The Red Hill, expanded review

The Red Hill

Here’s the short review I wrote for The Red Hill on Goodreads. Below that you will find a more thorough review.

The Red Hill by David Penny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy reading a good mystery now and again. Reading a mystery in an historical setting is a real pleasure, especially when the author can bring that setting to life in their book. David Penny managed to do that. Crossing the lines of religion and culture, Penny takes you through a thrilling ride. Exploring the darker aspects of politics in Moorish Spain around the time of Ferdinand and Isabela, Penny’s characters of Thomas and Jorge learn a lot more about life than either one ever wanted to know. With twists and turns that will leave you wondering until the end who-done-it. I’m looking forward to reading other Thomas Berrington stories.

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Filed under Crime & Mystery, Historical Fiction

Coronation by Lee F. Jordan

From time to time I find a story that is damned good, but the writing of that story isn’t at the same level. I’m afraid that was the case with Lee F. Jordan’s Coronation (2012).

An ancient evil (that’s not all that ancient), nautical themes that do make sense (but corrupt the legends of their subjects), and a mysterious ability that just isn’t really explained. Like I said, the story was pretty damned good and could have gone places, different places than it did go.

J.D. is a semi-retired special officer with the United States Navy. He has this thing that happens when he’s in danger, or someone he is close to is in danger. His nose bleeds. Okay. Why? What’s the cause? Just a couple of the questions left unanswered. It almost reads like this isn’t the first book in a series. It is not Jordan’s first book.

Ok, I can move beyond those unanswered questions. The suspense, the thrill, the horror. Those were done rather well. Jordan’s descriptions of mutilated bodies were very graphic. They didn’t leave a whole lot to the imagination, but that may have been his point. Sometimes the more graphic a description the better the horrified reaction from the reader. Personally I like to be able to draw in some of the details myself. But I do understand where Jordan was going with those descriptions. To tell you would be a spoiler.

Along with the blood and guts and the unanswered questions, there is a theme of military and government intrigue that strikes a chord for today’s reader. Does the government really have an “X-Files” unit in the Navy? If so, is the Navy the only military branch with such a unit? More unanswered questions, but maybe Jordan will write something else that will explore both this mysterious unit and J.D.’s nose bleeds.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I am sure that fans of conspiracy theories, the exploration of evil in humanity, and the horror genre will enjoy this book. All in all, I did enjoy it. I was disappointed in the unanswered questions.

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Filed under Horror, Thriller

Asha from AO Music

One of the joys of working in broadcast radio is getting advance copies of new releases. AO Music has sent along three CDs over the years, including this newest album from them. Asha is slated for official release on April 7, 2017. I am happy to have gotten a copy a month ahead of time. It just arrive din my mail box today!

I popped the CD into my player as I sat down to work on one of my writing projects. I was distracted a bit from writing because of the new music. It was mesmerizing in a way. A firm basis in one style with a myriad of influences from around the globe. Just a look at the track list should give you an idea of what I mean.

Starting out with what sounds like a purely Asian or Indian inspired track and moving asha tracksaround the globe into Africa and South America before winding up in the Gaelic countries, this collection of beautiful music will take you on a journey that is both inspiring and relaxing. The vocals are those of adults and children. AO Music likes to work with children’s choirs where ever they go to record.

I was a little surprised that Though We Are Here Now sounded more Gaelic than Gaelic Medley. Not that I was taken aback. Oh, no. I enjoyed both tracks. Just that it threw me for a bit of a loop. Had double-check to make sure I hadn’t gotten tracks confused. Ha!

Over all I was quite happy to add this CD to my new age music collection. Can I compare it to anything else? Can I compare it to their previous releases? Sure, I can do that. But it wouldn’t really do them justice. Comparing to their earlier releases is easier. Hokulea was the first of their albums that made it very evident to me that they enjoy working with young singers. The tracks on that CD are filled with joy and happiness. …And Love Rages On! is filled with that sense of love that the title mentions. But Asha is on its own something of beauty and inspiration. I’ll be listening to this album for a while, enjoying the moods that it stirs within my heart and soul as well as using it to relax and journey forward in my every day life.

Asha is AO Music’s first release under their new signed label Abbeywood Records. Visit their site to see more artists.

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Stolen Ink by Holly Evans

What a pleasant surprise to find Holly Evans’ first book in the Ink Born series. I recently interviewed Danielle Ackley-McPhail, one of the editors of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series and she mentioned Evans as an author she thought was going places. I’d have to agree with her on that one!

