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review 2018-11-15 14:10
Over and Above - Captain John E. Gurdon, DFC

"OVER AND ABOVE" is a matter-of-fact and at times gripping novel based on the author's wartime experiences with a 2-seat fighter squadron of the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force (RFC/RAF) on the Western Front during the spring and summer of 1918. Originally published in 1919, this is a novel that captures both the absurdity and tragedy of war on a uniquely personal level.

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review 2018-11-15 02:43
This Thriller Left Me Feeling Gobsmacked and Awestruck
Her Last Move - John Marrs
The very fact people were talking about him and taking him seriously was proof he was on the right path. But branding him a serial killer was lazy. Serial killers and psychopaths murder out of compulsion, he reminded himself. They do it because they have no choice. He killed with purpose. And eventually, everyone would understand why.


This is one of those books that I'm not going to do justice to. I know that now, and if not for the deadline of posting in a few hours, I'd probably walk away now and come back daily for until next Tuesday and post something I don't like. But I do have that deadline, so I have to post something I'm not satisfied with in a few hours. I just like this one so much; and have so much that I want to say, but won't because it would ruin your experience, that I know I'll want a couple of mulligans to this post. 


This starts off with one of those chapters we've all read too many times -- a budding serial killer is preparing to make his first kill and is indulging in some interior monologue beforehand. This is where we start to get an understanding of the character, why he thinks he needs to be killing, why he's so wonderful/special/different. But this chapter isn't quite that -- and by the time you realize this isn't following the standard template, Marrs has his hooks in you -- and this book is off to a startling and bloody start.


DS Becca Vincent is a young detective just trying to get somewhere in her career -- it seems that her superiors, including (infuriatingly enough) women, are holding her back because of her devotion to her daughter. Not that her mother considers her that devoted as she's doing most of the hands-on care while Becca is at work. She's in the crowd when the first killing happens and is the first police presence at the scene. She also is the first to tie that victim to another murder victim. She leverages this into a spot on the investigation team, where she hopes she can make enough of a difference to lead to more responsibility in the future.


The first thing she's assigned to do is to go over the CCTV tapes with a "super-recogniser." I don't know if this is a real thing or not, and don't care. It works really well in this book -- these are a select team of people with near-eidetic memories for faces who spend every shift pouring through security footage for faces -- either to track down suspects or identify people who are near too many crime scenes to chalk up to coincidence. We meet DS Joe Russell as he recognizes a suspect on the street while riding a bus and chases him down. Becca meets him in less exciting circumstances -- a dirty squadroom in a less-than-impressive looking building. She doesn't buy the concept originally, but Joe wins her over pretty quickly.


The investigation doesn't move quickly, there's a lot of manpower put into it (more and more all the time), but progress is slow. A friendship develops (not without a few bumps) between Joe and Becca much more quickly, and they clearly work together well.


The killer's spree does move quickly on the other hand. He has a plan, he's been developing it, nurturing it, and getting it ready to carry out for a very long time. He's spent years setting up these dominoes and when he knocks the first over, the rest fall quickly. As we watch him do that, we learn what shaped him throughout his life into the monster he's become. Nothing that happens to him justifies what he's doing -- nothing could -- but it helps the reader understand him, and empathize with him to a degree (until he gets to a certain point and you can't empathize with him anymore).


The book is full of sincere and devoted professionals trying to get the job done in the best way to protect lives and stop the killer -- we focus on a couple of them, but they're clearly all over the place. Unlike the people on TV, these professionals have family, friends, medical issues, children, pasts, problems and joys outside the job who will distract from and inform their performance on the job. Watching Becca and Joe unsuccessfully balance these parts of their life (particularly given the pressures as the number of bodies rises) is just one of the things that Marrs does right. Come to think of it, you can say the same thing about our killer (for most of the book anyway). I'm really impressed at how much genuine tension and drama Marrs is able to mine from this.


Each death is increasingly horrific -- seriously, these are some of the most gruesome murders I've read. Each reveals more about the killer and what's driving him. The reader (as we have more information than the police) will put the pieces together before the Becca and Joe do. But when things start to click for the police, they're able to figure things out quickly. It's a very satisfying moment -- the question is, do they figure things out in time to save anyone on the killer's list?


I've never read Marrs before -- but I will again. There's not a wasted word in these 352 pages, not a throwaway line, useless exchange. My notes are filled with "Is he going somewhere with ____?" and "There'd better be a pay off to ___" Every time, without fail, I could've gone back and added the page/line that demonstrated he was going somewhere with that idea or paid off that observation. Even in my favorite reads of 2018, there are moments we probably don't need -- most of which I'm happy to have -- lines, ideas, scenes that could be cut without hurting things. That's not the case here -- anything you read here is important, even if (maybe especially if) it doesn't seem so.


I'm not sure how this would hold up to repeated reading -- a lot of thrillers don't. And I haven't had time to try this one, but I think it'd hold up pretty well, if you're not distracted by wondering what Marrs (or his characters) are up to, or what's going to happen next, etc. you can focus on all the subtle little things he's doing to create the anticipation and tension, and appreciate the skill involved in grabbing the reader and putting them through the paces.


