Ebook review: Stand and Deliver by Adrian Marshall

Publication Date: February 10, 2014

From the dust cover: “Picture the scene; in my early fifties I was made redundant from the world of IT, and judging that there was more chance of me seeing Lord Lucan riding Shergar to victory in the next St. Leger, than continuing in my chosen trade, I bade a fond farewell to the computer business and took the next logical and blatantly obvious career move. I would be a Chinese Takeaway Delivery Driver.

These are some of my experiences, in no particular order, as an ‘Oriental Comestible Transportation Executive,’ with liberal scatterings of general observations on life, the universe and everything. Most of the stories contain a certain percentage of poetic license, plus necessary name, location and setting changes, but there is more than a grain of truth in them all.”

About the author: “I am a retired male living in the UK. That is enough about me; let’s get on with the more interesting subject of BOGOF the Supermarket Cat. Please visit BOGOF’s web site at http://bogofthesupermarketcat.co.uk for FREE Wallpaper/Background, to contact me, Hilda, or BOGOF, and find out about BOGOF’s next exciting adventure.”

My Ebook review: whilst I have not read the BOGOF series my attention was grabbed by the author’s page. “Stand and Deliver” is a short, funny and also interesting ebook that sees our delivery driver get into and out of all sorts of fixes. Whether or not it is based on real life was not really the point for me, the anecdotes have the flavour of the absurd nonsense of everyday life.
My only gripe was that it was all over too soon.

Did I enjoy it?: Yes, there are a number of very funny anecdotes, some excellent observations and I never knew that the prawn crackers were made that way! A happy, jolly and quick read.


Ebook review: Half Wise: Wizard with a Gold Tooth by Joshua Bayard

Publication Date: January 29, 2014

From the dust cover: “Sixty woodcutters have vanished. Hamet was there when it happened, but he can’t stop singing. Evil sorcery has come to the town of Gullywine. When the Mayor summons a wizard to help for the first time in generations, the stranger who arrives has a checkered past and troubles of his own. And, the lost woodcutters are running out of time.

WIZARD WITH A GOLD TOOTH is the first HALF WISE story. This e-book is a 14,527 word novella. It’s recommended for people who like offbeat fairy tales and unpredictable adventures.”

About the author: “When Joshua Bayard isn’t writing weird fairy tales, he’s trying to teach himself the ukulele, daydreaming, or eating breakfast. He lives in Denver with his lovely fiancée.”

My Ebook review: I read this novella a couple of weeks ago and for some reason am only now getting to writing my review which is perhaps a strange way to start but on reflection helps me make the point that it is still strong in my memory. Bayard did a very good job of giving us a glimpse into this universe, letting us know that we do not know all of the rules and let a story unfold in a reasonable way. The efficient use of language packed a great deal of story into an exciting novella that hopefully promises a lot more from the ‘Half Wise’ series.

Did I enjoy it?: Yes, although clearly a quick read it captures the imagination and is a breath of fresh air which makes me hope for more.

Ebook review: SAR: RAF Helicopter Search and Rescue – A Pilot’s Account by Jake Watson

Publication Date: January 21, 2014

From the dust cover: “Jake Watson is an accomplished military pilot, flying Sea King Search and Rescue helicopters for the Royal Air Force. In the course of his flying career he flew over three hundred rescue missions, day and night, in all weather conditions and in all environments. Jake left the Service in 2007 as a Squadron Leader, active front-line pilot, and the Commanding Officer of one of the six RAF Search and Rescue bases in the UK. This is Jake’s story.

Alone, in the dark, in a life threatening situation, injured, or just lost, is not a nice place to be. A bright yellow Sea King coming over the horizon might just be the thing to make your day a whole lot better.
The UK’s moors, mountains, coastlines and sea routes are patrolled and protected, day and night, in all weathers by the crews of the Royal Air Force’s Search and Rescue helicopters. On rescue sorties, the crew of four are given very short notice to use anything at their disposal, usually just themselves and the helicopter, to save life. The task could be a stranded yachtsman, miles out in the North Atlantic, an injured climber, crag-fast in a blizzard, a fisherman suffering a heart attack on the North Sea’s Dogger Bank, or a missing child in the Peak District. The possibilities are endless and the challenges often uniquely complex. It is a job that requires great skill, nerve and courage to face the unknown and the unpredictable. This book is an emotive, personal account of the missions flown by Jake and his crews. The highs and the lows, the heartbreak and the elation are all evident alongside the tenacious and professional approach in the story told behind each rescue mission. Take an enigmatic journey with Jake through the range of search and rescue sorties eloquently described in ‘SAR’.”

