circa 2005, his novel reads as a part impressionistic memoir and part anecdotal account of the lives of five individuals of a family. They are the Johns family; papa Hollis, mom Susan and siblings David and Tilly’s separate narrative intertwines with each other’s and sometimes stays afloat on its own. But the one thing that unites them all is Ben, Hollis and Susan’s third child and the one constant presence in all their lives.

The character of Hollis is of a retired banker, a man of many stories, a man with odd hobbies and a stranger interest in a former colleague’s daughter. Wife Susan, the proverbial caregiver of the family increasingly finds herself contemplating her individual future separate from that of her family; looking for a more meaningful purpose to her existence. So it would be no surprise to state at this point that their marriage has hit a giant roadblock and isn’t going anywhere, a fact that is openly acknowledged by both her adult children. David is the quintessential right guy at all the wrong places, saying and doing all the wrong things. His earnestness and his almost obsessive compulsion to follow a path of righteous integrity lands him trouble more often than not. Ben, the youngest suffers from Down syndrome, is the epitome of love and innocence and a figure that resembles the allegorical home all the four characters return to whenever they go off the track. And then there’s Tilly, the only character who’s narrative transcends the linear nature of the book and we get to see her explore herself and her story in a retrospective manner down the ages from her struggles as an young aspiring starlet to an established and mature woman and actress. The Lion Trees is their story, part one deals with their falls while part two shows their revival, starting their lives afresh.

You take one look at the novel and your impulsively judgemental mind may be excused for jumping the gun and trying to categorize the novel into that of a genre with a dark theme and heavy duty drama and thinking it to be related to its similar American and Russian cousins. But by the time you are done with The Lion Trees, you would have forgotten all about the length and will realize what an amazingly entertaining piece of literature it was and do I dare say it, a serious novel that provides you with some genuine laugh out loud moments.

Owen Thomas is so sure of his writing and the unique and individual voices that he has created for his characters that he doesn’t feel the need to add (a highly distracting) ‘he said’, ‘she said’ after every line of conversation between the characters. The level of detailing is pretty amazing, even the way each character’s immediate environment has been made up to highlight and reflect on their unique personalities has been well thought out. In addition to the novel's principal characters, Owen has given us as a fine array of secondary characters as well. Their back stories and their sub plots will be relatable to most. There are some stand out scenes in the book, worth mentioning are Susan’s political speech, Angus Mann’s diatribe against Hollywood and pretty much all the scenes involving David, especially those of him teaching history to his students, his interrogation scenes and the final courtroom drama. The novel is also filled with great quotable quotes, a true book aficionado’s delight.

The Lion Trees depicts people who can’t be slotted as just saints or monsters, they fall somewhere in between, just like any of us. Owen Thomas’s writing leaves you richer with emotions and contentment even before the ending arrives. And if there is only one book that you are going to read this year, make it The Lion Trees.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
As reel as it gets – A review of the novel ‘Tossed Off the Edge’

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” - Oscar Wilde

Hollywood, that seemingly far away magical land, the land of opportunities, the land of many dreams has seen the dreams of many fulfilled but for most of the men and women, young and old who land up on the streets with stars in their eyes, Hollywood has been nothing short of a crash course on dealing with the dark side of life. So for a place that offers success and failure in such large amounts, stories of them, about them too will be in plenty. And this is such a story, it might be a different story, it might even be a difficult story to believe in but even if we choose to believe in them or not, all stories need to be heard for there is a storyteller behind these stories, sharing with us the highs and lows, the glory and the sufferings, teaching us, warning us so that we may learn from them.

Author Patrick Brown’s second novel, ‘Tossed Off the Edge’ is a finely crafted play on the celebrity tell-all format the literary world is abound with. Without revelling in the fact that it is a faux memoir on a non-existent TV star, the author has crafted a fine fictional story based on a fictional lead all the while challenging the reader’s mind to believe in and invest emotionally on this outlandish and part sympathetic mega television figure. Sheila Wozniak is the person behind the persona of the rags to riches story of the starlet; she has invested four decades of her career into playing Regina Knight, the lead and perhaps the most important character in the day time soap opera ‘The Edge of Conflict’. And after an extended reign at the top, when the show’s and her character’s popularity is on the wane, the television studio fires her. But if there is one thing Ms. Wozniak has successfully mastered after all these years is to always land on her feet and the ability to salvage whatever is left of her career and her image in the public arena. She gets an opportunity from a publishing house to pen her memoir and she employs the former head writer from her old TV show, who is also curiously named Patrick Brown. Thus then begins the narration of a wild and crazy story about an aspiring actress’s struggles, her family and the people who have come into contact with her. And whenever Ms. Wozniak’s narration transcends into the absurd and delusional variety, writer Patrick Brown is always close by with an array of finely researched footnotes to keep Sheila Wozniak’s active imagination in check.

In ‘Tossed Off the Edge’ Patrick Brown presents plenty of the nasty behind-the-scenes details of the television world, especially that of day time soap operas and its lead actors. The unreasonable demands of the long serving cast members, the inexplicable story lines churned out by writers, the asinine management by television executives, it’s all there. But don’t get me wrong, it is never presented as to ridicule the format itself, in fact at some levels the author is even kind of in awe of this format and its work ethics. And when you think about it, it is true to a certain extent, when we compare it to the alternatives that are the 24 hour news channels which brings us more depressing news than pleasant ones and the so called un-scripted ‘reality’ television, which is an even bigger farce than anything these soap operas churns out. While it may be fiction, this fiction takes itself very seriously as to adapt many contemporary and socially relevant themes as part of its broadcast.

