This is an author I first came across by way of reading his own excellent review of a book I had previously reviewed, ‘Johnny Nothing’ by Ian Probert.
Andrew Updegrove is a prolific blogger, primarily writing about the self-publishing industry, marketing, and related topics, providing an excellent resource for any aspiring writer. As well as being a prolific blogger and writer, Andrew Updegrove has a successful background in law, business, and cybersecurity, making him eminently qualified to write this excellent book.’
Further links and contact details for Andrew Updegrove are:
Author site: www.andrew-updegrove.com
The Lafayette Campaign
A TALE OF DECEPTION AND ELECTIONS
Having already read an enjoyed the first in Andrew Updegrove’s cybersecurity/thriller series, I thought I’d give this one a try. This time the story revolves around an upcoming US Presidential election, but one where all the poll predictions are completely at odds with what everyone expects, raising questions about who may be trying to manipulate and influence the outcome? Once again, the US authorities call on the geeky middle-aged, I.T. cybersecurity expert, Frank Adversego, to look into things. Amid his investigations, Frank is also working on the book he’s been contracted to write warning of the dangers around hacking, cybersecurity, and so.
As in Book One, this is a superbly written cybersecurity themed thriller, but again, riddled with lots of clever and subtle humour, like where the author refers to a security thug as being ‘evolutionally challenged,’ and when he laments about being glad he’s not writing a political satire instead of a serious non-fiction book, the humour of which becomes even more apparent later on. In many ways, readers from any country will be able to identify with the part money and big business plays in politics all around the world, and not just the US.
Although this reads perfectly well as a stand-alone book, I was pleased to see some indirect references to Book One, The Alexandria Project, ironically the basis of the book the main character, Frank, is working on during the unfolding story here, and the inclusion of some of the characters from the first book, ie, his daughter, Marla, and boss, George Marchand. Again though, there are plenty of new characters to further engage the reader’s interest.
Not only is this well-written book, but also a well-researched one too. It does, however, convey a lot of US political workings and cyber-tech explanation though that some readers might get a tad lost in if they don’t already have some interest in them. As a UK reader, I must admit had I read this book when it first came out back in 2015, I might well have got a bit lost in some of the American election procedures and terminology, and quite frankly, found it a little too fantastical and far-fetched. Since then of course, there’s been the improbable election of Donald Trump and all that’s followed to take care of the ‘far-fetched,’ aspect. Also, with all the media coverage that event attracted worldwide combined with innumerable hours of Youtube American news footage of the 2016 US Presidential election, most people now have a better understanding of US electoral workings, so again, this really has become a book that is not only more ‘understandable’ to non-US readers, but a highly topical one too.
Another super cybersecurity offering; a satire for sure, but given what’s happened in US politics since its publication, really not so far off the mark … loved it!
Click HERE to read my review of Book One in the series, The Alexandria Project
Available from Amazon in eBook format, and from several other outlets in both eBook and print formats … See the author’s blog for details.
For links to all five books to date in the author’s cybersecurity/thriller series, please see HERE for Andrew Updegrove’s US Amazon author page
This latest short story collection is the fifth by John M. W. Smith that it’s been my pleasure to read and review. John M.W. Smith has had many stories published in various women’s weekly magazines and literary journals, and his short story collections are an established favourite among Russian readers where as well as being hugely popular, are also used as an English language teaching aid.
In addition to my review here of ‘More Longer Wacky stories,’ I’ve also included my past reviews of some of his other collections.
See below for John M.W. Smith on social media …
It’s been a few years since I read one of this author’s excellent short story collections, and I must say this latest novella lengthed 13 story anthology is the best so far. As in previous collections, the stories culminate in some unexpected twist in the tale, some quite startling while others are more of Ah-ha moment, though not once did I remotely see what it would be in each case. Mostly the stories stick to just one or two female characters (though not always), allowing the author to develop them more than is usual within the confines of a short story. Some of the tales are truly uplifting and will make the reader smile, but in a bit of a departure from previous books, others are indeed a tad sad, and equally sad, are more reflective of the not so nice side of human nature, as is the case in A Lonely Heart Breaks Easily.
This collection is definitely grittier, and with more of an edge to some of the stories that I’ve seen in previous ones, venturing into more controversial (almost taboo) themes such as in the third offering, It’s So Easy to Fall in Love, where the wronged woman turns out to be far more predatory than the reader is originally led to believe.
Most of the author’s stories centre around female characters, some strong and self-assured while others are often more fragile and vulnerable, so in some respects it’s easy to see why they would enjoy such popularity in women’s magazines/journals, and yet, I maintain, these stories are of a much wider appeal to anyone who enjoys cleverly crafted scenarios, great writing and dialogue, and in every case, an unexpected but totally satisfying conclusion to a story. I really can’t praise these little gems more highly.
MY PREVIOUS REVIEWS OF THE AUTHOR’S WORK …
Wacky Stories with Twist Endings – Volumes 1 to 4
(Available in eBook & print formats via Amazon)
This is a short collection of eight humorous short stories, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘twist at the end’ in the first four stories are more the sort to make you smile and chuckle rather than gasp in amazement, but every scenario and ending are entirely believable and just the sort of situation that any reader might readily identify with. In the later stories, the twist ending tend to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them, and the stories steadily become a little more intricate.
The author keeps the number of characters to a minimum in each case, and within the obvious confines of a short story, the characters are well-developed with convincing and natural dialogue. Each story is written in an easy to read and follow style, yet despite their apparent simplicity, all are actually very clever and well crafted.
By the author’s own admission, the stories are primarily aimed at a female readership, but the quality of writing and story-telling does I believe give them a much broader appeal. I shall certainly be reading and reviewing the other three volumes in this series.
