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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Kept Me Guessing the Whole Story

Kelly Reigner offers two amazing stories in one great book including a taut murder mystery plot wrapped around a bittersweet coming of age tale in her exceptionally well-written novel "The Pinkie Promise".

As with any world-class murder mystery jaunt, she keeps the reader desperately engaged, routinely guessing and often second guessing unsuccessfully at the outcome of the intrigue and investigation of a 20-year-old cold case. The story offers numerous twists and provides a final reveal that both catches the reader off-guard and yet satisfies the need to bring the chaos of the story to an orderly and believable conclusion.

The story oscillates between a group of four young teen-aged girls preparing for a talent show competition during the 1976 Bi-Centennial celebration in a small "anytown" neighborhood called "Liberty" and their 35-year old future selves who return to town when the new Chief of Police resurfaces the murder that takes place by the lake behind where the town celebration occurs. Reigner tells the story by seamlessly switching perspectives from the 1976 series of events in which the murder occurs and a 1998 long weekend where the main characters reconvene in town to help prove their friend's innocence in the reopened investigation.

At that start of the story, we meet Pepper, a typical slightly awkward, good-natured, fun-loving 15-year old girl who enjoys dancing and singing with her friends and contemplating boys and crushes. Reigner takes the reader on a heart-warming tale of coming of age as the girls embrace their first few tastes of young adulthood and experience the ups and downs of blossoming adolescence. In this aspect of the story, Reigner absolutely nails the entire experience of growing up and the conflicts of young love, burgeoning hormones, pushing of the limits of childhood norms and the inevitable, wonderful and heartbreaking loss of innocence to which every reader can relate in one way or another.

Concurrent to her brilliant coming of age theme is the overarching conflict of a 20-year-old murder mystery that reunites Pepper with her three best friends from her childhood. There's the pragmatic Gabby and the boisterous, obstreperous Sherry as well as the insecure and troubled Liz, whose father was the victim of the murder and who becomes the prime suspect due to the series of shady events that occur on the evening of the Bi-Centennial celebration. The girls know more than they reveal to the police and as scared teenagers, make a "Pinkie Promise" never to share what they know about the circumstances around the time of the murder.

Reigner's back and forth story-telling style, sharing details from the 1976 and 1998 timeframes is highly effective and gives the reader just enough new pieces of this complex puzzle in each chapter to completely engage and confound the reader. Her use of the color pink floats through her prose in a clever and creative way, contributing to the intrigue and demonstrating her exceptional writing chops.

The final twist could use a few more clues leading up to it to give the reader just a bit more context and build that final piece of credibility needed to send the story over the top. But, in all, Reigner's poignant writing style, her descriptive sense of setting and scene, her fully-fleshed, relatable characters, the memorable coming of age events and her pitch-perfect sense of meting out her clues along the road to her final climax are all spot on and make "The Pinkie Promise" an excellent read.

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Beautiful Image

The image of two hands clasping each other in an embrace of love is a beautiful enough image, but Johanna goes on to compare the fingers in the embrace to the decades in a lifetime, with different insightful metaphors for each finger. What a brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable piece of beautiful poetry.

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Beautiful Peek into Love Story in a Different World

Shobana Gomes paints a world of beauty, wonder, frustration and acceptance in her lush and sensually impressive novel "Another Place to Call Home". The story introduces us to plucky, likable Aruna, a 16-year-old Indian girl, focused on studying her school work and being with her friends. Unexpectedly to her, Aruna is suddenly promised to a Malaysian man in an arranged marriage by her older siblings, who believe they are facilitating the best possible life for their younger sister. Lifted from her home and shipped to a foreign country where she doesn't speak the language, she must come to terms with missing her Indian homeland and her friends, while quickly adjusting to her new environment and getting to know her prospective in-laws and husband. The central conflict plays out largely in Aruna's head as she wrestles with resentment of the fate cast upon her and the seemingly unfair and outdated cultural heritage of the dowry system versus her sense of responsibility to comply with the wishes of her siblings, the reputation of her family and the expectations of her cultural upbringing.

