Monthly Archives: June 2012

Review of Jacques Antoine’s Emily Kane Novels

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to read Jacques Antoine’s Go No Sen as well as its sequel, Sen No Sen.

Go No Sen starts with the idyllic home life of martial arts protégée Emily Kane. She may be the chauffeur’s daughter, but she is as much a part of the family as anyone else. She loves her father and sensei and they love her. Training is a game, a comfortable way of live, and something she is very very good at. Unfortunately, just as she is starting to emerge from her familial alcove and venture into society (going on her first date, making friends for the first time) her tranquillity is shattered. I don’t want to give anything else away, but suffice it to say she put all of the that training to good use.

Go No Sen will appeal to anyone with an interest in martial arts or eastern meditative practices. There is a lot of fighting action, but it is interspersed with quite a bit of careful technical detail and martial theory – just as the title Go No Sen would suggest. Emily is ultimately a good girl who tried to always do the right thing and I appreciated this about her. She did seem just a little too perfect though. She is pretty, becoming popular, polite, parents like her, boys think she is cool, and she is the BEST fighter anyone has ever seen. If she lost a fight or had a few character flaws she would have been more believable. Though, the plot does hint that there might be a reason for her superiority. It is, in fact, the central premise of the novel.

Sen No Sen is the sequel to Go No Sen and follows Emily as she continues to try and maintain a normal life despite being hunted by a number of international covert operatives. It is apparent from the very beginning that Emily is struggling with how to balance her own strengths with both the life she wishes to lead and the dangers she can’t seem to escape. Her difficulties are easy to relate to as is her love for those around her.

Antoine’s writing is comfortable. It flows smoothly from the violence Emily is forced to inhabit to the peace she is trying to protect, effectively mimicking the very internal dilemma is facing. I particularly liked the pacing and writing style.

Like Go No SenSen No Sen includes quite a lot of martial arts theory. It is as much about the proper mind set of a fight as the proper physical conditioning. It wasn’t quite as heavy as in the first book and I found it enjoyable. As I appreciated the little bit of Japanese mythology that comes in at the end of the book.

Anyone who is interested in martial arts will likely like these book, as will those who like strong female YA characters.

Did you know that Networked Blogs has a follow limit?

Oh, you did? Did you know that it is apparently 200 blogs? Oh, you knew that too did you? Well, aren’t you just the smarty pants of the family. I didn’t know. I’m sure the terms and conditions dutifully informed me of this fact, probably even required me to check a box stating that I had read and understand this and other important points. But I still didn’t know.

This is a problem for me. I’m fairly indiscriminate in who I follow. If a blog looks remotely interesting I quickly follow it. Otherwise I’m certain I’d never be able to find it again. So it isn’t surprising that I’ve just discovered Networked Blog’s follow limit by slamming head on into it.

There is a solution for me though. Many of the lovely blogs I frequent use both Networked Blog and Linky. So I’m making an effort to unfollow people on Networked Blog and follow them on Linky instead. So what, you ask. Well, if you find your N.B. number falling by one it may be that I’ve unfollowed you. This isn’t personal and I’ve almost certainly upped your Linky followers by one. But I’m letting everyone know all the same.

Review of The Pattern & interview with author J.T. Kalnay

Author J.T. Kalnay has been kind enough to join me this afternoon to answer a few questions about his techno thriller, The Pattern.

Has one programming error killed hundreds of people in airplane crashes? A handful of west coast computer geeks know the answer. After reading The Pattern, you will too. Follow auto-pilot programmer Craig Walsh and his beautiful engineer girlfriend Stacey “Jack” Horner as they create, and then confront, a malicious computer virus that seems destined to destroy air travel as we know it.

Review

You probably don’t know this, but my husband works for a university flight program. There have been many many mornings that I have watched him fly off in what looks like a tin can of a plane, so the premise of this book terrified me from the get go. But that only made it seem more exciting.

When ace programmer and intrepid rock climber Craig Walsh starts to suspect that the unusually high number of recent plane crashes may not be coincidental it sends him and his friends on a cyber hunt that could either save or kill millions. This isn’t a heart pounding action adventure novel. It is more of a slow boil techno thriller, but it never quite settles into a simmer. There is a decent amount of computer jargon thrown about, even a few snippets of actual code (C++ I think). I don’t know anything about coding but wasn’t at all put off by its inclusion.

The characters are quite well defined. You can really imagine them hunched over a keyboard in hard wearing Northface or Prana clothing that shows evidence of real world use, carabiners and the somewhat cliche Diet Coke and Doritos close at hand. But it all only served to further crystalize the character type. I really liked the contrasts of the cloistered offices and the majestic outdoors as well as the light romantic elements.

The novel hints at being more than just a techno thriller. Though the spiritualist angle is never fully explored, I would have liked to know a little more about Craig’s experiences in this regard. Similarly, there are hints that there may be more to the virus than meets the eye. It would have been an interesting avenue to explore.

Overall, The Pattern is an enjoyable read. There is a tenderness to the main character, Craig, that is really appealing and it’s nice to see someone trying to do the right thing.

Interview

Thank you for being here today. Why don’t you start off telling us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, but only recently started self-publishing under my own name. I had hidden behind a pen-name for quite some time.

Do you have a favorite genre?

I like writing about people falling in love and about people facing crises (usually somehow related to computers). I love to read sophisticated romance novels, anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Lee Child, Michael Crichton, Nicholas Sparks, Anita Shreve, and Elizabeth Gaskell.

What got you into writing in the first place?

It was a suitable outlet for my hyper-active imagination. That’s a polite way of saying that I am basically full of crap and that the written page is a socially acceptable vehicle for the bs that I’m constantly dreaming up. When I tell people the stories, it’s lying. When I write them down it’s fiction!

What does your writing day look like?

On writing days (as opposed to day-job days), I get up before everyone and finish the sentence I left unfinished the night before. Then I go until the characters need a break. That’s usually two or three hours. Then I do something physical like walking or playing golf or going to CrossFit. After getting cleaned up and refueled, I sit back down and see where the characters take me. I always try to leave a sentence unfinished on a writing day so that there’s a hook to get me back to the page.

There is quite a lot of technical know-how apparent in The Pattern (coding and rock/mountain climbing). Did you have to do a lot of research for this or are these personal passions that were easy to write?

I have a graduate degree in computer science and worked in programming, design, and teaching computer programming from 1983 until 1995. So the programming came naturally to me. I did, however, do some research about auto-pilot software and computer viruses because I wasn’t familiar with either of those specific topics. I am a rock climber and mountain walker, so that also came naturally to me. The thunder storm and sprained ankle scenes are frighteningly accurate accounts of an experience I had while a little less experienced in the mountains. Even though I am a climber, I still did in-person research at the actual rock climbing locations in Colorado and England, and in-person research of the actual locations in Seattle, Oregon, Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, and other California locations. It’s cool to do on-location research, especially driving from Santa Cruz to Seattle via the PCH. There is some scenery there that I wish everyone could experience.

I don’t want to give anything away, but Craig has a few encounters that some might classify as spiritual. What are your feelings on the matter?

Craig is a whiz kid who put his feelings away after the childhood trauma in his life. For a peak into that trauma, readers might consider the psychological examination in The Keeper, a short novella about a young boy who faces unspeakable horror as a child. Since Craig put away his feelings, and since he went into programming, his world continued to shrink and shrink until it was just video games and Stacey. The crisis Craig faces in The Pattern forces those repressed feelings back to the surface to where he has to face them. He has no frame of reference and no spirituality of his own, and thus he struggles mightily to even acknowledge what is going on. Luckily, Stacey has moved him into the wide open majestic spaces of the mountains where Craig becomes open to new experiences. I agree with your question that these encounters are spiritual. My feelings are that there are connections that we cannot explain, that we can only experience. Craig has these experiences which finally make him realize that it’s not all about him, that there are bigger things out there. His guilt and pity had blinded him to the fact that other people have feelings too. The spiritual encounters remove those blinders.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on marketing G1, a book about a young girl who was bullied as a child. As a result of the bullying, she turned inwards, to athletics and computer hacking. She becomes abnormally proficient at both. When she decides to hack a casino while training for a triathlon, she encounters unexpected complications, both technical and personal. The book deals with how her psyche was damaged by the bullying, and how as a young adult she has to try to reconcile her two vastly different worlds. I’m also writing The Point, a book set on the California coast, where Charles Ginetti has just met Sierra Marner at Pigeon Point lighthouse. They are just experiencing the first hints of new love, so it’s a very exciting time in that book.

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Any last words for your readers?

Thank you for reading the books, for writing reviews, and for the emails about the characters and the stories. I read each and every email and eventually respond to every polite email. (The hate mail does not get responded to…) Also, I encourage the readers to check out other independent authors (“Indies”). There are some fantastic new writers out there that can entertain you!

Thanks J.T. Here’s wishing you all the best.