Another short collection of eight short stories; as in the previous volume of this collection, every story is well crafted and wholly believable. Again, not one of these stories will fail to bring a smile and a chuckle to the face of the reader, but unlike the previous volume, the stories here are a little more involved, with a slightly more adult and mischievous flavour to them.
For such short stories, some of them are quite complex, dealing with issues of romance, family, and work issues. Again the characters are convincing and well-developed. The increased complexity of the stories, as compared to volume one, does require a slightly greater degree of concentration from the reader, but the rewards are more than worth it.
Overall, another great volume of well written and light-hearted stories which fans of the short story genre and women in particular, will really enjoy.
Well, this is the third volume of stories I’ve reviewed in this series and once again, I’ve not been disappointed.
Without reiterating too much of what I’ve said in my previous reviews, each of these delightful short stories has an unexpected, and in this volume more so than in previous ones, a quite often rather `naughty’ and punchier twist in the ending – never more so was the term `naughty but nice’ quite so appropriate. Compared to previous volumes, I think the stories here are, whilst still quite charming, are tending towards slightly more adult orientated themes. Again the reader never really sees what’s coming, and the author is an adept at leading the reader up the garden path so to speak before firmly tugging them back to a really effective punchline and conclusion.
What I’ve also noticed and enjoyed in this third volume is the way author very quickly settles the reader into feeling comfortable and familiar in what they’re reading; although each story is different and unique in its own way, there are often striking similarities in names, places, and the domestic settings in which they occur that you could almost feel that you’re reading another chapter in the lives of the characters in a previous story, much like that sense of familiarity you might encounter in reading the sequel to a novel. By employing such techniques, many of the characters appear much more developed and rounded than they might otherwise, given the limitations of the short and flash fiction genres.
I would agree with the author’s own admission that his stories are indeed aimed at a primarily female readership, and this volume perhaps more than in previous ones, but as your typical Neanderthal male, I too enjoyed them immensely and as such would contend that they still have a much broader appeal that of their intended market. Another great collection, and again, highly recommended …
This is the fourth and last volume of the ‘wacky stories’ series. Like the previous ones, all the stories are well written, and mostly with a deliciously naughty twist in them.
One of the dangers of anthologies such as this is that there can be a tendency for the stories to become repetitive, but here we have a refreshing diversity. Just when you think you’ve got the stories figured out, the author throws in a couple that are as delightfully sentimental and smile-inducing as you can imagine; the first story has quite an adult theme to it, treating the reader to a really sharp and almost shocking twist, whereas in another of the stories, the author leads the reader in a very definite direction, only to delight with a more gentle shock, and of the most touching confirmations of enduring love as I’ve read in a long time.
Yes, the stories are aimed at a female readership, but I think their appeal extends much further. I will certainly be reading some of the author’s differently themed anthologies in the near future. All in all, a great series that I would heartily recommend not only a female readership but anyone who enjoys cleverly written stories of the ‘twist in the tale genre’…
Click HERE for the author’s Amazon author page, and links to all his books …
Felipe Adan Lerma is a prolific author, having written numerous books in a number of genres ranging from short thrillers, as reviewed here, to poetry, photography, travel, and many more. He is also a prolific book reviewer, contributing to a number of online Indie author review and writing groups as well as offering help and advice whenever and wherever he can. On a personal note he has also proved to be an invaluable and valued member of my Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group and website of the same name, having blogged a number of posts in support of the IASD anthology You’re Not Alone in support of the cancer charity, Macmillan Nurses.
Click IASD thumbnail for website: Click thumbnail for Felipe’s blog post.
Click on thumbnail for link to Blog Review:
Part of a series of short stories, Texas Shorts.
“Dirty Sixth Street, Austin”
This short story is a first of several shorts.
My first story that takes six of my cast of characters in my fiction, the young cousins traveling and hanging around with each other, down into one of Austin’s most well known party streets.
Another first, is their involvement in a minor, but nevertheless, scary crime.
And a mystery, also of a sorts.
Besides the six children, Antone, Cherise, Simone, Tabitha, Buzz, and Zilker, two new characters, from Vermont, are introduced. Sam (Samantha) and her brother Matt. They’re adults. 🙂
Dirty Sixth Street, Austin
By Felipe Adan Lerma
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
Nice little thriller … Moves along at a cracking and entertaining pace. By Rudders on January 10, 2016
Another short thriller from Felipe Adan Lerma but again one that packs a lot more into it than the relatively short word count would suggest. In his writing, the author strips away every superfluous word of needless padding, once again putting me in mind of Hemmingway. What’s left is a short hard-hitting thriller that moves along at a cracking and entertaining pace.
For a short story there are more than the usual two or the three characters, in this case there being six young cousins as well as police officer and child advocate Sam (Samantha) and her geeky brother Matt. At a little under eight thousand words the author manages well to bring to life the settings and busy atmosphere in which the story unfolds. The central character, Sam, is visiting Austin, Texas, to attend a law enforcement conference and job interview. Right from the start there are hints at Sam’s background, and some of the traumatic events she’s witnessed in the past. To relax and get away from things, she goes for walk in the evening along the busy Sixth Street. During that walk she encounters a group of six children of varying ages, the youngest being a boy of about eight who happens to be crying at the time. It turns out there have been a recent spate of robberies, one of which involves the children; being a police officer, and one particularly interested on the effects of crime on children, she sets about her own investigations, getting to know the children better along the way.
Another aspect of the author’s writing that impresses is the authentic characterisation and dialogue of the children and their interation with the adult police officer, Sam; quite often when writing children’s dialaogue, it can be difficult to get it just right or believable but the author succeeds in this area better than most, especially given the varying ages of the children in the story, a testament possibly to the author’s own extensive family background and interaction with his own children and grand children. The writing is actually quite enchanting, and though a thriller that doesn’t shy away from reality and the criminal undertones of the story, it does not rely on excessive violence, making it a suitable story for reading across most age groups and tastes.
