Michael Kroft’s Editing Can Kill An Idiot: A Short Memoir

Editing Can Kill An Idiot: A Short Memoir

Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Description “Told with humorous candor and enough self-defecation to require a double flush, Michael Kroft utilizes 28,000 words to quickly detail his five days leading up to the heart of the story, his then first-time ten-day stay in a hospital. With the actual situations almost too surreal to be called non-fiction, the memoir’s many anecdotes are presented in such an easy-to-read manner and with such a Devil-may-care attitude that it can only be told by a man so humbled by his years that he is forthcoming regarding his ignorance.

From first noticing a pain in his neck and as it grows, denying its dangerous potential and then trying to ignore it as he performs his final edit on his second novel while not being able to physically swallow and almost not being able to speak, Kroft walks us through his sometimes broken reasoning, his first aborted attempt at the Emergency Department, his first night at the hospital under the care of the nurse from Hell, the language tension lingering between a semi-monolingual Anglophone within a primarily Francophone hospital, waking up during his surgery, being hit on by an attractive female patient who just so happens to be…, and much more. The story will entertain, educate and perhaps even frighten.”

I picked this up on a whim because of the intriguing title and the interesting description. In fact I read this some time ago and have only come to writing the review now because of a bout of flu that was not helped by sudden onset hypochondria brought on by this vivid reading experience.
It is difficult to say whether I felt mostly empathy or shock at Kroft’s decisions along the way. It did certainly teach me something and having taken a couple of moments to look into throat pain I do not think that I will be shy about seeking medical attention.
There are heart warming aspects to the book, especially the help and comradeship that Kroft gets, but there is also a troubling vignette about a poor experience in the hospital that is in itself shocking but is followed by equally shocking complaint avoidance. Everyone has bad days but there is a standard of care we all have to one another and even more so when we are meeting them at a low point.
I enjoyed reading this short book and it made an impression on me. Kroft writes it well and there is a jauntiness to the writing that glosses over the seriousness of it all. Take care of yourselves out there is the main take home!

Dot Gumbi’s The Pirates of Maryland Point

Publication date 8th July 2012

The Pirates of Maryland Point

I came across this book whilst searching for Robert Rankin and I was happy that I did, but it does explain why it took me so long to get to it!

The blurb: “The greatest prize at the London 2012 Olympics isn’t gold…it’s the Holy Grail.

There’s a rumour there’s treasure buried beneath the Olympic site. And that a secret army is going to find it. Only nobody believes it. But when a mysterious group of pirates move to the East End, people become suspicious.And when Cockneys start disappearing, the Pearly King demands answers. But that’s the least of Oscar’s worries – all he wants to do is kill some cockroaches. The problem is, he’s using a chemical weapon to do it.

The Pirates of Maryland Point is a fast-paced, who-dunnit, Cockney comedy caper packed with pirates and pie and mash.

“For fans of Robert Rankin, Jasper Fforde or Douglas Adams.””

My review: From the start there is a gripping non reality about this splendid book. Told as it is in flash backs and augmented recollection we get a rapidly moving and highly amusing plot filled with lovable characters. It is not, though, to be assumed that this is a book that will make any real sense, but it is a splendid reading experience and cleverly engineered.

This book has a real feel of the comic genius of Robert Rankin and while it never really reached the highest heights of hilarity of that author’s work neither was it as emotionally exhausting as some. Gumbi’s style does also depart in interesting and important ways and left me interested in picking up more of his work.

JB Dutton’s Starley’s Rust (The Embodied trilogy Book 2)

Published January 15 2015

Starley’s Rust (The Embodied trilogy Book 2)

The blurb: STARLEY’S RUST a YA urban fantasy, Book 2 of the EMBODIED trilogy.

