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Lynda Stevens

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Astrologer's Proof (Astrotheologian Book 2)
Astrologer's Proof (Astrotheologian Book 2)
Price: £3.83

3.0 out of 5 stars The astrologer's role is to reveal that sacred unity to the earthly masses and thus create a better world. His mission is to pro, 4 July 2017
I was intrigued by the description of this novel, being something of a lapsed astrologer.

The main character is a man with a mission. He is a Believer in the sense that for him, the passage of the planets in the heavens against the zodiac reveal God's plan for humanity - or at least those who prefer a less loaded expression that the G word, the realisation that life is, not random or devoid of meaning, but rather that we live in a sentient universe of neo-platonic certainties. The astrologer's role is to reveal that sacred unity to the earthly masses and thus create a better world. His mission is to prove astrology works and with the advent of cybertechnology he can.

The only problem is that the means by which he seeks to do this are not strictly honest. It involves using genius cyberhackers to bust the private birth data of the entire population of the States and Europe, them to match the horoscopes of each and every citizen alive to their personalities and to their life events via their astrological transits.

All is fair in a noble cause, it seems.

Rufus and his disciple Robert work all guide rich European astrologers and the young hackers to realise this noble cause.. However, problems constantly emerge in what to tell those who are less privy to the aims of this this exclusive little group of esoteric Insiders. Doubts also begin to emerge about us how altruistically this enormous fount of knowledge will be applied, once secured. Astrologers like to get their palms crossed with silver, never mind gold, as much as anyone else.

The question is never really asked, but the reader might well when ploughing through this sometimes long-winded tale of cyber espionage: how might you or I feel if our horoscopes could be monitored at any time by rich conglomerates, to be made public whenever convenient? How might this knowledge be used?

Many astrologers may in any case disagree with the idea with the premise that creating better Inerpretive algorithms via mass chart matching with real life data and chart analysis is the best way forward to 'prove' astrology either, as it ignores the fact that there may be varying ways a chart could be lived out. The idea that there maybe only one way to live out the potentials of a chart brings us back to the idea that 'modern' astrology is only the iron fist of Fate again,but served up in a velvet glove.

This novel was an interesting read insofar that it depicts the way one writer imagines where astrology as a discipline may go and what it should be for. However the basic ethical question of whether the end ever justifies the means in this case is never really answered, except maybe how Rufus views what he has achieved at the very e.nd.

The pacing of the novel is somewhat laborious at times, there is a lot of fretful intrigue within this ratified club of altruistic sages, so that for me. this was sometimes a little heavy-weight. The sense of community between these special people, a lot like a secret round table of Knights Templars does convey well how astrological community.ütoes tend to be - alongside a little of the hidden infighting that exists over how scientific, commercial or whatever. astrology needs be.

If you are not an astrologer, then this bookmay be of interest to those who may be curious about cyber espionage, as long as you are not expecting a Fast-paced thriller

Sacrificial Lam
Sacrificial Lam
Price: £3.87

5.0 out of 5 stars The darkness beneath a small-town campus, 9 Jun. 2017
This review is from: Sacrificial Lam (Kindle Edition)
This dark thriller starts out by presenting us with a world of very contemporary realities and challenges. The main character Lam is a popular lecturer in a small-town part of the world of very conservative and Christian value. However, Lam believes in free speech and the right for individuals to make up their own minds about things - something that could be viewed as corrupting youth. When he starts receiving threatening letters on the campus he does not take these too seriously. When he is attacked and his family harassed too, his priorities sion start to change.

A lot of the drama involves the tension that grows between himself and his peace-loving wife, who had always been much too liberal to tolerate her husband's new status as gun owner. Also, questions arise on how confidential the confessions of a student should be if there is any chance such a student might be potentially dangerous.

From a thriller point of view there is the odd twist and turn before the identity of the stalker is revealed. By that time, Lam certainly now perceives his familiar world as consisting g mainly of alien territory.

This is definitely one of the better indie novels within this genre that I have encountered. Recommended.

