Monday, November 20, 2017

Be Thankful





“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.”

Alan Bennett
The Uncommon Reader

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Writing Goes Green

A month or two ago, I was beta-reading for a local author.  Beta-reads provide thoughts from a typical reader (somehow, I qualify) on areas that need attention before they are immortalized in a published work.  While the feedback might not be pleasant for the author, it’s better at this stage than later in those 1-star reviews.

Several of my comments on this piece had to do with unfulfilled expectations.  For example, after Scene A had led me to expect a ‘fight to the death’ in scene B, I found little beyond some verbal sparring when I got there.  What happened?  I was at a loss.  A few days later, however, it all became clear.  The author sent me a note that said, in effect, ‘thanks for helping me lose those words that I had fallen in love with.’ 

We all do it.  It’s that clever turn of a phrase (at least in our minds) that keeps words in a manuscript long after their reason for existence has disappeared.  It’s tough to drag them, kicking and screaming to the little trash can in the corner of the screen.  So, I don’t.  Instead, I save them in files I invariably call ‘HOLD.’  The problem was, however, that I had no plan, no idea how to use those words…until today.  Today, my writing goes green.  Today, I start recycling those words I can’t use in a book – in blog posts.

Today’s installment is from a near-future mystery in work, Killer in the Retroscape (http://brucemperrin.blogspot.com/p/killer-in-retroscape.html).  Originally, it had a scene that dealt with ‘smart clothes,’ those garments that contain technology for everything from monitoring your UV exposure to paying for your latte.  In this case, the clothes were a complete wardrobe for analyzing a golfer’s game called (drum roll) The Wearable Golf Pro.  The problem, of course, is that as future technology goes, it’s not.  Most of it is here today, so the words had to go.  But in the spirit of reducing, reusing, and recycling, here’s a few of them from a dialog in that deleted section.

“So, you have to wear the whole nine yards for this to work?"
"No, but there’s six sensors that are required, if you’re going to get any benefit.  Fortunately, they can go in a lot of different pieces of clothing.  But if you’re into nude golfing…well, your swing’s going to suffer.”

OK, it seemed funnier in context.  But the good news for me is that I now have lots of fodder for posts.  Given the size of this snippet and the cumulative size of the ‘HOLD’ files I’ve generated to date, I can write 664 posts from recycled material.

Now, is that green or what?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: Whiskey Kills (A Top Shelf Mystery) by Lolli Powell

A Satisfying Mystery Driven by Its Humor

Whiskey Kills is a cozy mystery, the second in the Top Shelf Mystery series.  With the absence of sex and violence that marks a cozy, the story features humor in their place.  Erica (Ricki) Fontaine’s sarcastic wit on everything from mothers to men will keep you chuckling to the last page.  As a bonus, those quips are woven into a substantial whodunit.

The mystery contained in the pages of Whiskey Kills is solid.  The author introduces us to enough well-developed characters with possible motives to keep almost anyone guessing.  In fact, it seems like the author could have written most of the book, then flipped a coin to decide who gets nailed in the big reveal – the field was that well populated.  And the suspense is maintained skillfully, as Ms. Powell continues to peel back layers of the mystery onion, revealing new connections and unanticipated motivations to the last page.

But as good as the mystery is, the crux is the humor.  And since Ricki’s investigation often puts her at odds with her police detective boyfriend, Gabriel (Gabe) Russel, a lot of that sarcasm is directed at the opposite sex, e.g., “I've noticed that men have trouble concentrating on more than one thing at a time, and he was already doing two.  Asking him to also think was probably expecting too much.”  (Potential male readers be forewarned!)  But no one escapes her caustic view, including herself, making Ricki a very likeable character.

In the true spirit of back-seat writing (e.g., being a book reviewer), I’ll pick one nit.  For me, Ricki pushed the ‘ignore common sense’ theme somewhat too far.  In this regard, the book was a bit like a YA, with a protagonist ignoring authority, parents, and sometimes, even friends.  Would it really be out of character if Ricki didn’t do everything that people told her to avoid?  She can be frustrating…but maybe that was the author’s intent.  The heroine you love to fret about?

