Indie Books I’ve Read

Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. I like this definition. What qualifies as art is, of course, highly subjective. The following reviews are only one opinion in a world chock full of opinions.


Gavin

The Chicago summer is heating up…

In a luxurious hotel off Michigan Avenue, Detective Gavin Nolan arrives on a grisly scene. Two men have been brutally murdered, and one of the victims has a familiar face. The twisted display is like nothing Gavin has ever seen, but it’s the message scrawled in blood on the bathroom mirror that leaves him reeling: Gavin, you could have saved me.

Other men have been viciously slain as well over the last few weeks. As he dives further into the victims’ lives, Gavin and his partner, Derrick, discover that each of the men have a common thread—one that Gavin shares. It’s a reality he has suppressed for years.

On top of Gavin’s personal chaos, the killer is displaying the bodies in a series of specific designs to depict a long ago memory. Recognizing the pattern, Gavin soon is forced to recall the dark event. In order to catch the killer, Gavin must reconcile his past.

Before he becomes the final victim himself.
GAVIN is a sexual thriller that will leave you breathless…

 

Oh, Gavin…                                                                                                                     

I did not like this book at first. I did, in fact, almost put it down after the first twenty-five pages or so.

It wasn’t the sexual subject matter, or the language. It wasn’t the graphic descriptions of violence, and it wasn’t the blood. I don’t fear these things when they’re necessary to a story. To be honest, I don’t know exactly what it was that nearly made me close the book prematurely. Going through other reviews of Russell’s novel I found I’m not the only one who felt this way. Maybe it’s something the author will take note of for future work.

The point that I’m taking way too long to get to is that this is a good book, and I’m glad I stuck with it. If you’re a fan of the genre, you shouldn’t be disappointed. It’s a solid murder mystery; one that left this reader guessing all the way to the end. The title character is well fleshed-out and makes an interesting protagonist. The secondary characters are also well-drawn and believable. I don’t do spoilers but the ending suggests this may not be the ending at all.

So if you’re not too queasy, and like a good suspense thriller, pick up a copy of Gavin…just don’t eat first.

Purchase Gavin at Amazon

About Russell:

For nearly two decades, Russell was an Executive Chef in the Restaurant Industry, in which he created succulent entrees and managed various types of kitchen operations. In the last seven years, he began to teach future culinarians achieve their professional goals in hands-on classroom and lecture settings. With his recent graduate work in the field of Sociology, his interests centered on organizational behaviorism, social theory and food insecurity. Russell has been writing for the majority of his life. Last year, he published a Second Edition on his freshman novel, The Tale of Old Man Fischer. Slipping into alternative universes allows Russell to enjoy the process of creativity from the novel’s conception to its final draft. Most importantly, inspiration is a continuous piece of his work and results from the world around him. Currently, he lives in Up State New York with his wife, two children and several cats.

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The Ugly is reminiscent of fairy tales I read as a child: You can’t take it seriously, yet you must take it seriously. Loaded with irony, absurdity, and plenty of opportunities for a laugh, Alexander Boldizar’s novel follows protagonist Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth’s unlikely journey from a boulder-throwing Siberian villager to a word-slinging Harvard law student (yep, see absurdity).

I thought the first half of the book was exceptional, but the story’s grip loosened slightly during the second half, where it got a little heavy and cumbersome for me. Some of the language got a bit more challenging than I normally care for in fiction.

All things considered, I found The Ugly to be an extraordinarily original piece of storytelling by an insightful and talented writer. It was well worth the occasional trip to the dictionary.

 

Purchase The Ugly at Amazon

About Alexander Boldizar:

Alexander Boldizar was the first post-independence Slovak citizen to graduate with a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. Since then, he has been an art gallery director in Bali, an attorney in San Francisco and Prague, a pseudo-geisha in Japan, a hermit in Tennessee, a paleontologist in the Sahara, a porter in the High Arctic, a police-abuse watchdog in New York City, an editor and art critic in Jakarta and Singapore, and a consultant on Wall Street. His writing has won the PEN/Nob Hill prize and was the Breadloaf nominee for Best New American Voices.

Boldizar currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where his hobbies include throwing boulders and choking people while wearing pajamas, for which he won a gold medal at the Pan American Championships and a bronze at the World Masters Championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For several years, an online Korean dictionary had him listed as its entry for “ugly.”

 


 

About a third of the way through Happiness is a Commodity, I was convinced I was reading either the musings of a genius, or the ramblings of a lunatic. By the time I finished, I’d decided it was both…and neither.

