Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Lost Arcanum by Navin Reuben Dawson : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Lost Arcanum

AUTHOR: Navin Reuben Dawson

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9387328280

GENRE: Fiction / Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 464

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank the author for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Arcanum is a lost cache of esoteric wisdom guarded by a prehistoric secret brotherhood that besides holding dangerous information on disciplines ranging from metaphysical science, alchemy, advanced microbiology, anthropology and exhaustive cosmogony had known to contain, amongst many other, mankind's greatest untold truth about his origin. It's the subject of one of history's intriguing mysteries that was lost to time. But now, the hunt to unearth that cache of lost esoteric wisdom has begun once more. On the verge of solving series of gruesome murders, CBI officer, Jake Stevens, is pulled from the investigation. Intrigued, Jake seek answers and eventually stumbles upon a link that connects his long dead father and the murders to a secret - The Lost Arcanum. The link - a meticulously crafted cipher propels Jake through labyrinth of ancient secrets, hidden history and unseen truths scattered across the mysterious landscape of India, drawing him closer to a devastating secret buried since the beginning of time. With an unexpected company of Taneez - a historian, entangled in a treacherous chase with a professional killer and covert organization, Jake find himself on a deadly collision course with forces of vengeance, greed, power and the lost history itself.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

I am a fan of Dan Brown, and of the lead character of his history based thriller series, Robert Langdon. So it was nearly inevitable that the cover and shape of this book would remind me of the famous author and his history series. When the author approached me for a review, the first thing I noted about the summary was a vague similarity to novels I had gotten used to. But then I decided to give it a try because of the setting, which would be India. The summary itself had enough words that could practically be termed the 'keywords' of this genre of books. The cover looked interesting, and once I began reading the book I was long past noticing that.

REVIEW:

It is not very easy to write a review for a thriller book without letting out some kind of spoiler. When we risk that, commenting on the plot elements can quickly become a summary rehash or a spoiler. This can be especially detrimental for a book whose summary does not do complete justice to the brilliance of the story, almost as if it had resorted to the hot and happening keywords to explain the seriousness of the plot. So I am going to form this review around the other elements of the book, especially the narrative and the storyline, without mentioning what was in the book.

The first thing I felt about the book both during and after reading was - it was wonderfully researched and managed to keep the interest of the reader alive. This is such an achievement considering the length and the geographical changes. The story kept me engrossed as and when I picked up the book and it was not that hard to follow. Special mention to the narrative that does not dip or deviate to any places over the course of the lengthy novel.

The writing is kept simple, and there are enough twists, some predictable and some unexpected, that keep the flow going. For a story that mingles many elements independently, including fantasy, history and science (even the elusive alchemy), there is no jargon in the story and it is kept fairly straightforward. The characterisation is another plus. Starting with the lead to all the supporting characters, each has their own defining purpose that makes them indispensable and not in anyway included forcefully.

Filled with sinister subplots and successive thrilling events, the book tries to mingle a bit too many facts and theories into one huge plot that attempts to explore theories of human origin. This might be a downside for some readers who would not be able to remember or keep track of all the elements that have been included as part of the book. But for me, this was a plus as I tried to work out which parts of the story were important and what loose ends were left at the end of the day. I totally loved that the entire length of the book did not deviate to anything less important, providing more and more to think of and process.

As to the language, there were a few typos that were obvious, and though interesting, some parts of the story could have been edited to make the book even better - just because a part was interesting does not mean it was totally relevant to the plot. The book could have done with tighter editing, and the lack of it was felt in some crucial places.

Overall, the summary did not do much justice to the originality of the plot, which made it sound full of stereotypical elements. But the book was thankfully different and could hold its own amidst other similar books of this genre. There were certain parts of the plot that sounded like they had resorted to the stereotype - including a lost secret, delving through history to find it, a sinister murder plot that threatens the lead character and a personal tragic loss that kicks off the entire book. But the brilliance in the writing makes up for this. The book does not give much to take back from the reading, but it is totally worth the ride. For a change, there's a plot based in India, that makes for an interesting read.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The book breaks the stereotypes that can be seen in the summary
  • The read is worth it, and the book delivers what it promises.
  • The plot is interesting and has tried to include many different sub-genres successfully
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • Before it grabs the reader, the book's first impression is one of being too long. It could benefit from tighter editing.
  • The print edition had a few typographical errors that were probably overlooked.
  • At the outset, the plot description sounds stereotypical. This is not a deal breaker but leads the readers to form their own conclusions before they begin reading.
VERDICT:

One time read - but completely worth it.