Six months ago, Kari Marriner’s life was torn apart. Now turned 17, she’s looking for answers in her rural Wisconsin hometown. But just as the Embodied seemed to have vanished, there’s a new, more terrifying visitor from the Dark Universe.
Back in Manhattan, a charismatic English artist named Starley convinces Kari he can find her missing mother if she flies to Paris with him. He also shares an incredible secret from the dawn of mankind. But Starley is not who he seems. Before she knows it, Kari finds herself standing in front of the Mona Lisa with him, yelling out, “He’s got a bomb!”
And that’s when things go totally insane. The Rebel Embodied’s henchman, Cilic, returns to Earth on a deadly mission. The body of Kari’s treacherous friend Aranara is washed up on the banks of the Hudson. But is she really dead? In the Paris catacombs, Kari and Starley are hunted by a nightmarish mythical creature that’s all too real.
A family mystery, an exiled race, freakish beasts, jealousy, love… and death. Kari has to face them all in the fast-paced fantasy thriller .
Starley’s Rust is the spellbinding second novel in JB Dutton’s EMBODIED trilogy. The first installment, Silent Symmetry, was published in 2013 and reached the #1 spot on Amazon’s free Kindle ebook Futuristic & Sci-Fi Romance chart.

My review: this is a very fun sequel to read and I got through it very quickly because I wanted to know what happened next. In one sense a sequel in a trilogy is a little bit confined , or at least the reader’s expectations will be to be left hanging at a crucial moment in the plot but without any major changes. In contrast, for Starley’s Rust I could have written the article under a banner “the 10 things we learned about the Embodied” (we seem to live in a world at the moment caught up in headlines along the lines of the 10 things we learned from last nights game/debate/report). This is not so obviously an inbetweener book in terms of being largely wasted effort, there is real development to the story in this book that is both fascinating and unexpected.

It is well aimed at the target audience and appropriately written. Kari develops nicely as a character and we see her spreads her wings in adventures that become international. The new challenges that Kari encounters are imaginative and frightening but her inner drive and anger remain as an endearing quality.

The first in the series had, to me at least, a greater paranormal feel to it even though the sequel has the quite spectacular mythical beast it does have the urban fantasy feel to it and in that sense we are taken on a splendid journey of discovery with Kari and the cast of the Embodied Trilogy towards what I hungrily anticipate to be a tremendous conclusion in the final chapter.

This is a splendid read very nicely developing this very fine trilogy.

J.D. Tew’s The Ghost of Sephera (Theodore Crane) (Volume 2)

Published December 1 2014

The Ghost of Sephera (Theodore Crane) (Volume 2)

The blurb: Having left his innocuous childhood on Earth behind for the adventures of outer space, Theodore Crane now thrusts himself into desolate conditions, vowing to find two valued members of his crew that were lost in battle. Despite Theodore’s prior victories, the war between two all-powerful demigods continues. The despotic Zane stalks Theodore and his crew, believing that they will one day meet again.
After falling into a state of disarray, the Opposition must retrench in order to rid the universe of the two demigods who threaten the freedom of the Galaxy. Somehow, Theodore must help the Opposition’s freedom fighters—and give them hope.
Along his journey, Theodore and his crew learn of an all-powerful omnipotent mainframe, Eppa. Records of her existence suggest that she knows everything and sees everything. If Theodore can find Eppa, he may determine the outcome of the Galaxy.
The Ghost of Sephera is a rollicking space adventure to be enjoyed by readers age twelve and up, and explores universal questions such as: Do incredible nano-engineered particles with great intelligence have the same freedoms and rights as the peoples of the galaxy? If time travel was a reality throughout the galaxy, how do we hunt down and apprehend violators? Is a vast repository with unlimited knowledge, one that records every single second since the beginning of Time and discerns every decision ever made, too powerful to exist?

My review: This is a big book in many different ways. Firstly it was big because I personally was looking forward to seeing how Tew developed as an author after the first book (The Acolytes of Crane) and I was not disappointed. Secondly it is a longer book than the first which the author fills with big (thirdly) ideas and big (fourthly) action.

What is truly impressive about The Ghost of Sephera are the number of interesting and innovative concepts that are wound together in a storyline that seems to just keep growing. The characters have developed and we get a greater sense of who they are and the universe that they inhabit. We learn of new abilities, more dangers and much more complexity.

Tew’s own blurb captures it very well, this is indeed a rollicking space adventure and you will enjoy every twist and turn!

