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Where Christ Is Present

This religious book, edited by John Warwick Montgomery and Gene Edward Veith, both who contribute to it alongside other authors, commemorates the forthcoming fifth-century anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation initiated by Martin Luther. Its scripture comes from the English Standard Version of the Bible, with the publisher hoping to instigate a new Lutheran Reformation, the book dedicated to various individuals such as Dr. Howard Hoffman.

The first chapter, by John Warwick Montgomery, indicates that many don’t understand the importance of the Reformation’s anniversary, which commenced on the Eve of All Saints Day, 1517. He indicates that Jesus was a kind of “Jewish boy scout,” and analyzes the various Christian denominations, Lutheranism included, noting the problems with others while insisting that Lutherans take the scripture “exactly as it is.”

The second chapter, by Gene Edward Veith, notes the Counter-Reformation initiated by the Catholic Church in response to the Lutheran Reformation, with Luther, whom the Church excommunicated, not necessarily wishing to start his own alternate denomination, with Catholics today acknowledging that their faith was indeed in need of reform. Other denominations he analyzes, too, noting that Anglicans seek to be intermediaries between Protestantism and Catholicism, and that Wesleyans (with this reviewer being Methodist, although his beliefs lean more in favor of the Episcopal Church) believe good works play part in salvation, a perfectly reasonable belief.

The third chapter, by Cameron A. MacKenzie, tells the story of Martin Luther’s life, starting with his death as an evangelical, with some criticism of Luther brought to light such as the alleged freedom of man to commit sin, and his conflicts with fellow evangelicals. He also mentions debates about Christ’s alleged presence in communion and the nature of infant baptism.

The fourth chapter, by A. S. Francisco, notes that different denominations disagree on theology and practice, largely due to authority other than scripture, with Lutherans believing scripture is the sole source of revelation and authority, and Calvinists believing that Christ’s spirit alone exists during communion.

The fifth chapter, by Rod Rosenbladt, discusses whether salvation is earned or freely given, mentioning active and passive righteousness, the division of scripture into Laws and Promises, and bibliographies for more insight into different Christian denominations.

The sixth chapter, by Harold Senkbeil, examines the basic tenants of Lutheranism, such as Jesus being God and man, the amount of water necessary for baptism, the meaningfulness of infant baptism, the practice of confession and absolution, and so forth.

The seventh chapter, by Todd Wilken, preaches that baptism constitutes a boundary between God’s kingdom and Earth, with Satan’s realm allegedly not a true kingdom, Christians being dual citizens of Heaven and Earth, and that Christians have multiple vocations in addition to their earthly ones.

The eighth chapter, by Uwe Siemon-Netto, notes that narcissistic mindset threatens Christianity in America, with Catholics, for instance, viewing religious vocation as limited to priests and entries into monasteries, Lutherans allegedly allowing followers to delve into the realm of the secular without completely engorging themselves in its ways. The section presents various factoids such as Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler’s hatred of Christianity, most pregnancy terminations being the result of personal choice rather than things such as disability, and concludes with the statement that there is no authority except that from God.

The ninth chapter, by Craig A. Parton, focuses on Christianity and the arts, particularly with regards to composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, with Luther, for instance, very much believing that art and music had a firm place in Christian practice, touching upon the principle of adiaphora. He notes that Christian freedom derives from freedom from sin and death, with exercise of freedom best when exercised in favor to God and neighbors. The principle of legalism adds to music with certain prohibition, institutes such as Bob Jones University, for instance, forbidding rock music in worship service, and Bach himself having secular interests and clients.

The tenth chapter, by Steven A. Hein, notes that Christians may long for more fulfilling experiences, with the Law and Gospel being parallel, and that one is not saved by the cross and can “move on” five minutes later. Faith, he indicates, is attacked by temptation, with Lutherans believing faith presents them with a life regimen.

The eleventh chapter, by Angus J. L. Menuge, analyzes the cultural and aesthetic impact of Lutheranism, noting different types of Christian response to culture and indicating that art suffers injustice when we insist it must tell the truth about God without first confessing the truth about ourselves, some samples of Christian art presented.

The final chapter, by John Warwick Montgomery, concludes the main text, indicating that at the point in the book the benefits of Lutheranism are plain, and notes the paradox that conservatives in one denomination can be liberals in another, and suggests more conservative subsectors of Lutheranism such as the Missouri Synod over the more liberal Evangelical sect, in which women and homosexuals can be ordained as clergy.

After the text are biographies of the contributors, with Francisco, for instance, being a student of Arabic and Islamic theology, MacKenzie being ordained as a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod clergyman, and Parton being a trial lawyer.

Overall, this is a fairly thought-provoking look at Lutheran faith, even if the text somewhat adopts a supremacist viewpoint in that regard, with this reviewer still true to his Episcopalian and Methodist leanings, given his view that salvation is something one must actively work for instead of being received freely simply by faith.

Lola's Money

This romance novel begins one stormy Saturday evening in February, when the main female protagonist, Lola French, twenty-eight years old, watches television in a flat she shares with her boyfriend Alan in East Calder near Livingston in Scotland. An immediate twist comes when she realizes she wins the lottery, although she has an immediate fight with her boyfriend, with whom she severs ties, moving back in with her mother Betty. Lola, looking forward to being a multi-millionaire with her eight-million-pound prize, works as a financial advisor for an Edinburgh-based company, where she has a lukewarm relationship with fellow employee Cassie Matthews, and struggles with the decision of to whom she should reveal her newfound fortune.

Betty is a divorced mother, and becomes angry when her ex-husband George makes himself known again briefly following the news of their daughter’s lottery win. Lola and her mother makes plans to take a cruise to Venice, during which Betty falls for a man named Jeremy and Lola for a man named Carlos. Things take a turn for the worse when a kidnapping comes into play during the vacation that ultimately leads to hospitalization at the end of the second part of the novel. The third part takes place after the Italian vacation, with several romantic twists that involve a love triangle, with plentiful reversals and more twists.

Overall, this is an enjoyable romance novel that enthusiasts of the genre will most likely appreciate, given its twisting and turning nature and unexpected reveals, dealing well with the implications of winning a large fortune.

Answer for question 4491.

Do you have any books that you have been meaning to read, but just haven't gotten around to? What are they? How did you hear about them, and why do they interest you?
I have enough books on my iPad's Kindle app to last me until doomsday, and right now I'm going back through all the eBooks I've read and reviewed on Amazon, taking notes on them while I read so I can actually write more detailed reviews.

