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Embellished

Embellished (Chronicles of Orian Book 1)

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live inside your favorite video game? Karen Glista’s novel, Embellished, the first novel in The Chronicles of Orian trilogy, takes us on a wild ride with a story about teens who find themselves inside the world of the M.M.O.R.P.G. game, The Battle of Orian. While playing the game during a lightning storm, Bekka, Travis, and Matt are suddenly transported into the antiquated world of Orian. Bekka, a teen suffering from a rare genetic disease, finds herself fully healed from her earthly ailments and rises up the royal rankings. Meanwhile, her brother, Travis, and his friend Matt continually search for an escape back to Earth. Their only hope for escaping this world is finding the only other human from Earth, also trapped in the game, before they’re all killed by dangerous creatures.

Embellished is so much more than a fantasy/paranormal romance with a fair amount of compelling, steamy scenes. Embellished transcends genre boundaries through incorporating elements of adventure, suspense, and gruesome battle scenes. What makes it even more exciting to read is the development of its deeply complex characters and intricately woven plot with twists that’ll leave you gasping.

The novel opens with a group of teens playing The Battle of Orian on a stormy night in Texas, when lightning strikes their home and catapults the teens into the world of the game. Little do they know that their real-life bodies on Earth are rapidly deteriorating. Luckily, they know how to defeat evil spiders, bears, and violent Vadarcs, a sub-human species.

While the novel begins by focusing on Travis, who becomes the leader of the group, the perspective shifts to his sister, Bekka. She starts as a somewhat timid, soft-spoken individual, as her body on Earth was ravaged by the rare Marfan’s disease, but once she begins to find her voice, Bekka truly blossoms into a bold, outspoken, and open-minded heroine. I thought that it made the story so much more compelling to give Bekka these strong character traits, since it added suspense to the decisions she had to make.

Glista does a great job of capturing the inner feelings that any person would have when faced with a love triangle. Bekka befriends Atharia and even becomes betrothed to Atharia’s brother, the devastatingly handsome Vallas. But during a harrowing attack, she and Atharia are taken captive by a belligerent Vadarc tribe. After she meets Zandar, a half-Human Vadarc who exudes masculinity and passionate sensuality, Bekka wonders if she can ever go back to her life with Vallas again. She has the chance to choose between Vallas and Zandar – attracted to the different qualities within both men, she is torn between her desire for passionate, romantic love, or for safety and security.

Glista also masterfully incorporates multiple themes that add multiple layers to the novel. For example, Bekka discovers that there are deeply entrenched discriminatory practices between the Humans and Vadarcs, and after learning the history of the Vadarcs, Bekka begins to preach open-mindedness to her Human friends.  I thought this was an extremely vital and current theme to have as it relates pretty directly to racial issues within today’s world.

As the first novel in the Chronicles of Orian trilogy, Embellished provides a bit of closure at the end, but it’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens to Bekka, Travis, and Matt in the next installment.

Pages: 302 | ASIN: B01M5BZVQ1

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TAURUS, TAURUS, TAURUS

Taurus, Taurus, Taurus: Genetic Modification Held for Ransom3 StarsA sterilization syrum is being inserted into genetically modified super bulls, threatening to hurt the profits of the beef industry. Semi-retired, former Special Forces bad-ass Joe Garner is hired by a private security firm to track down the culprits, a cell of Islamic terrorists, and to take them out by whatever means necessary. Joe and his crew of ex-military tough guys track down the scientist who created the syrum, all the while getting in plenty of gunfights with Jihadists. In the end, they team up with a Russian General, with whom Joe has a history, and together, they take down the Imam, and restore the scientist to the cattle industry.

The 2016 Presidential election has made it very clear that there are two United States of America existing simultaneously: the coastal, liberal thinking, urban populous, and its white male dominated conservative counterpart. Taurus, Taurus, Taurus, a novel by Gordon Rayner, will appeal to the latter. It is chock full of espionage tech, a litany of government organizations bumbling through red tape towards a collective goal, descriptions of guns, and derogatory terms for people of Middle Eastern descent. America, fuck yeah!

Most of the book follows the protagonist, Joe Garner, a former special ops tough guy extraordinaire with too much integrity to toe the company line, who goes to work for a private black ops security company. (Bruce Willis could play him in the film). Joe’s got a bad leg, drinks a lot, and makes frequent mention of other men’s cowboy boots. Joe’s wife is also some kind of operative who goes on “spooky wooky missions,” though her character is for the most part left unexplored. In one of the least plot related, and kinkiest scenes in the book, Joe and his wife go to Jamaica, get “ganja” from the “tall black porter,” and then they end up back in the hotel room with his wife dabbing cannabis syrup on her nipples?! The sexy talk doesn’t stop there. There is a physical therapist who reads porno mags at his desk, and at some point the operatives are implanted with scrotum tracking chips.

Not surprisingly, this book is about sperm. In a meeting with a client, Joe discovers that a big beef conglomerate based in Houston is the top provider for cattle worldwide, and has developed a “dream sperm machine.” But, the plant where the super sperm was being developed has been blown sky high. Years later, a mysterious ransom note appears from the dream sperm’s creator, Dr. Gambil, who turns out is in cahoots with terrorists from Kyrgyzstan, setting the plot in motion.

Joe and his highly paid team of former special ops trained killer-cowboys travel around the globe chasing down the doctor and the Jihadists. From New Jersey to Argentina to Kyrgyzstan, Joe and his guys are always one step ahead of the Islamic Brigade, whose attempts to sterilize the super bulls continue to be halted by American bullets. They win every battle in overwhelming fashion.

In one section, Joe and his guys realize that since they are a private organization, the Geneva Convention can be disregarded. They discuss the best ways to torture an Islamic militant, including making him watch a pig get slaughtered and then covering him in its entrails, and having a naked woman attack him.

This book is for meat eating, red-blooded, cowboy boot wearing country boys. Fans of John Le Carre and Robert Ludlum will enjoy the way these all American heroes kick tons of ass.

Pages: 271 | ASIN: B01H8WPPNE

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Paroxysm Effect

Paroxysm Effect4 StarsHuman beings can be the most destructive, manipulative creatures on the planet. Ashleigh Reynolds captures this with fierce elegance in her novel Paroxysm Effect. What begins with a futuristic world where people are chipped in order to control their emotions devolves into an end-of-the-world scenario that will have you guessing what Reynolds possibly dreams about at night. Our protagonist, Gemi, finds herself in the center of the world’s destruction as people all over begin to succumb to madness as the chips they have lived with for untold amounts of time begin to go haywire. Mild mannered receptionists are ready to dice their coworkers to pieces. Strangers in the streets are murdering others before anyone can fully grasp what is going on. Gemi tumbles out into the middle of this madness only to be rescued by the handsome Jaxton and his military band of unchipped soldiers.

In order to read this book, you must be comfortable with blood: because there is a lot of it. Between the savage beatings in the streets there follows the betrayal of friendships and the viciousness of angry, threatened women. Gemi is a fish out of water: she’s being pulled along for the ride as the military group tries to save themselves from the regular humans whose chips have malfunctioned. We learn that military members are not chipped in an effort to keep their emotions clear and functioning: they need the ability to make snap decisions. Gemi is considered a normal human from a society where chipping is commonplace. With the world going to hell around them, it’s no wonder that other members of the group look upon her with disdain and treat her like a parasite; all while waiting for her to go berserk so they can put her down.

The severity of the attacks seems to increase along with the page numbers. Reynolds is not afraid to show the ugliness that permeates the human soul. While human beings tend to pride themselves as refined and cultured, Paroxysm Effect shows how twisted and despicable they truly are.

With a quick pace and excellent story-telling, Reynolds isn’t afraid to push boundaries and ideals in her novel. For her debut into the literary world she certainly didn’t waste any time getting to the nitty gritty. You can feel the time and effort Reynolds put into developing her world and her characters. She sees the story all the way through; even with the massive twist at the end. While most twists tend to negate everything that happened before them, Reynolds instead uses her twist to full advantage and propels the tale along.

If you’re in the mood to have your mind played with while pondering the potential benefits of a behavior modifying chip, give Paroxysm Effect a read first and then determine how comfortable you’d be leaving your emotions, the very things that compile our personalities and make us who we are, in someone else’s dastardly hands.

Pages: 296 | ISBN: 1523449233

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A World Where Magic Is A Natural Force

Ryan Grimbly Author Interview

Ryan Grimbly Author Interview

Call of the Conjurer is a story about a group of diverse soldiers brought together to be initiated into magical combat. What was your inspiration for blending military fiction with magic and the paranormal?

Call of the Conjurer was actually written as a prequel to a homemade, stop-motion film some friends and I made when we were kids, way back around 1996. It was called Bloodfest, and it was mainly about a squad of modelling clay soldiers tearing through a Lego city full of demons and zombies. It would have been on youtube, if that had existed back then. Ultimately Bloodfest was just a weird little black comedy with minimal plot, although the whole setting and the characters stayed with me for years afterwards. It was when I started toying about with programming and began work on a Bloodfest video game that I started to give it more thought. The original story was a bare concept, and we had made the Bloodfest team far from professional – quite “Monty Pythonesque” in their quirkiness, so I had to ask myself: ‘Why was it up to this squad of soldiers to save the whole world from monsters? What made them capable to do such a thing?’ That was when I had the idea of giving them all super powers and magic spells. I wanted to make an RPG game, and to let players customise the characters with a selection of spells and abilities. I also thought more about the backstory, how the team were in service to a shadowy “Hidden Government” who deployed them to fight off extreme threats. Working on the world building to explain how and why the soldiers had magic; why their abilities were so rare and why there were monsters in existence, eventually led me to write Call of the Conjurer when I wanted to try self-publishing books. I decided to start from the beginning, and work my way up to writing Bloodfest as a novel. I never quite finished that RPG game, but maybe I’ll get back to it sometime!

I felt that the military jargon and tactics used was well displayed. What research did you do for this novel to get it right?

The main thing I had to research was what happens during military training, and then work that around the setting I wanted to write about. The military is something that has always intrigued me. In England we celebrate the heroism of those who fought in wars, and conflict is a big part of our history, so it is the kind of thing I’ve read about a lot over the years. I’ve also known a few people who have served in the British Army and United States Army, and one thing I wanted to get across in Call of the Conjurer was how these soldiers are just ordinary people with the same flaws and ambitions we all have. Bearing in mind the rarity of the recruits in the story – their magical abilities which are desperately sought after – the characters in Call of the Conjurer are granted more privilege than most soldiers would be given in reality. This allowed me to occasionally put the cast in relaxed situations where they could be themselves, which was important for building them up as a team who trusted each other, and letting them grow as individuals.

There is magic used throughout the story. How do you keep magic believable in your story?

For most of the characters in the book, magic is a startling experience to begin with but it eventually becomes second nature. Some of them had prior experience with it, and I wanted a world where magic is a natural force but being able to utilise it is a rarity. It is a mysterious power tied to genetics and human history, and the Hidden Government has an entire Magical Science department dedicated to studying the phenomena. Over the years these scientists have tried to quantify, categorise and explain magic; successfully turning it into a weaponised asset for battle, but like all fields of science their understanding changes with new developments. In this way I can make magic a standard tool for the soldiers who use it every day, but leave many mysteries and revelations to be explored throughout the Bloodfest series in upcoming books.

There are a lot of diverse and interesting characters in this novel. What was your favorite character to write for and why?

I wanted a diverse but small cast, and as Call of the Conjurer was written as a prequel, there were a few key characters that had to be included. I liked having this chance to re-establish characters like Ace and Shimon, writing about them several years younger where they were different people to how I knew them. Captain Mason was instantly a good character to write about. My aim for him was not to be a typical drill-instructor people might expect. He’s much kinder to the recruits (sometimes chastised for being so), but still has to be tough at times. He’s a warrior, and a powerful spell caster. He’s fatherly and considerate, though in private he is a very solemn individual with a huge burden on his conscience. His inner turmoil is a big undercurrent throughout the story, and becomes more impactful to the whole plot towards the end. I enjoyed writing Gretel as well. I wasn’t sure where she was supposed to go at first; how she would develop, but I wanted to write a character who is initially perceived as a snarky, aloof ‘Goth’ but actually has a lot of personality and depth. She’s full of surprises, and I’ve had a lot of feedback from people saying she was their favourite part of the book.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?

The next book is Typhoon of Fire, which is finished and in the proof editing stage right now. The story follows the surviving recruits from Call of the Conjurer several years later as fully fledged soldiers now on active duty. They’re on a mission in an arid setting, living rough and facing greater threats in hostile conditions. “Hell on Earth” is a big theme of the story, and the whole book is a strange mix of Vietnam War films and Dante’s Inferno. It is definitely grimier and darker than Call of the Conjurer was, taking away the safety nets and really pushing the characters into some difficult situations while expanding on the whole Bloodfest universe even more.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Call of the ConjurerIn the shadows, Just out of sight, A hidden army fights a secret war. In the autumn of 2003, a few remarkable soldiers from across the world are brought together. Each hasa a special gift, and they are to be initiated nto a world of magical modern combat. Captain Calbert Mason is their instructor. He is a Conjurer; one who can summon and control ethereal monsters. As the recruits confront their new powers and the monstrous enemies they will encounter, Mason must ensure their safety throughout the training programme, confront a vengeful ghost from his past, and see that the recruits survive their first mission against a rival, deadly Conjurer.

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It Just Kind of Happened

M.L. Sparrow Ghetto is a dystopian novel where the people must fight against segregation. What was your inspiration for the ‘ghetto’ and the injustices the people face within it?

To begin with, Ghetto started as an idea for a story based on WW2 and the Holocaust. Clearly, other inspirations took hold and I decided to go another route with it! However, that was the inspiration for the Ghetto, the fight against segregation and all the other terrible injustices. Maybe one day I’ll actually write that WW2 story…

Sunny Beaumont is a sheltered computer geek that gets caught up with rebels fighting against the same government her father leads. How did you handle her transition from a pampered life to one where she’s hit with a dark reality?

Like most things when writing a story, I found it just kind of happened! I know that’s probably not the answer you’re looking for, but it’s the truth! I did try to make the transition slow and gradual, in an effort to make it realistic, giving her clues here and there, then letting her slowly connect the dots until she realized the reality of life in the Ghetto.

Many young adult novels have strong female protagonists. Why do you think that is a popular trend and why did you choose a female character as your lead?

I think it’s a popular trend, because people want to show that girls can be the strong ones too, that we’re not always the damsels in distress. This, however, wasn’t why I chose a female lead character – my reasons weren’t as good as that! My main reason was that I find it easier to write from a female perspective, but also because (no offense intended) I often find that women are more emotional and often open-minded, which was something I really needed in this book to make it work.

I thought you did a great job in this story with pacing and tension and setting a realistic mood. What is your writing style like and how do you use that to achieve a well written scene?

Although I’ve been writing all my life, I’ve only started doing it seriously in the last few years and I don’t think I’ve settled into a writing style just yet. Thinking about it, I’m not sure I want to… I just try to fit my way of writing into a way that fits the type of book I’m writing. At first, I found Ghetto difficult because I’d decided to write it in first person, from Sunny’s point of view, which was something I’d never done before. When I start writing a scene, I don’t really think about how I’m writing it, usually it just flows. However, when doing an action scene or something fast paced, I do try to keep my sentences short and simple as I feel that it helps to give the scene a ‘snappy’ pace. On the flip side, to slow a scene down I like longer, more complex sentences.

Are you working on another book? If so, what is it about and when can I read it?

Yes, I am. This one’s a bit different from my current works, as I’ve decided to steer away from Sci-fi and fantasy to create a contemporary romance based at a Texas university, between a British scholarship student and the schools star quarterback. Star-player (I’m still undecided on the title!) will be the first of four books in the What Happens on Campus series. I’ve almost finished it, actually, but it still needs a lot of editing! A tentative release date would probably be some time in the Autumn, maybe late Summer depending on how quickly I edit, but no promises! For more information, you can always check out my website which I keep up to date.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Website

GhettoMy name’s Sunny Grace Beaumont. Branded SGB/2/6895/03.12.93. Only child, self-taught computer geek and cancer survivor. Oh, and did I mention my dad’s the President? As you can imagine that’s sometimes a little problematic, especially when I want to sneak out. But it never got me into quite as much trouble as the night I ventured into the Ghetto – don’t ask me why I was there in the first place… it was stupid. Everyone knows that the Ghetto is where hardened criminals are sent to live out the remainder of their lives. At first the men that kidnap me are just as I’d imagine, mean and thoughtless, but slowly I begin to have doubts. I meet a guy. His name’s Sin, he has no Brand – a crime punishable by death – and he’s the rebel leader. I should hate him… but I don’t. Instead he opens my eyes to a whole other side of the Ghetto, where people are innocent of the crimes they’re accused of and helpless children suffer dreadful poverty. Is it possible that I’ve been lied to my entire life… that the governments been deceiving everyone? And how can I challenge the law my own dad is adamant to uphold?

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The Family That Went to War

The Family That Went To War3 StarsThe Family that Went to War is both a family memoir and a history of the people of the state of New South Wales, Australia. The author, Gordon Smith, gives a well-documented account of six members of a family from Cootamundra, NSW, who enlisted into the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) at the onset of World War I. His research in historical archives, newspapers, and memorial societies is well done. The accounts of war and details of each man’s deployment presumes that he also had their war diaries and letters from home to draw on for detail.

The Commonwealth of Australia was still a young country, having formed a federation just over a decade previous. Australians still regarded Britain as their mother country, and when war broke out, Australia’s Prime Minister declared support for Great Britain and formally entered the Great War. Six members of the author’s family enlisted to fight the German army. He tells each man’s story with informative passages about the region they are in, the larger picture of the war that raged around them, and then brings it back down to the trenches where the soldiers fought. Smith’s details regarding ships, armaments, shortages and hardships, and other details of the soldiers’ experiences in Egypt and France will be of great interest to readers fascinated by World War I or the contribution of Australia to the Great War.

One such detail is in the account of Austin Schofield’s experience at Gallipoli. A water shortage, bad weather, and devastating losses motivated the British combined forces to evacuate. In order to safely evacuate, they used subterfuge to trick the Turkish forces into thinking they were still there.

Periscopes were to be propped up, and every effort was to be made to create the impression that the trenches were still fully occupied. … When it was time to finally abandon the trenches, Austin was to help set up some remote firing devices to fire some rifles to keep the illusion that the trenches were occupied. Some rifles had string tired to the trigger and a candle burning until it reached the string. The rifle would then fire.

Though the author writes with detachment, the stories of these soldiers in the midst of historic battles give a glimpse into the life, and death, of Australian soldiers. I was particularly interested in the account of William Power, fighting on the Western Front at Fromelles France. The losses to the Australian forces were described as, “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”. Though the account is given in a very matter-of-fact manner, it’s hard not to sympathize with the Australian soldiers.

The biggest drawback of this book was a simple case of bad editing. In one case, the name of an Egyptian city is spelled three different ways on the same page. Punctuation is inconsistent and made some passages difficult to understand and hard to follow.

