Humor

Scribbling

Scribbling
Published: October 24, 2012
Neville Lansdowne pushed the world out of shape. He didn't mean to do it. He didn't even realise he had done it. If you had asked him, he would have said that, as far as he could tell, the world was the wrong shape to begin with. In a world that is totally the wrong shape, Neville meets a new bunch of eccentric characters, and embarks on another strange and wholly unexpected adventure.

Doodling

Doodling
Published: January 24, 2011
Neville Lansdowne fell off the world. Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.   Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver's Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures.

Few Are Chosen

Few Are Chosen
Charming outlaw with own transport and limited social skills seeks lucrative, employment at minimal risk.  When you're running from a murderous government and work for an equally murderous gangster, accidentally torching his apartment is a bad move.  The Pan of Hamgee just wants a quiet life but destiny has other plans.   The Pan of Hamgee isn’t paranoid. There must be some people in K’Barth who aren’t out to get him. Unfortunately, right now, he’s not sure where they are. His family are dead, and his existence is treason. To survive he does the only thing he can – getaway driving. As if being on the run isn’t bad enough, he finds a magic thimble and decides to keep it. This can only mean trouble and sure enough, it does. By doing so, he unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with Lord Vernon, K’Barth’s despot ruler. Unwillingly, The Pan is forced to make choices and stand up for his beliefs. It’s a challenge, since previously he had no beliefs he was aware of. But faced with a stark moral dilemma, he realises his new found integrity might even stick… if he can stop running.

Reviewed by DL Morrese

February 7, 2013

5 stars

This is a cross-genre story that feels like it should be classified somewhere between Doctor Who and Discworld. I’m calling it science fiction rather than fantasy because at one point the ‘magic’ is described as the clever application of the strange effects of quantum mechanics. This is no more outlandish than the Doctor’s TARDIS, although instead of the unlikely time travel of Doctor Who, this story includes travel between our reality and an unlikely alternate dimension.

It’s an interesting place.

This alternate Earth is run as a police state, and our reluctant hero, The Pan of Hamgee, is a Goverment Blacklisted Indivdual. His existence is therefore illegal, and the fact that he has survived as a GBI for five years, which is about four and a half years longer than normal, proves that he is very good at not being caught. This talent comes to the attention of Big Merv, a major crime boss, who recruits him as his new getaway driver.  For the Pan of Hamgee, this is good news for two reasons. As a GBI, no legitimate employer will hire him, and Merv’s other option was dumping him in the river – with cement overshoes – but these are details we don’t need to go into here.

This story has flying car chases, a bad guy you love to loath, likable gangsters, and a hero you can really identify with since, like most of us, he’s not terribly heroic – at least not intentionally. He reminds me a bit of Rincewind in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. He’s a professional coward whose talent for getting into unintended trouble is only exceeded by his talent for escaping from it. All he wants is a simple, normal life, but the universe seems to have another fate planned for him. The book also has a few laughs, a lot of smiles, and even a bit of political and religious satire. There are far too few books like this. Great characters, interesting setting, humor, and cultural satire, with a genuinely good plot providing a framework holding them together is a hard blend to achieve and an even more difficult one to do well. This book does.

The prose is well executed with just enough description for the reader to visualize the scenes. Backstory, where needed, is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. Dialog is believable and suitable to the characters and to the situation. Grammar, spelling, formatting, and other of technical requirements of the storyteller’s trade that sometimes pose a problem for the independent writer are executed professionally in this book.

It passes my personal 5-star test. In addition to all the basics needed for a well-told tale, it has that something extra that would prompt me to read it again. I enjoyed following the misadventures of The Pan of Hamgee, a likeable sod thrown into an uncomfortable situation in an imaginative world that has certain parallels to our own. I highly recommend it to readers of lighthearted speculative fiction or anyone who may be looking for something a bit different and a lot of fun.

 

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

5 stars

This is a good comic fantasy title off the same sort of humorous planet as writers like Tom Holt, Ben Elton, and Terry Prachett. There is satire and certainly parody, and as with those listed she has the gift of dramatic timing. In other words, MT McGuire is in great, Great British, comic company. The fact that she used to do stand-up comedy doesn’t surprise me a bit.
I’m sure it helps to be a Brit to catch all the clever turns of phrase in this book, but those from once were distant outposts of Britannia will get just as much out of this read; even The ‘us’ should be able to catch the crest of her comic wave.
Of course, if you are not into Peter Cook, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Sandi Toksvig, or MT McGuire Authorholic then you probably won’t like K’Barthan books either. Get a life!

