November 5, 2013
A Noir Mystery With A Slight Twist
The Car Bomb by T.V. LoCicero opens on the streets of a dying Detroit that’s trying desperately to survive. A young mother and her two children are incinerated in a fiery explosion as witnesses watch in horror. It’s up to an aging, hard-drinking, womanizing news anchor to come to grips with his life and solve the crime which may involve his best friend. The tale builds to an edgy crescendo of action that you won’t want to miss.
Although the story is well-told, there are still some aspects that could have used work, and became impossible to ignore. The first half of the book is slow, concentrating on the character of a conceited, adulterous newscaster, Frank DeFauw. However, I missed the motivation that drives him to rise above his depravity in order to righteously go after his best friend who was only vaguely suspected of illegal activities.
The story is told to the reader which doesn’t give us much opportunity to get involved inside the plot or imagine ourselves as part of the drama. I wanted to feel what it was like to be in Detroit’s ghetto, hear the cries of those society has cast aside, smell the gas fumes rising above the sidewalks, see a poet’s graffiti scribbled across a rundown cityscape, and taste the merchandise dealers were pushing on the street corner.
In spite of its faults, it’s worth a read. The Car Bomb is a noir mystery with a slight twist. The lascivious characters are found in the lap of suburbia while the moral prize-winners emerge from the bleak, sleazy side of town. This book should appeal to fans of old-fashioned crime fiction.
Reviewed by Awesome Indies' Assessor
06 December 2017
Going into The Fatal Coin by Lucienne Boyce, I had not read any of the other Dan Foster mysteries and was meeting the character for the first time. I'm happy to say that this appears to be a series where a reader can jump in at any point and quickly catch up to what's going on. The protagonist is a likable, if rough-around-the-edges, detective who gives as much guff as he gets. Even without having the context which I'm sure the previous installment provided, Dan is the kind of character you will feel like you have met before, if not relate directly to yourself.
The story takes place in 1794 England and the historical atmosphere of the book is another highlight of this work. The author has a gift for painting beautiful set pieces that jump to life in the readers' imagination - and those who aren't already well-versed on 18th century England will also learn a few interesting facts. The world in which Dan inhabits complements him perfectly, and it's easy to imagine him emerging from the fog, ready to engage in fisticuffs with whomever opposes him.
As this is a novella, the book is very digestible, but the author does not sacrifice detail or rush the plot. While the story overall is short and will likely leave you hungry for more, there are other Dan Foster mysteries to satiate you. The adventure we're taken on reaches a satisfying conclusion while leaving clues for later works, and accomplishes the goal of making you interested in reading of Foster's other experiences. I give The Fatal Coin 5 stars and recommend it for inclusion in Awesome Indies.
Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor
December 12, 2014
I received a free copy of Tahlia Newland’s Prunella Smith: Worlds within Worlds for review, and I have to say up front – this is a book that is long overdue. It addresses cyber bullying, especially as it pertains to writers and reviewers, but does so in a chilling way that will live you looking over your shoulder with every word you write.
Prunella Smith is a freelance editor and author who is up against a deadline on an editing job – a fantasy story about an adventurous woman, Kelee, who is having an affair with a young groomsman on her estate. Ella, as she is known, is also a book reviewer, and a recent review of a not-so-good novel has provoked the author, Dita, to begin a campaign of on-line stalking and bullying. Dita’s cyber bullying begins to take its toll, interfering with Ella’s ability to objectively edit Kelee’s story, and things only get worse when she discovers that she has a physical stalker as well.
Newland’s tale kept me interested from page one – and the little surprise she threw in near the end, well -2 I didn’t see that one coming. A thoroughly entertaining story. An easy five stars here.
Reviewed by Frank Kusy (aka Wussyboy)
This is a very topical book, a very well written one too. Thirty something Ella Smith lives in a remote log cabin in the Australian bush, cut off from most of humanity but connected through her mind and imagination (and her internet) to a multitude of worlds: at times she is a writer/editor in the real world, at others she is a wise old Yogi in the prelude to the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet, or Kelee, the fictional warrior princess with whom she comes to identify strongly through the book she is editing. Not to mention her alter ego as Electra, an ‘after dark’ dancer in a local strip joint. The topicality of the book comes when Ella responds to a request of an ‘honest’ review from an arrogant (and unbalanced) author on his new novel and gives him just that… a two-star review on a social media website (Amazon) which he deeply resents. At this point, we enter Stephen King territory – the demented author Dita shouting “Take it down!” much as the main protagonist of King’s ‘Thinner’ shouts ‘Take it off!’ to the gypsy who has laid a curse him. When she doesn’t, the author turns cyber troll and begins invading her virtual world with increasingly nasty abuse and threats, along with one-star reviewing her own recently published book. As the bullying author penetrates even her dream world (he’s a dark, human shaped blob in a hoodie!) her other identities as Kelee, Electra and the Yogi also run into crisis, and she struggles, through her Buddhist practice, to elevate her mind above the worldly concern of being unliked by 20 Facebook friends overnight. ‘Sometimes it’s hard being a Buddhist,’ she observes when not just one but two stalkers get on her case – the fight is on, in her own mind, to see all obstacles as opportunities, to see Dita, The Creep and even the evil Beak as fuel to fire her own journey to enlightenment. This is riveting stuff, part magical realism dreamscape, part taut psychological thriller, and I was literally on the edge of my seat when the final twist – and what a twist it is – came around. Phew, what a ride!
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an ‘honest’ review of my own. Well done, Ms Newland, I can honestly say this is the best book have read this year.
Reviewed by Amy Spahn
Worlds Within Worlds tackles the problem of identity in the age of technological anonymity. Ella Smith is an independent author and editor whose online life crashes into reality with disturbing implications. The book questions how much of one’s true self can – and should – be broadcast to the world.
The story also delves into the nature of authorship when anyone with a computer can publish themselves instantly. What determines the value of a writer? Their career success? Their contributions to other authors, appreciated or not? What about when their readers disagree with their interpretations of their work? Who is the final authority when everyone has an opinion?
This book will make you think. Considering the deluge of new works streaming from authors these days, that may be the highest praise a novel can receive.
Reviewed by Robyn Gregory
World Within Worlds was an interesting read. There was a mixture of Buddhism, magical realism and present-day problems of a 30-something writer/editor. She has chosen career over a family and children. She seems fairly content with the decision. During the time she is editing another author’s book she is bullied online by an author who she gave a bad review to. My only issue with it was that there were too many storylines running at the same time and I was having a little bit of trouble following along with them. I think it would have been better if they had her story alongside Kelee’s story (the one she was editing). But, otherwise, it was able to keep my interest. I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.
Reviewed by Justin Spahn
My wife recommended this book to me, and I absolutely loved it. I do not normally review, well, anything on Amazon, but I decided it was time to start, having read something which inspired me to respond. Its multiple layers were very compelling, and the author struck just the right balance of keeping the various strands and plot threads and titular worlds separated as well as intertwined.
I love how thoughtful this book was. It asked many questions about reality, imagination, and how perception and intent shape the world and vice versa. It gripped my attention and fascinated me, and I found that I couldn’t put it down. The main character is in her own world, experiencing the worlds of others through meditation, social media, dreams, and real-life clashes. In addition, the entire book is a world of its own within the author’s mind, and I myself, as the reader, am yet another world into which her worlds are introduced and experienced. Is the book I finished reading the same book that the author wrote? Did I perceive and experience it the way it was intended, or did I myself change the book simply by observing it, like a quantum physics experiment? Not since “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler” by Italo Calvino have I felt so intellectually stimulated by a novel!
Finally, I find that I’ve bonded with the main character, which is quite a feat as I personally share virtually nothing in common with her, and yet I miss her terribly. I eagerly look forward to the release of the sequel!
When Your Dreams Are Not Your Own
Wynne Cantrell sells dreams – not the kind you might think, but actual dreams. Wynne has the ability to record her dreams and then provide them to customers. Her husband Hal Wakeman is a noted sculptor, who unfortunately does not take what Wynne does as art, and often takes her for granted. Late as usual for appointments, when Wynne waits for him at lunch near a fountain he designed, he is not there when a bomb explodes, causing the loss of her hand and the deaths of several people.
At a loss for suspects, the police suspect Hal of the crime, either as some kind of over the top artistic protest, or as a way to get rid of his wife. Things go bad for Hal when Arthur Kellic, a rival for her affections, is assigned as the lead detective on the case. Hal is convicted and faces the punishment of the time, which is having to endure the final thoughts of the victims. He’s later cleared, but too late – he’s already punished – a punishment that the system will not undo.
Playback Effect by Karen A. Wyle is a riveting account that follows Wynne as she copes with her injury and recuperation, Hal and Arthur come to terms with their rivalry over Wynne and find themselves working together to find a vicious killer-kidnapper before the list of victims pile up, and Arthur’s boss, Tertius Shaw, an enigmatic figure who seems to be at the center of all that takes place.
This is a novel that’s impossible to pigeonhole into a genre. The presence of a technology that permits recording and playback of dreams is science fiction, but it’s also a legal/crime thriller. The author, who has an extensive legal background, weaves it seamlessly into the story from start to finish. This is also something of a dystopian novel, in its description of the various uses and, most importantly, the misuses of technology, by those seeking to make money, by government, and by criminal elements – and the disastrous impact all this can have on individuals within society.
Playback Effect has an astonishingly diverse cast of characters, and while Wynne is the main protagonist, the others play roles that are no less important. The author uses third person point of view, and moves from one character to another to keep the suspense level high and the tension as tight as a steel cable on a suspension bridge.
It really has two conclusions – befitting a book of this scope – the first when the mysterious killer is identified and brought to justice, and the second, quite satisfying resolution of Wynne’s personal life.
Dialogue, descriptions, and narrative are flawless – not a wasted word anywhere. This is a book that will linger in your thoughts long after you’ve stopped reading – and are likely to invade your dreams. I give it a resounding five stars.
Reviewed by Katt Pemble
ETA: Karen has been in touch with me and we’ve worked through the formatting issues and addressed the typos. Upping the book rating to 4 stars.
Playback Effect is the fifth book I’ve read by Karen and it certainly didn’t dissapoint. Like her other books, this one has a quite complex and intertwined plot. It also has a bit of legalese in it.
The concept of this story is very interesting. What if we could record our emotional reactions to things and share them with people in a form of personalised virtual reality, what would that mean for our friends, our family and even us? What if you could re-experience that amazing high you got when you won your childhood athletics carnival? Or what would it mean to those creatives who use emotion as inspiration? What if you could access someone’s real reaction to something you’re planning to write about?
The book, brings to light some answers for some of those questions, but it also poses some more serious ones. When felons are forced to experience their victims’ emotional trauma as a way of punishment, what do you think would happen? Interesting and thought-provoking questions.
The characters are typical of Karen’s work, three dimensional, flawed and felt very real. Almost as if she were drawing inspiration from people in her life. I didn’t love Hal and Wynne, but I connected with them to some degree. I quite liked Arthur, even though I don’t believe that was entirely intended. I think perhaps I was meant to feel a bit sorry for him, but there was something about him that struck me as a bit of a fighter, one to keep an eye on.
I was pleasantly surprised with Hannah’s character. I would love to see a whole book written about her. She was brilliant!
Speaking of brilliant, but not in a good sense, the antagonist in this novel is decidedly creepy. The emotionally removed way in which they spoke and thought about things – chilling. How they maintained that detatched emotional control even throughout some of the most horrific events – terrifying.
Considering you get but brief glimpses of gruesome acts, the effect on the reader was quite intense because you get to experience the villain’s POV. Great work Karen.
This only gets a 3 out of 5 for me because of a couple of points.
1. The scene changes in places are quite rough. I think this is because of formatting on the kindle – the paragraph breaks fall over the turn of a page so they look like one scene not two. The result was of confusion. “Who is saying what now?”
2. Occasionally the legalese got a bit much. Particularly at the end, I had to read a couple of the scenes multiple times to completely understand what was happening.
Overall, a fantastic plot, a great idea and a good cast of characters. This is teamed with an eye-catching cover. I’m not too sure about the blurb (particularly the opening sentence), but it still draws you in. If the two issues I’ve listed above were resolved it’d easily be a 4-5 star book.
A few things I noticed:
The typos I picked up have been rectified by the author.
**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.***
Reviewed by Amy Spahn
Let me start by saying this book is not a thriller. The pacing, areas of focus, and multitude of subplots are more akin to a literary novel than to heart-pounding suspense. At no point are the main characters in prolonged existential danger. There is no mystery about the identity of the culprit. There are no major plot twists. There is a layer of suspense and creepiness, but since it receives less attention than the relationship between the two mains, I would consider it more of a thriller subplot.
However, what this book is, is a brilliant exploration of the social and ethical implications of a new technology. I have never seen a book dive so deeply into every societal facet of an idea. This is a strong example of thought-provoking sci-fi, along the lines of Asimov’s End of Eternity. What happens to us as a people when we gain the ability to literally share our minds?
The characters are well-developed, though by far the best of these is the villain. His chapters are spooky, yet provide excellent insight into his psychology. The protagonists are likable and make some major decisions about how they relate to one another over the course of the book. The novel is actually a serviceable romance in addition to its other genres.
By far the most interesting “character” is the helmet technology. Oh my, is this well done. Wyle probes every legal ramification, every marketing angle, every relational hiccup that could result from the ability to record and replay one’s thoughts. Though the book takes place on Earth, she does an exceptional job of world building, displaying the changes that occur based on this one innovation. I really can’t stress enough how imaginative this is; you have to read the book to see it.
The writing is clear and the subplots weave together smoothly. Though unlikely to shock and thrill the experienced crime novel reader, I’d recommend this book to fans of thought-provoking sci-fi and fans of relationship stories with a twist.