Friday, May 26, 2017

The Unlikely Adventures of Race & Cookie McCloud: Volume 1 by Tom Hoefner

The Unlikely Adventures of Race & Cookie McCloud: Volume 1
by Tom Hoefner
Illustrated by  Kevin Gillespie

28095142
A superhero with anger management issues! A living stone idol with a love for pop-culture trivia! Fist-pumping vampires! These are but a few of the nefarious (and ridiculous) challenges facing awful private investigator Race McCloud and his teenaged niece, all-star spy-in-training Cookie McCloud, as they scour the globe in search of their missing secret agent family. Stuck together by Cookie’s parents under the pretense of ‘babysitting’ (who is sitting for whom is left largely unclarified), the pair find themselves the target of special forces who are out to capture Cookie and KILL RACE! With nowhere left to turn, they seek the aid of Green Suit Jacket Man, the night-stalking vigilante that Race has been hunting for six months and that Cookie finds in one night. With the hero’s reluctant support, the dysfunctional duo are off! To find Cookie’s parents, spies of a Bond-ian sort! To find Margolis McCloud, a tomb-raiding treasure hunter! To find Nyte McCloud, a monster slayer and practitioner of badassery! Through it all, our two heroes must figure out why the military is so hellbent on capturing Cookie, how to act like partners and, most of all, how to be a family.


My Take:
If you like adventure stories with nonstop action, werewolves, vampires, zombies, mafia, superpowers, gadgetry, lost civilizations, mummy curses, and ninja skills, this one's for you.

When Race McCloud, private eye, agrees to babysit his sixteen-year-old niece Cookie, he knows it's not going to be an easy task - after all, she's in training to be a super-spy like her parents, and all of her extended family as well. And the clandestine way her parents dropped her off, with strict instructions not to take her back to 'school', make it clear that somebody's coming to get her, and probably kill Race in the bargain. Without the protection of her spy extended family, I might add... all of whom seem to excel at something exciting and deadly.

The only, well, reasonably 'normal' one in the family is Race, a never-even-has-been with a penchant for collecting useless bits of trivia on comic books and video games, who lives in a hovel rent-free as the janitor. Yeah, THAT guy.

With the help of the mysterious hero Green Suited Jacket Man, who Race has been hunting for six months, and who Cookie finds in one night, they attempt to stay at least one step ahead of their pursuers as they attempt to reassemble their over-powered family and save the world.


Content:

Drug Content:
PG - Several scenes in this book occur in a nightclub where there is some drinking.

Violence:
PG - Like in any YA Spy novel, there's quite a bit, but not gratuitous or explicit in its description. Bones are snapped, jaws are broken, some thugs get killed. Lots of high-velocity chases and some explosions occur. A lot of violence is done to a werewolf and a bar full of vampires.

Language:
PG - I don't recall any swear words at all, except perhaps the D-word tossed in a couple times, but nothing that I took note of.

Adult Content:
PG - I would have kept this at G, but there are a few innuendos tossed around and some mention of a gay vampire, and a few scantily clad succubusses. There's also some discourse about the objectifying of women and a brief discussion about the physical discomforts of females battling without proper attire.

Christian content:
Apart from some mention of holy water and silver crosses, and a slight nod to a side character who if I remember correctly is a priest, there's no mention of scripture or prayer anywhere. The characters depend solely on their own admittedly adequate power to overcome significant obstacles. There's no real discourse on life after death or a higher power.

However, Race tries very hard to be a protector for his niece, and in his bumbling way is clearly depicted as better than the rest of his amazing family. Cookie begins the novel with nothing but contempt for him but in the end realizes his true value and character. Issues like character, diligence, family, self-sacrifice, and consequences, are pretty well depicted here, in a manner that, after the laughter dies down, will make you think.