Melanie's Evanescent Journey

This novel by B. Truly is actually an interquel tying the first and second installments of the author’s The Sonar Trilogy, dedicated to the writer’s family, especially her mother, although one can enjoy it without having read the other entries of the franchise. The narrator and protagonist, the titular Melanie, was born in raised in Australia although her father accepted a job transfer to Denver, Colorado, and now lives in America, attending her first day as a senior at Cashmere High. She quickly befriends Ebony Wilson and an amnesiac student named Jason, and regularly has dreams that can border on violent and almost realistic.

The first half of the novel focuses on Melanie’s scholastic life and development of her relationship with Jason, with whom she studies and watches television a few times, although the second part of the book somewhat shifts the narrative’s genre from realistic fiction to science fiction, with several interesting twists that completely alter the story’s direction. Concluding the book is an epilogue taking place four years after the main chapters, which nicely rounds out the novel, although the sudden shift of genres will definitely catch readers off-guard. Even so, this reviewer can easily recommend this gripping tale.

Hello, My Love!

The first installment of author EJourney’s Between Two Worlds series, Hello, My Love!, is an alleged modern imitation of Jane Austen’s novel, focusing on an intelligent and beautiful law student named Elise Halverson, who takes an interest in a playboy named Greg Thorpe, although she discovers that he has promised his live to another woman, Lori Williams, who vows revenge upon Elise, with a passage of two years when Elise becomes the victim of a hit-and-run automobile accident. The Amazon page says that food allegedly plays a prominent role in the story, although eating is only referenced less than a handful of times.

The narrative itself opens with a quote from Anatole France about how in love, like in art, instinct is enough. Greg works for Elise’s college professor father, Dr. Charles Halverson, most characters introduced in the first chapter, the second taking readers back to a year before, where Greg is first introduced to Elise, not in person, but rather on television, where he sees her participating in a protest at Sacramento, California, with plentiful popular culture references abounding such as war films that include Apocalypse Now, the subsequent chapter taking the reader back to the present, where they have sexual relations.

The novel deals with issues such as abortion and extramarital relations, and is ultimately an enjoyable read that doesn’t take sides in the controversial topics upon which it touches. A reversal occurs in the segments of the story that occur two years after the initial chapters, with a major reversal occurring during the narrative. Overall, this is an enjoyable romance novel, although some of the chapters feel a little slow, and there is occasional confusion regarding certain events that occur early on in the story, although this reviewer certain gives the book his seal of approval.

Mind Over Bullies

Author D.K. Smith dedicates this novel to all victims of bullying for whom the day is always darkest before dawn. The narrative opens with teenagers purchasing clothing at a mall about to pay with hundred-dollar bills until they find out that those they have are counterfeit and flee from the authorities, getting into a car accident while evading the police. One of the book’s primary settings is Oak View, California, where counterfeiting money has become a problem, with students beaten up by bullies for reporting to the authorities. A chief protagonist is Margo Rios, who takes a journalism class at her high school.

The story occasionally alternates between Oak View and London, England, where a student named Ellis experiences bullying at his school that results in his getting beaten, and despite the distance between their cities, those of the students and Oak View and Ellis ultimately intertwine. Several parties occur in Oak View, with Margo also occasionally interviewing students jailed for their involvement in the counterfeiting of money, plenty other characters introduced such as Janet, who attends a school called Felton Prep, with the police ultimately involving themselves in the bullying and counterfeiting, a focus given to Detectives Bennett and Seldon, among others.

The book’s counterfeiting subplot is one of its high points, although most of the story, especially with regards to the bullying several characters encounter, could have been resolved more easily if they had just informed those in positions of authority, such as teachers and the principal, instead of attempting to be vigilantes and take matters into their own hands, culminating in the formation of a group that bears the name of the novel, Mind Over Bullies. Even so, this reviewer can somewhat sympathize with the themes of the book, having experienced bullying himself while attending grade school, with this narrative being a recommended read overall.

Heart Dancing

Author Kathryn Eriksen dedicates this Christian-themed novel to those who stubbornly seek and accept the truth, and acknowledges various individuals such as her husband, daughter, brothers, her twin (though the gender is unspecified), and God. Before the main narrative, she asks readers if they ever see magic tricks and wonder how they’re done, noting that good magicians might show them and great ones see the mystery they can manipulate at will, with the main trick being to look through the mystery. The writer indicates that magicians and others move to their own music in life, aims to change readers from victims to creators, and denotes that her story provides clues how we can create our own realities, that the reader is the star of the show.

Each chapter in the text opens with various inspirational quotes related to music and dancing from luminaries in the field such as Robert Fripp, Berthold Auerbach, and Leo Tolstoy, the initial chapter narrating how mother Christine Hartt dreads the decision by her husband Brian to leave the family, given an occurrence many years prior to the birth of their daughter Savanna Anne. In the meantime, Savanna gets into trouble at school, getting into a fight with a bully that leads her to see her school’s Principal, Janet Andersen, who plays a significant role throughout the story, with Savanna’s mother too distraught from her rocky relationship with her husband to properly discipline her child.

Christine works as a nurse, having met Brian in college, and the two with their daughter live in Newridge, Colorado, with Savanna ultimately adapting a strategy of getting in touch with nature to deal with her problems, encountering a mysterious woman named Avery and her dog Avatar. One of the primary twists is somewhat predictable prior to its revelation, although there are others within the text, which has a satisfying conclusion, after which the writer poses several questions to the reader about whether stories they created about traumatic events are painful and need to be rewritten. Overall, this is an enjoyable and inspirational read from start to finish that this reviewer highly recommends.

Answer for question 4484.

Do you generally point out the mistakes people make, or do you quietly let it go? What's one mistake people make that drives you crazy?
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, my biggest peeve is the confusion of its, it's, and its' (the last of which isn't even a proper term).

Alchemy's Daughter

This historical novel opens with critical acclaim for both the book itself and its sequel Nonna’s Book of Mysteries, and is dedicated to the memory of the author’s grandmothers. Writer Mary A. Osborne indicates in the novel’s acknowledgements section that she commenced writing it when her son was in preschool and finished it during his seventeenth year as a student. Also opening the book is a timeline of various historical events such as the foundation of the Order of Hospitallers and relocation of the Papacy from Rome to Avignon, France, not to mention maps of San Gimignano and Certaldo, Italy, alongside a depiction in Europe of the Via Francigena, the road to Rome from France.

The chief protagonist is a female named Santina, who takes lessons from a scholar named Calandrino and becomes more comfortable as a bookworm ever since her older sister Lauretta married and moved away. Santina has loved her instructor since she was fourteen, having thought that he could have cured her mother, Adalieta, three years dead, of her health issues, becoming interested in things such as alchemy, The Book of Thoth, and the philosopher’s stone central to the forbidden art of alchemy. Santina ultimately becomes the apprentice of Trotula as a midwife after her father forbids her to see Calandrino, and she attends several childbirths, learning about things such as Cesarean sections.

