Blog Archives

Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged

Dining and Driving with Cats - Alice Unplugged

Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged by Pat Paterson tells the story of Patterson and his wife, Alice, driving from the Mexican border to Atlanta, Georgia, with their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy. Along the way they use the opportunity to sample as much as they can from their pre-researched food-stops. The book will take you on a journey as they try countless dishes, meet unexpected people and attempt to tame their two beloved cats – who, there is no doubt, are definitely in charge.

While reading the book, Pat and Alice’s Honda Fit feels somewhat like home – you can almost feel yourself squished into the back with the two cats roaming around, as the two of them drive to their next destination. The tone is always kept light, making this an easy read and giving the reader a sense of comfort. While there are many descriptions of the food they eat and the antics of their two cats, the real theme in this novel is storytelling.

Patterson’s goal is to use their long trek to Georgia to tell stories along the way. The stories of the people they meet are interesting to a point, but you do find yourself feeling slightly removed as there is no real tie to them.

The best stories told are the ones about Pat and Alice; how they met and eventually fell in love. Not only does this insight make the reader feel more connected to them, but the stories themselves are sweet and witty and good enough material to be made into a Hollywood romance.

The best thing about the whole book is definitely Alice. I almost want to call her a ‘character’ of the book because that’s what she feels like. Her smarts and determination, coupled with her calm composure and uncanny ability to cajole the cats to bend to her will, makes her seem almost too good to be true. She seems the type of person who, if you were married to them, you would want to write about.

The only down side to the novel is the actual travel aspects. While mildly interesting to start with, it becomes slightly mundane, and all the descriptions of the food they eat becomes repetitive – it can’t all be as delicious as described, surely? However, this may just be because the Alice and Pat stories are so good that it leaves you craving more. The food is unimportant; you just want to hear about Alice and Pat!

Overall this is an enjoyable read, and the way the stories of the couple are intertwined with them visiting familiar places, is expertly done. The cats are sweet and their antics add an entertaining element. This is a great book for storytelling and memories, and will leave you feeling sentimental and warm and fuzzy inside.

Pages: 260 | ASIN: B06XD7XGGH

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Time Slipsters

The Time Slipsters5 Stars

Book 3 in the Dreadnought Collective series returns to the home of Terry and Sandra Tumbler. Terry and his wife plan a return holiday to Turkey, recalling their last visit with their grandson, Seb, when his tour group from the Sombrella Syndicate got into trouble in the underground city of Derinkuyu. They’d like to go again to see it at their leisure. Terry invites several couples who had accompanied them on an earlier visit to Santiago. Since they’d had trouble on that particular tip, Terry sweetens the deal by booking a luxury version of fast-travel flying cars, colloquially known as “potties,” to speed them on their way.

On arrival in Istanbul, the five couples embark on a grand tour of historic sites on a large coach, shared by a group of Spanish tourists. During their travels, Terry meets with a mysterious man named Marius. Marius asks Terry for help regarding Alien visitations, and Terry is delighted. His love of researching UFO phenomena may help save lives, and Marius may be able to explain the odd dreams Terry is having. When the tour visits the ancient hospital of Asklepion, the true nature of the “Magic Carpet” tour coach (dubbed the Turkish Floater by Wilf) is revealed, and the travelers slip back in time to witness ancient Rome in person. This leads to uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate, and a threat to earth.

If you can’t tell by the irreverent names of the vehicles, this is a very funny book. The Time Slipsters is a delightfully fun read. It crosses genre borders as easily as the Magic Carpet crosses timelines. The story spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. Terry is a loveable rogue, and his gaffes are both funny and important to the story. Laughing at phallic rock formations and obsessing over bathroom facilities in ancient buildings could be jokes, but they may come in handy later.

But the trip is not all fun and games. When the ship begins to slip between time zones, the travelers are under very explicit orders to stay away from the locals. One of them foolishly ignores that advice, and like any time travel story, what you do in the past can have a ripple effect into the future.

