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A Few Minor Adjustments: A Memoir of Healing by Cherie Kephart

I knew I was going to read this book as soon as I saw the cover. I love elephants! Frankly, they are my spirit animal. They’re strong, loyal, sweet and kind, but most importantly, they’re egalitarian. From the brief skim-read of the blurb, it’s quick to assume that Kephart had an encounter with elephants during her work with The Peace Corps in Africa, but that’s far from the truth.

Choosing an elephant to represent her life story was a bold decision, because apart from the brief mention of a relative’s ornaments, they play no real-life part in her story. The journey Kephart documents, however, shows us that she inherited their strength to fight, their wisdom to look further, and their compassion to hold their loved ones near. She never put her pain upon others, and fought long and hard for a diagnosis, let alone a cure.

Never before have I encountered such a visceral account of a woman’s struggle to fight. Aggressive battles of the mind and body fill the pages and tug deep on the heartstrings of the reader’s soul. Every twinge, jolt and stab is transferred from the pages and into the reader’s own body. I could feel her frustration with each and every visit to a doctor’s office, her disappointment when each investigation led to another dead-end, and her hope when each dead-end led to another opportunity.

The chapters during her more healthier years in The Peace Corps are very enjoyable. Being the same age as Kephart when she began her service, I automatically felt connected. Just announcing the dangers of living in Africa and the number of precautions she had to take, I could only imagine the daunting task she took upon herself.

Her first major health scare involved three large flesh-eating maggots living inside her skin, on her butt no-less. Having them forcibly removed without anaesthetic, in a whole different world of infections and dangers, had me wriggling in my chair. When the maggots were gone, she was given a ’simple’ precaution that involved hot-coal ironing all of her clothing. I don’t envy her. I struggle to can barely bring myself to pick up an iron for a special occasion; I couldn’t imagine spending a whole day to hot-coal iron every sock, bra and pair of underwear just hoping to kill the eggs of another invader.

This book is written with a casual dialect that any reader or non-reader could pick up and enjoy, yet there is an intelligence behind Kephart’s words. What she weaves is relatable, yet, at the same time, from a whole different world than I’m sure 95% of readers are unaware of. I couldn’t imagine feeling so defenceless that I couldn’t do the things I loved. Not having the strength to feed oneself, hold a book or even stay awake is terrifying. For this reason, A Few Minor Adjustments is a true lesson of vigilance, offering hope and asking every reader to be grateful for every healthy, happy moment of their short lives.

You can purchase A Few Minor Adjustments on AmazonKoboBarnes&Noble and at your local bookseller.

Heir of Locksley: Outlaw’s Legacy, Book One — N.B. Dixon

Heir of Locksley N.B. Dixon

Whether or not you share an affinity for the legend of Robin Hood or Medieval England, there is no denying N.B. Dixon’s passion and dedication to the subject. The raw amount of historical knowledge injected into Heir of Locksley is not only admirable, but equally salubrious. It is comparable, if not superior, to many of the great historical fiction works from renowned authors, such as Diana Gabaldon or Philippa Gregory. Heir of Locksley doesn’t dwell in the shadows. It is an independent effigy worthy of his place on any store shelf.

Dixon’s style of prose is completely infallible. The book is substantively well edited, showing salient signs that it has been rewritten countless times. There are no clunky sentences, and the language boasts a magical rhythm, which captivates and enthrals. Without a doubt, Heir of Locksley is one of the great monuments of independent literature.

The story itself is superb, whether you’re familiar with Robin Hood or not. Heir of Locksley begins early in Robin’s childhood, following his relationships with many important characters of legend and detailing his many hard decisions that forged him into the man of legend. He is the heir to a rich manor, but resents everything his father’s status evokes, for the rich are rude and unforgiving to the lower-class. In contrast, due to losing his mother at a young age and being raised by his maid, Robin has developed a sense of empathy and kindness, growing to resent his nobility. He would much rather spend his time with a bow in his hand, or mingling among the peasants who call him their friend. Eventually, however, Robin must choose between a life of wealth or peasantry, yet both paths meander toward dangerous consequences. With plenty of twists and turns throughout, this is not just yet another retelling of the eternal legend; rather, this is a fresh take on tired tropes.

