Book Review: The Undernet by J.S. Frankel

‘The Undernet’ by J. S. Frankel brings new definition to the age-old contest between good and evil, and between truth and deceit as a young man seeks answers that seem determined to remain hidden.

Jesse Frankel The Undernet

Frankel has crafted realistic, likeable and engaging central characters in Milt and his girlfriend, Robbie.  They’re not perfect, and their mistakes have consequences, which makes them easier to empathise with and understand. Insights into Milt’s thoughts and gut reactions, and his feelings about Robbie, draw the reader into the often very confronting story of his quest for justice and truth.

Part of Frankel’s genius in casting this story is designing characters who live and work in the shadows, so that the reader has to keep questioning whether they are the good guys or the bad guys. There are so many layers of intrigue and concealment in this story that the reader is kept curious and wanting to know, much like Milt throughout this story, seeing the truth despite layers of concealment and misinformation. In this sense, the Undernet and the Dark Net take on the roles of additional impersonal characters that deliberately obscure reality in this story, just as they seem to in actual fact.

Some parts of The Undernet are definitely uncomfortable to read. In graphic contrast to the sincere and honest friendship Milt has with Robbie and with his best friend, Simon, Frankel gives his readers a solidly-written exposè of the dark side of human nature as one is likely to find it on the dark side of the internet – or anywhere. This is delivered with confronting realism and honesty. Through all of this, It was the strong identification I felt with with Milt’s “ordinary person” response to the ugly side of life that enabled me to keep reading and hoping for him to find the resolution he was so desperate to find.

The Undernet is available on Amazon or from devinedestinies.com

Great Weekend Reads

Looking for something to read this weekend?
Try these great recommendations – choose your favourite genre or try something new!

Contemporary Women’s Fiction: An Enlightening Quiche by Eva Pasco. 
Book Squirrel Review                                                      Find it on Amazon 

YA Fantasy: The Curious Tale of Gabrielle by Zachary Paul Chopinski
Find it on Amazon 

 

Mystery/Thriller: The Undernet by J.S. Frankel
Book Squirrel Author Spotlight                                   Find it on Amazon 

Poetry: The Passing Of The Night by Joanne Van Leerdam
Book Squirrel New Release Post                                  Find it on Amazon 

 

Historical Fiction: Royal Thief by Laura Kehoe
                                                                                              Find it on Amazon

Dystopian/Dark Fiction: Only The Few by L.N. Denison
Book Squirrel Review                                                      Find it on Amazon

 

Paranormal: Sweet Vengeance & Sweet Discovery by Aliya DalRae
Book Squirrel Review         Book Squirrel Review     Find them on Amazon

Introducing: Literature Lemur

Today the Book Squirrel introduces a great friend who loves to read and write reviews, which she wants to share with you here.

Literature Lemur Leaf

Book Squirrel is excited to introduce to you the Literature Lemur and her first guest review!

True confession: I’m not much into poetry. I’m probably not the first reviewer to admit this, and I’m certain I won’t be the last. That being said, I found the verses in Leaf to be heart-touching and compelling.

Van Leerdam has taken tiny bits of her soul and used them to paint words of such intensity that even the hardest of hearts can’t help but be moved. Her poetry is real and now, and it speaks to everyone on one level or another.

So even if you don’t think poetry is “your thing”, maybe give Leaf a try. You’ll find that you might just be into it after all. I know I did.

Blurb:

“This well-written poetry collection is filled with love, loss, betrayal, sadness, and ultimately, rebirth. My favorite poems included are The Artist, Observations of a Traveling Pluviophile, Misery, Pharisee, and Old. Best line from Pluviophile: “There are no rainbows without rain.” Love that.

Many gems can be found in this lovely collection. I recommend it for anyone who likes melancholy, deep, thought-provoking poetry.” – Amazon Review

‘Leaf’ is the first collection of poetry published by Joanne Van Leerdam.
Lyrical, often metaphorical and always unashamedly honest, these poems are expressions of the poet’s own experiences and observations about life, love and human nature.

“With this collection, the poet offers us a glimpse inside her thoughts. At times intimate and raw, Leaf has a dreamlike quality that resonates with the reader covering themes of love, loneliness, disappointment and despair” … “Van Leerdam’s poetry is beautiful and lyrical, poetry to be read aloud.” – Amazon Review

You can find all things Joanne Van Leerdam at www.jvlpoet.com

Order Leaf here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N2W0HV6/  

Book Review: Sweet Discovery by Aliya DalRae

Having thoroughly enjoyed Sweet Vengeance, the first book in Aliya DalRae‘s Jessica Sweet mysteries, and Bittersweet, the back story of Malcom, I was keen to read Sweet Discovery.

Aliya DalRae Sweet Discovery

Not until I started reading did I realise how ironic the title is – many more questions than discoveries were arising in the most fascinating and heart-stopping ways. Absolutely, 110% intrigued, I had to keep on reading to find the answers to my own questions and theories, as well as Jessica’s.

This book is a fast-paced roller coaster of emotions, complete with loop-the-loops and tilt-a-whirls of mystery, secrets, horror, and intense personal conflicts for a number of key characters.

It’s a mark of a great writer that a story can take you on the journey not just of the main characters and the key plot, but also of the other characters through sub-plots that weave seamlessly with the main story. Characters I disliked intensely in the first book became more likeable not only through the development of their personality and actions, but also through gaining a greater understanding of their motivations and histories. Other characters that I quite liked in the first book underwent an almost opposite kind of transition. Once again, DalRae reminds us through this fabulous book that no matter how confident we might be that we’re right about people or situations, or even that we know something for sure, things aren’t always what they seem.

If you’re looking for delicious paranormal mystery adventure laced with more than a dash of hot sauce and romance, look no further. DalRae’s Jessica Sweet mysteries are the books for you.

Now, I’m waiting with bated breath for the next in the series. I’m definitely hungry for the next course.

Aliya DalRae’s Jessica Sweet mysteries are all available on Amazon.

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Book Review: ‘Only The Few’ by L.N. Denison

L N Denison Only The Few
This suspenseful thriller had me hooked right from the start.

Immersed immediately in the world of post-apocalyptic London in 2025 and the life of the main character, Corporal Catherine Hyde, the drama unfolds steadily from the first page. From that point, the tension starts to build and the questions begin to gnaw at both the reader and Corporal Hyde.

Hyde’s character is brilliantly developed. She is likeable, strong enough to be a hero and weak enough to be believeable. The reader feels as though they know and understand her, and begins to feel defensive of her when she faces challenges from the situations she faces and from other people. Her flawed humanity contrasts profoundly with her strengths, adding another layer of deep complexity and irony to the story.

There are some incredibly confronting scenes which Denison has crafted to be both compelling and extremely uncomfortable: despite the strong desire to “look away”, the reader has to keep going because the story is just that good.

There is nothing predictable about ‘Only The Few’. The author keeps the reader wondering and guessing right up until the last page. On going back to previous chapters and re-reading sections, it became evident that the author had achieved exceptionally clever delivery of clues that the reader will never realise are clues until they return to those scenes after finishing the book. That is a sign of a gifted writer with a talent for creating and crafting fantastic stories.

The book concludes with a teaser line about a “companion” novel which spurs the curiosity and keeps the wondering and guessing going. I know what I want that companion story to be, but I guess I’m just going to have to wait until it arrives to find out if I’m right.

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Bravo, L N. Denison.  5 stars from me.

Author Interview: Tobey Alexander

Interview Lime

 

Hey folks, I’m here today interviewing author Tobey Alexander!

Welcome, Tobey! 

Thanks Squirrel, I’m glad to be here!

Me too! I mean, uh… I’m glad you could make it!

Haha, okay!

Tell us, Tobey, what inspired you to write?

I have always written as an escape from what I have been doing in my everyday life. I wrote through college and university to, probably more honestly, avoid the work I should have been doing. But, I never did anything with those stories. Perhaps because I didn’t have the skill to write properly back then but now, since I have had children, I have decided to lead from the front and get my stories out there.

It all came to a head when I saw my youngest son’s growing imagination and how it makes him look a little odd to other children. The way he plays, the stories he comes up with, even when he was so young, often got some strange looks off other kids. As he’s got bigger I have polluted his imagination with my crazy stories, which is where my Magdon Series began. But when I’ve seen it thrive in him and how much all of my children have enjoyed my stories it was that, in all honesty, that made me dare to look into self-publishing.

From there it has spiralled and snowballed. I just wanted to show (T), my youngest son, what you can do if you let your imagination do what it does.

My first book Footprints On The Other Side was a flight of fancy that started at training school for my career. I read one particular author and got bored with their series, I then dared myself to write something and that is when Footprints was born. But, again, publishing it was all thanks to wanting to inspire my little monster.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

It isn’t a particular book but instead a story arc, my Magdon creature. It all came about when (T) was two and asked about a noise in the woods. I made up a monster and my oldest son got wind of it.

Very soon I thought it would be fun to make up some maps, treasure hunts, more and more stories to build on this silly little lie. All of a sudden it became a whole falsified family history (I even made the main hero against the monster my great granddad – incidentally I have no idea who my great granddad really was so it allowed me to make one up!)

The Magdon stories have grown with me curled up on the end of one of my boys’ beds talking through ideas which we talked about and literally brainstormed between us. So, from one little idea, we created something we lived between us and for that reason I love The Magdon Myth more than anything else.

Every idea comes from somewhere deep in your imagination and you either nurture it or let it fall from memory. The Magdon, by making it up as I went along, I was Beta testing against my children who helped me create something I can say was fed by my intended audience. What I wanted was to make that world that parents and children, young and old, could enjoy. I pictured mums and dads enthusiastically reading my stories to their own children and dancing around the room acting out the scenes (pretty much like I did all the way through).

That sounds great! The Magdon doesn’t eat squirrels, does he?

No. He’s a myth. Myths don’t eat anything.

Phew! I was getting worried there…

Haha! Nothing for you to worry about!

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

Greece, the first holiday with my now wife when we were teenagers. I remember it was a period when I was focusing on meditation (influenced by being obsessed with Star Wars Episode II which was out at the time). When I need a time to relax and reflect one of my anchor points is being stood on the open terraced roof of the apartment looking out across the sea listening to the waves crash against the pebble beach. If I ever get to retire I would love to see more of Greece. That said though I haven’t ever revisited it in a book or story I have written. That may change but for me it is a memory I would rather keep than give away to a character or story.

What are you working on writing now?

Into The Dark and Blue Light Christmas 2.

Two at once?

Two at once.

Wow! That’s impressive! Tell me more!

The first is something that was fed from the feedback I received about my Magdon Series. Where I have tried to write them as a series of novelettes so younger audiences can enjoy the adventure, the adults who have read them contacted me and told me I should write something for an older audience set in that world.

Into The Dark was an absolute whim and I tried to create a new story in my world of Magdons that would most certainly entertain and feed an older generation of readers. I have really enjoyed stepping it up a level in terms of substance and story and have really brought a sense of family into this story. My wife will be quite brutal when she says how deeply I have thrown myself into writing Into The Dark. It went from a fleeting idea into a story I really have enjoyed writing and getting myself into. 

Cover 8

As for Blue Light Christmas 2 this is something that has come about because of a charity project I did at the last minute last year. I wanted to write a story to give a little bit of a human element to policing, especially in the United Kingdom, and give the families of police officers some story to explain why they work some of the key dates in their family’s lives.

In doing so I gave all profits (what little there are sometimes) to Care Of Police Survivors charity. Even though I only did it as a last minute idea last year I have decided to do it again with a new story and this time put some more time to get my talented illustrator to help me out and also raise even more awareness and profile around the story to raise even more money this time around.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot but that didn’t happen for many reasons, including hay fever. Like all children growing up I probably wanted to be Robocop, Indiana Jones and almost every superhero. I’m now 33 and I think if you asked me my dream job it would still be some superhero. The career I ended up in though fills that gap I suppose, it was an interesting ride getting here but it’s been an interesting and worthwhile journey, just a shame I can’t write about it.

Oooh! Secret Squirrel, eh?

Yes indeed!

Name three people you admire, and give reasons.

Three? The first would be my oldest son. The last year has been testing and trying for him and although he’s only (currently) 8 he has shown me how big he can be. When he was 7 he wanted to climb a mountain so we had a summer “boy’s weekend” and climbed Mount Snowdon in Wales. I’ve never seen such tenacity in him. It was his first real adventure and he lapped it up. Then two months later he was rushed to hospital suffering from a mystery illness they thought was meningitis. He was extremely ill and scared the life out of me, his mother and his siblings. It turned out to be Henoch-Schonlein Purpura which, while not imminently life-threatening, brings its own risks and complications. Hospitalised, he was lying on a drip and the only thing he asked me was “Can I walk Snowdon again?” Considering the fact he could not even stand up, never mind walk, it was a lump-in-throat moment for me. Since recovering he has aged a little, understands how ill he was but he’s already done two mountains since then.

Number two is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, from a fitness aspect (although I never aim to be as big in stature or size) his ethos is inspiring. Having read Total Recall, his autobiography, I have so much respect for him. The determination and drive that man has is completely inspirational and if I could achieve even a tenth of what he has from my own motivation alone I would be a happy man. I know it sounds rather clichéd but for me, having read his life, he is the gold standard of personal drive and motivation to achieve against the odds. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he has done but that attitude he carries towards everything connects with me.

And lastly….a third, well, I am struggling. The first two came into my head straight away so the fact I am struggling for a third probably means there isn’t one. There are plenty of people who I admire in a fleeting way but nobody I would hold my hand up that pops into my head straight away so I won’t fill in what isn’t really there.

Fair enough! What movie can you watch over and over again?

I have quite a few, a film for different occasions! Normally, as I work shifts, I will watch something to put me in the mood for a night shift. These normally include End Of Watch and the Point Break remake (yes, I know a lot of people dislike it but for me it connects because it is what influenced my oldest son to want to climb mountains with me and explore the great outdoors). My other favourite I can watch over and again is the Bridget Jones series. It’s a film me and my wife will default too when we want a nice chilled evening together and they never get old.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

It isn’t easy but there is no better way to grow yourself, your skills and connect with some amazing people. It really is a journey of taking the leap from being the closet writer, enjoying your own work but perhaps lacking the confidence to release it upon the world. Being Indie forces you to do the very best with what you have.

Sure, some of us – myself included – may think we have what it takes, but that skill only really grows as you go along. I have immense pride in every book have written but I know I learn from each one and hopefully that helps me get better, neater, tidier and a better storyteller as I go along.

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Daring to put yourself out there when so many of the agents and publishers won’t touch you with a barge pole is rather liberating. It’s hard not to feel the “smackdown” of repeated rejections but there is nothing more inspiring and confidence building than that first review that says to you, in not so many words “you’re not as bad as you’ve let yourself think”.

Seeing someone take the time to read, and ultimately enjoy, your book is possibly one of the most rewarding things in this whole process. Especially when you consider doing it alone is almost like putting your reputation and personality out for public dissection (hence why I like a pseudonym as at least I can blame the “other guy” if it goes wrong!)

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

It is a mainstream published book, Spartacus by Ben Kane. It was during my phase of being obsessed with the Spartacus TV Series. That’s what motivated me to get deeper into my fitness training – lots of muscular men motivated me a little bit, more out of jealousy I suppose. When I found his two-part books I didn’t know what to expect and remember reading it while deployed to the Olympics in 2012. The second book I can honestly say is the only book to have ever made me cry. Sat on my break surrounded by people at work and I was trying to hide the fact I was crying at a book. It was after reading that when I thought I should try and get one of my own stories out there and really started researching Self Publishing and Indie Authoring.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Parenting! I get it wrong so many times. I try to be that dad that all the kids want to have but manage to mess it up with my own things. I have my gym (obsession), my writing (distraction), my outdoor (adventuring) and try to balance that with three very different little personalities. I’ve always been a bugger for self-criticising and tend to put myself in a guilt-complex when I feel I don’t get the balance perfectly right. Sometimes I absorb myself in my books too much, sometimes one child over the other, too much time at the gym, always being at work and the list goes on. I wish I could just get it right all the time!

Another thing I wish was easier is probably marketing. This being very author specific as I never seem to get that right. I know what I want to do and sometimes my imagination runs away with me. I have a very visual imagination so tend to act things out to make them work or else film/photograph things along the way to have a physical snapshot. I know I don’t have the proper connections to get seen so I feel I fumble along, as best I can, in the department of marketing and advertising. Aside from the fact I am biased, I honestly feel if I could get that right then something could happen with my stories. I, perhaps, simply lack the skill, knowledge and expertise to make that happen at the moment. But, as I said before, I’m growing with every project so who knows, maybe one day I’ll know what to do.

I think you probably get a lot of things right without realising, Tobey. Thanks for chatting with me today. 

Thanks, Squirrel! I can honestly say, you’re the most bookish squirrel I’ve ever met!

I think we’re friends now.

*high fives*

You can find Tobey’s books on Amazon

You can follow Tobey on social media at:

Book Review: Four American Tales by Jack Messenger

Jack Messenger Four American Tales.jpg

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On starting this collection with the first story, Wichega, I was immediately drawn in by the wistful, melancholic voice of Sweet Pea, telling her story so powerfully. This story is so evocative of memories, of sights and smells and sensations, that I almost felt that I was right there in the scene. This story is such an engaging way to open the quartet of stories.

Messenger’s writing is equally powerful and emotive in the other stories. The characters are developed richly, each having their own distinct voice and mannerisms that portray far more than what is told of them in the stories themselves.

These stories, and the characters in them, are varied enough to keep the reader engaged and curious throughout the book. There is neither cliche nor repetition in the plots, characters and imagery delivered by Messenger.

These stories are, without doubt, American in both style and setting, at different times reminding me of the imagery and eloquence of John Steinbeck.

This is the first of his books that I have read, but I definitely hope to read more of his writing. I enjoyed Four American Tales very much.

Four American Tales is available on Amazon.