Monday, September 23, 2013

REVIEW: Cubs to Bonanzas

Title: Cubs to Bonanzas: A 65-Year Perspective Through A Pilot’s Eyes
Author: Richard A. Komm
Genre: memoir
Price: $3.99 (ebook) / $15.99 (paperback)
Publisher: XLibris
ISBN: 978-1-4836-5039-5
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

In 1947, a 15-year-old boy named Richard Komm got himself to a grass airfield in St. Louis, Mo.  There, he met Walt Withrow, a man who had learned to fly in open-cockpit planes.  Walt gave Richard flying lessons, and thus was born an enduring love affair with aviation.  This love affair, and the things that happened during that affair, are the subject of this slim memoir, Cubs to Bonanzas.

The Cubs to Bonanzas of the title refers to the first plane Komm flew, a Piper Cub, and the current aircraft Komm owns, a Bonanza B-35.  Written in a conversational style, this book discusses how Komm learned to fly, the several aircraft he owned, and a number of interesting incidents he had over the years.  Many of these incidents involved nearly crashing due to weather, malfunction or some combination thereof, and are common piloting stories.

They may be common stories, but Komm tells them in an uncommonly-entertaining style.  Komm keeps the pilotese to a minimum, and focuses on both the entertaining and important aspects of these stories.  As of the writing of the book, Komm had joined the UFO Club (United Flying Octogenarians, a club reserved for those over age 80 still flying as pilots-in-command) and so Komm has a wealth of information to impart, especially about flying before many of the modern instruments were invented.

The last chapter of the book goes into 10 technical lessons learned in Komm’s flying career.  These may seem not applicable to a general audience, but the operant word is “seems.”  Things like planning ahead, knowing yourself and your equipment are solid words of advice for anybody doing anything.  In short, I found Cubs to Bonanzas an enjoyable if brief read. 


Monday, September 16, 2013

REVIEW: Kindreds: An Alliance of Bloods

Title: Kindreds: An Alliance of Bloods
Author: Tani Mura
Genre: novel
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon  
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

When I started reading Kindreds, I found myself following a mental checklist.  Plucky female heroine with convenient and atypical combat skills?  Check.  Dystopian future America ruled by crazed dictator?  Check.  One big capital city where everybody likes Latin names?  Check.  The checklist was that of “Hunger Games fanfic” and Tani Mura hit all the marks.  Now, she doesn’t have a gladiatorial game, and her society is organized along lines of strict racial segregation, so Suzanne Collins isn’t going to be suing for copyright infringement, but Kindreds is clearly influenced and patterned after Hunger Games

Having said that, I rather enjoyed the Hunger Games, so I was hopeful for Kindreds.  But I find myself ambivalent at best over Ms. Mura’s story.  One of the many tropes of fantasy is “The Chosen One” – some person born to save us all.  Here, Ms. Mura’s lead character Raine is that chosen one, although per the standard script, Raine doesn’t realize she’s chosen until much later. 

And Kindreds is really fantasy, not science fiction.  The technology is more technobabble, and geology seems to have been ignored in the creation of the world.  I found many of the secondary characters cardboard cutouts, and some of the action sequences not very plausible.  Per Mura’s blog, she’s writing as a hobby.  There’s nothing wrong with that (I’m certainly not making a living writing) but this piece of hobby-writing didn’t strike me as worth the effort.  The only reason I’m rating it as a six out of ten is that the presentation and editing is well-done, and if you’re looking for more in the Hunger Games world this may fit your bill.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

REVIEW: Dialogues of a Crime

Title: Dialogues of a Crime

Author: John K. Manos
Genre: novel
Price: $4.95 (ebook) / $13.70 (paperback)
Publisher: Amika Press
ASN: 978-1937484132
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Dialogues of a Crime is an interesting book.  It’s billed as “examine[ing] guilt, innocence and the long-term ramifications of crime and punishment in a gray area where the personal lives of perpetrators, victims and law officers overlap.”  That may make it sound like a crime novel or mystery, but it is neither of those.

The story starts with a man being thrown off of a roof, and then goes to 1972, where Michael Pollitz, a nineteen-year-old college student, is being arrested in his dorm.  Due to poor legal help, Michael ends up in prison, where he is brutally and graphically raped.  He has a personal friendship with a Chicago mobster, and asks that the Mob kill his attackers.  The story then picks up in 1994, with Chicago PD detective Larry Klinger investigating a tip that a mobster ordered a hit on two convicts.  We soon discover that the convicts in question are Pollitz’s attackers.

As I said, no real mystery to solve.  The plot, then is whether or not Pollitz will give up his mobster friend, with a side plot of Klinger trying to decide if justice would even be served by forcing the issue.  The book really is dialogues – the only action sequence is the rape, and sensitive readers are advised that it’s portrayed graphically.

At 300 pages, the novel is a fairly quick read, and generally well-written.  John Manos, the author, has what I found to be a somewhat irritating narrative voice, and is fond of telling us what people will be thinking later.  He also tends to “hop heads” – jumping from one character to another’s POV within the same scene.

Having said that, I found these flaws minor.  The story works on its own terms as a discussion of crime, morality, and loyalty to family and friends.  It’s definitely not something one would see from a large press; rather it is the type of material that can only be found from small and independent operations.


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Review: Between These Pages -- C A MacKenzie

Title: Between These Pages
Author: CA MacKenzie
Genre: Short Stories
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon 
Reviewed by: Psyche Skinner

I read "Between These Pages" over a fairly extended period simply because life suddenly became very busy. Not all of the stories are good but enough are great to make up for it, making this a very readable collection. I started off not particularly engrossed, but by about half way through the stories became sharper. They more often ended with a satisfying twisted, or an ambiguity that was thought provoking rather than simply baffling.

Perhaps it is because the author ordered the stories by the age of the protagonists, and older characters naturally have more depth and pathos. Or perhaps because the elements of infidelity, troubled relationships and murder go from being repetitive to genuine themes as each story adds a new layer.

As high points I would point to stories with vivid images like the wife with a mannequin made in her image ("The Mannequin") or the woman sinking (is is she?) into a geothermal sinkhole ("Trapped in the Swallow"). Others may be somewhat shaky in execution but are intriguing in theme like a society where the road toll has gone from an unconscious sacrifice to a civic responsibility ("The Quota").

My favorite, strangely enough given my lifelong love of gothic horror, is the one completely nice and happy story in the collection. Although it appears near the beginning, "Away with the Fairies" feels like closes the loop of the repeated themes by showing how the older generation can help the younger steer them away from the tragedies that beset the characters in the other stories in the collection.