Thursday, December 31, 2020

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Review: A Poem for Britain (Bards of Fantasia #1) by S.W. Wilcox

A Poem for Britain

(Bards of Fantasia #1)


35834492First the world was nuked, then mythic monsters invaded. What a life, and I, Dormira, am only 16--but going on 30. Good thing my boyfriend Skall is a genius. I'm a co-minstrel, linguist--and his bodyguard too, as we face Magic schools...Stolen youth...and Love-obsessed gods. Now the ancient Fire & Ice giants want the world to end. But they're opposed by elements of water, air, and earth, the shock-troops of friendlier gods and wizards. And bards from our techie future are a new piece on the chessboard. It figures the gods, ghosts & ghouls we're pitted against don't like our meddling. That's their shapeshifting sport. Skall urges we race mythic British landmarks within 48 hours of Halloween, performing key songs as hero-minstrels, solving ancient riddles and tragedies. Things move fast when deaths need avenging and you're time-skipping and running for your own life as well! Can our music save the world from chaos?


My Take:

Dor and Skall are witnesses to a great destruction at the end of time, driven by an ancient red-hooded sorceress intent on the destruction of man. With their electric guitars, songwriting and ninja skills they jump through a portal back in time to attempt to change the past which will change the future which will make the trip to the past unnecessary, er, and I rub my templs and quip with Captain Janeway, that time travel makes the head hurt.

The Norse and British demi-gods vie for mastery and love while Dor and Skall try to stay alive long enough to make friends and influence the movers and shakers of the skies. But will their time-changing machinations and their songwriting skills save them from the master of the underworld and a fate worse than, but including, death?


Content:
Drug Content:
PG-13 - There are several drunken parties while cavorting through the past, but overall not a lot..

Violence:
PG - There are several scenes involving war and a few brawls that take place.

Language:
G - Relatively clean.

Adult Content:
PG - There's a scene where Skall is enthralled by a goddess and heads off to her bedchamber. There's a scene where the Norns discuss mating.

Christian content:
Nada. There's a scene where Christian warriors are battling the pagan forces. For the most part the only gods depicted in this novella are the Norse ones of Fire, Ice, Death, and the Sea. Frost-Hel, Etain, Gyn, Deirdru, Angus, Mannanan, Dovnu, the Norns, and the World-Tree people the past and fight each other for mastery of the all-important World-Tree and its many dimensions.

Final analysis:
Each chapter in this book began with sketches of the action inside, and it reads like a screenplay, which it devolved from. The action is quick and gripping, and the many worlds visited are panoramic in view. The World-building is immersive, and the humor and interplay outstanding. But the characters in the story were a bit wooden to me and could have used better dimension, the gods and supporting cast were almost one-dimensional. The stakes were high, of course, the fate of all the dimensions, but the action was a bit jerky for my taste. Focus went from one gripping scene to a quick flight or rescue, to another crisis without any real transition.

I found the world-building stellar, the plot outstanding, but the character development and pacing unfortunately in need of fleshing out. This could have found a home as a trilogy, with the amount of action it contained, but in its brief form it was a bit like a sped up movie, panoramic and epic and all-too-soon over. Four Stars.

Review: The Essence of Life by Rain Arlender

The Essence of Life

31917680“Seeking outdoors-loving colleague. Solitude-requiring, big-footed preferably.”  Usually with an ad like this, one would look the other way. But Aurora is in a pinch – she has to take the job. Her employer is a Scottish family who run a distillery. Her workplace is the open field: no animals, no crops and nothing to do. Her work tool – and only companion – a giant pair of Wellington boots. Aurora's task is to walk in the field, and she has no idea why she is getting paid for it...
My Take:
Aurora is a very large girl with incredibly large feet. Her prospects for employment are dwindling when she comes across the ad for a job working in the fields of a small distillery. The Scottish family that runs the distillery is slightly odd but friendly enough, and they affably take her in without much in the way of an interview, other than a good look at her feet.