Santina ultimately faces the decision of joining a convent or entering a loveless marriage, although she takes the middle route and pursues her former love Calandrino, who continues to fuel her interest in alchemy with a package, and she continues her pursuit of him. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable historical novel, with the glossary making sense of unfamiliar terms and the author showing her work in the story’s bibliography. The subject of alchemy certainly isn’t new to literature, and has been touched on in other media such as the Japanese manga and animated series of Fullmetal Alchemist, but the book is certainly a worthwhile read.

Two Hearts

Author James Eric Richey dedicates this romance novel to his wife Heather, who supported her husband as he wrote his first book, with novels in the mentioned genre not normally coming from men. The story itself is told in the third-person perspectives of specific characters akin to the Song of Ice and Fire books, with one of the chief protagonists being Jaxon Thomas “Jax” Tagget, who finds a lump of gold while mining and forges it into the chief charm of a necklace he gives to his beloved Annie Bradley. The two become high school graduates, with plenty backstory on Jax’s family present in the first chapter, alongside colorful descriptions of his hometown of Dillon, Montana, and its environment.

Annie is one of the other main viewpoint characters, serving as president of her student body and being able to speak at her high school graduation alongside her class’s valedictorian. Jax quickly proposes to his beloved, and after he receives a degree in mining engineering from Montana State University in Bozeman, he applies to several occupations in his field around the world, including one in Venezuela, where he climbs up through the ranks of a mining company in the country, and getting attention, sometimes unwanted, from one of his coworkers, Mariana Delfino, with Jax’s marriage put to the test, he and Annie ultimately finding themselves back in their Montanan hometown.

Some twists throw Jax and Annie’s life in turmoil, with their financial situation becoming dire, although the former makes a discovery in the mine he frequented early on in the book that could reverse their fortunes, Jaxon ultimately making it his mission to go to a resort town in Colorado to meet with a gold-testing executive. Other minor characters come into play such as Valentino, a criminal who gets a few viewpoint chapters of his own and serves as the chief antagonists. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable romance novel with plenty of twists and surprises, and while there were some minor confusing moments, this reviewer would otherwise recommend this read.

Her Sister's Shoes

This book, which the author dedicates to her family, occurs in the fictitious town of Prospect, South Carolina, with each chapter beginning with an indicator of the alleged perspective from which the story is told, with characters including the sisters Samantha, Faith, and Jacqueline, akin to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. However, these indicators are hardly necessary, since each chapter doesn’t necessarily keep to a certain woman’s point of view, since all the sisters tend to play significant roles in the chapters hypothetically dedicates to one of their perspectives, although this fortunately doesn’t detriment the narrative.

There’s quite a bit of backstory initially revealed, such as the opening in May 1959 of Captain Sweeney’s Seafood Market, which appeals to vacationers who visit the town, by fishermen Mack Bowman and Oscar Sweeney, the latter moving from Maine to escape frigid New England weather, as well as the injury of Jamie, Samantha’s wheelchair-bound son, in an ATV accident. Faith has a six-year-old daughter named Bitsy, and has a violent relationship with her husband Curtis, who plays a significant role in the novel’s latter chapters, Jamie’s handicap serving a decent role as well.

Most of the novel involves the introduced characters dealing with their situations, with each of the women having children who, as mentioned, have their own share of issues, and somewhat turbulent marriages if they do have spouses. The writer, in her post-story note, indicates that she spent time in Murrells Inlet in the lowlands of South Carolina and drew on experiences in that region, having written the book for most members of her family. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable story with three-dimensional characters and believable situations, with only a select few moments that drove this reviewer to go back and reread passages due to minor confusion.

Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps

This self-help book is dedicated to her husband Rod, an unconditional supporter, and to her daughters, the pride of her life, additionally featuring testimonials from individuals that it helped and acknowledgements to sundry individuals with medical expertise that guided her on a path to better health and made possible the guide. Opening the book is a quote from William Johnsen and a saying by the fourteenth Dalai Lama starting the prologue. The author wants to share her wisdom with others since she doesn’t want others to suffer as she did, the author mentioning that she slipped, fell, and broke her hip when she was thirty.

Staveley further mentions three primary principles in the quest towards recovery, including the establishment of a problem-solving mindset, building a team to help, and the need to expect perseverance in the journey. She builds the book’s section upon these principles alongside a fourth section dealing with chronic pain. Three chief aspects of North American healthcare also drive the expectation of a health revolution, including the payment by a third party with knowledge that someone else knows what’s best to address health concerns, the “patching up” of health problems rather than search for long-term solutions, and that many doctors do not have adequate trainings in the achievement of optimal health.

Section I dedicates itself to readers setting themselves up to be problem solvers when it comes to questions of health, its first chapter challenging individuals to identify what’s holding them back, and notes that focusing on “numbing the pain” stunts growth opportunities. Staveley provides the analogy of seeing the forest, the big pictures of things, as opposed to the trees, the trivial aspects of pain. She mentions three characteristics of wholehearted living, including courage to embrace being imperfect, feeling compassion for others, and believing that what makes one vulnerable also makes one beautiful. The book goes on to ask how the reader handles adversity, if they accept themselves for who they are, and if they “numb” problems instead of facing them directly.

The first chapter afterward provides several steps for practicing gratitude, and highlights two stories that view weaknesses as opportunities for growth. Then she brings to light a “magic wand” exercise where readers ask what they’d wish for, with blank tables allowing the book’s audience members to write in their wishes, following which is a list of questions that help them identify if they’re doing everything in their power to recover, such as identifying a greater purpose in life, setting measurable goals, researching the best medical professionals, and leading the discussion on recovery whenever they have a health appointment.

Chapter Two dedicates itself to readers establishing their “why,” opening with quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche and Nathaniel Hawthorne, noting that purpose can trump fear. The author narrates a story about how she began and progressed through her career as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative, after which she relays the reader many questions that deal with topics such as how life will be better when the audience improves their wellness. Staveley asks what it means for people to be healthy as they can be, terminating the chapter with the statement that getting to one’s healthiest state is a journey and battle fought daily.

Chapter Three deals with goalsetting and opens with a Denis Waitley quote, after which the author again emphasizes the importance of completing the second step in the journey to overcoming pain. She establishes a guideline of creating appropriate goals, with the descriptions of Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive, forming the acronym SMART. The author proceeds to ask more questions about the adjustment of maximum motivation, and concludes the chapter with a story about how one can disassociate himself or herself from the outcome of negotiation. Terminating the section is a synopsis of the primary points of the first three chapters.

