Flynn, Sabrina; From the Ashes (Ravenwood Detective Agency I) (2014)

From-the-Ashes-FINAL-NEW-Cover

California’s Silver Mistress greeted him with a lush, sensuous embrace. She was a late riser who generally left at noon, returning in the evening like a slow crashing wave rolling relentlessly towards the port. Her touch was cool and it settled around his bones. He had missed her caress.

I have never been to San Francisco and so have not experienced the “Silver Mistress” myself. From all reports, she is alive and well. We are left in no doubt that Atticus James Riot, our main character, has missed her.

Sabrina Flynn does not try to romanticize a city that in the latter half of 1800’s was both charming and gruesome. Perhaps much like any large city of that and our time. However, San Francisco had a unique condition that brought money to the pockets of any man greedy and corrupt enough. The Ravenwood Detective Agency had fought to end the Tongs of Chinatown and child-sexual-slavery.

Opium and slavery were lucrative businesses, protected by the very men who lived in luxury, lording over an empire of lives from high hills that were impossible to see from the depths of depravity.

Like many of us who have traumatic memories, Riot wished to rid himself of all reminders of such past events. But the past never changes, nor did AJ’s natural inclinations. Temptation to try just one more case proved impossible to resist when Tim presented him with the following mystery:

“On Tuesday, December 26th, shortly after her husband left for Oakland, Isobel Kingston told the staff that she intended to visit her family in Sausalito. She took a hack from her home on Nob Hill. The fare was paid to Market, but the hackman said she exited just short of the ferry building. The intersection was jammed by an accident. The hackman thought she was in a hurry.

“Of all the travelers, ferry crew, ticket counters, and dockhands we questioned, Smith managed to find two witnesses, a mother and daughter, who placed her on the 9:00 ferry. None of the other passengers could confirm or deny this. Mrs. Kingston never arrived at her family’s home. And no one realized she was missing until the next morning when her father, Marcus Amsel, received a ransom demand.”

From the Ashes consists of two time-lines. One of them follows Riot’s investigation into Isobel’s disappearance. It begins Tuesday, January 2, 1900. The other time-line begins Tuesday, December 26, 1899 – Seven days earlier and follows the disappearance of Isobel (Amsel) Kingston. Atticus and Isobel are the characters we get to know well. All others are there to build the story. Both of them are complex and the kind of people I like. I love Isobel’s life-long fight against conventions, as seen in the description her father gives of a picture taken when she was about 10 years old. Around the turn of the century, women in San Francisco were being squeezed into society’s (men’s) idea of what constituted proper women.

In a sense I identify with Isobel. Like her, I have found many of society’s (whether mormon or secular) expectations of how girls/women are supposed to behave ridiculous. We have both tried hard to stay true to ourselves. Society doesn’t like that. Being born and bred to wealth meant that Isobel’s parents could afford to send her to a Finishing School in Dresden. A finishing school is simply a school whose goal is to change girls into obedient, complacent and unquestioning women.

After an interesting interlude in Europe, Isobel comes home, settles down, marries and disappears. Really? Where to? Why? Find out. It’s all there in From the Ashes. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


From the Ashes is available at Amazon


I was given a copy of From the Ashes by the author

An Aspie’s method of reviewing books

I was surprised when Ms. Sofras asked me if I wanted to say something about my review process – from the point of view of an ASD person. This is what reviewing looks like in my version of an Aspie brain.

How I Read ~ A Guest Reviewer Writes ~ #ASD #Asperger’s

I came across Lise Lotte when looking for bloggers to read and review my latest book, Cocktails and Lies.  I became so fascinated by Lise’s story, that we struck up a kind of correspondence which resulted in me inviting her to write a guest post on her reading experiences for my blog.  As a former English teacher, I’m always fascinated to hear about readers’ perspectives, and because Lise’s autistic spectrum disorder, I thought her story might be of interest to authors and readers everywhere.  Over to Lise.

(Pic not included)

My name is Lise Almenningen and I am the owner of the blog humanitysdarkerside.com. Along with that I run a few other blogs on various topics. I also happen to be ASD/Asperger’s/Autistic.

I did not know I had Asperger’s until about the same time I started my first blog, 2012. Until then, I just figured I had some unusual quirks that I tried very hard to suppress. When I realized all of that strangeness was normal for me, I stopped fighting it so hard. Surprise. Surprise. Life got simpler.

I believe the greatest commonality in Aspies, is how different we perceive what we see/observe/feel to non-ASDs (or neurotypicals/normals as you like to call yourselves). That is both our best friend and our worst enemy depending on what we are doing and who we are with. As a reviewer (once I let myself out of my preconceived idea of a reviewer), I believe being Asperger has shed new light on texts.