The author’s imagination is truly fantastic. Even the little details of this future world are well fleshed out. There’s the concept of Democracy on Demand that allows people to guide their government by instantaneous voting. And sure, the flying cars are neat, but what about smart suitcases that carry themselves to and from your hotel, or having delicate surgery performed by nanobots while you sleep? I can’t start on the alien technology without spoilers, so you’ll have to read for yourself.

One thing I liked was the occasional break in the intrigue so I could wander the streets of ancient monuments along with the characters. It’s clear the author has visited these places and wants to share these remarkable places and their histories with others.

Though Seb Cage Begins His Adventures was a book aimed at young readers, The Time Slipsters is decidedly more adult. The adult humor and a few sexual references, though never explicit, wouldn’t be appropriate for a young reader. If you like SF, time travel stories, or dry British humor, you’ll like this book.

Pages: 291 | ASIN: B018MLKT7M

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Return to the Madlands

Return to the Madlands (The Mire Man Trilogy, #3)3 StarsArlo is on a journey across the country to find Constance, a long lost love. Throughout his trip, the reader is treated to his interactions with random individuals, many of whom this reader wishes he could know more about. However, the brief glimpses are more than entertaining. The owner of a motel and the story behind his sword on display, the female police officer who pulled Arlo over for swerving while driving, and Lenny, the former man of faith who shoots a gas station iguana, they all help Arlo along on his journey. Aside from the cast of supporting characters, Arlo is also dealing with his health. With the years of whiskey catching up to him, it made this reader wonder if he would survive long enough to find Constance.

This story is more like a collection of stories, rather than a novel with a driving plot line. While Arlo is technically on a journey that has a defined ending, the real value of the text comes from the small stories that Arlo collects from the people he meets along the way. Many of them share experiences that give the reader plenty to think about, but too many of them are too ready and willing to give “advice”. Most readers will anticipate this pattern of meeting, backstory, lesson. Because of this pattern, many of the lessons lose their weight due to the seemingly formulaic inclusion. If these lessons had been blended into the story with a bit more tact, then they would have a stronger impact.

Regardless, there is still some beauty in watching Arlo learn from these characters. Many of them are from walks of life that do not get much respect in our society. Hookers, drug addicts, hitchhikers. All of these people are human, and they have experiences that Arlo asks about. When he asks, and if the character responds, then the reader is treated to some of the most well-thought lessons in our society

Overall, the novel is entertaining. Arlo is a main character that everyone loves to hate, with his poor decision making skills and general negative views of the world around him. His interactions with the side characters tell a different story, though, and we get to see him grow as a person because of them. Perhaps it is a wisdom that has come with the aging of his character, but Arlo’s transformation from the previous entries, and even from the beginning of this entry, is something to behold.

Pages: 302 | ISBN: 1530041619

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Paralian – Not Just Transgender

Paralian - Not just transgender4 StarsThe term “Paralian” comes from ancient Greek origins, and it has taken on the meaning of “people who live by the sea”.  There could be no more apt title for Liam Klenk’s autobiography. In Paralian: Not Just Transgender, He recounts the sweeping and nomadic movements of his life via the lens of the rivers, lakes, and oceans by which he periodically makes a home. Water is the element of change and transition.  It is also the element at the heart of so many human-nature entanglements; the resource that has always defined and guided the movements of our species. Fittingly for a tale of bodies, travels, transitions, and wandering, Klenk uses bodies of water to parse the sections of his life like chapters in a narrative.

The voice and experience of Liam Klenk is tender, vulnerable, and honest. It comes to the reader unassumingly and asks only for a patient ear. As the title would suggest, Paralian: Not Just Transgender tells a tale far wider in scope than Liam’s courageous journey through gender confirmation. If anything, the story is about the contexts that occur before, during, and afterwards. It tells the story of a human being finding his place in this world. It opens near the River Enz in Germany, with a young girl named Stefanie and illustrates how a complex and tumultuous family origin, vexes and feeds her inherent confusion over identity. At the end, the reader closes on a confident, middle-aged man named Liam who views the world through hopeful, optimistic eyes from an airplane above Hong Kong. In the intervening pages a transition obviously happens but—to the author’s point—so does a full life. As Stefanie becomes Liam, the reader is taken abroad from Germany to Seattle, from Zurich to Italy to Macao, and all points in between. What makes Klenk’s tale so necessary is that we get a story about a transgendered individual that articulates that while a singular aspect of his life was important, it by no means is the sole determinant of identity.

Regarding execution and readability, there are some pieces that could give readers trouble. As with many ESL authors, minor line-level similes and metaphors go overboard at times and actually distract the reader from the emotional intensity of scene and moment. The larger issue however is that Paralian: Not Just Transgender isn’t just a fascinating book, as it is several fascinating books mashed together. Because Life has no definitive plot, the best works of biography and creative nonfiction tend to follow an A-side/B-side construction in which real world chronologies and events are echoed and digested alongside another more metaphorical through line. Klenk’s book is framed around the metaphor of nomadic travels and bodies of water, but the device is often glanced over or abandoned entirely for lengthy sections. This leaves the prose, like it’s subject, to wander widely. Luckily for Klenk, his book is entertaining enough that its propensity to lose direction is easily forgiven.

Pages: 456 | ISBN: 1785891200

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Perforating the Darkness

Jacob Harrell Author Interview

The Transient, The Emperor, and the Man Left Alone is a science fiction story that follows a common man from Earth and his interstellar misadventures. This is a very fun novel. Did you have fun writing it?

Of course. I don’t think I ever could have completed this novel if I didn’t enjoy what it was that I was writing, and it was that enjoyment which helped to propel me forward day after day. When I first began writing ‘The Transient,’ I had absolutely no idea where I was going to go with any of it. There is a certain degree of excitement buried in the unknown, and each day brought a whole new set of wonder to me. In the end, I hope that the reader will be able to pick up on my enjoyment, on my excitement, and maybe, just maybe, they will be able to find this piece as fun, fresh, and entertaining as I had found in writing it.

The main character is abducted by aliens whom might be more human than they pretend, and their motives are deeper than a simple probe. How did the idea for the aliens creation and motives come to fruition for you?

Before I had even begun to formulate my ideas for ‘The Transient,’ I had written a rather short story about a guy and his apartment and it kind of went absolutely nowhere. It was just a few pages and it ended just as abruptly as it began, but there was something about the ideas that it presented that piqued my interest. I had wanted to take it a step further, but had no idea where I wanted to go with it, or how I wanted to get there, so I set the story aside and forgot all about it. Later, much later, I was hanging out in a forgotten section of West Virginia, staring up at the night sky. It was brilliant out there, a million points of light perforating the darkness, and it got me thinking about everything. I thought about our relative place in this infinitely vast universe, about life in all of its complex arrangements, about this and that, and, of course, about whether or not we are alone. The concept of extraterrestrials has always intrigued me, especially the idea of alien abductions. What is it about the human race that would make another advanced race want to travel a countless number of lightyears across the galaxy to study? I mean, are we really that interesting of a people? Surely, if these abductions are truly happening, they would have to harbor some sort of ulterior motive aside from the “we just want to study you people” excuse. For hours, laid back beneath the starry sky, I thought about this, and then, at some point, the idea of that original story I had written crept into my skull and, quite suddenly, I knew that an abduction would be the perfect segue into taking an otherwise abstract story that went nowhere and spring boarding it into any which where that my mind thought to take it. Of course, the aliens had to be as human as possible, because, as Hollywood teaches us, if there is to be intelligent life out there, it would undoubtedly be modeled after us, and it would also have a firm grasp of the English language. It’s as if Earth is the warm and happy center of the universe that all life gathers around. We are just so very important, aren’t we?

This story offers outrageous situations that serve as biting commentary on human’s need for entertainment. What are some of the things that you find naturally funny about the human condition that you think makes for great fiction?

There is so much that I find funny, and sad, and ridiculous, and depressing about the human condition. I’m not even sure where to begin here. Certainly, our diminished attention span thanks to our love affair with pointless technology is something to laugh at. Also, our never-ending courtship with violence, our dependency on television and other socially inept forms of entertainment, our inability to see the glaring hypocrisies that govern our lives, our further inability to take responsibility for our actions, and our complex social hierarchy that states that one group is much more preferred over another group simply by having the dumb luck of being born a certain way or in a certain place, are all extraordinary themes that are finely suited for the world of fiction. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of our species, the one that just may dictate everything else, is our overwhelmingly enlarged ego. We have an enormously big head, and having such an inflated view of ourselves translates quite well into some great fiction. We have this tendency to think that we are superior to all else. Nature is our footstool and the very Laws that govern life cannot possibly apply to us as humans. I love playing with this notion of collective self-worth. I only hope that we will one day be able to take a step back and realize that we are not some special and perfect little creature. We are just victims of blind coincidence just as everything else is. Maybe there will come a time when we can once again live with Nature instead of in constant opposition to it.

This novel is funny, in the same was at The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is funny. What were some of your inspirations as a writer?

It was only recently that I read ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide.’ I’ve heard others mention it when talking of my book, so I thought to finally check it out. I must say that I am completely humbled to have my story be compared to that of such an amazing writer and story teller as Douglas Adams. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide’ is a fantastic piece of fiction that I urge everyone to read. All that aside, I think that what inspires me more than anything else is…boredom. I spend a lot of time on the road, or lost on some trail, or doing some mundane activity, and it is through these actions that I find the creative juices tend to flow best. I usually carry around a pen and notebook because I never really know when inspiration is going to strike. I am also heavily inspired by the surreal no matter the medium it comes in. Works of Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, Les Claypool, Frank Zappa, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Kurt Vonnegut have all had a great impact on my thinking.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when is that due out?

There are three things that I have in the works right now. The first is a continuation of Derren’s story. This next part will pick up where ‘the Transient’ leaves off and will describe Derren’s new life back on Earth. Without giving too much away, I will say that it will involve murders of crows, shady governmental entities, and inter-dimensional beings living in the rectum of a cosmic being. I am also hard at work with a novel centered on life in a small town life. It is a tale that points out the glaring and countless contradictions and hypocrisies that guide us through our lives. This is something that I have been working on for quite some time, but I hope to have it completed and out in print by next year. Lastly, I have been compiling together a number of short stories, poems, and other oddities. These are just miscellaneous bits of this and that, ideas that came uninvited that I felt the need to capture. I hope to have that collection out in print by the end of this year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Transient, the Emperor, and the Man Left AloneDerren Washington’s life has never amounted to much, and lately it has become boring and stale. Sure, he does well for himself. He has a job, a place to live, and is breathing and living-enough for most people and all Derren believes he needs. And then one morning, Derren is awoken to an unexpected knock that changes the course of his life, spurring a mad journey that he never could have possibly imagined. Confronted with the sudden loss of his apartment and, subsequently, everything he has ever owned, Derren must face the insensitive marriage of blind chance and sheer coincidence. His situation becomes even more dire after a regrettably made phone call finds him abducted by a group of towering extraterrestrials who have mistaken him for their long, lost emperor. Now Derren struggles to navigate and survive in a baffling world amid suffocating seas of deceit and absurdity in hopes of one day making his way home and finding some meaning in his life. This science fiction novel tells the tale of one man’s unintended adventure as he stumbles from one confusing world to another in an attempt to regain what he has lost.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Tarbabies: The Shadow Man of Ichabod Lane

Tarbabies Book 1: The Shadow Man of Ichabod Lane (Tarbabies, #1)4 StarsTarbabies follows the protagonist, Josh, as he and his wife experience a catastrophic event that changes the world as we know it. Through news reports, Josh watches as New York City falls victim to what he calls “tarbabies”, monsters made of a soft, gooey substance. These tarbabies have the ability to change any living thing they touch into one of them, and they are immune to physical attack. It’s not long before the simple yet dangerous monsters show up in his neighborhood, and despite their slow, plodding movements, they manage to increase their numbers daily. Josh and his neighbors try to learn as much as they can, but their knowledge might not be of any use, as they are slowly running out of allies. What they do learn, though, is just as mysterious. There is something attractive about these monsters. People attacked by them feel no pain, and instead seem to experience some kind of euphoria before being taken over completely. Josh and his wife leave their quiet neighborhood, determined to reach the safety of her parents’ home across the state. Will they make their journey safely? What are these monsters, and are they getting smarter?

Josh and his wife have loving, fun interactions. Brady did very well crafting these two, and I spent almost every page of the story hoping that both of them make it through. The author also excelled at creating each of the characters on Ichabod Lane, especially the young boy Logan, who treats the dangerous, slow-moving monsters as a fun activity.

The novel also has a nice balance of settings. There are scenes taking place in big cities, small communities, woodlands, and more. The characters travel well and the descriptions of their travels are very entertaining. Particularly, it was fun to read about Josh and his wife and their hiking adventure through the Catskills.

This novel is written very well. If I have any complaints, I would say that the pacing is a little rough, due mostly to the slow pace of the monsters, themselves. The main thought for the first half of the book is that if the main character does get captured by any of these creatures, it would be a silly mistake that would only immensely frustrate the reader. The events also take a long time to unfold once the initial shock from the discovery of the monsters takes place. There are several characters that are well written, but their interactions are difficult to care about as the action is a bit dull.

Overall, this novel provides plenty of tension and suspense through the monsters that have invaded New York. While the reader may want to experience more suspense and action, the author seems to be in this story for the long game, taking his time to develop the characters and to develop the rapidly evolving monsters. This series will be more entertaining the longer one reads, so don’t quit if the first hundred pages aren’t enough.

Pages: 272 | ASIN: B017PSKB58

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Mystery Time

Mystery Time (Alex Kertesz Mystery #3)4 Stars

Mystery Time by Janet Hannah will leave you lost in a bit of a mystery, but in a good way. Professor Alex Kertész and Hildegard Kraus found themselves in the shadow of trouble after the death of a colleague caused the loss of a timepiece that would reveal itself as more than a teller of time. As though instinctively determined to get it back, Kertész and Kraus’, expeditions take them outside of their science convention in Prague, into the unknown. Escaping unwanted advances and skirting uncertain thoughts of desire, murder, lies, secrets and fate find their way into the lives of the two scientists. As if public speaking was not a daunting enough task, Professor Hildegard now has to contend with her colleague dying in her arms. After Bernard Green’s almost lifeless body crashed into Hildegard, professor Alex Kertész, assisted her in taking Green into a room, where his dying confession would direct suspicions to his killer. A fellow colleague and longtime rival, Joe Klein, would be in the hotseat as authorities tried to identify Bernard’s Killer. As casual as his death was expressed it guided the story onto a new focus, the loss of the watch. While the death of a colleague is traumatic, Hilgard had lost her own husband about a year earlier. Bernard, before his passing, had borrowed a watch that Hildegard’s husband had given to her. The timepiece however, was not found on Bernard’s body and she was intent on getting the watch back; no matter what it took. Alex, even endangered his own life in an attempt to retrieve the watch, although he had didn’t understand it; other than it was important to professor Hildegard. There was a mysterious bond Alex held with Hilgard, that added intrigue and romance to the story in subtle bits, as the plot thickened. After retrieving the watch, whenever Hilgard touched it, she had unexplainable visions. Somehow she could see Alex in pain at some point in time, future or past, she could not tell. While the watch did not trigger visions in Alex, his pains seemed to trigger something in the watch. He had his own past and present demons to fight, some from his previous life in Hungary and one by the name of MaryAnn. MaryAnn was a giddy headed girl, who did not understand or seemingly respect that Alex was a married man. Even though, ironically, his own thoughts of Hilgard never seemed to conflict with his marital status, although his admiration, on some levels, mimicked MaryAnn’s.

As their lives continued after the molecular biology congress, the death of Bernard Green remained unsolved and new information came to light about research Joe Klein argued with Green about, hours before his death. Hildegard and Alex worked in sync and found some shocking revelations that would help solve the mystery and motive of Bernard’s death, and it questioned the integrity of a few. Integrity was also a matter in the history of the watch. Dating back to previous owners, it was a trait that all owners were confronted with, as though the watch had a moral clause. The book tells two stories, one progressing in time and the other going back in time. The parallels between the stories indicate that this cosmic occurrence could have been linked to previous owners. The watch may have been mechanised to somehow defy the laws of physics and not only capture time, but instead a moment, but this watch had only known moments of pain. Mystery Time is a very interesting and unique read that will leave you inspired.

Pages: 241 | ISBN: 1432788442

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Notes from a Very Small Island

Notes From a Very Small Island3 StarsNotes From a Very Small Island by Anthony Stancomb is very literal in the sense of its name. The book is mainly a collection of experiences surrounding the island of Vis. Croatia’s historical events and current culture were brought to the fore as locals looked towards what a future with the European Union (EU) might mean. The book brings to life, the characters, as seen through the eyes of the narrator and primarily focuses on day to day conflicts and situations that arise. Throughout the book, there are comparisons of the fast city life and the relaxed island life and factors that contribute to the differences and similarities.

We are first introduced to Dario, a local Disc Jock/ hardware store worker, who I assumed to be the protagonist of the story, and his wife and son; Sofia and Dino. Dario is from the island of Vis and prefaces most of the chapters in the book through humorous and political banter via his radio show. Over the first few paragraphs we meet Karmela, the housekeeper and Ivana, the narrator’s Croatian wife. We get an idea of who the narrator is by the establishment of his English nationality and his history in broadcasting, however, throughout the chapters, he was never identified by name and for me, this made the rest of the stories somewhat less personable.

The transition from London to the quaint island of Vis was not easy for the narrator and his wife. They left the city, their jobs, friends and two adult children behind, for a more scenic and native lifestyle. It was a move that was compounded by rebuilding, a theme that stood out in the majority of the book. Cricket seemed to be a cultural icebreaker in assisting the Stancombs in settling in.

It was only the mention of Facebook in chapter 13 that gave an idea of the era the narrator spoke from. A sizeable amount of the chapters had many historical references, much of it informed by locals like old Marinko. There were historical and political themes about the island as it related to their current realities and what it meant going forward for the locals and the narrator, should Croatia become a part of the EU.

Both the church and Dario had outspoken views in regards to the EU change. Urbanizing Croatia, adopting foreign lifestyles and fashions were just a few of the things they were concerned would undermine their freedoms or the simple things such as, Zoran’s bar after church service, their food, wine or culture. Attitudes to foreigners were evolving, the Craigs and Duffys, friends of the narrator, would end up testament to that.

Milena and Christopher, the narrator’s children, Milena’s boyfriend; Andrew and Ivanna’s Serbian cousins all exacted specific views from locals. The reason why this was so, was evident in the historical context of various nationals with Croatians. These dynamics are what established the island’s character.

I found the book relatively hard to follow, it fluctuated between the past and present too much, too quickly, with no transitional sentences or forewarning. There were several in text person references that were ineffective as well, as they weren’t general knowledge. The story was anticlimactic but there are surprises to look for. This is a book for a modern historical story enthusiast.Buy Now From Amazon.com

Pages: 312 | ISBN: 1910670456

%d bloggers like this: