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The Janus Cycle
The Janus Cycle
Price: £2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Change hurts, 29 Sept. 2015
This review is from: The Janus Cycle (Kindle Edition)
A common theme in all of these short stories seems to be bullying of one sort or another. Needing to dominate others is part of our human history. Countries bully other countries into subservience and oblivion. Two countries are well-known for their tendencies to bully militarily weaker countries while decrying other nations when these do the same. Tej Turner shows us the one-on-one form of bullying and the mob-on-one kind of bullying in his semi-short stories.

All of these short stories are more or less stand alone stories. They are all tied together by Frelia. Frelia has an interesting power that could cause her death if the ones who “rule” it find out about her having that power. But bullies have been part of Frelia’s past and she will not be forced into obedience just because some mysterious stranger tells her she has to. That decision is an essential one to the stories of Pikel, Kev, Tristan, Neal, Namda, Halan, Sam, Pag, Faye and Tilly. Frelia’s intervention changes lives, hopefully for the better.

Mobs with a charismatic leader are a frightening thing. Poor Tilly has the great misfortune of having one of those in her school and she has the kind of aura that many victims end up with. Sadly, this aura attracts predators like Jarvis and his gang.

Bullying (for whatever reason) drags your sense of self-worth down until it seems impossible to gain any of it back. The bullied person becomes so used to people being mean that trust is difficult to come by. At one point things became so desperate for her that Tilly was ready to kill herself. Being treated like a verbal and/or physical punching bag almost every day makes her need to be true to herself something I both admire and understand. Poor little Tilly. Tej Turner made me want to hug her.

“They carried on kicking her. In the face, the head, the stomach. They stamped on her legs, and one of them even spared a moment to spit at her. I desperately tried to intervene, but there were too many and I couldn’t reach them. They were killing her, but they carried on regardless. So long as the rest of them were doing it they seemed to feel it was okay, and none of them wanted to be the first to hesitate.”

In one way or another we all seem to become part of various kinds of mobs.

Definitely recommended.

The Y Front Chronicles
The Y Front Chronicles
Price: £1.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully dark and funny short-story, 22 Aug. 2015
Alan Scott has written a wonderfully funny and dark story about murder and mayhem.

I suppose it could be read as a warning about the consequences of training our soldiers too well. The thought did not enter my mind until the classroom situation. But, yeah, that could work.

A man with his own brand of conscience and his pet hamster, TF. A killer with a pet hamster. Not much like the hamster I used to own and adore. SCoT-01 is a fun and terrifying person I would hope to always keep on my side. His hamster, too.

Definitely recommended.

Song of the Ice Lord (Parallels)
Song of the Ice Lord (Parallels)
Price: £2.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Destruction in hunger, 14 April 2015
As usual, I get hung up on the "baddies" in a story. In "Song of The Ice Lord", the Ice Lord is our baddie, most likely a spirit/god/demon of destruction and hunger. Not hunger for food, but hunger for everything. The Ice Lord seems to be driven by a desire or need to devour all it touches. Once a place has come into contact with the Ice Lord, it is completely destroyed by it/him/her and its armies. The Ice Lord's method of gathering armies is through fear, the fear of being devoured. Thinking about the Ice Lord made me think about humanity's hunger and destructiveness. We are good at that. Sadly, too good. Perhaps we will be lucky and find ourselves a Lodden and Maran to save us from ourselves.

War is one of the many mysteries I struggle to understand. I do realize that humans are incredibly territorial. As a breed, we seem to want to expand our own lands and ideas of right and wrong, even if that means killing other humans. The Skral, Sharan and Gai Ren are no exception to this. What started out as one people developed into competing tribes and nations. At regular intervals they would attack their neighboring countries, city-states or tribal competitors. When the Ice Lord arrives on the scene a few people from each nationality escapes and they are taken to the islands of the Skral. These, usually competing, people band together in an attempt to dethrone the Ice Lord without destroying every last remnant of themselves and their cultures. Changing alliances. What a bizarre phenomenon and terribly confusing to my asperger brain. One of my thoughts on reading this was the same as the thought whenever I hear of this happening in the real world: "How long will it take before they are killing each other again?" Historically speaking, not very long at all.

"Song of the Ice Lord" is in many ways a terrifying story. Horror it ain't, not in any kind of manner. But its way of nailing the future of nations (historical and current) makes me want to shout: "can't we just be friends, please, and stop all of this destruction". A girl can dream.

The flow of words was very different to the other stories in this series. Most of that probably has to do with the insertion of the three short stories, all three important in the context of the over-all story.

Definitely recommended.

Once A Rat (Tales of Istonnia Book 3)
Once A Rat (Tales of Istonnia Book 3)
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Slavery and betrayal makes a great ending to the story of Istonnia, 10 Mar. 2015
Angelika Rust displays one of my favorite traits in an author. She evolves and improves over time. "Once a Rat" shows just how far Rust has come in her writing. The only thing she continues to do that annoys me is to overuse the word "whom".

"It's worse than I thought," she groaned, rolling onto her back. "It isn't innocence, it's honor. You're the son of a rich bastard of a trader and a madwoman. Whom, for fire's sake did you inherit your honor from?"

Honor is a strange concept. For one thing, honor varies from person to person. There does seem to be a common denominator across nations, namely that to be considered honorable, one must keep promises/oaths made. Nivvo seems to have honor as an in-born character trait. Such a trait makes Nivvo perfect for some roles but disqualifies him when breaking promises might be needed. There are several high-status professions, in real life and in Istonnia, involving deception and deceit, that Nivvo could not fill.

In "Once a Rat" Nivvo is sent on a joint mission for the Regent and Underlord of Istonnia in the hopes that Istonnia might be saved from more fighting. Being the kind of story that "Once a Rat" is, the likelihood of Nivvo surviving that mission is in doubt. But Nivvo accepts that as his duty. Part of that duty has to do with his promises to obey Vicco, but Nivvo also seems to feel that his relationship with the Regent obliges him to serve Istonnia as best he can.

Part of his mission terrifies him. Practical experience of slavery turns out to be completely different from the theoretical understanding of its nature.

"..., he knew they'd come back to haunt him for the rest of his life ... a child, little more than a toddler, on his hands and knees, and a soldier stomping on the tiny fingers till they broke with a sickening crunch ... a woman his own age, tears streaming from her closed eyes as a slave handler cut her clothes away to reveal her body to a customer ... a man hugging the pole he was tied to, screaming relentlessly as a lash opened up gash after gash on his already scarred back ..."

Slavery, the objectification of people taken to extremes. The real world still embraces slavery and most of us are quietly complicit in letting it carry on. Nivvo's mission is to get to the person trying to work against slavery in Baredi and help that person succeed. But the odds are against the abolitionists.

There are some very angry people left in Istonnia. Choosing to smother his loved ones in protectiveness happens to be one of Nivvo's greatest failings. Even Vilores is kept in the dark. Shame on Nivvo and his father for breaking that law once again.

While Nivvo is gone Cambrosi is having fun trying to stay alive. Fedoro is helping him. Someone in his organization is trying to overthrow the Underlord. If it works, then Istonnia seems doomed to enter what might become a civil war.

Plenty of action, some violence, some sex - neither very explicit.

Definitely recommended.

We Leave Together
We Leave Together
by J. M. McDermott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and painful, 17 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: We Leave Together (Paperback)
"We Leave Together" marks the end of the story of Joni Lord Jona, Rachel, Djoss, Calipari and the Walkers. The "Dogsland" trilogy has been terribly painful yet wonderful to read. J.M. McDermott's prose brought me through the terrors, pain and love expressed in this story about two extremely different yet similar couples.

The Walkers are feared representatives of the goddess Erin. As ham-shifters they are part human and part wolf. Rachel and Jona are half-human and half-demon. Their heritage comes from the Nameless one and expresses itself both in temperament and looks. Both are feared by the general populace.

