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Mark G. Jones "marqjonz" RSS Feed (Atlanta, GA United States)
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The Dead Zoo Gang
The Dead Zoo Gang
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Rhinoceros horns and organized crime, May 29, 2014
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This review is from: The Dead Zoo Gang (Kindle Edition)
"The Dead Zoo Gang" by Charles Homans relates how authorities uncovered the operations of a ring of thieves and smugglers who stole antique rhinoceros horns in Europe and sold them in Asia. The ringleaders of the gang were members of an elite group of Irish Travellers.

Humans conducted his investigation as a professional journalist, interviewing victims, suspects and law enforcement officers. His writing is fluid and graceful. Without losing objectivity, Homans avoids dehumanizing the thieves and smugglers, at least one of whom emerges as a sympathetic character.

The Kindle edition of "The Dead Zoo Gang" is a text-only version of Issue 35 of The Atavist, an e-book magazine. The end of the book gives credits for photos and video that aren't included in the Kindle edition. I suppose these materials are part of editions in some other format.

Whoever formatted this book for Kindle did not check work on a Kindle HDX like mine. The Table of Contents, while linked accurately to the chapters of the book, jumbles and overlaps numerals, punctuation and letters. No such problem exists within the chapters.

I'm rating this Kindle book four stars because of formatting problems and missing materials. Had I known another editions had photos and video, I would have chosen to read "The Dead Zoo Gang" in a non-Kindle edition.


The Copenhagen Job
The Copenhagen Job
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No-Nonsense Account of a Complex Crime, May 13, 2014
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"The Copenhagen Job" sketches the story of August 2008 robbery in Copenhagen Thieves took 70 million kroner in cash from Danish Value Handling, a money transporting company. They broke into the company's vault with a huge front-end loader, blocked the streets with burning garbage trucks, and raced away from the scene at over 120 mph in stolen Audis.

A journalist wrote "The Copenhagen Job" with professional objectivity and little speculation. The writing may disappoint readers of thrillers because characterization, drama, and suspense are minimal. True crime readers will enjoy the excellent reportage.

Some readers may wish for more violence. No one fires a shot.

As in many true stories, some questions remain unanswered in the end.

The magazine The Atavist published "The Copenhagen Job" as Issue 36 in April 2014. The text of the piece is a translation of an article that appeared in a Danish magazine. The translation reads well. The editing is professional. The formatting for Kindle spoils the book. When viewed on a Kindle Fire HDX, the chapter numbers overlap the chapter titles in the table of contents. The links in the table of contents and the endnotes work, but the link texts are not the familiar blue.


Can You Escape
Can You Escape
Offered by Appstore - US - MP - Offer
Price: $0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun for fans of escape-from-the-room games., October 14, 2013
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This review is from: Can You Escape (App)
Move up from room to room by finding tools & breaking ciphers. This game is not as intimidating as many of the same genre. It's a pleasant and amusing pastime.


Chameleon
Chameleon
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good short story, but great beginning for a novel or serial, October 6, 2013
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This review is from: Chameleon (Kindle Edition)
Agents of Worldgov raid an isolated resistance hideout, but only Jeli, the top agent, survives when the mission goes wrong. She wakes in a hospital bed, naked and confused. Before she opens her eyes she hears her subordinate discussing ending her life. Jeli, however, wants to live.

Paylor writes setting auction scenes in spare prose; her main character develops and finds new purpose; her world-building would suit a novel or serial. I want to read more.


Faraday & Frankenstein (Warnings to the Curious Book 1)
Faraday & Frankenstein (Warnings to the Curious Book 1)
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faraday's Last Experiment, July 23, 2013
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Here in the first installment of Warnings to the Curious, a projected series of linked stories, S. Anderson Laatsch crafts a tale about the (fictional) last experiment of Michael Faraday. It's a tragic last scientific fling away from the wife for the old man. The twist? Faraday is following the footsteps of Victor Frankenstein.

