Two New Book Reviews

A busy month–reading rather than writing. A collection of speculative fiction from DL Finn and book one in a trilogy from best selling author Mae Clair.

Let’s start with Finn, the first one I finished:

In the Tree's Shadow: A collection of stories that exist in your dreams… and nightmares.In the Tree’s Shadow: A collection of stories that exist in your dreams… and nightmares. by D.L. Finn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A diverse collection of 27 stories from micro and flash fiction all the way to a 12,000 word novelette. Some stories are sweet while others are more sour. Some are scarier than others. Dreams vs nightmares—obviously the latter are more likely to be on the scary side. Then there’s twists; I love twists! Easy to read a few at a time or breeze right through.

There are angels and demons—(not usually in the same story). Add in a few monsters, abusive family members and other evil people. The bad people get what they have coming, one way or another, while the virtuous ones get the rewards they have earned for good deeds or enduring suffering. For me, that’s karma.

For a fellow writer, it’s inspiring to see how some of the characters were authors whose stories came from the dreams or nightmares, as part of the storyline. Beyond that, I found the mix encouraging for choosing a diverse collection of differing length and themes in a recent book of my own. Finn’s may be better than mine. Only time will tell.

Some of my favorites in Finn’s collection: End of the Road; A Man on the Pier; The Dolphin; When the Lights Go Out; and Stranded (the novelette; the story I liked most—which added in some sci-fi). I will definitely be reading more from D.L Finn—I like her style.

Moving on, let’s take a look at my next review, Mae Clair’s book

Cusp of Night (Hode's Hill, #1)Cusp of Night by Mae Clair
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s the first book in a trilogy; I have the second loaded on my tablet. I’ll be getting to that soon and the third will follow. It’s a well-written book with well-developed characters. It covers lots of writing territory, not all of which I typically read, but I’m glad I extended myself. The Goodreads blurb lists these genres:
• Mystery
• Paranormal
• Thriller
• Suspense
• Supernatural
• Fantasy horror
• And more

The opening confused me. A woman traveling in a carriage along a street with gas-fueled lamps lighting the way on a foggy night. On April 9, 1900, Edison’s electric street lights hadn’t extended to Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania. The trip to Lady Glass, a spiritualist, didn’t end well for Charlotte Hode. A member of the family that began developing the town during the 18th century.

A few pages later, we’re in the present day–where we’re introduced to the protagonist (Maya Sinclair), a librarian from the big city who has relocated to Hode’s Hill. She rents a brownstone with much history—including a ghost. That won’t be immediately obvious, but her nightmare-disturbed sleep brings her to the problems of the ancestors of the current neighbors and townspeople. Sinclair has her own history—who came back from a brief death caused by a traffic accident. That made connections with the deceased an unwelcome experience.

There were mysterious deaths in the past—and in the present. Sinclair and the panoply of characters she interacts with eventually solve some of the unexplained issues. In the meantime, the town continues its “Fiend Fest”—the festival in which those so inclined dress up and make up in the monster’s guise that killed people long ago. Lots to explore here. If you like half of those genres, you’ll enjoy this book. Mae Clair brings them to life—and death.

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Review, The Rock of Magus: Code Red at the Vatican

The Rock of Magus (The Jotham Fletcher Mystery Thriller Series #2)The Rock of Magus by Toni Pike
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Former Anglican Rector Jotham Fletcher continues on his quest to deal with the deadly pursuits of the Brotherhood of suspected members of the Simonian Sect. After saving a televangelist whose behavior may have led the Brotherhood to suspect him, Fletcher heads to the Vatican. Shocking events happened one after another–the current Pope dying only months after taking office, a surprising choice installed to replace him and more.

It’s a page-turner, accelerating the pace as it goes along. I finished it in one day, July 9th this year.

Once again, Fletcher and his new assistant, Madena, are at risk. He avoids torture this time in the 2nd book of the series but he is still a suspect in deaths of other clerics. While I know little of the political conflicts of the Catholic church, power and corruption is the same whatever the venue and that’s what keeps things moving. You don’t need to be an insider, you just need to like mysteries, suspense and thrillers. Probably a good idea to start with the first book; if you liked that one, you’ll go for this one. Check out my review of the Magus Covenant, number one in the series. I’m in for the rest of them.

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Review of Allies and Spies by D. Wallace Peach

Allies and Spies (Unraveling the Veil Book 2)Allies and Spies by D. Wallace Peach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well worth reading, but one must keep at it–else one must go back a few pages the next time one restarts. Looking forward to the next book.

The second book in the series focuses more intently on three main characters: Alue–nominally an elf; Talin–a changeling; and Naj–a half-breed goblin/elf. Friends and enemies; trusted and detested–depending on which chapter or episode they travel through. The disparate races are evolving some of the time–especially the three.

Now and then, we get a brief time with Kalann il Drakk–First of Chaos, who lives up to his name as evil behind the scene. Is Kalann the cause of quakes, deaths and disappearance among the three races? Or is it a faction among one or more? Revealing that is left for the final book in the trilogy.

It’s challenging to keep track of who’s doing what to whom. Sometimes they’re angry with one another or causing problems with each other. Other times they’re helpful–rescuing or saving each other’s lives.

This may seem a peculiar observation about the races with varying powers and intentions in this fantasy, but the story’s conflicts among the groups reminds me of the cultural and political divides among populations in the world. While humans don’t have the characteristics of the book’s races, they certainly blame others for the problems they experience and often attempt to dominate or oppress those different from themselves and their own races or political cliques.

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Review of Wreck of the Lanternfish

Belatedly, I finally finished the third book in C.S. Boyack’s Lanternfish trilogy last month, THREE YEARS after reading the first two books in this wonderful series.

Wreck of the Lanternfish (The Lanternfish #3)Wreck of the Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been so long since reading the second book, that it took a great effort to get back into this one wrapping the saga up! Obstacles arose to get it done, which had nothing to do with the book itself. But my advice to others and a reminder to myself–no matter what, don’t leave such a gap in time between reading the next book in a series!

There are so MANY characters–a bunch who are odd in themselves and some that are decidedly paranormal–like the sentient roots (known as “modders”) in the story. Or the evil Fulminites, including monks that can explode themselves to harm others. But, if the author can keep track, it’s up to the reader to keep up.

A good, anticlimactic happy ending–earned by the protagonist along with his family friends. What else could you expect if you read the first two. Read the trilogy; it’s worth your time if you like fantasy, adventure, paranormal and humorous events. You will enjoy them all. Just don’t read this book alone; it will make little sense.

If you want to know more about the first two books in the trilogy, here are links to my reviews of the first book: The Voyage of the Lanternfish on my Views blog and the second book, H.M.S Lanternfish only on Goodreads.

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Pink Floyd–Live in 1975

The Wish You Were Here Tour!

The concert came after my first year at Georgetown Law Center. Like me, the upperclassman who led our law club (an intro to 1st year students on how to do legal research, etc.) was a big Pink Floyd fan. He got us tickets for Floyd on June 10, 1975, at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland—just outside Washington, DC. We had seats high on the sides of the arena. Of course, we were high anyway—nothing to do with the altitude, more on that later.

The staging and the props were stupendous, but we were there for the music. Like “Welcome to the Machine,” “Have a Cigar,” “Wish You Were Here,” the eponymous title of the album and the tour. The big hit, of course, beingShine On You Crazy Diamondwith its multipart instrumental and lyrical homage to Syd Barrett, cofounder of the group. Schizophrenia is difficult even without recreational drugs. The lyrics metaphorically tell the story of what the pressure of performing did to Barrett with his disabilities.

But you don’t need a glossary, do you? Floyd’s psychedelic rock melded lyrics and orchestration better than most groups then and later, too—until the usual dissension among band members (David Gilmour & Roger Waters).

I wish I had been to more Floyd shows. But now I watch and listen to the remastered 1994 PULSE live concert video on YouTube. Without continually watching the images, it’s a great impetus for writing.

It seemed essential to include the the concert episode below in Waiting for Westmoreland, the memoir of how Vietnam became the path to my enlightenment. Not that the Pink Floyd concert story contributed to enlightenment. 

Like me, my mentor smoked dope—so did a substantial majority of attendees. A smoky haze of burning marijuana hung thickly in the air. We were so stoned that the cascade of stairs seemed perilously steep. I hadn’t suffered such spatial distortion since my first time smoking dope in Vietnam. The people nearer the floor appeared the size of ants. The way some of  them scurried around on unseen trails, they might well have been ants. I stayed put, avoiding the challenging descent until the concert’s conclusion. Finding the right seat was itself a challenge for some and a memorable part of the evening.

“Can I see your ticket please?” the usher, with four other concertgoers in tow, asked the first person in my row.

“Huh?”

“Can I see your ticket please?” he asked again.

“Huh?”

“Can I see your ticket, please?”

“Oh, my ticket. Uh, yeah, here.” The first guy finally put it together.

“You belong in the next section, over there,” said the usher, pointing across the aisle.

“Uh, Ok.”

“Can I see your ticket please?” the usher asked the second guy in the row.

“Huh?”

“Can I see your ticket, please?”

“Huh?”

“Can I see your ticket, please?”

“Oh, yeah, my ticket. Uh here.” The second guy got it together.

“You belong in the next section, over there.” Said the usher, pointing again across the aisle.

“Can I see your ticket, please?” the usher asked the third guy.

We couldn’t take it anymore and fell out laughing, so I didn’t hear the rest of this scene. Eventually, the patiently insistent usher penetrated the hemp-induced brain-fog of the foursome next to us, replacing them with some slightly less stoned folks.

NOTEs: Five years after the Floyd show, I gave up the weed for thirty years-we had plans for kids coming soon. I tried it again a few times, but it’s too strong now, especially since it has become legal–DAMN! While in law school, I did go to parties with fellow tokers–including the valedictorian from another local DC area law school. There are appellate court judges who smoked it then. Maybe they still do.

BTW: I got my JD from Georgetown in 1977 and passed the bar that year, on the first time.

A Shakespearean Repost

Shakespeare’s Sleep–Elusive for Some

That was a post title from December 2016. Somehow, it sprouted amidst related posts, it seems. Must be time to repost it to new (one could hope) readers–slightly revised.

He died at 52–probably a long life in the 16th century. Still, I must suppose that had Shakespeare lived another 15 years he might have worded these lines from Hamlet a little differently:

“To sleep, perchance to dream.”

Seriously, for most guys over 60 or certainly 65, it’s more like,

To sleep, perchance to pee.

More than once, most nights.

Dreams are fine–entertaining in their way at times. Consider the utility of Macbeth’s sleep:

Knit up the raveled sleave of care” or be “the balm of hurt minds.

But only if it persisted, steadily on course to morning, rather than being somnum interruptus. Just the other night I skipped the ice cream during TV watching. (Dairy products do their magic on the bladder). Only got up twice, nonetheless. Unfortunately, the 2nd came at 5:45. Not so early, but then I retired at 11:30 and didn’t immediately enter into dreamland. I used to get by on 6 1/2 hours of sleep back in the working years–fewer in college. Now the shortfall in

Great nature’s second course,

leaves cobwebs in the brain. Perhaps a spider or two, crawling the interior of the cranium right where attention stops short of being fully paid.

Why isn’t the coffee done yet? Oh, didn’t turn on the #*x$#$% machine. Thankfully, exercise and a shower cleared the head that spent less than its essential time in bed. I determined to be more productive the next day. Clean up for company coming on Thanksgiving, work on the websites, etc. The next night, I hoped, would be the

Chief nourisher in life’s feast,

that along with the turkey.

 

My Review of Wings of Mayhem

Wings of Mayhem (The Mayhem Series, #1)Wings of Mayhem by Sue Coletta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first book by Sue Coletta that I’ve read. Used to see a lot of her on Google + (I miss that app).

If you liked the Criminal Minds TV show, you’ll like this novel. Well, to be fair, it’s not simply about the brutal nature of the killings nor finding the killer. The author reveals him early on. The police are after the unknown serial killer, but that’s not the dominant part of the story. It’s like this, the protagonist works as a consultant for a police department by day and a cat burglar by night.

She and the killer soon begin a very dangerous interaction. That’s what keeps the story going—her risk of becoming a victim of a man who kills people slowly and displays them for the world to see in public places.

Despite the gore, there is some humor and nascent romance complicated by her role working for the police, some of whom may believe she’s involved with the deaths. Lots of twists, some surprises and only a few red herrings.

The only pause from giving a fifth star in this review is some implausibility I find with elements of the story. I won’t go into them because that would entail spoilers. That won’t keep me from reading more novels in the Mayhem series–which I do plan on doing.

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A Noiseless Patient Spider, wrote Whitman

Whitman’s 19th century poem reads like this:

A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them — ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, — seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d — till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul

In my alter ego as the spider whisperer, I gently collect those who find their way indoors and let them out with a message they may not understand—”have a nice day”. More patient some may be than others of their ilk, meandering about my hand or clinging to the tissue that holds them softly.

As for those along the way my dog and I walk, they are never to be seen. Silk runs from one rock or weed to another, inches from the ground. Is it intentional, leaving the trail to remind themselves where they have been or how to get where they’re going? Perhaps it’s a leaky spinneret that leaves web material as the arachnid moves hither and yon. Not for me to say.

As for my own soul, it’s more impatient than serene. Persistent though, I am—continually searching for those connections with prospective readers of the words I assemble in blog posts and stories. Networking, promotions and responding to others like me—that’s a less than well spun web. What might have Whitman made of the tools our 21st century writers use? The writing is coming now, better than ever before; the web spinning will progress from my soul too. All in good time.

 

Third Review of Jumped by a Deadly Cholla

I am gratified to share a new review on Amazon, 4.0 out of 5 stars, posted by published author Pete Springer. Here’s what Pete had to say: 

Speculative fiction is not a genre I typically read, but I decided to give this book of short stories a go. Undoubtedly, author John Maberry enjoys taking elements of the modern world and incorporating them into his science fiction tales. His playful sense of humor comes through in many ways.

There are eleven stories of varying lengths that make up this collection. One story, Dog is My Copilot, encompasses half of the book. Be prepared to follow some young people on their werewolves’ adventures. Like humans, we learn that some are good with ethical boundaries, and others can’t control themselves.

I’ll highlight the three short stories that I found the most appealing:
1. Fencing the Sky—A shady entrepreneur comes up with a moneymaking idea to start the aptly named company, BS Fencing, to fleece others out of their money by selling unrestricted fencing rights of the big sky over their ranches for the “bargain” price of $25 per month.
2. The Wishing Bell—A mysterious wishing bell is passed on from one bar patron to another with a three-wish limit and the warning that no wishes can be unrung. After the first wish goes horribly, Jim must find a way to make the following wishes work to his advantage.
3. Jumped by A Deadly Cholla—An amateur photographer, Lois, is looking for the perfect photograph. Unfortunately, she gets too close to the deadly cholla and is injected with their painful needles. What ensues is that the living spores begin to attack her body as she works with her doctor to try and save herself. Which side will win?

Those who want something out of the ordinary and enjoy science fiction likely will enjoy this eclectic collection.

Check out Pete’s blog, tagline: Passionate Teacher and Future Children’s Author

Buy the book on Amazon or check out this preview.

Waters of Life Flow Within

Yes, it IS another mashup; do you like them? 

Snippets of time, places, people and events juxtaposed.

Either you like the Talking Heads or you don’t (the song is “Once in a Lifetime”). Maybe waterfalls? Dune? Traveling the US?

Same as before, but my water of life needed more than a Kwisatz Haderach could give. Searching for answers. Nearing age 30–with two former wives.

Minnehaha Falls laughed.

Cracks in self-confidence were widening after Liz left. I thought a path would appear once I learned enough. It hadn’t. Couldn’t blame Liz after five years of indecision. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The over-examined one is very frustrating.

Falling Water—loved it but wouldn’t want to live there—even if Frank Lloyd Wright built it.

Amidst the dull peoplescape of the party, Lisa sparkled like a mirrored ball above a dance floor. Who is that person? Why is she so alive, so different from the rest? So I asked her. “I’m a Buddhist. I chant,” she said. Words I’d heard once, two years before—out of mind but not forgotten. She wound up in my lap, where we blissfully exchanged kisses, heedless of others. Eventually, she stood up to go.

Blitzed, I said, “I’ll remember your number,” repeating it several times.

“I’ll remember your kisses,” she replied, with a blissful smile promising more.

I called her the next day. I had to know more—and how I could get the zest for life she had. She gave me a thick book and took me to meetings.

We were on the phone at all hours—day or night. I wanted it all—her mind, her power, discipline and self-control. I wanted her body too, but I couldn’t have it. She was trying to remain objective about whether she’d be marrying this other guy. That didn’t keep us from getting very intense. Like her unexpectedly spending the night.