RATING: 4/5

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback

PRICE Rs. 310 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Death Logs Out by E.J. Simon : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Death Logs Out

AUTHOR: E.J. Simon

ISBN/ASIN: B07F3YZNDC

GENRE: Fiction / Technothriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 300

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Michael Nicholas Book 3

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Is Alex Nicholas really dead?

Two years since the brutal shooting of Alex Nicholas, a gambling underworld boss in Queens, NYC. But his brother, Michael, a respected CEO, struggles with a secret: his murdered brother has been communicating with him via his laptop using AI. This AI-Alex can foresee dangers in Michael’s path, and appears to be trying to help him – even controlling machinery and electronics via WiFi. Meanwhile, trouble is stirring in the historic capital cities of Rome, Berlin and Paris. Inside the Vatican, Monsignor Kurt Schlegelberger has designs to build his power and prepare for the sudden ascension of the Free Forces Party, a throw-back to the Nazis.

Schlegelberger will stop at nothing, but first he must deal with a new threat: someone appears to know the true story behind a series of murders in the US, committed by clergy to cover their tracks of child abuse within the Church. Alex’s re-appearance puts Schlegelberger’s plans in jeopardy. Dead or alive, the way to finish off Alex for good can only be to get to his close family, namely his brother Michael…

This fast-paced third instalment of E.J. Simon’s Death series will keep readers guessing to the very end.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Sometimes, some book series is so thrilling that by the time the reader has finished previous books, there is only an insane urge to know more, and read what the author has written next. There is practically no time to read and absorb the summary or wonder if this book would live up to what it promised. The author had managed to create an interesting world (using the term 'create' loosely here, as the book is very much in the here and now, not in some fantasy land) with his first two books and when I picked this one up, I barely skimmed through the summary. I just wanted to delve deeper and know more about what happened next.

REVIEW:

This book is advertised as a standalone, and would work that way. But as always, it is better to have read the previous books for complete enjoyment.

The successive books of a series always have two main requirements - they should have something new to offer for regular readers, and they should not disappoint the hype that is set by the preceding books. These conditions sound simple on paper but are incredibly harder when attempted to weave into a narrative, especially one where the sequences still have to follow real world logic and be thrilling enough to keep the reader guessing and engrossed. That is probably one reason why, though the main characters remain same, techno thrillers do not necessarily attempt to have follow up stories (or those that try to go backward to explain what happened at the beginning.

So it was with some trepidation that I picked this book up - but it did not disappoint me. Instead, I felt this book explained the transition in book 2, Death Logs In, in a much better way, making the actions of the characters have more sense and infuse better logic. I had a few complaints with book 2, especially about the mind makeup of the protagonist which were solidified and then cleared with this book, that is more of a thriller than technical fiction. At the outset, it is logical that the overall 'AI Alex helps a struggling Mike who takes over his responsibilities' premise is the backbone of the story, this can quickly get monotonous. Thankfully, the book does not veer in that direction and instead keeps the reader guessing about what new dangers would present themselves as the story progresses from one challenge to another.

The eternal question of AI, for all its 'humanlike qualities,' still being a machine form that has no conscience or compassion has been addressed wonderfully in this book, amidst all the rapid scenic changes. Revenge and retribution are the core themes that push this book on its plot. I personally liked how it began with the background scenes of Alex's funeral, which was very much needed. Though there were too many theories that could have overcrowded the narrative, thankfully the author brought it all to a nice, clear box where he tied up all the different elements together. This book wins in a weird way. The premise is still the same, the plot's one-liner is similar, but the events are nothing similar, and are portrayed in a manner that clearly makes the reader wonder about some major organisations in the world.

