Nannion, a novel in e-book form, written and published with seemingly acknowledged help from Bewildering Stories, by Andreas Androutsellis-Theotokis.

Plot: An International team of Oceanographers proposed construction of a huge aquarium as a place to study sea creatures essentially in a free state where the scientists would have control of the ecology while conducting a wide range of experiments. The small virtually spheroid-shaped Greek island of Dioptra appeared to provide the perfect location. The island had been the site of a diamond mine, now extinct, that literally had reduced it to a large hole roughly the size required by the marine biologists, separated from the surrounding ocean. Construction was completed, amenities were provided for tourists to provide steady income and the scientists went to work. Eventually tourists found other sources of interest and other scientific projects finally caused cessation of the scientific activity and the work was abandoned. The reader then is introduced to a stray kitten who survives a few months in Athens when befriended by Claire, one of the original investigative team. She takes the kitten with her as she makes a solo nostalgic return to the island. The trip ends disastrously for her, but Nannion survives and gradually makes friends with an eel and a humanoid individual and all gradually become involved with a new composite group of scientists while attempting to liberate a pair of huge sharks from deadly organisms generated within the ‘aquarium’.

Discussion: The author has produced a relatively well-written tale; a skillful development of empathy for Nannion and her companions; science that ranges from unusual factual material (e.g., sea basins) to sci-fi/fantasy where discussion leans more heavily toward philosophy than science; and some matters of the young cat’s survival are a little difficult to accept. However, it is an interesting, albeit a somewhat strange read.

4* Interesting, albeit somewhat strange sci-fi/fantasy tale.

The Archbishop’s Amulet

The Archbishop’s Amulet is an epic adventure tale in the genre of dark fantasy, filled with strange beings and replete with all nature of spells, counter-spells and magic in e-book format by Watson Davis.

Plot: The world consists of numerous tribes all gradually being brought under the aegis of the Nayen Empire. The Empress is an all-powerful, suppressive, cruel and ruthless ruler whose underlings are of the same ilk. The protagonist, Caldane, a former student of Eddard the Shaman of the Brightfox Clan (called the Onei) now is a slave after the clan’s destruction. He is the only living survivor of a sacrificial ceremony, ritualistic in nature to harvest his magic. He is alive but many magic spells have been burned horribly into his flesh. The story opens with his being forced to clean up the remains of another of the gorily repetitively performed ceremonies with newly acquired prisoners and his decision that he no longer can live with the very people who are being selectively sacrificed. The tale follows his escape that is hampered by his decision to take along a child and a young girl and later adds a young nobleman, as they proceed. The forces stacked against him are several ‘Overseers’, an Archbishop, a gigantic humanoid creature and her army of warriors with attendant zombie like creatures and all manner of magical spells and other operative procedures as well as demons from Hell. A concluding battle and “Aftermath” provide a hint of more to follow.

Discussion: The author is a Texas born mathematician, now living in Spain and spinning tales from his long standing interests in fantasy, sorcery, science fiction and assorted creatures they engender. This particular volume is on the abundantly gory dark side of fantasy with a plethora of characters both good and bad, interestingly created and each pursuing its own agenda. Fortunately, a sizeable Glossary and Cast of Characters is included to allow the reader to ‘keep things in order’. The story moves well and although it would seem to be more particularly of interest to younger readers for whom it could provide some lessons in fortitude, it is well written enough to be enjoyed by any reader who is a devotee of fantasy and not adverse to the gorier side of such tales.

Conclusion: For the fantasy devotee, particularly of the dark, gorier type.

4* For devotees of fantasy; 5* for those enjoying the more gory, dark variety.

The Meandering Orb Trail of Avery Adludian Stein


The Meandering Orb Trail of Avery Adludian Stein, an e-book by Karen Costakes.

Plot: a Prologue describes a seemingly depressed Robert shuffling toward his rather dilapidated truck from another yard sale with a musty box of gatherings labeled “Free Junk”. While opening the car door, it suddenly disengages from its rusty hinges and falls making him drop the box, widely scattering the buttons, yarn and other material. Now greatly chagrinned and about to pull a childish tantrum, two words come to mind – “For Sam” – and his disgruntled state turns into one of resolve. He believes she will look at the world with ‘rose-colored glasses’ instead of from his more jaundiced approach. Then, while recovering the last of the scattered objects, he encounters a dapper man who questions his success at the sale. Robert answers that it was not particularly successful, but there always was the next one that could be. Liking his optimism, the man hands him a small parcel and suggests he take this and “Maybe it will lead you to something of more value.” Robert returns to his home whose state resembles that of his truck, and stops to listen to his wife reading to their soon-to-be-delivered daughter: “You are going to be brilliant and beautiful. You are going to have adventures galore. You may go through tough times but you are a fighter.” The story then opens with a nearly thirty-year-old Sam living at home helping with her father’s EBay business that barely is eking out a living for the family. While going through junk in the barely surviving attic, she discovers a pair of somewhat unique glasses. Descending to the main floor and exiting to the back porch, she dons the glasses and is shocked to see a strange red orb developing from a red spot in the carpet. Even more disquieting is the fact that the orb has multiplied and seems to provide an extended path. She rushes to confirm her sanity with her unusual neighbor Matty, who offers assurance and the two set off on a journey that provides the substance of story.

