Find the Needle

Find the Needle, Part 1: Diary of a Digital Outlaw. Copyright by 514 Entertainment, Inc. written by Frank Perrotto.

The protagonist is an AI video game character functioning in California as an Estonian immigrant member of an Eastern Mob, the leader of which is his former immigrant buddie. The story evolves with Dmitry suffering from increasing frustrations heaped upon underlying but vaguely unformed thoughts on morality, a vaguely remembered life-threatening childhood event, his mother’s development of cancer that requires extensive and expensive therapy, and an ununderstood dissatisfaction with his life in general. The fast paced tale moves rapidly toward a finale that prepares the reader for Part II.

Discussion: The author has set forth a well-written description of an AI character set in California as a human with acquired street-wise intelligence and little education who is attempting to exist within a life situation that he finds to be totally confusing. For this reader it is difficult to discern whether the supportive characters of his sister, as well as his mother, girlfriend and his boss and associates, each with his/her own unpleasant and interrelated life situations are of similar origin.  In the author’s preface he explains that this most unusual story is in itself of an experimental nature and is the first in a projected series of three following the life of Dmitry, who is the subject of an A.I. video game living in a digital environment. As a reader totally unfamiliar with video games but aware of AI, its present limitations and attempts at further development, I am sure I have missed some significant aspects of this novel. However, as a fast-paced thriller centered in a seamier part of society, the story explores interesting aspects of individuals with the described deficiencies who might be caught in similar circumstances. As such, at least to this reader, the tale explores the thought processes of humans of lesser intelligence with minimal education and the vagaries of thought and frustrations they constantly must endure. Thus from this perspective, the author’s experiment appears to be highly successful. A caveat is required in that more sensitive readers should be aware that the language employed often is explicitly raw but typical for the level of individuals described.

5* Interesting thriller as the author’s ‘experiment’ appears successful.

Forlorn

Forlorn, a dark story of suspense ISBN: 9781978440180 Vinspire Publishing, an e-book copyright 2017 and written by Gina Detwiler.

A prologue describes the situation that results in Grace Fortune being pulled by her Guardian Angel when she is 6 years old from the flaming wreck of her family’s automobile that consumes her parents. The story begins as Grace, now sixteen and being raised by her aunt and uncle, is a student at the Buffalo Arts Academy, where although suffering from a degree of Attention Deficit Disorder, possesses a lovely voice and ability to play the piano. With her are her somewhat misfit friends that include scientifically inclined and quite pragmatic Ethan Ellerman who is there on full scholarship as a designer of video games, artistically inclined Brianna (Bree) Reynolds who at the moment points out a newcomer to the school who is every girl’s dream man, Jared Lorn with muscular build, almost white hair and strikingly blue penetrating eyes and his seeming attraction to Grace. Ethan points out that Jaren is a felon and was transferred here because he had stabbed another student with a fork at a different school. He heard that he moved from “Ohio or Oregon, something with an O anyway”. However he was said to play the guitar amazingly well. Only shortly thereafter Derick Holder, the boy with whom Jared had fought appeared at the lunch room and opened fire with an automatic weapon. Ethan is struck in the stomach and falls into Grace’s lap bleeding profusely. She calls out “Derick! Please stop! Stop shooting.” Her guardian cries out to Grace to sing a special song which he sings to her in the night when she has bad dreams from the Dark Ones seeking a way in. Her singing causes Derrick to hesitate and suddenly Jared moves as a blurred figure knocking the gun from his hand and literally throwing him against a large plate glass window with sufficient force to shatter the glass killing Derick. From this moment the tale becomes one of war between forces of good and evil including different levels of both with guardians, archangels, appearance of ‘the Risen One”, demons, fallen angels, the Nephilim, the importance of faith and the power of prayer per se and through music.

Discussion: The author has presented a most unusual fantasy that may well appeal to readers, especially YA who enjoy conflicts between good and evil forces as they vie for dominance in the living world. The trials and tribulations of the two protagonists are suspenseful as they engage in a series of activities that take them on remarkable journeys. Regrettably, from this reader’s perspective, the tale contains numerous hiccups that are difficult to accept and therefore may require a SPOILER ALERT. If, however a reader enjoys unusual suspenseful fantasy stories pitting the forces of good versus those of the ethereal dark side, obtain the book, enjoy and do NOT read further.

Two of the most difficult discrepancies for this reader to reconcile are: Much is made of the fact that Grace’s parents were completely destroyed by the fiery crash. Yet her mother suddenly appears with an entirely different scenario? Neither Grace nor her friends know much about Jared and seemingly nothing about Derrick yet Grace speaks to him by name and is uncertain when he left school when he is massacring the students?

Conclusion: A fascinating fantasy that should be of particular interest to younger readers and most especially to those of religious inclination. Regrettably and although having enjoyed many tales in the fantasy genre, this reviewer apologetically cannot reconcile the plot discrepancies mentioned.

3* 5* Fascinating fantasy for many; -2* for reasons described.

How to Live to be 100

How to Live to be 100 ISBN: 9781943386543 Leaders Press copyright written by Elizabeth Lopez.

The book consists of a Forward, Preface and The Magic of Nicoya culture and personality as they are intertwined in a discussion as to how their life activities contribute to their longevity. This is followed by portraits and discussions with seven of these individuals about their lives and with a 95-year-old whose father just passed away at 110. Comments by a school teacher who has had a long and lasting acquaintance with these people follows and then comments by the author’s primary associate in the project. A number of local recipes are provided in detail along with a personal questioner with respect to the reader’s possibilities of reaching this advanced age, and thirty references are added.

Discussion: The book contains considerable redundancy. However, it is the most interesting result of the author’s request to be included as part of the group provided by Blue Zones LLC, Inc. to investigate whether this remote peninsula of Costa Rica qualified as a Blue Zone containing a larger than ‘normal’ number of centenarians (Presently listed are Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, CA; Ikaria, Greece; areas of Japan.) As a native of the peninsula and an American University EdD in psychology, the author’s stimulation to make the request is obvious and her findings indeed interesting. They appear to be much in accord with findings in the other Blue Zones listed with respect to living a healthy life style that includes an obvious genetic factor, physical, biological and personal traits and a life style consisting of low neuroticism, high extroversion, openness, agreeableness, competence, self-discipline, ability to ‘take care of one’s self’ and pride in being able to do so. Some qualities perhaps somewhat more specific to this population that she describes as the “World’s Happiest Centenarians” is their love of nature, music and dancing and strong belief in God.

Conclusion: An interesting, but perhaps somewhat surprisingly unsophisticated approach by a native who has obtained advanced psychological training and resides in the United States, to this subject of growing interest to a larger number of people. Of probably particular appeal is the inclusion of a personal quiz for the reader to take and evaluate his/her own chances of reaching that level – one that seems increasingly today to be elevated to ‘holy grail’ status.

3* 4* results & quiz to discern the reader’s possible attainment; -1 as described.

The Croxton Project: j293

The Croxton Project: j293 an e-book assumed published, copyright and written by Ian D. Wright,

Sub-titled “A Blueprint for Deception”, the story line follows newly-married and highly successful investigative reporters Steve and Emily as Joe Jefferies, former Special Forces officer and now private security company owner, requests their aid. They are indebted to Joe on several levels and happy to help in an involved security assignment. It seems that Lomax Technologies recently had added David Croxton, a brilliant young engineer, to their staff. David had developed a workable prototype of a weapon that offered tremendous possibilities. The government contacted Lomax who assured them that all necessary security features were in order and issued the contract. Unfortunately, until acquisition of David, Lomax Technologies had quite literally been a Mom & Pop organization developing gadgets. John Lomax was the CEO, his wife Margaret was the fiscal officer and son Brian head of marketing and sales. All was rather sloppily run and security spotty, at best. Government agents were due to perform a routine inspection within a couple of weeks. Joe was called in because even Lomax suddenly realized numerous holes existed in his security coverage. The problem is further complicated when David suddenly disappears following thoughtless activity with a Karl Zeigler after meeting and being introduced by his beautiful associate. Other characters of importance are Peter Bridge, Lomax’s personnel manager and Jarvis, David’s immediate supervisor who is prone to taking credit for David’s accomplishments, even though any malfunction in the prototype could be rectified only by Croxton. Steve and Emily, together with Joe and his task force, pursue a course of intrigue and deception that leads to an ultimate conclusion.

