The Secret Sex Life of Angels- I.J. Weinstock

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The book deserves five stars, for being well written and entertaining. For those that need plot, this one is weak. The underlying reason for writing seems to be, at least partially, to do with selling a life-style, but one that isn’t close to any I can appreciate. I’m not a natural enthusiast for belief systems that put sexual love at the centre of life. So that you understand my own narrow views, to then be free to dismiss my words, I believe Freud was a fraud. Certainly, sex can be an obsession but it’s not ‘the fundamental’ building block of fulfilment and happiness and success. But sex is the essential, I hear you say. Well, yes, in a way, a vital ingredient. So, read the book.

Sex is certainly a more than significant line in some recent American presidential administrations. That is difficult to deny, when at least two modern presidents have been defined as much by their sexual antics as their policies. But could a tantric witch-doctor get so close to the president without them, or something, seeping out into the public domain?

I read of no angels, either mythical, spiritual, or even in the widest interpretation of the word. The title is certainly misleading. I was misled, expecting at least a dusting of an angelic rather than just tantric reading. The sex was as slow, and mentally dominating, as tantric implies, which was certainly a key point of the book—so, cleverly demonstrated. One aspect that the story did get so very correct, was the devastating effect of rape, the very antithesis of sexual love. And yes, a deep understanding of mental damage that it can do, and the psychological ways out, are very important. It is bad sex, not good, which really affects the course of the world.

As I said, plot is not the strength of this book, though there is fantastic potential in the ideas that the ‘mystics’ suddenly see no future. Why wasn’t the theme developed?

We hardly get any useful ideas about what makes the world tick. But, the book does tell a few home truths about sexual consciousness, which will entertain most adult minds. Cerebral content, as expected from this author, but rather more about the brain in the human phallus than the sexual lives of angels. And precious little is said about the possible real lives of earthbound movers and shakers in high political office, even though the main character is a new president of the United States.

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Dark Web Rising- Eugene T Schurter

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I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, about young adults set in a world of internet espionage, hacking and quasi-legal government institutions. The young computer wizard that out hacks a ‘governmental’ hacker and then gets chased across the United States, only to be hidden by big business good guys, sounds a little trite. In fact, the story works well, and is very entertaining. I’m sure the author wrote this with younger readers in mind, but this sixty-year-old thoroughly enjoyed it. This would work well as a family entertainment film script.
The story is well written, though because I had slightly negative expectations it did take me a few chapters to get into it. Once I was on-board, I was hooked, and only too keen to find out how the story would be resolved. The plot is stretched beyond the credible in parts, rather overblowing both the ability of the young to be truly independent, and of the ability of even a young computer savant to be quite so talented. But then this is entertainment, in the best traditions of YA writing. This plot, about the youth that outwits the power of out of control secret forces within the state, is well written, and because of that, almost believable. There were rather too many typos in the Kindle version I read, but I’m sure they will be corrected at some stage. The subject matter is a little nerdy, but the adventure certainly isn’t. Being interested in coding and computer technologies certainly isn’t a requirement, especially as the plot is set a little in the future, looking at technological capabilities that are not yet quite here.
www.amazon.com/Dark-Web-Rising-Eugene-Schurter-ebook/dp/B01DGW15P2

Christiana of Chibok- David Damey

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I enjoyed this high adrenalin short story, and yes there is no crime in that, but don’t ever forget to reflect on the truths told by fiction. That the subject matter uses the backdrop of the real story of the 276 abducted, imprisoned and abused girls, taken from their secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, makes it deeply poignant.
I have no idea if any of the story is based on detailed fact, but am sure that all of it has been experienced in individual realities. That it represents well enough the actual conditions faced by the girls is evident enough from the reports that have seeped out. A number of these women, for that is what cruel life quickly made them, have got back to their homes, each, hopefully, to eventually find the strength to report their own harrowing experiences. However, as I write in October 2016 we hear that about 200 of the original group are still missing, as they have been for the last two and a half years.
I would like to think that this well written, powerful, drama, helps to raise the conscious of the world, though little seems too move governments to action unless there’s some promise of gaining political or economic influence. As a reader I assume that this Christiana is a fiction, though at least one girl of that name was taken. I hope all readers use the story as a spring-board towards finding out more, and then helping spread the word. Too few are doing enough to end the victims’ nightmare.
The writing is very exciting, and should be a disturbing, read for all of us that sleep comfortably at night. The action is centred on the bravery in one girl’s struggle to survive. Let all the screams be heard.
www.amazon.com/Christiana-Chibok-David-Damey-ebook/dp/B01LXTOQXF/

 

These Thy Gifts- Vincent Panettiere

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This is a very well written book in which the author uses a fictional story to emphasise the real need for serious cultural changes, and ideally doctrinal ones, in the Catholic Church. These may or may not be genuinely in progress, but we can’t doubt that many ordinary Catholics are doing their level best to see that the good practices prevail. Other religions and institutions of many sorts have been exposed for similar evils, but the unnatural sexual denial demanded of the Catholic priests actually makes that church a particularly easy hunting ground for the paedophile, misogynist, and cruel manipulator of the weak. The churches should be the greatest bastions against evil, but they actually only shield these crimes and far too often. The secrecy of the hierarchy and lack of accountability in that church have also made it vulnerable to penetration by big crime operations, especially financial ones. The historic evils of the ‘European Churches’ are well documented and, as that history recedes into the mists of time, they can be easily forgiven. But that so many of these practices endure to this very day, can’t.
Panettiere looks beyond the sacrament, the alter rails, the impenetrable walls of the established Catholic Church. It is undeniable that the Church, worldwide, has continued to act as a law unto itself, rather than before God; and worse, as a corrupt hierarchical institution that protects its own while claiming to be protecting the trust of the congregation, It habitually glosses over problems rather than cures them. Panettiere looks at the Catholic Church in the United States, though actually the setting could be almost anywhere that the Pope has significant flocks.
We follow the story of an American priest of Italian descent who is everything a priest should be. One that despite not being truly chaste, so having to live with his own crippling ‘sins’, eventually exposes some rotten apples. Actually, it is the propaganda that any but the most unusual of individuals can be entirely inactive sexually that has got the church into such hideous problems. But enough of that, that is my bias declared, a bias that greatly oversimplifies Panettiere’s generally well-measured ‘observations’ in this story.
Names, places, characters, and details vary immensely in real life, but the fictional characters’ behaviours have all been commonplace. Paedophilia, alcoholism, aggrandisement, and financial and ‘political’ corruptions are certainly far from unique sins of the Catholic church, but they are made all the worse by the fact that the Church pretends to be sitting closer to God, high above the sins of ordinary men.
The majority of honest men, and still only men, in the high places in that church, are silenced by the control exercised on their careers, by lies and deceit, and even in the extreme through fear for their very survival. Even the worst depiction of man in this fiction, the coward at war, the priest that enjoys the ministry of prostitutes, the filth that seeks his own advancement at every opportunity, all aspects of the ghastly Dykes, is all protected by the hierarchy, which he in turn becomes a key part of. He may be an extreme, but his parallel is far from unknown in real life. This fictional deviant was only too happy to help hide the legions of paedophilic priests, so helping obscure his own sins. But that is enough for plot giveaways. For more, buy and read this really necessary, psychologically revealing, fiction.
At times some of the support characters rather melted together in my mind. Perhaps, because I was unable to sustain much continuity in my reading. I enjoyed the book immensely despite that. In truth, only half a dozen characters needed to be clearly distinguished for the book to be fully appreciated. It isn’t necessary to follow every path and absorb all the chronology to fully enjoy reading ‘These Thy Gifts’. This isn’t some corny crime write that depends on some ridiculous clue buried deep on page two hundred and thirty-two.
Sometimes good fiction can be used to explore sensitive issues in a far deeper psychological way than can cold hard reality. Voices in the real world are so often blurred and rendered weak by lies, deception, obfuscation, deception and fear of legal challenge. Fiction is free to penetrate deep into the ‘engineering’ of observed truths. Panettiere outlines this terrible modern history, quite brilliantly. He lays bare the cracks in a one thousand, if not truly two thousand, year old system of unaccountable leadership. Unaccountable to either distant God or downtrodden people, so to most men and nearly all women. Perhaps someone should write a fiction in which the Catholic Church is saved by the nun that becomes a pope. Man, as the Church, may not like that, but I’m happy to risk my soul by saying that God would be delighted.
www.amazon.com/These-Thy-Gifts-Vincent-Panettiere-ebook/dp/B01L0CQTJ2

 

