Monthly Archives: October 2014

Flat-Out Love – Quality writing will not be denied

Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love, #1)Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read a brief article from Amazon in the Kindle author’s newsletter about how this Kindle best seller was a breakout hit and put it on my to-read list for that reason alone. I didn’t realize its intended demographic is teens, especially teen girls. I definitely do not fit that description, so when I began listening to the audiobook in my car and realized this, I rolled my eyes to myself and figured I would have to suffer through some, like, you know, gum-popping teeny-bopper chick lit. How wrong I was. In the end, raging hormones and quality writing will not be denied.

Julie, the lead character, is a college freshman from Ohio who alights in Boston without a place to stay and ends up living in the home of her mother’s old college roommate, with three kids of her own: a gorgeous, hunky, charming, brilliant son; another brilliant, but not-so-hunky or charming son; and a rather weird thirteen-year-old daughter. Anyone familiar with Jane Austen’s works will figure out early on where these characters will land at the end and what life lessons are quietly slipped in along the way, but I must admit I didn’t see the exact route until the end.

I’m supposed to be a tough guy ex-FBI agent who reviews mysteries and crime thrillers, which I do, but this one pulled all my emotional strings. The author somehow manages to make Julie and friends seem both realistically immature while still intelligent and likeable. None of the characters is a stereotype. The dialogue manages to sound like real teen-speak without anyone coming off as total airheads or adults faking it, at least to my geriatric ears. The bittersweet combination of angst and joie de vivre of the young comes through with the exact right touch. The ending is too simplistic to be completely credible, but by that time you’re chomping at the bit for the characters to just get there already and won’t care. All you tough guy readers out there, make this one a guilty pleasure and keep the tissues handy for when no one’s looking.

This book was made even more enjoyable by the reader, Julie Whelan, who did an outstanding job. She is an excellent actress.

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Earth Abides, a science fiction classic

Earth AbidesEarth Abides by George R. Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This classic work of post-apocalyptic science fiction sets the standard by which all future PASF should be judged. It was written in the 1940s and exhibits an almost comical yet refreshing look into the recent past as well as an equally prescient one into the future. My, how things have changed. If your idea of good sci-fi is a space opera with lots of shooting, this isn’t it. Star Wars fans need not apply.

Earth Abides is thoughtful, thought-provoking, literary, and unpredictable. It is in many ways disturbing, yet also hopeful. The author was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a true scholar and polymath. If you have an IQ below 125 and less than a college degree you are probably going to have trouble in places, for he can be pretentious and pedantic in his writing at times. It tested my vocabulary. Still, the story isn’t hard to follow and the characters are engaging and original. I really enjoyed this book.

A good friend recommended this book to me and I recommend it to you.

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What’s Sumatra with you? Java pain in your Bali?

This breathtaking aerial video of Bali was taken by a photographer who is in a contest with a friend. The one who gets the most views on his video will be contributing to ALS and doing the ice bucket challenge. So you will be helping research a deadly disease when you click on it. The owner will probably make the donation anyway, but it’s worth watching even so. To get maximum enjoyment you should watch it full screen somewhere with a big screen with high-definition and good speakers.

Prices reduced on Cliff Knowles Mysteries

Fans of the Cliff Knowles Mysteries will be happy to learn that the prices on the print versions have been reduced. If you buy directly from the author (me), the books are $12 each (plus tax if you live in California). This is because Amazon has been discounting them and I want to keep my prices lower. I also give free shipping. This offer is good only in the U.S. but Amazon sells the print copies in some foreign countries and of course the Kindle version is available everywhere. Just click on the picture below or on the menu link above to go to the Cliff Knowles Mysteries page and buy. I now take PayPal and credit cards.

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Sworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder, #1)Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author has a real knack for description. More than a knack; it’s a real talent. Descriptions of people, places, moods, weather, all come alive. The main character is well-developed, somewhat original (an Amish female), and likeable. I got about halfway through the book thinking it would be getting five stars in my review. Then it began to suffer from all the usual problems. All the other characters were one-dimensional and hackneyed – the tough, underappreciated black cop, the loopy switchboard girl, the politician sheriff, and of course the dark, hard-drinking, bad boy state agent (male) to create sexual tension and work effectively by breaking the rules. The author also seems to feel obligated to paint us a picture of as much gore and sadistic torture as possible, pandering to the readership’s worst elements. I figured out who the murderer was well before it was revealed, and when it was revealed it was done so clumsily it was a big letdown. The killer turned into a comic book villain in an instant, a Jekyll and Hyde transformation. Still, it held my interest up to the end. It helped that the reader on the audiobook was a particularly good actress.

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