Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Officer Tequila Shots by James Dearling

     We have all, at one time or another, had the desire to just drop our lives and become somebody else. For many of us its a drive of envy that fuels us, though for others its just simply the fact that we've had enough and we're ready to just make a change. This same desire is the driving force behind my book for this week.

     Officer Tequila Shots follows Norman; a man who is simply fed up with life in general, at least his. As he sits in his cubicle, in a scene reminiscent of the movie Office Space, enough becomes enough for Norman and he sets out to find some type of purpose in his life, other than selling insurance.

     After a short walk he finds himself standing at the doors of a costume store, thoughts of what could be still filling his otherwise normal life. As he enters and stares at a realistic police uniform, his new lease in life becomes apparent. After a quick exchange with the clerk, and a change of clothes, white bread drone Norman becomes Officer Tequila Shots.

     Taking his role, and misplaced respect he fells, very seriously, Norman struts around town tipping his hat and exchanging pleasantries with the 'civillians'; keeping a sharp eye out for anyone he can help. His eagle-eyed patrolling leads him to a pot-smoking group of young teens, and his life, both of them, becomes changed forever.

     Throughout this story I found myself caught in a love-hate relationship, though by the end I'm happy to say there are plenty of pros to reading this story:
  • Norman and his supporting cast are very real people. Their speech patterns, interactions, and decisions they make are almost what you would expect.
  • I appreciate the comedic undertones of this book to no end. While it isn't foremost a comedy, the parts that are meant to be funny really hit the right notes. 
  • The book feels like a good action movie in the way it reads. Each page keeps you hoping for another gun fight or fight scene until the end. 
     While I did enjoy the book as a whole, there are a few thing that I didn't care for as much:
  • The 'Urban' feel felt a bit forced and almost a bit stereotypical, though as I mentioned above it does add to the movie feel. 
  • Some of the characters become a bit one dimensional as the story goes on.
     In the end Officer Tequila Shots by James Dearling is a fun, action filled novella about a man wanting to become someone other than himself. His vigilante ways brings him toe to toe with one of the largest crime syndicates in the city. Though it did have it ticks, what story doesn't, it was a wonderful weekend read that I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of action stories. 

     Overall I'm going to give Officer Tequila Shots a solid 7/10 based on:
     8/10 for readability - Though being a novella, the story moves at a great pace throughout. Each page has been edited down to the necessities, as a good novella should be, and no word is wasted. The writing itself has a great flow and keeps you turning pages. 

     6/10 for characters - Don't confuse this with a rating on all the characters. The main characters such as Norman, the lead woman and her son are wonderfully written real people. The ancillary characters such as the cops, drug dealers etc are all a bit one dimensional. None of them really distinguish themselves from the others, though to be fair some of them only have one or two lines before they are killed off. This could be a reflection of the amount of characters over the course of a novella and thus the limited space for the reader to connect with any of them. 

     7/10 for story -  I have mixed feelings about the story, but overall really liked it. On one hand the character of Norman has no experience or training so he shouldn't be able to do the things he does. On the other hand Dearling does a wonderful job giving his ineptitude a nod and showing how he almost gets himself killed...numerous times. 

     9/10 for action - One area where this story really hits the mark, and the area that I feel is its X-factor, is the action scenes. Whether it be a fight scene, gun battle or chase scene everything is choreographed perfectly. Each scene feels fluid and moves wonderfully, each punch and ricochet builds a scene in your minds eye that's real and belongs in a movie. 

     I have to thank James Dearling for reaching out to me about Officer Tequila Shots; it's a strong, fun work that makes a great addition to any one's digital library or bookshelf.

If you would like to check out this title for yourself click here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Indie Author Spotlight - Pina Bruni

     A little over a month ago I advertised that I was closing my site to new submissions due to the workload that was already on my plate. Since that time I've received numerous requests for reviews and I began racking my brain for a way to ensure that every author who reaches out to me can, at the least, still be heard and presented to my audience.

     Finally the thought dawned on me, the most obvious answer to my problem would be author interviews. This would provide me with a way to make sure that every author that reaches out to me can be introduced to the public.