Travelling With the Dead
Travelling With the Dead
by Barbara Hambly
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Vampire on the Orient Express, 12 May 2017
There was quite a long time gap elapsed beofre Hambly brought out a sequel to her excellent vampire-cum-whodunnit and spy novel Those who Hunt the Night. So I was delighted to get my hands on this one.

Fans of the enigmatic undead murderer with a strong sense of Noblesse Oblige Don Simon Ysidro should also be pleased to make more of his acquaintance, as adventure not takes them on a train journey across Europe. They are accompanied by the hapless Marguerite Potton, whom Ysidro inveigles into accompanying them. In Edwardian times, it is still unseeming for young ladies to voyage alone.

James Asher meanwhile encounters again the beautiful Anthea Farron from the London vampire nest, who wishes to prevent her husband from making an alliance with an unscrupulous Hungarian count with the allies of the Kaiser for a war everyone in Europe seems to be spoiling for,

What follows is all tightly-packed adventure, of the kind that leaves n one rtruky unscathed.

In some ways, Travelling with the Dead almost satirises the more traditional type of vampire novel, where females swoon for the tragic Byronic hero, but it is made clear that this is all just the vampire's way of ensnaring the victimes for the kill.

Or is it? What exactly is happening between Ysidro and forensic doctor Lydia? The preoccupation with whether or not the undead monster has a soul had just a touch of Star Trek hack to it.

In some ways, the fraught dynamics between those travelling with the dead was too evocative of dynamics of people who don't like each other being forced to work abnd cooperate together. I am not sure I did not prefer the rather more cold and clinical approach Hambly took in ther first novel, though this is still top notch in terms of plot and awareness of historical detail. It does not really provide any comfortable endings either.

Still well recommended

Those Who Hunt the Night
Those Who Hunt the Night
by Barbara Hambly
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a vampire novel, 12 May 2017
I first read this in 1991, and it has been a delightful surpise to find Hambly adding to this novel with more sequels.

James Asher is an apparently harmless middle-aged professor living in Oxford with his genteel doctor wife, rather hoping that his past as a 007-style secret agent is not going to catch up with him any time soon.

That is until one day he retunrs home to find wife and servants in a inexplicable stupor and a strange young man waiting for him in his own study with a request for his help in a macabre mystery.

Enter the insectile Don Simon Ysidro.Hambly succeeds well in evoking his lack of humanity as a predator who has lived long enough to acquire a detachment no living person would be capable of developing. Undead since Tudor times, Ysidro invites Asher to find out who is killing the vampires of London, by opening their coffins to the lethal light of the sun, on pain of losing his wife to a horrible death.

Asher finds out more than he ever wished to know about vampires and their murderous ways, though he does find out what does help protect against them, and what kills them. He also learns much about the kind of individual who might be interested in using vampirism as a biological weapon and in the years leading up to World War One - a recurring theme in all the Hambly Asher series - that is yet another reason why a spy with a licence to kill might wish to be aware of such things. In the mean time, the alliance between Ysidro and Asher, whilst antagonistic at first, deepens into something like camaderie between friends, as each saves the other's life as the plot thickens.

Hambly has a real gift for evocative prose, so that as a gothic yarn with macabre detail of catacombs and tombs, the reader who likes such things will get more than their penny dreadful's worth. This also works as a very-well crafted whodunnit and spy novel. The speculation on the part of Asher's wife about whether or not vampirism might be a virus that affects the body at a cellular level adds a further layer of intrigue.

One thing you do not get is sentimentality. Hambly pulls no punches about what it may really means to have to hunt and kill in order to preserve one's morally compromised undeath and what it must mean to ally with vampires.

Darkness on His Bones: A vampire mystery (A James Asher Vampire Novel)
Darkness on His Bones: A vampire mystery (A James Asher Vampire Novel)
Price: £11.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch gothic fare, 10 May 2017
When a telegram arrives with the news that your nearest in dearest is in a hospital abroad having been bitten and drained of blood, with the Ashers this can only mean one thing: vampire trouble. Lydia calls the one ally she can be sure will stick by them thick and thin, even though James Asher has vowed to ride the world of his murderous kind: Don Simon Ysidro.