Liz and I still talked. I visited her in an apartment miles away. While there, in a bedroom voice, she called a guy. For my benefit? My heart bled on the 30-minute drive home but I got over it. She called me for rides. Were we still friends or was she was using me? I didn’t care. We spent one night spooning naked after she had had an abortion.

Journal notes  3/2/77—What a curious state of affairs; I love two women yet may have sex with neither! But I’ll settle for two birds in the bush in the absence of one in the hand.

And—It is truly exhilarating to perceive the prospect of finally leaving the postgraduate womb and entering the world. A rite of passage nears. It inducts the spirit of joy into the coming challenge. Change will be abounding; in change there is growth.

On March 31, Lisa and I stopped for drinks at Coco’s, an Arlington bar. The next night, I went with Liz to a Fools’ Party. How apropos. There were no singles at the party. It was all couples, whose common thread was wives working at the same place as Liz. While there, Liz made a remark of some sort to which I jokingly said, “You can be replaced.”

“I already have, by Lisa,” she retorted—she knew about her.

The following night, as typical as it had become, Lisa called me at 1:30 a.m. We stayed on the phone until 3:30.

Waters of life flow within.

In between time spent on Lisa and Liz, school, clerking 20 hours a week at the law firm and odd hours devoted to sleep, I continued going to Buddhist meetings. Toward the end of law school, Liz and I saw a movie.

Liz insisted on attending my graduation. She did, after all, work at a shitty job during my first two years of law school. Afterwards, we had a relaxed dinner at the Magic Pan Créperie, reprising the ending scene from Annie Hall. As Diane Keaton [Annie Hall] departs, Woody Allen so oddly but aptly concludes with, “Guy goes in to see his psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.’

‘Why don’t you turn him in?’ The psychiatrist asks.

‘I would, but we need the eggs.’ I guess that’s pretty much how I feel about relationships—they’re totally irrational and absurd, but we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.”

Water flows below ground, like the spring fed Cedar Lake in Minneapolis where Jill and I went six years before—the cold water upwelling if you swam over it. Similar, but not like life’s water within.

Soon, Liz and Lisa were gone. A break from serious relationships was past due. I had been chasing intimacy as a substitute for happiness through someone else. I had been worshipping the womb, insistent on a communion of souls through the offerings I left there. I needed to find happiness first within myself.

In the summer of 1977, I went looking for the social life I had never had. In 15-months, I went out with more people than I ever had before. Mostly fellow members. Strong, self-assured vital women. Like fish, they needed no bicycles. I went to bed with none of them. I enjoyed conversation and company for a while, calibrating my interpersonal sensor for the future.

At a Halloween party in 1978, the sensor went off. I had known my future third wife for over a year. An attractive woman, trim at 5’6”, with relaxed hair falling around her café au lait face. Not among those I had casually dated. Now we hit it off dancing. I came dressed in a caftan, carrying a staff. I was Gully Foyle, from The Stars My Destination, with his Maori tiger-face painted on mine, NOMAD and all. She was a silver-skinned alien of uncertain origin. No lap, as with Lisa, just bliss.

The next time, we had just returned from a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We smoked a little dope at a gathering of friends. That led inevitably to the munchies and then the cheap wine.

“Whoa, man, skip me on this round,” I said to the proffered produce. “I’m green enough already.” She was warmly sympathetic, compassionately comforting me in my discomfited state.

“That’s OK, John, just sit back and relax for a few minutes,” she said, stroking my cheek. “Do you want some Alka Seltzer or Mylanta?”

“Nah. I just need to sit still for a little while.”

“All right.”

Nobody had been so felicitous to me in a long time. Maybe she cares about me. It had to be time to go for the eggs—she even liked SF! Soon enough we were an item, going together to one party or another.

Caught in Anita Baker’s rapture of love? Yes and no. Same as it ever was? No. The water flowed above the ground. Then I told her father we wanted to get married. Told you that story already.

Niagara Falls, Maid in the Mist. Blackwater Falls, West Virginia. We like falls. Trails in the woods. Sci-fi. Trains.

The kayaker paddled silently in the still waters of St. Mary’s Lake, Glacier National Park, leaving a widening wake behind him.

Her words and phrases start stories or scene snippets. She is my muse. She is my beautiful wife who lives with me in a beautiful house. A house that comes from causes made in decades past. The third time is the charm in this lifetime.