Staveley commences Section II assuming the reader has established a mindset of purpose and goals about his or her health. She mentions a story about how Albert Einstein said that had he an hour to save the world, he would dedicate fifty-five minutes to defining the problem and five minutes attempting to solve it. The author offers nine strategies for readers to use to apply to their health problems if possible: rephrasing the problem, exposing and challenging assumptions, making problem pieces bigger, making them smaller, finding alternate perspectives, using various language constructs, making the problem engaging, looking at it backwards, and gathering facts.

Chapter Four, opened with a Maya Angelou quote, involves developing and using one’s social support network, which involves three chief steps: identifying supporters, leveraging knowledge and experience of your network, and taking action. Staveley suggests not only associating with positive, supportive people, but with those who inspire. She further notes that those on the path to recovery can acquire resources from people with whom they regularly associate, bringing forth the animalian analogy of the ostrich, which feeds with others from its group and uses its social skills to avert predators.

A Lucas Remmerswaal quote opens the fifth chapter, which involves the selection and challenge of the right healthcare professionals. Staveley suggests the preparation steps of compiling a list of symptoms and related circumstances, composing several questions to ask their provider, and doing research, for instance, by gathering information from others who have suffered similar symptoms. She follows with a list of issues to consider when dealing with health professionals, alongside research such as looking into lists of best metropolitan doctors, and urges readers to be ready for several potential responses by doctors to a patient’s symptoms.

Staveley further suggests thinking outside the box by looking into non-MD individuals for help such as chiropractors and occupational therapists. She provides extensive thoughts about general practitioners and specialists, noting that many receive salary based on how many patients they see during a regular day. A list of websites the author provides as well, such as the Mayo Clinic’s page and WebMD for patients to prepare for their medical visits, and she suggests going through a scientific method in determining symptoms and potential causes of ailments. She notes that questions can lead to productive interactions, further suggesting patients receive all their available options, share their experiences, and concludes the chapter with a list of important minerals necessary for healthy lifestyles such as calcium and iodine.

Chapter Six opens with a quote from American Vice President Joseph Biden, Staveley noting that readers should be ready to invest finances in their quests to recovery. She indicates her seventeen-year journey through Canada’s healthcare system proved wrong the assumption that treatments she didn’t have to pay for were most effective, and provides a table for readers to theorize their potential expenses. The author poses various questions to consider such as the effectiveness of optional treatments, and encourages readers to carefully analyze their financial situations. In the Section II summary, she provides checklists of various things the reader should be doing in their adventure towards better wellness.

Section III opens with brief mention that it will provide the reader with tools to persist and persevere with their healthcare approaches. Chapter Seven deals with the implementation of potential health solutions, and suggests the audience asks questions of their care providers such as what medicine does exactly. The author explains what to do if the reader doesn’t like a doctor-recommended solution, relaying the story of a nurse that suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after her return from war. She concludes by emphasizing that even if a doctor’s recommendation isn’t pleasant, they should go through with it anyway.

Chapter Eight deals with the everyday search for motivators to keep patients going towards their healthcare goals, and opens with a selection of music that can motivate the audience, such as “Inner Ninja” by Classified, with their lyrics allegedly being inspiring, and which she suggests readers can apply towards their goals. She suggests various visual indicators such as images of people the reader loves to keep them going. The chapter concludes that the right aural and visual indicators can be sufficient motivators towards wellness goals.

Chapter Nine presents the final steps on the journey towards the conquest of pain, which is to never, ever give up, a Winston Churchill quote emphasizing this. Staveley suggests turning adversity into advantage, and mentions that deep happiness is inaccessible without overcoming challenges. She acknowledges that there is no such thing as one-hundred-percent healthiness, and urges her audience to inquire what the lessons of setbacks are. The author lists several expectations of those on the journey towards improved health, such as giving treatments time, working on weaknesses, overcoming adversity, and acknowledging that the quest for better wellness is neverending. Concluding is the story of a blind man who received cataract surgery and could see, Section III ending with another checklist for readers.

Section IV promises to narrate the author’s experience with chronic pain and triathlons, the tenth chapter being her tale of how she overcame chronic myofascial pain syndrome. She describes the condition itself, following which are approaches that alleviated her condition, including changes in nutrition, and she provides a list of mineral depletion causes such as alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, not to mention “in” foods such as fruits and vegetables and “out” foods such as most bread and pasta. Addition approaches such as supplements Staveley suggests too, not to mention yoga and massage, and the reader finding out what works best for them.

The eleventh chapter opens with the assurance that perfect health is not necessary for participation in athletic events such as triathlons, and that one can stay healthy in spite of a fragile body. Staveley details her training for triathlons and ultimate competition in an IRONMAN event, suggesting as well necessary equipment and preparation. She gives some tips on strength and flexibility training, and suggests that family members become involved to ensure their wellness, as well. The author concludes by mentioning that there is no magic cure for better health, alongside lists such as resources and her training song playlist.

In the end, this is an excellent guide to self-recovery, giving nice detail to the author’s nine essential steps, and this reviewer, as an autistic adult, can certainly emphasize with those who need to take certain steps to better well-beings, and has suffered emotionally due to things such as things beyond his control. This reviewer can furthermore relate to the author’s overcoming of adversity, and, even prior to reading the book, has had an effective plan for fitness, although he very much still needs to work on achieving optimum mental health. Overall, this reviewer would highly recommend this self-improvement guide to those young and old in need of major changes to their wellness.

Price of Vengeance

The first installment of author Kurt D. Springs’ Dreamscape Warriors series opens with sundry publisher information, such as the basis of their creed upon Psalm 68:11, although the story itself doesn’t have much religious overtone. A map of the primary setting, New Olympia, the novel also provides, alongside the dedication to the memory of the writer’s high school teacher, Stanley M. Gorski. The prologue that follows focuses on a married couple, Lidia and Marcus, who have a seven-year-old son named Randolf, and come to adopt the two-and-a-half-year-old Liam when his parents Seámus and Deidre wind up dead, the initial chapter ending with the philosophical creed that democracies fall when one man forces others to do what he thinks right.

The main chapters occur a score after the prologue, where Liam is grown-up and he and other soldiers prepare for transport to outposts, which his adopted brother Randolf says are quiet. A special Festival is forthcoming, with the backstory revealed that Liam is scion of farmstead folk, and reference to William Shakespeare’s play Henry V, which is basically the sole reference to other literature within the story. Constituting a significant portion of the story is when characters “dreakwalk,” which the novel denotes with indentation of text, a feature common among the book’s telepathic characters.