It is now a couple of week’s since I read the book and my feelings about this work have matured and rounded and it seems to me that this is a very good book aimed at the younger audience but certainly a heck of a read also for those of us getting on in years. It has a lot of intriguing thoughts meshed into a multi-layered narrative and this means that different people will take different things from it and I personally really enjoy the concept of controlling armies of ‘nanobots’ and the ensuing difficulties that this is going to have; this is one tool that is very much a weapon. The author deals pretty well with the complexities of time travel and the possible effects. I say pretty well only to avoid criticism, this is one area where everyone has a view and not even philosophers or physicists consistently agree on the outcome. Maybe one day I will come back an update this paragraph with the proper solution.

Yes, this is a good book, yes it is a long book and yes it is good value reading.

Zack Love’s The Syrian Virgin: A Young Woman’s Journey From War in Syria to Love in New York (The Syrian Virgin Series Book 1)

Zack Love has recently published a new book that is in a very different genre to “Sex in the Title” which I read with great interest and enjoyment. In this new work Love shows us a much more serious side.

This is a book that deals with both big themes of our time on a geopolitical level as well as the ever present and very human drives for progress, recognition and love. The plot starts off with a gruesome bang in the Syrian civil war, setting the tragic scene and reminding us of the horror and vintage of that conflict. We move rapidly with our heroine to the USA where the author chooses to use a mixture of diary entries and letters to tell in retrospect large parts of the story. This is a neat artifice as we are introduced to more characters and see the story unfold through several perspectives.
Love handles the obviously treacherous minefield of politics and religion with straight forward sensitivity. At times it makes for challenging reading.

I note the sensitivity of the writing because it is almost too easy to either gloss over the issues or become altogether bombastic and rhetorical. The setting of the book is well thought out, considered and effective. There are many messages that we can take from this book and the culture clashes between Syrian and American, the differences in ideology and the more mundane considerations of growing up all find their way into the plot and while we may not find the answers here, we might feel a bit better informed and a little bit more aware of the difficulties.

The characters in this book seem initially generic but rapidly Love adds depth to each and as we move through the book it is clear that not all is what it might seem, secrets abound and who knows where the story might go next.
My only issue with the book is that it ended too soon. The stage is very well set for the next book.

This book was published 6th November 2014 and is described as:

Anissa is traumatized by the most brutal conflict of the 21st Century: the Syrian Civil War. In 2012, Islamists in Homs terrorize a Syrian-Christian community and destroy everything that a young woman holds dear. Narrowly escaping death, Anissa restarts her devastated life as a college student in NY. She is bewildered and lost — a virgin in every sense.

But despite her inexperience with men and life in the United States, Anissa is quickly drawn to two powerful individuals: Michael Kassab, the Syrian-American leader working to found the first Mideast Christian state, and Julien Morales, her Columbia University professor who runs a $20 billion hedge fund.

Complicating matters, Michael is still attached to his ex-girlfriend and Julien is the most sought after bachelor in Manhattan (and has hidden demons even his therapist can’t extract). Anissa’s heart and her communal ties pull her in different directions, as she seeks hope and renewal in a dark world.

WARNING: This book is about a young woman’s difficult journey: her escape from Syria’s Civil War, her transition to a new a country, and the relationships that she forms along the way, including her romantic interests in two very different men. The story is set against the backdrop of the Syrian Civil War and makes reference to violent acts, sometimes in detail. There is some occasional profanity and a few scenes that depict sexual intimacy. Accordingly, the recommended minimum age for readers is 16. The novel might be compared to books like “The Diary of Anne Frank” or “The Kite Runner.””

Kelly strikes again – a review of Found Aliens (The Galactic Pool Comedy Adventures Book 3)

Kelly strikes again with another great offering in the Galactic Pool franchise! I took the opportunity to pre-order this ebook a couple of months ago and then promptly put my Kindle aside and waited impatiently. It was worth the wait, hence the 5 stars on the amazon.com site.

This author has long ago, in my estimation at least, pushed himself above the pack of emerging authors by pursuing a brand that is all his own. It is truly remarkable that this is the third installment and the gags keep on coming. It is funny, it is intelligent, it is innovative. The characters we have come to know and love and/or just know are back and continuing their respective quests for publication, domination, film making and revenge.

Too many times by this stage of a series the author will spend the majority of the time recapping the events of the previous books to the extent that the actual new data is limited to a couple of sentences at the end. Kelly does not do this, so you will get the new, pure, good stuff and if you are like me you will want to go back and read them all again.

It is notable and extraordinary that there is still a willingness to try new things, to keep all of the strands going, to at times be confusing and just keep going. This is a genuinely rare approach and even considering the list of referenced authors that inspired Kelly the Galactic Pool is cutting edge.

I await with eagerness the production of the main characters as little figures that shall surely go alongside the film adaptation.

Ebook review: Freed Aliens: The 2nd Galactic Pool Novel by M. Sid Kelly

Publication Date: March 19, 2014

From the dust cover: “Freed Aliens is the 2nd Galactic Pool satirical sci-fi comedy novel. It offers you the old-fashioned, high-quality naughty behavior you’ve come to expect. And it’s all in a 100% new story.
Their failed invasion of Earth wasn’t for nothing. The aliens came away with Jimmy Fresneaux’s TV fishing show and a lot of other great ideas for expanding the Galactic Broadcasting Company. Now the Galactic Pool establishment faces a rebellion triggered by a swarm of empowered filmmakers and other so-called pest species.
One particularly nasty politician has a plan to zap the rebels. But a diverse cast of heroic aliens and abducted Earthlings is on the job – whether they realize it or not.
The local Higher Power is still paying attention too. And he’s getting more and more confused all the time…
*Maintains the first book’s low 10,000-to-1 ratio of regular words to F-words.
*The sex scenes are beyond telepathic this time, but may require some imagination.”

About the author: “M. Sid Kelly grew up in a globe-crawling military family with his English mum and California hillbilly dad who engineered Air Force base TV stations. So young Sid grew up surrounded by TVs – with British comedies, U.S. fishing shows, and 1970’s Tagalog-language kung fu movies competing for the best naughty bits. He graduated with a four-year degree in marine biology eight years after enrolling at Humboldt State University. Having completed two years in Africa with the Peace Corps, he got a job as federal fisheries bureaucrat – until too many dead fish had piled up. Now he consults on fish protection measures for bridge construction projects in order to pay the bills, and he wrote Used Aliens in order to become a zillionaire one day. His conclusion after having run around all over the place looking at stuff: Space aliens are going to think we are the strange ones.”

My Ebook review: if I have managed to persuade anyone to read this blog on even a slightly regular basis then it would come as no surprise that I am a fan of this author and have even gone so far as to interview his characters in a previous entry: http://littleebookreviews.com/2013/10/23/200th-blog-post-and-used-aliens-character-interview/. So when I heard that the sequel to Used Aliens was out I simply had to get my hands on it. Luckily the weekend was preposterously filled with enough spare time to allow me to engorge “Freed Aliens” in a manner that would have made even some of his characters blush.

A heck of a lot is expected of sequels and I was not holding back my expectations as I read this one. The most endearing features of the first book, namely the intelligent writing and the slapstick comedy resurface as we catch up with old friends and new friends, old enemies and other beings of indeterminate pleasantness. It picks up where “Used Aliens” left off with our heroes spread wide across the galaxy almost blissfully unaware that they are about to be thrust once again into a vast adventure.

In “Freed Aliens” Kelly allows his education fired imagination to unfold across the pages and unabashedly portrays a delightful range of alien forms and I really enjoyed the range of non-humanoid forms acting appropriately according to their tentacular, proboscistised, wingéd or slimy natures. All this is written carefully, intelligently and in a way that adds to the story rather than distract from the plot. The plot is an epic adventure, or even several intertwined adventures that weave an exciting path towards (well you need to read it for that part). Basically, the plot is splendid and the breadth of the story is spectacular and so clearly absurd that it certainly must be true.

