Saturday, February 13, 2016

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: A Billion Gods and Goddesses: The Mythology Behind the Pipe Woman Chronicles by Lynne Cantwell


Genre: Mythology/Legends/Folk Tales/Native American/Spirituality

Description:

More than forty deities, representative of fifteen pantheons from around the world, have found Their way into the ten books (and counting!) of the Pipe Woman Chronicles story cycle. In A Billion Gods and Goddesses: The Mythology Behind the Pipe Woman Chronicles, you will find additional information on each of the deities in the urban fantasy series, as well as a brief foundation in comparative mythology.

The gods and goddesses in the Pipe Woman Chronicles hail from Alaska to Mexico, and from Russia and Scandinavia to Ireland and Japan – with pantheons of several Native American tribes well represented. The book is organized by type of deity: creators, tricksters, and so on. The gods are also cross-listed by pantheon, as well as by Their first appearance in the series.

A Billion Gods and Goddesses is meant to be a companion volume to the Pipe Woman Chronicles novels, but it also serves as a wide-ranging introduction to the subject of mythology. Anyone curious about what others believe will find something to interest them here.”

Author:

Lynne Cantwell is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited where she shares her knowledge about Indie publishing and promotion. She has a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University and is a former broadcast journalist who has written for CNN and Mutual/NBC Radio News, among other places. Ms. Cantwell currently lives near Washington, DC. You can connect with her at her website or on her Facebook page.

Appraisal:

I found this a comprehensive guide for the Pipe Woman Chronicles, Pipe Woman's Legacy, and Land, Sea, Sky Trilogy. I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy just reading about the gods and goddesses but Ms. Cantwell is a storyteller at heart. It would be extremely wordy to include every detail about each and every god or goddesses she included in her stories. Besides you would get distracted from the story itself that she was trying to tell.

In this book she has included more information she liked and expands a bit further. As an example, “To most people these days, myth is a derogatory term that denotes a story based on a lie. But to anthropologists, a myth a simply a sacred narrative.” And it turns out there are a lot of similarities between most if not all mythic cultures around the world.

I like the way Ms. Cantwell has organized her extensive research referencing and cross-referencing, and cross-cross-referencing. I can’t even imagine the tangled webs she wove and unwove for our benefit. Thanks for going to so much trouble for your readers' benefit, Ms. Cantwell.

Buy now from:      Amazon US      Amazon UK

FYI:

This is where I generally mention foul language or sexual content… I got nuttin’.

Format/Typo Issues:

I don’t recall any proofing or editing issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Guest Post:Time Travel…Fascinating Concept, by John Rasor



Ever since I first saw George Pal’s epic movie The Time Machine in 1960, at the tender age of twelve, I have been fascinated by the concept of time travel. Not actually traveling – since that is not empirically possible in the universe in which we dwell – but writing about it. I find the concept of time travel to be one of the most evocative of fictional devices – the great literary “what if”. Who hasn’t thought: If only I could have a do-over on that one, my life would be so much better?

Having written for twenty-plus years now, it has been the story I’ve always wanted to write. There are many wonderful time travel stories, cleverly written and fascinating to consider, whether book, movie or television show. One of my all-time favorites is the motion picture Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, in which the main crew of the USS Enterprise must take a pilfered Klingon ship back in time to 1986. This action is taken in order to bring back two Humpback whales, thereby perpetuating the species in order to save Earth, and ensure the future of mankind. Pretty lofty goal, eh?

Time travel stories challenge the imagination. They offer up the impossible, and sometimes make us believe it. And why is time travel impossible, anyway? I believe it’s because November 22nd 1963 – the instant JFK was shot – for example, is not what we can consider an actual “place”, even though the location in question, Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, is. It’s a conceptual problem. Our memories tell us that this moment in time is real and must still be there somewhere, because we can clearly see it in pictures and captured on live-action film, or video. But time is simply a measurement of how quickly or slowly things happen, and what we’re seeing is no longer there – or anywhere. So, quite simply, if it doesn’t exist – or no longer exists – we cannot go there.

The fact that time travel cannot be an actuality did not stop me from wanting to write about it, so I finally did it. I came up with my time travel story, and I believe it’s the best thing I’ve written to date. Time travel is, of course, science fiction, and requires some basis in scientific fact. The creator must defend his concept in a plausible manner. He must tell a believable story, but how does he explain the impossible? “Impossible” is a word much like “pregnant”. You can’t be “a little” pregnant, and something cannot be “nearly” impossible – if it’s nearly impossible, it’s just extremely unlikely, but possible.

I think the thing that fascinates me the most about time travel is all of the effort that has gone into explaining it over the years – the rules, so to speak. But if it is impossible, then it cannot actually have rules, can it? And yet as a literary device, it does have rules, as do all fictional stories – the catch being that the writer(s) make the rules for their story, or series of stories, and then must abide by them. The reader can suspend disbelief, but only if the writer does a good job of obeying the rules he has created for his specific universe. So things like The Butterfly Effect and Paradoxes are not really rules, merely conjecture – conceived by some pretty great minds, I’ll grant you, but conjecture nonetheless.

