Monday, May 26, 2014

Dream Brother: A Novel by Brian Marggraf

Dream Brother: A Novel
by Brian Marggraf


Taken from Amazon

San Francisco, California. Fifty hills surrounded by the cold waters of the ocean and the bay. City of rebellion and revolution. Smothered by fog daily. 

This is the place where Jacob Gavel grew up, the place he ran away from at twenty, and the place he never thought he’d come back to. 

The city’s in the middle of its second financial renaissance. A century and a half earlier, gold nuggets. In the year 2000, silicon microchips. The dot-com boom created hundreds of new companies, swollen with capital and potential, profitable only in theory, run by young professionals with a lot of disposable income. 

After Jacob, a fledgling sculptor, leaves a failed marriage and flees New York City, he returns home, welcomed by his mentally ill mother, subordinate father, and successful sister. As he settles in, he discovers a family secret. He had a twin brother who died in the womb right next to him. When the shock wears off, his reality becomes clear. He’s alone, broke, and unemployed. In an attempt to rebuild his life, he takes a low-paying job as a mental health case manager, but with all the tech money flooding the city, his childhood friend, Paul, has a better idea. 

His fresh start spoils. Events trigger his dreams, and his dreams resurrect childhood memories, propelling him forward on a sleep-deprived, speed-fueled mission to find recognition, love, and revenge. 


I gave Dream Brother: A Novel 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads

I first caught wind of Dream Brother through Brian Marggraf's blog, Indie Hero.  He mentioned it was on sale for the day, so I thought I'd give it a try. I had been fixated on zombie fiction for a quite a while and figured it was time to leave the world of the undead for a bit to try something different.

I didn't expect the story to interest me much, but I quickly found myself captivated by Marggraf's writing. This independent author writes very well! He has a way with words that is wonderfully descriptive, but not to the point where I felt the need to skim words just to get to the point of the paragraph. He seems to have the unique ability to describe settings and characters with just enough information, but not too much.

The author has great insight into human nature.  Jacob, the story's main character, is so deliciously developed, that I found myself simultaneously disgusted with and sympathetic toward him. I rarely find myself liking a character as messed up as Jacob, but somehow Brian Marggraf was able to make me care about him. The way I felt about the characters in Dream Brother was very similar to how I felt about the characters in "Breaking Bad" and "Weeds"... knowing I shouldn't like them, but not being able to help it. 

Dream Brother is not just a book about human nature, though.  It also has plenty of action and mystery which builds up swiftly and culminates in a very unpredictable conclusion. From start to finish, I found it very difficult to put Marggraf's story down. 

The story-line, on its own, makes this a great book. Combine that with the artistry of Marggraf's written word, and a great book becomes an unforgettable one! I'm looking forward to more from this author, and wouldn't be surprised to someday see his work on a bestseller's list.

Purchase Dream Brother

About the Author
Brian Marggraf has been writing fiction since the fourth grade. His first completed piece: a story about dragons, castles, and knights. Derivative, yes, but at age ten that's ok. In 2002, he graduated from San Francisco State University's creative writing program. His work has been published in Transfer Magazine and The Olive Tree Review. Dream Brother, his debut novel, was released in January 2014. He grew up in Ventura County, California, and now lives in New York City.

Where to Find Brian Marggraf

Author Website: Brian Marggraf 
Blog: Brian Marggraf-- Indie Hero

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A New World (The Series) by John O'Brien

A New World (Series)
by John O'Brien

From Amazon

There is no sanctuary. 

That was taken away in the blink of an eye. Humanity went out not with a whimper, but a bang. Jack, a sometimes humorous, sometimes philosophical ex-special operations pilot and soldier is one of the few left to struggle through the desolation left in the aftermath; seeking to survive as a new ferocious species emerges from the rubble, hungry and unrelenting. Will his special forces training be enough? Will he be able to keep his children safe and guide the few survivors through perils that now roam the world they once knew? Or will the hordes that now own the night prevail, forever removing the last of mankind from existence? Humankind was once at the top of the food chain. But that has now changed. 

