Saturday, 28 February 2015

Release day review - What Lies Between by Charlena Miller

'What Lies Between' by Charlena Miller follows Ellie Jameson, a young woman who has recently inherited an estate in Scotland. Filled with an unexpected grief over the loss of a father she barely knew, Ellie sets about finishing the renovations to her family's home. Just as the grief, the love she finds in the Highlands comes as a surprise; it's not just love and trust she finds in a handsome Scotsman, but love for a land she never knew was hers. Her love for her home.
There are few novels that are beautiful. 'What Lies Between' is one of them. At first it follows the typical storyline of most romance movies and novels, but it soon became apparent there was so much more than a simple romance novel. Each relationship has a special focus, even the one between Ellie and Jazz, the border collie. Never has there been a more beautiful description of someone fully opening themselves to another, discovering a new part of their inner self. The love that develops between Ellie and Ben feels so natural. They don't fall in love overnight, and that realism is part of what makes this novel so good.
As few as they are, I must still mention the flaws. The biggest: no reference to Gerard Butler. Although if this turns into a movie, he has to play Ben. Obviously. On a more serious note, the arguments and skirmishes between the men seemed at times to be a bit juvenile and repetitive, but allowed the plot to continue. I have to say that while I am annoyingly good at predicting an entire novel, the end had a twist I had not been expecting. It was refreshing, and I apologize for saying there's a twist. Something to look forward to.
Overall, Miller's novel is a must-read. She describes the Highlands in such a haunting and beautiful way, and while I have never been to Scotland I have been welcomed in a Scottish/Irish community and can say how lovely the comparison was. This is not a romance novel, but rather a novel that explores what happens when a woman - torn and bruised by the past - allows love and friendship to be the brightest light in her life, the hidden galaxies behind the grain of sand.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Book review: Certain Hypothetical by James Litherland (bonus review: Durable Impressions)

"Certain Hypothetical (Book 1 of the Slowpocalypse series)" by James Litherland follows David Belue as he and others who live within the compound prepare for a hypothetical attack from the outside. But there is more than it seems, and when the director's daughter, Kat, begins her own investigation into the impending seige their lives are unexpectedly at risk. They must each discover who within the compound is leaking information to the outside before it's too late.
To be honest, I really have no idea what to say about this novel. There really didn't seem to be a plot, despite the summary I gave above. What plot there was seemed to be slapped together like it was added in afterwards. The book talks about people who live in a compound, and while I know there's a perimeter wall, and gates, and various buildings, it takes nearly half the novel before you realize the compound is probably around the size of a town or full city. When the word compound is used, a much smaller piece of land is generally imagined. But the city is run or owned by FURC. We're never told what that stands for, and it's used in various forms (FedU, FURCsnet, FURCS pad, etc) which doesn't make any of it easier. With sci-fi, an acronym is generally explained at least once to let the reader into the world that's been created.
Most of the characters aren't even that likeable either. From the start the characters do really illogical things, or at least they give no reason for them. I think David was rather odd, and highly unlikeable. There were times I had to stop reading because his actions were just so aggravating. His paranoia came from absolutely no where. Perhaps it was justified based on what has happened in his world, but I wasn't privy to any of that history. His "investigation" consisted of following people (largely unsuccessfully, as he admits) and apparently this was enough to put together the pieces of a conspiracy. And then he always seemed tired. He was either following someone, or complaining about needing sleep, or sleeping for days. Literally. I've never read a novel that described a character sleeping so often, or at least pointing it out and making it a focal point. If that was meant as a defining feature of the character, it was an odd choice.
The only character I liked was Kat. She knows how to hold her own, has (dysfunctional) relationships, and we can actually see passion with her that is absent with David. But then something incredibly traumatic happens to her, and she brushes it off, barely thinking about it afterward. When something like that happens, or when someone does something so extreme, it has a psychological effect on a person. Unless you're a psychopath.
There were deleted scenes/bonus material stuck onto the end of the novel, which while I read it, I will not review. Deleted scenes are deleted for a reason. They gave some good information, but it should have been within the novel itself.
This novel has huge potential. There's so much to know about this dystopian world, and the people. I realize this is the first in a series, but I don't know enough about the compound to care if it gets taken over. I think the potential would give me enough motivation to read the rest in the series, but that shouldn't really be the reason to read it. Don't get me wrong: this is not a terrible book by any means. It's definitely not my taste, as I need a bit more to get me clambering for the next book in the series.
Bonus review: Durable Impressions (short prequel to the Slowpocalypse series)
I highly recommend people to read this one first. It's a shame it was published afterwards, as it explains a bit more about the FURC compound and actually gives more details about character details (such as Kat and Tony's relative ages.) Still no explanation of FURC though. I'm glad I read this, although it seems rather odd and short. Litherland was right to not insert it into Certain Hypothetical, but the novel really would have benefited from the extra knowledge gleaned from this short prequel. It also ends abruptly, and left me wanting more. Which is a moderately good thing.
In general, Litherland has obviously created an interesting world in these two works. You can tell there are some really rough things happening in the United States causing riots, and everyone lives in constant paranoia. I would have loved to get at least a little more insight as to what the big deal was, and maybe it's explained later in the series but for me it's not enough to get me to read the following books. I'm pretty impressed with Kat's character. She's strong, passionate, and not once needed help from anyone else. I'm glad Durable Impressions gave me more of her background.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Book Blitz review -The Line by William Galaini

