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Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, And Then There's The Dog
Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, And Then There's The Dog
Price: £8.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Removing the bullet and healing yourself., 7 Jan. 2015
Rossandra White is saying a kind of "Goodbye to all that" in a well-crafted account of life, love and loss. The book is beautifully written, painfully honest and achingly familiar. This is the best kind of non-fiction: written by someone capable of writing really good fiction.

There is ample and telling detail factual detail (she refers to her journal, which must have helped keep the memories sharp) dressed by a vivid imagination. When introducing two of her major characters, Jake and Sweetpea (her Staffordshire bull terriers) she says: "picture a cross between a pot-bellied pig and the cartoon warthog from The Lion King."

There is powerful imagery, as in her description of the sound made by "the huge, handcrafted Soleri brass bell we'd hauled from Arizona on the trip we took twelve years earlier--the first time our marriage took an almost fatal dip. Its deep, mournful groan filled the house."

Describing her frustration when trying to establish some kind of solid relationship with her husband's kin she says: "Larry later told me that even for him, dealing with his family was like punching into mist." Clearly he could/can craft a telling simile as well.

I just recognised so much of what is in this book: the feelings, contradictions, complications... It made me laugh, and cry, and think again some of those thoughts that lie too deep for tears; I was profoundly grateful to her for making me do all three. Rossandra White has had a "colourful" life so far on two very different continents, and I can pretty much guarantee that reading this book will help you get your own sh*t into perspective. I know that from now on everytime I say "LoveYouBye" (and I say it pretty often) I will think of her and smile.

Greek Fire and its contribution to Byzantine might
Greek Fire and its contribution to Byzantine might
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Byzantines’ prime technological achievement?, 5 Jan. 2015
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Readers of this excellent academic paper (it is far too short to be called a book) will not be surprised to learn that at the time of its publication the author was finishing a postgraduate degree in Byzantine Studies. It’s a quick and informative read, and should fascinate anyone interested in the “ancient” world and in warfare and the importance of weaponry in the continuous struggles for supremacy between peoples and civilisations. For those who want to delve deeper into the subject there is an extensive list of sources, though in many instances your Greek will have to be up to it! I read it during a twenty minute car journey and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Forged in Death (The Death Wizard Chronicles Book 1)
Forged in Death (The Death Wizard Chronicles Book 1)
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Layers of profundity in a powerful tale, 4 Jan. 2015
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Jim Melvin has constructed his world meticulously, with more than half an eye on the possibility that its epic struggle between Good and Evil might eventually be made into a series of films to rival The Lord of the Rings. We know the size (in cubits) and complexion of its dragons and its demons, its witches, druids and assorted devilish creatures, and our ears quickly become attuned to a language reminiscent of Sanskrit – the language of The Mahabharata.

This is an intricately woven, impressively detailed dystopian world with its own version of the Dark Lord Sauron and his minions, against which is ranged the power of the Asēkhas – the greatest warriors that world has ever known. Their leader, Torg, King of the Tugars and a Death Knower, is convinced that force alone can never vanquish the quintessential wickedness of Invictus - a demon-wizard drawing power from the implacable Sun - and that goodness, mercy and compassion must be enlisted if virtue, morality and basic decency is to have a chance to prevail. “Hatred is never appeased by hatred. Hatred is appeased by love.”

It’s an interesting idea that lends a welcome depth to the kind of story that could easily succumb to the temptation to stage one mega skirmish after another, with little more character development than is usually allotted to the average orc. Torg is a formidable warrior with immense power and almost infinitely renewable strength, but he is also very wise, and a great healer, with a mind and spirit capable of journeying through realms beyond the reach of humans.

Jim Melvin has a sharp eye for descriptive detail as well, and a lyrical ear for rhythm and balance. You notice the mellifluous phrasing early on: “Thousands of golden flashes burst from the three-cornered conurbation, resembling a wind-ruffled lake sparkling beneath a setting sun.” There are plenty of well-tempered sentences to soothe the reader’s soul along the strife-torn way. Here’s another one: “The Warlish witch, her face full of filth and fire, loomed over Tathagata.” It reminded me of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine… “Torg wept too” added the sense of the kind heart of the saviour in the King James version of the Bible (John 11.35).

The author also understands his readers’ need for light-hearted – even comic – relief, which he introduces in a fresh set of characters after Torg has suffered the tortures of the damned for the sins of the situation throughout the first half of the book. Keep reading, and find hope and love and powerful forces on the side of good. “Nourishing life ranks among the highest states of wisdom, destroying life among the lowest… There’s no justification for violence.”

In this half of the book an alliance is formed that will change the world. It’s a long story, and in these first episodes Jim Melvin ably prepares you for the journey. At the end of the book there are useful notes about the language, the places and the creatures we have met so far.
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What I Did to Sell More Kindle Books on Amazon
What I Did to Sell More Kindle Books on Amazon
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5.0 out of 5 stars If you’re an author wanting to maximise the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, read this book., 31 Dec. 2014
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The first 40% of this book is about how to choose a book topic that has a sporting chance of being popular. It was the second half of the book that was more useful to me as a fiction writer of a series that could easily keep me going for the next fifteen years. Diana makes a lot of sense about developing a marketing strategy, understanding that time is money, and making sensible use of skills that are cheaply available out there, thereby freeing you up to spend more time on doing what you do best (I hope) and that is writing really good books. It was salutary to discover that most of her “hired guns” – and she asserts they are top guns – were available at under $US10 a project.

What it comes down to is this. She’s done it for a lot of years, has tried and trusted ways of doing things, and provides you with a list of extremely reasonably priced resources at the back. I should have read this book before I wasted £390 on a “professional” marketing company supposedly running a month-long “campaign” on my behalf. It turned out to be a desultory bad joke generating no interest, no reviews, no sales and no additional followers. My advice is: read this book instead, and make judicious use of its recommendations. You’ll save a packet and get a lot further!

Price: £2.16

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3.0 out of 5 stars To quote John McEnroe: “You cannot be SERIOUS!”, 31 Dec. 2014
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This book was simply off my scale. That has never happened before…

I have to be honest here. I ‘met’ the author on Twitter and a very pleasant, helpful, personable fellow he is; so when he read one of my books and posted a review on Amazon I was happy to return the favour. I thought from the title of this book that it would be some kind of a tongue-in-cheek story about the vanity of human wishes.

Instead, it is apparently a serious “How to…” book with instructions on how to make your own version of Albus Dumbledore’s “Mirror of Erised”, accompanied by many assertions that with practice you’ll be able to get anything you want from it - the latest Lamborghini sports car, a ton of money... Not only that, you’ll be able to visit distant galaxies, alternative universes, travel in time, heal the sick, exorcize demons… It also contains advice on how to deal with the spirits of dead people you meet along the way.

Fortunately, you will not waste away in front of this book - it’s a very quick read, with many of the instructions for using the mirror repeats of what has gone before. The text contains a few strange elisions: e.g. “Put down any thoughts you’ve on the above questions below your goal” and “I’m sure you’ve.” Occasionally the punctuation stumbles, as in “we, too, vibrateso does everything else”; but in general the chatty, informal style of writing is easily accessible – which for me raises an important question.

WHO is this book aimed at? - because what is less accessible to me is the notion that ANYONE could take it seriously. I suppose most of us are aware that human “realities” are largely figments of our own imaginations – all religions are examples of that basic truth – and we use that limitless capability of the human imagination to create wonderful fictional stories of dragons and wizards, mythical creatures and “magic”. Those tales have an imaginative truth, and we happily “suspend disbelief” in order to enjoy them. But judging from some of the reviews of this book already posted on Amazon, there are people out there who actually believe it is possible to do all the things this book confidently instructs you how to do!

Why should I be surprised? There have always been people who have believed in fortune tellers, astrology, tarot cards: there has apparently been no limit to human credulity in the less well-informed past. It’s just that when something is so obviously utter nonsense it makes me very uncomfortable that vulnerable people just might be taken in by it.

Does the author see himself as a kind of 21st century Shaman, describing a way of inducing “visions” that on the good side do not require the smoking of magic mushrooms or the ingestion of hallucinatory drugs? Is there not still the danger that someone somewhere will actually “believe” in this stuff – the author stresses how important total belief is before the universe will allow your magick mirror to work – and that when the impossibly expensive sports car, the “ton” of money and the ideal partner with the heightened sex-drive fail to show up, will simply have their own sense of personal failure further reinforced?

Or MAYBE - just maybe – this book has kind of snuck into the Amazon Kindle Store from one of those alternative universes that Mike Nach refers to: because in MY universe there are no magic mirrors. However, there ARE still people who might be misled. Read this book to explore a branch of hocus pocus previously unknown to me; but my sincere advice would be to add a significant pinch of salt to the recipe.

The Place We Went to Yesterday
The Place We Went to Yesterday
Price: £2.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a walking dichotomy, 29 Dec. 2014
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This is the painfully honest portrayal of the childhood and adolescence of a girl born into a severely dysfunctional family. Ella was the oldest of three daughters, conceived during a violent rape of her mother by her abusive, often absent father. Her Hispanic mother so despised her that she simply called her “Ella” – Spanish for ‘she’.

After a hideous, loveless childhood during which Ella – more intelligent than the other members of her family – somehow found ways of surviving, certain that her eventual salvation lay in learning – particularly in the mastery of words and language – her parents were falsely led to believe that she was “maricona” – gay. Their immediate, brutishly savage response led to her removal from the “family” by the Child Protection Agency, and her placement into a foster home with a mother who cruelly abused her own eight year old daughter…

This book had particular resonance for me because its central character was eerily like a girl who was a pupil at my school thirty years ago: much brighter than any other member of her highly dysfunctional family, abused in different ways but with the same results, and manifesting much the same coping strategies. She too went on to study Psychology at University, gaining a first class honours degree. We are still in almost daily communication. I recognise it all: the guilt, the self-loathing, the isolation, the conviction that education – specifically the power of “words” - would provide a means of escape from the cycle of abuse and deprivation; the certainty that children of her own would never be an option…

The book is convincingly non-fictional, and if it is not autobiographical and collated from her own adolescent diaries, then the author must have been very close to the person who ‘inspired’ the story: she has done a masterful job of putting herself into the heart and mind of her main character. It rings very very true, and adds a whole new dimension to the first line of Philip Larkin’s famous poem about what your mum and dad can do to you. Read this book to be reminded of “man’s inhumanity to man” within dysfunctional families: the terrible abuse of the enormous power that parents have over their children.

In most cases parents are the most powerful educational influence a child will ever know, and when that influence is almost entirely malevolent, children never completely recover from their traumatic childhoods (subsequent first class honours degrees in Psychology notwithstanding). I congratulate Lisa Mauro for having the strength and purpose to write this book, and I recommend it to you without reservation.

The Time Traveler's Fool
The Time Traveler's Fool
Price: £2.26

5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful, cerebral work in more ways than one., 22 Dec. 2014
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This is a book that gets stronger, the further in you go. At first you may think the wisecracking, slick-talking time-traveller might not be totally worthy of your undivided attention as he regales the psychiatrist listening to him with his first story of a jump into Old Testament times: “icing” a 14 year old shepherd boy who happened to be suffering hopeless longings for the unattainable chieftain’s daughter. There was something a little uncomfortable about his account of how he used his adult sophistication and experience from three millennia up the line to ensure that the “primitive, pastoral damn near Palaeolithic” 14 year brain and body he now inhabited was able successfully to entice the admittedly willing girl of his dreams into the nearest bushes and make the ensuing copulation last longer than it otherwise would have done. However, this arguably self-serving intervention into the boy’s affairs had some really drastic consequences for the whole tribe – which I leave the author to describe. The philosophical questions raised are interesting, and certainly worthy of careful thought.

Of course with a tale of this kind the suspension of the reader’s disbelief is a challenge, normally overcome by the presentation of convincing detail. Such detail there is aplenty, dealing with perplexing issues like how the language of a slick-talking American from around 2314CE could somehow be instantaneously translated into the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken by his illiterate 1,000BCE North African nomadic shepherd boy. How lucky was he that his wordplay about how many bullocks the boy’s bollocks might be worth to the chief just happened to work in their language as well.

The second time-travelling episode confirmed that the author had cerebrally ‘travelled’ to the times into which his character had jumped. Mind you, the band of house-slaves dressed as legionaries that he was travelling with had futuristic ‘A’ Team capabilities: cutting down an oasis and throwing up a pretty effective fort with a serious ditch five feet across and three feet deep in about five hours of desert darkness. However the wisecracking time-traveller was now showing a serious interest in convincing historical detail with an engaging analysis of the dying throes of the Roman Empire from a small-scale, personal perspective. This could very well be what it would actually be like on the ground for a time traveller taking a random leap into a receptive body in the century and broad location of his or her choice. Almost certainly s/he is going to find herself dealing with some very real dilemmas.

And the further into the book I went, the more engrossing it became, and for me the more powerful and flowing the writing. Increasingly the wisecracker lapsed into the lyrical, e.g. “as dawn started to lighten the horizon and hues of red battled dark blue for mastery of the sky.” From “lighten…” to “…sky” = a couple of good blank verse lines. It was as if the more he talked the more serious he became, and the more worthy he was of the reader’s undivided attention. He is scathingly fluent in his denunciation of slavery in the deep south of the US; and by the time we get to Marvin and Cecelia his analysis of human behaviour is sharp and disturbing. Marvin was “a guinea pig to be slaughtered and dissected at the end of the experiment.” His analysis of the events leading up to the moment when he “iced” into Marvin with disastrous consequences is fascinating. His motivation for so doing was another twist in the tale that made for a very strong ending. This is terrific writing.

Carl Stevens uses this tale to ask many pertinent questions on many levels of human experience. He attempts to bind “the impossibility of time travel with the impossibility of entering another person’s mind with the impossibility of getting whatever you wish by most urgently wishing it.” I wasn’t surprised to discover after reading it that he has been a professor-in-training in three fields so far: philosophy, history and psychology. He has also been a nurse in a psychiatric facility, a long-haul truck driver, security guard, waiter, bartender, clerical worker, manual labourer and an engineer.

It’s a very clever book and a provocative read. I strongly urge you to travel right through it.

The Evergreen in red and white
The Evergreen in red and white
Price: £2.04

5.0 out of 5 stars Meticulously researched, sympathetically and evocatively written, 15 Dec. 2014
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I deeply enjoyed this book. It felt as though Steven Kay – rather like Shirley Harris Slaughter in Our Lady of Victory, was taking a personal piece of family history involving a section of society widely discriminated against and celebrating the heroism and the pity of its struggle. “What a piece of work is a man” said Hamlet. The digital revolution is making it more possible than ever before for books to be published about the trials and achievements of ordinary individuals, in many cases born with social and cultural mountains to climb or be flattened by.

Rabbi Howell was born into a Romany family two years before the 1870 Education Act in Britain made elementary schooling universally available to children from 5-13. The nomadic culture remembered nostalgically by himself and his family must have been a factor in Rab’s never having learned to read or write in one of the new Gorgio (i.e. non Romany) schools; but he had the raw talent and drive to escape from mining – which he hated – and become one of the best half-backs in English football, playing professionally (two guineas a week) for Sheffield United and briefly for England. This is the story of one momentous year in his life, from 17 April 1897 – Good Friday 8th April 1898.

It is so much more than a piece of footballing fan-faction. It’s a penetratingly well-observed depiction of Late Victorian times in Yorkshire and the North East of England: the grinding poverty, the labour struggles, the importance of football as a means for the working man to escape the dreariness and drudgery of his everyday existence (“football fighting sorrow for the souls of men”). It’s about Rab’s personal struggle to have his first wife and her parents value what he did as opposed to a ‘proper’ job (how telling and sad that in his thirtieth year, on their fourth child’s birth certificate, his first wife Selina listed his occupation as miner), and about the reasons why they grew apart, neither able to conform to what the other wanted them to be.

Here’s a flavour of the writing from page 1: “Angry peak skies were trying to drown little Glossop huddled and cowering in the valley bottom beneath the sullen moors that had encircled her.” In Dickensian fashion, Steven Kay uses the unremitting bleakness of the weather and the terrible industrial pollution of the cities, towns and rivers to set the mood of ordinary people hemmed in by their struggle to make ends meet and find some kind of personal and spiritual fulfilment beyond putting all their eggs “in the basket of the afterlife.” “Steam and smoke rose up from the brewery and mingled over St Mary’s Church…”

I think this is a great book: beautifully written and deeply empathetic in its depiction of the several characters and their individual struggles. Reading it, I experienced the same catharsis as when reading any of the notable tragedies written by the literary giants I learned about en route to a degree in English. I thank Steven Kay for his industry and skill in taking me on this particular journey, ending – fittingly enough – in an unmarked grave in Preston in 1937. Consider Rabbi Howell’s journey through life now to have been fittingly commemorated.

Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Clearly a writer of great promise; but this debut novel has its flaws, 11 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: BabyWorld (Kindle Edition)
This is a book that needs to be read twice: once to swim resolutely through its heaving sea of subordinate clauses while trying to make head and/or tail of the disturbingly dysfunctional interactions between the smarted and non-smarted protagonists; and a second time slightly better equipped to analyse the constituent components of the story because you now have half a clue what’s going on.

The first chapter reveals how dense are some of the sentences to be unpicked. “The Pill Trick may have been a contingent cause in moderating Estelle’s state; but doctor-prescribed medication combined with heavy red wine, blocking a mother from entering a daughter’s mind, was the necessary cause effecting the change, Estelle now content with her own mind’s contents.” There are others almost twice that length.

I confess that 9% in I was formulating the hypothesis that the author had created this wildly dysfunctional world in order to justify his current formidable fondness for prolixity. Here is the sentence that brought that thought to a head: “Whereas most, after deriving the same axiom from such epistemological thought experiments, categorized life as mundane, Sinika, not wanting to add to her existential anxiety, performed this morning ritual only to determine which of her concerns had primacy.” At this point I noticed that my kindle was telling me I had another 10 hours and 38 minutes of this stuff to go.

Jonathan Dixit, like his main character nine year old high-flying lawyer Sinika Reichman and myself, loves language and knows a lot of words, but my gentle advice would be not to try to use as many of them as possible in sentences of mind-boggling and arguably secretly self-congratulatory-to-the-point-of-excluding-many-struggling-readers length. I wondered whether this nightmarish future world was in fact a hideously distorted view of the education systems in “developed” societies east and west, in which certain children are selectively “smarted” in order to preserve the privileged status of particular echelons of society: maintaining the status quo in a manner unintelligible to the uninitiated while suffering the effects of alienation from those left behind, many of whom are bitterly resentful of their achievements, rebuking as they do their own more limited genius in the nevertheless essential crafts and trades. Does Jonathan, like Sinika, need understanding and a hug?

As the story went on, it increasingly appeared that Sinika was a kind of genetically modified Alice (at one point also apparently on steroids - beating up a 24 year old non-smarted and admittedly obnoxious male colleague) wandering pathetically and polysyllabically through a Nightmareland in which she encountered hideous situations populated by snarling, self-deluding narcissists, not understanding and not being understood. An early taste/smell of its locations is Little Timmy’s restaurant, Sinika’s favourite watering hole, which has a four-and-under hiring policy: providing employment opportunities for the “poor little failures” (those smarted infants who flunk out of the SMprogram after only one hundred and forty two weeks). One of the waiters attempts to balance a tray while not able to disguise his toddle, nor the fact that his nappy has needed changing for quite some time...

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised by the posting of the following review by one non-smarted reviewer: “This book is not worth reading. Period.” I also felt for the fellow author who was striving to be as positive as she could when she typed: “Unfortunately, I could not get through this book no matter how hard I tried.” I, however, made of sterner stuff, pressed on, driven by a weird fascination for this hallucinogenic-drug-fuelled storyline, secure in the self-deluded certainty that eventually it would all make a kind of sense. 90% in, I was offered at least a partial explanation for what had gone before, but still felt shut out by the end.

This is Jonathan Dixit’s debut novel. He’s obviously a very clever fellow, and may indeed turn out to be a formidable writer; but I venture to suggest that this is an immature work by someone who has not yet honed his craft. It fizzes, and explodes in all directions like a dysfunctional firework display staged by someone who hasn’t been able to resist the urge to drop a match into the whole box of tricks, resulting in a tale full of sound and fury, signifying I’m afraid I’m not too sure what.

That said, there are many well-balanced and elegant sentences among the hyper-inflated ones, and much shrewd analysis of human interactions and motivations. I am confident that his next novel will be much better, and I look forward to it.

Shared Skies: Book One
Shared Skies: Book One
Price: £1.62

4.0 out of 5 stars A very promising story, very well written (with one or two question marks...), 7 Dec. 2014
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It is clear from the beginning of her story that Josephine O’Brien writes well. The opening paragraph pulls you in: “The faces just didn’t match.” The descriptive detail is mood-sensitive, rhythmical and perceptive: “Sunlight forced its way off the London streets through the Venetian blinds, painting the room with dull yellow bands of dancing dust.” Any reader will feel in safe hands, even if they aren’t conscious of the craft behind the art – assonance, alliteration, 2.9 blank verse lines masked as effective prose – which to me means there is magic in the air.

I am not a reviewer who plods you ponderously through a story much better told by the author, but perhaps some context is permissible to whet the appetite. Gaiah Hansfort has recently turned 18, and is understandably troubled by certain circumstances in her life to date: some of them identifiably, sadly, predictably human, and some of them not. She is an interesting character, and I was conscious of my own desire to read quickly in order to discover more about her.

The story develops rapidly, and she finds herself heading north to re-establish contact with grandparents who vanished from her life and the life of her still grieving father shortly after her mother died eleven years ago. They had all been so close, and then her grandparents simply weren’t there any more, adding to the terrible loss of her mother. Her father hadn’t even been able to find their house. Now, however, suddenly and apparently inexplicably, the grandparents are easily contactable by a female police officer on Gaiah’s case. They tell her they have always been there, but were denied access to their granddaughter by her father, who had “gone off the rails” after their daughter died. The plot thickens...

The number three has always had magical connotations: trinities abound in religions and mythologies, and are central to this story. Gaiah’s father actually describes himself and his wife and daughter as more than just a family: they were “a trinity”. We learn that Earth is but one part of a trinity of universes in parallel dimensions. The other two have some of the connotations of Heaven and Hell: occupied by beings constructed of energy but able to manipulate matter in order to assume human shape. Inhabitants of these universes can shift between the dimensions and have sojourns on Earth in human shape with the power to influence events. Humans, as you well know, do not have the power to shift, and most are only aware of the influence of these dimensions in story form: myths and legends, ghosts and spirits, Gods and wizards, and apparently inexplicable phenomena like the Bermuda Triangle and the large number of vitrified stone forts in Scotland.

Or’ka is a dimension dominated by evil, and those who shift from it to Earth are bent on world-domination by wicked means. Those who shift from Gaiana – a dimension entirely dominated by good - are bent on preventing the Or’kans from succeeding in blighting the whole world with wickedness. Gaia, now she has reached the age of her maturity, has a special (though as yet undefined) significance in this chain of events. She is the melding’s child of Nia Shaman of Gaiana and Andrew Hansfort of Earth. Such children have extraordinary powers...

There are some editing and formatting issues that can easily be put right, and I will contact the author directly and privately to point those out; but I was also left with some questions about the way the story and the characters unfolded. Some of them may be age-related, as I identified most closely with the grandparents in this story, and was more interested in the progress of the mission than I was with which choice hunk of boy in her new school Gaia was going to be sidling up to first. I’m sure the YA readers will lap all that up; and to be fair, the boys involved ARE an integral part of the plot.

However, I was puzzled by the sideways-shifting into this amazing parallel dimension where there is no evil and all kinds of fascinating utopian possibilities to contrast with the dystopian Or’ka in order to sample a Gaianan take on a fruit sorbet currently being marketed by a friend of the grandparents in his new shop. Is the point that beings occupying a planet where there is no evil to be fought simply have a different sense of priorities?

The Gaianan girl Renny – who has been shifted earthwards to provide some sort of extra protection for Gaia while she was in school – appears similarly unfocused in that she also seems much more interested in which Earth boys they were both going to be getting up close and personal with. “Our world is at stake here girls,” I heard myself cry in frustration. “Get those hormones in check and some kind of a grip on the mission to protect humanity from despotic domination by psychos.” I heard an echo of Dale Arden reminding Flash Gordon: “...we only have 24 hours to save the Earth!”

Gaiah and Renny are – it appeared to me - frustratingly crap at communicating their several concerns to those who matter, which means they go haring off in different directions with different bits of the puzzle. This eventually results in the spaced-out, well-meaning grandparents - with whom I had initially identified - accepting the ill-informed opinions and fears of dippy teenager Renny as enough reason to get together a lynch party and go out and murder someone.

Of course they’re dreadfully sorry when they find out what a monumental booboo they would actually have committed had not our hero been fortuitously clad in shotgun pellet-deflecting metal sheeting: the whole future of the Earth could have gone up in flames right there! ‘These are the people on whom the future of my planet depends,’ I found myself thinking. ‘I do hope they get a better grip on the mission in Book 2.’

Does the author have something deeper going on here that will be more clearly revealed in Book 2? Since the death of her mother, Gaiah’s father is also frustratingly crap at being a decent dad. It’s as though contact with one of these utterly good bundles of energy made flesh is sublime while it lasts, but once lost it robs you of the strength and resolve to fulfil your basic parenting obligations towards your similarly devastated child. Gaiah so needed a cuddle and all she got was this grieving father wrapped up in his art, so depressed by how much Gaiah reminds him of his dead wife that he shuts himself away for two weeks at a time:
“Dad, can we talk?” He shook his head. “I’m sorry Gaiah, I just can’t... I don’t know what’s happening.”
No, neither did I.

None of which seems to have bothered any other reviewer; so it is almost definitely curmudgeonly, septuagenarian me! I strongly recommend that you buy it, read it for yourself and make up your own mind. Rather like my own series, this is but Book 1, and a very promising, very well-written story is only just out of the blocks...

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