Showing posts with label Stefan Nicholson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stefan Nicholson. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Diamond for a Ruby

Diamond for a Ruby by Stefan Nicholson (Amazon Print) PB RRP AU $5.00 (Kindle), AU$20.00 (Print) ISBN 9780648295334

Reviewed by Sam McNeil

This is a stand-alone spy-thriller book for the cross-over market that follows on from Nicholson’s first self-published book, Spy within a Ruby.

Set in England, the book begins with Ruby Peters, a M16 agent, in a pub paying tribute to her former boss, Roger Davis, when the barman slips her a note. It is from Davis who speaks from the grave with a coded message. Not knowing her drink is spiked, Peters returns home in a drunken state. From there she is arrested and taken to M16 where she is accused of murdering her friend Ilya Kasparov, a senior foreign agent, who is in fact a double agent. Thereafter Peters is in danger, fighting – with the help of her partner, Eric -- double-agents entrenched in MI6 who recruit mercenaries and a psychotic madman to kill her. Peter’s friends are injured and killed because of her involvement with Davis and she is betrayed by her own people.

There are numerous problems with this novel not the least of which is that it needs a good structural and copy edit. The narrative viewpoint shifts constantly and at random, and the story climax comes about two-thirds in with the remaining third about planning a wedding for someone Ruby hated at school. At times an unknown bad guy drops in an internal monologue. Notwithstanding this, there is a lot of exposition and telling the reader how the characters are feeling. Even the formatting of the book is problematic: there are no indented paragraphs, just blank lines between paragraphs.

One must admire an author who puts in so much effort and expense in writing and publishing his book, but this story could have been so much better if he had employed an editor and book designer.

Diamond for a Ruby is available from Amazon Print, Google-books and Kindle, and from the author PO Box 370, South Hobart TAS 7004. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Jemma Short Stories

Jemma Short Stories by Stefan Nicholson (San Publishers) PB RRP $19 ISBN 978-0-9804604-4-5

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Stefan Nicholsons Jemma - Short Stories contains four short stories in sequence from the first short story Jemmas Blues. Subsequent stories are Jemma and the Red Seal, Jemmas White Horse and Jemma and the Golden Eagle.

The four stories each reveal more about the central characters in the Palette family, with the lead protagonist, daughter Jemma, sister Deidre and Mum and Dad. Dad is a writer and his creative writing and influence Jemmas life and goals for the future.

In 'Jemmas Blues' - and my favourite of the four stories, Jemma and her sister are arguing about the boy next door who Jemma has a crush on. Dad uses the opportunity to tell a story about two unlikely people who happen to find love.

Each of the four stories, while being based in a lighthearted family setting, offers a life lesson for the reader woven into the background. As you read through the four stories the familys character quirks become more apparent.

Jemma: Short Stories would suit young readers in early teen years as the writing style is at times intricate, and I feel the themes and lessons would suit that age group.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Jemma, Short Stories

Jemma, Short Stories by Stefan Nicholson (SAN publishers), PB RRP $19 ISBN 9780980460445

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

In his publicity blurb the author writes that this book is primarily aimed at YA readers and anyone above the age of twelve. Young readers are interested in stories about people their own age or a few years older. Even though this book is titled Jemma, who is the youngest daughter in the Palette family, the main character in all the stories is Dad, a middle-aged writer of fiction.

Early in the second story we learn that Mum is in hospital with some undiagnosed problem. The story then focuses on Jemma meeting an old sea captain who sets her a riddle. The riddle’s answer will explain how humans should spend their lives. The story is thus high-jacked by adults, with the riddle being solved by Mum. (Her illness had been caused by the family dog’s new herbicidal shampoo).  

The third story is a variation on Six Characters in Search of an Author, with the imaginary Palette family talking to the author.

The fourth story, which has the most potential for 8-12 year olds, concerns the theft of a golden eagle. Jemma plays more of a role here, but at the climax of the story, instead of being actively involved in saving the eagle, she and her friends retreat to eat pizza and wait patiently for news.

This book would probably work best for an adult audience.  

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Circle in a Spiral

Circle in a Spiral by Stefan Nicholson (Self-published) PB RRP $24.00 from ISBN 9780980460452

Reviewed by Janet Kershaw

This 56,000 word psychological thriller with its focus on climate change, robotics and the survival of the human race is aimed at the adolescent fiction market. Author and composer Stefan Nicholson has published seven books to date and a CD of original music: he is also the inventor of Symbolic Art Notation, a complete language in pictures.

The book’s cover is from abstract artwork by the author and while it is interesting and colourful, it does not serve the book well, giving no indication of what genre the book is or what is its subject matter. Inside there is a list of contents with chapter headings. Unfortunately the print type is very small which might be off-putting to some readers.

The first page, however, immediately engages the reader’s attention with fast-paced writing as a sister and her small brother, Lodi and Modnar, having attempted to raid the Xylon auto-farm for food and weapons, race to escape a fire. Before long they meet a being called Amgine who alerts them to the destruction of planet Earth caused by man. However, Lodi and Modnar are not the real names of the children: when they return to their home, they are known as Sarah and Max Robertson.

