Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lost on Spirit River by Tommy Batchelor

Lost on Spirit River

Written by Tommy Batchelor
Illustrations by Kim Reale
Mirror Publishing (November 8, 2010)
156 pages

Mystery, mysticism, ancient American native culture, adventure and much more can be found in Lost on Spirit River, a novel for readers aged 8-12 by Tommy Batchelor.

Lost on Spirit River tells the tale of how cousins Tony and Kathryn, while visiting their grandfather in Flint River, Georgia, became lost during a rare December snow storm. Tony, thirteen, was a model student and athlete until his parents’ separation left him bitter, angry, and blaming himself for their problems. Kathryn is a popular, intelligent eleven-year-old, more than willing to help her cousin through this difficult time at home.

The pair, along with their grandfather’s aging beagle, set out to find the perfect family Christmas tree. A storm forecast of snow is ignored, as snow in Southern Georgia is unheard of at Christmas. As the children leave the cabin their grandfather warns, “Watch out for the ancient ones.”

Kathryn is confident in finding a suitable tree in an area with which she is familiar. Tony doesn’t think he needs anyone’s help—especially a girl’s. He thinks he can find a better tree and leads his cousin further and further away from the cabin. The temperature drops, the snow increases, and the children’s light jackets are not enough to keep them warm. They continue their task in weather so bad that the local rescue team refuses to help until the storm ceases.

The children need to find shelter and fast, however visibility is zero and they are tired, cold, and hungry. Both Tony and Kathryn sense that someone or something is in the forest with them and that perhaps their grandfather’s warning about ancient ones was more than an attempt at humor.

Tommy Batchelor has written an entertaining young adult novel with a multi-pronged message. He uses suspense and adventure to capture his audience’s attention while making his point without preaching. Cooperation to achieve a common goal is presented in a way that pre-teens will understand and relate to easily. Readers are treated to a glimpse of the spirit world of ancient native tribes in a way that will stir imaginations to want to know more about early American civilizations. Children from homes where separation and divorce is reality will identify with Tony and his situation. The dialogue is crisp and well suited to the age group. The characters are well developed and Tony shows growth and maturity at the end. Kim Reale’s illustrations solidify the images already created by Batchelor’s exceptional ability to describe scenes and setting.

Highly Recommended by William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews.

Available on Amazon

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Independent Author Network is a Book Promotional Site for Indie Authors!

The Independent Author Network is a group of like minded authors who are independently published. This group would start out at around 12 authors who are active social networkers and or bloggers. This group will utilize social networking sites such as Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn and others to promote each member of the group. The group will also share info, ideas, and experiences from their travels around self promotion/publishing. This group would be free to join. The only cost would be 20-30 minutes of each author’s time per week to tweet and facebook postings.

We would begin by asking each member to put together a book synopsis with cover jpeg and a bio with head shot jpeg and then send it to me in a word file. We would then use these files to generate an article that will be publish in a Press Release and an Ezine article. All members will be asked to Tweet, Facebook and if possible, guest post to their own blog each article/PR. So right away each member would have an article about their book in a PR and Ezine, twittered, blogged, Facebooked etc. by the others.

Also, if a member had a new book releasing, a book signing, a blog tour or any event we again would take the info and post to a PR and Ezine and each member will be asked to Tweet, blog, Facebook etc. the event as their time allows. This would also work when an author has a guest post at a blog--the members could tweet the post and comment on the blog. Blog tours could be followed by the group. Members might like to review other member’s books as well.

If a group like this was to grow to several dozen active members all Tweeting and blogging as a group it could really boost exposure for everyone involved. This group would work on the honor system and we hope that everyone would contribute. Major decisions would be put to a vote. Membership would be free. Members would communicate through e-mail.

Members must have:

  • A Twitter and or Facebook account
  • A few spare minutes a week to Tweet or link a post to Facebook
  • A willingness to share ideas, successes and the like.

Helpful but not crucial would be:

  • A blog.
  • Accounts at Goodreads, Linkedin, Shelfari, AuthorsDen etc.

Sign up at The IndependentAuthorNetwork.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Congo Cobalt by Colin Boxall-Hunt

Congo Cobalt
Colin Boxall-Hunt
lulu.com (July 30, 2010)
184 pages

Journey to Central Africa for action, adventure, excitement, and romance in Congo Cobalt by Colin Boxall-Hunt.

Set in 1994, we meet Major Algernon Charles Nasty-Farting or “Warty.” Warty is a retired Royal Artillery and Infantry Officer with a plan; set up a Cobalt mining operation in the Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is no easy feat as the area is controlled by a number of heavily armed terrorist gangs. His first part of the plan is to put together a group of trusted military comrades and to set up financing and a means to sell their product. Along for the operation are experienced and mostly retired military men with nick-names like Bullet, The Black Dwarf, and Keith Monkey Lawrence.