This will suck you in, keep you entertained through the paces of the investigation, and lull you into thinking you know how things are going just long enough for you to get complacent so he can drop the floor out from underneath you. Marrs makes bold choices and will catch you off-guard at least once -- I can practically guarantee that. This is one of those books that will lead you to shirk responsibilities at home and work; postpone things like eating and sleeping; and momentarily resent your family for interacting with you -- particularly the last thirty percent or so (although you might have to might have to take a quick break to absorb what you just read or catch your breath). One of the best I've read this year -- I hope you give this a shot and I bet you'll agree.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided -- as well as Thomas & Mercer and the fine folks at Netgalley for the eARC.


Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/11/14/her-last-move-by-john-marrs-this-thriller-left-me-feeling-gobsmacked-and-awestruck
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review 2018-11-14 11:00
Ich bin glücklich!
Valour - John Gwynne

Corban und seine Freunde haben den Überfall auf Dun Carreg knapp überlebt. Sie sind entkommen und konnten Ardans rechtmäßige Thronerbin Edana retten. Der Verlust ihrer Lieben lastet schwer auf ihren Herzen. Corban hadert mit dem Wissen, dass seine Mutter und Gar in ihm den Leuchtenden Stern sehen. Wenn er noch nicht einmal seinen Vater und seine Schwester Cywen schützen konnte, wie kann er dann der prophetische Heilsbringer sein? Leider hat er keine Zeit, sich mit seinen widerstreitenden Emotionen auseinanderzusetzen. Seine kleine Gruppe Überlebender hat nur eine Chance: sie müssen nach Domhain fliehen, König Eremons Reich, der ihnen Asyl bieten könnte. Doch der Weg dorthin ist lang, beschwerlich und riskant. Unter der Führung von Veradis erfüllen Nathairs Truppen die Versprechen des jungen Königs an seine Verbündeten und überziehen die Verbannten Lande mit Krieg. Die größte Bedrohung geht jedoch von Nathair selbst aus. Auf Drängen seines unheimlichen Beraters Calidus sucht er nach dem Kessel, einem der Sieben Schätze, der es ihm ermöglichen soll, sich zum Hochkönig aufzuschwingen. Nathair merkt nicht, dass er sich mit finsteren Mächten einlässt und zu dem wird, was er zu vernichten gedenkt: die Schwarze Sonne…


„Valour“ hat mich unheimlich glücklich gemacht. Als ich den zweiten Band der High Fantasy – Reihe „The Faithful and the Fallen“ zuschlug, hatte ich ein breites Grinsen im Gesicht und konnte nicht widerstehen, sofort mit dem dritten Band zu beginnen. Ich bin sehr froh, dass ich meiner Intuition vertraute, die mir während der Lektüre des ersten Bandes „Malice“ versicherte, dass es sich lohnen würde, dran zu bleiben und die Tetralogie trotz mangelnder Originalität nicht aufzugeben. Ich liebe es, Recht zu behalten. Mit „Valour“ erfindet der Autor John Gwynne das Genre sicherlich nicht neu, aber er holt das Beste aus einem epischen Kampf zwischen Gut und Böse heraus. Das Buch ist spannend, mitreißend, fesselnd – ich wollte nicht mehr aufhören zu lesen und während der letzten Seiten packte ich es fester, weil es so aufregend war. Der grundlegende Konflikt ist äußerst simpel: John Gwynne zeigt das Ringen des allmächtigen Schöpfers Elyon mit seinem Widersacher Asroth um das Schicksal der Verbannten Lande. Diese Schlichtheit wirkt sich keinesfalls nachteilig aus, im Gegenteil, ich mochte die gradlinige Unterteilung in Gut und Böse und den ausgeprägten religiösen Einschlag, der von christlichen und jüdischen Motiven inspiriert ist. Komplexität erhält die Geschichte durch die Figuren. Ach, diese Figuren! Sie sind so echt, so lebendig, so nahbar, so realistisch! Sie sind mehr als bloße Konstruktionen aus Fantasie und Worten. Meiner Meinung nach handelt es sich bei der Gestaltung der Charaktere um den stärksten Aspekt der Reihe, durch den Gwynne wirklich zeigt, was er kann. Trotz einer Vielzahl an Perspektiven und einer wahren Armee an Nebenfiguren bleibt keine einzige blass oder flach. Ich entwickelte für die meisten Verständnis und bis zu einem gewissen Grad Sympathie – bis auf diejenigen, die ich nicht mögen sollte, wie zum Beispiel Calidus. Irgendjemanden muss man ja hassen dürfen. Ich konnte mich nicht einmal für eine Lieblingsfigur entscheiden, denn auf ihre Art sind sie alle liebenswert und ihr Zusammenhalt untereinander holte mich mühelos ab. Die Loyalität innerhalb der Gruppe um Corban empfand ich als außergewöhnlich überzeugend. Ich habe Gwynne abgekauft, dass sie füreinander sterben würden. Gänsehaut-Momente verursachten aber ebenfalls Figuren, die etwas weniger im Fokus stehen: Veradis‘ Fürsorge für die ihm unterstellten Soldaten imponierte mir sehr und die im Kampf gestählte Freundschaft zwischen Maquin und Ogull, die ich ohne zu zögern als Bruderschaft bezeichnen würde, rührte mich zu Tränen. Durch alle in „Valour“ beschriebenen Beziehungen zieht sich das Thema Familie wie ein roter Faden, mit dem ich mich hervorragend identifizieren konnte und das erfreulicherweise neben Menschen auch Tiere einschließt, die als vollwertige Persönlichkeiten etabliert sind. Corbans Wölfin Storm ist eine bepelzte, grimmige Kriegerin, der sich niemand entgegenstellen möchte und die ihm in vielen Schlachten das Leben rettet, denn Kampfszenen gibt es in „Valour“ in Hülle und Fülle. Mein High Fantasy – Herz frohlockte. Epische Schlachten und fiese Zweikämpfe treiben das Actionlevel nach oben, wirken jedoch niemals unnatürlich oder erzwungen. Die Verbannten Lande steuern auf einen Scheidepunkt zu, es ist naheliegend, dass die Situation eskaliert, weil Könige und Königinnen versuchen, einen kleinlichen Vorteil zu ergaunern. Unter den Mächtigen scheint Nathair die tragischste Figur zu sein, weil er noch immer glaubt, das Beste für sein Land zu tun. Ein Teil der Spannung in „Valour“ geht von der Frage aus, wann er endlich erkennt, dass er die Schwarze Sonne ist. Ich hoffe sehr darauf, dass Gwynne Nathairs Perspektive im nächsten Band involviert, denn ich wüsste zu gern, wie er seine Entscheidungen rechtfertigt. Irgendwann muss doch ihm auffallen, dass er nicht der Held, sondern der Bösewicht ist.