An engaging and quick read, and one that will particularly appeal to fans of the crime, thriller, and short story genres. I won’t say more other than that as well as enjoying the story you may feel the urge to eat a spicy taco too… Why? You’ll have to read ther story to discover that ….
Born and raised in Texas, and now a young senior living in Vermont, his wife Sheila’s home state, Adan brings a gentle infusion of yoga and fitness to bear on life long interests in writing, painting, dance, photography, and the arts in general.
Determined to learn about the ideas of Western Culture that have informed our civilization, Adan put himself through college with the help of his GI Bill benefits. More recently, he has added certifications in fitness and yoga.
His self stated mission on his website, reads, “a Beginner’s View : Integrating Yoga Fitness and the Arts.”.
NEW: Over 50 titles available FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
Fiction, photography, poetry. Family, mystery, and (new) thriller fiction. Set in Austin Texas, Paris, and Vermont.
Images and poetry from all three locations.
Further links to the authors numerous novels and poetry collections can be found at:
Felipe Adan Lerma’s Amazon Author page
And lastly, a few words from Felipe Adan Lerma himself …
As the oldest of six, a father of three, and a grandfather of five, and married over thirty years, I believe, in writing stories and poems, I’ve found a perfect outlet for my years of living.
I have been writing and creating pictures since high school in the sixties, and began writing more seriously in the late 70s and early 80s.
One of my more recent surprises has been to read a definition of Romance that seems to generally fit the majority of both my poetry and fiction: a central story involving the relationship of two people, and a generally optimistic and satisfying ending.
With that revelation, I now view Romance fiction in a whole new light. 😉
But if I had to give one word about most of my fiction and poetry, and even my images, it’s relationships.
The interactions of people, especially couples and among family, seem to have the strongest hold on me. That would also help explain why even in my poetry about teachers and nurses and others, it is the relationship aspect that usually is my focus.
The Processing my Fiction series on my site has more detailed specific articles that might be of interest.
I hope you can take advantage of the half dozen or so titles I offer free for downloads, and will also consider and enjoy my other work. Thanks so much!
Felipe Adan Lerma
Tom Julian is another member from the IASD stable of authors, writers, reviewers, and bloggers. In this, his debut novel, he has created a welcome addition to the amazing genre that is Sci-fi. In his own words: … is a military science fiction story influenced by Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, and Apocalypse Now…
Away from writing, Tom Julian works days at an Insurance comapany, and is a husband and the father of two children.
Look out too for his soon to be released latest book, Breacher, available January 7th (available now for pre-order).
Find Tom Julian on:
Humanity has expanded beyond the borders of Earth into the far reaches of space. Human ingenuity has also expanded—as well as its theology.
On one side of an interplanetary war: a new religious order, dedicated to the expansion of human enlightenment. On another side, loosely connected to the order but hardly on the same page: the military, dedicated to the expansion of human influence.
And then there are the aliens. Worlds beyond understanding. Planets beyond comprehension. Forces which represent threats that cannot be calculated, and so must be eliminated.
Timberwolf is a soldier with too many voices in his head. Gray is a bishop with grander ambitions than his church. Highland is a planet run entirely by artificial intelligence—all of these factors point to the same conclusion: God has a story for everyone—or so the scripture of the day says.
This story is just beginning.
By Tom Julian
(Available from Amazon in ebook & Print)
Traditional Sci-fi combining steampunk and space opera… Great debut novel!, January 2, 2016
As in common with many of the very best titles that Sci-fi has to offer, this is a story that incorporates many traditional elements of the genre; interstellar travel, alien species, and advanced technology to name just a few but amid all that, the real strength of the story is how those elements are used to draw the reader into what is a multi-layered roller coaster of excitement and intrigue. The story starts off exceptionally well, introducing Wraith, a bio engineered killing alien machine in the service of its human masters. Alongside Wraith we have several other equally engaging characters: first and foremost we have Timberwolf himself, a sort of cross between Stan Lee’s Ironman and Arnie’s Exterminator, and the only one capable of taking on Wraith. Opposite Timberwolf we have Emanuel Gray, the antagonist to Timberwolf’s protagonist, a former military man now using his supposed religious beliefs as vehicle for his own militaristic ambitions and agenda of seizing control of an A.I. controlled facility that would give him unprecedented military power.
Set as it is some 250 years in the future, there have not surprisingly been incredible advances in technology, enabling mankind to venture out among the stars, but not so far into the future as to have to change society and its technology beyond all recognition; artificial intelligence, nano-technology, and advanced battle armour, all with their roots in the science of today, give the sci-fi elements a topical and therefore believable feel to them. What hasn’t advanced though sadly in this vision of the future are some of the less than noble traits of mankind’s nature – greed, treachery, religious bigotry, and war feature most prominently in this story; just as the religious Crusades of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries resulted in some horrific conflicts so too has mankind’s contact with other species resulting in most being virtually exterminated. The one race to still pose a threat to mankind’s dominance is the Arnock, a spider-like race with mind invasive abilities that make it a formidable enemy, a fact that Timberwolf has painful and personal experience of.
Although this is primarily what I would call hard or traditional sci-fi, some of the themes and terminology give the story a steampunk feel to it; the use of terms such as galley, cargo holds, and gangplanks when referring to some aspects of one of the spaceships puts the reader in mind of rebellious space pirates or crusaders. The many different worlds and species also put me in mind of Peter F Hamilton’s highly imaginative and entertaining space opera type stories. This was an exciting and enjoyable story that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. I would have preferred a more comprehensive ending but overall this a first rate Sci-fi story, well-written and with all the requisite elements to please most fans of the genre.