Overall, I recommend that you read Whiskey Kills because it’s a satisfying mystery.  And then, if your sense of humor is like mine, you’ll love it for the laughs.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Select Thriller and Action-Adventure eBook Deals

Beyond Salvation by Darcia Helle
4.5 Stars, 27 reviews, Genre:  Suspense-Thriller-Crime
FREE, 24 November-27 November



Killing Instinct (Michael Sykora Suspense Novels Book 3) by Darcia Helle
4.6 Stars, 23 reviews, Genre:  Suspense-Thriller-Crime
99 cents, 24 November-27 November



Child's Play (Michael Sykora Novels Book 4) by Darcia Helle
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Scarlett by Elle Klass
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Christmas Cookies with a Side of Murder by Meredith Potts
4.7 Stars, 17 reviews, Genre:  Christian – Wholesome, Cozy Mystery, Humor, Suspense-Thriller-Crime
99 cents until 31 December


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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Book Review: At Bay (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 1) by John W. Mefford

Who’s the Real Alex Troutt?  Beats Me.

At Bay introduces us to Alex (Alexandra) Troutt, Special Agent of the FBI.  Following a serious car crash which produces total amnesia, she starts to rebuild her past as she also builds a case against a brutal, serial killer terrorizing the Boston area.

For a thriller, At Bay was slower than I expected, with a large portion of the book dealing with Alex’s memory loss and the inconsistencies she saw between her internal feelings and the way others characterized her past.  Presumably, this was the author’s intent – give the readers of the series a significant insight into the person that is Alex Troutt.  And with this much emphasis on character development, one might expect a clear picture.  But because of the strongly differing perspectives, none emerged.  In book 2, Alex might be the hard-driving, risk-taking FBI agent we saw occasionally in book 1…or she might quit and become a soccer mom.  I couldn’t guess (although it’s probably the former, given this is a thriller series).

The opposing viewpoints about her character also seemed to push the finale to the final few pages, where there were simply too many convenient coincidences and extreme, deductive leaps to build much tension from realism.  The way the final victim was identified, the way the location of the final murder was determined, and the way the suspect was identified all seemed to involve such unlikely events and leaps of faith that it was difficult to give them any credibility.  To me, the end really fizzled, and it was slow getting there.

Overall, At Bay seems to aim for an in-depth look at what makes Special Agent Alex Troutt tick – her marriage, her kids, her drive for justice.  But that picture is never clear and the thriller part of the tale is relegated to what’s left, making the story a bit unsatisfying.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Book Review: Death's Privilege (A Sarah Gladstone Thriller Book 2) by Darryl Donaghue

Interesting Theme, Solid Plot with an Ending that Fizzles a Bit

When British police detective trainee Sarah Gladstone is assigned to an apparent suicide, it appears a simple case, a chance to check off another training requirement.  But when a connection to another suicide is found, and both become murders, Sarah takes the lead on a case that will change her life.

There’s a lot to like in Death’s Privilege, not the least of which is character development.  Sarah Gladstone comes across as a real person – strong, caring, determined, although flawed.  Her personality is one side of a generational gap with the old-hands who mentor her (and another trainee) on the other.  While she is caring and sees people as salvageable, they represent more of a ‘keep your distance to keep your sanity’ approach to crime fighting.  Sarah resists that view and where she falls after the events of this book is a central theme, key to how you may feel about the ending.

The basic plot – two unconnected, apparent suicides that become murders – was also solid.  I was sold after reading the synopsis, and the book continues the suspense, especially in the early parts.  The rigors of Sarah’s job are also well described.  The long hours, the sacrifices, even the minor inconveniences of aging accommodations and limited budgets are well depicted.

But while the way Sarah was characterized was a strength, the process of developing that persona wasn’t.  The sections where Sarah lamented her sacrifices and worried about their effect on her family and herself were too drawn out.  All the angst pulled the story down.  Additionally, some facets of her personality seemed out of place, as if they had been added merely to increase complexity or suspense.  A minor example, to avoid any spoiler, was her claiming to remember nothing during an exam when by all other accounts, she was flying through the program.  But the primary downside was the ending.  It was too rushed and too convenient.  Most of the late reveals involved relationships, aliases, and basic facts about people that the police should have known much earlier.  And both the way the details of the crime were exposed in the final pages and the nature of culprit’s motivations were somewhat disappointing.

Overall, the ending leaves something to be desired, but as a police procedural across generational boundaries with characters who feel real, Death’s Privilege is tough to beat.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Four Two-Sentence Horror Stories Just for Writers

In honor of Goodreads latest Ask the Author Question – Can you tell us a two-sentence horror story – I give you four of them, just for writers.  Please add your favorite in the comments.

“I’ve never written a review before, but this last book was so spectacular that I went to all the popular sites – Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, Kobo,” said the reader.  “It completely deserves the one-star rating I gave it.”


‘Thanks for your submission,’ read the email from the publisher.  ‘If you haven’t heard from us in 13 months, we’re not interested…or the backlog is even bigger than we expected.’

The police detective frowned at the mystery writer, saying, “I’m sure you’ve heard about the string of grisly murders in the area, each more gruesomely inventive than the last.  After looking at your online searches and the books you’ve gotten from the library, you need to come with us.”

“The sixth revision of your latest novel has great potential,” said the agent to writer.  “We just need to tweak the plot a bit, change the protagonist’s accent from western Australian to lower Bronx, put the sections we changed to ‘telling’ back to ‘showing,’ reverse the order of the two twists, change the setting from 1800s England to the 1980s in the US, which means the hero can go back to being a disgraced Navy seal with a multibillion-dollar, reality TV series, make the protagonist’s love interest left-handed, and for god’s sake, kill all the run-on sentences.”

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Current Thriller and Action-Adventure eBook Deals

Amazon Giveaway - In the Space of an Atom
Enter for a chance to win




NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  Ends the earlier of Nov 8, 2017 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.






The Everett Exorcism by Lincoln Cole
Preorder, Genre:  Fantasy-Urban Fantasy, Horror, Thriller-Paranormal
99 cents until October 31



Scarlett by Elle Klass
Preorder, Genre:  Horror, Suspense-Thriller-Crime, Thriller-Paranormal
99 cents until November 19



Becoming Hero (Comics hero shoots his author!) by Jen Finelli
4.4 Stars, 5 reviews, Genre:  Action-Adventure, Fantasy-Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi
$1.99 until December 29



Check prices before buying

Book Review: The Fallen Child by David Thompson

I Didn’t See this Coming from the Blurb

While a book’s cover may catch my eye, it’s generally the author’s synopsis that drives whether I hit the buy button or not.  With The Fallen Child, I read a synopsis describing a Walter Mitty-type character, living in his dream world as much as in the real one.  The book delivered on that front, along with the humor that’s implied – who ever heard of a serious dream world.  But the synopsis also mentioned that Adam’s illusions encroached on his reality, sending him on a journey with implications for the future of humanity.  It sounded like the stuff of a taut psychological thriller.  On that front, the book never lived up to the promise.

What The Fallen Child provided was a look at a man, Adam Reynolds, moving from a pointless, aimless existence to someone with purpose, with happiness, and maybe with a better understanding of life…or perhaps just a more elaborate misunderstanding of it.  Adam was drifting through life, until his adventures with Evelyn changed him.  Sounds heart-warming, and to a degree, it is.  But the story intertwines life and dreams, and life that’s stranger than dreams, in ways that are both confusing and familiar.  While the source of the confusion is apparent, the familiarity stems from the fact that the story is basically a modernized, retelling of a Biblical tale.  There are some heavy hints in the first quarter of the book, and by the midpoint, Adam and Evelyn are discussing the parallels openly.  But even with these philosophical and religious roots, it was hard to find much to ponder in its pages.

