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Kevin Peter's book reviews

Discussion in 'Member Book Reviews/Journals/Blogs' started by Kevin Peter, Jun 8, 2014.

  1. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Our Big Secret – A review of the novel ‘Devouring Time’

    “That is how heavy a secret can become. It can make blood flow easier than ink.” – Patrick Rothfuss

    Author Patty Lesser’s novel ‘Devouring Time’ narrates the happenings inside an old English country-house in Canada. Marcus, a solicitor from London has been entrusted with delivering a special package to the heiress of an old mansion. What happens thereafter includes the revelation of a secret treasure, relatives clamoring for their share in the riches and an unexpected death in the family. When an investigation is launched to identify the murderer, more secrets and the true nature of the family members gets revealed.

    The narration in Devouring Time has a laidback approach to it, and is very much reminiscent of the posh, aristocratic mansion the story is set in. Though it’s touted as a mystery book, the novel isn’t in a hurry to introduce you to all the characters and then reveal the big mystery within the story. Art plays a major part in the narrative, what with almost all the characters being connoisseurs of classical and modern paintings. And just like how you would go about painting a fine picture; the author has taken her time in constructing the scenes and in applying the right shades and tones.

    Although Marcus Tate is introduced as a core protagonist in the narration, the book actually has a bevy of colorful characters that keeps the plot moving forward. There’s nothing special about his character, but it is fun to see his life unravel and dissimilate as he interacts more with the family members of the mansion. Margaret plays the love interest to Marcus; she is also the sole character with integrity amidst her greedy relatives. Other notable characters that make an impression with their characteristics and their dialogues include Richard, Lillian, Marilyn, Victor and the stone faced but loyal butler Howard.

    Actually, all the characters in this novel can be the subjects in a compelling case study about human nature. Their behavior and antics even in the midst of a tragedy shows that sometimes human beings can value personal richness and comfort over other moralistic compulsions like truth and justice. This is an interesting reveal into the human psyche and is something that the author has attempted in her earlier book A Discerning Heart as well. While the latter was set in the fantasy genre, Devouring Time has a more modern and real-life feel to it.

    The book can’t be classified as just another Whodunit fiction; although the novel has all the elements of a mystery book - a huge mansion filled with a diverse array of characters, a secret room with a precious treasure, conniving characters that stand to benefit from the death of the matriarch and even a mysterious butler to boot. Devouring Time is primarily a character driven story and an introspection into the worldly compulsions that prompts us to behave in a certain manner. The mystery element merely binds the story together and keeps the reader engaged till the end.

    Patty Lesser has spun a different tale based on the mold of classic mystery stories, and regular readers of hers will appreciate the different voice she has employed here.
     
  2. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    The Peacemaker – A review of the novel ‘The Crossbow Code’

    “There is nothing more provocative than minding your own business.” - William S. Burroughs

    Author M C Raj’s novel ‘The Crossbow Code’ is a fictional story set in the past but is one that has it bearings in the present of today and perhaps of the conceivable future. Set across three different continents and as many countries, we follow a man, a stranger amidst a sea of humanity, a man named Kris. He is a provocateur, a philosopher, a man of ideas and higher ideals. In his adventures he interacts with various men, some ordinary while others some of the most notable figures from the history of mankind. Through his provocations we get to see and understand the other side of the heroes and institutions that we adore so much.

    First up I have to let you know that this isn’t your regular thriller novel, and although theme wise it resembles other popular books, this one is more of an ideological thriller-fiction. While strong characterizations along with solid plotting are a prerequisite for any novel; where such books differ is in the integration of the author’s ideas - ideas that try to invigorate and channel our preconditioned minds into accepting newer facts and also be made aware of situations that we are ignorant about. But such ideological fiction often faces a familiar risk, of such ideas getting buried under bad writing, but that isn’t the case here as the execution is wonderful as well. It succeeds in using its plot situations and allegories to open up arguments and discourses about a variety of topics.

    The Crossbow Code works also as a good exposition into information about important people and movements from around the world. And you will be impressed not only by the content but also by the mode of delivery the author has chosen here. The reader gets a crash course in the Indian independence struggle, its leaders, the prevailing caste system, its ills, and also on the unreported side of Christianity. And once you get used to the narrative, the flow of events that will remind you of an expose documentary gels well together and never feels forced.

    There isn’t a lot that I found wrong with the book, but at times I felt the author went overboard in trying to make his point. Kris for most part appears as a grounded and a courageous fellow, the hero amongst us asking questions we have all wanted to ask. But sometimes his larger-than-life persona tends to put him in the same ranks as the idols he questions. Also, within the plot work I felt a lot of areas could’ve been handled more subtly, instead of going for an all out, crude and in-your-face treatment.

    MC Raj’s writing on humankind, women, love, religion and sexuality through his character Kris puts a greater emphasis on scientific and rational arguments than on tradition based or culture closed arguments. The book succeeds in reminding us what it means to be a human.

    In the end, this is a book that I think a lot of people will enjoy. There’s a bit of history lesson in it, there’s a bit of paranoiac dystopian future reality in it, and it also suggests ways by which we can overhaul our social order for the better. There’s plenty here to suggest that a brilliant mind was at work here, and it is an important read, especially for the times we live in.
     