Déjà Voodoo is my “take” on the possibility of time travel. It is about a man, born in the mid-20th century, who comes to realize as he grows older that he remembers being here and doing all this before. He does his best to reason out his situation, asking questions like Can I change things? If I can change things, how will the universe – or God, if He exists – react to it? How much can I change, and at what price? Is this simply the way it is, and am I the first person to experience it in this way? Do we have souls, and if so, how do they function in the grand scheme of things?

Time travel. As Mr. Spock would say…“Fascinating…”

You can get John's latest book, Deja Voodoo, right now from Amazon US or Amazon UK. BigAl's review of the book will be happening early next week and John will be hosting a giveaway of the book on this blog on 2/16 and 2/17 that you'll want to be sure to check out.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: I'm Not Happy 'Til You're Not Happy by Ryan Sayles


Genre: Crime Fiction/Noir/Short Story Collection

Description:

From a bank robbery gone horribly wrong to a shipwrecked man with a serious anger problem to a lonely teenage Peeping Tom, Ryan Sayles's second collection of stories steam rolls along. Need a transvestite beating up her drug dealer? Got it. What about a guy trying to stuff a dead hooker into his trunk? Got it also. Need a Richard Dean Buckner story? Got two of 'em. Come on in and join the mayhem.”

Author:

Ryan Sayles is the author of several books including the Richard Dean Buckner hard-boiled detective series.

For more, visit Mr. Sayles website.

Appraisal:

A solid collection of short stories with one common theme. They're dark. Not just outside on a cloudy night dark. More stuck at the bottom of a long mine shaft dark. But there is also a touch of humor buried in many of the stories for a bit of comic relief, whether the absurdity of trying to fit a dead hooker in a too-small car trunk or at the end of the final story when hard-boiled detective Richard Dean Buckner gets a little too touchy-feely for such a tough guy.

Buy now from:      Amazon US      Amazon UK

FYI:

All of these stories are hard-boiled and dark. Not for the squeamish. (If you're easily offended by strong language, you shouldn't even have to ask. It wouldn't be a book for you.)

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Return to Mech City by Brian Bakos


Genre: Science Fiction

Description:

The end of the world as you've never seen it before. Life goes on in Mech City, but it is no longer human. 
A sinister Roboto Fascist regime has taken hold which will destroy everything of beauty inherited from the human precursors. Only Winston Horvath, scholar model robot, and his unlikely allies stand in the way.

Author:

Brian tells us about himself: “I like to write and I like to travel. I'm from the Detroit area originally and try to see other places around the world as often as possible.
Not much more than that. Anything else I have to say comes out in my books which are all fiction - mostly for kids, some for adults. All of them are fanciful and designed to take you in new directions. If you want to know more, please contact me through my website.”

Appraisal:

This is a light-hearted twist on dystopian sci-fi. Now there’s a sentence you don’t often read . The novel is set in a future time where robots are common and serve as sophisticated servants of man. We join the story as the last few humans are weeks from dying or already dead from a virus. The absence of humans leaves a void for the robot population. Lacking a raison d’etre, the metal men are inclined to commit suicide, until an aberrant robot assumes a controlling role and instigates a crude fascist society.

The main character—Winston, a scholar robot—is prevented from jumping head first out of a high building because on his master’s deathbed she instructed him to preserve his memory banks, which contain a vast store of human historical documents. He has a mission to preserve human knowledge. The story follows Winston as he grapples with fascism and undertakes an Oz-like journey to find a missing robot head.

I had fun with the story. The robots are heavily anthropomorphized—closer to cartoon characters than Isaac Asimov’s versions. The tale is told with a tongue firmly lodged in one cheek. For example, Winston has a robot love interest that yearns to consummate their relationship except Winston lacks a fundamental piece of equipment between his legs—poor Winston.

Plenty of action, even if some borders on the absurd. A prime example of a story you’d only find on an indie bookshelf.

Buy now from:      Amazon US      Amazon UK

FYI:

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: The Truth about Sugar by E.M. Youman


Genre: Short Story/Coming of Age

Description:

She's a banshee screaming, sugar-starved monster, and her zookeeper has left you all alone with her.

That's what's running through twenty-nine-year-old Henry Dalton's mind, when his five-year-old stepdaughter, Rebecca, enters the room and utters these fatal words. 'Where's Mommy?'

After deciding that fixing this problem-child is the key to winning his wife back, Henry comes up with the perfect recipe for turning Rebecca into the world’s little angel. Out goes the Valium and sugar-free snacks. Add a little pizza, ice cream and presto! But he soon discovers there's more than meets the eye with Rebecca. Now he'll have to remember what it's like to be a five-year-old and learn to communicate on her level.

At the center of the chaos is a sweet, little girl, who can charm the pants off him.

