Archive for August, 2012
A Cup Full of Midnight : A Jared McKean Mystery
By: Jaden Terrell
Hardcover, 288 pages Published August 15th 2012 by The Permanent Press
Overall 4 out of 5 stars
This is is second book in the Jared McKean Mystery series. I have not read the first book, yet, but as soon as I get a chance to, I will. A Cup Full of Midnight is a murder mystery. McKean is a private investigator and former homicide detective whose nephew has become a suspect the the murder of a former lover. McKean gets involved to clear his nephew’s name but uncovers a lot more trouble than simply clearing his nephew’s name.
Creativity 4 out of 5 stars
This is a classic murder mystery in format and the story itself is classic murder mystery so the for stars do not come from the creativity in plot. The four stars come from one of the two outstanding things about this novel, style. Jaden Terrell’s writing style is awesome, I loved it. There is a certain style to the writing that i cannot quite explain. Jaden Terrell does a little more telling than showing than I do, but it really works. Terrell leaves much of the scene to the imagination of the reader, which I prefer because it makes everyone see the book from a slightly different perspective, but Terrell throws in these little nuances of the scene that you would probably not even notice in a movie, but add a poetic style to the writing.
Characters 5 out of 5 stars
These characters jump from the pages and this is really where Jaden Terrell shines. Almost all of the characters have the appropriate amount of page space, have their own uniqueness that you can relate to and really make the story. The best thing about this book is the main character, Jared McKean, who is one of the best protagonist that I have ever read about. These types of books generally have extremely tough, manly men, that you wouldn’t really like in real life, overly smart detective minds that make preposterous conclusions with psychic like abilities, or females that have and implausible ability to defeat multiple foes that are way stronger than her, but not McKean. Jared McKean is human, his vulnerability, compassion, and realism shine through to create a main character that you can empathize with, root for, and thoroughly enjoy. This is everything that character development should be. When other authors read my criticisms about their characters, this is how it should be.
Spelling and Grammar 4 out of 5 stars
I did not find anything glaring about the editing at all. The knock comes from the occasional repeating of certain things. For instance, the first time Jaden wrote about a character counting down with his fingers by saying that he ticked them off on his fingers, which was a nice way of visualizing the movement of pulling the top of a finger down, like people do to count something off, but the third or fourth time I heard it, the uniqueness was lost and it became annoying.
Execution 4 out of 5 stars
Jaden Terrell executed A Cup Full of Midnight very well. For about three fourths of the way through, I thought I knew how it would end, but I was wrong, which was nice. The best part about the execution was that while McKean has a police background and still has connections in the department, Jaden Terrell has some familiarity, but is no expert and chose to not get into the procedural elements of how police interact or run investigations, like I do in Eliot because it is my expertise. Terrell chose instead to focus on character driven elements of the plot and did it exceptionally well.
Without question I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys mysteries or character driven stories. Outstanding job by Jaden Terrell and please remember that recommendation does not come very often from me.
Michael A. Wood Jr.
The Critical Critic
Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator By: Ryan Holiday
Hardcover, 288 pages Published July 19th 2012 by Portfolio Hardcover
Overall 3 out of 5 stars
My system is set up to review fiction novels, so I will have to adapt a bit. I received this copy of Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator in a Goodreads.com giveaway, which I have been having some good luck with lately, enough to have a hard time keeping up on reviewing them. I received a signed copy, so I guess I feel pretty cool right now.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with this book that I am giving it 3 stars, it simply did not entertain me enough to warrant higher, or lower. Ryan Holiday built most of his reputation and education working in public relations with Tucker Max, author of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, and for American Apparel. Holiday tells some of the behind the scenes stories of “news” stories that have grabbed the spotlight in recent years. This behind the scenes look includes how he has manipulated the system to grab positive attention for his employers and fend of negative attention, as well as how the world of blogging is flawed in its fundamental structure.
A lot of what Holiday reveals about the underbelly of internet media is shocking to say the least. It’s not as if we don’t know how it works, but when Holiday lays it all out so you can easily see the cause and effect, you will be left with no desire to ever read an internet blog again. This subject was quite interesting to me because, being an aspiring author without a publisher or literary agent, I need to find a way to get my work out there on my own. I was hopeful that maybe there was some dark magic to be revealed in Holiday’s writing, but sadly not for me. I even tried one of Holiday’s techniques without any success, no that it did not work in his world, but these are not universal tactics.
It would be grand if Holiday ended this on a positive note, but he couldn’t even if he wanted to. No matter how much he reveals, the internet world of page views and advertising will keep us all being feed gossip, lies, and half truths as long as people keep clicking on the headline, and they will.
Creativity 3 out of 5 stars
Again, it’s not has if Holiday had to come up with a gripping fiction plot, he is just telling his version of some events that he has been a part of. It is like my police leadership guides, you really can’t give me creativity points for writing about what I do for a living, can you?
Spelling and Grammar 4 out of 5 stars
Some of the normal run on sentences or confusing sections that had to be re-read but certainly nothing distracting like some books I have read that are so bad, you just start looking for the errors instead of reading.
Execution 3 out of 5 stars
Holiday worked with what he had. Ironically, just like he talks about in the book pertaining to people simply not being very interested in fact based news that is supported by evidence, he subject just isn’t sensational enough for me to get all giddy about. That is quite a sad truth that Holiday repeatedly comes back to in the book and I give 3 out of 5 stars to support his beliefs. Holiday often repeats himself in the book and I assume that is because he believes in what he is saying and really wants to make people understand.
I enjoyed Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator as I think anyone that is into social media, blogs, self-promotion, advertising, conspiracies, et cetera would also enjoy giving this a read, maybe in ebook or something though, I can’t see forking over hardback money for this.
by William Hertling
Paperback, 262 pages
Published May 24th 2012 by liquididea press (first published March 1st 2012)
Overall: 1 out of 5 stars
Being an aspiring writer myself makes these types of reviews very hard to do. If I am also going to be “The Critical Critic” which I very much enjoy and like to be a gatekeeper of quality, then I have no choice.
I only read the first few chapters of A.I. Apocalypse and skimmed the rest because it was simply all I could take. No matter how much William Hertling wanted to write a good story or had good ideas, there is simply no way that he can look someone in the eye and said that he did his best writing this book. There is minimal effort given in writing A.I. Apocalypse and it came through in the pages and dialogue. Reading the first few chapters, I said to my wife that it read like someone who just used technology terms but had no idea what they actually meant, then I read on the back cover that William Hertling is a fifteen year veteran of the technology field and that is….let’s just say interesting.
If you had to put A.I. Apocalypse into a genre, it would be a technological thriller set in the not so distant United States. A 17 yeard old, smart kid develops a virus that infects the computers and things become a mess.
Creativity: 1 star
Anyone heard of this idea before?
Spelling and Grammar: 3 stars
Nothing stood out, but wasn’t really looking.
Characters: 1 star
The main character Leon, is very smart and has aspirations of going to a great college. Leon’s family cannot afford college, so he is doing his best to fulfill his dream and hunts after a scholarship, from being so smart, Almost, immediately he completely risks all his dreams because an uncle, that he has met once and lives in Russia, emails him, asking for help in committing a crime. When the main character’s completely violates his reported personality, imagine how weak the rest of the characters are. I am a rookie writer, I know that, but this mistake is a basic writing no-no.
Execution: Black hole that adsorbed all of the other stars
The whole of the writing sounds like someone simply making stuff up to try and sound cool or fool the people around them. I have to go over some of them:
It took 6 years to develop this cell phone, if you spend six years developing something in today’s technology, how obsolete would it be when it came out? You can’t spend six years developing anything anymore.
These teens spend time drooling over the resolution of this cellphone screen and this is set in the future. It doesn’t matter how high the resolution of the screen is…WE CAN’T SEE IT! The new ipad screen exceeds our visual capabilities. We are at the limit now of not what technology can do, but what we can see and anyone into graphics knows this, and these kids would know this for sure.
This is set in the future with crazy technology, but the communication that changes everything, was sent on email? to his phone? and the guy waiting for a response keeps clicking refresh to see if he got a response, who clicks refresh anymore? and this is like 40 plus years in the future, we are using email to send what a simple text message could?
All of the cars have government mandated stopping devices to avoid collisions and the HOV lane cars are controlled by a central computer. This is not fantasy, this is our world in the near future, so these things must have a logical basis. The cars would all need to be retrofitted with this technology at a cost that would be impossible, even if we started today with such a project, it would take 15-20 years to accomplish and that’s just for stopping, now centrally controlled cars is a whole different problem. This must be set a good 40 or more years in the future but the military still has some 1960-70 jeeps running around?
One character’s father was in the military about 14 years ago (in the story’s timeline) and she has his M16, they hardly use M16 now, they won’t be using them 30 years from now.
The electric car engines, emit an electric whine noise, but today’s electric motors are silent, thus the controversy over the subject with blind people not being able to hear them. Did we suddenly lose technology and our electric engines got noisy?
When downloading an email attachment from his uncle, Leon note’s the huge size of the file. The files was nothing but text, algorithms, and notes, By today’s standard that files doesn’t make a blip. With today’s technology an entire book is (overestimated) 2MB and my service can download at 9MB/sec (and that’s slow compared to some) so in 1 second, I can presently download 4.5 books, Leon certainly didn’t even download that much and with future bandwidth and file that size would be literally nothing.
This novel feels cheesy and a less than half hearted effort. There is no effort to research technology, military, or anything at that matter. The characters are weak and violate their own codes. I do not recommend this book to anyone for any reason.
By the way, this is the sequel to Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears
Michael A. Wood Jr.
“The Critical Critic”
Damage Control: A Jonathan Grave Thriller
By: John Gilstrap
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Kensington Publishing Corp.
Overall: 4 out of 5 Stars
Maybe I’m too critical, haha, I am the Critical Critic, but when I see a mass market paperback, I frown. That’s what I did when I received Damage Control in a Goodreads giveaway. I have promised myself that I would conduct a thorough, unbiased, review of every book that an author sends me, so I cracked open Damage Control. I loved it! This is an entertaining thriller in John Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave series, of which I have not read any of the others, but I am certainly ready to, now. Jonathan Grave has spend a life being the hunter, but now he is the hunted. His back against the wall, he must fight to survive, while still protecting his valuable cargo, a young teen, Tristan.
Creativity: 2 stars
Sorry, but it is not that I am knocking Gilstrap here, it is just not creative, not in the surprising or revolutionary sense. As stated under the Execution section, I believe Gilstrap could take any old idea and pull it off well.
Characters: 4 stars
There are many characters in Damage Control that play roles in helping or harming the three targets, Graves, Boxers, and Wagner there was no connection with them, but there didn’t need to be. Graves, Boxers, and Wagner were very well written. I felt the personalities of all three of them, their actions were always consistent with their stated personalities. In other words, show and tell, blended seamlessly, a true compliment for a writer.
Spelling and Grammar: 5 stars
I always look for grammar and spelling errors, none were noticed.
Execution: 5 stars
I am going to admit some arrogance and prejudice here. When I am about to read something based off of the military or police, my experience in the Marine Corps and Baltimore Police Department causes me to brace myself for tons of B.S. about tactics, weapons, the way we speak, and so forth. I looked on the back cover and saw the picture of John Gilstrap, honestly, I presumed, here we go again, what could this guy know about tactics and weapons? Once again, I was put in my place. John Gilstrap thanks some SEAL members and other military members for teaching him a bit. Whether they were excellent trainers or Gilstrap is an excellent learner, I cannot say, but I did not find myself complaining a single time about the military and police issues. A job well done, indeed.
When I write, I painstaking focus on ensuring that there is not a single flaw in my time lines and that everything makes complete sense. Due to my OCD, I constantly looks for flaws in this with other writers. While there were some minor issues that I noticed in Damage Control, nothing detracted from the story and the real praise for Gilstrap is that I am sure there are more. The praise comes in the fact that I was so into the story, it was so fact paced, and there was so much going on that I lost my desire to scrutinize the details.
I think that anyone that enjoys reading, would have to enjoy Damage Control, regardless of their preferred genre. The story has a bit of everything, while predominately a thriller, there are some love interest, comedy, and mystery, in order to appeal to everyone. This is the first novel that I am giving 4 stars to and the first that I can recommend to everyone. I am reserving my 5 stars for a true classic, if it ever comes along.
Michael A. Wood Jr.
“The Critical Critic”
Jordan Wilde – The Devil’s Hoof Prints
By Frederic M. Perrin
292 pages Published 2012 by Ankh Books
Overall: 2.5 out of 5 stars
I approach book reviews as if I were buying them off of a shelf, so first impression of Jordan Wilde – The Devil’s Hoof Prints is that of a dark pirate book, so I was a little surprised to find out that it is a young adult novel. Surprisingly, I read the entire novel in a few hours. It kept my interest for sure, but also there are deep margins and excess sentence spacing, which makes the 292 pages appear much longer than it actually is. Jordan Wilde – The Devil’s Hoof Prints is a classic treasure hunt / mystery about fourteen year old, Jordan Wilde, who is pretty much a young Batman that does not fight. I had a hard time giving this novel a score because of the problems I had with it, but I was entertained and read it without stopping, and I must admit that if people read my novel, Eliot, and did the same thing, I would consider that success.
Creativity: 2 out of 5 stars
While I was entertained, simple minds are amused by simple things, there was absolutely nothing original about the novel. The mixture of Batman, Hardy Boys, Pirates, and Mission Impossible, was interesting. This novel would make an outstanding, seriously, Disney or Nickelodeon original movie for television. They should look into that. I know my daughter would be thrilled by such a movie.
Spelling and Grammar: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Here is something that needs investigation. Why is it that every independently or self published book that I have read, has way better editing than those form the major authors and publishing houses? Two I noticed, p.105, improper possessive James’s and p.108 improper comma. Overall, very good.
Execution: 2 out of 5 stars
I know this was written for young adults, but they are not completely stupid. It is partly my problem of reading too deeply into everything, but here are some problems I had:
1. Initially, I had no clue, judging by cover-art that this was young adult.
2. It is deceivingly short, feels shady.
3. The characters has no sense of realism or connection, at all.
4. FBI agents had to go on a trip and already had a key fob for a car parked in another state, pre-paid for an entire hotel to be booked (while supposedly trying to be under the radar), but waited in line to buy first class plan tickets just before the plan took off?
5. FBI agent demonstrated outward disdain for a war-hero, purple heart, Marine vet? No FBI field agent would ever be that way, other agents and police would check that attitude at the door.
6. Agents were shot up with machine guns, but lived because they had concealed bullet-proof vests. Come on Mr. Perrin, a little bit of research and or realism, no vest can withstand multiple rifle rounds, let alone a thin plain clothes type.
7. The detective teen has a secret , James Bond / Batman, technology division with nano-machines and his own satellite, but after he has already been threatened with active sniper shots, they only scan 300 feet around him, and the bad guys just happen to be 385 feet away from him. Again, I know this is fantasy but the enemy in this are ex-military with unlimited funds and weaponry, 3,000 foot shots would be routine for them, but they only scan 300 feet? They also have audio capability, which they only use once, despite hundreds of times it should have been used.
8. While driving in the dark and turning off the headlights, to move without giving away their position, they use the brakes, which would activate the brake lights and light up the night. Any military / police / criminal knows to use the emergency brake so they brake lights do not come on.
9. Quicksand cannot consume / drown a person.
10. The teenage millionaire owns all kinds of things, buildings, his company, the technology wing, an arcade, et cetera, but is not emancipated?
11. The fourteen year old detective fights a trained, ruthless, military veteran and wins? Come on again, reminds me of Obi Wan defeating Darth Maul with a light saber, just dumb, he would need to outwit him, not physically win.
12. The fourteen year old detective and his thirteen year old girlfriend act and speak like 30 year olds, which just throws some credibility out of the window, I don’t care how smart he is.
It was an interesting read, like I said, I was entertained, but there were so many “come ‘on now” moments that it took a lot away. I cannot recommend this novel for serious reading, but if you are in the mood for light, mindless entertainment, then it can hit the spot, especially if you are not being critical of the facts.
Michael A. Wood Jr.
“The Critical Critic”