Discussion: Quite frankly and regrettably, this is one of the very few books I ever have read that I found extremely difficult to finish. For this reason I indulged in a procedure I always avoid – I read the reviews that already had been posted. Here among others, it has been described as “unique and whimsical”, which it is; as “clean, happy, fun, hilarious, and sensitive” which for many no doubt it will be; “If you are a junkie for a good book to take you out of the ordinary, this is it!”

These analyses require me to simply apologize for totally disagreeing with the seeming ‘flow of positive reviews’ and to offer, perhaps somewhat apologetically, the following: 1) I may have ‘missed’ something; 2) my many years as an investigative scientist may have pushed me too far toward pragmatism even though I thoroughly enjoy many books in the fantasy, occult, sci-fi and similar genres; or 3) I simply prefer a book that provides a plot that is somewhat more structured, i.e., ‘seems to be going somewhere’; characters with some, even slightly, more definition to provide some empathy or even a desire for the protagonist to accomplish his/her goals.

Conclusion: I understand that the author’s former endeavors have included Peace Corps volunteer, professional dog walking, kindergarten substitute, nanny and a struggling EBay business. The latter forms a knowledgeable base for the story’s initiation and the various other endeavors provide an insightful basis for the thrust and management of her story. Her optimism is impressive and the story has a most commendable underlying belief set forth in her statement: “God gave no greater gift than creative thought.” Thus, many readers no doubt will concur with the other reviewers. Most regrettably, it just is too unstructured for this reviewer.

3* Commendable endeavor regrettably not for this reviewer. Mea Culpa?

The Authority

The Authority ISBN: 9781540420237 by Ashley R. Carlson.

Plot: Duchess Ambrosia La Marck has initiated a struggle against the reigning King of Legalia because of her abhorrence of practices used by him and his government. In the first of this series (not read) apparently she had been discovered to have kidnapped the King’s Deacon and killed numerous of the country’s military and escaped with supporters in a dirigible. It crashes but some survive and stop to make the ship remains invisible which can be done because it was made from Caleb’s blood and he is a ‘Charismatic Evader’ who can disappear. Finally they arrive safely at ALLIT YEM, where all injuries are healed by the Remidies. Ambrosia wants to return to find her missing Advocate who was stolen by Evelyn Smyle and also bury the bodies of friends left behind when they had to flee the downed craft. Instead, she is prevailed upon to be the rallying point for gathering all of the downtrodden groups to rise up and defeat the powerful reigning King’s army. To do this she and others of the Charismatics must act as emissaries to these often dangerous groups of Winged Giants, Dragons, malicious fairies and others. Simultaneously she must fight the growing belief within her that she truthfully is the predicted Authority who was designated as the one who was to end all within their universe. Action is plentiful and this volume ends by providing an entrée to the next in the series.

Discussion: NOTE – the following discussion must include the fact that this reviewer has NOT read the first book in this series and must offer the admonishment that this is not recommended if the prospective reader enjoys somewhat ‘far-out’ fantasy. The author states that this book is for “…. those who fight the darkness within” and includes an opening quote from Shakespeare’s MACBETH “Stars. Hide your fires: Let not light see my black and deep desires.” She then provides a ‘life-line’ for the uninitiated with an introduction to Known Types of Charismatics and to individuals who contain these abilities: “Alius – Individuals with heightened awareness and interpretation of the spiritual realm. In rare cases, can summon spirits for communication.” Authority: “…gifted with a spirit guardian/companion called an “advocate””. Avian – ability to fly; Creaturio – transform into animals; Deterrent – can create aversion in a specific area as protection; Diviner – heightened awareness of individuals’ innermost thoughts through skin-to-skin contact; Evader – become invisible; Levita – super speedsters; Materios – can manipulate matter; Prolium – ability to take over and control others’ consciousness: Remedy – healing abilities; Sibyl – sense others’ minds and telepathically communicate; Sensae – influence and affect others’ mood; Tempest – control and manipulate the weather. This is followed by a map of the Legalia Run World and one of the Uncivilized Places before starting this volume. The story then follows the plot described. The specifics offered help the unenlightened eventually to gain an understanding of the story’s thrust. Generally, it is well-written, the presentation is acceptable and the concept interesting, probably even fascinating to the fantasy aficionado. Unfortunately however, for the reader who is not a strong fantasy devotee, the number and diversity of characters and their intertwining activity may be a little overabundant. And to reiterate, for maximum enjoyment, it is apparent that the first book in the series MUST be read first.

