Book Review: OtherEarth by Jason Segel

Hey bookworms! We are starting off the year of 2019 strong with our third book done and coming your way. This one was called OtherEarth by Jason Segel and Kristin Miller and is the sequel to Otherworld which I reviewed not long ago. Needless to say, I loved the first book so much that I went out and bought the sequel immediately afterward.

Synopsis: Simon saved his best friend, Kat, from the clutches of the Company and their high-tech VR gaming experience, Otherworld. But it was at a steep price. Now he, Kat, and their friend Busara are on the run. They know too much. About the Company’s dark secrets. About the real-life consequences of playing Otherworld. And about Kat’s stepfather’s involvement in everything. The group is headed to New Mexico to find Simon’s old roommate, who is a tech genius and possibly the only person who can help them reveal the truth about the Company before it’s too late and the line between what’s real and what’s fantasy is erased… forever.

Dare I say that this book was better than the first one! Oh, I dare. I read this one in about a week because I had to set aside other time to work and get back into the routine of the daily grind.

We get right back into the story where it left off with Simon, Kat, and Busara as they are on the run from the Company. The effort to bring down this company is draining the characters as they struggle to keep ahead of getting caught while trying to hatch a masterplan to bring an end to this madness that they are caught up in.

There are so many new characters introduced in this book. My favorite being Simon’s friend Elvis. He is super techy/nerdy which is relatable. He is also very awkward at flirting and it makes for some very entertaining scenes.

I just love the unpredictability of this book. There were parts where I would think I knew what was coming but would be totally off and that makes for an even better read in my opinion because I couldn’t figure it out so easily. Once again, I will avoid saying any spoilers because I don’t want to ruin anything. That just means that you should read this series so we can talk about it!

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a little YA sci-fi action to keep you going through the weekend (or weekdays, really anytime you want).

Book Rating: 5/5

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

We made a Patreon page if you wish to support us in our blogging efforts! You can check out our page at:

 https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money and read/reviewed it because I wanted to.

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Book Review: Otherworld by Jason Segel

Bookworms! I read a book from my own pile over the holidays! This one was for pure pleasure and it kept me engrossed for hours at a time. It was called Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kristen Miller.

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Synopsis: The company says Otherworld is amazing — like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive — that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.

Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

Guys, I loved this book! I read it over the Christmas break in 3 days. And that was between family visits and Christmas dinners. It has such a Ready Player One vibe and that kept me interested from start to finish.

My friend Neil got it for me and he knows what I like in a book. He is the one that got me to read the Red Rising trilogy which is my favorite series of all time as I am sure that you know if you have read my other posts.

But back to this book. It was set in New Jersey and involved this game called Otherworld which was essentially a crazy immersive VR game where you could be whatever you want to be and go out into this world and explore. Simon buds a friendship with this wild child named Kat and they find themselves trapped in a game much deeper than they could ever imagine.

The world that was displayed in Otherworld was fantastic and the way certain gamers were portrayed was pretty spot on. It is sad to see that some people leave their humanity behind when playing online games and completely disconnect from their moral codes.

I want to say more but I can’t say too much about the book because I don’t want to give it away. I am very excited about it and just want other people to read it so we can talk about it. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good YA Sci-Fi story with a bunch of twists and turns.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon (I recommend you do) or find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me as a gift by a friend for Christmas. I read and reviewed it because I wanted to and for no other reason.

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Book Review: The Apollo Illusion

Happy New year bookworms! It is 2019 :)!! How did everyone do on their reading challenges? Did you have a reading challenge? Mine was to read 30 books in 2018 and I managed to read 34 so that was fun. This year, my goal is to read 50 books so hopefully, I can pull it off.

Today I have a new book review from our external reviewer Chris Connors. He finished this one before the holidays started but I was busy with traveling and visiting with family and friends so this will be our first review of 2019.

This one is called The Apollo Illusion by Shari Lopatin and seems very interesting. I believe it is sci-fi but let’s see what Chris had to say about it!

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Published Date: May 19, 2018

Publisher: BookBooks Publishing LLC

Synopsis: The year is 2150 and bullied nineteen-year-old Flora can no longer ignore the burning curiosity to learn what’s behind the towering Wall surrounding her home state of Apollo. Citizens still read books, discuss philosophy, and send text messages, but questioning The Other Side is forbidden. 