Beyond The Law: Retribution is the latest book by author and fellow blogger, Tom Benson, whose own blog features high in my list of ‘follows.’ Beyond the Law: Retribution is the sequel to Tom’s most successful book to date, Beyond the Law.
Longtime folllowers of my blog might well remember my posting of a review of Beyond The Law back in early 2014; since this latest book is a sequel to that and for the benefit of those who may be unaware of it I am repeating that review to compliment my review of its sequel.
As well as reading these excellent novels, please take a look at his blog where you will find some equally excellent short and flash fiction stories to enjoy too along with an absolute treasure trove of writing tips and highly informative and essential self-publishing advice:
Beyond the Law: Retribution – Amazon Blurb:
In 2004, Martin Cameron is sprung from custody on the streets of Glasgow. The ruthless gangster vanishes, but not before leaving instructions for trusted henchmen. A period of mayhem ensues which includes the murder of two outlaw bikers.
Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, calls a meeting of his small vigilante team, but will they make allies of the Mental Riders Motor Cycle Club?
Will the police recall July 1996 and once again leave battle to commence?
There are turbulent times ahead for many hearts and minds – and Scotland’s underworld.
Beyond The Law: Retribution (sequel)
By Tom Benson
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
A vicious trail of violence, retribution, and dead bodies… loved it!, 24 Nov. 2015
This is a retribution themed novel once again dealing with those criminals whose cunning and resources enable them to operate beyond the constraints of the judiciary and elude the regular forces of law and order. Such is the violence and ruthlessness of such men it takes an equally resourceful and ruthless approach in dealing with such criminals, cue the reappearance of ex SAS operative Phil McKenzie aka the Hawk, and his unique band of cohorts collectively now known as BTL (Beyond the Law) enterprises. Hawk and his associates are every bit as ruthless as the criminals they face, with the added advantages of the very best military training in weapons, field-craft, and covert operations. Operating as they do outside normal police investigation and procedure they can’t be openly supported by the regular police, but they can still draw on the covert support of the British intelligence services and their unofficial police contacts, as well as here, some more ‘unconventional’ allies.
Our introduction to Phil McKenzie and the formation of BTL enterprises was dealt with in the prequel to this book. Although there is sufficient explanation and references to the past to allow it to read perfectly well as a stand-alone book I would still recommend reading the prequel first to enjoy it to its full; as well as being re-acquainted with ex SAS operative Hawk, the attractive ex intelligence operative Annabel, the equally stunning motor bike riding Rachael, former pick-pocket Jake, and one or two others, several new colourful characters are added to the mix: Max, the leader of biker gang the Mental Riders, and Intelligence operative and linguistics expert, Ian, to name but two. There are also some pretty brutal and sadistic new villains as well in the shape psychopathic twin brothers.
The story kicks off with the audacious escape from prison custody of Martin Cameron, who within minutes of his escape embarks on his vicious return to crime and violence; determined to re-establish and expand his control of all of Scotland’s major criminal activities, there follows a bloody trail of violence and dead bodies along the way; he also plans his painful and sadistic revenge on the man responsible for his imprisonment, Phil McKenzie. What he isn’t aware of though is just how eager someone else is for equally sadistic vengeance against himor indeed just how better organised and equipped Phil McKenzie and his organisation are now. In the interim, Martin Cameron’s plans to organise a massive drug shipment into Scotland once again bring him to the attention of one of the Hawk’s former cohorts despite being on the other side of the world at the time.
This is what Tom Benson does best, drawing on his own military experience and memories of growing up on the hard streets of Glasgow, coupled with a true story teller’s imagination. Once again, the author’s attention to plot detail and consistency rivals that of say a Frederick Forsythe novel, and is handled with the same careful planning as the covert operations of the story. The precise levels of detail related to weaponry, covert surveillance, and urban and rural field-craft are excellent, enough to place the reader right there with the characters but not so much to distract from the main story or bog the reader down. The characters are well-developed by way of the gritty and realistic dialogue and the things they do. I also enjoyed seeing how some of the characters had evolved since first encountering them in the prequel, and I must say, the writing here is even sharper and more streamlined than before. I was also impressed at how Phil McKenzie took more of a ‘behind the scenes’ role here, allowing some of the other characters to really come into their own rather than relying just on him to carry the story. As always, Tom Benson rounds up the conclusion and loose ends most effectively, and leaves the reader with a tantalising hint of another sequel. The way the story is structured and has evolved from the prequel could lend this two book series (so far) to a whole series of books along the lines of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ series…
Beyond The Law (prequel) – Amazon Blurb:
In January 1996, Phil McKenzie leads his Special Air Service team, on a secret mission into Kentobi, Africa. An assassin codenamed Chameleon, kills the Kentobi president, but Phil is framed for the murder. He negotiates liberty at a high price; an end to his military career.
Following a brief secondment to the Metropolitan Police and discharge from the Army, Phil returns to his hometown as Hawk, a vigilante. The term, ‘deniable ops’, finds new meaning as Phil tackles Glasgow’s underworld with his small, unique team. Using stealth, intelligence, and bloody violence, Phil hunts down the city’s Godfather.
Beyond The Law (prequel)
By Tom Benson
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
An awesome book that will keep you hooked right to the end!, 22 Feb. 2014
A ‘can’t put down’ book that definitely hits the ground running. In an explosive opening chapter reminiscent of Andy McNab, we’re introduced to the central character, Phil McKenzie, and some of the background to his special skills and training. What follows is an equally explosive story of unofficial state-sanctioned vigilantism as he and his cohorts set about tackling the tough and violent criminal under-belly of a crime ridden Glasgow. But this is no simple story of good guys hunting down the bad; set against the murky backdrop of the military and British intelligence, Phil McKenzie and a select team of operatives are up against a criminal alliance that spans not only that of organised crime but also high ranking politicians and police officers. The book takes a number of different and dangerous turns, culminating in one hell of a conclusion.
