Review of The Manipulator - by Steve Lundin

I gave this book 4 of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads!

Joe Vance is an addict, mildly psychopathic, and is the country’s best advertiser, a modern day Draper. As the novel begins, Vance is struggling to regain the pinnacle of fame and fortune in his industry after falling from grace and forced out of New York. He chooses to go big and talks a new company into using his ideas to launch their TV Network, MVN. Based around controversy, his idea is to use a weight loss show Some Will Die, as the flame to ignite the countries loyalty to MVN. The premise of the show is similar to other weight loss shows, but in an attempt to fill the gap that violence in football (now tamed down) has left, there is the real possibility of death on the show due to the short timeframe and lofty goals. Armed with financing and the support of his staff, Vance launches into a whirlwind of hijinks that take him across and even outside the country. The characters he meets and does business along the way are colorful and multidimensional. The Hulking Russian thug who is brought on to “curate” the obese contestants has a personal stake in the success. A very recent former subordinate of Vance’s does everything in his power to bring down Vance’s plans for MVN. An old and buried politician sees the possibility to once more bask in the limelight and begins an operation that will ensure he returns.

Vance is a character I loved to despise. Ultimately though, I began to appreciate his conniving and ever intensifying ability to create success.

The novel is a satirical look at the dark world of advertising and the length people will go to succeed. It is not the type of book I usually read but I was intrigued throughout and am glad I tried it. The writing was excellent and strong. The only gripe I had early on was the sudden shifting of scenes and characters that confused me a bit, but once I learned the characters it was fluid and enjoyable. The novel is not for young readers as it has drug, alcohol, and some sexual references.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel and recommend it to anyone who wants a glimpse at the underbelly of the advertising world from an author who has worked in journalism for 20 years and who wants to go on a fast and mind-bending ride. The writing style and tone and the engaging characters connected with me (and repulsed me) and I look forward to more from Steve Lundin.   

The Reviewer's Novels

Review of The Mediator Pattern - by J.D. Lee

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and 3 (3.5) on Goodreads!

Marcus Metiline is a Patent Mediator pulled into a spiraling dispute and sequence of events connected with the man that holds nearly complete power over the region. After receiving a request to meet with this power broker, Colin Belis, Marcus goes through his daily routine on his way to the meeting. Nothing about his experience inside the Belis Co. complex is routine. He is put through mind altering and disturbing processes in route to the meeting and his conversation with Colin is as odd if not worse. He is asked to meet with someone who has placed a patent that conflicts with Belis holdings and once he meets with the man, a Dr. Avant, he is told that all he knows is a fabrication and a lie instituted by Colin and the Belis Co. The story progresses through myriad “retries” if you will, as each characters present, past and future merge in confusing and sometimes intriguing ways. You never truly understand who is good or bad and what the actual mission is that Marcus has undertaken until the end (though it was worth the wait). Without spoiling the end, I can say that it wraps up the confusion well and very nearly to complete satisfaction.

The writing was solid though I nearly put it down after the first chapter due to the emphasis on using long descriptions for every little action. I like writing that leaves some gaps for my imagination to fill in and get annoyed when too much is being explained. (See my blog post on the topic) Most readers will probably not mind and I am not saying there were no well constructed descriptions and it got much more streamlined the further I progressed through the story. The main thing I had against the novel was the complicated and convoluted story line. I never felt invested in one character as it not only switched between them so quickly and abruptly, but also between different characters (with more info or experience based on time and place) within the same people.

I am truly glad I stuck with the novel. The ending of the novel was its saving grace and makes me able to recommend this book to anyone who likes to think through a book and able to wait to find out large amounts of information. I recommend reading the book, as its rather short, in as few sessions as possible to keep track of what is going on. I feel like if the novel had been a short story instead it would have been one of my favorites in the Sci-Fi genre. There was just a little too much confusion throughout to completely enjoy it but I am now planning to invest some time to read J.D. Lee’s short fiction. He has a collection of short stories and flash fiction, The Future Next Door (We turn Back Toward Tomorrow Book 1) on amazon.

The Reviewer's Novels

Review of Kill It with Magic - by Jason Cipriano

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads!

Lillim Callina is a Dioscuri who has lived through several lifetimes due to reincarnation. She has recently run from her past and all her kind are responsible for: the protection of humanity from the demons, vampires, werewolves, and other baddies that roam the earth. Her peace is soon shattered and is thrown (quite literally at times) from conflict to battle to conflict in her journey to find and destroy an enemy of immense power. Along the way, she bumps into old friends and new acquaintances as she forges towards her ever-evolving goals.

Some of the old friends are more than what they seem and the twists and turns are entertaining and keep the reader invested in turning pages. The writing was very well done and the tone was just about perfect with the balance of humor.

I had a couple minor complaints. The main one was the lack of interaction between the regular humans and the mostly unseen alternate reality that Lillim lived in. It would have been interesting to see a bit more but not a big deal. The overall pace of the book was almost (but not) too much, there was hardly any time to breathe and see the world through any lens but that of the protagonist fighting. Then there were some minor spelling mistakes that did not pull me from the story enough to be a problem.

Overall, Kill It with Magic was an entertaining whirlwind of humor and chaotic battles set in excellently described surroundings. It was one of those books that are hard to put down due to furious pace and strong, immersive writing. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Urban Fantasy and want a breath of fresh air by way of adding humor to a dark world. It was a very entertaining book to read and I look forward to more from Jason Cipriano!

The Reviewer's Novels:

Review of The Empyrean Key - by J.L. Tomlinson

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and 3.5 on Goodreads! 

Jahna Mornglow is a Narcean, one with the power to see the world around them in a different way and see the future, though she does not yet know the extent of her abilities. She is raised in a small and secluded town and has little knowledge of her kind as her mother refuses to enlighten her. Her days are filled with time spent with her close friends, a loud and large barmaid and a self-made scholar and nerd and she has taken to using the little power under her control to con money from people to fund an escape from the small town and adventure with her friends to the capital city.

The larger world is under threat. The king lies dying and with him the light and hope of the world. The constant threat from a neighboring land is held at bay but the strength of the mighty army is dwindling. It has been decided, against tradition that the king’s daughter is to replace him on the throne, but if that happens, disaster will come quickly.

Through a series of events, Jahna finds out she is the only one that can change the course of history but she must go on a quest to forge the Key and prove her worth. At first she shies away from that path, only when the town is attacked and she loses someone dear, does she decide to venture from all that she has known in search of her newly discovered birthright. I will stop there to let you, the reader; find out more of the living world the author has created.

Of the issues I had with this book, number one was the length. The first 45% seemed like an intro that could have been tied up in a couple chapters. Then there was the slightly jarring transition from the protagonist’s story to the larger royal storyline that, while important and truly great to get into, pulled you away from Jahna for a chapter or two too long. The minor issues were a number of spelling mistakes and/or missing words but they did not take away from the overall writing. Another small gripe I had was the portrayal of the main characters, especially the young women. I believe they are meant to be mid to late teens in a medieval type setting (when to be 14-16 was to be an adult), but they were written as if they were younger and more immature. There seemed to be a little too much of the current and real world in the interaction between daughter and mother, etc. and between the three friends; a slight lack of depth early on, though it improved later on.

The cover is decent, based on the layout it seems more like a video game cover than a novel, but it works.

Of the characters in the first half, I wanted to know more about Mogrim and the fighting he and his brothers were involved in and the little you see of him open up about his experience was tempting but never went anywhere. I also liked the Narcean seer, Friziel, and the three cousin lords and felt a stronger urge to read more content about them than the main protagonist. The storyline that involved the royal family etc. was interesting and had the right amount of intrigue and depth to keep me coming back and needing more. 

Once the story got rolling about halfway through the book with an attack on Jahna’s town it began to flow much better. The quest to find the secrets to save the world began and was generally strong and interesting and kept me entertained throughout. The battle scenes were decently done and flowed well and there was enough going on to keep me wondering what would happen next.

Bottom line, if the novel had been a bit shorter, I believe I would have really enjoyed it. While the writing could have been a little tighter and dialog more fitting of the setting/place, it was generally very well done. This is a great read for those readers that like to get to know a character outside of a greater storyline, to walk with them through their daily life before it is overturned by events and to see them change little by little in the chaos that ensues. I encourage younger readers to pick this up and get a taste of what J.L. Tomlinson has to offer. 

The Reviewer's Novels:

Review of Indomitable - by J. B. Garner

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads!

Irene Roman is a scientific researcher who is working to create medical devices. The novel begins with her discovery of the theft of her newest prototype on the eve of presenting it to the Dean of the program. The discovery of the man that stole the device causes her world to implode. The man she had trusted most in recent past had been using her to further his goals. Irene quickly hunts him (Eric) down and confronts him even as the last minute of a strange and reality-changing experiment is ongoing. Unable to talk Eric away from continuing, the experiment finalizes in an explosion of piercing light that covers the world. When Irene wakes in her own bed with several wounds cared for she soon realizes the world has fundamentally changed. Somehow, at a reality level, the make-up of humans has changed. A small percentage of the population, called “pushed” has also gained superhuman abilities. Eric returns and tells Irene why he has done what he did, to gain the power necessary to do what a normal human could not (I will keep the secret).  

