Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Beast from the Sky by Steven Donkin

Where can you find more legends than in Ireland and Scotland? This story takes place in 1950, the main characters are seniors, the mannerisms of speech are true to time and place. The people involved are Scottish, Irish and American. This is a story "written" by Gertrude from Ireland, found  by her great-great nephew and presented in Gertrude's own words.

Though presented as based on fact, the book is fiction. I enjoyed reading it as based on a legend, a creation supposedly told by Gertrude. She is heading to Scotland with some visiting American friends, embarking on a relaxing visit to another of her old friends from the war, Marit Baltry. Considering this sparsely populated coastal area, it is not so strange that there would be legends. But within days the population has grown as a circus comes to the tiny village, while at the same time, scientists have rented a carriage house to do "experiments" at Marit's closest neighbour's home. Quite a crowd to suddenly appear in a somewhat unknown locale.

Gert and her friends immediately hear of the legend when they take a break at the local pub before carrying on to Marit's home. The legend has been resurrected upon a mysterious case of a circus performer balloonist who has disappeared from the high roof of the home of the widow Marit, and the disappearance has sparked rumours of the return of  the "Beast from the Sky." The tale of the disappearance immediately brings the sleuthing instincts of Gertrude and her friends from earlier adventures to the fore. Henry and Judith, the Americans, decide they must solve this mystery. The legend itself goes back in history to a sect of Druids who occupied Groll Island, believed to house the Beast. The Druids died out long ago. The Beast was said to be guarding a treasure of some kind.

It happens that the island "home" of the Beast is part of Margit's land. That and the disappearance from her home make this all-too-tasty a morsel to investigate, much to the displeasure of Inspector McInnes, and the discomfort of Gert, who is inveigled into pursuing the mystery. What is even more enticing is that the first person to have encountered the Beast and kept a journal was Lord Baltry, ancestor to Marit's deceased husband. Cryptic references were made to the possible location of the treasure. Legend has it that anyone who sees the Beast will soon be dead, and this certainly seems to be the case over the decades with few daring to defy the Beast.

What are these people seeing, and what is killing them or causing their complete disappearance? The very small islands around Groll Island certainly appear to be uninhabitable. Tempestuous seas and rocky shores preclude that on all but Groll Island. Where the Druids lived in their insular community, there are only ruins. About the only way one would actually be able to view the vista of Groll would be from overhead, and there lies a clue to be deciphered.

An interesting mixture of what is in the eye of the beholder; is the Beast real, and who knows but isn't telling? Steven Donkin has presented an unusual and imaginative story, I might have preferred a sharper ending, but perhaps it is leading into a further adventure. Overall, a tantalizing look back in time only to find it is now.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Baby Game by James A. Thomas and Vidya Samson

I was taken completely by surprise with this entertaining story! Absolutely fascinating!

Don't let the title fool you into thinking this story is what it is not. Nor ignore the title, it does play a major part. A surrogate mother in India is about to give birth to a baby girl, child of a young widow and her dead husband's frozen sperm, and another surrogate mother in India is carrying the soon-to-be-born boy of a recently divorced man and his ex-wife, tying many terrifying occurrences together. A journey into political intrigue, scandal, past indiscretion, surrogate mothers, and hope for the childless, but not without completely unexpected complications. This book will take the reader to places of the mind and geographical places. Murder to hide potential scandal. High profile cases of deception bring on an overzealous frenzy of cover-ups. As often happens in life, the past can sometimes sneak up and bite you. In this story, it doesn't just bite you, it almost gets you killed.

This book will keep the reader hooked on all the surprises, about-turns, and other complexities. Virtually a who's who, how and why, and "what could possibly go wrong next." A little taste of life in India, wonderful caring people, two opposing Indian political groups fighting it out, no matter what "it" is, mix-ups, two single parents-to-be with more in common than they would believe.

This story is a hotbed of criminal activity, political conspiracy, terror and murder. With the arrival of two beautiful babies, though the outcome is unexpected, this roller coaster ride through some kind of hell has bright, humorous bits, fear and happiness, all wrapped up together.

Some readers may feel the book is too hectic, too fragmented, but it isn't really. When you look at it from the diverse perspectives and see where it leads, it all makes some kind of crazy, almost plausible, sense. Co-written by James A. Thomas and Vidya Samson, the authors appeared to write this book seamlessly. I was taken completely by surprise with this entertaining story, mesmerized to the point that I didn't want to put it down. Absolutely fascinating!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Five Days of Fear by David Kovach

Published by LMPublishing

An innocent picnic in the park, a child and his grandfather playing catch, a grandmother going to retrieve the ball that was tossed too high, and a gunshot; thus begins "Five Days of Fear." Is five days long enough to know someone well enough to fall in love? It probably is, if those five days are like a lifetime, five days going at lightning speed and painfully slow simultaneously.

In this, his debut novel, David Kovach has hit it out of the park. A thriller that involves the FBI, search dogs, high profile corporate hijinks, revenge, a kidnapping and a traumatized family holding onto faith and hope. Well-researched and tensely written, the tension is only broken by an evolving relationship and a loving family. An intense drama that keeps the reader glued to the book.

I always like to learn something new from books I read, and I learned a lot from this one, particularly about invasion of privacy and sharing of privacy through computer technology. The author certainly knows what he is talking about. This book really captured my attention and let me feel the drama unfold. David Kovach is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby

Published by Bent Pine Publishing

This is a story that comes full circle. Told from the perspective and in the nuances of language of the main characters. Some crude, some refined, conversation remains true to its speaker.

An accidental death and a murder leave as witness, a young boy now homeless and traumatized. The murder is not the mystery. The mystery has more to do with the actions and reactions of the characters. The characterizations remain true throughout the book with the exception being the growth and change in two strangers. One about whom this story really revolves, Olivia Westerly, a woman with many insecurities and superstitions, the second about the young boy, Ethan Allen Doyle, terrified and putting up a bold, tough image for protection. Each chapter is named for its character, his or her thoughts, point of view, their own reality. At first a bit confusing, but I quickly got used to it as the story evolved.

Bette Lee Crosby has a remarkable instinct of people and their foibles. This book of fiction has a certain feel of reality. She has drawn the lines of good versus evil in an intriguing way. There are no loose threads, they are all tied together as the circle joins. A final chapter aptly named Heaven, a short heartwarming glimpse of heaven years later is tantalizing and perhaps the glue that keeps those loose threads sealed. A unique read, enough thrills, chills, sadness and happiness to keep the reader's attention.