Review: The Super Spud Trilogy ~ Michael Diack

SpudGenetic engineering has accomplished many things, one of which has been to create the Super Spud! The humble potato elevated to new heights, creating the most flavoursome crisps ever known to humankind! But that’s not all – A magical transformation occurs to all Super Spud crisps not eaten before their use-by date. They take on a life of their own. And so long as they remain undetected by humans, they enjoy life in their own Super Spud cities, take part in major Super Spud sporting events and even start the odd Super Spud war or two. Join Colin, Cougar, Hannibal Vector, Generals Rock, Jock and Strap and all the others in their rollicking adventures.

4 Thumbs-Up

Before anyone else reads this and tells me I didn’t pick up on spelling errors, this is because it is written in British English so a few of the spellings and symbols used in its pages are a little different from that which the average American reader might see.  However, they aren’t anything glaring that would spoil this fun little book, but they are there.

I never knew that the humble potato had so much life in it until I read this super fun little book.  So much of their out of sight lives are packed into its 262 pages, it is difficult to write a review on this novella without just packing it full of spoilers.

Each of the ‘Super Spuds’ the reader encounters on their journey through this work, has its own personality and character which seems to be directly related to its flavour.  The characters are fun, entertaining and zany beyond belief, and on top of this they have their ‘rules and regulations’ that govern the lives of these spuds.

If you have a sense of humour, enjoy eating crisps and want a wacky ride and adventure, then this is the book for you.  I would recommend this to anyone in the above criteria, young and old alike; it will definitely make you chuckle, and possibly never look at a bag of crisps in the same way again.

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Review: Faust 2.0 (Morton & Mitchell #1) ~ Michael Brookes

FaustA new entity is born into the internet.

Is it the rebirth of an ancient evil in a new realm? Or something much worse?

A sexy looking avatar grants wishes for people across the web, but nothing is truly free, and for those who accept, what price must be paid?

Sarah Mitchell must discover the truth of this creature and stop it while it can still be stopped, but why is a mysterious lawyer dogging her every step?

4 Thumbs-Up

This is the first book in the Morton and Mitchell series, and if you are overly sensitive or find reading about real news issues translated into fiction, you may want to give this novel a pass.  .  Also if you are a firm believer that all the ills of the world are committed by people who play video/online games and read ‘the wrong kind of book’  you may want to consider not picking this up.

The character developments in this novel are phenomenal; starting with the ‘birth’ of the entity mentioned in the book synopsis above, each of the characters we are introduced too, for however briefly they remain in play, are given depth and traits that draw the reader in and make them want to keep reading.  The female protagonist is likeable and easily connected to; we see her written in such a manner that her addiction to her work at the cost of her private life is all too painfully familiar.  We are allowed, through the words of the Author to see her strengths, tenacity and weaknesses; and weakness of the characters is a large part of what this novel is.  Not just the low-end of society, the criminals and those of low intelligence, but the high society people and all points in-between.  Each of the characters has their innermost wishes exposed to the reader in an impeccable and flawless manner, making this so much more than a good cyber-mystery, it becomes an almost voyeuristic look, through the characters eyes, into a society that is quickly becoming fueled by a ‘something for nothing’ mentality.  Despite some of the novels ‘players’ only being on centre stage for a few pages, their personality and reasoning are exposed for all to see and even when they are no longer a focal point, they are linked seamlessly with the others.  Each of the characters featured throughout the book are unique in their own way regardless of age and, it is this that makes the actions of the entity seem just that little bit more treacherous.

A lot of the storyline for this book is centred on computers and the computer world, bringing to the fore our increasing dependence on these machines.  In parts this book made me shudder at the thought of how easily even the most secure networks could be breached, and are we really that far away from the future depicted in ‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov or even the SkyNet system we see in the ‘Terminator’ movies.  However, do not pass this novel by if you are ‘into’ computers, regardless of whether you only use them for work or are a full-blown professional computer programmer, or hacker, this book is easily digestible and believable.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mystery, sci-fi and even horror genres, however due to a certain section of the book; I would not recommend it to anyone under a college age reading comprehension.

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Review: Souvenirs ~ Keith C. Chase

SouvenirsIn the cold October of 1944, as the American Army struggles to capture the German City of Aachen, Sergeant Richard Grant struggles desperately to keep his six remaining squad members alive.

