Catch-Up Quickies 26

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, despite a somewhat disturbing number of hospitalisations so far this year, I am soldiering on with it!

Title:  H2LiftShips – Beyond Luna
Author:  Bob Freeman
Publisher:   Indies United Publishing House

Blurb:  H2LiftShips, a tech manual for a future.

Imagine a world, exactly like ours, but different.

Part Road-Trip, part solar sailing, always with food, gambling, jail, and pirates, not necessarily in that order.

No: Aliens, Monsters, blasters, pyrotechnic computers, or Anti-Grav powered rockets.

Yes: Lasers, Primates, Canines, Octopus, Space Travel via Solar Sails, and the rare Rocket Ship.

No violence, except for the spinning meat bolas and asteroid pebbles coming to the defense of their home rock.

Review: This was definitely a very unusual read!

Written in tech-manual style, the ‘story’ describes the science behind the futuristic imagined world, its politics, its transport and trading mechanisms, the technical workings of the ship, and finally, the crew – the Captain, the First Mate (octopus), Jack (canine) and Tang (simian).

The last few chapters comprise some mundane anecdotes about Jack and Tang, as they work, take leisure time and socialise. Other than that, there is no overall plot or direction. The whole books is a backstory or scene-setting of the world and characters, presumably in preparation for future adventures.

As a result, it felt more like the first few chapters of a space opera or sci-fi adventure, rather than an entire story in its own right, and it ended rather abruptly just as the characters were starting to feel familiar.

Incredibly well-written and packed with fascinating details, I feel this would make a great bonus or companion volume to a more plot or character-led novel.

Purchase Link: H2LiftShips – Beyond Luna on Amazon

Title:  A Lens Without a Face
Author:  Maddisen Alexandra
Publisher: Independently published

Blurb:  Reflection is the best medicine for soothing the pain life deals. To dance with the forgotten ideals society so selfishly disposed of means to be . I have a colorless lens waiting for someone to see through…101 lenses to be exact. Each one craves exploration. Each one requires a personal narrative to breathe.

Reflection is the best medicine for soothing the pain life deals. To dance with the forgotten ideals society so selfishly disposed of means to be . I have a colorless lens waiting for someone to see through…101 lenses to be exact. Each one craves exploration. Each one requires a personal narrative to breathe.

Review: These poems explore language and emotion using repetition, irregular rhythm and little rhyming. The author deliberately omits the title for each poem, instead numbering them and providing a list of the titles at the end of the book – an unusual and effective approach!

The content and style of each individual poem differs from those before and after, giving a somewhat disjointed effect if read as a whole, but that is not the author’s intention for the book. Instead, she provides a blank page for each poem, and the reader is encouraged to take the time to reflect on the words and make their own notes or drawings in response to the thoughts and emotions evoked. I love this affirmation of poetry as an interactive collaboration between writer and reader – it always is really, but Maddisen Alexandra makes the interaction overt and mindful.

This is a fascinating debut collection, which rewards slow and careful reading, and requires the reader to bring their own energy and emotions to the words on the page. I would definitely be interested to see where the poet takes her explorations in future.

Purchase Link: A Lens Without a Face on Amazon

Title:  The Final Weekend: A Stoned Tale
Author:  Neal Cassidy
Publisher: M & S Publishing

Blurb:  In the last days before the real world, six college friends prepare to take a bow in epic fashion. 

After Sunday there’s just Harry, the future business owner; Justin, the medical intern; Trent, the hapless wanderer; and Clarence, soon to don the badge and blues. But now they have years of memories to honor, all packed into one weekend. Will they grow into their new adult roles? Will they go out in style with the girls? Will the four of them even survive the sheer level of debauchery? 

Living in an apartment paid for by the Grandma, an ex-hooker turned millionaire, Courtney and Ling-Ling couldn’t be more opposite, yet are completely inseparable. Courtney and Harry have been hooking up for years, neither able to commit, but their imminent separation is about to test that arrangement, and Ling-Ling’s never-ending reciprocated crush on Justin just might become more than that. 

Their lives intersect with that of Professor Goodkat, their idolized instructor who never quite “left” college himself. In Goodkat, we find the consequence of getting to live out a hedonist fantasy, and the possibility for change in anyone. 

Hilarious, raunchy and uninhibited, “The Final Weekend: A Stoned Tale” captures contemporary society while chronicling the dreams, regrets, perspectives, and future after youth in an unbroken sequence of shockingly touching exploits. No longer armed with the excuse of college stupidity, these friends will go on a journey with higher stakes than a night out has ever had. Because there are things about themselves that blacking out can’t erase.

Review: This story takes the form of a step-by-step account of what feels like every minute of the ‘last weekend’ of youth/early adulthood, from the points of view of each of the characters, as they drink, smoke, masturbate, have sex, and generally dick around doing not a lot.

As an example of the level of detail you can expect, the reader gets to experience the whole of Goodkat’s two-hour gym routine in what feels like real-time. At first, I thought this was a really clever concept, following in the footsteps of classics like Mrs Dalloway, Under Milk Wood, or Ulysses but with more modern preoccupations and vices. After a while of it though, I simply found myself bored of all the minutiae and struggled not to skip bits (which, I have to confess, also reminded me of reading Ulysses!).

It didn’t help that the characters were mostly pretty unlikeable too, with the men sexist and sex-obsessed, and the women very stereotypical and two-dimensional. I don’t feel the need to like a character to read about what happens to them, but when there is so little plot too then it becomes hard to care and by the grand finale (when something actually does happen) I was mostly relieved instead of shocked or moved in the way I suspect was intended.

I was reminded a little bit of the Kevin Smith film Clerks, in the examination of the ordinary moments in ordinary (stoned, drunk, horny) lives. But this book, while well-written, has even less plot than that famous ‘film about nothing’ and much shallower characters.

Purchase Link: The Final Weekend: A Stoned Tale on Amazon

Title:  The Brightest Fell
Author:  Nupur Chowdhury
Publisher: Independently published

Blurb:  When nations are on the brink of war, to be innocent is not enough…

Fifteen years ago, Jehan Fasih designed a drug that could curb the instinct for violence (and rob the taker of their free will). Fifteen minutes ago, someone blew up the metro station to get their hands on his brainchild.

Jehan must make a decision, and time is running out.

Abhijat Shian and his sister, Rito, lost their jobs, and their family’s reputation, over the course of a single week.

The reason? Their father’s trusted protégé, Jehan Fasih, betrayed him and embroiled their family in one of the biggest corruption scandals the country has ever known.

The Shian siblings’ quest for revenge soon turns into a murky web of confusing motives and divided loyalties.

Is Fasih a genius or a madman? Is their father truly innocent or is there a trail of deceit and betrayal within the hallways of their childhood home?

Set in the fictional country of Naijan, The Brightest Fell is a gripping tale of loyalty, treason, corruption, patriotism, and political intrigue.

Review: Set in a fictional country and with a sci-fi-esque plot hook, this political thriller is a tangle of intrigue, espionage and applied ethics that both entertained and occasionally lost me.

The main plotline follows Jehan Fasih, a genius scientist who has invented a compliance drug and is desperate to keep it out of the wrong hands and will go to great lengths to try to ensure that it is not used immorally, machinating his way through people’s lives in the name of the ‘greater good’.

Along the way we also follow many other characters, allies or enemies of Fasih, or occasionally a mixture of the two, as they navigate political, espionage and journalistic channels and sub-currents with various aims of stopping terrorist acts, clearing family names and preventing government corruption. It all gets quite complicated!

Throughout the chess-master chain of events runs a sense of mischievous humour, which is personified in the Holmesian Fasih, who I found the most compelling and engaging character in the book for these very reasons.

My only criticism here is that the fast-paced story slowed to a meandering long-winded crawl in places, giving an uneven feel to the book and breaking some of the built-up reader tension, but overall the plot and characters were good enough to keep me reading anyway.

Purchase Link: The Brightest Fell on Amazon

Title:  Togwotee Passage
Author:  L. G. Cullens
Publisher: L. G. Cullens

Blurb:  Literary Eco-fiction, Adventure, Nature, Native American.

An impassioned, thought kindling journey on a wilder side of life, from youth to passing, with a breadth of charged life experiences.

In 1940s Wyoming, a seven-year-old under the yoke of a dysfunctional family is beginning his life journey with stumbling steps. When an intervention whisks him reluctantly away, he faces new challenges in a sweeping wilderness setting, where a sustaining influence is the friendship of a Shoshone youth with differing cultural values. On into the treacherous terrain of life’s chaotic landscape, with his mettle tested time and again he is increasingly rankled with civilization’s Janus-faced ways and ill-conceived progress. Mitigating his irritation, is a distracting fascination with the wonderment and paradoxes of the natural world. That is, until he considers where humankind’s varying proclivities stem from.


Togwotee (toe’-ga-tee) is the name of a challenging mountain pass in the Absaroka Mountains of northwest Wyoming. As used in the title of this fictive tale, it’s an apt metaphor for the protagonist’s life path.

The story is character driven, contains Native American mythology, has an entwined thread of natural world interconnectedness, and is complemented with expressive illustrations.

Review:  The structure of this story is a mapping of the life of Calan in 1940’s Wyoming, from his childhood alongside a Native American tribe to the very end, where he comes full circle but from a new perspective.

Nominally a ‘slice-of-life’ story, following Calan and his best friend Derek through their daily routines and discussions, there are a lot of strong and overt themes underpinning everything that happens. We are constantly aware of the interplay between humanity and the natural world and of the importance of every individual striving to know more and do better.

Along the way, we get masses of information about nature and ecology, biodiversity and natural habitats, and lots of philosophical pondering about life and man’s place in it. Calan initially rejects most of the wisdom he learns about the balance of nature and life – as a child and teen he finds such things boring and irrelevant to him – but slowly learns through his own life experiences to appreciate the natural world and find his own balance with it, until he finally returns to the Native American beliefs and mythologies, at peace with the life he has led.

The story hops from one time in Calan’s life to the next, skipping months or years, not from one grand event to another, but simply showing his ordinary life at different ages and how he changes in some ways, while remaining essentially the same Calan we first met in others.

While not a lot happens in terms of the plot, the story is character-driven and focused on passing on Calan’s educational experiences to the reader, making it a worthy – if sometimes weighty – read, ideal for those looking for a serious, accessible narrative about environmental (and animal) preservation and a better balance with the natural world.

Purchase Link: Togwotee Passage on Amazon

While not every book in this batch was to my own personal taste, I am a firm believer in there being a book out there for everyone, and a reader out there for every book!

I hope you find something you enjoy here and would love you to come back and tell me in the comments if you do.

Happy reading everyone and keep shining! 🙂


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