Once in the Congo, the first order of business is setting up/fortifying a compound of living quarters and the mining and ore reduction plant. Local civilians are hired for labor and more than 60 are enlisted for a security force. The force is split into two full platoons and armed and trained in the highest British Military tradition. The security force will need to be at its best to protect the camp from terrorist gangs known for murder, torture, and cannibalism. A UN-backed medical team arrives to inoculate the villagers against measles, small pox and other diseases. The all female medical team quickly catch the eyes of several of the officers. With the operation in full production, it isn’t long before the gangs become interested and mount their first attack on the camp.

Author Colin Boxall-Hunt’s experience and knowledge of weapons and military operations is apparent on every page with detailed description giving this story a realistic feel. He keeps the tension up with the constant threat of the gangs and pirates who are ready to unleash bloody mayhem and/or steel the valuable cobalt. This is a quick read that will catch the interest of readers of action-adventure and combat fiction.

I felt that the author’s choice of the omniscient point of view kept me at a distance from the story. There is little or no character development, back story or description. There is a “List of Principal Characters,” however, the list mentions military backgrounds and doesn’t help create a clear picture of the cast. Instead the author refers readers to his prequel, Rhine Army Summer, for more details on Warty and the others. In fact, the prequel is mentioned no fewer than five times by page six. The story is set in the 1990s; however, the medical staff is stereotypical meek females. Their living quarters supplied with “girlie potions and lotions” and decorated with wild flowers suggests a setting in the 50’s or 60’s. The book could have used the services of a professional proofreader to catch the numerous typos and formatting issues that became distracting for me. Despite these problems, I would recommend Congo Cobalt to those who enjoy a fast-paced read in the action/adventure genre.

By William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Available at Amazon.com

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Currents Deep and Deadly by Arleen Alleman

Currents Deep and Deadly
Arleen Alleman
Xlibris, Corp. (August 23, 2010)
978-1453539286 (print)
304 pages

Find adventure, romance, mystery, bizarre interconnected coincidences, brutal murders and a journey of self discovery on a luxury cruise ship in Currents Deep and Deadly.

Author Arleen Alleman introduces her main characters with plenty of description and back story while showing the events that brought each on the month-long South American cruise. Darcy Farthing, the heroine, boards the Sea Nymph, an enormous floating city, with her current love, Dr. Peterson. Darcy is a self-described atheist and non-believer of coincidence. While boarding, Darcy overhears a conversation that may suggest the planning of foul play. Mick Clayton is a recent widower who chose the cruise last minute, more to keep an eye on Sidney, an old acquaintance, and her problems with her dangerous husband, Paul Denezza, a Vegas casino boss with old school mob connections. Captain Espen is as proud of his Viking heritage as he is to be the Captain of the Sea Nymph. Rounding out the principals is the exotic beauty Suzanne Moretti, the Captain’s wife.

When a crew member is killed it is first considered an accident. A second death has ship security and Mick investigating two possible homicides. Meanwhile the romance between Darcy and Mick increases, with their love scenes adding some needed sizzle. The coincidences continue as Darcy begins to believe someone is pulling the strings when she is reunited with an old friend. The finger of guilt is pointed at several of the primaries including the suspicious Denezza, the jealous Captain, his mysterious wife, and others as the author successfully keeps the reader guessing who-dun-it. When the killer turns on Darcy, it’s a life-and-death struggle that could destroy all that she has built with Mick. In the end, the author wraps up the loose ends while nicely setting up the sequel.

Arleen Alleman has done her homework. I came away with a clear picture of the shore excursion tour stops thanks to the well researched details of the villages, townspeople, and scenery. Alleman knows her way around a cruise ship as well, cleverly inserting the ship’s specs and dimensions to make me feel as though I was onboard. Darcy is an interesting, realistic protagonist and she has immediate chemistry with Mick as her side-kick love interest.

I would have liked to have seen an impact event in the opening chapter to hook interest earlier, and then a gradual increase in tension until the climax. Unfortunately, the author waits more than a dozen chapters until Part 2 to turn up the emotional ante with the first murder. No sooner had conflict arisen did the author switch to romantic scenes. Frequent head hopping point-of-view changes were distracting and slowed down an already sluggish plot. If the author had stayed in Darcy’s first person POV, I believe it would have improved flow and allowed readers to form a stronger bond with her and her plight.

Overall, Currents Deep and Deadly is a good attempt at a mystery/thriller and I would recommend it as a holiday read.

