Review: Canis Major ~ Jay Nichols

Canis MajorAfter seventeen-year-old Russell Whitford confronts and kills a rabid dog, he seeks to prevent the news from reaching the dog’s owner, whose hair-trigger temper is well-known in the small town of Riley, Alabama. Russell can count on silence from two of the three witnesses who watched him hack Hector Graham’s Bloodhound to death, but the third, Michael O’Brien, isn’t like the other two. His allegiance isn’t as fixed as Russell would like it to be.

When the Centers for Disease Control arrive in town, and dogs begin running away, and gun shots start ringing out in the dead of night, Russell’s summer goes from bad to worse. All he wants to do is play his piano and guitar, maybe walk his dog every now and then, not have the weight of the universe hoisted upon his shoulders.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel from this Author and a good start to a promising career.  However, this is anything but a light and easy read and those readers who like their literature served up in this manner may not want to take on its 500+ pages.  Longer books are my thing, and so I took it on and was glad I did.

One thing that the reader will immediately notice when reading this book is that it is not so much about events that happen, but more about the struggle of being human when those events happen, and happen they will; because the majority of the book takes place within its characters heads.  This leads to there being very little development of the characters as the reader is inhabiting their thoughts, but this worked for me.  I liked the way the Author puts the reader in the position of an observer to everything the characters were hearing or being told; however, the downside of this style of writing for me was that it left very little to my imagination.  I would have preferred a bit more subtlety on the part of the Author in regards to their showing me events rather than just telling me.  One thing the Author does well is bringing to the front of the work the emotion that links all their characters together; out of all the struggles of life and living they go through, their connection is an all-encompassing self-hate which fuels their actions.  It is a rather bleak outlook and, leads to the inevitable result that none of the people encountered in the book are willing to take responsibility for their actions, and blame it on their environment, other people or the situation they find themselves in.  However, this is part of the book and, in my opinion, without this it would have been flat and a trial to get through.  I kept hoping that the characters would find some way to overcome their self-loathing and accept things without having to place blame.

As a debut novel, there is a lot of improvement that can be made; evolving the characters more would be a start and not making them too complex that the reader is lost. Also maybe trying a different perspective would have made the book more readable.  As it stands though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was something different and a brave start to the Authors writing career.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to dip their toe in the world of new Authors, or is looking for a book that will make them think.  I will be looking for more from this Author.

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Review: Being Franklin Zebb ~ Nyla Naseer

BeingFranklin Zebb’s life had never been straightforward. 

From a very early age it became clear that Franklin was different and appeared to have a somewhat charmed ability to ‘get lucky’ in all sorts of different and mind-bending situations, from launching a global multi-player computer games business as a teenager, to being an international athlete, a strategic subversive and an innovative media mogul with a penchant for investigative journalism and ‘helping deserving causes’ that might appear, at first sight, a little unusual or even dubious. He had certainly made an impact.

There comes a point in every man’s life when it is time to take stock and think back over one’s achievements. After an exhaustive few decades, Franklin had reached this point and decided to settle into a hermit-guru lifestyle, living in a cave in the Yorkshire Dales, writing his first book and meditating, whilst hosting various friends from his past who popped in now and again. 

Predictably, he attracted a faithful group of followers and curious observers, with whom he shared the remarkable stories of his life, thus far. This book is an account of Franklin’s year as a hermit-guru and his own recollection of the extraordinary experience of being Franklin Zebb.

The story sees Franklin succeeding, more by luck than judgement, in some key themes of social and cultural change of the past thirty plus years and rightfully claiming the title of ‘Master of the Almost Believable’.

This is a funny, clever, satirical book which draws on naivety and parody whilst it tumbles along!

4 Thumbs-Up

This is the third published work by this Author, and the first in the Franklin Zebb ‘Chronicles’

Franklin Zebb is an amalgamation of Walter Mitty and Richard Branson and, although this book is first person narrative it manages to build a very deep and precise look at the character of Zebb.  Through the main leads own words we are taught what made him who he is today, and what he thinks will take him to where he needs to be tomorrow.  This character is so personable that the reader cannot do anything but like him, and his naiveté.  Using Zebb as a mouthpiece, the Author brings to life all the people her character meets on his haphazard journey through his history, and compels them to keep reading on until the end.  You cannot help but admire Zebb; complete with his total lack of political correctness at times.