Tossed Off the Edge not only chronicles the made up show's rich history, but it also offers an unpretentious and unapologetic insight into the lead character of Regina Knight played by Sheila Wozniak. Now Ms. Wozniak is everything you imagine her to be and some more, she is extremely self centred but surprisingly never gets truly annoying and all her stories have a hint of fantasy about them. Patrick Brown’s imagination is so vivid and yet appears thoroughly researched that by the end of the book you are sure to hit the search engines searching for Sheila Wozniak and a show called ‘The Edge of Conflict.’ Now even though this book has been written as a humorous play on the tell-all celebrity memoirs, there is quite an emotional depth to the story and it really has a surprising tone of sadness and quiet empathy that you will feel towards this made up character. And at other times Patrick seems to be having a whale of a time taking jabs at our idiosyncrasies, hypocrisies and moral values. The footnotes provided serve a dual function, they not only make you read the book twice but they also end up cracking you up with an astonishing regularity.

Tossed Off the Edge is a great excuse to laugh at our many contemporary and contemptible values. And you are bound to fall in love with this character of Sheila Wozniak who is hypocritical and so full of her herself and yet feels so real and like someone you’ve know your entire life. And perhaps this is a reflection on the times we live, because this fake memoir is more fun and real than some of the ‘real’ ones out there in the market today.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
A Soul Story – A review of the novel ‘Locker Rooms’

“Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean” - David Searls

Death encompasses us all, death doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care if you are a man or a woman, young or old, rich or poor and more importantly good or bad, everything alive must die one day, but what happens afterwards? A lot of people have theories, about afterlife and souls, various religions too propagate such ideas and the public are free to believe what they want. But what if there were souls and what if our souls couldn’t get an automatic entry into either heaven or hell after our death? What if there were middle men, evil middle men with vicious intentions to lock you up in an everlasting purgatory, what would you do then?

Author Patty Lesser’s new novel ‘Locker Rooms’ narrates the story of Alida, a bipolar character leading a quiet life in suburban Canada and who is also the recent winner of a 10 million dollar lottery payout. Alida alternates between being impulsive, moody and solitary to being driven, outgoing and courageous. When she purchases an old mansion with her new earnings, little does she realize that her new home has secret tunnels leading up to rooms with even stranger looking lockers in them. Alida quickly realizes that these are no ordinary lockers and they are in fact a prison for innocent souls captured by a demon that goes by the name Shad. When Alida interferes in the demon’s work and tries to free the souls, her whole life is turned upside down and she quickly gets involved in a fight between evil and an even bigger evil. Turning up as her allies are a couple of souls she has freed from the lockers who support and help her in this fight against evil.

The centrepiece of Patty Lesser’s book isn’t that it deals with ghosts, demons and other paranormal elements; it does but it is her main lead that makes this book truly interesting. The character of Alida is a non conformist and a closed personality, revealing very little about her and quick to change the subject whenever the topic gets too personal. Alida’s character is unpredictable but that is also what makes her so exciting to get to know and in terms of use as a narrative tool, having such an unpredictable lead character constantly keeps the reader in check as you are never sure as to what her next move is going to be. Alida truly is the heart and soul of Locker Rooms.

A sense of mystery envelopes the narrative right from the word go and never lets up until the very last page. A recurring theme of the book seems to be that everything happens for a reason and you have to keep your senses sharp and your mind open to accept changes, whatever form they may come in. And even though there are some farfetched ideas being discussed, you tend to go along with the flow since the writing’s good and precise. At first, the experience of conversing with timid and polite spirits are an oddity when the constant image you have of spirits are of the haunting kind but you soon get used to it. There are a lot of pop culture references with regards to many popular films and books which are repeated throughout the book. There are references to biblical passages as well but it has not been overdone. And it also has quite possibly and arguably the greatest sex with a ghost since Ghost the movie. There is an epic battle with Shad and Lucifer towards the end which is very graphic and pretty much how you would imagine when two strong and warring evil forces tee off. It has some very nicely etched out secondary characters as well, the many spirits Alida frees are all distinctive personalities and their back stories too are convincing. Oliver, the spirit that hangs around the longest and Alida’s romantic interest is the perfect arm candy and serves his purpose in the book justly.

Patty Lesser’s book may be a romance novel with a paranormal edge or a spooky thriller peppered with a love story, whichever way you look at it, is still a good combination of heart-warming and hair raising scenes. The novel very delicately challenges one’s ready acceptance of one's fate, beliefs and ideals and leaves you entertained, informed and inspired. The small town setting with its few but compelling characters and riveting story line make this an easy read for the season.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
The Rage Countdown – A review of the novel ‘Beneath Scarlett Valley’

“Sometimes we seek that which we are not yet ready to find” - Libba Bray

Even though we may not like to acknowledge it, we all walk around hiding behind a mask. That layer of curtain between us and others is often used to mask our own insecurities. The ironical thing about these insecurities is that, it’s not our failings and our shortcomings that we are afraid to reveal to the world but rather it’s our strengths and things that make us who we are that we are afraid to show. Being honest, being ‘you’ troubles a lot of people because we think for others, of how they will perceive us even before they had a chance to get to know us. So it’s no wonder that old adage, the truth will set you free still holds true. Revealing your true identity will liberate you and set you free, even if it causes a few heart aches in the process, it’s still the right way to move ahead.

Author Kerr-Ann Dempster’s novel ‘Beneath Scarlett Valley’, the first book in the Scarlett Valley Series narrates the story of two beautiful sisters, Harper and Cassidy. Apart from being pretty which they don’t try to hide from the world, they have a far bigger secret which they have managed to keep to themselves for centuries. They are in fact a special species, half human and half creature called Furor. They never age, can heal themselves and have an insatiable bloodlust to kill, not to dominate or feed but simply because it’s in their nature. But to replenish their immortality, they need to drink from the Source of Immortality; otherwise the fire coursing through their veins will consume them from within. This search leads Cassidy to Scarlett Valley high school which is believed to be the place where the Source is hidden but she has to first deal with the many distractions in the form of handsome hunks, unrequited friendships, obnoxious teachers and a whole different breed of creatures called Seer whose mission it seems is to keep the location of the Source hidden from the Furor.

