Friday Fiction Feature

fictionreboot2Hello and welcome back to the much-delayed Friday Fiction Feature! Tabatha is back again (see, I got here eventually) to bring you yet another installment of new, old, popular, and obscure fiction. Today I’m here to highlight a great friend of the expat reader, the e-book. Normally a stolid fan of real paper and glue books, I have found my personal library horribly limited by the confines of my suitcases, and the even more inflexible airline weight restrictions. As such, I have had to take refuge in the digital library, and so today’s selection will serve to highlight, in some small portion, the vast stores available to those bereft of real old-book-smell.

The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett 

No list of e-books would be complete without a contribution by Terry Pratchett, whose collected (and uncollected) works litter every online “recommended reads” list I have ever seen. However, as I have already included Good Omens, and a random assortment of Discworld novels, the only way left to include one, is the top of my “Recommended Reads” list for today (though I shudder to know why), Pratchett’s bestselling children’s book full of interesting facts for the young and old, The World of Poo.

A charming tale for people of all ages (but especially for young Sam Vimes) from the pen of Miss Felicity Beedle, Discworld’s premier children’s author.
From Snuff: ‘Vimes’ prompt arrival got a nod of approval from Sybil, who gingerly handed him a new book to read to Young Sam. Vimes looked at the cover. The title was The World of Poo. When his wife was out of eyeshot he carefully leafed through it. Well, okay, you had to accept that the world had moved on and these days fairy stories were probably not going to be about twinkly little things with wings. As he turned page after page, it dawned on him that whoever had written this book, they certainly knew what would make kids like Young Sam laugh until they were nearly sick. The bit about sailing down the river almost made him smile. But interspersed with the scatology was actually quite interesting stuff about septic tanks and dunnakin divers and gongfermors and how dog muck helped make the very best leather, and other things that you never thought you would need to know, but once heard somehow lodged in your mind.’

X (Kinsey Millhone Book 24) by Sue Grafton

Mostly this book is here to remind you that e-books do not limit you fair readers to the obscure reaches of the library I tend to haunt, and the new best-sellers are easily within reach. So have no fear, those edging into the pool of e-books, you can get all the same novels you would find in a bookstore, only the endings are more surprising because it’s harder to tell how many pages you have left.

*Also, as a foreign language teacher, I can definitely confirm the trickiness of the innocuous letter X–really, I challenge you, think of 3 words off the top of your head you can use to easily show a room of 3-year-olds how to pronounce x (and “in a box” doesn’t count!)

X:  The number ten. An unknown quantity. A mistake. A cross. A kiss.
X:  The shortest entry in Webster’s Unabridged. Derived from Greek and Latin and commonly found in science, medicine, and religion. The most graphically dramatic letter. Notoriously tricky to pronounce: think xylophone.
X:  The twenty-fourth letter in the English alphabet.
Sue Grafton’s X: Perhaps her darkest and most chilling novel, it features a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Once again breaking the rules and establishing new paths, Grafton wastes little time identifying this sociopath. The test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim.

The Girl on the Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train sounds like a Good Hitchcockian tale–something like Rear Window except it replaces the obsessive binocular vigils of an immobile man with the casual creepiness of the bored commuter, casually making up stories in the lives of strangers who forgot to close their curtains.

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Mystic Mayhem (Mystic Isle Mysteries Book 1) by Sally J. Smith & Jean Steffens 

Mystic Mayhem is an unusual kind of mystery, not because this seems to be another cozy mystery (Cozy Mystery: a genre characterized by grisly murders, numerous dangerous suspects, some variety of baked goods, and cute romance, all wrapped up inside a pastel-colored cover), but because this time the mystery and magic seems to involve some rather hectic interviews with the murderee himself. I do wonder what kind of problems the ghost causes to manage to show up and still not solve the mystery…

From the acclaimed writing team of Sally J. Smith & Jean Steffens comes a hilarious first book in a brand new mystery series that will keep you guessing until the end…
Melanie Hamilton is not your average artist. She brings home the bacon by inking tattoos at New Orleans’s Mansion at Mystic Isle, a resort in the middle of the bayou that caters to fans of the peculiar and paranormal, but her true passion comes alive when she volunteers restoring Katrina-ravaged landmarks. Between her day job, her restoration work, and selling her paintings in Jackson Square, Mel’s life is more hectic than Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday. But when a guest of the resort, a millionaire’s widow, is poisoned, and Melanie’s close friend is arrested for the murder, things go from hectic to downright dangerous.
Mel joins forces with the resort’s delish manager, Jack Stockton, to prove her friend’s innocence. Soon they find themselves dealing with séances, secret passages, the ghost of the millionaire himself, gators, swamp rats, and a sinister killer who proves that not everything is what it seems in the Louisiana bayou.
Come on along, and get your creep on.

