Mondo Bohemiano by Quentin J. Parker: A Review

Mondo Bohemiano is a sometimes funny, sometimes ironic and largely satirical tale of a man desperately trying to leave the love of his life behind, and, perhaps, grow up a bit in the process. Nigel Q. Bunnytail is our anti-hero, a man living a frenetic and aimless life in Philadelphia, hanging out with friends he’s mostly known since earliest childhood, sleeping with many women, working in a job perhaps not up to his skill level, pining for his beloved Millicent.

The aimlessness and frenzy of Nigel’s Philadelphia life is mirrored in the writing. I found the first half of the book a little hard going, but as I read on, the rapid and rapidly changing pacing and action began to make sense as a mirror of what is going on in Nigel’s psyche. Once Nigel makes his decision to move to the other side of the country – Spokane – the pace and mood of the book changes, reflecting the changes Nigel is making.

While Nigel is referred to as ‘the big bohemian’ several times, there are indications that he is hankering for a more structured life. He is attracted to the discipline of flying, both in real life and in a complex simulation on his computer. His clothes have a military styling. In moving to Spokane to attempt a relationship with Sigrid, he also appears to be leaving not just Millicent, but also the ‘Mondo Bohemiano’ behind. What he’s got himself into, though, is not what he bargained for.

The writing is original, witty, and fast-paced. The book isn’t easy to classify –satirical rom-com is the best description I can come up with. My only niggle with it was the characters’ names, which I found a little bit overdone – although there may be a relationship between Nigel’s last name and one of Sigrid’s obsessions – I won’t go further than that, to avoid spoilers. I am looking forward to the planned sequel, which is not a statement I would have thought I would have made at the half-way point in the book. Overall, three stars.

This is an independent review of copy of the book provided by the author. The opinions stated here are mine alone.

Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird vs Dr Don’t Know in a Battle for all the Life of all the Planets, by Barnaby Taylor

I haven’t laughed so much reading a book in some time.

At the beginning of the regenerated Doctor Who series, in the first Christopher Eccleston/Billie Piper episode, Rose, a wheelie-bin swallows Mickey. And then spits him out again….or is it him? As part of the plot, it was a hint – no, a statement – that we as viewers had entered a world of the absurd, where the rules of normal life were left behind. Within the first few pages of Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird vs Dr Don’t Know in a Battle for all the Life of all the Planets, by Barnaby Taylor, I realized I was in another absurd world, missing the rules of normal life, where just about anything could happen.

Falcon Boy (A Fairly Hopeless Hero) is the series title – this book is the first in the series and currently the only one published. The story defies categorization. At one level, it’s a children’s book about a super-hero of sorts who really isn’t very good at what he does. On another, it’s very adult, the writer having a wry eye for the ridiculousness of life. Things happen just because the author – who is often present in the story as a commentator – decide they should. Characters seem familiar…but like the Mickey that emerged from the wheelie-bin, they aren’t necessarily what they seem. They also have lives of their own…several of them have Twitter accounts!

I haven’t laughed so much reading a book in some time. Falcon Boy isn’t going to be to all readers’ taste, though, and if you haven’t a clue what I’m getting at with the Doctor Who parallels, then it might not be for you. But if you know where to look for a tattoo to identify a dead bishop, understand that the Frog & Peach is in Yorkshire for the parking, or believe that Rocky & Bullwinkle is a cartoon for adults, you may want to read it, or at least read it to your kids. You can download it for free from Amazon.

This is an independent review, not sought by the author nor written for any benefit. The opinions stated here are mine alone.

A Pre-publication Review: Creeping Shadow: Rise of Isaac Book 1, by Caroline Peckham

Building on some of the best traditions of British children’s and young-adult writing, the story caught my imagination from the first pages and held it throughout the book.

Creeping Shadows:Rise of Isaac Book 1

Creeping Shadow is a young-adult fantasy by indie writer Caroline Peckham. Building on some of the best traditions of British children’s and young-adult writing, the story caught my imagination from the first pages and held it throughout the book.

It is truly difficult to find new ways to address themes and memes in young-adult writing. Some of my appreciation of Creeping Shadow almost certainly stemmed from the fact it was ‘familiar’: the opening events and settings, which have elements reminiscent of the introduction to Narnia, or to Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone, began the story in a way that leads the reader to expect certain things to unfold, the way ‘Once upon a time…’ opens a classic fairy tale. And the reader is not disappointed!

Wizards appear; a quest is demanded; travel between multiple worlds is required. The challenge required of the young protagonists in this first book of the series, however, is modern, owing more to The Hunger Games and to some extent to the Harry Potter series than to C.S. Lewis, firmly siting the book in the modern young-adult universe.

The copy I read was an ARC – publication does not occur until December – and had a remarkably small number of production errors. The story is well-plotted and characters sufficiently complex in most cases to avoid being stereotypes, although roles are usually almost instantly identifiable. Creeping Shadow has the honour of being the first book I ever read on my iPhone, mostly because I really wanted to finish it and my phone is almost always with me, so I could read anywhere. Strongly recommended!

