Greg McLaughlin

Riverside, CT

Late-in-life writer seeking to live the passionate life of an artist writing novels, screenplays and poems - painting pictures with words and creating verisimilitude with stories.

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Truly Unique and Absurd Comedy with Great Social Insight

In his amazing parabolic farce, "Apocalypse and the Asylum", writer, Saynum, crafts a beautiful and bizarre allegorical journey from the unbelievably and earthly mundane to the inconceivably and heavenly fantastic.

Distinctly and uniquely marked by a style of satirical wit and off-beat humor, each chapter, every pairing of unusual characters, each line of amusingly unexpected dialog and nearly every sentence of the narrative provides either an entertaining event, a comical interaction or an outright hilarious situation that sometimes causes a smile or chuckle and other times forces an outright laugh out loud moment.

Steeped in character reactions antithetical to expectation and/or social norms, Saynum makes a concerted effort to keep the reader simultaneously wondering what is going on and why the players all behave in such illogical, unexpected and unaffected ways throughout this narrative that grows and cascades into a crescendo of danger and destruction as the "Apocalypse Initiative" commences.

At the center of this wildly inventive and amusing fable are Emil, a seemingly nondescript public relations professional and Inora, his news reporter friend who sets out to stop the ultimate destruction of the planet Earth. Where the overarching comedy of "Apocalypse and the Asylum" meets the substance of this clever jaunt lies an undercurrent of biting and deeply meaningful insights into human nature, social norms and customs, organized religion and religious thought and the overall human condition.

In fact, Saynum skewers the illogic of human rules, rituals and behaviors, while making a broader, more universal point about the nature of "good deeds" and "bad deeds" and the concept of God and Heaven. By juxtaposing the bizarre and unexpected oddities of life against the all too real realities of humanity, Saynum accomplishes a lasting investigation that simultaneously entertains, questions and informs. Broken into short, well cross-cut chapters that play like connected vignettes, this story deserves the investment of time it takes to mine through its absurdities to understand its moments of absolute brilliance.

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Tension and Intensity in Masterful Psychological Murder-Mystery-Thriller

The Narcissist by Denna Hunter keeps the reader on edge from the very first image she paints in her opening sentence through the taut and twisted conclusion that literally keeps the reader guessing until the very last sentence of the novel, The story features an immensely, decadently successful alpha brother and survivor of a gruesomely abusive pair of parents who epitomizes the concept of a hot-headed, self-centered, eternally selfish narcissist and his submissive brother who lives in his shadow. When several women employees of the narcissist's company are found murdered, the thrill ride, led by two hard-driving detectives, kicks off and takes the reader through a wild series of twists, turns, loops and shocking reveals.

Hunter proves her chops as tour-de-force storyteller in her genre by crafting an intriguing plot that never lets the reader pin down the truth until the action-packed climax. She builds believable and flawed characters with major emotional baggage from their impossibly difficult pasts. Her natural dialog allows each character to voice a separate and distinct persona, creating likable and despicable characters who grow, change and transform from beginning to end. Best of all, "The Narcissist" presents a series of deeply intense psychological character studies that toy with the readers' sympathies and effectively arc the lead characters from start to finish in this incredibly entertaining and infuriatingly stress-inducing thriller.

With a slight edit to tighten some of the writing and shore up a handful of outstanding plot questions, this novel could rank among the greats of the genre. It was truly an enjoyable read and a memorable experience and I recommend Hunter's masterpiece "The Narcissist" to anyone who craves a good old "edge-of-the-seat" thriller that will keep you turning the pages and second guessing what you think you know throughout.

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Mind-Bending Whimsical Fun that Will Challenge Your Understanding of Time, Consciousness and Life on Earth

Rich Shifman has demonstrated one of the most interesting and unique takes on the role of time, dimension, dark and light magic, forces of good and dangerous evil in his series “Seams Along the Near World”.

Specifically, in “Dark Water and the Maiden” - whether read as a prequel, a book one or a series finale (as I did) - he delves even deeper into these complex philosophic representations while maintaining the fun, whimsical adventurous tone of his demographic-busting series of books. In fact, like his transient concept of time as a non-linear phenomenon, his books, while intended to be read in a certain order, can almost be read in any arbitrary order and enjoyed as a different holistic experience depending on which stories precede and/or follow which others.

Despite this interpretation, the author’s intention is for “Dark Water and the Maiden” to be taken as “Book 1”, so that is the recommended course.

What stands out about Shifman, as a writer, is his ability to represent time and space as a sort of non-linear continuum that those enlightened by the light and dark magic of his multi-verse are able to easily and seamlessly traverse and, to some degree, manipulate. His unique vision presents time, in particular, as a sort of fabric that may be bent, folded, stretched, torn and even repaired through a combination of carefully guided magical choices and thrilling triumphs over the evil forces of his worlds. Moreover, Shifman’s intelligent design depicts multiple layers of fabric stitched loosely together through numerous magical “common threads” that may bend and stretch in unison while creasing slightly differently and yet remaining in relative synch across the big picture of his complex interpretation of human existence as manifested through his parallel multi-verse concepts.

At the center of this installment are a very young Paul Branch and his good childhood friend Alexa Adams, whose “maiden” adventure into a mysterious forest on a distant “near-world” exposes them to menacing faceless adversaries, the prospect of crossing between parallel versions of life on earth and the notion that elements of time - including people and objects - may be moved from one period to the next through the concept of “Light Magic”. He throws in subtle religious themes and references to add weight and credence to his mythology and does it in a subtle and fair manner, maintaining his mass appeal regardless of affiliation.

His most thought-provoking theme not only blurs time and space, but human identity, depicting a mind-bending ability for his characters to inhabit more than one life and consciousness at a simultaneous time in a bizarre and satisfying way that can only be explained or understood through reading his magical descriptive prose.

As many questions that Shifman answers about life, time, good, evil, consciousnesses and human identity throughout his four-book masterpiece, the reader is left with lingering dilemmas and concepts to ponder. Why do certain characters have to leave their worlds behind and cross over to other worlds? What is the grand plan of both the forces of light and dark? How do some of the seemingly arbitrary tasks that each character must perform contribute to the greater cause? Why are certain characters called upon to make such major sacrifices? Not all of the mysteries in this series come to a final, incontrovertible resolution leaving the reader to debate and wonder - why? why? why?