Evans takes a little bit of this and a little bit of that and tosses in a dash of this other thing over here and makes a world that is both familiar and different at the same time. In a city that could be anywhere, but most likely in England, resides Dacian. Dacian, or Dan, is a tattoo magician. He can help draw out the tattoo that his clients are meant to have. There is much more to it than that, but I don’t want to take away from the fun of discovery.

Oh, and did I mention that he has two tattoo animals, a cat named Kyra and a snake named Aris; a best friend who is his tattoo partner, former lover, and an elf; that he has dreamwalker and shapeshifter friends? Or that he is a lonely gay man in a world of magic and intrigue that seems to leave little time – or desire – for anything long-term? Or that he has a deep secret that he won’t even tell his best friend?

You’ll just have to read the book to find out about that secret!

Dacian feels compelled to get involved in a series of mysteries tattoo related magical deaths. He’s drawn to the killer through the ink. Like many a hero in fantasy he is reluctant and fights it all the way kicking and screaming. But along the way he learns something about himself, something that he is afraid to share with anyone and something that might lead to him having to flee for his life and leave everything behind that he has worked so hard to create – his tattoo business, his friends, and a budding romance that he didn’t even want.

If you like fantasy, faeries, magic, mystery, and a dash of romance this is a book for you. The love scenes are subtle and won’t even make you blush to read them on the bus or in a coffee-house. The action is intense at times and the road to self-discovery for Dacian is one that I do not envy him.

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Filed under Crime & Mystery, LBGTQA Books, Paranormal Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy Books, Uncategorized

Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral – a review by a contributor

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, is one of the newer go-to sources for a plethora of worthwhile reads in the Pagan world. January and February 2016 saw the release of two anthologies that have been long anticipated by certain segments of the Global Pagan Community. My hat is off to both the editors of these anthologies and to the contributors. Not an easy task to read, edit, read again, continue to edit, and work with a large number of authors to create as cohesive a collection of articles as possible within the two anthologies. The first to be released was Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor, the second was Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral edited by Erick DuPree.


Erick set out on a grand adventure when he put out his open call for submissions for this collection of very personal essays from men in Goddess religion and spirituality. The voices vary in  many regards. Cis-gender men, transgender men, gender queer identifying (at least in part) as male. Straight, gay, bi, none-of-the-above. The one thing they all have in common is an undying love of some form of Feminine Divine.

First thing is first. I am one of the contributors to this anthology. With that in mind, I am obviously somewhat biased. My contribution to the anthology is called “One Man, Many Goddesses” and talks about my personal encounters with several Goddesses throughout my life. But that is not what this review is about.

Erick DuPree put together a wonderful collection of essays, prose, and poetry from a number of self-identified men in the Pagan community. From a lovely ode to the Mother by Robert Baggani to a heart wrenching story of Auset by Robert Alvarez, from the birth of life to the death of it. Teachers, mentors, priests, practitioners, parishoners, men (and male-identifying) from all walks within the Pagan world came together to put this collection together. Erick opened the gates, these sons of the Goddess walked through it and present to you, the reader, a plethora of visions and realities of the Goddess.

Whether you believe the Goddess to be an archetype, a single individual with multiple names, a facet of the One, or separate and distinct individual Goddesses, you will get something out this anthology. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, straight, gay, or bi. The Goddess speaks through the pages of this book. You only have to read and listen.

Contributors include:

  • Robert Baggani
  • Daniel Holmes
  • Gwion Raven
  • Roxie Babylon
  • Scott K. Smith
  • David Salisbury
  • Christopher Blackthorn
  • Dylan St. Thomas
  • Taylor Ellwood
  • Duane Danielson
  • Ian Allan
  • Blake Octavian Blair
  • Puck deCoyote
  • Matthew Sawicki
  • Ken Torres
  • Bart Everson
  • Erick DuPree
  • Robert Scott
  • Anthony Rella
  • Robert Alvarez
  • Christopher Penczak
  • Philipp Kessler
  • Devin Hunter
  • “An Elder Apprentice”
  • Storm Faerywolf
  • Sypheara
  • Gede Parma
  • Tim Titus
  • Orion Foxwood
  • David Oliver King
  • Eric Eldritch

With a preface by Yeshe Rabbit Matthews, foreward by Ivo Dominguez Jr and introduction by Erick DuPree himself.