Some of the characters have definite echoes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. The dialogue throughout is both fluid and natural, as is the writing and realistic portrayal of a world and characters that thankfully, most never get to see outside the pages of a book. The author’s attention to detail and plot-line are approached with the same deadly precision as that of a covert military operation.
This is a book that effortlessly combines the genres of military adventure with that of crime and justice, and one that would sit well in the company of Lee Child, Andy McNab, and Tom Clancy. Should Tom Benson ever decide to write a sequel, it will certainly leapfrog to the front of my ‘to read’ list. Highly recommended…
In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army.
Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992.
He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.
Tom has been writing since 2007. He has published six novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. He is presently working on two novels, and further anthologies of short stories. Tom is also a self-taught artist.
Tom is a prolific writer of short stories, flash fiction, novels, and a number of poetry collections. In addition to being a great writer and author, he also takes the time to offer advice and support to fellow writers and bloggers. He also contributes to numerous online writing groups, and is one of the founder members and Admins of the Indie Author Support and Discussion Fb (IASD) group and website of the same name:
The Tom Benson collection: click on thumbnails for Amazon links
Tom Benson’s Poetry collection:
Erotica & short stories:
Crime/Retribution themed thrillers:
In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has had short stories published in a number of colloborative anthologies, three of which are listed below:
Not What You Thought? and other surprises – The first of the IASD anthologies. Three guest stories by Tom Benson featured in P.A. Ruddock’s humerous collection of short stories and flash fiction in aid on the ‘Forget-Me-Not’ charity at www.exmodltd.org in aid of homeless ex servicemen and those affected by PTSD.
You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology – The brainchild of author, book reviewer and blooger, Ian D Moore – an IASD anthology bringing together a multitude of international Indie Authors in aid of the Pamela Winton tribute fund, which is in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. cancer care and support charity Macmillan Nurses.
Holes: An Indie Author Anthology – The third and latest IASD short story anthology, inspired by the author, reviewer and talented book cover designer Eric Lhati, again bringing together an international collection of Indie authors to showcase and promote just a fraction of the amazing talents on offer from the world of Indie publishing.
Further links to Tom Benson’s novels and other writing can be found at:
I first came accross this book via Amazon’s recommendations as well seeing it pop up in a few facebook posts/recommendations. Although not a member of my Indie Author Support Fb group, having read and enjoyed this book I’m delighted to present my review of it here. Sean Connelly is the author of a number of military themed books, most of which are of the memoir & autobiographical genre. Gunners ‘N’ Grenades is Sean Connelly’s first fiction book, though it still draws on his military past. Having spent fifteen years and being a Bombadier in the British Army, he is well qualified to write in this arena. Sean first started writing after someone suggested that he should write an account of his early days in the army, and since then he has gone from strength to strength in his efforts.
Further links to Sean Connelly’s writing can be found at:
Note: As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…
Amazon Blurb for: Gunners ‘N’ Grenades –
“… It is the dream of most soldiers to be the best. To join an elite fighting force and be able to perform in any theatre of war is the goal of most British squaddies. With it come respect, honour, comradeship and greater courage.
PERSTO TROOP is made up of some of the best and most experienced soldiers in the British Army… and four delinquents. The latter are about to be dishonourably discharged but someone, somewhere sees their potential and they are offered the lifeline of joining this new elite force. They must now endure the rigours of harsh training that will either make or break them.
Told in the style of a fictional autobiography, Gunners & Grenades, has humour as well as action and follows the ‘nitty-gritty’ of the everyday life of a young soldier in the 1980’s as he grows from misfit to a true leader, covering his exploits from bars to battle and sex to secret operations which culminate in explosive action with the kidnapping of a Sultan’s Daughter at The Edinburgh Tattoo and the race against time to rescue her.
For ‘Sledge’, our delinquent soldier and his mates, this is both a final chance and a dream come true… “
Gunners ‘N’ Grenades: Sledge’s First Mission
By Sean Connelly
(Available from Amazon in both print and eBook formats, and signed print copies available from the author’s website… www.armynovels.com )
Thoroughly enjoyed this British military adventure story. Like many such stories it begins with some background events leading up to the situation in which the central character, in this case a young soldier called Sledge, finds himself, and from which the unfolding action emerges. Unfortunately for our hero of the story, Sledge, and the men under his command, display just a little ‘too’ much potential and enthusiasm at the beginning of their careers for what it takes to be a good soldier and very nearly find themselves in danger of being booted out of the army. Thankfully someone higher up sees how Sledge and his oppos might be put to better use rather than being thrown back onto civvie street, and gives them the opportunity to prove themselves in a more demanding role. What follows is a side-splittingly funny (and indeed sometimes harrowing) depiction of the brighter side of army life, military banter, and colourful language that would make even the sturdiest blush at. The reader follows Sledge and his comrades’ progress through their training in a newly formed elite troop that sort of exists as a halfway house between a regular regiment and the elite special-forces, possibly to take on missions that the SAS would want to be able to deny all liability or involvement in. Although highly trained and capable of killing without hesitation by the end of their training, Sledge and his comrades are still just like ninety five percent of the rest of the British Army, i.e. hard drinking, womanising, and a colourful a vocabulary as one can imagine – in other words, typical squaddies (and damned good soldiers to boot) – rather than some unbelievable Rambo type supermen.
