Category Archives: review

Two #5star #reviews for two very different novels

I read all the time, but sometimes the quality of my reading material goes through a bit of a slump. Then, as if to make up for it, fate sends me two wonderful books in a row. The two wonderful books I’ll be talking about today are Pride’s Children: Purgatory, by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt, and The Earthquake Doll, by Candace Williams. And because I’ve already reviewed both on Amazon, I’ve included those reviews in full.

prides children purgatory

Click the picture to see the book on Amazon

Pride’s Children: Purgatory, by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

The writing in Pride’s Children, Purgatory is beautiful – literary without being at all pretentious – but if you’re anything like me, it’s the characters you will love.

Sexy, good-looking Irish actor Andrew O’Connell is the perfect foil for shy, retiring author Karenna Ashe, but this is no predictable romance. It is, however, a lovestory about grown ups who have to keep on growing in order to deal with the pain of loving someone they shouldn’t. It’s also a novel about choices. And finally it’s a novel about taking risks when your body suffers from a chronic illness. In other words, this is a novel about being human.

I loved every word and my only complaint is that there isn’t any more…yet. Very highly recommended.’


Click the picture to see the book on Amazon

Click the picture to see the book on Amazon

The Earthquake Doll, by Candace Williams

I’ve loved all things Japanese for a very long time, but my genre of choice is sci-fi so I only just stumbled onto this little gem. What is so good about it? Pretty much everything:
-The characters are very likable, especially the main character, Miyoko who is a young Japanese girl growing up in postwar Japan.
– All the characters have a ‘voice’ – meaning each one is quite distinct and you know exactly who’s speaking or doing what at all times.
– The setting feels very genuine; definitely not the same old same old.
– Because the plot grows out of a culture that is very different to anything found in the West, even the simple plot of star-crossed lovers feels fresh and new,
– And the storytelling is clever. By letting us see through Miyoko’s eyes, the author has worked a gentle sort of magic which allows us to see our own culture through fresh eyes,
– And finally, the writing is clean and simple, speaking to the heart much like the Good Wife by Pearl S Buck.
I really can’t recommend this book enough. Simply lovely.

In many ways, these two novels could not be more different if they tried, both in style and content, and yet…they both have that touch of magic that lifts them out of the mundane into the extraordinary. These will be books you remember. That’s a promise. 🙂



#hashtags for Indies

The link below leads to the Indies Unlimited website and an article I wrote about how we [authors] can use hashtags to help readers find our books…if our stories match what those readers are looking for. It’s a bottom-up system rather than a top-down system applied by some retailer.

Please join the discussion over at IU!

My review of The Remnant and #Amazon’s new review format

Click to go to the Amazon page

Click on the cover to go to the Amazon page

I’ve just discovered a new, fresh, wonderful voice in sci-fi! The author is Paul B. Spence and the book is The Remnant, book 1 of The Awakening series. Better still, books 2 and 3 have already been published so I have reading material for a couple of weeks at least. 🙂

This is the review I just left on Amazon:

I don’t normally enjoy so-called ‘military’ sci-fi because it often reads like a boys own fantasy with impossible Star Wars type space battles that are completely unrealistic, and woefully unscientific. But /this/, this story seems to be built on real science and real possibilities, no matter how remote. It is also a finely balanced blend of politics, archaeology and psychology where all the elements work together to create a very compelling story. From my point of view, the most compelling part is that the main character is both heroic and damaged. I like him as a hero, but I care for him as a person. This is how all sci-fi should be.

The only negative thing I will say is that the editing could have been better, not in terms of the prose – the prose is crisp, clean and at times almost lyrical – but in terms of the odd missing word, the odd typo. I noted them as I read them, but immediately dismissed them as the story drew me on.

Paul B Spence is a new voice in sci-fi [at least to me] but not for long. This is a storyteller who deserves recognition. Very highly recommended.