  3. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Time for retribution – A review of the novel ‘Smooth Intentions 2’

    “Vengeance is one of life's great motivators.” – K.S. Brooks

    Author Kimberly Stewart’s novel ‘Smooth Intentions 2’ focuses on the life of the protagonist Skylar Clark. She runs the family business of Clark Enterprises but she is also a trained street fighter, a true-blue femme fatale. In this adventure story, she is hunting down the man responsible for murdering her grandfather. But she inadvertently stumbles upon a plot involving soldiers influenced by mind control and the mafia trying to smuggle guns out of the army. It is the second book in the Smooth Intentions series.

    Skylar looks and behaves like a normal young woman but Skylar has a secret. She has been trained in martial arts and in weapons discharge by her friends. And she has had to rely on her fighting skills in the past when bad people hurt her family. So she carries around this fury and plots on getting revenge on the people responsible for wronging her family. But she isn’t consumed by this and has learned to keep it under check so that she can live her life. She tries to live a normal life by heading the family business, by being kind and considerate to others and also finding time for love and romance on the sidelines. But if you mess with her or the ones she loves, that’s when you get to see her wild side. Then she is all fury and vengeance raining down on her enemies.

    This is a book that works mainly because of its good characterizations; while the plot placements and their expansion do have scope for development. And precisely for this reason, the book doesn’t grab your full attention like a regular thriller is supposed to. But it still keeps you engaged and you end up turning the next page, mainly because you want to know what Skylar does next. There’s a cliffhanger in the book but only after the mission that haunts the protagonist gets resolved. The promise of a next book actually sounded interesting to me, because I really would like to find out more about the character of Skylar. But it isn’t just her but other characters like Rico, Monty and Kenny that makes the book an enjoyable read. There are a lot of action scenes as well, and while I would have loved for the author to portray it in a more detailed manner, it’s good fun nonetheless.

    The book could have focused more on the main plot of Skylar going after Mr. Bowler instead of diverting its attention towards a sub-plot that takes our attention away from the amazing Skylar. But these are just minor negative points. It’s tough to classify Smooth Intentions 2 as an outright revenge saga or a thriller. It works mainly because of its chief protagonist.

    I haven’t read the previous book in this series, but I didn’t feel it was necessary to enjoy Skylar and Rico’s addictive and adventurous story!
     
  4. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Night at the mansion – A review of the novel ‘The Dark Auction’

    “There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.” – Mary Shelley

    Author Joann Harris’ novel ‘The Dark Auction’ is set in a world where witches, warlocks and powerful sorcerers don’t think twice before wreaking havoc to get what they want. The story is set around a mysterious auction that is conducted every 30 years, where the top prize is a powerful dark power. Laura Johnson is a witch who has to team up with her father’s friend Edward to get to the auction. She isn’t after the prize but the killer who murdered her father to get their hands on the invitation to the auction.

    The narrative in The Dark Auction is surprisingly engaging and refreshing to read in spite of its overused theme found in dime a dozen YA genre books. There is an easy going feeling to it and it never feels contrived or like it’s punching above its weight. There are no long winding and boring descriptions and yet you get a clear understanding of the characters and the setting. It follows a gentle and yet purposeful formula for setting up the characters and plot scenes. The action scenes in the book also deserve a mention. They aren’t overdone; in fact they are imaginative and well executed. The bad guys are well defined and their actions will scare you. And someone like Ashmedia’s allegiance to good/evil is questionable; he is an interesting character and is someone you would like to find out more about.

    There are a number of important characters here who contribute towards the readability of the story. Chief among them are the protagonists, Laura Johnson and Edward Peters. Laura is someone who has tried to run away from her destiny of being a witch. Born to powerful parents who were connoisseurs of the dark power she too has her powers but she hasn’t perfected them. Laura claims that she is the centre of everyone’s attention because of a seductive spell put on her. But judging from her confidence in tackling even the difficult of situations one can deduce that she would always remain under the spotlight, spell or no spell. Edward is a college professor and is paranoiac by nature that inadvertently helps him out in a lot of situations. Unknown to him he too possesses a certain supernatural power, one that helps him turnaround situations to his benefit. He is vulnerable in love and shows his sensitive side while falling in love with Laura. These two have plenty of scenes together and be it knocking down doors of the enemy or the invincible doors to each other’s minds, they are good together and have a wonderful and exciting sexual chemistry.

    There isn’t anything that I found problematic within the book, be it in the narration or the characterizations. There were a few editing errors in the copy I received but then again it was an ARC and I’m sure these must have been rectified before the book hit the stores.

    Will there be another follow-up book? I don’t know but let’s hope so. Laura and Edward deserve another story to move their adventure forward.
     
  5. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    From Another World – A review of the novel ‘Target Earth’

    “Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze.” – Carl Sagan

    Author Mary Louise Davie’s novel ‘Target Earth: You only see what you want to’ is set in the foreseeable future in classic science fiction style. Mankind has achieved much technological progress and has learned to harness the prowess of computers and artificial intelligence for its own benefit. When a couple of aliens make contact with such an automated world. Scientist couple Dr. Danielle and Dr. Christian are chosen to meet these aliens and understand the purpose behind their visit.