Heir of Locksley possesses an ensemble cast, all of whom leap off the page. They are all poignant, written with such finesse that any one of them could take control of a scene and carry the narrative on their back. None of them drag behind. Their emotions are authentic, and their personal histories of Shakespearean quality, particularly Gilbert White-Hands, who is guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye.

An insightful decision on Dixon’s behalf sees almost half of the book depicting Robin in his younger years, whereupon many seeds are sown for future encounters. The choice to structure the story with this split narrative eliminates the need for over-zealous exposition, opting to show the reader all of his early struggles, allowing Robin’s legacy to develop at a natural pace. It would have been far easier to simply hand-wave Robin’s genesis in the favour of his more famous years, but Dixon’s execution is more surgical, offering the reader an extended account of his childhood trials, his many relationships, and his evolution into a figure of history.

Some tentative readers might note that Heir of Locksley is marketed as having LBGTQ themes and might regard the concept of a bisexual Robin Hood as absurd, yet I must stress that Dixon’s execution of these themes is both intelligent and appropriate. Do not make the erroneous assumption that Heir of Locksley is an alternative romance novel. Nothing could be further from the truth. Robin instead—in addition to having various heterosexual relationships—develops a raw and passionate relationship with a male counterpart, which I found very reminiscent of a Homeric character. Such a relationship is beyond infatuation, love or sex, and is far more indicative of loyal compassion, forged from friendship and respect. It is honest, beautiful and authentic.

I would highly recommend Heir of Locksley to any enthusiast of historical fiction. Every facet of N. B. Dixon’s style is outstanding, and it all comes together in a uniform novel that deserves the utmost praise. There is nothing boring or cliché here, only unmitigated talent, and I couldn’t be more excited for Dixon’s upcoming sequel, Knight of Locksley.

Carcharodon Word Rules #1 — Farther or Further?

Today we are introducing a new feature of Carcharodon Books: Carcharodon Word Rules!

Carcharodon Word Rules is intended to be a regular video series where we explain various rules and nuances of the English language in easy-to-understand terms. We will be delving through many common mishaps committed by writers from all walks of life, and aim to provide simple, memorable solutions.

Our first edition concerns the usage of the words “Farther” and “Further”:

Interview with James Hartley (Author of “The Invisible Hand: Shakespeare’s Moon, ACT 1”)

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See our review for “The Invisible Hand”  here.



Tell us about yourself? (Family, Pets, Lifestyle, Hobbies.)
My name´s James and I´m 43 years old. I live in Madrid, in Spain, but I was born in Liverpool in the north of England. I´m married to a lovely lady called Ana and we have two kids, Carmen, who´s 7 and Matty, who´s 5. I have two brothers, Ben, who´s a teacher, and Dan, who´s a school headmaster. My mum still lives near Liverpool. I´m a teacher here in Madrid and I have a pretty ordinary life. I like reading and football. I like running. I don´t have any unusual hobbies apart from writing, which for anyone reading this will be pretty normal but for some people is unusual!

When did you start writing?
I´ve always written, as long as I can remember.

Tell us about your book/series?
This book – and series – is about children at a boarding school who become involved in the plot of Shakespeare´s plays. Each book is based on a different Shakespeare play. The first is Macbeth. The idea is to have fun with the plays but also have the ongoing stories of the characters at the school and the history of the school itself being told. It´s not a normal school, let´s put it that way.

Do you have any advice for budding writers?
The usual. Keep writing, keep reading, learn to accept criticism and take advice. Be honest with yourself. Be very, very patient: if you´re in this, you´re in this for the long haul. Make sure you enjoy the process – actually writing. Make it fun. Don´t chase trends. Believe in yourself. Keep getting up and going forwards.

What is your literary bible? What piece of literature has helped you become the person you are today?
Probably the Enid Blyton kids books. Incredible imagination and storytelling.

How do you get in the mindset for writing?
I don´t. I sit down and do it. It´s discipline.

How often do you write?
I try to write every day. Every weekday, at least.

How much do you write in one sitting?
These days, a chapter. If I have longer and feel good, maybe two.

What’s the best thing about writing?
The trance-like, sleep-like state where time disappears. Also, reading it back, when it´s good, and getting that smile on your face.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Not being able to accurately communicate what you want to communicate in the way you want to say it.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Everything. Dreams, chats with people, other books, posters, walks, films – everything and everywhere.