Seriously, I wasn’t exaggerating. This man knows how to write. 🙂

Now, to the second part of this post, Amazon’s new review format. It’s quite a departure from the past and has some good points, but also some strange ones. The following is a pic of the review screen as I was writing the review for The Remnant:

amazon new review format The Remnant

You can click on the pic to see an enlarged version, but the main features should be readable even in this one. The main innovation is the multiple choice meta reviewing now available. You can select options in four major categories – plot, mood, pace and character – to give a kind of snapshot of the book, presumably for people who don’t want to wade through reams of prose.

As an attempt to make the reviewing process less prone to abuse*, I have no issue with the multiple choice categories because they:

  • require at least some thought on the part of the reviewer, and
  • are not all polarized options ranging from ‘good’ to ‘bad’.

To illustrate the second point, let’s say I have some axe to grind with Amazon, or sci-fi in general, or Paul B. Spence in particular. To make my displeasure felt, I can still give The Remnant a one star ranking, but now I also have to provide a less black and white response via the multiple choice questions.

Under plot I could probably select ‘predictable’ as the most negative option, but some readers look for predictability in their reading material. Similarly, selecting ‘slow’ for the pace and ‘one dimensional’ for the character would be construed as negative by some readers but not all. Finally, under mood, I have no ‘bad’ choices at all.

So, all in all, I see the new format as a fairer way of leaving a review, however the lack of real choice in the answers kind of defeats the purpose of a real review. For example, I found the mood of The Remnant to be both ‘suspenseful’ and ‘thoughtful’, but I could only choose one option so therefore that element of the review is already inaccurate.

To be fair, the designers of the new format would have sweated blood getting the multiple choice questions to be as effective as they are. Nevertheless, I would love to have multiple choices per category rather than just one – e.g. ‘select the words that most closely reflect how you feel about…’

All in all, however, I give Amazon a big 3/5 [see the *update below] for the new review format, and Paul B. Spence gets a glowing 5/5.

Man, I love discovering great new authors, especially when they’re Indies**. Please give this man some love. My review brought his total up to just 10. He is obviously as good at marketing as I am. 😦



  • * Carrie Rubin just let me know that you can leave a review without selecting any of the multiple choice options, which kind of ruins the idea that this will help reduce review-abuse. Ah well…:(
  • ** -sigh- I really should do my research before I hit the Publish button. The paperback of the Remnant was actually published by Asura. The Kindle edition, however, may be Indie published as it sells for $2.99. I read the Kindle version so… 😦

Is the #metaverse just around the corner?

quartz metaverse

‘SEATTLE — Philip Rosedale wants to build the Metaverse, the virtual reality experience depicted in the Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash so many years ago. His first-generation attempt to do so was Second Life, the virtual world created by his former company Linden Lab…’

This article in Quartz sparked my interest because I actually tried Second Life, twice. The first time was some years ago when it was at the peak of its ‘buzz’. The second time was only last year. Both times were a disappointment, but perhaps that’s because I was evaluating the experience from the viewpoint of a gamer. To me, the Second Life graphics were ugly and clunky, the movement was clunky, the ‘crafting’ was ‘too hard’, and the whole thing just felt second best instead of immersive. But I did like the idea behind the experience – i.e. to be able to do in a virtual world everything you could do in the real one [shades of Innerscape, anyone?].

Sadly, I suspect Rosedale’s implementation of a metaverse will be just as clunky as the implementation of Second Life. But again, that’s not to say that someone won’t get it right.

Will that be within the next 20 years?

Honestly, I don’t think so. Technology takes leaps and bounds, and breaks out in unexpected areas – think mobile phone vs computer – but there is a world of difference between being able to produce an alpha grade prototype and creating the kind of technology that is as commonplace as the light switch. Yet that is what we will need if we are to stitch together the whole digital world into a metaverse.