Leave it to Jeeves and Other Works by P.G. Wodehouse (Unexpurgated Edition) by P.G. Wodehouse 

Now that you’re firmly convinced you can get the newest and hottest books around, it’s time to bring in some of the oldest and coolest. My personal favorite this last week or so has been…really anything by P.G. Wodehouse. These books offer the lexical challenge of decoding outdated slang (which is almost comforting to those of us who can’t decipher new slang), but mostly, it provides very witty writing, with very clever plots, all of which are about absolute morons (who will cheerfully admit that they are such).

Arguably P.G. Wodehouse’s most endearing character, Reginald Jeeves is a “gentleman’s personal gentleman” (a valet) to the foppish Bertie Wooster. Subtle and clever, Jeeves carefully oversees Wooster’s life, often coming up with complicated plans to extricate young Wooster from the latest calamity in his life, be it legal, social, or womanly.


Dead Man’s Reach Reboot Review

FictionReboot2Welcome to the REBOOT REVIEW–the book review portion of Fiction Reboot | Daily Dose! Today’s review is of D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker 4: Dead Man’s Reach. 

Reviewer: Tabatha Hanly



I had read good reviews of the previous Theiftaker novels, and was expecting a good read, but as all overly-prolific readers know, there is a big difference between a book you can finish in a week, and one you really loved and are going to recommend to your friends. For me, what tipped Dead Man’s Reach beyond the rank of “a good enough book” was the realism and unpredictability I found in the details of this historical fantasy novel.

Yes that’s right—the apt detail work in a book about magic. (Or rather, conjuring—sorry Mr. Jackson.) One cannot describe the plot of this novel without copious uses of words like “magic” “witch” or “spells” but neither could one describe it without “Revolutionary War” “Boston Massacre” “winter” or “girlfriend.” It took witchcraft, historical knowledge, and believable characters to make Dead Man’s Reach the book it is. And to establish any of those elements, it took good writing and good detail work. For me, all of this was established and I was won over with one line on the first page.

With the single line “Every breath produced a billow of vapor, rendering his concealment spell all but useless” the author told me much that I needed to know about this world: that magic exists, that it’s not perfect, that the protagonist can use it, that he is outside, and that it’s damn cold! On the first page this line convinced me that D.B. Jackson knew what he was talking about; he could integrate history, fantasy, and plot seamlessly throughout the novel, without forgetting the little details. These characters, the first page hinted, and the rest proved, would be human enough to identify with and squishy enough for their fights to be thrilling, and therefore unpredictable enough to be interesting. Of course Dead Man’s Reach’s details did more than recognize the misery of a northern winter, they built real characters and believable events. The protagonists’ romance was long-established when I first butted into it, and so it was not built on magic moments of chemistry or grandiose gestures of the early stages of a fictional romance, it lived on the small details of a couple who talk over their dinners, who have silent-treatment spats, and who need to report in once in a while when they are fighting evil wizards so the other person doesn’t worry. You know, normal couple stuff. The details of the world and its characters made the Theiftaker world believable and interesting. The structure of the adventure kept me reading at a pace which was really not good for my housework.

The book follows Ethan Kaille and his friends (and his enemies) through the streets of pre-Revolutionary War Boston. While the street surfaces are flooded with lobsters, a much more insidious enemy lurks…somewhere in the city. And yet the Revolutionary War is much more than window dressing for Dead Man’s Reach. Jackson integrated details of the actual British occupation beautifully, showing how prevalent it was in every day of the characters’ lives, and making it an integral element of the plot. And well, really he had to. Can you imagine running through the crowded city cutting your arm and casting spells, trying to stop an invisible evil force without a few of the hundreds of soldiers at least noticing? And so it is with the tense and suspicious background that Ethan Kaille must face an invisible enemy intent on starting a war, destroying the city, and tearing Ethan Kaille apart personally.