Overall, I think the author has done a fine job documenting both his family history and military history. Despite the dry, academic tone of the account, there are moments of humor and humanity that shine through.

Pages: 92 | ISBN: 9781310378010

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Review: Into Darkness by Richard Fox

Into Darkness 2star

Soldiers of Dragon Company are out on patrol in Iraq when they’re quickly ambushed by Al-Qaeda leaving two soldiers missing in action while the rest of the soldiers on patrol are left dead. Everyone in the army wants the perpetrators found, but the commanding officers want the two missing soldiers found quickly to save their careers rather than to help the grieving families. An ex CIA operative, Eric Ritter, is tapped to find the Al-Qaeda cell and missing soldiers. Moral lines are clearly drawn and Ritter crosses them several times through the novel leaving the question of, ‘who really is the bad guy?’ The ending of the novel offers little in the way of moral direction and serves to offer an even darker contrast to the novel, hence the title, ‘Into Darkness’.

There are several things that this novel does right. The essence of a soldiers life in Iraq is confidently captured down to the smallest detail. You can obviously tell that the author has been to Iraq and is calling on his own life experience. I rarely found any hiccups in the writing and dialogue flowed easily. The story switches back and forth between the US soldiers perspective and the perspective of the insurgents, but I felt like there were several chapters that didn’t move the story forward at all and could have been summarized and combined with other chapters to pick up the pace of the story. The only other issue I had with the novel is the misplaced focus of detail. An example, when an explosion goes off the author describes the event with a simple “BOOM!” There’s a missed opportunity here to paint a beautifully destructive picture of an explosion ripping through vehicles, people, and lighting up the night sky while in the next chapter were treated with mundane details of a briefing room layout that’s given an entire paragraph. Also, simple character movements and placement were given a hefty amount of real estate throughout the book, but I think this is normal for new authors as they decide what should be left to the reader’s imagination and what should be left out. For this being a military novel I felt that there was an awful lot of talking and maneuvering going on between the characters which might suit some readers that prefer dialogue over a straight up firefight. In the end, ‘Into Darkness’ truly captures the essence of a soldier’s deployment and deftly blurs the lines between good and evil.

Pages: 309
Published January 16th 2013 by Triplane Press
ISBN13: 9780991442911

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Review: Point Apocalypse by Alex Bobl

Point Apocalypse 3star

Point Apocalypse is a fast paced techno thriller filled with nonstop suspense and action that only lets up to deliver a meticulous description of the fictional world of Pangea. Pangea is a prison world where Earth sends its worst criminals. One shipment of criminals includes Mark Posner a former soldier, but Mark slowly learns that he is not a prisoner. He is on a mission; a mission that will change both worlds. Earth has been sending people to Pangea for years and a community has emerged that brings some semblance of structure, but otherwise it’s a world where everything is hazardous to your health and only the strongest survive. Mark must navigate his way through this world and find a traitorous general that is plotting to destroy Earth so that Pangea will no longer be subservient. But things are not what they seem and while Mark is fighting off cyber-troopers, and hired guns he learns of a shocking truth that moves the book in a whole new direction. Point Apocalypse focuses on action and world building while character development and dialogue seemed not to be an important factor. I found myself not really sympathizing or connecting with any of the characters as they all were either spouting generic lines of dialogue or fighting off characters that were introduced as a bad guy a few sentences ago and then were killed off. What really nagged at me was that the writing was constantly discursive and circuitous (ask your English teacher what those words mean). But all that aside I constantly felt like I was hurtling headlong toward a dramatic ending and I couldn’t wait for it to come. If you don’t care about character development or eloquent prose and care more about super charged sci-fi action then this book is for you.

ASIN: B00BVOHUC0
Kindle Edition, 258 pages
Published March 16th 2013 by Sky Bridge

Find out more about Alex Bobl and his books at his website http://boblak.blogspot.com/

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