The main antagonist is a man named Licinious, and Liam himself finds the companionship of a “bear-lizard” named Swift Hunter, who communicates with his human friend telepathically. Also fulfilling an antagonistic role is a creeping evil known as “chitin,” which never really reveals concrete description as far as this reviewer saw within the text, with quite a few parts that drove him to go back and reread portions, and things such as hyperlinks between Irish Gaelic terms that occur primarily towards the end and their English equivalents would have been welcome. Even so, this is a good first entry of the author’s franchise, and is recommended reading.


Author Sally Ann Melia dedicates the third and thus far most recent installment of her Guy Erma and the Son of Empire series, with an illustration opening the main text depicting the franchise’s titular protagonist Guy Erma, dark-haired and clothed. The story itself commences with the ironically-named Interlude (which would have been a fitting name in the longer version of the series’ combined three books) focusing on Ambassador Nikato Valvanchi II and his father, Ex-Ambassador Nikato Valvahnchi I, who discuss the recent reelection of Chart Segat as a result of the Dome Debate, and the implementation of “Phase 2,” which causes some controversy between the patriarch and scion.

Exile continues chapter numbering from its predecessor akin to how the Lord of the Rings trilogy continues with “book” numbering among its three entries, and in this case, Chapter 26 is the main opening chapter, where cyborg bodies litter the Dome, with Prince Teodor’s fate unknown, although Karl Valvanchi investigates, the Dome Elite failing to find him, as well, and Karl himself sending out a telepathic message for want of communication. The Prince and Guy Erma ultimately rendezvous, vowing to escape the dome together while evading the authorities, with the Sas Darona Liberation Army (SDLA) further stealing poison pills and threatening to use them as an act of terrorism.

Other illustrations within the text include the white-haired and eyed, dark-skinned and clothed Nikato Valvanchi, a few pictures depicting Guy Erma and Teodor, where it’s somewhat difficult to tell the two apart due to similar appearance and attired, the ironically-gray feline goran Blue Barbarina (the epilogue dedicated to her origins), the turquoise-haired Nell Valvanchi, and the Dome Medallion. The appendix at the end is helpful as well, and doesn’t require gross readjustment of the Kindle app’s text size to view properly, an issue in the third entry’s predecessor .mobi files. Ultimately, the thus far final Guy Erma and the Son of Empire novel is an enjoyable conclusion, with only a few shortcomings such as the lack of a helpful clarification in the appearances of the Prince and Guy Erma.

Answer for question 4418.

If you were exiled, what country would you choose as your new home?
Probably New Zealand since odds are I wouldn't need to learn another language, English being my native one, and it's ranked more politically and economically free than the U.S.


What They See

This self-help guide promises that first impressions count in the workforce, and yearns to give advice on how to leave a positive impression in the workplace. Author Jennifer Swanson reflects upon her skills in the fields of communication and human relations, her intended target audience including students, graduates, job seekers, and anyone that seeks to fulfill professional ambitions. Fellow self-help author Sandy Chernoff lauds the book, noting its ease to follow, while Dr. Jennifer Newman notes the book is light-hearted and easy-to-follow, promising advice on things such as how to recover from mistakes.

Within the book’s introductory pages is a disclaiming indicating that readers who follow the guide agree that the author and publisher won’t be held responsible for possible negative effects the book may have in the workplace. Swanson dedicates the book to Katie and Ben for bringing joy into the author’s life, Scott for his endless support, Emma and Sarah for their enthusiasm, Bruce for his humor, her mother for being a cheerleader, and to Little Bandit, likely a pet, for keeping her feet warm while writing the book.

Before the main text as well is an acknowledgements section where Swanson notes that numerous people inspired the production of the book, such as regular readers and podcast participants for their interest in better communications relationships. She thanks gurus whom she follows regularly, the Podcast Mastermind Alumni for technical help and guidance, a women’s club for friendship and learning opportunities, Sandy Chernoff’s mentorship, various teaching and ministry colleagues, her proofreaders, and various friends and family.

In the introduction, Swanson supposes that her hypothetical readers come from various categories, such as those that graduated and are ready to enter the workforce, the writer noting herself a jenny of all trades, one of her occupations being a healthcare class professor at a community college. She assumes things such as the reader seeking quick tips they can put into place immediately, and assures her audience the definition of professionalism and how to be a professional promptly when entering a new occupation.

Chapter One focuses on what to do upon receiving employment, bringing up the expression that job seekers have only seven seconds to make a good impression, the author reducing this to a tenth of one, and that there are things beyond and within an employee’s control. She suggests new jobholders to ask questions during their probationary period of employment, and that in most occupations employees can be professional, highlighting an example of working in a sandwich shop. The writer notes eleven professional attributes such as a positive attitude, nine skills an employer wants such as organization, and things workers receive in professionalism.

Chapter Two highlights attitude, with a simple suggestion to remain positive in the workplace and various consequences of positive and negative emotions. Swanson gives a checklist for pessimists with relation to their jobs, one of the questions being whether they like their current occupation or not. She emphasizes humility as well, suggesting that workers not think that they’re better than everyone else, and gives characteristics of humbleness. Gratitude proves important as well, with little things such as thanking employers and fellow employees going a long way. Mentions of how to be gratuitous, generosity, and a willingness to learn conclude the second chapter.

Chapter Three focuses on clothing, Swanson noting that many jobseekers will ask what they’re supposed to wear and what their attire says about them. She suggests a step-by-step experiment where readers go out without doing things such as wearing makeup or aftershave, note their consequential treatment, and frequent the same places again while dressing formally and indicating the difference in their reception. The author states that jobseekers should note their working environment, the dress code of their workplaces, and their target audiences, highlighting various parts of dress codes such as hats, sometimes a necessity depending upon an occupation, and that personal hygiene is a must.

Chapter Four focuses on what Swanson terms paralanguage, which is defined as everything around words themselves, including one’s voice and speech speed. She provides another experiment where readers say a phrase with various emotions, suggesting occasional “non-stock” responses to wake the listener out of the mundane. The author provides a poem she wrote back in 2010, after which comes a discussion on spatial conversation, giving a list on how to tell if an employee is making a fellow worker feel uncomfortable. Then comes a talk about nonverbal communication, which some suggest can account for three-fourths of communication, and concludes with other topics such as social media sites, cellphones, and chewing gum.

