The Involuntary Ghostwriter (The Ghostwriter Series #1) by Douglas Debelak

Summary

Jonathon Fry, begins his lifelong dream of writing a novel, a fictionalized memoir of his own early life. But, he awakes from an erotic dream of a beautiful woman he has never seen before, with his thoughts filled with memories that are not his own, and the story that began as his own becomes the root stock upon which to graft the story of…

A boy, who was told, when he grew up, He could be anything He wanted to be. Little did they know He’d take them so seriously.

“In the beginning… I was born,” whispers a voice in Jonathon Fry’s head, a voice that claims to be that of our Creator.

Author or conduit, the life, sanity and marriage of Jonathon Fry become unhinged, sending him into a free fall, uncertain of the source of the words he has written – his own imagination or The Word of God – while battling his core values with his need to still be a man and hang on to his love for a wife who has pushed him away, because he told her about his dreams of another woman.

Characters

This book is very driven by the main character. It does after all have an autobiographical feel to it. There is ugliness and beauty. Bad and good choices. It is a life lived. If you read the first 20% you will get hooked on his life. You’ll want to know more, and the chapters/pages just fly by. The supporting characters are all from his point of view. Although one is in first person and another in third person, which could be a little confusing at times, once you get over the hump it flows seamlessly.

Plot

The focus of this story is on the life of Jonathan Fry. The plot ping pongs back and forth between a younger and older Jonathon  It is like watching life unfold at two different points in a man’s life. Watching decisions turn into rewards or consequences. Be warned this is clearly the first book in a series as the first chapter, it ends rather abruptly and with multiple issues looming and unresolved.

Overall

After a slow start I was sucked in. It read like a diary or journal of a man recounting his life and the choices he made. I cringed, I gripped my phone in worry, I gasped, and I was enthralled. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I started this book but I was impressed. It is a unique writing style that sometimes feels like the author is sitting next to you explaining what is going on.

One thing that did bother me was the disruption of the ‘creator’ chapters. That is usually where I took breaks. I read this whole thing off and on during a plane ride and it was the perfect book to pass the time. In a way the creator chapters were nice break points for me, but they were painful to get through because I was so invested in Jonathan Fry’s life. I’ll admit this book surprised more than once, and mostly for the better!

Rating

4 Stars

There is a raw and yet philosophical feel to the book that is engaging. A surprisingly pleasing read perfect for a long plane ride.

Where did I get it?

The author provided a copy.

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Technodiversity by Theodore Koukouvitis

Summary

Enter a world where rogue software animates junk to life…

Born on a blasted world where mechanical creatures form spontaneously in the wake of interstellar apocalypse, Rem of the Recycle Canyon must scour laser-lit landscapes for lost knowledge and rip technocreatures apart for scraps of lost technology.

But when she decides to set her first catch free, Rem disturbs the ancient balance between her people and their spacefaring relatives who crave her world’s riches, finding herself in a post-biological world of trouble.

Rem’s defiance against the so-called “gods of hell-space”, and her surprising affection towards her world’s technocreatures, kick off an explosive misadventure that will challenge her convictions and test every skill she doesn’t believe she has.

Will she rise above age-old prejudices, outsmart a computer-god, keep her feelings for a charming but suspicious outsider under control, reach the mythical Hologram Valley and survive its secret?

If so, she might succeed where legendary heroes of old failed and discover the impossible solution to protect her world’s technodiversity… and perhaps even find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Otherwise, she might leave her last breath under a techbeast’s chassis — or worse — find herself banished in hell-space!

Characters

I don’t know where I’m at on Rem, but I for sure liked her better at the end of the novel then I did at the beginning. She was much more redeeming in my mind. I think part of my problem came from the gender switching on the planet, which was interesting but did test what could make sense. It was great at points but tripped me up more than once because it felt almost like she was trying too hard. I actually didn’t realize for a while that the main character was a girl. This was only made worse because her idea of romance was purely physical based and so adding anything else made her seem really shallow. On that note I loved a lot of the supporting characters and my favorite is Sol. What a fun and unpredictable character!

Plot

This book just throws you into the deep end. Thrusting the reader knee deep into the world surrounding Rem. There are actually multiple stories going on within this story. The bigger arcing theme is two parts – one romantic and the other adventure. The Tech learns and it knows. It was full of action and adventure with massive sci-fi overtones and even some humor. The main character is reluctant at first but once she sets her mind to prove she can do it, she jumps in with both feet. A little impulsive? Sure, but also fun!

Overall

Holy world building. This is an intensely immersive world that is well thought out and expertly built. A beautiful shattered world that has advancing tech that is unique and extensive. The flow is a little wonky because some of the chapters are insanely long. While others are quite short and manageable. It was particularly difficult in one of the middle chapters where there was a debate going on in the ‘council’ that seemed to just drag on. It could have been shortened, but thankfully once it wraps up it was the last of its time. Once the second half of the novel starts, it pretty much was page after page because I wanted to know the ending. Let’s just say a lot happens in this book and it keeps you interested.

Biggest complaint is the use of the word ‘badass,’ which was way over done! Gah! To the point of annoying through the second half of the novel.

Rating 

4.5 stars (rounded down)

A stunning sci-fi novel that is an immersive treat! Great world building, a passable main character (thank goodness for Sol!), and a fascinating sci-fi read is worth the time!

Fourteen and a Quarter: Coined Fiction by Serena Ivo

Summary

These fourteen original stories are literary windows into the lives of people who find themselves facing the unexpected, the crazy, and even the paranormal. With diverse personalities and vivid details, this potpourri of dense, unpredictable plots are sure to entertain:

“Tipped”—a man learns that his birth certificate bears a surprising truth, and a perfectly legal, disorienting fabrication.

“Invisibility”—an atheist dies and is challenged by the unanticipated reality of an afterlife.

“Ready, Aim, Shoot”—a photographer meets her long-lost grandmother, who immediately and publicly accuses her of theft.

“Rodent Love”—while on honeymoon, a bride discovers that her groom’s passion for a theme park puts his love for her in the shade.

“Regret”—a demon has an experience that causes it to question its dark role in the world.

These thought-provoking stories and much more tether the reader with subtle, twisting layers that induce careful rereading.

“Fourteen and a Quarter: Coined Fiction” is an edgy, yet clean musing on classic virtues such as prudence, chastity, and sobriety, and illustrates the eternal constitution of the human spirit.

Overall

I’m going to be doing this one a little differently and addressing the short story collection as a whole. Each story is linked by a single element—a quarter. It is the running theme that is mostly used in a very natural and interesting fashion throughout the book. The stories were interesting, easy to read through and follow (with the exception of one). I very much enjoyed the mostly urban feel but the author wasn’t afraid to venture out into supernatural or even fantasy.

What was great was these stories and their settings were like onions. Each layer you peeled back there was more. One or two times I did get completely lost and had to back track which was a bit disruptive, but those were on the more subtle and abstract stories, so part of me believes that was intentional. The characters in broad strokes were very easy to follow and each had their own debate or problem they were working through. Much of them moral or relationship dilemmas that had surprising depth despite the brevity of each story. With each new story, it was always a treat to see where the author took you next.

Rating

4 Stars

This is a solid piece of work that I quickly read through. It was well with the read and felt inspirational to see such diversity from a single author. Overall a charming collection of short stories!

This is a voluntary review.

Seeking Dr. Magic by Scott Spotson

Summary

Chaos reigns around the world. Strange creatures, accorded the title “Phantom Ninjas” by the media, are leaping off tall buildings and somersaulting back up without any scratch – and then disappear. There follows more spontaneous acts of magic, confounding the world. Who – or what – is responsible? In the middle of the mystery arrives Detective Hetfield, a private investigator just recently released from the FBI due to an on-the-job injury. Hetfield, who arose to fame as a star witness in the murder trial of a beloved actress, uses the media to put forward the theory that a person of extraordinary magical powers is behind all the incidents, and labels him Dr. Magic. Hetfield gets much more than what he bargained for when that powerful being does exist – in the form of a young man long disillusioned with his past – and cruelly takes him up on his offer.

Characters

There are two characters – former Detective Tony Hetfield and “Dr. Magic.” Each of them are very unique and everyone else feels like lifeless blobs that are just filler for the story constructed around these two characters. I really liked the inner strength and determination of Tony. He has to be one of my favorite characters written by this author. “Dr. Magic” has a somewhat tragic story but is an adult that never had to grow up. Very much felt like he had peter pan syndrome—having magic helps…

Plot

This is very much a modern mystery with an urban magic feel. I wouldn’t say this necessarily a fantasy in a traditional sense but it did have that super hero feel and a magical abilities piece. There are lots and lots of layers to this story and the strength if this entire novel rests on its plot. Tony is driven to find the identity of Dr. Magic, but is also very principals—so what happens when the most dangerous person meets in an unstoppable force?

Overall

This book was very easy to read and enjoyable to turn the page to find out what came next. A few twists and turns kept things interesting where I wasn’t 100% sure where the story was going to go. I appreciated that there were a few surprises where I was like “Where is he?” out loud. Any book that can make me do that is good! The downside was the secondary characters. They could have used some development to round out the novel and bring extra depth to the characters. Some were decent but others felt very flat.

In short this is a great plot and okay characters – so overall a good read! I’d recommend this book ahead of most of Spotson’s other books just because I felt this book had the best flow. It was pretty consistent and I never felt bogged down by details or overwhelmed by information coming in. Instead I was able to follow along and just get immersed into the story. I didn’t love the ending, I felt like the author wanted to give more closure and show that these characters were moving in a certain direction, but I actually would have preferred if it ended one chapter earlier. I get why it was done and actually appreciated the open-ended conclusion.

Rating

4 Stars

Overall an enjoyable read that was an easy page turner. If you like mysteries where you are following along as each layer is peeled away this is a great book. If you also like magic, this delivers!

This is a voluntary review.

The Joint of No Return by Tom Sadira

Summary:

Charlie Hong is on the run from both sides of the law.

He’s spent the last year in hiding, cultivating one last hair-brained scheme to escape his troubles: a clandestine marijuana operation. Just as he’s about to cash in, his cash crop is stolen by a bright light appearing in the night sky. After catching a ride with one of his plants, he finds himself thrown into a world far stranger than anything he could have possibly imagined.

Does the stoned stowaway have what it takes to free the Starseed, a massive living spaceship overflowing with bizarre life forms, from the clutches of a mysterious force field trapping it in Earth’s orbit?

Is he up for the challenge of fighting an evil Reptilian race bent on enslaving humanity?

More importantly, before he decides anything, does he have time to light one up?

Characters

Charlie is a pot head. An amusing mess of a person that somehow survives most of his crazy encounters. Like any good pothead Charlie gets munchies and always has a few joints to spare. Most of the book is following Charlie and a few fun supporting characters coming in – the Captain being the biggest chunk. The villains were repulsive and even the good guys existed in shades of gray – an unexpected depth that didn’t go too deep but just enough to give the characters that much needed complexity.

Plot

This is an amusing sci-fi. I would call this a humorous read for sure, like a Space Comedy. I for sure laughed out loud once. It wasn’t necessarily my humor but the author did well to balance between stoner humor and just plain fun. The plot is all around a fun sci-fi adventure and I really enjoyed the creativity of the aliens and the ship. I even liked the Reptilian race and the idea that they are influencing Earth. It all came together nicely and was enjoyable to read from one chapter to another. I won’t say much more as there are a few fun twists and turns – I’ll leave it for you to read!

Overall

An amusing read with just one too many coincidences. I truly question anyone being that lucky. That being said it was easy to read and follow along with, even when it was a little trippy. A fun short read – I appreciated the brevity of the story. Even the somewhat abrupt ending wasn’t annoying it simply felt like one chapter was closing and if I wanted to read more, I needed to pick up the next chapter aka book.

Rating

4 Stars

A fun sci-fi with a stoner in the lead role. This book will make you laugh at least once, but if you are more of a stoner yourself, I have a feeling this one will leave you rolling. All in all, lots of fun!

This is a voluntary review.

 

The Gnosis Machine by Theodore Koukouvitis

Summary

An ambitious professor bets his life on a bid to abolish uncertainty, but when an entropic alien stresses the Machine’s computing power to its absolute limit, he faces an impossible dilemma as everything begins crumbling around him.
A grizzled war veteran comes to the Machine to fade away. His hopes for a quiet retirement are shattered when his ship implodes, stranding everyone on the Machine, and he finds love at the edge of the half-finished artificial planetoid.
A homesick science graduate becomes the unlikely hero when he saves a man from predetermined suicide — but he must then master gravity in a desperate attempt to save a thousand more people, including three cyborg madammes of excellent pedigree.
A fifty-year-old widow in an ageless body tries to escape the horror of her husband’s death only to find his charred remains 40,000 light-years from where he died. As chaos erupts and more people attempt to kill themselves on the Machine, she becomes the reluctant leader of the desperate castaways as they all clash in the battle between entropy and determinism.
The Gnosis Machine is built to predict everything, but in the end, will it be able to foresee — and prevent — its own fate?
Characters

There are a myriad of characters in the book. Fair warning I did not like the Professor one wit. The man was such a Machiavellian to his core with ideals of grandeur and an arrogance that is similar to John Hammond in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park without the visionary feel. Thankfully he is one among many character, including the spontaneous and ambitious Douglas Morgan and budding scientist Jason. My favorite characters and interactions by far are those that involve Sunny (Douglas’s adoptive daughter) and the righteous Captain. I also very much liked Maribella. She had a backbone and a tragic story, but she had her head on right…can’t say that for all the other characters. And the spontaneous alien – I won’t say much there for fear I’ll give too much away on the shape shifting alien. There were a few times I was a little lost as to which point of view I was in, but it usually was when they were all together and it didn’t take long to straighten out.

Plot

After a rough start (It was difficult listening to the professor right at the beginning) this book quickly grabbed hold of me and I just had to know how it ended! I had to know what caused the explosion and how the author was going to resolve the conflict. I could see so many different paths stretching out from the single plot point. This is the primary reason I enjoyed this book so much – the way in which the author weaved the characters and plot together where you kept guessing what was going to come next!

Most disappointing part of the book was so much left unresolved. I wasn’t fully satisfied with how the author left things – even with the additional twist at the end. Which sort of explains the abruptness of the ending, but I’m not sure if it was satisfactory based on the content of the rest of the book. I’m afraid to say much more than humans will be humans and uncertainty and fear will drive even the best people to do terrible things. But with the destruction and chaos there is also progresses and beauty.

Overall

This book will challenge you and make you question every step of the way what is right and what is real. That is the true strength of the book. I expect this author will only grow with each book – I suspect this is not his first book either. I could see the effortless ability to weave in multiple points of view together in a clever way. Now if only he had just nailed an ending that made sense and wrapped everything up a little better.

This was very character driven with multiple characters taking front and center. Mostly it was easy to follow along and the writing was satisfactory, although at times excessively wordy. My biggest surprise was that this was a ‘hard’ sci-fi with lots of interesting angles and scientific information, but it was mixed in with simplistic language like variations on ‘looked.’ I started tracking it about 25% of the way through when two ‘looked’ showed up on a single page (on an smartphone sized screen) and by the end I had amassed over 60 of them. It was difficult to merry such simplistic language with such advanced scientific ideas, a world which was built in such a way that I felt it could actually happen.

Rating

4 Stars

This book was a real treat. Amusing, scientific, and with interesting characters submerged into a mind-bending plot.

This is a voluntary review.

Diamond Marked (Tale of El’Anret #1-3) by Melody Klink

Summary

Inside a mortal girl lies the heart of the Queen of Diamonds, true ruler over El’Anret, the world of Faerie.

Inside a Half-Human, Half-Fae boy lives the soul of a Stag King, mysterious and powerful creature of legend, capable of transforming worlds… or destroying them.

And neither of them belong.

In a world of myths and monsters, it will take them both to usurp a renegade queen— one who stole the crown and made the whole of El’Anret bend to her will.

The Faerie world will never be the same.

DIAMOND MARKED: The Tale of El’Anret combines the stories of the Faerie and Mortal worlds into a single collection. Queen of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds, and King of Diamonds are included in their Author Preferred text editions.

Part 1: QUEEN OF DIAMONDS

I didn’t realize it at the time but this was like watching the first season of Once Upon A Time – terrible but necessary. And just like that first season I don’t know if I would have continued reading from this first ‘section,’ it was very YA and the writing was stilted and somewhat boring. At parts it was even over the top and full of YA tropes. Even though the first book wasn’t very good, it didn’t stay that way. I’m not going to give too much away but I am going to say that I appreciated the end of this. That it wasn’t ‘happily ever after’ and that there were consequences for their actions. I did not connect with Leigh or Gideon which may have been the biggest problem.

Not very good but if you can get through this, I promise the next two parts are worth it. – 2.5 stars

Part 2: JACK OF DIAMONDS

As disappointed as I was in the first book, that quickly faded once Jack comes into the works. It becomes more complicated as it sheds its overly YA skin and takes on a whole new form of awesomeness. Suddenly it is highly imaginative, the plot opens up and even gets a little dark. It was engaging and I found myself turning pages and staying up later than I should to find out what happens. The irritation with the young character in the first section is balanced out here and Jack is such a likable character. I was also really happy to see Leigh come into her own.

I absolutely love this one the best – even with the cliffhanger at the end. – 5 Stars

Part 3: KING OF DIAMONDS

A great conclusion to these short novellas. This book went much darker and showed some overall elements of society that go poorly. That evil wins when good people do nothing. The world also expanded and grew and the battle scenes at the end, though a little long, were awesome. I felt like I finally had a great picture of what the author was trying to portray. The writing also improved and had better flow. Though Leigh’s undying love I came to like Gideon.

It also had a very sweet after ending that was very satisfying. I’m not always happy about those, but in this instance it was wonderful. – 4 Stars

Overall:

If you are going to buy them, you might as well get this box set and read them all the way through. Where Leigh felt a little flat, Jack eventually balanced her out and she came into her own. The world building greatly improves from book to book, as does the writing.

Rating:

4 Stars

Overall I enjoyed this collection of stories. The further I went into the story the more I enjoyed them. If you like YA stories that have fairies – this is a worth while read.

I received this book for a free and voluntarily review.