Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Pharos Objective - David Sakmyster

I was on a World Fantasy Convention panel with David Sakmyster a few years ago. The panel was about using mythology in fantasy stories, and I made a mental note then to read this book. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I am only now getting around to it.

Our hero is Caleb Crowe, a university professor whose family is adept at remote viewing -- a paranormal talent in which the subject can see events happening across the world, or even far back in time. Caleb's still beating himself up for an accident years before that put his sister Phoebe in a wheelchair. And he hasn't forgiven his mother --  as a child, he drew remote-viewing pictures of the place where his father was being held prisoner, and she refused to act on them to rescue him.

Now, his mother has fallen in with a team of psychic archaeologists to find the legendary treasure supposedly hidden beneath the ruins of the Pharos Lighthouse. Grudgingly, Caleb agrees to go along with the team to Egypt, even though he trusts neither the motives of the team's leader nor the man's interest in his mother. The lighthouse's architect built in traps and puzzles to protect the treasure, and while Caleb's talent gives him the inside track on solving them, it's by no means certain he will gain the prize -- for the team has also drawn the interest of a shadowy group that appears to be blocking their attempt to find the treasure.

The story was well-written and the puzzles had me stumped. I liked Caleb's relationship with his sister.

However, my file had some formatting issues. Some chapters were in Times and some were in Courier, and there didn't seem to be a reason in the narrative for the shift.

Still, for fans of Indiana Jones, The Pharos Objective is worth a read.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Shaman, Healer, Heretic (Olivia Lawson, Techno-Shaman #1) - M. Terry Green

I loved this book, and was so glad to find out it's the first in a series.

Olivia Lawson, known as Livvy, is a former med student who now works as a shaman, healing people in a different way. She uses special goggles to go into a trance state so she can venture to the Middle World and talk the spirits of dying people into coming back. It doesn't pay very well, and people are suspicious of her work. Even some of her clients think shamanism is next to Satanism.

She awakens one night to find a kachina -- an honest-to-goodness Hopi Indian god -- standing over her bed. That should be impossible. There's no way any beings from the other side can get through to this reality.

At the same time, shamans have begun dying while in the other world. Livvy gets the idea that all the techno-shamans should band together to cross the divide and find out what's going on. She talks her boss, SK, into helping her pull everybody together -- a tricky feat, as shamans work alone.

Somebody's spreading rumors that the shamans are responsible for bad things that are happening on this plane, making her job even harder. To top it off, there's a paramedic who seems to have taken a shine to her -- but can she trust him?

Livvy's a great character. Her angst is believable, and I felt sorry for her when she seemed to have trouble convincing the other shamans to help. I did wish the author had mentioned Livvy's ability to jury-rig electronics sooner, but you can't have everything.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles) - Kevin Hearne

I could tell right away that a guy wrote this book. All the goddesses are voluptuous and irresistible, and they all want to have sex with the main character.

That main character would be Atticus O'Sullivan -- or at least, that's the name he's going by these days. He's a couple of centuries old, give or take. He's the last surviving Druid on earth. And he's taken up residence in Tempe, Arizona, of all places, where he runs a New Age bookstore and tearoom. It's also where he's hiding out from Angus Og, the Celtic god, who wants a magic sword Atticus has hidden under the basil in his herb garden.

I've had a couple of people recommend this series to me. I found this first book to be okay, but I probably won't read any more of them. The randy goddesses put me off, for one thing, but that's not the only thing. None of the characters have much depth to them -- not even Atticus, who ought to have gained some wisdom in his 2100 years on the planet, but who instead seems okay with skating along on the surface of life. I liked his dog, Oberon, with whom he can converse via mind-speak, and who has some of the funniest lines in the book.

If you're looking for a light, funny read featuring Celtic gods in Arizona, this series may be for you. Lots of people like it. It's just not really my cup of herbal tea.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Picture of Cool - Laurie Boris

I admit it -- I'm a big fan of Laurie Boris's. And it's not just because we're both minions at Indies Unlimited, either. The woman can write.

The Picture of Cool is a short story featuring Charlie Trager, the brother of Adam Trager from Don't Tell Anyone. Charlie's latest romance -- you can't even really call it a subplot, it gets so little screen time -- gets a mention in that book. This is the story of how that relationship began.

Charlie works as a producer for a national daytime TV talk show. He meets Adam in the green room, just before Adam is to go on the show. There are sparks between the two men pretty much immediately, but Adam is married and there's a kid involved. The "how gay is he?" question only adds to the story's poignancy.

Charlie is a great guy -- the kind that women shake their heads in disappointment over when they find out which way he swings. You want things to work out between him and Adam. And when this story ended, I didn't want it to be over. To me, that's always a sign of a good tale. And I'm hoping we haven't heard the last of Charlie....

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jimmy Mender and His Miracle Dog - Angelo Dirks and Leland Dirks

Can a man you've only known for a week change your life?

Paul Young is a writer living in a San Francisco rooming house when his landlady introduces him to a new tenant. The new guy, Jimmy Mender, is an ex-Marine, and a Stetson-wearing cowboy who smells of Old Spice. Paul is instantly smitten, but he's not sure whether Jimmy is gay, too. Still, he invites Jimmy out on a date, Jimmy accepts, and they seem to click.

For a week. And then Jimmy leaves town.

Heartbroken, Paul turns to his writing. He starts a newspaper advice column that he calls, "What Would Jimmy Mender Do?" And he wonders what happened to the real Jimmy Mender and why he left so suddenly.

Months later, Paul receives a package from Alaska. It contains a number of notebooks -- Jimmy's journals -- and a note from a friend of Jimmy's informing Paul that Jimmy has died. The notebooks are Paul's now, as are some of Jimmy's things up there in Alaska, and Paul is welcome to come up and get them.

And so, Paul embarks on a journey. In the process, he learns a lot more about who Jimmy was, and in turn, he learns a great deal about himself.

Jimmy Mender and His Miracle Dog (yes, there's a dog in the book) defies categorization. There's a touch of magic, a fair amount of adventure, and underneath it all, a lot of heart. It's a great read. I recommend it.