The Things of Man
The Things of Man mixes the supernatural and surreal with calm, suburban life. Brad Manford, a gifted attorney, moves his family from L.A. to Wichita, Kansas. There, his wife struggles to adjust, and his son, who has cystic fibrosis, mysteriously begins to get better. What’s behind Brad’s son’s mysterious recovery? Why does the grass in his yard grow so strangely? What about the memories Brad has but can’t explain? Why does Brad’s neighbor keep stopping by his house and staring into his yard?
I definitely caught hints of Stephen King (specifically The Tommyknockers) and The Twilight Zone, which are noted as some of Vince Wheeler’s interests in his author bio, but I wouldn’t call Mr. Wheeler the next Stephen King. He could just be a competent impostor. The story was interesting enough, but I thought there were too many threads to tie up at the end, and the conclusion felt like a bit of a clamor. A lengthier book with more detail would have gone a long way in making the story more complete. Despite its flaws, the book was intriguing, and I found myself sucked into the story, wanting to know more.
Belle Lutte Press
The Sword of Telemon
Eiland’s Sword of Telemon is the first in the four-book Orfeo Saga. The story opens with Orfeo struggling to fit in upon returning to his family/tribe after having spent several years as a hostage in the city of Pylos. Shortly after the story opens, Orfeo’s brother Herron is taken as a slave by raiders.
Kiros, father of Orfeo and Herron, and King of the Achians (Achaeans), gathers the tribe at Delphi so that a plan of rescue may be formulated. In the end, Orfeo, the Wanderer known as Zurga, the hero Telemon (Telamon), and Telemon’s second, Orton, are dispatched on a diplomatic mission to ransom Herron or buy him from the slavers. Along the way to Pylos, Orfeo begins lessons in swordplay with Telemon. Zurga, whose role as a Wanderer puts me in mind of the Druids, teaches Orfeo the wisdom of the Wanderers. Together, Zurga and Telemon polish Orfeo as a craftsman polishes and shapes a raw gem to reveal the brilliance hidden within.
Things don’t go as planned with the retrieval, of course, and the group ends up tangling with a conquering people known as the Therans. Orfeo, accompanied by a young woman named Clarice, leaves the group to continue the search for the missing heir. Zurga, Telemon, Orton, and Nadahr, another Wanderer, recognize the danger the Therans pose, and remain behind to gather the various tribes together and begin arranging a defense against Theran incursion.
Orfeo and Clarice, traveling as entertainers, end up being invited to Thera by a man called Draik. Since they now believe Herron has been taken to Thera, they jump on the invitation and become contracted performers for Draik. For a while they are lulled into being at ease among the Therans, but that lasts only until things begin going south for the Therans in their war efforts. They seek scapegoats and turn on Draik, seeing his contributions to said war efforts as causing the failures. He is taken for treason, and the entertainer contracts he held are divvied up among the royals.
Orfeo and Clarice are nearly ready to abandon their search and flee Thera, when Clarice stumbles upon Herron. Mission complete, they flee Thera just in time, as the volcanic island decides to blow a gasket. Even so, the ship they are fleeing on is destroyed in the ensuing tsunami. The story goes on to tell the fates of the major players, some rather surprising.
Fun stuff: I really enjoy historical novels that look at the events that may be the seeds to myth and legend, in this case, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The supernatural elements are weeded out, leaving behind a story more realistically plausible. This story also provided a unique and different take on Thera, known today as Santorini — one place believed to have been fabled Atlantis. Orfeo and Clarice weather the fury of one of the most deadly volcano eruptions of the time, one that fair wiped out a civilization.
Not so fun stuff: The story started a bit too slow for me. The prose can be flowy. I do feel that there is much that could be condensed or chopped entirely. The story needs another good proofing. There were a scattering of grammar and spelling errors, along with some inconsistencies. Two that really stick out in my mind are a description of Orfeo waking with his left hand clasping his left arm, and referencing both Zeus and Mars in regards to the same character. If they are Greeks, it would Ares instead of Mars. I have the same qualm about the use of Vulcan instead of Hephaestus. I also had a disagreement with some of the variant spellings (Achian/Achaean, Telemon/Telamon, Orfeo/Orpheus).
However, all that being said, Eiland’s Sword of Telemon, is a delightful sojourn to an ancient time. I loved it so much that I just bought the complete four-book set. If you enjoy historical fiction, or Greek history and mythology, this book is sure to please. Come, walk with Orfeo as he finds himself and comes into his own, as a warrior, as a scholar, as a man of the Achaeans and a man apart from the Achaeans. This is a brilliant rendering of a classic myth, and a coming of age story easy to relate to, especially if you’re a little on the eccentric side, like me! Orfeo must learn where he truly fits in given the vastly different experiences he’s had and doesn’t always find it an easy thing to do.
What Lies Between Us: A Novel
What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera completely transports readers into a whole new world. It’s a world similar to our own, but has a poetic, dark, sad atmosphere. Love, death, pain, and loss are themes that ring throughout this beautifully told, story. What Lies Between Us is the perfect title for this novel. The death of a child is what lies between a husband and his wife. Every page is powerful, told with raw emotions that will sweep over readers and consume them whole. Anger, resentment and truth flow from the pages into readers’ hearts. The beginning drags readers in quickly, the middle leaves readers floored, and the ending leaves readers breathless. The beauty and ugliness of life all wrapped up in the end makes for a brilliant tale.
