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Chip And Die

Author: Arlene Sachitano
Genre: Mystery
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

11070401Harley Spring is already having a bad day at work when she gets a very strange phone call. The anonymous voice tells her that if she ever wants to see Miroslaw again, she needs to be across the street at the local bar, the Blue Whale, at nine that evening. Miroslaw is Mike's real name and an employee who, according to someone who claimed to be his brother, is out sick with the flu. Harley needs him at work and needs him well as he is supposed to be figuring out why the numbers in production at Sil-Trac, a computer chipmaker, aren't adding up. Faced with an intense audit to meet ISO 9000 standards, everything has to be perfect and her people have to do their jobs right the first time.

Harley, more curious than concerned, goes to the Blue Whale at the appointed hour and is confronted by three men with a bafflingly strange request. To see Miroslaw/Mike alive again, she must pay $4200 dollars in unmarked bills. The amount is odd, as is the group's behavior, and she does nothing as the men leave the bar.

Mike's possible kidnapping becomes part of a long laundry list of problems at home and at work. Instead of calling the police directly, she reports the situation to her HR department, resulting in the involvement of the local police. What follows is a cascade of events; each worse that the preceding one as her professional career and personal life is threatened in this wild tale of romance, greed and corporate espionage.

Featuring a potentially interesting main character and exhaustive background information on the chip industry, this novel moves forward at a somewhat erratic pace. At times, the story moves steadily forward before grinding to a near halt as events at work are painstakingly discussed. Then too there is the occasional strange behavior of the main character, which at times threatens the reader's willing suspension of disbelief. Despite being depicted as professionally very competent, she does not seem able to properly deal with problems at work in a professional real world manner and has a very hard time with her personal life.

The book, despite its perceived flaws, is still interesting and provides a fairly good story. The mystery itself is complex and changing and the final twist at the end, one of several, works well and fits nicely into the setup. All in all, this is a book worth reading and an author to keep an eye on in the future.


November 28, 2004 in Mystery | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hell's Belle

Author: Shannah Biondine
Genre: Romance
Reviewed by Susan DiPlacido

11070402It's the late 1800's, and Twila Bell is an orphaned, accident-prone woman who has just relocated to Nevada with her berating Uncle Fletcher's family to open a new town emporium. Del Mitchell is a handsome local rancher who was just left at the altar. When one of Del's horses crashes through the front window of Uncle Fletcher's shop on opening day, this spicy romance is set in motion.

Del goes in to offer to pay for repairs, but what he finds is a charming damsel-in-distress as Twila is taking the brunt of her uncle's anger. He's once again yelling at his niece and blaming the bad fortune on her. Del's appalled for Twila, but after his recent humiliation, he has sworn off women, so he tries to forget about Twila as he leaves town for a while. But when he returns home, he's dismayed to learn of everyone talking about the town "witch" – Twila Bell. Furious at her uncle and feeling bad for Twila, Del takes her away to Reno and marries her.

This, however, is just the start of their tale. Though attracted to Twila and driven by chivalrous intentions, Del isn't ready to open his life or heart to another woman after his recent debacle at the altar. And Twila, after years of living with her demeaning Uncle, is deeply insecure. Both these characters are endearing and interesting, and you'll find yourself rooting them on. Biondine has a light touch with this story. While it's incredibly steamy, it's also funny and charming. There's plenty of plot to keep things moving, but Biondine never loses focus of the romance of this tale, and never makes a misstep. If you like westerns and romances with more than a touch of steam, you'll love this well-written, engaging story.


November 28, 2004 in Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Iron Triangle

Author: Mike Baron
Genre: Script - Mystery
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

Black Coat Script Library

"In film and television, thousands of fine scripts by established writers are never produced. The Black Coat Script Library is dedicated to presenting some of those scripts." (Back cover)

11080401Frequent readers of my review work here and elsewhere are very much aware of my strong appreciation and admiration for the efforts of Black Coat Press. As foremost a reader and secondly as a reviewer, I have learned quickly that BCP can always be counted on to provide quality books in terms of appearance as well as story. This new division of BCP is no exception.

For those that do not know, and I certainly didn't before receiving this book, (one of three and I will be reviewing) a "script book" is the basic movie or TV show in script form within a bound book. The best and simplest analogy I can come up with is that if you remember reading plays in High School English, this is the same idea. And the effect is the same. Other than scene location explanations, character development and actions are told almost entirely through spoken dialogue. As such, it requires a certain style of writing and narration to make the characters come alive.