The Author describes the locations in her book very well and, being from Yorkshire, I was able to revisit places that I haven’t been to in a long time; but this isn’t the only locale that the Author takes us to, in this entertaining little novel the reader also travels to places as far apart as Africa and Alabama.  It’s a book that, to review in-depth, would mean writing spoilers and I feel that would be a disservice to the Author who has penned this great little story.  If the Author decides to go ahead and write more about Zebb, I will definitely be reading them, and I think that in time she will give James Thurber a good run for his money.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a delightful and hilarious read.  It is full of satire, wit and, at times, a glorious lack of political correctness that some may not like.  Regardless of this, this light-hearted and extremely readable book will definitely be able to get a conversation started amongst all those who have read it, so I feel that it would be a good choice for book clubs that are looking for something completely different and off the wall.

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Review: D*E*D Dead ~ Larry ‘Animal’ Garner

DEDD*E*D Dead is the tale of a man whose conscience makes him take on his motorcycle club for their manufacture and sale of crystal meth, coupled with their use of young girls to fill their pockets with cash. His efforts leave the Club in disarray, members hiding from the law and each other.

It’s 1990, before cell phones and the internet. Leaving Virginia with a vague idea of hiding out at a friend’s house in southern Tennessee, he’s on the run, hiding from the Club, the Cops, and the Feds, he uncovers a plot to upset the balance of power in the northern Alabama/southern Tennessee meth trade.

Joined by his old Navy buddy and a small group of locals, including a pair of strong, capable women, our protagonist is once again plotting ways to dismantle the Club’s illegal empire. This time, he has help!

Join in as this crew hits back at those who have ruined the lives of many of their friends, neighbors, and family.

One thing is certain; people are liable to end up dead, D-E-D, DEAD!

3 Thumbs-Up

If the thought of anyone dropping the F-bomb makes you die a little inside, then you are well advised to give this book a very wide berth.  If it doesn’t bother you all that much then put on body armour and jump right in, as this book has F-bombs exploding liberally throughout its pages.  The reason for this is quite clear, the book in set in the world of outlawed motorcycle clubs, think Sons of Anarchy but 100 times worse and depraved.  There is sex, drugs, strip clubs and violence; lots of violence and not pretty either.  There are scenes of gang rape and drug production; so you can see this novel is not for the faint of heart or people with a sensitive stomach.

There really isn’t a great deal of back-story to any of the characters in this book but then again they are all, for the most part, criminals and the readers probably know as much about them as the other members of their respective MCs know, as they progress through the novel.  I didn’t think this lack of character development detracted from this book at all, rather it added to its rough and gritty feel and to have ‘fluffed’ them out would have pulled some of the reality from the topic.  The main lead again is not very deep all we find out about him are bits and pieces, mainly that he’s ex-military.  The one thing I did find a little unbelievable was, after being involved with his club for so long, he suddenly gained a conscience and decides to act on morals that, up until this point he really had not shown.  I was hoping that because the book was written in the first person, present tense point of view I may have been able to pick up hints as to what the main lead was really like, but this was not to be the case.

The scene setting was excellently written but, I felt, that it did not make up for the length of the book which is 600 pages; and this is the major downfall of the book.  There are only so many diner meals we can read through without wanting to never visit any diner again; and does the reader really need a blow-by-blow account of the interstate route our main character is going to take travelling?  I feel a really good editor would have told the Author to lose at least half of the pages, and it would still have been a very good read.  As it stands it is fast paced and urgent in parts and almost comatose in others.   On the plus side though, the Author is one of a dying breed out there today, who actually writes in proper sentences bringing them to a conclusion not just chopping them off willy nilly.  This helps project a raw and reckless quality to the way the characters are living.  The Authors experience of this world, although not with an outlawed club, shines through in his writing and brings an extra touch of realism to the pages.

If not for the editing issues, and the sheer yawn factor of its length, I would have rated this higher; but I would still recommend it as a good adult read, but definitely not for the overly sensitive or the politically correct crowd.

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