By William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Available at Amazon.com

Arleen Alleman is a former analyst with the Government Accountability Office where she wrote extensively on many diverse topics including satellite systems, senior health care, postal operations, endangered species, and plant biodiversity. Despite an education in biology, she is a self-described generalist who also worked as an insurance adjuster, fashion model, and jewelry designer. Her current interests include travel, health and fitness, religious history, and running her own home décor shop and boutique. Born in England and raised in New Hampshire and Las Vegas, she now lives in Colorado with her husband, Tim and their cat, Xena. Currents Deep and Deadly is her first novel.

Monday, November 8, 2010

All Eyes: A Memoir of Deafness by Bainy B. Cyrus

All Eyes: A Memoir of Deafness
Bainy B. Cyrus
CreateSpace (May 1, 2010)
132 pages

The struggles and achievements of a woman born deaf in the 1960’s and her determination to fit into both the deaf and hearing worlds are the focus in All Eyes: A Memoir of Deafness by Bainy B. Cyrus.

Born in 1961 to delighted parents and three older brothers, Bainy Cyrus was a happy, healthy baby. However, by eighteen months, family members noticed she wasn’t responding to loud noises or making normal baby babblings. Several trips to pediatricians were inconclusive with autism and aphasia suspected but not diagnosed. Finally, after months of hearing tests at John Hopkins Hospital, it was concluded that she had significant hearing loss. It was determined that oralism (speaking/lip reading) was the best approach to teach Bainy to speak. With a sound amplifying hearing-aid and repetitive training Bainy would learn to read lips and to, at last, talk. However, the only reputable oral school was Clarke School and it was 700 miles away in Massachusetts. Five-year-old Bainy was taken to Clarke where she would live while her parents would return home to Virginia. One can only imagine the traumatic experience of being left without family present at such a young age.

Clarke School for the deaf was a strict and old fashioned school established in 1867. Bainy made lasting friendships and, with the help of a special teacher, Miss Miller, began her life long journey to acceptance into the hearing world. Despite her limited vocabulary and misunderstanding of cliché and humor, Bainy would leave Clarke after seven years for regular public school as a 12-year-old in grade 3. Overcoming the difficulties of deafness, including the misconceptions of hearing classmates, would be an everyday challenge for Bainy at regular grade schools and into college. Later, she would be rejected by a deaf community who prefer sign language over oralism.

It is no wonder that All Eyes: A Memoir of Deafness is a well-reviewed, award-winning memoir. This is an eye-opening and at times heartbreaking look into a world with which many of us have little experience or knowledge. Bainy’s early life was not easy by any means, however, the author does not ask for pity. Instead, she shows how life’s problems can be overcome with humor, hard work, and a strong network of friends and family. This book shows the many misconceptions about deafness that existed in the 60’s and those continuing to hamper hard-of-hearing and deaf people today. The book flows well and is clearly presented. Bainy B. Cyrus packs a great deal of private facts and hard found life lessons into these 126 pages. I highly recommend this always entertaining and often emotional story.

By William R. Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Available at Amazon.com


Friday, November 5, 2010

The Absurd Secret Diary Of An Unborn Baby by David N. Bending

The Absurd Secret Diary Of An Unborn Baby
David N. Bending
lulu.com (March 6, 2010)
146 pages

Take an inside look at the life of a foetus from conception to birth in The Absurd Secret Diary Of An Unborn Baby by David N. Bending.

The book is presented as a daily journal of an unborn’s experiences in his mother’s womb. Our unnamed hero began as the product of his mother’s drunken holiday fling with an intoxicated Scottish tourist. Unfortunately for the baby inside her, Sally Summers had no intention on quitting or even minimizing her alcohol intake. Meanwhile, at eight weeks, and despite a body size of less than an inch and a half, this little person would experience his first love. Dara Doo, the unborn daughter of one of Sally’s friends, serves as love interest for the next 30 weeks or so.

Author David N. Bending has incorporated an ingenious touch to the book. The foetuses are aware of the outside world and can communicate with other unborns. The gestating offspring of many of Sally’s friends and acquaintances become a network of friends for our hero and his true love, Dara. Each is named for their traits. There are the identical twins Zilli and Zalli, Pompous Twit, Blubber, and New Kid to name a few. The different personalities interact and clash as the story unfolds.
While most expectant moms are improving their diet, beginning maternity vitamins and perhaps starting a fitness programme of light exercise, our hero’s mom is consuming equal parts vodka, gin, and tobacco. Her routine of dangerous driving, partying, clubbing, and believe it or not, skydiving, is not altered. Along with the effects of his mother’s dangerous addicted lifestyle, our hero must also deal with devious New Kid setting his sights on Dara’s affection.

“Mother forgot to buy the frisky fried, chicken crisps I like…What do I get? Vodka on the rocks via the umbilical!”

