Tag Archives: book review

Great Expectorations, by Dr. Charles Dickens (humor)

2 May

A young man of no prospects goes to the big City where, thanks to poor urban planning and non-existent labor rights, he suffers a multitude of bronchial infections brought on by smoke, pollution, fungus and virus.

Pip, an orphan of poor prospects, can’t complete his apprenticeship in a blacksmith shop because of an allergy to horseshit. His patron uncle sends him to London to live with the reclusive Miss Havisham who, jilted many years ago on her wedding day, still wears her bridal gown. Her wedding cake, which she’s saved all these years, has turned to mold and infected the entire house.

Pip falls in love with Estella, a beautiful young girl with a phlegmy cough. Pip has a nasty reaction to the fungus in the house and develops a bronchial infection whose coughing nearly turns his lungs inside out. Miss Havisham takes an interest in Pip’s future and introduces him to better society. In their company, Pip takes up smoking, which further aggravates his cough. Some of his newfound friends take to calling him “Spit”. When his sister dies of coal cough, a common ailment among residents of poorly-ventilated homes, Pip goes home for her funeral.

Returning to London, he’s approached by the convict Magwitch whom he’d helped escape from chains many years ago. Magwitch, who’s made a fortune running an opium den in Australia, is back in England seeking medical attention for viral pneumonia, but wants to bequeath part of his fortune to Pip. Soon after, Pip learns that Miss Havisham has been secretly planning to marry his beloved Estella off to a rival suitor, and they quarrel bitterly. Miss Havisham’s dress catches on fire and Pip is only able to save her by ripping her dress off. Exposed, Miss Havisham is traumatized and falls into a catatonic state. Magwitch is captured by the police and sentenced to die.

While visiting him in his damp prison cell, Pip develops an allergic reaction to moldy rodent droppings, and falls seriously ill. He spends a month in hospital, wracked by violent coughs, filling spittoons with fragments of his ravaged lungs. When he recovers enough to travel, Pip relocates to the dry climate of Cairo for eleven years. When he returns to London a rich man, he finds Estella now a widow with a mild case of whooping cough, and he rekindles their friendship by gifting her with a family-size bottle of expectorant.

Word cloud: SCORPIO RISING

4 Apr

ScorpioRising1“If you like thrillers and detective stories, this one is a terrific read. It’s fast-paced and has plenty of twists and turns – as well as enough astrology and palmistry – to keep you flipping the pages.” ~ NCGR newsletter

Available at Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

FELONIOUS MONK: the Dell Horoscope book review

5 Mar

FM ebook thumb

This book review, written by Chris Lorenz, appears in the April 2015 issue of Dell Horoscope.

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A freelance reporter for The Village Voice gets into trouble when he follows an ex-CIA agent to a spiritual retreat in Vermont. One afternoon he confronts the former agent, accusing him of smuggling stolen foreign antiquities. That night, the reporter is murdered. The ashram manager is accused of the crime but fortunately his friend, astrologer Axel Crowe, believes in his inno­cence and sets out to find the real culprit.

The drama thus unfolds in Felonious Monk, the second of Alan Annand’s “New Age Noir” series. Annand’s hero is not only adept at astrology, but also understands how to use synchronicity to his advantage. He can read palms from a distance and, as a former student of “Guruji”, his thoughts and actions are guided by ancient wisdom. Guruji has also taught him some martial arts, which Crowe has several occasions to use over the course of the story. But this New Age hero also has modern tools to assist him. Want to know who killed the reporter? There’s an app for that.

At 6:05 AM, Crowe opens the astrol­ogy app on his cell phone and asks the question, “Whodunnit?” Now for those who enjoy some good crime fiction, Felonious Monk fits the bill. The book is written almost entirely from the sleuth’s point of view as he works day and night in the shadowy underworld, fighting off surprise attacks and uncov­ering key clues, much like Sam Spade or Mike Hammer. And for the reader who appreciates a touch of mysticism, Felonious Monk also satisfies, especially with the attention given to Eastern religion, the good and bad karma, and the periodic sage quotes from Guruji.