Overall, an interesting read but by the time I was done with it, I just could not overlook how even the best of thrillers had to veer off course a bit to keep the readers engrossed.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The moral dilemmas faced by characters are presented wonderfully
  • The book is fast paced and keeps the reader guessing.
  • Michael's self-realisation is a relatable emotion, that cinched the deal for me. A much needed transition from book 2.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • Complaints about the protagonist are not healthy for any novel, and Michael invites a bunch with this book too.
  • The shifting between timelines and cities took some time to get used to.
  • This is not a huge complaint but the book deviates a bit from the main aspect by now - AI is no longer the central theme.
VERDICT:

A fitting book for this series. Interesting page turner.

RATING: 3.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


E. J. Simon is the author of three commercial fiction thrillers, Death Never Sleeps, Death Logs In and Death Logs Out. He has just completed his fourth manuscript, Death in the Cloud.

He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America and the North Carolina Writer’s Network. He holds an M.A. in Corporate & Political Communications from Fairfield University and a B.A. in Journalism from the University of South Carolina. He lives with his family in Cary, North Carolina in the United States. For more information, visit his website: www.ejsimon.com.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $2.70 for Kindle, $8.99 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Thursday, October 4, 2018

Death Logs In by E J Simon : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Death Logs In

AUTHOR: E.J. Simon

ISBN/ASIN: B0789TC8Z8

GENRE: Fiction / Technothriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 340

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Michael Nicholas Book 2

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Some of the most powerful people in the world want to kill Michael Nicholas. Only his brother Alex can save him—the problem is that Alex is dead.

It’s been almost a year since Alex Nicholas, a Queens-based underworld boss, was gunned down. After Alex’s brutal murder, Michael inherited not only his brother’s business, but his enemies. Michael is now a key player in a world he once feared. By day, he is the head of a Fortune 500 company. By night, the CEO of Tartarus, one of the world’s largest illegal gambling operations.

Before his death, Alex invested heavily in breakthrough artificial intelligence software so that he could live forever. It worked. In his virtual form, Alex can communicate with Michael and monitor information—and people—in ways the NSA would envy.

It is Alex who discovers Michael’s life is in danger. He detects plots that reach from the darkest corners of Queens to the highest officials in the Vatican—and they all want Michael dead.

Michael is now in a race to save his life, but he is never alone. Alex is there to help him navigate through this maze of life and death. Also protecting Michael from the forces closing in around him is Sindy Steele, a beautiful and lethal bodyguard.

How far is Michael willing to go to save his own life and that of his family? Guided only by a familiar face on a computer screen, will the information Alex discovers allow Michael to go from being the hunted to the hunter?

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The concept of 'first impressions' does not really exist for series books, especially those read in quick succession. I have already given my first impressions about the author and his writing style when I read and reviewed the first book in the Michael Nicholas Series, Death Never Sleeps. So before I began the second book, Death Logs In, I had a pretty good idea about the writing and the author, not to mention the characters. There was even a hangover from that book, remnants of the story and certain scenes that stood out in my mind, while I began reading this book. So while the summary reveals more than enough about the story, it also only sets the scene for me to get familiar with the new twists and turns of this book. 

REVIEW:

Death logs in - is the tale of the reluctant leader. Someone who is chosen for the mantle against his wish but performs even better than the shoes he fills. In this case, Michael, who has very little idea about his brother Alex's activities as a bookie, goes through threats and unravels that side bit by bit (in Death Never Sleeps)until he takes up the role, also maintaining his image as a CEO of a famous company. With just Alex to guide him, Michael feels the heat of life threats that come as part of this world. He has powerful enemies and faces unnatural threats which he must overcome with the help of his brother Alex, who is a virtual AI form.

With technology that would probably shock the most powerful governments across the world, the book has enough twists and turns that keep the reader engaged throughout. The book does not match the intensity of book 1, where every character evoked mistrust until proven right, but still it manages to be a good sequel that does not disappoint the readers by veering off course. It is not an easy task to write an entirely new book with the same characters with unique threats and twists based on the same set of events that happened but the author has managed to pull that off. The book takes off from where the previous one ended, and it does so seamlessly.

The writing is smooth, with sparingly few errors, and the pace is fast, apt for a thriller. Michael's character undergoes a noticeable shift and this may make some readers wonder and revisit the initial description of the character. But with the writing, this seems more like a twist that tries to show the reader that those who inherit certain positions must also become one with the requirements of the position, including their family members in the game. This book will either make the readers take sides and justify the actions of the characters who undergo the shift, or make them feel that the twists make it more unbelievable and alien.

