Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Grey Man: Payback

Clint Eastwood. The old man has to be played by Clint Eastwood.
February 28, 2015

Five stars

This review is from: The Grey Man: Payback (Kindle Edition)

He's the old man. Not the Old Man, just the old man. And I do not understand the mechanics of this particular art at all, because every single instance of 'the old man' has "I love you" stamped all over it. Maybe it's personal. Maybe there's just something about the old man that brings back memories of my grandfather;and in that case, I wouldn't expect other reviewers to have affection for him. I've read all of the reviews, and while they praise the character, I'm not hearing them tell about how real the old man is to them.
Maybe it's how he treats his grand daughter, and his prospective son in law, and his old buddies.
But here's a clue: from the author bio:"He began his education with guns at age eight with a SAA and a Grandfather that had carried one for ‘work’."
So, maybe what I'm picking up here is the fact that JL Curtis loves the old man, because he's writing about his Grandfather. No, I don't think his grandfather had the same adventures, but if I was forced to bet on it, I'd bet that the sand-papery feel of the old man's cheeks bears a close resemblance to JL Curtis' grandfather.
It's nothing but speculation.
But: SOMETHING about the old man resonates with me, and whether it's a common experience, or a onesie just for me, I'm grateful.
And I'm grateful to Dorothy Grant for the recommendation.

Plant Life, by Cedar Sanderson

Cedar's mama Kathleen has a guest post today on Mad Genius Club

and since Cedar's short story was the very first work I have recorded as an Amazon review and certainly my first MGC review, and since I started today with the Amazon links, I thought it might be a nice thing to re-blog this post.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Sex is like oxygen...
July 6, 2014

...It's only important when you aren't getting any.
There is a lot more to this story other than the PG-13 (or milder) sex, just as there is more to air than oxygen. This story COULD be re-written as a 1950s John Campbell prudish story, and it would still be a good one; BUT Cedar Sanderson treats us with respect, and involves Eros without ever descending into pornography. Good for her!
(It's really well written, too!)

Stand Against The Storm

And here is Peter Grant's most recent (I think) novel, "Stand Against The Storm." I include it here, because in addition to his many other attributes, Peter had the great good wisdom to marry Dorothy, the Alaskan Sage Bush Pilot.

Stand Against The Storm (The Maxwell Saga Book 4)
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars
Wonderful heroes, and awful bad guys: who could ask for more? (ummm,,,i want more...)
February 24, 2015

This review is from: Stand Against The Storm (The Maxwell Saga Book 4) (Kindle Edition)
This is one of the books that I enjoyed so much, that I found myself shifting tasks, to check my email, reply to a Facebook post, and check the weather. Why? Because if I didn't do those things, I would be reading, and if I kept reading, the book would end.
Which it did, inevitably, despite my delaying tactics.
I am SO glad that he finally got rid of the jade knife! I should know by now that Peter doesn't ambush his readers, but as long as he had the knife in his possession, I was fearful it was going to be re-stolen, or lost, or broken.And that would have been awful. But, as I noted, Peter doesn't ambush his readers.
I appreciate MUCHLY the struggle Steve experiences as he looks at the risks taken by troops under his command, when the official policy is non-involvement. And I really feel for him when he is given mutually incompatible orders. However, his friendship with senior Marine NCO Kinnear, he is able to come to the moral conclusion, and discharge his duty, even though he has concluded that he will be court-martialed as a result. A career built on the bodies of dead children isn't worth having, they agree.
Without tossing in a spoiler, let me say that Steve's post-action treatment of a certain three-year old and her mother speaks volumes as to the depth of his character. Yes, he's brave. Yes, he is deadly in combat. Yes, he is brilliant at both tactical and logistical problems. Beyond that, though, he understands that little girls get afraid. and that keeping them safe is our highest priority.

Writing about writing, and the plot thickens...

Well, this MUST be a God thing, because I sure didn't see it coming.
I started this blog mumble mumble months back, because I was a writer. Every once in a while, I'd have something to say, and I'd write it, and people who read it would say 'You oughta be a writer!' and I'd nod, and then just continue to march. Then co-pastor Marilyn Monson, sweet woman of God, said she saw me as a writer, and that I'd been on an island too long, and then beloved brother Andrew Baines, at that time my home group leader, told me how to start a blog, so I did. Finally, dear beloved Pastor John got aggravated at me for living in pain and letting things drift, and he TOLD me he wanted me to write something EVERY DAY! Which I promptly didn't do. Well, I did it for a little while.
Which, by the way, is the writing advice I've gotten from every professional writer, from Isaac Asimov to Patricia Cornwell and now from the authors at the Mad Genius Club (
But in a surprise twist, it looks like what is finally going to energize this blog is not MY original stuff, but my REVIEWS of other peoples original stuff. I first used this blog to report on "Plant Life," by Cedar Sanderson, back in November (but the original review was posted on Amazon on July 6, 2014), then in December I reviewed "Forge" by Teresa Anthony. Then I abandoned the blog until the prospect of writing a review of another unpublished book came along; this next one by Henry Vogel. That lead yesterday's blog, two books by Henry, and another by Laura Montgomery.
And then!!! Ta - Da! (fan-fare) Dorothy Grant, the Alaskan bush pilot who has sage advice (sage bushes?) for writers, suggested I follow through with what I was already told to do and had planned to do, and mentioned that I can increase the benefit to writers and perhaps to myself as well by signing up with the Amazon Associates program. She even provided the link! So, I guess my task for today is to make that happen.
And I'll drop in a couple of reviews later on.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Manx Prize