Dell Horoscope April 2015Those with various astrology back­grounds may be stumped by the kind of astrology used in Felonious Monk. Crowe uses the Vedic horoscope, which does not include the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, yet he also frequently uses horary principles. This detective arrives at magical deductions from the horary question, “Whodunnit?” but then horary astrology does seem quite magical in the hands of an experi­enced practitioner.

We’re introduced to Crowe’s apparent superpowers in chapter two. He’s giving a lecture on the ancient roots of astrology in India. During the Q&A session a skeptical professor asks, “Can you tell me how many kids I have?” After some snappy exchanges about the merits of the question, Crowe finally states, “You have three children. Boy-girl-boy in that order.” Astonishingly, he’s correct, and the profes­sor shamefully exits. Afterwards, we find out the secret of how Crowe knew the answer. Three questions were asked before the professor’s question, and they were asked by a man, a woman, and another man. The New Age detective connected the dots between the previous three questions and the professor’s children.

Does that actually work in the real world? The narrative is filled with the protagonist’s internal dialogue reminding readers that everything is connected to everything else. His classic film-noir antag­onism with the police is partially shaped by his astrological portrait of the killer, since he can’t tell the police his knowledge is based on a horary question. In the end, he defeats the killer and locates the missing Buddha statue with another horary ques­tion. This is not a spoiler, since we know the killer’s bad karma will eventually catch up with him.

It’s the journey through the pages of this book that is the most rewarding, enjoyable, and sometimes frightening. Crowe’s search takes him to Thailand, where he meets several fascinating characters. We see the culture’s poverty and how it makes some of its people immoral and treacherous. And we see the spiritu­al side of Thailand, its ancient temples and spiritual vistas. Crowe gets little sleep during his jaunts, but he apparent­ly regenerates himself through yoga and meditation. Are Crowe’s amazing abili­ties unique to him, or are they available to anyone who has the right teacher and a good understanding of astrology? Let me know when you find out.

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???????????????????????????????Alan Annand is a Canadian astrologer and palmist with an education spanning both eastern and western astrology. He has diplomas from the American College of Vedic Astrology, as well as the British Faculty of Astrological Studies for whom he was their North American correspondence tutor for several years.

He is also a writer of crime fiction, including his NEW AGE NOIR series (Scorpio RisingFelonious MonkSoma County) featuring astrologer and palmist Axel Crowe, whom one reviewer has dubbed “Sherlock Holmes with a horoscope.”

Websites: www.navamsa.com, www.sextile.com

Read the highlighted reviews of Scorpio Rising on Pinterest.

Buy Annand’s New Age Noir series and other crime fiction on Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble, Flipkart, Kobo and Smashwords.

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Hide in Plain Sight: book review by Val Tobin @ Suite101

9 Oct

Take one rich twin and one poor twin, throw in a bipolar wife, shake violently, and you have the makings of another delicious crime novel by Alan Annand.

Alex Carson’s life has turned into a country song. He owes the government thousands of dollars in taxes, courtesy of his fraudulent accountant; his wife, Connie, is bipolar and his dog is dying. What he doesn’t realize is, things are going to get much worse. During a visit to Alex’s wealthy brother Dave, which Connie turns into a quest to get financial assistance, Connie causes Dave’s death after a heated argument.

Alex decides that the only way out of this mess is to take Dave’s place and allow Connie to go establish an alibi, thereby avoiding the ordeal of having to ‘fess up to the police about what had transpired. The execution of Alex’s creative solution makes for a crazy wild ride as we tag along in Alex’s first person narrative.

Inside the Mind of Alex Carson

According to Annand, who agreed to talk with Suite101 about his book, his use of the first person was designed to, among other things, “oblige the reader to suffer in sympathy with Alex, no matter what morally questionable actions he had to follow through on.” And suffer the reader does. Exquisitely.

During this charade, Alex must share a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, a woman stolen from Alex by Dave years before. He must also maneuver his way around Dave’s various existing relationships, including one with the housekeeper, with whom Dave may or may not have been having an affair.

