Tag Archives: #Paranormal

De Pierres, Marianne; Peacemaker 1 (2014)

The Peacemaker series begins with the novel Peacemaker. Peacemaker also has a first installment of the webcomic edition on De Pierres website. De Pierres has called her Peacemaker stories cowpunk, meaning they are Australian Westerns (yes there is such a thing) with possible aliens/paranormal creatures, technologically enhanced humans and animals and an environmentally challenged country. Australia has gone from having its current 500 national parks to only one, Birrumen Park. There was still an outback while Virgin’s father was alive. He started a park lobby because he saw the direction real estate developers were dragging the country in. Now, Birrumen lies, as the last of its sort, in the heart of a supercity and is surrounded by a road, The Park Esplanada. Noise, people and buildings drench the outside of the park.

Peacemaker is told by Virgin. She is our main character.  Most of her childhood has been spent with her father in Birrumen Park. He taught her to not trust anyone, least of all those closest to her, and to love the park as much as he did. Virgin is passionate about keeping the Park out of the hands of real estate developers. As long as the tourists keep coming, the Park still has a chance.

… the company scientists deemed it too environmentally fragile to handle the impact of permanent residents. Tourists did enough damage.

And we had to have tourists.

The Park saved Australia’s tourism industry and tourists save the Park. My daughter just did her BA dissertation on eco-tourism. Many places depend on tourists to stay alive, but tourists bring their own set of problems that aren’t compatible with keeping a place “untouched”. Owners of the park are forced to make concessions like the Wild West theme of Birrumen. The future we see in Peacemaker is a likely one. Humans don’t have the intelligence to control our population growth or our ecological foot-prints.

Benny, Virgin’s horse, and the Park both ground Virgin when the chaos of the city becomes too much. Both are filled with technology. Benny has been augmented with recording equipment, and endurance and cognitive enhancers. All of his augmentations send information back to Totes, the park tech, and then on to the company storage and processing centre. Birrumen has all sorts of measuring equipment to make sure the park is left as undisturbed as possible. An electromagnetic field above the park keeps unwanted people out and the view in. No human is supposed to be in the park after dark. One evening Virgin forgets her phone inside and has to go back in.

Even though I’d been ranger here for a few years, I was suddenly a little nervous. The sand and rock and palms that I knew so well during the day had taken on an eerie quality.

The company didn’t like us “on board” (their expression for being in the park) after dark – something to do with insurance. I always pushed that directive to the limit because I like to see the sunset. …

As I bent to fumble with the pump, I felt my phone underfoot. Then another sound attracted my attention – muffled voices from the other side of the semicircle of palms that skirted the Interchange area.

Voices? Impossible! I was the last person out of the south-east sector every day. Park scanners and satellite imaging confirmed it, as well as my own visual sweep.

I picked up my phone and crept towards the sound, my boots silent on the sand. There were two of them, arguing, but I couldn’t get a handle on the thread. …

A strangled cry got me running toward them, hauling my pistol free from my holster. …

But the pair had fallen down onto the sand.

I flicked my phone light on and shone it at them. Only one person was there. Blood trickled from a small, deep wound on his neck.

Impossible! There were two! …

Weirdness arrives in the form of a crow. Virgin is attacked and wounded but manages to escape. On top of that, she was supposed to pick up her new partner, Marshall Nate Sixpence, but made it too late to make a good first impression. Then, her imaginary friend from her childhood reappears, a large wedge-tailed eagle called Aquila. Virgin is certain she is going insane because she is the only one who sees Aquila. Except she isn’t. Turns out Nate can also see imaginary friends. Hmmm. Maybe they aren’t as imaginary as Virgin thinks. Nathan calls them disincarnates. Her life is turned on its head. She goes from routine to chaos, from safety to one life-threatening situation after the other. Therein lies the mystery. Virgin’s investigative journalist friend, Caro, helps Virgin many times. Her boss, Bull Hunt, Superintendent of Park Ecology, remains on her side even when the police go after her. He used to be friends with her father and has continued to take care of her.

