Monthly Archives: January 2014

Accidental Alpha by Poppy Dennison

Accidental AlphaAccidental Alpha by Poppy Dennison
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Wilde City Press
Short Story:  24,000 Words
Purchase at Amazon
Roses:  4
 

A quiet life. A break from the dangers of being a cop. Yep, Lex Tompkins has his future all worked out. That is, until fate—or rather the stray toddler from the house across the street—bites those plans in the ass. Well, technically Lex’s neck. Suddenly, he’s transformed into the Alpha of the secret werewolf clan hiding in the perfect, out of the way neighborhood of Lex’s dreams.

Now Lex is the unlikely leader of a dysfunctional pack… except for Spencer Robinson, the one shifter Lex can’t seem to keep his paws off. Will Spencer be able to teach Lex how to embrace who he has truly become?

Because accidents happen…

…but fate marks its own territory.

Excerpt

Lex is recovering from a stabbing while he was a cop.  The department has put him on early retirement and disability because he is not in top shape anymore and the psychologist won’t clear him.  He wants to be away from people but his one neighbor has a lot of people over often.  Spencer is the neighbor and though Lex sees Spencer look at him once he believes Spencer isn’t his type.

I loved this book.  It isn’t for everyone.  It is a sweet easy read but it was fun.  Lex is “Mr. Grumpy”, anti-social but after he is bitten his whole life and attitude changes.  Spencer isn’t as well defined as character.  We get that he is hurt that Lex only came after him after he was turned.

My only real difficulty with the book was with the sudden turnaround in attitude by Lex.  I would say that it is all about his turning but it doesn’t quite cover it.  Still I enjoyed the story and characters a great deal.  Look forward to the next in the series.

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Ghoul’s Gym by T.J. Klune and Eric Arvin

Ghoul's GymGhoul’s Gym by T.J. Klune and Eric Arvin
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Wilde City Press
Novella:  100 Pages
Purchase at Amazon
Roses:  5
 

You’ll never want to exercise again as Eric Arvin and TJ Klune turn a gym full of hunks into a smorgasbord of terror in GHOUL’S GYM.

This is the individual release of Ghoul’s Gym which was originally published as part of the Zombie Boyz anthology.

Excerpt

Wow!  This wasn’t at all what I was expecting.  I think the authors did a fabulous job weaving together their two “voices” into this book.  The story doesn’t come off as having two authors but as having one.

The story is disturbingly bloody and vicious with humor too.  Under it all is a love story that makes you cry.  The whole of the story the authors keep you guessing at who is going to survive and what is going to happen next.

The characters are a bit strange.  Uly is a personal trainer who is a bit clueless about how much the love of his life is suffering with his body image.  Jake is teased by Uly’s boss and others at the gym because he isn’t all buffed up.  Uly doesn’t seem to get how much it is bothering Jake.  Jake really lets these bullies get to him.  He is bringing all of this into the relationship and making everything worse.  Talking to Uly doesn’t seem to make any impact on the situation either so Jake is internalizing it all.

The authors’ version of how zombies come to be is very interesting and creative.  I will admit that the read starts out sounding really bizarre and not at all like it will be enjoyable but by the end it captures you and makes you really care about the characters and their situation.

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Sub Zero by Angel Martinez

Sub ZeroSub Zero by Angel Martinez
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Amber Quill Press, LLC
Novella:  40,000 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

Major Aren Dalsgaard’s newest assignment is to investigate a series of murders on the frigid planet, Drass, where relations between the Treaty settlers and the natives have taken a nasty turn. A linguist and trained xenologist, Aren should be the ideal Special Investigations officer for the assignment. So what’s the problem? Drass is where he died, more than a hundred and twenty years ago.

Sent by his family to the chigyel city, Nyachung finds himself confronted with a murder charge, racial prejudice, and a cryo-revived investigator who claims to be a hero from his grandmother’s generation. Major Dalsgaard could be crazy or he could be lying, but the sincerity in his spring-green eyes disturbs Nyachung more than anything else he encounters in the foreigners’ city.