But, then again, as much could be said about life in the real world. As a result, Shifman’s ground-breaking series takes its readership on a wild, magical ride, gives a fresh perspective along the way and leaves his audience challenged, invigorated, disoriented, slightly confused at times and thoroughly entertained. That’s the mark and magic of excellent writing.

Congratulations to Rich Shifman on defying the prevailing notion of time, space, good, evil and life in his amazing series “Seams Along the Near World”. I’m just a little sad that I’ve finished reading all the available books!!

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Excellent Evolution of the Near World Series

Rich Shifman has done it again! With the second installment of his "Seams Along the Near World" series, he's crafted another magical and wondrous story of brotherly love, young romance, mysterious magic and the unending conflict between good and evil in "She Was the Sun".

While the first book, "Riverwood: Doors to the Near World" targeted a middle grade audience, "She Was the Sun" features older characters facing more daunting challenges, more mature relationships and a generally tighter, more focused plot. It clearly appeals to the Young Adult audience and is likely to generate a loyal following with its appealing characters, tense action and well-designed magical world.

Written several years after the first book, the second represents a definite evolution of Shifman's writing style and ability to draw the audience into gripping, cohesive and believable conflict and fantasy. The return of many beloved characters from the first book creates a warm familiarity and is perfectly blended with an interesting and likable crop of new characters that round the cast and fit together like a 12-piece puzzle.

It should be noted that "Riverwood: Doors to the Near World" should be considered required pre-requisite reading prior to "She Was the Sun" as much of the mythology gains its footing in the first story and is referenced and enhanced throughout the second. Because many of the key characters originate in the first installment, their appearance in the second assumes a base knowledge of their history and perspective.

In all, "She Was the Sun" takes the framework established in the previous volume and expands on it. The story keeps the reader in greater suspense and metes the exposition of the main conflict in a joyously, yet maddeningly, patient and suspenseful way. Virtually each chapter provides a critical reveal, a valuable new backstory and often times a shocking turn at the end to keep the pages moving. The enduring romance from book one, which carries over to book two and the new relationships formed during book two are both heartwarming and simultaneously heartbreaking. The mythos and the magical elements of the story receive much better explanation and carry a heightened believability from the first installment.

The ending will leave the reader both satisfied with the successful resolution of the main conflict and yet wanting more; more resolution to some of the tragedy and the imbalance that results from the clever construct of the Near World universe. Upon concluding "She Was the Sun" readers will instantly clamor for the next installment "Meet me in Carlsbad", which promises to further build on and develop the inventive concept of Shifman's vivid and creative imagination. These stories are gems and will appeal to a wide audience well beyond it's YA target.

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Such a Deep Investigation of Faith, Devotion and Salvation

LMDeitrich accomplishes an ambitious feat in constructing a taut psychological and spiritual thriller while presenting a highly religious subject matter. Her story, "In the Gap", focuses on a lead protagonist who must pray for salvation of the souls of other characters in the story in order to avoid a variety of life-threatening situations. The tight, extremely well-written plot balances intense interpersonal interactions and moral debates about infusing positive decision making with daily guidance from God and Jesus against a series of gruesome dreams or visions that drive the main character to help save the souls of his friends, family and associates. Along the way, the story also displays a series of nicely drawn romantic love triangles between expertly crafted, likable and believable characters that give the story it's beautiful heart.

The way the writer is able to weave these interrelated stories and intersect the characters' often flawed lives and choices is impressive and effective, providing a smart, cohesive and enjoyable experience from cover to cover. The love stories are filled with tense moments, tough choices, emotional highs and stress-inducing moments of sadness and anxiety. The depiction of the vividly creepy devil-induced dreams that several characters experience - which foreshadow potential future horrors and tragedies - are so well written, they drastically heighten the tension and compel the reader to desperately read on.

The specific non-secular-oriented subject matter and the boldness with which the writer unabashedly investigates concepts of religious devotion and salvation may not appeal to those that shy away from open, frank discussions of human faith. But, as only a moderately religious person, I still found the intelligent and admirable presentation of the narrative to paint a compelling case for the concept of praying for the salvation of one's soul and for the blind devotion to God's word despite the unknowable human mystery of his intentions.

The story ends with a gravity and final scene that will shake the reader and leave a strong, lasting, impactful impression. It is a deep, shocking and powerful ending that makes the ultimate argument for the theme of the story in an irrevocably poignant and transformational way. Again, not every reader will react in the same manner to the ultimate sacrifice and salvation that takes place. But, that variance in reaction belies the whole point of the story about how different people have different levels of faith, closeness to God and interpretations of God's plan for them. Similarly, different readers will take different interpretations of the explosive conclusion and that is the mark of a world-class piece of literary art.

I commend LMDietrich for her brave presentation of her story and highly recommend it to anyone with an open mind and a willingness to investigate their own human relationship with their higher calling.

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Well Communicated Story

Miss Communication is such a clever title for this book as it aptly describes the rollercoaster romance of the two featured leads, Gabi and Ryan. The story starts off with a bang, literally, as the romantic leads crash into each other in an elevator in the opening scene. The description of this strong initial encounter with all of Gabi's struggles and difficulties, clearly establishes her as the likeable central figure who carries and drives the narration from beginning to end and sets an early tone for the ensuing romantic comedy.

Author, Ashleigh Y shows a great hand at creating cute and playful relationships between her stable of fun, quirky and awkward characters. She also depicts some distasteful antagonists, which sets up a rich contract between the positive and negative influences on Gabi and Ryan's courtship. In particular, the story shines best when it shows Gabi's various friends and family members helping each other navigate through the many eventful misunderstandings, dramatic interpersonal situations and even a particularly dangerous event at the apex of the story.

The plot winds precariously around the budding and growing relationship between Gabi and Ryan and provides some nice subplots focused on their equally unusual and semi-functional families. Some of the exposition requires slight suspension of belief or at least, acceptance of behavior that exceeds and/or contrasts from the bounds of the reader's reasonable expectations. And a few plot devices, designed to propel the story forward, seem a bit forced at times. But, once the reader comes to accept the lack of certain subtleties and straps in for this entertaining joyride, the payoff is worth the time invested in getting to know the families, the characters and the plot of this fun, enjoyable jaunt.

