Stars in the Texas Sky – Book Review

Here’s a review of Featured Author, Stephen Matlock’s book reblogged…

sheri j kennedy ~ Riverside

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, and it’s my pleasure to share this excellent book, by Stephen J. Matlock with you:

STARS IN THE TEXAS SKY by Stephen J. Matlock as reviewed by Sheri J. Kennedy

stars-in-the-texas-sky-coverI was submerged in this world and felt the heaviness of the heat and slow pace of a town reluctant to change as the morality he was just beginning to understand dragged Henry down from a proud young citizen of his beloved town to a burdened and torn individual that longed to be whole again.

Matlock handles the complexities of political power and racial relations in a deeply internal and personal way that allows the reader to feel their way to the moral of the story. I reached inward with Henry Valentine to mend the rift in my heart that has been left by the tragedy of racial oppression, and I…

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New Release: Dawn of Steam: First Light, by Jeffrey Cook and Sarah Symonds

Jeffrey Cook’s
early-era Steampunk novel, Dawn of Steam: First Light, is Now Available in paperback and Kindle.

New Release: Dawn of Steam: First Light, by Jeffrey Cook and Sarah Symonds

In 1815, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, two of England’s
wealthiest lords place a high-stakes wager on whether a popular set of
books, which claim that the author has traveled to many unknown corners of
the globe, are truth or, more likely, wild fiction. First Light is an
epistolary novel, told primarily through the eyes of former aide-de-camp
Gregory Conan Watts, describing the journeys of the airship Dame Fortuna
and its crew through journals and letters to his beloved fiancee. The first
recruit is, necessarily, the airship’s owner: war hero, famed genius, and
literal knight in steam-powered armor Sir James Coltrane. Persuading him to
lend his talents and refitted airship to the venture requires bringing
along his sister, his cousin, and the crew that flew with him during the
Napoleonic Wars. Only with their aid can they track down a Scottish
rifleman, a pair of shady carnies, and a guide with a strong personal
investment in the stories. When they set out, the wild places of the world,
including the far American West, the Australian interior, darkest Africa,
and other destinations are thought to be hostile enough. No one expects the
trip to involve a legendary storm – or the Year Without a Summer of
1815-1816. The voyage is further complicated by the human element. Some
parties are not at all happy with the post-war political map. Most
problematic of all, the crew hired by the other side of the wager seem
willing to win by any means necessary. Dawn of Steam: First Light follows
these adventurers, as they open up the world. In the process, their journey
helps lay the foundations for an age of enlightenment and technology to


March 22nd, 1815

The skies of Western England

50�47’N 03�21’W

My Dearest Cordelia,

You cannot begin to imagine the views afforded by travel aboard these
military dirigibles. While the first day was quite difficult in many ways,
that time has passed, and now I am finding myself quite at home aboard this
wondrous vehicle. I spend what time I can spare holding tight to the rails
outside and admiring the grounds below, though we are now quite near the coast
and can see the choppy waters in the distance. Until one has had this
amazing perspective, it is hard to imagine the true meaning of “as far as
the eye can see,” for there are times the ground below seems to stretch on
forever. Entire villages and even towns seem tiny by comparison to the
sheer scope of vision offered by being so high above our beloved home.

We were not able to travel particularly close to London, to my regret, in
part because we have only so much in the way of supplies, but I can only
imagine it would be particularly breathtaking seen from above and out of
the crowded paths and shops. Even writing of the experience seems
insufficient, for words cannot accurately capture the splendor of the
greatest nation on Earth seen from Heaven’s own view of it. Still, I
am striving
to do it some justice if only to attempt to share this sense of wonder I
feel with you, for I can never be certain that this is an experience I
shall ever have when this adventure is done.

Find out more and purchase this new novel

Dawn of Steam Trilogy on Facebook

Interview with Author, Jeffrey Cook

The Monuments Men – Book Review

Book review, from an author’s perspective – by David S. Moore

Monuments Men coverThe Monuments Men by Robert Edsel

    I recently read the book “The Monuments Men” by Robert Edsel.  It’s about the people who, during World War II, found and rescued thousands of pieces of art that had been appropriated by the Nazis.  Prior to the invasion of Belgium, Hitler dispatched art historians and other experts to the great museums of western Europe.  These scholars were to identify the highest valued artworks and to record their exact locations.  Hitler’s objective was to gather art from public and private collections throughout Europe and to sequester them until the end of the war.  Then, once the Third Reich had been firmly established, the art would be retrieved from its treasuries and would be displayed in a dazzling new museum to be built in Hitler’s hometown of Linz.

    Mr. Edsel does a fine job of developing the backstory of each of the leaders of the Allied art rescuers.  And early on the reader has the sense that the book is really about a treasure hunt.  But the story lags in the first half of the book since in fact the men who were charged with finding and retrieving the stolen art were operating in a leadership vacuum.  As Mr. Edsel competently explains, the Monuments Men arrived in France on D-Day and quickly found that they had no equipment, no transportation, and no chain of command.  The only advantage they had was General Eisenhower’s mandate that any recovered pieces of art should be protected and returned to their rightful owners.  That they were able to capitalize on that to prevent the destruction or theft of the many thousands of artworks they found is a testament to their perseverance and ingenuity.

    The clues were assembled slowly as the Allied forces battered their way through German defenses.  But the discoveries the Monuments Men made were truly astounding.  The Nazis were nothing if not efficient at absconding with artworks of every sort.

Aside from the fact that the story drags in the first half, this is an important book.  The Nazis, of course, were hellbent on annihilating Jews, Gypsies, and other undesirables in all of modern Europe.  And in their frenzy to pursue Hitler’s mad dream of an empire that would endure for a millenium they terrorized the entire population of Western Europe.  Should the Allies spend valuable time and resources trying to recover and protect art when the future of civilization was at stake?  Mr. Edsel provides a very compelling answer that yes, preserving art is an essential mission, even in the face of unimaginable evil.

Yes, the treasure hunt is interesting, the recovery operation was complex and challenging, and the details of their finds are astounding.  But the real story is the mission itself.  Saving the art that had been stolen from private citizens and public museums was an essential step in restoring the civilization of Europe.  It was just one part of an immensely challenging operation – but as Mr. Edsel demonstrates it was critical to the preservation of the European culture that Hitler had sought to destroy.

Find out more or purchase this book HERE

You can review a book for FreeValley Publishing’s site. Send your submission to: Let us know what you’ve been reading and/or writing.

The Return of the Maca

Chapter One- Excerpt by Mari Collier final return final (1)

RETURN OF THE MACA is the fourth novel in my series.  The alien that has been trapped on Earth for over one-hundred years returns to his home planet with some of his Earth family.  This will be a new world and the Earth-alien beings will have their own difficulties adjusting to a different world with a different culture.

The Kenning Woman Speaks 

The Ab woman, Di, stood between the merchant stalls located close to the waterfront’s walkways and piers in the city of Bretta. Her massive fists were clenched and her eyes a vacant stare. The wind tore at her long, thick, chestnut-brown hair. Her short, brown kirtle flapped against the muscled thighs. Her body quivered while her mouth drew in and blew out air in short, quick gasps. At first, some in the crowd had jostled against her, but others backed away, unsure of what held that magnificent Thalian body enthralled. Soon members of the Sisterhood in their black warrior uniforms, Abs in their brown garments, the Tris of Betron in their light green summer outfits, and Krepyons (derogatorily called Kreppies) in their green uniforms gathered around her. A sturdy man child of about five held onto her left leg and looked upward. He was shaking her leg to draw her attention, but nothing could break her concentration. Finally, she turned to the crowd, her eyes cleared, and she pointed to the people directly in front of her.

“Thalians, Abs, Tris, people of the Houses, and Krepyons listen to me. I am the Kenning Woman, and I have a message.” Her voice was as strong as her body, and it rolled over the crowd.

