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Category Archives: Wednesday Book review

Greedy Pigs by Matt Wallace – Review

Title: Greedy Pigs (Sin du Jour #5)

Author: Matt Wallace

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 94.

Synopsis:

The Sin du Jour crew caters to the Shadow Government in Greedy Pigs, Matt Wallace’s fifth Sin du Jour Affair

I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.

Politics is a dirty game. When the team at Sin du Jour accidentally caters a meal for the President of the United States and his entourage, they discover a conspiracy that has been in place since before living memory. Meanwhile, the Shadow Government that oversees the co-existence of the natural and supernatural worlds is under threat from the most unlikely of sources.

It s up to one member of the Sin du Jour staff to prevent war on an unimaginable scale.

Between courses, naturally.

Review:

First Thoughts

 

First I just want to say I love the very concept of chefs and cooks who cater to both humans and supernatural entities. A clandestine operation in the most unexpected setting.

Sin Du Jour is definitely one of my favourite series, it just unfortunate how each novella is so short, and yet it is that very fact that makes the stories work.

This fifth book in the Sin Du Jour series is yet another great piece of writing from the talented Matt Wallace. He keeps the drama and intrigue going with just enough wit to lighten the load while getting the point across. Character growth. Excellent setting. Perfect cliff hanger ending. Looking forward to the next book.

 

Writing

The writing is as crisp and humourous as usual, with a weighty, earnest realism to it. Events from Idle Ingredients continue to escalate when politics came in to play and a massive war creeps to the fore. The staff members are still reeling from the last demonic entity that entrapped them, and the consequences of their actions haunt them.

What I enjoyed most about the writing, is how well the characters are captured. There was growth to the main female character Lena, and a foreshadowing of what is to come. Nikki brings a different perspective to the second female character the novel follows. Both are strong and as similar as they are different. I like both.

The roster of characters balances out well and adds a dynamic experience to reading the novel. We don’t see the whole team this time around, but Bronc the main chef and Darren are suffering more after the last encounter. How all of this will proceed opens up a ton of speculation. And let’s not talk about the big baddie who remains in shadow yet oozes an ominous presence throughout the books.

A couple of recognizable celebrities make cameos, and Matt Wallace doesn’t need to use names to capture their essence. You’ll know immediately when you read them. It’s clever. It’s sneaky. It’s great!

Final Thoughts

Perhaps I was a bit biased when I read the book, considering how well I enjoyed it. I can’t say if I did found anything wrong with the pace, the writing or the characters. I don’t know when the next book will be available, but I hope I get a chance to read that too.

Rating: A gratifying 4 out of 5


What book have you read with a unique setting and character roster? Is there a series out there you enjoyed immensely? What are you currently reading?

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Blood Moon by John David Bethel – Review

Title: Blood Moon

Author: John David Bethel

Genre: Psychological Crime Thriller

Book procurement: I was contacted by the author for an honest review.

Synopsis:

On a hot, steamy afternoon in Miami, Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is brutally beaten and abducted. Handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded, he has no idea why he has been targeted. What he discovers is heart-stopping. What he endures during almost a month of captivity compares only to the most horrendous stories of prisoners of war. He is tortured, and under the threat of death, and worse – the rape of his wife and torture of his children – Suarez is forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors.

Suarez survives and then spends the next few months staying one step ahead of the murderous pack. During this time, he and his lawyer, Nolan Stevens – a former Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI – are having difficulties convincing the Miami-Dade Police Department that a crime has been committed. Their efforts are complicated by Steven’s difficult history with the head of the MDPD Special Investigations Division, who is not interested in pursuing the case.

Review:

First Thoughts

It’s quite difficult to write a review on such a tragic story. To filter past the horrendous events the story tells, to focus on seemingly petty things such as writing style, emotion and general narrative devices used. However all of these combined make for compelling story telling which Blood Moon was not.

Nonetheless, the story begins right into the action. We get a glimpse of the man that is Recidio Suarez. We experience his kidnapping, and his confusion. As the story unfolds, and characters come to light, there was a sense of sickness at the inhumanity his kidnappers were willing to display.

Writing

From a writing perspective, Blood Moon was not thrilling. Not suspenseful. This is due to how close the novel was to the truth. Sitting through the thirty days of a man’s torture is not supposed to be fun or easy or thrilling, and on that merit, Blood Moon is spot on. At the same time, without all the context of “based on a true story”, there isn’t anything gripping about the story. Disturbing, yes, but not engaging.

I did not relate to, or felt moved by Recidio’s perilous situation. The writing was more of a journal than a delve into the frayed mind of a man who is on the brink of losing everything. No internal monologues. No thoughts about “what ifs” or “could haves” or anything that would give us an emotional tie-in during the horror of his experience. Just the gritty day to day of surviving. Not to undermine what he went through, but a little humanity would have made it more digestible.

Humour was thrown in here and there to show how Recidio was working to cope with the fact that he’d been kidnapped and would most likely end up dead. The unlikely friendship forming also broke the monotony. The violence was gruesome, descriptions visceral, and it all made me wonder just how depraved humans can be.

Final Thoughts

While this wasn’t my favourite book to read, it was respectable. I applaud John Bethel for the amount of research and effort he must have put in to write this novel true enough to the actual tragedy. The foreword and afterword put a real perspective on the whole thing. That it’s not just a fictional tale, but a reminder of a tragedy re-written in fictional form.

Rating: A fair 3 out of 5


J. David Bethel is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has been published in popular consumer magazines and respected political journals. He is the author of Evil Town, a novel of political intrigue that is receiving praise from a number of Washington opinion leaders

Facebook: Facebook.com/Inspiredbytruecrime

Amazon: John David Bethel


Have you read any books based on real events? How did that affect you during and after reading? Would you recommend any?

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Rules of the Game – Review

Title: Rules of the Game (Engame #3)

Author: James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Genre: YA/Action

Book procurement: Bought from my new favourite bookstore Estoril Books.

Synopsis:

The revolutionary Endgame trilogy concludes in this explosive finale to the series. One key remains—can the Players find it before the end of the world?

The strongest are left.
One final key remains.
The fate of the world is in their hands.

The world of Endgame is populated by twelve ancient bloodlines. In each line, a Player trains for a catastrophic event that has not yet happened—until the Calling. Once they were called, the Players set off on a journey in search of three ancient keys that will save not just their line, but the world. Two keys have now been found, and the remaining Players must find the final key—before Endgame brings about the ultimate destruction.

Review:

First Thoughts

 

You know there was a point where I literally put the book down, put my head between my knees and shouted obscenities at James Frey and Nils Johnson. Honestly. I was angry because they just… ugh. Anyway.

The story continues where where Sky Key left off, and the approach of Abbadon – the beginning of the end of the world. Once the final player gets all three keys, that’s it. Game over. And Keplar 22b will do anything to ensure that a winner is crowned. Heading into this novel, I was worried about where the story would go. Who would survive. Who would kill who. A lot of drama, flared tempers, one crazy player who is losing their mind, and the entirety of Earth at stake. Still brilliantly written.

Writing

 

The writing flows right through from the first book to the final book. You can’t tell it is written by two authors. We still switch between all the respective players, experiencing their side of the story. It’s so fascinating to know all sides of the story and wanting to yell at the characters in the book who don’t know that they should turn around!! Riveting writing.

The characters were all real to me. Their personalities shone through with each chapter, their motivations clear and relatable. There was still a lot of action. Sometimes I wondered just how intense these teens’ training was that they can so easily fly planes, steal a car in under 5 seconds, pull off headshots from miles away, and still be teens.

Final Thoughts

The ending felt slightly anti-climatic but fair. Well fair in how it ends but not who survives Endgame – okay not fair to me. I’m still upset as you can clearly see haha. I would still recommend this series to everyone who enjoys a good action-adventure, thriller, sci-fi story about ruthless killer teens hoping to win an ancient game set up by Makers who traveled to the Earth ages ago. An interesting blend of religious context and alien conspiracy theories amalgamated into a fantastic series.

Rating: A satisfying 5 out of 5


Have you read the Endgame series? What series have you read and enjoyed and wanted to punch the author for their secret reveals and unexpected deaths? What would you recommend I read next?

 

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Wednesday Book Review: Mapping the Interior

Title: Mapping the Interior

Author: Stephen Graham Jones

Genre: Horror

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 94.

Synopsis:

Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.

Review:

First Thoughts

I came away from this book feeling deeply troubled in a way that only good horror stories can manage. It’s not just about the innocence of young Junior during the whole narration, but his naivety that only makes things worse. As a Native American, moving into an obscure neighbourhood, there are a number of challenges they already have to face.  Let alone a mother hoping to raise two boys after their father dies mysteriously at the reservation. And Juniors little brother already has his own learning problems.

And that ending though, gee I was not expecting that. Troubled indeed.

Writing

The writing is fast paced. Moving between the scenes with clarity and a touch of mystery. Told from the perspective of an older Junior, we see just how traumatic his childhood was, following the dark silhouette of his dead father disappearing through a doorway. The desperation of a child hoping to reconnect with his father, regardless of the monster he may have become. It is melancholic woe pushing this story forward.

 

At the same time, there are a number of horrific episodes that occur. I loved it! I mean… you know… its horror. How Junior is driven by hope through all of these numerous episodes is in itself naive and just sad. Yet brings a realism that I could relate to.

There are a number of characters who appear alongside Junior. His brother has a learning disability that makes him the target of bullies. Junior’s mother is struggling to rebuild her life, as her kids always come first. Junior himself sees his role as both big brother and man of the house. It’s a story of broken people in a broken world.

Final Thoughts

While I may classify this book as a horror, it reminds me of the Stephen King sort of horror. Where the story is not about the evil entity roused from an Indian burial ground (Classic King ain’t it?) but a story about the people who have to deal with it. It’s a story about Junior, and his brother, his mother, and the community. And it’s a great read.

Rating: A melancholic 4 out of 5


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Wednesday Book Review: Endgame – Sky Key

Title: Sky Key – An Endgame Novel #2

Author: James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Genre: YA / Action

Book procurement: Bought from my new favourite bookstore Estoril Books.

Synopsis:

Endgame is here. Earth Key has been found. Two keys—and nine Players—remain. The keys must be found, and only one Player can win.

Queens, New York. Aisling Kopp believes the unthinkable: that Endgame can be stopped. But before she can get home to regroup, she is approached by the CIA. They know about Endgame. And they have their own ideas about how it should be Played. Ideas that could change everything.

Kingdom of Aksum, Ethiopia. Hilal ibn Isa al-Salt narrowly survived an attack that leaves him horribly disfigured. He now knows something the other Players do not. But the Aksumites have a secret that is unique to their line. A secret that can help redeem humanity—and maybe even be used to help defeat the beings behind Endgame.

London, England. Sarah Alopay has found the first key. She is with Jago—and they are winning.But getting Earth Key has come at a great cost to Sarah. The only thing that keeps the demons at bay is Playing. Playing to win.

Sky Key—wherever it is, whatever it is—is next. And the nine remaining Players will stop at nothing to get it.

Review:

First Thoughts

Well what can I say, I loved the first book. It was riveting and action packed and those players were ruthless. Some were human to a good degree. Others were monsters. This second book continues the ongoing saga to save humanity from Endgame… but the rules are changing. It’s amazing to see how at one point everyone was moving in one direction and then suddenly they are moving in a different direction. It’s brilliant.

Writing

Nothing has changed from the initial book in terms of writing. We switch between the remaining Players as they seek out Sky Key, the second of three keys that are supposed to save their line from Endgame – a world ending cataclsymic event.

Every character is unique. They have their own quirks that make them not only the best Players, but the best of who they each are as Players. Assassins. Snipers. Fighters. They are not only resourceful, but they are mentally amazing. I could never think, react or even manage to survive like they do. And the writing switching between the characters allows you to see from their own perspectives. There were times when I was freaking out because Player A knew Player B was approaching and Player B didn’t know! I was reading as fast as I could to get to the encounters! I almost cried at one point.

It’s interesting to see how some of the Players have changed during the course of the game. Moving from determined killer to compassionate killer. Other’s spiraling head first into pure psychotic behaviour. It’s brilliant.

Final Thoughts

Although I feel the ending is somewhat anti-climatic, it was a fair ending. A good ending. A proper ending. The first few hundred pages of the book I’m just trying to see where everyone is going. We as the readers know where Sky Key is and just waiting to see when everyone else will catch up. Then it’s a whole new game and I’m just trying to root for one of the Players but I have no idea who. I don’t even know whether I want them to find Sky Key after all or not. It was emotional in every sense.

Rating: An emotional 5 out of 5


You can find my review of the first book here: Endgame: The Calling.

If you have read the books, let me know what you thought. If you’re looking to get the books, ask me about them. No spoilers I promise.

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Wednesday Book Review: Tales of Wonder

Title: Tales of Wonder

Author: E.M. Swift-Hook, Jessica Holmes, Leo McBride, Matthew Harvey, Rob Edwards, Brent A. Harris, Terri Pray, Jeff Provine, Ricardo Victoria.

Genre: Science Fantasy

Book procurement: Received from Inklings Press for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Science Fantasy is the collision of science fiction and fantasy – where the impossible and the improbable come together. This is a universe of spaceships and sorcery, of mechanics and magic, where zeppelins soar through the ether and conjurers stalk dark tunnels with a ball of light in their fist. So cut loose, let slip the mooring ropes on your imagination, and join these nine authors as they set course for the horizon – and beyond.

Nine tales of science. Nine tales of fantasy. Nine tales to make you wonder.

Review:

First Thoughts

Ah Inklings Press. Quite literally my favourite publishers right now. The talent they have “harvested” to compile their anthologies is just brilliant and once again I find myself treated to amazing stories.

From the first story The Lair of the Thunderlord, right through, I fell more and more in love with this Science Fantasy genre. This intermingling of science fiction and fantasy, where magic and science coalesce with fascinating characters to enrich the stories told. Just brilliant.

Stories and Writing

 

A total of nine stories make up Tales of Wonder. I usually don’t dig through each short in anthologies for a review, but I think this anthology deserves proper in-depth reviewing:

The Lair of the Thunderlord by Rob Edwards

The crew of the Acumen are suddenly pulled from the dark recess of space, and onto a planet they shouldn’t be on. They are a “scout” ship afterall. The crash leaves them unprotected, and the magic they carry doesn’t work quite right. Martins is the ship’s Documenter, and for the first time gets to experience life on another planet. But things don’t go as planned and… well you’ll have to read the rest to know.

Really solid character work, and… chickens. Yep you heard that right. It’s brilliantly told, and it all culminates shockingly as the in the end.

Changeling Child by E.M. Swift-Hook

It begins with a nursery rhyme. If you know anything about nursery rhymes then you can guess that they are not as playful and innocent as they seem. And neither is Changeling Child.

What I loved most is the innocence of young Tani, who finds herself in quite a predicament and remembers the nursery rhyme as her guide. That link between the unfolding story, the rhyme, and Tani is pieced together really well.

Kaana by Ricardo Victoria

When one thinks of terraforming, they think of massive alien ships hovering over the skyline drilling through the Earth’s core, changing it for suitable environments. One might also think of gargantuan parasitic lifeforms tethered from space onto Earth and rearranging the atmosphere to suit the new hosts. One does not think of a humanoid creature uttering incomprehensible words (spells? wink wink nudge nudge) to coax life out of barren patches of land. I was already sold.

And then, of course, things begin to unravel that shed more light on this multi-racial planet and it’s custodian mages in the form of… giant robots? Adding that dash of science fiction to the fantastical world was a great touch. The magic is so unique. I hope Ricardo turns this into a proper novel. It definitely has that potential after that ending.

An Honest Trader by Jessica Holmes

This was an interesting one. Captain Prikos sails the skies on a ship that also sails the seas. It’s clever. Of course it doesn’t end there, and this rather short, short story has rich world building, fascinating technology, and an ending that begs for more.

Sedna’s Hair by Jeff Provine

One always wonders just how true myths and folklore are. Whether a superstitious belief has some semblance of truth or if it’s all just hogwash. Sedna’s Hair finds ship Inuit crew members on a routine swing around a blackhole. Their artificially intelligent captain urges the crew member to explain a long held tradition for the new crew member; the story of Sedna, a rather gruesome tale I might add. I can’t say much without ruining the story… you’ll have to read it to enjoy what happens next.

A Twist in Time by Brent A Harris

Okay so you don’t have to read far to see the correlation between Oliver Twist and this short story. But things aren’t about an orphan reduced to being a thief. No. Oliver steals a pocketwatch from a mystrious man only to find it is no ordinary watch. The man is no ordinary man. The adventure he is dragged in to… is no ordinary adventure.

There might be a nod at “the Doctor” in this story but as Brent A Harris so cryptically said to me, “I can neither confirm nor deny. Afterall, it’s all timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly stuff.” Well played sir. Well played.

A Very Improper Adventure by Matthew Harvey

I’m writing a Steampunk novel at the moment, so when I started reading this short story… well you can imagine I may have swooned a little. Lady Madeleine Bierce is an upstanding woman in her community. Sharp of tongue. No nonsense type. Her daughter Lady Lillian Bierce – not so much. An engineer at heart, with an adventurous soul, hopes to explain why her dress is in disarray. Her explanation sparks quite an adventure atop an airship.

There’s just so much to applaud here. The writing style. The dictation. The pacing. The world building. The action. Or maybe I’m just biased haha.

Grace by Terri Pray

He is a code monkey. A programmer. The greatest of his time. His life is his work and his work is his life. Until the “delicate woman with an elegance that matched her name, Grace,” walked into his life. The story takes place on a distant planet, where the genius programmer lives in solitude to focus on his work, save for the servant-cum-guard who watches over him. Only none are like Grace. None at all.

You know it’s good writing when you begin to feel what the character feels. When you are moved by them. With them. Grace is an enchanting tale that is more than just Science Fantasy.

The Last Sorceror by Leo Mcbride

Oi what riveting good stuff here of magic vs technology; either one cannot exist around the other. All set in London where technology has slowly prevailed over magic to the point where magic is almost out of existence. Eli and Maggie are on the run from Techquisitors – enforcers who are hell bent on eradicating all sorcerors.

It feels much like The Sorceror’s Apprentice but set in a future where magic is banned. Eli has appointed Maggie as his own apprentice but Eli has never used magic in fourteen years. His vow. And his burden to guard Maggie. Fast paced. Witty. Intense. Leo Mcbride writes a story right out of the top drawer, and ends the anthology on a high note.

Final Thoughts

The one thing I dislike about anthologies, is the fact that you only get a glimpse of the bigger picture. Of the full story. Of the potentially immersive world. However, there is no doubt that this collection of short stories is worth a read. I implore you to get yourself a copy and let your imagination loose for just a smidge, and enjoy some Tales of Wonder.

Rating: A wonderful 5 out of 5


Also, a shout out to my dear friend and Folklore/Myhthology guru Carin Marais and her interview today on The Folklore Podcast. You can listen on iTunes or on their website: thefolklorepodcast.com

Wednesday Book Review: My Abigail

Title: My Abigail

Author: David Kummer

Genre: Thriller

Book procurement: Received from the author for an honest review.

Synopsis:

In this gripping, terrifying read, Caleb meets the girl of his dreams. She’s different, beautiful, and cares more than anyone ever has. But Abigail isn’t who he thinks.

He begins to notice things. The way she disappears for days on end… How she won’t go home at night… All the warnings he gets about her… He must ask himself, Who is she really?

When Caleb is faced the choice of a lifetime -to love or to hate, to give in and try again- he must make the ultimate decision. Who will he hurt? What will he choose? And is it too late to turn back now?

…Abigail had a secret.
I knew it soon after meeting her.
She was different than other girls, and not just because she actually showed some interest in me. She was really different. I loved it. I loved her.
But Abigail had a secret.
Damian told me so, the first time I met him. I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not. He wasn’t trustworthy. He wasn’t nice. He was a terrifying figure, the embodiment of fear. But he was right.
She had a secret.
I’m sorry I keep repeating it. It’s still hard to believe. How could somebody so gentle, nice, and loving be so… scary?
That’s the only word I knew to describe her after it all ended. Everything about her being was scary.
Abigail was my life, I told myself. She was my everything.
She left me with nothing.
If she was my life, does that make this suicide?…

Review:

First Thoughts

My Abigail started strong. The main character Caleb is a bullied young man who seems to be very reserved and quiet. He has no friends. He keeps to himself. That’s the sort of character I thought he was. Then in comes the mysterious Abigail, a girl who actually likes him and they become friends. He also meets another quiet, reserved boy Xavier and befriends him too. It all seems to be going relatively well and then Abigail simply vanishes for days. Xavier also tends to just disappear. Then he meets the very weird, and exceptionally creepy Damian. He has has a secret about Abigail that Caleb may not want to here.

Story

It’s very difficult to place the story. It’s a thriller with some elements of horror that aren’t really horror and more dramatic abnormalities. Caleb is the main character who begins to unravel the secrets behind his two new friends Abigail and Xavier, while trying to figure out who Damian is, what his ties are with the other two, and why he gets the creeps when around him.

I must admit I was not expecting the truth that came out. Completely threw me off. Rocked my boat, and because of that particular aspect, I enjoyed My Abigail more than I would have. It’s hauntingly tragic, and the ending is just heartbreaking, even though it feels a bit rushed.

Writing

The writing itself wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It flowed well, and progressed steadily. You get a real sense of who Caleb is, and the drama that surrounds him. My main issue was regarding the characters, and how the adults act more like teenagers than adults (even the psychologist) which was a little off putting. Caleb, who also seemed very reserved is suddenly shouting at parents and then there’s a scene that was so out of character, (and written weirdly) that I had to re-read it.

Final Thoughts

There is so much potential in this story, and with a little more work on the characterisation it would be even better. A wonderful story overall nonetheless.

Rating: A budding 3 out of 5


Hi. My name is David Kummer. I’m an author that’s only in high school and so I’m still learning and growing (I’m not Caillou, so sorry if that sounded like it) and figuring out how to become a better author.

If you’d like to know about my releases or promotions as soon as they happen, go here:

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I live in Madison, Indiana, which is a small town on the Ohio River. There’s lots of history and creepy places, which probably have influenced my writings. In my book SHE, most of the places and buildings are based off similar settings here in my home town, although I’ve changed them so that you wouldn’t know really if I didn’t tell you.

Wednesday Book Review: Environmentally Friendly + The Praying Nun

I’ll be reviewing two short books for today. Support indie authors!


environmentally-friendly

Title: Environmentally Friendly

Author: Elias Zanbaka

Genre: Thriller

Book procurement: Author contacted me for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Out of seven billion people, one man has declared war on Mother Nature and plans to bring it to its knees.

Out of all the criminals in Los Angeles, he’s the number one target being hunted by the LAPD tonight.

And out of the entire LAPD, one officer is hell-bent on helping him complete his mission.

Review:

Story

Schaefer is an officer with intention. While a mad man wreaks havoc upon mother nature, Schaefer hopes to control the chaotic situation regardless of the hazard it is to himself. While the flamethrower-handling, chainsaw doting maniac rages against the world, Schaefer puts in motion an act of redemption.

Writing

A really short but brilliantly written piece. You really get a sense of the mood and setting, slowly unraveled to reveal a rather clever ploy in the end. The characters are realistic and believable, while the action keeps the story moving forward swiftly. Albeit short, Elias Zanbaka does a brilliant job nonetheless and I can only hope for more from this self-published author.

Rating: A decent 4 out of 5

 


the-praying-nun

Title: The Praying Nuns

Author: Michael Smorenburg

Genre: Thriller

Book procurement: Author contacted me for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Based on Facts – “The Praying Nun” is a 2-part novella that details the first attempts to identify an unidentified shipwreck from cannonball, cannons & artifacts found just behind the waves of one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

In 2015 the Smithsonian institute identified that wreck as the only slave shipwreck ever found. She went down in 1794 – half of the 400 slaves chained in her holds were drowned – and the other half who were ‘saved’ were sold 2 days later on the block.

Review:

Story

The novella is broken into two sections. The first is a memoir of sorts where Michael and Jacques (not his real name) dive along the coasts of Cape Town, South Africa, specifically at Camps Bay and the surrounding beaches. They find a wreckage that may have been carrying bullion, a possible sunken ship carrying treasure that has been dismissed as a coal barge. However Michael has his own little treasure he hopes to uncover, buried deep in the reef.

The second part of the novella is a fictionalized telling of the floundering of the São José de Afrika on the reef of 2nd Beach in Clifton. It follows the slave Chikunda and his wife. They are newly wed, and experience the harsh life of being slaves on the ship. As a wedding gift, Chikunda had whittled ivory into the shape of his wife as a Nun, a praying nun. When the ship crashes, they hope to escape from their owners and Chikunda’s wife hopes to salvage her ivory gift but knows she cannot and drop it into the waters.

Writing

This is one of my favourite works by Michael. The first part anyway. It’s written with in-depth details that speak of a true first-hand experience. His account as the second person to ever dive the São José, is a rich comprehensive unfolding of his real life discovery of a Praying Nun statuette. A similar one to the rock feature located on the beach of Maidens Cove. The description put me right there in the water with Mike and Jacques, allowing me to experience the frustrations of the changing tides, and to feel the apprehension of making a major discovery. Really fantastic writing.

A riveting read I swept through in one sitting.

Rating: A compelling 4 out of 5


Have you read an indie authors lately?

Mystery Thriller Week: Book Review – LifeGames Corporation

lifegamescorporation

Title: LifeGames Corporation

Author: Michael Smorenburg

Genre: Thriller

Book procurement: Received from the author for an honest review, and also for Mystery Thriller Week.

Synopsis:

Da Vinci Code—meets Paranormal Activity—meets The Matrix.

Ad-agency boss Catherine Kaplan is a danger junkie. Bold and brave, she’s cornered the juiciest prize in the global arena, a LifeGames Corporation contract. But now it’s time to pay the price—a dare to cross the forbidden line. There’s a deal sweetener of course—give a little… and enjoy some intriguing secrets.

The first… Artificial Intelligence runs the LifeGames operation. Key to the success is an automated hypnosis sequence that suppresses each subject’s mind, convincing them that the immersive Virtual Reality crisis they’re about to experience is reality. The training technique has been fabulously profitable, allowing company founder Kenneth Torrington to indulge his every perverse fantasy.

Governments, militaries and business are so reliant on LifeGames that it is said to control mankind’s future. Yet, nobody has realized—a door has opened and a character of unfathomable capacity and unknown motives is looking back, pondering the next move.

Review:

First Thoughts

Michael and I have sort of a history after I reviewed his novel The S.K.A at Carnarvon – A Trojan Affair. It was a great novel that touched on the very personal topic of religion. So here I was, reading LifeGames with that backdrop, and to my shock and awe the story spins in a completely different direction. Well almost haha, there is still a couple of shots to religion but this isn’t about that. Also, a couple of things from the previous novel that had been of a minor annoyance were addressed in how LifeGames was written and all in all, made for a really great thriller. Michael Smorenburg is climbing up my list of favourite authors.

Story

Virtual Reality is an amazing technology. One which has been on the forefront of human development and hopeful expectancy – to be fully immersed in a different world that looks and feels real is something we all want to exprience. We see it in the anime Sword Art Online, .Hack/Sign, Log Horizon, in movies like Surrogates, Total Recall, Gamer, and of course current technology is getting closer with the Playstation VR, Occulus, Samsung Gear and others. What Michael Smorenburg wrote in LifeGames, and the virtual reality system built is just next level stuff.

We follow Kenneth Torrington, founder and CEO of LifeGames Corporation. He is a pig, a male chauvinist, a manipulative, self-entitled man who only has money and power at the forefront of his ambitions. He has built LifeGames from a number of shady dealings and has wrought immense success. The governments of the world use the Virtual Reality simulation to train individuals. Lawyers, Doctors, Military personnel, and all sorts of people in power are fully immersed in a simulation of real life events that is so realistic, it actually helps prepare them for their job roles. Years of training condescened into mere days or weeks. The technology is brilliant, but of course with great power comes great responsibility.

Catherine Kaplan is a PR who has landed LifeGames as her biggest client ever. She’s a strong woman, bold and daring, but unaware of the dark secrets behind LifeGames and the sweet-talking Ken Torrington. She’s unaware of how close she is to the fire until it’s too late and she’s psychologically, and spiritually, thrown into the deep end. Something sinister lies deep within the system. No one knows what (or whom), and the truth of it will send a chill up your spine.

It’s more than just a story about the repercussions of technology, but perhaps a delve into horror?

Writing

The writing is good. Slightly disjointed at times when switching between the different characters but otherwise it flows really well. A few shocking moments keep the story engaging. The characters are written amazingly well, with unique quirks of their own. I had an enjoyable time reading through the novel.

Final Thoughts

Okay so I wasn’t expecting that end. It seemed to be hinting at one thing, then knocking it out for something else, then twisting it to something else again, then a cliffhanger ending to wrap it all up. I was completely thrown.

As a side note, my previous discussions with author Michael Smorenburg allowed me to glean insights that perhaps someone else would have missed. For example, the heavy skepticism is continuously bashing against the very idea of the supernatural, and the concept of God and how religion is borne, is given logical reasoning while there’s quite a bit of decent Christian philosophy too. I found it quite interesting.

Rating: A solid 4 out of 5


Michael Smorenbug

Michael Smorenburg (b. 1964) grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. An entrepreneur with a passion for marketing, in 1995 Michael moved to California where he founded a business consultancy and online media and marketing engine. In 2003 he returned to South Africa where he launched then sold a security company. He now operates a property management company and writes full time.

Michael’s greatest love is for the ocean and the environment. His passion is science, understanding the cosmos, and communicating the urgent need for reason to prevail over superstition.

Website: MichaelSmorenburg.com

Goodreads: Michael Smorenburg

Twitter: @SmorieTheWriter

Amazon: Michael Smorenburg

Wednesday Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures

the-mammoth-book-of-steampunk-adventures

Title: The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures

Author: Multiple authors – Edited by Sean Wallace

Genre: Steampunk

Book procurement: Bought the book at the now defunct Exclusive Books The Glen.

Synopsis:

Looking to the future through the lens of the past, here is a second fantastic collection of over 30 typically anarchic mash-ups that push the boundaries of steampunk from the same editor of the bestselling Mammoth Book of Steampunk.

Review:

First Thoughts

I picked this up while I was writing my first Steampunk novel, hoping to get a glimpse into his mysterious world of amazing steam and clockwork powered inventions, and alternate universes where electricity was obsolete. I was hoping for grandiose descriptions, compelling characters, incredible machines, fantastical worlds, and grungy, sooty Victorian-Era stories. What I got was a little bit of that, but mostly it was other genres set in a steampunk world where you don’t see much of the steam. It wasn’t the greatest anthology but it was just enough. Just.

Story

There were 30 stories in this anthology, and not all of them were great, which is why I’ve been reading this book for over a year now. Haha *looks away guiltily* Some of the stories I ate up like a good double bacon and egg burger, and other’s I chewed over like overcooked steak. Here were a few that stood out:

Tanglefoot – Cheri Priest

Harry and Marlowe and the Talisman of the Cult of Egil

Edison’s Frankenstein – Chris Robertson

Green Eyed Monsters in the Valley of Sky, An Opera

The Clockworks of Hanyang – Gord Sellar

I Stole the DC’s Eyeglass – Sofia Samatar

The Collier’s Venus – Caitlin R. Kiernan

Final Thoughts

Eh I wasn’t severely impressed. A few stories were tantalizing only to end abruptly, while other’s dragged on forever and they weren’t the most compelling. I got a sense of the Steampunk genre but not enough to fall in love with it as I had expected. I think I’ll have to read a proper novel next.

Rating: A meh 3 out of 5

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