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Review: Empty Promises

This is my second recent review here. I hope to do much more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my new review policy.

Review summary: James Jackson has written a book that is both entertaining and thought provoking, both heartfelt and action-filled. I enjoyed this story on so many levels, and will seek out the earlier Seamus McCree novels soon. This is a 4.5/5 star book in my opinion. Details are below

About this book: Seamus McCree’s first solo bodyguard assignment goes from bad to worse. His client disappears. His grand-dog finds a buried human bone. Police find a fresh human body. His client is to testify in a Chicago money laundering trial. He’s paranoid that with a price on his head, if the police know where he’s staying, the information will leak. Seamus promised his business partner and lover, Abigail Hancock, that he’d keep the witness safe at the McCree family camp located deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s woods.

Abigail is furious at his incompetence and their relationship flounders. Even his often-helpful son, Paddy, must put family safety ahead of helping his father. Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back Abigail. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hit man is on his way.

About the author: James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. You can find information about Jim and his books at http://jamesmjackson.com. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and/or Amazon.

Giveaway: James M. Jackson will be awarding the chance to name a character who will appear in FALSE BOTTOM (Seamus McCree #6) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win.

My full review: Having not read any of the earlier Seamus McCree books, I began this one feeling somewhat disconnected from the main character. The plot was interesting, but the emotion was lacking. However, as the story progressed, the protagonist and his family came into better focus, while the action kept moving. By half way through the book I was fully engaged.

What I liked best:

  1. This is first and foremost a well done story. One could quibble that it is a little predictable here and a little cliche there but I don’t see how an author can develop a plot as intricate as this without leaving themselves open to such complaints. Bottom line: is it is humanly believable and logically consistent. That is no small feat.
  2. I would have liked to know more about all of the characters, but I suspect this is a pitfall of starting with the fifth book in a collection. What is presented of them here is well done, with particular kudos to the father son relationship and the wonderfully portrayed three year old granddaughter. Even the dog is well written.
  3. I’m not such a fan of first person narratives, and the switching between first and third person threw me at first. I do happen to like head hopping, however, and I enjoyed the way the frequent changes in perspective moved the story along. Part way through the book, I realized I had totally acclimated to the mix of first and third person, and by the exciting and rather lengthy climax scene, I found it particularly effective.
  4. I always appreciate when an author has the background, or has done the research, to add local color to the setting. I felt like I was on the Upper Peninsula by the end of this book, listening to the birds and riding around in an ATV.
  5. There are a few bad guys in this story, but the ultimate creep gets to have his own point of view, and he is appropriately chilling.

What I liked least: As you can probably tell, by the end of the book there wasn’t much I didn’t like. If forced to find items to have a minor quarrel about, I’d mention these:

  1. The local environmentalist was a caricature, and an unpleasant one at that. (I’m something of an environmentalist.)  Every other character of significance was more multi-dimensional.
  2. The sheriff’s degree of anger with Seamus sometimes seemed out of proportion to the events, particularly given the two men had collaborated together in the past. Maybe the sheriff is supposed to be an unusually angry individual?

Like I said, minor points. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

 

My favorite excerpt: 

Had Owen returned my call? Had Abigail found anything? Any word from Bartelle after Owen ratted me out? My phone claimed it had no voice or text messages. Sometimes the signal is so weak the phone doesn’t receive messages, so I brought the remainder of my drink to the deck, where the signal was strongest, and dialed voicemail. The sun-heated decking was uncomfortable on my bare feet. I shifted weight from foot to foot to minimize the discomfort and keyed in my password.

You have no messages at this time.

Back inside, I booted up the computer and checked email. Nothing relevant and no help for my situation.

I had a long, positive history with Sheriff Lon Bartelle. Was it strong enough for him to cut me some slack over my initially lying to him? Surely, the best way to tell him of my malfeasance was face-to-face. Like a man mounting the scaffold for his hanging, I forced leaden legs to return me to the deck. My call to Bartelle brought the information that he was in the office but not available to come to the phone.

