Conversations with Tom by Angela Lockwood

I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers and Zombie Apocalypse style novels so this one seemed to start very slowly. Then about 1/3 of the way through, I realized that I just couldn’t put it down. The conversations between Tom and his owner were hysterical. I loved the way the author moved between human and feline viewpoints, and the humorous lists and question sections scattered between the chapters were a hoot. But just trying to envision a business full of stray cats cleaning mink coats by licking the Whiskas off them had me nearly doubled over. This was the perfect blend of sweet, funny and romantic. Highly recommended!

 

Essex Valley: A Quiet, Nice Little Town by R.T. Graham

This book was my 500th review on Amazon and I was hoping for something really special. Was it ever! This is a great book with incredible characterization and subtle, unexpected twists. I especially loved how the author included characters out of the mainstream, presenting them with dignity. The homeless victims were presented respectfully. And the genuine fondness with which the author develops the volunteer deputy with Downs syndrome is truly heartwarming. I highly recommend this murder mystery.

238 pages

 

The Devil’s Lieutenant by Shervin Jamali

Wow! This novella is a beyond roller coaster. We’re talking pinball level pivots and twists.  It’s not over in the sense of understanding who and what everyone is until the very very last minute.

The main character, Michael, is deeply tortured and complex, and ironically seen most clearly in his relationship with Lucifer.  For much of the story, we see Lucifer as the cold but indulgent parent. Michael, even during his lucid (sober) segments, remains the petulant child: “I sip at my whiskey; he sighs dramatically, just like I used to when I couldn’t reason with my son.  You take a deep breath to recompose your patience when dealing with a child.” Come to think of it, Michael has pretty much the same relationship with God, telling him: “At best, you’ve been an absentee f***ing landlord.  You collect the rent every month, but you’re never around to fix the sh*t that breaks.”

Expect a vicious fractured fairy tales version of biblical mythology underlying this story.  “God grew tired of his experiment, so he turned himself into a serpent (yeah, it was God, not Lucifer), and tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit … Prior to all this, God had already evolved animals on earth into the early forms of man.  And when Adam and Eve were cast out of Heaven, these cavemen, our true ancestors, would rape and kill them.”

Within this construct, you may want to think of Michael as Job. But only if Job had Dexter’s sense of right and wrong….

And kudos for the Star Trek reference. EVERY sci-fi book of note should have one (says the reviewer who owns her own Star Fleet Uniform):

— In an instant, we are no longer at Cigarz, and standing in front of a tenement building.  I don’t understand why we are not standing in the girl’s apartment and say as much.

[Lucifer responds] “I’m not Scotty from the starship f***ing Enterprise, Michael.  She’s in 6C.”

Highly recommended!

145 pages

The Cost of Business: A Dragonfire Station Short Story by Zen DiPietro

I enjoyed trader Cabot’s innovative solution in this short freebie. The glimpses of Briveen culture provided were also intriguing. I’m now trying to imagine a sapient evolved from dinosaurs with cybernetic arms… If the author’s goal was to interest me in his longer works, he succeeded. Even better, the longer series is available on kindle unlimited! Book 1 is downloading now…

37 pages

What Happened In Dingle by Fiona Cooke Hogan

I don’t often read romance. When I do, it’s usually because some other aspect of the book drew me in – space aliens, warm and fuzzy critters, a historical setting I find fascinating, etc. In this case, it was the Irish setting.  I had the privilege to visit Ireland a few years back with my youngest daughter. So I enjoyed the main character’s observance of the tour group she joined to escape for a few hours. “She watched her own country through foreign eyes in the dripping shelter of a shop doorway.” Ruth’s observations were pretty spot on. I was especially amused by her internal assessment of the tourist reaction to a near miss with another tour bus. “Would it be a dreamlike roll and crash to the soundtrack of Celtic music and screams? …. Would the railing hold? Jees, could we get out and maybe video it?” [And yeah, we totally would have tried to video it!]

I thought the author elegantly captured Ruth’s ambivalence. “Unsure of what to do, stay or go? She was weak, nervous but excited all at the same time. This is what young feels like, she thought.”  Her assessment of “old” love is also poignant: “We were like you, she thought, smugly in love. In our own indulgent bubble, oblivious to the trials and struggles of others…. Over time lovers forget that they hold each other’s hearts and they eventually harden and close against their keepers.” Ouch!

I didn’t find Neil as convincing as Ruth. His character seemed a bit flat. Then again, he wasn’t actually IN most of the story. I suspect that if this were a longer work, he’d be more developed and believable.

Definitely a worthwhile short read. And PS. Thanks to the author for making me aware of a new and different curse word (“pegging”). Throw it into Wikipedia if you’re curious – and Ohhhh myyyyy.

33 pages