     I do have to put this out there as a bit of a disclaimer to my readers:
  1. I have not read the work that is mentioned in the interview below, and therefore cannot comment on it. I did read the "back-cover" before the interview.
  2. The views/answers to each question will not be altered, paraphrased or otherwise changed in any way.
  3. I will not post any profane or offensive interviews
     The first author I choose was new author Pina Bruni, I actually approached her via twitter in regards to this interview. Through twitter I had seen she had published her first book, independently, entitled Sliding Home.
1. How long have you been writing?
On and off since I was a teenager. That makes it about twenty-five years. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the perseverance to follow through and finish a novel, until now.
2. What first inspired you to take the leap to commercial writing?
I was so elated to finally have a finished product in my hand, the thought of putting it out there for others to read seemed the natural course. This coming from someone who in the past would practically cringe at the thought of another person (other than my husband) reading my written words. I’m very critical of my writing. I put much time and energy into this project. In the end, I stepped back and took an honest look. I liked it. That is high praise coming from me. Why not try to sell it?
3. Where did you pull your inspiration for “Sliding Home”?
Frankly, character development and plots come easily to me. I feel as if I have a never ending well to dip into. I’m a daydreamer and always have been. The characters are Italian-Americans living in a small, suburban town. Certain aspects of the story are from my upbringing, but the true inspiration came from the idea of soul mates. The idea that a love which is meant to be will survive at any and all costs. That neither time nor distance can destroy what is meant to be. I also wanted to feature genuine friendship that endures over the years.
4. What genre would you classify your book in and do you see yourself continuing to stay true to this genre?
I suppose it falls under romance, though I hate to label it as such. If it were a film, I believe it would be described as a romantic comedy. Whether it’s called chick lit or women’s fiction or something else, I’d like to think it’s a novel that is capable of entertaining females and males alike. It’s filled with humor, love, sex, and an array of human emotions that (I hope) will make readers both laugh and cry. As far as future writing, I think I am most comfortable writing in this genre, whatever it’s called. I enjoy writing about the chemistry that happens between a man and a woman, but I also like delving into other relationships between people. I think “Sliding Home” does a good job touching on the different relationships the main character has and has had in her life.
5. How was your experience self-publishing? Besides the writing process did you hit any snags or trouble spots while putting your work on the market?
I did hit some snags. Learning proper formatting so my work would upload properly to the sites was simple with one site, slightly more challenging with another, and utterly impossible with yet another! I finally went through smashwords.com, which I wished I had done earlier. My goal was to have my ebook appear in the three big ebookstores: Amazon, iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon was simple to use, Barnes & Noble was a little quirky, but doable. iBooks was a hassle! I used Smashwords to get over that hump and I’d highly recommend it. As for marketing, I’m a virgin at all this. Little by little, I’m learning.
6. Do you have any advice for those of us out there that are going through, or preparing to go through, the self-publishing process?
I’m not sure I’m in the position to give advice. This is all new to me too! I’ve looked at this experience as a learning process. I’ve hit highs, lows, and in-betweens. I’ve felt elated, disappointed, smart, stupid, hopeful, and I’ve felt like giving up, but haven’t. There’s my advice. Don’t give up. My goal was to finish the book. That was a personal promise I made to myself. If I had finished writing my book and it never saw the light of day, so be it. I reached my goal. Anything more is frosting on the cake. Look upon your experience as a special project … and keep your day job. If one day I am able to write for a living, I will be very happy. In the meantime, I am very happy to write.
7. Have you had any reviews for your story done? And if so would you mind sharing the links? (If you haven’t had any reviews done but would like to get a little promotion here, I’ll take any quotes from anybody that has given you any feedback i.e. “Sliding Home is a great read that hit close to home” – and a name. As far as names go unless you have permission I’d prefer initials)
I’m sorry to say I have no reviews yet.
Feedback from a reader: “This book is a great story that held my interest from beginning to end. It made me laugh and cry, and it’s well written.” — Ron Sperry
8. One thing I like to do on my site is to give a little shout out to editors, cover artists, or just anyone in general that contributed to an indie author’s work being published. May I ask if you would mind sharing who did your cover or editing for your story?
This is an easy one to answer. I edited the book and designed the cover myself.
9. Thank you so much for taking the time out to give me this interview, one last question. Have you already begun working on your next book? If so when do you think we could expect to see it hit shelves?
Yes, I have begun working on my next book, which will be book two in my “Sliding Home” series. I am hopeful to have it out in late spring/early summer of 2014.
     If you would like to pick up Sliding Home for yourself, check it out at one of these sites.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Dogs Don't Bark in Brooklyn Any More by Eric Robert Nolan

    Just as a little disclaimer before you read on, I was contacted by Dagda Publishing company in regards to this review. They're an independent publishing company out of the UK, and after checking out them out a bit I feel they deserve a little mention in the review. I do apologize if some of my readers/authors are a little taken back by this fact, but I hope the majority understand that the small publishers tend to take gambles on indie authors.

     Okay, now we have the official stuff out of the way its time for the good stuff. The story I'm reviewing this week is The Dogs Don't Bark in Brooklyn Any More by Eric Robert Nolan, and you'll see as you read I'm a huge fan of this story for many reasons.

     The story opens up on Captain Rebecca O'Conner of the 54th Saws (Special Animal Warfare Squad), and her squad as they attempt to combat an enemy far more ruthless than any man has faced so far...wolves.

     I've done reviews on stories about shape changers and werewolves, but this is the first I've ever even read about talking, intelligent wolves. The world population in the 2050's is down to only a few million, and the governments are in shambles. In the early 2000's a virus began systematically killing off billions of people and, as many speculate, affected the wolves in a way that gave some of them an almost human like intelligence and the ability to speak.

     This ability allowed them to organize and create an army, driving the humans into a few select walled cities such as New York, Boston and a few others. For 30 years the humans have been fighting back, and Rebecca and her team are tasked with all the deep cover high profile missions that involve the wolves.

     More than just writing about a military squad fighting smart, organized wolves that Nolan incorporated so well while keeping the intricate hierarchies that govern wolf societies in real life. The story jumps from Rebecca's present to her past from chapter to chapter, more than just flashbacks though, the insights into her past really tell its own story about why she is the way she is. Each personality quirk from her borderline social awkwardness to her hard-nose, albeit hesitant, commanding style.

     While the fact that these flashbacks take place every other chapter throughout may seem daunting and a little repetitive, I can tell you that it is in no way the case. What Nolan has really managed to create is a story within a story, each could stand on its own without the other, but together they create a seamless singular story that is enhanced by this combination of past and present.

     While the young Rebecca battles unimaginable loss of her both her best friends to the same evil, though in very different ways; the elder Rebecca is preparing for a specially assigned mission that boasts turning the tide of the Wolf War. While the end of the younger Rebecca's innocence comes in a very unexpected way, the older Rebecca's end is very expected for the wolves that know where she is going to be and will be ready to fight for their lives.

     As I mentioned above I'm a huge fan of this story for several reasons, and there are several pros to this story:
  • The flow of this story is absolutely wonderful. Each page finds you grasping for the next in anticipation of what's to come.
  • The visuals that Nolan is able to utilize are remarkable. The fight scenes are all well choreographed and you really see the massive timber wolves and their gnashing teeth charging into the fray of the much weaker humans and their deadly weapons.
  • The emotionally charged Rebecca becomes a wonderful character that feels real, her emotions and plights make her a protagonist that you'll find yourself rooting for both the 33 year old woman and the 16 girl old girl.
     The only real reason I could think of not to check this story would be the genre, but it really hits home on multiple different genres. The primary would be a little mix of action adventure with some fantasy, due to the dystopian society and talking wolves. Really there is a solid mix of several different genres that make this a great read for anyone.

     I'm going to give The Dogs don't Bark in Brooklyn Any More by Eric Robert Nolan a 9/10 based on:

     10/10 for readability - There is absolutely nothing bad I can say about Nolan's writing. Each chapter transition works well, and the way the two different settings play towards the over all story is nothing short of perfection.

     9/10 for characters - I mentioned above about how great a character Rebecca O'Conner is, but the ancillary characters are fantastically written as well. Each one is a personality in his or herself and maintains consistency throughout. I'm a particular fan of Francis, the sociopathic eagle-eyed wolf slayer that is a major part of both stories.

     9/10 for story - I've already raved about this once so I won't go into great detail on this besides to say that both the wolf war centered story and the story of Rebecca's youth could easily be written into their own separate stories.

