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April 2015

Review: The Aeschylus by David Barclay

  • “What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” ― Werner Herzog

    I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents…. The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul? – John Steinbeck, East of Eden, 1952

    “Man is the cruelest animal.”–― Friedrich Nietzsche

    It began in Stockholm, Sweden in 1938. Pearl Buck won the Nobel for Literature, on the same stage where Enrico Fermi received the Nobel for Physics for his work on the artificial radioactivity produced by neutrons, and for nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons. And outside the stage door, Max Feldt and his wife, Ada, are about to be murdered by Nazi Gestapo agents for the location of a single man. Dominik Kaminski.

    This is the beginning. But it is not the end.

    In the present, Kate McCreedy just lost her father – who happened to be the Vice President of the United States. Her father the VP, her brother the high powered Security Analyst who couldn’t even find time to make it to his father’s funeral – and Kate the secretary. Well, an administrative assistant, but she did just get a promotion to media relations executive – for Valley Oil, one of the four largest oil companies in the world. Her brother got the lion’s share of their father’s estate. The condo on Independence Avenue and summer home in Connecticut. The yacht and various other rich man’s toys. Kate? The deed to her father’s Mercedes. The family china and a few nick-knacks. She doesn’t really care, she is happy with her life. But this too will change – with far reaching and deadly effect. For when she is called to her godfather Godfried’s home she learns two shocking facts. First, her father left her, privately and with no fanfare, all off his stock in VO – stock with a ‘bit’ over $32 million dollars in value. She is now the biggest oil shareholder in the country. Second? There is a problem at the Aeschylus Platform, the two-point-two billion dollar engineering marvel deep in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Communications are down. The platform is damaged. It is a disaster – and there are no answers.

    The company is sending in Black Shadow – the second largest mercenary group in the U.S., with orders to find out what happened to the platform, and to the two hundred and thirty-eight missing workers. Someone from media relations has to be onsite, to record what happened for the board, as well as helping restrain the fiscal panic inherent in any disaster of this magnitude. Kate won’t put anyone else in danger – especially when her godfather presents her with photos of the disaster, and indicates that her father knew before his death something was wrong, and wanted her to handle the issue herself. She can’t let her father down, can she?

    What starts out as an information gathering and rescue mission soon becomes more, much more, as the story moves back and forth through time – from the kidnapping of Dominik and his family by Gestapo agents and their enslavement on a tiny island in the South Atlantic, to the modern day as Kate, nine members of a Black Shadow team, with Mason Brubaker, ex-military and now full time killer consultant/troubleshooter-for-hire in the lead. AJ Trenton, Security Chief on the build for Aeschylus, disgraced and fired from the project for questioning the higher-ups about possible problems that the company was ignoring, but still the most knowledgeable of VO’s personnel, and his buddy Dutch who AJ won’t travel without round out the group.

    Get in. Save the personnel. Get out. Or at least that is what Kate plans. But Robert Burns said it best: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” And gang aft a-gley, in this case, is an understatement. For what they find on their arrival is more terrifying, stranger and more deadly, than anyone, even the members of a hard-ass private military corporation like Black Shadow, have ever faced. For the platform isn’t just damaged – it is overrun. Overrun by what can only be described as black tentacles growing up from the ocean floor, covering and infesting everything it touches. And when the members of the group are attacked, they find that it is not only the platform that is infested.

    The Aeschylus is a fast paced novel of the lengths beings – whether corporation or government – or even a single man – will go to control the unknown in a single-minded pursuit of glory, power and money – and a brutally practical look at politics and corporate manipulation on a massive scale. It is also something much more – a warning, a threat, about the things we do to hide the most horrific of atrocities. And finally, it is about the things that are hidden still, the dark places and things of the world, and about the folly of human hubris.

    Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama; fathers and sons, martyred heroes, star-crossed lovers, the deaths of kings – stories that taught us the danger of hubris and the primacy of humility. – Tom Hiddleston

    Eighty years ago, the Nazi’s absolute certainty that they could manipulate everything within their purview, turn it to the glory of Germany, of Hitler and the Nazi party, opened a door. A door that remained open, though its denizen slept. Now, it is awake. And the world will never be the same.

    There are many things to admire about David Barclay’s novel. It is powerful on many levels, from the twisted brutalities of people who would, without the pressure of the Nazi regime, have been perfectly ordinary human beings to the cold, calculating viciousness of those who are willing to do whatever is asked simply for the money. Do it and move on, never to think about it again. Political intrigue and corporate rapaciousness are handled with a deft hand, but the thriller aspects kept me turning pages nearly faster than I could read, to find out what happened next. Scientifically and historically, Barclay also did his homework, making a fiction work blend seamlessly into historical happenings with both a scientific and science fiction bent that speaks to the devastation of the Earth by the unlearned and unwary. I recommend it.

    I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

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Review: Brand of the Pack by Tera Shanley

Brand of the PackThere are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, ‘That person I see is a savage monster; instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. – Noam Chomsky

A lot has happened since Book Two of “The Silver Wolf Clan: Black Wolf’s Revenge.” Misunderstandings led to pain, pain led to loss, and, from my review of book two:

“. . . a botched disclosure of just how rare she is, and how much danger she and Lana are in due to her Silver Wolf status, has Morgan running back to her little house in town, far away from Grayson and the Dallas Pack. Heartbroken, she determines to protect herself and Lana on her own.”

Which really didn’t work out well for anyone concerned. Now, Morgan and Lana are back where they belong, with her beloved Grey. Grey’s Demon Wolf needs a job, a big one, to calm him down, and having Morgan and Lana, as well as the adopted daughter of the Denver Pack alpha and his mate, Marissa, to care for, Wolf is starting to calm. And calm is necessary after Morgan’s kidnapping and brutal abuse at the hands of a savage alpha. It is going to take a while for Morgan to open back up to Grey’s attentions, and the fact that Grey has not one, but three females in his pack, and one, Morgan, is a Silver – a breeding female, the only one in existence at that – is sure to cause massive problems for Grey’s little pack. Keeping them safe and healing their pain, everyone’s pain, including Grey’s, is a full time job. Especially when every wolf for miles around starts showing up on his doorstep, wanting to challenge for right of “ownership” of the Silver Wolf. As if Morgan wants anyone other than Grey and her little family!

Morgan set her blazing glare on the stranger. “Why do you want me? You don’t even know me!”

“I don’t have to know you. You are Silver Wolf.” Rodrigo said it so matter of fact, as if the title was the only important thing about her. “You will bring honor to any wolf you choose.”

Grr. Asshat. He doesn’t even use her name….. And Morgan would sure as sugar rather lick a port-a-potty than be a kidnap victim again.

But challenges aren’t the only issue this fragile new family has to face. For the past, both the recent, and the ancient, are back. A sociopathic female, the same one who forced the change on Morgan, and the ancient being called Dragon are determined to destroy Morgan at all costs. Morgan and her Silver Wolf have no intention of allowing that to happen. And Demon Wolf will destroy any who threatens his pack.

Storm clouds are gathering.

smiling gray boxer pup

I received “Brand of the Pack” from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. “Summit of the Wolf: Book 4 of the Silver Wolf Clan” is due out September 1, so you have plenty of time to read the first three before it comes out.

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A Short Review For A Rather Disappointing Anthology

22609311The title, “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year” stands to reason. These are some of the best stories in both genres. For me, anthologies are the BEST. They give me not only the chance to enjoy works by familiar and well loved authors, but also to meet new authors whom I may come to love.

From magical realism to the just plain weird, this collection of stories is quite good.

The reason for the three stars? I would love to see more depth to Strahan’s stable. Many of these authors seem to show up every year. Also, why is there so much Horror?? This is supposed to be about SciFi and Fantasy – the horror stories seem much more fitting for a horror anthology.