3* 4* possibly more for fantasy aficionado who started with Book One.

Sweet Barbarian

Sweet Barbarian, a fantasy/romance including considerable erotic activity in e-book by Jayla Jasso.
Plot: Valamir Braga is a Visigoth warrior who has been wounded, captured and is in chains in the castle of opponent clan leader Jovimus in Gallia Aquitania in the year of 483. His brother Andaric has just been beheaded and he is next. The iron door opens and Glismoda, Jovimus’ wife enters and says she will free him if he swears fealty to her and when her husband is killed in his ridiculous wars, she will bring him back and they will rule supreme. He knows she is a cold, uncaring person who is sexually attracted to him, but with no choice agrees. She is a Druid High Priestess with enormous occult skills, mixes some of his blood with special oils, delivers an incantation and he disappears. He awakens on a mountain in snow and cold, gradually begins a descent and finally collapses near a cabin in 2015 Colorado. Karly, the cabin owner’s Chihuahua disturbers her by barking furiously. She investigates and discovers this huge, muscular, sparsely clothed man literally freezing to death. Reacting instinctively, she manages to drag him into the house and save his life. His education and ‘modernization’ follows along with a gradually increasing love for this hulk who simultaneously expresses the same feelings and is an impressively and unbelievably thoughtful and ‘caring’ individual. Unfortunately, Karly still cannot commit because of her bad treatment by Shawn, now a drug abuser, whom she met and married while both were in the service. His continued insistence she return to him causes him to take action which adds another element to the story, as do actions by her brother Josh, close friend Macy and a few others, AND another (expected) occult session.
Discussion: The author has presented a story with an interesting plot and characters that lovers of fantasy and romance should most readily enjoy – a hulk who is thoughtful, respectful, faithful and sexually fulfilling on mutually acceptable terms. The pace is good and the gradually evolving learning process is well handled. The amount of explicit sexual activity is a little repetitive, but no doubt will be acceptable to many.

5* for the fantasy/romance aficionado.

The Word

The Word
ISBN: 9780692369005, Serpentine Books, an e-book by Hubert Crouch is a multi-plotted legal thriller on subjects most pertinent in today’s headlines.

Plot/Characters: Two prominently integrally woven main plots – 1) legal action against a fringe religious group led by Ezekiel Shaw, a self-centered, marginally psychopathic leader that pickets in a viciously demeaning manner, but deemed acceptable as free speech by supreme court decree, the funeral of a woman soldier killed in action fighting in Afghanistan; 2) the attempt by a new and talented reporter Leah Rosen under constant threats initiated by the lawyers to publish an article detailing fraud perpetrated by collusive activity between their law firm and an insurance company. Associated conflicts: The virtual protagonist, Jace Forman, a highly successfully profiled lawyer attempting to gain retribution for the disrespect shown the soldier, is assailed with troubles stemming from his son Matt’s belief that he was responsible for his mother’s automobile accident, and his subsequent activity; threats by his long-term and indispensable paralegal Darrin Mackenzie to leave him because of jealousy with respect to a superb woman P.I. Jackie McLaughlin important to the case; his former law firm, Hadley and Morgan, whom he left because of unfair treatment is attempting ‘payback’; as well as ‘normal’ difficulties with discovering necessary supportive evidence. Darrin’s sister Megan, with whom she has a close relationship, simultaneously is involved with marital problems disconcerting to her; Jackie also is working Leah’s case of personal threats. Numerous additional characters – Eugene and Janice Hanson, mother and father of their late-in-life only child, the dead soldier; Christine and Cal Connors, the lawyers involved in Leah’s case; Mike Randazzo, a shadowy unprincipled P.I.; Jamie Stein, an unprincipled insurance executive; Abe Levine, Leah’s boss; ‘Sister Rebecca’ and her daughter ‘Sister Mary’ (Maddy); numerous others who variously play smaller to highly significant parts in the constantly evolving complexly integrated plots and sub-plots.

Discussion/Conclusion: The author, a highly successful trial attorney, has produced one of the best legal thrillers this reader ever recalls having read. The plot/sub-plots are numerous, as are the characters but all simultaneously are so beautifully integrated that there are no ‘hitches’ whatsoever. The flow not only is smooth but fast moving as well and the characters have life. Additionally, the author has NOT fallen into the technically laden, often long-winded trap that so often catches other writers of books with legal plots. In this reviewer’s opinion, any reader who enjoys legal thrillers should NOT miss this one.

5* A MUST READ if you enjoy books with a legal theme.