     9/10 for emotional response - Finding a name for this X-factor eludes me, which also makes me question my craft a little. I really feel the thing that sets this story apart from others is the emotions Nolan is able to drum up. While you're reading about young Rebecca you find yourself feeling her joy, her growth, and most importantly her loss. The same goes for the adult Rebecca and the way she deals with the loss of her squads men, the fear that builds up in her when the wolves attempt to assassinate her and she's cornered by three exceptionally intelligent, and large foes. This is possibly the most page turning factor, next to the ease of Nolan's writing.

     A big thank you to Dagda publishing for reaching out to me in regards to this title. Its wonderful when a publisher will take a chance on an author, though its no wonder based on the quality of this particular work.

     If you'd like to pick up a copy of The Dogs Don't Bark in Brooklyn Any More click here.

     If you would like to visit Dagda Publishing's homepage click here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Affinities by Chris Hollis

   There are so many different things we all chase after in life; some of us want money, family, an ideal job, I feel safe to say that if you're reading this getting published and having your story on the shelves in bookstores around the country. I'm sure there are a multitude of desires that I don't have the hundred years it would take to conceive and put here. There is one, again of many, that each of us shares...a second chance.

     Affinities by Chris Hollis opens on Andrew; a young man with a major dilemma. Every day he wakes up in his apartment, at the same time, with a blistering headache and no recollection of the  day(s) that have past since he was forced to sleep in an almost narcoleptic fashion by an unknown adversary.

     As the days pass and Andrew's attempts at escaping become more daring, even landing him outside his girlfriends house in the bushes before sleep takes him again, he begins piecing together what is going on and even gets the name of his assailant. This is where the story begins taking its first big twist, and we meet Daniel.

     Daniel has bigger problems than Andrew, because Daniel isn't himself anymore. Due to something that drew the two together two years ago Daniel is slowly taking revenge on Andrew for a wrong the man feels needs righted. Utilizing drugs and other means he maintains control of Andrew and slowly destroys his life while he tries to put his back together.

     The twists keep coming as more about the two's relationship to one-another is revealed, and more and more loved ones become affected on both sides. Finally Daniel is presented with a choice to either end both men's lives or to forgive the past and allow Andrew to move on in peace.

     Hollis put together a strong story that is both strong in its delivery and feels new. This story is full of great pros to reading it, some are:
  • The story, while not necessarily totally new, is unique and well written. Hollis does a wonderful job setting himself apart with the way he twists and turns the story, making you second guess what you think is happening throughout.
  • There is a flow to the story that makes it easy to turn the page as the transitions from chapter to chapter seamlessly.
  • The characters all have a very unique voice, this voice carries into one certain aspect of this story that displays a talent of a very seasoned writer.
     Whenever I read a story written as well as Affinities I try and knit pick as much as possible to find even one 'con' to reading the story. Once in awhile one of these stories really doesn't have a downside, and this is one of them.

     In the end, Affinities by Chris Hollis is a solid, action packed thriller that provides a bit of mystery and plenty of suspense. It is well written and filled with a cast that emotes off of the pages. I highly recommend picking it up for any thriller/suspense fan.

     Overall I'm going to give this story a 9/10 based on:

     9/10 for readability - As I mentioned above the story flows wonderfully. Each transition between parts, chapters and paragraphs is easy on the eye and makes it hard to put it down.

     8/10 for characters - There is a relatively small cast of characters in this, and an even smaller amount of ancillary characters. Each character, however small a part, is an emotionally charged individual. You'll find yourself wanting to know each one's story and who he/she is, but you will find yourself able to know exactly what they're thinking just based on the intricate way each one is written.

     8/10 for story - The story itself is in some ways a classic thrillers, but it takes you on a journey filled with twists, turns and second guesses. Though the story feels like a classic, the storyline is very unique and in no way is it a carbon copied thriller.

     9/10 for twists - I feel like the x-factor in this story is really the twists. This isn't like an M. Night Shamalan tale where the twists throw something new into the mix that doesn't fit; instead the twists in this story redirect you in a sort of slight of hand fashion that keep you guessing who is who and what is what.

     A huge thank you to Chris Hollis for contacting me about Affinities. I found it a wonderful book and highly recommend it to anyone looking for their next great read.

If you'd like to pick up a copy of Affinities for yourself click here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The end, my Friend by Kirby Wright

    There are several theories as to just how the beautiful blue ball we all travel on each day will end. Asteroids, earthquakes, volcanoes and nuclear wars dominate book shelves, in both the fiction and nonfiction sections all over the world and the web. There is a less talked about, but nonetheless serious, situation that many believe is on our doorstep in reality.

