Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: REAPING the HARVEST by Robbie Cox

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Reaping the Harvest by Robbie Cox is a highly entertaining fantasy tale sure to be loved by fans of the genre.
What more could an ordinary guy want than to suddenly find himself transformed into a magic-sword wielding superhero with a super-sized, mind-speaking elfin dog called Kree, a two and a half foot tall ellyll named Tryna from the Land Under, and a local prostitute named Buttercup as side-kicks? Well he could want plenty, or perhaps less, depending on your point of view.
Robbie CoxRichard Bartlett is happy with his life just the way it is. He has his own business called My Hand Truck & I, and is on the verge of proposing marriage to the woman he has loved for the past four years. Everything is going exactly as he wishes until he responds to a stranger’s desperate cries for help.
Rhychard’s reward for trying to save an Elf’s life is a magical sword to fight the demons of the Void, and a new life as a Warrior of the Way. In addition he suffers the loss of his beloved Renny, the alienation of his friends, and his acceptance as a member at Harvest Fellowship, the church where he and Renny attended services together. Some might consider it a fair trade off. Not Rhychard, but not that it matters.
Rhychard had been chosen as a warrior, and like it or not he is now bonded to the Guardian Sword for the rest of his life. With no choice other than to accept his fate, Rhychard decides to tell Renny the truth about what has happened to him even though it is against the rules of the Way of the Warrior. He figures at least then she’ll stop thinking he is a cheating jerk who keeps vanishing for days at a time with no explanation. He hopes she might even believe and forgive him and things will return to the way they had been between them before he had been given the cursed sword. After all, he is supposed to be one of the good guys. And everyone knows the good guy always gets the girl in the end…Right?
Sadly, that’s what happens in fairy tales and Rhychard’s situation is all too real. Renny doesn’t believe him and what’s worse; she has become involved with Pastor Adrian Michaels, the minister of their church and a married man.
Will Rhychard and his unusual companions be able to subdue the demons of the Void and keep the Way and the World safe for humans and magical beings alike? Or will the reluctant hero succumb to his emotions and damn the world to the rule by the Void for eternity? Read Reaping the Harvest and find out.
I very much enjoyed this imaginative, action-packed fantasy, and look forward to future books by this author.
Review by:
Carol Marrs phipps