What was the inspiration for your book? (Your currently featured book.)
Being taught Macbeth very, very well when I was at school. The play has stayed with me for years – it has everything. I wanted to pass on some of the passion I felt for it.

How has writing impacted your personal life?
Not hugely. I´m not a precious writer. The only time I really notice it is if I´m trying to finish something or write something and someone interrupts me but these days my family are used to the “wait!” shout. They laugh at me. But there´s nothing worse than interruption when you´re just getting something down, especially the end of a chapter or a good exchange of dialogue.

What are you currently working on?
The next book in the series, based on Romeo and Juliet.

Who is your inspiration as an author?
There are a few. I used to think I would love to be a proper artist. I mean, a proper author-artist, who put books first in their life and screw everything else, but I think it was a pose. It´s not me. But I love reading about those types of writers. I also think all writers love the stories of the poor buggers who wrote what are now considered classics and were totally ignored in their day. Kind of keeps you going that sort of story.

Do you have a life motto/catchphrase?
A few, depends on the day and mood! The Beckett one, “fail better” is grim and funny. “Life is what happens when you´re busy making other plans,” from a John Lennon song is good, too. I´m a firm believer in Murphy´s Law. Can´t think of any now which aren´t vulgar.

What is your favourite colour?
Blue. I used to think it was because of Everton, who are the better football team in Liverpool, but now I think I just like it. The colour of the sea and sky. Beautiful colour.

Favourite animal?
The sloth. Majestic beast. In no hurry to do anything but gets things done.

Favourite television series at the moment? 
Maybe any Martin Scorcese ones. Works of art. I took the kids to see Rogue One and enjoyed that too, much more than the one before it.

Favourite book(s)? Why?
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. Has it all.

First adult book you remember reading?
Jeffrey Archer, probably. Kane And Abel.

What is a book you enjoy that is the same genre as your book? (Your currently featured book.)
Don´t know, really. More a short story, The Monkey´s Paw by W W Jacobs.

You win prize money of one million dollars, what do you do with it?
Hopefully, travel and pay off mortgages, etc, and give to charity or good causes, but I´d also be scared. That sort of money arriving at one time is not a great thing. You immediately create a gulf between yourself and everyone around you and you suddenly become unsure of people´s motives. Money is a thing to be wary of, not to worship in my experience.

What’s number one on your bucket list?
Learn to fly and maybe even have a small plane.

How do you relax the best?
In Córdoba, Spain, where my wife´s family come from. Gorgeous city, great family, lots of fun and just a brilliant place to switch off and recharge, and drink beer.

What’s your idea of a day off?

Lazy morning, exercise if I feel like it, nice lunch, siesta, good film, drinks out, nice dinner, a good book or other leisure past-time.

What is something in your life you would go back and redo?

Loads of stuff but I don´t believe in all that. Your “mistakes” got you here. If you want to do something, do it, or try to do it.

Do you have an irrational fear? If so, what is it?

Heights. I´m not sure if it´s irrational, though. I shake and go weird. Don´t like twigs or leaves on the floor, either, as I lived in Thailand for a bit and most leaves and twigs were living things.

“The Invisible Hand” can be purchased on AmazonBarnes & Noble and iBooks (through the App store).

See the hype on Goodreads!