Every moment of their lives contains a new vision of death and the horror of war. Other squads begin to believe that Grant’s men’s obsession with removing ‘souvenirs’ from dead and captured German soldiers explains their daily survival.

Inexplicably lucky, Grant and his men however, believe the act of collecting a souvenir bestows them another day of survival in battle.

The men suddenly realize their luck may well be borrowed time, payable in full. Their sanity is stretched to the breaking point as their sense of protection withers

5 Thumbs-Up

This is a debut novel for this Author, although it was originally self-published in the 90’s and only recently came to the eBook arena.

World War 2 is contains a vast well of inspiration and events for Authors to pull from, ranging from the Home front in the countries affected to the ‘boots on ground’ troops on the frontline.  In this novel the Author chose to depict the day-to-day struggles of the ground troops, the ways in which they endured the arduous tasks they were confronted with and also the schemes they devised to keep themselves ‘sane’

In developing the characters in his novel, the Author has done an outstanding and meticulous job of humanizing them and making the reader not only care about their well-being but, from the comfort of home, cheer them on in their efforts to return to that home safely. As in all wars that are fought mainly by young men, this novel covers that perfectly as even the ‘old soldiers’ in the unit we follow are young in age.  Through skilful writing the Author shows us the inner feelings of these young men in awful situations; their worries, concerns for one another, concealed cowardice and overt bravado.  Even in the heat of battle, these soldiers are imbued with a sense of compassion and empathy for the enemy.  The Authors own experience as a Marine Corps veteran shines through in his depiction of these tired and weary men.  The reader is made to care so much for the characters in this book that, when one of them dies, as is the nature of war, the reader experiences a sense of loss and can actually grieve whilst continuing on with the rest of the unit.

It is apparent when reading this novel that it has to be, in my opinion, one of the most accurate and heavily researched World War 2, European Theatre of War books I have  read since ‘The Thin Red Line’ by James Jones.  Although taking place in a different theatre of war, this book easily holds its own, and is a brilliant counterpoint to Norman Mailer’s ‘The Naked and The Dead’.  In both novels, the reader is drawn in by the characters, and the combat scenes make the pulse race.  This Author, unlike many who write in this genre, does not limit his storyline to combat scenes, he also effectively covers the downtime between conflicts, bringing the mind-numbing boredom and lows that the sudden stop of adrenaline causes, alive in all its misery.

I feel that this novel should be made compulsory reading for anyone who is in, or has ties to the modern-day Military community, as reading about how the troops would replace worn out clothing items and boots, essential for them to complete their mission, made me want to send out care packages in much the same way I did my Husband during his combat tours.  As a social commentary of war in that era, this novel serves to show those in the Military today that they really do have a good life, even when deployed.  The feelings this novel evokes in the reader is all down to the exemplary way in which it is written; it pulls no punches and makes no excuses for revealing this side of humanity in all its gritty and unsavoury detail.  The only criticism I have about this novel was its ending; the summation rather detracted from all the drama we had been subject to and actually served to take away some of the impact it made.  I would have preferred an abrupt ending, as war does tend to end abruptly in the field, and be left wanting more.  However, the fact that this novel evokes so many emotions and responses in the reader went some way to appeasing the disappointment I felt over the ending.

I would highly recommend this novel to all lovers of the historical novel genre, and also those who like to read non-fiction World War 2 books.  Because of the nature of the topic, I would probably recommend it to an age group of mature young adults upwards.  I am eagerly awaiting the next novel from this Author and, personally, feel that this one would make an excellent movie.

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‘You are NOT allowed to read that!’

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Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial

 ‘The fact that anybody wants to burn a book shows you how powerful the physical object is, both as itself and as a symbol’ ~ Chuck Wendig.

Until I married my American Husband I was not fully aware of the fact that there are people out there who want to restrict my access to the types of book I read, not just fiction but non-fiction as well.  I was also naive in thinking that book burning was a thing of history; for example the May 10 1933 book burning in Berlin, the monument to which I have visited.  Book burning is also a thing of the 21st century and takes places in America for various reasons; Non-approved Bibles, books and music in Canton, North Carolina in 2009; Tolkien’s works publicly burned in Alamogordo, NM, in 2001 as satanic.  Really?  In the 21st Century, here in America, intelligent people would fail to celebrate Tolkien’s masterful achievement and, instead, find it threatening enough to burn it?