Gomes writes a stunningly rich and vibrant account of life in both India and more thoroughly in Malayasia, with amazing descriptions of the city life, the food, the culture and the landscape. More importantly, she shines a light on an ageless social tradition and practice, the deep cultural nuances and ramifications of which many of her readers likely may not have any experience or orientation toward understanding.

And, while it may have been an easier and more expected course for her to vilify this custom, which may seem dated and unjust to outsiders looking in, she crafts a multi-dimensional discourse on the practice from a variety of perspectives that make the reader think twice before judging another cultural norm without thoughtful and well-informed introspection.

Gomes' development of character is impeccable, with her complex, conflicted character, Aruna, leading the reader through a virtual rainbow of emotions that arc beautifully from start to finish, with darker, colder colors eventually blending and blurring to the lighter and warmer of the spectrum. The supporting characters including her prospective husband, Goku, her siblings and her future mother-in-law, Amma, are all extremely well drawn and represent differing viewpoints, each with it's own unique merits. Each character assists Aruna through her emotional journey from rejection to acceptance by caring for her and demonstrating love and understanding that helps her come to grips with the new course of her life.

A short, tight plot, the story is told in a single point of view with constant interaction with Aruna's swirling thoughts as she processes her fate and comes to grips with her readiness to embrace her arranged marriage. Gomes keeps the reader guessing throughout the story as to whether or not Aruna will choose to reject her forced fate and cling to the comfort of her past as a child or go through with the union and accept her new life as a bride and wife. Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, Gomes informs, intrigues and influences her readers, providing a valuable investigation of this cultural phenomenon in a sensitive, sensible and surprising manner that delights the reader. A noble and worthwhile piece, I highly recommend "Another Place to Call Home" to anyone looking for a vibrant, transformative read that presents a fascinating topic in an intelligent and balanced way.

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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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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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Thanks for Writing!

Leah Goodman demonstrates an excellent ability to construct memorable imagery, draw impactful and emotional insight through fresh, authentic analogy and close her poems on a high point in her thoroughly enjoyable collection "Thanks for Listening".

Particularly memorable were some of her depictions of the angst we all feel at the passage of time, at the loss of love, at the pain of an unrequited crush and at the dark frustration and suicidal impulse that crosses every mind in one way or another throughout the course of a long, hard life.

Her writing is breezy and cheerful, easy to read and pointed in its intent. Even in her darkest moments, her youthful vibrancy and positive life-affirming nature shines through, providing hope and encouragement through the clouds of doubt, uncertainty and despair. What stands out most about Goodman's prose is the way in which she closes her poems, typically on a powerful final thought, observation or image that seems to echo across the reader's mind long after they've digested the last words.

Having read a brilliant fictional novel and a wonderful collection of poetry by this author, I am impressed with her range, depth of thought and ability to convey complex emotional concepts and conflicts in a clear, concise and memorable way.

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Bold, Brave & Beautiful

I applaud Leah Goodman for addressing several difficult social issues head on in her exceptional novel, "Blue Raspberry". From the spot on symbolic cover depicting a cigarette and a blue lollipop, seeming to copulate, to the opening line about the "calloused hands of Jesus" around the main character's neck, through the ups and downs of the emotionally draining relationship between the two lead characters, this story brings the reader through a full range of emotions.

We feel outrage at the hypocrisy of the judgmental members of the parish who look down on the main character, Dylan, for his homosexuality, fuming at them for using their religion as a means for damning that which they neither understand, nor choose to tolerate. We feel angst as Dylan's partner, Bentley, struggles to suppress and hide his sexuality from these judgmental members of the community, while simultaneously giving in to his impulsive desires to be with Dylan. We smile at the support structure around Dylan with his understanding friends, his loving family and the good pastor of his church who demonstrates Jesus' love of Dylan at the critical emotional turning point of the novel. And, at the climax of the story, our heart breaks and soars at the same time with the juxtaposition of a terrible tragedy and the wonderful connection between Dylan and Bentley that occurs in reaction to the saddest moment of the story.

Goodman is to be commended for her fierce bravery in her scathing indictment of close-minded bigots who hide behind their religion to condemn that which they refuse to accept or understand. Her depiction of the inner turmoil her homosexual characters feel, even in the face of the support system around them, is real, authentic and palpable. Her treatment of religion and the church shows great depth of thought and introspection, showing more than just the superficial, and treating the institution fairly with the viewpoints of the parishioners offset by the beautiful sentiment of Pastor Sam, who ultimately tells Dylan that Jesus loves him.

The theme of the blue raspberry lollipops and the cigarettes floats seamlessly through the novel, with the lollipops representing the innocence of young love and the cigarettes representing the difficulty and decay of adult problems. Both themes weave through the tapestry of Goodman's story in a creative and clever way that gives the piece its unique and memorable grit.

In all, "Blue Raspberry" is a short, quick read that packs great introspection, wonderful characters, a plot that keeps the reader engaged and engrossed and tells a bold, important story that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to be both playfully entertained and intellectually challenged.

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Tense and Intense at Every Turn

Ragnarok, by Dominic Breiter, is the second book of his that I have read, both of which have left lasting impressions.

The first thought that comes to mind when reflecting on his work is the extent to which he is a literary stylist with a distinctive manner of describing the usual in innovative and interesting ways. With an almost poetic approach to exposition and narration, his words dance together like a drunken or stoned ballet, often bringing disparate imagery together unexpectedly to make a greater point or create an indelible emotional impact on the reader.

Secondly, his ability to craft beautifully flawed but intensely likable characters rivals the most accomplished authors. Main characters, Mason and Liza, provide the emotional gravity of the story as they swim fiercely against the overbearing tide of their untenable home lives. When they find each other, their broken and damaged hearts seem to connect like puzzle pieces. And for a brief moment in this harrowing tale of struggle and desperation, Breiter brings order and happiness to the world of utter chaos he creates in Ragnarok.

However, Breiter does not allow the reader the complacency of “happily ever after”, quickly dashing the comfort of peace and order - sending Mason into a tailspin of dizzying conflict, mayhem and danger. From the critical, explosive turning point of the first act of the story through the intense, bittersweet, but satisfying ending, Breiter keeps the reader tensely on edge and worried for the downtrodden hero of the story at every turn.

Equally intriguing, like a horrible wreck on the highway that you just can't ignore, is the character of Mildred, the decrepit and dementia-ridden caretaker of 15-year-old Mason. A truly unique bird, who believes Mason to be her long-dead husband, Mildred harbors dark secrets and a sad past, hidden beneath layers of painful forgotten memories that have ebbed from her shattered mind. This premise, which drives the entire narrative - that of a young foster child making his own way in life under the care of a hollowed out guardian - is a brilliant setup and premise for what turns out to be an amazing story of struggle against stacked odds and the terrible fates of a young boy trying to survive in a cruel world.

Lastly, as with the previous novel of his, “Judson Bottom”, Breiter triumphs in the delicate construct of his unique setting, Grillow Falls. A nowhere rural town in the cold, dark depths of Minnesota, Breiter paints a place that looks idyllic but really stinks of unseen rot and decay festering just below the surface of that which can be seen from the outside looking in.

Like a rollercoaster ride through hell, Ragnarok offers a tense, unnerving experience, which keeps the reader off-balance and worried from wire-to-wire. An intense and memorable story, the image of Mason’s desperate struggle to survive the myriad of deadly challenges he faces throughout the novel make for a memorable ride and a lasting impression.

Breiter is one of those literary artists you‘ll want to follow, as his talent leaps off every page. I can't wait for his next piece of inspired brilliance.

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Thought Provoking Tale

I originally read this as part of the larger novel, Prodigal. But, it stands on its own quite well. The parable is a great form of story telling and is used very effectively in this mini-story. In it, Issjah tells a cryptic but poignant tale about believing in that which can’t been seen. It is left highly interpretive and opens the door to discussion and debate about believing in that which you can't see before you or readily explain. which is what any great literary piece should do. Congratulations and bravo Issjah!!i

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Litherland Outdoes Himself Again

Waiting for the next novel by Barry Litherland is starting to rival awaiting the next Star Wars or Avengers movie, waiting in line for Bruce Springsteen tickets or anxiously anticipating the next iPhone. His latest, BREAKERS, delivers the same elation, excitement and gratification as all his works have in the past - and then some.

In fact, this piece - with it's fascinating paranormal ghost story interwoven with one of his classic crime thrillers, multiple points of view, each more engaging and authentic than the last, and the most vivid and visceral locale of any novel on the market - offers so much tense uniqueness, visual impact and quality story-telling, that it should be stocked on the shelves of every major bookstore across the world tomorrow.

The first, most striking element of the story, is the rapid descent it takes into the creepy occult, featuring dark, murky sea creatures, two-hundred-year old ghosts and a haunted cottage on a desolate crag jutting into the rough and violent sea.

Secondly, the setting of the novel takes on a life of its own, leaving the reader with the dark grey and salty taste of the pervasive blackish sea as it slams the windy, rocky beach and drives the course of the narrative from the opening scene through the wet, violent, stormy, heart-pounding climax.

Once the pattern of multiple points of view takes root, it drives the pace and variety of exposition in a positive, engaging manner, giving the reader numerous characters to observe and appreciate, each with their own memorable personalities and perspectives. Like in his previous novels, Litherland depicts the brazen but downtrodden hero and the rotten, but lovable rapscallion protagonist with the greatest of aplomb. But, he layers in an even more deft treatment in BREAKERS of motherly characters and children in a way not previously seen in his past works - welcome additions to his repertoire of innovative and memorable members of his cast.

As always, Litherland thrills with his tight, dramatic presentment of crime, fear and unnerving tension. But, the beauty and enjoyment of this work stems from the bonus ghost story that floats about the periphery and swoops in at all the best moments to overtake the narrative at just the right, unexpected times.

Litherland, about the most talented writer on the Inkitt platform, has surely done it again. In fact, he's outdone himself by a grand margin. This is the absolute best story I have read on this site to date, hands down.

Get a good agent to help sort through the publishing offers, They're out there like Hattie's ghost at the top of the cliff. And, they're coming like the storm that drives BREAKERS to its conclusion.

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Simple but Beautiful

The poetry in this collection generally consists of short, quick reads. And, at first glance, they may appear simple. And, they do have a refreshing simplicity to them. However, they are far from simplistic as they range across a broad spectrum of insightful observations about life, emotion and humanity. I think of them as succinct and pointed, featuring some clever turns of phrases, some unexpectedly beautiful imagery and impactful insights that make you think long after finished reading them. In all, I thoroughly enjoyed Remits' poetry and look forward to more in the future.

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Powerful, Enlightening Story

Shattered Moon, by Renata Lanzoni sneaks up on it's readers, aggressively grabs them by the hair and pulls them down into the depths of a tense, intense and all too scary - but unfortunately real - story of domestic abuse that can and does happen to even the most guarded and cautious of people all across the world. Not having experienced any events anywhere close to what happens to Lanzoni's mature, intelligent and emotionally guarded main character, Maddy, I found it fascinating to watch the abusive relationship formulate, develop, exhibit warning signs and ultimately devolve into the horror that it becomes by the back act of the book. Lanzoni's slow, torturous unfolding of her magnificent plot plays like a terrible accident on a highway or a train wreck that happens in ultra slow motion. Everyone but Maddy sees it coming. But, like in many unfortunate and sad moments in real life, nobody was able to stop it from happening. And the deeper Maddy descends into her abusive situation, the more dire, dangerous and ultimately life-threatening her situation becomes.

Lanzoni's strength as a writer comes in the form of her simple, easy-to-read prose, organized in short, tight chapters as well as her finely drawn characters and their touching and highly believable relationships. The supporting character of Cindy somewhat represents the perspective of the reader in her affection for Maddy and her outside perspective on Maddy's emotional needs. But, unlike the reader, even Cindy misses the growing warning signs that Lanzoni expertly trickles into the opening act of her epic story.