    The book says that while humans of the future have made much progress with technology, their humanity has taken a backseat. Some may very well argue that such a reality is already a part of the present world we live in, and those people wouldn’t be wrong either. The book doesn’t despise or present all technology as evil, in fact it has clearly extolled the virtues and incredible developments that has been possible because of new technologies. The book actually looks at the person behind the machine and the inherent drawback in this animal that makes putting advanced technology in its hands dangerous. Greed, maniacal ego, and distrust of each other manifests itself in such a manner that human beings have put its future in grave danger. Clearly inspired by other science fiction narrative, here too a powerful and innately advanced civilization comes to the conclusion that the ongoing progress of humans could be detrimental to the lives of other beings in the universe and decides it’s time to destroy planet earth. Although one could argue that by following such an arbitrary action this supposedly superior power is destroying all plant and animal lives for no fault of their own. The parallel drawn to Noah’s ark fits well here, for all it moral plusses and minuses.

    The aliens in the book should win over your heart. They are not some freakishly tall beings with bloated heads. Ishmael and Rudy give the appearance of humanoids and walk & talk like them, but it’s mostly to placate the fears of the natives and make them feel comfortable. Their interactions with the humans, especially Danny and Chris have many heartwarming moments. Christian and Rudy have a more masculine character to their interactions, bordering on comical awkwardness. Danielle and Ishmael on the other hand have a more easy going relationship and their interactions and the trust they share right from the start feels like they have been best friends for a long time. The professional and personal partnership between Danny and Chris too has been well etched out.

    The author should be commended for the design of the various future technologies and the architecture of the setting this story plays out in. The description of the homes, offices, cars, weapons, and spacecrafts are amazing. Although it is science fiction and fantasy, a lot of grounded thinking and real science seems to have gone behind its creation. Ideas like these present exciting possibilities of what our future may look like.

    Target Earth isn’t a typical sci-fi/apocalypse novel and that is because of the subtle but important political message found in the book. The threat to humanity is not from outsiders but from within - is a thread that needs to be explored in detail by everyone. Sometimes witty, mysterious and thought provoking at other times, this novel is a good science fiction fable.
     
  6. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Never Forget – A review of the novel ‘Heart-Rending Times’

    “Love, the poet said, is woman's whole existence.” – Virginia Woolf

    Renowned author C Radhakrishnan’s book ‘Heart-Rending Times’ is the second book in the Arjun trilogy of books. It is set in the time period between 1970’s and 80’s in India. It tells the tale of a group of people dealing with life in its various hues as much as it tells the story of a nation coming to grips with vast socio-political and economic changes. Anuradha is a woman extraordinaire and is often a living metaphor for the country she resides in. She is strong and steadfast even in the face of the harshest of challenges. She is strength, she is power, and she is love. Even gods and demons will not be able to break her willful spirit.

    Since the story is set a few decades back it fits the description of a historical novel. That being said, the historical events described merely form a backdrop for the narrative and are not the main focus. And I love novels which are set in places and time period that I am not too familiar with. India has always fascinated me and it was mouth-watering to get to know this country and its people from a critical time period. The seventies and eighties were a different period altogether in the U.S. as well. A lot of social and political changes were taking place and it was interesting to note that half way across the world, India too was going through this strange upheaval.

    The story revolves around four principal characters in Anuradha, Ashok, Nikhil and Devendra. I really don’t want to reveal the plot or explain the characters in great detail because then you will miss out on the elation of discovering the extraordinary circumstances these people find themselves in. Since I don’t know much about the culture of the land, I don’t know how much has been portrayed as real and how much has been added for dramatic effect. But the character of Devendra, who is a police officer, will sicken you to your stomach. His actions are evil and in part reflective of the institutional decay – the powers that control him. The lives of Anuradha and Nikhil are an epic journey and you will feel like you are shadowing them through life’s various upheavals. The angst and anger in Ashok is such a common sentiment found in young men everywhere who had to grow up in a challenging environment.

    This work of fiction is sure to leave you dumbstruck with the genuine characters and emotions that will pierce even the harshest of critics. The narrative is staggeringly beautiful; the scenes themselves are deep and rich. This is one of those books where you will laugh along with the characters, cry with them, be frightened and infuriated together with them.

    The book ends in the best way possible, I’m not going to mention it but the final fate of all the four main characters is a perfect summation of the strength and dignity of these characters and their story. This is a gorgeous and beautiful story that has been made accessible to worldwide audiences. I salute the author and the translator.
     
  7. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Never Forget – A review of the novel ‘Heart-Rending Times’

    “Love, the poet said, is woman's whole existence.” – Virginia Woolf

    Renowned author C Radhakrishnan’s book ‘Heart-Rending Times’ is the second book in the Arjun trilogy of books. It is set in the time period between 1970’s and 80’s in India. It tells the tale of a group of people dealing with life in its various hues as much as it tells the story of a nation coming to grips with vast socio-political and economic changes. Anuradha is a woman extraordinaire and is often a living metaphor for the country she resides in. She is strong and steadfast even in the face of the harshest of challenges. She is strength, she is power, and she is love. Even gods and demons will not be able to break her willful spirit.