Overall, The Fallen Child has its moments, particularly in the touches of humor and Adam’s metamorphosis, but you’ll need to wade through strange dreams, some stranger than truth reality, and even a few imaginary friends to find them.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Walking for Words – The Cotswolds

“Walking for Words” is my irregularly recurring post about hiking, which I include in a blog about writing because it’s the source of my inspiration.  (OK, I know, that’s thin, but it sounds better than saying I included it because I can.)  This time, the hike was in the Cotswolds, a rural area in South Central England.

As the Cotwolds is crisscrossed with public footpaths, as is much of the UK, the possible routes are many.  The one I took was a 50-mile loop, starting and ending in Moreton-in-Marsh.



The area features beautiful rolling hills dotted with picturesque towns and villages.












Homes constructed from the golden-yellow Cotswold stone.

And plenty of pubs where I put away a few too many of these.
















The trip ended with a visit to a local university, so now I can say in all honesty, ‘I studied at Oxford.’  I studied the outside of some of their buildings while I sipped a coffee in one of the local restaurants…but that’s studying, right?

Happy writing (and hiking),

BmP

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: The Grave Man by David Archer

A Decent, Feel-Good Book, But Not My Style

The Grave Man is the first book in the Sam Prichard Thriller series, introducing us to Sam, a private investigator and former police detective, now medically retired due to an injury sustained on the job.  We also meet Indiana (Indie) Perkins, a computer hacker of extraordinary skill, who I suspect is a recurring character.  Her skills have as much or more to do with Sam’s success as a PI as he does.

I have to admit I’m not a big fan of the down-home, somewhat macho, and trite-heavy tone of the book.  For example, early in chapter 1, Sam says, “Excuse me, sir, I ain’t no politician!  I prefer to be honest and work for my livin!”  The book plays on social stereotypes and urban myths to a significant degree.  And what’s with all the exclamation points?  It seems like the characters are always shouting.  The investigative procedures Sam uses are a bit simplistic as well.  If he thinks he has the upper hand, he threatens the witness/suspect, who then gives up everything he knows.  If Sam doesn’t have superior abilities, he tells the witness/suspect the gravity of the situation, and he caves anyway.  Don’t look to this book for a good police procedural.

As characters, both Indie and Sam strain the limits of believability.  Indie, for example, is the beautiful, single mother, educated at MIT but unable to find any job except working the counter at Dairy Queen.  Really?  She’s also the perfect cook and housekeeper, game for anything even when it involves having a gun put to her head.  And it’s truly amazing how in a matter of minutes, hacking primarily Facebook and email accounts, she can discover information on crooks that have eluded law enforcement for years.

While it may sound like I hated the book, I didn’t.  As a somewhat simple, feel-good, change of pace, it wasn’t bad.  And if the homey, slightly macho, too good to be true tone is what you seek, look no further.  You’ll find The Grave Man a worthwhile read.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Current Thriller and Action-Adventure eBook Deals

milijun: What would alien interaction really be like? by Clayton Graham
4.5 Stars, 44 reviews, Genre:  Action-Adventure, Sci-Fi
99 cents until October 12, 2017



A Honeybun and Coffee: Romantic Suspense with a Taste of Mystery (Honeybun Heat Book 1) by Sam Cheever
4.3 Stars, 226 reviews, Genre:  Action-Adventure, Romance-Suspense, Suspense-Thriller-Crime
99 cents until November 1, 2017




Double Forte (LeGarde Mysteries Book 1) by Aaron Paul Lazar
4.6 Stars, 68 reviews, Genre:  General-Literary, Cozy Mystery, Christian-Wholesome, Action-Adventure, Suspense-Thriller-Crime
FREE until October 31, 2017



