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Smashwords book reviews by Jill Bemis
- The Second Fly Caster: Fatherhood, Recovery and an Unforgettable Tournament
on July 07, 2011
A man must realize his tournament winning fly-fishing father is just an obsessive and compulsive human being with flaws before he can overcome self-doubts to deal with his own alcoholism and mature as a man.
Author Randy Kadish draws parallels between main character Erik’s and his tournament winning fly-fishing father’s battle with alcoholism, unspoken horrors and feelings of failure as they both pursued unattainable goals. After cancer and alcohol took his father’s life, Erik picks up the fly rod and obsessively practices fly casting, sacrificing his studies so he can cast over 100 feet to win the next tournament for his father. For both, fly-fishing became an out, a way to side step the bottle rather than face their own demons.
Although the author’s vivid descriptions of certain scenes engage the reader and generate interest in the main plot, the three main characters could have been more fully developed. This reader was left wondering whether the author deliberately left out what demons the father failed to face and what were the fly casting techniques left by his father.
Overall it was a quick paced coming of age story.
- Seer of Mars (The Vallar Series 1)
on July 24, 2011
Teenage inexperience, love and psychic ability triumphs over tyrannical corporate greed and corruption on Mars.
More adventure and romance than science fiction, author Cindy Borgne pits free will and love against Marscorp’s hostile takeover of other Mars corporations. Ian Connor in his naive teenage years slowly realizes that only he can stop the corrupt and power hungry irrational admiral from using Ian’s psychic ability to plunder Mars with a wanton disregard for human life. Ian’s struggle and interaction with others illustrates how fear controls reactions and love can force ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
A little slow reading at first, the pace of the story picks up considerably with the first battle scene. From there, the momentum draws the readers to its logical conclusion. The storyline is more appropriate for the action and adventure, rather than science fiction genre. Overall, much more detail is needed for the scenery, equipment and psychic ability to follow generally accepted principles of goods writing for the science fiction genre.
The romantic subplot that began to develop a second dimension for some of the characters wasn’t fully explored. The reader is left wondering what happened to Nate’s girlfriend or why did Nate still have psychic ability but no emotions after his injury.
- Friends of Choice (Wings from Ashes, #1)
on July 28, 2011
Kara moves to a new town, attends a new school and makes new friends, who then set her up for date rape and an overdose of alcohol laced with ecstasy.
Author Linda Nelson emphasizes the influence friends can have on teens and the consequences from deceiving parents in this story of Kara, a self-conscious and insecure teen with an alcoholic mother and an enabling father. Kara gets good grades, but more than anything else she wants to belong. She can’t believe that Carol wants to be her friend. She overlooks Carol’s shoplifting and her uneasy feelings that sneaking around with Carol will lead to trouble.
This story is meant to be a cautionary tale. Responsible parents know who their children’s friend are and don’t let them associate with the wrong crowd. The moral would appear to be that their children should choose their friends wisely and should not trust them in lieu of their parents, no matter how dysfunctional said parents may be. After all, dysfunctional parents can still be loving parents.
This e-book version of Friends of Choice needs editing. There are some awkward sentences where the meaning is not clear or appears to be opposite to the author’s intent. For example, “She took Darcy’s place at the table, hoping she would be angry with her for taking her place.” I think in this situation Kara would not want new acquaintances to be angry with her. Also several paragraphs in chapter 21 are repeated in chapters 22 and 23. Using “’Kay” repeatedly and referring to certain songs accentuates how out of touch the writer is with current slang and the musical tastes of teenagers. The reader is left wondering if the parents lost their old house to foreclosure and how they could afford to buy a new, bigger house with an outdoor pool. Finally, the story ends abruptly with all of the characters hanging in limbo.
- Leaves of the Fall
on Aug. 06, 2011
Life is definitely not rosy for Rose, as she gradually realizes she in trapped in a loveless marriage to an unfaithful and uncaring spouse.
Author Violet Yates explores a wide range of emotions first love, infatuation, marital love, lust and unfulfilled love as told through Rose’s relationships with the man she loves and the man she thinks she loves.
“Leaves of Fall” is a typical story of one person in a group of ordinary people living ordinary lives. Rose’s viewpoints on her life as she lives it, her thoughts and actions, doesn’t find her taking responsibility for her role in her relationships. Instead, the story is a “lay in the bed you made”, with a could have, should have, and would have if somebody else hadn’t made the decision for Rose.
Husband Trevor, best friend Missy, friend Ethan, and Ethan’s wife Sherry are superficial characters used to direct action flow from plot to subplot and back again. Character motivation needs further development to understand why Rose and Ethan are so easily controlled and deceived by their spouses. Rose’s transition from co-dependency to free will freedom is glossed over in one leap of faith, a brief understated epiphany. The ending is uncomfortable, like there should have been more done to resolve Rose’s and Ethan’s situations.
- If You Go Into The Woods
on Aug. 07, 2011
Author David Gaughran’s surprise twist horror ending is found in two completely unrelated very short stories.
“If You Go Into The Woods” reads like an old fairytale. Irresistible chirping draws a young but troubled boy into the woods day after day, until the lure of the unknown draws him off the trail and literally up a tree. You will need to read the very short five page story to find out if he survives fear and panic to reveal what is really hidden in the branches.