    Since the story is set a few decades back it fits the description of a historical novel. That being said, the historical events described merely form a backdrop for the narrative and are not the main focus. And I love novels which are set in places and time period that I am not too familiar with. India has always fascinated me and it was mouth-watering to get to know this country and its people from a critical time period. The seventies and eighties were a different period altogether in the U.S. as well. A lot of social and political changes were taking place and it was interesting to note that half way across the world, India too was going through this strange upheaval.

    The story revolves around four principal characters in Anuradha, Ashok, Nikhil and Devendra. I really don’t want to reveal the plot or explain the characters in great detail because then you will miss out on the elation of discovering the extraordinary circumstances these people find themselves in. Since I don’t know much about the culture of the land, I don’t know how much has been portrayed as real and how much has been added for dramatic effect. But the character of Devendra, who is a police officer, will sicken you to your stomach. His actions are evil and in part reflective of the institutional decay – the powers that control him. The lives of Anuradha and Nikhil are an epic journey and you will feel like you are shadowing them through life’s various upheavals. The angst and anger in Ashok is such a common sentiment found in young men everywhere who had to grow up in a challenging environment.

    This work of fiction is sure to leave you dumbstruck with the genuine characters and emotions that will pierce even the harshest of critics. The narrative is staggeringly beautiful; the scenes themselves are deep and rich. This is one of those books where you will laugh along with the characters, cry with them, be frightened and infuriated together with them.

    The book ends in the best way possible, I’m not going to mention it but the final fate of all the four main characters is a perfect summation of the strength and dignity of these characters and their story. This is a gorgeous and beautiful story that has been made accessible to worldwide audiences. I salute the author and the translator.
     
  8. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Grand Initiation – A review of the novel ‘Sword of the Quest’

    “It is part of a good man to do great and noble deeds, though he risk everything.” – Plutarch

    Author Richard Dawes’ book, Sword of the Quest, is the latest installment in the ‘Wolf Slayer Saga’ series. Valka the Wolf Slayer, the sword wielding hero of the story, has already established his credentials as a fierce fighter. He carries the bloodline of the Dragon Lords, an ancient warrior class whose life purpose has been divinely ordained. In this story he undergoes many challenging tests that further enhance the myth surrounding his character. And an encounter with a mystical sorcerer takes him one step closer to attaining ultimate power and knowledge.

    Sword of the Quest is an adventure filled with many fearsome battle scenes. It also has mellow interludes where Valka reveals his humane side. Although it is not a lengthy book, the plotting of the story does give it a big book feel. There are many important sub-plots leading to the big denouement at the end. Rather than introduce the hero with a thrilling action piece, the book begins with Valka being pushed into a challenging situation where he is not in control. Unable to resolve the problem with his sword, he must rely on strength of character and intelligence to survive. But with a hero like Valka, sword fighting, decapitations and general action are never far behind, and they provide a wonderful thrill.

    Since Valka’s character has already been established in previous books, Sword of the Quest doesn’t waste time in repeating it. But the reader is still able to follow the story and the setting should they choose this book to get into the series. And compared to previous sagas, they will sense a subtle change in Valka’s character. He still follows the Warrior's Way but he also realizes that he can’t always dictate the course of events. He is more aware of what he can do and more importantly what he cannot do. He is not merely a gifted swordsman, but also an intelligent, perceptive thinker.

    Underlying Richard Dawes' stories are questions about life and meaning from the perspectives of philosophy and metaphysics. These elements aren’t only to fulfill the fantasy aspect of the story. They serve as a platform to address important issues. The sagas are commercial novels but there is an intent to discuss esoteric subjects. There are wonderful dialogue sequences in the book that the reader will surely want to highlight in order to re-read later.

    I found nothing wrong with the book. It is commercial fiction with a lot of action, a hunk of a hero, beautiful women – and even woman warriors - and fast pacing. It is a compelling read. And it doesn’t demand that you to set your brain aside to enjoy the book. Sword of the Quest is entertaining and also gives you something to think about. What more could you ask for from a book?
     
  9. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    The Magnificent Killer – A review of the novel ‘Jack Slade’

    “It isn't hard to find evil in this world. Evil is always more easily imagined than good, somehow.” – Gregory Maguire

    Author Richard Dawes’ novel ‘Jack Slade – Night of the Hunter’ is an action filled adventure thriller. The protagonist of the novel is its namesake, Jack Slade. He works for the Diamond Group, a private security organization that deals with crisis situations all over the globe. However, the antagonists he pursues aren’t from this world. Jack Slade is the Head of the Occult Division, and he is its only member. He is the operative who prevents the dark forces from overrunning the world. A number of gruesome murders have taken place in San Francisco, and Slade is asked to work with the police department to catch the killer. But the job becomes dangerous when he realizes he has to go up against the most powerful Vampyre in the world.

    'Night of the Hunter' and Jack Slade have an easy going feeling about them. They aren’t complex by any stretch of the imagination. There are vast segments within the book, however, that turn serious and intent driven – in discussions of good & evil, existence of different realities, and how the perception of any phenomenon is dictated by the perspective from which it is viewed. The writing is very good and the author’s eye for detail is excellent. The descriptions, be it of the scenery or of the characters are spot on and the reader will feel as if they are right in the middle of the action. There are plenty of standout scenes in the book. The opening segment itself does a good job in setting the right mood. There’s plenty of suspense in the narrative and the reader will definitely be shocked by the climax.

    Jack Slade is an interesting character. He differs from the heroes generally found in Occult and Fantasy fiction fighting demons and evil forces. He is an up-front hero and does his job quickly and efficiently. He is also able to curb his lone-wolf approach and work as part of a team as they tackle dangerous situations. Then again, his advanced psychic senses give him an advantage over others when battling evil forces. The supporting cast is well drawn, and each character has his or her own style. The villain, Lawrence Swann, is a worthy opponent for Slade, and is larger than life. Even though Swann is pure evil and from a different realm, he has an efficient way of dealing with situations and in furthering his plans.

    The only problem I had with the book was its editing. Occasionally, the way some chapters ended and the next began raised an eyebrow. The transitions weren’t smooth and there was a certain abruptness. Also, I felt the long conversation between Slade and a psychologist could have been diminished without losing the message.

    'Night of the Hunter' and Jack Slade will definitely keep the reader interested. The action is fast paced, stylized, and vividly described. The world Jack Slade moves within is definitely worth exploring and deserves sequel stories.
     
  10. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Blue Flame – A review of the novel ‘Star Sword’

    “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.” – Viktor E. Frankl

    Richard Dawes’ book, ‘Star Sword’, is the latest installment in the ‘Wolf Slayer Saga’ series. Valka the Wolf Slayer is an enigmatic fighter and a destined hero of the times. He follows the Warriors Way, and is ever ready to fight the dark forces of chaos to preserve cosmos. After stumbling into Agartha, a spiritual center and civilization beneath the surface of the earth, he becomes the hero the people have been awaiting. An evil magician has unleashed unspeakable evil in his bid to take control of Agartha and ultimately the world. Valka relies on his star sword and new acquaintances to vanquish the magician and restore peace.

    Star Sword follows the template found in the other books in the series. This isn’t a negative, especially if the reader is a fan of these books. The book continues to provide plenty the same dynamics that originally attracted readers to this series.

    Valka was a powerful hero to begin with and in the latest installment he becomes even more powerful. When characters acquire ‘too big to fail’ status, it removes some of the unpredictability from the plot. The reader knows that no matter how tough the situation gets, the hero will escape the latest predicament unscathed, and possibly even emerge stronger.

    This is not a flaw. It is inherent in the heroic genre. Does anyone really walk into an Avengers movie and expect them to fail in the climax? Does anyone expect James Bond to lose out to the villain?

    In Star Sword, Richard Dawes has expertly integrated into the plot metaphysical considerations the reader has come to expect in the sagas. Here the reader can ruminate on world cycles, vibration underlying form, power, its variations and its corrupting influence.

    There is plenty to enjoy in Star Sword if you are a returning reader or are new to the series. First on the list is the fight sequences. Describing an action scene with swords and axes is more difficult than those involving guns. The author does an outstanding job etching the details, allowing the reader to imagine these scenes clearly. And he keeps it fresh, even though there are many fight scenes in the saga. The descriptions of the environment are very detailed, bringing the realm of Agartha to vivid life for the reader. The characters are well-drawn and real.

    Valka the Wolf Slayer can be read on several different levels – as a simple action hero, if one is looking for entertainment. If one is willing to read between the lines, however, there is quite a bit of subtext to this lone hero’s adventures.
     
  11. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    The Ultimate Quest – A review of the novel ‘Song of the Sword’

    “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Gautama Buddha

    Richard Dawes’ book, ‘Song of the Sword’, is the latest installment in the ‘Wolf Slayer Saga’ series. Valka the Wolf Slayer, who hails from the far North, follows the Warrior's Way. The Dragon Blood courses through his veins. It is an ancient bloodline of select initiates who ensure Events in every Age materialize as destined. In this adventure, he visits the Magical Isle of Britain, known also as Logres. There he meets King Arthur, and, with Sir Gawain and the bard, Taliesin, embarks upon a special journey – the famed Quest for the Grail.

    The storyline of Song of the Sword puts to good use the allure the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Table Round have had and continue to have on the popular imagination. King Arthur's life and exploits have been depicted many times in literature, movies and television. The King Arthur we meet in this saga, however, is aging and losing his grip on his kingdom and the Round Table Fellowship. Turmoil and strife are rampant in the land. Conspiracies abound among Knights and Lords. There are even rumors of a usurpation of Arthur's throne.

    Whenever an Age is coming to an end it is foreshadowed by cataclysmic events. It is into just such a setting that Valka the Wolf Slayer enters. The author then introduces a host of characters and places that are familiar to readers: King Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Gawain, Taliesin, and the castle in Camelot.

    The language is clean and easy to follow in spite of the many archaic and difficult topics it discusses. The book’s description of the land, the people, the battle scenes are wonderfully done and it creates a lot of excitement. The author once again explores the human condition to its fullest extent.

    For a serious reader there is much to ponder and reflect upon in Valka's discussions and the dynamics of his relationships. There is plenty of action and decapitations to satisfy the blood and guts enthusiasts as well. The pacing of the action sequences vis-à-vis the story line is highly rewarding and never tests the reader's patience.

    Valka as usual is in full flow. His legend has been established and there is no land on earth where his past exploits are not known. There is a bit of paradox in that he carries both the sensitivity of a poet and the brutality of a Viking with ease. He is always in control of his faculties and never lets man, woman or nature influence his resolve. As always, he is interested in exploring the role of Man in society. Forever on a quest to achieve a higher standard among men, he asks many deep questions. The topics raised in the book force the reader to look beyond the narrow field of knowledge and education typical of modern society.

    Song of the Sword has the earmarks of a great classic and it should appeal to a wide variety of readers. It will be an exciting read even for those who have read previous versions of the Arthurian legends. The novel not only revisits the story, but gives it a fresh twist by injecting a fierce warrior like Valka into the mix. It is certainly the best saga in the series so far.
     
  12. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    A fine line – A review of the novel ‘Angels’

    “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” - Elbert Hubbard

    Author Erin Lockwood’s novel ‘Angels: A love story’ introduces a close set of characters. This story is as old as life itself. When two people who are meant to be together – a fact that they both know, can’t still get together, what happens? Drama!

    Light, playful and yet heart wrenching at times – this is a novel for all the true romantics.

    Cara and Sam are destined for each other, we know it the first time we meet them, and everyone else seems to know it as well. But life constantly interrupts and prevents them from taking the next step.

    It doesn’t help at all that Cara is in a codependent platonic relationship with Theo. Cara is forever the damsel in distress and Theo is the enabler who thrives on being needed all the time. When Sam enters the scene, it disrupts the equation between the two. But destiny is a funny thing, and by the time fate is done with these characters their lives will never be the same again.

    This seems to be Erin Lockwood’s first venture into YA, and by all accounts this is a sensational debut! Caralee Lee (roll your eyes now!) is a young woman who like countless others is struggling to stay afloat in a weak economy. She lives the independent life and is constantly juggling her work, relationship and friendships. She is also anxiety prone; possibly brought on by a traumatic event she witnessed, and she is in a borderline unhealthy relationship with a male friend with whom she faced the traumatic event. Needless to say, this leaves room for all sorts of narrative possibilities and the author has taken an interesting run with this.

    This isn’t your typical modern YA novel, although in the beginning it might give off that seen before-heard before kind of vibe. The more we read and the more we learn about Cara and Theo, you will realize that they are in many ways flawed characters and not some goody two-shoes kind. It is this initial phase that one has to get through patiently to enjoy the rest of the novel. This is the only part in the novel that may appear a bit dull, but soon after especially with the introduction of the character of Sam, everything changes. And it is fun to see our duo come out of their shell and even acknowledge, albeit reluctantly that what they are doing isn’t healthy.

    The author has managed to regale the reader by placing many thought-provoking situations in her book. It is reflective in many ways; we need to think why we’ve become so defensive and scared in our life. Why does opening up our hearts scare us so much? Why do we run away from serious relationships? All her characters, be it even the uber suave Sam are essentially flawed characters and it is fun exploring their fears and insecurities.

    There were several small things that I felt could have been outlined in a better manner. Regardless of that, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the modern take on relationships and friendships and the interplay of diverse emotions. I'd recommend it, especially if you're a YA fan.
     
  13. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    True Redemption – A review of the novel ‘Last Things’

    “There's no need to talk about it, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does.” - Bernhard Schlink

    Author Betta Ferrendelli’s novel ‘Last Things’ is a sensitive and poetic take on friendships and life connections. There isn’t a “Hero” in the book; it tells the story of two women from different walks of life who meet each other in a most unexpected way and form a life altering bond of friendship. Bridgette is a newly single woman whose life is in complete disarray and who is on the run to escape facing the harsh realities of life. Alexis is a single mother who has locked eyes with trouble in life and come out on top. Alexis is the future persona of the self that Bridgette aspires to be. They get together and thus begin a special relationship in which new life lessons are learned and obsolete ones forgotten. This is their story.

    Ferrendelli has written the character of Bridgette in such a way that you can’t help but identify and then empathize with her life situations. Emotional scaring due to an incident at work, manipulated into undergoing a medical procedure and then realizing all of it were for nothing. Life isn’t easy for her and you wonder – when will this poor girl get out of this ditch? It happens soon and quite literally too after she gets into an accident and the goodwill of strangers come to her rescue. Alexis is the antithesis of Bridgette, she took a different path when life presented her with the same choices. So you get to see this wonderful contrast between the two characters and you can see the gradual changes happening in Bridgette as she spends more time with Alexis, her daughter Eden and around other supporting characters.

    For a casual reader there is plenty to look forward to. Expect to be taken on an emotional journey as these two characters discover life together. It is a positive book which extols us to treat each day as a gift and an opportunity to do some good in the world and bring a smile to a stranger’s face.

    There’s so much to love about the book, especially its simplicity. But this can also be argued as one of the book’s weak links, where sometimes it just feels all too simplistic how everything turns out in these characters’ lives; plus it could have been shorter by a few pages.