I feel it would be amiss of me as a lover of the printed word not to write about this form of censorship and, how we are slowly creeping towards a more complete ‘Nanny State’ where we are told what is good for us, and how much of it we can consume.  I understand that there needs to be checks and balances in place for some things, but when it comes to art, and to me writing is an art form, personal choice needs to be allowed to run free.  If, after reading the synopsis of a book on a fly-leaf, we feel uncomfortable or it may be against our beliefs, we have the choice to put the book down and find something more to our tastes.

jailed-book1If you are completely confused by this topic, I’m referring to the upcoming Banned Books Week.  Whether you may be blissfully unaware, or choose to pretend it doesn’t exist, it does with challenged and banned books spanning all genres and reading age groups.  But what is Banned Books Week?  It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read that is typically held during the last week of September and highlighting the value of free and open access to information; it brings together the book community, from reader to publisher, like nothing else can as they share their support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some may consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship, and all of the books featured during this week have been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools, by individuals or groups. While books have been and continue to be banned, the fact is that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available, unless you happened to be in Alamogordo NM, where not only Tolkien but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling were committed to the flames.

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Although we are still a month out from Banned Book Week, I strongly feel it is an issue that needs to get publicity not just for one week of every year but all the time.  However, I know how difficult this would be so, in my attempt to stand up for an art form that gives me great pleasure, as well as broadening my mind and horizons, I am going to focus all of my posts for the week of 22-28 September 2013 with books that have been challenged since the beginning of the 21st century.  I will be choosing four books and proudly showcasing them on the blog.

I am giving you all advance warning of this, in case there are some people out there who would rather not see these books blazoned across their computer screen, and they will know to give my reviews a miss for that week.  I will not just be showcasing the books that week, but also listing why these books were challenged and also giving a little background on the Authors.  List of nominees for this week of challenged books are:

2001 – Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
2002 – Harry Potter (series)*, by J.K. Rowling (because I have never read any Harry Potter books)
2003 – The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1), by Jonathan Stroud
2004 – The Alice Series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
2005 – Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
2006 – The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood
2007 – The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
2008 – His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
2009 – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, by John Berendt
2010 – Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
2011 – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, by Alan Moore
2012 – The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeanette Walls
*Please note, where books are part of a series, I will only be featuring the first.

One last thing to bear in mind, and an indication of just how out of hand some of these book challenges are becoming; in 2010 in the Menifee, Calif. Union School District pulled the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary because a parent complained when a child came across the term ‘oral sex’.  Officials for the District said, at the time it was pulled, that they are forming a committee to consider a permanent ban of the dictionary; whether they went ahead with this is not known.

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Review: Halls of Ivy (Halls of Ivy, #1) ~ Roland Nuñez

HallsIt began with the suicides. They’re calling it the crisis of Sun Valley University, and all the blame lies on one doctoral student.

Cheyenne Winters went too far. She was only there to conduct research for her dissertation, but three student suicides that occurred shortly before she arrived piqued her interest. Her interviews with twenty-one freshmen revealed that the suicides were not only related, but the university administration had been covering them up.

Now Cheyenne is involved in a major conspiracy threatening her own future and the lives of the students she came to study.

3 Thumbs-Up

This book is the first in a series, Halls of Ivy, and centres around campus life.

I’ve never read a fiction book written quite like this one.  Opening with a prologue the Author compels the reader to continue reading to discover how we came to this point, and in that respect it is well written and, at the same time, very deceptive as it promises more than it actually delivers.

It is composed of, what can only be described as biographies and transcripts of interviews the main female lead conducts with numerous college students; a third person narrative from the lead character and various students, all combining to make it seem more like reading a dissertation with a plot woven in, rather than an actual novel.  Because of the way it is written, it did not have any deep character development, although the Author took steps to start placing the foundations of a back story and interesting character traits for the female lead, in preparation for future books in this series that she might appear in.  One flaw the reader soon discovers about the lead is their way of narrating events, she does it in a very disconnected, concise and clinical way, almost as if she is continually giving evidence throughout this books pages.  As to the rest of the characters, there are lots of them as can be expected in a campus life book, they all have generally small parts in the telling of the story and this leads to the reader not being able to really connect with any of them although, as in real life, there are some we like and some we just can’t warm to.