In some ways Virgin is a loner. She certainly thinks of herself as one, but tends to gather friends because of the way she treats people: Blunt but tries to protect the weak. Some of those friends are interesting cases. Totes, the park tech, is one such. Even though he bugs her apartment, Virgin keeps him on because she believes he is on her side. Chef Dabrowski feeds her and is as much of a surrogate parent as she will let him be. She is the kind of person who does not want to be a burden to the people she loves, yet does her best to help the very same people. Her personality appeals to my Asperger.

This is my favorite De Pierres series thus far. Her writing is compelling, the story asks interesting questions, is fun, full of action, full of interesting characters and has a great female lead. Plus it’s in Australian English. So, a definite yes from me.


Reviews:


Winner Aurealis Award– Best Science Fiction Novel, 2014

Goody, Heide & Grant, Iain; Clovenhoof I (2012)

Heide Goody & Iain Grant‘s collaboration began with Clovenhoof. They enjoyed it enough to continue collaborating on at least eleven more stories. I adored Clovenhoof. If you enjoy British humour, this is a must. Life right now needed Clovenhoof. When my Asperger struggles to deal with what life hands me, laughs are precious. Clovenhoof was fall over funny and relevant. Probably relevant for any person who has had siblings, parent issues or have struggled to fit into their local cultures and bureaucracies.

“We’re a little disappointed,” said Saint Peter. “Let’s take the measure of suffering. This was very straightforward. All suffering should be graded as good or higher.”

“And we’re certainly getting those grades in a lot of the suffering that we deliver,” said Satan.

“A lot. Not all.”

“Yes, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect it for everything,” Satan argued. “We got some clients who simply enjoy it too much, and then there are those who lie about the experience because they can’t help themselves.”

… “You give me no choice but to recommend your immediate removal from the post.”

Poor Satan. The guy can never catch a break. First he gets thrown out of Heaven. His punishment for wanting to save God’s children was being master of Hell, a hellish job. Then, he gets thrown out of Hell for trying to meet the demands of the assessment board. Fired by uptight Michael and conniving St. Peter (helped by, hmmm, not telling). Where does he end up? Earth. England. Birmingham. Sutton Coldfield.

“Having restocked the shelves of the Thriller section with a newly arrived box of Deightons and Le Carrés and settled down for a mid-morning cup of tea, Ben heard a muffled roll of thunder, looked up and saw that a naked man had appeared on the pavement outside the shop.”

Ben Kitchen is one of our main characters, the owner of the aforesaid used book-store (Books ‘n’ Bobs). He lives in the same building as Mr. Jeremy Clovenhoof (Michael’s sense of humour), and is painfully shy towards women he might be interested in. The two of them coincidentally end up on the same floor of an apartment building in Boldmere. They live in flats 2a and 2b.

We also get to know Nerys from the third floor of the same building. She works at Helping Hand Job Agency. One of her clients turns out to be Jeremy. And what a client he is. Both she and Ben try to figure out where Jeremy is from and why he is such an odd person.

Satan has no concept of money, credit cards, bills, rent, making food, what to wear, social rules, how to find a job or any of the other hellish things we are expected to magically understand upon reaching adulthood. Add in the fact that Satan is an Alien, and as one might expect of The Devil in such a situation, he makes a mess of things – both in his life and in others. However, Satan is an OK guy. He knows he did his best in Hell and wants to get a second opinion from God. Michael and he have not been on good terms since the War in Heaven, so Clovenhoof is not about to trust any decision made by him and St. Peter. Getting that second opinion is not a simple matter when the opposition refuses to cooperate. Because he is an Alien, Satan sees the world without the prejudices we grow up with. He also does not have the same moral compass humans like to imagine they have. In many ways Satan makes me think of the experiences many Aspergers have in trying to connect with their surroundings. So many rules and regulations make no sense and “morals and empathy” are just words people use to persecute others.