The slow burn through of events that cascade throughout the fun, romantic first act and the sexy, seductive second act linger excruciatingly for the reader like a slow simmering of emotion and anticipation. Her deliberate style of metered exposition serves as a great asset in building tension and nervous apprehension in the reader. While this serves as a great strength, it also underpins the only criticism of the novel, which is that her overly patient style of moving through the series of events that make up the plot can sometimes come at the expense of pace. The first act belabors the courtship by about a chapter or two too long and the second act simmers the sexual tension just a hair long as well. Tightening these elements would make the story that much more powerful than it already is.

Despite the minor critical feedback, Lanzoni crafts not just an exciting, intense and enjoyable thriller, but rather an important one with a deep introspective investigation of the psychology behind domestic abuse and a critical message describing a not uncommon scenario of how it can begin and how far it can go. Especially impactful for someone who has never experienced anything even close to Maddy's situation, the story educates and enlightens - or at least it did for me. I suspect, it could serve an even more important role in demonstrating empathy and shared understanding among readers who may have experienced any sort of abusive situation along the lines of Maddy's relationship with her tormentor, Kiri.

Shattered Moon takes its audience from the fun, romantic sunlight of a Sri Lanka beach, to the dark, dangerous depths of domestic abuse, educating, enlightening , infuriating and entertaining its readers along the way. It is a quick, wonderful read and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a meaningful and thought-provoking experience.

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Great Intro to a Broader World and Story

The android E.I.G.H.T. in Miguel Angel Ojera's short sci-fi novel of the same name is a truly unique character that captivates the reader and gives the story a thought-provoking and innovative focus.

Presented as a short story that introduces Ojera's vast set of worlds, cultures and conflicts, E.I.G.H.T. provides an entree to a broader narrative that is fleshed out in greater depth in other related works by the same author. However, despite it's brevity, E.I.G.H.T is a great, quick read that immediately draws the reader into an interesting plot with a sharp conflict and great characters, causing an enhanced desire for more exposition, more character building and more plot resolution - all available in the expanded series.

The story introduces the reader to a somewhat stiff, routine android that is reprogrammed to assassinate a rival of the android's "father". In the reprogramming, an advanced algorithm allows for the E.I.G.H.T to learn. feel and exercise free will and independent decision making. This leads to a fascinating psychological character study of her internal mental conflicts as she wrestles with feelings of affection and self doubt in her mission to assassinate the leader of a rebel movement - especially as she learns more about the hidden secrets, lies and deception that permeates her environment.

The characters of E.I.G.H.T. and her affectionate friend RAE in particular are exceptionally well drawn and drive the spirit of the story. As presented in short story form, there are a few loose ends and some plot that could be further developed, but these items are covered in other novels by the author.

On it's own merits, E.I.G.H.T. is an enjoyable investment of reading time and a good showcase of Miguel Angel Ojera's excellent writing style and narrative chops.

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A Peaceful Piece by Peace

I've read two stories by Luke Peace now and I am instantly struck by his skill at setting a tone, creating a mood, establishing a vivid landscape and environment and eliciting visual imagery that stays with the reader long after the story concludes. I am also impressed with his ability to successfully span genres, including fantasy and horror, while managing to maintain the essence that makes his writing such a treasure to read.

In "The Road that Went Right", a clever homage to the Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken", Peace imagines a sweet story about risking that right turn in life and facing the beautiful unknown with all of it's uncertainty and potential dangers. While largely a docile discovery of love and freedom by a main character in search of meaning and excitement in life, Peace adds a tense conflict with a Goblin King and his army, which serves as the backdrop for the romantic narrative that defines the story.

Thoroughly enjoyable, Peace's writing style surely satisfies with it's lush description, highly likable characters, well-crafted action and credible romantic plot. At times, Peace seems to paint the scenery with his words, more like a watercolor artist than a purveyor of phrases and sentences. I highly recommend any work written by Luke Peace and look forward to his next endeavor.

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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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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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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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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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