Alvar’s Spear, Charles Freedom Long

Alvar’s Spear, Charles Freedom Long

Alvar’s Spear

Gar is a respected scientist on the Antal homeworld of Alvar, despite his status as a despised goldeneye. Favoured by Queen Hakan and working in an area of genetics dear to the silvereye ruling class, he is protected from much of the class hatred festering in the Antal race. However, underneath the veneer of the respected and respectable geneticist lies the leader of a revolution; a leader on a deadline to prevent the eradication of his entire race at the goddess Alvar’s hands. The Antal hive has become contaminated and stagnant, and to survive, they must change or die.

Alvar’s Spear is a powerful story of revolution, love, and acceptance, weaving themes that will resonate with every reader into its plot. The book is replete with conflicts, driving the story forwards: between the goddess Alvar and the direction of her people; between the factions of Antal society; and not least between Gar and the eminent Terran geneticist whose help he must have to save his race. Author Charles Freedom Long’s personification of elements of nature and of the world of Alvar itself is an intriguing way of integrating the wild environment, and it contrasts sharply with the protocol-bound Antal society living in isolation from the world it inhabits. In many ways, understated as it is, the theme of the walls that people build between themselves and other people and things is in some ways the most powerful single element of the book. Like its predecessor, Dancing with the Dead, Alvar’s Spear is a book guaranteed to make you think, layered with concepts to uncover.

Appointment with ISIL, Joe Giordano

Appointment with ISIL, Joe Giordano

Appointment with ISIL: an Anthony Provati thriller

Anthony Provati is a nephew of the Mafia. He’s also in denial, running an art gallery and playing piano gigs, until he decides to get involved with the beautiful girlfriend of a Russian mobster, which minor error of judgement narrows his choices down to going to the cops or going to his Uncle Frank. With his illicit girlfriend pushing him to shoot the head of the Russian mob, his cop friend in deep trouble of his own, and the FBI treating the entire affair as a joke, Anthony’s time to figure his way out of the mess he got himself into may be running short.

One of the strong points for me in Appointment with ISIL was its multinational backdrop; the series of countries through which Anthony’s misadventures take him add colour to the plot, and Anthony’s companion on his travels is the character with debatably the most depth in the book: Basso, Uncle Frank’s personal bodyguard. Basso’s quirks, his love of food, and his taste in T-shirts add layers of interest to him that are to some extent missing from many of the other characters.

This story is definitely one of those thrillers that rewards some patience, as it takes a while to get started. The first chapter follows the story of an American woman who decides to take a jaunt into the warzone at Fallujah and unsurprisingly nearly gets herself and everyone with her killed, before the book refocuses on the actual protagonist, Anthony Provati. Anthony has an unfortunate habit of making dumb decisions, but his saving grace is knowing the right people; in this case, an improbable alliance of the New York Mob, the FBI, Mossad, and a few independent agents. Getting these varied teams to fall into line was well-handled in the plot, as the author managed it without ascending to the level of coincidences that would have strained my ability to suspend my disbelief.

Reviewed pre-release

Forgotten, Neven Carr

Forgotten, Neven Carr

Forgotten

Neven Carr’s Forgotten offers a thrilling mystery approached from two very different viewpoints:  one that of Claudia Cabriati, a young teacher on Australia’s Sunshine Coast with odd gaps in her memory and an unshakeable certainty that she’s being watched, and the other from an underground investigator and troubleshooter, Saul Reardon. Saul is investigating an odd chain of murders that have no apparent links, and a cryptic telephone recording involving a prominent federal senator that mentions a woman named Claudia Cabriati. Saul is known for providing the kind of help to those in need that the law isn’t always capable of, and when Claudia’s fiancé is ritually murdered in their home, some of Claudia’s friends think that Saul’s kind of help may be exactly what Claudia needs…

Forgotten is a great read, the kind of mystery-thriller with more twists than a rollercoaster. From car chases to crooked politicians to Saul’s mysterious past, this book keeps you guessing all the way through, and the immediate, white-hot chemistry between Claudia and Saul is well-done without claiming the spotlight from the main storyline. The characters are expertly developed, each demanding your curiosity and bringing their own personalities, pasts, and plans to bear on the plot. Neven Carr’s exotic locations and gripping action scenes are guaranteed to keep you turning pages and to make you sigh when you hit the last page. A highly-recommended read.

