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Payton is having a bad day.

Rejected from yet another job, she sits on the verge of homelessness. Life seems hopeless. Then something unexpected happens.

A chance meeting with a stranger who is determined to turn her bad day into something else. But this mysterious boy keeps secrets.

Her bad day is about to get a whole lot worse.

Troubles is a short paranormal story with a dash of humour.

For the readers of Crystal Wolves, you’ll recognize quite a few characters in this short story. This sits between the events of the first book ‘Moon Madness,’ and the second ‘Blood trail.’ No knowledge of the series is required to enjoy this book. In fact it’s better if you go into this one without reading any of the other stories first.

Here we meet Payton who plays a big role in book two of Crystal Wolves onwards. Pick it up here for only $0.99: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018UZPLV4?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

And for everyone waiting for the next installment of Crystal Wolves, the third book will be out soon! Keep an eye on this website or sign up to my mailing list below to get updates sent to your email.

http://forms.aweber.com/form/70/1281520670.htm

 

I first heard about this book when the series based on it came out. I stopped watching after a couple episodes because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere, but the idea behind it was interesting.

All across the world everyone blacks out for two minutes, seventeen seconds. Millions die as you can imagine. Cars veering off roads, planes crashing, people falling down staircases. But what’s more interesting is what most of those who survive experienced in that time. For that short patch of time their consciousness got to see out of the eyes of who they’d be in twenty years.

In the series things changed around a bit. The characters saw less far ahead, and no one seems to know what’s behind it. In the book our characters trigger the event by running an experiment to try and create a higgs bosen. They don’t know how their experiment triggered it all to happen, but find out through some detective work in the book. I didn’t watch far enough to see if they discovered some whys and hows in the series.

This wasn’t a perfect book, but it was very good. The characters had depth, but weren’t as deep as they could’ve been. It was neat to see how the world dealt with their glimpse into the future. I liked the science. There are some interesting hypothesizes about time that provided something nice to wrap my brain around.

The plot is interesting, but not edge of your seat kind of stuff. I’d say the best thing about this book is the idea. The science used to explain the idea is also up there. Everything else is good, but not brilliant. So, this is a good book, but not one I’m going to rave on about and say everyone should read. Just scraping four stars.

If the idea intrigues you enough to read it, go ahead. Don’t expect perfection. Expect an all right book, and you and said book should get on fine.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/337132.Flashforward

First of all for those looking at the title and wondering, this is not about zombies. This is about three very unlikely heroes who trip over a sex trafficking operation and try to do the right thing.

Here’s the blurb:

An unlikely bond is forged between three men from very different backgrounds when they serve time together in prison. A series of wrong turns and disastrous life choices has led to their incarceration. Following their release, Mangle, Decker and Tazeem stick together as they return to a life of crime, embarking on a lucrative scam. But when they stumble upon a sophisticated sex-trafficking operation, they soon realise that they are in mortal danger. The disappearance of a family member and the murder of a dear friend lead the three to delve deeper into a world of violence and deception. In their quest for retribution and justice, they put their lives on the line. Their paths cross with that of Tatiana, who has left her home country for a better life in the West – or so she thinks. She soon realises she is in the hands of ruthless, violent people, who run an operation supplying girls to meet the most deviant desires of rich and powerful men. Will she survive the horrors of The Zombie Room? Are Mangle, Decker and Tazeem brave enough to follow her there, in an attempt to set her free?

I very much appreciated the knights being less than shining in this story. Heroes can be from all walks of life. All you need to do is have the courage to do the right thing. Their distrust of the police, and worry they wouldn’t be believed upped the stakes nicely for the story since they had to dive in and get proof before they could even consider getting help.

The plot is engrossing. There’s a sense of brutal reality to it all. The characters are varied enough to keep track of. Despite showing everyone’s pov, I only felt I got a deep look into Mangle and Tatiana’s thoughts. Though I did see into the other guy’s heads enough to understand their motives in all this. There are some good twists in here.

This whole book has a gritty feel to it. So if you don’t like that kind of book, you won’t like this one. I did like that it very much captured the powerlessness most people have over the doings of that rich one percent. For that reason I felt the end did a good job. Not everything goes right. I won’t say how it ends, but it echoes the brutal reality of the rest of the novel.