The Invisible Hand: Shakespeare’s Moon, ACT I — James Hartley

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Hartley has provided a perfect gateway for children and teenagers to experience Shakespeare from a young age. Shakespeare isn’t remedial literature and certainly difficult at times, but with a strong character and a realistic environment, Hartley has created a conduit that gently introduces complex themes that parallel the life of a young teenager. While some of Shakespeare’s more severe themes are sacrificed to appeal to a more juvenile audience, a strong sense of mystery, a time-travelling twist and an unexpected conclusion come together to satiate the reader’s expectation.
The historical aspects of the story resonate strongly, and with each shift back to Shakespeare’s past, I found myself giddy with anticipation. Hartley’s simplistic prose captures the aesthetics of an ancient world with surprising ease, and scenes of endurance flow with a nature flair that left me in awe. Timeless scenes from Macbeth are reiterated with hypnotising exposition, and some curious and titillating theories—such as the reason behind Lady Macbeth’s lack of children, and the motive of the three witches—are proposed to keep the gears in the reader’s mind turning. These theories add relevance to the narrative, and with the focus on a younger audience, they offer a critical point of view that will encourage readers to think outside of the box, a mandatory skill when approaching Shakespeare.
Although the modern school scenes are grounded in out reality, the castle itself is no less mysterious. When Hartley takes the reader on an expedition through the school, there is a reminiscent quality that harkens back to Rowling’s Harry Potter, which offers moments of tranquility between the madness of the past. A small romance also blossoms between the two core characters, and it’s sweet sprinkle of sugar that adds just enough to the story without taking away from the focal narrative.
At the risk of nitpicking, I have two minor complaints I must bring to the table. Firstly, I would have loved for more time to have been spent in the past, delving into extended Shakespearean elements. Secondly, the age of the characters while in our world is far too limiting. At the tender age of thirteen, they are allowed to be more curious toward their mysterious circumstances, though it also stretches the imagination too thin. Sam, our main protagonists, often acts far wiser than any adults around him. Perhaps if they had been a few years older, with a little bit of expected maturity, it wouldn’t have caused such a dissension. I understand their ages are intended to reflect the target audience, which keeps this issue a minor one, and it never reacts corrosively upon the rest of the story.
The conclusion was excellent, and while I was convinced I had unravelled the inevitable twist early on, I was still taken by surprise—a rarity for a young adult novel. It was emotional and shocking, and one of the better cliffhangers I’ve ever read. The epilogue also offers a charming and poignant taste of the narrative to follow, and I have to be honest: I’m excited! Hartley has established a complex and intriguing world with many threads neatly woven together, and his adept ability to tell a convincing frame story should allow future instalments to impress in all the right ways.
This book earns four stars easily, with full stars for its great World Building, Story and Writing Style.

Interview with David Duane Kummer (Author of “My Abigail”)

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See our review for “My Abigail” here.

Tell us about yourself?
My name is David Kummer, and I’m from a small river town called Hanover in Indiana. I’ve used it as the basis for many of my books. I like to play basketball and run in my free time, as well as stay in shape. And of course, I love hanging out with my girlfriend and with my family! Besides that, I do a lot of writing and time-wasting.

When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was about 5 or 6, mainly because I just wanted to write stories. Instead of playing with action figures, I created them in my mind and gave them names and stories, writing all of these down. Quite fun.

Tell us about your book/series?
I mostly write horror novels, but my first fantasy novel was Enden. It’s in a fiction world that I created, and a project that I’ve been working on since the day I picked up a pen (not a keyboard; I was too young.) I finally completed it, and it makes me very happy that after all those years I wrote the book I’ve been dreaming of.

How do you get in the mindset for writing?
Mostly, it consists of music and answering a few emails, then after that, I get straight to writing. The will comes pretty easily. The hard part is making sure I do it every day.

How much do you write in one sitting?
I write a chapter, or 2,000 words, every sitting. During the editing phases, I try to take about three weeks fixing the mistakes I see, so my writing time disappears for that amount of time.

What made you want to write in the first place?
As I said, when I was little I liked to be in charge of the story and of the characters. That continued to my middle-grade years, as I would read books and want to write my own. So I did!

How has writing impacted your personal life?
Being known as an author has changed everything for me, and especially how I relate to people. I try to be as friendly as possible because I’ve seen how a couple moody sentences can really hurt people! Being an author has let me understand people more and strive to see both sides of every issue.

Do you have any advice for budding writers?
My advice would be to enjoy every moment because they pass by very quickly. Enjoy every word you write and edit. And especially remember the people you meet, because authors and readers are some of the nicest people in the world!

What is your literary bible? What piece of literature has helped you become the person you are today?
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series especially helped me with dialogue, and with making my book simple yet elegant. If anything has affected me like that has, I can’t think of it.

Who is your inspiration as an author?
J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis were the main ones because they were the first authors that I really devoured their works.

 

Now for our fun questions!

What’s a historical time period you would love to have lived in?
I would have loved to see the Middle Ages because I am super fascinated with them. Live in it? No way. But viewing it in real-time would have been super cool.

