Angel’s Guardian

I love vampire stories that are different that break away from the Bram Stoker mode and creates a new species of vampire. With “Angel’s Guardian,” Zeecé Lugo does this and more. In the short story prelude to this new series, “Vampire, Not Monster,” Lugo hinted at what this new species of vampire might look like. In the title, and in the prose that followed, she gives us a glimpse of the differences between the vampire Maxim and vampires of past stories and folklore. With the opening chapter of “Angel’s Guardian” Lugo smacks the reader in the face with a major difference of this new species of vampire and continues with more surprises as the story unfolds.

Lugo’s skill in storytelling through prose, that delivers vivid images of the written scene, is second to none. She wastes no time introducing and revealing her characters so that the reader gains instant empathy, sympathy, dislike or outright hatred for each of the actors, protagonist or antagonist. Another facet of Lugo’s writing I appreciate is verisimilitude, a big word for sense of reality, realism. Lugo’s characters bleed, and she pulls no punches showing the reader why. If one of her characters gets shot, you won’t see that character on the next page or chapter doing things in real life that would be impossible for someone with a wound like that. If there’s a sex scene… you’ll read a sex scene rather than an “off-stage” word or two that says, “they had sex.”

I strongly recommend “Angel’s Guardian” to all readers who appreciate a fast-paced, thrilling suspense/horror tale based upon new character concepts, and filled with realistic characters and scenes. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book in this series.

 

Kubrick’s Game

Antonio Mascaro, professor at the UCLA School of Film and Television, receives a package that contains a reproduction of a famous Kubrick photo originally posted on the cover of Look Magazine. On the back of the photo are the words, “Follow me to Q’s identity.” Mascaro calls on Shawn Hagan, an introverted, perhaps borderline autistic, student expert on film director Stanley Kubrick for help in deciphering the message. Shawn, in turn, enlists the aid of two of his friends at UCLA. Intrigued, Wilson Devereux, a former child movie star and Samira “Sami” Singh, a graduate film student, eagerly agree to help Shawn solve the puzzle. So begins a story and treasure hunt that will keep you guessing and turning the pages as fast as possible.

Despite differences in premise, characters, and writing style, a comparison of “Kubrick’s Game” to the Robert Langdon series of puzzling suspense thrillers by Dan Brown are inevitable and appropriate. Still, I entered this book with some trepidation as I’ve little to no knowledge of Kubrick—neither his biography nor his films. Although I’ve seen several Kubrick directed and produced movies, I couldn’t give you any details about them other than title and premise. The good news is that my fears were unsubstantiated due to the author’s writing style. Taylor Kent writes with authority, great wordsmithing, and characterization. He is adept at showing the story so that even a reader with zero knowledge of Stanley Kubrick or his films can follow and enjoy the tale. Verisimilitude is a major piece of novel writing I appreciate above all else. To me, it is the most important facet in enabling readers to suspend disbelief. If realism, regardless of the story genre and content cannot be won… the entire story is lost. Every scene, every act, every character written in “Kubrick’s Game” is founded on a bedrock of verisimilitude and Derek Taylor Kent has joined the small number of authors I call favorites.

Reality Unveiled

In the mid-sixties, I read a book by Doctor Joseph Murphy that talked about the power of the subconscious mind. The information was mind-boggling for a young teenager but the author wove his concepts with religion and prayer to such a degree I missed, and subsequently disregarded, the spiritual message within. Still, as I endured the religious brainwashing of every child growing up in America’s Bible belt at the time, a spark was ignited that eventually led me away from religion. Years later, I discovered the works of Doctor Michael Newton and past lives regression therapy, and a few years after that, a book titled, “The Secret.” These and, by now countless books, articles and personal discussions have solidified my beliefs in the immortality of the spirit and oneness of the universe. Nothing I’d read, however, was equal to the carefully designed and presented concepts of Ziad Masri in his book, “Reality Unveiled.”

From the concept, The Law of One—creator and creation—to the spirit realm and history of our world, Masri presents these difficult to explain ideas, with plenty of scientific examples and background, so that everyone can understand. As well read as I am in these concepts, Masri surprised and enlighten me in several ways. For example, his take on the Law of Attraction (The Secret) is eye-opening, summed up by a Carl Jung quote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Masri explains the tremendous jumps forward in human evolution and development in periods of time less than one percent of what evolution (as we define it) should have taken. He talks about visits from otherworldly spirits (my avoidance of the word “alien” is intentional) that have helped speed up human development here and elsewhere throughout the universe and defines their monuments, created many millennium ago, both here and on other planets and moons visible in our galaxy.

Masri combines these and many more concepts to create a vision of purpose, hope and a connection to infinite knowledge, but most of all he leads us to the foundation that holds all of creation together—love. I highly recommend “Reality Unveiled” to everyone interested in the secrets of life and all that life entails, from birth to death and life beyond death.

Reality Unveiled by Ziad Masri was reviewed as an Advanced Review Copy for Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards; the book had not yet been published.

TALES FROM ALTERNATE EARTHS

tales-from-alternate-earthsWriting a review for a short story anthology takes a little more effort than writing for a book with a single story and author. In most anthologies, there will be stories the reader loves and those s/he hates making it uncomfortable to review. Well, if you’re in this group, what’s not to like about Tales From Alternate Earths? Nothing, nothing at all!

This anthology ranks high among the best edited and exceptionally well-written story collections I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading and reviewing. History and the possibility of alternate realities and parallel universes have always fascinated me. These stories were right up my alley and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I rated each story separately and none of them are less than four stars. Following are (for me) the individual five star stories:

One More Dawn by Terri Pray is a fascinating alternative for the lives of two of history’s most famous—Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.

All my life, I’ve been fascinated with the life and the conspiracies that revolve around the death of John F. Kennedy. I’ve always wondered what might have happened if the Cuban Missile Crises had gone down differently. Now, I know! One World by Cathbad Maponus will knock your socks off!

If you know of, or have actually heard the recording of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” you’ll love The Secret War by Leo McBride, especially the ending!

Time travel, alien invasion, and alternative history roll into one huge story that will rock your world. Tunguska, 1987 by Maria Haskins—what a great ending for this anthology.

Regardless of your interest in history, all these stories are superb examples of the imaginative powers of the human mind combined with extraordinary storytelling talent. I believe there’s something here for everyone and highly recommend Tales From Alternate Earths to everyone of all ages.

Reviewed 26 October 2016 for Books Go Social

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CIRCLE OF TIME

Five stars are not enough for Debra Shiveley Welch’s “Circle of Time.” An accident in the Bermuda Triangle throws Bridget (Bridge) Littleton through time. She awakens in the home of the Lyttleton family, her own ancestors, in the year 1532 near Bristol, England. circle-of-time

Thus begins a fascinating alternative history story of love, mystery, intrigue, life and death in the court of King Henry VIII. Ms Shiveley Welch deftly interweaves a handful of themes, from the ‘butterfly paradox effect’ of time travel to the life and loves of Henry, Anne Boleyn and Bridge to present an addictive read of epic proportions. Not since the “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, have I read such an intoxicating story that grabbed me from page one and kept me reading almost without a break.

Alternative history stories… fiction, invariably require in-depth knowledge of the historical people, places and times illustrated in the story, and Ms. Shiveley Welch is unquestionably an expert on Tudor English history. Time and again, she surprised me with trinkets of information I would otherwise never have known. On two occasions, I went online to query what I thought to be inaccuracies or losses in verisimilitude. On both counts she proved to be correct. I won’t mention them here, I’m certain you’ll see them but you won’t have to chase them down… she’s right on the money.

With the skill of a plastic surgeon, rearranging the face of her patient, in this case historical fact, Ms. Shiveley Welch weaves the fictional Bridget into the historically accurate genealogical trees of the Tudor and Lyttleton families. Her ‘behind the scenes’ narratives and characterizations provide the reader with a unique look at these people, their times and travails, their victories and heart breaking destiny’s. I highly recommend “Circle of Time” for all readers of all ages.

Reviewed 2 October 2016 for Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards

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ECHOES OF ATLANTIS

In “Echoes of Atlantis,” numerous subplots conjoin to support the main theme in a rousing adventure by David S. Brody.  The lost civilization, Atlantis, has been the subject of thousands of books both documentary and fiction, but there are few that capture the essence of the Atlantis legend as well as “Echoes of Atlantis.” echoes-of-atlantis

A historian couple, Cameron and Amanda often place themselves in peril as they chase down events of the past. When Amanda comes into possession of a spiral necklace and Cameron stumbles upon a human skull that dates back as far as twelve- millennium, neither associates one with the other. A series of seemingly separate events by disparate groups however, puts the couple and their adopted daughter, Astarte, squarely in the middle of a dangerous triangle.

A story with such a large cast of characters and several subplots running simultaneously requires great authorship to keep the reader in the story without losing track of any of the subplot lines. Mr. Brody handles this potential problem well and ultimately brings it all together for a satisfying conclusion. The author is equally talented in maintaining a sense of verisimilitude when some of the ‘facts’ used to support the fiction are artistically altered. Among the tenets in “Echoes of Atlantis” that drive the story are the existence of Knights Templar in the North American continent, that descendants of Atlantis control a power that could alter the world… not necessarily for the better, should it fall into the wrong hands, and that there once was an alliance between the Knights Templar and Jews; an alliance that could be rejoined to steal the power from the Atlantis descendants. In summation, “Echoes of Atlantis” is a rousing good mystery/thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend to all Dan Brown and Michael Crichton fans.

Reviewed 27 September 2016 for Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards

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BLOODY GULLETS

“Bloody Gullets,” by Michael Golvach contains a group of stories that run the gamut from psychologically entertaining to philosophically astute to whimsically provoking; all of which will rock your mind. Mr. Golvach is blessed with an ability to write provocative stories, with a sprinkling of blood and gore that clarify several abstruse concepts of the human condition. I loved each and every one of the eighteen stories (one of which has three parts) but my favorites were:bloody-gullets-cover

“Believer” — where a prisoner practices a reverse form of mind control on a guard to get himself released. Included here is the abstraction that “We are hamsters. All of us. Running at breakneck pace on our wheels, trying to outrun ourselves. But the wheel never stops turning until we drop from exhaustion or death. All of us.”

“The trick is to feel like you believe what you say, and then believing what you feel. And, once you’ve figured out how to make yourself believe what you say, as fantastic as it seems, making other people believe what you say is easy.” A crafty bank robbery, an engaging interrogation and a mind-boggling conclusion make “Led Dogs,” one of my favorites.

“Infection Is The Game” is the last story in the book and ranks among my favorites as it describes the potentially horrific results of today’s explorations into mind-control technology. Mr. Golvach’s presentation of the concepts in this story is indicative of his authoring genius and understanding of the realities of the world in which we live.

These are stories I will read again and again. Each of them stands alone in character and concept, some are light, some are heavy, but they all provide insight into the human psyche and truths of human behavior.

Reviewed 17 July 2016 for Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards

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MECHLANICLISM

Four hundred years ago, a clockmaker was forced into slavery by a brutal Austrian nobleman. Frederick Jori becomes a prisoner in the lord’s castle, tasked to provide a “miniature city of automatons to… [amuse his master] and impress the aristocracy.”

mechaniclismEventually, he succumbs to unbelievable torture and provides his tormentor with the desired product, albeit with a gruesome twist. In 21st century San Francisco, Ireland Barton is a brilliant scientist that suffers from a rare immune disorder that keeps her confined to a plastic bubble. In “Mechaniclism,” authoress Lynn Lamb, brings converges these two events into a brilliantly orchestrated dystopian thriller.

Ms. Lamb has created a story as shocking as anything horror writer Richard Laymon ever conceived, and as ominous in setting as Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Throw in some fantasy elements along with several unforgettable characters and you’ve got a certain best-selling novel destined to become an international mega hit in movie theaters.  This story is perfectly orchestrated and delivered. The characters are few, but each is impeccably described and true to life. “Mechaniclism” was a book I could not put down. A caution noted on Amazon’s book page reads, “Mature Audience…” should not be ignored. However, Ms. Lamb is adept at insinuation and allows the reader to imagine their own details. Where Laymon explicitly describes horrific scenes, Ms. Lamb leads you to the scene and lets the reader imagine the details. I loved this book and I’m eager to read more of this author’s work. I think you will be, too.

Reviewed 2 June 2016 for Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards

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STRONGHEART’S WOMAN

Having read, reviewed, and loved “The Edge of the World,” I immediately followed it with“Daniel’s Fork: A Mystery set in the Daniel’s Fork Universe.” The story, the characters, and the talent of author Zeecé Lugo ensured that I would continue to emerge myself in this fabulously inventive series as soon as the next book arrived. stronhearts-woman

That third book, “Strongheart’s Woman” supplements a set of stories that are all part and parcel of a fantasy tale set in a future past. The saga of Daniel’s Fork is described, at least partially, as a dystopian story. The saga is certainly set in a future following an apocalyptic event—in this case a pandemic—but it is far from ‘a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.’ Instead, the future world has gone back to an American future where the great Choctaw and Creek Indian tribes have reestablished timeless traditions, and the ‘white’ man has reverted to a feudal system of government, reminiscent of the Middle Ages in Europe. This future world is anything but dystopian. The story combines fantasy, romance, and suspense genres with a sprinkling of alternative history to thoroughly delight all readers who enjoy any of these genres.

The story is epic in scope and, in the hands of its creator, could easily become the next ‘Game of Thrones ‘or ‘Outlander’ series in print and film. As much as I love the story, I must also add that to write a tale of this scope requires an accomplished and talented author. Ms. Lugo is with a doubt capable of accomplishing this feat and much more. She writes with confidence and skill, weaving a wonderful love story into a fantasy world that contains more verisimilitude than many novels set in the real world. Her characters literally leap from the pages through dialogue, thought and actions. Although the Daniel’s Fork saga is a series, each individual book stands on its own. As in real life, the times and places remain stable, while the characters come and go but are always connected to each other. The author has a firm grasp of historical societies that she blends into this new world with a deft hand. “Strongheart’s Woman” is a tale you’ll not want to miss. After your first glimpse of Daniel’s Fork, whether the prelude story or any of the three novels, I am confident you’ll want more. I do and “A Time For Love” is already on my Kindle.

Reviewed 14 September 2015 for Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards.

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