What makes this book both interesting and funny is the satirising of our own world and humanity combined with the occasional scene of side splittingly funny slapstick / burlesque that had me in fits. Beyond that though, “Freed Aliens” does not try to make the aliens either superior beings, monsters or cartoon characters, they are believable entities that have their own drives, selfish stupidity, lust along with diverse character flaws that create a melting pot from which a masterpiece is forged.

Did I enjoy the reading experience?: You bet your sloth I did, in fact I think that I will go back and read it a second time straight away. I am hoping to find that there will be room for another “Galactic Pool” instalment to extend this powerhouse franchaise!

Ebook review: Peripheral Involvement by Bob Waldner

Publication Date: February 12, 2014

From the dust cover: “Jack Caufield never imagined that he would wake up one day and find a dead woman in his bed. That sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to guys like him. He was on his way to law school, but instead of fielding Socratic questions from law professors, he finds himself facing the third degree from a bunch of angry cops. Despite their efforts, they find nothing incriminating, and Jack is allowed to get on with his education and his life. Over the next fifteen years, he becomes a modestly successful corporate lawyer, a well-paid but insignificant cog in the Wall Street machine. He’s resigned to playing a disappointing role in the system that he has come to disdain, until he learns that his encounter with that unlucky girl may not have been coincidental. Confronted with the possibility that the men who run the prestigious financial institution that he now represents may have been involved in a shocking conspiracy, his search for the truth is complicated by the knowledge that discovering it could cost him the success that he’s spent his life chasing.”

About the author: “Bob Waldner was born and raised in New Jersey, before heading off to Duke University and the University of Michigan Law School. He practices law in New York, where he lives with his wife, Erinn, and his daughters Maureen and Madeleine. Someday, he hopes to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.”

My Ebook review: the author describes in his acknowledgements that “Peripheral Involvement” took a very long time to write. Interestingly, the book itself also covers a long timeframe and in a sense felt like more than one story pushed together until the subtlety of the plot plays out and the big picture comes into delightful focus.
Caufield is a splendid character who somehow feels like he is a passenger in his own life story. Occasionally he lifts his head up and makes a clear and rational choice to give direction to his life and yet at most other times he is happy to go where the wind blows him and to take advantage of the adventures that life puts in his way. Watching his evolution, we are able to consider our own choices, what would we have chosen given the circumstances and could we have managed to get the job done when it counted.
Caufield is not only a fine character to read but a vehicle for communicating a number of salient facts about life that are often not understood or appreciated until too late, life hacks as they are sometimes described. I very much appreciated his dialogues and insightful critique of various important structures and could feel an inner turmoil seething sometimes below and once in a while above the surface. Caufield’s ultimate choices fitted consistently with his deepest character.
The greater plot is fabulous as it unfolds in various degrees of complexity and with a neat cast of characters set against a nicely described background. There is a sense of the slightly incredible but plausible about the story which drags one in and keeps the pages flying past.

Did I enjoy the reading experience?: Clearly yes, there was a gripping plot, a cast of intriguing characters, insightful almost philosophical discussions and a mystery. I just hope that the next one does not take so long!

Ebook review: Deep Sleepers (A Tom Blake thriller) by Adrian Wills

Publication Date: January 18, 2014

From the dust cover: “Deep Sleepers is an action adventure thriller featuring former special forces psychologist, Tom Blake.

He should be the perfect spy. After all Ben Proctor has no idea of his true identity. He’s been planted deep undercover with a radical right-wing political party steadily increasing in popularity as the country’s anti-Muslim fervour grows. But when Proctor is recruited by a secretive neo-Nazi terrorist splinter group calling themselves the Phineas Priests, his mission begins to unravel at terrifying speed. He’s abducted, branded with a mysterious symbol and initiated in an eerie moonlit ceremony. The Priests have spotted Proctor’s potential and want him to lead a deadly terrorist bomb plot that is destined to kill hundreds of innocent people.

As the perfect spy threatens to become the perfect terrorist, one man’s tasked with stopping him – the man who’s already inside his head. Tom Blake is a former Special Forces military psychologist who now works for British MI5. He’s supposed to be controlling Proctor using an experimental hypnotic technique developed with a black ops SAS unit. The only problem is that Proctor has gone missing – and the countdown to the bombing has already begun.

And so starts a frantic hunt for the missing spy before it’s too late. With his MI5 masters demanding action, Blake needs all his military experience to track down his man and avert tragedy. Meanwhile, in the heart of London’s Canary Wharf, a Texan oil billionaire makes a rendezvous with his super yacht for a secret meeting that could be about to change history. How much does he know about the Phineas Priests and could he hold the key to stopping the bombing?

And an investigative reporter finds himself hot on the heels of the biggest story he’s ever chased – with the help of a mysterious blonde trying to find her brother who she fears has been murdered in Brazil.”
About the author: “Adrian has been writing for as long as he can remember but Deep Sleepers is his debut novel. He’s been a journalist for all his working life, forging a career in local newspapers and in regional television news. He is married to fellow indie-author, Amanda Wills. They live in Faversham in Kent with their two sons, Oliver and Thomas.”

My Ebook review: what is there not to love about an action adventure thriller with a blurb like that of “Deep Sleepers”? Whenever MI5 enters the plot there is the feeling that anything can happen, nothing is impossible and the plot can only possibly get more complicated as the story unfolds. When the bad guys have a cause and money then the game really is on.

Wills builds the story rapidly and confidently without too much fanfare and excellent scene setting rolled out in an uncomplicated and interesting flow. Once the story is going it is a race to find out what is going to happen next and quite how all of the apparently unrelated pieces of information tie together into splendid finale. Blake is an excellent character who we get to know on a relatively superficial level but this is perfectly in keeping with his covert status but no doubt we will get to know him better in subsequent additions to this series. The bad guys are delightfully menacing, wonderfully clandestine and all too plausible. The innocent bystanders get dragged into a situation that is far too big for them to comprehend but add a human side to the equation of the plot as well as a level of complexity that helps to raise this book to an excellent level.

Did I enjoy the reading experience?: Oh yes, “Deep Sleepers” is an action adventure thriller that kept me turning the pages from the start to the finish.

Ebook review: The Perfect Game by Stephen Paul

Publication Date: February 20, 2014

From the dust cover: “In a dark Manhattan alley, a young woman suddenly collapses from a brain hemorrhage. The statistics say it’s rare to have happened to someone so young and healthy, yet all signs point to natural causes. But when Kyle Vine, the man she was supposed to meet that night, learns she wasn’t the only victim, he knows there’s something more going on and soon discovers a mysterious link to the sudden success of a journeyman pitcher for the New York Yankees.

As the lethal brain bleeds continue to strike, Kyle and the woman’s eccentric uncle work together to unravel a mystery unlike any the world has ever seen in order to stop a ruthless killer from striking again.

Stephen Paul’s debut supernatural suspense thriller, The Perfect Game, is a fast-paced gripping ride that will continue to keep readers on the edge of their seats while trying to figure out who’s behind the deadly episodes, how they’re doing it and, perhaps most shocking of all, why.”

About the author: “Stephen was raised in the suburbs of Long Island and now lives with his wife and son in New York City. When not crusading on behalf of the design professional community, he enjoys writing thrillers with a supernatural touch.”

My Ebook review: “…thrillers with a supernatural touch.” is a pretty good hook and sums up very well an exciting debut novel. Like all the very best stories that involve the supernatural, there is an almost plausible rationale, a tangible feeling that the well chosen touch of fantasy could just about happen. Certainly, the characters are all recognisable and their motivations seem clear on the surface. It is the consequences of the actions of Kyle’s not entirely appropriate motivations that throw our unlikely hero into a complex situation that he can neither predict nor control.

The pace of the book is good and the scene setting is excellent and a tension is built and maintained through the book as it navigates the twists and turns of a well executed plot.

Did I enjoy the reading experience?: Yes, “The Perfect Game” was an excellent thriller with just enough supernatural behaviour to be interesting but not absurd, it added to the plot rather than take over the plot.