Similar as they might be, the Walkers and Rachel and Jona are also extremely dissimilar. Rachel and Jona's half-demon nature makes even their sweat dangerous to other people. Sharing food and drink is impossible because of the effect doing so has on others. Half-demons are hunted down and burned (alive for the most part) along with their properties and very likely any person they might love. The Walkers hunt half-demons and eradicate (as much as possible) any dangerous trace of them.

With Jona's skull being found at the beginning of the trilogy, we have always known that, for Jona at least, there was never going to be a happily ever after. Considering the nature of "Dogsland", happily ever after probably does not happen to any one in the land of McDermott's mind. But does happily ever after happen even in the real world? Not likely. I suppose there could be a happier after, but never a happily ever after. Humans just aren't built for it. We all die, we all get sick and we all suffer through pain. Some of us experience more sickness and pain than others, but we all go through such experiences. So too for the citizens of "Dogsland".

Homelessness for adults and children, orphans (both homeless and not), class differences, poverty, greed, power-struggles, charity, love, helplessness and need are all visible in "Dogsland" and our world. Just look around and you will find all of these without needing to look very hard. Djoss becomes one of the helpless ones through his desire to get money quickly. His motives were fine - a better life for himself and his sister. The way he went about it led him into helplessness. Devil-weed is incredibly addictive once you smoke it. Djoss did and now all of his money goes to the drug. Rachel is desperate to get him out of the city with her. But getting out of the city is not a simple thing unless you get hired by a caravan. Who is going to hire a person who is so obviously a drug-addict? Jona wants her to stay because he has fallen for her or possibly the fact that he has finally found another like himself.

So many things work against Jona and Rachel and Djoss. Their own nature, others finding out about that nature and using it against them, having to hide what they are and people hunting them are all factors that make the descent into death for Jona inevitable.

"We Leave Together" is dark and painful. Somehow it is always the children that get to me.

The boy pulled his dead rat off the fire with two scraps of wood. He picked at it with his bare hands like a hairy chicken wing.

"Where you from, mudskipper?" said Nicola, to the boy.

He shrugged. "Ma said we were from a farm, once."

"Where's your ma."

"I don't know," he said.

"Just, you then?"

"I got two brothers. I don't know where they are, but they're around."

Children around the world live in conditions like these. We just don't see them. Or maybe we choose not to see them. Sometimes they live far enough away from us that we have to make an effort to acknowledge their existence. But even in my wealthy country there are children who know the pangs of hunger unless charity reaches them. What about them? Am I part of the brutality and violence of "Dogsland" if I choose to ignore that our world is in many ways just like the world of J.M. McDermott?

Did I say "We Leave Together" was painful? Yes, I believe I did. That area of my chest that aches right before the need to cry engages hurt through most of the story. Definitely recommended.

Street of Lost Gods (Tales of the Thief-City Book 1)
Street of Lost Gods (Tales of the Thief-City Book 1)
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The City that kidnaps thieves and lost gods, 17 Feb. 2015
I had a grand time reading "Street of Lost Gods". Mr. Lewis' writing was a delightful combination of humor and mystery. Rax did the Mautheri eaters proud with his handling of Angel Arden.

The Thief-City is an idea I haven't seen before. Thieves of all kinds of races, human and alien, are somehow brought to the city by the city. So too are gods who are losing their believers.

Other than that, "Street of Lost Gods" is a mystery. As the Thief-City is a city of thieves of all sorts, the citizens aren't exactly upstanding people. Instead, they are a collection of the underbelly of the various societies of Mr. Lewis' imagination.

"Street of Lost Gods" is a short-story with a whole lot of fun packed into it. Definitely recommended.

Madlands (K. W. Jeter Suspense & Thriller Books)
Madlands (K. W. Jeter Suspense & Thriller Books)
Price: £2.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Caught in the grips of power-hunger, 17 Feb. 2015
"Madlands" is in many ways similar to the underbelly of Los Angeles (and any city with major power players) of today. Identrope is the creator and most powerful person of this dystopian version of Los Angeles. K.W.'s version is considered cyberpunk, and that may be true. At least it would seem that way as the net of the city is explained in greater detail in a section of the story.

This explanatory section is the only downside of "Madlands". During it Mr. Jeter fell from dystopia into teacher's voice. The setting itself was a dream about a teacher/student situation, and preaching might be considered relevant in such an environment. But it felt out of place to me.

Strangely enough, and wonderfully fitting to the story of "Madlands", the most powerful person in Los Angeles (downtown) today is supposed to be Tim Leiweke of the Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Entertainment is what Identrope does to boost his opinion of himself and to gather worshipers in a city you may enter but can not leave. It's not that anyone tries to hold you back from leaving. What high Identrope exudes keeps you staying until the side-effects of his miasma of madness kills you.

We hear a lot about Identrope, but he makes few appearances. I suppose that is as it should be when part of his power lies in what he has to offer in the way of highs and entertainment. Our main character is Identrope's deputy, Trayne.

Part of "Madlands'" appeal has been brought about by Trayne. It seems the US is a little low on entertainment. Trayne started a dancing group and for some reason that group made people want to listen to whatever invitations Identrope made on television and follow through on them by donating money and traveling to LA to be near their god.

Surreal is one sensation I felt while reading the story. "Madlands" also came through as a great piece on power. Clearly, the people who had power wanted more (even Trayne) and those who were without were disposable tools on the way there. One of those power structures happened to be the KKK. I have to admit that I was not aware of the influence the KKK had (and possibly) have in Southern California. Power is such a lure and few use it appropriately (for the best of as many as possible). I have trouble understanding why people hunger for more and more power. "Madlands" shows us a place where there are people who apparently never get enough of it.

Definitely recommended.

Simon Beck: Snow Art
Simon Beck: Snow Art
by Simone Beck
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Wandering in the snow can create stunning art, 17 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Simon Beck: Snow Art (Hardcover)
For some time now, I have followed the snow artist, Simon Beck, on Facebook.

Simon Beck considers himself part of a tradition of land-art that has gone on for thousands of years. By stepping his designs into snow or raking them into sand he keeps an art tradition alive. Short-lived as each artwork is, Beck tries to photograph them as soon as he finishes his projects. As he tells himself, his shortest lived snow art was gone the next morning.

In his Ted Talk below, Mr. Beck explains how he works. By listening to him we get an understanding of how crop circles are made, and he shows us pictures of one of his own crop "circles".

Why a person would choose to work with an ephemeral art form is something I have difficulty understanding. Yet many artists do. Mr. Beck's pictures of his work makes them more permanent. In "Snow Art" we get to see a collection of ten years worth of wonderful art made from walking through the snow.

Definitely recommended

The Feral (The Last Line Book 1)
The Feral (The Last Line Book 1)
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and realistic, 11 Jan. 2015
The life of a soldier in action is a whole lot of wait for a few minutes of terror. This seems to hold true for all who lead adventurous lives. Some of those soldiers are so caught in the grip of adrenaline kicks that they would never ever be able to function in a regular 9-5 job again. The members of the STG (Special Threats Group) Empire one are such adrenaline junkies.

Usher and Isaac Marlowe are the members of that group who stand out the most as three-dimensional people. The rest of the group: Kruger, Charlie, Brock and Christie add flavour to the dynamics of the group and their work. All of them are from different backgrounds. The only thing they have in common is that at one point or another “The Veil” was lifted from their eyes and they had an undeniable encounter with the Unseelie Court (Faery). Since that time the various member have worked toward getting the Unseelie off the Earth and back to whatever parallel world they are from. But the Unseelie have the opposite aim. They wish to invade the Earth, eradicate humans and make the Earth their own home.

