Catch-Up Quickies 8

First a quick explanation!

Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.

In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I have been scrunching some of my (overdue) reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.

That’s the plan anyway; and so far, so good…!

Title: The Cause Lives: Warriors for Equal Rights
Author:  Marie W. Watts
Publisher:  Las Tortugas Press

Blurb:  All Alice wants is to retire. Until the call for justice gets in the way.

Alice Arden can’t wait to retire in eighteen months, but her boss at the federal discrimination and harassment agency she works at has other ideas. She assigns Alice to head a newly created task force responsible for catching more lawbreakers, and Alice can’t refuse.Already burned out and suffering from a worsening disability that might put her in a wheelchair, Alice finds more than she had bargained for in her new team with racism, a sociophobe, and hidden agendas at play. Threats on their lives because of a case they’re working on drive Alice to the bottle until she discovers an unnerving secret.

Forget retirement. Alice is about to embark on delivering justice in the sexual harassment case of her career, and if she goes down, it’ll be with guns blazing.

Review: Fictional, but based on the author’s own experiences in the field of workplace equalities and discrimination, this book follows Alice and her team as they investigate and attempt to resolve a series of equal-opportunities-related complaints.

The majority of the story focuses less on the professional complaints the team is handling, and more on the team dynamics and their own personal (and personnel) issues – everything from addiction, disabilities, sexism, phobias, religious intolerance, racism, homophobia and rehabilitation is touched upon here, and the author does a really good job of showing the conflicts and difficulties faced by anyone working in a truly diverse office environment, with all of the personality clashes that might entail. It definitely looks like this team has been set up specifically to fail!

I was a little surprised when the story just ended suddenly, without resolving the current cases under investigation, or the bigger mystery of why the team has been set up the way they have. All the threads are left trailing towards the sequel, but with no climax here it left this book feeling strangely unfinished and unsatisfying.

I did get drawn in to the plot and characters, but not enough that I felt compelled to follow them any further on their mission, which is a bit of a shame, because I do think it is an important one and raises questions that we all should be considering regularly.

Purchase Link: The Cause Lives: Warriors for Equal Rights on Amazon

Title: Red Hail
Author:  Jamie Killen
Publisher:  Red Adept Publishing

Blurb:  Professor Colin Ayres has spent years researching the strange story of Galina, Arizona, a sleepy border town ripped apart by violence and paranoia after the outbreak of a mysterious illness in 1960. Colin is certain the Galina Incident was simply a case of mass hysteria. But when his partner, Alonzo, starts exhibiting strange symptoms, Colin is shocked to realize they are the same as those that emerged in Galina decades ago.

As Alonzo’s condition worsens, Colin scrambles to piece together what really happened during that terrible summer in the past. He uncovers a story of murder, corruption, and fanaticism. The deeper he digs, the more he becomes convinced that what happened in Galina wasn’t mass hysteria after all.

When others start to develop the same eerie symptoms, Colin must confront the possibility that someone—or something—is driving the plague. Guided by rumors of a person who found a way to stop the plague in the sixties, Colin races to find answers before the disease destroys Alonzo and everyone else it touches.

Review: Red Hail is plague fiction at its very best.

The story follows residents of the same town, Galina in Arizona, in two timelines – in the 60’s and in 2020 – as they deal with a mysterious plague that seems to be spreading through the population in stages and even affecting the behaviour of local flora and fauna.

I was utterly hooked from the very start. The plagues are incredibly creepy: naming; ‘statue-ing’; ‘dancing’; as is the unnatural behaviour of various coyotes, bugs, birds and cacti as the story progresses. I was more disturbed by far than I would have been by the usual blood, death or zombie plagues.

Fans of John Wyndham, Michael Crichton or Stephen King’s less horror-based, more psychological novels, will enjoy this psychological sci-fi thriller, which leaves the reader with an open but optimistic ending.

Purchase Link: Red Hail on Amazon

Title: Squirting Milk at Chameleons: An Accidental African
Author:  Simon Fenton
Publisher:  Eye Press

Blurb:  On the cusp of middle age, Simon Fenton leaves Britain in search of adventure and finds Senegal, love, fatherhood, witch doctors, and a piece of land that could make a perfect guest house, if only he knew how to build one. The Casamance is an undiscovered paradise where mystic Africa governs life, people walk to the beat of the djembe, when it rains it pours and the mangos are free. But the fact that his name translates to ‘vampire’ and he has had a curse placed on him via the medium of eggs could mean Simon’s new life may not be so easy.

Review: Simon Fenton shares with readers a series of personal anecdotes and reminiscences from his life as a Brit in Africa.