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Great Characterization and Amazing Scene Setting

There are moments in the Grease and the Gold, by BB Powers - little phrases, poignant descriptions and spot-on slices of dialog - that will cause you to take a deep breath and commit her amazing use of the English language to memory. There are times when she conveys a lifetime of insight and observation in literally a single poetic sentence or less. And in these precious moments of brilliant genius, you realize that you are reading the work of a truly talented artist.

A master of dead-on, real and authentically gritty dialog, the deep, meaningful and memorable insight that she pours into the souls of each character sets BB Powers apart as an immensely talented storyteller and creator of vivid narration, She crafts a bold, relentless and unique environment where her cast of raw, conflicted and flawed individuals struggle with crushing tragedy, deep deceit, a rigid code of obedient behavior and violent revenge. She constructs a series of engaging and explosive conflicts that threaten to tear apart family, friendship and an entire community of people bound by the commonality of their cherished Motor Club patch and their ruthless authoritarian President. The reader feels the anxiety and tension of each situation in an acutely tangible way, which compels them to turn the pages and lose themselves in this dark and dangerous world.

Sunny Lane is as intriguing and energizing a character as any female protagonist with a torturous history and an even more treacherous present. The structure of the story is exceptionally intelligent and the author deftly makes all the right choices in how she reveals the secrets of the past, fills the gaps of your knowledge and appreciation of her wonderful characters and keeps you off balance with her constant surprise chapter endings and unexpected twists.

She has some significant copy editing yet to perform and as of August 31st, 2018, had not wrapped the final conclusion of the story. But beyond the mechanics of smoothing out the grammar and spelling issues, the thoughts, ideas, themes and insights into this wild, hectic and violent substance-fueled world provides a thrilling, chaotic ride that will leave its mark in the reader's mind for a long time.

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A Magical, Mystical Tale

This fun, colorful, adventurous story takes the reader on a wild and winding ride through alternate worlds, magical transformations and sweet teenaged romance, all wrapped in a thrilling conflict for the survival of the universe. The childlike fantasy in this story will appeal to young as well as a generation of older readers that grew up on classics by C.S. Lewis, Mary L’Engle, Roald Dahl and L Frank Baum. It even has a sort of JK Rowling’s feel to it in its combination adolescent innocence and adult peril, which is high praise.

The main protagonist characters are highly likable and the reader instantly roots for their success. The depictions of amateur youth wrestling, in particular, are deftly drawn and easy to imagine, despite the difficulty of conveying such a relatively unknown sport to most readers.

The sprinkling of references to the events of 9/11 gives the story a needed grounding in a sober foundation and heightens the intensity of the central conflict.

The plot takes some time to reveal itself and the magical elements create some confusion to the reader throughout the first third of the story. But, by the halfway mark, the main antagonists are better revealed and the underlying purpose behind the many required magical tasks and phenomenon are put in better context for the reader.

In all, the story engages the reader from the start. It presents an interesting and intriguing world and takes the reader on a well paced, memorable and highly enjoyable ride from beginning to end.

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Beautiful, Haunting, Sweet and Jarring Epic Love Story

Unspoken Vows (Book 1) by Maisy Menold takes a long, winding path, carrying the reader along a high arc that winds through the lives of the main characters like a scary and dangerous yet exhilarating roller coaster. Her depictions of gruesome and depraved physical and mental abuse is haunting, harrowing and horrifyingly memorable. The trauma endured by the main character, Meg, is heartbreaking and hard to take at times. Her development from abused child, to sexy foil for the other main character, Alex, to adult sexual violence victim, to happy, loving partner is a truly satisfying outcome, in contrast to the pain she experiences throughout the first and second acts.

Likewise, the metamorphosis of her other main character, Alex, is also a fun and happy journey as he makes his way from an aged, aimless and fairly crass former pop star to a loving, doting partner to Meg. This romantic drama takes the reader through some high ups and some very dark downs and is its best and most riveting when describing and demonstrating the intense psychology and impact of sexual, physical and mental abuse. As much as it amounts to a happy romantic melodrama, it also serves as a deep character study of the trauma associated with Meg's inhumane, violent experiences.

If any criticism, the romantic union between Meg and Alex is rarely in doubt. The tension and conflict of the story is largely external as there is hardly a point at which the reader doubts or worries that the relationship might not make it. In other words, the romantic leads seem to fall too deeply in love too soon in the story. Some further internal conflict of some sort might create more apprehension in the reader and give the story even greater intensity from start to finish.

But, on balance, the writer has an excellent ability to generate likable characters that readers want to root for and real, gritty emotional trauma that grips the reader and leaves a memorable lasting impression. Maisy is a wonderful writer with a great talent for plot, character, conflict and resolution. And, her novel is a thoroughly enjoyable read!

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Excellent Fable

This is a well-written fable that makes a nice social commentary in a simple but effective way.,

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Beautifully Poetic Writing

Sabrina's short but passionate story about deep, intense love lost is a marvel in its simplicity, focus and delivery of emotion. Sabrina puts words, sentences and thoughts together like a fine French impressionist painter dabbles a striking image with so few brush strokes. Too short to be considered a full-on "Short Story" and written in too much of a narrative style to be considered poetry, this piece falls somewhere between as a hybrid.

In all, it was a worthwhile experience reading this gem of a narration, which captures such a profound longing so vividly. Sabrina clearly has exceptional writing talent. I'd love to see her produce a fleshed out story with more characters and fully developed plot. If she could deliver as strong and pungent a reading experience in a longer story, she would be a literary force.

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So Much Potential for a Comedic Tour De Force

You have some clear and obvious writing talent. Your ability to pull together a seemingly absurd, random and comical set of circumstances and make the whole crazy, frenetic scene work is impressive. The story starts strong with the memorable sequence of the truck crash with the chickens and the spork incident. It draws the reader right into the story and this whole manic world that happens around and to Abby, the main character. In the early chapters, you do a nice job of introducing characters and establishing Abby’s unique voice and perspective on the world around her. The ensuing chapters play out more like a series of loosely related events, rather than a cohesive plot with a beginning, middle and end and a consistent conflict throughout. There is immense potential with this story.