The real nitty gritty of the story i.e. fighting a real enemy, doesn’t really take place till say the last third of the book, focusing instead on the men’s training, friendships, and banter, but all combining to form the prefect built up to the conclusion. The contrast between the humour and sometimes madness of army life, and the grim realities that inevitably arise from time to time is well portrayed as the story progresses.
I would say that the best military based adventure books are written by those with some personal experience of military life, but that isn’t to say such experience guarantees an enjoyable reading experience. Quite often the writer’s personal experience is injected into their writing too literally, often resulting in a book that comes across as part fiction, part memoir, and with way too much emphasis on military accuracy at the expense entertaining the reader. Thankfully Sean Connelly hasn’t fallen in that trap; yes his own experience shines through in the writing, and the military detail is spot on (for the most part) but he’s also injected a certain degree of poetic licence into his writing to make for a more entertaining story, creating larger than life characters but who aren’t so far removed from reality that they force the reader to suspend disbelief; for military purists there might well be some areas where it could be argued that the poetic licence has been taken a tad too far, i.e. the notion of a bunch of green teenage royal artillery recruits getting the better of highly trained and experienced infantry men is a little hard to believe for anyone whose actually served, as well as their being propelled at such an early stage of their careers into such a troop, but for the average non-military or civvie reader I imagine it wouldn’t be an issue.
Normally this would be an easy five stars for the humour and thumping good story telling value whilst still remaining credible but there were a few typos and grammatical issues i.e. the odd missing word here and there, which tells me the final draft would have benefitted from another round or two of editing and proof reading. Nonetheless it still gets a five star rating, just not quite a resounding one. If you’re looking for the sort of high octane adrenalin fuelled action of an Andy McNab novel or the cold brutal reality of a Ken Wharton book then this probably isn’t it, but if you enjoy British Army themed escapist story telling that captures at least some of the feel and flavour of military life as it was for most of us then you really can’t do much better than this.
Further books by Sean Connelly: Click on Thumbnails for Amazon links…
This is the first murder mystery novel I’ve read in a long time, so many thanks to Diana J. Febry for reintroducing me to this neglected genre for me. Reading Diana’s novel, Bells On Her Toes, reminded me just how important a good plot is, and how giving the reader something to think about is to the reader’s enjoyement. Diana J. Febry is the author of five novels, and in her own words, her mysteries combine eccentric rural characters, village politics and as many teists and turns as a country lane. As well as being an author, she is an active book reviewer and contributor to several online writing groups.
Diana J. Febry was born near Bristol and educated at Oxford Brookes University. She continues to live near Bristol with her husband and two teenage children. When not writing she spends her time roaming the countryside with her dog and horses.
Further links to Diana J. Febry’s writing can be found at:
Bells On Her toes
By Diana J. Febry
(Available from Amazon as an eBook)
Set against the murky backdrop of the world of race horse training, Diana J Febry has produced a real murder mystery and detective whodunit (and why), filled with twists and turns and lots of deliciously deceptive red herrings to keep the reader guessing and trying to fathom who the murderer is. Given the setting, it inevitably gives rise to comparison with Dick Francis, but having read both I would say this book owes more to the influence of say a modern day Agatha Christie – I could easily picture this book as one of those very English murder mysteries dramas although this is definitely more Morse than Frost. With her background and knowledge, Diana J Febry has used the horse racing and training world to give the story a character and feel all of its own but without immersing the reader too deeply in it; likewise with the investigative and police procedural elements, she has concentrated on telling a story rather than trying to impress the reader with her knowledge of the former.
The story starts off predictably enough with the discovery of dead body (with a gunshot wound) in the barn of a country estate, but others are soon to follow. As the Detective duo DCI Peter Hatherall and DC Fiona Williams start their investigations we are introduced to a wide and esoteric cast of characters. With each new character new theories arise regarding the initial murder, some more probable than others and some wildly speculative, though if I had but one small criticism in this area it would be that I think some of the theories and speculation alluded to by the locals was just a tad too off the mark and slightly out of sync with the overall feel of the story, taking it slightly into the realms of a thriller at times.
Due to the plot driven nature of murder mystery stories, I don’t want to allude to too many specific elements of the plot for fear of spoiling it any way, but what I can say is that this is a well-crafted literary jigsaw encompassing lost and past love, possibe offiicial shady goings on involving the environment, and official cover ups to name but a few, all inviting the reader to reach premature conclusions as the author sends the reader in several different directions with the different lines of enquiry.
Given the number of characters I was impressed with how well they were developed and how that development was incorporated into the overall story. The subplots were cleverly weaved into the wider story to give them relevance rather than being used simply to add extra pages. The dialogue between the two lead detectives and the rest of the characters was realistic, driving the story forward when necessary while at other times giving the reader time to pause and speculate as to which way the story is going, which for me is one of the enjoyments of reading this type of book. I also liked the fact that the relationship between the two detectives wasn’t without its problems, and I enjoyed watching how it developed with just the merest hint at a possible romance. Although this is the first of this author’s books I’ve read, I know from reading the blurbs of her other novels that this isn’t the last we’re destined to see of DCI Peter Hatherall and DI Fiona Williams I’m pleased to say. I would rate this in the region of 4.5 to 4.7, and since that’s way closer to 5 than 4, it gets a five star rating from me.
Diana J. Febry’s current titles: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links
Ian D Moore, as well being a fellow author, blogger, and book reviewer, is also someone I consider a real friend too, not that that last fact has any bearing on the following book review I might add. Ian D Moore first came to my attention when he joined my Fb Indie Author Support & Discussion group. Since then he has proved to be one of the most active and helpful members there, offering help and advice whenever he can, and numerous honest and constructive reviews of member’s books.
