SHORT AND SWEET

SHORT and SWEET published by Park Langley Editions, London copyright and written by Raymond G. Taylor.

This is a collection of a sizeable number of short stories mostly on the dark side with a few consisting of only a few pages. The range in topics is wide as are the characters and close to the collection’s center is a sizeable number of pages following two different wolves, a male and female, each of whom has been forced from the pack for reasons of nature as described by the author and is the author’s way of presenting an introduction to a single, or perhaps series, that will follow the journey of these two mavericks.

Discussion: In many ways a strange collection of stories to read, as did this reviewer, when there is time on one’s hands and if a reader, you prefer using free moments to indulge in this pastime. The author seems to be relatively well-known in England and writes well. In summary, a strange but interesting volume that well serves its intended purpose.

5* For readers searching with ‘time on their hands’ searching for entertainment

The Andean Cross

The ANDEAN CROSS ISBN: 9781648038372 Westwood Books copyright and written by Lawrence Clayton.

The story begins by ushering the reader into the world of mystery, cruelty and intrigue heralded by the Conquistadores and their invasion and mutilation of the culture and peoples on the New World under the guise of Christianity. Mathew Weston, a relatively young Texas History Professor, is on a summer break and joins a group looking for the wreck of a Spanish Galleon lost on its trip back to Spain with treasure. The unusual Andean Cross purportedly was included among the gold and silver that was lost during its journey to Spain from the Land of the Incas in 1544. The expedition make positive discoveries and he is fortunate to obtain funding to establish a dive team to investigate further the supposedly exact spot where the vessel was sunk in the Bay of Panama. But even before his obtaining this grant, the story initiates leads with respect to this particular shipment. It appears that the description of all of the items is not to be divulged. The nature of this secrecy and the underlying reasons provide the fundamentals upon which the author has constructed this unique historical, religious, suspenseful mystery with a large component of romance. Clair Snowden, an expert on one phase of history pertinent to some of the artifacts also is a member of the team and she and Weston gradually attain a level of understanding that reaches new heights for them both as the story continues to provide further information about the long rumored extent of the early dissemination of Christianity by its apostles.

Discussion: The author appears to be well known for his scholarly approach to the early rise of the Christian religion. The sites have been well researched as well as the material and the entire package is relatively well-assembled. Fundamentally, this is a plot driven tale in which a large group of characters are gathered together, and although somewhat vaguely presented as to exact positions within the story occasionally, function well. Regrettably for this reviewer, occasional character activities appropriate to the story are difficult to accept when assembled within the picture the author’s earlier descriptions have provided to build a mental picture of a person; e.g., Mathew is presented as a well-trained, knowledgeable diver who can qualify to gain a grant for money sizeable enough to run a dive team, yet he can almost pass out in a simple faint when thoughts occur to him about possible repercussions about his possession of the Andean Cross illegally, ‘because it provides a needed advancement for the overall forward motion of the plot’. Unfortunately, attributing such an action to a certified Deep Sea Diver will be unacceptable to most even slightly knowledgeable individuals and impossible for anyone with any information of the rigors of the required training alone. However, for the average historical fantasy, thriller, mystery, romance devotee this is a story that will satisfy in all areas. For the more casual reader, following the plot as it develops still will provide an interesting story and possibly new thoughts with respect to some aspects of the origins of Christianity.

4* 5* multi-genre plot-driven tale for many readers; at least 4* for most.

The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary is first of a new series, published, copyright and written by Larry Richardson and is a truly entertaining story delivered in the time-honored manner of all of the good ‘story tellers’ of old. It begins with the killing of the wife of Vincent Marshall by the prominent and formerly untouchable Mafia Boss, Santino Giovani’ A spectacular court scene describes the face-off between the two men with subsequent assignment of Giovani to Federal Prison and necessitates Vincent’s assignment to the Witness Protection Program. Meanwhile,  Phil Branson, a rapidly rising General Manager in one of the largest Retirement Living Organizations is offered to leave his highly successful position in Orlando to take over the similar, but foundering organization, in Billings, Montana with the firing of their manager. From this moment a steady mystery thriller begins to develop and expand with a side of possible rising romantic attachment for this man who lost the love of his life shortly after an idyllic relation with this wife. The sub-plots are many and beautifully intermingled as this Retirement Home the Sanctuary had been selected as the scene of the Witness Protection Program; an assassin ‘who never failed had been hired by the Giovani family was closing in on Vincent; pieces of evidence against the former Sanctuary General Manager was playing with the CEO of the General Organization: a dedicated cop was working diligently with Phil in his attempting to gain the required evidence; and the one girl who seemed ready to replace Phil’s lost love suddenly was offered a career choice that would fulfil the dreams of her childhood.

Discussion: The author has set forth a mystery, thriller romance that should appeal to every aficionado of any of these genres as well as those readers who, as stated earlier, enjoy a well-paced, well-characterized, and intermingling of interesting and well-designed plots.

5* Highly recommended

Bivrost Nine

 BIVROST NINE is the first in a proposed nine book series described as “an Epic Space Opera adventure (The Bivrost Nine Saga Book One)” Broken Wing Publishing, copyright and written by Andrew Tanner.

The prologue describes in detail the desperate last efforts by super hero woman warrior space pilot to perform her almost impossible ‘last stand’ attack on the attacking Otheran battle ship. Nysse Ann Hazara-Ghazi is successful in providing the last blow necessary when combined with the other successful battle results achieved by Earth’s forces, to make the invaders withdraw. The tale then moves into a period of uneasy peace among the various countries forming this huge intergalactic world in which Earth is a very new component. Nysse now is aboard a flight to her new assignment as a Commander in the uniquely structured ruling section of a small city left “on a chunk of what was left of the continent Bivrost Nine- an expanse of barren, reddish rock along the horizon” of a huge gap overlooking nothing but empty space.

The first chapter of this book opens with Nysse, now after participating in a ‘renewal program that has made this late middle-aged women into a vibrant and completely fit warrior who appears and acts like an individual twenty years younger. A person also particularly qualified because of her many years spent intermingling with the many different inhabitants of this intergalactic mass of diverse individuals.

She is on her way to assume her new position as commander of an outpost that represents a new approach to attempting to bring peace to the many highly diversified with many war-preferring nationalities sharing this outpost thousands of light years from its initiating conception by Earth. Her new team most prominently includes Sam, a person largely rebuilt from what was left of his badly destroyed body and referred to as Cyborgs which is a name, along with others rather distasteful to those involved; a brilliant, but totally unorthodox scientist Winston; then unfortunately assigned from the less favorable possibilities, Ishlaa, an Othren priestess, and her own long-time warrior ‘protector’ Ufthuf who hated humans. The committees’ task is to hammer out a lasting peace among this diverse and seemingly war-preferring intergalactic mixture. And the place in which they have to do it is as described, the small city situated on what is left of a partially destroyed continent sitting on a huge section of rock overlooking nothing but a huge abyss of endless space. The time of the tale’s beginning is only shortly advanced from Earth’s present year and the story is one of constant activity with danger, duplicity, treachery, betrayal and more.
Discussion: The author sub-titles this endeavor “The last hope for peace” and proceeds to present a sci-fi-thriller with undertones of mythology and philosophy from his self -professed position as a simple citizen who supports scientific advancement but finds the amount of authoritative pressure so widely extant to appear to be a little oppressive. Seemingly his beliefs seem quite in common with those expressed by individuals similar to his own background and training. He has served in the military, acquired academic training in one of the large California colleges and supports the concepts set forth by Black Lives Matter and of universal equality. His present endeavors seemingly are to attempt to add his ‘little bit to attempt to better the world from his position as an independent investigative individual who provides written analyses of his findings from his perspective’.  Summarily speaking, the author has produced a first volume of his proposed series that is a fast moving, sci-fi space thriller with interestingly portrayed characters with whom the reader can empathize, in interestingly presented imaginative situations and with a touch of humor. Attempts to impart some bits of philosophy and a tad of mythology additionally are included. The reader will need to decide how well he has accomplished his opening salvo, but if he/she enjoys the trend set by today’s futuristic thinking authors, they no doubt will enjoy this new book/series.

5* as described.

The End of an ERA

The END of an ERA, Diverse Thoughts From 100+ years of LIving ISBN: 9781636925639 Newman Springs Publishing copyright and written by John H. Manhold.

For readers who regularly visit my website, I am sure this is something different than what you expected to find. Specifically I should like to alert you to the imminent publication of this author’s latest book, The End of an Era. Final print copy is scheduled to be released for distribution and sale in print (soft cover) by next week, followed by an e-book, and an audible version shortly thereafter.

Briefly, it presents comparative observations of various aspects of life as it began shortly after WW I and progressed through the multitudinous changes that evolved as the years crept by “in there petty pace from day to day” through the year 2020 and the early part of 2021. The century’s changes overall have been accumulating for millennia – only recently the rate of acceleration has changed to a pace even faster than during the Industrial Revolution. The past one hundred years has moved from a time when a man’s handshake was binding, and a resident of the then United States of America was free to indulge in, and could attain top-level accomplishments in any number of fields, to the present era where an amazing amount of control is occurring. In 1919 there was no TV, Jet flight, DNA, Cloning, computers, huge technological companies attempting to correlate and direct an individual’s thought pattern and direction. Even general ownership of radios did not exist (my father, an electrical engineer, built our first ‘Crystal Set’). But perhaps on an even more personal level. What has happened to empathy? How frequently do you encounter understanding of a problem? Instead, is your boss or other “uncaring” person too occupied to even listen to what you are saying? Or if the person listens, how much is he/she really hearing? The last study of attention span of humans I found was 8.1 seconds, which is comparable to that reported of a goldfish. Have you noticed how rapidly advertisements change on TV? How rapidly people speak these days? When answering the phone, you immediately are addressed by a recorded message? What has happened to loyalty? Whom do you really believe you personally can trust?

Dependence upon machines, computers, and artificial intelligence is our way of life. Its pace and the quantity of material required to be gathered and stored has grown far beyond existing capabilities. Regrettably, no choice exists but to continue while opening our lives to any and every one because no computer made to date is immune to hacking.

The 1919–2021 period of change has been of sufficient magnitude even to be equated with the now almost forgotten Renaissance, an era of total upheaval in the mores of society was occurring that escalated to almost  unimagined levels in communication, transportation, housing, clothing, morals, matters of entertainment, patterns of thought—everything. Amusingly perhaps, also a time that has been compared with my unusual, highly varied life activities and often accompanied with suggestions—actual pressure—to publish them.

Until now, I have refused. Producing another exercise in self-serving egocentricity that few other than family and a few acquaintances might like to read always has seemed gauche until recently a young intern remarked that the opportunities I was offered no longer existed.  I was fortunate in that my career developed during a period when investigative opportunities were numerous and ability to meet and exchange ideas with notable people easily occurred. The conversation began an introspective progression of thoughts that led to my reconsideration and although I have not acquired any status as a celebrated professional athlete, revered statesman, honored warrior, or even received extensive media coverage as a celebrated stage or cinematic performer, I have gained a certain level of recognition in several areas that have provided me with an opportunity for worldwide travel and intimate time spent with people of many different cultures. Thus evolved the intention here to describe my serendipitous journey in an obvious and/or easily verifiable manner, and as it occurred with observations on the era differences and an intent to offer impressions gained through these years spent with many people of different, or possibly similar but somehow “different” mores as they change with time. Also, I should like to impart some of the insight (?) gained that could offer takeaway thoughts for others.

Generally speaking, there is little interest in the past. Few read history with the lessons that it teaches, and even historical novels are passé. This book sets forth a contrasting picture between the 1900s and the present century. It is one man’s story by a man who has lived through those 100+ years and set forth in his words as the events are remembered and written with obvious and/or referenced substantiation. You might discover features and/or circumstances that elicit personal thought(s).

John H. Manhold

 

 

The Helpers

The Helpers Library of Congress # 2010902607 assumed published, copyright (2010) and written by S. E. Nelson.

This is “A (fictional) International Tale of Espionage and Corruption” set in the African Congo. It is a tangled web of activities involving primarily French and Belgium internationally military and diplomatic trained members of these governments assigned to espionage positions in this country. Numerous other individuals of English and various other nationalities also are involved in this quite intricately involved plot that explores and lays bare the power hungry rulers of Colonial times and presents a picture of how pervasive it was and of the possibilities of the existence of persistent remnants of similar activity. Several major characters are murdered along the way with a few making it through to the end, mainly a dedicated American Free-lance Journalist and her photojournalist partner, a small local schoolgirl and her mother, a British world health worker and his wife, a wily French Intelligence Officer and his protégé, also some of “The Helpers” – the powerful secret group that is responsible for the constant warfare and “ethnic cleansing” that constantly causes the mass murders repetitiously occurring and set in position by their minions. The action is non-stop from beginning to end, and even beyond because the story makes most clear the fact that the use and misuse of power is a never-ending commodity in world affairs with seemingly special emphasis on Africa and its abundance of natural resources

Discussion: The author has set forth an intriguing multi-genre thriller that includes mystery, suspense, a degree of romance and large quantities of distrust, betrayal, treachery, deception and deceit. It also includes strong demonstrations of empathetic behavior and well fleshed-out characters. The story begins with a “Brief Synopsis” explaining the Congo and their interrelationship with “The Helpers”, a “very powerful underground organization whose members include international businessmen and high priests (who) are determined to maintain a stronghold on the natural resources of Congo.” In all, it is a long story that still will hold most readers interest throughout, even though the frequent switches to different characters, their thoughts and activities, do add considerably to the rather abundant repetition and redundancy as the author has handled it sufficiently well that most will not find it too annoying.

4* Long, but hard to put down, fast-paced multi-genre book, with noted slight flaws.

Mysteries from the Keys

Mysteries from the Keys: a collection of short stories ISBN: 9781927899397 Cavern of Dreams Publishing, Library and Archives Canada Cataloging and Publication written by Mary M. Cushnie Mansour.

Story #1.   Minnie’s way – an old, sightless woman with a stray cat and old, ‘comfortable dog reliving memories while a ‘day helper’ comes to visit, but again leaves to buy groceries.  2. The Storm – a violent storm, a telephone call is received, mysterious and frightening. Discovers it was only a dream. Another call comes in. She answers and discovers it is a repeat of the Dram.  3. We can Smile Again – a story of 2 most unusual young girls as they gradually grow and mature in their macabre artistic pursuits.  4.  Closing the Cottage – a new tale of a now 19-year-old girl who is being left alone for several days in a lakeside home quite removed from a town of any size. The protagonist is purported to be a young woman recovered from a “nervous breakdown”. The plot details her regression into a return of psychological disturbance and proceeds to describe an episode, but with no definite closure.   5. Return to the Cottage – an episode based on follow-up material about the same setting and some of the same, with addition of new, strange individuals and still with no closure.   6. Flowers for the attic – another short bizarre vignette.   7.  The Witness – charming tale with a house cat the protagonist   8.  The Coffin – another tale ‘on the darker side’ somewhat softened by its poignancy.   9. Angelique – another dark tale – death of a loved one, another chance, gypsies and a not unexpected ending.   10. Master Arpeggio – an unusual fantasy centered on a cat   13. Rodney – a kidnapped child ends as a cold case to be solved in the next story__14. Rodney’s Return – same characters with a few additions and like the other stories, leaves much for the reader to determine with respect to closure.

Discussion: Recently, a number of books have been offered with the Florida Keys as a setting for their plot. Amusingly, this reviewer selected the book without properly determining the message provided by the title. Mysteries from the Keys is just as presented – a collection of stories ‘on the dark side’ written with the typewriter pictured. They do not have anything to do with the Florida Keys, but should have appeal for readers who particularly enjoy this type of story.