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Horace's Westley Richards


Westley  Richards Double Barrel Shotgun
One November morning as it was growing light, I could hear Horace Werden's voice downstairs. "I'm a-trying to break in forty acres of corn I have, and I'm just to damned old and stiff any more to enjoy getting on and off the tractor every two shakes. I could sure use a boy to drive whilst I pick up." He looked up at me coming down the steps. "Harry with your permission," he said, "I could sure use the services of a good hired man."
At last I was going to have a good look at his place. He unwired the passenger door of his car, moved a gunny sack of bean seed, scooted a bucket of rusty nails more to the center of the seat and bid me get in. I tucked a sagging strip of ripped headliner overhead so I could see, and we were off.
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Horace had built a huge modern two storey house about a hundred yards back onto his place from his log cabin a couple of years earlier. It never looked from the road as though it belonged there, neatly finished, white and trim, surrounded by sprawling junk and horse weeds. Consequently I felt oddly relieved to find it all smeared with mud by the hogs, as we drove up beside it.
"You get on the tractor, I'll be out directly," he said, nodding at his completely rusted machine hitched to a wagon.
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I started to unwire my door, but decided to climb over the junk and go out on his side. I eagerly mounted the tractor and fiddled with the controls. I had never driven a John Deere before. From my perch I could see all kinds of enticing curiosities, especially the steam images2engine, 'way back next to the woods. "Horace?" I said as he came back outside, "Dad said that you used to have an old Fordson."
"Yeap. It's on the other side of that shed, yonder. Maybe you'd like to look at it after we're done," he said, checking the controls before me. He walked around the front of the tractor, opening a petcock on each side of the engine. He stepped up to the flywheel and gave it a counter-clockwise heave.
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"Fuff," said the old contraption.
He gave it another throw.
"Fuff. Fuff. Fuff. Fuff..." it replied.
He scurried 'round, closing off the cocks, giving the tractor a change of voice: "Fuff. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang...!" He stood on the drawbar behind me, explaining the controls. I pushed forward on the hand clutch and we were off, forthrightly, wagon clattering after.
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Breaking in a field of corn meant shucking the outside two rows by hand, all around the field, so that a pull-type corn picker could enter the field without mashing down un-harvested corn. He already had most of the corn shucked and piled, so all I had to do was drive past each pile and wait whilst he threw the ears into the wagon. I offered to jump off and help pick up each time, but he insisted that I stay on the seat. I appreciated the gesture, but without the exercise, I began to think I would freeze to death.
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On the last side of the field, Horace got a good look at me and stepped up to the tractor, killing the engine. "I should 'a' been a-watching you more closely. You're about froze, ain't ye? You run around the tractor and wagon and stir your blood, whilst I go off here and wet."
I gratefully clambered down to do as he bid.
"All right, let's get to the house," he said. "You're too damned cold to walk. Here! Let's trot!"
It was a shock, stepping inside his house, for there was no floor between the first and second storeys, and there was a mountain of the previous year's corn, starting at the Corn-Pile_74238-480x320middle of the house, sloping clean to the roof at the far end. The rest of the house's enormous single room was a veritable sea of junk, piled about chest deep, stringing up onto the foot of the big pile of corn. In the midst of a cleared space, he drew a kerosene can up to the table. "Here," he said, rattling coal out of a hod into the top of his range. "Have 'ee a seat whilst I scratch things together."
I sat at the table, feigning nonchalance, looking at the flotsam which buried the far end of it. He sat in a swiveling office chair, upholstered with frayed paper feed sacks and masking tape, wheeling back and forth on its casters. "Got everything ye need, right here. Here," he said, banging a filthy gallon glass jar of cloudy tea before me. "Have 'ee some tea." He handed me a plastic measuring cup from a sack of calf milk replacer. Then seeing my hesitation, said: "Oh here. You're cold. let me heat that stuff." He poured some into an iron sauce pan.
As I sat there wondering what was next, he caught me eyeing three or four old soot blackened guns, leaning against the wall by the door. "This here one's my favorite," he said, handing me the longest one with exposed hammers.
"I'll be darned. It's got engraving on it."Westley  Richards Double Barrel Shotgun
"It's an old Westley Richards twelve gauge. It takes the old short ca'tridge. Hard as the very dickens to get any more."
"How old is it?" I said, handing it back.
"Oh, sixty-five or seventy years, anyway. Now you don't tell no one, but I reckon ye won't, that gun's worth two cars, but I ain't sold it because I can hit with it right smart. You know, a shotgun's got to fit you right to hit with, and that one's the only one I've got that does."
He slid a greasy skillet over the fire box. "Got everything ye might need right here," he said, slicing up a huge hunk of Bologna sausage. Each time he turned to flop some slices into Rat_agoutithe skillet, a rat would peer out from the junk, darting back in as he turned back to the table. The room began to smell of scorched rancid fat. He set out some grocery store white bread as he turned the meat with his pocket knife. Whilst he was busy, the rat grabbed a piece of bread the size of one's thumb and returned to his hiding place, disregarding me altogether.

"Here ye be," he said, handing me a sandwich.
I took tiny bites, swallowing them with my tea.
"Want another 'n'? Got plenty. Don't be bashful."
****
I was relieved to be back in the field. This time, I managed to stay warm. He had not shucked the last through beforehand, and there was enough space between the fence andcorn-on-the-stalk-small__4241987678 the corn to drive the tractor. He shucked two rows at once, going just a bit slower than the tractor could crawl, so I'd stop here and there and shuck ahead as he caught up.
"All right Tom, let's leave the wagon by the house. I'm a-going to run in and count my money and one thing and another, and whilst I'm a-doing that, you hike 'er over to the steam engine and the old Fordson and look 'ee all ye want. I'll be out directly."
I was standing by the Fordson, drinking in it's primitive elegance when he found me. "How long has it been a-sitting here?" I said.
"I think since just before you was a baby."
"Ever think about selling it for iron?" I said, glancing at the money in his hand.
"Mercy no!" he said. "That's a good old tractor. I could have 'er running in half a day." He gave a shove at the drawbar with his boot. "Well half a month, maybe. But ye know what I mean, once a fellow lets go of something it's gone for good."
****
Years later, Horace had a sale. I had heard that he had been in and out of the hospital with uremic poisoning. I rode over on my bicycle in spite of the cold wind out of the northwest.
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The crowd swooped in, settling in huddles about the hay wagons, picking at his things. The auctioneer rasped and crackled over his electric horn. They were bidding on the old Westley Richards. They were unaware of its worth, trying to sell it in one lot with some junk, but I couldn't make myself bid on it. "I don't see anything I want," I said.
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I found Horace standing off by himself , stooped, looking at the trees. He was wearing a smartly tailored tweed suit and overcoat and gumboots wrapped with tape and twine. His eyes watered from the raw wind, his face red and swollen with uremia. "Well, if it ain't ol' Jesus Christ hisse'f!" he said with a snort and a grin as he eyed my beard and shoulder length hair. He grabbed my hand with a shaky eagerness that put a lump in my throat. "Tom, it's been many a sore long winter."