So the most chivalrous, honourable and loyal vampire you can ever hope to meet, does indeed turn up, though husband is bound not to care for this too much. Vampires cannot mate in Hambly's world, but there is still a pretty troubled triangle and convoluted between the ashers and Ysidro.

Actually fans of Ysidro will be delighted with this novel. as here, Hambly deals less with either Lydia or James Asher, but with the convoluted past of this most seductive and dangerous among the undead. And fittingly enough, this all takes palce within the dreaming mind of Asher: Asher begins to dream the dreams, thropugh vaults and tombs and catacombs aplenty of Ysidro's past as he struggles to find salvation. Why is that?

There is a great urgency to find out what secrets in the vampire's past will prove to be the key in finding out what the Paris nest of vampires have to hide as World War One finally begins. And as Asher is a spy, there is plenty besides vampires to be afraid of......

So in pure gothic tradition, stories here become nestled within stories, just like a Russian doll, with dreams within dreams to be unravelled like a ball of twine within a labyrinth of hidden menace.

Whether or not Ahser and Lydia escape back to England is something the reader will have to discover for themselves. Fans who have followed this series may be happy to be reacquainted with someof the Parisan fiends Asher first encounters in Paris on his first unwilling assignment as he helps Ysidro in the first of this series, Those who Hunt the Night. It certainly helps to have read the earlier novels in this series, but fear not: each one works well enough as a standalone.

Those who love their vampires truly gruesome and macabre should find Darkness on his Bones a real treat: as ever, the prose is evocative and atmospheric, attention to historic detail lending further autenticity to the novel and an inate understanding of Realpolitik keeps this particular brand of vampire novels truly horrific rather than sentimentally romantic.

The Kindred of Darkness: A vampire kidnapping (A James Asher Vampire Novel)
The Kindred of Darkness: A vampire kidnapping (A James Asher Vampire Novel)
Price: £11.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A grippen read, 10 May 2017
In this latest edition of Hambly's superb vampire series, Hambly reintroduces on of the characters from the very first in the series, Those who Hunt the Night.

The Asher's precious and longer-term child.Miranda is kidnapped by the master vampire of London, the Tudor thug Dr Grippen. The vampires had originally promised the Asher's that they would leave them alone, reasoning that without any axe to grind,, the Ashers would be less likely to turn Van Helsing and seek to destroy them.

There would.have been no story or drama if Grippen had stuck to the bargain of course. He certainly seems to have very rudimentary negotiating skills. But he needs Lydia's ability to ferret out information on where vampires keep their nests, as there is a renegade vampire in town. But will Lydia's be able to deliver what he wants and save her child?

So she calls upon old friend and adversary Don Simon Ysidro to return to.England to help but needless.to.say, for all that Ysidro has always been honourable to them.in the past, Grippen's actions are hardening the Asher's resolve to turn Van Helsing.

Coincidentally, Lydia's social life with its tedious emphasis on Edwardian social propriety starts to unearth issues that may be related to Lydia's assignment, as a friend of hers starts showing up with tell-tale puncture wounds on her neck. Small world....

The deep ambivalence the Ashers have towards Ysidro are explored further. His integrity and loyalty towards them is never forgotten in the face of the awareness of his nature as a predator of human souls and lives. The Ashers, however, are people of conscience. There is room for plenty of gritty questions of morality, not least that as a 007-type spy minus the glamour, Asher has abundant blood on his hands too.

The writing is always evocative and historically accurate, with the English of both Grippen and Ysidro rendered suitably and Shakespeareanly archaic - as are their old quarrels with Catholicism and Protestantantism. These themes will be carried into the next novel, as was the threat hinted in the preceding novel that with Ysidro abroad, the London vampires might strike against those who know too much.

Similarly the plot is satisfyingly tight and will keep late-night pages turning.

Actually too, though it may not have been the primary intention of the writer, Hambly is also pretty good at exploring the good within the evil, so that in places Grippen becomes almost likeable.

All in all, a very worthy addition to this series. Nice book covers too.

