Review: Hickies, a Novella, and Four Short Stories ~ Jerry DePyper

HickiesISBN ~ 978-1470006778
Publisher ~ Createspace
No. Of Pages ~ 172 pages
Links ~ eBay, Amazon, Bokus

Human clones will soon be living among us. Ever wonder what that might be like? Will they look and act like everyone else, or will there be something missing, some barely noticeable oddity?

At some point in the future, you might find yourself working or studying right next to a cloned human, and not even know it. Until something bizarre happens. For all you know, your best friend or the one you live with might be a clone. Who knows? You might be a clone yourself.

This may sound like science fiction, but the mood of Hickies is more philosophical than high-tech or scientific. The futuristic theme becomes a mere stage upon which to explore the depths of the human psyche and soul, and to inquire into what it means to be human.

In this volume, the fictional work Hickies is complemented by four other short stories, all by the same author, and all of which may be represented as one layman’s ruminations and as simple forays into the fields of psychology and moral theology.

4 Thumbs-UpThis novella disturbed me in some very uncomfortable ways, it made me examine whether there is a possibility that, regardless of race or species, history could very well have a habit of repeating itself.  If the thought of the ghettos and labour camps of World War II make you uncomfortable, this may not be the book for you; regardless of that there is one thing this book will make you do, and that is think deeply about the world we now live in and the relationship between religion and science.

At first I was a little bothered by the fact that the characters had no real depth and substance to them, but as I continued reading I realised that this omission may very well have been a deliberate act on the part of the Author.  So little is known about the personality, traits and general reality of human cloning that by omitting any of the things that go into making us what we are the Author adds to their topic very nicely, and this leads to more questions being asked of themselves by the reader; How would I react?  Would I support them in my Community?

The downside to this novella for me, and the reason it didn’t get the five thumbs it may have, were one, the typos I came across which should have been easily picked up by a competent proof-reader and two, the novella becoming very religion based and preachy towards the end.  Rather than continuing the possible reasons behind what it means to be human, I felt that the Author was telling me that if I did not have religion in my life it was pretty much not a life.  I am not sure if the Author let their personal feelings on this subject enter the book but, for me, it felt as if the novella suddenly turned into a recruiting tool for the Catholic Church.  However, this did not make me miss the connection between the plight of the clones and the aid from the Church and those same connections that were made between Church and the Jews in WWII; this was not the only comparison to be found, and to reveal others would spoil the book for future readers.  Apart from the two points mentioned I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and finished it in a single day due to its engrossing nature.

I would highly recommend this novella, and the accompanying short stories which I have not reviewed here, to anyone is interested in psychology, philosophy and science or anyone looking for a good read that is not going to take days to complete; it would also make a good addition to any book club reading list due to the discussions it could foster.  I will definitely be reading more from this Author as I am interested to see how their style and technique develop as they become more proficient.

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Review: Poems of Christina Rossetti ~ Christina Rossetti, Florence Harrison (Illustrator), Kathryn W. Plosica (Designed by), Gail Harvey (Introduction)

Poems of Christina rosettiISBN ~ 978-0517118511
Publisher ~ Gramercy
No. Of Pages ~ 120 pages
Links ~ Project Gutenberg,

In poems ranging from fantasy and verses for the young to ballads, love lyrics sonnets and religious poetry, Rossetti was regarded was by many of her contemporaries as Britain’s finest living poet.

3 Thumbs-UpChristina Rossetti was first published at the age of 17 and from there went on to publish hundreds of poems; the majority religious and this may dissuade those who don’t hold with religion from reading her work, all I can say is please don’t let it.

One of my favourite pieces of her writing is ‘Goblin Market’, the tale of two sisters Lizzie and Laura, and their almost fatal encounter with the goblin men.  On first read I found it to be quite confusing, but the more I read this poem the more I came to realise that it was a morality tale, and that the broken rhythm in which it was written was as compelling and tempting as sin itself.  It is full of a sexual innuendo that makes it hard to ignore, even more so when these innuendo lay next to implied religious imagery.  However, like most poems the interpretation and intent of the poetry is dependent on the reader, and another may read this poem and come away from it with a totally different picture and meaning in their mind.

Another of my favourite pieces of Ms. Rossetti is ‘Remember’.  It is beautifully written and covers the subject of death and grieving.  I first read this poem shortly after I had lost my Father, and it struck such a chord in me that I immediately started devouring all and any works by this poet.  Even though years have passed since I picked up any of her writings, reading this collection has reminded me why I enjoy poetry as much as literature.

Trying to review a collection of poems is difficult under any circumstances, but to give the poetry in this collection the reviews they truly deserve I would have to write about each one individually, and that would result in there been no need for anyone to pick it up and read them.  The Project Gutenberg edition (see link above) is considerably longer than the edition I have listed the ISBN for, and contains a larger selection of Ms. Rossetti’s poetry.  In my opinion, the ‘Gutenberg’ collection gives a better reading experience than the short collection I’ve based my review on here, and is worth the time to download.  It is also broken down into easy to reference sections including devotional pieces, so if the reader wishes to skip these particular works, they may.