Tom Phipps

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Gemstone Chronicles, Book One: The Carnelian

The Gemstone Chronicles, Book One: The Carnelian is a delightful Young Adult fantasy tale by William L. Stuart that can be read and enjoyed by all ages.Cover, Gemstone ChroniclesWilliam L. Stuart, Pic
The last thing Beebop expects as he and his grandchildren, Aidan and Maggie, start out on a day of rock-hounding in the Georgia countryside is that they will discover anything out of the ordinary. What they find is a stone that profoundly rocks their world, turning their beliefs and their very lives upside down.
The odd stone marked with a cross is curious enough by itself, but when it is discovered to be inhabited by an elf named Findecano Saralonde and a troll named Yul, Beebop and his family begin to wonder if they are losing their minds or if these beings are indeed real. After all, how could such creatures live inside so small a stone?
As it turns out, not only do this elf and this troll truly exist, but real magic has to be a certainty as well. Findecano was imprisoned in the stone when Dark Elves wanted him out of the way because he knew that they had stolen the gems of power from the Elven Bow of the Light Elves. The Dark Elves wanted to weaken the barrier between the human and the elven realms so that they could rule over them both.
Having stumbled onto this, it is not surprising that Beebop and his family end up returning with Findecano to his land to find the missing gems of power, whether or not they want to go. Just what does happen makes entertaining reading for the entire family.
I truly enjoyed this fanciful tale and look forward to reading the next books in The Gemstone Chronicles.
Reviewed by:
Carol Marrs Phipps

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: A STUDY in STEEL by Eliana Siobhan Vale

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 A Study in Steel by Eliana Siobhan Vale is a captivating and uniquely imaginative sci-fi tale that is very well told by a first-time author. Fans of this genre will not beEliana Vale (Pic) disappointed, but will looking forward to the next book written by the talented Ms Vale.
Before the last human war science and bio-technology advanced to the point where it could create genuine replacement organs and limbs for human beings. In fact, using this new technology they could create and replace any body part.
It didn’t take long for other ‘human improvements’ to be created once the new bio-technology had been approved and accepted. Implants were manufactured that would allow people to enhance themselves with technology such as watch screens and communicators which were built directly into their wrists. Many other modifications were also created to help humans to improve themselves and enhance their abilities. At first it was simply a new fad, but over time many people began to look at these new technological enhancements as a necessity. However, there were still many people who did not agree that the bio-tech improvements were a good idea or even at all desirable. Thus, two factions were created, the unmodified humans who considered themselves the true humans began to call themselves the “Souls”. The enhanced humans, or cyborgs considered themselves superior because of their enhance abilities and began to call themselves the “Darwins”.
And so it went until the cyborgs grew to large enough numbers that the Souls began to feel threatened by them. Eventually this led to open conflict and finally to all-out war, and the battle for control of planet earth had begun.
The war raged for years, but the cyborgs with their technological advatages proved to be the victors. The surviving humans were forced to go into hiding, but they were mercilessly hunted by the Darwins. Souls who were captured who refused to allow themselves to be enhanced were simply used as spare body parts for the cyborgs.
As time passed the cyborgs became convinced that they had enhanced or exterminated all the remaining humans so they settled down in what they termed the “System of Two Worlds” which they called the city of Duplicity. This consisted of a once great, but now ruined city above ground ruled by Darwins called “Moderators” where the poor and the more disreputable lived, and a newly constructed and extensive city below the city under the ground in what had once been the subterranean railways where most of the cyborgs lived.
The cyborgs now turned their attention to creating more and improved “Tech Flesh” and even more enhanced replacement body parts which eventually led to the creation of entire synthetic beings they called “Drives”. The Drives were programmed to carry out a specific function or job. Some Drives became “Servers”, others became “Boot Drives”, “Search Engines”, and even “Viruses” and “Malware”.
The Darwins were convinced by this time that they had been correct all along and were destined, due to their particular “evolution” to rule over Earth for the life of the planet.
They were mistaken.
I enjoyed this book immensely and am certain that you will, too. If you like futuristic scenarios and fast-paced science fiction, you will love this highly imaginative tale. Though…you may never look at your computer, its components or its systems in the same way ever again.
Reviewed by:
Carol Marrs Phipps

