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[ ABOUT TIME ] BY Murphey, Michael ( AUTHOR )Jun-12-2013 ( Paperback )
[ ABOUT TIME ] BY Murphey, Michael ( AUTHOR )Jun-12-2013 ( Paperback )
by Michael Murphey
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars I can recommend this one to positive science fiction fans., 9 April 2014
Global Research Consortium is a super-secret, secure facility experimenting with time travel. Its carefully selected staff, sequestered on site, is committed to a five-year mission. No unauthorized visitors are allowed, and no permanent staff members are permitted to leave the campus—at least not in the conventional sense. After all, time travel information in the wrong hands, that is, hands that did not pay for access, would be a terrible thing. The place is also full of spies, insinuated into the program by its various government and corporate sponsors, there presumably to make sure that they have as much access to discoveries as their competitors and allies.
Despite its investors' hopes, and their considerable financial contributions, time travel may not be the road to riches they had hoped. There are complications. First, the procedure can only translate living matter, which means the Travelers must go naked. All attempts to include clothing, implants, or carried items have fatal side effects. Second, people are not physically sent into the past. Their present (future) selves wind up cohabitating the same body as their past selves, meaning that Travelers can't be sent back to a time before they were born, and when they return, their memories of the experience quickly diminish. And thirdly, it is not THE past to which they travel. It is the past of one of an infinite number of parallel dimensions, many of which are largely indistinguishable from ours. This of course means that any changes made in those pasts may not affect OUR past.
That's essentially the near future (2040s) setting for this unique take on time travel. It is a lighthearted tale with moments of humor. It also contains a bit of real science—not just whizz-bang technology but an attempt to provide a theoretical basis for it. The digressions into physics are fairly accurate when delving into commonly known details of current scientific theories. Someone who is not superficially aware of special relativity might learn something here.
The main characters are well conceived, believable, and likeable. The minor characters also make sense and add to the story. The prose and editing are professional. With the exception of diversions, exposition, and author intrusion, the pacing of the main story is also good. The reader wants to read on to find out what happens next.
Which brings me to the first detractor. The book is structured as a frame story, told by an outside narrator, who occasionally digresses into explanations of the applicable science, history, and setting. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it does help to explain some of the background the reader needs to understand what is going on, but it also interrupts the flow of the main story.
Some of the humor seemed forced and juvenile. Two things stood out. The first was a running gag about one of the main character's…natural endowments. Let's just say that he has equipment of unusual size. As they all must enter the time travel portal in a state of nature, his nature responds naturally to the natural state of his two female companions. This was funny once or twice, but the same gag, repeated several times throughout the first half of the book, went on way too long (no pun intended) and became an annoyance. By the same token, scenes of wanton bone-jumping, sometimes more graphic than required for the story, seemed to be included simply to appeal to adolescent readers who expect that kind of thing in a book that isn't classified as 'Young Adult'. Another gag that was clever but also belabored was associated with a minor character called Dr. Hu (pronounced 'who'). That this is a time travel story, the name is brilliant, but versions of the Abbott and Costello 'Who's on First' shtick got old after the third time.
By the middle of the book, most of these have run their course. There are fewer author intrusions and not as many scenes belaboring the finer points of external human anatomy. But the ending comes on abruptly, with the narrator making a final summation of what happened with the project. Perhaps this is to make room for a sequel, but it felt anticlimactic.
That said, overall this is a far more intelligent story than many I have seen. I especially appreciated the inclusion of real science in this otherwise soft science fiction story. The prose, editing, and character development are all above average. Despite an inexplicable inability to overcome their teenage hormones, the main characters are admirable adults with laudable goals.
I can recommend this one to positive science fiction fans.

Full Disclosure: I obtained a promotional digital edition of this book from Awesome Indies. I received no other compensation in exchange for reading or reviewing it.