Here is what I loved about your story:

1. Abby – she’s a hoot. Her take on life, love and human behavior is fresh, unique and hilariously sardonic. Her self-effacement endears her to the reader and makes her a real and makes her a relatable character.

2. Setting – The news room setting was a great choice. I liked some of the backdrop of the decline of the newspaper industry. The comfort Abby achieved in sitting in the press room was pricelessly described. Descriptions of the layoffs and some of the desperate editorial changes they made to remain competitive in the media marketplace were compelling and very real.

3. Absurdity – The opening with the chickens and the spork is just so off-beat and yet believable with only moderate stretch of the imagination. The whole trip with Derek was bizarre and yet still felt grounded in the possible. Some fell a little flat, like why did the doctor date have a kiddie bed. But most of the absurd situations worked well.

4. Jane – The way you progressed Abby through the development of her alter-ego and the way you demonstrated the slow march from obscurity to fame and success with the column was very well done. You showed a great sense of subtlety in progressing that story line and weaving it consistently throughout the story as a running theme that the reader could latch onto and anticipate each chapter.

5. Letters – the letters and responses and the beginning of each chapter were absolutely awesome. They gave good foreshadowing as to what to expect in the coming chapter. They clearly demonstrated Abby’s natural talent as an advice columnist. And, I laughed the hardest at these passages. This was a unique and effective device. Nice job.

However, there are some areas I observed where you could make it even stronger.

1. Conflict: You need more conflict. A Rom Com should be more like a war with a series of battles that turn the tide toward victory or defeat, with the ultimate ending being the final victory. Conflict engages the reader, makes them nervous, causes them to feel the character’s anxiety, and creates a sense of hope for the character to overcome the obstacles in their way to happiness. While a Rom-Com reader intellectually knows the romantic leads will come together somehow in the end, the writer needs to find a way to create doubt and concern. The reader should be thinking “How in the world is this situation going to be resolved?” And they should maintain this uneasiness throughout the balance of the story until the payoff at the end. Rather than a war with major battles, your story plays out like a series of minor skirmishes that come and go. Which leads me to my second point…

2. Many of the characters either come and go, or appear only briefly, when, to the reader they seem like they should have more impact. The story is so completely dominated by Abby and her quirky, clever take on every event that occurs in the story, you don’t get a lot of additional perspective. Abby’s rapid-fire commentary on her life and surroundings is funny and charming and interesting for a period of time, but after a while, there is so much of her internal monologue, that you start to become numb to it. I believe you need to flesh out more of the characters, bring them more to life. Give them more to say. Develop some sub plots among the friends that somehow relate to or help progress Abby’s story. I started to get a little claustrophobic living so tightly within the walls of Abby’s perspective. Which leads me to a third point about your clever and highly entertaining writing style …

3. Think of your favorite Van Halen song. The Eddy Van Halen wailing guitar solo is amazing and exciting because it only happens once or twice in the song and lasts only for 30-60 seconds before the song becomes more balanced again among the band members. If you went to a Van Halen concert and instead of the band playing their songs, it was little more than Eddy screeching away for 3 ½ hours, you’d eventually lose interest. Your writing style is like Eddie Van Halen. It’s amazing. It’s intense. It’s unique. It can be overpowering. And, it would be more powerful in smaller doses, spread out among more dialog and exposition of other characters and their differing perspectives. I’m not proposing that you change or rotate literary perspective. I believe you can give other characters more voice by allowing them to speak more and to interact with Abby and with each other through more dialog. Eddy Van Halen’s solos stand out because they are something different than David Lee Roth’s singing. But, you need both to balance each other and create a more diverse and interesting experience for the audience. And, speaking of Van Halen…

4. I am assuming you are older than Abby. I’m 50 and most of your pop cultural references were amazingly spot on and quite hilarious … for a 50-year-old. Examples of references that I liked, but felt where anachronistically out of place: Referring to the owl munching on a tootsie pop; Kirk Cameron as a heart throb; comparing Josh’s “hot” young date to Pamela Anderson; who is well over 50 by now; describing Ben’s car as being from the early 90s – literally 25-30 years old; getting to second base while listening to “Every Rose Has it’s Thorn”, a song that was released in 1988 when Abby was 4-5 years old; riding your bikes all over town “in the 80’s”, when, at best, Abby would have been 7ish in late 1989, Corey Hart,, etc. The first couple of references, I didn’t give the date stamp much thought, but as the story progressed, the constant barrage of such references consistently seemed off by about 10 years. This brings me to my second to last point…

5. As much time as we spent with Abby, I wanted to get to know her better. But I feel like she was so busy observing the world around her and waxing her clever take on the peccadillos and peculiarities about life, love, chance and human behavior, I never felt like I really understood what drove her forward in her life. This was almost her defense mechanism against allowing herself to be vulnerable to her true feelings. But, it also made it hard to glimpse what her true feelings really were. What did she really want. I guess, she sort of wanted “The One”, but it wasn’t always clear from her actions what really motivated her. I wanted to see past the façade of her clever observations and see something more vulnerable, more conflicted, more flawed - really flawed, not just superficially with a spell of clumsiness, awkwardness and bad dating luck. I wanted to see real challenges for her to overcome. The lawsuits, the ups and downs of dating, the fallout from the viral video, the professional struggles, all could have created solid tension, but were resolved too quickly and easily. Think of conflict like sex, you want it to linger. You want it to tantalize and tease. You want to get to the end, but not too soon and not before an awful lot of pressure builds up and releases explosively at the end. Sorry for the visual image there, but that’s what a Rom Com should be; literary coitus. And, my last, delicate point…

6. The story is so female-oriented, stemming 98% from Abby’s inner monologue, I fear you risk losing half of your potential audience. There’s only so much detail about soaps, sweaters, candles, shoes and female hygiene products I can relate to and this story is so chock full of nuances that appeal almost exclusively to females, it was hard, sometimes to stay engaged. More troubling is that the male characters are one-dimensional at best, observed exclusively by Abby in somewhat of a stereotypical way. You give them scant bits of trite dialog and dispense them quickly. Josh is the prototypical but likable enough cad. Derek is the self-absorbed inattentive jerk, who doesn't mean any harm, he just doesn't know any better, Gwen’s husband is the geeky social misfit. Even Ben is little more than a relatively flawless nice guy. The relationship between Abby and Ben just seems to happen, rather than triumphing against some sort of difficult odds. Think about WHMS. That story works so well because you get such a great balance between the male and female perspective. And those characters are both completely three-dimensional and “real”, with flaws, hopes, let downs and true vulnerability to each other. And they experience real conflict that you, as reader, allow yourself to believe might not be able to get resolved. And, so when Harry finally does run through Washington Square to kiss Sally at Midnight on New Years Eve, both female and Male viewers are enthralled. Oh, and one more point…

7. Too many parentheses. If you can’t work the thought directly into the prose, then it is probably extraneous and distracting from the mission of the story. Some of your best content took place between brackets. But there’s so much funny content, that it almost starts to sound like white noise. I know it is hard to part with a priceless observation or a super clever line, but save some of your material for sequels or other stories and hit us less often, but harder with each comical reference. This will also free up more story time for development of character, conflict and plot.

In all, I was very entertained by the story. You write as if Carrie Bradshaw mated with Robin Willams. Your ability to present unique and memorable situations is impressive and your sense of comedic timing is excellent. I wrote as long and detailed a review as I did because I see so much potential in your writing style and in this story in particular. Good Luck!!

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Very Inventive - impressive dedication to the world she created

The writing is excellent, The descriptions are vivid and easily imagined - despite the unusual, mystical nature of some of the scenery and characters. The opening chapter draws the reader right in quickly and effectively.

Some of the characters are perfectly drawn such as the two detectives and the lead of the story. Their dialog and playfully contentious, yet authentic relationship and connection is both believable and enjoyable to observe. Some characters took a little longer to relate to and/or connect with such as the Damien character. And some just took time for their impact on the story to unfold, which turned out to be a positive aspect of the reader's experience.

The story popped back and forth between the "real" world and the very creatively invented demon world extremely effectively. I might have liked to see at least one character - most likely Ronin - express more disbelief in the supernatural aspects of the plot as this would match the reader's reaction to some of the events and would help ease the reader into accepting the verisimilitude of the demon world as well.

It is not easy to write about possessed spirits, seers and dark lords without either becoming too unbelievable or too trite, but Nicole handles this as perfectly as any novel I've read and makes the entire story work very well. I was totally bought in and absorbed.

In all, Nicole is an excellent writer, with a great sense of description, nuanced and multi-layered plot, enjoyable and distinct characters and an impressive dedication to creating this alternate reality that drives the narrative. An excellent read.

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Intense Psychological Drama

The novel "Knock Knock", by Princess, is not for the faint of heart as it contains deeply intense, brutal and jarring descriptions of a home invasion and prolonged series of gruesome rape scenes culminating over a two week period of depravity. Princes presents a nightmare scenario where a trio of escaped prison inmates find her main character alone in a cabin in the woods and target her for their vicious controlling acts of sexual dominance. Tied to her bed and subjected to daily submission by all three captors, Princess paints a bleakly impossible situation for her victimized character, who ultimately employs clever observation and cunning play-acting to gain some limited freedom and set in motion her plans for escape, revenge and even a little reward for herself.

While the plot of this story is tightly focused on a gripping conflict, there are a few moments where the reader must make a leap of faith to believe in the main character's choices, particularly in her undercurrent of attraction to one of her rapists. While Princess handles this plot device delicately and with great care not to minimize the horror of the rapes that take place, the reader must struggle to understand how the main character could possibly harbor these feelings despite the despicable experiences she endures.

The resolution of this conflict and the resourcefulness with which the victim turns the tables on her tormentors leaves the reader extremely satisfied and gives the story a worthy conclusion to the horror it generates throughout the course of the events that lead to the apex of the novel.

The potential alternate endings provide different twists to the underlying psychology of the victim. While interesting and definitely shocking, the original ending seems to fit the story the best. While this story may not appeal to everyone given its jarring and graphic sexual content, which can sometimes border on violent erotica, Princess demonstrates some great writing chops, interestingly flawed characters, solidly believable dialog and a memorable - if not haunting - plot.

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Another Litherland Triumph

Barry Litherland creates such an engaging, engrossing and invigorating Mystery/Action/Thriller in his latest novel, "Shifting Sands", that I literally had to finish it in a single weekend because I couldn't go to work without knowing what would happen next at each turn of the plot. From the very first kernel of action, the thrill ride of this taut drama - with a touch of comedy - bursts from the ground, grows in complexity, scope and scale and sprouts into a virtually impossible conflict that appears to have no conceivable resolution. And yet, as the antagonists crash down on the main characters with all the might and resources of their wealthy, hyper-connected benefactor, Litherland's motley band of would be heroes somehow finds a way to stand up to their adversaries against all odds to persevere. I can honestly say, this story is one of the greatest novels I've ever read here on Inkitt, at a library, in college, at a book store, on a plane, on a beach or anywhere else that I've ever picked up a soft copy and started turning the pages.

If you've read Barry's first novel; "Waves Break on Unknown Shores", you'll be thrilled to follow the continued exploits of main character Phil Tyler and his wildly impulsive and unpredictable accomplice Detective Slattery. You'll also thoroughly enjoy meeting his amazing new characters; the savvy journalism guru Liz, the crazy, wild man Winston and the beautiful and tortured love interest Wendy.

Like his first novel, Litherland's second effort generates intense stress and tension, letting it out slowly through mind-bending reveals and surprising off-beat humor at all the right spots. It's no wonder, Litherland's first novel is precariously close to a 100% rating on Inkitt. He is literally one of the singular best writers I've read in a long time. Look for "Shifting Sands" to threaten the 100% mark on Inkitt very soon as well. And be sure to follow Litherland now while you still can for free.

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Feel Good Sports Story Revolving Around Niche Sport

Near Fall is a wonderful "Feel Good" sports story akin to the Karate Kid or the Rocky movies focusing on the oft overlooked sport of Wrestling. The obvious comparison is the 1980's movie starring Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine (as the seminal wrestling hero - Louden Swain) "Vision Quest" that gives high school wrestling the bright spotlight it deserves.

Rob "Coach Prebes" Prebish does an amazing job of capturing the fine nuances of high school wrestling and the many different characters that make up a team, such as intensely competitive and mentally dedicated main character David, freakishly energetic Booger and less talented, but equally driven Chad and Tom.

The backdrop of the piece, set in rural Pennsylvania, is a perfect setting and gives the story a great sense of conflict between the suburban, well-off, and the rural, less affluent, characters. While the story focuses nearly exclusively on the culmination of the central storyline of the high school wrestling season, sub plots around girlfriend Andrea and her dysfunctional family and the difficult financial condition of David's parents as they strive to send him to college, give the story additional heart and focus above and beyond the wrestling action.

As a former high school and college wrestler, I can honestly say that the descriptions of the challenges around weight loss, the struggles to prepare to compete, the anxiety leading up to a big match and the actual description of the wrestling action itself are all spot on - clearly the work of a competitor or coach that has had significant first hand knowledge and experience with this wonderful niche sport.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story and appreciate Coach Prebes' treatment of and spotlight on it. It is a good quick read with the typical ups and downs of a classic sports story and a wholly satisfying end to what turns out to be an epic conflict of athletic desire and execution.

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Shifman Does it Again - This Time in Carlsbad

"Meet Me in Carlsbad", third in the "Seams Along the Near World" series, by Rich Shifman, provides another thrill ride with Jake and Evan Branch, their true loves Jenna and Belinda, many of the recurring characters throughout the series and some great new additions as well.

Much like the similarly fantastic Harry Potter series, as the characters in Shifman's epic saga develop from books one and two, through the third installment, so too do the complexities, conflicts and stakes of the narrative. With the main characters growing and reaching adulthood, the significance and impact of their actions, behaviors and choices intensify with the maturity of their interrelationships and motivations. As with the world-famous works of J.K. Rowlings, Shifman's audience for book one migrates over time from children to young adults as the stories progress and the characters age and change.

Specifically in "Meet Me in Carlsbad", Shifman continues his themes around light and dark magic and the interactions between characters existing in parallel worlds as they strive to prevent their evil counterparts and agents of the dark magic from disrupting the balance and harmony of both societies. The plot tightens and offers Shifman's unique, signature blend of late teen romantic angst, classic good versus evil action and exciting fight scenes that weave detailed elements of high school, college and Olympic wrestling, jiu jitsu and other mixed martial arts disciplines.

Particularly enjoyable in "Meet Me in Carlsbad" was the major plot twist at the end, which led to the revelation of a significant character's true identity and exposition of the ultimate hidden conflict that permeates the entire series, but is never really discovered until the exciting end of the third book.

The most striking and poignant feature of this third novel is the dichotomous dilemma that foundation characters Jake and Jenna face as they seek to permanently seal their union and remain physically together moving forward in their lives despite their origins from opposing worlds. This creates a seemingly unresolvable conflict that Shifman handles adeptly and with a satisfactory and emotionally gratifying - although slightly tragic and bittersweet - outcome.

The conclusion of this novel and the broader series wraps sweetly and in a manner befitting this extremely entertaining epic conflict that spans decades, transports the reader across mystical parallel worlds, introduces an intriguing mythos of magic, witchery, and blessed characters, exposes classic themes around good and evil, including a subtle religious overtone and even explores the very nature of good, evil, life and death.

Add it all together, swirl it around in a sort of witches' brew and you have the magical brilliance of Rich Shifman and his amazing series; "Seams Along the Near World" (Books 1-3).

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Flawless Flawed Characters in a Triumphant Tragedy

Dominic Breiter crafts one of the most impressive works of literary fiction I've read in a long time in his novel Judson Bottom. His masterful writing skills, coupled with his powerful sense of detailed observation and his ability to weave seemingly disconnected threads into a single, vivid and cohesive tapestry of a plot is virtually humbling to observe as a fellow writer. His absolutely gripping mystery/thriller features a hauntingly memorable main character whose admirable compassion, inherent goodness and heroism are artfully juxtaposed against and rivaled only by the inexplicable, irrevocable, self-destructive badness and dysfunctional life-choices that he makes in his own undoing. The remarkably diverse supporting cast ranges from his brother with whom he maintains a strained but hopeful relationship, which is potentially cursed by a horrible secret, his unhinged ex-wife, his married, forbidden mistress, members of the dangerous and potentially deadly biker gang that he shunned and disrespected so many years ago, a famously infamous former professional wrestler, a couple of drug-addicted cattle rustlers, a trio of homeless vagabonds, a manic dishonorably discharged war veteran, a battalion of rigid FBI agents, an obsessive stalker and the Islamic family at the center of the conflict whose older disillusioned son leaves home to join a terrorist sect and whose younger, good-hearted daughter disappears mysteriously under suspicious conditions. In addition to the disparate band of inextricably bound characters that piece together the jigsaw puzzle of Judson Bottom, Breiter assembles a rich, complex and impeccable web of plot, subplot, flashback, tension, drama and action, all of which revolve and swirl around an impossible central conflict and mystery, which is perfectly charred by dark, biting social commentary about the seedy underbelly of human nature. The town of Judson Bottom serves as one of the most memorable characters in the story, seeming to exude a rich, lush life of its own with it's quirky, rustic, run down and desperate scenery and it's running theme of rotten people appearing to hit "rock bottom", only to fall even further into the pit of dysfunction and destruction. And yet, despite the haze of desolate desperation, Brieter tells a tale of triumph and perseverance that highlights the bright light of human compassion and the enduring spirit of human goodness that gives balance to the delicate world he represents in his novel. Like any brilliant, transcendent work of art, this story - with it's unforgettable characters, unthinkable conflict, impossible triumph and inescapable tragedy - will thrill you, depress you, amaze you, entertain you and haunt you for a long time, well after you've turned the last page and absorbed the last, lasting image of Judson Bottom.

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Great Northern Writing

This short story in little more than a single long chapter introduces you to two real, authentic characters, who - by the end of the story - you feel you've known for a lifetime. The writing is sharp and crisp with frank, honest dialog and vivid scenery that, in and of itself, seems to tell a whole story about these two characters on its own.

The light touches of social commentary that tread delicately around issues such as lax gun purchase laws and deep-seeded racism give subtle, yet palatable insight and provide a higher context for the story above and beyond the relatively straight-forward plot that unfolds.