“Llewellyn, Maca of Don, will return. With him comes his laddie, the blind-eyed Laird of Don. Together they will restore Don and their House will be alive with new people. The false prophet will be destroyed. Beauty, Counselor of the Realm, will be forced to honor her debt to him.”

Her voice rose as she pointed a finger at one from each group standing before her. “The Tris will supplant the Abs, and the Sisterhood is doomed.

“Ye Krepyons will rue the day ye stripped Thalia of her wealth for ye will be crushed like the chalk from the cliffs of your planet. The Justines will rule no more, and LouElla will be avenged!”

She stooped, picked up the wee laddie and strode through the hissing Abs, the growling Kreppies, and the smiling Tris, her long legs eating away at the tarmac. A desire to hide and sleep overrode any desire to explain away her outburst. What madness had possessed her? There was no Kenning Woman for the broken land of Thalia; none for almost eighty years. She was Di, the magnificent Ab, once the Handmaiden to Martin. Now she had damned Martin as the False Prophet and there would be retribution from that bitter, aging man. She hugged Wee Da closer.

“Ye must go to the Laird of Don when he comes,” she whispered to him. “He will be your fither and your protector.”

Di knew she must find Is. He would guard them while she slept. She unlimbered her legs and began to run. She disappeared from view among the broken storefronts of what once was the proud city of Bretta on the continent of Betron.

She found Is in the old inner district as he returned from a day of scrounging. He was dirty, unkempt, but unbowed. Since Martin had decreed he was not acceptable to the other Abs until he proved he would do the menial tasks of Abs during the work season, he was denied the rations and the safety of Martin’s House of Abs. The House of Ishner still managed to get supply packets through to him and his condemned younger sister, but he had given the last packet to his renamed sister, Il, who was allowed to remain with Martin. The Handmaiden claimed she would protect Il, but Is wondered if that were possible. At least his sister had a place to sleep, but she was having difficulty adjusting to the life of an Ab, the loss of her name, and the security of the House of Ishner.

His bag was slung over his shoulder and he was congratulating himself on his take when Di ran up to him.

“We must hide. I spoke the vision.” Her light brown eyes were wide with distress.

Is gaped at her. “Ye did nay.” Horror was in his voice.

“Aye, and I named Martin as the False Prophet. Take my Wee Da and hide him.”

Wee Da; however, had a firm grasp around his mother’s neck, and she could not remove him. Is shook his head. “Nay, we’ll go to this new place I’ve found. Quickly.” He turned and sped up the broken street with Di loping behind.

They were in a part of Bretta once lined with small craft shops and Tri housing overhead. Before the Justines had enforced their rule with Krepyon guards, Tris and members of Thalia’s Houses would fly in on their flivs, the four-seat vehicles of Thalia, and park at the padports for a fee on a celebration day or to shop. The rounded buildings of concrete and Ayranian alloys were deserted; the padports vacant. The remaining Tris had left this area for the waterfront where food was distributed. In the back of one building, Is had found a door that opened. For over one hundred years the owners never returned to lock it, nor was it likely that they would return now. The three disappeared within and Is blocked the doorway with a carved statue of a wild elbenor raised on hindquarters showing fangs below the snarling lips.

“Come, we’ll go upstairs. The furnishings are quite good. Ye can rest there and Wee Da can play. I’ll prepare the meal.”

Di bounded up the steps. “Will they nay see the light up here?”

“I’ve blocked off the windows, and I’ve been outside at night to verify that nay light escapes. We are safe as long as Martin’s minions nay ken where I rest.”

Di spied the long couch and then the hall leading to the still furnished sleeping areas. “Dear Gar, a real bed. Is, tis perfect.” She swept into one sleeping room and set Da on the bed, pulled off her brown, ankle boots, and collapsed.

“I must rest. Wee Da, be good for Is.” She closed her eyes.

Is set his bag down and looked at the child. Wee Da regarded him with a smile and started to run. Is shrugged and ran after him. He did nay mind watching the wee one, although he kenned it was Troyner’s get. At present Troyner, Maca of Troy, stood in the docket before the Council of the Realm. Is doubted if Troyner could fend off the Sisterhood much longer. They would bar Troyner from House and make him Ab. Damn the Sisterhood and their strict obedience to the rule of the Justines and the Kreppies. Only once had a Justine died on Thalia since the war ended and that had been in Ayran, deep in the mines, a dangerous place in the best of times.

Di woke with shadow light enfolding her and Wee Da patting her cheek and saying, “Mither, tis sus.”

She sat up and her vision of the bulky Maca of Don and his handsome, hard-faced laddie with the strange grey, blind eyes faded. She hugged Wee Da and sniffed. The smell of food and the burning of oil came from the front area. She pulled on her boots, swung Da onto her hip, and walked out into the front.

Is had devised some sort of lamp from a slender-necked ceramic vase by filling it with oil and inserting a wick twisted from an old mat. A golden flame from the wick wedged into the vase stood above the neck. The improvised light cast a glow over the table. At least there was bread and a spread for it made from onions and some sort of shriveled red vegetable or fruit.

Is smiled at her. “I sorrow that there tis nay milk for Da, but I had nay anticipated guests.”

“Tis all right, Is, he still drinks from me. Tis there a working lav here or must I go outside?”

“Tis best to go outside. I’ll help with the door and the guarding.”

As they went down the stairs, he asked, “Did ye sleep well?”

“Aye, but I dreamt the vision. It will return. The Sisterhood will come for me.” She turned to him. “If they take me, ye must see that Da gets to the Laird of Don when he arrives. The Sisterhood canna hurt Da then.”

“Ye worry too much. They will ignore ye.”

“Nay, they are already angered. Twice I have almost been House, and the Sisters have noticed. Ayranians hate me for luring their Maca into my arms. They believe I coaxed her into a life as an Ab serving as the Handmaiden to Martin. The Sisterhood found out I was safe with Troyner of Troy. They mean to control his House and see him reduced to Ab or dead. My time with Rocella of Rurhran does nay count for Rocella would nay defy her Maca.”

“The Sisterhood goes after any Maca that tis male. It has nay to do with ye.” Is held the door for her and they went outside.

Di handed Da to Is before scooting around the corner of another building.

If you like what you read, Return of the Maca is available online:

Amazon Kindle,  Amazon Print Book,  Barnes & Noble Nook

You can also visit my website if you are interested in science fiction that includes a family saga.  I’m at

Facebook:  Twisted Tales from a Skewed Mind

Twitter: child7mari

NOTE:  If you’d like an excerpt and promotion of your book posted on FreeValley Publishing’s home page, please inquire and submit it to Sheri J. Kennedy at

A TURN OF LIGHT (NIGHT’S EDGE) by Julie E. Czerneda – Book Review

A Turn of Light ImageBOOK REVIEW by Sheri J. Kennedy

So often magic seems added to a fantasy world. The characters practice it, but it’s not necessary to who they are or to their world. Czerneda’s Jenn Nallyn and Marrowdell ARE magic. I felt enchanted by the charming and bright village that first appeared and enthralled by the dark feeling magic that peeked through in every crack, shadow and hollow.

This is a long book, but the pace was good and development justified the page count. The complexity of plot and well-conceived magical realm was revealed in tantalizing doses that built to wonder at the masterful imagination of this author and the new reality she’s added to our fantasy worlds.

I was fascinated by the unique twisting of light and dark worlds in this story. Marrowdell is quaint and dear. Its relationships are close and almost unbelievably perfect. But as Jenn grows from innocence to understanding the reader also grows in understanding of the darker side of her reality and the secrets of Marrowdell and the Verge. Czerneda grounds to a dark reality without burying the beauty of a romantic tale. Ultimately the light shines with truth and the timeless intensity of a star.

Find out more or purchase A Turn of Light  

You can review a book for FreeValley Publishing’s site. Send your submission to: Let us know what you’ve been reading and/or writing.