The Lives and the Times- Amit Verma

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First, please don’t be put off by some rather dubious reviews. Authors have no say over who reviews their work, whether they wish to flatter with stars or trash with their absence. I took the trouble to make contact and ask the author about what had happened. He had a book signing event on his own academic institutions campus. We can’t control our popularity. I admire Verma’s honesty, especially in this world where the honest authors have to compete against an overwhelming pile of deceit in the book marketing business. Some or all of these over egging reviews may not be on other popular reviewing sites, in which case this opening paragraph is of only obscure relevance. (I read on Amazon.com)
This book is written with a very Indian voice, with a common rhythm of English spoken on the sub-continent. That style is exactly right for the book, however, a good edit to internationalise the sentence structure, and improve some word choices, is needed. There are also grammatical errors that distract from the flow.
I would have preferred a title along the lines of ‘June’s Dream’. The prologue to the book seems to be misplaced. In my opinion, it adds nothing to the later folds of the story.
I actually loved reading this book, feeling drawn to look at a class-based mind-set, a detachment from the less fortunate masses that pervades on the Indian sub-continent. I felt the harshness, the magic, the dust, the rural backwardness and the strange mix of modern and ancient that I associate with India. The bizarre dream of June allows for the development of so many elements of life, for some penetration satire, and for the surrealism that invades some many of our dreams. I sensed the deep frustrations that pervades those attempting to turn India into the truly modern country it should already be, but for the failures to unlock its potential. The story, the dream, breaths the rhythms of a billion people from a host of interlocking, connected but independently acting cultures, that generally put their own needs before those of the greater society. The biggest democracy in the world needs to be what on paper it should have rapidly become after 1947, a date which is already a long-lifetime in the past. Verma is an accomplished writer with a great story, but one rather let down by poor execution. I don’t know who edited the book, but I do know that they’ve done the author less than justice. Verma’s satirical humour is deserving of much better presentation.
www.amazon.com/Lives-Times-Amit-Verma-ebook/dp/B007PSPUPU

Dead Down East- Carl Schmidt

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The main character of this book is private-eye Jessie Thorpe, and a relatively believable one when compared to so many private sleuths from fiction. This the first in Schmidt’s proposed series of books, is unsurprisingly based on one of Jessie’s first cases, and certainly his first murder. Jessie is a bit of a middle-class smart arse, who at the start of the book has had an interesting life but perhaps not achieved a great deal. Jesse has many skills, as a guitarist in a group, an odd job carpenter and now as a gumshoe. He is also toying with the idea of writing. Quite a lot of him is quite possibly a younger version of Carl Schmidt the author.
The book runs on a fuel of wry-witted observations from Jesse. The voice is very much confident middle-class, white, American. Jesse is definitely macho, but far from Rambo, relying on the ability to disarm with words rather than violence. Jesse has a firearm but not one that is habitually to hand. His so far unused shooter has been given the name of an ex-girlfriend. The feminisation is presumably supported, though it wasn’t instigated by him, through seeing Rhonda as a dissipater of threats rather than a projector of them. Rhonda is carried to give a bit of Dutch courage when felt necessary, and hopefully discourage harmful activity from the psychologically less restrained. Courage without gin, that is. Jessie would never drive inebriated unless absolutely unavoidable. Hopefully Jesse won’t become just another fictional private-eye happy to spray lead first and follow leads second.
The actual murder mystery is inventive, solved with mathematical logic and, it has to be said more than a reasonably likely quotient of good luck. Isn’t that nearly always the case in real life? If there is one thing we can say is generic to police everywhere, it is that why often make good traffic cops but generally hopeless detectives. It seems the cops of Maine are, at least in this story, little different.
I feared for a moment as the story veered in the direction of psychic practitioners. I can’t deny I was relieved that the case was solved in a sensibly scientific way. I notice that book two in the series is out, ‘A Priestly Affair’, and hope that it displays a normal range of modern detective skills to achieve what I assume will be another PI success.
The murder mystery, at least in this first book, was more of an anchor around which to build interesting back story and a range of secondary characters than the be all of the read. The book would have worked equally well without any murder at all. The fun here is in what is happening outside the mechanics of case solving. This isn’t much of an intense thriller, being more about the drama that flows around the murder. If I may borrow images from film/TV, this is more James Garner as Jim Rockford than Bruce Willis as John McClane. Actually, Jesse Thorpe mysteries would adapt perfectly to the TV series format. The book opens with reflections on modern classics in book and film, as Jesse and a fishing buddy with an academic background actually fish on ‘Golden Pond’.
The writing itself is good, especially where Schmidt allows space for idle chat and scene setting, rather than to the intricate plays of the case. I like reading modern fiction that doesn’t suffer the James Patterson disease of needing a spectacular at the end of each chapter. Yes, there is interest to keep the reading flowing, without a felt requirement for thirty world ending events. We get just enough of the landscape in the authors mind to build our own real feeling interpretations, to visually create our imagined or recall the real backdrop, of the State of Maine. I had no trouble feeling that I was visiting the murder scene.
Schmidt is yet another in the band of independent authors who write as well as, and better than some, lauded authors, but most of whom will never get the lucky, or ‘contacts’ enabled, breaks. For those that like reading good books from good writers rather than just good books by the fashionable few in the front shelves of book stores, I have no reservations about recommending this author. And of course, I hope Schmidt bucks overwhelming statistics to become a fiction writing success.
www.amazon.com/Dead-Down-Jesse-Thorpe-Mysteries/dp/1533502188