4* For readers who enjoy ‘tales on the dark side’.

Fresh Ink 2019 Short Story Collection

Fresh Ink 2019 Short Story Collection, published, copyright and written by Jamie Stone.

The book consists of seven stories. Perhaps all should be referred to as ‘on the dark side’. The first is about the protagonist chasing down the monster that torments almost every small child with problems by hiding under its bed every night. He finally destroys it making it safe for the small children until the next generation arrives. The next is of a Serial Killer finally arriving in Hell, his treatment there and his opportunity to obtain redemption along with a few others in a similar situation. The rest of the stories are of a similar dark nature. The entire book easily can be read in one sitting, thus having the advantage presented by most collections of this type. An individual selection can be consumed in a very short space of time.

Discussion: From this reviewer’s perspective, this is a volume that will appeal to a particular ‘mind set’, and for those readers I’m sure, will provide a high level of interest. For others, interest in this book probably will be minimal, except for the third story entitled “To Protect You”. This story opens as follows: “This is Report # 1,208,096, regarding Humanity’s loss of power, the end of machines, and the future of Planet Earth. May this be our final recollection.” The thoughts generated by the material presented are endless, and so closely relevant to life’s activities as they exist universally today, to be scarily mindboggling.

3* with a range from 5* to 2* as discussed.

The Origin of the Exiled Rogue

The Origin of the Exiled Rogue 2nd volume of a trilogy published copyright and written by Sandeep Adana.

This volume opens with acknowledgements followed immediately by “About the Author” explaining that he is the “Amazon #1 Bestselling Author of ‘The Codes of the Exiled Rogue’” and that “he nurtured this metaphysical and transformational fiction idea for over six years before finally publishing it in 2019.” A Prologue offers that the tale is based in the year 2038 and follows the characters introduced in the first volume from the end of that book. Further, for those readers for whom this is the first they have read of the series: “When the truth was revealed to Aurora, Tristan and Sid, it brought with it a bigger confession of a larger reality, which will form the foundation for this part. The codes guided The Host, Matthew and Zhang Wei to share truths, who made it their life’s purpose to do so with all those who were ready to receive it.” This volume then opens with Chapter 25 on August 1st, 2039: Mid-levels, Hong Kong.

The story teller comes awake in a strange but beautiful place, starts walking, and sees a male sitting on a bench. They lock eyes and the man speaks through mental telepathy. He is there to welcome this newcomer because no one else is. He informs the new arrival that they don’t use speech in this place, have no concept of time and there is no day or night, birth or death, no gender or identity. Everyone is alone here but are a connected kinfolk that manifest randomly and disappear. You can communicate with anyone or no one as you choose. We don’t know where we came from. The ground speaks to you, the wind whispers, plants and flowers murmur secrets. You become acclimated eventually. Go anywhere you want, choose what you want to do and when. The planet ensures your survival; you just leave it to her.

From this initial introduction, the reader is taken to Hong Kong in 2039 where close friends Zhang Wei and Matthew, characters apparently from the first volume in the series, are introduced and we gradually discover that The Host, who was the newcomer in the previous exchanges, now is the disseminator of a dimension of knowledge on Planet Earth they had not previously seen when considering and discussing life’s existence and problems therein. His mission was to provide groups with aspects of life from a less toxic viewpoint than he had encountered on the previous Planet Mother that seemingly were established to confuse and divide the ordinary people and establish power by bigotry. The plot continues with shifts from Earth back to Planet Mother and introduces additional characters of Tristan, Sid and Aurora who also were carry overs from the first volume, more groups are established, and the importance of the existence of love in the world of Earth is brought forth. Eventually, to fulfill a prophecy, The Host must return to Planet Mother where he prepares to leave to fulfill the prophecy of which he was unaware that he had been designated as its principle player. The enactment of the prophecy is assumed to be the subject of the next volume.

