Friday, 12 April 2013

The Wolf Tattoo by Kenneth Fore - Book Review

Despite hundreds of sub categories and genres available to the book publisher and author, books generally and inevitably end up being labelled and defined by the more general ones: fiction or non-fiction or even vague sub headings such as horror. Nothing underlines the discrepancies and oddities of this peculiar phenomenon more than ”The Wolf Tattoo” by Kenneth Fore which got categorised under ”Action and Adventure”. Such vague labels do no justice applied to such a truly original and mesmerising piece of work, five years in the making.

Describing this book as action or adventure might win itself a prize for most deceiving and indecent trade description but you certainly can't blame the writer for this as there couldn’t be a harder book to categorise than ”The Wolf Tattoo”. Encompassing fantasy, nature, paranormal and horror, the book starts off a bit like an Alaskan version of Rambo, as we follow Clayton on his trek across the Alaskan wilderness. This is quickly followed up by a bit of the 60’s Bonanza cowboy TV show as the grizzlies and wolves enter the fray and, as Clayton manages to adapt and survive, we suddenly find ourselves in the film ”Born Free”, only not in Kenya but Alaska!

But it's the second half of the book that defies expectation as a weird mix of what can only be described as ”Lord of the Rings" meets "Avatar" meets "The Thing”, as the story goes in completely unexpected directions and encompasses secret forests, a new species called Mueumonds, tropical jungles and miracle medicines. And yet, despite all this, the themes of the book remain simple: the fragility of nature, the evil of humans, human temptation and love.

Despite the danger of so many different themes diluting the experience of reading it, fear not, The Wolf Tattoo is beautifully written - fresh as a cold Alaskan snowball hitting your face, a wakeup call and an entertaining, delightfully mesmerising read. It's a book that's hard to put down as you are taken on a ride through the Alaskan wilderness, all deftly described with great dialogue and haunting scenery. It can be peculiarly bizarre and confusing at times but it's also exhilarating and entertaining as, what starts off as a getaway, ends up as a battle to survive.

Kenneth Fore is certainly the right man to tell this tale. Stationed in rural Alaska during his military service, his knowledge of the area is vast and he skilfully uses his memories to create Clayton Spears, a war veteran, carrier of huge physical and mental scars from war, a man determined to never give up because he believes it's not we who choose the path, but rather, the path that chooses us, to teach us something valuable we would have otherwise not accepted.

Alas, no book is perfect. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but beauty can also be overrated and a double sided coin. Despite its sheer scope and ambition, Clayton seems to end up as a superhuman James bond, irritating in his ability to escape and sometimes kill grizzlies and wolves. You rather get the idea that he is like a Canadian James bond who somehow manages to miraculously survive every bullet aimed at him along the way. By the time the Mueumonds arrive, mythical relentless killing creatures that can smell human blood from miles away, we don't seem to fear them as much as we should because Clayton is such a clever chap, so naturally gifted that perhaps he could beat God up with just his fingernails. Undoubtedly, a bit of the suspense and horror is drained away by stretching the sticky tape of reality a little too much.

Another setback detracting from its perfection was the first part of the book. Possessing such a beautiful talent for writing, Kenneth Fore makes the error of attempting to be too clever with his words, trying too hard to illustrate Clayton's state of mind as the Vietnam veteran who is constantly on the lookout for snipers and other hidden dangers that lurk in the Alaskan wild. These pages are drenched with too much action and not enough contrast.

However, I digress. We all want different things from our entertainment... We all have our trivial hates and idiosyncrasies but without a doubt, this truly is a special and original book that deserves immense praise for its originality, passion and ambition. Books like this don't come along very often and when they do, and you are privileged enough to read it , then you also owe it to yourself , despite those otherwise niggling doubts, to pinch yourself hard in the arm and say ”reading a book is about being entertained, that's what matters in the end.”

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Out Now On Itunes / Ibooks - only 99 cents!