She is required to walk in the fields during the day, and her only work tool is a pair of Wellington boots. Why they have hired her is unclear, because her task is only to walk the fields, and surrender her shoes and socks each night. Why is she getting paid for this, again?

Content:
Drug Content:
PG-13 - There is a significant amount of drinking in the book, which is not unexpected, as it centers around a distillery, and the quality libations produced there. There are a few characters in this epic tale that drink like a fish, but their activities are usually off-screen.

Violence:
PG - There is some discussion concerning a wife-beater, but there is no violence that occurs onscreen.

Language:
R - The F bomb is dropped 3 times. Sh-t occurs several times, other expletives are absent.

Adult Content:
PG-13 - There is a scene where a young male exposes himself for his kindergarten friends, and wanders off with a young girl he likes. There's discussion about his gender identity. Sex is an offhand expectation of casual dating. There is a scene where sex occurs onscreen, not graphically described, with the girlfriend wearing only the boss's necktie.

Christian content:
Hmmm. So, there's a discussion of who God is, but it's extremely tongue in cheek and slightly irreverent. The Dog is God, Patrick is God. God's house is visited but then there's a discussion of how God isn't coming, and he let them in but left. It's funny, but I'd enter this book with the expectation that God's a good tool for a good joke.

Final analysis:
While The Essence of Life was worth many chuckles, it seemed to drag for me, and I couldn't get invested in the characters, and there were a confusing lot of them. In places the descriptions were panoramic, but the action was confusing and the backstories of the characters seemed a bit unnecessary, if titillating.

I didn't find the irreverence off-putting, but couldn't get invested in the plot or characters, and the pace just moved ponderously on, though the main undercurrent plot of the story is a tremendous joke worth telling. If you like drinking, big feet, or elaborate hilarious pranks, this would be a good book to pick up and delve into, for me, eh, not as much. Three Stars.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: Sickness in Time by M.F. Thomas, Nicholas Thurkettle

Sickness in Time

31428065
In 2038, the human race is in a death spiral, and most people do not even know it yet. Technology that was supposed to make us better and stronger instead is birthing a strange and terrible plague we may not be able to stop. When the young daughter of Josh Scribner, a wealthy tech entrepreneur, starts to succumb to the illness, he dedicates his fortune in a desperate effort to save her life. Working with a friend & celebrated physicist, Josh develops the ability to send objects back through time. Their goal to recruit an agent in the past who might change our fatal path.

In our present day, a broken and traumatized Air Force veteran finds a strange message in the woods, drawing her into an adventure spanning decades. All humanity is at stake, as she and her small group of friends become the unlikely heroes taking up the secret fight against our future doom.
My Take:
In 2039, A plague that attacks the brain is spreading across the globe, and wealthy tech entrepreneur Josh Scribner is convinced that the tech he developed to make the human race better is at fault. As more and more cases come in of the strange and deadly plague, Josh realizes that warning the public is the only choice, even if it ruins him. 

But his warnings have come too late to save the human race. Until he joins forces with a close friend and celebrated physicist. Together they develop a system to send messages back in time and change the past, eradicating mankind's fatal future.

In 2015, Maria Kerrigan, a traumatized Air Force veteran, finds a strange message in the woods, plunging her into a gripping fight against a dark and determined evil foe to save mankind from certain doom.




Content:
Drug Content:
PG-13 - Most of the main characters drink, some to intoxication, and one is a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon into a destructive spiral. Brain-altering tech and mind-enhancing drugs are pandered in the future.

Violence:
PG - There is a scene where a man is tortured without any real physical harm, but with a brain implant. Discussion is made how an extended or increased level of this procedure has killed multiple people. A man is shot to death in his own home. A stalker kills a person with a rock. A person is strangled. Several are killed by remote control. Bruising and blood are mentioned, but none of the violence is graphic.

Language:
R - The D word occurs about 25 times, GD is there 3 times. The F bomb is dropped 4 times.

Adult Content:
PG-13 - Four of the main characters, although involved in platonic friendships, are repeatedly mistaken as gay couples. One of the main characters has several drunken sexual encounters, though the action occurs off-screen. Urination is mentioned a few times. 

Christian content:
Nope. God doesn't really get discussed even in an offhanded way here, nor attendance at church. This is a great adventure story, with some overarching moral themes of self-sacrifice, the greater good, loyalty, duty, and persistence in the face of insurmountable odds. It takes a hard look also at mental health and the hubris mankind sometimes has in the violation of ethical standards for monetary gain and power. Good and evil were clearly delineated, save for certain minions led away by duplicity.

Final analysis:
Sickness in Time was an amazing adventure story. I found it an action-packed dystopian page-turner. The main characters were very real and raw. Character development and setting were excellent. The stakes were as high as they come, and the antagonist, though relatively two-dimensional, had his own dark stakes that were quite real. Though I could do without the language, I found the book gripping and couldn't put it down, losing sleep several nights. Not one I'd recommend for the kiddies, but it's a great adventure for the adult crowd. Five Stars!

About the Authors:


MF Thomas
MF Thomas has lived and worked in over 20 countries. He is very happy to be home in the United States. His website is www.MFThomasAuthor.com.









Nicholas ThurkettleNicholas Thurkettle is a writer, actor, and filmmaker currently living in Southern California. Born in Los Gatos, California, he grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio, turned teenage in Huntington Beach, California, and studied at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where he earned B.A. degrees in Theatre Performance and Music. He has worked, among many other jobs, as a feature film story executive, a limousine driver, a film critic, a luggage salesman, a teacher of screenwriting, a professional smeller for a Sanitation Department, and something called a "data migration project supervisor."

His first novel, Seeing by Moonlight (co-written with MF Thomas), debuted in autumn 2013 and was called "an intriguingly dark thriller, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning pages up until the rather surprising conclusion" by IndieReader. In August 2015 he published a collection of 15 short stories entitled Stages of Sleep, which was praised as "immediate, lyrical, and lean". A second sci-fi thriller novel written with MF Thomas, A Sickness in Time, was released in August 2016.

As an actor he has an extensive resume of on-stage Shakespeare and roles in upcoming independent feature films including "The Revelator", "Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine", "Aventura!" and "Reclaiming Friendship Park". He is a member of the Writers Guild of America for his screenwriting work in Hollywood, and is the producer/writer/director of two short films. The first, "Samantha Gets Back Out There", had its world premiere at the 2015 Laughlin International Film Festival and received an Honorable Mention from the IndieFEST USA Film and Music Festival. The second, "The Retriever", is currently in submissions to the film festival circuit for late 2016 and early 2017.

He is a proud member of the Writers Guild of America for his screenwriting work, as well as the Orange County Playwrights Alliance; an Artistic Associate/Casting Director with Shakespeare Orange County, and a producer/writer/performer with the award-winning audio drama podcast Earbud Theater.




Monday, January 7, 2019

Review: A Brush with the Beast by Richard Sones

A Brush with the Beast


35554067A brilliant and exceptionally talented IT executive, Nick Gooseberry, is at his wits' end trying to rid himself of chronic debilitating pain. In desperation he turns to The Order, a shadowy organization that promises him freedom from pain and much more. With The Order's help behind the scenes, Nick lies and blackmails his way into the highest levels of government while plunging into the blackest corners of hell until he sets his sights on ruling the world.

Sarah Johnson is a thirty-something ex-con that the system abandoned in a small town in Texas. As a dime store cashier, her biggest worries are what to eat and what to wear, but she's always late for work. Her boss decides to get rid of her for good by sending her back to prison, enticing her with a shortcut to riches. She meets the Lord along the way and manages to escape from the authorities, but the fact that she's pregnant attracts the attention of the Beast. After being whisked to the other side of the planet, her biggest worry becomes surviving.

A Palestinian schoolboy who witnessed the death of his parents grows into a world renowned terrorist driven by his thirst for revenge on his family's murderers. He hates Israel and their number one ally, the United States. Known by his Arabic nickname, Fanak (the Fox), he orchestrates terror on every continent never realizing that he's a puppet of the Beast.

My Take:
Nick Gooseberry has had it with the chronic pain in his back. A brilliant IT executive and owner of Dervish Enterprises, Nick is at his wits' end. In desperation he turns to The Order, a mysterious organization that promises freedom from the pain, in exchange for a deal with the devil. With the Order's help, Nick lies and schemes himself to the top of the most powerful country in the world, but is this at the cost of his own soul?

Sarah Johnson is a thirty-something divorcee with a Meth addiction, working for a dime store. Her boss decides to get rid of her by setting her up to get sent to prison. During the setup she ends up pregnant, which is now illegal for convicts. This attracts the attention of the Beast, who has plans for her unborn child. 

Fanak (the fox) is a deep cover terrorist causing havoc around the world, all to bring down the nation of Israel and it's number one ally, the United States. He is driven by a deep-seated hatred for the murderers of his parents, never realizing he is a pawn for the Beast.


Content:
Drug Content:
PG - Sarah is a methamphetamine addict. While the book never goes into detail about the effects of the drug, it's the catalyst that propels her to jail.

Violence:
PG - This is a book about the last days. A city is destroyed by nuclear bombs. People disappear, are killed, there is some discussion about the blood of the unborn used in ritual sacrifice. A mosque is destroyed by bombs. Terrorism takes many lives. But none of the violence, while pervasive, is gratuitous.

Language:
PG - very light sprinkling.

Adult Content:
PG - The main character ends up pregnant after a single encounter. However, the encounter is implied, it doesn't even occur on stage.   

Christian content:
This book is strongly Christian. It's a book about faith and hope in a world gone crazy in the last days. It's about the supernatural guidance and protection of a sovereign God. Bible verses are exchanged and quoted, prayers are made and answered. In one place the voice of God breaks in against the devil himself. The book is unapologetically Christian, but it's not overly preachy. There are several Christian conversions that happen on stage. The gospel during those times is clearly presented. Yet it doesn't preach at the reader, but carries him along through the enthralling action.

Final analysis:
A Brush with the Beast is an epic tale. It spans four continents and covers the progress of three main characters and dozens of minor ones. The world it depicts is stark and dangerously close to reality. It is well-written, gripping, panoramic in scope. The settings are immersive, the plot ever-changing. The characters are real, the spiritual realm clearly delineated. Fast paced, immersive, gripping, encouraging. Well done! Five Stars!

About the Author:
Richard SonesRichard Sones grew up as a citizen of the world. Moving every three to twenty-four months from continent to continent, he was exposed to many cultures. As an adult, he continued his tour of the world as a chaplain in the U.S. Army having served 28 years. As a consequence of many deployments, he has first hand knowledge of many varied customs and peoples. Happily married now 38 years, he is a father to four and grandfather to another four. He is still in ministry as the chaplain of a major hospital in El Paso, Texas. He lives just outside the city in the semi-desert where he has time to write, build things in his wood shop, play his guitar, and tinker with the yard.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Review: The Secret of Grandmother's Grandfather Clock (Accidental Adventures of Kurt Benson and His Friends, Riley and Jordan #3) by Max Elliot Anderson

The Secret of Grandmother's Grandfather Clock (Accidental Adventures of Kurt Benson and His Friends, Riley and Jordan #3)


34327177Kurt Benson is at it again, only this time with his cousin Josh as his mystery-solving sidekick. When an unexpected family tragedy launches the boys into a full-blown investigation, they quickly find themselves in more danger than they could ever have imagined. But Kurt’s love for his grandfather urges him on in his quest for the truth—and in his efforts to save his grandparents’ farm. Will an old grandfather clock and a very special model airplane unlock the mystery before it’s too late?



My Take:

When Kurt Benson's grandfather passes away, he and his cousin Josh head to the farm for the funeral. While there they discover that their grandmother is in danger of losing the farm. As the boys dig deeper they discover that a cryptic message from their deceased grandfather may unlock the secret of the old grandfather clock and help save the farm. As their investigation continues, the boys find themselves in more danger than they could imagine! Will their quick wits, the old clock, and a special model airplane save the day?


Content:
Drug Content:
G - None.

Violence:
G - Children are threatened, thugs chase them, but no weapons are in evidence. Some people suffer burns and minor injuries.

Language:
G - squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - This is a kids' book. Not even kissing occurs here.

Christian content:
The faith of their grandfather and grandmother is evident and discussed a bit, but there is no overt Christian doctrine or preaching involved inside. Kurt has faith and it's mentioned in the book as well. But the main thrust of the book is an entertaining adventure story for kids, and it does well at that. Perseverance, faith, love, and loyalty play heavily into the plot of this little novel.

Final analysis:
The Secret of Grandmother's Grandfather Clock was an entertaining read, with good life lessons for kids ages 6-16. Weighing in at a little over 100 pages, it's a fairly quick read and the reading level is sufficient for a 10 year old to enjoy. I read this aloud to my 13yo son and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Fast-paced, clean, exciting and immersive, this book was captivating from start to finish. Five Stars!

About the Author:

Max Elliot Anderson

Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: Theodora's Children (Tales Of Hope #2) by Rick Nau

Theodora's Children(Tales Of Hope #2)

by 
35602243Gretchen is her name. She’s the heroine of the story. Some people call her Gretch the Wretch. Not a very nice thing to say about someone, especially if they suffer from a loneliness so intense it could blow the roof off the sky. Certainly she’s not the only person in the world who’s felt this way. You might have felt this way yourself. Or you might feel this way at this very moment, just as Gretchen felt at the beginning of her story. This isn’t to say she’s not a wonderful person. If you get to know her, you’ll find out how wonderful she is. If you don’t, you’ll never know.

My Take:

Jesse takes his great-grandchildren Daph and Josh to the lake each Sunday to enjoy time together and tell them a story. This time the story is concerning a rich daughter named Gretchen who, while showered with everything her heart could imagine, longs for a brother to share her life, fortune, and adventures with.

The brother she longs for is the only present she asks her parents for, but as the years slip by, she cannot understand why they cannot, or will not, answer this request. Sequestered on a sprawling estate with a multitude of staff to wait on her, there is not a single child anywhere she can play with. Until the day she is rescued from a fire by a mysterious child on the estate that nobody believes exists.

Did Gretchen imagine the child who rescued her from death? Was it the brother her parents would never give her? Or is she losing her mind, as her counselors believe?


Content:
Drug Content:
G - None.

Violence:
PG - Children are imprisoned, and there is an execution planned. There is a dangerous chase through a mountain pass. Kidnapping, imprisonment, and betrayal are all present, though no real violence, blood or death occurs.

Language:
G - squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - This is a kids' book. Not even kissing occurs here.

Christian content:
For most of the book there is very little content that goes beyond moral lessons and classic fairy tale oblique references to wisdom. But approaching the climax of the story the bible plays rather heavily, and the gospel message is clearly presented. Loyalty, self-sacrifice, and generosity are set against pride, malevolence, betrayal, and avarice. Good and evil are crisply defined with little gray area involved.

Final analysis:
Theodora's Children is a story within a story. And while the outer story with Jesse and his great-grandchildren held little to captivate me, the inner story, after some groundwork, was riveting. Slow to get started, the book gained traction a quarter of the way through, and was a page-turner throughout the remainder. Compelling, enthralling, and meaningful, Theodora's Children is a nice book to read aloud to kids ages 6-13. The setting is realistic, the action gripping, the characters well-defined. Five stars!

About the Author:

Rick Nau