When live-action-role-playing adventure goes horribly wrong it’s up to our battered group to save the day! Dale, his girlfriend Jane, sister Katie and friend Gavin are off on a LARPing adventure. Dale isn’t used to this style of play and is finding himself wishing it was bit more interesting. One must be careful what they wish for in The Barrow of the Damned by Jonathan J. Drake. After a few days enacting their scenes the group is presented with a special module by Mr. Stephens, their coordinator. He leads them to a barrow where they will go to combat with other friends in an orcs-versus-adventurers play. They’ve even got a game master to keep them in line. All seems to be great, until the group steps foot in the creepy crypt for the first time. It’s dark, foreign and crawling with things that go bump in the night. Will they survive? Where are they, exactly? Finally, who is the one pulling the strings behind this adventure? Be careful what you wish for.
The story begins with a shock as a young man meets his end inside the barrow. This poor fellow will play an important role in the tale to come so it’s a good idea to remember him. The story isn’t too long with short chapters that serve to change up the perspective now and then. We get a good glimpse at what is going on from the viewpoints of all involved. There is a lot of blood and gore in this story, so if that’s not for you it would be wise to steer clear. Those who like a fantasy-adventure tale with a bit of horror will find this tale is right up their alley. The story appears to take place in the United Kingdom, although definitive places are never mentioned. Based on the terminology the characters use and the way they speak it is assumed that is where our tale unfolds.
While the story is relatively entertaining with shadows of J.R.R. Tolkien and some black humour dabbled about, the overall execution could use some polishing. There are grammatical errors and strange capitalization on words that pop up here and there which detract from the overall story. There are some key elements that aren’t explained very well that can leave readers with more questions than answers after completing the journey. Questions like, why are the Fates, who have origins in Greek mythology, in some barrow in what appears to be rural England? How did they get there? How long have they been there? From what we read, it seems like they have been there for a while, trying to steal something from a spirit who was created by the gods. With a name like O’Fleistus it’s assumed this spirit would be of English origins, but it’s not really explained. We get a bit of an explanation, but it could have been fleshed out much more instead of being revealed in fleeting conversation.
A little bit of blood and horror can dress up any LARPing event. What began as fun and games quickly turns into mayhem in The Barrow of the Damned by Jonathan J. Drake. This book has some very good potential if it had been fleshed out a bit more. There is opportunity to expand and explain more of the black-humoured story found on these pages. Aside from these minor drawbacks, it’s a fun and quick read. This tale is quite gruesome for the faint of heart. If that’s your cup of tea, you can’t go wrong venturing into this Barrow of the Damned.
Pages: 263 | ASIN: B00B79MVZA
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Take a moment and remember what happened to you in high school. For some people, this was a den of depression, oppression and pain. As teenagers, we’re severely lacking in skill and experience, yet we need to navigate a world that expects us to act like grown ups. Many a poor decision has been made in high school that can go on to affect our lives for decades afterwards. In The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva we have an example of just that. Our protagonist is a jaded 43-year old woman working in corporate America. She surely hasn’t had it easy and while not everything can be blamed on her high school experience, what she clings to from that time is definitely ruling her life. Teresa can’t move forward and she’s trapped in this sad, drunken life where happiness eludes her. It’s not until she crashes hard into rock bottom that she is given a chance for a do-over, thanks to a talking coyote.
Our protagonist isn’t all quite there. It’s clear that she’s broken and she’d rather blame everyone else than accept any sort of responsibility for it. This tale is told in the first person and is showcased in such a way that it feels like the reader is Teresa herself. We’re privy to her thoughts, her neurosis and her desperate attempt at avoiding herself. She’s miserable and her life sucks. There is no denying that. Silva does an excellent job with the imagery and how the story jumps around Teresa’s mind. It’s hard to do that and keep the story on track. Silva is clearly talented in this realm.
Even the time skip is well done. It’s hard to shift from present day to the past and keep in mind how things have changed: technology, manner of speech, what is and isn’t popular with teenagers. Silva either did some great research or potentially tapped into their own past in order to recreate what it was like in the late ‘80’s for teenagers. This isn’t easily done, and the book is better for it.
