Book Review: ‘Wham’ (Timewalker) Vol 1

41/2 -Stars for ‘Wham (Timewalker) Vol 1,’ by Carol-Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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Unique, Ingenious and Precarious were the three words resounding in my mind while reading this book written by two skilled and extremely imaginative writers.

Unique, because the authors attempted something few others would – fusing Whamdystopian Science Fiction, a la G Orwell, HG Wells, and Aldous Huxley, with pure fantasy, a la Tolkien, CS Lewis and JK Rowling – complete with magic, Fairies and Trolls.

Ingenious, because they were able to weave the two making it a captivating, imaginative read without making the genre fusion seem peculiar.

And precarious, because the story, at times, skirted the line where the adult references may, by some, though carefully handled, be considered too adult for the younger fantasy readers.

 

Wham, in my opinion, tells three important stories.

The story of a civilisation that, not through war or plague or climatological catastrophe, but through some sort of societal decline, has fallen into an autocratic state of tyranny with constant state surveillance and control, and few, if any, human rights. The story of a driven young girl to win the freedom of her family, regardless of the obstacles, odds and obvious risks, and a story of the human spirit that drives people to adapt to even the harshest of conditions.

Parents are taken away during the night and their children are forced to accept it and move on with their lives.

Young girls who are ‘chosen’ are taken to the elusive and corrupt oligarchic capitol and forced into a degrading lifestyle as slaves to the aristocracy.

This is the part of the book that seemed intentionally dark and reeked of a statement or warning of a potential for our own world.  

 

When it happens to Tess, her family is abducted [relocated] in chapter one, the story’s main character, we have the brightness of that human spirit I spoke of.

Tess is driven, determined and committed to winning her family’s freedom and will learn something valuable about her father and herself as she seeks to find her family and the hidden capitol where her sister Nia is held captive.

I took four pages of notes while reading this book, but literally chucked them when crafting this review as there is plainly too much going on in this compelling tale to condense and summarise in a brief review.

I’ll simply say, that the imagination and research [Please DO read the appendix] that went into this book was astounding. The dystopian world is aptly described and the fantasy is rich, creative, much of it steeped in Gaelic folklore, and colourful.

I have but one criticism—a very slight one indeed, which kept me from giving this a 5-Star review. I love books that make statements and present warnings. Meaningful books which can be read on multiple levels. Wham, I believe, is that type of book. But, in this tale by Carol and Tom Phipps, I feel there may have been too many leaving little room to expound or extend upon the statements or warnings being made.

[Warning – Spoilers ahead]

The air is nearly unbreathable and everyone must use inhalers. But, why? How did this come about? Agricultural spraying is mentioned, but just briefly.

The Aristocracy, the oligarchic elite, along with the tyrannical ruler, have moved to a hidden Capitol. But when and how did this evolve? Did the people resist? Rebel?

It would have been nice to have a little background on these developments as well as the knowledge of how the world fell under the rule of this despotic supreme ruler buttressed by the world police force creatively labelled Children and Family Assistance.

[Final Thoughts]

Wham, by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps, is a fine, absorbing read. The story is coherent, the pace is fast without being frenetic and the characters are well-developed making this a true page-turner.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, recommend it highly and am anxiously looking forward to the next book in this series.

 

Review by T, E. Mark – Author

06-Jan-2018

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Book Review: ‘The Country Girl Empress’

5-Stars for ‘The Country Girl Empress,’ by A. Piper Burgi

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[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

Warm, endearing, turbulent, sensitive and captivating are a mere handful of adjectives I would use if I were to describe, briefly, A. Piper Burgi’s new novel: The Country Girl Empress. Add to those, genuine, exhaustively researched and historically accurate and you’d have my general assessment of this heartening tale that kept myCountry Girl Empress interest from the opening chapter to the final page.

The story, I admit, took me by surprise, as I ventured in expecting a romance loosely knitted around the accession to the Habsburg throne of Austria-Hungry by Franz Joseph and his eventual selection of a bride, the new Empress of Austria; Elisabeth Wittelsbach of Bavaria.