Following Alex on his adventures in Dave Land makes compelling enough reading, but the questions that arise about what was going on in Dave’s life at the time of his death compound the intrigue and the tension. When you also factor in the logistical issues with which Alex must contend, reading the story becomes an addiction.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder and How to Dispose of a Corpse

Annand, as always, has done his research to make everything in his novel authentic and credible. Dave suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, something with which Annand was familiar via an extended family member who had the disease. Having Dave suffer from GBS was a unique twist that makes things more demanding for Alex playing Dave, and of course makes it more entertaining for the reader. Connie’s bipolar disorder also spices things up, but it also provides a glimpse of what it might be like to be married to someone who is bipolar.

The most intriguing questions presented by the novel, and dealt with deftly by Annand, however, relate to Dave’s body and how Alex deals with it: How can Alex store the corpse? Where will he keep it? How can he obscure the time of death? How can he create a new, believable cause of death? Can he really pull it off? Should he really pull it off? The practical considerations run neck and neck with the ethical ones.

Tension and Sleepless Nights with Hide in Plain Sight

Alan Annand has an uncanny knack for forcing the reader to read at breakneck speed to get past all the tense moments, while at the same time making him/her wish the ride would never end. The first time you read Hide in Plain Sight, you will want to savor it, but it’ll be impossible. As the tension and questions mount, you can’t help but read as fast as you can to see what happens next. It is a most delightful form of torture.

Don’t pick up this book if you’re looking for a bedtime reading cure for insomnia. But if you’re looking for suspense, tension and the queasiness that comes from participating in questionable activities, then this book is for you. This is the perfect book to take on a flight or on vacation.

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HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT  (psychological mystery suspense) eBook $2.99, paper $9.99.  A man assumes his twin brother’s identity in order to alibi his own wife who’s accidentally killed his brother in an argument. But when he finds himself sharing a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, he faces bigger challenges and harder choices.

www.amazon.com/Hide-in-Plain-Sight-ebook/dp/B0050K1EZA

www.smashwords.com/books/view/59291

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Val Tobin is a Feature Writer for Suite101. Formerly a software developer, she has pursued her interests in the occult, paranormal and spiritual fields through formal studies in nutrition, mediumship and parapsychology, all of which have become active professional avenues. For more information, see her website at:  http://www.serenitynowgifts.com/

 

Scorpio Rising: book review by Dell Horoscope

22 Apr

SCORPIO RISING, by Alan Annand

What astrology needs to show its authentic depth is a super-hero in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, and Hercule Poirot. Since astrologers have inside information about how the universe works beyond the apparent three dimensions of our manifest world, they should make great detectives. So far, our justice system remains skeptical about how astrologers might help, but a few writers have begun creating protagonists who use the celestial arts to solve murder cases.

Author Alan Annand has created Axel Crowe, an astrology-savvy hero in Scorpio Rising. In this dramatic tale, three murders take place simultaneously in three separate locations across the USA. Axel Crowe has been hired to investigate one of those murders. At first, all he knows about is the one that took place in New York. The other two murders take place in San Francisco and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Due to the wealth of all three of the murder victims, and the anti-terrorism work of the victim from Los Alamos, all kinds of police investigators and FBI agents are called in. Naturally, they don’t have a clue about whodunit, but Axel Crowe starts figur­ing it out after 300 pages or so. His first insight comes from noticing a variety of threes and triangle shapes during his investigation. The trail is interrupted by some violence, a few sex scenes, and a tangled narration that jumps from one location to the other every few pages.

When he arrives at a place relevant to the case, he adds up the digits in the address to get a numerological clue. He notices whether a corporate building is designed according to vastu (akin to feng shui) principles. When he’s offered a drink, he asks for mango juice (“rich in anti-oxidants”). He quickly sizes peopl­e up according to their ayurvedic body type or the shape of their hands and fingers. He reads signs, coincidences, and is always ready with an appropriate quote from his guru. What more could you ask for in a New Age hero?