Overall, the stories are good – but the overabundance of horror turned me off.
disappointed
I received this book from the publisher in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Review: Last Shot by Eve Gaddy

25342525“My mother detested me. Don’t try to tell me she didn’t. She did. Ask anyone who lived here when she was alive. She wasn’t shy about bad-mouthing me.” – Della Rose, Last Shot

This is what starts it, for the hated child. From this point, no love, no safety, no hope. No loving hugs or kisses for skinned knees. No warm meals or being tucked in at night with a song or a story. This is what starts it. The night terrors, the strange men creeping into your room in the middle of the night when mom is too drunk to notice – and if she is awake, blames you for her scummy boyfriends advances – no matter that you are only six, or nine, or twelve . . . This is what starts the pain, the terror, the loneliness. The choices that must be made, in order to survive. And survival sometimes means doing things, suffering things, which are unimaginable to “normals”.

This was Della’s life. Hated, abused, and made to suffer unimaginable things – things that led to even more unimaginable things. Life has been brutally hard for Della from the time she was born. But now, life is finally stabilized. Oh, she and her daughter Allie aren’t rich, not by any means, but Della’s job as a waitress at the Last Shot Bar and Grill, working for Charlie, her good friend and supporter, cranky old good-hearted man that he is, keeps Allie in clothes and food and a roof over their heads, and her friendship with Mary Lou means that there is always someone home when Allie gets home from school. Life is calm, stable, and more than Della has ever had.

Then, in one night, and a blaze of gunfire and death, everything changes – and Della, Allie and Mary Lou’s life will never be the same. With Charlie dead, and one terrible thing after the other happening, they are all in danger from unseen forces who are apparently searching for something valuable – something they think Charlie had – and that they think Della now has access to. And they are willing to kill to get it.

I have ranted lately about how the perception of women in romantic suspense novels has been canting towards the “Oh, save me, Big Handsome Man! Save poor pitiful me!” mentality. Ugh. Women are no longer the swooning Victorian era victims they once were, and contemporary literature should reflect that. “Last Shot” restores some of my hope for the possibilities of strong women characters.

Della is NOT a victim. Far from it. Instead, after all that has happened to her, all the horrors, all the pain, she comes across as strong and self-sufficient – almost to a fault. She takes nothing from anyone, making her own way, taking care of her daughter. And she certainly HATES cops… for very, very good reasons. So imagine her surprise when she finds herself attracted to Nick, the visitor to their small town of Freedom, Texas. Someone she pegged as a cop the minute he walked in the door. Della hates men, is terrified of them – but cops are on the very top of her list of “kill them all and sort it out never”. But Nick? Well, Della feels things she has never felt before. And that oddity has her off-balance, frightened, and terribly confused. Why can’t she take her eyes off of him? And why, when she despises the touch of a man, is she so fascinated with this one? A hated cop?

Nick has his own issues. Issues which leave him screaming up out of sleep, reliving the horrors of his last case – a case that may have broken him for good as a detective. Can these two discover what the murderers were looking for, find out why Charlie was murdered before their eyes? It doesn’t help that Police Chief Brumford Hayes is everything that Della expects him to be – dirty. And Officer Kingston Knight is definitely “off”. Are they involved in what is going on, or are they just despicable?

Eve Gaddy has done spectacular research for this novel. I honestly wondered if she had been subjected to the things that Della was in her childhood, in her life. Apparently not – she is simply that good at doing the research and writing realistically about what a person who has suffered what Della has goes through – how she handles herself and others. Having been through a lot of what Della has, I found Eve’s portrayal of the mindset to be spot-on. I completely identified with Della. Even the part that apparently irritated a one-star reviewer. The first time I was actually attracted to a man as an adult, I was, literally, fascinated. How could this happen? Why? I had never felt attracted to “any” man! It was as if I had lost my mind… all I could think about was what his skin would feel like. I wanted to touch. How did THAT happen? I was, in a word, obsessed. This obsession is shown here as well, so I guess I wasn’t as perverted as I thought I was at the time. All I can think is that ‘one-star reviewer’ has had no experience with, or friends who, have gone through anything like what Della has. The vituperation rained on Ms. Gaddy’s head is unwarranted – but lack of knowledge in this case is based upon valid arguments, even if they don’t apply in this particular scenario. I never carried out my own “lust” for that fascinating guy – which makes Della a great deal braver than I am. Removing oneself from the wasteland of pain, fear and asexuality isn’t something that everyone can do. I wish I had been as brave.