Chapter Five provides a detailed discussion on verbal communication, with a list of advice such as using “I” language that emphasizes an employee’s thoughts about a situation without using terms such as “they.” She further advises practicing active listening, acknowledging its potential difficulty, and provides pointers on how to improve skills in this area. Then comes a discussion on closed and open questions, the former seeking quick response and the latter more detailed replies. Concluding the section is a discussion on voice and tips on how to improve one’s skills in the area.

Chapter Six discusses the importance of wise word choice, suggesting an aversion to slang since odds are some listeners might not understand the speaker. Swanson further presents a list of common clichés such as “better late than never,” and discussions things such as colloquialisms more commonly spoken than written, jargon specific to a particular field,, and filler words, providing a list of these. Concluding the chapter is an advisement for employees not to pad their speech, and to say what they wish in as few words as possible.

Chapter Seven touches upon work ethic, providing readers a list of questions to ask themselves, and follows with tips on time management. Swanson emphasizes the importance of punctuality and prioritization, and urges employees to be mindful of their break time and not abuse it, providing a list of what workers should do when they respect break time. She follows with a discussion on cliques more present in larger businesses, giving a brief list of what to watch for, and again emphasizes the need to choose words carefully given the potential for gossip to arise within the workplace.

Chapter Eight emphasizes accountability, Swanson suggesting that it can be more important than accuracy and that it’s a professional quality, and noting a mistake she made in a healthcare job. She gives a list of what to do if one messes up at work, and notes the importance of learning from mistakes, following with an analogy of the common aspects of Silly Putty, the Slinky, chocolate chip cookies, and Scotchgard. After this is advice on how to fail gracefully and learn from mistakes, and gives steps for things such as consequences of not achieving goals and what an employee will do now if he or she doesn’t get ahead as planned. Concluding the chapter are the good, bad, and ugly aspects of giving and receiving feedback.

Chapter Nine deals with stress management, opening with a checklist of indicators, which mention that stress can ultimately lead to chronic ailments. She discusses how to manage stress with things such as speaking little and listening more. Chapter Ten moves on to management and reduction of conflict in the workplace, discussing the various styles such as avoiding and competing. Swanson highlights a situation where an employee might refuse a request, and that producing various stories for the fellow employee’s response might produce conflict later. She gives various steps on how to avoid conflict while simultaneously being assertive without coming across as rude.

Swanson concludes her self-help guide with a story of a hotdog salesman, and follows with a bonus chapter involving the potential benefits of taking particular risks such as not doing the same things repeatedly; she ends with a bibliography and personal biography. Ultimately, this is an excellent resource for those seeking to be shining examples of employees, and this reviewer, as one who has had both positive and negative experience in the workplace, would have definitely appreciated its advice were he still in the market for a job, and highly recommends this helpful, detailed guide.

Nature's Confession

This J.L. Morin novel promises an epic yarn about a pair of teenagers that struggle to save their world from global warming, opening with praise from critics that appreciated its environmental themes, the book dubbed climate fiction, or “cli-fi.” Morin, unsurprisingly, dedicates the novel to “unconquerable” Mother Nature, and gives statistics about how governments hand out nearly two trillion dollars towards polluting industries. The author further gives thanks to a scientist, Dr. Thomas Mowbray, for his research into antipatterns, although they seem to play a minimal role at best within the story.

Morin names but doesn’t number the chapters in Nature’s Confession, with each beginning with an illustration somewhat related to the title and a quote either fictional or nonfictional, the quotation aspect present in other science fiction stories such as the Dune series. Among the mentioned fictional quotes are those from the Legend of MakSym, a boy born in year two “After Corporatism.” The protagonist’s name is Boy, who dreams of saving a girl from a giant spider and is likened to the fictitious hero Tyree, whom the Emperor of Earth and Sea seeks, with Tyree being a “hacker hero,” and the reasoning behind Boy’s identity being that parents in the dystopian future don’t feel safe naming their scion.

The author occasionally injects her ideology into the novel, noting that deaths from handguns vastly outnumber those from terrorism, with the Emperor, for instance, suggesting allowing private citizens to keep firearms as a form of population control. An incident eventually drives Boy and his parents from their home on the lam into space, with occasional twists towards the end and first-person chapters narrated by an animal. Overall, this is an enjoyable science fiction novel that’s not overly-preachy about its themes, although there are some headscratchers, and this reviewer found himself unable to answer the discussion questions following the main text without going back and really giving the book another once-over.


Author Chris Ledbetter dedicates this book to his “little Smunchkin,” who, like protagonist and narrator Cameron, is an aspiring artist. He further acknowledges his family for supporting him in rounds of writing that took him up past midnight, not to mention critique partners including Heather Petty, beta readers such as Kim Harnes, publisher Evernight Teen, and cover designer Jay Aheer. The main text itself opens with quotes from Leonardo da Vinci and Fernando Pessoa, with the chapters, akin to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld franchise, not being marked or numbered, although fortunately, there are natural breaks within the text proper ensuring that readers won’t have to go through long periods without breaks.

Cameron’s mentions in the beginning that his mother is dead and can’t admire his art, the narrator acknowledging time on Earth is limited, alongside his eighty-year-old Italian friend Marco Cassisi, who owns an art supply store named Bellissima. The protagonist is in some ways a jack of all trades, being an avid gamer with people across the country and writer for his school’s newspaper in addition to his aspirations to become a professional artist one day. The setting is ultimately revealed to be the Carolinas, specifically, while never explicitly stated within the text as far as this reviewer could see, North Carolina, the narrator himself being sixteen and still in high school according to the book’s blurbs.

The main character ultimately experiences a reversal that leads him to bequeath a sketchbook that apparently has some kind of magical power, as images he draws within it magically disappear and/or change, and he eventually discovers a world within the book known as Terra Sempre. He develops a love interest as well in Farrah Spangling, whose life becomes at stake, the key to her survival being in the book’s world. The novel somewhat seems to derive from movies such as Inception and the A-ha music video of “Take on Me,” although it’s still an enjoyable romp, with occasional popular culture references and a satisfying conclusion.

Answer for question 4400.

Have you ever had a recurring dream? If so, what happened in it? Do you still have that dream now, or were you able to finally shake it?
I largely dream that I'm back in high school despite being out of college for years, which typically occurs naturally in my slumber.

Outlaw Trigger

Author Lee Stephen dedicates the first Epic sequel “to humanity” in contrast to the first book he dedicated to God, although ironically, the novel features more religious overtones, even if not overly prominent, than its predecessor. Unlike its predecessor, the second installment almost entirely takes place in Russia, specifically Novosibirsk, which is said to have been built over Fort Zhukov, an acropolis dating back far in the Old Era, with the Gregorian equivalents of years still not given like in the first book. In contrast to the prior entry, there’s only one map that depicts Noboat, alongside two tables listing members and ranks of the Fourteenth of Novosibirsk and EDEN High Command.

Akin to the first entry, though, chapters begin at zero, with antagonists known as the Nightmen playing a subtle role throughout the sequel. There isn’t a whole lot of action in the second Epic novel, alongside occasional confusion about the identity of a character nicknamed the Golden Lion. Scott Remington is still engaged to Nicole, with this relationship also playing a significant role in his religious views. Present is a scourge known as the Silent Fever, supposedly the work of the Nightmen. One of the few mentions of action outside Russia is the desire by Australia of an EDEN base, predicted to be complete during the year following the sequel’s events.

As in its predecessor, there’s plenty of political and military banter, and in spite of the confusion in the text at times, the first sequel of the franchise is an enjoyable one, the author giving his due to God, his spouse, his family, and his friends in the acknowledgements section. There’s also a blurb about the author himself, a native of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, a graduate of Louisiana College in Pineville, and a worker in the fields other than writing of education, entertainment, and emergency preparedness. His Christian testimony is linked in the bio as well, with his views having played some role in the story and accounting for a satisfying sequel.

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.

Answer for question 4384.

Which United States political party do you think is most responsible for the government shutdowns or near-shutdowns that have occurred over the past few years, and why?
Both I think are equally responsible, particularly if opposing parties control Congress and the presidency. I think if neither side can agree on a budget, it should remain exactly the same as the previous fiscal year.

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.


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.


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.

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.


This science fiction novel is the first in a trilogy consisting of three parts of the longer story Guy Erma and the Son of Empire, akin to what author Brent LeVasseur did with his five-part Aoléon the Martian Girl series of five entries. In the first part, teenagers Teodor, a prince, and Guy Erma, and orphan, come from different walks of life, although their paths ultimately cross. The prologue introduces Captain Karl Valvanchi, a thirty-one-year-old warrior tasked with defense above Sas Darona, lying on a disputed border between the Zaracan Democratic Union and the expanding Freyne Empire, with the latter finding a rare metal, although cybernetic insects, or cy-sects, prove lethal to their attempted excavation of the mineral.

New to this first part of the trilogy are various illustrations that depict various characters and beings, the first showing Teodor riding a feline creature known as a goran, the second showing him saluting, the third showing the green-hair-striped but mostly white-haired Nell Valvanchi, the next depicting the dark-haired Guy Erma, the following one depicting the white-haired Karl Valvanchi, the one afterward showing a Battle Borg, and the last showing a map of the Dome that plays part in most of the book. These images are a welcome addition to the latest iteration of the first part of the divided series and help readers get a clear view of what a few of the characters and beings look like.

The main story itself opens with Prince Teodor having a nightmare of his father’s murder, with his granduncle Frederon being Emperor, and a goran race being imminent as part of the Magnolia Weekend in the Dome, which will hold an election called the Dome Debate to decide whether Chart Segat will remain the dome’s administrator. Teodor ultimately finds himself a captive, with his mother, Regent Sayginn, vowing to rescue him. Although this author has read the full three-part Guy Erma and the Son of Empire, he found this first part with the illustrations to be a welcome version, and would very much recommend it.


In the fourth entry of Brent LeVasseur's science fiction saga, Aoléon, Gilbert, and their companions flee the Martian Megalopolis, with the Luminon and Royal Paladin Guard in pursuit as they hope to stop the Martian resistance movement. The cover art features many cows on the ground and in the air, the latter in a flying saucer's trajectory, with the foremost bovine having its mouth open in shock, though it's lower jaw looks somewhat skeletal, loose, and misrepresentative of anima interiors, typically red.


Akin to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the saga's fourth entry continues section numbering from its predecessors, with this being the thirteenth chapter of the series, beginning at a secret Martian base, where Phobos is in captivity and interacts with another inmate. The action moves to the Martian Space Academy, where Aoléon and Gilbert rendezvous with Bizwat, and the Luminon speaks about the potential threat posed by Earth's inhabitants. The scene changes to the Lower Feeb District, where Bizwat visits a scrap yard, where he offers a fellow Martian his velocipod in exchange for a soldierbot victorious in a competition.


The following chapter opens with an illustration depicting the Luminon interacting with a Martian in a four-legged robot, others in the background with forcefields, another entity that appears skeletal hovering above. The action returns to the secret Martian base, where obese scientist Cerberus assembles a Martian invasion fleet consistent of soldierbots. The chapter's second illustration depicts another view of the first artwork, with the Luminon among the shielded robots. The art immediately appearing afterward shoes a close-up of the scene, albeit with a Martian youngling instead. The Luminon arrives to inspect the forces, with Cerberus promising that they will be read in time for the forthcoming invasion. The next image shows the Luminon close-up with a menacing expression, the forces behind him, and Cerberus proceeds to test the drones, the subsequent art showing the diminutive workers caught among the chaos.


This chapter takes the story back to Nebraska on Earth, which Luminon's spies are inspecting as a potential focal point for their forthcoming assault. Meanwhile, a pair of alien spies masquerading as Quakers hitchhike to New York City and attempt to steal milk from a convenience store. The illustration indicating the transition of scenery to the White House depicts many top officials in the situation room, one looking like a bald Richard Nixon having a newspaper in hand. Backstory on alien research follows, with some humorous banter among the officials.


The following chapter takes readers back to Mars at the Luminon's palace, where he receives news of a character thought deceased being alive. The action moves to the Lower Feeb District, where Bizwat receives summons to a debriefing involving missing characters. The section ultimately returns to Earth at the Capitol building, where Congress debates a bill to deal with illegal extraterrestrials, the lisping Speaker of the House heading the discussion.


Chapter Seventeen opens with the very artwork that graces the book's cover, the action beginning in an alien mothership above Earth, their invasion ready to commence. The section moves to Gilbert's family's farmhouse, as they become among the first witnesses to the assault. The. The action shifts to the Johnson clan's home, an illustration depicting Farmer Johnson, clad in snorkeling gear, attempting to deal with a groundhog with an alien robot behind. The following art depicts him captured by the robot as he unintentionally sprays a farmfield with fire from his flamethrower.


This chapter opens at an intergalactic spaceport in the Martian Megalopolis, where the protagonists encounter resistance, and they flee the city, the section's first art showing Aoléon and Gilbert in space suits floating above the Martian landscape. The next piece shoes the two in a Martian desert, where they domesticate Martian dinosaurs, one of which Aoléon rides in the next art, the piece afterward showing Gilbert alongside her riding his own. The following illustration shows another view of them riding, night eventually coming. The action then takes readers to the Simud Vallis on Mars, through which the heroes continue and ultimately make their way to the Ares Vallis, the subsection's initial illustration showing them wandering.

