Review: Refraction by Terry Geo

48348776__SY475_Refraction by Terry Geo

Published: October 4, 2019 by Amazon Digital Services

Buy this book at: Amazon

Synopsis:Most stories start at the beginning; this one begins at the end. At least for Maria.

Her sudden death sends shockwaves through her family and pushes her grieving mother to the very brink of insanity. After exhausting every avenue conventional medicine has to offer, Maria’s father, Henry, brings together the world’s greatest minds in the hope of carving out a new path.

Months pass, and as Henry watches his beloved Elena slowly drift away, he begins to lose faith. It is only then that a solution presents itself. A discovery so momentous, it saves Elena and reveals the most important scientific and technological breakthrough in modern history.

Silicate is founded; a privately funded facility which delves deeper into the human mind, able to discover answers to questions we are yet to ask. Securing Silicate’s secrets becomes of utmost importance; even after treating hundreds of patients, the public are still unaware of the wonders and terrifying reality Silicate has unearthed . . .
The world you know is only half the story.

Rating: 4 star

Review:

***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!***

This book was everything I hoped for and yet nothing that I expected. I had hoped for a story about a shady company with a secret plan that stumbles onto something they didn’t expect. I got that. But I also got more than that, which I didn’t expect but I enjoyed.

This is a debut self-published novel and I must say that this was very well done. The cover is nice (anyone who’s read my reviews know how drool-y I get over good cover art), the synopsis is intriguing, it was well edited, the characters were engaging and the narrative was well paced.

I had a few complaints, mostly related to how characters behave with each other. I got a cardboard cutout feeling from a few people. I never connected with Jake, for example. I really wanted to like him, but he was just bland. Like a slice of plain toast. I wanted to like him but there was literally no personality to him. Similarly with Terrell (had to edit, somehow I confused the character and the author’s names, whoopsie!). I wanted to like him, but there was no depth to his character.

I also found it slightly annoying that everyone in Abby’s life can’t seem to use her name. In one two sentence exchange, her mother would call her “darling” at least twice. In a longer back and forth conversation, every sentence the mother uttered would include a “darling.” Now, I have a daughter. I have a lot of cutesy nicknames for my daughter, that I use a lot. And I do mean, A LOT. But not that much. I found it unnatural and irritating.

Those two points aside, I found the book wonderful. The story was well paced and gave me just the right amount of information to lead me down the merry path that the author wished me to take. That path ultimately led me to right where the author wanted me to be, not expecting the resolution at all. I can’t really call it a twist, because it wasn’t a twist. I also didn’t expect it or see it coming at all. Sometimes that would be a bad thing because it would mean that the author didn’t do a good job in hinting at his bigger story. But in this case I think the author did exactly the right job. We are supposed to see Silicate as this shadow company that is up to no good. That’s how these stories go right? Not necessarily.

On the whole, I really loved this book. It was a refreshing, imaginative story that is told very well. The author indicated that he would visit this world again in the future, I certainly hope he does because I want to know what comes next.

Nano tips: Making Time to Write

I am doing something different in the lead up to Nano this year. I used to take a few newbies under my wing and personally give them all my tips, advice, or encouragement. But this year, I think I just want to put my advice out into the ether. (And I worry that I just don’t have the time to dedicate to people individually anymore too and I don’t want to shortchange anyone).

All writers in the history of the written word have opined about never having enough time to write. It comes with the territory. The truth is, there’s never enough time to write. The writing monkeys will always be pawing at the back of your head, telling you to sit down and pound out all the wildest daydreams that you’ve had all day. That is the reality of being a creative type. But you also have to put in some conscious effort to make sure you are using your time wisely if you expect to write anything of length or substance.

  • Keep a time log for at least one week
    • You really do have more time than you think you do, you just haven’t realized it yet.
    • Track EVERYTHING! From sleeping, to eating, to job duties, to chores.
  • Analyze your time log
    • Do you notice any patterns in your behavior?
    • What about that hour and a half that you were browsing YouTube and didn’t want to put on the log…..
    • What about that period of time in the middle of your lunch hour when you’ve finished eating but still have time?
  • Make something your dedicated time to write.
    • It doesn’t matter if it’s 15 minutes or 2 hours of time, it is for writing only. Nothing else can interfere.
    • Put that period into your schedule so you aren’t tempted to do anything else.
  • Write!
    • It doesn’t matter if you put down 5 words in that time or 15,000 words. All of it contributes to the work you are trying to create. Sometimes it will be more, other times it will be less.
    • Minimize your distractions during your writing time. Phone away, television off, snacks and drinks within arms reach.

