Book Review: ‘Circuits of the Wind,’ by Michael Stutz

5-stars for ‘Circuits of the Wind’ by Michael Stutz

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‘Brilliant’

Couple a well-told story with rich poetic writing and the result is the ultimate in literary indulgence.

A quote from Ch 9:

‘For that is time: a low, long whisper in the wind. Reaching out like the flailing arms of long-dead spectres comes this call of time, and here the heavy doleful rain will weep and fall, and there begins the washings of another year.’

Brilliant

Circuits of the Wind, by Michael Stutz, has everything I look for in a story, and more.

Circuits of the WindProfound and poetic writing: Memorable lines brighten the pages in this lush, meaningful novel revealing an author with almost unrivalled ability.

A rich narrative: The author’s storytelling is artistic and sophisticated. At times you can almost hear him reading this work to you making it dynamic, aesthetic and effortless.

Realistic dialogue: Sparkling! I would be surprised to find that this author has not, at some point in his career, written for TV or the cinema where one truly develops the craft of writing realistic dialogue.

Solid story structure: The progression is logical and smart. Never does Mr Stutz lose focus or sight of the finish line. I have no doubt he outlined each chapter and worked from a scene sequence. Mandatory for screenwriters, these invaluable tools are often neglected by novelists.

I’ve read books or film scripts with exceptional storylines, and I’ve read books or scripts where the story was rendered less important simply by the literary prowess of the author. Seldom have I found both in the same book as I did with this gem.

Circuits of the Wind is one of those rare works that would be a compelling read based solely on the story but was made exceptionally compelling by an author with unparalleled literary talents.

Here are a few more of the memorable lines which caught my attention. The book is literally filled with outstanding quotes:

‘Somewhere, adults were working hard to make the whole world magic.’

                                                                                                                              Simple but brilliant.

‘He believed in this distant world, longed to be a part of it, and came to love the big electric box that provided him the windowed view.’

                                               Outstanding. This is nearly Ray Bradbury or E. E. Cummings.

‘He knew that there was somewhere to go with them, somewhere far beyond us here — that there was something real and living to be had among the brilliant magic. He had to find it.’

                                                                                                                                                Masterful.

What I liked Most:

The Writing

I love poetry and poetic prose. I knew from page one I was going to enjoy this book. It reminded of the first time, as a young boy, I cracked open The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury and said – this is how I’ll write one day.

It’s hard to imagine my saying this, but I enjoyed reading Circuits of the Wind as much, if not more than many of my favourite writers. Including Bradbury, Cummings and Marquez.

The Story

This is a nicely organized story of a boy, Raymond Valentine, growing up during the evolution of computers, and more specifically, the internet.

The story follows Raymond’s personal growth which is inextricably intertwined with the development of the internet and online chat rooms and electronic communications with strangers from abroad – something we take for granted now but didn’t three decades ago. The historical review is enlightening for those of us who’ve grown up with computers and the net, and, I would imagine, refreshing for those whose life may have mirrored Mr Stutz’s enthusiastic main character.

Raymond relishes in the purchase of his first computer. Reaches Nirvana with the acquisition of his first modem and achieves a heightened awareness when he chooses his first online alias and begins his career as a hacker.

Criticisms

I have none. I enjoyed this book from the opening page to the very end.

Recommendation

This is an extremely well-written book. If you like a meaningful story and enjoy powerful, poetic writing, pick up a copy. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

I give Circuits of the Wind by Michael Stutz a 5-star rating and my highest recommendation.

 

Review by T. E. Mark – Writer / Screenwriter

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Book Review: ‘A Life in the Shadow of the Crown,’ by A. Piper Burgi

5-stars for “A Life in the Shadow of the Crown” by A. Piper Burgi

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‘Delightful’

Historical Fictions are inherently difficult for a writer. Their love of history, and innate desire to share their knowledge, to teach, often causes them to lose sight of their A Life in the Shadow of the Crownmission: Capture their readers on an emotional level by connecting them with their characters, while placing the fictionalised story into a historical context.