There is fallout between the two as the changes the new power wrought in Eric and the betrayal that Irene feels pulls them apart until they are ultimately at odds. Now she must, along with the aid of a few friendly “pushed” and a couple government agents find a way to stop the impending escalation of violence and the ending of the world as they know it. Irene must take on the trappings of a superhero and become the nemesis of Eric's super self and use what she has discovered that may be the means to counter the power of the “pushed”.

J. B. Garner’s novel reads similar to a Clive Cussler novel with elements of the TV show Heroes, Avengers, and X-Men thrown in. It is a fast-paced story and is a good length, 177 Pages, which kept my attention and had me wanting to know what Irene and Company would get into next. The inner war that Irene fought with her rational self was well done and framed her actions as more plausible in light of a supernatural event. The cover was also well done, with a style that fit the genre.

The major issues I had early on in the novel were taken care of as I kept reading as gaps began to be filled in an organic manner. The minor issues were some spelling mistakes and somewhat excessive use of commas but this did not pull me from the story enough to be a problem. I do not read many superhero type books or comics so the use of comic books and costumes were a bit cliche for me.

Overall, Indomitable was a different take on a mutant/superhero tale, refreshing with a hint of nostalgia. I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys super hero stories/comics, well-written adventures set in the real world, and those who enjoy a strong female protagonist. 

See more about this author at his website.

The Reviewer's Novels:

Review of The Sword of Shannara - by Terry Brooks

I gave this novel 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads!

Terry Brooks first Shannara Novel is in my top ten books of all time. I have read it at least 8 times. The story is classic High Fantasy with unprepared heroes thrust into war and chaos with little guidance. Their journey, not only through the wonderful world Terry Brooks weaves, but also through the personal growth of the characters, is amazingly enjoyable. Of all the Shannara books I have read, I always have the foundation of this novel to fall back on to refresh the love I have of the many trilogies. I remember waiting each year for the next book and eagerly anticipate the next installments!

See more about the author at his website here.

Review of The Suicide Squad - by T.J. Waters

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and 3 (3.5) on Goodreads!

The Suicide Squad starts with a bang and continuously reads like a Borne movie. While the action was good and descriptive and the case work interesting, my favorite part was learning the background of the struggles of power in Ecuador. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good quick picture into the world of spies that will leave you looking for book of the series!

See more about this author at his website here.

Review of The Rage Within - by B.R. Crichton

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and 3 (3.5) on Goodreads!

The Rage Within is a book full of unique creatures and the main character's (Kellan) "flaw" is intriguing. The story was a good one that kept my attention throughout. While some cliches were in play regarding main characters, the brooding protagonist, the great and selfless friend, and a band of comic and harsh misfits they were done well and did not distract from the enjoyment. 

Some of the enemies were very well done and I enjoyed many of the fight scenes. The only true negative, other than the minor typos here and there, was the story flow. The book's chapter flow between the Kellan of now and the Kellan as a child and his journey to adulthood. While the idea was good, to have two timelines that converge over time, it was a bit confusing at times.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would definitely read more from the author. I recommend to fantasy readers that like detail, a strong story path, and a likable but dark protagonist.

See more about this author at his website here.

Review of A Game of Thrones - by George R.R. Martin

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads!

While it was very difficult to get into due to the crazy amount of characters and information thrown at you in the beginning, the book was very good and kept me riveted the whole time. The only parts that pulled me out of the immensely enjoyable and complicated story was the r-rated comments and scenes. Without those this book would have been one of my all-time favorites.

Even so, it has pulled me into the world of R.R. Martin and leaves me wanting, no, needing more.

See more about the author at his website here.

Review of The High Druid's Blade - by Terry Brooks

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads.

As a lover of all things Terry Brooks (minus the High Druid Series) I was excited to sink my teeth into another series from the Author. Sadly, I did not once feel any investment in the basic storyline. I am used to the more sweeping epics Brooks captivated me with in the past, and this reads like a simple and generic tale of a Young Man discovering a power and becoming a part of something larger, though not world spanning by any means.

Even the cadence of writing and the quality seemed to be for the younger reader, and maybe that was the point, to draw in new readers at a younger age. Though if that was the case, then the parts with the horrendous acts of brutality against the protagonists sister do not fit the target age.

I may or may not read the next in the Defenders series but my love for the old Shannara and Magic Kingdom for Sale books will always remain.

See more about the author at his website here.