Using deities from various mythologies can be a bit messy, but Silva focuses on what would suit our protagonist. She is of Latin-American descent and the use of Quetzalcoatl and our friendly talking-coyote Piltzintecuhtli, or Pill for short, makes sense. For an Aztec deity, Pill dislikes the use of profanity and seems to have an attachment to Teresa. It is well known that the gods will favour a mortal here and there for their own amusement. Is Pill the same?
Combining a slice-of-life with a timeslip can bring about a unique experience. Instead of the washed-up twenty-something that usually happens in stories like this we have a woman who has really lived her life and come to regret it. The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva is a story about self-search, self-love and acceptance. What Teresa accomplishes through her foray through time is a lesson to be learned by all. This is a must read for anyone looking for excitement, adventure and even just that gentle reminder that things will be okay.
Pages: 421 | ASIN: B06XG2GT22
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In an exciting take on a post-apocalyptic world we find ourselves face to face with a strange phenomenon: human beings are being swallowed up and turned into gelatinous creatures that look and smell much like tar. Tarbabies Book 2 The Siege at Friendly Haven by Allen R. Brady is a point-of-view adventure story about residents of an assisted living facility and how they handle the tarbaby infestation. Being the second book in a series, a reader may think it imperative to read the first, but Brady does a fantastic job of treating this tale as a stand-alone. The story shifts from the points of view of various residents in Friendly Haven and their individual takes on the epidemic. While you don’t really know how or why the tarbabies have come into existence, it doesn’t really matter. They’re out there, just outside the window of Friendly Haven and the residents are all trapped inside. Or are they?
This book was a delightful read. While the end of the world as most know it is hardly light reading, the sheer ridiculousness of humanity morphing into some strange black things that swallow every human being they touch brings a sense of comedy to the stark reality of this world. Referred to with names like Gummi Man or Sloppy Joe, it scales back the seriousness of the story. Brady does a great job as he shifts from each person’s point of view. He effortlessly moves between men, women and varying ages. Each person has their own distinct personality which can be difficult when telling a tale in this fashion. The fact that our protagonists don’t fully understand how the tarbabies came to be, makes it easier for the reader, because it’s told from the characters points of view. Our protagonists don’t know, and it’s okay that we also don’t know.
Brady crafts his tale in such a way that the reactions to the situation are all very realistic. It’s hard to determine how people would truly react to humanity becoming blobs, but Brady takes a very good stab at how he thinks things would unfold. The energy and action in this book are constantly on the go, which is a perfect distraction.
If you’re looking for an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic potential of our world, then Tarbabies Book 2 The Siege at Friendly Haven by Allen R. Brady is a definite must. Our protagonists share their thoughts and concerns about the tarbaby epidemic with their own colorful personalities. It’s clear that the world seems to be ending and the biggest question on everyone’s mind is whether or not they’ll survive it. Readers looking for an entertaining read with plenty of action and contemplation will find what they seek in this tale.
Pages: 235 | ASIN: B017PXY0BY
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Lydia is a sixteen-year-old girl living at a boarding school. Her mother died when she was young and her grandmother Maria raised her. On her sixth birthday, Maria gave Lydia a bronze mirror and told her to treat it like she would treat herself. She grew up on the run, moving at a moment’s notice, trying to stay one step ahead of a killer with a scarred face. Maria thinks Lydia will be safe at the school, so she leaves her there, then disappears. The boarding school is reserved for students with mirrors like Lydia’s. Unlike regular mirrors, these show the reflection of a spirit. Lydia learns to talk to the reflection that she calls Phoebus. She has a few friends, but she’s obsessed with finding her grandmother.
When the headmaster of the school forces Lydia to compete in a mirror contest, Lydia and Phoebus hatch a plan to run away and find her grandmother. They escape after the contest, and a helpful stranger sets them on the trail of a conspiracy that goes back centuries. But the Managers of the reflections are in pursuit, and Lydia becomes a fugitive. She and Mario—a friend of her grandmother—chase clues all over Europe. They discover the truth of Lydia’s past, and uncover a hidden power that could change the world.
