Another Reason Why You Ought to Visit the Underworld: A Review of Disconnect by Imran Siddiq

cover-for-disconnectWhen I say “Underworld” I’m not actually talking about life after death, but the depressing underground world of Imran Siddiq’s novel Disconnect.  It’s a place where families grow up in darkness and dependent on the refuse of those who live in Overworld.  Right away I want to let you know that this book is not written in “American” English; some readers like that, some don’t.  I’ve never minded as long as I could understand the structure, and I was able to follow Siddiq’s writing just fine.  Now, on to the good stuff:

Disconnect clocks in at a light 279 pages and is told from the point of view of Zachary, the only son of single-father Marcus.  Zachary and his dad live on a space base orbiting Jupiter and they reside in the ghetto underground district known as Underworld.  Overworld and Underworld rarely interact, but Zachary happens to find a working Intercom while scavenging.  Thus his adventures begin.

Through the intercom, Zachary talks to a girl named Rosa.  She’s the only child of Ambassador Kade.  Zachary and Rosa talk several times, and even meet in person.  In their time together, however, the teens discover a sinister plot by the ruling council to clean out Underworld—of everyone and everything.

I liked this book for several reasons, one being that the main character is a boy.  I like female main characters a LOT, but it was refreshing to read something from a male perspective and especially from one that was so genuine.  Zachary grew up simply, and so he thought about things simply.  For example, when he overheard some sketchy communications between soldiers, I (the reader) understood what was going on, but Zachary didn’t—and of course he wouldn’t!  He grew up in Underworld where there was no politics!  I’m glad Siddiq maintained the integrity of Zachary’s voice no matter what happened.

What I found lacking in Siddiq’s writing was overall fluidity.  His story was very interesting and had many exciting parts, but it really, really, really needed work with a fine-toothed comb to smooth out phrasing and compositional issues.  Verb agreement, sentence structure, and so on needed some serious work.  I don’t say that to be rude, just straightforward—if you enjoy a good story and can power through somewhat novice writing, then Disconnect is for you.  I give it 3.5 stars.

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Why You REALLY Need the 12-Step Program: A Review of The Cure by Athol Dickson

the-cure-cover-athol-dicksonFriends and family know I’m addicted to reading, but the blame for my addiction lies solely with fabulous writers like Athol Dickson. While I ought to be taking responsibility for my obsessive reading habit, I’d rather tell you about how awesome The Cure is and why you should lose a few hours’ sleep reading it.

The Cure is a novel batting at 336 pages and chock full of literary goodness. I’ll point out right away that this book is not an easy read, and I mean that in the best possible way: the writing flows but the content is deep, causing many stop-and-think-about-it moments and frequent emotional overloads. It’s definitely something that feeds the reading addiction, so I’m warning you now: BE CAREFUL BECAUSE IT’S THAT GOOD!! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get to the good stuff:

Riley Keep is an alcoholic who’s let his life go to pot and abandoned his wife, Hope, and only daughter, Bree, for life on the street. He is constantly haunted by his pre-alcoholic life as a Christian missionary in Brazil and stint as a college professor. He’s several states away when he hears rumors of a cure for alcoholism in the town of Dublin, Maine, his old hometown. Riley drags his nearly-dead homeless friend Brice there to seek out the cure, positive that by now his wife and child have moved on.

Riley is shocked to find that there really is a cure for alcoholism. Once he’s got it, however, Riley learns that a lot of people—from desperate alcoholics to shady pharmaceutical companies—will stop at nothing to get their hands on it. Death, mayhem, and violence ensue in an incredible story of fear and redemption.

While reading this book I sometimes loved the characters and sometimes wanted to slap them with a frying pan. Even if I didn’t agree with a character’s choices, like Riley’s, and even detested him for it, I was totally stuck in his head. I was aware of the many (and often painful) influences and horrific past events that directed his actions. I think the only thing that hung me up was the frequent references to Riley’s time in Brazil, the importance of which wasn’t revealed until near the end of the book. Overall, I give this book five stars and make them gold! Read Dickson’s work and you won’t be disappointed.

I Spy: Spot the Space Marine

Spots the Space Marine is a cute story about an ex-military mom who gets reactivated. She served her country in the reserves, but when the battle against crab-like aliens goes sour, she is shipped to war. The post should have been easy as it lies far from the front line. What could possibly go wrong?

(courtesy of the author)

Spots the Space Marine

Unlike Aphorisms of Kerishdar (which was also written by the capable M.C.A. Hogarth) this is “simply” a delightful romp in a sci-fi novel featuring a female protagonist. I like the way this story plays stereotypes against archetypes. Spots is a tough mother who refuses to let her marines settle for anything less than their best. She does so, however, by reaching out to the battle-hardened troops. I love the contrast between her method and what you’d expect from military leaders.

M.C.A. Hogarth has an updated and edited version of this story available on Amazon, Nook, and Smashwords, but has very graciously given me the ok to direct you to the free version, which is no longer linked to her site. Here’s the link. Enjoy!

One thing that might interest you, oh gentle reader, is that the publication of this story is a story in its own right: the author overcame a trademark infringement claim made by Games Workshop. For those who are unfamiliar with Games Workshop, they produce some of the biggest known names in table top miniatures, including the Warhammer series. Since it’s in the best interest of indie writers that companies become more careful with their copyright claims, I hope that all of you consider getting this book. You won’t be sorry!

Spots does not contain any swearwords but it does have a lot of asterisks showing where swearwords are meant. Personally, I found the constant censoring one of the biggest annoyances of the story, but your mileage may vary. As you can imagine, this story does involve violence, though it never becomes graphic. With a little effort at ignoring the self-censoring, this story is appropriate for all ages.

X-Men vs. Magneto: A Review for THE MIND READERS by Lori Brighton

Cover image courtesy of Amazon.com

Cameron is in her last year of high school and desperate to move on, though not for the typical reasons. While she has her own share of teen angst, what she can’t wait to escape is the deluge of petty thoughts spilling from everyone’s heads. She’s been able to read minds since she was five and as far as she’s concerned, it’s the bane of her existence.

When a new student approaches Cameron and invites her to join him at a Xavier-esque mansion for other talented mind readers, she accepts. The prospect of learning to control her ability is too tempting to pass up. However, she soon finds that the leader of this group of mind readers is more of a Magneto than Xavier. Cameron must ultimately decide where her morals and her loyalties lie.

I am a sucker for super hero stories, so this whole concept intrigues me. Brighton does a good job identifying the decisions that separate a hero from a villain and the ethical questions that arise from those decisions. I also appreciate the dynamics of the super powers. They are all grounded in mind reading but take a unique twist for each individual.

For the most part the writing is clean. There are a few typos but they would be quick fixes. The errors I found most disruptive were the character inconsistencies. Cameron tells us she’s one way, but behaves contrary to it. For the way she thinks and behaves, I don’t understand why she would be friends with a snobby rich girl. Also, her motives as she explains them don’t make sense to me. Cameron’s relationship with her grandma also lacks conviction.

Cameron’s attraction to the new kid at school bases primarily on his physique, which is annoying, but I am happy to say there is a satisfactory answer for it. The end of the novel is the most interesting part. The characters are more vibrant and Cameron finally acts decisively. I am mildly interested in reading the sequel.

Overall, THE MIND READERS is a good read, despite its flaws. I give it three stars.

Aphorisms of Kerishdar: A Review of M. C. A. Hogarth’s Kerishdar Series

Photos of the covers of Aphorisms and Admonishments from Pintrest

Wikipedia has this to say about aphorisms: “In modern usage an aphorism is generally understood to be a concise statement containing a subjective truth or observation cleverly and pithily written.”

I say that the vignettes in this book definitely fit that definition. I consider this story a “must read” because the author (M.C.A Hogarth) shows a keen understanding of the human condition and a spooky ability to present new words that in retrospect you have to wonder why they weren’t words before. If you’re hankering for something meditative that can be digested in small chunks, then this is perfect for you. This is also perfect if you’re looking for a way to expand your mind and think in ways that you might not be used to doing.

The author herself explains that Aphorisms is “sociological science fiction… about society, civilization and the balance between individual and community.”

This is the first book in a three book collection. The entirety of the series and many more of Hogarth’s books can be found at her website, Stardancer.org