    The grief in the book is brilliantly handled and the characters come to terms with the loses in an organic way. The angle with the small girl will get to you and so be prepared to have some tissues nearby.

    Overall I felt the story was beautifully written and well paced. I very much felt like I became a part of their world and you get emotional with them and it stays with you long after you have finished the book.

    I highly recommend you read this, it is a wonderful little novel.
     
  14. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    A Nice Thingamabook – A review of the book ‘Dragon For Hire’

    “Everything you can imagine is real.” - Pablo Picasso

    Author Barbara Brooks Wallace’s book ‘Dragon For Hire’ tells a charming tale about an 11 year old boy and his adventures with a talking dragon. Morris Doubleday Clipper is a fifth grade student living in a little town called Wister Wibbles and attends the namesake Grammar & Middle School. He lives at home with his inventor father and author mother. In a household where imagination runs wild, little Morris sadly has none of it and struggles to churn out even a half a decent story to his English teacher Miss Picklesticker. Then one day when a talking, well-mannered dragon stops by the garage in his house, Morris discovers a whole new facet to his town and its people and in the end gains the one thing that was missing from his life all along - Imagination.

    Although it’s hard to imagine anyone in the age group of 9-12 ever being lonely, some children are. While some may not have made the right friend, others in spite of having many may not feel like sharing everything with them. These children should find Morris extremely relatable, his earnestness and honesty makes him stand out in the crowd. Morris is far more reasonable than children his age usually are and is also open to new ideas and even criticism. His unlikely alliance and friendship with Tom the dragon is funny, sweet and serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps Morris overcome the obstacle in his life and unearth a special treasure. Secondly, it tells the reader that keeping an open mind that is receptive to new ideas and new people can help us achieve much progress in our lives.

    The entire book is an excellent play on the English language and is a linguist’s delight. This feature is something I imagine a lot of adults will find appealing in the book. The names of the people and places in this book reflect this. The book also inspires you to think independently without getting bogged down by peer pressure. It also tells you to be proud of yourself, your skills, your heritage and even your shortcomings and differences.

    Morris’ reasoning and thinking is clever and is hard to argue with. He has a way about him that is smart and funny and is sure to leave a big smile on your kid’s as well as your face. Morris in the end hopes that Tom the dragon will make a quick comeback; a sentiment I’m sure a lot of readers will share as well.

    Speaking of imagination, try this bit and you will have even more fun while reading the book. Whenever Tom the dragon comes on, read all his lines in your mind in the voice of Christopher Walken and you should have a ball with it.

    It is an inspiring, smile inducing adventure story for immediate readers and older.
     
  15. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    The Unknown God – A review of the novel ‘Jack Slade: Demon Hunter’

    “Fate is by far the greatest mystery of all.” – Deanna Raybourn

    Richard Dawes’ book, ‘Jack Slade: Demon Hunter’, is the latest installment in the ‘Jack Slade’ series. There's something strange afoot in New Orleans where Jack Slade is enjoying some much deserved R&R. The world is already in the throes of disintegration, but a particularly malignant type of evil is spreading its tentacles through the Caribbean and up into the States. Antoine Duvalier is a man of power who has become even stronger after the Old Gods bestowed upon him their ancient power. Jack Slade steps in to restore balance in the world, but he doesn’t realize he's stepped into the dark and dangerous world of Voodoo.

    If this is the first book you are reading in this series, then this book gives enough background information on how Jack Slade came to be. Richard Dawes goes back in the narrative and tells the story of a dangerous assignment Slade was sent on by the security firm he works for, the Diamond Group. His death-dealing attitude, the undercover nature of his work, and the high octane action scenes give you a very good idea of the man.

    There’s plenty to like in this series even if you aren’t a fan of vigilante justice. Especially since the hero takes down not only criminals and terrorists, but evil men who use bad mojo and black power to advance their interests. Slade is a bit of an archetype in that he always stands up for the weak and downtrodden and those who can't stand up for themselves. But unlike other similar characters, there’s plenty to know and learn about him, especially his way of thinking and his code of right and wrong.

    The black powers mentioned in the book and the generous use of Voodoo beliefs and terminology achieve a balance between a scholarly work and something one would find in popular fiction. It's very hands-on, and the reader gets a sense of what this means to a large section of people in the world. Richard Dawes hasn’t used the Voodoo angle merely as a device to entice you to become interested in its practices. He treats Voodoo with respect and outlines some of its history and influence in communities around the Caribbean and within a section of the Black population in the States.

    As with all Richard Dawes' novels, Demon Hunter is intellectually and emotionally driven. You won’t have to suspend your beliefs to enjoy this one.

    In the end, Jack Slade: Demon Hunter provides the necessary thrills and scares. Although it's heart-pounding at times, it isn’t just gory and ghastly. It's more slow and subtle. It should be a wonderful reading experience for any reader.
     
  16. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Evil Rises – A review of the novel ‘Jack Slade: Hunter in the Darkness’

    “He always smiles, even when contemplating nothing good.” – Henryk Sienkiewicz

    Richard Dawes’ book, Hunter in the Darkness, is the latest installment in the ‘Jack Slade’ series. Slade is a special investigator for an international group known as The Diamond Group that specializes in snuffing out turmoil and strife in the world before they are noticed by the general public. He holds the position of Head of Security of the Occult Section of the company. His job is to hunt down and kill demons and other evil entities. He is also sensitive to psychic energy fields and can sense what other mortals cannot.

    While attending the Diamond Group's yearly staff meeting, Slade is asked by his Chief to investigate the mystery of a centuries old mummy from South America. A grotesque murder involving a demon triggers a chain of events that sends Slade on the run with a beautiful young woman named Elise, the granddaughter of the archaeologist who originally found the mummy. Together, they combat an evil woman, Alicia Catalonia and her terrifying plan to bring the mummified body of Xelotle, a powerful black magician, back to life. With time running out, Slade must protect not only Elise but also prevent the evil magician’s attempts at world domination. If you enjoy a high-octane, fast-paced adventure that combines metaphysics, action and the paranormal, then you’ll love the world of Jack Slade.

    The novel has plenty of philosophy and metaphysical elements in it and if you are a geek like me who enjoys such discourses then you will love this book. I actually like books that push the boundaries of what we know and what we don’t, and make us question life.

    The book does a fine job of providing bits and pieces of information about the characters’ back-story while also leading you along by peeling back the layers of the onion. The author has done a good job in showing the ancient history and the strife between Xelotle and Ex Balanque, and it provides a meaningful context to their modern day feud. And if you have read Richard Dawes' books before then you will run into a famous character from his other books. It’s a short cameo, but it will provide some thrills for the fans.

    Jack Slade is an awesome protagonist. He is accomplished in so many different disciplines and avenues and yet remains grounded and isn’t one to show off his heroism. He is a great study into the archetypal masculinity that was once a staple of our films and books but is now disappearing from the modern world. In spite of being a ferocious fighter, he is a down to earth character and is someone you wouldn’t mind hanging out with. And he will always have your back if you get into trouble.

    As is a common denominator in all Richard Dawes’ books, this novel has plenty of action sequences. There are fights with thugs and demons, scenes involving both guns and martial arts. There’s even a car chase scene that is sure to raise your pulse. All this contributes to making this a real page turner.

    Hunter in the Darkness provides endless fun because the author takes the reader into a realm of marvel and wonder. There is never a dull moment in the story and it is filled with endless action. And as Elise says, “So much violence. So much bloodshed.” You're going to love it!
     
  17. Kevin Peter

    Kevin Peter Member

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    Baba Yaga – A review of the novel ‘Jack Slade: Hunter of Mysteries’

    “Out here due process is a bullet.” – John Wayne

    Richard Dawes’ book, Hunter of Mysteries, is the latest installment in the ‘Jack Slade’ series. Slade is a special investigator for an international security organization known as The Diamond Group that handles crisis situations around the world. He holds the position of Head of Security of the Occult Section. His job is to hunt down and kill demons and other evil entities. He is also sensitive to psychic energy fields and can sense what others cannot. The reader can expect to be dropped into a beautiful, jaw-dropping and exhilarating world of action, mystery and demons.

    The reader will be hard-pressed not to like the character of Slade. He practices meditation and martial arts with equal ease. He is sardonic and practical, and good at fighting with weapons and hand to hand combat. In a world where higher values are disintegrating all around him, he still stands for truth and the Warriors Way. He upholds justice and eliminates evil doers without remorse. Not caught in the net of delusions plaguing the general population, he charts a path that others can attempt to emulate, but he never preaches.

    Hunter of Mysteries is dedicated to the movie hero, John Wick, and Slade remains true to image of the hero. News of Slade's past exploits reaches the ears of his friends’ and foes before Slade even shows up. The reader realizes that Jack Slade is no ordinary action hero when he confronts an enemy and instead of asking, “Who are you?” like other normal heroes, he asks, “What are you?” This pretty much sums-up the scale at which he operates. Richard Dawes utilizes the style of ancient hero tales in the creation of an archetypal hero and the dangerous world in which he acts. And it’s not just Slade; there are many other characters in this story, antagonist and ally, that the reader will care about.

    You will love the action scenes in this book. They are wonderfully imagined and executed. The choreography of the chateau invasion scene was amazing. It was a mix of knife and gun fighting and martial arts and they were gruesomely fun! And kudos to the writer for keeping it real as Slade struggles to survive in several places. You will find it hard to keep count of the bad people being felled by Slade, head-shots and all! While Slade is depicted as an indestructible force, he isn’t portrayed as invincible and doesn’t become an action novel cliché.

    This book was fluctuating between a 4 and 5 star rating until the appearance of Count Louis Chardonnier, aka, Lawrence Swann, last seen in Night of the Hunter. He brings in a sense of familiarity and nostalgia, giving the book that extra thrill. Hunter of Mysteries excels in a series that has emerged as a champion in telling adrenaline pounding, high octane action stories. Although these books are rooted in the real world, they have many fantasy elements and a lead character who commands our respect

    Much goes on in this country-hopping tale from Iran to Europe, but it breezes by. This book deserves a much larger audience.
     

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