I put Atty on a lead to do her business and then shut her in the house. “Sorry girl, I need to leave you home for this one. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

She trotted to the living room and, without a glance back, crawled onto the couch, where she didn’t belong. She pawed the throw pillow resting against one arm, knocking it flat, and stretched out, snuggling into the back of the couch and resting her head on the flattened pillow. Her eyes met mine and she grinned, as if to say, “What? I’m just following orders.”

A personal note: I am a writer myself and therefore come to all reviews with biases born not only of my personal preferences  but also of my own writing style. In this case the author’s well done frequent changes of point of view, and his flair for local details, resonated with my own efforts and no doubt bought him extra enthusiasm from me.

I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2018 in other authors

 

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Review: Deep Sahara

This is my first review here in a few years. I hope to do much more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my new review policy.

Review summary: This is an impressive book, but not an easy read. If a reader is willing to make the effort to flow with this unusual story, I believe they will find themselves haunted by it, in the way only a fine novel can manage. I give it a 4.5 out of 5. Details are below.

About this book: Klaus Werner travels to the Algerian Sahara to research a book on desert insects. He is billeted in a local monastery, but upon arrival he finds it empty of its inhabitants. He soon discovers that it is a recent crime scene.

About the author: Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman’s Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

Giveaway: Leslie will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win,

My full review: Leslie Croxford has written a book imbued with the feel of the desert and buoyed by his deep knowledge of the region. As I followed along on one man’s odyssey to find himself after the death of his wife, his personal mirages of the mind and heart competed in my head with those of the world’s most vast arid region.

What I liked best:

  1. I’m not generally big on description, but the contrast between the sparse, often brusque dialog and the vivid verbal painting of the Sahara made me feel like I was there, experiencing days of solitude punctuated by stark conversations with others who seldom spoke.
  2. The main character’s earnest search to understand his past and discover who he is are woven well into the action. The hero is perceptive and honest with himself, making him fine company for all 280 pages.
  3. Occasional clever observations about humanity add a much needed touch of subtle humor. A few of my favorites are at the end of this post.
  4. Bonus points have been given for the delicate yet effective handling of both the sex and violence.

What I liked least:

  1. One significant event in the narrative is never explained well enough for me, and the little explanation it does receive contradicts other parts of the plot. It’s a minor but irritating flaw.
  2. I’m definitely not a fan of the very end. I will not give anything away, but only say that there were several possible variations on it that would have fit the spirit of the story as well or better, in my opinion, and been more satisfying to and even respectful of the reader.

In spite of these two issues, the book is well worth reading for all those who yearn to experience other lives and stranger worlds inside the covers of the novels they choose.

Purchase this book: Available in paperback through Amazon, or at the Book Depository.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

January 25: Locks, Hooks and Books

February 1: Bookaholic

February 1: Journey of a Bookseller

February 8: Sharing Links and Wisdom

A few of my favorite quotes

  1. “… recounting the tale to myself, to that other beholding part of me standing in for the God in whom I no longer believe, but to whom I apparently continue to have things to say.”
  2. “Be that as it may, I kept no diary. What I had to say about myself today was the same as I would have said yesterday or what I shall say tomorrow …”
  3. “Wherever one is, Monsieur,” the officer said, looking directly at me, “one is actually in one’s own situation. That’s the case regardless of how alien one’s surroundings are.” He replaced his cap over his clear features and prepared to leave. “So one would do well to understand what that situation is. It might save one a lot of trouble in one’s new setting.”

A personal note: I come to this review with a bit of bias, as we all do. In my case, I, too have written a book (x0) about Africa (Nigeria) drawing on my professional background (as a geophysicist) so I wanted to like this novel. I was once employed by one of the major oil companies exploring for oil in Algeria (where Deep Sahara takes place). Although I never worked there, I heard plenty of stories and have an appreciation for the female geologist in this novel. (There aren’t that many of us.) I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2018 in Africa, oil industry, other authors

 

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Look up for a minute

There is no question that writing is a solitary activity. I write best surrounded by quiet, when given unlimited time with my own thoughts and as little outside stimulation as possible. It’s a fine way to create characters, a story and even a whole world from nothing. But, it’s not a great way to live.