Location descriptions for Florida are very good, even down to the general complaint about the weather, but apart from that there was nothing in this book that really made it stand out in my mind and made me feel as if I were there observing the storyline unfold.

The idea behind this novel is very good, and taking place as it does on campus, it provides the Author with plenty of material for upcoming books in this series.  This is a great little mystery book and fits very comfortably in that genre, so I am recommending it to those who are lovers of a good mystery and like to figure things out.

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Review: The Crying of the Children ~ Peggi Lennard

The Crying of the children19th century Britain; Joseph Skinner wanted Ellie to disappear and he didn’t care where to. He wanted Thomas to rot in the cellar, Little Will to lie silent in the mud, his workers to work harder and his wife to remain sedated in bed, where she could cause no trouble. But his wife fought back. Dr. Taylor helped her. Mandrake Jnr. was always on hand. And Ellie? Well Ellie had quite a journey.

 

3 Thumbs-Up

This Authors debut novel is definitely not a book for those who have a weak stomach, or are easily upset by the written word.  I’m not one of these types, but even I found that, at times, I had to put this book down and walk away to regroup my emotions and my mind; it is that disturbing in parts.

The locations for the novel is the very grim and very private world of Victorian England so, with this in mind it is not surprising to see there is very little real depth or back story to any of the characters; and this is how it would’ve have been in real life, Wives would have known little about their Husbands and the servants would have known how to keep their mouths shut.  In abiding by this social expectation, in her writing the Author actually paints in very vivid detail the personalities and traits that make up her characters; and there is a very large list of them ranging from a despicable wealthy man of society right down to the lowest of the low.

To live in poverty in 19th century Britain was not how we see living in poverty in 21st century Britain, and the Author has done an outstanding job of capturing the misery of those in this situation.  She has held back no punches when it comes to describing the choices open to these people, and what they had to do just to survive from day-to-day.  Her descriptions of ‘parental’ discipline are graphic and moving, and serve to illustrate that children were regarded as a disposable commodity.

There were places in this novel were the hand of a good proof-reader and editor would have come into play, and made the book even more haunting.  In places the Author gets her characters mixed up, and I found myself having to flip back the pages to get them straight in my own head.  This did detract from my enjoyment of the book, but still made it something I wanted to read on to the end to discover what the outcome would be.

I would recommend this novel to lovers of the history genre, both fiction and non-fiction as, at times, this novel becomes something more than just a story; it turns into a social commentary of the times it covers.

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Review: Trallis the Warrior and the Sword of Unimaginable Power (The ridiculously Epic Saga of Trallis the Warrior) ~ Jack Thomas

TrallisIn this first episode of Trallis the Warrior’s epic saga, the man who describes himself as a “freelance warrior” sets off on his quest for loot, excitement, and something good to eat. When Trallis finds what is perhaps the greatest sword in existence right at the start of his journey, he’s obviously rather delighted! He could never have guessed however that by the end of it all he would have soggy pants and a good chance of slight brain damage. All in a day’s work though for our dear warrior!

“Trallis the Warrior and the Sword of Unimaginable Power” is a humorous fantasy short story by author Jack Thomas. It is the first installment of “The Ridiculously Epic Saga of Trallis the Warrior”.

4 Thumbs-Up

This is an epic book in the most tongue in cheek sense that I’ve read in a long time, as its ‘epicness’ spreads out over a whole 22 pages.

If you’re looking for magic, swords that throw up, lots of food and a hero written the style of Terry Pratchett and the Monty Python crew, this is a definite read for you.

It’s funny, fast-moving and provides everyone that touches it with snacks along the way.  If you like monsters in your tales; this one has them, although not in the way you would imagine.  They come with their own issues and style that you won’t find anywhere else; think Shrek on a not so good day.

If you want a read that will have you chuckling at the antics our hero deals with, and he has a lot more patience than I would with his ‘chatty’ friend, pick this up and dig in.  There’s nothing offensive, crude or lewd about it, so you may even want to share it with your children.

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