The book has just about enough explanation to make it possible to function as a standalone book, but would seem much more intense with the backstory from the first book, especially if read back to back. Overall, it is an interesting read that makes the reader hope the third book comes soon, but still a notch lesser than its predecessor. A good read.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The book has plenty of twists to keep the reader engaged and interested throughout
  • The beautiful way in which Alex lives on after death is at once impressive and scary.
  • The story is fast paced and does not lag anywhere.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • Not as impressive as the first, but that is a cross all sequels have to bear.
  • A few typos and character digressions exist, but they can be overlooked.
  • Some character shifts may be disconcerting to readers.
VERDICT:

An interesting read, engaging narrative.

RATING: 3.8/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

E. J. Simon is the author of three commercial fiction thrillers, Death Never Sleeps, Death Logs In and Death Logs Out. He has just completed his fourth manuscript, Death in the Cloud.

He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America and the North Carolina Writer’s Network. He holds an M.A. in Corporate & Political Communications from Fairfield University and a B.A. in Journalism from the University of South Carolina. He lives with his family in Cary, North Carolina in the United States. For more information, visit his website: www.ejsimon.com.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

PRICE $2.75 for Kindle, $14.99 for Paperback, $27.99 for Hardcover

BOOK LINKS: Amazon


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Death Never Sleeps by E J Simon : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Death Never Sleeps

AUTHOR: E.J. Simon

ISBN/ASIN: B0743FWKH8

GENRE: Thriller & Suspense., Technothriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 291

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Michael Nicholas Book 1

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

Where does life end, and death begin?

Brothers, Alex and Michael, weren’t particularly close in terms of their careers in their later years. But when Alex is murdered, Michael finds it necessary to keep Alex’s business running, at least for the foreseeable future.

With very little knowledge about what Alex actually did for a living, little does he envisage the level of complication this entails. Working closely with his cousins, Fat and Skinny Lester, Michael starts to get a sense of what needs doing … in whatever way Alex would have dealt with things.

But, when Alex’s current wife, and his two ex-wives, surface and start to dish out demands, Michael finds himself going deeper and deeper into Alex’s personal space. All his ex-wives knew there was money left hidden … but only Alex knew of its exact location.

When Russell, an old friend of Michael’s, and Alex’s most trusted person, offers to help Michael find the money, Michael feels he can start closing up on Alex’s loose ends and move on with his own, increasingly complicated life.

Until … Russell is brutally murdered …

Someone else is after Alex’s money … and it’s not a friendly person.

But is Alex really dead? Or is he as dead as he has prepared himself to be?

Michael is beyond confused … is he imaging the conversations he’s having with Alex? But Alex was shot dead in his own restaurant, one filled with policemen. Surely, Alex is dead?

Whichever way Michael tries to rationalize things in his head, Alex’s support is beyond what he needs. Finding himself face to face with a crook, Sharkey, one who has no qualms about killing people, one Alex was in debt to, Michael takes on Alex’s advice … dead or not!

As the number of deaths rise, Michael and his wife, Samantha, are left on their toes. Would they ever feel safe again? Is anyone safe? And how far did Alex go with his new venture?

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The book is the first of the series, and thankfully I have the chance to read the other two books that follow. For the first book in the series, the summary is quite long. And as far as long summaries go, they can work either way. They may either reveal too much information, or give a lot of details for the readers to note and keep track of. The book is categorised as a techno thriller and it has made all the difference to the murders listed in the summary - making them anticipated points in the book instead of suspense reveals. They add to the expectation quotient of the novel and set the mood before the reader gets to it.

REVIEW:

It is common knowledge that deaths can be messy. Even if wills have been written and attested, the death of someone who has lived a shady life can leave behind messes that are nearly impossible to sort out. And at rare times, people who have absolutely no idea about the mess are in a position to make quick decisions legally, and deal with all that has been left behind. Michael finds himself in one such mess after his brother Alex is murdered. Quickly brought into a game he had no idea about, with stakes he cannot even begin to comprehend, Michael is left in a position where his personal freedom and increasingly troubling life are also made harder until he comes to face life threats himself.