The story moves between the new and unusual experiences Satan has on Earth and the reason Satan got kicked out of Hell (it might not be what you think it is). I have learned several vital things about English society. Good thing there are search engines:

  • Scrumpy Thunder
  • Lambrini
  • Crispy Pancakes

Reviews

Turner, Tej; Dinnusos Rises (2017)

I recommend reading The Janus Cycle before you continue with Dinnusos Rises. As the story moves along, we reconnect with the paranormal members of Sunset Haze: Patrick (violin+half-fey), Faye (flute+dream walker), Jack (acoustic guitar+half-fey), and Ellen/Jessica (voice+medium/ghost). Neal lets them practice in one of the club’s rooms in exchange for the occasional session downstairs. Their abilities draw people. We also reconnect with Tilly, Pandora and Frelia.Toward the end of The Janus Cycle, we read:

“… Janus was once this great place where nobody gave a fuck and you could just have fun, but then some bloody kids who don’t have a clue tried to steal your vibe.”…

“You just need to move on, he declared. “Look around you – this, what we have here tonight – isn’t it that feeling, that craziness you were looking for? You are Janus. Let those kids keep the empty shell. You can make a new one!” (The Janus Cycle, p. 217)

That place is, Dinnusos.

“… Victorian, with high ceilings and sash windows. It’s big, too. … If the main bar ever gets too rowdy and you fancy some quiet, there’s a whole labyrinth of rooms on the upper floors you can get lost in. One of the city’s old canal ways runs along the back of the building.” (Dinnusos, p. 14)

Neal and Tristan became a couple in The Janus Cycle.  Dinnusos is owned by Neal. His partner painted magical murals, on most of the walls of the club, that appear to have prophetic value for some of the main characters. You can find Dinnusos in Yesterville:

“A place of urban decay and broken streetlamps. Vagrants and outcasts. Faded signposts and overgrown gardens. Thrifty means and humble dreams.” (Dinnusos, p. 14)

Wilder Mann mit Wappenschild copper engraving by Martin Schongauer

Tej Turner has used the same writing style he used in The Janus Cycle. There is an overarching story with chapters that get told from a different point of view, allowing us to catch up with the life of the individual and keeps the story going at the same time. Taxus Baccus (TB) is an environmental organization led by Jardair, Jack’s wuduwāsa father (Turner plays with the Greek and Roman pantheons throughout the story). Until TB arrived at Jack’s house (a squat), Jack and his pet squirrel, Nuttles, lived on their own. Their lives go from quiet to chaotic in a matter of hours. TB travels from town to town addressing, in their own way, environmental issues each town struggles with. Tej Turner uses Taxus Baccus to address the fragility of our supposed right to free speech and the right to live our lives as we wish.

“It seems to me that this country is run by sociopaths with gloating expressions and oily hair. They wander around Westminster with their leather briefcases, selling off public assets to their pals from boarding school and members of their extended family who have vested interests. All the while, class war is waged through an ever-encroaching succession of draconian legislations. They will not rest until they have rounded up everyone into the rat race because they, by fortune of birth, are the big cats. The the more rats there are, the more they have to dig their paws into.” (Dinnusos, p 62)

Dinnusos Rising contends that it we, the general populace, make such methods possible through our complacency and docility. The percentage of people who turn up for various elections certainly seem to support that contention. Westminster uses various media to pimp their message to the public

“… the news channels and tabloids were doing their utmost to demonise us. Footage and photos were being carefully selected, and it seemed their cameras only had spare film for the more outrageous members f the movements … They never told the public why were were doing the things we were doing. They made us seem like rebels without a cause.” … (Dinnusos, p. 72)

Through The National Conciliation Act (NCA), Westminster intends to cement the corporatocracy we see strengthening its hooks into various governments around the world.

“Later on we will be interviewing MP, Mr. Ben Fitzgerald, to see if he can shed any light upon rumours Westminster is considering bringing in new legislation which will grant authorities more power to dismantle anti-social behaviour.” (Dinnusos, p. 92)

The NCA bans political demonstrations and movements like Taxus Baccata.  It would give Westminster the power to shut down any business charity or organisation which was perceived as having a “subversive agenda“. They could tighten restrictions on the internet. It would become illegal for employees to speak badly about the companies they work for and turn civil disobedience into a criminal – rather than civil – offence.