My Ebook review: I will start this review off by saying that I like flying in helicopters and have had a few opportunities to do so including being taken through a few minor ‘stunts’ on one trip. These flights all had one thing in common: they were in the summer on nice days. It is also true that I am a big fan of career ‘voyeurism’, I like to read about the experiences of people whose day to day is very different to my own, because I can almost, for a few moments at least, live vicariously through the author’s prose. So ‘SAR’ was a clear opportunity not to be missed.
We are served a behind the scenes look at what it takes to keep a SAR operation ready for action 24/7/365, what the crews are asked to do and how a safety net exists to help the unfortunate when they need it most. Importantly, from my perspective, we are introduced to the routine, the rules and to some extent the technical challenges; this gives depth and insight for the reader.
The author also helps us to see the human side of the work between life saving sorties, the cups of tea, occasional boredom and humour that are also a part of the work.
Watson has the sort of highly efficient writing style that one would anticipate from years of having to communicate precisely, quickly and efficiently sometimes highly complex information. This makes for a very pleasurable reading experience because the descriptions are so crisp and clear that I was transported to the mountains, I could almost feel the wind as sorties were described. What was palpable was the sense of teamwork, the training, the skill and the bravery of the crew as they push the limits to save lives.
If you want to read one book this year that makes you feel a huge range of emotions whilst opening your eyes to a world that few of us will encounter then ‘SAR’ would be my recommendation.
Did I enjoy it?: Clearly yes, fascinating, fabulously written, and sometimes deeply moving.

Ebook Review: Jack Knifed by Christopher Greyson

Publication Date: January 19, 2014

From the dust cover: “Police Officer Jack Stratton is back. Jack’s nightmares have forced him to start searching his dark past and the secrets that lay hidden there. With Replacement at his side, Jack travels to Hope Falls to solve a murder that occurred before he was born.
Everyone in the small town remembers the gruesome killing, but after 27 years, no one thought that someone would look into it. They don’t know Jack.
Christopher Greyson’s latest novel weaves a tale full of mystery and action with humor and suspense. His unique stories and no-nonsense style of writing will take you on a page turning rollercoaster ride of emotions right up until the end.”

About the author: “Christopher Greyson is an author, actor, martial arts instructor and storyteller. He has degrees in Theatre, Communications and Computer Science.
Christopher currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two children.
His love for tales of mystery and adventure began with his grandfather, a World War I decorated hero. Christopher will never forget being introduced to his grandfather’s friend, a WWI pilot who flew across the skies at the same time as the feared legendary Red Baron. His love of reading and storytelling eventually lead him to write Pure of Heart, Girl Jacked Jack Knifed and Jacks are Wild.”

My Ebook review: this is the second in the Jack Stratton Mystery series and I reviewed ‘Girl Jacked’ along the lines:
“In one sense this is a quite normal crime thriller and follows a pattern that will be recognisable to readers of this genre. On the other hand there is always the required thrill in reading a well executed plot and so the author should be applauded for that. It never quite got to the point of brilliance but it is certainly a fine book.
If I understood correctly, there will be other stories with our damaged hero and it will be interesting to see how Greyson develops his style.”
In a sense this is a book that picks up exactly where the first one ended and that should mean that having read ‘Girl Jacked’ would be mandatory, but in fact this is a book that stands well on its own. The plot is clear and distinct.
Our ‘damaged hero’ has a mission and he has a companion, he has a history and he knows that he needs to learn more. The plot thickens as he is dragged into a story that he knew nothing about. He did not go looking for trouble but like a lightning rod he seems to attract it.
There is a murder and there is a small town and there are lots of secrets and many closets with skeletons. As Jack gets drawn into the mystery he is forced to look at himself and walk a dark path through a tragic set of lives. Replacement is also a mystery and Jack needs to work out if he wants to solve that one.