The Scottish Movie

Scottish Movie, The
Why is 'Macbeth' known as 'the unlucky play'? Young Harry's unpublished novel has the answer. And when some Hollywood producers steal it, they find themselves making a very unlucky movie.   Harry Greenville, a young actor and part-time writer struggling to make a living in modern Los Angeles, writes a novel about Shakespeare. ‘It’s 1606 and the Bard needs a new play for King James, who is notoriously hard to please. As history tells us, he comes up with ‘Macbeth’. But the rehearsals are dogged by illnesses and accidents, the royal premiere gets the royal thumbs down, and the actors consider the play to be more than unlucky – they believe it’s cursed. The question is: Why?’ Harry’s novel offers an intriguing answer, and he posts the first draft on a website in the hope that a Hollywood agent will discover it. And someone in the movie business does discover it – but not the kind of person Harry had in mind. The result is a truly Shakespearean tale of theft, revenge, and just desserts.

Reviews by Awesome Indies' Assessor

August 4, 2014

A Joy to Read

The Scottish Movie by Paul Collis is a well-crafted revenge tale that even Shakespeare naysayers can enjoy.  The novel begins with William Shakespeare’s creation of his play, MacBeth.  We learn that the bard overheard the plot being described by another playwright at a pub and, wanting to really impress King James with his next piece, promptly goes home to write it.  When the original creator finds out the Globe Theatre is performing his play, without his consent, he sets out to sabotage the performance.  As it turns out, this story is just that, a story that a modern day author has penned.  In a very similar turn of events, Harry Greenville discusses his novel with his friends at a diner, only to have an eavesdropping Hollywood executive steal the idea for his own.  Once Harry discovers that someone has ripped off his idea and the movie is to begin production, he takes a page from his own novel and proceeds to sabotage the film.

This novel was a joy to read.  The author used the lore surrounding the Scottish Play and turned it into an intriguing story with snappy dialogue, and hilarious actions scenes.  Though the author completely has his own voice, the style of the story reminded me of a Christopher Moore novel.  Through complete dumb luck and sheer brazenness, Harry Greenville is hired onto the film’s production staff and given an all-access pass to conduct his revenge on the story thief.  Harry is the everyman stepped on by the corporate big shot, and you just can’t help but root for him.

The strongest part of the book was the author’s ability to seamlessly change between character points of view, sometimes multiple times in one scene.  This allowed the reader to see the story angled from both main and supporting characters.  Sometimes the switch was only for a few paragraphs; however, it added color to the story, almost like seeing a facial expression in a film that only the audience is supposed to see.

My only concern is that, as the characters use many modern references to Hollywood stars, movie titles, or general hat tips to modern culture, this novel may not age well.  If the reader cannot place what actress a character is referring to when only using her first name, some of the dialogue charm could be lost.  Even still, a good revenge story is always an indulgence, and this one does not disappoint.

An Animal Life: The Beginning

An Animal Life: The Beginning
A nirreverent, romantic comedy with an animal medical mystery set in veterinary school. The best TV analogue for the tone and story is a cross between “M*A*S*H” and “ER.”    Millions dream of veterinary school, few make it in. The chosen discover an irreverent, romantically- charged, academic gauntlet that brings out the best and worst that humans can be. An Animal Life: The Beginning was inspired by the real-life adventures of four veterinary school classmates. This first book in the series opens as Dr. Violet Marie Green (a beautiful zoo vet extraordinaire) is darting a giraffe from the open cockpit of a helicopter. As the first veterinarian at the world’s largest zoo, Violet should be ecstatic but her self-medicated gastric ulcer warns that all is not right in The Peaceable Kingdom. Almost immediately a mysterious and invariably fatal neurological disease emerges. Horses, zebra, flamingoes, crows and even people are dropping dead all around the zoo. With her goofy-sweet and brilliant friend, Stan the Path Man, she and her vet students solve the case and reveal that the bully of a lead animal keeper (with obvious designs to bed Violet) has been in cahoots with a sport-hunting ranch in Texas (you won’t believe what he did…).

Worth The Time Of Any Reader Who Cares About Animals

 

An Animal Life: The Beginning by Howard Nelson Krum with Roy Pe Yanong and Scott Moore follows a group of students through their first semester at University of Philadelphia School of Veterinary Medicine in the 1980s. For readers interested in what vet school is like, this book offers a full experience of demanding class work, raucous parties, and sometimes painful personal growth.