On board Janus - a research station located in between time lines - a group of scientists, historians, mathematicians, and soldiers observes historical events on what is known (only to them) as the Beta line. When they discover discrepancies between their own history and that of the Beta line, they discover that someone else has discovered time travel; someone who is using it to wreck havoc with history and its own sense of justice.
That's nearly what you would read in the back cover of this novel, but I found out that the description only covers about the first half of the novel. I would continue that by saying: "When one last jump into the Beta line triggers an unexpected event aboard Janus, the identity of the mysterious time-traveler is revealed and they discover that neither the past nor the future can be changed."
"The Line" by William Galaini is an interesting novel dealing with the concept of time travel. The idea of using time travel to see observe history is similar to a young adult series known as "The Guardians of Time" by Marianne Curley while the second half of the novel reminds me of the movie Alien. There doesn't seem to be a straightforward plot to this novel. When you begin, you think it's pretty straightforward and it was quite interesting as such. And then there was a shift, and I found myself thinking "what the heck is going on?" By the end, you quickly figure out what has to eventually happen but the way it was written seemed to be an impulse decision by the author. I highly doubt it was, but the switch was so jarring it left me doubting why I agreed to read the novel as it really didn't sound anything like the description I was given. Of course, that very well be my own fault, but there was definitely something missing from the description (which I added in my own synopsis above.)
The character development is interesting, and left me wanting to know them better, to know their history. We get that a bit with Mary in the opening chapter (and the switch from that was just terrible. I have no idea why the novel even started that way) but not much else. This makes sense, as the characters don't know much about each other either. Overall I didn't really get the sense the characters were well-rounded. Yes, we learned a bit about them, but it was all very superficial and nothing that really connected me with any of the characters. I didn't even really get an idea of their ages. I vaguely think Mary is in her forties or older, which is a huge leap from the first chapter where she's in college. Again, I have no idea why that was the introductory chapter, as it didn't even really tell me anything about her other than the fact that she had once been engaged....decades ago, it seems.
Is it an interesting novel? Yes. I'm not sure if I would recommend it, but it has some unique ideas about time travel. I'm sure hardcore sci-fi enthusiasts may have an issue with the physics of it all, but for someone who cares more about the story than the logistics I thought it was dealt with well. It had an interesting underlying concept of ethics which seemed to be glossed over at the end. I would have loved to see a bit more developed with that, more internal conflict about justice and the ethics of changing history (or if it was always going to happen, that whole time-travelling conundrum.)

About the author
William Galaini grew up in Pennsylvania and Florida. His mother gave him an early love of reading, especially when it came to the great classics of science fiction. He is also a history buff and fascinated by mythology and folklore. His various vocational pursuits include being a singer in a professional high school choir, manager of the call center at a luxury resort, U.S. Army medic, prison guard, and middle school English teacher. As such, he is perfectly suited to breech a solid metal door, humanely restrain the enemy within, and politely correct their grammar all while humming Handel’s Messiah and drinking a lovely cuppa tea.

He currently hangs his hat, rucksack, and tweed smoking jacket in Northern Virginia.


Friday, 20 February 2015

Review of "Just Dreams" by L.J. Taylor

“Just Dreams is a fast paced romantic thriller centered on government agencies, rogue agents and a lawyer named Kathy Brooks who is caught in the middle of a conspiracy she hadn't planned for. Her first solo client happens to be a handsome widower driven by the need for revenge for the deaths of his wife and child. His drive blinds him to the chaos he creates until someone special to him is put in the line of fire. Meanwhile powerful forces are concerned over exposing themselves and their interests. “

Just Dreams by L.J. Taylor is a romantic story occurring within a spy thriller. We see the story playing out from a few different perspectives which since there was a huge espionage element worked very well. As the reader we got to see the various interconnected threads of the story, but the Taylor was still able to maintain a sense of mystery throughout.

The relationship that grows between Kathy and Charles is pretty typical of most romance novels, as is the descriptions of the sex scenes (yes there are sex scenes) but anyone who is familiar with this genre will know to expect that. There is a however a higher level of emotional evaluation from the characters than you would normally get from the standard type, and that is what makes this refreshing.

The case that is being tried in court is the bigger part of this novel comprising a fairly widespread conspiracy and in particular the actions of one agent determined to protect the truth from coming out. The character of Manning could have been developed further, and it’s only at the end that we get a glimpse of his motivations, but despite this he throws in the right amount of chaos and drama to round out the story.

My biggest complaint is the dialogue, as it is with most romance books. It is so flat and non-descript that it breaks the flow of the narrative and feels unrealistic. There were also references made in the book that made the book seem like it was written in the eighties instead of 2015 that while it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book seemed strange for what should be a modern novel.

Overall this is a fairly typical romantic thriller that takes the genre to the next level with more intrigue and action than you might expect. Its short and sweet and a perfect guilty pleasure.

You can buy this book at Amazon by going to this link

Link to the authors’ website:

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Pre-Release Review of 'Logos"

“Logos is a fiction book about Jacob, a Jewish architect and craftsman living in Jerusalem at the time of the First Jewish Revolts. He and his family are caught between those who want a revolution and those who wish to keep the status quo and thus peace. Eventually Jacob must suffer the consequences of his actions and is forced to battle his inner demons as he travels the world in order to understand the part his God has set for him to play.”

If you love historical fiction you will enjoy Logos. Jacob as a main character was an interesting choice. He is neither a hero nor a villain but a personable guy who displays both traits. He is not the most handsome man, the strongest, wisest or smartest but he has a lot of heart. He loves his family and his country, and it’s that love that is the source of his suffering. You find yourself rooting for him, despite almost always failing at what he sets out to do, however all is explained. The author John Neeleman tends to put him through a lot, but at the end all of his pain and suffering is explained as part of the process and very much necessary to the ending. His emotions always seem to run to the extremes, and his constant outpouring of grief wears on you after a while.

The book has plenty of supporting characters, some of whom you may recognize if you have some Jewish/Christian, background but they don`t seem to have much substance, usually only displaying one emotion or one function to the plot. I will say Neeleman has a talent for describing the scenery, the landscape and vegetation almost becoming another character in the novel with personality affecting the main character and in turn being affected by him. My only complaint is that it wasn't long enough, I felt that the characters and the plot could have been delved into deeper and I was left wanting more of their story and to see it developed further.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I think the author took an interesting take on a well-known and beloved story.

The book comes out on March 10th and here is the amazon link

Link to author's website:

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Guest post by Jerry Amernic, author of The Last Witness

As part of his blog tour, Jerry Amernic has asked to come by to write a guest post about how he conducted his research for his latest book The Last Witness. It should make for an interesting read!