Monday, February 17, 2014

Books by Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps (Updated)


It is the very worst time to be in the woods.

Oisin’s plan is to come with his bow to help Aedan and Doona lead a party of children into the forest to gather the maidenhair seedlings his people would take across the sea as they flee the trolls who hunt them as prey. Maybe he can be back in time for supper.           

Dyr's plan is an early evening head smash for the foolish Elves who think they can steal away to the sands of the endless eye sting water and build their strange float huts. They will make a glorious feast.

But on the way, Dyr's brutes stumble across Oisin's gathering party and attack, leaving Aedan mortally wounded and scattering Doona and the children to flee in terror into the dark mountain woods, only to be run down and captured by the bloodthirsty trolls.

Can Oisin find the bonfires of the trolls and rescue them before it’s too late? And what then? Will any of them live long enough to reach safety?


Minuet Dewin, eldest daughter of the wizard Razzmorten, practically raised her half sister Leeuh, who was abandoned by her mother. For many years, Minuet is Leeuh's passionate champion. As time passes, Leeuh becomes increasingly hard to defend as she grows determined to be awful at every turn. Whilst undoing her dangerous pranks, Minuet finds herself the target of her hatred and jealousy. And when they fall for the same prince, it looks like war.

Suddenly Leeuh vanishes. She returns years later, compliant and sweet as she always should have been. Minuet is stunned. Should she trust her, or will it be the very death of her?  



Rose is not inclined to believe idle gossip, but as she ruminates on the way her  parents acted when she confronted them with what she'd heard she becomes convinced they didn't tell her everything. But why? Determined to uncover the entire truth for herself and learn if she is really the daughter of an evil sorceress she sets out on a desperate quest to a forbidden forest that has the unsettling reputation of swallowing up those foolish enough to enter.
           
From the beginning Rose's journey is beset with pitfalls and challenges. She doesn't get beyond the stables before her younger brother appears and blackmails his way into becoming her self-appointed protector and traveling companion. Together they evade the Royal Niargian Guard, survive a cyclone, escape from the castle of Rose's betrothed, discover Elves really do exist, as do werebeasts, cyclopses and centaurs, then negotiate the perils of the Valley of Illusions.
           
When they reach the Chokewood Forest they encounter a horde of miniature devils, choking fruit, and cannibals who take them captive. However, before the cannibals can turn Rose and Lucas into their next feast, a bizarre hag crashes the cannibal’s party and rescues them only to lead them into a mad fantasy forest that appears very like a dream world, where nothing is as it seems. The crone announces that they are now her prisoners and they 'owe her' for saving them. She takes them to her cabin where they discover the hag is the very sorceress they seek. And then things really get strange.


A great evil awakens to shatter Niarg's peaceful world.
In her remote island keep off the shores of Head, the fearsome sorceress Demonica at last learns from her unfaithful husband Yann-Ber the whereabouts of the long lost Staff of Power. He crawls before her to tell her that it has turned up in the hands of her granddaughter Spitemorta, the new queen of Goll, hoping to buy his release from her horrid curse of boils. She is ecstatic about the Staff, but will never forgive his faithlessness. He will be released, all right. He will get to die in one year, after the most excruciating boils yet to come.
Demonica leaves for Goll at once. She arranges an accident for the nanny of Spitemorta's son, becomes the new nanny herself and offers to teach Spitemorta how to develop her considerable powers. Spitemorta accepts at once, thereby uniting the two most dangerous sorceresses of the age, determined to conquer the world. Their first step is to find the First Wizard's Stone Heart which would make the Staff the most powerful tool of all time.