I’m on the fence about a big event that Tatiana causes near the end of the book. It was a nice echo of something that happened at the beginning, but it felt a little empty. I’m not sure if that’s just because it was incredibly sad. You can make up your own mind.

Plot = good, characters = good/great, world = fascinatingly gritty, themes = awesome.

Four stars. A nice read if you like gritty books and can stand a lot of bad things happening to decent people. Don’t expect a picture perfect ending. This isn’t that kind of book.

One last nitpick. Tatiana spends most of the book deaf. This is awesome as I do like it when books remember there are different kinds of people out there, but after a short period of learning she manages to lipread perfectly. She’s hearing for most of her life, learns how to read lips, goes to a foreign country, and can understand what everyone is saying by reading their lips.

Dude, not even people born deaf have 100 percent accuracy reading lips. So, this irked me a little, but hey, at least I didn’t catch her understanding someone not looking at her (though she was strangely good at keeping up with multiple people talking at once). Small detail. I can live with it.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13568322-the-zombie-room

Truth Seeker

A dead child.
A girl locked away for his murder.
A mysterious gift.

Locked up for the murder of a boy she tried to save, eighteen year old Aleeta Veritras is determined to bring the real killer to justice.

Except, no one believes she didn’t do it. No one believes the strange gift she claims helped her find the boy. And no one believes that last night, locked in her cell, she glimpsed the killer again for the first time in three years.

But the more she digs, the more she finds herself tangled in lies. And there are those who will kill to keep the truth hidden.

“Truth Seeker” is a crime/thriller with a hint of the paranormal.

 

Link.

Writing this book was a long journey. I wrote the first draft all the way back in 2012. I used it in one of the editing courses I completed, filling it full of red pen for months before ripping it all apart, writing three separate outlines before finding the right one. Then it was time to start the real work! I rewrote the entire thing from scratch. Then the red pen came out again.

Three years after writing the first word it’s as ready as it’ll ever be.

When I wrote this I was going through a hard time. I was applying for job after job and getting nowhere. I had a lot to offer. A lot of tenacity, a lot of dedication and skill. I was frustrated. Once, I applied to a post where I knew someone in the company. They told me they had to stand up for me in order for me to get it. Why? What was so terrible about me that I kept on getting turned down?

I’m autistic.

Now I can’t be sure that was the problem every time, but in that case it definitely was. And from the amount of times I’d be turned down for not answering a question in a straight forward manner, or ‘not being the right fit’ I guess my autism was seen as a bigger problem than I’ve ever considered it to be. I declared my autism, I’d be turned down. I didn’t declare it, I’d be turned down (it can be pretty obvious in stressful situations like interviews). I made it to interview level for medical school two years in a row. At every school I failed the interview due mostly to poor ‘non verbal communication skills.’

I was angry. I wanted to prove myself to the world, and at every turn got held back. So I wrote this book.

Aleeta has a gift. That gift has the power to do great things. And there’s nothing Aleeta wants more than to do great things with this gift. Sounds simple, right? Sounds like the basis for any good superhero.

But life isn’t simple. More often life will look at what you can’t do instead of what you can. It will jump to blame and be slow to reward. And somehow through all that you need to stay open to the possibility that things will change. That the dream you’re holding will come true.

Aleeta’s struggle has more guns and missing children than mine did, but looking back a lot of my feelings echoed in her. Along with some of the realizations I came to at the time.  In case you missed it, here’s the link again.

Coming up soon are lots of short stories and some more books in the Crystal Wolves stories. Here’s the link to the first in that series.

Sign up to my mailing list here, and be sure not to miss news of upcoming releases, free review copies of upcoming books, and neat offers.

This was quite possibly my favorite read of the year. It’s definitely up there among the top ten.

Five stars, no question. This has cool time travel with science behind it that didn’t contradict itself. We get some interesting ideas of how time travel might work, how it would relate to the theory of relativity, and a great hypothesis about time having a sentient aspect to it. Our characters are varied and deep. Their relationships to each other are interesting.

We also get to see the future and past versions of some of the characters. I can’t get over how fascinating it was to see the similarities and differences between them. They’re four years apart, but they’ve changed so much. It makes me wonder how much I’ve changed in recent years.

Anyways, before we go further, let’s look at the blurb:

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Cool idea, check. Deep, complex, and consistent characters, check. Brilliant plot, check. Heart-wrenching everything, check.  Believable world, check. Plus there are a lot of themes running through this book about morality. Should you kill the few to save the many? What does it take for a person to be considered evil? Because that’s the thing. There are no evil characters in this book. People do things that can be considered evil, but everyone thinks they’re doing the ‘right thing.’

This is one of those brilliant books that shows very clearly that everyone is a hero. Even the villains are heroes in their own minds. It’s all left quite open as well, so we’re not told that our guy’s side is the right one. They believe it’s the right one, but I imagine if we were on the other side their conviction would be just as strong. This book left me with a lot of thoughts, and tons of feelings.

The words kept me gripped from start to finish, so go read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13514612-all-our-yesterdays

There were a lot of things I liked about this book, and a lot of things I didn’t. Part of it might’ve been my big expectations after watching the movie. The movie ‘children of men’ wasn’t perfect, but it was very interesting, and entertaining to watch.

By contrast I found the book rather slow. A lot of it is the main character telling us about the world. Now, the world he lives in is interesting, but I’d rather see it than be told about it. The style also switches between third person and first (when we get snatches of his diary), only there doesn’t seem much point in the switch. We get the same kind of information either way, and the diary gets thrown away part way through the book and doesn’t get mentioned again. I kind of feel the author should’ve stuck to one (probably third) and not bothered with the diary bits.

Before we go further, a quick summary of the book: Jaded professor guy is asked to help a rebel group in a world where no children have been born for over twenty years. It’s thought everyone is infertile and the human race will end.

The main character was unlikable. Now I love loveable characters, and I love foul-mouthed jerks who everyone but their best friends hate. But a character needs to have some redeeming qualities. Take Jon, my self-declared jerk from my novella ‘when the world ends.’ He’s blunt, rude, slashed other kids bike tires when he was young. He’s the sort of guy to turn his back on the world when things go belly up, and look out for only himself. Except for one thing. There are two people in the world he loves, and he’ll do anything for them, including trying to grow a conscience.

The main character in this book didn’t have much going for him. He had a wife who he never loved, a child who he also never loved. He’s formed some friendships, but none of them are close, and none with nice people. He first starts trying to help people because he has a crush on one of them. Then it’s like he feels he has obligation. He shows a bit more in the way of feelings toward the end. That was nice, but because he’s spent so long being shallow I couldn’t quite connect with what he was feeling.

It’s a shame because there was a lot of opportunity. He was childhood friends (though from reading his feelings it’s more like acquaintances) with the main bad character. A closer connected soured by their differences in opinion could’ve made him a deeper character. Or, like the film did, merging the rebel lady he’s attracted to with his ex-wife, and you have a whole boat load of emotions to play with. I mean, they lost their kid, and this is a world without kids. Plus, in the book the slave immigrants are mentioned, but we see none of them. In the film, we actually had one as a main character. And the prison island where everyone who commits any kind of crime is shipped off to. That annoyed me because we hear so much about it, but we never go there. In the film going there is a huge part of the plot.

In fact in the book the plot starts off very slow. It speeds up toward the end, but this is not an action packed book.

So. Plot = slow. Characters = shallowly developed and unlikable. Writing = ok, but a lot of telling (particularly at the start). Feels = not that much. I get that the author might’ve gone for a desolate feeling, but the whole book feels way too empty feeling-wise. slightly more feelings toward the end.

What saved this book for me was the world. This is a fascinating world. With no new babies about, it’s become the kind of place where middle age women are congratulated in the streets for their baby dolls by strangers who coo over the models as they would a real infant.

Baby animals are christened and treated as children. There are even fights over custody. And most fascinating of all was the thought put into how the youngest members of this society turned out. As you can imagine, they were doted on, and until they were found to be as sterile as the rest, they were treated as the future saviors of the human race.

The result? sociopaths who believe themselves better than anyone else. They murder people for fun (and get away with it because of their status), and make no efforts to better themselves. The parallels between those worshiped children and how some of the more spoiled children in the real world turn out was a little scary.

I give this book three stars over all. Brilliant world. Fascinating idea. Not so good execution of said idea.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41913.The_Children_of_Men

DamselKnightcomplete

Sometimes the best knight is a damsel.

In a world where women are seen as weak, defenceless creatures for men to protect and own, one orphan girl wants to be different. She dreams of being a knight. Slaying dragons, taking down armies with her father’s sword. Only her foster parents don’t agree with her views. On the night of her betrothal to a man over twice her age, the King’s soldiers come to their tiny village, and in the chaotic aftermath she’s left with a choice. Go back to life she knows and marry a man she despises, or journey onward and risk death to earn the knighthood she dreams of.

The road forward isn’t a safe one for a girl travelling with only her foster brother as company. Magic lurks in dark places. Vengeance burrows deep in many equally dark hearts. And all around the circle armies are gathering to defend the Kingdom against a threat that has not been seen in a thousand years.

This is the entire 140 thousand word fantasy. By buying this you save 41% over purchasing each individual part.

 

The complete collection. This is nearly 140 words of story. If you took the time to preorder it, today is the day it arrives on your device. If not, then here’s the link. 

If you’re not too sure whether to buy it, the first part is free. It’s on amazon here. And in case amazon still haven’t updated it to free, here’s the smashwords link. Try it out and see what you think.

As always, happy reading. My next book release is Truth Seeker; a crime mystery with a paranormal edge. It comes out in two weeks time on the 18th of December. Or you can preorder it here.

Coming up next are some more short stories, and a few more books in my supernatural mystery series ‘Crystal Wolves.’ The first in that series can be found here, or at smashwords. And right now I’m playing with a book series that involves a disgraced soldier, a decades long battle with invading aliens, and a whole bunch of people you’d never bet on to play any part in saving the world. Or that’s the idea so far. I’ll update you as it progresses.

I read this partly for interest, and partly as research for a future character. It stood up to both purposes really well.

We follow several hackers, most from Australia in the 1980/90s. They all have one thing in common. They like to hack.

It was interesting seeing into their mindsets. Often they’d get some kind of clue that the police were onto them and try to give up the habit, then go right back to it after a few weeks / months. Two who managed to stay away from hacking picked up drugs instead. They were that obsessed. They needed something to fill the void.

Addictive is a word used a lot in this book describing hacking. For a lot of cases in this book that seems spot on. Even those who didn’t think they were addicted admitted they were pretty darn obsessed.

The stories are engrossing and entertaining. They veer from depressing to humorous. The fact that it’s based on true stories makes it all the more interesting. This was the time when hacking was starting to become a thing. So the police didn’t have a clue how to deal with it, and the judges didn’t know how to sentence a crime like that, since it’d only recently become a crime.

Meanwhile the underground hackers were growing in number and skill. What I loved most was most of the hackers (but not all) seemed to be good guys. They were just curious. They didn’t want to hurt anything. They turned up their noses at carding (credit card fraud) and wouldn’t even consider selling any of the valuable information they found on company and military systems. One of the guys caused a problem on one of the systems by accident. Later on he entered the system again in order to fix it.

The book is well written, and rich with detail about each of the people interviewed. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those dry biographies that reads like a list of stats. We get into each of the guy’s heads and experience what they felt, why they did what they did, how their lives outside hacking influenced their behavior.

Fascinating stuff.

If you have an interest in this period of computer history, go check this out. Four stars from me. It lost a star because the ordering of some of the stories wasn’t that smooth. It’s mostly a good read though. Some of the transitions are just a little off.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/615952.Underground

 

This one had a lot of hype, and I think it was worth it. It’s about the life of black maids in 1960s Mississippi. Here’s the blurb:

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step….

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Let’s start with the negatives. Most people’s problem with this book seems to be that the black characters are stereotypical. I’m not sure they are. Most have extreme dialects. I don’t know how accurate they are, so I won’t comment. Minny is sassy and stubborn, while Aibileen is more refined.

I’ve heard criticisms that while the black characters speak with a dialect, they think without it. Supposedly this is because the (white) author couldn’t commit or was seeing it too much from their point of view. In defence of the author, she grew up in those times with a maid she was very fond of (much like Skeeter). Minny speaks and largely thinks in dialect. Aibileen thinks in slightly more standard English, but often speaks with some dialect.

I found this made perfect sense. Aibileen is a big reader, so it would make sense that her internal voice is more like the formal english in those books. She also writes, and again this is much like her internal voice.

Some have accused the author of racism, as her language about Minny’s youngest Kindra is a lot more negative than that of Aibileen’s white baby she cares for. I think that’s more down to pov character. Aibileen lost her own son, and she dotes on May Moe, and feels guilty for the neglect and abuse the girl suffers by her mother. Her main attention is her charge, and they spend a lot of their time together. May Moe is also on the whole quite sweet (aside from some horrible tantrums caused by her mother).

Kindra is mainly seen through the eyes of her overworked mother who has been out working most of her life. She’s one of a large brood, and they have little to no time to bond due to circumstances outside their control. Kindra acts out. Some look at this and see a well behaved white child and a badly behaved black child.

However, May Moe isn’t sunshine and roses. She has her bad and her sweet moments. More importantly the rest of Minny’s children are talked about in positive terms. Minny singles out Kindra as a problem because Kindra is basically a copy of herself. I think the lack of words spent on her more well behaved children reflects the lack of time she’s used to spending with them. It might’ve been better for the author to spend a little more time expanding one of Minny’s more well behaved children to spell this point out, but I don’t think that’s necessary. Aibileen spends a lot of time thinking on her own son just as positively as May Moe.

This is more of an emotional journey than an action packed book. It’s a very interesting look at the racism of the times, and the positive relationships. Some of the stories were so touching, like when an employer took her maid to the hospital when a relative was a victim of a hate crime, and stayed with her for hours to see if the boy would be alright.

There were some truly sweet relationships. Then there were horrible moments, like when the bus driver stopped because his route was blocked. After seeing what it was, he ordered the people with dark skin off. Turns out someone with dark skin had been murdered. Yet he told them to walk home like their safety didn’t matter.

Overall this book does what the book the pov character wrote. It tells a tale of love and hate between those with light skin, and those with dark. It tells us that really, we’re all just people. So we shouldn’t be drawing lines on things that have no relevance to anything.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4667024-the-help

DamselKnightpart4

Sometimes the best knight is a damsel.

In a world where women are seen as weak, defenceless creatures for men to protect and own, one orphan girl wants to be different. She dreams of being a knight. Slaying dragons, taking down armies with her father’s sword. Only her foster parents don’t agree with her views. On the night of her betrothal to a man over twice her age, the King’s soldiers come to their tiny village, and in the chaotic aftermath she’s left with a choice. Go back to life she knows and marry a man she despises, or journey onward and risk death to earn the knighthood she dreams of.

The road forward isn’t a safe one for a girl travelling with only her foster brother as company. Magic lurks in dark places. Vengeance burrows deep in many equally dark hearts. And all around the circle armies are gathering to defend the Kingdom against a threat that has not been seen in a thousand years.

In the final book of this four part 140 thousand word fantasy, we follow Boone as she’s accused of being a woman. If she’s found guilty her sentence will be death, and that’s the least of her troubles. The barbarians have a plan, and when Boone finds out who’s behind it, everything changes.

 

The final part! You can get it here.  If you haven’t discovered this story yet, you can find the first part here at amazon, and here at smashwords. The smashwords copy is free, and the amazon one will be once they change it. So you can try out the story before you buy it. And in case you know you want to read the whole thing, here’s that link. The collection comes out in only two weeks!

If you didn’t hear about the offer on my mailing list, you can get a free review copy of the complete collection of Damsel Knight right now. Just email samaustinwriter@gmail.com with a link to your review on Damsel Knight part one so I can check you’re a reviewer instead of a hoarder. Then I’ll send you a epub review copy of the collection, or a less pretty pdf if you’d rather read it in that format.

To avoid missing out on future opportunities like this one, sign up for my mailing list at: link.