I would recommend this short collection to any who may have heard of Christina Rossetti but have not yet read her work, but for a more extensive collection would highly recommend downloading the version from Project Gutenberg.   Yes, some of the poems are a little difficult to understand; yes, there is a religious theme in most of her work and yes they can be highly emotional to read, however, what they are not is a waste of time.

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Review: The Judas Chronicles: The First Three Books (The Judas Chronicles #1-3) ~ Aiden James

judasASIN ~ B00CHPQAV4
Publisher ~ Aiden James Fiction
No. Of Pages ~ 466 Pages
Links ~ Amazon

An archivist for the Smithsonian Institute and also a part-time operative for the CIA, no one would ever suspect the handsome ‘thirty-ish’ William is in fact the most reviled human being to ever walk the earth. His infectious warmth and sense of humor make such an assertion especially hard to believe.

But long ago, William Barrow had another name…one that is synonymous with shame and betrayal: Judas Iscariot.
Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, William/Judas is on a quest to reclaim the thirty silver shekels paid to him in exchange for Jesus Christ. Twenty-one coins have now been recovered–thanks in large part to the help from his latest son, the esteemed Georgetown University history professor, Alistair Barrow.

Ever hopeful the complete coin collection will buy him a full pardon from God and end his banishment from heaven; William plans a visit to a remote village deep within Iran’s Alborz Mountains to retrieve ‘silver coin number twenty-two’. But the CIA has a different objective for this trip, one that pits both father and son against an unscrupulous Russian billionaire searching for something else that’s just as precious within the ancient mountains of Iran…something that threatens peace in the modern world if William and Alistair fail to reach it first.

4 Thumbs-UpIt’s not often I download a Kindle book that is a three in one offer, but this intrigued me so I made the decision to do so; I was not disappointed.  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, as there have been so many books giving a different slant on the Judas story, but this was certainly not the normal fare.

The main protagonist is, of course, Judas, and he is a well written and very believable character.  He bares his emotions and feelings about the longevity of his life, whilst adding humour to his recounting of his life.  This makes him a likable character and one who, regardless of your religious beliefs, the reader will be very hard pressed to not be able to connect to.

With a skilful hand the Author takes a different route from the ones normally read about.  There are biblical references throughout the book which I enjoyed but which some, more religious readers than I, may find rude and blasphemous but these add to the reality of the Judas story and are necessary in the development of the storyline.  There were times when some aspects of the story appeared just a little too farfetched to fit comfortably into the stories as a whole, but this does not detract from the sheer enjoyment that is to be had from reading these books.

These books will be able to hit the spot for most readers as they have a blend of covert operations, horror and the paranormal, to name but three and I would highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for an enjoyably e read to while away these cold winter days.  I will definitely be reading the rest of this series, and possibly others written by this Author.

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Review: In the Beginning ~ Abby L. Vandiver

beginningIn 1997, Biblical Archaeologist Justin Dickerson is unhappy with her life in general and has decided to run away from her problems. Intervening, her mentor asks that she go with him to the Fifty Year Jubilee commemorating the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem. There she finds that in 1949 Jerusalem some of the 2,000 year old manuscripts, hidden in clay pots in the caves of Qumran, may have been destroyed.

Justin, obsessed with this revelation, is determined to get to the bottom of the deceit. Uncontrollable emotion takes hold of her, and family and faith help guide her as she unfolds the truth of Earth’s ancient mysteries discovering what really happened In the Beginning . .

2 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel for this Author, and promises to be the start of a very interesting series if a few of the wrinkles in this one can be ironed out.

The main protagonist came across as a rather unlikeable and extremely arrogant character, and although the Author tries to attribute these characteristics to the emotional state this central person is in it really didn’t come out of the page very well.  What could have been used as a really solid basis to explain the motivation, or lack of it, in the main character was left to the reader’s imagination, and in some instances just dismissed all together.  Some academics, particularly in the field this character specialises in, are often perceived to be a little eccentric, but this was not even considered when the Author wrote this one.  I felt rather cheated in regards to this, as I was hoping for a character more along the lines of famous archaeologists, complete with similar quirks and traits, but all I received was yet another character in a book that could have all their idiosyncrasies explained away by health issues.  This made me feel as if the Author was unable to come up with a really intriguing back-story for their main protagonist, so they just pulled something from somewhere else hoping it would work; for me it didn’t.

