“Love of Thol”: Book 3 of an Enchanting Sci-Fa Series for All Ages

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“Love of Thol”

by Dawn Greefield Ireland

This enchanting series is a perfect example of the somewhat obscure genre known as Sci-Fa, i.e. a combination of science fiction and fantasy. The author has created a vivid world accessible through various portals on Earth. In volume one, “The Prophecy of Thol”, teenager, D’laine Jackson, accidentally tumbles through this portal where she is received as the fulfillment of a prophecy. As she adapts to her new world in which she will play a key part, there is never a dull moment.

As the series progresses through volume two, “Gifts from Thol,” her family and others join her. Each person from Earth discovers they have a special gift in this new world. These include such things as the ability to achieve local teleportation, seeing the future, and communicating with animals. In this volume, another family joins them, their gifts unique as well.

The characters are engaging, individual, and interesting. The imagery is outstanding. I can truly visualize the settings and various characters. One note in that regard, in the back of this book there’s a reference guide to the various terms used as well as brief descriptions of the creatures and positions of the characters. It would be helpful to look that over first. When such are introduced in the previous volumes they are beautifully described. However, if it’s been a while since you read them (which you should, in order, to grasp the full genius of this series) it’s an excellent refresher if your memory is like mine and isn’t always as reliable as you’d like it to be.

The story and characters continue to grow and progress in this volume. D’laine and her husband, Trakon, are now expectant parents. The birthing process on Thol is significantly different than Earth. It appears that D’laine has adapted to their physiology in this regard, though there are various hints that things are about to change. Other civilizations and cultures are introduced, including some intriguing hooks regarding the prophecy that D’laine represents. A horrific storm called a churling that’s comparable to a hurricane on steroids falls upon them, bringing new challenges.

The plot flows easily, as if you’re right there with the characters, and is rich with a strong feel for daily life on Thol, yet new intrigue is skillfully woven in. Fans of this series will be happy to know that there is more to come as new mysteries are introduced, which would be spoilers to specify.

I highly recommend this series. While it’s intended for teens and young adults, its characters and plot are a pleasurable read for any age, from those children to whom it could be read aloud to grandparents like myself, who thoroughly enjoys my escape into this new world. It would make a terrific gift for young readers. Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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“The Choice: The Unexpected Heroes” by Gwen M. Plano

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“The Choice: The Unexpected Heroes” is the sequel to “The Contract: Between Heaven and Earth”. As such, it’s a good idea to read the first book before this one to make sure you have the tale’s full context. As promised, it’s an action-packed tale with a fascinating and timely plot that keeps you guessing. Every time the protagonists uncover another link in the conspiracy to take down the US Government and create a One World Government, that person winds up dead with the protagonists themselves eventually turning up on the kill list.

The ending was satisfying, yet intriguing enough to look forward to the next volume, which is always good in a series. It’s not one of those cliffhanger endings that leaves you tearing you hair out. If you’re looking for a thriller that keeps moving (at least from about 25% onward) you will probably enjoy this book.

However, there are a few things that kept me from awarding this novel 5-stars. First of all, I found the fact it was written in the present tense to be a major distraction. By the time I was about halfway through the book, I got kind of used to it, but it was never  comfortable. In many ways, it read more like a screenplay than a novel. I realize this is supposed to give a story a sense of immediacy, but for me the unconventional style kept jolting me out of the story. It’s okay to “break the rules” if it works, but for me, this didn’t.

I judge a book based on several elements, which I define with the acronym IDEAS: Imagery, Dialog, Emotion, Action and Suspense. This story does a great job with Dialog, Action, and Suspense. Imagery, however, was lacking. I would have enjoyed having better descriptions of what the characters looked like. Ironically, what they ate and when was explained in greater detail than their appearance. The scenery at the base was likewise lean, apparently assuming that most people have either been on a military base at some time or seen one on TV or in the movies, so they could fill in the blanks.

Some readers may prefer filling in these details from their own imagination. As a detail-oriented person, I enjoy knowing more about the characters and scenery so I can visualize it more easily. Such details also can contribute substantially to rendering the story’s mood.

The characters felt more like casual acquaintances than people with whom I felt an emotional connection. I realize that developing these story elements can sometimes slow the story down. Many action-oriented stories are likewise lean on imagery and emotion, so it’s somewhat typical of the genre. However, for me to find a story truly memorable, these are essential. I like to feel something when I read a story. If a novel makes me laugh, cry, or better yet, both, I will always remember it (such as Eichin Chang-Lim’s masterpiece, “Flipping”). Those that make me laugh I’ll often reread at some point (such as Scott Skipper’s “Alien Affairs” series).