I can’t really review this book because I don’t have the first clue of what I want to say about it. I can only suggest that you read it for yourself. I can say that I’ve never read anything quite like it, and that there is some remarkable depth to be found here by the open-minded reader. Admittedly, the ending lost me a little, but a day later, I’m still thinking about it. Whether or not I find something there remains to be seen.

This last part is for the author, The Behrg. The rest of you will understand if you read the book.

Springtime

 

Purchase Happiness Is A Commodity at Amazon

 


On the outside, The North Water is a story about an ill-fated whaling expedition in the nineteenth-century. On the inside, it’s a sordid and dismal tale about the darkness that resides in the hearts of men.
Centered around a disgraced and dispirited doctor, and a murderous harpooner, the story is as bleak as it is powerful. Ian McGuire’s vivid telling will make you feel the icy spray of the sea and the sting of a cold blade, while you’re smelling the putrid stench of rancid whale blubber. If you’re squeamish, this book isn’t for you. If you’re not, I highly recommend it.

 

Purchase The North Water at Amazon

 

 


Danny Wynn’s The Benevolent Terrorist is a thoughtfully written and engaging character study about drug-addicted world traveler and his two unlikely companions: a beautiful and self-assured Australian named Timmy, and a secretive Vietnam war veteran, named Jenkins.
Set in 1980s Greece, the story follows American Jack Ferris as he struggles to find meaning in the vagabond life he’s made for himself. Suffering from a deteriorating psyche, he’s ultimately convinced that his personal salvation can only come from him inflicting punishment on the doer of some great wrong. An idea that takes such a firm hold that he’s eventually compelled to act upon it.
All three of the main characters are complex, and the story moves along quite quickly for a piece without a lot of action. Definitely worth a read.

Purchase The Benevolent Terrorist at Amazon

 

About Danny Wynn:

Danny Wynn is action writer who has previously written a novella called “Man from the Sky,” set in Majorca, and a collage novel called “Lucien And I,” set in Istanbul, New York City and Wainscott, New York. Before turning to full-time action writing, he was an executive in the music industry. He has lived and worked in New York City, London and Los Angeles, and now resides in the West Village with his wife and two children.

 

 

 

 


People are seldom precisely how they appear to be from the outside. Sarah Stephens’ debut novel shows us one such example in stark and disturbing detail.
Centered around the deteriorating marriage of college psychology professor Anna Kline, and her architect husband, Sean, A Flash of Red sits neatly between a dark character study and a psychological thriller.

What begins as a seemingly picture-perfect marriage, slowly evolves into something else. Something more complex, and full of emotional booby-traps. As Anna’s self-assuredness erodes, she becomes more controlling and manipulative. Sean retreats into a secretive world where he addictively chases his fantasies.

Enter Bard.

Anna discovers a disconcerting but alluring kinship with her mysterious and intense student. As it turns out, she and Bard share similar pasts. Pasts they both fear may dictate their futures. One soon develops a fixation on the other…

That’s as far as I’ll go. I’ll leave the spoilers to the real critics. I will say that this book is remarkably well-written, Sarah Stephens’ considerable skill with language is on full display, and her characters are of a complexity that eludes many authors.

Oh, and pay attention to the very end. There might be something to be found there, if you’re looking.

Purchase A Flash of Red at Amazon

About Sarah Stephens:

Sarah K. Stephens earned her doctorate in Developmental Psychology and teaches a variety of human development courses as a lecturer at Penn State University. Although Fall and Spring find her in the classroom, she remains a writer year-round. Her short stories have appeared in Five on the Fifth, The Voices Project, The Indianola Review, and the Manawaker Studio’s Flash Fiction Podcast. Her debut novel, A Flash of Red, was released in December 2016 by Pandamoon Publishing.


 

 


I’m having a tough time classifying this book. It starts out feeling like a historical fiction piece and then a mystery unravels that spans generations. The characters are well fleshed out and interesting, particularly the lovestruck Wingfield, the introspective Porter and the tough female sheriff, Etoile Miller. The book is paced well and the mountain setting is vivid enough to smell the pines.
I’m probably most impressed with how sincere the writing feels. One gets the notion that the author cares deeply for the subject matter, which of course Sarah does. I could give this novel a five star rating on that alone. Enjoy.

Purchase The Promise of Fate at Amazon

 

 

About Sarah Margolis Pearce:

I’m a native San Franciscan. But I escape to the mountains every chance I get.

My published works have appeared on WritersType and Midlife Collage. I was a cast member of the 2013 production of Listen to Your Mother. My spoken word piece, Goodbye Kimmie, was featured in the production.

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