Manx Prize
Manx Prize

5.0 out of 5 stars Lawyers, engineers, love, bureaucrats, mountain lions, and de-orbiting space junk: It's GREAT!, February 27, 2015

This review is from: Manx Prize (Kindle Edition)
Laura is, as I am, a fan of the Mad Genius Club. When I discovered she had placed 'Manx Prize' in KU, it hit my 'QUICK! READ IT!' list. Last night, before I started, I explained to my fat black Manx SugarBelly that the book was written in her honor. She really didn't seem impressed, but such is the nature of cats.
In a discussion last week, I postulated that there are certain Reader Demands. The first of these is that readers should have a reasonable chance on judging a book by its' cover. Laura SCORES! Not only is the art beautiful, it also tells you that the book is going to involve satellite manipulation, and that there is going to be an edgy relationship between a nice looking couple. The cover art is by Phil Smith, kudos to him.
The lovely lady on the cover turns out to be engineer Charlotte Fisher. The story begins with her discovery that a random piece of space junk has killed two people in Texas, and her justified worry that this is going to hurt her chances for safely de-orbiting dead satellites to win the Manx Prize, consisting of $50 million in gold.Then comes some excellent writer's craft: Laura mentions just a tiny bit of Charlotte's back story; but the WAY she does it is really quite wonderful. She gives us the bleak, unembellished punchline of "the Erawan disaster of Charlotte's youth, the disaster her father had presided over so helplessly;" and THAT'S IT! That, fellow readers, is as fine an example of setting the hook as you are going to see. Of course, over the course of the novel, we get the whole story, but it's so much more effective the way she tells it.
Honestly, I'm so impressed by that little device, I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about the rest of the story. There is a shy little love story, which is underplayed wonderfully, particularly when it is explained that the reason it goes so slowly is due to the ethics of a lawyer (!). The discussion of the deer problem is funny; there is also a Keystone Kops sort of episode where one of the minor characters shoots (non-fatally) an investigator. There is enough science in the story to make it matter, for those of us who like hard sci-fi, but not so much that you need classes in physics to understand what is going on.
All of the story threads resolve, but there is enough to build on for at least one more book in the series.
And the nice-looking young couple on the cover do work out the ethics in the end!

Two by Henry Vogel

One of my fellow fans of Mad Genius Club is Henry Vogel. Like my talented younger sister, Wendy Hamm, he is a story teller, AND IT SHOWS! Yup, that old boy KNOWS how to tell a story.
He's published the first two books of a trilogy: Scout's Honor & Scout's Oath, and written but not yet published the third, Scout's Duty. He provided me with a pre-publish PDF copy of Scout's Duty, which I will review today or tomorrow most likely, but here are my reviews for the first two. These reviews may also be found on Amazon.

Scout's Honor: A Planetary Romance
Price: $1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars
Unqualified success in a classic juvenile hero story
February 24, 2015

This review is from: Scout's Honor: A Planetary Romance (Kindle Edition)
My 10 year old, Kenneth, is going to have a wonderful world of literature out there waiting for him. When I was his age, I imagined that reading Tom Swift books forever would be just about the perfect world. I don't know how many of those have survived the years, but it really doesn't matter, as long as Henry keeps writing.
I don't know how I missed the Barsoom books when I was a kid; I got all the Tarzan I could, but maybe the library didn't have any John Carter adventures. Since I've been an adult, of course, I've remedied that deficit, and I've also enjoyed the many variants, like the red headed biker chick on Mars. Some of the comments on this post don't seem to appreciate the fact that one story can be told in many different ways, and that is exactly what Henry has done here. He's good at it; he ought to be, because he is, after all, a story teller. This is a wonderful example of books that can be read around the fireplace instead of having the kids watch the Disney Channel. There is also an immediate tie-in with the Cub Scouts; I can see the faces around the campfire, listening intently to David's adventures, and screeching for more, when each chapter ends with a cliff hanger
This is an unqualified success. Note: I read this out of order, having gotten the second book from KU first, but the nature of the story is in no way harmed by that. This is a good old story of the type where you just know the hero and princess are meant for each other, and that's way col. Remember how disappointed you were when Wesley died in The Princess Bride? None of that foolishness here.
But he does say, 'As you wish...'

Scout's Oath: A Planetary Romance (Scout's Honor Book 2)
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars
A GREAT juvenile and Young Adult novel, and good for remembering the old days.
February 23, 2015

This review is from: Scout's Oath: A Planetary Romance (Scout's Honor Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
This brings back memories of nights spent reading Tom Swift under the covers with a flashlight after I was supposed to be asleep. It's got that same feeling, with chapters ending in cliffhangers described in sentences with exclamation points at the end!
And if it doesn't bring back memories of Barsoom, then you haven't read those books, and there is no excuse for that. They are all online for free at Gutenberg.
Here's what is wonderful about this book: the deep flashbacks, in which David and Callan are revealed as they were at earlier ages. David has an older story-telling neighbor, Callan has her bodyguard Rob, who sings to her frightened four-year old self as he fights off her kidnappers, then at age 10 scolds her for putting a stableboy at risk by humiliating nobles in front of them.
It's an epic heroic tale, full of derring-do, rotten bad guys, some really funny dialogue, and people in love.
Highly recommend this as a juvenile and Young Adult, or even for grandfathers who would like to remember the experience of reading Tom Swift under the covers.