November 23rd, 2018

Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Weekly Book Review

Here's another set of reviews from the files of Spokane Authors and Self-Publishers.  If you are interested in books by relatively unknown independent authors, you might want to visit the web-site.  Visit the "Members" page to learn about members and the books they've written.  The "News" page and latest editions of the newsletter list those available on Amazon.  Possibly you might discover an author whose books you really enjoy!

Reviewed by D. Andrew McChesney

         Private investigator Emily Trace is called upon to determine why the classic car runs great, except at a certain spot along the road.  Delving into that situation also reveals problems with the internet and strange lights in the sky.  As Christmas time approaches, and as the coldest snowiest winter in years engulfs the town, she tackles these mysteries while also investigating the deaths of her late husband, his grandfather, and most recently, an arson fire.  She is aided by a deputy sheriff, her office staff, a former teacher, and friends who are not from this world.  Is there an extraterrestrial plot to conquer Earth?  Will she discover and stop it in time?
         Sue Eller writes in an easy conversational manner.  The story is in first person; as if the reader is listening to Emily relate her tale while sitting at the kitchen table drinking cup after cup of coffee.  Even the little asides, which writers today are admonished to avoid, fit right in with the casual tone and add, rather than detract from the narration.  While the story is for the most part light and perhaps even cozy in nature, it also touches on some deeper darker aspects of human nature.
         This blend of Science Fiction and Mystery is enjoyable, easy to read, and hard to put down.  Taming of the T-Bird is available on-line in both e-book and paperback versions, and in bookstores near the author’s home of Spokane, Washington.   

Reviewed by Bob Hildahl

         This is the second book of the Emily Trace Mystery series. It's about Emily Trace who has a detective agency in Spokane, Washington called "E.T. Investigations." She drinks coffee to excess, which I can clearly identify with, and she has an amusing "bird" clock in her office that sings out different bird songs on the hour. It's wintertime, snowy and freezing cold.
         The story begins with her first client telling her a strange tale. He purchased a used T-Bird, but every time he drives it home from work, it quits on him at the exact same spot. At the same time, bright lights swoop over him and seem to be headed for Tekoa Mountain. Then the car starts right up again! Can Emily solve this mystery?
         While she is working on the T-Bird mystery and the possibility that aliens are trying to take over our planet, her mother-in-law's house burns to the ground. And the fire marshal suspects arson. Could this be related to her husband, Jared's unsolved murder? After all, this was the reason she started her detective agency to begin with.
         If you like science fiction and mysteries, you must read this book. It is well written with great characters. The story is exciting and it's a hard book to put down from the first chapter to the end.
         Available in Spokane area bookstores and on Amazon and Kindle.

Reviewed by James Parry
         In this, the second in the Emily Trace Mystery series, Emily, through her E.T. Detective Agency, continues her relentless pursuit of her husband’s killer.   However, she, once again, (because of the misinterpretation of “E.T.”) finds herself entangled with clients wanting to find the cause(s) of supernatural happenings.   Emily is able to solve all of their extraterrestrial problems, but we will have to wait for the third book to find out who caused her husband’s death. Is it related to the alien problem or is it a totally separate case?  Stay tuned.
         A well-written, fast-paced book in which Emily speaks to the reader in a first-person, conversational tone.  A wonderful, easy read that’s out of this world!  Great for the sci-fi fan and/or the murder mystery aficionado.
         Available at Auntie’s, Hastings, & Amazon (I think?)

Reviewed by Kate Poitevin

         Well, Sue Eller has done it again!  The sequel to Meadowlark Madness is every bit as engaging and entertaining.  The whole gang is there with a few new additions.  Emily is getting used to clients "from out of town" and handles them with her usual humor and quirky asides. But all is not fun and games.  There are sinister things happening in her private life and Darla might also be in danger.  Ms. Eller touches on the pain and fear of domestic violence with grace and sincerity.  If you liked the first one, you must get 'Taming of the T-Bird'.  Dang, I must have a cup of coffee ...

Reviewed by Larry Danek

              A really entertaining book!
         This is the second in the Emily Trace series by Sue Eller and I found it to be as good or better than her first one.  It's a scifi / mystery story that is entertaining and fun to read.  I couldn't put it down
         I recommend this book to one and all.
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Bonus Book Review

As you no doubt know, I'm in the process of reading C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower stories for probably the eighth or ninth time in my life.  I'm reading them in order of his fictional life and career, and not the order in which Forester wrote them.  As I complete each volume I am trying to remember to post the review that I have written in the past.  I recently finished reading Captain Horatio Hornblower, vol I, Beat to Quarters (or The Happy Return) and here is my review of it.  As far as I know, it was the first Hornblower book ever published.  (Once again I have no cover art/cover image available so I'm substituting one of my paintings.)