Primary Fault (The Schattenreich Book 1)
Primary Fault (The Schattenreich Book 1)
Price: 3.13

3.0 out of 5 stars The main story was truly great, 9 April 2014
Primary Fault is the first novel in the Schattenreich (which translates to “realm of shadows”) series. The author currently has three novels published in this series. It was refreshing to read a tale of intrigue based around science. The author set up a remarkable story about falsified geologic reports, stolen projects, and possible historical discoveries. However, the uniqueness of the plot was overwhelmed by a fantasy arc developing in the Otherworld. Caitlin, the protagonist, moves to Köln, Germany after her mother’s funeral to live with her brother Gus. Within 48 hours of arriving she is almost kidnapped, her brother disappears, her home is broken into, and she meets a cast of characters, all of whose arrival seems to be aptly timed. Action among Caitlin and those in Köln is punctuated with scenes set in the Schattenreich, an Avalon-esque world that runs aside our world and time. Caitlin does everything she can to find her brother, and in doing so misses that she is a part of much larger plot in both worlds.
I really enjoyed the dialogue in this story. It read as actual conversation, especially when the characters were stressed. They were sarcastic and witty, but within reason. The author made use of the native language of the setting and showed that she understands the culture. There were German words and phrases used in the text, but only enough to make the reader feel included in the scene without overwhelming them. These were used in enough context that the reader could glean their meaning, though many times it was translated through the main character’s internal monologue.
I did grow frustrated with the dangling plot points that were not wrapped up or even touched upon once the novel concluded. Perhaps the goal was to pick these up in the second novel. Though if that’s the case a nod to this fact would have been nice. Instead, certain elements that were eluded to be important were never revisited. Even characters introduced and interacted with throughout the novel seemed to only provide data dumps to the main character. The final wrap up scenes were rather anticlimactic and the reason for the kidnapping was rushed.
The lead character, Caitlin, is set up to be a strong female lead. And for the most part, she is. She loves her brother and will do anything to help him as he has helped her. The author makes this and Caitlin’s love/lust for the sexy male lead painstakingly clear throughout the book to the point of redundancy. I enjoyed all three of these characters, but I wish the author had spent less time doubting that the reader would understand how important these relationships were.
The main story (the kidnapping and the reason why Gus was kidnapped) was truly great. The author made geophysics super cool by establishing how much influence Gus and his earthquake research institute had. After learning that Gus has the ability to make or break building plans, it becomes clear that knowledge is power. This would have made a great stand-alone mystery without the fantasy side plot, which just confused me more than interested me. But that could be my bias as I was hoping for more science.
Due to redundancy in character development and the unfinished plot lines, I am giving this novel a 3 rating.

Fuel to the Fire
Fuel to the Fire
Price: 0.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars As it exists now, it is not professionally executed, 9 April 2014
This review is from: Fuel to the Fire (Kindle Edition)
Fuel to the Fire by David Staniforth is set on two parallel worlds, one supposedly pure evil and one supposedly pure good. The boundary between these worlds is threatened when a girl, Davran, accidentally crosses from her side – the evil side – into the good side. Her goal at the outset is to keep her gender a secret and to gather food for her starving family.

However, once she is sucked to the other side, the story is no longer hers, in my opinion. Instead, it becomes Hesperus’s story, for his world’s goodness is in peril from her crossing, and he must act to save it, even if it means sacrificing an innocent girl in the process. The “reader promise” was that this would be a story about a girl, and it actually isn’t. I believe if the author had opened with Hesperus’s chapter and expressed the impending danger (the prophecy) the reader would be better prepared for the premise of the story.

The author uses at least seven points of view in this story. Many characters are only allotted one scene each. Sometimes a scene is supposedly in one character’s point of view and then toggles to another for a sentence or two and back without a good transition. Davran’s love interest, Ronyn, has two (maybe three?) scenes in his point of view, which serve only to tell the reader that he’s in love with her. I believe their love would have been much more powerfully revealed through dialogue and action while still in Davran’s point of view. We never get to experience Davran’s realization she loves Ronyn while in her head, which could have been a great emotional scene when she realizes she has to leave him.

The villain was a cardboard cutout. I would have liked to understand his motivations for doing what he does, because I have a hard time understanding why an entire world would bow down to someone who is obviously insane and treats everyone – I mean everyone – badly. (Unless his position is hereditary and the culture has a deep grounding in tradition, which keeps people loyal, but this was never discussed.)