For the Birds (Tall Pines Mysteries Book 1) by Aaron Paul Lazar
4.4 Stars, 43 reviews, Genre:  Romance-Suspense, General-Literary, Cozy Mystery, Action-Adventure, Suspense-Thriller-Crime
99 cents until October 31, 2017



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Friday, September 29, 2017

Book Review: The Last Firewall by William Hertling

High Marks for Action in a Somewhat Overused Plot

There are technothrillers that chill you with a look at near-future technology gone wrong.  And there are ones that rock you with action that’s both real, near-term, and perhaps out there a bit.  The Last Firewall is solidly in the camp of the latter.

Catherine (Cat) Matthews is an everyday student (in a near-future world) with everyday concerns, such as boyfriends, and only a few quirks.  For one, she can see people’s data streams in netspace and sever them.  But when she’s pushed into a life or death situation, she discovers capabilities she didn’t know she had, starting her on a collision course with an Artificial Intelligence with designs on the world.  That course is littered with bodies and battles, waged with everything from today’s bullets to tomorrow’s massive cyberattacks.  Catherine is supported (and opposed) by a cast of interesting characters – other AIs, robots, the creators of Artificial Intelligence, human-AI hybrids.  Other than a couple of the villains, there’s hardly a human you’d recognize.  But all the same, they feel more real than you might expect, adding to the book’s appeal.

There are a few downsides.  For one, romantic inclinations in the heat of battle seem a bit out of place.  Cat discovering new capabilities just in the nick of time also gets a bit overused.  And the basic plot – an evil AI taking over the world is somewhat trite.  That said, The Last Firewall does that theme just about as well as any of them, blending an array of current and possible future network technology.

So, if you’re looking for a thought-provoking story on AIs and human coexisting in the future, you’re probably in the wrong place.  But if you’re seeking an action-packed battle to the end between a super heroine still learning her powers and an evil AI, The Last Firewall is for you.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Kindle Countdown Deal – In the Space of an Atom


Just 99 cents!  (Regularly $2.99)


Now until September 27

4.2 Stars

"…a fast and fun read, with just enough futuristic science and technology—and romance between the male and female lead"  Amazon Customer Review


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review: The Final Enemy by Dan Petrosini

Not Hard Science Fiction; More Like Sensationalized Fantasy

The Final Enemy is the story of Jack Amato, a newly graduated reporter who is writing obituaries for a Keokuk, Iowa, newspaper, waiting for the scoop that will lead to fame and fortune.  And when he makes a far-fetched connection between a meteorite that lands near his home and the cessation of death – and the connection proves real – he has his exclusive.  What follows, however, is not what he expected from fame and immortality.

The story gets high marks for vividly portraying humanity’s fight for survival in this apocalyptic tale.  It becomes gruesome and gory in places as the government tries to tiptoe its way through the landmines of population growth, the loss of spirituality, and widespread famine.  They often misstep and Jack is quick to cover the human suffering.

But unfortunately, the problems with the story are many.  Take for instance the fact that Jack’s second major scoop is that overpopulation may result if there is no death.  Wouldn’t anyone conclude that after about 30 seconds?  Jack’s rise to fame seemed like the daydream of a fifteen-year-old, not that of a protagonist in an apocalyptic thriller.  Additionally, for a “hard science fiction” book, the genre indicated on Amazon, most of the science-related material is treated with a wave of a hand.  It’s a new “element” but its atomic number is never found.  It emits some type of energy, but the type is never known.  It ends death, but the only hypothesis suggested is that cells continue to divide forever.  But cellular senescence (loss of function) increases mortality after maturity, it doesn’t cause it.

Human nature is also dealt with the poorly.  When the connection to immortality is proven, everyone demands to be exposed – there is widespread rioting to get close, even though the side effects aren’t known.  Even though the long-term effects aren’t known.  Even though it doesn’t restore people, it just keeps them from dying.  Would people really clamor for immortality if they had to live with a growing list of infirmities forever?