It is Sarah’s quest to fix the problem which affects the universe: she needs to find the ‘Krel Key’, a complex sequence of algorithms which prevent humanoids (developed by scientists and the military to become super-beings) from using their machines from destruction.  Of course, as in any quest dystopian fantasy Sarah’s quest is never going to be easy. Two universe sentinels, Amgine (see above) and Retibra try to use humans and others to stabilise the universe, but one of the sentinels becomes corrupt as does one of the human collaborators. Sarah, who is na├»ve in many ways, has a massive job to right wrongs in a world where everyone, including Life/Death Algorisms have their own interpretations of survival.

For an intelligent reader who enjoys fantasy and quest tales, and is able to navigate their way through a labyrinth of places, people, and events, this book is sure to be to their taste.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A Cardboard Palace

A Cardboard Palace written by Allayne L. Webster, (MidnightSun Publishing)   PB RRP$17.99   ISBN 9781925227253

Reviewed by Stefan Nicholson

The romantic, bohemian city of Paris is the setting for Allayne Webster’s new novel. Many Paris tourist landmarks are described in great detail during the course of the story, which adds to the authenticity of the author’s research.

The story is centred around a migrant shanty town on the outskirts of the city that is threatened with demolition. The poverty and hopelessness of its residents is shown through the lives of the homeless children who are forced into criminal activity by greedy opportunists and desperate parents.
The first chapter immediately introduces one of these children, Jorge, and his English criminal minder Bill who takes on the modern equivalent of a cruel Fagan.

The story follows Jorge’s struggle with Bill’s manipulation of his army of child thieves.  There is a secondary story surrounding Jorge’s love for Ada who is being forced to marry at the age of 10, accepted by the camp culture. Some of his friends die due to sickness and accident. Jorge realises some relief from his hopelessness in the guise of Australian chef Sticky Ricky who mentors him and the empowerment of his fellow companions as they rise to fight for a better life. The battle then is between the survival of Jorge and the defeat of Bill.

The first chapter is written in past tense to rapidly show the mechanism of the petty theft used by the team on a typical day.

From the second chapter on, the story is written in the present tense through the eyes of Jorge, to create a film-like effect. This is an interesting approach because the present tense allows the story to flow with the immediacy of sequential events, adding to the characterisation of Jorge.  We are there with Jorge as events unfold which makes the climax more intense and satisfying. It does however include expanded descriptions to the story line and the general element of suspense is somewhat diminished because we only see what Jorge sees and not what is happening elsewhere.

This story will be enjoyed by the intended middle-school audience, no doubt with some lively class discussions on the social issues it raises and the way it was written.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

King of the Outback

King of the Outback written by Kristin Weidenbach, illustrated by Timothy Ide (Midnight Sun Publishing)    HB RRP$26.99   ISBN 9781925227246

Reviewed by Stefan Nicholson

King of the Outback is a jewel of an Australian children’s book with many facets to contemplate.  It is also a picture book, a book of Australian history, a biography, obviously a non-fictional work but absolutely a delight to read.

It is the life story of Sir Sidney Kidman who left home at thirteen with five shillings and a one-eyed horse, then ended up owning the largest cattle station in Australia.
It is tempting to imagine how primary school children will approach this book. 
Some will look at the first few pages and then work through the book admiring the stylised pen and ink illustrations of people and animals surrounded by the colours of the bush. The watercolour palette is perfect.

Other children will read the unravelling story on each page and immerse themselves into the story through the corresponding illustration.

The expressions of the people and the brown landscape match the late nineteenth-century Australian country with its harsh dusty ground, the solid civic buildings and the fashionable clothing evident on the streets of the town.

King of the Outback is also an ideal reader for parents and teachers to read to younger children whilst showing them the illustrations – I like looking at some of the people hidden in the crowds!

You can almost hear the sounds emanating from the illustrations, enhanced by the use of an unusual selection of fonts and embellishments – font size, bold, curved, etc.  I think that this arrangement of text is designed to keep the readers’ attention away from staring at the illustrations for too long instead of moving along with the story. 

The text is simple and effective.  It gets the story told interspersed with many interesting facts and events like the impressive rescue of the town’s people from scared, rampaging cattle during Sid’s seventy fifth birthday rodeo. 

This book should make for excellent classroom discussions as this era of Australian history comes to life in thirty two pages. But don’t let any child walk out of the classroom with fifty cents and a ‘see you all later’.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Olivia’s Voice

Olivia’s Voice written by Mike Lucas, illustrated by Jennifer Harrison (Midnight Sun Publishing)    HB RRP$26.99   ISBN 9781925227192

Reviewed by Stefan Nicholson

Olivia’s Voice is a beautiful combination of photo-realistic art accompanied by simple storytelling to describe one day in the life of a young and obviously happy girl named Olivia. It is clear she is happy because her face radiates an enthusiasm and inwardly happy nature that shines through in all the outstanding illustrations.  The brief story line describes her daily activities and interaction with her mother, her friends and her music teacher. Her life appears normal, but the reader knows that all is not as it seems: Olivia is not like many of her friends.

So, what’s the catch?  No, I’m not giving that one away to spoil the end of the story or indeed the reader’s careful unravelling of the plot by observations, which eventually lead to the answer. There is also the warm feeling you will get reading Olivia’s Voice.
This book shows children accepting differences between each other and within oneself through simple observation and acceptance. Did I mention that Olivia plays the drum? She does but that is only another small clue.  

This book is suitable for readers over the age of six years. The superb illustrations are created using crayons are photo-realistic which is why this book is marketed as a children’s picture book. 

Stefan Nicholson is a writer, composer and book reviewer with an MA in writing from Swinburne University.  and may be contacted by email:  [email protected]