In Senegal, Simon finds love with Khady and later their son, builds a home and a business, and explores the local culture, landscape and beliefs.

There is no main storyline here, simply a series of snapshots of life as a ‘toubab’, sometimes connected by time, place or person, but just as often, standalone glimpses into a different world and a different way of life.

The author clearly has a great fondness and respect for Africa and the African people, and his book is full of this affection and laced with the gentle humour of a fish-out-of-water attempting to understand and blend in. I did feel that there was the occasional trace of superiority towards the ‘little ways’ of the local people and some of their more mystical beliefs and practices (such as the titular squirting milk at lizards).

However, for the most part, this is an entertaining insider-outsider view of Africa – the good and the bad – told in warm, conversational style and with honesty, amusement and love.

Purchase Link: Squirting Milk at Chameleons: An Accidental African on Amazon

Title: Depersonalise
Author:  MSJ

Blurb:  If you enjoy the idea of exploring a range of unique black and white art alongside poetry and prose, this is the book for you!

“Depersonalise” is MSJ’s debut contemporary collection which explores love, loss, and the feeling of not being present but rather merely watching life go by and realising in retrospection. The free form poetry found within the book touches upon struggles associated with mental health and life. Enjoy the beautiful illustrations which accompany every poem within.

Poetry from this collection will leave readers reminiscing about the past, in search of comfort in their memories. Don’t we all wish you could relive certain moments?

(This collection would be great for young adults who not only enjoy modern poetry, but also art)

Review: This debut collection of poetry is unique, in that the author is 18 and has used thirteen young artists to illustrate their work.

The collection is quite short (23 poems), as are the poems, and there is evident technical skill in the well-chosen words and expressive imagery.

My personal favourite was Blind Sighted – the idea and emotion really resonated with me; and I love the whole concept of offering opportunities for other young artists to display their art alongside the poet’s words.

I really enjoyed reading this volume, but felt it was much too short to really get a proper feel for the author’s work. I would happily have read 2-4 times more of these interesting and emotional snippets.

Purchase Link: Depersonalise on Amazon

Title: Amarah (World of Linaria, book 3)
Author:  L.L. McNeil
Publisher:  Three Dragon Publishing

Blurb:  ‘This treasure’ll make us richer than any Goldstone. All the sky pirates in Estoria, Val Sharis, heck, in all of Linaria would be on their way here if they knew where here was.’

With rampaging dragons and marauding Arillians dominating Linaria’s skies, Amarah’s quest for vengeance against the one who took everything from her seems almost impossible.

When a treasure hunt with a former ally leads to the discovery of a lost Varkain artefact, she’s plunged into the middle of an ancient war between Sevastos dragons, Varkain blood magic, and those who crave these powers for themselves.

Amarah wanted revenge. What she uncovers will change the face of Linaria forever.

Return to a realm in turmoil in the World of Linaria – Book Three.

Review: I love L.L. McNeil’s World of Linaria series, but do have to confess that this is not my favourite book in the series, partly because Amarah is not one of my favourite characters (of which there are many!) and partly because this feels very much like a ‘middle book’ in terms of plot and pacing.

All the gang are still on their own individual paths and following their separate goals. Amarah has gone back to a bit of pirating, while still hoping to help Moroda and get revenge on Jato for her recent injuries; Palom is doing a few smithing and bodyguarding odd jobs whilst learning how to train his dragon; Sapora is searching for ancient, forgotten power; Morgen is working on new skills in the hope he can undo past mistakes; and Isa and Kohl are trying to decide where their loyalties lie.

All of these routes lead to exciting goals, but it is not yet time for them to reach those climactic points, so this is the bit of the story where they move around and work towards their aims, but without really achieving much, which makes the pace feel a little slow. That said, there is lots of fascinating worldbuilding detail and more character development for all the main players, and the suspense and tension are building up nicely towards the future instalments – I can’t wait to hear from Isa, Kohl and Morgen… I wonder if Sapora will get a volume too?

I definitely recommend reading this series in order. If you are a fan of epic fantasy, dragons and rich worldbuilding and haven’t discovered Linaria yet, then you’re in for a treat!

Purchase Link: Amarah on Amazon

Whew! We’ve covered equal rights, plague, Senegal, poetry and pirates in this round-up… a bit of something for everyone there!

I’ve got an extract coming up for you soon from Martin Tracey’s Lunar (third book in the Judd Stone series) and my next catch-up will be centred mostly on fantasy, so keep an eye out for that if you’re a fellow fan.

Happy reading folks! 🙂


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