Magistrates of Hell (James Asher Vampire Novel)
Magistrates of Hell (James Asher Vampire Novel)
by Barbara Hambly
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars We must stop meeting like this, my dear vampire, 10 May 2017
'we must stop meeting like this.'

Old spy James Asher finds himself in Peking for this new instalment of Hambly's sterlingvampire series and what a surprise: - he finds his old undead companion Don Simon Ysidro present.

Bad juju is at work in the city, as Asher feels compelled in following his old Van Helping chum from Prague to China: Rubber Karlesbach. And Asher's wife, forensic pathologist Lydia Asher.

It seems that a new type of vampire, a mindless revenant, is making an appearance in the sewers of Peking. And a common Hambly theme: what if the Kaiser gets wind of this? What if vampires of any kind get to be used as biological weapons in a new kind of war?

So this highly uneasy alliance is here to put a stop to such shenanigans, within an alien culture where some vampires may be revered as local gods and gangsters abound within a shadow word of espionage and treachery.

Hambly evokes a decayed turn-of-the-last century China very well. The degree of poverty and want make a future Communist uprising understandable.

Hambly does not concede to readers of limited vocabulary and the high level of fierce action and dialogue require the reader's full attention.

Personally I prefer those books in the series that focus more on the vampire state with the accompanying Gothic macabre introspection, but Magistrates of Hell is still an exciting and rewarding read, with a satisfying denouement at the end too.

Unearthing Atlantis: An Archaeological Odyssey to the Fabled Lost Civilization
Unearthing Atlantis: An Archaeological Odyssey to the Fabled Lost Civilization
Price: £3.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thera/Atlantis connection, 12 Mar. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I ordered this because I am fascinated by the Thera/Atlantis connection that has been made in so many documentaries I have recently encountered, the beauty tha tis apparent in Minoan art. The Minoans cannot now speak for themselves, but their city/palace ruins do.

It was very much a question of Great Minds. The Minoans are fascinating because whilst undoubtedly possessing the special genius that produced the beautiful frescoes, to say nothing of the pottery and so on, plus the fact that they had running hot and cold water and luxuries not seen again until centuries later, the Neolithic roots of that world view are also unmistakeable (the writer makes the point that the archeological and technological achievements of this culture would still be modest by today's standards). This writer also draws comparisons to the Catal Huyuk ctyt ruins, not just in the looks of the frescoes in that ancient Neolithic city, but in the bull worship and imagery that appears in Knossos and on Thera too. To say nothing of the descriptipon of Atlantis mentioned in Plato's works.

Another detail, this time not encountered anywhere else: it seems that Crete did have a species of pygmy elephant, as mentioned in Plato's account as handed down from Egypt too,

There is plenty of details of the volcanology of the Theran eruption too, with comparisons made inevitably with Pompeii and Vesuvius and with Krakatoa, where the island there also sunk under the waves. Pelligreno suggests that the outer caldera ring is what remains of the original mountain island though: there is no room in this idea that it was an earlier island within this caldera thast might have blown, accounting for more concentric rings, some created by Nature, others via Minoan-made canals. Either way, the VEI index of the eruption would have been enough to make make waves on a near-supervolcano scale.......

The book is infused with the sense of loss of what could have been certainly - along with the recognition that we too could be felled just as easily by a similar natural disaster, at any time should Yellowstone, for example, blow its top. Arthur C CLarke wrote the introduction to this book and his agenda is that sooner or later, humans will need to ready themselves to reach for the stars. For that matter too, we are infinitely more like Plato's fabled Atlanteans, where we are far more likely to bring mass and global destruction on ourselves, whereas the Minoans simply experienced massive bad luck.

The book does tend to go off in tangents about the nature of dating objects and in how an awareness of paleontological time brings its own perspectives. It is still a feast of a read on a fascinating topic.

The Moon Maiden (The Cnossos Trilogy Book 1)
The Moon Maiden (The Cnossos Trilogy Book 1)
Price: £2.34

4.0 out of 5 stars A Bronze Age clash of cultures, 12 Mar. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There is supposed to be a trilogy in this series, but so far there is only this one tale. It ended on a cliffhanger though, so it does seemthis pair of authors is planning to continue the saga of The Moon Maiden and her consort.