When Flora’s naïveté accidentally reveals a dark secret about Apollo, she’s forced into an isolated web of truth, lies, and survival. Fearing for her life, she leaves behind a clue for her childhood friend, Andrew, placing her last hope in their special bond.

The Apollo Illusion is a story for the hackers, the techies, the seekers, and the rebels of the world.

This is a Young Adult genre. I am not the target audience for that genre. I do not get lost in teen angst and burgeoning love stories so I tend to notice plot holes instead of overlooking them due to a flood of raging hormones. I do read YA though (Darkest Minds, Hunger Games, Newsfeed, all in recent months).

So, I dived into Shari Lopatin’s book, and found myself enjoying it more than I expected. The technical writing, grammar, and sentence structure are polished. Her bio says she’s worked as a freelance writer, and all that practice has paid off in terms of a solid technical skill set.

Then there’s the story itself. I started the book at bedtime thinking I’d read 20-30 minutes before sleep. At the 70% mark, I forced myself to put the book down and go to sleep. I have an almost religious devotion to maintaining the same sleep schedule to avoid chronic insomnia that plagues my siblings. Having me voluntarily disrupt my schedule for a book means the author has written a good yarn.

Initially, the story didn’t grab me. I’m still not sure why. Maybe the first part had been overly edited and now felt rehearsed, a bit sterile, too technically perfect? But in a short time, the story pulled me in as the questions began to build. I don’t know if the writing changed or if I adjusted to the style. Either way, the book wouldn’t let me go.

The chapters are narrated in first-person by the two main characters, a technique which greatly contributed to my sleep deprivation; I had to keep reading so I could find out what was happening to the other character when they were separated.

The story kept a strong pace with nicely timed slowdowns building to crescendos. The flow was almost classical in nature where fast and slow movements in a symphony build to a final satisfying finale (think Beethoven, Mozart). The ending did resolve many of the questions that Flora had raised, and it seems some of the things left unanswered would provide fertile ground for continuing with the Apollo saga (please continue!).

Some plot points puzzled me as they went against human nature. We’re told most citizens of Apollo haven’t seen the Wall that protects them. Why not? They were highly educated in arts and sciences yet seemed rather lacking in curiosity except for a small handful. Highly educated goes hand-in-hand with curiosity and pushing the boundaries, and even people who aren’t highly educated are curious and/or at least explore their own geographical location. These people are in the majority, whereas in the book they’re the minority despite the education levels. I had difficulty accepting that an almost ideal society would so easily let go of its urge to explore.

Also, the protagonists went outside the Wall using a tunnel and some elaborate methods to avoid detection from all the cameras. As we later find out others had left Apollo years ago. How they escaped could be for another novel, but it was strange that no-one in the community talked about the missing people with the one exception of Andrew’s dad who went missing 11 years ago. Even strangers commented on this after all these years. So why did no-one also mention other people who had also gone missing, some even more recent? Why didn’t Andrew know about others who had lost a parent or relative? If your dad mysteriously disappears when you’re 8 you’d eagerly search for similar stories in others, and others would share their stories with you.

As well I found the hackers on The Other Side lacking in certain skill sets. Maybe because the story is gripping, exciting, page-turning I shouldn’t have noticed this. Basically, one of the hackers wants to find Apollo, but can’t do so unless he gets the name of the community. My inner hacker objected to that: you do not need a name to figure out where Apollo is located especially if you’re a hacker group that is good enough to hide the people who will pay from the government itself.

They can infer Apollo is nearby. The community would leave a good-sized footprint. You can narrow down potential locations by looking at a map to figure out where you can hide a community. E.g., that nuclear waste dump next to a big abandoned city seems like a good candidate to check with a drone to see if it really is a waste dump and if the city is abandoned.

Even if the government had erased every bit of historical data about the formation and location of Apollo (that would include the name “Apollo” so getting the name doesn’t help anyway) the hackers still have access to data and communications from people so they would use pattern analyses. E.g., they could map the locations of those who send and receive messages (all people on The Other Side communicate solely by electronic means), overlay it with a map of population centers and look for spots where no communication occurs to see if those blank spots are large enough to hide a community.