I’ve finally finished book six of six in the 46. Ascending collection, and I’m looking up from my computer screen to see what I’ve missed. Besides disturbing current events, a good deal of housecleaning and minor ups and downs in the lives of people I’m close to, I’ve also had little contact with the thing that made we want to write in the first place — books.

The problem is, I don’t read fiction when I’m writing, and not much of it while I’m editing, so I’ve missed some great new novels and authors over the last six years. I’m also more out of date than I would like on current trends and styles in the genres I enjoy.

Back when I first published x0, I made an effort to interact online with other new authors and learned quite a bit from them. We sometimes exchanged guest posts on our blogs, and read and even reviewed each others books. It had its tricky aspects, but on the whole it was worthwhile. The best part of it was how we saw ourselves not as competitors, but as people sharing a common passion, who were helping each other succeed.

Now that I’m taking a little break from writing while my new hero and her upcoming adventures develop in my head, I’m making an effort to reach out and reacquaint myself with that concept of interaction. I’m starting off by committing to review a book a month. That’s not a lot, but I hope it will be enough to keep that outward focus alive.

Opportunities to review books are endless, so it is hard to know where to start. I  turned to Goddess Fish Promotions, the PR site that has done a fine job of handling the blog tour for my own book’s release. I picked the first book that intrigued me and signed up to do a review. The blurb says:

Klaus Werner travels to the Algerian Sahara to research a book on desert insects. He is billeted in a local monastery, but upon arrival he finds it empty of its inhabitants. He soon discovers that it is a recent crime scene.

I do love crime novels, and have a weakness for distant and remote settings. I’m sure I’ll find much to like about this book and I look forward to reading it.  Watch for my review here on February 8th.

If you are interesting in a review from me please contact me at Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com. I enjoy most speculative fiction, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to this blog’s general theme of world peace.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, children’s books, romance novels, horror, or stories which promote any particular religion. Please do not ask me to review books about BDSM, vampires or zombies.

 

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2017 in Africa, other authors, writing

 

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It’s About What You Believe

kind2I learned to love Kurt Vonnegut decades ago, based on reading only six of his earliest and most famous works. Much later, I tried to read Breakfast of Champions and couldn’t get through it. I never even tried his later novels. He’d changed. I’d changed. Or maybe, I’d just gotten from him the one message that I most needed to hear.

For all that I loved his cynicism and his humor, this one quote was it. The words have stuck with me through decades of living.

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” — God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

That’s right. All that wit and imagination of his, and this was my main take-away. I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that was disrespectful, although I think Mr. Vonnegut wouldn’t have minded a bit.

I’m attempting to summarize what I do believe in and it’s been an interesting exercise. Am I dying soon? Planing to run for public office? No, neither. I just really liked the movie “Wonder Woman” and it got me thinking.

What do I believe in so strongly that I want it to shape my behavior?

At this point, you might be concerned that too much of my personal philosophy comes from science fiction, but I’ll argue back. Stories of a speculative nature throw out a lot of societal constraints found in other frameworks, making it a fine realm in which to develop one’s code of ethics. It is absolutely where I have developed mine.

And I have the fictional Eliot Rosewater to thank for my most central belief. If I can’t be anything else, I want to be kind.

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2017 in being better, other authors

 

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“The Martian” and why do we like what we like?

oscarWhen the motion picture academy opted to nominate 8 movies for best picture a few years ago instead of five, I was delighted. I enjoy watching the lengthy spectacle every year for reasons I don’t understand, and it is always more fun if I’ve seen at least one of the movies. Or at least heard of one. Some years are better than others and often I develop a deep emotional attachment with a certain movie. Last year it was The Imitation Game, the only one I’d seen by March, but I loved it no less for its lack of competition in my mind. Okay — maybe it is not entirely healthy to get so wrapped up in which picture wins, but hey, I live in a culture where fans actually cry when their sports teams lose, so cut me some slack.

