Book Review: ‘The Guilty Path : Versatile Layer Book 5’ by Thomas K Davis

The fifth book in the Versatile Layer science fiction series, this book has some great qualities. The story is interesting and exciting, with moments of intense action balanced by humour and character development to give the reader a feeling of being on the same side as the protagonist, the warrior Adeola. There are characters who are likeable, and others who are less so. Most intriguing, though, are those whose status as ally or antagonist remains unclear as the story progresses, maintaining the mystery of the story and it’s outcomes right to the end.

Sadly, though, the book doesn’t live up to its potential because it really needs editing. There are too many basic errors that compromise the quality of the writing and cause frequent and unnecessary frustration for readers. The author clearly knows how to write well, so this seems to be an issue of poor quality control that would easily be overcome with thorough proofreading and correction.

Book Review: ‘Fight Like A Woman’ by J.S. Frankel

A story of resistance, resilience and loyalty, this is a book for the persecuted, the exploited and the downtrodden. It is a story in which brains overcome brawn and integrity is valued more than power.

Kyle Sorton is a classic underdog character, highly relatable for anyone who has struggled with mediocrity or a lack of opportunities to discover their potential. The tenacity and self-assurance of Rinarra and Merat make them powerful contrasts for Kyle, yet he surprises himself by proving to be their equal in resourcefulness and instinct. That the three of them overcome their challenges by working together and sharing their knowledge and abilities is a powerful reminder that we are stronger together than alone, and that a loyal team can achieve far more in cooperation than they could if the members were to work independently of one another..

The plot is intriguing and highly engaging, and the world building is excellent. There is enough that is familiar to the reader for them to feel sufficiently oriented and grounded, but enough that is different for them to be fascinated by the qualities of the world and culture in which they are immersed.

The unique circumstances in which Kyle finds himself are treated with sensitivity and a sense of natural curiosity, making him a central character who will endear himself to those readers who have questioned and explored their own questions of self, gender and identity, even though Kyle’s situation and the reasons for his questioning are bound to be somewhat different than their own.

This is a most excellent read.

Book Review: ‘The River Of Time’ Shiva XIV Book 4 by Lyra Shanti

‘The River of Time’ is book 4 in Lyra Shanti’s magnificent Shiva XIV space opera novel series.

In this instalment, there is plenty of intrigue, suspense, action and epic battle as Ayn and his comrades work agaisnt the evil power that threatens to destroy not only individuals, but also the universe as they know it. 

It is also, however, the most intensely mystical of the series, exploring themes of friendship and loyalty, the nature of the power at the centre of the universe, and redemption and reincarnation.  It is in the context of these themes that Ayn and Axis each question their identity and experience, and their roles in both the history and the future of the worlds they inhabit. 

Through their existential quests, the reader too is reminded that each of us has a role to play, services and gifts to offer, and dreams to pursue, which can contribute to either the destruction or the redemption of our world. The choices we make are crucial, and their impacts and implications extend far beyond our own individual lives. Thus, like Ayn and Axis, Pei and Meddhi, and all the other much-loved characters from this series, we all navigate the River of Time.

This is a universal story and a deeply personal story at the same time, one which confronts and challenges while also entertaining and inspiring the reader. 

Book Review: ‘The Glass Runner: Versatile Layer Book 2’ by Thomas Davis

‘The Glass Runner’ is a science fiction book with a decent storyline, interesting characters, and some good action sequences. Moments of humour break the tension of battle and conflict, and an air of mystery surrounding some of the characters adds an element of intrigue. 

The central characters are varied and interesting, with personalities and qualities that make them likeable and engaging.  While recounting the conflict between the Terrans and the Arez, the story provides a coming-of-age for Chase as he fights to overcome those who not only threaten the future, but also plague his past. 

This book is, however, rather in need of a good edit. Correcting the too-frequent errors and polishing the storytelling would raise the overall finished quality of the book and make it more appealing and satisfying to readers. 

‘The Glass Runner: Versatile Layer Book 2’ has been awarded a Bronze Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

Author Interview: Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi

My guest today is Science Fiction author, Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi.
Welcome, Emanuel!

Hello and thanks for having me, Book Squirrel!