Blue Vision, Marie Lavender

Blue Vision, Marie Lavender

Blue Vision: The Code of Endhivar Series Book 1

Ganardebragh Trantusa, aka Colin Fielding, is one of the team sent to research and evaluate new worlds and civilisations in search of a new homeworld. Ganardebragh has been assigned to a planet named Earth, and he’s aware it may not be an easy mission. Ships have vanished there. He expected the population to be dangerous; he didn’t expect to have his crash landing observed. He really didn’t expect to fall irresistibly in love with the wary, emotionally damaged woman who came to see what had happened. In fact, nothing about Earth was exactly what he’d imagined…not even where it concerned his own race.

Marie Lavender’s Blue Vision: Code of Endhivar Series is an entertaining, well-paced romance read, starring a hunky alien explorer, a rough landing, and a woman on a solitary holiday. The book definitely has a number of strong points, not least of which the author’s undoubted imagination and story-telling ability. It’s also very solid technically, which I always appreciate: there are no typos and other grammatical nuisances to yank a reader out of the story, and the scene-setting is evocative and detailed. I found that Colin’s complete change of heart (can’t give too many details without a massive spoiler here) halfway through the book was a little unheralded, but it certainly allows for a very nice, dramatic wounded-hero scene.

So why three stars? Feeling Grinch-y? I have to admit, I’m a cynic. I don’t believe in love at first sight. I can, plied with sufficient alcohol, just about crank my credulity high enough to credit lust at first sight; after all, that’s largely based on pheromones and sure, maybe. Given that, I found that the immediate falling in love aspect of the plot stretched my ability to suspend my belief a trifle. It’s why I make a lousy romance reviewer, and this, despite the sci-fi elements, is definitely a romance story first and foremost. All that said, I think romance readers (as opposed to cynics like me) would highly enjoy this book; it’s got location, it’s got love at first sight, it’s got sexy scenes, and it’s well-written.

The Chemist, Alan J Field

The Chemist, Alan J Field

The Chemist: Daniel Strong #1

Katelyn Currie is adopted, broken, and a genius. Under the thumb of her adoptive parent, she’s created one of the most powerful toxins ever seen; one that kills silently, and in seconds. As one of the main characters in The Chemist, Katelyn is skillfully written and fleshed out, more and more of her past coming to light in flashbacks through the story. Generally a high incidence of flashbacks makes me want to beat my head on the nearest solid object, but author Alan J. Field handles them particularly well in this book, the overall effect of sanity crumbling and letting the memories escape being one of the strongest elements of the story.

However, aside from the characters, the novel was a difficult read for me. From the technical aspect, a lot of the adjective and simile use was more than a bit over the top, which undermined the intended menacing effect in many of the passages. In addition, typos tripped me up on a number of occasions, pulling me out of the plot with (on a couple) unintended comedic effect. The combination of the two more or less shot the pacing in the foot as far as I was concerned, and rather than the breathless ride effect of a fast-paced thriller, I didn’t find my attention was held by this book.

There were also areas where sentences were repeated, or where two pieces of dialogue with much the same content but slightly different wording were jumbled together. It read rather as if the author had tried several different options for a particular line, but missed deleting the unwanted options – nothing that couldn’t be simply fixed, but jarring to come across mid-read.

Overall, I feel that this book would profit hugely from a ruthless copy-edit. It definitely has a lot of potential, but in its current form, it’s a very frustrating read, and it’s not doing itself justice.