HISTORICAL FIGURE

Laatsch clearly researched the life and personality of Michael Faraday before writing. The version of Faraday she presents retains the historical figure's loneliness and religious faith. The implicit parallel between the obsessed lone wolf Faraday and the Byronic, driven Frankenstein deepens the characterization. Faraday and Frankenstein, it turns out, have more in common than just electricity.

CLASSIC STEAMPUNK SETTINGS

The story is set in the late 1860s in Middlesex, UK, and in St. Charles, MO. Keeping description to a minimum, Laatsch recreates the atmosphere of bygone times by employing a nineteenth-century writing style and having her characters observe antique social customs and etiquette. Lovers of technology will not, however, be disappointed. Two curious mechanical devices enter early into the story.

THE TALE IS TOLD IN FULL

In contrast to the first installments of many ebook series, "Faraday and Frankenstein" presents the whole story and does not withhold the details of the end for an unpublished next chapter. Curious readers will find notices of the forthcoming installments at the end of the ebook.

FIVE STARS

"Faraday and Frankenstein" prompted me to read further about Michael Faraday. When I re-read the story afterward, I found it still pleased me. Only good short stories bear re-reading well.


SHUDDERVILLE (Episode One of the Series)
SHUDDERVILLE (Episode One of the Series)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Macabre Comfort Food, July 10, 2013
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THINK TWILIGHT ZONE

Mia Zabrisky writes in her bio that she models the stories in her "Shudderville" series after classic TV shows like "The Twilight Zone," "The X-files," etc. She does, indeed, serve up long short stories that remind me of the best episodes of "The Twilight Zone." In this first installment, her characterization and pacing are skillful. Each character has a motivation/thoughline; descriptions and exposition are minimal; and the stories end with a well developed emotional release after the climax, so the stories are complete despite having a teaser at the very end for the next story in this linked series. To top it off, the editing and formatting for Kindle of this first story are, at least to my eye, flawless.

THE STORY'S IDEA

Workaholic by day, alcoholic by night, Sophie lives alone is a filthy, squalid apartment. She mourns her daughter who died at age nine. After a boisterous young man moves in next door and breaks the lugubrious quiet of the apartment building with loud music and louder sex, Sophie finds herself intervening in an argument between the young man and another tenant, a sinister old man who is protesting the noise. The old man trips and falls to the floor during the altercation, and Sophie helps him up. In gratitude, the old man tells Sophie he will grant her one wish.

WHO COULD WANT MORE?

I do, for one. I'll gladly give Zabrisky's story a star each for characterization, pacing, emotional intelligence, and editing--but I withhold a fifth star because the premise is too familiar. Admit it, the moment you read that a sinister character has granted someone a wish, you know where the story is going. Yes, "Shudderville" achieves its goal of recreating the experience of viewing a classic horror/macabre television show like "The Twilight Zone," but the writers of those shows created their scripts with an eye to staying in the comfort zone of the audience. Zabrisky is not Robert Bloch or Alfred Hitchcock. Seekers after original horror and macabre stories will have to look further for stories of wishes too horrible to grant.


The Mighty Peculiar Incident at Muddy Creek
The Mighty Peculiar Incident at Muddy Creek
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Single Story from a Collection of Linked Weird West Tales, July 2, 2013
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A Single Story from a Collection of Linked Weird West Tales

"The Mighty Peculiar Incident at Muddy Creek" comes from the author's "Tales of the Weird, Wild West," a collection of stories with shared characters set in the town Muddy Creek. At the beginning of this excerpted story the author introduces characters who have nothing to do with the resolution of the conflict. As a stand-alone story, this piece has disappointed some reviewers because the end of the story doesn't tie up all the loose ends. Nevertheless, the story does entertain and thus does succeed as a teaser.

A PUZZLE STORY

At heart, "The Mighty Peculiar Incident at Muddy Creek" is a puzzle story and a good one. Protagonist Jesse Hawkins is sheriff of Muddy Creek, a small Western town where a train stops twice a week. One day the train passes through without stopping. Sheriff Hawkins deputizes the town's barber, and together they ride out to catch the train and investigate. He solves the mystery with logic and gunfire, so fans of both science fiction and Western stories may be satisfied, to an extent, by the ending. Others may yearn for an emotional resolution, which the author does not present here.

ACTION, INGENUITY, AND EDITING

I give this story four stars because the author writes clear and direct action scenes, because he makes Sheriff Hawkins ingenious enough to solve a science-fiction problem with nineteenth-century methods, and because the story is edited and formatted well for Kindle.

LOW COMEDY

The beginning of the story is a stereotypical scene of Western-style low comedy that is irrelevant to the action of the story proper. I can forgive the introduction of extraneous characters that might be used in later stories, but I wish the author found a more interesting way to show the characters to us.


The Machinist Part One: Malevolence
The Machinist Part One: Malevolence
Price: $2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supervillain Story, June 18, 2013
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Set in a comic-book world of superheroes and supervillains, The Machinist Part One: Malevolence treads familiar ground with verve. The title character is a "tech," a character who derives his powers from technology instead of, say, the bite of a radioactive spider, a mutation, or an alien's ring. This novella traces this character's transformation from a washed-up tech villain to a world-class combatant in the struggles of superheroes and supervillains.

TECHNIQUE

The dialogue of the story is honed to a minimum, except for an expository lump at the end. The action follows the logic and rhythm of superhero comics. The eight chapters of The Machinist Part One: Malevolence correspond to an eight-issue arc. Fans of comics will be right at home with this novella.

LENGTH

The author identifies this book as a novella. No firm dividing line between the novella and the novel exists, but most literary awards classify stories of 20,000 to 40,000 words as novellas. The Machinist Part One: Malevolence is closer to the lower word count. Many readers will finish the book in one sitting.

AUDIENCE

The author's Twitter profile describes him as an "Author of Supervillain stories for Mature Readers." The Machinist Part One: Malevolence features deadly violence and adult language. Young children and squeamish adults should stay away.

Superhero stories are slanted to a male audience, as is this book. Nevertheless, two women in this novella do engage in a conversation about something other than a man. Thus, the story passes the Bechdel Test.

TEXT

The Kindle edition of this book is well edited. This reader noticed one dropped word and one sentence with strained syntax. Formatting of the text looks professional on both a Kindle Touch and a Kindle Fire HD.

RATING

The Machinist Part One: Malevolence deserves four stars because it develops the title character well enough to premiere a series and gives the reader a taste of the next installment. It falls short of five stars because it omits motivations and character development of female characters. The brevity of the novella form restricts character development, but couldn't the violence have been condensed to give more space to the women and win the series a larger audience?


Daddy's World
Daddy's World
Price: $1.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nebula Winner, June 11, 2013
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This review is from: Daddy's World (Kindle Edition)
What happens to a family when a member's mind is uploaded to a computer? Williams' novelette explores this question with touching humor and through both light and dark fantasy. The opening of the story is very strong, especially for readers who loved Baum's Oz books. In contrast to much science fiction, this brief tale is character-driven. Well edited, well formatted, and well written, this prize-winning tale takes less than an hour to read.


David's Adventure with Schizophrenia: My Road to Recovery
David's Adventure with Schizophrenia: My Road to Recovery
by David LaChapelle
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.99
24 used & new from $4.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Traveling Without Directions, May 19, 2013
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David LaChapelle had a schizophrenic breakdown, and his parents put him in a mental hospital on a 72-hour hold. In the hospital he met a young woman, also a patient, who offered him help. A friendly male nurse told David, "Stay away from her; she is big trouble." Instead, David went on a bewildering road trip with her from Ontario to British Columbia and back, an adventure indeed.

LaChapelle tells his story in a very simple, matter-of-fact way and interjects brief comments about his broken thought processes. Despite this apparent simplicity, I find that underlying perplexities and complexities in the story keep me thinking about this book long after finishing it, hence this review. This memoir of wreck and recovery is authentic and disturbing.


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