Grand Masquerade

Grand Masquerade Born Publishing copyright and written by Stephen C. Perkins.

Setting: The setting for the story is the small town of Rupert, Vermont with its surrounding farmland and dense forests. The town is small but seemingly prosperous with well-run stores and farms with a particularly large dairy that also provides a far better than to be expected Bed & Breakfast that also includes a series of well positioned hunting blinds for those who like especially to hunt deer.

Characters: Outsiders that include a man running for President of the United States; the owner of a technological company that is ‘taking over’ the technology sector of the world by his company’s cutting edge advances; his spoiled well-educated but play-boy son; his long-standing and trusted CFO; his Chinese chief designer; a few lesser characters. Insiders are composed of a sizeable number of residents of Rupert that include the owners of the Dairy/B&B/hunting complex; several of their children; city residents and prominently one daughter of one of the wealthiest; the Sheriff and his Daughter who is somewhat of a ‘bulldog’ investigator; a doctor who is gaining an increasing position of renown as a healer who uses non-invasive techniques. A third set of characters, ‘the Others’, seemingly existing as those of legend and not really existing except as the after results of some form of horrendous activity. Legend has it that they exist because of an unholy alliance they had reached with certain residents of Rupert many years ago.

Plot: The book opens with a gruesome attack on a young boy riding his motorcycle in the dense woods followed by his disappearance. The local Sheriff provides a seemingly plausible reason but the State Police Officers decide to investigate further. They reportedly are attacked of several bears with disastrous results. From this point the reader is taken into a world of political machinations interwoven with the equally corrupt life of business with off shore hidden accounts, deceased individuals who are not dead but living and getting paid as another, and dishonesty, distrust, betrayal, deceit, and treachery rampant. All of these activities gradually interweaving with features concerning the legendary “Others”.

Discussion: The author has set forth a quite intriguing mixture of politics, unprincipled business tactics, personal greed, lack of morality, seeming lack of ability to have any semblance of deep affection all overshadowed by a mystically malignant power in which it is enveloped. A quite intriguing horror (?) story highly recommended.

5* Highly recommended multi-genre/suspense tale.

After Olympus

AFTER OLYMPUS ISBN: 9781733801713 Lone Think Press copyright by Desmond Mascarenhas written by Santiago Xaman.

Description/Discussion: Pragmatically, and referred to by the author as “pseudo-fiction”, this most unusual book follows a rambling plot following the lives of three men besides the story teller and their wives or significant others as their lives play out after discovery of a hitherto unknown/unreported Russian Space craft of unusual components and containment. The tale is a tumultuous mixture of mystery and mythology with overtones of mysticism (?), occult (?), history spread over a wide section of the world ranging from Guatemala to Russia, the Serengeti and other parts of Africa, India, throughout much of the U. S. and Europe. The four protagonists all are exceedingly well educated and from backgrounds (families/cultures/traumatic occurrences) that make them prone to a somewhat different manner of living, employment and in their reactions to these matters. The pages are replete with thought provoking messages on such matters as the fact that every subject deserves empirical, intuitive and pragmatic contemplation; everything good grows from the bottom up (plants, trees, cultures?); everything projected from the top down is bad – organized religions, governments et al. – these latter often ‘dodge’ by forming protocols that ‘adapt’. Good comes from people thinking alone; e.g. Plato, Einstein; bad from organizational groups at the top claiming from their collective decision that they are right and everybody else wrong. And unfortunately, even authenticity is vulnerable if railed against at a high level maintained for a sufficiently long time. The author seems most interesting, but who is the author? The book includes a previously published “Opinion Piece” of interest in itself, as is another “Rebuilding the House” that discusses replacing organized religions, governments, corporations “with better versions of themselves”. Also some notes About the Author are quite fascinating when contemplating the entire book and the thoughts that arise from the ‘experience’ of reading this book.

5* Unusual, divertingly intriguing experience for certain readers.

The Unconquered

The Unconquered, “Originally published 2018 as Heart of the Dragon – The Oracle Current version is Edition 2 Printed by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.” Copyright and written by Peter Man.

This book is unusual from several different aspects, thus actually requiring a somewhat different (and lengthy) review format. It is sub-titled Children of the Divine Fire, Romance of the Flower Kingdom, Book One and is a novel but also described as “An Epic Drama across the Galactic Stage Spanning the History of Human Civilization including that of mysterious CHINA.” It also is assumed that Jim Brown who participates actively in a China-themed “writers group,” participated in some manner in that he “came to notice and appreciate the mind and work of Peter Man, who has now graciously accepted our invitation to join TGP’s stable of affiliated writers.” Several glowing reviews describing the book’s imagery – art history, world geography, mythology, literature, sci-fi, action, militarism, mystery, thriller follow; then a preface; Table of Contents containing an Author’s Note; 52 chapters; “Why you should write reviews”, “Image Licenses” and “Acknowledgements.” A dedication follows “to Charlie Man Dunn because he may one day want to learn the meaning of being Chinese” while the numerous ‘Acknowledgements’ are issued with respect to individuals who in one way or another affected the author sufficiently to evoke an intense interest in China and its world relationships or would be so affected; then follow “Examples of approximate Putonghua (Mandarin) pronunciation using English spelling”; and ultimately, arriving at Chapter 1 which has the interesting title “Everything is a Lie” which informs the reader that he/she is about to be introduced “directly into the crux and climax of the unlikely, unfortunate, and unfathomable events that befell upon one ordinary and unexceptional girl by the name of Victoria Solana.” The story begins to unfold when Victoria as a small child had been given to Michael and Angela, a couple who had moved to Canada because of trouble in their own country, by David (Chinese who didn’t look Chinese) for her protection. Here she develops into a pleasant young girl with magnificent intellect seemingly as a result of exceedingly good training. Suddenly, her parents are killed in an orchestrated attack by a huge truck while she survives and again is rescued by David. He informs her that the two of them now “were facing a very powerful enemy that’ll use every evil tool at their disposal, including lies and illusions. In real life, fraud, deceit, and malice are usually mingled with truth and sincerity.” He then explains that he is using a “VR Gamebox” that “will help convince you that there is another reality….basically a lying device to teach you about the truth. It’s a Paradox and an oxymoron. But you’ll decide what is real. Think of me as your guide and mentor.” “We enjoy unfettered freedom of expression which includes the freedom to lie, the freedom to slur, the freedom to insult, and the freedom to use the basest profanities in the Holy of Holies. Lies pervade the air we breathe …”  “This is the brave new world we live in – the Land of Lies.” “I’m training you to fight the final battle. We need you to win” From here the story follows Veronica as she learns of her strange heritage that reaches back through centuries in China and why it is so important for her to survive.

Discussion: The author here has exhibited the mental abilities and extensive knowledge that have called forth the lavish praise mentioned above. He is eclectic as well as appearing to provide, almost to a lexicon degree, a history of China. The quantity of material alone regarding China’s centuries-long history is enthralling in its range from the similarity of the causes of the trek begun by 86,000 peasants that ended with 8100 to that of the American Indians’ Trail of Tears, to presenting further material with respect to the duplistic part played by Chiang Kai-shek. Additionally, the basic plot is intriguing and the multi-genre approach excellent. Thus, as stated, as a historical treatise, this book is most illuminating and the fictional plot is unique enough to provide great interest. It is only in the presentation of this latter, that this reviewer encounters disappointment. It gradually assumes a level more appropriate for young adults but again only partially. It is granted that we are reading a story, one of whose genres is fantasy. However, the credibly acceptable characters first presented gradually move further into fantasy until eventually being ‘swallowed-up’ within this fairyland and fading away to a point where we are informed that any questions raised “my friend, is another story.” Granted, this analysis obviously depends upon highly individualistic evaluation and may be that of this reader alone. If totally a personal conclusion, this reviewer offers most regrettable and sincere apologies, and suggests that each reader may need to make his/her own personal evaluation.

3* 5* eclectic with fascinating Chinese history; -2 Most difficult to review/interpret.

Slater’s Tempest

Slater’s Tempest assumed published, copyright and written by T. J. Jones.

This 3rd book in the Slater Mystery series follows former Navy Seal, now PI Eric Slater, as he and his ‘working for her license’ love Maggie embark upon solving another mystery. This one is in the Florida Keys where the much loved daughter of an exceedingly wealthy tycoon supposedly died when hurricane Irma tore through the area in 2017. It was believed that Isla the daughter, had taken her beloved dead mother’s boat, the Caroline, out trying to save it by sailing it to safety. Slater is contacted by the tycoon when he receives in the mail a neckless that his purportedly dead daughter never removed. Slater and Maggie, with aid from Jasmine, his young ward who is eighteen, brash, overconfident with a mind of her own, but really a most intelligent and nice young person who enjoys ‘pushing his buttons’. It seems that the old man has ALS with a remaining 3 -5 year life span. He now was struggling with numerous additional complications arising from his less than exemplary life style. After being cleared of killing his first wife with whom he had been totally in love, but both had ‘messed-up’, he had married a beautiful younger woman. Seemingly, his money was not important because she really cared for this much older man as a result of her own early problems. His daughter Isla, close to the new wife’s age, did not equate well with her and for that matter believed her father did kill her mother. He had a brother who was intelligent and a part owner of his company, but actually was a ‘playboy type’ individual interested only in the money, not the company. The caretaker for his mansion actually was a brilliant engineer who helped develop many of Dunbar’s products. This man’s longtime live-in Asian friend/wife (?) who serves as the mansion’s cook also had some strange type of relationship with the owner’s family. Then there is a local PI who works as a barman at his son’s local tavern and whose other son is a recluse growing marijuana. Still others are entangled in the very complicated plot that even includes a ghost of Eli, an old sailor in some manner associated with the dead wife and/or the house. All in all, an interestingly involved tale including mystery, romance, humor, many psychological overtones and even a touch of the occult that the author ultimately is able to untangle.

5* Well-written, addition to the seemingly popular developing series.

A Spell of Murder

A spell of Murder ISBN: 9781838880958 Bookouture, London copyright and written by Kennedy Kerr.

The story follows the activities of two local but very modern witches as they attempt to solve a murder that appears to involve some manner of witchcraft. Their home belonged to their parents in the small town of  Lost Maiden’s Loch, named for the small lake in Scotland which had gained its name from  a young maiden who mysteriously had drowned in its waters. The sisters’ parents had been quite knowledgeable of the dark arts, even purportedly have taught the subject. The two young presumed witches are thirty-year-old Temerity Love, owner and proprietress of Love’s Curiosities and her 2-year-older sister Tilda, each quite accomplished in different most unusual subjects. Temerity was the proprietress of a small antique shop, Love’s Curiosities, in their home, but more importantly was a world renowned clairvoyant who had the gift of psychometry or psychic provenance that allowed her to gain extensive history of an item merely by touching and/or holding it – a talent of immeasurable importance in the antique and collectors’ world. Tilda was an authority, verifier and dealer in rare books as well as an Herbalist. Thus, their designation. The plot involves a number of prominent characters living in the town as well as the Laird, his home, wife and former wives, his sons, two of his old mansion’s remaining staff members, the town’s police officer, his quite newly arrived replacement along with Temerity and Tilda and their unusual knowledge as they attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a relatively newly arrived school teacher.

Discussion: As aptly explained by the author, this is a tale about “a little Scottish village alongside one of those strange, sometimes enormous lochs. A gossipy, cozy village where, sometimes, strange things happen and two local witches are on hand to investigate…” This reader found the description basically to be quite accurate and, for the most part, the story enjoyable. The only detracting features were insertion of ‘Americanisms’ in an otherwise Scottish tale and a sense that the charming picture developed in the book’s earlier chapters would have continued unabated if a little more judicious editing had been employed in the last third of the volume.

3* Charming mystery tale with slight caveat.

The Winter Sisters

The Winter Sisters: A Novel ISBN: 9780984974894 QW Publishers, Copyright and written by Tim Westover.

The story opens with a prologue set in 1811 that introduces the three Winter Sisters – Rebecca, the oldest, Sarah and Effie the youngest. They are ‘healers’, taught by their now deceased mother, well known for their abilities by residents of the nearby town of Lawrenceville and the surrounding area of Georgia. Raised in Hope Hollow in which the mother had settled long before the town existed, they had moved to town, largely because of Rebecca’s association with one of the town’s inhabitants and lived there for some time until driven out by a ‘fire breathing’ minister who had incited the townspeople to riot against these ‘devil’s advocates and witches who produced their cures through potions and other demon-directed methods’. In the resulting action, the man with whom Rebecca related was badly burned and even Effie, the youngest who did appear to have some manner of occult power, could or would not save him (causing something of a rift in her relationship with Rebecca). The sick, if still desperate enough, still followed them when they returned to Hope Hollow, but now were threatened on the journey by a rabid panther that roamed the forest. An animal that the minister insisted was the Devil’s own creation serving the desires of these witches. Because of the new difficulty encountered by the sick and infirm residents, the Mayor persuades Dr. Aubrey Waycross, an urban hospital trained physician to move there. The story gradually unfolds as Waycross arrives with his training of the day that still embraced Galen and Hippocrates. This consisted of using lancets, emetics, enemas and blistering agents, with bloodletting when called for, as well as other treatments obvious to the names of the agents employed. Thus, his practice vies with the herbal and holistic approach as developed to that time because he sees their results effective in many instances. So, simultaneously he attempts to combine the two approaches as he also becomes enamored of Rebecca. During the development of the plot, the characters of each of the three sisters proceed along quite different lines that aid in its development and a number of supporting characters including a travelling medicine man, the minister, and several other town characters, also provide different aspects of the story.

Discussion: The author has set forth a fascinating description of medicine as it existed, and was practiced, in rural (often to a degree urban as well) areas and populations of the era. As such, the tale is well worth reading. Unfortunately, a number of hiccups occur in recounting the tale. Most prominent, from this reader’s perspective, is difficulty attempting to define and empathize with the main characters. Waycross’ activities frequently appear quite thoughtless, even at times ridiculous; Rebecca appears to act in accord with her position in that place and time, but still is rather wraith-like in presenting a persona; Effie is even more of a wraith as she wanders about with her apparent occult power, and her ultimate close relationship with Thumb, a typical medicine man, seemingly unpredictable; Thumb, in turn offers his share of question marks; Sarah is a ‘loose cannon’ wandering around; Other, supporting characters also provide interesting, often amusing additions to the story. The ending, at least for this reader, was abrupt, somewhat inexplicable and unfulfilling.

Summary: A look at the practice of medicine in the 1800’s, perhaps particularly of interest at this time because of the surging interest among patients and even physicians in the holistic approach to treatment.

4* Special interest for current holistic medicine interest; hiccups as noted.