In addition, the writer must contemporise the story where needed for today’s reader, keep it moving, and avoid the potential trap of having her story read too much like a history text.

Piper Burgi has succeeded with all the above in her newest book ‘A Life in the Shadow of the Crown,’ delivering a warm story that is as heartening as it is meaningful and as fanciful as it is historically accurate.

As one reads this delightful retelling of the plight of the young Empress Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ of Austria-Hungary, struggling to acclimate herself under the constant supervision of the meddling Arch-Duchess Sofie, her mother-in-law, one cannot help but feel compassion for the Empress – often hostility for the dominance that manifests in the reader’s mind as abusive and cruel.

Life for the young Bavarian tomboy princess in the 19th-century Austrian court is never easy. Every public statement is scrutinised or derided; and what she wears, who she associates with, where and when she travels is often scorned for their perceived political statement.

It’s a life that is certainly believable, and with wonderful clarity, Ms Burgi weaves her tale so that one never truly knows how much of the story is fictionalised. This, in itself, is crafty historical fiction writing.

Other things I found praiseworthy:

Without slowing the pace, a definite potential, the author spends adequate time developing her supporting characters making you care for or dislike them.

The side stories are never haphazardly tossed in, reading like filler or distracting journeys away from the main plot, and the changing settings, which could be confusing, aren’t. They drive the story and quicken the pace of the read making this more consumable for today’s reader.

What I liked most:

The character-driven story

A good story – a good compelling story needs a likable and relatable, or at least admirable, hero or heroine. And that hero or heroine needs to be on a journey. And they need a goal. And they need to have and overcome formidable obstacles.

The new Empress is the consummate heroine on a clearly defined journey facing a wide assortment of obstacles. One feels for her – feels defensive for her while hoping to see her win by finding her place and the inner strength to assert herself amongst the aristocratic elite.

The balancing act: Fiction / History

I share with the author her love of history and appreciate when I can honestly state a book nurtured me as much as it entertained me.

A well-written historical fiction is a precious gem in disguise. One reads a smart tale, gets swept into the characters’ lives and journeys, and without working at it, comes away enriched. Filled with a portion of our history he/she may never have researched or found.

Criticisms:

I have none. This book was a pleasure from the opening timeline, (A smart device) to the very end.

Summary and Recommendation:

‘A Life in the Shadow of the Crown’ easily satisfies my criteria of a 5-star read. It’s smart, well-written, sentimental without being gushy or maudlin, flexible (Readers 8-88 would find this enjoyable) rich and historically accurate. The writer uses her literary devices well and craftily commands you to care about her hero’s journey.

I give A. Piper Burgi’s ‘A Life in the Shadow of the Crown’ 5-Stars and my highest recommendation.

 

Review by TE Mark – Writer / Screenwriter

 

NOTE: This book is presently in pre-release. Follow this link to the author’s website for updates. http://www.authorapiperburgi.com/

 

Book Review: ‘Kiss Me When I’m Dead,’ by Dominic Piper

5-Stars for ‘Kiss Me When I’m Dead,’ By Dominic Piper

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‘Slick and Compelling’

Kiss Me When I’m Dead, by Dominic Piper, may well be the smartest crime tale I’ve read to date. It’s not only compelling, it’s craftily compelling as the author used his Kiss Me When I'm Deadliterary skills and story-telling abilities with masterful precision.

Chapters are planned out, obviously outlined, and delivered like a film script with the obstacles and intentions clearly recognisable. This is the sign of a veteran writer. Also, I’d say, someone who may have written in the film or TV industry. The chapters begin on the beat and often end with a slick teaser enticing, almost commanding you to read on.

The dialogue is real, smooth, and the narration (PI Daniel Becket’s first-person accounting) is strong and clever.

As a writer and screenwriter, I found so much right with this book it’s difficult for me to elaborate on the neat devices Mr Piper used with such fluency without sounding like a lecturer in a class on Literary Criticism.

If you follow my reviews, you’ll notice I’ve chosen, with this book, to abandon my typical format. I’ve done so as to avoid surrendering spoilers. With a mystery / crime investigation story such as this, with numerous creative twists, I felt I’d be doing the reader and author a potential disservice.