Curiosity regarding what would happen next kept me reading, but nail-biting suspense regarding any of the characters’ well-being was never such that I couldn’t put the book down. (This can actually be a good thing, however, if you have to get up for work or school in the morning. Years ago, when I held a full-time job, I had to give up Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton books for that very reason.)

There were a few grammatical issues as far as word usage is concerned. Homonyms are challenges for many, one of the most common pairs to confuse the words shudder and shutter, the former of which is when a person is rattled or scared, the latter those wooden window coverings. The use of the word “patsy” was not the best word for the context of the sentence in one place, and the acronym BOLO was never defined, either, rendering that sentence impossible to understand.

These are minor, I know, but the editor in me picks up on such things, so I include them here to be helpful to other authors; the average reader is typically oblivious to such things.

Most authors, myself included, learn more from criticism, which improves our writing, while accolades merely feed our ego. More often than not, we’re  blind to such things ourselves. On the other hand, an author’s style will seldom appeal to everyone. Some prefer more detail; others, less. Some prefer short, choppy sentences that keep things moving; others prefer prose that flows and is worth savoring.

As always, reviews are subjective. The high demands I place on a novel are probably off the charts as well as the average reader’s radar. That said, this timely story is credible along with having rather chilling implications. Pick up a copy on Amazon here and see for yourself.

“Dark Energy”: Another hilarious episode in “The Alien Affairs” Series

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The Alien Affairs team is at it again in another hilarious adventure. I love this series and it is one of the few that I have actually read more than once. It’s witty, politically incorrect, intelligent, and never fails to make me laugh, sometimes hysterically. There were a few parts in this one where I laughed so hard I was in tears, especially when they retrieved that “American hero” mentioned in the online book description.  I was reading this while in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment and I was getting all sorts of funny looks when I would giggle out loud. Best of all, by the time they took me back to see the doctor, my blood pressure was surprisingly low, proving that laughter truly is the best medicine.

There is plenty to be worried about in the world today. As with most things in life that are troubling, we can either cry or laugh. I much prefer to laugh and these stories are guaranteed to generate plenty. Whether it’s grey alien, Deschler, and his persistent body odor issues; banter between Terrie and their avatar, Cassandra; or Uncle Eddie and his antics with Nordic wonder, Emelda (no doubt pictured on the cover), the snarky dialog, clever sci-fi plot that’s full of surprising twists and turns, and of course the author’s strong writing style, kept me fully entertained.

This episode deals with finding a new home for a bunch of Nordic invaders, the options for which lie in different time-frames and dimensions. The fact that these uninvited guests think that Earth’s terraforming efforts on Mars are insufficient,  making it no more than another “sh*thole” planet, cause all sorts of problems for the team, the solutions to which are innovative and original as well as suspense-filled.  There’s a lot of bouncing back and forth through time and space with fascinating effects that testify to the author’s fantastic imagination.

This is the fifth in the Alien Affairs series and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Keep ’em coming, Scott, you have created a hilarious world that is far better than the one we live in.

You can pick up your copy of “Dark Energy” on Amazon here.

Click on the titles to see my reviews for other books in this series, which include Alien Affairs, Alien Eyes & Alien Child,  and Gravity Waves.

Here are my reviews for additional stories by this author, who you can probably tell is clearly one of my favorites.

A Little Rebellion Now and Then

Half-Life.

A Heartwarming Texas Love Story with a Bonus: It’s True!

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There is only one thing better than a good love story and that’s a love story that’s true, which is the case with this endearing tale. Clearly, the title alone is a spoiler alert, and while it is definitely a tear-jerker at the end, what leads up to it is an inspiring, heart-warming chronicle of the love and devotion between two very special people.

If you’re a music fan, more specifically a country music fan, you’ll enjoy it even more as it recounts the journey of someone who’d been a star in the past making a comeback and bringing his wife and daughters along for the ride, their talents developing and blossoming as well.

The story is pure Texas, which I particularly enjoyed because I live there as well. So much of the culture of the Lone Star State is captured, including parties were anyone who shows up is welcome as well as the vast distances that often lie between where a person lives and the services they need.  A fifty mile drive is often required, which in smaller, more condensed states or many metropolitan areas, would be incomprehensible.  For example, from one end of Houston to the other is also fifty miles and that is how far I live from a full-size shopping center with the usual big stores, with it even farther to an actual mall. A fifty mile drive is almost what you could call “business as usual” in this state.