Admittedly, several of these limitations stem from the fact that when I read hard science fiction, I was expecting a story that builds tension and suspense by blurring the line between technical knowledge and a theoretically possible fiction.  If this is what you are seeking, you should look elsewhere.  However, as a fantasy about population growing out of control and some bizarre countermeasures by a beleaguered government, it yields a descriptive, surprising tale, if not always believable.

Monday, September 4, 2017

GIVEAWAY - In the Space of an Atom


Enter for a chance to win this #AmazonGiveaway






NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Sep 19, 2017 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Book Review: The Late Show by Michael Connelly

The End is a Gem

The Late Show introduces a new Michael Connelly character, Detective Renee Ballard who works the night shift in Hollywood, aka the Late Show.  Although a new character, Ballard immediately shows allegiance to the familiar Harry Bosch credo, everybody counts or nobody counts, as she commits herself to three cases that are likely to fall through the cracks if she drops them at the end of her shift.  And so, she doesn’t, putting her at odds with police policy and perhaps more importantly, department politics.

Ballard is well developed as the driven detective, bending the rules when they will and breaking them when she feels she must.  I’m not a big fan of either perfect protagonists who never fail or the heroes who are so flawed that it’s hard to know whether they succeeded or their demons did.  Ballard is perhaps a bit closer to the latter than I would prefer, as her dedication to the underdog approaches reckless obsession in places.  But I have to say, that made for excellent pacing as the plot moves from looks into her unusual and disquieting past to scenes of tense action, gut-wrenching in places.

There seem to be a few scenes where things occur somewhat conveniently – developing the initial lead on the case involving the assault on the prostitute is an example.  And in places, Ballard seems to be moving faster than teams of detectives working the same issue.  But overall, Connelly continues as the master of the police procedural.  The book is filled with the jargon and terminology of the field, giving the book a strong feel of authenticity, of being in the moment.

And, without giving a spoiler, all I can say is that the end is a gem.

So, overall, if you have ever enjoyed police procedural mysteries and particularly ones with strong, well-defined female leads, I don’t see how The Late Show could miss for you.  I know it was a hit with me.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: Dead Close to Reality by Jennifer Bull

A tense, physical plot in a well-paced read

Dead Close to Reality is the story of Cora Winters, computer geek, and her attempts to unravel several mysterious deaths connected to a high-tech, virtual reality game.  In a generally well-paced story, somewhat grittier than a typical YA mystery/thriller, she battles virtual as well has real enemies in a constantly shifting landscape of friend and foe, dead and alive.

Dead Close to Reality bears many of the hallmarks of a YA mystery/thriller, e.g., young protagonist, largely missing or ineffectual adults (unless they are villains of course), little or no sex.  But this book goes a bit farther on violence than I consider typical.  That’s not to say it was graphic, but violence was frequent and often intense.  If you’re looking for a somewhat more ‘physical’ YA yarn, this one will fit nicely.

The pacing was good, although the author did repeat some themes a bit much.  Cora’s complaints about a ‘nuisance’ male friend, Derek, was an example.  But overall, the story flowed well and held my attention to the end.  As for character development, Cora represented a strong, intelligent, and independent female, all great qualities.  But there is a fine line between strong and headstrong for no reason, and Cora’s unwillingness to trust anyone became somewhat tedious.  If her self-reliance had succeeded, it might have made more sense.  But the author used frequent reversals of fortune to keep tension high, making me wish Cora had used more of her intellect to discover her real friends and develop better plans.  She was likeable as seat-of-the-pants gutsy and tough, but not much of a tactician or strategist.