This is an independent review of an ARC. The opinions stated here are mine alone.

Cut Glass: A Novella by Susanne Valenti

Valenti has created a believable dystopian world and is more fully realizing that world in each installment of the Cage of Lies series and related works.

In my earlier review of Chained, the first book in Susanne Valenti’s dystopian series Cage of Lies, I wrote “I found I had questions about the functioning of the society outside of the city from which Maya and her companions flee which were not answered in the narrative.”  Cut Glass, which is a novella set in the same dystopian world and which includes some of the characters introduced in Chained, helps to answer some of those questions. This addition of a novella giving background to both characters and their setting reminds me of the way Marion Zimmer Bradley created the complex world of Darkover through both novels and short stories.

Cut Glass is a stand-alone novella; it is not necessary to have read Chained (or its sequel Linked) to appreciate the story, which involves the emotional and sexual coming-of-age of the protagonist, Crystal.  No spoilers, but the attitudes and reactions of teens living challenging lives rang true for me, as someone who worked with troubled teens for many years.  Valenti has created a believable dystopian world and is more fully realizing that world in each installment of the Cage of Lies series and related works. ☼☼☼

This is an independent review of an ARC.  The opinions stated here are mine alone.

A Review of Chained by Susanne Valenti

A fast-paced, well-plotted young-adult dystopian novel by first-time author Susanne Valenti.

Chained, by Susanne Valenti

A fast-paced, well-plotted young-adult dystopian novel by first-time author Susanne Valenti, Chained is concerned with the familiar theme of teenage protagonists challenging the structures and tenets of their society in a post-apocalyptic world. While this theme is the basis for most dystopian novels, the characters of and the story told in Chained are original enough to keep readers interested. Before I write anything else, let me say this: Chained is worthy of a read if young adult dystopian fiction is a genre of choice. Fans of the Divergent series, The Hunger Games series, and similar works should enjoy this book and look forward to the sequel.

Now, for a few niggles.

The society against which Maya, the heroine, and her companions rebel is imagined and described in enough detail to give the reader a sense of how this world works. The society into which she escapes is less well realized, perhaps because it reflects, more or less, current Western society, and therefore is supposed to be already familiar to the reader. I found I had questions about the functioning of the society outside of the city from which Maya and her companions flee which were not answered in the narrative.

Maya’s thoughts and reactions to situations were not always made clear, and at times she appeared to observe what was happening to her and narrate rather than respond. In one or two cases – especially after a scene in which she is brutally assaulted – her reactions did not to me ring true. Overall, though, this does not impede the action of the narrative, and should not be a barrier to enjoying the the story.

A few production issues were mildly irritating, and perhaps the manuscript could have benefited from one final copy-edit. The author’s use of ‘alright’ rather than ‘all right’; the contraction of ‘going to’ to ‘gunna’ rather than the more familiar ‘gonna’; inconsistent capitalization of City in “Harbour City”, and an unconventional use of quotation marks in multi-paragraph dialogue were all distractions for me, pulling my focus away from the writing – which overall is effective – when they occurred.

But these are niggles only. Let me repeat that Chained, overall, is a well-told story, and I will be reading the sequel when it comes out. My overall rating for Chained? 3 ½ stars out of 5.

Chained by Susanne Valenti is available as an e-book from Amazon.

This is an independent review of a purchased book. The review was not sought by the author nor written for any benefit. The opinions stated here are mine alone.

A review of Jazz, by Cristian Mihai

One of the gifts of retirement is more time to read, and to read genres, authors, and works I may never have chosen before. I’m going to try to focus on works by my indie author compatriots, although not exclusively.  This will be an occasional series of posts – I’m not going to promise a schedule I can’t keep to!  But here’s the first review.

Jazz, by Cristian Mihai (2012)

Jazz is a Fitzgerald-esque novella by indie writer Cristian Mihai, set in New York and Paris. Mihai’s writing invokes both a strong sense of place and creates a mood of film noir, of smoky jazz bars and rainy nights on city streets.

Focused on the unrequited love of the narrator, Chris, for the beautiful, cryptic Amber, the novella’s title sets both the mood and the tempo; all through it I kept hearing Charlie Parker as the soundtrack. Like a piece by the great Bird, when it was finished, I was left with a feeling of melancholy, and of knowing there were more parts to the whole than I had been able to comprehend the first time through. There is nothing new in this story – rather it is a story very very old – but the way it is told makes it well worth reading.

There are occasional and minor mis-steps in the choice of words or sentence structure, but overall they do not diminish this short work. The e-book is available from Amazon and Smashwords for about the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and it would be the perfect accompaniment to a good espresso on a wet afternoon. Strongly recommended.

This is an independent review, not sought by the author nor written for any benefit. The opinions stated here are mine alone.