The next art depicts the chief characters encountering a probe sent from Earth, which Gilbert uses to communicate a message referencing the classic video game Zero Wing. Towards the section's end is a smaller piece depicting the purple stalk-eyed Zoot. The events shift to the ancient Lyraen city ruins, the opening illustration showing a Martian chasm, the next depicting the heroes at its bottom, where they seek Kýrios. After a long dialogue comes a subsequent piece showing a spherical map indicating the path the main characters took until that point in the story. The action ultimately moves to Kýrios' home, where the characters discuss where to find the secret based referenced earlier, and where they home their psionic abilities, the chapter finally ending.


The nineteenth chapter opens at the secret Martian base, with a bit of expository backstory concerning the rituals of the Draconian warrior clans, following which is the titular interrogation of Aoléon's father as to his daughter and Gilbert's whereabouts. The action then returns to Aoléon and her companions, who experience a Martian sandstorm, the chapter's first illustration showing their attempts to outrun it. Following this is interesting backstory on how the Martian oceans disappeared, and an encounter with the Luminon's forces, two illustrations close together depicting how the heroes deal with the skirmish, concluding with a third piece showing a dusty mushroom cloud, the story ultimately ending.


A glossary after the main text makes sense of the book's diverse terminology that may be lost to younger readers, who wouldn't find it to be easy to jump back and fourth between the dictionary and the main text, although the fourth novella in Aoléon's saga is very enjoyable, with the illustrations adding well to the story in their depiction of its various events. The rare if mildly obscure popular culture reference is also sure to appeal to older readers, who will find just as much to celebrate in this entry as the younger audiences for whom the author intended the story.

Guy Erma and the Son of Empire

In this science fiction novel, Guy Erma yearns to join the planetary protection force known as the Dome Elite, while the Prince of Freyne, Teodor, finds himself the hostage of militant borgs, needing to plead his case to a politician if he wants to survive, the two protagonists’ paths ultimately crossing. The prologue introduces the thirty-one-year-old albino shapeshifting Zaracan warrior, Captain Karl Valvanchi, whose vessel, the Mezzatorra, protected by a literal firewall, faces an attack by the Sas Darona Liberation Army (SDLA), the planet of Sas Darona being a disputed planet by two entities, the Zaracan Democratic Union and the Freyne Empire, and which yields a resource known as monazite, critical in the creation of space magnets. Cyberkinetic insects, or cy-sects, threaten the native tribes of the planet with a plague that is said to keep them primitive.

The main story begins with Prince Teodor “Teo” of Freyne feeling threatened, with is father the King recently deceased. Teo meets with one of Captain Valvanchi’s relatives, Princess Simonelle Valvanchi, the great-granddaughter of a famous intergalactic explorer, proving to be a prospective mate to the Prince, who is the last living heir to the throne of the planet Freyne 2 and the Empire of Freyne as a whole, with his uncle being the current Emperor. An event known as the Magnolia Weekend is forthcoming, with one of its features being the Magnolia Stakes, a race among the feline creatures known as gorans, with Teo and his uncle having their own separate members of the species competing in the race.

Guy Erma receives his introduction next, seeing good luck in a special medallion, and participates in a sport known as blades under the tutelage of senior blades instructor and Commander of the Dome Elite Tilson. Guy has recently applied to become a member of the Dome Elite, and doesn’t know what became of his parents. Guy is scheduled to fight Prince Teo, although Teo has an injury supposedly preventing him from participating. Guy lives on Old Mill Lane in the House Jewel townhouse among forty-three others he considers siblings, even if they aren’t blood relations, with these folk primarily participating in the trade of tailoring clothes. Guy is ultimately offered to a fast track towards in the Dome Elite by a politician, Chart Segat.

Evidently Teo’s living mother, the Regent Sayginn cancelled his scheduled blades fight with Guy so that the Prince could participate in singing in a cathedral choir, with an attack on the church kidnapping him. The novel has two interludes, one occurring early and the other occurring towards the book’s end, known as diplomatic exchanges among, members of the Valvanchi family relating to the plague on Sas Darona. A Dome Debate, basically an election, is forthcoming, with the Emperor mulling marriage to Sayginn in hopes of having a son so that his nephew Teodor doesn’t inherit the throne, the Prince hoping he can escape his captivity.

The events of the novel take place over the course of three days, with the author doing for the most part a masterful job with the parallel plots of Guy Erma and Prince Teodor, the writer further doing an excellent job of world-building, given the many terms native to the book, which a glossary after the main text clarifies, with this reader only needing to see a definition of the acronym SDLA, not defined in the main text. There are some minor areas where the story could have been better, for instance the title of a royal heir “Son of Empire” would have sounded better as “Son of the Empire,” but otherwise, this science fiction novel is highly recommended, with this reader consequentially interested in the author’s other works and possible sequels.

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Visiting the Sins

This debut novel by Melanie Denman analyzes sacrificial motherhood, promising to be darkly humorous and focusing on generational feuds. The book begins with one of the novel’s many narrators, Curtis Jean Caskey, explaining the nature of sin in the prologue, with Curtis Jean in fact being the most prominent narrator of the story, her first main chapter involving a visit to the grave of a character nicknamed “Pokey” on Mother’s Day, with a few of her sections narrating the events leading to the character’s ultimate demise, while also mentioning her love of Vacation Bible School and describing a few family members such as her Uncle Hotshot, her politician father, and her second cousin Alice Ann.

Another narrator is Patricia, who owns a beauty parlor named Pat’s Palace and describes the town of Calcote, Texas as deeply religious to the point where a sign outside the city mentions its nature. The late Pokey gets two chapters of her own, with her parts being liberal in use of the N-word and describing her family members. Alice Ann gets her first and only chapter around the book’s two-fifth mark, mentioning her mother’s retribution for falling in love with a miscreant and suggesting her County is in the dark ages in terms of civil rights. Almost halfway through the book is another one-chapter-wonder narrator, Irene.

The final narrator introduced is Rebanelle, who gets her first chapter around two-thirds into the novel, with the late portion of the book describing a note found in Pokey’s cedar chest that describes a violent family feud through newspaper articles and the geography of Thorny Bog. The author follows the main text with a note that all the characters are fictional but suggests that Pokey was based on one of her grandmothers, gives acknowledgements to those that helped her during the writing process, and even provides some book club discussion questions, following which is the author’s bio. Ultimately, this debut novel is enjoyable and humorous, even if darkly so, though the racism of a few characters might alienate certain audiences.


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