Hesperus was the most interesting character because his intentions were obviously good, yet he engaged in questionable behavior to achieve his goals, with a nice use of his magic ring to give away his true feelings. That said, the end of the book left me scratching my head because Hesperus changed his goal, or appeared to, at the very last moment without warning. Since we have been in his point of view for large portions of the book, I felt that the reader should have had an inkling that the true goal wasn’t to preserve the boundary as Hesperus kept saying. Perhaps I missed a bit of foreshadowing regarding his change of heart?

Another thing I had a hard time with was the dialect used on the evil side. First of all, it was not consistent, sometimes being normal English and then slamming into dialect without warning. It was often heavy handed, jarring my reading experience as I attempted to puzzle out what was being said. A little dialect goes a long way.

The author may have been trying to express that change may be scary, but it isn’t always bad, and that in order to fully appreciate good, we must also accept the existence of evil. The story itself is engaging, and if the scenes were restructured, the book would be much stronger. I enjoyed the fantasy setting and use of magic to express the theme.

Fuel to the Fire contains several spelling errors, many grammar and punctuation errors, and quite a few formatting errors. As it exists now, it is not professionally executed, and I must award it 2 stars.

Reviewed on behalf of the Awesome Indies

Olivia, Mourning (The Olivia Series Book 1)
Olivia, Mourning (The Olivia Series Book 1)
Price: 4.02

5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written, compelling, unputdownable, and unforgettable., 9 April 2014
Olivia, Mourning is an epic story of a young woman's desire for independence in frontier Ameria. When Olivia Killion's father dies, she suddenly must face her future. Her eldest brother has inherited the family store and house. Olivia fears that when he marries, she will be a burden. She learns about some land in rural Michigan that her father owns. Of his children, whoever chooses to work the land and make a success of it for one year, can inherit it. With the help of an young black man named Mourning, she secretly departs for the farmland in the hopes that together, they will succeed and earn their own fortunes. But life on the farm is not easy. The living conditions are rugged and primitive. And the neighbours are not all they seem. Soon, Olivia finds herself kidnapped and taken advantage of by her neighours, with Mourning no where to be found.

Olivia, Mourning is a novel reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie series. The description of daily life and all the necessary items and tasks for survival are brilliantly described. While reading this novel, I felt as if I were watching it on the screen, so vivid were the details. I was interested from the first page. It wasn't until the halfway mark that the novel really takes off with a horrible situation Olivia faces with her neighbours. I found myself eagerly flipping the pages and completely and utterly immersed in this story. But be prepared - the book ends with a real big hook that will send you to Amazon to purchase the sequel, The Way The World Is. I strongly recommend this novel as beautifully written, compelling, unputdownable, and unforgettable.

Sacrifice (Daughters of Lilith Book 3)
Sacrifice (Daughters of Lilith Book 3)
Price: 2.40

5.0 out of 5 stars You won’t get better than this in this genre, 9 April 2014
'Sacrifice’ by Jennifer Quintenz is the third in the young adult Daughters of Lilith Series and it is every bit

as good as the previous books. Quintenz knows how to hold a reader and keep them turning the pages

to find out what will happen next. It’s a hard book to put down.

The story revolves around a girl who though a succubus herself (a daughter of Lilith) she stands on the

side of the sons of Adam in an age-old battle that, unknown by most humans, has been raging since the

beginning of human history. She loves a boy that she cannot have without risk of draining his life-force,

and this adds a bittersweet touch to a powerful story.

This series has the vitality that makes the characters and the world they inhabit as real as our own.

There’s plenty of action, but there’s also plenty of character development and growth that together

deliver a very satisfying whole. The plot is gripping and often surprising, and the characters face moral

dilemmas and terrible challenges that don’t always turn out well. Even so, the author manages to end

the book with a slither of hope.

On top of this, the author writes well and handles her material skilfully. Very highly recommended for all

lovers of YA urban fantasy. You won’t get better than this in this genre. 5 stars.