Even though Kerr-Ann Dempster’s novel is a mix of mythology, YA romance and a lot of thrills, she has been able to provide due justice to all segments equally. She has captured the high school scene very well, especially that of a new student, not to mention a clear misfit trying to fit in within the microcosm of the outside social life that exists within the walls of any high school. Another thing she has got spot on is the relationship between the sisters Harper and Cassidy, the conversation pieces between them, the little nuances in their interpersonal dealings are all nicely dealt with and it just proves one thing, it doesn’t matter if you are an angel or a monster but sisters everywhere act and talk alike. Now Harper sometime does comes across as the manipulative kind but Cassidy’s co-dependency ensures that Harper isn’t to blame entirely for the faults in their relationship.

The writing is precise and goes from point A to B without much fuzz, the chapters are small and easy to read and as far as the structuring is concerned it is very well edited and this has ensured that the pacing of the book is in tune with the requirements of the genre. Highlights worth mentioning are Cassidy’s and Mr. Bruckner’s ‘confrontation’, which comes like a bolt out of the blue and will shock you and provides the necessary energy and impetus to the story which then kicks into overdrive from there on. The writing in the climax scene is just brilliant, it has got everything going for it and all the right emotions have been packed into these few pages, the heartbreak and the betrayal too has been captured nicely. Sebastian and Cassidy’s relationship graph has been treated very well and has got all the essentials that one would expect to see in such romances and should find ready acceptance with the readers.

The clean language and imagery should widen the appeal of this book to all sorts of readers both young and old. And in the end, even though revelations like Liam’s real identity and the transformation of the Wick brothers doesn’t end the book on a cliff-hanger note, it still leaves you in anticipation for the sequel which is bound to come out in a few months time.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
All that glitters – A review of the novel ‘Comanche Gold’


“People do not seem to realise that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beyond the romanticized notions of the old west and the falsely propagated ideals of the real man, there exists certain characters whose brutal actions have taken away the choice of others by the use of the gun and the suppression of free will. In such a setting, it is necessary that a force rises to restore the balance of power & the freedom of choice to men.

Author Richard Dawes’ latest novel ‘Comanche Gold’ is the sixth book in the Tucson Kid Western series. Heeding a call for help sent out by a Comanche chief, Tucson intervenes on the Comanche's behalf to keep greedy white men off their reservation after gold has been discovered. The trouble is instigated by Charles Durant, the owner of the biggest bank and the de facto leader of the nearby town, Howling Wolf. The town supplies a regular mix of villainous snakes who try to stop Tucson from carrying out his mission. But the same land provides a few allies for Tucson who give him aid and comfort. In the town of Howling Wolf, the Kid demonstrates once again that he isn’t dependent only upon his gun skills to prevail as he battles powerful enemies.

It’s fun to watch the enigma of Tucson and the pull of his power as he impacts the townspeople when he rides into town. Tucson hasn’t changed much from the person you’ve come to know, his existentialist persona is still intact and he still advocates finding one’s true purpose in life. This time out, Tucson isn’t thrown into action immediately and some time is spent delineating his character, pretty much revelling in the admiration and the hero worship that others show toward him. Comanche Gold moves along at a more languid pace, and there isn't a thrill a minute in these pages, but a more measured display of his amazing fighting skills, all building toward an exciting finale. And just as in the previous outings, Richard Dawes describes the culture and heritage of Comanche Indians, and the native tribes – just one of the many aspects of this series that elevate it above other books in the western genre.

This book is in many ways perfect for readers who are being introduced to the series for the first time. You will see and understand the man and his philosophy and experience his extraordinary ability with his guns. A case in point is his confrontation with Ramon Vasquez and Wolf Cabot, two murderous gunmen who attempt to ambush him in a gunfight. Tucson’s relationship with women in the books is always special. They're filled with lots of sensuality without neglecting respect and chivalry. And it's no different in Comanche Gold where Tucson's relationship with Catherine Murry is given the usual treatment.

Charles Durant is a special villain in that even though he doesn’t get as much space as the villains in this series usually get, he is still a very strong antagonist for Tucson and not merely a cardboard cut-out of how a ‘bad’ person should be. One scene that stood out for me was Tucson’s and Catherine’s exchange of thoughts as they ride along a trail together. Another memorable scene was the one where Tucson and Durant discuss the future of government and governance. They are some of the most intellectually stimulating ideas and thoughts you will find in a fictional genre of this kind. Another scene I enjoyed for brilliant writing technique was after Tucson is captured by Charles Durant's henchmen. In his escape, the stealth and secrecy involved was captured with superb artistry.

Comanche Gold is a well written Western that goes far beyond what an ordinary Western does and will hold your attention throughout. Richard Dawes has proved once again that he is an expert when it comes to writing an interesting, fast paced story that will leave you wanting a follow up on the main character; which shouldn't be a long wait since the next book in the series, Chinatown, is due for release soon.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
All in the family – A review of the novel ‘Harrington Manor’


“It’s miraculous how the shallow can injure in such a profound way” - Anna Jae

A family is in many ways reminiscent of a fruit bearing tree, you have the strong trunk that is the matriarch or patriarch supporting the weight of many that are dependent on it. And just like with trees, all it takes is a single rotten member to spoil everything and bring down the whole family along with it. So it becomes critical to identify & weed out the troublemaker at the earliest.

Ronald M. James’s novel ‘Harrington Manor’ takes you to 1920’s California and into the heart of murder mysteries and other sinister criminal frivolities happening within the vast expanse of Orange County, land owned by wealthy families.The Harrington family is headed by the patriarch with the army background, Peter also known as the Colonel, his wife Corrina and their four children, Sheppard, Reginald, Margot and Orson; they are as different from each other as it gets. While the elder two sons, Shepp & Reggie are always at loggerheads with their father to gain control over his vast finances, Margot is still in the process of discovering herself and ironically it’s only the non conformist son, Orson who shows any interest in carrying forward the farming business of the family. But when a couple of Harrington members start dropping dead, it raises a lot of questions and accusations fly thick & fast across warring family members which soon piques interest in the local law enforcement agency. Detective and not inspector Sidney Snipes enters the scene and starts an investigation which reveals such terrifying truths to the Harrington family as it does to the reader.