There are some good things to like about this book. Lydia is a strong-willed, independent teen who takes matters into her own hands. Growing up like a fugitive has taught her to be resilient and resourceful, the same skills she needs to uncover the secret of the mirrors. It’s not hard to understand Lydia’s plight or her determination to get to the truth. Many of the people she meets are also in hiding, traumatized by the past, or possibly lying to her to keep her from the truth.
The story is wonderfully original, a unique take on magic mirrors that’s vastly different from the fairy tale version. I also enjoyed that friendship plays such a big role in the story. Calypso, her dearest friend at school, helps her understand her own mysterious mirror, and they become as close as sisters. Mario is the son of a man who died to keep Maria and Lydia safe. Together, Calypso and Mario give Lydia the knowledge, strength, and courage that keep her going. There’s a nice glimmer of budding romance with Mario, and that was fun to read as well.
The biggest problem with this novel is the translation. The translator has done the author a great disservice, and my poor reading experience was in no way Ms. Musewald’s fault. She has written an original, exciting story that is completely overshadowed by the translator’s errors. There are multiple problems on nearly every page, with bad spelling, punctuation errors, missing words and confusing sentences. The novel was a chore to read, but I stuck with it because Lydia is such a strong young woman and her story is so compelling that I had to see it through to the end.
Pages: 231 | ASIN: B06XFM4N9H
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Set in a futuristic world with air-bikes and credits for cash, we come across one of Danny Estes’ lovely worlds. The Paranoid Thief is a lovely addition to Estes’ roster of exciting and fun to read books. It opens with our poor protagonist, Randolph, in the midst of a very bad day. As the paranoid thief from the title, he has just botched a job and has the unfortunate job of reporting to his client. In a whirlwind of intrigue peppered with sheer ignorance our Randolph finds himself slammed into a strange cell after being tried and convicted for an atrocious murder he did not commit. Randolph isn’t alone in this prison and soon finds himself in the company of Jill, a secretary who has just lost her job and been thrown in the cell beside him. There’s more to Jill than meets the eye and Randolph begins plotting his revenge.
If there’s one thing Estes is good at, it’s writing an interesting and slightly humorous story. He’s very good at writing from the point of view of the protagonist in such a way that the reader can immediately identify with them. As with most of his books, there is a sexual component that isn’t too over the top. The stories are told from a male point of view and that is just what readers get: an unfiltered look at this world through the eyes of a man. Expect physical descriptions of female characters and which body parts the protagonist enjoys the most.
For The Paranoid Thief there were some disappointing spelling mistakes and some incomplete sentences. Having read other works by this author, it was a surprise to see them. Normally his works are clean with very few mistakes. The incomplete sentence in an early section of the book was the most disheartening as the reader is left to figure out what Estes meant. While it is still pretty easy to finish it in the readers mind, that’s not what people are looking for. Estes makes up for this with his exceptional story-telling skills and his excellent descriptions. There are times when the book feels like a narration of a movie. The action certainly does not disappoint and the way Estes is able to lead his readers by the nose and keep them wanting more is excellent.
As a short read, The Paranoid Thief by Danny Estes is a highly recommended addition to any library. As soon as you start reading about our hapless protagonist Randolph and his really bad day, you’ll want to continue reading to find out how it all gets resolved. Short, without leaving out any important information, this fun read feels like an author’s careful first step into the literary world. It’s a good first step and it reminds us all that perhaps we should pay more attention to those around us. Especially their eyes.
Page: 276 | ASIN: B009Q1I6SM
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The story of Nickerbacher takes you on a journey of mystical beings and starry-eyed dreams. It’s an adventure with a dragon and a prince and princess. Nickerbacher is a dragon destined for a life of working as a protector of princesses- a job that was proudly held by his father and his father before that. However, Nickerbacher dreams of something more and wants to perform on The Late Knight Show where he can show off his comedic value. With the help of a leprechaun, a prince and other magical beings, can Nickerbacher change the hearts and minds of all La La Land?
Nickerbacher, written by Terry John Barto, is a fun-loving children’s novel based on the story of a dragon and his friends. Nickerbacher dreams of being something more than a dragon protector of princesses and sets his sights on becoming a comedian. There is an underlying message that children will love as it promotes following your dreams even if other people may not believe that you can achieve them.