Most welcome! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

To begin, my name is Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi, but my friends call me Andrew. 
I live in the European Union, Romania – you know the country of Dracula and the World Tennis Associations number 1 ranked, Simona Halep.
I work as an IT Engineer. My goal is to become a professional writer and my dream is to have one of my books turned into a movie.

Fantastic! What inspired you to write?

Once I was a consumer of books. Also, I watched movies and I played video games, but one day I decided to create my own fictional universe. I began to write books having in mind this consumer experience. So was born my space opera named Starship “Apple of Discord” and many other Sci-Fi and Fantasy projects.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

I am a world-builder and I love to unleash my imagination, in order to depict distant planets, alien wildlife, advanced technology, spaceships and other civilizations. Prehistoric or dystopian Earth is my favorite too.

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

My favorite Sci-Fi books are:

Roadside Picnic by Arkadi & Boris Strugatsky
The Men in the Jungle by Norman Spinrad
Dune by Frank Herbert

My favorite Fantasy books are:

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Rune Swords by Clayton Emery and multiple authors

What are you working on writing now?

First, I want to tell the readers what I have written since August 2016, when I started creating books.

I have finished the first three volumes of my space opera Starship “Apple of Discord” on November 11, 2017. These volumes have more than 1300 pages and 350k words. I will continue to write more volumes on Starship “Apple of Discord”, because this saga isn’t finished yet. I dare to say that Starship “Apple of Discord” has all the ingredients for becoming a successful book and later a movie or movie series: love, war, mystery, fun and hope.

Before Xmass 2018 I finished a dystopian novel called SS Vagabond.

Now I am simultaneously working on a Fantasy novel, The tears of the dragon and a Sci-Fi novel called The last colony.

Although I was working on Starship “Apple of Discord”, in the spring of 2017 I decided to take a break to learn more about Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).            
Therefore, I have created a Sci-Fi eBook named The Restoration. The initial impression was favorable and The Restoration has received 4.5 stars. Unfortunately, later, Amazon decided to change the rules in the middle of the game and removed all reviews posted by people who have received free books on promotions. This happened to my book, The Restoration, too. Now it has only 3.5 stars, because the persons who posted reviews said that The Restoration is a great book, but they complained about my English skills. My English was rough when I began to write, but the more I’ve written, the more my writing style has evolved.

Now I am waiting for an answer from several publishers from the US, UK, Canada and the European Union regarding my space opera Starship “Apple of Discord” and my novel SS Vagabond. It will take a while and I am not sure that those publishers will agree to publish my books, since am a debutante author.

Who designs your book covers?

I know that my book covers seem very realistic and intriguing. I don’t believe in pre-made covers. There is high chance that these wouldn’t fit with my story line. All my book covers are designed from my ideas. Sometimes I create the covers myself or I ask for professional help to bring my vision to life. I tend to use GIMP and other free materials.  I am aware that I am only an amateur designer, but this doesn’t stop me from trying and it will give future publishers an idea of what I have in mind for the designs.

I have paid a young artist from my country to create the cover of the first volume of Starship “Apple of Discord”©. The redhead android on the cover is A.I. Cassiopeia©, one of the main characters. 
The artist’s name is Cosmin Benchea and he was an Art student, who had a part-time job as bartender. If I will successfully publish this book, I will ask him again to illustrate it or I will collaborate with another artist. I’m interested in creating graphic novels for my books too.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

Sometimes I listen to epic music when I write. I like Two Steps From Hell, Audiomachine, Lindsey Stirling & Peter Hollens, Hans Zimmer and Jan Chmelar.

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

I have done the opposite. I love nature, animals and plants. In my books there are pets, cool plants and wildlife from Earth or alien worlds. For example, in the novel SS Vagabond I have introduced Fluffy, the spoiled cat of the ship with the same name as the title.

Who are your literary inspirations?

I love to read, but I was NOT influenced by any author. I have an untamed imagination and I found inspiration in scientific articles and real life. I dare to say that I am creating genuine science fiction and fantasy literature.

What’s your favourite quote, ever?

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

Also I love another one, which belongs to me:  “If you can’t provoke any emotion, there’s little point in writing.” – Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi

Oooh, I like that! Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

I’d like to reach easier a literary agent or a serious publisher. I’d like to have more time for my writing.

Where can we find your book, The Restoration?

It’s available on Amazon.

I want to thank to those who purchased my book and helped diminish my fear that I wouldn’t sell any.

I also want to thank to those to who recommend it to their friends and continue to spread the word about my writing.

Excellent!
And where can readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook, where I also have a page dedicated to my space opera Starship “Apple of Discord”.
I’m also on Twitter, Instagram, and Deviantart. And, of course, I have a website.

Book Review: ‘Half Sick of Shadows’ by Richard Abbott

As someone who has always loved Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’, the title of this book caught my eye and imagination immediately. Rather than being a retelling of the poem, however, this book is a speculative fantasy about the life of the Lady before the events of the poem take place, and on the nature of her observations of the world around her tower.

The story is very creative and highly original in its development, intriguing the reader with hints about the truth of the Lady’s identity and the reasons for her being imprisoned in her tower.

The Lady’s character is quite thoroughly developed, as the reader is allowed into her thoughts and responses as well as into her activities. Other characters in the book are less well developed, simply because the story moves from one group to another as it progresses, but all are portrayed in a personal and evocative  manner that gives both the Lady and the reader a strong sense of connection to them. 

The author has given the well known story a new sense of mystery and intrigue and another layer of mystical connection that gives this book depth and has a profound effect on the reader. 

A most enjoyable read, ‘Half Sick of Shadows’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here

Author Interview: J. S. Frankel

My guest today is Jesse Frankel, author of amazing SciFi adventure stories for Young Adults and New Adult readers.

Jesse is no stranger on my book blog or my bookshelf: his book ‘Ether‘ won the Golden Squirrel Book of the Year Award in 2018, and ‘The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce‘ won the Golden Squirrel Award for YA Science Fiction.

Welcome, Jesse! I feel very privileged to be talking with you.

Hi Squirrel! It’s great to be here, even if your introduction did make me blush.

You’re very welcome. What inspired you to write?

My older son—he was ten at the time—had just seen a cartoon, something about trees. He said, “Papa, wouldn’t it be great if trees talked?” That gave me an idea, and that eventually became The Tower, my first novel.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

Oh, wow, there have been so many! The Catnip series, Ether, The Auctioneer, and Fight Like A Woman are standouts for me, along with Twisted.

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

The ‘Friday’ books— ‘Curious Things’ and ‘Curious Times’ by Joanne Van Leerdam, along with ‘An Enlightening Quiche’ by Eva Pasco.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Probably ‘An Enlightening Quiche’ as well as ‘The Forest’ by Julia Blake.

What are you working on writing now?

I’m re-editing an old novel and hoping to submit it soon

Who designs your book covers?

Most of my covers were designed either by Carmen Waters (the Catnip series) or Martine Jardin, who’s done my latest works. Both cover artists are superb!

What’s your favourite kind of music?

I’ll listen to anything save rap.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

My honeymoon. My wife and I went to Spain and it was amazing! The history, the food, the people… perfect.

What’s your favourite TV show?

Star Trek, TOS. Nothing else comes close.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Lots, but any of the superhero flicks are great. I loved Ready Player One, and I’m an old Biblical movies buff.

What’s your favourite quote, ever?

“You’re born alone and you die alone. It’s what you do in between that matters.” That was from my father. Perhaps he heard it from someone else, but it’s always resonated with me.

Name three people you admire, and give reasons.

My parents, who taught me to be a good person, and my wife, who is my strength.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

It ain’t easy! Some people have the misconception that indie authors aren’t good, that they’re lazy or hurting the industry…they have very negative views.
To be fair, some authors have an I-don’t-care attitude, but the vast majority I know are hard-working, productive individuals who genuinely care about what they write and the industry they’re in.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Selling books and editing!

One day someone will say “cracking acorns open” and I’ll be able to help them with that… sigh.
Say, where can readers find your books?

My books are widely available, so they’re in all the online stores, but the most common places people get them would be Amazon or my publisher’s website, Devine Destinies. Just look for J.S. Frankel and you’ll find them.

And where can we follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for being here today, Jesse!

Thanks for making me welcome!