It is about the rescue of a mother and her three sons put out to perish on the high seas for one of the son's crimes of raping a woman who was a little too-well connected to certain seats of power. They are picked up by the very bogeymen of the youngest's child's worst dreams - the Keftiu. The Keftiu are known to be cannibals.

What then follows on is the story of a masive clash of cultures. Culture is one thing the Keftiu have in spades - their sumptuous but rather archaic palace has luxuries most heathens can only dream of - hot and cold running water especially.

The exiled family will have none of it, remaining Unwashed and smelly, relieving themselves in the sacred gardens of Knossos, showing zero respect for their customs and objects of worship, such as bees and honey. only the youngest boy Thasos shows signs that he could be educated into the more sophisticated life of the Keftiu.

Yet the culture of Knossos is most certainly not painted as any kind of a Utopia either. That is made clear in the sheer repressed irritation shown in theri ageing mentor Kikerus, as he tries to accommodate his new guests. Charmless oafs as the Patos family are at best, their trickster side exposes the sheer control ritual and culture imposed on all the inhabitants of Knossos, in every area of their lives.

It seemed unlikely to me any host would immediately accept a marriage proposal to their consort king on the very first night of meeting, but this is what the mother does on first encounter. Still, no idiotic proposal - no story. The clash of culture deepens alongfside the all-too familiar dreary bickering of incompatible future inlaws.

The countryside has its own cultur and gods and goddeses too and have little time for city ways and city art, which they call decadent, as graven images.

All this the beleaguered Phasos, the main hero, flounders and muddles along as he tries to find his way within Cretan society as a whole.
He does not always come across as being altogether resolute or brave - he soon drops out of learning the language once confronted with its mystical ambiguities. He certainly bears the brunt of all the misunderstandings and humiliations adapting to an alien way of life. His family suffer a lot less by remaining mired in their ignorance.

He is not all that nice to his women either - though again, his lack of understanding does truly drop him in it. At the end of the story there is still the hope that Phasos's uncouth warrior family might be able to push an essentially death-obsessed Neolithic empire into a newer, less oppressive direction.

So is this depiction of Minoan culture fair to the Minoans?

This is clearly a very well-researched novel though no one can be sure what Knossos and the other great palaces were really like. Thasos is later to becomeKing Minos and his wife as Pasiphae was the woman destined to give birth to the minotaur. I was a little disappointed that Thera is only mentioned in passing - it is alleged to be a little more liberal and secular in its way - perhaps Thera is being saved up for the sequels to come.

You do not have to be interested in the history of the Minoans to enjoy this book. I am sure anyone who has had to understand people brought up very differently can relate to the struggles of Phasos and his family, as thery are depicted here.

Because I Had To
Because I Had To
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Growing up is hard to do, 5 Mar. 2017
This review is from: Because I Had To (Kindle Edition)
The story mainly covers that of Jess Porter, who who is in her early twenties and has recently left home and is trying to come to grips with the challenges of adult life.
From the beginning it is clear she is not in good shape emotionally at all. We are given plenty of clues why that might be: her adoptive father has died and her relationship with her adoptive mother and twin sister is far from ideal. She asks a good friend of her father's, a lawyer, to help her fnd her biological mother - and perhaps herself.

The friend of the Father has challenges too - that of dealing with the disillusionment that can accommodate middle age. What he has actually achieved in life seems so shabby compared to his earlier dreams of greatness. But he is willing to reach out and help Jess.

This novel reminded me of a certain kind of gritty and naturalistic 70's TV drama, in which life starts out messy and can end in messy ways too, amidst the occasional moment of new insight and understanding. At the tale, Jess seems to be finding her feet on the one hand and encountering new troubles at the same time.

What works most for me in this novel is that there is the recognition of just how tough early and untried adulthood can be. More individuals may well find themselves incredibly lost and can fall down incredibly hard at this time more than any other. Neither may middle age prove to be a time of massive complacency.

Because I had To is certainly recommended for those who enjoy this kind of realist 'find Yourself' novel.

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