Monthly Archives: January 2015

Crisis at Validor by Greta van der Rol

CRISIS AT VALIDOR (Ptorix Empire Book 4)


Greta van der Rol



GENRE: Science Fiction, Romance, Space Opera


Newly-promoted Captain Brett Butcher is about to achieve his life-long ambition to command a battle cruiser. But before he takes up his new posting, he goes home on leave, hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of his first love, the unattainable Lady Tarlyn.

When the queen is assassinated in a terrorist attack, Tarlyn’s life is thrown into turmoil when she, too, becomes a target. The last person she expects to rescue her is her childhood sweetheart, Brett Butcher.

As Validor’s Ptorix and human populations face off over a group of islands neither owns, the calls for war grow louder. Torn between love, duty and ambition, Butcher and Tarlyn struggle to prevent an inter-species conflict, while the ember of love that has smouldered for so long bursts into flame. But with planetary peace at stake, both will be forced to choose; love or duty.



Crisis at Validor returns us to the world of the Ptorix Empire, this time on Validor where humans and Ptorix share a planet in a cautious state of détente, until all hell breaks loose with a series of assassinations that decimate the human Ruling Clan.

The author does what she does best: hits the ground running with intense action and a high stakes game of political maneuvering that threatens not just the peace but carries the ugly taste of interspecies war and extinction. Caught in the middle is a neutral zone, nominally Ptorix but cloaked in myth and rumor: Berzhan Island, home to a dragon species thought to embody the spirituality and mythology of the Ptorix culture. Not all believe, however, which makes for a complicated relationship with the two ruling powers on the planet and a convenient means to fuel the fires of hostility and misunderstandings between species.

Brett Butcher, just promoted to Captain, is a Validor native, taking leave to visit his home world before assuming the helm of Defender in Admiral Hudson’s fleet. He witnesses the beginning of the attacks on the Ruling Clan, and when he attempts to assist, he is in the right place at the right time to rescue Lady Tarlyn, his boyhood love. This is a different kind of Captain—he is lowborn, not nearly as arrogant and haughty as others of his rank, and he is recovering from a failed marriage in which he had little invested other than his daughter.

Lady Tarlyn is a member of the Ruling Clan, trained as is everyone in the line of succession, but uninterested in the machinations of the court. A widow, Tarlyn has come to terms with the loss of a man who was an acceptable partner in a marriage of convenience dictated by the Ruling Clan. Tarlyn has been indoctrinated to do her duty without dwelling overmuch on the costs to herself. She too has a daughter, Lena, a bright ten-year-old gifted with the opportunity to embrace and explore Ptorix culture.

When Tarlyn and Brett are thrown together during the horrific terrorist attack, those old flames quickly rekindle. In a race to see to her daughter’s safety, they must first evade their unknown pursuers, then find a way to make sense of the escalating conflict and to halt the slide into a holocaust.

This is a heart-stopping ride with new alien species, new kinds of danger, and a web of deceit and lies and unbridled ambition that will keep you turning the page/clicking through to see what happens next. Tarlyn makes it clear: she is not interested in replacing the murdered Queen, but as the plots and counter-plots unfold she finds herself caught between a rock and a very hard place. The safety of her daughter, the demands of fulfilling her Clan’s mandate, and the consequences of not doing so make for a compelling read. And at the core is the bittersweet knowledge that Brett is still the man she loved so many years ago, but can she really choose love over duty?

Brett suffers from the same conundrum. All his training, all his ambitions, all his hard work to overcome his humble beginnings are not easily traded away. When he must decide on a course of action, will his feelings of unworth collide with his need to see to Tarlyn and Lena’s future?

This is an excellent addition to the Ptorix Empire series. The author continues to dazzle with an intimate exploration of the cultural and political differences between species struggling to maintain a balance within their own spheres of influence and with each other. This time, we take a good look at human and Ptorix at the local level. Their insularity and peculiar histories have created splinter groups within each that make this particular slice of the galactic ‘Verse intriguingly complex.

Crisis at Validor is also a romance at its core, truly the best of both worlds, adding the element of sensuality to raise the stakes and to humanize the players acting on a planetary stage in a Universe of colliding cultures and species. And when it comes to choosing, the admonition to choose wisely doesn’t always pertain when that choice is between duty and love.

This is a highly recommended SFR (science fiction romance), another 5 Star read from the pen of Greta van der Rol.





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The Value of Rain (Brandon Shire)







GENRE: Literary fiction, contemporary


Charles is 14, and after being discovered with his first love he is forced into a mental hospital to cure his sexuality. For the next ten years he endures mental and physical torture as part of that treatment and when he is finally free, he begins a relentless quest for vengeance against the woman who abetted his commitment, his mother Charlotte.

The Value of Rain chronicles Charles’ journey from hate to the unexpected beginning of redemption, and reveals the destructive nature of families, secrets and revenge.


The Value of Rain is one of those novels that will speak to you on many levels. It chronicles the madness and dysfunction of families bent on placing blame, on redirecting self-loathing onto the innocent, and touching the raw nerves of emotional attachments that often have nothing to do with love and everything to do with proximity and the accidents of birth.

Told through the eyes of a fourteen year old boy caught with his best friend, Charles is sent off to a mental institution to be cured of his homosexuality. Ten years of unimaginable cruelty, of torture both mental and physical, should have broken the boy, yet somehow Charles finds strengths within himself to survive, and unexpected friends and lovers who share a journey no one should ever be forced to take.

When Charles is finally released, through the good offices of a man who recognizes the inherent worth of the young man and who believes he is within reach of redemption, the convoluted path toward vengeance and retribution begins. The damaged boy inside the broken man faces off against a dying woman, Charlotte, his mother – the woman who condemned him to hell without remorse.

Charlotte had her reasons. Charles will know them before she dies. Revenge, to be effective, is best served upon the living.

This tale of retribution and the kind of hate that informs each and every choice—that contaminates and scours the heart and soul and keeps a person from engaging, truly engaging with life—spans a twenty year period. We meet Charles at Charlotte’s deathbed. We meet, as well, many of the actors on a stage partitioned into segments, some we see, some revealed as the set design changes with time and opportunity.

The skill of the author is considerable in how the weft and weave of the story reveal themselves through the sieve of Charles’ stunted emotional growth, through his savant gift for mathematics, and his skill at taking leaps of perception and cognition, of absorbing and re-aligning his experiences into a web of self-deceit and blind adherence to the singularity of hate.

The sheer complexity of the inter-relationships among all the characters is at first daunting, confusing, and frustrating—you feel much like a stranger who wandered into a hornet’s nest of a family gathering, each person holding open and hidden grudges, each with an agenda, each with unique histories and threads tying him to the central core of this contemporary passion play of suffering amidst an inexhaustible well of resentment.

Toggling from past-to-present and back, the author guides you through this maze with such a deft hand that the unraveling becomes seamless. You absorb the inner turmoil of Charles, you ache as he dissembles and clings to the madness and kindness and the emotional frailties of all who come to matter to him. Yet for Charles, those experiences are merely tangential, imbued with a gut wrenching impermanence and enforced through a core of righteous hatred.

The denouement—settling old scores, coming to understand the intricacies of history and the inbred dysfunctions of family—offers both hope and a measure of disquietude, a sense of incompleteness and a wish for something more concrete. But nothing about this story has hard edges or rigid boundaries, and it is in poking at those limits that compassion can emerge, albeit one filtered through a lifetime of ruination and despair. It is less about coming to understand and more about learning to let go just enough that the door opens a crack to other possibilities … and responsibilities.

The prose is fluidly elegant, a symphony of phrasing that will stop you dead in your tracks with its sheer audacity and style. Mr. Shire brings to the literary landscape a unique and compelling voice and a storytelling style that grabs you by those inelegant short hairs and refuses to let go. It is sensual and distancing, allowing emotional respite without permitting release. It is literary, intelligent, and quite simply the best book I have read in years.

The Value of Rain will ask questions for which there are no clear nor simple answers. It will enrage you and command your complete attention. It will take you on a journey for which there are no guideposts and no waystations and only the vaguest of destinations. This is Tennessee Williams territory, make no mistake about it. The Value of Rain will stay with you long after you finish the last sentence.

This is a highly recommended read, one you will want in print for your permanent collection, and a stunning debut novel for an author who has rocketed to my auto-buy list.

Bravo, Mr. Shire, bravo.



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