My novel The Last Witness is about the last living survivor of the Holocaust in the year 2039. The central character, Jack Fisher, is a 100-year-old man whose worst memories took place before he was 5, but he’s caught in a world that is abysmally ignorant and complacent about events of the last century. 
Of course, a writer can research any historical event to his heart’s content and read everything about it. But for a subject like the Holocaust I thought it best to actually sit down with former child survivors. And I did. 
A group meets regularly in Toronto where I live. I attended some of their meetings and also visited several of them in their homes. 
Miriam, now 79, was one of only two dozen children who were found alive at Auschwitz when the place was liberated by the Red Army in 1945. She was nine. She told me about the trains that carried Jews to the death camp – with no windows or place to relieve yourself. She told me about old people who became corpses on the trip. She told me about seeing murders every day. 
Gershon, who was only 3 at the time of liberation by U. S. troops, doesn’t remember much. Today he’s a grandfather and has been married to the same woman for decades. But he told me that throughout his whole life he has always been claustrophobic in tight quarters, and he also lives with this fear that those who are closest to him – even his wife – will leave him one day. Because everybody else did when he was little. 
Imagine carrying a burden like that around with you. 
So, through people like them, I learned something about what it was like to be a child survivor of the Holocaust. 
I also made a point of meeting notable people. Like Sir Martin Gilbert. The official biographer of Winston Churchill, Mr. Gilbert is an eminent historian and author of some 70 books, including The Holocaust. He was most helpful and kind. 
But most of my research involved finding specifics about what I needed, which meant reading. For example, my character Jack was born in the Jewish ghetto in the city of Lodz, Poland. He was a hidden child because if the Nazis found him, they would have taken him from his family. I learned how little children sneaked into the Aryan side of the city to steal food for their family. I learned about families living in the sewers below the streets to try and avoid detection. Indeed, I read  whatever I could find about that Jewish ghetto and about Auschwitz – where my flashbacks are based. 
It was an experience and a journey, and I only hope this novel is the same for my readers. 
About the book
The Last Witness
The year is 2039, and Jack Fisher is the last living survivor of the Holocaust. Set in a world that is abysmally ignorant and complacent about events of the last century, Jack is a 100-year-old man whose worst memories took place before he was 5. His story hearkens back to the Jewish ghetto of his birth and to Auschwitz where, as a little boy, he had to fend for himself to survive after losing all his family. Jack becomes the central figure in a missing-person investigation when his granddaughter suddenly disappears. While assisting police, he finds himself in danger and must reach into the darkest corners of his memory to come out alive. 
Note from the Author
My research included spending time with real-life, former child survivors. To illustrate the point of this novel, we produced a video and went around asking university students in Toronto where I live what they know about the Holocaust and World War II. The level of ignorance out there is incredible. Have a look here.
About Jerry
Jerry Amernic
Jerry Amernic is a Toronto writer who has been a newspaper reporter and correspondent, newspaper columnist, feature contributor for magazines, and media consultant. He has taught writing and journalism at college, and is the author of several books. 
His first book was Victims: The Orphans of Justice, a true story about a former police officer whose daughter was murdered. The man became a leading advocate for victims of crime. Jerry later wrote a column on the criminal justice system for The Toronto Sun, and has since been a contributor to many other newspapers. In 2007 he co-authored Duty – The Life of a Cop with Julian Fantino, the highest-profile police officer Canada has ever produced and currently a member of the country’s federal Cabinet. 
Jerry’s first novel Gift of the Bambino (St. Martin’s Press, 2004) was widely praised by the likes of The Wall Street Journal in the U.S., and The Globe and Mail in Canada. His latest novel is the historical thriller The Last Witness, which is set in the year 2039 and is about the last living survivor of the Holocaust. The biblical-historical thriller Qumran will be released next. It’s about an archeologist who makes a dramatic discovery in the Holy Land.
Links to learn more and contact Jerry: