Ebook review: Peripheral Involvement by Bob Waldner


Publication Date: February 12, 2014

From the dust cover: “Jack Caufield never imagined that he would wake up one day and find a dead woman in his bed. That sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to guys like him. He was on his way to law school, but instead of fielding Socratic questions from law professors, he finds himself facing the third degree from a bunch of angry cops. Despite their efforts, they find nothing incriminating, and Jack is allowed to get on with his education and his life. Over the next fifteen years, he becomes a modestly successful corporate lawyer, a well-paid but insignificant cog in the Wall Street machine. He’s resigned to playing a disappointing role in the system that he has come to disdain, until he learns that his encounter with that unlucky girl may not have been coincidental. Confronted with the possibility that the men who run the prestigious financial institution that he now represents may have been involved in a shocking conspiracy, his search for the truth is complicated by the knowledge that discovering it could cost him the success that he’s spent his life chasing.”

About the author: “Bob Waldner was born and raised in New Jersey, before heading off to Duke University and the University of Michigan Law School. He practices law in New York, where he lives with his wife, Erinn, and his daughters Maureen and Madeleine. Someday, he hopes to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.”

My Ebook review: the author describes in his acknowledgements that “Peripheral Involvement” took a very long time to write. Interestingly, the book itself also covers a long timeframe and in a sense felt like more than one story pushed together until the subtlety of the plot plays out and the big picture comes into delightful focus.
Caufield is a splendid character who somehow feels like he is a passenger in his own life story. Occasionally he lifts his head up and makes a clear and rational choice to give direction to his life and yet at most other times he is happy to go where the wind blows him and to take advantage of the adventures that life puts in his way. Watching his evolution, we are able to consider our own choices, what would we have chosen given the circumstances and could we have managed to get the job done when it counted.
Caufield is not only a fine character to read but a vehicle for communicating a number of salient facts about life that are often not understood or appreciated until too late, life hacks as they are sometimes described. I very much appreciated his dialogues and insightful critique of various important structures and could feel an inner turmoil seething sometimes below and once in a while above the surface. Caufield’s ultimate choices fitted consistently with his deepest character.
The greater plot is fabulous as it unfolds in various degrees of complexity and with a neat cast of characters set against a nicely described background. There is a sense of the slightly incredible but plausible about the story which drags one in and keeps the pages flying past.

Did I enjoy the reading experience?: Clearly yes, there was a gripping plot, a cast of intriguing characters, insightful almost philosophical discussions and a mystery. I just hope that the next one does not take so long!

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Ebook review: Deep Sleepers (A Tom Blake thriller) by Adrian Wills


Publication Date: January 18, 2014

From the dust cover: “Deep Sleepers is an action adventure thriller featuring former special forces psychologist, Tom Blake.

He should be the perfect spy. After all Ben Proctor has no idea of his true identity. He’s been planted deep undercover with a radical right-wing political party steadily increasing in popularity as the country’s anti-Muslim fervour grows. But when Proctor is recruited by a secretive neo-Nazi terrorist splinter group calling themselves the Phineas Priests, his mission begins to unravel at terrifying speed. He’s abducted, branded with a mysterious symbol and initiated in an eerie moonlit ceremony. The Priests have spotted Proctor’s potential and want him to lead a deadly terrorist bomb plot that is destined to kill hundreds of innocent people.

As the perfect spy threatens to become the perfect terrorist, one man’s tasked with stopping him – the man who’s already inside his head. Tom Blake is a former Special Forces military psychologist who now works for British MI5. He’s supposed to be controlling Proctor using an experimental hypnotic technique developed with a black ops SAS unit. The only problem is that Proctor has gone missing – and the countdown to the bombing has already begun.

And so starts a frantic hunt for the missing spy before it’s too late. With his MI5 masters demanding action, Blake needs all his military experience to track down his man and avert tragedy. Meanwhile, in the heart of London’s Canary Wharf, a Texan oil billionaire makes a rendezvous with his super yacht for a secret meeting that could be about to change history. How much does he know about the Phineas Priests and could he hold the key to stopping the bombing?

And an investigative reporter finds himself hot on the heels of the biggest story he’s ever chased – with the help of a mysterious blonde trying to find her brother who she fears has been murdered in Brazil.”
About the author: “Adrian has been writing for as long as he can remember but Deep Sleepers is his debut novel. He’s been a journalist for all his working life, forging a career in local newspapers and in regional television news. He is married to fellow indie-author, Amanda Wills. They live in Faversham in Kent with their two sons, Oliver and Thomas.”

My Ebook review: what is there not to love about an action adventure thriller with a blurb like that of “Deep Sleepers”? Whenever MI5 enters the plot there is the feeling that anything can happen, nothing is impossible and the plot can only possibly get more complicated as the story unfolds. When the bad guys have a cause and money then the game really is on.

Wills builds the story rapidly and confidently without too much fanfare and excellent scene setting rolled out in an uncomplicated and interesting flow. Once the story is going it is a race to find out what is going to happen next and quite how all of the apparently unrelated pieces of information tie together into splendid finale. Blake is an excellent character who we get to know on a relatively superficial level but this is perfectly in keeping with his covert status but no doubt we will get to know him better in subsequent additions to this series. The bad guys are delightfully menacing, wonderfully clandestine and all too plausible. The innocent bystanders get dragged into a situation that is far too big for them to comprehend but add a human side to the equation of the plot as well as a level of complexity that helps to raise this book to an excellent level.

Did I enjoy the reading experience?: Oh yes, “Deep Sleepers” is an action adventure thriller that kept me turning the pages from the start to the finish.

Ebook review: The Perfect Game by Stephen Paul


Publication Date: February 20, 2014

From the dust cover: “In a dark Manhattan alley, a young woman suddenly collapses from a brain hemorrhage. The statistics say it’s rare to have happened to someone so young and healthy, yet all signs point to natural causes. But when Kyle Vine, the man she was supposed to meet that night, learns she wasn’t the only victim, he knows there’s something more going on and soon discovers a mysterious link to the sudden success of a journeyman pitcher for the New York Yankees.

As the lethal brain bleeds continue to strike, Kyle and the woman’s eccentric uncle work together to unravel a mystery unlike any the world has ever seen in order to stop a ruthless killer from striking again.

Stephen Paul’s debut supernatural suspense thriller, The Perfect Game, is a fast-paced gripping ride that will continue to keep readers on the edge of their seats while trying to figure out who’s behind the deadly episodes, how they’re doing it and, perhaps most shocking of all, why.”

About the author: “Stephen was raised in the suburbs of Long Island and now lives with his wife and son in New York City. When not crusading on behalf of the design professional community, he enjoys writing thrillers with a supernatural touch.”

My Ebook review: “…thrillers with a supernatural touch.” is a pretty good hook and sums up very well an exciting debut novel. Like all the very best stories that involve the supernatural, there is an almost plausible rationale, a tangible feeling that the well chosen touch of fantasy could just about happen. Certainly, the characters are all recognisable and their motivations seem clear on the surface. It is the consequences of the actions of Kyle’s not entirely appropriate motivations that throw our unlikely hero into a complex situation that he can neither predict nor control.

The pace of the book is good and the scene setting is excellent and a tension is built and maintained through the book as it navigates the twists and turns of a well executed plot.

Did I enjoy the reading experience?: Yes, “The Perfect Game” was an excellent thriller with just enough supernatural behaviour to be interesting but not absurd, it added to the plot rather than take over the plot.

Ebook review: Half Wise: Wizard with a Gold Tooth by Joshua Bayard


Publication Date: January 29, 2014

From the dust cover: “Sixty woodcutters have vanished. Hamet was there when it happened, but he can’t stop singing. Evil sorcery has come to the town of Gullywine. When the Mayor summons a wizard to help for the first time in generations, the stranger who arrives has a checkered past and troubles of his own. And, the lost woodcutters are running out of time.

WIZARD WITH A GOLD TOOTH is the first HALF WISE story. This e-book is a 14,527 word novella. It’s recommended for people who like offbeat fairy tales and unpredictable adventures.”

About the author: “When Joshua Bayard isn’t writing weird fairy tales, he’s trying to teach himself the ukulele, daydreaming, or eating breakfast. He lives in Denver with his lovely fiancée.”

My Ebook review: I read this novella a couple of weeks ago and for some reason am only now getting to writing my review which is perhaps a strange way to start but on reflection helps me make the point that it is still strong in my memory. Bayard did a very good job of giving us a glimpse into this universe, letting us know that we do not know all of the rules and let a story unfold in a reasonable way. The efficient use of language packed a great deal of story into an exciting novella that hopefully promises a lot more from the ‘Half Wise’ series.

Did I enjoy it?: Yes, although clearly a quick read it captures the imagination and is a breath of fresh air which makes me hope for more.