Now, confronted with mysterious black boxes and a beautiful yet evasive young man as a prime suspect, Aren hopes he can solve the murders before his fierce sexual attraction to Nyachung gets the better of him…

 Excerpt

Aren is the main character of the story.  He is a man lost in a future world.  Aren had been a linguist and a xenologist when he met with a man on Drass and fell in love.  He and his lover died in an accident and Aren was frozen by his government.  Now he has been revived over a hundred years later and all he knew is gone.  He now works as an investigator and is sent back to Drass to investigate a group of murders that is happening there.  Nyachung is a “native” of the planet Drass.  He is of the same race as Aren’s lover.  Nya is also the one that the authorities arrests for the murders that have happened in the city.  Now Aren must find out what is happening and what to do about his sudden attraction for Nya.

The world building that the author did in the book was amazing.  In short order without a huge info dump we are able to learn so much about the world we enter into.  Aren is an interesting character.  It is obvious that he was a rebel and believed in doing right.  Even now in this unknown future he struggles to make sure that what he believes is right it done even if it goes against the current bigotry and racism.  Aren isn’t current to the times but he does remember how hatred works and when things don’t make sense.

Nya is a singer.  When I first heard this and realized that the author was most likely to put these two together I couldn’t believe it.  A singer with a ledged and rebel, because that is what Aren is to Nya’s people.  Until I understood Nya’s people I didn’t think a singer would be a big role player in this world.  I love that Nya’s people are so peaceful.  They are a wonderful culture that I’m sure we all wish there were more like.  I think that human nature as it is took advantage of this sweet race of people.  I’m glad to see Aren return and help them.

This story is a really lovely one.  The writing was excellent and the characters and world just vibrant.  I really enjoyed the read.  I will say some may have difficulty with Aren and Nya’s relationship considering that Aren’s death, along with his lovers, seemed to him to have occurred a short time ago.  Some will wonder about the amount of time that Aren seems to have grieved for his lost love.  I will say it seemed to have been really quick.  I would have enjoyed seeing that play out a bit more.  The route to love seemed to get drowned in the story itself.

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Sole Support by Kaje Harper

Sole SupportSole Support by Kaje Harper
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Novel:  118,082 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  5
 

He can find a use for his lover’s hands…except when he needs help the most.

Kellen is short on cash—at least until his first novel starts to sell—but he has plenty of friends. None of them, unfortunately, share his love of books. For that he turns to IM chats with Mike from his online book group.

Though he manages to coax the shy, socially inept pathologist into a real-time meeting, Kellen has no intention of letting his new friend become more than a casual lover. Shaky finances and ailing mother aside, self-sufficiency is Kellen’s prime directive.

Mike considers himself a nerd of the highest order—short, bespectacled, prone to blurting out the wrong thing at the worst possible time. Meeting Kellen face to face is the biggest risk of his life, and he wonders if they’ll get more body parts together than just their faces.

First meeting leads to first date—first everything for Mike—and soon Kellen’s faced with breaking his just-friends-with-benefits rule. Yet as his elderly mother wanders deeper into senility, Kellen wonders if it’s better to lean on Mike rather than fall.

Warning: Contains an emotional love story between a too-proud-for-his-own-good writer with an allergy to the L-word, and a painfully shy scientist who takes his sisters’ nagging to “get out there” literally. Oh, and an adorable stray cat.

 Excerpt

This is a very different story for me.  Kellen is an only child, whose father died when he was a child.  This had a huge effect of the young Kellen.  Now he has commitment issues.  If he never depends on anyone he can never be left alone.  Mike is a “geek” and a virgin at 37.  Mike has a hard time being social and so has no real social life except online which is where he meets Kellen.  So the two meet and just like one would guess the polar opposites attract.  Kellen though never talks about his private life and when his mother declines believes it is time to cut Mike loose.  When Mike learns the truth of why he was dumped he goes after Kellen to get him back but Kellen still won’t commit.

