Monthly Archives: March 2015

review of The Relationship Riddle by Susan Paulson Clark

RelationshipRiddle

★★★★★

reviewed by Cy Wyss

The Relationship Riddle is about Vince and Belle and how their tenuous and unpromising first contact leads to a relationship. Vince is a high school football coach and somewhat of a ladies’ man who’s never committed to any romantic relationship. Belle, on the other hand, is a small business owner who has had a tendency to commit far too soon with men who are toxic. She carries the baggage of an unsavory ex-husband, one of the things that gives Vince pause once he finds out. Through twists and turns, The Relationship Riddle follows this gentle and satisfying relationship as it blooms—potentially into something more. (You’ll have to read the book to find out.) After catastrophe strikes, will their relationship cement, or fall apart?

I liked this book. The writing was solid and impeccably edited, which is a potential pet peeve of mine. After just a few pages I was hooked, getting into both Vince and Belle’s well-drawn lives. The settings of these lives and the accompanying characters are both vividly described and compelling. Vince’s mom is a treat, a cantankerous old woman with an unfortunately terminal illness. How Vince deals with her is great, making Vince even more sympathetic. We learn he’s got his mom and that’s basically it—he’s a real sweetie. This strength of character shows in that he wants to become a foster dad, no small feat for a single man. In general, I think Vince carries this book and wish there were more stories to read about him. Both heroes (Vince and Belle) have good heads on their shoulders, if they can only circumvent the misunderstandings around them. A fine read, this book will be catnip for readers of romance.

review of The Breaks by Eden Sharp

TheBreaks

★★★★★

reviewed by Cy Wyss

Angela McGlynn is a martial artist and a hacker extraordinaire. I can imagine she might look something like MMA fighter Gina Carano, all muscle and defiance in a handsome package. McGlynn is a private investigator, set onto a missing girl by the girl’s father. What seems like a standard missing persons case is anything but, however. Eden Sharp weaves a multi-layered tale with an ambitious and expansive plot ranging from Eastern European mobsters to Latino gangbangers, from questionable narcotics cops to “carders” (information thieves who steal credit card numbers and print their own cards from them to use). Teaming up with McGlynn is John Knox, an ex-marine home from Afghanistan and still haunted by the ghosts of his past. He seems to suffer from classic PTSD but his instincts are still good. He’s looking for a new career and it seems McGlynn can help him, in more ways than one.

Overall, this book is a masterpiece. It is not a quick read, rather something to savor over several days. It has a broad, satisfying plot that isn’t your usual superficial genre fare. The characters are complex and well-rounded, even the bad guys seem multi-dimensional and memorable. I strongly recommend this book to fans of the hard boiled genre, or anyone who loves gritty, meaty detective/crime stories. Great work!

review of Hontas by V.M. Sawh

Hontas

★★★★☆

reviewed by Cy Wyss

Hontas by V.M. Sawh is the story of Hontas (Pocahontas) and John, bounty hunters extraordinaire in Wyoming 1880, the real wild west. They are assigned a job which consists of disrupting the laying of train track by a magnate known as Smythe. Their first attempt doesn’t go so well and ends up with a wounded Hontas careening through a rushing river, sliced and expelled. The non-linear story timeline and non-stop action means this is a hard short to put down.

The second confrontation with Smythe goes more to Hontas’s way of liking. I found it a very satisfying sequence, with a surprise twist. The larger themes of the story are equally satisfying, both that, as Hontas says, “Red. White. We all bleed the same,” as well as the idea that progress (such as the laying of train track over the west) inevitably destroys traditional ways of life. Craft wise, there is some repetition of words and some minor omissions but nothing that seriously detracts from your enjoyment of this fast-moving piece. There are several evocative descriptions of authentic scenery, although I wished there might have been even more, since this is one of the things people love about Westerns, the vast and exhilarating landscape. All in all a fun read over lunch or with a cold drink in hand.

review of Acting: From First Audition to Final Bow by Bruce Carroll

Acting

★★★★☆

reviewed by Cy Wyss

Acting: From First Audition to Final Bow is a nonfiction book about the process of being involved in a stage play. The author takes you from preparation for your audition (but makes no claims about how you might have found that audition), through rehearsal and the play run, to closure. Afterward, there are chapters with tips and cheats for the stage, and finally a useful glossary worth at least scanning. The book is short which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is an advantage because the pace is quick and there is no “fluff” or boredom. It is a disadvantage because you’re left wanting more — more discussion, more frame of reference. References, in fact, are a weak point of the book because there does not appear to be a bibliography. A nonfiction book should at the very least have a list of further reading.

I would still recommend this book to anyone wanting to get into stage plays. The information is solid and the author is a director with 30 years or so under his belt, something not to be passed up. I wished there were more anecdotes from those 30 years, however. They would have added to overall length but would have more than made up for it in terms of making this book appealing to a wider audience. As it is, there is some humor but very little else for the non-specialist. If I had someone I knew who wanted to get into stage acting I would tell them to read this book as a decent, quick start guide, I feel it would be especially appropriate for teens and young adults first getting into acting, for example.

writer cy: the review conundrum part 1

March’s Writer Cy starts a little series about one of the most important parts of marketing self-published works: getting reviews. It’s really a chicken and egg problem. To get reviews you need a ton of people to read your book since such a small percentage will actually review it. But, of course, people only read books that already have reviews. So what’s a writer to do? Over the coming months Writer Cy will look at the inherent silliness of the problem.

ReviewsPart1

review of Cyberbully Blues by Rubin Johnson

CyberbullyBlues

★★★★★

reviewed by Cy Wyss

Cyberbully blues is the coming of age story of Dakota (aka Kodi), a California girl. The book follows Kodi from just beginning high school to the first year of college as she makes major changes. The changes include transforming herself through hard work and self-discipline from couch potato to athlete, from mathophobe to computerophile, and from girl to woman. Her change from geometry dunce to math and computer science whiz is truly inspiring, not least in part because it is out of necessity due to rampant cyberbullying. Her response to her tormentors is creative and realistic, the author has a great feel for the nuances of all things tech. Another great aspect to the story is in fact this techno-awareness, as it is set 25 years in the future with the logical consequences of the tech we have today. Kodi is believable and the reader quickly finds her perseverance and self-discipline inspiring and compelling. We want her to win!

The book gets off to a relaxing start but by 30% I was hooked. By 40% I couldn’t put it down it was so gripping. It is also impeccably edited, a potential pet peeve of mine. The author has dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s making for a smooth and seamless ride. I liked the advanced tech aspect being realistic, the realm of the eminently probable not the realm of science fiction. I also liked that the author didn’t pull punches but instead put important computer concepts and even a snippet or two of code into the text (yet somehow managed to do this without seeming boring). I was disappointed to think that women wouldn’t have made more inroads in the computer science field in 25 years, but given stupid crap like Gamergate this is also unfortunately realistic. Overall a very important story to have around, and heroes like Kodi and her mentors need to be better known. Highly recommended for a great theme and compelling, satisfying reading.