Ebook review: Interesting Times by Jack Vander Beek


Publication Date: December 27, 2013
From the dust cover: “Tom Verwarring is a timid and deeply flawed man who’s barely making it through life. He’s afraid of shopping and public restrooms and people; he’s afraid of the world.
Tom’s life is coming apart, meanwhile he struggles with a childhood full of loss, tragedy and secrets. But throughout everything, he tries to stay positive.
He needs help.
Then one day he starts seeing things and his life begins to change, and not necessarily in a good way.
But there’s good news; he’s not alone anymore.”
About the author: “Jack Vander Beek was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1952 and now lives in Olympia, Washington. He is retired after working 40 years in operating rooms, 35 of those as an RN. In addition, he’s had a long love/hate relationship with computers, reaching back to the early days of CPM and his first computer, a KayPro-2, which he still has.
He maintains a website with technical information for anesthesiologists and has also written a medical professional book on one anesthetic technique.
He’s constantly on the lookout for great writing and some of the authors in his pantheon are Kurt Vonnegut, P.G. Wodehouse, Samuel Clemens, Thomas Harris and Stephen King. Check out his blog at jackvanderbeek.com
Now that he’s retired he’s doing more of what he wants, namely, writing novels and spending time with his family and dogs, cat and chickens, and NOT going to work in the middle of the night.”
My Ebook review: let us get straight to the point, this was a fascinating and fantastic reading experience. The author chose to tell this story through the eyes of Tom, in a delightful first person narrative. That is not to say that everything that is said is delightful, but the scene is already half set by the writing style of the socially challenged Tom.
Tom tells his story in sometimes graphic detail. This takes us on a journey through the psyche and quite regrettably the toiletry hurdles of Tom. The journey is an eventful one and it is a long one but somehow never feels like it. Tom tells his story in simple prose that at times feels juvenile and naïve which fits beautifully with the character.
One of my favourite films of recent years is “American Psycho” based upon Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name. “Interesting Times” comes with the same intensity and unexpected decline into the recesses of the mind where all bets are off and it is anyone’s guess where the journey will end.
Did I enjoy it?: Splendidly so! I was dragged into Tom’s story and almost thought I had it totally figured out, but actually not. The surprises kept up until the very end. A great reading experience.

Ebook review: The God Particle by Daniel Danser


Publication date 29th November 2013
From the dust cover: “CERN’s Hadron Collider is the world’s most powerful machine; its sole purpose is to prove the existence of the mysterious God Particles – the essential building blocks of the universe. But after a series of global catastrophes, suspicion arises as to whether they are occurring naturally or are somehow connected to the Collider’s experiments.
After the sudden death of the project’s director general, professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tom Halligan, is headhunted by CERN’s governing council to continue the search for the elusive particles.
He is soon embroiled in a titanic struggle against sinister forces that are intent on creating a chain of events, the outcome of which will determine the fate of civilization.
The battle to save the planet from annihilation is being fought by the most unlikely of heroes.”

My Ebook review: it was the basic premise of this ebook that interested me. Essentially it takes its leaping off point from the unmistakable truth that with great scientific advances come great unknowns and unexpected or perhaps ill-considered consequences. Even the most noble of intentions can potentially, when used to probe beyond the safe zone of our current understanding, create tools of almost unimaginable devastation. So, in a sense, it is not such a leap of faith to think that there might be self-appointed guardians of sanity working in the shadows to try and temper the more inappropriate flights of fantasy that the ‘boffins’ embark upon. From this launchpad, we have an intriguing conspiracy thriller with good guys and bad guys and the poor unfortunate hero thrown ignorantly into the middle.
As a thriller this ebook works well, generates tension and generally moves along at a good pace with just the right amount of action and tension. Our hero Tom seems to be a mixture of many things and is delightfully more energetic and interesting than I would anticipate his real life counterpart to be. That probably says a lot more about my personal opinion of top academics, in that I can see them being extremely intelligent and dedicated but running around in a breathless race against time, not so much. I am thinking more Ricky Gervais than Tom Cruise I suppose.
As a scientific conspiracy it also works pretty well. There are some good historical perspectives and scene setting that lift the book and give a nice feel to the experience. As with any book of this nature there are aspects that go into the areas of fantastic speculation that will irritate some people and yet for others will be an integral part of the tension building. There was one surfing vignette that, whilst nicely written, seemed to stick out from the rest of the story and slowed the plot for a few pages, it caught me so off guard that I thought I had accidently switched files on my Kindle.
As a part of a larger debate, about the possible implications of dabbling with the basic building blocks of nature and the potential devastating implications if an admittedly extremely low probability event would occur, this work can bring something. Like the plethora of natural disaster and man-made disaster action movies, The God Particle is great entertainment with a serious theme if you want it.
In the end though we should not forget the irony that CERN was also somehow the birthplace of the internet which allows us to spread this message.
Did I enjoy it?: Yes, a good thriller, some excellent scenes and thought provoking.

Ebook review: Politics by Other Means by Adam Fitchett (A Short Story)


Published 19th December 2013
About the author: “Adam Fitchett is studying Biochemistry at the University of Sussex, but for some reason he also claims to be a writer. His hobbies include reading, watching movies, and writing about himself in the third person.
He writes comedy because he believes that the most psychologically self destructive thing a person can do is to take everything seriously. He thinks that, in order to endure the base, the stupid and the absurd, the best thing one can do is simply point and laugh at it. His stories are sometimes political, sometimes philosophical, often dark, and always very, very silly. His major influences include Douglas Adams, Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse, Ayn Rand, Peter Sellers, Terry Pratchett, and the better parts of Friedrich Nietzsche.”
From the dust cover: “”Peace and politics are pantomime”
Those are the immortal words of General Alfred Thackworth, son of Lord Thackworth, and a man who is willing to wage war over a stolen packet of biscuits; and if that were not sufficiently problematic, his target, the totally functional and honestly not at all despotic nation of Gritania, is in the grips of a terrific power struggle, the likes of which have not been seen since last Wednesday.
This irreverent, silly and deeply cynical comedy will entertain all those who have the strength to rise above the quagmire of political subterfuge, and see it for the pathetic burlesque it really is.
Evil is small, and it has no fashion sense.”

My Ebook review: reading Fitchett’s biography it is not too surprising to find that this ebook is a delightfully funny short story that reminded me of Dr Strangelove. It is its own ebook but if you like one then you will probably enjoy the other.
There is a cast of ludicrous characters usefully employed like a cascade of co-chaperones they work because of each other. Their individual small mindedness and lack of imagination synergise to create this jovial and sometimes downright hilarious short work.
It will be interesting to read a full novel from Fitchett.
Did I enjoy it?: Certainly, very funny, just over too soon.

Ebook review: Rachel’s Folly by Monica Bruno

From the dust cover: “She has it all: a successful career, a beautiful house, a loving husband, and a son she adores. To top it off, her best friend is getting married. But who is this mysterious man who calls himself Jack and, more importantly, who is Rachel when she’s with him? After a night of drinking gone awry, Rachel is forced to face a dark part of herself she didn’t know existed. She must find a way to cope—with what she’s done, with the kind of person she might be—or lose her life in the process.

Told from three unique perspectives and set against the backdrop of an Austin, Texas both strange and familiar, Rachel’s Folly is an exploration of profound loss, morality, and the lengths to which we will go to save our loved ones and ourselves . . . from ourselves.”

From the author: “A few words of caution: it is by no means erotica, but it does include two sex scenes (non-explicit). It also has occasional profanity (used judiciously). And, one of the main characters just happens to be gay.”

My Ebook review: this is a very well executed thriller, the characters are interesting, well developed and used effectively to create a book that does keep the reader guessing until the end.

I personally hate spoilers which means that I often need to write very short reviews on some books. For me I thought suspiciously about one character for quite a while and happily was proved to be wrong, so the story kept its intensity for a good long time.

There are a number of layers to the plot which are kept neatly under control and used in a way to develop the plot rather than confuse the reader.

Did I enjoy it?: definitely an enjoyable reading experience and I could certainly imagine reading the next Bruno novel.

Ebook review: The Designated Survivor by JC Gatlin

Publication date 27th July 2013

About the author: “JC Gatlin lives in Tampa, Florida. In addition to regular fishing trips, he wrote a monthly column for New Tampa Style Magazine, then began penning several mystery/suspense stories. He also maintains a blog about new home building, an industry he has worked in for over 12 years.”

From the dust cover?: “An Unreasonable Hitchhiker. An Unstable Widower. An Unpredictable Journey. Having just escaped from inmate work detail, Tess is on the run and has one goal: get her daughter back. So, hitching a ride to Sarasota, where her daughter is staying, seemed like a good idea at first. That is until she realized her Good Samaritan is clearly suffering from the recent loss of his wife.
As the miles go by and they get closer to Sarasota, she comes to suspect that this crazy widower may in fact be a murderer and they’re transporting a body in the trunk of his car. With the police hot on their trail, Tess isn’t about to let a little murder stand between her and her daughter — no matter how many bodies start piling up.”

 

My Ebook review: this is JC Gatlin’s first offering on KDP as far as I could tell and it is a relatively short ebook at around 93 pages. These two facts tell us that the author is on a mission to make a splash with a fast paced novel. The blurb is accurate and we get straight into the plot from the get-go.

 

The main characters come together seemingly at random and as we go through the pages we learn more about each and importantly learn what we do not know. We know that Tess is on the run and desperate to get to her daughter and any road trip is going to be fraught with tension on the way to get there. Quite how people outside of the car learn about Tess is left to the imagination but this becomes much more than just a simple trip with just one goal.

 

The writing is good and the action is kept up; the plot is intriguing and tension is exciting. Inevitably there is a car chase and inevitably the description of this goes on too long for my taste but that is a minor thing.

 

Did I enjoy it?: Sure, it was a fun read that kept me guessing. It has a good pace and good tension.

 

 

Ebook review: The Alliance by Scott Klug

The storm called Bodil is still passing overhead having shut down the railway yesterday here in Denmark. This gave me a perfect opportunity to sit inside and try to ignore the horizontal hail and howling wind with a book from a first time independent author, albeit one whom by his own admission has perhaps more traction than most.

Publication date 5th May 2013
About the author: “Scott Klug is a former United States Congressman, an Emmy award winning journalist, and a relentless world traveler. A long time student of comparative religion and archaeology.

“Over the last 20 years I’ve visited a number of sites in this book and I knew somewhere in between the dark alleys of Stockholm and an obscure Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka there was a good story lurking. I’ve always contended the occult traditions of major faiths have more in common than most people think. And just maybe there is an alliance of Holy Men of different faiths willing to battle together to put a stop to evil…I never really wanted to be a politician. I always wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up…So welcome to my first novel. Think The Da Vinci Code meets “Indiana Jones.””

From the dust cover: For Father Pete Farrell, it begins with a horrifying phone call. The Archbishop of St. Petersburg is found hung upside down in the world-renowned Hermitage museum with his throat slit in what appears to be a ritual murder. Missing are priceless relics from an international exhibition. Left behind is a cryptic warning written in a mixture of ancient languages.
The one-time Special Forces soldier turned Jesuit Priest knows he can’t solve the crime alone. He cobbles together an unlikely alliance including a Rabbi, Buddhist Monk and Sufi mystic. But what first appears to be a simple case of stolen antiquities is so much more. At the heart of the theft is the malevolent director of a mysterious Russian lab dedicated to harnessing the power of the occult, and his protégé, a demonic Tibetan monk.
The four men of faith come face to face with an ancient evil, and uncover a sinister conspiracy whose tentacles stretch from Stockholm to Singapore. What they confront on a sacred Tibetan mountain shrouded in legend and myth will rattle all of them to their core.
Put The DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones in a blender. The Alliance is a fast- paced page thriller certain to entertain students of world religions, archaeology and adventure. At its heart is a former Green Beret turned Jesuit Priest with an expertise in the black market trafficking of ancient treasures. When you stare down evil, a few prayers can help, but so can a well-aimed sniper rifle.

My Ebook review: there have been quite a few reviews of this book already and usually I would leave it at that, but this was an interesting topic to me and focusing on an independent author whose own story is a little out of the ordinary seemed the right thing to do.
The blurb talks about The DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones and this is a very useful and accurate description. We have the intriguing and somehow semi educational plot line of a Dan Brown story melded with the action packed and half absurd heroics of a Lucas and Spielberg creation. The book is filled with interesting facts and anecdotes about religions and various important individuals; it walks the line of the hidden secrets and lost knowledge, the angry resentments that fuel centuries of unrest both within and between religions. It is also replete with the paranormal and the superhuman. This makes for a potent plot mix.
The characters cover the spectrum and as at least one reviewer has noted it seems at times to be the perfect set up for a joke, but in reality the characters are carefully chosen to carry the plot. The downside is that we are drawn in multiple tangents at times flipping rapidly from place to place. In part this builds tension and in almost equal part it was at times an irritation.
This has the feel of a well researched book. I said that about another tome some while back and was lambasted about historical inaccuracies by an expert in that particular niche time period, but to me what is important is that the historical references deepen the reading experience and drew me into the plot and made me consider that perhaps there was something more to learn about the subject.
Did I like it?: Yes because it hit the correct balance. The heroes did not have it too easy, the villains were not too stupid and there were plenty of genuine surprises in a plot that keeps us guessing. An entertaining page turner.