Greyson’s style is no-nonsense as advertised and also appropriately descriptive. The scenes are well set and the dialog is sharp, on top of that the plot is fabulous in ‘Jack Knifed’. There is complexity and simplicity; there is love interest and a good degree of violent exchanges. We delve into the characters and we watch them try to solve themselves whilst battling with inner demons.

This is the real deal and the Greyson style is exciting and crisp and all the right choices were made in ‘Jack Knifed’.

Did I enjoy it?: Yes, from start to finish this was an ebook that made me want to read more and now that it is done I am looking forward to the next one!

Ebook review: Wet Dreams Dry Lives by Barry Cain

Publication Date: December 2, 2013

From the dust cover: “You hold in your virtual hands a story about an infatuation that leads to madness. About a man murdering his father and his son before killing himself. About the joys and horrors of sex. About jealousy and hate and love and depravity. About the sadness of time and the hunger for survival. About gangsters and perverts and condos in Los Angeles. About the desire for fame eroded by the desire for drugs. About decapitation. About dreams coming true and schemes to untie them.
Or is it…?”
About the author: “Six years ago my first book and only other book, ’77 Sulphate Strip, was published. It’s an account of one year in my life when I became a music writer and went on the road with bands like the Sex Pistols, Clash, Stranglers and The Jam.”
My Ebook review: a complex and intriguing story which, on the face of it, looks at the world of a disenchanted man whose life and career has diverged from where he wanted it to be at a stage when thoughts of mortality mix with all of the ‘might have beens’. What happens next is a little bit coincidence and a lot drug fuelled fantasy. Add into the mix a love interest and dependent parents and an estranged son and what we get is a potent mix.
Cain writes in an evocative style and I was interested from the start. The plot develops to a delightful level of complexity and at times becomes a little challenging to keep up with but that is what you get when the main character goes through skunk like it was going out of fashion. It keeps you guessing to the end.
Did I enjoy it?: it is a well written and captivating ebook and it did get superbly weird and wonderfully complex.

Ebook review: Interesting Times by Jack Vander Beek

Publication Date: December 27, 2013
From the dust cover: “Tom Verwarring is a timid and deeply flawed man who’s barely making it through life. He’s afraid of shopping and public restrooms and people; he’s afraid of the world.
Tom’s life is coming apart, meanwhile he struggles with a childhood full of loss, tragedy and secrets. But throughout everything, he tries to stay positive.
He needs help.
Then one day he starts seeing things and his life begins to change, and not necessarily in a good way.
But there’s good news; he’s not alone anymore.”
About the author: “Jack Vander Beek was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1952 and now lives in Olympia, Washington. He is retired after working 40 years in operating rooms, 35 of those as an RN. In addition, he’s had a long love/hate relationship with computers, reaching back to the early days of CPM and his first computer, a KayPro-2, which he still has.
He maintains a website with technical information for anesthesiologists and has also written a medical professional book on one anesthetic technique.
He’s constantly on the lookout for great writing and some of the authors in his pantheon are Kurt Vonnegut, P.G. Wodehouse, Samuel Clemens, Thomas Harris and Stephen King. Check out his blog at jackvanderbeek.com
Now that he’s retired he’s doing more of what he wants, namely, writing novels and spending time with his family and dogs, cat and chickens, and NOT going to work in the middle of the night.”
My Ebook review: let us get straight to the point, this was a fascinating and fantastic reading experience. The author chose to tell this story through the eyes of Tom, in a delightful first person narrative. That is not to say that everything that is said is delightful, but the scene is already half set by the writing style of the socially challenged Tom.
Tom tells his story in sometimes graphic detail. This takes us on a journey through the psyche and quite regrettably the toiletry hurdles of Tom. The journey is an eventful one and it is a long one but somehow never feels like it. Tom tells his story in simple prose that at times feels juvenile and naïve which fits beautifully with the character.
One of my favourite films of recent years is “American Psycho” based upon Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name. “Interesting Times” comes with the same intensity and unexpected decline into the recesses of the mind where all bets are off and it is anyone’s guess where the journey will end.
Did I enjoy it?: Splendidly so! I was dragged into Tom’s story and almost thought I had it totally figured out, but actually not. The surprises kept up until the very end. A great reading experience.

