A gentle evocation of 60s America

January 31, 2024

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by MichaelJOC

This is a highly original novel with a poetic writing style. The prose is simple yet detailed and dense. It's not flowery, yet is full of unusual and vivid vocabulary. There is much use of colour, and gentle alliteration. The novel is set in an imaginary small American town, with a description so painstaking it feels real. In the background are the the race to the moon and 60s rock music, two of America's defining cultural contributions to the twentieth century . The book fits no standard genre and does not drop any trite message on the reader and so a bit more is demanded to follow this book's subtle and original depiction of its characters and its flow of narrative. There is no sex, no swearing, no animals, but there is real emotion below the surface and a gentle evocation of a time now gone.

Evocative Descriptions and Turns of Phrases

November 13, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by Jana Rollo-Fennick, Editor

I really enjoyed this book. I could tell what care and thought the author put into descriptive images, taking time to finely craft them. I appreciate what he did, and enjoyed the results! I especially liked his very visually evocative descriptions and interesting metaphors and turns of phrases.

I also enjoyed all the references to music/lyrics from the sixties, and how the author wove them into the story to illustrate points and mind-sets of the characters, while conjuring up some nostalgia for those times.

The plot was unusual and quirky, based on an outlandish notion to paint the “eye” of the man-in-the-moon a newly invented color visible from Earth. But as the story unfolded, it became interesting to see if maybe it was possible after all. Hmmm…

Quirky, sad and haunting

November 12, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by Jody Gillen-Worden, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

I've known Jeff for 50 years, since we were at college in California. These days I live in Maine and he lives in London. I am not very literary, being immersed in mystery and detective novels, but I read the first chapter of his book and found myself already captured.

I hate attending to small details because it interferes with my enjoyment of a story, so what I took away from the book are feelings, and I am still carrying the feelings generated by this strange, sad story. I also love the cover and I love the way the book smells and feels in my hands.

The sense of deep loneliness, isolation and yearning for connection Jeff captured in Banno's character was so powerful. All Banno wanted was to be "seen." And the quirkiness of the Tris character and his instant connection to this guy grabbed me. I heard Jeff's voice in Tris's voice right away, noticing a change in the language from the way yucky old Sam talked. Tris was more lyrical, more playful, language-wise.

I admit that I am not objective, but the intensity of the story, playfully concealed by the old rock lyrics and the silly, but loveable non-English American town, would have grabbed me even had I not known Jeff. It speaks to me - the lies underneath so much of what we live with every day, the joy of creativity (I loved the frenzied color creating scene), the worm that often lurks within the purest apple, and perhaps, most of all, the fear of being responsible and the shame of not.

Adding some colour to the moon: it’s technically feasible

October 02, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by Stewart Wilkinson, Engineer

Full disclosure: I’m an engineer and I know the author, and for six of the years he worked on this book I advised him on what would and what wouldn’t work for his ‘moonstick’, the rocket used in the book’s plot to stain the moon with colour. I suggested how to approach the moonstick’s design and materials and its weight and pressure demands, and how these factors would affect its orientation, flight and landing on the moon.

Jeff’s imaginative idea for the story really spiked my interest, and I did my best to help create a reasonably believable scenario for the plot. It was a tricky balancing act. To give the story credibility, there needed to be enough science, but too much would bore readers. I tried to simplify the technicalities somewhat so that the prose flowed logically. And while Jeff took some poetic licence, that was in order. It was difficult to ensure that at all times the content of the story was technically feasible but I hope that the liberties taken do not detract from the story.

I often felt I was a co-pilot on this ‘moon mission’ of Jeff’s, my expertise complementing the extensive research he did into other aspects of the book, like the colour science and the moon’s composition, and I’m heartened that my technical advice was taken. I believe that the book’s plot is as scientifically sound and as plausible as possible. While it is extremely unlikely that anyone would be able to alter the moon’s appearance in the way described in this novel, who knows what future threats there may be? Perhaps we’ll find out in a sequel?

Beyond the book’s technical aspects, Jeff described the emotions of the characters very nicely, thus presenting a believable and want-to-read story. My only criticism was that on a number of occasions there was too much detail, which stalled the story somewhat, but that may have been me being impatient to see how the story progressed. I was absorbed by the interaction between the opportunist and the rogue NASA engineer as they planned their crime against the moon, and I found myself wanting to read more.

A love for the sound and rhythm of words

August 29, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by Andy Watson, Director, A P Watson Ltd clothing export company

This book is different to anything I’ve ever read, and it was a pleasure to read. I might even say it’s a classic, but readable (as many novels I’ve tried to read aren’t). It’s not a short book, but it was an easy read.

The prose is beautiful. The author clearly has a love for the sound and rhythm of words, which include ones he’s made up, yet the language feels natural. And the invented setting, imbued with the author’s presence, feels real.

The book cover implies a gentle, quirky story, which in many ways it is, but it’s much more than that. It has heft and tension, especially as it shifts into high gear, building towards the denouement.

The imaginative plot in brief: in 1965 a Mr Thwaite sets out to manipulate a sleepy little American town for his own ends. The town is famous for its clear and striking views of the moon, and the plot, which involves the moon, flows from this. Will anyone work out what the bad guys are up to in time? Will their mad plan succeed or will they get their comeuppance?

The main characters all work for Mr Thwaite in his Moon Centre. I felt especially sorry for poor Banno, a man who feels he must always be honest, who becomes confused and disoriented at the hands of his unpleasant Mr. Thwaite.

The book’s structure is intriguing but easy to follow. Besides all the well-researched and enjoyable facts about the moon and sixties pop songs, the letters between the characters strike just the right tone. The exchanges with NASA, for instance, which help guide us through the plot, are hilariously formal and quite believable, and the importance of pop songs to the story becomes clear as the story continues.

