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Elysium Protocol 

Elysium Protocol by C.A. MacLean is the third book in the Architects of the Illusion science fiction series. Following a species-diverse team known as the “Fireseeds,” Elysium Protocol picks up the shattered pieces left over from the devastating war in book two, The Great Scourge. In a time of interstellar conflict, multiple factions, some seen, some working from the shadows, are vying for power, control, and sometimes, just plain survival. Set in a distant future, the last remnants of humanity are part of an intergalactic organization known as “The Convergence,” an alliance consisting of “quintillions” of citizens.

The Fireseeds are pitted against a vast alien force known as the “hiven,” an insect-like species bent on zealous destruction and domination. Several science fiction tropes appear here, but they are executed skillfully; which ensures longtime fans of science fiction will find something familiar yet still intriguing. There are multiple alien races present: humanoid bird-persons (Arkerians), crystal people (Altaran), bug people (hiven), and more. The story is rife with many planet names and systems, such as Everan, Serrona, Vraunlith-3, etc. I feel this might make it difficult to follow at times but adds to the depth of a world that seems full of possbilites and begs to be explored further. I would have loved to have seen a map of systems in the book to look back on because this story reaches epic fantasy levels where readers will be completely immersed in a large world.

This is a robust novel, almost as long as the two previous entries combined. There is a lot of action going on with all of the characters and races. Readers have to be fully engaged in this story to keep up with who is who and what species is what; reminding me of the breadth of George R.R. Martin novels. However, the author effectively handles the task of keeping things straight, with the central characters being well developed with strong individual personalities. The Arkerian Engami sisters, Eva and Ashy, the tragic Altaran, Caleb Braze, the modest human, Daniel Byre, and many more fill this impressive work with relatable characters and a compelling story. Despite some massive decisions, the memorable characters and gripping action bring a universe of primordial planets, advanced spacecraft, and futuristic cities to life.

Architects Of The Illusion, Part III: Elysium Protocol is an action-filled science fiction space opera with memorable characters and planets. Readers will be able to escape into the world that has been created and feel like they are in the action.

Pages: 777 | ASIN : B09NPPJL1Q

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Adam Frankenstein: Search for a Soul

Adam Frankenstein: Search for a Soul: A Collection of Short Stories (Adam Frankenstein Short Stories Book 2) by [Sheila English]

A more modern and brutish man than one may expect, this monster embodies both of his namesakes rather well, the innocent first man of lore and the man-made of many. The monster we meet in the collection Adam Frankenstein: Search for a Soul by Sheila English is all at once stoic and terrifying—yet he counts Mary Shelley and Van Helsing among his friends here.

In this continuation of a story we thought we knew, meet the man-made man for hire, Adam Frankenstein. He is not without his charms, however hideously disfigured. Some characteristics we may remember do remain; he is a man of few words, gigantic in stature, and will kill in terms of black and white logic. Adam has an unsettling presence yet, is profoundly gentle.

Poetically, and by murky gaslight, Sheila English dazzles the reader with pressing adventures and a companion by our side. Adam travels with his loyal dog Bella, who he protects to the bitter end of all who cross them.

In the first novella, Marked, we meet the street-wise Sabine and her charge, the young Celeste, who require help though at a glance we know they must have tremendous problems as both are more than capable of defense and have made their way through dark city streets until now, however they could.

Then, a monster’s point of view short story Last Man Standing leads the reader through a terrifying nightmare as an angry mob hunts Adam. Written in first-person, the shift is not as jarring as expected. This story is at least a refreshing change of pace and being the shortest story does not overstay its welcome. We land again on the cobblestone streets of London in another tale where we meet a vampire ally in The Madame and the Madman. While this is another kind of Dracula all together, the weaving of cherished horror stories together always makes for an entertaining read, and here is it done with both flair and grit. The reality of the sooty and smelly 19th century is used to brilliant effect in describing not only the fast-paced and bloody action, but what scant leisure time Adam is afforded. Between the two, English gives the reader a glimpse into what our hero sees in mankind when looking out of a monster’s eye. A very thoughtful creature Adam Frankenstein is, and one that readers of historical fiction and horror alike will be glad to have met.

When we come to the modern world of 1976 in Freak Show, the stage is set since we now know Adam and his cut and dry way of reasoning. Considering the people he encounters, it is a balancing act in each story to decide which of the two sides are truly flawed – questions that good fiction raises in a reader reflecting on society, and our wants and needs as earthly inhabitants. While there is a bonus story in this collection, Doll Therapy, that fits in bleak outlook and poetic prose and is presented separately. Other stories by the same author feature the titular Adam Frankenstein and with luck, there will be a larger collection for them all someday. It would be an opportunity to update the cover art as it does not reflect the high-level character crafting and adventurous ideas here that lead to wanting to read more. Adam Frankenstein himself is all five stars of five in here and recommended for a highly entertaining read that puts a cavalier edge on this classic human monster.

Pages: 138 | ASIN: B07RG7JZ42

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The Labyrinthine Journey

The Labyrinthine Journey (Servant of the Gods Book 2) by [Cavallaro, Luciana]

Evan is a normal twenty-first century man who works as an architect. However, to interrupt his daily routine, none other than Zeus himself, has decided to transport Evan to the sixth century BCE. Evan now travels across ancient Greece with his companions, including Atlanteans, a high priestess, and his friend, Dexion, who has the power to see into the future. All of this is for a mighty cause, Evan has been chosen by Zeus to unite two powerful relics in order to save the Gods from extinction.

Stuck in the sixth century BCE Evan longs to return home. Given his precarious position between times, the juxtaposition of his wants against his reality serves to highlight the stark differences between the comfort of home that Evan is used to and what he is currently facing. For instance, walking across a sandy plain in sandals verses the want for a motorbike to make short work of the distance. His modern life’s influence over his worldview often leaves him homesick, but he must complete his mission. On the other hand, his life back home gives him ways to solve the problems he faces in the sixth century BCE, taking ideas from the pop-culture of his own time and bringing them into the past to aid his quest. This fusion of time periods makes for some brilliant innovations and cross-overs between what we as the reader understand to be ancient Greece, and the modern day.

The Labyrinthine Journey is book two in Luciana Cavallaro’s Servant of the Gods series and it follows on fluently with the events of the previous book with references here and there to book one. Something striking about the series is the relationship between mortals and Gods. With whole chapters dedicated to the musings of God’s and their society it gives the reader an insight into their intentions. Furthermore, the book proposes an alternative viewpoint on the beginnings of Christendom. The Greek Gods fear that they will lose their dominance in light of a God-sent child being born that will potentially lead to the widespread belief in a single God instead of the current pantheon.

This retelling of the birth of Christ from the God’s perspective explains why Zeus wants the relics united – to maintain his and the other Gods’ significance. However, there are some Gods trying to interfere with the mission and stop Evan’s and his companions’ journey. Evan searches ancient Greece, already in possession of the first relic, for the second to unite the two. The perilous journey over a treacherous landscape naturally reminds one of the epics of Homer.

The Labyrinthine Journey was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I give it five out of five for its sophisticated and inventive retelling of the well-known and widespread story of Christ and its ability to connect it to the overarching quest narrative seamlessly. Luciana Cavallaro’s prose fits the story perfectly, making the journey truly epic. Furthermore, the fusion of God’s, monsters, ancient philosophers, magical ancient relics and even time travel, leads to unexpected twists and turns throughout the novel.

Pages: 311 | ASIN: B075QGZQP9

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A Stake in Murder – Trailer

Sebastian Hemlock had once been a respected reporter. “Mister News” is what they used to call him. If there was a story to be found out, he usually was the one who uncovered it. That was until Phoenix, Arizona.

In 1991 the police were working on a series of murders. The victims were all drained of blood, the officials were not talking, and Hemlock soon discovered why. The killer was a vampire! With only his FBI friend to assist, the reporter went ahead, investigated, and tracked down the killer to destroy it.

Captain Darren Matheson, of the L.A.P.D.Homicide Division, was a pleasant enough fellow. But when the FBI uses him to track down news reporter Sebastian Hemlock as a “special investigator,” he understandably is curious. Hemlock, learning that he had failed with his first killing of an undead creature, seeks a chance to redeem his integrity as well as gaining back the woman he had once loved. Captain Matheson thought the whole case as nothing but a waste of time.He had a murderer to catch!

Now…the vampire has returned!

We tell our children that there are no such things as monsters. We comfort them with the knowledge that we will always be there to protect them. What happens when we are proven wrong?

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LoveQuest

LoveQuest by Pamela Jean Horter-Moore is the story of Psyche, a mortal girl blessed by the goddess Aphrodite with great beauty. She is so lovely, that she receives admirers wherever she goes. When Psyche offends Aphrodite, by seeking the approval of her envious sisters and taking her beauty for granted, Aphrodite decides to take revenge. Using her son, Eros, she attempts to punish Psyche to a loveless life. But things backfire because Eros falls in love with Psyche. Both are torn between their families and their love for one another. They must decide what is most important in life.

I am fascinated by Greek mythology with its heroes, monsters and gods, so I knew I was going to love this book before I had even started! This is an epic love story based on an original Greek myth that we know and love, but it is fleshed out with a unique narrative and a fresh take on the characters. Although it is primarily a story of romance, there are obviously fantasy aspects in there–the author excels at writing both genres and combines them expertly. Through a great feat of imagination, Horter-Moore has put a really creative and refreshing twist on what could have been a stale story.

Horter-Moore’s prose is a joy to read, it is straightforward whilst being eloquent and descriptive. It flows beautifully throughout with quite a dream-like tone which captures the milieu perfectly. The narrative is based more on internal thoughts and feelings rather than dialogue, which gives us great insight and understanding of the characters motives and desires. When there is dialogue, it is actually quite modern, for instance, “Why do we have to spend every vacation here?” whined Tanna.“That oracle never has anything interesting to say…”Although this could have felt inauthentic, I actually thought that it was a great way of making the tale more accessible and up to date. The author particularly excels at writing place, and the setting of ancient Greece is magically conjured; it is a world full of gods, superstition, soothsayers, seers and magic. The prose is extremely evocative of scenery and I felt transported to the slopes of Mount Olympus.

The characters really come alive on the page, and they are portrayed with such sensitivity- -the author isn’t afraid of illustrating their flaws and complexities. The relationship between the sisters Medea, Tanna and Psyche are particularly well portrayed, illustrating all of the complicated feelings of jealousy and yearning for approval. The love between Eros, who is the perfect mate, and Psyche, who is deeply imperfect, feels very genuine, and I felt completely invested in their relationship.

Although this is a story of Gods and mortals living in a time unlike our own, the narrative reminds us that ultimately any human heart can suffer and love in universal ways. This is a great read for any lover of myth, fantasy or romance, and I look forward to more from this author!

Pages: 186 | ASIN: B06XTX3TFH

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The Classic Dragon-Slayer

Kristopher Jerome Author Interview

Kristopher Jerome Author Interview

The Nightbreaker follows a paladin named Daniel as we’re introduced to the conflict between the gods of darkness and light and their conflict on the Mortal Plane. What made you want to write this prequel novella to your Broken Pact Trilogy?

Daniel has a major impact on the history of the Mortal Plane. His secret affair with Lio is the catalyst that directly leads to Lio’s fall and the creation of the Grey God’s Pact. Without Daniel, the world as we see it in the Broken Pact trilogy wouldn’t exist. Without spoiling too much of the next book in that trilogy, Daniel and what happened to him plays a larger role in the story, and how Trent and Ren deal with their own parallels to the Paladin hero.

Daniel is on a mission to defeat Rexin before he plunges the Mortal Plane into darkness. Do you feel that Rexin is Daniel’s antithesis, or did you want them to compliment one another?

I first came up with the story as my spin on the classic dragon-slayer tale where a hero must travel away from the kingdom to kill the beast that threatens to destroy it. Daniel is a conflicted character though, as he struggles with the nature of his birth and the way that he is viewed by society. It made sense for Rexin to be a physical manifestation of the darkness that Daniel sees in himself. In order to overcome this external force he doesn’t just have to banish his own darkness, but accept it and use it.

The battle of good vs evil is a theme we see often in fantasy. Do you think the Gods of Darkness and Gods of Light represent this contrast or is there a grey area?

I’ve tried to take the classic good vs. evil tale and add grey areas within each of the factions. Lio, the villain of the Broken Pact trilogy, is a fallen God of Light, who only fell because of his love for a mortal and his natural desire to avenge him. Daniel commits an objectively evil deed at the end of The Nightbreaker to defeat Rexin the Blasted. Although the Gods of Light and the Gods of Darkness represent that classic dichotomy, the individuals who makeup and serve those groups fall into somewhere between good and evil in their personal morality, which makes their interactions all the more interesting.

What is one thing that people point out after reading your book that surprises you?

I’m usually surprised at many of the little world-building details that people pick up on. I try to seed references to other stories and events in the world that I have planned so that sometime in the future when those stories are written the whole series will feel like a more cohesive whole. It’s a really cool feeling though when people catch some of those now, and ask me, “What’s up with that? When do I get to find out what that meant, or who they were talking about?” My answer: keep reading.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

The Nightbreaker (Gods and Men Cycle) by [Jerome, Kristopher]Be sure to read this exciting prequel to the Broken Pact Trilogy before reading the second book in the series, Cries of the Forsaken.

In the years before the Grey God’s Pact, the Gods of Light and the Gods of Darkness waged war upon the Mortal Plane. Fighting alongside them were armies of men and monsters. The Champion Daniel, a Paladin of the Light, leads a band of warriors into the wilderness to defeat one such being, Rexin the Blasted, before the creature engulfs the entire Mortal Plane in an endless darkness.

Daniel, scorned for his heritage as the child of a rapist, must first come to terms with his own identity and what he is willing to do in the name of the greater good. Sometimes wicked deeds can destroy wicked things.

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Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32

Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32 by [Fegan, B.C.R.]

B.C.R. Fegan’s Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 takes young readers on a journey through the magical Hotel of Hoo where Mr. Nicholas Noo gives his first-ever guests constant reminders to avoid, at all costs, door number 32. Behind each door leading up to 32, guests are treated to many surprises, some creepy and some quite humorous. Entertaining rhymes help light the way through the castle-like establishment as both the readers and the guests of the hotel meet and greet a bevy of characters who have taken up residence behind the first 31 doors. What lies behind Door 32? I’ll never tell!

I really love Fegan’s books for young readers. Lenny Wen, illustrator, creates some of the most vivid and striking images you will find in children’s literature. Wen gives his characters amazingly expressive eyes whether they are screaming in terror at ghosts cooking roasts, doing a double-take at a paintbrush-wielding elf, sneaking peeks at tea-drinking monsters, or (my favorite) marveling at miniature giants.

This particular tale takes on a Halloween feel and serves as a fabulous book to read aloud during October or as part of a monster-themed unit for elementary grades. As a third grade teacher, I can see using this book with my students to study rhyme, compare and contrast the findings behind each door, or as an inspiring writing prompt. The possibilities are as endless as the number of creatures housed behind each of the doors in the Hotel of Hoo.

Fegan does an excellent job of periodically reminding the reader that Door 32 is somewhat of an enigma and, possibly, the most feared of all doors in the Hotel of Hoo. Suspense builds throughout the book as the second-person narrative draws young readers into the different rooms, page by page, and treats them to a fantastic assortment of zombies, ghosts, wizards, and many more creatures of lore.

Fegan and Wen are, book by book, mastering the kiddie lit genre. With each successive book, their plots and accompanying illustrations take on more depth and even more vibrant characters. From the very first pages, this one has the feel of a classic in-the-making.

Pages: 36 | ASIN: B078VSML8V

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Weird, right?

Bruce McCandless Author Interview

Bruce McCandless Author Interview

Sour Lake follows Sheriff Reeves as he tries to solve a brutal murder while navigating the towns racial tensions and economic despair. What was the the inspiration behind the setup to this interesting novel?

It started as a more or less straight horror story, based on legends and tall tales I heard growing up about Texas at the turn of the 20th Century. My wife’s family is from the Big Thicket area, and the more I started talking and writing, the more interested I became in the social history and mores of the people in the area.

The story takes place in 1911 in a small Texas town. Why did you choose this setting for your story?

1911 was something that came to me in a dream, about halfway through the story. In the dream, I was searching through old newspapers for clues about the central mystery in the book. I looked down to turn the page, and I saw the date: October 17, 1911. Weird, right? So I just went with it.

Sheriff Reeves Duncan lost his wife, is a recovering alcoholic, but manages to keep a level head in intense situations. What obstacles did you feel were important to push his character development in the story?

Reeves Duncan is a fun character. I think what I like most about him is that he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows his own limitations, but at the same time he has a pretty fierce streak of stubbornness that compels him to do the right thing, even if he knows he’s going to be disliked for it. Apart from having to wrestle with the bizarre nature of the crimes he is investigating, the biggest obstacle he faces is having to stand up to his own friends and neighbors in order to protect an innocent man and, ultimately, bring the true killer to justice.

What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?

I’m actually working on a prequel to Sour Lake, but I can’t say much about it because it’s still in its very early stages. If anyone’s interested in reading something that, like Sour Lake, combines horror and history, please check out my novel The Black Book of Cyrenaica. Or, if you’re not interested in horror, please try my coming-of-age story Color War, which is also set in East Texas, this time though in 1974.

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Sour Lake by [McCandless, Bruce]It’s 1911. Someone, or something, is leaving the good citizens of East Texas’s Ochiltree County savagely mutilated and drained of blood. Slow-talking Sheriff Reeves Duncan needs to put an end to the murders, and soon. But it won’t be easy. This is the Big Thicket, dark and brooding, haunted by racial tensions and economic despair. Fortunately, Sheriff Duncan can count on the assistance of an undersized but tough-as-rawhide Texas Ranger, two physicians, a mechanical wunderkind, and a soft-spoken idiot savant who knows the sloughs and baygalls of the Thicket like his own backyard. This league of unimpressive gentlemen is about to be tested by the cunning and ferocity of an enemy that walks by night–and the tentacles of a desperate sectarian plot that threatens the very survival of the human race.

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