Negatives aside, however, good on Rosedale for thinking big. You can find the complete Quartz article here:



Sci-fi…and predicting the future

This is a must-read article from Quartz [another one of those tech channels I love] about what the movie ‘Back to the Future 2’ got right, and wrong. I was amazed at how much the movie actually got right, but see for yourselves:

I was also amazed at how much futuristic stuff my brain now takes for granted. Holograms are an obvious example, but the view ‘window’ I wrote into Innerscape is another. -grin- Wish I’d thought of that!



Mad Max – Fury Road

I don’t review movies so this will just be one long…IT’S BRILLIANT!

In the last 40 years I’ve seen three movies that gave women a real chance to shine – Alien with Sigourney Weaver, Terminator II with Linda Hamilton, and now Fury Road with Charlize Theron. Unlike the first two movies, however, Fury Road gave every single female character, large and small, permission to be strong. And dirty!

But wait… there’s more. Fury Road does not explain every little thing ad nauseum. Instead, it drops the odd clue or hint and leaves the viewer to fill in the gaps. As a writer, I love that the story treats the viewer like an intelligent adult. And of course, the action is eye-popping. 😀 I really, really love this movie.

night night!


A very clever sci-fi short film

J.T.Carlton is a multi-talented singer, composer and writer who produced the music and sound for this short film. It’s scary and very clever.

Enjoy 🙂


Holus tabletop holographic device – watch the prototype!

I joined a new social media platform today – Tumblr – and under the techology category I found this:

You can find the complete article here:

I am so gobsmacked my jaw is still dragging along the ground. The future is here.


Are you just tapping your pocket, or are you happy to see me?

Google and Levi Strauss are partnering up to produce a fabric that will bring wearable computing [?] out of the realm of sci-fi and into the realm of everyday life.

This sounds like a great idea, but I do wonder how it will change our behaviour. Will we walk down the street tapping different parts of our clothing as we access different wearable apps? And how will that affect our perception of body language?

Jane:    “John! Are you listening to me?”

John:    “Of course I am, Darling.”

Jane:    “Then why are you tapping your pocket like that?”

John:    “Tapping? Pocket? Oh, I, um, just had an itch…”

As a baby geek, I do love the idea of wearables but I don’t think I’m ready to incorporate this into my writing just yet. 🙂



Microsoft’s Hololens – is it the precursor of the ‘chrono’?

The idea of holograms has been around for a very long time, but the only common usage I am aware of is in those images that display a sort of 3D view when you move the image one way or the other. But that, like exoskeletons, is all about to change.

“One of the biggest developments, and we should see it in the next twelve months, is Microsoft’s HoloLens,” says Mark Pesce, a Sydney-based futurist.

HoloLens is a wearable visor which projects holographic images and videos into the line of sight of the user. While it will be great for gaming, Pesce also thinks it will have a huge application in the workplace.

“Microsoft has linked it to Windows 10, and we should see the launch of the accompanying device around the same time frame that the company launches its next generation software,” he says.

Using a holographic device such as HoloLens will allow workers to manipulate large data sets visually, rather than having to scroll through millions of lines of data in an application like Microsoft Excel.

The following video clip is actually a Microsoft advertisement, but it’s so well done it’s worth sharing:

The Hololens is not quite the holo of my Innerscape future, but it’s getting there. And I couldn’t be more pleased because it means my vision of a wristwatch-like device – the chrono – is one step closer to reality.

Don’t know what a chrono is? Well, imagine a smartwatch that you can wear on your wrist. Now imagine not having to peer at a tiny, postage stamp sized screen. Instead, imagine the chrono projecting a small holo into the air above your wrist. Now imagine being able to manipulate that holo; make it bigger or smaller, turn it 360 degrees, zoom in to just one tiny part of it…

The chrono is a long way from real, but from today it is no longer a sci-fi buff’s pipe-dream, it’s a real possibility.

Am I dancing? You bet I am. 😀

Those interested in not-so-future tech can read the complete article here:

Have fun,


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