As well as this debut novel, Ian was also the instrumental force in bringing together a multitude of Indie Authors from around the world when he called on the group for submissions for his highly acclaimed anthology ‘You’re Not Alone’ in aid of the Macmillan cancer charity, of which I feel honoured to have had one of my own short stories included in; although deserving of it, I won’t go into too much detail regarding the Macmillan anthology since a blog post and review of this last venture will be forthcoming here on my blog in the very near future.
Prior to embarking on what I’m sure will be a highly successful and rewarding writing career, Ian D Moore previously served as a soldier and engineer in the British army, and currently works as a self-employed truck driver. Ian D Moore is a UK based author and family man, and someone I greatly admire and respect both as a writer and as a person.
Further links to Ian’s writing can be found at:
By Ian D Moore
(Available from Amazon in both eBook & Paperback format)
Although a fan of the film and televised Zombie efforts this is the first time I’ve actually read anything in the genre, having previously being sceptical as to whether it would transfer well to the written word.
Whilst I’ve always had to totally suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the Zombie genre in the past, with Salby Damned I was presented with a chillingly realistic and believable scenario that had me hooked right from the start. This isn’t the story of a world-wide fantastical epidemic but a more likely and localised disaster borne out of the merging of two highly topical issues, namely biological warfare and the more recent and controversial gas shale fracking.
The book cover put me in mind of the TV series The Walking Dead, but whereas that concentrated on the individual survival of a specific and isolated group of people, Salby Damned, although it largely concentrates on a few individuals, it also deals with how the authorities tackle the problem of a zombie like plague, and how inevitably the military would play a large part in that. The author pays great attention to military detail, creating a very real and authentic feel to how a military base would house and protect survivors; I don’t just mean in terms of military accuracy, I would expect that from the author given his background, but by the way in which he conveys his expertise to the written word. As anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of the British military will know, it is filled with innumerable acronyms that can be very confusing to civilians, but the author explains and accounts for them very simply in the narrative without resorting to all sorts of contrived dialogue. My only concern here is that there might have been a tad too much emphasis on the military detail for those with no knowledge or real interest in that side of things, but for me personally it worked very well. Speaking of the military, it was refreshing that the central hero as it were was a just a regular ex-soldier rather than ex-special forces as it made him more believable as a character – far too often, unless being ex special forces is central to the story, such characters are made to appear almost super-human in their abilities, whereas here, Nathan’s vulnerability and frailties are just as evident as his strengths.
If I had to categorise this book, I’d say it was more a thriller than Science fiction or horror, though there are indeed elements of the latter. The story itself unsurprisingly concerns an apparent accident that results in a zombie like plague, and then, Nathan an ex-soldier and a beautiful doctor, and the part they play in the search for a cure. Amid the subplots, we have courage and heroism, political and industrial intrigue, a touch of romance, and action wise, plenty of deadly encounters with the undead victims of the plague. In fact some of the subplots were a real bonus to this story, and definitely added to the overall enjoyment rather than simply being there to flesh out the page numbers. What was also refreshing about this book though is that unlike the film and TV ventures, it didn’t rely at all on sensational blood and gore for its impact.
If I had but one small criticism to make, apart from the ‘possible’ over-emphasis of the military and weaponry detail, it would be the lack of any anger and resentment towards those responsible for creating the circumstances in which the plague occurred, but apart from that the story was clever and well written, with a good balance of superficial though very credible science to add authenticity to the wider story. I was also extremely impressed with the way the author concluded the story, i.e. in not leaving lots of annoying loose ends that demand a sequel just for its own sake, but nonetheless surprising the reader with a few unexpected twists that leave the door open to one. If I had to give an exact rating for this debut novel I would say 4.7 to 4.8, but since I don’t I can quite happily give it a five. Would I read a sequel? Absolutely yes!
I’ve had this book on my kindle for quite some time now, but what with one thing and another I only recently got round to actually reading it. I really shouldn’t have left it so long as it turned out to be a truly beautiful and enjoyable read. Lucinda E. Clarke’s writing is another discovery via Fb and other social media, along with some wonderful reviews and recommendations from fellow writers and bloggers. As well as Amie: An African Adventure, Lucinda E. Clarke has written three more books, links to which are provided following my review. But first, a little about the author herself…
Born in Dublin, dragged up in the Cotswolds, matured and finished off in Liverpool. Her family were not wildly enthusiastic about following her grandfather into Fleet Street (unfeminine, unreliable and dangerous), so she was packed off to dockland Liverpool to get teaching qualifications (safe, respectable and pensionable).
Lucinda returned south extremely good at self-defence. She married and went crofting in Scotland, a disaster so she says, and bred dogs among other things, less of a disaster. She moved to Kenya with her 3 week old daughter, was abandoned in the bush, then on to Libya, surviving riots, public hangings, an imprisoned husband and eventual deportation. She moved to Botswana – still teaching – and opened and ran a horse riding school with a ‘How to…’ book in hand.
She immigrated to South Africa and taught for four years, but since 1984, she wrote freelance full time, for major corporations, UNESCO, UNICEF and the SABC for both radio and television. Moving into television production in 1986, she has received over 20 awards, specializing in the fields of education, documentaries, municipal and government.
She has also worked on radio in both Libya and South Africa, had a newspaper column, and was commissioned to write two educational text books. In 1996 she set up her own video production company, and retired to Spain in 2008. Well that was the plan…
Further links to Lucinda E. Clarke’s writing can be found at:
Amie: An African Adventure
By Lucinda E. Clarke
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
My biggest regret about this book is that it had to end at some point, as all books do. It tells the story of young couple’s move to Africa for the husband’s career, particularly that of the wife, Amie. It starts off sedately enough, detailing their preparations and Amie’s initial fears and nervousness about leaving behind everyone she knows and loves and her way of life back in England, charmingly detailing many of the fears any of us might have at such a prospect. After their arrival in Africa, things seem to be working out for Amie as she adapts to and begins to enjoy a very different way of life. Now although I say it starts ‘sedately,’ right from the start the author has already hooked the reader with a harrowing and well-placed preface of things to come, and the reader knows that this is to be no ordinary foreign posting, that danger and adventure are sure to follow their initial settling in.