     Economic and political turmoil rocks our world every day. Examples of the death and destruction due to wars and violent protests drown out the few remaining sentiments of good news that seem to exist. There is a questions that many of us have always wondered, just how those innocent people trapped in these situations live their day to day lives.

     The end my Friend by Kirby Wright answers that question, in its own way. The story follows Tony, a simple man living a simple life with his wife Evo in California. The two built a normal life as two 'normal' middle-class Americans. That whole life is slowly brought to an end during a slow down slide of the American economy, and the uprising of an Army that slowly decimates the West Coast.

     Luckily for the couple the military march passes there community without making their near their home .Unfortunately, however, for the couple the neighborhood slowly becomes a place of martial law ran by a makeshift militia. Each day that ticks by is full of love inside their home, all the while the world outside is slowly slipping into chaos.

     Finally the choice is made for Tony and Evo as the neighborhood becomes a makeshift war zone and escape is the only opportunity. Packing only the necessities, though the little extras Tony allows Evo gives you a little insight to the couples relationship and just how much the two rely on one another.

     Through their travels they're confronted with everything from gangs of wondering children, looters, thieves, and gangs of thugs that want nothing more than to take Evo for themselves and to take Tony out of the picture. One man in particular wants Tony's head so bad he travels hundreds of miles to track him down to the one place Tony and Evo were able to call a real home for weeks after leaving theirs.

     As everything comes to a head Tony, Evo and the others all must decide whether to stand and fight, or run from the embodiment of the chaotic world around them. No matter what the decision they make the world is in a downward spiral, and this challenge is just one of many that the group will surely face in the near future.

     This is a story of real 'what would you do' type story; with each stop along the way making you question just how you would behave while the world crumbles around you.

     This story had a lot of pros for me, here are just a couple:
  • Wright's writing style is very down to earth, and gives you the impression that you're being told this story by somebody you know. That's not to say the writing style is 'amateurish' in any way, more along the lines of a relaxed style that makes for a comfortable read.
  • You constantly are turning pages throughout this story. It moves over a long span quickly, but doesn't feel like it skimps on the details in any way.
  • The love between Tony and Evo is really palpable, and it draws out that emotion as it leaps off of the page at you.
     While the pros are solid reasons to read, there are a couple of cons that I feel I should note:
  • The story does seem to move a bit quickly at times.
  • The characters, this doesn't include Tony and Evo, seem flat. Though the intense fight scenes are filled with raw emotion, outside of that they just seem to lack a little depth. 
     In the end The end my Friend by Kirby Wright really gives you an insight to a less spoken of, but no quieter, possible apocalypse. More importantly however, it is a testament to what true love can get you through. That, to me, is the underlying message to this story and its one that this story truly delivers on.

     Overall I'm going to give The end my Friend by Kirby Wright a 7/10 based on:

     7/10 for readability - As I mentioned above for the bulk of the story I'm a big fan of the laid back tempo throughout the story. Each transition is smooth and you'll find yourself turning the page, hoping that each encounter will find Tony and Evo unscathed and together.

     6/10 for characters - Tony and Evo are two very well done, strong characters that play off each other well with strong dialogue and emotion. The ancillary characters, however, seem to fall a bit short; this is probably contributed to them being side by side with two strong main characters.

     8/10 for story - There have been many apocalyptic style stories written in the past. While many are about large scale wars/acts of nature that rock the foundation of the world all at once, some are 'calm before the storm' style books and still others follow situations that are so gradual everything sort of sneaks up on the characters. This story fits somewhere between the second and third styles, and does so well. Each stop on Tony and Evo's journey pits them against some unknown that you really can see in the world Wright created.

    8/10 for realism -  Wright does an amazing job capturing how, in my opinion, people would really act if the situation presented itself. During a collapsing economy, and amidst a marching army, I would expect some people to take up the mob mentality, while others I could see just doing their best to get by and live their lives as normal as possible. This realistic aspect had to be my x-factor for this story for the skill needed to construct such a perfect world falling so imperfectly.

     A huge thank you to Kirby Wright for allowing me to review The end my Friend. It really was a great read and I recommend it to anyone, even the romance fans will enjoy this read.

     If you would like to pick up a copy for yourself, simply click here.