These are two very interesting characters.   I will admit I had some troubles through the whole book liking Kellen.  He is extremely self-centered, even when he dumps Mike there is a self-centeredness to it.  I never could really get past all his me, me, me.  Mike is so sweet and geeky.  I LOVE the character.  He is a little too good but I can put that niggle aside compared to Kellen.

The writing in this book was excellent.  There was a slow buildup so it takes a while to get into the story and characters.  The situation with Kellen’s mother was very well written.  You can really tell that the author has had experience with this issue.  It was a very moving portrayal of how taking care so some of the issues our elderly have takes a toll on their children, especially an only child with limited resources.  I really think the drama of this was better written than the romance itself.

The writer’s characterizations were enough to make the characters seem very real.  I didn’t like Kellen but I could still feel for him and get a real sense of him as a character.  Mike as well.  He and Kellen’s characters both grew and changed during the story.  They didn’t stretch the imagination to believe they were “real”.

Overall I enjoyed the story, even with contemporary not being my favorite genre.  I thought that the story with its slow buildup and realistic characters was a solid read and believable.  The author’s writing is enough to make me believe I would enjoy their other books.

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Alrik by Carol Lynne

AlrikAlrik by Carol Lynne
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Totally Bound Publishing
Short Story:  23,200 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  2
 

Book One in the C-7 Shifters series.

Alrik is determined to keep sex with Ben simple, but when wolves, shifters and bullets enter their world, all bets are off.

Dr Ben Cook has devoted his life to saving the Mexican Grey wolf population from extinction. A year after being shot while looking for a large pack of Mexican greys, he’s determined to try again. When Ben’s sister hires one of the C-7 shifters to protect him on his mission, he feels an immediate and undeniable attraction to the huge blond protector.

Alrik’s body yearns for his client on sight, but for a shifter who prefers sex without sentiment, Ben presents a problem. Centuries earlier, Alrik learned that love was a worthless emotion that only served to trap those stupid enough to fall.

Alrik is determined to keep sex with Ben simple, but when wolves, shifters and bullets enter their world, all bets are off.

Excerpt

Alrik is a lonely guy but doesn’t acknowledge it.  He is assigned to Ben while Ben hunts for a pack of wolves he is trying to prove exists.  Ben has been shot in this hunt previously and his sister is worried about him being injured again.

There is a lot that happens in this little story.  I liked the characters and the story line.  The writing was good.  The biggest hitch in the whole thing is Alrik himself.  I expect characters to change and grow.  I like stories with a HEA so for that to happen Alrik would HAVE to change.  The thing is…he really doesn’t.  He is against the relationship all the way until the very end when with little warning and little change in attitude he suddenly believes he has to have this relationship with Ben.  It really wasn’t in character and didn’t fit the storyline at all.  Yes, I want the HEA but it was like two ends of a story stuck together with the middle explaining it missing.  I was very disappointed by that as I did really enjoy the story.  I don’t know the cause of this and believe if the story had this “missing” section  I would have loved it.

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Strength of the Wolf by Kendall McKenna

Strength of the WolfStrength of the Wolf by Kendall McKenna
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  MLR Press, LLC
Novel:  121,000 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  2
 

Major Tim Madison has his hands full. A young Alpha werewolf has stormed into his personal life, while Tim struggles to keep military werewolves from safe on the front lines.

After a fiery exit from Afghanistan, Tim Madison is promoted to major. Jeremy Wagner is a civilian, just beginning his Transition to True Alpha. As a lone wolf, he has no one to teach him the vital principles of strong leadership. After a volatile chance encounter, Tim and Jeremy form an intimate bond. As Jeremy prepares to someday lead his own pack, Tim struggles with military werewolves being needlessly maimed in combat, as well as specifically targeted by hostile forces. Despite Tim and Jeremy’s feelings, werewolf and human politics or family conflict could prevent their mate-bond.

Excerpt

This was the second book in The Tameness of the Wolf series.  This book differed a great deal from the previous book.  The relationship is focused on a different set of men.  One Noah and Lucas’s commanding Officer Tim and the other a civilian, Jeremy.  The story is approached in a totally different way.

Jeremy enters the story at the very beginning of his Transition to a True Alpha wolf.  Tim was out with Noah, Lucas and some of the other military werewolves and they run into an aggressive Jeremy in the parking lot.  Luckily Noah understands what is happening and subdues Jeremy.  Jeremy is a mild mid-level wolf until his transition.  He was kicked out of his pack because the Alpha wanted to keep his position.

Tim and Jeremy are immediately attracted to each other.  The relationship builds from there.  The story is not well developed.  Jeremy always remains a shadowy figure to the reader.  We learn very little of his character.  The relationship seems to be the focus of the book but we get a lot of what is happening with Tim and his unit.  I really didn’t see much of why Jeremy and Tim are together other than sex.  Tim keeps thinking of Jeremy as a kid and a brat.  Jeremy just clings.

I liked that we got some information on Transitioning.  Other than that and an update on what is happening with Noah and Lucas with the military, I don’t see much growth.  I have a feeling that the information and status of everyone will be important in following books.  Other than that I felt that this book was weak in character and plot line.

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Out-Foxed by Haley Walsh

Out-FoxedOut-Foxed by Haley Walsh
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  MLR Press, LLC
Novel:  81,000 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

Skyler breaks it off with Keith, a teacher is murdered and a student might be involved through some twisted football initiation; Just another week at James Polk High.

Distraught at being outed, Skyler breaks it off with Keith, but they’ve got other problems. Protesters have gathered at the school and the school board has called a special disciplinary hearing. And as if that weren’t bad enough, Alex is getting into fights and skipping class. Might he be responsible for the murder of a teacher? Did Coach Carson send the boy to do the dirty work out of some twisted football initiation? Skyler knows it all has to stop, and he and his friends are on the trail to find a murderer and discover once and for all what is happening at James Polk High.

Excerpt

This is the third and finally book in this story arc.  There will be other books in the series but this finished the story arc that began the series.  Skyler is still an immure guy.  He doesn’t ever listen to those he should, even when he KNOWS what could happen he actually drags his friends into trouble.   Personally Keith should have dumped him!

So the writing was good.  I love the humor that the author infuses into the story.  The descriptions are fairly good.  I do think that Skyler finds a little too much evidence for real life.  Also I think the author really downplays cops and their roles.  Skyler, who is quite the obvious kind of guy, finds stuff out before the cops in situations where it really doesn’t strike me as happening.  The little book…yeah, I don’t think so.  So realism isn’t real high for me in this book.  The uproar over Skyler’s outing seemed a bit over the top too but I guess I can say I’ve never seen one come out that way.

The characters are fun in the story line though.  The humor and snark is great.  Keith, again not very realistic, was a shallow character; especially given he is a main character.  I think the author did a much better job with even the side characters than with Keith.

I think the story contain within this book ends a bit abruptly.  It feels weak.  The whole situation with the relationship between the two main characters really didn’t give me any satisfaction.  Skyler doesn’t redeem himself in the relationship to me, and Keith just stays on the same track with Skyler that he always seems to be on.  It just doesn’t seem to match the rest of the book.  Skyler produces drama yet that is lacking.  It could be a ploy that the author uses to show the difference in this relationship compared to others Skyler has had but it just didn’t work for me.

The side characters are great.  They seem to really be brought out in this book.  The author seems to have set this up for some good books in the future of the series.  I look forward to them.

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Syler’s Savior by Grace Lynn

Syler's SaviorSyler’s Savior by Grace Lynn
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Siren-BookStrand, Inc.
Short Story:  20,051 Words
Purchase at BookStrand
Roses:  3
 

King Syler has the worst luck. After being forced into an unwanted marriage as a young man, he now is free to choose a Queen that will have the people’s best interests at heart. Alone in the underprivileged Third Class, Syler saves Frost from the lashing post. Can Syler manage to keep the politics at bay, all the while fighting his growing attraction for Frost?

Frost Santaz is nothing special. Well, almost nothing. He works at the decrepit Third Class Orphanage and pulls his community service hours like everyone else. As the Prince of Third Class it’s his duty to protect his class from any more harsh laws that will eventually unfold into a Civil War. Frost has done his best to avoid a war he knows will cost more than it can gain. When King Syler needs him, Frost has found his way to save his class, and kingdom, but can he save himself from Syler?

Excerpt

First of all I try not to hold editing against an author.  This book was in need of a better editor.  There were many problems with sentences and words that threw me out of the story and interfered with the read.  Though I do try not to hold this against an author it can affect how I review it because I don’t get to be swept away, like I should, by the writing.

Syler lives in a world that has modern convinces but is struggling with feeding its people.  Syler is the king but the kingdom is also ruled by a council that contains more power than the king.  Syler has been struggling to help his people against a corrupt council.  Now with his ex-wife on the same side as the council Syler’s struggle is that much harder.  Syler goes to the lowest class’s district and while there the guards of the area turn on him declaring the king dead and Syler an imposter.  Frost is a man that also works for the good of his people, those of the lowest in third class.  When Frost is saved from a whipping by Frost, Frost helps Syler to escape the third district and to try and get back his kingdom.  Neither expected that they would also fall in love on the way.

The story line of this book really worked for me.  Frost and Syler almost suffer from insta-love but it really didn’t bother me much in the whole of the story, though I would have liked a bit more time for the relationship to grow to that.  The writing was well plotted out and the suspense of the read was good.  I thought there may have been a little too much effort put into wording the descriptions differently.  It was a little flowery and the words didn’t always work for me.  Sometimes less is more.

The characters were interesting.  I would have loved a longer read to really get to know them and their background.  Since this was a short read, I think the author did well with what was given about the men.  Syler was, in my mind, a bit more interesting of the two.  I think most readers would like to know how someone in Syler’s position ended up so different than most of his rank.  Why did he become so invested in the lower class and equality for the people instead of the status quo?  He seemed a little softer than one would expect.  Frost, who has a great name, is like I would expect from someone in his position.  It is inferred that Frost was one of the fortunate ones to have a little better quality of life than most of the third class.  Frost is a strong presence in the story and makes for a fun read.

Now as stated before there were some issues with editing.  I really wish that some presses would spend a little more time editing the writing.  This time and again threw me out of the reading and made me go back to reread a passage to see if I could understand it the second or third time around.  I had one other issue with the story.  Near the end there is talk about a guard and a girl from the third class and how marrying her would mean giving up his class so that means you marry down in this world yet we later see that not happening.  The author doesn’t explain this so I am unsure what to think.  I can guess why but I don’t know.

Overall it was a fun read.  I wish I could give the read a little higher rating but I just think that it doesn’t have the emotional depth and consistency to give it higher.  I do hope that the author will make sure to get a better editing job done before release the next time.

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The Harvest: Taken by M.A. Church

The Harvest TakenThe Harvest: Taken by M.A. Church
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Storm Moon Press
Novel:  70,000 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  4
 

In the year 2050, humanity finds out they are indeed not alone.

Massive space ships appear without warning above the capital cities of all major nations. The planet Tah’Nar is dying. Chemical warfare has reduced the once-intersexed warrior race to sterility. They need fresh DNA in order to reproduce and have an idea for a harvesting program… and so they turn to Earth.

Earth governments negotiate a lottery, and Dale Michael assumes he’s safe since he’s under the Harvest age limit. How wrong he is. He’s illegally harvested and claimed by Tah’Narian starship captain Keyno Shou. From the moment Keyno sees Dale, he knows he must claim the spirited human male for his own. What he doesn’t expect is a spitfire with a mind of his own—and a deadly disease that will require a risky procedure to cure.

Excerpt

This is futuristic story based on humans finding out we are not alone and the aliens are more advanced than us.  When the aliens come to Earth wanting mates the governments of the Earth hush it up as a short term need of human DNA to save the alien race since they have been rendered sterile.  Dale is a male that is “harvested” with this intent.  He is under the age limit set and cannot understand why he has been picked.  This is quickly explained to him by the alien race, he has been picked by the captain of the starship to be his mate.  Dale is horrified to learn it is a permanent situation and he would not be returning to his heartbroken family.  He is also told he was injected with alien DNA; he was actually double dosed because he was ill.  This DNA is mutating his body to make him able to have children.   His “mate” is Keyno.  Keyno is gentle with Dale and tries hard to make Dale happy even if he has been forcible taken and mutated without his permission.

I think some readers will be upset that Dale didn’t fight the situation more than he did.  I think he is still furious over it all but knows that Keyno isn’t directly responsible for it.  He hasn’t forgotten or forgiven what happened to him though.  He mentions it a lot and talks badly about it with others.  I think Dale’s change is related to the fact that since he is mutated he knows it really isn’t possible for him to go home again.  Earth will NOT accept him now that he has changed.  He also is deeply attracted to Keyno and his new physiology makes it near impossible to really stay away or mad at the man.

There is a lot that happens in the story.  The plot is very good and keeps you reading the story.  It is hard to put down because of wanting to know what would happen next.  I was disappointed it ended when it did but reminded myself that there is another coming out, which I hope happens soon!  The author did a wonderful job with describing everything.  You could picture the scenes quite clearly.  I had wished a little more went into describing Keyno.  I still don’t really have a clear picture of him.  The details that the author give really fill in the world for the reader and makes the book come to life.

The characters are quite fun.  Dale, Chad, and John are an interesting sample of the mates.  Dale is different though and always opening his mouth and letting fly before he knows everything or even if it is safe too.  I think he will be out causing trouble in the next book.  He drags Chad along.  John is a little less defined.  He brings the wonder and curiosity to the group though.  I hope he is a little more involved in the next book.  Keyno and the other aliens introduced are quite gentle and possessive.  I have to say when Keyno is protecting Dale he is massively scary!  The aliens are very interesting and I can see why the humans are so fascinated by them.

The book overall was a wonderful read with a creative and interesting world provided.  The characters bring it all together to give the reader a chance to live a great adventure.  You get a fun read that creates an emotional rollercoaster of a ride.  I really enjoyed this read and look forward to the next.

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Tiocfaidh Ar La by Angelia Sparrow and Noami Brooks

Tiocfaidh Ar LaTiocfaidh Ar La by Angelia Sparrow and Noami Brooks
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Storm Moon Press
Short Story:  14,300 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  2
 

NOTE: This book was originally included in the Carved in Flesh anthology from Storm Moon Press.

After enduring a brutal assault, IRA explosive expert Seosamh O’Brien, fled his war-torn homeland for America. Now Joe Colson, he wears his scarred face like armor and keeps out the whole world, protecting the meager little life he’s carved out for himself as an illegal immigrant in the Boston slums. But a night programmer with a face like an an angel and an elfin grin full of mischief gets past the armor and scars, and into the softer places of Joe’s heart, before he quite realizes what is happening.

Excerpt

This is a hard book to review.  I admit to knowing nothing about the IRA and the rest that the main character was involved with/in so I don’t know the kind of research done on that subject so I can only come at this as a pure fictional work.

Joe is a man nearing 50.  He is badly scarred and believes with his past he will have no chance at ever having a relationship.  Along comes Ryan who seems to see past the scars and age to the man beneath.

This was a very shallow read.  We learn some about Joe and really nothing on Ryan.  It makes it hard to understand Ryan and his devotion to Joe.  Joe is ran down.  He just coasts day to day.  He really has no goals other than to get through each day.  Ryan is the one to bring him out of that.  Ryan gives back a little happiness to Joe.  Joe is a pessimist though and with good reason.  He has seen and done some bad things.  Life is not all sunlight and roses and especially not for him.

I thought the writing was well done.  It wasn’t overtly flowery and it was just dark enough to set the tone for the whole of the story.  We really get so very little of Ryan he really isn’t all that impressive to the reader.  Joe is the main character and we catch glimpses of his background and what he was and is now.  I think it would have helped to understand a little more of his time in Ireland.  The writings lack of character information or really emotional involvement made it difficult to connect to the characters and story.  I never really got into the story and so it didn’t really stick with me like good writing can do.  I think the idea was sound but the characterizations were lacking.

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