This is undoubtedly one of the strangest books I have ever read. It is well written and original. Bending has done his research and includes true week-by-week foetal development updates before returning his attention to his characters. There is nothing funny about babies born with foetal alcohol syndrome; however Bending’s wit adds an intriguing element of dark humor to a serious topic. I read on wondering how this little person would ever survive to full term. Some readers may be disturbed by scenes describing the dangerous lifestyle of a careless, alcoholic mother. I recommend The Absurd Secret Diary Of An Unborn Baby to those looking for something different in their next read.

By William R. Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Battle Lines Undrawn by Rick Brooks

Battle Lines Undrawn
Written and illustrated by Rick Brooks
Mirror Publishing (August 24, 2010)
100 pages

Follow an American teenager from his daily struggles at Jump School training to becoming a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne, to the beginning of the African-American civil rights movement in Battle Lines Undrawn by Rick Brooks.

In 1956, Brad Stevens is an All-American kid, star of his high school’s football and track programs. Instead of college, Brad and his friend, Billy, enlist in the army. After basic training, the pair transfers to Jump School where recruits are put through vigorous training designed to separate the men from the boys. Every day, many of Brad’s co-recruits either quit or are kicked out of the unit. Brad must make five successful jumps to earn his wings as an elite Screaming Eagle of the 101st Airborne. The training is tough and the jumps dangerous, but Stevens will stop at nothing to become a paratrooper and to protect the American way of life against the communist threat. Soon Stevens begins to see that the biggest challenge in America isn’t from a Soviet or Chinese invasion but from inside the nation’s own borders.

Brad and his platoon are sent to Little Rock, Arkansas in September 1957. Once there, Airborne troops are deployed to protect nine African-American students from an angry anti-integration mob. The students were prevented from attending Little Rock Central High School by the Arkansas National Guard.

Author Rick Brooks has done a wonderful job detailing the severe challenges the brave soldiers of the airborne must face in order to earn the right to serve their country. Brooks has done his research, as the training and parachute passages feel authentic. His characters are well drawn and the dialogue realistic to the time period. His illustrations are exceptional and add nicely to the imagery of his narrative. With the election of President Obama, it is easy to forget that only few short decades ago a level of bigotry existed that would stop an African-American person from enjoying a movie with his white friends. This is a coming-of-age story of a naïve teenager and of an entire nation. This book is geared to young adult readers (10-18) and I believe it would be an asset to middle school history/social studies programs. Highly Recommended.

By William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Available at Amazon.com

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mexican Autumn By John Howard Reid

Mexican Autumn
John Howard Reid
Lulu.com (February 9, 2006)
312 pages

Mexican Autumn is a short story collection that reads like a novel, full of intriguing characters and trademark charm and wit from author John Howard Reid.

The first sixteen shorts are inter-related and take place in a true Mexican fishing village called Bahia de los Angeles. Bahia de los Angeles lies 350 miles south of the US border along the shores of the Sea of Cortes on the East Coast of Baja, California. The Mexican government has closed the area to fishing, forcing the village to rely on other sources of income—that new source being “el Gringo” or the American tourist. This is where the fun begins as Mr. Reid observes the conflict of opposing cultures—the laid back native Mexicans and the hurried American visitors and everyone’s need to understand each other.

I enjoyed all the stories so I’ll look at some of the main characters:

· The village physician, who is also curator of the town’s mining museum, whose lack of tolerance for American tourists is as clear as his need for their cash;
· The doctor’s good friend, the town mayor and owner of the Miraculous Superstore (the village’s largest store) who is happy to help his fellow villagers, but expects their loyal business and votes come election time;
· The silver-haired, aristocratic land owner and confirmed bachelor who is always on hand to lend his advice in village matters;
· The devoted Catholic, town gossip, and proprietress of the Refugio del Sol motel and cantina who is ever so grateful for the retired American priest’s arrival in the village;
· The village’s only policeman; and
· The young beauty determined to leave Bahia de los Angeles for a better life even if it means marrying the first wealthy American who asks for her hand.

Two other stories complete the collection. However, Zone of Silence and The Feast of Gonzaga do not take place in Bahia de los Angeles, nor do they include any of the aforementioned characters.

The stories are presented in chronological order and stand alone well. What I found unique is that each short could be considered and read as a chapter in a novel. Reid has obviously spent time in the village as his descriptions paint a clear picture of a village too small for a church with dilapidated buildings, rough yet paved roads, and a stray dog problem. The characters shine throughout the book, setting the stories apart from other short fiction, and highlighting an author at the top of his craft. The quirky banter and authentic Mexican slang used between the villagers makes this book a treat to read. Whether you enjoy Mexican Autumn as a novel or as a group of short stories it will not disappoint. Highly Recommended.

By William R. Potter

Available at Amazon.com