Scrawling (Adventures of Neville Lansdowne Book 3)
Scrawling (Adventures of Neville Lansdowne Book 3)
Price: 0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars I heartily recommend it, 9 April 2014
I've always liked Jonathan Gould's books. He has a unique quirky kind of style that is both humorous and insightful. This is the best of the Neville books so far. It's magical realism in that the whole thing is an extended metaphor. Neville is drowning in a sea of words. He is buffeted by words, swamped by words and hit by torrents of words.

He meets word fish, snarks and carps and groupers, amongst others. Their words have an effect on him and on their surroundings. Why is the carp so dingy compared to the other word fish? Because he's made out of words that belittle and carp on the negative. Colourful words create coral in this language metaphor. Wispy words wave like fern fronds and so on.
But as time goes on, Neville discovers that he too is turning into words. He meets a wermaid who tells him that the word world is taking over the real world. She doesn't see that as a problem until Neville points out that words only have meaning because they relate to something real in the real world, and the word world us getting very fuzzy. Then she decides to help him save the word world in order to save both worlds.

This is a short work, easily read in one sitting and enjoyable for all ages. It's a simple story, but sleek and well paced, and it builds to a dramatic conclusion. I heartily recommend it.

Orla's Code
Orla's Code
Price: 2.44

5.0 out of 5 stars I hope we see more books like this, 9 April 2014
This review is from: Orla's Code (Kindle Edition)
Orla is a programmer. A senior programmer. She has talent, drive, and high hopes for a successful career, and her new job at CouperDaye, a trading firm, will, she thinks, get her where she wants to go. And then, of course, comes the predictable disaster. First, she makes mistakes, the mistakes we all make in an attempt to stay out of trouble or to keep our troubles from growing worse. But at last she stops, assesses her situation, faces facts with courage, and finds a way to recover her faith in herself, survive management incompetence, and save her career.
It is refreshing to read the story of a woman who takes her work seriously and whose first priority isn’t finding or keeping a romantic relationship. It’s especially refreshing to see a woman’s competence depicted in a field where few women compete. Some readers have complained about the jargon, both technical and financial, but for me it was a highlight. It established the author’s competence, and therefore Orla’s, while respecting the intelligence of the reader. I seldom see complaints about technical jargon in books by men. We accept it, whether we understand it or not, as part of the mystique of male-dominated endeavors.
Orla’s Code is well-written, with a fresh style, and subtle and insightful humor. Formatting and layout are also well done.
My only quibble with the story is that we don’t discover who Orla’s love interest is until the end of the book. It was not clear to me why the author saved this as a surprise, but other readers enjoyed it, so I register my response as a quibble rather than a complaint.
I hope we see more books like this—books that depict women taking their rightful place in the world, including the world of work.

Reviewed on behalf of the Awesome Indies

Zihaen (The Shadow of the Revenaunt Book 2)
Zihaen (The Shadow of the Revenaunt Book 2)
Price: 1.84

5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent traditional fantasy and well worth a read, 9 April 2014
‘Zihaen’ is the second in ‘The Shadow of the Revenaunt’ series by Paul E. Horsman. In this book the author seems to have found his stride in the same way that his central character Ghyll has, and I hadn’t read very far before I realised that, unlike book one to which I gave four stars, this was a five star book.

There is a surety and a confidence in the writing and the world building is excellent. I truly felt as if these characters and this world existed somewhere beyond the author’s imagination. The plot is much less predictable than book one and even has some surprises, and the addition of a mystery character adds another dimension. The balance of characterisation and action is perfect, and the characters are all developing as they should.

The only thing that didn’t quite work for me is the speed with which Ghyll finds a wife and falls in love, and the book lost half a star because of it. By having no story around how they get together and no time to develop the relationship before the young king declares his love, the author not only makes Ghyll out to be somewhat shallow—something that seems at odds with the rest of his actions—but he also completely misses the potential for the kind of romantic element that would enrich the book further.

Even so, this is the best kind of fantasy, one where a touch of humour balances the heaviness of the dark forces, so all is not doom and gloom. Our young king and his companions have dark foes, but they also have skill, discipline, intelligence, and military support on their side.

I am not going to say anything specific about the story, just that if you enjoyed book one in this series, then I recommend that you read on. It’s an excellent traditional fantasy and well worth a read. 4.5 stars.

Arrow of the Mist
Arrow of the Mist
Price: 0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars an original, mystical adventure, 11 Nov 2013
This review is from: Arrow of the Mist (Kindle Edition)
An original, mystical adventure
5 stars

Wow! It's easy to see when books have been created with passion and skill, and even easier to see when the craft of writing has been taken seriously by both author and editor. Arrow of the Mist is an amazing journey through not only a magical and dangerous land, perhaps just off the beaten path near your house, but it's also an exploration of the idea that nature will care for us if we care for it.

Herein, the author does everything right. Characters are vividly drawn, interesting, and reveal their personalities through speech and actions. Dialogue carries the story forward capably without becoming stale or wooden.

The conflict is real, compelling, and amazingly, doesn't require the heroes to hack and slash their way to victory. There's an interesting puzzle needing to be pieced together, and woven throughout the text are lyrical bits of riddling poetry handed down through generations, harkening back to the poems and lays in Tolkien's masterpiece. Here, these serve a dual purpose, both as a way into the deep culture the author has brewed up, and as a means for piecing together the history and mystery set up within. Pacing is good, and we have the extra added bonuses of both amazing cover art, and cool chapter headings.

Overall, this book is everything I would hope to find when cracking open traditional fantasy. Which is why it was such a struggle to decide on four or five stars.

See, the book was touted as a YA Fantasy, but it's difficult to see a young person reading it without serious difficulty. The vocabulary is lush, including words (like lissome) that I was forced to look up. Entire paragraphs are chock full of not only this, but fantasy cultural slang words, strange (made up?) names for herbs and plants, and fantasy names for trees.

I've decided to award the book five stars due to sheer awesomeness, but parents are warned that the material may be a bit rough for young teens to handle (it's rated PG, but difficult because of the reading level), and are therefore encouraged to read and discuss with their children.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This review appears on behalf of AIA (
-Brent Meske

The Year of the Horsetails
The Year of the Horsetails
Price: 1.73

4.0 out of 5 stars solid piece of work well worth the read, 6 Nov 2013
The Year of the Horsetails is a traditional adventure story in the old-school style. It follows the flight of a fugitive across the Steppes of what much later became a part of Russia. Set in the Carpathian region, sometime during the Middle ages, its hero, Bardiya, escapes the barbaric but militarily superior nomadic, Mongol-like Tugars into a region as yet unconquered by them. Beyond formidable mountains in the west, the agrarian Slavic Drevich people are largely unaware of the ruthless and overwhelming might soon set to descend upon their lands.

Using clean, crisp and uncluttered language, although of a style that may take a while for modern readers to get used to, a gripping tale of clashing cultures and military conflict unfolds. Keenly researched, the author brings to life a time, its various disparate cultures and the outlooks and attitudes of its people, during a brutal period in European history.

Although the action is excellently handled; the flight across the Steppes, the clash of cultures and the inevitable and bloody conflict that ensues, what is lacking is much in the way of depth to the characters, in particular the protagonist, Bardiya. This does not overly spoil the enjoyment of the book, but I found it hard to invest much empathy with the plight of its characters. It left me a little removed, as though reading an historical account, more so than a work of fiction. There are personal interactions, and even a love affair, but they come across very much in the one dimension.

Having said that, the dialogue is realistic and believable, and the characters are truly of their time - not just modern sensibilities in period costume. It makes for an authentic story, albeit one principally concentrating on adventure and action.

The plot cannot be faulted, nor the pace of the narrative, both excellently pitched, although I found the ending employed a few convenient coincidences and the conclusion felt slightly confused, making the climax feel somewhat flat. A minor detraction, though, from what is otherwise a well-crafted build-up to a momentous ending.

If adventure, action and early military history is your thing, then this tale from R. F. Tapsell will be just your cup of tea. A solid piece of work that is well worth the read.

I received an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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