This hard-hitting, action-packed series begins with Jack Walker being suddenly thrust into a world where the infrastructure which cherished Armani suits, night clubs, fast and expensive cars and watching the daily stock market are gone. Left in its place is the material world mankind built but a majority of the population has vanished; replaced by a new, savage, unrelenting, cunning, animalistic species which hunts and operates at night.

The Order of the Books & Where to Get Them
1.  A New World: Chaos
2.  A New World: Return
3.  A New World: Sanctuary
4.  A New World: Taken
5.  A New World: Awakening
6.  A New World: Dissension
7.  A New World: Takedown
8.  A New World: Conspiracy
9.  A New World: Reckoning


Note: I have purchased each book in the series on Amazon for my Kindle Fire

I have read all of John O'Brien's books in his A New World series, so I decided to review the series as a whole instead of as individual books. O'Brien's books are not the typical "zombie" stories.  I say that because his monsters are not technically zombies, although you won't be disappointed if you are a zombie-lover.  The flesh-eating creatures are similar to zombies, but different. That's all I'll say on that subject... I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

Why do I like this series? I thought you'd never ask! Read on...

First of all, O'Brien's books are well-written. He is a gifted story-teller and it clearly shows.  He could probably write in any genre he wanted and have the finished product turn out to be excellent. He seems to have a high standard when it comes to his own writing and this high quality is consistent throughout the series.

O'Brien tells a fast-paced, exciting story in each of his books. I especially like the military perspective that is woven throughout the plot. I do not have a military background but am still able to follow along. Those few times when I encounter military weaponry and/or equipment I am unfamiliar with, I look it up on Google. I enjoy learning, so that is a bonus for me.

John O'Brien takes the time to develop his characters. The "good guys" in his stories are truly good. There are times when the main character, Jack, seems to be able to do just about anything, which can become annoying in other books. What keeps his character "real", however, is his self-doubt and humility; Jack often worries about being able to protect his family and friends. He sometimes questions his decisions and even laughs at his short-comings along the way.   

What don't I like about the series? Well, that's a great question! 

What I don't like is having to wait for the next book in the series to come out. I know that sounds cliché, but it's the truth. If this is a new series to you, you'll be lucky-- you will have nine whole books to read in the series, and won't have to wait for the next one to come out until after you finish #9 (the most recent book in the series at the time of this blog post).

You also won't want to miss the author's companion book A New World: Untold Stories.

About the Author

John O'Brien is a former Air Force fighter instructor pilot who transitioned to Special Operations for the latter part of his career gathering his campaign ribbon for Desert Storm. Immediately following his military service, John became a firefighter/EMT with a local department. Along with becoming a firefighter, he fell into the Information Technology industry in corporate management. Currently, John is writing full-time on the series, A New World.
As a former marathon runner, John lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and can now be found kayaking out in the waters of Puget Sound, mountain biking in the Capital Forest, hiking in the Olympic Peninsula, or pedaling his road bike along the many scenic roads.

Where to Find the Author
A New World

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Passenger by J. Cook & J. Guess

The Passenger
by James Cook & Joshua Guess


 August 5, 2013
A single bite is all it takes.

During the Outbreak, like billions of others, a man finds himself infected with the Phage. Desperate to spare his family from watching him become a walking nightmare, he flees. Soon after, he is dead.

Two years later, he wakes up.

Not in the afterlife, but in his own body. Trapped, unable to control the monster that carries him, and forced to witness the horror of its existence.

A hundred miles away, Sergeant Ethan Thompson thinks he has seen the worst the apocalypse has to offer.

He is wrong.

Following the trail of a dying madman, he will embark on a journey of vengeance that will test the limits of his sanity. Along the way, he will learn that there is no justice at the end of the world. There is only the living and the dead, and in between, there is The Passenger.

Purchase The Passenger on Amazon


Note: I purchased this book on Amazon for my Kindle. 

I was pleasantly surprised by The Passenger. I've been a fan of James Cook for a while, but I hesitated reading this. I'm not even sure why... I think maybe because I didn't think I'd be into the first-person perspective of a zombie. 

No offense to zombies, but I assumed a first-person account of a zombie would be all about ripping people apart and the eating of flesh. There was plenty of that, but there was so much more to the zombie character than just that!  I never knew a zombie could become a likable character in any book, but I found myself cheering this one on. 

The Passenger isn't written just from the perspective of one of the undead, however. The reader also gets a view of the world through the third-person account of Sgt. Ethan Thompson. Ethan is a character introduced in one of James Cook's earlier novels in his Surviving the Dead series.

The Passenger is sort of a companion book to the Surviving the Dead series. It is also a stand-alone story and it is absolutely possible to read this book without having read any of the other Surviving the Dead books. 

I gave The Passenger 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. If this is your genre and you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and get it!

Get The Passenger on Amazon

About the Authors

James Cook

James N. Cook (who prefers to be called Jim, even though his wife insists on calling him James) is a martial arts enthusiast, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, a former cubicle dweller, and the author of the Surviving the Dead series. He hikes, he goes camping, he travels a lot, and he has trouble staying in one place for very long. He lives in North Carolina (for now) with his wife, son, two vicious attack dogs, and a cat that is scarcely aware of his existence.

Where to find James Cook:

Joshua Guess
Where to find Joshua Guess:
Joshua Guess' Blog
Living with the Dead
My name is Joshua Guess. I used to have one of those impersonal third-person biographies here. I thought it would be a nice change of pace to just say hello and tell you a bit about myself.
Let's see...I wrote Living With the Dead, which is probably how you found my author page. LWtD was a serialized tale set in the zombie apocalypse. It's a little different from most zombie fiction in that it's told in real time and in blog format. Which means that you got a literal day-by-day look into the lives of people working to survive and rebuild in a world destroyed by the dead.
In March of 2013 I went full-time as a novelist. Since then I have published three novels--Victim Zero, Dead Will Rise, and Next--and have many more planned for the near future. For more, check out my author website (which is a blog) at
That's my work, though. I want to share a little about me as well.
I'm an avid and voracious reader. I have been since I was a kid. One of the things that pushed me to write in the first place was a deep love of the art form. In LWtD and "Beautiful", you'll see a lot of my personality and interests coming through. I've had a lot of hobbies and I'm almost pathologically curious, which shows in my writing.
For example my character in LWtD, who is simply a fictional version of me, has skills that include: Martial arts (Aikido, Judo, and some sword training), training as an EMT, a nurse's aide, Fire/Rescue, Carpentry, and many others. His scope of knowledge is wide and random, from physics to history, horticulture to biology. All of that stuff is from real life. I'm a huge nerd, and I love to learn.
I'm a big fan of animals. My wife and I have three cats, two dogs, and a pair of ferrets. We're right across the road from a nature preserve, so we get all manner of winged fowl in our neighborhood, as well as deer wandering our streets. It's pretty neat to have nature walk so casually across our paths.
Pretty random, I know.
One thing that draws me to authors is reading or hearing them talk about the craft of writing. Too often, it seems, writers forget that in fiction the idea is to entertain. At least, that's what I hope to achieve. It isn't my intent to beat anyone over the head with my beliefs, but instead to provide a good reading experience and hopefully make people sit back and think while they enjoy.
It is also my goal to be as interactive and responsive as possible. Part of the reason I set up my author website as a blog (other than my lack of ability as a webmaster and unwillingness to overpay someone to build me a website at the moment) is because I love talking with readers. I'm thrilled to get emails from people that have checked out my work. I love reading reviews and responding to them, good or bad.
That's me in a few hundred words.