Everybody in the television sitcom “Cheers” knew Norm, so why after years of week after week at the same bar, the same bakery, nobody remembers Linus or his name? His friends forgot him after the divorce and his ex-wife wishes their son would forget him. Is it Linus’ or everybody else’s problem? The twisted ending or the ending twist in “The Reset Button” will leave the reader wondering how so much could happen to one man in less than six pages.
None of the characters in either story are fully developed. Subplots are left dangling and unresolved at the end. Yet, both tales are a quick read with intriguing finales. Either story would make a promising first chapter in a horror novella or novel. Character motivation, conflict situations, and troubled relationships could be further developed to deliver a more powerful suspense tale.
- The Virgin King
on Aug. 07, 2011
Henry VIII, King of England, King of France and Lord of Ireland, teaches William, his presumed illegitimate son, how to ensnare current Queen Elizabeth’s attention and recapture the throne.
In this alternative universe, King Henry VIII did not die, but was exiled to an island along with his illegitimate son. Elizabeth finally inherits the throne, recognizes her father and takes a personal interest in young William when they return to England. While the tale closely follows William and portrays life as author Joseph Fullam imagined it occurred in the 1500s, there are gaps where the action seems to fade out only to pick up again with the introduction of a new character or setting. What happened to several of the characters, including dethroned Henry, was lost in the shuffle. The ending was confusing and the reader has to take a leap of faith that William could travel and that he did achieve any sort of relationship with the Queen, in order for this tale to be accepted as a plausible alternative Tudor universe.
- Dirty Little Angels
on Oct. 15, 2011
This is an ugly and brutal tale of teenage life on the poor side of town.
Author Chris Tusa tells a bitter descriptive tale of poverty, brutality and depression that leaves the reader headed to the shower to wash the filth away. Becoming poor white trash would be a step up for teenager Miss Hailey, her family, and so-called friends. Drugs, smoking, sex, and criminal behavior just as normal a part of daily life as brushing one’s teeth, that is if they brush their teeth or have teeth to brush. Unfortunately, the final chapter for these gritty characters is unknown. Only the baby molester, Moses the preacher and a Ferris wheel operator who was killed by brother Cyrus has a happy ending.
on Oct. 15, 2011
Jenny goes missing and Ariel must seek the truth.
Teenage girls in Hell, Michigan go missing in Abigail Boyd’s twisted paranormal description of teenage high school popularity, puppy love, and murder. Being fifteen is hard enough in a small town, but when Ariel’s best friend goes missing, she start seeing things. New best friend Theo and her wishful thinking sweetheart Henry stir up her already mucked up emotions and complicate her relationships. There is no happy ending for this teenage angst. The action quickly rises towards a climax but peters out without quite making it.
- Hot Ticket (Ticket Trilogy #1)
on Oct. 15, 2011
Grade school is never easy when Julie finds herself on the outside without a “Hot Ticket” to instant notoriety.
Author Tracy Marchini has created a delightful story about the twists and turns of popularity in this age appropriate middle grade school setting by using a “hot ticket” that magically appears when least expected. Julie Robinson and the other 6th graders all desire a ticket that marks them as one of the cool kids. When she is one of the last students not to receive a ticket, she is determined to find out who is responsible and why. Follow her and the other students as they explore relationships and jockey for their place in the wacky world of teenage trials and tribulations.
- Isle of Stumps
on Oct. 15, 2011
Unexpected results can happen in military settings.
If you blink, each story will have ended before you can issue an opinion. Isle of Stumps is a brief story about one military man’s sacrifice. Find out what he will do to fit in. Swallowing a Boot is an ironic boot camp story about having too little and too much of a good thing. In Eight Legs to Doomsday, one spider disobeys orders to save humanity. Author Bryan R. Dennis asks the same question in all three short stories, “Who benefits from blind military obedience?”
- Surface in Heaven
on Oct. 15, 2011
Aliens Maher and Jules hop planet-to-planet, these desperate leaps for survival leads them to Planet Earth and a spiritual rebirth.
Author Joseph Fullam’s planet hopping sexual escapades find teenagers Maher and Jules using their talents and inner energy to survive when they don’t automatically do what society expects of them. It’s hard when you find out everything you thought was true is not, and that your life of privilege was taken away because of your parentage, but in this case, shock, frustration and yearning lead two teenagers to develop and evolve into the spiritual beings following the true path of light. Fast paced and confusing at times, this story is about self-centered immature characters that stumble upon very limited enlightenment than any real sort of self-actualization. The climax literally and figuratively is just as baffling.
- Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales
on Oct. 25, 2011
Mini horror tales twists from work, home and life.
Author Suzanne Tyrpak offers little short story horror snippets. Ghost Plane, of which the book is titled, is the most promising of eleven stories. The description and sequencing Ghost Plane draws the reader in but does not fulfill the reader’s yearning to know the story behind each of the characters. While each vignette promises possibilities of much better full-length stories, the author delivers little satisfaction. Each story is like watching a movie trailer; you see the action without knowing what lead up to it and what happens after, just a teaser for what is to come.
- I am Happy (A Mom's Choice Award recipient) by Alberto Agraso and Mony Dojeiji
on Aug. 18, 2013
Angela is a little girl who is content and happy with her life. This book counts all of her blessings and promotes a strong positive self-image. This would be a good story time selection to read aloud.
- The Rock Star in the Mirror (or, How David Bowie Ruined My Life)
on Aug. 18, 2013
Joe loves Lynnie and will do whatever it takes to win her over, even transforming himself into the spitting image of rock star David Bowie. The last quarter of the book seemed rushed.