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  • Friday Indie Review: Neptune Crossing by Jeffrey A. Carver

    Neptune Crossing is an interesting and thought provoking SF originally published in by Tor 1994.  It is out of print though, and a new digital edition has been put out by Starstream Publications.  I’m not sure if it’s a small press or the author’s own imprint (since he also writes the Starstream series), but either way, the new publisher is definitely indie.  So much like John Dalmas’ The Second Coming, it qualifies to get a review on this site.

    And anyway, I really wanted to review it.

    Neptune Crossing takes place in a research and mining outpost on one of Neptune’s moons, Triton.  Humans aren’t the first beings to mine on Triton, and there are ghosts of alien habitation covering the moon like almost forgotten scars.  Whoever the previous miners were though, they have been gone a very long time–only allowing the human researchers to pick up bits and fragments of what the aliens were like, and small glimpses into what they were doing on Triton.

    The protagonist John Bandicut–aka Bandicut for short–, comes across as a sympathetic blue collar worker, trying to make his way in the universe and have a little fun while he’s at it.  Sure, he drops into these fugue states occasionally due to a malfunction with his neural implant going haywire, but as long as it doesn’t interfere with his work, he’s not harming anyone.  He may have a little bit of a misfire between some of his synapses, but that doesn’t mean his whole head is empty.

    Except, that gap in his brain allows him to pick up a hitchhiker.   Bandicut finds a piece of alien tech and is suddenly running around with an alien intelligence in his brain.  Charlie, as the alien likes to be called, has been waiting on Triton for a very long time, and wants Bandicut’s help.   Help doing what, you ask?  Why preventing the earth’s destruction, of course.

    But can Bandicut really trust the alien? After all, the alien’s plea could be a scam, or even just a home-grown hallucination brought on by Bandicut’s slightly defective brain.  You’ll have to read the story to find out.

    Onward to the pros and cons about this book:

    I really like the interchanges between Bandicut and the alien.  Since the dialogue happens by necessity as part of Banicut’s inner thoughts, the author has kept the exchanges from getting bogged down with endless dialogue tags by indicating Bandicut’s thoughts with a single slash, as in: /What are you?/ and the alien’s responses with a double slash, //I am Quarx//

    I would recommend skipping over the “Prelude” at the beginning of the book on the first read, though.  While it does introduce you to the alien, I didn’t find any information it gave necessary to reading the rest of the story, and honestly, without context you get in later parts of the story, I found it very passive and confusing at best.  If you want to go back and read it later, go for it, but I didn’t find it to be a very accurate or compelling entrance to the rest of the story, which is written in a very different tone.

    That being said, I’m a firm believer of the “prelude” or “prologue” usually being an unnecessary piece, kind of like the human appendix.  Grace Under Fire in its original form had a prologue which our publisher and editor both targeted as being unnecessary and confusing to first-time readers.  Once it was gone, we had to admit they were right.   I’m not saying prologues never work; I’m saying: if you start to read the prelude and don’t like it, skip to the first chapter.

    I also enjoy that while this is a story first published in 1994, it doesn’t feel anachronistic or like the tech is already dated.  It also deals with quite a few interesting theoretical concepts in physics and space travel which give the whole story a feeling of depth.  This story is rooted in true scifi, rather than fantasy with a science veneer.

     

    three



  • Friday Indie Review: Lacing Up For Murder by Irene Radford

    This is the first cozy mystery we’ve reviewed here on the Friday Indie, and don’t let the cover art fool you.  We’re always being told that you should not judge a book by its cover, and in this case, that is expressly true. I don’t know who thought a sexy, gun toting babe would be suitable as the artwork for this book, but it doesn’t not represent the contents of the story accurately at all.  I certainly wasn’t expecting the middle aged, no nonsense, tea-guzzling and lace-admiring Glenna from this cover.