Pandora’s workplace, Fibertine Investment Bank (FIB), is a great example of a corporation that wants the NCA passed. FIB invests in corporations around the world and outwardly appear to be concerned about ethical corporation issues. They even have their own Ethical Practices Officer. However, when Pandora tries to bring ethical issues to the attention of her boss, Mr. Watts, he reminds her of FIB’s business motto:

“Business is blameless,” … there is no need to feel guilt, or worry about facing consequences. (Dinnusos, p. 92)

Corporatocracy is not the only topic Turner addresses. Friendship represented by Pandora and Frelia, Faye and Tilly, and Jack and Tilly is a complicated dance. Trust is betrayed, destructive and healthy decisions are made, and new beginnings are all part of the friendships in Dinnusos Rising. Turner also shows us individual experiences with self-harm, suicide ideation, drugs, abuse,  sexuality, and gender. We see how falling in love may affect other relationships. Again, Tilly is the one who meets most of the challenges. She is also the youngest of our characters.

Dinnusos Rises is well-edited, well written, has fleshed out characters, and presents current issues in a package filled with action and adventure. Both Dinnusos Rises and The Janus Cycle are excellent contributions to discussions about the above topics. Dinnusos Rises has my whole-hearted recommendation.

I was given an ARC copy to review.


My review of The Janus Cycle

Black, Levy; Red Right Hand (2016)

Black, Levy; Red Right Hand; New York, Tor Books, 2016

Some authors write horror too well for my own good. In the case of Mr. Black, this happened before the end of chapter 6. I could not go on. Not since beginning to read Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill have I been this frightened. The time before that was when I was 15 and tried to read Dracula. So, no very often.

It wasn’t the demon dogs who did it for me. They were just gross and gross can be fun, or at least interesting. But good old Elder God, Nyarlathotep, did me in.

Too bad, really, as Mr. Black’s writing was excellent. But, alas, so is my imagination.


The Red Right Hand was given to me to review by Tor Books

Shelton, Connie: Sweet Masterpiece (Samantha Sweet I) (2010)

Samantha (Sam) Sweet‘s  dream is to open her own pastry shop. In the meantime, she has to work for the USDA cleaning out abandoned properties where the owners have defaulted their loans. Both mysteries in Sweet Masterpiece have to do with her USDA job.

Cake-baking weaves in and out of sleuthing. Sam is no exception from the rule of amateur sleuths. Amateur sleuths always solve the mystery. Either they announce their success or they lead the police by the hand until the police cannot but figure out the answer. Sweet Masterpiece is of the second category. Shelton has added in a little romance. Her beau is Deputy Beau Cardwell, the detective in charge of both sites.

Violence, swearing and sexual content are practically non-existent. You would have to work hard to be offended by any of it.

In Taos, New Mexico, Bertha Martinez dies after Sam has broken into her home. But not until Bertha manages to convince Sam to keep a worn wooden box safe, claiming that Sam is its new secret-keeper. Turns out, this box has strange powers to share. Powers that at first freak Sam out. Witchy stuff is suspected.

House number two does not have anything paranormal about it. A man’s body is discovered buried on the property. Turns out the body belongs to an artist who had disappeared from the art-world some years ago. Mystery number two is, of course, the one that Sam helps the police solve. Along the way, she is lectured by her deputy that forcing your evidence to fit your theory is a bad idea.

Sweet Masterpiece is a mystery of the light-hearted kind. I had fun reading it.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Sweet Masterpiece is available free of charge on Smashwords

Estep, Jennifer: Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin I) (2010)

Jennifer Estep‘s Ashland, Tennessee, is like many corrupt cities/towns/countries. “Ashland might have a working police force and government, but the city was really run by one woman. Mab Monroe.” Monroe is your typical mobster. She has a respectable front powered by charity, fund-raising and activities appearing to give back to the community. Behind that façade, bribes and intimidation are favorite tools but she does not hesitate to stoop to kidnappings and murder if necessary. If you happen to be a law-abiding police officer, district attorney or judge, you are doomed one way or another.

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Prince Hamlet says to his mother Queen Gertrude:

“Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed,
Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty—”

Into such a bed of corruption, Estep places Spider (Gin Snow), assassin, main character and story-teller. Gin is known as Gin Blanco, part-time cook and waitress at the Pork Pit. She regularly takes classes at Ashland Community College – the eternal student. Pork Pit is owned by Fletcher (foster-father, ex-assassin and handler/go-between). Gin loves and trusts both Fletcher and Finnegan/Finn (foster-brother and bankier). As Spider’s Bite unfolds, we discover how Gin came to be in Fletcher’s household.