As the story develops, the author introduces the reader to the real Africa and its way of life for the majority. Yes, Amie lives the comparatively comfortable and indeed luxurious life of an ex patriot, shielded from much of the hardship, but she sees it all around her, and against advice goes out of her way to help as best she can. Within the story, with some truly beautiful writing and turns of phrase, the author manages to convey a real sense of being in Amie’s shoes, providing the reader a glimpse and real insight into the everyday life and comings and goings of the native population, of the poverty and corruption, and of course the dangers. We also learn though not to judge the culture and ways of the African people in relation to European ways of doing things. Amid the vivid descriptions of Africa, the ex-patriot community, and the local culture, the reader experiences the growing unrest of a volatile society, the dilemmas Amie has to face and deal with, and the sudden and explosive upheaval of an entire country. How she copes with everything around her is a story in itself, and perfectly complements the story of her African adventure.
Quite apart from the story itself, which was thrilling to say the least, I also admired and enjoyed the way Amie adapted and grew as a person, watching her confidence and self-reliance grow a little more every day. We see the transformation of someone initially afraid of travelling much beyond her home town and who probably thought that a package holiday to Spain was the extent of travelling abroad, into a resourceful and determined young woman more than capable of surviving the dangers of wildest Africa. What I would also say here though is that, while there is an element of memoir to the writing, this is still mainly an action and adventure filled tale, and one that won’t disappoint those who like to see the adrenalin flowing in their reading, combining an imaginative and descriptive narrative with just the right degree and tone of dialogue to drive the story forward. If I had but one tiny criticism it would be the cover, which if I’m honest, didn’t quite grab me or in my opinion, reflect or do justice to the story within. Other than that, I’m delighted to say the author is currently writing a much anticipated sequel to this wonderful book.
Further titles by Lucinda E. Clarke: click on thumbnails for Amazon links
I rarely use such reviewing clichés as blew me away, but such words would not have been out of place in the following review. Michael Billington is another member from my Fb Indie Author Support & Discussion group, and the author of several highly acclaimed books, of which details and links appear following my review of The Third Servant.
The quality of the author’s writing comes as no surprise given his extensive journalistic background, having investigated and reported on stories from all around the world, and indeed the quality of his own prolific book reviews.
Michael Billington spent nearly a half-century as a reporter covering stories around the world and across the United States including Operation Desert Storm, the Rwandan Civil War, hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Katrina and Rita as well as the Love Canal environmental disaster and the 9/11 airline crash near Shanksville, Pa. During his career, he earned more than 40 awards including the Brotherhood Medal of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for an undercover investigation of white-power extremists and the Southern Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting for a series he co-authored exposing police abuses of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act. He also received several awards for a lengthy series on infant mortality in Delaware. An Army veteran who spent two tours in Vietnam, his awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. In addition, he was twice decorated by the Vietnamese government. Given his background, it’s not surprising that he writes in a wide variety of genres from Steampunk to mystery and even historical fiction.
A percentage of the author’s royalties are regularly donated to the Home Of The Brave Veteran’s charity in Delaware in the US, details of which can be found at their website below:
Further links to Michael Billington and his writing can be found at:
The Third Servant
By Michael Billington
(Available in eBook & paperback from Amazon)
This is a story based on and then reinterpreted and expanded from a simple parable taken from the book of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible. Without going into the meaning of the parable, this is a clever idea for a story, speculating on what might have happened to a servant following his dismissal having displeased his Master, much like what might have happened to Heathcliff in the missing years whilst he was away from Wuthering Heights. The principal character, the servant Ezra, does not immediately engender the reader’s sympathy and would appear to deserve all his initial misfortunes, having made no effort to increase his Master’s wealth when given the opportunity, and his less than honourable actions flowing his dismissal from his Master’s house. What follows is a series of adventures that takes Ezra across much of the known world of the time: from his Judean homeland as far as India and Afghanistan, and then back through the Roman Empire on his return, where the story comes full circle. Interwoven in this series of adventures we meet a wide and varied cast of esoteric characters ranging from reformed warriors, female gladiators, foreign emperors and kings, and the highest of Roman nobility along with poor to name but a few. Several of these adventures highlight the harshness and apparent barbarity of the times but what also shines through are the many moments of justice, kindness, nobility, honour and courage that were also prevalent, giving much of the book a heart-warming and feel-good factor to it. Another aspect I enjoyed as much as the story itself was not just watching the story unfold as it were, but also watching the growth and maturing of Ezra as a man as he seeks to discover what purpose God has decreed for him; but this isn’t just the story of a man with some God-given mission and path to follow – Ezra might well indeed have some greater purpose to his life but he is no empty vassel for it, often having to rely on his judgement and courage to fulfil any such plan.
Throughout the book, the author demonstrates a good knowledge and understanding of the period in which the story takes place, namely during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius and in and around the years surrounding the death of Jesus, with just the right balance of intelligent speculative poetic license to drive the story forward. The narrative and dialogue have a certain biblical formality to them that pays homage to the original text of the parable but nonetheless works very well, giving the story added authenticity and a real sense of the time in which events take place, but not so much so that the reader feels they’re reading a historical account or history of the times. It’s hard to pin down this book into any one genre, combining as it does, action, adventure, political intrigue, religion, and a host of elements, but what I can say, it is one of the most well written and highly original ideas for a story I’ve read in a very long time, and one that engrossed me from start to finish.
Further titles by Michael Billington: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links: