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Oscar McCloud (Glasgow Scotland)

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TWIST OF TRUTH: a contemporary murder mystery, full of suspense
TWIST OF TRUTH: a contemporary murder mystery, full of suspense
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excruciating search for the truth., 26 Jun. 2016
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I was drawn into the plight of Simon as he returned to his hometown after a long time away. He comes home looking for ‘justice’ for Sandra. It becomes clear he is unwelcome, as he sits in the Hope and Anchor drinking, he is recognized by Old Jack who suddenly leaves. Sometime later Jason arrives to threaten Simon, and tells him directly to get out of town.
Not wishing to return to his father’s house Simon is booked into a Bed and Breakfast accommodation. This is where the detail and background of Simon and the expectation of the story starts to unfold. Where he has been, and who is Sandra?
He becomes familiar with Gloria the widowed landlady of the B&B, although she does not need any encouragement as she responds to his presence. She knows by his demure and possessions where he has come from as both her brother and husband were not strangers to criminal intentions.
Simon believes he has charmed her to help him secure a place of his own, for which he intends to use for a sinister revengeful purpose.
Gloria discovers the truth of Simon’s intentions, but instead of reporting him to the police she decides to help him.
It is at this point I sensed a change of focus in the book where Gloria becomes the dominant character and starts to orchestrate the events. Her motive appears to be driven by her besotted relationship with Simon. Unaware of what really happened to Sandra, they become drawn together in their quest, only to discover the awful twist of the truth. Afterwards I wondered how could their relationship possible survive after this?
I enjoyed the way the information accumulated, more by subtle realization rather than through direct telling in the narrative. When reading I do enjoy discovering the story situations from between the lines.
However, the ending was perhaps a shock more because of the twisted logic of the perpetrators of the crime, rather than the unraveled mystery.
I didn’t feel the deep psychological intensity or tension when reading this as I would of liked, but it was still a worthwhile read. Recommended.

2084 The End of Days
2084 The End of Days
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Science fiction was not really his bag" - Jack Crossan in Chapter 5., 31 May 2016
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This book begins with a cinematic feel for me as the short sections shift between locations introducing the various situations and characters - the set up as follows:

A UN Space Station orbits Mars in support of the base stations on the planet, and the year is 2081. A personnel change over is in progress and the relief crew arrive to allow the present incumbents to return to Earth.

In the mission control center, on Earth, one of the staff is an alcoholic.

In Edinburgh, a computer hacker has gained access to the NASA space system.

In Israel, the Nimrod Star Hunter 2 telescope is negligently misaligned for a few moments before being corrected. The hacker’s friend, in Edinburgh, is the first to notice from the data gathered by the misaligned telescope that there is a comet in the outer solar system on a course towards Earth.

A journalist in London is in a relationship with a Kuwaiti national, who is not what he seems.

Again in London, a research Doctor gives a lecture on the serious and increasing infertility issues threatening human existence. She inadvertently forgets her lecture notes on a memory stick, which also contains the plans for the storage of genetically purified DNA and an inference to eugenics. This item is stolen by an “Al Jazirah” reporter.

The League of Islamic Nations (LOIN), after 50 years of relative peace with the West, is on a political trajectory of conflict, which may lead to all-out war.

The first 75% of the book deals with the lives of the characters. For instance, the returning astronaut Jack Crossan’s second wife leaves him.
Lex Kosloff, the alcoholic from the Houston control center, is charged with the murder of his wife.
The hackers, Gary and Ewan plan to sell their story, the knowledge of the comet, for money to an old friend, the journalist, Jill.
Jill has suspicions that her Kuwait boyfriend is being unfaithful, and cries a lot. From her flat window she witnesses an air-vehicle crash.
These stories are circumstantially interwoven until we reach the real crunch, the Comet on a collision course with Earth, this only becomes immediately relevant in last 30% of the book. Well it has taken almost three years to travel to the point of imminent danger. All the other stories, by this time, are resolved and disposed of by this last stage. Thereafter, the narrative deals with the arrangements of the main characters and how they might survive rather than any possible reaction of the populous at large.
There were no philosophical moral issues raised within the book, it all seemed like an amicable solution with very little resistance as to how the selected survivors are chosen.
The present day scientific comet/android/ meteorite space watch systems don’t get a mention, or did I miss that part?

I found the supporting issues and personnel conflicts, of infidelity, murder and terrorism engrossing and more entertaining than the impending comet collision. There was merit in these human issues, although mostly circumstantial in places, adding interest about the characters. Each was individually a good story, but I found them a distraction as my mind wanted to find the Comet and I was left wondering where the real thread of the book was. I just couldn’t pin down the relevance of much of the overly long bursts of exposition that presented rambling background information for these sub-stories.
I also found the author’s need to introduce every single character by name made the narrative difficult to follow, since many of them only appeared once, I counted over twenty-seven before I gave up. It was like being introduced to everyone in the room and not knowing who was relevant to the thrust of the story. Maybe it was a lack of concentration on my part, however, I noted Lex Kosloff on 22 Sept became Lex Crossan.

The story is set in the future but does not dwell on details of futuristic Sci-Fi - science, nor is it farfetched as the possibility of a comet obliterating Earth is a present day preoccupation for some. Although I did enjoy the ideas of a high-speed link from Edinburgh to London and Air Taxis, the only notable human advancement in 2081 was the Mars Mission. It also seemed that the whole premises was firmly grounded in the present day domestic and political world with the same myopic attitudes. Perhaps not much will change by 2080, but then again does it matter after 2084.

I enjoyed many aspects of this book particularly in the first 70% where the characters were engrossed with their personal issues. In honesty, I never understood or fathomed the League of Islamic Nations’ worldview or the reason for the sudden change of attitudes towards cooperation with the West.
However, once the space fleet got on the way towards Mars I completely lost interest. Perhaps ‘Star Trek’ fans may enjoy this part with all the dangers of space travel.

From a humorous perspective there are some dry comical moments, and I detected a dated ‘B’ movie mentality as to the selection of some of the characters. Unfortunately, I did find the genealogical information as well as the consistent tautology made this a laborious read. Regardless, I enjoyed the dry Scottish wit; how much of this would be noticed by others depends on their place in time.

This is not a pure Sc-Fi, it could be a murder mystery, or a terrorist thriller or even a soppy romance novel - it has it all, although superficially in places.
I would recommend this as a fair read on a long haul air flight.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 3, 2016 5:32 PM BST

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Before You Write Your Novel: Essential Skills for the First-time Novelist
Before You Write Your Novel: Essential Skills for the First-time Novelist
by James McCreet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Practical and Excellent Advice., 12 May 2016
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I buy a Writing magazine to which James McCreet contributes lots of interesting ideas and advice. After reading his article, 'The Novelist's Highway Code', I was inspired to buy his book.
I found the book a light read in places and in other parts academically verbose and repetitive, well certainly, on my first read through.
However, I am now finding it a practical handbook and agree with his advice and premise of planning with careful preparation before you write one word. By using this book as a reference resource, which gives invaluable direction on the preparation and writing of a novel, I am finding it very useful. Having produce a plan I now feel free to indulge on the important creative flow of my writing.
I like the friendly narrative style in this book and can imagine listening to him in a lecture room, and yes it is easy to doze off when reading the heavy parts about construction and narrative structure.
At first I was worried that it might be pure academia, since the author lectures on creative writing. However, I have found it very accessible, easy to follow and indeed a great summary of useful skills.
I have recommended this book to my writing circle friends and colleagues.

The Common Murders (Superintendent Sharma Murder Mysteries Book 1)
The Common Murders (Superintendent Sharma Murder Mysteries Book 1)
Price: £2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Woman Scorned, 19 Mar. 2016
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A psychopathic killer with meticulous and calculated methods brutally murders young women on Wimbledon common. The perpetrator has a history of mental instability and the return of a person from the past is the key and trigger, which sets off this series of uncontrollable murders. Once started the desire to continue killing takes over.
The scene of crime evidence is sparse except for the remains of ‘ejaculate’. The DNA trace is therefore the starting point for the police team led by Superintendent Cadema Sharma as the Senior Investigating Officer.
Four of the murders have the same modus operandi; the use of a hammer, stab wounds and leaving the victim in the condition of undress. On one victim the DNA trace leads to the arrest and conviction of a known criminal and the importance of this outcome becomes clear at the end. The other thread includes the arrest of a disabled man, who evidently is released, as he could not be capable these heinous acts. However his identity raises questions about the semen samples and the DNA match.
The investigation includes trawling through hospital and immigration records to determine why the disabled MS sufferer’s ‘samples’ matches those of the possible killer.
However, there is an over indulgence of detail from ‘Samantha the nurse’ in the maternity hospital, which is almost like a lecture in the clinical process of births. A clear example of author intrusion, but this line of investigation is apparently added to justify the discrepancy in the DNA extraction from the semen.
Superintendent Sharma has many personal issues but in my opinion comes over as a motherly patronising person whose self-confidence is low. She feels undermined by the misogynistic and a racial attitude from her superior ranks, and among her male junior subordinates, however this is not fully realised and appears to be in her imagination. In my opinion this undermines her professional application to the process and the tasks in hand. I did not have a clear empathy with her and thought our killer was the strongest character in the book.
The repetition of the word ‘Actions’ maybe a police term but it did irate my reading, although there was no signs of other repetitive jargon.
The result of the narrative to me is of a rather condescending tone particularly through the stilted dialogue and the dumping of extraneous detail with extensive bursts of tautology. A further round of editing would have picked up many of the irrelevances in the sentences and the occasional spelling errors.

Regardless, I enjoyed the premise of the story and the excellent plot but felt the tendency to explain and justify some obvious detail was a distraction to my reading. The book does end with a curious look forward but it was not a cliffhanger moment for me.
I would recommend this to readers who enjoy an easy crime read, note any profanities have asterisks in the centre of the word, I never understood the point of this.

In the Circle of His Love
In the Circle of His Love
by Muriel Burns
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.96

4.0 out of 5 stars The Church at Tottlebank-all adding a little bit of Heaven on Earth., 30 Jan. 2016
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I found when reading these original poems from Muriel Burns I developed a sense of presence and peace. The Christian story has been encapsulated in her own words along with poetry of remembrance. For example the first lines ‘Joy, like a beam of sunshine, Radiated from her.’

I enjoyed how she captured the spiritual moments of her visit, whilst on a painting holiday in the Lake District (UK), to the little church at Tottlebank –‘a low building, bright with flowers.’ There is also a recount of her personal moment in prayer at the Coliseum in Rome.

Another poem, ‘Blood Lines’, explains a family branch and connection to the Scottish poet Robert Burns. However, this is expanded to remind us all of how we are all related in blood over thousands of years and that we all belong to one human family. This will be quite a difficult truth to accept for some people considering the turmoil around the world today.

I found the punctuation to be sparse in Muriel’s poetry, by design I was advised as it allows the reader the freedom to apply their own emphasis and interpretation. An application I expect lovers of poetry will enjoy.

I would recommend this book as a comforting and peaceful read for everybody, who do appreciate the power of faith.

Literally Stories - The Anthology
Literally Stories - The Anthology
by Literally Stories Authors
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Esoteric collective of stories., 20 Nov. 2015
I really like the cover, to me it is a visual metaphor of how resources of nature and creative words are fused into one.

Each story in the 'Literally Stories -The Anthology' reflects the individual author's world view and the quality is left for the reader to decide. There is no prevailing theme and each has to be read as a stand alone presentation. Of course you have to read the book to form a judgement on these stories, I have read them, and my thoughts for each are recorded on their web site.

I would recommend you read and decide accordingly.

On my wish list, to hold and treasure on my book shelf.

Words from the heart
Words from the heart
by Ian Barclay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars For weddings, the joy of birth and inevitable journey of life., 7 Oct. 2015
This review is from: Words from the heart (Paperback)
I bought this book at a presentation and launch from the author, who I found to be sincere in his purpose of providing a practical book for everyone.
There are many moments in our lives when we search for the right words to express our feelings of happiness, of joy and sometime sorrow. In those occasions; a marriage to our most endearing friend and life partner, a gift of a precious child or at a time when we inevitable say farewell to our loved ones, we are sometimes lost for words. This book provides a selection of poetry that can be used to fill that emotional void.
I found the poetry and words of wisdom inspirational and some were full of humour and wit. For instance; Riches “Life’s greatest riches are not found in a treasure chest, but in the hearts that beat in the chests of those who love you.”
In another poem, Precious I thought was very poignant with the first verse; “Tiny fingers and tiny toes – Rosebud mouth and button nose – Dainty pinks and frilly bows – A little girl who loves to pose.”
Memories -"There will be assets to contemplate - And liabilities to evaluate -In the final analysis, however - The true measure of your worth -Is in the memories we leave etched - In the heart of others.

At the same time this collection can be read just for the pleasure of peace and solitude or for the depth of meanings that only poetry can express. An enjoyable and practical book.

LAYERS OF LIES: women's crime fiction at its best
LAYERS OF LIES: women's crime fiction at its best
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dolly stole the Fiesta -Yeh!, 12 Sept. 2015
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Daniel goes missing, and his partner Sally becomes distraught, she fears that an accident has probably happened. However, when Daniel’s office informs her that he has booked some time off for a holiday, she fears the worst. Has their relationship folded? Or has something more sinister happened? Sally’s enquiries result in Daniel’s boss visiting and telling her, rather abruptly, to back off and stop searching for him. Unperturbed, she carries on looking and she follows his boss to his home for a confrontation. However, two rough men get there first and bundle him off, she follows the van. Sally becomes drawn into a criminal world and is dragged into a situation beyond her capabilities.

Reading this I found the beginning too drawn out and the story never really kicked off until about 60% of the way through. I couldn’t bond with the character Sally and thought she was rather naÔve, self-pitiful and lacked some basic common sense. The other characters were not any better and the dialogue was fairly flat at times.

Although, as the story panned out a serious subject matter did become apparent, this was superficial and the actions in the story became implausible. The perpetrators, for instance, were coincidentally written out and the police authorities seemed to act with contempt.

The best part was when Dolly stole the Fiesta – a real character.

I have enjoyed all the previous work from Diane Dickson, and this book could be entertaining if you like a dragged out slap dash story, but I didn’t connect as there was no depth and too many inconsistencies, sorry, I did not enjoy this.

Nine Thousand Cigarettes: (A Sea Penguin Tale) (Sea Penguin Selections Book 6)
Nine Thousand Cigarettes: (A Sea Penguin Tale) (Sea Penguin Selections Book 6)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Life saving - Knotted Pyjama Technique -hilarious., 9 Sept. 2015
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Tuppence discovers nine thousand cigarettes discarded in a skip behind the Speedispend Hypermarket. Being the typical gangster he tries to involve our hero, Uncle Tuppy and Tupfinder General in his scheme to sell them. They are not interested in his madcap ideas. Antagonised by their disinterest, Tuppence injects Uncle Tuppy with Laudanumextrane –max strenf. What follows is a trip that borders on madness and a confusion of illusionary events.
Tuppy experiences being trapped in a straitjacket and stood on top of the cliffs with the Tupfinder General who is suicidal. (His home, Tupfinder Towers has burnt down and his wife has disowned him). They fall into the sea, and are found by Tuppence. He now has a new Muthatrucker ship, which was bought from the proceeds of selling the cigarettes. Chaos ensues.
Uncle Tuppy wakes up by the fireplace (where the story began) and realises it is all an illusion and an awful dream. Although you might be forgiven should you think that reality does not exist in their world; be careful because Geoffrey can read your mind.
This story reeks of the familiar, a mug of mulled Maderia, black fish fingers, black sausage rolls, Meerschauam, gypsy creams and Black Bogey tobacco.
If you enjoy this fantasy world on the Rocky Outcrop then this short continuation of the lives and wacky adventures of the characters is recommended.

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