Overall? I loved this book. It is well researched, well written, and touches on issues that, even today, are not addressed nearly enough. Issues of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, dirty cops, and a system that betrays the most fragile and helpless amongst us. It is going on my “Keeper” shelf, and I will be adding Eve Gaddy to my “Must Read” shelf.

WARNING: There are remembrances of rape and child abuse in this book. If you can’t read these sorts of things, please take note.

I received this book from the publisher in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. Highly recommended.

Lap Nap

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I was planning to take a hot bath, but how could I consider moving my lap warmer?

Review (And A Screaming Rant) For “From Scratch”

For me, I always wonder what’s worse: an emotional betrayal or a physical betrayal? That’s a really tough call. – Hilarie Burton

Tragedy in life normally comes with betrayal and compromise, and trading on your integrity and not having dignity in life. That’s really where failure comes. – Tom Cochrane

It’s particularly hard to take being stabbed in the back close to home. There’s always a feeling of betrayal when people of your own group oppose you. – Catharine MacKinnon

 

I have begun to notice a disturbing trend in romance novels lately. For example, let us examine the case of Lillie and Nick. Totally devoted to one another since Lillie was six. Friends, playmates, companions. Then high school lovers. Then totally devoted live-in fiancées. Then, thing turn bad.

Observe.

Every night, after her own day of university classes and working long hours on her feet in her family café, she waits for his return from his residency shift at Baylor Medical, only to be met with cold indifference.

“Maye that’s the danger in loving someone too much: you’re so blinded by it that you can’t see what’s already over until one side of the bed is empty and cold.”

Constant cold, sifting into her body, leaching away her soul. Her beloved friend, confidant, companion, lover, no longer cares for her. The man she knew no longer lives in this body. No longer talks with her.

Everything’s fine. Or, If I wanted to talk about it, I’d say so. Or his personal favorite, Leave it alone, Lillie.

And then one day, she learns something terrible. Something heartbreaking and devastating about her own family. He adores her father, Jackson, who took the place of the father he never had. Surely he will talk with her, be once again the friend and devoted companion she has known all those years. They can find a way to work through this, right? Right? But he doesn’t come home, not until the wee small hours, long after his shift is done. Where has he been? Out. The age-old response of the cheat, the drunk – or the person who doesn’t love you enough to want to come home any longer, and just doesn’t have the guts to tell you it’s over.

But still, she tries to reach out to him, to draw her back to him. But.

“I don’t have the energy to do this right now.” “Save it … You spend your days serving pie to people in a diner, so excuse me if I don’t see why this conversation can’t wait…”

He grabbed the plate off the coffee table and threw it against the wall.

Great. The introduction to physical violence, as well as emotional.

Devastated, scorned by the man she loves with her whole heart, by her own family and those she thought to be friends, she packs. Packs, and leaves for the airport. She takes the first plane out, Chicago, just because, “they are boarding now, you can make it if you hurry.” For five years, she has no one to lean on, no one to hold her when she cries, to help her through her pain or help her to find her laughter again. Finally, she is successful, on a partner track with her firm, and has found a kind, considerate, gentle lover. He isn’t Nick, but he is loving, open, kind – and he is safe. Safe from the pain, the upheaval, the not knowing what is in his heart and mind, what cruelty will pour from his mouth at any moment. No icy silences. No nights of returning long hours after his shift is done with no explanation, no words. She is content. Maybe not blissfully, passionately happy. But content. Something she hasn’t been in a very long time.

Then, her father, Jackson, sends a text message, and she finds herself back in Dallas, terrified for his health and safety. But, funny old thing that. The text was apparently a lie – a lie designed to bring her back to Dallas, to her old life, no matter her career, her coming promotion to partner in the most prestigious firm in Chicago, her life, her new relationship – no matter the agony of coming back to friends and acquaintances who blame her for leaving. Blame her for “giving up.” Well, of course. When one leaves, the other can act in any manner, say anything, and the one who left? Well.

Lillie comes back to disdain and blame. To cruelty and lies, betrayal and poisoned tongues couched in “Why Suuugar… we know what’s best for you, Bless Your Heart!, and a constant chorus of, “It’s your fault”What did you do to fix it?” “You gave up on him, he didn’t give up on you.” You weren’t patient enough. You weren’t giving enough. You weren’t understanding enough. You weren’t you weren’t you weren’t… And of course, “It’s about you, your life, the choices you’re making. Jackson (and everyone else, supposedly) only wants what’s best for you.”

Well, what everyone ELSE thinks is “best for you.”

Back to the land where women like Sullivan Grace Hasell reside – “better known as Ms. Bless Your Heart for her uncanny ability to insult the sin out of someone but mask it as a compliment swathed in a little southern flair.” And a whole lot of bullying. For your own good, of course. . .

It’s. All. Her. Fault. She left. She didn’t try hard enough. She wasn’t forgiving enough. She wasn’t patient enough. She wasn’t she wasn’t she wasn’t – SHE is to blame, it is all on her, all her fault, and poor little Nick suffered oh, so much after she so cruelly walked out on him without a backwards glance and made herself a new life, and sin of sins, learned to be happy!

Well, Bless Your Heart!

And thus, the crux. All. Her. Fault. Her very soul is being sucked from her body by a man who shows her every day, and in every way, he cares nothing about her, considers her a burden, a lesser being, a horrible mistake made by a child that a man suddenly realizes is just that – a mistake – one he doesn’t even care about enough to tell to run back home to her father as he doesn’t want her any more. Was she supposed to reside forever upon this black and endless plain of existence, devoid of love, of kindness, of warmth? Was she supposed to stay, until and after the thrown crockery became thrown punches?

Lillie is one of the bravest people I have read. She stood up, pulled up her big girl panties, and took her broken heart and shattered life and became someone completely new – someone who would not ever let herself be hurt like that again. But she still returns to find that SHE is the one to blame for “Poor Nick – your betrayal, your running away, your cowardice, broke the man, Bless Your Heart!” And the worst part? She starts to believe it. To believe that she is everything that the people who should love and support her say she is. And that is just Wrong.

Things changed while she was gone – but instead of open, honest interaction she is faced on every side by lies, both outright and by omission. While everyone claims to care for her, no one is willing to give her respect, to accept that there was not only one side to the story. That just possibly, Lillie had to save herself when she could no longer save them.

Give me a fucking break. In the words of mighty Hamlet, “therein lies the rub.” It is the woman’s fault – no matter the situation. No matter if she can no longer see the way across the night dark plains, the light has faded, and the beasts are upon her. It. Is. Her. Fault.

REALLY?!?!?!

Parts of From Scratch are funny, touching, and positive. But the overall feel of encouraging women to return to a 1950’s mindset where emotional and physical abuse are not only commonplace but normal, where women are expected to conform to a backward society’s mores, no matter the pain to herself, is terrifying.

I received this book in return for a realistic review. I wouldn’t normally be so brutal, but this book sends terrible, horrible, very not good messages about a woman’s place in society and in personal relationships – about how it is acceptable to blame women for wrongs brought on by their partners, their families, their friends. About how said family and friends are perfectly justified in blaming, lying, withholding life and death information. About punishing the victim. This could have been a funny, wise, thoughtful book – instead, it comes across as a call to returning women to the dark ages of a lack of social justice and emotional disregard. Something I am seeing a bit too much in today’s romance novels.

 

Review: Hot As Blazes by Dani Jace

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares. – Henri Nouwen

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions. – Leonardo da Vinci

Poor Jo. Such dreams, such power, and yet she never saw it coming. Never saw the spoiled little rich boy user who snuck into her life and stole her power and her career. Now, back home in the small town she grew up in, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Jo can still surf, but never as a professional again.

Trying so hard to build a new life for herself, Jo goes back to her life as a lifeguard, back to her beloved home and her brother’s support. Yet all is not yet well, for her past has followed her to her new life – and the danger is not only to herself, but to all those she loves.

There are things to like, and not like, about “Hot As Blazes”. First, the like. There is well written suspense here, and a strong, likeable female lead. Jo has been betrayed by someone she thought loved her. Trusting to the love of her family, she returns, only to find that not only has betrayal followed her from California, it waits at home as she finds hard truths from before she left for collage and surfing as a professional. And the pain keeps coming. All this was done very well. Actually, change the name of the book and downplay the romance (and change the cover) and this could sell well as a suspense novel.

Now for the irritation. The romance. The love of Jo’s life, Ray, apparently loved her as well, for as long as she loved him. Now, they have the opportunity to make things right. But here is where things go all wrong. Ray is an Iraqi war vet, a firefighter. And a spoiled, jealous, manipulative brat of a man. Everything is aallll about Him. Spoiled, selfish, and so jealous of a rival he is convinced is after Jo that he is willing to throw her to the wolves because he got his little penis in a knot. Pftt. And it nearly gets her killed. So, my thought that the author could write a much better suspense novel if she gave up on the romance and stuck to suspense with a bit of romance thrown in – and didn’t shove her heroine into a box labeled “poor little weakling who takes all the blame when the big strong (spoiled, self centred) man has a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. . . ” Oy.Crying may be a sign of overload in children

Sigh. Read it for the suspense portion – that part is really worth reading. As long as I skipped over Ray I really enjoyed the book, but Jo’s acceptance of all the guilt in the relationship pushed the book from a four star to a three for once more making a mistreated woman the victim of the story, pushing her to accept the blame for the misdeeds of the “Hero”.

I received this book from the publisher in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Undercover

She posted the pheasant just for me, so I have to share it with you!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

foggy morning 009Misted avenues
Silent, shrouded secrecy
Leading who knows where

A living statue
Futile immobility
In Technicolor

There is none to see
But the predatory lens
Captures a jewel

foggy morning 012Just for Leiah 😉

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Review: Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction by Hannu Rajaniemi

Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected FictionWhen you’re strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you’re strange
No one remembers your name
When you’re strange
When you’re strange
When you’re strange —
The Doors, People Are Strange

Verbal impressionism. If I were asked to describe Hannau Rajaniemi’s works as succinctly as possible, this is what I would say. Rajaniemi is a master at oddball wordplay, at visualization of the weird and whimsical, vivid and vibrant wordplay that continuously brings a curve to the lip and a twinkle to the eye.

“The ants arrived on the Moon on the same day Tyche went through the Secret Door to give a ruby to the Magician.”

See what I mean? And another:

“On the day they finally got the Cathedral’s mermaid bone factory working, Keve told Raija he was not going to come back.

There is an extraordinary degree of intelligence and creativity to these stories. I hadn’t read any of Rajaniemi’s works before, and not being a true ‘hard sci-fi’ junkie as are some of the other reviewers of this marvelous collection, I was both charmed and excited by these stories that push past contemporary sci-fi into new and wonderful ideas. Physics, humans become gods, language as poetry. The limits are pushed and blurred until the stories of what comes next reach into the realm of the exceedingly strange.

This isn’t a collection for those who require only ‘light reading’. These are beautifully crafted, sometimes cutting, sometimes consoling, but always mesmerizing tales of what comes after what comes next.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

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