Most importantly, Axel Crowe has an iPhone with an astrology app. When he arrives on a scene, he checks the current transits. He can guess a suspect’s rising sign with uncanny accuracy, and thus also derives a natal horoscope to check out character and alibis. As it turns out, the murder he’s investigating took place when Scorpio was rising, hence the title. Most people associate Scorpio with death, sex, and the dark side, and much of this book’s content provides ample fulfillment of this connection.

Take one of the main characters, Carrie Cassidy. In her opening scene, she meets a handsome, studly fellow on the elevator while on her way to visit her mother: “Fit as an athlete and squeaky clean, just the way she liked them.” She quickly hooks up with the stranger to indulge in an afternoon quickie, and still has time to visit her mother without being too late. For most of the story, Carrie appears to be an ambitious, lusty writer trying to make it big with her first novel. She’s spent the last three years working on it and just wants to get the thing pub­lished.

Those interested in astrology will find some satisfaction with Crowe’s analysis and interpretation, and the story line is a welcome entry into twen­ty-first century fiction. Naturally, Axel Crowe is skilled in the martial arts, and toward the end, he has a merry chase through the craggy terrain of New Mexico. In the last chapter, he explains to his client and the hapless mainstream detectives how the murders were all connected.

Spoiler Alert: The plot was akin to Alfred Hitchcock’s film Strangers on a Train, where each stranger agrees to kill the other stranger’s intended victim, a wife and a mother, respectively. In this way, the out-of-town killings would provide foolproof alibis. Hitchcock’s story involved two murders, while in Scorpio Rising, there are three.

Scorpio Rising is a step forward in the New Age detective genre. For those with a mystical blend and more than a touch of Scorpio darkness, you’re in for a treat. Just remember that, as Crowe’s guru was fond of saying, “The subtle has the capacity to penetrate the gross, but not vice versa.”

– Chris Lorenz @ Dell Horoscope

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)


Scorpio Rising: book review by Horoscope Guide

20 Mar

 SCORPIO RISING, by Alan Annand, Sextile.com

358 pages, paper $11.99 (available at Amazon.com or Createspace.com). Digital versions for all ereaders available ($2.99) through Smashwords.com.

Independent investigator Axel Crowe has promised to look into the murder of a friend’s sister, who was found dead under odd circumstances on a New York street. Having been allowed access to the detectives assigned to the case, he asks first for the basic details of the murder: where it happened, approximate time of death, and so forth. As the cops give him the requested information, he is thumbing his smart phone, glancing at it from time to time, not the kind of gesture that gets much attention from anyone these days of course. What he is doing, though, is having an astrology app do the chart, and a Vedic chart at that, for the date, time, and place of the murder. He glances down at it and thinks to himself:

With Scorpio rising, a fixed sign suggested murder connected with a family member. The seventh house was Taurus, a female sign, and its ruler was Venus, a female planet. Together, they indicated a female killer. Venus in dual sign Pisces implied more than one person involved. An exalted Venus, in planetary war with Mars, described an aggressive professional who was into sports or martial arts…   

And neatly with a few strokes of a thumb and a not insubstantial fund of knowledge gained from his former guru, Crowe has outlined the clues that begin to lead him to the murder. Earlier in the book Crowe’s guru had cut him loose as someone too much taken with his vices (relationships, drinking, and gambling) to give proper attention to spiritual tasks.

That kind of character work I found refreshing almost from the start of Scorpio Rising, as over the years I’ve read probably most of the small number of works of astrological fiction published, and a major fault in most (with the exception of Barbara Shafferman’s Addie Price in The President’s Astrologer, published in 1998) is that the main character tends to be a type, not a person. One can’t imagine them falling in love, having any bad habits (if they have habits at all), and certainly one can’t conceive of them ever making a mistake. Crowe is good at what he does, but he is not perfect, and he is good at being human, though again not perfect.

Though I’ve started this review with a quote that is firmly astrological, protagonist Crowe is also a palmist and uses other intuitive and symbolic techniques such as vastu shastra (similar to feng shui, though there is only a partial overlap between the two). Mostly though, he is a smart, observant detective who knows how to put together little bits and pieces of clues to make the big picture that leads him to the culprits. While there is no doubt that astrology, supported by these other techniques, is a central player in the untangling of the mystery, that app on Crowe’s smart phone is introduced only where it makes a difference and this is done in such a way that the reader isn’t required to know much, if anything, about the subject.

The story revolves around three murders that occur on the same day in geographical locations far removed from each other, and though from very early in the book we have an idea of who the culprits are (by nature if not by name), just how the murders might be linked, and how that could relate to the motives is always just a chapter or two ahead of the reader. I happen to gravitate toward mysteries in my off-hours reading (and more so since the advent of the Nook and library e-loans), and they tend to fall into two categories: those you read to the end in order to find out what happened, and those you read (sometimes grudgingly) to the end to confirm what you already know.

The first category is the best of course, and Scorpio Rising falls firmly into that class. Around page 150, though I was enjoying the read, I was quite sure that I had figured out most of the key elements of the mystery, but two chapters later I had to stop patting myself on the back when a couple of additional details told me that I had totally misjudged two of the characters, derailing most if not all of my detective work. And so it went, all the way to the end.

What it comes down to is that Scorpio Rising is an engaging mystery with twists and turns that keep you reading all the way to the last page of the last chapter. Axel Crowe is a new kind of character on the mystery scene, who is a quick study when presented with a baffling murder in part because he combines his own mix of intuitive methods with a thorough understanding of methods used by police and crime labs the world over. Though his intuitive insight may give him an edge and put him a level or two above the more tedious tasks of police work, Crowe is not some shiny mystical figure travelling on a higher plane, but rather someone who deals every day with the limitations of his own imperfections.

A good mystery all the way around!

~ Kenneth Irving, editor, Horoscope Guide

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)


Scorpio Rising: book review by Astrology Toronto

13 Mar

SCORPIO RISING by Alan Annand

(book review by Julie Simmons)

Usually when I read a book I like I just say to whomever I think might enjoy it, “You should read this book. It’s great.” I don’t think of myself as a reviewer. But here I am reviewing Alan Annand’s book, Scorpio Rising. Before I get into the telling details, let me just say, “You should read this book. It’s great.”

Everyone loves a good mystery. Astrologers might love mysteries more than most because we are all detectives on some level although most of us are not called upon to solve the perfect crime. Rarely if ever do we find a mystery novel (worth reading) that features a major character who is an astrologer as well as a palmist with an active spiritual life.

Axel Crowe, the brilliant investigator of Annand’s book, is just such a character. He manages to present and defend his use of astrology to the cops in such a way that they accept him. We can all use some of that. His view of the world as a seamless web of connections is always present. I had the feeling that synchronicity itself is the unnamed character in this book.

One of my favourite things in this novel is the way Crowe rectifies a chart. It’s as though he pulls information from the air. And he’s cool, so cool he steps up to sit in with the band at a blues club on New York’s legendary Bleecker Street.

Axel Crowe is Agent 007 for the New Age set. He’s a pacifist at heart, but knows how to handle himself in a fight. He doesn’t drink and he lives a moderate life despite having access to plenty of money for a more excessive lifestyle. He is a genuine student of the mysteries and lives in a world he has charmed into speaking to him thanks to his years spent sitting at the feet of his guru.

Then there is the actual plot. The supposedly perfect crime can only be solved by reading clues and connections that only an astrologer could find. Crowe reads the twisted minds, hearts and personalities of the criminals and tracks them to their lairs. He can see a lot in a fingerprint or the chart of the moment. We are never bored as he journeys to different cities and encounters the good, the bad and the ugly. There is even a car chase and shoot-out in the desert.

Personally I enjoyed every minute of this book at many levels. I was entertained, intrigued and delighted to be along for the cosmic ride. Annand refers to his book as the first in a New Age Noir series. I look forward to reading more and it’s not just because I’m a Scorpio rising.

Julie Simmons is a full-time astrologer in Toronto, Canada. She writes a monthly astrological column for Vitality Magazine and has published two books on astrology: Passion Signs, and Earned Wisdom. http://www.juliesimmons.ca

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)


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