And they could probably use power consumption records, census data, satellite and aerial photography (past and current), individuals’ journals, old photographs, even conspiracy theories from 75 years ago when a city population was displaced because someone “turned” it into a dump site for nuclear waste. Intelligence agencies have a vast array of pattern analyses tools, like changes in communication frequency and locations, to alert them to potential terror attacks.

If there are future books maybe they’ll deal with those issues, as well as go into more detail what the official story was on the return of the people. The sparse details given explain why the two main characters were back, but wouldn’t seem to fit the others who returned. Also, why isn’t medical technology as advanced in Apollo as it is in The Other Side? I understand avoiding some of the items that led to almost virtual enslavement in the past, but if you’re building a paradise wouldn’t you want advanced medicine? Again, that could be something for future books.

Regardless, these points didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. If I had started this book earlier in the evening, I would have read it in one sitting. I hope Lopatin continues with the story of Apollo, Flora, and Andrew. I want to know what will happen next.

Book Rating: 4/5 stars.

You can buy the book on Amazon, find it on Goodreads and check out the author at her website!

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

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Book Review: Foe by Iain Reid

Wow. Just wow. This book was awesome! Hey bookworms, I have another review to share with you. This one is called Foe by Iain Red. and was sent to me by NetGalley for review.

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Synopsis: In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.

It would be classified as a sci-fi psychological thriller? It’s Iain Reid. His books for lack of a better word f**k with your head but in a good way that keeps you drawn into the story and wanting more.

I figured out the twist pretty quickly but read the entire story to get the satisfaction that I was right. It was like unpeeling an onion layer by layer and unveiling each new part to the story that gave you just a little bit more.

The character development was wonderful. The main characters become so engrossed in their lives together yet are so far apart from each other at the same time. They get set in routine but don’t actually realize what the other is feeling.

If you don’t want to know any more, go buy this book! But below I will reveal a spoiler so don’t read it if you don’t want to know the end.

SPOILER BEGINNING

SPOILER HERE - READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

So I knew right from the beginning that Junior wasn’t human due to the fact that when he spoke, there were no parentheses around his words. None the less, I was still engrossed in his character development and loved learning about the Installation and where the real Junior has been all along.

I also love that Henrietta actually left the real Junior at the end to make a life for herself that was her own and where she wasn’t expected to be at Junior’s beck and call. The fact that Junior couldn’t tell the difference between real Hen and a fake shows a lot about his personality and his connection or lack thereof with the real Hen.

SPOILER END

This book is a must-read recommendation from me! I want to talk about it with others and hear their opinions. If you have read the book, leave a comment below about what you thought.

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 from NetGalley 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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Author Interview: Dan Jolley

Hey there bookworms! I took part in another blog tour for Dan Jolley’s trilogy. With aliens and genetic mutations in the series, the Gray Widow Trilogy encompasses science fiction, urban fantasy and superhero fiction. The covers for this series were done by Dark Horse Comics artist John Nadeau.

About the author:   Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.

Dan began writing for video games in 2007 and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest Georgia, and enjoys connecting with readers via his website (www.danjolley.com) and on Twitter (@_DanJolley).

And now for the moment you have all been waiting for ….. the interview 😛

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

  1. How did you start writing?

If you mean, when did I start writing in general? That would be, I’d say, eight or ten minutes after I learned to read, honestly. I’ve always made up stories, as far back as I can remember, and as soon as I figured out how to put words on a page, I started writing them down. (Brief aside: I didn’t go to kindergarten, and when I got to first grade, I couldn’t read. At all. I mean, I knew the letters of the alphabet, but I didn’t know how they fit together. So, for the first, I don’t know, two or three months, I was in the slowest “reading group” in my class. Then, one day, kind of in a huge epiphany, all the letters and words just *clicked*, and from one week to the next I got bumped up to the fastest “reading group.” I’ve never looked back.)

If you mean, when did I start writing professionally? That happened when I was nineteen and still in college. I met a girl in a video game arcade, asked her out, and subsequently got introduced to a few of her friends who were professional comic book artists. That connection led to my first writing contract. I didn’t actually get any money for that contract, because the company went under before they could pay me (or publish the story), but not long afterward I landed another comic book job that ended up providing a couple of terms’ tuition. I still write comic books, but over the years I’ve branched out into licensed-property novels, movie novelizations, original novels, and video games. I’m really not picky *what* I’m writing. As long as I’m writing *something*, I’m happy.

  1. Who is your favorite author?

It changes as I get older. I grew up reading Louis L’Amour westerns and Larry Niven hard sci-fi, and for a long time, they tied for my top spot. L’Amour and Niven eventually lost out to Dean Koontz, and later Koontz got thrown over for John Sandford, and I’d say lately my favorite is Jim Butcher. I don’t know. I’m about to start reading James S.A. Corey’s Expanse novels, so we’ll see what happens.

  1. What goes into your writing/planning process?

There are two general schools of thought about writing, especially writing novels, often referred to as “Plotters vs. Pantsers,” as in “people who carefully plot out a story” vs. “people who fly by the seat of their pants and make up the story as they go along.”

I’m the opposite of a pantser. I outline relentlessly. I usually use the twelve-point skeleton advocated by Christopher Vogler in his book The Writer’s Journey, expand that into a fairly beefy outline, and refer to that outline constantly as I’m writing a novel. It gets even more granular when I’m working on a comic book or a video game, since the space constraints on those are sort of draconian, and I’ll actually draw out a diagram in a big sketchbook that lets me visualize the whole story before I ever start in on the script.

A big part of this is that basically when you sign a contract with a publisher to create something for them, with the understanding that they’ll be paying you for this creation, they want to know what it is they’re paying for. So even if I weren’t already naturally inclined to plot everything out before the actual fingers-to-keyboard gets started, I’d have to anyway. No publisher anywhere is going to pay you if they don’t know what your story’s going to be.

  1. What do you like about reading?

When you become a writer, you can’t help but look at entertainment in a different way from what you used to. I can still enjoy a good movie or TV show or game or book, but every second that I’m taking it in, watching or playing or reading, I’m *analyzing* it. “How did the writer achieve that effect?” and “Wow, that’s powerful characterization, I’ll have to remember that technique.” and “Hey, there’s the break between Acts 2 and 3.”

So I never read a hundred percent for pleasure anymore, but at the same time, when I do read something great, it’s like my education as a writer continues. I never want to stop learning or stop trying to get better. Reading these days is part fun, part job research, but I’m fine with that.

  1. Where is your favorite reading spot?

I’ve got a nice comfy recliner in my office, set up across from a TV with my PS4 hooked up to it. That’s where I do all my reading and gaming.

  1. What words of advice do you give to the readers of your book?

Well, since GRAY WIDOW’S WAR is the third book in the Gray Widow Trilogy, I would advise readers to get their hands on the first and second books first. (I realize that comes off as shameless self-promotion, but the fact remains… if you just start with the third book, you’ll be kind of lost.)

GRAY WIDOW’S WAR is Urban Science-Fiction, and if it were a movie, it would definitely be rated R. It’s about a group of humans who, unbeknownst to them, become subjects in an extraterrestrial weapons experiment that alters their DNA and turns them into military combat archetypes—Reconnaissance, Infantry, Interrogator, Medic, etc.

The story concerns how this process affects these people, not just physically, but also mentally and, especially, emotionally. It centers on a young woman named Janey Sinclair, whose life has been marked by tragedy after tragedy, and her decision to use her “Augmentation” to try to prevent other people from experiencing the same kind of pain and anguish that she has. The real question becomes—even as she has to deal with issues such as bloodthirsty shape-shifters, mind-controllers, and huge armored aliens—can Janey ever truly heal herself?

The Gray Widow Trilogy involves some superhero tropes, but it dives pretty quickly into science-fiction and horror, and doesn’t shy away from sexuality. So, I would say, if you’re looking for a stupendously badass female protagonist, some emotional roller-coaster rides, and a heaping helping of horrifying violence, you’ve come to the right place. If, on the other hand, you normally watch Merchant-Ivory films and think the “Drama in Real Life” segments of Reader’s Digest are too stimulating… proceed with caution? I guess?


That wraps up another author interview! Make sure to check Dan Jolley out on Twitter and go see his website. And read his trilogy people! It’s pretty freakin sweet 🙂


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