Ronald’s writing has this charming prose that will hook you in with its poetic brilliance hardly a sentence into the book. The narrative intervenes smoothly with the back stories of each of the characters along with that of the main story, doing full justice to both. All members of the family, including the butler Charles have been given enough space for us to explore their personalities in detail. There are small things that go a long way in creating the perfect atmosphere the author wants the reader to envision and one of these things in this book is the careful selection of the words and the general vocabulary which is consistent with the background and the time in which the story is set in.

Almost half way mark into the book and after the occurrence of a major event, the book shifts into a different gear and from there on, the pace and the mood of the book changes quite dramatically. The writing, especially when it comes to dialogue writing deserves special mention; the back and forth snappy dialogues between the main players are a definite highlight. It is also a masterful ability to be able to show each character’s personality by modulating their dialogues in order to create a separate & unique identity for each of them. You can in fact almost picture these characters as actors in a movie mouthing these dialogues with different accents and slangs.

One understated element of this murder mystery novel is the abundance of natural humor that is ever present in these lines, it’s never forced humor for its sake but rather it comes across effortlessly because of the differences and quirks in each character. You will be surprised at how often you will find yourself smiling and chuckling away as you are reading some of these passages. The investigation and interrogation scenes involving detective Sidney Snipes are some of the best scenes in the book. The editing too is top notch and the plot twists and turns will leave you amazed and you will never be sure of who the actual culprit is till it is revealed to you at the end.

There are a lot of individual sequences which when combined together makes this novel fully worth your time. The characters, the slick prose and the snappy dialogues all combine to make this a memorable work. I recommend this book not only to mystery lovers, but also to anyone who wants to read a well written book. And the only spoiler I will give you is that it’s a murder mystery novel about a wealthy family with a butler and no, it’s not the butler.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
Warrior Poet – A review of the novel ‘Tears of a Heart’


“Patience is the virtue that forges great men” - Chris Vincent

Something that’s common and significant amongst all life forms in this world is that period when you shed all the bonds that tie you to your childhood and stand within the cusp of adulthood. The changes are same everywhere, the loss of innocence, gaining a deeper understanding and discovering newer truths about ourselves, physically, emotionally and intellectually. You will experience a definitive shift in your perspective and will have a greater realization of your place in this world.

Author Chase Blackwood’s novel, ‘Tears of a Heart’ is the first book in the Kan Savasci Cycle series of books. It narrates the tale of a boy Kirin D'Velt, a rebel and a daydreamer and the lone son of a murdered father. His father Kovor, a village chief and all his subjects were massacred by an evil force. Left on his own, he soon joins the company of monks who take him under their wings and nurture his mind and soul. After many deliberations, internal conflicts and a change of name, Kirin/Aeden sets out on a journey in which he discovers his true purpose and fate in this world.

Chase Blackwood has a wonderful poetic prose that is put to good use in extrapolating the exotic imagery of this ‘new’ world to the readers. The power of the book is in its ability to recreate visual and auditory responses in these pages like the one we would get after watching a cinematic experience, through the use of words seemingly picked out of nature itself. The story that the author has set out to narrate is compelling and is on solid ground than anything conjured out of whimsy because it's a character driven fantasy that uses both its brain and its heart to good effect. The author goes about very delicately and intelligently introducing the world and its environment to us without ever loosing focus on the story to be told. And for a fantasy genre such as this, most of the chapters go by very quickly and doesn’t get bogged down too often. The short sentences and paragraphs ensure that the reader’s focus is constantly kept engaged and entertained.

The book is divided into four parts and each of these parts has a different and unique pace and feel to it, it’s like four different segments in the life of an individual, none of which are alike and yet have a commonality running through them, and just like life they can’t be segregated into good and bad, it’s the sum of all experiences of an individual, written by evoking moods, experiences and people that the lead character has met or come to know. One thing that can be said for sure about ‘Tears of a Heart’ is that it has a lot more character and ingenuity than other books in the fantasy genre. In fact when you look back at the novel once you are done with it, you will realize that it’s more a finely crafted allegorical novel about a boy’s coming of age story told with a few fantasy elements attached to it than an out and out fantasy novel. And the fantasy element in it is absolutely rooted in the book's world; nothing seems contrived or written just for the sake of it. And there are times when the line between fantasy and reality blurs especially when the book tries to process various thoughts and ideas discussed within a strong philosophical and spiritual aura. And then there are certain segments which really stand out, which smacks of creative brilliance and should find instant appeal amongst audiences for their visceral & intelligent quality.

I think we all have those memories of dreams that we have seen and have buried somewhere within, those wonderful moments when the unreal images transcended the barrier of our consciousness and became a definite vision. Tears of a Heart is in many ways like that, a book that transcends your reading experience to become a delicately beautiful memory.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
Renaissance man – A review of the book ‘Paths Less Travelled’


“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” - Rumi

Everyday life throws many options at us; it gives us the choice to be the master of our fate. But in spite of such a tempting offer very seldom do men try to enforce their destiny and when they do, it’s even rarer for anyone to get it right all the time. But every now and then, history throws such a polymath into our midst who seems to know exactly what to do and when to do it. And they eventually become the torch bearers for future generations.