I initially began this story with the image of estranged brothers one of whom is legally bound to set the affairs of the other in order. But with the ex wives and partners thrown into the mess, things quickly got more directions in which they would travel, and the many chances for which they could become nastier. Michael tries to walk a thin line between trying to set his brother's affairs in order while trying to be careful not to slip in the quagmire - something that keeps proving to be increasingly difficult with every new murder and every new truth that is uncovered, leading to dire consequences every time he tries to make sense of things around him.

The classic 'putting the lamb amidst the sheep' thing works with this novel too and Michael finds himself going deeper into the world where everyone bays for his blood and all the while he is guided from the netherworld - in the form of Alex (but not the way readers might initially assume). The story is engaging because the writing is, and also because it gives the readers more things to process and think of while they are reading the story. This works as a plus in some cases because the readers would process the story in two ways. One for the way it is written and the plot it fulls out, and the other for the way it gives out information that may or may not be important in subsequent books.

This book also falls for the problems that series books usually have. The lack of closure is evident but since there are obvious sequels the readers can hope to get their answers and explanations in the subsequent books which must address these questions for the story to feel complete and right. Overall the language was a plus, thankfully avoiding jargon but maintaining the important terms well. The story was coherent and maintained the interest despite revealing huge chunks in the summary. This is thanks to the writing and the plot sequencing, both of which work in favour of the book. This book turned out to be an interesting read, but it also pushed me to read the sequel - not only because I loved the writing but also because I wanted to know some more answers, which I think is what the author would want for his readers to feel. So in that way, it is a good book.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • Fast paced story that keeps the readers guessing
  • Does not restrict itself to the purely technical aspects, or making it look like sci-fi only.
  • The title's relevance was both obscure and mysterious. It worked as the latter for me.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The book ends with no real closure for some rather important questions, which makes the sequel a must read in hopes that it will fill in the answers
  • There is a tiny bit of stereotypical forming with the 'good guy' facing moral dilemmas the more he comes to know of the shady world thing.
  • For the lead character, Michael could have been a bit more fleshed out.
VERDICT:

Good use of the concepts and clean writing make this book what it is. Good read.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


E. J. Simon is the author of three commercial fiction thrillers, Death Never Sleeps, Death Logs In and Death Logs Out. He has just completed his fourth manuscript, Death in the Cloud. He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America and the North Carolina Writer’s Network. He holds an M.A. in Corporate & Political Communications from Fairfield University and a B.A. in Journalism from the University of South Carolina. He lives with his family in Cary, North Carolina in the United States. For more information, visit his website: www.ejsimon.com.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

PRICE $0.92 for Kindle, $4.42 for Paperback, $25.14 for Hardcover

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Guest Post by E J Simon, author of Death Never Sleeps


GUEST POST: E. J. Simon, author of Death Never Sleeps, Death Logs In and, just released, Death Logs Out.

Where do I get inspiration for my stories?

My inspiration often comes from my everyday life, the characters and people I grew up with, the places I’ve lived in or visited, sometimes it’s the dreams or nightmares, from my childhood.

Two classic movies originally inspired my current books. The first is The Godfather for how it portrayed the family, the concept of the young, straight-arrow Michael Corleone, who starts out rejecting his family’s “business” and later embraces it, becoming perhaps the most violent and dangerous of them all.

The second movie was 2001 Space Odyssey, the movie that popularized and first brought artificial intelligence to my attention. The computer on board the spacecraft, HAL, took on a mind and consciousness of his own and a will to survive, to the point where he kills off the astronauts who tried to “disconnect” him. The great physicist Stephen Hawking predicted that soon computers would be able to actually duplicate a person’s brain and mind and that a computer would eventually have a “consciousness.” This really is at the core of my books. Alex Nicholas, with the help of a breakthrough in artificial intelligence, duplicates himself on a computer – just before he is murdered.

Certain authors have inspired my writing, or at least my writing style. They would be Stuart Woods – I love the simplicity of his plots and his writing. In addition, Dan Brown and Daniel Silva for their characters and the intricate adventures inherent in their stories.

Finally, although my works are fiction, many of the characters are based upon real people, often ones I have grown up around, colorful relatives and friends, neighborhood toughs, and even people I have worked with in the corporate world (a few of whom I’d characterize as neighborhood toughs, too).

In short, my inspiration comes from the recesses of my mind, real life characters, and from various media, particularly books and movies. It’s all enough to fill a library.