What I found, instead, was a neatly woven story of a simple girl from Bavaria who loved her eccentric father, riding horses, and just happened to be a princess during the time when the children of ruling families were useful for securing alliances and maintaining dynastic rule through planned marriages.

Elisabeth, Sisi, is a plain girl, a tomboy, with no regal aspirations. On the contrary, she, like her father, craves a simple, normal life of riding and travelling and enjoying the country and people.

The focus of the family is on Helene, her older sister, who is delicate and pretty and possesses the charm and grace demanded of the ruling aristocracy of mid-19th century Europe.

But, whether in fairy tales or real life, things seldom go according to plan, and Franz Joseph, the new Emperor, falls, not for the cultured Helene, but for her sister, the shy, suddenly vibrant young country girl princess.

A. Piper Burgi has done what all authors aspire to with this new book. She told a fine story and breathed life into her characters.

Duke Max, Sisi’s father, is real, pleasingly eccentric, a bit nutty, and someone you’d enjoy seeing at the pub or having over for pizza, beer and a ballgame. Ludovika, the young Princess’s mother, is loving, devoted, and, of course, clever and delightfully manipulative.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a story without a good antagonist. And the author gives us a good one in the Emperor’s mother, Archduchess Sophie. Elisabeth’s future mother-in-law.

But, enough spoilers.

This is a delightful book for anyone. Young or old, male or female, The Country Girl Empress is a satisfying read guaranteed to warm your heart while granting you a glimpse into the past and the aristocratic environment: Intrigue, wars, love and manipulation, of the royal European families of the 19th century.

 Review by T. E. Mark – Author

26/12/2017

Book Review ‘Welcome to the Apocalypse: Book 2 – Cybernexis’

FIVE STARS for ‘WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE: Book Two – CYBERNEXIS,’ by D.L. Richardson

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‘Is this still the game or is it real?’

This question arises again and again for the participants and the reader in this rivetingWelcome_To_The_Apocalypse_Cover_Bk2 sequel as Kelly Lawrence, Jack Minnow, Ash Brogen, Sasha Vaness, Reis Anderson and others are back, trying to stay alive while weaving their way through Pandora’s (The mainframe computer) many apocalyptic virtual reality games.

But, are they just games? And, can someone actually die in here?

The questions compound as the computer simulated worlds seem endless with each more fraught with danger than the last.

DL Richardson scores again with this fast-paced follow-up to her super first installment: ‘Welcome to the Apocalypse: Book 1—Pandora,’ serving up an imaginative, craftily organised story with 100 people participating in a full-immersion, VR computer game designed to grant the players an experience as close to real as the real thing. Or, is it real? And more importantly, if it is just a game, is there a way out?

Another thing worth mentioning. In book two, the author looks deeper into her characters and describes them and their motivations with much greater clarity making her second book not only exciting, but also awarding her readers a nice attachment to her main characters. In my view—the quality of a mature writer.

Ms Richardson also keeps you guessing and questioning your assumptions as you move along which makes this a fun read and a definite page-turner. (I literally stayed up two nights until dawn craving the finish line.)

I give this an easy 5-star review as it kept me guessing and questioning my conclusions throughout.

No spoilers in this review: Grab a copy! You will NOT be disappointed!

One final comment: As a writer, I am drawn to powerful writing. DL Richardson is a powerful writer. This line, from the last chapter of the book, is just one of the many strong passages you’ll find in this book. Lines like these make reading fun!

There is a philosophical dilemma which NASA appears to have overlooked. Are your friends alive or dead? At what point does existence or non-existence occur?”   Love it, DL. Can’t wait for Book Three!

TE Mark – Author

Book Review ‘The Two Story House’

FIVE STARS for ‘The Two Story House,’ by Gloria Ilene Madrigal

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‘The Two Story House,’ by Gloria Ilene Madrigal, is a sweet tale told in two individualCover - 2 Story House short stories.

But they’re more than that.

These are two free verse poems, unique, genuine and brimming with sentimentality.

The writing style is richly poetic and reminds me, in ways, of some of my favourite Romantic Era writers: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others.

The first story is told by a ninety-five-year-old woman who wishes to share with her great-granddaughter her childhood memories of growing up in this once majestic, now crumbling, old home that she describes as, ‘Like me, showing the ravages of time.’

In story two, Ms Madrigal craftily tells the story from the house’s perspective. How it ‘Remembered the first day it met its new family,’ and ‘how it slipped into its new white coat feeling quite handsome.’

Again, one comes away feeling touched equally by the story the author is telling as by the author’s obvious depth of emotion.

It’s a seasoned writer, and a true romantic, who can take the simplest of subjects and weave it into something beautiful and touching and compelling. The Two Story House is all three.

Hardly a criticism, but I would like to have read these two works as part of a larger collection. They’re truly wonderful pieces which, in my opinion, deserve to be squeezed into a full volume of similar stories.

TE Mark:  Author – Language Teacher

Book Review ‘Welcome to the Apocalypse’

5-STARS for ‘Welcome to the Apocalypse – Pandora’ (Book 1) by D L Richardson

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Science fiction on Virtual Hyperdrive.

Welcome to the Apocalypse is a fast-paced, sci-fi/fantasy adventure that pulls you in from the opening and refuses to let you out until the very last chapter with the author craftily leaving Welcome_To_The_Apocalypse_Coveryou only partially satisfied and craving more.

One hundred players enter a total immersion virtual reality game designed to award each player a realistic glimpse of not just one apocalyptic future, but many. From Vampires to Zombies, and from Bio-toxins to an Alien Invasion, DL Richardson has taken the apocalyptic sci-fi sub-genre to another level. A high-octane, energy charged one with some really neat twists.

The action is constant, the creativity laudable and the characters are thoroughly believable making this a very enjoyable read.

My only criticism, one that was washed away after a second reading, was based on a personal interest. As a writer and avid reader of Sci-Fi, I am always looking for buried meanings, philosophical statements, subtle metaphors, and thoughtful warnings. Especially in this genre of fiction.

I didn’t find one the first time through but did on my second. To avoid dropping an additional spoiler in my review, I’ll just include what I feel to be a very significant, well-written, extract.

“I thought the premise of the game was ‘kill or be killed’,” he said. “But it’s not. You can’t pick and choose which rules you obey and which ones you ignore. When it all goes to hell, the thing that gets you through the chaos is order.”

‘Welcome to the Apocalypse’ is an imaginative wild ride and I will definitely be looking forward to the next installment in this series.

T. E. Mark

 

Book Review ‘Dark Day Dreams’

FIVE STARS for ‘Dark Day Dreams,’ a selection of clever stories.

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James Hawthorne is an imaginative storyteller. He compels you to like his characters no matter who or what they are and excuse them for their flaws, failings, indecencies, or in some cases, atrocious actions.

A werewolf turned stand-up comic after moving to Los Angeles. Beings that reside in the worldark-day-dreamsd of dreams – some against you, and some there to protect you. A man who decides to become an ‘uploader’ transferring his consciousness into a synthetic being. These are just a few of the very real and likable characters in this set of 13 short stories the author has compiled under the title ‘Dark Day Dreams.’

Mr Hawthorne, in this compilation of shorts, tells his characters in a way that makes them jump off the page and take the seat next to you as you read.

His storytelling ability is thoroughly creditable, and he craftily packs into his clever tales either a thoughtful political statement or an alternate view of something you may have read before, each with just the right amount of rich sentimentality.

There is something else worth noting. The author, in almost every story, leaves you with the very profound question ‘what if?’

In my view, this one element distinguishes a good storyteller from a competent, even imaginative writer.

James Hawthorne is a good storyteller.

I liked this compilation of shorts and have but one criticism. I wish they had been longer.

T. E. Mark – Author

Book Review ‘Bot War’

4 1/2 STARS for ‘Bot War,’ by Ian J Miller

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‘The years of corruption had removed the moral will to do the right thing from so many,’ writes the author in the closing chapter of this riveting, action-packed adventure by Ianbot-war_cover_pic Miller. And in my opinion, this powerful line fully encapsulates the author’s view and warning.

‘Bot War’ is a dense story which fits, in my opinion, just marginally within the framework of Science Fiction, with the principal theme being greed, high-level corruption, and the fragility of our economic system.

Mr Grey, a very powerful investment banker, is in league with a dangerous faction of Middle Eastern terrorists. Where Grey’s motivation is simple stock manipulation for financial gain, by any means, including murder, his partners have a more complex and destructive agenda.

‘Bot War’ is, I believe, a declarative statement by Mr Miller of how a country could conceivably be brought to its knees through the internal moral breakdown by the powerful rather than by invasion, (Though a robot invasion is part of the scheme) bio-terror, or runaway technology.

The intrigue and corruption are almost too real in this well-written book, and the action, from about the mid-point on, is almost frenetic.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely and have but one criticism. I drew no images of or felt any real attachment to the main characters while reading. Though I believe this to have been the intent of the author, one I’ve also found in classic works of literature, usually to make an additional point, it’s not my favourite approach to character development. Beyond that one criticism, I give this a solid 4 ½ star review and a strong recommendation.

Note: Mr Miller is very detailed in his writing, specifically about the inner workings of the Stock Market. For this reason, and this reason alone, I would suggest that ‘Bot War’ may not be suitable for very young readers. For others, who enjoy a fast-paced, high-intensity drama, this is a great piece with many clever and imaginative scenes.

T.E. Mark – Author – Language Teacher

Book Review ‘The Elemental’

FIVE STARS for ‘The Elemental,’ by Joseph Lombardo

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This is a nicely-written, fast-paced tale of interdimensional beings coming into contact with humans in an effort to retrieve a damaged ship. It’s thought-provoking and entertaining in equal measures, with the pace nearly feverish near the end.
With the Elemental, the author, Joe Lombardo, accomplished two things I foundthe-elemental extremely noteworthy.
He painted a captivating story, (the broad strokes) and infused it with sensitivity and some rather creative character development. (the finer strokes)

The Saq Muyale, (The interdimensional beings) are imaginatively depicted, and there are several nicely written, philosophical exchanges between the Saq master, Kin’ich, and Navarre, (the human main character) who essentially exists between worlds, but for undisclosed reasons resides within the world of the Saq. (There’s a shrewd mystery here about Navarre and his parents, and how Navarre found his way into the ‘employ’ of the Saq Muyalle, with the author offering mere morsels of the explanation along the way. Frustrating, but also compelling.)

Kin’ich, with his elegant, stoic, somewhat terse, but deeply philosophical nature was by far my favourite character. His lines were skilfully crafted and delivered a fascinating view of the Saq race.

This was an enjoyable read, which, by the time I reached the end, had completely extinguished my earlier theories of where the plot was going.

If you have even the slightest taste for the Alien Encounter genre of Science Fiction, I can guarantee you’ll like The Elemental.

T.E. Mark – Author – Language Teacher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review ‘In the Shadow of her Majesty’

5-STARS for ‘In the Shadow of her Majesty,’ by A.Piper Burgi

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A True Masterwork

Some authors tell intriguing stories. Some tell compelling stories.

A.Piper Burgi, with her novel ‘In the Shadow of her Majesty,’ has done both, and more.in-the-shadow-of-her-majesty

With her inimitable style of writing narration, she has not only knitted an intriguing tale of a death and possible murder, ostensibly for lust, greed and gain during the time of Queen Elizabeth 1st, she has compelled the reader directly into her story.

Robert Dudley’s wife Amy is dead, and there is every reason to believe Robert, a favourite of the Queen, no longer in love with his wife, was the murderer. But was he?

Though this may sound like a ‘Who-done-it,’ mystery, and there are elements of A. Conan Doyle in the plot, there is much, much more.

This is a story about human divisiveness, lust and avarice, friendship and loyalty, and even love and frailty.

A.Piper Burgi has crafted a true masterwork with ‘In the Shadow of her Majesty.’ One that keeps you spinning out your theories and questioning and dispensing with them until the very last chapter.

A fine work, Ms Burgi. Your narration ranks up there with anything I’ve read from a contemporary author.

T. E. Mark – Author – Language Teacher