This year, I have another such favorite. Science Fiction fanatic that I am, it is not surprising that I am cheering on “The Martian”. However, I’ve seen not one but two of the movies on the list this year, and I liked the other as well. Tom Hanks’ quietly ethical insurance lawyer had me rooting for him, and left me wondering why I preferred “The Martian” to “Bridge of Spies.” It’s not a better movie really. So what gives?

marsIt’s back to the old empathy thing, I think. I don’t have a personal link with spies or lawyers or the history of the cold war, but the astronaut wannabe in me identified so much with the man left behind. I’ve lived in Houston, toured NASA, read countless things about manned missions to Mars as background for my own book d4. But it goes further than that.

I am in awe of Andy Weir, who wrote the well researched and highly accurate book about an astronaut stranded on Mars. He was a little known science fiction author, well, just like me. Word is that he got frustrated having his stories turned down by publishers, and that in 2011 he started posting chapters of “The Martian” to his website instead. How could I not love this guy? Of course I want his movie to win.

There is another odd link, one that might even be less obvious but stronger. I have used music in each of my five books, and spent a lot of time selecting the songs that my heroes would like and possibly turn to as they developed their super powers. I have this goofy attachment to all 54 songs. So I’m watching the end of “The Martian,” thankful that the author went ahead and let me have a feel good movie without the need to kill off a character or two, and then it started.

http://www.gloriagaynor.com/One of the most pivotal songs referred to in x0 is Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” I have listened to that song countless times in the past four years as I wrote, revised and blogged about my book. And there it was! Someone had the good sense to let the song run in its entirety all the through the credits and by the end I was squirming in my seat at what a perfect addition it was to the movie. In fact, I wondered why it wasn’t included in the body of the movie itself. Was it an editing choice by the director or a stipulation by the musician? Either way, the song clinched it for me. “The Martian” has got to win.

Which brings me to the topic of personal taste. My preferences are not about how well done an artistic endeavor is. I like to think that some amount of quality is needed for me to like something, but it’s more than that. It includes what I am familiar with, what I understand, and what I enjoy. I like movies about basically good people that end well. No, I didn’t enjoy the Sopranos or Breaking Bad. On the other hand, I wasn’t a huge fan of any Rocky movie and probably won’t see Creed because I also like stories about science and smart people and care very little about sports. I do like to be surprised (“Sixth Sense” was fun) but not jerked around so much I get lost. I don’t like the disgusting. You get the idea. It isn’t about quality, it’s about me. And I suspect that when you pick things you like, it’s about you.

Are you an action-loving Mad Max Fury Road type? History? Wilderness survival? Maybe you are rooting for The Revenant. I don’t think there is a right answer here. Academy members are supposed to weigh in on the objective merits, but we consumers get to like what we like. It’s an important rule for a writer to remember, when she’s on the other side and a reader is judging her creations. Take a breath. Don’t take it personally. Everyone gets to like what they like.

One thing I do like is this video of Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive” superimposed with a clips of a a graceful yet vulnerable figure skater. If you are anything like me, it will have you standing up and yelling “Yes” by the end and possibly even twirling around yourself a few times while you belt out a “I Will Survive” or two along with Gloria. It makes me think of staying alive on Mars. It makes me believe that no matter how many bad reviews I get, I will survive as a writer. It makes me feel good.

And if your not anything like me? Well, that is fine too.

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in empathy, music for peace, other authors, writing

 

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flash fiction contest with real prizes

Meet Micheal Brookes. He is the author of “The Cult of Me” and “Conversations in the Abyss” and has been featured and interviewed on my y1 blog here and also on my z2 blog here. He has started a contest for flash fiction writers on his own blog and has asked me to help spread the word. He is handing out real prizes (that is, Amazon gift cards) for those who can produce the best stories of 500 words or less based on a photo.

Interested? Click here.  If you let me know that you did, I’ll watch for your entry and give you a little extra publicity myself if you win.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in other authors

 

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Conversations in the Abyss

The book sounds every bit as cool as its title.  Please check out an interview with the author on my z2 blog at Conversations in the Abyss.

 
Comments Off on Conversations in the Abyss

Posted by on March 24, 2013 in other authors

 
 
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