Book Review: “Sphere” by Michael Crichton

Deep in the Pacific Ocean, a spaceship is discovered. A spaceship that is older than the Declaration of Independence. But how? And where did it come from?

A friend at work loaned me his copy of Sphere, and being in a bit of a reading funk, I gave it a go. I read it over Thanksgiving break and came away impressed! I’m not usually a fan of sci-fi but I really enjoyed this one.

Norman Johnson, the main protagonist, is a psychologist flown out to a top-secret location in the Pacific Ocean. He believes he’s there to speak to survivors of a plane crash but soon realizes the truth: the government has brought him to the site of a possible alien spaceship.

The reason given was that Norman had once written a report for the government on what to expect and how to proceed in case of alien contact, a report he never took seriously but for which he was paid handsomely. And so the team of experts he had proposed to be on site if aliens ever visited, which included himself, has been dutifully assembled.

I was never crazy about the validity of this. I know the government is the undeniable king of wasteful spending and longshot projects, but even this felt like a stretch. It felt forced on me in order to move the story along. But hey, I was enjoying the story so I kept reading.

The characters were expertly done. What at first felt like obnoxious personalities in some of the characters ended up being pivotal to the plot during the climactic scenes, which surprised me. The first sixty pages or so is mostly setting and character development, but going forward Crichton kicks the tension into high gear and never comes back down. I kept finding myself saying One more chapter, just one more chapter and then I’ll go to bed.

I won’t speak to the plot any further than I have already because a story like this is best enjoyed fresh. But, just like the last book I read, the ending was exactly how I had hoped it would be, and I really enjoyed it. I highly recommend this one if you haven’t read it already!

After reading the book, I learned there was a movie made in 1997 with Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sharon Stone, so I watched that, too. I’ll give a review of the movie next week, so stay tuned!

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The Life of a Writer: An Update

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that behind every social media presence, there’s a genuine person behind the screen on the other end, and it’s hard to truly connect with people if you don’t really know anything about them besides funny tweets or memes. So every once in a while I like to type up a blog post with some news about my personal life! Because I’m more than just a writer and reader, after all.

The first exciting news is that I have two job interviews upcoming this week, and both are tremendous opportunities for me! They’re both at the same company I work at now, but would be higher (and better paid) positions. I’m hoping to do well enough in the interviews to overcome my educational deficiencies (employers really hate seeing that political science and philosophy major on my resume, I guess).

We got all our Christmas shopping done early in my household, which is nice, and all the decorations are up as well. I never thought I’d be the guy who puts up Christmas trees before Thanksgiving but the beautiful wife and daughter tend to convince me otherwise. Ironically, the decorations that I generally enjoy having up, the outdoor lights on the roof, might not even make an appearance this year! By the time I thought about putting them up, Old Man Winter blew across the land and frankly I don’t want to spend ninety minutes on the roof with my fingers and face freezing.

If it warms up at all between now and December I’ll make a real effort to get up there! If not, I may just wait until next year (and set a calendar reminder).

I’ve also managed to lower my blood pressure a little, which is good. It was never terrible, but at my last doctor’s visit this summer it was a little too high. My doctor told me to cut down on sodium, which I did. I never had any idea just how much sodium was in the food I was eating! Way too much! It was actually pretty easy to cut out the worst offenders (frozen food, an everything bagel every morning, Campbell’s soup on the weekends) and make some low-sodium substitutions elsewhere.

When I checked my blood pressure last week, it was 128/88, down from 130/90. Hopefully, the way I’m trending, I can get it down to 122/81 by my next annual check-up. That’s really the only unhealthy thing about me since I don’t smoke, I exercise four times a week, and only have one drink once or twice a month, at most.

Last of all, a writing update, because I am still a writer! I just finished a second draft of the third Ethan Chase book: Gold of the Jaguar. I’m really happy with how this one turned out, and while I was editing, I actually got a little choked up at a particularly emotional scene. I’m hoping to have that sent off to my editor to get it in the process of publishing very soon!

If you’ve read the first two Ethan Chase thrillers, thank you! I truly appreciate your support. If you’ve enjoyed them, please do leave a rating on Amazon or the site where you got the books. Next to actually purchasing an author’s work, talking about it online is the next most helpful thing you can do to support authors!

And if you haven’t read them yet, well, you can check them out here!

Solomon’s Fortune: Available Now!

“You’re dancing with the Devil, Ethan. Did you not think you’d get burned?”

The next great Ethan Chase thriller is now available through Evolved Publishing! Join Ethan once again on this pulse-pounding hunt for one of history’s greatest relics: the Ark of the Covenant. Ethan is determined to stamp his place in the history books with this adventure, but a Russian billionaire, who just happens to own one of the world’s premier weapons manufacturing companies, is also on the trail, and she’s willing to spend her entire fortune to take the Ark for herself.

Old friends and old enemies alike await Ethan on this globe-trotting quest. His loyalties will be pushed to the limit, the cords of friendship will fray, and he will have to answer one critical question: how far is he willing to go in the pursuit of wealth?

Click here for links to buy Solomon’s Fortune now! You can download it for Amazon Kindles, Barnes & Noble Nooks, iBooks, and more!

Book Review: ‘Fatal Rounds’ by Carrie Rubin

Fatal Rounds is a medical/criminal thriller by author Carrie Rubin, and it lives up to its genre by being truly thrilling!

The story follows one Liza Larkin, a young medical student starting out her residency at a new hospital. It wasn’t her original preferred choice, but when she discovered that a man who mysteriously appears in not one, not two, but three family pictures is a doctor there, she makes the switch. She may not be a detective, but she’s determined to find out who exactly this man is and whether he has wicked designs for her family.

Liza was a wonderful character, easy to like and root for. Her father died tragically shortly before the story begins and her mother is in assisted-living, barely clinging to sanity. Liza is an interesting individual who performs many kind and caring acts, but I don’t know if I would actually call her ‘kind’ and ‘caring’. Her entire life she’s had trouble fitting in and socializing with people, seemingly unable to understand how people might react to what she says or does. One might even call her a psychopath or sociopath.

But over the years she’s become a pro at mimicking what other people do, acting and speaking in a manner she thinks a ‘normal’ person would. And that helps her fit in for the most part, even if socializing still sucks the life out of her.

The antagonist was an excellent character as well, but I won’t divulge any information for fear of spoilers. As for other characters, they ranged from nice supporting roles to people who probably got a little bit too much ‘page time’.

The story was a bit of a slow burn, with no major revelations or explosive confrontations early on, but it picks up quickly and when it does, you better hang on to your seat! Tension dials up to an 11 as Liza begins to push her actions in pursuit of the truth farther and farther past her original line in the sand.

I would love to talk about the ending, but obviously I can’t do that. If Carrie reads this review, I’d just like to say that it ended exactly how I’d hoped it would. The final plot twist was the chef’s kiss on top of a fantastic story!

You can find it here on Amazon for only $4.99, and I highly recommend it!

Paperbacks are Here!

I finally received my physical copies of Mandate of Heaven over the weekend, and they look great!

I was also struck by the size difference between this book and my other, self-published works. Mandate of Heaven clocks in at about 73,000 words; standard fare for the action/adventure genre.

Now compare it to my longest work, Her Name Was Abby.

Her Name Was Abby ended up being about 160,000 words, well over twice as long as Mandate of Heaven. But that was a different, more niche genre, plus I stand by the size of my self-published works. They’re long stories but I wouldn’t have them be any shorter!

I’m a firm believer that stories should be just as long as they need to be. I won’t chop down or fluff up a work just to meet a certain word count. The story always dictates word count for me, not the other way around.

If you’d like a paperback copy of Mandate of Heaven for yourself, they’re only $17.95 and can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!