Throughout the story, the fantasy characters participate in modern-day activities, like taking selfies with mystical beings or trying to fit their feet into the prints of famous celebrities. This provides a modern twist to a classically styled fairy tale that combine beautifully in this incredible city. My favorite character is Miss Phoenix, a receptionist who rises from the ashes to greet the unlikely trio. She is dedicated to her work but has a heart of gold which sings true to the end.
Pictures are included throughout the novel which brings to life the extraordinary fun loving characters. My favorite image is one that includes ghosts and goblins at the Fairywood Forever Cemetery, royal chariots at LAX and the Medieval Tar Pits. The images are a mix of castles with high rise style buildings that replicate a similar style of what I would imagine LA would look like if it had been sprinkled with a touch of fairy dust. I love how the imagery complements the text and helps with engaging the reader in expanding their imagination.
This story will help children to learn the importance of friendship and believing in yourself. Nickerbacher also touches on issues such as family, societal expectations and breaking through the barriers of life in a fun and engaging story line. Children will relate to parts of the story and see parts of themselves in each of the magical beings. I love the relationship between Princess Gwendolyn and Nickerbacher and how they break the stereotypes of the typical dragon and Princess friendship.
I would recommend Nickerbacher to any school-aged children who wants to be lost in the magic of La La Land. This book would be perfect as a bedtime story to be read aloud as Terry John’s Barto’s wonderful way with words will delight all children and adults alike.
Pages: 34 | ASIN: B00SKKX2AW
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The Time Slipsters spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. What is the funnest part about imagining and writing the future?
The fun is in seeing things that are commonly regarded as Sci-Fi beginning to happen. I believe that research on the web reveals what a wonderful world we live in. If you look for articles on medical research, the motor industry and technology in general, it also indicates where the human race is heading.
We are already seeing Nano robots being used for keyhole surgery, drugs being tailored to combat and kill cancer cells, and the early diagnosis of dementia, to name but a few. Plus the whiff of flying cars and free power is in the air!
Imagine a world where the health service does not feel overwhelmed by an aging population, because old people are no longer suffering the ‘ravages of old age’. Why would that be? The answer is: treatment of their various sufferings is being mastered, until death they do part! By the way, I come into the latter category.
Envisage a world where travel is from home to destination, in minutes. No airports, no connecting flights or trains or buses or taxis. No squandering of natural resources, no electricity costs, no power stations needed, no pylons or towering wind vanes blotting the landscape. Much of what I describe has been available for over a century, if it were not for intervention of vested interests.
The characters end up traveling through time, and like many stories, their actions in the past affect the future. What was the most interesting part about writing a time travel story?
Getting into the heads of the characters on both sides of the experience of time travel. Drawing word pictures of the experience and conveying mental images to readers was fun too. It challenges my imagination to run riot. By the way, unlike Professor Hawking I do not believe that the death of an ancestor caused by a time traveler would have any impact whatsoever on his or her descendants.
The threat to Earth is revealed by uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate. What was the inspiration for the Sombrella Syndicate?
I once worked for a Lloyds of London group of insurance syndicates, so am familiar with the concept. The deserted brickworks near where I live in Spain was an ideal undercover location for an alien base, but not big enough to house it, on the surface. Who better to man it, underground, than dwarfs, who have a reputation for mining and gold!
Time Slipsters is book three in the Dreadnought collective. Where does book 4 take the characters?
Book 4 takes the characters in an entirely new direction that totally engrossed me for a while. I took great interest in the feasibility of psychic involvement in crime detection. This added another dimension to the evolution of the Dreadnought Collective. The various characters in all the books are intertwined in book 5, the Sightseers Agency, which is now run under the auspices of the U.S. government, as is the entire collective. The individual agencies in the collective instantly become more effective as the two genres are mixed.
A group of friends who have drifted apart decide to reunite and take a trip together. It is the near future, and their intention is to travel on the latest type of transport, in order to visit the ancient sites in Turkey.
They want to do this in luxury, and the travel company they selected has done its best to accommodate their desires. They are lost for words when they first cast their eyes on the spectacular, gleaming new vehicle waiting for them. It is in fact alien in technology, and far more of a futuristic craft than a mere ground-hugging coach.
Unwittingly, they are entering a world where time travel is a reality and machines can cater for individuals as well as the masses.
Soon, they embarking on a sightseeing tour like no other they could have imagined, and meeting a time-travelling stranger who takes them under his wing.
More than one person has a hidden agenda, as they realise when reach a highly protected secret location. It contains hybrid creatures on which the Gods of mythology are based.
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Book 3 in the Dreadnought Collective series returns to the home of Terry and Sandra Tumbler. Terry and his wife plan a return holiday to Turkey, recalling their last visit with their grandson, Seb, when his tour group from the Sombrella Syndicate got into trouble in the underground city of Derinkuyu. They’d like to go again to see it at their leisure. Terry invites several couples who had accompanied them on an earlier visit to Santiago. Since they’d had trouble on that particular tip, Terry sweetens the deal by booking a luxury version of fast-travel flying cars, colloquially known as “potties,” to speed them on their way.
On arrival in Istanbul, the five couples embark on a grand tour of historic sites on a large coach, shared by a group of Spanish tourists. During their travels, Terry meets with a mysterious man named Marius. Marius asks Terry for help regarding Alien visitations, and Terry is delighted. His love of researching UFO phenomena may help save lives, and Marius may be able to explain the odd dreams Terry is having. When the tour visits the ancient hospital of Asklepion, the true nature of the “Magic Carpet” tour coach (dubbed the Turkish Floater by Wilf) is revealed, and the travelers slip back in time to witness ancient Rome in person. This leads to uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate, and a threat to earth.
If you can’t tell by the irreverent names of the vehicles, this is a very funny book. The Time Slipsters is a delightfully fun read. It crosses genre borders as easily as the Magic Carpet crosses timelines. The story spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. Terry is a loveable rogue, and his gaffes are both funny and important to the story. Laughing at phallic rock formations and obsessing over bathroom facilities in ancient buildings could be jokes, but they may come in handy later.
But the trip is not all fun and games. When the ship begins to slip between time zones, the travelers are under very explicit orders to stay away from the locals. One of them foolishly ignores that advice, and like any time travel story, what you do in the past can have a ripple effect into the future.
The author’s imagination is truly fantastic. Even the little details of this future world are well fleshed out. There’s the concept of Democracy on Demand that allows people to guide their government by instantaneous voting. And sure, the flying cars are neat, but what about smart suitcases that carry themselves to and from your hotel, or having delicate surgery performed by nanobots while you sleep? I can’t start on the alien technology without spoilers, so you’ll have to read for yourself.
One thing I liked was the occasional break in the intrigue so I could wander the streets of ancient monuments along with the characters. It’s clear the author has visited these places and wants to share these remarkable places and their histories with others.
Though Seb Cage Begins His Adventures was a book aimed at young readers, The Time Slipsters is decidedly more adult. The adult humor and a few sexual references, though never explicit, wouldn’t be appropriate for a young reader. If you like SF, time travel stories, or dry British humor, you’ll like this book.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B018MLKT7M
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No Quarter: Wenches follows two characters; Atia Crisp as she finds herself imprisoned in the wickedest city on earth, and Captain La Roche who must find a way to liberate the woman he loves while waging a war against the English. What was your inspiration for creating a women’s adventure novel involving pirates in the 1600’s?
I am inspired by stories/movies with strong female characters, so naturally if I was going to write a story, I would be drawn to having strong female leads. I wasn’t particularly drawn to writing historical fiction until I read the original No Quarter Series (Dominium and Wenches) scripts written by GM O’Connor. He’s always been fascinated with history, particularly during the time of pirates. He asked me to read the scripts and I thought they would make a great book series. So we collaborated our interests and I became fascinated with getting all the details (locations, costumes, furniture, architecture, ships) as accurate as possible. We also use a combination of real-life inspired and fictional characters, which adds realism and adventure.
No Quarter crosses many genres. What books or authors were the biggest inspiration for you?
Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner was the most inspirational book as it told the tale of smuggling, pirates, treasure, a sea voyage and a hurricane in 1898. It was very rich in details and I felt very transported by it, so I wanted to do the same for No Quarter. Also the book Port Royal, Jamaica by Michael Pawson was inspirational as it gives a glimpse of every day life in 17th century Port Royal and details locations, how they imported food/water and even what ships were around and what they were used for.
This is a very fun novel. Did you have fun writing it?
Yes, it was very fun writing this. My co-author GM O’Connor and I would have brainstorming sessions to come up with entertaining names and comedic dialogue/scenarios. Or sometimes we’d come up with something just buying groceries, watching movie or wake up at 3am with something hysterical and had to write it down before forgetting it.
No Quarter is the first volume in a series. Where do you take the characters through the rest of the series and how does the development of their characters progress?
Atia for example, is indentured, so she’s quite complacent, but she also has a rebellious side that hasn’t been fully explored yet. When she starts working at a Port Royal tavern, she starts to understand the workings of the city and she learns manipulation and eventually turns to being a spy. Basically, she grows up and becomes a fighter. La Roche is already set in his piratical ways, it’s in his blood, it has been since he was a child. When he meets Atia, he’s drawn to the idea of a “normal” life with marriage and children. His development hinges on his willingness to let go of violence and piracy. He wants to retire from it all, but that’s not an easy task, as situations arise which require him to be piratical. He eventually comes to peace with his internal conflicts and finds balance.
In 1689, Atia Crisp finds herself imprisoned in the wickedest city on earth, Port Royal, Jamaica, while the refugees from Strangewayes’s plantation in the Blue Mountains are on the run and seeking a new home, deep in the Caribbean. Captain Jean-Paul la Roche must get them to safety and find a way to liberate the woman he loves while waging a war against the English with the pirate Laurens de Graaf. While besieged people suffer and starve, a group of women form a secret and illegal society deep from within the bowels of the city called: WENCH. A network that deals with smugglers, merchants, cutthroats and thieves. Dragged into the struggle for supremacy of the Caribbean, the women are divided and find themselves engulfed in bloodshed. The pirates of Port Royal and former enemies may be their only hope of escape. Hell hath no fury like a cross wench!
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This novel is set in present day Dallas, Texas. It follows several characters dealing with a wide range of conflicts, all of which are expertly presented and developed. The story opens with Howard in a panic, leaving the reader to wonder what shady deal has gone wrong. Then, we get to meet Billy, the secretly homosexual Councilman and his crush. Quickly, Billy becomes desperate to keep his night life a secret and has to deal with some mean, motivated men to keep it that way. He calls Howard, lies about the situation, and the two try to deal with it while both playing their cards very close to their chests. When money gets involved, things go awry, the two men scramble even more to clean up their tracks.
This novel is supremely written, and the dramatic irony is set up perfectly. The reader is given just enough information about each of the characters to understand how much trouble they are actually causing for themselves. The pages turn quickly, and the reader can’t help but wait for all of the paths to cross. When they do, the action picks up, and the characters struggle to deal with the consequences.
Where this novel really shines is in the development of its characters. Lynch has crafted a diverse group of individuals, and each of them has an agenda that is logical and meaningful. Allison and her dream of becoming a lawyer while trying to support her brother and his ill son was one of the most gripping plots of the story. She makes a couple of decisions that may not seem logical to readers, but the decisions fit when someone is put into an illogical situation, as she is.
The pacing of the novel is superb, as well. Every chapter holds a new twist to the story, or a new goal for the characters to accomplish, and there is little downtime between the events. Readers will be excited to see how the characters react to each other, how they make their decisions, and how those decisions factor into the big picture.
If there was one downfall for the novel, it is that it can be a little predictable. This is difficult to judge, though. If one were to read and just enjoy, then the story carries itself very well through the pages. However, if one pauses and considers the events and the characters, it becomes quite easy to see what is going to happen in the following pages. No spoilers here, though.
Overall, the story is great. It is a fun, fast-paced read full of action, suspense, and angry people in Texas. The plot is twisting, logical, and exciting. The characters are believable, regular people, and any reader will quickly care about some of them, and hate the others. I hope that Mr. Lynch continues to write and publish his works, because he has done well in this attempt.
Pages: 352 | ASIN: B01G2IGCJ6
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