“Redemption” by Joe Prentis - Book Review


This wonderfully crafted novel begins near the end of the Civil War.  With so many historical fiction works on the shelves already, its a breath of fresh air to read this depiction of a time after the war, of rebuilding and of the culture and mindsets that developed in our nation as a result of the war.  The author quickly brings the reader to a time and place made not so distant by his exceptional skill for weaving descriptive imagery.  The politics of this event in American history was quite interesting and seemed very real as if the author had been a fly on the wall at many of the closed door meetings that certainly occurred between military and government leaders.  The characters were fleshed out and realistic.  The sights, sounds and smells you would expect to experience if you were actually there, jumped off the pages.  Aids and bodyguards to General McClellan, Oakley and McCade are very believable, realistic characters that are clearly destined to continue as main characters in the Renegade series and thankfully so.  I am anxious to read more and learn how these men will change and adjust as they put their war torn history behind them.

Overall the reader is destined to go through a range of emotions as they read through this seemingly very accurate depiction of what life at the end of the war must have been like. I was glad to know this was a prequel novel before I started reading or I would have been very disappointed in how “quickly” the book ended.  As a prequel, the ending leaves the reader wanting and anxious for the first edition in the actual series as it should.  The author could have trimmed the book by reducing the number of adjectives he used, significantly, and still given the reader’s imagination what it needed to follow along and bond with the characters.   Joe Prentis has crafted a painstakingly researched, well written manuscript that clearly paves the way for his Renegade series.

Book reviewed by Debra L Hartmann, Owner of The Pro Book Editor and dlhbookreviews 

“Promise of Departure” by L W Montgomery - Book Review

PromiseofDeparture_LW Montgomery

The book begins with a “picture” of a typed letter to Janet from Greg, telling her he is stepping out of the picture as a result of his own inability to deal with their divorce.  I liked this unique start, this presentation of the letter, it made me want to see what other surprises would be included and I wasn’t disappointed.  Chapter 1 begins with Greg fussing over having dropped his motorcycle while off loading from the ship that had only just brought him to Haiti.  Right away this character begins to immerge, flawed and realistic, mentally past his edge that was once sharp and dedicated to his career and his family and clearly battling depression and alcoholism while not falling into any cliché patterns but instead, drawing me along into an intriguing storyline that would not allow me to put this book down.

I appreciated the author’s witty prose as he crafted enlightening yet brief flashbacks to establish the needed history behind Greg’s decision to write the letter and to venture to disaster torn Haiti.  The supporting characters and the very descriptive imagery as the storyline moved through emotional highs and lows, despair, hopelessness and Greg’s search for himself were written with great skill and talent and presented through Greg’s eyes.  The characters were so completely human and realistic that relating and feeling a connection to them was natural.  As the reader, I felt like a passenger on the back of Greg’s motorcycle while he showed me Haiti after the earthquake tragedy of 2010, the people that lived there and some of the volunteers, including Beth and Ben.  Upon meeting Beth, a dialogue that was so natural and realistic occurs between them and Greg is greatly affected by all that he sees and experiences in the company of her and the other members of her volunteer medical unit over the course of just a few days.  True to a well written protagonist, Greg sticks to his original mission and soon meets a colorful character named Ben.  From here the story moves a bit quicker as Greg finds where he is needed most, revisits working on things with Janet and becoming part of his daughter’s life again.  As the last page is turned and you see the back cover art of this wonderful novel, you can’t help but wish for more!

The way this story discusses the profound impacts of career on family life and on an individual struggling to find the right balance in both, the resulting failed marriage that was based not on sensational events but on a slow deterioration and the great love of a father for his daughter was so real, so not dramatic and so refreshingly presented.  The complexities, the reality in the issues and the author’s skill in crafting imagery of places and events was exceptional!  I personally would love to read a sequel to this book just to check in on Greg again.  In the battle to rise above the millions of authors and books vying for number one these days, it was quite courageous to leave out vampires, monsters, psychopaths, elves and the like and write a real story like this!

Book reviewed by Debra L Hartmann, Owner of The Pro Book Editor and dlhbookreviews