Which leaves him wondering if she’s an out of control banshee, or a victim screaming for help?

The child he never wanted to claim is the one who needs a Daddy the most.

A heartwarming coming of age tale about appreciating the gifts you have right in front of you.”

Author:

A freelance writer who has had her short stories published in several magazines, by day E.M. Youman works for an independent music label.

Appraisal:

The description calls this a coming-of-age story. And it is. Not only for Rebecca, the little girl in the story, but more so for her step-father who gets a much needed lesson in being a parent, both the bad and the good. A short, good read.

Buy now from:      Amazon US      Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 9-10,000 words 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Reprise Review: The Ideal Household Appliance by Laura L Sullivan


Genre: Science Fiction / Short Story

Description:


“In The Ideal Household Appliance, a socially averse entomologist with an interest in robotics has created the perfect cleaning gadget – artificial roaches that hide in the daytime but scurry around at night cleaning up debris. They have all the benefits of insects, without the feces and disease. But when he develops an unhealthy obsession with his neighbor, and her violent ex-husband returns, the scientist discovers that his new invention still has a few bugs.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: The Rick&Jerry Series: Collected Edition by Karl Five


Genre: Erotic Romance/LGBT/Adventure

Description:

It seemed that nothing was going to go right for me that day. I had finally made up my mind to end it all and jump off the Neuse River Bridge.

Then I picked up a hitchhiker and the world changed.

So begins the story of Rick&Jerry. I hope you’ll decide to follow along with them as they pull their lives together, face their fears and failures, and search for their dreams.”

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ask the Pals - Interrogating the Dead



In the second installment of our new feature, we ask the Pals a question having nothing to do with books. The question posed was, “If you could question any dead historical figure, who would it be and why? (And maybe what you'd ask them.)” Here's what those brave enough to answer had to say.

?wazithinkin

First person that comes to mind is Nikola Tesla. I’m not sure why but he reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein. Except he used mechanical parts instead of human parts.

The next one who came to mind was Carl Jung. I love his insights into the human condition. Not that I would want him to analyze me or anything like that. Wouldn’t that be scary? I don’t know what I would ask him there is a good chance he would judge me from my question, right? He would start by asking me why I asked THAT question and it would all come spilling out. I’d cry and he would cry, it wouldn’t be pretty. None of us really want to go there…

Keith Nixon

Emperor Vespasian, he was a career soldier & eventually made it to the top of the ladder in first century AD Rome. I wrote about him in a couple of books, he's a fascinating man. I'd ask him about his survival skills.

BigAl

Who thought up this question? I have a ton of questions about the premise. Am I going back in time to ask them the question or are they coming forward in time to visit me? If they're coming forward, if my question requires an understanding of historical events since their death, do I have to explain to them what has happened in the interim, or will they appear in front of me with the required knowledge? If it is someone dangerous, will I be provided with bodyguards?

Editors note: Didn't I tell you in the preface to the original post that Al was going to go on and on and … anyway, I told him to answer those questions about the premise any way he wanted and then to answer the darn question. Why does he have to take something simple and always make it so complicated. Anyway, back to Al …

Fine. The bodyguard question is no. I figured that out once I realized we'd have to pay them. Definitely NOT in the budget. As to the others, they'll visit me. (No way I want to get trapped somewhere with no internet connection.) They'll also understand all the history they need to. (If you think I went on and on above, that's nothing compared to the background my historical figure would need to answer my question.) For those readers not from the US, I'm sorry this focuses on our history. I suspect most of you will understand the question better than I would understand the history of your country though.

My historical figure would be Thomas Jefferson. Why him? Because he and the group of men who laid the groundwork for our government (commonly called “the founding fathers” - yeah, I know, women didn't get their due back then) are always getting second guessed by politicians, courts, and regular old people. We wonder what they meant (you wordsmiths understand how your words can be misinterpreted, right?) We wonder if they think the spirit of what they intended is how things have turned out or whether they'd be shocked and think we've gone far astray.

My question is simple. I'd ask him to comment on how things have turned out thus far, both those things that have worked out better than he expected and those that haven't. I'd also have him pick the one area where he thinks we've screwed up the most. (Did they use the idiom “screwed up” in the 1700s? Maybe I'll need a translator.)

Your Turn

How would you answer this question? Tell us in the comments below. (Those who receive our posts via email have to come to the site to answer. Responding to the email only works if you want to share with BigAl and no one else. That will just give him a bigger head. Don't do it. Click on the title in the email to easily get here.)


And we're still looking for questions to ask the pals in the future. Email booksandpals(at)yahoo(dot)com with your suggestions. Be sure to put “Ask the Pals” in the subject line.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: Even the Wind by Phillip Wilson


Genre: Mystery/Police Procedural

Description:

Boston police detective Jonas Brant once was a grunt in Afghanistan, serving the greater good on the front lines. Now he’s on the cusp of a far different but still deadly frontier.