There are many writers producing volumes of prose. Authors with this deft a hand and this level of professionalism in this craft of storytelling are rare. I, personally, plan to scour all that Dominic Breiter has to offer as I am in awe of his talent.

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Highly Imaginative Epic Tale

Issjah delivers a lush, creative interpretation of a momentous decision point in his main character's life, including a fascinating dream sequence that he experiences during a trying moment where he must choose - in a harrowing period of despair - whether or not to detonate a bomb, killing potentially hundreds of innocent civilians. The lead up to the main conflict provides thorough backstory and insight into the horrors, heartbreaks and challenges the main character experiences and gives insight into his present day choices. It includes a series of romantic possibilities in the character's search for friendship, companionship and love but appears to end on a tragic note as the protagonist ruins a late opportunity for a loving happy ending by committing yet another indiscretion among numerous others throughout the story.

The raw, unrestrained descriptions of sexually abusive situations and the main character's many questionable sexual decisions shed great light on the inner demons this character must face throughout the novel. There are a handful of pleasant surprises and revealing twists, especially in the exposition of the dream sequence, which does a yeoman's job of shocking, scaring, aweing and bewildering the reader.

Told at times in a sort of ancient parabolic voice with minimal scene setting or character development, at other times with in depth unfiltered contemporary grit and yet at other times in a sort of high-concept, imaginative fantasy style, the story takes on several different personalities and could benefit from a slightly more consistent voice. Some descriptions and exposition of character come across a little stilted, in a writing style not unlike the Bible or Dante's Inferno. Admittedly, this writing style, while more unusual and potentially limited in its commercial value, will definitely find an audience of readers who prefer this approach and the familiarity with texts from the past - particularly religious ones in nature. Essentially, this voice could work effectively if it remained consistent throughout the piece.

Also, there is a long denouement following the conclusion of the climactic dream sequence where the main character makes certain decisions and choices that imply a learning arc. The downslide that the story takes following the dream section requires a little longer to wrap than it should, slowing the considerable momentum achieved during the preceding more fantastic sequence. It is not clear whether the story concludes or not at the end of the last chapter as it seems unfinished.

Issjah has an admirable dedication to his message and an amazingly creative imagination with his description of the etherial, supernatural dream sequence that dominates the mid-section of this story. His characters are relatable and enjoyable, prompting the reader to care for their well being and look forward to their fates.

This was an enjoyable read that took some effort to follow, but provided a memorable ride through an impressive series of events and environments.

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Short, Intense and Creepy!!

This short but intense horror story calls to mind the taut, creepy and outright mind-bending novel and hit movie “The Shining” and models great horror writers such as Stephen King. More suspenseful than gory, it features an exceptionally drawn villainous witch of an evil character whose decrepit appearance, maniacal laugh and frightening action keeps the reader both engaged and disoriented throughout. Wonderfully done as a short story, it would make for a powerful extended story, in which the writer could put more exposition into the protagonist’s fear and further explanation of the backstory of the antagonist if he chose to do so. A vivid and riveting short, but intense horror piece.

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A Complex, Comprehensive Thrill Ride with Sharp Social Observation

This intricate socio-political thriller takes the reader through a mind-spinning myriad of mystery and intrigue while generating a delicious pallet of both likable and detestable characters. Each main character slowly unravels the puzzle pieces to the seemingly impossibly disparate threads that weave the tapestry of this massive conspiracy story. The writing style is sublimely professional, active when the story calls for action, descriptive, when the story requires detail and scene-setting, romantic at just the right touching moments and downright chilling at others. The writer's depth of understanding and spot-on insight into political mechanization, maneuvering and maniacal self-serving corporate selfishness provide a biting commentary on today's political environment, accentuated by a perfectly drawn set of contemporary conflicts that seem like hyperbolic satire, but all too closely pinch the nerve of truth. Almost overwhelming in its rich detail and in-depth discovery of political corruption and complex social issues, the novel challenges the reader to think beyond the action and intrigue and contemplate the broader social and political condition. This writer has all the makings of a commercial success as well as a literary tour-de-force and should have no difficulty finding an audience and attracting a publisher.

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Suspenseful Character-Driven Story

"When the Road Splits" is both a plot-driven suspenseful thriller as well as a thoughtful character-driven drama. Like its dichotomous title, the story gives the reader two distinct experiences. The first act focuses on the tense thrill ride of an undercover teenage investigator with a secret identity, seeking to catch the serial killer - who also happens to be her father - red-handed in the act. The second act features the aftermath of a jarring act of violence and the toll it takes on the very likable characters of the story. The third act, brings the reader through a belabored, but sweet denouement where the relationships and emotions resolve nicely and wrap in a clean and satisfying ending.

The story is a short, intense and enjoyable ride - a quick read. Its most endearing qualities include the strong main character, who the audience immediately roots for, the group of teenage friends, who work through the typical melodrama of youth and the undercurrent of danger and loss that permeates the narrative from start to finish.

As in her other works, Jacinta dedicates herself to crafting a believable world and a group of interrelated characters who seem to fit together like puzzle pieces or threads in a tapestry. Her dedication to crafting an environment and an engaging plot are admirable and her passion for telling her story is clearly apparent in her work. A compelling writer, with excellent technical narrative skills, her story could use a round of editing to trim extraneous details and sharpen the sequencing of events to the most critical components that clearly move either the plot or the character development. But, beyond that, she's an intriguing young writer, who looks to shine as she continues to hone her skills with the impressive output she has produced.

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Great Start

Only two chapters in, the author has already established an intriguing and unique premise with the central conflict of the story clearly laid out. The main character is well drawn, despite the brevity of the plot at this point, And, the writer's use of language including imagery, dialog and metaphor are all solidly entertaining. This is a strong start to an interesting theme and concept. The reader is already drawn into the story and looking for more.