Favourite television series at the moment? Why?
Sherlock on BBC is definitely my favourite. I love Sherlock Holmes. Books, movies, the whole package. It’s a great series, and the newest remake is even better than most of the older ones!

You win prize money of one million dollars, what do you do with it?
I buy a couple ads to help sell my books and save most of it in the bank. I’d probably buy a lot of Twizzlers and coffee drinks. Yep. That’s what I’d do.

What’s your idea of a day off?
Not working out, sitting around and watching Monk (television show), and probably shooting basketball a bit still because I enjoy that.

Additionally, is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
I really love my fans, and if any of you want to get in touch feel free to email me at davidkummer7@gmail.com. Thanks so much for this opportunity Carcharodon Books, and keep up the great work with this website!

My Abigail can be purchased on Amazon and iBooks (through the App store).
See the hype on Goodreads!

Once you start, you’ll devour it in one sitting. You’ll be terrified. Your stomach will churn. You’ll fall in love and have your heart ripped out. Kummer does it all. This is one of the few Young Adult Fictions I’m very proud to recommend. You won’t regret it.

My Abigail — David Duane Kummer

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David Duane Kummer’s My Abigail is simply outstanding. Kummer’s narrative is very reminiscent of an early Stephen King story, but it’s the author’s age that steals the show. His style is breathtaking and far beyond the normal abilities of his age.

My Abigail is a coming-of-age story. It follows a young teenager, Caleb Jackson, as he struggles to find his place within the world and within his own mind. As a rule, I generally don’t read Young Adult Fiction, as I find most books in the genre boasting stale characters and tired storylines that have been done to death. My Abigail is of a different breed though. While Caleb doesn’t necessarily have a place within the world, he doesn’t seek a place either. He never complains about his life, and although there’s a strong sense of Tim Burton’s darkness in the world around him, Caleb accepts that he can’t change the world. This is a welcome change for the genre.

Caleb’s love for his best friend, Abigail, is the driving force behind the story. It’s a love of undying passion and heart-wrenching sadness. This isn’t a typical teenage crush, however, but rather a bond of bona fide friendship that breathes real. Caleb very clearly loves Abigail; she’s beautiful to him in every way. Kummer narrates their scenes together with a poignant touch, and as their relationship grows, you’ll feel a little flutter yourself and remember your first crush. This isn’t a romance novel, though. Abigail has a deep, dark secret, one that will tear out Caleb’s heart and tug at the reader’s own heart strings.

The strongest aspect of this story is the tension. My Kindle was shaking in my hands on more than one occasion. Many of the characters were intimidating, and they touched my nerves in all the right ways. There are no stock characters here—no cardboard characters standing in a stadium. Everyone is real, and that’s exactly what makes them terrifying.

Kummer’s habit of breaking many clichés helps My Abigail to stand on its own. For example, Caleb lives with his aunt and uncle for reasons we’re not explicitly told, except that there was a fire. Most stories would wedge in the age-old trope of the dead parents, but there are hints to suggest that his parents could still be alive, and he is merely staying with other family members for financial reasons. Likewise, Kummer also discards the nerd cliché, with the token nerd with a love for reading is described to be far more presentable and attractive than their typically gangly, ill-dressed counterpart. It was certainly refreshing to a see a young author try a different tact.

The big twist is revealed two-thirds into the story, rather than at the end, and it is this moment that sells this novel. Once this revelation is divulged to Caleb and the reader, the story kicks into overdrive and continues to a dramatic and heart-throbbing conclusion. There’s a lot of emotion that leaps out from the page, and the first-person reflections and limited information only exacerbated the raw moments.

If you have a free evening and you’re in the mood for a thriller, this is a mandatory read. Once you start, you’ll devour it in one sitting. You’ll be terrified. Your stomach will churn. You’ll fall in love and have your heart ripped out. Kummer does it all. This is one of the few Young Adult Fictions I’m very proud to recommend. You won’t regret it.

I Saw Him First: A Rocky Isle Romance, Book One — Penny Harmon

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I Saw Him First is a brilliant example why independently published stories can sometimes trump those that have been professionally published. In my travels, I have passed many ‘higher’ Romance novels that seem to forget what it’s really like to be in love. It’s often too perfect, with characters so entranced with each, holding themselves so much like Barbie and Ken that I feel many authors have forgotten what it’s like to be in love. A fresh, down-to-earth perspective, such as what Penny Harmon has written, is exactly what the genre needs to revitalise itself from the stereotypical Mills and Boon ideology.

Harmon doesn’t treat her characters like gods; she actually allows their flaws to sway their decisions on the occasion. They can be impulsive, bossy, jealous, naive and—without realising it—high-maintenance to each other. Yet they also have good traits, with meshes well with the bad to create believable, three-dimensional characters who are refreshing to read.

The first entry in A Rocky Isle Romance follows Mallory, a once rebellious teen who has returned home to take over her family business. She’s such a fantastic and real character that I couldn’t help but connect with her straight away. Her love interest is Michael, who has come to her home island on a writer’s retreat, to escape the chaos that is New York. Naturally, they cross paths very quickly and feel a possible connection, but Mallory also finds herself in a friendly race with her friends to hook and reel in his attention.

Each of the core female character contrast with one another, yet they are all so engaging. Of course, I had my few favourites of the group, but you couldn’t help loving each all them. Being the first book in the series, I can’t wait to see how each of them go in their ventures, and not just in the man-hunting department, as a few of them had careers just starting to bloom. I can’t wait to see more on Ashley, as—although a good character—was very quiet, and unlike the others, we didn’t learn too much about her besides her choice of a very different career. I also really want to see where Megan and Emily go; they had very, very interesting threads. I enjoyed seeing small glimpses of what’s to come while reading Mallory’s tale, and based upon the epilogue, I have a strong idea where things are going, but I’m intrigued to see how Harmon pens with tentative future.

[Spoilers Start Here]

And the twist at the end? Whoa. I had my suspicions that there was going to be a pregnancy, but when once it became ectopic, my heart just sank. I was gut-wrenched alongside her, and almost shed a tear as she was taken into surgery. The emotions afterwards were so raw and visceral—I just loved it, some really strong and passionate storytelling.

[Spoilers End Here]

I would recommend this book to any female in need of a good romance story. The way the characters are written makes you feel that they are your friends too, so this would be a perfect choice for a bookclub to share amongst your own friends. It’s not a solo story; it’s a story of a group of friends experiencing romance together, so it should be shared as such. If you don’t have a book club though, don’t let it hold you back, these ladies will be all the friends you need.

I Saw Him First easily earns itself five out of five stars!

Lust, Money & Murder, Book One — Mike Wells

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This book has opened my eyes to the wonderful world of crime and espionage—I need to read more crime! I was long under the impression that all crime books are slow ‘whodunnits’, however, this seems so wonderfully different. Not a single moment in this book is boring!

This story has a perfect sense of pacing that is so rare with big, overarching stories. Everything that was written and published was necessary to the plot, even little details would eventually tie into the larger picture. All of the pieces of this puzzle just seemed to fit so perfectly together.

The character of Elaine was also beyond loveable! She’s not quite squeaky clean, but she’s not all rough and nasty. I initially had my suspicions about her; when I first came across the story, it seemed to be a serious, revenge plot. You know the type: Girls father dies because of some crime, prompting the girl to embarks upon a world-wide mission as a cop to bust the baddies, finds love along the way, kicks some serious ass, and everything wraps up nicely. This is not the case with “Lust, Money & Murder”. Actually, the revenge storyline is very minute compared to the criminal shitstorm that we see brewing near the end of the novel. All I can say is thank you, Mike Wells, for making Elaine human—we need a lot more humans in literature.

The counterfeit money details were also done very, very well. Enough detail to keep me really interested, but never too much where I felt as if I was drowning in a sea of currency.

(To be fair, I would actually love to drown in money.)

Congratulations, Mr Wells. Independently published authors often get a lot of bad reputation because of amateur writers who believe their first drafts are up to the standard of Stephen King. Many are too scared to even sample unsolicited stories, and I don’t blame them, for I’ve across a number of … questionable self-published works in my reading days. This book, however, casts a new spotlight of hope into that dark cavern, exemplifying to readers that there are many gems hidden in the rough, you’ve just got to search. Good luck in the rest of your publishing adventures! I’ll certainly be following along.

“Lust, Money & Murder” earns a solid 5/5 stars and has earned a permanent place on my favourites shelf.