In the Garden of Weeia-Elle Boca

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This is a light weight novella, which I think is aimed primarily at secondary school level. That doesn’t mean that adults that enjoy Hogwarts and Narnia won’t enjoy reading about Weeia. The lively little story kept me well entertained, though this sort of fantasy is no longer exactly my thing. I would have been a very enthusiastic reader it my early teens.
There is certainly some originality in Boca’s characters and at least in this book their superpowers are kept almost in the bounds of the possible. That was perhaps why Boca suggested that if I really was going to get off my backside to buy and read any of her already well reviewed books I might be best starting with this one. By the end, I was left wanting to know a great deal more about the only stone-cold character. Perhaps in a next in series the minerals of that magnetic personality softens. We seem to be in an almost contemporary fantasy world, as is Harry Potter, Ernie could pop around to see you the reader. However, Boca has developed her own mythology to weave her stories into rather than merely reinterpreting well-worn fantasy ‘lore’.
The book is well enough written, into a quickly paced short read. There are editing errors, as there nearly always are, but not enough to agitate even my glacially slow reading rhythm, which is inclined to pause on every other word. What a relief to find a real series that isn’t fixated on the ‘undead’ of some sort or other.
I won’t ever be in the Boca fan club, but I do like her parallel race idea, which though certainly not original is developed in an original way. For some strange reason I was reminder of a 1968 TV series about ‘humans’ given superpowers: The Champions. Um- there is no real connection to Boca’s urban fantasy- unless the Champions were helped from their crashing plane by Unelmoija (Dreamer). Except that perhaps there is, because both that half-forgotten TV series and this book worked by keeping a close contact with real, every day, life. It is the very ordinariness of the characters that make some fantasies work.

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Love’s Long Road- G. D. Harper

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The plot is set in the second half of the 1970s and is so well researched and or remembered, that it gave a really genuine feeling of realism to me, one who lived through this period and even visited some of its chosen physical spaces at a close chronological age to the main character. I short, this was read by me as accurate real-life fiction. Before reviewing I took the trouble to ask the author if he/she is a contemporary of that period. I got no answer, but I was informed that the book is ‘only’ fiction.
I am surprised by a number of negative reviews I’ve read about this book. We all have our very individual and subjective opinions. Mine is that this is an excellent read. It is very journalistic in style, deeply psychological, and is as profoundly revealing of the main character in as much that isn’t said as is. This is really strong first person writing. What are any of us prepared to reveal of ourselves, of our strongest, often unflattering, behaviours? The mixed vulnerabilities and strengths of Bobbie were totally believable to me. One of the best drawn characters was only a ghost behind the story, until the very last pages, that being the father of an early tragic boyfriend of Bobbie’s.
For me, the book is all the better as contemporary dramatic fiction for having a strong social message. In the end, it is a book of hope, harsh, brutal, real-life hope, but hope none the less. Unlike some reviewers I see this as a profoundly moral book, a morality drawn as much from the gutters of British life as from its more wholesome features.
It is my belief that this book deserves readers and perhaps especially ones that believe they have no dirt in their own souls. This book seems to hurt a range of readers. That suggests to me that Harper has hit some very rusty old nails right on the head. Please don’t leave it too long before you get your hammer out again, G.D. Harper, whoever you are.