We first meet Spider in Ashland Asylum. She is there to kill one of the therapists. As an introduction, this assignment serves to introduce us to Gin, her profession, the types of inhabitants in Ashland and what kinds of magic exist. Ashland is a place of magic, vampires, giants, dwarves and humans. Gin is human and a stone- and ice-elemental. The other two main forms of magic are fire- and air-magic. Most elementals have the use of one magic. If they have two, one of them is normally a minor one. Ashland’s magic is not without its dangers, addiction being one of them. Insanity another. Fletcher and Finn are humans and without magic. Early on in the story, Gin takes on an assignment that has devastating effects on her relationship with Fletcher and Finn and has the potential of bringing her within reach of Mab.

Her assignment certainly brings her within reach of Detective Donovan Caine. Caine is one of the few honest public service-people in Ashland. Of course, he and Gin are bound to clash and end in the inevitable should/should not have sex situation. Fortunately, Estep chooses to portray Gin as the instigator and Caine as the doubting, shameful one. It would be strange if they had the usual roles in paranormal literature due to Caine being the upright police officer that he is. Happily, this romance bit did not take up too much of the story. Most of their interaction was through their investigation.

Finn, Gin’s foster-brother, is something worse than an assassin (as Gin puts it). He is a bankier and Gin’s go-to person in Spider’s Bite. It would be a safe bet to say that Finn and Gin are best friends. Their friendship is vital to the success of the investigation. When Caine becomes involved he and Finn go through the usual (is it like this all over the world?) who’s-the-manlier-man procedure. Thankfully, again, Estep does not force us to endure yet another threesome (god, I hate those). No mushy stuff and no threesome. What is the world coming to?

I had fun reading Spider’s Bite. There was plenty of action. Some violence and sex. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Translations:


Spider’s Bite is available at Amazon

Johnson, Jean: Hardship (Theirs Not to Reason Why IV) (2014)

I wonder if true precognitives exist? There are certainly plenty of frauds out there, who in spite of generally being wrong have their followers. Ia lives in a world where paranormal powers of varying degrees is a fairly normal matter. Paranormal powers seem to be part of most of the species in Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not to Reason Why. When it comes to precognition Ia is strong enough be called “The Prophet of a Thousand Years”. Her predictions thus far have never missed their mark. What she has seen of the future frightens her because she wants life in the universe to survive.

Fighting for the survival of others or fighting to fulfill the political goals of others seems to be a soldier’s lot. This is a way of thinking that is foreign to me. I tend to think that humans need extinction. While some political systems seem saner than others, the politicians within those systems can get too caught up in games. Some of these so-called games cost young men and women their lives as soldiers fighting for what may or may not be healthy for people.

Ia’s precognition has saved the lives of many of the soldiers and non-combatants on her side. Fewer people have died than might have. If I were an officer, that would certainly be my main goal – to keep as many as possible alive while still managing to do the job that needs to be done. Losing that ability for a while – the long-term precognition – blinds Ia in a way that losing her left eye does not. Her team are so used to having solid information that they too are strongly affected by her loss. But needing to live without being able to depend on her foresight teaches Ia more about the quality of needing to lead through trust. I would find that one of the most difficult parts of being a leader, needing to trust my subordinates to do the job properly. But I imagine leaders learn a lot about themselves through such a process.

In the world of Theirs is Not to Reason Why there are quite a few political players. Not all of them are human. Some of these players are the Feyori. Ia is half Feyori and half human. In Hellfire Ia had her first manifestation as Feyori (she describes them as energy-based beings manifesting themselves as something like large soap-bubbles). That soap-bubble image is very much in my mind right now when I think about Ia’s meeting with the other Feyori in Hardship.

Hardship was a great addition to the serial about Ia. So many of the authors that I read are captivating writers who give me loads of action and imagination. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Hardship available at Amazon US


My review of:

  1. A Soldier’s Duty
  2. An Officer’s Duty
  3. Hellfire

Aftermath of war (PTSD)

President of US apologises in 2012