The omniscient point of view is skillfully done. It gives the authors leeway to explain aspects of veterinary medicine in technical detail so readers can understand what the students are learning in class. But the analytical perspective on the action is less suited to expressing the characters’ emotional lives and motivation. Too often we are told rather than shown who characters are and what they want.

In an intensive and useful glossary, the authors define An Animal Life as  “A book series . . . [that] may be an upcoming blockbuster movie or TV series.” They offer a “Suggested Soundtrack” of popular songs to accompany each chapter. Their music selections are knowledgeable and clever, and the objective omniscient point of view has a cinematic flavor, but the story isn’t presented in a way likely to attract Hollywood.

The book makes demands on the reader. It takes some knowledge of biology to understand the chapters about vet school classes. (Those pre-med biology courses back in college came in handy here.) The illustrations by Patty Hogan help, but they’re difficult to see in the Kindle book. The story, while interesting, isn’t exactly a page-turner. The narrative plods through that first semester of vet school, developing the various subplots sporadically. Despite the potential for suspense, there isn’t much.

On the other hand, a screenwriter might transform this promising raw material into the hoped-for blockbuster.

The story has several plotlines, but two stand out: a romance between two first-year students and a medical mystery.

Jack, a former cop, is attracted to Anna, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Although she has feelings for him their personalities aren’t altogether compatible, and various missteps and misunderstandings keep them apart. Their story follows the conventional pattern of romance novels without the usual emotionalism. Both know Anna will die young, but the story is almost over before they become close enough to acknowledge it.

Because of the point of view, Jack and Anna occasionally seems like puppets, doing what the plot requires rather than acting from character-driven motivation. Jack’s infatuation with pet-food PR slut Avery is one example. We’re told that Jack resists sex with Avery because he’s waiting for “the one,” yet he’s sexually enthralled by Avery. That kind of paradox is certainly possible, but readers aren’t shown enough of Jack’s thoughts to understand why this intelligent, experienced man gives in to a juvenile infatuation.

The medical mystery begins when animals and birds in the area begin to die in startling numbers. A zoo vet and a pathology instructor work to discover why, but corporate interests at the zoo are less interested in the truth than in avoiding bad publicity. This conflict culminates in one of my favorite scenes as an Aussie thug employed by the zoo tries to intimidate the vets.

An Animal Life succeeds most completely on an intellectual level. I learned a lot about what veterinarians do and the challenges they face. The book raises the ethical dilemma of caring for animals while exploiting them for food, experimentation, and entertainment. An Animal Life offers no solution and has no ideological agenda – all the characters except Anna are unapologetic meat eaters – but it reminds us that humans and animals are part of the same ecosystem. Our treatment of animals has environmental consequences. On a personal level, the story depicts callousness and cruelty toward animals as character flaws, kindness toward them as a mark of goodness, and respect for them as essential in a veterinarian.

I noticed smatterings of punctuation errors concentrated in certain parts of the book, an uneven job of proofreading, but by and large an Animal Life is well written and worth the time of any reader who cares about animals and enjoys biology. 4 stars.

The Sparrow Conundrum

The Sparrow Conundrum
Categories: ,
Author:
Published: August 12, 2012
An ex girl-friend, an exploding garden, two wrestlers, multiple homicides, a sociopathic cop, and fragments of a postman. All waiting for Chris Machin – codename Sparrow. Satirical absurdity at its funniest. Chris Machin may think he’s just a teacher, but the bottom feeders in Aberdeen squabbling over North Sea oil and gas contracts prefer to use his code-name – Sparrow. When his garden explodes he takes flight, unleashing various forms of Scottish mayhem.  More complications are added by his ex girlfriend and a sociopathic policeman whose hobbies are violence, making arrests and, best of all, combining the two. Several murders later, two wrestlers, a road trip to Inverness, a fishing trawler, a Russian factory ship, and some fragments of a postman complete the enigma of… The Sparrow Conundrum. Winner of the Readers’ Choice Award for Humor and Satire at Big Al’s Books and Pals 2012. Also winner of the Humor category in the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards. “… an over the top, thoroughly hilarious send-up, brilliantly realised and tremendously enjoyable. I laughed constantly, was horrified, was admiring and totally entertained all at once. It reminded me, in the best possible way, of the work of Tom Sharpe … writing that will have you spluttering on trains as you try not to laugh out loud”. Catherine Czerkawska, author of The Curiosity Cabinet, The Physic Garden and many others.