InsideWhat Lies Between Us Nayomi Munaweera introduces us to a woman’s confessions. The author’s portrayal of jealousy, mayhem, and revenge is intriguing. What Lies Between Us is a dark, thrilling tale of suspense that will leave readers happy that they did not miss reading it. The main character is definitely a heartbreaker. I highly recommend this novel to everyone. Once readers open it, it will capture both their minds and hearts.
5.00 out of 5Dinosaur Isle
Agent Jack McConnell, from the United Nations Dinosaur Investigation Team (UNDIT), heads to Dinosaur Isle to investigate dinosaurs appearing in nearby Guam. Soon after Jack meets up with the small team of paleontologists on D13 one of three islands that encompass the isle, strange things begin to occur, such as Triceratops offspring and three dead Nanotyrannus. One of the team recognizes different characteristics on the dromaeosaurids, which is a sign that their DNA has been manipulated. Yet, when Jack investigates these “raptors,” as well as researches on one of Dinosaur Isle’s deceased scientists, things turn deadly rather quickly.
Tracy Lee Ford pens a story that makes Jurassic Park look like kid literature in his debut novel. Opening with an illegal dinosaur-fighting scene, Ford introduces his main character, Jack McConnell. An awkward and quasi-bumbling agent with a distinctive air of sophistication—reminiscent of the inimitable Maxwell Smart from the T.V. program Get Smart, Jack shows up on Dinosaur Isle dressed in nothing less than…a suit. From the get-go, Ford uses Jack as comic relief amid a plot replete with sinister underpinnings. To complement his humorous scenes, Ford includes engaging dialogue filled with light bantering.
Ford employs a number of literary elements to keep his third-person narrative flowing. Aside of comedy, Ford consistently alternates action-packed character scenes that can be easily categorized into Jack’s journey into this strange world of dinosaurs and the cryptic dealings of an unidentifiable madman—a definite good vs. evil theme. The most outstanding feature of Ford’s plot is the incredible amount of paleontological information that serves a dual purpose. While there is no doubt that Jack has his hands full trying to build up his understanding of the dinosaur realm and DNA, if he’s going to get anywhere with his investigation, Ford hopes that his audience will “learn a thing or two” about these interesting species in the process. Ford, who is a respected, self-taught paleontologist himself, touches upon so many areas of paleontology, such a bone and muscle structure, habitats, and behaviors, to name a brief list. Topping it off, Ford includes a pretty full glossary at the back of the book.
If this isn’t enough for dinosaur aficionados, there’s certain to be plenty more in store in Ford’s upcoming sequel.
Sometimes one comes across a novel based on an unlikely friendship–either between two people in their late years of life or between two people of different socioeconomic background or between two people of different age groups. Other differences aside, what links the two people is their understanding of each other. The times spent together may be of little duration, but the impact remains for the rest of their lives. Such is the story of Julian and Thomas in Windfall Nights by William Claypool.
The novel opens with Julian and his wife, Anna, in route to Vietnam, where he feels nostalgic for his friend, Thomas. The story flashes back to Julian’s college years, where a car accident forces him to graduate six months after his peers. He lands a part-time job at the Lafayette Hotel as a night bellman, looking to earn some extra cash. What he didn’t expect was that working at Lafayette was more than a blue-collar job; it was an experience he’d never forget. He forges an unlikely friendship with Thomas, the hotel handyman. A university dropout who was once a football star and a talented piano player, Thomas’ life choices are an enigma to Julian. Their times shared together lead to unfolding of the troubled life of Thomas and why he chose to be a handyman. Thomas is present for some of the defining moments of Julian’s life, and Julian later understands what an influence his dear friend will have in the years to come.
The transition between flashbacks to Julian’s life to the present has been penned skillfully, but is rather slow to progress. More moments could easily have been shared between the two leads, making each other’s actions justified. This novel is highly recommended for readers of short stories.
The Singer and His Songs
In The Singer and His Songs, the reader is taken through the short course of Chris Smith’s life. Chris starts off disadvantaged, the son of poor World War II refugees from Estonia who wind up in Australia. Chris lives through his teen years there, and experiences the infancy of rock-and-roll. Reserved and haunted by a sense of not belonging, Chris nevertheless reaches the height of fame through his abilities in guitar/vocal composition and performance. He is a “natural” talent without formal training. Chris also meets his true love—twice—women with whom he forms lasting attachments. April, his first girlfriend, is his soulmate. Their meeting is “Romeo and Juliet-esque” in that they are drawn together after catching sight of each other at a dance. Much of Chris’s life seems fated. After giving him music and April, Fate snatches both away when his family leaves Australia. Chris finds both again, however, before the tragic end of his life that leaves an enduring legacy.
This is a compelling story, its strength in its plotline that keeps the reader riveted. The writing style itself is strong—clean and direct. Where the story could be strengthened is in focus and depth. The plot is so broad, moving from the years after WWII and his parents’ immigration, through Chris’s childhood years, adulthood, and the end of his life, so depth is sacrificed. For example, the reader is told, repeatedly, what a wonderful performer Chris is. However, there are few details on what he looks like, feels like, or sounds like on stage. There is a similar concern with the relationship with April. The reader is told about their great love, but there is no real love scene showing them talking to, touching, or kissing each other for an extended period. The story might be improved by shortening or cutting the backstory of how Chris’s family immigrated, and starting with Chris picking up a guitar for the first time, the real story beginning. Then details, especially sensory ones, can be added to show Chris’s relationship to music and April, thus pulling the reader more into the story.