Mr. Jenkins introduces a variation on vampires that I loved. More different to the glitter and Oooh-Aaahing of people around the world cannot exist. If there is, please let me know. Amoral, hungry, arrogant and bizarre are only a few terms that describe the vampire we get to meet. Vampires and werewolves are part of the Faery world. That makes more sense than them being converted humans. We even meet a zombie-like creature in the form of the infiltrator Owen Sibelius. This is the kind of zombie I understand.

Soldiers around the world have a tough lot in life. For some reason the public seems to expect them to be invisible. If they see fighting, we do not wish to hear about what effect that action has on them. Killing other people as a job must necessarily affect the person doing the killing. But these people are ordered to accomplish whatever aims their idiotic leaders wish to pursue and are not in a position to constantly question orders they are given – even if those orders make no sense. A soldier who reaches Special Forces level must be aware of the questionable legality of some of their orders, yet they have the mental strength that allows them to follow through. For the Special Threats Group, this is seldom a problem. They know that the enemy is a real threat to them and the rest of humanity, and they want these Faery gone. Sadly, of late, recruitment to the fighting groups is slower than the demise of their members and that leaves these people overworked and in serious need of decompression.

I would make a stinky soldier. Part of that has to do with my autism. Sucky balance, don’t know right from left, problem with orders and will have melt-downs when my sensory system is overloaded. Not great soldier material. In fact, I would probably be one of the first people killed if my country was ever invaded again. But I have the ability to see the necessity of soldier-like people in a world where the definition of peace is something we would kill to be right about. While the Faery are a clearly defined group and more or less easy to spot, humans who believe that the Faery need to own the world are a bit more difficult to separate from regular humans. Empire One also fights to rid the world of humans who (once again) have pitted themselves against humanity by providing the Faery with technology and biology that makes taking over the world easier. Because that is how stupid humans are. We really are. We do it all the time. Just take a look around and you will see how incredibly self-destructive humans are.

There is one part of the story where I feel the need to comment on believability. In one of the scenes with Kruger something was supposed to take around 1-1.5 hours to finish. Once the two things had been taken, that would not be a likely scenario due to stuff leaving. (As clear as I can make it without spoiling the story.)

Warning on lots of violence and gore. Very dark story. Definitely recommended.

Mr. Jenkins provided me with a copy of "The Feral" to review or not.

Price: £4.06

4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected friendships and betrayal, 30 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Raventide (Kindle Edition)
Antiques appraiser and investigator Drayden Torvannes is 33 years old. His great love in life is the study of history. To live out his love Drayden checks out heirlooms and family documents for the wealthy and gives his customers an opinion on the value of what he has been asked to investigate.

Drayden considered survival in his profession to be tantamount to walking a thin line stretched high above the winding lengths of the canals; holding one's balance and knowing when to risk a leap onto a balcony or rooftop was essential in staying clear of the turbid, and sometimes poisonous waters.

Dealing with the powerful works the same way in the real world. In the world of Drayden Torvannes we also enjoy a bit of the super-natural in the form of angels and demons along with the strange phenomena that sometimes occur when they and humans interact.

People in Raventide embrace many well-known traditions of our regular world. Good and evil, we and them, save the world, and protect the innocent are all parts of TA Miles story about Drayden Torvannes and his adventures.

Cults are confusing yet understandable belief systems for me. I grew up in a faith that many consider a cult. Yet Mormons are innocents when compared with the cults we meet in "Raventide". Our "Raventide" cults are more in line with IS or KKK. In other words, pretty intense people who are willing to do absolutely anything for their cause.

A great many of the citizens of the town of Raventide and the Fannael family suffer from cultism. The story of "Raventide" is about unveiling the truth of horrors past and present and the role of various people in these deeds. Poor Drayden is going to get his fill of betrayal by the end of the story. Betrayal is, thankfully, not his only lot in life. Unexpected friendships and loyalty comes to him as well.

I loved "Raventide". For me the pace worked T.A. Miles' writing was excellent and engaging. Meeting authors like this is always a relief. Writing isn't an exact science. There are some qualities that especially appeal to my brain and TA Miles managed to fill those demands.

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