Final analysis:
Race and Cookie make an unlikely 'odd couple' but the combination works wonders not only for the plot but the flow. Their interactions are priceless, and Race plays the part of comedy relief well. The author transitions him smoothly into the part of a real three-dimensional hero. Pace, setting, world-building, action, dialog - it's a solid, complete package of fun as a fast-paced laugh-a-minute getaway.
The book was well-edited and kept my attention pretty much cover to cover. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Tom Hoefner is a writer, director, and teacher (not necessarily in that order) who lives in Brooklyn with his wife Jaime, his daughters Gabby and Audrey, and their cat Zelda. In his spare time he stages college and high school musicals, plays too much Nintendo, and roots for the Mets.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Six Months to a Year by E.P. Grace

Six Months to a Year
by E.P. Grace
29491334
Scottslynn Steele and Martin Drake happened into each other’s lives out of the blue and fell in love just as quickly. It was love at first sight – perfect chemistry. Most would call it fate. Scottslynn calls it God’s Will. But then the unthinkable happens. A latent disease becomes terminal. It cannot be stopped - neither can her reason for living. In what will become her darkest hours Scottslynn must learn to accept God's Will no matter what it brings, and find the courage to face a future that suddenly leaves her with only Six Months to a Year.

My Take:
When Scottslynn Steele accidentally cuts her foot on barnacles in the ocean, her blase lack of treatment of it causes a serious infection. A newfound acquaintance, Dr. Martin Drake, suggests she get it treated at his office. It doesn't take long for chemistry to take effect, and the two fall in love. Both are strong Christians with a solid faith, and Scottslynn is sure their future together is God's sovereign will.

But just when her future seems brightest, a latent lung disease she has carried since birth becomes terminal, and Martin must give Scottslynn the tragic news that her time left is only... six months to a year.



Content:

Drug Content:
PG - There is a some slight discussion of drinking, but the main characters do not drink.

Violence:
G-The most violent thing that happens in this book is a debilitating disease that slowly suffocates the main character. Much of the suffering in that decline is glossed over, so there's only a light dwelling on the serious physical aspects of the disease..

Language:
G - I don't recall running across a single swear word in the novel.

Adult Content:
G - There is one short discussion about one of the ladies in the church suspecting the main characters in the novel of having an affair. This is squeaky clean.

Christian content:
There is a tremendous amount of meat in here, of the struggle for faith in doubtful circumstances, or crying out to God for an explanation, of being angry with Him. Some emotions are very raw. Good Christian advice is shared between good friends, and the characters must come to grips with the brevity of life. Heaven is portrayed clearly in a positive light. Scripture is quoted only a few times in this book, and it does not come across as preachy but open and honest.

Final analysis:
I normally don't like to dive into a book that is filled with the promise of impending death and suffering, and usually expect I will have to crawl through it kicking and screaming to the tragic bitter end.

But what i found instead in between the covers of this 270pp novel is a chronicle of faith and doubt, love and loss, and ultimately acceptance and triumph over one of our darkest foes, Death. The characters and struggle were believable and the setting was immersive. The pace was good and the conflict was real. Five Stars!


About the Author:

E.P. Grace
Hello everyone, I'm E.P. Grace, author of Six Months to a Year. 

I've read a lot of books over the years. Lots and lots. And I've figured out that my favorite types of stories are usually kind of sad. They're the ones that stay with me, the kind that make me think about the plot and characters after I've finished the book and ultimately make me go back and say hello again a year or two later.

I have a little stack of those books that I keep in my bedroom. They aren't all best sellers and they aren't ALL bittersweet or sad (I have some happy favorites too!) Some were given as gifts and some are library discards by obscure authors. Their social status isn't important to me. What's important is that they leave me wanting more when I reach the end. As a reader and as a writer, I think that's the best place to stop. 

My hope - my goal really - is that you as readers will think about the characters in Six Months to a Year even after you've reached the end. Because if you do, if you can put yourself in one of the character's shoes and emote with them and think about them when you're away from the pages then I'll know I've succeeded as an author and that'll make me really happy.