Personally, I add in two writing periods to my day during Nano. Before going to work, I typically wake up early anyway so I just shorten my morning routine to get some writing accomplished while the rest of the house sleeps. I find that I am most productive early in the day and late in the day. Accordingly, I also have a writing period after my child goes to bed until I go to bed. Every day. No exceptions. And yes, my phone and TV are a big distraction for me too. That’s why I recommend putting those phones and remotes away from your hands.

I never recommend the often suggested “get less sleep”. Being sleep deprived will not help your creativity at all. Now, if you typically get 8-9 hours of a sleep, then cutting back an hour is not a big deal. But if you’re like me and typically get 4-5 hours of sleep, DO NOT CUT BACK ANY MORE! It’s not healthy.

Let me know what your best way to find more writing time is.

Review: Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey

23617219Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey

 

Published: November 4, 2014 by Scribe Publishing Company

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity. Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence. With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony.

Rating: 4 star

Review***Disclaimer*** I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Greg!***

This book was a delightful little read. Based on the synopsis it sounded like it would be right within my area of enjoyment and it turned out that it was. I had a few irritations with it, and there were a few struggles but I found that I did not mind those things too much because the story kept my interest well.

The book starts with a bullet pointed list of all the major accomplishments and failures of humanity in the 300-ish years leading from our present to the beginning of the story. While I found this information interesting, I would have preferred that the information was packaged in a different manner. Bullet points are not that enthralling to read. There was a short excerpt from a “history” of the same time period that we get at the end of the book and a lot of the same information was covered. It confused me why this was at the end and not the beginning. It would have been a better introduction to the story than an ending.

I also got the impression that the author struggled with his narrator a bit, which is understandable and I think anyone would have struggled with it but overall it was handled well. I could tell at times that the author really wanted Samuel to be able to describe things better but he couldn’t because he lacked the language or awareness for it at that moment. At times this led to a bit of an inconsistent narrative but not often enough that it got on my nerves.

Warning: There may be some spoilers beyond this point.

As I read other reviews for this book, I saw a lot of people wondering how humanity could get to a point of being so lazy that we experience a regression in all cognitive functioning and lose the vast majority of our language and ability to communicate. I wondered that too for a while. But then I got on social media for a few minutes and it all made sense to me. We already are practically communicating only in pictures these days with memes, GIFs, selfies and emojis. And plenty of people are so lazy that they can’t be bothered to seek out answers for themselves and instead of spending 30 seconds on Google figuring something out will instead spend an hour asking other people to do it for them. So, to me at least, I can completely see this as a future for humanity.

I really liked the series of tests that Samuel encountered trying to help his community but I also got frustrated with him at a certain point. Clearly, his efforts were going to waste. The rest of the colonists didn’t appreciate, nor even notice, his efforts to keep them content and happy so after a point I was wondering why he was still trying. This also leads me to the ending, at first I didn’t understand it. Staying with the other colony seemed like a natural step. These were people like Samuel. He could improve his own life and be with people who valued their minds, like he did. So why didn’t he?

I thought about that a lot since I finished the book last night and I think I came to a conclusion. Just like Samuel decided that he no longer wanted to waste his labor on colonists who would never progress, he equally didn’t want to waste his labor toward an effort that was directed for someone else’s benefit. He wanted to use his ingenuity, his mind, and his labor to forge his own way not just trade one master for another. In the end, I really like that message. It was an enjoyable book that I liked more than I first expected that I would.

Prepping for the Nano storm

National Novel Writing Month is 25 days away. Normally, for me, this means that I have nothing more than a general idea what I will be writing. Sometimes it’s a story that has been sitting with me for months, nagging at my imagination. Other times it hits me suddenly and I just know it’s the right story to tell. This month, I am attempting to not fly by the seat of my pants so much and, gasp shock horror, PLAN a little.

This is a new concept for me. In 13 years of doing Nano, I have never attempted this. Honestly, I feel totally out of my depth. So today, let’s talk a little bit about novel prepping. Or, rather, my pathetic approximation of prepping.

Some typical prep items I already figured out after this long. I know I will write it on my laptop. I know what program I like to use (though admittedly Scrivener needs to be an investment at some point). I have organized my haphazard research before. And I know the importance of backing up my work. Losing 24,543 words back in Nano 2010 taught me that one.

But what about the idea itself? I have never wondered before if an idea is worthy of being written. But, if I am going to spend all this time planning this thing out then I felt I needed to explore this a little bit. My skeleton idea:

From the beginning of time there has been a Light One. A cataclysmic event eons ago led to the creation of their equal opposite, a Dark One. The two have the same goal. One wants to snuff out the light. One wants to snuff out the darkness. Locked in battle for eons, will this dance go on forever?

I think it’s a good idea. But I also recognize that it could be too much project for me. I did that to myself a few years ago and the story was just too broad and it got away from me. So from here, I need to boil this idea down to its base. I have 2 characters. the Light One and the Dark One. This gives me decisions to make. Are they immortal? Have they always been the exact same two people? Is there a way to kill one and have their essence move on to a new host? Obviously, if they are at battle with each other there HAS to be a way for one to be defeated for good, otherwise the entire story is pointless. This has been quite a conundrum for me the past several days. Working out the kinks in a logical way that won’t leave a reader feeling “WTF just happened, that makes no sense!”.

Slowly, the details on my characters are coming together. I can start to imagine them in my head, which is a vital step for my process. I cannot write a character that I can’t imagine. Their dynamic and interactions are starting to come to light. They are becoming people. There is still a long way to go on that one, but we’re making our way.

Now I have to tackle something I hoped to forever avoid, an outline. I’m scared folks. I have never written this way, but I am willing to try. I have much more limited writing time these last few years, I don’t have time to spend days mentally hashing out a problem that presented itself because I didn’t plan! I recognize the value this will have, but I think I need a few more days to reconcile it in my head.

Review: Rain Will Come by Thomas Holgate

rain will comeRain Will Come by Thomas Holgate

Expected Publication: March 10, 2020 by Thomas & Mercer

Pre-order this title: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: A thrilling, page-turning debut about a twisted killer and a broken cop—both with nothing to lose.

Paul Czarcik, the longest-tenured detective in the Illinois Bureau of Judicial Enforcement, puts the rest of the team to shame. Ruthless and riddled with vices, Czarcik always gets his man. And fast. Until now…

A double slaying isn’t the open-and-shut case of urban crime he’s used to. Connecting it to a high-profile Texas judge, Czarcik realizes something bigger is going on. It’s the work of a serial killer for whom Chicago is just the beginning. Now he’s inviting Czarcik to play catch-me-if-you-can on a cross-country murder spree.

Going rogue, Czarcik accepts the challenge. But as the bodies pile up, he must come to grips with the fact that nothing—not the killer, the victims, or the rules—is what it seems in this bloody game of cat and mouse.

Rating: 3 star out of 5 stars

Review:  **Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Please note, changes to the manuscript may take place after publishing. Thank you Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer!**

I love a good cat & mouse story. A jaded, surly detective pursuing a psychopath story. In some ways this was a good fit, in other ways it didn’t live up to expectations. I feel it’s important for me to note right up front that this book is not breaking any new ground in the genre. Czarcik is like so many other surly over-the-hill detectives in detective novels. He likes booze, cocaine and hookers and doesn’t like following the rules. Nothing new to see here. The killer styles himself an avenging angel, a vigilante bringing justice to the helpless victims. Again there is nothing new here. So, if you aren’t bringing anything new to the table, you really need to give me a good chase.

Ultimately that is where this book failed for me, the chase. We find out who the killer is in the 3rd chapter and find out his whole plan about 40 pages after that. Once we know those two things, there’s not much left to do except chase him down and stop him, right? That was a very slow process, it seemed to take a long, long time. We spend about 275 pages on the first 3 victims, then rush through the entire last 2 victims and finally stopping the killer in less than 75 pages. We spent way too much time on the first half, not early enough time on the second half.

Another odd point for me was the writing itself. Technically, there is nothing wrong with the writing. The grammar and spelling are solid. The narrative is enjoyable. But the author seemed to occasionally throw things in that were just strange. And because they didn’t make sense, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what he meant rather than enjoying the narrative. For example, in a single paragraph the author managed to change a single character’s eye color 3 separate times. First her eyes were described as deep blue, got it. A sentence later they were “more like opal than ice”. Um, okay, opal is generally iridescent though. I have seen blue opals, but they aren’t deep blue but then neither is ice. So is it deep blue? Or blue opal? Then two sentences later they were sapphire. Which again, is a totally different color than either deep blue or blue opal. So I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out what color her eyes were instead of continuing to read. I think the author tried to get too fancy.

Two more minor gripes. First, can we stop giving people psychic powers but insisting they aren’t psychic? The not-psychic-but-kind-of-psychic “rush” that Czarcik gets was strange, never explained and didn’t make a lick of sense. At one point he is tipped off by someone mentioning how they wouldn’t want to be the insurance adjuster who has to come out to the murder scene. Although I have no idea why an insurance adjuster would be necessary at a murder scene but somehow this leads Czarcik on a long, winding path from insurance adjuster to….AH HA! Someone is keeping a secret from me….about insurance….sort of, but in the end not really. Very weird.

So, I know this sounds like a book I didn’t really like, and on the whole it was disappointing. But it did keep my interest. I did want to find out how it ended. I enjoyed Czarcik as a character. I enjoyed the writing. So overall, it was not a great book but it was entertaining and worth the read.