“The Ghost Within”: Series Conclusion Features a Maelstrom of Supernatural Characters

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This story is the conclusion to a trilogy that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Klass has the ability to create such engaging characters that they seem not only real, but as if you know them personally. Her plots are loaded with twists and turns, her ability to build suspense exceptional.

Before reading this story, however, I highly recommend reading the first two episodes of the “Bloodseekers” series, i.e. “The Vampires Next Door”, and  “The Monster Upstairs.” (Links take you to my reviews.) While those two stories stand alone, the various characters introduced in those two all show up in this one, making it easier to follow the individuals involved as well as the story’s context. Without reading the other books, it could be difficult to keep up with all of the characters, their respective talents, and their relationships with each other. I suggest looking upon the trilogy as a single book, best read one after the other. Hopefully soon they’ll be a boxed set, making that even easier.

As the series progresses, you meet each Slayer, each possessing a specific talent that’s amplified by an amulet handed down from an ancestor. Each character goes through a transformation as they discover their talent, its companion amulet, and ultimately connect with the others. They depend on each other for their respective abilities, whether it’s teleporting, telepathy, remote viewing, prescience, or empathy, to name a few, plus there’s a synergistic quality to their combined energies which gives them the power required to fulfill their combined mission to destroy the Seekers.

One clever twist besides the fascinating background of the characters is the fact the stories all take place in St. Augustine, Florida, one of the oldest cities in the USA, which has an interesting history. The author includes snippets of the city’s historical background in the context of the tale, even providing photographs of various sites where certain fictitious scenes allegedly took place. This story and St. Augustine are so deeply intertwined it’s hard to imagine it taking place anywhere else.

Each of the three books includes plot details and characters that enrich the tale, piece by piece, eventually evolving into a complex interaction of characters, cultures, and supernatural circumstances from which they derived. Not only are there the slayers and bloodseekers, but witches, both light and dark, shifters, boggarts, ghosts, humanoids known as the Begotten, and numerous other interesting creatures that create a supernatural maelstrom of competing magic that any paranormal fan will thoroughly enjoy. I particularly loved the felidavian, a giant flying cat, whose backstory would make a great addition to the series, should the author decide to pursue it.

This episode delivers the final Slayer as well as the inevitable confrontation between the Slayers, Seekers, and various other supernatural creatures leading to an unexpected and startling conclusion.  Don’t miss it!

You can pick up your copies of this clever series on Amazon at the following links:

The Vampires Next Door (Bloodseekers #1)

The Monster Upstairs (Bloodseekers #2)

The Ghost Within (Bloodseekers #3)

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Historical Fiction at its Best: Review of “Finding Billy Battles: The Lost Years” by Ronald E. Yates

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5stars

This well-written conclusion to the Billy Battles trilogy is its crown jewel. This series’s characters are so vivid and compelling it’s hard to believe that this is a work of fiction. Their involvement in the events of the late 19th and early 20th century brings history alive as well. The author has outdone himself in researching that era and many of the events of which only true history buffs would be aware. In doing so, he has performed a great service bringing them to readers’ attention because these various international skirmishes laid the foundation for much of the contention seen in today’s world.

As they say, victors are the ones who write history. It’s also true that what you hear in history class is based on what higher powers want people to believe and incorporate into their view of the world. There is nothing more enlightening than to see familiar situations from the other side of the fence. Through these novels, Ron Yates has done a stellar job of placing the reader in the middle of various international situations and, in the true spirit of journalism, objectively presenting both sides. Sadly, today there is so much bias in the news media that true journalism has virtually disappeared. But even before they stooped to fake news and blatant lies, the stories presented by the media were designed to maintain a certain mindset that fueled nationalism at its worst.

When the U.S.A. entered World War II, they were definitely invited. Western European countries still appreciate us for the victory made possible by our intervention. For example, to this day Luxembourg places a wreath every Veterans Day on George S. Patton’s grave, which is in a U.S. Military Cemetery within that country. However, there have been times when our actions were nothing less than intrusive, albeit based on self-protection. That is justifiable to a point, but once that goal is achieved, hanging around terrorizing other country’s native populations is flat-out wrong. If you’ve ever wondered why Mexico hates us, this book will provide some answers.

European colonialism, which we supported, is another thorn in the side of many countries, especially in Far East countries like Korea and Vietnam. Bringing our version of civilization to these foreign shores, which we were convinced to consider a favor, in many cases wasn’t. How we’ve treated indigenous populations in other lands is shameful and even persists to this day with regard to Native Americans.

Of course America did not start this practice, which originated millennia ago. Not that long ago, we were a colony ourselves, who were being oppressed, which ultimately resulted in the American Revolutionary War. So what did we do, but turn around and support colonization by those who had once been our enemy. When our borders or way of life are threatened, that’s one thing. If someone attacks us, we have the right to defend ourselves, but our intrusion into these other battles has often made us the invader. It’s no wonder that other countries fear us, and it spirals down from there. However, the world is now entangled in the unfortunate consequences of thousands of years’ worth of conquests. Cliché though it may be, it’s true that those who fail to learn from history are indeed doomed to repeat it.

I didn’t intend for this review to turn into a political essay. However, it demonstrates how effective this novel and its predecessor, “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles”, have been in enlightening me to some of the less than savory facts embedded in U.S. history, thanks to the exploits of Yates’s amazing characters. Their interaction with actual historical figures makes it all the more interesting and convincing. Astounding imagery puts you right in the thick of things, whether geographically or via the use of the conversational vernacular of the time. In more ways than I can count, this book is a masterpiece. Do yourself a favor and get started on this series today. You’ll not only be entertained, but see the world in an entirely different way. Isn’t that what great fiction is all about?


You can pick up your copy on Amazon of “Finding Billy Battles: The Lost Years” here.

You’ll also want to read “Finding Billy Battles: An Account of Peril, Transgression, and Redemption”, Book 1 of the series, which you can find here.

Book 2, “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles”, can be found here. My 5* review of this one is here.

Ron at Southcoast WineryLearn more about the fascinating background of author, Ronald E. Yates, and how it prepared him to write such outstanding stories from our interview here.

 

“Gravity Waves” by Scott Skipper: Another Hilarious Addition to the “Alien Affairs” Series

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This is one of my very favorite series, ever, and this episode further confirmed that whatever science fiction sub-genre this happens to be, it’s what I’d choose if I had to, over just about anything else. I guess it could be called something like “snarky, politically incorrect, hard sci-fi” and I love it. It has technology and theoretical physics speculations to feed my nerdy, physicist brain; sarcasm that makes me wish I could be as witty; and snarky undertones to evoke hysterical laughter, such that my cat glares at me for disturbing her sleep when I’m reading in bed.

It was so much fun to get a glimpse of half-breed, Terrie Dreshler, now fully grown not only to adulthood, but middle age, to say nothing of her mother, Carrie Player, now an old lady, at least chronologically, and stepping into that role where she admonishes those around her for their every faux pas.

Every time Terrie called Deshler “Dad” I cracked up. I can just see this entire series as an uproarious sit-com that comprises a family where the father is a grey alien; the mother, human; and the daughter, well, mostly human, other than her eyes. It just gets better and better. Such a show could even beat out my two favorite sit-coms of all times, “Third Rock from the Sun” and “Alf.”

Situations involving interdimensional time travel sometimes left my head spinning with regard to when and where they were, but things sorted themselves out eventually. The new alien, Emelda, a towering Nordic wonder, was a great addition to the group. Her penchant for Uncle Eddy was hilarious, as well as her insisting repeatedly that Mars was still a “sh*thole”, in spite of  the earthlings’ innovative terraforming efforts. Then there’s Terrie’s renewed relationship with Marcus, which adds a touch of something bordering on romance. The inclusion of a character who was supposedly Elon Musk’s grandson, to say nothing of the involvement of SpaceX, tied the story into current events, which gave it even more credibility. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Terrie turn up on the news one of these days, or an equivalent of their electronic personal assistant, Casseopeia, in the local Wal-Mart.

While the author does a tremendous job of tying in events from previous books as reminders and plot gap fillers, I highly recommend reading this series from the start. The evolution of the absurd situation that started in Roswell in 1947 as well as the roles of this diverse cast of characters is priceless. Trust me when I say you don’t want to miss out on any of it.

Anything that can make me laugh is worth its weight in gold. I’ve already read the first book twice. These are definitely stories that I’ll read again and again, which is extremely unusual for me since I tend to have a very long To-Be-Read list. But who doesn’t go back to their favorite stories, whether it’s a two year old wanting mommy to read the same tale every night, or a great-grandma who’s found a series that couldn’t be more perfect if it were written expressly for me?

Keep ’em coming, Scott! I think the entire “Alien Affairs” series is nothing short of magnificent. (But be warned, you probably won’t agree if you think it’s important to be politically correct. It’s not, but some things just need to be said.)

You can get your copy from Smashwords, Amazon, or your favorite online retailer.

Delicious Personal Glimpses

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I really enjoyed this collection of stories from members of Rave Reviews Book Club, a.k.a. RRBC. As a member myself, it’s always heartwarming to learn something about your fellow members and what they’ve been through in their life. Hearing what others have endured always places your own issues into a different perspective.

If you’re not a member of this group, the stories are still of considerable value, they just won’t have the same impact as they do when you are familiar with the individuals on a different level. However, it will also show the caliber of people as well as their writing skills which can be found in this group. If you consider yourself a “born writer” or perhaps a “born reader” then you’ll want to check out both this anthology and the Rave Reviews Book Club, which has plenty of room for both.

You can pick up a copy of this enjoyable read on Amazon here.

Perfect for Vacation Time!

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With vacation time coming, it’s always great to have activities for your kids that are fun, yet have an educational spin.  Wendy Scott’s “Writing Prompts” series is perfect for just that! She provides an action-packed scene/scenario to fire up your imagination, then challenges you to provide “the rest of the story.” Even as an adult, these are stimulating and fun. If your child, grandchild, or you happens to be a “Harry Potter” or fantasy fan, this book is perfect for hours of creative entertainment with the 31 different prompts. It’s available in both a Kindle or print version. I wish I’d had this when my kids were younger!

A Raw, Heart-rending Account of a Mother’s Love

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I’m heartbroken as well as outraged that someone had to have such a horrendous experience as the one chronicled in this story. The strength and maturity the author displayed while going through the heart-rending experience of being there for her five year old son while he battled cancer is truly a testimonial to a mother’s love, especially someone who had been abused herself, but had the fortitude to break that cycle.

It’s not like this mom had the support of her family during this trying time. To the contrary, she had an abusive, sociopathic husband and a mother who was to say the least, a psycho bitch from hell, both of whom did everything in their power to make Sarah’s life as miserable as possible. Neither cared about the poor child, but simply wanted to cause as much misery as possible. It’s amazing to me that the courts failed to stop these horrible individuals from harassing this poor woman as well as a child who was gravely ill. It really calls into question both the parental rights of sperm donors as well as grandparents who don’t deserve the time of day, much less inclusion in their grandchildren’s lives. With all the documented abuse, it’s outrageous the courts didn’t protect them. Her abusive husband, whom she was trying to divorce, had over 20 DUIs, yet he was allowed to have access to her and the children! Why wasn’t this worthless SOB in jail????

And then there is the medical side of this nightmare. First of all, incompetent doctors failed to diagnose the illness in the early stages, when perhaps it could have been treated successfully. Then when the poor little guy was hospitalized, it was amazing how many mistakes were made, or could have been, had his mother not been there, keeping an eye on everything.

What follows is technically a spoiler, but all you have to do is ponder the title or look at the cover to know that this story does not end well. In fact, the final mistake that ultimately cost the child’s life was due to a bad decision by a therapist that was carried out in spite of the mother’s protests. The autopsy showed no cancer remained in his little body, his death ultimately caused by the treatments he’d received. What’s the matter with these people who can inflict poisonous therapies on innocent children to the point of death and call it healthcare? Most of it is little more than experimentation, and certainly no better than some of the things the Nazis did during WWII. Okay, this story took place in the 90s and some things have improved, but not much.

While many people in the healthcare industry are caring and competent, and they do save lives, too often patients are seen as no more than another piece of meat or a cash cow. To be fair, I’ll admit that I’d probably be dead today except for having had cancer surgery twice in 1993 and 2008, and a stiff round of antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia in November 2017. Nonetheless,  I’ve had enough negative experiences myself with the medical profession that I am for the most part skeptical and wary when that prescription pad comes out or chemo is mentioned. It’s no secret that healthcare in the USA is not about making people well, but making money, particularly for Big Pharma, who virtually runs the FDA. Other cures exist for cancer–not just one, but many–which are suppressed by the powers that be because they are natural and can’t be patented. Seriously. What’s wrong with this picture?

When I think of that poor, innocent child  going through medical procedures that amounted to legalized torture, to say nothing of his mother having to witness it, I don’t know whether to cry or scream. The casual attitude toward x-rays and CT scans with no regard to the harm caused by exposing a child to repeated radiation is appalling. I’ve been through a round of chemo and it was pure hell. When I think of a child being subjected to that, plus the radiation treatments, my heart aches, especially when it’s possible that other, gentler treatments exist, yet are illegal because they could threaten the income of the pharmaceutical industry. In what universe is that morally okay?

And then there’s the matter that so many children from the surrounding area had come down with cancer. What was going on in the environment for that to happen? Why are so many children coming down with cancer everywhere these days? This reminds me of the fight Erin Brockovich took on against Pacific Gas and Electric, who were polluting the water supply hexavalent chromium and caused a similar outbreak of cancer in a small California town decades ago.  And then there’s the matter of our insecticide and herbicide tainted food supply to say nothing of matters such as Monsanto, GMOs, and so forth, all jeopardizing our health, while the government tells us it’s okay.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a society that allows such things to happen. The fact that this mother was able to get through this heartbreaking experience without being bitter toward those who failed her so miserably shows what a good and caring person she is.  I am furious that so many let her down, from the court system to the medical profession, and even the government, and that her story, decades later, is not that unique. While her love and dedication to her child is definitely inspiring, a system that exacerbates the pain of such a situation rather than relieve it is nothing short of criminal.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

May the 4th Be With You!

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May the 4th Be With You! And better yet, May the Four Books of Star Trails Be With You!

To celebrate, don’t miss this FLASH SALE! Each of the four volumes of the Star Trails Tetralogy, plus “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51”, is on sale for only 99c!

If you’re a hard science fiction fan, this series is for you! But don’t take my word for it. Being the author, you know I’m seriously prejudiced, and not to be trusted. So here’s an excerpt from an Amazon reviewer who’s read the entire series and left this comment under “Refractions of Frozen Time:”

“I love seeing the threads from all the books come together, and the climax is so amazing and unexpected, I kept waiting to hear a huge pipe organ chord! Wow! I love this family and how they all grow in unexpected ways, even when facing death. This series has made me remember why I love science fiction–it stretches my brain in mind-bending ways and opens new ways of seeing the universe. Thanks to the author for a great read and a wild ride!”

And thanks to that wonderful reviewer as well for sharing her feelings about Star Trails!

You can find out more about the series on the website StarTrailsSaga.com.  There are videos for each book, links to excerpts on Bublish, and various other things, including forms to request your local library to carry the series, newsletter signup, and coming events.

Here are vendor links to the various books. [Note that “Beyond the Hidden Sky” is always FREE, everywhere but Amazon where it’s 99c.]

Beyond the Hidden Sky

A Dark of Endless Days

A Psilent Place Below

Refractions of Frozen Time

The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51

Review of “Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens” by Karen Ingalls

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Anyone who knows that the heart has a mind of its own will love this story; those who aren’t privy to that fact need to read it as well. As the saying goes, “true love never runs smooth”, and this beautiful, yet inherently sad, story based on the author’s great-grandmother demonstrates just such a case, that of meeting the right person at the wrong time.

I recently read an article about relationships that noted finding one’s soul mate often followed a karmic relationship which was less that pleasant, i.e., some sort of cosmic payback that needed to be done. Unfortunately, not everyone can walk away from that first encounter, which was the case for Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It’s ironic that the one who accepts the responsibilities of the marriage and stays, even while maintaining a love relationship as well, is often judged more harshly than those who get a divorce.

While this is a fictionalized account from the viewpoint of Saint-Gaudens’s mistress, Davida Johnson Clark, it nonetheless told a touching story backed up by a tremendous amount of research that made it come alive. The author is entirely honest in the back of the book regarding what was fictionalized. As someone who has done genealogy research, I can say that it is very possible to feel as if you know someone from your past, whether it’s through genetic memory or perhaps spiritually channeling the individual. While there is a fair amount of speculation given that documentation as well as various records could not be found, nonetheless the story has the feasibility required to establish its credibility.

Songs and poetry galore have been written expressing the irony of forbidden love. It has always been part of the human condition and probably always will be.  Sundry times and cultures have been more tolerant than others, and I found it ironic that Augustus Saint-Gaudens was half French; had this relationship occurred there, perhaps it would have been less of a scandal than it was in America. Nonetheless, he and Davida were as discreet as possible, though the situation was undoubtedly excruciating for them both, their son growing up with a stigma that affected his entire life.

I knew I’d heard of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, but I’d forgotten where, until I came to the part in the book that talked about him designing coins in addition to statues and plaques. Truly he was a great artist of his time, a perfectionist whose work remains today.

Shortly after finishing this book, I was listening to 80s hits via my satellite TV provider and they played “Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston. If this story were made into a movie, that would certainly be part of the soundtrack. While it’s easy for the world at large to be judgmental about such things as unfaithfulness, it’s important to recognize the difference between continuous, random illicit affairs versus those that last with one specific individual for decades. In a different place and time, those caught in such a situation would have better options.

Those who have experienced such a situation as well as those who need to understand so as not to judge them so harshly, might also want to read, “If Only There Was Music: The Poetry of Forbidden Love”.

This is not a particularly unique situation as many have discovered personally. Finding your soul mate is seldom a painless experience.

Pick up your copy of Davida on Amazon here.

“Detours in Time” by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

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“Back to the Future” is one of my favorite movies of all time, and this book had various similarities. Who isn’t fascinated with the concept of time travel and its various paradoxes? The characters in this story were vivid and engaging, a middle-aged professor named Milt and his younger female friend, Tabitha, whose nickname is Pinkie. Their time base is 1997. and they venture forward to 2047, and then back to 2018 due to a mishap while they were time-shifting. While it was supposed to be mostly a pleasure trip of exploration, much as we would visit a foreign country, naturally it turns into more.

Milt’s curiosity as a scientist drives him to unearth information about his future as well as Pinkie’s, which has a strong impact on his outlook and motivation. The view of the future was well-done, with interesting political and scientific developments that influenced the popular culture, including a second civil war which has once again divided the USA. These were all presented in a credible manner which showed the author’s great imagination and research skills regarding such things as body modification and hybridization. The growing feelings and budding  romance between the main characters as their friendship evolves gave additional depth and interest to the story.

The author did not belabor the scientific aspects of time travel or why it might be possible, so it wasn’t what I would consider “hard” sci-fi. In this story time travel wasn’t available to everyone, only them, much like it was in “Back to the Future”, since Milt was the one who initially discovered it. The expected paradoxes come into play, as well as moral and legal implications.

I really liked the author’s straight-forward, family-friendly style, which moved along smoothly with a steady stream of suspense, action, and dialog. Additional plot twists toward the end set the stage for a sequel, which should be equally engaging. I look forward to what lies ahead for Milt and Pinkie as they seek to untangle the twisted web of time that results from their adventures.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“The Last Dog” is Sci-fi at it’s Best, Especially if You’re an Animal Lover!

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5stars

The Last Dog

by Dawn Greenfield Ireland

This story is not only original, but science fiction at its absolute best. While the story is suitable for young adults, it has enough substance to satisfy even a hardcore science fiction fan like myself. Animal lovers will especially love it, since one of the main characters is a dog.

The story is set in the 2080s in a dystopian setting. The author provides background in the prologue, which explains how different events in the 21st century, of both a political and natural disaster variety transformed the United States. It was a story in itself, which was not only tremendously interesting and entertaining, but showed how much thought and creativity the author has invested to develop this outstanding story.

Probably the most important technological angle is the development of the Dot, invented by one of the main characters, Bill Maxwell, which enables dogs to talk. The human birth rate has been greatly compromised, so few are able to have children. Thus, having dog and cat “children” is the norm. Anyone who’s ever had a beloved pet knows they are like our children. Then add the ability to have them talk to you and you can imagine how amazing that would be.

However, another disaster comes along, which kills millions of people as well as nearly all the dog and cat children, except a puppy named Abby, who belongs to Bill and Teresa Maxwell. However, Abby is taken by the government under the pretense of trying to find any other canine survivors and cloning or otherwise finding a way to re-establish the canine population. Meanwhile, a robotic dog has also been created, which is endowed with artificial intelligence. One of these in particular, named Rex, is another major character who is entirely endearing.

While all of this probably sounds pretty far-fetched, the author has done a fantastic job of creating a futuristic world where it all comes off as believable. Furthermore, if you’re an animal lover, chances are you already talk to your pets and can imagine them talking back. The gist of the story relates to if and how the Maxwell’s and Abby will ever be reunited. I absolutely loved it and know that I will someday read it again, which is the highest recommendation I can ever give a book because my TBR is so long, it’s a rare book indeed that I indulge in more than once.

If you’re a science fiction fan you’ll love the technologies and if you’re a dog or cat lover, you’ll love the pet angle. I highly recommend this heart-warming and original story from one of my favorite authors.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.