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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Ugly Things We Hide by M. Ocampo McIvor

Summary

“We all bend the truth from time to time.” 

Enigmatic Hawaiian surfer, Daniel, seems just within reach of a better life, but he is locked in a pattern of self-sabotage — why? 

Restless with his life in Oahu, he moves to the mainland and delves into the shadowy world of the filthy rich, catering to their whims for money. But his cool, smart, and practical exterior starts to crumble under the weight of his clients’ ugly secrets, though he is most wounded by his own secret shame.

Characters

Daniel is a bit of a mess but does so with flare and ease. He is easy to relate to on some regards and draws the reader in with this deep thoughts and restlessness. Although I would say he is pulled along through life it doesn’t feel contrived – in fact it feels quite natural that he should wander. From his sweet Auntie to his brother Noah to Frank his friend and Jackie his “friend” this host of supporting characters is varied and colorful. All I can say is, awe Phoebe.

Plot

I was surprised by this book. The concept seemed interesting but I didn’t know where the author was going. Even though you knew from chapter one where Dan ends up and what happens to him, the journey mattered more. Although I suspected some aspects of the book I was surprised by how it was presented. The beautiful prose scarred by ugly truths. Absolutely stunning and shocking.

Overall

Just wow! I was absolutely floored by this book. After a slow start I was just sucked in. Phoebe was such a star in his life but she burned out because of his choices. I don’t want to give anything away but I just couldn’t put this book down – I had to know the ending. Which left me both unsatisfied and wanting more in many regards. It does seem like there is going to be a second book – so there’s that.

The writing was flowing although a little lengthy (almost unnecessarily in some regards) but didn’t distract from the power behind the book. This hit me square in the chest because of the complexity of humanity striped bare and shown in its beauty and horror. I’ll be honest that I didn’t really like the cover but after reading the book even the cover made sense and should be changed. Overall – a resounding yes!

Rating

5 stars

This book will not go the way you expect – even getting a glimpse of the beginning. The authors subtlety and painful realism will leave you reeling. Well worth the time!

Legacy by Wilde Blue Sky

Summary

Why is Michael Holsmann, a right-wing thug, searching the German countryside for details of a flight that left Berlin on the 28th April 1945? Why are the neo-Nazis so interested in a struggling penniless artist called Peter Fritch? Read this tale of identity and betrayal to find out.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Characters

Michael is a single-minded jerk. Peter a spineless outcast. Most of the characters felt a little flat at first…mostly because they are described to you and not well rounded. That is until I started thinking of this more of a historical alternative, written in a more factual tone. My favorite character was Ola, because she was the catalyst and for other reasons that I can’t detail without giving the plot away.

Plot

I decided to try something different and boy is this different but also interesting. It is really important to remember this is a work of fiction. I don’t want to give too much away, but the entire premise is fascinating. I appreciated the way the author portrayed the characters, and built up the tension. I’m a pretty open minded person so the entire context, while could offend some, really was just showing that a certain way of thinking was self destructive and what can happen after a power is ousted.

Overall

The writing is dry, but consistently so. The characters took a while to form but they felt distinct after a while. A little over the top in their speech at time. My biggest problem was everyone seemed to talk out loud to themselves. Once or twice, okay, but there were more than 5 times that characters talked to themselves.

I also wasn’t sure the point of the last chapter. I would have preferred it if was just left off, like a mystery, but the last chapter sort of tied it up in a too perfect bow. That being said, the concepts and idealist views were well captured. I followed the logic, and illogical portions, of the characters beliefs. I could easily see it being a nod to what happens in other areas around the world – the old way doesn’t let go so easily. From segregation to political parties, change may come but not everyone changes. It is slow and it is hard. I appreciated that aspect of this story, it reminded me of this very idea.

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded up)

It makes you think, what if? I always appreciate a story that makes you wonder. However, I struggled with some of the scenes and the writing was very textbook (informative, but flat). If you like alternative histories or even a ‘what if’ theory, this is a great read.

I received a copy in exchange of a honest review.

The Murder of Manny Grimes by Angela Kay

Summary

When three young boys stumble into Lieutenant Jim DeLong’s life one night during a winter storm, they claim they’ve seen a dead body by the swing sets of the Columbia County Elementary School. After he investigates, DeLong sees no evidence, not even a body. But were the boys telling the truth?

With the help of his oldest friend and mentor, former Naval investigator Russ Calhoun, DeLong sets out to find whether Manny Grimes is alive or dead. The further away he gets to the bottom of the mystery, the closer he comes to realize that his own life is falling apart.

Delving deeper into the murder of Manny Grimes, Lieutenant DeLong begins to unravel, losing his sense of control, falling into old temptations he spent years to overcome. Will he be able to move past his own demons and untangle the web of lies before it’s too late?

Characters

This book is filled with deeply flawed characters. There are no white knights in this dark detective noir. Chock full of moral ambiguity on right and wrong, Lieutenant DeLong does one thing right – solving murders. Calhoun is just as flawed. A womanizer with questionable friendship choices, he at least wants to make everything right by solving murders and fixing past mistakes. These are complex characters.

Plot

I absolutely love to be surprised. In the beginning of this plot I thought the author was going to play it safe. I am happy to report that is not the case! This book edges on reality that anything can happen to anyone at anytime. I was well over halfway before I begin the suspect the killer, even though their motives became clear to me earlier on, I still wasn’t sure who the actual killer was. That is the hallmark of a good murder mystery!

This book also explores DeLong’s personal life. Although it enjoyed parts of it, some of it felt long and drawn out. I’d have to stop myself from skipping forward to the next part that involved the mystery aspect. I’m wondering if DeLong’s paranormal encounter will continue into the second book – I sure hope so!

Overall

Part of it reminded me of an old hardboiled detective movies/books brought into the modern age. The only difference being that DeLong is actually a detective. The writing could be stilted at times but also felt very hard detective story. There were some errors, but most of it was punctuation. The author did an excellent job of building suspense, but I felt that the ‘personal drama’ aspects sometimes distracted from the growing tension.

The setting was consistent and added another eerie aspect of being deep winter. The author played this up well. At the end of the day the plot and flawed characters won out. It almost felt like a movie you’d watch on Netflix on a cold winter day. I don’t see why this couldn’t also be read on a cold winter day as well!

Rating

4 stars

If you like complex murder mysteries with a touch of drama, this is perfect for you!

I received a copy in exchange of an honest review.

 

Godeena by Stjepan Varesevac Cobets

Summary

Major Henry Broncon miraculously survived a battle with Ansker soldiers on the planet Morad. He was found under a pile of corpses, his best friend and the whole brigade remained in the field of death. Broncon was fully acquitted, he got the medal for bravery and was promoted to the rank of colonel, but he cannot forgive himself because he feels responsible because they fell into the trap.
Shortly after the war ended, and terrestrial colonies that came out as winners in the war to receive a distribution system Naude comprised of planets and Godeena. On the surface there was a huge and completely preserved, but uninhabited city that scientists have named the Absolute. Soon he sent an expedition to investigate what happened to the people and animals because he never found signs of life. A few days later he was attacked from the surface and loses all trace of them. General Staff sent two teams of Special Forces to find out what happened to the expedition but they also disappear, leaving no trace behind.
Commander of General Staff, Gen. Hensell due to personal reasons of Colonel Henry Broncon requested to collect the unit, composed of the worst inmates from prison Had, and along with them discover what is happening on the planet Godeena. Henry accepted this task and collected 17 prisoners.

Characters

Henry was an interesting character. A little underdeveloped but interesting. The biggest problem with this book was the point of view (POV) shifts. Within one chapter there would be between 2-6 POV shifts. There was no logic or reason and it was jarring. I did like Diana though, she was the reason I kept reading.

Maria/Kir was the best character but she didn’t really fit in the book. She felt like a fantasy character in a sci-fi novel.  I would have liked to know more about her but I may have lost how Maria/Kir came to be but it may have been lost.

Plot

This plot was pretty straight forward. Go and get some prisoners, get them trained, take them to a crazy planet with a killer creature, and defeat it. The part about going to the prisoners and training them seemed to take forever. I actually almost quit twice. I struggled with the easy comradery that followed — it didn’t feel real. It happened too quickly and everyone just fell in.

Best part of the book was when they finally arrived at the planet. Although that stagnated near the middle. Author did a great job of building the planet — Godeena. I thought the author was going to have a twist at the end but I was thoroughly disappointed when he played it safe.

Overall

This book was too long and I just couldn’t get into it. To me it was wordy in all the wrong places. I did like some of the characters, particularly Diana, but there were some incoherent pieces. The POV shifts were distracting. The author did a good job on the planet’s setting, but took too long to get there.

Rating

2 stars

I didn’t like this book. I couldn’t recommend this to anyone and it needs a lot of work. It has some potential but needs a complete overhaul. Diana and Godeena itself were the shining moments in this novel.

I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

CLOSED – 1001 Islands Merchandise Giveaway – Keyfob

Update: A winner was selected. Stay tuned for future giveaways!

Welcome to my first giveaway! I’m very excited to be giving back to my readers.

With the help of Otter Wares I’ve created custom merchandise for my books! First up is a 1001 Islands Keyfob, double sided, which makes it extra sturdy! Also features the beautiful style of White Noise Graphics, who was the designer.

If you like pirates and intrigue, you can purchase 1001 Islands here: Amazon.

How do you sign up to win?

Easy!

Since this is my first giveaway, all you have to be is on my fantasy/sci-fi mailing list! If you’re already signed up, great! You’re automatically entered to win. Anyone else can click here to sign up: fantasy/sci-fi mailing list.

On February 11th the giveaway will end. The winner will be selected and notified by email a week later, around February 18th that they’ve won this darling Keyfob!

As always, happy reading.

The Last Day of Captain Lincoln by EXO Books

Summary

Captain Lincoln’s last day is the hardest day of his life.

An old, onetime Captain of the interstellar spaceship USNAS Hope Eternal, Lincoln always knew that this day would come. For just as birthdays are carefully planned, so are deaths. And although he must reckon with his fate, this is not a somber story. It is a tale of love and sacrifice, told in the context of the most advanced civilization ever to exist—a society that has taken to the stars in an effort to save all that is best in humanity.

Follow Lincoln through his internal struggles, his joy in having lived, and his journey to peace.

The End is just the beginning.

Characters

There were an array of characters but the two that are the most important are Captain Lincoln and his lover Helen. Although they are the main stars, really Helen is just secondary to Captain Lincoln. He is a very noble character with a heavy burden on his soul.

Plot

The reason I didn’t say more in characters is because honestly there wasn’t anything more to say. Actually I thought it was going to go like the Dylan Thomas poem (Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light…) Instead the story is exactly what the summary presents, which in my eyes was severely disappointing.

In all fairness I was warned it was about people and relationships (most of all love), being more of a focus. It actually felt too perfect. Almost too rehearsed or contrived and that made the authenticity of the novel fall through for me. The beginning, middle, and end plot wise were all flat and steady. No blip on the radar, no fight. That just didn’t feel human. It did have emotional and one ‘breakdown’ moment but that wasn’t quite enough.  I understand it was their way of life, but not one person tried to go against the grain? Not one person fought with every grain of their being to live? I’m not buying it.

Overall

Although set in a futuristic time this was not a science fiction. More like the science fiction aspect was a subset of the analysis of humanity’s strengths and weaknesses. It touched on cultural issues, the idea of individuality, the struggle of morality, and the creativity of a species constantly in conflict. I thought it interesting the author consistently reference Earth’s history and music but never added any ‘imagined’ ones to level the list. Absolutely fascinating and interesting!  This aspect was well worth the read if only there more conflict.

Without the conflict in the characters and a physical manifestation of that conflict, it just didn’t sing true. For all of its fascinating points (that were basically an highly detailed and thoroughly researched opinion piece). I can accept that we adapt, and change and perhaps get better but the novel never touches on one person fighting back and trying to find another way. Not one person just saying ‘I want to live!’ Even if it ends poorly. The novel never touches on this nor does the character consider fighting against the system. In fact I can’t recall where anything like that happening on ‘The Ship’ (Hope Eternal) and that is utterly shocking to me.

Rating

3 stars

This book has so much going for it, but I can’t believe in the history of humanity and all its conflict that not one person said no in this isolated society. It speaks to the human condition and for a novel that touches on humanity’s makeup, this is one that is needed to improve its authenticity. Still a worth while read!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.