As an incurable ending-guesser I was pleasantly surprised to never know what was going to happen next. Throughout the entire adventure, as I followed the theiftaker and his friends through pre-revolutionary war Boston I was curious to find out what was going to happen, and afraid that each favorite character might be the next to go. I never knew what step Kaille was going to take next, what magic he would, or could, employ in his cause. I was genuinely worried throughout the book that he would get arrested for witchcraft and have to watch his nemesis take over from a barred window, or worse yet that he would get caught up in Adams’ cause and find himself trapped in a bloody confrontation between the revolutionaries and the British “lobsters.” I worried that Ethan’s friends would desert him when they found out he was different. I worried about a lot of other things too, and many of them came true, but I’m not going to be the one to tell you which—though I will mention that there is a rumor this will be the last book in the series.

D.B. Jackson’s Dead Man’s Reach was a fun read start to finish with believability in its magic, accuracy in its history, and real suspense in its adventures.

Dead Man’s Reach will be available on July 21st.

Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Hello all and welcome back to the July edition of the now-monthly Friday Fiction Feature! –Tabatha Hanly reporting from beyond the water (we are an international staff now, you know).

I wanted to build this week’s theme around my big move and new job, but oddly I can’t find enough cool fiction books about Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Who’d have thunk? So I’ll just have to be content with the general idea of travel to bizarre places and times. We’ve got all kinds of vacations here: traveling for fun, fleeing the government, shopping for bon bons, or even a getaway to a bright and new school-away-from-school. We’ve got destination spots, dangerous classwork, and even some handy what-not-to-do’s for the wary traveler.

Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Hilary Tamar #1) by Sarah Caudwell

Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Hilary Tamar, #1)Thus Was Adonis Murdered may have found the best possible reason to take a fast and expensive vacation: fleeing the IRS. (It sounds bad I know, but remember,  not everyone can move with motives as heroic and altruistic as a better paying job). Of course, a word to the wise: if one is planning to flee the local tax agency it may be prudent to first kick the accountant out of your car.

When her personal copy of the current Finance Act is found a few meters away from a body, young barrister Julia Larwood finds herself caught up in a complex fight against the Inland Revenue. Set to have a vacation away from her home life and the tax man, Julia takes a trip with her art-loving boyfriend. However, all is not what it seems. Could he in fact be an employee of the establishment she has been trying to escape from? And how did her romantic luxurious holiday end in murder?

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine 

The Mystery of the Clockwork SparrowI nearly skipped past this next novel without a second glance, because if there is one place I absolutely don’t want to go on my vacations, it’s the mall. And so I was ready to flatly turn down the invitation to visit this particular department store–no matter how cordial–when I realized that it was a DASTARDLY mall. That’s right. Dastardly. But in all capital letters. While I think Sinclair’s is welcome to keep all of it’s perfumes and hats, I will travel far and wide for the chance to see dastardly villains, learn what The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is, and eat junk food all in one place. Who wouldn’t?

You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store!
Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villains to justice…

Zombie, Ohio (Zombie #1) by Scott Kenemore

Zombie, OhioSomeday, dear readers, I will stop showcasing books about zombies. Really, someday I will. But today is not that day.
Consider this next selection a destination novel. Rather than show you what it’s like to pick up and move around the world, this novel gives you a place you might like to go. Certainly you’ve seen books before which highlight the lovely sights, the interesting spots, and the friendly people in such-and-such a place? Well, Zombie, Ohio will take you on a pleasant journey through this small town. It will introduce you to the locals, enmesh you in the rural way of life, show you the problems and successes of the citizens as they go really back to basics. It will even show you the city’s prestigious university, and especially it’s very talented staff. (Note…our esteemed editor, Dr. Schillace, is from Ohio…)