I will say, however, that Daniel Becket’s investigation into the disappearance of a wealthy weapons dealer’s daughter, will take him deep into a very diabolical world where he, and you the reader, will draw conclusions of what’s coming next, feel certain you’re right, then dispense with them when something unexpected evolves.

This, in itself, makes Kiss Me When I’m Dead an outstanding read.

What I liked most:

Story

One can usually tell when a story has been outlined. The scenes are often more precise. They have conflict, and as I described above, clearly identifiable intentions and obstacles.

Mr Piper shows his literary prowess by offering scenes that are miniature stories. Yet another sign of a skilled, veteran writer.

Characters

Mr Piper’s characters are believable, adequately described, and don’t all sound the same. But above all, and more importantly, they’re interesting.

Becket, though the least described physically, comes to life through his first-person narration. He’s talented, confident, slick, great with women (They seem to hit on him wherever he turns) driven and competent.

He’s the consummate hero we guys all want to be. Ethical, moral, resourceful, driven to succeed and smooth with attractive women drawn to him as if by gravity or magnetism.

The sexual theme

Mr Piper obviously wanted this to be a sexy crime investigation story and wrote it quite well. The sexual theme is strong, sensual at times, not overly explicit for this genre, and never overwhelms the main theme. Someone evil may have done something bad to a young girl who, for various reasons, has found herself in a dangerous, often degrading lifestyle.

Criticisms:

I have none. This story held my attention as much as any book I’ve read this year. Actually more!

Summary and Recommendation:

Kiss Me When I’m Dead is a clever mystery, crime investigation story with a carefully handled, well-executed sexual theme. The world in which PI Daniel Becket must delve is prostitution, and, as in real life, one can expect that some of the players are nice and some are not.

Without hesitation, I give Kiss Me When I’m Dead 5-stars and my highest recommendation.

 Review by TE Mark – Writer / Screenwriter

Book Review: ‘Amy Goes Pop,’ by Poppy Goodhead

4-stars for ‘Amy Goes Pop’ by Poppy Goodhead

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‘Stylistic and Playful’

I have no reservation saying, that with all the reading I’ve done before and since college, the two genres I’ve neglected most are horror and erotica. Not for any specific reason, The Complete Adventures of Amymind you. I state, without hesitation, that I am one person on this nutty rock swimming about in space not burdened with any congenital or developmental morality issues. Thank God! There’s just a lot to read in the genres I enjoy and write most. Those being Science Fiction, Adventure, Romantic Comedies, Satire, Historical Fiction and Classics.

In an effort to expand my horizons, something I excel at and do often – simply because I excel at it, I decided to pick out a piece by an erotica writer I found at Twitter (I believe in supporting my fellow writers, BTW – As we all do, right?) and explore this genre and share my review.

So, what did I find with Poppy Goodhead’s AMY GOES POP?

What intrigued me most about this story was that it actually had one. And it was well-devised and well-written too. It also has a subtle wit and youthful playfulness about it I found distinctly enjoyable.

Amy Goes Pop is a fun, often mischievous, piece that along with the vivid sex scenes, has a well-developed sense of humour craftily planted just beneath the surface. Ms Goodhead, I believe, wanted her readers to enjoy themselves while skimming along with Amy and not take her sexual escapades too seriously.

The writer created believable characters, placed them into convincing settings, and allowed her characters to drive the plot forward. This is a standard screenwriting technique, and if I’m correct, Ms Goodhead, if not actively writing for film, has studied the screenwriting craft.

The Story

Amy Summers, the main character, is a between jobs cellist trying to find her way in the Amy Goes Popworld who has also discovered her sexuality. And has consciously chosen to explore it unabashedly.

She’s high-spirited, sharp, introspective, young and impulsive. She rarely questions her sexual desires, and when she does, it’s seldom whether she should or shouldn’t engage with others, it’s whether her overt interests in the engagements will be accepted.

Very noticeable is Ms Goodhead’s crisp, witty writing style. This is revealed early and carried on throughout. She’s clever with her literary devices, understands the need to add conflict in her scenes, and is equally competent with the broad and the more detailed strokes.

What I liked most:

The breezy, playful style.

As I stated above, I believe the author wanted her book to be a fun and slightly frivolous read with a smart sense of humour. i.e. Don’t take Amy too seriously. She’s a high-spirited girl enjoying her sexuality and wanting you the reader to enjoy it along with her.

Criticisms:

One that kept me from giving this a 5-Star rating.

Though the main character, Amy, is well developed, others, in my opinion, were not. A little more work on the secondary and ancillary characters would have added additional depth to this work and awarded the author the chance to develop additional conflict. And, as we all know, conflict = story.

Recommendation:

This is certainly not a book or genre for everyone. It’s well-written, Ms Goodhead is a talented writer who would produce fine lit in any genre she chose, but the sex scenes are explicit, and there will obviously be those who would find this material offensive.

For those of you without those ‘Inherent Morality Issues’ I spoke of, this is an enjoyable read. I give Amy Goes Pop 4-Stars and a High Recommendation.

Review by T. E. Mark – Writer / Screenwriter

Book Review: ‘The Short Stories of Loretta Leslie’

5-stars for ‘The Short Stories of Loretta Leslie’

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1 Called to Account

Loretta Leslie’s opening short story, Called to Account, is an amusing play on the evolution debate. It’s gently sarcastic, intentionally ambiguous, and craftily conceals the author’s personal stand. There’s no heavy religious rant here. Just a writer addressing a serious issue with a great sense of humour. Love it.

Loretta LeslieWhen Charles, we find a bit after the opening it’s Charles Darwin, is called upon in the afterlife to account for his Earthly activities, he will face difficult questions. And he’ll perform admirably even while addressing the omnipotent, omniscient I AM That I AM. (The Almighty – maybe)

The dialogue is clever, the wit laudable and the touch on such a delicate issue is crafty and almost mischievous.

What I liked most, was the way the author described the Eternal being, I AM. Witty, casual and with a precocious sense of humour. About mankind, and himself. (Why-oh-why must organised religion present God as dark, intransigent, mysterious and gloomy?)

I also liked the nifty twist at the end which gives just a hint of the author’s true stance on the creation vs evolution, religion vs science, oh-so-tiresome-and-weary argument.

Read the very end of this one 2x.

2 Super Heroes Bad Day

The Supers are back. This time arguing over chocolate, (But not really) human reluctance to tackle and solve global warming (Really) and ultimately being called upon, yet again, to save the world.

I just love the satirical nature of this piece and applaud Ms Leslie for using “supers” to present her argument that humans have such a thin grasp on reality, and such tragically misguided priorities it’d be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic.

3 And So Ended the Day of Men

A crafty little reproach of man’s short-sightedness and egotism. Also his unwarranted, convenient and often creative idealism.

In this clever short, the author takes an environmentalist poke in a nifty dialogue between strip miners over a book of Prophecies.

The slight is rational, thinly veiled and flippant. Also humorous. If we are to assume prophecies are inescapable, as Ms Leslie’s thesis goes, then what’s the point in the debate? Or, what’s point in even considering the debate. It’s a done deal. There is no debate. Board the bloody transports once we’ve trashed this planet and hope like hell we find another one we can trash.

This piece resonated with me as it underlines how ludicrous and moronic we are when we use shallow, convoluted arguments to submit ourselves to a rationalised doctrine or political platform i.e. “Our position is well supported, rational and justified, we just need a little time to slice, dice, mince and mash a few details that will provide the adequate support, rationale and justification for what it is we’re already doing – probably, ideally and most assuredly for profit and gain.”

 

Summary and Recommendation:

It’d be difficult, I believe, to name someone who enjoys clever satire more than I do. These three pieces are gems. Five stars and my highest recommendation.

 

Review by T.E. Mark – Author

You can find Loretta Leslie’s trio of short stories at: https://www.lorlesediting.com.au/

 

 

Book Review: ‘Welcome to the Apocalypse – Book Three – Primal Scream,’ by DL Richardson

5-stars for “Welcome to the Apocalypse – Book Three – Primal Scream” by DL Richardson

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‘Powerful’

“Somehow he’d found beauty in the darkness the way the Nexis had.”

This clever, meaningful passage is just one of the many that, in my mind, make the third, concluding book in the Welcome to the Apocalypse trilogy by D L Richardson stand out Apocalypse_3from the plethora of books in this genre.

Coupling the powerful writing with her almost unrivalled ability to place vivid images of her post-apocalyptic landscape in the minds of her readers, Ms Richardson, in her closing episode, has conquered two obstacles inherent in this sub-genre of Science Fiction.

She grasps the reader on an emotional level, an absolute must in all storytelling, and facilitates your seeing this ravaged, nightmarish world through the eyes of her characters.

But the world Ms Richardson creates here isn’t entirely bleak. This is a mistake I’ve noted novice writers make regularly and veteran writers do as well. A 300-page novel or two-hour film of constant gloom is hard on readers or an audience. The journey becomes a despondent slide rather than a roller coaster with occasional bright moments.

Ms Richardson cleverly relieves tension and lightens the mood through story granting the reader an optimistic view of a possible positive outcome. A survival. A new reality, certainly, but one that seems almost acceptable.

I’ll include no spoilers with this review as the writer wove a neatly organised story which included numerous twists making the read that much more compelling.

I will, however, include three additional passages I found meaningful to the story that also sparkle with imagination. As a writer and omnivorous reader, I am a huge fan of strong, often poetic, writing. DL Richardson offers up a generous assortment of well-written, profound lines that made reading this book enjoyable.

 

“Staring across the open land, Reis viewed the bleak grey skies that joined the land below like a blanket to choke them with longing.”  

“Sasha was aware of her existence but not of her death.”

“History had countless blueprints of failure, inked with the blood of overconfident men.”

Well-done, Ms Richardson.

What I liked most:

Story:

I’ve now read and reviewed this entire series. In it, DL Richardson did something I consider praiseworthy and rare. She did not recycle ideas. This book, specifically, presents a full menu of fresh settings,  scenarios, action sequences and twists.

I have a library full of books, sequels, I attempted reading but abandoned once I realised the writer was recycling and repackaging ideas they’d delivered in the previous book or books.

Story ensemble:

This is an ensemble piece with three, often four different, intertwined scenarios happening simultaneously. I like this type of story design and applaud authors who can pull it off without confusing the reader.

I had no difficulty following the varying paths laid out by the author.

Writing:

As stated above, I’m a huge fan of powerful writing. Strong lines, like the examples I’ve included, make reading, for me, fun. Ms Richardson is a powerful writer – obviously someone well-read. Her well-crafted, meaningful lines are abundant and never seem cumbersome or contrived.

                                                                                                                                                         

Criticisms:

Only one, and nothing that would lessen my 5-Star rating or high recommendation.

Ms Richardson included many characters in this piece. This can challenge the reader. I did, at times, find myself reading back to reacquaint myself with a specific character and their significance to the story.

Faster readers and readers who aren’t typically reading two to three books simultaneously would probably not experience this difficulty.

Summary and Recommendation:

Welcome to the Apocalypse – Primal Scream (Book 3) is a fast-moving Science Fiction adventure with imagination, heart, slick dialogue, a nice dose of sentimentality and above all, clever writing.

I give the closing instalment of DL Richardson’s Welcome to the Apocalypse series 5-Stars and my highest recommendation.

Review by TE Mark – Author.

Book Review: ‘Kiss Me When I’m Dead,’ by Dominic Piper

5-Stars for ‘Kiss Me When I’m Dead,’ By Dominic Piper

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‘Slick and Captivating’

Kiss Me When I’m Dead, by Dominic Piper, may well be the smartest crime tale I’ve read to date. It’s not only compelling, it’s craftily compelling as the author used his literary Kiss Me When I'm Deadskills and story-telling abilities with masterful precision.

Chapters are planned out, obviously outlined, and delivered like a film script with the obstacles and intentions clearly recognisable. This is the sign of a veteran writer. Also, I’d say, someone who may have written in the film or TV industry. The chapters begin on the beat and often end with a slick teaser enticing, almost commanding you to read on.

The dialogue is real, smooth, and the narration (PI Daniel Becket’s first-person accounting) is strong and clever.

As a novelist and screenwriter, I found so much right with this book it’s difficult for me to elaborate on the neat devices Mr Piper used with such fluency without sounding like a lecturer in a class on Literary Criticism.

If you follow my reviews, you’ll notice I’ve chosen, with this book, to abandon my typical format. I’ve done so as to avoid surrendering spoilers. With a mystery / crime investigation story such as this, with numerous creative twists, I felt I’d be doing the reader and author a potential disservice.

I will say, however, that Daniel Becket’s investigation into the disappearance of a wealthy weapons dealer’s daughter, will take him deep into a very diabolical world where he, and you the reader, will draw conclusions of what’s coming next, feel certain you’re right, then dispense with them when something unexpected evolves.

This, in itself, makes Kiss Me When I’m Dead an outstanding read.

What I liked most:

Story

One can usually tell when a story has been outlined. The scenes are often more precise. They have conflict, and as I described above, clearly identifiable intentions and obstacles.

Mr Piper shows his literary prowess by offering scenes that are miniature stories. This is the quality of a crafty, veteran writer.

Characters

Mr Piper’s characters are believable, adequately described, and don’t all sound the same. But above all, and more importantly, they’re interesting.

Becket, though the least described physically, comes to life through his first-person narration. He’s talented, confident, slick, great with women (They seem to hit on him wherever he turns) driven and competent.

He’s the consummate hero we guys all want to be. Ethical, moral, resourceful, driven to succeed and smooth with attractive women drawn to him as if by gravity or magnetism.

The sexual theme

Mr Piper obviously wanted this to be a sexy crime investigation story and wrote it quite well. The sexual theme is strong, sensual at times, not overly explicit for this genre, and never overwhelms the main theme. Someone evil may have done something bad to a young girl who, for various reasons, has found herself in a dangerous, often degrading lifestyle.

Criticisms:

I have none. This story held my attention as much as any book I’ve read this year. Actually more!

Summary and Recommendation:

Kiss Me When I’m Dead is a clever mystery, crime investigation story with a carefully handled, well-executed sexual theme. The world in which PI Daniel Becket must delve is prostitution, and, as in real life, one can expect that some of the players are nice, and some are not.

Without hesitation, I give Kiss Me When I’m Dead 5-stars and my highest recommendation.

 

Review by TE Mark – Author.

Book Review: ‘The Elf Killers,’ by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

5-Stars for ‘The Elf Killers,’ by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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‘Boundless Imagination’

The Elf Killers, by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps, is a finely crafted tale set in a vivid fantasy world filled with constant menace. It’s a landscape brimming with danger and a vast assortment of mythical creatures. Elves, Trolls, Sprites and Unicorns glow theElf Killers pages along with a few ingenious creations I imagined finding in a book of Greek myths. (Homer would have applauded the Strike Falcons.)

While reading this story of a colony of elves, cleverly described with a bevy of human qualities, racing to find an elusive refuge from the savage trolls who hunt them for slaughter, I initially appraised it as just another magical creature story.

But it’s more.

As I read on, I found the authors had smartly knitted together a tale of how our environment and the varying circumstances we’ve been handed shape and define us.

As a lioness hunts antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa to feed its young, or a bear pulls majestic salmon from a river in Oregon, the trolls are neither malicious nor despicable. They’re simply a product of an evolutionary path in a world where their existence requires them to hunt an available prey.

The story is also about bonding as the elves work together to escape the predators or when they make a valiant stand and fight.

The elf characters were extremely well-developed. Courageous against a more formidable foe, loyal to their immediate families and to everyone in their tribe, compassionate, and endearing. Romances bud when their flight to safety slows. Caring parents display deep affection for their children, pride in their accomplishments, and despair for the ones they’d failed to save.

The pace is fast without being frenetic and only slows during times of story development.

What I liked most:

Character development.

The authors were diligent with their creation of believable, compelling fantasy characters mirroring with them a wide assortment of human qualities: Courage – compassion – fear – aggression – weakness – honour – loyalty and strength.

As with all good fantasy writing, while reading Elf Killers, at some point I was able to release that logical part of me that knew these were fictional, magical creatures and began seeing them as real. I attached myself to their plight and empathised with them for their fears and losses.

This is an ability that we, as adults, lose that children possess in abundance and do instinctively. (An unfortunate loss indeed.)

Story design:

The outline is logical, fits a neat three-act structure and builds and releases tension with precision. Early on, I began imagining this as the basis of a screenplay for a fine animated film. “The genius writers at Pixar would do wonders with this story.”

Criticisms:

Only one, and nothing that would lessen my 5-Star rating or a high recommendation.

There were many characters with unique names. This made the story confusing at times. I found myself reading back at points to reacquaint myself with someone who’d been introduced earlier wishing to place them into context. A faster reader, also someone not typically reading three to four books at one time, may not suffer this confusion.

Summary and Recommendation:

Elf Killers is a fast-moving Fantasy / Adventure with a ton of heart and boundless imagination. If called upon to classify it, I would place it on the same shelf as the first two Harry Potter books and the Percy Jackson books. Essentially a Young Adult read that will also satisfy an adult who enjoys letting go and consuming middle-grade fiction.

I give The Elf Killers 5-Stars and my highest recommendation.

 

Review by TE Mark – Author.

Book Review: ‘Floodtide,’ by Helen Claire Gould

4 ½ Stars for ‘Floodtide,’ by Helen Claire Gould

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With so many novels presented as pure Science Fiction venturing frivolously, often flagrantly into the world of fantasy, and a vast assortment of Fantasy tales employing Science Fiction plot devices, here’s a story which weaves a precise, steady path right down the middle of these two fiction genres.

The author offers a reasonable amount of credible science, in this case, astronomy, geology and volcanology, to make the story plausible, and mixes it with unimpeded Floodtidefantasy making it rich, creative, colourful and heartening.

It’s a story with action, adventure, well-developed, likeable characters, deep sentimentality and numerous parallels to our own 21st-century existence.

With an ocean of creativity, an almost perfectly developed, logically arranged plot, Ms Gould has delivered a winning piece guaranteed to please readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy Adventure.

 

[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

Human astronomers stationed on the planet Goranon have discovered life on an outer planet. As passive observers, they watch these somewhat primitive humanoids divided into two rival tribes, aware that their planet, Naxada, is in peril and that the gently furred creatures living underground in lava tubes must be relocated, or they will die. They devise a rescue plan. It’s tense, there are many unknowns, and the time frame is critical and will involve contact with the one agrarian tribe and the other hunter-gatherer tribe.

As the author introduces us to the main characters of the ‘somewhat’ primitive creatures, who are, in many ways, quite advanced with a fascinating array of tribal rituals [The author has a wonderful imagination] she simultaneously introduces us to the human astronomical team and their personal stories.

The shifting of the story between the humans and the Naxadans is done expertly and is never clumsy, distracting or confusing.

The author is careful not to overwhelm the reader with too many character introductions at one time, and she maintains each character’s identity throughout.

Besides the main plot, the author seamlessly weaves in numerous side stories that work to further define her characters and their personal goals and motivations. And like a patchwork quilt, the side stories, like individual threads, are relevant to and buttress the main story – the plight of the Naxadans and the desperate initiative of their human saviours.

[What I liked most]

Character development: The author employed an arsenal of literary devices to ensure that her readers not only care for but like her main characters. She literally reaches out from the binding, grabs you by the arms, shakes you violently and commands that you feel for these creatures during their flight to safety.

Clever and inspiring writing.

Creative detail: The tribal customs, rituals, names and even the physical features of the Naxadans are extremely imaginative. Ms Gould worked hard on this element of her work and did a praiseworthy job.

The science: The author did an extensive amount of research for this novel, and/or has a background in Volcanology, Astrophysics, or Astronomy. Either way, the inclusion added much to the story and helped it skim that narrow line between Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

[Criticisms]

Two: Minor

I felt the Naxadans were, in ways, too human for an alien civilisation. But then, I have this same criticism of virtually every book I’ve read or film I’ve seen involving alien civilisations. I gave Hyperion by Dan Simmons a 4-Star review for the same reason, and I’m one of the few who saw the blockbuster film Avatar, [I loved it BTWsaw it two nights in a row, both times in 3d] as cowboys and Indians in outer space with amazing special effects.

The second criticism is certainly a personal preference. Some people like 90k to 100k word novels and some, like me, especially in the Sci-Fi / Fantasy genre, tend to like books a little shorter. 60k to 70k word novels, with all I have to read each month, tend to fit my schedule a bit more comfortably.

For these two, minor, reasons I give Floodtide a 4.5-Star rather than a 5-Star rating.

 [Recommendation]

A very, very high recommendation. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading Science Fiction or Fantasy / Adventure novels.

I read this book in a digital format for this review but am looking forward to the delivery of my print version. This is a book I’d like in my library. One I will definitely read again.

Review by T. E. Mark – Author

23/Mar/2018

Book Review: ‘The Man in the Black Fedora,’ by Tom Johnson

4.5 Stars for ‘The Man in the Black Fedora,’ by Tom Johnson

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Wrap a mysterious vigilante with a unique gift in an intriguing crime story with plenty of underworld hoodlums terrorising innocent people and you have a winning plot.

Add to that mix, a cast of believable, likeable characters, a swift and steady pace [this story never drags] and the result is not only a compelling story, but a fun one.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

The Man in the Black Fedora opens like a Hollywood screenplay with the authorThe Man in the Black Fedora dropping you right in the middle of the action. ‘You have to love books that grab you from the opening page. This one does!’

Kay Shannon, a 22-year-old nightclub entertainer, witnesses her boss dealing drugs with gangsters and is suddenly on the run.

Cornered, and moments from losing her life on a bridge, her White Knight saviour arrives in the form of a man in a black Fedora with his vigilante squad. The rescue is swift, and Kay is recruited.

From there, the story winds through a series of events including a rare and invaluable art heist, the murder of a pair of innocent shopkeepers, and a neighbourhood falling under the intimidation of a diabolical gang of ruthless hoodlums.

The author also, cleverly, employs some praiseworthy character development, and further elaborates on several mysteries, including the identity of the main vigilante, The Man in The Black Fedora.

The mysteries, there are several, build throughout, giving this story a nice appeal. When one is solved, the author quickly shifts to another never allowing the pace to falter.

The mobsters are vile, corrupt and murderous and well-deserving of the justice ahead. The vigilantes are good, decent and driven by a lust to see the streets safe and the good people protected beyond what the police can facilitate.

In writing the above, and while reading, I continually had the feeling I was in the midst of a script of a Batman film. And there are elements of that in the story. For someone who thoroughly enjoyed the recent Batman films, this made The Man in The Black Fedora even more gratifying.

[What I liked most]

Character development: The author was thorough with his descriptions, both of their physical appearance and of their motivations. I was able to visualise them. This is an intrinsic element in good story telling and Mr Johnson did a fine job.

Mysteries: For someone who has read every story Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote, more than a few times, this is a formula guaranteed to satisfy my literary desires.

[Criticisms]

One: I felt the author released the identity of the Man in the Black Fedora a bit early thus losing the opportunity for that final twist. It would have been nice, in my opinion, if it was left until the very end, or not released at all. This would have left the reader guessing and possibly set the stage for a sequel.

[Recommendation]

I give this a Very High recommendation. Though missing any great profundity, it’s good vs evil – light vs dark, the imagination is laudable, and I so liked the author’s creativity when depicting the rare gift the vigilante boss employed and how he used it against the underworld villains. The Man in the Black Fedora makes no claim that it is more than a fun mystery / adventure. And it satisfies all the requirements of that genre.

I enjoyed it to the very last page.

Review by T. E. Mark – Author

17/Feb/2018