Hon Kwong Lee, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Marine Corps, a former CIA officer and current practitioner of martial arts and acupuncture reveals in this startling and personal memoir, ‘Paths Less Travelled of a Scholar Warrior (Spy) Teacher Healer’, intimate details of an awe inspiring life led by him. Born to Chinese immigrant parents in America, this book details his life from growing up in New York in the 1950’s to joining the Marines after college, fighting the Vietnam war, serving in the CIA for thirty years and then finally learning and teaching martial arts and practising alternate medicine like acupuncture. At every stage in his life, life presented him with two options, two paths that would take him on completely different routes and every single time he chose the difficult and less taken path to arrive at a destination filled with contentment, peace and happiness.

One of the most endearing things about this book is that it is written in such a manner that you will feel as if you are listening to a dear friend whom you haven’t met in a while, telling you his life stories over a good cup of coffee. Hon K Lee has an honest self assured voice that is sometime self deprecating and humorous but is highly sensitive too. This memoir is bound to take you back to your own childhood, your years of growing up not knowing how life would turn out and then of later years of knowing and reminiscing the good parts along with the bad ones. Hon’s dedication and his determination to choose his own path led him to enjoy each and every waking moment of his life and his work. In fact, he chooses not to look at the work he’s doing as merely a job and instead uses his time and skill to help others and become an important catalyst in the positive changes that we all want to see in this world. The book also contains some wonderful personal photographs that corroborate the texts and aid in the narration.

Paths Less Travelled is an entertaining page turner and is an extremely fast read, especially for a memoir that offers an interesting and exciting peek into the life of an extraordinary individual. The events in Hon’s book are not laid down in any chronological order and are rather set according to the various themes discussed which have made an influence in his life. Even as a youngster Hon wanted to see and explore the world that existed outside the confines of Chinatown and his wish got granted as his work took him all over the world. The Vietnam part of the recollection is both horrifying and terrifying to read but at the same time becomes a very humbling experience when you learn about the bravery and sacrifices of so many brave young men. And his recollection of his days at the CIA reads like a script for a James Bond movie, the clandestine operations, the secrecy, the hush – hush manner in which all the details are discussed.

There are in fact a lot of interesting passages and incidents that are bound to leave a lasting impression on you, and in no particular order some of them are - growing up in the 1950’s, the Rudyard Kipling poem given by his father, the Edith incident, the fist fights, the spy training, being a salesman, the Vietnam episode, Uncle Harry, his struggles at the latter part of his career at CIA which eventually became the impetus to kick-start an alternate career involving Chinese medicine and his work in the field of acupuncture.

While a lot of autobiographies and memoirs will leave you impressed and in awe of the principal narrator, not many mange to make a personal connection with the reader. Read this book with Frank Sinatra’s famous track playing in the background and rest assured, you too will be in a happy place.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light” - Helen Keller

Author Inge-Lise Goss’s novel ‘The Cost of Crude’ takes place in Texas and is set in the backdrop of a car crash of an oil & gas company employee. Gwynn Reznick, the co-worker and friend of Julie, doesn’t believe her friend’s death was an accident. That’s when Julie’s grandmother employs a brilliant PI, Ruben Dordi to investigate her granddaughter’s death. Teaming up with Gwynn, Ruben and his team not only uncovers more cases of missing persons and deaths of Wilton employees but also unearths a deeper conspiracy that threatens the lives of many. And with enemy forces creeping up on them from all sides, Gwynn and Ruben must solve the case before it’s too late.

The Cost of Crude’, at its core has a beautiful and convincing story that is worthy of being told. Filled with lots of mystery and elements from a thriller, it is also a whodunit detective story containing traces of corporate espionage and professional rivalry. And at the centre piece of it all are a couple of well etched out characters in Gwynn and Ruben who fit perfectly into the scheme of things, and their involvement in the plot takes the reader along for a wonderful ride. It also has a great cast of supporting characters in Rosie & Holly who make a wonderful addition to the story line. With wonderful dialogues and some very creative innovations to move the story forward, author Inge-Lise has a perfect grip on the narration throughout the book. There are some wild plot twists and turns that you won’t see coming and which will lead you to different conclusions if you try and move ahead of the narrative in trying to find out how it all ends. The author also lets us see the viewpoints of all the key characters; this lets the reader get a deeper insight into each character’s mindset and helps in decoding the intention behind their decisions.

Whenever you pick up a new book, you owe it to yourself and the book to give it some time to connect with you, and this novel is no different in this regard. You have to give it some time for you to get used to the various characters and the pace of the narrative and understand what is going on in the background and also make peace with the changing point of view of the characters. But once you do this, then to reuse a cliché but true in its case, you will find it hard to put down the book until you find out the ‘truth’. The novel’s plot lines have an episodic feel to them and it is used as a means to highlight each character and reveal bit by bit of the mystery to the reader by giving you enough clues before moving on to the next phase of the story. The impending romance too has been handled maturely and has not been overdone. The book also introduces Texas and its famous oil industries and rich men to readers by highlighting its rich and colourful history and that is why the novel feels like a well researched book because the people and places in them seem so real.

With an action packed story about power hungry and greedy bad people on one side and a couple of good ones set out to stop wickedness in its tracks, ‘The Cost of Crude’ becomes an unforgettable experience especially with its quick witted characters and fast paced twists, turns and surprises. It is a great way to spend some quality hours.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you” - Stephanie Perkins

Author Josefina Gutierrez’s novel The Shadow of Loss narrates the story of a young girl who is coming to grips with her life after the sudden loss of a loved one. Evelyn Gonzalez has had to suffer a lot in her young age; she was the victim in an incident the authorities are still deliberating whether to call it a reckless game played by obnoxious kids or perhaps a sinister hate crime perpetrated by bigots. She didn’t just loose her best friend in the fire that day but something more, she lost herself. And that is why moving into a new town with her sister and joining a new school and having new friends come into her life maybe the best thing that has happened to her in a long time. But will Evelyn allow them to get closer to her; will she open up and be able to trust like before? These are the answers we try to find out in The Shadow of Loss.

It is a frightening tale of how someone can appear fine on the surface, and yet be damaged inside. This novel narrates the story of the indomitable spirit and the strong character of a young female who doesn’t give in to the dark side, in spite of life handing out some hard lessons very early on in her young life. The loss of her friend coupled with her mental breakdown leads her to being institutionalized and even when she gets out of the system, her soul stays locked behind her own made prison of guilt and denial. Low on confidence and having a negative body image, she pretty much fits the bill of numerous high school students who are branded as outcasts. Even when people are nice to her and try to help her, she isn’t able to recognize it and even when she does, she shies away from such intimacy. But eventually the goodness around her wears her down and lets her introspect and the courage to accept her past and forgive herself. A mix of tradition and spirituality helps her overcome her biggest fears and she is finally able to free her soul from her own imprisonment.

Josefina has got the angst and attitude of the teenagers spot on and it is reflected in the dialogues and narrative. It is an extremely fast read which I’m sure you will consume in a single sitting and this has got to do more with its writing than its length. The writing is crisp and always to the point, never dilly dallying around the plot or trying to impress you with unnecessary prose. And a funny line here and there ensures that your interest is kept intact for the full length of the book. Evelyn’s memories of June which keep popping into the narrative are another highlight of the book. The relationship between the sisters is also handled quite well and you will feel the love and concern the big sister Olive has for Evelyn. Then there are the love interest and the best friend in Brody and Matt respectively, they do what they are supposed to do and even though they don’t present any big surprises, it still works well with the genre of the book and you will enjoy their interactions with our lead.

The Shadow of Loss not only presents a compelling character study about the travails of a strong young girl but also has a powerful story that will appeal to a lot of readers. Josefina’s message of being comfortable in your own skin and being proud of your identity and choices is a good one and should be spoken about more especially amongst teens and young kids.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars” - Richard Evans

Prolific science fiction author Gary Caplan’s novel ‘Talcon Star City’ is the sequel to the 2009 release ‘The Phoenix Rising’. Painting the same vast expanse of space and its futuristic civilizations as revealed in the previous book, the new book too narrates the tale of such space faring people. A massive and powerful amalgamation of numerous civilizations, Alliance of Worlds is under constant threat of war and hostility from enemy civilizations who are hell bent on taking over this alliance. And their only hope is in the hands of a stalwart leader in Commodore Robert Sheppard who must not only rely upon his every intuition and skill but also seek help from a couple of new allies to fight the combined evil forces of Varlon and Accads. But he must do so before it’s too late for mankind.

While the space race led to nations competing with each other to send rockets and spaceships, what it also did was to introduce the power of science and create a spark of imagination amongst thousands of young minds, intriguing them about space and the role of man in them. This soon led to a parallel genre in fiction which later came to be known as space opera. And continuing from that initial spark which ignited our imagination, these novels inspired us to think outside of our little planet and become aware of the vastness of space and the potential that it contains. It has also given writers an opportunity to explore the theme of inequality that continue to exist among the different classes of people and the politics of colonizing space which hasn’t brought people closer as initially expected.

The Alliance of Worldsoperate under an uneasy truce, with heavy prejudices on all sides and with multiple alien cultures in a race against time and each other to occupy it. And it is huge cast of characters within the vast expanse of space and time that we get to meet here, with a host of returning characters and a few new ones. And no decision of any character goes in vain as we get to see the ramification of their each decision in scenes that come later. It is perhaps the bane of this genre that makes its authors think that their books need to have its share of didactic moments and Talcon Star City is no different in that regard but unlike a lot of other books, Gary through his characters and his tone ensure that such moments are softened by the overall pace of the story. And after a slow start, the book develops and gradually builds up with bigger and better action. The engaging action, great dialogues and well developed characters with Robert Sheppard at the centre of it all rounds off the novel quite nicely.

Talcon Star City is a surprisingly quick read even with its sometimes wordy passages. This is mostly due to both the content and the voice narrating the story. Gary Caplan as a writer tends to use his prose and words alternately to paint a vast picture of the universe and also to get to the point faster than other novels in this genre. By placing political, social, and cultural theorems within a readable science fiction atmosphere, Gary has come up with a novel that is highly engaging to say the least. Sometimes deep with subtle symbolisms, it explores the basic human drive to explore the unknown and the dangers that lurk in them. And as it has always been for mankind, the greatest danger it faces is a mix of external threats and internal ideological struggles.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well” – Alexander the Great

Any kid growing up spends the longest hours of his young life outside his own home in a school. So it’s no wonder schools are often referred to as second homes and teachers as sort of parental figures. And even though we experience a lot of rich emotions in our homes, nothing compares to the unique and special bond we make with our teachers. Numerous lovers and friends may enter and exit our lives, deaths and births we may see many but never shall we forget the one who opened the door to our minds, dispersing the shadows of ignorance with the light of knowledge.

Author G J Griffiths’s novel ‘So What! Stories or Whatever!’ is an anthology of a lifetime of stories of a teacher and the many kids that made an impact in his life. It follows Mr. Robert Jeffrey, a high school science teacher and his experiences dealing with students who were as varied as it gets. Beginning with Robert trying to lay a foundation on which to base his teaching persona, we get to see the various methods he employs, the numerous day to day incidents he faced dealing with students that made up a normal school day and the positive impact he made in the student’s lives.

Even though So What! Stories or Whatever! deals with the story of a teacher and his students in an English school, it has a story that will find universal resonance wherever it is read. It is a story that has been told many times before but then which story isn’t, is there a love story, an action story, a life drama or a comedy in this world that you haven’t heard before? And yet we like them and listen to and read every new story in that genre because certain stories are like that, it appeals to us at a basic emotional level we cannot ignore because these stories, like the one you will find in this book tug at your heart and not your head.Another attractive quality about the book is the guaranteed connection you will feel with the various characters and the events described in the book. You will find in the book traces of your old self and the various people you knew back in school, you will read about things that your friends and you did and you will also get to see the teachers that made an impact in your life.

G J Griffiths has a very simple and yet effective way of narrating his story and has created the perfect alter ego in Robert Jeffrey. And you can sense that it is perhaps the author himself, reliving his teaching days and the moments he spentamongst students like these. Another thing that I liked was how he dealt with the issue of bullying, everyone must have faced it one time or the other while in school and whether you were a perpetrator or a victim, you will find the conclusion drawn in the story to be very apt and just.

For the realistic portrayal of the school atmosphere and the laughs and tears that the author hands out in equal measure, I recommend this book and look forward to its sequel.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
“A teacher who loves learning earns the right and the ability to help others learn” - Ruth Beechick

There are a lot of issues and problems in this world of ours that manage to grab our attention, they ignite the extremist and arm-chair activists in us to act and do something about it. But more often than not, the ‘issue’ takes place somewhere far away from us, not too far that we can afford to ignore it and not talk about it but far enough to stop ourselves from becoming a part of the solution. If we were really honest with ourselves and paid more attention to our surroundings, then we would realize that issues and problems are everywhere, right in our own backyard and it is these we should tackle first instead of indulging in some namesake pseudo worrying.

G J Griffiths’ new novel ‘So What’s Next!’ is the sequel to his earlier work So What! Stories or Whatever!,which came out last year. Using the same setting of Birch Green High School, this time he introduces a new protagonist in the form of Molly Pearson, who was incidentally mentored by Robert Jeffrey, the hero of the first book. Molly is a young biology teacher who is both assertive and ambitious when it comes to her two loves, teaching children and caring for the nature around her. And she soon realises that she has to jump through a lot of hoops and face a lot of obstacles before she can get her kids back in line and also ensure a lasting awareness on the need to take care of nature.

Even though the author returns to the old school in which his first story was set, he introduces a fresh cast of protagonist and secondary characters, and therefore ‘So What’s Next!’ works well as a standalone new novel too. Miss Molly Pearson is an idealistic teacher who’s in it for the love of teaching and for making a significant difference in caring for nature, which is her second love. As a teacher she isn’t content with influencing and improving the life of just a single individual, she wants to improve the school and its surrounding to such an extent that the whole community benefits from the changes. There are a lot more sub plots and serious ones at that too in this outing unlike the first book, issues about bullying and the delinquent nature of certain students are discussed once again, the problem with caring for something the majority isn’t interested in and a romantic angle for the main protagonist are some of the other sub plots worked into the main story. The story line of this book follows the same pattern of the previous book in it being a collection of vignettes and anecdotes rather than a full blown linear story told in a traditional novel format. But this is something that works really well with the theme of the book, because of the level of believability and closeness to reality that the author has been able to portray.

Even though the author has not promised a sequel at the end of this book, one sure hopes he brings out a new book in this series. Because whenever you are telling stories about a school and the interactions between the teachers and students in them, there can never be an end to it, just as a school is kept alive by the hustle and bustle of life that each new class brings every year, this series too has the potential to keep going with newer stories about yet another teacher and his or her class of students.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
A Deadly Pathogen – A review of the novel ‘Antidote’


“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for” - Albert Camus

Even though John Lonergan’s novel ‘Antidote: Clandestine Warfare In Modern Russia’ is set in a futuristic world, it deals with a threat that is very contemporary in nature. Set in the backdrop of the souring relations between Russia and the Republic of Georgia, a group of nationalists from Georgia sets out to avenge the violence unleashed upon their country by the Russians by creating an epidemic for which there is no cure. Helping them in this mission is Joseph Karashvili, a brilliant microbiologist who creates a strain of super bacteria. While on the other side of the planet in America, Robert Cook, a member of an elite police force with a PhD in microbiology himself, inadvertently crosses path with the epidemic problem while investigating the theft of microorganisms from a lab. With time running out and the casualty list increasing every day, Cook must involve himself in a massive manhunt spanning across different countries to find the doctor and the antidote capable of stopping the epidemic.

Although the novel can be called a futuristic thriller with international politics and terrorism angle thrown in for good measure, at the very core it is a modern day cop and robber story but involving antibiotics and bacteria instead. And instead of using bio terrorism merely as a plot device and then relegating the actual fighting to take place between an archetypal American hero and a Chechen villain, the author takes you into the microscopic level and shows the fight taking place inside our bodies. The detailed descriptions of how the bacteria strain acts inside the human body is a novel experience and is a master stroke from the author, taking this thriller to a different level, making it more cerebral and yet very approachable in its presentation. He also stresses on the very real dangers of bio terrorism and a case of antibiotics eventually becoming ineffective against a constantly evolving group of bacteria and viruses due to over prescription of such antibiotics.

And since the story is set in future, the author has a lot of fun painting a highly advanced futuristic world which isn’t too outlandish and is in fact highly conceivable, considering the rapid pace of changes and developments taking place in the field of computing, robotics, AI and information technology. There are some fascinating sections in the book with an acutely intelligent and intuitive Artificial Intelligence, and super cars, buildings and even bathrooms that lights up your imagination thinking about the possibilities such a future will hold. The police officer investigating the crime and solving the puzzle is Mr. Robert Cook, a highly skilled, optimistic and intuitive officer with a keen eye who goes into the details of a crime, a trait which he probably picked up from his science and microbiology background. There are no over the top theatrics from him and in fact he gets the job done in a calm and serene manner.

Antidote: Clandestine Warfare In Modern Russia has a very good first chapter and the best hook any fictional book could hope to begin with. The book is an easy read, especially with its smart writing and short paragraphs which ensure that the reader’s attention is retained throughout the length of the book. Lonergan has also provided good detailed background story for each character, nobody is presented as a cardboard cut-out and the interactions and dialogues enhances the different points of view. The geography of the different places has been put to good use and it will transport you into the heart of the action. With Joseph coming back with Robert to America in the end, you can only imagine what more fascinating adventures are in store for us with these two brilliant minds coming together. And along with Daisy, the all knowing virtual assistant with him, this hero surely deserves a few more follow up adventures in which we can explore his personality better.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
The Finest Generation – A review of the novel ‘Dobyns Chronicles’

“It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams” - Don DeLillo

Author Shirley McLain’s latest novel ‘Dobyns Chronicles’ is a historical fiction loosely based on the life and times of her grandfather Charles Kenly Dobyns. Charles or Charley to those close to him was the eldest son of Kennerly, an American cowboy and Eliza, a Cherokee Indian and was raised in a farm in Red River in Bonham near Northeast Texas. The book chronicles his life story from the late 1800’s when he was a young boy in a Texan farm to mid 1950’s when he became a great grandfather in McAlester, Oklahoma. The book paints a moving real life story about a young man’s resolve dealing with the various tragedies life threw at him while also caring for his two siblings, younger brother David and sister Viola. This novel presents a fascinating look at vintage Americana and will fill your mind with nostalgia about a simpler life led in much simpler times.

Right off the bat, the first thing that you are going to notice and that too barely a couple of pages into the book is the wonderful use of the English language. It has become almost a rarity in mainstream literature to come across such beautiful phrases and prose that make you stop and read a line twice just for the sheer literary pleasure it gives you. The next best thing about this book is the pitch perfect way in which the author has been able to portray the laid back and lazy times with the back breaking, difficult and adventure filled day in an old western town. It is so descriptive that the character’s spirituality, the numerous odd jobs done around the house, cattle drive and horse breaking somehow become second nature to you by the time you are done with the book. And for people of this century where everything is available to them at the touch of a button, this book will be a throwback to our older and harsher times when day to day living meant a constant battle with the various elements of the nature.

Blending the fiction seamlessly with the many historical and factual events of the late 18th century and early 19th century, Shirley has made good use of various events like the yellow fever epidemic, the great depression and the absurd tax laws to good effect and has used them strategically at various points in the novel to underline the emotions of her characters in that setting beautifully. The changes happening over time and the various developments too have been captured nicely; case in point is Charley staying at a hotel for the very first time. Shirley also seems to have a knack in getting children’s behaviour and their conversations right, the change in tone and content when the conversation moves from a child to an adult is always bang on target.

The entire book will tug at your heart strings and make you think about your own family, it will also make you reminisce about your childhood as you read about the childhood of the Dobyn kids. And even though your childhood may have been vastly different from theirs, you will still feel a connection to the various commonalities that affect us humans across time and different nationalities. The epilogue and the photographs at the end really get to you and even though a life that you have been witness to from a young age has come to an end, you are in a strange way left with so many memories of this man. And this is because of the way the author has captured these scenes and emotions, by taking you right into the lives and homes of these people instead of merely narrating a story.

Great authors have often talked about the secrets that make a book appeal to audiences everywhere. They stress upon having a standout first chapter to make the readers commit to the book, a good first page that will blow them away and a great first line that will stay etched in their memory forever. If they are right then Shirley’s book has scored a definite ace on all three fronts and has emerged a clear winner.
 

Kevin Peter

Member
The Mind Control – A review of the novel ‘That Truthful Place’

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled” - Plutarch

How many times in our lives have we sat across a loved one, a parent, a friend or a lover and tried desperately to guess what they were thinking, to know the things they weren’t telling us? Most people acknowledge that a super power they would prefer if they were given one, was the ability to hear other people’s thoughts. The newer modes of communication and technology may have nullified our quest to find out other’s secrets to a certain extent since now they themselves deliver it to us 24/7 but that pang still remains, of wanting to find out other’s hidden secrets.

Author Patty Lesser’s new novel ‘That Truthful Place’ delves into the supernatural arena once again, investigating the phenomenon of telepathy and telekinetic powers among a bunch of young teenagers. After Alex Mitchell falls into a mysterious coma on the night of his 13th birthday, nobody seems to know what caused it. Even his physician Dr. John Matthews is befuddled by it. And on the third day when he wakes up from his deep stupor, Alex realizes that he has been blessed with a special gift, of being able to hear other people’s thoughts. It turns out this is not an isolated case and a whole bunch of kids across North America have developed this gift after waking up from a 3 day coma. Honing their skills, these kids are soon able to communicate with each other and form a secret little society with their unique background and specialized skills. And while Doctor Matthews wants to find out the group’s secrets, the children want to find out who or what gave them this power and what it intends to do with them.

Patty Lesser has taken an interesting concept and an ever popular theme of telepathy and woven a fictional story around it, while also showing a bunch of young teenagers dealing with various issues. If you have read Patty’s books before, you will notice that she has in her possession a lovely prose that is put to good use especially in a more adult themed novel like Locker Rooms but here in That Truthful Place, which is about and possibly marketed towards young adults and teens, she writes in a different manner, she creates an environment befitting the protagonist’s age and skillfully captures the minds of her thirteen year old leads. And this is something that young children and teens will definitely appreciate, they will see that the narrative connects with them, and their hopes and fears, their problems, their angst and the beauty of their innocence has all been captured very well by the author.

Going against the tradition found in books of such genre, ‘That Truthful Place’ presents ten children as part of its main cast instead of a solitary lead. But this huge cast doesn’t go to waste as each one has been given a unique background and specialty of a skill. And since they are all bound by the powers of telepathy they are able to communicate with each other even when remaining in different parts of the country. Kat with her leadership qualities and superior powers along with Alex who is one of the central characters in the book gets some of the more important scenes in the book. There’s also a cliff-hanger towards the end with the introduction of a group of people who are shown as the ones responsible for giving the children these gifts. And with Dr. Matthews losing the battle in tracking the children and their gifts for now, things should get really interesting in the second part of this story as we explore this thread further.

With a liberal dose of friendship, young love, loyalty & courage, this book should easily appeal to youngsters and those who are young at heart.
 
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