Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review: The Confederacy of Heaven

The Confederacy of Heaven
Margaret Taylor
Available as an audio book from
Podiobooks and as an e-book
from Smashwords and Barnes & Noble

Review by Dan Breen

This is the first work of Margaret Taylor I've read and it'll be far from the last. I found the story instantly engaging.  New terms were explained clearly and in the context of the story allowing me as a fresh reader to be able to visualise the world, the looks and the sounds building the suspension of reality vital in a good work of fiction.  Taylor blends the strange and familliar to give us reference points in the story.

The story itself follows Nasan, a member of the Rattlingbones tribe as she undertakes, unwillingly at first, a quest of global magnitude, armed with minor magics, a tamed flying monster and probably the most unhelpful spirit guide you could have, (although to be fair, it's not his fault).
I really don't want to give too much away, or regurgitate the synopsis on the dust jacket, as you really should read this for yourself.
The characters are, in many ways, transplants from other genres grafted very well into this setting.
Native American tribes, frontiersmen, blinkered politics caused by a mis-quoted piece of text, much that we can identify with, and the message of the story, (there is one), is both subtle and unobtrusive, but is presented quite clearly.

The book itself is a joy to read if a little short. I didn't want it to end, but the story doesn't suffer from padding, or tracts written in just to hit a word count, which is very much to the credit of the writer.

If you're a fan of things like the old BBC series Tripods, or Mad Max, or books like Sword of the Spirits, (John Christopher), then this is for you.

You can thank me later after you've read it.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A New Face @ The Written Universe

Good afternoon constant reader.

It is my privilege to present to you a new reviewer for The Written Universe, Mr. Dan Breen.
I'm happy to say I've got so many submissions, bringing on a second reviewer has become necessary.
Between the two of us, we can bring you the reader, more reviews.

Without further ramblings, here's Dan to introduce himself.

A new inhabitant to The Written Universe, I hail from parts unknown, (unless you know England), and have been drafted in as another reviewer. So why should I review on here for you, the reading public? Well, the boss here feels that being English, drinking tea and knowing some of the rules of Cricket will bring a more cultured edge to TWU. Well, if growing up reading Douglas Adams, I guess that could count.
If you're a writer and you're expecting a nice fluffy sycophantic review - forget it, go elsewhere. If I don't like it, I'll say so and say why. If however, I DO like it, I will say so, and I will say why. Loudly and repeatedly.

So what do I like? Books that grab me, spark my interest or are different from the norm, something that has had some heart put into it, characters I can identify with. I don't mind what genre you write in, so long as it's well written.
So who and what am I reading at the moment?
Terry Pratchett, Dan Abnett and Simon Sebag Montefiore - fantasy, science fiction and history, I'm not limited to that, if you happen to write/illustrate or letter Graphic novels, I'd be very interested to hear from you and to view your wares.  

So, now you've met Dan.
I'm thrilled he's come aboard. :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What shall I read next?

Good afternoon constant reader.

No, that's not my lament, but it may be yours.

I've been an avid reader since I learned to read an in another life, I was a bookseller for 12 years.
Suffice it to say I feel pretty qualified to make recommendations to people.
After all, old booksellers never die, they just turn the page.

At any rate, I love to make book recommendations, so that's what I'm offering to anyone who wants them.
Email me at: and tell me what you're looking for.
A new fantasy?  A new mystery?  A new horror novel?
I may recommend some things I've reviewed and I may recommend some things I've read by established authors.  Just tell me what you're in the mood for.  Mainstream fiction?  Not a problem.  Just because this is a genre oriented blog, doesn't mean I can't recommend anything other than genre fiction.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

13 Questions with...Peter J. Wacks

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
The menu would depend on the guests, and I would absolutely cook it myself, unless a guest asked to cook (my circle of friends do take turns, mine is just the usual gathering spot.)
2. What is your beverage of choice?
Coffee, then water.  I rarely drink anything else.  When I was in my 20s I realized that my love of white russians could quickly lead me down a Bukowski-like path, and opted against it.)
3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
Physical Book, all the way.  A hard copy absorbs the warmth of the hand, the scent of the reader during the various moods provoked by the reading...  The sensory experience of the reading is more than the views in the minds eye.
4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
With over 6,000 books in my condo, there are few genres I do not have.
5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
At age 6, I decided to tell my Mom the bedtime story instead, and never looked back.
6. What is your writing routine?
That is another odd one.  it really differs on a day to day basis.  Sometimes I need noise and activity around me, sometimes quiet.  I do not have a set routine other than taking the time to write SOMETHING each day.
7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
Write.  Even if it is trash, the only thing that beats it is to write.
8. Do you have a hidden talent?

9. What was your best subject in school?
My grades were actually fairly consistent across the board.  I have always enjoyed learning about anything and everything I can.
10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
I do try to avoid current trends.  As a small press writer I am able to avoid trending, though I have no doubt that as I grow in readership I will encounter publishers wanting specific things from me in terms of writing to trends.
11. Mac or PC?
12. Where do your ideas come from?
Hmm.  I’m not sure I really know.  I do know they start small and incomplete, then evolve as I put thought into them.
13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
1) Finish the project.  Go back and revise later, just finish it first. 2)You know if you are good.  3) If you aren't good, keep writing.  No one starts great, you have to practice to get good.  4) Research the heck out of HOW you want to get published.  The more time you put into that research, the less likely you are to have regrets about the path you take.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: Second Paradigm

Second Paradigm
Peter J.Wacks
Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Good evening constant reader.
In a nutshell, if you like fast-paced time travelling science fiction with a plot that's fun to follow (How many times have I ever said that about a science fiction novel?  Never.), and interesting characters, not to mention some food for thought regarding the nature of time, then this book is for you.

Packed with action, we follow members of the Time Corp as they try to manipulate time to keep paradoxes from occurring that would literally rip holes in time.  Add one confused Dr. Chris Nost, who isn't sure why he's on trial for something he doesn't think he did; one Alexander Zarth who may or may not be a good guy...or is he a bad guy?...and add in a host of supporting characters who move in and out of time and you've got a fantastic read.

The book starts out with a topsy turvy trial that does not go like anyone thinks it should and then the action takes off.
I don't want to give too much away, all I can say is Second Paradigm is a well thought out time travel science fiction novel, well- written, and can stand up there with the best science fiction novels out there.
I'm not one for time travel as a theme, I'll admit that.  It hurts my brain sometimes, and even though Second Paradigm flips from one point in time to another, I didn't feel like a lost ball in the tall weeds.

Peter J. Wacks presents some interesting theory on time travel, positing some quantum physics as he goes.
If he didn't do a lot of research for this book, I'd be surprised.  If he did, he certainly knows how to present complicated theory well.
What could have been confusing and dry was fun to sink my teeth into and whetted my appetite for more from Wacks.  I know lately on his Facebook he's  been talking about writing.  I hope so, because anyone who can pull off this subject matter and make it entertaining needs to be writing.

I'm a hard nut to crack when it comes to time travel.  It usually gets so tangled up it irritates me to the point of not caring.  Second Paradigm is so well written, it didn't do that.  It was entertaining, suspenseful - hell I learned something about time travel and gained some new perspective on time and how I think about it.
If Peter J. Wacks does NOT write any more, I'm going to find him and kick him.  You've been warned Mr. Wacks!

For more information on Peter J. Wacks please visit:
Peter J. Wacks on Twitter
Peter J. Wacks on Facebook
Peter J. Wacks's Weblog
Peter J. Wacks on MySpace
Peter J. Wacks on Goodreads