It certainly works in the The Iron Triangle which the author refers to as "American Beauty meets Enter The Dragon." (Introduction (page 5) and Back Cover) Set in Fielder's Creek, the action revolves around a small karate school, "Rick's Karate." Owned and operated by Rick Mayer, the school is having serious hard times and placing enormous strain on his already shaky marriage to his beautiful wife, Darcy.

Rick is not that aware of the level of her unhappiness or the multiple reasons for it and he is certainly not aware of the actions of several of his students who are out vandalizing homes and pushing drugs. Using skills he is teaching them in advance of competing in the coming state tournament, they are a part of the rapidly growing crime problem in the small town. The question becomes -- as various matters take their course, resulting in more and more violence and deceit -- will Rick figure out friend from foe in time to save himself and those he cares about?

This was a very enjoyable read and filled with what could be interesting characters if brought to the screen. This murder mystery features numerous fight scenes, which would have to be depicted correctly to raise tension while retaining the overall noir feeling to the work. It could be done, and done well, and hopefully somebody in Hollywood is paying attention.


November 28, 2004 in Screenplays | Permalink | Comments (0)

Emerald Sea

Author: John Ringo
Genre: Fantasy
Reviewed by Tom Feller

11110401I think that we would all consider paradise a world in which there is no war, work is optional, a worldwide computer system manages energy consumption and the weather, people teleport around the globe just for fun, and the average life expectancy is approaching 500 years in good health. Even the human form is optional. This sequel to There will be Dragons features characters that have had themselves changed into mermen, mermaids, orcas, and dolphins. Most of the nearly one billion human beings living on Earth around 4,000 AD feel they had a great life, except for a small minority who feel humanity has become decadent. They start a civil war and bring an end to that paradise. This book takes place about two years after the Fall with the world divided into two armed camps. One group, the Freedom Coalition, dominates North America while the other, New Destiny, controls Europe and Asia.

Edmund Talbot is one of the leaders of the Freedom Coalition, aka United Free States. In his previous life, he had been one of the world’s leading medieval re-enactors and was an expert swordsman. In this book, he undertakes a diplomatic mission to the Caribbean to persuade the mer-people to join the Freedom Coalition. The mer- people have so far maintained a strict neutrality, but New Destiny is preparing an invasion fleet to cross the Atlantic to North America. Talbot is accompanied by his wife Daneh, daughter Rachel, and aide Herzer Herrick. Herrick is a lieutenant in the Blood Lords, a combination of the Roman legionnaire and U.S. Marine. They travel via a dragon carrier, a clipper ship modified to carry dragons that fly off of and land on the deck. (Steamships are out of the question as no one has found any coal or oil, let alone built an engine.) Likewise, the dragons, a life form originally created by the Disney people and normally having the intelligence of a horse, are flown by people who did this for fun before the war. There is one exception, however. Joanna is an intelligent, articulate dragon created centuries before during a period known as the AI wars. She also has an attitude and does not suffer fools lightly.

Before the war, the mer-people had been engaged in the restoration of the coral reefs. After the war, getting enough to eat was their biggest challenge. To maintain their body temperatures, they require a high protein diet and a layer of fat. They also find having children outside a medical facility was their next biggest challenge. New Destiny also sends a diplomatic mission comprised of Orcas to persuade the mer-people to join their side.

Ringo also introduces a new character named Joel Travante, who had been one of the world’s few policemen before the Fall. However, Ringo really doesn’t do a whole lot with him. His presence does introduce us to his daughter Megan who is the main character of “In a Time of Darkness”, a novella that is included in this volume. She has the misfortune to be captured and thrown into the harem of one of the leaders of New Destiny.

This sequel is unusual in that it is better written than the original. There are no boring talking head passages, and the characters don’t have time to stand around and pontificate. I do recommend reading them in order, however, if only to get a glimpse of life before the fall. The bottom line is that I do recommend them, because of the fascinating premise and Ringo’s excellent execution.


November 28, 2004 in Fantasy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Designed To Kill

Author: Chester D. Campbell
Genre: Mystery
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

11110402Following up on his novel Secret of the Scroll author Chester D. Campbell brings back Greg McKenzie and his wife Jill for a case that hits too close to home. Both are recuperating from the events of the last book, which are frequently referred to in this novel. Jill is dealing with painful rehab following her surgery for a torn rotator cuff in her left shoulder while Greg is dealing with his guilt over allowing her to be hurt and not being able to prevent it. But all that becomes secondary on the news of the apparent suicide of Tim Gannon.

Tim Gannon was an Architect/Engineer overseeing the construction of a new beachfront condominium complex known as "The Sand Castle" in Perdido Key, Florida. Striking in appearance, it was also striking in a totally different way thanks to a patio collapse from the penthouse unit at the fifteenth floor. The deaths and injuries were soon followed by the discovery of Tim's body in his car at The Gulf Islands National Seashore located nearby.

Found dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot, the news is shocking for the Mckenzies. Not only because he was using their condo at Perdido Key but also because he is the son of their closest friends in Nashville, Sam and Wilma Gannon. From the beginning, despite the evidence, Sam believes it is murder and wants a very reluctant Greg to look into it. After all, Greg was an agent with the OSI (the Air Force Office of Special Investigations), an investigator for the DA's office in Nashville, and a few other things.

What the 65-year-old Greg McKenzie does not have is a private investigator license, something the local police locked into their theory of suicide due to guilt over a bad design are quick to repeatedly and firmly point out. But nobody can really stop somebody from asking questions of those involved and all are relatively quick to talk and spin the accepted story. But there are holes and Greg and Jill keep asking questions and working the timeline despite attempts to cover up the evidence. They soon ask too many questions in all the wrong places and quickly find out that the construction business can be murder.

This is a very enjoyable read that relies primarily on detection and not graphic violence to move the story forward. Greg and Jill are both beautifully drawn characters and quickly become not just alive for the reader, but old and trusted friends. The secondary characters are just as realistic and serve to advance the story at just the right times and places.

The plot itself is by all appearances relatively straightforward for approximately the first half of the book and then it begins to twist in strange and unexpected ways. Just when it appears that everything led one way, the author abruptly changes tact and shocked this reader with the identity of the actual killer. After reading quite a few books, mystery and otherwise, over the years, it is rare to see the final twist pulled off so well. Enjoy this one as it is very good stuff, indeed.


November 28, 2004 in Mystery | Permalink | Comments (0)


Author: Steve Englehart
Genre: Screenplay-Suspense
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

11110403In this recent release from Black Coat Script Library, the setting is the resort island of Majorca. But despite its setting, the universal themes of deceit and murder come through, as does the clash of cultures and beliefs.

None of that is on the mind of Rob and Jenny Kendall, Americans, married, mid 20's when they arrive in the capital city of Palma on the island of Majorca. They have been traveling abroad in Europe and their current destination on the island is the small village of Graciosa. Happily in love, they have spent five months traveling across Europe and now plan to spend the next five months on the island so that Rob can write his novel. As he puts it, "Everybody lies. I lie for a living." (Page 16)

Upon arrival, they settle into the cottage they are renting and soon their doorway is darkened by the presence of Maddox Johns. Something of a village celebrity, he is a poet as well as an alcoholic. Maddox, somewhat annoyed that the young couple has not read his works and really don't know anything about him, still decides to introduce them to his world. A world of strange parties thrown by Maddox for the fellow foreigners where the psychological tension between the characters runs deep with hints of violence and depravity. Soon, playing on Rob and Jenny's own psychological weaknesses, they are separately drawn into a world of adulterous sex, deceit, and murder where they can't even trust each other.

While eroticism and violence are strong elements of this screenplay, the atmosphere of the work is the primary cinematic element. Despite the beauty of the landscape around them there is a dark current of barely repressed violence in the work. The setup of that element would be crucial to the making of this picture and must convey the noir feel of the work. At the same time, the diverse and intriguing cast of characters would require some thought in casting so that the individuals selected could pull off the noir feel of the work. It could be done and done well and hopefully somebody in Hollywood is paying attention.


November 28, 2004 in Screenplays | Permalink | Comments (0)

One Hundred Philosophers : The Life and Work of the World's Greatest Thinkers

Author: Peter J. King
Genre: Educational
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

11210401This strong basic reference type text opens with a brief introduction that explains how the author sees the realm of Philosophy, the main divisions in Philosophy, and what he is attempting to cover in this book, which spans ancient times to the 20th century. Of course, there are limitations as to what could be covered and the author makes his case as to why certain persons made the cut and others did not.

What follows are the various sections detailing periods in time starting with the Ancient World 700 B. C. E. - 400 B.C.E. A timeline complete with illustrations and pictures as well as dates is given for the relevant points in history within and without the realm of Philosophy. Then, in page summary format, each Philosopher is listed, with a date of life, main interests, influences, those influenced, and an explanation of what is known about the Philosopher, the thinking of the Philosopher and the role of the Philosopher at that time.

This same formula continues throughout the nearly 200-page book. The 100th Philosopher, Peter Singer, is covered at the end of the twentieth century section followed by a comprehensive and detailed two-page section suggesting other reading. This section leads into a glossary of terms used in the book, which is followed by an index.

This book obviously can't cover everyone to great depth and doesn't try to do so. Instead, it serves more as an instruction to a wide range of thought and would be especially helpful not only to the laymen but for students considering study in the world of Philosophy. Not only does it give some understanding of each Philosopher covered, it provides avenues of exploration and learning for those interested and deserves a place in the home library.


November 28, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Battle for Barnstable

Author: Alan M. Brooker
Genre: Horror
Reviewed by Susan DiPlacido

11210402This latest, thrilling offering from Alan Brooker opens innocently enough. Alex Anderson is a small-town reporter looking for his big break. When local stories (along with subscriptions) fall to an all- time low in the sleepy town of Barnstable, his editor dispatches him on a mission to find some news. Alex decides on a series investigating local historical landmarks, and his first place of interest is the ancient Barnstable Manor. While the manor was built by and was home to the Barnstable family for several hundred years, when their family tree dried up – under mysterious circumstances – over ten years ago, the mansion was bought and is now inhabited by Louis Armitage.

During a lukewarm meeting with Armitage, Alex begins studying Barnstable history and is also introduced to Armitage's lovely niece, Lisa. Besides being interested in Lisa's obvious charms, Alex also finds himself drawn in by the strange story of Andrew Barnstable, the last heir to the flamboyant family. It seems Andrew disappeared many years ago while on a trip to Europe. But what seems to be isn't the truth, as Andrew is actually still alive and well, but he's a vampire. Meanwhile, unaware of her father's bloodsucking propensities, his daughter Sara is soon enlisted to help Andrew gain entrance once again into Barnstable Manor. Though it was his previous home, he cannot enter now without being invited, and something inside its walls has drawn his intense interest. Namely, the lovely Lisa.

Once dispatched to the mansion to procure an invitation for him, Sara also finds herself immediately drawn in by the enchanting but cloistered Lisa, and they soon find themselves celebrating Sapphic-style. But all is not well in Barnstable. For Lisa was kept so closely protected and guarded by her uncle because he's a Satanist who plans to offer her as a virgin bride when he summons his master. But now that Sara has taken her virginity, his plans must change and he needs to find a replacement.

When dead bodies start appearing, our feckless reporter Alex finds himself no longer researching a historical human-interest piece, but embroiled in a full-blown murder investigation with many occult ties. And he's going to have to piece the puzzle together and sift through the vampires and Satanists to defeat the true evil. And if he doesn't do it in time, all hell is going to break loose.

Once again, Brooker dabbles in the occult with more than a little flair for the flamboyantly sexual. The Battle for Barnstable effectively ties horror with suspense while bending expectations and taking the reader on a fast-paced, unravelling mystery. Well written with multiple points of view, this is sure to be a wicked delight for fans of these genres, all the way up to the nail-biting finale.


November 28, 2004 in Horror | Permalink | Comments (0)

War For the Oaks

Author: Emma Bull & Will Shetterly
Genre: Script/Fantasy
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

11210403A requirement of fantasy often is the element of the quest where someone needs to make a journey or perform a task or service. Either because the person has some inherent and unknown "gift" or just is lucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the person is drafted into service. Usually the individual is initially less than thrilled, and that certainly sums up the plight of Eddie McCandry.

Eddie is part of a band and dating the lead guitarist, Stuart. Stuart has become more trouble than he is worth, both professionally and personally. Fueled by jealousy over artistic issues and alcohol, he is ruining any future they had together as well as any future the band had as a group. After another public performance ruined by his drinking and bad behavior, Eddie contemplates leaving the band, which will also require her to end her relationship with Stuart.

Fellow band member and good friend Carla not only is willing to leave with her; she wants Eddie to start her own band. This is something Eddie finds overwhelming and she decides she will think about things on a walk home. Along the way she is confronted by creatures that turn out to be nobles from the Summer Court of the Fey folk. They are going to fight the Winter Court after some of the Summer Court's lands have been seized. Eddie, as a mortal, has been chosen by the nobles of the Summer Court to be present for the coming battle. To enhance their chances of victory, assassins sent on behalf of the Winter Court will seek her out and try to kill her. Having placed her in jeopardy by their selection, the nobles of the Summer Court have selected a creature known as "Pooka" to guard her.

They have made their selection and she has no choice but to do their bidding. Something Eddie does not want to do and makes very clear to one and all. The "Pooka," in the forms of a male human, a large dog, and others as well as having numerous other talents, understands her predicament and soon saves her from assassination. Drawn into a battle she did not want by forces she did not believe existed, she quickly finds out more about herself and her place in the world than she ever thought possible.

Based on the novel of the same name written by Emma Bull, this script features an intriguing and diverse cast of characters and plenty of action and secondary storylines with slight changes to the original novel. What really makes all of this work is the element of magic, which is so prominent it deserves top billing itself. With the use of creatures that can change shape at the blink of an eye, spontaneous combustion, shimmering see through veils, and other things, those wishing to turn this great story into a filmed version will have to have the financial resources and access to technology to develop the project correctly. Otherwise, what is at this point a very enjoyable read would be ruined in a film version. Here is hoping that someone is paying attention in Hollywood to this script and looking to do something different than the normal, run of the mill stuff.


November 28, 2004 in Screenplays | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marie, Marie: Hold On Tight

Author: Terri Brown-Davidson
Genre: Fiction
Reviewed by Ruth Mark

11220401When her baby sister Alyssa Ellen dies in strange circumstances Marie and her Momma die too – inside themselves. Sexual abuse, the birth of Momma’s escapist imaginary world, fear and repressed memories follow. This is Marie’s story and it is a harrowing one, definitely not for the faint-hearted. Marie is the narrator throughout (we meet her aged 17), a budding artist who’s only saviors are her boyfriend Dell, her art and a run-down cabin at the edge of the woods. The novel’s title is taken from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and it fits the contents perfectly. Readers are in for a hurtling, emotional roller-coaster ride. You too are well-advised to hold on tight. As Marie says on page 152:

But the mind…is a relentless machine. It loves to move forward. Loves never to stop.

Terri Brown-Davidson has published poetry before and it shows in this her first novel. The language is at once immediate, lyrical, stark and full of poignant images. Written both in the first person and in (for the most part) the present tense with short, snappy sentences and contained in short chapters, the content here can, at times, leave you breathless. Like you need to come up for air. Even flashbacks are written in the present tense and you are sometimes left wondering when certain events happened. By the middle of the book however you’ll be reading so fast that everything will begin to fall into place.

We know for example from very early on that Marie has several dark secrets, not least the fact that her baby sister died a horrible death which has left both herself and her mother scarred. Brown-Davidson deals with these difficult, subjects (often taboo in fiction) in a realistic, straight-on way. There is no flinching from the disgust, the shame the eroticism, the confusion, the pain, the emotional minefield that is child abuse. Violence and sex, secrecy and genetic ties are all dealt with here through Marie’s eyes. It is completely believable even if, at times the dialogue doesn’t sound 100% age-appropriate, or the fact that the author doesn’t fully sketch several of the characters (Dan, Momma’s lover and chief abuser remained a cardboard cut-out, and I couldn’t quite get Momma though I think that was the point – that she wasn’t to be fully understood.)

This is powerful writing depicting raw pain which is at times hard to stomach. Because it is so visceral though, because you quickly want Marie, this damaged, intelligent girl, to survive you’ll not be able to put it down. A page-turner of the highest order. Exhausting, draining yet at the same time hope reigns, grief and pain don’t win and you’re left knowing that survival of even the worst pain is possible. A stunning first novel.


November 28, 2004 in Mainstream | Permalink | Comments (0)