Discussion: The author has provided a tale set in England during the cold war era that relives the frenzy among nations to gain the most devastating weaponry. As such, it encompasses various aspects of the espionage, deceit, paranoia and frequently thoughtless activity that led often to unfortunate results. The tale is fast paced and moves forward quite directly for the most part to a termination, part of which in this reader’s perspective, should have been accomplished more efficiently as set in motion by the author. But then, this is a personal opinion of an action that each prospective reader must judge for him/her self.

4* 5* Interesting Cold War Era tale; -1 reviewer’s personal perspective.

The Monster

The Monster is an e-book assumed published, copyright and written by Josh Soule.

The story opens at Chapter Zero with the protagonist reminiscing about life as it was in his earlier years and finally about the bedtime stories his parents told him. Especially he remembered his mother always telling of monsters, how they were real and among us today and that “Once in every generation, a monster awakens.” Then suddenly, he must breathe deeply to slow his heart rate, check himself to determine that he had no wounds and that the blood on his hands was not his. The room was a mess looking “like a warehouse in a low-budget horror movie” with a woman’s body on the floor leaking blood. He wondered if it was Debbie or just some unfortunate woman because “it was not unreasonable to think that an innocent person had died here, the world can be unpredictable and unfair like that sometimes”. Then chapter one begins with the twenty-two year old protagonist in a college class and gradual introductions to his close friend Tony, his ex-girlfriend Kelly and later his mother Susan who is a friend of Kelly’s mother Karen. We learn that Susan is undergoing therapy for a relatively recently discovered cancer lesion that had been caught early and responding well to the therapy. However she constantly picks fights and continues her pattern of poor treatment of him that has included quite intense verbal and physical abuse since his father left when the boy was twelve. The reader then is introduced to activity at the school and the school’s Halloween party where we meet Police Officer Erickson because of violence occurring from involvement of a shadowy figure that only our protagonist sees. The results make him appear to be the guilty person for the altercation, so he runs, meets and joins a group of misfits and criminals and the story escalates still without providing an indication of where the tale is going and how it will end. Regrettably, any further information would be a distinct disservice to interested readers.

Discussion: This is a very well-, and intriguingly-written psychological thriller following the activity of a mentally disturbed individual exhibiting much of the background for, and many symptoms of, dissociative identity disorder. The only disappointing features of the story from this reader’s perspective are the protagonist’s level of maturity which seems more that of a teen-age high schooler rather than that of a 22-year-old university student (which possibly can be at least partially excused as resulting from reaction stemming from the degree of abuse) and a seeming amount of unnecessary redundancy.

4* 5* Compellingly written psychological thriller; -1 for reasons described.

 

 

Gunfighter, The Quest for Peace

Gunfighter, The quest for Peace Dusty Saddle Publishing, an e-book copyright and written by John D. Fie, Jr.

This volume consists of 3 individual stories by the same author and assumed to be part of the Western Adventure Series. The lead story is that of the book’s title and follows this adventure of the protagonist of The Morgan Deerfield Western Saga. It portrays the attempt of Morgan to quit the life of a gunfighter and become a rancher with a life more in accord with that of a rancher of the era.

The second tale is “The Town Tamer Harmon Bidwell. The United States Marshal Western Series Book 4. It chronicles the problems of Cattlemen’s Crossing, a central point for buying and shipping cattle. It follows the activities of the protagonist, a judge and other lawmen as they must find, apprehend and or kill the man behind crocked cattle sales and his murderous henchmen.

The 3rd consists of introductory material from another of Fie’s books. The title is “Cattle Queen of The Pecos”. The story begins as two wandering cowhands suddenly become aware of Indian activity and aid a young girl to escape from Indian raiders who have killed her parents and brothers. Apparently, they were on the way to Texas where her father was to help his aging father to handle his large ranch. The tale stops as they are about to continue on the journey to get the little girl to her family.

Discussion: The author provides slightly different approaches to the old and well-worn western plots. They are well-written, nicely paced and have interesting characters who perform well.

4* Well-written, interestingly characterized, slightly ‘different’ westerns