I am addicted to reading and will try to read anything. That does not mean I will finish, because not all writing is worth finishing. Whether a text is worth finishing has nothing to do with the author’s level of education, expertise or category. I have read academic texts whose authors cannot have been beta-ed and “trashy” authors whose writing is so poignant, I am incapable of putting the text down. Sometimes a text is so technical, I am incapable of ever understanding it. I would not know if the author is good or not in such cases. But I will give them a try.

The rest of the article can be read on ManicScribbler

Farrugia, Nathan; Interceptor (Helix III) (2016)

Helix 3 - Interceptor cover

Sievers turned his lapel out so Denton could see him reaching for a small, slender tin. He crouched and opened the tin on the floorboards, then stepped back. Inside, a large stainless steel and glass syringe. The liquid inside the syringe burned with the colors of molten lava.

“You already know what this is,” Sievers said. “And you’ll need it, if you intend to live long enough to find what you’re really looking for.”

Denton took a step toward him. “You’re using my people to get what you want.”

For the first time, Sievers smiled. White teeth flashed between his black beard. “And you are doing precisely the same.”

Colonel Wolfram Sievers and Lieutenant Denton have lived a long time. Both are willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve what they want. For Denton that seems to be world domination through Project Gate. Sievers appears to be playing another game. That game could be called chaos. Peace would probably be boring business for his superiors. Obvious suspects for such superiors might be arms manufacturers who may or may not work with biological/genetic research firms like Intero. As far as I can tell, the various countries (certainly many politicians) in the Helix world (and real) are simply pawns in the hands of these entities.

As I have said in previous reviews, one of the major appeals of Farrugia‘s stories is that they could happen. Reactions of the general populace would probably (and do) fit his description of the election of the Purity party’s leadership into Poland’s government. Fear of people with genetic mutations is increasing among the population, thereby legitimizing the Purists going after our “heroes” with the aim of targeting/turning off their mutations.

In Exile, Sophia met an operative from the Fifth Column who self-destructed when Sophia attempted to de-program her. This time around, she meets a completely different type of agent. Who or what these new operatives belong to becomes a pressing question. So does the question of DC’s loyalties. Will Jay, Nasira, Damien and Aviary be able to infiltrate Intero’s data system and what about finding Val. How is that going for Olesya and her team? And who the hell are the Benefactors?

From the various links, you would be correct in presuming I had fun with Interceptor. There is so much going on, I cannot help but dig. At the same time, I do have to stop digging and write a review. Once again, definitely recommended.


Farrugia provided me with a reviewer’s copy of Interceptor.


Interceptor is available at Amazon


My reviews of:

  1. Helix Episode I
  2. Exile (Helix II)
  3. The Chimera Vector (Sophia)
  4. Seraphim Sequence (Sophia II)
  5. Phoenix Variant (Sophia III)

Zanbaka, Elias: Environmentally Friendly (2016)

Cover by The Cover Collection
Cover by The Cover Collection

“Yeah, well, have a talk with ’em. They somehow only managed to get the money and the okay to do this right after he escaped a week ago. They got an opportunity and they ran with it! Either way, he’s boxed in now and that’s what matters,”

Convenient that Major Bushell ran away when he did. If it wasn’t for the fact that Zanbaka made up this story, I would have suspected the “specialists” of letting Bushell out of his maximum security cage.

As the story opens, we find ourselves on Hollywood Boulevard, with Sergeant Schaeffer, chasing Bushell. Schaeffer seems like a pretty level-headed police officer who has to handle Bushell, trigger-happy police officers and the specialists, all without getting killed. Particularly one officer, Lieutenant Hazzard, seems to have either/both a martyr wish or/and a killing wish. He is too angry for the kind of job he has. Lieutenant means that he should be supervising Schaeffer, but this story shows the opposite.

Bushell is messed up. His PTSD is severe and has driven him on his own crusade against Mother Nature. He seems to think that he can kill it, but nature does not go down easily. Major Bushell has experience with how thorough nature can be when it does its worst.

This is Elias Zanbaka’s first published (self-published) story. There are some awkward sentences, but Environmentally Friendly is an action-packed, fun, read-in-one-go 19 page story. I recommend it.


The author gave me a copy of Environmentally Friendly to, hopefully, review


Reviews:


Environmentally Friendly is available at Amazon

Freaks by Kieran Larwood

If only there was someone who could tell her something about her past. For all she knew, she could be the Crown Princess of Mongolia, the daughter of a rich and magnificent king. Or maybe a hair-covered parent just like her. Perhaps then she wouldn’t feel so desperately different.

Just to be somebody’s daughter would be nice. (p. 3)

Flynn, Sabrina; The Broken God (Legends of Fyrsta III) (2016)

Although The Broken God can be read alone, it is better to read A Thread in the Tangle and King’s Folly first.

Some characters hit me harder than others. In The Broken God that was the boy Zoshi. There really isn’t anything unique about Zoshi. He’s just another “street-rat” among many others. Like street-rats everywhere, hunger, homelessness and poverty are his companions.

“The street rat had survived eight years in the docks, and he knew what danger felt like. This was it. All prickling over his body, making his legs want to run.”

We first met Zoshi in King’s Folly. His plight broke my heart. Zoshi’s story in The Broken God is just as difficult for me to read.

“… The light wavered with his shaking. Zoshi gripped his own arm, trying to keep it still. He was falling, he was sure of it, and his stomach had been left at the cave wall.

Tears slipped down his cheeks and piss seeped down his leg – the smell of courage. It was strangely reassuring in the void of time and space. …”

Courage is like that, and I love that Flynn recognizes this. I also love that one of the bravest people in her story is this 8-year old boy who had just been through one terror and now tries to muddle through his another. All alone, except for the dog/mammoth/crow Crumpet.

Marsais is a mess. Being at least 2000 years old and a seer will do that to you. His mind travels all potential futures and “endless hallways of memory“. Keeping track of when he is has become almost impossible. His meddling left one of his stabilizers behind. Isiilde did not get on the ship with him. Marsais may come to regret that decision; but like all meddlers, he feels he has done what needed to be done. At least Oenghus is with him. Oen is a rock. Yet even stone can crack. Being without his daughter has also destabilized him. But both men have seriously underestimated Isiilde.

“Finally,” she said, “you’re treating me like an equal rather than a pet to be indulged. I will not become one of Syre’s pet nymphs and I am no longer yours.”

A nymph fighting for the humans who view her as an animal is a struggle for Isiilde. Lieutenant Rivan is probably the only one of the Sacred Order who does not. He is also the only man, other than her father, who is not distracted by her presence. Unless you count  challenging his faith. Blind faith is a dangerous thing. It is easy to forget that knowledge must have precedence. Rivan viewing Isiilde as equal to humans makes him heretic in the eyes of his Order.  He is not alone in questioning old beliefs. Captain Acacia Mael keeps on learning that what her Order claims does not add up with what she observes.

In the meantime, healer must become warrior again. Morigan, and the rest of the Isle of the Wise, are beset by betrayal and the Fey. The Fey are phantoms whose whispers invade a person’s mind and leave them incapable of fighting back. Most become mad or die. Morigan does neither. She and Brynhilde are amazing women who do their best for the people they are in charge of.

I think that what I liked most about The Broken God and The Legend of Fyrsta series was that while there were a huge number of endings, there were no happy endings. There were, however, new beginnings. Occasionally, death is postponed and, instead, another chance was given. Not to make things over or better than before, but to continue trying to make a go of it. We can’t really ask for more than that. Except maybe strawberries.

Absolutely loved it. Definitely recommended.

I was asked to review The Broken God by Sabrina Flynn


My reviews of:

  1. A Thread in the Tangle
  2. King’s Folly

Identifying with characters in stories

As a young girl and woman (and even now) it was difficult to find female characters that I could identify with. I am white, nerdy, Asperger (although I did not know this at that time) and Norwegian. As time passed more female characters entered the scene, but their roles were often romantic seconds. Not until the last few years have great female characters become more common. Finding characters that you can identify with if you belong to any female minority must be extremely difficult. Perhaps especially in a society as misogynistic as the US.

Along comes Marley Dias who is 11 years old. This amazing girl manages to launch a book-collection campaign focusing on books with black girls as main characters. I would never have dared, or even come up with, such a thing when I was 11. How can I do anything but look up to such a wonderful person?

Marley Dias, 11, Launches Social Action Campaign to Collect #1000BlackGirlBooks

Marley Dias Book Drive 1,000 Black Girl Books
11 year-old Marley Dias at Lingelbach Elementary School in Germantown, collecting books as part of her #1000BlackGirlBooks social action project. (JANICE DIAS/FOR PHILLYVOICE)

In the past year, Philadelphia native Marley Dias has successfully written a proposal for (and received) a Disney Friends for Change grant, served food to orphans in Ghana and recently launched a book club.

Dias is 11 years old.

“I’m hoping to show that other girls can do this as well,” Dias told PhillyVoice. “I used the resources I was given, and I want people to pass that down and use the things they’re given to create more social action projects — and do it just for fun, and not make it feel like a chore.”

Dias’ latest social action project is the #1000BlackGirlBooks book drive. Frustrated with many of the books she’s assigned in school, she confessed to her mother during dinner one night that she was unhappy with how monochromatic so many stories felt.

“I told her I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” Dias said, pointing specifically to “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the “Shiloh” series. “‘What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.” ………….

The rest of the article may be read on Good Black News

Remember to use your public libraries when you can

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