The action in this novel has a kind of ebb and flow motion to it; when it flows it moves along at a fast paced and captivating speed, with just the right amount of energy needed in this kind of a novel to encourage the reader to keep going on to the end.  However, when it ebbs it pulls so far away from the realms of being a readable and absorbing novel that I almost put it on my ‘unable to finish’ stack, which is so small it can hardly be called a stack.  The result of these vast lulls in the action had me skimming over pages and pages, so I could get back into the flow again.  Another point in the book I disliked were the several instances of repetitiveness that had me doubting my own sanity and made me wonder if I had actually dozed off while reading.  There were too many instances of ideas being repeated and rehashed that it became rather insulting to be told, yet again, something the Author had already mentioned numerous times before.

Despite the research done from both a religious and historical perspective when writing this book, I did feel that some of the information used was not at all well-placed or even executed; this was a huge disappointment as those that fit in with the direction the novel was heading were so well written and in these portions it was apparent that the Author has a talent for fusing facts and fiction together.  I do feel that if more time had been spent in the proof-reading and editing phase this novel would have been outstanding, as it stands it fell far short.

Despite the low review rating I gave this book I would still recommend it to those readers who enjoy a religiously themed book.

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Review: No Heaven (Imagine Trilogy #1) ~ Lex Allen

No HeavenThe first time He walked our Earth; He came to teach people the Way to inner peace and everlasting life without fear of death or oppression by those with religious or political power.

He failed.

As Jesus returns to save the world from darkness lurking just beyond the public eye, His presence challenges modern Christianity and the core beliefs of a religion founded in His name.  The ensuing struggle to save humanity is on – in a good versus evil battle of epic proportions.

4 Thumbs-UpThis book is the first in the ‘Imagine’ Trilogy and when I first opened the cover I thought it was going to be a quick read.  I was wrong.  I found myself wanting to savour each part of this interesting book, which as it progressed turned into the likes of something I don’t think I have ever read before.  I found myself waiting until I was done for the day before picking it up, and only reading one or two chapters before laying it down to digest what I had read.

In one sense the reader may feel that there is a main protagonist in this book and, if they can pinpoint which of the many characters this is, they will find that they are just as thoughtfully well written as any of the others that appear throughout its pages. All the characters are given different backgrounds and, with their varying belief systems this adds dimension to each encounter they have as the book progresses; it adds layers to an already intriguing and well thought out novel.  The Author chose wisely when including so many ‘religions’ for his characters, as it provides the reader with someone they can personally identify with, whether they be Christian or not.  The flaws and traits of all characters in the book make them believable and possibly, make you feel you have met someone like them in your everyday life.

The locations for this novel are sweeping, ranging from Germany to the high desert and all points near and not so near.  It is apparent from the detail that the Author included in his descriptions that he either has an in-depth personal knowledge of these areas or has done extensive research into them to ensure they are as authentic as possible.  However, as with a piece of work that chooses this topic as its subject matter, there is a great deal of artistic license taken in the writing and, in this case, this really works; the inclusion of conspiracy theories, paranormal occurrences and historical accounts mesh nicely together to make this a complete and unbiased viewpoint of what is a highly flammable issue.

There are so many different strata, points of view, opinions and hypotheses to this novel that it would be hard to place it only in the sci-fi genre, it is not just a good sci-fi novel it is more.  Although at times it can read like a personal attack on the Church by the Author, I felt that this was not so much a denouncement of organized religion but another way of looking at something that is so prevalent and influential in a lot of people’s lives today, and as well as promoting good it also serves as a catalyst for war.  Good editing and proof reading add to the consistent and easy to follow flow of the book, helping the reader who may be having trouble getting to grips with the ideas included in its pages have the time to digest and think about what they have read.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading the remaining two instalments of this trilogy.

I would highly recommend this book to any reader with an inquiring mind that is open to new interpretations of an old theme; also those who enjoy the sci-fi genre would mostly likely find this book an interesting read.

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Review: Hope Flies on Broken Wings ~ L.F. Falconer

Hope FliesCome along on a summer journey of two souls seeking release from their own perceptions of hell.

From a medieval, seacoast realm, comes this haunting love story that hovers on the cusp of fantasy. 19-year-old Dugan is the troubled son of an evil man. He is beautiful, he is forbidden, and he has captured 16-year-old Collie’s heart. But is the young man truly as dangerous as Collie’s parents make him out to be?

When two worlds collide, Collie and Dugan struggle with their own inner conflicts as they attempt to break the barriers that constrain them, hoping for the freedom to finally fulfill the love that keeps drawing them together. But the choices they make aren’t always wise, and all good things must one day end. Sometimes, much too soon.

A story of dramatic love and equally dramatic loss, seen through the eyes of two innocent, but defiant adolescents. Its simple medieval setting brings to light many of the societal issues of today, including domestic violence, child abuse, bigotry, class segregation, and religious intolerance.

2 Thumbs-UpThe synopsis on the back of this book does not really give any clear description of the contents; it is really just one paragraph from the tale within its covers.