The main factor that kept me from becoming fully immersed, however, was the lack of attention to making the story seem real, or at least near-future real, rather than just ignoring implausibility for plot convenience.  There was something like a half-dozen deaths connected to the game, but there was no public outcry.  There was no media frenzy.  There was hardly any police presence.  And at one point, 20-30 people were being held against their will in a cave, but an individual connected with law enforcement told Cora she had to hang on until he could get enough evidence for a conviction.  Huh?  Simply put, the story lacked the confluence of tragic coincidence or unforeseen circumstances that the best authors find to tie your stomach in a knot, rather than make you scratch your head.

Overall, the story has some holes and a heroine that could often use her smarts to better effect, but it’s still a tense, physical plot in a well-paced read.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wildlife in the Neighborhood

Thought I’d take this opportunity to post a couple of pictures of wildlife in the neighborhood.

Wait, before you wear out that mouse or get carpal tunnel syndrome swiping phone and tablet screens, I didn’t mean that kind of wildlife.  I meant the hawks that have moved into the neighborhood.

I found two using a puddle on the sidewalk in front of my house as a birdbath.  They flew when I walked up, but after a few minutes on the porch, one returned to finish his grooming.  Of course, I knew they were in the area already, what with the sudden downturn in the rabbit population.  But other than occasionally seeing them flying overhead, this was my first close encounter.

And then, a day or two later walking a local park, I spotted this doe and three fawns.  Deer are quite common around town, but I’d never seen three fawns in one spot before.

Generally, I try to keep my posts related to books and writing, so this one’s going to be a bit of a challenge.  Let’s see?  I have it.

Soon to be released, Wildlife in the Neighborhood.  An erotic, romantic, comedy with John and Betty Hawke and their escapades with the Deer triplets – Josephine, Gertrude, and Babs.  

I’ll get to writing it straight away, as soon as I finish 10…no, 15…make that 20 more books in my chosen genre, Mystery/thriller/suspense. 

Happy writing,
BmP

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: Liberty’s Last Stand by Stephen Coonts

As a Story, It’s Great; As a Precautionary Note, It’s Muddled

In Liberty’s Last Stand, President Barry Saetoro’s uses the cover of terrorist attacks to declare martial law, adjourn Congress, suspend the constitution, and jail his detractors.  He wants to be dictator of the United States.  There’s also a political message in the book, a precautionary note about liberal, left-wing politics.  That message, however, becomes extremely muddled, significantly detracting from an otherwise outstanding thriller.

Politics aside (if you can do that), this is an extremely well written story.  It grabbed me in the opening scenes with good action and interesting characters, and it never let go.  Series figures Jake Grafton and Tommy Carmellini are featured and right in character.  But we’re also introduced to a host of new players, and Coonts does an admirable job developing them and making them feel real.   Plot twists and suspense aren’t highlights of this book; it’s clear where it’s going from the outset.  But Coonts keeps the tension building and uses a few, well-placed misdirects.  There is one plot flaw, at least for me.  It was much too convenient the way Grafton organizes resistance that appears after the coup but claims he couldn’t have done the same beforehand.  And he’s Director of the CIA?  Really?

With the rather consistent references to left-wing politics and their devastating effect on the country, the thriller aspect of the novel almost takes a back seat to the politicking.  That’s unfortunate, not so much because it occurs, as many authors decry a variety of excesses of that harm society.  But the problem with the politics in this book was that the message got quite muddled because Saetoro wasn’t a left-wing politician.  He was a fascist.  Even with the varying and conflicting meanings of left and right-wing, Saetoro was a right-wing wolf in left-wing sheep’s clothing, complete with delusions of absolute power and a chosen race.  His claims to typical left-wing causes were a ruse.  To him, climate change was a means to keep the masses under his rule, not a way to save the planet.  And because of that, all the diatribes in the prose and dialog about left-wing politics, all the attacks on Saetoro’s label rather than the man, became tedious sermonizing.

Overall, it was an extremely well written, political thriller, but in the end, trying to tie the condemnation of left-wing politics to someone who wasn’t left-wing became too tiring.