Book Review: Toxic Waters

We have another review come in from Chris Connors! He has been very busy but he put some time aside to read a book that he has been meaning to for a while and then review it for us. This one was called Toxic Waters by David Ferguson.

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Synopsis:
In the tradition of Clive Cussler, comes a new novel of suspense and adventure set on the big water of the Great Lakes. Erin Franklin will do what it takes to take down Mid-Con, a waste management company that has been playing fast and loose with the law. An environmental crusader, known in the industry as the Iron Maiden, Erin doesn’t know what she is getting herself into this time when she is discovered hiding on Mid-Con’s property. Judge Franklin has his own bone to pick with Mid-Con. They are up on new charges and back in his courtroom again. Willard Reiger, the owner of Mid-Con, has had enough of little miss eco-crusader sniffing around his business, not to mention the latest trumped-up charges of illegal dumping. Having built his company from nothing, he is not about to let anyone take it away from him. He will do what it takes to keep it.

Conservation Officer Rick Webb still doesn’t understand why Judge Franklin dismissed the case against Mid-Con. The evidence was ironclad; it was a slam-dunk. Frustrated by the setback, Webb is looking forward to a vacation on Water Baby, a classic sailing yawl and his pride and joy. His first mate is Heywood the cat; otherwise, he is on his own. But his vacation is cut short unexpectedly when he is unwittingly drawn into a fight for his life — and for the purity of the pristine water of Lake Huron. When he realizes that the fates of two innocent people are at stake, he uses all his know-how and his guts to set things right. Non-stop action, tight pacing and believable characters make this an excellent read for anyone wanting to escape into a nautical adventure sprinkled with romance. Because of its setting and authentic descriptions, this story really delivers for sailing and boating enthusiasts and lovers of nature.

Erin Franklin will do what it takes to take down Mid-Con, a waste management company that has been playing fast and loose with the law. An environmental crusader, known in the industry as the Iron Maiden, Erin doesn’t know what she is getting herself into this time when she is discovered hiding on Mid-Con’s property. Judge Franklin has his own bone to pick with Mid-Con. They are up on new charges and back in his courtroom again. Willard Reiger, the owner of Mid-Con, has had enough of little miss eco-crusader sniffing around his business, not to mention the latest trumped-up charges of illegal dumping. Having built his company from nothing, he is not about to let anyone take it away
from him. He will do what it takes to keep it.

David Ferguson, the author, is a retired conservation officer who has written a few books. This, I believe, is one of his first ones. I bought this book because I’m happy to lend some support to a former conservation officer (having worked with a few in the past), and I admire people who continue to take on new challenges (writing a book) especially in retirement. The story is set in places that I know fairly well, the overall premise is one I’ve come across in real life (illegal dumping of toxic waste), and it has
some authentic sailing descriptions (I used to sail) with a good portion of the action taking place on—or involving—a sailing vessel.

So I really wanted to like this book, and I did, but the story and the characters didn’t grip me. I found the romance contrived, the woman stereotypical, the foreshadowing heavy-handed, the characters lacking depth, and the villain and his henchmen almost cartoonishly written. The plot device that set the whole thing in motion seemed implausible given the bad guy is a successful executive of a large company. He
would know that kidnapping and extortion (of a judge) would not end well given the number of potential witnesses and the numerous ways things could go wrong, things that were so far out of his control that he wouldn’t even know if they occurred or not.

You’re not going to gamble your life, freedom, and company with that many unknown and uncontrolled variables, especially when you’ve gotten to where you are by being in control and careful. I was reluctant to write this review so for over a month I haven’t. Then last night I read a book by a published author. The book itself receives glowing reviews, testimonies, and blurbs for several pages in the front; I didn’t like that book. The characters seemed shallow, the people stereotypes, the tragedy contrived, and the unraveling of the main character cartoonishly bad. And I thought David Ferguson writes nearly as well as this author who has a few published books and a professional editorial and publishing team behind him. Ferguson should be proud he’s writing at the level he is and has done so without an editorial team.

His book does have some gripping scenes where you have to keep reading because you want to find out what happens next. The sailing scenes were written well enough that in my imagination I could feel the boat moving and hear the creaks of ropes and wood. His descriptions of the surroundings also painted themselves in my head. I think the only weak areas come from Ferguson’s dialogue or internal monologues. Those are the parts
that feel as if they’re written by an earnest teen. Dialogue is often a weakness with many beginning authors, and in some cases with established authors who now write best sellers with minimal dialogue. They move the plot forward through narrative descriptions with some terse commentary rather than whole scenes of dialogue that highlight their weakness in this area. Ferguson may have improved his dialogue writing in later books, or he may have switched to the style with which he feels comfortable and in which he does well (narrative descriptions). His first book is by no means a “bad” book. It has received some five-star reviews so there are people who enjoy his work.

My lack of enthusiasm for the book could just be due to my personal preferences (there are prolific best-selling authors whose work I also don’t enjoy for the same reasons I didn’t enjoy this book).

I give this book 3/5 stars with the caveat that this is more of subjective rating than normal; other readers, especially ones who like the style of Koontz and Lustbader, may enjoy this book immensely.

Book Rating: 3/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was read by Chris and he chose to read it because he wanted to. 


There is a new book on the block that I am promoting. This one is called Justice Gone by Nick Lombardi. Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. You can get it here: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1785358766/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641

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Book Review: Intraterrestrial

Our external reviewer Sara sent over another review she is very excited about. She recently read Intraterrestrial by Nicholas Conley and had great things to say about it.

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Synopsis: Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

This novel is a little like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but for young adult readers. It’s a little intense, and if you dissected it enough you could finds all sorts of hidden meaning and perhaps even Biblical allusions to analyze.

This novel follows the journey of a young boy named Adam Helios (even his name warrants analysis!) who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. While in the coma, he is taken by aliens (or is he?) to help them defeat The Nothing Spot which is attacking their ship, The Consciousness. The only catch is, the entire experience is built by his imagination – the aliens only have bodies because that’s how he imagines them, he travels around the ship, which is actually the solar system, because that’s what his imagination creates, and so on. This book also follows the journey of Adam’s parents, who are waiting for him back on Earth, hoping he will recover, and are going through their own journey of discovery.

This book is very strange, no doubt about it. There are times when you have no idea what’s happening, or why, and it frequently gets gross and a bit scary. This book is also beautiful, as it is (perhaps) a metaphor for Adam trying to find himself as a person, through all the self-doubt and uncertainty that he feels as he is becoming an unpopular teenager. He must rescue several different aliens from The Nothing Spot, which endlessly tells him that he is meaningless, and no one cares about him, in order to heal The Consciousness – all while his body is attempting to heal from a traumatic brain injury.

There’s really a lot more to this book than you might think, especially as you consider how everything might tie together for Adam and his family and friends. This is a book about self-discovery, but it’s also a book about aliens, the solar system, and a bit of science.

Overall, I think this book is a win. I would recommend this to any young adult friend who likes things a little bit stranger than the typical coming of age theme prevalent in so many young adult novels.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: Provider​ Prime

More fantastic reviews from our external reviewer Chris Connors! This one was called Provider Prime: Alien Legacy by John Vassar.

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Synopsis: Earth has endured world wars, global famine and the near-collapse of civilization. It has always survived. But it has never seen anything like this…

After a century of peace, world security is under attack from an entity with incredible power and intelligence. Something that has remained hidden within the Populus for decades. Something malevolent.

Facing impossible odds, one man is caught in a race against time to find and eliminate the threat. Earth’s all-powerful AIs, the SenANNs, offer hope but have their own agenda for the future of mankind. As an alien starship appears on the outskirts of the solar system, the loyalty of the most advanced machine minds the world has ever known will be tested.

In the final reckoning, with the future of humanity at stake, the SenANNs themselves will hold the balance of power.

Will they stand with the human race or assist in its subjugation?

An expletive might be appropriate here, but I’ll settle for, “oh boy, this book was good!” I admire anyone who has taken the time to write a book, even if it isn’t all that good, because, by gum, they sat down and wrote a friggin’ book! How awesome is that?! Then you get an author who not only has written a book but has done it so well you wouldn’t know that there was no professional publishing house behind him.

For the most part, this book was difficult to put down at bedtime. It wasn’t just good in terms of the storyline, but good in terms of writing, both creative and technical. If there were any spelling errors or major grammar mistakes I missed them. I thought I spotted an incorrect comma placement right near the beginning, but that’s probably po-ta-toe vs po-taw-toe scenario; and I was so involved in the story right from page one I didn’t even slow down to check. The attention to detail needed for this level of technical writing is something you expect from a professional editor—my reviews have more grammatical errors in them than this entire book (I’m pretty good at spotting errors in my own work but only after they’ve gone online or been sent out to a client).

Set about 2 centuries in the future, Earth’s scientific knowledge has leaped forward since the time of the Great Famine when several billion people died and humanity was in danger of extinction. Space flight, orbital living quarters, AI, Moon and Mars colonies are thriving, and crime rates are at a manageable level. People are beginning to exhibit signs of telepathy or empathic connections, something that is viewed with a bit of suspicion, but doesn’t stray into us vs them X-men territory; instead, it plays a background part that adds to the storyline rather than be the storyline.

Part of the story blurb from Amazon states, “After a century of peace, world security is under attack from an entity with incredible power and intelligence. Something that has remained hidden within the Populus for decades. Something malevolent.

Facing impossible odds, ex-FedStat agent Lee Mitchell is caught in a race against time to find and eliminate the threat. Earth’s all-powerful AIs, the SenANNs, offer hope but have their own agenda for the future of mankind. They also have plans for Mitchell which will make him question what it is to be human.”

It won’t come as a spoiler, given the sub-title of the book, that aliens are involved, but at first, you don’t know why they’re here—to aid or to subjugate?

One thing, of many, that I liked is the author doesn’t explain all the terms— he doesn’t spoon-feed you like some authors (you know who you are) who seem to have a low opinion of their readers’ intelligence.

In real life we don’t explain all our acronyms or terms or how things work to people we talk to, but use them with the understanding that they also know these shortcut terms or how things work: MTO, OPP, coppers, 9-1-1, tweakers, NFL, change the spark plugs, electoral processes, and on it goes. Vassar’s technique feels much more “realistic” than having characters explain things for the sake of the reading audience that should be obvious to the other characters in the book.

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Did your pilot just explain pilot acronyms to another pilot?

With Vassar, the reading audience can pick up what is meant within a few pages of seeing the terms used in context. His well-done technique kept me turning pages; I wasn’t pulled out of the story, which happens when some character explains what should be obvious to those around him. I feel this type of writing technique is under-appreciated by many readers because the story flows so smoothly they don’t recognize why it flows that way.

He also manages not to veer into William Gibson territory who has taken “aggravatingly obtuse” to a whole new level; Gibson is brilliant, but avoid going on Gibson reading binge if you want to maintain your love of reading.

The pacing of the Vassar’s story also kept me turning pages. Things did slow down a bit near the end, strangely enough, when the alien spaceship finally shows up—it was still interesting though. As well, there were a couple of items that didn’t seem to fit into the story—it wasn’t fully explained why an agent’s communication node failure was integral to the story nor why it had to malfunction; far as I could tell it wasn’t necessary as that storyline could have been fulfilled using devices that are already in place.

There is also a couple of near Deus ex Machina used to extricate characters out of tight situations near the end (one technological, one convenient telepathic intervention); it felt like cheating to me. If you don’t know what Deus ex Machina is, don’t look it up—it’ll ruin Star Trek for you forever.

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“Don’t look, you’ll be ok, this will be the last Deus ex Machina device for this week, ahhh.. I mean season”.

And, I thought the love interest wasn’t developed well at all—Mitchell just meets this person yet they’re deeply in love. Yes, they both are latent telepaths, but the story didn’t explore how this brought them towards deep love. The love interest felt tacked on to give Mitchell more motivation for continuing on against some good-sized odds.

But those are minor quibbles. The line “We are the same. But we are different” (see front piece picture) is a recurring theme in the book, which ties things together. It is especially put to good use at the end of the story where the words “We are the same” take on new meaning, which gave me a happy chill. The universe Vassar has created felt realistic, creatively done, and was clever, which is fitting considering his writing was the same way.

The ending does leave room for further books in this universe. It also could end right there, as it was fairly satisfying and leaves it to the reader to imagine what might happen next. If Vassar does continue with this universe I’ll buy those books. Personally, I want to know how Mitchell’s life continues as all he knows now will completely change how he sees life. Vassar has demonstrated that his writing is comparable with some well-known authors, and I thought it was better writing than some big names (you still listening, Dean?).

For just the technical prowess alone I’d give 6/5 stars if there were such a thing. For storyline, creative writing, imagination, well-developed universe, definitely a 5/5 star book, and then some!

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.

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