The two main protagonists are adolescents on a journey of discovery, and this tended to give the story an over the top dose of teenage angst.  For my liking the Author did not develop these characters as individuals as fully as I felt they could’ve have been, but for some readers this may be the type of character they like; unfortunately they were not for me.  I didn’t find anything endearing about either of them as they progressed through the book, that made me not care about them or connect with them on any level whatsoever, despite the themes of love, hope and destiny being there to provide them with fuel to become truly captivating.

Set in an unknown time and setting, all the Author hints at is that it is in medieval times, the book alludes at the possibility of becoming something more with brief mentions to magic and mermen; again, this was not developed into anything more than just a mention so the reader never truly finds out if this is one of those settings where magic can happen or not.  Something that really pulled away from my enjoyment of this book was that it starts out being written in the first person, but as the story progresses and the action picks up, the Author tends to lose their way and keeps bouncing backwards and forwards between the first person point of view and having a narrator.  This made it increasingly more difficult to follow what was actually happening and to keep things in perspective.  Another thing that baffled me, and again some readers might understand, is the introduction of religion into the novel and this, in time, added an air of preachiness to the book that made me feel like I was being given a sermon.  Given that the book is set in an unknown time, it was not easy for me to link this sudden introduction of the Christian religion with the uprooting of whatever beliefs were being followed, and eventually it just added nonsense to what could have been an otherwise fairly enjoyable read.  However, despite all its flaws it was a well written book and, if you are a devout Christian would probably appeal to you.  Unfortunately it was just wasn’t for me and I doubt very much if I would read anything else by this Author.

I would recommend this book to lovers of Christian Fiction, and YA readers that are active in their Church.

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Review: Heresy (Giordano Bruno #1) ~ S.J. Parris

HeresyGiordano Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the RomanInquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.

In S. J. Parris’s gripping novel, Bruno’s pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen.

His mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly murders and a spirited and beautiful young woman. As Bruno begins to discover a pattern in these killings, he realizes that no one at Oxford is who he seems to be. Bruno must attempt to outwit a killer who appears obsessed with the boundary between truth and heresy.

Like The Dante Club and The Alienist, this clever, sophisticated, exceptionally enjoyable novel is written with the unstoppable narrative propulsion and stylistic flair of the very best historical thrillers

2 Thumbs-UpThis is the first in the Giordano Bruno series, and my second reading of this novel.

This novel promised so much more than it delivered.  Using Giordano Bruno (an Italian Dominican Friar 1548 – 1600) as the main protagonist was a stroke of inspiration that the Author did not pursue to its full potential, and the title led me to believe that I would be reading a fictional take on the road that led to this man being burnt at the stake for heresy in 1600.  Given all the information that is to be found on this extraordinary man, who was living before his time, the Authors character development of him was not only weak but insulting to the Friar himself; a complete opposite to the treatment given to Bruno in “Aegypt” by John Crowley.  Instead of utilising the traits of Bruno’s character and weaving them into her novel, the Author tends to dismiss them offhand which placed him in the “too much of the good guy” mould and made him appear a nice man who, given the ideas he had and the times he lived in, he probably wasn’t; but in this I am just speculating.  The one thing that the reader may get from the painting of the protagonist in this way is an urge to find out more about the real life happenings of Bruno.  Other characters in the novel are treated with the same offhand approach, and none of them were developed to the point where the reader could truly feel compassion for their situation or connect with them in any way.  With this said, I will acknowledge that the Author chose her protagonist well, as there is a wealth of information out there for them to be able to develop Bruno in a more believable way, and possibly turn this series into something remarkable.

The book is actually a murder mystery and, in this area the Author did an outstanding job of using this vehicle to get to the religious subtext, and bring it to the forefront.  In their descriptions of the horrific murders and torture that are committed in the name of religion throughout this book, the Author reminds us that atrocities have been, and continue to be perpetrated in the name of religion; that modern-day conflicts centred around faith, are no less ruthless or determined about cementing the survival of their beliefs than those involved in The Inquisition.  The location descriptions actually pull the reader in to the novel more than the characters, and they are made to feel as if they are walking through unsanitary streets and palace grounds and, in some parts of the novel actually fearing for their lives because of their beliefs.

I read this novel twice in the belief, as is sometimes the case when I re-read something, I would pick up on the hidden key that would open it up and reveal all its hidden gems, but this was not to be the case unfortunately.  The lack of fleshing out the characters and giving me a protagonist that evoked emotion in me was still there and I had not missed anything in my first read through; this decided my review rating.  Personally, I did not think this favourably compared with the two novels mentioned in the synopsis, “The Dante Club” by Matthew Pearl or “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr; both novels I found to be infinitely more superior.

However, despite all this, I would recommend this novel to those lovers of the historical fiction genre and especially those who like their history with a slight religious bent.

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