When rural Ohio college professor Peter Mellor dies in an automobile accident during a zombie outbreak, he is reborn as a highly intelligent (yet somewhat amnesiac) member of the living dead. With society crumbling around him and violence escalating into daily life, Peter quickly learns that being a zombie isn’t all fun and brains. Humans—unsympathetic, generally, to his new proclivities—try to kill him at nearly every opportunity. His old friends are loath to associate with him. And he finds himself inconveniently addicted to the gooey stuff inside of people’s heads. As if all this weren’t bad enough, Peter soon learns that his automobile accident was no accident at all. Faced with the harrowing mystery of his death, Peter resolves to use his strange zombie “afterlife” to solve his own murder.
Skillfully combining the genres of horror, humor, and film noir, Zombie, Ohio weaves an enthralling and innovative tale that any fan of the current zombie craze is sure to relish. Followers of detective and horror fiction alike will find something to love about Zombie, Ohio—a tale of murder, mystery, and the walking dead.

Eternal Vows (The Ruby Ring #1) by Chrissy Peebles

Eternal Vows (The Ruby Ring, #1)Consider this book your “What Not To Do” of travel, romance, and really everything. Here at the FFF we encourage travel, fun, and adventure. We want you to see the world, to meet new people, to read new books. But we also want you to be safe. So we’re using Eternal Vows to illustrate a few key no-nos for your next adventure.

First off–lying about who you are on an adventure is a tricky question: certainly if you are a peasant boy or from the future, lying is fun and often necessary; however pretending to be royalty may be pushing your luck. A lot.

The next piece of advice from Eternal Vows is crucial, and honestly one you should have learn way back when you read fables and recited nursery rhymes: don’t marry the first hottie you see! They almost always turn out to be some manner of warlock, sea-witch, toad, or inter-dimensional demon. This one shouldn’t be tough: if you wouldn’t marry the first dating-site match, why would you tie the knot with the first fairy king you meet?
Finally, we have a two-fold piece of advice. #1 Don’t take jewelry that wasn’t already yours and even then, it’s a bit iffy. You know what? Just don’t touch anything sparkly. #2 As any D&D player can tell you, never, never, never muck about with unknown magical items! It’s just bad business and a great way to end up with fish arms or a rain of baguettes. For a more thorough run-down on bad ideas for other-worldly travels, finish up Eternal Vows.

Sarah Larker returns to a cave where her sister disappeared ten years earlier. She walks through a portal and is mistaken for a runaway princess on the run by a dangerous immortal king in medieval times. Her plan is bold as well as daring-become this princess, wed the king, and slip on an ancient wedding ring that will unlock the portal back home. Then find her sister and run as fast as she can out of Dodge. But taking on the identity of Princess Gloria comes along with dangerous consequences; and slipping on the ruby ring comes with an even higher price.

The Assassination Game (Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #4) by Alan Gratz

The Assassination Game (Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, #4)Our last featured book of the day takes us into The Final Frontier! (Where frankly many men and women have gone by now). Because all things do seem to come back around to where they started on the FFF, even going beyond the reaches of our galaxy still can’t take us away from school, because The Assassination Game is the thrilling tale of how Cadets Kirk and Bones learned to take out dangerous enemies on campus with a spork! Wait, no…that can’t be… Nope it is. A spork. Well. I guess it’s important to be proficient with all manner of weapons before heading out into the dark and dangerous realms of outer space. Hmmmm…I for one sincerely hope Kirk has to face down one of the real dangerous enemies armed with nothing but his wits and a spork. Now that’s a hero I could get behind…far behind…hopefully far enough behind that the enemy’s real weapon can’t reach me just in case the spork isn’t enough.

The rules are simple: Draw a target. Track him down and kill him with a spork. Take your victim’s target for your own. Oh, and make sure the player with your name doesn’t get to you first. No safe zones. No time-outs. The game ends when only one player remains. James T. Kirk is playing for fun. Leonard (Bones)McCoy is playing to get closer to a girl. But when a series of terrorist attacks rock the usually placid Starfleet Academy campus, it becomes clear that somebody is playing the game for real. Is it one of the visiting Varkolak, on Earth to attend an intergalactic medical conference? Or could it be a member of a super-secret society at the Academy dedicated to taking care of threats to the Federation, no matter what rules they have to break to do it? Find out in The Assassination Game, the fourth installment in Spotlight’s exciting series for teens.