I've just started reading Captain Horatio Hornblower, vol II, Ship Of The Line
Beat to Quarters/The Happy Return

(All Plain Sail, a typical USN frigate, but closest I have to HMS Lydia)

By C. S. Forester
Reviewed by D. Andrew McChesney
           In the early nineteenth century, Captain Horatio Hornblower voyages from England, avoiding all contact with land or other ships, and makes a perfect landfall along the Pacific coast of Central America.  His secret mission is to support a rebellion against Spain and further England’s efforts against France’s ally.  But when he arrives, he finds the rebel leader mad, and that Spain has changed sides.  These events counter the original intent of Hornblower’s orders.  Having already captured a ship larger than his thirty-six gun frigate, Lydia, he is now forced to pursue and defeat Natividad again.  His life is further complicated by the presence of Lady Barbara Wellesley and the cavalier attitude of Spanish authorities in Panama.
            This story takes place a good way into Hornblower’s career, but it was the first of the series written by Forester.  Many back story details do not match those in later books covering the earlier portions of Hornblower’s life.  Beat to Quarters reads as if William Bush is serving with Hornblower for the first time.  No mention is made of them having been lieutenants in Renown, or captain and first lieutenant aboard Hotspur.  In this accounting, Hornblower had been a lieutenant, rather than a post captain during the capture of the Castilla, as later described in Hornblower and the Atropos.
            Hornblower’s age does not add up either.  He is mentioned as being thirty-seven years old, and if he was indeed born on July 4, 1776, this story would have taken place in 1813.  Yet C. S. Forester’s Hornblower Companion shows the majority of this adventure occurring in July of 1808.  This book mentions six years have passed since capturing Castilla, while more recent writings suggest that Hornblower went directly from commanding Atropos to captaining Lydia.
            These discrepancies can be attributed to Forester writing the Hornblower books in non chronological order.  They were not written in order of his career, but were penned at various times to fill gaps existing in the over all story.  The author appears to have been developing the story over the entire time it was being written.
            These are minor complaints regarding an excellent story.  As always, Forester’s writing is clear, precise, and a pleasure to read.  Written in the 1930s, it reflects the style and sentiment of an earlier time.  Profanity and graphic detail are nearly non-existent, and much of the narration is from a greater distance than is currently acceptable.  While some readers might be offended by national and racial stereotyping, it is relatively mild and simply reflects the time in which the story was written.  Perhaps it also is indicative of the time in which it is set.
            It is the creation of the complex character known as Horatio Hornblower in which Forester excels.  Here is an individual who comes across, not as a hero, sure of his abilities, but as one with perhaps more than his share of human frailties.  Despite his intelligence and bravery, Hornblower cannot see himself as others do.  It is his fear of failure, his feeling that he is unworthy, that drives him to achieve the impossible.  Even then, success is not a mark of accomplishment, but a sign of survival.  Hornblower’s inability to see his true worth makes him that much more human.  Therefore he does not come across as a larger than life character, but as one whom nearly everyone can identify with.
            Beat to Quarters/The Happy Return is the first part of a three part series, usually referred to as Captain Horatio Hornblower.  It was soon followed by Ship of the Line and Flying Colours.  Those three stories were combined in the early 1950s movie Captain Horatio Hornblower, starring Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo.  As it usually happens, many details of the story were changed in producing the movie.  A few characters exist in the film that did not appear in print, even though scenes can often be identified and crossed from one version to the next.  A notable characteristic of the film is that about three-quarters of it deal with events from the first of the three books.  These events are covered in great if not always exacting detail.  The last portion of the movie basically provides a visual synopsis of the remainder of the overall story.  Ship of the Line and Flying Colours are pretty much glossed over as the film winds its way to a conclusion.
            Unlike past reviews of C. S. Forester’s Hornblower books, this reviewer did not note any technical problems regarding the author’s descriptions of vessels or weaponry.  If any existed, it may have escaped attention due to a more concentrated search for inconsistencies between this and other stories of the Hornblower saga.
            As the United States of America prepares to celebrate its 235th Anniversary, let all those who appreciate the character of Horatio Hornblower prepare to celebrate his Birthday as well.  We might all wonder at C. S. Forester’s motivation in designating July 4, 1776 as the date of birth for his most famous character, but regardless of his reasons, Happy Birthday USA, and Happy Birthday Horatio Hornblower! (Obviously I wrote this review a few years ago.)
            This reviewer considers himself to be quite fortunate in having copies of the three earliest Hornblower books dating from the time of first publication.  They can not with certainty be said to be first editions, and their physical condition is such that they are probably not of any great value.  Yet they are old enough to give Copyright dates of 1938 and 1939.  Nor do they list any ISBN or Library of Congress information.