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Filed under New Age & Pagan Books

Pagan Leadership Anthology – a review by a contributor

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, is one of the newer go-to sources for a plethora of worthwhile reads in the Pagan world. January and February 2016 saw the release of two anthologies that have been long anticipated by certain segments of the Global Pagan Community. My hat is off to both the editors of these anthologies and to the contributors. Not an easy task to read, edit, read again, continue to edit, and work with a large number of authors to create as cohesive a collection of articles as possible within the two anthologies. The first to be released was Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor, the second was Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral edited by Erick DuPree.

Pagan Leadership coverLet me be perfectly clear from the beginning. I am one of the contributors to this anthology and thus I may be a bit biased in this review. My contribution to the book is called “Take a Break or Burn Out”. I am not writing this review to talk about myself or my contribution. So… On to the review!

Many in the Pagan community have been anticipating the release of this anthology. Shauna and Taylor put a couple of years into the editing process. Some of that time was spent waiting for late contributors, like myself, to send in their final edits. Some of that time was also spent handling their own lives. We often forget that the editors of these anthologies have lives outside the books. The wait was well worth it.

With contributions from some of the movers and shakers of the modern Pagan movement, recognized leaders within the community and up-and-comers, as well as those who never thought of themselves as leaders until they set down to write, the Pagan Leadership Anthology brings you voices from all walks of life and many different flavors of Paganism. You will read articles from Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Pagans of many kinds. What you won’t read is someone telling you that their brand of leadership is the only way.

With contributions from:

  • Rev. Bill Devendack
  • Kenn Day
  • Phoenix
  • Manny Tejeda
  • Sable Aradia
  • Raine Shakti
  • Rev. Judith Laxer
  • Sophia Kelly Shultz
  • Peggy Johnson
  • H. Byron Ballard
  • Rev. Catharine Clarenbach
  • KaliSara
  • Christine Hoff Kraemer (with Selina Rifkin)
  • Selina Rifken
  • Syren Nagakyrie
  • Shauna Aura Knight
  • Jhenah Telyndru
  • Taylor Ellwood
  • Sam Wagar
  • Melanie Howard
  • Jade
  • Diana Rajchel
  • Melissa Hill
  • Cat
  • Lisa Spiral Besnett
  • Annika Mongan
  • Rev. Dr. Karen Tate
  • Romany Rivers
  • Rev. David Oliver King
  • Julia Maupin
  • Lisa McSherry
  • Crystal Blanton
  • Margo Wolfe
  • Philipp Kessler
  • Courtney Weber

If there is one thing you take away from this anthology let it be that all voices are valid. All leadership styles can work, and they can fail. The only really bad way to lead is to ignore your instincts and ignore those who look to you to lead.

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Filed under New Age & Pagan Books

Iron Tribune, Roman Steampunk by Daniel Ottalini

Iron Tribune - Daniel OttaliniAbout a year and a half ago I stumbled across Daniel Ottalini during an online Steampunk writers’ convention being conducted on Facebook. I was intrigued by his story lines for Steampunk set in Rome. Being the voracious reader that I am, I quickly obtained (legal) digital copies of the first two books in his Roman series and commenced to reading them. You can read my review of those first two novels in the series here.

I was very pleased, and somewhat surprised, when Daniel asked me to read the third book in the Steam Empire Chronicles, in advance of book four coming out this year. Apparently he liked how I reviewed his earlier works in the series and wanted my continued review-input to be available for his reader- and fan-base. I just finished Iron Tribune on May 1st. Before diving into my review, let me just say that I am looking forward to book four, Steel Praetorian.

Iron Tribune continues the story of Julius, Constantine, and Alexandros as they find themselves being promoted through the ranks of the Roman military and facing the battles that those promotions can entail, both physically and politically. The story also builds on Marciena, Julius’s little sister, and her fostering with the Senatora. Loaded with political intrigue, military tactics, and some homespun feel good back stories, this third installment in the Steam Empire Chronicles won’t disappoint readers one bit.

In this third installment the heroes find themselves gaining on life. Julius finds love in the unlikeliest of places, Constantine assumes the mantel of the heir apparent, and Alexandros overcomes an obstacle he never thought he could surmount. Along the way they get themselves into all kinds of trouble – war, assassination attempts, substandard military weapons and gear – you name it and they just might have to deal with it. Oh, and did I forget to mention that new characters get introduced that will keep you guessing as to what Ottalini has planned for his intrepid Legionnaires?

With all due respect to the genre of historical fiction, Ottalini’s Steampunk revisioning of the Roman Empire will keep you wanting more. ┬áThe political intrigue alone is enough to make this reader want to snatch up book four when it comes out. But don’t let that be the only thing that grabs at you!

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