I loved this heartwarming story. It shows that there are some couples in the real world who truly do love each other, come what may. Unfortunately, it seems that often such pairs must endure many heart-wrenching hardships. Life is truly filled with opposition, but sharing the burden with someone you truly love only makes the bond stronger. The photos bring the story even more to life, even though the names in the book are different from their real-life counterparts, the reason for which the author explains.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who needs a reminder that true love does happen and is something to celebrate. Its rarity makes it all the more precious. Note, also, that this is only part of their story. Be sure to check out the story’s prequels, perhaps in order, though this is a standalone book that doesn’t require that. Any stories or books by this talented author are outstanding.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“Shadowed by Death” Another Excellent Historical Novel from Mary Adler

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Mary Adler has done it again, sweeping me away to another time and place with this second book of her Oliver Wright mystery series. Like the first one, it’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 40s, while the country was in the throes of WWII. Again I experienced the culture in that locale during that era as well as the prejudice and suspicion that prevailed against immigrants.

Of course the fact we were at war with some of the counties from which these people hailed, to say nothing of all sorts of intrigue in progress due to the convoluted political situation in Europe, nothing was simple. While the majority of these immigrants came to the USA to escape oppression as well as possible annihilation, it’s not surprising that their motives could be questioned. These interactions and the history behind it, most of which few of us know, made the story that started out as a murder mystery all the more interesting.

The characters were engaging and well-drawn, including Oliver’s awesome German Shepherd, Harley. Relationships are believable and convincingly complex, both interpersonal and familial as well as between ethnic group. The plot is gripping, loaded with historical information, and full of suspense and surprises. Mary Adler is one of my favorite authors with her smooth, imagery-rich style, historical value, and authentic cultural context. All in all, an outstanding read.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“The Making of a Healer” by Russell FourEagles

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5stars

I hardly know where to start expressing my impressions of this book. Let’s just say that it is clearly in my list of the Top Ten Most Influential Books I’ve ever read. I was actually sad when I finished it, yet know this is one of the few books that I will read many times.

Probably the most powerful message I received was the highly spiritual nature of indigenous American teachings. Interestingly enough, it comprised everything included in my own beliefs, which I’ve collected from various sources. These include organized religions, my own experiences, scientific research, meditation, as well as the teachings of various yogis and motivational speakers. It was clearly a revelation to find my own belief system, which I’ve assembled over a lifetime, expressed in a single book.

The philosophies expressed are nothing short of profound and beautiful. The respect for Mother Earth and all her creatures, including those of other cultures, is such a powerful concept that has been blatantly ignored by western cultures. Living in harmony is essential to our health and well-being. The concept of the “heart box” where we store and build up the various hurts, disappointments, and traumas of our lifetime rang true. The Oneida Fire Ceremony used to clear those issues is one I’d heard variations of before and it works.

Bottom line, we must live with an attitude of love, not fear. The author’s personal experiences illustrate these principles in a humble and powerful way, from being taught these things by his grandmother, to being a soldier in Vietnam, to becoming an inspired healer.

If you’re looking for some genuine inspiration that dates back hundreds, possibly thousands of years, then read this book. If you need to know what actions you can take to rid yourself of old issues lurking in your subconscious that you want to release, then read this book. If you want a touch of wisdom that has been lost, yet is exactly what the world needs today, then read this book.

I can’t praise it highly enough. If you’re looking for answers, it’s highly likely you will find them here.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

 

“State of Fear” by Michael Crichton

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I always enjoy a good Michael Crichton book. While this one wasn’t my favorite, considering some of his other titles such as Jurassic Park or Timeline, it was nonetheless excellent. This hardback had been sitting on my shelf for literally years; given the book’s copyright is 2004, no telling how many. I live in a house that was once my family’s vacation home, so I have no idea who may have left it here. One day recently, its dust-covered binding caught my eye from its position on the bottom shelf and I decided to read it.

It’s rather amazing how the story and premise really haven’t gone out of date in fifteen years. Essentially, it’s an exposé of the science (or lack thereof) of global warming. We’re still obviously hearing about this today. It has changed names a few times, now currently referred to as “climate change”, but it’s one and the same. Clearly, Crichton was expressing strong, well-substantiated opinions regarding how science and politics are a very bad combination, which he presents in the form of a gripping, conspiracy techno-thriller.

One thing that really irritates me as a reader is when an author doesn’t do his or her homework as far as research is concerned. When I encounter scientific inaccuracies in a story they are a major turnoff. They throw me out of the story immediately and scream “amateur” on the part of the author, who clearly didn’t respect his readers enough to do the research. No one can ever accuse Crichton of this faux pas. This book took three years to research and, believe it or not, has twenty pages worth of bibliographic material as well as footnotes to scientific journals throughout that are real. I’m afraid that few readers appreciate that as much as I do, which is a shame.

Even though this book has been around for a decade and a half, it’s still worth reading. I suspect that little has changed scientifically. It should be read with an open mind, considering all sides. Crichton’s opinions regarding the volatile mix of science and politics are definitely worth noting; nothing has changed there, either. I, for one, have grown weary of everything being about money and corporate profits.