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Very Good, Funny Jaunt

The main character of this very funny and entertaining take on a superhero story is an absolute riot, driving the energy and momentum of the plot of this story. Her sarcastic, sardonic, biting one-liners, insults and put downs drive the character development and never quite allow the reader to let their guard down. The dysfunctional relationship between the band of main characters keeps the story on edge and moving forward, toward its - yet unfinished - apex when they meet the main antagonist and attain some of the answers behind the mysterious events leading up to the climactic scenes at the end,

What remains unknown is whether the existing predicament at the conclusion of the 51st chapter represents the ultimate conflict of the story or if there are further adventures awaiting these characters in future chapters. If so, the story would benefit from further character development where the team begins to gel and work more seamlessly together. The main character would also be more memorable and enjoyable if she would eventually show greater vulnerability, empathy and depth as opposed to always deflecting her more nuanced emotional side with defensive comedy. This character development has been evident in the later chapters and presumably would continue as the novel is completed.

In all, the writer is an exceptional talent with a winning flare for humor - especially in her crafting of sparkling dialog and interaction - and an inventive and engaging concept.

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Great Potential

This story features a well written villain, who kills with such dispassion and lack of emotion that his cold-blooded nature creates a chilling effect in all the scenes presented from his point of view. It has a decided language gap with American and UK spelling, grammar and sentence structure, but is understandable enough for anyone to read and enjoy. With some editing by a professional, it could be a very successful piece. The novel is unfinished, but the suspense between the main characters, who have witnessed the murderer in action and the protagonist of the story are appropriately tense and anxiety-inducing. Great start to an interesting story!

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Epic Roller Coaster Romance

This lush, romantic novel, features two likable leads and a cast of relatable friends and family that help them progress through the ups and downs of their courtship over the course of about a decade from college through their late 20s. The characters learn, grow and change in a gradual arc that provides an entertaining journey from young exciting romance to deeper, more mature love, beset with the challenges and complexities of true adulthood. The story strikes a sweet, satisfying note, with a bittersweet twist at the end, all the while presenting a hopeful and positive take on the power and longevity of true love.

An enjoyable lighthearted discovery of romance and love viewed effectively from alternating perspectives of the male and female protagonists, I enjoyed the story and the opportunity to share the journey with the main characters..

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Makings of an Excellent Story

The elements of this story are all very good. The plot is solid and the opening chapter is very strong. The description of the opening sequence draws in the reader and creates a great foundation for the ensuing story. Throughout the narrative, the writer does a great job of building tension and anxiety as the reader knows the truth, but the characters do not. This anxiety is done very effectively and makes the story a powerful pull on the reader's emotions.

Some of the characters are well drawn, particularly Dylan and David, whose actions seem more grounded in realistic expected boundaries. Other characters such as Jack and Ann as well as a few of the schoolmates seem more extreme than I would have expected, leading me to wonder why they act the way they do. Is there some back story that causes some of the extreme behavior? Is Ann just crazy?

I believe in the end, the writer convincingly makes the case that Ann is, in fact, crazy. But, I'd like to know more about why she is that way. What happened to her to make her act this way to the people that she should love. She seems to have almost a split personality or some sort of polarity.

Jack was a tougher character to understand as I couldn't tell whether to be sympathetic or not. I couldn't tell whether or not he had redeemable qualities, I think this character could use further development. Is he crazy like the mother? Does he have emotional baggage from his relationship with her? And, what, exactly, is the nature of his relationship with his brother (or half-brother)?

The twist in the end is well done and provides some of the missing explanation required to more fully understand the character of Ann. I did not see the twist coming, which is the mark of a good thriller plot and skillful writing. I believe there is a solid, strong story here. But, I also believe the writer should fine tune the relationships, use a bit more subtlety in the interactions between the characters and provide a little more backstory to help the reader put the extreme reactions of some of the characters into better perspective.

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Calling all Publishers

This novel is about as ready to be published as any I've read. In fact, it would make a phenomenal screenplay and feature film. The characters are rich, vibrant, distinct and believable. The antagonists, with one in particular, are rotten to the core and downright terrifying. The main character goes through an impressive arc throughout the course of the story, which takes place only over the course of a few explosive days.

Hanging over the tight thriller that plays out over the present day is a mysterious tragedy that takes place more than a decade earlier, which underpins the psychology and motivation of the main characters and keeps the reader guessing until the very end of the story.

The storytelling is spot on, with just the right details revealed at just the right times to keep the reader enthralled, engaged and second-guessing the next plot twist from beginning to end.

If you are looking for an expertly crafted mystery/thriller, pop some popcorn and read this novel from cover to cover on a rainy weekend afternoon. It will not disappoint. But do so soon before the major publishers and movie studios discover it!!

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Epic Journey through a Troubled Life

Rough Diamonds is an excellent tale of a difficult life of misery and woe that comes to a satisfying conclusion after a long and winding journey that spans several decades. The writing style, dialog and description has a cultural feel to it, reflecting the locale of the story. Some of the detail is sparse - or minimalist - which, at first, takes some getting used to as it is different from other contemporary writing styles. But, as the story progresses, the intensity of the plot and the plight of the main characters ,makes the story very suspenseful and intriguing.

I felt like the first 8-10 chapters that go into detail, setting up the history of how the characters were conceived and born could possibly have been covered later in the story in the form of descriptive dialog or flashback narration. Most of the historical context, such as the death of the friend, Robert, does come back into play later in the story, So, the contents of the earlier chapters do have a solid purpose in progressing the plot. However, I also would have preferred to have met and connected with the main character earlier in the story.

Some chapters were very short and some events that seemed highly significant, such as the death of Jacko's wife, Liz, seemed to be short changed in the amount of detail or emotional perspective they may have deserved.

Poor Jacko, with his lifetime of misfortune. He's somewhat of a Job character (from the bible), where he's hit with every possible injustice that could happen to him. I debated whether or not it was too much, but as the story gripped me, particularly with the murder trial that occurs throughout the last quarter of the story, I came to appreciate the many vignettes that pieced the plot together like a puzzle. The murder scene and subsequent trial was tight and taut - a seemingly impossible situation for Chris, which ratcheted up the suspense and made Rough Diamonds a true thriller and page-turner.

The emotional choice made by Madeline's husband in the end, which facilitates the end of Jacko's misery was well described, believable and very powerful.

The writing style is unique and distinctive, a little stilted, but possibly as a device to convey local cultural story-telling. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and plot and recommend this story to anyone looking for an epic saga of a tough life with a ray of a positive ending.

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