    This book is actually a whimsical, well-told tale of ghosts, lace, tea-time, golfing for-fun-and-profit and questionable fortunes at the Whistling River resort.  The hotel’s manager/co-owner, Glenna has her hands full running the resort and doesn’t have time for murder or mayhem: her staff believe the hotel is haunted by the previous owner, or maybe the resort’s namesake– and are on the verge of leaving– her board of directors wants to hire a new security manager based solely on his golf swing,  a lace convention is running amok downstairs, and her yearly Japanese business clients just showed up with her dead-beat ex-husband in tow.  She can’t afford to offend or lose any of them, or she’s barely hanging on to the aging resort that has been her home and solace since her messy divorce. She has put every last penny she had into buying and running the Whistling River, and she needs all the repeat patrons she can get her hands on.  Even if one of their unexpected business partners (cough, cough, ex-husband) pushes her blood pressure to the boiling point.

    Oh, and of course, to top it all off, there’s the murder that Glenna will get framed for if she can’t find the real culprit.

    Irene Radford has been writing entertaining, imaginative tales that wrap around the reader and make them feel right at home in the world the author has created for years, and this story is very true to form.   Throw in the murder mystery and a new employee who may or may not be exactly what he seems, and you have a very fun, lighthearted summer read.   No sexy leather included.

     

    Friday-Indie-Logo Three point 5



  • Friday Indie Review Caller Unknown by Jennifer Brozek

    For this Friday’s Indie Review, I was ready for something really fun, so I picked up the urban fantasy thriller, Caller Unknown by Jennifer Brozek.  I have to say, this book was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride from the very start of page one– and I mean that in a very good way.

    Karen Wilson is a 9-1-1 operator who who receives a cryptic prank call on her personal cell phone from an unknown number.  She tries to shrug it off as another crazy phisher or spoofer, but the caller said that a person’s life, someone named Lamiel, will be at risk.   When Karen manages to find both the person and the place the caller referenced with a simple internet search, she decides that she’ll at least go check it out. The worst thing that happens is she gets laughed out of town by this Lamiel or her prank caller.  However, by the time Karen gets there, her “target,” Lamiel, has already left unexpectedly in response to a mysterious phone call.

    With a sudden foreboding that the ambush might be all too real, Karen follows and arrives in time to see the silhouette of a man pushing  the woman known as Lamiel off a bridge.  Not at all sure what is going on now, but certain the woman will need help, Karen calls for emergency services, but gets the mysterious caller instead. He tells Karen to pull a needle with strange etchings out of the woman’s neck before it kills her.

    Karen does so but yells at the man to get off the line, so she can call 9-1-1.  Abruptly the 9-1-1 operator she originally tried to dial is on the line.   Aware of how bad her involvment in the crime scene looks, since she was seen looking for Lamiel earlier in the evening, Karen tells the officer-in-charge about the original crank call, but not about the second exchange with her mysterious caller or about the needle.  She can’t think of anyway to bring it up that won’t make her sound absolutely crazy.

    After this event, Karen is haphazardly dragged into a fight where rituals, spells, gargoyles and secret orders all still exist, but she’s not sure where she fits in to the picture– or even which side might be trying to make the world better versus who’s just playing dirty.

    I had a hoot with this read; the characters are fun, the plot line is engaging, and there are enough twists and turns for Karen to navigate in the story that I felt like the author did a great job of not telegraphing the ending.  Ending up with a predictable plot can be an incredibly easy trap to fall into with urban fantasy, especially in a story where one of the main plot threads is a good-vs-evil throw-down.  I am incredibly happy to report that did not happen here.

    The book is on the short side, only pulling in at about 144 pages on my e-reader, but that makes it incredibly easy to read in one sitting, and great for travelling or times when you only have a few hours to fill.  It also means this book has virtually no fluff or filler. It is all high-octane story craft.  If something doesn’t move the plot forward or develop the characters, it doesn’t appear in this book.  Making a story this lean is something that’s difficult to do well, without sacrificing character development or flavor.  I truly admire how superbly this author pulled it off.

    A highly enjoyed and highly recommended read.

    four

     



  • Friday Indie Review: The Broken Afterlife by Tyler Tullis

    I met this author at a convention a few years back, and I love reading local authors. He talked about this book, and I thought at the time that it had an interesting premise that could be a lot of fun, if treated correctly.   The author has set up a world where a once world-renowned, prize-winning investigative reporter, Jon Perry, has been framed, and then exonerated for “cooking” one of his stories.  But as a result, he has lost his credibility as a journalist, and is working to make ends meet as an private investigator.  It’s in this guise as PI that the fun and hi-jinks start, when he takes on a job to prove a husband’s infidelity for the obligatory blond damsel in distress, named Cora Avery.

    The book starts out in tried-and-true detective-noir style, and it hit all the tropes with what I thought was great panache.  It was a bit campy in spots, but honestly I love that juxtaposition between the hard-boiled detective and his totally ridiculous surroundings or contemporaries.  This author also nailed the cynical viewpoint needed for this type of character. Jon’s been around the block a few times and been burned by life more times than he has fingers or toes to count on– and it shows.

    Here’s where things got a bit tricky for me.   As Jon investigates Cora’s husband, Brad, who’s on the police force, it becomes apparent something is not at all right with Mr. Avery, but it’s not as simple as an affair.   He may just be a corrupt cop.   Jon watches as the husband kills two women in the space of one night, and meets with some other very disreputable individuals– and one highly respectable politician.

    He tries to report it, but the bodies mysteriously go missing. Plus now the husband knows he’s being watched, and it’s not much of a guess as to who must have made him the target of a PI.   He comes after Jon with several colleagues, and Jon only gets away after Cora hits Brad with the car, pinning him up against the side of the house and driving him through the wall, until –this is an exact quote– “He was a pulp.”

    I have to admit, this was hard to swallow for me.  Cora hasn’t seen any of the murders herself.  And this is her husband we’re talking about, after all.  Presumably at some point– even if I assume she’s a trophy wife– she cared a great deal about this man.  Even if she believes he’s involved in shady business, or even believes he is a murderer, immediately turning to murder herself, and a very gruesome one at that, is a huge step.

    The author does try to ameliorate this by telling us next that Brad was possessed by one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Cora is in turn possessed by an angel, Adelaide, by the time the gruesome, vehicle-aided manslaughter took place.  Adelaide has come “of her own free will” to help Jon combat the four horsemen, who appear to have gone rogue.  Adelaide admits she has never met God or talked to him.  

    But. Since she’s called herself an “angel”, she’s obviously an instrument of God’s will, and he must exist.

    Here’s the thing. It’s even worse to have Adelaide kill Brad instead of Cora. There is nothing angelic, or frankly even very redeemable, about driving a man through the wall of a house until he is unrecognizable.  Especially since the author then goes on to explain that Brad was acting against his will because he was possessed, and that both the horseman and Adelaide have essentially stolen their hosts’ lives.  As long as Cora lives, she’ll actually be controlled by Adelaide. Cora is trapped inside her own flesh unable to get out or have any say in her own actions.

    But Adelaide tells us Cora understood that and accepted it, because she didn’t want to get killed by the horseman.  Adelaide also explains that angels are just people who have died and come back to help the living, which to me, actually means she’s a ghost.   So Cora is possessed by a delusional ghost, who thinks she’s an angel.  Either that, or Cora’s just gone plain nuckin’ futs.

    My “delusional ghost” perspective gets reinforced since Adelaide admits she doesn’t know what she’s doing or have any kind of a divine directive at this point.  The only thing I can assume is that she just likes Jon and thinks he can get the job done, for unfathomable reasons of her own.  Oh, and actually killing Brad did not stop the horseman, it just slowed him down. Jon and Adelaide have time to exchange stories and regroup but not much else.

    Anyway.  At least explaining that Adelaide is basically a normal human ghost with the same knowledge and attitudes of anyone else from the 1940′s took away some of the absolutely horrible implications that her actions would have had if you, say, put her in direct communication with and under the command of God.   But only some.  It did at least allow me to continue further into the book. I have to admit that my first reaction after a vehicle-aided, premeditated and gruesome vehicular homicide with a “holy” perpetrator was to put the book down, and not pick it back up.

    And so here’s my final beef with this book.   The book does put forward that God exists, and all actions in the course of the story are at least indirectly under his purview, which means all of the ugly, bad decisions and errors in judgment that Adelaide makes in her “angelic mission” do ultimately reflect on the God depicted in this book.  On top of that, I found the latter part of the book to be preachy, without actually making me want to buy in to the type of God and religion the book put forward.

    It may not sound like it, I am actually very torn about how to rate my enjoyment in this book, because the part up until Adelaide runs Brad over with the car was absolutely fabulous. I enjoyed it immensely.  But the rest of the book, once I found out that Adelaide is God’s divine messenger, just fell apart for me.   Mostly because I couldn’t believe in Adelaide’s worldview or any God that would stand behind that worldview.  She was too flawed, and it made her loose all authority as a driving force for good.  Honestly, for me, she and the horsemen were on the same moral and ethical level for much of the book.

    So I guess in summation, there’s good writing here, but for me, characters’ actions ultimately failed to support the book’s redemption arc in a satisfying way, especially since the author went for a God-is-good ending without actually resolving the problem with the horsemen conclusively, which just underlined that this God wasn’t that concerned with protecting humanity as a whole.  Jon’s soul may be saved by the end of the book, but the rest of us are still going to hell in a hand basket.  That’s just not the kind of attitude I expect a truly benevolent deity to have.

    Friday-Indie-Logo-Two

     



  • Friday Indie Review: Black Roses by Christine Morgan

    Black Roses Christine Morgan

     

    So some of you may remember that I did a review of Changeling Moon by this author a while back that I generally liked, but noted I had picked up the wrong book, since it wasn’t the first in the series.    For some reason, my brain will occasionally randomly see a book and leap to, “Oh hey, this looks really cool; it must be the first book,” or “Hey, there are three books here, so it must be a trilogy,” despite what evidence to the contrary may actually be on the back cover.

    I have repeatedly torpedoed myself with this glitch and sometimes Frog, who, back in the day, was really upset when I presented him with the first three books of what I thought was a trilogy… and it turned out to be the beginnings of “A Song of Ice and Fire.”  I’ll let you imagine how thrilled he was to get to the end of book three, and realize that no, this was not, in fact, a trilogy.  Since the books are still coming out, I still haven’t lived that one down.

    Well, Black Roses is actually book 1 in the “Trinity Bay” series, so I can finally redeem myself somewhat and at least do a review on the beginning of this series.

    Let me start out by saying that Ms. Morgan is an incredibly strong writer, and her sense of dramatic timing, imagery, and voice are some of the best I’ve read.   Her prose is always engrossing, and she manages to give the reader a very strong  sense of who her characters are, and a vivid picture of their settings without bogging her scenes down.  Her world is absolutely believable and real to me as it’s written.  This is not a story where suspension of disbelief even crossed my mind.  I just believed.

    This book is a good read.

    Now, with that said, Black Roses has an intensely dark story line, with 1 part ghost story, 1 part murder mystery, and 1 part horror, while teetering on the brink of erotica in places.  But really, really uncomfortable erotica that instills in the reader a need to go get clean afterward.  This is definitely not for younger readers, or for those who would be offended by themes such as rape, incest, or child abuse.  I’m not saying the author promotes these things in the book or in any way holds them out as good things, but they are there, and they make up a great deal of the foundation that the rest of the book springs from.

    In the story some of the abuse and killing is exacerbated by supernatural causes, and the author takes us in close to many of the crimes as the plot progresses.  It also takes us in close to some of the previous victims, who may or may not have gotten what was coming to them, and really asks the reader to make their own decisions on what crosses the line, and where some of the deeper causes of violence and depravity come from.   It also showed the often self-perpetuating cycle of abuse that tends to drag its participants/victims in deeper and deeper.

    Our main character, Theresa starts out in a very sympathetic place, having just ended a marriage and moved back to the town where her father lives. For me, it helped that the author started out with such a strong sympathetic picture of the main character, because even with her compelling writing  style, the author very vividly describes so much ugliness.    Ugliness that I absolutely know exists in the world, but parts of this book really made me feel like I was wallowing in that dirt myself.  Without the strong introduction to Theresa, I’m not sure I would have been able to finish.  This actually is a huge compliment to Ms. Morgan, because the scenes were that real to me.

    Because the main villain in the book is an incubus, I went in thinking there might be some sex depicted, but honestly I kind of thought it might end up bordering on mushy romance.   That should not have been my worry.  No punches were pulled in the total gross vindictiveness and destruction this incubus wrought in people’s lives with his actions.

    Even more than that, Ms. Morgan left me, as the reader, wondering how much of what the incubus pulled out of his victims was something already there that he exploited, and how much was a result of the hate and anger he brought with him.  That line in this book was never black and white.

    Theresa herself is trying to make sense of the events and crimes, not a necessarily a perpetrator of them, but she does become entrapped in the mire of it all, and spends a lot of the book trying to understand the full scope of everything that is going on, before starting to claw her way out of it.

    Taking all of what I’ve said above into account, the book held together really well, and while I can’t say that I enjoyed it exactly, it was compelling and worth the read.   It was not comfortable.  It was not uplifting, though it did end on an up-note.  It was by turns riveting and disturbing.  It definitely means that I will be going back and taking a look at the other books in the series with a new eye.

    My final word is to go ahead and read it; I think it’s worth it.  But brace yourself, because it is in many respects a journey through the darker side of humanity.

    Friday-Indie-Logo Three point 5

     

     

     



  • Blog Hopping – Four Questions for the Writer

    Thank you to the amazing and talented Phyllis Irene Radford of http://bookviewcafe.com and http://ramblin-phyl.livejournal.com for inviting me on this blog tour.

    Phyl answered the questions below and then picked out three other victi– err, authors– to answer them next.   I am honored to have the opportunity, so without further ado:

     

    1) What am I working on?

    I’m currently working on book three of Frog and I’s urban fantasy Gift of Grace series, tenatively titled Falling From Grace.  It has a lot of changes from the previous books for our main characters, as well as some fallout from the last book as well. (Pun totally intended, for those who have read book 2.)

     

    2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

    My work differs mostly because it is done as a collaboration with my husband, Frog.  He writes one perspective, I write the other, and then we trade chapters back and forth all of the way through the book.   We usually outline the book in acts, since that gives us both an idea where our characters need to start and end their part, and any major goals for that arc.  I love this loose outline because it means that our characters can still go off and do something crazy we weren’t expecting while still trading the plot back and forth.  As long as we can bring our folks back around to the target by the end of the chapter, it’s all ok.

    This style of writing also gives our main characters two very distinct voices, because they really do have two different people standing behind them.

    The magic system in our books also differs from others in the genre, because it is entirely based on summoning.  Being a magic user means you’re able to send or receive types of energy.  Magic doesn’t create anything new, it just moves around things that already exist.

     

    3) Why do I write what I do?

    Mostly because it’s a lot of fun.  I write stories I would love to read.

     

    4) How does your writing process work?

    Where I start is probably the most different from other writers.  Basically, I think about where my character left the last book, or what I want to convey about this character (if it’s a new series), and then Frog and I will throw ideas and events back and forth together until we have an outline that sounds like a lot of fun to both of us.  Then we’ll decide which character is going to start the book, and which chapters absolutely have to be told from one or the other’s perspective.

    After that, it’s much like any other writer’s process.  I sit down and I make words appear on the page until that page is full. Then I go to the next one.  The next day, I may open that chapter and decide I don’t like 25% of the words, and pull them out, replacing them slightly shinier words.  Then I add more words onto that, until eventually I have all my chapters.   Then Frog and I line our chapters in order and do a full edit, checking to make sure Grace isn’t standing at the edge of a bridge at the end of one chapter, but mysteriously crouching in the middle of the road during the opening scene of the next one.

     

    For next week, I thought I’d send you over to central Washington and northern Idaho where we have some very talented writers:

    Voss Foster, vossfoster.blogspot.com
    Voss Foster lives in the middle of the Eastern Washington desert, where he writes speculative fiction.

    Adriane Ceallaigh, www.adrianeceallaigh.com
    Adriane Ceallaigh, Author of Unbound: Kayla Blackstone Book One, enjoys knitting and managing the Central Washington Authors Guild.

    Kaye Thornbrugh, kayethornbrugh.blogspot.com



  • We interrupt these reviews…

    For about the next month, you probably won’t be seeing reviews posted.  We’ve just gotten our edits back from our editor on Coup de Grace, and we’ve got a month to turn and burn.


    Sue Bolich is an amazing author and a fantastic editor.  She is also thorough, and we’ve got a lot of work to do over the next month, which means we’re on hiatus for a bit.


    Look for new reviews beginning on October 25.


    In the meantime, if you haven’t read Grace Under Fire yet, now’s the time.  Coup de Grace is on its way to Amazon as we speak.

    posted by Esther Jones on January, 31 ]]>



  • Goodreads Author of the Week!

    Frog has just been named Author of the Week on Goodreads Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers boards!

    This is exciting news.  It means Grace Under Fire and Frog & Esther are going to be featured on a number of websites this week.  Links will follow as I receive them.



  • One Lovely Blog Award

    877e6-one-love-blog-award-two131
    Our blog has been chosen for the One Lovely Blog award!
    Thank you to Deby Fredericks for nominating our little corner of the web.

    To accept the award, we’re supposed to post seven random things you probably don’t know about us.  I guess, here you go!

    1. Frog and I sometimes argue, and then realize we’ve been in character the whole time.

    2. Frog was a first responder and volunteer firefighter while still in high school.

    3. Our house and its contents are sometimes referred to as “Geektopia.”

    4. I once overturned a canoe in glacial flood waters.

    5. I can’t swim.

    6. Frog has been chased by a moose while camping.

    7. Frog and I ran Eastern Washington University’s chapter of Amtgard in college, which was known as the Shire of Talon’s Height.

    There are a lot of really fun and informative blogs out there, so next list of nominees was actually pretty hard to come up with.  The seven blogs we would like to nominate for this award are:

    Maggie Bonham, Sky Warrior Books

    S. A. Bolich

    Kaye Thornbrugh

    Francis Pauli

    Deborah J. Ross

    Irene Radford

    Rosemary Jones

    Every single one of these authors are worth checking out!

    One Lovely Blog AWARD
    The Rules:

    Add the “One Lovely Blog Award” image to your post
    Share seven things about you
    Pass the award on to seven nominees
    Thank the person who nominated you
    Inform the nominees by posting on their blogs



  • Some Site Changes

    Friday-Indie-Logo

    When we started this blog, we really didn’t know what we were doing. We knew that, as authors, we should have some sort of a blog where we talked about stuff. General pontification didn’t take us too far.

    So we started reviewing books, and that has quickly become the raison d’etre of this site. Oh, sure, we’ll still pontificate from time to time about the wonders of being an indie author, and occasionally I’ll go off the chain and rant, but we’re changing the site title and layout ever so slightly to focus on what has really become the big draw for us, our reviews.

    So, this is not longer simply the Frog and Esther Jones blog. It’s the Friday Indie Review, run by Frog and Esther Jones. It also happens to have a book trailer for our book still. You know. Right over there ——->

    So, welcome to the Friday Indie Review. Enjoy your stay. And join our group on Goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/105077-the-friday-indie-review