Was dem ersten Band nicht gelang, war für den zweiten ein Kinderspiel. „Valour“ konnte mich voll für „The Faithful and the Fallen“ gewinnen. Ich bin begeistert. Die Lektüre bot mir alles, was ich von einem guten Buch erwarte und wenige langatmige Stellen störten mich überhaupt nicht. Die unwiderstehliche Dramatik dieses Epos geht einerseits vom fundamentalen Konflikt zwischen Gut und Böse aus; andererseits von der brillanten Konstruktion der Figuren, die überwältigend lebensecht sind. Sie erobern und brechen mein Herz, als wären sie reale Personen. In den Verbannten Landen liegen Glück und Leid sehr nah beieinander – John Gwynne konfrontierte mich mit einer emotionalen Bandbreite, die kaum in Worte zu fassen ist. Ich gratuliere Ihnen, Mr. Gwynne. Sie haben die Durchschnittlichkeit hinter sich gelassen und ein Epos begonnen, das High Fantasy – Fans entzücken dürfte.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/14/john-gwynne-valour
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review 2018-11-14 08:25
Mechasm: "The Reproductive System" by John Sladek
The Reproductive System - John Sladek

(Original Review, 1980-08-18)

A few years back, I picked up John Sladek's "Mechasm" as part of a special series of "forgotten classics" by some publisher. (this series also included L. Frank Baum's delightful "The Master Key"). "Mechasm" has been reprinted in paperback, so I thought I'd review it here.




If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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text 2018-11-13 10:43
AT Full Tilt - John W. Mefford
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AT Full Tilt (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 12) (Redemption Thriller Series 24) by John W. Mefford | Author
◆ A power that few have possessed. ◆ And a secret that will unleash it... 

"This is a definite nail biter which will keep you guessing. There is no way you will figure it all out. It took Alex to almost the end to realize who was behind all this--twists and turns galore. This was the perfect ending to this series. I think you will like the ultimate ending--something I never even thought of until I read it. A brand new series from this author is starting soon--I can't wait!" - reviews Miki's Hope

"This series as a whole has been one huge emotional rollercoaster, but this last book really takes it to that - edge of your seat, cant stop reading - next level, where you are actually fearing for your favourite characters even more. If you have read the previous books then you do not want to miss this one! I cant wait to see what Mefford has in store for us now...." reviews Ebook Addicts UK

Now available on Amazon!

A power that few have possessed. 

And a secret that will unleash it. 

He has a plan. He watches it unfold. And one by one, three lives crumble into dust.

Flares of desperation divert the focus -- can Alex see through the fog of deception?

The killing season is just getting started. It's an evil too sadistic to fathom. Is there any way that Alex, Ozzie, and Ivy come out of this alive?

A brutal savagery devours one life after another. But who's really behind this killing spree? Where does Alex fit in this nightmare?

As a thirty-year-old secret emerges, the ties that bind people will be redefined.

Blood never had greater meaning for three people.

But is there enough trust to survive the terror?

Get AT Full Tilt now! 

Read more on the #book, series and author here...


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