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Inevitable Ascension- V. K. McAlister

Inevitable Ascension

This book is video game fast, with video game deaths and outlandish main actors’ superpowers. For me, there is far too much action and far too little story. However, I am not an intended reader; of that I’m certain. This is millennial generation writing with the modern addiction for frenetic virtual reality action. Of its sort, the writing is very good.
Some reviewers have made a lot of its religious content. Sorry, but I’d didn’t really get that at all. I read purely traditional dystopia with a few biblical names. For me, the kick-arse female, with physical superpowers is all a bit passé, as I’m sure is the feeling of increasing numbers across all post teenage generations. Why do futuristic women have to eat testosterone bars? The steampunk I loved, despite its erratic appearance. I wouldn’t have known that the book had two writers, except for a couple of apparent continuity slips and rather inconsistent standards of grammar. The time travel elements were clever, always reappearing in the anything but Abrahamic time lapse Eden.
I’m sure this book will appeal to many of the video games generation. But it isn’t for lovers of character development and crafted language even in that category. Until it all gets much too fast and overcomplicated towards the end I enjoyed it. The first few chapters are particularly good. I don’t recall any sex or romance whatsoever, except what I thought was being implied between the two main characters. The bits of the book that lean towards comedy are by far the best. They at least allow the reader to relax once in a rare while. Perhaps sci-fi/fantasy comedy is the direction best suited to this writing team.
I don’t hesitate in giving this book five stars, because though it is definitely not for me I know it will draw many fans. This is video in words.

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The Marijuana Project- Brian Laslow

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The book is reported as fact based fiction. Americans will understand better than me the balance of truth and augmentation. However, the writing certainly comes across as highly informed. The Project starts with a good use of flash-forward prologue, but be warned, it is really only at the very end that this intensity of action is picked up again. But yes, there are thriller genre elements that touch this story, lots actually, although much is alluded to as possible or likely rather than shown.
The story is compulsive rather than gripping. What we really have here is an in-depth dissection of one man’s ethical morality. Sam is a very conservative ex-military prototype; working in the cutting edge of modern technology as an expert on all types of security protocols and their technical and physical implementation. The character is a family man with strong conservative Christian values that are as more white middle-class cultural than definitively religious.
Sam is driven to go against his cherished principles by taking on a client that is growing and trading medical grades of marijuana. He struggles with his conscience believes the mantra that soft drugs lead to hard ones and then quite possible the subsequent fall of society. Yet, financial greed, his passion for security and a ‘realisation’ that it is better to guard a drug factory, securing the substance, rather than let crime elements get control, allow him to embrace the job.
The book is very topical, but it isn’t really about the drug at all, rather the conscience processes of one middle aged man facing an ethical dilemma. For a time, his values look to be in danger of submergence in the process by greater issues. Sam remains variably conflicted to the end, with certain family and friendship problems regularly intruding into his purely business life. An equally good story could have been written about the ethics and security issues of banking, or alcohol production, or even the business of prostitution. Marijuana is merely the theme.
The process of securing the factory, comes to be explored in very great detail, yet always as a reader I felt detached from Sam. While the characters around him are made of consistent stuff, Sam isn’t. Too often I was left thinking that Sam just wouldn’t have done that. As such, it was hard to empathise with him. I may have had more of an affinity if the book had been written in the first person, allowing me to see through him. I felt that Sam was being manipulated to fit a security plot rather than a plot being weaved around his character. His picture needed constant readjustment, in order for me to get up to ‘speed’. Or should that be up to ‘weed’. A lot less detail and a bit more intrigue would also have helped. The interesting subject of controlling drug use among vehicle drivers comes up obliquely, adding some needed bite to Sam’s sometimes rather wishy-washy moral seesaw.
This is a very interesting book, looking at the working of industrial security through one presumably mostly fictional studying. We are concerned with one factory producing medical grades of marijuana for an inconsistently regulated, and very poorly understood market. I’m very pleased I read it. This is well crafted entertainment, that puts every dot and dash of real-life security issues in a fictional account. However, I have to say that the story is not at all what the title and early content led me to believe I might read. Both the real groups, those that always oppose recreational drug usage and those that consume recreational drugs, may be disappointed by the books content. That’s a pity, because this is a very interesting, very detailed, account, which works bit by detailed bit into convincing psychological drama. This is a compelling and provoking dissection of one man’s personality, inconsistencies granted. And yes, there are exciting, even climactic, moments.

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