Discussion: Of most prominent importance – this is NOT a book that ‘can stand alone’. It is most strongly recommended that one read the first book in this series before continuing with the others. However, with respect to this volume. Once a reader becomes oriented into the subject of the matter presented, he/she will discover a thoroughly interesting metaphysical discussion that offers a fascinating concept of ‘what happens after death’. The main flaw encountered is the author’s explanation of the ‘thought processes’ manifested by descriptions and statements provided by individuals in the latter part of this volume versus the description of reasons The Host left Planet Mother in the first place; i.e. “His mission was to provide groups with aspects of life from a less toxic viewpoint than he had encountered on the previous Planet Mother that seemingly were being established to confuse and divide the ordinary people and establish power by bigotry” [from 3rd paragraph. above]. Reappearance of The Host on Earth planet is another point of interest that perhaps could use a little further explanation. But to reiterate, this reviewer’s comments must be considered from the perspective of a reader whose introduction to the series is the 2nd volume.

3* Fascinating metaphysical discussion; rating explained in discussion.

Blood and Water

Blood and Water, A Paranormal Mystery assumed published copyright and written by Caroline Ann Davis.

        Jan Martínek is a vampire, unwillingly converted by his uncle Otakar, and although married to vampire Darja who still would like to be with him, but because of their constantly occurring inter personal problems has caused them to separate for a time. Her brother Petr hates Jan and didn’t want her to marry him in the first place and wants her to return to Prague. She is in a quandary because she loves her brother as much as Jan. Right now, Jan is more or less assigned a job in America looking for Otakar and Magda who have disappeared. The pressure to find them is strong because the latter gradually has evolved to almost legendary status in vampire circles. The reader next is introduced to Kristina Benson who with her brother Kyle, live with her grandfather in the apartment over his old fashioned bookstore. The store is close to an old relic of a hotel/hospital that recently has burned to the ground. Her brother and a close friend are ‘Ghostbusters’ and went there to record ghosts reportedly living in the place and perished in the fire. Kristina has inherited psychic abilities that she refuses to follow even though she is a distant relative of Hanna Gerlach, a psychic and one of the most famous ghosts that lived there. But in spite of her reluctance, she feels a strong need to attempt to contact Kyle, wherever he is. Russell Hodges, a professor at the local college who, through his prominent position as head of the American Society for Psychical Research, had given a lecture at the bookstore some time ago and is attracted to her when again meeting and becoming aware of  her desire to contact the dead Kyle. Hodges is related vaguely to Dr. Clifford, the former owner of the destroyed hotel which also had been part of his clinical program. He arranges a séance with her, her grandfather and himself in attendance. The session is dominated by the harsh voice of the doctor as Kristina acts as the séance performer and Clifford is ranting that he wants Hanna back, and that he knows he has taken her. They are not aware that Jan has snuck in and is listening and he knows Clifford had taken the locket he, Jan, had given her and should remember destroying her body. It seems Jan had tried to convert her to eternal life as a vampire, but was too late as she was too far advanced with T.B.

Kristina collapses into a coma-like condition that takes time to dissipate and scares her grandfather severely. She recovers soon, but still is insistent upon contacting her brother so Russell introduces her to Gwen Crowley, a well-known medium to help her. Meanwhile, Jan, posing as a writer interested in the burned out hotel/clinic offers to help her with another séance and the tale continues as Jan becomes increasingly attracted to Kristina who looks startlingly like Hanna, Russell similarly becomes enamored, Otakar and Magda are rediscovered as well as more about them unfolds, Darja becomes actively involved and Kristina’s grandfather plays a surprising role, all leading to an interestingly different climax.

Discussion: The author has provided an interesting plot that is much more involved than those previously read in this genre by this reviewer. My only, no doubt irrelevant aside, is that I do wish this author, as well as many others, would please become a little more knowledgeable about firearms when their characters are going to use them. Nonetheless, this is a vampire story that it would seem aficionados especially will thoroughly enjoy.

5* Interestingly ‘different’ vampire tale devotees should thoroughly enjoy.