So. All of that said, I'd love your feedback! if you liked Six Months to a Year please let me and others know by leaving a comment and a rating here on Amazon and over on my Facebook page, facebook.com/epgrace.author

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Seven Misterious Gifts by John Mellor

The Seven Misterious Gifts

30813939A reject rock star and a lonely white dolphin, together with "some of the most bizarre and memorable characters that have ever appeared in a book", take a young boy on a wild, electrifying ride through seven extraordinary, unimaginable tales. Buried deep within the heart of each lies a precious gift for the Earth, and the young boy must find them. And also the truth of himself. And perhaps the mystery of us...

The boy clings precariously to "a fine line between profound and insane" as "these quite incredible characters and events begin to strike the reader as insanity on the part of the author. However, if insanity it is, this is the type that gives birth to great achievements and in examining so many themes such as society, religion and environment, this book can be considered a great achievement."

My Take:
A young boy getting ready to be sent to Earth must first read seven books, which each contain a gift to be given to Mankind. From a reject rock star and his eclectic band, to a lonely bosun shipwrecked alone on a desert island, to a lonely white dolphin with a desire to rescue lost ships, the boy must read a scattered disconnected collection of stories and glean the heart of them, before he will be allowed to come to Earth.

Overseeing the boy and the stories is a mysterious Angel with plans of her own. She guides the boy in his discoveries, and prepares him for the journey he must take. But what could he hope to accomplish in a world gone mad, in the death grip of an insane controlling Snow Queen and her lockstep minions?

The outer story of the Angel and boy tie together an eclectic collection of fascinating violent stories of the Snow Queen's domain in this wild fantasy ride that teeters between insanity and wisdom.


Content:

Drug Content:
PG - There is a small amount of drinking and drug use hinted at in some of the stories in this collection. The queen and her entourage seem to know how to party.

Violence:
PG-13 - A person is struck in the throat with a crossbow bolt. A song destroys a palace and everyone in it. A vine strangles a person to death and destroys an entire kingdom. There are hints of torture, but none of it comes onscreen. Many people are exiled into a wasteland with vicious marauding beasts.

Language:
PG - There's a bit of cussing in this book. Several of the stories depict coarse people with coarse language, but the book doesn't seem to wander past the D-word.

Adult Content:
PG - The princess has a party which seems to be poised to devolve into an orgy, though none of that is more than hinted at. A song for the princess is fairly revealing in its discussion of her immoral descent.

Christian content:
I'm not exactly sure where to place this book. It appears allegorical on the level of Narnia, but the main characters are a bit hard to reconcile with who they seem to be intended to represent. Some scripture is quoted, but reincarnation is hinted at, and a 'cycle' of returning to earth until a lesson is learned, smacks of karma and Hinduism. There are some definite Christian references, but they are intermixed with other religious concepts that make it unclear where the path is. Basically the seven gifts are intended to put Mankind back on the path to enlightenment.

Final analysis:
Although the author intended to draw the reader into the characters depicted in the stories, and into the personalities of the boy and the Angel, there just wasn't enough time and dimension to help me relate to any of them. The Snow Queen was rather one-dimensional, a classic villain with only the characteristics of arrogance and contempt. The boy and the Angel had the most coverage, yet there didn't seem much in the way of conflict or emotion in their journey together. The best character in the line of characters is a tossup between the flamboyant musician Custer and the aged gardener George.

The author seemed driven to send home a point, and the story was exceptionally good on that front, but mixed with solid wisdom and encouragement are differing worldviews a bit at odds with each other. Coupled with rushed world building, character development, and pacing, the story placed with a solid Four Stars.

About the Author:
John MellorI was born and brought up in Liverpool, UK just after The War and went straight from school to sea as a young officer in the Royal Navy. After five years I resigned and worked as a professional yacht skipper for quite a few years before settling to full time writing. I have lived in and renovated a number of boats and houses in various places, and now share a delightful house and 10 acres of weeds near Nelson, New Zealand with wife, son, daughter and a motley collection of animals and boats.

Having had a dozen yachting books professionally published I am now striking out into publishing my own novels. The first is an unusual fairy tale called The Seven Gifts, which has been well received so far.