Ebook review: Growing Concerns by Alex Hurst and eighteen authors

Publication date 11th Jan 2014
From the dust cover: “Growing Concerns is the very first collection of its kind. In pop-culture, movies like “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” are quite well-known, but few tales in fiction have tapped into the latent fear of our botanical neighbors. With less than ten plant-themed stories well-known enough to be found in English (in the history of printing and web-archiving), Growing Concerns breaks new ground in the horror genre by collecting, for the first time ever, eighteen tales devoted to exploring the subject!”

Author list: Alex Hurst (Author), Donna A. Leahey (Author) , Robert J. Santa (Author) , Ken Goldman (Author) , Ethan Nahté (Author) , C J Andrew (Author) , Jennifer Clark (Author) , Jocelyn Adams (Author) , Ryan M. Cady (Author) , Jeffrey Mays (Author) , Barry Rosenberg (Author) , Renee’ La Viness (Author) , James S. Dorr (Author) , DG Sutter (Author) , Luke Murphy (Author) , Roy C Booth (Author) , Alex Kohagen (Author) , Melissa S. Osburn (Author) , N J Magas (Author) , Darren Todd (Author).
My Ebook review: this is an ambitious project that combines several interesting aspects, including the compilation of so many short stories in one volume, and the exploration of how flora can be central in horror. I guess my first surprise was a lack of mention of ‘The Day of the Triffids’, John Wyndham’s post apocalyptic novel about terrible plants. Anyway, that said, I do agree that the subject is underexplored and well worth looking at. For too long plants have taken the back seat whilst the humans or animals do the dirty work!
I will not even try to review each and every short story but will attempt to give my overall impression. This collection is well presented and neatly executed. Many of the stories were page turners and fast paced being often tense and appropriately horrifying.
As one would expect with so many short stories, they are not all exactly focused entirely on plant based horror but each uses our ‘botanical neighbors’ in one form or another in a broad range of plots.
Did I enjoy it: yes, with the caveat that at least one story made me more than a little uncomfortable which surprised me, so I suppose that is also a positive thing.

Ebook review: Inconsequential (J + P Series) by D.A. Roach

About the author: “a retired Pharmacist, College instructor, and grocery bagger. I currently enjoy being a mom to 3 great kids while pursuing art, creating, and writing in what free time I am allowed. I have had some interesting events occur in my life and when I share them with others they often are so astonished by the events that they can’t believe it could be real. My motivation to write is to share these stories and also share any knowledge I have learned along the way. There have been times in my life when I was unsure of which path to take and it has usually been the stories and experiences that others have shared that have shined the light on the correct way to go. I hope my stories can inspire others as others have inspired me. Please enjoy!”
From the dust cover: “Perry is back for her sophomore year, anxious to bask in the freedom and independence that college brings. All summer she anticipated being reunited with her friends who have been a huge support system in her life. But this might be her last year.

Perry’s tyrant parents threaten to remove her from school if she does not excel. She has to achieve high grades and be accepted into the highly competitive junior year Life Science classes in order to stay. She can’t imagine leaving this school or her friends – so failing is not an option.
Her plan is to keep her head down and not be distracted by the opposite sex. But will obstacles get in the way of her success? Will she be able to ignore her hormones and the guys on campus? Is she smart enough and studious enough to make the grade?”

My Ebook review: ‘Inconsequential’ takes off where ‘Tethered’ left off and follows Perry through another year of growing up. From her smothered childhood she is ill prepared to understand the realities of the world in which she is moving but the important thing is that she is trying. As with ‘Tethered’ it is the relationships in Perry’s life that cause the drama and the interest. Her story is told from her own point of view and seems to capture the insecurities of this fledgling adult.
The continuing tensions between Perry and her parents are at the very heart of her difficulties. Especially the overbearing, manipulative mother figure and the apparently invisible father figure strongly in her self worth considerations. One can consider the story of college life to be a gentle coming of age story with the heart aches and missed steps that have to come in youth, but the family unit is disturbing and painful.
‘Inconsequential’ is nicely written and moves at a rapid pace through the challenges of Perry’s life. I could build both empathy with Perry and want to give her a ‘heads up’ talk at the same time; an interesting balance. One can comment that the story is a little bit predictable, but that is a minor thing against the well executed personal drama of this book.
Did I enjoy it?: this is a good story and well written. I enjoyed the reading experience even though the subject matter was tough at times.

Ebook review: 2b Not To Be by Robert Hartman

Publication date 18th Jan 2014
About the author: “I’m a UK born, Canadian writer, poet and mobile game designer. I love the creative process, generating ideas in all different formats and letting my mind run wild to see where it takes me.”
From the dust cover: “2B Not to Be is a story of lost love, revenge and missed opportunities set in the magical world of a writer’s desk.”

My Ebook review: simply put this is a charming short story filled with inventive silliness told in a delightful way. There are probably many sub conscious messages of the hidden turmoil of the writer and the continuous struggle to gain the upper hand over creativity in the face of an ever changing world, but for me it was an entertaining look at what might happen when the author stops paying attention to their desk.

Did I enjoy it: yes, a quick and entertaining read.

Ebook review: The God Particle by Daniel Danser

Publication date 29th November 2013
From the dust cover: “CERN’s Hadron Collider is the world’s most powerful machine; its sole purpose is to prove the existence of the mysterious God Particles – the essential building blocks of the universe. But after a series of global catastrophes, suspicion arises as to whether they are occurring naturally or are somehow connected to the Collider’s experiments.
After the sudden death of the project’s director general, professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tom Halligan, is headhunted by CERN’s governing council to continue the search for the elusive particles.
He is soon embroiled in a titanic struggle against sinister forces that are intent on creating a chain of events, the outcome of which will determine the fate of civilization.
The battle to save the planet from annihilation is being fought by the most unlikely of heroes.”

My Ebook review: it was the basic premise of this ebook that interested me. Essentially it takes its leaping off point from the unmistakable truth that with great scientific advances come great unknowns and unexpected or perhaps ill-considered consequences. Even the most noble of intentions can potentially, when used to probe beyond the safe zone of our current understanding, create tools of almost unimaginable devastation. So, in a sense, it is not such a leap of faith to think that there might be self-appointed guardians of sanity working in the shadows to try and temper the more inappropriate flights of fantasy that the ‘boffins’ embark upon. From this launchpad, we have an intriguing conspiracy thriller with good guys and bad guys and the poor unfortunate hero thrown ignorantly into the middle.
As a thriller this ebook works well, generates tension and generally moves along at a good pace with just the right amount of action and tension. Our hero Tom seems to be a mixture of many things and is delightfully more energetic and interesting than I would anticipate his real life counterpart to be. That probably says a lot more about my personal opinion of top academics, in that I can see them being extremely intelligent and dedicated but running around in a breathless race against time, not so much. I am thinking more Ricky Gervais than Tom Cruise I suppose.
As a scientific conspiracy it also works pretty well. There are some good historical perspectives and scene setting that lift the book and give a nice feel to the experience. As with any book of this nature there are aspects that go into the areas of fantastic speculation that will irritate some people and yet for others will be an integral part of the tension building. There was one surfing vignette that, whilst nicely written, seemed to stick out from the rest of the story and slowed the plot for a few pages, it caught me so off guard that I thought I had accidently switched files on my Kindle.
As a part of a larger debate, about the possible implications of dabbling with the basic building blocks of nature and the potential devastating implications if an admittedly extremely low probability event would occur, this work can bring something. Like the plethora of natural disaster and man-made disaster action movies, The God Particle is great entertainment with a serious theme if you want it.
In the end though we should not forget the irony that CERN was also somehow the birthplace of the internet which allows us to spread this message.
Did I enjoy it?: Yes, a good thriller, some excellent scenes and thought provoking.