Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dawn of Destiny

Author Lee Stephen dedicates this first entry of a science fiction series to God, although there aren’t many religious overtones that certainly won’t drive away those sensitive about theological issues. Unique in this novel is that the writer refers to the prologue as “Chapter Zero,” which opens in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, where Colonel Brent Lilan, commander of the Falcon Platoon, is dispatched to repel an attack by aliens known as the Bakma. Lilan is supposedly quintessential in his occupation and works for the Earth Defense Network (EDEN). The time is undoubtedly the future, with the year being the eleventh of the New Era (NE), although how many years anno domini is never explicitly stated in the text, the years before referred to as the Old Era, with little reference to events before then.

The first official part and section of the novel begin in Richmond, Virginia, where Scott Remington is stationed, missing his fiancée Nicole and being a man of faith (though his religion plays minimal role in the story). The text ultimately reveals that three enemy alien species appeared almost simultaneously to attack Earth: the grotesque Bakma, the reptilian Ceratopians, and the gray Ithini, who began the conflict present in the story known as the Alien War, these races having their own beasts of burden. Much of the novel involves martial banter among various commanding officers and soldiers, with an imminent World Peace Celebration (WPC), marking mankind’s transition from the Old to New Era, though the aliens aren’t interested in peaceful resolution.

Occasionally the book features maps of cities and facilities where its various battles occur, always a welcome addition, although this reader couldn’t quite put the names of various soldiers to faces and occasionally missed critical portions that resulted in occasional confusion. After the main text is a preview of the Epic franchise’s first sequel, Outlaw Trigger, which introduces the characters Alexander Nijinsky and Yuri Dostoevsky in more military banter. Despite its flaws, this is an enjoyable science fiction novel enthusiasts of the genre will likely enjoy, and this reviewer very much looks forward to reading its successor.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Upper West Side Story

This novel promises a yarn about two former student radicals, Bettina Grosjean, a professor of Women’s History, and her husband Stephen, an environmental policymaker in the New York City Mayor’s office, as they deal with various racial and political issues compounded by the fall of a black student down a flight of stairs. In the brief preface, Bettina, the primary narrator for the story, warns not to take the gift of children for granted, and discovers a diary kept by her son Max when he was thirteen, the novel’s action beginning on October 7 at 8:45 pm. In the first main chapter, Bettina mentions that she is a morning person, her son Max is in eighth grade and about to take a class trip to Washington, D.C., and that she’s daughter to Holocaust survivors.

The main inciting incident of the novel is the plight by a black student named Cyrus Nightingale down a flight of stairs and consequential coma, believed by the police to be the result of students horsing around. The third chapter is the first time Max narrates the story himself, likely through his diary, when on Monday October 11, 10:20 pm, he’s freaked out by his friend Cyrus, whom he states was named by Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great. The coma victim is taken to the derelict Harlem-Manhattan hospital, and Max ultimately receives blame for his friend’s coma as he was nearby when it occurred. At first, life seems to continue normally for Max and his family, who are nonreligious in spite of Jewish roots.

However, thanks to the pressure of an activist named Marcus Hake, Max is eventually sent to a juvenile detention center faced with the charges of causing his friend’s coma, the issue of Max being white and Cyrus being black playing a significant role in the incarceration. Family and friends suspect a conspiracy, with the woven tale for the most part being enjoyable, a nice break from other racial injustice stories where members of minorities are typically the discrimination victims, this issue very much challenging the leftist leanings of the Grosjeans and their friends from college and beyond. There are some minor parts that this reviewer missed and which drove him to go back and reread sessions, although he would highly recommend this tale.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


The author of this novel split from the longer Guy Erma and the Son of Empire was born in England, but spent time in school in France and Monaco, ultimately turning an old manuscript into the full-length novel, and ultimately made the decision like the Aoléon series to split it into multiple volumes, with the chapter numbering continuing from its predecessor akin to Brent LeVasseur’s series. The author herself dedicates the novella to her parents, David, and “the girls.” Since the action of the second entry continues from its predecessor, reading the first book is highly recommended, and things can be somewhat confusing to those that haven’t read the first entry recently.

The novella’s action takes place in a single day, which is the second of the trilogy, beginning in the morning, moving to midday, and ending in the evening. The story begins with Karl Valvanchi having a dream of flying, near the crashed shuttle Mezzatorra, with the Dome Elite of Freyne attacking the ship. Prince Teodor is at the time in captivity, during which the races known as the Magnolia Stakes occur, with Guy Erma setting up a stall near the racecourse. An election known as the Dome Debate occurs, too, with incumbent Chart Segat squaring off against Regent Sayginn in a discussion of who will control the Dome, the former promising the Prince’s freedom. Towards the end the Prince faces off in a series of Blades matches with Guy Erma, with some occasional plot twists as well.

A few illustrations are also present, the first of which depicts a Dome Medallion from various perspectives, the second of which appears to be a charcoal drawing of Guy Erma, the third of which depicts a feline goran, the fourth of which clearly depicts Chart Segat, and the final of which shows a clearer portrait of Guy Erma, an untinted version of the cover art essentially, with these images definitely giving readers a look as to what characters and things in the novella’s universe look like. The appendix at the end is very much helpful to those unfamiliar with the franchise’s mythos, and in the end, this reviewer would very much recommend the second novel to those who enjoyed the first, whose reading is definitely recommended before readers dive into its sequel.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kidnap Giveaway

KIDNAP: Part 1 of Guy Erma and The Son of Empire goes on sale today! Read on for more info on how to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Aoléon the Martian Girl Part Five: The Great Pyramid of Cydonia


The fifth and final Aoléon novel involves the franchise’s titular female alien and her friends, among them the Nebraskan Gilbert, traveling to Cydonia to rescue Aoléon’s parents, uncovering what has been behind recent occurrences on Mars and attempting to stop an invasion of Earth. The cover depicts Aoléon and her companions, including Gilbert in a spacesuit, walking towards the viewer through a silvery hall. Like its predecessors, the author makes the rare literary decision to continue chapter numbering from prior installments, with the fifth book’s initial chapter, for instance, the twentieth in the whole novella series.


The concluding entry opens with Aoléon and company wandering the Martian surface, when they encounter a giant pyramid honoring the Orion constellation, a nice illustration showing a sunrise or sunset with a view of the structure, after which the party ventures underground in order to enter the grand building. Several more illustrations depict the battle with their enemies from different perspectives, with two breaks from the fighting to explain what the American President and his entourage are up to on Earth, mainly their dealing with enemy Martians trying to steal the planet’s cows while attacking its dairy facilities, Aoléon and her friends ultimately going back there.


The penultimate chapter of the franchise features an opening scene with the Martian Luminon wanting to speak with Earth’s leaders in want of their milk cows, with Gilbert and his Martian comrades invading the mothership, more battles breaking out, with a few more illustrations from sundry perspectives, which ultimately culminate in a final confrontation with the Luminon in his various incarnations that art depicts.


Gilbert ultimately returns to his homeworld and parts from Aoléon and her Martian friends, with a final illustration depicting a humorous event that rounds out the literary pantheon nicely.


In the end, the fifth Aoléon novel is a solid conclusion to the five-part series, with the illustrations really impacting the story positively and depicting well its various occurrences that most readers will be able do understand even if they read quickly while glimpsing at the art. Some reminders in illustration captions on which characters were which would have been welcome, which is pretty much the sole strike against the book and by extent its predecessors if a reader breaks between reading them. A glossary after the main text clarifies some of the various jargon present in the novella, book five alongside its predecessors being highly-recommended reading for older and younger audiences alike interested in a solid science fiction franchise.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Bianca's Vineyard

This novel promises a yarn about Bianca Corrotti inheriting a vineyard in Tuscany, Italy, which holds many secrets about her Uncle Egisto and his wife, the primary setting being Mussolini’s Italy during the first half of the twentieth century. Author Teresa Neumann dedicates it to her mother-in-law Babe, “a true Bertozzi,” and opens with a biblical quote involving Job’s daughters. The family tree that also introduces the story is, however, somewhat confusing, the plot itself commencing in 2001 with 88-year-old Bianca, a widow whose husband Danilo died years ago, and her Uncle Egisto did so as well in 1974.

Part I of the novel introduces Egisto in Ripa, Toscano, Italia in 1913, who makes sculptures for the deceased, the anarchist political ideology being prevalent at the time on the eve of the First World War, with Egisto loving a woman named Marietta, although Egisto himself isn’t particularly religious and yearns for a marriage outside the Catholic Church, their relationship consequentially seen as forbidden. Egisto does eventually marry another woman named Armida, with whom he had spent a drunken evening, although he forgets not his prior relationship with his initial love. Part II sees Egisto and Armida immigrating to America, settling in St. Paul, Minnesota, the action in the second section occurring from 1923 to 1930.

Armida eventually discovers letters written by her husband involving Marietta, for whom he still has feelings, and proves one of the many things that drives her to insanity and confinement into a mental institution for a few months. Part III involves Armida’s eventual return to Italy, at which time Benito Mussolini is taking power. Part IV occurs during the Second World War, Part V in its last two years, and Part VI in 1946. The author notes the novel was based on a true story with fictional elements, and was the product of years of research, which definitely helped this engaging story, with only a few parts that caused this reviewer to go back and reread to understand things, and some clarification on the family tree would have been welcome.