I want to point out that I am not “Red” or “Blue” in a political sense, but rather some shade of purple; there are elements of both platforms with which I agree. I don’t believe in blatant handouts at the expense of hardworking people, but I also believe in treating Mother Earth and all her creatures with respect. I also believe people’s health and well-being are more important than greedy corporate giants who place whomever they want in political office with their campaign contributions to assure maximum profits.

I love a novel that not only entertains, but informs and educates the reader, something Crichton did in spades. I am so sorry he is no longer with us, turning out these well-written, well-researched page-turners. I suppose in some ways this story is overshadowed by the issues it exposes, making some conversations a bit pedantic. However, 20 pages of bibliography deserves considerable respect. This is a very thought-provoking story that highlights an issue that is as relevant today as it was in 2004. Whichever side of the argument you may espouse, you should read it. The bibliographic material–count it, 20 pages worth–speaks for itself.

Nano Surveillance by Mark Donovan

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This story was well-developed as far as the conspiracy thriller plot and technology were concerned. The author clearly knows his stuff about a variety of topics including flying and surveillance technology where the details enhanced the story’s credibility and imagery. While this expands into the realm of science fiction (at least for now) it was believable, which is required of good fiction–even fantasy needs to be believable to work.

The political intrigue was right out of the headlines and well developed as well, but leans heavily toward the conservative, so bear that in mind, too. In other words, if you lean to the left you probably won’t like it, period. The plot is loaded with suspense, kept moving, and would make an excellent action movie.

However, there were a few things that kept it from being great, primarily the desperate need for editing. The story demonstrated imagination and knowledge of technology,  but strong writing skills are necessary to engage the reader. I found the lack of flow made it awkward, even  painful to read. While, to the author’s credit, there were only one or two typos, there was far too much reliance on prepositional phrases. There were also numerous instances of homonym misuse and incorrect punctuation, particularly in the dialog. When the style (or lack thereof) throws the reader out of the story on a regular basis, it’s distracting as well as disappointing.

I want to stress there was nothing grammatically “wrong” with the writing. It simply didn’t employ the complex sentence structure that demonstrates strong writing skills. If it had, this thriller could have been a five-star read; as it stands, I’d give it three stars. In other words, by investing in editorial help or some advanced writing classes, this author could produce an outstanding story, perhaps even a best seller.

A Sad Commentary on American History

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Anyone who thinks they know American history needs to read this book. Those who don’t understand why the white men are hated also need to read it. In a nutshell, it’s a testimonial of exploitation, lies, and aggression, which has been the norm on the part of supposed “civilized” nations for millennia. Seeing indigenous people as inferior, savages, and uncivilized based on their lifestyle and thus treating them no better than animals has a sordid and long history.

This book chronicles the treatment of the Indigenous Americans from the first contact by the Pilgrims in the 1600s through the 20th century. The lies and aggression are nothing short of shameful and an embarrassment to any honest person. Those of us who grew up playing “cowboys and Indians” and watching similar TV shows were not seeing things as they really are.

In most cases, the Indigenous Americans only wanted peace. Some had the foresight to see the problems that were coming. They saw the land as sacred, given to them by The Great Spirit, and they treated Mother Earth with respect and gratitude. They may not have had the white man’s technology, but their societal norms were often far more advanced than “civilized” nations. The wholesale slaughter and exploitation of these people in the name of Christianity is a national disgrace.

Besides the actual slaughters, their children were often taken away, essentially kidnapped, and sent to boarding schools where their native culture was derided while they were indoctrinated with supposedly white civilization’s values. Their women were often sterilized without their knowledge. There is no doubt the intent was genocide.

If you think things have changed today, think again. Power and control by those with selfish and evil intent still prevails. Corporate power subdues the rights of individuals. Nothing has changed.

I cried more reading this book than any novel. It’s a very sad commentary on the foundation of the United States. These Native Americans were highly intelligent, moral individuals. In the vast majority of cases, they were only aggressive when they’d had enough of being lied to and could see the government’s intent was their annihilation.

Read it. More people need their eyes opened to the truth that is our history and how it relates to what’s going on today.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Another remedy for “writer’s block” is to read a book about writing. I recently read “Emotional Beats” by author Nicholas Rossis. While it didn’t necessarily help move my story forward, it gave me a plethora of ideas for polishing what I already had. In the process of doing that, I got back my momentum and was able to move forward with the story.

This book particularly focuses on capturing emotion. This is where “showing” and not “telling” really counts. If you have trouble with this, which can be particularly challenging for new writers, I highly recommend Rossis’ book. There’s also an excellent section on analogies as well as a few parts that are loaded with useful synonyms for over-used words like walking.

You can find it on Amazon here.