With both the Great Staff of Power and the Stone Heart in their hands at last, it seems that nothing can stop Demonica and Queen Spitemorta from crushing Niarg and conquering the entire world. King Hebraun of Niarg is dead and not a single Elf is left alive in the Jutwoods.
 Spitemorta's husband, King James, tries to ride out of Castle Goll with her Great Staff of Power, but is tortured by Demonica and her and locked away to die in the fleas and fetid straw of the dungeon. He manages to escape across the Great Barrier Mountains, just as the army and people of Niarg are sent out into the countryside by Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten, who flee to the Pitmaster's Kettles in time for Spitemorta and Demonica to effortlessly destroy Castle Niarg. Is this the end of everything?
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Niarg has fallen to the dark sorceresses Demonica and Queen Spitemorta. The dragons have fled from their caves. Confident that Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten are dead, and that the trolls have eaten every breathing Elf, Spitemorta brings down the last hamlets of the Northern Continent as she prepares to conquer the rest of the world.
But Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten do live and are hiding in the crater of Mount Bedd with the Fairy guardians of the Forest Primeval, where they wait for what remains of their army before fleeing to the Black Desert to live beneath its burning sands with the dragons and all of the Elves who escaped Demonica's great troll raid, down their hidden river.
Is this truly the end of Niarg and freedom everywhere in world? Can Elves, dragons and men live outside her bondage, or will the Reaper Witch find them and enslave them once and for all? 
DoomDoomComing in 2014: The final book in the Heart of the Staff series

All the above books, except the TBR Doom, are available in ebook format and paperback and can be purchased at Amazon.com or an online Amazon store in your country. They are also available on many other online stores such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Diesel and more.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A True Valentine's Day Love Story



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Jesse and Eleanor Marrs Wedding Picture
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          Eleanor was just 14 years old when her soon-to-be brother-in-law Roy introduced her to Jesse. She thought he was very handsome, but he was so much older than her at 19. However, they did 'go around together' as friends and were the witnesses at her sister and Roy's wedding.



          It was 1941 and the US entered World War II. Time passed and both Jesse and Roy enlisted in the army. And that was nearly the end of the story. Jesse had become a medic whose job it was to treat the injured on the front, and he did his job well earning himself multiple medals for his service and bravery, including a Purple Heart. But he was himself critically injured on the front lines in France in 1944. After a month in the hospital in London he was shipped back to the US on the same ship which had taken him overseas. He then spent another eight months in the hospital undergoing surgeries to have shrapnel removed form his head.


          Once he finally got out of the hospital Jesse decided to pay a visit to his friend Roy's wife and give her news about her husband and what it was like overseas. As fate would have it he also got to see Eleanor again, too. An older, grown-up Eleanor. They resumed their friendship which soon blossomed into a full-fledged whirlwind romance. On February 14, 1945 were married in Brown County Indiana where Jesse was stationed.


          On February 14, 2012 Jesse and Eleanor celebrated their 67th Anniversary and Valentines Day together. He was 90 years old and she was 85 and at that time they still lived together in their own home in rural Illinois and 'took care of each other'. Of Jesse, Eleanor would say, "he is a good husband and he takes good care of me". Speaking of Eleanor, Jesse said, "it has been a very good 67 years with her".


          I wish that today, February 14, 2014 I could wish them a joyous 69th Valentine Anniversary and tell them that I love them both very much...they are, after all, my parents. But mom passed away in April of 2012 and dad's terminal cancer finally won the battle it had waged on him for many years. He passed away in March of 2013, not long after his and Mom's 68th anniversary. My one consolation is that they will never again have to spend another Valentine's Day Anniversary apart.


     Carol Marrs Phipps











Happy Valentine's Mom and Dad! And to all lovers everywhere!