Though the book is clearly set in the sixties, it somehow has a timeless feel. My sense, when I’d finished, was that this was the story the author felt he had to tell, and in his own way.

A brilliant read

August 29, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by H L Talbot

I came to this after a bit of a run of reading books that I hadn’t really enjoyed and that had dragged a bit - this was such a good and refreshing read. I had so much fun reading it and kept returning to it during the day when i should have been doing other things! It’s a really intriguing premise (without giving too much as part of the fun is the story unfolding) with gorgeous writing - I loved the descriptions of the town and the way that colour is evoked - I highly recommend!

The meticulousness of describing the meticulousness

July 22, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by John Hegley, English performance poet, comedian, musician and songwriter

Having sung on street corners myself, I much liked the song lyrics of the busking lad being so valued and listened to with such care in the story – by one person, at least. I also warmed to the meticulousness of describing the meticulousness of the proof-reading (is there a hyphen!) and also the name Crescent Crescent.

I went, gladly, to the Moon

June 21, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by Zenka. Krakow, Poland. English teacher.

Shortly after I received this book in Krakow, I got some unexpected bad news which put me in a depressing and traumatic situation. To take my mind off my troubles, I read this book. I loved the first 100 pages and read them three times, and read the whole book twice. I went, gladly, to the Moon.

As a philologist I was especially sensitive to the language. And what a plethora of vocabulary – cleverly coined. But not only invented words – lots of real, though not necessarily common, everyday words. And Moon connected words found in flora, music and poetry.

I liked the way reality changes the small town of Goodmews into a Moontown (what an idea – a moon town!) with a Moon Centre, and I liked the way the characters were presented with delicate humour. There is one whose ego and obsession grows and grows into his sky high – or rather Moon high – climb to the glory of his endeavour, there is one whose common sense emerges when quite unexpectedly brutal reality appears, and there is one “who does not fit”.

The text on the back cover is like an invitation to daring, highly subversive activities, and as I read I wondered how the author was going to resolve this predicament.

The most magnificent master of alluring alliteration

June 05, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by R.C. Trussell, Retired Professor of Philosophy, Pikes Peak State College, Colorado

The book begins in a very quirky American town, Goodmews. As a night-sky gazer in rural Colorado, I definitely know what the town’s “Mars-colored cliffs” look like. Actually, the granite that became the Rocky Mountains tectonically punched through a long-receded ancient seabed. Its red-buff sandstone was upended into spires that appear all along the front range. They now smile knowingly at sister Mars. I’ve found seashells in them! If Marsan mysteries must wait for a sequel from author Probst, the moon’s geology, as explored in this book, was a sumptuous side dish to the many courses served in this novel.

The introduction of the main characters built the arc of the developing story well. Though as the plot jells, it was hard for me to care about the Goodmews townsfolk, as their culture and “moonstruckness” made them salt-of-the-earth, with the innocence of Hobbits, apolitical and seemingly blind to forces exploiting them.

I became most engaged with the faster pacing in the middle of the book, which carried on to the end. The many Sixties song references slowed me down some as I had to pause and recall the melody—call it a guilty pleasure that filled me with smug satisfaction if I got it right. If not, a quick trip to YouTube was a toe-tapping delight. The ideal reader, like myself, lived through the years of the space race which were the years of these songs. Yet everyone has heard them at one point or another, either by the original artist or percolating through the decades with new interpretations. But I was astonished how the lyrics came to occupy center stage in a new and pivotal role.

I found the colour scientist’s search for an original color fascinating. An art instructor at the college where I teach certified its accuracy.

Especially masterful was the agonizing way one character struggles to communicate what was actually going down. The others wrestle to figure it out. With the reader in the know, their efforts are less Sherlock Holmes and more like Keystone Cops. All the while, Mission Control’s clock approaches the point of no return.

What leaped out to me here was the author’s insightful juxtaposition into this character’s neurotic and troubled self, who reveals that the promises he made to himself and others were “iron-clad, inviolate, a straightjacket that suited him. A lifejacket.”

What struck me throughout was the author’s use/play with language. For me, he is the most magnificent master of alluring alliteration, seasoning the meal with polygamous puns. I liked the similes too, which offer wise insight into life lived and experience of the world around us.

Unique and beautiful book

February 26, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by Vicky

I loved this book. I loved the vividness of the colours, and the descriptions of the colours. I found it such a compelling and very visual book, which reminded me too, of the beauty of the English language. I enjoyed the story and getting to know the characters. I highly recommend it.

A thoroughly enjoyable read

February 06, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by Steve Davis

What a good read! Whimsical, yet serious in its intent, I was entertained from the get-go. The characters are well written and believable, the story itself is engaging, compelling. I buzzed thru it, feeling sorry that it had to end. I wanted the story to go on, to learn more about the characters and “what happened next.” I hope the book attracts an audience. It’s a pretty cool piece of work and worth your time!

Taking colour to the moon

January 19, 2023

A review for 'When the Moon was White', by Thirza Kotzen

Jeff is a friend for whom I designed the cover of his new novel. Although I knew a little about the setting of the story, reading the book came as a bit of a revelation. I thought this is a fat book, will it be too heavy? But I was very pleasantly surprised at how the pages turned and how interested I was in what was to happen next. I thought that his research into the science of colour and how a rocket would take the colour to the moon was believable. A crazy but interesting concept... not one I approve of by the way. But I liked Jeff's play with words, his interesting characters. I see him (Jeff) in all of them, and that made me smile. The author, teacher, hippy, music-head. I liked that this book feels personal. That is not always easy to do. It makes for a pretty good read.

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