EPHAIDRIA

EPHAIDRIA ISBN: 9780998405810, an ‘other world’ novel copyright and written by James Grieco.

Scene/Plot: Four human principles become involved in problems evolving in the intergalactic world which consists of three individual realms. One is composed of matter and energy. The other two are non-physical dimensions composed entirely of energy – the upper one positive, the lower completely negative and can be thought of as similar to what humans think of as Hell. Ephaidria is the most developed planet in the cosmos and consists of eight civilizations which are being threatened by Zang who has managed to escape from the lower realm and teaching others how to escape has gathered a huge army that is attempting to overthrow the Ephaidrians after which Zang intends to ruin Earth as well. Much will depend upon whether he can get to Sibyl and obtain the four crowns she maintains before the Ephraidrians. They cannot do this themselves and require four specific Human Prins with special powers and they must bring them through the entryway at a very old Roanoke Park walled-up cave in the Kansas City area. The four humans required are: Joshua (Josh) Jaylee, a sixteen-year-old resident of suburban Kansas City, who instead of gaining a high from drugs has spent hours becoming an incredible gamer. His strategic mind is unmatched in innumerable warfare games and is aided by a unique ability to sense an activity or movement before it actually occurs. Nicole Rauveur (18 yr. old Nicki) unparalleled musical aptitude Parisian violinist who tragically lost her mother at ten to a house fire which she escaped. Her researcher father moves them to the US to accept an offer because of his breakthrough in Nanomedicine. They now live in Kirkland, NY and after a drive to Syracuse to participate in an evening concert, she goes to sleep and has a horrifying dream where she is dragged into the ground. The reader discovers she has prophetic dreams, is clairvoyant, has second sight and may even be able to ‘change history’. Fifteen-year-old Suki Odayajka is a world class gymnast who after a perfect performance falls into a swoon where she hears her great grandma’s (Nyoko) voice “Try not to be frightened. He feeds on your fear.” She also has the ability to heal peoples’ injuries. Tahani Jakande, handsome, muscular, highly intelligent South African who is at NEO Cosmological Observatory as an intern after finishing his 1st year at Mass Conservatory of Astrophysics. He always believed there was life beyond our world and now is here making a startling discovery. He sees an object travelling at ¼ the speed of light (84,000 kilometers/second). If in fifteen minutes it hits earth, it can destroy a huge city of if landing in the ocean can cause a massive tsunami. Remarkably as it approaches it slows down so it is directed by something intelligent. Then suddenly, it vanishes. The tale proceeds as the four humans are gathered together at the cave, transported through the solid brick wall, transferred to Ephaidria where their metabolism is altered and they are mentally and quickly provided with the nine languages they will be required to use and prepared to aid their new intergalactic friends in the struggle to save their world as well as their earthen home.

Discussion: The author has provided a rather complicated story with a large number of places and characters of varying importance to the plot which, as described above, actually is only the basic story. In the author’s own words, one amusing from the young Josh, the other by the ancient prophet: “The creature we have to fight is possessed by a pissed off ghost, who cooked up a crown that makes him super- powerful…” And from antiquity: “Only four human Prin shall bend the face of time and enter the Sibyl’s sanctum. The righteous shall receive the great Starbrands, wielding their might with tempered hands, driving the escaped Drarbune souls back into the depths of Drar.”

Conclusion: The author’s imaginative themes and use of rich fantasy no doubt will enthrall readers that thrive on such wide ranging epic galactic tales of good versus evil. If you are one of these individuals, this one’s definitely for you.

5* For readers enthralled by original imaginative themes, rich fantasy.

Bittersweet Memories

Bittersweet Memories ISBN: 9781933826523, PMI Books a novel by Lynn Osterkamp.

Plot: The protagonist, Anna’s family has strong roots in Helena, Montana where her grandfather, Edmund Weller, found gold in 1883 and began the family that became ranchers, lawyers and politicians. Her father started Weller & Associates in 1940 which she joined in 1966 after graduating from law school followed by her brother Dan in 1970. She went on to become a judge and now is 73-year-old judge retiree caring for her husband Jerry who is quite frail and in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. She has just lost her dearest friend Martha with whom she has been inseparable except for the years they were at different colleges. They had returned, married their hometown boyfriends and began their adult lives, much of which were the mundane activities associated with life of marriage and professional activity – Martha’s family were in banking. Along with their constant relationship, Anna’s children, their spouses and their children, and brother Dan constantly remained in close contact. Unfortunately her sister Sandra became a Nun and would not even speak with her and another brother Ned and gone to the west coast, became a neuroscience professor and also completely lost contact with the family. The loss of these siblings, how and why it occurred and the reactions of family members at the time as well as of a much later period are presented in some detail from their point of view as well as that of Anna who always has indulged in positive, although as we learn, often not quite correct memories. The story culminates in a quite thorough family discussion of the surprisingly positive result of Ned’s extensive use of his training, of Sandra’s ultimate reaction and Anna’s final acceptance of the fact that every family may not be able to attain the beautiful family existence as she remembers pictured on TV for the Walton’s or similarly portrayed groups.

Discussion: The author has set forth a tale that, although somewhat depressing, many readers will find quite enchanting. Her characters belong to a closely knit family but are interestingly portrayed as being quite diverse in their attitudes, actions and reactions and neuroscientist Ned’s device, along with all accompanying details and discussion, presents an intriguing basis upon which to build the tale. Regrettably, knowledgeable hunters and mystery devotees will be disturbed by the number of unanswered questions that arise from this basic element of the story.

3* Depressing but enchanting for many; numerous questions for hunters and/or mystery buffs

Our Eternal Curse, ANOTHER TRIBE

Our Eternal Curse, ANOTHER TRIBE, A historical, mystery war story e-book by Simon Rumney.

Plot: After a quote: “Racism is a virus that can only be spread by us”, the story opens with the battle being fought at Shiloh in April 1863, a fact that was of no importance to Julii because “she had not yet met Captain Robert Calhoun, the man who would teach her the white man’s language.” And “She was blissfully unaware that each step (she was taking) was taking her closer and closer to unimaginable heartache…” as she followed the path she had been following almost every morning as a papoose on her mother’s back or on foot, almost every morning of her eighteen years. She is one of the last members of the small Koasati tribe banished by the parent tribe and the Cherokee Nation to a hidden valley known as “a bad spirit place” in Tennessee. Julii’s grandparents were the original inhabitants banished because they had persisted in marriage against all dictates. The small sub-tribe had avoided the American government’s “trail of tears” that had banished all Indians from the eastern states because they literally had not been known to exist. While walking, Julii hears unusual thunder-like sounds with no clouds in the sky and when she arrives at the creek she sees a pink man in unusual clothes who has fallen from his horse with his broken leg caught in the stirrup – none of which she understands, but releases him, gives him water and finally is able to get him to her village where she nurses him not only for the leg but additionally a severe and infected head wound. During his recovery, the reader discovers that she is an extremely intelligent person with remarkable powers of learning and assimilation, and although as a Southerner and racially biased, he still manages to teach her a considerable amount of English. Upon his recovery, she accompanies him back to Atlanta. On the trip he becomes enamored and they indulge in heavy sexual activity. Upon arrival, she is treated as other non-whites, he is court-martialed for deserting his command at Shiloh, her testimony is unacceptable because the prosecutor says she is lying about the short time she had been able to learn the language, there are no Indians left in the eastern states, and besides she is an Indian and no better than the other non-white residents. He is convicted and she is abandoned only to be saved by an Italian Count who detests the manner in which the white population treats anyone not of their color. Also as the largest supplier of armament for the Confederacy through his modern fleet of steam blockade runners, no one interferes with him. He believes and then discovers, that she actually is a reincarnation of a member of his family going back to the pre-Roman era and the story evolves as Julii continues to learn and with her tremendous intellect becomes involved not only in strengthening his business, but for revenge devises a plan to defeat the Confederacy. Ultimately she obtains her revenge on the abominably racist southerners while dishearteningly discovering that many of the Northern Union officers are no better and she pays a highly significant price for her actions.

Discussion: The story moves very slowly and simplistically through the early stages of the book, but eventually gains momentum to provide an interesting tale of realism intermingled with fantasy, revenge, reincarnation and retribution mostly incorporated in the historical settings of Atlanta and Savannah during the Civil War. It provides fascinating recall of similarities in historically relevant mistaken war maneuvers and sets forth interesting conjecture on the loss of Vicksburg and of Sherman’s famous/infamous March to the Sea. And finally to sum up the author’s intent, from this reviewer’s perspective, is to provide a story that not only strongly censors racism but also weaves the tale of a young woman who is destined to endure: “Life was never supposed to be something predictable and safe or “normal”. Life is a series of uncontrollable and unfinished events. Longing for the day when everything returns to normal was simply a vain hope. Normal was chaos and the only way to find happiness within chaos was to accept it. To surrender to it, to live amongst it. To let it take its course. To allow events to be unfinished.”

Conclusion: A slowly developing tale providing multiple emotions that can, or cannot, be embraced, and at a level determined by, the reader. A caveat MUST be offered for individuals who find accepted verbalization of the day too offensive as it is presented by the author.

3* Slowly developing emotional tale requiring caveat described.

The Digital Rabbit Hole

The Digital Rabbit Hole ISBN: 9780982836345, Futurebooks,info publisher, e-book by Larry Kilham,

The book is subtitled: “How we are becoming captive in the digital universe and how to stimulate creativity, education, and recapture our humanity.” The book contains an Introduction followed by a presentation in three parts with magnificent references contained in a section at the end of the book pertinent to statistics and statements offered in the body of the work. PART 1 – The New World of the ‘Knowosphere’ contains 6 chapters detailing entrée into, good and bad features, effect on children and young adults, addictive features, definition of, its best uses and ‘shadows of artificial intelligence’. Part 2 –What to Learn and How to Think in the Age of Google has 3 chapters detailing decisions to be made and considerations that must be taken into account, evolution of new thought processes where the mind merges with the internet providing collective intelligence, and advancement, education and creativity considerations. PART 3 – Escape From the Rabbit Hole contains 4 chapters examining the “Erosion of Human Values”, “Recapturing Our Minds”, “Preparing the New Generations” and finally “The Road Ahead”.

Discussion: This is perhaps one of the most scholarly, and yet most simply written discussions on the subject of today’s almost universal servitude to the digital universe that this reviewer has read. Pertinent material from recognizably knowledgeably sources not only is presented in abundance but provided in a most enjoyably readable form. The author states: “Mankind’s thinking process is changing because reality will come through computers and digital devices.” He offers a relevant quote from prominent neuroscientist Susan Greenfield: “You’re just a consumer, living at the moment, having an experience, pressing buttons but not having a life narrative anymore. You’re not defined by your family, or by what you know, or by specific events in the real world, because most of your time is spent in cyberspace. So what are you? Could it be that we just become nodes on a much larger collective thought machine?” He states further that the main entry is through the smartphone with, as of 2015, 64% of North American adult ownership and with Facebook installed in 76%. There is a noticeable “erosion of human values at a price we have become willing to pay for the costless convenience of Google, comforts of Facebook, and the reliable company of iPhones”. The decline in youth studying humanities is quite noticeable. Mark Bauerlein, English professor and social analyst asks how can historical tales of leaders/battles/other, and architecture compete with the Digital democracy that even seems to be a contributor to declining interest in classical music. Sirus XM and satellite radio has 9 jazz channels, 20 Latin, 2 traditionally classical and the core classical music public in NYC is no more than 20,000 – ¼ % of city’s 8.4 million people. These are all part of the Internet driven democratization of cultural opinion. The average user checks his/her phone 100 times/day. Children use them constantly, often for advice/guidance but many unfortunately have become self-absorbed to the exclusion of everything else. It already has been proven to lessen attention span which already is at an all-time low of slightly over 8 seconds. It provides instant gratification – a message from a boy/girlfriend, photos from a party, shopping, a game, even a ‘selfie’. Obviously the traditional interests cannot compete with such prominently ‘important’ features. All of the former activities require a desire to learn which in turn requires effort. The latter do not, and they are selected simply because human nature traditionally takes the route requiring the least effort, and especially when gratification is so easily attained by doing so. Further, this concentration on one’s digital life decreases human intercourse and companionship and is leading to an increasing U. S. population of insecure, isolated and lonely individuals and, according to frightening statistics, have been shown to provide abysmal levels in literacy, mathematics and problem solving when compared to the accomplishments of those in other countries. Studies have shown that “as the smartphone ownership increases, literacy decreases.” The author admits that “the Digital age envelops us and forces us to engage whether we like it or not” and that almost every job now requires some level of digital literacy. However, we must approach it intelligently to use it as a base for new enterprises and further education. It should not be wasted simply for social media access, entertainment, purchases, and daily routines. He concludes by providing suggestions for accomplishing this goal. This is a most timely discussion set forth in a scholarly but simply and easily read format. (96 references listed)

5* Highly recommended examination of today’s digital world.

Seventeen

Seventeen, Published by Creative Cover Art, is a fictional tale of two sisters having to survive in a suddenly vastly different world, in e-book by Suzanne Lowe.

A plane crash in Japan lets loose contaminants that gradually spread throughout the world and become known as the KV virus. It strangely appears to affect only adults, causing a terrible death. Upon the epidemic’s arrival in Australia, many flee the cities including the close friends of sixteen year old Lexi and her 12-year-old sister, Hadley in Perth. Their parents decide to stay in their home but also succumb and are removed by persons in contagious guard suits. No one comes to do anything about the two children and gradually they adjust until thieves invade. They decide to leave for a smaller town. Their parents’ automobile has been stolen, but their neighbors’ older car still works and has petrol sufficient to reach their destination. Since they also are dead, the two girls take the car and begin their journey. They meet another young boy along the way, take him along and just before sundown reach the small town of Jasper’s Bay. This town retains their electricity because it is a model community that had established a complete and well-functioning system of solar power. The town is inhabited only by children and is run by the eldest of them, Elisha and Ethan Mathews who were the children of the town’s Anglican priest. They are given permission to stay and matters begin to settle into place until Broc, a young bully type and his gang from outside start to upgrade attacks on the town’s children. Problems escalate further when a mutant version of the virus appears that first produces a noticeable rash on the arms and legs and is followed by increasingly uncontrollable rage and is reported as beginning to attack children when they reach seventeen. Elisha is the first to become infected and is forced from the community because of her resultant activity. Ethan, although her twin, seems immune. He is devastated however, and takes to drink. Further problems ensue to threaten the town’s already shaky survival structure when Kevin, one of the young siblings of Zac, the eldest son running the nearby only productive farm, deserts to join Broc and his gang creating devastating destruction to the town’s infrastructure. Eventually, the young town dwellers band together to fight the invaders and some order is reestablished with Lexi taking charge but as she turns seventeen, the question surfaces as to whether she will be immune or if she too will succumb.

Discussion: The author states “I wanted to write a story for young adults that featured two sisters having to survive in a world that was suddenly vastly different from one they had grown up in. One without adults or any rules. This was a scenario that my own two teenage daughters would often discuss and theorize about at the dinner table. I wanted to set the story in Australia, somewhere that is quite isolated and a unique setting for most dystopian stories.” The statement speaks for itself and describes exactly what was intended and what has been accomplished. As an aside, the activity of the bully Brock and his gang appear to be pictured at an appropriate level for the age group. Some further editing might have been helpful for any more mature readers, but generally the tale appears to follow the purported thought lines of her targeted audience.

5* Fascinating plot, setting and presentation for target audience.

Vanished in Berlin

Vanished in Berlin ISBN: 9781507669709, Libertine Press (2015) by Gry Finsnes.

Plot: Norway has been invaded by Nazi Germany. Young Norwegian Ellen Langno whose studies in Vienna have brought her almost to concert ready status is enamored of young composer/violinist German citizen Fredrick Koll who had come to Norway to be with her. He has disappeared. Even though the countries are at war, Ellen obtains permission to return to Vienna to finish her studies with her Jewish teacher and simultaneously to attempt to ascertain what has happened to Frederick. She becomes reacquainted with Paul, a part-time member of the old group of art students that ‘hung out together’. He was a businessman but with a quite commendable sketching ability and now was a Nazi officer who offers to help her. Eventually, he finds a list detailing that her love had been drafted into the Navy and was a member of the crew of a submarine that had been sunk. Numerous complications ensue because she now must make numerous decisions. She believes that she may be pregnant with Fredrick’s child; she must see his mother in Berlin, and Paul proposes marriage. Before and during these various happenings, the story resorts to numerous flashbacks of the time before her return to Vienna when Fredrick had followed her back to Norway. Included are the many required moves and subterfuge strategies employed to avoid the invasion forces so as not to be forced into the army to fight the Norwegians and simultaneously problems with her family and friends who were distrustful of him because of his nationality. Eventually, the story proceeds to a point where she asks Paul for time to recover from her loss and the story moves on in a rapidly developing manner to a conclusion that provides an ideal base for the second book in the series.

Discussion: The author states “I have done my best to keep to the facts of the Second World War …” and “The plot is entirely fictive, but all of the historical dates and background of the war are correct as far as I know. Many of the events which the main characters go through actually happened during the siege and occupation of Norway.” She also points “…to a few of the more unusual facts and explain.” Included in the list was the interesting: “The Germans gave crystal meth to fighting soldiers.” This is the third of this author’s books read by this reviewer and from this perspective it perhaps may best be described by paraphrasing part of my remarks about the earlier read of the author’s Stones Don’t Speak. Ellen is an attractive, self-centered woman accustomed to attention (here as a performer) being thrust into a totally unfamiliar and distasteful situation to which she has little desire or inclination to attempt to adjust until the situation leaves little alternative, and then her reaction may not always be the wisest. Nor is that of her lover who is sadly lost in the situation. The conclusion or summary, however, is identical.

Summary: The story provides an appealing tale centered on a particularly disturbing time and place in history and in a location seldom visited by authors.

4* Engaging, somewhat suspenseful tale of a time/place seldom recalled.